Black Leaders Must Come Together
The Black community has a new enemy. It has a new fight requiring a new approach. We are not living in the pre-60s days where Blacks were legally and openly denied equal access into American society and it was clear the system was extremely oppressive and unfair to black. Black people and organizations during this period worked to make even the smallest dent in this oppressive system, although they were not necessarily united. There was no central command and central planning to overthrow American apartheid and secure civil rights for Black people. It was done because everyone knew the enemy, White supremacy.
Today, after nearly 60 years of civil rights legislation, racism and racist organizations have greatly diminished. Not only is it politically incorrect to be racist, but there are general consequences for its open display. Blacks have been making gains in nearly every sector of American life (the first Black “this” and the first Black “that”). We even have the first Black president and a general opinion held by many Americans is that America is now “race neutral” (race is no longer an issue holding anyone back). With all of these so-called gains, however, how do we account for Black people being more socially and economically oppressed than in pre-1960 America? Who is the enemy of the Black man?
If White supremacy is dead, yet the conditions facing Black people appear to be worst, who is now the enemy of the Black man? We cannot point to a White man or organization and call them the enemy of Black people anymore. The enemy has buried himself into American institutions and systems utilizing unfair and unachievable standards for participation and denying an economic reality that eliminated the participation of Blacks for nearly 400 years while the White community achieved a considerable and massive economic advantage. This is the enemy of Black man. Yet, the Black man has yet to change his approach.
Some words associated with insanity are mental illness, madness, dementia, mania, psychosis, extreme foolishness, irrationality, idiocy, stupidity, lunacy, and craziness and all of them reflect Black leadership. Why? Black leaders make every excuse known to man why they will not do what is required of them given the current state of Black affairs. While this might sound harsh, unfortunately, it is true and it is costing our community dearly. The social and economic situations we face are extremely severe. If we are not working together at every level, we are failing our community. My position is, “It’s no longer what they are doing to us; it’s what we’re not doing.”
Sure, the Black community trails the White community at every level economically and the current American institution and its systems are structurally “rigged” to keep the Black man on his knees and on the proverbial “mouse wheel.” Under the current leadership, our community is expending much time and energy, but has not moved the needle at all. We have activity, but no action. We have thousands upon thousands of Black organizations working on our issues, many of them believing they are actually making a difference.
In fact, I attend banquet after banquet paying honor to the success of these activities as if we were really making progress. It is absolutely insane for anyone to believe his or her work alone is “the answer.” All of the work, all of the activity working in silos has produced a big fat nothing. The needle just is not moving. WAKE UP, BLACK LEADERS! Every negative social demographic is expanding and every positive economic demographic is shrinking. Restated, we are in trouble.
Like Malcom stated. “The Black man has been bamboozled, hoodwinked.” Even our leaders have been misled. We must really think hard and long when American media promotes anything positive about the Black community. I’m not suggesting we become paranoid, but given their history, we should hold reserve our acceptance until further information can be provided.
We hear so much how Black spending power has exceeded one trillion dollars. This is what I call a “red herring” and too many Black leaders have been fooled. Why else is there no sense of urgency? In fact, I hear glowing reports from some Black leaders that things are not as bad as are articulated. This is not true. Things are bad for Black people in America. The income number can only benefit the retail sector because it truly has no bearing on Black power and self-determination. I believe the American media promotes this to mislead the Black community into believing their economic position is stronger than it actually is. The fact of the matter is income measurements are usually paired with expenses to analyze net income (loss). Net income, which is the real measurement, is never even mentioned.
Consider these factors. When you examine the disproportionate level of Blacks (est. 75%) living at or near poverty, and working at poor classification levels, then you count the nearly 1.6 million Blacks incarcerated and millions of Black people who technically left the system (long-term unemployed), this represents an exorbitant level of unreported expenses (cost of living) which should be paired with the one trillion income. Either we secure $1-$2 trillion more of income or collectively, we must report a massive net loss. This massive net loss should be the lead story and not the so-called trillion dollars of income achieved. Our community is extremely poorer than what is being reported and these numbers, sadly, are getting worse.
We have a few individuals doing very well, but this is hardly representative of the Black community at large. One of the biggest issues facing all Americans is the massive wealth disparity and the Black community has more than its share of this disparity. The Black community also has a very low percentage of Blacks owning and controlling a large portion of Black income, wealth, and influence (Black one percenters).
The real measurement for economic growth is not a partial look at an income statement; focus only on income and especially not discount and factor inflation. Nor is it to consider expenses (cost of living) to derive net income. Without getting into an in-depth economic discussion, to measure real economic growth, we must consider gross domestic product (GDP) – what and how much do you produce; wealth and/or net assets – how much are you worth; and debt to savings ratios – how much debt are we incurring versus how much we save. When we look at all of these indicators, we are being destroyed.
The economic needle isn’t moving at all. In fact, we are losing ground and nothing is more glaring than the measurement of ownership of the nation’s wealth. Since our emancipation in 1863, when Blacks owned one-half of one percent of the nation’s wealth, we have lost ground. This is amazing when you consider nearly 95% of all Black people were enslaved, yet the small number of freed Blacks actually owned one-half of one-percent of the nation’s wealth. Today, with 100% freedom, Blacks still only own one-half of one-percent of the nation’s nearly 150 trillion dollar economy.
Albert Einstein once described “insanity” as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The key word here is “EXPECTATION.” Black leaders continue to do the same things over and over again and expect a different result. We either have placed all of our eggs in one basket (the belief that my work will change things) or are dependent on some national strategy that give us the power and momentum to change the landscape locally. We hear time after time “all we have to do is this or do that,” yet after nearly 150 years, the Black community remains extremely weak and ineffective.
I believe we have spent too much time trying to address the massive social issues we face with little or no attention given to our economic situations. It is like trying to rearrange the deck chairs on the sinking Titanic. We can work forever on the social issues, but they will never improve until we begin to move the needle on the economic front. Our community needs resources and the issues are real. Let’s take two heroin addicts who want to kick their habits, one with resources and the other without. Which one do you think has the best opportunity to be successful? Having resources will allow you a better opportunity to succeed.
Our community suffers from a monumental economic trade deficit with the value of the community’s imports (purchase of goods, products and services, outside of the community you reside) exceeding the value of its exports (investment, jobs, business growth, etc.). The greatest challenge facing our community is economic. The economic trade deficit reflects the community’s lack of assets and resources required to do for itself and really fix its social problems.
The Black community weakened socially and economically by a number of conditions, none bigger than nearly 300 years of chattel slavery and interruption after interruption that keeps us on our heels and in a very weak defensive position. Our community will never heal itself without greater understanding of the issues we face and then adopting strategies not only reflecting our reality, but also aggregating our very limited resources (human, financial, influence, political, etc.)
The Black community has a new enemy. It is a new fight requiring a new approach. The new enemy facing the black community is economic disparity and the new approach must involve Black leaders working together. We must stop acting as if we are insane hoping our issues will go away without doing the work. We must stop hoping and praying our conditions will miraculously change. They won’t until we do something, which must involve working together.
No one is going to give up their resources and provide economic fairness to the Black community. Our community insanely thinks White America will wake one day and make everything okay. Like every other group, we will have to take what we need. A. Phillip Randolph stated, “There are no reserve seats at the table of life; you get what you can take; you keep what you can hold; and you can’t take anything nor keep anything without organization.” The table of life represents the world’s scarce resources and those who have them are fighting just as hard to obtain them, as they are to keep them.
This is why if the Black community is to obtain much needed resources, we will have to take what we need (compete) and we will never be able to compete individually. We can never accomplish this without organizing ourselves by working together. In my next article, I will focus on what working together looks like and how we can achieve it.