The Black Community Must Unite Around an Economic Agenda – Part 1

Whether a Black young adult or Black adult, it did not matter which Black group or ideology you supported during the 60s and 70s. Although there were several approaches, beliefs, and ultimate strategies regarding how to liberate Black people, everyone knew who the real enemy was. This was important because normally with so many unorganized and unaligned strategies (we did not have social media and cell phones), one is normally not effective. However, because we all knew who the enemy was, we did not have to belong to the same organization or follow the same ideology to be effective. Yes, we took different approaches to the problem. We were successful because we focused on defeating the “common enemy” of the Black man.

For the majority of Black adults, it was no secret who they believed was the enemy. The enemy of the Black man was then and remains white supremacy and those in leadership (i.e. Presidents, chancellors, governors, mayors, CEOs, judges, etc.) that were able to utilize the institutions that they owned and ran to act on their racist motives. No, it did not matter what approach you took because being Black in America was bad for most, if not all, of us. Blacks have been catching pure hell in America since being kidnapped, transported here, and then forced into slavery.

Unlike today, white supremacy, while just as lethal and humanely degrading, was more physically dangerous to Black people because the ramifications for not being in full submission and any resistance of any kind was met with the most brutal and hostile terroristic violence. For me and many others in the Black community, the horrors of slavery are coming to light and to call them barbaric and sadistic is simply an understatement. The end of slavery did not end the terror against Black people evidenced by the intimidation used by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and the tens of thousands of public hangings. Rogue police forces that routinely kept Black neighborhoods in a “police state” and all other institutions used to threaten retaliation against Blacks if they were known resisters and/or agitators. Hovering of the heads of Black America has always been a cloud of intimidation and the fear of a real enemy.

I use the term enemy because how else can you explain the treatment that Black people have received from white people in America. The Webster definition for enemy is: a person who feels hatred for, fosters harmful designs against, or engages in antagonistic activities against another (fact); an adversary or opponent (fact); an armed foe (fact); a hostile nation or state (fact); or persons, nations, etc., that are hostile to one another (fact). White supremacy by its very nature is an enemy to Black people and the actions of white people that hold that mind set or even a portion of the mindset has contributed to the long-term oppression of Black people in this country.

Beginning in the early 1600s, with the abhorrent and pervasive kidnapping of Black people from Africa, followed by the torturous Transatlantic Passage, and ultimately the enslavement (chattel slavery) of millions of Black people that would last for the next 350 years, the American Institution of Slavery and its lethal legacy continue to wreak havoc on the Black community. Millions of Black people were forced and/or born into slavery with no way out (millions of Black people died in slavery). Slavery in America was by far the worst and most prolonged barbaric treatment of human beings in modern history and, even today, the legacy of slavery is nearly as powerful.

Prior to emancipation, the Black community had one common agenda – to be freed from chattel slavery. After emancipation, things got a little more complicated because the Black community was literally thrust into the competitive environment of America having little knowledge and resources. Being free, however, was motivation enough and the Black community sought its own liberation, although being weakened by slavery, by making some social advances (cultural, education, small businesses, political). . That is when the enemy of the Black man resurfaced again, not as slave-owners, but as the KKK. The different levels of success and achievement created different ideologies as to the best way to achieve Black liberation, but it was clear that the enemy of the liberation of Black people in America was the same enemy that had been our enemy for nearly 300 years, white supremacy, and the general belief that Black people are genetically inferior and should never be considered American citizens.

Dr. King called his work in two phases. He stated that civil rights was Phase I; the struggle to end legal discrimination and segregation and all of the humiliation surrounding discrimination, a struggle for decency and a struggle to get rid of extreme behavior against the Black community. The second phase was economic rights. Economic rights were about seeking genuine equality, where we are dealing with hard economic issues. It means that the job is much harder; it did not cost the nation one penny to integrate lunch counters; it didn’t cost the nation one penny to guarantee the right to vote. Now we are dealing without the nation spending billions of dollars and undergoing the radical redistribution of wealth. The redistribution of wealth is about uniting around an economic agenda.

It is still unclear to me why our community was the recipient of so much pain and hurt in America and there has been so much damage done to our people; the damage is cumulative. Following the emancipation of Black people in 1863, white supremacy took on an even more lethal and terroristic attack against Black people eventually becoming the foundation for both the Black Power and the Civil Rights Movements. The Black Power movement grew out of the Civil Rights Movement that had steadily gained momentum through the 1950s and 1960s. Some hailed the movement as a positive and proactive force aimed at helping Blacks achieve full equality with whites, but others reviled it as a militant, sometimes violent faction whose primary goal was to drive a wedge between whites and Blacks.

While the Civil Rights legislation was an earnest and effective first step toward eliminating inequality between Blacks and whites, it was just the beginning. The civil rights legislation did not include reparations. There was no actual compensation given to our community for the damage done to us. We cannot let the white supremacist off the hook by accepting civil rights as our compensation. Allowing the Black man in America civil rights was the just the right thing to do (we are not animals, we are human beings), and as Dr. King stated, civil rights for Black people did not cost America one red cent.

We must always remember that the entire Black community continues to carry the scars of white supremacy not just the psychological scars of the past, but also the current structural and institutional racism that exists because our community, in spite of our best efforts and all of the external challenges, cannot compete economically. While the white racists were torturing us during slavery, they were still physically holding us back for participating in the economic race. Imagine if there had been no enslavement of the Black community, but they had been allowed to live and grow in America like the white community, without fear of terror. The Black community would own America and not the other way around. We must always keep things in perspective in that the civil rights legislation came on the heels of nearly 400 years of pain and suffering while white America had amassed enormous wealth on the backs on our ancestors.

There are many challenges in depending on the achievement of the civil rights legislation. Not only would it take time (10-20 years) for the legislation to take full effect throughout the country with the adoption of a new culture, a new environment for the Black community. The civil rights legislation just was not enough. In fact, what we needed with civil rights was a massive infusion of capital. The enemies of our community went to work to undermine and weaken the civil rights legislation even before the ink had dried. Why? Because this is how it is done in America. Every gain in America is a fight. There are winners and losers and even if your win is the right and moral thing to do, the loser can begin immediately to undermine you. The white supremacist (the enemy of the Black man), with all of American infrastructure at their disposal, regrouped and began to develop strategies to neutralize civil rights legislation and maintain their oppression of our people.

The legal challenge for civil rights is not the only fight that the Black community faces. If that were the case, we would have made much more progress. Every aspect of American life is a battle when it comes to the Black community. We have to fight on so many fronts. When you just think about it soberly, it makes all the sense in the world (we are playing a tremendous catch up). Like any other institutions, American institutions want to protect themselves and the status quo. It is almost like we had been asleep for 400 years and when we finally woke up everything had been cooked (done) and now we want to have full participation, but those who have been in control (whites) want to keep things the way they have been and those who have just woken up (Blacks) want everything to be adjusted.

This is complicated by the fact that those that woke up from the sleep (Blacks) did not sleep voluntarily, but were forced to sleep by those who remain in control today (white racists) and refuse to even acknowledge any contribution to the sleep. The Black experience in America is now like David and Goliath with the Black community at a total disadvantage (group maturity) and up against a nearly insurmountable infrastructure including all of America’s systems: American IQ and know-how; financial and institutional resources; and seats of power. Unfortunately, and not knowing (group maturity), when one door is finally opened, several other doors are being closed and the problem is that we don’t even realize that the doors are closed until we try to walk through them.

We have all heard the phrase “just when we learn the rules of the game, they change the rules.” This is the plight of the Black community in America. This can be seen with each and every American Institution. Sure, they adopted the civil rights legislation so they could withstand the “legal” charge of racial discrimination, but they changed the rules that would have the same or even worse impact and outcome of racial discrimination. Supposedly, race-neutral policies have race-based consequences. When you control the systems and institutions, it is easy for you to change the rules and that is just what they did.

Guided by civil rights and liberal leadership, we have been chasing social equity in this country when the real race should have been for “economic equity.” In fact, one cannot have social equity in America without economic equity. At the end of the day, no matter how you slice it, it is the economic benefits that America refuses to share with Blacks. In fact, they refuse to acknowledge the role that Black people played in helping America become the rich superpower today. America owes a real economic debt to the Black community that it has refused to pay. To make matters worse, America via its political, financial, educational, and other systems have made Black people, who are the victims, the culprits. In spite of their overwhelming advantage, unfortunately it is on the Black community to defeat its enemy (white supremacy).

A. Phillip Randolph stated: “At the banquet table of nature, there are no reserved seats. You get what you can take and you keep what you can hold. If you can’t take anything, you won’t get anything, and if you can’t hold anything, you won’t keep anything. And you can’t take anything without organization.” Restated, “Nobody is going to give us anything – we must take it; we must organize ourselves.”


Previous post: «
Next post: »