The National Urban League recently released its annual report on the ‘State of Black America’, this year’s report is titled ‘Locked Out: Education, Jobs, and Justice’. There is no doubt that the title of the report is foreshadowing for its contents as the document reveals a continuation of historic racial disparities across a host of areas: education, housing, employment, wealth, and income.
Marc Morial, the President of the National Urban League, related accentuated the reality that the 2016 report mirrors those from previous periods.
According to Morial, “the similarities of the United States of 1976 and the United States of 2016 are profoundly striking. We are now, as we were then, a nation struggling to overcome the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. We are…facing growing pressure to slash human needs programs for the poor, who are demonized and characterized as lazy slackers trying to cheat the system.”
Morial appropriately issued substantial commentary that highlighted the reality that economic problems are only “one of the many injustices that keep our cities locked out.” However, economic matters continue to be a central issue that much of Black listlessness pivots upon. According to ‘Locked Out: Education, Jobs, and Justice’, African-American employment has consistently existed at a rate that is twice that of whites, this unfortunate reality remains even when one controls for educational background.
The gap between African-American household income and that of whites has remained steady over the past forty-years at 60 cents for every dollar whites earn. Also notable is that the African-American poverty rate has remained nearly unchanged over the past forty-years. More troubling is the fact that the home ownership gap between Blacks and whites has grown six percentage points.
The National Urban League report courageously asks questions regarding the Presidency of Barack Hussein Obama and what it actually means for Black America. According to Morial, “As President Obama wraps up his final months as the nation’s first African-American commander in chief, we begin to assess the progress Black America has made under his administration. How well has the nation recovered from the worst economic crisis it has seen in generations? How much closer are we to the very important goal of universal healthcare coverage has the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – gotten us?
The 2016 National Urban League Equality Index tells an all too familiar story of persistent racial disparities in American life, making clear that the historic Obama presidency has not been a panacea for America’s long-standing race problem.”
There is a popular axiom that states, ‘A fool and his money shall soon part.’ There is quite possibly no more succinct means of describing the current economic state of Black America. Put simply, we have been foolish, if not completely reckless in regards to our collective economic dealings. Things are in such a state of disarray that a reasonable person would question if the term Black unity is an oxymoron.
The issue of economic collectivism among African-Americans is a topic bantered about in venues varying from Black Nationalist gatherings to Black barbershops/beauty salons. All seem to agree that in regards to collectivist economics, the Black Community has been in a downward spiral since our educated class decided that their path to survival was via assimilating with a economically unified white community that has historically displayed via every means possible that they had no desire for any relationship, outside of an economically exploitative one, with Black America.
One is left pondering how Black political leaders, business people, intellectuals, educators, clergymen, the population that William Edward Burghardt Du Bois characterized as the Talented-Tenth allow this to occur? Were the elite too preoccupied with accumulating material possessions to comprehend the mounds of evidence that made the words assimilation synonymous with economic servitude? Were they focused upon giving their offspring everything they never had and in the process failed to provide them either the crucial elements that facilitated their success or the understanding that the descendants of enslaved people are eternally inextricably linked with each other? It appears that African-American leaders are the only racial/ethnic leadership group that has failed to deliver the point that collectivist economics is crucial to group survival. Failure to understand this reality places African-Americans in the peculiar predicament that the great Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes expounded upon in his poem, I, Too
I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother. They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed –
I, too, am America.
One of the most amazing occurrences in today’s highly contemptuous battle for survival in a rapidly diversifying nation has been African-Americans inability to understand that economic survival, let alone prosperity or winning, hinges upon collectivism and group cooperation; and until those lessons are learned we will continue to dine in the kitchen that Hughes writes about, eagerly waiting for a kind invitation to dine at the table of America. That invite has never, and will never, come out of kindness. Put simply, life is analogous to a board game where players, meaning various races and identities, attempt to increase their holdings [political and economic power] through strategic maneuverings, the ability to coordinate with other players, who are invariably receiving some benefit from the coordination, increases one’s opportunity for success.
Considering this analogy, it appears as if other groups — Alternative Lifestyle [Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Queer], Women [Wealthy, Middle-Class, Working-Class, Asian, Latina, White, Black], Asian [Chinese, Japanese, Filipino] Latina [Mexican, Puerto Rican, Brazilian, Cuban, Dominican] White [Irish, Anglo-Saxon, Russian, Italian, Polish, German] — are able to make decisive logical moves on this crowd game board and forge alliances to advance their interests.
Now, it is not that persons of African descent [Nigerian, Jamaican, African-American, Ghanaian, Black Brits, Haitian, Cuban, Brazilian, Caribbean] are not involved in the game, it is that they are the least likely to forge an alliance with other groups, including their own racial group. Predictably, their attempt to navigate the game of life solo leads to not only frustration, but also the total loss of their political power and total dependence upon others for material survival; they become in a word, parasitic.
In time, this population will make what they consider a logical move to get in the game, a decision that drives home just how uninformed they are in regards to how this game is played, they will shun others in their racial/ethnic group and attempt to join with another group, thinking that such is an appropriate strategy to extricate themselves out of an increasingly deep hole. Little do they realize, they have made what is akin to a Faustian deal that guarantees them nothing more than a few politico economic crumbs that the larger players will offer them once their appetite is satisfied! In their defense, I must add that the primary reason they never turn within their own group to forge coalitions is because they have been taught in classrooms, media, and through experience that, “Niggers don’t know how to handle no business.” The vast majority of movers and shakers within the Race will relate such feelings as they bask in their self-created position as the only Negro who is about making moves; we all know that this fool, thinking that they can take on the world alone, what they invariably discover is that they are simply busy with their myriad pyramid schemes and quick rich scams that are actually enriching other groups.
The reasons for considering African-Americans economically parasitic are obvious, however, a pressing query remains; that being, why does it seem that only persons of African descent remain steeped in these dire straits. And more importantly, what is the solution to reversing this unfortunate reality?
The path for group empowerment is always the same; groups close ranks for a period, mobilize their economic resources, and focus their energies upon hard work and educating their men, women, and children with an eye toward political power, economic self-sufficiency, and a liberating theology.
Despite the reality that such uplift programs occur within the public sphere, many African-Americans are naïve enough to believe in an ethos of individuality. There logic is that if they work diligently as an individual they will succeed; nothing could be further from the truth. I had a professor who once highlight the fallacy of such thought when he remarked, ‘If hard work were all that you needed to succeed in America, Black folk would run this nation because no one has worked harder than us’; hard work and diligent effort, although a part of the equation, is in no way the entire equation. I must admit that I am amused when Conservative groups such as the Tea Party stand in the midst of their collective group and advise others to seek political power and economic freedom individually, please do not be seduced by the lie of either American individualism or laissez faire, let alone trickle-down economic schemes that other groups endorse. They are actually collectively mobilizing their political resources to enjoy the fruits of their labor individually.
Considering the current position of African-Americans, it is foolish for us not to focus our energies upon studying, mobilizing, and then executing a plan to help uplift the race. Failure to do so will most certainly result in a continuation of the dire consequences currently affecting the community.
Please remember that life is like a game, with multiple players with the same goal, securing as much political power and money to not only operate today, but also to flex theirmuscles when need be and force others to do what is not necessarily in their best interests. It will not be until we understand that other groups are not only organized and executing plans that not only accentuate their strengths, but also exploit our collective weaknesses that we will even begin to be prepared for this game. The question is, how long will we allow the game to operate before we begin mobilizing our game pieces and develop a plan to decisively enter the game in a way that matters?
So the question remains, are African-Americans prepared to not only understand the game, but also participate in it at its highest levels? Or will they continue to serve as little more than relatively insignificant pawns in a chess game. It is only through issuing a significant challenge to the prevailing economic power structure that African-Americans have any chance of surviving, let alone flourishing, economically. And there is no doubt that it is impossible to even issue a challenge until we are able to unife, close ranks, strategize collectively, develop and then execute a logical plan aimed at uplifting the race. Failure to do so, will eventually lead us to be wiped completely off of the board of this game called life and signal our collective failure at issuing any challenge to the prevailing economic tyranny that we have experienced since integration occurred.
James Thomas Jones III
©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016.
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Author, Creating Revolution as They Advance: A Historical Narrative of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense
Author, ‘Foolish’ Floyd: The Life & Times of an African-American Contrarian
Author, O’Bruni: An African-American Odyssey Home?