There are Negroes who will never fight for freedom. There are Negores who will seek profit for themselves from the struggle. There are some Negroes who will cooperate with their oppressors. The hammer blows of discrimination, poverty, and segregation must warp and corrupt some. No one can pretend that because a people may be oppressed, every individual member is virtuous and worthy. Martin Luther King
The above statement from Dr. King has so many truths in it.
We have so many people who sell out the interests of the people, so that they
may appear worthy to a people who has no worthiness at all. We as a
people have to learn what empowerment is, from empowering ourselves to take
control of our own destiny, to economic empowerment. At one time we knew about
empowerment in America, the greatest example was Black Wall Street in Tulsa
Oklahoma. We had our own Banks, Department
stores, Insurance companies, Grocery stores, and many different types of businesses that make a
Black Wall Street, existed in the early 1900's and was the envy of some whites , who didn't like what the African American community was creating. They were progressing in way's many whites were not. So in 1921 the whites destroyed this area that was a jewel and a blueprint to other black communities sstriving to make their way in this country. It was actually the first time that a airplane had dropped a bomb on a community inside America. The whole Greenwood business district was destroyed and was set on fire by jealous whites and this became known as the Tulsa race riot. It really was whites rioting against their own inequities towards the African American community.
During the 16 hours of rioting, over 800 were admitted to local hospitals, over 10,000 were left homeless, 35 city blocks and 1,256 homes were destroyed and estimated damage to the community at that time was $1.3 million, in today dollars it's closer to $21 million and over 150 people lost their lives. White's destroyed the dreams and aspirations of progressive thinking African Americans of that time. What those African Americans had done was empower themselves, by building something that served their needs and interests of their community. They had done such a good job that it had made whites so upset, that they became so jealous, that they declared war on the black community.
This was at a time when we as a people were segregated, and we had to build our own institutions. So why can't we as a people recreate what was done then? Is, it because of integration and the Civil Right movement, or just plain laziness of the race. Empowerment is to empower yourself and others to serve the needs and interests of the community. So let's read the works of Claud Anderson to see what he means by empowerment and perhaps we can build a lot of Black Wall Street's . Also purchase his books Black Labor, White Wealth, and Powernomics to get a better understanding of the work that needs to be done. http://www.powernomics.com/books.htm
The Nature of the Problem It isn that they cant see the solution.
It is that they can t see the problem.
THE PROBLEM AND IT'S ROOT:
The Los Angeles riot had subsided, but the acrid smell of burned wood and tar still hung heavy in the early morning air. A local television reporter scanned the crowd and spotted a familiar black community activist standing by a burned-out grocery store. Sensing a good sound bite, the reporter asked for an interview. The bright lights came on and the reporter began: Three decades after the Civil Rights Movement transformed the nation, why is the black community dissatisfied? Why have they rioted and destroyed their own neighborhood? What is the problem?
The activist cocked his head and in a voice mixed with anger and indignation, responded, Surely, the gains of the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s were important, but they turned out to be superficial and largely symbolic. We can sit at lunch counters and vote, but economically, civil rights gains took more from us than they gave. Some blacks got important big-paying jobs in white businesses or government. Sure, we have our Colin Powells and Oprahs, but the black masses were left behind. So, you see, integration came at the expense of the black community. Now things are worse than ever.
We have more killings and crime, more school dropouts and drug users. Integration killed our communities. We have no black economic structure to solve the problems of our community. Our black churches and families are weak and struggling. We have yet to gain control of our communities and our destinies. The Vietnamese, Koreans, Indians, Iranians and Mexicans are putting up profitable businesses in our neighborhoods. And we are still hopelessly vulnerable to every danger from police brutality to violence and poverty. The next time we go to the Supreme Court, instead of integration, maybe we should seek separate but equal.
The white newscaster forced a smile and said, But, with all the civil rights laws and blacks who have been elected to public office, surely things are better for blacks. What happened to the dream that Dr. King spoke of so eloquently more than 20 years ago? Exasperated, the activist shook his head and walked away. At home he waited for his interview to appear on the evening news. He had tried to explain the causes of black peoples pain, confusion, disappointment and anger. He cursed himself for not talking about black peoples tiredness. How tired they were of being the worlds underdog. Even so, he hoped the world would be watching and listening. As the riot coverage aired on television, he saw close-up shots of the faces of distressed blacks. Looters scrambled in the background. He heard an elected official saying now was the time for healing and a coming together among blacks and whites. He watched, but his interview never aired. The words of the reporter played again and again in his head, Surely things are better for blacks.
As the black activist pushed the off button on his television set, a chip per weatherman concluded the news, saying, Sunny skies tomorrow.
The newscasters assumption is shared by millions of Americans. We ask each other what has gone wrong in the black community. Whats wrong with blacks? Why cant they act like other ethnic or racial groups in America? Talk shows seek the answers from leading black personalities, who, when asked about the problems of black America, mouth well worn platitudes. Perhaps they are fearful of raising the ire of mainstream America or perhaps they are simply naive. Nevertheless, the solutions these blacks urge address only the symptoms afflicting black America, not the causes. The root of the problem within black America is not teenage pregnancy, drugs, the decline in family values, anger, rap music, unemployment or even the epidemic of violent crime. These are only symptoms of the deeper problem.
The root problem in black communities across America is race and the unjust distribution of our nations wealth, power and resources. One race, the descendents of white Europeans, seemingly has checkmated blacks efforts to improve themselves. Whites live in privileged conditions, with nearly 100 percent ownership and control of the nations wealth, power, businesses and all levels of government support and resources. White society has a monopoly of ownership and control. This monopoly of control resulted directly from centuries of abusive exploitation and expropriation of the labor of a darker race, black Americans of African descent. Though black Americans reside in the richest nation on earth, their standard of living is comparable to that of a Third World nation. Blacks own and control less than two percent of the wealth, power and resources of the nation, so they have little control over their lives and the conditions in which they are forced to live.
Both the disparity between white and black living conditions and inequitable allocation of resources are centuries-old problems. They are a major legacy of the peculiar institution called slavery. It was that social system that a white patriarchal society consigned blacks to live in the most inhumane conditions, doing the harshest labor, without just compensation. The dominant white society felt that by stripping the black slave of his humanity, all of his worldly possessions, his personal freedom, and keeping him hopeless that blacks would be forever non-competitive and powerless. Needless to say, the dominant societys experiment in social engineering worked.
The living conditions of a people, enslaved or free, tend to reflect their status and power within the larger society. Conditions in black America are no more or less than what was planned for them centuries ago. Solomon Northrup, a free black who was kidnapped into slavery, but later escaped, described the living standards of slaves in 1841 as befitting beasts of the field. He wrote about extraordinarily dehumanizing conditions that stripped slaves of their individuality, their labor and often their lives. Slaves lived in dilapidated, damp, dark cabins, and their worldly pos sessions consisted of a few rags. A small board and a stick of wood, served as their beds and pillows. There were no physical, financial, nor psychological comforts for them, and worst of all, slaves were intention-ally kept without hope. A slaves life was committed to producing wealth and comfort for white masters. The slaves suffered in silence, but routinely asked in their prayers and work songs, When will life get better for us, Lord? Their descendants collectively still await an answer.
Legal and extra-legal measures were taken to keep both the free blacks, like the slaves, in a dependent state and excluded from enjoying the fruits of a nation that their labor was building. Free blacks were forced to survive or perish off of the marginal resources that extended into their communities. One of the first lessons that free blacks learned was that with out money and power, freedom for a black-skinned person was freedom in theory only. They were still bound by their conditions and non-white skin color. The larger society kept them bound by making black skin color a badge of inferiority and degradation. Blacks who escaped the plantations were not permitted to escape the boundaries of their own flesh. In reality, the socioeconomic conditions for blacks outside of slavery were only slightly better than those within the slavery system.
Being free for a black person meant being quasi-free. A black was free as long as he could prove he was free. And even then he had only a marginally greater choice concerning how he lived compared to his enslaved brethren. In 1841, while Solomon Northrup lamented the terrible conditions of more than four million black slaves, approximately 386,290 quasi- free blacks throughout the North were being subjected to Jim Crow practices, a multiplicity of local ordinances and social sanctions that prohibited them from sharing fully in an affluent American society. They were forced to survive in poverty and social decay. In the shadows of the American dream, blacks freedom was little more than a cruel and sadistic joke.
Local ordinances and social sanctions in the North and South restricted free blacks from earning competitive incomes. Their labor was sold for just barely above the cost of slave labor. Without sufficient income, few were able to secure decent food, health care, or housing. They remained legally free but sought safe havens in large urban areas in the North, such as Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Boston. The free black populations in and around these or any other large cities rarely exceeded two percent of the total population. These blacks lived off low quality food and had few worldly possessions.
According to Leonard P. Curry, author of The Free Black in Urban America, 1800-1850, more than a third of the black population in cities like Boston lived in blind alleys, cellars and lofts. Their poor and unsanitary living conditions created rampant health problems and shortened their life spans. Curry further stated that in 1855 Bostons City Register, Dr. Josiah Curtis found that the death rate among blacks was 99 times higher than whites. Today, 150 years later, the mortality gap between whites and blacks has narrowed only a little. Social pathology and inferior living conditions, not genetics, continue to control the life expectancy of blacks.
In the mid-1800s the living conditions for free blacks were so desperate that nearly 50 percent had no choice but to seek some form of public welfare. In order to survive, large numbers of blacks publicly acknowledged that they were in a helpless state and were incapable of feeding, protecting, sheltering and educating themselves and their children. Many black families became so desperate that they voluntarily re-entered slavery to survive. Others turned to public charity.
But nearly every black who sought some form of public relief was re fused. They were chastised for being uneducated and were called lazy and irresponsible for bearing children that they could not support. Curry indicates that in Cincinnati, a typical northern urban area, out of 3,269 cases in which the city granted relief to the needy only 10 recipients were black. And the assistance offered these fortunate black recipients was only for their own burial expenses. Public assistance tended to be distributed to whites only, including able- bodied male immigrants, while aid was denied to black widows with small children. With the exception of a small number of abolitionists, dominant society was indifferent to the living conditions of free blacks. Rather than blaming white racism and slavery, white society blamed blacks for their conditions, even though the conditions were not unique to Cincinnati or Boston.
Similar horrendous conditions existed throughout the North and eventually gave rise to what became urban black ghettos that symbolized the conditions of blacks. The Emancipation Proclamation and subsequent Constitutional Amendments legally freed all blacks and granted them citizenship, but without social and economic resources these newly granted rights amounted to little more than paper rights.
NO LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL:
The government refused to compensate blacks for their prolonged servitude by providing them with the necessary tools and resources to transition from a dependent labor class to independent, competitive citizens. Instead of aiding blacks, whites expected and urged the newly freed slaves to fend for themselves. They could work, seek public assistance, steal, or disappear. Since free blacks could not find work, were denied public assistance and often could not leave the country, they had no choice but to accept what the dominant society offered them: sharecropping, which was only but another form of servitude controlled by white plantation owners.
One hundred and thirty years after slavery, American society has be come more pluralistic and competitive, but blacks marginal conditions remain relatively unchanged. In some respects, they have worsened. The socioeconomic inequalities that existed between whites and blacks during and shortly after slavery are now structural. For example, on the eve of the Civil War, records indicated that more than 50 percent of free blacks were paupers; all free blacks collectively held less than one-half of one percent of the nations wealth, with wealth being defined as a great quantity of money or valuable goods or resources within both the private and public sectors. A century later, in the 1960s, an era considered by many as great decade of progress for blacks, more than 55 percent of all the blacks in America were still impoverished and below the poverty line. And, blacks barely held one percent of the nations wealth. According to the 1990 Census, approximately 40 percent of all black families are receiving public assistance and the number is increasing, with more than 56 percent of all black female-headed households beneath the poverty level.
Black unemployment has not significantly improved, in comparative terms, over the last century. According to Curry, an historian, black un employment exceeded 40 percent in the 1850s. The National Urban Leagues (NUL) 1992 State of Black America Report differed with the U.S. government figures indicating that the hidden and true unemployment rate is approximately 28 percent for black adults and nearly 55 per cent for black youth. The NULs discomfort index further indicated that black unemployment worsened between 1960 and 1990, while economic conditions for white society improved. Blacks lack of progress was reflected in the fact that blacks earned 53 percent of what whites earned in 1948. In the 1990s, after nearly 50 years of civil rights activities and affirmative action pro grams, blacks earn 59 percent of what whites earn. Further, the 1990 Census indicated that black per capita net worth is $9,359 versus $44,980 for whites.
Like their ancestors, blacks today have the same set of options. And they still lack employment opportunities in public jobs or black businesses, because most white businesses are inaccessibly in the suburbs. They still are denied or expunged from public assistance rolls. And they have yet to learn how to disappear. Many blacks have turned to crime. They are there fore criminalized in order to seek sustenance and wealth. And, just as in the previous centuries, blacks continue to be disproportionately represented in the prison system.
Curry indicated that in 1850, for example, blacks constituted 60 per cent of all persons incarcerated in Maryland and half of them were under 16 years of age. During the same time period, in the states of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, blacks made up more than 50 percent of the prison populations. Todays prison rolls show similar percentages of blacks. Approximately 38 percent of all black males in America are either in prison, on parole or probation. Still, they are luckier than many of their counterparts, who annually fall victim to the homicide crisis, which each year claims more lives than the total number of American soldiers killed in either the Korean or Vietnam Wars.
In the final analysis, black America remains trapped in a dire dilemma. Some organizations have tried to call the nations attention to the plight of blacks. In 1990, a five-year report by the National Research Council (NRC), a Washington-based research organization, indicated that the infinitesimal social and economic gains that blacks made during the 1950s and 1960s largely ended in the 1970s. The Washington Post, in June 1990 summarized the study reporting: There has been no significant black progress for the last 20 years and a great socioeconomic gulf now separates blacks from European and other ethnic groups in America. Unfortunately, the NRC study received little media coverage or public response, even from black civil rights organizations.
Most blacks are concerned about what is happening in their communities and to their race, even if the media and the power structure are not. They actively participate in the political process and complain to their elected representatives about the worsening conditions, but the political system seems unable to stimulate change. Harold Cruse, a black historian, believes that among those who do care about the black problem, Nothing is being done, because no one knows what to do about it. Considering the magnitude of black Americas impoverished and powerless state, Cruse is probably right. But, why is it that society does not know what to do? Is it that the leaders of this society lack the knowledge or resources to solve the problems of black America?
Or is it that they lack the incentive and commitment to create viable means for blacks to empower themselves as a group? Why should this nations leaders do something to address the fundamental problems affecting blacks? The answer is simple. The United States superiority among the industrial and agricultural world powers was achieved because of the exploitation of blacks. This exploitation established and now maintains a privileged racial class whose wealth and power explains and legitimizes the systems inequalities. Wealthy, conservative whites control both public and private sector resources and tools that have kept blacks impoverished and power less in a racially competitive society.CONSERVATIVE FORCES: THE BANE OF BLACK SOCIETY:
Conservative social forces are the protectors of the status quo and the good ole days. After using government to amass wealth, power and resources, conservative white power structures have long espoused sociopolitical policies that reflect their pull up the gangplank mentality. Powerful white conservatives profess commitment to capitalism and insist that wealth stays in the hands of the private, wealthy class, which has most benefited from the inequalities in the system. They rigidly op pose any societal changes regarding race and resources. This places them in direct opposition to and in conflict with blacks.
Conservatism, of course, comes from the root word to conserve or hold on to what one has. In essence, the conservative attitude towards blacks is, If you do not have it, we are not going to let you get it. When considering what should be done for black people, conservatives have espoused a role and solution for blacks that has not changed an iota since the country was founded. Conservatives believe in a natural ordering of human beings and have always preferred that blacks play a servile role in society.
In many ways, white liberal policies have been as injurious to blacks as those of conservatives. Neither the liberals nor the conservatives have offered any programs or resources for improving the overall socioeconomic condition of blacks. While conservatives have consistently sought to sink blacks ship, liberals have simply rearranged the deck chairs on the sinking ship, so that blacks would be more comfortable.
Conservatives and liberals have historically approached black issues differently. Compared to ambiguous liberal approaches, conservatism is typically straightforward concerning the issue of race. It is not difficult to uncover conservative intentions in programs and public policies. Conservatives boldly proclaim that their positions reflect the sentiments of main stream society as well as the principles of the first European settlers, who established a self-serving system that made it easy for them to horde wealth and power. It is this imbalance that conservatives seek to conserve. They frequently say that blacks are poor because they have unacceptable attitudes and behaviors and have failed to take advantage of opportunities, because they are basically inferior human beings.
Over the past three decades, national opinion surveys have reported a growing conservatism among white society. Undoubtedly, some of it is a response to the growing uncertainty of the times. Societal clashes on such issues as abortions, family values, immigration, taxation, gender issues and crime have contributed to the popularity of conservatism. However, the core issue of white conservatives springs from race. They oppose government policies and programs that hint at the redistribution of public and private resources and power to benefit blacks.
Modern conservatism began its ascendance in the late 1960s as a white backlash to the Civil Rights Movement, black power protests and urban riots. The demands of the black protests for improved living conditions through more wealth, power and community control shocked and frightened white society, which responded as it frequently does in times of civil turmoil and uncertainty. The privileged class appealed to conservatism to reassert the supremacy of white authority and its exclusive claim to power and wealth.
BREEDING BLACK CONSERVATISM:
THE SYMBOLIC BETRAYAL OF THE BLACK RACE:
Black conservatism is as old as black enslavement. But three decades of popular white conservatism, coupled with the social and economic devastation of black America, has attracted an increasing number of blacks to the conservative political movement. Black conservatives represent a potential danger to their race because of their alignment with white conservatives, who have always been anti-black. When black conservative alignments occur, black conservatives become a liability to blacks and an asset to whites. By mouthing the social and economic views of white conservatives, black conservatives convert confusion of their personal racial identity to a confusion in the minds of black people about the real issue facing them. Black conservatives operate under misleading colors. As an old farmer said, They run with the hounds while pretending friendship and brother hood with the rabbits. The confusion caused by their schizophrenic behavior provides a public cover for anti-black attitudes and activities and makes them appear as nothing more than white racists in black face minstrel makeup.
Becoming a conservative has historically provided personal rewards to individual blacks, with few down sides, because of the powerlessness of the black community to hold accountable those members who turn against it. Blacks found that it was not difficult to establish beneficial relations with whites once they accepted a subordinate position and committed them selves to placing the welfare of the white class first. Once that was agreed upon, tacitly or otherwise, blacks were then entitled to various forms of paternalistic protection, Christian charity, and meritorious recognition. White conservatives then conferred special status and recognition to conservative blacks as exceptional or acceptable.
Accordingly, black conservatives who place their personal advancement above the welfare of their race often gain significant personal and financial benefits, recognition and access to power. They are anointed by whites as leaders and touted as role models. In political and social situations, a black conservative is closely akin to Sambo in Harriet Beecher Stowes Uncle Tom s Cabin. In an historical context, a Sambo was black Americas worst nightmare. The stereotypical Sambo was more than a minstrel man, a buffoon, and a plantation darkie. Sambo represented the extraordinary success of social control, which was the ultimate goal of a slavery conditioning process that transplanted a white mindset into a black personality.
The term Uncle Tom is not an appropriate label for an
individual who is white on the inside and black on the outside and sells out
his race by placing his personal gains with whites ahead of the rights and
gains of his people. Contrary to popular usage of the label, the character
Uncle Tom was not the culprit in Uncle Toms Cabin. Uncle Tom was a brave man
with dignity who cared about his family and race. The real villain was another
black slave named Sambo. He was totally committed to the white master and used
every opportunity to undermine the other slaves. Sambo, in many respects, was
like todays black conservatives. Sambo always followed the white slave master,
Simon Legree, and offered to show him how to tree the coons. It was Sambo who
beat Uncle Tom to death both for refusing to whip a black female slave or sell
out his people. Uncle Tom tried to empower his people by understanding and
beating the social and political structure wherever he could. Uncle Tom felt it
was important to get his people across the river to freedom. He risked his life
to do so.
The Sambo character personified a very successful social control created by conservatives. He was such a successful phenomenon that the concept he personified became a greater danger to blacks than Uncle Tom. As blacks move towards structuring policies of racial accountability, it will be very important for them to know who helps and who hurts the race.
Sambo was the black slave character in numerous novels and movies who was willing to pick up a weapon and defend his white master against the approaching Union army or hide the masters silver from Northern carpetbaggers. What is the difference between the fictional Sambo characters and todays real-life blacks who join the conservative movement to argue against affirmative action, black reparations and set-asides? They declare that the world is now color blind and are opposed to any policies requiring whites to share the socioeconomic burden that centuries of slavery and second-class citizenship have imposed on blacks. Isnt espousing a color blind, race-neutral, melting pot society, a modern way of hiding the masters silver? What are black conservatives con serving when black America is burdened by poverty, crime, unemployment, homelessness and other social pathologies?
Based upon historical treatment alone there should be a general antagonism between blacks and conservatives. Though conservatives claim that they are not racist, for centuries they have opposed programs and policies to help blacks. Andrew Hacker, a white writer, provided insight on this in his book, Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal. Hacker asserted that: There persists the belief that members of the black race represent an inferior strain of the human species . . . Of course, the belief is seldom voiced in the public. Most whites who call themselves conservatives hold this view about blacks and proclaim it when they are sure of their company. Since white conservatives share their true feelings only in the privacy of other whites there is a strong possibility that black conservatives do not know how white conservatives truly feel about them.
It is often a conclusion of popular history that blacks and Jews have always shared a strong alliance. However, in their struggles to escape bondage and second-class citizenship, blacks have had few temporary and no permanent allies. At various times, abolitionists, liberals and indi vidual Jews have provided visible support to black causes and sometimes at great personal risk and expense. They have lobbied state and federal legislative branches of government, contributed financial resources, pro vided surrogate leadership and given their lives to assist blacks. But, these contributions were made by individuals and not by Jews as a class, religious or racial body of Samaritans. Prior to the 20th century, there were no known recorded public commitments of Jewish organizations to help blacks.
Beyond their good intentions, neither the abolitionists nor individual Jews achieved great success in helping blacks due to major philosophical flaws in their strategies. The flaw in the abolitionists strategy was that they did not recognize or treat slavery as the economic issue that it was. They made the abolishment of slavery a moral issue, which it was not. As a moral issue, the abolitionists appealed to the conscience of slaveholders concerning right and wrong. These appeals did not damage the slaveholders profits from slavery. By not treating slavery as an economic issue, they, perhaps unwittingly, supported slavery and undermined their own anti-slavery arguments. They continued to use, rather than boycott, slave-produced products, such as cotton goods, tobacco products, table foods, alcoholic beverages, iron products, and jewelry made from gold and silver. They could have with held their monies from the shoe industry, insurance and shipping compa nies and other businesses that directly and indirectly made their profits from black slavery.
After Reconstruction, the efforts of individual Jews to assist blacks were flawed, because they encouraged blacks to do something that Jews themselves did not want to do assimilate into the broader white cul ture. Jews helped blacks to secure civil and voting rights, but these legal rights, though important in principle, gave the appearance of making blacks self-sufficient, when in fact, these gains could not appreciably change blacks wealth and power base. Worse still, the socioeconomic alliance between Jews and blacks did not emphasize blacks learning the self-suf ficiency skills and strategies mastered by Jews.
From the beginning of the alliance in the 1900s, Jews kept their problems and blacks problems in perspective. Jewish problems came first. Jews did not totally identif with blacks. Jews, fleeing persecution in Europe in the first and second decades of the 20th century entered America just as blacks were being forced back into separate, but equal worlds of Jim Crowism. The majority of Jews were poor, liberal and alone. Some were sympathetic to black problems and allied with them against racial bigotry.
In the 1920s and 1930s, blacks returned the favor by aligning with Jews against religious bigotry and oppression. The alliance benefited each group and presented a common front against some common conservative enemies. The alliance ultimately gave blacks access to high levels of gov ernment and the corporate world. In return for Jewish support, blacks gave Jews carte blanche access to every aspect of black society. Jews established neighborhood businesses that survived strictly off of black customers. They advised black leaders on public policy matters. Jews also built entire industries around resources that blacks controlled or owned, such as sports, entertainment and music.
For nearly half a century, Jews were officially endorsed as the liberal intermediaries between white and black America. The alliance began to break down as blacks became increasingly disenchanted with their lack of progress and stagnant socioeconomic conditions. As the social fortunes of Jews and blacks began to diverge, the relationship became more pater nalistic. Black organizations, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Urban League as well as independent black leaders were advised to pursue social inte gration, upward mobility within mainstream society and civil rights.
Black leadership was convinced that once blacks had obtained integra tion and civil rights, the quality of life would naturally improve for all blacks. After all, the strategy worked for the Jews. As the society began to soften its virulent anti-Semitism of the 1940s, Jews used their new found mobility to secure wealth and power for themselves.
However, a decade after the 1954 desegregation decision and the Civil Rights Move ment, not only had black Americas socioeconomic dilemma not been re solved, it was getting worse. Blacks outside of the traditional civil rights organizations became con vinced that the only way to improve the conditions of black America was for blacks to take complete economic and political control of their communities, institutions and culture. Many voiced anti-white sentiments that frightened and threatened the white establishment. Through slogans, symbols and urban riots, black America informed the nation that, having lost faith in the system, they had established alternative black leadership and were committed to achieving black power.
By the mid 1960s, religious attitudes and socioeconomic conditions had significantly changed for Jews in America. They had become the wealthi est and most influential political group in the nation. They had been accepted into the dominant society, with practically unlimited mobility opportunities. They controlled a major share of wealth, businesses, profes sional and management positions, government influence and access to institutions of higher education. Having made remarkable social and economic achievements, Jews now had a philosophical base for becoming more conservative.
The black power protests of the late 1 960s moved many Jews closer to right wing, conservative principles. Jews increased conservatism was reflected in their reversed attitude towards the role of government. Previously, Jews and blacks were. . . advocates for a strong governmental role in combating discrimination, alleviating the plight of the poor and aiding social mobility, according to Tom W. Smith. In a 1990 article entitled, Jewish Attitudes Towards Blacks and Race Relations, pub lished in the American Jewish Committees Jewish Sociology Papers, Smith wrote that both Jews and blacks encouraged government involvement to improve the lives of the socially disadvantaged through progressive measures such as the New Deal policies.
From the 1930s to the 1950s, they used the legislative and court sys tems to pursue integration and broad intervention policies. But accord ing to Smiths attitude survey, after blacks demanded specific govern mental assistance, Jews changed their minds about the role of govern ment. For instance, Smith reported that today: A majority of Jews do not favor government measures to help blacks, more government spending for blacks or the use of busing to achieve school integration. In response to the specific question, Does the government have a special obligation to improve. . . living standards, more than 46 percent of Jews were opposed and 26 percent were either neutral or undecided.
So, according to the Smith report, Jewish attitudes on the question of the governments responsibility to assist a structurally handicapped group, such as Jews were years ago, has now turned 180 degrees. At the start of the 20th century, they were pro-government involvement. By mid-century, they were opposed. Harold Cruse, in his book, Plural But Equal, offers his explanation for Jews turning towards conservatism and away from blacks: The opposition of Jewish liberalism to the threat of quotas shows that when power enclaves are threatened, sociologically and psychologically the dominant white society will instinctively oppose, limit, and restrict. . . [ changes]. In such manner are the avenues to social and economic power effectively maintained.
While some Jews opposed the vehicle of quotas and affirmative action three decades ago, various Jewish organizations have worked to keep a dialogue going with the black community. Others have continued to feel alienated from blacks. Today, some Jews are upset because of the alignment of some members of the black community with the Nation of Islam, which teaches that Jews have been just as oppressive and exploitive of blacks as any other white groups. According to Smith, though there are heated tensions between the two groups and the ties are not as strong as they were in the early part of the 1900s, Jews have a more positive atti tude towards blacks than any other white group. Smiths survey further indicated that the most conservative groups against blacks are Protestants and Baptist fundamentalists.
GOVERNMENT'S CONSERVATISM ALIENATES BLACKS:
Anti-black conservatism from 1980 to 1992 severed the fragile relationship that
was beginning to build between blacks and government. The government
established new priorities that reversed most of the progress made by blacks
during the 1960s. It withdrew its marginal support of blacks for political and
racial reasons, just as it did during the Reconstruction Period following the
Civil War. President Lyndon Johnson acknowledged the social and economic inequities of
black life. Through his Great Society Programs, he sought to do what government
had failed to do during Reconstruction to relieve the depressed conditions of
by redistributing opportunities and self-development tools. But again, the
larger society would not tolerate it. There was a backlash against all programs
and policies that suggested wealth and power re-distribution between whites and
blacks. Conservative whites opposed public policies that mandated busing,
affirmative action, quotas, equal housing opportunities, set-asides and racial
Conservatives insisted that their actions were not racist and that they were committed to equal opportunities for blacks. The hypocritical difference between their rhetoric and actions was similar to the old line that, Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die. They proclaimed a belief in equality and parity for blacks, but they would not accept the measures that were needed to bring about that equality and parity.
Richard Nixon, the presidential successor to Lyndon Johnson, rode into the highest public office in this nation on the conservative white backlash to black power protests in the late 1960s. Shortly after his 1968 election, his domestic advisor, Daniel Moynihan, sent out the first signal that the federal government was ready to use its powers to put blacks back in their place by blaming them, not racism, for the breakdown of the black family and community as well as the widespread poverty and powerless ness that afflicted the black community.
The conservatives national goal was to abandon the civil rights agenda and move towards a color-blind society. In 1970, Moynihan issued his infamous benign neglect memorandum that announced the new public policy on blacks. The policy behind the memorandum moved attention away from blacks, saying: The time may have come when the issue of race could benefit from a period of benign neglect . . . We may need a period in which Negro progress continues and racial rhetoric fades.
Moynihans memorandum signaled that the old government policy of using blacks as cheap labor was ending and the new policy would declare blacks obsolete. Alphonso Pinkney, in his book, The Myth of Black Progress, indicated that Moynihans memorandum encouraged the sup planting of blacks with other ethnic groups. Moynihan wrote that Greater attention to Indians, Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans would be useful. The government justified supplanting blacks by promoting the myth that black Americans were making extraordinary progress. The nation swallowed the myth of black progress. Meanwhile, real change in black Americas condition never even got off the ground.
Anti-black conservatism from 1980 to 1992 severed the fragile relationship that was beginning to build between blacks and government. The government established new priorities that reversed most of the progress made by blacks during the 1960s. It withdrew its marginal support of blacks for political and racial reasons, just as it did during the Reconstruction Period following the Civil War. President Lyndon Johnson acknowledged the social and economic inequities of black life. Through his Great Society Programs, he sought to do what government had failed to do during Reconstruction to relieve the depressed conditions of black America by redistributing opportunities and self-development tools. But again, the larger society would not tolerate it. There was a backlash against all programs and policies that suggested wealth and power re-distribution between whites and blacks. Conservative whites opposed public policies that mandated busing, affirmative action, quotas, equal housing opportunities, set-asides and racial preferences.
Conservatives insisted that their actions were not racist and that they were committed to equal opportunities for blacks. The hypocritical difference between their rhetoric and actions was similar to the old line that, Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die. They proclaimed a belief in equality and parity for blacks, but they would not accept the measures that were needed to bring about that equality and parity.
Richard Nixon, the presidential successor to Lyndon Johnson, rode into the highest public office in this nation on the conservative white backlash to black power protests in the late 1960s. Shortly after his 1968 election, his domestic advisor, Daniel Moynihan, sent out the first signal that the federal government was ready to use its powers to put blacks back in their place by blaming them, not racism, for the breakdown of the black family and community as well as the widespread poverty and powerlessness that afflicted the black community.
The conservatives national goal was to abandon the civil rights agenda and move towards a color-blind society. In 1970, Moynihan issued his infamous benign neglect memorandum that announced the new public policy on blacks. The policy behind the memorandum moved attention away from blacks, saying: The time may have come when the issue of race could benefit from a period of benign neglect . . . We may need a period in which Negro progress continues and racial rhetoric fades.
Moynihans memorandum signaled that the old government policy of using blacks as cheap labor was ending and the new policy would declare blacks obsolete. Alphonso Pinkney, in his book, The Myth of Black Progress, indicated that Moynihans memorandum encouraged the supplanting of blacks with other ethnic groups. Moynihan wrote that Greater attention to Indians, Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans would be useful. The government justified supplanting blacks by promoting the myth that black Americans were making extraordinary progress. The nation swallowed the myth of black progress. Meanwhile, real change in black Americas condition never even got off the ground.
Most black Americans did not agree with Moynihans assessment that blacks had created their social ills through self-inflicted pathologies. And blacks didnt accept the governments claim that they were making extraordinary social and economic progress. Making progress compared to what and whom? they asked. History has taught blacks that they, not the powerful social and economic system, are always blamed for their deplorable living conditions. Dominant societys belief that the negative conditions of black America are self-inflicted is based upon the fact that the conditions that blacks endure are almost peculiar to blacks alone. White society has never been enthusiastic about helping blacks nor has it permitted them to acquire the tools to help themselves. Blaming blacks for their underclass status keeps the larger society free from recriminations or obligations to blacks. Ironically, if the deplorable conditions of black America were experienced by white America for even a short period of time, the government would not hesitate to declare a national disaster and activate emergency assistance measures. But, since depressive socioeconomic conditions have been peculiar to black America for centuries, no such governmental intervention is to be expected
The void created by the death of black civil
rights presented the opportunity for a cadre of black neoconservatives to join
the popular white conservative movement and proclaim themselves and their new
organizations the new black leadership.
For everyone but the caretakers of old black civil rights organizations, the Civil Rights Movement for blacks is dead. Civil rightism for blacks had a brief life for the second time within a 100-year period, reached a point of diminishing returns, then died a premature death during the late 1960s. All of the rights gained by the Civil Rights Movement have been bequeathed to groups that are more acceptable to the larger society women, gays, Hispanics, Asians, handicapped and poor whites. The first black civil rights efforts formally started shortly after the Civil War as slaves realized that they had received paper freedom and unexercisable rights. For nearly a century, they pursued their phantom freedom and rights nationally by way of public forums, courtrooms, schoolhouses, union halls and journalism.
In the 1954 Brown vs. the Board of Education desegregation decision, blacks won a battle, but the decision had incalculable destructive effects on the black community. During the subsequent civil rights protest period, blacks stimulated a rush of new social movements by a melange of social groups which piggybacked on black causes in their own quests for rights and freedoms. This offended the larger society in general and gave conservatives grounds to orchestrate a backlash. Since blacks were the largest, most visible and least acceptable group, they became the primary target of conservatives angst.
The movement was drowned out by the new groups and out-flanked by the conservatives. In the heat of various civil rights battles for control over jobs, schools, housing, community services, businesses and tax dollars, black leadership ran out of insight, social tools and strategies for effectively dealing with the more subtle and less direct forms of racism that cropped up.
As the other groups began to take away from blacks control of the civil rights agenda, conservative political forces started using their government and media power to diminish the black component of the Civil Rights Movement. They successfully destroyed the legitimate base of the black movement by diluting the movement beyond recognition. They identified every group that could possibly perceive itself as aggrieved and made it equal to blacks. Thus, the public perception of blacks was severely dam aged and distorted. The unique problems that they faced were made to appear no more important than the problems faced by other, so-called victims of discrimination.
The black Civil Rights Movement, though spectacularly successful in many respects, had at least four major flaws that diminished the accomplishments of the movement and left critical imperatives for black America:
The movements black leadership focused its entire weight of resources on achieving integration. They believed, perhaps naively, that by removing all the symbols of Jim Crowism and acquiring access to various segments of white society, black people would gain equality.
Black leaders failed to focus on neutralizing the forces behind Jim Crowism or developing effective strategies for black America to use in dealing with the problems that spring forth from the maldistribution and racist control of wealth, power and resources in America.
They failed to develop a long-term national plan with goals and strategies, spelling out where blacks ought to be going and how best to get there.
In addition, black leaders failed to construct a national network of institutions to train new generations of blacks who could successfully assume leadership positions and implement a national plan for black empowerment.
The combined effect of these four major failures left the black Civil Rights Movement with no place to go, no way to get there and no leadership to take them.
A few visible black organizations managed to survive by becoming politically correct and expanding their focus to include so-called minorities, poor people, gays, women and abused children. They could not survive in the powerful conservative climate by continuing to target the problems of blacks alone. Although black conditions continued to need attention, most black organizations could not raise enough money to survive by focusing solely upon their own people. The surviving black organizations remained visible by continuing to pursue the integration dream. It would not have been necessary for black organizations to abandon their own community if the Civil Rights Movement had established a sense of community cohesiveness founded on group economics and group politics.
The National Urban League and the NAACP are still active, but they have lost much of their influence and membership. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Black Panther Party are defunct. The Congress of Racial Equality joined the conservative ranks of a national political party and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference barely survives. This nations political apparatus disabled many of the civil rights groups by destroying or neutralizing black leadership: Adam Clayton Powell and Stokely Carmichael were discredited; Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Medger Evers were assassinated; Rap Brown, Eldridge Cleaver, Angela Davis and prominent members of the Black Panthers were criminalized.
Many of the others were enticed into mainstream society. Consequently, the large block of black leadership was eradicated, changed or disappeared after just one generation following the great movement. Having failed to address the structural conditions of black America, the 1 960s left little structure upon which blacks could build. Instead, that colorful era only left faded memories and soul-stirring songs.
They were publicly blessed by the highest levels of government and corporate America and they offered black America political and economic ideologies that were taken right from the conservative right-wing political bible. Their politically correct ideologies advocated less government and taxes, free market economies, privatization of government services and race-neutral government policies. Black traditional leadership, like the black masses, was ignored by government and the media, except during times of racial disturbances or anniversaries of the movement.CONCLUSION:
The problem of race and resources has been festering for hundreds of years, but has yet to arise as the core public issue in America. Whites have inherited the power and wealth of their ancestors through a social and economic structure designed and weighted to the advantage of non- blacks.
Blacks have inherited a legacy of permanent poverty and powerlessness. Black labor made the nation a strong, wealthy, international world power, but nothing has been proposed to seriously bring about remuneration, parity or fairness to black people. It is clear that blacks must both solve their own problems and structure a national plan of action that puts their priorities first and foremost. Self-empowerment is the only road to economic justice, but it requires the support of a national policy and plan of action.
Impediments to Empowerment and Economic Justice Blacks ought not swallow beliefs that they cannot digest.
The U.S. Constitution has historically been and continues to be an impediment to black political and economic empowerment and self-sufficiency. During the formative years of this nation, the Constitution outright excluded blacks from the privileges of citizenship, the acquisition of wealth and power, and the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor. Moreover, the Constitution shackled blacks so that members of the majority white society and any other ethnic or racial group could use blacks for socioeconomic gains. The social acceptance and grants of wealth that the government has given to European, Asian, and Hispanic immigrants, but withheld from blacks, left blacks decidedly ill-equipped to compete with the more advantaged groups.
Worse, the Constitution is again being used to block even the slightest effort by blacks to redistribute resources to remedy the wealth and power imbalance between blacks and whites. Conservative forces within the court system and government now seek to maintain the status quo of inequality between blacks and whites by mandating that blacks and whites be treated equally in all future endeavors. Any efforts whatsoever to correct past injustices are found to be unconstitutional forms of reverse discrimination against whites. Thus, equal protection has come to mean the equal treatment of fundamentally unequal groups, which in effect perpetuates the unequal distribution of wealth, power and resources.
White society enjoys a virtual monopoly over wealth, power and governmental and business resources, because to a large degree the Constitution decreed that whites would solely possess those advantages. Equality for blacks, therefore, amounts to anything other than the equal ownership and control of resources and power, because the Constitution set the legal, civic and racial tones of the nation and placed numerous impediments and obstacles to black empowerment and self-sufficiency. The following is an analysis of the obstacles that the Constitution has used to impede black peoples progress:
Constitutional Racism: Termites in the Foundation The Constitution has formed the foundation for the subordination and exploitation of black Americans by perpetrating racist attitudes and hurtful behavior toward blacks. The Constitution espoused values of individual rights, freedom and opportunities, but gave slave holders the legal right to deny blacks their personal freedom to benefit from their own labor. Further, since the framers of the Constitution did not consider blacks full human beings they did not assign them individual rights. Thus, blacks were never really meant to be included in the Constitution at all. Professor Harold Cruse spoke of this tragedy by stating:
The legal Constitution of American society recognizes the rights, privileges and aspirations of the individual, while America has become a nation dominated by the social powers of various ethnic and religious groups. The reality of the power struggles between competing ethnic or religious groups is that an individual has few rights and opportunities in America that are not backed up by the political and social power of one group or another.
America is, in principle, a majority-rule society. However, in areas of the country where blacks constituted the majority of the population, all manner of legal and illegal means have been used to ensure that they nevertheless cannot wrest control from whites. Whether blacks were the majority populations in Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, or the inner cities of many urban areas, a white minority controlled the halls of government. The framers declared the nation to be a democracy while operating a Southern plutocracy, a government run by a wealthy class of plantation owners.
In 1786, the framers of the Constitution laid the legal foundation for a black-white wealth and power imbalance by:
1) counting blacks as three- fifths
of a person;
2) postponing for 20 years the effective date for outlawing the
slave trade; and
3) obligating the government to defend fugitive slave laws and
to use its forces to suppress black insurrections and violence. The federal
government was a co-conspirator in black slavery.
The Constitution placed white wealth interests over black personal rights because the framers were wealthy, conservative white men. More than 31 percent of the delegates to the Philadelphia Convention were slave holders who together owned approximately 1,400 slaves. The framers were idealists, but they were also racist. James Madison and George Washington were two of the larger and more prosperous of all the Constitutional delegates. Their capital investment in slaves would be worth approximately $105 million today. They and their fellow delegates protected their own slave investments and the nations free labor system. The delegates believed that black slave labor was necessary for the development of the nation and the prosperity of white Europeans in this country. All of the nations power and wealth were in the hands of white males. Any antislavery sentiments that might have been voiced did not prevail. The well being of blacks was not a concern.
The framers spoke out against concentrated power in the hands of the British, but ignored the concentration of power within their own developing aristocratic ranks. The accumulation of all powers in the same hands, whether of one, a few, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, cautioned James Madison, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. If the concentration of power in British hands constituted tyranny, why was that not so when it was concentrated in the hands of white colonialists? Blacks became permanent victims of a tyrannical majority, when their lowly role was inscribed into the founding documents. The framers obviously did not foresee a time when blacks would be anything other than slaves.
The Constitution fused the broad concept of property ownership and related rights with English slave laws. Once blacks were classified as property, the English insisted that slaves, as property, had no rights be yond the right to perform as requested. The framers codified in the Constitution their belief that property ownership rights were superior to slaves human rights. As slave owners, many of the framers believed in the old English Law that whomever discovers or owns a person or thing has inherent rights over them.
Racism in the Supreme Court and the Legal System The
Supreme Court has been a major player in the denigration of blacks. It has exercised
powers that the Constitution never gave it in order to overrule the U.S.
Congress. In the famous 1857 Dred Scott Decision that concluded that blacks had
no rights, the Supreme Court made itself coequal to the U.S. Congress and began
issuing rulings that declared congressional acts to aid blacks were
According to the Constitution, courts were supposed to be sanctuaries of judicial objectivity, fairness and justice. It is ironic, then, that for nearly 200 years, only wealthy, white male lawyers served in the high court. And even today, they are the overwhelming dominant class of judges and justices. The judicial system cannot be fair and impartial to all citizens be cause judges decisions naturally reflect their experiences and beliefs. How fair and impartial to all is a judicial system that is composed of 99 percent conservative white males? How unbiased are the courts decisions when the judges are appointed or elected because of their social and political ideologies?
The Supreme Courts interpretive freedom is both its strength and its weakness, because as political appointees, the justices, to some extent, reflect the views and philosophies of the appointing President and seek to maintain the status quo. In his book, A People 5 History of the United States, historian Howard Zinn lamented the courts biased class interest stating that despite its look of somber, black robed fairness, the Supreme Court was doing everything it could for the ruling elite.
Only the politically naive would believe that presidents would appoint individuals to the Supreme Court who did not hold social-political views on race matters that were similar to those of the President. During the 1980s, the litmus test for judicial appointments was support for the conservative cause on race matters as drawn from the Constitution and not case precedence. The conservative slap in the face to black America was the appointment of Clarence Thomas, a black man, to the Supreme Court.
Thomas, an ultra-right wing conservative, sees the world through the eyes of the white framers of the Constitution, rather than those of black America. Former President George Bush said, Clarence Thomas was the most qualified candidate in the country who knew what it was to be poor. In a Washington Post article (April 18, 1994) Columnist Jack Anderson disagreed with George Bush on both counts. According to Anderson, Thomass writings and decisions denote someone who disdains the down trodden and is callous about protecting civil liberties. Thomass court opinions supporting the beating of handcuffed prisoners, gender discrimination in selecting juries, and denial of immigration rights to black Haitian refugees, show him to be a judicial activist whose legal interpretations parallel the views of the drafters of the Constitution.
Supreme Court decisions are based on the Constitution. But, since the original intent of the Constitution was to enslave blacks and deny them their humanity, fairness for blacks is impossible. To change conditions and make them sympathetic to black goals of empowerment and wealth, would be to drastically change the intent of the framers. If judges rely on original intent, blacks would have no rights.
According to Eric Black, there were serious disagreements among the framers on many issues, but on the specific issue of slavery the framers original intent was crystal clear: The framers intended to approve and codify the subordination and exploitation of blacks into law. They in tended to reward slave holders and give them extra representation and power in Congress. And, they intended to make it unconstitutional for anyone to attempt to harbor or assist a black slave. Seemingly, these intentions were very strong forces underlying the Constitution.
It is likely that blacks would have continued their battle for constitutional rights in the 19th century had they not been discouraged by the Supreme Courts unrelenting pattern of biased interpretations of black peoples rights under Emancipation and the 14th Amendment. A critical examination of court rulings and the legal status of black Americans prior to the 1954 Brown decision should make even the heartiest optimist wonder why blacks would try to seek protection from any court, especially the Supreme Court. Over the last century and a half, various court rulings followed a circular course, from indifference to hostility, to benignity. The Supreme Court stood silent while lower courts emasculated the 14th and 15th Amendments. There were few, if any, favorable rulings for blacks during the first 160 years of the Courts existence.
The Supreme Courts Dred Scott Decision in 1857 reflected the prevailing attitude towards the legal rights of blacks. Although it had taken 11 years for the case to reach the Supreme Court, the ruling was swift and sure. The Dred Scott Decision stated emphatically that neither free or enslaved blacks were considered to be citizens and hence, could not sue for their freedom. Representing the majority opinion, Supreme Court Justice Taney wrote: Blacks are inferior beings and as property, they lack citizenship and have no rights that a white man is bound to respect.
Following the Civil War, Congress, for partisan reasons, modified the Constitution to eliminate the most egregious wrongs against blacks. In the late 1860s, Congress enacted the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. These Constitutional amendments were specifically enacted to abolish slavery, grant blacks citizenship with equal protection, and establish voting rights for blacks. However, the Supreme Court emasculated the 14th and 15th Amendments with a succession of unfavorable court rulings that restored Southerners control over blacks.
The Courts aggressive and negative rulings against blacks accelerated after Emancipation. In 1883, the Court voided the Civil Rights Act of 1875 and refused to strike down discrimination by individual citizens. In 1896, the Supreme Court further reinforced its notion that blacks were not to be respected, when it gave its blessings to the Jim Crow system of separate-but-equal in the case of Plessy vs. Ferguson. The separate-but- equal doctrine hung a cloak of respectability around 60 more years of unbridled discrimination against blacks.
The succession of anti-black Supreme Court rulings and the Compromise of 1877 obliterated the purposes of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments for newly freed slaves. In the Compromise of 1877, the Northern champions of the black cause compromised to accept the Southern race system. The Southern conservatives and wealthy class then experienced little difficulty in persuading the Supreme Court to ignore other Constitutional revisions on behalf of blacks.
Following the Civil War, history repeated itself. Southern whites again had control of the land, but had neither money nor labor. For the second time, black labor was commandeered and used to develop the Southern economic and social structure. The Southern states passed highly discriminatory Black Codes to keep blacks in a position of servitude. The Codes, a mandate for slavery, gave white Southerners a manageable and inexpensive labor force. The Codes and subsequent laws and ordinances, as indicated in the Appendix, made it illegal for blacks to engage in normal social behavior, such as owning a dog, looking out of the same window that whites looked out of, raising and selling agricultural products, crossing a state line and being on the street after dark.
The nature of these Black Codes effectively nullified the 13th Amendment and permitted local law enforcement agencies to arrest blacks and place them in involuntary servitude as criminals who had been duly convicted. It was common for local sheriffs to provide Southern planters with imprisoned blacks for free labor. Blacks were forbidden to work without written contracts. They were also forbidden to learn to read and write. Though they could not read legal contracts, they were bound, and in all too many instances, were arrested for having breached or broken the terms of their sharecropping agreements.
The 13th Amendment contained an exception clause that cleared the way for nearly a century of involuntary black servitude, because blacks had no income alternatives. Although the government had promised compensation to slaves upon Emancipation, blacks never received the promised 40 acres of land, tools or the mule. Abandoned without resources, most black freedmen had little recourse but to accept the white planters terms.
In some Southern states, advertisements invited blacks to voluntarily reenter slavery for the benefit of the South, the old white masters, and the nation. Just as the socio-political context nullified the effectiveness of the 13th Amendment for blacks, it also made the 14th Amendment a dead letter for blacks. The equal protection clause was written into the Constitution as part of the 14th Amendment in 1868. But it wasnt until 1954 that this language was interpreted to make it unconstitutional to overtly and explicitly discriminate against blacks.
The court interpreted the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments broadly and applied them to many situations unrelated to blacks. By the turn of the century, the court used the new Constitutional amendments primarily to protect the wealth of major corporations. In 1886, the Supreme Court used the 14th Amendment on equal protection and due process to abolish 230 state laws that regulated corporations. Corporate legal counselors argued that corporations were persons and their money was property protected by the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.
Of the 14th Amendment cases brought before the Supreme Court between 1890 and 1901, only 19 dealt with blacks, versus 288 with corporations. The court showed favor to the corporations, but it ruled against blacks in all 19 cases. The court refused to hear the majority of cases involving blacks who were openly disenfranchised, exploited, terrorized and lynched by the powerful and wealthy. Between 1882 and 1892 approximately 2,600 blacks were lynched.
Absence of Group Economics and Capitalism The practice of perceiving and acting on issues and events from a social rather than a capitalistic perspective is a major impediment to black empowerment. An old adage says, When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Blacks are in America and America is a capitalist nation. Thus, blacks will have to adopt the American capitalistic approach if they are to build their economic strength. The founding fathers intended this nation to be an experiment in capitalism.
Dr. William E.B. Dubois, the preeminent black scholar, once described the concept to a black audience in Atlanta. He said: Capitalism is like having three ears of corn: You eat one, you sell one, and you save one for seed for next years planting. Using Dubois definition as a measuring device, blacks have yet to practice capitalism. Black people are neither producers nor savers. Primarily, blacks are consumers. Blacks spend 95 percent of their annual disposable income with businesses located within white communities. Of the five percent that re mains within black communities, another three percent is spent with non- black owned businesses. It is difficult, if not impossible, for black communities to maintain a reasonable quality of life and be economically competitive when only two percent of their annual disposable income remains within black communities.
Conditions in black communities are made worse by the fact that too many black business owners believe in developing their business but not the black community. They are shortsighted in valuing temporary business development above long-term community development. USA Today reported on April 11, 1994 that of approximately $9 billion that went to black 8(a) businesses from government set aside contracts, nearly all of the black businesses were located in white communities. The tax revenue and jobs from these government contracts went into white rather than black communities, but supporters of the programs explained that they fostered minority businesses not community development. With black consumers and black businesses spending 95 percent of their income in white communities, whites live comfortably off double incomes; reaping 100 percent of their own and 95 percent of blacks in come. Essentially, black consumers and business owners have joined whites in boycotting black communities. Their failure to practice group economics further impoverishes black communities.
Pursuing Myths and Elusive Dreams To achieve economic power, blacks as a group must redesign civil rights traditions. Blacks are out of sync with the times and are still chasing civil rights. The process of re thinking our civil rights tradition begins with reexamining Americas race problem from the perspective of black economic and political empowerment. The section below explores myths or dreams that are to their detriment.Myth No. 1: Integration
Real integration is a dream that will never come true for blacks. Even if it did, it would not change the nature of black life in America. The reality of integration is that the integrating group loses all self-determination, since all plans and goals must be processed through and approved by the dominant society into which the minority group is integrating. Integration is a detriment to blacks, because the larger white society will neither allow blacks to assimilate nor give them assistance to alter the negative marginal conditions in which they must live.
Black businesses and individuals situated in and wholly dependent on the continued acceptance and goodwill of white communities are vulnerable and powerless. They cannot change anything in the white communities or businesses because they are only guests. Integrated blacks conditions are made more precarious by the reasoning that they have little, if any, support within the white community and they cannot depend upon receiving support from the black community whose powers were weakened by those who abandoned the community to integrate. Similarly, it is difficult for the nonintegrated black masses to identify with the integrated few. Therefore, both the integrated and the non-integrated are rendered powerless by their social divisions.
Power flows from the group, the trunk of the tree, not in reverse from the individual or limb to the trunk. So, as long as the black masses remain powerless then every black individual remains powerless and vulnerable, even if they or their businesses are integrated. The integration process has major political significance in large urban areas where blacks are in control of government apparatus. When blacks are the majority population and are the controllers of government, the last things they should be concerned about are integration and minority development. It is self-destructive to continue to behave as a powerless minority seeking integration when ones group is the dominant majority population.
While urban revitalization plans should be built around economically and politically empowering cities black masses, black elected officials are reading outdated development strategies that suggest the best way to help blacks is to re-attract whites into the cities. Such development philosophies are racist and shortsighted. It confirms the belief in white superiority and black inferiority, that blacks cannot govern and progress with out white involvement. Integration will be a no-win situation for black people until they have sufficient racial power, wealth, competitiveness, and respect. At that point, integration will become just one of a number of options open to them.
In summary, once blacks gain power parity, they will have the option of integrating or separating. Currently, they have no such choices. Integration requires blacks to give up their culture, values and all that is identifiably black. The integration process is divisive and detrimental to blacks self-empowerment goal, because it dilutes and fragments their numerical strength, placing them further in the minority in a nation whose political principle is that the majority rules. Black people are the only group of people ethnic or racial that has consistently sought to integrate and continues to seek integration, though white society has repeatedly rejected them.
Once blacks began to integrate, they abandoned their businesses, schools and communities; they also lost disposable capital that is now redirected to white communities; they even lost their middle-class black role models, who followed whites to the suburbs. The loss of black capital and role models has left black communities across the nation impoverished and without leadership. And, worst of all, under integration black people have had to shape their goals, values and behavior around white Americas standards, though whites approval likely will not reap financial or political gains for black people
Myth No. 2: Equal Opportunity for All
Black America devotes a significant amount of time and energy chasing the myth of equal opportunity, which was the forerunner of the dream of racial integration. Both the myth and the dream are improbable. In equality of power and wealth will naturally exist, so long as human greed and competition motivate human behavior. On the other hand, the myth of equality does perform an invaluable service for those who hold a disproportionate share of the wealth, power and material resources. This myth not only keeps blacks distracted from learning how to increase their share, but it keeps blacks believing that at least their children or their childrens children will have a fair chance at the brass ring. The greatest service that the myth of equality provides for the dominant power holders is the idea that, if blacks are not successful achieving a fair share of power, wealth, and material resources, it is their own fault.
Integration and equal opportunity are grounded in the belief that dominant white society will voluntarily share power with blacks. Power is rarely shared, especially between competitive groups. Power holders have no desire for equality. James R. Kluegel and Eliot R. Smith, in the research for Beliefs about Equality, showed that whites resist changes regarding racial inequalities, because they tend to classify inequalities that relate to the black underclass as non-issues. Many whites do not believe that structural limitations impede blacks. Some even believe that, if individuals would coexist with their social peers, and stop trying to integrate; inequality would not be an issue. Everyone would then be in common groupings, they reason. Whites will accept blacks as equals only when blacks have acquired parity of wealth and power. Pursuing the concept of equality rather than the basis of equalitywhich is wealth and power is a quagmire that bogs blacks down ,and wastes their time and efforts.
Conservative logic holds that if all people acknowledge that America is race neutral, then blacks have achieved their long-sought equality with out whites ever having to redistribute resources and power to blacks. Through the 1980s, conservatives checkmated blacks on preferential policies and quotas by arguing that America is a color-blind society and all governmental policies should be race neutral. The only way America will ever be color-blind is if everyone literally lost their sight. Conservatives have learned to use black rhetoric against blacks. They argue that any decision that is race conscious violates the 14th Amendment and is there fore unconstitutional. However, without preferential treatment, or affirmative action for blacks, structural racism will continue to advantage whites. This is the way the power holders want it to be. If the white power holders had wanted blacks to have equality, they would not have kept them outside and beneath mainstream society for nearly 400 years.
Myth No. 4: Cultural Diversity
The way an individual or group perceives itself is a critical determinant of their drive and goals. Though blacks bear a disproportionate bur den of poverty, it is a self-limiting exercise in futility for them to overly identify with poverty programs and policies. Poverty is a given in life. Affluence is povertys fixed extreme. Both poverty and affluence are horizontal, social and economic characteristics that inflict themselves on all racial and ethnic groups regardless of geographic locations. Blacks ought to be realistic in their approach to poverty and poverty politics. Although poverty is a relative state among groups of humans, is a given fact of life. It cannot be eradicated. Poor peoples marches and government-sponsored poverty programs cannot eradicate poverty. And, even if government policies and programs could eliminate poverty, the conservative, wealthy elite would not allow it to do so. Due to limited black resources, it would be far more productive to view poverty as vertical characteristic and concentrate efforts not on eradicating it, but providing as many blacks as possible with the education, wealth and powerbuilding tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty.
Cultural pluralism and diversity have become very popular
buzz words, yet the American melting pot has proven to be an optical illusion.
Cultural diversity is a term used to equate blacks with other groups, though
they are not. As a recent newspaper article reported: The demands of immigrant groups and others
diluted, and eventually trivialized the
very special claims of blacks for national attention. Blacks are models for
ethnic, racial or gender groups, yes. However, a multi-cultural or cultural
diversity ethic that equates all subculture grievances with those of blacks
belittles and neutralizes blacks efforts to resolve their unique dilemma.
Cultural diversity gives the dominant society unrestricted entry to black culture, while socially and economically excluding blacks from white culture. Black culture is allowed to assimilate, though blacks cannot. For every ethnic group, except blacks, cultural diversity has advantages. Main streets throughout America reflect the nations cultural diversity by featuring Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Italian, Greek, French, East Indian, Vietnamese and Cambodian restaurants. These groups have the option to assimilate into the mainstream with their culture intact. They establish other businesses, economies and their own communities. Blacks dont have the benefit of an identifiable culture of their very own. A mishmash of African heritage, soul and black history is offered as black culture. Cultural diversity or pluralism would be advantageous to them if all things were equal, but they are not
Contrary to the popular rhetoric of social engineers, political pundits and politicians, blacks are not ethnics. Ethnicity is the sharing of a common language, religion, culture, and set of racial characteristics. But, blacks in this country are an amalgamated racial group. They share the English language, but belong to every religious group, have no clear-cut culture and have a racially mixed family tree. Therefore, the concept of ethnicity does not aptly describe blacks and should not be used to merge black interests with those of other groups.
There are those with specious motives who attempt to classify blacks as an
ethnic group in order to blame them for not having reached parity with other
ethnic groups. The movement to classify blacks as ethnics is political
sleight-of-hand that springs from modern conservatives attempts to promote
their so-called color-blind political strategies. If blacks permit themselves
to be classified as an ethnic group, blacks will suffer a major political loss.
Leslie McLemore, of John Hopkins University, defined an ethnic group as those who differ culturally from the dominant population, but share enough characteristics with the main population to be acceptable after a period of time.
Apparently non-black ethnics are viewed as allies of the majority white community, because they share common characteristics, non-black skin, immigrant backgrounds, absence of the slavery legacy. Blacks have shared American culture for nearly 400 years and have yet to be melted into the mythical melting pot. Classifying blacks as an ethnic group sets them up for a new round of benign neglect.Myth No. 6: Sexism Is Equal to Racism
The form, degree, and intent of discrimination against blacks and women has always been vastly different and, therefore, should not be treated equally. Blacks were legally subordinated and exploited as producers of wealth and human comfort for a society that denied them the rights to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Contrarily, women as a protected class, enjoyed the fruits of every black workers labor, but were denied the luxury of laboring with blacks to produce such fruits. Therefore, sexism is more a class issue and a class struggle.
Equating discrimination against women to discrimination against blacks is like comparing a headache with cancer. Being a woman in the main stream society may have its challenges, but it can in no manner be com pared to being black in America. Yet, in the 1970s, the two struggles were linked. As one insightful writer noted, The class category of women was placed in the same category as blacks, not only as being oppressed, but as suffering the same degree of segregation, exploitation and discrimination as blacks. The constitutional violations of the rights of women to equal citizenship were equated with constitutional violations of the rights of blacks. Nothing could be further from the truth. Through such social devices as families, marriages and racial segregation, white women have had access to the fruits of white males wealth and power. Blacks have
From a racial perspective, white women always had the advantage of enjoying the fruits of racial discrimination and the option of categorically discriminating against blacks. Blacks have never had a counter option of discriminating collectively against women. The womens movement sup planted the black civil rights movement more than a generation ago and has generated a demand for woman power and sisterhood that now serves as a major impediment to black family unity and racial solidarity. It is no accident that every time blacks are on the verge of receiving relief from their oppressive conditions, the women's issue emerges.
Myth No. 7: Black Feminism
Both conservatives and liberals support the issue to dilute entitlements to blacks. The first attempt by women to press their own cause, to the detriment of blacks, occurred in 1870. Women tried to push Congress to write them into the Constitution under the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, which were specifically enacted to ensure that the freed slaves had equal rights under the law. Shortly after Emancipation, Congress passed deaf ears and continues to be intentionally misinterpreted. Feminists continue to compete against blacks.
The issue of gender protection under the Constitution arose again in 1964 when a Southern congressman insisted that women be included in an amendment to the Civil Rights Act. However, equality of the sexes was a lesser concern than undermining the bills power to help blacks. Racist conservatives rose up in support of the amendment. Representative George William Andrews of Alabama said: Unless the amendment is adopted, the white women of this country would be drastically discriminated against in favor of a Negro woman.
This attempt to derail the Civil Rights Movement succeeded. The amendment easily passed, signaling the start of a trend by liberal politicians and organizations to push blacks even further onto the back burner by equating other categories of people, who considered themselves equally aggrieved, to blacks. The rights movement soon expanded to include not only women, but Hispanics, Asians, Jews, the handicapped, gays, senior citizens, immigrants, drug users, migrant workers, the mentally ill and illegal aliens. But the biggest push went for women, since even a racist white male knew that promoting benefits for women would be little more than redistributing wealth to his white mother, sister, daughter, or wife. Thus, the wealth and power would not leave the white race.
The popular feminist movement has injured relationships
between black women and black men. The sophisticated use of racism and
capitalism has placed. . . black women in a position of being a major
competitor of black men for jobs, education, housing, and other services and
necessary resources, said Haki R. Madhubuti, in his book Black Men: Obsolete,
Single, Dangerous? Madhubuti explained the conflict between black men and black
women saying, Black women did not place themselves in this delicate position
as a ward of the system. They have been maneuvered and strategically used for
the benefit of the white majority just as the black man has.
Although their gains have not been quite as spectacular as those of white females, black females have improved their historical advantage over black males. Black women have always been more acceptable to the dominant white society. As with white feminism, black feminism, has always been present, but has been fairly low key. Black women have always been able to find work when black males could not. They were more preferable, because they were less threatening. Black women are also beneficial for government reporting purposes, since a black female counts both as a female and as a black. In 1954, the income of black women surpassed black males and the income gap has continued to widen. Black women could work, go to school, socialize and breed with whites when black males could not. Slavery intentionally placed black women in matriarchal roles in order to dominate black men. Not only did such role reversals weaken the black family structure, they also placed the black female in closer physical and symbolic proximity to the white male.
White males power position afforded them sexual access to black fe males. A white male with a black female mistress was an acceptable part of Southern life and was often part of the rites of manhood for young white males. Black males, who were forced into a status below the black female, were totally powerless to protect black females. Today, the rise of the black sisterhood has the potential to be a divisive and destructive social phenomenon that could impede black self-empowerment. The black sisterhood here refers to black women who have indirectly joined with white males and white females to further depress black males. Using black females to subordinate black males places the race where it was centuries ago. In slavery, female slaves were typically field drivers who set the work pace and tasks for male slaves. Though many worked alongside of the male slaves, they were usually given the easier, management jobs, supervising childrens crews and trash gangs.
Within the household, black females were typically the surrogate over seers of the entire yard staffs as well as the slave holders young children. The black females advice was sought and accepted in family and house hold matters. Up until the civil rights period, the black females domestic authority was exceeded only by the white master and mistress. Black males as a class were never granted the full social and economic options to play out the male role as head of the black family and house hold. More than a third of black males today are unemployed, poorly educated, on parole, probation or in prison, and have a life expectancy that is 20 years shorter than a white female and 10 years shorter than a black female. Black males are an endangered species. That has been the case historically. They were enslaved on a ratio of 2 to 1 for every black female. As far back as the 1840s, certain Southern states enacted an annual $5 per capita tax on free black males in order to punish them for simply being black, male and free.
Racism historically has been a male-to-male phenomenon a device to strengthen one males group at the expense of the other. Debates about sexism thwarts meaningful discussions about racism, further divides a weakened race and underscores the weakened condition of the black male. Blacks are already the lowest among the ranking of racial and ethnic groups in America, if not the world. Some black women often fail to understand that if sex discrimination disappears, the white female will again simply join the white male on the veranda of the plantation house or in the suburbs and black women will once again serve the mint juleps.
Criminalizing Blacks The criminalizing of blacks, especially black males, is a major obstacle to black empowerment for at least three reasons:
1) American society has long linked crime to blacks, especially young, black males;
2) Blacks have been forced to live in marginal social conditions that produce pathological, survival behavior; and
3) Black communities lack an accountability mechanism that
could establish, reward, and punish behavior that is detrimental to them. Since
the late 1960s, blacks have been so overexposed to black crime within their
communities, that they now accept it as normal black behavior.
National public policies and institutions began centuries ago to pro duce and perpetuate the laws, racial images, and myths that imprisoned blacks within the concepts of crime and violence.
For blacks, criminal justice has never been blind. White society criminalized black behavior out of fears and financial self-interest. According to Leonard Curry, the author of The Free Black In Urban America, 1800-1850, blacks were arrested for activities that would not have been a crime for whites, such as strolling in certain neighborhoods and looking suspicious. Sometimes blacks were imprisoned for even less specific crimes, such as violating various city ordinances and playing games with whites. In some in stances, no crimes were committed. White planters would commit blacks to prison just for safe keeping. All of these incarcerations showed up in the records as black crimes against society.
An abusive use of the legal system to criminalize blacks primarily occurred in urban areas where the white power structure had fewer options for controlling and using blacks. As far back as 1826, in Massachusetts, free blacks were less than one percent of the population, but nearly 17 percent of the prisoners. In Pennsylvania, blacks were two percent of the population, but nearly 34 percent of the prisoners; and in New Jersey, blacks were also only two percent of the population, but nearly 50 per cent of the prisoners. Today, blacks still make up 35 to 50 percent of the state or federal penal total population. Approximately 37 percent of Americas black male population is either in jail or on parole or probation. The criminalizing phenomena has destroyed black individuals, families and communities.
The criminalizing of blacks does not excuse blacks who are engaging in criminal activities from being held accountable for their behavior. But the black communities should hold them accountable, not only the majority white society that fosters the conditions that encourages blacks to commit criminal acts. Many blacks have in the past and will continue to commit petty blue-collar crimes in the future. But all behavior is caused whether it is perceived as being good or bad. It should be noted, therefore, that black crime markedly increased at the same time and in direct pro portion to blacks becoming obsolete and expendable as a labor class in the early 1960s. As black wealth, income, employment, business, educational and male role model opportunities diminished throughout the country, black criminal activities increased.
If American justice were to ever be color blind, crime would have to be redefined and fairly enforced. For instance, white law breakers would not be treated any differently for their white-collar crimes than blue-collar criminals. The term white-collar crime was coined in 1940, and referred to illegal acts carried out by respectable members of the community or persons of high status in the course of their occupations. And, white- collar crimes are usually nonviolent offenses carried out by respectable people to gain money, property, or personal benefits through deceit. John Farley stated in his book, Sociology, that white-collar crimes cost the society from $40 to $200 billion a year (not including the savings and loan thefts). This is eight times the cost of all common, blue collar crimes. Yet, our prisons are 99 percent filled with blue-collar criminals who are predominantly black. With so many more expensive white-collar crimes being committed, why are there not more white-collar prisoners? Because most white-collar crimes are committed primarily by whites, and crime statistics are skewed towards reporting blue-collar crimes. White-collar crimes go to civil rather than criminal courts, and are typically excluded from crime reports. When crimes such as inside stock trading, toxic waste dumping,
embezzlement, bribery, income tax evasion, expense account padding, larceny, computer fraud, money laundering, extortion, blackmail, counterfeiting, government contract manipulations, and saving and loan thefts are included in the crime reports, the typical criminal turns out to be wealthy and white. In terms of acts of violence, personal injuries and deaths, a California public health official stated that medical quackery causes more deaths in the United States every year than all [collar] crimes of violence. Yet, few quacks ever go to jail, and none have ever been sentenced to the electric chair for medical malpractice. Even in the rare cases where individuals are arrested and convicted for white collar crimes, they receive light sentences and are frequently sent to resort prisons.
Criminals should be arrested and prosecuted, regardless of the color of the collar or color of the skin. Whites do not commit as many blue-collar crimes. Their privileged status, contacts, options, and wealth gives them greater access to basic necessities and resources of the society, without their having to commit criminal acts. Until black America breaks the shackles of black criminality, either actual and imagined, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for them to achieve economic and political self- sufficiency and self-empowerment.
The greatest impediment to black empowerment and economic justice has been the Constitution, which institutionalized the relative social and economic status of blacks and whites and codified racism in America. After using the Constitution to expropriate black labor, create a racial ordering of acceptability and foster a wealth and power imbalance between blacks and whites, the government and the court system are now using the Constitution to impede any effort to correct the disparities. The government and the courts now allege that any preferential treatment for blacks would be unconstitutional reverse discrimination. The Constitution ought to be just as supportive or tolerant of affirmative action, set asides and preferential treatment for blacks as it has been for whites. Indeed, in all their wisdom, the drafters of the Constitution had to have known that discrimination against blacks was in fact preferential treatment for whites.
Africans in the United States will not be free until Africans everywhere are free. David Walker... Appeal
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