by Taki S. Raton
I read with deep concern the remarks of African American politicians and organization stakeholders in the Black press this past August 16 weekend regarding the “rash” of shootings in Milwaukee.
As of Thursday August 13, it is reported, seven people have been fatally shot and 16 injured by gunfire. My concern was fueled by the reasoning given for this sudden rise in violence citing poverty, unemployment rates, and disparities in income and opportunity – the traditional African American mainstreamed response locally and nationally.
Our children need to know that Black people are the only people in the country and indeed the world – per my concern – that blames everyone else and everything else for our problems and that we assume absolutely no responsibility, personal or collectively as a group, for our condition and dire decaying circumstance here in 2013 America.
And we certainly cannot afford another generation to carry forth this same semblance of powerlessness, dependency, and irresponsibility, both personal and collectively, as an African American culture.
Why is it, and perhaps I may need just s little bit of help here, why is it that we expect everyone else to invest in us when we obviously do not invest in ourselves? Why should we expect everyone else to do for us when – obviously – we do not do for ourselves?
And when it comes to economics and job development, we are always “begging” and expecting others to provide for us as presumed last week in the local leaders response wording.
Black people literally do just the exact opposite of what White people and each and every other ethnic group do in America and globally to generate a job producing economic base amongst and for their own people.
Black folk go against just about every rule of thumb when it comes to community economic development as it all starts with family, culture and in-group aggregated alignments locally, regionally, nationally and globally.
On Friday, July 26, I was invited down to Lafayette, Louisiana to keynote the opening of their annual Ujamaa 2013 Conference held at the Imani Temple # 29.
In observance of Kwanzaa’s fourth principle, Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), my presentation theme was “Retrieving Black Family Values for Economic Development.”
Primary sources used in preparation for this 120-minute power point delivery were Dr. Amos Wilson (“Blueprint for Black Power,” 1998), Dr. Claude Anderson (“Black Labor/White Wealth,” 1994), and Dr. Michael D. Woodard (“Black Entrepreneurs in America,” 1997).
Wilson informs us clearly that in America’s pluralistic society, ethnicity, family and in-group cultural alignments are cornerstones in respective group economic empowerment, not dependence on the system. He cites the Jews, British, Japanese, Chinese, Indians, Koreans, Afghans, Dominicans, and Hispanics to name a few. Black folk have been here in America longer than any other culture of color.
But right now as of 2013, we are on the bottom and still slipping economically. And don’t talk about slavery, Jim Crow or discrimination.
Woodard reveals Black entrepreneurial activity during the enslavement and Jim Crow era that would make us proud.
Over a 313-year period since Anthony Johnson, who in 1651was cited as the first Black entrepreneur of record, we had over 60,000 free Africans (Negroes) dealing in manufacturing, construction, transportation, extraction industries, services and carpentry. In 1890, exactly 123 years ago, 74,000 Blacks were self-employed in various cities nationwide, in such fields as draymen, bankers, merchants, salesmen, packers, shippers, hotel-keepers, livery stable keepers, and undertakers. Our children should be taught these modeled examples.
But civil rights took Black folk into another direction, away from “Race First” agendas, which all other groups follow.
In New York, cites Wilson, there are 300,000 Koreans in the metropolitan area with 10,000 Korean-owned businesses of which 500 are deli’s, grocery stores or supermarkets. Their total sales annually approach $1.5 billion. They hire and train their own kind.
The Afghan refugees are the smallest and later arriving group in New York. Numbering less than 4,000, almost all are war refugees.
Lacking higher education, trade skills, and having little knowledge of English, Afghans, reveals Wilson, have “become specialists in the fast food chicken business, owning more than 200 area fast-food restaurants.
All of their carpenters, painters, and chicken suppliers, note the “Blueprint” author, are Afghans. One Afghan owns as many as 40 franchised fried chicken restaurants.
How do they do it? Nearly the same way as other groups build their businesses.
Established immigrants take “new arrivals” by the hand and teach their cultural kin the intricacies of running a business. “It’s like a formula,” one Afghan is quoted as saying. “When the new one comes to the store, they sit. They watch. They learn, and then they work.”
Black people per civil rights leadership did just the opposite. Wilson positions that the economic emphasis of this agenda was “on jobs supplied by White businesses instead of on community-based economic expansion; on income rather than wealth; on spending rather than saving.”
He adds that the freedom to spend money with, around and next to White people became almost synonymous with “freedom” and “First-class” citizenship in the minds of many African Americans.
And while this freedom of consumption legally was not to be denied, cites the scholar, it effectively “led to the redistribution of Black consumer spending away from Black businesses toward White business establishments with the result that many Black businesses lost a large portion, if not their complete Black clientele.” In many ways, observes Wilson, the civil rights movement “proved to be a boom to White-owned businesses by providing them with a large new clientele, a new market, and a very sizable pool of money unavailable to them before.”
So what about Black businesses and the effort to inspire Black folk to support and buy Black? We did just the opposite.
Unlike the Jews, British, Japanese, Chinese, Indians, Koreans, Afghans, Dominicans, and Hispanics and all other groups in pluralistic America; unlike the natural sense of working for and building amongst one’s own kind first, foremost and always, buying Black and supporting Black was viewed by many African Americans, says Wilson, as a “form of self-segregation, as indicative of separatism, anti-integration, and anti-the struggle for racial equality.”
This is the madness that Black folk have been following now for over the past 43 years. Our children should know this so that they won’t, moving forward, make the same mistake.
Citing such sources as the September 1993 edition of Target Market News, Black people nationally spend over $154 billion dollars annually with other people outside of our community on such consumables as footwear, clothing, coin operated laundry and dry cleaning, food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, vehicle purchases, personal care products, electronic products, housing and health care.
We greatly assist in securing, for example, the economic base of retailers, manufacturers, producers, distributors of others.
Our dollars help to keep other people employed while our own politicians and organizational leaders nationwide run to the system asking for jobs and resources for our community when very easily we can provide for our own using such examples as the Garvey, Booker T. Washington and Nation of Islam models.
And we have other historical guides such as Tulsa, Durham, and Natchez. Our children need to know, for instance, that according to Robert Roderick Johnson in “Wake Up Black American, You’re Sleepwalking Back Into Slavery,” Natchez, Tennessee had a Black business district in the main section of the downtown area. There were Black doctors, lawyers, restaurants, nightclubs, soda fountains, barbershops, beauty/nail shops, gambling joints, five funeral homes and a Black lottery.
These businesses provided income for many families and kept money moving around this small Black community.
During the 1940’s, more than 150 businesses were owned by African Americans and flourished in Durham, North Carolina.
Among these businesses were restaurants, movie theaters, barbershops, nightclubs, boarding houses, pressing ships, grocery stores, banks, savings and loan establishments and funeral parlors.
Dr. Claude Anderson shares with us that one of the largest and most successful Black businesses in the nation was the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company with remains the largest African American owned insurance company in 2012 with an excess of $200 million.
Up until 1921, Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Black Wall Street had created 600 Black owned businesses to include 21 churches, 22 Black owned restaurants, 30 Black owned grocery stores, two Black owned movie theaters, six Black owned private airplanes, one Black owned and operated hospital, one bank and its own school system.
And most assuredly, in addition to preparing its young for college and professional careers outside of Tulsa, accounts disclose that Tulsa’s Black owned and operated school system generationally prepared a proud and competent young Black work force for their businesses.
Our children need to know this (their) history. They need to know these models. They need to know that throughout enslavement, despite Jim Crow, the KKK and the like, Black people transcended, excelled and triumphantly mastered over any and all obstacles and challenges of racism, White Supremacy and segregation.
They, our children, need to know how we did that – the path, the models, the lessons, the examples of victory, growth and progressive ascension above, apart and beyond Black leadership, which was always calling out for that extended White hand and “lift-up” by others as though we are eternal child-like weaklings unable to do for self without someone else’s meager paternalistic hand-outs.
Our children (and others) need to know – then and now – that we have a legacy of masterful perfect Black communities where Black-on-Black violence was unheard of; where we ourselves lovingly prepared our children for dignified pluralistic humane interaction, civil cooperation, work ethic competency, competitive skill sets, and contributory orientation towards the advancement of humankind ideals; where parents, intact Black families, and Black community based institutions – like all other groups in America and throughout the globe – had a collective sense of self-esteem and self-group ideals; where there was a collective group sense of identity, purpose and direction, and where our beautiful Black children were raised to know, embrace and cultivate their own talents, skills, gifts, and genius.
This we did then, without the now present worry or need for a local police force to spend $500,000 dollars on police overtime because Black youth were killing one another and Black adults have lost control over Black youth.
Anderson tells us that right now, Black people “are on their own.” It is very clear that the system has given up on Black folk, particularly Black males. We are no longer needed, thus the proliferation of mass incarceration. Public schooling is shutting down across the country because now there is no need to educate Black youth. For what? Anderson has said on many occasions that the Hispanics, Asians, Koreans, Indians and all other cultural groups will be the work force of the foreseeable future. This factual pattern, posits Anderson, actually began in the early 1970’s with Affirmative Action.
While we were so busy integrating and trying to be “accepted” by White folks, Anderson, in the May 6, 2011 post, “Black People Wake Up and Do For Self,” claims that Hispanics, women – where suitable – and everybody else per Affirmative Action framed themselves “under the categories of minority, diversity, multi-cultural, and people of color.”
He says that it is “amazing” that 95% of all the Hispanics now living in the country have been here less than 30 years and have now surpassed Blacks socio-economically and politically.
He adds that “No one, not one single Black civil rights leader” has ever challenged why Hispanics, women, and other groups were then able to call themselves a “minority” thus eventually knocking the Black man all the way down to the bottom of the barrel where we have since remained.
He shares that the difference with Black people and other folk of color, with an emphasis on Hispanics, include the fact that all other groups see themselves and collectively function as a distinct ethnic group while we Blacks see ourselves only as a racial group; that all other groups embrace and use their culture for their own economic, social and pluralistic advancement while Black people ignore, if not outright reject, Black culture and history; and lastly, all other cultures of prominence can speak, think and exist in their own native tongue while Blacks can only speak to one another in the language of our former oppressor.
So for those of you planning to attend the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington August 24, 2013 and celebrate King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, just know that this was just a dream that will never see the light of day.
There is not, nor will there ever be, nor can there ever be this “Black and White together” thing as envisioned because this is not the natural way of men or of cultural groups.
Each and every group in a multicultural pluralistic society; all men of respective cultural groupings nationally and globally are responsible for their own well being, for their own advancement and for the raising, grooming and preparation of their own children without looking for social assistance from their local mayor.
And I think actually that it was in fact and indeed our President, Barack Obama who said it best. In his keynote address to the NAACP’S 100th Anniversary Convention held July 16, 2009 at the Hilton Hotel ballroom in New York, he urged that Black Americans would “have to seize their own fate each and every day,” and that “No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands, and don’t you forget that.”
Taki S. Raton is an Adjunct Professor at Springfield College, Milwaukee campus; a staff development consultant in the African Centered curriculum model, and president and CEO of African Global Images, Inc., a traveling exhibit designed to teach the unbroken legacy of Black mastery and accomplishment from humankind beginnings through the present. A host of his own Harambee Radio & TV radio show “Men Think,” Raton can be reached for consulting and presentation schedules at: [email protected].