By Rahim Islam
Rahim Islam is a graduate of LaSalle University with dual degrees in accounting and finance.
A proponent of life-long learning, his educational background also includes specialty areas of tax accounting, oil refining, investment banking, marine transportation, community development and real estate development.
Mr. Islam is a founding member of Universal Companies and has served as President & CEO since its inception in 1993.
Universal is a comprehensive community development and education management corporation founded by Kenneth Gamble, accomplished singer, songwriter, music composer and philanthropist.
Universal is also the largest community-based, private manager of public schools in the country.
With 2 Campuses here in Milwaukee-Universal Academy for the College Bound Under his direct leadership, Universal has been the conduit for over $1.5 Billion of real estate development and investment and currently educates over 4,500 students in 10 schools (K-12).
During this process, not only did we lose a significant number of our highest income earners, we lost our short-lived economic gains.
The erosion and demise of our business centers began with integration and today we have nearly no businesses in our community coupled with high levels of poverty.
These dynamics, unless purposefully interrupted, will result in a permanent underclass of Black people (all of the demographics confirm our reality).
If we take into consideration the loss of manufacturing jobs, massive incarceration of our Black men, and a right-wing political shift reversing the belief that government should play a role in improving people’s lives, the Black community is totally “at risk.”
To combat this, the Black community will need functional unity in the worst way.
However, the very thing we need the most, UNITY, is our biggest challenge to achieve. Why?
We must remember that it’s all about “competition” and while we are severely disadvantaged, no one really cares about our plight.
In fact, many of our leaders have allowed our history to be removed from the front burner and, today, Blacks are perceived as all starting at the same place.
I cringe when I hear how hard work will change our outcomes, discounting the structural and invisible racism that cripples many in our community.
What they are really saying is that Blacks are inherently lazy and deserve the outcomes that we have.
Black people must take some responsibility in this because some of us have replaced our oppressors and do not articulate the same mantra.
Blacks must see that we are in this together and our individual success will always be threatened by our inability to achieve group success.
We must become competitive as a group and unite our leadership first to overcome the following: Religious Divide – Our competition has a significant advantage economically over us because of their spirituality.
Why? For the most part, they are aligned spiritually.
Generally speaking, with Italians being predominantly Catholic; Irish predominantly Catholic or Protestant; Asians predominantly Buddhist and Hindu; Arabs predominantly Muslim; Indians predominantly Hindu; and Blacks are everything.
Not only do Blacks represent many different faiths, the biggest faith for Blacks is Christianity which is also heavily divided, that further hinders our ability to UNITE.
Political Divide – Our competition has a significant advantage economically over us because of their politics.
They are equally represented by all political parties which reinforce the goal of politics that, “politicians are the only ones that should lose in a political race.”
Their agenda is met no matter who is in office. Blacks are nearly 100% Democrat which significantly marginalizes our political efforts, especially when republicans are in office (Blacks are completely locked out).
This is complicated even further by Democrats that take the Black bloc of voters for granted and the Republicans view Blacks as untouchable because they are owned by the Democrats.
We lack the political sophistication, when we are on opposing sides of a political race because it further divides our community with the winning group punishing the losing group, or those involved become permanent enemies of each other.
Class Divide – Our competition has a significant advantage economically over us because of their willingness to help those less fortunate.
With all of our academic and economic gains, every negative demographic has skyrocketed over the past 50 years.
The reality is that we have made limited economic gains and we’re not where we need to be – the private sector.
We don’t have the luxury to allow class to define who we are because most of our gains have been in the political arena, nonprofits and government, but not in corporate America where we have little or no corporate ownership, Board participation, and representation in the CEO suite – which produces wealth.
Very few Blacks have been able to create wealth – clearly not enough to help the whole Black community.
These gains don’t produce wealth evidenced by the fact that Blacks own only one-half of one percent, which hasn’t moved in 150 years.
Our so-called middle class is in jeopardy because for the most part we are at the lower level, and today we have more that are exiting the middle class than ever before.
Those that completely move away from our community are equally struggling culturally, because if their grand and great-grandparents were alive, they wouldn’t even know who these children are. We are all in this together.
As it relates to the economic race, our competition has had an unbelievable advantage over us.
Not only did they have a nearly 300 year head start, they also enslaved our ancestors reaping unbelievable economic gains, representing over a thousand-fold percentage return on their investment.
This represents an untold number of individuals, families, institutions, and companies (nearly 90% of all wealth is forever locked and passed down from one generation to the next).
Some equate Blacks in America and our lack of capital like being in a hatchet fight in the dark with no hatchet and our competition has several hatchets and night glasses. Our only weapon is to achieve functional unity and begin our focus on achieving group economics.
Group economics is the foundation for the self-determination of our people and we can’t achieve that without functional unity.
When we own financial institutions (i.e. banks, insurance companies, savings and loans, etc.), we will have the infrastructure to construct our own homes (i.e. real estate development, construction, and brokerage); when we can provide the bulk of goods and services (i.e. furniture stores, grocery stores, car dealerships, etc.); when we can provide health services (i.e. hospitals, medical facilities, etc.); and when we’re able to provide our own food source – then we have achieved functional unity.
Blacks can never achieve these things if our leadership doesn’t UNITE.