We’re at a Significant Economic Disadvantage
Rahim Islam is a National Speaker and Writer, Convener of Philadelphia Community of Leaders, and President/CEO of Universal Companies, a community development and education management company headquartered in Philadelphia, PA. Follow Rahim Islam on FaceBook(Rahim Islam) & Twitter (@RahimIslamUC)
Who will be the next Black entertainer, athlete, or celebrity that will meet with President Donald Trump with the appearance that they represent the Black community? I guess the next person will be Katt Williams or maybe even Beetlejuice (google him if you are not aware of who he is). This should alarm us, especially those Black leaders who are actually on the front line not only fighting to “fix” our issues, but also fighting an oppressive system that continues to make life very difficult for the Black community in America.
The Black community, especially our leaders, should be appalled at this selfish, grandstanding behavior, especially when most of these characters do not have the capacity or experience to articulate our issues. Nor, can they truly articulate the systems and public policies that perpetuate our issues, let alone detail actual strategies and remedies. Let me be clear that everyone has the right to meet with the President, but given the high stakes and the formal declaration of war by the alt-right conservative party against our community, which President Trump is leading. This is not the time for selfish behavior. The effort to elevate white men to a level of prominence, power and influence can only be interpreted as a reflection and restoration of the past racist practices, has to be troubling for even the most naïve members of the Black community. White men already own and control everything, but that is not enough; they want to make America great again.
Brothers and sisters, this is a clear indication that the Black community does not have real and effective leadership. No leadership is much different from no leaders. We have thousands of leaders and therein lies the problem. If those leaders are not able to establish a “central” or “collective” leadership, you in effect have no leadership. This is why someone can say they represent the interests of the Black community just by virtue of being Black, and we have no way to shut them down. If the President wants to meet with me, I am going to bring a gang of brilliant Black people who know their stuff so that the meeting is meaningful and impactful. Our economic agenda must be front and center.
Who truly represents the Black community locally and/or nationally? Who speaks for the Black community? When it is time to negotiate on behalf of the Black community, who represents Black people? Is it Reverend Al Sharpton? Is it Minister Louis Farrakhan? Is it the NAACP? Is it the Urban League? Who is it? Is it Black elected officials? The honest answer is that the Black community has no leader. I compare our community to a body without a head because a multitude of leaders is like having no leaders at all, especially if those individual leaders are not working together. This does not mean that “unity” is “uniformity.” What it means is that, if we’re to be successful, this paradigm will not work and must be changed evidence by cast of characters who have paraded into to meet with President Donald Trump.
We live in a democracy and in a democracy, everyone, if you want to win, must have leadership. Every group has representation and every idea, if it is to win amongst other ideas, must be presented by a spokesperson. Where is our Black leadership? How is it that our leaders are unable to mount any real and sustained campaign to challenge the multitude of very serious issues facing the Black community? Given our current socioeconomic condition coupled with the history that we have faced in this country, having leadership is not some option. It is an absolute necessity. The Black man in America is a unique group unlike no other in the world and according to every available indicator, is in a state of crisis. We, therefore, need the highest level of leadership and structure. Why? Because we are at the bottom of the economic food chain and we are organic and silo, and weak leadership and structure will not move the economic needle.
What the Black community needs more than anything is FUNCTIONAL UNITY. Not the unity that is some superficial description where all Black people are all doing the same thing at the same time. That is unrealistic. The unity that I am referencing is a “functional” unity where representatives (leadership) from all segments of the community are working together around a common and collective agenda. This is Collective Leadership and there could be no more dire need than the economic plight that the Black community continues to face in this country.
While we have yet to organize effectively to mount any real defense against a real enemy, President Trump has assembled the whitest, male billionaire group ever to lead our government with one agenda and that is to take even more control over the trillions in wealth that this country produces. His is an Economic Agenda. In addition, they have begun to roll back Obamacare and nearly everything near and dear to Black people that will further threaten our ability to challenge the economic disadvantage in the future, yet we have Steve Harvey and Kanye West meeting with President Trump.
We have no Black leadership because we have no effective leadership and we cannot have effective leadership without having Black unity. We will not have Black unity until the leaders begin to see that their individual efforts are not powerful enough to compete and win. We all agree that were stronger together and most of us also agree that if we keep doing the same thing that we have been doing, we will get the same outcomes at the expense of our future in this country. We must stop making excuses. If we unite, we have a chance to win. If we do not unite, we lose.
Our agenda must be economics. This does not negate all of our other issues, but we cannot address the multitude of issues that we face without having a premier economic agenda.
We must know why we are at an economic disadvantage. This is not some simple and madeup perception, this is real and America owes a real economic debt to the Black community, which they have refused to acknowledge. Our oppressors know that as long as they continue to evade this issue, they will never have to fear us because we are bringing a football to a baseball game. We have placed too much emphasis on the inadequacies and disparities of the Black community without any reference to our past in this country, while acknowledging that where and how you start matters, especially in an economic race. We will never have freedom until we have economic freedom.
Black ownership of the nation’s wealth remains where it was in 1860 near the end of slavery (pre-emancipation) at one-half of one percent (0.5%). After 150 years and 100% physical freedom, America’s token addressing of social issues, Blacks still only own one-half of one percent (0.5%) of the nation’s wealth. Why is this? Wealth inheritance is the passing of past benefits and gains from previous generations to future generations. Nearly 90% of all of the nation’s wealth passed from one generation to another. This wealth is forever locked up (i.e. cash, stocks, bonds, land, business, trust accounts, endowments, foundations, etc.).
While not all White people are rich, there is a massive disparity between the net assets of the average White family versus the average Black family. This plays out in education opportunities, housing and neighborhood selection, capitalization of entrepreneurial aspirations, and a genuine inability for self-determination for Black people. How many rich Black people do you know?
The Black agenda must be economics and nearly everyone who meets with the President of the United States is talking about economics. We should be no different. Our problem who is who will represent us. We must not let our economic agenda to be diluted or watered down by co-mingling with other agendas and other groups.
On the surface, there is nothing wrong with one leveraging your economic agenda with other agendas and other efforts; however, this does not work when your agenda is not strong on its own and no one can defend and promote our economic agenda but us.
While the agendas of middle class, diversity, feminism, and unions contribute to our agenda, they do not represent it. We must define and defend our own economic agenda.
A. Phillip Randolph stated: “At the banquet table of nature, there are no reserved seats. You get what you can take and you keep what you can hold. If you can’t take anything, you won’t get anything, and if you can’t hold anything, you won’t keep anything. And you can’t take anything without organization.” Restated, “Nobody is going to give us anything – we must take it; we must organize ourselves.” It’s Time to Unite!!