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)
For all the Black community has gone through in this country it is obviously very clear, at least to me, that we have a real and formidable enemy which has been against us from day one.
White extreme racists were the enemy of the Black community when they kidnapped millions of Africans from Africa and shipped them like cargo in the hulls of ships across the Atlantic Ocean to America in the most inhumane way imaginable. White extreme racists were the enemy of the Black community when they sold our innocent ancestors into perpetual “chattel” slavery that would last nearly 300 years and impact tens of millions of Black people – this form of slavery was the worst form of slavery ever recorded at least in modern history.
White extreme racists were the enemy of the Black community for nearly 100 years after the end of slavery up until the passing of Civil Rights legislation in the 1960’s. During that period, the White community unleash a furor of oppression, segregation, and legal discrimination aimed at further weakening an already very weak community. Some have described this treatment worse than slavery because even though we were technically free, the Black community was denied full access to participate in the American society. These acts of oppression, and not having full citizenship, have negatively impacted our economic progress in this country.
After nearly 400 years of this combine treatment that left our community with significant emotional, psychological and, most important, economic scars, White Supremacy which had been fully integrated into every American system and institution, now became the enemy of the Black community. Our community has continued to inherit a social (internal) and structural (external) barriers that further our economic independence.
Restated, the White extreme racist is still the enemy of the Black community, but because their beliefs, attitudes and policies have been fully transferred into every American institution. They can stand back and act as if they have disappeared, as if they have softened their stance against our people. They now have the ability to hide behind self-imposed “standards” that they create which are supposed to be “race neutral,” but are clearly intended to negate the economic disadvantage (privilege) they have had over Black people for the past 400 years. They have the nerve and audacity to say that they believe that the passing of Civil Rights legislation was the miraculous equalizer and the Black community is now to be treated equal to the White community in the economic fight.
This is absolutely absurd and pure evil. While we don’t have the racist Jim Crow laws and open hatred against Black people, we do have the descendants of Jim Crow. As Rev. Al Sharpton calls them James Crow, Esquire. Therefore, the new enemy of the Black community is the current economic disparities and the systems that keep us from challenging them. Currently the education and economic disparities are so massive, without measurable intervention, they are unable to cure the impact of generations past and produce for each generation an oversubscribe level of poverty which is much more than economic poverty (i.e. political, social, cultural, and economic, etc.). This is why the Black Community must unite around and economic agenda that can assist in curing the economic damage that has been done.
Today, we must re-confirm that the Black community has an enemy, and that enemy is well organized against us. Because the enemy is invisible today it’s even more lethal and dangerous than before. Why? Too many of our youth today are unable to see the enemy of the Black man and therefore don’t believe that it exists. When they become old enough to understand that the enemy of the Black man does exist, it’s usually too late for them to do anything about it because they have squandered their most precious years away (youth) and are not fully prepared for the economic fight. If you don’t believe that the Black community has an enemy, then you must conclude that the Black community is just naturally inferior, which I categorically disagree with. But, you can’t have it both ways. Like our ancestors before us, we must fight against this tyranny and oppression – this is why we have labeled our struggle a movement and our liberation. We must adjust our fight against the new enemy of the Black community because he is no longer visible to the naked eye – the enemy has evolved. We don’t have the KKK lynching’s; “no Blacks allowed signs;” “Blacks need not apply;” or visible signs that overt racism and discrimination is acceptable – yet our oppression still exists and every major sector American life has created massive disparities between Whites and Blacks, and none greater than wealth. In addition to the structural challenges and the lack of any real movement undertaken by our community, the Black community has lost its moral argument within the public square and getting that back will take a herculean effort going forward.
The opinion of the public is the central driving force for our democracy, which is shaped by so many factors. The desires, wants and thinking of the majority of the people – or the collective opinion of the people of a society or state on an issue or problem – is called public opinion. What is the general public opinion about Black people and our struggle in this country? The majority of White people actually believe that Black people are where they are because of their inability to want to work hard like them and therefore Blacks are technically inferior. They also don’t buy into any facet of White privilege and totally dismiss the legacies of slavery and any idea that the systems are against Black people – they have very little knowledge and/ or compassion for what we describe as our liberation.
American government and nearly every American institution has been intimately involved in the oppression of Black people in America; therefore, it is critical that government play a significant role in the liberation of our people because the government has the ability to make law. The government will never make the type of change required for our people without an avalanche of outrage and outcry (public opinion).
Public opinion is so important for it contributes to the entire political process and is defined as being “the aggregate of public attitudes or beliefs about government or politics”. Public opinion is considered to be the factor that guides the government and is developed by a variety of sources including: universities, politicians, think tanks in all of its derivatives, unions, foundations, large civic groups, special interest groups, political action groups, big business, and of course the media shape public opinion.
The Black community is at a significant disadvantage because we don’t have the same infrastructure that the majority White community has to shape public opinion. The tool that these well-resourced (financial and technical) entities used to shape public opinion is their agenda. Not only does the Black community not have equal level of organizations that help shape opinion, the Black community also has not truly defined or defended its agenda. The Black agenda has usually been tied to other people’s agenda’s like: middle class; unions, democrat, feminism, immigration, civil rights, etc.
When aspects of these agendas are achieved (they are never fully achieved), they still don’t normally cover the Black agenda equitably – if we’re lucky we get a portion of the benefits, if any at all. For example, when the unions’ agendas are achieved, we still have a fundamental disparity within unions between Blacks and Whites. Not to mention that nearly 75 percent of all employment is non-union – so the union agenda is not adequate enough to fulfill the Black agenda. When the feminism agenda is achieved (equal pay for equal work), Black women are still under-represented when compared to White woman – so the feminism agenda is not adequate enough to fulfill the Black agenda. There is no agenda that we have tied our wagons that will truly represent our economic issues. We must have our own agenda, and we must aggregate all of our capacity to help shape public opinion in support of our agenda.
Like Civil Rights which was achieved by being “laser” focused and persistent, the Black economic agenda must be the same. We must first start by getting every Black man, woman, and child to carry the economic message because everything in America comes down to our ability to achieve this agenda and this can’t be tied to anyone else’s agenda – it must be ours alone. Like pre-1970, every Black led organization must adopt our economic agenda no matter what side of the coin you’re on, we all must be aligned as best as possible to achieve unity in spirit (the same unity we showed to achieve Civil Rights).
The Black community in America can never have freedom without achieving economic freedom. It can’t happen without taking into consideration the inhumane treatment and significant disadvantage that has been placed on our community – we will have to orchestrate a real and protracted rumble that must last for the next 10 -15 generations if we are to have shot at being successful. The Black community secured physical freedom from chattel slavery, and we have secured civil freedom from the hostilities of crazy White racist. But, we have yet to secure our economic freedom.
Our community has been misled and many of us actually believe what the White majority believes that things are fair for everyone with social equity as the measurement – being accepted is not enough. Guided by liberal leadership, we have been chasing social equity in this country when the real race that we should have been chasing “economic equity.” In fact, one can’t have social equity in America without economic equity. At the end of the day, no matter how you slice it, it is the economic benefits that America refuses to share with Blacks – in fact, they won’t even acknowledge the role that Black people played in helping America become the rich superpower today.
To make matters worse, America via its political, financial, educational, and other systems have made Black people, who are the victims, feel like the culprit. This is done when we measure today’s economic gains without consideration of our struggle. Too much emphasis is placed on the inadequacies of the Black community without any reference to our past in this country. Where you start matters. How you start matters, especially in an economic race. Black people have done nothing but struggled in this country, and our struggle today must be for economic freedom.
Black people don’t want the whole economic pie. Black people, like all others, want a fair percentage of the economic pie and the ability like all others to compete for its share. Our community, through no fault of its own, is unable to compete and this is where we must figure out how and what reparations should look like. The issue of whether reparations should be achieved is elementary is an absolute and should be made part of the Black economic agenda. America owes a real economic debt to the Black community that the Black community has not fully demanded – this is our agenda and no other organization or agenda can fully represent this but Black people.
The economic hole that has been dug for Black people is just too deep that shear energy or work ethic isn’t going to change (pick yourself up by your boot straps is a lie) without real intervention. The economic damage that has been done to our community is real and the current pace by which the damage is being maintained and or even hurt, makes our struggle even more treacherous. We owe our ancestors, ourselves, and the future generations of Black people to defend ourselves and fight the enemy of the Black community and we can’t do that without having a real economic agenda. The Black community must unite around an Economic Agenda.