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)
I continue to say that “It’s not what they are doing to us, it’s what we’re not doing.” And, basically, what we’re not doing is organizing. Organizing to hold ourselves accountable to some type of collective voice (Black free agent independence is criminal) and/or plan of action that many of us can get behind, but more importantly, to hold America accountable to one of the biggest crimes ever committed. It was a “four-hundred-year” theft of Black people’s ability to compete in America, which has created a massive Economic Structural Deficit in the Black community that wreaks havoc on every aspect of a quality and normal life in America.
The use of the phrase “structural” deficit means that we spend way too much of our time addressing the wrong issues that can never be fixed and we simply focus on the “symptoms.” A structural deficit means that the deficit is unfixable utilizing conventional means and methods. Radical and drastic measures must be used if the deficit can be fixed which requires that a real recognition of the problem be had for the most part has eluded not only White but Black leaders. No matter how much we do, we will not be able to fix the economic problem unless we understand the economic problem and not all of the symptoms that the problem creates. The problem is that our community suffers from a massive and structural economic deficit, and our focus on the symptoms (massive disparities) without focus on resources is just insane.
Yes, the Black community suffers from massive social disparities in every negative demographic and most, if not all of our energies are responding to trying to fix these disparities. We have been misled to believe that the economic disparities don’t matter or that the economic disparities were created equally doesn’t matter and we are force to not focus on the economic and wealth disparities and their contributions to the social disparities. When you focus on the wealth disparities between Blacks and Whites, one can’t help but to focus on our start and our history in this country and how wealth is created, sustained, and transferred from one generation to another in this country.
My belief is that the social disparities can’t be fixed without addressing the structural economic deficit. Failing public education; disproportionate level of children and families living in poverty; mass incarceration of Black males; high levels of Black teen pregnancy; high levels of Black teens testing positive for HIV; anemic levels of successful small Black businesses; and the general quality of life of Blacks living in urban cities side by side with Whites who enjoy promise and prosperity – these and many more challenges are feeders and contributors to the economic structural deficit. These social disparities can’t be fixed without a keen and laser attention to the economic structural deficit.
I’m very sadden that our agenda is completely absent in the public domain, and is generally believed by White America that the historical connection and significance as to the economic impact of the enslavement of Black people for over 300 years and the open racism and discrimination that followed for another 110 years has no bearing on the social and economic state of Black people today. In addition, generally the overwhelming narrative is that white privilege doesn’t even exist and that Blacks are in this situation because of their own doing. This is preposterous and on the surface this issue is just insane and any objective person would make the same conclusion – unfortunately, most White Americans are not objective.
THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A RECONCILIATION OF THE ECONOMIC DAMAGE DONE TO THE BLACK MAN IN AMERICA.
While the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960’s was a good start (we must not forget that this was one of the biggest internal fights in our country only second to the civil war and the abolishment of slavery), it was immediately undermined and it didn’t solve all of the wrongs committed against the Black community in America and it didn’t change all of the anti-Black laws, policies, and behaviors in this country. Let’s be clear, nothing has been done to address the economic damage that has been done to the Black community in America. In fact, Black members of Congress have been trying to pass a bill for nearly 40 years to study the impact of slavery and Congress has rejected it – this should tell you that at no time in this country has the Black agenda been a priority especially if there is an economic component attached to it.
Equally disappointing is the fact that many of our Black leaders have echoed similar sentiments that we need to just get over slavery and in some cryptic way they are saying that the state of Black America is solely the responsibility of the Black community – again this is preposterous. Part of the damage that has been done to the Black man in America is the propaganda damage that has changed the narrative of the victim to feel like the culprit and to believe that the pain and suffering experienced by the Black community with over 400 years of sustained and orchestrated oppression against them (Black Holocaust) is their fault.
I ask you to look at the Jewish Holocaust and how the Jews have approached it. The Jews have adopted an approach that they would “never forget” about the Holocaust (they will never let anyone else forget) and “never again” (they will never allow themselves to be in a vulnerable situation again to allow this to happen) is completely and totally different approach than many Black leaders who have parroted what many in White America believe. To achieve this, one of the first things the Jews did was to seek reparations from all those who directly and indirectly participated in the Jewish Holocaust. In addition they have incorporated this approach into all aspects of Jewish life, including socializing their children through education, religion and culture to continue this practice. Imagine if the Black community and the Black leaders were to adopt this approach. Why this isn’t being done is part of the damage that has been done to the Black community in the Black Holocaust.
The Black community has the same enemy that our ancestors had, but it looks different and requires a different and new approach. We are not living in the pre-sixty days where Blacks were openly and legally denied equal access into American society.
It was very clear by nearly all Black people, this system was extremely oppressive and absolutely unfair and every Black person or Black organization during this period all worked to make a dent into this oppressive system and not necessarily were they working together.
There was no central command and central planning to overthrow American apartheid and secure civil rights for Black people – it was done because everyone knew the enemy and the enemy was racist White supremacist.
All of these and other efforts and struggles was about reconciling the wrongs that were done to the Black community in America and key among them is the economic disparities that we continue to struggle from that can’t be resolved without a cost to America. The Black community trails the White community at every level economically and the current American institutions and its systems are structurally “rigged” to keep the Black man on his knees and on the proverbial “mouse wheel.”
The Black community suffers from a structural economic deficit because, not only do we suffer from the math of being unable to fairly compete in the economic race that began nearly 500 years that by all accounts Blacks were not able to participate nearly 400 years later, but every American system and institution points and guide our attention and focus on addressing the symptoms without resources and not the cause and the economic problem. My position is, “it’s no longer what they are doing to us, it’s what we’re not doing.”
Like Malcom once stated “the Black man has been bamboozled, hoodwinked.” Even our leaders have been misled to believe that the Black community is a fault for its social-economic condition and therefore has not begun to build the organizational “muscles” needed to fight against what appears to be a near total economic loss to the Black community.
Sure, we have a small flare up here and there (small organizations and small efforts), but left alone to do their work, it’s no way in hell that we will ever get out of this mess. Therefore, we sentence future generations of Black children to a life in America as a permanent underclass.
Our community is expending much time and energy but have not moved the needle at all – we have activity but no action.