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)
After nearly 450 years of inhuman, medieval type of oppression and abuse that targeted the Black community in America impacting over 100 million Blacks, with no relief of any kind until the 1964 passage of the Civil Rights Legislation. Even then, the legislation was immediately undermined and weakened, which limited the outcomes that it sought to repair for Black people – so we’re back to square one. The biggest secret in America remains the damage that has been done to the Black community. Who were the real victims in this country, while America was growing to become the biggest and richest nation on earth.?
Unfortunately, while the physical oppression has ended, at least at the scale of what our ancestors endured, the entire American Institution and its supporting infrastructure continues to maintain the oppression of our people. The current generation of Black people have been categorically denied the impact of this historical oppression and damage, which is both economically structural (external) and emotionally physiological (internal) damaging. To not even acknowledge the overwhelming economic advantage (privilege) that Whites have over Blacks is both disingenuous and criminal, but that’s where we are.
Today, the nearly 50 Million Black people living in America must come to understand that we are living in the “belly” of the beast (there is no other way to describe it). There is no Calvary waiting in the wings to save our community and to right the massive wrongs that have been perpetuated against the Black community. We’re on our own, but you see no evidence that our community, especially our leaders, understand this. Sure, we have made some individual progress in this country, but it pales in comparison to the overwhelming majority of Black people that are basically trapped in a state of poverty or just barely making it.
As a group, we tremendously under-subscribe in the “good” demographics (wealth) and oversubscribed in “negative” (social needs) demographics. As a group of people, the needle isn’t moving in the right direction and there is no one in the driver seat that is trying to keep our community from going off the road. In fact, not only do the Black community not have anyone in the driver’s seat, we don’t even have a vehicle. Given the current environment where the overwhelming narrative regarding the state of Black affairs is being blamed on the Black community by both White and Black people – this doesn’t lend itself to making any real change. Our Black leaders who don’t acknowledge and promote the fact that where mercilessly undermanned, have been foolishly misled to believe that the economic race were in is equal or fair – nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, even when we acknowledge that were behind in the economic race, most don’t understand how bad and deep the gap really is (this is mainly due to not knowing the starting line).
Why is the starting line so important? Is it 1516, 1776, 1863, or 1964? When should we begin to measure when the Black community has similar rights and privileges in this country to compete? Out of the dates presented, the only one close to being acceptable is 1964 and that is nearly 450 years after 1516. We are unable to measure the physiological impact that the treatment had on our community during this period, but the structural and economic impact has robbed our group potential which plays out in every aspect of individual, family, and community life for Black people in America.
I argue that when you use zero as the starting line, it’s very misleading even though everyone understands that the Black community is behind. Unfortunately, the starting line for Black people isn’t zero, it’s an absurd negative number (i.e. -450) but it’s definitely not zero. This is a real problem because when progress is made we don’t know where we are or what the progress looks like, and this contributes to the level of hopelessness that most of us feel. Let me give you an example. If you’re business was losing a million dollars annually and then you made adjustments the following year you lost only a half million dollars – that would be progress even though you lost a half million dollars. If you didn’t know that little bit of facts and context, you would still think the business is not making progress, but the facts state otherwise – this is like our community. In order to measure economic growth and progress, you must know the starting line (baseline) for you to measure if progress has been made. If the starting line is -450 versus zero, this should be able to guide our community on how we should proceed and how we should plan.
IF YOU’RE BLACK IN AMERICA, YOU’VE BEEN DAMAGED. IF YOU ACCEPT THIS PREMISE, WE CAN MOVE ON. IF YOU DON’T ACCEPT THIS PREMISE, WE ARE EITHER IN DENIAL OR WE ARE JUST FOOLISH AND BOTH ARE EQUALLY CHALLENGING FOR THE ULTIMATE INDEPENDENCE OF BLACK PEOPLE.
We all must ask ourselves how damaged I am and what it looks like. Why is first reaction to the problems facing our community not a reaction towards unity? Why do I feel better being by myself and going alone? Why do I hold the Black community accountable to the carnage that we see versus placing the blame where it truly belongs? If you answer any of these questions honestly, you will come to know of the damage that I speak of. With this information, I’m constantly checking myself, my feelings, my thoughts, and my beliefs about who I am and who our people are without first adopting the self-hate approach first.
We can’t really blame the average Black person to understand these issues and to mount any defense that would lead and expand the liberation movement for our people. It is just impossible for the average Black person to even understand what’s going on. They have a role to play, but for many reasons, they can’t lead the effort. So, if the average Black person can’t lead – who will lead us? By default, the Black leaders are the only ones with a shot at filling this void, but we must recognize that they too are DAMAGED and must work very hard to fight against the internal instruction of Black inferiority.
If Black leaders are not working towards closing the economic gap and moving at some level of “Unity,” this is proof positive that Black leaders are damaged therefor, the Black community is in serious trouble.