Message to the Black Community
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)
Brothers and Sisters, I do not have enough ink and paper to write about all of the horrid conditions facing the Black communities around the nation.
Unfortunately, our people have been conditioned to not to look directly at our plight (it will force us to address our enslavement). Even if I were able to articulate all of our issues, most of us wouldn’t even read it.
We suffer from a heavy degree of hopelessness, and it manifests itself differently depending on the social-economic status you reside in.
Too many of our poorer brethren are trapped in self-inflicted anti-social behaviors, while some of our more economically independent brethren do nothing but continue to stand side-by-side with the oppressor within their institutions and continue to assimilate their behaviors, attitudes, beliefs and stereotypes of our people by promoting Black inferiority.
Needless to say, the Black community is in serious trouble, not because we dominate in every negative demographic (i.e. poverty, incarceration, health, academic achievement, unemployment and underemployment, etc.) and almost invisible in every positive demographic (i.e. job and business creation, wealth, income, business growth, etc.), but we’re not doing anything about it – there is no real MOVEMENT OF ANY KIND.
Our problems will not fix themselves, and there is absolutely no evidence that America will fix the problems that they have caused.
The fact of the matter is that all of the data show the conditions we face today will only worsen over time, and our inaction today (hopelessness) threatens the future of millions of Black children to a permanent 2nd class citizenship in this country resulting from the shackles of poverty.
Given the magnitude of our issues, you would think that the Black community would be on fire with activity and resistance challenging all the systems that oppress them daily in this country (i.e. criminal justice, education, political, health, economic, etc.). Unfortunately, the Black community has no stated, viable and sustained plan of action (defense).
If you were a visitor from Mars and came here to study the Black man in America, given the magnitude of the problems and the nearly non-existent response, you would think that the Black community is under some heavy sedative (sleep).
While many hope and pray that if we just not think about it, our plight will magically improve, or they believe that this is just a bad dream and when we wake up, things will be different. This is a bad dream, but its real my brothers and sisters. Our community is paralyzed by hopelessness.
While I fundamentally believe that we could do so much more, we must never take America off the hook for the extreme damage done to our people.
Most of our issues point back to where we started in this country, and how Blacks have been structurally and systemically denied the full rights of citizenship and all of its benefits as equal members of America for several centuries.
It absolutely matters where you start, and every fight waged by our ancestors to be treated fairly and equally like other Americans, was met with the most devious, hated, and mean-spirited resistance ever organized against a people even until today. Don’t get it twisted! You should ask yourself, why? If you don’t know, you should do a little studying because you’re lacking some very basic information. The enslavement of our ancestors was a brutal and vicious institution that hurt us, I believe permanently, and it continues to haunt us today in every way.
Slavery was a very profitable American institution and while the institution doesn’t exist today, its infrastructure (ideas, beliefs, values, and policies) has morphed into all aspects of American.
What do you think the White community was doing while our ancestors slaved for nothing? They were building the strongest and most powerful country in modern history, and today America is the leader of the world? America is the world’s leader in finance, management, education, medicine, transportation, global trade, agriculture, manufacturing, technology, innovation, media, culture, and law government. Where you start matters.
When we were finally freed from this vicious and barbaric system, most of America’s institutions were already built (i.e. law and government, finance and banking, health and education, etc.) We were penniless, uneducated, and stigmatized not just by White people, but by our own people as well. In spite of overwhelming odds, the Black community made tremendous progress.
Yet, it’s very hard, if not impossible to close a 400 year and trillion dollar gap without serious and sustained strategies implemented over generations to come that our community seems unwilling or unable to do.
Yes there are those that believe that they are working on behalf of our community and they believe they are making progress – activity and progress are two separate things.
I contend that base on the numbers, there is no effort today that lay claim to moving the needle.
The issues we face are just too complex and are inter-connected and interrelated, which requires a joint and/or comprehensive approach (working together) – silo approaches are fruitless. WE MUST COME TOGETHER IN 2017.
In addition, our issues are both structural and external (built-in discrimination and racism within every American systems and institutions) and behavioral and internal (the things that we are doing or not doing that cannot and will not produce the outcomes needed for self-liberation). Knee-jerk reactionary measures will never produce the outcomes we need to challenge what is happening to the Black community – our enemy has more than enough resources to withstand any emotional and reactionary responses and after the rallies, vigils, marches, the protest, etc. things usually go back to the way they were.
When people know better, they do better. Herein lies the problem. The Black community, especially the Black leaders and decision makers, must conclude that our community just does not know, “HOW.” Our community will never achieve true self determination until it has the capacity and the ability to “do for self.”
It means we must be able to lead the efforts in the areas of greatest need and offers the greatest results. Though the learning curve may be steep, we have no other option but to forge on this path in spite of our inability to finance our own movement.
Overall our community lacks the real wealth needed. The struggle for equality in America for Black people has been a protracted and onerous one, however, the race we must win is economic, and it is all about capital and wealth. Very few of our non-profits are endowed (they are practically nonexistent), and our for-profits are not capitalized.
We lost the economics within our communities and affirmative actions (set-asides) have been totally eroded and/or undermined. While we have a few individuals that have accumulated some resources, for the most part, our community is extremely poor.
Complicating our challenges is that the work we must engage in is long term in nature, and will require a sustained effort over a number of generations to challenge the social and economic conditions that Black people face, that has taken nearly 400 years to produce.
This will require a deep level of strategic planning and thinking (proactive) versus the reactionary mode in which our community currently resides. Sure, we must have rapid responses (i.e. protest, agitation, act-up, etc.) to the issues that arise, but most of the issues we face are structural in nature and cannot be corrected with emotional responses.
The issues we confront are the same ones we have confronted since being in this county – our inability to chart a path for self-determination, our inability to do for self economically. This is extremely problematic because since we lack resources we must depend wholeheartedly on the majority community to fund and finance our capacity, many times without regard for the importance of Blacks and the Black organizations to serve as the lead.
Unfortunately, because of our history in this country, our abilities and capacities are extremely limited both by content IQ and by resources.
Given this economic challenge, the Black community has been unable to aggregate and align its limited resources (i.e. human and financial) in any meaningful way to have any real impact.
Therefore, any solution must involve a significant level of organizing which must take place in the Black community. WE MUST COME TOGETHER IN 2017.