We Are 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)

I don’t ascribe to the theory that “things can’t get any worse, therefore we shouldn’t do anything.” If the first two weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency should tell you anything, it is that things are about to get much worse and that foolish concept is on the verge of being blown to pieces. With full control of Washington, President Trump, with his puppet heads of the House and Senate, is ready to gut everything with any semblance of protection for minorities, consumers and specifically African Americans. Women’s rights, worker’s rights, human rights, civil rights, environmental rights, immigrant rights, and religious rights have all been targeted by this administration.

To win the election, Donald Trump galvanized a White nationalist sentiment that measured everything through the eyes of White Men, with anything or anyone not White and Christian being defined as anti-American; this is why America is more polarized now than it has been in some time. Unfortunately, for the poor, working poor, and even the middle class White people, Donald played them as the racists of the past did by pitting them against everyone else that looked different from them. Even if you are poor, being White gives you a higher position.

Donald Trump has assembled a group of billionaires with only one agenda and that is take total control of this government and this economy for their benefit. It’s all about getting and controlling the resources. Donald Trump has absolutely no intention of serving low income or working middle class White people because his masters are the billionaire White capitalist. You know the old truism that “you cannot serve two masters”. You can’t serve billionaires and poor people equally because their agendas are diametrically opposed to each other. How can you protect worker rights when you believe the employer’s needs are paramount; how can you protect the environment when you’re in bed with the energy companies that want to rape the earth for a larger profit; and how can you protect peace when the industrial war complex is your partner (we will be in a war very soon)?

I hate to sound like an alarmist, but the republican backlash against the Democratic liberal leadership and Barack Obama is real and will be extremely consequential to the Black community. There is much more at stake than Obamacare and/or the Obama legacy. These people are positioned to reverse every gain we have achieved over the past 60 years and if they are successful, it will take another 25 years to get back what we are about to lose today.

When they say, “make America great again,” what America are they talking about and what period are they referring to? Based on the team that Trump has assembled to lead the country and the policies they are implementing, they are trying to go back to the period when White capitalist men had absolute control of the country and because of their wealth, power, and racist views, they could do almost anything that benefited them. Donald Trump has given this minority group complete control and unlike others, they are playing for keeps.

A strong and independent media working with other branches of government (i.e. U.S. House and U.S. Senate) could weaken and even stall the Trump agenda. However, not only is our media not objective, they have been co-opted because they have been duped by the Donald Trump phenomenon and unable to hold this man accountable to basic facts. If there is no real-time fact checker like the media, coupled with the bullying of every other sector of our democracy (i.e. judicial, legislative branches, etc.) that doesn’t agree with him, we are bogged down in superficial things while these people are moving their agenda along. This mode of operation represents a serious threat to the African American community and our ongoing struggle in this country. We don’t have the capacity to challenge the shenanigans that he puts forth. In addition, Black people are so passive that many in our community don’t believe that these people are really what they say they are. These people are not playing. Their playbook is for keeps and now they have control and, in many cases, they have public support in spite of the many protests (Trump got elected).

Donald Trump and his billionaire gang now control the largest military in the world, and can threaten other countries in ways that they never have before. They control the largest government with the CIA, IRS, Homeland Security and Attorney General Infrastructure and can also use these agencies in the delivery of their agenda. The alt-right, racist and White supremacist agenda of this Republican Party is even more frightening than I originally feared should Donald Trump win the election. Buckle up; things are going to get worse domestically and internationally. Times that are more difficult are coming and it’s real.

These people are winning because they have an economic agenda that gives them the power and capacity to implement all other agendas. Don’t get it twisted – the economic agenda is primary. What will it take for the Black community to understand that their agenda doesn’t include us? The belief that the oppressor will one day have the heart or inclination to go against their fathers and ancestors and repay Black people economically for all they have done is a fantasy. They have one goal and one goal only and that is to use Blacks as economic slaves? It will never happen.

The Black community in America is losing politically and economically because, for the most part, we have connected our agenda to the Democratic Party, so when they lose, we lose.

Needless to say, there are democrats, republicans and White people, which means that because of the insurmountable advantage and privilege that White people have, especially over Black people, when they lose politically they still conduct business as usual. When we lose, we really lose.

We have no central leadership or even consensus on what strategy works. The enemy of the Black man is much more organized, even when they don’t have to be because they are already in control of everything.

How is it, then, that we expect to compete with them in some “organic” and “soft” approach without the highest level of organization and centralization? We are fooling ourselves to believe we can. What is the Black agenda? I considered myself politically astute and I don’t know exactly what the order of today is. It’s unclear because the Black leadership is so divided that we haven’t presented a clear agenda, and what we have presented has been either marginalized or hijacked. Let’s be perfectly clear, when we have too many agendas or people representing our agendas we, in effect, have no agenda at all.

Sure, when you’re in the struggle, you align yourself strategically with others to build a critical mass to effect change, but you must be prepared to advance your own agenda no matter what others do. When we choose to align our agenda with others, it is mainly because we lack the resources to manage our own agenda in spite of the claim by some that we have all of the resources we need. I see no evidence of this and I think I can make the argument that we don’t have enough resources and if we do, then perhaps the narrative about us is correct. When you rely solely on others to advance your agenda, as we continue to do, your agenda takes a back seat and very rarely addressed. This is why many of our issues go unresolved.

What happens is, although the parties come to the bargaining table, our agenda never comes up. Why? Because, many times we are all fighting and competing for the same resources.

The Black agenda must be about economics first, second and third. Economics must be front and center and not coupled with any other agendas, especially if the Black community doesn’t lead or control the organizations that have the responsibility to advance their agenda.

Our issue is about the lack of resources, and therefore the lack of power both individually and collectively. Since emancipation, the petitions of Blacks to the federal government for pensions and compensation for the years they labored without wages before abolition (reparations) have never been resolved.

This struggle continues because the legacy of slavery is the economic disadvantage that this American institution created for Black people and their children then and for centuries to come. If our ancestors had received wages for their labor they too would have bought what they wanted, invested it as they desired, or given it to churches or schools or charities and being unable to do so has crippled the Black community. Whenever comparisons are made between Black Americans to other immigrants (i.e. Jews, Italians, Irish, Asian, Latino, etc.) and their group progress in this country, the economic and structural damage done to Black people through slavery and subsequent Jim Crow is never acknowledged, while those other groups were exempt from these experiences.

The case for reparations to the descendants of enslaved Blacks is clear and inarguable, but has continuously been challenged.

Captured Africans were brutally shackled and packed head-to-foot below decks in slave ships that trailed blood and corpses across the Atlantic Ocean for nearly 300 years. Those who survived the brutal journey were forced to work under the most inhumane and horrific conditions from dawn to dusk usually seven days a week until they died.

The American institution of slavery embraced the depravities of theft, rape, torture, and murder – an anything goes mentality when it came down to our people. When it ended, something not completely unlike it followed. Those who tried to escape were hunted down, tortured and often murdered. Males, for punishment, were often severed of their genitals. Women were systematically raped.

The depravities of theft, rape, torture, and murder are atrocities in all societies yet totally ignored for Black people. American slavery embraced them all. We as a society must own this truth. Even today, we have the mass incarceration of Black men that has the same social and economic impact as slavery on the Black community.

During this same period while our ancestors were in chains and physically being held back, America was building our now $100 trillion economy with systems and institutions that support and protect the status quo. It’s an absolute LIE and it’s extremely DISHONEST not to connect the current social and economic conditions to the massive disparities of the Black community with our enslavement and our start in this country.

Sure, there are challenges to how the repairs should be done, but these challenges are not part of today’s discussions. America spreads and promotes democracy, and the “high moral ground” all around the world. Yet, it fails miserably when it comes to its treatment of Black people.

As of today, the United State Congress is still unable to get the votes needed to pass a bill to allow Congress to study the impact of slavery. Not actual reparations, but study. This has been going on for over 30 years to no avail. America won’t even acknowledge that damage has been done and this is the highest level of hypocrisy.

The debt that America owes to the Black community is real and remains outstanding and we must make this our highest priority.

The Black community, unlike any other group, is a unique group with unique circumstances, which require a unique economic solution.