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Blog Entries posted by KENNETH


    Last Thursday in a 6 to 3 decision the Supreme Court declared Affirmative Action in higher education unconstitutional meaning race can no longer be a factor in college admissions. In two cases involving the University of North Carolina and Harvard University the court's conservative majority ruled that race conscious admissions put white and Asian students at an unfair disadvantage in violation of the Equal Protect Clause of the 14th Amendment. The plaintiff in both cases was an organization Students for Fair Admissions founded by a white conservative activist named Edward Blum. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in part - “the Harvard and UNC admissions programs cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause.” He added “Both programs lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points. We have never permitted admissions programs to work in that way, and we will not do so today.” 
    While the court was wrong to end Affirmative Action it's important to realize there's a wider attack on every public policy or practice dealing with race that benefits black people. Consider the backlash against supposed Critical Race Theory in schools opponents claim is leftist indoctrination; the effort in Florida to prevent the teaching of Black History in high schools; and state governments defunding or abolishing Diversity Equity and Inclusion programs at colleges and state agencies. It's not just Republican politicians there's a popular backlash among whites who feel threatened by anything that narrows the racial gap. 
    Black people must fight to protect the gains we have made. Think about how we took to the streets in 2020 to protest police violence and the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Consider how the demand for reparations has moved from the fringes of black political discourse to the mainstream. Yet, black people allowed Conservative Republicans to gain the upper hand politically in confirming judges to the Federal judiciary especially the Supreme Court. That led to the erosion of the Voter Rights Act of 1965 and the end of Affirmative Action. We have power to get things done. It's important to use it. Sure, we experience plenty of defeats and setbacks. But, that's not always the case. Too often we don't put up a fight. Besides voting or street demonstrations what can we do? 
    1. Boycott business and corporate backers of groups and individuals who oppose policies and practices that advance freedom and racial equality.
    2. Use of all forms of mass media to shape and control messages around issues and policies related to race and politics. 
    3.  Black Lives Matter Movement can't do it all alone. We must revitalize and reorient groups like the N.A.A.C.P and National Urban League to meet today's challenges. 
    4.  If the US continues to pull back on political and public policy efforts that advance our rights and material wellbeing than blacks should seek a hearing before the United Nations regarding human rights. 
    We cannot afford to react only when something outrageous happens. Furthermore, black people must not be distracted or deceived by symbolism. Having more black leaders in government or Corporate America is not enough either. The struggle for freedom is continuous, because systemic racism must be confronted. We should think about the effectiveness of our efforts. 
    Systemic racism past and present deprives black people of rights, opportunities, and material wellbeing. While this common reality unites black people there are still differences among us. Progress and problems are not the same for all black people. Recognizing the obstacles faced by black men are unique from those of black women is not new. It's a long-standing discussion and debate among black people. From the 1980s onward various black activists, politicians, authors, and thinkers have analyzed the problems of black men and offered possible solutions. I can personally remember books like the three volume set Countering The Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys by Juwanza Kunjufu and Black Men Single, Obsolete, and Dangerous by Haki Madhubuti. Some have emphasized job training and public sector work projects to fight black male unemployment. In some cities there are all black male schools - academies with dress codes and black male faculty that address the educational deficits faced by black males. However, none of this occurs without controversy or tensions among black people. Some believe equal effort should be made and attention focused on black women and girls too. They argue that while black women have made some gains, they still face challenges related to race and gender. All of this speaks to a gender divide among black people. Many believe that if black men are doing better than black people are better off. Others including Black Feminists believe black people must confront racism and sexism which intersect. 
    Now mainstream think tanks like The Brookings Institute and white liberal experts like Richard Reeves are talking about the problems of black men in a new article from the organization's website entitled The Inheritance of Black Poverty It's All About the Men. It reads, " Black Americans born poor are much less likely to move up the income ladder than those in other racial groups, especially whites. Why? Many factors are at work, including educational inequalities, neighborhood effects, workplace discrimination, parenting, access to credit, rates of incarceration, and so on. But gender is a big part of the story too, as detailed in a new paper from the Equality of Opportunity Project, “Race and Economic Opportunity in the United States: An Intergenerational Perspective” by Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Maggie Jones, and Sonya Porter. " 
    It's more important how black people focus our activist and political energies. If more things improve for black men will our communities automatically be better for black 
    women?  Black men are in trouble by every social and economic measure. For all the progress made since the 1960s it appears they have lost ground. Problems like crime, mass incarceration, the decline of marriage, and family are tied to the unique and negative circumstances of being a black man in a racist society where economic inequality is worse than any time since the early twentieth century. Here are the facts- Black men born into poverty are almost twice as likely to remain poor compared to anyone including black women. Black men working fulltime hourly or salaried earn $ 378 less than white men and $ 125 less than white women. They are twice as likely to be unemployed compared to white  men. One in every three black males will be in prison compared to one in every 17 white males.  
    What about black women ? They have made some significant progress compared to black men. Consider the this they are narrowing the gap with white women in avoiding intergenerational poverty, more women are going to college getting bachelors and master's degrees, and they have a rate of participation in the labor force. However black women because of racism and sexism still lag behind white men and women. They work making 36% less money than white men and 12% less than white women. Going to college doesn't erase the gap. But it's worse for black women in terms of health and wellbeing. Black women are five times more likely to die than whites from pregnancy related complications, and they are more likely to die from breast cancer too. More frightening is black women and girls making up disproportionate share of those missing and exploited. And they are less likely to be found alive or dead. 
    Call it conservative, masculine, patriarchal, or sexist the idea that we can afford to focus on black male wellbeing and not black women is wrong. The unique problems of black men need attention, but that doesn't mean black women have arrived. They don't have it easy. Furthermore, their progress doesn't diminish black manhood. For all our outrage and struggling for change too many black people buy into the idea that women should be subordinate to men. That should not be the case. If the struggle for black freedom and equality over racism is simply about putting black men on the same level as white men what good is that? I would say none. We must rise and move forward together as equals. Helping black men shouldn't mean ignoring black women.

    There are more black owned businesses than ever, and even while most of them are small with few employees some are large billion dollar firms like Wide World Technology with over 5000 employees. Despite racism and economic deprivation black enterprises has always been part of our community life. For many black people building up black business is the key to individual success and collective liberation. At the same time systemic racism and wealth income inequality make life difficult for working class blacks.  Black Capitalism good and bad has implications for black freedom because it can provide individual and collective opportunities not offered by the mainstream (white) society. But there are no guarantees because black capitalists are trying to profit which can conflict with the best interests of black workers and consumers or communities.
    Seeing a successful black business especially one of us getting rich is gratifying. Owning something and being your own boss means a lot to black people in this racist society that does so much to exploit and subordinate us to whites. Spending money with each other is essential, and most of us believe more successful black businesses will make us more free and prosperous without depending on whites. Sometimes it's comforting to think about the time before integration when all blacks lived in the same neighborhoods and had black commercial corridors with our own retail and service establishments. It was a source of pride and a degree of self reliance in an unjust and unequal world. Make no mistake about it Black Capitalism can be a good thing making money, building wealth, creating opportunities for yourself and others. Most of us want that like anybody else in America. No system works better than capitalism to create rapid economic growth and prosperity too. Blacks want a chance to be a part of that as owners and investors not just workers. If Black Capitalism can lower poverty, high unemployment, increase home ownership, narrow the wealth gap, and make our neighborhoods better places to live let's do it by increasing the number and size of black firms.
    At the same time we can't be overly idealistic because the black capitalist like the white one is about turning a profit. Black business people do what it takes to make money even if the rest of us as workers, consumers, or residents in a neighborhood don't like it. In fact the interests of black business and black people can be in conflict. This is especially true if the business is large and the owner or investors are wealthy. There's nothing keeping a black business owner from opposing a $ 15 per hour Minimum Wage or being required to provide employees with health insurance. All of this despite the fact that many blacks are low wage workers and the uninsured. A black business owner may also be strongly against organized labor despite the fact a lot of black workers belong to unions, and unionized workers make more than those who don't belong to one. Furthermore no amount of black pride or sense of giving back comes before the profit motive. I can remember when Robert Johnson sold Black Entertainment Television to Viacom in 2001. I bemoaned the end of " our own " cable channel. I pondered and complained about the loss of control over black media images BET afforded us. Furthermore I blasted wealthy blacks in sports and entertainment for not pooling their resources to buy the channel. Over time I had to realize that Robert Johnson made the best decision for himself and the survival and success of BET. That's business. That's capitalism. Sometimes it's good. Other times it's really bad even if it's black. 
    Black Capitalism cannot not be separated from the larger economy. The Black Economic Nationalist idea that blacks can live in America and prosper spending all or most of our money with other blacks is a fallacy. There are not enough black owned firms or types to meet all or most of our needs. Moreover most black businesses are small service firms in an economy dominated by large corporations owned by shareholders. These larger businesses especially retail and service chains along with online firms make impossible for any local independent business to survive. This is the case for both white and black business. The economy is also based on technology and finance connected to global markets. What happens on Main Street or the hood depends on things in Silicon Valley and Wall Street who are impacted by things in Europe and Asia. A recession or decline in the stock market hurts all Americans. But black people get the worst of it. Ultimately there cannot be any self contained ethnic or racial economy at a local level. Black people have the wrong impression of Asians, Arabs, Jews, and Hispanics. Most of these people are not self employed, hiring members of their own group, and spending most of their money on each other. Like black people they are employed by companies especially big corporations controlled by white elites. Black people have to deal with a changing economy which means getting into to growth industries. This requires us to get all kinds of customers not just blacks. It means building relationships with Corporate America and seeking international opportunities. 
    Politics and the struggle for freedom has to benefit all black people. We don't want black business or black workers to be hindered by systemic racism. However there are differences and conflicts even among black people. Some will say this obvious. However, thinking Black Capitalism will solve economic inequality we lose sight of the fact blacks out to make money and enrich themselves can hurt the working class black majority the same as white racists. Things like living wage jobs, affordable healthcare, decent housing, quality education, and criminal justice reform matter as much as public policies and self help initiatives to grow black business. And we shouldn't be surprised when self interest on the part of black entrepreneurs especially the wealthy puts them in opposition to worker struggles for economic fairness. The hard truth is we live and work in a grossly unequal economy where monied owners, investors, and top management get almost all the benefits of workers labor. Meanwhile people regardless of race struggle to make ends meet. Both race and class are serious problems. Whether we blacks want to recognize it or not some of those elites benefitting from this negative, predator, capitalism are rich blacks. 

    Maybe it's not fair or accurate to say conservatism and its adherents are racist. Racism certainly cuts across political boundaries and includes white liberals too. However conservatism is problematic because it denies systemic racism, it benefits from backlash politics, and it envisions an orderly and decent society that tolerates racism. While there is nothing racist in philosophical conservatism, it's easy to understand why conservatives are called racist because of what they do.
    Conservatives deny systemic racism thinking it ended with the Civil Rights Movement. That was only a start. Overt racism and legal segregation are no longer a problem, but subtle racism is real. It's how systemic racism works. This racism that still holds black people back economically, socially, and politically. Things like stop and frisk are not isolated incidents. It's official policy for how black neighborhoods are policed. Black people with the same credit and income as whites still pay higher interest rates on a home mortgage. These things happen all the time because it's how society works. Conservatives blame blacks for racial inequality. They cite culture and behaviors like crime, violence, fatherlessness, the decline of marriage, lack of academic engagement, and government programs that discourage work. There was a time when these things were less problematic among blacks, and we were not fully free or equal then either. Racism and an unfair economy put black people in abnormal conditions. It's wrong to expect them to live healthy, normal, decent lives under those circumstances. Conservatives know better to suggest otherwise, but their politics depends on not blaming society. 
    Conservatives benefit from backlash politics appealing to white resentments and fears of racial equality. For some whites any progress by blacks is a threat. Conservatives knew this in the sixties, so they appealed to racism for political gain. They spread racist stereotypes about lazy black welfare recipients living off hard working whites' tax dollars and black criminals who threatened white lives and property. They did this despite the fact more whites get welfare than blacks, and blacks are more likely to commit crimes against other blacks than whites. Over the years this racial politics has become increasingly populist. The narrative goes like this - wealthy liberal elites in the media, entertainment, academia, technology, and government wrongly vilify working class whites as racists. The elite advances blacks at the expense of whites struggling to maintain their way of life and economic wellbeing. In this telling - busing destroyed white neighborhoods and schools in the name of forced integration. Affirmative Action took jobs and college admissions away from qualified whites in favor of unqualified blacks. Today these liberals preside over a global economy driven by technology, finance, free trade, and immigration that is destroying white jobs, communities, and culture. Meanwhile whites can't say or do anything without being labeled racist. At the same time blacks want reparations and to defund the police which liberals will gladly do. To these whites Donald Trump was a hero who fought back. He was their president. Trump was the man fighting the oppressive deep state and globalism that undermined ordinary decent white working Americans.
    It doesn't matter that Trump and other rich people along with corporate interests rigged the economy to lower their taxes, pay workers less, destroy unions. They play the stock market taking risks they can't afford and get government bailouts when markets collapse. These same people give money to politicians in both parties who cut safety nets and regulations that benefit the people. Conservatives appeal to racism and white victimology while doing things that undermine whites economically and socially. Meanwhile blacks bear the burdens of racial discrimination and economic inequality.  
    Conservatives opposed civil rights laws in the 1960s believing they were government overreach that threatened personal liberty and property rights. All the while they claimed to be against racism and believe all individuals should be equal before the law. What this did in effect was to prioritize the liberty and wellbeing of whites over blacks. It didn't matter to conservatives that legal segregation in the south and de facto racism in other parts of the country harmed blacks or deprived them of the equal right to liberty. This situation would not work itself out. Conservatives is clear about what should be preserved, but it's never sure about what needs to change.
    They have too much invested in the past and too much to lose in the present by changing their views. The stable, orderly, moral, society conservatives believe is essential to human wellbeing is problematic. It allows injustice against blacks and depends on the goodwill of whites to voluntarily treat blacks better as individuals. But the government shouldn't do anything because that would be unfair to whites. At the same time conservatives urge blacks to fix themselves morally and culturally. They say stop blaming white society or relying on liberal government to solve their problems. In this way conservatives let themselves and America off the hook. Conservatism is too important politically to go unchallenged when it comes to race.

    Individual freedom is what America is all about. You can do what you want and make the most of your own life. Success or failure is up to you. That's what we are told and most of us think that is how we live. I think there is a lot of truth to all this. It's also a myth that has nothing to do with black people. But we believe in the ideal and strive to make it a reality. How we talk about individualism in relation to race is problematic, because it is an evasion that doesn't speak to blacks' experiences with systemic racism. Talking about individualism often hinders political discourse around race. However, none of this means individualism is irrelevant.
    A narrow focus on individualism asserts that people are free possessing natural or God given rights to do what they want until they harm or impose upon others. In this case the only legitimate exercise of state authority is to prevent harm and keep individuals from imposing on each other. This kind of individualism leaves out some important things that make it difficult to discuss American racism. Consider this - until 1865 black people were slaves and considered property by law. They were not viewed equal to whites. Their lives and labor were used for the benefit of slaveowners who believed that freedom with its guarantee of property rights entitled them to own black people. Furthermore, any interference with slavery was viewed as an attack on slaveowners individual liberty. We now find this ludicrous and view it as a great contradiction in American history. Despite emancipation the ideas of freedom and individualism didn't always apply to blacks. Today more than fifty years after the legal victories of the Civil Rights Movement blacks are not fully free as individuals. Despite guarantees of legal equality systemic racism still makes a mockery of individualism when it comes to black people. Think about policing that involves racial profiling with stop and frisk. In this case no black person is an individual with rights to be respected. Blacks are criminals. They are a threat. The worst examples of racist policing are the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police. 
    At the same time people will argue that police killings and acts of discrimination are rare instances racism. They are individual rather than social problems. Certain people are racist. Racist individuals commit microaggressions, join hate groups, and explicitly believe in White Supremacy. Such individuals are regarded as unreasonable and less educated. They are associated with the working class and those living in rural areas. This is the conventional wisdom in American. However, racism is a systemic problem. It is subtle yet pervasive. Covert discrimination and disparate impact of otherwise neutral policies keep black people behind whites in almost every social and economic indicator. A narrow focus on individualism means we don't talk about systemic racism because most whites don't identify with the system or society. They identify as individuals who haven't done anything to blacks.
    Focusing on individualism can hinder our political discourse about race. People talk about color blindness and not seeing race. They argue racism everyone is or should be treated the same. There's a lot of emphasis on merit, competition, hard work, competence, and making good choices. Doing what's right and having certain personal qualities enables you to succeed. Most people would say these things are individual not racial. Some people make it while others do not. Whites and others who think this way don't want government involvement in the marketplace or social programs to achieve racial equality. These people tend to be politically conservative and sometimes moderate. However liberal minded whites are not always interested in addressing race either. Individualism and color blindness are important to them too in different ways from conservatives.  For them racism is a difficult and divisive political issue. White liberals want to win elections and advance their policy agenda. They don't want to lose white votes while addressing race or blacks' concerns. The renewed activist push against systemic racism by groups like Black Lives Matter troubles them. Black people demanding action as blacks not Americans is seen as identity politics by these liberals. They claim it denies individuals in favor of the group. They argue further: Calling white people and America racist is wrong and won't work anyway. Making race an issue puts whites on the defensive. They become racially conscious in opposition to blacks and anything that might help them. 
    Liberals emphasize the importance of individualism and being American. They argue for good paying jobs, universal healthcare, and stopping climate change that benefit and unify all Americans are more important than systemic racism. 
    Liberal and Conservative whites are often united in the belief that legal equality guaranteed by Civil Rights Laws and the decline in racist attitudes among whites means that inequalities are not due to discrimination or bias. Conservatives think blacks lack the cultural and behavioral characteristics to succeed as individuals in a competitive, market driven, society. They cite the decline of marriage and two parent black families. They also point to gun violence, drugs, and academic underachievement among blacks. Liberals look at the same problems claiming past racism has damaged individuals and created a kind of urban underclass. They point to the rise of a black middle class and successful individuals as signs of hope and progress. Individualism is the common denominator in both views of flawed blacks rather than systemic racism as the problem.  
    Does any of this mean that individualism has no place in discussions of race? Is the notion of individualism racist? I think the answer is no to both questions. However, it is important to realize that racism in law, public policy, the marketplace, and other social institutions interferes with individuals. It denies them the choices associated with freedom. Black people in America past and present have never been free or equal to whites as individuals because society has worked against us. Too often we talk about individualism in ways that deny this fact. When it comes to race whites want to talk about individualism outside any social or systemic context that gives it meaning or substance. This keeps us from doing anything about racism. However, whites benefit collectively while using the rhetoric of individualism, but blacks as a group are denied and dismissed. White individuals come together all kinds of common political pursuits related to taxation, and gun ownership. When it came to Slavery, legal segregation, opposition to forced busing, or affirmative action they come together consciously as whites not merely individuals. It is disingenuous and hypocritical to criticize blacks for fighting against racism while we collectively affirm our blackness. Groups coming together politically to fight for individual freedom made America. 
    Confronting and solving the problem of racism goes beyond any sense of high-minded moral purpose. The freedom and wellbeing of every American is compromised by systemic racism. Mass incarceration and poverty mean ever increasing taxes for jails and safety nets. Wherever people can't trust the police because brutality and murder have broken that trust; crime and unrest cannot be contained forever. Disparities in healthcare during a time of deadly pandemics put us all in mortal danger. We cannot talk about individuals as if society and systems that impact them do not matter. The same thing is true about groups. Individualism is central to American identity as it should be. But it is only meaningful if understood in the proper context. This especially true when talking about racism.
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