Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Up You Mighty People ... It's not too Late

It's been about 88 years since, Marcus Garvey, head of the Universal Negro Improvement Association urged blacks to "do for self" -- establish their own businesses, develop their own institutions and communities and promote and protect their own culture.

There was nothing "racist" about Garvey's message. It was a call to do what other ethnicities (Jews, Asians, American whites) have done for centuries.

This article (The Destruction of the Black Middle Class) should serve as a reminder that now, more than ever, African-Americans should focus on an agenda of self-survival.

According to a study by Demos and the Institute for Assets and Social Policy, 33 percent of the black middle class who were already in danger of falling out of the middle class at the start of the recession are now living that nightmare. This doesn't even address the majority of blacks caught in the cycle of poverty that now may never ascend.

The article further states:

Black unemployment is now at 14.7%, compared to 8.7% for whites... Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, estimates that 40% of African Americans will have experienced unemployment or underemployment by 2010, and this will increase child poverty from one-third of African-American children to slightly over half. No one can entirely explain the extraordinary rate of job loss among African Americans, though factors may include the relative concentration of blacks in the hard-hit retail and manufacturing sectors, as well as the lesser seniority of blacks in better-paying white-collar positions.
The way I see it, African-Americans are in the midst of another cultural shift. The first was after Emancipation. The second came during the Reconstruction period and the third was after the passage of Civil Rights legislation that was supposed to end institutional racism and open new avenues of equality and prosperity.
However, with the election of Obama, the landscape has changed -- for good and bad.
Many benevolent whites who support "black causes" now think the job is done. Some (even the most liberal) believe we live in a "post-racial" society and there's no longer a need for governmental initiatives to even the playing field.
The Obama Administration, as I have long insisted, offers rare opportunities for blacks to go about the business of creating agendas that will bring about long-lasting economic opportunity and social change.
However, I worry that black leaders and the rest of us aren't listening or responding to the quiet codes Obama laid out in his book (The Audacity of Hope) and the messages inherent in his administrative choices and new initiatives.
I fear we will miss the opportunity to capitalize on the next major cultural shift and we will remain forever stuck in an unpredictable cycle of economic and social vulnerability.
If you share this concern, e-mail me. I have a few ideas and I'm almost ready to roll.
It's time for dreamers to create an realistic agenda that puts Garvey's words into action.
Peace -- Sylvester


Anonymous said...

I agree with you and Marcus.

The most liberal who believe that we are in a post racial period reflect their shallow understanding of discrimination and prejudice -- one that is borne out of sympathy rather than empathy. Many of the most progressive see themselves as missionaries to the ignorant savages. Parse the rhetoric and clich├ęs' that they spout and you'll likely find that some of their best friends are truly their Jungian masks.

A person who is pitied remains in a one down or inferior position to the one who is pitying. One who empathizes understands that "there except for the grace of God go I".

By now expressing their belief in post racialism, they can claim credit for their participation in the "movement" and believe themselves innocent of any involvement in actions that perpetuated an underclass.

Proofing what I just spewed, I believe it sounds a bit preachy but you know that I am all about identity and relationship. That is, we need to understand that who we are has evolved from who we were and that we now either choose to dip that in bronze, opting to freeze future growth, locking ourselves in to a perpetual re-run and ultimately a stereotype or we continue to evolve by seeking to be transparent in that growth as we strive to see beneath the masks of those we encounter.

The greatest challenges that I see in this are in accepting and facing down the fear that the requisite level of vulnerability is self-destructive and avoiding the temptation of becoming overly suspicious of everybody else’s motive.

Anyway, that's what I think today. I recognize that it is not THE gospel and it is therefore subject to regressive or progressive change as I grow and better understand myself and other.

In Christ,Van

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