“The poor will always be with us…” Matthew 26:11
There are one group of people that Americans hate more than foreign terrorists. The poor within their own borders. They would rather send millions of dollars, as well as their armed forces, to assist and relieve the sufferings of the poor and disenfranchised in distant lands, than to help the poor on their own soil. Americans are not alone in this. The poor, wherever they are, incite the hatred and disdain of their fellow citizens, particularly their government. They are usually blamed and scapegoated for everything from economic downturns to epidemics of disease. They have always been the fodder for wars, cuts in government spending and dubious medical experiments. They are not only exploited for their manual labour, their bodies are also marketed as sex slaves and organ farms for the perverted rich, and their neighbourhoods tourist destinations for the curious advantaged.
The real source of this hatred though lies in the fact that for the elite, the poor are a constant warning that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”… fish rots from the head down. They are the beacon which illuminates the darkness of whatever “noble lie” social harmony is built upon. They are the kindle that a spark for revolution will ignite to burn away the illusion of political stability. There is also an intense societal fear and loathing for those who advocate for these hated poor and direct the beacon to expose the architects and beneficiaries of these sacred falsehoods.
“When I give food to the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why the President can easily bailed out the banks and capitalists, but has done nothing to help the poor, they call me an “uncle tom”.
I have always been a fan of Travis Smiley. I have recently developed a great amount of respect and admiration for Cornel West. I may not always agree with their positions, but there is no doubt that they are principled and honest (Black) men who have a sincere love for Black people, and are committed to the cause of the poor, the exploited and the disenfranchised. Regardless of this… actually because of this… I knew they would become pariahs within the African-American community, particularly with the Negro intellectuals and celebrities, when they announced that they were going on a 2 week, 16 city tour to bring attention to the plight of the poor and President Obama’s lack of any policy, initiative or plan to address their situation… especially the African-American poor, who have been hit the hardest by the housing crisis, unemployment and recession (here).
“If you want that good feeling that comes from doing things for other people, then you have to pay for it in abuse and misunderstanding…” Zora Neale Hurston
I have hence read all sorts of articles questioning their motives, demonizing and vilifying them, as well as calling them all sorts of names, because they took a stance for the poor by demanding that Barack Obama, the President of the United States, the most powerful (Black) man in the world, do something substantial for them, instead of offering empty rhetoric, the noble lie that “a rising tide lifts all boats”. These are the same poor black people who blindly and emotionally supported his bid to the White House, believing that he was their promised messiah, the embodiment of the change they could believe in. (I always mused that if your boat has holes and is filling with water, wouldn’t a rising tide make it sink faster).
Although America is always quick to profess to the world their noble lie that it’s the “land of free speech”, there has always been consequences to bear when one exercises that right and criticizes the government, especially the President. The blacklash against Smiley and West by the African-American community reminds me of the reaction to the Dixie Chicks by their fellow Texans, as well as political conservatives, when they criticized George W. Bush, during a concert in England, 9 days before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003: “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” The backlash was intense and fierce. They were ostracized, lost fans, had concerts cancelled, received hate mail and death threats. I highly recommend their documentary of that period: “Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing“. In the same manner, President Obama’s supporters would rather “Smiley and West: Shut Up and Coon”.
I have also read a few well balanced articles, not necessarily supporting Smiley and West, but supporting the cause of their Poverty Tour, as well as questioning the failure of President Obama to get up, stand up and fight for the human rights of the poor of his nation. I for one cannot speak to what is truly in their heart, but history has shown time and again that when the elites and their self-serving minions are fighting with all their might to kill (discredit) the messenger(s), the foundation of the message is built upon truth… and those in power will do whatever it takes, will stop at nothing, to perpetuate the sanctity of their noble lie.
“The pursuit of truth attracts critics”
“Democracy is a proposal (rarely realised) about decision-making; it has little to do with election campaigns. Its promise is that political decisions be made after, and in the light of, consultation with the governed. This is dependent upon the governed being adequately informed about the issues in question, and upon the decision makers having the capacity and will to listen and take account of what they have heard. Democracy should not be confused with the “freedom” of binary choices, the publication of opinion polls or the crowding of people into statistics. These are its pretense. Today the fundamental decisions, which effect the unnecessary pain increasingly suffered across the planet, have been and are taken unilaterally without any open consultation or participation.” ~ John Berger
I. Dance, reconstrueism [rek-kun-stroó-ism], dance!
My impulse used to be to dismiss it. But nearly six years after returning here to my hometown of Detroit after my decade living in Miami, it has become more and more difficult to go on living and working in a post modern, post industrial, casebook ‘capitalist endtime’ city like Detroit, ignoring the hyper-reality and the hype of American rust belt era gentrification and post gentrification; to go on ignoring the post industrial situation: the poverty, loss, and disintegration in weird concert with the outlandishly enthusiastic, intrusive media junkets that spin across the dance floor in disco mode even though the music is a mournful dirge.
While local Detroit’s news media have steadfastly ignored for two decades now the steadily growing din of community protest and outrage, the gulf between politicians and the governed, between the suburbs and the city, between the haves and the never-will-haves again, between official public media and real life has grown into an ocean; and the two continents are drifting. Citizen outrage over both a political establishment’s and media establishment’s practice of treating community voices and groups as if they were invisible, is as the feeble complaints of Hebrews in the work pits of ancient Egypt, cutting stones for pyramids they will never see the end of. The same newspapers, radio broadcasts, and so-called ‘alternative’ media that have steadfastly ignored post-civil rights, post-nationalist, and post mass culture complaints of racism and abandonment lodged by the mostly Black, mostly poor populace, are peculiarly attentive now to the interests, ideologies, and the dogmas of the forces of Republican triumphalism. They are likewise quick to lick the hand of the interests of ‘urban renovation’ politics, and of what I call ‘settler chic’.
‘Settlers’– the slowly increasing trickle of returnees from suburbs, and new arrivals from other cities (of which I was one, six years ago) are a new dispensation, but all these forces and interests make up ‘the media junket’: journalism at its worst. Nothing covered by American Journalism, or rather, nothing that is blipped, blurbed, byted, and blurted, is presented with adequate depth, meaning, or critical content. The two major city newspapers, The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, cover the city either sensationally through a blanket fascination with crime and petty corruption (as opposed to deeper, more far-reaching corporate corruption), or else in so diffident a way (emphasis upon what Miami cultural critic Dr. James Nadell sarcastically calls ‘that local media life-giving, all important, precious sports coverage’) that all the city’s greater complexity is flattened out into purely entertaining, descriptive, lurid and titillating ‘copy’ for creation of a salable commodity by a media that abhor political, economic, cultural, and ethnic diversity and legitimacy. Thus, the rot, the collapse, the poverty, the slow
disintegration of a city center and of its neighborhoods, is the daily commodity that turns the profit motive. With a few human interest and ‘poor folk make good’ stories sprinkled in for plausible deniability’s sake, pathos, suffering, and rot are the papers’ real bread and butter, and crime is the spice. News is wrapped like liver and sold slightly bloody with little meaningful, ongoing attention to the past and its economic and political causality. In Detroit, ‘if it bleeds, it leads’, and that motto controls the daily fare (‘crime reporting’ being a perfect avatar for it all) of TV, radio, and print journalism. It’s a corporate standard, a nationally pervasive style of media coverage of cities that is shallow in focus, stereotyped, smug, and presumptuous–not just because it leaves citizens uninformed, which it does, but because it leaves citizens altogether: it has fled us; or it floats above our heads, unconcerned with our real, material lives as it arbitrarily selects what it chooses to spill down upon us–information as scat. If this is what has become of ‘the watchdog of democracy’ then Detroit has what is more accurately described as a cadaver dog of complacency. The media, conglomerated by Gannett (newspapers), Clear Channel (radio and satellite access), and New Times Corp (‘alternative publication weeklies), and their subsidiaries, have long ago broken democracy’s leash, to root through the details of the dead, the unburied casualties, with no concern for or memory of democracy as John Berger defines it, and even less concern for democracy’s discontents (sudden gun battles at police precincts notwithstanding).
Lately in fact, a characteristic of inappropriate playfulness, even of exuberance, is being displayed by the current incarnation of those junkets ridden by suburban settlers touring the inner city, assessing property values, and planning renovation. These excursions are peopled by ‘creative class’ types [see Richard Florida further down this page]. The tone of their safaris has veered, nauseatingly, over toward the extreme of what some call ‘ruins porn’ (a growing fascination, nationally, with American cities’ shattered, disintegrating architecture and that dying architectures ‘antique’ quality; fascination with the even more fetishistic practice of doing ecstatic and politically mute photographic ‘studies’ of urban wreckage shots offered as aesthetic objects and as visual commodities).
The corporate ghouls–the land developers, real estate vampires, expensive condo prospectors, and strip mall developers, are only some of the many junketeers who have for years now been descending upon modern dying cities. However, when a city that has lost its industrial basis and its economic base begins to die, and also happens to have a high percentage of people-of-color, of Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Arabs, or members of the working poor, the ghouls are double in number and strength, and even more easily can they buy access, authority, and fiat from easily bought-off, corruptible local public and elected officials who fail to protect constituents from these revelers at The Ball. Their claim, the caption that scrolls across their faces calls them ‘rescuers’ of dying urban space. Continue reading
Op-ed submission by Project 21
Black History Month is an ideal time to measure progress. This year is especially appropriate as we embark on a new decade.
Some indicators of progress are how blacks are catching up with their white counterparts with regard to income, education and political participation. In the latter two categories, reports say blacks made marginal progress. But we have not yet really progressed on equalizing incomes. Some might argue this income disparity is of overwhelming importance and must be rectified immediately. They may contend it directly affects education and other opportunities.
Our nation’s unfortunate history of discrimination has residual effects that remain today. There are also post-civil rights era problems related to entitlements that breed a reliance on government. We can acknowledge these problems, but we must not dwell on them. To keep from spending the next 90 years debating reasons for this income disparity, let’s focus on what can be done to increase black earnings. Solutions include encouraging more blacks to train in the financial, mathematical and scientific fields. Entrepreneurship is also ideal – starting one’s own business to actually become the employer.
Classroom education alone is not sufficient to boost income levels. There are too many blacks with doctoral degrees who lack jobs or have jobs that earn less than one might expect. Put simply, their degrees are not in growing or lucrative fields.
Rather than focusing on great black scholars or heroes this Black History Month, why not focus more on black Americans who achieved financial success and how they did it? Think about BET founder Robert Johnson or the late venture capitalist Reginald Lewis. Americans earning the most money do not necessarily have a multitude of advanced diplomas adorning their walls. Instead, they are thinkers who bring about new wealth-generating ideas. They are go-getters with the drive and ambition who are willing to take the risks to get ahead.
This is not to say the most successful people aren’t educated. They can have such degrees, but their smarts aren’t always obtained in school. Think about how many university professors are very wealthy. Not many. What professors can do successfully is impart wisdom upon others. They can school someone about becoming a doctor or a lawyer or to understand the world of business. But what then?
It all comes down to how someone applies his talents. Anyone can do virtually anything when given the proper training. Oprah Winfrey, for example, was a television reporter who used her ambition and talents to become a media mogul. She did not enter her profession with a Harvard MBA. Black Americans must understand that anyone can do almost anything – from plumbing to nuclear physics. There’s little holding most Americans back if they are given the proper training and have the ambition to succeed.
Again, it’s not always education as much as it is training. Put a young mind that is willing to learn in the proper position, and that young mind will master the job. We can’t be fooled that one must first obtain a advanced degree to be a success. Those who know will tell you that, the first day on the job, even the newly-minted Ph.D. may be told by an experienced supervisor to “forget everything that you learned at the university.”
Black History Month should help to identify wealthy and successful black Americans. People should learn how they became wealthy and commit themselves to replicating that model. If we use self-study, mentoring and commit ourselves by supporting each other (especially black businesses), then we can certainly produce considerably more wealthy black Americans. In turn, those wealthy blacks can help other blacks become wealthy because “anyone can do anything”.
B.B. Robinson, Ph.D. is a member of the national advisory council of the black leadership network Project 21. You can visit his website at http://www.blackeconomics.org/
Op-ed submission by Project 21
There is a real economic toll related to abortion, but it’s not something Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton or the Congressional Black Caucus complains about. In fact, they all support abortion.
To hear abortion proponents talk about it, infanticide is an economic boon. In 1998, a U.S. News and World Report article called a child “a high-priced consumer item with no warranty.” Less children supposedly means less welfare spending, less unemployment and generally more money to spread around.
Actually, the opposite is more likely to be true.
In a telephone interview, Mark Crutcher, president of Life Dynamics Inc., said, “The cost [of abortion to society], if calculable, would be astronomical to the point of the average person being incapable of comprehending it.” While Crutcher correctly notes one cannot accurately put a price on the opportunity costs of abortion, its effects are apparent. In fact, abortion may play a key factor in fixing our nation’s current economic crisis.
Consumer spending is the dominant facet of our economy. With the economy needing a boost and job creation jolted, a baby is a true stimulus plan. Forget TARP and the Keynesian spending schemes promoted by the Obama Administration. A baby necessitates diapers, toys, food, books, clothing and more. Meeting those needs creates jobs in the manufacturing and service sectors. Children also create jobs in the medical and educational sectors. When they grow up, babies supplement the labor force – promoting the “circle of life.” At a time when our nation relies on an influx of legal and illegal immigrants, it’s illogical to promote population control.
It’s also an issue of quality, and not just quantity. As the late economist Julian Simon noted: “In the long run, the most important economic effect of population size and growth is the contribution of additional people to our stock of useful knowledge.” Around 45 million potential members of the American labor force have already been obliterated by legialized abortion. How many could have kept our auto industry solvent? How many might have developed the cure to cancer or cold-fusion energy production?
And then there’s the Social Security and Medicare crises. These two programs, once considered safety nets, are now lifelines for many elderly and impoverished Americans. The programs’ solvency relies upon large numbers of people in the workforce providing for much smaller numbers of recipients. The Baby Boom and expansions of coverage turned these calculations on their heads. More money will soon be paid out than is being paid into the programs. That means fewer benefits and/or more taxes.
For blacks in particular, Crutcher noted, “Abortion has cost blacks tremendous political power. You cannot reduce the black American population by – in some estimates – as much as 40 percent in the last 35 plus years and not have a debilitating political impact that equates further to verifiable economic loss, even if the loss is astronomical to the point of being incalculable.”
Crutcher refers to the relatively unchanged size of the black community relative to other races. While black population numbers stagnate, Hispanics are now the dominant minority group. Could this have anything to do with abortion? Yes. Susan Cohen, writing for the Guttmacher Policy Review in 2008, noted, “The abortion rate for black women is almost five times that for white women.”
Black Americans were brought to America in chains. After emancipation, we were subject to unfair laws restricting promised freedoms. Discrimination further robbed us of opportunity. Now, even with a level playing field, abortion is still pushing blacks into a corner. While the United States economy remains on the brink, blacks – who, as a community, are making their way up the socio-economic ladder – stand to lose the most.
In promoting abortion, there is much more to lose than just our morality. Our very futures may lie in the balance.
Mychal Massie is the chairman of the black leadership network Project 21.
This very informative documentary is by Robert Beckford on his fact finding visit to Ghana and the “new” colonization of Africa.
“What has been shall be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”