Op-ed submission by Project 21
While I’ve supported a far less radical and more free market version of black nation-building than the New Black Panther Party, I realize that, for many reasons, nation formation in the traditional sense is a difficult and unlikely prospect today.
At the same time, I am intrigued by cybernetic governance — the notion of conducting government affairs via computer. In a world of cyber governance, citizens are informed of societal issues and concerns and can then participate in the decision-making process through their electronic devices.
Cybernetic government creates a non-spatial society where it does not matter what physical area one occupies. As long as someone has Internet access, they can use a centrally-derived user ID and password to log in and participate.
Online “social networks” such as this were a key tool recently in facilitating fundamental change in places such as Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Bahrain. Computers may have fostered more democratic societies there.
Black Americans can learn from these powerful developments abroad and begin using computers for their betterment.
While it’s not necessary to bring about a change in government here, a black social network could instead strengthen the race. Allowing blacks the opportunity to virtually assemble as a group — even those currently living abroad — can potentially help us solve problems and create unity.
Blacks could use this resource, for instance, to report on and address critical issues in local communities. If concerns at that level receive sufficient interest from others in the network, a network manager can alert everyone about it.
Rather than having an important issue swept under the rug or co-opted by one of black America’s many self-appointed “leaders” probably more motivated by their own political gain, a black social network could provide a more telling and reliable consensus of black opinion.
If the network developed enough trust, perhaps it could even facilitate the collection of financial resources. For example, how many black Americans have thought about contributing to the completion of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (scheduled to open on the Mall in Washington, D.C. in 2015)? Rather than relying on large corporate grants and a few black Americans for contributions, all black Americans could be solicited to contribute. This larger number of smaller donations might help get this job and others done more efficiently and successfully.
A social network for black Americans is a real possibility, and it would allow our “nation within a nation” to be connected in ways never before possible. We could all actually be on one page at the same time — and support each other for optimal impact on issues and concerns that face us all.
The question now is: who’s going to create black America’s online meeting room?
Facebook was created by enterprising college students. Creating a black social network just needs initiative. Why aren’t the NAACP or the National Urban League ready, willing and able to create such a potentially powerful tool to advance our race? In the expectation they are not, who will take up the slack?
If Oprah Winfrey is powerful and wealthy enough to inspire a new television network, why can’t she or someone like her amass the talent and resources required to develop a black online community?
We don’t need to re-invent the wheel. The technology is available. What this idea needs is the person or group to get the ball rolling.
Want to improve conditions for black Americans? Create a social network. Information is power! The key to black American power today is not standing in the street with a clinched fist as so many did in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Black advancement may now be as simple as joining together, online in a social network, so that we can stand united in our political, economic and social actions.
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
Campaign ’08: Barack Obama
I was fortunate to be able to grow up seeing America from varied viewpoints. My childhood was spent in Hawaii and Indonesia. After college I worked as a community organizer on the South side of Chicago focusing on improving living conditions in poor neighborhoods.
I came to understand that to truly solve the problems facing our communities, it would take a change in our laws and our politics. I ran and served for seven years in the Illinois State Senate, where I fought for expanding children’s health care, providing tax cuts for the working poor and enacting welfare reform. In 2004, I was elected to the U.S. Senate, where I have worked to pass laws securing dangerous weapons and making government more accountable. I have also opposed the Iraq war from the start and believe that we need to bring our troops home by March of 2008 so we can refocus on the wider struggle against terrorism.
Of all my life experiences, I am most proud of my wife Michelle and my daughters Malia and Sasha.