How far have we come

Posted: January 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

Today is January 17, 2011. On January 15, 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. was born Michael King Jr. 5 years later, in honor of the German Protestant Scholar Martin Luther, King’s father changed both his and his son’s name to Martin Luther King Jr. You know the rest of the story pretty much, or at least should by now. On April 4, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated in one of the seminal events of American history. And today, on January 17, 2011, for the 25th time since the holiday was federally passed into law in 1986, We celebrate the life and legacy of perhaps the most important force in the movement to enforce that black people in this country were afforded the same civil rights as Whites.

The question that plagues me during this rather singular day of remembrance is whether or not we’re that much better off now, 43 years after King was shot down by a lunatic (the second assassination attempt by the way. He was stabbed by a deranged black woman at a book signing in Harlem once and narrowly escaped death).

The gap between Black and white household [accumulated] wealth quadrupled from 1984 to 2007, totally discrediting the conventional wisdom that the U.S. is slowly and fitfully moving towards racial equality, or some rough economic parity between the races. Like most American myths, it’s the direct opposite of the truth. When measured over decades, Blacks are being propelled economically downward relative to whites at quickening speed, according to a new study by Brandeis University.

Today, the richest 1% of the US population owns close to 40% of its wealth. The top 25% of US households own 87% -The Guardian-

In 1984, high-income black Americans had more assets than middle-income whites. That is no longer true. -The Guardian-

At the end of 2006 the Bureau of Justice released a group of data that stated that there were 3,042 black male prisoners per 100,000 black males in the United States, compared to 1,261 Hispanic male prisoners per 100,000 Hispanic males and 487 white male prisoners per 100,000 white males

New York’s graduation rate for its Regents diploma is only 25 percent for Black male students. New York City, the district with the nation’s highest enrollment of Black students, only graduates 28 percent of its Black male students with Regents diplomas on time. Overall, each year over 100,000 Black male students in New York City alone do not graduate from high school with their entering cohort. These statistics—and the other alarming data in this fourth biennial report— point to a national education and economic crisis. The Schott Report-

Yes, we have a black president. Yes, that’s a remarkable accomplishment given that 50 years ago, many blacks weren’t even allowed to vote where they lived. But on balance, to be realistic, we’re a people going backwards. Much like the rest of America, there are huge rewards to be had via exceptionalism. But for the rank and file, tomorrow appears worse than today.

If you’re reading this, it’s not unlikely that your tomorrow is in fact brighter than your today. You’re sitting at a computer, you have time to dick around reading blogs instead of working two jobs to support a family or rotting in jail. Hell, you can read. That’s not a given for a lot of people in this country. You may very well be one of the elite who will acquire and possess more than your rightful share of assets, wealth, and happiness in this country.

The question is, what will you do with that wealth, with those assets, with that extra time? Will you fritter it away on self-aggrandizement? Will you buy more bottles, a bigger car, an exotic woman? A handbag that cost more than someone’s tuition, shoes that inspire envy because their soles are shellacked red?

What can you do, frankly? When I get on the Metro (on the few days I actually use public transportation), I see teenagers, adult children for whom I fear it is too late. I see their mannerisms, their language, the way they interact with their environment and I wonder if they’re not already so damaged by chronic poverty, bad schools, parental neglect, and a narcissistic culture of underachievement masked by swagger, I wonder if there’s anything that can meaningfully be done to bring them back from the brink. I hear stories of a Memphis high school with 90 pregnant girls out of 800 students. The news story qualifies that as meaning 11% of the school  population is preparing to be a parent. No mention is made of the fact that there are fathers there, meaning the number is closer to 22%. Perhaps with the rise of absentee fatherhood as a norm instead of an outlier, that makes sense. Why bother counting people as parents who likely won’t have the werewithall to take care of a family, regardless of their inclination to do so.

Well, here are some things you can do

1. Invest. Like I said, if you’re reading this, you probably have far more opportunities to actually create and accumulate wealth than most people in this country. Don’t squander it. And it’s so easy to squander it. Keeping up with the Combses, projecting your bougie lifestyle, impressing friend and foe alike with the fact that you vacation at Oaks Bluff. I know weaning oneself off a lifestyle is hard. I fail at it more often than not. But I’ve committed to expanding my investments outside of real estate to equities and bonds as well. It can be done. It’ll hurt a little now, but feel great later.

Motley Fool

2. Mentor I worked with Mentors Inc. a couple years ago mentoring a high school student. He’s at NC State now making the honor roll. In truth, he didn’t need that much of my help. But to a lot of those kids, one person can make a difference. your example and counsel can help them make that one decision that will keep them in school, keep them out of jail, or keep them from having babies as a baby. There are a million groups out there that would love to have your help.

Mentorship list

3. Change the Conversation I’ve argued with the Academics about this a million times. Yes, structural and economic forces keep black people in this country down. But we let them. We allow ourselves to be exploited, we waste our time with foolishness, and we compete with each other instead of helping one another. Go on twitter anyday and read the trending topics portion. No one’s forcing us to spend our time participating in the kind of lowest common denominator fuckery that goes on in our public discourse. We willingly choose to join. Opt out. Start a new topic.

4. Bribe your politicians Mother Jones magazine reviewed the Country’s 400 largest political donors in a March 5, 2001 issue. (Exhibit 9a) And while the article began by noting the large number of dollars raised by the Bush campaign ($696 million) and the coincident question of what donors expected in exchange for their largess, Mother Jones seemed to miss the elephant in the room – namely, the large number of Jewish donors. Namely, forty-two of the top one hundred donors were Jewish. What are the odds? Four of the top five (S. Daniel Abraham, Bernard Schwartz, David Gilo and Chaim Saban) were Jewish Democrats and each donated more than $1 million.

Jewish folks aren’t doing too bad in this country. May be a correlation there. Maybe we should take note.

5. Vote your interest Truthfully speaking, if Ron Paul would have won the Republican nomination in 2008, I would likely have voted for him over Obama. Why, you ask? Because he supports ending the war on drugs, the single biggest attack on the black community today. Does Ron Paul care about black people in the way that Obama does? I sincerely doubt it. But his empathy isn’t what I care about. What I care about is what he can do for me and people that look like me, and whose success, for better or worse, is tied to mine. For too long, we’ve given Democrats and friendly faces our votes and gotten nothing in return. Look at the italicized information above. Our politicians are not helping us, despite the fact that we’re the group that usually sends them over the top to electoral victory.

  1. N.I.A. naturally says:

    I agree with all of this, especially #3. I feel we spend so much time pointing out all of the ways “the man” holds us down, that we never realize that we have the power to change it.
    Great post!

  2. Janelle says:

    Great post! These are good suggestions that we can all apply to get closer to the dream as Dr. King envisioned it.

  3. turquoisesha says:

    From what I’ve skimmed, great post. I plan to read over it more later this week.

  4. miko says:

    great post. number 3 hits the nail on the head. endless academic talking and talking and talking and talking to the point of stagnancy is a problem!

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