At least it wasn’t ‘The Black man did it!’
Last week’s mini-manhunt for suspects who shot a Bucks County policeman ended surprisingly with authorities arresting Chalfont cop Jon Cousin on charges of lying.
Cousin claimed an assailant shot him during Cousin’s early AM investigation of a suspiciously parked car with that assailant’s bullet lodging in Cousin’s bullet proof vest.
Investigators soon discovered that physical evidence and Cousin’s claims didn’t add up. Cousin shot his bullet proof vest later falsely asserting that an assailant shot him.
It’s a good thing that Cousin and/or news media accounts didn’t color that phantom assailant as Black thus setting off a typical-&-potentially dangerous dragnet targeting Black men.
However, it’s a bad thing that mega-money music mogul Jay-Z and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter couldn’t say a ‘Black man did it’ — as in Blacks (men and women) did a fair share of the work in high-paying jobs related to Jay-Z’s “Made In America” concert on the Parkway this past weekend.
The seeming “black-out” of Black and other non-white workers in stage erection and other high-paying positions for that paid Parkway music fest didn’t go unnoticed, particularly by those who monitor the seeming perpetual exclusion of Black workers and businesses from economic opportunities across Philly especially projects receiving contributions from City Hall.
Last week, Mayor Nutter — once known as “Mixmaster Mike” for his long-ago gig DJ-ing at a night club — was a tad tight-lipped when the news media inquired about the public purse investment for that Parkway party sponsored by Budweiser, the resource-rich beer corporation.
Nutter, instead of revealing how much money City Hall kicked into the concert operations kiddy, just referenced beneficial intangibles like “goodwill” for the city and obvious tangibles like bumps for local businesses from concert goers spending in restaurants, bars and hotels.
Hum, what’s wrong with the sound of Nutter’s silence?
One of the richest men in the music business (Jay-Z’s worth an estimated $450 million) and the mayor of one of America’s largest cities didn’t and/or couldn’t use their combined clout to counter the structural discrimination that excludes Black workers and Black businesses displaced from participating in a Philly economic pie is arguably a Made-in-America shame.
Philly is a city with massive unemployment among non-whites.
And Philly leads all of America’s big cities with a 37 percent poverty rate — a poverty rate that is connected to economic disconnects from institutionalized racial discrimination.
It speaks mightily that a current music mogul and a former mixmaster didn’t amp things up to ensure that more economic opportunities flowed equitably from that Parkway music fest like water flows from the famous public fountains along the Parkway.
A jobs generating event on the Labor Day Weekend Holiday providing pitifully few high-paying jobs for non-white Philly workers is Made-in-America 4 Sure.
It seems (at least seems to some) that Mayor Nutter is more concerned that homeless people languishing along the Parkway don’t receive food-or-crumbs from outdoor feedings by religious groups than his leveraging all available opportunities (all-the-time) to ensure a few economic trickle-down crumbs feed Black workers and Black businesses living in the city he leads.
Further, this small yet salient example of traditional exclusion from economic inclusion underlines a criticism legendary entertainer/activist Harry Belafonte made in early August.
Belafonte named Jay-Z by name when blasting many contemporary high-profile artists for turning “their backs on social responsibility.”
Belafonte is a person who repeatedly put his career in money making peril to break down barriers that enabled the elevation of later generations. Belafonte could have receded into “bling” but he didn’t.
The fact that Jay-Z rose from a NYC housing project to the pinnacle of success is the stuff of the vaulted American Dream. And yes, Jay-Z places his real name on his Shawn Corey Carter Foundation that helps economically challenged folks further their education.
But framing the evaporating American Dream that does boost some hard-working blacks into entrepreneurial or elected positions are continuing realities of institutional exclusion and structural prejudice — the American Nightmare that America ignores.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. eloquently described aspects of that American Nightmare crushing Blacks during his August 28, 1963, seminal “I Have a Dream” speech.
During that speech in D.C., King reminded America that Blacks sadly still remained “crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.”
Before reflectively dismissing King’s remarks 49 years ago as having no relevance in a contemporary America where a Black man presides from the White House consider two examples.
King, in 1963, decried Blacks finding themselves as “an exile” in their own land.
During the devastating 2005 Hurricane Katrina media reports referenced poor Blacks ruthlessly pummeled in flood ravaged New Orleans as “refugees” — exiles not Americans suffering in their own American city.
King, in 1963, criticized the exclusion of Blacks from the “great vaults of opportunity of this nation.”
Last week when the Republican National Convention blew into Tampa Bay, Fla., along with Hurricane Isaac the GOP did what is always does: exclude Black-owned businesses from the estimated $153 million arising from that presidential convention’s “vaults of opportunity.”
The presidents of the Tampa Bay Black Chamber of Commerce and the Suncoast African American Chamber of Commerce both criticized Black business exclusion — even vending food to conventioneers — by the political party that proclaims its pro-small business.
The more things change…
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.