The truth is, Nov. 22 wasn't just Thanksgiving Day, or a day to recall the tragic assassination of John F. Kennedy.
For hundreds of people across North Philadelphia and the city, as a whole, there was a whole other reason to remember that date. It was — and is every year — the birthday of Rogers
"Lucky" James Jr.
"Lucky," a true North Philadelphia icon, happens to have been one of my best friends, back in the Richard Allen Homes, dating back to the fifth grade, when we were classmates at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament School.
We were altar boys, serving Mass at the church. We were on the safety patrol together; we played on the school's CYO basketball team together.
Lucky was always a "hustler," in the good sense of the word, holding down several money-making "gigs" at the same time. His father, Rogers James Sr., or "Rock," as he was affectionately known, and his doting, but hard-driving mom, Felicia, wouldn't have had it any other way.
One of his earliest "hustles" was working as the paper boy, in the projects. No matter what, you knew, if you happened to look out your window at five a.m., on any given morning, you'd see Rogers "Lucky" James delivering his papers and — if he was fortunate — collecting his money, on his paper route. Pouring-down rain, a foot of snow, freezing temperatures, didn't matter to him. It was simply his job to get the papers to his customers, and he took pride in getting that done, every day. I didn't really appreciate his early perseverance.
As teenagers, our group, in the projects, was known as hard partiers, and "Lucky" took that role, perhaps, more seriously than any of the rest of us. On the weekends and, even, during the week, there weren't many places in town that we wouldn't go — on public transportation — to find a party, and we could always count on "Lucky" to tell us exactly where it was being held.
I imagine "Lucky's" love for nightlife played a role in his finding his way to one of his other beloved gigs, working at the Barber's Hall club, on Oxford Street, in North Philadelphia. Through all of this, over time, "Lucky" has become one of those people in North Philly that "everybody knows."
Looking back, I'd have to admit that there was one little thing that used to tick me off about "Luck," when we were kids. It was the fact that, no matter what, he always claimed that he had done, and seen, "everything" first. Even if you could have gone to the world premiere of a new Hollywood blockbuster, and run right back to the neighborhood to brag about it, there "Lucky" would be, frowning his face, explaining that he had already seen it--last week. That got old -- fast -- but, hey, it was just "Lucky" being "Lucky."
"Luck" has also been a natural athlete, all his life. Once, when he was participating in a tournament, as a green belt, at the Philadelphia Karate Club, "Lucky" was matched against a wiry-looking, bearded, black belt, who turned out to be Alex Sternberg, a former bodyguard to Meir Kahane, the head of the Jewish Defense league. Reportedly, Sternberg was also ultimately responsible for all self-defense instruction for the organization. Totally unaware of the guy's reputation, "Lucky" simply went out, and "dusted him off." As I said, the "birthday boy" has always been a natural athlete.
Following on his early years as a neighborhood paper boy, "Lucky," for years, also operated his own fully-enclosed newsstand, on the corner of 8th and SpringGarden, in North Philly, just a few city blocks from where we were all raised.
Did I mention that "Lucky" eventually became a Democratic committeeman, in the 14th Ward?
In 1995, during the Primary Election in the Fifth Councilmanic District, I was serving as the media adviser for the incumbent councilman, John Street, and there had been an ongoing dispute between Street and Temple University.
Temple desperately wanted the councilman's approval to develop its Apollo project, but Street had informed the University that he would only do so, if Temple kept its commitment to build 500 units of low-income housing, in the district.
Street's opponent, Julie Welker, sided with the University and began saying publicly that Street should spend less time cracking down on Temple and more time fixing potholes, in the neighborhood. The councilman, naturally, vehemently disagreed.
A reporter for the Inquirer wrote that I said Street's position was "an example of constituent service of the highest order." Further down, however, I found a quote from a North Philadelphia Committeeman, a guy named Rogers James, Jr. ("Lucky," to you).
Here's what my childhood friend, who, unbeknownst to me, was a strong Julie Welker supporter, said: "He (Street) talks about things like they aren't important. Potholes are important, if they are in front of your house."
Did I mention that "Lucky" never hesitates to say exactly what he feels?
I remember being extraordinarily proud of how he had reduced that whole issue to a clear, neighborhood-level concern.
We laughed about it all, later, and talked about how strange it was, for the two of us, after all those years, to be on opposite sides of an issue. That didn't happen often.
It's no secret that one of the reasons that we all have so much respect for "Lucky" is the courageous way in which he has handled his long-standing health problems, and his great fortune, through all of that, to have found and married his wonderful wife, Michelle. No matter how difficult his health challenges have been, "Lucky's" positive, upbeat approach to everything and everybody, his willingness to speak out on community issues, and his commitment to serving as a deacon in his church, never changes.
As proof of that, Lucky is still part of a group that, even now, holds dances and social events, to have fun and make a few bucks.
In recent years, "Lucky" has taken on another responsibility. He's now the guy who calls everybody when someone we all know is sick, or has passed away. Sometimes, you're kind of nervous taking a call from "Lucky," when you see his name and number come up on the screen of your iPhone.
Just two weeks ago, I was on my way to a noon-time reception for a developer in North Philadelphia, and my cellphone rang. There it was on the screen: "Rogers 'Lucky' James."
When I answered, "Lucky" explained in his characteristic, rapid-fire delivery, that the nephew of an old neighborhood friend had passed, and that a group of the guys we grew up with was going to meet at Savin's Funeral Home, at 12th and Brown Streets. He asked if I would join them — in 25 minutes. Hey, how do you say "no" to Rogers "Lucky" James?
After stopping into the business reception, briefly, I drove directly down 12th Street and walked into the funeral parlor, where I found "Lucky" and a group of our other friends. To "Lucky's" right, on the front row, was an empty chair with his hat on the seat, saving it for me.
If we're all very "lucky," Rogers James, Jr., a fighter, a committeeman, a deacon, a dancer, a community activist and a loving husband, will never change.
As I said earlier, while we certainly recognized Thanksgiving and the assassination of President Kennedy, for a whole lot people across the city, November 22nd was really a day to celebrate the birthday of one of Philadelphia's most beloved, hard-working, loyal and committed citizens.
Hope you had a happy birthday, "Luck."
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management, Inc.
With so much going on — locally, nationally and globally — last week, maybe you missed “Occupy Wall Street,” the effort by demonstrators to close down the nation’s financial center, if only for a day.
That’s right, my fellow Americans. There was an attempt last week to shut down the area that houses the nation’s largest banks, investment management firms and stock exchanges. The problem is ... virtually no one noticed.
According to the brief and sporadic news coverage by traditional media outlets, the “protests,” which began on September 17, never really amounted to much.
Even if you were looking for them on the news, the “so-called” protesters were hard to find. It would seem that news directors and video producers at New York City-based news formats such as Good Morning America and The Today Show would virtually have had to “trip over” the demonstrators on their way to and from work every day, but yet they somehow didn’t have very much interest in getting that story on the air.
The demonstrators pledged on the front end to “engage in long-term civil disobedience” to focus the nation’s attention on the need for real economic reform. It appears, now, that they didn’t know how to do that at all.
By Thursday, media accounts said the number of protesters had dwindled from 1000 to about 200 persons, and just 16 protesters had been arrested by the police. And many of those had not been “taken in” for any hard-core civil disobedience but, rather, for violating an obscure 1845 New York law which prohibits “loitering and wearing a mask.”
With that law on the books, New York must really be fun on Halloween. Who knew?
Just in case a real protest would have broken out, the NYPD erected a metal barricade — manned by a large number of “New York’s finest” — around the perimeter of the New York Stock Exchange building at 11 Wall St.
Video and photo images that were actually carried by mainstream media show that the “crowd” was comprised, overwhelmingly, of young, “20-something” white kids, each of whom seemed to have opted to “dress down” in “protest garb” for the occasion. Many of the protesters looked, for all the world, as if they had decided to pop over to Wall Street for a late-season “Spring Break” demonstration party. There wasn’t much evidence that the situation actually had moved them to anger. There were lots of chants and made-for-TV signs, cheerful “protest faces,” and the obligatory tents on the sidewalk for the “occupation.”
Yet, there was no outrage, no sense of urgency, no sign, whatsoever, that the outcome of the protests would really affect these young peoples’ futures, one way or the other.
Sadly, the whole thing seemed like a gathering of people who were protesting primarily to gain experience, to put themselves up on YouTube, to see how the “other half” lived, to write a book, or simply to say they had been there.
In fact, one “demonstrator” actually admitted that he had taken time out from his university classes to travel to New York for the protest, but that his professor had promised to give him course credit if he wrote a paper about the experience.
It looked to me as if quite a few of the “protesters” were there simply to “get the credits.”
It’s not that there isn’t a valid reason to publicly question the continuing economic unfairness in this country. And, I’d be the last to say that our financial system shouldn’t be scrutinized, reformed and improved.
What I am saying is that unlike in other countries — in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Western Europe — it seems that here in America, the people who are most severely impacted by poverty, joblessness, homelessness, hunger and lack of economic access haven’t really been engaged in expressing their concerns publicly yet.
If there really was going to be a serious protest of financial and economic conditions in this country called “Occupy Wall Street,” then why weren’t the actual poor people (one in six Americans; more than one in four Hispanic and Black people) involved?
Weren’t they invited? Or, was this demonstration reserved for the children of the liberal-thinking members of the upper-middle class?
I knew we still had segregated neighborhoods, job sites, swimming pools and, even, cemeteries in this country. But, who would have thought that we would have — in 2011 — “by invitation only” protests?
“Occupy Wall Street’s” organizers said they used as a model the protests that took place in Egypt to oust Hosni Mubarak.
As you’ll recall, that was the protest where “social media” were given credit for organizing hundreds of thousands of people, bringing them out every day and keeping them “on point” until the Egyptian government actually collapsed.
We had all been told that Mubarak’s ouster hadn’t resulted from grass roots organizing, or from foreign intervention, but rather from the masterful social media orchestration by a man named Wael Ghonim, who, we were informed, happened to be an anti-government protest leader and an employee of Google, Inc. Someone, somewhere, wanted us to believe that the Egyptian “revolution” had been a corporate, high-tech phenomenon.
According to Western media, anyway, it was Ghonim, the head of marketing for Google in the Middle East, who almost single-handedly put together the Facebook-based strategy to organize the protests in Cairo.
Apparently, believing that that was really what took place in Egypt, the “Occupy Wall Street” organizers set out to attract 20,000 demonstrators to New York City’s financial center, to bring about change. But, according to media and police reports — and as I pointed out earlier — they never generated more than 1,000 protesters on any given day.
Wall Street is different than Cairo or Tunisia or Syria. When the naive young activists tried to set up camp on Wall Street, a funny thing happened to their social media organizing strategy.
For one thing, shortly after they arrived, participants reported that their Internet signals and access were somehow blocked at the protest site. Very similarly, readers who make a habit of “connecting dots” will remember that, at a recent protest in San Francisco, at the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, all cell phone service at that location was suddenly cut off.
But, on Wall Street the problem extended beyond cell phones and basic Internet access. Last Wednesday, Yahoo was forced to apologize when it was discovered that people who tried to use its email services to send messages about anti-Wall Street demonstrations were prevented from doing so by the company. In fact, whenever someone did try to type in a message, inviting a friend to visit the occupywallstreet.org website, Yahoo’s system bounced the message back with the following response: “Your message was not sent. Suspicious activity has been detected on your account.”
Is that “Big Brother” enough for you, or what?
I guess the bottom line, here, is that although there are early stages of public concern about economic injustice in this country, they haven’t yet reached the point where Americans are prepared yet to get angry, speak forcefully or work together across political, economic and racial lines to do anything about it.
Here’s another take-away: If there are college students or other grass roots activists actually thinking about changing the way the U.S. government or its economy has been treating its citizens, they should know it’s going to take a great deal more than a “flash mob” strategy to get that done.
The “new media” may very well be “social,” but they are definitely owned and controlled by people with vested economic interests in the status quo.
This is not a game. It’s all a very serious business.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.
Let me say, right off the top, that I was disturbed to read last week’s Pew Research report called “The Rise Of Asian Americans.”
It clearly gave the impression that racial discrimination has been largely eliminated, here, and that Black folks and other people of color can “make it” in America, if they would simply, like the Asians, keep their heads down, work hard, get a good education, and stay married to the same spouse — for life.
Sometimes, I think I’m a little too sensitive about media portrayals of Black people.
As a professional communicator, I tend to think that there are virtually no written or spoken words that are disseminated without some kind of agenda. I also tend not to believe that statements that discredit, or give insufficient credit to, Black people are made innocently — by educators, institutions, for-profit entities or elected officials.
For example, I can’t help thinking that the good people at Pew are becoming a whole lot more positively disposed toward, and respectful to, Asian Americans, in the wake of China’s recent emergence as an undisputed, dominant, world economic power. I wonder if the people at Pew Research can spell the word “pandering?”
All of that apparent “sucking up” to the Chinese government aside, I do believe that one of the most effective ways to disarm, marginalize and defeat a group of people is to have them, through a communications agenda, lose their self-respect, believe they are “lesser than,” or inherently inferior.
As I read the “Rise of Asian Americans” report, I couldn’t help thinking that Pew was trying to tell me and the other 40 million Black people in this country that our time was up, that our day had passed, and that we no longer deserved being a leading topic in national discussions about “minorities.”
I thought the report was blatantly transparent and, in critically important areas, simply inaccurate. The more I read it, the more incensed I became. Not at Asians, but at the agenda-setting machinations of the Pew Research Center.
For a while, I thought it was just me.
Then, lo and behold, I had the good fortune to read a story in the Hartford Guardian, by Julianne Hing, that informed its readers that a great number of Asian Americans, including the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice (AACAJ), also were highly perturbed by Pew’s glowing “Ain’t Asians special?” report.
In fact, the AACAJ, in its response to Pew’s “Asian Survey,” said, “We are deeply concerned by how findings from a recent study by the Pew Research Center has been used to portray Asian Americans.”
Other Asian-American critics, in the same story, said the Pew report mixed “some facts with too much mythology about what people imagine Asians to be.”
Disputing Pew’s simplistic categorization of Asians as, among other things, the country’s most well-educated immigrant group, the Harford Guardian’s Ms. Hing, pointed to 2010 Census data that indicated that more than a third of all Hmong, Cambodian, and Laotian Americans over the age of 25 lack a high school diploma. She went on to refer to other Census data that made it clear that “While some Asians may report incomes at, or higher than, whites, Cambodian and Laotian Americans report poverty rates as high or higher than the federal poverty level of African Americans.”
Like me, many other Asian Americans also were especially “ticked off” by the way in which major, mainstream media outlets carried, and aggressively promoted, the story without questioning, at all, Pew’s research methodology or conclusions. They were specifically critical of the glowing Wall Street Journal headline: “Asians Top Immigrant Class” and the one by the San Francisco Chronicle that trumpeted: “Group has Highest Income, Is Better Educated and Happier.”
I was pleasantly surprised to note that Asian American leaders, commenting on the tone of Pew’s “survey,” did not appear to be mis-led at all, by its obvious, clumsy, divisive, agenda. “There’s this aspect of the media coverage where races are being played against each other,” said Miriam Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. “The not so implicit message is … ‘why can’t all people of color be like us?’
“The danger in framing the study the way Pew did, and the way the media picked up on it, is that folks who are in the general public and institutional stakeholders and policy makers might get the impression that they don’t necessarily need to dig deep into our communities to understand that any sort of disparity exists.”
Those responses from the Asian community restored my confidence that communities of color across the country, in their own discrete towns and cities, can recognize and fight effectively against media agenda-setting, when necessary. I’m also more convinced, now, that they can work, collectively, among themselves, and with conscientious members of the larger society, to address important, shared, social and economic concerns.
Not only Pew, but the 2012 presidential candidates should understand what just transpired, in the wake of the “Rising” survey results. As an example, the two, major, political parties both appear to be obsessed, now, with establishing which group will be branded as the “best friend” of the Hispanic community.
I trust that Latinos, many of whom are, themselves, racially Black, together with non-Hispanic Blacks, in this country can see through the blatant political smoke screens and not allow themselves to be played against one another. I hope they will demonstrate the same clear thinking as the Asian groups cited in the Hartford Guardian’s piece. If so, the attempts to attain racial/ethnic “carve-outs,” at the expense of other deserving groups, may very well backfire. I hope so.
I think the Pew Research powerhouse shows its heavy hand when it spoon-feeds media outlets surveys of Asian immigrants, and when it establishes, as it did in 2001, the Pew Hispanic Center, supplying journalists with “fresh” data on Latino immigrants, all the while avoiding any similar, regularly scheduled information about African immigrants.
Is it because the U.S. is not interested, at all, in winning political support from African nations?
Given that there are approximately one billion people on the African continent, alone, representing about 15 percent of the world’s population, shouldn’t Pew be interested in knowing why, for example, only 3.7 percent of all foreign-born immigrants in this country are African? Shouldn’t they want to factor into their reports about Asian immigrants a reminder that the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 specifically suspended Chinese immigration into this country for 10 years, and that the suspension was renewed “indefinitely,” in 1902, and was in effect, right up until 1943, when it was repealed and replaced with a quota of 105 Chinese immigrants, per year? Wouldn’t it be enlightening to have Pew put our African immigration counts into the context of the fact that, over the past 45 years, only 3.3 percent of all U.S. Immigrants have been foreign-born Africans?
Shouldn’t Pew want to explore, contrary to their recent report, why the most well-educated, foreign-born immigrants in this country happen to be Africans, and why, according to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 48.9 percent of all African immigrants have earned a college degree, “slightly higher than the percentage of degrees Asian immigrants, twice the rate of native-born whites, and four times the rate of native-born African Americans?”
To help them to understand, and to communicate, how these talented African immigrants can be more effectively incorporated into U.S. society, and into the overall U.S. economy, perhaps Pew should explore initiating an “African Research Center,” in the same way it maintains a Hispanic Center.
I don’t know, it seems to make a lot of sense to me.
But, then again, maybe the researchers simply have a different agenda.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.
What does Memorial Day really have to do with Black folks in America? What’s been our relationship with the U.S. military? What does any of this have to do with Ethiopia?
To tell you the truth, as a young man, I always looked forward to Memorial Day. It was the first, official day of the summer, and I was, and still am, a “summer person.”
I knew Memorial Day was somehow supposed to be about honoring the U.S. war dead and the contributions made by U.S. military personnel. I also knew there would be barbecues full of people who, like me, never thought for more than two seconds about Memorial Day’s meaning, at all, or its relationship to the Black community.
I began to sit up and take notice, however, once I learned that a significant number of people who volunteered to fight, even in America’s earliest wars, were African Americans.
For example, it’s been estimated that about 5,000 African Americans, including a guy named Crispus Attucks, fought in the Revolutionary War on the side of the Colonies. At the same time, however, about 20,000 Black slaves actually fought in that same war on the side of the British, because the Redcoats promised to free them from slavery if England won the war.
Further raising Black suspicions about the Colonists, Gen. George Washington, in response to the fears by Revolutionary leaders that armed slaves would turn against them, famously issued an order on Sept. 17, 1775, that the Colonial Army should not enroll “any deserter ... Negro or vagabond.”
Following an upsurge in British military aggression, Washington “flipped” once more, in December 1775 and issued orders to re-enlist free Blacks.
In the War of 1812, Blacks comprised about 15 percent of all persons serving in the U.S. Navy, despite U.S. policy which prohibited their active recruitment. Fighting also to win their own freedom, more than 4,000 Blacks wound up being freed from slavery, based upon their military performance during that war.
Then came the bloodiest war in U.S. history, the Civil War, in which 620,000 soldiers on both sides lost their lives. By the end of that war, Black soldiers represented 10 percent of all Union forces, and 37,000 had died on Civil War battlefields, even though Blacks constituted only one percent of the Northern population. In some cases, it has been reported that Black prisoners of war were actually “hung or shot” for having fired a weapon during battle, at white men who fought on the side of the Confederacy.
Happy Memorial Day to you, too.
Author Edward Van Zile Scott wrote, “In the Spanish-American War of 1898, veteran Black troops (the Buffalo Soldiers) were more responsible than any other group for U.S. victory at San Juan Heights, in Cuba.” According to Black historian Rayford Logan, “Negroes had little at the turn of the century to help sustain faith in ourselves except the pride we took in the (Black, segregated) 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 24th and 25th Infantry. Many Negro homes had prints of the famous charge of the colored troops up San Juan Hill. They were our Ralph Bunche, Marian Anderson, Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson.”
Had we 21st-century Black people been made appropriately aware of all of that?
But there’s more — it’s a historical fact that 200,000 Black soldiers fought for the U.S. during World War I. About 160,000 of them were used as servants and sources of labor for white soldiers — to paint, to do construction and to dig ditches. Maybe that had something to do with John J. (Black Jack) Pershing’s “secret” correspondence with French military leaders about how white soldiers should interact with Black soldiers: “We must not eat with them, must not shake hands with them, seek to talk to them, or to meet with them outside the requirements of military service. We must not commend too highly these troops, especially in front of white Americans.”
Nevertheless, members of the all-Black 92nd and 93rd divisions managed to distinguish themselves in battle. The 93rd’s “fighting 369th” fought with such distinction under French officers that they were presented by the French government with the Croix de Guerre, one of that country’s highest recognitions for bravery and distinguished service during war.
Despite their great success on the battlefield, returning Black troops were subjected to the same racist treatment they had been suffering prior to leaving and fighting for their country. In fact, it’s been reported that 70 Black Americans were lynched during the first year following the war, some of them still wearing the military uniforms they had been given while fighting for their country.
Think about that for a minute as you sit down to your Memorial Day barbecue.
This is where Ethiopia comes in.
At the end of the 19th century, following the infamous Berlin Conference, the only independent African nation was the Ethiopian Empire, which traced its monarchy directly back to King Solomon and which was a source of great pride to Black people in Africa and across the world.
In 1895, however, the ambitious and imperialistic Italian government, which had been assigned after “Berlin, only two small African states — Eritrea and Somalia — decided to move militarily against Ethiopia.
To Italy’s great surprise, at the decisive battle at Adwa in Ethiopia, a superior Ethiopian fighting force killed 7,000 Italian soldiers, and wounded an estimated 1,500. It was reported that, in their haste to retreat, the Italians left behind all of their artillery pieces, 11,000 rifles and 3,000 prisoners-of-war.
Thirty-eight years later, still embarrassed by what was the first modern-day African defeat of a colonial power, Italy’s new fascist dictator Benito Mussolini wanted to avenge the Italian loss at Adwa, and in 1935 launched a “bruta” invasion of Ethiopia.
In response, in February 1935, 3,000 Black Americans attended a rally in New York City that featured, among others, the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., the pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church. By the way, Abyssinian Baptist had been established in 1808 in New York City by a group of African Americans and Ethiopian merchants who had become frustrated with having to pray each Sunday at the segregated First Baptist Church in Lower Manhattan.
Recruiting stations for Black volunteers were actually set up on street corners in Harlem (see “http://ethiopia.org/">Ethiopia.org presents African-American volunteers” on YouTube, and note the “register here” signs).
By one account, nearly 30,000 Black volunteers had stated their intention to join the defense of Ethiopia. According to the Black newspaper the Pittsburgh Courier, “thousands of men and women from 38 states wrote to the paper offering to fight.”
Regrettably, however, the U.S. State Department issued a warning to all Americans who were planning to volunteer for military service in Ethiopia that serving in a war against a country with which the U.S. was at peace (Italy) would be punishable as a “high misdemeanor and shall be fined not more than $2,000 and be subjected to imprisonment of not more than 3 years.”
With such direct and blatant discouragement by their own government, only two Black Americans, both of whom happened to be aircraft pilots, actually wound up fighting for Ethiopia during the war against Italy. They were Herbert Julian, “the Black Eagle of Harlem,” and Col. John C. Robinson, the “Brown Condor.” Both played leading roles in training the Ethiopian Air Force.
While Mussolini’s Italian troops did eventually win the war, Ethiopia successfully regained its independence five years later under Emperor Haile Selassie.
There have been, of course, other wars in recent U.S. history, in which Black men and women have played widening, less-segregated roles. We should be aware of that information also, as we consider what Memorial Day actually should mean to Black Americans.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.
The convening of the 113th session of the U.S. Congress on Thursday should have sent out a loud, long, irritating, political alarm to Black Americans. I hope it woke them up.
If they did wake up and read the New York Times’ account of the first day of the new Congressional session, they would have noticed that there was great reported enthusiasm about the fact that the new Congress includes a record number of women and “various firsts for the numbers of Latinos and Asians as well Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.”
Black members of Congress? Oh, the Times mentioned briefly, in the story’s eighth paragraph, that “although the number of Black legislators remained at 43, Tim Scott, previously a Republican House member from South Carolina, became the first Black senator from his state, as well as the first Black Republican in the Senate since 1979.
In case you were feeling all comfortable, somehow, with having 43 black members of Congress, you should know that the number had increased to 40, as early as 1993 and over most of the time since then, the number has remained consistently between 39 and 44.
That’s 20 years of virtually no progress increasing the count of Black members of the House and Senate.
I don’t know… it would seem that if Black folks could muster enough time, money and energy to create 93 and 96 percent support levels for Barack Obama’s two winning campaigns at least some of that historically high turnout rate could have also been directed at the two governmental bodies where the country’s laws are actually made.
No such luck!
In fact, the 43 black members of Congress represent just eight percent of the members of the House and Senate. As you know, if our Congressional representation actually did reflect our 13.1 percent presence in the U.S. population, and among the electorate, there would be 70 Black members of Congress.
The truth is that Black members of the House and Senate hail from just 20 of the entire 50 United States, and also include one, non-voting representative, each, from the U.S. Virgin Islands and Washington, DC. So there are actually just 41 voting Black members, or 7.6 percent, of the total membership in the House and Senate.
With all of that vaunted political sophistication, including several high-profile political consultants; with so many politically-engaged Black, national, talk-radio celebrities; with a national network of Black newspapers; with our growing access to social media channels; and 42 million Black Americans, how could we have possibly let this one get past us? Or, did we think it was enough to have elected a fairly aloof and dispassionate president, two times, largely because he happens to look like us?
Hey, I can understand not having Black Congresspeople elected in places like North Dakota, Montana and Utah, where the Black populations stand at 1.3 percent, .5 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively. But, how do you explain Mississippi, the state with the highest percentage of Black population, at 37.3 percent, having just one black House member?
How about Louisiana, with the second-highest black population percentage, at 31.9 percent, with, again, just one Black Congressional member?
Georgia, whose 2.9 million Blacks constitute 30.2 percent of the state, has elected four Blacks out of 14 total Congressional members. None of the other seven, among the highest-Black-population states, have elected more than two Black Congresspeople; and Delaware, the eighth-highest, at 20.9 percent, and Tennessee, tenth-highest, at 16.7 percent, each have no Black members of Congress.
By the way, did you happen to notice that the Black female mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, Mia Love, who was a highly publicized speaker at the Republican National Convention, wound up losing her election in which she sought to become the first Black Republican woman elected to Congress, and the first from Utah?
But let’s get quickly back, before we forget, to the new African-American U.S. Senator from the state of South Carolina, the Hon. Timothy Eugene Scott, who was appointed to his position by that state’s governor when ultra-conservative Jim DeMint unexpectedly resigned from office.
You remember Tim Scott, don’t you? Maybe not; it's understandable. The shenanigans of his partner-in-crime, the recently un-elected Black Florida Congressman, Allen West, were always so blatantly outrageous, and always sucked up so much negative media attention, that many Americans took relatively little notice of Scott’s own, shameful, brief, self-hating, tenure in the House of Representatives over the same period.
Yes, in case you’re wondering, “shameful” is a fair choice of words.
How else do you describe a brand new African-American senator who has said, for the record that he is opposed to the concept of civil rights; who refused to join the Congressional Black Caucus; who is opposed to gun control; who wants the new healthcare law to be repealed; who wants taxes on the wealthy and federal spending for the needy reduced; who actually introduced a bill that would eliminate food stamps for an entire family if any single member of that family goes on strike; whose early pre-Congressional jobs included serving as co-chair for the 1996 state-wide Senate campaign for arch-segregationist Strom Thurmond; and finally, who has been given a grade of “F” by the NAACP?
I must admit, that I have not been one of NAACP President Ben Jealous’ biggest fans. I always thought that he’s been far too willing, in his role as the national head of the revered civil rights organization to remove the word “Black” from his organization’s national political agendas.
But, giving the devil his due, I must admit to having been very impressed when I saw what Jealous said about the new Black Senator.
“We have Republicans who believe in civil rights —unfortunately [Tim Scott] is not one of them," he said.
A bit more straight talk like that from Brother Jealous and the NAACP might even regain its National African-American leadership role. I’m hoping.
So, when we get tempted to think that having an African American in the U.S. Senate might automatically be a sign of progress, it would behoove us to remember that, politically, you still can’t judge a book by its cover. We should, in fact, think back to what many of us heard, growing up, about people in our community who look like us but who are opposed to Black progress: “He (she) might be my color, but they ain’t my kind.”
Tim Scott has proved, over and over again, that he simply “ain't our kind.”
So, it’s now 2013, and in the wake of the last election, we see all of this political wreckage and lost legislative opportunity lying before us, what, you might be asking, should responsible African-American voters do to repair this damage?
Well, for one thing, we should continue to assign a high priority to preserving the always-under-attack Voting Rights Act, which, among other things, ensures that, whenever appropriate, Black-majority Congressional districts must be drawn. Indeed, of the 41 voting, Black Congresspeople, 30 represent districts that are comprised in the majority of African-American people.
Coincidence? I think not.
I wish I could say with confidence, that we, as a nation, have outgrown the need for that kind of oversight. We haven’t.
Secondly, we need to pay close attention to the process for candidate selection, to ensure that sensitive, supportive Black candidates are included in primary elections, without fail.
Finally, we need to support such candidates, much in the way that we went all out (or is the operative term “all in,” this year?) for Mr. Obama.
Let’s keep our focus on achieving a greater, more representative, number of supportive, politically courageous, candidates to choose from.
We can do this.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management, Inc.
Right off the bat, I’m going to tell you that I believe the Kiva concept — people around the globe participating online to raise small amounts of capital for self-employment — is the best thing I’ve seen in a very long time.
It’s going to take me a minute, but please stay with me, as I walk you through it.
First of all, there’s growing evidence that the way in which people have provided for their families here in the U.S. prior to the Industrial Revolution — working for themselves, rather than working for a large, corporate employer — may be regaining its importance in the American economy.
The concept of self-employment, we should be aware, is different from running a small or mid-sized enterprise, and has not been largely popular in the U.S., other than in a few discrete, professional categories.
In recent years, private-practice physicians, some few lawyers, certain consultants, accountants and financial advisers have been allowed to carry off self-employment with dignity. In the main, however, virtually every other category of self-employment in this country has been looked down upon. It’s been seen as something Americans do when they can’t find a “real job.”
The running joke for far too long among college graduates has been that whenever a degree holder gets laid off or is otherwise, between jobs, he or she becomes a “consultant” — not because they want to, but because no corporation will have them.
For people in the crafts, it hasn’t been much better. Independent, self-employed carpenters, electricians, plumbers and others in the skilled trades have over the years been referred to as “jacklegs.” The implication was that if they were not working for a large contractor or a member of a recognized trade union, they were automatically, somehow, considered to be unprofessional.
In the same way, the lady who’s a great cook and feeds her family by preparing meals, is approved of in polite society, but not really respected. Barbers who take clippers with them in a bag and make “house calls,” or who don’t have a “shop,” are assumed to be less proficient.
For the past 30 years or so, America’s most respected business schools have taught several generations of MBA graduates that slashing payrolls to reduce expenses and to create short-term profits — is the most direct route to the CEO’s position, corporate success, seven-figure salaries and eight-figure bonuses.
While all of this has been going on, the members of the American workforce have naively prepared themselves for having long “successful” corporate careers. Those two circumstances — long successful job opportunities and a culture of slashing jobs — simply cannot logically exist in the same space, and they have not.
Since 2007, more than eight million Americans have lost their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — not because they’ve been late to work or underperforming. No, most of them have simply been victims of the more than 37,000 “mass layoffs” that have taken place up through September, 2011. At each of those “mass layoffs,” by definition, at least 50 people have been laid off at the same time.
The phenomenon of domestic layoffs has been widespread, and the worst offenders since 2006 have included companies such as General Motors (107,357 layoffs), Citigroup (73,056 layoffs), Hewlett Packard, where one of my brothers formerly worked (47, 540 layoffs), Merrill Lynch (408,650), Verizon Wireless (39,000) Merck & Co. (24,400), Starbucks (21,316), and so on, and so on, and so on.
Despite all of that, I’m not advocating that everyone jump up today and walk away from their comfortable, corporate or “large professional” job, if they have one, or if such things still exist. Nor am I suggesting that everyone in the country go out, throw an ambitious business plan together, launch a sizable new company, rent office space and hire 25 people. That’s not for everybody.
No, I’m talking about people in the U.S. simply having the intelligence to consider a greater reliance on self-employment, in the way the majority of people around the world are already engaged.
In that regard, we should note that on a list of the so-called “developed” nations produced in 2008, the U.S. ranked 29th out of 31 in the percentage of its population that was self-employed, with just 7.4 percent so identified.
In Turkey (ranked number one on that list), 43.5 percent of the members of the population worked for themselves. In Mexico and South Korea, 34.5 percent and 32.8 percent, respectively, are self-employed. The Japanese people are 13.8 percent self-employed (ranked at number 14) and countries such as France, Canada and Germany, all do much better in this than Americans do.
When we move to the so-called emerging economies — those that are currently “kicking our backs out” in direct economic competition, growth rates and foreign trade, the comparison is even more onerous for the U.S.
In the “emerging nations,” many of the self-employed are considered to be a part of what is called the “informal economy,” a network of very small businesses that are not registered in any way. According to a very recent report, “The Informal Economy of the Developing World,” such businesses are rarely run from business addresses. Instead, they operate out of homes, street pavements and other “squatter-like” arrangements. By the way, they are expected to grow, in the not-to-distant future, to equate to about two-thirds of the emerging nations’ economies.
As early as the year 2000 the informal economy, or self-employment, accounted for about 42 percent of Sub-Saharan African GDP, about 41 percent of Latin America’s, 36 percent of Southern Asia’s and 22 percent of GDP in the Middle East and Northern Africa.
According to the U.N. “Study of Urbanization,” the global “informal” working class is now almost one billion strong and is the fastest growing social class on Earth.
Here’s the issue: If you’re going to grow a crop and sell it, you’ll need some seeds, at least, and some basic farming tools. If you’re going to sell hot dogs, you’ll need a grill; if you’re going to be a cook, you’ll need a stove. While such items may represent outlays of hundreds, rather than hundreds of thousands of start-up funds, they very well may make the difference in success or failure for a self-employment concept.
This is where Kiva comes in. Bet you thought I’d never get to it.
Since 2005 when it was originated, Kiva.org has been operating as a site where micro finance loans can be channeled between “citizen lender,” like you, and low-income entrepreneurs, primarily in emerging nations. Ordinary citizens can go online, join Kiva, and contribute funds that will be made available through the site’s global network of lenders.
Since its inception, Kiva has facilitated loans to 673,560 entrepreneurs around the world, with funding supplied by 642,227 users, in 218 countries. The total value of those loans equates to more than $216 million. And, in 2009, reflecting the rising U.S. poverty level, Kiva was expanded to make loans in the United States. The average Kiva loan size has been $385.88 and the average Kiva lender has made about eight loans.
One of those lenders, a company called Accion USA, claims an active client list that is 61 percent Hispanic, 27 percent African American, and 40 percent female. Clearly there’s an opportunity for more African-American involvement.
Our churches, fraternities, sororities, civil rights organizations, chambers of commerce, and individuals, at every level, should be engaged in making loans available through Kiva, or through other, similar organizations.
And we in our community should become substantially more aware of self-employment as a personal economic option, and of micro financing to fund our dreams — no matter how small.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.
Didn’t you, for a minute, believe somebody was just kidding, trying to tell a weak joke, when you first heard that two attendees at the Republican National Convention had thrown peanuts at a Black CNN camerawoman, while saying, “This is how we feed animals”?
Seriously … didn’t you say to yourself: “Stuff like this simply doesn’t happen anymore. After all, this is 2012, we have a president “of color,” and we’ve moved deeply into the post-racial era, here in America.”
Wasn’t that your first reaction?
I must admit, for about two seconds, I was shocked and disappointed. It felt like I had been strapped into Mr. Peabody’s old “way-back machine” and transported, kicking and screaming, back to “1930s America,” when, folks say, things like that happened all the time.
No, this wasn’t 1930. It was last week, in Tampa, Fla., at the Republican National Convention.
In all of that, I was delighted, however, by the composure and the insightful response from the victim, the 34-year-old Alabama native, Patricia Carroll, who told a blogger from the Maynard Institute, “This is Florida, and I’m from the deep South. Come to places like this, you can count the Black people on one hand.
“I hate that it happened,” she continued, “but I’m not surprised at all. The situation could happen to me at the Democratic Convention, or standing on a street corner. Racism is a global issue.”
Ms. Carroll then concluded: “No, it doesn’t feel good. But, I know who I am. I’m a proud, Black woman. A lot of Black people are upset. This should be a wake-up call for Black people … people were living in euphoria, for awhile. People think we’ve gone further than we have.”
I’ve been watching CNN for quite awhile, now, and I don’t remember hearing anything more straightforward or honest from any of the network's pundits or commentators, Black or white.
Maybe it takes our Black on-air talent being “popped in the head” with peanuts before they, too, find the courage to speak truthfully about such issues.
It seems that the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) should certainly take up Ms. Carroll’s cause and support her in the event that her employers have been disenchanted by her honesty. Maybe the NABJ can do that at the same time that it continues its fight to desegregate the panel of journalists that has been announced to participate in the upcoming presidential debates.
Who would have thought this would still be an issue, with the Commission on Presidential Debates being headed by a former National Republican Party chair and a formal National Democratic party chair, or that Team Obama would sit by quietly and allow a recent pattern of inclusion, in these activities, by Black journalists, to be discontinued? In 2004 and 2008, for example, African-American journalist Gwen Ifill, of PBS, moderated the Vice Presidential debates. In 1988, Black CNN anchor Bernard Shaw moderated a Presidential debate and, in 1992, Black broadcast journalist Carol Simpson moderated one of the debates between the presidential candidates.
Does this mean that Black people are no longer important to the political process? Or is it that the Commission simply “can’t find a qualified Black journalist” who can do the job?
I wonder what the good camerawoman Patricia Carroll thinks about that issue. Hell, I wonder what Mitt Romney and Barack Obama think about it.
I’m sure that, if we asked her, we’d learn that Ms. Carroll also “hated” several other things that took place at the RNC, beyond peanut-throwing and blatant name-calling.
For example, I wonder what Ms. Carroll thought when she heard that the Republican Party, whose event she was assigned to cover, had 2,286 delegates and approximately 2100 alternate delegates … but only 47 Black delegates, according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
By the way, let me remind you that, as recently as 2004, the GOP Convention boasted 167 Black delegates.
I wonder if Ms. Carroll knew, as she headed off to cover the Convention, that Bloomberg Business Week recently reported that 87 percent of registered Republican voters — nation-wide — are white, as compared to 61 percent of registered Democrats; and that the Democratic Party is also comprised 10 percent of Hispanics and 21 percent of Black voters.
With all of that as evidence, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the Republican Party has lost significant interest in Black voters. But, you couldn’t tell that from the complexion of the Convention speakers. Right on cue, out came a mind-numbing series of predictable, unabashed, party-line-clinging presentations from the country’s few, Black and Hispanic GOP luminaries.
There was former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Then there was former Alabama congressman, former close Obama friend, former Democrat, former intelligent Black man, Artur Davis. There was someone named Mia Love, of Haitian heritage, who was introduced as mayor of the 16,000-person “city” of Saratoga Springs, Utah, and as a Republican candidate for Congress, in her state.
More than all of that, it seems, the otherwise innocuous Ms. Love was clearly rolled out, as an apparently Black woman, to make clear that, through all the “success” she has experienced, she “never took a handout” from the government.
Talk about “coded language …”
Was that supposed to be a message to America’s Black females, that they should all immediately remove themselves from the welfare rolls? Were we supposed to think, having heard it from the now-infamous Ms. Love, that this whole “government handout thing” was one of the main, self-imposed impediments to Black economic growth?
“Government handouts” don’t seem to bother members of America’s highly compensated banking industry, at all. In fact, didn’t they pull down $800 billion in “government handouts,” in early 2009? Didn’t somebody tell Ms. Love that the “family and children” line item of the Federal Government’s “welfare budget” amounts to just $113.5 billion, by comparison?
Did someone bother to whisper to Ms. Love that more than 60 percent of the country’s welfare recipients are not Black? If none of that happened, then what was the point of Ms. Love’s empty comments?
I also wonder what Patricia Carroll thought about Republican Governor John Kasich’s remarks at one of the panels at the RNC, where he was quoted as saying that Blacks should “come off the streets” and become small business owners?
Quick! Somebody, please, throw a whole bag of salted nuts at Governor Kasich. Maybe it will knock some sense into him and remind him to get more strongly behind Black entrepreneurial interests, when he returns home, to Ohio.
It would also be good to know what Ms. Carroll thought of Mitt Romney’s long, aimless speech … especially the early parts of it wherein he kept stressing that all Americans' parents and ancestors had come to this country seeking “freedom.”
Clearly, Romney didn’t have Carroll, or the handful of Black delegates, or the millions of Black slave descendants in this country, in mind when he said that.
Then, again, maybe he never does.
Finally, I wonder what in God’s name Ms. Carroll thought of the unscripted, unannounced comments of Clint Eastwood. The audience, which wanted so much to be supportive of him, seemed to be, at the same time, absolutely terrified that “ol’ Clint” would say some things that would embarrass himself, and the entire Republican Party. So, they hung on his every, rambling, word and breathed a huge, collective sigh of relief, when he finally led them in his trademark phrase, “Go ahead ... make my day,” and moved off the stage.
Actually, “good ol’ Clint” would probably have done better to dig up one of his other more self-descriptive quotes in ending his impromptu speech: “I tried being reasonable, I didn’t like it.”
Many of us would have understood.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.
Is the whole, “One president-100 senators-435 U.S. representatives-thing” still working for us? Is that form of government as effective today as it was when it was developed by those well-meaning “Founding Fathers,” back in 1787?
To tell you the truth? I think not.
In fact, a great deal has changed in the last 225 years, since the U.S. Constitution was signed. For example, the country’s population today stands at just above 314 million people. Just three years after the Constitution was signed, there was a grand total of 3.9 million American citizens and slaves here. And, by May 1790, there were 13 states, as compared to 50, today. Sometimes, new circumstances dictate the need for modifications, in even the best-laid plans, or the best-designed governments.
For example, every four years, we elect a president who makes a number of claims and commitments to the voters. Increasingly, however, during the term, and, especially, at election time, the incumbent is forced to admit that he simply couldn’t move his agenda past a non-cooperative opposing party, or a non-cooperative House, or a non-cooperative Senate, or a non-cooperative Supreme Court. So far, we’ve all simply shrugged our collective shoulders, put our heads down and gone back, obediently, to the polling places to vote, again, for someone who, admittedly, simply can’t “move the needle.” The great problem is that we no longer have the luxury of simply repeating this process, year in and year out. The country, its economy and virtually all of its people, are in deep and immediate crisis.
So, here’s my recommendation to fix all of that.
Maybe, rather than a president, a House and a Senate, we need an emperor, here in the U.S.A.
Don’t be shocked! Nothing beats imperial authority and its uncontested, “buck stops here” power, when you really need to get things done, and, if you think that’s extreme, think about this for a minute: For about 500 years, mighty Rome was ruled by a single person — an emperor. Over thousands of years, and up through the early 20th century, China was led by a series of emperors, and, likewise, another series of emperors, in an uninterrupted line tracing back 3,000 years, led Ethiopia, which, by the way, was the only African nation that was able to successfully fight off European colonization, in the late 19th century.
Perhaps the whole emperor thing isn’t that bad, after all, when you really think about it.
In fact, since I don’t see a lot of hands being raised to volunteer, if asked to do so, I’d be proud to serve in that capacity. I do have some ideas on the subject and, as I think about it, there are several things I’d change immediately, if I’d somehow manage to become the first emperor of the United States.
For example, as the new emperor, I would issue a sweeping statement confirming that I was strongly in favor of support for Black people, in the same way that President Barack Obama recently expressed his own support for same-sex marriages. Couldn’t hurt. Maybe some minds would be opened.
In my empire, financial institutions would have to make loans available to Black folks who are gainfully employed, or who have sound businesses, in the same way they’ve always done for whites — at the same rates, with the same terms. If it could be proved that they didn’t, those banks would be closed by the government.
If I were the emperor of the United States, the U.S. government would ensure that American people — regardless of race or ethnicity — received the highest quality education available in the world. There would be no schools that would be allowed to exist with a concentration of poor-quality teachers, no schools where low expectations would be acceptable, simply because the students happened to be Black, Hispanic or Asian. Schools that violated such policies, of course, would be closed.
I would also mandate, on my very first day as Emperor, that everyone in the country should NOT have to go to college. Instead, skilled trades and other professions would receive the same respect and have comparable earnings potential as careers that grew out of college degree programs. After all, the countries that are “eating our economic lunch,” today, are the ones that actually make things, that actually maintain a manufacturing infrastructure, and where people who work with their hands are not disrespected. Every day, we eat from plates they make, we sleep on beds they produce, we talk on phones they manufacture. Why can’t we do that, here?
When I’m emperor, there will be no racially demeaning/culturally disrespectful music, or films, permitted, anywhere in the country. Negative images do great damage.
When I am emperor, there will no longer be an eight-to-one incarceration rate for Blacks versus whites — even for the same, non-violent crimes. The judicial system would finally be free of racial bias. There would be periodic tracking, and judges who, for whatever reason, ruled in a racially imbalanced way, would be removed from the bench.
In my empire, “stop and frisk” would not be the most important political issue for controlling gun violence; rather, the discontinuation of the mass distribution of guns among American citizens would be the law of the land. There is no valid reason why there are more guns in the hands of the U.S. civilian population than there are civilians. Firearms would be manufactured for national defense and public safety, only. Any violators would be subject to capital punishment, as is already the case in other countries around the world, where gun violence is virtually non-existent.
When I’m emperor, the political process will no longer be totally dominated by the people who happen to have the most money. Why has that ever been the best way to run a country, in the first place? Candidates would not have to purchase political commercials, or raise a billion dollars to run for office. All viable candidates would have equal access to public communications channels to make their case. When I’m emperor, the media would go back to reporting political news, rather than making it.
All sports announcers/anchors/reporters would be made to understand that racially biased reporting is punishable by immediate loss of their jobs. It’s been embarrassing to see how NBC’s Olympic gymnastic reporters marginalized and demeaned Gabby Douglas, the brilliant young, Black athlete, right up to the point when she won the Gold Medal as the best all-around gymnast on earth. Former Olympian Tim Daggett was an especially outrageous offender. If I were emperor, right now, he’d be banned from sports TV — for life.
When I’m emperor, there will be no further tolerance of industries that virtually exclude African-American participation, i.e., journalism, advertising, public relations, dentistry, surgery, the Law, university faculties, judges, television network programmers and U.S. senators. Do I need to go on? It’s clear that, after 225 years, our current system of government is not getting the job done in those areas.
With Blacks constituting nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population, and Black businesses representing more than seven percent of small U.S. firms, African-American businesses would generate WAY more than one half of one percent of the nation’s gross revenues, and 1.2 percent of federal contracts, as they do today. As emperor, I’d fix that, too.
Hey, the way I see it, there’s not very much that a good, hard-working, all-powerful emperor can’t get done.
I’ve got a few hours available — when I’m not running my own business, riding my bike, or playing the saxophone.
If that sounds too crazy, then what? We all know that the definition of insanity is doing things the same way and expecting a different outcome.
What’s your suggestion?
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.
Every time I see the callous way in which urban, largely Black, school districts are having their K–12 budgets drastically reduced by elected officials across the country, it reminds me, chillingly, of the Apartheid-era “Bantu education” that was designed to deliver a grossly inferior academic experience to the indigenous, Black majority people of South Africa (the Bantu).
It was developed because the country’s Apartheid rulers simply did not believe Black children were capable of comprehending traditional academic course work and because they had no plan, whatsoever, to include the Black majority as part of the country’s economic mainstream, beyond the level of menial labor.
As South Africa’s minister of native affairs said in 1954: “What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice?”
With that unmitigated disdain, and that total lack of expectations for Black youths, it’s easy to see how the South African government spent just one-tenth as much on the education of its Black students as it did on its white children.
Today, in South Africa, 18 years after the end of Apartheid, the overwhelming majority of the country’s Black children are still denied educational opportunity through significantly underfunded public schools, 75 percent of which don’t have libraries, 50 percent of whose students don’t even have textbooks.
What’s the fundamental difference between “Bantu education” and that which is being provided in predominantly Black, largely low-income school districts across the United States?
Not much, it seems.
Using their highly publicized fiscal challenges as an excuse, states nationwide, including Pennsylvania, have slashed billions of dollars from K–12 budgets over the past few years. And, in a “Bantu-education kind of way,” as the L.A. Times, last July, pointed out, “school officials often reduced, or eliminated, personnel and programs vital to the most vulnerable populations: low-income and minority students.”
While it’s been a very positive sign that Pennsylvania state legislators have moved in a surprisingly bipartisan fashion to restore some of the most egregious K–12 reductions from last year’s budget, the long-standing inattention to that issue has had a disastrous impact to date, here, and across the country.
In the beginning there was that shameful pattern of “white flight” from public schools in the South, the West, and in major northern metropolitan areas, ever since Brown v. Board of Education. White parents, disinterested in having their children spend time in classrooms with African-American students, have since the mid-1950s, moved their primary residences to suburban and rural areas to “escape” the public schools. On the other hand, those who stayed in the cities opted to send their children to private schools, including Catholic schools, whether they were Catholic or not.
Indeed, a key finding in a report called “Condition of Education,” released last year, was that “White private school enrollments are highest in school districts with large proportions of Black students in the population.”
Consistent with these patterns, in Philadelphia, Blacks, at 63 percent of the student body, are substantially over-represented in the public schools, as are Hispanics, at 17.4 percent. At the same time, while Asians are enrolled at precisely their representation in the city’s overall population, at a little over 6 percent, white students have been gradually disappearing from the Philadelphia schools, and now stand at just 13.4 percent of district students, despite the city’s non-Hispanic white population of 36.9 percent.
The same kinds of ratios can be found in school districts in cities such as Chicago (10 percent white public school enrollment); Los Angeles (9 percent white student enrollment); and Milwaukee (14.9 percent white public school enrollment).
Are we starting to see an ugly pattern in this wonderful, post-racial society in which we all live?
Actually, no one seemed to mind very much as this deeply segregated, publically funded educational system began to unfold over the past sixty years, or so. Whites, generally, seemed pleased to have the economic wherewithal to be able to exercise their “school choice,” and Blacks, who were now the predominant racial group in most big-city districts, seemed virtually oblivious to the fact that the best teachers were siphoned off to other districts, that books and computers were in increasingly short supply, that school buildings were no longer maintained in an appropriate manner, or that the substantial economic opportunities available in even under-funded school districts were not accessible to them, as businesspeople.
When school quality declined, Black children were blamed, their parents passively accepted responsibility and our community simply grew to believe that these were the kinds of schools to which Black people were entitled.
Then, the bottom fell out of the economy in 2007, and neither white parents, nor Black parents, could comfortably afford to pay the freight at the private schools, for their children’s education. In fact, in January of this year, the New York Times reported that private school tuitions in and around the Big Apple were routinely approaching $40,000 per year.
Don’t be shocked!
In Philadelphia, even with a reduced cost of living as compared to New York City,
9–12 grade tuitions at private schools, Penn Charter, Friends Select and Chestnut Hill Academy, are $28,950, $28,580 and $27,750, respectively.
Suddenly, with the Catholic, private school option decreasingly available, middle- and upper-class parents began to turn to public charter schools. As a result, private school enrollments have actually dropped, from 6.3 million to 5.5 million students, over the 10-year period ending in 2009, while the number of students enrolled in charter schools has more than tripled, to 1.4 million, over the same, general time frame.
In my opinion, the shameful neglect of valid educational options for African-American students grows out of a similar lack of confidence in their academic potential, as was expressed by Apartheid leaders, in South Africa.
The same national culture that, even today, actively discriminates against the students’ parents, and deprives them of employment and contract opportunities, also works to deprive the students, themselves, of the academic resources, to become viable, economic contributors. As part of that pattern, the “powers that be,” in the main, have all but deserted the schools where Black children are enrolled, in the majority.
I remember vividly my first trip to Little Rock, Ark. There for a business trip, I made a point of finding the time to visit the city’s infamous Central High school, where brave Black students had once risked their lives to integrate the classrooms.
Upon my arrival, I was shocked to see that Central High was not integrated at all, but had become 100 percent African-American. I was informed that, as soon as the African-American students were admitted to Central High, the city’s “leaders” began to put into place a plan to construct an alternative, all-white high school on the outskirts of the city, along with an all-white shopping district and a white-admittance-only hospital.
Adding insult to injury, to ease the commute for white residents traveling to the newly developed area, the local government had approved the construction of a spanking new freeway that was built directly over what had previously been a viable section of Little Rock’s Black community.
That same, perverse thinking, apparently, is still alive and well in how this country educates its young people. Is there any wonder, then, why, in the most recent worldwide PISA assessment of students in “developed” nations, U.S. students ranked 30th in math, 23rd in the sciences and 17th in reading?
Add to all of that, the recent news that there are now more “babies of color” being born in America than any other babies. That, in my opinion, sets the stage for the prospect of a self-defeating expansion of U.S.-style “Bantu education.”
That is, unless we all intervene.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.
Words are funny.
For example, here are some words that I never in life thought I’d see in the same sentence: “Bank of America” and “Hustle.”
But there it was in black and white and bold letters: “U.S. Sues Bank of America Over Hustle Mortgage Fraud.”
You might have even seen it yourself. There was a whole story about the bank being sued for more than $1 billion in losses by the federal government because it intentionally sold poor-quality loans to two government-affiliated mortgage agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, over an extended period of years. Both agencies, it turns out, eventually had to be bailed out in 2008 as they were carrying an abundance of inferior-quality loans in their portfolios — a substantial number of which had been provided to them by Bank of America.
The scam had initially been created by a mortgage company known as Countrywide, which had been acquired by Bank of America in 2008. When Bank of America bought the company it simply picked up right where they left off.
The scam among the bank’s own employees was referred to as “the Hustle."
According to a report by Reuters News Service, Bank of America/Countrywide had been in the habit of sending along to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac portfolios of loans whose default rates often approached 40 percent — about nine times the normal default rate of mortgages. Bank of America’s employees were encouraged to pass these bad deals off on the government mortgage financing agencies and were even provided cash bonuses if they did it well.
In the federal lawsuit the government claims that Countrywide had been assuring the mortgage financing agencies that they were tightening up their loan standards to increase the quality of mortgages they were sending along. They were actually loosening the standards and intentionally “booking” poor-quality, poorly documented loans that they knew would eventually go into default.
I don’t know where you come from or what image comes to your mind when you hear the word “hustle,” but at Countrywide it was short for “High-Speed Swim Lane.” Under the program the bank used the motto “Loans Move Forward, Never Backward.”
Here’s how "the hustle" worked: Check to see whether borrowers actually earned enough income to make loan payments? Not on your life.
Check to make sure the incomes reported on the applications were valid? Who had the time?
The computerized loan evaluation program indicated that the loan was below standard? According to The Associated Press, bank employees were told to simply change the numbers enough to fool the computer. And of course loan officers were paid by the volume of loans made with no consideration given whatsoever to quality.
When Countrywide’s managers began to receive reports that indicated that substantial numbers of these poorly made loans were going into default, they simply covered it up and pretended it wasn’t happening. In one case it was reported that a loan applicant claimed to be earning $15,500 per month. It turns out the guy was actually an employee at a temp agency and earned just $2,666 per month.
Because it was all "a hustle," anyway the company's employees simply waved the application through and the mortgage was made. The borrower defaulted in less than a year.
When all was said and done Countrywide/Bank of America wound up selling thousands of their "hustle loans" to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac right up through 2009.
Here’s the part you really won’t believe: After making thousands of exceptionally poor quality mortgage loans and contributing to the country’s financial crisis in 2008, Bank of America wound up receiving a $45 billion federal bailout, then announced plans to lay off 30,000 workers and another plan to hire a significant number of new employees overseas and is still in operation. In fact the company reported last week that it was in the process of issuing $21 billion of additional mortgages even though its mortgage financing operation is still losing money.
Hey, where did we go wrong?
People in my community who were involved in even hand-to-mouth, low-rent, trying-to-feed-your-family hustles wound up doing time. Bank of America, it seems, is doing just fine.
None of this behavior on the part of large financial institutions such as Bank of America should have really represented "news" last week to people who have been paying attention to the greedy. self-dealing practices by supposedly respectable "business leaders" that nearly brought this country to its knees in 2008.
As I pointed out back then when the financial crisis began to raise its ugly head. business types. mainstream media and “owned" politicians uniformly blamed the entire national financial crisis on Black people.
That’s right. They said that the people in this country who have always had less access to mortgages and still do; who have been consistently underemployed since the demise of slavery and who control only very modest financial resources in this country are the ones who actually caused the financial crisis.
That sounds a whole lot like blaming the victim for the crime. And for a very long time they actually got away with it.
When historians look back on the 2008 U.S. financial crisis, they will undoubtedly have much to say about mortgage foreclosures, the decline of the U.S. auto industry, the failure of the five largest investment banks, the loss of 401(K) and pension funds, run-away unemployment, “off-shoring” of jobs and the $800 billion financial institution “Bail-out."
What they won't discuss very much — as they tend not to do even now — is how the pattern of unrelenting greed drove bankers, mortgage lenders and consumer finance companies to create residential and consumer credit agreements that were so blatantly abusive that they “killed the golden goose" of the consumer-driven credit-based economy in this country.
The new mortgage agreements now had to include “adjustable rates,” with interest payments that would increase over time making them more and more appealing to lenders and investors but impossible to repay for a significant percentage of borrowers — Black or white.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, in 2007 41 percent of Blacks earning more than $100,000 a year were steered into a subprime mortgage as compared to just seven percent of whites in the same income category.
Another blatant example of how even middle-class Blacks were targeted by greedy, unscrupulous lenders is what happened in Prince George’s County, a predominantly Black middle- and upper-middle income suburb of Washington, D.C.
About 43 percent of Prince George's County residents who refinanced their homes in 2005 received high-cost loans as compared to 24 percent of homeowners in other parts of the region. Even in the most affluent parts of Prince George's County, 34 percent of homeowners who bought or refinanced a home received high-interest loans in 2005, compared with 4.5 percent of residents in majority-white Northwest Washington where residents have virtually the same income levels.
Despite all of that the terrible truth, if anyone on Wall Street, in the mainstream media or in Washington, D.C., really wants to know is that the four states in the country that actually experienced the highest foreclosure rates were Nevada (7.9 percent Black population) California (6.7 Black population) Florida (15.8 percent) and Arizona (3.8 percent Black population).
With all of this information it sure looks like a "stretch" to try to pin the blame for the deterioration of the U.S economy on black folks even if many of them actually were "tricked" into subprime loan agreements regardless of their income or credit standing.
We suspected the whole subprime lending debacle had been a "hustle" from the very beginning.
What took the federal government so long to figure it out?
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.