Many of Philadelphia’s top companies don’t realize it’s 2016. They think it’s 1916 when Jim Crow was the law of the land. If you disagree, explain why a city with a nearly 45 percent Black population has a Black unemployment rate of close to 18 percent and up to 40 percent in some neighborhoods. Explain why about 33 percent of Blacks here live in poverty and those who do work have households that earn only around 60 percent of what white households earn.
Before continuing, I must make something crystal clear: Black people should stop begging white people for jobs. We should focus on creating our own damn jobs. For example, we oughta focus on what Black people did before integration- in the form of the Dodgers’ 1946 signing of the great Jackie Robinson- destroyed the economically vibrant Negro National Baseball League that had its heyday from 1933 until about a few years after that signing. In addition to ultimately destroying the Negro league, it also destroyed the Black banks, grocery stores, laundromats, hair salons, barbershops, funeral homes, and even the “numbers racket/policy game” industry that helped fuel the Negro league.
Does all this mean that Blacks shouldn’t work at white businesses? Of course it doesn’t. It simply means that, from a cultural standpoint and in the words of Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, and Marcus Garvey, “We must do for self.” However, from a legal standpoint, we must also demand that the white businesses that receive tax breaks- and thereby profit from the taxes paid by Blacks who work and by Blacks who purchase taxable products generally- must give us what they owe us.
And speaking of giving us what they owe us, they must hire us at a rate higher than that of whites. In other words, I’m not talking about equality; I’m talking about equity. Equality incorrectly assumes that Blacks and whites have always been treated the same. Equity correctly requires that racist white America, racist white Pennsylvania, and racist white Philadelphia put the races on a level playing field by putting Blacks in employment positions that they would have been in if slavery, sharecropping, convict leasing, “ghetto-izing,” redlining, gerrymandering, inadequate schooling, and other manifestations of systemic racism had never existed.
The disease has been racial oppression, exploitation, and discrimination from 1619 when slavery began until at least (and actually later than) the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which equals 346 years of white advantage. Therefore, the cure must be quotas, set-asides, mandates, and other forms of affirmative action. And I don’t wanna hear any legal double-talk about such cures being unconstitutional. White folks had one hundred percent quotas, set-asides, and mandates throughout American history. Consider this: from 1934-1962, the federal government backed $120 billion in home loans to whites only. That led to today’s better neighborhoods for whites because it allowed their ancestors to pass land wealth to their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on, while Blacks received nothing to pass to their descendants. And since Blacks didn’t receive those federal home loans, they were boxed into poor neighborhoods, which created ghettos. And because property taxes pay for schools, whites in wealthy neighborhoods could afford higher taxes to pay for quality schools, while Blacks in ghettos got and still get inadequate schools.
But let’s go back farther yesterday in order to explain today’s plight. In 1790, Congress passed the Naturalization Act that allowed only “free white persons” to become naturalized citizens, which meant that only they would be legally permitted to vote, hold political office, serve on juries, and, in many cases, own land. In 1830, the Indian Removal Act forcibly relocated Cherokee, Creeks, and other tribes/nations to west of the Mississippi River. And guess who got all that newly vacant arable land? You guessed it- white folks! And they got it absolutely free of charge, too. But it didn’t stop there. In 1862, the Homestead Act provided 270 million acres west of the Mississippi River to whites only, once again free of charge.
I’m highlighting all of this history in order to lay a foundation that justifies, actually mandates, the accelerated hiring of Black folks throughout the United States, across Pennsylvania, and most definitely in Philadelphia. This city’s employers- many of whom currently have a horrible record of racially diverse hiring- must make up for lost time and for the present time by filling their workforce (and their boards of directors) with Blacks. This city’s employers must end their ongoing Jim Crow system of employment.
And they can be compelled to do that. The first step is to identify this city’s Jim Crow employers. That’s exactly why, in this Freedom’s Journal column that I write each week for The Tribune, I’m going to include- starting today- a monthly series called “Show & Shame” in which I name the Philly companies and even local labor unions that refuse to adequately hire qualified Blacks.
In order to be fair, I’m going to contact the human resources departments of each of the major employers in the city to find out if they’re doing the right thing or if I should “Show & Shame” them into doing the right thing. The companies that will be contacted include Comcast Corporation/Comcast Spectacor, Aramark, Crown Holdings, Drexel University, University of Pennsylvania/University of Pennsylvania Healthcare, Einstein Healthcare Network, Jefferson Health System, Bayada Home Healthcare, Kennedy Healthcare System, United Parcel Service, The Vanguard Group, Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Acme Markets, Urban Outfitters, and several others.
Speaking of Urban Outfitters, why does such a large company with such a large Black customer base have a reputation for not adequately hiring Blacks and also for racially demeaning Blacks? Let me count the ways. In 2010, it sold shirts with colors it described as white and as “Obama black.” In 2006, it sold sparkly handgun-shaped Christmas ornaments in a city that had over 300 shooting deaths that year. In 2003, it sold a Monopoly-type game called “Ghettopoly,” wherein one of the minstrel-type characters proudly says “You got ‘yo’ whole neighborhood addicted to crack. Collect $50.” Also, the game refers to Malcolm X as “Malcum X.”
If the aforementioned companies are doing the right thing, they’ll be publicly commended. But if they’re doing the wrong thing, they’ll be publicly condemned. They’ll also be boycotted as a follow-up to “Show & Shame” until they get their act together.
Be afraid, companies. Be very afraid. Stay tuned, Black folks.