Where Do We Go From Here?
As to the first question the answer is regrettable. African Americans have not moved forward since Martin Luther King. We are not even keeping pace. We are instead marching backwards; no make that flying backwards as quickly and decidedly as we can.
To be sure we have made some progress. “The number of African-American households earning $75,000 or more has grown by 63.9 percent in the last decade — a rate greater than that of the overall population. This continued growth in affluence, social influence and household income will continue to impact the community’s economic power, especially with women.
The percentage of African-Americans attending college or earning a degree has increased to 44 percent for men and 53 percent for women. Higher educational and professional success, along with a lower birth rate, is increasing both the age and affluence of the population, increasing the demand for aging, healthcare and financial management services.”
According to the Huffington Post, Black Voices, September 18, 2013, by 2015, “the buying power of African Americans will exceed 1.1 trillion. This figure equates to the buying power of the 16th largest country in the world. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/10/black-buying-power-to-rea_n_1086369.html. Collectively this consumer spending exceeds the gross domestic production of Egypt, Turkey, Poland, Australia, Taiwan and more than 150 other nations of the world. And some of us have achieved wealth and success beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.
However, it is not acceptable that a few have prospered while the vast majority remains financially and spiritually improvised. In addition, material possessions are not the only measure of a people’s success. Asset management including: 1) asset acquisition, 2) nurturing assets, 3) wealth protection, 4) retirement planning, 5) wealth perpetuation for future generations and 6) empowering family members with stewardship, and accountability are equally important.
More material is the protection and nurturing of human, intellectual and civic/social assets, the absence of which even the wealthiest of groups perish. Human assets include family, relationships, alliances, abilities, reputation, character, values, ethics, morals and habits. Intellectual assets include systems, methods, wisdom, knowledge, ideas, experiences (good and bad) and education (formal and informal). Civic/social assets are heritage, schools, neighborhoods, communities, businesses, traditions, transportation and infrastructure.
It is here where we have regressed. Greater than economics ours is a spiritual impoverishment; a diminution of our basic human, intellectual and civic/social assets; a material loss of our collective purpose, dignity and decency.
The evidence of this loss is unmistakable. The symptoms of this spiritual impoverishment are undeniable. The challenges we therefore face are considerable. And while racism remains a significant problem, our Diaspora is as much a matter of within as without; a question of culture as much as ethnicity; a condition of values more than money.
A good place to start is the very thing that helped us survive and prosper lo the many centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, and the ethnic cleansing of lynching’s and white race riots i.e., a solid middle class culture. The tenets of this culture include family, faith, work, education, civic responsibility, respect for women and one’s elders, modest dress and neatness of appearance, hard work and home ownership. Needless to say respectful and law abiding behavior, staying out of trouble, and avoiding jail and/or prison was a must.
The controlling message constantly transmitted and consistently reinforced by this culture was to strive, to accomplish, to overcome, to excel, to achieve and to succeed, regardless how difficult. The goal was to always be at our best, no matter what.
Thus, if you had a special event to attend you dressed up in your “Sunday Best” instead of dressing down in your everyday worst. If your clothes were dirty you cleaned them. If there was a hole in your pants you mended it. In short, the black middle class culture inspired us to pursue personal and collective greatness. We owed it to each other. We owed it to the past, the present and the future.
So each and every day we went to school to learn as much as we could. We did not disrupt class or disrespect the teacher for fear of the dreaded trip to the Principal’s office and even worse, the ordeal of one’s parents afterwards. We opened the door for women and gave up our seats to the elderly. If we did curse or smoke we certainly didn’t do so around adults. In their presence it was strictly “yes mam and no sir”. We felt shame and embarrassment whenever we were caught doing wrong and would never, ever dream of referring to any black women as a bitch even if she was.
Yes income and education inequality have worsened. And never have our men been incarcerated to the degree that they are now. Is racism a factor? Of course it is and we should do all that we can to combat it. But the greater problem lies in the hijacking of a culture that has served us well by a social ethos that has not; a culture that instructs us to treat one another far worse than our antagonists and whose values and tenants are repugnant.
More disturbing we seem not to appreciate the seriousness of our plight. We appear to be unaware, indifferent, resigned or apathetic to our predicament. Missing is the fierce urgency of now, the dogged, unwavering determination to address our situation. Absent is the clear ability or desire to be honest with ourselves, if no one else.
It is well past the time that we looked in the mirror, that we searched our own souls. Ours is to prevail over any and all obstacles, not to fail because of them.
How did we get to this point? Where are the constructive goals, conduct and values so necessary to excel? Where did we go so wrong and what can and should we do to correct the situation?
Blackacre was not developed to establish the wisdom of a single person. It was instead created to prove how intelligent and insightful you are. So rather than answer these vital questions, Blackacre poses the following inquiries to you the Blackacre family:
Merely go to the bottom of this blog and post your comments at the “leave a reply” link. We at Blackacre await your response.
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO, Blackacre Policy Forum,