By Kazemde Ajamu, February 14, 2016
Economic empowerment is a hotly contested debate in the African American community for some time now. The many movements of the 60’s focused on housing, voting, education, community policing, employment, to name a few. 50 years later we are still dealing with each and every single one of these. In my opinion, the clear path to addressing all of these issues runs through economic development.
The economic debate has centered on Black group economics and Democratic Socialism that address our specific needs as a community. I am a firm believer that developing a worldview or perspective that uniquely centers on how best to achieve our goals of tearing down systemic racism begins and ends with us. I wrote in my book, Think Black…It’s Okay:
“First, the development of a Black Afrikan worldview is critical to the fostering of a great pride and awareness of the historical achievement and therefore the future of our distinct cultural intelligence in the minds of all members of our race, particularly our children. Secondly, the establishment of a Black Afrikan worldview is necessary to ordering the foundation and pillars of our healthy and thriving black communities. Thirdly, the development of a Black Afrikan worldview is necessary to establish and to maintain vital disciplines such as economics, communications, media, law and justice, politics, finance, education, belief systems, the arts, history and health systems, thereby creating a veil of protections and security around the advancement of our communities and society. Lastly, the promotion of a Black Afrikan worldview identifies the resting potential of our people to empower themselves through cooperative and collaborative partnerships and business enterprises, while building infrastructure and unlimited possibilities for urban strength and vitality.”
As part of a political strategy, we must begin to think in terms of a multi faceted approach to achieving these goals. Strategies of self empowerment are critical in maintaining growth and sustaining urban strength and vitality; however that does not mean that we abandon the current political structure, we use it to assist in achieving our goals.
Senator Bernie Sanders, by definition a democratic socialist has proposed sweeping reforms to address social ills among the American people at large. On the surface, these reforms appear to be part of the plan to address the needs of the African American community within the confines of the whole. These reforms will tear down the walls of a corrupt Government and Corporate interest that stands in the ways of our collective economic growth.
“A rising tide lifts all boats.”
If we are going to play a large role in this political revolution to bring about social strategies and reform to our current governmental system, we have to first look at how social programs has impacted our community in the past. While some of us have benefitted from these programs, the larger population of African Americans has not. We don’t need to look any further than Flint, Baltimore, Gary, Youngstown, New Orleans, Camden, and other large urban metropolitan centers across this nation.
In a recent town hall meeting, Native and Black Americans invited Bernie Sanders to speak and address how his policies and reforms are going to address their needs. A Brother laid out and asked Senator Sanders some very hard questions pertaining to social programs.
“It is a historic fact that general improvement and economic conditions does not necessarily benefit Native and Black communities. Socialist strategies have left large swaths of Native and Black communities behind.It was true of:
- The New Deal
- GI Bill
- Federal Housing Bill
- Recent response to the Great Recession, which Black people still has not recovered from
- Minnesota’s White unemployment rate dropped below 3%, while the Black unemployment rate has risen above 14%
Then the Brother drops this question, what specific affirmative and concrete steps will you take to insure your TRILLION DOLLAR, TRILLION DOLLAR federal investment strategy does not repeat the same mistakes of the past? Not only does Black Lives Matter, but Black Dollars do as well!
These are the type of questions that has our best interest as a people in mind. Pulling from historic data and demanding that these politicians give us specific and direct policies that address our needs. More importantly, we need to hold them accountable with our vote. Senator Sanders platform for change is idealistic and dynamic, however it will mean nothing if we just go along without drilling down on how these policy positions benefit us. In addition, how will these policy reforms get paid for without adding additional hardship in the form of taxes to an already impoverished community?
Although Senator Sanders acknowledged these historic facts, his answer is always the same, throw money at it. That is not an answer, nor should that answer end the conversation. As the largest voting bloc within the Democratic Party, we have to exercise our real power in demanding the changes necessary to create space for Group Economics and Empowerment. The Empowerment Zones of the 90’s is another example of failed policies, however applied properly would have the desired affect that is needed to jump start community redevelopment.
Senator Sander’s refusal to address our needs specifically is problematic for me. He may know all the statistical data about the current crisis in our communities, but he is tone death to what it takes to really deal with our issues. A rising tide lifts all boat sounds good in theory, but not practical. Therefore, democratic socialism as defined by the candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders is not a clear path to the empowerment of African Americans.
“To be political in an Afrikan-centered manner is to be concerned with the group interest, not individual gain or ambition”
~Mama Marimba Ani