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Discrimination: Why Black business programs aren’t working

HARRY ALFORD | 6/16/2013, 7:42 p.m.

NNPA – Last week, I explained why we have Black business programs. The evolution of them from the Civil Rights Movement and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the cause for their existence. Title VI of the act and along with U.S. Supreme Court decisions justifies their existence. The most frustrating thing about it is the fact that most of them don’t work too well. Our collective gains in the public and corporate marketplace have been little and slow in coming. If we had genuine efforts and very positive results after 49 years of law there would be no need for affirmative action and minority participation programs. In other words, there would be no more discrimination in the business marketplace. But unfortunately, racism still raises its ugly head.

Let’s look at some examples.

The most important part of making someone eligible for participating in these programs is certification. For some reason, in 2008, the Small Business Administration ceased certifying Small Disadvantaged Businesses. This will open the door for false claims and fraud. The federal programs will become littered with “front” businesses participating as if they are small and disadvantaged. A million dollar White-owned business could now claim to be an SDB. Thus, there will be participation reports that are terribly inflated and misleading. Maybe that is what the SBA’s intent is since their current level for Black participation is 1.5 percent (in 2012).

Departments of transportation at the state level are required under Title VI to have diversity programs. The Los Angeles International Airport chooses to have a strange version of a program. It’s the race-neutral program. Programs that address racial discrimination by having a race-neutral program are shams. In essence, race-neutral means “White men companies only.” It doesn’t work and their numbers show it. In fact, the whole state of California is 54 percent ethnic minority but their procurement programs are virtually void of any acceptable measurement of Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans. On the corporate side, Silicon Valley is a wasteland in terms of procurement diversity. It doesn’t do much better in its hiring practices either. Old Mississippi still lives – it’s in California.

Every five years, states and cities are supposed to perform a disparity study to determine if discrimination among businesses exist. The state of Illinois has recently done a study. The study shows that Blacks are the most discriminated group among all contractors (duh!). It calls for strict improvement in the goals. Funny, the governor’s office is trying to suppress the study because of pressure from White women groups who are over-utilized according to the study. The truth sometimes hurts and this state needs to come to terms with its ongoing discrimination against Black businesses. The Illinois Black Legislative Caucus should block all legislation until this study is implemented.

There is a similar situation in Milwaukee. The city’s recent disparity study shows Black businesses being heavily under-utilized while Hispanics and White women seem to have no discrimination against them. Guess who is suing the city to stop the implementation of this program? The Wisconsin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. They want a race-neutral program. I don’t know what kind of kool-aid they are drinking. Their law firm has ties to anti-affirmative efforts. Go figure.