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New Black Paper seeks to call activists to action

Freddie Allen | 9/6/2013, 12:47 p.m.
Ron Daniels, president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century talks about the IBW Black Paper project in Washington, D.C. Freddie Allen

“The end of WWII also ushered in a more militant consciousness evidenced by returning veterans, which helped to incubate a nascent social movement to fight white racism and elitism,” the report stated.

The collection notes that even as some progressive presidential administrations made deposits in social and economic programs that promoted racial and financial equality, those programs were often countered by opposing administrations that passed painful cuts and cost-saving measures that neutered those same programs and “weakened the Black middle class and further marginalized the Black poor, vulnerable, and working classes.”

The paper maintains that “sufficient resources were never put into the social account to sustain both the Black middle class and the Black poor and vulnerable” forcing lawmakers and even members of the Black community to choose between bolstering the middle class and providing for the poor.

“The results are normal and not an accident or an aberration,” said Mtangulizi Sanyika, former professor of African World Studies at Dillard University in New Orleans and a former senior fellow at Mickey Leland Center on World Hunger and Peace. “It’s how the system is supposed to work.”

Sanyika said that the simple imagery of America’s bounced check captures the major contradiction of the American political economy and how we got where we are today.

“Yes, a deposit was made, but the check still bounced. There’s too much rubber in the account so the check will keep bouncing as long as the status quo is maintained,” Sanyika said.

Sanyika argues that the American political economy operates on flawed logic, blaming the poor and marginalized for today’s social problems, while ignoring the past that contributed to them.

“Never mind the fact that you were robbed in the first place, never mind the fact that your labor was stolen, never mind the fact that you were left landless never mind the fact that your family was disrupted,” Sanyika said. “The consensus is that the American political economy, the free market system and American democracy are exceptions to the norms of history. That is the American consensus and that is one of our big problems.”

Michael Fauntroy, associate professor of political science at Howard University, argued that addressing those big problems will take big voter turnouts at the ballot booth.

“In 1965 approximately 70 African-Americans held elected office in the eleven southern states; that number grew to 248 by 1968, 1,397 by 1974 and 2, 535 by 1981. Now more than 10,500 African Americans serve as elected officials at every level of local and state government around the nation,” he wrote.

Fauntroy said that, numerically, there is no question that that is progress, but African Americans are still underrepresented relative to the number of African Americans across the country.

“That progress has not resulted in the kind of change and profound structural reform needed in the policy improvements that we all seek,” Fauntroy said. “Politics is about exercising power to change policy to impact people. Settling on accepting symbols is not enough.”

According to Fauntroy, sometimes exercising that power takes getting tough with our friends and punishing our enemies.