– Part II: Know the author –
By JEROME LOVE
Special to the Houston Forward Times
(NNPA) – Once we come to the realization that the system is not broken and is working to perfection to perpetuate wealth inequality, we can begin to ask more critical questions, such as, “Who designed the system? Why was it designed?”
As hip-hop legend KRS One once said, “If you don’t know the history of the author, then you don’t know what you have read.”
In America, too many of us don’t know the history of the author – wealthy White men. We’ve been taught false narratives of peaceful men who believed in liberty and justice for all. The history has been intentionally distorted, and thus we assume that something is wrong when we see blatant inequality. From our perspective the system is broken, but from the perspective of the wealthy elites, who are disproportionately White, the system is working just fine.
Economic empowerment is the only cure for wealth inequality
In 2004, I started the Texas Black Expo Inc. The goal is to create wealth within the Black community. Our methodology is to build strong businesses. And yet we encounter opposition from people who believe that economics is a zero-sum game. They believe the economic pie is of a finite size and cannot be increased.
Therefore, if Black people earn a larger slice of the pie, then the portion received by White people will be reduced. This has long been the argument for the continued suppression of Black wealth. The ruling class says that if “they” get more, then “we” get less. This argument is absurd.
Wealth can be created, and the size of the pie can increase. Over the long term, our national economy steadily grows, creating more wealth. But since the 1980s, the biggest share of new wealth has gone to the people who are already wealthy. The top 1% – almost exclusively White – has gobbled up a bigger slice of the growing pie. And yet people object to efforts by African American entrepreneurs to build Black wealth.
What they say reminds me of the story of the two houses.
Once there were two homes next to each other. One was a beautiful two-story red brick home with a three-car garage and a pretty flowerbed out front. The other was a modest one-story home with a white picket fence and an old garage. One day, the one-story home caught fire. The firefighters arrived, pulled out their hoses, and began to spray water on the one-story house to contain the fire. As the firefighters were spraying water, the owner of the big two-story house came out of his front door and yelled, “That’s not fair! Why are you pouring water on their home and not on mine? I pay taxes, and I should get some of that water!”
Sounds ludicrous, right?
But that’s exactly what it’s like when White Americans complain about programs such as Affirmative Action, or organizations like Texas Black Expo that are focused on solving an existing problem. It is the epitome of selfishness to ask a firefighter to douse your home with water when your home is perfectly fine. With the understanding that the economic system was created to benefit wealthy, White Americans while oppressing minorities, including African Americans, by locking them out, then expecting those who benefit from the system to change it would be as silly as asking the casino owner to change the rules so that you have a better chance at winning. It’s not going to happen, which leads to two conclusions.
- Protest is good, but it’s no substitute for political action. I strongly applaud the millions of peaceful protestors who have raised their voices in support of change. Thanks to them, we have seen some positive results. Minneapolis banned use of choke holds; Dallas adopted a “duty to intervene” rule that requires officers to stop other cops who are engaging in inappropriate use of force; in Maryland, a bipartisan work group of state lawmakers announced a police reform work group. All of this is wonderful and is to be commended, but while the overt brutality may be reduced you still have a system that is not functioning on behalf of all people. Many entrenched White politicians are immune to protests. They simply don’t care how many people take to the streets, because demonstrations eventually fade. We need to use the power of the ballot – from the local city councils up to the presidency of the United States – to remove regressive politicians and elect people who understand, and want to fix, the inequalities that deprive Black families of wealth.
- African Americans need to take action and build our own economic base. We know it is unlikely that those who benefit from our oppression will do anything to help unless it benefits them economically. So, while Black people can lobby and do our best to work the system in our favor, it’s an uphill battle, and ultimately we are not in control.
What do we control?
We control how we spend our money. We need to be strategic in supporting our own businesses and building our own communities independent of the current system. This will allow us to create and control our own economic destinies, as well as provide resources needed to influence the overarching racist system that still exists.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who in 1965, at the Sermon at Temple Israel of Hollywood, said, “We’ve been in the mountain of hatred long enough. It is necessary to move on now, but only by moving out of this mountain can we move to the promised land of justice and brotherhood and the Kingdom of God. It all boils down to the fact that we must never allow ourselves to become satisfied with unattained goals. We must always maintain a kind of divine discontent.”
As a nation, we have many unattained goals, but by keeping a spirit of divine discontent and working together, we can create prosperity and justice for all.
Jerome Love is the founder and president of the Texas Black Expo, Inc., producers of the nationally recognized Texas Black Expo Summer Celebration, which is the largest African-American tradeshow in the state of Texas.