By James Clingman
Here’s a sobering statement from Economic Policy Institute (EPI): “Fifty years ago (2013), the unemployment rate was 5% for Whites and 10.9% for Blacks. Today, it is 6.6% for Whites and 12.6% for Blacks.” Can you believe that? We are at the same relative position now as we were when MLK gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. Part of the problem is that we have been waiting to be rescued rather than doing everything we can to rescue ourselves.
Employment is very high on the fictional Black agenda, so much so that during our protests we have to say it three times: Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! While we have certainly protested and begged for jobs from politicians, our tepid and passive solutions have not moved us one inch toward our goal of lowering the Black rate of unemployment. Why?
The last march for jobs was called three years ago by Marcher-in-Chief Al Sharpton during the run-up to the 2012 presidential election. Sharpton, who was flanked by leaders of the National Education Association, NAACP, and other groups, was quoted in the Washington Post as saying, “We will bring forth the masses who have not been heard in the midst of the jobs debate…As the president fights for a jobs act, as super-committees meet, they need to hear ‘marching feet.’ This is to send a message to Congress.”
Marching feet? Congress must have had earplugs on that day. If they did get the message, they did nothing to improve the situation two years later, according to the EPI report. Many of our marches have been tantamount to walking on a treadmill, burning energy but not permanently moving forward.
Sharpton went on to say, “The march, which will count on the large ranks of union members, will bring ‘drama’ to the jobs debate. His use of the word, “drama” reminds me of what John Henrik Clarke said about Sharpton during a debate with Cornell West at Ohio State University.
Clarke stated, “We have to make a distinction between these academic vaudeville shows and those who give us knowledge. We cannot accept the performers as fighting for our liberation. We can enjoy the performance, but don’t think it moves us forward, except the bank account of the performer. I like Al Sharpton personally because he is something that is useful; he is an alarmist. An alarmist solves no problem; he will call attention to it and won’t let us leave the agenda until someone else solves the problem. So [alarmists] serve a purpose with their big mouths…Alarmists won’t let you sleep.”
All we get, and unfortunately settle for, is “drama” when it comes to solving our problems. We love to march and make symbolic statements, but we stop there; we never follow up with appropriate action. This is why I propose that we gather 1 million or more conscious Black people who are willing to do several things in response to the problems we face in this country.
We must have people who are willing to pool their votes and their dollars to build and grow businesses. We must elect politicians who, prior to an election, will state very clearly and publicly, their commitment to fight for issues specific to Black people, just as other groups get politicians for whom they vote to support and fight for their issues.
A collective of 1 million conscious Black people could positively affect the jobs issue by forming an equity or loan fund to establish more Black businesses. We could also help grow those businesses by collectively supporting them with our consumer dollars, thereby, creating jobs and lowering the Black unemployment rate.
One million conscious Black voters could leverage our votes to help elect the politicians who will work in our best interests, no matter what color their skin is, what party they belong to, or what political label they wear. It’s all about interests, not parties or skin color.
A national group of 1 million could also stimulate the formation of local coalitions to accomplish the same goals in cities across this nation. No more need to go to Washington and march about something we can do right in our own backyards. No more spending our money, the majority of which goes to non-Black businesses, to travel distances to “protest” and create “drama” around issues we can solve ourselves. Enough of that nonsense!
We must coalesce around efforts that make sense, efforts that are practical and beneficial, and efforts that will get us off the treadmill and keep us from marching in place for the next fifty years. Join the one million conscious voters, and let’s start solving our own problems and creating our own jobs, with our own dollars.
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, Blackonomics.com.