Black America’s wrong approach to STEM

Black America needs more engineers but not for the reasons we typically hear on the panel discussion stump. On the panel discussion stump, you typically find well dressed and articulate black men and women speaking on the importance of going to college and picking up degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math in order to get a job with a corporation and make six-figures. Going into six-figure debt to get a six-figure job. Where did this school of thought come from?

Black America’s approach to learning about technology favors consumption of the applications that run over broadband networks. That is what I see particularly among poor blacks here in the West End and the Old Fourth Ward. We are using broadband voice applications to share the latest gossip or evangelizing on life. We are keeping occupied reading news items, watching sports highlights, or playing video games as we pass time on MARTA heading to work. Just about everyone has a cellphone and if you don’t, worry not. If you meet income eligibility requirements, you can buy one from a vendor at the corner of York Avenue and Lee Highway.

This propensity to consume technology is not relegated to the Black American poor. According to a 2016 report released by Nielsen,  Black Millennials are expected to help drive the leveraging of $1.2 billion in Black American buying power. With a cellphone ownership penetration rate of 91%, Nielsen sees Black Americans continuing to use the technology to extend black cultural identity and, with Millennials leading the way, continue efforts at civic or institutional change in America. Black America is also expected to buy more beauty and hair care products versus their white counterparts.

Millennials are expected to take their higher incomes into supermarkets as well. Black Americans demonstrate a propensity for cooking from scratch, planning meals ahead, and using fresh ingredients.

In short, the Nielsen report paints a picture of a Black America that furthers consumer centrism. Since release from their status as chattel slaves, blacks in America have slowly become a population over-indexed on consumption. And to further fuel its $1.2 billion in buying power, Black America has embarked on a campaign to get more of its young people into STEM jobs.

STEM employment pays well, according to a report written by the U.S. Department of Education. The average STEM employee pulls in approximately $65,000 a year. Those specializing in engineering or engineering technology average $73,700 a year. Great incomes for hair and makeup and cultural expression. But what is more important, in my view, is STEM driven creation of resources placed in black communities for blacks.

We don’t hear enough about the entrepreneurial side of STEM although we have examples out there. Firms such as Logistics Systems Incorporated and ATS-Chester Engineers have been providing engineering services for decades. They are demonstrating that blacks can do more than consume technology but design technology solutions as well. Production and ownership of technology assets lie at the heart of wealth creation for blacks and if properly deployed can be the basis for the creation of real black communities in the United States.

Unfortunately for current black communities, their leadership is tainted. Legacy black civil rights organizations that have a leadership class still living in 1968 are still focusing on how best to break into corporate America, or in the case of establishing minority-owned firms, maintaining affirmative action programs that provide set asides from government contracts. To paraphrase Yuval Noah Harari, they do not even have realistic ideas of what the job market looks like in two decades because they cannot see. Black leadership is still nostalgic about the civil rights battles of the 1960s when the focus should be on the resource and capital battles of the 21st century.

One example of a leadership not understanding STEM’s practical use is the lack of solar in the West End. I have yet to see a community solar farm. I see more historic district designations on houses than I see solar panels or wind turbines. Finding low cost energy solutions by pooling more STEM talent into black owned firms is a start. Current legacy black-owned engineering firms should consider investing in new black-owned start-ups that are committed to serving distressed communities. No community should be without its own locally owned energy source and this is one approach toward developing one.

Black America’s one-prong approach to STEM needs an upgrade and new leadership.

America doesn’t have a race problem. Blacks have an expectations problem

Black people expect to be loved. A couple days ago I was standing in a cashier line at a neighborhood grocery. A man ahead of me lamented to the cashier that whites were trickling in to the majority black West End section of Atlanta. He found their perceived behavior toward him and other blacks disturbing. “They look at us as if to say, ‘Why are you here?'” The cashier responded, “Well, they can’t make you move?”

The cashier is right in that blacks cannot be forced to move, but the reality of the economy is that more blacks in West End may have to as Atlanta’s political economy continues to experience demographic shifts. More whites are moving to the Atlanta metropolitan area and the core city can no longer be referred to as “Chocolate City.” It is increasingly mocha, strawberry, and vanilla.

To the gentleman who was line with me, he probably perceives that whites have a distaste for dark chocolate. To some white palates the taste of chocolate is bitter and for many blacks this signals a race problem. If, as a black person, I am not accepted by whites, then there is a national problem with race. I don’t think so. Rather, I argue that white society’s attitude towards blacks is in keeping with their expectations as to how the American political economy is supposed to work. Black expectations as to being accepted and loved holds no water because blacks were never a part of the American political economy’s marketing plan from the beginning.

Citing data from the Federal Reserve, The Washington Post reported last October that one in seven whites in America had a net worth of one million dollars versus one in fifty black Americans enjoying the same status. What is more telling is that the percentage of white households enjoying this status has doubled over the last 25 years while the percentage of black households worth at least a million has remained stagnant during this same period.

I wouldn’t expect many whites to be shocked at this number. They will be the first to tell you that this is a result of hard work and discipline mixed in with a little luck. They and their ancestors took the opportunity provided them in this land to increase their wealth and income. Blacks, they might argue, did not.

And these expectations and attitudes are reinforced by real social networks. Citing research from the Public Religion Research Institute, The Washington Post reported that out of 100 friends, the average white person will have 91 white friends and one black friend. Blacks are a bit more friendlier. Out of 100 friends, 83 are black and eight are white.

Blacks, in my opinion, expect the creed as expressed in either the airy words of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence or Dr Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech to be lived up to, especially in the 21st century where the United States has elected a president of East African descent and descendants of slaves imported from West Africa now have multi-million dollar sport contracts and hundreds of vice-presidents in corporate human resources departments driving a BMW or a Mercedes Benz.

But even with the lofty speeches and the one-zee, two-zees of Black material success, full incorporation into the American political economy has not occurred and won’t because an invitation was never issued to blacks. For whites, race is not a problem not only because they don’t see race as they have done a good job creating an exclusive bubble but because the liquor flowing from the open bar that was promised to them is still flowing their way. The social contract between whites and the American political economy is still being honored.

Blacks should expect no real love ….

A brief history of nation-states and currency

The following brief outline on global trade, world, and U.S. history will help your children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces get through two semesters of a boring college lecture ….

“To celebrate a fiat currency is to celebrate poverty and theft. It is an acknowledgement that nation-states, central banks, merchant banks, and government treasuries were created to launder money.

Original wealth is the result of theft. When property was created, the desire to steal increased. Land means ownership of productive power. To increase your wealth, you stole land and shared some with your cohorts who would then form a moat around you and protect you from commoners and other barbarians.

Trade is a method by which you claim a stake in another tribe’s resources. As trade with peoples outside your tribe and later kingdom increased, there had to be a way to exchange value without giving another tribe direct claim to your land. The solution: issue currency. The more currency you have, the greater claims to wealth you can make.

The first mistake made was assuming that merely producing more coin by digging for more gold would lead to more wealth. The only thing that caused was inflation. Inflation erodes value and spending power and also invites war because other tribes don’t like the idea of their buying power being eroded because you went off, worked South American native inhabitants to death, and shipped home more gold. In order to slow down the erosion, tribes, now countries, created central banks and merchant banks to launder money.

In order to launder money, the king had to seek out new channels for spending and investing gold. He laundered it by issuing debt from his treasury through his central bankers at which time the original holders of wealth i.e. land holding thieves with coin backed by land, could convert gold into bonds. The king also laundered coin by granting charters and investment capital to stock companies, companies that would sail to foreign ports and establish trading posts. They would purchase raw materials and slaves in one port, transfer the raw materials and slaves to another port, and finally transfer finished product to your country. Sales and taxes on those sales would increase your treasury and pay back your bond holders.

In order to further increase your booty, you would use different types of promotions and incentives i.e. freedom to practice religion, freedom from prolonged imprisonment, freedom from a nagging wife, etc., to get more people from various tribes to move to your new colonies voluntarily where they would produce more goods and services and pay taxes, hence increasing your largesse. These colonies, filled with various free and enslaved people who other wise would not give a shit about each other, would become a nation-state, which simply boils down to a forced confederation of people who have little in common and giveth not a shit about each other.

Later on, someone, probably a disgruntled cousin, would get the ridiculous idea to form a democratic government, but even with that tweak in how the oligarchy controls the economy and currency, the model remained intact.

The takeaway. Whether slave or freed person, your being here was a manufactured event based on false premise along with the creation of an artificial country. The nation-state is the result of money laundering.

Happy anniversary, World Wide Web. Now, let’s go back to 1988

On 12 March 1989, Tim Berners-Lee publishes a proposal to link hypertext with transmission control protocol, the basis for the world wide web. On 6 August 1991, he launches the first web page. Prior to his proposal, the internet was pretty much a niche hideout for academics and military researchers. Berners-Lee’s proposal helped introduce ‘democracy’ to the original dark web of interconnected computers.

Democratizing digital information via open network architectures unleashed the digital demons that Mr Berners-Lee would like to see regulated today. We went from a relatively simpler system where Dr James Haywood Rolling Jr could send Dr Marshall Shepherd samples of research that could add artistic flavor to the otherwise drab depiction of weather patterns, to the current system where an 18-year old dressed in psychedelic garb can do the booty clap in front of a smartphone and send the images live from Accra. Using this information, the Digital Daemons, i.e. #Facebook#Google, and #Twitter, can create profiles based on every ‘like’ the booty clapper receives and market services and products to consumers.

Closer inspection of the history of the world wide web and Mr Berners-Lee’s criticism of today’s social media/social network companies exposes a downside of the premise that the Digital Daemons are negatively impacting global connectivity via the internet. Mr Berners-Lee is concerned that the one-half of the planet currently not connected to the internet may be at a disadvantage culturally and economically and that connecting to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that is the world wide web may be the developing world’s salvation.

Ironically, it is that arrogant premise that the world needs to be connected to a single standard that drove European colonial expansion across the globe and spawned a global financial system anchored by the Bank of International Settlements, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund to replace the colonizer when Europe entered its post-World War II decline. Whether he realizes it or not, Mr Berners-Lee’s liberal position on digital connectivity is steeped in the European DNA for conquest.

If Mr Berners-Lee and other progressives are so bloody concerned about the negative impact the Digital Daemons are having on access to and distribution of information, they should push for an internet that existed pre-1989 where communities of value-based information exchangers created their own databases, and protocols and criteria for membership in these groups. Ironically, under that type of scenario, application of net neutrality rules based on Title II of the Communications Act would be valid because the administrators and owners of the databases could more easily be defined as consumers of telecommunications in some type of corporate form.

Sometimes you have to go back to your past to find a solution to a current dilemma. Happy Anniversary, World Wide Web.

Is the Georgia GOP embarking on a coordinated transportation policy or just a airport power grab?

Georgia state senator Burt Jones wants the state of Georgia to take over the operation of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. He has sponsored a resolution that forms a committee to study the feasibility of the State of Georgia taking control of the world’s busiest airport. The rationale for the study and a takeover include the vitality that Hartsfield-Jackson provides to the traveling national and international public; the role the airport plays in the economic development of the state; and the increase in the public welfare, national security, and economic stability such a transfer could bring to Georgians.

I have lived in Atlanta for ten years and like thousands of this city’s residents have flown numerous times from Hartsfield-Jackson International for business and pleasure. Given Atlanta’s role as a headquarters town for a number of Fortune 500 companies, host of a major freight train terminal, a movie making and entertainment hub, and the capital of the largest state east of Mississippi River in terms of land size, I am not surprised that it is a lever in Georgia’s economic growth.

When you combine airport, airline, security, concession, and state and federal activities, Hartsfield-Jackson International plays host to the 63,000 people that make these activities happen. Delta, Georgia’s largest private employer, puts 33,000 people to work statewide and claims an economic impact on the state of $43.5 billion. Hartsfield-Jackson International claims an impact of $34.8 billion on the metro Atlanta economy.

Delta also claims to contribute $200 million a year toward Hartsfield-Jackson International’s operation expenses and that its direct flights out of Atlanta supports $11 billion in foreign direct investment. This foreign direct investment has led to the creation of 42,000 jobs throughout the state.

By law, Mr Jones can make his power grab.  Under the Georgia Constitution, cities have the authority to provide certain services including terminal and docking services such as those provided by an airport. This power is further expressed in state statutes where cities can acquire, construct, maintain, and control airport facilities. The State, however, can enact laws relative to the authority cities have to provide services including, by my reading, airport services.  The General Assembly, by general law, can regulate, restrict, or limit Atlanta’s authority to provide these services. The General Assembly, however, cannot withdraw these powers.

This is where Mr Jones may run into trouble. First, he should explain to the public how the city of Atlanta is failing to meet the State’s public welfare via the way it operates the airport. He should also be made to explain how transferring operations of the airport to the State will increase national security. On the economic front, will State operation of Hartsfield-Jackson International increase the number of employees in Georgia? Will foreign direct investment increase as a result of Georgia taken over operations?

Would Georgia taking control of Hartsfield-Jackson International be constitutional? Under the constitution, Atlanta’s authority to acquire, maintain, and operate an airport cannot be withdrawn. Although the State can regulate and limit this authority, how far can it go in its regulation before it crosses that constitutional line in the sand?

Finally, from the legal to the political, does Mr Jones want to inadvertently escalate tensions between Delta and the State? Delta has already lost a $50 million per year fuel tax exemption because it took a stance on another political issue, the sale of semi-automatic weapons. Is Delta willing to swap out a seemingly amicable working relationship with the city of Atlanta for a potentially hostile working relationship with a landlord that jacked up its rent?

Rather than deal day in and day out with a new and hostile landlord, why wouldn’t Delta exercise its options to move its headquarters elsewhere? It could argue that the State’s takeover was a force de majuere resulting in voiding its 20-year lease agreement. Even if it didn’t move its headquarters wholesale, it could drastically reduce its exposure to Atlanta, including subletting significant number of gates and moving employees to other hubs.

And let’s not forget Amazon who may view Georgia’s political play makers as immature and creating a level of business uncertainty that makes Atlanta and Georgia less welcoming.

Atlanta’s ninety-four percent have no leadership

On the occasions that I ride MARTA, I am always saddened by what I see in the ridership. It is mostly black, overweight, loud, low to middle income in dress and carriage. The body language of the ridership transmits defeat and a lack of control over its resources. Hell. We have no resources.

When blacks engage each other on the train, bus, or the grocery aisles, the conversation tends to center on food prices and domestic turmoil. Social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter have only served to increase the noise, giving a platform for ratchetness in text and in video.

On social media, it seems like blacks are interested in becoming video stars, drinking the Kool-Aid that Atlanta’s “Black Hollywood” narrative transmits. It is not uncommon now to see a bunch of twenty-somethings walking around the West End posing in front of cameras and smartphones shooting videos to be posted on Instagram or Facebook.

But when I visit Peachtree Center I see much less swag and more of “playing it safe, gotta keep this job” demeanor from the few blacks that I see there versus whites and Asians who carry themselves with more confidence likely due to their much greater representation in much higher paying jobs. If Atlanta is the “Black Mecca”, then its tribal chiefs are doing a poor job of representing it.

I say poor job because Atlanta’s black elite have forgotten the basic rule of leadership: you are only as valid as the prosperity of the people around you. Assuming that Atlanta’s black wealth is reflected in national statistics, then blacks are in pretty bad shape. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, 57.6% of blacks own an interest earning account, while 78% of their white counterparts and 78.5% of Asians own such an account. Fifty eight percent of Hispanics own an interest earning account.

Blacks are not as diversified as whites and Asians in terms of participation in the equity markets. Just over six percent of blacks own stock or mutual fund shares, according to U.S. Census data, while 25.2% of whites and 26% of Asians own stocks or mutual funds. Hispanics come in at 5.5% of their population investing directly in stocks or mutual funds.

Blacks have not gotten into the game of owning their federal or local governments’ debt. Three percent of blacks own U.S. government bonds while 0.5% own municipal bonds. Ten percent of whites own U.S. government bonds while three percent of whites own municipal bonds. Other ethnic groups are in the single digits as well when it comes to owning public debt. Four and one-half percent of Asians own U.S. government bonds while just one percent of Asians own municipal bonds. A little over two percent of Hispanics own U.S. government bonds while 0.3% of their population own municipal bonds.

Even with their numerical majority (which is waning with each passing year), black Atlanta couldn’t influence a political outcome without blowing its basic house budget. One is naive about American politics if they believe the vote alone can sustain any level of political power.

Decreased political power is a boat with a big hole in it, rudderless, with a stalling engine and a navigator that cannot read a compass. For 44 years, the Atlanta black political elite have benefited from enjoying a political largess that is increasingly scarce. Rather than dominance, the political elite appears willing to settle on being the minority pivotal vote. Will the Atlanta black political establishment fare well at its future deal maker role and will new pluralities in the future be willing to pay the bribe?


Does Atlanta’s mayor have any influence in the Georgia legislature?

It is still early, but the decision of the Georgia General Assembly to make Delta Air Lines an example of what happens when you enter their gun rights cross-hairs has me puzzled about Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottom’s influence at the Capital. A major economic driver for Atlanta and the state of Georgia sits in her back yard and her public response to the general assembly’s actions have been very cautious. Mayor Bottoms recently said the following to the Atlanta Business Chronicle:

“We are grateful for the partnership we have with Delta. So much of what we do in Atlanta is with the corporate community, including Delta. Atlanta will remain a city that is welcoming, inclusive, and diverse.”

“We value our partnerships and relationships with our corporate partners. We have mutual respect for the positions they take on any number of matters. Anytime there are discussions on issues that are divisive, there are concerns not just in Atlanta, but at the state level.”

“I know that Delta has navigated this before. The City of Atlanta remains open for business, and we remain a committed partner with Delta.”

The Mayor did not issue a press statement on her own website. Her comments to the Atlanta Business Chronicle sounded canned; like messaging that a politician would issue during some social strife involving race or sexual orientation discrimination. In addition, there was nothing in her messaging that tells me that she or her staff went up to the Capital to speak with Lt. Governor Cagle, the architect of the campaign against extending a fuel tax exemption for Delta. The usual language like, “We implored the Lt. Governor to blah, blah, blah…” or, “We are working with our Atlanta delegation to the general assembly to yada, yada, yada …” was not uttered in the interview or anywhere else in public. Even if the Mayor tried to work behind the scenes to head off Mr Cagle’s retaliation, Mrs Bottoms blew an opportunity to create the appropriate political optics.

Mrs Bottoms will need to start working more authoritative optics if she is to survive politically the dawn of a new political era in Atlanta. Changes in Atlanta’s demographics will weaken “The Black Slate” that helped Mrs Bottoms defeat fellow Democrat Mary Norwood last November. Mrs Norwood lost, for the second time, her bid to become Atlanta’s first white mayor since 1974. Mrs Bottoms might not find it easier in 2021 as a city, formerly known as “The Black Mecca” becomes increasing white and beige.

Atlanta’s black population made up 57.4% of the city’s populace in 2000. By 2010, according to U.S. Census data, Blacks made up 54% of the city’s population. The proportion of the city’s non-Hispanic white population increased from 31.3% in 2000 to 33.3% in 2010.  Asians saw their share go from 3.9% in 2000 to 5.1% in 2010.

Anyone doubting the increase in the Latino population need only take a jaunt up Buford Highway to see for themselves. Atlanta’s Latino population share has gone from 7.5% in 2000 to 10.2% in 2010.

And speaking further of optics, Mrs Bottoms looks less in tune with the 12.8% of the Atlanta population that describes itself as gay or bisexual. I suspect a married Black American woman with four children and a husband has a personal philosophy out of touch with the LGBTQ community, where her messages about inclusiveness and diversity may become increasingly vacuous.

Lastly, her calls for affordable housing may find themselves falling on deaf ears. When my son and I moved to Atlanta in 2008, you nary saw a white person in the Fourth Ward unless they were visiting the King Memorial or driving down Boulevard to hang a right on Ponce de Leon on their way to Whole Foods. Blacks were in abundance then, much less so now.

The Fourth Ward has been gentrifying for a decade. One of the first signals was the establishment of an elementary grade level charter school off of Pine Street. The school failed but gentrification is succeeding. More whites have moved into the area. Even the Taco Bell on Ponce has gotten a facelift as a result. Even as city development agencies such as Invest Atlanta divert bond financed funding to support the development of “affordable” residential housing, increased demand for city services and creeping yields on bonds will mean selecting potential home buyers that can afford the interest rates. Except for a few bourgeoisie Blacks, I suspect that most of the people taking advantage of “affordable” housing will be white and Asian.

Mrs Bottoms hasn’t come out swinging. She is acting more like a house sitter than the mayor of a growing city with a significant level of poverty among the Black Slate that elected her. To validate the usefulness of government as a provider of “protective services” and to avoid losing political consumers from the political markets, Mrs Bottoms will have to step up.