It’s not about suppressing black votes, Mr Booker. It’s about cutting off the Democratic Party’s meal ticket

Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, today raised an issue concerning Steve Bannon’s attempts to target black voters during the November 2016 elections. In testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Cambridge Analytica’s former director of research testified that Steve Bannon, former assistant to President Donald J Trump, sought to use data harvested by Cambridge Analytica as part of a campaign to discourage blacks from voting. Mr Booker wants us to ignore the possibility that more blacks are turning away from his party.

The reason for the butthurt over Mr Bannon’s alleged targeting of blacks has nothing to do with black voter suffrage per se. Mr Booker’s issue is that if Mr Bannon or others like him are successful in steering blacks either away from the polls or worse yet to other candidates, then the Democratic Party would be in serious trouble.

According to data compiled by BlackDemographics.com, a significant portion of the black population is affiliated with the Democratic Party. In 2012, 76% of the black population were affiliated with the Democratic Party, either calling themselves Democrats or aligning with Democratic principles or values. You would have to go back to 1968 to see the affiliation percentage exceed 90% (93%).

As for the percentage of blacks who vote for the Democratic candidate, between 1936 and 2012 that percentage was equal to or greater than 90% on four occasions; in the years 1964, 2000, 2008, and 2012. There are a couple data points that may be concerning Mr Booker and his colleagues. While a couple data points do not make a trend, they should be something to keep one’s eye on.

Back in 2000, seven percent of the black population affiliated themselves with the Republican Party. By 2004, that percentage more than doubled to 15%. A priori, that jump may have had to do with the U.S. involvement in a two-front war in the Middle East and George W. Bush’s ability to sell the U.S. on his ability to prosecute the war. Also, Mr Bush attempted to stimulate the economy during the 2001 to 2003 period via tax cuts and the one-time issue of checks to households.

By 2008, however, the portion of the black populace affiliated with the Republican Party fell to four percent, but the portion of blacks affiliated with “independent” climbed to 20%. Apparently, more blacks wanted to hedge against the probability of being on the losing side of history. Vote for the first black president without moving into the Democratic playpen. By 2012, black Republicans went back home with 16% of the black population affiliating with the Republicans.

What may be underlying these numbers is a change of heart and direction on the part of younger blacks when it comes to the Democratic Party. According to NPR, black voter turnout fell from 66.6% of blacks in 2012 to 59.6% of blacks in 2016. Over four million black voters stayed home and according to the NPR report part of the reason is that a growing number of blacks no longer believe they have a home in the Democratic Party. Blacks may no longer see voting as the best way to change their economic or social plight as the population still sees unemployment rates higher than whites and neighborhoods that are run down and facing abandonment.

No, Mr Booker. It appears that something more substantive is going on to turn away blacks from the poll other than a sponsored ad running on the right-hand side of a person’s Facebook page.

Donald Glover: Art needs a deliverable

Donald Glover’s “This is America” video has Americans analyzing every aspect of the four-minute presentation. Sometimes we think the picture or film is all the deliverable that we need. Believing this creates the risk that the conversation, the questions begin and end with the picture itself. It shouldn’t, but that is what I am gathering from all the commentary regarding Mr Glover’s production.

For example, members of the daily show “The View” focused on how the production challenged America’s views on black people and violence committed against young people in the community. The interpretations flowed with commenters recognizing references to the South Carolina church shooting to black on black crime, to the relationship blacks have with the police. These realities have been documented many times before in a number of mediums. Art has been able to convey the pain and horror of violent acts carried out on black people.  As a political statement or political thought, the video was lacking. Why? Because, like all other forms of art broaching the subject of the prism of violence through which America sees the Diaspora, the video will not result in a call for action, a moving of the needle.

Which authority should this appeal be made to? Most people would say white America and the government that it dominates. White America has higher household wealth, controls almost all private capital, and dominates the nation’s elected national, state, and local offices. Given its capacity of power, white America and the government it dominates has a duty to address and provide redress of the wrongs depicted in the presentation.

Is this a good enough reason to hold white America as the authority that can answer the call to action? Would we have gone far enough in identifying the ultimate authority for redress? In response to this question I can hear others arguing that the ultimate authority is the individual. As individuals are we taking the precautions to physically defend ourselves (assuming a legal framework that allows us to do so)? To go our way? To carve out a niche where we reduce contact with negative elements that threaten us?

The art provided no answers which left its meaning flat, one dimensional. In the end, useless.

In the political marketplace, Heath Ledger’s Joker meets the black voter

18 July 2008. That is the date most movie audiences got the chance to see, in my opinion, one of the finest performances in cinema. That day, “The Dark Knight” was released. It starred the late Heath Ledger as the iconic villain, “Joker.” The movie, released after Mr Ledger’s death, would garner him the Academy Award the following year. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen the movie over the past ten years. I always found the anarchy narrative intriguing. Joker’s appeal that we were supposed to live in a world without rules sits well with me. There is something else that I have noticed about the character. Joker lives in the past and is quick to let anyone within earshot, or his knife blade, know about his scars.

‘You wanna know how I got these scars?’ The interrogative served as a preamble to Joker taking a victim’s life. It also let the audience know they were going to take a trip down memory lane, into a past filled with pain and suffering. His physical scars, if one listens closely, were emblematic of the emotional scarring he suffered from childhood into his adult life. Authority had not only failed him but had also taken its anger out on him.  As a result, it appeared that Joker decided to go it alone, engaging only in temporary alliances, and discarding them when a job was done.

Joker’s preoccupation with the past reminds me of the preoccupation black American voters have with their historical and political past.  When you listen to a prominent black political leader, you are tempted to pull out your smartphone and check the calendar to verify whether the year is 2018 or 1968.  White Americans probably feel like the character, Michael Jai White’s character, “Gambol”, listening to black politicians and civil rights leaders wax on about past injustices before the knife blade stained with talk of reparations, income and wealth inequality, police brutality, and the never experienced (on both sides) trauma of slavery is slashed across their political necks.

White America in general and the conservative Republican Party in particular do not have political philosophies that require they labor in the pains of the past. In addition, the GOP still hold on to the narrative of less government intervention and more of the Ronald Reagan “up by your bootstraps” approach to solving household financial and economic issues.

Blacks would argue that the GOP would like to take America back to 1958 and the era of Jim Crow segregation, but again, given that the GOP has no past pains to ponder on, they and black American voters will fail to connect because their frequencies are different.

And I don’t see the GOP tuning in to black America past pain anytime soon. They don’t have to in order to get votes. Their lack of effective outreach over numerous past election cycles to black voters is evidence that I won’t be seeing any national or even state GOP candidates in Atlanta’s 30310 zip code.

Besides, if the GOP needs to leverage the pain narrative for votes, all they have to do is focus on the current dilemma facing white men. Although the economy has recovered, white working age men in rural areas are feeling the impact of long term unemployment and lower wages. They have turned to opioids as a coping mechanism. I don’t see the Democratic Party reaching out to this group meaning an opportunity for Republicans to dust off the plate and take a few swings for the bases this fall.

And what would Joker advise? He would probably say try a little aggressive expansion, dump the rules, and go your own way.

Abandoning the philosophy of inclusion

Inclusion as a social or public policy goal is a decrepit substitute that favors blacks that already have university educations or networks to the white majority. As political philosophy it transmits a false signal that the best way to construct and manage society in the United States is to ensure that all citizens, no matter their lineage or creed, are integrated into the American social fabric and that this integration will trickle down into economic opportunities and infrastructure that transports and connects commercial activities.

Many in the black populace take the position that government is some guarantor of equal treatment and that government is needed to enforce equity and justice. But is that government’s prime mission or are attempts at enforcing equity, justice, and equality merely ancillary to a more basic objective: the day-to-day maintenance of a tax and customs jurisdiction that calls for effective management of the jurisdiction’s human occupants.

The inclusion narrative may be just that, a doggy bone that keeps blacks at bay so that the conduits of commerce are protected from attack. The last 55 years have seen the doggy bone effectively tossed at blacks in the form of civil rights legislation, an increased number of political appointments, and greater access to government jobs. The black middle class saw improvements in its income status between the mid-1960s into the mid-1980s, but for decades this collective has been facing increased competition from other marginalized groups, i.e., gays, women, Latinos, Asians.

There are only so many inclusion slots to go around which means continued entry requires compliance with rules and standards of entry that remain in flux, making entry more difficult and the cost of entry higher in price.  The pursuit of inclusion also keeps blacks in “begging mode”, using every opportunity to ask government agencies and large corporations to throw another doggie bone or two toward the black community.

Unfortunately, these doggie bone requests are made by the black elite on behalf of their black elite partners. Last month I watched a congressional hearing where a leading black congressman asked the CEO of a social media company what efforts were being made to add more blacks to the board of directors of his company. The CEO gave the standard canned response, that they were looking diligently for the opportunities within which to plug any potential black directors. I was not phased by the answer. I expected it. I was more phased by audacity to ask the question, one seemingly unrelated to the topic of the hearing. But that is what happens when a group is in constant begging mode. It can’t see beyond the short term.

In addition, the average black person doesn’t have the credentials to sit on a corporate board of directors. The average black person, with real wealth hovering close to zero, is balancing the day-to-day needs of family and does not have the experience, education, or time to sit on a corporate board of directors. This is not the average black person’s definition of inclusion.

The black elite understand that their constituents are a different breed of barbarian at the gate. They leverage the past pain of slavery (a pain no living black has endured but it makes good theater) and the pain of job and housing discrimination into a narrative that says dependence on government and more inclusion in society should do the trick.

But this narrative has done nothing for blacks. It requires coming back to the trough every two years and threatening political parties to appease a narrative of weakness in exchange for votes.

Sorry, Don Lemon. You are the one that does not know any history….

Commentary

If someone asks you to focus on an open door and all you do is focus on the cells of a former prison, your physical slavery has converted to a mental and emotional one.and your slavery is continuing. From the time the Portuguese entered the slave trade in the 1440s, all the slavery narrative did was evolve to the point where people get wrapped up in their emotions, take things the wrong way, and allow the bandwagon to feed off of their mental slavery. That kind of weakness is indeed …. a choice.

Fifty years after MLK’s death, the civil rights movement has become a revenue stream for event planners

I don’t know if it is still done, but I remember watching some movie filmed in black and white where in one scene there was an attractive white girl walking around with a box strapped in front of her containing cigarette cartons. She would use her voice, smile, and good looks to charm the men in the room into buying a cancer stick or two. From a consumer perspective this type of traction creation for marketing and selling product is standard operation.  I see it when good looking women are pictured on magazine covers laying on the top of race cars. I see it at conferences when the best looking bartenders are placed behind the cash bar. I see it when a pretty face women is placed at the receptionist desk of an office or at the registration table of an event.

An event planner realizes that her staff responsible for connecting with clients must be able to create a level of trust and comfort such that the client pays attention to what the event’s sponsors are selling. The sponsors want event planners to weave the sponsors’ products into an event’s theme creating exposure of the product’s benefits to the prospective consumer. The greater the exposure to the product, the greater the likelihood of a sale in the short or immediate term.

In politics, political messages are the products pushed through partisan politics channels. Those messages ask tax payers to vote for a particular candidate or support some policy. Today’s post Martin Luther King civil rights movement has become an event planning channel for partisan messages from the left. Some of the “event planners” are familiar to some of you: the NAACP, the National Urban League, the National Action Network, the National Rainbow Coalition. Others have emerged over the past decade such as Color of Change and Black Lives Matter. Their business model is simple. Led by a bunch of college educated black elites, they invite people from the black masses to participate in forums, panel discussions, parades, etc., where they can discuss issues impacting the “black community.” During these forums they intertwine the messages of the progressive left and then close with calls to action, including during an election season, a call for blacks to vote for liberals.

During Dr King’s time, civil rights leaders exchanged information and inspiration in their church meetings. Other than planting a bug in a church (I wouldn’t be surprised if the FBI did this often), you couldn’t “hack” these meetings unless you convinced civil rights leaders that it was important for you, especially as a non-white, to attend. Contrary to the images you saw on “Mississippi Burning”, of helpless blacks dependent on the white man to get him through, black Americans were very resourceful in addressing and pressing their grievances on their own.

Today they have been convinced that a “go it alone” approach is not feasible. By relying less on their own resources, blacks have opened themselves up the carpet bagging of liberals who have sold them on a new corporate model where the black civil rights movement is underwritten by the Democratic Party and other progressive groups. There is a price to pay for the underwriting. The price is a dilution of message.

Now civil rights has extended to groups that quite frankly don’t need civil rights attention or protection: white women, other ethnic groups, and the LGBTQ communities. Black Americans have been pushed so far down to the bottom of the civil rights ladder that they are a fossilized movement, compressed by the weight of all the other communities that have managed to get ahead of them that today, just like the fossils of dead dinosaurs and mammals, they are fueling the civil and human rights campaigns of everyone else.

Martin Luther King’s death removed any last viability of a movement that was moving its focus toward economic empowerment. The movement opted to go the route of political empowerment, falling for its glamour and surface glitz. That power has traditionally been urban based, but as whites return to core cities and old black neighborhoods gentrify, that power is quickly eroding. Fifty years after his death, all the black civil rights movement may have going for it is putting another event on a calendar.

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.