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.

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 ….

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.

 

A New #Republicanism: Value-based connection between tribes is all the “#diversity” we need

A friend and I were shopping at a farmers’ market in Dekalb County, Georgia yesterday. I enjoy the atmosphere in that market, an atmosphere containing multiple languages and dialects; different ethnic groups and races. The happy-go-lucky liberal would argue that what I saw was an example of people coming together as one to participate freely in commerce as one. To that I would say, bullshit.

What I saw and enjoyed was that multiple ethnic groups could go to that store and find items sold in lanes that catered to a particular culture’s tastes. There was no attempt at fusion, at trying to melt people into one pot for the purpose of creating some “universal multi-chrome of social mush.” Differences were actually respected.

I get the feeling that the left doesn’t get this. Rather than strengthening institutions that support these differences, that create the lanes that say being different is expected, the left argues that we are all “one”; that we are “equal.”  I don’t know what world liberals live in, but I would argue, based on the configuration of that store and the body language of the shoppers, that separate lanes were not only appreciated but demanded.

Saying that I am equal to or the same as a blonde white girl is insulting. The universal multi-chrome of social mush model that espouses this nonsense erases her background and my background from discussion. It ignores the different perspectives from which we view the world. The model dilutes us. As unique people spawned by unique peoples, we owe it to ourselves and our tribes to promote our uniqueness as much as possible, whether through marriage, voting, work, or art.

This runs counter to liberal government, an institution that would rather you stifle your own uniqueness than remain free. Liberals, in order to maintain a nation-state of diverse tribes, need to push a narrative of “diversity” and “equality” in order to maintain the broadest tax base possible. Liberal governments cannot afford tribes splintering off from the collective. Tribes falling for such narratives are the poorest inhabitants of a nation-state and without sufficient capital as a buffer, they are reliant on the false promises of diversity laws and equality policies.

Diversity and equality are poor substitutes for capital and when the marginalized rely on diversity and equality laws that were written by the people with capital, further failure is guaranteed.

Policy that addresses the differences in tribal or ethnic group values and provides infrastructure where different groups can exchange value without given up their uniqueness is the appropriate approach. A true republic would do just that where self-sustaining groups choosing to go their own way would be left alone to thrive without being subject to onerous rules created by people who do not even look like them.

#BlackHistoryMonth: Shit Jesse Jackson, Roland Martin, or Tom Joyner won’t tell you for the next 28 days

In 1619, Africans were brought here as capital inputs for an agricultural industry in a British colony. Over the next 400 years the status of that human capital would be transformed through a civil war fought to transition a country into a nation-state; an economic reconstruction period where said agricultural society would become an industrial society; a civil rights period where the industrial society would begin its transition into an information society.

During this period, descendants of African slaves brought to America would inherit and practice the politics of appeasement and inclusiveness hoping that a narrative of diversity would serve as a preamble for full incorporation into a society that never valued them for anything more than physical labor and entertainment.

As we approach the 400th anniversary of their enslavement in what is now known as the United States, descendants of African slaves brought to America have to ask themselves how and why their narrative of appeasement, inclusiveness, diversity, and social justice was co-opted by every other ethnic or sub-culture group and how these groups have been able to leap ahead of blacks in terms of employment and capital ownership.
America and the globe is entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution. When will blacks, those descendants of African slaves brought to America, begin their first real revolution?