Kamala Harris’withdrawal from the presidential race brings reality to the people of color narrative

Ethnicity versus ‘people of color’ …

Last week U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, ended her campaign for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.  Ms. Harris cited insufficient funds necessary for securing victory in the primaries.  I thought Ms. Harris would at least make it to the New Hampshire primary in February, but with reportedly only $10 million on hand, Ms. Harris decided that being the nominee was not in the cards.

The Democrats have been pushing the “people of color” description of candidates this cycle and Ms. Harris was one of its poster faces.  The daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, Ms. Harris put on the cloak of American blackness, marketing her membership in the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and harping her alumni status as a graduate of the historically black Howard University.

For voters outside of black culture Ms. Harris may have appeared to have some advantage with black voters, giving her at least a shot at surpassing former Vice President Joe Biden and winning the South Carolina primary also scheduled for February 2020. But for a significant portion of black American voters, ethnicity still matters.

A lot of blacks don’t like being called ‘people of color’….

I detest the term, ‘people of color.’  It means nothing culturally to many blacks who see the term as just another way to dilute blackness or move blacks further down the political food chain.  The term “physicalizes” the issue of race and ethnicity making black just a color when in actuality American blackness runs far deeper.

To be black in America is to acknowledge and embrace a view of life that celebrates and practices a sense of resiliency in the face of centuries long discriminatory and oppressive acts; acts that reflected a western philosophy that said it was right to turn human beings into chattel and dispose and replace them like any part in a machine.  To be black in America is to be reminded that you navigate a political economy that still doesn’t see you as human.

Like Ms. Harris, I too am Caribbean, born and bred.  While we cannot claim the pain and triumph of being black American, we should instead be honest about our own story and own it.  Co-opting another culture’s story for your own gain is pretty treacherous and this act, I believe, underlay the backlash against Ms. Harris. Ms. Harris was afraid to be herself or at least project her real self.

She may have believed that with the success of another “people of color” favorite, Barack Obama, that she could ride the Obama Coalition to victory.  I am just speculating, but if this was indeed the case, that thought only demonstrated that she was very out of touch. In the almost three years that have passed since Mr Obama left office, his presidency is now viewed by a growing number of blacks as ineffective and valueless where he failed to implement policies with an eye on a black economic and political empowerment agenda.  Ms. Harris, given her questionable past as a prosecutor, was also being viewed that way.

The people of color path to governance is debris filled…

Ms. Harris’ withdrawal represents the beginning of the end of the people of color narrative.  I believe more blacks, particularly those with an eye on changes in global economics and politics and America’s slow but deliberate move toward isolationism, will determine that an ethnic, more independent route to winning more political power is the way to go.  Unlike Ms. Harris, who appears to have never found herself, black America can’t afford to lose itself.

Blacks should start preparing to manage a future electoral clash between whites and Hispanics…

Blacks don’t have the numbers and it will get worse, unless….

Back in August I wrote the following regarding representative democracy’s failure of black people:

“Representative democracy has failed black people in America.  The representatives from the black community in Washington have been converted into agents for their respective party’s leadership, securing the votes needed so that they can pull up a chair at the trough.  Just like social media has turned subscribers to social networks into resource and product for advertisers, the electoral system has turned black voters into lumps of coal with black congressmen acting as the conveyor belt carrying the coal to the primaries and the national elections.”

In addition to this major fail of black leadership and representative democracy will be the further weakening of black political capital as a result of demographics.  According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the portion of the American population identifying as “black” will increase to 13.3% in 2060, barely budging from the 2014 statistic of 13%.  Meanwhile, the population identifying as “Hispanic” will see their percentage of the population increase to 25.5% in 2060 up from 13% in 2014.

The population identifying as “white” will represent 49.4% of the U.S. population in 2060, down from the 2014 figure of 68.8%.

As a voting bloc, I expect that Hispanics will cement their position as the go-to ethnic group that sways at least the popular vote for president. The current “people of color” movement may have run its course by then depending on how much farther the interests of both groups diverge.  Assuming that blacks and Hispanics occupy in 2060 the regions of the country they mostly occupy today, there may not be a demographic clash.  Blacks still mostly occupy the south and southeastern United States while Hispanics mostly occupy Florida, California, Texas, Illinois, and New York.  Two of the states, California and Florida, because of the number of electoral votes they carry, will continue to influence the popular vote and the Electoral College vote.  Hispanics will be in a position to exercise substantial electoral clout.

This clout may come in handy on policy issues such as immigration and trade.  Blacks have expressed animosity to policy that favors immigration because they see immigrants from Latin American countries as competitive cheap labor.  Hispanics see immigration as access to better pay and living conditions while trade benefits Latino populations living on both sides of the southwestern border where there is an opportunity to access and transport more goods and services at affordable prices.

The issue for black political leaders will be how best to manage a political environment, based on a failed representative framework, within which the struggle for public capital will only intensify. One solution may be to go external and manipulate the system from the outside.

Manipulate the equation…Raise the ante….

Yvette Carnell last night described a voting strategy for getting the Democratic Party to take notice of black voters without black voters giving away all of their electoral capital.  The “down ballot” tactic allows black voters to exercise the option of skipping Democratic candidates for president, vice-president, Congress, etc., where those candidates do not offer adequate public policy in exchange for the vote.  Ms. Carnell stresses that blacks should just not show up, but should instead go to the polls and cast a vote on other issues reflected on the ballot with the goal of letting Democrats know that the voter showed up but did not see on the ballot a candidate that presented an adequate black agenda.

Another tactic I would suggest is that blacks skip the primaries and that this practice should start in 2020. Skipping the primaries raises not only uncertainty in both parties, especially the Democratic Party, but would force the parties to pay more attention to black public policy needs and start preparing substantive packages in advance of election so that packages can be put in place soon after an election.

I believe these are the sort of tactics that blacks should implement now in order to strategically position themselves as the price giver versus price takers.

Conclusion: A more active listening public administrator

There is no guarantee 40 years out that black political leaders external to the government will follow the above strategies in the face of changing demographics and political power.  Public administrators should get in the habit of being forward looking, however, as demands of the electorate in the political markets will call for changes in approach to governance.  To stay valid, public administrators have to listen to two constituencies: the elected official that oversees them, and the electorate that at least in theory oversees them both.

 

 

Diversity is a fraud.

As a black person I have grown increasingly suspect over the years of calls for diversity. It is not that I have succumbed to another race’s false sense of superiority over mine. It is because diversity is really nothing but an expression of weakness by blacks in America. It is a rallying cry for inclusion of those blacks who consider themselves the cream of the crop and deserving to be placed ahead of other blacks due to their education and their networks. Diversity is a willingness to shun the need to generate and contribute real economic value settling instead for creating arguments that have at their base the need to make white people feel guilty. Diversity is a feel good political package sold to black voters who stand as much of a chance of breaking glass ceilings as the Atlanta Falcons have at playing in the Super Bowl in next year.

As an expression of weakness, calls for diversity are calls for permission to enter a house you are otherwise unwelcome in. We’ve heard the arguments. “Inclusion is the right thing to do.” “Dr. King died because he believed we are all equal in character.” ” It is immoral to exclude people, etc. etc.” It really boils down to begging to be included, basing arguments on weak moral grounds that can fade away when tough economic times appear and animal spirits rise up to battle for scarce capital and jobs.

Diversity benefits only those who come from a certain pedigree. In the real world, diversity doesn’t get most blacks a full time job with benefits. What gets people work in the real world are skill sets that bring value to an employer’s efforts at output and a network that through his new employee an employer can tap into. This is especially important in an information driven economy where workers are no longer “nodes for manufacturing”, where the emphasis is on an employee’s manufacturing skills, but instead is a “node of information”, where the employee uses technology to gather data that helps his employer make the best resource allocations.

The flip side to this argument is that blacks may not be in the position to be “information nodes” given centuries of being locked out of certain networks. My answer is, tough. After being in North America for 400 years and 153 of those years post slavery, Black Americans have had opportune time to accumulate the educational and work experience to access information, garner the appropriate skills, and build valuable networks. Instead of diversifying ourselves into a system dominated by a racial majority and created for a racial majority, blacks need to offset the negative repercussions of the current system by supplementing the current system with a dose of increased self-reliance.

Earlier I described diversity as a feel good political package designed by a political party dominated by white people and sold by an educated small black elite to the masses of black voters. It is a weak package that is comprised of slight modifications to existing civil rights and labor laws with no meaningful transfer of capital involved. It is empty with the only blacks getting paid being the fraternity and sorority boys and girls who have some mid-level office driving cars that they look good in. Diversity has not translated into a political economy that takes us to a higher form of human engagement, one where the basic needs of all are truly provided for.

Diversity is a fraud.

Bubba, Bonds, and Blacks …

As much as blacks loved Bill Clinton, blacks never applied the most important political lesson Bubba himself learned: He who controls the bond markets, wins. Collective or group politics hasn’t gotten blacks much of anything over the past 50 years, but a collective, focused targeting of the bond markets just might.

Yes, there are a few “here and there” types posting on LinkedIn about how well their panel discussions are going and how many awards they are receiving from some social justice warrior group, but the masses are not winning because most of the cream is staying in the cups on the top.

What Mr Clinton realized back in 1994 was that re-election hinged on a happy bond market. Maintaining an economy with low interest rates meant increases in asset prices leading to higher valued collateral upon which more credit could be issued.

Now imagine if 13% of the American population were able to take a 13% position in the bond market. The potential shock waves that synchronized buying and selling would cause would have policy makers asking that group, “Hey! What do you want?”
Blacks wouldn’t need another “get out and vote drive” ever again. The Montgomery bus boycott would pale in significance.

Unfortunately, the inside the box, plantation mentality of partisan politics, especially as orchestrated by liberals, keeps blacks in “Massa ain’t gave me permission yet” mindset. I am seeing cracks in that narrative, but there is still more work to be done….

“You mean to tell me that the success of the economic program and my re-election hinges on the Federal Reserve and a bunch of fucking bond traders?” — William Jefferson Clinton

“I used to think that if there was reincarnation, I wanted to come back as the president or the pope or as a .400 baseball hitter. But now I would like to come back as the bond market. You can intimidate everybody.” — James Carville

We own our thoughts. They are the last frontier…

A few days ago, a colleague and I had a brief conversation on colonization. How was it that the European was able to take over a large land mass and extract its natural and human resources so brutally and without effective resistance?  My colleague’s answer: “Once your mind is taken over, everything else falls.”

Thought, in my opinion, is the ultimate form of capital.  Every man-made construct around you emanates from it.  In a society so fixated on the physical act, it is easy to overlook the role of thought.  We don’t admit it, but we have relegated thought to the back burner, often times disparagingly.  “Instead of talking, why don’t you do something about it!” “Actions speak louder than words!”  Daphne, after all, caught more eyes than Velma.

The artificial physicality that western man has managed to lay all over significant portions of Earth have served, like Daphne, to distract us from more use of our cognitive or reflective skills.  Technology, innovation, the distraction economy, and ensuing and increased consumerism have eviscerated our capacity to think critically and severely reduced the time to sit down and reflect.

For example, I mentioned the distraction economy.  Social media companies have leveraged technology to extract more of the precious resource of time, contributing to changes in our ability to express ourselves in long form or our inability to pay attention for the extended period of time necessary for critical thinking.  We need more Velma time.

Distractions lay at the heart of colonizing the mind.  While social media has been taking a lot of heat lately for its use as a medium for spreading “fake news”, traditional media shares as much blame for creating narratives designed to sensationalize events and capture attention versus simply educating and creating a forum for outside-the-box thinking.

Protecting our “thought capital” from these growing incursions is especially necessary for blacks in America.  Blacks in America have little in terms of productive capital.  Blacks in America have more “creative capital.”  I won’t go through a laundry list here as to black contribution to the arts and entertainment.  I would like to see more recognition of black contribution to the development of applied sciences and how blacks are using applied sciences to directly impact their communities.

My more important point is that this creative capital cannot be further nurtured and leveraged for black consumption if our main engine, the mind and the thoughts that flow in and through it, are bombarded by distractions. In addition, we should support public policy that protects our intellectual property and artistic works as this “thought capital” becomes more important in a world that grows more dependent on knowledge.

We own our thoughts and should own the residuals that flow from them.  Our thoughts are the last and first frontier.