The money: Why Republicans, Democrats, and political action committees ignore black voters …

Strategic Communications

A couple days ago, a 63-year-old black woman called into director/producer Tariq Nasheed’s show suggesting that blacks take a crowd-funding approach to reparations specifically and black political empowerment in general. 

The caller suggested that blacks, rather than waiting on reparations, start a crowd-funding project that raises five dollars from each person in the 40 million plus black community.  The caller also took issue with the term, “white supremacy”.  She argued that she did not see whites as superior and using that phrase only furthered that incorrect perception.  Rather, she believed that the phrase “white domination” was reflective of the actual power dynamic and relationship between American blacks and whites.

Mr Nasheed and a significant number of his YouTube followers hastily discounted her suggestions due to her religiosity and status as an older baby boomer. They also further discredited her idea on account of the very small amount of money (thirteen dollars) garnered by her crowd-funding attempts. Mr Nasheed and a significant number of his supporters also took issue with the caller’s argument that white dominance was a better assessment of the power relationship between blacks and whites than white supremacy.  He argued that she was splitting hairs on semantics and that the reality of the political and social environment is one where whites are calling the shots making the use of the phrase “white supremacy” an appropriate one.

I usually do not leave comments on YouTube videos but felt compelled in this case.  This is what I wrote:

 “Domination” and “supremacy” are not the same. To dominate is an action; to rule or control by superior power. To be supreme is a place; a position of high rank or power. You use a tactic, domination to achieve a strategic position, which is supremacy. The distinction goes way beyond semantics. If you believe whites are “supreme”, then getting them out of that position entails anticipating and directly attacking their tactics for domination. Acknowledging the differences between “supremacy” and “domination” will help to refine your tactics.

From a strategic communications view, the narrative that whites are superior or supreme only engenders apathy amongst blacks.  Sitting in a position of resignation is not where you want to be strategically.  You only set yourself up for further abuse due to sitting in someone else’s narrative.

Blacks can’t afford to be naïve as to where they sit in the power dynamic.  Realizing that no one should be held to sit in a position that is “superior” to them is one thing, but taking the appropriate actions to mitigate positioning is another.  Blacks should be taking practical actions to influence political behavior to their benefit.  The caller’s investment approach is one such pragmatic action.

Investing in influence is a major tactic in the political industry.  You can’t influence the vote or any policy without funding action.  This is the language that the Democrats, Republicans, and political action committees recognize and are receptive to.  Blacks have yet to come to terms with this reality.  While blacks are very good at using social and traditional media to share the “pain and suffering” and “white supremacy” narrative, blacks are deficient when it comes to funding the necessary tactics that make a dent in influence.

Blacks rather be led by media entrepreneurs hawking product versus approaching the political industry for what it is: a political venture capital system that seeks out candidates that can provide the highest political returns.  Priming that system requires making an investment.

 Alton Drew

22 May 2022    

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Where Black political leadership failed on Ukraine …

Angus Roxburgh recently wrote an honest and insightful piece for The Guardian about how Western nations can bring about a quicker end to the conflict in Eastern Europe. Mr Roxburgh recommends that all interests of each stakeholder be taken into account in order to reach a resolution.  In the article he states the following:

“To get Putin to the negotiating table at all, everything would have to be up for discussion – including Ukraine’s borders, Russia’s age-old security concerns, perhaps even the very logic of basing today’s international frontiers in that part of Europe on what were internal borders in the USSR, drawn up by communist leaders precisely to prevent Soviet republics and regions from being viable independent states. The outcome of the talks does not need to be predetermined. The important thing is to talk rather than fight.”  

I agree with his assessment.  Americans in general and Black Americans in particular have begun and ended their analysis of the conflict with the mantra of Russia’s “unprovoked” attack on Ukraine.  In the world of geopolitics, I doubt there is such a thing as “unprovoked.”  Most Americans, for example, fail to incorporate into their conclusion that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was unprovoked when history demonstrates that United States’ aggression in the Pacific, particularly the restriction of access by Japan to oil supplies, was enough to rile up the Japanese to embark on a plan to push the United States out of the Pacific.  Japan’s attack was not unprovoked. It was a responsive measure.

A similar argument can be made by Russia.  For decades they have been apprehensive about the West, particularly the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s encroachment on then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics now Russia’s borders.  The fall of the USSR and NATO’s influence on Eastern Europe has been enough to give Vladimir Putin a few nightmares.  I could make the argument that Mr Putin’s 2022 invasion was also a preemptive strike much like Japan’s preventive strike in 1945.

To make this kind of analysis requires stepping outside of the flashing disco ball and looking at all sides of the issue, especially if the issue has some sort of ramifications economically.  Stepping outside of the issue in order to account for as many factors as possible aids in strategic positioning.  For the black community, applying this rule puts it in a position to garner more tangibles from trading in the political markets.

For example, black political leadership has fallen in lock step with the media and political narrative that the Ukrainians are Luke Skywalker and Russia is represented by the evil Darth Vader.  Black leadership never took on the burden of educating the black community on the factors and environment that turned Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader.  The overnight conversion of a group of Americans, who on 23 February 2022, couldn’t find Ukraine on a map, into flag waving Ukraine supporters on 24 February 2022 is near stunning. 

Black leadership apparently did what it did best: exchanged aggregated black support for a few political campaign finance crumbs from the leadership of the Democratic and Republican parties. 

True black political leadership would have leveraged black community political and demographic clout on a peace campaign.  Imagine black elected leadership getting 20 million blacks to write their representatives and the leadership of NATO expressing their displeasure with military action; recommending and urging a peace settlement; threatening their own domestic and foreign economic embargo as a response to unfair treatment of blacks in Ukraine; and not participating in the 2022 or 2024 U.S. elections if their demands were not met? 

This kind of leadership could have cemented American blacks not only as a domestic political force but as a player on the world stage.

This kind of leadership calls for vision.  Unfortunately, the black community’s current leadership does not have this kind of vision…  

Alton Drew

3 May 2022

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To counter gentrification, blacks should consider taking on an immigrant mindset …

Commentary

Most Blacks do not know what an American is.  For most Blacks, being an American is a gift that they were born into.  The irony is every day Blacks have to restate their claim to the illusive gifts under the Christmas tree.  In May 2020 the fight was illustrated in protest events sparked by the murder of a Black man, George Floyd, by Minneapolis police.  That a former athlete with some college education under his belt along with eight prior convictions would be a martyr for a social justice cause is not surprising if you look at it from a 30,000-foot level.  Every cause has its Crispus Attucks; the fall guy who comes along at the right time to serve as a lightning rod for some hidden agenda.

And in the case of George Floyd, that hidden agenda, though discoverable with a little thought, boiled down to developing a campaign to buy votes based on the death of a black man.  I have been part of “strategic communications” campaigns before and I can tell you that behind the green curtain there is always a wizard working the levers and pulleys of the show presented on stage.  And the wizard never looks like me.

I was reminded of this fact one afternoon during the summer of 2020 while out with a friend for coffee.  We decided to stay and observe a protest march along Piedmont Street in Midtown Atlanta.  The protest appeared driven by members of the Black Lives Matter movement.  The non-surprising irony was that a slight but obvious majority of the participants were white.  To the untrained narrative finder, this would have been written off as a bunch of white college kids who wanted to make a difference by adding their voices to those of their black brethren and sistren. The gag.

The reality is that what we were observing was an occupation and re-administration of black political space; a colonization of black political thought with the ultimate goal to co-opt a black issue and roll it into another agenda in exchange for unfulfilled promises.  We have seen this before on smaller and larger and brutal scales.

Any action you see on the part of a co-opting party is manifested thought; a vision carried out.  The action generated from the thought of a co-opting party is not reactive.  It does not stem from emotion.  It is a tactical play stemming from well thought out, tried and true strategy.  It is political gentrification of the mind.

Let’s go back to what an American is before fleshing out political gentrification.  To understand what an American is, we need to understand what America is. In my opinion, the best description of what America is can be found in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson & Graham, Lessee v. McIntosh, (1823).  These excerpts made an impression me:

“On the discovery of this immense continent, the great nations of Europe were eager to appropriate to themselves so much of it as they could respectively acquire. Its vast extent offered an ample field to the ambition and enterprise of all, and the character and religion of its inhabitants afforded an apology for considering them as a people over whom the superior genius of Europe might claim an ascendency. The potentates of the old world found no difficulty in convincing themselves that they made ample compensation to the inhabitants of the new by bestowing on them civilization and Christianity in exchange for unlimited independence. But as they were all in pursuit of nearly the same object, it was necessary, in order to avoid conflicting settlements and consequent war with each other, to establish a principle which all should acknowledge as the law by which the right of acquisition, which they all asserted should be regulated as between themselves. This principle was that discovery gave title to the government by whose subjects or by whose authority it was made against all other European governments, which title might be consummated by possession.”

“No one of the powers of Europe gave its full assent to this principle more unequivocally than England. The documents upon this subject are ample and complete. So early as the year 1496, her monarch granted a commission to the Cabots to discover countries then unknown to Christian people and to take possession of them in the name of the King of England. Two years afterwards, Cabot proceeded on this voyage and discovered the continent of North America, along which he sailed as far south as Virginia. To this discovery the English trace their title.”

“The United States, then, has unequivocally acceded to that great and broad rule by which its civilized inhabitants now hold this country. They hold and assert in themselves the title by which it was acquired. They maintain, as all others have maintained, that discovery gave an exclusive right to extinguish the Indian title of occupancy either by purchase or by conquest, and gave also a right to such a degree of sovereignty as the circumstances of the people would allow them to exercise.”

My three takeaways from these and other descriptions of the history of acquisition on the North American continent were, first, America is a vision.  America was a vision where the opportunity to increase wealth was to be had, whether on the part of a merchant seeking new goods, a peasant seeking to own his own land, or a monarch seeking to increase his treasury with more taxes.  European monarchs, merchants, explorers, and peasants had a vision of this new realm in mind, one that matched with their world view and value system, a system based on dividing up the natural world into time, property, and wealth. 

Second, unlike the Native American tribes that negotiated land transfers as a group, the European view toward property transfer was based on individual property rights; the right of the individual or a group of consenting individuals to negotiate on their own behalf.  Individualism, not communitarianism or collectivism, and the freedom to express individualism through the acquisition and disposal of personal property, is at the base of what allegedly makes America.

Last, nowhere to be found in the European vision for America was there any reference to “black” or African philosophy.  Did King James I of England convey any views on the New World in terms of the African perception of time, personhood, or space?  Of course not.  This was a European venture.

There was no African at the side of John Cabot in 1497 egging on the Italian-born explorer of America’s Atlantic coast to view a person as a person through another person.  This communitarian method of assessing world views was not a part of Caboto’s creed.

No African was whispering in the ear of George Calvert, 1st Baron of Baltimore, that he should apply a complimentary method for creating a philosophy that sees all variables impacting all other variables in reality.  To be American, you need to be a descendant of the country’s vision creators.  Blacks are not such descendants.  Black Africans did not view the world through a philosophy that spawned a vision of America.  Blacks are not American.

Alton Drew

02.16.2022

Watching “X-Men: Days of Future Past” through the civil rights movement’s civil war …

I have heard some commenters refer to Stan Lee’s “X-Men” as a treatment of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.  I have never taken to the comparison of black people to “mutants.”  While I acknowledge that Mr Lee may have had a noble cause in starting a discussion on equality, diversity, and the inclusion of different cultures, ethnicities, and creeds into the American melting pot, but to be likened to a plant or animal with inheritable characteristics that differ from those of the parents, leads to questions such as, “Did Mr Lee and the good people at Marvel take a look at the definition?” “Who exactly are the parents that blacks differ from?” “Should we get rid of our inherited and unique characteristics in order to be equal?”

I won’t harp on the above questions too much because for the average movie goer the bandwidth may not be available for considering such social questions beyond the need just to get away and watch an exciting movie for a couple hours.  On the other hand, anyone who has read the comics as a kid or has delved deeply into the Marvel Cinematic Universe tends not to be too put off by the social observations.  Besides, lasting imagery and coming away from each viewing having observed different angles on the characters or the message are characteristics that push a movie toward the classic realm.

I hadn’t seen “X-Men: Days of Future Past in a couple years so revisiting it tonight on the FX channel gave me a chance to go a little deeper into the messaging.  The story was set in two time periods: in 1973 with the central event being the Paris peace talks to bring the Vietnam war to an end; and fifty years later where mutants are brought to the brink of extinction by an army of mechanical sentinels.  The X-Men must reach back telepathically to the past to stop an event that that, if left unchecked, will contribute to the start of the global war on mutants.

Three principal characters stood out such that they caused me to unpack the possible civil rights connection.  “Charles Xavier”, played by Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy; “Erik Lensherr”, played by Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender; and “Raven Darkholme”, played by Jennifer Lawrence.  Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr are trying to prevent Raven Darkholme from killing the man who would eventually create the sentinels responsible for near annihilation of mutants.  Raven represented to me the militant arm of the civil rights movement, an arm led by leaders such as Stokely Carmichael, Huey Newton, and Bobby Seale.  Raven, at one point during the story, expresses to Charles her anger and disappointment stemming from his apparent abandonment of his fellow mutants particularly during the period of crisis where mutants were facing an existential threat. This anger and disappointment was also expressed by the more militant arm of the civil rights movement where they saw the non-violent, peace first approach of leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King as ineffective.

I saw Charles as representing the more moderate arm of the civil rights movement.  He did not see violence as the way to forge any peace with non-mutants but did not display to me any naivete of kumbaya and hand holding with non-mutants.  Charles’ preferable approach was to connect all mutants and teach them how to see themselves as great individuals.  While it could be easy to liken him to a Dr. King, Charles’ realism kept him slightly to the right of Dr. King.

Erik was the separatist. And yes, the civil rights movement did have separatists most notably Malcolm X.  Erik’s degree of pragmatism altered with changes in the facts on the ground.  He would have gladly took up arms against non-mutants, but if Raven’s assassination attempt today meant extinction of mutants tomorrow, then neutralizing Raven in the short term in order to secure a separate but strong mutant nation in the long run was the logical play.

This to me has always been the beauty of the science fiction/fantasy genre.  It provides an alternative backdrop for taking a look at ourselves.  The “X-Men” movie franchise has been able to paint that canvas by using the time machine and taking us back to the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, using events from those decades to provide us with teachable insights.  Using mutants as an analogy for race is not perfect.  As I discussed earlier I don’t particularly care for it and I would digress a bit and say I don’t care for the term “race” either, but in this specific space it works.

There is no such thing as economic equality

“Who is creating equal. I’m trying to find the equation.” — Louie Bagz

Byron Allen, a black billionaire media business owner, appeared on Fox Business News today sharing his insights on economic equality.  Economic equality has been one of the major topics during the last five or six weeks since the death of George Floyd last May.  At first glance, you could argue that Mr Floyd’s death had nothing to do with economics and that the media’s highlighting of the plight of black people in the American economy is another angle to either drive up ratings by keeping the story hot or to keep the American public distracted from other undercurrents.  Frankly I think it’s a bit of both.  Conflating an economic argument with an act of horrific brutality gives Emmy and Pulitzer chasing journalists something more to talk about.

On the flip side, you can make an argument that Mr Floyd’s death was related to economics based on an economic decision he made that tragically led to his death.  Mr Floyd was trying to make a purchase with a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill.  Somewhere in his decision matrix he concluded that his optimal currency for use in exchange for some other good or service was a dollar bill not recognized as legal tender in the United States.

But currency connotes more than just money in circulation.  The amount of currency one is in possession of transmits a message about the value that an individual brings to market.  Is this individual willing and able to pay for goods and services that I have in my inventory such that I am willing and able to supply such goods and services?  In Mr Floyd’s case that value, at that moment in time, may have been zero.  But did that necessarily mean he was not economically equal to the merchant he wanted to trade with or anyone else for that matter?  I would argue no for the simple reason that there is no such thing as economic equality.

Let’s first define “economic.”  Economic, which is derived from “economy”, entails the management of income and production.  To be economic is to derive and apply certain rules regarding the management of resources in order to achieve some targeted income or production goal.  An economy is a system of rules or decision-making matrices that determine how wealth and income are to be distributed and how production is to be managed.

“Equality” is to do or to make something equal.  Two or more items are said to be equal when they are of the same quantity, size, or value.  Two or more individuals may be considered equal where they have the same abilities, rights, or rank.  But can Mr Floyd’s decision-making matrix be equal to mine?  Would his approach to deciding between producing more bread versus producing more wine equally reflect mine? For the simple reason that no two people are alike I would conclude that economic equality does not exist because no two economic decision-making systems for income, output, and wealth are alike or can be alike.

Can we find economic equality on a macro or national level?  Specifically, can we find economic equality between Anglo-Americans and Afro-Americans?  Again, just like on the individual level, you won’t find the non-existent.  Anglo-Americans, as a collective, follow the rules of income, wealth, and production as determined by a minority made up of political, banking, and religious elites for the benefit of the masses to the extent sharing those benefits with the masses protects the interests of the elite.  After acquiring by force land, minerals, and waterways, Anglo-Americans were able to apply technology and free labor to build an economy and refine a political economy that applied rules of wealth distribution for its people.

Afro-Americans were not at the table when the rules of acquisition and distribution were made.  You cannot enjoy economic equality when you were never the author of the economy’s rules.

But even if Afro-Americans had garnered a sufficient amount of land and other resources such that they could design their own economy, would there be “economic equality”?  I would argue no because differences in lineage, history, environment, and values, to name a few characteristics, would likely create a decision matrix different to those of Anglo-America.  Even if per capita production and quality of goods and services were on par, I would argue that because of the difference in decision rules, both economies would not be equal.

And would it necessarily be a bad thing if both groups were not economically equal where each group decided via its own standards how best to distribute income and wealth?