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.

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.

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?

 

Kilmonger 1 T’Challa 0 #BlackPanther

“The black elite around the globe should be afraid. That is one of my takeaways from “The Black Panther”, a Marvel movie that when examined closely went beyond anything else so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The MCU, rebooted by the first installment of “Iron Man” has been expressing a political narrative that was heightened as recently as “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” But “The Black Panther” has taken the politics to a global level as expressed by a final conflict between two men who, without their fathers, find themselves rudderless in a political torrent.

I will start with the anti-elite, anti-hero, Kilmonger. Kilmonger represents the 90% of the African Diaspora that is resource-less. He sees an elite that does not want to or maybe does not know how to distribute the gains from the precious little resources the Diaspora has.

While the educated continue to delude themselves that they are doing well in America, for example, they tend to ignore the poverty that they drive through every day to jobs that have more than a glass ceiling as a barrier to break. They see a disproportionate number of black entrepreneurs forced to go solo after the glass ceiling crashes on them only to face further discrimination from bankers who refuse to throw the lifeline of business credit their way.

In addition, they are increasingly disconnected from the continent that spawned their ancestors, a continent, while rich in resources, still faces challenges extracting and processing those resources and turning them into output.

And while Africa itself is emerging, its growth, like that of America and the West, is driven by credit and IMF/World Bank aid. The poor, who are bearing the undue suffering of this economic and social model have no effective leadership. Like Kilmonger, they are rudderless.

T’Challa, whose character has been getting, in my opinion, too much premature love from the celebrating daishiki wearers that attacked the box office last weekend, represents an elite that believe they have arrived because they live in gated communities and have generated income from monopolizing the little precious resources that the Diaspora has. They are increasingly out of touch, using technology to create, much like the Wakandans, a moat around themselves.

Kilmonger’s father died while Kilmonger was still in his youth. There was no father to help guide him toward being the leader that could effectively create a narrative of Diaspora-wide self sustainability. He had to teach himself by leaving the confines of Oakland and traveling the globe training himself to be a warrior. Unfortunately, his message came from an emotional place, from a place of anger toward a family that had betrayed him. His energy was poorly channeled, again, because there was no father to guide him. For this reason, Kilmonger was the wrong man for the right message.

T’Challa was weak. This weakness led to him crafting a half-assed policy of outreach based on an equally half-assed narrative of “diversity.” Telling the world that Wakanda would step out of its isolation and show the world how to live as “one human tribe” is basically the same policy that led to and keeps the African Diaspora in check. Africans who war with each other are too distracted to lead any globe toward one-world bliss. And history shows what happens when Africa lets it guard down. The colonizers find a way to institute their old playbook of domination.

Cinematically, this movie outdoes every other Marvel movie. The movie has its own unique texture driven by the infusion of various African cultures and the human element of the story. It is the only time I felt tears welling up during a Marvel film as the story not only reminded me of my challenges from losing my father at 26, but displayed the challenges each man had to endure as they reconciled the lack of a father’s guidance in a world that tears their immediate, tribal, and global families apart.

Overall, a great movie, but not for the reasons the daishiki wearers expected.

#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?