Date: Feature Week of
IT’S NOT THE VOTE; IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID!
Drop Your Bucks and Ballots Where You Are
Many Blacks are “blending it” in ways anemic to African-American empowerment. Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice are examples of “mainstream thinking” that has produced national dissing of affirmative action programs, continued invisibility of African American oriented issues and helped maintain silence on America’s most contentious issue.
The media tells us that Powell and Rice are the nation’s two most influential African Americans, and most blacks fall into the media’s trap. Corporate media is the means by which we construct our views of the world, behavior, and identities. Those who uncritically follow establishment media dictates tend to "mainstream" themselves, conforming to dominant values and behavior. They allow ruling codes and political ideologies produce more and more blacks with “mainstream group think” identities ala Powell/Rice.
Sub cultural groups and individuals have the option to resist dominant forms of culture and identity, but like Powell and Rice; many African Americans are buying into “the mainstream,” while national figures typically regarded as “promoting black rights” are fading into the background.
For example, protest activist and media-designated “racial rabble-rouser,” Rev. Al Sharpton, is the only presidential candidate who made direct racial appeals to black voters in the Washington, D.C., and South Carolina primaries. He based his candidacy on the premise he could, and would, win the South Carolina Democratic primary exclusively with black votes. Blacks make up about 40 percent of the South Carolina Democratic voters, but Sharpton didn’t get endorsements of top black-elected officials, nor Democratic organizations, and came in a distant third behind Sen. John Edwards and Sen. John Kerry in second-place. The top two split the bulk of the black vote; and Sharpton has yet to get 50 percent of black votes anywhere.
Sharpton doesn’t fit the mold of a Colin Powell, but deserves some credit for attempting to prod mainstream Democrats to do and say more on race and poverty issues. Mainstream America pretends to be concerned with the problems of African Americans. They pretend that in this society everything is fair, no one is racist, and castigate anyone questioning the status quo. Actually, buying into the mainstream is curbing African American empowerment. Economically, blacks go outside their neighborhoods and cultures for everything, except being born, going to church and being buried.
Those who chide blacks to “stay home” in identity and subculture like Black Nationalists; look and act differently from those in the mainstream. They are given oppositional identities, such as that of Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan. Farrakhan made a speech at the University of Houston in which he called for African Americans to support black-owned businesses. Mainstream mediums label his call for this type of activism “racist”. Powell, Rice, et al, echo this labeling, but the truth is: the mostly-African American Third Ward community neighboring the university does need attention directed to increase the number of black-owned businesses to strengthen the economics of the neighborhood.
Black Americans communities will be better if we deposited our bucks and ballots there. In blacks’ pockets and purses is the power to turn African American communities around. Just by acts of targeted spending, blacks could generate jobs, visibility and power we’ve never had. Power populations know that strong local economies make stronger communities. Representing their respective constituencies, both Powell and Farrakhan agree that the way local economies thrive is for those who live in them to be able to earn money locally, and to spend it with local businesspeople whenever possible. When an inordinate amount of services and goods are purchased outside the area, a financial imbalance occurs and local wealth is lost.
Black people need to realize that Mainstream America won’t be shipping gold to pave streets in Urban America anytime soon. Isn’t it time to reconsider the “mainstream thinking” that causes African Americans to “blend in” at the expense of applying basic free market and democratic principles toward themselves? If we stay home we can create greater opportunities for Black Americans’ political and economic empowerment. Only when African Americans come to an enlighten posture of self-empowerment can we figure out better ways to leverage our votes and dollars.
© 2000-2003 William Reed - www.BlackPressInternational.com