by Dr Boyce Watkins
In the years I’ve spent as a public scholar, I’ve seen a few things change in the world: We got our first black president, black people became increasingly connected, and millions of us woke up to the depths of racial injustice in America. In fact, my middle class, highly-educated friends who used to attack me for speaking out on matters of race now brag to their other friends that they know me.
This trajectory didn’t surprise me, since Cornel West also had a period of time where his views were seen to be so radical that he wasn’t even invited to speak at some HBCUs. The fact is that black people have been afraid of ourselves and each other for a very long time, and the Internet has allowed us to help each other understand that we’re not ignorant monsters.
One other thing I’ve had a chance to do is sit in on meetings where people discuss “The Black Agenda.” In case you don’t recall, The Black Agenda is this mysterious, yet simple concept that many of us believe to not exist. In fact, a lack of an agenda has been consistently used as one of the excuses given for a lack of action on the part of the Obama Administration when it came to helping solve key problems within the African American community.
But here’s a newsflash: The black agenda has always existed, and it’s really not that complicated. The truth is that the agenda wasn’t seen by those in the highest ranks of politics because they never invited people like Dr Claud Anderson to the White House to explain it to them. Instead, they chose to repeatedly call on pseudo-leaders like Al Sharpton, who doesn’t know economics nearly as well as he understands how to keep a soft, shiny perm. Along with Sharpton were a series of “yes” men and women, and those who cared more about taking photo ops with the Obamas than actually fighting for what is right.
There is a reason that some believed black people had no agenda. It is always easy to fall into the narrative that black people are so ignorant, so disorganized, and so shiftless that we didn’t take the time to get 3 or 4 smart people together to create a plan that might take 30 minutes to put on paper. In the words of my daughter, “GTFOH.”
At the top of The Black Agenda lie mass incarceration, horrible educational systems, urban violence and black unemployment. All have been addressed on this blog in a variety of ways, but for today, I’ll focus on just one: Black Unemployment.
African Americans, especially black men, are consistently the most unemployed group of people in America. We have been expected to applaud unemployment levels that would have white people rioting in the streets. Black youth in many urban areas have an easier time getting a gun than finding a job, and no one cares. No one is ever going to care. Hillary Clinton doesn’t care, and neither does Trump.
One lie that is consistently told to black people is that the solution to the black unemployment problem is for white people to change their hiring policies and give us more jobs. While it’s tempting to believe that white people care enough about you to solve your economic problems, the fact is that additional employment of black people by a white supremacist system is nothing more than a huge economic death trap.
If we send millions more black people to work for their oppressors, this will only increase the stress, frustration, depression and anger that many of us already feel everyday. You get to spend more time watching your promotions go to the white guy down the hall. You get to continue to be underpaid, under-employed and under appreciated. This is NOT a viable long-term solution to black employment problems, but what is sad is that this is the only issue that has been discussed extensively in the White House and beyond.
The solution to the black unemployment problem is for black people to learn how to create jobs. Creating jobs requires a commitment to the spirit of ownership, entrepreneurship and other factors which lead to the creation of viable black economies. If we teach our children to build black, invest black and hire black, then we can follow up with the rest of us buying black, meaning that the black people being hired by black companies will be the first in line to buy products from companies built in their own communities.
We must also make entrepreneurship an essential part of the education of every black child in America. Not a few days of study, but an entire year of learning and execution. These essential economic survival skills in a capitalist society would save them years of pain, disappointment, anger and frustration. It would also give them the ability to build the world as they would LIKE for it to be, not as the white man TOLD them it had to be.
If we were to commit to ensuring that every black child in America spends at least one year learning the fundamentals of how to start a business, we would virtually eradicate black unemployment within one generation. The truth is that we don’t actually need every child to learn to build a business, we only need 10 – 20%. These economic leaders would then be the ones who create the infrastructure necessary to hire millions of others whose parents didn’t take the time to teach them how to create a job.
I hate to say this to you black people, but it’s true: Nobody gives a damn about you. The United Nations has agreed that you’re owed reparations, but white people won’t vote to give them to you. You have study after study stating that the police are murdering your sons, but the police still come into your communities with their guns aimed at your children. The world has seen the devastation of mass incarceration, but they are still locking up black fathers, brothers and husbands like cattle. The slaughter won’t stop until we stop it. The best way to fight back is through economics.
By supporting initiatives and programs that lead to independent black development, we can make our community stronger in the next generation. But if we simply sit around and wait for Superman, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.
Let’s teach our children to be leaders, owners, investors and builders. Then watch them take over this game completely. This has been done in many countries around the world and we can do it too. All we have to do is believe that we can do it.