Friday, September 3, 2010

I'm Afraid. . .

Andre Bouey is program assistant for the Catalyst Program at Plainfield South High School. Catalyst works with at-risk youth to facilitate change in behaviors.

First of all, what I am about to write is going to be pretty deep. Some of the topics that I am going to address might offend some people, and for that I would like to say that I am sorry off the bat. I am not trying to make people mad, or even stir people up. These are things that I have been thinking about for a while – so much that I needed to write it down for my own good. Hopefully you, as the reader, could offer me some insight on my thoughts. Maybe I have it all wrong, maybe I have it all right; either way, if you feel the need to comment, give your honest opinion. I will push back on your thoughts... only because I feel so strongly about the topic. If we so happen to disagree, please know that I will not be upset or mad. I will respect all opinions no matter how you feel.

I'm speaking from the point of view of an Afro-American male, 26 years old, born in raised in the Midwest of the United States of America. I am afraid....

I am afraid that our focus has been dramatically shifted from success as a culture to be comfortable as a culture. I look at the battles that we have fought over the last ten years. We have the battle of electing a black president. A battle of affirmative action. Burying the "N" word. The equal housing battle. Equal schooling for our kids. Most importantly, the battle of being "REAL" and "acting black" despite our surroundings. Some we have won, some we are still fighting.

I love the ideal of a black president. I personally think he is doing a good job, going against the popular opinion that he is not. I saw all the energy that we put into supporting Obama to get elected to the highest office in the land. When it happened, I saw many people cry. I saw his T-shirts. I saw people running around as if we won some sort of battle. I'm afraid we didn't win anything.

My next example is affirmative action. If they would just give us a chance to get equal schools, equal jobs, live in better hoods, everything would be good. The definition of a minority can be Asian (South or Southeast), Native America, or any woman. Those groups have just as much of a right to jobs as any African American. Yet we focus so much of our attention on affirmative action as if it only affects black people.

Affirmative action has helped people. Yet at the end of the day, how do you employ more people? I have come up with an answer, and it's pretty simple. Ownership.... Ownership is the key to wealth. Ownership gives you the power of influence. Hell, it even controls our government (look at the bailouts!). It comes down to what do we own, and how much money we control due to ownership. Look at our nation’s CEOs.... Look at the owners of NBA teams. Owners of NFL teams. Owners of media corporations. If you own something, you dictate how things are run. You control information. Most importantly, you control who you employ.

Affirmative action is only a small step towards ownership... it is not the end towards our independence. Once you own, you control the flow of income. If you control the flow of income, you can put money in areas that are important to you, like the area your kids go to school in or your neighborhoods you live in. My problem with affirmative action and Al Sharpton protests in the streets is that we are asking for something to be done. If you own... you don't have to ask. You make things happen because you now have the independence and power to do it your way on your terms, not on anyone else's clock.

Our battles for the black community are not for ownership on a large scale. It's for renting and managing. We love to rent and manage. We rent jobs, housing, cars, from "owners." We also manage for "owners." Salaries have increased, opportunities have opened up, but at the end of the day, we are working for "owners" and using the money that we are making to give right back to the same owners we are working for. Barack in office is cool, but Barack on Wall Street or as CEO is better. The symbol is not as powerful, but the impact is greater.

We are being taught wrong. The battle is for wealth and power. Not taking it all for ourselves, but for equaling the playing field. Instead, we are fighting to rent or for our self-esteem (i.e., who can say the "N" word)! I'm saying that if you own more, we become the landlords. Our self-esteem automatically becomes something too important for people because they respect our power.


Maurerguy said...

Power and ownership are fundamental. Now the question becomes -- what do you mean by power and ownership?

If you mean ownership in the sense of owning economic entities, it's important that you understand you live in a country where, while white people have about 10 times as much capital as African-Americans on average, all that means is they own a house and a little savings.

A tiny sliver of the white population actually owns --owns banks, factories, major retail chains, transportation and energy systems, etc.

For any substantial part of the population to really own, that ownership has to be broken up.

That could mean socialism, reparations, cooperatives, trustbusting -- call it what you want. Whatever it is , it's mainly a political process. Electing an African-American president is not immediately relevant, but it's a small step in showing political power for African-Americans and their white allies (I am one of those, I think.)

One thing to remember is that African-Americans are the only group that has significantly changed the economic ownership structure of this country in the past. They did this by taking away billions of dollars of property from the slaveowners (with the help of the Union Army) -- their own bodies.

After that, organized African-Americans reshaped the whole concept of rights in this country -- not only to their benefit, but to the benefit of women, people with disabilities, other people of color, and now sexual minorities.

There were geniuses along the way -- Douglass, Randolph, Rustin, Ella Baker -- but all this was done, in the end, by the political intelligence and persistence of ordinary African-Americans, "treading [their] path through the blood of the slaughtered." Pessimism is not in order, in my opinion, though sadness at the pain of the past and the pain still to come is.

Andre said...

In terms of my writing.... I would say that I was referring to ownership of economic entities. You are right on so many levels. A tiny part of the population actually owns in our world. However, because of WHO owns what, it decides on how the rest of US is going to live. If you own the bank, you decides on who gets to loan from it. If you own the gym, you decides who plays in the gym. If you own energy, you get to decide who gets and uses the energy. Since by nature we look out for who is like us, that means the "owners" can "hook-up" white, christian, males, who are heterosexual. White people need to understand they get privilege by their skin color, just like I get privilege by being a male and heterosexual.

You are right on another point. That ownership needs to be broken up. What I disagree with is that reparations a.k.a. "asking for the piece of the pie" is going to get us there. Do you think "owners" want to give up their ownership? Look at what it took for blacks just to use the same bathroom as whites! I'm not going to hold my breath on any owner giving us useful wealth. You know what, I don't blame them. If black and white people switched spots, we wouldn't act any different. People are selfish regardless on what color they are.

They freed our bodies, but we have yet to free our minds. We first need to become owners of our minds before we can move anywhere. White people can't do this for us, only we can. This means a change in thinking from "the white man holds us down...i am a victim" model to "life is not fair, but we can still be successful" model. Like Lance Armstrong did to win the biggest bike race in the world with cancer. Thank you for being an ally! Also thank you for your comments!