You know, everybody looks down their noses at poor Black people. They fault them for their own poverty, suffering and even deaths. They "lie, cheat and steal," both the smug well-to-do whites and suburban upper class Blacks say about the poor. They, of course, feel themselves every bit superior to "those people." If they hear about the mass of Black youth now gone off [or going] to prison, if Black people are homeless and living in the streets, or if they are slain by a racist cop, then good enough for them! "They deserve it" say the Black bourgeoisie, "they are incorrigible" say the white politicians, or they "sell drugs" say the Uncle Tom preachers. To all these folks, the cops are "just doing their jobs" to stop crime and keep them safe in their middle class enclaves. They feel that "tough policing" is the way that you have to handle poor folks. "Come and get 'em, boss!"
Black TV commentator and conservative spokesperson Tony Brown even says that the Black upper class has "no responsibility" for the plight of the urban poor and Black working people, and that we "cannot save them."
He also says it is "useless" to fight racism, that Black people should be working on Black economic empowerment [most likely provided by his "Buy Freedom" investment plan]. He further says, [as do many Black and white conservatives] that two-thirds of Blacks living in America are now in the middle class, living comfortable lives "much better than our parents ever did."
But think about this: today's Black middle class is really equivalent to the lower or middle levels of the traditional white working class of the 1960s. I mean, just check it out: A Black man with a college degree still makes only 75% of the salary of a white male high school or trade school graduate, and Black women only make 50-60% of that. Hey, some middle class Black folks are now so poor or severely experiencing the economic downturn due to the capitalist economy that they may actually be back living with their parents! After all, we are living through some seriously hard times, which even affects the lower and middle Black middle classes, along with the Black poor.
In fact, if any of the folks in the lower middle class lose their weekly paycheck, they will likely find themselves in the same place Black poor folks are: the sidewalk. People are barely making a sustainable income off what in an previous economic period would be a decent middle class income. Even $50,000 does not go very far these days for a family of four [!].
Because of the transformation of the capitalist economy and more poverty, we have to rethink many of these economic issues instead of just accepting Tony Brown's, the white conservatives', or the government's own arguments as to who is in the Black middle class and therefore "doing good." Brown claims that Black people have "hundreds of millions of dollars" coming through our hands each week, and that all we have to do is save it and use it for his "Buy Freedom" plan. He chastises us for "blowing the money", which could be used for racial uplift.
Well, most Black people don't have any disposable income. It goes for rent or mortgage, food or clothing, or other expenses to survive in a modern society. Most people are not "living large," certainly not enough where they have money to contribute to Tony Brown's [or anybody else's] flawed "vision." The thing about Black capitalism [and capitalism generally] is that it uses myths, lies, scapegoating, confusion, and even our own racial loyalty to scam us and pick our pockets.
Like the old 19th century Black leader, Booker T. Washington, Brown claims that we don't have to engage in grassroots political struggle against racism or the capitalist system. He and other Black capitalist pitch-men in this period seem to feel that if we all just work to get rich, then we will *automatically* get respect from the white power structure and thus end racism, [and by extension, poverty itself]. It's not going to happen that way.
The answer is not Black capitalist entrepreneuralism. We will not get free by "buying into" [or out of] the capitalist system, no matter how many times Tony Brown or some other capitalist scam artist says it. But unfortunately, until this system completely caves in or we wake up and take action to eliminate this corrupt system, many Black folks will be fooled by the idea that we can become capitalists ourselves to employ one another or trade among ourselves as a viable "Black market," and thus buy our way free of this system. But it ain't happening. It defies the laws of economics, politics, and even common sense. It's opportunism and demagoguery for people like Tony Brown to stand up and say this just to get our money. We are going to have to *fight* this white system, and nothing will change that. There is no easy way out.
But then I believe that Black radicals have to start to speak up against such nonsense, when we know it misleads the masses of our people, and provide an alternative, a transitional program for *survival pending social revolution.* I will begin to do that in my next series of columns. I hope it will spark discussion like these articles on Black capitalism have done. More important is that I hope it will start more grassroots organizing in the hood.