News Report, Starla Muhammad, Charlene Muhammad for PQ Monthly in collaboration with New America Media
Editor’s Note: To read BLACK LIVES MATTER PART 1: A YEAR OF ANGER, ACTIVISM AND ACTION printed in PQ Monthly’s January/February 2016 edition, please click here. While reading this it is important to note the following statistics from Part 1: “Black people were more likely to be killed by America’s largest city police departments: Police departments disproportionately killed Black people, who were 41 percent of victims despite being only 20 percent of the population living in these cities. Forty-one of the 60 police departments disproportionately killed Black people relative to the population of Black people in their jurisdiction. Fourteen police departments killed Black people exclusively in 2015, 100 percent of the people they killed were Black. For only five police departments were 100 percent of those killed White,” according to a Mapping Police Violence report on police killings in 2015. Police killed at least 1,152 people in the United States from January 1-December 15, 2015, said the report.
During his year-end Dec. 18 press conference, President Barack Obama told reporters steady, persistent work over the past few years is “paying off for the American people in big, tangible ways.” He touted unemployment falling to five percent and growing wages as examples of progress.
But for many Blacks on the economic front, 2015 continued to remain relatively stagnant.
According to mid-December data released by the Economic Policy Institute, the unemployment rate for Blacks was still on average twice that of Whites, regardless of educational achievement. From December 2014 through November 2015 the unemployment rate for Black college graduates was 4.1 percent compared to 2.4 percent for Whites. The disparity between those with less than a high school diploma was, even more, telling, with Blacks having an unemployment rate of 16.6 percent compared to 6.9 percent for Whites.
According to the EPI data, “persistent disparities in unemployment are constant reminders of how race continues to have an undue influence on life in this country.”
The optimism many people, especially Black Americans had when Mr. Obama first took office has waned. When asked what changes or expectations folks can expect during the president’s last year in office, economist Dr. Julianne Malveaux was blunt.
“I think we should expect pretty much what we’ve been getting and again, people will have mixed feelings and ambivalence about this president and his legacy. His legacy is that he’s the first Black president, his legacy is that he did healthcare,” said Dr. Malveaux referring to the Affordable Care Act.
“I’m not so sure what else I would consider a part of his legacy. Again I would ask questions, has the material conditions of Black people in particular changed? And unfortunately, the answer would have to be pretty much no,” she continued.
“Now he did get us out of the recession and that means that everybody is better off. But have any of the gaps, the wealth gaps, income gaps, the unemployment gaps, have they narrowed? And the answer is no,” said Dr. Malveaux. However, it must be pointed out, she explained, that Mr. Obama had to deal with a very hostile Congress vehemently opposed to everything he tried to accomplish.
As he heads into his final year as president, Mr. Obama could utilize his power of Executive Order to help Black people, the noted author and president emerita of Bennett College for Women told The Final Call. It could be used to set up an investigative arm to examine and study the issue of reparations for Black descendants of slaves as laid out by H.R. 40 introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) in 1997. It has never made it out of committee with some members of the Congressional Black Caucus even not supporting it.
“This president has the opportunity to do something. It’s mild but it might get us started in a direction of a conversation that we need to have about wealth gaps. I don’t expect that to happen, but what I have seen in this last year, there have been flashes of boldness from the president that we had not seen before,” she said.
But as Mr. Obama’s term winds down, the message of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has resonated with many White voters who feel their place at the top is being usurped. His racially coded language has not stopped thousands of mostly Whites who fill venues to hear his message.
“There is a fear that White people are being left behind, and soon will be vanquished, or put into the third or fourth sphere where they have been used for the past few hundred years of running the world,” said Khari Enaharo, author of “Race Code War, The Power of Words, Images And Symbols on The Black Psyche.”
The widespread violence at the hands of police is like a clarion call to White race warriors, he added. “All police are not White Supremacists, but there are White Supremacists who will disguise themselves as police, and they will engage in racial injustice,” Mr. Enaharo told The Final Call. The clarion call sounds like, “Let’s take our country back,” “We’ve got to stop these savages, we got to stop these monsters,” and politicians are stoking that fear, he said.
“What they have done is created a whole industry where they have criminalized through racial codes, symbols through racial code words, through racially coded images. They have criminalized an entire race of people,” he added.
The killings have purposefully shifted people’s focus from thousands of things they should but don’t pay any attention to, Mr. Enaharo said.
“That means we don’t have to deal with HIV-AIDS anymore. We don’t have health problems. We don’t have an economic problem. … That is by design to get our attention off of the things that are being done to us and we are not paying attention to this war, this racial war that is being waged in education, economics, sex and sports. Everywhere we look we are racially wiped out and we aren’t paying attention to it,” said the author.
Several efforts aimed at self-determination and action, including “Buy Black” campaigns, calls to support Latino, Native American, and Indigenous businesses and withholding dollars from huge multi-billion dollar corporations took root this year in response to injustices and a call to redistribute the pain.
Cecile Johnson, the CEO and founder of the African Development Plan, a solutions-oriented collaborative that looks at the needs of Black communities on a local, national and international level, said this year marked an increased awareness globally on what Black Americans have been faced with hundreds of years.
For the first time, said Ms. Johnson, there seems to be more willingness by Black people to work across religious and ideological lines and build coalitions. The elders are helping behind the scenes but an intergenerational healing and atonement need to take place and youth must continue moving forward, said Ms. Johnson, who holds a master’s degree in Inner City Studies Education. Black people have a right to self-determination and human rights which include the right to education, culture, and life, she said.
Moving forward Black people can continue doing things to invest in their collective future, including harnessing $1.2 trillion in spending power they have, she said.
“There’s things that we can do, churches, mosques, synagogues that are all Black, put your money in a Black bank. That only takes 15 minutes and now you’re beginning to invest in us, that’s one step,” said Ms. Johnson. Black faith-based institutions must be actively engaged and working in the community by investing in businesses, establishing mentoring programs and other services, she continued.
“I see a political climate and us pushing a Black agenda, pushing political empowerment, pushing self-determination as a way to begin waking Black people up. So I see 2016 as a year that people are going to have to get woke up,” said Ms. Johnson.