unfortunate election of Donald J. Trump to the Presidency of the
United States speaks volumes about the limits of African American
involvement in the political system. Don’t get me wrong. I was
born and will live and die a political junkie, obsessed with the
minutiae of politics. Actually, I’m a recovering politician;
having run for office, got my butt beat, and flirted with the
possibility of doing it again for years. Politics is about making the
rules of distribution, of deciding how laws determine who gets what,
when, where and why. Politics importantly ensures that those who make
the rules are favorably disposed toward justice and fairness.
allows resistance when those elected don’t follow the lead of
and politics are closely aligned. Economics also determines who gets
what, when, where and why. So-called free markets determine the flows
of economic distribution, but politics often regulates the way that
these so-called free markets work. I say that these markets are
“so-called” free because we know that politicians distort
markets to their liking. During a recession, for example, politicians
agree that bankers need a tight rein on them that they can’t
simply exploit for the purpose of earning predatory profits. After a
recession, some politicians
might loosen the rein on bankers and decide to let predatory markets
Americans have righteously focused on politics and the political
system, especially during the early days of the civil rights
movement, when the fight for the right to vote was a priority. People
like Fannie Lou Hamer were beaten within inches of their lives
because they were determined to vote. Medgar Evers was killed because
he was organizing voters. We had a focus on laws. Dr. Martin Luther
King once said, “The law will not make you love me, but it will
keep you from lynching me.” And so we focus on the laws and on
Trump election reminds us of the limitations of politics, and the
need to focus on the economic aspects of our lives. Political
involvement is necessary, but not sufficient for Black progress.
Every single economic indicator shows African American people
lagging. Not much has changed since Dr. King said, in 1967, “Of
the good things in life, the Negro has approximately one half those
of whites. Of the bad things of life, he has twice those of whites.
Thus, half of all Negroes live in substandard housing. And Negroes
have half the income of whites. When we view the negative experiences
of life, the Negro has a double share. There are twice as many
rate of infant mortality among Negroes is double that of whites and
there are twice as many
Negroes dying in Vietnam as whites in proportion to their size in the
numbers have changed some, but the bottom line is that African
Americans are not full
equal participants in our economy.
do we fix that? How do African Americans flex our full economic
muscles? How do we reward those corporations that support equality,
and punish, through selective buying and boycotts, those who oppose
freedom and equal opportunity? How do we stomp with the big dogs like
the Koch brothers who buy politicians with the same ease that some of
us buy potato chips? Do we even stand a chance?
think that we have to spend as much time and place as much emphasis
on economics as on politics. I think we have to be clear that poverty
is a profit opportunity for some corporations. Attorney General Jeff
Sessions has already reversed the Obama executive order that would
stop the use of private prisons for federal incarceration. But these
private prisons are machines of predatory capitalism, and now that
Sessions has approved their use, their stocks are soaring. So we have
to ask ourselves if our pension funds, mutual funds, or other
financial instruments invest in corporations like Corecivic (formerly
Corrections Corporation of America, $CXW) and the Geo Group ($GEO).
Can we push our investors to withdraw investment from these funds? Or
will we be willing, in the name of predatory capitalism, to profit
from this chicanery?
from Ava DuVernay’s film 13th, we are reminded of the others
who profit from the prison industrial complex, including those who
provide meals (Aramark is one of those companies) and phone calls.
How much discomfort do they impose on our incarcerated brothers and
sisters to make a profit?
make rules, but money talks when the nonsense walks. We need to spend
as much time focusing on economics as on politics. We need to follow
the money when we see oppression. And we need to be clear that the
clearest path to Black liberation is that path that focuses on