Month: February 2018

omorosa

Omorosa is right — it’s not going to be okay. The reality star made that declaration recently on the show Big Brother when commenting on the Trump and Pence administration. Trump and Pence are menacing figures but for those of us who live in black neighborhoods there are threats much closer to home. We worry about vacant lots neglected by the city. Often we are disproportionately targeted by speed cameras, disproportionately ticketed for riding our bikes or not removing snow from our sidewalks (I literally just heard this story on the radio today, in Chicago). Before Trump and Pence can get to us we are in the crosshairs and many of our black politicians are complicit. It’s not going to be okay.

I eat at a black owned cafe two blocks from my home most days. Recently I saw a city employee eating there and I struck up a conversation with him. I raised my concerns about land usage policy in the neighborhood and how black neighborhoods were in effect being devalued as a result. I was hoping our local, black elected officials could help but he quickly told me I was wasting my time. “They all had to kiss the ring downtown to get on so they’re apart of it. They aren’t going to do anything about it,” was his forthright assessment. The black politicians elected to defend black taxpayers in cities are ultimately, in many cases, not loyal to black constituents but white political bosses and fundraisers.

Black people died for the right to vote because they believed voting would help secure liberty and safety, among other things. What they could not have foreseen was our day — a day in which political institutions and campaign financing barriers render any “democratically elected” public servant unresponsive to public opinion. This reality is not only salient to black people. Indeed, Congress recently passed a tax bill that most of the country did not support — white folks, that is. For his service in passing the wildly unpopular bill, Paul Ryan was handed a $500,000 check from Charles Koch. Koch’s interests trumped (no pun intended) that of Ryan’s constituents. One would have to think that the reality for black Americans is that much worse. Daily we are confronted with challenges and crises in our own cities and the hope of political change is slim, so long as our leaders — even those with black faces — do not truly belong to us.

It’s not going to be okay. Not unless we, on a local level, begin to buy our own politicians. Seriously. Forget “hope and change” and start collecting some loose change. Maybe your block can’t afford to purchase a mayor but you could collectively raise enough money to run a candidate and put up a hell of a fight in a city council race. That city councilperson can’t change the country’s tax code but they could get city agencies to be more responsive to your block’s needs. They could, at least, start looking into the placement of speed cameras in our neighborhoods. They can do much more, if funded by the community, than anyone else bought by another.

There are a few PACs (political action committees) founded by and for black people. BlackPac is one such example. The Collective PAC specifically seeks to fund black candidates. But we need not wait for a “super PAC” to come save us. Perhaps we can simply begin by identifying the smallest office locally that could, if occupied by the right individual, contribute to a better quality of life in our neighborhood. From there we can identify someone we trust to run for that office and absolutely get behind them. We can get our neighbors involved, put in money collectively and help raise a bit more. Start small but grow tall. It won’t be okay unless we make it so.

netflix

This black man will not be participating in anymore boycotts until further notice. Every other week there is a call for boycott because some company did something racist or treated a black celebrity less than they desire (what’s up, Monique). But I’m not interested in boycotting H&M so that they will become more culturally sensitive in their public dealings. I don’t care to skip House of Cards in order to secure bigger paydays for a select number of celebrities. If you are asking me to boycott anything with the end result being black people — collectively — are no more wealthy or powerful than before I inconvenienced myself for the cause, count me out.

If black people boycott Netflix en masse until the company offers comedian Mo’Nique $30 million for a standup special, she will be $30 million richer. Netflix — already worth over $100 billion — will be further enriched because of  her celebrity and talent. None of those outcomes will change the fact that black unemployment is still double that of whites. KweliTV, a black owned streaming service, is actively seeking to pay black filmmakers and curate content for black audiences. Boycotting Netflix for the sake of Mo’Nique will not help KweliTV fulfill its mission and in doing so, ensure Mo’Nique and other black entertainers will not face discrimination because of their color. If you are asking me and millions of black people to boycott Netflix so one black celebrity can get a check, I’m simply not interested.

Dr. King asked masses of black people to boycott white companies the night before he died. Coca-Cola and several other companies were called by name. King wanted black people in Memphis to boycott those companies because the very serious grievances of black city workers had gone unaddressed. Further, the city of Memphis had ignored many other problems specific to the black community. Rather than continue to beg the city of Memphis to do justly, King reasoned that Coca-Cola, Sealtest Dairy and other companies could be so damaged by a boycott that they would carry the grievances of black people to local government. King also insisted that a boycott should build up black institutions. He called on his audience to pull their money from white banks and deposit into black owned banks and insurance companies. King’s boycott sounds hopelessly distant from the boycotts of today.

Some boycotts have more merit than others. I thought it fitting that we boycott the NFL, if for no other reason than their blackballing of Colin Kaepernick — he stood up for us and it was right that we stood for him (in a perfect world we would start our own league with the wealth of black talent we have but that’s a discussion for another day). If the purpose of boycotting Dove or H&M was to force them into polishing their marketing strategies so that we as black people would felt better about making them rich, I have better things to do. Merit can vary and so we should use King’s proposed boycott as a measuring stick. Does the proposed boycott substantively change conditions for many black people? Does it help build black institutions such that black people will no longer have to deal with racists? Think long and hard before you call for another boycott.