Integrating Into a Burning House: Fifty Years of Destruction
Martin Luther King Jr. talking to Harry Belafonte: “I said, ‘What’s the matter, Martin? You seem very agitated.’ He said, ‘Well, I am, because I’ve come upon a thought that I don’t know how to deal with at this moment.’ I said, ‘Well, what is it?’ He said, ‘We’ve fought long for integration. It looks like we’re gonna get it. I think we’ll get the laws,” he says. “But I’m afraid that I’ve come upon something that I don’t know quite what to do with. I’m afraid that we’re integrating into a burning house.’”
I still get goose bumps every time I read that statement or I see interviews of Dr. King during his last days as he expresses the sentiments he shared with Harry Belafonte on that day. For twelve long years, Dr. King had fought for a cause that he believed in so passionately that he offered himself up to be jailed more than 110 times, bitten by police dogs, sprayed with water hoses and beaten. He would eventually pay the ultimate price for his passion, but what he died for was something much different than what he had fought for so long.
The Burning House Analogy
When Dr. King spoke about the enigma that had him so perplexed, he made it analogous to a burning house. He identified this enigma as integration. As he began to examine the dynamics of integration and how it would literally rob blacks of their most powerful asset — economic autonomy — he began to adjust his perspective. He began to understand that acceptance came with no power, influence or mobility. He became keenly cognizant of the fact that having the right to vote without the economic power to underwrite the agenda of blacks in America was simply an attempt to cash a check written by America from an account that had insufficient funds.
What made Dr. King so perplexed was the fact that the integration that he had fought so hard for would actually be the destructive mechanism that would serve to systematically destroy blacks through the dissipation of their economic fluidity. The burning house is essentially the natural progression of integrating a minority group into a majority socioeconomic system. When integration became a reality, black communities were raided for their resources as affluent blacks sought to live in communities with whites.
Those blacks that were gifted with the assets of leadership — dubbed the talented tenth — were extracted and generously rewarded for the use of their talents to further empower white corporate America. Integration served to strengthen the white economy while devastating an already existing black economy. This is what happens when blacks are fighting to be allowed to patronize white businesses. When they receive their wishes, white businesses began to thrive while black enterprises were forced out of business.
The House is Still Burning
What blacks are experiencing today are the results of integration. Integration forced the dilution of the collective black buying power, and blacks lost their aggregate force of power. While fighting for voting rights that the vast majority had for almost 100 years, but could gain no better footing with, they were giving up the very strength necessary to underwrite their votes with power and influence. This is why blacks can flood the voting centers across the country and pick up protest signs in great number, and still not get results. To vote or to protest effectively requires the power to demand. Because blacks have no economic power — the power they relinquished as a tradeoff for acceptance through integration — they have nothing to give their protests or their voting power and influence.
I would like to introduce to you the truth that the house is still burning. When white cops and white vigilantes can kill young unarmed black men at a rate of one every 28 hours, the house is still burning. When the statistics prove that whites are 45 percent more likely to sell drugs than blacks, but blacks are four times more likely to be arrested for selling or possessing drugs — not to mention being given much longer sentences than whites for the same crime — the house is still burning. When 96 percent of the revenue generated in the beauty supply industry comes from blacks, but blacks only represent three percent of the ownership of businesses within the industry, the house is still burning. When blacks in 2014 still only own one half of one percent of this nation’s wealth — the exact same amount that we owned the day we were freed from chattel slavery — the house is still burning. When a police officer can gun down a young black youth in cold blood, and then raise more than half a million dollars for his efforts — the house is still burning.
Putting Out the Flames and Rebuilding
I am not one for pointing out problems without offering solutions. When Dr. King presented the analogy of the burning house, he also asserted that we must become firemen. This means that we must take action to stop the destructive force of the fire that is destroying our capacity to live and grow. How do we do this? We do this by reestablishing our power foundation — black group economics. Creating a foundation of group economics has to be the first step, because protesting and voting has no real power without economic power to underwrite. It is that simple.
When it comes to voting, it is a simple issue of basic mathematics. When the black population only makes up 12.6 (projected to reach 13.2 in 2015) percent of the population, meaning roughly 40 million of the estimated 315 million people in this country are black, we cannot control political decisions through voting alone. We simply do not have the numbers. So, how do groups that are smaller than us (Asians, Arabs, gays, etc.) possess so much power and influence within the political process? The answer is that they possess economic force. Without collective wealth, no group can influence the political arena. White supremacy America has effectively used voting as an illusion to distract blacks from the real issue, economic castration.
Until blacks come together to aggregate their buying power through the practice of vertical group economics, we will continue to find ourselves at the mercy of a system that was designed to keep us at the bottom of the socioeconomic structure.
Yes, the house is still burning, and it is passed time for blacks to determine what they are going to do about it. It is time for the division to be replaced with collective reasoning. It is time for protest signs to be replaced with annual spending plans. It is time to embrace the thought rebuilding the black communities which were replaced by black neighborhoods after integration. It is time to shake loose of the shackles of psychological slavery that stifle the vision of economic autonomy. It is no coincidence that after Dr. King began to speak of economic empowerment instead of social equality and acceptance, he was assassinated. The leaders of the system know all too well the power of economic stability. Now, it is time for blacks to grasp the power of this truth! ~ Dr. Rick Wallace, Ph.D.