Black Economic Impotence: Living Under the Rules of Another
“He who has the ‘gold’ makes the rules!”
The above quote has been attributed to everyone from Jesus of Nazareth to Tyler Perry; however, the first time I heard it was from a Jewish businessman named David, who was teaching me the principles of business and life. What he was explaining to me was the simple truth that those who don’t acquire wealth will always be at the mercy of those who do. He was addressing my proclivity to take on the position of a renegade in dealing with many of the status quos of business. He told me that my rebel spirit would serve me well, but only if I was able to obtain the gold.
As I digress slightly, it is important to take note that this white man took on the role of mentoring me after numerous blacks had avoided and ignored my requests to teach me the game of business. Another role that this person played in my life was that of the bearer of reality. He would share some truths with me about my people that would anger me to no end, but everything he has ever shared with me about my people has ended up being true.
He told me that the reason that I could not find a black man to teach me the basics of business is because the inherent proclivity of black men to see one another as threats and competition. He also mentioned the natural inclination of blacks to despise the thought of someone surpassing them in life. He said that blacks would rather work hard to hold someone else back than work hard to get ahead. We would have these life experiences in which I would have the opportunity to prove him wrong, and every time my people would fail the test.
It is important to gain a lucid and comprehensive perspicacity of some of the things that serve to stifle our efforts to move ahead. As long as the enemy within is alive and thriving, the enemy on the outside will be able to wreak havoc. We must learn how to work together, despite our apparent differences. One thing that we all have in common is being black, the one thing that we can never change.
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Back to getting the gold. The inability of blacks to achieve any level of respect and value in the American culture is inextricably connected to one specific issue; we are economically impotent. We have not mastered the understanding that the lack of collective economic power renders us vulnerable to the pernicious attacks of all who are hostile toward us. As long as we continue to buy into a philosophy that subscribes to begging the enemy to believe that our lives matter, we will continue to be victims. As long as we continue to look for peace with a people that have perpetually proven that they are our mortal enemy, we will consistently find ourselves being pressed down by the foot of oppression.
Until we begin building we will not experience any type of change that will be reflective of elevation and empowerment. It is vital to understand that empowerment is not an exogenous transformation. Empowerment is a process that is ignited internally and sustained autonomously. It is imperative that blacks get the gold, if we ever expect to impact the rules of the game. To this point, those with the gold have implemented rules that benefit them. They control the rules of engagement, and that leaves us as pawns in a game of chess that is being played for all that is at stake. I have often said that those in power have been playing chess while blacks have been playing checkers. The first time I heard that statement was sitting across from the man who was teaching me to play chess as a kid. I think I was around eight-years-old. I have since heard it used metaphorically on numerous occasions as a dual analogy. Allow me to bring a certain level of elucidation to the analogy in order to make it applicable to the message that I am sending.
First of all, chess requires a much higher aptitude than checkers. While both require a certain level of strategy, the general progression and lack of complexity of checkers does not require the type of strategy that chess does. I have yet to see anyone labeled an international grand master in checkers. Secondly, even if both games required the same level of strategy to become successful, one could still not be successful playing either game while the other game was the game of choice. The rules of engagement are different.
You can’t translate the strategies associated with basketball to football. For instance, setting a pick in basketball is not only legal, it is a key element to the success of any team on the offensive side of the ball. It is a skill that is taught early on in the development of those who play the game. However, setting a pick in football is illegal and will result in a penalty. The idea that is behind this analogy is simple; we are not even in the game.
While a better analogy may be possible, I choose to use this analogy because it was used in a simplistic and ingenious manner by Dr. Claud Anderson on a number of occasions in expressing the fact that blacks are lagging in the battle for survival, and I immediately got what he was saying. However, I would argue that less energy should be spent on making sense of the analogy, and more energy should be invested in determining what needs to be done in order to get in the game. That is my goal, to get the black collective in the game.
We have to understand that we are not in a battle of morality and character. We are in a battle for our survival, and to this point we have done nothing to place ourselves in a better position to survive. We are seeking social acceptance and social validation from a group of people who see us as the enemy, and treat us as such. Because we have no accumulation of wealth, we have no leverage that will allow us to change the rules of the game. At the same time, we have no power to play by the current rules. We are kind of like a sports team who are on the other team’s home court and all of the calls are going their way. We are protesting to the refs, but our protests amount to nothing but a temper tantrum. They are either ignored, or in some cases, penalized. It is our insistence on holding on to old mindsets that stagnate our growth.
“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” ~ John Maynard Keynes
Building an economic foundation will allow us to build a power edifice — a structure that has the capacity to underwrite our collective agenda. It is this power structure that will provide us with the footing to make a stand and declare that “enough is enough.”
It begins with an understanding of who we are and a determination to function as a unit for the purpose of building something better for ourselves and our progeny. This is that point where we put aside our poorly conceived notions and the self-hatred that causes us to seek the demise of one another more than we seek the demise of the enemy. This is where we actually prove that black lives matter. ~ Dr. Rick Wallace, Ph.D.
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