Young and Minority Leaders

The Black Haves and the Black Have Nots, America Open for Business

Lennie Chism asked:

Several years ago a good friend told me of an incident in which he asked a wealthy white person, “Who will take care take care of the poor whites?” The man answered,” Wealthy white people will take care of poor white people.” My friend then asked, “Who will take care of poor Blacks?” The man said, “God will take care of poor Blacks.” The wealthy white man did not even consider that wealthy Black people would take care of poor Black people. Why is that?

Donations to Black colleges, as noted in numerous recent reports, are almost non-existent among Blacks and Black alumni. For decades corporate and foundation donations have kept our nation’s historically Black colleges off life support. In addition, huge pools of wealthy Blacks have graduated from traditionally white colleges. Without any connections to the historically Black colleges, they have little incentive to donate. [I’d like to think they might have at least some tiny incentive]

I will rephrase the wealthy white man’s statement differently. White “Haves” take care of the white “Have Nots.” Black “Haves” take care of Black “Have Nots.” Black Haves do take care of the Black Have Nots, don’t they?

Prior to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, most Blacks, regardless of their background and other factors such as education, hair texture, or skin tone, were required to sit in the back of the bus, denied seating in many white restaurants, and prohibited from drinking from any fountain marked “White Only.”

The small groups of Black Haves were forced to live in the same neighborhoods with the large group of Have Nots (“Redlining” was the term commonly used to refer to mortgage discrimination) before the Community Reinvesting Act and Equal Housing Laws. One of the most degrading social practices that Black men, regardless of size, age, or financial means, were subjected to being commonly referred to as “boy” by many within the white population.

Job opportunities at companies as General Mills, 3M, Cargill, Sears, investment firms on Wall Street, or any other large corporation did not exist prior to the civil rights disturbances during the 1960s. Arthur Fletcher, a Black Republican who worked in Richard Nixon’s administration, had not yet coined “Set Aside Programs or Affirmative Action.” (Google Arthur Fletcher for more info.)

Corporations and local and federal governments had not yet introduced Black advocacy jobs such as EEO directors, diversity managers, or minority recruiters and purchasing agents. Whitney Young, the great leader of the Urban League, had not yet brokered the deals to open the doors of corporate jobs for Black Americans, or other races.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated in his “I have a dream” speech in Washington, 28 August 1963: “America has issued the Negro a check marked insufficient funds.” Many of us have not actually grasped this essential point.

“In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

Today, in American cities, we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday by paying white caterers to provide meals in the best white-owned banquet centers and hotels, wearing our best attire and paying $40 per plate. Few of these dollars go to Black business owners. Dr. King told White America to ante up economic opportunities for Blacks. That was his mission when he was gunned down in Memphis. He was fighting for economic opportunities for garbage workers.

Meanwhile, don’t forget Malcolm X, the street lobbyist. Malcolm X raised hell in the streets, excited the Have Nots of his era to stand up to be heard, seen, and recognized, by any means necessary. Malcolm X, a grassroots lobbyist, stated in his speech, “The Ballot or the Bullet,” that for Blacks, being republican or democrat is unimportant; we have been equally oppressed by both parties.

Fast forward 40 years, 2008. The 60’s disturbance fires are out. Black communities are still controlled by the same people who controlled those 40 years ago. The Black Haves’ leadership role never took root; the Black Have Nots remain abandoned. The Black Haves more often awake to a life in predominately white neighborhoods, drive to their corporate jobs in luxury vehicles and stand around the water coolers with white co-workers as if the Black Have Nots didn’t exist.

The Black Haves are not without relatives– mothers, fathers, cousins, aunts, etc., in the old neighborhood. These folks are among the 8 out of 10 Blacks who are unemployed, or underemployed, and living paycheck to paycheck. While the Black Have Nots are trapped in the blazing fire of poverty with no door marked “Exit,” the Black Haves spend their corporate paychecks and maximize their credit cards in their newly found communities, along with, for many, a desire and/or attempt to blend.

Many self-employed Blacks and professionals providing services, such as realtors, see very few of the Black Haves’ dollars – the Black Haves buy from white professionals under the illusion they have “arrived.” Arrived? To feel you have arrived by spending your dollars exclusively within white businesses? Black Haves often see the smiling white professional as a trusted friend but do not extend the same trust to Black professionals.

A reporter asked a white voter in a Southern state to explain why he would not vote for Obama. The voter answered, “We take care of our own.” Will Black voters take care of their own?

Pictures of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, that adorn the walls of many of the homes of the Black Haves, are the only vestiges of a connection to the community in which the Black Haves once lived.

In the “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech, Malcolm X stated, “The community in which you spend your money becomes richer and richer; the community out of which you take your money becomes poorer and poorer.”

Is this not still happening in 2008?

The Black Haves rush to patronize businesses outside of the very communities in which they were born, rose, and their relatives still reside. Those left behind struggle to find a corner store.

Business leader, A. G. Gaston of Birmingham, Alabama, was reported to have said that it is far better to say, “I is rich,” than to say, “I am poor.” A. G. Gaston was rich. When Dr. Martin Luther King arrived in Birmingham, he was not greeted by the bellhop at the Hilton. He was greeted by the bellhop of the A. G. Gaston Hotel. Yes, the A. G. Gaston Hotel. A. G. Gaston was a Black millionaire. His wealth was created during the Jim Crow era by providing goods and services to Black Haves and Have Nots who were forced to live in Black-only neighborhoods. Upon his death, he was worth millions. He had created hundreds of jobs and provided training and employment to thousands of unskilled Black Have Nots. Today, the A.G. Gaston Expo is held annually in Birmingham to foster the economic growth of the Black community with emphasis on wealth creation and capacity building that creates businesses that
provide jobs in the black community.

Many Black Haves today are more self-centered. Black Haves are, for the most part, leery of risk. They play it safe. Malcolm and Martin took the risks.

We must find the talent pool, those who will take risks to create businesses in
Black communities. Where does this talent pool reside? Is this talent predominately found in corporate America? Do the Blacks who arrive at work by 8:00 A.M., the accountants, marketing professionals, lawyers, IT professionals and others, have the skill-set necessary to create businesses? The “inclusiveness” goals of Corporate America are met by hiring Black Haves. But they rarely hire or create opportunities for the Black Have Nots.

Black leaders of the past would be greatly disappointed to see the complete stratification that exists today. Black Haves, in many instances seem to think that: “I got to where I am, here inside the door of Corporate America on my own accord.” In many instances these folks slam the door shut on creating opportunities for Black Have Nots to gain access in the future.

The trenches during the Civil Rights era were filled with both the Black Haves and Black Have Nots. Laws against denying opportunities purely based on the color of one’s skin had not yet been passed. Even more trenches were filled with the “Ready to Die” brothers and sisters standing arm-locked when legendary Bull Connor (Google if haven’t a clue who Bull Connor is) unleashed the dogs, opened the water hoses and denied the Black Have’s the right to sit at the lunch counter (while reciting “in the name of God and Good Christians” in Birmingham, Alabama). Malcolm X championed the concept of not sitting at the lunch counter, but rather owning the lunch counter. The late President Kennedy stated, “There is little value in Negro’s obtaining the right to be admitted to hotels and restaurants if he has no cash in his pocket and no job.”

Black Haves in 2008 are doing a far better job keeping the doors of opportunity closed than any of the doctrines of the past. The Ku Klux Klan, the bastion of white supremacy that was so strong, especially in the past, cannot compete with the new oppressiveness of gatekeepers who are in positions as EEO directors, directors of affirmative action, minority purchasing agents, etc, who are either unable or unwilling to provide opportunities for the Black Have Nots. Black Haves of today, many of which occupy jobs in advocacy roles for Black Have Nots, are not and may never be advocates of entry for Black Have Nots. Black directors of cities’ EEO departments more often advocate for the mayor who appointed them, rather than the citizens of the cities, in particular the Black Have Nots.

Black Haves climbed the steps of opportunity not just by their own accord. They walked on steps built with stacks of bodies of lynched and slain black men such as Medgar Evers and Emmett Till. These opportunities were created by the late the efforts of the great lobbyist, W.E. Dubois, Booker T. Washington, James Brown, and countless whites and Blacks who advocated for better treatment and opportunities for Blacks in America.

Were these jobs not created by the “Ready to Die” brothers and sisters who filled the streets of Minneapolis, Detroit, Los Angles, Cleveland, Birmingham, Washington D.C. and other cities all across America during the disturbances of the ‘60s? Their legacy was they showed up, fought for justice, cared, and took a risk to make a better way.

Malcolm X stated on the afternoon of April 3, 1964, in Cleveland, Ohio:

“The economic philosophy of Black Nationalism shows our people the importance of setting up these little stores and developing them and expanding them into larger operations. Woolworth didn’t start out big like they are today. They started out with a dime store and expanded and expanded and then expanded until today, they’re all over the country and all over the world, and they get to some of everybody’s money… — General Motors [is] the same way. They didn’t start out like it is. It started out just a little rat race type operation. And it expanded and it expanded until today it’s where it is right now. And you and I have to make a start and the best place to start is right in the community where we live.

“So our people not only have to be reeducated to the importance of supporting black business, but the black man himself has to be made aware of the importance of going into business. And once you and I go into business, we own and operate at least the businesses in our community. What we will be doing is developing a situation wherein we will actually be able to create employment for the people in the community. “

Again, I will rephrase the wealthy white man’s original statement. The White Haves take care of the White Have Nots. The Black Haves take care of the Black Have Nots. The Black Haves do take care of the Black Have Nots, don’t they?

I submit to you: the Black Haves of today must step up to be the leaders of the small business revolution for the sake of the Black Have Nots. They can create the economic stimulus package for the communities, in which they grew up, in which their relatives reside, the same communities that they have abandoned, in many instances. The Black Have Nots will follow the Black Haves – because they want good jobs and safe communities, too.

I submit to you: entrepreneurs such as Bob Johnson, Magic Johnson, Madame C.J. Walker, Russell Simmons, Reginald Lewis, A.G. Gaston, Earl Graves, and John Johnson are but a few of the many talented creators in our communities. They created jobs, opportunities, and community revitalization. Their religious affiliation is not the important factor, nor is their fraternity, sorority, church, social networking organization, educational achievements, or political affiliation. Both Black Haves and Have Nots are supporters of presidential candidates Obama and McCain. The order of the day is to build economically strong communities in order to achieve parity in America.

Small business is responsible for 85 percent of all new jobs in America. With the collaborative efforts of Black Haves and Black Have Nots, small businesses can stand for jobs in our communities that will benefit the interests of both groups.

The Goal. Our goal. Create 100,000 new Black businesses throughout America by 2010. Be part of it – the economic revolution for parity. Be part of it!


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