Why, the email asks, do we still have Black History Month? The writer might be white, or she might not. She identifies her self as a "conscious woman" and sends the email to one of my public addresses. She seems chagrined that "race still matters" and wants to initiate an exchange of views with hers at the foundation – studying black history is obsolete. We have a black president, the woman writes. Black people have made so many strides. Aren’t you holding on to the past, she argues, when you insist on having this month to study black history?
I am not in the habit of engaging in email debates with folks who are ill informed, so I ignore the note. Still, I am intrigued enough by it to print it out and paste it to my desktop for a few days. When I pick up high school history books, I see African American history sprinkled through, like seasoning, as opposed to being placed at a base. And I think of the tremendous vision of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the second African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard (after WEB DuBois) and the founder, in `1915, of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). Woodson wrote the masterpiece "The Miseducation of the Negro" and founded Negro History Week in 1926. By 1976 the week had expanded into African American History Month. The Association, based in Washington, DC, sets a theme for Black History Month each year (notice that I use Black and African American interchangeably – for me they are the same thing). This year the theme is "The History of Black Economic Empowerment".
Economics is the study of who gets what, when, where and why. It is the study of the way the factors of production – land, labor, capital and creativity are paid in rent, wages, interest and profit. It is the history of the knife, of how the pie is sliced. And it is the story of why African Americans get so much less than our fair share of the pie.
Hip hop mogul Russell Simmons seems to feel that banks are not treating the poor in a proper fashion. This week, in a rant on his site, “The Global Grind,” Simmons had this to say:
“They trick customers into doing things that are not good for them through lack of transparency, and surprise them with new fees when they can least afford it. I’m learning an important lesson about ethics or lack of ethics in this industry. In fact, I’m fighting with a bank right now that doesn’t know what kind of ass whipping they are going to get when I expose them for the abusive practices and exuberant fees they are charging the poor. What they are doing is trying to double their already outrageously high fees in exchange for providing absolutely nothing to my customers.”
Simmons went on to try to create a “movement” by adding a call to action:
“Let’s start the biggest public discussion ever about how banks treat us and expose these banks for their unequal treatment and unconscionable conduct. The time is now.”
American Indians and the Great Recession—Economic Disparities Growing Larger
Getting Good Jobs to People of Color
Unequal unemployment—Racial disparities in unemployment vary widely by state
Stuck in Neutral: Economic Gains Stall Out for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in 2000s
Reversal of fortune: Economic gains of 1990s overturned for African Americans from 2000-07
What a recession means for black America
A bleak future for black children
Analysis & Opinion
High unemployment: A fact of life for American Indians
Reversing the Decline in Good Jobs [event]
Jobs creation effort needs to focus on good jobs
Three lessons about black poverty
Analysis & Opinion
African Americans see weekly wage decline
Among college-educated, African Americans hardest hit by unemployment
Jobs Picture, September 5, 2008 – Special Issue
Understanding the black jobs crisis
From left are, Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y. and Rep. Charles Rangel D-NY. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
Does anyone think that the Congressional Black Caucus works for the interests of the African-American community? Well, think again. It appears that, according to a scathing report in The New York Times, African-Americans don’t have the money to buy the CBC’s loyalty. At the very least, they do not appear to be the top priority for a legislative group that has allowed dollar signs to complicate its priorities.
The New York Times article details a highly suspicious network of foundations and charities that seem to funnel money to CBC members in exchange for influence in Washington. The political and charitable wings of the CBCtook in $55 million dollars between 2004 and 2008, with only $1 million of that coming through their political action committee; the rest came through their unregulated network of foundations, which are allowed to escape campaign finance laws designed to keep legislators from being bought by corporate America.
While the CBC argues that the funds are used to support charitable causes in the African-American community, it seems that the foundation spends more time "big balling" with elaborate corporate events than it spends actually doing work for the community. Federal tax records show that the CBC Foundation spent more money on the caterer for its annual dinner, $700,000 dollars, than it spent giving out scholarships. As my mama used to say, "That’s just trifling."
Even more disturbing are the relationships that the Congressional Black Caucus has formed with industries that clearly do not have the interests of the black community at heart, including the Internet poker industry, cigarette manufacturers, alcoholic beverage producers and rent-to-own companies. Many rent-to-own companies operate in predominantly black neighborhoods and are effectively electronic drug dealers: They give consumers a quick high today in exchange for unethically high fees and massive amounts of debt. Well guess what? The CBC is one of the reasons that the rent-to-own industry has been allowed to expand its operations in urban communities where CBC members don’t even live.
updated 12:25 a.m. ET, Wed., Feb. 3, 2010
In 2006, Benjamin Koellmann bought a condominium in Miami Beach. By his calculation, it will be about the year 2025 before he can sell his modest home for what he paid. Or maybe 2040.
“People like me are beginning to feel like suckers,” Mr. Koellmann said. “Why not let it go in default and rent a better place for less?”
After three years of plunging real estate values, after the bailouts of the bankers and the revival of their million-dollar bonuses, after the Obama administration’s loan modification plan raised the expectations of many but satisfied only a few, a large group of distressed homeowners is wondering the same thing.