Thursday, January 29, 2009

Economics: The New Slavery in Black America

By Brandon Brice

Last Sunday as I sat in the congregation of one of the most prestigious churches in Harlem, it mesmerized me to hear the praises, chats and applauses for President Barack H. Obama, as our nation’s 44th President of the United States. As a black man, it was an incredible moment in history to see someone who shared my same features, living on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Interestingly, statistics show that a large majority of Americans feel that racism no longer exist, but fail to realize that the real culprit may be economics, not racism. Economics is the study of scarce or limited resources, allowing individuals that understand this study to prosper in this capitalist society.

The problem is that economic practices have not been presented in a positive manner towards the black community, but has been shielded by overtones of racism and bigotry. For example, the concept of statistical discrimination means that a group is being “discriminated” against based on circumstance, not prejudices. In the case of African Americans, or Hispanics not being able to qualify for a loan, this may not just be about race but external factors; for example employment, education, or marital status. In 1996, millions of Americans wanted the opportunity to own a home for the first time, by protesting against unequal practices towards owning a home. Unfortunately, as we witness a financial meltdown, the question regarding America’s creditworthiness was simply avoided, which has directly come back to haunt our financial markets.

Historically, the civil rights era, under activist like; Dr. King, Bayard Rustin, Stokley Carmichael, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois spanned over forty years of fighting for equal opportunity, including economic empowerment, equality and justice. Unfortunately, one of the few tenants that seeped through the cracks of the 1964 civil rights act was the system of Debt. Statistics show that 71% American population have succumbed to debt, which is nothing more than enslavement without the chains. The best practiced solution against debt is to be pro-active in learning about financial literacy and not living above one’s means. In the civil right era, the concept of “the man” dominated the notion that all of black America was constrained by wealthy, white business men, which was simply not true.

On a brighter note, the application of Economics can work for us and historically has worked for us. As African American scholars travel back to the Harlem Renaissance, it’s suggested that 89% of Harlem was owned by African-Americans in the 1930’s; businesses, laundry mats, dry cleaners, banks, churches, real estate, commercial revenue, school buildings, cinema’s, grocery stores and brownstones. What’s interesting about the history’s presentation on the Harlem Renaissance is the lack of discussion on economic empowerment, in comparison to the arts and literature of black poets, artist and musicians.

As a moderate Republican that supports the election of our first African-American Commander in Chief, I caution the average black voter to not just accept President Obama’s victory as being the end of racism. Instead, I challenge African Americans nationwide to recognize that Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream will only be fulfilled when economics works in our favor; granting the ability to obtain loans, an increase in rising credit scores nationwide and re-establishment of credit worthiness for all. It’s time for Black America to start singing a new tune, not one related to race relations but one of “economics freedom.”

Brandon Brice is a graduate of Howard University and is a former graduate of the New Jersey Eagleton Institute of Politics fellow at Rutgers University. As a long time member of Republicans for Black Empowerment, Brandon is an active contributor to Brandon Brice has worked as a policy intern for the former House Speaker Honorable J. Dennis Hastert and has served as a fellow at the United Nations. He has been featured on C-SPAN’s Road to the White House, BET’s What’s At Stake and Hot97 with Lisa Evers. Brandon is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc, and attends the Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church in Harlem.

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