Monday, March 28, 2011

An African-American Organization for the 21st Century

It saddens me that a community discussion of self-described African-Americans is still - in the 21st century - looking to the government of the USA for our salvation.

Yes, we are no longer the largest minority group. Good! What did being number one in that category ever do for us?

Jews are 2% of the population; they have more influence on national and international policy than us.

Catholics are 22% of the population; they boast of how they "allowed" the President to speak at their most prestigious university. We have not a single prestigious university, much less one at which we would deny this - or any president - a platform.

What do those groups - and every other demographic above us on the social ladder - have that we do not?


We are a disorganized, quarrelsome lot. When the first Catholic was elected to the Presidency, it signaled the arrival of Catholics in America and the end of the days when anyone would even think of posting a job with "no Italian need apply" in the text.

When the first African-American was elected President, it is hard to say if the first critiques of his performance came from outside our group or inside. Sure, the Tea Party was there from Day One - but you know that we were too, whining and moaning about this, that or the other.

Meanwhile, where is the work on what we truly need to thrive in this misbegotten land: the organizational development? We are nigh on 100-years after Garvey laid out the template of the UNIA; nearly 500-years since the first African was tossed off of Columbus ship in chains: where is the organization that pervades every aspect of African-American life? One that is present in every community (where are our African Community Centers?) and rolled up to a national level - with which we can present our demands at a peer level to the President and not in our traditional role: as a supplicant?

We have more African-Americans than in any single union and more than in every union combined; and yet it was unions who received carve-outs in the reforms made to healthcare - while African-Americans were left to ride along and collect what benefits we could, with nothing specifically set aside for our interests.

We are ignored because we are unorganized.

We are powerless because we are unorganized.

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