I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about real estate. He suggested that we and other friends who have the means, pull our resources together and invest in a building. I told him that some of us may not have the money. He said that all we need is 5 or 10 or our friends to put in at least $1,000. He told me how a group of guys did the same thing and made enough cash open up a popular restaurant chain. Might I add, these gentle were Arab. Then the age-old question came up: “Why can’t black folks do that?”. Under segregation, we had no choice but to work with each other and work together we did. Now that we are integrated there is no longer the urge for Afro-Americans work together? Could it be Integration?
Whenever I talk to the older members of our community, they always talked about how there used to be more black-owned businesses in our neighborhoods than today. They all said the same thing: “Up and down this street used to be nothing but black businesses. Then all of a sudden they disappeared.” Much of our businesses were effected by the lost of good-paying factory jobs in our communities. However, what integration did effect was our ability to work together and rebuild.
First of all, if you really think about it, SEGREGATION IS THE REASON WHY WE ARE A PEOPLE IN THE FIRST PLACE. If our ancestors had integrated immediately after emancipation, they would have just blended in with the rest of the population in a similar way that Latin American slaves did. Before the civil war, Black America was in no way monolithic. There were slaves, freed blacks, Creoles and other Mulattoes, Native American slaves, the Gullah, West Indians and even black slave owners. Under segregation, with the Dred Scott decision as the foundation, Black people were forced into one population based on the one drop rule. As far as White America was concern, there were no longer distinctions between this Blacks. To them, ALL BLACKS HAD NO RIGHTS THAT RIGHT MEN WERE BOUND TO RESPECT.
Secondly, when people are segregated, the powers that be are forced to build things in two’s. Men and women technically use “segregated” facilities; therefore every facility is forced to build two bathrooms, two locker rooms, two dressing rooms, etc. The same can be said for racial segregation. Instead of building one water fountain for everyone, now you need to build two water fountains. One for whites and one for coloreds. Instead of one school system, you have to build two school systems. The same can be said for churches, banks, libraries, hospitals and politics. Many of these institutions that were developed out of this dual system still stand in Black America today. Like it or not, segregation laid a basic infrastructure for Afro-American culture to build from. How else did our HBCU’s come to be?
Thirdly, segregation went two ways: Black folks had very limited access to White America and White folks had limited access to Black America. Segregation made it hard for many whites who wanted be involved in the Black community. Even though whites had more freedom, the elite had to make sure that they didn’t use that freedom to cross racial lines. Therefore, the government punished “sympathetic” Whites by taking away their privileges.
Later down the line, two America’s’ were built: one BLACK and one WHITE. Integration was the government’s attempt to turn the two America’s into one. As a result, integration not only gave Black America MORE access to White America, but it also meant that White America was given FULL access to Black America. By White America being bigger, more in control and having a better sense of self, they had the competitive advantage over Black America, who had less control and was unsure about itself. Therefore, Black America simply wasn’t developed enough to integrate each other’s institutions because neither group was on the same playing field. I always like to use the rise and fall of the Negro League Baseball (NLB) as an example of what I mean.
It doesn’t matter if segregation was right or wrong, the reality is this: The Major Leagues was facing some MAJOR COMPETITION from Negro League Baseball. Consequently, it made all the since in the world to integrate baseball.
So why didn’t the NLB last after baseball was integrated? The simple answer is that the NLB players was being snatched up by the MLB to the point where fans became less interested in watching Negro League games. However, it was more complex than that. To sum it up, The MLB still had most of the money, power, fan base and racial leverage. The only thing that made the NLB competitive was the MLB’s own racist policies. Segregation was the main reason why Negro League baseball existed in the first place. Therefore, it made all the sense in the world that the NLB lift the ban on Black baseball players. This wasn’t just about de-segregating baseball. This was about eliminating the competition. The MLB killed two birds in one stone.
Segregation protected the interest of Negro League owners more than the Major League owners. Without segregation, the Negro Leagues would be forced to compete without the relying on racist policies that benefited them. With all of their good players now having a choice of where they want to play baseball, by the 50’s, they overwhelmingly chose the more establish, better organized, wealthier Major Leagues. Once Jackie Robinson found success and popularity in the Major Leagues, the Negro League had no fighting chance.
Whether the powers that be knew it or not, their ultra-racist policies laid the foundation and infrastructure for a new American culture- BLACK AMERICA. Then our people filled in the gaps by developing our own businesses and industries, such as a professional baseball league. As long as the black businessmen and women was segregated, they had no choice but to invest their money into the Black community. In return, black consumers were forced to support black businesses because there weren’t many option’s available to them. Since “bourgeois” Blacks, mulattoes, creoles and West Indians were also forced to be apart of Black America, they had no choice but to build their world within the black community.
Regardless of where our ancestor’s came from, segregation forced EVERY Black American to live together. Therefore, our ancestors were forced to tackle issues with crimes, poverty and unemployment BY THEMSELVES. And they were forced to pull THEIR OWN resources together.
Under integration Blacks are now given the freedom to choose. I do believe we should all be free to choose our own destiny, however, many Afro-American’s continuously choose White America over Black America. This is the fundamental problem with integration. Now that our people have the freedom to choose where we want to be, most of us (I have been guilty of this as well) chooses the path of less toil (White America). Yeah, some Whites were ultra-racist, but like Jackie Robinson, many Blacks felt that their bullshit was better that our bullshit.
In my opinion, without segregation or something forcing our people to stay together, we are no longer obligated to have a vested interest in our people. Unlike in the past, if things go bad today, now we could just leave. If we see our communities falling apart, we have the option to do SOMETHING or we have the option to do NOTHING. Under segregation, even when we were scared, we were forced to do something because there was NO WHERE ELSE FOR US TO GO. It was either sink or swim. Now that we have a choice, I don’t care how radical we think we are, most of us have chosen the path of least resistance over drudgery and sacrifice.
Therefore, what will compel Black America to pull their resources together and finally build the utopia we’ve wished for since emancipation? The answer is simple. WE HAVE TO BE FORCED TO DO IT; just like it took force for our ancestors to be freed from slavery; just like our ancestors were forced to become a people because of the color of our skin; just like they were forced to pull their resources together to build a world of their own; just like our baseball players were forced to create a Major League Baseball organization.
Black Americans rally together when we have NO CHOICE but to come together. This is why we can only to rally around racism and nothing else. Therefore, experiencing racism is the ONLY common thread we have left. In this day in age, this is a problem for us because race is subjective– meaning that today race is solely based on personal feelings and opinion and has no concrete foundation to reinforce it. Therefore, without race being reinforced by the system, our racial identity no longer has any real substance and foundation. So race only matter’s to people they are threatened by it.
My point is that our perception of color can change overtime, but how do we define ourselves and our people culturally? Afro-American history began with race, but it developed into a legitimate, well-established CULTURE. Somewhere down the line, we lost control our culture, forcing us to hold on the one thing that can’t be taken from us: THE COLOR OF OUR SKIN. Black America is suffering through the same ordeal the Negro Leagues suffered from. We rely too much on racial identity alone to hold our community together. You see what happened to the NLB. What do you think will happen to Black America as a whole? Just look around.
Therefore, it makes sense that we start developing a COMMON INTEREST that goes beyond our racial identity and provides us with a higher sense of self and purpose. Regardless of how integration has impacted our communities at large and how racism is still affecting our people today, we STILL NEED TO FIND A WAY TO BUILD OUR OWN INSTITUTIONS. Race has no substance. No real identity. No law. No morals. No values. Its just a label. What we need to do is get back to the basics. Then we can find our true identity.
My friend is on the right track, the best way to rebuild a community that is too divided and self-defeating, is start little by little, family by family and team by team. Therefore, instead of waiting on 40 million people to get their shit together, all we need are teams of like-minded people to pull their resources together to invest in one project at a time. Then each group of Black investors can find a common interest with each other and create a bigger network. The more we NETWORK, the bigger our INTEREST will be come. The more interest we have with each other, bigger our common interest will be. Then we will have a much clearer understand of what’s in our BEST interest.