Hyposcisy, Hip-Hopicery, and the Real Meaning of the Dream

By Julianne Malveaux

(TriceEdneyWire.com) - Mid-January is the time when Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday is commemorated. Cities, towns, and colleges across the country lift their voices and rise up the language of Dr. King’s dream that people are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. They cherry pick the King dream, forgetting that he also spoke to the “check marked insufficient funds” and the fact that African American people always got the short end of the economic stick.

Members of Congress, mayors and governors, issue proclamations and speak to their constituents about the dream. Some of these speakers have worked in direct opposition to King’s dream, cutting food stamps, refusing to extend unemployment coverage for those whose checks were cut off on December 28, nearly a month ago. They talk the talk and they don’t walk the walk. They are marching to the dream of a different drummer.

I am writing after the fact because it is never after the fact. The hypocrites who rail about social and economic justice need to be held to some standard. They need to be confronted about their hypocrisy around the dream. They need to read all of King, not just the passages that mollify them and make them feel good. They cannot dream a dream of social equity without working for economic equity.

I have the same criticism for my hip-hop brothers and sisters who can set almost anything to music. Why not take the words “cash the check” and educate our young people about what Dr. King really said. The generation who can electric slide from the Negro National Anthem (I am not kidding – I’ve seen it) ought to be able to slide their way to a freedom song. Instead they mostly myopically enjoy the music, not the words.

My preacher brothers and sisters, too, take snippets of the King dream and turn it into a sermon. Why not tell the whole story about Dr. King being rejected by his supporters when he connected poverty and racism with Vietnam. Supporters turned their backs on him. The foundation that once embraced his work dropped him because he told the truth. People who vied for his company suddenly shunned him. Now he is a hero.

In 1968, seventy-two percent of all white people disapproved of Dr. King, as did 55 percent of all black people. Black folks have racial fealty, but not racial radicalism. Were it not for racism, too many African American people would embrace some aspects of conservatism. That’s why too many of us celebrate President Barack Obama without analyzing the work he has done.

Indeed, Africa American people have a schizophrenic relationshiop with President Obama. We like his swag, his confident representation of a powerful black man. We are ambivalent about the ways he has used his power, too often to essentially ignore the challenges that the black community faces. He says this year will be his year of action around income inequality, poverty, and unemployment, and we all understand that action trickles down. Will it trickle down to us? Our President, he of black man swagger and confidence, will not say.

What will this year of action mean? Five areas have been selected as experimental areas where funds and focus will be targeted. Each of these areas has challenges, but it would have been powerful if he had highlighted the area, just a stone’s throw away from the White House, where African American men and women have unemployment rates that exceed 20 percent, where teens who want to work cannot find jobs, where the King dream is nothing more than a nightmare for them, where their pain is hardly addressed.

Hypocrisy and hip-hopcrisy. Elders and young’uns both speak of the dream but hardly embrace it. There is a week of commemoration and then we move on. If the dream is real, it is not a weeklong dream; it is an affirmation of those things Dr. King cared about – the eradication of poverty, social and economic equity, voting rights, and peace. We have attained none of these dreams, yet we commemorate the dreamer.

The Equivalency of Human Life

By Julianne Malveaux

(TriceEdneyWire.com) - The national support for the victims of the Aurora, Colorado shootings is great. However, if we believe in the equivalency of life, what about the lives of young men in Chicago, where there have been more deaths than in Afghanistan so far this year. While the hospitals in Aurora say they will cover hospital bills for those without insurance (one in three in Colorado), who will cover bills for those who are hospitalized after a drive-by? We mourn some deaths and ignore others, which suggests that some life is valued and some life is cheap.

Does it have anything to do with media attention? In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a crazed man walked into a bar looking for “a Black man”.  He shot a man who did not know him, and with whom he had no beef.  He also wounded 17 other people.  Why has this story not made national news?

If we spend a minute watching any news, we have heard about Veronica Moser, the 6 year old who was massacred in Aurora.  We’ve seen pictures of her smiling face and of her playing.  Certainly we can all mourn the tragedy of her young life being snuffed out by a madman.  Still, some young lives are valued, while others are not. One of the young deaths that rocked my soul was the 2004 murder of Chelsea Cromartie, who sat in her grandmother’s window playing with her dolls when she was killed by a stray bullet.  She wrote, in a classroom exercise, that she was an “amazing girl”.  We don’t have to go back to 2004 to find a child’s death.  Just last week, Heaven Sutter, who had just had her hair styled for a trip to Disney World, was shot, again, by a stray bullet.

Details of the lives of those who are killed humanizes them and tugs at our heartstrings.  In Aurora, we have learned about a man whose wife just gave birth, about another who died saving his girlfriend, of a young woman who missed a Toronto mass murder by a few seconds, aspired to be a sports journalist, and was killed in Aurora.  Rarely do we hear about the lives of those who are killed in the inner city, about the lives of Chelsea Cromartie and Heaven Sutter.

The disproportionality of death commentary hits home when one remembers the stories in the New York Times after September 11, 2001.  For months, postage stamp sized photos accompanied short but revealing blurbs about those who lost their lives.  On one hand, the blurbs were humanizing.  For me, though, they were a reminder of the equivalency of life and the lives we choose to ignore.

There were 12,000 gun-related deaths in the United States in 2008.  Eighty percent of the gun deaths in the world’s 23 richest countries happened in the United States, as did 87 percent of the deaths of children.  We have more than 270 million privately owned guns in this country; when we add the number of military (police, sheriffs) guns, there is at least one gun for every man, woman, and child in this country.  Some hark their Second Amendment rights in their gun ownership, but the Second Amendment was passed before assault weapons and Glocks.  If people have the right to bear arms, perhaps they have to right to have 6000 rounds of ammunition, obtained on the Internet.  If we can’t limit guns, can we at least regulate the distribution of ammunition?

In the same year that there were 12,000 gun deaths in the United States, there were a scant 11 gun related deaths in Japan.  Indeed, while the United States has 90 privately held guns per 100 people, the next largest per capita rate of privately held guns is in Yemen.  In contrast, China has three guns per 100 people.

The National Rifle Association loves to say, “guns don’t kill, people do”.  As usual, they display limited thinking.  People with guns are the ones who kill!  Why won’t we address that by dealing with issues of gun and ammunition control?

The 12 people who lost their lives represent a fraction of one percent of those who die from gun violence annually.  As we mourn these lives, let us mourn the lives of the thousands who were also killed because it is easier to buy a weapon than it is to buy marijuana in most parts of our nation.
Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, DC based economist and author.

Should We Bank on This Recovery?

By Julianne Malveaux

(TriceEdneyWire.com) - Good news – the unemployment rate is dropping, last month from 9 percent to 8.9 percent a scant drop. Better news – the private sector is finally generating jobs, 192,000 to be exact, last month. Best news – there is optimism about economic recovery and spin doctors are saying that we are finally moving forward.

Bad news – part of the unemployment rate drop has to do with people who have dropped out of the labor market. They can’t afford to look for work anymore, so they are just looking for light. If those who dropped out stayed in, we’d be looking at much higher unemployment rates. Worst news – several states are trying to cut public sector employees using the fiction that these folks are too well paid and have too many benefits for the states to afford them. We have runaway legislatures in Wisconsin and Indiana, where Democrats refuse to be badgered by those Republicans who have sent reason running and are determined to pulverize unions. Even worst news, is the intransigence of Washington Tea Party Republicans that want to cut budgets so drastically that they will minimize the future possibilities of our nation.

The unspoken news is the ways that foreclosures have completely eviscerated the economic underpinnings of middle income communities, and the African American middle class in particular. I participated in a Washington Post panel on race and the recession recently, and when moderator Michelle Singletary asked who knew someone who had experienced foreclosure, almost the entire audience stood. People don’t want to talk about what they perceive as their personal economic failures, but when a personal problem is magnified 1000 times, according to Gloria Steinem, it becomes a political or structural problem. These foreclosures are about wealth transfer, not about personal failure. It erodes middle-class confidence, makes it difficult for people to spend. And if we don’t spend, the economy doesn’t recover.

The Obama Administration cannot afford to take scantly positive economic numbers and rest their hat on them. Targeted job creation programs are in order right now. These programs may be politically unpalatable, what with the Tea Party folks trying to cut programs that are economically restoring to those who were loser s in the Great Recession. The African American community has been hard hit, but hardly heard, perhaps with respect to our first African American president. Still, you won’t get fed in your mama’s house if you don’t bring your plate to the table. Who is bringing our plate? Where is the pointed and real request for relief to the African American community? Every other community with needs has asked that their needs be addressed. What about the African American community?

I am weary and wary of numbers that say that there is economic recovery when I live in a world where recovery has not yet happened. Indeed, the 192,000 jobs generated in this last month are good, but not great results. We need to generate at least 400,000 jobs a month, according to the Economic Policy Institute, to catch up and repair the damage of the Great Recession. We should do better than 192,000 in coming months, and President Obama’s policies may even be able to get us to an 8.5 percent unemployment rate by September 2011, or even sooner. Still, we have to address the long-term unemployed, the labor market dropouts, and those African Americans who are still at the periphery of the economy. Macroeconomic policy won’t trickle down to these groups unless there is a targeted effort to include them, and Obama’s Tea Party defensive, racial stance, isn’t going to drill deep into the places where economic pain has hit hardest.

Are we banking on this economic recovery, then? I am cautiously optimistic that there is recovery in the air. And I am absolutely horrified that there has been no targeting to the least and the left out. Two years after our nation’s economic meltdown, Wall Street is recovering, even thriving. Those who were at the periphery in 2008 find themselves even further distanced in recovery. Who is banking on recovery? Who is making money? Dare I say that banks are doing better than the rest of us?

Julianne Malveaux, economist and author, is President of Bennett College for Women. Her most recent book, Suriving and Thriving: 365 Facts in Balck Economic History, is available from www.lastwordprod.com.



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