No. It does not make us less deserving of it even if we aren’t ready. No, I don’t think we will ever see true equality or equity in a place that was built for us to forever be less than. However, something must be said to the effects of having people being shuffled into rooms, positions, and resources we have never been before at a rate that has never been done. Also two things can be true at the same time, I can speak about the real but ugly true consequences of this movement and still be hopeful of my people. All the performative politics behind Black Lives Matter lends a little conversation to the attention paid and pieces of access that some black folks have been allowed lately. I say allowed because it was always deserved but never allowed or entertained.
What sparked this thought, was a multitude of things. Firstly, it was the age old rule of “Working twice as hard to get half as far” in the black community. If this saying has, does, and will hold true even in the age of a hypervisible Black Lives Matter movement, does that mean we need to work twice as hard to get half as far in our own social justice movement? Do we have to work that hard to maintain our momentum? Now that we have it in a way that is has not been had, arguably since the Civil Rights Movement, does that mean we have to be vigilant to keep it? Are we ready to keep that kind of momentum and nurture it? How do we do that?
Thirdly, some of us have been gaining access to what we wouldn’t otherwise. Black businesses are seeing surges in sales. Southern, black-owned credit union are getting some big business. Black bookstores are seeing surge in sales. Black artists are seeing surge in interest in black art. A top social media mogul is urging a black person to take his place. Black political candidates are getting financial help in campaigns. Even schools are rerouting how they think about the way black children are policed and educated in this age. Are black people ready and willing to receive it? Is proper care taken to see the next step in a vision for reducing disparity in our community. The thing is Black Lives Matter is turning out more action (though lots of it has been shallow) than the whole Occupy movement of 2012, which gained so much worldwide momentum but still fell so flat as if it had never happened. It just so happens that the neglect of this country is so pervasive and so appalling, it is now inescapable as black folks finally have the time to protest especially while black women have one of the highest participation rates in the workforce especially as “essential workers.” Also, the country is so racist that it is regular entertainment on social media as “Karens” and “Chads” have formed to embody the outright racist and even microaggressive things black people have to withstand.
Fourth, Do people realize where the ally ship rallying stops and the individual accountability starts? Because the thing is I am SCARED. Black businesses are still spiraling from COVID. Even outside of that black businesses start a higher rate but fail at an even higher rate. What happened to the money that Shaun King’s automated emails collect from people go to? It is still a question with an answer with lots of holes in it. There are companies pledging money left and right to the Black Lives Matter movement which is tied to the Black Lives Matter Global Network only to find that there is still no real answer to where the real foundation has put the money. On top of that there is a California based nonprofit imposter organization using the name, “Black Lives Matter Foundation” and says that it has no ties to the movement, however there has been about 4.35 million donated to the company. Are businesses and organizations, small and big, actually leading the cause or lining their pockets, or just plain ol’ lolly-gagging?
Fifth, black wealth has proven fleeting. There are 615 billionaires in the United States, and there are only 6 black billionaires and 4 of them are gifted entertainers. There is nothing wrong with being an entertainer but it does say something about “allowed access” in a space that is predominantly white. There are numerous places to look to show the wobbly attempt that is true ownership and wealth in the United States. In a test on financial literacy, the research states, “African Americans scored highest in the areas of borrowing and debt management, but scored lowest on questions relating to insuring. African Americans scored comparatively low on questions related to comprehending risk, investing and identifying go-to information sources. The report states that low levels of financial literacy in insuring and comprehending risk are especially troubling.” Now back to my point about black entertainers that rise in stardom but end up being cheated, swindled, jailed, and broke behind lack of financial comprehension, arguably so. What chance do the rest of us have?
Sixth, I hate to beat a dead horse but enough black people can’t agree on a darn thing. Black people spend less money in black owned businesses than other racial groups. Oftentimes, we give our money to black businesses with those entrepreneurs positioning themselves to exit black neighborhoods, to acquire and elevate white brands and businesses. Black people overwhelmingly don’t employ people. At present, 96 percent of the 2.58 million Black-owned firms are nonemployer firms (or sole proprietors), compared to 81 percent of all firms in the United States. I understand that a lot of it has to do with the already too large disparity in wealth but alas here we are. The cracks are there in the community narrative (whether it is true or not, it is there, which still counts for something) that black professionalism needs some fine tuning. No interns, no workers, but all of the excuses, lack of literacy, and lack of discipline. How many times do we have to see our hairstylists get made fun of? How many “DM me for the prices” do we have to witness? How many boutiques, barbershops, restaurants, clubs, car wash services, etc have to disappear ?
Last, there is a lot to be said about other things buzzing around the community. The beef about what is the right way to show ally ship and what is not. Whether the performative thing s like Mississippi getting rid of the Confederate flag as its state flag that really are symbolic and good for the books but still does not address systemic issues or erase the hundreds of years of laws and social norms that ooze the starkest of Confederate and sinister racism. We have fake outrage culture for people who need to be held accountable that are often overshadowed by things that threaten the systemic things that matter. You know, the things that mess with our money, time, peace, life, constitutional rights. The things that constantly perpetuate unrealistic expectations on us that tamper with the weak tapestry that is our collective mental health.
Unfortunately, these are my worries. Are we ready to be thrusted into positions, access, and resources that we were not prepared for or didn’t think it was possible to have? Are we continuing to exhale the fumes of the burning house or are we fanning the flames to authentically build our own or at least something practical and new? What do you want?