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Lawrence Brown

“White Supremacist Capitalism is the game,” you said. We agree. Your analysis reveals the systemic infrastructure of segregationist policies and practices that “maintain the status quo,” as Dr. King said in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail in 1965. The maintenance of the status quo is how Dr. King defined a segregationist, to which he referred 18 times in a single letter due to the paramount importance of this point. The maintenance of the system of segregation is how the system of white supremacist capitalism is sustained. Therefore, the focal point of any effort to empower the powerless must be rooted in a strategy of socioeconomics, both macro and micro.

Baltimore has a history of segregated communities, as you astutely point to in charts and references. But the pattern of segregation isn’t organic, as you know. It is designed, planned invested in and executed every year. That is the game.

Capitalism isn’t going away as the construct of economics in America anytime soon. And the foundation of white supremacy upon which American capitalism is built has provided its white beneficiaries the privilege to remain ignorant to the devastating plight of others suffering from economic sanctions (tool of war) outside of the beneficiary bubble.

The communities of color that suffer generation after generation from systemic economic deprivation were referred to by Dr. King in 1963 as suffering from a“shameful condition” intentionally designed and sustained by a collaboration between the sacrosanct private sector and the coalition of governments (local, regional, state and federal).

This collaboration between the private sector and the coalition of governments exist today in plain sight.

This collaborative operates with impunity precisely because they are not called into account or held accountable by any outcry or organized effort from the black community. Black Lives Matter, for all its well-intentioned outcries, lacks knowledge of how the game is played and is therefore ignored until some small concession must be rendered to appease the movement and lower the volume. If BLM’s noisy efforts could be leveraged and channeled in the direction of a strategic plan for long-term economic impact, it would achieve what the Civil Rights Movement could not. Despite decades of discontent on display, the Civil Rights Movement couldn’t dislodge segregation in schools, segregation in real estate, segregation in wealth accumulation, segregation in business productivity, separate and unequal economic opportunities, jobs, and even voting rights. We are still dealing with the same issues, yet less organized despite greater leverage due to demographic shifts and incremental increases in political power. As long as we ignore the process of strategic planning, we will continue to watch the game from the parking lot, lamenting the loss of generations.

In Baltimore, particularly, the juxtaposition is stark. The Regional Economic Competitiveness plan that is setting the economic agenda for the next five years in the Baltimore-DC region isn’t even read by many of the black leaders in Baltimore who are gravely concerned about the economic future of the city and region. Their fate has already been determined IN WRITING and they still lack knowledge of it. They not only have yet to read the plan, they lack knowledge of even the vernacular and measurable metrics of “economic competitiveness” constructs. This is the manner in which the “game” (i.e. white supremacist capitalism) manifests itself in 21st century America. These regional “economic competitiveness” plans are designed by a coalition of governments collaborating with the private sector.

I do not criticize for the sake of “being right” or asserting any perceived intellectual hubris. I offer a critique as an alarm to wake us up to the dire situation in which we find ourselves. If our own intellectual, pastoral, business and governmental leaders lack knowledge of how this game is played, what hope is there for the masses who listen to these influencers? Are we to wait for the other side to come to our rescue? Those who develop the plans that doom our children to a life of separate and unequal status? Are they our saviors? Are we to expect the collaborative of governments and private sector policymakers who conspire against our own healthcare to care enough to disrupt the status quo of segregationist policies and practices that have dominated every institution of power, wealth and influence in America to benefit the masses of those left out and left behind?

This powerful consort isn’t about to change the game or respond adequately to the outcry from communities of color, even if those communities represent 63% of the population of Baltimore.

Consider Jackson, MS, where black residents are 80% of the population, yet produce a paltry 1.4% of the regional GDP. That’s classic economic apartheid. It is measurable. It is quantifiable. Yet, this same systemic economic apartheid exists in every urban region where people of color dominate the population. Look at Detroit. The same problem exists.

Yes, the research and analysis you bring to the national discourse is on point and relevant. But then beyond the awareness of the depth of the seriousness of the problem, what are the solutions? How does one go about step-by-step addressing the system of white supremacist capitalism (i.e. the game) if one refuses to learn the game and play it to one’s own advantage?

There is no capacity to change the game by abstaining from it. The overwhelming majority of the nation’s wealth has been corralled by a small number of people. And through policy, practice, investments, collaborations, decree and politics they determine how, when, where and how much money will impact people’s lives. If we are waiting on those folks to come to Jesus and find some integrity and morality in their approach to this problem with committed generational solutions, my only question is where were those people over the past 149 years, since we became black “Americans” with the passage of the 14th amendment in 1868?

If your data holds true today, that’s the result of systemic institutional racism applied through socioeconomic means identifiable as segregationist policies and practices. These folks have no intention of saving us from their terrorism. They elected a champion to save themselves from the incremental progressive approach of demographic shifts and the inevitable march toward a “fair, just and inclusive America” as President Obama so eloquently stated in his farewell speech on Jan 10, 2017.

Their champion of the status quo, President Donald Trump, understands the game, the power and what’s at stake. He callously dismisses the threat of law, ignores the ideals of integrity and morality, and unabashedly embraces hypocrisy, as long as he can proclaim victory in the war against those who seek to transform America into a land of multicultural, multiracial, shared equity and prosperity.

This one graph explains the current depth of “the game” of white supremacist capitalism. If anyone believes there is sufficient power enveloped in the black community to establish a new economic platform outside of the capitalist construct, they should be well advised to do their homework. All black-owned businesses in America, all 2.6 million collectively produce LESS than 1% GDP. And that has been consistent throughout our short history in America. We don’t own this game. And while we represent one of the fastest-growing landscapes of entrepreneurship in the nation, we remain disconnected from many of the wealth assets and clustered resources needed to bolster the economic outcomes of our extraordinary efforts.

Moreover, we lack a comprehensive economic vision, strategy or plan to compete in local, regional or national economies. We lack even the knowledge of the strategies and plans that exist in every region to bolster the regional competitiveness within. We aren’t in those plans. Our efforts aren’t included and we extract little, if any, benefit from them. But those game plans are established to determine the economic environment of the future economy in each region. Why would we not know these plans, connect to these plans, augment these plans with the quality and quantity of our talent and extract benefit from the outcomes of these plans for the betterment of our communities and people?

The demographic shifts in America have forced an uncomfortable conversation that we all must have. And the political landscapes are having those conversations in one way or another. We make use of euphemisms to avoid the straight talk of fear spreading across the nation. That fear is of the crumbling infrastructure of white supremacy. With each generation that is less married to the ideals of white supremacy, America becomes a little more progressive. And that progression enables us to engage local, regional, state and federal governments. It empowers us to capitalize on the enforcement of laws that prohibit regional development organizations from accepting federal dollars designed for investing in underserved communities and using those dollars to advance the agenda of wealthy private sector power brokers.

We can, and should get in this game and compete.

We can, and should have a comprehensive economic strategy that connects to and bolsters existing economic development strategies and plans to show clearly the value of cultivating the talent inherent in America’s communities of color. Such value can be scaled up to bolster the global competitiveness of the nation. But Americans who have never seen or recognized this value in the 20th century must now be shown a vision, strategy and plan for a future global innovation economy based on Inclusive Competitiveness ideals that bring about a shared prosperity, inclusive opportunities and improved quality of life for all Americans. Baltimore is Ground Zero to demonstrate how this process can work for the nation. Johnathan Holifield is the architect of Inclusive Competitiveness who can lead the way.