Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
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A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The African American economic condition deteriorates by the year, but that doesn't stop the 'bootstrappers' from talking trash. "The bootstraps mythology - sometimes under the shorthand, 'Do for Self' - implicitly or explicitly urges Black people to forego making demands of government, as if that amounts to 'begging the white man' for something."

 

Black Folks Ain't Got No Money For Bootstraps: The Black Capitalist Dead-End

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

"What binds the variations on the 'bootstrap' theme together, is an essential refusal to challenge the capitalist system."

The two devastating recessions of the last decade have had catastrophic effects on Black economic prospects. Yet, despite the monstrous setbacks of recent years and the general failure to bridge the racial wage and wealth gap over the last three decades, there still exists a strong current of Black political thought that insists African Americans can pull themselves and the rest of the race up by their financial bootstraps, through hard work and pooling of collective resources. Some of these arguments are unashamedly Black capitalist; others preach a brand of communal partnerships among Black entrepreneurs and consumers that attempts to make the entire Black community a kind of capitalist engine of self-help. What binds the variations on the "bootstrap" theme together, is an essential refusal to challenge the capitalist system. The belief is that Black "buying power" or race-based investment schemes will allow Black folks to rise from the bottom of the American economic barrel.

Implicit in this line of thinking is the notion that Blacks are at the bottom because they have not been trying hard enough to move up - which is also the assumption of white racists, whether they call themselves conservatives or liberals. The most fatal flaw in the Black capitalist world view is the assumption that Black people actually have the wealth and discretionary income to build an internal economy that could insulate them from the general capitalist crisis. We know different, because all the data tell us that Black household income is stuck at the same level relative to whites as back in 1979, and Black comparative wealth was steadily eroding even before the last decade's recessions. And we know that Black wealth has been further diminished relative to whites in the ongoing housing meltdown, in which Blacks are twice as likely to face foreclosure. And we know that Blacks, a majority of whom are renters, bear the brunt of the dislocations caused by rampant gentrification, which in some urban areas forces families to spend more than half their income on rent.

"The most fatal flaw in the Black capitalist world view is the assumption that Black people actually have the wealth and discretionary income to build an internal economy that could insulate them from the general capitalist crisis."

Simply put, there ain't no damn money for these bootstrap capitalism dreams, and there never was. There was never the possibility of building a Black General Motors - and now General Motors requires billions of dollars in federal infusions to survive.

What a great distraction this nonsense about bootstrap racial upward mobility has been - so much wasted time and misdirected dreams over the generations. Worse than that, the bootstraps mythology - sometimes under the shorthand, "Do for Self" - implicitly or explicitly urges Black people to forego making demands of government, as if that amounts to "begging the white man" for something. This attitude surrenders all Black claims to any of the society's resources except those we currently hold in our own pockets - which is the equivalent of social death. President Obama also warns Blacks to expect no redress from their government. At a recent press conference, he once again urged Blacks to be patient, that when the economy grows, everybody will be "swept up into that virtuous circle."

It never happened before, and it never will. Blacks need to "Do for Self," but not as aspiring capitalists. We have always made our greatest progress in political struggle. That's the Promised Land that we make, together.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.



Direct download: 20100915_gf_NoBootstraps.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:01am EST