Who can we turn to politically?

— “Who can I turn to, when nobody needs me? My heart wants to know, and so I must go where destiny leads me.” Listening to an old album by the Temptations, “In a Mellow Mood,” made me think about the political trick-bag that black folks are in now that Barack is on his way out and the focus is on 2016 presidential candidates.

I thought about how black folks are nowhere in the political conversation, neither on the Democratic nor Republican side. Based on the last mid-term election, after which pundits said the emphasis must now be placed on white men and Hispanic voters, blacks find ourselves on the outside looking in, asking, “Who can I turn to?”

Politically, black voters are obsolete— no longer needed and in some cases, no longer even wanted. Who can we turn to, now that’s over? Terms such as the “middle class,” “minorities,” “LGBT,” and other nebulous classifications do not identify a group of people who have been in this nation since it began, and do not address our needs or our deserved compensation, in some form or another, for the labor and wealth that we generated.

Oh, we are good little boys and girls when it comes to carrying the water for the Democrats for the past 80 years or so. We are so docile and compliant as we traipse to the polls every four years to choose from the two persons put in front of us by the real powers in this country.

It’s nearly always a case of voting for the lesser of two evils— and sometimes the evil of two “lesser” but still we continue to rely on a corrupt political system to do right by us.

We are so good at crying in front of statues and on bridges and at gravesites. We are great at listening to rousing speeches that cause us to feel good but never make us go out and “do good” for ourselves. We are so captivated by many of those for whom we vote, and we really believe they will work for us when they get to Washington, rather than work for themselves. Our naiveté is off the charts when it comes to politics, which is now causing us to ask, “who can we turn to?”

What is our “destiny,” as the words of that song imply? Where is destiny leading us now? Well, here is what Martin Delany said in his book, “The Political Destiny of the Colored Race on the American Continent,” “No people can be free who themselves do not constitute an essential part of the ruling element of the country in which they live. The liberty of no man is secure who controls not his own destiny. For people to be free, they must necessarily be their own rulers.”

Will we follow Delany’s lesson or will we continue to be swayed by U.S. Representative John Lewis, who says the vote is “sacred” and is the “most powerful” weapon in a democratic society. Will we follow the likes of the “Five M’s” – Marcus, Medgar, Malcolm, Martin and Maynard— or will we continue to slobber over many of today’s politicians who have overstayed their time in office and who have not nor will do anything that specifically benefits black people?

Abraham Maslow said, “If a hammer is the only tool you have, every problem in front of you will look like a nail.”

As the new political season gets underway, I reiterate that although we have a trillion other tools, called dollars, the only tool we have relied upon has been the vote. Thus, we now face a political climate that has absolutely no concern for the black electorate because they already know what we are going to do and not do.

Hillary is the likely choice for blacks now, even though she will not commit to issues that directly benefit black people, just as the ones on the Republican side will not. Unless we organize a critical mass of black people willing to be politically independent, vote (or refuse to vote) as a bloc, and leverage our dollars against a political system that has no regard for us, we are doomed as a concern in public policy.

Another song on that Temptations’ album, our political swansong, says, “What now my love, now that you’ve left me? How can I live through another day? Watching my dreams turn into ashes, and my hopes into bits of clay. Once I could see, once I could feel, now I am numb, I’ve become unreal. What now my love, now that it’s over? I feel the world closing in on me. No one would care, no one would cry if I should live or if I should die.”

Better yet, why don’t we all join in a chorus of “What kind of fool am I”?

Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for black people. He can be reached at: www.blackonomics.com

Creating conscious black millionaires

— Black folks have the ability to create our own conscious millionaires. We have certainly done it for others for a long time now. Conscious black millionaires, by definition, would most assuredly use some of their money to assist the black collective; conscious black millionaires would not hesitate to use their resources to help empower our people; conscious black millionaires would not be afraid to espouse the principles of economic empowerment and then use their money to support it.

This is not a pipedream, folks. It can, should and must be done. To make real progress, we must move beyond rallies, speeches, protests, philosophy, pontification, intellectual rhetoric without commensurate action, and mere symbolism without real substance.

Every rational person knows that at some point, everything we do to challenge injustice and to obtain the economic and political reciprocity we seek and deserve, will require money. Look at the amount of money spent on travel and accommodations to attend all the marches and demonstrations of the recent past. It would have been better spent on legal battles in the courts and placing initiatives on local ballots across the nation.

Who should fund the initiatives we take on to deal with inequities and unfairness against blacks? Who should benefit from the dollars we spend to accomplish our goals? As Ken Bridges would say, “That be us, y’all.”

The revolution will not be televised, but it must be financed, and we should benefit economically from our expenditures and activities associated with our fight for freedom.

Currently, our dollars are benefiting everyone else as we run for freedom, as we protest, as we demonstrate, and as we conduct our conventions and other meetings around the country. I recall how proud I was when I attended the “Bring Back Black” meeting, in 2007 at the black-owned and operated Dudley convention complex in Kernersville, North Carolina— a black caterer prepared our food, and everything else that could be done with black vendors was done. It was the same at our MATAH conferences from1998-2002.

Every convention cannot do that, but if we create conscious black millionaires, some of them would do what the founder of Compro Tax, Jackie Mayfield, did in Beaumont, Texas. He and Brother Yusef Muhammad built their own convention center. They are, indeed, conscious black millionaires and, like others that I know, they are not only taking care of their families, they are also doing a great deal to help others, via business opportunities and philanthropy. Many are unaware that they helped Maggie and John Anderson in their efforts to get the Empowerment Experiment off the ground. No fanfare, just quietly and humbly paying it forward, the way conscious black people do. Is Compro Tax preparing your return this year, or is your money going to one of those companies that do nothing for black folks in return?

Imagine the progress we would make by creating millionaires like Jackie and Yusef. The good news is that we can do it merely by putting our financial support behind the efforts of a conscious brother or sister who have demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice and walk the walk when it comes to the overall empowerment of black people.

Creating conscious black millionaires is one of the objectives of the “One Million Conscious Black Voters and Contributors Campaign.” We know that simply by issuing a call for our members to purchase one pint of Ice Supreme from Ashiki Taylor’s company we would have a conscious millionaire. The same by buying one T-shirt from a black company, one book from Rosie Milligan, one pound of Nefertiti Coffee from Roger Madison’s Izania marketplace, one product from Keidi Awadu or Bob Law’s Namaskar Health Foods, or even a couple of rolls of toilet tissue from Freedom Paper Company. C’mon y’all; this is not difficult.

Those folks will use their resources to assist us in our fight for empowerment. They will do it because their consciousness will allow them to do no less. Conscious brothers and sisters consider it their “reasonable” service to support one another, to contribute to one another’s causes, and to let their actions speak louder than their words.

We have created a lot white millionaires by buying their products. Don’t you think we should be able to look at their work and see a reciprocal benefit to black folks? There should be some collective gain. Have they given us a return on our investment? Or, have they and their friends and families been the only ones to gain? Stop supporting shysters, hustlers, and hucksters.

Let’s use more of our money to create “conscious” black millionaires. Imagine the possibilities. Go to www.iamoneofthemillion.com, sign up, and let’s get started!

Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for black people. He can be reached through his website: blackonomics.com.

Caught between Barack and a hard place

— The experiment that featured a Black man in the White house is on the downside now. Folks in the Obama administration are busy looking for their next job and jumping ship faster than rats. But you can’t blame them; that’s the way it is in politics. You ride your horse as long as you can and then you find a new horse. That’s just what folks in presidential administrations do. The question is: What horse will Black folks ride now?

With Barack, came new line-dances at the clubs, new phrases, and new “hope” that would finally move Black people to the front of the line for a “change.” We were large and in charge, big-ballers and shot-callers, cool and stylish, but we soon found that we were not really running anything. Having bet the farm on our horse, we now look on in agony as he comes down the home stretch. We want to move the finish line a bit farther down the track because we don’t yet have the victory, and it looks like we’re not going to get it. All we can hope for now is just a little more euphoria before November 2016.

Black folks are now between Barack and hard place. We don’t know if we are pitching or catching. As that Richard Pryor movie asked, “Which way is up?” We invested nearly 100 percent of our political capital in our current president, thinking we would get a decent Return on Investment (ROI). Unless there is a drastic uptick in the next few months, our investment will be lost forever, because we know this experiment will not be done again for a long time.

Between Barack and a hard place means that Black people, collectively, are now without a comfortable place to turn, without someone we can look to for hope and change, and without what we considered to be a foothold in politics. Being between Barack and a hard place is causing anxiety, doubt, and even fear among some of our people.

Being between Barack and a hard place will make many of us revert to our political ways by staying on the Democrat’s wagon because the Republicans ignore us and don’t like us, anyway. We will rationalize our allegiance to the same party that takes us for granted, however. And some of us will opt out of the system altogether because we are so frustrated and angry at how the previous two terms went down.

It’s very uncomfortable being between Barack and a hard place. To whom will we turn? Will Hillary help us? Will one of the Republican candidates help us? Maybe Dr. Ben (Carson) will win and come to our rescue. What are Black folks to do in 2016 as we now find ourselves wedged between Barack and a hard place with no wiggle room? Maybe we could “apologize” to Hillary for abandoning her in 2008. Maybe we could do a public mea culpa to the Republicans. After all, we need someone to turn to now, right?

Well, here are a few thoughts. Maybe we can now turn to ourselves. Maybe now we will fully understand the error of our ways and make appropriate change. Maybe we will finally work together as a solid bloc to leverage our precious votes against the 2016 candidates. Maybe we will understand that no matter who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Black folks still have to be vigilant about our political and economic position in this country. And maybe, as we struggle to remove ourselves from between Barack and a hard place, at least a small percentage of us will organize around economic and political empowerment.

The Barack experiment was cool. He sings like Al Green, dances like the steppers in Chicago, shoots three-pointers on the basketball court, plays golf with Alonzo Mourning, and even gets his preach on when speaking to Black audiences. In other words, Barack could make us feel real good, so much so that we kicked back, relaxed, and waited for him to fix our problems, to speak on our behalf, and to give us the same deference he gives to other groups. Now, we find ourselves between Barack and a hard place – no turning room, very little breathing room, and much uncertainty about our future in the political arena.

There will be a new sheriff in town in January 2017, and our guy will stand there with him or her to give congrats and well wishes right before he rides off into the sunset, back to Chicago, Hawaii, or wherever, to enjoy the fruit of his labor, and I do mean fruit. He and his family will be well taken care of, but most of our families will be in the same or worse condition, having been stuck between Barack and a hard place for eight years.

Blackonomics: Political Frustration

— Writing has been a catharsis for me since my “angry days” in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. I used to write “Last Poets” kind of stuff and just put it away afterwards. Writing was a release to lower the pressure in my mind about the state of our people. It’s much the same for me today, after nearly 23 years of writing Blackonomics. The larger context of my writing this column has evolved into a desire to inform, to educate, and to move our people to progressive economic action. I share ways and means through which we can achieve true freedom— economic freedom— in this nation.

I don’t write to impress, I write to express. That is to say, I do not intentionally use $50 words; rather, I make every effort to assure that my readers understand and will be moved to act on the information I share. It seems my frustration from the 1960’s and 1970’s has reared its ugly head in the 21st century.

What bothers me most is our view of politics and those who constantly force-feed us their political rhetoric and their “politics-only” solutions to our problems. Instead of espousing economic solutions, they keep telling the young people to vote and “maach.” Marching is fine but without an end game, or if it’s done just for grandstanding and setting up VIP sections by the Marcher-in-Chief, Al Sharpton, what do we get from it except worn out shoes? We must go from politics to “Power-tics.”

Economic and political leverage cause benefits to accrue to those who know how to play the game. Black folks, so emotionally invested in politics-only strategies, will never get what we say we want and need from politicians. They are too busy meeting the demands of the corporate moguls and their lobbyists, who know all too well how to play “Power-tics.”

The frustration and anger I feel when I see the continuous daily parade of Facebook videos showing someone getting beat down, tasered, kicked, or killed by

police officers is overwhelming. The difference lies in whether we will continue to accept symbolism over substance when it comes to politics, and whether we are willing to use our economic leverage to solve our problems.

We are indeed a conflicted people right now. It seems we are willing to walk up to the line but not cross over into the arena where the real battle must take place. It seems we are willing to settle for so little in response to so much tragedy and injustice.

Sharpton vowed to come back to the nation’s capital “over and over again” until legislative action is taken so there is “justice for all.” Will someone tell me when “legislative action” will occur?; what it will look like?; and how it will occur? Without practical economic leverage, black folks will never have the political redress for which we march. Justice for all, is that a dog-whistle to let certain folks know that Sharpton is not really serious about justice for black people? These nebulous and tepid gestures in an effort to demonstrate the seriousness of our situation are insulting and patronizing.

Our young people are the ones fighting for justice; many of our older folks are just talking about it. That’s why many young people turned their backs on Eric Holder, stormed the stage during the March for Justice to speak, despite being told that they had no “V.I.P” passes and walked away when Al Sharpton started to speak.

Do our young people know something we don’t know? Are they willing to fight where we are not? I believe they do and I believe they are. They know it will take “Power-tics,” not politics, to make the changes they want to see.

The folks I am working with have an end game, a plan, and a solution. Contact me, I’ll share it with you.

James Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for black people. He can be reached through his website: www.blackonomics.com.

Black dollars matter!

— The protest slogans addressing our latest struggle for justice and equity compel me to come up with a new phrase. The signs and T-Shirts emblazoned with “I Can’t Breathe!” “No Justice, No Peace!” and the latest, “Black Lives Matter,” carry connotations related to action. I often wonder what the folks who wear the T-shirts and hold the signs are doing to back up the slogans they spout. More importantly, I wonder who makes the shirts and who sells them. With that in mind, my slogan for action— economic action is, “Black Dollars Matter!”

The “I Can’t Breathe” shirts worn by the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers, for instance, were sold by NYC Customs, a shop in Long Island, owned by Helen Mihalatos, a friend of Rameen Aminzadeh, member of Justice League of NYC. The initial gesture and resulting “hook-up” came from Nets team member, Jarrett Jack, followed by help from LeBron James and Russell Simmons’ political director, Michael Skolnick. The shirts were ordered by Jay-Z, who bought 1,000 more shirts after the basketball game.

I truly hope those “Big Ballers” and “Shot Callers” had enough consciousness to give the profits to Eric Garner’s family. The Washington Post reported that, “Skolnick obtained shirts from a store in Long Island City, whose owner confirmed in an interview that the shirts were manufactured by Gildan, a large Canada-based apparel company.

According to pro-labor activists, Gildan has a poor record when it comes to respecting workers in its manufacturing plants in Haiti.” The story discloses that Gildan’s workers are paid $6 per day for their work. Skolnick’s response was, “I think we want to assume sometimes when we’re ordering shirts that they’re not being made in a sweatshop; we’ve got to do better.” You think?

Now you would think that someone in this chain of events involving T-shirts that carry the last words of a black man killed on the streets of New York City by police officers would be conscious enough to say, “Hold up! Let’s not just go for the symbolism of wearing shirts on the basketball court; let’s make a substantive statement as well, via a black business transaction and a financial benefit for the Garner family.” Sound reasonable?

Instead we now have “I Can’t Breathe” shirts sold on Amazon and elsewhere as if they are some kind of novelty rather than a sincere, compassionate, and meaningful response to the homicidal death of Eric Garner, the originator of the “I can’t breathe” phrase. We saw him take his last breath; he was the one who couldn’t breathe for real. The above travesty reminds me of an article I wrote after Trayvon Martin was killed , titled, “The Profit of Protest.”

In light of the hype of “I Can’t Breathe” and now the phrase, “Black Lives Matter,” the slogan we should emblazon on shirts, and instill in our brains, the one by which we should live and the one that, if inculcated into our daily lives, will move us from the rhetoric of freedom to the action of freedom is, “Black Dollars Matter!”

Despite the wasteful and nonsensical spending by black folks, from the poorest to the super-rich flamboyant celebrities, we must all realize that “Black Dollars Matter” and they should matter to us first. Right now, they matter most to everyone else; and other folks are doing everything they can to get more of our dollars with no reciprocity other than symbolic gestures that make us feel good.

It’s great for athletes to wear shirts with slogans, but they should move to the next step of starting initiatives that not only sustain their gestures but build economic empowerment for black people. Our athletes and celebrities, as they protest inequities and injustice, should keep in mind that “Black Dollars Matter,” and they should consider that as they come up with their solutions to effect real change within the systems against which they protest— and so should we.

After the chanting, the marching, the protests and demonstrations, the outrage, the threats, and the unjustified killings of our people with impunity, if all we do is sit back and wait on the next crisis, why should we even bother with the above actions in the first place? We must be smarter and we must be conscious. We must always be aware that money runs this country and it has its place in everything, yes, even in the deaths of our people.

Indeed, black lives matter above all; but to those who kill us, those who economically exploit us, and those who are indifferent toward us, black lives don’t matter as much as black dollars do. Start a “Black Dollars Matter” campaign. Make some shirts displaying that attention-grabbing slogan, and act upon it. “Black Dollars Matter,” but only if they start making more sense.

James Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He can be reached through his website, blackonomics.com.

Black by popular demand

— The black vote is said to be the determining factor in whether the Democrats hold the U.S. Senate. President Obama is on black radio shows and of course “Little” Al’s TV show, giving us the rundown on how important our turnout is to next month’s election. The Democrats and Republicans are outwardly admitting that the black vote is the x-factor in this election. Isn’t it great to be wanted and needed, even if it is just for one day? All across the nation, black is popular once again, all because it’s voting time.

How should we react to this latest patronization of the black vote? Well, let’s look at our situation. Black folks are being beaten, shot and killed, and we are told to vote. We have the highest unemployment; the lowest net worth; the highest incarceration rate; and many of our leaders tell us simply to vote. We are treated unfairly by the criminal justice system, excluded from economic opportunities and we are told to vote.

Young black males are 21 times more likely to be fatally shot by police than their white counterparts. The 1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data, show that blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police. All of this, and we are told to vote.

It’s no wonder young blacks are turned off by many of their elders. They are the ones taking the tear gas, the batons upside their heads, the abuse and the lethal methods used by police officers; it is only after that or between the real battles that the usual suspects show up to march, hold a press conference, make a speech, and high-tail it out of town on the next thing smokin.’

Political hacks are telling black voters to cast their votes to make sure Democrats maintain control of the Senate during the last two years of the Obama presidency. My question is: What happened during the past six years of a Democrat controlled Senate? Other than Obamacare, which was passed strictly along party lines, what has that body done for black folks?

One of our black senators, Republican Tim Scott, is busy “discovering” what it’s like to work at low level jobs in South Carolina; and since Democrat, Corey Booker, accepted a “challenge” to live on a $35.00 food stamp budget for one week, albeit, while earning $13,000 per month as mayor of Newark, New Jersey, you can’t find him with a search warrant. As Malcolm said, black voters are political “chumps.”

To add insult to injury, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is busy buying ads in black newspapers, now that they need us again. The ads, titled, “Get his back,” come after the 2012 Obama Presidential campaign raised $1 billion but only spent $985,000 with the black press.

Since the Senate Democrat Class of 2008 took control, black folks have done worse. The Wall Street Journal (August 2014) reported, “The real median income of African-American households has fallen by 9.5 percent, more than any other major census classification.”

Since MLK spoke in 1963, we went to sleep and co-opted his dream; and we have not awakened yet. No one can work while asleep.

Now we are being told we must keep the Democratic Senate in order to allow Barack Obama to build his legacy during his final two years. Well, I ask: What about our legacy? What will be the legacy of black voters, without whom there would not be a black president? Will our legacy simply be that of a bunch of emotional automatons who just felt good about having a black president? A naïve voting-bloc that gave its entire “quid” but received no “quo?”

Politicians work for us; we don’t work for them. At least that’s the concept.

Politics is, to borrow a phrase from Dr. Freddie Haynes, a “Cauldron of contradiction,” and we are lost in that morass of political never-never land, thinking that voting is the answer to all our ills.

Black people should not become lackeys for any political party, but in total contradiction to that, we allow ourselves to be taken for granted and used during every election. The current message to blacks is simply— VOTE! They don’t have say for whom because they know we will vote Democrat. That’s insulting to black people, but it’s quite obvious that we don’t care.

However, in yet another effort to admonish and beseech the black people to be critical and analytical thinkers, especially when it comes to voting, I leave you with two questions for this upcoming election: What will blacks gain if we vote? What will we lose if we don’t?

Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his website: Blackonomics.com

Hillary v. Ben Carson in 2016

I know you political junkies are on the edge of your seats now that Dr. Ben Carson has said he will likely run for president. I have been waiting to see what black folks will do when President Obama leaves office. Well, we are about to find out now, aren’t we? Can you imagine a race between Carson and Hillary? Black voters won’t know whether they are pitching or catching if that happens. I can’t wait!

What will the commentators say? What will the current political insiders talk about? If the prospect of having the “first” black president was great in 2008, I would think that the prospect of having the “second” will be just as fantastic— right? “Not so fast,” some of you are saying. “Carson is black, but he is a staunch conservative; we can’t vote for him.” That would be the hue and cry from so-called liberal black folks. On the other hand, to vote for a white woman over a black man, for some black voters would also be a big dilemma.

The possibilities are endless with this one, folks. To which candidate do you think black people would give the majority of their votes? Can you envision Obama supporters, who thought it was so important to elect a black person to the highest office in the world, saying in 2015-2016 that it’s a bad idea this time around? The debates will be very interesting. All of a sudden politics is getting my attention. I am stocking up on popcorn now.

Carson dissed Obama at that prayer breakfast, you know. He is also the darling of Fox News commentators, who eventually said, “nein, nein, nein” to Herman Cain. Carson also rails against Obamacare and initiatives put forth by the president and, if Carson is nominated, there will be a pit-bull fight in 2016. How will black people justify their votes this time— Hillary and Wall Street or Carson and Wall Street, or Hillary and no reparations or Carson and no reparations?

How will black folks fare economically under a Ben Carson administration as opposed to a Hillary Clinton administration? Carson is a free market guy, and Hillary has no problem with free market either. Carson made his millions after pulling himself up from nothing, and Hillary says she and Bill were dead broke when they left the White House. In fact, during their time in Arkansas they had no home other than the governor’s mansion. Talk about Horatio Alger stories; this is really going to be good. They can debate on whose situation was worse, and we can cast our votes for the winner.

Black people have been so ensconced in having the first black president that for many, it’s really going to be sad to see Barack Obama leave. Politically, he is all they have. What will Peggy Joseph do about putting gas in her car and paying her mortgage, as she said when he was elected? (See You Tube) What will Al Sharpton do? I guess he could get close to Hillary if she wins, but you know Carson will have nothing to do with him.

If Carson wins, MSNBC and Fox News will trade places by changing their conversations about the president. MSNBC will constantly rail against Carson and Fox will simply celebrate Carson as their messiah this time. Ain’t politics great!

On a more serious note, elections have consequences. After six years of President Obama in office, black people are assessing our progress under his leadership. Some say he has done well, and others say he has done very little on behalf of black people. The fact remains that he will exit his position in two years. What are we going to do, after reaching the ultimate symbolic high and staying there for two terms? As Peter said to Jesus, “To whom shall we go?”

Have we invested too much emotion in Obama’s presidency and not enough substantive content? Whether it’s Ben Carson or another Republican, or Hillary, the odds-on favorite, who moves into the White House in two years, we must decide where we will go and how we will get there. In my opinion, we have wasted six years of political positioning by not carrying our demands to Obama the way other groups did when he was elected.

Our political dilemma has never been the lack of a “black” president. It has been and continues to be our lack of political involvement beyond voting, our failure to build political power based on an economic power base and our reliance on political symbolism over political substance. Our political dilemma should move us to appropriate action— we must plan now for whomever moves into the White House in 2016.

Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his website: Blackonomics.com.

Settling for optics rather than options

— Black life, for the most part, has become a myriad of frustration, doubt, hopelessness, desperation, despair, struggle and fear. We fear one another; we fear the police; we fear discrimination; we fear racism; we fear injustice; and we fear for our children’s safety on several fronts. We have news shows that are nothing but “views shows,” that make every effort to drag us into the no-win world of political group think, while we meander through life looking for the ultimate illusion of equality on various fronts.


James Clingman

Politically, we are bombarded with images, empty platitudes and impotent strategies to alleviate our many societal problems. Promises, inspiring messages and microphone bravado are the tools of today that keep us relatively docile and in a perpetual state of fourth-class citizenship in this country.

Much of what we see is meaningless, but we seem to thrive on useless and shallow responses to our plight; and we settle for the same from our “leading blacks.” Amazingly, we continue to fall for the same games and head-fakes, the same illusions, and the same rhetoric year after year. It’s all about the “optics,” as the politicians like to say.

For instance, politicians like to show their concern by doing meaningless things like rolling up their sleeves when they visit a city and grab the microphone. They like to wash pots and pans in homeless shelters. They like to serve in food lines. They like to eat hamburgers in public. They like to play games to give the impression they are one of us. They like to dance in conga lines in Africa. They like to be with celebrities to show they are “in.” They like to stand next to manufacturing robots to show us they are innovative. They like to stand on top of rubble and declare their grit and determination to avenge us.

Optics compels our leaders to do dumb and meaningless things to get us to believe they are busy and engaged in the struggles of the common man and it works. Does that mean we are dumb if we accept their empty gestures? Why do we care if they can play golf, if they can dance, if they ride a bicycle, if they jog, if they can play an instrument or sing, if they eat cheeseburgers or if they shed their ties and roll up their sleeves as if they are going to do some real work?

Optics are nothing more than an illusion. A great example is what took place immediately after police shot and killed Kajieme Powell in St. Louis. The mayor called his staff and they conducted an impromptu job training sign-up right there at the site where the man died. I truly hope those who signed up, all 80 or more of them, will not only be trained but receive jobs— but I kinda doubt it.

When civil unrest occurs, the solutions are mainly centered on placating the offended group with more recreational opportunities, job training, diversity and sensitivity training, and other shallow remedies that are only supported by the optics of it all. After a brief period of time, everything usually goes back to normal, especially when it comes to the economic side of things.

Most politicians are, indeed, just political. They have their go-to guys and gals who will calm the masses but fail to neither offer nor implement economic solutions to the problems many of us face on a daily basis, including Black people being killed by other blacks and by police officers.

I long for the day when black people will stop falling for the optics and the antics, and start getting down to the business of economic solutions, not as a panacea, but at least as a tried and true way of making real progress when it comes to our survival. If we continue to use the same tactics in response to our ultimate demise, we will never be respected and we will continue to be the least regarded and the least protected people in this country.

If we keep spending the overwhelming majority of our $1 trillion annual income with businesses other than own, with no reciprocity, there will be no reason for those in charge to change. If we maintain the status quo when it comes to crises, we will continue to get optics rather than substantive change. If we rely on optical illusions to control our direction we will end up in an even more dreadful place than we find ourselves now; and our children will have absolutely no hope at all.

Optics and optical illusions are mirages and pipedreams that keep us from using our economic means in pursuit of our safety, our progress and our liberation and we are delusional if we believe otherwise.

James Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his website: www.blackonomics.com.

Everyone needs to vote!

— This is a call for all eligible black folks to register and vote in every election from now until eternity, so we can stop the rallies, marches and demonstrations related to voting. Despite being the most party-loyal voters in history and receiving the least for that loyalty (No quo for our quid), we continue to deal with voting-related issues. If everyone would vote we could move on to the “weightier” matter of building our own communities again. So please, all black folks who are eligible get registered and vote! Let’s make quid pro quo a reality for black voters.


James Clingman

In 2012, black folks turned out in a larger percentage than whites and other groups for the first time in history. In 2008, blacks voted 95 percent for Barack Obama. Now, in 2014, we are still rallying folks around “voting” issues, voting rights and voting procedures. As I said, we vote the most but receive the least. What will change this ridiculous scenario? I say, 100 percent registration and voter turnout; then we can finally stop spending such an inordinate amount of on those subjects.

Booker T. Washington once said, There are some Negroes who don’t want the patient to get well.” It is still true today with politics among black folks. We have leading blacks whose every move is centered on the political. For their personal economic prosperity, they do very well; but when it comes to a collective solution, you can’t find them with a search warrant.

They keep black folks “fired up and ready to go” to the polls, but not to the marketplace, where the real action and power reside. Booker T. also said, “There are reports that in some sections the black man has difficulty in voting and having counted the little white ballot he has the privilege of depositing twice a year. But there is a little green ballot he can vote through the teller’s window 313 days each year and no one will throw it out or refuse to count it.”

Since we don’t get it, I strongly suggest that until we achieve full participation in voting. There will always be someone who tries to keep the patient sick, dependent and drunk on the fantasy that politics will save us. The only thing that does is to wear out good shoe leather from marching so much. If you think the ballot is stronger than the dollar, then put the word out for everyone to register and vote.

Black people have embraced the illusion of political power in exchange for a more important possession: economic power. For six decades, we have languished in political purgatory, thinking we would be all right if we could just get some black people elected to public office. So why don’t we just establish a national goal of 100 percent registration and voting? Then we can move beyond this political charade and stop falling for the best head-fake in history.

Our major conferences have become nothing but mini political conventions. We invite politicians to speak and, of course, keep the flock focused on their agendas. Joe Biden spoke at the NAACP convention and gave them all the political red meat they could handle as he concentrated on voting rights. “These moves to limit the ‘right to vote’ are nothing more than pure politics, masquerading as attempts to combat corruption where there is none,” Biden said. “Pure politics?” Really?

Cornell Brooks, the new president of the NAACP says his plan is to focus on criminal justice issues, fight the rollback of the Voting Rights Act and diversify the NAACP’s membership. In his answer to Roland Martin’s question, “What is your top priority?” Brooks said, “Well, the top priority would be to listen and engage a membership which reaches hundreds of thousands of members, but certainly in audience and the coalition of inclusion that stretches across the country.” Say what!

(Note: On July 30, 2014, the NAACP announced a partnership with Dunkin’ Donuts to increase black franchises. Kudos to Brother Dedrick Muhammad for that initiative.)

On her radio show, Bev Smith discussed this issue with George E. Curry. They asked why there is less emphasis on economic empowerment than on political empowerment among our major organizations. They called for an Economics Report Card and for the best and brightest among us to devise and execute an economic plan for black people. Bev Smith lamented, “Where are the voices like those of the past?” Both agreed that we have the “professional expertise to help ourselves” in the economic arena. I concur, but we must first get this voting albatross from around our necks.

In my best James Brown impression, “Please! Please! Please!” All black people register and vote so we, the “patients,” can finally spend our time getting well.

Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his website: www.blackonomics.com.

Exiting the train of consumption

— During a seminar in Buffalo, N.Y. a few years ago, noted author and financial adviser, Brooke Stephens said, “How you handle your money is a reflection of how you feel about yourself.”


James Clingman

Many of us, including me, may not want to admit it, but there have been times in our lives when we did some pretty stupid things with our money.

We spent all we had and then some; we ended up with more month than money; we bought things we thought would bring us satisfaction but later found they had little lasting value.

As mature adults now, our financial mistakes and indiscretions should be used to help our young people, many of whom find their self-esteem and self-worth in their possessions. And, sadly, the more they pay for those things, the greater their perceived self-worth.

Shahrazad Ali once said, “Black folks brag about how much we pay for things, and white folks brag about how little they pay.”

Our economic empowerment will never come from spending alone; it will come from ownership of production capacity, distribution channels, real estate and businesses through which we circulate our dollars among ourselves.

Our lifestyles are definitely reflective of our penchant for purchasing “top shelf” items and, thus, illuminate our need to impress others with those items.

For instance, the television commercials featuring various brands of alcohol being promoted by black icons of the rap music industry carry the subliminal message of being accepted and affluent. Clothing and shoe commercials lull many of us into a continuous state of “I gotta have that.” The automobile ads, especially the high-priced autos, feature all kinds of reasons for going into debt for seven years to drive them. And it goes on and on.

When do we get off this train of consumption? How do we begin to establish self-control when it comes to how we handle our money? How do we immunize ourselves against the disease of allowing our wants to morph into needs simply because of a commercial, a billboard, or a cute jingle or saying recited by some superstar? A lot of our purchasing habits really do reflect the saying, “We buy what we want and beg for what we need.”

Jonathan Weaver, pastor at Greater Mt. Nebo A.M.E. Church, in Bowie, Maryland and founder of the Collective Empowerment Group, conducts a daily prayer teleconference (712-432-0255; access code 372536#). In a recent session, Pastor Weaver stated, “Know the difference between needs and wants. You need transportation to get to work or your business, but it doesn’t mean you need to buy a $50,000 car. What you need is a ticket to get on the metro or subway or bus fare. You need to have some clothes, but you don’t need a $10,000 mink coat.”

Weaver went on to add some very important tips, such as, avoiding the use of credit cards, and refraining from “window-shopping,” because you may be drawn into the store and buy something you did not consider until you saw it. (“Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things…” Psalm 119:37). Marketers, to their credit, know how to turn a consumer’s wants into needs. So, beware of all the ways to get your money out of your pocket and into someone else’s.

It all boils down to what Brooke Stephens said about how we view ourselves. We have been so programmed to believe that having “things,” especially the best and highest priced things, is the key to our personal value. We are mesmerized by luxury and excess and have become obedient consumers who will rush out, sleep out, and even knockout someone else just to have the latest fashion, gadget, or whatever anyone is selling.

Maybe we can change our tenuous and abbreviated relationship with our money by holding on to it a little longer. Maybe we can educate our children and guide them in such a way that they will not make the same mistakes we made when it comes to handling money. Maybe we can gain a new and different perspective as a people and as individual consumers. And, maybe, just maybe, we will take that first giant step toward economic self-reliance and achieve a proportional level of ownership and control of income-producing assets in this country. After all, we have been here since it began yet we lag far behind where we should be economically, slavery and mistreatment notwithstanding.

I believe those of us who have been through some “stuff” and made poor decisions in our lives have an obligation to at least share our experiences and use them to help others. I know I have been down a few economically dead-end roads, and I don’t want to see our children go down those same roads. I am sure many of you feel the same way. So don’t be ashamed to admit you messed up a few times— or a lot of times, for that matter. When it comes to our money, we simply must change.

The Bible says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21 NIV). Where is your heart these days? When will you derail the madness of shopping ‘til you drop?

Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his website: www.blackonomics.com.