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18 Feb 2024

Guest Commentary: 2024 is the year of American values, Black inclusion, white privilege, and consequences

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February 18, 2024 Category: Commentary, Local Posted by:

By George Burrell

Throughout history, several countries have been the greatest — a designation now held by the United States. However, insurrection, elected officials paralyzed by party and power over people, Israel accepting American welfare, but disrespecting its president, and the Supreme Court sanctioning racism has raised international concern about American democracy, as we become a group of states, where laws and rights change each time a state line is crossed.

Liz Cheney’s memoir entitled “Oath and Honor,” is seen as an act of courage and a wakeup call. How often does a Congress person forgo power to do the right thing? America’s greatness and Black future, both in peril, will be determined by generationally diverse leaders. Silent beneficiaries of white privilege will be exposed, when future generations visit

Affirmative action and employee training have been the tools used to manage conscious and unconscious bias, and to pursue representative Black participation in procurement and employment. However, despite embarrassing percentages for decades, the Supreme Court recently decided affirmative action is unconstitutional, because it somehow discriminates against privileged white men. Googling the median income of Black and white men between 40-59 outs that lie.

Nonetheless, post the Supreme Court decision, CEOs have developed diversity fatigue and litigation fear. They are settling DEI cases and modifying programs in ways they know will discriminate against Blacks and white women. White decision makers — relieved of affirmative action pressures — will not bury conscious and unconscious bias and recover from their version of color blind decision making.

Governor Shapiro and Mayor Parker’s budget messages should emphasize unwavering commitments to representative Black participation. The mayor, at the upcoming Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia luncheon, should define economic opportunity for everyone, given that corporate behavior will put Blacks and women further behind the eight ball.

Reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his generation
How did Dr. King’s generation set aside ambition and ego, navigate disrespect for Black women as leaders, ignore life threatening challenges, and deliver transformative outcomes? The work they did, from the 1956 Montgomery Bus Boycott until Dr. King’s assassination in 1968 was about the Dream and Black progress. There was no complaining (women demanded in private) or waiting on senior leaders for guidance or permission. Their leadership and deliverables have been unmatched.

Since Dr. King’s death, Black leaders and leadership organizations have produced, but, except for political power, changes in quality of life have been incremental, and in too much of urban America, depressing. A respected and feared Black power center willing to impose consequences is imperative. That is how Donald Trump took control and now manipulates Republicans and the party.

Forward thinking white leaders like Bill Golderer, Madeline Bell, John Fry, Chellie Cameron, and Michael Forman need to strategically rethink achieving inclusion for Blacks and white women business owners. The Supreme Court decision should be a challenge, not an excuse.

The movie “RUSTIN” demonstrates the power of coordinated Black leaders willing to impose consequences. Men with egos and personal differences produced an integrated march on Washington many thought impossible coordinated by a gay man. The organizers were threatened by President Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and J. Edgar Hoover, but the march eventually resulted in a White House meeting and passage of historic civil rights legislation.

“RUSTIN” reminds us that Black clergy — Christian and Muslim — and labor leaders have been like glue throughout Black history. Last fall, Rev. Dr. Alyn E. Waller hosted Rev. Dr. Frederick Douglass Haynes III, , the new CEO of Rainbow PUSH, at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia. Haynes articulated his intent to build on Jesse Jackson’s legacy as an aggressive, visible, disruptive change agent, delivering, like Rustin, for Black folks. Philadelphia needs and houses faith and labor leaders with that potential. They have each other’s contact information. Like Bruno Mars: “Gonna Leave the Door Open.”

Racism: The bad boys
Bad boy billionaire racists, alleging discrimination against white men, fear America becoming a majority minority country. They crave the “good old days” and in making the American Dream beyond reach for unborn Black generations. The Chamber, United Way, Philadelphia Equity Alliance, Economy League and white leadership organizations cannot hide behind 501-C-3 or the Supreme Court. Be risk takers, change agents and real — not symbolic or sound bite — Black partners. Use the Chamber mayoral lunch to give context to your overlapping zip codes, inclusive growth and most equitable city rhetoric. This is a struggle about values, right and wrong — not politics.

Across a changing landscape, CEOs are watching, sometimes facilitating DEI job declines, opening program doors to include white men, and like Comcast and Pfizer, settling litigation. This is behavior that is punitive and a slap in the face of Blacks and white woman owned businesses.
Black participation has been pedestrian under affirmative action. Removed and/or weakened, white discrimination — as well as conscious and unconscious bias — will not miraculously disappear, and Black and white women participation will decrease while waiting for Godot and/or CEO courage and determination.

Bad boy attacks on affirmative action and the attacks of Republican governors on Black history, voting rights and affirmative action are intended to ignite a racial divide. As James Farmer, Jr., as portrayed in “The Great Debaters” said, “An unjust law is no law at all. Which means I have a right, even a duty, to resist with violence or civil disobedience. You should pray I chose the latter.” Gun violence, carjacking and retail theft have no defense, but neither do racists intentionally pushing Blacks over the cliff.

Bill Ackerman, the billionaire behind the Harvard decision, calls DEI racist and illegal. Elon Musk deserves a boycott of X and Tesla. Nikki Haley believes America has never been a racist country. The Wisconsin Institute settled litigation with Comcast, allowing white men grants previously limited to diverse and women owned businesses. Let me catch my breath.

America First caused the EEOC to investigate Macy’s plan for 30% diversity in leadership by 2025. Goldman Sachs ended its DEI program. The federal 8(a) business program suspended operations to revise its application. The Heritage Foundation is working to institutionalize Trumpism.

The bad boys’ racism to date has faced limited CEO and white leadership resistance. The lack of a proactive response suggests Blacks and women owned businesses are expendable.

The Black response to the bad boys’ and Republican governors’ actions has lacked a strategic and operational sense of urgency, unlike women’s response to choice.

Since June 24, 2022, when Roe vs. Wade was overturned, women have relentlessly advocated, communicated and made choice a signature 2024 election issue. I love the Planned Parenthood ad, where a woman holds a sign: “this is not the 1960s.” MLK is high-fiving her in Heaven.
Former Black CEOs and board members should demand accountability from the collective of CEOs, who post George Floyd assured Blacks accelerated equity, but on the changed landscape are instead compromising Blacks and white women daily.

The National Action Network has announced a national drive to defend DEI. The Global Black Economic Forum calls the enemy a dragon determined to abolish DEI from every American institution. The US Black Chamber commits unwavering support for Black entrepreneurs. Framing the issues is important, but a game plan, inviting white women under the tent, is necessary.

I believe that God/Allah intends Blacks to realize the American Dream. But realizing what is for us requires faith, confidence, heavy lifting and navigating troubled waters. MLK’s life and Black demographics evidence that the Dream is not a gift, given without work and sacrifice. Let’s get to work with a sense of urgency, not entitlement.

The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has provided cover for billionaire racists, licensed federal courts to affirm racism, and has opened the door for 21st century Jim Crow. Although race conscious admissions at West Point have been protected while a lower court reviews the Constitutional issues, Blacks need throwback jerseys, not to celebrate history, but communicate Jim Crow will not be tolerated, nor the future of unborn Black children sacrificed.

Black lawyers and intellectuals, substantive and strategic ammunition is needed. Black leaders must fight with the valor of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Jordan, Thurgood Marshall, and Louis Farrakhan. The bad boys remain in play, even if Trump loses.

70% of Philadelphia’s Democrats stayed home last spring. 40% of Blacks living in poverty, deep poverty or economic insecurity have no experience with politics or politicians improving their lives. 4% Black unemployment does not resonate with individuals earning minimum wage, holding two jobs and on food stamps. Traditional campaigns, polling, and messaging, in contrast with the declining quality of life, misses the mark.

Detroit Change, hosting Black men heard: (i) a slap in the face, watching billions go abroad and no resources for Blacks; (ii) with Trump, what you see is what you get, give me that vs. candidates who lie; (iii) Democrats are failing to address Black needs; and (iv) canvassers vow at election time to improve neighborhoods, but no change occurs.

President Biden and his surrogates’ sound bites ring hollow. His South Carolina primary win was followed by lukewarm Black commentary. But the numbing Catch 22 is that the President, despite his flaws, is the best 2024 option. If Hillary Clinton had won in 2016, choice and affirmative action would be constitutional, the Supreme Court would be populated constructively, and 2024 would not be about 21st century morality and protecting democracy. Four more years of Donald Trump?

This year America affirms greatness or surrenders to white privilege.

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, The Philadelphia Sunday SUN, the author’s organization, committee or other group or individual.

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