Richard Rowe…What Are We Waiting For?

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Black community, it’s time for some tough decision making. It’s time for an up or down vote to decide the best way to conceptualize, create and configure our communities for both positive and optimal socio-economic and political outcomes. Moreover, it’s time to time for us to promote and demonstrate by example that “more is not always better;” and that there comes a time when it is necessary to downsize and scale back to salvage, strengthen and support those existing organizations and businesses that have the “best” business models to confront and survive the economic and political realities that are before us. Never has there been a worse time for us to lose the capacity to face the reality of our long-term challenges as a community. It is time to disconnect ourselves from the last sequential obsession with the politics of divisiveness and whatever relative triviality that dominates our conversation.

Given the present economic realities, one can only ponder why there have not been more mergers of Black not-for-profit and for-profit organizations, colleges, churches and businesses in the Baltimore region in particular, and across the nation in general. News headlines appear each and every day about the dire and precipitous decline of Black businesses, historically Black colleges (HBCUs), and not-for-profit organizations. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that the Black community has adopted a “more is better” approach to address its present conditions. If we really looked critically at our situation and removed our emotions and egos from the equation, we would realize that we have far too many businesses, churches, colleges and not-for-profit organizations that are on life support and whose days are numbered. We would realize that far too many of these “life-sustaining” institutions are duplicating services; that they seldom collaborate with one another on any major projects; and, that they are led by individuals that appear to be trapped in a “Darwinian” matrix of “survival of the fittest/biggest” and of “going it along” at all cost, which, by the way, is a recipe for romantic, symbolic and specious trappings of Black progress.

One would think that when most American cities and states have and are experiencing the worst recession ever recorded since the Great Depression, there would be a movement in the Black community towards greater group solidarity and intra-group collaboration; and, that we would engage in serious dialogue, discussions and debates about our socio-economic and political fate – both locally and nationally – and how we should proceed in developing cooperative/collaborative business models. One would also think that we would be having serious conversations about figuring out, once and for all, how to create a pool of assets (our own) to fund our institutional needs, and to develop the infrastructure to truly maintain those life-giving and life-sustaining institutions in our community that promote and sustain intra-group support and solidarity.

Maybe it’s time for Black economists, business leaders, demographers, urban planners and social scientists to revisit and advance the sociological prescriptions highlighted in Dr. W.E.B. DuBois’ classic work, The Philadelphia Negro (1899); or the urban analysis by Harvard’s preeminent scholar, William Julius Wilson in his recent book, More Than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City (2009); or the theories examined in Roger Waldinger’s Still the Promised City (1996).  It is clear that we need to do something, or the Black community will find itself reacting to the avalanche of social and economic policies that will reflect a myopic and debilitating vision that maintains the notion of conditioned expectations and the “arrogance of dominance” by a select few.  Again, Black community, it’s time for some tough decision making. What are we waiting for, the waving of a magic wand by our first Black president, Mr. Barack Obama? Let’s hope not.

Richard A. Rowe writes from Maryland. Send feedback to rrowe84@aol.com.