View from Here.
By: David Mark Greaves
The Supreme Court, in a 6-2 decision, has upheld Michigan’s voter-approved ban on racial preferences being used for college admissions. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote the sole dissenting opinion, read excerpts from the bench, calling the decision a blow to “historically marginalized groups, which rely on the federal courts to protect their constitutional rights”.
This decision by the voters and the court does not occur in a vacuum, it has to be looked at in the context of another dynamic going on in the country, the intergenerational transfer of wealth we spoke about last month as being “detailed in the February 2000 study by the Planned Giving Design Center entitled, “Millionaires and the Millennium: New Estimates of the Forthcoming Wealth Transfer and the Prospects for a Golden Age of Philanthropy”. Their study “predicted that over the 55-year period from 1998 to 2052, a minimum of $41 trillion will pass from one generation to the next”.
This transfer of wealth is so enormous that Bill Moyers, in conversation with Paul Klugman about Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, notes that “Piketty makes the point that the very size of inherited fortunes today is so great that it practically makes them invisible. Quote: ‘Wealth is so concentrated that a large segment of society is virtually unaware of its existence’”.
And because the people sucking the wealth out of the economy are invisible, and can pay people to keep them that way, the tensions caused by the economy such as the cost of health care, the cost of education and the lack of upward mobility, are blamed on those who are visible, black and brown people, and who are portrayed as the ones who are the takers and the seekers of special privileges even though they have close to nothing, and those who have close to everything remain unseen and take no responsibility.
These are the inheritors and benefactors of the wealth generated during the centuries of economic terrorism called Slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow and an ongoing structural economic apartheid against black people. And here in Bedford-Stuyvesant, we see( every day) the innocent heirs of white supremacy and privilege living alongside the victims of that apartheid, who are occupied in thought about the gas and electric bill, the grocery bill and the rent, who are the prey of predatory lenders, property flippers and the surrounding miasma of poverty, and like paint at the edge of the wood strippers blade, they are inexorably being scraped aside to make way for new owners.
Whether it is the Hasidim, averaging 8 children per family, pressing in from the north across DeKalb Avenue, or everyone else coming in from all directions, the tension of being under assault is palpable across the community and constantly expressed is the speed of the change and the fear of what the future holds for those locked in that celebration of racial diversity, the bottom one percent.
And yet in all of this there is a way out. African-Americans have a legacy of creativity that includes not only masks and dance but the astronomy of the Dogon the pyramids and George Washington Carver. And In this digital age, creativity is prized above all else. Creativity expressed not only in the arts, but in the sciences and business as well. But time is short. As the great historian John Henrik Clarke said in his 1996 interview with Our Time Press, “If Black people don’t unite and begin to support themselves, their communities and their families, they might as well begin to go out of business as a people. Nobody’s going to have any mercy. And nobody’s going to have any compunction about making slaves out of them”. Of course it won’t be called slavery, but you’ll know when you’re in it, and you’ll still feel the