American Blacks must cultivate a culture of entrepreneurship
Armstrong Williams | 1/31/2013, 4:40 p.m.
Recently on Roland Martin's "Washington Watch," we discussed what must be President Barack Obama's exclusive agenda to empower Black America is his second term. The only advice I could share with Martin's national audience was that American Blacks must cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit independent of any president in the White House. Why is it that no matter who occupies the White House, the plight of minorities, especially American Blacks, continues to increase overall? Why haven't the billions of dollars invested in these communities lifted their boats from poverty and despair? In fact, the government nanny state has only worsened the plight of many across our nation.
I think of my own experiences working on the family farm with my seven brothers and two sisters. Each morning, my father would come into our bedrooms around 4:30 a.m. and tell us to get up and work the fields. We would spend the next two hours before school slopping pigs and cropping tobacco. Was it fun? Not even close. But these early lessons in physical striving taught us discipline, work ethic, routine and responsibility, and instilled an attitude of achievement that was the better part of our later successes. The point I'm trying to convey is that it is not enough to merely wish for the good things in life. You must develop that kind of 4:30 a.m. discipline that distinguishes you from others: You must think of yourself as an entrepreneur.
I guess it is not surprising that minorities, who were traditionally shut out of mainstream society and treated as second-caste citizens, would be susceptible to thinking of themselves as victims. Up until just one generation ago, Black Americans were relegated to the fringes of American society. The overall white, patriarchal society was not about to give up its sense of superiority, so it leaned on minorities with its full weight.
Black children were segregated in under-funded schools. Black adults, regarded chiefly as a source of cheap labor, were denied opportunities for economic advancement. The results were straightforward: Many young minorities received a poor education, lacked role models to cultivate their talents, plainly saw that society expected them not to succeed and consequently stifled their own sense of future possibilities. In countless specific ways, minorities were made to hate themselves. This kind of conditioning was necessary for the maintenance of the elitist, white, patriarchal ruling structure.
If Black America tended to respond with a certain distrust and hostility toward mainstream business and politics, it was plainly a matter of self-defense. The rise of Black Nationalism and other separatist movements did not happen in a vacuum. They happened because even up to a generation ago, the white American ruling class did everything it could to discourage Black people from even making the attempt to be successful.
The Civil Rights Movement was born out of an intense struggle to enjoy those basic human rights we associate with happiness. Early leaders of the movement settled on the theory that American society was primarily characterized by racism and that American institutions were grounded in the maintenance of racial privilege. Many of the Black politicians swept into office on the heels of the movement consciously embodied this organizing principle. Their legislative remedies were predicated on the belief that the problems of Black people, whether its high crime rates, drug use or poor educational performance, were, primarily, if not entirely, the result of white racism. Their obligation was to promote and protect their constituents by offering remedies to specific aspects of racial discrimination (i.e., segregated schools, disparity in pay, public accommodations, etc.). In other words, they wed their legitimacy to the belief that all the problems confronting Blacks were rooted in racism.