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Different strategies for different times

Melvin B. Miller
Different strategies for different times
“Man, I can’t wait to get my new business going!”

Carter G. Woodson, a black historian, was the progenitor of Negro History Week in 1926. The idea was widely accepted and was later expanded to Black History Month. It is important to note with the passing of the years whether the curators of black history apply a demanding standard before events attain the status of being historically significant.

Woodson was quoted as claiming that “if a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world and it stands in danger of being exterminated.” Clearly, such historical events must be very significant, in Woodson’s opinion, if their absence will cause such dire consequences.

Historical events are past deeds, not whims, thoughts, ideas or dreams. Someone must do something in order for an event to occur. While it is a very worthwhile practice to celebrate black achievement in February, this might also be a good time for African Americans to assess the merits or failures of strategies for progress. In America’s highly competitive society, it is not enough simply to celebrate achievements. The strategies for progress must be fine-tuned.

The first challenge is to define the problem accurately. The primary barriers confronting blacks have been different at various times. For example, the first issue was slavery. The 13th Amendment made slavery illegal after Dec. 6, 1865, but it did not entirely end the practice. Wily plantation owners found ways to circumvent the constitutional prohibition.

The second problem was to end racial segregation. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1896 in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson that segregation was constitutional as long as the facilities were “separate but equal.” Even though the facilities were never equal, the rule lasted until the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954.

The end of segregation did not terminate racial discrimination. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made racial discrimination illegal in employment, education and places of public accommodation. While that is the law, enforcement is a constant challenge.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 made it possible for African Americans to vote in former states of the Confederacy, and allegedly develop the political power to enforce the laws against racial discrimination.

Slavery was ruled to be unconstitutional 153 years ago, but racial discrimination has not yet sufficiently abated. Opportunity for blacks is still impaired. Certainly life is better since slavery days, but progress has been much too slow.

The primary strategy has been to procure civil rights. Going forward, greater consideration should be given to entrepreneurial development. The Selig Center for Economic Growth estimated African American buying power was $1.2 trillion in 2016 and is expected to grow to $1.5 trillion by 2021. That is certainly a sufficiently large economic base for blacks to participate in the economy as investors rather than merely consumers.

It is time for blacks to begin activities to create a new history.