As we clean out our grills and reflect on yesterdays Independence Day celebration, Americans everywhere are reflecting on the birth of a nation, and the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
On that tense day in 1776, no one could predict with certainty whether it would be remembered as a moment of faction and division, or the beginning of a unifying movement that would turn 13 colonies into one nation. Since then, our nation has been tested several times by movements that seemed to hang in the balance of being unifying or dividing. This past year, much of the political dialogue has centered around deciding which category Black Lives Matter falls in.
In its infancy, Black Lives Matter was a movement. Movements, if they remain small enough, can be homogenous, unified.
When the death of George Floyd ignited a national racial reckoning, BLM attracted so many new adherents it inevitably became a coalition, and coalitions means competing ideas and factions.
That coalition held tight through the seminal moment of the first trial of Floyd’s murderer, Derek Chauvin. But now that the trial is over, the unity has lessened somewhat, and which competing factions begin to win the day within the BLM coalition will have enormous impact on Philadelphia’s future.
The coalition element furthest to the left sees the Floyd-BLM political power as an opportunity not just to push for more racial progress, but to also achieve ambitions the far left has harbored for decades: deconstructing and dismantling capitalism.
But now that the trial is over, the unity has lessened somewhat, and which competing factions begin to win the day within the BLM coalition will have enormous impact on Philadelphia’s future.
This group views Floyd’s death less as the product of racist hearts but of other inequalities. They further view capitalism as a source — perhaps the source — of what culminated in the iconic single event of Floyd’s death.
In Pennsylvania, this faction displayed itself most prominently when a group of elected Democrats in the state put out a press release shortly after Chauvin’s guilty verdict.
“In order to achieve true justice and safety, we need to tackle the causes of police violence at their roots: white supremacy and racial capitalism,” the group said in the release.
One is left only to wonder whether racial capitalism is a category — meaning there are other, more palatable versions of capitalism? — or whether the word “racial” is a universal descriptor, meaning of course, capitalism by itself is and will always be wholly and incurably racist.
The other BLM faction seeks to address some racial inequalities by boosting the financial fortunes of communities of color.
Philadelphia’s best example of this is the former Eagle safety Malcom Jenkins, who has begun several philanthropic efforts to teach young black people how to build wealth, to save, invest, and understand the attitudes necessary to make that happen.
Lest anyone think that Jenkins is an inauthentic representative of the BLM tide, consider that he is also an outspoken advocate and endorser of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.
While Broad + Liberty may have more than a few critiques of Jenkins’ preferred choice for district attorney, count us as avid supporters of these kinds of financial projects.
“It’s projected that by 2053 that African Americans will have on average a negative net worth, with Hispanics being right behind,” Jenkins told the Inquirer‘s Jenice Armstrong. “How do we begin to chip away at that? The earlier you can get kids focused on saving money and investing and understanding how to make money, the better off you are.”
Philadelphia should celebrate and promote those like Ayesha Selden, who grew up poor in the city, but now has a multi-million real dollar real estate portfolio.
“Condition yourself as a saver first,” Selden said during a podcast interview. “There are steps to this game. You can’t go from one end of the process all the way to a disciplined investor and think that everything is going to be gravy.”
As Selden intimates, striving for and building wealth makes one invested in the future. That, in turn, makes one less likely to agitate for a complete destruction of the institutions that conservatives argue lead to a good life.
However, growing black and brown wealth through generational learning projects and by growing entrepreneurialism will not happen in a laissez faire environment, something conservatives should ponder. While Selden is an example of what achievement is possible, it is not good enough to simply hope more like her will spontaneously appear if we cross our fingers.
Still, not only are these kinds of projects worthwhile in their own right, advancing them will also help to simultaneously defeat the “racial capitalist” nihilists who are really nothing more than revolutionary vandals — persons who think they can create history through what they can quickly destroy. Jenkins and Selden, meanwhile, seek to build.
HBO’s Bill Maher correctly pointed out recently that despite all the racial work left to be done in America, it’s foolish to say that things are worse now than they’ve ever been.
“In 1958,” Maher said, “only four percent of Americans approved of interracial marriage. Now Gallup doesn’t even bother asking. But the last time they did, in 2013, 87 percent approved. An overwhelming majority of Americans now say they want to live in a multiracial neighborhood. That is a sea change from when I was a kid,” he concluded.
To his remarks we’d like to add that social harmony generally is most accessible — and most accelerated — in wealthy societies. And it is incontrovertibly true that wealthy societies are capitalist. Put simply, people fear “the other” even more when they are worried about their pocketbook than when they aren’t.
This month, President Biden marked the 100th anniversary of the tragic massacre that took more than 300 lives in Tulsa, but that also destroyed “Black Wall Street.”
Now, after the close of Independence Day weekend, as we reflect on Madison’s concern for the tyranny of faction, or Washington’s plea for unity, let us make sure that we advance our nation in ways that improve and not divide us.
Let us dedicate ourselves to a future in which the American landscape is dotted with Black Wall Streets, from Philadelphia to Portland.
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