Racism is a 400 million dollar per year fabrication. At least that is what Mel, the main character’s cousin, claims in the novel Exposed: Humanity Craves Power. The irony is that as crazy as this sounds on the surface, there is some shocking truth to it.
When I look at dinosaurs like the NAACP and the Rainbow Push Coalition, I see stagnated power that has dwindled into seeming nothingness. Organizations like Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Trans Women of Color, and Blackout for Human Rights have stolen the old organizations’ thunder. I’ve conceded that senior civil rights organizations have lost their effectiveness and influence due to changes in their agendas and financial obligations. The NAACP, the Nation’s oldest watchdog, has gotten fat from monetary donations – Microsoft, Wyndham, Exxon, Wachovia, PepsiCo, and Kodak (Bartlett, 2004). After attacking the Adam’s Mark hotel chain in 1999 and settling for 1.1 million dollars in a federal discrimination lawsuit, the organization has yet to call out one of its donors for racial injustice.
Such lack of fortitude, combined with the neglect of African American inner-city youth, opened the doors for more radical organizations like Black Lives Matter to enter and inspire the bottled-up anger in every American city. Had the NAACP been a better role model, organizations such as Black Lives Matter would benefit the black community as did the Black Panthers. As I reflect on the Black Panthers, I can remember one other organization whose mission was to positively influence and inspire black communities – not destroy its infrastructure. That organization was the Nation of Islam (NOI). Today, its influence has also waned, but its spirit should thrive in newer African American civil rights organizations.
At one time, I wanted to write for the NOI. When I mention this to others, they look at me curiously, turning up their lips. Well – truth be told, I was a broadcast major leaving undergrad and wanted any job in my field of study. Hoping to influence the decision on my application, I pursued membership in the Nation of Islam. I went to the beautiful masjid on south Stoney Island Avenue in Chicago and let them pat me down for weapons; I sat on the left side of the room and absorbed lecture after lecture. Although I learned many things regarding the Nation’s rhetoric, I never got the job. Instead, I was offered a position in the organization’s restaurant.
The Nation of Islam conceived the restaurant idea ahead of anticipating a billion-dollar gift from Libya’s Qaddafi. The Nation of Islam had plans to purchase farmland in the U.S.’s southern region to start a multi-billion-dollar business that would supply groceries to African Americans communities. The restaurant itself was designed to grant jobs to the local Chicagoans and provide a fine dining experience to the more affluent African Americans.
Nonetheless, I refused the offer. Bussing table during a summer stint in another establishment left me with nightmares. I made one attempt to waiter tables in a sports bar, but that lasted all of two days. Affluent African Americans, such as Oprah Winfrey, would never patronize the Nation’s restaurant. The locals could not afford or appreciate the fine dining. When it came to the restaurant’s attempt to sell carryout at affordable prices, locals found more appeal in the greasy fries and pizza puffs sold by the Arab owned burger joint across the street. Along with the failing restaurant, the U.S. government blocked the donation from Libya, and the NOI faded in the rearview mirror of local community activism.
When I compare the Nation of Islam’s efforts to newer political groups like Color of Change, Black Vison Collective, and Black Lives Matter, I can’t help but believe that the African American community collectively missed a great opportunity. The Nation of Islam had been a significant voice in the racial discussion since the 1950s. Despite many success stories, African Americans did not wholly gravitate toward the Islamic Nation – primarily due to their attachment to Christianity.
Circling back to Mel’s claim about 400 million dollars per year being invested in racially based issues, more groups have taken the market share of financial resources. The NAACP had a 27 million dollar budget in 1999. (Bartlet, 2004)The Antiracist Research & Policy Center received 1.5 million from the Rockefeller Foundation this month (Yahoo News, 2020). Black Lives Matter Global Network manager, Kailee Scales, proclaimed that George Floyd’s death sparked national outrage, “a watershed moment for all black-led groups.” (Loiaconi, 2020). I will admit that watershed doesn’t mean wealth. Still, when we consider that one recent Black Lives Matter petition alone brought in $5 million in online contributions (Loiaconi, 2020), it is safe to assume that Mel is right. Racism is a goldmine.
What is concerning and yet to be seen is the longevity of Black Lives Matter and other high-strung organizations that are not as politically savvy as the NAACP. When I see miscalculated blunders as in Hawk Newsome’s and Patrisse Cullors’s interviews on Fox and CNN, I doubt the leadership’s ability to sustain and impact. When Cullors, in her official capacity, said that BLM’s goal was “to get Trump out.” and made statements like “Trump not only needs to not be in office in November but, he should resign now,” (Reynolds, 2020), she spoke ill-advised. Her statement, coupled with Hawk Newsom’s disconnected response to his interviewer’s question, makes me doubt BLM’s leadership political staying power. When asked if he supports a statement by Martin Luther King Jr., Newsom answered: “I love the Lord and my lord and savior Jesus Christ is the most famous black radical revolutionary in history…” (Newsome, 2020)
Cullors’ error opens doors for the IRS to freely enter. Going through the donation page, one will see donations given to BLM by ActBlue Charities. Being that ActBlue Charities is a 501(c)(3) wing of the Democratic political action committee (Reynolds, 2020), advisors failed to let Cullor know that her statements have repercussions. Although BLM Global Network is not registered as a 501(C)(3) organization, it accepts financial support from 501(C)(3) organizations. By receiving financial support from such organizations, BLM must comply with the same regulations that prohibit partisan political statements from 501(C)(3) organizations.
So it seems that Mel is correct. In the novel, he sheds light on an aspect of the racial discussion that is rarely mentioned. Mel believes that the responsibility for curing racism lies with blacks as well as whites. He claims that only unbiased truth and the exposure of each ethnic group’s shame can cure society’s sickness of the fabrication. But Mel doubts that any side will take severe steps – there is just too much money to lose if racism ends. How many nonprofit organizations will have to close their doors? How many federal and state employees will take to unemployment lines? It is a sad, almost unbelievable, thought to accept, but the financial gains of racism and antiracism should saturate the racial discussion.
I also believe that so-called civil rights leaders, who no longer lay their necks on the line, are responsible for the newer civil rights organizations’ misdirection. There are copious organizations of multiple ethnicities with no central leadership and multiple – sometimes conflicting – agendas. Perhaps the uncertainty of direction is why Hawk Newsom could not answer MacCallum’s question. Whereas Hawk Newsome failed to answer the question posed to him, I emphatically answerer YES, I agree. “Let us be dissatisfied until that day when nobody will shout ‘Black Power,’ but everybody will talk about God’s power and human power.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)
Free ebook copies of Expose: Humanity Craves Power are available through November 2020. Register at http://www.mendjinnandangels.com contact page.
Bartlet, B. (2004, 12 13). Roundup Media Take. Retrieved from History News Website: https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/9097#:~:text=It%20is%20dated%201999%20and%20commends%20the%20Adam%27s,marbled%20with%20contributions%20from%20the%20nation%27s%20leading%20corporations.
Izumi, L. (2017, June 2). Education. Retrieved from Real Clear Education: https://www.realcleareducation.com/articles/2017/06/02/why_trump_is_right_to_cut_federal_education_spending_110165.html
Loiaconi, S. (2020, June 15). As Black Lives Matter donations surge, some want to know where the money goes. Retrieved from ABC 6 On Our Side: https://abc6onyourside.com/news/nation-world/as-black-lives-matter-donations-surge-some-want-to-know-where-the-money-goes
Newsome, H. (2020, June 24). Black Lives Matter leader states if US ‘doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system’. (M. MacCallem, Interviewer)
Reynolds, E. (2020, June 26). Politics. Retrieved from The Federalist: https://thefederalist.com/2020/06/26/blm-co-founder-appears-to-violate-irs-laws-on-cnn/
Yahoo News. (2020, October 1). Cision. Retrieved from Yahoo News: https://news.yahoo.com/rockefeller-foundation-commits-1-5-143000000.html