DESCENDANTS OF SLAVES: NO FUTURE IN CALIFORNIA, by Dr. Steven Nur Ahmed

Whether we consciously acknowledge it or not, we are necessarily confronted everyday with certain unavoidable natural, economic, and political realities. For example, our need for food, for water, and for shelter; our need to be born healthy and into a family which provides us with a stable and structured material, emotional, and intellectual environment as well as our need to form meaningful relationships with those around us. Those conditions are all as natural as gravity. But barriers exist which challenge our ability to acquire those necessities. Some are natural and others are socially constructed. Our task is to overcome the ever present challenges to our existence.

A significant privation of any one of those conditions can retard our social development. If privations are severe enough, they can cause us to die prematurely before having ever had the opportunity to reach our highest stage of personal development. At its worst, significant social privations can dehumanize whole groups of people over time. We all want to avoid privation of the good things in life. We want what we think is good. But despite our best efforts we usually fall short at attaining what we believe to be good. That underscores another fact.

The fact is we are not always in conscious control of our situation. There are rational explanations for that fact but it is also because running parallel to what we consciously try to determine for ourselves are hidden irrational forces altering the designed outcome of our conscious choices. Those hidden irrational forces are like tiny metallic specks in the corners of a pair of dice making them roll off the course we design.

Inclosing the conscious sphere of our individual and collective lives is an even deeper natural reality. That reality is an unconscious yet very natural force. The unconscious is by weight a more powerful force than our rational efforts to design the best possible life for ourselves. That is so even though it’s awesome power is never fully discerned by us on our narrowly defined stage of personal drama.

Our personal drama blinds us to the existence of the unconscious forces moving us. Over a vast number of years, some of us may turn and look back, intuitively, if not visually. At that time, we experience a sweeping comprehension of the varied unconscious effects of the unseen on our lives, or the lives of those around us, and the very world we perceive. For as we examine our past at that time we may see with both hindsight and insight an altered landscape as well as an altered mindscape.

We comprehend them both reshaped around us as well as in us. We might then say: things have changed and are changing beyond my power to stop or control the incessant re-combinations and permutations of things around us. Yes, a face seen in a mirror at 20 years of age one day has a reality check and sees itself in the same mirror at 80 years of age and realizes it has been running a gauntlet of nuanced types of very physical opposition.

That unconscious force which loads the dice against us governs the ebb and flow of whole populations of creatures, big and small, across the globe. On land and under oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams. There are few remedies to its onslaught.

Darwin called it natural selection, adaptation, mutation, and gene flow. Here, there is no escaping it.  We live by and in natural selection and we are subjects to that all powerful process of change. That change extends to social selection by conflict and competition. 

With a broadened vision, some of us eventually come to comprehend that we are adrift and continually carried away as chemical film is carried on the surface of a body of water by deep and powerful undercurrents. To where in the world, we don’t know.

In time, maybe, some of us come to comprehend that we move with the ebb and flow of a great mass of human flesh. We can even feel it driving us through a wide biological undercurrent into ever shifting relational combinations.

We are tossed and turned in our lives by that unseen force. Our entering into and exiting varied personal drama is evidence of the unconscious as are the unpredictable outcomes which build up the social structures around our lives.

We know that there was no logical order to our coming to exist in the world; logical order was not nor could ever unravel the infinitely complex ever changing combination of things that bore us into a place to live out our lives. We are thrown about and where we land we are forced of necessity to just cope or if not, to die sooner than later.

We are in the world much more in the hand of blind chance than we are in the hand of conscious determination. We can be in such denial about our captivity. We blame ourselves for our captivity. Actually, we don’t have significant power. It is not always our mistakes that foil our best efforts to rise above the muck and mud, rather it is that unseen natural force which courses along its way against our own.  

But that makes conscious self-determination even more precious to us; for it is the most unique characteristic among all life forms on earth. The bouquet was thrown and we caught it; we have it. For it is conscious self-determination which can raise us above the absolute unpredictable roll of the unconscious and give to us a slice of reason coupled with action to buffer us against its shocks. Take for example reproduction. The reproduction of another human being is a free choice exercised by us to make another human creature or not.

The reproduction of offspring is contingent on many conditions.  Assuming those many conditions are adequately met, the reproduction of offspring is like spring water flowing down from a high mountain top. From that flowing spring water, entire communities draw as would a thirsty man or woman draw from a well on a hot summer day.

By it, a population, from a bird’s eye view, not spanning minutes, hours, and days but rather a view spanned over decades and centuries at a sweep would stand out as one living organism connected by a thread of DNA stretching back countless billions of years.

We would stand out literally as a transparent gooey chemical process among others in the atmosphere, but graced with a mysteriously endowed high intelligence. Intelligently, we can and do replenish ourselves and in so doing awaken at the dawn of every new generation a renewed people ready to struggle again.

But let’s assume the opposite. What if the many contingent conditions for biological reproduction are not adequately met? Under such conditions, what should we expect? 

What does science say? For science and the methodology of science is to our understanding what sensation is to our body. Zoological experts say that the fitness of any individual or population is measured by the number of its offspring that survive to sire their own offspring and through which its unique genetic codes and culture are passed through the unconscious undercurrent from one generation to the next.[1] What relevance does that have to descendants of slaves in California? My answer is that Descendants of Slaves have no meaningful place within any social sphere in the state of California. Let me tell you why that is my thesis.

No Demographic Growth for Descendants of Slaves

I recently read a study published by the California Department of Finance which predicts statistically that there will be a significant decline in the population of descendants of slaves in California. It predicted a full 2 percent drop, from 7.3 percent in 1980 to 5.3 percent by 2030.   Such population decline can be observed in every city and town in California. What we observe cannot be dismissed as being merely a statistical dip; it is a growing trend. 

 

The End of Marriage For Descendants of Slaves

Marriage rates for DOS are correlated with DOS demographic decline. There has been a consistent decline in the marriage rate among descendants of slaves generally.  Even among college educated DOS, the marriage rate is in free fall. The Brookings Institute reported a study which found that 60% of black college graduates have never married.[2]

 

In an article published by Scholars Strategy Network, Dawne Mauzon states: In 1960, 61% of blacks were married but by 2008 it was only 32%. Blacks also get divorced more often and remarry less frequently than whites.”[3]  What other factors are correlated with the marriage decline among DOS?

Mauzon hypothesizes, and I quote: “In part, the men are just not there in many black communities.” That is a social fact. It is normative for black adult males to be absent in black families. The chances are greater for that being the case than not. In California, 29% or 39, 451 of all black males are prison inmates.  

Furthermore, the Pew report revealed that DOS females have a narrowly defined preference list.[4] In short, most black women surveyed have high financial aspirations when it comes to choosing a mate.

No Marriage and Education Balance for Descendants of Slaves

The Pew Report went on to reveal that Black women prefer a well-educated black male. That preference exists although in California Black male enrollment at California State Universities is approximately 1.5 percent or 3,860 of the total student body of over 200,000 students. It is even worse at the California Universities where in the fall of 2016 at U.C. Berkeley there were only 393 black male freshmen of the 13,900 entering freshmen. At California Poly Technic State University San Luis Obispo, one of the most important engineering and architectural institutions in the nation, black males constitute less than 1 percent of the student body of 26,000 students. One must also keep in mind that a significant number of those are immigrant Africans or their descendants.

Thus, with a ratio of 1 African American Male for every 2 African American females at California State Universities, it is highly unlikely that the far more numerous females will match up with black males having equal educational credentials inside California.[5] That is a national pattern.

No Marriage and Financial Stability for Descendants of Slaves

Lastly, the Pew Research report revealed that 50% of black women surveyed want male financial stability as a precondition to marriage. That compared to only 25% of white women who wanted the same. This expectation is not what most black males can meet according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In California, 20% of descendants of slaves are at or below the poverty line; that is 1 out of every 5. Full employment for many is a thing of the past.

It was reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2015 that male descendants of slaves had an unemployment rate of 11% in the State of California.[6] That rate of DOS unemployment has become a constant since California lost between 30 and 40 percent of its manufacturing jobs over the course of the last three decades.

The California unemployment rate is twice as high as the national average. Black men are more likely to be in and out of employment more frequently than males of other ethnic groups. There are many reasons for that but suffice it to say that the reality of black male financial stability does not equate with what 50% of black females in that survey want.

Those black females who want men who are financially stable will generally not find them in the private sector either. The loss of black businesses will be an unintended consequence of a declining black population and or communities in California. So, if you are African American, don’t start your business in California unless you live in a densely-populated immigrant African community or have White and or Hispanic patronage. Generally, black businesses are suffering and withering away. There will be a dearth of financially viable black men from those job markets for black women who want to marry financially stable black men who own a  business.

Part of the reinforcement feedback loop will be a loss of black patronage for black businesses including banks. And there is no evidence to support a claim that white and Hispanic people will significantly patronize black businesses including the use of black professional services. A derivative effect of low or no financial stability in the DOS community is that in California they have no political power.

No Political Representation for Descendants of Slaves 

All citizens are urged to employ legislative representatives for remedy of their grievances in democratic societies. We are taught that the laws that govern us all will clearly reflect both our fears and hopes. We are taught the enforcement of those laws will recognize no class differences by state law enforcement agencies. We are taught that every citizen brought before our criminal courts are presumed innocent until proven guilty. We are taught that justice is blind and so not respecting the person hears only the facts.

We have virtually no representation in the State Legislature. As of 2016, only 10 state legislators are of African descent. That is a far less proportion than the proportion of DOS in California. No wonder our needs go unmet.[7]  Black politicians serve the interests of their doners. The interests of their doners is greater power for themselves not DOS.

  

If a community’s interests are defined in terms of power, meaning that their interests are reflected in the laws and policies of society and acted upon by its many agencies, then DOS have no political power in California. For the overwhelming magnitude of social and economic privations among DOS in the many cities where they are concentrated evidences a wide fault line in this Californian democracy. On one side of that fault line are Descendants of Slaves and on the other side is everyone else including black politicians who generally supported the NAFTA agreement signed into law under Bill Clinton in 1994.

DOS have been politically abandoned in California. Therefore, descendants of slaves do not participate the democratic process in California enough to qualify them as voice in state affairs. Descendants of slaves are institutionally powerless and perhaps more importantly, they cannot muster street power to make their voices heard. 

No Habitat for Descendants of Slaves

There is a zoological assumption at the foundation of my discussion. The truth is there is inadequate carrying capacity for most DOS in the state of California.   There is too much environmental resistance on all levels to DOS growth. There was a time when we were not here and there will be a time very soon when we will be here no longer. As a unique ethnic group in California, DOS are running out of habitat in California. Like any other animal, the loss of habitat spells doom.

The factors which I have identified along with many others including those of mental health, religious institutions, and political affiliation are also parts of reinforcing feedback loops causing DOS communities to spin irreversibly out of control. Though some individuals will live on in the state, generally there is no future for DOS as a community in the State of California.

 

 

[1] Quran: 76:2, 18:37, 23:13

[2] American Family Survey; Restricted to Women aged 25 to 35, cited from Brookings Institute: Race Gaps in Marriage Rates for College Graduates

[3] Dawne Mouzon, Rutgers University, Why Has Marriage Declined Among Black Americans, Rutgers University, 2013

[4] Pew Research Center, Survey, 2010

[5] Keep in mind that most college educated men marry down the socio-economic scale or are indifferent to a women’s education level.

[6] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Unemployment Rates for Blacks by State, 2015

[7] California Research Bureau, California State Library

Corporate Coup d’Etat of U.S. and Its Casualties, by Dr. Steven Nur Ahmed

Corporate Coup d'etat

The movement of capital in the form of manufacturing jobs and cash out of the United States to foreign countries, primarily to Asia, has lowered the quality of life for all blue collar workers and dimed the future prospects for college students in the United States. It is rapidly closing the door to economic opportunity for black people in particular.

New trade agreements such as NAFTA, CAFTA, and PNTR between at least 20 nations and the United States within the last 20 years have resulted in the loss of millions of jobs to foreign nations because U.S. blue collar workers cannot compete with workers from countries willing to work for .60 cents per hour.

Now, another trade agreement called the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement or TPP threatens to usher in not only the loss of even more blue collar jobs, but even more highly skilled white collar professional and engineering jobs as well by outsourcing to Asian nations.

Urban history in the 20th and 21st centuries is replete with patterns of economic destabilization. Let me give to you an example of what the relocation of blue collar jobs has done to black workers who were dependent upon manufacturing jobs in one particular city.

Corporate coup d'etat 2

Let’s look at the city of Oakland, California between 1950 to the present. It can serve as a microcosm of what is happening and will happen to United States workers in general and to black people in particular.

In the 1940s through the 1970s, Oakland was a highly concentrated industrial city. To give you an example I will name some companies which were situated in close proximity to one another between 81St, 98th, and 105th Avenues in Oakland in the 1960s. First, there was Peter Paul Almond Joy Candy Company, 2) Sunshine Biscuit Company, 3) Mother’s Cookies Company, 3) Pepsi Cola Company, 4) Laura Scuuders Potato Chip Company, 5) Gerber’s Baby Food Company, 6) Granny Goose Potato Chip Company, 7) Nabisco Company, 8) General Mills Company, and 9) General Motors Company. These companies were central to the very robust Oakland economy. They provided not only jobs and stabilized families but they also provided a strong tax base for the city.

Each of those companies ran 3 shifts or 24 hour daily work shifts except Saturdays and Sundays. They employed thousands of unionized workers. The money from those companies not only flowed in the form of family income but also filtered down to Oakland public schools and recreational facilities for children. Those were just a handful of companies in the city of Oakland at that time. There were hundreds more like them each of which added value to a dynamic city economy. However, company location policies began to change in the 1970s.

Each of those companies slowly pulled out of Oakland over a span of 20 years. The industrial companies pulled out after over 100,000 white people fled Oakland between 1950 and 1960 in response to the influx of Black people. White flight cost the city of Oakland its middle and upper middle class tax base.

The military bases also slowly pulled out of Oakland after the end of the Vietnam War. The closure of military bases also cost the city of Oakland millions of dollars in annual revenue. Black people had been attracted to those jobs and had migrated from the southern States to Oakland seeking to economically benefit from factory and civilian military jobs in the city of Oakland. But in scarcely 25 years or one generation the original intent of black people and the economic hope which motivated them faded before their very eyes.

During that time period and up to 1975, the city of Oakland reached its peak economically. But the pattern then was as clear as it is today. The owners of private industry then did not want to give jobs to, work with, nor be around black people any less than today.

The economic effect on black people and Latinos because of the loss of such a high concentration of blue collar and civilian military jobs is correlated with the disintegration of public quality of life because of a: 1.  shrinking tax base and the looting of public school budgets by some public school administrators in the city during and after the exodus of capital, 2.) an increase in black and Latino incarceration rates due to get tough on crime policies in the 1970s and the proliferation of narcotics, methamphetamine, and cocaine, 3.) an increase in AFDC and Food Stamp dependence which now stands at over 47 million Americans, 4.) The implosion of middle class shopping centers which is evidence of shrinking middle class incomes. That is best exemplified by the Eastmont Mall in East Oakland which was opened in 1970, 5.) a phenomenal increase in single parent female headed household far above that of two parent households after 1970, and 6.) a disproportionate rise in the black abortion rate after 1975.

Take what I have described and apply it to your city. Whether you are in Compton, Detroit, Baltimore, or Pittsburg you will see the same pattern; a loss of manufacturing jobs and a steep decline in the quality of life for most people and in particular for black people living there. Black people are always the first to lose economic footing.

Now we are confronted with a new economic challenge. It is called TPP or the Tran Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement. Its predecessor, NAFTA, became law in 1994. NAFTA has resulted in the loss of millions of jobs across the United States. It was signed into law by then democratic president Clinton. TPP will cost Americans more jobs lost to Asian nations and a loss of Federal legal jurisdiction over multinational corporations. Under TPP, foriegn corporations would be given the status of ‘legal citizen’ of the United States and thus have the right to sue U.S. citizens and governments if a law interfers with their profits. Another democratic president, Obama, wants to sign TPP into law. The TPP agreement has a covert purpose; it is designed to serve a particular purpose.

The TPP agreement like NAFTA will only increase the power and wealth of multinational corporations over us and to further diminish the leverage of unionized labor. It will also reduce our individual and collective political leverage as voters. But even more is in store for us if TPP is signed into law.

As Asian purchasing and consumption power increases, U.S. citizens will have correspondingly less economic and political leverage against the global multi-corporate power structure. That is so because over time multi-corporate revenue streams will become less and less dependent upon U.S. consumers. That is what “race to the bottom” means.

For example, in Detroit, public contracts were given to companies connected with corrupt politicians. As a consequence water costs increased in the city of Detroit after the city signed contracts with companies giving them the power to manipulate the price for water. That in turn has lead to water cutoffs to the poor in the city of Detroit.

Another example is California. In California, under Pete Wilson and Gray Davis, public energy controls were modified under the Electric Utility Industry Restructuring Act, 1996.  In 2000, Companies like Enron were then able to increase the price for energy by manipulating the price of energy thereby causing energy bills to triple overnight. The shortage of energy caused rolling energy black outs throughout the State to begin in 2001. . In both cases, elderly low income people on fixed incomes and low income persons suffered the most.

Running parallel to the TPP effort is the slow but steady privatization of local, state, and federal government. Right now it is best exemplified by the privatization of public schools and public utilities. For example, students attending public universities are more dependent on commercial bank loans because of Government cutbacks in grants such as the Pell Grant. Such cuts have resulted in a national student loan debt of over 1 trillion dollars. It is not that private corporations want to own the infrastructure of state universities. Rather, they prefer to allow taxpayers to pay the costs for maintaining university infrastructures; what they want to own, by loan contracts, are the students.

Here is why. Corporate and financial globalization has made those same institutions less dependent upon educated American professionals as is the case with blue collar and professional workers because they have a global pool of educated professionals to draw from and at a cheaper cost to them.

American college graduates must now compete with an international population for professional jobs in the United States. Thus, there is no longer a national and private sector need for large numbers of American students to fill job positions, and so University systems need not cater to students who are financially unable to pay for their education. All of these efforts turn on a single unstated premise: the private sector can do it more efficiently and cheaper than government.

The argument by the proponents of that premise is that since government has a 17 trillion dollar deficit, privatization will help reduce costs for running government. But that argument is not necessarily true. Take the postal service for example. The costs for postal services have been increasing under public control and it will increase under private control at an even faster rate. Furthermore, government will continue to run on a deficit for two basic reasons. First, a federal deficit will remain because the national tax revenue to the federal government will decrease as income levels decrease and secondly, because public debt is the only way to justify an increase in the national debt ceiling which in turn triggers federal loans from the Federal Reserve Bank which generates profits for private banks.

So, keep an eye on what happens to the U.S. Postal Service; it is the canary in the coal mine. Thousands of black people hold operative jobs for the U.S. Post Office. If the U.S. Postal Service is privatized, then thousands of black Americans will lose their operative jobs due to robotic technology. Operative jobs are one of the leading fields of employment for black people. People and their families dependent on those kinds of jobs will sink into a state of perpetual poverty. Black life will become even more sub-standard than it is now.

Statistically for instance, 72% of black people with college degrees are employed by a form of government and generally about 21% of all black workers are employed in local, state, and federal governments. If governmental departments are contracted out to private companies at the local, state, and federal levels, then black people will be the major economic losers.

Black Americans and their families will sink into perpetual poverty. Black life will become even more sub-standard than it is now. On the other hand, white youth with college degrees will get hired in the private sector. That is how corporate government plans to co-opt lower class but college educated white people with the aim to neutralize any movement toward unity of poor whites and blacks.

The closure of military bases in the 1980s and 1990s is yet another example of how the exodus of capital, in this case government capital, adversely affected black people. Such base closures ought to be a red flag on the field for all of us to see. In the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area, thousands of black people and their families were the major losers when the Army and Navy bases closed.  That is because the Federal Government was the single largest employer of black people in the San Francisco-Oakland bay area. Many of those military installations were moved to other states so that jobs could be given to college educated white people after they were taken from under educated black workers.

Now, at this moment in our history, we should know that it doesn’t matter whether the president of the United States is Democrat or Republican; whether the president is white, black, male or female. Race and political party do not matter at the highest offices of government because the government which rules is multi-corporate and fascist in nature; it is not a democratic republic.