The mentaliy of Dr. Umar Johnson is a prime example of the hoax many of
us have been subjected to. He states that we are "not prepared to compete
with European children for control of the economic sector." He says, "We
are babies in the war of economic commerce." He goes on to say, "We are
economically illiterate... Our education in America has not prepared us to
be able to compete with Europeans economically." Apparently, he believes
that our condition is the product of what Europeans have done to us, and
that the only way to escape our oppression is to create an independent
system where we can revel in our own definition of success -- and not
have to work for white folks.
Further, he states, "HBCUs were designed to teach you to work for white
people." He wants our children to be empowered to start their own
businesses. The reality is that Black businesses are started at a rate that far
exceeds that of white businesses already. However, in our economic
system more than 80% of all businesses FAIL WITHIN 5 YEARS --
WHITE OR BLACK. Does he know of some alternative reality where a
different outcome can be achieved?
The reality is that everyone works for less than 20% of the successful
business owners in the USA (and probalby so for the rest of the world).
What are the other 80% of the population to do while their peers are failing
at starting businesses? They must go to work for someone. Can the 20%
of black-owned sucessful businesses employ the entire Black population?
No. Can they disproportionately influence outcomes for the rest of the
The message we must convey to our children is that they live in a global
society, like it or not. There is no evidence that we can create a unique
Black economic system that makes us all independent of the global
economic system. The key differentiators for success in the 21st century
are "SKILLS" -- business skills, information technology skills,
communications skills, decision-making skills, and MOST
IMPORTANTLY, LIFELING LEARNING SKILLS.
Our efforts must prepare us to compete and improve the existing systemS.
There is no way we can drop out and hope to overcome the
disadvantages we already suffer from. We cannot create physics different
from that which is sending space probes to Mars. We cannot create a
separate information network while the whole world is leveraging the
Internet for competitive advantage. We cannot ignore the advancements in
business management, financial markets, logistics, science, and information
technology -- just because they were developed by our oppressors. We are
not participating in a zero sum game. This is a win-win scenario for the
planet. There are bigger winners than others. And then there are losers.
The losers are those without skills.
There is no way a person who cannot read, write, master mathematics,
understand information technology, solve problems with critical thinking,
and collaborate with everyone else on this planet -- can hope to be
successful in life. That is why so many fail at trying to start their own
businesses. You have to be smarter, work harder, and develop
collaborative relationships with other successful people to succeed in
economic activity in the 21st century.
Yes, we have been historically oppressed and excluded from the current
economic system. But that doesn't mean we don't use computers or the
Internet because we didn't invent them. Some of us have advanced to a
level of prosperity that we don't have to worry about where our next meal
is coming from. Most of that progress has taken place within currently
advancing global economic systems. Some of us have our own destinies
in our hands, but 98% of the population of the world works for the other
2%. We just have to choose who among that 2% we need to work for to
survive today and dream about tomorrow. Our choices are limited -- in
whom we work for, and how we prepare ourselves for that work. But our
dreams are unlimited -- while we work.
What we have uniquely is our heritage, and our self-esteem. If someone
has robbed you of your self-esteem and your heritage, that is too bad. In
the information age, you can remedy that deficit quickly. The burden to
convey Black self-esteem to our children is on us. Then we can approach
any system of work, or learning, or economic commerce -- and learn what
we need to learn to pass on to our children a better life. We must not
indulge ourselves in fantasy while doing so. As someone once said, "Life
is what happens while you are making other plans." We must prepare our
children for the life they are living, and not the life they are dreaming. Yes,
they must dream. But they must show up every day and compete on the
field where the game is being played today. The best of those who
compete will be able to lift others.
Our task in the current generation is to ensure that more of them are willing
to stand up for their heritage shoulder to shoulder with all other high
achievers. Not assimilation -- where one denies his or her heritage; but true
collaboration -- where everyone comes to the table with the skills to make a
difference. We can do that with pride in our heritage, with self-confidence,
with results from our efforts. But we cannot do it without skills or
I am unwilling to concede that every job is "working for white folks." We
have to feed our children too. I am unwilling to concede that others can
always achieve more that we can. No one can work harder than I can. I
am also unwilling to concede the progress that we have made. Some of us
have done well, and we should do all we can to help others. Our HBCUs
may have been established by so-called well-meaning white folks who
really didn't mean us any good. But in the information age, we can take
our destinies in our hands.
The times we are living in are differnt than those of W.E.B. Du Bois, or
Garvey, or Carter G. Woodson. But the "mis-education of the Negro" was
not that which was perpetrated against us by white folks. Woodson was
talking about the actions of Black folks. Let us not repeat the mistakes of
the past while the world moves forward at a quickening pace.
My understanding of physics indicates that if one body is moving ahead of
another, the trailing body must speed up (or the leading body must slow
down) if they are to ever move at the same pace. The same is true for the
pace of information and its impact on our global society. If we determine
that people of African descent are behind the progress of others, it is not
realistic to expect them to slow down. Nor is it realistic to expect that
separating ourselves from global progress to create a system of our own
will make things better. For those of us who are behind, there is one certain
tactic to achieve parity -- SPEED UP! WORK HARDER!
While my grandparents and mentors told us "You have to work twice as hard as your white counterparts to be considered equal," there was a measure of truth in that advice. You have to work twice as hard sometimes to catch up.
We may have to fight some other battles along the way. There will
certainly be opposition. But one thing for sure is that we must work harder
at realizing our dreams. High achievement is not for the fainthearted.