Just A Thought...Our Other Enemy: The Three C's

by Rick Adams

EVER wonder why Black people seem to be perpetually locked in a position of dependence, poverty, and powerlessness? Why does poll after poll taken in the last 25 years project a profile of Africans in the United States at the bottom of all desirable socioeconomic indices?

OF course white racism and European supremacy are to blame; no observant, honest, and competent commentator could deny its devastating consequences for people of color. Racists and conservative social pundits would say that a debilitating culture that promotes regressive social values, diminishes the bonds of family, and produces morally irresponsible individuals is the cause.

THE truth of the matter is that African people are indeed still struggling against the ravages of a centuries old economic system and social infrastructure corrupted by a pervasive virus of European ethnocentrism, supremacy, racism and exploitation. However Black people are beset with an adversary every bit as tenacious and insidious as our traditional enemy. This enemy is as vicious an enemy African people, as the mythological, but also all too real specter of the four horsemen of the apocalypse; war, famine, pestilence, and disease. This ubiquitous foe of Black folks can be called the "three C's"! Class, clan, and clique. The first two are intertwined with the family, and ethnic group. The third is made potent by the "free" association of individuals favored by relative social position and material advantage.

Class is the sociological name for a social strata that is united by a common economic status, measure of material wealth and power, and is capable of reproducing itself and passing on its material advantages to each succeeding generation of offspring. They control businesses, financial, educational, and political institutions that serve to enhance, preserve, and extend their power. The names Mellon, Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Frick exemplify this elite group. At the time the original and so-called old money was made, African People where considered soul less human instruments of capital at best, and livestock at worst. While fortunes were being made, Blacks were unable to acquire wealth by the brutal circumstance of chattel slavery, and later Jim Crow Apartheid. Now "neo-opportunity" proponents proclaim that the descendants of African slaves no longer suffer from de jure or de facto discrimination and exploitation.

We have been declared free and equal, hindered only by our God given talents, and ambitions. Such misguided and dangerous absurdities mask the reality that wealth is accumulated, invested, and expanded by a system that insures the owners of a life of advantage without the fear of the laboring classes ever catching up. The truth is that a third of Black people toil below the poverty line, and one, lone white man, Bill Gates possesses more than 10% as much money as all of the 35 million Africans in the United States! The class system is the greatest and most formidable of the three C's.

CAPITALISM is often described as an economic system that is driven and ruled by the individual. Contrary to that piece of conventional wisdom the capitalist system is maintained and advanced by financial institutions, businesses, and foundations that are created and maintained by families or clans. Thus the second C is even more exclusionary than class by its very definition. When was the last time you heard of a person of African descent being a member of one the wealthiest families in this society, or of marrying into one? This stark truism reminds me of the wag, who once observed that a rich people frequently think of themselves as having hit a "home run" instead of recognizing the reality of being "born at home plate." If you can figure how to break this monopoly please let me know.

FINALLY we ignore the existence of powerful cliques of individuals who enjoy personal privilege, family status, and group power at our own peril. Many times we are "bested" by powerful groups or cliques who are not motivated as much by racism as by greed, opportunity, and relative advantage. You know the story "them that got, get!" Further those that form such groups do so with others of similar backgrounds who meet in the neighborhood, the school, the church, the fraternal, community center, or ethnic organizations to which they have access. Need I point out how homogenous and segregated those structures tend to be? Job referrals, successful job interviews, hot business tips, and "insider" information all gravitate to persons of similar background. The vital information essential to networking and social mobility all accrue to people who live in the same or comparable neighborhoods, attend the same or comparable schools, churches, country and social clubs. Africans are frozen out of the mix not necessarily by racism but by their absence.

CLASS, clan, and clique; the three C's are a daunting trio of obstacles, that when coupled with European supremacy, function as a nearly impenetrable wall of exclusion, restriction, denial, and invisibility.

AFRICAN people must devise a sophisticated strategy of group empowerment; including institution building, wealth acquisition, and social mobility despite being an easily identified and despised minority. If we don't many of us will be permanently relegated to the bottom rungs of this society. Hey its JUST A THOUGHT...

Just A Thought...Our Other Enemy: The Three C's by Rick Adams

© Copyright 1998. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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