“Black America” as a single entity is dead, a thing of the past; it is history.
Or is it?
I was stunned as I read Disintegration; the Splintering of Black America by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Eugene Robinson. Consequently, there can be no single Black leader, as was A. Philip Randolph (Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters), Whitney Young (National Urban League) or Roy Wilkins (NAACP). When they spoke, we all listened. Sadly, few people know the current CEO of the National Urban League, Marc Morial, or Benjamin Jealous, NAACP president.
In fact, Martin Luther King Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to be effective, had to work with a coalition of organizations such as the Congress of Racial Equality, NAACP, National Urban League, and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.
I have been blessed to have lived more than three scores and ten and have had a great deal of experience and exposure; God has truly blessed this octogenarian. I worked with Randolph; a member of the last segregated Negro Company during WWII (Camp Robert Smalls, Great Lakes, U.S. Navy); and I participated in countless civil rights initiatives. I should have seen this coming. I guess I was too close to the trees to see the forest.
Robinson divided Black America into four separate Americas:
1. Small transcendent elite with enormous wealth, power and influence that even white folks pay homage. This group of individuals has more influence than the above-mentioned Black organizations. To name a few: Oprah Winfrey, Robert L. Johnson (founder of BET, Sidney Poitier, Jackie Robinson, Will and Jada Smith, Frederick Douglas, John H. Johnson, (publisher of Jet/Ebony magazines), and President Barack Obama, who was also one of the first Blacks to become a U.S. senator.
2. Mainstream middle-class majority with a full ownership stake in American society. Many are graduates of historically Black colleges and by choice are members of Black social clubs, fraternities, sororities, tennis and golf clubs, and attend Black churches. They usually work in integrated environments. This group benefited the most from affirmative action, set-asides and civil rights legislation.
3. A large group of abandoned minorities with less hope of escaping poverty and dysfunction than at any time since Reconstruction’s crushing end. Then came the crippling Jim Crow laws.
4. Two emergent groups including individuals with mixed-racial heritage and recent Black immigrants from Africa and Caribbean nations, namely Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Barbados. This group tends to clash with the abandoned group, as these individuals have higher values regarding education, their children tend to be better academic achievers, and their families tend to be more stable.
There appears to be a disconnection between these four Americas based on demographics, geography, different profiles, mindsets, different hopes, fears and dreams. The author concludes that all segments must give the abandoned group members some hope of being able to escape, or the rest of us cannot truly feel we have escaped. Also, he concludes that every American must work to erase the race problem once and for all.
I found this book to be exceedingly interesting and thought-provoking. Robinson’s research and analysis is excellent and very well written. Disintegration; the Splintering of Black America is a must read for all Americans.