Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pathways To A New Black Economy: The Main Ingredient

PathwaysThis is the second installment in a series of articles or blog entries under the rubric of black economic development, or black economic autonomy. The title I've chosen for the series pretty much sums up what I hope to accomplish, and suggests, in addition, the immensity of the task--"Pathways to a New Black Economy."

To say a "new" economy is also to imply the existence--either now, or before--of an "old" one, otherwise there would be nothing to replace.

To be sure, a black economy already exists, but what I'm proposing is not a complete overhaul of the economic system now in place, but a partial departure from the old way of doing business, and a venturing headlong into a twenty-first century paradigm that will, in part, overcome one of the obvious obstacles to black economic autonomy--finding those black businesses, and professionals that are readily accessible, and to whom we can give, to a satisfactory degree, our trust, even if it's not always unqualified.

If I wait until I've researched the various topics exhaustively, these articles will never be written, and the delay, for all its emphasis on perfection, may not improve the quality of the product, but may dampen the enthusiasm with which I undertake the task. Oftentimes it's perfection that spoils the stew, and not the many hands that stir it, or the various tastebuds that seek to enhance its flavor.

Yet, for a black economy to thrive, and to have even an outside chance of growing, expanding, and becoming a force for good within the black community, a main ingredient must be added to the economic stew at the beginning--notwithstanding the number of eventual contributors to the stew, and the necessity of adding other ingredients that taste, and experience will dictate.

An economic renaissance must be predicated on one ingredient, an ingredient not totally missing now, but which, I fear, must be present in sufficient quantity to effectuate the development of conditions that would maximize the "new economy's" chances for success.

The Four Pathways to a New Black Economy establish a table of contents of a sort, an enumeration of those areas I'll explore and those topics that I'll take up:

The Main Ingredient
The Indispensable Factor
The New Way
The "Old" New Way
At the outset, I not only request your candid input, but invite it, along with your suggestions, corrections, and improvements. As much as is possible, let's make this a collaborative effort.
The Main Ingredient
The Main Ingredient constitutes the First Pathway to a New Black Economy, and, in many ways, stands out as the most important. That's why I call it the main ingredient: to stress it's importance, and highlight why it's first in line to be discussed, although it doesn't contribute materially to the New Black Economy.

With this necessary ingredient in mind, I said in the comment section of an earlier blog entry:

This period of economic sluggishness has within it innumerable opportunities as well, opportunities that we're (as Greg L would describe it) not "prepared" to exploit.

I will, at some point, present my vision for economic growth within, and development of, the black community, if we can develop, and then harness, an essential element.

With this element we can look to a bright economic picture, and, without it, a bleak one, or, at the very least, a picture that will take incredibly longer to change colors--from a black and white negative, to one filled with vibrant colors: the way that Technicolor motion pictures excited the sense of sight after years of [us] viewing on screens various shades of black, and gray.

The use of the words, the element, and the ingredient, are just two ways of referring to the same thing--an essential something that's present, but not always consistently, in the affairs of men and women, not just black men, and women. Yet, it's an ingredient that's paramount, if blacks are to cultivate the necessary environment where honesty leads, and is well out front, as we come together to forge, and formulate, a New Black Economy, and lay the foundation for a brighter economic future.

Recently, someone asked me: "What does honesty mean to you?"

Only one word came to mind, not a full comment, not a thought-out philosophical response, not even a dictionary meaning. Just one word:


Trust is the element, the ingredient upon which a New Black Economy may be built--as well as nation states--and form the basis upon which all enterprises may flourish, provided people of goodwill have developed the will to put the good first.

Without trust, an enterprise, no matter how well-intentioned, no matter what good marks its purpose, is doomed from the beginning. Because trust is so elusive in business, and still so essential to the success of an enterprise, it has to be built-in, as it were, to exist as an integral part of the business model--that is, business transactions must be scrupulously monitored, and dishonesty meticulously rooted out--how, exactly, will become clearer, as the discussion progresses.

Ours is an age where greed has replaced trust; an age where the withholding of information is commonplace, and deception reigns, so that the unwary may be preyed upon, and the trusting fleeced. Ours is the age of Bernie Madoff, and Wall Street shysters. Trust, if it were a commodity, would be rarer than diamonds, and more precious.

Greg L summarizes it this way:

"[A]t the bottom of our nation’s economic and political problems is this focus on 'making money' rather than helping and giving to people. Greed is the scourge of the earth."

Indeed, it is. I will revisit this "ingredient" along the way--and certainly in the last installment. The last installment, hands down, will be the most controversial of the Four Pathways to a New Black Economy.

Now to prepare us, to give us a working background, I'm appending here several observations about the current state of the black economy. It's not a comprehensive overview, but it will, for now, suffice.

"Overview (Demographics): In July 2008, 41 million people in the United States, or 13.5 percent of the civilian noninstitutionalized population, were Black. They are the second largest minority population, following the Hispanic/Latino population. In 2007, the majority of Blacks lived in the South (56 percent), while 34 percent of white population lived in the South. The ten states with the largest Black population in 2008 were New York, Florida, Texas, Georgia, California, North Carolina, Illinois, Maryland, Virginia, Michigan. Louisiana is no longer in the top 10, as a result of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Combined, these 10 states represented 59% of the total Black population. Of the ten largest places in the United States with 100,000 or more population, Gary, Indiana has the largest proportion of Blacks, 83%, followed by Detroit (82%).

Educational Attainment: In 2007, as compared to Whites 25 years and over, a lower percentage of Blacks had earned at least a high school diploma (80 percent and 89 percent, respectively). More Black women than Black men had earned at least a bachelor's degree (16 percent compared with 14 percent), while among non-Hispanic Whites, a higher proportion of men than women had earned at least a bachelor's degree (25 percent and 24 percent, respectively), in 2006.

"Economics: According to the 2007 Census Bureau report, the average African-American family median income was $33,916 in comparison to $54,920 for non-Hispanic White families. In 2007, the U.S. Census bureau reported that 24.5 percent of African-Americans in comparison to 8.2 percent of non-Hispanic Whites were living at the poverty level. In 2007, the unemployment rate for Blacks was twice that for non-Hispanic Whites (8 percent and 4 percent, respectively). This finding was consistent for both men (9 percent compared with 4 percent) and women (8 percent compared with 4 percent).

"Insurance Coverage: In 2007, 49 percent of African-Americans in comparison to 66 non-Hispanic Whites used employer-sponsored health insurance. Also in 2007, 23.8 percent of African-Americans in comparison to 9 percent of non-Hispanic Whites relied on public health insurance. Finally, in 2007, 19.5 percent of African-Americans in comparison to 10.4 percent of non-Hispanic whites were uninsured."

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Can

Tin CanFrom time to time, there's a can I like to kick around. It's an old can. It has no label, but I like to think, at times, that it was once filled with an exotic food, but it could have, just as well, been filled with nothing more exciting, nothing more valuable, than what it often appears to be--a simple can of beans.

I've kicked it around here. I kicked it around in the comment section of the last blog entry. But alas, when no one stepped forward to kick the can with me, I was, frankly, a bit disappointed, but still determined to kick the can.

Although without a label, the can is still a shiny one, with promises of all sorts of interesting things inside.

That disappointment led to this blog entry. The can, notwithstanding its promising shiny surface, can still be ignored, but if you work your way through the several entries to follow, you'll have to, at least, pick the can up, and handle it from top to bottom, even if you decide, finally, that you don't wish to give it a kick.

But I hope you will.

This is my opening remark, a preface of a sort, to fulfill a promise I made a while back to take a closer look at what's needed to create and maintain a viable black economy.

That notion is the can I've kicked around for years. It started when I found a small book, actually a booklet, that appeared to be self-published. The title, as best I can recollect, is: "Don't Blame the White Man!"

Small though it was, the booklet was, nevertheless, ambitious in its sweep: It proposed to outline an economic strategy--nothing short of an economic recovery plan for the black community. Before integration, blacks used to own a fair number of small black businesses. Don't misunderstand me: Blacks are still small-business owners, and entrepreneurs--I'm not suggesting that we're not--but that integration took a great deal of steam out of that economic engine. One of the authors, I recall, was a registered nurse. I don't remember the occupation of the book's co-author, but he was, I believe, an accomplished professional, as well, but in an unrelated field.

Several regulars to my blog have hinted at the possibility of developing a black economy, and a couple of them have gone so far as to trace the outline of it:

"I would rather see a secret society of Black people go somewhere to meet and agree to become the talented tenth that is honestly needed....I would rather see the money that is going to be spent to go march in D.C. be pooled into an economic tool for our benefit....[I]t makes more sense to be actively engaged in pooling resources to be in the position of doing more for ourselves." msladydeborah

On several occasion, Greg L has, too, weighed in on this economic possibility. It's one of his focal points, if I might make so bold as to summarize the attention he's given to this. His following statement encapsulates this, although it may not capture Greg's complete thoughts around the subject:

"I believe that the only pragmatic choice available to our people is to actually develop our communities socially, politically and economically on our own. We have to fix what ails us and rightly or wrongly, no one is going to do it except that it be us. I also believe that after having done that, a level of confidence in our own competence would be such that we really wouldn't need to bother with seeking much from those who aren't inclined to give us anything anyway and if for some chance they did give us something, we would have developed the capacity to maximize the use of it.

"So in my mind, the central goal we need to pursue is power and the most direct path to getting it lies in political and economic control of our backyard. It's the last place that we generally look, but I'm convinced that any group of black people who were successful at executing on any initiative even making a small dent in some of our challenges would have power out of proportion to their numbers. I'm not suggesting this is easy nor will it be something that's even accomplished in your lifetime or mine, but it must be done if we are to survive and thrive."

I like the passion of both, Greg L, and msladydeborah. If I could bottle that passion and give it away, or just release it into the atmosphere as one would a weaponized contagion, this blog entry would be unnecessary, and the previous remarks redundant.

This series, then, will not treat the subject exhaustively: That would take a sizable set of tomes just to explore all the intricacies, and complexities that define the problem, and a research staff of hundreds to examine every course of action that might show a measure of promise.

So, by necessity, these blog entries will not be comprehensive. What I hope they will be is a blueprint, and a sketchy one at that, of one way, out of potentially thousands, that will help us conceptualize the challenge--that is, what resources would be required to establish and maintain a black economy, one, hopefully, only tangentially connected to the larger economy, but existing within it as a small, but powerful enclave.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ground Zero

Ground Zero -- World Trade Center"Ground Zero." What an intriguing term! The term is often associated with the following:

Ground Zero is "often defined as "the surface directly above or below the point at which a nuclear explosion takes place," the term "ground zero" is also used for the site of the collapse of the World Trade Center's twin towers."

Yet, I speak of another Ground Zero. The Ground Zero of which I speak is not the location of where the World Trade Center once stood, and several thousand Americans, and Muslims, lost their lives.

We all know about that one.

And we know, too, that in recent days the proposed site for an Islamic Community Center (also inaccurately referred to as the Ground Zero Mosque), situated a few blocks from Ground Zero, has come under fire, with more Americans opposed to its construction than are for it--some against it completely, while others think it's inappropriate. And, to point out the irony, this growing opposition totally discounts another fact: A building about four blocks from Ground Zero is already home to a Mosque that has resided in that location for years, even before the construction of the now destroyed World Trade Center.

Smelling the blood of a wounded animal, Republicans are already using this oppositional furor to move in for the kill--to score political points, rather than defuse what's fast becoming a controversial powder keg, as controversial as this administration's erstwhile plan to try certain terrorists in New York City, not far from the debris-cleared grounds of the collapsed World Trade Center Twin Towers. The following statement is representative of the position of many, in and out of politics:

"It is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of ground zero," [Rep. Peter] King [(R-NY] said in a written statement.

"While the Muslim community has the right to build the mosque, they are abusing that right by needlessly offending so many people who have suffered so much," he said. "The right and moral thing for President Obama to have done was to urge Muslim leaders to respect the families of those who died and move their mosque away from ground zero. Unfortunately, the president caved into political correctness."

King was responding to this statement from President Obama:

"As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.

There is another Ground Zero--one infinitely more important than the Islamic Center, and its backers who're resisting the public outcry to cease and desist.

This Ground Zero controversy, true to its original meaning, is quickly becoming "nuclear" in its scope and magnitude, whipped up by the various news media that need controversy to keep us watching their carpet-bombing approach to delivering the news--targeted at times, but massive in their coverage of whatever issues they believe will keep us watching around the clock--even if they're the ones to hype the issues supposed volatility, and to keep them front and center in our attention, whether or not the public has demonstrated an interest in what they're pushing.

What the public get from these news media is manufactured controversy designed to pander to our fears, our anger, and our stupidity--all for the moneyed purpose of keeping their ratings high, and their viewership growing.

Although some may feel that Ground Zero is located in California, the home of Proposition 8 (California's Marriage Protection Act), the controversial anti-same-sex marriage proposition that prospered at the polls although it violated a Constitutionally protected right--equal protection under the law, as provided by the "equal protection clause" of the U.S. Constitution.

"The measure added a new provision, Section 7.5 of the Declaration of Rights, to the California Constitution, which provides that 'only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.'"

But this passage wasn't the end, but only the beginning, and it may still take more months, or possibly years, before we know the ultimate outcome: It may take that long for a definitive High Court resolution or, more likely, a Supreme Court resolution.

"United States district court Judge Vaughn R. Walker overturned Proposition 8 on August 4, 2010 in the case Perry v. Schwarzenegger.[10] Judge Walker issued an injunction against enforcing Proposition 8 and a stay to determine suspension of his ruling pending appeal.[11][12] The Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals continued the stay, keeping Judge Walker's ruling on hold pending appeal.[13]" [ibid.(1]

As explosive as this proposition has been, it's not the Ground Zero of which I speak.

Although some may point to Arizona as Ground Zero, the home of the "Papers Please Law" that was partially struck down, because of certain provisions that could have led to racial profiling, Arizona--despite the call for boycotts against the state--is not the Ground Zero of which I speak. One newspaper editorialist wrote the following, speaking for many who believed that the law usurped Federal Authority and went too far:

"The New York Times, in an editorial: 'We hope this is the beginning of the end of the misbegotten Arizona rules and what they represent. ... Arizona's law is not a case of a state helping the federal government do a job it neglected. It is a radical upending of immigration priorities, part of a spiteful crusade to force a mass exodus of illegal immigrants. ... Judge Bolton's ruling reminded us all of the unacceptable price of the Arizona way: an incoherent immigration system, squandered law enforcement resources, diminished public safety, the awful sight of a nation of immigrants turning on itself. We hope (President Obama) goes on to make clear to all the states that the Arizona way is not the American way.'" [2]

No, Arizona isn't the Ground Zero of which I speak. That Ground Zero is considerably more important, and considerably more far-reaching than a state law's limited reach.

We can debate endlessly the merits of building an Islamic Recreation Center within blocks of Ground Zero, where Muslim terrorists took so many American lives, the rights of states to protect their borders, even if those borders abut the borders of another nation, and the wisdom of allowing same-sex couples the right to marry in the same way that their heterosexuality counterparts are allowed.

As I've said: We can debate these things endlessly.

But, what's not up for debate is the validity and preservation of that other construction that's coming under attack, and is rapidly becoming more and more a Ground Zero all its own--A Ground Zero that has been created as a result of the debates that are now raging in our society--the heated, explosive fervor to change, modify, or reinterpret the U.S. Constitution, now that some of its provisions stand in the way of actions some Americans would like to take, but the supremacy of the Constitution precludes:

Such as the Fourteenth Amendment--which certain Republicans are eager to revisit, if only in their imaginations, as they hope to use the possibility of a reinterpretation of this Amendment to give them a voting edge in the Fall, and to show their opposition to children of illegal immigrants becoming citizens (anchor babies as they're indelicately referred to), by virtue of birthrights--who, upon reaching adulthood, can petition for citizenship for their parents.

"The Fourteenth Amendment was proposed by Congress in 1866 and ratified by the states in 1868. It reflected Republican determination that southern states should not be readmitted to the Union and Congress without additional guarantees. Section 1 made all persons born within the nation citizens both of the United States and of the states where they resided (thereby reversing Scott) and prohibited states from abridging privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States and from depriving persons of due process of law or equal protection of the laws." [ibid.(2]

Such as the Equal Protection Clause of the aforementioned Fourteenth Amendment--which is cited by proponents of same-sex marriage as their Constitutional grounds to enjoy those rights which are granted to others without cavil, whether or not those rights are sanctioned by the majority.

Such as the Separation of Church and State--which those, Muslim and non-Muslim, who favor building an Islamic Community Center a few blocks from Ground Zero, have solid ground upon which to stand and, from all indications, seem more than willing to stand their ground.

Our Constitutionally protected rights are just that, Rights, and aren't opened to interpretation by any other bodies but the Courts. It doesn't matter how we might individually feel about these Rights, we ought not be able to vote them down, or vote them away, simply because they permit something, or the other, to which we're suddenly opposed. If we can suspend the constitution whenever we choose, or when it's out of favor with the majority, and to encourage others to do the same, then we're not a nation ruled, or guided, by laws, but by the whims of the electorate, and the hubris of legislators. The previously cited Rights have built up a vast history of case law and rulings. These precedences won't be, and can't be, dismissed that easily.

No one can take these Rights from us--not Islamic terrorists, not Muslims, illegal immigrants, or those seeking to have the U.S. Constitution represent them equally. Only we can do that when we take steps to deprive others of these Constitutionally protected Rights.

Rand Paul, the "constitutional conservative," is uncharacteristically silent on this issue. Where is his public stance on the rights of private owners to do what they will with their private property? Why isn't he speaking out about this indignity? It appears that he's experiencing selective amnesia, or that he's not as dedicated to maintaining the inviolacy of the Constitution as he claims, or would have us believe.

But there's another Ground Zero that supersedes our U.S. Constitution and, for many, is always under assault, and under siege, because of various human weaknesses: our indecision, our greed, or our lust for power or fame, or both.

And that's our conscience.

If we were guided by it, and the The Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity principle--"Do unto others as you'd have others do unto you"--then such matters that evoke so much social conflict, and contribute to so much social upheaval, such as same-sex marriage, the citizenship of children of illegal immigrants, and whether a Mosque, or an Islamic Community Center can be built near Ground Zero, or any other location, as well as a host of other potentially explosive social issues, would either be resolved quickly--or wouldn't rise to the level of conflict and ill-will to begin with.

[1] Wikipedia
[2] Arizona judge rules. What next?

Friday, August 13, 2010

"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"

Fantasia BarrinoI like McDonald's food as well as the next person (well, maybe not as well) but what I'm not prepared to do, as was Melodi Dushane, is physically attack a McDonald's franchise employee, and a drive-up window, for no apparent reason other than that the Chicken McNugget time of day was a few hours away, and she'd have to postpone her McNugget fix:

"Melodi Dushane really, really wanted her chicken nuggets. So she wasn't loving it when a worker at the Toledo McDonald's told her they stopped serving the meal at 2:30 a.m.

In fact, she was downright mad. The 25-year-old reacted to the news by getting out of her car and throwing punches at the employee, then pounding on the glass with her elbow and then finally smashing it, according to ABC affiliate KSFN in Fresno, Calif."

Fantasia Barrino, one of my all-time favorite American Idols (I love her rendition of "Summertime," overdosed on aspirin and a sleep aid (not identified). For her, the livin' hasn't been easy. Speculation is that she did it, in part, because of an affair gone awry with a married man, one Antwaun Cook, and, in part, because of a "scandalous lawsuit."

Her manager released a statement corroborating Fantasia's recent medical crisis, and ended it with the following words:

"Fantasia will be stronger, smarter, and better for it. Her work has always inspired her and served as a source of strength. Her new album, “Back To Me,” will be released on August 24th.

"The lyrics to 'I’m Here' say it best:
'I Believe I Have Inside Of Me
Everything That I Need To Live A Bountiful Life
With All The Love Inside Of Me
I’ll Stand As Tall As The Tallest Tree
And I’m Thankful For Each Day That I’m Given
Both The Easy And The Hard Ones I’m Livin’
But Most Of All
Yes, I’m Thankful For Lovin’ Who I Really Am'

"Fantasia sends her praise to God and her eternal gratitude to her fans, friends, and family.

"God is good."

Providing the birth-date on the Internet is correct, Fantasia Barrino is either twenty-five years of age, or twenty-six.

Her age is not a factor here, only that, if she had managed to kill herself, she would have left undone years of living and experiencing--and would have left on the vine more grapes than she had consumed.

Mental illness, as many of us have observed, should not be taken lightly.

And for sufferers of mental illness, empathy is rarely fully extended, mainly, I think, because so few of us have experienced it directly ourselves.

Although familiar with physical pain, some find it hard to commiserate with those whose pain is said to be mostly mental, than physical.

Here's hoping that Fantasia will find the help she needs for her tempest-tossed life, help to guide her safely to shore.

If the Fantasia Barrino story is true--that her attempted suicide resulted because she was scorned by her married lover--then the two stories, the McNugget incident, and the Barrino suicide attempt, aren't as dissimilar as they might appear at first blush.

The common thread that runs through them both, if we were to connect the two using a needle of thought to stitch the two, is that both incidents revolve around two women seeking a satisfaction of a sort--one in pursuit of Chicken McNuggets, and the other, a man.

In both instance, each woman reacted rashly, and inappropriately. And, in both instances, things could have ended badly for the two.

All this, because their desires and their plans had been thwarted by another.

Interestingly, they both sought to resolve their dissatisfaction using diametrically opposed methods--one by attacking the hired help as though the employee was responsible for making the policy that denied her McNuggets at that time of day (satisfaction by proxy), and the other by attacking herself (results by internalizing the problem, and capitulating to what she perhaps saw as implacable forces).

In short, fight or flight.

I would never make light of another's predicament. The old saw--to walk a day in another's moccasins--is applicable here, as well as in other situations that may cross our paths occasionally--so many black cats with which to contend, and to circumnavigate.

Without judging either method (fight or flight), but merely to select a course of action that resonates, I'd take fight over flight, just as a matter of temperament.

We blacks, when faced with the ruthless, and malevolent beast of racism, have had to make these two choices throughout most of our history in this country, both collectively and individually: Should we fight, and, if so, how--directly, confrontationally, as proposed by W.E.B. Du Bois, or take flight, abide our time by preparing to fight, and becoming so fit that a fight would be averted by our very readiness, as proposed by Booker T. Washington, or head for the shores of an unfamiliar land, as intimidating as that prospect might be, as proposed by Marcus Garvey?

Both methods have their advocates, and their opponents, and both have an upside, and a downside.

Flight may bring a cessation of the pain, although not all pain should be avoided, and fight doesn't always lead to victory, especially if it's done outside the bounds of what's legal, proper, or ethical.

In short, to resist in every arena is not always to win (What you resist, persists!) and to run away is not always to escape--that which set you in flight to begin with, still remains, but now it's larger, and scarier than before.

One or the other of the two (fight or flight) predominates in our life, or they may be said to be balanced--no predisposition to either--but that one or the other may be summoned as the situation or the circumstance dictates.

I propose striving for balance, as extremism rocks the boat, unbalances the seesaw, and tips the scales, although each is welcomed to do as each chooses--and certainly will, despite my proposal.

I find that those who're in fight mode continually, are hard to work with, live with, or interact with. And, too, those in a constant state of flight generally draw our ire as well. More fittingly, it's usually best to test the waters, and place a wet finger to the air, to determine the direction of the wind, before committing oneself to one mode or the other.

If you're facing a formidable foe, or an angry lion, or a mother grizzly, 'tis better to weigh your options (if time permits), whether to "fight," or to employ "flight," as the best course of action. Life, because it's designed to be that way, will present you with ample opportunities wherewith to exercise your judgment in this regard--whether it's better to fight, or take flight--because, as is generally the case, your life, ease of mind, income, freedom, or safety, may hang in the balance.

For Mitrice Richardson, whose remains were recently found, not far from where she was last spotted, I send my prayers to her family and friends. I pray that they will find solace in the absolute knowing that life--the perfect essence of who we are--is indestructible, and is eternal, and that options and choices continue, because we are "choice" itself, and more autonomous that we know.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Let's Throw The POTUS Under The Bus!

That's a horrible picture, B.D.! I know.Years ago, I came across a book that caused me to laugh out loud as well as piqued my curiosity. And that's a tall order. It was the unexpected title that tickled my funny bone, and, when coupled with the cover design, the tickling went all the way down to the bone marrow.

You've got to love the title: Flattened Fauna: A Field Guide to Common Animals of Roads, Streets, and Highways. You can see the cover design here.

On another blog I frequent, the talk is all about those unfortunates that President Obama supposedly threw under the bus during his run-up to the presidency and beyond. I got to thinking about that rather bizarre metaphor. What is the origin of the phrase that has as one of its meanings, according to the Urban Dictionary: to sacrifice some other person, usually one who is undeserving or at least vulnerable, to make personal gain?

When Rev. Wright was all the buzz, and Fox News aired without let up a video snippet that caught the Reverend excoriating the nation, one Newsweek writer took a stab at tracing both its meaning and its origin. This was after then candidate Obama appeared to distance himself from Wright, and was summarily accused of the unpardonable sin of "throwing the Good Reverend under the bus."

"From the tar pits of the blogosphere to the peaks of the mainstream media, one strange phrase has bubbled up in the wake of Sen. Barack Obama's sweeping speech on race in America: "He didn't throw him under the bus." The "him" is, of course, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., Obama's former pastor, whose angry and racially charged sermons have sparked controversy that could undercut Obama's presidential candidacy. But the metaphor—"throw him under the bus"—is tougher to explain. Where did it come from? Why is it suddenly ubiquitous? And at the risk of sounding overly sensitive, is it even advisable, given its ugly echo with the "back of the bus" legacy of African-Americans?" [1]

Speaking of back of the bus, I've waited a long time for this nation to elect a black man, or a black woman, as president (Shirley Chisholm being the first black woman to attempt it.).

So I'm not as willing as some to throw this nation's first black president under the bus, the way that some blacks believe he has done to others. It was the image of the president as roadkill that brought the aforementioned book to mind, an image that I didn't long indulge, but others might.

If I might transmigrate a post from another blog and my response, you'll get the flavor of what I mean. I won't identify the author of the post to which I responded. That would serve no purpose.

Commenter: "No matter how much slack you want to give him he [Barack Obama] did raise expectations. And you are right he is not Jesus but he also has no intention nor has he had any intentions on solving the problems of the little person, or the problems of homelessness, the over incarceration of black folks, ending the dirty dealings that caused folks to be foreclosed upon, getting all children educated, stopping US government aggression, or any other progressive forward thinking idea that one may come up with."

My Response: A strong indictment. Putting education aside, which of the other concerns you cited were part and parcel of Obama's pledge to America, black or white?

Here's what I recall. He would end the war in Iraq--our combat mission there. As of this month, he's on target.

He would expand the war in Afghanistan--the real epicenter for our war on terror, as he saw it, during his campaign.

Congress under his guidance did in recent weeks pass a financial reform bill into law. It didn't go far enough for me, but I'm not complaining--but it just might have sufficient provisions and muscle to do what you hope: to end what you call "the dirty dealings that caused folks to be foreclosed upon."

Expectations aren't campaign pledges.

And with those pledges (candidate Obama didn't promise us the moon), blacks voted for him overwhelmingly, and whites in sufficient numbers to seal a win.

With a little more time and a willing congress (Obama hasn't been in office two years yet), I think he'll get around to rehabilitating our faltering educational system, and addressing other progressive concerns.

America's homeless crisis can be taken up locally, and by charitable institutions. Many such institutions are doing remarkable work to provide homes for the chronically homeless, and well as for those recently homeless as a result of foreclosures.

Check around: You may have such an institution in your own city that you can partner with. End of Response

We've all heard the usual responses to these complaints: Obama's not God, or Jesus. He can't walk on water. He can't perform miracles. Yet, a growing number of the disenchanted are calling precisely for him to be just that--God, or Jesus--and to part the Red Sea, for the deliverance of blacks from the hated Pharaohs of Egypt, and to lead them to the Promised Land.

Although I questioned the advisability of Obama continuing the war in Afghanistan, I only wanted him to fulfill just one of his campaign promises: to end the war in Iraq. Anything else was icing on the cake.

Therefore, I'm amazed that some blacks actually voted for Obama with the hope that he'd address all the wrongs that blacks have been subjected to since the formation of this country.

"Obama listens to whites," they complain. "He listens to their concerns, as well as the concerns of other special interests, but he has no special interest in blacks."

Regrettably, we're not a race-neutral society. As a result, Affirmative action came under fire because it was seen as advancing one race at the expense of another. It didn't matter that Affirmative Action sought to remedy years of white advancement at the expense of blacks. Paradoxically, this program benefited more than just blacks, although not all these non-black groups that benefited suffered equally, or to the same degree as blacks.

If President Obama targeted blacks specifically to reduce the double-digit unemployment rate that haunts blacks, or the inner city for redevelopment, the political heat and fallout that would ensue for his administration would be enormous. It would be seen as a severe blow to the entire Democrat Party--a wound, it seems certain, he wouldn't have the party bear. Already the criticism of black preferential treatment is rampant--health-care reform, for example, has been described as a kind of black reparations.

A white president, if he targeted blacks, wouldn't have to brook this kind of political blowback with the same virulent, racial animus that would greet an Obama effort, although a similar measure may meet with the same resistance, and certain defeat.

Already there's talk from the Obama administration that 75 percent of the oil spilled into the Gulf has dissipated or has been dispersed. This claim, coming in advance of the November 2010 elections, places the Obama administration at risk, if later this claim is found not to be true, but such a claim takes the Democrat Party off the hook, and increases Democrats chances in the upcoming Fall election. So it's not surprising to see the administration risking so much to keep the party viable. As they see it, and despite claims to the contrary, no one person, group, segment of society, or special interest, are more important than the party, and it ongoing survival, and viability.

Criticize the president, sure, but let it be honest and effective criticism, criticism backed up with e-mails, letters, petitions, and any other vocal or written means at your disposal to bring your issues to the attention of the president and congress. Complaining without making an effort to effect a remedy may be cathartic, but, in the end, it's merely a useless exercise.

In response to another commenter, I had this to say:

If the [news] media is the fourth branch of government, then the people, at the very least, are the fifth branch.

Rather than sitting back and watching things being done to us, we should shoulder our responsibility in the governmental equation, and, as citizens, step up and do our part to round out the equation--to make government responsive and accountable to the people.

Anything short of that is nothing more than sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.

End of response.

Preview of coming attractions: a multipart examination of what's needed to create a black economy, and, at the same time, develop the black community.

[1] ‘Under the Bus’
Add to Rev. Wright's legacy this suddenly inescapable phrase.