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Wall St. and Business Wednesdays: An Afternoon with Dr. Claud Anderson


The Shrine of the Black Madonna Book Store seems a fitting place to host the controversial educator Dr. Claud Anderson. Located at 13535 Livernois on Detroitís West side, it serves as a beacon for knowledge and ideas from a Black perspective primarily for the benefit of a Black constituency; so too does Dr. Anderson.

When he arrived at 1:00 PM for a book signing and impromptu discussion, he exuded a certain graciousness and down-home friendliness. It was easy to remember that Dr. Anderson was quite familiar with Detroit. In fact he had lived there for many years and had earned a Ph. D in Education at Wayne State University which retains its campus not far from Detroitís downtown financial district.

There was a crowd of only 30 to 40 people, which gave the event an intimate town meeting quality and Dr Anderson was as approachable as a family member who dropped by for a chat in your living room.
Although he would probably deny it, there is much in his no-nonsense, staccato delivery that is reminiscent of Malcolm X. Like Malcolm, Dr. Anderson has the courage and fortitude to make bitingly honest remarks, yet his obvious dedication and sincerity shines through and rarely does anyone take offence, no matter that these comments are often aimed at the historical and contemporary shortcomings of Black people. And like Malcolm he has the oratorical gift to inspire others and to make complex ideas easy to understand and to relate to.

During his talk, Dr. Anderson was visibly disturbed that his Black Empowerment Plan had been misconstrued and watered down by what he called "sambos" and "silly people." And for those who called his Powernomics agenda illegal, he rightfully mentioned that his 93 page Black business district proposal for Detroit has been meticulously examined by Robert Sedler, a respected Wayne State University professor of constitutional law, who could not find anything illegal in it, "not even a comma or a period."

When speaking of the Civil Rights Movement and its quest for integration, he pulls no punches describing it as an abject failure and as a waste of time and resources: "When we were riding on the back of the bus our people were usually socially conditioned to think that if they got close to White folks, they were getting wealthier, because White folks had the money. They said, if we can move from the back of the bus to the front of the bus then thatís progress. Letís boycott the busses so we can sit on the front. So now theyíre sitting on the front of the bus, but theyíre still just as poor, because they didnít advance. All they did was take a horizontal walk... See, itís horizontal to walk from the back of the bus to the front. Itís horizontal going from a Black water fountain to a White water fountain. Itís horizontal going from Detroit to the Suburbs. You didnít advance, you just moved out into another situation thatís worse than the predicament that you were in before."

Dr. Anderson uses a sobering analogy to describe the effect integration has on Black people. He likens it to a person going through a metal detector at an airport security post. The person can only pass through if he gives up his keys, his coins, his belt, his shoes, his brief case, his wallet, etc. Like the person at the check point, Black people gave up all of their economic resources to pass through and be accepted into White society, but unlike the airport scenario, Blacks donít get anything back.

And for those that level the charge of reverse racism at him and his programs he answers: "Racism is a wealth and power based competitive relationship between Blacks and non-Whites. The sole purpose of racism is to support and ensure that the White majority and its ethnic sub-groups continue to dominate and use Blacks as a means to produce wealth and power. Centuries of Black enslavement and Jim Crow semi-slavery resulted in the majority society becoming 99 foot giants and Blacks one foot midgets. This massive inequality in wealth and resources made Blacks non-competitive and totally dependent upon Whites for the necessities of life. True racism exists only when one group holds a disproportionate share of wealth and power over another group then uses those resources to marginalize, exploit, and subordinate Blacks. Whites can deny Blacks employment, educational opportunities, business resources, a place to live or the right to vote. Therefore, according to this definition, Black people cannot be racists." [1]

While understanding the relative importance of politics, he points out that it is economic power which galvanize the political process and induces politicians to act, some groups going so far as to make sizeable contributions to all candidates that are running for a particular office with the understanding that whoever wins owes them.

Contrary to what many have assumed, Dr. Anderson did not name his proposed Detroit site for a Black business district, African Town. Nevertheless he is not adverse to the name. "I donít care what you call it. You can call it African Town, Negro Town, Colored Town...you can even call it Outhouse Town. Just make sure itís a place of consolidated Black business where Black people aggregate and interactively spend money with each other."

It is sobering to realize that after centuries of being an underpaid labor force for Whites and decades of being economically exploited by Hispanics, Asians, Arabs, and others, Blacks are castigated and reviled for attempting to establish a desperately needed economic infrastructure of their own. For despite the limited and token advances of a small percentage of African Americans, the overwhelming majority of Blacks are still stuck in inferior schools, and still plagued by unemployment, non-existent or sub-par health care, dilapidated neighborhoods and disproportionate imprisonment. Yet bowing to pressure from influential non-Black segments, the Detroit city council diluted Dr. Andersonís Black economic agenda so that it would be more manageable and acceptable to the interests of groups that are faring better than Blacks and who have never shown any propensity to compromise their principles or economic goals.

The gutting of the points in the plan, which are directed exclusively to the legitimate needs and concerns of Detroitís under served Black majority, sends a message throughout the rest of America that Blacks (especially those in political office) are sycophants conditioned to cater to the interests of everyone, even to the detriment of the majority Black voter constituency that elected them and who they (first and foremost) should be beholden to.

The consequences of Black people looking out for everyone and ignoring their own needs while under the delusion of a utopian, color blind society is that throughout America in areas where Blacks have lived for centuries, other groups are consolidating their power at our expense. Thus the Cubans have established a huge economic and political base in South Florida. The Japanese have established a Little Tokyo financial district in downtown Los Angeles, a district that is represented by a Black city councilman. Black communities are also financial prizes for Koreans who have in little more than a decade established an economic presence largely through draining dollars out of Black neighborhoods. Even relative newcomers like the Vietnamese and Nicaraguans have set up businesses, not only in their enclaves, but in Black communities as well. And Whites have the temerity to attack plans for Black economic progress after exploiting Blacks with over 300 years of chattel slavery without a nickel in compensation or so much as an apology; this along with decades of entrenched economic and social exclusion, injustice and mis-education. A process so debilitating that it left Black Americans without a political or economic base and bereft of any real communities. Dr. Anderson explains: "Unfortunately, most Black Americans live in neighborhoods, not communities. A community signifies commitment and the potential for power. Neighborhoods do not. The concept of a neighborhood implies an area that is residential in nature, with lesser wealth, power and status than a community. The majority of Black Americans live in impoverished Black neighborhoods and spend approximately 95 percent of their annual disposable income with people who live outside of their neighborhood. By spending its disposable income in other groups businesses and communities, Black America impoverishes itself and impedes the growth of functional communities." [2]

There is indeed urgency in Dr. Andersonís Powernomics vision for Black America to leverage a window of economic and political opportunity which is closing fast as other groups consolidate their resources and actively protect their own interests while (at best) lending lip service to the plight of Blacks.

If we are to survive and prosper as a people we must think in group terms. If something is not good for all Blacks, then itís not good for any. Itís really quite simple. We must support one another, spend with one another and respect one another. And we cannot allow ourselves to be trapped into thinking that by seeking to consolidate the power and aggregate the resources of our own Black group, we are against other groups. Besides, weíve already helped to empower all other racial and ethnic groups in America. Now it is time to empower ourselves.


Steven Malik Shelton is a journalist and human rights advocate. He lives in Detroit and is writing a book about the legacy of violence in America. He can be reached at: stevmalikshelton@comcast.net or by phone at: (734) 942-0479

Notes and References:
[1] Claud Anderson, ED.D "PowerNomics: The National Plan to Empower Black AmericaĒ, PowerNomics Corporation of America, Inc. (2000) p. 5

[2] Ibid, p. 65


Steven Malik Shelton

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

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