Check out my new piece on Richard Heinberg’s speech as a part of the East Portland Area Project.
Archive for business
Protesters in the Occupy movement have chanted they are the “99%” but it’s hard to ignore the fact that the majority of protesters are white. Many wonder why more people of color aren’t showing up to the protests, considering the disproportionate effect the financial crisis has had on them.
In the case of Portland, look no further than gentrification and an understanding of history.
Bankers looking on Occupy Portland should consider themselves lucky. The supposed “99%” occupying downtown aren’t doing it nearly as forcefully as a certain 66 percent have done in Northeast Portland.
Thanks to overzealous police and predatory lenders, many of the same people you might see at Occupy Portland have taken advantage of black people getting pushed out of their homes.
People go to war over their property in other countries. In Portland, people are reluctant to even acknowledge gentrification is happening, much less that there’s something wrong with it.
The businesses that have replaced the black owned establishments stand as monuments to this passive aggression colonization.
For example, what was once a black owned barbecue restaurant, Doris’s, has been replaced by Russell Street Barbecue. Doris’s was one of the many black businesses that couldn’t get a full business loan and had to survive under capital. Not surprisingly, it didn’t last.
Russell Street Barbecue stepped in and gave Doris’s a white, yuppy makeover, complete with cheap, thrift store furniture and drastically smaller portions of all the same food. However, it didn’t even have the decency to pick a logo different from Doris’s. (At least the people that replaced Yam Yams, another black soul spot, had the decency to change it into a Mongolian Grill).
When I went there for the first (and last) time I couldn’t help but feel I was toasting to the white takeover of historically black Portland neighborhoods.
Russell Street Barbecue is just one of many establishments that have taken advantage of racist lending practices and shamelessly appropriated black culture to make more profit than their doomed black predecessors.
This is not to say that they were malicious in their intent. White privilege doesn’t require malice. It’s simply the ability to take advantage of opportunities denied to people of color.
This is what evokes suspicions about Occupy Portland, as well as the Occupy movement as a whole.
Do the people that are participating really care about the welfare of people of color? Where were all these people when it was time to protest ridiculous immigration laws or the prison industrial complex?
What’s stopping them from leaving the people of color they co-opted for their movement hanging out to dry when all is said and done? After all, this has been the motif of history.
Whether it was the Revolutionary War (and every one since) or the 60s counterculture, majority white movements have had a predictable penchant for using people of color to push their agendas without any real commitment to their concerns.
Terms like the “99%” sound nice but to many they sound a lot like “post-racial America”, meaning they take unity for granted without addressing wounds that have yet to be healed.
Being a progressive doesn’t exempt anyone from the legacy of colonization.
The one percent may have cleared people of color out of their communities, but that doesn’t excuse the 66 percent from settling there and appropriating black culture for profit.
Until we can have honest discussions about gentrification, don’t get upset when you don’t see faces like mine at Occupy Portland.
How do you sell products to a generation that doesn’t buy anything? As the Internet generation transitions into the workforce, we’re faced with the consequences of a rebellion many of us didn’t realize we were fighting.
We grew up being able to get music, movies, news and other media for free, whenever we wanted. Despite efforts by the music industry and others to push back, we’ve been able to successfully disrupt the system. Media executives have been virtually powerless to stop the creative, yet frugal youth.
In a sense, we are in a similar position to the freed slaves of the Haitian Revolution. We’ve used economic protest to take some power from the wealthy gatekeepers. However, these wealthy forces have found ways to retaliate and punish us for our newly found control.
In the case of Haitians, imperial powers like the French and U.S. imposed sanctions and/or refused to recognize them.
Our generation is facing massive unemployment and outsourcing of jobs.
One result has been an embrace of the arts, not just for fun but to help pay the bills and establish a career.
We are finding creativity and following our passions because we don’t have a stable alternative.
Whether you’re a writer, comic, poet, musician, etc., getting paid is a struggle. Most of us don’t have the mass marketing or distribution to reach all the people who might truly appreciate our product.
Not to mention, we’re a part of a piracy generation.
When I was at the University of Oregon, there were plenty of students with means who practiced urban scavenging, or freeganism, which is a yuppy word for dumpster diving.
How do we expect our peers to buy our art when they don’t even buy food?
It will only get worse when we become the establishment.
The next generation is only going to be crazier. Their schools are losing art and music programs due to budget cuts while the kids are being exposed to new technology without a context for creativity.
Our generation’s embrace of the arts will mean nothing if we’re marketing to youth consumers who couldn’t care less.
So how do we stave off this downward spiral?
We have to adapt our products to the needs of our communities and expand programs to teach youth the value of smart consumerism.
Young people are dying to express themselves in creative ways. We need more community art and recording studios as well as writing spaces. Perhaps if more of us get immersed in the media we consume then more people will understand the value of supporting it.
Also, people like to see benefits of their consumption. If we tie our businesses into our communities then it will motivate people to spend. There’s much more incentive to spend an extra dollar on a sandwich if the money is kicked back to your son or daughter’s school rather than some executive’s pocket in Chicago.
Reinvesting more money in the community also gives local businesses a better opportunity to hire residents. There’s a market for youth expression but people need money to support it in the first place.
Most importantly, young people need to be involved in decision making. We weren’t involved in the media decision making process and we responded by taking whatever we wanted. Once we become the establishment we will see the same happen to us if we don’t show the youth their proper respect.
Our generation revolutionized the media industry but if we’re not careful we’ll kill ourselves before we get the chance to reap the benefits.
I’ve had way too many conversations that ended with, “We could change things if all oppressed people just came together.” While it’s a nice thought, the opposite has actually happened. Races have unified against blacks even though blacks have the least resources globally.
Nonetheless, black people have been the first to embrace multicultural efforts (Some famous examples include Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Panther Party). We must become more ruthless, because when it comes to money we’re the only ones playing by such friendly rules.
This is obvious even in places like Portland, where multiculturalism is supposedly celebrated. For example, a black administrator put together Administrators of Color but soon after, Latinos split off and started their own administration organization.
The decision wasn’t a malicious one. It just shows that people look out for their own interests first when dollars and cents are involved.
Embrace of multiculturalism and political correctness has also made it so blacks must suffer in silence. Despite a history of gentrification, black people that have cried foul when bike lanes took precedence over other needs in historically black communities have been marginalized and characterized as playing the race card.
Never mind, that historically black areas like Alberta Street get whiter by the day. According to a Portland Tribune interview with Angela Martin of Economic Fairness Oregon, the subprime loans disproportionately handed out to blacks caused the “the biggest transfer of wealth from African-American homeowners to the pockets of banks, the biggest transfer of wealth in our lifetime.”
Why must we pretend that this isn’t a race issue?
Historically, crimes against humanity have always been economically motivated and now is no different.
It’s even more obvious at a national level that blacks have to fight for their lives for any small semblance of justice.
Black farmers that were denied land by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) because of race were only able to get compensation in partnership with Native Americans under the Claims Resolution Act of 2010. The Pigford settlement, which gave money to black farmers who were discriminated against, was a part of the resolution and was labeled as “reparations” by Representatives Steve King and Michelle Bachmann.
Conversely, according to the Huffington Post, Cherokee Nation expelled black descendants of slavery on Thursday despite a treaty dating back to the Civil War that granted Cherokee slaves’ descendants membership. The article notes that tribes get money from the government as well as profit from a $26.4 billion gambling industry.
It may be cynical, but we can’t expect people to love us when we don’t even love each other? Especially when money is involved.
I know blacks that don’t like other black people, Africans that refuse to go to other African country themed restaurants and black Americans that have traveled to Africa only to be treated like dirt by people they thought were their brothers. Yet many of these people believe in the power of a multicultural revolution.
To think, we have President Obama hiring a rainbow coalition to keep everyone happy but still receiving hate from all sides. Abroad, racism thrives in many shocking ways like blatantly racist Mexican television shows, Arabs enslaving blacks and worse conditions for British Blacks now than in 1985, just to name a few.
Unity is a beautiful thought and an ideal rule to live by. However, if we’re the only ones playing by that rule then we will continue to be taken advantage of. Other groups are unapologetic when it comes to looking out for their best interests.
There’s no shame in fighting for black empowerment first and foremost whether we’re taking the reparations owed to us, protecting our communities, or patronizing our businesses. We don’t need other races pretending to love us when it’s convenient. No one can free us from oppression but ourselves.
Business is about the bottom line. They could care less about creating jobs or the American economy if it hurts profit. Nonetheless, we let them treat us like peons and fall for the same Jedi mind tricks over and over again. I can just see CEOs waving their hands in front of our faces, saying, “You don’t want this money,” or “The People’s Budget is not the solution you’re looking for.” Check this out:
“In 2010, businesses in the U.S. were sitting on $2 trillion in cash (a record high percentage of assets) and when we look at the global picture we see that the top 1,000 non-financial companies in the world are still sitting on more than $3.4 trillion in cash.”
But of course they need more tax breaks…