By Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
I know about Black American leadership from both a personal and a professional perspective that spans more than five decades of observation and involvement. After recently the participating in the 2014 Rainbow Push Automotive Summit in Detroit, I felt this was an ideal time to reflect on Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. and his long years of national and global leadership.
For some reasons, over the years there has been a counterproductive trend and tendency among national Black American leaders not to say something complimentary about one another. As a consequence of this kind of reluctance to express a camaraderie among fellow Black American “freedom fighters,” there has been a significant disunity among Black American organizations, institutions and communities.
I don’t have that problem. I feel blessed to have been present to witness the effectiveness of Jesse Jackson’s continued leadership at the Rainbow Push Automotive Summit. While Black Americans as consumers spend in excess of $1.2 trillion annually in the economy, the economic state of the Black American community needs serious “recovery” and development. Jesse Jackson is right on target to focus on those sectors of the economy where Black Americans have no reciprocal relationship.
For the record, no one single strategy, organization or program is going to exclusively improve the overall quality of life of Black Americans. There are complexities of socioeconomic and political forces that combine to impact our families and communities. The point here is that there are economic, political and spiritual matters that we need to pay attention to and to become stronger advocates of in order to push forward toward freedom, justice, equality and empowerment.
An excellent research paper authored by Damon Autry was presented at the Detroit summit titled, “The Diversion of Diversity.” Autry emphasized that the issue of “diversity” within corporate America has evolved today to serve more as a diversion from sustainable corporate social and economic responsibility.
In other words, corporate diversity initiatives have not resulted in actual affirmative action for Black Americans and others or greater racial inclusiveness throughout corporate executive management and board directorship. Nor has the various range of corporate diversity programs resulted in advancing the cause of economic parity and equality in America. Thus, because of Jesse Jackson’s direction, this year’s Rainbow Push Auto Summit made important clarifications that I believe will help millions of Black Americans and others to better understand and measure civil rights progress going forward.
It is utterly incomprehensible that most of the major U.S. corporations that earn millions of dollars of profit from the annual trillion dollar consumerism of Black America are doing so “little” to do business with Black America. Corporate responsibility should be doing vastly more with a sense of urgency to invest in the future economic empowerment of the Black community.
Let’s be clear: This is not about begging for “crumbs” off of the table of corporate America. This is about economic parity. This is about economic justice and equality. Thanks again to Jesse Jackson we all should be more conscious and active about how build and sustain the economic recovery and business development of the Black community.
Diversity, we agree, should not be used as a “diversionary tactic” to circumvent corporate America from being good and accountable corporate citizens. I learned a long time ago that you cannot solve a problem until you what is the root or cause of the problem. One of the reasons why there has been a persistence of poverty in too many of our communities is because of the absence of sustainable economic development. As the American economy recovers, we have an opportunity and responsibility to take action to move forward from an entrepreneurial and business development perspective.
We need a national report card about corporate America. Jesse Jackson’s focus now on the automobile industry and the emerging digital industry in Silicon Valley is welcomed and duly appreciated. Let’s join with Jesse to ensure economic redress and progress. Let’s support his initiatives and good leadership.
Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: email@example.com; and for lectures and other professional consultations at:http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc.