It's a Jim Crow stimulus

By: Harry Alford
The Toledo Journal
Originally posted 2/9/2010

Oh, it sounded so good. All of the Civil Rights Act language in the rules for the Stimulus Bill implementation made it look like it would be a ''culture changer'' for all of us.
There was to be diversity and inclusion at all levels. But the ''wolves'' are of another mind and now that the money is being spent we are all holding empty cups void of contracts, loans and grants.
Richard Copeland, past president of the National Association of Minority Contractors, sums it up: ''That's the story we always get: It's coming, it's coming - then, oh, shoot, it's gone''.
Distinguished writer Earl Ofari Hutchinson declares that Dr. Martin Luther King would be outraged at what is going on right now. ''If King could target Johnson for failing the poor, then it's no stretch to imagine that he would target Obama, too.''
That is pretty strong but it is frankly credible. From coast to coast and border to border and in all industries we are being blocked out of the stimulus activity.
In Texas, the Houston Chronicle states that minority and women business owners comprise 40 percent of all businesses. But yet, they are fighting over no more than 6 percent of the stimulus dollars going to the Lone Star State.
Black business in Houston, which possesses one of the strongest markets for us, is doing less than 1 percent of the local stimulus contracts.
The Transportation Equity Network (TEN), a 22-state network of more than 300 community organizations fighting for an equity national transportation system, crunched the numbers at the beginning of the stimulus contracting activity and found that 3 percent was going to Hispanic firms and not a single black-owned firm had received a contract from the Department of Transportation.
Let's look at capital access. Of the stimulus bill lending program (ARC loans) 91 percent went to white-owned firms, 3 percent went to Hispanic-owned businesses, 3 percent went to Asian or Pacific Islander-owned business while black-owned firms received just 1.5 percent.
Capital access is the life blood of businesses and they are cutting us off at the knees. It is like: ''How do we have a stimulus bill and keep the people of color out?'' They seemed to have found a way.
The best report comes from the Kirwan Institute, which studies race and ethnicity at The Ohio State University. It liberally states that of the total contracts 7.6 percent has gone to women, 3.5 percent has gone to Hispanics and 2.5 percent to African-Americans.
It is not just me screaming. It appears to be the entire nation. We all know it is terrible and our leaders from top to bottom have seemed to turn their backs on it. According to Gihan Perera, director of the nonprofit Miami Workers Center, ''The fear is that the stimulus money could instead serve to exacerbate the inequalities that existed before.'' This seems quite logical to me.
Then there is the Census money. The Stimulus Bill has put an additional $1 billion into the Census program. Our Black Press (200 locally owned newspapers) has demanded their fair share of advertising money. What did they get? A ''bone'' worth no more than $2.3 million to be shared among them was all they got.
They represent 15% of the national population and they get $12,500 each to advertise. That doesn't even register as a percentage of the money the Census Bureau has to work with. It is plain Economic Apartheid. If they have enough hate to do it to our press, then we are all in trouble.
We can't forget the recent Broadband Grant Program fiasco. The first of two rounds of grant letting has gone out for the $7.4 billion. Not one minority-owned company or organization got a single dollar. That's right - it was a total wipeout.
One hundred percent Jim Crow again and the minority communities of America will continue to suffer from the ''Digital Divide'' thanks to the direct discriminatory practices of our federal government led by our first black president. Irony isn't the word for it.
If we don't start fighting, then the worst will become the norm. It is time to fight! I believe we can enlist quite an ''army'' now. In one of my recent newsletters I stated that we have to go back to the Eisenhower years to find less diversity in our federal business procurement and support. One of our constituents responded this way, ''Harry, it's my understanding that the president feels minority businesses are too small to care about ...''
We are not going back to the Eisenhower years, we are going back to the pre-Lincoln years. Maybe there is a green way to shine shoes. Who knows?
The Black Caucus apparently has come up with a new ''green way'' to screw black people. Keep fighting anyway.
-------
Harry Alford is the co-founder, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Website: www.nationalbcc.org.