Just Say Black…

Darnell Roberts
10 min readJun 8, 2020

African Ameri… just say Black

People of Col… just say Black

Underserved Commu… just say Black

Divers…just say Black

You see where I’m going here? No? Let me explain…

I recently traced my family roots back to the 1700s. That Ancestry DNA Kit stayed on top of my fridge for 5 months before I sent it in. Procrastination at its worst, I know…

My great- great-great-grandfather was enslaved in Alabama. He had 6 children, one of whom would pass down the skill of bricklaying & masonry to his offspring, their hands were mightier than any sword. they used them to pick cotton and indigo plants, wipe their brow, feed white children, bathe their bronzed bodies, waiting for their 40 acres and a mule that never came, all the while singing spiritual hymns under the sizzling Sun in the Deep South. They would stay there for nearly 2 centuries before meandering through several states then eventually migrating up north to New York to search for the “American Dream, even when didn’t know if it actually existed, for them…

Nonetheless, that makes lineage as a Native Black America far more unique than any other American currently inhibiting the 50 states.

Why? We are the only people who have fought in EVERY war America has been in and the only group of people to never benefit from our patriotism. More on that later….

400 and 1 years ago since the first slaves landed at Plymouth Rock, Virginia, I pen this scribe from South Florida, a contemporary oasis of opportunity as far as the eye can see, over the palm trees, through the occasionally blinding sun beams so radiant you have the gander at the pavement to refocus and reset your bearings.

I casually scroll down my timeline, looking for keywords and phrases, gazing, in amazement at the large amounts of monies being allocated to “social justice” and often wonder…

“Where is this money going”

Headline after headline… most that look this this…

On the surface, this looks promising right? Tech Giant Soft Bank announces that it will pledge 100 Million Dollars to “entrepreneurs of colour” in the wake of recent social unrest in America.

To who?

Described as SoftBank’s bid to improve diversity, “we have to put money behind it, set plans, and hold ourselves accountable,” SoftBank’s Chief Operating Officer Marcelo Claure, who will head the fund, wrote in a letter to employees on Wednesday, June 3rd. “Named the “Opportunity Growth Fund” and focused on African Americans and Latinos in the U.S. it is, SoftBank says, the largest fund of its kind.” says Reuters Sam Nussey.

That might sound like a very noble attempt at helping to stem the tide of economic injustice, but let’s delve deeper into the context of what that means.

Who are “people of colour”?

Asians? Latinos? American Indians? Sicilians? All four qualify right?

It depends on who’s cutting the check. And there inlies the problem…

Speaking of check, there are very few checks and balances on Philanthropic Procurement. It means that the company could, if they so chose, to ONLY give opportunities to marginalized groups that are not Black Americans and still keep their promise. They could, in theory, only grant opportunities to, for instance, Blacks people from Europe living in the US or other immigrants who came to our shores seeking exile or strife from their homeland, but not directly linked to ADOS (African Descendants Of Slaves).

Does that matter? Of course it does. The diaspora matters. Our experience is inherently different and should be treated as such, particularly from a metaphysical standpoint. That’s why there are two Constitutions right? The Founding Fathers left much work to be done, didn’t they. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were enacted specifically for Black folk. Yet, there’s STILL rampant voter suppression, especially in states with a GOP majority. I think the Constitution, since it is a living and breathing document, is ripe for a 28th Amendment, which could include parts of Senators Cory Booker’s plan for what he called “Baby Bonds” or Pete Buttigieg’s Douglas Plan for Black America.

My soliloquy isn’t an attack on SoftBank, I hope their intentions are forthright. Rather, my issue is that we are often left out in the cold, grasping at straws when companies implement selective tactics to divert funds to the most marginalized demographic in the world, Native Black Americans. Its a microcosm of a larger narrative, its too difficult for Black folk to get access to cash and capital, even when its given to them for free.

My angst is this modern day Word Salad of phrases that largely identify with Black People like “minorities” and “POC”, especially when used in the business community. And Workforce Diversity has long been a stain on corporate America, especially in the Tech space.

Author Pamela Newkirk

Stephanie Mehta, EIC at Fast Company, wrote this on a book review of Diversity Inc. by Pamela Newkirk. “Google, she notes, reportedly spent $114 million on diversity programs in 2014 and $150 million in 2015, yet in 2019 African Americans made up only 2 percent of its tech workforce. Newkirk faults Google for failing to address the shortage of African American and Hispanic students entering computer science programs — and that’s a legitimate critique. How is it that a company that can autocomplete my email messages and tell me how to drive to virtually any destination in the world can’t figure out how to solve the “pipeline” problem and attract and retain more engineers of color?”

NPR’s VP of Diversity, Keith Woods, wrote in a 2002 column that “minority” is part of a media language “mired in euphemisms and the tortured, convoluted syntax that betray America’s pathological avoidance of straight talk about race relations.” (Edward Schumaker-Matos, August 2011, npr.org)

Most of the philanthropic pennies doled out by Fortune 500 Companies gets caught up in red tape, circumvented through lobbyists and logistics, or the money lands at an altruistic non-profit. Thus, those dollars seldomly reach the hands of Black parents who simply desire to put food on the dinner table, gas in the tank and shoes of the soles of their children or themselves.

I have watched countless headlines with one underlying common denominator, companies giving money to combat racism and promote diversity. But here’s the problem, its almost NEVER goes to Black People.

So here’s my solution: If companies are serious about fostering social change and racial equality, don’t make a blanket lawyer authored statement with platitudes and ambiguous phrases…

Just say Black! Shocked? you shouldn’t be. The truth has been hiding in plain sight for decades…

Ever see a headline that includes minorities and people of color? I have. Which means one thing, the money goes no where because it too broad of a spectrum. Many social scientists still consider Women a minority for reasons that pertain to gender bias especially in business, amongst other subordinate issues that tip the scale to corporate male dominance. Thus, they too have have been advanced considerable affirmative action luxuries were black folks have been left behind.

For further context, let’s take a trip down memory lane…

All of the impassioned work to integrate in to the fabric of American Society in the 60’s left Black America without an economic floor for survival. Dr. KIng in his later years called for what he named the Radical Redistribution Of Wealth. He bellowed nationally for a Poor People’s Movement, a push to demand legislation for fair minimum wage, unemployment insurance and job creation. (across racial colorlines). He never got to realized his Economic Dream of course, an assasins bullet ended his life in 1968 in addition to the man who I believe could have delivered on Dr. King’s Dream, Bobby Kennedy.

Artist Unknown

Far too many companies announce these grandiose plans and lofty efforts without much oversight or follow-through to get dollars directly to the urban centers of America.

For far too long, corporate philanthrophy got caught up in bureaucracy. Those headlines became PR stunts and sleek marketing campaigns.

For far too long, we have been pulled and prodded and poked for our lack of patriotism when we’ve been painful loyal to Republicans before FDR and the Southern Democrats (then called Dixiecrats) and have heard broken promises from both.

As a result, Corporate Social Responsiblilty has been prostituted to bolster a companys brand and in some cases used as a prop for crisis management, not to tee up tangible solutions to complex problems.

Black wealth, or lack thereof, dates back to the very origin of The Constitution, but 20th Century legislation like the GI Bill failed to afford enough Black soldiers to be wealth incubators in their communities when they returned to US soil.

“Racial discrimination pervaded veterans’ programs, but the effects were particularly acute in the provision of home loans. Title III of the G.I. Bill made veterans eligible for low‐interest home loans with no down payment. Very few black veterans benefitted from Title III because, while the loans were guaranteed by the VA, they required cooperation from local banks. This meant that veterans first had to convince local banks to lend to them — which proved a daunting task for black veterans because the overwhelming majority of banks routinely denied loans to black applicants.” writes Brenton Mock, City Lab, November 2016.

Moreover, after the war, The Marshall Plan, enacted in 1948, earmarked 15 Billion dollars to restore war torn Europe. But let’s be clear, It was a big money handout to allied countries from WWII and a thinly veiled attempt to stop Communism in the (former) Soviet Union.

It worked so well that it spread to Cuba…

Here’s a thought… Let’s have the CBC introduce a bill that calls for the establishment of a modern day Marshall Plan that helps eradicate the urban decay in the largest Black cities in America.

That would help reverse the Benign Neglect policies of the 60's

That would help reverse Redlining and employ community lending institutions with incentive to lend to Black folk

Republicans often cry about “overspending.” Try this logic. Reissue the funds received back from orginal The Marshall Plan to fund the contemporary one.

Several leading economists state that the last check paid back by European nations was in 1971 (not all were able to pay it back, some monies were issued as grants).

To this very day, the median white family holds nearly 10 times the wealth of median black family.

In light of the recent uproar involving the diabolical murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, the prospects are looking promising for CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) to reach Black America is a succinct way, perhaps for the first time in history. The way of circumventing the semantics of media minutia, allowing donations to go directly into building economic incubators in black neighborhoods, is coming into focus.

What a name you can trust? How about Harry Belafonte.

Yes. THAT Harry Belafonte. He founded The Gathering For League in 2005, lead by women like the incomparable Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour doing a ‘lioness” share of the work. Or Brittany Packnett Cunningham, co-founder of Campaign Zero, fighting feverishly for Police Reform. Give them a like, follow, retweet and a check. Please and Thank You!

Dr. Claude Anderson often reminds us that there are NO Black communities in America, only neighborhoods, where most of the older neighbors have left or been priced out of that neighborhood, so all that’s left is the hood.

Here’s Dr. Anderson, who served as Assistant Secretary in the U.S. Department of Commerce in the Jimmy Carter Administration, speaking about Black Patriotism.

In a perfect world, the recent onslaught of companies donating money to “end racial injustice” will find a way to get it to the black community, where it is needed the most. 250 years of indentured servitude and another 150 of Jim Crow defacto and dejure segregation still have its ventricles on the extremities of black folk. So much so that to this very day, the median white family holds nearly 10 times the wealth of median black family.

We have to DEMAND something to RECEIVE somethings. Reparations withstanding, The American Indian Federation got billions of dollars from the Department of The Interior, and a record 3.4 billion during the Obama Administration.

Ask me what I want, and I’ll say give us what the Indians got. Sovereignty, Casino licenses, treaty benefits, etc. Along that same philosophy is perhaps the most profound words the Dr. King ever spoke, when he said” I fear that I am integrating my people into a burning house”. Indeed the social integration has been become social retardation in terms of the social stagnation that emcompasses Black America today.

John Stoehr (www.substack.com)

When grouping all the marginalized groups together, black folk often get shafted, and as long as crafty lawyers and slick PR campaigns allow companies and philanthropists to pick and choose where the dollars go, Black America will never catch up to viabilty on an economic level.

And what a travesty that would be, for America’s original sin to last reach another decade, then another and another without substantitive, wealth building blocks for people of color to climb out of this economic abyss.

So the next time you see a catchy headline scrolling on your timeline that says something about helping “minorities” or “POC” or my favorite throwaway for elected officials and (their speech writers) “underserved communities”, leave a comment with these three words…

Just say Black…



Darnell Roberts

New York Made, Miami Paid. I used to work for Wall Street, now I work for All Streets. Twitter: @mridontsleep