The Black Bourgeoisie class sells the idea of Atlanta as being some sort of mythological negro-town, where all your dreams come true and you will be safe from poverty and downward mobility caused by capitalist stratification. The smoke and mirrors of a Black paradise that they offer is what I call Wakandism. It is a belief that a place where some Black people have success offers a model to be followed while ignoring the struggle of Atlanta’s predominantly Black working class. . Most often wakandism is applied to Atlanta as an outlier for the United States since a Black capitalist class has developed there. But Atlanta is no Black paradise, no matter how much Mayor Kiesha Lance Bottoms, TI and Killer Mike impress these things upon us as ‘Black Leaders’. They represent the Black rich and accomplished. They represent their own goals while 20% of Atlanta struggles in poverty. The wicked problem is, Atlanta is no different than other southern cities. People live in poverty and are under-employed in cities like New Orleans, Birmingham, Memphis, and Baton Rouge. Living in the legacy of racism and colonialism most of these people are Black. We are continually impressed to ‘get like them’ if we ‘just’ follow the path of the Black elite. This following is infamously noted in the quote “we all have the same 24 hours”. Our risky realities pitched to us as a result of our own failures due to not working hard enough. The truth is actually that their position depends on our work. Our labor supports and uplifts them more than it does us and their status needs that relationship to survive.
This hollow sales pitch is exactly the type of rhetorical veiling that needs to be pulled back to examine the true structural issues here. Capitalism cloaked in Black will not save anyone; it will only sustain itself via oppression and exploitation. Capitalism cannot exist without labor produced by the working class, Black capitalism will only reproduce this relationship. Noted best by Lawrence Otis Graham in his book “Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class,” Black capitalists are quick to ‘distinguish’ themselves from the masses as they burn the very bridges they crossed behind them. A perfect demonstration of how quickly a group will be willing to shed the benefits of the collective to focus solely on their own individual gain. They invoke wakandism to try and sustain order , while making a profit off of the mostly Black working class. Capitalism reproduces and protects itself and their actions reproduce an age old American tradition. Even as the Royal African Company sold the enslaved humans it trafficked to colonial lords. There were promises of ‘working hard enough’ to buy your liberation. We all know liberation from enslavement for all did not come from forced labor in cotton and sugarcane fields. After this partial liberation Black people were still pressured to keep working harder so maybe one day we’ll be able to partake in the American dream. Even as we were imprisoned to sustain our labor on both state-run and private projects. A dream that is destined to reproduce the conditions of its organization, benefitting the few over the many. Thus Black capitalists are offering us nothing while pressuring us down a path of John Henryism, over-working as a process of coping with the stresses of oppression.
In reproducing capitalism, they end up taking the approach of if “I made it and you too can enjoy Black Excellence”. But the very structure of capitalism works so that bosses make profits off of workers as it did to the enslaved people. For much of US history, Black people have been stopped from becoming part of the capitalist class. Think about the Tulsa Massacre against Black businesses and “Black Wall Street” for example. However, now that a few Black people have reached the top, that won’t guarantee liberation for the vast majority of us– the Black working class. Black capitalists will continue to pedal liberal solutions that offer no structural change while saying this will benefit all of us. No better current example exists than Killer Mike’s ‘Black bank for Black wealth’. Banks are essential to capitalism; they drive its existence and create centralized wealth for its owners. A Black bank is also still a bank, it does not matter who owns it. A Black bank will contribute to the conditions that make the market predatory for everyone and Black people especially. Killer Mike posits his bank as if the only Black wealth grown from this for-profit business will not be his own. Another example is present in P.Diddy’s “Our Black Party” which presents itself as not being monolithic. It doesn’t seem to know if it wants to reproduce capitalism or borrow popular leftist policy. The sources it cites for its agenda treat poverty as unsolvable or a common state of affairs and references the median ‘Black-White’ wealth gap which we’ll break down next.
The ‘Black-White’ American wealth gap is peddled as proof of the need to build Black wealth while the internal wealth gap among Black people is ignored. The top earners for Black Americans control 75% of our wealth based on the Survey of Consumer Finances. The plight of those of us not in the top 10% of earners is skipped over in discussions of wealth! We often go into details of home ownership and college debt without examining that our internal wealth disparity mirrors the white wealth disparity. The top 10% of white earners control 74% of their overall wealth. Removing the wealthiest groups accounts for 3/4ths of the entire wealth gap. If we continue to fall prey to their musings while only bolstering the wealth of the Black rich we can only hope for charity granted at random by the overseers of the wakandan embassies called Black philanthropy.
(Source: People’s Policy Project)
We must not and cannot fall prey to their wakandism which is just more trickle-down theory cloaked in Blackface. Trickle-down theory has no proven scientific method, it is a belief that propping up a few lords will help us all. The idea that propping up Black capitalists on the backs of the masses will give us racial equity. As for those of us who are not part of this group and will never be part of this group unnecessary risk is the norm. This poverty and under-employment are natural outcomes of capitalism as it pursues cheaper labor. As Barbara Harriss-White noted in Poverty & Capitalism “poverty is continually being created and recreated under the institutions of capitalism”. Do not buy wakandism nor any other reproductions of capitalism. We all can eat.