Fighting Racism

I had a boss who was racist. Not an outright bigot, of course; her toolbox was more subtle than most. We bumped heads a lot over inconsequential things. She frequently couldn’t keep my name out her mouth. Lot of gaslighting. You know…2018 style. I tried a lot of ways to combat or navigate her issues. None of them worked, and that’s saying a lot because I’m really good at fighting racism. But at the end of the day – every day – she was my boss, I had to deal with her, and that was that. Finally I changed my job. I still had the same boss, but our work was far enough from direct contact that it was almost like not working together. I would still see her every day, but now I didn’t have to contend with her behavior. I was free to do what I needed and wanted to do, and so was she.

I changed the power structure of our relationship because appealing to her humanity was a lost cause and I spent years learning that the hard way. Racism is not about feelings; it is about power. Not being aware of that – making anti-racism work about friendships and tokens and tone – is part of why people get confused about what many black people want politically. We don’t assume you don’t know what racism looks like. And if it turns out you don’t know what you’re doing, we’re often content to just get on with our lives because there are way more of you than there are of us, life is short, and our lives are statistically even shorter. Black folks literally ain’t got time for that.

We’re not out here trying to fix your racism; we’re trying to make your racism have as little effect as possible. Anything else is misdirection, a mistake, or icing on real work already done.

Scott Woods


China Threatens Sovereignty of Several African Nations As It Takes Over Their Resources to Cover Debt

China Threatens Sovereignty of Several African Nations As It Takes Over Their Resources to Cover Debt

By David Love – African Science Institute

Lusaka International Airport

It is no secret that China has increased its footprint on the African continent with heightened influence and economic, trade and security arrangements with various nations. On a positive note, this new relationship between the emerging Asian giant and African countries has been characterized as a mutually beneficial arrangement and a departure from the imperialist exploitation of Europe and the United States. However, in some cases, Sino-African cooperation may assume the look and feel of a lopsided deal, which some would regard as neocolonialism based on debt obligations that African nations cannot repay, rather than an economic partnership among equals.

At the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping recently pledged an additional $60 billion in financing for projects in Africa, including $15 billion in grants and loans, $20 billion in credit, $10 billion in “development financing” and $5 billion to buy African imports. In addition, China will encourage companies to invest $10 billion over the next three years. The announcement is an example of China’s outreach to increase trade, investment and political ties with the continent. However, the Chinese leader did not address the issue of indebtedness, the notion that African nations are left far too economically beholden to Chinese banks. “China’s investment in Africa comes with no political strings attached,” Xi said. “China does not interfere in Africa’s internal affairs and does not impose its own will on Africa.” President Xi also announced eight new initiatives involving industrial promotion, infrastructure development, health care and other matters.

China Graph

With the $60 billion pledge to Africa, 2018 marks a pivotal year for China. The Asian giant had already invested $124 billion in Africa since 2000, fueling concerns that African nations are saddled with unsustainable levels of debt, and forced to mortgage their oil and mineral resources as collateral or hand over other assets and resources when they are unable to pay back the Asian power. Labeled as “predatory infrastructure financing,” these agreements signed between China and Africa and other nations may lack accountability and transparency, with China maintaining the upper hand in negotiating the contracts.

For example, Sri Lanka has just given 70 percent control of its Hambantota port to China, a $1.1 billion, 99-year lease which local people, including trade unions and political opposition groups, call a “sellout” move threatening Sri Lankan sovereignty. The Indian political analyst and author Brahma Chellaney characterized the agreement as “debt-trap diplomacy” in which Sri Lanka handed over its port because it could not repay its “onerous debt” to China — “a reminder of how Chinese loans are collateralized by strategically important physical assets.” Loans from a Chinese state-owned bank built the $1.3 billion port, which opened in 2010. However, Sri Lanka, which owes China $8 billion in loans for infrastructure development projects, has had difficulties repaying the debt.

Africa Confidential reported that ZESCO, the Zambian state electricity company, was in talks with a Chinese company concerning a takeover of the utility, raising concerns about national sovereignty and Chinese ownership of key components of the country’s infrastructure. This came amid reports that China would take over Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda International Airport to settle the African country’s debt defaults, and ZNBC, the state-owned TV and radio broadcaster. China owns 60 percent of TopStar Communications Limited, a joint venture created by the Zambian government to digitize its broadcast infrastructure, while ZNBC owns 40 percent.

The Zambian government has rebutted claims it is surrendering any of its public assets, or that China had such intentions, noting that ZESCO is a strategic company that cannot be sold to a foreign firm, and some of the China-financed projects have not been completed.

The size, scope and price tag of Chinese infrastructure programs in Africa raise questions about how these nations will be able to sustain them. For example, the Zambian government has signed off on $8 billion in Chinese infrastructure financing, in a country whose gross domestic product (GDP) is $26 billion, and where government debt is 55.6 percent of GDP and the annual budget is a quarter of GDP. The Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway costs $4 billion, or nearly a quarter of Ethiopia’s 2016 government budget. Faced with mounting debt, many African nations will be unable to rely on their budgets to make their payments to the Chinese, and will have to resort to “in-kind” payments to Beijing.

The International Monetary Fund reported earlier this year that sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing a debt crisis, with 40 percent of nations in the region at a high risk of debt distress, and the number of countries unable to service their debt doubling to eight in the past year. According to a report from the Center for Global Development, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia and Kenya are the African nations among 23 nations with a high risk of debt distress from Chinese financing. Djibouti is among eight countries with the highest risk of distress in the event of additional debt financing.

Djibouti, which hosts a U.S. military base, may become the latest African nation to fall into China’s debt trap. With public debt projected at 88 percent of the country’s $1.72 billion GDP, with China claiming most of it, Djibouti may find itself handing over its assets to its Chinese creditors. The African nation is also the location of China’s first overseas military base, which is designed to support Chinese missions in Africa and the Mideast, and will also perform other functions, including “military cooperation, joint exercises, evacuating and protecting overseas Chinese and emergency rescue, as well as jointly maintaining security of international strategic seaways,” according to Chinese state press outlet Xinhua. In July, Djibouti opened the first phase of the $3.5 billion Djibouti International Free Trade Zone (DIFTZ) project. The Chinese-built trade zone is an integral part of China’s multi-trillion-dollar “Belt and Road” initiative of infrastructure projects across Africa, Asia and Europe. China also financed and constructed the African continent’s first transnational electric railroad, a $4 billion, 470-mile railway between Djibouti and Addis Ababa. China further consolidated its control of ports in the Horn of Africa region when the Djibouti government terminated its contract with Dubai-based port operator DP World to run the Doraleh Container Terminal (DCT) — partly owned by China’s state-owned China Merchants Port Holdings — and embraced greater involvement from China in the nation’s ports.
As the United States foreign policy with Africa has stagnated and has been limited to the war on terror, China has filled the gap by procuring raw material supplies in Africa to secure its economic and military future with oil, diamonds and minerals used for electronics. Some voices within Africa have accused Chinese companies of coming to Africa to exploit the people and their vast resources, even more than European colonizers, with a goal toward making Africa China’s second continent. Before becoming president of Zambia, Michael Sata wrote in 2007 that “European colonial exploitation in comparison to Chinese exploitation appears benign, because even though the commercial exploitation was just as bad, the colonial agents also invested in social and economic infrastructure services. Chinese investment, on the other hand, is focused on taking out of Africa as much as can be taken out, without any regard to the welfare of the local people.”

Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam, who teaches political science at California State–San Bernardino, calls Chinese neocolonialism in Africa “the dragon eating the lion and the cheetah.” He counters the popular notion that China is developing African infrastructure in a “win-win” scenario. “China has literally invaded Africa with its investors, traders, lenders, builders, developers, laborers and who knows what else,” he wrote, adding that China continues to ensnare Africa in its “neocolonial trap” through billions of dollars in loans, and by using “debt relief to obtain exclusive rights to a nation’s natural resources and build military bases.” The Chinese presence in Africa, he claims, has been a gift to African dictators and has fueled anti-Chinese resentment among common people in Africa.

Goodwill aid from China may take the form of unfair practices, and African leadership must take note and stand against neocolonial practices, as International Policy Digest notes, highlighting the need to break free from dependency on outsiders and proceed with African development as an in-house matter. As the French daily Le Monde reported, Beijing presented as a gift to the African Union its $200 million headquarters in Addis Ababa, and its computer network with a back door data connection to servers in Shanghai for spying purposes.

The African Union may take cues from the European Union, which is pushing back against reportedly unfair trade practices by China — including acquisitions of Europe’s most strategic high-tech businesses and infrastructure — with new regulations against investment that is based on China’s political goals rather than market forces. The EU has become a key destination for Chinese investors, as Politico reports, with China spending €75 billion ($87 billion) in European acquisitions and investments in 2016, including energy companies, high-tech businesses, ports and banks. UK officials also confirmed proposals to regulate foreign acquisitions of British assets — with an eye primarily toward China and to a lesser extent countries such as Russia — reflecting moves by Western nations to fortify their foreign investment and takeover criteria as a matter of national security.

Further, some Asian nations are having second thoughts about their indebtedness to China. Malaysia recently canceled more than $20 billion in Chinese-funded projects on the grounds they would create unsustainable debt and were unnecessary. Meanwhile, Pakistan is reconsidering projects of the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a fundamental part of the Belt Road Initiative. African countries should take note.

What do you think?


AMERICA -- Here is what you really are

I struggle to empathize with those Americans who find themselves suddenly in a country they don’t recognize because black, brown, and red people have been telling you the whole time where you are.


Let Me Be FREE!

I've had several conversations over the last few weeks or so about the definition of being FREE.

This one particular discussion that took place over the weekend really touched my soul and nearly brought me to tears thinking about its reality. I've been asking this question as part of a personal survey I'm conducting. There have been people from all walks of life in which I've asked what does it means to be FREE. I also asked if they considered themselves FREE?

I found the answers in some cases very disturbing and also very profound as well refreshing. Now, just because people gave great soundbites doesn't mean that they're truly FREE. Yes, today, no one is actually in ball and chains. No one is being held in the modern civilization against their will. And no black person is being strung up on a tree for sport for all to witness. Now, people say that slave-like tactics are still being practiced in certain areas of America. I would not doubt that, but in a normal society, especially in major big cities, there's no visible evidence of FREEDOM being physically restricted.

The kind of freedom I'm referring to is completely mental and/or psychological, in which people either in impoverished communities or within professional offices across are actively conducting themselves in none FREEstyle performances. They're afraid to challenge the status quo. They're fearful of being displaced or left without other opportunities to succeed or barely maintain. That's what happens when the hidden hands of power have captured the spirit and soul of so-called educated and supposedly mentally stable black folks. These Negroes believe they can't provide for their families without the assistance of certain corporate structures keeping them in play.

During my remarks as host emcee at the Cook County Bar Association's annual Installation and Awards Dinner last Friday, I asked what was the role of the black professional? I made reference to the late, great Lew Myers, Jr., who was being saluted with the President's Award for his courage and fortitude (His wife excepted the honors on his behalf). Attorney Myers did exactly what he wanted in terms of serving black people without pause. And after my acknowledgment of him, I kindly and aggressively stated, "That Negro was FREE!"

Again, what is the role of the black professional? I need for current and future black professionals to write that question in their journals and attempt to answer. Your response will truly help move the needle of progress either backward or forward. If you can't, in good conscious, figure out your role other than making money to provide for your immediate family, then progress will be stalled, at best, until you understand the bigger picture of why you exist on God's earth.

During several of these conversations throughout my journal with paper and pen, I've been allocated as the voice of many who can't say exactly what I've expressed in my writings. But again, as people always state to me, "I don't agree with everything you say, but...." I laugh everytime someone says that. Of course, you don't and shouldn't agree with everything I script in my Works of Words. (We) don't agree with everything our parents, spouses, and besties tell us.

But, I always ask, 'Why can't you state exactly what I'm saying?' If what I speak is the truth, then what refrains you from speaking truth? It's normally the same old response: 'I have a family and responsibilities and my (JOB) will not allow me to speak out or be vocal on issues relevant to my (black) community.' I often wanna say, 'are you a FREE person?' Because I truly understand their plight, I don't go there! But for those who've ever made that cowardice statement to me, these Works of Words are for YOU and the corporations who prevent FREE Negroes from being FREE!

Let them be FREE! American companies, isn't it enough that you underpay black people? Hidden hands of power, isn't it enough that have restricted black folks from dwelling peacefully where (WE) have earned the right to dwell? Corporations, isn't it more than enough that you've not provided adequate accommodations for black excellence to progress and obtain the highest power within your establishments? Where are the board seats? Where are the CEO and president titles? Where are the partnerships?

Being FREE is not just walking openly without bondage. Being FREE is soo much more than making money and running to the suburbs, or within the last ten years, relocating back to communities like Bronzeville, which you abandoned decades ago because you thought you were FREE. Now, that FREEDOM cost you even more because of gentrification. You're being oversold your parent's and grandparent's homes back to you. And you call yourself FREE? LOL!

Let me be FREE! I'm glad that so many have anointed me as their mouthpiece. Thanks! I'm also excited to be in a FREE state of mind, body, and soul to be that voice. Thanks, my Lord. But true happiness and FREEDOM for me is to be in a community filled with FREE thinking folks who not only fight for their FREEDOM but allow for those who wanna be FREE, to be FREE! Therefore, don't criticize me for wanting FREEDOM.

For those FREE folks who know history, remember what slave abolitionist Harriett Tubman screamed: "I could've helped more Negroes if they only would've recognized that they were already FREE"!

Until the next edition..... Peace and One Love. I Write to Differ...


White Supremacy

Scott WoodsIf we know nothing else about white supremacy it is that it possesses a fluidity second to none in the political realm. Of all the tools that exist to run a society, white supremacy is the Swiss army knife of value systems: more flexible than religion, more widespread than nationalism, and more insidious than patriarchy. It is a system so chameleon-like that most direct answers about how to combat it are easily dismantled because they don’t apply to enough situations to make a difference in the lives of people as they are lived. The problem isn’t that the answers are bad; it is that people often interpret broad answers as complete answers when in fact they are tools that are supposed to be applied to our lives as we experience it. So when someone says we must “do away with systemic racism”, they’re not telling you what to do so much as where you need to start your process. “Do I know what ‘systemic’ means? Do I know what ‘racism’ means? How many ways does this apply to my life? Why does it often feel like I’m the only one working on this where I am?” Fighting racism isn’t a checklist; it is a constant and ongoing interrogation of the world around and within you. That requires that you not only read but consider, that you imagine, that you apply the sum of your experiences and gifts to the process of discovering the depth and range of racism in your life.

The science behind the magic trick of answers seeking to combat racism is that the heavy lifting is largely individual in practice. You have to not only ask the questions but find YOUR answers because racism is affecting you in some unique way that has to interact with your experiences, values, knowledge base, skill set, and ethical capabilities. The fight is largely in the journey, so basing the success of your fight on an outcome instead of the process is frequently a recipe for failure. When someone asks you to think outside the box, it’s really a call to open your box, unpack it, analyze the contents, find some new content, and wash off the racism you find on the old contents, assuming they can or should be restored. 

The so-called constructive criticism of a revolutionary criticism that basically says “this study/interrogation/philosophy is incomplete because it has no solutions” misses the point of not only most criticism but the basics of anti-racism problem-solving.

 


Redacted Racism From The Executive Level | I'm Stronger Than Fear

This is a post that reminds recruiters and readers that often ask me “why do you focus on diversity” or say “haven’t we talked about diversity enough?”  A post for those who suggest  Affirmative Action, EEOC, D&I initiatives, and the various reports from Silicon Valley are enough.


What to the African American is the 4th of July?

OneUnited BankblackWhat is the meaning of the 4th of July to Me?
There is a rhetorical question, and there is a personal answer. It is easy for each of us to ask the rhetorical question. The conduct of our daily lives provides the personal answer.

This question has been resonating among Black folks since Frederick Douglass famously asked in 1852, "What to the slave is the 4th of July?"


Building New Institutions

Carl WestContributing Correspondent: C. Dwayne West

A celebrated elder and civil rights icon recently asked me what I thought about Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. I responded with much flair but with also much well deserved respect. 'I think Rev. Jackson is a part of the old leadership model but his continued work is needed even though not much appreciated by those in my generation.' And I went on to explain why....