Blacks can progress without appealing to fear

By , Luke E. Williams Jr., a student at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, is working on a research project, ''Alternative Strategies for Social Change.''

Trouble is stirring in the black community - the kind reminiscent of the '60 s. A growing sense of frustration and discontent, mixed with the sort of talk that leads to social unrest, seems prevalent. But today this is not merely a product of idle and unemployed black youth. The current wave of alienation is being articulated by the black elite, those who have assimilated into middle-class status, as well as by those suffering from joblessness and economic deprivation.

Understandably, blacks are shifting the fight for equality into the economic spheres that control community resources and make community policies. Leaders across the country are trying to organize black purchasing power by setting up trade agreements and implementing economic boycotts, in an effort to increase their economic clout. We can see this happening inside the black church, at the local NAACP, along the parks, and outside the ''black-top'' cafes. Blacks are demanding their fair share ''to regain community control.''

This is not new, but what is different and disturbing are the unprecedented attacks against other minority groups. A large number of blacks believe that immigrants take more from their community than they contribute. The fear is not only that immigrants displace black workers but in effect exercise increasing political and economic power which threatens potential black entrepreneurs.

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In an effort to harness support for new economic strategies, black leaders are openly appealing to these negative emotions. Whether before a group of businessmen or behind the pulpit, many are launching a negative campaign against other minority groups. Unfortunately, this will hopelessly paralyze any chance for meaningful economic progress. Rather than create a coalition against economic inequities, finger-pointing and admonishments further spawn the seeds of polarization and alienation.

The weakness of such approaches is clear. They provide a convenient scapegoat but fail to identify the broader considerations that nullify the aspirations of new black MBAs. Bank-lending policies that fail to provide initial start-up capital to blacks, along with discriminatory practices by insurance companies, are the important barriers. Long before the current wave of immigrants, the sad fact is that we have never had economic control of the black community. To stand up now and pronounce that we are losing control is an illusion. Blacks never had it to begin with.

The attacks by black leaders on other minority groups under the pretext of ''regaining control of their community'' needs to stop. Blacks do need to expand influence over their community and form little ''black Chinatowns'' in economically depressed areas. But they can make gains without appealing to fear or buying into the notion that ''there exists only a fixed number of jobs and business opportunities in the economy, wherein each newcomer represents a threat to your livelihood.''

If blacks don't own the businesses in their community, it is not because of the small Asian merchant at the corner store. Yes, the influx of new immigrants creates tremendous pressures on blacks hoping to gain a foothold in the economy, but leaders reacting to fear and avoiding the more fundamental economic questions only place yet another roadblock in the struggle for equality.

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