According to Bernie Sanders, 1% of Americans have more wealth than 92% of all other Americans. But even more egregious is a study published in 2016 by the Institute for Policy Studies and the Corporation for Economic Development entitled, quote, “The Ever-Growing Gap: Without Change, African-Americans and Latino Families Won’t Match White Wealth For Centuries,” end quote.
According to that study, the 400 richest white Americans own more wealth than the entire Black population—plus one third of the Latino population combined. The study goes on to conclude that it will take Black families 228 years to amass the wealth white families have today. For me, being both a prisoner and a Black man, these statistics, even if remotely true, are extremely troubling, because as I’ve said in previous commentary, power respects power. And in a capitalist country power is rooted in economic strength. If you’re poor or economically vulnerable, then you tend to be the victim of injustice. You tend to be the scapegoat of others.
This is why in 2019, 154 years after slavery, and only 55 years after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Bill, Black people are still faced with racism and discrimination in this country. And mass incarceration is one of many forms in which we find racism and discrimination manifested. Essentially what I’m saying is that there is a direct link in the grossly unequal distribution of wealth in this country and the injustice that people, poor people, particularly poor people of color, suffer on a daily basis.
I used to believe the solution to this was the political ideology of Marxism-Leninism, Maoism, and revolutionary new African nationalism. There’s something to be said about socialism, nationalism, and revolution, when the capitalist oligarchs in this country tolerate institutional racism and exploit the poor.
Just listen to the news, and we constantly hear about how Black people are being shot and killed by white police officers and vigilantes or racially profiled and harassed by white people on airlines, apartment buildings, or restaurants. We constantly hear about corrupt corp- corporations and corporate executives who knowingly sell the public defective and sometimes deadly products. We hear how our drinking water and air are polluted for the sake of profit.
Let’s not forget about the 2008 economic crisis was caused by greedy banks who the government bailed out. Even though the American public lost about five trillion dollars in the loss of homes, 401ks savings, and so on, many of the banks that were bailed out used public funds to give bonuses to their executives.
This is the country we live in. The rich get richer and the rest of us end up getting shafted while we compete against each other over crumps. And for us prisoners, we really get screwed, because nobody really cares what happens to us. So, yes, I used to think socialism, Black nationalism and revolution where the solution. If we play by the rules of the establishment, we get played and gamed every single time. They won’t even let me form an organization to reform young prisoners. The United States Supreme Court won’t extend a constitutional right to rehabilitation for juvenile and youthful offenders.
These are just a couple of many examples I can point to in my life, how the establishment runs roughshod over the lives of the weak and poor. I can relate this to those people out there who pay high premiums, copays, or deductibles for healthcare. Or how credit card companies hit people with exorbitant fees and interest rates. Or how state governments rather cut education budgets instead of implementing prison reforms that decrease the prison population and does save the state money.
So, no amount of marching and protesting, I think, will lead to the kind of fundamental structural changes in our country that will bring about social economic equality. And therefore, level the playing field to allow all people equal access to opportunities. But I also no longer believe in revolutionary socialism in which we completely replace the existing capitalist order.
Now, I uphold Conscious Money, which is a philosophy that combines the ideology of social economic empowerment of Black and disadvantaged people and racial equality with the principles and lessons of personal success and development found in books like, Your Magic Power to be Rich by Napoleon Hill, The One Minute Millionaire: The Enlightened Way to Wealth by Mark Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen, The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield, and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R, Covey.
One particular lesson from these books that has the power to level the playing field is the mastermind principle Napoleon Hill wrote about. The mastermind is when two or more people, in a spirit of harmony, coordinate their knowledge and efforts to accomplish a particular end. This is the same as the idea of interdependence that Stephen R. Covey wrote about. Essentially, if those of us who are the underdog come together in a spirit of harmony to empower ourselves and each other socially and economically, we can not only compete with greedy corporate interests, but can also shift the balance of wealth and power in this country to favor more of the people, particularly those of us who have been traditionally left out and left behind.
This is the vision I’m putting forth through UFD. We want to build a multi-billion dollar people’s movement in which we empower our members to achieve their goals and dreams, while using our collective influence to change the world for the better for all people. This is Conscious Money. Our enlightened way to welcome power. If you like what you’re hearing, then join our Conscious Money Movement and change the world with us.
This is Dontie S. Mitchell, better known as Mfalme Sikivu, reporting to you from Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, New York. Follow me on Facebook @freeDontieMitchell. Thank you for listening, and God bless.
(Sound of a cell door closing.) These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.