The term “Maát” is familiar to many of us. I give credit to the youth at the SBA (“Saba”) Academy in Ft. Wayne, Ind., under the superb leadership of Brother Kweku Akan and his staff, for enlightening me on the exact meaning of the term and the principles it embodies: Truth; Justice; Righteousness; Balance; Harmony; Order; and Reciprocity. We have scholars among us who know far more than I on these principles, so I will not even attempt to discuss them in total. I do want to speak about the last principle: Reciprocity.
It simply means something for something, for mutual benefit, between two parties or entities. In politics they use the Latin term quid pro quo, probably because the majority of the electorate does not know what the term means. It sounds nice and sophisticated but it simply means reciprocity. You give me something and I will give you something in echange. In political circles, of course, it could be boiled down to dollars for votes,or votes for dollars.
Blacks are the most loyal voters in this country but not the most generous when it comes to campaign donations. So our quid pro quo should be “votes for dollars.” Although we call them programs and benefits, nonetheless, our “quo,” in return for our “quid” should be flowing back to us. We should not have to beg, march, demonstrate, or fight for our “quo;” if reciprocity is the name of the game Black voters should be sitting pretty right now. But for all of our quid election after election, we have little quo to show for it.
Politically speaking, Black people are being played. The sad part about it is that we don’t seem to care. The lower we sink, politically and economically, the more we are available “to get off the couch and put on our marching shoes” to demonstrate our dissatisfaction about the political system, as though our anger will change it.
The mis-leaders keep telling us how powerful our vote is, but in spite of turning out in greater proportionate numbers than Whites in 2012, we still suffer from a lack of reciprocity. Despite our undying loyalty we are still an all quid and no quo voting bloc. Frederick Douglass warned, “When we are noted for enterprise, industry, and success, we shall no longer have any trouble in the matter of civil and political rights.” Makes me almost wish he had said, “When we give all of our votes toone political party, we will achieve full political reciprocity.”
To many Black folks, Maát has real meaning. We recite the principles, chant, sing, and teach them, but a relative few of us actually practice them. As for reciprocity, Black people have far to goin the marketplace and in the political arena. We give but we do not receive. All quid with no quo.
Why do we accept such a one-sided deal, especially from those to whom our loyalty is pledged and given? Politically we are taken for granted, obviously because of our staunch loyalty; and economically we suffer the same result because we do not command and demand a reasonable return on our dollars. One example that captures both the economics and politics of this issue is the $1 billion in President Obama’s 2012 campaign war chest contrasted by the measly $985,000 spent with the Black Press. In exchange for our 93 percent-95 percent quid, our quo was one-tenth of 1 percent, or 0.1% in media buys, and that was up from the planned spend of $650,000, which was raised because of ”pressure” on the campaign managers.Taken for granted is putting it mildly.
Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), in an article written by George E. Curry, NNPA Editor-in-Chief (January 2013),accused President Obama of “consistently disrespecting the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the Black Press, and graduates of historically Black colleges, key groups that were critical to his re-election in November.”
Considering the number of years that Blacks such as Douglass, Booker T., Garvey, and Malcolm have been telling us how to play the political game to win, we continue to play it just to play. Considering our penchant for ancient African principles and tenets, such as reciprocity, we insult the memory of our ancestors by giving our quid without demanding and receiving a quo.
So what should we do? Well, my contention is that Black people must move beyond the politics and voting issues, and the only way to do that is achieve the lofty goal of 100 percent Black voter registration and voting. Once that is off the table, our attention can then be directed to the economics of it all. ( See next week’s column for an expansive view on this solution). We must have more quo for our quid, y’all.
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, blackonomics.com.