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A business plan for 2013

Melvin B. Miller | 12/27/2012, 11:17 a.m.

Yuletide festivities are enjoyable, but they are also a distraction from the serious effort of developing a plan for the new year. The American Dream is not usually attained by accident. There has to be a plan for progress to guide one’s efforts toward success.

Such plans are very personal, so it is not possible to review them as though the issues are common. However, one concern of importance to African Americans is the extent to which the status of the race in society is an impediment.

Past generations of blacks had to focus primarily on improving their legal status as citizens. Residents of slave states were constantly subjected to persecution if they were deemed to be runaways. As recently as 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Plessy v. Ferguson that “separate but equal,” racial segregation, was constitutionally sanctioned. That was the law of the land until it was overruled in 1954 by Brown v. Board of Education.

The success in that case invigorated a massive effort to end racial discrimination. After a hard fought, 10-year battle, the nation passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This made racial discrimination unlawful everywhere in employment, education and places of public accommodation. Then the next year, in 1965, the Voting Rights Act made it more difficult to discriminate in elections. The civil rights activists were clearly victorious.

Unfortunately, 48 years later, many blacks now minimize the magnitude of what was accomplished. They do not believe that blacks won the civil rights war. And even worse, they disrespect the heroism of their elders who had to put their lives in the line of fire to win this war. Now they introduce any trivial racial slight as evidence that the civil rights war is not over.

Those younger than 60 have little memory of the time when there was no legal recourse for racial discrimination when you applied for a job, admission to college or a hotel reservation. While some ill-advised manager might choose to violate the law, his conduct after 1964 could subject his employer to answer in court. The offenses complained of by the young today do not rise to the level of combat endured in the civil rights campaigns of the 1950s.

Blacks have to acknowledge that wars do end. For three years from 1950 to 1953, the U.S. committed 300,000 soldiers to the Korean War that ended in an armistice. However, the U.S. claimed victory and has continued since then to aid a military presence in South Korea. Diplomatic confrontations with North Korea periodically erupt, but who would insist that the Korean War is not over?

African Americans must let their lawyers handle the recalcitrant bigots while they focus on issues to advance the cause. The recent election shows that blacks, Asians, Hispanics and enlightened whites can form a significant political power bloc in America. It is time to strengthen the coalition that resulted in victory in the civil rights war and the election of Barack Obama. The growth of the minority population in coming years provides a demographic boost to success.

At the same time, blacks have to increase business development. The number of black firms increased by 61 percent between 2002 and 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2007 survey. However, total gross receipts were only $135.7 billion. Walmart’s sales for 2011 were $419 billion, so it is clear that black firms need dynamic growth.

One of the most important efforts is for African Americans to encourage and enable their children to excel academically. The future belongs to the well-educated. Blacks have to revive the commitment to education that they once had.

Now is the time to worry less about white interference and focus more on what African Americans can achieve with their own talents and effort.