al calloway.jpgDuring the late 1990s, some 42 percent of people who had jobs were still living in poverty.  Unfortunately, that anomaly was not viewed as an American dilemma.  And the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that the poverty rate rose 17 percent from 2000 to 2005. By 2004, America had 37 million people in poverty. There were entire states in which 30 percent of jobs did not pay a living wage.

So the working poor and near-poor, who include a monumental number of black Americans, were scrounging for survival during the so-called prosperity years of the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush presidencies, culminating in the near depression that President Barack Obama faced when he entered the White House.

Like pirates, the oligarchs ripped-off the American economic system, including its taxpayers, even the working poor. A finely honed plutocracy formed by these modern-day pirates has all but taken over the American political system from their New York Wall Street forts and K Street digs in Washington, D.C.

Elected officials sent to Washington by the people’s votes work for the oligarchs who finance political campaigns, write legislation, lobby all officials including department heads and key staff persons. Oligarchs even hire some of these experts away to their K Street firms at high salaries and bonuses to lobby Congress or other areas of government where they formerly worked.

As a result of these and other un-American activities in the most vaunted of all so-called democracies, 14 million Americans are unemployed, right now. One in eight Americans is now on Food Stamps, and 20.5 million Americans are the poorest of the poor.

Now, as Americans of African descent, whose ancestors survived the long walk to the slavers’ dungeons on Africa’s west coast, the Middle Passage holocaust and the brutal centuries of chattel slavery through present day discriminatory practices, on what basis do we internalize an understanding of democracy?

Except through extraneous vestiges of acculturation — some of us learned what it’s supposed to mean — can we feel democracy, see it as ours to have, unequivocally? I mean every one of us,

no exceptions constantly exhibited as though they were the mean and not the extreme, the rare; those entertainers, athletes, mega-preachers and a modicum of other business types and so on.  

Some 50 years has passed since the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) warned segregated and undemocratic white America during the Civil Rights Movement that, “What you allow the government to do to us today, they will do to you tomorrow.” Well, that tomorrow has been festering for a long time.

Today, the power of television and smart phones shows thousands of Americans in streets across the nation who call themselves the 99% with their budding “Occupy Wall Street” movement protesting un-American and undemocratic activities of Wall Street bankers and a do-nothing Congress. In effect, people are beginning to move on the plutocracy.

These protesters against the 1% super-rich oligarchs are mostly white middle-class unemployed college graduates, students and unemployed union and non-union workers.  Finally, some of white America is waking up to the truth that democracy, as they believe it, has mostly slipped away. But was it ever a reality? Was it ever more than a slogan, a rallying call for white nationalism created by the so-called “Founding Fathers?”    

Actually, what has been filched since the so-called “founding” is an idea behind which avarice and greed — profit and power —has been the bulwark of the elite class. From its beginning, America and freedom had been parallel with democracy and slavery. That is how and why the elite founders fashioned a Constitution wherein African slaves were accorded the status of part human and part property.

Since most of white America has always benefited from the elite’s largesse, they dutifully serve as guardians of white nationalism, which they have historically viewed from a plateau, called democracy, an idea. White nationalism and democracy became one and the brutal slaughter of native tribes and the manifest destiny justifiably necessary. And America became the most powerful nation in the world.

But now, middle-class, working-class, the poor and near-poor America may finally come together and determine exactly what is democracy. If so, then we are perhaps entering the final phase of the American Revolution.

Al Calloway is a long-time journalist who began his career with the Atlanta Inquirer during the early 1960s civil rights struggle. He may be reached at:

Photo: Al Calloway