Futurist Intellectual Think Tank Forum
The underlying philosophy of the Center for the Study of Black Business, History Entrepreneurship and Technology is that black business does not operate in a vacuum, separate and apart from other economic, political and societal institutions and policies that distinguish America life and thought today. Particularly, one can not ignore the impact of contemporary American culture in addition to the impact of religion and spirituality, societal morals, values and ethics as well as both criminal and environmental justice issues, which influence all aspects of American life and culture
Each year, then, a Black Futurist Intellectual Think Tank Forum will be convened. It will include not only the humanists, social scientists, and individuals from business but also those in the physical and biological sciences, agronomists as well as technocrats in all areas of computer technologies, telecommunications, environmentalists, archeologists, architects, lawyers, journalists, television commentators, urban planners, athletes, astronomers, psychologists, philosophers, theologians, business people, public policy analysts, authors, theologians, and artists from all areas of the entertainment world.
A Black Futurist Intellectual Think Tank, for example, would consider the future implications of black economic and societal iniquities that could result from the retrenchment of federal government affirmative action initiatives as well as how enhanced and strengthen affirmative action programs can be a factor that can lead to the economic empowerment of African Americans in the twenty-first century.
The resources of the Center will also be used to consider the future implications of research addressed in the Center.
The impact on Black America, within the context of the new global economic reality, as it is projected to develop in the twenty-first century, will also be considered.
Consequently, the Center, as part of its collaborative and interdisciplinary effort to address issues relating to black business and black economic empowerment is established in the College of Liberal Arts. This synergetic effort reflects a major purpose of the Center, which is to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas not only from all disciplines in the liberal arts but also from all sectors, both public and private, in the American business community.
And, the contributions of the youth of America must be included in any Black Futurist Intellectual Think Tank Forum. Already, from the entertainment provided them, they live in a world of science fiction that is increasingly becoming reality
At the turn of the century, Black America’s first futurist William E. B. Du Bois said: “The problem of the twentieth century will be the problem of the color line.” Indeed, for the twenty-first century, it appears that in America the color line not only persists but also is expanding in its racial and ethnic diversity.
Up to the end of the twentieth century African-Americans constituted the largest minority group. At the turn of the century Hispanic Americans comprised the largest minority group and by 2050 non-Hispanic Whites will comprise only 50% of the nation’s population, much as California today as well as cities such as San Antonio, Texas, while the Asian population will slowly increase to match that of African Americans.
Yet, in an increasingly multicultural nation and from the present comparative perspective of the numbers of business enterprises and percentage of business receipts, the economic future for Black Americans in the twenty first century does not look good. There will always be black businesses in America today, as in the historic past.
It appears, however, that, increasingly, black business participation will be token at best. Indeed, based on population projections, it might even be difficult for blacks in business to maintain even 1% of national business receipts.
Consequently, while wealth in a capitalist society is generated in the private sector, much of the expansion of black business in certain sectors of the economy has been a result of federal government Black Capitalism policies and initiatives in the 1970s.
Yet, how really successful have those policies been if blacks in business at the end of the twentieth century generated less than 1 percent of the nation’s total business receipts?
And, in the face of late twentieth-century retrenchment in affirmative action, for the twenty-first century, will the glass ceiling, which limited the full and equal participation of blacks in the mainstream American business community, as it did for blacks in management in White Corporate, persist in the twenty-first century?
Equally important, to what extent will continuing innovations in the high-tech industry and the expansion of digital technology impact of African American employment, particularly since the trend has been that a correlation of employment downsizing with increased technology. In this respect Du Bois, as a futurist, in 1920, also predicted in his book, Darkwater: Voices Beyond the Veil that: “[just] as the intricacy and length of technical production is increased, the ownership of these things becomes a monopoly, which easily makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.”
Consequently, for African Americans in the twenty-first century, three interrelated factors will impact on their economic future, demographic trends, including educational advancement, federal government policies and opportunities to capitalize as both employees and business people on advances in technology.
LIMITATIONS OF EXISTING THINK TANK FORUMS
While forums exist that consider the negative impact of current changes in business, technology and education on the future socio-economic status of African Americans, these forums fail to strategize in any meaningful way, if at all, how blacks can successfully challenge future changes and trends.
Specifically, the primary focus of existing futurist think tanks has been to advance the profits of White Corporate America based on projections of future socio-economic trends. With the exception of incorporating changing demographic trends in response to the expansion of minority populations, the strategies proposed have had one purpose to advance corporate economic interests.
Had there been a Black Futurist Intellectual Think Tank in the 1970s that anticipated the future impact of information technology on Black Americans, would there be a “digital divide” today, reflected especially in the new high-tech global economy, in which blacks have been virtually excluded?
Considering the socio-economic position of African Americans at the dawn of the new century, really, how far away are we from Aldous Huxley’s 1932 Brave New World, where in this instance, only a few successful blacks in the economic arena, as is the case today, will be allowed to exist as “Alphas?" A few successful black business people cannot sustain the hype that black business is alive and well, or that race has nothing do with the limited economic success of black Americans.
While existing futurist think tanks exist, for the most part their primary focus has been to advance the profits of Corporate America based on projections of future socio-economic trends. With the exception of incorporating changing demographic trends, the expansion of minority populations, the strategies proposed have one purpose to advance corporate economic interests.
What Black America needs at the dawn of the new millennium is a consortium of futurists, a Black Futurist Intellectual Think Tank, one that move beyond identifying, analyzing and dissecting contemporary problems, but can offer viable solutions.
The business picture of Black Americans, as we approach the beginning of the twenty-first century, then, provides a classic case of racial capitalism that in its economic iniquities calls for immediate national action in all areas those impacts on black business. It is not just access to venture capital for black business development that is needed, but also equitable access to education, adequate health care and adequate housing.
With the Center established in the College of Liberal Arts, and reflecting a major goal of the Center, which is to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas not only from all disciplines in the liberal arts but also from all sectors in the American business community, as part of its collaborative and interdisciplinary effort to address issues relating to black business, the resources of the Center will also be used to consider the future implications of research addressed in the Center.
Consequently, each year a Black Futurist Intellectual
Think Tank forum will be convened at the University of Texas Center for
Black Business History, Entrepreneurship and Technology.