Einstein on Race and Racism

 

EinsteinAtLincolnAlbert Einstein teaching a physics class at Lincoln University (HBCU in Pennsylvania) in 1946. The Nobel prize winning scientist said: “The separation of the races is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.”

via Afropunk

Here’s a site for the book written in 2006.

Ferguson, Facts, Freedom and JOBS

fergusonMedianIncome2014

STEM related economics are tied to both the tragedies and opportunities unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri.  The town is not an economic backwater – Emerson Electric , number 121 on the Fortune 500 is headquartered in Ferguson. On the other hand, Fortune and others say economic imbalance is fueling the unrest. With $165B of revenue from  STEM companies with headquarters in the St Louis area, there is strong demand for STEM skills throughout the region. The St. Louis Business Journal reports that 143,000 STEM jobs will need to be filled in the state over the next 4 years.  It is well known in the area that these jobs pay more

“The average STEM worker earns $66,000 compared to $38,000 for non-STEM workers in the St. Louis metropolitan area.”

the difference being comparable to the income disparity in Ferguson shown above in the screen shot from CNN Money. According to Fortune, the St. Louis area economy is doing better than others, but African-Americans have not shared in the prosperity as this  detailed map and story on Business Week explains clearly. While BusinessWeek says that corporations in the Ferguson area are being good citizens, Forbes reports that Emerson Electric ranked near the bottom of places for minorities to work so there is opportunity for improvement. The real question is whether this is the most important thing when it comes to the best interests of the community. Sure, better  civil rights leadership, corporate diversity  and systemic improvements in law enforcement are important, but people interested in self-determination need to be as self-sufficient as possible. We need to be able to create our own jobs  and new industries. While there are  still enormous challenges and obstacles to job creation, new unprecedented opportunities exist. The 2012 Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act is one I’m reminded of while listening to legendary venture capitalist Bill Hambrecht reflecting on the 10 year anniversary of Google’s IPO.  The JOBS Act

makes it easier for normal people to participate in the tech revolution
much of the growth that’s happening in America is coming from high tech startups so why are we only going to let rich people participate in that? Let’s let everyone participate in that growth and the upside that comes from it.

CNBC: What Does The JOBS Act Do?

The fact that Hambrecht is working with companies taking advantage of the JOBS Act in 2014 shows it is not a fluke. While these are not Google sized companies, they are still pretty large. However, it’s valuable to note that the JOBS Act was significantly influenced by the  grass roots crowd funding movement. As mentioned previously here on STEM Drum, individuals can use crowd funding get small or non-traditional projects launched. If you have a job creating idea, there are ways to get it funded. More and better jobs can’t bring Michael Brown back, but they can help prevent additional tragedies and provide more opportunities for the village.

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A Wake-up Call From Earl Graves Sr.

African Americans are becoming marginalized in nearly every area of economic participation and advancement.

We need to wake up, step up, and rejoin the battle for opportunity, and the unfinished business of all African Americans participating fully in the bounty of our economy as producers, decision makers, and partners, not just as consumers and laborers.

via the Black Enterprise Blog

Miles Runs The Tech Down

Jazz inspires the developers of the WordPress software  this blog uses. Since 2004 each major new version is named after a jazz musician, the first being Miles Davis. 10 years before he made the hip-hop/scratch pioneering Rock IT, Herbie Hancock was involved in another pioneering effort as one of the musicians who recorded On The Corner  with Miles .

 Both sides of the record were based around simple, repetitive drum and bass grooves (the track delineations on the original album were arbitrary), with the “melodic” parts snipped from hours of meandering jams. These techniques, refined via the use of computers and digital audio equipment, are now standard amongst producers of electronically-based music.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Complete_On_the_Corner_Sessions

Even the album cover art spoke to a digital theme:

Miles_Davis_On_The_CornerOn the Corner back

In keeping with the sci-fi theme of African-American Music Month here on STEM Drum, On The Corner “sounded” like a soundtrack for a sci-fi movie. One writer wonders whether Miles actually invented the sci-fi/cyberpunk genre of William Gibson(inventor of the term cyberspace)

There’s also something cybernetic about that sound. The 1972 technology probably didn’t have many computers in the mix, but you can hear the hints toward sampling and digital editing. It is the street finding it’s own use for technology, but to a beat that William Gibson never imagined. It’s the shape of funk to come, pointing the way to rap, hip-hop, techno, the Afro-pop of King Sunny Ade and Fela Anikulapo Kuit.

Mondo Ernesto

Speaking of Gibson, I’m reminded of a picture I recently received from a friend which put a whole new meaning to “on the corner”

MilesDavisWay

which makes me think of the locative art and augmented reality of Gibson’s Spook Country

http://www.amazon.com/Spook-Country-William-Gibson/dp/0425226719

Last but not least , Don Cheadle is using the tech-driven Indiegogo to help fund his Miles Ahead movie. Supporting these kinds of efforts will help keep more of the value of our innovation in the village.

How Apple Got Village Beats At Such A Bargain

It takes Apple about a week to generate $3B in revenue and less than a to month to accumulate $3B in profit. Based on recent Apple trends and projected wearable trends, it’s not unreasonable to project that the combination of increased Beats Electronics revenue and “cool factor” boosts to iWatch and other Apple products will be significant. Expect to  see iPads, Airbooks, AppleTV, iWatch et al in many of the places we currently see celebrities rockin Beats headphones. For the sake of this discussion let’s say Beats increases Apple revenue 1 percent  a year for the next 3 years. That will pay for the acquisition – every dollar tied to Beats after that is gravy. Bargain is putting it nicely though it pales in comparison to the previous occasions when Apple(and others) had to pay little to nothing for access to “cool”. Clearly the Village will benefit. As noted in the previous post, Will.i.am has the right idea about what to do with the money and Dr. Dre/Jimmy Iovine have previously given an inner city university – USC an endownment  of $70M to launch a STEAM oriented business undergraduate degree program and we can expect more. At the same time, it has to be noted that most of the money is going outside of the Village because the technology was not developed here and the majority owners are not from here. This is not new –  African-Americans have not possessed the means of production for any of our great assets. Going back to the 1950’s Motown had only a small recording studio and no manufacturing or distribution capabilities. So the “cool” intellectual property had to be sold at a great discount in order to get it produced and into the market.  By the time we began to get access to the means of production and distribution, technology had changed the nature of the game(again – can you say ProTools? iTunes?) so  we’re right back where we started – more like DJay than we’d like to be.

A similar situation has been seen in film as this must-read Washington Post article on culture change and reparations shows. It makes the case that Gone With The Wind reached far more people than 12 Years A Slave and that it’s not even possible to achieve numbers like Roots which is still one of the most watched TV series in history. The article

looked at the 500 top-grossing movies released between 2007 and 2012, and found that of the 565 people credited as directors on those projects, just 5.8 were African-American.

Numbers like these are released every year. I have cited them constantly during my time as a professional critic. But “The Case for Reparations” provides us another way of understanding why these figures are so critically important. Even if the fight to give African-American artists more opportunities to make television, film, music, and books — and to do so with greater autonomy — succeeds, that victory comes with different rewards than might have accompanied it in the past. What are we winning if African-Americans get access to the machinery of cultural production precisely because they can attract niche audiences, and because their industries have given up on the idea that their work, or anyone else’s, might have truly mass appeal?

This is not quite the equivalent of turning a neighborhood over to prospective African-American homeowners as its property values crater, one of the dynamics Coates describes in his essay. But the idea that artists of color would gain access to the tools that might help them change our culture just as those tools become less powerful is terrible to contemplate. It may not be too late to advance the dream of reparations. But the swords and plowshares we might have used to fight the cultural battles that would make such a reconciliation possible are not what they once were.

 

So like post-WWII Israel, we could use some infrastructure investment. However, we can’t afford to wait on the political process. There’s enough knowledge and financial capital within the Village to make a meaningful impact – just remember to aim high!

 

Aiming High

Will.i.am on CNBC saying what he can do with his Beats deal money

I know how many STEM centers I can open with it I know what I can scream from this little hill I’m on, why it’s important for kids to get involved in some type of STEM education so they are not looking for jobs but they can create jobs. I have proof now you shouldn’t just try to be a musician and an athlete if you’re in the inner city but try to bring a consumer electronics product to market – it’s possible. The giants are the giants and the giants didn’t see Beats coming and now we dominate a market. … as crazy and as limited as it may sound it changed airports – before Beats were on everyone’s neck, you did not see headphone stands and Beats played a big role in that. So the next big thing is probably going to come from an unlikely candidate Some kid in some inner city or some developing world is going to come and triumph and bring something to market that could potentially even shake an Apple. (emphasis mine)

 

Doing The Math: Reparations and Responsibility

Over 12 years starting in 1953, Israel added 45,000 jobs as it’s electrical system and GNP tripled in capacity fueled in part by investments made with reparations money from Germany.  The relevance of STEM to jobs and economics of slavery past and present is a recurring beat here at STEM Drum.  It is difficult in the extreme to envision solutions to community development challenges that don’t leverage STEM. We and America have a responsibility to face those challenges.  Although initial opposition was fierce, Germany is still paying($89B as of 2012) because there’s a sense of responsibility:

Asked whether, given the millions of dollars that Germany is now pledging to help weaker economies in the euro zone, there were thoughts that 60 years of payments to survivors was enough, Werner Gatzer, who leads the negotiations for the Germans, shook his head.

“We will have done enough when no more survivors remain,” Mr. Gatzer said. “As long as they live, we will uphold our responsibility.”

NY Times

We have known for some time that America profited greatly from slave labor but a close look at the numbers is needed to create practical plans of action:

the Civil War—the most lethal conflict in American history—boiled down to the right to raise an empire based on slaveholding and white supremacy. What had not yet clicked for me was precisely how essential enslavement was to America, that its foundational nature explained the Civil War’s body count.  The sheer value of enslaved African-Americans is just astounding. And looking at this recent piece by Chris Hayes, I’m wondering if my numbers are short (emphasis added):

In order to get a true sense of how much wealth the South held in bondage, it makes far more sense to look at slavery in terms of the percentage of total economic value it represented at the time. And by that metric, it was colossal. In 1860, slaves represented about 16 percent of the total household assets—that is, all the wealth—in the entire country, which in today’s terms is a stunning $10 trillion.

Ten trillion dollars is already a number much too large to comprehend, but remember that wealth was intensely geographically focused. According to calculations made by economic historian Gavin Wright, slaves represented nearly half the total wealth of the South on the eve of secession. “In 1860, slaves as property were worth more than all the banks, factories and railroads in the country put together,” civil war historian Eric Foner tells me. “Think what would happen if you liquidated the banks, factories and railroads with no compensation.”

 The Case for Reparations: An Intellectual Autopsy – Ta-Nehisi Coates – The Atlantic.

There is a compelling interview with Ta-Nehisi on MSNBC.

While it will be better when Justice is manifest, African-Americans are free to choose to invest our limited resources(starting with our attention) in STEM. That is our responsibility to our village independent of what others do.