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 “Generation B” Presents Blueprint for Economic Reality

 

 

By Arelya J. Mitchell, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief

 of the

The Mid-South Tribune and the Black Information Highway

 

 I found “Generation B” by Suru Manek amusing in its initial premise on why he wrote this “blueprint” on how African Americans can achieve in America in this nation’s systemic environment of racism. However, I would chance that Manek would not find anything amusing about “Generation B” which when elongated to its full title is “Generation B: Black America’s Reset to Success—A Blueprint.”

Before I get back to my amusement, let me do give the ‘why’ of ‘why Manek created his book. He puts forth the following statement in his preface: “I have a strong affinity for the African-American community because in a way, I am an African-American.”

            Actually, Manek is not an African American. He was born and raised in Kenya, but he is not a black Kenyan either. He is a member of Kenya’s minority which was heavily discriminated against. Manek continues: “Even though my ancestors are from the Gujarat state in India, I was born and raised in Kenya when Kenya was still a colony of the British Empire. I lived there when Kenya fought for its independence in the fifties and the sixties…. Because of what I experienced growing up in Africa, I have long felt that part of my life’s calling is to help the African-American community in some way be more economically successful. I have read a ton of books on the subject of racism and the problems caused by discrimination; many of them had excellent things to say, but many of them also pounded African-Americans continually about the problems they face:

the high crime, the lack of motivation. I decided that the best way I could help Black America was tell them about how my culture—the Gujaratis of India—has overcome adversity and racism continually for hundreds of years to be one of the most economically successful cultural groups on the planet. I decided that I could offer a viable cultural solution—mine—as a way to explore how we react to the adverse forces of prejudice both positively and negatively and the consequences of each.”

 

 The above passage is a chockfull of reasons Manek puts forth in ‘why’ this book would be helpful to African Americans and Black entrepreneurs in building an economic infrastructure in the 21st Century. He even points out and takes pride in the stereotype that the Gujaratis population was considered the “Jew” in India because it was viewed as a race which was economic-centric; thus, had acquired wealth under the harshest of deprivation and discrimination.

 He expounds: “From my birth onward, the idea of success, entrepreneurship, and education were instilled in me, so much so that I swear they are now part of my DNA. Actually, maybe it is; Gujaratis are referred as the Jews of India because we’ve been so

successful economically, no matter what country we’ve found ourselves in because we were forced to.”

 

            Manek came to America when he was twenty-three, but like so many non-Black immigrants who cross the ocean, he seemingly—perhaps most obviously—bought into the stereotype that there was never a time when Black capitalism—such as he is espousing in “Generation B” ever existed; thus, my amusement. Very seldom if ever does one come across a non-Black immigrant who knows about this neglected history of Black entrepreneurship and Black education which spawned the likes of A.G. Gaston, A. Maceo Walker, Robert Church, Madam C.J. Walker -- just to name a few.  In the spirit and same resolve that Manek lays out, so did such Black historic figures as Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington—long before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his followers dismantled the legal framework of segregation and long before Malcolm X advocated economic self-reliance. Albeit, Manek does make reference in his end notes to the famous debate between W. E. B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington. All too often this debate is forgotten in the modern era of the Black Civil Rights Movement. To reiterate, what Manek has failed to understand is that there were such instances where when Blacks began to engage in capitalism,  white fear of Black progress took hold and you get whites massacring such Black townships as Rosewood, Florida and what is known as the “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Even under Jim Crow these enclaves were creating a vibrant Black middle class and accumulating wealth along with producing professional groups of teachers, dentists, doctors, etc. History shows how prosperous such sports franchises as the Negro Baseball League were and how white sports owners were envious of this Black capitalism.  There were Black banks, funeral homes, beauty and barber shops, neighborhood grocery stores, insurance companies —all of which were Black-owned pre-1964. The real problem came when Blacks abandoned what they had built falling prey to the grass being greener on the other side of the integration pasture when they should have continued to build on what was there and taken this pre-1964 economic infrastructure of Black ownership into the age of the Civil Rights Movement and into the 21st Century. I point this out because it is a premise which is seldom mentioned when books are written by non-Blacks and in this case a non-Black immigrant.

 

 But be that as it may: “Generation B” is substantive because it explores an economic framework with Manek’s autobiography, specifically his Gujarat culture which made his family and his ethnic group survive under oppression, discrimination, and having land and wealth stolen from them; yet,  they had the ability to continually rise from the ashes wherever they landed. Knowledge is powerful and there is definitely a ‘blueprint’ here African Americans can re-learn from, because it presents nothing new but rather a ‘blueprint’ which has been forgotten.  For example, if one were to time travel back, Manek and Booker T. Washington would have an enlightening conversation on both their philosophy of hard work, endurance, patience—a philosophy which would be labeled ‘conservative’ today and, therefore, would be ignored in today’s era of populism, politically correctness and a get it fast culture.

 

            “Generation B” is socio-economic in its framework. That’s what I appreciated about it, and hopefully those who read it will, too. Many times when such books address the African American reader it examines mainly the socio aspect.  Yes, Manek looks at and comments on such contemporary controversies as Trayvon Martin, the Million Hoodies March, and goes back in time and examines the foibles of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty” which ironically created a deeper level of Black poverty and busted up Black families. I make the latter statement about Black families, because like many non-Black immigrants, Manek seems not to realize that the Black family was a strong and cohesive part of the Black community. Black fathers were there… until the government decided to break this up through such programs as War on Poverty, reinvigorating the slave practice of busting up the Black family structure, making it rootless.  

 

In spite of not putting in this relevant aspect of Black America’s history in entrepreneurship, Manek’s work is colorless because good ideas, ideals and knowledge are colorless and that makes his work inspiring to anyone who wants to build something out of life after going through a rough time under systemic racism.

 

 “Generation B” does have Manek’s stable of repartee such as: “However, I do know that when you can attack not as a victim but from a position of power—from a place of economic and cultural success—then you can win the battle handily”—among his other gems of wisdom to move Black America catalytically towards socio-economic progress.

 

What one also appreciates (or should) is that Manek is a realist. He writes: “I have spent the first three chapters of this book making my position very clear. I know that African-Americans of all socioeconomic levels have experienced some form of racism at some point in their lives. I know what it feels like to be on the blunt end of racist actions. But I also know that if you allow yourself to fall into the trap of racism — believing that you are a victim and that the government should take care of you—then unfortunately you will remain enslaved in the very system you so despise (and despise with good reason). I also realize that what I’m presenting to you isn’t an easy fix, but in the true Gujarati spirit…”

 

            Manek calls for a “reset” of the African American community. It is a call worthwhile.  “Generation B” is worthy of its space on the physical and electronic bookshelf.