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How governments avoid working with Black business

Harry C. Alford | 6/13/2013, midnight

Last week, I wrote about why we have Black business programs. Their evolution of from the Civil Rights Movement and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the cause for their existence. Title VI of the act, along with the U.S. Supreme Court decisions justifies their existence. The most frustrating thing about it is the fact that most of them don’t work too well. Our collective gains in the public and corporate marketplace have been little and slow in coming. If we had genuine efforts and very positive results after 49 years of law there would be no need for affirmative action and participation programs. In other words, there would be no more discrimination in the business marketplace. But unfortunately, racism still raises its ugly head. Let’s look at some examples.

The most important part of making someone eligible for participating in these programs is certification. For some reason, in 2008, the Small Business Administration ceased certifying Small Disadvantaged Businesses (SDB). This will open the door for false claims and fraud. The federal programs will become littered with “front” businesses, participating as if they are small and disadvantaged. A million-dollar White-owned business could now claim the company to be an SDB. Thus, there will be participation reports that are terribly inflated and misleading. Maybe that is what the SBA’s intent is since its level for Black participation is 1.5 percent (in 2012).

State departments of transportation are required under Title VI to have diversity programs. The Los Angeles International Airport, LAX, chooses to have a strange version of a program. It’s the race-neutral program. Addressing racial discrimination by a race-neutral program is a sham. In essence, race-neutral means “White companies only.” It doesn’t work, and their numbers show it.

In fact, the whole state of California is 54 percent ethnic minority, but its procurement programs are virtually void of any acceptable measurement of Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans. On the corporate side, Silicon Valley is a wasteland in terms of procurement diversity. It doesn’t do much better in its hiring practices. Old Mississippi still lives—in California!

Every five years, states and cities are supposed to perform a disparity study to determine if discrimination among businesses exist (U.S. Supreme Court). The state of Illinois has recently done a study, and it shows that Blacks are the most discriminated group among all contractors (duh!). It calls for strict improvement in the goals. Funny, the governor’s office is trying to suppress the study due to pressure from White women groups who are already overutilized, according to the study. The truth sometimes hurts, and this state needs to come to terms with its ongoing discrimination of Black businesses. The Illinois Black Legislative Caucus should block all legislation until this study is implemented.

In the city of Milwaukee there is a similar situation. The city’s recent disparity study shows Black businesses being heavily underutilized while Hispanics and White women seem to have no discrimination against them. Guess who is suing the city to stop the implementation of this program? The Wisconsin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce! They want a race-neutral program. I don’t know what kind of Kool-Aid they are drinking. Their law firm has an anti-affirmative action past. Go figure.