Entrepreneur Byron Allen was once known as a comedian but having created an estimated $1 billion media entity, he’s no joke and neither is his upcoming Supreme Court case challenging the giant Comcast Corp. and Charter Communications.
At the root of his $20 million lawsuit, which is scheduled to be heard by the high court Nov. 13, are charges that the White-owned media conglomerate has blackballed him and denied him the right to do business.
The White companies deny any wrongdoing but Mr. Allen accuses Comcast of racism and denying him a fair opportunity in the marketplace. He is a successful Black businessman with eight cable networks, 43 syndicated TV series, The Weather Channel, a movie studio and a movie distribution company. He has made deals with Dish Network, DirecTV, Verizon FiOS and AT&T/U-Verse.
His legal fight started in 2015 and the Ninth Circuit court has ruled twice in his favor, leading to an argument before the conservative-leaning high court. He is suing Comcast for $20 million and Charter Communications for $10 million.
According to civil rights groups and legal experts, the case could have major implications far beyond Mr. Allen’s personal success. The lawsuit is tied to important anti-discrimination provisions that go back to a 153-year-old post-Civil War civil rights bill. It was passed to make sure Blacks have “the same rights to make and enforce contracts enjoyed by white citizens.”
When we think of civil rights laws, we generally think of legal protections that gain Blacks access to things like the voting booth, restaurants, restrooms, housing, jobs and education.
But in this case, these civil rights protections go to the heart of what really brings a measure of freedom and power in American society and that is the right to own something and do business.“Now our struggle is for genuine equality, which means economic equality. For we know, that it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t have enough money to buy a hamburger?” asked Dr. Martin Luther King in his March 18, 1968 speech in Memphis, Tenn., as he supported a garbage workers’ strike.
“What does it profit a man to be able to eat at the swankest integrated restaurant when he doesn’t even earn enough money to take his wife out to dine? What does it profit one to have access to the hotels of our cities, and the hotels of our highways, when we don’t earn enough money to take our family on a vacation?” he asked.
“What does it profit one to be able to attend an integrated school when he doesn’t earn enough money to buy his children school clothes?”
In his final days Dr. King spoke of the failure of America to make good on its promises and the need to press demands that America make good on all of its promises–especially economic rights and economic justice.
He spoke of boycotts to exert pressure on Whites and placing Black dollars in Black banks. These messages are not as widely recited as a King vision of a racial utopia with little Black boys and little White girls holding hands.
On April 4, 1968 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Dr. King was murdered as he had turned to economic issues and waging a Poor People’s Campaign.
It is telling that one of the charges Mr. Allen has launched against his legal opponents is their alleged declaration that they would never create another Black billionaire like Robert Johnson, who by the way supported the 1995 Million Man March convened by Min. Farrakhan which displayed the incredible power and potential of unified Black men.
Money provides the ability to take advantage of opportunities that the government should rightfully provide under the Constitution. Money influences politics, which impacts policies and whether policies advance or hurt Black interests. Money allows for the building of independent Black institutions. Money allows for the funding of Black ideas.
Money combined with wisdom and commitment to Black advancement becomes a powerful weapon.
The ability to do business and build is a fundamental element of the American right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The Hon. Elijah Muhammad and his National Representative, Min. Louis Farrakhan, teach that business is warfare and that the science of business is one of the essentials that our former slave masters would never teach us.
So how the high court handles the lawsuit, with the Trump administration’s Justice Dept. on the side of the White companies, will be another major sign for Black America.
James Brown, Soul Brother No. 1, once sang about not needing anything handed to him. “Just open the door and I will get it myself,” he declared.
If the highest court in the land will not allow us to get something for ourselves and strikes down or guts a major piece of legislation tied to economic opportunity, it will again be speaking loudly and clearly to Black America: “You have no place here.”
In “The Muslim Program” found on the inside back cover of this newspaper, the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, patriarch of the Nation of Islam, states, “We want equality of opportunity. We want equal membership with the best in civilized society.”
Either we are citizens or we are not. Either we have full rights in this country or we don’t. Either we have the right to build without hindrance or we don’t.
The time of hypocrisy is up and the time for false promises is over. It’s decision time. And, when the high court rules we will once again see what the will of America is. We cannot remain in this wretched condition, economic eunuchs, beggars, impoverished and driven by survival instincts into evil and indecency.
It’s long past time that we go for self and if the Supreme Court rules against us, it will be another sign that we have enemies and our survival, economic and otherwise, rests on our shoulders, our actions, our unity, and the power of a living God.