I coined a phrase that was retweeted a couple of times that I want to elaborate on. The quote was “a computer and the internet is the new 40 acres and a mule.”
Some may not be familiar with that phrase ’40 acres and a mule’ so I borrowed this definition from Wikipedia:
Forty acres and a mule is a concept in the United States for agrarian reform for former enslaved African American farmers, following disruptions to the institution of slavery provoked by the American Civil War. Many freedmen believed and were told by various political figures that they had a right to own the land they had long worked as slaves, and were eager to control their own property.
Today I still don’t know of anyone who received their forty acres and a mule – not my great-great grandparents, my great grandparents, or my grandparents. This is one of the reasons the socioeconomic gaps still exist today in our racially-divided society. Wealth was created from land ownership and continues to be one of the ways to preserve financial legacies that were created so long ago for people other than African Americans – who were denied access to this powerful economical asset for years.
However, I believe that there is a way to combat some of the inequities I’ve experienced living here in Minnesota and abroad in the United States. The new 40 acres and a mule are within grasp. You can pick up your mule at the nearest Best Buy, Office Max/Depot, or if necessary Target or Walmart. They have plenty of mules to pick from – some have Windows 10 operating systems, some have MacOSX operating systems, some come with large screens, and some come with nice wireless peripherals. Some come in tablet form, laptop form, and desktop forms. If you don’t have one you should go pick one up today.
Today, the 40 acres references the vast real estate expressed in what we call “the cloud.” The internet is a land of vast opportunity that the mule can help you navigate and cultivate. Some people can explore and establish their own territory in this land of opportunity faster than others so you need not only a good strong fast mule, like my MacBook Pro with a i7 processor, 8Gb of RAM and solid state disk drive, but you also need that mule to plow the ground of the internet efficiently as possible. I suggest some sort of broadband access in needed – my choice is cable internet access. And if you can’t get that access at home there are a couple of place that can provide that access for you. I would try some of the local public libraries and some of the coffee shops as well.
When claiming your 40 acres you have a variety of addresses you can use to distinguish your homestead versus others. One of my favorites is the .com moniker, but now there are .biz, .info, .shop, and .site – so depending on how you are using your land grant you should name it accordingly.
My point of all of this is to say that today we as African Americans can leverage the new 40 acres and a mule to create a future for ourselves. We can leverage technology today to start new businesses and ventures that were not possible years ago. We can with a low cost start a new enterprise and sell products and services to anyone no matter where they are in the world. All you need is a bank account, a square device, and a cell phone and you able to take credit payments. We can use these tools to help close the socioeconomic gaps we have by making incremental steps to expand our literacy in this space and by building an economic base to create enduring legacies for the generations to come.
Blacks in Technology is a group I’m a part of that focuses on this very issue – how do we increase our pipeline of African-American talent into technology-based roles, how do we provide peer-to-peer support for African-American technology professionals, and how do we provide resources to encourage African-Americans to take the leap into entrepreneurship using technology – and support them when they do.
It all starts when we get more of us to claim our 40 acres and a mule that we were promised over 150 years ago – but realized that they are different and have more power in this current century.