Saturday, May 1, 2021

$2.3 Trillion Train To Black Wall Street… ALL ABOARD?

TRUE OR FALSE: GENERATION ALPHA -- What did we learn about virtual and real from COVID-19 school?  (1) As a U.S. Senator, Joe Biden traveled between Wilmington, DE and Washington, DC by train; (2) “Uncle Joe” is either a character from Petticoat Junction or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s worst nightmare in a proposed $2-trillon infrastructure bill;  (3) No AMTRAK train has ever arrived on Black Wall Street.

By Eric Stradford, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired

AMWS May 8, 2021, Muskogee – A virtual Presidential whistle stop marks the 100th year since white “settlers” devastated Black Wall Street.  The “Frisco” is one of many information infrastructure projects considered for a Learning Journey back to the future.  The railroad tracks just south of North Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood community is but one haunting reminder that American infrastructure does not necessarily sustain “One Nation Under God” on both sides of the railroad track.

Fact:  “Uncle Joe” is not the 46th President of the United States.  He’s the character played by American Actor Edgar Buchanan in a 1960s situation comedy. “Petticoat Junction” in no way references two California women behind the man at his first address to a joint session of Congress.  And, The New Stradford Hotel Upon Black Wall Street might never geographically co-exist within a White Supremist’s vision of America’s future.

Give or take a trillion dollars or so, the cost for “healing the soul of America” is racking up a whole new set of zeros.  Today’s new math calls for the youngest living generation to reconcile virtual and physical reality in a quadrillion dollar economy. 

$1,000,000,000,000. The next named number after trillion is quadrillion.   

Anybody planning quadrennial events in 2021 will need to adjust from a single to multi-generational mindset.  Funding decisions made now will ultimately fall on Generation Alpha and two to three generations beyond.

Biden Administration Infrastructure envisions Economic Inclusion for folks who are ready, willing and able to #PlayTheGame.   There’s at least $80 billion on the way to AMTRAK.    There is significantly less on the way to Muscogee for misappropriated infrastructure resulting from the “Indian Removal Act.”  AMTRAK will need to backtrack beyond its half century dependency on federal aid to a time when railroad infrastructure promised Economic Inclusion for all.

With the right balance of faith and science, governments, businesses, communities, and individuals can work together to create infrastructure linking the world's telecommunication and computer networks together.  In the United States, public policy is finally catching up to the Clinton era idea of information infrastructure, enabling the transmission of every conceivable information and communication application.

President Biden’s passion for choo-choo trains may move a $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill closer to public law. But, in Red vs. Blue politics, compromise almost never produces purple.  Rather than funding more dead-end jobs at minimum wage, why not just seed a $1 m trust for every low-income citizen in Generation Alpha?  If we ensure more of them grow up whole, they might produce 3D printers or the next technological evolution to maintain their infrastructure.

A half century ago, Pullman porters rode the rails to inclusion.  It was not their job to learn on behalf of the disenfranchised, but the information they shared empowered friends-n-kin with a glimpse of what is possible...still.  

From across the tracks, America received porters as their on-ramp to mobility.  Pullman porters served American railroads from the late 1860s until the Pullman Company ceased operations on December 31, 1968, just three years before President Richard Nixon’s infrastructure vision saddled America with a quasi-public corporation that, by now, should have ended poverty.

The National Railroad Passenger Corporation (AMTRAK) receives a combination of state and federal subsidies but is managed as a for-profit organization.  The United States federal government through the Secretary of Transportation owns all the company's issued and outstanding preferred stock.  Amtrak's headquarters is located one block west of Union Station in Washington, D.C. 

There is no AMTRAK service to Tulsa, Oklahoma.  There is little infrastructure investment north of the railroad tracks.  Throughout AMTRAK’s fifty years of government operations and appropriations, political compromise has ignored one major cornerstone for American infrastructure.  So, why is this important?

For 100 years, planes, trains, automobiles, and banks have run on tax-payer subsidies. According to the Tulsa Preservation Commission, the Curtiss-Southwest Airplane Company was the nation’s first commercial interstate air freight shipping business.  They opened an airfield in Tulsa near Apache Street and Memorial Drive in 1921.  On May 31, that same year, white “settlers” bombed Black Wall Street from airplanes.  Where did they come from?  Where did they go?

On January 6, 2021, almost 100 years after the attack on Black Wall Street, the United States Capitol met a domestic terrorist attack with familiar confusion and disbelief.  However, the outcome was all too familiar outcome.  The FBI is still investigating, “Where did the attackers come from?  Where did they go?”  

Commercial airplanes, AMTRAK trains and automobiles may offer some hint of how we go.  But in getting there, we’ll need to imagine affordable landings at a yet to be determined destination, Where Do We go From Here?