U.S. Steel: The Unmaking of Braddock, PA

U.S. Steel has captured the hearts and attention of America once again. And when politics are involved, some stories just seem to dominate the headlines more than others.


Suddenly, with the help of elected officials and social media, these manufactured narratives and conversations are instantly spread all over the U.S., prompting mainstream media to go into a frenzy.


Lost in most of these conversations over the sale of U.S. Steel to a foreign company, as is the case with most political conversations about who doesn’t need to be left behind and whos’ economic interest must be protected at all costs, is the humanity and dire economic conditions that Black Americans and their left behind communities have been facing for decades.


 Not once has any of these elected officials mentioned anything about the tremendous harm that U.S. Steel or deindustrialization has wrought on once working-class Black communities like Braddock, and others in the Mon Valley region of Pittsburgh.


Not to mention the intentional environmental injustice. Research has clearly outlined patterns of environmental injustice, where Black communities across America bear the brunt of environmental degradation and toxic pollution.


But while the current “CRISIS” sale of U.S. Steel was all the national media and local politicians could highlight about the region, the decline in manufacturing, severe poverty and deterioration of the regions Black communities have been underway for decades now, unabated with no end in sight.


Just as they were making progress in the steel industry, most of the Black steelworkers who had fought and gained concessions from the unions in the 70’s had no more than a high-school educations but brought in enough income and benefits to provide for their families for a very brief period.


With a false sense of economic security, came high expectations that over the coming decades, their children and grandchildren would have the opportunity to move up the economic ladder by being able to attend college, and then automatically joining the procession of college-educated white young adults into the middle and upper class.


Of course, like most promises that have been made to Black Americans since the end of slavery, that never materialized after U.S. Steel pulled the rug from under the Black workers, thus immediately decimating all the gains they had fought for and made durring the previous decades leading up to the collapse of the steel industry in the region.


For many Black communities like Braddock, these once-stable, good paying union jobs have long ago been replaced by decades of relentless crime, homelessness, poverty, unemployment, and mass incarceration, just to name a few of the devestating consequences.  


But you rarely hear anything about this crisis from elected officials or the Whitehouse. Only about how much funding is being secured for the region or about how much help is on the way. Help, that after decades of promises,  has never arrived


You may hear or find a few stories online about what has become of the neglected and left behind Black communities here in Pittsburgh, or about how Pittsburgh is one of the worst places in America for Black folks to live, but never anything nationally about just how really bad it is.


Like most past crimes against humanity and other ongoing injustices being perpetuated on Black folks 24/7, it’s another one of Americas dirty little secrets. Well of course unless it’s about an outsider or billion dollar developer coming in to be a savior.  Those things have never worked out either. At least not for those residents struggling to survive day to day. 


 The Democratic party and progressives love talking about bringing back those good paying union jobs that built America’s Black middle class. And that may very well come true one day. But as history has shown us, there’s no evidence that it will happen any time soon. 


In fact, the percentage of Black workers in manufacturing in the region has been reduced to less than haft since the 1970s, which was proceeded by loss of wealth, Pittsburghs Great Gentrification Renaissance, land grabs, the devaluation of Black communities, their life, and a plethora of other man-made, intentional injustice.


Instead of using this national attention on the sale of U.S. Steel to proclaim how we should never turn our backs on them, what about using it to highlight how much more needs to be done to uplift the communities that U.S. Steel left behind to rot.


Why aren’t any of those elected official, fighting for, demanding, or calling on U.S. Steel to turn over all funds that they are set to receive from the federal government infrastructure legislation, back to the communities that they’ve abandoned?


We can’t achieve racial justice or equality without a serious reparations movement to gain back the generational losses that Black folks have expericnced at the hands of intentional oppression and crimes against humanity. 


It’s foolhardy and unrealistic to think that by stopping the sale of U.S. Steel, that Black folks in the communities they left behind, will be able to labor their way out of the economic deprived abyss that they are presently in.


Furthermore, the ongoing racial injustice and inequality in the United States cannot be addressed in any meaningful way unless we deal with the fundamental issues and basic historical facts that have made Black American descendants of slavery, a permanent underclass in America.


Black American descendants of slavery inability to build any meaningful wealth has its roots in the very inception of this nation. While on its face, the end of slavery should have meant the opportunity for Black folks to build wealth, but in reality each generation of their descendants since the end of slavery have faced new and even more insidious obstacles to obtaining access to generational wealth building opportunities and economic stability 


Even as the mainstream media and elected officials continue to proclaim how the economy is booming, the underlying economic conditions of most Black Americans are only getting more abysmal, all while the wealth gap continues to widen by the second.


There is no single explanation for these racial disparities, of course. But decades of mass immigration have almost certainly made the problem even worse for those who are oppressed. Just how many of those good paying union jobs will ever trickle down to folks in Braadock or to the thousands of migrants pouring in across the boarder?


The devastating and lasting effects of uncontrolled, mass immigration have been well-documented. And it’s inconceivable on why so many Black elected officials representing left behind, impoverished communities would advocate and vote for expansive immigration policy that would continue to further erode the dire economic conditions of Black Americans.


Before any new immigration reform legislation or polices are put forth or passed, there must be extensive research performed, specifically detailing the impact that those reforms will have on Black American descendants of slavery and their vanishing communities.


If the Democrats and progressives are serious about fighting racial inequality, then they must immediately make the issue of family-sustaining, generational wealth building Reparations in both the public and private sector a central priority.


The rise, fall, and lasting effects of the creation, the well documented discriminatory practices towards Black steel workers and subsequent abandonment of Braddock by U.S. Steel provides another reasonable justification for reparations by observing issues of race, class, and environmental injustice.


The specific role that US Steel played in the urban planning of the region that led to the intentional racial and class segregation of neighborhoods in the region is significate.


The neighborhoods themselves also demonstrate the role that local govenment has played in creating environmental and public health issues for the people living in proximity to U.S. Steel mills and other polluting factories.


The story of what happened to Braddock, like so many places in the Rust Belt, is a story of the relationships between labor and industry, of the collective powerlessness of Black communities to shape or control their circumstances, and that of the dominant culture forces that conspire to keep this power at bay.


Those powerful corporate and political forces are still hard at work in every aspect and corner of American society. Congress has a long history of rushing to bail out or save billion-dollar corporations, while doing absolutely nothing for those who their families have enriched themselves off via forced labor and had enslaved for nearly 300 years.


All while taking extreme pleasure in the raping, torturing, terrorizing, lynching, stealing and plundering the unimaginable wealth that those enslaved captives generated. All documented crimes against humanity that must be addresed.


The achievement of Black liberation involves a revolutionary political confrontation with and neutralization of the Power establishment with which subservient Black assimilationist leadership seek frontal acceptance.


The avoidance of this very confrontation motivates the assimilationist Black leader to seek refuge in the pursuit of a fantasized raceless society. For assimilationist leaders, their freedom is the freedom of a mythical raceless society.


For this very reason and others, political reform is urgent in the Black community. If Black American descendants of slavery and it’s elected leadership lose sight of what we’re fighting for, we might forget to fight at all.


And unfortunately, this has become the case for many of today’s Black elected officials. Once in office, far too many of them have lost sight and mission drift towards other personal aspirations, leaving the left behind communities that they represent in political chaos and crisis.


Any realistic attempts to close the wealth gap, rebuild Americans vanishing Black communities and invest in Black owned/controlled industrial manufacturing industries like U.S. Steel, will need reparations to be front and center, featured as a central component solution.


2024 will represent a major shift in the generational fight for reparations. Opposition and resistance from the dominant culture will be significant. Most white Americans and politicians that represent their intrest in congress are not very sympathetic to the dire situation of Black folks. 


Throughout history, political systems have expanded from basic systems of self-governance and monarchy to the complex democratic and totalitarian systems that exist today. Within this structure, no dominating power or ruler is never willing to share or relinquish that power. Maybe America will be the first to set the example.


But even as they have benefited from slavery, stolen wealth, and discrimination for centuries, many of them would rather burn the entire country down before ever considering closing the wealth gap or having to compete on a level playing field with Black American desendents of slavery or other people of color who are streaming across the boader by the thousands, hungry for the American dream.


Somehow It’s justifiable that they have benefitted from slavery for centuries, but it’s unjustifiable for descendants of slavery to be compensated. Unfortunately this is what we will be up against in 2024 and beyond, among a host of other societal uncertainties here in a fractured and divided America.


So, moving forwards, when thinking about all the urgency and fuss being made over the sale of U.S. steel by elected officials and mass media, please considered the intentional lack of urgency and effort that’s being put into uplifting those who are trapped and have remained tethered to the bottom of Americas permanent underclass for hundreds of years.


It’s also extremly important to realize that reducing the wealth gap and inequity in America would have an overall positive effect on the economy, without harming the wealth of any of those in the dominant culture who are terrified by the thought of reparations for Black folks.


The historic and ongoing discrimination against Black folks is hurting the overall economy to the tune of between $1 trillion and $1.7 trillion. Closing the racial wealth gap would add $1.7 trillion to the entire U.S. economy. In a nut shell, racial equity benefits all Americans.


Reducing the massive wealth gap will also go along way to addressing long standing root cause isues that have paralyzed the Black community for decades such as violent crime, extrem generational poverty, workplace discrimination, access to capital, homelessness, rates of incarceration, disparties in health, education, housing and much more. 


Addressing these root causes issues through reparations and other societal redress, would improve the quality of life for all Americans.


At end of the day, regardless of what side you are on, the United States government has a responsibility to make amends to its citizens who have been harmed and historically disenfranchised by past and present policies of our government.


As we approach 2024 we are working towards continuing to reorganize, restrategize, refocus, build coalitions and work with authentic allies who are connected and influential within the current  power structures of America to advance reparations. and othe protective legislation.


We also will be focused on  raising the vital capital needed for the development and construction of a world class facility to operate out of. Please considered visiting our donations page on how you may be able to help in that regard.


Please also seriously consider making America whole and more inclusive by joining our growing movement and generational fight for reparations. Tell congress to act to advance reparations legislation and comprehensive prescription policy NOW!!!

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