Being a black man, I walk a very tenuous line between maintaining common sense and upholding the “black agenda”. On the one side, if I adhere to common sense and rationality, then I sound anti-black. If I adhere to the “black agenda”, my black peers will laud me, but I’d continue to perpetuate the problems that are figuratively and literally killing my people. So, with this type of conundrum, what do I do? This is a question that all black people must face while living in America. But no black person faces this problem more and on a larger scale than our black leaders. Unfortunately, for the most part, our black leaders are failing to answer these questions correctly and continue to ignore the vital issues facing black society. So let’s examine exactly where our black leaders are failing their people and, ultimately, failing their cause. But to do that, we have to understand certain terms as they pertain to the society and the issues of today.
What is the “black agenda”? Although there are many schools of thought concerning this concept, put in simplest terms, the black agenda mirrors the “white agenda”, the “latin agenda”, and any other ethnic group you’d like to insert before the word agenda. It’s a series of social, economic, and political actions needed to ensure black people have the same opportunities to achieve prosperity as all other ethnic groups within our nation. That’s it. Every other definition one can think of comes under this particular one to some degree. So to that point, this stands as a general definition. Now that we understand what “black agenda” alludes to, we can understand how our leaders are being consistently ineffective. The majority of our black leaders enthusiastically point out the enemies of black society. Black leaders will point their fingers at the government. Black leaders will point their fingers at hate groups. Black leaders will point their fingers at certain conservative political parties. Black leaders will even point their fingers at each other, if it serves their purposes. The idea of an external force bearing down on black people and oppressing them is an outdated idea that most black leaders are clinging to for dear life. To institute any type of real change requires real power. But who wields the power? Black leaders know the answer to this question. How does a black leader gain power? By having black society rally behind them and their cause, thus giving them their power. How does a modern black leader maintain his or her power? By keeping black people focused on a common enemy, whether real or imagined, and getting those black people to devote whatever resources they have to “fighting” that enemy. Today’s black leaders know how to play the game. They know the right catch phrases and hot buttons to push to get the kinds of reactions they need for the support they need. But are they doing it to really and truly solve the social ills of black society, or are they merely going through the motions in an attempt to maintain their fragile hold on relevancy in black society? I believe it’s the latter. Now, let me explain why.
Let me showcase one of many examples I have that lead me to question 21st century black leadership. I was listening to a well-known morning radio show that hosted a segment allowing a very well known and popular black leader on the air to speak. The black leader made an impassioned speech concerning the need to get government to give black communities more money for education, to be divided between opening more schools; providing more equipment and learning materials; and providing for and maintaining more afterschool programs. Sounds like a very noble cause. This black leader went on to say that the need for government intervention and assistance is due to the fact that, in the “black areas” where this help is needed, most public school funding is driven by property tax. Well, it stands to reason that where property taxes are high and/or abundant, schools get more funding. Where property taxes are low, schools get marginal funding to barely stay afloat. To put things succinctly, this black leader’s solution to the problem of black people living in impoverished areas and having sub-standard funding for the schools that the community’s children go to is to have government compensate for the lack of significant property taxes being collected, in order to give children at those schools the same opportunities as their more well-off counterparts in areas receiving more property taxes. As easy as it is to put the responsibility on the government to provide educational opportunities for these children, what are the adults in those areas doing to improve their own communities? Why are communities with the worst educational system also the same communities with high poverty rates, high illegitimate childbirths, and high crime areas? As much money as this black leader is asking to be pumped into the educational system in this area he mentioned and others like it, how hard is that same black leader pushing for the adults in those communities to create an environment where those schools will thrive? Why won’t this black leader talk about using government funding as a leg up, not a substitute for initiative and action? We as a black society can continue to ask for handouts from the government, while at the same time touting how noble and proud a people we are and how we’ve overcome so much hardship. But I believe we have become content to rest on our laurels instead of creating new achievements. It’s become easier to ask the government to take care of us rather than ask members of our black society to be productive and be responsible. Our black leaders have continuously passed the buck and taken responsibility from the people and given it to the government. There was a time when black society needed the government. But, government was only needed to enact laws to allow for equality, never to be federal crutches for the feebleness that permeates black society now.
True leaders, or successful leaders, are able to not only motivate their people, but also bring the best out of them to achieve a specific goal. Our black leaders do not do that. Today’s black leaders can point to a myriad of groups they believe should be responsible for helping black society. Today’s black leaders can identify and call out “enemies” of black society and of black progress. These same black leaders can sniff out all of the “Donald Sterlings” and yell, “That’s the bad guy! That’s who’s holding black people down!” Yet, I haven’t heard any of these black leaders mention or propose a march on 21yr old Wendell Haywood, suspected of killing a 24yr old black man in May 2012 in Chicago. I don’t recall any black leaders voicing outrage on behalf of the 16year old shooting victim of 20yr old Daryl Lee back in January of this year in Chicago. As a matter of fact, I haven’t heard of any of our black leaders organizing a march and/or a sit-in for the 9 murder victims and the 32 people injured due to shootings that took place over Easter weekend in April of this year. To me, the young black men committing these crimes, not just in Chicago, but in many other cities all over this country, are more dangerous to black people than Donald Sterling could ever be. If any team in the NBA has a right to boycott on behalf of a black cause, I would think it’s the Chicago Bulls, not the LA Clippers. I would respect a team boycotting the thoughtless violence in their city more than a team boycotting one man whose views, while not representing the NBA, do represent a sentiment held by many outside of black society. A sentiment, I might add, based not on stereotypes, but how black athletes tend to represent themselves to the world. If I were to judge the effectiveness of our black leaders by the actions, attitudes, and general state of the people they are leading, I’m afraid these black leaders would be found guilty of neglect, guilty of misdirection, guilty of being opportunistic, and guilty of being ineffective. What black leader would have the strength to point to the real enemy of black society? What black leader would be brave enough to hold up the mirror to black society and force them to take a long, hard look at itself and face all it lacks? Apparently, the answer is not many.