Black leadership's lack of accountability is a recurring topic here because although reprehensible, it continues unabated. Far too many Black leaders fail to respond to the needs of constituents and their performance must be constantly scrutinized. Stringent accountability is indispensable for of positive change.
Bruce Dixon's, "Failure of the Black Misleadership Class,"(February, 2006) offers cogent analysis applicable nationally. The following excerpts should generate substantive discussion.
"The cohort of Black business people and politicians who pass for African American leadership is at an impasse. Our leaders have failed to produce economic development models for inner cities and poor Black enclaves that benefit the people who live there.
Not only is the Black leadership class unable to create jobs at living wages for the hundreds of thousands of Black families that desperately need them, they can't even describe to the rest of America how such a thing might be done. They dare not acknowledge the acute shortage of low and moderate-income housing or publicly question programs that exacerbate that shortage. Black leadership has proven powerless to prevent the nationwide imposition of separate and grossly unequal education, the disastrous application of high-stakes testing and the use of "No Child Left Behind" to discredit and defund public education. African American businesses and political leaders even lack the political imagination to rally their constituencies against the growth of a racially selective crime control and prison industry that has far-reaching economic and social consequences, particularly for Black youth.
With notable exceptions, Black elected officials have generally proven unwilling or unable to defend the very democratic (political) openings that made their emergence possible. Many Black elected office holders and appointees have eagerly embraced and sought to profit from privatizations. They have become willing accomplices in the spatial deconcentration and disempowerment of Black communities. Leading the nation in numbers of Black millionaires and ruled by Black mayors for more than thirty years, the city of Atlanta provides the best example of the failure and duplicity of the Black leadership class and its idea of economic development.
In 1968, when Black sanitation workers in Memphis went on strike for safer working conditions, decent wages and the right to have their union recognized, Black ministers were joined by many others, including the NAACP in marching at the side of strikers. Eight years later, in Maynard Jackson's Atlanta, where nurturing of millionaires and the business class took precedence over uplifting the fortunes of ordinary people, the city's Black mayor rallied white business leaders and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and fired more than a thousand city employees to crush a strike that resulted when the mayor refused to honor prior promised pay raises for the Black men who picked up the city's garbage.
The economic justice agenda of King-era prophetic leadership was discarded. The concerns of the new Black political and business class were largely limited to its own priorities: voting rights, affirmative action and minority business set-asides. The demand for societal economic justice was replaced by the quest for "community economic development," which usually meant creating Black millionaires. It is now indisputably clear that economic development, as preached, practiced and administered by our African American business and political elite does not lead to economic justice.
New economic development models that benefit Black communities can only come from new conversations in those communities. But conversations have nowhere to take place in most cities, where broadcast and print media have all but closed the public spaces for intra-community discussion of key concerns.
If poverty and lack of decent housing are problems, what are the solutions? To educate, train and create opportunities for the poor? To rehabilitate and rebuild affordable housing? Or, simply to demolish the housing and disperse the people? Under Democratic and Republican administrations alike, HUD has consistently pursued a policy of demolition, dispersal and deconcentration of poor and Black neighborhoods.
Most of our Black leadership class is unable to think outside the boxes of privatization, spatial deconcentration and public subsidies for gentrification imposed on them by corporate media and the need for campaign contributions. Economic empowerment of inner cities and other Black communities, demands political will, visionary thinking and organizing acumen. It requires serious, spirited, on-going intra-communities, i.e., Black, discussion, and holding Black leadership accountable."
The people must accept the challenge, force changes in Black leadership or continue to pay the exorbitant, devastating price.
Larry Aubry can be contacted at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org