Last year was not particularly good for Blacks, but not substantially different than others in recent memory. Despite claims to the contrary, Blacks’ progress-social, political, economic—continues to be limited by race, poverty and, increasingly, the chasm between middle-class and poorer Blacks. The middle-class may not actually believe all is well, but tend to act like they do. Apparently, relating to the concerns of less affluent brethren is not a priority.
Ironically, born of earlier successes, the widening divide makes it extremely difficult for Blacks to overcome current challenges. The Civil Rights Movement was literally supported by the full spectrum of Blacks. Now, just talking about freedom, justice, common agendas, etc., is considered taboo or impolitic by many. The upshot is the least empowered must struggle without the support of those clearly able to assist.
Middle-class Blacks tend to view poorer Blacks’ dispassionately, reluctant or unwilling to identify with grassroots even though they too remain victims of racism. Their denial and disinterest helps perpetuate conditions inimical to their own best interests.
My assessment of 2007 begins with admittedly high-sounding definitions. However, they could serve as references, for those interested, to better understand and embrace different, group-oriented frameworks for challenging current barriers to progress. They also provide a backdrop for discussing values and strategies specifically designed to benefit Blacks.
(These definitions are not absolute and each group interprets them in relation to their mission and purpose.)
Assessing Black leadership: Has Barak Obama’s meteoric ascendency changed anything for Blacks? Did Black leadership differ substantially from the year before, and the year before that, etc. This column will continue to monitor and critique Black leaders performance it is perhaps the single most crucial factor in forging new strategies for educational, economic and political parity.
Values, caring and accountability are indispensable traits for all Black leaders, from gang-bangers to members of the U.S. Congress and-all in-between. And leadership oversight is one of Black communities’ most neglected responsibilities.
Immigration was another big ticket item gone wanting in 2007. Many Blacks are leery of immigrants, especially “illegals” who they target and sometimes scapegoat. Wholesale condemnation of the undocumented for “taking our jobs” (and status), is an understandable, but misleading and at times, bogus allegation. It fails to put the major onus where it belongs—on the federal government and private employers who hire undocumented workers. While this may be shortsighted , immigration cannot occur at Blacks’ expense.
Los Angeles’ Black parents and concerned others were subjected to another frustrating year in which a flurry of proposed educational reforms omitted specific reference to the needs of their children. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the teachers’ union and Superintendent David L. Brewer all submitted plans, none of which addressed the specific needs of Black students, the district’s lowest achievers.
A substantial contingent of local Blacks traveled to Jena, Louisiana, joining thousands of others to protest discriminatory treatment given six Black high school students who reportedly criminally assaulted a group of white “innocents.” Causing a national uproar. Unfortunately, the follow-up to Jena is predictably weak. The Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton faded with their usual dispatch, leaving Jena’s Blacks with only putative national support.
Police abuse in Black neighborhoods was largely unabated despite Chief William Bratton’s claims of significant improvement. One of the most bizarre cases in some time occurred last January. According to official accounts, Matthew Jerome Powell, a young Black man, was killed, (Many say murdered) by LAPD officers while cuffed with hands behind his back. He somehow managed to shoot and wound an officer while so handcuffed and was subsequently shot four times in the head, 2 shots to the back of his head, even though he had been searched earlier. The Police Commission unanimously (including the illustrious John Mack) ruled Matthew Powell’s killing “in policy.”
This case stinks to high heaven; LAPD and the Police Commission should be held to account for their actions by all concerned Angelenos. An independent (external) investigation is need to get to the bottom of this travesty.
This column, and others, periodically make suggestions and recommendations for change that go unheeded; Black leaders especially, have not taken up the gauntlet. Hopefully, this year’s conversations and planning among local Blacks about unity and group-oriented strategies will build on principles, ideology and philosophy as fundamental for real and lasting progress.
Readers, what are your views on this?
Larry Aubry n can be contacted at e-mail