Challenges and barriers constantly collide, impeding Black's progress. Their seemingly endless struggle for justice might have proved fatal long ago but for storied resilience. Resilience is not enough, however, and in significant measure, Blacks are mere shadows of their potential.
Ineffective, self-serving leadership and its cohort, disunity, render Black's demands way short of commensurate with their numbers. Moving from an individual to group-oriented leadership is essential. Collaborating with other groups is fruitless unless undertaken from a position of strength. But Black leaders lack the will, and often the integrity, to generate specific strategies that benefit Blacks.
The moral and economic agendas of the MLK Jr. era have been discarded and as Black Commentator's Bruce Dixon intones, "Many Black leaders are unwilling or unable to defend the opportunities that made their emergence possible. Emulating White's individualism and materialism (George W. Bush doctrine) is contrary to Blacks' best interests. Yet, they do insist that their leaders seek alternative strategies that relate to constituents' needs while remaining blatantly ineffective, with impunity.
Blacks themselves leave nagging questions unanswered. For example, poverty, Black-on-Black violence, unemployment, poor education, etc., are obviously major problems, but what are the solutions? Most Black leaders fail to tackle these problems head-on; they have internalized America's values with severely limited access to its benefits. And, their malfeasance plays out against a backdrop of White privilege. Here's one of Author Tim Wise's cogent examples of White privilege: "When you can claim that being mayor of a small town and then governor of a sparsely populated state, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don't soil themselves with laughter, while being a Black U.S. Senator, two-term State Senator, and constitutional scholar means you're "untested."
In Los Angeles as in other core urban areas, schools fail Black students, and Black neighborhoods top the list of homicides and other serious crimes and not surprisingly, Blacks are prime victims of the current housing mortgage crisis. But judging from their response, Black leaders appear to have little interest in dealing with these and other race-related challenges confronting Black communities. Some believe these problems are endemic and virtually insoluble.
Perceptions of today's Blacks and those in the 1960s concerning political and economic issues, are starkly different. The clarion call was freedom and justice, period. Today, civil rights violations are still common, but many victims have abandoned the fight because they can now afford more expensive costumes. Too many act as though the play is over and the curtain has already come down. Blacks differ substantially among themselves, not just over remedies, but on the definition of current problems. Their differences are most glaring in the chasm between today's middle-class and poorer Blacks, that make it even harder to navigate an already unequal playing field.
The soothing myth of Brown vs. Board of Education and subsequent passage of civil rights legislation have lulled many Blacks into believing they had "made it." Although never of one voice even in the sixties, Blacks functioned as a chorus and persevered.
Traditional civil rights organizations now tend to distance themselves from the rank-and-file and depend heavily on corporate money. Rhetoric of concern has supplanted hands-on organizational efforts to secure full rights and sustainable justice and equality.
As previously noted, the Los Angeles NAACP and CORE are shadows of their past, inexplicably clinging to outdated, dysfunctional programs. The NAACP's Image Awards are more a nod to Oprah than Martin.
The LA Urban League recently broadened its scope, launching a corporate-funded, "Neighborhoods Work" initiative. It is a comprehensive effort to improve conditions in a 70-block area in South Central Los Angeles, juxtaposed to Crenshaw High School. Multiple focus areas include employment, safety, education and economic development. If it works, everyone benefits.
Leadership is the lynchpin of sustainable change but sadly, many Black leaders have been neither effective nor accountable and new, group-oriented leadership is imperative. (Although elected officials are more often singled out for criticism, everyone in leadership positions must be held accountable.
Slavery's tentacles still impede Blacks' efforts to come together, and strategic unity is further impaired by self-serving opportunists masquerading as bona fide leaders. If Black leaders continue to emulate Whites, without access to comparable benefits, the naysayers will have been proven right and the future is indeed bleak. The new leadership's chief responsibility is to disprove such a fatalistic prognostication by charting a course that truly empowers its criminally maligned, long-suffering constituents.
Larry Aubry can be contacted at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org