Notwithstanding the results of the upcoming mid-term elections and the broad horrific support of Donald Trump’s presidency, major political and economic developments nationally and locally have significant ramifications for African Americans. We must demand more effective leadership and group-related strategies to survive and succeed in an increasingly uncertain and hostile 21stcentury environment.
Demographic changes in California and throughout the nation are profoundly altering the political landscape. Not the least of such changes is the impact of the huge increase in the Latino population. Cleary, Latinos are already asserting their new found political strength. This threatens many African Americans, who rather than work to strengthen relations with Latinos, for mutual benefit, seem determined to cling to their own highly limited past political and economic gains, real and imagined. Unfortunately, Latinos, by virtue of their newfound political clout, have adopted some of the arrogance of the White majority and therefore, are seen by Blacks as adversaries rather than potential partners in both groups’ continuing struggle against racism and economic injustice.
The fundamental antidote for the new realities is effective leadership. African Americans must first reassess their political values (actually, values in general that are largely individualistic and materialistic) and begin to develop new strategies that better meet their constituents own best interests. This is no easy task. It involves de-conditioning, i.e., uncomfortable, even painstaking evaluation and introspection about where we’ve been, how we got there and where we want to go in the 21stcentury.
Given Blacks’ history of slavery, Jim Crow and discrimination, it is not surprising that probably most have internalized and adopted wholesale, the values and principles of white America. Of course, white values were never intended for, nor did they really ever work for Blacks, who fail to either see or acknowledge, the difference between individual and group attainment. Color and race remain dominant regarding who receives, or does not receive society’s benefits. While this may not be a revelation for Blacks, most continue to function as though individual effort and achievement alone are sufficient to improve Black lives. And most still act as though race is secondary rather than the major determining factor of a group’s success or failure in this country.
This denial of the primacy of race is mostly on the surface, since most African Americans know full well that color is an undeniably the major determinant, not only in their individual lives, but in the lives of all Black people. Acknowledging this reality is difficult for many, but the critical thing has always been dealing with each other in a supportive, humane and honest way. This approach and perspective are not new, and are also the basis for working more effectively with other racial and ethnic groups. (Upon reflection, most Blacks would probably agree that there’s been little resembling sustained group unity since the 1960s.)
The new paradigm suggested here also takes into account Donald Trump’s presidency as well as the “crabs in a barrel” syndrome, which is only one of many indicators of the need to forge new models for group and community action and success. The new models would be built on reclaimed pride and mutual respect, which have been minimized, or worst, never experienced by those Blacks mired in mythical and misleading individualism.
The complexities surrounding changing attitudes and behavior of African Americans are staggering. However, nothing less than honest and in-depth dealing with the barriers that affect their lives will yield the kind of results necessary to bring about needed change. As mentioned earlier, the new unity would also serve as a basis for mutually beneficial partnerships with other racial and ethnic groups.
We are well into the 21stcentury and an array of issues have major, and in some instances headed up by Trump, a direct impact on the lives of African Americans. These include previously mentioned demographic changes, as well as continuing police abuse, public education, poverty, high technology and, of course, on-going racism and White privilege.
New African American leadership primarily committed to the community’s best interests, as opposed to individual, political party, or any other distractive priority, is essential for returning to a group-oriented leadership model. (Reclaiming ethical and moral values is the basis for a brighter future.) And strong community organizing is the key to mobilizing sustainable community action which is sorely needed in Black communities. In summary, strategic planning and unified action to challenge the issues and problems that continue to plague African American communities throughout the nation is essential. Needless to say, effective community organizing must reflect the desires and priorities of local communities above all else.
Donald Trump’s absurd but dangerous political ascendency signaled an extremely challenging and scary time for African Americans, especially. It is important that we reassess not only where we have been, but where we are, and return to group-oriented strategies that unapologetically serve our own best interests. However, conditioned pressure, both mental and systemic, to maintain a status quo that is not in our best interests is formidable. Nothing short of strong group-oriented leadership will take African Americans to a level required to break the shackles of a history forged by sustained, deliberate oppression.
Arguably, 21stcentury’s daunting challenges are the greatest facing Black people since slavery. Meeting these challenges honestly, and with courageous leadership, is essential for both group success and survival..