Sustainable outrage is the key to mounting successful efforts to change a status quo that continues to deny Black people full equality and justice. Yet, most Blacks don’t seem to get it, and fail to consistently apply pressure on its leaders and “the system” necessary to secure such change.
“We are Trayvon” was more than a slogan that resonated with Black people. It captured a kindred feeling among Blacks. However, except for Black Lives Matter, it seems that feeling has not been troubling enough to sustain justifiable outrage. Police killing unarmed Black men and boys is the tip of the iceberg but does graphically symbolize systemic injustice that continues with barely more than a whisper from the Black community. The egregious regularity of race-based injustice and inequity against Blacks, at times, warrants push-back just short of armed resistance. That wouldn’t work, but would be an unequivocal assertion that Blacks no longer passively accept abject oppression. Such injustice persists under the thinly veiled colorations of “diversity” and a “post-racial society.”
“Will Trayvon be Another Wasted Opportunity?” was the title of this column some five years ago. I have posed a similar question, many times and for many years, because Blacks have not sustained their outrage following high-profiling incidents of racial profiling, discrimination or racially motivated killings. The fact is that while high-profile cases grab headlines and heart strings they, together with low profile race-based inequities, have become variations of Black folks’ tolerate- in- silence norms. Public education’s failure to educate Black students and Black homeowners disproportionately suffering foreclosures as a result of the economic meltdown are just as egregious and unacceptable as the more flagrant, high profile criminal police and vigilante killings of unarmed Black men and boys.
The implications of systemic race-based injustice and inequity are profoundly troubling and require high priority attention by the Black community and its leadership. Their collective silence about the barriers to political and economic progress helps to perpetuate a status quo that is clearly inimical to Blacks’ best interests. And this silence has characterized Black’s virtual silence on key issues since the 1960s. Without new thinking, planning and strategic alternatives are employed, the Black community will continue to waddle in its moaning ad infinitum.
How then can Blacks move forward in a group-oriented (versus individualistic and materialistic) manner? This critically important question is mostly minimized or ignored. Civil rights gains were the culmination of centuries of struggle and the fight for justice was a given in the 1960s. Since then, those gains have proved fleeting as has a consensus on Black’s status, and what to do about it. Blacks have a hard time understanding that individual attainment, though laudable, does not necessarily benefit the Black community. In fact, middle-class Blacks’ especially, internalization of whites’ individualistic and materialistic values has created a growing chasm between them and their poorer brethren. Although many may consider this divide inevitable, the truth is, collaboration between middle-class and all other Blacks is indispensable for the unity needed to achieve lasting positive change.
Unity has evaporated much like the concentration of Blacks in many urban cities. In Los Angeles, for example, the huge immigration of Latinos requires not just rethinking, but a reordering of political priorities to protect and rebuild strength at least commensurate with Blacks’ numbers in the population. Coalitions and alliances with other racial and ethnic groups are clearly necessary, but it is essential that Blacks participate in such arrangements from a position of strength, not as a by- product of “diversity” or the mythical “post-racial society.” Solutions require unity based on explicit, not assumed, common ground. (Given Blacks’ conditioning and propensity for accommodation, a trait exemplified by Barack Obama, establishing and holding common ground is an extremely difficult but important challenge.)
Blacks’ reassessing values, principles and priorities is top priority for reframing and reclaiming their cultural and political capital. This means an articulation of moral and ethical values and principles must come first from Black leaders, who also unfortunately, mirror the values and practices of the white majority. This underscores a need for a thorough reassessment of the performance by Black leadership, elected and otherwise, and should be a starting point in crafting a new strategies for Blacks wherein the group, not the individual, is the overarching consideration.
This daunting undertaking requires a sea change in Blacks’ thinking and behavior; community education, organizing and mobilization are all key ingredients. However, a renewed social and political paradigm based on moral and ethical values is even more important.
All of this may be foreign and sound naïve to many Blacks. But think, what are the alternatives? Will continuing social and political practices that are not in the group’s own best interests make sense? What about emulating values and principles that perpetuate a status quo that guarantees second-class citizenship? Clearly, Blacks themselves must define their own destiny and lead the fight for sustainable justice and equity.
Injustice and inequality against Black people has continued with only sporadic, outrage. In this age of Trump -and other increasingly complex barriers facing Black people- sustainable action by our leaders, especially, is of utmost importance. To say, we are Trayvon Martin, or Wakeisha Wilson, and mean it, calls for commitment and practice grounded in moral and ethical values. Recapturing these values is imperative, and doing so is our collective responsibility.
Larry Aubry: e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org