It is hard to imagine a more dangerously narcissistic President than Donald Trump. His decisions erode civil rights gains and further embolden racism and white privilege; his foreign policy is just as scary. Keep in mind, however, Trump represents the feelings of those who voted for him, which is even scarier.
Slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow and Civil rights- each period- as does this one reflects the nation’s racist political and economic priorities. (Un- fortunately, Black leader- ship too reinforces racial injustice, chiefly by failing to vigorously challenge systemic barriers confronting African Americans.)
Black leadership im- pacts every aspect of our lives and these days, self- serving Black leaders typically mock accountability. Political and economic progress requires leader- ship based on moral and ethical values as opposed to the current pervasive individualism and materialism that reinforces conditions inimical to Blacks’ own best interests. Therefore, It is more important than ever that the Black community hold its leaders accountable.
How long will Blacks tolerate ineffective non- committed leadership? The short answer: As long as they fail to hold their leaders accountable. The comprehensive answer includes other complex variables such as psycho- logical conditioning (Willie Lynch) and Blacks having internalized America’s val- ues without full access to its benefits. The crippling fallout is that both Black identity and unity remain a tangled mirage that serves to perpetuate a status quo that is not in our own best interests. During post-Re- construction, Black leadership defined the interests of the Black community, named themselves leaders and was assumed to be so by whites. Since the sixties, material benefits accrue more to the middle class who have largely absented themselves from the struggle for civil rights and like their white counterparts, tend to consider themselves superior to poorer Blacks.
The Los Angeles Urban League report, “The State of Black Los Angeles,” underscores the need for effective Black leadership. (Its findings like countless other studies, confirm the obvious.) For instance, the crime data annually concludes Black adults and juveniles had arrest rates substantially higher than other groups. Other findings about Los Angeles County include: Blacks had the lowest median in- come and although only 10% of the total population represented 30% of the homeless population and were targets of 50% of hate crimes; 44% of Black high school students failed to graduate with their class in four years and the premature death rate among Blacks was 40.6 per
100,000 population com- pared to 11 for Latinos, 4.5 for whites and 3.8 for Asians. If anything, the picture is gloomier, but more challenging every year. Organized labor is also in need of stronger Black leadership and the split within the AFL-CIO and EIU several years ago dn’t help matters. More an ever, a Black union agenda is sorely needed. The relatively few Blacks unions’ decision-making blacks appear powerless to forcefully present a case or their Black sisters and brothers. (Immigration reform for Black immigrants so requires strong lead- ship.) LA Police Chief Charlie Beck claims LAPD is a “new” organization, but police abuse still dis- proportionately affects African Americans and Black Lives Matter continues to hold his feet to the fire.
African American leaders rarely criticize main- stream media’s coverage of the Black community. A classic example was the Los Angeles Times’ “ex- pose” of conditions at MLK hospital that hastened its closure. The Times biased coverage won a Pulitzer. But with rare exception, Black leaders are silent about such coverage. Nor do they denounce Black opportunists who sprint from press conference to press conference masquerading as community and/or civil rights advocates. Of course, they are embraced by the Times and other mainstream media as “community activists.” Actually, they are self-serving pimps who practice their illicit trade at the Black community’s expense. (Historical- ly, California’s Legislative Black Caucus has also been silent on many key issues, seemingly oblivious to the nexus of the responsibilities of their office and the needs and concerns of their constituents.
There are no quick or easy answers for improving the effectiveness of Black leaders, but a critical “time out” is needed to reassess, devise new strategies and demand new accountability from Black leaders. It should go without say- ing, that the nature and complexity of 21st cen- tury issues -most recently, Trump’s election-add to the continuing barriers to Blacks’ progress and re- quire renewed courage and commitment from Black leadership.
A welcomed development: An unapologetically Afro-centric community leadership group, the Black Community, Clergy and Labor Alliance (BCCLA) began six years ago in Los Angeles. It is an independent and social activist organization dedicated to representing, promoting and protecting the interests and well-being of the Black community. (For the first time in years, BCCLA interviewed the LA may- oral candidates individually during the last primary election.) Current efforts/ programs include: Bring- ing together community groups and individuals for presentations on important issues affecting the Black community at is monthly General Assembly meet- ing; through its education committee, partnering with the Los Angeles Unified School District to improve the quality of education for Black students by focusing on closing the achievement gap; supporting Black Lives Matter; supporting the Crenshaw Subway Coalition’s efforts to educate the Black community about the important issue of gentrification; supporting the Los Angeles Black Workers Center, SEIU Unite Here and Security Workers West and the Black Workers Justice campaign to en- sure Black worker justice.
In summary, effective leadership is crucial for changing mindsets and leading whatever else is necessary to move the Black community forward.