African American leaders are often not held accountable, and neither are their white counterparts. Of course, the difference is whites have always controlled this nation from top to bottom so for them, a lack of accountability results in a continuation of the status quo, which simply perpetuates their power and control.
Absence of accountability by African American leaders, on the other hand, is immensely more serious for us; it results in the perpetuation of the oppressive conditions they have been charged with helping to alleviate. (Black Lives Matter has not addressed the critically important issue of the role and responsibility of Black leadership in protecting and empowering the Black community.)
Accountability is now a buzz word throughout the country. For example, is also increasingly cited as the cure-all for failing public schools. Administrators, teachers and parents have only to be “accountable” and all else will be okay. Fine, if this were true but obviously, it is not.
Webster’s definition of accountability is concise and clear: “….obliged to account for one’s acts, responsible….” This definition will suffice as we take a look at the importance of accountability to the African American community and its leaders.
African American elected officials are the focus here, but all Black leaders should be taken to task as well. All those in positions of leadership have a responsibility to the community, but accountability is not simply in the eye of the beholder, rather, it is anchored in the community’s values and enforceable standards.
Yes, this is problematic, especially if one subscribes to the view that African Americans have internalized the values of the nation’s white majority which clearly are not in their best interest. Similarly, unless drastically altered, enforcing current standards do not benefit Black people. Therefore, it is past time for Black leaders change their thinking, and begin crafting independent standards and strategies for improving overall conditions for Black people in this country. It should be understood that new accountability and new leadership standards are necessary across the board, but especially for areas such as reduction of drug abuse, violence in general, gang violence and police violence- all of which negatively and disproportionately impact the Black community. Also, there is a pressing need to improve public housing, health and welfare services, economic development, etc. The Black community itself has a distinct role and responsibility in the accountability equation particularly in the inner city. The community is the proverbial bottom line, the ultimate determinant of values and enforcer of group-enhancing standards.
Leadership must re- assess values and change political priorities before the community can see and feel sustainable positive change. And this should be viewed as a leadership challenge, not an insurmountable hurdle. Psycho-social conditioning of African Americans is a tremendous barrier that continues to contribute to a self-deprecating legacy, beginning with slavery, that must be reversed. Certainly, Black people must display renewed strength and determination in order to move toward greater political and economic self-sufficiency. Collective strength and determination, long suppressed, represent a viable pathway to a safer, more prosperous future.
It goes without saying, African American leadership is crucial to developing community-oriented strategies and programs. However, to date, they have largely emulated the white leadership model that was neither designed nor intended to benefit Black people. Aren’t conditions in the nation’s inner cities-many governed by Blacks- throughout America worse now than forty or fifty years ago? The challenge is to fix this.
It should be clear to Black leaders themselves that old priorities and behavior are not effective. U.S. Supreme Court decisions, the nation’s economy and continuing inequities and discrimination based on color is evidence enough that drastically different approaches are necessary to successfully attack the problems that continue to face African Americans.
In addition to psychological conditioning, many other factors contribute to the lack of accountability among Black leaders, not the least of these is the chasm between middle-class and poorer Blacks. The former must desist in their wrong-headed complacency that because they have “made it,” all is well. The truth is, America is still fundamentally racist and middle-class and high income African Americans are subjected to the same fundamental systemic constraints as there poorer brothers and sisters. A new accountability can help to breach that divide and, as mentioned, accountability is a integral part of, any and all, viable community and/or governmental efforts to improve life for African Americans.
Greater accountability by Black leaders, elected or otherwise, would also better enable Blacks to move beyond episodic outrage to sustainable righteous outrage. Clearly, Black people have tended to react to high-profile crises such as the unwarranted and unacceptable police killing Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Ezell Ford, et al, but they generally fail to sustain that outrage. The last time Blacks did sustain such outrage was during the civil rights era. (Let’s hope Black Lives Matters will meet the sustainability test.)
In order to help African Americans attain actual freedom and justice, Black leaders must reassess and drastically change their mindsets as well as their political and economic strategies and tactics. And while a new accountability is critical, it is an inseparable part only part of a comprehensive arsenal necessary to build a sustainable Black united front. Collectively, Black leaders, especially, have no real choice but to live up to the task. The alternative is not only unacceptable, it is unthinkable.