Most of my adult life I have vehemently opposed the term “Black leader.” I always saw it as a media construct. It was used during the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) by the media to help that industry place blame on how Black people had decided enough was enough and began to turn the tables on racism. With hundreds, sometimes thousands of people marching throughout the South; the news media need a go-to person.
With the “election” of Donald Trump, and his subsequent appointments of an avowed racist, and a racist-in-denial, it is painfully clear there is a need for Black America to have a leader. Today, Black people living in the U.S. are long on rhetoric and protest but short on problem-solving and strategy. We are desperately in need of someone who brings the ability to:
- synthesize our disparate views
- develop a strategic plan forward
- implement said plan or plans
I am not suggesting that with the someone conducting the “Black train” that Trump would not have prevailed. I am however strongly suggesting that with recognized and committed leadership, Black people, and possibility other minorities would have a hint of a plan of how to proceed. We also would be discussing and assembling for the 2018 and 2020 elections.Maybe it is a contingent of like-minded people rather than an individual. There is no question this leader must be someone who can easily ignore criticism, not be concerned with who is not joining a movement, and focus on building from within and not being overly concerned with criticizing white folks.
Currently, we have legions of sable-rattlers, moving in every conceivable direction, and are spending way too much time assigning blame and speculating over the reasons for Secretary Clinton’s loss. A leader could corral that angst into positive action.
Maybe this new leader it is a contingent of like-minded people rather than an individual. There is no question this leader must be someone who can easily ignore criticism, not be concerned with who is not joining a movement, and focus on building from within and not being overly concerned with criticizing white folks.
Today, so many of the nation’s 46 million Black folks see a leader as an affront. They maintain they can think for themselves, rely on their on resources to get what they need for themselves and family; they also believe they can successfully navigate the waters of racism. What they fail to understand is a clenched fist has more impact than five fingers. Black people united behind leadership is the fist, going it alone represents the fingers.
For those who will rally behind a leader, it is critical to be coherent about what we want. It simply is not enough to say we don’t like something. We must be prepared to explain what we do want. Secondly, we need not like an individual or entity in a leadership role or expect that person to be perfect. All we need to do is just respect that person. From there, our focus has to be linear.
Personally, it is not necessary to re-invent the wheel. The best and probably the most expeditious approach is to cobble a plan from the many that have already floated in our community for decades, such as the Nation of Islam’s “What We Want” and the Black Panther Party’s 10-point program. We can build on these with some contemporary issues Developing such a plan and moving forward cannot be a democratic process. It must be left to the most capable thinkers, as well as those who spend an inordinate amount of time on the front lines. Whatever, the intellectuals and activists forge as a plan should be how Black people proceed.
Before the days of full-blown coverage about Black events and Black people by the mainstream media; newspapers essentially pitted one prominent Black person against the other, as was the case with W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington.
We have witnessed in our lifetimes a similar situation regarding Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In both instances, one man represented what was more palatable to white America . DuBois, who represented the more erudite approach to Black improvement, juxtaposed to Washington’s manual labor approach, received favorable media coverage. The college-educated, church raised King for most of CRM career was able to garner more favorable news accounts about his work than Malcolm X received.
What the news media then didn’t seem to understand about any of these four is while bringing differing approaches the ultimate goal was improving the lot Black folks wherever they were in America.
Obviously, none of them had the benefit of social media to spread the word. DuBois and Washington didn’t even have television to tell America how it ought to change its relationship with Black people.
In their respective times, these men were able to rally the masses in unprecedented ways. Many of those who only saw them through the prism of newspapers or other news media got the version that was most acceptable to white America. Despite those constraints, these and men other Black folks thrived.
With the exception of Malcolm X, all of these men could attach themselves to, and secure the support of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Throughout their lives, it was the most visible and formidable organization promoting equal treatment and access.
Today, however, the 100-year-old iconoclastic organization resembles a 100-year-old human -frail, bent, weak voice, and essentially ignored except by those who love her most.
Television’s promotion from a nascent curiosity to a staple in nearly every home by the mid-1960s put Malcolm X and Dr. King in our living rooms like no Black men before them.
Now, we have a wealth of outlets to inform, connect and organize. Unfortunately, it seems too many are interested in working in silos