Monday, August 5, 2013

A Black Woman's Voice in Modern American History

At the complex intersection of race and politics - a complicated intersection in any nation, but perhaps more so in the United States than in most nations - nuances abound, and readers must be alert for the most subtle of textual distinctions. To that mix, add gender. A twenty-first century Black woman in the United States may well grow tired of the second-string leadership of that which calls itself "the civil rights movement" or the "black movement" - the replacements for original leaders of the SCLC, like Martin Luther King, Jr.

Deneen Borelli is a Black woman with the courage to speak - with the courage to demand intelligent leadership, instead of the substandard and self-serving individuals who are more concerned with lining their own pockets than with finding substantive help for African-Americans. Individuals like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have grown extremely wealthy, claiming to advocate for Black citizens; but in fact those Black citizens have seen their plight worsen, not improve, in recent years - e.g., from 2009 to 2013.

As unemployment among Blacks increased, and as their annual income and net wealth decreased, in the years after 2009, independent thinkers like Deneen Borelli want to see African-Americans make economic progress - like the progress they'd made in the previous decade. Rebuking the corrupt leadership which claimed to speak on behalf of Blacks but which actually merely exploited their leadership positions to enrich themselves, she writes:

Your time has passed and your message is dated. These days you are doing more to hurt the black community than you are helping it. And in the process, you are dismantling the greatness of the American nation. You aren't just hurting blacks with your backward tactics, but the country itself. Your archaic initiatives and your self-serving agendas need to end. It's time to fix the United States, focus on the economy, and put your outdated 1960s agenda to bed - the civil rights initiatives that began over fifty years ago just don't apply to today's world. Unless by choice, we don't sit at the back of the bus anymore. Let me be clear - we appreciated what you did, but now your old guard message needs to be modernized because hanging on to it only benefits you and hurts everyone else.

America's Black community needs economic freedom and opportunity. It does not need anger in the streets. About whom is Borelli writing?

Of course, I am talking about a long list of black leaders who understand and conceptualize today's problems by looking backward rather than forward. I am referring to Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and New York's censured Democratic Representative Charles Rangel. They rose to prominence year ago by telling us that the poverty that plagued blacks was someone else's fault. Members of the black community who didn't have jobs, housing, or money to feed themselves could feel better about themselves knowing they were victims rather than failures.

While at one time in the distant past it may have been true, it is certainly no longer true to tell the vast majority of American Blacks that they are helpless victims. Beyond being untrue, it is dangerous - it is dangerous to teach people to identify themselves primarily, perhaps exclusively, as victims. The original goal of the civil rights movement was to empower African-Americans and make them independent. But leaders like Al Sharpton and Charlie Rangel are teaching Blacks that they are powerless and should be dependent. Borelli explains:

But these public figures who are leading the black population down that path need to seriously rethink their approach to civil rights issues and update their commentary. Their self-serving agendas for power and control have been obtained by playing the race card and in some cases, by declaring blacks are victims in need of special treatment. In some instances, they've even turned their victimization message into a business - claiming they are going after corporations for their communities, then oddly, benefitting personally and professionally. In some cases, investigations of black politicians are racially motivated.

African-Americans must ask themselves which leaders truly represent them, and which leaders merely exploit them. Sharpton and Rangel, it has become clear, do not act in ways which measurably or detectably benefit the Black community; Sharpton, Rangel, and a host of other similar individuals act only to gain wealth and power for themselves. Beyond not assisting the Black community, these corrupt and self-appointed leaders enrich themselves by ensuring the American Blacks do not, as a community, make economic progress. The worst possible thing for these pseudo-leaders would be an emerging Black middle class. If Blacks achieved economic success, they'd have no need for the demagogues.

It's time to fight the new fight, not the old one. It's time to drop the old rhetoric and update the cause. It's time to take some responsibility for our own actions. Let me be clear. If we want to move forward, the shackles of yesteryear's rhetoric needs to be broken down and recast. Black Americans are a great people with great potential. Sometimes, everyone needs a reminder: that individuals control our own destiny rather than playing the blame game to justify personal failures.

A new generation of Black leadership is rising: J.C. Watts, Alan Keyes, Condoleezza Rice, Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell, and others lead with words or by example. African-Americans can rise by engaging in the free enterprise system. The success of individual African-Americans is both a barometer and a pattern to follow.

This country elected a black president. That alone should have put to rest the constant rants of discrimination and the overwhelming demands for affirmative action to rest. No quota system here. Obama got elected because he worked hard and promoted his policies in such a way as to garish the most votes. This fixation on victimization - the decades-old vision that the plights of the black community are someone else's fault - needs to go.

Rather than being made dependent on government programs - from affirmative action to hiring quotas to welfare to food stamps - Black Americans will be free to rise when they are free to engage in a free market. Black leaders who teach them how to use the economy - not how to live off the economy - will be the leaders who bring the Black community into a prosperous middle-class existence.