Anytime racism, injustice, or bigotry raises its ugly head in the black community, so-called activist/community leaders like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton make their way to the scene. When they get there, they inevitably hold a press conference to tell the world that racism is alive and well in America. After that, they usually speak at a local church telling anyone who will listen that another unarmed black youth has been killed by police. They appoint themselves voluntary spokespersons for the entire family of the said victims. But I ask, what do they do to make the lives of African Americans any better on a whole? When I see a recently released and wrongly convicted black person on the news, I never see how Jackson or Sharpton have anything concretely to do with that person’s new found freedom.
How did these so-called “activist/community leaders” help the community of Flint, Michigan during the public water crisis of 2014? Did they ask civic leaders or national philanthropists to buy new piping for the city? Did they appeal to the likes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet or even wealthy movie stars like Denzel Washington or Will Smith to buy bottled water for Flint’s school children?
I would like to see those so-called “activist/community leaders” devise some creative methods to bring real and lasting change to the black community. For example: after the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, Operation Push and/or the Rainbow Coalition should have returned to Ferguson for the first city elections. They could have used some of their corporate funding to rent passenger vans and sponsor a children’s program at the local churches. They could use those vans to take voters to the polls and, while in route to the polls, drop those voters’ children off at the children’s program at the local church, while their parents voted. There are two possible benefits to this kind of creative thinking. The first is in the present, where a new mayor, police chief, and district attorney can replace the ones who let Michael Brown’s murderer get away with the crime. The second benefits the future of Ferguson. A new mayor should hire a qualified public employee to make sure that black companies have an equal opportunity to secure city contracts. When a black company does secure one of those contracts, it will then set out to hire black workers. When a black company hires black workers, the children of Ferguson get to see parents rise in the morning and go about a fine work day. This is how the entire culture of Ferguson’s future begins to change. Black youth can strive then to own a business or at the very least work for one because of this newfound hope. Sad to say, when the media left Ferguson, Jackson and Sharpton left with them.
A further example of how out of touch people like Jackson and Sharpton were is when the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign began in 2016. Then it was suggested Bernie Sanders was “not sensitive” to black issues. They created so much undue pressure on the Sanders campaign that Sanders went to Harlem to have lunch with Sharpton. What was really happening was that these “community leaders” were doing what they were told, not what was in the best interest of people of color. Two of Bernie Sanders major campaign promises were free college tuition and free health care. The only two elements in American society I see that are of the upmost importance to black people are not those proffered by Sanders, but instead those real concerns of inequality and unemployment.
Today we have the Black Lives Matter movement. When President Donald Trump was campaigning, he talked about immigration, about going to war with Iran, about taking away health care and about banking irregularities. But when he was asked to include the fact that Black Lives Do Matter, the people asking for this inclusion were seen as being disruptive, (unlike the message the “community leaders” were giving). I believe the powers that be learned a lesson from the 1960s. During the 1960s, we heard from people who spoke about inequality and discrimination because the media was there to report it. With that reporting, we heard from the likes of Malcolm X to Martin Luther King, Cassius Clay, Bobby Seals and Eldridge Cleaver, Medgar Evers, and everybody in between. Today we only hear from a few pastors and ministers because that’s all the media seems to report. When people like Jackson or Sharpton speak out, they are publicized. But I ask you, what do they really do aside from organizing marches, giving sermons and leading everyone in prayer? How many marches have eliminated elements of racism? How many sermons have resolved issues of injustice? When it comes to inequality, those prayers have yet to be answered. I compare it to slavery in America after blacks were introduced to Christianity. Whose prayers got answered, the slaves or the slave owners?
Every interview I’ve ever heard with Ralph or Jesse, the focus of the interview seems to be on keeping the peace, not solving the problem. A perfect example of this is what happened in Ferguson, Missouri. It’s been four and a half years since the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, the unarmed young black man who’s shooting by police officer Darren Wilson sparked protests and riots helping to solidify the Black Lives Matter movement when many residents began acting as unruly as the patriots of the Boston tea party. The acting governor, Jay Nixon, sent in the Missouri state police to assist the Ferguson police department in keeping the peace. When that failed, the National Guard was called in. After that, Nixon met with a group of clergy from the Ferguson/St. Louis area in what was called “a peace summit”, This summit reminded me of the times during slavery when blacks were revolting and rioting throughout the deep south. The revolts and riots got so bad that the plantation owners came up with the idea that introducing blacks to Christianity would keep them quiet. (Think about Thomas Jefferson and his “Christian” views on keeping slaves. Ditto Andrew Johnson.) The laws at that time prohibited slaves from reading anything except the Bible. I guess the idea of introducing blacks to Christianity was that good obedient Christian ones would eventually go to heaven when they died.
In the summer of 1999, the governor of Missouri did everything in his power to keep the peace, but he did absolutely nothing to address the racism, injustice, and inequality that the people of Ferguson experienced on a daily basis. It’s as if he were saying the same thing to the people of Ferguson that the plantations owners said to the slaves “Don’t stop suffering, just suffer peacefully”.
As a black man, I don’t need someone to tell me that racism is alive and well in America because I know it. I also don’t need someone to point out racial injustice and inequality, because I can see it. And when it comes to racial discrimination I definitely don’t need someone to hold a press conference about it because I can feel it.