This is kind of a strange subject for me to be dipping into, as a white girl, and I just want to put that on the table before I go on. From dialogues I've witnessed, and conversations with black friends, it has become increasingly clear that the leadership of the african-american community may not represent the members of that community as completely as it once did.
Over the past few years, it seems like the "voices" of the black community, i.e. the NAACP and the Urban League, and others, have become as shrill and petulant as the moonbat protestors we've all become so familiar with. Anyone and anything that doesn't promote their stated agenda, verbatim, is automatically dismissed, even other blacks. For example, the wide denunciation of Bill Cosby and even Jesse Jackson for their remarks last summer about raising black children highlighted just how defensive these organizations have become. Instead of building up, working in the community, and equality for all people, the message of these groups seems increasingly to be one of victimization, and dare I say, even martyrdom at the hands of "the man", whether that's the upper class, corporate america, or the republican government.
A recent event highlights this message. The shooting of 13-year old Devin Brown after a high-speed chase in a car he stole last week in Los Angeles. The "voices" of the community immediately condemned the officers for shooting a "child". All evidence indicates that this "child" and a friend were gang members who boosted a car for a joyride and then ran from police. When they were cornered, this "child" tried to use the car as a battering ram to get away or run over the police. That's when shots were fired. While I'm not condoning the use of deadly force in this case, since I don't know all the facts, I think that if the officer felt his life or that of his partner was threatened, then he had every right to shoot this little punk or anyone else, given the same situation. If Devin had been white instead of african-american, and from a middle-income suburb in the Valley, we wouldn't have heard a peep from community groups, but because the punk was black, and the cop wasn't, the battle call was sounded.
Aren't there more important things to worry about? Like, why aren't there more black cops? Why isn't there any common ground between the african-american community and the cops who protect it? Why do blacks kill more blacks than any other group? Why are more black children growing up in poverty than any other group? The response from community groups to the shooting of Devin Brown was predictable, but otherwise useless in a community struggling for so many important answers.
Joe Hicks (of Community Advocates) asks these questions in a very thoughtful piece in yesterday's LA Times. He suggests that the role of black leaders today is less to lead, and more to shout, to the detriment of the community, and that the progress that african-americans have made in society hasn't extended to the groups that were once at the forefront of the equality movement:
"These are great, august organizations that once served as the flagships in the nation's most important battles against racism. But over the last three decades, the aims and goals of these groups have undergone little change — even as the racial landscape has been dramatically reconfigured. Instead, they have dug in their heels, downplayed racial progress and continued to argue, despite evidence to the contrary, that the condition of black men and women in the U.S. remains precarious."
In the face of these accusations, it would seem that these groups are becoming increasingly irrelevant and that their leaders must therefore be increasingly out of touch with the day-to-day lives of black america. Hicks says,
"The leaders of these groups say they represent the interests of black Americans, yet it seems increasingly clear that their lives rarely touch the lives of those they claim to speak for and, in many cases, that they never move outside their own cloistered, out-of-touch activist circles."
For what it's worth, I agree with him. I don't understand how a relatively wealthy person of any color, living in the suburbs, with enough resources to provide for their family can truly identify with the issues of the poorest among us. Sure, many of these folks used to live in the ghettoes (I hate that word), but in many cases,that was years ago, and their issues reflect the sensibilities of that time. Twenty, and even ten years ago, poverty and illegitimacy were reinforced by racism, today these conditions are more likely to contribute to it.
The thing is, you can't have it both ways. A mainstream community can't abide in society as if it is a fringe group without some detriment. As long as community leaders focus on issues from the past, the present won't have a chance, and that means bad things for the future.
(hat tip: Patterico)