To Today’s Black Leaders
You’re Misleading My People
By Tracy Hunter
I feel that it’s safe to say that there are just as many great leaders in the
African American community today as there are not so good ones. Too bad there is
solid truth to the old saying “One bad apple spoils the bunch.”
It is my desire to completely support whatever it is that my black leaders are
fighting for. The problem is I don’t know what that is. I keep hearing
something about “The Black Agenda.” Can anybody tell me exactly what the
black agenda is? There is no black agenda. In fact, our leaders are trying to
fight for a group collectively that doesn’t really see themselves as a
I was so hurt recently when I heard an excerpt from a paper written by a fellow
college student. In the paper she made mention of “us” and “them” and
not wanting the two to be confused. So, who were “us” and “them?”
“Us” was supposed to be the more sophisticated Blacks; the ones who speak
well, dress well, have good jobs. “Them” was supposed to be the
“niggers,” the ones who continue to mess things up for everyone else.
Whoa! I’ve always thought that a group was only as strong as it’s weakest
link. We’re never going to get anywhere putting each other down. We’re never
going to get anywhere by simply blaming each other for our problems and then
refusing to do no more than shun those whom we feel to be less than us. What
ever happened to “I am because we are. We are because I am?” What happened
to “We must rise up, but unless we rise united-pushing one another, lifting
one another-success will not be ours to celebrate?”
How can our leaders form a “Black Agenda” for a hostile group which has
separated themselves as we have? And if indeed there is such an agenda, for whom
does it fight “us” or “them.”
Many of our black leaders want us to believe that we are involved in an
incredibly tough battle and the “White Man” deserves all the blame. It seems
as though they attempt to raise such anger in us that their own anger begins to
cloud their perceptions.
Many of our leaders carry the title of “Reverend.” Reverend? I have always
thought that a reverend was a preacher of the gospel. Maybe it’s just me, but
there are quite a few of our leaders who carry this title and I’ve never heard
them preach anything short of praise for themselves, even when they’re
standing in the pulpit.
Have you every stopped to really analyze some of the concepts for which our
leaders claim we should be angry? “Police Brutality,” “Crack Rock vs.
Powder Cocaine?” If you haven’t, maybe it’s time you did.
True, police brutality has gotten a bit out of hand. OK, more than a bit. But
should that be our primary focus at this point? What happened to taking care of
home first and then worrying about everyone else? If I’m not mistaken, black
on black crime has been out of hand for a while. The rate at which we’re
brutalizing each other is outrageous. I find it amazing how we can get fired up,
organize rallies and major marches when a cop kills a brother on his front porch
in New York, or when a cop follows a college student across multiple border
lines and then kills him, yet, we do nothing when a brother kills a brother in
the hood. This goes back to the inability to effectively demand respect from
anyone until we respect ourselves.
On top of police brutality, our black leaders will have us to believe that we
should be upset because the justice system imposes tougher restrictions on
“crack rock” predominately used by African Americans than “powder
cocaine” used most by Caucasians. OK, maybe that is unfair. So? What do we
want? Do we want the penalties for the use of these drugs to be the same? Ok,
how do we best achieve this objective?
What if the system were to lower the bar to where the same penalty imposed on
powder cocaine was imposed on crack rock? Black leader, tell me what my
community gains from that? More drug overdoses in the black community? More
crack heads? More drugs being carried and sold to our children? Yeah, that’s a
whole lot to fight for!
So, what if the system were to raise the bar to where the use of powder cocaine
was penalized as severely as the use of crack rock? Well, we still have our
people behind bars for drug use. Yeah, the “White Man” is there too, but so
what? What benefit does this have for the black community? We don’t have any
less of our people behind bars for substance abuse. Furthermore, what good is a
law that probably won’t be enforced anyway?
Black leader, I know you think you’re doing the best you can, but maybe you
need to redirect your focus. Maybe instead of trying to find others on whom to
place blame for the problems within our communities, we need to look at out
communities themselves. Attack the brutality issue from the inside our; attack
the drug issue from the inside out. And maybe, just maybe, if “The White
Man” sees that we are serious about our purpose; if “he” sees that we
don’t go around killing ourselves and we don’t expect “him” to either;
if “he” sees that we don’t want the drugs in our communities so stop
bringing them, maybe we’ll gain a little more respect.
When we began to rekindle some of the attitudes of togetherness and power that
our ancestors possessed, maybe then we can effectively push a “Black
Agenda.” Until then Black Leaders, I stand convinced that you are misleading
© 2001 Tracy Hunter
© 2001 Howard University.
(First Published in limited print edition, An Anthology of Verse and Prose, by the Composition for Honours Class, Howard University, Spring 2001. Professor E.R. Braithwaite)
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