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Falling For A Double-Reverse

If we receive another e-mail from a civil rights organization, think tank or interest group informing us of how critical it is to "stop" President-elect George W. Bush, or else the Black community will fall into the abyss, we don't know what we are going to do (smile). Seriously, we have grown a bit weary of the non-stop reactionary approach to dealing with the American political establishment. It became more obvious this year, to us, more so than in years past, that Black civil rights leaders and most of the Black political establishment have no firm agenda whatsoever, and if they do, it always seems to take a back seat to the flavor…uh, we mean issue of the month.

In just the last 8 months we have seen Black leadership alternate between reparations, police brutality, racial profiling, voting rights violations and Gov. George W. Bush's cabinet nominations as its most important issues. It is as if a mental or emotional collapse would occur if it were agreed that all of these issues should be simultaneously advocated in a collective effort by Black leadership, in the short and long-term.

All it takes is the perception that the American political establishment (read Republican Party) has done something offensive to Blacks and it seems that the civil rights establishment and almost all Black elected officials, on cue, drop whatever they were working on and rush to that one issue, without even properly dividing the labor among them.

This approach to leadership where Rainbow Push, the NAACP, Urban League, SCLC, The National Action Network and Congressional Black Caucus all lead black people in the direction of one issue at a time reminds me of a football team's defense that gets faked out by a double reverse play where one player on the opposing team's offense is given the ball and runs laterally in one direction of the football field and then at the last minute hands the ball to a teammate who takes the ball in the total opposite direction of the football field.If the play works properly, the defense misses the hand-off and is caught running after a player on the offense who no longer has the football in his hands. The player who does have the football is free to run the ball all of the way into the end zone, unopposed.

We see the example of the double-reverse playing itself out at this very moment as the Black leadership is caught in an emotional and political time-warp, still stinging from the loss in Florida but without a clue as to what its collective agenda should be for the next 2,4 or even 8 years. And like that football player who the defense is unaware is carrying the ball into the end-zone, the white political establishment: moderate and conservative Democrats and Republicans are formulating their political agenda for the 107th congress while Black leaders are still chasing after the results of the Florida election.

Even their supposed white team mates have revealed they forgot about the all-for-one team concept by throwing in the towel on Black voting rights issues in Florida, long before Al Gore conceded.

So we hear a lot of anger over the results of the election and the disenfranchisement that Blacks believe they suffered but we don't hear a coherent strategy that addresses the problem in the short-term and which guarantees that such a problem will never happen again.

But is the Florida election and the Bush nominations all that are going on? Have we perhaps taken our eyes off of the prize in order to release some short-term anger?

But anger is not an agenda.

And if the leadership is given to their anger, over an agenda, then the interests of the Black community will never be given voice as offense after offense keeps the emotional roller coaster rolling.

All a white politician has to do to get Black leadership off of its game plan is let it leak out that they once spoke in flattering terms about the Confederacy or that they once got an award from a university that teaches some form of white supremacy or that once every 3 months they speak at all-white country club gatherings. Do that, and presto: the double reverse takes place.Black leaders chase after cultural offenses and political fights that may already be over while the accused white racist politician remains in power and executes an agenda.

At the end of the day, the white politician remains in power and the discussion has moved away from issues and toward hurt feelings.

And so it is today.

We hear no unified talk about economics, fiscal and monetary policies that will pull 1/3 of Black America out of poverty. We hear no collective discussion of what US foreign policy should be toward Africa or what Black America's position should be on the Middle East conflict. We hear nothing on whether welfare reform is helping or hurting the Black community. We hear next-to-nothing on what Black leaders, collectively, are going to do to address the problem of the millions of Black men and women who are in prison or under the supervision of the criminal justice system. And we hear nothing about a unified approach in determining the role that the Black community's strongest pillar, the Black church, should play in the US government's community development efforts

And although we hear the words, "police brutality/racial profiling", "voting rights violations", and "reparations" we see little long-range planning being performed that is designed to develop these catch-phrases into a full-fledged political agenda that can be presented before the US Congress and state and local legislatures.

We are certain that Black leaders like everyone else can chew bubble gum and walk at the same time, politically speaking.

We just would like to see them, for once, demonstrate that they can do so for protracted periods of time.

The political fortunes of an entire community are depending upon it.

Cedric Muhammad

Monday, January 8, 2001

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