As I watched the recent Democratic Party presidential candidates debate – if that infact was what passed as a debate – that was held in Nevada I was struck by the fact of the debate’s utter vapidity and chronic tendency to acute boredom. No wonder, I thought, that poll after poll of American public opinion has consistently placed the new Democratic Congress at the bottom of the job-rating heap with an extremely unpopular president, even at his worst, beating the party when it came to job-rating and favorability among the American people.
It was a sterile performance with very few redeeming graces with the only spark of excitement ignited when the male participants got to attacking New York’s Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. At other times all – including the only candidate of color, Senator Barack Obama (I say “color” because I don’t know if he’s a Black candidate) – trumping and following suit and only offering slight variations to each other’s fixed, academic and canned positions.
This lack of diversity in policy issues clearly demonstrated just how invisible and irrelevant that Black people, and Black leadership in particular, has become since the Republicans took over the reins of government. Indeed, the present political situation in America has helped to expose the very sharpness and glaring lack of Black leadership and its utter irrelevancy to the body politic in America today.
And yet there exists a serious dynamic that statistically offers up a curious contradiction in respect to Black leadership in today’s American society. At no time in American history have there been so many Black elected officials at the state, city and federal levels and so many qualified and schooled intellectuals in the public and private academic domains. But equally important as the quantity of debatable Black achievements and numbers is the dismal quality of this “we made it” quantity that is now being produced.
Correspondingly, at no juncture in American history has there been so complete a breakdown of Black society and the ghettoization of the inner city that has spawned in the Black community a privileged middle class plagued by overwhelming levels of conscious and unconscious self-hate as manifested in the distance these “successful Blacks” but between themselves and “the hood.”
It is this new selfish paradigm shift that has helped to define present day Black leadership. That is because today’s Black leadership is the product of a corrupted Black middle class whose outlook discourages, fetters and hinders the development or creation of any high quality political or civic leaders. The end result is that this modern, en vogue newly minted Black middle class from whose ranks the majority of present Black leadership come is a contemporary class construct that is based on a culture of obsessive status and merit and chronic addiction to superficiality in all things.
This Black leadership, no longer hungry and righteously angry at the present dismal state of Black life across the board, has become a tame, accommodating, genteel and compromising force that just wants to “get along” and quickly aligns itself with the dominant racial group in American society when upstart Blacks speak truth to power. So while Black communities retrogress into crime, poverty and hopelessness, with Black families in tatters and living in a kind of pervasive chaos that exists on a day-to-day basis, these Black leaders offer carefully crafted “politically correct” speeches, sport natty Armani suits, and boast about how they are the only “Blacks on the block where white people live.”
Personal accomplishment and achievements, while important, should not be the only standards that today’s Black leaders are measured and judged by. Because this cultural adjustment helps to create a distance from historical Black resistance to injustice, and a progressive ideology based on ethical values and ideals that were the driving forces that underpinned Black political struggle. Without this traditional grounding that was rooted in Black history and culture and its replacement with white “market values” activism there is no principled and courageous struggle for genuine Black advancement. This Black leadership is thus consistently and consciously engaged in accommodations and adjustments with the oppressive, coercive forces in society that collaborate and work against Black social and class interests.