A Letter to Black Leadership

Why have you forsaken us? We have always stood beside you, and oftentimes we stood in front of you, willing to die if necessary, to protect and defend you against our enemies. Despite all of the sacrifices we have made on your behalf and all of the support we have provided to your efforts, you have forsaken us. You have abandoned us; you have relinquished your role as authentic leaders and opted for a watered-down, tepid, caricature of Black leadership that continuously succumbs to a white dominant society. Instead of standing up and speaking what we love to call “truth to power,” you cower in the face of adversity; instead of refusing to be bought, you eagerly cut selfish deals that only maintain status quo which, for Black people, is a prescription for failure rather than success.

In our name you have accepted subordination, a “less than” description of our people; you have abdicated your role as spokesperson and warrior for Black people by allowing others to define you; you have accepted the label of “minority,” a term connoting deficiency; you even promote diversity and multiculturalism, but only from without rather than within our race. You advise us that we must help everyone else, but you fail to lead us toward self-empowerment.

What a tragic concept it is to believe that Black people, who have absolutely no collective power, should engage in the struggles of other people prior to winning our own battle. Even sadder is the fact that you, Black leadership, couch these kinds of issues in terms of love and hate, and sometimes you even fall for the canard of “Black racism” or “reverse discrimination.”

We are offended by Black politicians who rush to the podium to publicly proclaim “I am not a Black politician; I am a politician who happens to be Black, and I will work for all of the people.” How strange it is that we never hear any other politicians make such a statement. We are insulted by Black leaders who turn their backs on the very ones that elevated them to their lofty perches – Black people.

We are disgraced by Black political leaders who have sold out, settled, and succumbed to what noted sociologist, Max Weber, described as living “off” politics rather than living “for” politics. Weber contends, “He who strives to make politics a permanent source of income lives ‘off’ politics as a vocation, whereas he who does not do this lives ‘for’ politics.” Why have you forsaken us, Black politicians, now that you have been in office for decades and have accumulated wealth for yourself and your families, why have you now abandoned us.

Black intellectuals, why do you lecture us on the economic problems we face in this country but seldom, if ever, build institutions or start initiatives that will solve the problems you decry? Surely you have the intellectual capacity to lead us to higher economic heights, with all of our degrees and oratory skills. Marcus Garvey did it without degrees, but you hold yourselves up as our intellectual leaders, making high-priced speeches before throngs of Black people, and have yet even to come close to what Garvey and others did without the trappings of an ivy-leagued education or professorship. Why have you forsaken us?

Black religious leaders, why have you gone the way of the moneychangers? Your influence is the strongest among Black people, but you misuse it for your own self-aggrandizement, building edifices that showcase your power to persuade Black people to put up and shut up when it comes to our money. You live royally but keep telling us every Sunday, and two or three times during the week, that “somethin’ is about to happen in this place,” “God is gettin’ ready to bless somebody here tonight,” “It’s your season; the anointing is coming.” Why have you forsaken us in exchange for filthy lucre and political glad-handing?

Leaders not only examine issues and point out inherent problems; they also craft solutions to those problems and lead by example. After we have supported, promoted, and even forgiven Black leadership for your missteps and transgressions against us, you have ignored our needs, you have collaborated against our interest, and you have engaged in a flawed analysis of our problems and the solutions thereof.

You have romanticized the concept of Black leadership and reduced it to a hollow ring in the ears of Black people as you accept the broad and ambiguous terms and titles used to describe us – and you, which ignore the value of Blacks and erases the history of Blacks in the U.S.

Your leadership continues to lead us to where we already are, instead of where we must go, and you have failed to understand the effects of this behavior. How is this possible from intelligent Black leadership? Why do you pursue an integration/assimilation strategy that pushes Black people toward the bottom rung of the economic ladder? What sense does it make for you to remain silent in the face of continued mistreatment of your people? Or, are we “your” people?

Why have you forsaken us, Black leadership? Why have you become hypocritical in your actions toward us? Why have you feathered your own nests on the backs of Black people, and at the cost of our blood, sweat, and tears? Why have you not provided real solutions to our problems, not just in words, but also in deeds? Is it because you cannot do it? Is your lack of action due to your unwillingness to sacrifice anything for your people? Are you reluctant to do what DuBois asked of you when he devised his Talented Tenth?

We don’t know what your answer is, but we do know that we are tired. We do know that we must have a new brand of Black leadership. No longer can we afford to wait for you to deliver the goods for us. We have waited long enough and we must move on now.

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