By James Clingman
“Who can I turn to, when nobody needs me? My heart wants to know, and so I must go where destiny leads me.” Listening to an old album by the Temptations, “In a Mellow Mood,” made me think about the political trick-bag Black folks are in now that Barack is on his way out and the focus is on 2016 presidential candidates.
I thought about how Black folks are nowhere in the political conversation, neither on the Democratic nor Republican side. Based on the last mid-term election, after which pundits said the emphasis must now be placed on White men and Hispanic voters, Blacks find ourselves on the outside looking in, asking, “Who can I turn to?”
Politically, Black voters are obsolete – no longer needed, and in some cases, no longer even wanted. Who can we turn to, now that’s over? Terms such as the “middle class,” “minorities,” “LGBT,” and other nebulous classifications do not identify a group of people who have been in this nation since it began, and do not address our needs or our deserved compensation, in some form or another, for the labor and wealth that we generated.
Oh, we are good little boys and girls when it comes carrying the water for the Democrats for the past 80 years or so. We are so docile and compliant as we traipse to the polls every four years to choose from the two persons put in front of us by the real powers in this country. It’s nearly always a case of voting for the lesser of two evils — and sometimes the evil of two lessers. But we continue to rely on a corrupt political system to do right by us.
We are so good at crying in front of statues and on bridges and at gravesites. We are great at listening to rousing speeches that cause us to feel good but never make us go out and “do good” for ourselves. We are so captivated by many of those for whom we vote, and we really believe they will work for us when they get to Washington, rather than work for themselves. Our naiveté is off the charts when it comes to politics, which is now causing us to ask: “Who can we turn to?”
What is our “destiny,” as the words of that song imply? Where is destiny leading us now? Well, here is what Martin Delany said in his book, The Political destiny of the Colored race on the American Continent, “No people can be free who themselves do not constitute an essential part of the ruling element of the country in which they live. The liberty of no man is secure who controls not his own destiny. For people to be free they must necessarily be their own rulers.”
Will we follow Delany’s lesson or will we continue to be swayed by U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who says the vote is “sacred” and is the “most powerful” weapon in a democratic society. Will we follow the likes of the “Five M’s” – Marcus, Medgar, Malcolm, Martin, and Maynard – or will we continue to slobber over many of today’s politicians who have overstayed their time in office and who have not nor will do anything that specifically benefits Black people?
Abraham Maslow said, “If a hammer is the only tool you have, every problem in front of you will look like a nail.” As the new political season gets underway, I reiterate that although we have a trillion other tools, called dollars, the only tool we have relied upon has been the vote. Thus, we now face a political climate that has absolutely no concern for the Black electorate because they already know what we are going to do – and not do.
Hillary is the likely choice for Blacks now, even though she will not commit to issues that directly benefit Black people, just as the ones on the Republican side will not. Unless we organize a critical mass of Black people willing to be politically independent, vote (or refuse to vote) as a bloc, and leverage our dollars against a political system that has no regard for us, we are doomed as a concern in public policy.
Another song on that Temps’ album, our political swansong, says, “What now my love, now that you’ve left me? How can I live through another day? Watching my dreams turn into ashes, and my hopes into bits of clay. Once I could see, once I could feel, now I am numb, I’ve become unreal. What now my love, now that it’s over? I feel the world closing in on me. No one would care, no one would cry if I should live or if I should die.”
Better yet, why don’t we all join in a chorus of “What kind of fool am I”?
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He can be reached through his website, Blackonomics.com.