Making Results Match Rhetoric
By James Clingman
“Talk is cheap!” “Talkin’ loud and sayin’ nothin’!” Black folks do a lot of talking, rappin,’ espousing, pontificating, and philosophizin’. No matter the subject, we seem to know all about it and are more than willing to get engaged on any topic at hand. God gave us only one mouth, but He gave us two eyes, two nostrils, two ears, and two hands; we should get the hint that talking should not be the dominant of the five senses.
Talking is what we do after using our other four senses. So why is rhetoric so high on our agenda? Why do we hold in such high esteem a speech, for instance, that brings with it no action? Why are we so enthralled with leaders who only talk, albeit very well, but have never established an entity, built a business, or started an initiative related to their rhetoric? Why do we even call these folks “leaders” in the first place? Shouldn’t we at least measure them by the results of their rhetoric?
I am so sick of hearing folks who only whine about our problems and never lift a finger to provide solutions. Loquaciousness is very overrated among Black folks. You can hear it on talk radio, callers and sometimes even by hosts who have little if any information on the topic, talking on and on as though they know everything there is to know about it. Even sadder is the fact that they give out erroneous information that others take and run with, thereby, perpetuating the ignorance of a certain issue among our people. Their favorite thing is to say what others “need” to do or what “we as a people” need to do, all without offering one thing they are willing to do or have done.
I am also tired of seeing Black folks on television (legitimate news journalists not included) who only “talk” about the issues, usually telling us what we already know, and never having done one thing to contribute to our economic uplift. You ask them for a few dollars to help with a cause or to invest in a Black-owned business and you can’t find them with a search warrant. Why are we so enamored with these folks? Is it because it requires no work on our behalf other than to simply sit and listen to what they have to say?
Politics is the best example of this phenomenon among Black people. Ain’t nothing like an arousing, emotional, down-home speech to get us wound up. But if all we get is wound up, and the speaker walks away with thousands of dollars for his or her rhetorical gymnastics, wowing the audience with big words and provocative quotes, what good is it? As LeBron James suggested last year after losing the finals, most of us will wake up tomorrow with the same problems and the same life we had yesterday, namely, rising prices, inflation, foreclosures, unemployment, college loan defaults, and trying to pay for a fill-up in order to get to work or operate our small businesses. He said, we will “have to get back to the real world at some point.” We must demand more from our “leaders” and not let them off the hook so easily.
Another thing we do is call “Town Hall Meetings.” Nothing wrong with that, but it sure would be nice if we owned a Town Hall or two in which to hold our meetings. And let’s not forget about the charlatan preachers and their prosperity gospel that always ends up providing for them but seldom if ever trickles down to those whose dollars enriched them in the first place. Why are we so weak? Why are we so vulnerable to mere rhetoric? Are we so lazy that we simply refuse to research or study to see if what someone says is true? It’s one thing to risk your money; it’s another thing to risk your soul.
The point here is that Black people cannot afford to be drawn into the euphoria of rhetorical nonsense or rhetorical excellence. We must not fall prey to those who only talk a good game but never get into the game. Before you believe, follow, or praise anyone simply because you heard them speak eloquently or share some information, find out what they have done and/or what they are doing. See if they are using their other four senses to initiate, build, or facilitate something of substance rather than just talking about it or telling you what you should do.
Beware of bloviating rhetoricians and sentiment-grabbing, self-absorbed, self-proclaimed know-it-alls. We must have authentic leadership among Black people, not sideline coaches and Monday morning quarterbacks. With all of the rhetoric coming from and to Black folks, we should be much further ahead in this country, that is, if rhetoric alone accomplishes that end. Sadly, it does not and never will. Words without action are just words. Information is only power to those who act upon it. Blackonomics requires action!
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 is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, blackonomics.com