If you’ve ever wondered if there are fewer Black militant voices in the public square today, then you are not alone. My theory about the phenomenon is that young Blacks coming up today would much rather be an American Idol or a first-round draft pick than be the town radical.
Fewer and fewer folks are complaining about the inherent injustice in the systems that surround us; rather, more are wondering whether or not “someone who looks like me” is on the inside.
We think we’ve got it made because we finally figured out how to play the game. We don’t realize that the true master is the one who knows how the game is played. If we knew better, we’d realize the game is being played on us.
At Howard University, where so many of the giants of our militant expression were produced — I’ll mention just two, Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) — I’m told that careerism is the norm, not necessarily activism.
Dr. Clarence Lusane, professor of political science, told me his 19-year-old students are all about plotting their career paths and calculating their 401(k) accounts, and that getting down with the revolution couldn’t be further from their minds. Jay-Z likely has more adherents on campus than the Rev. Al Sharpton.
But who can blame young folks? Look at the landscape. There are literally hundreds of rappers and DJs and entertainment personalities (most of whom I have never even heard of) who are “stacking paper” (an old-fashioned expression for making money) all over Hollyweird. There are even dozens of internet portals and apps devoted to gossip — gossip — about said personalities, and us no-names are eating that stuff up.
During the Democratic presidential campaign, for example, one singer and former stripper who boasts about not only also having been a prostitute but about regularly robbing her drunken customers, was actually given an interview with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). When I was coming up, such details from an ingenue’s past would be grist for a lucrative blackmail scheme.
I’m not trying to shame anyone for choices they made in the past. All of us have done things we came to regret. But the idea a sordid former life is a requisite for status in our community is all kinds of ways crazy.
I am angry that we have come to the place where bourgeois pursuits are now viewed as being superior to service to our people — even sacrificial service.
We have got a whole generation of folks walking around today, in college, entering the job market, with money to spend, who were born after the Million Man March in 1995. “Atonement” and “reconciliation,” who is into that anymore?
And yet, those are the principles of humility and spiritual duty, that we need to defeat the three evils which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. warned us against — racism, poverty and war. On the racism tip, we can hardly look around and not see folks who would be designated as Black, who now self-identify as “biracial.”
I get that. They face colorism-consciousness in the Black community. It often even tears families apart. But those folks now self-segregate themselves away from other Black people, diluting out unity, weakening our solidarity. Going according to those rules, we would have lost the service of some of our greatest, light-skinned leaders, who because of white racism and segregation, might never have served our cause.
So, I’m hoping to see more commitment to the elevation of the masses of our people from the mud of Western Civilization, through unity, and self-determination, and collective work and responsibility and cooperative economics.
We will never change the wicked and corrupt American Capitalist system from inside it, no matter how many of us rise to become even countless CEOs. No. that system will corrupt us and we will prove ourselves useless to our own salvation.
Let’s study and emulate our militant role models. Let’s teach our young to try to be like them. I’m certain we’ll be glad we did.