Black Leadership: When the Clowns Go Marchin' In
Black leadership in America has gone from the pulpit to the pits of entertainment.
After Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, there was a deep void felt within the black community. Dr. King had risen to idol status in the minds of many, as he was the mouthpiece for an entire generation. Even his last name, King, rings of “divine intervention.” With a man lifted so high to be brought so low with bullets splitting his torso, a psychosomatic trauma spread across America. It was an immediate Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for the nation and black people in general.
Who would take on the reins of social justice and political awareness? Who would pick up the mantle and carry the Negro to the “promised land”? To whom did Black America turn for leadership?
Enter James Brown. “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud!”
In August 1968, just four months after King’s assassination, James Brown, the King of Soul, dropped this classic hit that stole the hearts of black Americans across the country. The influence that black pastors once held would now take a backseat to the music and entertainment industry. Black leaders would now spin records and spin on their heads. They would now make us laugh and serenade us with songs and raps. They would now display their athleticism in the ring, football fields, track and field, tennis and basketball courts. They would now believe just because they had a platform of entertainment that they somehow are prompted to speak for “US.”
Listen to the victim monologue from NBA star LeBron James: “No matter how big you can become. No matter how successful you are. No matter what you do in your community. No matter what you do in your profession, being an African-American in America, it’s always tough. And [they] always gonna let you know that you are the ‘N-word’ no matter who you are.”
I guess being worth over $500 million can’t buy you self-esteem. The clown show continues. Comedian/actor Ricky Smiley said recently, “[They] did a study on rats and when they gave rats food, the rats got along. When they took food away, the rats turned on each other. This is what systematic racism does to blacks.”
Did I hear what I thought I heard? He just compared rats with black people. He is saying when you give black people subsidized food from the government, they hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.” However, if the government were to end food-stamp distribution, then it would force black people to turn on each other in savage violence. What? Is it me, or does this sound like one of the most racially offensive stereotypes ever? He can make us laugh, so he has to be a voice for the people, right?
Malcolm X had something to say about all these “black leaders” even in his day. He could not understand how these celebrities suddenly were the torch carriers for black people: “These leaders that they call leaders included Lena Horne, this included Dick Gregory, this included comedians, comics, trumpet players, baseball players. Show me in the white community where a comedian is a white leader. Show me in the white community where a singer, a dancer, or a trumpet player is a white leader. These aren’t leaders, these are puppets and clowns that have been set up over the black community by the white community and have been made celebrities and usually say exactly what they know that the white man wants to hear.”
The “white community” Malcolm X spoke of were specifically white liberals. He would go on to say, “There are many whites who are trying to solve the problem, but you never see them going under the label of liberals. That white person you see calling himself a liberal is the most dangerous [thing] in the entire Western hemisphere. He’s the most deceitful. He’s like a fox. The fox is always more dangerous in the forest than the wolf. You can see the wolf coming, you know what he is up to; but the fox will fool you. He comes at you with his mouth shaped in such a way that even though you see his teeth you think he’s smiling and take him for a friend.”
Black leadership in America has gone from the pulpit to the pits. From a people who honored God and family to a people who degrade themselves and their brothers and sisters.
I will leave you with this famous quote from a true leader in America. A man who understood leadership, valor, and economic empowerment through vocational trades. He did not play the victim, nor did he make excuses for himself. He looked at the people who looked just like him and pointed out their clown hypocrisy. His name was Booker T. Washington, and he said:
“There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.”