(ThyBlackMan.com) One of the easiest ways to keep black people enslaved in America is by enslaving our minds. Barred from an adequate education or true sense of history, many of us are wired to love our oppressors more than we love ourselves. Even during Black History Month, you’re quite likely to hear us celebrating assimilation far more than liberation. ”The first black man to play in the major leagues was….,” or “The first black person to attend Harvard University was….” isn’t followed by the fact that going to the major leagues meant leaving behind the negro leagues, or that going to Harvard might mean neglecting our powerful HBCUs.
This doesn’t mean that these achievements don’t deserve recognition, but it means we must be careful. When we talk about what it means to be black and what it means to make history, we must understand the importance of writing our own history instead of having it fed to us. We must also learn to reject the temptation to embrace the subtle Jim Crow of flawed integration and learn to appreciate the sturdy value of self-reliance. Self-reliance, in its various forms, will not only help alleviate the crisis of black unemployment, it will also help us to avert the toxic brainwashing which comes from having descendants of your oppressors controlling your access to media and education.
One place to start might be with the political neutering of Dr. Martin Luther King, who was a radical freedom fighter who has been reduced to a snippet in a McDonald’s commercial. Dr. Cornel West has taken issue with the morphing of Dr. King and is speaking regularly to resurrect the real Dr. King from the spiritual grave. Despite being hit by propaganda of the worst kind (most of those who try to write off Dr. West as worthless aren’t actually listening to his speeches), Cornel West continues with a kind of persistence that has to be admired. If anything were to undermine the legacy of this extraordinary scholar, it would be that the purity of truth is just too much to digest in a world that is built on hurtful and ugly lies.
I meet public figures all the time and most of them are great speakers. But when I listen to Dr. West, I listen even more carefully. Why? Because I know that when he speaks, I am witnessing black history. There isn’t a scholar on the planet as prominent as West saying the things that he is saying right now, and saying them as consistently as he has been for the last 20 years. Long after the Obama era is done and the president and First Lady have retired to Martha’s Vineyard with the rest of the black elite, Dr. West and his disciples will continue speaking for those who do not have a voice. I get a sense that he understands that the persecution he is receiving for not going with the popular program is more built on him “messing things up by talking” than by anyone being able to actually do a point-by-point analysis of the exact words that are coming out of his mouth.
Also, a study of black history will show you that Dr. Cornel West has more in common with Martin Luther King than any prominent black public figure in the world today. Similar to Dr. King, West speaks ferociously about an unconditional love for black people. Most politicians, entertainers and athletes have bought into some kind of post-racial corporate puppet-speak, since many of them feel that talking directly about black people will somehow limit economic opportunities. They also seem to feel that standing up for black people means that you’re playing for the losing team (since too many of us are broke, don’t support our community, and are politically gullible).
Like Dr. King, West speaks regularly against the American military machine, which is being consistently accused of horrendous war crimes. Also, both King and West, raised in the black Baptist tradition, are/were fearless advocates for the poor, and were chastised (even by other black people) for the things they said. When Dr. King died, he was extremely unpopular. This was largely because he was saying many of the things that Cornel West is saying right now.
Of course there are millions of white Americans who respect Dr. Cornel West, but I’ve rarely seen any mainstream public figure of his stature show such a consistent and unapologetic willingness to face the lion’s den on behalf of black American issues. You don’t get this from most of our black politicians, many of whom speak of black people as an afterthought, despite immense suffering taking place as a direct result of state-sponsored policies. Many of these policies continue to expand economic inequality, educational inequality and mass incarceration. What’s unfortunate is that some have told us that these conditions are our own doing, which is a clear manifestation of white supremacist thinking (i.e. White and gay people can ask for help from your government, but if you ask for the same help, then you’re begging for a handout)
I respect Cornel West because he tells the TRUTH. Even more than myself, Dr. West was invited to sit at the table of the black political elite and collect large paychecks at the expense of righteous advocacy for black, brown and poor people. In those meetings behind closed doors that most of us do not get to see, you’re told that it’s a maniacal strategy to speak out for people who don’t seem to even care about themselves. The Democratic Party knows that black people are easily silenced and pacified, and any person who expects black America to ask for more is typically paid off or discredited in some way.
One day, stop for a second and try to see if you can create a moment of truth: Listen to your favorite black political leaders and see how much they speak out for you relative to what they are doing for gay Americans, immigrants and other groups. Are they doing as much for you as they are for everyone else? Are they speaking on your behalf of you as much as they are for everyone else? Do they have as much concern for dying black children in the street as they do when it happens to somebody else? One of the residual effects of Jim Crow is that we have learned to become comfortable with second class citizenship: Black people just don’t matter that much, so we excuse others when they overlook us.
Some of us have been trained, via low collective self-esteem, to make excuses for so-called leaders who ignore black America. We assume they are too busy or that they have better things to do. But what I find so ironic is that the same politicians who make all the time in the world to come and collect African American votes don’t have time to return our calls when we ask them for support in alleviating our suffering. The same rappers who sell the hood experience all around the world for millions don’t have the mandate to use their massive resources to uplift the communities that gave them their street credibility. Athletes can exploit the black urban experience for an NBA infomercial, but are trapped into remaining silent about the traumatic experiences that destroy so many black families today.
The reason public figures get away with this political and economic robbery is because EVEN WE DON’T BELIEVE WE DESERVE THEIR SUPPORT. Maybe it’s time to stop making so many excuses and start seeing things for what they really are. Everyone must be held accountable.
This week, I had the chance to hear Dr. Cornel West speak at St. Sabina church in Chicago about the importance of loving your people, even if others make you feel ashamed for doing so. He speaks on the importance of sharing the truth, no matter what, having integrity in the face of oppression and not selling out to the highest bidder. After you hear this speech, you’ll understand why his words will live long after he is gone. Those who stand with Dr. Cornel West as he speaks for poor, black and brown people are on the right side of history. Racial tyranny cannot prevail.
Staff Writer; Dr. Boyce Watkins