…or perhaps they’re merely coming home to roost while our communities are headed to hell in a hand basket. Either way, recent rants from some within the CBC only epitomes the results of decades of blind allegiance by a voting bloc at risk of
…or perhaps they’re merely coming home to roost while our communities are headed to hell in a hand basket. Either way, recent rants from some within the CBC only epitomes the results of decades of blind allegiance by a voting bloc at risk of permanent loss.
If it wasn’t so darn sad and if there weren’t so many lives at stake, I would probably chuckle a little bit at the recent rash of rhetoric coming from U.S. Reps. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) concerning the Tea Party, the President, and the Congressional Black Caucus’ inability to hold the president accountable for their constituents.
The catch-22 that Black Democrats and “friends with friends in high places” promoting race stereotypes in the political arena for over 30 years is a perplexing one. It finds the chickens of their political strategies finally coming home to roost. These political operatives now find themselves living the reality that Black conservatives have been hitting on for years: simply, an entire contingency backing itself into a predictable political corner every election leaves little options for powerful change whenever the chips are down.
It is mildly ironic yet not even that surprising that the first Black president has mostly ignored the whims of the CBC, especially when noting that his first chief of staff so famously blew off the organization with language unbecoming of most mayors (but apparently seen as endearing in Chicago.) Now, many Black Democrats find themselves in an unenviable position: namely, a spot between a rock (wanting and needing to criticize a president for doing not much to address the historic levels of unemployment – and thus crime and plight – in Black America) and a hard place (a Tea Party movement that continues to gain momentum, in many ways by continuing to rail against President Obama politically and personally in ways that often ride the line of impropriety.) That spot forces a choice that could be liberating or deadly. By persisting with the status quo stance of “…loving the president, y’all…” (to quote Mrs. Waters) without any tangible level of public accountability to their constituents (many of whom are facing generation-killing plagues in their community during this Recession), Black Congressmen and other legislators are seen as non-players in the political landscape for changing the negative trends of urban communities. They are also increasingly becoming viewed as vulnerable and disposable incumbents as the 2012 elections approach. By changing course and, in some ways, echoing some of the responses that Black conservatives have heaped on the president since the failed 2009 stimulus package was passed, these vocal CBC members and critical Black progressive leaders risk being lumped in with the very sellouts they have called the “Uncle Toms of political Black America” for some time now.
Yes, there could be a hardy chuckle coming out of all of this. Yet, any Black conservative that takes joy in this moment must grin with a rueful eye to what this actually means. None of this is funny, as the ramifications of all of this has a bearing on how – and if – Black Americans will resurrect our faltering communities to the level of the legacies that our ancestors created.
Black America – from a political standpoint and, thus, from a societal standpoint – has a tough choice to make over the coming days leading up to the 2012 presidential and legislative elections. Simply, we must decide if we collectively choose once again to become relevant political players during this decade in an attempt to save our communities, even if that means criticizing a historic president (or others) whose focus has not given much thought or attention to the pandemic conditions entrenched within Black communities nationally; (and yes, I use “pandemic” because these conditions have the real potential to wipe us collectively off of the face of the earth within 2-3 more generations at this clip.) Being relevant will mean political competition which, in turn, means ignoring the cattle calls to rally behind the old system – some of which were made by Waters and others at a time when they also want to be “unleashed” to actually say something harmful about President Obama’s record. Instead, we must take a new approach to debating and voting the issues in order to make all sides – from the Tea Party to Mrs. Waters and Mr. Obama – accountable to actual results. With all apologies to Congressman Allen West’s notion of leading people off of the 21st century plantation, it will require the political courage and societal love to walk away from broken models and, by leaving the past behind and embracing the future, implement new models for leveraging and harnessing actual political and civic power quickly and effectively.
However, that is going to take a level of focus that ignores the constant barrage of vitriol from a group of legislators that are elected to be leaders in the communities they represent, not mere cheerleaders for their friends and for their distorted views of past and current realities in Black America. This group – and much of Black America, for that matter – constantly demands an accounting of Black conservatives’ actual “Blackness” without turning this accountability back on themselves and those they hold dear. The “Black Card” that they seek is one of active work to improve conditions through policies and people, not merely checking to see where one grew up or what one’s political affiliation is.
The anger and hatred coming from both sides of the political aisle over the past several years is now taking root in Black America politically in communities that can ill-afford the status quo or the divisiveness. Somewhere between the infighting between the rich and powerful and the suffering of the oft-forgotten must be a political balance that casts aside rigid partisanship and fosters common goals and viable solutions. It does exist despite the rhetoric, but it will take freed minds and strong hearts politically to take our fragmented lot back to a place where we find goals we can agree upon and work together towards. The name-calling about political plantations or going straight to hell makes headlines but does little to make headway in the communities that need visible, tangible, and effective leadership the most. Truth be told, both groups – Black conservatives and Black Democrats – have not advocated and acted for the liberation of Black people at the levels required to shake free of the death and destruction gripping us today. Now is the time to reverse that trend, just as it is time to examine the best ways to facilitate actual change for life-giving opportunities in our communities as soon as possible – even if that means we have to be a little harder on the architect of the “Hope and Change” campaign of a few years ago or others with thin records on actively addressing Black issues like him.
Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator and community activist. Find him Saturdays with host TJ Holmes and fellow pundit Maria Cardona on “CNN Saturday Morning” at 9:30 AM CDT (10:30 Eastern / 7:30 AM Pacific.) He is the author of “The Obama Era, Part I (2008-2010): Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative).” Follow him at www.twitter.com/lennyhhr, on Facebook at www.tinyurl.com/lennyfacebook , and www.lennymcallister.com.