If speaking up for the little guy in the community is nothing but talk, it’s hardly any wonder that no one listens much to the community anymore regardless of how loud we are.

If speaking up for the little guy in the community is nothing but talk, it’s hardly any wonder that no one listens much to the community anymore regardless of how loud we are.

We are at a major crossroads right now in Black America. I’m not telling you something new, though.

However, what I am saying to you today is, simply, that each time we look at the road signs, they only indicate that the outlook is worse for our communities, not better.

Perhaps it is due to the slipping grasp on moral authority that we have in our communities. So often, we hearken back to the words of the past, listening to stories of when people stood up for what’s right and be damned the influences of money, status, or perception. We often tell our young people of today – those “wretched” children of the droopy pants and high dropout rates – of times when Black people gathered together to make decisions to put lives on the right course, even if that meant death or the end of the present way of life. We brag of times where people led and the community – from the youngest and weakest to the elders and established members – benefited as a result.

Yet now, we live through times where the best way to maintain receiving benefits or bounties from the entities of this world is to maintain status quo. Civic leaders and comic relief alike compete to see who might be next to appear next to Snooki and the cast of Jersey Shore. Speaking up has become so much more about shout outs and “representin’” instead of being about speaking out for the rights of others and representing the legacy of our people and our past.

In times of lore, we complained about justice having a price tag on it for White men in purchased jury boxes. Today, we accept that only those with the right credit cards and bank accounts have access to justice – or its evil cousin, political correctness.

Black America rose up from slavery, Jim Crow, and blatant discrimination because of our willingness to do what was right and speak up for justice wherever it was needed and whenever necessary. Dr. King said it best from a jail in Alabama: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It is a phrase we throw around during the third Monday in January and the whole month of February but refuse to allow to penetrate our hearts and minds – let alone our actions – any other time of the year. Being proud to be Black and being proud of our civil rights legacy sadly have about the same amount of significance within much of Black America as does being politically correct and being “in the know.” Before, being just and doing what was right was being “in the know.” Now? Perhaps it’s simply more about who you know.

And that’s one of the major problems within our communities today. There is no feasible, tangible, or legitimate way for the Black community to pull itself up out of the doldrums of under-education, high incarceration, and tragic mortality rates without the moral authority and mental and spiritual focus to stand up for the right things in life instead of not trying to rock the boat due to friendships or partnerships, even if those relationships are in any state of misalignment with the truth.  No movement to radically end the violence engulfing our youth would have the love, desire, or self-sacrifice needed to make a difference if the ability to stand up in smaller battles for the common good is met with the same status quo style of justice by way of classism that we have complained about concerning the racial divide in America for decades on end. And let’s be fair – why should it? Leaders in prior days put their lives on the line because they knew that their love for the people and for justice was met with support and the common understanding that some things are more important than secular regards. Today, the question – based on our actions, not our words – is begged: what do we really love? Do we love money more than we love justice? Do we love affiliation more than we love ensuring the associations we have are forthright? Do we love upholding the legacy or merely flashing it around like someone would do with an old picture of one with an old girlfriend that they dated some 30 years ago that ended up being Miss America, acting as if the faded memory is as valid as something in place today?

Tragically, this trend is not about one person or one situation. It is par for the course of life that we as a people (and frankly, not just Black people, but Americans overall) have decided to take on collectively. For Black folks, however, it is specifically both troubling and dangerous as we do not have the leeway for living without values and veering away from those things that allowed us to be strong in the face of adversity; (ironically, America sits on the cusp of not having much leeway anymore, either, between the debt ceiling and our slip in the major rankings of the world.) Collectively, we cannot turn our youth away towards what is right if we are persistently unwilling to make the tough decisions for the sake of what’s right. Collectively, we cannot call for justice at the mountaintop if we are not to tolerate injustice in the valley. Collectively, we cannot call for justice for those attempting to break through the glass ceilings of America if we refuse to speak up for those trying to get their way out of the basements throughout America. The definition of justice has become too optional and fluid within Black America at a time when the only thing that will save Black America from racism and itself is moral constitution without waving based on circumstances or inconvenience. Civil rights in our land has become too much of an issue of civil “well…it depends…” in today’s nation and within our communities.

It is time to find out how much we truly do love our legacy and our future. Every big man was once a little guy, regardless of how big they may be now. If we are not willing to return to our roots – the foundation that gave us that acknowledgement so many years ago – by the time the big men die off or are neutralized, there will be no more little guys to pick up the slack to progress Black America in the very near future.

Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator and the host of “Launching Chicago with Lenny McAllister.” 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 upcoming edition of the book, “The Obama Era, Part I (2008-2010): Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative).” Follow him at http://www.twitter.com/lennyhhr,on Facebook at http://www.tinyurl.com/lennyfacebook , and www.lennymcallister.com .

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