We’re coming up on an election year and with all the talk about candidates already, there are some offices not getting nearly enough discussion time. Aren’t we about due for a crop of new black leaders? Seriously, I’m tired of our current spokesmen.

Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, these keepers of the flame, are too transparent for words. Of course they came trotting out when the Don Imus mess gained some traction. We know who they are and what agenda drives them: attention-seeking politicians striving for the perception of relevance. They are the equivalent of ambulance chasers, picking the pockets of all involved as they run from whatever controversy the two start or fan, before they move on, whether or not the actual conflict has been resolved. They are a Civil Rights protection racket.

Traditional “black leadership” has had to come up through the civil rights machinery. Which means they’ve clung to the same tactics, trying to fight the same battles, with little adaptation to new issues. The good reverends have appointed themselves as gatekeepers for new leaders to come up, giving and withholding their blessing as they see fit. However, besides lining their own pockets, what has their leadership produced?

Don Imus being fired wasn’t a win (actually, I think of this much like Bobby Knight in Indiana University. He had pulled so many stunts in his history, so that it wasn’t so much his last stunt which got him canned, which wasn’t that bad–especially for Knight–but it was more like the culmination of his acts). Sponsors pulling out was the only reason Imus got fired. Don Imus isn’t defining anyone. His opinions don’t affect my self-esteem. How many of “us” were in his demo audience to begin with? In fact, I wouldn’t have heard about it except for people bombarding me with how I ought to be offended. Had there been true outrage, it wouldn’t have taken so long for him to be suspended, much less fired. As the advertisers went, so did he.

And that still leaves our black spokesmen with an uncomfortable elephant in the room. Drugs, crime, education, teen pregnancy – we can’t exactly march on those problems. There isn’t a convenient enemy nor an easily solution, but these are the hurdles we, as a community, currently have to clear. They aren’t sexy problems, only the most relevant.

Of course, all this assumes we actually need a spokesman. For that matter, it assumes that we speak as a united block. We don’t and we aren’t. At one time, we needed voices because we weren’t being heard. Now we can be heard. We don’t need the good Reverends, not in their spokesman roles. In my less cynical moments, I assume both men have done a lot of good. Some of it behind the scenes and they simply use their higher profile to draw attention to certain problems. However, perception is king and racism is their industry. Considering the problems they seem to draw the media to, it seems like they have more of a stake in racism continuing. I’m all for fighting injustice where you see it, just don’t solely fight for opportunities for legitimacy and relevance.


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