Black America has some issues. That’s stating the problem mildly. Whether it’s the racial wealth gap, voter suppression, single family homes, or health concerns, there are obviously many problems. Although there are many people and organizations addressing these numerous issues I don’t see the main issue being confronted. I see this issue as being the root cause of Black America’s problems. No I don’t see it as White Supremacy though that is an issue. I assert that the root cause is the leadership of Black America. I’ll explain why I make this assertion.
A mistake many people make is not understanding the real social dynamics in the collective Black community. As correctly pointed out by several commentators, Black America is not a monolith. It is really a collective of several subcultures. For the purposes of this article I’ll divide Black America into four general groups. The first group I will label “The Masses.”
The Masses are the everyday, regular Black people. They work, they go home, they watch the ballgame, and they go to church. As a collective their lives don’t go beyond an everyday existence. This is not a negative thing as the masses of any nation or culture don’t aspire much beyond having their basic needs met daily.
One thing with The Masses is that they will adapt to whatever political or economic structure that is set up by the leadership of their nation or culture. This is where Black America has been having the problems. Though there are myriad groups, organizations, and even subcultures that attempt to assert leadership over The Masses there are three primary philosophical groups that vie for control of Black America. For simplicity sake I will label these groups as the Liberals, the Conservatives, and the Nationalists. I will outline the strengths of each group and also the weaknesses that prevent these groups from having a truly positive impact in Black America.
The first group, the Liberals, presently have the most influence in Black America. The basis of the Liberal leadership is a combination of the institutional Black Church, the Civil Rights Establishment, and strong connections to the National Democratic Party apparatus. A real analysis of how these institutions work together to form the Liberal faction of the Black leadership groups requires a more extensive and heavily footnoted research paper. For purposes of this blog I will state that although this one group is the most dominant the reality that Black America collectively has gone backwards as far as true empowerment which suggests that the Liberals have fallen short. One factor to consider is that a major platform of this group is appealing to the dominant group in this country for concessions. The effectiveness of this strategy is very debatable and is a point challenged by the second leadership group.
The second group is the Conservatives. In general the Conservative platform is self-help and not getting concessions from the power structure. A term associated with this group is “pulling oneself up by their bootstraps.” The Conservatives tend to come from Church institutions as well the business community, and a strong connection to the National Republican Party. A weakness with this faction is that they are often seen as aligned with whites who hold negative racial views of Blacks. This viewpoint tends to be promoted by members of the Liberal group.
The third leadership group is the Nationalists or more accurately the Black Nationalists. Whereas the first two groups have strong connections to the political and economic institutions of the dominant culture, the Nationalists at least try to have some level of autonomy by creating their own institutions be it cultural groups, independent schools, spiritual organizations, and businesses. The Nationalist tend be very critical of the first two groups particularly because of these groups’ open cooperation with the dominant culture.
The real issue with these groups is not in their strategies. Despite what their detractors may state each group has viable plans. Their programs have had some impact. That being said, it is my observation that they are not having the impact on The Masses that they could have. The reason I state this is that there is a disconnection between the leadership groups and The Masses.
The problem with the Liberals is that they are the most impactful group. The Masses will follow this group more than any other. The overwhelming support Black America provides to the Democratic Party proves this point. As a result of this support the Liberals have become like the elite in any society. They have become complacent. The Liberals have taken the support of The Masses for granted. Indeed there may be little interaction between the two groups except for fundraisers and elections. I would argue that Liberals are like other elite groups who simply use The Masses to promote their own agendas. Otherwise there is a disconnection between the Liberals and regular folk.
The situation with the Liberals would seem to provide an opening for the Conservative group. It is, however, an opening that the Conservatives have not been able to exploit. There are two primary reasons for this. Though the Liberals behave as any elite they still at least superficially work to fulfill the needs of The Masses. They at least identify with regular folks. As result of The Masses strong identification with liberal causes, Conservatives are seen as outliers. This view is compounded by the seeming Conservative alliance with racist whites. Conservatives have many great ideas especially in terms of self-help and social values but the disconnection issues are tough obstacles to overcome.
The major issue with the Nationalists is a tendency to look down upon any Black person who doesn’t share their socio/political views. To many Nationalists, very few members of The Masses are “woke.” There is a strain of elitism among many Nationalists which make connecting with The Masses very difficult. An example of this would be with the subject of religion. Black Americans are the most Christian group in America. Many Nationalists are not trying to worship at the altar of a white savior. Understandable in many ways but many of The Masses are still going to those churches and eating a ham dinner afterwards. The Nationalists have many great ideas but connecting with the rank and file in Black America is a challenge they would have to overcome.
Everything I shared is brief in its presentation. I shared my thoughts as a means of stimulating a much needed conversation. The bottom line is that the leadership issue must be addressed in order for Black America to truly prosper.
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