The intriguing commentary by guest writer Leutisha Stills at Black Commentary made some very interesting observations about Tavis Smiley's State of the Black Union and the people supporting it. The SOTBU should be more accurately titled State of the Liberal Black Union. The speakers are overwhelmingly the leftist political types. Black folk are yearning to be free but we just can't get it together. We have become famous for our talking heads and unproductive hands. Smiley's traveling road show is only a symptom of the deeper ills of identity and purpose plaguing the black community.
Tavis has a great idea but it only panders to the weakness of our community rather than challenging it to move beyond benign victimization.
What I have observed is that black people are much too personality oriented. We seem not to be concerned with an issue unless a "notable" personality is attached to it. This leaves us open to exploitation because it simply provides another stage appearance for the "notable". The same situation occurs in the black church. Members of black churches have created a class of religious elites who have in turn created conferences and media portals that do not address the needs of the people in practical ways, but only serve as self promotional vehicles for said notables. If that is what Julianne Malveaux meant when she accused black mega churches of "pimping" the community, then I wholeheartedly agree.
This is why we tend to need a "black leader" or worse yet allow others to appoint leaders for us depending on the exploitable perspective. As mentioned, State of the Black Union disintegrates into a series of one uppances and pot shots and pontificaticatorial posturing that only produce hoots and vigorous hand clapping. Sure they may have articulated the frustrations of black folk, but rhetoric has never solved any of our problems.
The Chicago Sun Times captured the digressive content of the need-for leader disease and the way it is often exploited in Black America.
"As often occurs when Former President Bill Clinton shows up, black folks acted as if he had emancipated the slaves. A huge cheer went up as he reached the open area near Mrs. King's casket, and the crowd gave him a thunderous standing ovation when he approached the dais to speak with his wife, the New York Times reported. Although Clinton gave the most poignant remarks about Coretta, reminding mourners that she was a woman with hopes and dreams and disappointments, he couldn't resist setting his wife up for some adoration. A master at manipulating black folks' emotions, Clinton began his remarks by saying, "I'm honored to be here with my president, and my former presidents."
More evidence occured at the funeral. The "fatherly" rebuke former President Clinton issued to well-to-do blacks residing in Atlanta has produced no action. [There are] "more rich Black folk in this county than anywhere else except Prince George's County in Maryland," he chided kindly. "and so it's time to get about making sure the King Center is properly funded and taken care of." But they still love and cherish Clinton, they just are not going to do what he says.
My point: it took or takes a notable personality to stir Black people into action. But while Clinton's applause from black folk at the funeral was a great swell, the response to his rebuke has been met with silent inaction.
Whites on the other hand seem to be issue oriented. White people will support, give money and be vocal about stopping cats from crossing 1st Avenue at Jones Street if they believe in it. They don't need a "leader" to rally them or have a big name to attract others to the cause. They simply believe in the cause strongly enough to move them into action.
That's why you see more individual whites making a difference whereas, Black America is caught in the morass of mass movement. Smiley would do well to heed the practical approach Stills advocates. Each year the cheering section gets larger and louder while the action committee languishes for lack of proper direction.