Have black Liberals joined, always been part of, playing possum or have completely hijacked the personal responsibility/black excellence train?
Repeated at Harvard’s Black Policy Conference by everyone from Gov. Deval Patrick to former Essence editor Susan Taylor was the need for blacks to be their own solution. This isn’t shocking to hear at a conference for aspiring politicos, journalists, community service workers and “the best and brightest.” These are young people who hope to return to their communities with the skill set to revolutionize them. With high hopes and law degrees, not-so-dissimilar from Barack and Michelle Obama.
The constant critique of some black conservatives are that black Liberals and intellectuals focus too much on racism and neglect or ignore the fact that many are “self-made” individuals who taught their own children excellence, while preaching of victimization. That these leaders believed in and acted out personal betterment while focusing on other issues.
But there was a time that anyone who even did the speakers did were accused of blasphemy, ignoring the historical sin of racism, a separate, yet related problem. Still, there was Taylor spending a good portion of the end of her speech laying into black ministers for not doing more to fight poverty, disease and other issues in their communities, coming a hair short of accusing them of being traitors compared with their politically active predecessors.
(More after the jump)
(Mama Snob has repeatedly called the modern pastors traitors for denying their historical roles as the caretakers being as they are the few blacks who’s livelihoods are completely supplied for by black community. To her and to me, for them to ignore things like HIV/AIDS among black women (and men) and the poverty of rural areas and the inner city, is criminal. What’s your purpose as a model of Christ if you won’t even do “His” work?
But that’s my tangent.)
Still, saying “personal responsibility” is the hot new thing in Blackland, from our president on down. Bill Cosby, imperfect vessel as he is, along with the likes of “love to hate him” intellectual John McWhorter, must be enjoying this shift to their POV. A little less “white man this” and a little more “black folks that.”
For me, as long as it comes from a place of love, a desire for true change and excellence among African Americans, it’s great. I’m for whatever works. Taylor is for voluntarism and mentoring. Patrick is for public service. Bill Cosby is for screaming at anyone who will listen. Taylor reminded me how I need to get back to mentoring, which is another reason why I wanted interns. I don’t understand people who gain knowledge about those “keys” on how to make it in the world and then don’t want to share. For me, there was always a competition that made it hard to get some of my elders to truly help me. In some cases, they seemed more interested in laying me or “keeping that black girl running,” to paraphrase Ralph Ellison, than help me. I don’t get that.
So when I get a question from a high schooler or young college student (and I do get plenty) I always try to answer to the best of my ability. I feel, even at only 31 and still learning myself everyday, it’s my duty that if I have something I have to pass it on. To view each young person as my replacement is crazy, but Taylor did explain how blacks don’t have a system for older politicians and leaders like many whites do, where the retired are absorbed by the private sector with millionaire producing jobs and lobbying posts. She said our elders are recalcitrant to cede power because they honestly have no other place to go. I hadn’t thought about it that way. That Rep. Charles Rangel is sticking around because there’s no place to put him after Congress is over for him.
It made me want to come up with retirement solutions for our aging Civil Rights Class, realizing the issue was retiring in style with honor and some cache (and a check) not slugging it out with their kids and grandkids over power. How some of them would move over like Taylor did with Essence if they knew they’d be OK.
If they knew we’d take care of our own.