I must admit I have been pondering this question for sometime now. And, this latest news with Rev. Jesse Jackson vs. Dan Gilbert has just made this question an even more necessary one to ask. But, even before I began dissecting this question as well as the details regarding the Rev. Jackson's recent comments about Lebron James jilted lover Cleveland Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert. I want to assure you that I am well aware that even amidst the progress that we as African Americans have experience over the past 40yrs since Dr. King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech, that racism and inequality still exist in this country. Even though we have now realized a dream of having the 1st African American President of the United State in the White House, racism and discrimination is definitely not a thing of the past. So, let's be clear in spite of our progress the problem of racism and discrimination still exist, which is not the centerpiece of this debate. But, whether these two gentlemen photographed at the top should continue being the spokesman for Black America. I say there time has come and gone.
Here's why; first of all I believe they are misrepresenting the life and legacy of leader's like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and others of the Civil Rights Movement, who marched, fought and died for far more than the mistreatment of a spoiled black millionaire (Lebron James circa 2010). The Movement of the 1960's was about addressing the severe inequalities that blacks faced at the lowest levels. Blacks in the 1960's marched for Voting Rights, Civil Rights, Fair Housing, Equality in Working Conditions just to name a few. This movement was about making sure black people had an equal and fair opportunity to get a good education, get a decent job, eat at any lunch counter they choose, buy a car, buy a house and have a family in this country we have all come to call home. The Civil Rights Leaders of the 1960's called on the federal government to be true to what you said on paper; to make true the writings of the Founding Fathers of this country that wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Essentially, the goals during those times were more genuine and substantive than what we are seeing demonstrated in this day and time. And the question becomes has Rev. Al Sharpton & Rev. Jesse Jackson outlived their usefulness in the Black community, and should there be two new representatives from our community selected to lead this fight for equality further?
The answer is very clear, it is time to pass the mantle to a new generation of black leaders that will carry this fight for equality further with more wisdom, and prudence than the two that are currently serving us. Their constant intrusion in the news under the guise of racism is ludicrous and they are becoming more of a liability rather an asset to the credibility of the cause of equality for Black America. The credibility of our cause is continuing to diminish the more there name is evoked in the media and in the news. Every time you hear the name Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson you don't hear the same cheers Dr. King received when he championed the cause of Civil Rights in the 60's, but you hear a resounding chorus of boos from the very same people these men claim to be helping. Why, because it always seems like it is more about them rather than the matter at hand. They consider themselves "Civil Rights Celebrities" of "Glorified Finger Pointers" as photographed above, who insert themselves in newsworthy events to bring more attention and media scrutiny to themselves rather than the people they are suppose to be helping. And, what ends up happening is that they do more harm than good, because the credibility of our cause is sacrificed each time these "Civil Rights Celebrities" pose in front of the cameras, speak to the media, all in the name of Equality for Black Folks. Give me a break!
What contributes to the diminished credibility of our cause is the news stories they choose to attached themselves to. They always seem to pick a news story that has garnered the attention of a large segment of society to insert themselves into. I wonder do they consult the Neilson TV ratings before they take on a new civil right cause? Which makes the latest episode in the Lebron James saga a cornacupia of media attention for the venerable Rev. Jackson. Here, Rev Jackson is comparing the open letter Cav's Owner Dan Gilbert wrote about former employee Lebron James to the musings of a slave master and a runaway slave. Jackson believes that Dan Gilbert's comments about James being a narasscist was racist and compared Gilbert to a slave owner who just loss his slave. Lebron James a slave! That is utterly ridiculous. Forget how Lebron James handled and mishandled the media spotlight. Forget the fact the Lebron James did not have the business acumen nor the decency to call his former boss and at least inform him of his decision before he let the 10 million viewers know that watched that nonsense on ESPN. But, Rev Jackson wants to check Mr. Gilbert's behavior because of the appearance of racism, but what about Lebron James lack of maturity in handling this business decision. I believe it goes both ways. For too long, Rev Al & Rev Jackson have served as the voice of Black America to White America on matters of race, equality and civil rights. And, what has happened is there presence in matters of no racial consequence contributes to the negative perception that some whites have of blacks. Especially, when it is always the behavior of White America that is constantly being checked and called into question, but black folks behavior goes unnoticed or ignored. It always seems like we are given a "free pass" and its everybody else's fault but ours. But, when are we going to step up and take responsibilty for the mistakes that we've made as a community? When are these men going to challenge the negative images and perceptions that our own people have projected upon themselves? When are these men going to challenge BET (Black Exploitation Television) for contributing to the negative sterotypes of Black America? When are they going to reprimand the vitriol and venomous black rappers who promote violence, promiscuity, drug abuse and alcoholism to the young impressionable youth of Black America?
Inasmuch as these two men have not engage the Hip Hop Community to straighten up their antics or to challenge the CEO's of networks like BET to clean up their networks and make them more reflective of the African American community, we do not need them representing or mis-representing our cause. The question then becomes who will champion our cause. Who will be the leaders of the 21st Century that will continue the legacy and the movement that Dr. King lead so dillgently and faithfully in the 1960's? Who will rise to the occassion and challenge our people to transcend the sterotypes of ourselves that we see in videos, magazines & movies? Who will not only hold White America accountable for their actions, but Black America as well? We must be accountable to one another, because as Dr. King so eloquently put it, "our destines are inextricably bound to one another."
So, make no mistake about it we are not just critizing Rev Jackson & Rev Al for the misrepresentation of the plight of Black America in the 21st Century, but we are also challenging this generation of leaders to step up and be the real torch bearers of our cause. I appluad the efforts of men like Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, Benjamin Jealous (NAACP), Marc Morial (Urban League), Tavis Smiley (PBS), Roland Martin (CNN) and people of like passion who are holding both White & Black America accountable for reprehensible and inconscionable behavior and offering realistic solutions concering the race problem in this country. But, as we peruse the black leaders of our society today, who do you think are some of the candidates with the greatest potential to do what we've outlined above? Who can we look to, to properly articulate our cause? Or maybe the greater question is, is the next leader of the Black Community reading this blog? I hope so! It's time for the black youth of our community to be leaders and not followers.
One such young man is Jonathon McCoy who I had the pleasure of meeting a few months ago at our GGT Pastor's & Church Leaders Conference. You may remember this young inasmuch as he was the same young man that delivered a speech promoting the removal of the N*** word from our vocabulary. This speech receieved national acclaim and he was featured on CNN as well other new networks talking about his campaign to remove this negative word from the vocabulary of Black America. Here's a clip from his story on CNN.
In closing I want to leave you with the a brief clip from another notable contemporary who I believe is representing our community in a extraordinary way. A man who I believe is still the embodiment of the movement of the 1960's, but is also engaging the Black community and more importantly the youth of today to pick up the mantle of leadership and run with it. Ladies & Gentleman, Dr. Cornel West!