When I heard that Rev. Al Sharpton and the usual gang of misguided black leaders were assembling for yet another March in the nation’s Capital, I could do little more than chuckle. I simply cannot understand how veteran Civil Rights activists fail to realize that although marches are a reliable means of drawing attention to the pervasive problems facing Black America, they are an ineffective strategy when it comes to ameliorating these centuries-old issues.
The irony that contemporary Civil Rights leaders are still relying upon old protest tactics on the eve of the National Holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is shocking. It appears that today’s black leaders such as the NAACP’s Cornell William Brooks who has vowed to “march until hell freezes over, and when it does, we will march on the ice,” have failed to learn much from either our struggle for racial equality or the legacy of Dr. King.
For example, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated that the Civil Rights Movement has two increasingly difficult stages. The initial stage was the securing of equality on American law books, a task that most historians and political scientist agree occurred when President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Right Act. Dr. King warned the entire nation that although whites would be overly emotional in their resistance to the theoretical equality that Johnson’s legislative addendums secured, they must remain vigilant in regards to the struggle for racial equality because the job was not even half-way done after either the 1965 or 1968 Voting Rights Acts. According to King, the most challenging aspect of the struggle for racial equality would be the moment that African-Americans attempted to exercise the above theoretical equality. According to Dr. King, Negroes must enter white educational institutions (as students, teachers, and administrators), jobs (as laborers and bosses), neighborhoods, and political offices as equals before we can begin to celebrate any triumph over racism. Dr. King went to his grave knowing that America had never attempted to accomplish this crucial second stage.
The most bewildering thing about Civil Rights leaders such as Al Sharpton is that they have learned nothing about how groups address their political and socioeconomic grievances in America. Now please do not think that I am insinuating that public protests have no role in the expressing of grievances because they certainly do. However, this antiquated protest activity is only a half-step toward ameliorating the many issues facing Black America. The failure to recognize the limited impact of public protests is a gross dereliction of leadership duties for national level Civil Rights leaders.
In this space, I have repeatedly echoed two points that our beloved brother Malcolm X stated regarding the path that our people must travel if they are serious about their liberation. Ironically, neither way is contingent upon the cooperation of rival groups. The alluded to statements that our dear brother Malcolm X stated are as follows:
- “The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
- We must “wake up, clean up, and stand up!”
It is intra-racially that our most significant progress against political marginality and economic tenuousness will be made. Instead of adopting such a reasonable path, black leaders such as Sharpton and Brooks are guiding the membership base of their national level organizations to spend inordinate amounts of time and precious resources, not to mention the wearing out of tons of shoe leather, shouting at white political elites slogans that amount to little more than “don’t you have a conscious? Look at how you are doing us. We only want you to like us and do right by us.” Such pleadings are not only embarrassing to self-respecting African-Americans but also fall short of being a significant political statement.
So as figures such as Cornell William Brooks execute bird-brained plans to “march until hell freezes over, and when it does, we will march on the ice,” the world will continue to look on with amused contempt and pity at a black leadership cadre whose failure to learn anything from its past struggles has doomed it to be woefully inept at developing and executing a plan to address any of the politico-economic issues facing Black America in the twenty-first century.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017.