There is no other way for me to say this; I have tired of dignified black leaders. To be honest with you my list of dignified leaders that I have tired of reads like a who’s who of the modern Civil Rights Movement. This list of far too dignified black leaders includes the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson, John Lewis, Barack Obama, and after allowing Donald Trump to bring his vaudeville show to their environs with minimal interference, I must include every purported black leader within the state of Mississippi.
Although many consider the respectability politics that serve as a thin-veil over what any courageous people would recognize as cowardice, there is no doubt that today’s black leaders routinely seek an escape route from political fights and cultural wars. When examined in its totality, black leaders avoid direct public conflict with whites “by any means necessary.” However, even a cursory examination of recent history proves that it is only black leaders who are devoted cowards.
I am confident that you remember the blatant disrespect that President Barack Obama routinely experienced at the hand of whites behaving as if they were raised by wolves. Let us not forget that such treatment aimed at black men possessing some semblance of power as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., suffered similar treatment on a routine basis, not even MLK’s application of a forgiving and long-suffering Christian ethos protected him from white bigots.
Although I am certain that this determination to not address whites in the midst of their most inappropriate moments may have begun as an attempt for black leaders to “not show their color.” However, after watching this sordid saga occur to black leaders throughout this nation’s existence, such avoidance of conflict has transitioned from an act to remain above the public moments of disrespect into the realm of cowardice; one can rest assured that angry whites recognize this fact. One has to wonder if none of these black leaders are capable of channeling the spirit of Frederick Douglass who courageously advised our kind that “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.”
The latest moment of white folk disrespecting not only contemporary Black America but also our ancestors who miraculously were able to “make a way out of no way” is the appearance of Donald Trump in Jackson, Mississippi, to deliver a speech at the new Civil Rights Museum. Now I fully understand that it was Mississippi’s Republican Governor Phil Bryant who extended the invitation and there was little that the black community could do about Trump’s appearance. However, one has to wonder why none of the leading Civil Rights leaders in that city, let us not forget that Jackson, Mississippi, the location of the Museum, has an African-American mayor, did not use their political clout to deliver a message inside of that venue in Trump’s presence?
Make no mistake about it, moments such as this one are wasted opportunities to strike a blow for black liberation that would make both our ancestors and future generations of Black America proud. It is time that black leaders abandon their respectability politics and begin channeling the spirit of Malcolm X who admonished Black America over a half-century ago that they “make it hard on themselves when they go around that white man with those sweet words. No! Tell that man exactly how you feel.”
Instead of taking the fight to a figure like Trump who has spent his entire life opposing Civil Rights and one could argue the right for black people to exist on planet Earth with even a modicum of dignity, black leaders adorn themselves with a cloak of cowardice also known as ‘respectability politics’ and rationalize that this is not a good time to address racial matters in the presence of whites. I am here to tell you that there is no better time to address those whites who routinely execute devious plans and public statements that rally a bigoted base to double-down on their attacks on Black America than the present. It angers me that white bigots and the conservative Sambos that dance to their tune never measure if the time is right to demean, disrespect, and exterminate our kind.
It is this failure to take the fight to these avowed enemies, meaning white conservatives and their black Sambo lackeys, at every turn that causes me to express my righteous indignation at the black demonstrators who stood outside of the venue protesting, a location that guaranteed that they could be easily ignored, and Derrick Johnson, the head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Chokwe Lumumba, the Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, and Myrie Evers, the wife of Civil Rights stalwart Medgar Evers.
I have no problem with saying that each of these figures displayed copious amounts of cowardice that they couched in typical respectability politics. Johnson and Lumumba were not even on location, choosing to have a “news conference” a safe distance away from where the action was occurring. While Myrlie Evers was inside of the room listening to Trump fumble and stumble through a prepared 10-minute speech that amounted to absolutely nothing.
It appears that black folk in general, and our so-called leaders in particular, are afraid of “white folk power.” One thing is certain, if the tables were turned, there is not a single racial/ethnic group in America — white, Jewish, Japanese, Mexican, or Chinese — who would have behaved like good little children while an African-American President who demeaned their kind at every turn appeared to address them about matters that his entire being and financial resources have been used to oppose.
It is befuddling that the most significant resistance that Black Mississippi could muster was a statement from Myrlie Evers who broke an earlier promise to directly address Trump in her comments by offering the following. “Regardless of race, creed or color, we are all Americans. … If Mississippi can rise to the occasion, then the rest of the country should be able to do the same thing.”
Anyone interested in the liberation of black folk has to be left scratching their heads at the antics of so-called black leaders. Where is their anger? Where is the impulse to attack this enemy at every turn? Judging by the actions of our leaders we have not had our fill of white oppression yet. Now what it will take to get us to that point; only the Lord knows. At least we didn’t “show our color” on national television.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017