Wednesday, September 19, 2012

nobody's coming...,

lesterspence | We place too much stock in our leaders. We place too much emphasis on the civil rights movement. We believe too much in the concept of unity. We've increasingly swallowed the koolaid in believing our biggest problem is black culture. We increasingly think that business development, that business logic should be the backbone of any solution we have.

These ideas are politically destructive.

They reduce our capacity for political action. More to the point, these tendencies reduce our ability to take moral responsibility for the practice of democracy. Taking personal responsibility for democracy means making the time and the effort to be aware of current political events. However it also means doing the hard work to figure out contemporary, novel, humane solutions to contemporary problems.

We need to embrace a different set of political ideas in order to devise a new set of political institutions.

The first idea we need to embrace I’ve used as the title of this book—nobody’s coming. We’ve only got ourselves to turn to. Both MLK and Malcolm X are dead and are not coming back to life. There will be no twitter version of the Civil Rights or Black Power Movements.7

The second idea we’ve got to embrace is that while having a black President is something many of us waited our entire lives for, the reality is that whatever responsibility the President has a right to expect from us should be returned. I don’t support the President as much as I support the populations he purports to support. Perhaps we should take responsibility for defending the President against racist attacks, if for no other reason than establishing the legitimacy of non-white citizens to run the country. But as Obama may very well be the closest thing to “our” President that we’ve ever had, his responsibility is to us…not the other way around. Cornel West, Tavis Smiley and a number of other black critics have caught a lot of flack from black elites—Tom Joyner disassociated himself from both West and Smiley after he felt they criticized the President too much—for their critiques. Critique is an important part of democratic practice. Particularly given our love of the dozens we should be much more attentive to the positive power of political critique.

The third idea we’ve got to embrace is the idea that in calling for solutions we need to do more than simply call for “more jobs”. In fact, our entire approach to black labor needs to be rethought given the economy. Similarly we need to rethink the way we talk about, analyze, and prescribe solutions for black families. And we've got to be innovative and creative.

And fourth we’ve got to understand that our attempts to take responsibility have to begin where we are, in our neighborhoods, in our cities and towns, in our states.

In the following pages I dig into various aspects of black politics, as an attempt to begin an honest conversation about what a 21st Century black politics should look like. How should we deal with the fact that an increasing number of black families are headed by single mothers? How can we use tragic events like the Trayvon Martin case to spur our political imagination? Given our high rates of unemployment, is there a way to rethink the role labor should play in our communities? What are we to do with the nigga? And because I not only approach this condition from the standpoint of a social scientist, but also from the standpoint of a victim (I’ve been foreclosed on, I’ve had my car repossessed, I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety), I combine my skills as a social scientist with my experience living in the world. In these pages you will most definitely not read me blame our circumstances on our lack of culture, on the fact that we’re not like [INSERT ETHNIC GROUP HERE], and on the fact that we don’t have enough black businesses. What instead you’ll find is a love of black people, and a deep appreciation for politics, for political action, and for the political imagination.

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