Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Crisis of Black Leadership Revisited: When Will you Niggas Learn?

Monica Conyers, Kwame Kilpatrick, Marion Barry, Bill Campbell, Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick, Alcee Hastings, Black Church Leaders, The Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP, NAN, etc. What do these people and agencies have in common? They are the beneficiaries of an unwritten code of racial solidarity that compels black people as a collective to continue supporting them - no matter how fundamentally deficient they are when it comes to leadership. Each person and organization I mentioned has had some critical lapse in judgement that has impeded their ability to function competently in the position to which they have been elected, hired to perform, or elevated. This list is simply a sampling of this weeks headlines; it is not intended to be an exhaustive list because that would require 3-4 lengthy posts of simply listing names and their offenses. This post will focus on simply asking questions in an attempt to comprehend why black folks are so easily given to foolishness.

A while back I wrote a post extrapolating Harold Cruse's "The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual" and its relevance to the crisis in leadership of the black church. Of course I had to get off message because at the time I wrote the post, Kwame Kilpatrick, the former mayor of Detroit, MI was being indicted for his role in a text-sex message scandal that ultimately resulted in his conviction and brief incarceration. He was a second term mayor who was reelected despite his major lapses in judgement and apparent corruption during his first term. Detroit residents were chided by Kwame's mother, Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick for letting people [media and political opponents] "talk about Ya'lls boy". It was an impassioned appeal and rebuke to Detroit residents which ended up becoming a viral video hit on Youtube. Pastors from all over Detroit joined Kwame's team and "held him up in paryer" despite the city losing millions of dollars, thousands of jobs, and more importantly state and federal credibility. Detroit's infrastructure continued to crumble, crime worsened, DPS had a graduation rate of 25% for high school seniors, and many homes went into foreclosure. People still chose to support Kwame.

Act II, Scene I. Enters Monica Conyers, wife of Congressman John Conyers and former City Council President for the city of Detroit. She becomes another youtube star by embarrassing herself and her city by engaging in childish name calling with then and current president of the City Council Ken Cokerel, by calling him Shrek. When confronted by a 13 year old girl about the inappropriate nature of her behavior, Monica argues with the girl and becomes a youtube legend one again. It didn't stop there though. Monica was also having her pockets lined with cash from vendors attempting to do business with the city. Monica sold her integrity (term used here loosely) and her political future (she was jockeying to become mayor) for the equivalent of a "2-piece and a biscuit" with no sides or even a beverage! At least she pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery, resigned her position on the council, and has been keeping a low profile. However, it is extremely important to keep in mind that Monica was also twice elected by the voting populace in Detroit.

I could go into the shenanigans of the other people I mentioned, but that would make this post extraordinarily long and probably very boring. However, I would like to turn attention to the quintessential political Phoenix himself, Marion Barry. Marion Barry wasn't always a crack smoking, womanizing, hypocritical, chauvanist. At one point he use to wear the moniker of community activist and organizer for the Student Non-Violnce Coordination Committee (SNCC). His early years were marked by being a member of the generation that helped the Civil Rights movment propel forward. Later, he would become a voice for the poor, margianalized, and forgotten people of Washington, DC. Then he got elected as mayor. While the intent of his initial term as mayor was to level the playing field for the poorer, disenfrachised residents of the District, Barry's term became tainted with rumors of cronyism and corruption. I'm not sure what caused the rapid decay of Barry's personal integrity. Perhaps he became a little drunk with power and felt entitled to make the same mistakes as his colleagues of the political establishment had. Perhaps he is aware that the voting populace in Ward 8 senses that they "owe" him something for being the "Mayor for Life", since they realize he couldn't get elected to dog catcher in a city-wide election.

As a matter of fact, during several television interviews related to the fallout of the Washington City Paper's infamous cover (pictured above), several Ward 8 residents like Tisa Mitchell, thought that BARRY WAS GETTING A RAW DEAL BECAUSE OF HIM BEING BLACK. That couldn't be farther from the truth. Tisa couldn't tell you anything that Barry has done RECENTLY for the residents of Ward 8. She could only voice her unwavering support for him because she just loves some Marion Barry. Of course, no one could possibly take Tisa seriously because her hair matched her pink blouse. What is apparent though is that when it comes to black politics, race trumps competence and accountability ALL THE TIME. If a black politician does only one political act that can be construed to be anything for "his/her people", then that's all they need. Black folks' are loyal to leadership and too damn lazy to demand anything other than a perfunctory loyalty in return. As long as Barry continues to invoke racism and its evils as the reason he has been "called" back to the ministry of public service (loosely used), black folks in Ward 8 at least will continue to vote for him.

Why do you think black people settle for the bottom of the barrel when it comes to leadership?


Curious said...

I don't know if black people settle for the bottom of the barrel. I think that we are unable to see that perhaps the choices that we made originally were wrong or no longer apply and so we can't steer away from them.

Take for example Sharpe James mayor of Newark NJ for 20 years. I remember when he first got in and he was supposed to be the one that would turn the city around and leave the riots of 67 or 68 in the past along with city's crushing poverty level. Instead he's been convicted of fraud and larceny and yet I think if he ran again today, he would win because people still remember the hope they had 20 something years ago when he 1st came on the scene.

I guess that's it. It's faith, which is what black people have and sometimes the only thing they have. It's faith that things will get better no matter if it's religion or politics. It's faith that keeps us where we are.

Lola Gets said...

Curious makes an excellent point. Faith is sometimes all we have.

I just wanted to tell you that your two posts on Barry were funny as hell! Come to my site and check out what I wrote about the matter.