by Mikel Kwaku Osei Holt
If I had one New Year’s wish for Black America it would be to first analyze our political status, and then to acknowledge that we must be the most gullible, naïve and politically ignorant people south of the North Pole.
Which goes a long ways toward explaining why we are also the most politically impotent, culturally confused and socioeconomically starved people north of the South Pole.
Granted, I’m making these statements still disoriented from the November 2 elections. And I know, as a handful of us will admit, that this was probably the most contentious, divisive and racially charged elections in recent history.
Lies, innuendoes and slanderous assertions filled the airwaves, billboards and bathrooms (which was an appropriate place for many of them). Anyone who was not sickened by the billion-dollar hate fest to lead our state and country was obviously a proponent of S&M.
But wait! There’s a reason why candidates and special interests shelled out over $4 billion in offensive and misleading advertising, and a million more funding groups and organizations who spread the propaganda directly: There was a gullible audience who ate it up, often hook, line, and sinker.
Even the most outrageous claims found a home, and they emulated from both partisan camps and a few independent groups that wanted to sway the election so they could enrich themselves by picking up the trash afterwards.
From that perspective, one could say the idiotic propaganda paled in comparison to the gullible people who accepted it as unchallengeable truth.
Even nearsighted pundits emerged from the “mis-termed” elections with the two-fold realization that both of the major political parties relied on our ignorance, fears and frustrations.
They were able to do so because we refused to educate ourselves on current events, American “his”-tory, about the true role of the political system in our lives.
As such, we allowed our emotions to run wild, special interests covering the ideological spectrum to treat us like pawns in a chess match, and media and madmen to either lie about the Black agenda, or to redefine, and in some cases, redirect it.
And once again, Black America stuck its collective heads in the sand, exposing to the world our refusal to take responsibility for our own well-being and agenda.
That fact keeps me up nights, along with the obvious refusal of millions of Black people to educate themselves, to research issues, or to even keep up with daily news events.
It’s as if we’ve lapsed into an educational coma, refusing to take advantage of the unprecedented conglomeration of news literally at our fingertips: Newspapers, the Internet or even the remote control of our flat-screen televisions.
Remember the old adage: “If you want to hide something from Black people, put it in a book?” Well, that’s come true, save for restricting the source to a book. Now, it seems like all media is to be shunned by Black America.
But an individual’s ignorance is his or her own concern, some say. I disagree. As the recent election and rudderless Freedom Train has proven, your brother’s ignorance is stagnating your own ability to move forward.
A case can be made that this phenomena of ignorance laid root in the early 1970s, around the same time that the clarion call went out that we had ‘won’ the civil rights campaign. Some social analysts believe there was something in that water they handed exclusively to Black people who disembarked from the Freedom Train that arrived at the train station downtown 40 years ago.
I can’t prove it, but those who disembarked from the train simultaneously abandoned the African Cultural components that had enabled us to survive slavery and institutional racism. By the time we emerged into the sunlight of downtown, they had been replaced with drugs, hedonism and an aversion to education. The church became a business, the Bible a reference book with missing pages, and Uncle Sam replaced the hardworking brother as the head of Black household.
Of course this sounds like something out of the Twilight Zone, but historians will admit something transformed the Black community around that time; and no one else has provided a valid explanation what it was.
The only debate is over which abandoned cultural component has worsened our condition more; trapped us in this self induced coma, a cultural time warp. Was it the rejection of the Black nuclear family, which left 70% of Black homes fatherless? Was it our new reliance on drugs as an economic painkiller, a factor that not only sparked a crime epidemic but also became the lock on a cycle of socioeconomic imprisonment that continues to this day?
Or was it our newfound aversion and abandonment of education? The growing acceptance that education is ‘acting White.’ That self destructive assumption not only insures that most of us will be locked in poverty and despair, but also that we will forever be consumers instead of producers, that we will be wed to a lower economic class.
It also guarantees that in the world of politics we will be the pawns, easily tricked into thinking some White Knight is gonna save us, that up is down and down is up, that we are forced to play with someone else’s ball and if they take it away, it will somehow wipe away the few freedoms our ancestors fought and died for including the right to live where we can’t afford, speak Ebonics when seeking a corporate job, and put $3,000 stereos in $200 cars.
The end result has been our reliance on others to lead us, to become our paternal political and pastoral parents, our social services sisters, and our cultural cousins. The easiest byproduct to identify are those special political interests and television pastoral propagators, charismatic missionaries standing behind the political podium and the pulpit, promising us a better life in the hereafter if we’d just give them our votes and cash today.
Yeah, maybe the latter wasn’t the worse, but it sure as hell sealed our faith…no pun intended. It guaranteed that we would be forever the ignorant pawns, trapped in a dichotomous political and religious abyss, fighting over crumbs, too ignorant to pick up a book and discover the truth, to free ourselves by making informed decisions.
You can denounce me as crazy, but is it a coincidence that we stopped reading the Bible and shunning schoolbooks and newspaper at the same time? Coincidence?
Today, many of us go to church to hear the word, ‘to erase our sins of the prior week and to pay our insurance policy premium (tithing), because we’re too lazy or content to invest in our own spiritual righteousness. A national study recently revealed that less than 10% of us have ever read the entire Bible, and less than 20% read it on a regular basis.
Most of us never read anything beyond the scripture offered each Sunday. We don’t’ read the book every night as my grandparents and parents did. What are we afraid of? Truth?
A similar scenario takes place in the political area. Instead of reading newspapers, or analyzing policies, we listen to political operatives, reset our agenda based on what they say, give our vote blindly to whatever entity says they love us (even if they won’t do anything for us) and ultimately fall prey to assertions and wild allegations that explain away our poverty and impotence in simplistic terms.
It’s not the political parties as much as the special interests (and under close scrutiny you’ll observe their ‘interests’ are not ours), which herd us like sleep, bah bahing all the way to their bank.
Our ignorance and gullibility has us about to march to Washington to fight “don’t ask don’t tell.” Our “guides” have told us that it is the new civil right priority.
Last year it was to applaud the stimulus distribution to our state, federal dollars that employed everybody but us. The road builders made bank, as did construction crews, but how many of us do you see upgrading the roads? Don’t worry, they told us, water runs down hill. (Yeah, isn’t that similar to what Ronald Reagan said about boats? In fact, didn’t Obama say the same thing last year?)
Two years ago we were told the Voting Rights Act was expiring, and we would lose our right to vote if we didn’t elect the right candidate. We were told to reject an African American cultural center because it would hurt the Italian Community Center and thus cost us janitorial jobs.
Then there was the fight over control of MPS. Strangely, we were told to shift sides every other year; about the same time as we’re told who to blame for hosting the nation leading lowest fourth and eighth grade reading test scores. We’re easily led on these issues, because we don’t know any better.
Everybody from Frederick Douglass to Fannie Lou Hammer is turning over in his or her grave. Martin Luther King, Jr., who never passed a book he didn’t open, and whose grasp of international politics allowed him to debate civil rights on a national platform, and Malcolm X, who read the dictionary from ‘A’ to ‘Z’ and coined the phrase “education is our passport” are made mockeries by our ignorance. They must be shaking their heads in disgust.
Here we are, Black Americans, three generations removed from slavery, one generation away from Brown vs. Board of Education, and a coon’s age on the other side of a civil rights movement predicated on education and empowerment, and yet we can’t or will not read or acknowledge the importance of information in shaping our future.
(Of course if you’re reading this in print, or on the web, you’re probably an exception, so take a chill pill and spread the word.)
I’m not on a crusade to get people to read the Community Journal, exclusively. The MCJ is but the cornerstone of an empire of thought provoking nutrients you need to make intelligent decisions.
Of course, any one of average intelligence recognizes that reading and supporting the Black Press is also a sociocultural exercise that is crucial to our community’s economic and even spiritual survival. If you’re not wise enough to understand that fact, get comfortable on the merry-go-round.
And what may be worse than no knowledge at all are those who say they are up to date and players in the political arena because they subscribe to Ebony and Jive Magazines. Trust me, if YouTube is your window to the world, and the IPad or IPod or IPhone is your spiritual advisor, there’s still a big hole in your soul.
With so many empty Black vessels out there, it shouldn’t be surprising to the world, much less political and special interest operatives, that we can be used, misled and steered down the wrong political paths.
It shouldn’t be surprising to hear Black callers to a national radio program agreeing to a special interest’s proclamation that if Obama suffers a set back, “they” are going to repeal the Voting Rights Act.’
Then there was the week of insipid conversation on Earl Ingram’s show where seemingly intelligent Black folks repeatedly declared the high speed train to Madison was going to create 10,000 jobs for “Black people,” stop crime, integrate the suburbs and allow us to get to legislative hearings in Madison in 21 minutes for the amount of a county bus ticket.
And oh yeah, the reason the majority of Wisconsinites oppose the train is because a racist Tea Party member in Superior is afraid Black people will take the train to get to the “Promised Land,” which has now been relocated to Watertown. It is, after all, the high speed “Freedom Train” is it not?
Obviously, I’m supportive of the train. But listening to those arguments—planted, I know, by a special interests that would benefit from the construction while continuing their historic policy of excluding us—would be mind-blowing if it wasn’t such a prime example of our gullibility empowering everybody but us.
Oh, by the way, some of the same people planting those seeds, steering us around by our nose rings, were the same people who fought MPS Board President Michael Bond’s election to office.
They spent thousands of dollars sending out literature proclaiming him as an enemy of public education, that he supported ‘failure’ and union busting charter schools during an interview on Eric Vonn’s show three years ago. Remember? Eric derailed that propaganda effort aimed at Black folks when he denounced the group. Guess who funded that effort?
Let me hum along with the Black R&B preamble of the early 1970s, ‘Didn’t I Blow Your Mind’ for a few more seconds.
A central city minister came under attack recently because he told parishioners to “vote their agenda, and look upward for guidance.”
One congregant was heard uttering the blasphemous statement that Black people had to vote the party of Jesus, and God had nothing to do with local elections. (Isn’t that kind of a contradiction?)
Then there were the comments of a national Black gatekeeper who decried the Democratic Party for not fulfilling its “promise” to Black America. We have to force them to follow our agenda, he said, which would be best demonstrated if they sponsored a national dialogue on police brutality.
Surely, that would solve the unemployment problem, the high school drop out rate and the slow death of the Black nuclear family.
On a nationally syndicated radio talk show, a caller declared anyone who disagreed with President Obama was a racist. (I guess that includes some Congressional Black Caucus members, Rev. Al Sharpton and thousands of others who disagree with his policies on the war, and his unwillingness to address Black misery other than in a generic sense.)
She went on to say there was a national Tea Party led conspiracy to witch-hunt Congressman Charles Rangel and that Black congressmen are above reproach because they “lead” us. That Rangel admitted to ethics violations was merely his attempt to pacify the KKK, or something to that effect, she said.
Speaking of national and state Black politicians, isn’t it funny how they allowed themselves to be led by special interests several years ago in an effort to tar and feather me for criticizing and questioning Governor Jim Doyle, and before that President Bill Clinton, but now seem to be leading the charge to discredit both of them.
All of sudden (as Doyle is leaving office and Clinton, the fist “Black president,” is in quasi-retirement), they “didn’t really care about Black people,” the special interests acknowledge. Doyle maliciously closed OIC, which cost hundreds of Black people jobs; sponsored crime legislation that led to Wisconsin having the highest Black incarceration rate in the country, and most recently vetoed two pieces of legislation that would have given the Black community a small, miniscule portion of the stimulus money. Oh yeah, he tried to usurp the right of Black folks not to vote for school board directors and sold our state to special interests.
Clinton ended welfare, sponsored what Senator Russ Feingold called a racist criminal ombudsman act, supported the racist death penalty and lobbied for NAFTA. In the last presidential election he pimp slapped Black voters to make up to Hillary, or was there another agenda at play.
But both were civil rights champions and heroes, the special interest told us a short time ago, and crucified me when I questioned those assertions.
But because we didn’t read or do our research, we blindly subscribed to whatever we were told. And thus paid a price.
Of course, we’re not the only gullible ones. Tea Party members have been convinced that somehow the “good ole days” will solve all of America’s problems (or at least their problems). I don’t know if the good ole days refer to slavery, reconstruction or simply when Black people knew their place.
Fact is, you could say the entire voting populous is gullible. We keep going in circles. Maybe it’s the dizziness that stagnates us.
But in the case of Black America, it’s obvious we need an antidote for the Kool-Aid we’ve been drinking. We need to open our minds, a newspaper or even a comic book and come to grips with the reality that we’ve been bamboozled and misled. Until we open our eyes, we’ll continue to walk into walls.
August 19, 2012 //
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