Date: Sun, 8 Aug 1999 02:05:13 -0400
Message-Id: <>
From: Art McGee <>
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] Black Leadership and the Masses
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Black Leadership and the Masses

By Rom Wills <>, Tuesday 29 July 1999

Black leaders are hard workers. They have to defend affirmative action and get more Black folks on TV. They have to get major white corporations to hire more Blacks and to treat the ones already in their employ a bit better. Black leaders have to make sure that a Black family making six-figures can move into an exclusive gated community. They have to fight so that a few Blacks will have the privilege of being members of lily-white country clubs. If all this sounds a tad bit sarcastic it is because sarcasm is my intent. You see, I have a major issue with the connection between Black leadership and social class in Black America.

Black leaders, at least the ones that get the press, are more concerned with middle class needs and the needs of the corporate sponsors of their organizations. These same leaders virtually ignore the needs of the Black masses that include the marginally middle class, the working poor, and the poor. Yet these same leaders will seek out the masses when support is needed for a particular program. After receiving that support these leaders seem to forget the masses in their mad rush to attend a $500 plate dinner and to get to the Mercedes dealership before closing. They abandon the masses and pretend they are benefiting the masses when they are the only Black on an all-white board of directors. Most of the leaders of Black America are disconnected from the people.

The reason for this state of affairs is simple. The goals of the Black middle class are different from those of the Black masses. The major goal of the Black middle class has, since its beginnings in the 19th century, been acceptance by the majority culture. The middle class has never sought to truly rock the boat. They have always sought to be accepted and comfortable. For example, a man ingrained with this goal of being accepted and comfortable will do everything to achieve those goals. He will change his appearance, his mannerisms, his very persona to be accepted. He will not do or say anything that is unacceptable to the majority culture. This acceptance is desired by the man, to the point where he is willing to sacrifice the needs of his own family. This man represents most of our leaders.

Now take the example of a man who did not grow up in the middle class. This man grew up in a rundown housing project. He lacked many things members of the middle class take for granted. The man didn’t have much and was not accepted by the majority culture or the Black middle class. He did not have status. Yet, this man learned not to seek acceptance. This man lived according to his will and his dreams. He didn’t care what others thought. He only cared about improving life for him and his family. He knew that acceptance and being comfortable meant nothing if a man had to change who he was to satisfy people that did not particularly care for him. He had goals that he pursued and obtained and as a result he can control his own destiny. Black America has to adopt that attitude. The men and women who have that attitude usually come from the masses. Unfortunately, most of our leaders come from a background where acceptance and being comfortable is more important than controlling one’s own destiny.

For Black America to reach its full potential, the skill and expertise of the Black middle class must be combined with the untapped potential of the Black masses. The Black leader must think in terms of direct involvement with the masses on a continuing basis and not just during election time or a media event. In the black community we must develop a new respect for the gifts and talents of both groups. The lawyer must respect the janitor and the janitor must respect the lawyer. Both the occupation and the person are important to the advancement of Black America.

The leaders in Black America must be the ones who lead people in developing this respect and this cooperation. But these leaders, however, act like we are united only when it serves their agenda. Plenty of politicians visit housing projects when accompanied by TV cameras, but fail to go near such neighborhoods otherwise.

The criteria for any politician or leader claiming to truly represent Black America should not be how many corporations open their doors to individuals with graduate degrees. That is too easy, and helping the few does nothing for the thousands, even millions—especially considering when those millions are living in substandard conditions. The Black politician or leader should be judged on actions that have the greatest bearing on the greatest number of people. If the politician or leader feels that his goal is to be comfortable and accepted he needs to step aside or be pushed aside.

We need politicians and leaders who will truly reach the masses. Those persons will definitely receive my support.

Anybody else can step out of the way.