The Glover Report: ELECT OR RE-ELECT '12: Pres. Barack Obama, Black Preachers, Black Politicians and African Americans: M.I.A. on Black Issues?
By Doni M. Glover, www.bmorenews.com
(WASHINGTON – August 24, 2012) - You couldn’t get me to believe it. And then I saw the clip for myself where the President of the USA, Barack Obama, told blacks to stop whining, complaining and grumbling … and, instead, “press on”. What the? Really?
I got news for ya: We’ve been pressing on! Yet, at every step of the way, we run into opposition. I mean damn – look at Sanford, Florida! That is representative of what it’s like to be black in America. Let’s face it: America still has serious racial issues and American turf is still hostile territory for black Americans a lot of times. We go through things that nobody else has to endure – just because of our skin color. So, it’s kinda difficult to press on when atrocities are happening all around you – where people often tend to blame the victims, and yet profit off of them.
Let me say that in no way have I ever expected this president, the first noticeably black man to hold that office, to reverse five centuries of bigoted history and racist behavior in such a period as four short years: Not happening! In all honesty, I have always stated that all I wanted from this president in his first four years – especially given the house on fire he was handed – was for him to stay married to his phenomenal wife and daddy to his two daughters. Being a media professional, the imagery of a black family – together – father, mother and children – in the White House alone was unprecedented and supernaturally potent.
Just the image of a complete black family alone speaks volumes and magically transforms the thinking of all people – instead of an image of blacks in hip hop videos, we now have one of blacks riding on Air Force One. I believe that as people see better, people do better. Clearly, we have a lot of things to reverse in the black community. Yet, I believe that Pres. Obama and his family serve as an example to all families – but especially black ones where many of the black men are absent – that “a happy family” is indeed possible – and even likely.
It all starts in the mind. As people see the possibilities, I just believe that people tend to rise to the occasion and want that for themselves. When you see it being done, you come to believe that you can do it, too. Every time people see the Obamas in the media, especially black people – they see possibilities that are not typically touted in good ol’ America. If you look at the history of blacks on television, for instance, quite often – the more palatable and passive the black talent, the more acceptable that artist is to mainstream America. God forbid if the Last Poets or Public Enemy is the talent because America immediately becomes defensive. As long as the black man is smiling, he is not viewed as a threat.
However, the minute he has become educated – afforded the opportunity to see the world, and thus America from a wider lens – that man becomes dangerous. At least, that’s the history of the radical black man and woman. He is, like Paul Robeson, marginalized and minimized and labeled “Communist.”
Black folks have seen this time and time again. And consequently, a lot of black folks have either become soft or have forgotten that they have the responsibility to continue to fight for what black people deserve. That is the only way any kind of power will come our way. And so, right now – I have serious questions as to the direction we are headed. I also have serious concerns about the so-called leaders of the black community. Increasingly, it’s as if they have sold their souls. Further, I do not trust them to speak for me because repeatedly, they misrepresent my interests. The black church is confused. Black politicians are confused. And the people are left lost – unaware of our potential as a people and seemingly perpetually castigated as beggars sitting on bags of gold.
Nonetheless, despite all of the ills of American society – one that has never been kind to blacks from the very beginning – the family pictures of the Obamas that are all over facebook serve as a gentle reminder that hope still lives – that maybe more black couples will get married and the black family can move forward.
The truth is that much of black America is in disarray and it is going to take – in part - a better America to help make a better black America. That means that any help from the White House to City Hall would be greatly appreciated. Truth is, the better black America does, the better the country does. And, it’s also going to take some serious effort from within the black community. And this is where black leadership comes under the microscope.
For example, African Americans are a critical part of this nation’s economy with an annual disposable income of nearly a trillion dollars, according to experts and statistics. That is roughly equivalent to the 16th largest economy in the world. Let’s put that on the back burner for a sec.
Overall, many black families are in dire trouble – dealing with a plethora of issues: financial, social, criminal/court related, employment, along with health disparities up the ying yang.
Educationally, young black men are not graduating from high school – and those who are tend not to be as prepared as their white and Asian counterparts. If this pandemic is not addressed, we have yet another generation gone to the wolves.
Now, many will focus on the progress that has happened since integration some 45 years ago or so. Some will focus on how increasingly more of us are now driving expensive cars, living in more exorbitant houses in better neighborhoods – compared to how we grew up, and working jobs with salaries that afford such a lifestyle.
However, I think black folks – somewhere in between paying the mortgage and trying to find time to enjoy this new suburban home – lost contact with the old neighborhood. Consequently, black America underwent a sort of split – between us and them: those who live in the ‘burbs vs. those who still live in the ‘hood.
This was a demographic split where those who could afford to live in the formerly white areas did. This ‘brain-drain’ meant, for one, that some of the best and brightest black minds were no longer readily accessible to people in the community. Black businesses would falter and be sold.
One result was that the political power of the black church has diminished since integration. Often, these churches are still in … the ‘hood – but certain church members really are only there once a week. And you also have new black churches cropping up in the suburbs. As Chinua Achebe wrote in “Things Fall Apart,” integration was – in a way – the beginning of the end. No longer was black power centralized.
In my book, this caused a dichotomy in the community – a classism split – that has yet to heal. An immediate result, the new store owners quickly became Korean in the black community. Further, the preacher started living in the ‘burbs and was a little less in touch with the plight of the people in the community. And, the black politician in urban areas now had the poorest of the poor to represent.
Anybody in politics will tell you that it is all about re-election. Therefore, it's all about raising money. And if the black community doesn’t make any campaign contributions of significance, the black politician – although they are supposedly representing a black district – begins catering to the campaign contributors who often do not live in the ‘hood. Nor are their interests in the ‘hood.
And so, the black church – which used to be the center of the black community - used to stand for something. The black church - once the source of the black voice in society – has become less and less relevant to the struggle for black power because often too many preachers have been compromised by ego or materialism, i.e. money. And, as politicians find themselves with a need for money - it is the old black lady spending a lot of loot. The way I see it - money, power, influence, and greed have altered the game and have raised the stakes for an already troubled community.
Preachers today make money that would probably – if he were alive - blow Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s mind. The black church, in particular, is at fault in this. Anytime we are buying expensive cars for a preacher and yet the church is not in fiscal order, it is not the preacher’s fault. It’s the congregation’s fault for not checking that behavior before it got out of hand. So, instead of being engaged in the struggle for black people like during the fight for Civil Rights, preachers today seem more caught up in prosperity theology.
The only thing is, the community is in shambles and the church – which used to lead the way – is less and less relevant to the forward progress of black people. Instead of realizing our power, we're extending ourselves in credit. This is exacerbated when black preachers are focused on building the biggest church with the largest congregation – as if this is a contest. This is most troubling to me.
Instead of being leaders, too many black preachers are in the pulpit for the wrong reason. Too often, they are abdicating their responsibility for selfish reasons. The same goes for black politicians. In my best estimation – what used to be important, public service, is not all that important any more. Today, it is more about self-service. It is more about the money. It is more about personal opportunism than it is leading the way for black people.
In Baltimore, for instance, we once had the Goon Squad – a group of prominent black preachers that helped lead the community politically. Since those days though, many blacks have seemingly become comfortable and no longer feel the need to fight for black people. The general thinking, I believe, is that “we have arrived.” The days of Clarence Mitchell, Thurgood Marshall, Shirley Chisolm, Parren J. Mitchell, Maynard Jackson, Rev. Leon Sullivan, and Adam Clayton Powell are long gone – possibly to never return.
My thinking is that if we have arrived, we should better know how to use our collective vote and financial resources. Further, the black clergy is supposed to properly vet these candidates and make sure that they know what the black community needs and make sure they have a plan to provide for those needs. Too often, though, the black preacher only looks out for his own church and that’s it. Instead of using the one-on-one time with the politician to help bring about change for the larger community, we don’t. We only think about ourselves, our church, and our congregation. How silly!
Know this: when we don’t take ourselves seriously, neither do others.
Thus, the black vote is further marginalized. It is taken for granted – first – by our own selves. By not holding leaders accountable – we allow the same neglectful behavior to continue. We therefore lack a voice because those charged with leading have drank instead the Kool-Aid.
Their voice is muffled because black leaders have too often lost touch with the people. And so, they don’t really know how to represent black folks. Instead of demanding, black leaders are too often begging.
Those with the power say to themselves that we are splintered and don't provide any reason for concern.
Why? Because we, as black people, have forgotten our power. And we keep letting the wrong people speak on our behalf. Instead of demanding, our leaders are more like beggars looking for crumbs – when we need the whole bread factory. We need hundreds of millions of dollars, for instance, in our urban communities for education, job training, and business expansion. I think the Empowerment Zones under Pres. Bill Clinton made a serious dent.
If these leaders haven't told the President our needs by now, then who needs them?
Because we lack a cohesive black voice, the political giants on both sides of the aisle consequently have learned how to manipulate us, the most loyal voting bloc in the political process – a loyal Democratic voting bloc, I might add.
Case in point: In every major election, you hear black preachers endorsing candidates. And that’s fine. It is their right. My only question becomes when do these same preachers hold these same politicians accountable? To me, that is a part of the political game that blacks have yet to master: the reckoning – and a reckoning with the overall community’s interests at stake. If the black community votes for you, for example, and you - when redistricting time comes around - weaken the black political strength of our historic areas - you need to be replaced. Blacks, like Randallstown's Ella White Campbell, have fought way too hard for our political strength to become marginalized by a particular politician's carelessness. There should be recourse.
To me, if I endorse a candidate, I have a personal responsibility to also stay abreast of their progress and political activities as an elected official. I need to know their voting record. I need to know what they have done for the community and I need to know what they are doing for others outside of the community. I need to know if he or she is doing what they said they would do when they were green and hungry for office.
You see, I think in the beginning – most every candidate has good intentions. However, after getting the job – their true character comes out for the world to see. Why? They have to conform to their new circle of “friends”. So, my question for black leadership in the USA is one of accountability.
Quite often, and everybody knows this, there are rewards for endorsements and punishments for political disloyalty. However, I think if black folks had our own houses better in order, we would not stand for a lot of the chicanery we see from preachers and politicians. If we had our house in order, politicians would have to come to us ‘correct.’
Clearly, black America is in a state of emergency. Too often, the leaders in black America have a moral compass that is so out-of-touch with the needs and concerns of the people that they cannot lead effectively. And if the leadership is in chaos, then surely the people will remain in trouble.
Personally, all I have ever wanted is for black people to have the same access to opportunities as others in this country. I am not a victim, nor do I push a victimhood mentality in my column. I push ‘doing for self’. I push for self-empowerment. I push self-help. I have learned that as people see you trying, they sometimes jump in and give you a push.
However, in my experiences, I have also come to know that America has never been kind to black folks. Today, blacks have better access than ever before, but – as noted in the series of columns in conjunction with the Associated Black Charities of Maryland, Inc. on “Structural Racism” – America is unfortunately full of road stops to black progress. Institutional denial of blacks to fair access to employment, education, housing, car insurance, and mortgages is still commonplace.
This is where Lauryn Hill’s line comes to mind: “Why black people always gotta be the ones to settle?”
All I’m saying is that as a black man in America – whose ancestors helped build and defend this country, I expect the same that the most prominent of whites have. My singular vote is just as valid as any Americans.
The fact is, I think Pres. Barack Obama deserves the next four years – but I think he should also understand that he needs to address black America the same way he has addressed others.
I’m not a whiner - nor a complainer. I don’t grumble. I identify the challenge, issue, or problem – and begin to search for solutions. And I only want to engage the necessary expertise in fixing whatever is broken. And then, it’s on to the next item.
Hence, I don’t think the President telling black people to 'hold on' is a good look no more than I think Vice-President Joe Biden’s comments about ‘putting y’all back in chains’ served the administration well. And, I think the Vice-President, in particular, owes black America an apology – like yesterday.
Just for Biden to feel so comfortable enough to say such words is appalling. Had he been Republican, folks would have been all over him. And this is the insidious part about the remnants of American slavery I think still exist today: black folks came out of the woodwork explain what Biden meant. I don’t need anyone to explain. I understood perfectly well what his intention was as well as what came out of his mouth. There are some things you just don‘t say. There are some things that are just not … well, presidential.
I received a lot of criticism by some African Americans for making such a statement about Biden needing to apologize. However, I know an insult when I hear one – even if the slip was Freudian.
Biden’s comments were disrespectful of the vestiges of American slavery that still stains the nation’s flag. Making such an analogy as he explained what harm the Republicans want to do to black people was unwise and clearly warrants an apology. He would never get away with making a similar analogy – for instance – to a majority Jewish audience as he did to a majority black audience. Why? His apology would have been written and published overnight. I expect the same kind of treatment as the most powerful voting lobby in America.
And I don’t need anybody to say that for me. As a matter of fact, the black people who I thought had the President’s ear apparently don’t. Or, the President assumes black folks will vote for him anyway. Whatever the case, I think there is a black demographic who – although they voted for Obama the first time – are looking at him now with a slight look of hesitation. Clearly, the honeymoon of having the first black president is over.
From my conversations in black, white, and Latino communities, the President has lost some ground with certain church goers – for instance - when he came out with his stance on ‘same sex marriages’. That night on television, a deafening silence went across the universe not so much for his stance. People were shocked that he was making the stance when he did – after four years of already being president. Black people were among the stunned.
I saw first-hand how this presidential stance on ‘same sex marriage’ put the black church and black preachers – in particular – at odds with the nation’s first black president and Jesus. Many wondered who the black woman would follow at the end of the day – the preacher or Obama?
The president’s message that mid-week night about having conversations with his daughters about ‘same sex marriage’ and how they gave him their take on the matter was touching, but it also caused a ripple effect across the waters as many Christians, Muslims and others simply are not going for changing definitions of what is quite possibly the most important institution on earth: marriage.
I think that Pres. Barack Obama, overall, has done a masterful job in his presidency – although I do not agree with one major international incident - the murder of Libyan President Moummar Khadafi. He was an African president, a head of state – and it is supposed to be illegal to kill a foreign head of state. Nonetheless, Pres. Obama inherited a disaster. This country was on the brink of financial disaster with otherwise reputable financial giants withering away into dust overnight. He was compelled to act. This brings me – briefly to the Republican Party.
Dear Republicans: For once, tell the truth. Eight years of Pres. George W. Bush put this country in perils. He took a surplus left by Pres. Bill Clinton and turned it into a deficit – with the only people making money being the upper echelon. Internationally, we got bogged down into two wars – one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan – via flawed information. Pres. Obama has saved this nation from dangerous perils. So, just the facts – please.
Internationally, the USA’s reputation was wreaking of arrogance. If you travelled internationally during that time, it was a period of being the ugly American. When I travel, I get to see how others think of the USA – and that was not a good time to travel abroad. We, as a nation, had a reputation of being a bully and a hypocrite.
Four years after Bush has left, and there seems to be sense of international credibility being restored. Pres. Obama has represented us generally well on the foreign scene – each time winning over the love of people around the world. It is very refreshing to see, actually.
I just pray that Pres. Obama comes to know how critical black America is. I pray that in another four years, he can make some intelligent dent for black American progress, in particular. Maybe it’s $100,000 for each African American to go to college. Maybe it’s a reinvestment into the $100 million federally-funded Empowerment Zones that brought capital to urban communities like Baltimore, New York, Camden, Detroit, and Santa Ana. It’s time to restore Community Development Block Grant Funds that were cut in the Bush administration. These were programs that increased home ownership, employment, and business development. And, college courses should be made available for inmates who are coming home. That’s a no-brainer. And, the entire child support system could use revisiting. These are the solutions that the people I talk to want to see.
The one critical mistake I think the President has made is not making sure that as Wall Street got bailed out, an infusion of cash was not also put into urban communities and other places it was and is needed. While Wall Street got it’s bail-out, the rest of America was still left holding the bag – with no job, no benefits, and no future. There was no trickle-down effect. Banks were simply not loaning money that they were supposed to. Thus, the people suffer.
Again, I think this president has done an amazing job. However, it’s time to put critical attention on black America – beginning with the over-incarceration of black people. I don't want a hook-up. However, if other groups, i.e. Jews, Latinos, Gay/Lesbian coalition, Wall Street can get what they want, then so should blacks in America. Many of us in black America are tired of having to settle.
Clearly, black America's over-incarceration rate alone is worthy of a 9-1-1 call for action. Many of these brothers are innocent. Further, black women are the fastest growing demographic. Now, my parents raised me like most presumably did - to not ever go to prison. At the same time, when black men comprise 39.6% of the prisons across America and yet the total number of blacks in America is 13% or so - something is fundamentally wrong! In any other community, it would be considered a disaster. For us, it is otherwise "expected." This is the thinking that is killing us - that they must have done something wrong – otherwise, they wouldn’t be there. Not always true! Just ask the Innocence Project. Ask the now-free Michael Austin, a Baltimore man who spent 27 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Trust me when I tell you, a lot of men are locked up for no reason - and too many of them are black and poor. Meanwhile, this country has the highest incarceration rate in the world - starring people who, like me, are black and male.
The prison industrial complex has unleashed havoc on black and poor families across America. The psychological damage alone is perilous. For instance – a black Baltimore man told me earlier this year that he was serving 6 months at Baltimore City Jail and that he was on a tier with people who had time ranging from 6 to 18 months. Then, all of a sudden, he told me the whole tier was shipped to the Patuxent Institute for the Criminally Insane. He told me that he was put on a tier with inmates who had life, double life, tripe life, quadruple life, and five times life.
Hello! What’s wrong with this picture? This is unusually cruel. Whatever hopes society had of rehabilitation are tossed out the window when things like this occur. That man now possibly has the mentality of an insane person. He has been living for months with the most violent offenders on the planet. Question: How would it affect you?
The black community, in conclusion, is in a world of trouble. And, truth be told, Pres. Obama alone cannot fix it. Truthfully, it is time for black men to stand up and be men. The problem is, the black man – the most ostracized man in American society – has some heavy weight on his should.
This is where real leadership is needed: real, un-bought, unbiased leadership. Black America’s biggest challenge, truth be told, is itself. And black pastors at are the center of the issue. Unfortunately, these black clergy across the nation have their own unique set of challenges preventing them from effectively leading at least a good portion of black America forward. From my vantage point, the black preachers’ biggest issue is with each other. They have ego issues where nothing gets done because everybody wants to be in charge.
What’s sad about this is that the church is supposed to be in order. Of all places, the black church is supposed to be what it has been historically – the center of our collective thought. It is supposed to be the consciousness. However, somewhere along the line, a lot of television and buffoonery and stunting has been taking place – as opposed to the saving of souls.
In many instances, black preachers are focused moreso on making money than anything else.
All that comes to my mind is Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and how he died with relatively little money but one of the greatest legacies of service the world has ever known. I guess I’m trying to say that we just don’t seem to have a lot of black men and women today with the moral fiber of a Dr. King or a Malcolm X – one that would even put their lives on the line for black people.
Today, so-called leaders – to me – lack a business mind. As I started this piece – I noted the $1 trillion in annual disposable income in the African American community. Consider all that buying power. Then, at the same time – consider that blacks in America are dubbed “super users”. That is, we spend at a higher rate than most others. The challenge is our spending. If we used a mere fraction of our money to support one black business, we would begin to create jobs for our own. And to me, black preachers ought to be all over this. To me, all of the black churches need a black business ministry.
You see, voting is one thing. The other side to power is money. If we could just learn to better target our spending – especially on the frivolous things we can do without – we could begin to build up the abandoned houses in our communities and make the block look better.
My point is that if we can get our leaders to the table – political, business, academic and community – we could create our own salvation: This happened during the era of the Empowerment Zones best in my 47 years. I love this President, and he has – I think – a responsibility to black America like to every other group. Truthfully, I would expect that white folks expect him to do something for black folks anyway – just on GP. Everybody else hooks-up their own.
Black leadership has a responsibility as well. Black America is in desperate need of a vision and leaders to make that vision come true. And – these leaders need to be of the highest integrity. Black America has been duped and lied to long enough. Black America has been at the back of the line – long enough. America has stood on black America’s shoulders long enough.
Now, it is time for men to be men and take black America to the next level. And that only benefits the rest of America. No, I’m not complaining or grumbling. I’m merely pointing out what black America needs … and deserves – considering all the black America has contributed to this nation’s greatness. It’s only fair.
Do right by the black community, Mr. President – such that, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Until America rights the wrongs of its racial history, it will forever have a guilty conscience.
What do you think?
3 comment(s) on this page. Add your own comment below.
A marvelous article that graphically portrays the situation we face. Those us with a mind to serve and to help us confront the problems must begin to speak to the WHOLE community particularly the church which is the last free institution we have. We must create a new Goon Squad which was never just preachers but the best and most challenging thinkers in our community-Gus Adair Homer Favor etc. Ready when you are. Bishop Miles
It is sometimes hard for us to accept the truth, truth being there are some people who whine etc. I hear it all the time it is always someone else's fault. The fact is we do live in a country that has treated people of color and poor people less than; so what do we do whine about it; try to be something we are not to fit in. I don't hate the fact that there are some of us who have made "their way" in this mess, it wasn't easy and continues to be a challenge. If we want something different we have to stop whining and start doing some of the healing work that needs to be done. We don't even look at each other in kindness or a willingness to assist; people use too do that. Don't blame the president or cut up everything he says. Why did that statement of truth warrant more truth that doesn't solve the problem? Let us "right what we see as a wrong". Let us speak words of encouragement, love and understanding. I believe that the president should be able to say things, truth about his people without us getting our feeling all over the place. Just think if all of the heros' and sheros' reacted to their feelings we would still be slaves. There are people who are say worst things than that. I hope that we rise above our feelings and take the next step learn from the experience and do something better, love our neighbor, raise our children, respect women, clean our neighborhoods, pull-up our pants, cover our breast and represent ourselves in a way that goes without saying, pride. I will always remember one of the strong women in my life (Emma Williams-Grandmother, Marion Evans-Mother and Ruby Glover-mentor)who told me "stop whining and complaining get your self together and change what you don't like and it will change if you put in the work God will do the rest". Yes, I caught feelings, however I dealt with that truth and received the love that they were giving me in speaking truth to me instead of them holding back. The president is one man doing a very tough job, while being a good dad and husband. Let's honor our virtue of understanding and love. Mama Zola
Thank you for putting a voice to concerns and issues of the Black community that are often ignored, hidden and buried. So many in leadership (political and spiritual) are afraid to address issues of relevance to those they are supposed to be representing. Instead, they settle for the nice lunch where their ego is stroked and they are called the "Honorable" and consider that the final payment on their communities' needs. Please, continue bringing our communities expectations into the light.