Rahim Islam is a National Speaker and Writer, Convener of Philadelphia Community of Leaders, and President/CEO of Universal Companies, a community development and education management company headquartered in Philadelphia, PA. Follow Rahim Islam on FaceBook (Rahim Islam) & Twitter (@RahimIslamUC)
What is it going to take for the Black leaders to fight through the “psychological paralysis” of hopelessness to come together (unity) and begin to tackle the issues facing our community? It won’t take 100 percent of the Black leaders to make this happen.
It will only require a critical mass of Black leaders to formulate this movement, which makes our success much more doable and achievable. However, even this has been difficult.
Given the social and economic state of the Black community and the fact that every negative demographic is spiraling out of control with absolutely no unified or collective response from Black leadership – this is proof positive that our community reflects a high level of hopelessness even amongst the so-called Black leaders. Since we weren’t born with this level of hopelessness (this behavior is learned), we have inherited an unwillingness to work together. Therefore, by default, we’ve adopted the narrative of inept, lazy, ignorant, and inferiority that the White community has laid at our feet.
The Black community has been structurally and systemically denied the full rights of citizenship and all of its benefits as equal members of America. And for those of you who believe in the so-called “post-racial society” and that the “past is the past,” are being used by White establishment to continue to keep our people in check. It absolutely matters where you start and every fight waged by our ancestors to be treated fairly and equally like other Americans, was met with the most devious, hated, and mean-spirited resistance ever organized. The enslavement of our ancestors was a brutal and vicious institution that hurt us, I believe, permanently and it continues to haunt us today in every way.
White America has made us to believe that our social and economic position in America is directly tied to our “group” inferiority and they have nothing to do with it – obviously, I totally disagree. They have everything to do with it. However, I’ve written many times that it’s not what they are doing to us anymore, it’s what we’re not doing. What we’re not doing is organizing at the highest level within our community to ensure that we can mount some level of defense against a multitude of issues that we face with none being greater than the economic struggles that we face.
We must expand the concept of leadership in the Black community from the typical thought one has when we think of Black leaders (i.e. clergy, elected officials). We must significantly expand the concept of Black leaders to include anyone who is in a position to help our community and our liberation. The new definition of Black leader are those that run organizations, agencies, or offices and has committed themselves to becoming a “content” and “subject” expert in the field that they have chosen. Restated, if you’re out their fighting the fight for the liberation of Black people, then you are a Black leader and you, and only you, have the ability to defend our community but this group must organize themselves.
This expanded group of Black leaders has knowledge of, not only the conditions that we’re challenged with, but they also have knowledge of the American systems and institutions that we will need to use and influence going forward. This group is the only group amongst the Black community that can undertake this work because our issues and our opponents are formidable and cemented. The enemy can be seen in the massive negative disparities that the Black community has when compared to the White community, and they can’t be defended with a march, wish or a prayer. It’s going to require some serious organizing at every level of the Black community, but first with Black leadership.
In order to mount any campaign, the Black community must be experts in our efforts to defend ourselves. The Black community doesn’t have the In-Your-Face White racist and racist laws that openly discriminate against Black people. No, we don’t have “white only” signs, “Blacks need not apply,” or a rampant KKK that instills fear within the Black community. But, we do have a criminal justice system that has wreaked havoc on Black men, and therefore Black families and Black communities; a failed public education system that in 2017 is producing the worst students in our entire history; and the demise of Black businesses and startups making it nearly impossible for the Black community to achieve liberation.
We must be very scientific about why the Black community is losing ground and when it appears that the Black community is supposed to be free. White America has been able to cleverly make things seem like things are different for Black people while at the same time they hide behind the status quo which is defined by laws, policies and bad behavior: 1) laws – national, state, and local that still work against the interest of Black people (i.e. anti-wealth for Black businesses, weak or anti-affirmative action, three strike laws, etc.); 2) policies – supposedly race-neutral public policies that clearly discriminate against Black people (i.e. funding for public education, competitive bids process that give White businesses an advantage, etc.); or 3) bad behavior – we still have too many people that are either elected officials and/or decision makers who are in position to, in effect, continue the racist discrimination of Black people without interruptions under the idea of the status quo.
Each issue requires a different strategy because you can’t defeat a legal issue with a march or a protest; you must organize and defeat and/or change laws. This requires a different level of participation, capacity and commitment than if we just were focusing on bad behavior. If the issue is a policy issue that we must fight, normally the policy is supported by legal language and data that supports the policy. To defeat that policy, it will require an equal level of data and organizing to not only defeat the policy and replace with a better policy, but it will also require achieving the ability to unseat the leadership that has adopted the failed policy.
Equally, the fight against bad behavior requires that we have the ability to, not only be able to identify those bad characters, but we must be able to sustain the momentum needed to fight them and to defeat them – this fight is long-term in nature.
Our fight is multi-facet and must be waged on a number of fronts and can only be waged with the expanded concept of Black leaders who must be accountable to Black people and the Black movement.