Saturday, May 25, 2024

THE BRIDGE: The Death of The Black Activist

July 31, 2007 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

( “How long shall they kill our prophets, while we stand aside and look? Some say it’s just a part of it, we’ve got to fulfill the book.” Bob Marley

*My column evokes starkly divergent emotions from person to person.

For people who are the target of my chastisements, the emotional response is typically anger, because there is no truthful reply available.

For people who still think for themselves and are still open to critical thinking, the response is to search for higher truth, even if they disagree with what I wrote.

Someone emailed me the other day to ask why there are so few Black men and women who speak the truth with conviction and stand against apathy and the attacks of the ignorant.

My response was sad, but true: The Black Activist is a Dying Breed.

My name is Darryl James and I am a Black activist.

I’ve known it since I was in the first grade and my teacher asked me for my favorite color. It was Black. Not just because I knew it was the strongest color in the box, but because it was the color of my people, and I loved them immensely even then.

I wore the pick with the fist when I had hair. I’ve been flashing a fist over my heart since I was a child, and I’ve been in the streets putting in work since I was a teenager. I’ve marched, organized enlightened, empowered, hired and inspired more brothers and sisters than I can recall.

I’ve taken the weight even when it cost me more money than many people ever see in a lifetime. There were times when I really thought it was going to cost me my life.

I am a revolutionary and I know why we are a dying breed.

Quite simply, it’s because we already know coming into it that we will be attacked and possibly even killed. Sadly, we will often be attacked and killed by our very own.

Blacks want anyone who stands for anything to stand for everything we need. We are still looking for a hero, but won’t support him when he flies to the rescue. Many Blacks see a shining Black Superman and are quick to bring him Kryptonite (and, no, white women are not the Black man’s Kryptonite.)

Many of us claim to want to work for progress and call ourselves activists or revolutionaries but we have no real idea what that means.

Why is this an issue? It’s an issue because too many young people are looking up to sports and entertainment figures in a time when leaders are few and far between for any race, but especially for the Black race.

In the vacuum of leadership, walking anachronisms such as The Rev Al Sharpton have stepped up to anoint themselves. Self-serving, irrelevant clowns such as The Rev Jesse Jackson are still being viewed as “leaders,” even though they are leading nothing, while looking out of place and speaking out of turn.

We are at such a paucity of leadership that anyone can step up and appear to be leading, including Bill Cosby, an innocuous comedian who creates movies rife with ignorant, negative Black stereotypes, while blaming the “lower economic people” for not holding up their end of the Post-Civil Rights burden.

Yet, he looks good to the crowds who praise him. Those are largely people who ignore the real work that needs to be done while attacking the real soldiers putting in the work.

As a result of three decades of permissiveness, selfishness, window-dressing, dumbing down and the rewarding of weakness, we have no real movement to coalesce around, yet many still speak about being warriors and soldiers. We demand leadership, even though we would tear down a leader before he or she gets down to work.

would anyone want to step up and lead Black people? The question is valid and becomes even more valid when all the hateful people attack me for asking it, but let’s be real: Asian, Hispanic, and Jewish leaders may take guff from other races, but not much from their own. Black leaders take the heat from everyone else and then have to deal with it from other Blacks.

And it’s only getting worse.

Right now, in 2007, comfortable idiots are discussing and evaluating the relevance and importance of Dr. King’s mission, value and purpose while mulling over his personal “failings.” How dare any of us do that with any leader who literally gave his or her life to a specific purpose that involved a people and not an individual?

It’s a sad statement for Blacks to malign Dr. King or any other leader in a retrospective manner. We can evaluate the leaders of today, but only based on what we are doing ourselves. We have no business evaluating past leaders, particularly when we benefit from their lives and mostly their deaths without doing anything to interrupt our way of life, sacrifice our comfort, or jeopardize our safety.

To cast posthumous aspersions on his name is just plain silly and an insult to his entire cause. But it is also an insult to yourself, because it means that you have no real perspective of where we were then and where we are today, except that which you read about.

No one is denying you the use of toilets or dining counters and no one is loosing dogs upon you. No laws are on the books where you live that allow you to be spit upon in public, or deny you the right to vote (maybe).

However, I want to see what you do about the things that do affect you. If you are in college, what are you doing about the evaporation of Affirmative Action? If you are on a job, what will you do when the retarded nephew of your supervisor is given your job simply because you are Black?

My point is that it is far too easy to sit in relative comfort and in the virtual lack of intrinsic opposition and desecrate an entire movement, because you favor the methods of another.

Finally, the old discussion of Dr. King’s flaws is so tired and weak that we really should let it go. The man allowed his life to be dedicated to our freedom no matter the method and what he did in private is the business of God and his wife, and not ours.

I take such attacks personally, because I am a real warrior. I have placed my life on the line many times, for real. That’s why I find it hard to stomach armchair warriors and passive commentators who want to malign real leaders simply because they disagree. Let’s be real–Do you disagree merely in thought and principle or in action?

To be real, that’s why we don’t have too many warriors standing in the light anymore. True soldiers of this race are far too often tossed to the wolves, desecrated, defamed and despised by the very people for whom they fight.

At this stage in our history, because so many of us have sold out while talking about what “we” need to do, real warriors keep their actions silent. There can be few press releases or public meetings because many of the people we love and would die for would sell us out in a heartbeat for cash, privilege or for nothing at all.

Many of us desire leaders whom we would have die for a national holiday or a movie with promotional hats. We find it hard sometimes to even engage in productive dialogue because emotions step in and people who won’t ever dare fight for real start launching verbal or written attacks.

The sad reality is that half of you chicken and biscuit eating fools walking around with an old X shirt would have hated on him. And before you try to split he and our Brother King, you would have hated King, too.

I love both Malcolm and Martin. Different methods, but similar results, and if you really knew them, you would realize they were fundamentally one and the same.

But the real question is, do you live your life in service and discomfort, or does it just make you feel good to talk about it?

We still have work to do. Are you down?

By Darryl James

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