By Mel Reeves
Anyone who has been paying attention to the news of late couldn’t help but notice that Black folks have been having some very open disagreements. There has been the Grant Hill vs. Jalen Rose conflict, Sharpton vs. Cornell West, Bill Cosby vs. Russell Simmons, and lately Spike Lee vs. Tyler Perry. And they have been enlightening disagreements.
This gives rise to a related thought: What if all these folks found some points of agreement and moved on a mutual agenda beneficial to the majority of Black people? However, when one analyzes the various disputes, the truth is that some of the folks involved were indeed wrong, dead wrong.
Cosby and everybody else knows that you don’t kick folks when they are down, no matter how tempting it may be. Negroes didn’t make the ghettoes nor put themselves in them.
And he should know, if he doesn’t by now, that blasting Black folks without a corresponding blast at a system that has encouraged and aided and nurtured these conditions just feeds anti-Black folks propaganda. When you are a public figure, you should have sense enough to know you can’t just say something ’cause you feel like saying it.
Jalen Rose clearly misspoke by asserting that one had to be a Tom to attend Duke. But we know what he was trying to say: Duke hand picks its Negroes. And it was absolutely foolish for Hill to run out and defend Duke. Duke doesn’t need defending, but Hill felt the urge to moonwalk for them.
Tyler Perry doesn’t have a leg to stand on either. Anyone who puts out in the public domain a series like Meet the Browns ought to have sense enough to be quiet and just count their money and stay out of the public light.
The Browns series is pure and simple buffoonery, the kind that makes anybody with any sense cringe. Tyler, to be fair, has produced some wholesome entertainment with his movies, which have been a bit clownish as well, but at least there have been periods of levity and even a decent storyline or two. He has even allowed some of his characters redemption, a big deal in these days of our unforgiving American society.
Spike doesn’t have a lot of room to criticize. While definitely giving us good and positive and thoughtful film, he too managed to become a poster boy for the corporate elite. And he didn’t fool everyone with his limited depiction of Malcolm X.
Those of us in the know are aware that he left out the last year of Malcolm’s life when he denounced capitalism and embraced egalitarianism and advocated some kind of collective economics, along with Black self-help. Spike purposely left Malcolm as a foaming-at-the-mouth narrow nationalist because it fit his purposes.
Nobody needs any light to see through Al Sharpton; he is positioning himself to be the “guy” in the Black community. And West is right — his main man in the White House could at least say something about some of the problems that plague Black America.
But West does have to come down from the tower, offer practical solutions, roll up his sleeves and find a way to join the struggle on the ground. Unlike most of the other Black leadership, he has at least admitted that capitalism is at bottom what ails us.
Instead of all this disagreement, we need to find points of agreement. It doesn’t take a political science degree to ascertain the primary needs in the Black community. All these folks would serve us well if they created an organization.
They should come together and tackle the obvious problems facing our community just as the free colored folks did during the days of slavery. Out of these conventions grew two very important strands: abolitionism (virulent opposition to the enslavement of our brothers and sisters) and self-help (they ain’t going to do it, so we will have to do it ourselves).
So what should be the agenda for this new organization? Jobs, job creation, an end to job discrimination and discrimination against ex-felons, all of which overwhelmingly affects the Black community.
We need drug treatment centers for the folks who want to kick the habit — there simply are not enough treatment facilities, and decriminalization of marijuana would help along with reduction of jail time for drug possession.
We need to create a parallel education system and drop out of the charter vs. public school debate. We need schools or educational facilities that will give dropouts another chance. There are so many dropouts in our community that this could be an opportunity for job creation.
And we need the talking heads or those who would be leaders to continue to defend the rights we have fought so hard for and to denounce racism and injustice in all its forms, especially job discrimination, discrimination against felons, housing discrimination, economic discrimination and racial profiling.
Ultimately, to paraphrase Martin Luther King, we must stand together as brothers “or perish together as fools.”
Mel Reeves invites readers to visit his blog, Dred Scotts Ghost, at www.dredscottsghost.blogspot.com. He welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.