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Complacency is killing us. Its counterpart, silence, is also problematic, even crippling at times. Unfortunately, Black people, in general, and Black leadership, in particular, tend to perpetuate a status quo that is inimical to their own best interests. Yes, we are among the most resilient people in history, but there is an unsettling parallel between our silence on crucial issues like failing to denounce injustice or dysfunctional leadership, and the “silence of the lambs” syndrome dominant among Jews in Nazi Germany.
The damaging implications of Blacks’ pervasive complacency are not always evident. For example, their failure to vigorously protest police brutality reinforces its recurrence. Current statistics aside, crime in Los Angeles has decreased in many areas, but continues unabated in pockets, especially in South Central Los Angeles. Neighborhoods most affected by excessive violence are often the poorest and have the least political clout. And inner city violence also reflects the class issue, i.e., a growing chasm between middle-class and poorer Blacks. Increasingly, the former hardly consider themselves victims of institutional racism and are, therefore, apparently not concerned about challenging the status quo or participating in the continuing struggle for full freedom and justice.
Of course, there are many other examples of the harmful effects of Blacks’ collective complacency and silence. In Los Angeles, far too many Black parents, educators and traditional leaders fail to denounce the inferior education Black children receive in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). A couple of examples: Programs focusing on Black students have never been sustained by LAUSD, and two years ago, the first phase of the Public School Choice Initiative virtually excluded Black parents from the process. LAUSD’s negligence is only a part, albeit a major part, of the problem; Black parents and concerned others’ silence on key issues is also problematic. (The initial phase of the Public School Choice process was characterized by misinformation, heavy district and union politics and outright fraud. Yet, as usual, there was no sustained outrage or pushback by Black parents or the broader Black community, whose collective failure to protest such inequities allows LAUSD to skirt accountability, with impunity.
Violence among Blacks, poor education, police malpractice, etc., are both systemic and community problems, but neither side is meeting its responsibility. Clearly, racism and continuing race-based discrimination are the causal factors. However, many Blacks, having internalized America’s individualistic and materialistic values without comparable access to its benefits, also contribute to the problem. But without alternatives, for many Blacks, challenging the system is tantamount to challenging themselves. And far too many middle-class Blacks, fearing the loss of presumed political and economic gains, will not take the risks necessary for actual change so they tend to perpetuate a status quo that is not even in their own best interests.
Black youth’s (males especially) widespread low self-esteem is a tragic hallmark of the race-based conundrum. Everyone knows that disproportionately, poor Black children are victims of physical and psychological abuse, neglect and violence that too often starts in the home and is reinforced in their immediate environment, including the schools. Is it any wonder that large numbers of these children find themselves in the horrific cycle of rejection, hopelessness and failure that culminates in imprisonment or death? The most rebellious and “insufferable’ of these youth are often the least secure and most severely victimized by their negative self-affirming life experiences.
However, this admittedly bleak scenario is cause for challenge, not despair, but here’s the rub. Many Blacks are armchair experts in pontificating and analyzing social problems, but rarely actually work on solutions to those problems. And, as mentioned earlier, classism has become a major factor, and most of the Black middle-class is no longer involved in the struggle for full civil rights and social justice, further complicating things.
Complacency and silence make achieving group unity immeasurably more difficult. In the 1960s and prior, Blacks not only knew they were in the same boat, but more importantly, acted like it. Today, affecting change is a more complex and daunting task because so many Blacks have been brainwashed into thinking change is either unnecessary or not possible. And our dwindling numbers in many urban areas makes it even harder to in marshal the necessary moral and political clout to protect our own interests. With an increasing Tea Party prone, white political gang throughout the nation, every step toward progressive, positive change triggers heavy conservative pushback. (And yes, race is a factor in the unprecedented, vicious attacks on President Barack Obama.)
Be that as it may, most Blacks are silent about the president’s failure to address their specific concerns and his propensity for over-accommodation on issues that negatively affect them. Many, if not most, are not only reluctant to criticize President Obama, but not wanting to align themselves with the conservative chorus that viciously condemns him, give him a free hand in making critical decisions which is a huge mistake. Blacks still tend to support and protect Obama even when it’s not to their benefit to do so, but such blanket support is waning.
The complacency of the Black community and its leadership is based on conditioned self-effacing mindsets and behavior which I believe will be offset only by Black leadership establishing common ground among and with each other, based on moral and ethical principles embraced by the community.