“Where’s the leadership in the black community?” We hear it anytime and every time a black youth commits a crime. We hear every anchor on Fox and CNN posing the question to black politicians, reporters and activists anytime black people riot over unjust killings of black citizens by police. We read it on Facebook and Twitter everyday when white people and black respectability politicians call into question why black people commit more violent crime (*coughs* BULLSHIT).
So where is the leadership? Well, according to some of the older black generation and all of the black respectability politicians, we have none. Black people are lost because in the absence of King, things just fell apart. The black community has become morally decadent. Our black boys and young men do not know how to be the head of the community. They do not dress the part, opting for baggy jeans and overpriced sneakers instead of tailored suits. Our young women do not respect the sanctity of their bodies, opting for form-fitting short dresses leaving nothing to the imagination rather than knee-length skirts and starched blouses. Since we’ve stopped going to church, the Lord no longer guides our life and decisions, and as such, we are a community in complete and utter despair. We don’t value and fight for education as the previous generations,so we are behind academically, politically and socially.
And then, we have the opinion of the other side. According to white people, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are the leaders in the black community. Leaders whom white people dub criminal opportunists who profit from “race baiting” while ignoring the real problems in the black community: staggering crime rates, lack of education and the alarming 70% of births to single mothers. Yes, according to people completely outside of our community who have no vested interest in black prosperity, unity or peace, the “leaders” we have, whom we did not elect, appoint or endorse, are inadequate and are leading us further into despair.
Well, if the out-of-touch black folks and irrelevant white people don’t mind, I, a black woman with a black husband, son, mother and siblings, black friends, black co-workers and black neighbors who lives in the generation and community they think they’re experts on, would like to give my opinion: FUCK YOUR LEADERSHIP! The black community does not need leadership. We do not need one spokesperson for us all. We do not need a high counsel through whom all of our concerns are heard. We do not need a few of the talented tenth to represent the most educated, most financially successful, most dignified of us so that we can be taken seriously and respected. We do not need a majority to agree on a few prominent black people as the point people to make a statement when tragedy strikes.
What we need is full status as human beings. What we need is recognition of us as people whether we be crackhead or reverend, nun or prostitute, high school dropout or rocket scientist. What we need is to be recognized as a group of individuals representing the full spectrum of humanity. What we need is to not to be painted as monolith with the same needs, dreams and desires. We need full personhood and collective humanity.
And we’ve seen the younger generation of black people using their autonomy to mobilize and inspire. We’ve watched activists do instead of preach like the leadership of decades ago did. If we’re all standing around waiting for the great leader to step forward, nothing gets done. Instead, we have people stepping up with fresh ideas and plenty of courage to change things. These people don’t consider themselves leaders but organizers, change-seekers and freedom fighters. They’re not ego-tripping on the deference and bowing down that comes with leadership. They’re working for us by working with us. They’re standing beside us not ahead of us.
So to their inquiry as to where the leadership is in the black community, I respond with an inquiry as to where the leadership is in the white community. After all, white boys are the biggest consumers of the hip-hop music they say is ruining black people. White women are on stage twerking (albeit pathetically) just like black women. White men have a monopoly on random mass shootings. White people are on welfare, abusing unemployment and cheating the system just like they say we are. Where is the leadership to bring some order to the white community?
Besides, the question of leadership in the community only comes up when it’s the black community. I have never heard anyone referred to as a leader in the white community. That’s because black people are viewed as weak, savage and infantile. We are generally not intelligent or humane enough to lead ourselves, whereas white people are innately moral, intelligent people who do not need broad guidance and supervision. Leadership is code for “nigger wrangler.” What they’re really asking is where are the watchdogs to police us and make sure we don’t get out line. They’re looking to older people who lived through Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement to rein in the uppity negroes who dare stray from or challenge the script of white supremacy.
Asking for leadership only proves that the black community is seen as a project. A department in the corporation expected to answer to and obey the CEO of white supremacy. The black community is made up of living persons with a host of challenges, perspectives and views. We should not be viewed as a homogenous set of sheep herded by one shepherd. We don’t need leadership. We need the factors created, maintained and manipulated by the oppressor to keep poverty and crime functioning within our community to be eliminated.