Fighting Black Poverty: We Need Solutions Not Self Aggrandizement

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People like Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King weren’t just complaining for the sake of complaining. They offered concrete solutions

[Beneath The Spin]

I was recently involved in a "discussion" regarding the prison industrial complex with an extremely intelligent young woman by the name of Lydia.

I placed the word discussion in quotes because the moment she started quoting the statistics on the Black experience with the prison industrial complex relative to the rest of society, I began to overtalk her, and I didn’t let her get a word in edgewise thereafter. 

But thanks to her cool head and grace under fire, after our discussion I immediately began to question my behavior. The fact is, even though she didn’t get to say much, she outclassed me, and as a result, I’ve decided to never use that strategy again, because it’s not only rude, but it’s counterproductive. Under such circumstances neither party is listening to the other, so no useful information can be exchanged.

But what set me off was that I’m so sick of hearing people in the Black community substituting complaints for solutions that when I hear people starting to slip into that 40 year-old mantra it immediately makes my eyes roll to the back of my head.
Why constantly state the obvious as though you’re saying something new? Constantly giving statistics on the fact that there’s institutional racism is like trying to prove that the Sun is hot. We know that.

So what we should be discussing is what we’re going to do about it. But then, maybe that’s where she was headed and I didn’t give her a chance to express herself. So what I should have done was sat quietly and heard her out, then maybe I could have walked away from the discussion more informed.

In the future I intend to do just that. Not only would it provide me with the possible opportunity for growth, it would also force those who thrive on muddled communication and making a living off of anger and complaints to have to come up with rational solutions for change.

But many like myself have become impatient, because so many in the Black community have been listening to people like Tavis Smiley, Cornel West, and others of their ilk for so many decades that they’ve begun to confuse whining, beggin' and finger-pointing with educating the Black community to the need of taking effective action.

People like Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King - those sincere activists who these latter-day "saviors" are trying to impersonate - weren’t just complaining for the sake of complaining. During their era, pointing out the abuse of the Black community was a part of the educational process. During their time, Black people were so use to being abused that Malcolm and Martin had to educate the community, and society as a whole, to the extent of the injustice toward Black people, as a prelude to taking effective action against it.

And back then, that educational effort was a dangerous process, as their eventual murders clearly attests.

But today, we have fraudulent imitators living off the legacy and words of these great men as though they too are doing something heroic. But the difference is, they're under absolutely no personal risk.

In fact, the forces that promoted the deaths of both Malcolm and Martin encourage the activities of these latter-day frauds because they’re not saying anything new, revolutionary, or educational. They're simply regurgitating the words of a different era that are completely out of context with respect to the current Black condition.

The fact is, the forces that led to the death of both Martin and Malcolm are actually delighted by their activities because they serve to divide the Black community, and thus, help to maintain the status quo.

These people routinely ignore the greater good and purposely sabotage our agenda, along with all of the causes that they’re supposed to be so passionate about, for their own selfish interests.

And this is not merely speculation or opinion, it can be documented. We’ve already lived through a perfect example of it during the 2000 election when Cornel West teamed up with Ralph Nader to hand the presidential election over to George W. Bush.

Thus, they are all but directly responsible for the situation that we currently find ourselves in; the very conditions that West is now complaining that President Obama is not fixing fast enough. As I pointed out in a previous article, "Once Again Nader and West Team to Elect a Republican President", these people don’t give a damn about either the Black community, or the poor and middle class. All they care about is their own self-interest as I wrote then:

"But if you confront members of the Nader/West coalition with these facts, they’ll immediately begin to obfuscate and engage in intellectual gymnastics in an attempt to avoid responsibility for the horrific fate that they brought upon the country. They’ll say things like, "It’s not our fault that Gore lost. He just didn’t fight hard enough for a recount." But by using such arguments what they’re actually saying is, ‘Gore just didn’t work hard enough to undo the damage that we’d done.’ But the bottom line is this – Gore lost the 2000 election to Bush in Florida by 537 votes, and the Nader/West coalition peeled off 97,488 votes from Gore in Florida alone. So don’t take my word for it – you do the math."

Thus, the activities of these frauds only serve to divide our vote to the benefit of those who seek to keep us subjugated. Then when their job is done, our continued subjugation enhances the careers and bankbooks of the frauds themselves, because much of their enrichment is based upon complaining about our misery. Therefore, it would be an economic disaster for the Smileys and Wests of the world if we ever did, in fact, find true justice.

So it should be obvious to anyone with eyeballs and a clear head that what Tavis and West are actually engaged in is promoting themselves, their radio and television shows, their books, and Cornel’s reported $10,000 per speech speaker’s fees.

Their last "Poverty Tour" just happened to coincide with Cornel West’s Memoirs --published by Tavis Smiley-- and as we speak they’ve started yet another tour to promote their newest book, published by Tavis Smiley, "The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto."  

On April 15th they started a tour of twelve cities. The city of Detroit, Mich., one of the cities hardest hit by Black unemployment and poverty, was conspicuously missing from their current itinerary, since they were met with hostile demonstrations and boos on their last tour to Detroit. But what I want to know is, what do they mean by "us?" Thanks to US, they’re rich themselves, so they’re no longer a part of US. Thus, even the title of their new book is a gross deception.

If these people were truly sincere, instead of spending their time complaining and lining their pockets, they'd be discussing what we can do to resolve the problems that we’re complaining about. 

They need to be discussing ways to go about teaching young Black men that knowledge is power, and that they can’t be cool and ignorant at the same time.

They also need to be teaching them that they don’t have the right to demand respect while going around referring to the very womb of their culture as "bitches" and "whoes", and that they can’t measure their manhood based on how many other Black men they can kill, or how many minds of Black children they can poison with drugs and the ignorance of disinformation.
If the frauds actually cared about the Black community, those are the things they would be preaching, instead of trying to drag down the first Black president of the United States.

But let me end by taking my own advice, and taking this opportunity to extend my sincere apology to a young woman who I disrespectfully dismissed while she was trying to express her views.

I want to assure her that while my disdainful attitude was not directed toward her, what I did was stupid - period. I could tell by her very first sentence that she was a very intelligent woman, so I might have benefited by listening to what she had to say.

I also want to assure her that I fully understand that considering the selfless and unappreciated role that Black women have played in sustaining our culture over the centuries, a Black man should always afford a sister the utmost respect in any and all situations. She has earned the right to voice her opinion, whatever it is.

So, my good sister, due to your class, wisdom, and grace under fire, you managed to teach me something in spite of my male arrogance and stupidity, and I'll never forget it.

Thank you, Lydia.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

For more commentary by Black Star News columnist Eric L. Wattree please visit

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