Friday, August 15, 2008

old black dudes need to go the way of the dodo

Chicago Black Leaders Call for School Boycott Draws Fire | RaceWire

When I say 'old black dudes' I am not talking about specific old black dudes. (My dad is an old black dude!) I'm talking about the Old Black Dude (OBD, for short) Political Discourse, a system of old, tired and failed tactics to implement social change.

I mean, come on! The way to address education funding inequity is to tell little black kids to boycott the first day of school?? What the hell is wrong with you?

In fairness, Meeks is the lead sponsor of a senate bill that the CTBA backs as the best way to redistribute state funds to address this funding inequity. (You can read about the bill and the policy statement here and here.) But, of course, this bill is tied up because of the ongoing feud/stalemate between the governor, the legislature and the leaders.

Yesterday, I was in a strategy meeting and heard that polling here in Illinois reveals that among people's highest priorities are education and roads. Education reform is consistently at the top of this list for the citizens of IL, but where's the organization and elbow grease to educate the public, mobilize them and get the bill passed? The public would be behind you! (Maybe. It would involve some taxing...)

But it would be nice to see our so-called black leaders actually get the lead out and do some actual organizing (i.e., work) and strategic thinking instead of just proposing lameass protests that do nothing to move legislative policies out of the dead pool and onto the frakking floor for a vote.

Out of those 1000 people at that rally, do any of them know about this senate bill? Who's organizing them to do some actual lobbying? What the hell does having a sit in in the Loop have to do with education funding reform? Absolutely nothing. It's all tactic and no strategy.

Where are the strategic thinkers in the black community, huh? Where are the folks, the strategists, the lobbyists, the grassroots organizers who know how to apply pressure on those who have the power and ability to move policy through? I know they're out there - I've met them, we see each other at meetings! But instead we get lameass, stupid public relations exercises like boycotts and sit ins that really don't do anything except show that you're lame and stupid. Boycotts and sit-ins may have worked back in the day but, for the love of god, it's a new day.

There was a recent piece in the NYT about what Obama's candidacy means for traditional black 'leadership' and I, for one, hope it means traditional black leaders get to retire. Where are the innovative ideas that benefit our community coming from? They're not coming from the same old ministers or leftovers from the Civil Rights movement. They're coming from the bright, educated black men and women of today. Not yesterday.

Is this a generational divide? Absolutely. And it crosses race and ethnicity. In the mainstream, the common image of America is still from the 50s. Dude. Seriously? The parameters of American national identity are still being informed by the bracketing contexts of WW2 and the Vietnam War. (Obama, as an example, is being blamed, basically, for being younger than McCain. Dude - we're all younger than McCain!)

I'm being flip but I'm also serious. It's time to move on - oh, not that we're living in any post racial society by any stretch. But the Jeremiah Wright/Jesse Jackson/Harold Ford, Jr. self-interest, paranoia, corruption and hyperbole 60s. I think my generation, and the generation after mine, is into results - what's going to work? (Notice how I keep saying 'work'?) We need men and women who know how to get the frakking job done - not just garner media attention about the issue. Who cares about that? Get the job done! We've had 40 years for that old paradigm (grab media attention and hope to shame the hegemony into changing course) to work and, so far, it hasn't.

(Well, not on a large scale basis, though the Jena 6 action was pretty cool. But that was mostly through new media, definitely not an OBD tool.)

Before our communities are permanently retarded beyond recovery, step aside and let someone else do it.
I was going to start a list of new and upcoming black/brown/tan men and women who I think would be great to replace the Old Black Dude coterie, but I'm too busy enjoying Ta-Nehisi Coates' post on who should be elected White People Spokesperson.


Tameshia said...

I have been reading your blog for a long time, and this one made me cheer! I do advocacy work around health care and worker issues. I am pragmatic and strategic in my think, and am more concerned with results than I am with symbolism.

While protests can be effective, they are NOT the be-all-end-all of effectively using the power that we have as a community to create chage. It's time to not just think outside of the box - but to blow up the damn thing and start building our own.

Thanks for your post and for the work that I can only guess you are doing in Chicago!

ding said...

Thanks for sticking with Church Gal!

Lately, I've been thinking about this generational divide - and the Jeremiah Wright thing probably prompted it. Like my dad, Wright is a product of a particular era and, while his heart might be in the right place (and Father Pfleger certainly thinks so) his tactics, or the tactics he represents, are useful only in an internal sense, I think.

I really do think that people in our generation, because our worlds have been integrated to a larger degree, have been exposed to newer ideas and that's important for making sure ideas are new, innovative, tested and implemented.

Have you met with any resistance in your work?

Tameshia said...

I haven't met with much resistance in my work, mostly because as an organization, we really don't delve very deeply into with the racial dynamics of health access and the workforce we work on behalf of.

Where I do feel the generational divide is in my personal life, precisely for the reasons you stated above. Many of my white friends come to for an "explanation" of the behavior and attitudes of my behavior. I find myself explaining and defending and it turns into a very frustrating conversation.

Anyway, I'd love to keep this conversation going and am intrigued by the work that you do and your new position. Feel free to shoot me an email sometime -