By William P. Muhammad
With President Obama attempting to wind down America’s commitment in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan is ramping up as new phases in the fighting require more troops and funding. Coupled with concerns over nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula, an alleged nuclear weapons program in Iran and a stated desire to repair relations with the Arab and Muslim world in a time of war, international issues are dominating much of the President’s time and energy.
At home Mr. Obama presides over a national unemployment rate almost in the double digits while nearly 50 million Americans live without health insurance. Additionally, public education is lagging behind much of the industrialized world as America’s prisons continue to incarcerate more and more Black men. As these conditions continue to worsen, disproportionately affecting the lives of Black people, the need for a concerted effort to address them from within our own community is more than self-evident.
While some may place faith in the President’s federal stimulus package to create jobs and opportunities for the masses, waiting for the monies to “trickle down” may prove a major disappointment. With terms such as “less qualified” and “reverse racism” being used as euphemisms, in order to counter the state and county level favoritism that follows many federal contracting dollars, the unity and organization of Black leadership must become a priority.
Black Unity: the untried key
The concept of unity among Black people, though traditionally opposed by the dominant culture, has been one of the few vehicles through which freedom and empowerment has been advanced throughout the decades. Regardless of the efforts to discredit, disrupt or otherwise neutralize the leadership needed to facilitate our rise, from the overt brutality of slavery and its aftermath to the covert yet notorious machinations of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, our struggle continued in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
Perhaps for the purpose of protecting the long-term interests of America’s economic elite, solidarity among Black people seems to have been classified as either a phenomenon to be managed or a threat to be prevented. Nevertheless, as America’s people of color continue to grow in numbers, Black American leadership must recognize the international significance of unifying and evolve with the changing times. Requiring us to adapt and adjust by thinking outside of the box, new opportunities offered by globalization, high technology and international economic integration have now shifted the paradigm.
While unity is the solution to the many challenges facing Black America today, solidarity across educational, religious and ideological lines has never been sustained at the national level. Internal disagreements, jealousy, envy and even external manipulation have all hampered our efforts to close ranks around the many problems plaguing our various communities.
If leadership is interested in stabilizing the long-term wellbeing of the Black community, and they see and embrace the greater goals of the greater good, myopic agendas and vain self-interests will take a backseat to new ideas and initiatives. In addition to articulating a vision for prosperity and advancement, leaders must also take it upon themselves to teach the love and self and kind to their constituencies, particularly among the youth, and make doing so the rule rather than the exception.
Putting unity of purpose ahead of outside favors and personal agendas would allow Black Americans, as a whole, to emerge not only with the substance reflecting the industry of our labor, but also with the wealth rivaling that of many sovereign nations. If we as a people were properly unified, we could “build schools, hospitals, factories and enter into international trade and commerce.” Nearly one trillion dollars pass through the hands of Black Americans annually and leveraged properly, one percent would work wonders toward solving Black unemployment, housing issues, disparities in healthcare and the education gap.
Currently, our posture of dependency and consumption requires a fundamental change in the way we view ourselves as a people. We must overcome the psychological roadblocks associated with negative self-images and work in a unified manner to solve the problems of our time. We must find common denominators in our struggle as we seek resolution in areas of difference, and through operational unity empower ourselves to serve the long-term interests of our people. The future belongs to those who are independent and productive, and unity is the key for unlocking our potential.
Brother William P. Muhammad is an author and a graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso. Post comments at www.wisdomhouseonline.com