When Politics Fails, From Whence Cometh Our Help?

by William P. Muhammad

The resounding defeat recently meted out against House Democrats should serve as a wake-up call for those who found solace in the election of America’s first Black president.  While the Democratic victories of 2008 brought with them campaign promises for transparency and reform, carrying them into practice has proven difficult leaving many voters disappointed, disaffected and cynical.  
Two years into the Obama administration, commitments to bipartisanship have been counter-productive as unemployment, corporate influence and the mainstreaming of White nationalism occupied much of the national dialogue. Essentially driven by the masters of the Tea Party movement, the 2010 elections have revealed more than just a legislative shift from Democratic to Republican rule.
The conservative sweep that unseated many incumbents on the local, state and federal levels, exposed to light not only the hatred simmering behind the fa├žade of civil discourse, but it also identified new scapegoats for America’s anger. As fear and insecurity were openly exploited for political purposes, discussion over public and private policies leading to the weak economy and high unemployment rates were quietly ignored.
With incoming Republican leadership now calling for a smaller federal government, support for states’ rights is increasing as both tax and spending cuts threaten to undermine the social safety net.  While it should be clear that an attempt to replay the policies of the pre-Depression Era is currently underway, mounting pressure to deregulate markets and promote so-called laissez-faire capitalism may bring with it either gridlock and presidential vetoes or legislative compromises at the expense of the poor and middle class.
In light of these possibilities, it is important to note that since the end of the Civil War, Blacks have traditionally looked to the federal government for the safeguarding and preservation of rights. In recent history, the right to collective bargaining, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and Affirmative Action have all rested upon federal enforcement of laws designed to protect so-called minorities and workers.
However, when the new Congress is seated in January, conservatives have made clear their intention to “eliminate big government.” Perhaps a code phrase for austerity measures and other funding reductions that will ultimately harm those made vulnerable by a poor economy, among other things, Republicans are poised to cut entitlement programs, education spending and raise the Social Security retirement age.
Ultimately meaning the Black community will once again get the short end of the stick, the country’s conservative climate virtually guarantees there will be little, if any, relief coming from either the executive or legislative branches of government. As increasingly difficult times lie ahead, a rude awakening awaits those who fail to prepare for the days of lean, which in many cases have already come.
Since waiting on the political process has failed to work out the problems of Black people, unity and the pooling of resources appear to be the only realistic option for a meaningful change. As the so-called achievement gap between Blacks and Whites continues to widen, will the development of a “permanent underclass” remain an acceptable reality in national politics?
With hundreds of billions in consumer dollars passing through the hands of Black Americans each year, harnessing 5 to 10 percent for recirculation could work wonders in solving urban and rural problems. Although the time for action has almost run out, it is not too late to join with those who are working to rebuild the Black community.  
Overcoming jealousy, envy and above all ignorance of self and others is without doubt the most pressing issue facing Black institutions today. With the social and political climate the country has now entered, those who would foment division and enmity, at the expense of Black unity, identify themselves more as part of the problem than part of the solution.
However, in order to facilitate the necessary action that allows for operational unity, Black leaders, teachers and the faith community must embrace certain universal principles.   As religious traditions constitute the foundation of many Black communities, religious leadership in particular has a duty and responsibility to teach trust, understanding and the love of self and kind.
If we fail to organize and work together for common cause, then we will have doomed the masses to repeat what we have suffered for generations. Through the exercise of our God given talents, there is no excuse for not preparing a future for ourselves, our families and our people. With self-preservation being the first law of nature, if we don’t act to save ourselves no one else will. Now is the time to stand up and accept the challenge to change.