Wanted: Courageous, Effective Black Leadership

By Larry Aubry

Things have gone from bad to worse. A litany of current problems portends even greater barriers and challenges for the future and efforts to develop unified Black agendas typically devolve into valueless rhetoric.

A major reason Blacks have trouble agreeing on agendas/strategies is leadership’s unwillingness to set aside personal and embrace group-oriented agendas. And it is much deeper than that. Having internalized white America’s values without its access to political and economic benefits, Blacks are reluctant to actually challenge the “system:” They continue to emulate white’s leadership models and remain nothing more than self-serving opportunists dodging their responsibilities.

In Los Angeles, pressing issues include pervasive violence: gangs, domestic, and Black-on-Black violence, failing schools, and police brutality. Black leadership has been near criminally silent on most of these issues. A plethora of other problems, including health care exist and generate similar indifference–within as well as outside of Black areas. Despite LAPD’ claim that crime has been significantly reduced under Chief William Bratton you’d never know it by walking the streets of South Central Los Angeles, listening to complaints about the cops and feeling residents’ pain. (Black-Latino relations is another neglected, simmering issue.)

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) continues to fail Black students. As this is written, some school board members are attempting to oust Superintendent, David Brewer. I have sufficient information to call for his ouster at this time, but lean in that direction. Brewer doesn’t get it: Apparently, he is unable to navigate the fissures in the massive district, including its political terrain. As important, he has yet to articulate, a clear vision for the district’s future. Further, Brewer has failed to address the needs of LAUSD’s lowest achievers-its Black children. Nonetheless, it goes without saying, any process to remove him, or anyone else, must be fair and transparent.

Most Black businesses are striving to make a profit–especially since the recent financial meltdown. Full employment and large-scale community development remain pipe dreams in the grossly neglected inner-city.

African American leaders have also managed to skirt the thorny issue of immigration. It contains both seeds of Black dissatisfaction and the potential for Black-Latino collaboration. Many Blacks claim Latinos have taken their jobs, receive special privileges and have “taken over our schools.” Absent serious, sustained discussion and interfacing, on conflicting as well as alternative views, Blacks and Latinos will remain emboldened in their respective cocoons as adversaries.

Heavily Latino, SEIU 1877, was the incubator for launching a new, predominantly Black security officers union. Also, the County Federation of Labor has supported various efforts to increase Black union membership and assist them gain parity in the Los Angeles work force. However, the overall employment picture for Blacks remains bleak and there is a continuing need for more Blacks in decision-making positions within the unions themselves.

Both Blacks and Latinos profess interest in working together, but neither has worked to sustained efforts to improve relations between them. Black leadership’s patented silence is especially telling. Prior efforts were half-baked, non-priority, and principally bureaucratically driven, hardly a blueprint for success.

Blacks’ escalating problems, punctuated by a leadership void has spawned a host of charlatans and self-professed “leaders.” Many are peripatetic ambulance chasers and pay-per-view civil rights “activists” who appear like clockwork at high-profile incidents like sensational violent crimes. These people are profound opportunists and mainstream media’s pawns-improperly referred to as “civil rights activists.”

They specialize in exploiting he emotions of victims and/or their families and operate with virtual impunity. Occasionally, they endanger lives: This happened when a self-anointed “negotiator” (media hound) claimed to have brokered a gang truce; there was no such truce and, subsequently, a young Black man was shot and wounded as result.

California’s legislature now includes a record high number of Black members and the Legislative Black Caucus’ “Status of Black California,” report addressed important quality of life issues. Hopefully, the caucus will break with tradition and continue to do positive, sustainable work as a group.

Committed leadership focused on critical community needs is imperative for change. Will Black leaders assume their responsibility- or will Black communities and constituents require them to do so? This is pivotal time in the struggle for actual change; to relentlessly demand justice and equity, thereby saving ourselves and our progeny. Unless we all pitch in to make it happen, it won’t.

Larry Aubry can be contacted at e-mail l.r.aubry@worldnet.att.net.

The Court of Public Opinion