Black relevance

16 01 2008

A lot of face time has been given to politicians lately. No, not just those running for office. Many junior and senior politicians have been seen on shows nationwide as well as on radio giving their support for presidential candidates. One of the more interesting debates about endorsements revolves around civil rights leaders’ lack of support of Senator Barack Obama. To sum it up, Al Sharpton, John Lewis and Andrew Young feel that the senator is too young, that he has too little political experience and clout to really make an impact on the nation and world. They also agree that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has consistently put the needs of Black America at the forefront in her political endeavors and will continue to do so as president.

What has been revealed in many of the articles I’ve read in papers surrounding this is the issue of relevance. Many people feel that Sharpton, Lewis, Young and the like are no longer truly relevant. They are relics from an age of necessary protest and movements for the sake of basic human rights. They are the remnants of the civil rights movement in America, but what is their role now?

Their influence in Black American has weaned heavily in the last few decades, understandably so. Basic human rights for Blacks, for the most part, are no longer a daily struggle as new issues have come to the forefront. They are the civil rights movement. It is 2008.

These seasoned men of color are struggling to remain relevant. By prominently endorsing or not supporting a candidate on television, they believe their influence will sway Black votes in their favor. Unfortunately, these men do not realize that their influence is shrinking. They are out of touch with the needs of young America and are seen as going against all that they fought for in the 60s. It is their work and struggle that made it possible for Obama to even be a viable candidate today. Why, then, would they refuse to support him in favor of Senator Clinton, a candidate with a similar level of experience (although not in her home state)? These men will proudly let you know their track record dating back half a century, but don’t realize how they are setting their own efforts back.

Similar is true for many organizations founded by African-Americans before the 1980s. Many BGLOs (Black Greek Letter Organizations) are also struggling to remain relevant in ways they once were. In the year that the oldest BGL sorority marks its centennial, many might question what the organization’s relevance is today. These organizations were founded when Blacks were forced to attend schools with subpar equipment and facilities, if any, and only amongst themselves. With Blacks now making tremendous strides and breaking down the ceilings and walls that once confined them to compete only against themselves, I wonder what purpose social and service-oriented organizations serve. With sisterhood and brotherhood being the primary focus, scholarship and community service trailing close behind, I can’t help but think that we can and do strive for scholarly excellence and commitment to our communities without being a member of a BGLO, NAACP, NCNW or any number of similar organizations. I’m beginning to believe that many of these clubs are supplying a need that they are creating themselves: polarizing communities of educated (BGLO members) and uneducated, affiliated (NAACP) and non-affiliated and sisterhood (NCNW, sororities) only to claim these ideals as a primary benefit of membership.

It’s simple economics. They’re creating the demand and supplying the good to sustain their place.

I absolutely respect the tremendous efforts the founders and brains behind these groups made to see the organizations formed during tumultuous times. Their efforts will always be respected by me. I can’t help but wonder where Black women would be in2008 if, during the 60s for example, we didn’t cling to our letters and charters, but held on to common bonds of Women’s Rights, Civil Rights, Human Rights.

Being taken from Africa against their will, robbed of all culture and tradition they knew to be their own, African Americans adopted and created new traditions. Some are good, and some are absolutely pointless. Either way, they are traditions that we steadfastly hold on to despite evidence that it is not always in our best interest.
Feel free to disagree.

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