The business of being Black in America, and in this world, has always been difficult. Too much of it has continued to be based, quite simply, on the fact that merely being born Black made one dangerous, an outsider, the “other,” or a problem.
To protect their own ‘bizness,’ whatever that was, White folks and others have spent an inordinate amount of time consistently passing anti-Black legislation, routinely directing police departments to cull and kill, and maintaining education systems that promoted the belief that White folks’ ‘bizness’ and Black folks’ ‘bizness,’ while they might sometimes intertwine, were, fundamentally different.
And more than different, according to this perspective, one was more valuable and necessary to preserve than the other. White society, being the higher road, had to continually reproduce and maintain itself, no matter what. One of the tenets of White cultural education was that Blacks had a choice Whites did not have. When things got too tough, Black folk could always depend on ingratiating themselves to or imitating White folk to save themselves. For Whites, however, it was lonely at the top, so they had to constantly reinforce each other and their privileges.
Throughout American national history, and even much of international history where Whites were involved, White folk have chosen leadership which looked like their mirror reflection and that understood the need to protect and preserve Whiteness. Even when they chose former President Barack Obama, they assumed that he got it. After all, half of his parentage had been White and he had been raised by White grandparents, thereby being introduced to the ideology of preserving Whiteness. The assumption was that Chicago’s icy visage would not have erased that grounding.
Seeing life through the eyes of a Black body in America has always meant first, survival against the odds, then, maybe being able to thrive, be acknowledged, and move forward. This is not a victimhood perspective, just Black reality. With the cards Black folk have been dealt relentlessly (and moving to another table has not helped), it has been a truism that the vast majority of chips and the prevailing best hand always seemed to be possessed by the lighter-hued players. So, how to proceed?
First, if it’s available, practice a God-given talent until it allows you to better your options. (Interestingly, most of the choices made in this realm then imitates what White life seems to enjoy rather than raising the standards of Black culture. We must do better.) Second, elect or accept leadership that seems to get it and that promises to watch out for Black interests.
But what exactly are those interests, and can only Black representatives look out for them? Who is and who should be taking care of Black folks’ business?
The principal business of Black folk remains how to better our collective positions in this life. Individual achievement, recognition and rewards are fine. However, if Black folk in general are no better off after one’s individual accomplishments are done, what is the point? Leadership chosen to represent this view of Black folks’ business has to be told that this is what is expected of them, then they must be held accountable for accepting the position once informed. Such leadership cannot be allowed to ‘hold the race back,’ or to make things worse.
Prospective Black leadership must be asked while campaigning what they intend to do to move Black folks forward. Accepted Black leadership must be rated annually on whether that pledge has been maintained and how. By the way, allies of Black folk who help the cause must also be evaluated, and not given a ‘free pass’ to practice subtle White folks’ privileges to belittle Black folks.
There are those who take care of Black folks’ business consistently well. They should be lauded for the example they set. Not taking care of Black folks’ business is a recipe for oblivion, and that is a choice the spirit of those who’ve come before cannot let us make.
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