OPINION | LLOYD V. HACKLEY: Black leaders’ lament

The Economic Policy Institute found that there had been no Black progress in 50 years in homeownership, unemployment, incarceration/criminal justice and poverty. (NNPA Newswire, March 19, 2018)

Many of our early African-American leaders raised concerns about our plight, best exemplified by Du Bois with this question: "Why did God make me a stranger in my own land?"

"The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife -- this longing to attain self-conscious manhood. To make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American in this American world, a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world; looking at one's self through the eyes of others; of measuring one by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity," Du Bois said.

His lament, like so many others after him, was directed at the spiritual condition of the descendants of slaves and, consequently, our capacity to achieve the American dream.

Late in their lives, Carter G. Woodson, John Hope Franklin, Kenneth Clark and Martin Luther King Jr. expressed great disappointment at what had been achieved in their lifetimes.

Carter G. Woodson: "The so-called modern education, with all its defects does others so much more good than it does the Negro, because it has been worked out in conformity to the needs of those who have enslaved and oppressed weaker peoples. The same educational process which inspires and stimulates the oppressor with the thought that he is everything and has accomplished everything worthwhile depresses and crushes the spark of genius in the Negro by making him feel that his race does not amount to much and never will measure up to the standards of other peoples."

John Hope Franklin suggested that we couldn't solve the racial problem because a truly color-blind society scares all of us, Blacks as well as whites; that to be judged strictly on our contributions to society is too much to take.

Kenneth Clark stated: "Reluctantly I am forced to face the likely possibility that the United States will never rid itself of racism and reach a true integration. I look back and shudder at how naive we all were in our belief in the steady progress of racial equity, through programs of litigation and education; and while I very much hope for the emergence of a revived civil rights movement, with innovative programs and educated leaders, I am forced to recognize that my life has, in fact, been a series of glorious defeats."

In 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. bemoaned: "Where Do We Go From Here -- Chaos or Community. This is no time for empty debates about freedom, but a time for action, a strategy for change, for a tactical program that will bring us into the mainstream of American life as quickly as possible. If not, we will end up with solutions that don't solve, answers that don't answer and explanations that don't explain."

Earlier, he had told us to go back to our local communities and get to work.

King asked Black leaders to put a Plan with the Dream, incumbent on both whites and Blacks. King knew that a revolution in our own spirit was required to prevent the old order from continuing to dominate in new forms and stifling progress efforts. King's plea went unheeded – many generations have been lost because no comprehensive plan was formulated.

Our forebears in the first two post-slavery generations were made of sterner stuff, obviously, given the brutal and extensive obstacles they faced and the progress they made for us.

Thomas Paine said it well for them: "If there is going to be trouble, let it be visited on me in my lifetime so that my children and grandchildren will not so suffer."

It is imperative that our people understand that improvement in America's condition and direction, the worst in our history, is not possible without an arduous struggle -- for the number of people who are determined to do something innovative and positive in the pursuit of justice, freedom and equality for others, and persevere to fruition, is miniscule in comparison with the mass of the indifferent and the miseducated. We will not solve our problems with the same thinking and strategies we used when the problems first surfaced.

"Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathies with despised ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences," Susan B. Anthony said.

Lloyd V. Hackley holds a doctoral degree in international relations. He lives in Boones Mill, Va., was chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff from 1981 to 1985 and is president and CEO of Hackley and Associates LLC.

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