Marc Lamont Hill hosted a HuffPost Live segment called Black Tea Partyers: The New Civil Right. I found myself trying to sum up the appeal that black members of the Tea Party are trying to make to the black community at large. I wasn't quite sure that I understood the overall message so I watched the segment again. I think I got it and oddly enough it aligns with some of the thoughts I recently have been having about black collectivism in such an individualistic American culture. Individual empowerment and the citizenship aspect of our identity seem to be the themes that black tea party members rally around.
As I have stated many times in the past, I am an independent. I belong to no political party. I can appreciate several key principles from each party. Lately, though, I have been leaning more to the left, by current standards, but that is primarily because the right has shifted more to the extreme. I prefer balance and compromise from all sides. I listened intently to hear what these black Tea Party members had to say on the show. The message of individual empowerment and allowing citizenship to transcend race are concepts that theoretically I am on board with. More recently I have been contemplating how collective we are as a people. I wonder if we are collective and loyal to a fault. To what extent does the collectivism clash with the individualistic and capitalist society we live in? We look out for one another. There is an expectation that we will always band together; that we will always reach back and leave no one behind. When one of us wins, the entire race wins. We are ever cognizant of how our individual actions affect all of us. We have accepted the reality that if we do not fight for ourselves then no one will.
Justifiably, we fight for laws to eradicate discriminatory and unjust practices. That stuggle continues and must continue. I recently had a Twitter exchange with someone not so happy with President Obama's Morehouse commencement address. My concluding question was, "what are we going to do in the meantime?" We as a community spend alot of energy fighting for legislative/policy solutions and for the government to be on our side (which gets translated as government dependence). Those efforts are faced with serious opposition. What are we going to do if the Supreme Court deems section 5 of the Voting Rights Act unconstiutional? What are we going to do if the Supreme Court says race-based university admission practices violate the constitution? What are we doing to do if we can not keep some of our schools open? What are our contingency plans? It is a myth that no one is dependent on the government. But to what extent are we dependent on government intervention to move us forward?
I will never accept the notion of a self-made man/woman. No one ever makes it on their own. At the same time, I believe that individual ambition can take a person far and ultmately place him/her in front of the right people. How do we cultivate within ourselves, individually, the tenacity and determination that says even though the world is against me, I will succeed anyhow? I ask that question because based on the conversations I hear I am left to think that if we lose the "ally" we have in our government, then we are helpless even hopeless. Is that the case?
To what extent are we overly reliant on one another? How comfortable are we with navigating outside of our black circles? How many of us think that everybody else needs to be enlightened when it comes to diversity and inclusion? Dr. Walter Kimbrough questioned why Dr. Dre chose to donate money to USC versus an HBCU. President and Mrs. Obama are criticized all the time for what they seemingly are not doing for the black community. It seems as if blacks with power, wealth, and influence can never do enough for us. I grew up in Gary, Indiana and I remember hearing people angrily talk about how the Jackson family never gave back to the city; how "they ain't never do nothing for Gary." For a while I accepted that idea. But I later began to wonder why they had to do something for Gary. Why are we responsible for one another? Why are we dependent on one another? Why do we slam those that seemingly abdicate their "responsibility" to us?
Sometimes I think we are more conscious of our race than anyone else. Sometimes I think we project our racial anxieties onto other people. Before you jump all over me let me say that others can cause race to rise to the surface. Many that have tried to lead a color-blind life have had the unfortunate rude awakening that many in this world only see race and nothing more. I get it, but for right now, I'm talking about us. Sometimes I think we need to take our "black hat" off. I recently wrote about How I Got Over My Blackness and concluded with how we need to judge ourselves by the content of our own character. On the Tea Party front, can we let our citizenship trump our race? Do we want to be engaged on matters that transcend race such as fiscal responsibility? Or are we only proud to be an American during the Olympics?
Earlier I mentioned that theoretically I am on board with individual empowerment and citizenship transcending race. Why can I only accept it as a theory and not align myself with the Tea Party or any party for that matter? I will tell you why. It irritates me that publicly each party is afraid to showcase the diversity within the party. A so called "united front" must always be on display. Compromise has become a dirty word. Groups, particularly those affiliated with the GOP and the Tea Party have become intransigeant and even uncivil. Yes the media tends to focus on the sensational rhetoric, but you cannot tell me that the media is solely responsible for the image of each party. There were several moments where the GOP and the Tea Party could have risen to the occasion and shown us who they purport to be, but they opted to do otherwise. For example, the birther movement. Who was willing to shut that down? Voter suppression...the data shows virtually no voter fraud. Yet no one spoke up to say let's focus our efforts elsewhere or at the very least gradually implement new laws and not double down on last-minute legislative efforts that would adversely affect voter turnout. Those are just a couple of examples. I could go on and on about their strategy to not govern but oppose/obstruct the President at every turn. A President that was duly elected, twice, I might add. Actions speak louder than words. They want to improve their outreach to women and minorities but they do not reach out to the most prominent minority in the world? Why should I think that their view of me is any different? As a black voter, the Tea Party and the GOP wants me to forget about my race Yet their actions and their image tell me that what they ask of me they do not require of themselves.