(A New Visions Commentary published April 1996 by Project 21, a project of The National Center for Public Policy Research. New Visions Commentaries are the opinion of their author and not necessary those of Project 21.)
I'm not a damned victim, so please quit treating me like one. I'm tired of your willingness to accept my failures without encouraging me to get back up. I'm tired of your willingness to accept the demasculization of the black male. I'm tired of your willingness to accept less than what I'm capable of. In short, I'm tired of what is currently recognized as African-American leadership.
I've come to the harsh realization that black people have been pimped. Just like a woman of ill-repute, black people been exploited in every way imaginable, yet our leaders still expect us to keep coming back for more of the same treatment. Even worse, blacks who do become part of the free market and start to enjoy the priviledges of being an American are either ridiculed or ignored by their leaders.
This poses quite a delimma. Civil rights leaders have limited black society to two choices: Either adopt the victim mentality, wait for the handouts and be praised -- or accept responsibilities like a man and risk being labeled an "Uncle Tom." Personally I was fortunate to have a father who taught me discipline so I chose to be a man. Being a man means taking control of your situation and leaving the handouts for those who really need them. After years of being ostracized because of their reluctance to subscribe to the victim mentality, conservative blacks have been continuously confronted by the philosophically of ignorance. It stands to reason that if current African-American leaders are upset because black conservatives use intellect and integrity to make the best of a situation, then the leaders need to take a long hard look in the mirror as to who are the real "Uncle Toms."
If promoting and dwelling in victimhood is the solution to our prosperity, why do we continue to suffer? I'm sure that you are as aware as I am that as long as we've used this excuse our situation has worsened and so has the level of self-hatred among our people. These negative consequences may not be the intent of our leaders, but the result is the same no matter their motives. The time is now for African-Americans to think for ourselves. The time is now for our leaders to start listening to us and stop preaching to us. After all, we are the ones who know what's wrong with our communities. Our world is changing and so are our political opinions. If we are to be a legitimate force to be dealt with, we have to disassociate ourselves from the slave mentality and embrace the spirit of the American Constitution.
The truth is slavery was a Godawful experience and we should remember our people who were oppressed by it. The fact is today we are free. We are free to be victims just as well as we are free to be self-supporting individuals. Today, unlike our ancestors, we do have a choice. It's time for us to tell our leaders that. If they don't listen, then it's time to elect new ones.
by Michael Sharp, a member of the national Advisory Council of the African-American leadership group Project 21, and a free-lance writer based out Toledo, Ohio.###
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