What will it finally take for Black people to accept the fact that we have no real political clout? A little influence, yes, but no power. If our voting bloc were as strong as we like to think, the Republicans would not ignore us and the Democrats would not take us for granted.
If we had real political power, both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama would have accepted the invitation by the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), NAACP, American Urban Radio Network, MSNBC-TV, and the Grio, to a debate at Lincoln University on October 9. But both candidates declined.
Yet, Romney did more than a half-hour and Obama did an hour on the Spanish-language TV network, Univision, both answering questions specifically related to Hispanics. Jewish people always get their audience with the candidates, and the gay groups never fail to get their face-time with the president – Romney won’t have anything to do with them – but Black folks never get the same positive response when it comes to being included in such events. Ever wonder why?
We can’t wait
Not that we learn anything new from political debates, as scripted as they have become. But it would be nice to have the candidates discuss specific Black issues every now and then. It would be great to see several, not just one, Black reporter asking both candidates questions relevant to Black people. You know, the way the Hispanic and Jewish people do.
So what does all of this mean? Is it that Blacks are willing to accept symbolism and platitudes over substance and pragmatism? Does it mean that we are willing to do the opposite of what MLK decried when he wrote the book, “Why We Can’t Wait?’’
King opposed the gradualist approach to the work in which he was engaged, noting that Black people had been waiting for 300 years and could ill-afford to continue to keep waiting.
Historian Carter G. Woodson wrote, “The Negro should endeavor to be a figure in politics, not a tool for the politicians. This higher role can be played not by parking all of the votes of a race on one side of the fence as both Blacks and Whites have done in the South, but by independent action.”
Malcolm X characterized the same principle in more colorful words. He said, “Any time you throw your weight behind a political party that controls two thirds of the government, and that party can’t keep the promise that it made to you during election time, and you are dumb enough to walk around continuing to identify yourself with that party, you’re not only a chump, but you’re a traitor to your race.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. also said, “The emergency we now face is economic, and it is a desperate and worsening situation.” He was talking about “silver” rights, not civil rights.
Not only can we not afford to wait, we can no longer afford, as if we ever could, to be ignored and taken for granted.
Jim Clingman is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his website, blackonomics.com.