by Dr. Boyce Watkins
I’ve never been a conservative and never will be. But what I find funny is that, when I go into the media, people assume that I am a liberal. It might be because I identify with poor black people, support affirmative action and have helped to fight against mass incarceration. The problem is that I don’t fit very well into anyone’s box, and probably never will.
There are some aspects of liberal thinking that I consider to be entirely uncorrelated with black socioeconomic progress. I hate the welfare state, since I believe that working everyday is an important part of building character. I don’t enjoy watching Melissa Harris-Perry tell a woman with five kids with three different men that no one has the right to second-guess her choices. I’m not even sure how I feel about articles written by super-liberal whites like Tim Wise, who seems to conclude that every time a black person does something stupid, it’s because racist white people made him do it. I appreciate Tim, Melissa and others who are trying to help, but there is a point where black people must work on lifting themselves.
In other words, I am uncomfortable with the paternalistic liberal assessment that, by holding black people accountable and pushing us to be self-critical, you are somehow being racist. You have to push yourself to be better, and sometimes that means admitting that your current strategy is wrong. We’re in horrible shape as a community, largely because we think that by complaining about our problems instead of solving them, everything is going to be OK. Liberals could care less about any of this, as long as we give them our votes, selling us hope as a tool of oppression in the same way it was used in “The Hunger Games.”
My belief in self-reliance is a large part of the reason that I reached out to Min. Louis Farrakhan for a series of private meetings earlier this year. I don’t care what mainstream media thinks about our friendship. I don’t care what white liberals think. I don’t even care what my black friends think. All I know is that Min. Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam have done a better job than anyone else when it comes to helping black men get on our feet and for black families to gain the strength necessary to effectively compete in a system that has worked overtime to destroy us. By bringing together the ideas of Farrakhan, Cornel West, Dr. Steve Perry and others in our New Paradigm forums, we have been able to help re-establish new and empowered frames of thought that might lead us to a better day.
Many liberals who have an “anything goes” mentality when it comes to destructive behavior in the black community are the ones who don’t have to deal with the harmful side-effects. They tell us that school vouchers are bad when they don’t have to send their kids to those horrible inner city public schools. We are told to support unions that don’t even give us jobs and have civil rights leaders who spend more time talking about immigration and gay rights than the black unemployment crisis.
An MSNBC liberal might communicate something like this: “I won’t be in the least bit critical of you for having a bunch of kids that you’re not able to take care of and didn’t plan for because I don’t want you to feel bad. Holding you accountable would be racist.”
The problem is that these same people encouraging such behavior aren’t the ones in the community who have to take care of kids with inadequate parents or the ones having their children shot on the way to school by kids who weren’t raised properly in their own households. Mutual accountability is necessary for a community to remain strong: In other words, we can’t sit quietly when we see others doing things to harm the rest of us. We have to challenge those who are determined to be misguided, whether it be selfish politicians manipulating the community for personal gain, or a rapper working hard to convince young black boys to become mega-thugs.
My argument is that black people must get away from the ping pong politics of the Democratic and Republican Parties, stop getting up in arms when the Republicans say something negative about Michelle Obama’s dress and quit believing that by calling out deadbeat dads, we’re somehow oppressing the black man. We have to let go of liberal ideologies that make us believe that you can win the game of life after convincing your opponents that you are perpetually handicapped. We also can’t pay attention to conservatives, who are unwilling to acknowledge the massive role that systematic racism has played in the mutilation of black culture.
The next steps in black economic progress are educational and economic. We must educate our children to the best of their ability, while raising them above the confines of failing American public schools. That means educating your kids when they are at home at night, during the weekends and during the summer.
We must build and support black-owned businesses. So, even if you have a job working for someone else (most of us do, myself included), you should have three or four streams of income on the side to give you financial security. You must also build and develop something that allows your money to work for you and for you to leave to your children.
The fact is that, neither the liberals nor the conservatives are going to help you truly educate your children. They might give you a job, but will never teach you how to create a job. They might offer you a hand out, but always have an incentive to keep you dependent. They will never congratulate you for winning in the competition for scarce resources, so do not waste your time seeking their approval.
We have to work with each other, support each other and challenge each other to make our community strong. It’s time to focus on self-reliance.