Another year, another Black History Month. There are currently lectures, readings, and performances taking place throughout the country.
Quanae Palmer-Chambliss, 41, is a single Black mother and education paraprofessional. She is raising four boys on her own. Quanae says that she recently moved to a beautiful townhouse complex in Edison, New Jersey.
“Management is very strict about the people they rent apartments to,” she explains to me; but, something else is on her mind even though it is Black History Month.
Quanae is concerned about certain Black folks who destroy apartment buildings and neighborhoods, she says, with Promethean speed and demolition-like efficiency.
“I wonder if some of their bad habits are attributable to a lack of Black leadership?,” she asked me.
“Black folks have had more great Black leaders than you can count. What more can Black leaders say to certain Black folks who simply just don’t get it?“ I responded.
Within the Black community, there are Black folks who simply have not absorbed the message of self-love, civility, and decency that is inherent in Black leadership narratives. Do Black folks bear any inverse responsibility to Black leaders who have emphasized social uplift and progress?
Even if Moses showed up in the ‘hood at midnight carrying a modified version of the Ten Commandments—these are tough times!—it is likely that young Black folks would refer to him on a first name basis as “Dog” or “Pop.”
About a few blocks into his mission—if the Black teenagers who have been killed and robbed by other Blacks for their Air Jordan sneakers, gold chains, and I-Pods are any indication—Black thugs might tell Moses to give up his Egyptian cotton robe, Barenia leather sandals, and 18-caret gold staff. And it is a strong possibility that he would be left butt naked standing on the sidewalk. Or Moses could be shot—possibly dead—and robbed.
Despite the gains some Blacks have made since the 1960s, there are also many other Blacks who are far from The Promised Land envisioned by many Black leaders.
Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post columnist, recently published a book called Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America. He argues that there are four distinct classes of Black-Americans: Mainstream, Abandoned, Transcendent, and Emergent.
I guess Quanae is alluding to Abandoned-class Blacks. Robinson defines this class as, “A large Abandoned minority with less hope of escaping poverty and dysfunction than at any time since Reconstruction’s crushing end.”
Quanae is fortunate. She could be living further south in Camden, New Jersey. It is one of the poorest cities in the nation.
While President Obama’s recent State of the Union Address highlighted American exceptionalism, he certainly did not address budget cuts well underway in many cities and states.
Camden recently laid-off 168 police officers, or 45 percent of its force, to close a budget gap. According to FBI crime data, Camden ranked second, only to St. Louis, as the most dangerous city in America in 2009.
As cities and states are compelled to close budget deficits, how are the abandoned, not to mention Black middle-class workers employed by the government, supposed to survive as cuts to government services and job layoffs continue unabated?
The U.S. government is staring in the face of potentially unimaginable social unrest. The turmoil we witness today in Cairo, Egypt could arrive on our doorsteps tomorrow, courtesy of the continued economic dislocation of millions of Americans.
Meanwhile, Black single working mothers like Quanae are forced to ask difficult questions about the vagaries of Black life at Ground Zero.
I told Quanae that to righteously respond to her question requires an understanding of what sociologists call “structural forces.” It also requires an inevitable “internal discussion” that Blacks must engage.
Meanwhile, Black intellectuals, scholars, and mental health professionals should consider establishing a national dialogue on Black civility.
This dialogue must address the violence, psychic alienation, distrust, and the disregard for Black life that plagues the Black community.
Hakim Hasan is a contributor to Newsone.com. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.