We’ve suffered slavery, sharecropping and second-class citizenship. Many of our ancestors have been lynched by white mobs, murdered on a whim and unwarrantably killed by white law enforcement officers. The American plantocracy wantonly destroyed black family life through selling off family members, rape and medical experimentation. Today, discrimination and prison await every black person in America.

Black progress is both tenuous and relative. From a mathematical perspective, the reality that is hiding in plain view reveals that, while numbers of blacks have entered “the mainstream,” the total black population has increased markedly. Black population growth has also grown the black “underclass.” (Black census figures are, at best, unreliable. Why give black people a real approximation of their numerical strength?)
The point is that we’ve been downtrodden and there has always been a handful of blacks that “make it.” But when will black people as a group progress? And can the group – black people –  make progress without a universal agenda, a leadership that is accountable and high principles?

Up until the Freedom Schools during Black Reconstruction, reading and writing, by law, were forbidden for blacks to learn. Under slavery, many blacks who disobeyed and were caught either lost their lives or were flogged nearly to death in front of assembled plantation slaves.

Risking life to read and write the English language and to find a way out of bondage was paramount among our enslaved ancestors. After Emancipation, they flocked to Freedom Schools and under the trees and anywhere else teaching took place. However, so many had been terribly beaten down by plantation life and they could not lift themselves up even a little.

How black people got from walking miles, most times barefooted, to and from one room schools to nowadays walking past the school to hang out and do nothing positive is a trick that has produced at least three generations of devastatingly high dropout and incarceration rates among black teenagers.

How do you trick a significant segment of a people to contain themselves in ignorance, poverty and crime with mental and physical health issues beside? First and foremost, a leadership of containment has to be established and maintained. Secondly, a system of accommodation with rewards for not usurping the status quo is made accessible to archetypes (those who do the skin’in ‘n grin’in).

Take a look at Florida’s black state legislators, for example.

They knew before the 2012 legislative sessions that white nationalists led by Gov. Rick Scott were formulating legislation to suppress the black vote. Did they organize from the bottom up, as prescribed by President Barack Obama? No!

Are there any black churches in white communities? I hardly think so.

Therefore, black legislators apparently did not think to organize that army, although their legislative districts proliferate with black churches. Or they are reticent about dealing with black preachers, except to maybe hand them a little something around election time. That’s when politicians need to ask for the black vote in the churches.

But what about other community-based organizations in black neighborhoods and black Greek letter groups? What about civil rights organizations, black lawyers and accountants, oh, yes, and beauticians and barbers? What did our black state legislators do about the Democratic Party’s real and intricate involvement since the black vote is its base?

Black legislators had one or two meetings in their districts to explain the new election laws.

Those meetings were not organized as rallies for hundreds of people or designed to ensure that all voting-age residents of their legislative districts were educated. Because President Obama headlined the 2012 election ballot, an average of some 70 percent of Florida’s eligible black voters stood in lines for hours to cast their ballots.

What could have happened had black Florida led the nation with a stupendous outpouring against voter suppression legislation in 2012? It is quite probable that similar galvanizing through black organizing, coalition building and mobilization would have spread across the nation because Florida is the Bellwether State.

Al Calloway is a longtime journalist who began his career with the Atlanta Inquirer during the early 1960s civil rights struggle. He is writing a book of essays. He may be reached at Al_Calloway@verizon.net