Rev. Al Sharpton, a mostly carbon copy of his mentor Rev. Jesse Jackson, does not pastor a church congregation — have either of them ever? Both also operate out of non-profit organizations they run as fund raising machines that undergird their social and political proselytizing.
Jesse Jackson lifted “Operation Breadbasket” from the Atlanta based Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and began his operation in Chicago. He later avoided severe legal pain by dissing Breadbasket and creating the Rainbow Coalition. Sharpton started a national youth organization and developed it into the National Action Network.
Both “leaders” are, in effect, the national inventions of white America’s plutocracy – Wall Street oligarchs, Washington’s K Street lobbyists and the Military-Industrial Complex. White supremacy has to have pliant Negro, Black or African-American “leaders” in order to maintain the status quo. Without such, the system is vulnerable to the undesirability of uncontrolled systemic social change.
Jackson, and now Sharpton, have been lionized by print and electronic media so often and so vicariously that virtually no one questions how they became “leaders;” that is, by what authority did such crowning occur? Jackson’s personal assets are in the multi-millions of dollars and Sharpton is on his way to a similar or larger fortune. “Civil Rights” is a business opportunity!
From the prospective of making business decisions, all civil rights leaders strive for big donations from just about anywhere or anyone that’s legal. Wal-Mart, for example, is a huge contributor to Sharpton’s National Action Network. The company is also in a struggle with employees on a number of issues, including fair wages. What real power can Sharpton have, then, in that national civil rights struggle as both a pragmatic businessman and politician/rights leader?
Sharpton has, as many before him had – and surely numbers after him will have, given that current circumstances prevail – power, the power of self-aggrandizement. Like Jesse, Rev. Al is a Pied Piper. He releases the steam that pushes righteous indignation so that, in the end, the engine stalls and legitimate upheaval subsides to an unorthodox standstill. And the media and white nationalism loves the show.
And the plutocracy loves Rev. Al as the system loved Jesse, too. Black rage is transformed into behind the scenes meetings with Rev. Al and other white appointed black “leaders.” There, deals are made over the bodies of the incarcerated, brutalized and the dead. And deals are made on the backs of poor black and brown people and the children being mis-educated in “poor” so-called public schools, and on and on.
These “leaders” exit top government and corporate meetings with some broad gobbledygook nonsense and the unpublicized commitments that their personal special projects will be taken care of. The so-called leaders get over, the status quo is preserved and down the road some little bit somewhere is hyped as a big change is coming. It takes a while, but sooner or later black and brown folks wake up one day and wonder what happened?
All power is in the people, not in one or a few manufactured icons. Black and brown people have inadvertently allowed preachers, politicians and poverticians to deal them out of comprehensive positive social change. These so-called leaders disallow dialogue, indeed social exchange of any meaningful kind. As long as the people relinquish community control to the self-righteous, downtown interests – which are not the interests of black and brown stratified communities – will always have their way.
White nationalism, for example, has thus far powerfully run the world because white people were organized to exclude non-white influences except to co-opt desire and need for Eurocentric interests. Without historical connection, black and brown people mentally wander devoid of philosophical and psychological grounding.
Great black and brown power is hidden away, mostly in plain sight, in books that chronicle the long, great history of the continent called Africa and the many great civilizations spawned and developed there in antiquity. The history of black and brown enslavement is recent and only a miniscule period in the pantheon of black people’s existence: the beginning of human existence!
Black history before the advent of Europeans is the transformational power. Please give it to the children.
Al Calloway is a longtime journalist who began his career with the Atlanta Inquirer during the early 1960s civil rights struggle. He may be reached at Al_Calloway@verizon.net.