Racism and mean spirited welfare laws set things in motion that unfortunately we ourselves keep in motion. Its an inertia that may not be our fault as black people in America, but an inertia that we live and participate in every day, thus the proverbial thousand years prediction.
I was in a black man's cafe yesterday when it seemed strange that a friend walked in with a container of fried rice and drink they had purchased elsewhere, and without feeling strange about it proceeded to eat, as the place they bought it didn't have a place for people to dine.
Both I and the owner understood that no harm or disrespect had been intended... just inertia, a person not even stopping to think about the choice of where they spent their money compared to where they felt “at home”. The owner related how a couple of his life long friends had walked in over the weekend with po-boy sandwiches, again from a place that did not offer people from the community a place to dine. He remarked that one of them even brought his son over to participate in the youth activities the owner offers at no charge to children in the community... just inertia, not thinking about us needing jobs and wealth to fix our run down neighborhood when we spend money with people who don't live there... by choice. This is something only we can fix. White people aren't doing this to us.
Sure it is still difficult for black folk to jump up from generations of not having to getting a business going, the impact of racism on our history, and the present day red lining of poor urban neighborhoods using economic criteria that have the same result, making poor black and latino communities difficult to invest in... if you live there.
I'm not espousing bigotry, but for self preservation and economic enlightenment the question begs to be answered, Have you ever seen Asians or Arabs in a soul food restaurant? What is interesting about that question is that as soon as it is asked, people get it. It awakens a conscious thought, a foreign event to the inertia, that dullness of mind that has people just doing what everybody else is doing, the sheep in us, the herd mentality that is a perfectly normal part of being human.
That behavioral inertia, the herd mentality is a benefit to people who have a history wrought from self determination and surviving against the elements. If everyone else runs in out of the rain, so should you. But when one has a history that formed a people to be of benefit to other people few of the things too many of us do are healthy for any of us. From eating cheap castaway food, to thinking school is a joke, and reading is for nerds, men not raising their children and spending our money like it has no part to play in our poverty and joblessness.
So we wallow, even the so called middle class, raising children who have to jump through hoops to get jobs because we have no businesses where they would be first choice. The stores in poor black neighborhoods are owned by others because those of us who no longer live there and could invest there see poor black communities as a shameful problem instead of the gold mine they are to everyone else who comes to America, the inertia of self loathing, some house and field issues at work even among the best educated.
So we need courageous leaders, and I don't mean politicians. We need folk like Pierce and Henry and Crinell and others who are willing to invest in business in our communities to create jobs and wealth to invest again. We need builders and contractors to open the trades for our youth. We need the men of the Silverback Society and other groups to prove to little boys that real man swag comes from doing well in school so you can make it rain for the women and children in your life. We need Harambee Gardens and Sankofa CDC to teach young and old to eat well and grow some things for yourself. We need garbage companies who are willing to recycle young men who got it wrong the first time and support the work of people who make a difference. We need educators who will have the presence of mind and courage to ask children how they plan to create jobs in our communities, a context that makes critical thinking and learning make sense. (that ain't on the test, and why isn't economics in the curriculum) We need media that reports and encourages all of the above.
Leaders, by definition are simply those who are willing to do something outside of the herd mentality, something not done before, game changing that puts people in charge of their destiny, not waiting for the phantoms of justice or fairness. And all leaders must challenge those they impact and influence to spend money as a development tool and exercise the responsibility of political engagement, voting like our lives depend on every election, because as far as government is concerned they do. And then politicians will dance when we play the music... and that's their job, to do what voters demand.
Such leaders can change the herd mentality, one flock at a time, engaging and teaching by example and on purpose, leading people to greener pastures. The Bible calls them good shepherds... that's what leaders do.