THE HUDLIN MANIFESTO: 10 THINGS BLACK PEOPLE NEED TO DO NOW
Fellow Wakandan Writer Reginald Hudlin brings the Black Excellence like only us Wakandans can.
When I was a child, the poster listing the Black Panther’s 10-point program seemed to be everywhere. You may have disagreed with their goals or thought they were not realistic, but at least there was an action list that people could respond to. This was not a new idea. Booker T. Washington and WEB Dubois have done similar agendas.
So why am I attempting it? I know I am not nearly the best qualified person to do this. But no one else is doing it. So I figured I would kick off the conversation, in a “from little acorns, mighty trees grow” kind of way.
1. Make critical thinking our #1 priority
More than ever, we have to learn how to think for ourselves and not rely on what authority figures tell us, whether that be parents, the government, or friends. But too many people rely on what the church tells them or what they see on TV or read on the Internet.
The Internet floods the world with rumor, truth, and lies with no way to sort out what is true in a rapidly changing world where survival strategies must change on a dime.
2. Don’t fight the power, be the power
Black Americans have only had full rights as citizens for a short time…essentially since 1964. I am in the first generation of black people to basically have been born free. And even with that, our fundamental rights are constantly under attack.
But even in the face of that, we have to reject victimhood, take charge and be the boss. We helped build this country. We have access to tremendous capital and resources. We are politically crucial and there is literally nothing but our own insecurities stopping us from assuming great power.
I have always hated the argument that black people can’t be racist because we don’t have power. That was a lie for two reasons: one is racism requires no power, just a bad attitude, and the second is everyone has power. That’s how we got from slavery to president.
Black people don’t like to acknowledge our success because of all we have not achieved. But clinging to victimhood stops you from getting the things you long for. Because no one can give you those things. You have to take them.
I have said, half jokingly, that part of the failure of black success in America is a failure of black crime. The Irish gangs of New York became their police force; the Jewish and Italian gangs took their piece of the American dream and eventually took it legitimate. Black crime has not done the same. Like Ice Cube said in the brilliant song “us”, “to all the drug dealers, you’re worse than the police – ‘cause you kill us. And you then don’t build a supermarket”.
Don’t like the police in your town? Get a bunch of people to be cops. It’s a job with great benefits, why not? Don’t like what your kid is being taught in school? Run for the school board and make sure the black historical perspective is taught to all kids. The tea party knows taking over small organizations and committees can lead to great power…that’s how Sarah Palin got her start.
They say the Devil’s greatest trick is convincing people he doesn’t exist. However, we as black people getting tricked into thinking our votes don’t make a difference is just as ingenious. All the rich white people I know vote. The only people I know who will make an impassioned argument on how voting is useless is powerless black people. Since we try and copy everything else rich white people do, how about we vote as well?
Now if you want to be more powerful, you can donate to politicians’ campaigns and then hold them accountable when they don’t do what you want them to do. But that would mean giving money away and paying attention to their voting records. But at the very least, vote.
3. Embrace diversity within our people
Black people always demand that white people be more tolerant of other ethnic groups and that they should embrace diversity as strength. Good advice, but we don’t take that advice ourselves. Black people are quick to condemn and dismiss people who don’t agree with their point of view, which is a dangerous attitude to take considering we as a people are the most divided we’ve ever been. By gender, by class, by education, by region… we have issues with one another. Other than Michelle Obama, there’s nothing that we all agree upon.
This degree of difference is in large part due to our success. We don’t all have to live in the same neighborhoods, or go to the same schools, or only take certain jobs. We can travel where we want, marry who we want. So of course we are several generations into the most diverse set of experiences of any Africans in America.
Instead of lamenting the loss of cultural bonds we all share, we need to celebrate the wide range of experiences we have and build a big tent that everyone is welcome in, so we can share information and resources. That means letting go of “keeping it real” and “you’re not really black” because you read a lot, or you’re biracial, or gay, or atheist, or ski, or any other narrow definition of blackness that ultimately restricts us instead of liberating us.
4. Think about systemic change
When Martin Luther King, the Kennedy brothers, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers and other heroes were assassinated in the 1960s, young progressive America got the message – too much change will get you killed. While generations since then have benefited from the battles won by those martyrs, most progressives, especially black people, have been cautious about how far they are willing to go to make things better.
One of the reasons Colin Powell didn’t run for President is that his wife feared for his life. One of the reasons why people think Obama wasn’t the progressive we wanted him to be was because he made a pact with his wife not to go so far as to leave his kids fatherless.
Instead of focusing on redesigning the system that creates massive inequality, people focus on smaller, incremental ways to make a difference… tutoring young people, feeding the homeless, and other totally worthy causes that don’t threaten the powers that be.
In the meantime, others have done the kind of massive systemic change we’ve been afraid of addressing. They have undermined our country’s laws; they have shifted the wealth of the nation into their pockets, and more. If we don’t look at the big picture and start taking impossibly ambitious plans to correct it, the worst possible outcomes could be our daily reality.
5. Create a multiracial strategy
You can’t just have a black/white conversation about race in the 21st century. We are a nation of Latinos, Asians and the too often overlooked Native Americans. As black people, we need to form coalitions with the other folks, even though many look down on us. But within each group there are people who respect our knowledge base when it comes to dealing with white people. Yes, even though we are frustrated with where we are as a people, there are others who look at us as successful in some areas. We need to work together with all good thinking people of all races (including white folks) to battle white supremacy.
That doesn’t mean we abandon black institutions. We need them more than ever. But we need a two-track strategy, and the sad reality is that we’ve accomplished very little on our own in this country. So while we need to build up our own expertise, let’s work with like-minded progressives.
6. Invest in the digital future
The digital world keeps creating billionaires in businesses that didn’t even exist ten years ago. Tech firms don’t care if you have a prison record if you can write code. It’s the best wealth creation program we could launch. We can raise our long-term unemployed into working or middle class status, and it can create super wealthy entrepreneurs that blow out the athletes and entertainers that dominate the current top of the black wealth chart.
There’s another huge advantage in getting a large part of the black population into technology: it changes the way you think. You see the world differently, you solve problems differently. We need that as much as we need the money.
7. Demand more return on our church investment
The Christian Church is one of our most enduring institutions, but it is a double-edged sword. It was built by slave masters to justify slavery to the victims, but also produced Nat Turner. Lately the church that produced great intellects who were also men of action like Martin Luther King has turned into a small business which only enriches a few at the expense of many. Liquor stores and churches are usually the only two open businesses in black neighborhoods, but too often they serve up different versions of the same product… a soothing balm to make your trouble tolerable.
What we need is a church that transforms people, gives them the tools they need to better themselves. We need day care centers, senior centers, computer training courses and lessons on how to interview for a job. If you’re going to take up three hours of our lives, unlike those white churches that get you in and out in 60 minutes, can you reserve 15 minutes for information that will actually help someone? That still leaves 2 hours and 45 minutes of singing, passing the plate and whatever spiritual message the minister is conveying that is alienating young people, most men, and most educated black people. Hey minister, did you ever consider that maybe it’s not them, it’s you?
8. Stop selling out for short money
What do we value anymore? What isn’t for sale in the black community? What won’t we trade for cash… and short money at that. We sell our musical heritage, vote for people who will betray us, have sex with anyone for drugs. Ministers dress like pimps, drive like pimps, and pimp like pimps, but we keep giving them money. “Leaders” will cover for criminals for the cost of two tables at a fundraising gala.
9. Reconnect with nature
Black people are unhealthy as hell. We’re too fat, have terrible dietary habits, don’t go the doctor enough, don’t work out, and have mad stress on us all the time.
Getting healthy doesn’t have to start with a health club. It starts with getting enough sun so your body has vitamin D and your mood is better because you’re outside. And yes, being in the sun will give you a tan so if that’s a problem for you, let your self-hate go.
Take a walk among trees and breathe in some fresh air. If there aren’t any trees where you live, go to where they are and do it. Change where you live if nature is too far away. For a people who were once connected to nature, living an agrarian lifestyle, we have embraced concrete and closed in spaces and crappy fast food. Move your life back to something as close to natural as possible. It will improve your attitude, your mental and physical health.
10. If God is love, then love God.
Love is underrated. We as a people put a lot more emphasis on hardness and toughness than love. We think most behavior problems with children can be solved with a good ass-whipping. We love to see black men and women fight on reality shows. We sneer at anyone who appears too soft.
Given that we have lived in a constant state of siege since arriving to America in chains, that warrior’s/survivor’s mentality makes sense.
But the problem with only focusing on surviving is that it can keep you from thriving. Sometimes success means taking risks. A child needs unconditional love along with a firm hand. Long lasting relationships can’t survive under transactional terms. It’s even infected our culture, with gangster rap that prizes materialism and dominance over spirituality and cooperation. That era is over, but the black culture that has replaced it is no better.
Our lack of self-love damages our self-image, our ability to love each other, our ability to work together. And if we don’t love ourselves, if we can’t respect each other in our neighborhoods or workplaces, how can we interact with the rest of the world as an equal? Stevie Wonder said love’s in need of love today. So we have to overdose ourselves with love to correct all the hatred we’ve ingested for too long.
(c) 2014 Reginald Hudlin