Lack of Leadership in Black Communities: Time for an Honest Conversation

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What Ferguson and Baltimore proved is that there is an unfortunate lack of real leadership in America’s black communities. Instead of leaders who can show young black men a better way and give them hope, we have a host of self-serving race hustlers who exploit them and pander to their worst instincts. To make matters worse, mainstream media outlets aid and abet the race hustlers in the interest of ratings, purposefully sensationalizing their coverage of young black men behaving badly. This, in turn, encourages more thuggish behavior and the cycle repeats itself becoming more and more violent. This, of course, is exactly what mainstream media outlets want.

Here is what economist Walter Williams says about this phenomenon: “Hustlers and people with little understanding want us to believe that today’s black problems are the continuing result of a legacy of slavery, poverty and racial discrimination. The fact is that most of the social pathology seen in poor black neighborhoods is entirely new in black history.” I agree with Dr. Williams. My view is that the problems Williams alludes to—fatherless families, illiteracy, unemployment, drugs, high dropout rates, crime, and violence—stem more from a lack of leadership than from the legacy of slavery, poverty, and racial discrimination. I say this because even if the problems associated with the black neighborhoods Williams alluded to were caused by slavery, poverty, and racial discrimination, real leaders would make sure that young black men refuse to let these causes become excuses. Success has never been built on excuses.

As a college professor, I teach students of all races. For all of my nearly 40 years in the classroom I have had young black students as well as students of all other races—many of them poor and many of them whose lives have been filled with challenges. From this experience I can state unequivocally that those who refused to view their personal circumstances as an excuse fared well and eventually pulled themselves up and out of those circumstances. Those who made excuses remained mired in their negative circumstances. Even the best, most legitimate excuse is still an excuse, and making excuses never helped anyone improve his or her life.
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