John Fountain: Listening to the ‘silent black majority’
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The pompous soul brother with the Ph.D. meant it as a putdown during a heated exchange over the state of black folks in America.
“John represents the silent black majority,” the astute brother from the Big Apple said during a televised roundtable discussion.
Like some of the other panelists, Brother Intelligentsia pushed the idea that jobs and a big fat government subsidy were the keys to saving Black America — the way to cure the ills that plague impoverished urban neighborhoods.
” . . . The silent majority . . . hmmm,” I mused, contemplating a response. Oh, I surely had a comeback. I chose the clean version instead but later thought of all the other things I might have said. It might have gone a little like this:
Well, my brother, let me tell you what the silent majority says: “For starters, Al and Jesse don’t speak for me!”
And I would add this grand announcement once and for all: Hear ye, hear ye, my fellow African- Americans: The cavalry ain’t coming!
The government check has been written and cashed. The government is now broke. The New Deal, Urban Renewal, and the War on Poverty all have come and gone, and still we are not saved. The time has now come to save ourselves.
It is time to stop making excuses. Time to man-and woman-up. To acknowledge that barriers — racial, social and economic — certainly exist. To recognize that if we can come up from slavery, we surely can come up from here.
Problem is, to espouse such a philosophy as a black man can make you a nominee for “Uncle Tom of the Year,” a “sellout” — one who apparently has forgotten his roots. Uncle Tom — a poster boy for the Republican Party.
Except saying that we have a critical role to play in the uplift of our people neither abdicates white accountability nor negates the historical atrocities we have suffered from slavery to Jim Crow to police brutality.
I am reminded of great men whose words once represented the hope and dreams of us all. Men who spoke of the great obstacles before us, of the moral obligation of government to ensure freedom, justice and equality, but also of our vital role in helping ourselves. Men like Martin, Malcolm and DuBois. Men like my grandfather.
Men who unapologetically told us as boys: Pull your pants up! Take those braids out of your head. Act right. Work hard. Get a good education. Take care of your family. Don’t make excuses. Stop blaming the “white man.”
Were they an Uncle Tom?
For my musings amid the Baltimore riots a few weeks ago, a brother on Facebook called me an Uncle Tom, auditioning for a token slot on Fox News.
Well, I’d rather you call me Uncle Tom than Poverty Pimp — secular or religious who make a living off poor black folk and our pathologies. I prefer “Tom” over Ivory Tower Afrostocracy — the talking heads purporting to know what’s best for Black America, all the while collecting handsome honorariums for their song and dance on the public speaking circuit.
I prefer “Tom” to Right Reverend Megachurch who is complicit in the evils that ail our communities by his silence and continued pillaging of the poor. I’ll even accept being called a spokesman for the “silent black majority.”
My response to Brother Intelligentsia on TV that day: “What if the check never comes?”
He fumbled in frustration and stuttered that he would be leaving the country then.
Hmmm, I figured as much — back to Africa . . .
I’m already home. And I don’t need a Ph.D. to tell me that, my brother.