A New Black Power | The Nation


A New Black Power

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Some might say that I should end this section with those words. This may be true, but I think they open the door to other considerations. We do need leadership. We have to have people who will make decisions and blaze trails; people who will stand up to warmongers and moneylenders; people who might create context, illuminate the darkness with an electronic billboard; people who could organize our vote.

This article is an excerpt from Walter Mosley's Life Out of Context, just published by Nation Books.

About the Author

Walter Mosley
Walter Mosley is the author of the bestselling Easy Rawlins series of mysteries, the novel R.L.'s Dream, and the story...

Also by the Author

I was aware not only of being hated but also of hating myself from two points of view in the same mind—a brand of self-hatred that identifies the me in you and hates you for it.

Poverty and charity are two evils; charity is the lesser, but it is still evil.

I could spend a lot of time and space here criticizing our current leaders. But what would be the purpose? These leaders, no matter how much they have lost their way, are not our enemies. If I follow a man or woman who is leading me astray, then I have to accept my own culpability and blindness.

"Didn't you see the millions dying in Africa while your leaders argued about the references and jokes in the movie Barbershop?" someone in a later year may ask. And how will we answer? If we don't lie we might say, "I knew what was happening, but I didn't know how to act. I felt powerless and helpless and so I did nothing."

The truth hurts. We all know that. But if we can see that we need leadership and that we don't have the leadership we need, then we might begin to question why. I believe a vacuum in our leadership has been caused by a natural conservatism in the black community that echoes the smug confidence of America in general. This conservatism harbors a deep dread of our young people.

This problem has to be approached by using a two-tiered process. First, we (the elders) have to realize how we exclude young people from taking leadership roles in our community. Why do we celebrate the blues but denigrate hip-hop? Why don't we distinguish between the major thinkers among our youth and the thugs? What are the young people telling us when they talk about bitches and ho's, motherfuckers and niggahs and bling? These are questions we shouldn't gloss over. We bear the responsibility for the lost generations of our people. Even if we see their actions as self-defeating and self-hating, we have to take responsibility for having allowed this situation to occur.

On the other hand, why do we get so upset when young men and women of African descent also want to identify with their other racial sides? Are we afraid that they're trying to abandon us? Do we want to hold them back so that they don't have a broader and more sophisticated view of their identities? Don't we know that this is their world and it is our job to support them while they gain a solid footing?

These are only the first few questions we should ask, and answer. And as we respond we should edit out all cynicism and derogatory notions from our voices and words. These young people are our only hope. We have to liberate them where we can, decriminalize them when necessary, detoxify them if possible--but most important we have to hear what they're telling us and make way for their leadership.

And to the youth I say, You have to take the reins. You have to realize that many members of the older generation have gotten what they wanted out of the Struggle. They aren't worried about the problems of America's urban youth; at least not enough to, once again, charge the ramparts and put what they have on the line. Revolutions (both violent and nonviolent) are manned by the young. Older people have retirement accounts and diseases to support, weak constitutions and a justified fear of imprisonment. We have fallen to the rear of the column. You, the urban youth of America, must lead us.

If you, the youth, do not forgive us for fumbling, our race will be very far behind in the twenty-first century. And if we lose, the world suffers because most of America is on the wrong road already.

America has carried the notion of property and power to such an intensely negative degree that we have very little room left for humanity and art in our hearts. We work long hours, eat bad food, close our eyes to the atrocities committed in our name and spend almost everything we make on the drugs that keep us from succumbing to the emptiness of our spiritual lives. We gobble down antidepressants, sleeping pills, martinis, sitcoms and pornography in a desperate attempt to keep balance in this soulless limbo.

In a world where poetry is a contest at best and a competition at worst, where the importance of a painting is gauged by the price it can be sold for--we are to be counted among the lost. And so when I say that we need leaders and that those leaders must come from our youth, it is no idle statement. We need our young people because without their dreams to guide us we will have only cable TV and grain alcohol for succor.

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