Sunday, April 22, 2012

"Choose You This day Whom Ye Will Serve...."

Because I had little to add to the dialog, I didn't wade into the Trayvon Martin controversy, as many pundits have already weighed in with their unique and not-so-unique perspectives.

But after reading a prominent black Republican's perspective, I felt that I owed it to my readers to have my say. On his Facebook page, Allen West denounces the actions of law enforcement authorities in Sanford, and takes a cheap shot at those protesting:

I have sat back and allowed myself time to assess the current episode revealing itself in Sanford, Florida involving the shooting of 17-year-old Treyvon Martin. First of all, if all that has been reported is accurate, the Sanford Police Chief should be relieved of his duties due to what appears to be a mishandling of this shooting in its early stages. The US Navy SEALS identified Osama Bin Laden within hours, while this young man laid on a morgue slab for three days. The shooter, Mr Zimmerman, should have been held in custody and certainly should not be walking free, still having a concealed weapons carry permit. From my reading, it seems this young man was pursued and there was no probable cause to engage him, certainly not pursue and shoot him….against the direction of the 911 responder. Let’s all be appalled at this instance not because of race, but because a young American man has lost his life, seemingly, for no reason. I have signed a letter supporting a DOJ investigation. I am not heading to Sanford to shout and scream, because we need the responsible entities and agencies to handle this situation from this point without media bias or undue political influences. This is an outrage.

It is an outrage--and why can't we say it loud; why can't we "shout" it in overwhelming numbers, and "scream," if we must, above the silly din of a Republican primary that's hogging the airwaves?

What West doesn't seem to appreciate is that the Trayvon Martin case would have been swept under the proverbial blue carpet were it not for the shouting and screaming that took place online, in the streets of Sanford, Florida, and other places--student's showing their solidarity by walking out of class, New Yorkers showing their support with a
Million Hoodie March, and LeBron Raymone James posing with hoodie-wearing teammates. Were it not for bloggers, and other protesters, MSNBC in all likelihood would have allowed Nancy Grace to run exclusively with the story.

West, as is customary among black Republicans, dismisses the race nexus, reducing it to a footnote in the whole affair, when it's clear from the 9-1-1 call, and the allegations of a police coverup to protect Zimmerman, that race, and racial profiling, played a prominent role, and can't be separated from the incident, as one would egg white from the yoke. Some even insist that the words,"fucking coon," can be heard, at about 1:52 in, on an enhanced version of the tape.

Before I offer my opinions, let me discuss briefly a book that I read many years ago, titled, Contingency Management.

Contingency management says, substantially, all the various styles of management--autocratic, democratic, and participatory, to name a few--are valid, and useful, the effectiveness of each dependent on the situation, and one's ability to choose the right managerial strategy at any given time.

There are those who will swear that one management style is superior to all others, but what I found over the years is that a contingency approach to employee management was not only practical, but an indispensable approach to the art and science of effective management. It was preferable to focusing on just one style to the exclusion of all others, becoming, in time, an integral part of my overall managerial approach.

Similarly, there are those--white and black--who insist tirelessly that we must react to racism, and racial insensitivity, in one way, and one way only.

To that I say poppycock. Respond any way you choose!

Once upon a time in America, blacks chose to meet the horrors of racism with the threat of violence against violence (They called themselves the Black Panthers.), while others believed that a peaceful, non-violent approach would serve our interests best (as advocated by Martin Luther King, Jr.)

During the civil right's struggle, Ebony Magazine ran an article discussing the several "ways" blacks were responding to white racism, asking the question, "Which Way Black America--Separation? Integration? Liberation?"

Although I'm a proponent of change without violence, and civil disobedience, I would never tell blacks how they should respond to racism--individually or collectively.

If you choose to march, and voice your dissent, and your grievance, I say march on. If you choose to express your outrage in a blog entry, I say blog on. If you choose to call nothing racism, and openly oppose black protests--a community's vocal outrage against acts leveled at blacks--I say right on. If you choose to refrain from participating in a society dominated by whites and their ideals, I say resist on. If you choose to attend Harvard, become a lawyer, and the president of the United States, I say carry on.

The insistence of some black Republicans that blacks should downplay race, and never use the term "racism," even when it's blatantly obvious that racism is at the heart of certain behaviors, is to subject themselves to a mental contortion for which there's no recovery, but that's their choice.

And I honor that, just as I honor those who resort to actions that are out of the mainstream, and may run counter to the law, for the purpose of making statements that bring certain conditions into starker relief.

Nevertheless, I do condemn those who appear to use race issues as a way to further their own financial interests, such as the New Black Panthers, an organization who has borrowed the old Panthers' reputation of fierce resistance to racism, as a way to add street cred where it hasn't been earned. The old Panthers have denounced the new Panthers, as the new group seeks to reap where it hasn't sown.

When whites need a black boogieman to thrust a wedge deep into black and white cooperation, to polarize the races for the purpose of frustrating racial unity, the New Black Panthers are at the ready, seemingly prepared to deliver an image in keeping with white stereotypes of the angry, violent, black man, to fuel already feared black stereotypes.

Contingency management embraces all acceptable and responsible managerial styles, denouncing none, or elevating one style over another, or dictating when any style should be used, but yields to circumstances in play, and the manager's judgment to choose a managerial style as the need dictates.

Similarly, blacks have a virtual cornucopia of options from which to choose when deciding how to respond to their perception of racism, to do as Allen West did, sign "a letter supporting a DOJ investigation," downplay the "race" angle, and refrain from shouting and screaming (very dignified and low-key), with the hope that the system will respond appropriately, and justice will prevail, or take a hands-on approach, as it were, march, protest, "shout and scream," blog about it, take photos to highlight it--any action, or speech, or behavior that we feel addresses the grievous circumstances at hand.

Clearly, no responsible response is superior to another. All blacks who take up the cause of redress, and seek to address perceived threats to their life, and to their general well-being, as well as the life and general well-being of other blacks in a nation where racism once flourished, and still persists, have a duty to resist in ways of their choosing.

"Choose you this day whom ye will serve," and which response among many will serve the needs of those in black communities across this land, as we traverse the path that takes us from injustice to justice.

But let it be of your choosing, and not Alan West's choosing, or Bill Cosby's choosing, or....