– By Gypsy C. Gallardo
For those unfamiliar with African American cultural mores, there was a time not long ago when one did not put our baggage “on blast.” One did not pull back covers to reveal what was really going on in “family” circles.
We were taught to fuss and fight behind closed doors, but to represent a united face to the world (the white world), to the fullest extent possible.
There have always been differences and grievances bubbling mostly below the visible surface of black people’s struggle for progress in America.
In today’s telling of history, we tend to gloss over the philosophical and other rifts among the black leaders of yesteryear. Little is said about the Judases who “sold out” others; or the hate leveled at gay activists like Bayard Rustin, who organized the famous March on Washington; or the sexism that attempted to sideline the Dorothy Heights of her day; or the elders who shamed and tried to squash the efforts of younger activists who fueled lunch counter sit-ins.
Any honest accounting of our history acknowledges that there never was a time of unanimous consensus about the right way to advance our community. Not before, during or since the civil rights movement.
But there were rules – spoken and unspoken – about how we dealt and worked with one another.
Back then, you did not “put people’s business on the street” or openly torpedo the reputation of fellow leaders, even when some quietly conspired to undermine their influence. You did not “talk out of school,” as the elders used to say.
Well that day is dead!
Its death spiral was quickened in 2007 when we saw national black leaders castigate the man who would soon become the nation’s first black president.
And here in St. Pete, this 2017 election cycle marks rock bottom, as far as I’m concerned, in the way we are treating each other, and in the haphazard way we are approaching “the struggle.”
Rather than a contest of ideas about the principles and policies needed to win gains, certain people have “cast off all restraint,” practicing character assassination in full view of cameras.
Vicious and ugly accusations are spoken publicly or whispered privately into the rumor mill to the point of choking its cogs.
Rumors of elicit affairs. Accusations of bribery, bullying and payoffs for endorsements. Unmentionable images and profane words spray painted on candidate signs. Rumblings of business boycotts. Whispers about people “playing both sides.” Wanton claims too disgusting to name.
All this and more has drowned out the high calling of progress and our commitment to carry its mantle.
We have ceased to yield to a vision bigger than ourselves, and many so called community leaders have ceased to actually “listen” to “the community” and its scores of voices urging us to unity (if not uniformity) in pushing an agenda for change.
As Frantz Fanon once said: “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.”
If our forebears’ purpose was to topple the behemoth structures of segregation, then ours is to walk or run through the gates now flung wide to seize the opportunities for which they fought and died.
We as a community no longer have or need the small handful of “gatekeeping” HNICs (head niggas in charge) controlling the community agenda. We no longer operate in a culture wherein a “talented tenth” occupies our vanguard, and a select few organizations interface with the power structure on our behalf.
No. Now, there are the unmoderated forums of Facebook and Twitter where we can “let it all hang out,” where – fortunately and unfortunately – diversity of thought flourishes, but to a point where our strength is diffused and our “face” disaggregated to brokenness.
It is a good thing that more of our voices are heard; that differences of opinion are aired and debated. But there’s a responsibility that goes with that, isn’t there? Especially for those who view or fashion themselves as leaders.
Perhaps our generational challenge is to “represent” the many and varied philosophies harbored within the black American diaspora, while still harnessing our collective power to press forward an agenda for progress.
And if we are to rise to the challenge of this new age, I believe we need to go a little bit “old school.”
Some of us remember the finger-pointing warnings we got from our mothers just before we went out in public, especially for dress up occasions. “Don’t act like you don’t have home training!” or “Show out if you want to, and see what you get.”
There is a rich tradition of decorum in our community that is too little on display these days. But our cultural roots run deep, and I know that we have it in us to agree to disagree without tearing each other apart.
As an elder said to me a few years ago (an elder who happens to be knee-deep in the election battle of the moment), “Mayors come and go, but we will still be here.”
So let us “touch and agree” that we will honorably push for progress, no matter which side of the election we are on. That we will lean in, with respect and love for one another, so that when the dust settles, the road ahead is clear to continue “the long walk to freedom.”
4 thoughts on “Airing our dirty laundry; in search of our higher selves”
Thank you! THANK you! THANK YOU! Thank YOU Gypsy Gallardo for this beautifully written piece. My soul rejoices as you have so wonderfully expressed a number of thoughts that have captured my recent attention.
It is true, “there never was a time of unanimous consensus about the right way to advance our community.” This reality contradicts the widely accepted narrative that a handful of black leaders speak for the (monolithic) black commUNITY.
I have been public about my personal struggle in deciding who to vote for in the city’s mayoral race. Who would have thought I would readjust relationships with black people over two white men — neither of which I know personally — because my process for determining who will get MY vote is not satisfactory to others? My truth is, there are people whose opinions I regard on both sides of the political aisle. I truly appreciate those who have respected my process and at-times unique perspectives as I work through my analysis on who I think is best for not only me, not only my immediate community, but for the city at-large in these unsettled times.
This article speaks directly to the part of me that has been sadden about the attacks of the candidates and of those sharing differing views. The relationship between what is happening and what seems acceptable at the local level mirrors that on the national level and at times it is too much. This is unhealthy locally, nationally, and globally…and just think, the next generation is watching.
There was a time when I thought people truly wanted the best for our city, State, nation, and world. I now understand that people — so many people —- would rather their side “win” and in that we all lose.
In some strange way Gypsy, this article has given me renewed hope — a confirmation that there are people who want better, who expect better, who demand better. I applaud your courage for publishing this and I hope it is well received.
I pray that one day SOON we – as human beings — will come to a place of collective agreement and focus our attention on weighing (as you have mentioned) “principles and policies needed to win gains” understanding that “our community’s” do in fact have diverse perspectives and that such existence is beneficial.
I pray that we — as human beings — respectfully allow space for respectfully challenging positions, not to be confused with people or their political affiliations.
I pray that even in times when we do not agree, that we will agree to disagree and walk away in peace, valuing the other as human beings. I am committed to this and I hope others are as well. There is still too much work to do as we “continue ‘the long walk to freedom.’” #SHARE #SUPPORTING #THIS
It appears that the Black Community is only important at election time, other times it is ignored.
Living wage jobs, trades need to be taught, when one leaves high school they need to know how to earn income even if they chose higher learning. Housing costs are out of control, it takes two salaries for a one bedroom apartment. Too many important issues have not been given attention. Yes, we need to focus on solutions and stop the loose talk, gossiping, backbiting being unloving toward each other.
Wow! Absolutely needed to be written. Thank you. I absolutely abhor what the desire to “win” in politics can do to otherwise kind, tactful and highly intelligent folks.
Based on some of the behaviors that you mentioned by candidates and supporters alike it is clear that our community can generate major mobilization around the campaigns of candidates that they believe in. I only hope that type of mobilization has the power to last beyond the election cycle.
Backing your candidates play on social media is one thing but Voting, attending meetings on important issues, contacting representatives, volunteering , these things will drive the good work that needs to be done.
Great article! Like you, I’m concerned if the deep rifts exposed in our community will ever totally heal. I pray at the end of the mayoral race, our community will be able to unite and work toward our common goal.