The African American Diaspora went through a lot in 2005. Legends of our 20th century legacy and culture, like Rosa Parks, Ossie Davis, John Johnson and Richard Pryor, came and went.
Tests of our resolve like the poverty politics of Hurricane Katrina, the beating of Minister Tony Muhammad, the execution of Stanley Tookie Williams and the "call to unity" of the Millions More Movement, found Blacks all over the board as to how we face challenges to our personal humanity and our collective dignity, as well as how African Americans progress in the New World Order of American unilateralism.
Black advocacy has never been weaker as continuing efforts to use outdated activism to attack the now-invisible modus operandi of the new "Jim Crow" colorblindness is compounded by reoccurring questions as to "Who speaks for us?" has us in, what the Temptations once said a "ball of confusion."
In attending over a dozen conferences in 2005, from the National Association of African and African American Studies in February to the 100th anniversary meeting of the Niagara Movement, held by Carter G. Woodson's Association for the Study of African American Life and History in October, the question of how African Americans can improve the social, political and economic conditions of our communities reoccurred so often that it almost became redundant.
And Farrakhan's "call to unity" on the 10th anniversary of the largest mass gathering of Blacks in America's history raised the challenge to achieve something that African Americans never seemed to be able to achieve in the past: Black unity.
Now, I love Farrakhan and believe he is being divinely guided, but this premise of Black unity, even in the aftermath of the Millions More Movement, is just that — a premise. How do we move from premise, to promise, to the pragmatism of achieving a unified purpose?
Blacks are more divided now than at any point in their history. In terms of religion, Blacks can't agree on the best way to reach God, much less serve God. African American political beliefs are just as twisted — Blacks are still in the pockets of the Democratic Party, and are getting literally nothing in return. It's becoming more and more obvious that Blacks don't even believe what Democrats say they believe anymore, partly because the Democratic Party doesn't know what it believes. Blacks are more socially conservative than they've ever been, splitting on abortion, same-sex marriage and even the death penalty.
They say talking religion and politics is the quickest way to start war. Well, the Black community has long been at war with itself, largely over its shifting beliefs and its shifting politics. Shifting beliefs include the shift away from the traditional family unit. The new "traditional" Black family is now a single parent or a mixed-family couple with children from prior relationships.
The shifting politics are centered on egalitarian pursuits of equality that, in essence, force Blacks to accept race-neutrality to achieve some semblance of equality, by assimilating America's cultural beliefs and partaking in "American dream" material benefits, namely work, wealth and culturalization. The wealth and education divide among African Americans is greater than it has been since slavery. Blacks who are doing well are doing really well, and Blacks that are not have become a part of "the permanent underclass." Much of the "Black-on-Black" conflict that we see in Black communities is class conflict — the have-nots attacking the haves, or the wanna-haves.
n 2006, African Americans have to give some serious thought as to whether Black unity can be achieved, and if so, how. That's our charge, and it's a big one, but necessary to advance any notion of Black progress and the achievement of Black equality.
Anthony Asadullah Samad is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum and author of 50 Years After Brown: The State of Black Equality in America (Kabili Press, 2005). He can be reached at www.AnthonySamad.com