After another violent weekend in Chicago and a hot summer steaming for cities nationwide, ending the violence in Black America must be the principal civil rights goal of our times.
With each gunshot that is fired off on the mean streets of Chicago, the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans or south central Los Angeles, an emotional – and common sense – salvo for civil rights should be shot into the air as a rallying call for Black America to see.
Regardless of the partisan arguments that incorrectly note that fighting against voter ID laws or fighting for gay marriage rights are the primary focus of this election cycle, the resounding truth rings in the air each time bullets whiz past the innocent and the misguided.
The primary civil rights issue in this election cycle, in this era, and of this generation must be the elimination of the hyper-violent, gun-toting culture that permeates urban communities throughout the nation. Any other issue that acts as a primary focus and subsequently removes attention away from this cancerous trend shifts resources of money, talent, and brain-power needlessly.
Not to say that discriminatory practices inhibiting American citizens from voting should not be addressed. Nor should gay Americans be forced to hide in the shadows to avoid wrongful slander and harm. Yet, any African-American organization, community group, or religious association that favors political fights on certain social issues over shutting down the bullet-filled battlegrounds of our communities either is missing the point or is hijacking the civil rights mantle while abdicating their historical obligation.
It is easy to merely point the finger at organizations such as the NAACP or others on the “non-partisan left” when making the claim of partisan politics trumping prioritized societal need. Yet, when examining the dynamic truthfully, both sides of the aisle are guilty in some regards, thus leaving a void that many leaders have inconsistently addressed while our communities continue to devolve.
Perhaps, because it is easier to blur some perceptions with some truths over voter ID laws than it is to admit that, somewhere along the line, we have to confront the stronghold of demons within Black America, including classism, overt materialism, substandard parenthood, and substance abuse.
Addressing important items in the halls of government and media studios has merit, but it also provides safety nets for political players and personalities. Making safer streets the civil rights focus of this era does not afford that same coziness, as being on the wrong end of a filibuster is not the same as being on the business end of an AK-47. With that said, one has to ask: when has pursuing civil rights for Black people in America ever been a safe occupation?
The process of advancing the best interests of colored people cannot be promoted without the issue of civil rights – including the right to life – having a clear focus on eradicating persistent violence in urban America. The violence that crackles the night from Compton to Chicago impacts everything from school safety and education equality to employment opportunities and healthcare considerations.
Civil rights cannot be pursued appropriately without educational, employment, and security foundations. These foundations are necessary for Black people to process societal and political problems and elevate the race (and America overall) with viable solutions. Chasing the trendy, yet vital issues of the day without grasping the primary bipartisan goal within Black America (i.e., giving our communities a chance to live for another day without violence) only highlights the dysfunctional classism, jaded politics, and condoning attitudes that keep us relegated as second-class citizens.
Only a genuine and primary focus on what is utterly most important (even before heeding the important yet oft-dictated partisan rallying points) is going to make the biggest difference in advancing the civil rights push for equality in the 21st century – and perhaps live up to the obligation from centuries past in the process.
LENNY MCALLISTER is a senior contributor to Politic365 featured on CNN Newsroom, CNN’s “Early Start”, and “CNN Saturday Morning”. Catch “The McAllister Minute” on the American Urban Radio Network this week starting Wednesday, June 27. Catch Lenny’s latest via the new LennyMcAllister.com website.