Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.
Nor should there be. I think I've written this before, but one good to come out of Obama's campaign is that, hopefully, we can dead this idea of "black leadership." Certainly there are black people who are leaders in their respective fields--say a Majora Carter for instance--and often they approach those fields from a quasi-black perspective. But this notion that there is a coterie of bigwigs who can dispense "the black perspective" from up on high needs to disregarded with the quickness.
One reason is because those who still embrace that label, do it mostly for self-serving ends, and because their relevance depends on it. Jelani Cobb got at this while explaining the Old Gaurd's reaction to Obama: But for a more cracven example, dig my old Washington Monthly editor, Stephanie Mencimer, exposing the unseemly coalition between civil rights leaders who now front for predatory lenders:
Payday lenders and other corporations that specialize in predatory lending have only one really useful argument in defending their business practices, and it goes like this: They provide a public service by catering to the "unbanked" and other financially underserved communities--i.e., those discriminated against by white banks that won't make loans to African Americans. Without payday or other subprime lenders, they argue, many poor minorities would have no way of buying homes or keeping their lights on in an emergency.
It's a seductive argument, in part because it's based on a kernel of truth. Black Americans in particular have indeed been shut out of mainstream banks for decades. But as Corbett notes, loans with 300 percent interest rates are hardly a desirable alternative. Nonetheless, the subprime and payday loan industries have been somewhat successful in fending off stricter regulation, in large part because they have recruited African Americans and civil rights groups to make the argument for them.
Martin Luther King's SCLC comes out looking particularly bad in Mencimer's reporting. But the piece really shows how the alliance is widespread extending from Al Sharpton (though no longer) to Jesse Jackson to the Urban League to CORE. Really, these guys are so running a racket now. This has nothing to do with improving the lives of black people and everything to do with lining their pockets. The peice is great, please read it now.
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