Bankole: I've had enough of racial appeasement
A central question facing many blacks today, especially in Detroit, is how to confront the Democratic Party’s bundle of contradictions without succumbing to political tactics that appease a few handpicked black leaders, but make no progress on serious racial justice issues.
Over the years I have seen how Democratic powerbrokers neglect the most pressing issues in the black community by simply staging a press conference with a select group of black cheerleaders, or inviting them to the homes of the governor or the mayor for dinner.
I have seen white liberal heavyweights drag their feet in making public statements regarding crucial issues in the black community, such as police brutality and other matters. Often they will only come out to condemn the dastardly acts after the national media picks up the story, taking the opportunity to rebrand themselves for their next political ambitions.
A case in point was the 2017 death of 15-year-old Detroiter Damon Grimes, who was killed in an encounter with convicted trooper Mark Bessner of the Michigan State Police while driving his ATV on the east side of the city.
While Grimes’ death was the focus of a number of community protests, it merited little to no public condemnation from our powerful white liberal allies.
I was waiting for them to use the death of Grimes not only to publicly declare in unconditional terms that black lives matter, but also sound the alarm for the need to end the nightmare of police brutality.
That moment never came.
The message that sent was that black humanity is hardly embraced by the purveyors of white liberal politics — that sometimes we have to beg them to condemn actions that speak to a racist social order that dehumanizes black youths like Grimes.
Grimes’ death disproved the idea that the so-called vanguards in the struggle for black equality unequivocally cared about the well-being of blacks.
Even Mayor Mike Duggan was slow to respond to news of Grimes' death in his own city, which is really not surprising. Since he’s been mayor he has shown no serious interest in leading or navigating the difficult racial waters in the city. It even took him some time before he finally came out in a press conference with Chief James Craig to address the problems the police department was facing.
Our white, liberal friends including Duggan and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer feel no pressing need to tackle the vexing issues of racial and economic inequality in Detroit as long as they can be assured of full support from those in the black community who are willing to give them a pass in exchange for access.
Why would the white liberal establishment care to move with all deliberate speed to provide solutions to the crisis of urban decay if they can placate some black leaders by having them over to the mansion of the governor or the mayor for dinner?
Why would the governor feel an urgency to step up and use the full power of her office to launch some concrete initiatives to tackle poverty if she can make the issue of inequality go away simply by having some members of the Detroit delegation in Lansing assure her full support without an urban agenda?
It is becoming increasingly evident that black people will not be emancipated economically if they are afraid to call out the inner conflict between the Democratic Party and the black community.
As long as we settle for a seat in the house of appeasement, instead of the house of justice, we will continue to be relegated to the back of the bus.
I reject the destructive goal of racial appeasement. It has not led to our advancement, and those in the ranks of the black intelligentsia must begin to see the demand for equity as something bigger than their own personal ends.
Appeasement has derailed and undermined our efforts to make the Democratic Party more accountable and responsible to the growing needs of under-served black communities.
Catch “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” which is broadcast at 11 a.m. weekdays on Superstation 910AM.