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Kathleen Wells, J.D. Headshot

Divide And Conquer Will No Longer Work

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Often the criticism that has been laid by some members of the black community at the feet of other members of the black community who have openly criticized President Obama for not embracing or publicly acknowledging the need for a black agenda is that the criticism is misplaced and inappropriate on a variety of levels and for a variety of reasons.

Critics of Obama criticism have said, and rightly so, I might add, that our community receives enough bashing from traditional and non-traditional media and that a negative light is far too often, in the media, the only light shed on our community, if not the sole light. These facts are undeniable. Therefore, one concludes: why add fuel to the fire of the haters by adding to the criticism of the President?

I can't disagree with this point of view. This perspective that the media spends an inordinate amount of energy focusing on the negative aspects of our community - like merely a junkie or thrill seeker -- is undeniable and indefensible. Is it intentional or merely reckless, this obsession with casting our community in such a negative and hostile light?

So, in this way, it is very difficult for our community, I believe, to take the media at face value or even seriously. My position is this: the media has failed our community and doesn't do us any favors and doesn't intend to.

With that in mind, however, I'm left wondering, how our community will get our issues, which are manifold, addressed? What should be the strategy and what should be the mechanism?

Attending the We Count! Conference I wanted to have an open mind. I wanted to believe that this conference would not merely be a bash fest of President Obama. And, I might add, to characterize it merely as a bash fest is an attempt to simplify it so that it can be easily digestible - a sound byte. The issue of whether or not our community should insist that the President publicly embrace a black agenda is a complex issue.

And given this complexity, I can't join the choir of over-simplifiers or reductionists.

Complex issues require more than simple sound bytes or simple resolutions. Much more is needed and required. The complexity of the issue is compounded by the fact that, not only is the issue of a black agenda complex (the name alone has caused much consternation amongst some), but it is further complicated by how so many non blacks actually perceive the term: black agenda. Why should our community care what others think, you ask? Well, because perceptions quite frequently dominate America's landscape.

It doesn't matter how many times the refrain is repeated that the black agenda is the American agenda, it will not be heard. And even if heard, it will not be understood.

The fact that the black agenda is the American agenda and that this definition is rooted in our history - the legacy of the black community and the history of America -- is not easily communicated to folks. Folks don't get it. They see the word black and get all apoplectic.

In this era of America's first black President, we in the black community are walking on new terrain. What is the best way for us to proceed? What is the best strategy? How can we be most effective? What lessons did we learn from the Civil Rights movement? During the Civil Rights movement didn't we, the black community, form alliances? And were those alliances wise, and did they serve us as a community?

For me, the message at the conference that held the most passion and was most potent was the message delivered by Minister Louis Farrakhan.

Farrakhan was unequivocal in his statement that in no way, despite the efforts by the media to twist and turn it as such, would or should the conference be viewed as an indictment on President Obama. Nor should it be suggested that any criticism from the black community be interpreted to mean that those critics should form an alliance with others who chose to criticize the President but who harbor insincere motives for leveling their criticism.

I believe all of us in the black community can agree with Farrakhan's sentiment.

I can recall that, when it appeared that a public option would not be included in the health care bill, a suggestion was made that liberals should align themselves with the Tea Party folks.

That suggestion not only offended the black community, which is predominately liberal on many issues, I believe, but it also indicated a lack of sincere familiarity with the black community by the one putting forth the suggestion.

Yes, it's predictable that many in the media and elsewhere will suggest an alignment between those critics of President Obama and those in our community asking for a black agenda to be embraced by the President.

We all know that those in the media will take this opportunity to suggest certain alliances.

However, I also know that we in the black community will not fall victim to any attempt to create division within our community. The old time strategy of divide and conquer will no longer operate as a sword to create a wedge amongst us.

On this, I'm with Farrakhan.

As a sidenote: When I was writing this commentary, I was focused solely on the We Count! Conference. After finishing the commentary, I now see the reactions from the haternation, over the passage of the health care bill. Seeing this reaction, only serves to strengthen my belief that the black community will not divide over whether President Obama publicly or not, embraces a black agenda - I know this with 100 percent certainty.

Kathleen Wells is on Facebook.

Crossposted from Race-Talk.