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Descent into destruction

"Descent into destruction" Continued...

Issue: "The surge is on," Feb. 3, 2007

WORLD: Yet today, you write we have a "culture of accepting corruption and excusing wrongdoing by black leaders." How has that culture developed?

WILLIAMS: Bill Cosby talks about black leaders who "rejoice in your hopelessness because they have jobs mismanaging you." Their goal is not to advance people into good schools and the American middle class but to maintain a large group of poor, uneducated people who are dependent on them. This is civil-rights leadership as a zero-sum game in which it is street smart to tap into poverty programs for money and jobs instead of developing quality schools, businesses, and political power in the name of black people as equals in American society.

WORLD: Why do you write, "Too many of today's black leaders have less to do with Blood of Martyrs than with Blood Money, the equivalent of 12 pieces of silver handed to Judas"?

WILLIAMS: I want to pull the covers off of today's leaders who make money by positioning black people as victims who are unable to compete. Too many black leaders sell blacks as victims to justify increased spending on government programs and grants from philanthropies that produce patronage jobs for their cronies but few results that actually move people out of poverty by strengthening families and schools.

Black America has a tradition of world-class scholars and life-affirming musicians, actors, and artists. People who are struggling to make it need inspiration. It is crazy that too many of today's black leaders prefer to tell people they have to wait on white guilt or wait for the next Dr. King before they can make progress. They tell people to wait for the end of racism and oppose school reform. They do this while sending their children to the best private schools and cutting deals for themselves as a private insurance policy for any white firm that runs into racial trouble.

WORLD: Are black churches, in general, part of the problem or part of the solution?

WILLIAMS: Part of the solution. The black church is a tremendous civic and spiritual asset. The focus in recent years has been on expanding the size and wealth of the church, picking up on the mega-church movement that is prominent among white Christians. There is nothing wrong with that, but the best way to grow the church is to give it voice on the key issues facing the most vulnerable populations, young people and the 25 percent of black people locked in poverty.

In the book I quote [1 Samuel 3:11-13], where God deals harshly with those who see their children taking the wrong path but say nothing and do nothing. Too often the church today is slow to speak forcefully about right and wrong, about out-of-wedlock births, about AIDS, about acceptance of criminal behavior, even about being a good parent. If we can just get the church to find its voice, it will a powerful part of the solution.

WORLD: You describe much of current music and film as "an open sewer throwing up the idea that black men are most genuine . . . when they are getting vengeance with a gun in hand." How would you go about cleaning up that sewer?

WILLIAMS: Speak up and call to account the people who are pumping out that trash. At the moment there is widespread intimidation of anyone who dares to point out the destructive messages being sent to young people. I've been called a censor and out of touch. Whites are told they don't know what it is like to be black. They always have a reason to shut you up. But if people speak out and identify these images as a modern minstrel show that caricatures black people as overly violent, over-sexed, and stupid, it will be a first step in changing the culture.

WORLD: Do you have children or grandchildren? We tend to think of "gangsta" rap as appealing to poor kids, but is there also an appeal to middle-class black kids and if so why?

WILLIAMS: My wife and I are blessed to have three great kids, ages 18, 25, and 26. We don't have any grandchildren. But "gangsta" rap appeals to kids across racial and class lines. In fact, middle-class white kids are the biggest consumers. The middle-class kids identify with the rebellion, the defiance of norms, the outrageous excess. White kids play with racial stereotypes. That is bad enough. But the real damage is to black kids, especially poor black kids told that their place in American life is limited to playing out the stereotype of the black criminal, black clown, and black stud. There is no glorification of people who work hard, excel in academics and business, and sacrifice to raise strong families. Rap culture denigrates anyone who holds to those virtues as a chump. This is poison.

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