By Miles Brown
Sept. 1, 2014
I want to take this time to confess something to you all: I love to troll comment sections of various websites and Facebook pages. I don’t do it on NewsMax or FoxNews though (I’m not a madman!). I just like to flex my high school debate muscle from time to time, and correcting stupid people with facts is kind of fun. I do have to admit that it sometimes gets too real and I have to immediately stop whenever someone utters any of the following four words: “Jesse,” “Jackson,” “Al” or “Sharpton.”
I don’t think people realize how insulting it is that people think every Black person looks to these two for guidance and talking points. Imagine if we said that Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh spoke for all of White America? That would be reckless, to say the least.
Sharpton and Jackson are going the way of the VCR. Some people still use and cherish both the VCR and Al/Jesse — namely, our grandparents — but everyone else has better ways to view videos/push for equality. There’s a new generation of Black voices coming to the forefront such as Marc Lamont Hill, Bomani Jones and Ta- Nehisi Coates. All have fantastic opinions on the events in Ferguson, Mo. that echo the sentiments of many young Blacks in this country. And it’s time to listen to them, instead.
The main issue I see is that (besides Mr. Hill) these Black writers and personalities don’t get much airplay in mainstream news. If the media really wants to know what Black America thinks and feels — not just about Ferguson, Mo., but about a myriad of racial issues in this country — maybe they need to give younger voices a shot and stop giving constant and exclusive coverage to a couple of old relics from the civil rights era.
I guess for older Blacks, those two were the ones that were there during the most heated periods and gave them a voice when the White establishment would refuse to hear them. Jackson pointing in the direction of MLK’s killer on that motel balcony in Memphis is a memory that will continue to be of huge importance to these folks.
Sharpton and Jackson also hold such sway in the Black community because they have connected their messages to religion, using church as a vessel for promoting themselves and their messages for decades. Because Black culture is so connected to religion, their messages mold naturally into the Black community.
In the past few years, though, a split has emerged between older and younger Blacks in terms of religion. Now, young Blacks are identifying themselves as atheist and agnostic at a far higher rate than ever before. As an agnostic myself, attending Black churches looked more like this than as a place that supported and enriched the community. That learned distrust has turned many young Black people off from Al, Jesse and others like them.
Because of social media, we’ve see a boom of various opinions (for better or worse) from any and everybody. On my newsfeed every day I see very intelligent, level-headed social discussion and analysis from my peers who just happen to be persons of color. The bottom line is that we don’t need spokespeople, and, thanks to social media, we can become spokespeople of our own.