In response to a recent post here on Michael McGee, Jr., Lew Wasserman writes that "McGee (Sr. or Jr.) gives a significant portion of his community what it wants by doing nothing more than appearing to be "sticking it to the man" and that it is naive to underestimate how pervasive this sentiment is among African-Americans."
I hope that I do not underestimate that sentiment, my point is that it is an unfortunate and largely unproductive sentiment. Lat night on Eric Von's show, we got into debate about just that. Robert Miranda, launching into one of his flights of the type of rhetoric that you used to have a find a Black Panther rally to hear, seemed to argue that McGee is the Malcolm to someone's else's Martin in a racial game of good cop/bad cop. Retired UWM professor and former radio host and columnist Dave Berkman, while critical of McGee (largely for his alleged homophobia) suggested that maybe we would someday come to see people like McGee as today's Martin. Eric, always the realist, said that no black politicians seem to be able to get what they want anyway so the efficacy of McGee's tactics are no greater or weaker than those of anyone else.
My point is that, if there are concerns that need to be pressed on behalf of Milwaukee's central city, the behavior of the McGees pretty much gives the rest of us license to ignore it - or at least to do so when he is the one leading the charge. While the McGees would be the first to say that they don't care about what the rest of us think (and would probably put it more colorfully), I'm not sure that's a luxury that an African-American political leader who wishes to accomplish something can afford, at least if he or she is committed to traditional liberal approaches (or some variant on them) to inner city distress.
Those solutions are predicated on the assumption that there needs to be a transfer of resources from those (presumably outside of "the community")who have them to those who do not. This requires engaging the community at large (even by shaming it) rather than convincing them that you are a racist thug who has nothing worthwhile to say about anything. You can celebrate this tweaking of the white establishment as "prophetic advocacy" but it gets exactly nothing done. It might make some of McGee's constituents feel better, but it leaves them as they were before.
Brother Wasserman writes that "I'm not sure, but it is entirely possible that we (all of us) are on the wrong side of the "event horizon" of race relations." I think that's a useful metaphor. I'm not sure how he means it, but I would suggest that we cannot see past the racial script that was written in the sixties. But the thing about an event horizon is that there are things that are happening beyond it and, with respect to questions of race and poverty, there are ways to think about them other than the way we used to in 1969.