It is quite evident that Black folks in the U.S. are at the bottom of every good category and at the top of every bad one. You know the stats; they are released every month or so and paint a dreary picture of our status when it comes to incarceration, education, health, employment, net worth, income, life expectancy, and overall political and economic empowerment. With all of this going for us, you would think we’d be spending a great deal of time on initiatives and strategies, both individual and collective, to improve our bleak situation.

Instead of circling our wagons we seem to have formed a circular firing squad, and some of us are firing away. We are killing one another with barbs and insults, which allows the real enemy to sit back and ignore us when it comes to reciprocity in political circles and in the marketplace.

Let’s take a look at our inappropriate behavior. We have Cornel West and Tavis Smiley kicking Barrack Obama in the behind, Al Sharpton, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Steve Harvey returning the flak to West and Smiley. President Obama socked it to the Congressional Black Caucus with his “stop complaining …” comments which, as Smiley and others noted, were not said to the Jewish, Hispanic, and gay groups. Brother Sharpton scolded the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, telling them they, “got too comfortable” and “too low down to stand up for (themselves).” And Black critics of Sharpton are saying he is more symbolism than substance.

Then there are the so-called Black conservatives. I cannot name them all so I’ll characterize their group with the likes of Clarence Thomas, Allen West and Michael Steele (but who knows what he is these days, since his Repub buddies took his job). These guys and a few gals are incessantly lobbing grenades at Obama and other Black folks with whom they disagree. They even lambast Blacks who, through no fault of their own, find themselves at the very bottom of our society.

Clarence Thomas is quieter than usual these days; I guess he’s busy trying figure out why he didn’t know about that $700,000 his wife was paid by the Heritage Foundation. Allen West said Obama is “the dumbest person walking around in America right now;” he also said the President “should put himself in harm’s way” when he goes to war zones.

To top it all off, we have Herman Cain, the Great Black Hope for the Republicans. He is putting in his time as the current “front-runner” for the presidential nomination in 2012. Of the many times I have seen him on TV, and even recently in my hometown, Cincinnati, I have never seen another Black person around him, at least not in camera-shot. Nonetheless, Herman is holding his own as he drops H-bombs on Obama, grinning all the way to the bank.

In the last Republican candidates debate, Herman took a lickin’ and kept on tickin’. His famous “Nine, Nine, Nine” Plan was trashed not only by his colleagues, as he called them, but it has been highly criticized by many others as a plan that will not work and will not be passed if he becomes President. I guess a lot of his critics are German because they are saying, “Nein, Nein, Nein” to Herman’s plan.

Reminiscent of Booker T. and W.E.B. and later Garvey and W.E.B., along with T. Thomas Fortune and Monroe Trotter, to the more recent sibling rivalry skirmishes between Sharpton and Eddie Long over George W. Bush’s invitations to the White House, the Urban League and the NAACP over Bush attending the former’s convention and ignoring the latter’s, Black folks are again taking sides. We are dividing ourselves into hostile camps, firing at one another and taking ourselves out, which is surely a prescription for continued failure.

I am not suggesting that we should all think alike and act alike; I am not saying that we should not criticize our Black President; I am not saying that individual opinions don’t count; but I am saying that there has to be someone among us who is intelligent enough and has enough collective influence on Black people to stop our suicide mission. But I could be wrong.

Our choices as regards our current economic and political activism in this country — and in the world — will lead us to one of two broad outcomes: Complete assimilation or collective empowerment. As my first book was titled, Economic Empowerment or Economic Enslavement – We have a choice, it is up to us, brothers and sisters. We can determine our fate or we can choose to acquiesce to a system in which we, as the number three group in this country, got very little when we were number two.

From my vantage point, both historically and on a contemporary basis, we are imploding. So much so that outsiders have no need to concede to any of our demands for parity. Societies fall from internal strife, and if our current actions continue, Black folks in America will succumb to the same fate.

James E. Clingman, an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati’s African American Studies department, is former editor of the Cincinnati Herald newspaper and founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce. To book Clingman for a speaking engagement or purchase his books, call 513 489 4132 or go to his website,


James Clingman

NNPA Columnist