This past Sunday, I found myself in a place where you would not expect someone of my political philosophy. I attended the IUPUI Black Student Union annual Martin Luther King Day Dinner to hear a speech by former Black, now very gray, Panther Bobby Seale. I'll give you a moment to pick yourself up off the floor.
I was invited by my editors here at NUVO to attend. I wasn't sure if I was going to go at first. After all, I have never been a big fan of organizations based on identity politics, much less liberal ones. And with all due respect to Mr. Seale, there really wasn't anything I would expect him to say about the 1960s and 70s that I couldn't hear from my uncle after a few beers at a family gathering. However, there was one story he told that I actually thought should have been the cornerstone of his address.
Seale told a story about how he and fellow Panther Huey Newton, concerned about police brutality, would take their members down to monitor police activity. They would be armed, but they followed the law down to the letter. They were careful not to interfere with police making arrests and, when confronted, Newton would cite the relevant California Supreme Court case law and police would back off and let them stay.
I found that to be interesting and ironic, because it is rare that you hear about revolutionaries using the rule of law to make a point. And this is something that I think has been lost on much of black leadership, particularly here in the state of Indiana.
I spend quite a bit of time arguing with individuals about what opportunities there are for blacks in the Hoosier state. And every time I keep going back to the point that if you are black, can show up for work on time and not speak English like it's your second language, the doors will open for you like its nobody's business. But you have to show up and you have to learn the rules.
During my college years, whether it was Northern Illinois University, the University of Illinois or St. Louis University School of Law, I was always butting heads with the professional whining class who complain about the numbers of blacks who were either in jail, dropping out or facing some other societal ill. The fingers pointed in every direction except for at the individual who should have taken some responsibility for his or her actions — by not breaking into someone's home, buckling down and studying hard or just realizing that if all this counterproductive behavior isn't working for everyone else, it will not work for them either. Amazing how the more things change, the more they stay exactly the same.
The opportunities are endless for blacks, just like anyone else, if you are willing to show up and learn the rules of the game and start playing. I have never been a revolutionary; I just decided to learn the rules. Who would have thought that a 1960s black revolutionary and a modern conservative columnist would ever have something like that in common?