Recently I was in the
press box at the Statehouse with my esteemed editor from NUVO, Rebecca
Townsend, and while we were waiting for lawmakers to take up their next bill,
she asked me an interesting question: How did I develop my political attitude?
I thought I'd share my answer with you here. Let's be honest, it's not
every day you come across a guy named Abdul-Hakim Shabazz
with a conservative-libertarian political bent.
In fact, in my
younger days you would have probably mistaken me for Bobby Seale or Adam Clayton
Powell, Jr. provided they had a jheri curl and wore a
Members Only jacket. I freely admit I was a lot more liberal in my teenager
years. I wasn't quite ready to lead the Black Liberation Army, but we
were moving up the ranks rather quickly.
So what happened?
In the late 1980s, my
Dad's government obligations had us relocate to Europe. We lived in West
Germany and I attended college in Munich. While there, I did a lot of
traveling, particularly behind the old Iron Curtain. Most revealing for
me was a trip to Prague in what used to be Czechoslovakia. We were taking
a tour of the city when I saw hundreds of people in a line outside of store. I
asked the tour guide what they were in line for? I thought they were there for
concert tickets, but it wasn't, it was shoes. He told me people stand in line
for hours for shoes and are lucky to find two the same size. To add insult to
injury, this was during the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Revolution so there
were giant banners of Lenin all over the place.
That image was fresh
in my mind when I came back to the United States to finish my education. I was
attending Northern Illinois University, in DeKalb, Ill., right outside Chicago. I
had discovered talk radio and was listening to WVON-AM, the urban talk station
out of the city on which I heard a steady stream of people complaining about
how miserable their lives were and how white folks wouldn't give them anything.
After seeing real poverty abroad, I couldn't believe how people here whined
that they weren't getting enough food stamps and government assistance. I
found it annoying but that's not what pushed me over the edge.
What sealed the deal
for me was my attempt to join a "black" campus organization. My
Dad had encouraged me to join one of those groups, so I decided to follow his
advice and re-establish my "roots." The first meeting was like
something out a bad John Singleton film. Here I am in a room full of
young students, who for most were the first generation of their family to go to
college, so they are under tremendous pressure. And the fact they are
city/urban kids going to school in predominantly rural environment didn't help.
So what message do they get from the cast extras from a "Different World"
who were running the meeting? Instead of one of encouragement and support they
get the "You know these white people don't want you here. They just want
your money and then they will kick you out. The only people that really care
about you are us. Any questions?"
That is when I
politely stood up and said, "You Negroes cannot be serious!" And
left. I could not believe the idiocy I was hearing. Instead of
encouragement and support, these guys were perpetuating the victim mentality. These
kids needed hope and reassurance, not fear mongering.
I switched my major
from engineering and computer science to broadcasting, excited that way I could
bring a different message of self-empowerment and assurance to folks who truly
needed it. There was no need to wait on anyone to do something for you when you
are perfectly capable of doing it yourself. And to top it off, there was
nothing more fun than writing a television commentary or newspaper column to
tell the poverty pimps and enablers that they were full of you know what.
The same thing was
true for graduate school, law school and most of my professional commentator
life. I have been preaching the message of self-reliance, individual
liberty and personal responsibility. And embedded in that is an empathy
for individuals who are truly in need that we as a society should do all we can
to help lift them up so they can stand on their own two feet.
Yes, I get a lot of
grief for having my opinions, but I came by them honestly and I don't apologize
for them. I truly believe the best political philosophy is one that believes
the answers to society's problems lie in the individual who doesn't sit around
waiting for others or the government to do something for them and then
complaining when it doesn't happen.
I've thought this way
for 20 years and I honestly think if more people did, this world would be much
better off, or at least mine would.