Where has the leadership been: We were surprised by a conversation on last evening’s Maddow program.
Maddow interviewed Lizz Brown, a St. Louis talk show host. Before introducing her guest, Maddow indirectly raised a pair of questions we have been puzzling about.
According to Maddow, some local people had suggested that the all-night protests should be all-night no more. Wondering if those people could really be local leaders, Maddow decided to ask Brown:
MADDOW (8/18/14): Tonight in Missouri, police are not imposing the midnight to 5 a.m. curfew that they imposed the last two nights. But there was an effort today by groups who want to be seen as leaders on the ground, whether or not they are—For what it’s worth, Brown seems to have written exactly one column for the St. Louis American, a venerable black weekly. Whatever! It was close enough for cable!
There was an effort today, at this press conference, to ask people, ask protesters to please not protest after dark, not just tonight but for the next five nights.
Who has the credibility, locally, to make that kind of “ask” in this community right now? Who had that kind of credibility coming into this crisis, and who is earning that kind of credibility by being a leader, by being a trustworthy leader now as we are on Day 9 of this crisis and presumably heading into Day 10?
Joining us now is Lizz Brown. She’s an attorney and columnist for the St. Louis American.
Back to the issues at hand:
For days, we’d been wondering why local black leaders didn’t suggest that the all-night protests stop running all night.
In several ways, the all-night protests seemed maddeningly self-defeating. For days, we’d wondered why local leaders weren’t trying to promote a better approach, an approach more likely to win.
And that wasn’t all! As we noted this morning, we wondered where local leaders have been when we read those anecdotal reports about widespread racial speed traps in the Ferguson area. If those anecdotal claims were accurate, why hadn’t local leaders addressed this appalling state of affairs?
Where has local leadership been? Lizz Brown balled her fists and stated these views:
BROWN: I think that we have to start the conversation with the observation that, prior to what has happened in Ferguson, there’s been a leadership void.According to Brown, leadership has been lacking. When Maddow asked if any leadership has been emerging, Brown extended her scathing assessment:
There has been a leadership void politically. We have one African-American elected official in the Ferguson area.
There’s been a political void with respect to organizations reaching out and connecting with young people. There’s been a political void in the sense that citizens have pulled themselves out of the political process.
So there’s a void for leadership in this community. And I think that some of the things that we’re seeing on the ground right now is a reflection of the fact that there is a void.
MADDOW: And over the course of these nine days, have you seen anything productive toward building trusted leadership? I mean, rather than people just leaping into the void and declaring themselves in charge or declaring themselves an inspiration? Have you seen anything constructive and ground-up and real in terms of people essentially earning their way into positions of trust?All sixty of those young people weren’t registered to vote? If that’s even close to true, we’re being told a terrible secret about the modern world.
BROWN: One of the things that I’ve seen—
There’s a person that I have worked with in the past who has stepped quietly in to begin to organize young people. He’s brought together about 60 or 70 young people who came to him with questions of, “What do we do?”
And this person’s expertise is political. He’s a community organizer. And what he has done is, he’s managed to begin to train these young people and as of today—
All 60 of those young people, before this event, they were not registered to vote. But as of today, they are registered to vote. And they’re coming together to try to figure out a plan moving forward. Because they’re being taught that it matters that you, whether or not you engage yourself politically. You have to have control of your political world.
I submit to you, Rachel, that had there been active and engaged political activity within this community, we wouldn’t be where we are right now.
Those are Brown’s assessments, not ours. For ourselves, we have no knowledge of the St. Louis community.
Actually, check that:
On Sunday, we watched the televised meeting at Ferguson’s Greater Grace Church. We couldn’t help noting that local clergy seem to be showing plenty of leadership when it comes to six-course meals.
Perhaps we’re being unfair. That said, Brown’s portrait was scathing.
Above, we’ve showed you Brown’s assessment of the scene in Ferguson. That said, we’ve been struck, for many years, by the lack of leadership from the nation’s leading civil rights organizations.
Sixty years ago, these groups provided some of the most brilliant political and moral leadership in modern world history. What ideas have you heard from them lately? Where has that leadership gone?
All across the American spectrum, life is very good today for those who sit at the top. That may affect moral and political leadership in Ferguson churches. It may affect the quality of leadership in our national civil rights orgs.
In our view, it plainly affects intellectual leadership on our “cable news channels.”
In our view, Maddow was providing some very weak “journalistic” leadership last night. We’ll continue exploring that topic this week. We suspect that Brown may have spoken some terrible truths about the rest of our world.
Still coming: The Post on those racial speed traps