Black community needs a leader like Thomas
An important issue surrounding the Clarence Thomas nomination controversy is the issue of black leadership. The media has seemed to focus upon women's rights and the right of a fair trial for Thomas in addition to allegations of racism, attacks by special interests and changes within the Senate confirmation procedures for selection of a Supreme Court justice.
However, I would like to confront another topic that has been pushed aside -- the leadership vacuum in the black community.
When I refer to the black community, I am not talking about what has been termed as monolithic -- comprised of a single opinion or common range of beliefs. This is not a community. A community should be able to tolerate a number of viewpoints, even if they are diametrically opposed.
This is where Clarence Thomas comes in. To be part of, as an example, the Catholic community, you obviously have to believe in Catholic tenants. But to part of the black community you are not constrained by ideology. You are not required to believe in affirmative action, in liberal policies or always vote Democratic. This is one of the reasons why Clarence Thomas was selected as a Supreme Court nominee, and one of the reasons why he has been so strongly opposed.
A community is in severe trouble when people like the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton are viewed as reputable political leaders, where sports heroes, actors, comedians and rock musicians are looked up to not because of their moral character, but because they make a lot of money. A community is in severe trouble when common criminals, thieves, murderers and rapists are looked up to as victims when they are killed because of their criminal behavior. They are only getting their just desserts and should not be looked up to as martyrs. But they are.
The black community is a community in search of identity. People may laugh at the number of labels that the black community has tried to apply to itself -- Negro, Afro-American, African-American. This is just a symptom of the culture crisis that many black youths suffer from. Look at the objects which many black youths try to acquire, look at the heroes that they admire. Nice cars, wearing hood ornaments, dressed in clothes where the brand name is more important than substance, wearing gold: the glitzy exterior of a success. But not the substance of success.
Clarence Thomas is representative of none of this, but rather, the values that all cultures need to emphasize: hard work. Tenacity. The ability to overcome and stand on your own two feet instead of trying to find someone to lean on. A good education. A desire to succeed. These are lacking in the education of black youths, mostly because blacks are unsure of their culture. They believe the false culture taught to them by the television sets, not the history books. Many black youths grow up believing that their culture is the culture of slavery, eternal victimization, poverty, crime and hate. This is the only refrain they hear from the media. They have trouble placing their heritage within this country. They have a lack of many credible leaders.
Affirmative action is not the cure. What is needed is a sense of pride and an effort to rebuild their culture. What they need are leaders -- like Clarence Thomas -- who has overcome poverty and bigotry, a father who raised himself up on the foundations of traditional family values, hard work, the best education possible and moral principles to become a justice in the highest court in the land.
whoJae H. Nam is a junior in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.