Negroes…sometimes choose their own leaders but unfortunately they are too often the wrong kind. Negroes do not readily follow persons with constructive programs. Almost any sort of exciting appeal or trivial matter presented to them may receive immediate attention…and liberal support.” — Carter G. Woodson
The term “Drinking the Kool-Aid” has been taken to a new level among many of our people. In many circles we have gotten so intellectually lazy that we will believe just about anything from anyone, that is, as long as we don’t have to do anything except trumpet a utopian message, and if we never have to sacrifice for the collective benefit of one another. The Kool-Aid cliché, as far as I am concerned, has now become “Fool-Aid,” and Black folks are gulping it down by the barrel.
There are so-called Black leaders who, despite their unseemly tactics, their portrayals of themselves as “honest” brokers, and their shadowy deal-making and sellout prowess, seem to be exempt from exposure by our people. While Black folks have always had to deal with these scoundrels, we have been reluctant to call them out — to expose them for what they really are.
On the other hand, we have leaders among us who are totally dedicated to the collective economic advancement of African Americans. These are the ones who are usually sacrificed by Black people — thrown out because they are a threat to the establishment or because they are “too Black.” That frightens some people and, sadly, we play into that fear by participating in the demise of the very people who would help pull us out of our economic problems.
We willingly drink the Fool-Aid of those who are only interested in themselves, only to end up in the same place or even further behind than we were before we took the first sip. That must change. But it won’t change simply because it ought to change; it will only change when we change our behavior and our penchant for choosing the “wrong kind” of leader.
I have seen folks stroll through our communities and be held up as paragons of Black liberation, all while filling their pockets with the ‘filthy lucre’ from their sell-out deals with the powers that be. They have their hands in every deal, every program, every transaction, and every scenario that involves Black people, making certain that they will be the first in line to be paid. They rob the community and blame that same community for not moving forward. How can we move forward with crooks like these among us?
Many people, Black, White, and otherwise have drunk the Fool-Aid of folks like Jim Jones in Guyana, David Koresh in Waco, Texas, Marshall Applewhite in San Diego (Hale Bopp Comet), Warren Jeffs in Eldorado, Texas (Yearning for Zion Ranch), and many other cult figures. We have been mesmerized and captivated by individual preachers, politicians, and leaders who have absolutely no interest in anything other than their own selfish interests and advancement—usually economic.
So, while the “Drinking the Kool-Aid” cliché has become sort of comical and caricature-oriented in its connotation, “Drinking the Fool-Aid” gives a much more enlightened description of the dangers that lurk in actualizing the phrase.
I contend that Black folks are far too intelligent to be reduced to a bunch of voluntary “Fool-Aid” drinkers, lapping up every word spoken by anyone, without doing our homework and making sure that what they say is true and illustrated by their subsequent actions. In other words, don’t believe everything you hear or read on the internet. Don’t be a sycophant for a shyster or a puppet for a prevaricator. Hold their feet to the fire after they speak, and use your own discernment to ascertain the wealth of their words—or the lack thereof.
As Woodson intimated, Black folks have authentic leaders who have “constructive programs,” but who are seldom followed. Unfortunately, we have more folks drinking the Fool-Aid of hucksters than we have those who refuse it or at least read the label before they are willing to take a drink, but to borrow a verse from Matthew 7:13 “…For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”
Think for yourself, and be willing to accept the consequences thereof. Fool-Aid may taste good, but it will make you very sick.
James Clingman is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. His latest book, “Black Dollars Matter! Teach Your Dollars How to Make More Sense,” is available on his website, Blackonomics.com.