Hans Christian Andersen penned a story called “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” For those of you who may not recall the tale, I will simply say it is about an emperor who hires two swindlers to make him a set of clothing that would be visible only to those who were incompetent or stupid.
The men pretended to dress the emperor in the make-believe suit and allowed him to walk around town naked. All of his advisors and workers did not inform him of his lack of clothing for fear they would be dismissed from their positions of authority. Ultimately the only person to state the obvious”that the emperor was not wearing clothes”was a small, innocent child.
In the African-American community, people who stand up are seen as either naive or troublemakers. The community believes these individuals will never be successful because they refuse to adopt the philosophy of “going along to get along.” This attitude of absolute support must be exhibited even if the person to be followed is as dumb as a doorknob.
In this environment to declare that politicians are wrong or seek a direction different from the one our leaders are advocating, requires tremendous courage. The poet Robert Frost wrote, “I took the road less traveled.” However, the vast majority of people want the easy and safe way. In fact, they would rather suffer abuse, humiliation and fear under the hands of ignorant men and women than tackle the unknown.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that God had allowed him to go up to the mountaintop and see the Promised Land. He declared that one day all African Americans would arrive there. However, King did not realize that upon his death, the weak, charlatans, cowards, religious hustlers, drug dealers and swindlers would take control and convince black Americans that everything was all right. They could now sit by the roadside and take a break rather than continue their march to the Promised Land.
Too many persons have bought into this notion. However, this is not a new story. The Jews of the Old Testament faced the same dilemma. In the book of Joshua contained in the King James’ version of the Bible, it is written that God commanded Joshua to be strong and of good courage in order to deliver the wayward Jews to their promised land. This message is repeated over and over again because it takes great bravery to tell the emperor that he has no clothes or to achieve a vision for one’s self and a group of “hardheaded” people.
President John F. Kennedy in his book Profiles in Courage wrote, “In whatever arena of life, one may meet the challenge of courage. Whatever may be the sacrifices he faces, if he follows his conscience”the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men”it will be all right.”
To revitalize the men and women in the Austin community, each resident must be prepared to make sacrifices. Organizations should start thinking outside the box and coming up with new and innovative ideas while religious leaders must stand on high moral ground and require more from each of Austin’s local politicians. The vision of invigorated business strips, schools that are actually educating children, and families enjoying a rich life in Austin can be achieved if only a few residents follow the directive given to Joshua: Stay strong and of good courage.