Twenty years ago a rally was held on the National Mall in Washington D.C. that was hailed as a watershed moment. It was a day of atonement and reconciliation; a call for self-reflection by black men who would then stand up and take responsibility for themselves, their children and their communities. One organizer, Dr. Conrad Worrill, said "the Million Man March was one of the most historic organizing and mobilizing events in the history of Black people in the United States." Among the speakers was none other than racist hate-monger Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam.
The 1995 rally came on the heels of the crack cocaine epidemic that led to unprecedented rates of crime and violence, gang involvement and the incarceration of black men. The black mayors of major cities issued pleas to the federal government to help with money for additional law enforcement resources, including federal prosecution. This was to become the next generation of the 1960s civil rights movement.
The Democrats' War on Poverty led to the emergence of a black culture of government dependency, the decimation of the black family, black fathers abandoning their responsibility for raising and supporting their children and the prominence of so-called black leaders who promoted themselves as being "real" and "down" with the struggle of a dysfunctional black culture. Many of those who participated in the original rally took a pledge that things would be different, and claimed their experience in the nation's capital was a life-defining moment.
That was then, this is now.
The theme and mood of the recent Million Man March held in the same venue in Washington D.C. could be fairly described as not your father's 1995 experience. Certainly some who attended this year were there for legitimate reasons, but you could feel this movement being hijacked, like so many other legitimate movements in the Black community and used for nefarious purposes. Even the event name change of Justice or Else suggests not a call for self-improvement, self-determination and self-reflection, but a call for militancy. Why doesn't the media ask "Justice or else what?"
How did this movement go from self-determination to a call of 'you owe us something that we did not earn?' The '60s-style riots are back in vogue in many urban centers. Criminals are now considered icons in the fight for civil rights. Attacking the police, a hallmark of the ghetto riots of the 1960s, has returned with the Black Lives Matter movement. Underachieving malcontents have elbowed their way onto the stage and infiltrated a movement that originally had the respect of many mainstream Americans because it encouraged black men to accept responsibility for their actions.
False claims that racism is alive and well as an institution, and calls by some in attendance for "Death to America," are reminiscent of chants by the Black Panthers and other anti-social misfits, like Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who claimed Jesus was a Palestinian. This movement has become retrogressive. The well-intentioned people at this year's rally were powerless in getting this movement back. The same thing happened to the NAACP, which saw its membership increase after the original Million Man March. This once-influential civil rights organization with a focused agenda has since become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party.
Its mission is no longer civil rights and improving the lives of everyday black Americans. Rather, it is to keep blacks from wandering off the plantation of liberal politics to ensure a monolithic voting pattern for liberal politicians who promote an ideology of victimhood and self-destructive behavior without consequences and who make excuses for harmful lifestyle choices by blaming others.
In the time since the 1995 Million Man March promoted self-improvement, poverty has become a lifestyle as government dependency has increased and self-inflicted pathologies have worsened. Father-absent homes are still prevalent with 70 percent of black kids born into a mother-only led unit, gang involvement is at an all-time high, drug, alcohol and child abuse are rampant, school achievement and proper use of the English language and mainstream values are viewed as culturally insensitive. Meanwhile, thousands of black men fail to consistently stay in the workforce.
The fact is that the Million Man March movement has failed miserably. The pledge that millions of black men took in 1995 to take control of their own lives turned out to be great theater. It was symbolic rhetoric. Only people not grounded in reality would say otherwise. Marches, slogans, threats and a list of faux grievances deflect attention from the ugly truth and are not substitutes for progress. As black people, sometimes we can be our own worst enemy.
David A. Clarke Jr. is sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.