Recently Bob Costas, the noted sports journalist, chastised MSNBC for playing the race card too often when issues might reflect causation by the suggested victims themselves. There were few demands by his interviewer or any others for Mr. Costas to explain his statement.
His remarks could be extended to society at large. Too few of us are actively participating in the decisions that affect our lives until we are critically and directly affected by an issue.
Most of us exist in a state of denial as long as we possess adequate comforts. Mr. Costas might have been alluding to the passivity and lethargy that I see expressed in the African-American community.
Too many of us African Americans refuse to extend help to people who are feeling the pain and brunt of inequalities in all aspects of their lives. Many African-American professionals are a part of the perpetration of injustices against low-income disenfranchised members of their own culture.
Rarely are the well-fed and well-employed giving back to their community as educators, spokespersons, strategists or supporters of endeavors to remove inequities.
Consequently these tasks are ill-performed by too many ill-prepared opportunists seeking celebrity rather than solutions. These people and organizations might or might not represent the views of the majority, but they are the majority of the views being expressed.
African-American churches are no longer a place to address any kind of equity on earth for everyone — with rare exceptions. Many congregations don’t want their churches involved in contemporary issues, except for token direct-service projects such as a food bank.
They resist efforts to address equity conditions on earth, here and now. They use the diversity in our community to minimize our relationships and to rationalize inexcusable failures to support each other.
They limit contact between those who feel the pain and those who have the resources to address the issues affecting African Americans. The Obama presidential campaigns offer an example of the African-American potential in sync. Those who seek to block fair voting are well aware of this potential. That is why so much effort and resources are dedicated to resisting voters' rights.
While the aforementioned example might have been what Mr. Costas was referring to, few citizens of any group are as active as they should be.
Wikipedia defines active citizenship as a philosophy espoused by organizations where members or nation states have certain roles and responsibilities to society, although they might not have a direct governing role.
This can be seen in the roles and responsibilities held and executed by its members at every governmental level. These roles might not be written but are nevertheless available to all citizens who might want to exercise them in a democracy.
The problem now is not a question of overuse of these rights and responsibilities, but rather a failure of citizens to fully exercise their responsibilities as citizens.
We need to do more than texting our opinions, satisfactions or dissatisfactions. We must limit the possibility of leaders serving only their own interests instead of their constituents'.
If those who claim to be leaders can't get our issues satisfactorily addressed, then it is our job as active citizens to continue working on them until we are satisfied.
Too many of us refuse to educate ourselves and acknowledge our plight relative to social, health, economic, judicial, ecological, political, economic and safety issues.
As a result, we leave research, analysis, organization, proposals and policies to elected, appointed or hired leaders to act in our behalf without our involvement.
We accept a lack of transparency and accountability regarding issues that might affect us indirectly or even directly. We ignore, separate ourselves and fail to adequately communicate with others at our own peril.
The abdication of our own participation might be our undoing. We must all become comfortable with expressing our will through organized action with as many citizens as possible.
William E. "Gene" Robertson is a Columbia resident and a professor emeritus at MU. He writes occasional columns for the Missourian.