Folks who always seem to have a contrary opinion can be a major obstacle to real progress in the black community.
Classy Black Lady Note: This blog post was about 90% written a week before the Shawty Lo Minstrel Show hit my radar. The talk around whether it's worthwhile for blacks to petition this show at all is a perfect example of what this blog post is about. Watch for the contrarians, detractors, deflectors and distractors.
We've all seen them in action. They are the cousins of the classic Uncle Tom persona. They are second cousins to what the kids call "haters." They aren't quite against black progress but they continually doubt the possibilities and distract us from the main point.
Whenever someone in the black community is bold enough to stand up and do or say something different and progressive, here come the contrarians being... contrary. If we listen to them, ultimately nothing will get done. You could tell them the sky is blue and they'll argue saying: no, it's really "bluish-green with a hint of yellow."
Let's take an example. Most of us know the story of Malcolm X. He was making real, bold progress and changing minds in the black community. The progressive black people around him wanted him to continue full-force.
But then came the distractors, detractors and contrarian voices:
"He thinks he's better than us!"
"He's wants to be bigger than the organization!"
Never mind that Malcolm X was doing awesome things in and around the black community. His detractors couldn't just stay focused on that.
We all know what happened in the end -- the contrarians won that battle and a great leader was taken from us. Who knows where the black community might be if Malcolm X had lived to a ripe old age?
Being Contrary Since the Slave Days
I imagine contrarians were around even in the slave days. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Harriet Tubman had to deal with a few as she was working hard to liberate hundreds of black people.
"Why are you taking that route Harriet? That's just stupid. We could take this way and get there 10 minutes sooner!"
"Why is she carrying a pistol around though? I don't like that. Ugh, I just can't support violence, so I'll stay right here with massa."
These voices distract us with petty arguments that pull us away from the main goal. If you let them win, you'll end up arguing with them all day long and nothing will ever get done.
They'll zap you of your confidence. Not only that, but they could take your rep down a few pegs if you participate in childish or petty arguments with them in public.
So are these black people hired agents of disruption or are they just the type who like to argue for arguing's sake? Or maybe it's just a common show of narcissism?
I honestly don't know yet, what do you think?
I would say that in any case they are even bigger enemies to progress in the black community than blatant white racists or "Uncle Tom" types. They are an even bigger problem because we don't always recognize the black contrarian as an enemy to our progress as readily as we recognize a racist person or an Uncle Tom persona.
In many cases distractors, deflectors, detractors and contrarians hang around in black spaces and pretend to be down for the cause but always have a dissenting opinion ready. They play the devil's advocate on just about every issue. They just can't seem to get on board. They have to find a problem with every idea. They also tend to be loud, very vocal and sometimes fairly witty.
Beware the Contrarian
If you have a goal that you want to achieve in the black community, whether it is a mentoring center for kids, a blog, a magazine, or an idea for a television show, just beware of the contrarian. Follow these steps:
1. Identify the person as a distractor, detractor, deflector or contrarian -- not publicly but for your own information. However be careful not to confuse a contrarian with someone who is providing you with honestly constructive feedback that could improve your plan. You'll know the difference. In many cases constructive feedback comes in private.
2. Avoid further communication with the contrarian once you have them pegged. They want you to argue and get distracted by petty issues. When you cease communication they may become frustrated and continue to prattle on to anyone who will listen. Let them. Stay focused on your plan.
3. Remove anyone who is a potential distractor or deflector from your circle immediately. They can be more destructive than any other force that would threaten your main goal -- especially when they're working from within.
4. Analyze whether YOU may be a contrarian yourself. When someone comes up with an idea do you try to shoot it down or distract with a petty comment ala "You spelled 'its' wrong in the second paragraph -- I can't listen someone who can't even spell correctly!" They call this "throwing the baby out with the bathwater." Don't be an agent to the potential downfall of someone else's idea or plan -- just make your own!
5. No matter what, if you believe in your idea to help the black community, stay focused and positive.
Peace and Love