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Speak For Yourself

Note – This column originally appeared in this weekend’s edition of the Indianapolis Recorder.


As a local media figure, I frequently run into people who watch, read or listen to my daily musings about the issues of the day. Sometimes they agree with me and other times they disagree. Usually I am cool either way, I just tell them I am glad they are watching, reading or listening because that means I don’t have to get a real job practicing law full-time, which is probably good for society as whole. However, a recent encounter with a older African-American woman made me pause and gave me some food for thought.

I was in Target picking up a few items when she walked up to me and asked if I was the guy on Channel 6? I told her yes. She told me that she watches me every week, but I should also be aware of the fact that I don’t “speak for her.” I looked at her somewhat puzzled then quickly smiled and said, that’s fine. I then told her, I would never purport to speak for anyone and the only person I speak for is me. I then thanked her for watching and then went back to shopping for video games.

However, as I walked away, I thought it was interesting that this woman would think I spoke for her. The only people I “speak for” are the people who pay me to represent them in legal matters. And I think the fact she thought I was a spokesperson for her, or other Black folks, clearly demonstrates a fundamental flaw in the logic of some of my fellow Black people. Why would you want anyone to “speak for you” when you can clearly do it for yourself?

I know we just celebrated the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” but I think the days of a Black messiah are a bit antiquated. If you have a grievance with your government then you can easily call and get your matter addressed.

Now granted she was more than likely talking about my positions on the issues of the day which are rooted in a philosophy best described as “fiscally conservative and socially libertarian,” you know the whole free markets, less government regulation, fewer taxes and more personal responsibility and individual liberty; that whole thing.

These are views I have developed over the past 40 years of my life based on my experiences. And when I share them, I am not speaking for anyone but myself.

As I tell my white counterparts, Black folks don’t all look alike so there is no reason for us to all think alike either. Diversity of thought and opinion is a good thing, it leads to healthy debate and discussion, which turns into better methods to address and solve society’s problems. I am sure the woman who approached me in Target probably thinks more government is the answer to problems facing certain segments of the Black community. She probably thinks higher taxes are the way to go as opposed to looking at ways to grow the economic pie so more people can take advantage of it. And she probably thinks spending more money on failing schools is a better way to lift Black children out of poverty as opposed to vouchers and choice because a government bureaucracy can make better decisions about a kid’s education than their own parents. I could go on, but I think you see my point.

When I scribble down a few thoughts on paper, or share them on television, radio or the Internet, I am only speaking for me, no one else. It just happens that a lot of intellectually evolved people tend to agree with me and those who aren’t smart enough to figure that out usually don’t.

Abdul-Hakim Shabazz is an attorney, political commentator and publisher of IndyPolitics.org. You can email comments to him at abdul@indypolitics.org.


  • Steve

    Come on, just because someone doesn’t agree with you means they are not intellectually evolved? Though your years in Indy radio, I have probably disagreed with your view probably 60% of the time.
    By your comments does that make me 60% less intellectually evolved? I am intelligent enough to research and form an opinion and opinions are like certain body parts, everyone has one.
    We talked the Saturday before last about being able to disagree without insults. That is why you should have three hours a day rather than some others on WIBC. I don’t need someone to think for me, I just appreciate the opportunity to discuss my opinion with someone that shows me the same respect he or she is given from me.

    All the best, get more air time.

  • malercous

    It appears to me that the black community are usually fairly homogeneous in their views. As such, it is often assumed that a colored person in a visible position in the media is assumed to be a spokesperson for the black community. I’ve known that you certainly weren’t since I’ve met you, but that’s the presumption most people make about people in your circumstances; this obviously isn’t something you didn’t know.
    Statistically, about 92% of black folk are Democrats, or strongly lean that way. While you’re no “Uncle Clarence” (aka “Uncle Ruckus”), your views certainly are not in alignment with the colored community’s either. Your political views seem to be 1/2 way between both camps. While you claim to be a Republican, I’m not so sure that Republicans would recognize you as one of their own. I’d say you’re closer to a conservative Democrat.
    I caught your sarcasm at the end of your post, but t appears that not everyone has. On forum where I used to post, we developed a convention to denote sarcasm as many people take things too literally. We would post sarcastic comments in purple ink. It worked, but took a couple of months for everyone to get it.