Sunday, August 31, 2008
Posted by dday
August 22, 2008.
This time, in Mississippi.
We often chronicle the voter suppression and
intimidation machinations from the right. There's also
the use of US Attorneys to investigate Democrats at
fortunate times for their Republican opponents. Despite
the high-profile nature of the Don Siegelman case and
others, this element of the Republican machine hasn't
been shut down. In fact, it's in full force in a Senate
race in Mississippi.
As federal courtwatchers wonder if the Mississippi Beef
Plant investigation will entangle Senate candidate
Ronnie Musgrove, a Federal Election Commission check
shows U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee contributed to his
Greenlee was nominated for the U.S. attorney post in
2001 by President George W. Bush, supported by
Mississippi Sens. Thad Cochran and Trent Lott.
On Oct. 11, 2002 - just weeks before then-U.S. Rep.
Roger Wicker won another term in Congress - Greenlee
made a donation of $200 to Friends of Roger Wicker [...]
In U.S. District Court, where Greenlee is the chief
prosecutor, two Georgia company executives recently
pleaded guilty to making an illegal campaign
contribution to then-Gov. Musgrove's 2003 re-election
campaign. They admitted they hoped to ask Musgrove for
help as they realized the Mississippi Beef Plant
construction project was in trouble.
The project ultimately failed, leaving hundreds of
people out of work and the state of Mississippi holding
the bag on millions of loan guarantees. Two men have
gone to prison on related fraud charges.
However, Musgrove has not been indicted and repeatedly
insists he did nothing wrong.
Scott Horton has taken notice of this one, as it shares
similarities with the Siegelman case that he's been
following closely - a former Democratic governor in the
Deep South, a Republican operative masquerading as a US
Attorney, and trumped-up charges designed to take down
Musgrove. These executives plead guilty to the illegal
contributions in a plea deal:
The three, all executives with The Facility Group of
Smyrna, Ga., were largely left off the hook on the more
serious charges that they had swindled the state out of
at least $2 million and had left the plant's vendors and
contractors holding the bag. Instead, they were allowed
in a plea bargain to confess to trying to buy influence
with Musgrove by steering $25,000 to the then-governor's
unsuccessful re-election campaign in 2003.
The orchestrated guilty pleas - and the prosecutors'
suggestion that more indictments could be forthcoming -
are a boon to the campaign of Republican Roger Wicker,
who was appointed to the vacant Senate seat in December
but is considered vulnerable. They leave a cloud over
Musgrove in voters' minds and provide more fodder for
negative campaign ads from the G.O.P. camp, even though
Musgrove has not been charged with any wrongdoing and
there's nothing in the court records to document he did
Well, maybe we can get somebody over at the Justice
Department to investigate. Or I know, an independent
body like the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights! Anyone
know any of their new hires?
It looks like Hans von Spakovsky, an old TPM favorite,
is back in business. The former Justice Department
official, whose nomination to the Federal Election
Commission (FEC) was thwarted when Democrats objected to
his long record of support for restrictions on voting
rights, has been hired as a "consultant and temporary
full-time employee" at the ostensibly bi-partisan U.S.
Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) the agency confirmed
to TPMmuckraker [...]
Among Spakovsky's duties will be overseeing the USCCR's
report on the Justice Department's monitoring of the
2008 presidential elections, a source inside the USCCR
Spakovsky's hiring is at the request of Commissioner
Todd Gaziano, who works for the conservative Heritage
Foundation on FEC issues and has defended Spakovsky in
the press before. According to a federal government
source, Gaziano has recommended Spakovsky at the
government's highest payscale -- which would work out to
about $124,010 annually if Spakovsky was to stay for an
Looks like we're in good hands.
Slavery Haunts America's Plantation Prisons
by: Maya Schenwar
t r u t h o u t Report
28 August 2008
On an expanse of 18,000 acres of farmland, 59 miles
northwest of Baton Rouge, long rows of men, mostly
African-American, till the fields under the hot
Louisiana sun. The men pick cotton, wheat, soybeans and
corn. They work for pennies, literally. Armed guards,
mostly white, ride up and down the rows on horseback,
keeping watch. At the end of a long workweek, a bad
disciplinary report from a guard - whether true or false
- could mean a weekend toiling in the fields. The farm
is called Angola, after the homeland of the slaves who
first worked its soil.
This scene is not a glimpse of plantation days long
gone by. It's the present-day reality of thousands of
prisoners at the maximum security Louisiana State
Penitentiary, otherwise known as Angola. The block of
land on which the prison sits is a composite of several
slave plantations, bought up in the decades following
the Civil War. Acre-wise, it is the largest prison in
the United States. Eighty percent of its prisoners are
"Angola is disturbing every time I go there," Tory
Pegram, who coordinates the International Coalition to
Free the Angola 3, told Truthout. "It's not even really
a metaphor for slavery. Slavery is what's going on."
Mwalimu Johnson, who spent 15 years as a prisoner at
the penitentiary and now works as executive secretary of
the Capital Post-Conviction Project of Louisiana,
"I would truthfully say that Angola prison is a
sophisticated plantation," Johnson told Truthout.
"'Cotton is King' still applies when it come to Angola."
Angola is not alone. Sixteen percent of Louisiana
prisoners are compelled to perform farm labor, as are 17
percent of Texas prisoners and a full 40 percent of
Arkansas prisoners, according to the 2002 Corrections
Yearbook, compiled by the Criminal Justice Institute.
They are paid little to nothing for planting and picking
the same crops harvested by slaves 150 years ago.
On land previously occupied by a slave plantation,
Louisiana prisoners pick cotton, earning 4 cents an
hour. (Photo: Louisiana State Penitentiary)
Many prison farms, Angola included, have gruesome
post-bellum histories. In the 1950s, '60s and '70s,
Angola made news with a host of assaults - and killings
- of inmates by guards. In 1952, a group of Angola
prisoners found their work conditions so oppressive that
they resorted to cutting their Achilles' tendons in
protest. At Mississippi's Parchman Farm, another
plantation-to-prison convert, prisoners were routinely
subjected to near-death whippings and even shootings for
the first half of the 20th century. Cummins Farm, in
Arkansas, sported a "prison hospital" that doubled as a
torture chamber until a federal investigation exposed it
in 1970. And Texas's Jester State Prison Farm, formerly
Harlem Prison Farm, garnered its claim to fame from
eight prisoners who suffocated to death after being
sealed into a tiny cell and abandoned by guards.
Since a wave of activism forced prison farm
brutalities into the spotlight in the 1970s, some
reforms have taken place: At Angola, for example, prison
violence has been significantly reduced. But to a large
extent, the official stories have been repackaged. State
correctional departments now portray prison farm labor
as educational or vocational opportunities, as opposed
to involuntary servitude. The Alabama Department of
Corrections web site, for example, states that its
"Agriculture Program" "allows inmates to be trained in
work habits and allows them to develop marketable skills
in the areas of: Farming, Animal Husbandry, Vegetable,
meat, and milk processing."
According to Angola's web site, "massive reform" has
transformed the prison into a "stable, safe and
constitutional" environment. A host of new faith-based
programs at Angola have gotten a lot of media play,
including features in The Washington Post and The
Christian Science Monitor.
Cathy Fontenot, Angola's assistant warden, told
Truthout that the penitentiary is now widely known as an
"innovative and progressive prison."
"The warden says it takes good food, good medicine,
good prayin' and good playin' to have a good prison,"
Fontenot said, referring to the head warden, Burl Cain.
"Angola has all these."
However, the makeover has been markedly incomplete,
according to prisoners and their advocates.
"Most of the changes are cosmetic," said Johnson,
who was released from Angola in 1992 and, in his new
capacity as a prison rights advocate, stays in contact
with Angola prisoners. "In the conventional plantations,
slaves were given just enough food, clothing and shelter
to be a financial asset to the owner. The same is true
for the Louisiana prison system."
Wages for agricultural and industrial prison labor
are still almost nonexistent compared with the federal
minimum wage. Angola prisoners are paid anywhere from
four to twenty cents per hour, according to Fontenot.
Agricultural laborers fall on the lowest end of the pay
What's more, prisoners may keep only half the money
they make, according to Johnson, who notes that the
other half is placed in an account for prisoners to use
to "set themselves up" after they're released.
Besides the fact that two cents an hour may not
accumulate much of a start-up fund, there is one glaring
peculiarity about this arrangement: due to some of the
harshest sentencing practices in the country, most
Angola prisoners are never released. Ninety-seven
percent will die in prison, according to Fontenot.
(Ironically, the "progressive" label may well apply
to Angola, relative to some locations: In Texas,
Arkansas and Georgia, most prison farms pay nothing at
Angola prisoners technically work eight-hour days.
However, since extra work can be mandated as a
punishment for "bad behavior," hours may pile up well
over that limit, former prisoner Robert King told
"Prisoners worked out in the field, sometimes 17
hours straight, rain or shine," remembered King, who
spent 29 years in solitary confinement at Angola, until
he was released in 2001 after proving his innocence of
the crime for which he was incarcerated.
It's common for Angola prisoners to work 65 hours a
week after disciplinary reports have been filed,
according to Johnson. Yet, those reports don't
necessarily indicate that a prisoner has violated any
rules. Johnson describes guards writing out reports well
before the weekend, fabricating incident citations, then
filling in prisoners' names on Friday, sometimes at
random. Those prisoners would then spend their weekend
in the cotton fields.
Although mechanical cotton pickers are almost
universally used on modern-day farms, Angola prisoners
must harvest by hand, echoing the exact ritual that
characterized the plantation before emancipation.
According to King, these practices are undergirded
by entrenched notions of race-based authority.
"Guards talked to prisoners like slaves," King told
Truthout. "They'd tell you the officer was always right,
no matter what."
During the 1970s, prisoners were routinely beaten or
"dungeonized" without cause, King said. Now, guards'
power abuses are more expertly concealed, but they
persist, fed by racist assumptions, according to King.
Johnson described some of the white guards burning
crosses on prison lawns.
Much of this overt racism stems from the way the
basic system - and even the basic population - of Angola
and its environs have remained static since the days of
slavery, according to Pegram. After the plantation was
converted to a prison, former plantation overseers and
their descendants kept their general roles, becoming
prison officials and guards. This white overseer
community, called B-Line, is located on the farm's
grounds, both close to the prisoners and completely
separate from them. In addition to their prison labor,
Angola's inmates do free work for B-Line residents, from
cutting their grass to trimming their hair to cleaning
up Prison View Golf Course, the only course in the
country where players can watch prisoners laboring as
Another landmark of the town, the Angola Prison
Museum, is also run by multi-generation Angola
residents. The museum exhibits "Old Sparky," the solid
oak electric chair used for executions at Angola until
1991. Visitors can purchase shirts that read, "Angola: A
Despite its antebellum MO, Angola's labor system
does not break the law. In fact, it is explicitly
authorized by the Constitution. The 13th Amendment,
which prohibits forced labor, contains a caveat. It
reads, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude,
except as a punishment for crime where of the party
shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the
That clause has a history of being manipulated,
according to Fordham Law Professor Robert Kaczorowski,
who has written extensively on civil rights and the
Constitution. Directly after the 13th Amendment was
enacted, it began to be utilized to justify slavery-like
practices, according to Kaczorowski. Throughout the
South, former slaves were arrested for trivial crimes
(vagrancy, for example), fined, and imprisoned when they
could not pay their fines. Then, landowners could supply
the fine in exchange for the prisoner's labor,
essentially perpetuating slavery.
Although such close reproductions of private
enslavement were phased out, the 13th Amendment still
permits involuntary servitude.
"Prisoners can be forced to work for the government
against their will, and this is true in every state,"
Kaczorowski told Truthout.
In recent years, activists have begun to focus on
the 13th Amendment's exception for prisoners, according
to Pegram. African-Americans are disproportionately
incarcerated; one in three black men has been in prison
at some point in his life. Therefore, African-Americans
are much more likely to be subject to involuntary
"I would have more faith in that amendment if it
weren't so clear that our criminal justice system is
racially biased in a really obvious way," Pegram said.
Prison activists like Johnson believe that
ultimately, permanently changing the status quo at
places like Angola may mean changing the Constitution -
amending the 13th Amendment to abolish involuntary
servitude for all.
"I don't have any illusions that this is a simple
process," Johnson said. "Many people are apathetic about
what happens in prisons. It would be very difficult, but
I would not suggest it would be impossible."
Even without a constitutional overhaul, some states
have done away with prison farms of their own accord. In
Connecticut, where the farms were prevalent before the
1970s, the farms have been phased out, partially due to
the perceived slavery connection. "Many black inmates
viewed farm work under these circumstances as too close
to slavery to want to participate," according to a 1995
report to the Connecticut General Assembly.
For now, though, the prison farm is alive and well
in Louisiana. And at Angola, many prisoners can expect
to be buried on the land they till. Two cemeteries,
Point Lookout 1 and 2, lie on the prison grounds. No one
knows exactly how many prisoners are interred in the
former, since, after a flood washed away the first
Angola cemetery in 1927, the bodies were reburied in a
large common grave.
Point Lookout 1 is now full, and with the vast
majority of Angola's prisoners destined to die in
prison, Point Lookout 2 is well on its way, according to
"Angola is pretty huge," King said. "They've got a
lot of land to bury a lot of prisoners."
1921: Alice Paul Pulls the Strings
By Freda Kirchwey
This article appeared in the March 2, 1921 edition of The Nation.
July 31, 2008
Women won the right to vote in 1919, but African-American women continue to be disenfranchised. At the National Women's Party convention in 1921, their pleas for representation were rebuffed by suffragist leader Alice Paul. The Nation's outraged correspondent Freda Kirchway reports.
The spirit of the National Woman's Party convention at Washington last week was summed up in two striking sentences. Said a disheartened delegate after the last day's session: "This is the machine age." Said one of the leaders of the Party to another delegate who tried to plead for a free consideration of a real program: "At a convention human intelligence reaches its lowest ebb."
That was what it amounted to; the leaders acted on the theory of an amiable contempt for their followers; the rank and file, either cynically or enthusiastically, watched the wishes of the leaders become the law of the convention. With quiet precision the Woman's Party machine--a veritable tank--rolled over the assembly, crushing protestants of all sorts, leaving the way clear--for what? If anyone left the convention with a distinct idea of what the Party will do now that it has solemnly disbanded and solemnly reorganized, it is, perhaps, Alice Paul and the Executive Committee and some members of the Advisory Council and a few State chairmen. The rank and file, not realizing that their intelligence was at a low ebb, are vaguely disappointed. They do not know what their party will do; they only know that no action was taken in behalf of the Negro women, who have not yet got the vote in spite of the Nineteenth Amendment; that birth control and maternity endowment and most of the questions that stir the minds of modern women were ignored; that disarmament was ruled out; and that the program finally adopted--the majority report of the resolutions committee--declared vaguely against "legal disabilities" and for "equality" leaving the future definition of those terms and their translation into action to the executive board. The only specific application of the word equality appeared in the demand that it be "won and maintained in any association of nations that may be established"!
It may, of course, be asserted that since this mild and hypothetical program was adopted by a vote of the convention it was therefore the will of the convention, but one is forced to wonder whether the result would have been the same if a dissenting delegate or a minority committeeman had presented the winning report, and if Alice Paul's program had included disarmament or birth control or the enfranchisement of Negro women. I, for one, would back Miss Paul's chances on either side she chose to support. When the minority report recommending disarmament was before the house it was opposed vehemently by several ardent militarists of the order who declare: "I am as much against war as anybody in this room, but when the world is on fire . . . " From the point of view of the leaders this opposition was undesirable; the majority report would only be weakened by militarist adherents. Presently the floor was taken by a well-known pacifist who set herself squarely on the side of immediate, complete disarmament and then proceeded on other grounds to an effective attack on the disarmament program. Later in the day this same pacifist--who is also a radical and a feminist--had a program of her own in the field in opposition to the majority report. This new dissenting program was specific. It demanded, in addition to the removal of the legal disabilities of women, the rewriting of the existing laws of marriage, divorce, guardianship; and sexual morality on a basis of equality; the abolition of illegitimacy; the establishment of motherhood endowment and of the legal right of a woman who chooses homemaking as her profession to an equal share in the family income; the repeal of all laws against the dissemination of information regarding birth control.
These proposals were sternly opposed by the machine. The leaders declared that such a program was too vague; they declared that it was too definite; they declared that it was too comprehensive; they claimed that the majority program could be interpreted to include all those demands and more besides. But in expounding the majority program they were cautious; not one of the leaders specifically stated, for example, that it should be interpreted to cover the question of birth control. "And after all, that's the acid test," said one of the younger delegates. The new program received the support of a few of the less orthodox members of the Advisory Council, but its most persuasive advocates were among the young Party workers who charged that the majority report offered no more inspiration than the programs of other women's organizations which they had long been trained to look down upon as cautious, respectable, dull. Again the leaders were worried; they couldn't let the idea get about that only middle-aged respectability stood for the majority report. And presently a couple of the younger workers rose from their seats and opposed the radical program and swore by all the suffrage prophets that the majority report offered inspiration enough for any feminist. And it was well known to those who hung about in the lobby or watched the play from the wings, that Alice Paul had spoken the word necessary to make the pacifist oppose disarmament and the young radicals oppose the radical program.
Some day the story of the working of the National Women's Party machine will be told. It will be an interesting story, full of strange contradictions. It will tell of valiant self-sacrifice and magnificent defiance coupled with an incongruous willingness to appeal to the tradition of feminine weakness. It will be full of idealism and steadfast purpose and yet of a readiness to use any trick or pretense that might bring that purpose nearer to fulfillment. It will tell of independence and individual heroism existing side by side with obedience bordering on subservience. It will show sympathy and ruthlessness walking together. But that story cannot be written until the people who know it get out from under the spell of the Alice Paul legend. Today any attempt would be futile.
The efforts--finally successful--of the birth control advocates to secure a chance to speak at the convention would form an amusing chapter of that story. At the second day's session representatives of women's organizations with legislative programs made brief addresses stating their aims. Even old-time enemies of the Woman's Party were given a place. For weeks before the convention the head of the Voluntary Parenthood League had been in correspondence with the Party leaders demanding her chance to be heard. First the leaders refused, then they demurred, finally they surrendered; but their written objections to the presence of this organization on the platform of the convention were redolent with the faint fragrance of Victorian delicacy and reserve.
The efforts--wholly unsuccessful--of the representatives of the colored women would form a tragic chapter of the same story. A delegation of sixty women sent by colored women's organizations in fourteen States arrived in Washington several days before the convention. They requested an interview with Alice Paul so that they might take up with her the question of the disfranchisement of the women of their race. They were told Miss Paul was too busy to see them. They said they would wait till she had time. Finally, grudgingly, she yielded. The colored women presented their case in the form of a dignified memorial--which read as follows:
We have come here as members of various organizations and from different sections representing the five million colored women of this country. We are deeply appreciative of the heroic devotion of the National Woman's Party to the women's suffrage movement and of the tremendous sacrifices made under your leadership in securing the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.Miss Paul was indifferent to this appeal and resented the presence of the delegation. Their chance of being heard at the convention was gone. A Southern organizer told the one active supporter of the colored women--a white woman and a delegate from New York--that the Women's Party was pledged not to raise the race issue in the South; that this was the price it paid for ratification. But no such sinister motive is necessary to explain the treatment of the colored delegation; they were simply an interruption, an obstacle to the smooth working of the machine. Their leading members were not allowed to ride in the elevators of the Hotel Washington where the convention was held, until finally they made a stand for their rights. And only by the use of tactics bordering on Alice Paul's own for vigor and persistence, did their spokesman--the delegate from New York--get a moment to present a resolution in their behalf-a resolution which was promptly defeated and which left the question precisely where it stood.
We revere the names of the pioneers to whom you will do honor while here, not only because they believed in the inherent rights of women, but of humanity at large, and gave themselves to the fight against slavery in the United States.
The world has moved forward in these seventy years and the colored women of this country have been moving with it. They know the value of the ballot, if honestly used, to right the wrongs of any class. Knowing this, they have also come today to call your attention to the flagrant violations of the intent and purposes of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment in the elections of 1920. These violations occurred in the Southern States, where is to be found the great mass of colored women, and it has not been made secret that wherever white women did not use the ballot, it was counted worthwhile to relinquish it in order that it might be denied colored women.
Complete evidence of violations of the Nineteenth Amendment could be obtained only by Federal investigation. There is, however, sufficient evidence available to justify a demand for such an inquiry. We are handing you herewith a pamphlet with verified cases of the disfranchisement of our women.
The National Woman's Party stands in the forefront of the organizations that have undergone all the pains of travail to bring into existence the Nineteenth Amendment. We can not then believe that you will permit this amendment to be so distorted in its interpretation that it shall lose its power and effectiveness. Five million women in the United States can not be denied their rights without all the women of the United States feeling the effect of that denial. No women are free until all are free.
Therefore, we are assembled to ask that you will use your influence to have the convention of the National Woman's Party appoint a special committee to ask Congress for an investigation of the violations of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment in the elections of 1920.
The attitude of Alice Paul and her supporters toward these disturbers of the peace--Negro women and birth control advocates alike--was the attitude of all established authorities. "Why do these people harass us?" asked Miss Paul. "Why do they want to spoil our convention?" The answer, that never occurred to her, was this: "For the very same reason that made you disturb the peace and harass the authorities in your peculiarly effective and irritating way: because they want to further the cause they believe in."
In the lobby, among the futile opponents of the machine, there was much discussion of the cause of their leaders' hostility to all that was new and clear-cut. The great fighting issue was gone; if the organization was to continue it must turn its attention to other issues and work for them one at a time or several together, not only in Congress but in the States. Would the leaders evolve out of their vague program an issue which they could again attack with military precision and on which they could hope again to raise their disciplined volunteer army? Would they justify their tactics, as they had so often done before, by the brilliant success of their results? Or were they only greedy of power, eager to hold the final decision close in their own hands, unwilling to trust to the desires of their followers? Or were they, perhaps, only half awake to the fulness of life? Absorbed in a task of immense proportions, for years they had forfeited, as soldiers must, the common enterprises of life--love, marriage, children, the economic struggle. Had they thereby lost touch with the plain demands of modern women who are more interested in their opportunities for personal expansion and economic freedom and the right to bear children when they choose than they are in the presence of women in the councils of an unborn or dying League of Nations? The opponents of the machine never decided those questions; the Alice Paul legend hung too closely over them and its phrases sounded in their ears through the closed doors of the convention hall.
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About Freda KirchweyFreda Kirchwey was a former managing editor, literary editor, editor and, ultimately, publisher of The Nation. She died in 1976.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
I mean really. You guys are the same people who blamed the spike of crime in post-bellum South on freedmen and women, even though up to 95% of the crime was committed by whites, and got away with it. Not just that, but now it's a reputation we just can't shake. So know, you don't get to "objectively" judge the state of black politics.
Obama's Candidacy: The Advent of Post-Racial America and the End of Black Politics?
By Linda Burnham
The Obama candidacy has provoked a torrent of observations and speculations about race in America - some grounded in reality, some approaching the realm of sheer fantasy. In the latter category are the commentaries heralding the advent of a 'post-racial America' and 'the end of Black politics.'
Matt Bai's August 10th piece in The New York Times, entitled 'Is Obama the End of Black Politics?,' is one of the more coherent versions of the genre. In it he argues that a newly emerging generation of Ivy-bred black elected officials, with Obama as their chief representative, are more interested in representing universal interests than in representing the black community; that therefore 'black politics might now be disappearing into American politics in the same way that the Irish and Italian machines long ago joined the political mainstream'; and that an Obama win would likely undermine the argument for race-based measures such as affirmative action.
The post-racial, end-of-black-politics crowd rests its case on at least five fallacies:
Fallacy #1: That the end of a racially unjust society is a declarative act.
Some commentators seem to be confused by the forms racism takes in the post-civil rights era, and prepared to declare that, since there are no laws explicitly upholding racial inequity, it must be dying out of its own accord.
Racial apartheid and the most blatant 20th century forms of discrimination are behind us, but the colorline has hardly faded away. Centuries of affirmative action for whites built up an enormous wealth gap, along with stubborn inequities along nearly every other economic and social parameter. Active discrimination persists, especially in employment and housing, as the experience of testers repeatedly confirms. (According to the New York Time's own recent poll, 'nearly 70 percent of blacks said they had encountered a specific instance of discrimination based on their race, compared with 62 percent in 2000.') Millions of white people -most of them lacking control of the resources required to actively discriminate - nonetheless make daily choices about which neighborhood to move into or out of, which schools to send their kids to. Too often those choices amount to the preservation of white space, and the privileges that attach to it. And the gains of the freedom movements of the 1950s and 60s came under attack before the ink was dry on the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act - and have been under attack ever since. Meanwhile, nominally race neutral policies, particularly those related to the social safety net, criminal justice and tax policy, have a disproportionately negative impact on people of color -hardening, if not widening the racial divide. And the globalization of the demand for labor, in the absence of the protection of the laborers themselves, has stoked a toxic mix of nativism and racism.
This is not the picture of a post-racial society.
Social reality is rude. It tends to break through even the most sophisticated screens designed to mask it. The Katrina debacle, the repeated exposure of the debasement of immigrant labor, the disproportionate impact of the housing crisis and the generalized recession in communities of color -all these phenomena attest to the continuing salience of racial inequity and bring the conversation about race out of the post-racialist clouds and back to earth.
Fallacy #2: That the sum total of black politics is electoral politics.
There are many forms of political leadership among African Americans, as is true for other racially or ethnically distinct groups. Elected representatives are critical and central to moving policy, but religious leaders, community organizers, think tankers, opinion leaders, policy advocates, legal strategists, and politicized artists and cultural figures all give shape, texture and substance to the complex thing that is black politics. The complete collapse of the political into the electoral ill serves a community that has been so ill served by mainstream politics. Challenging power requires the coordination and synchronization of many different actors, some located within legitimized structures, some working well outside the mainstream. Furthermore, while the politics of protest and mass action may be in extended abeyance, a death warrant is probably premature.
Fallacy #3: That the most legitimate black leaders are those elected representatives who are most legitimated in the eyes of whites.
The promoters of the 'end of black politics' draw a sharp generational divide between the confrontational protest style of the Jesse Jackson generation, who are constructed as speaking to and for 'only' the interests of African Americans, and the more universalist approach of the younger generation of politicians, as exemplified by the Corey Bookers and Deval Patricks of the world. This is a problem on a few different counts. Gary Younge, writing in The Nation, addressed the careful selectivity of this view. 'The emergence of this cohort has filled the commentariat with joy--not just because of what they are: bright, polite and, where skin tone is concerned, mostly light--but because of what they are not. They have been hailed not just as a development in black American politics but as a repudiation of black American politics; not just as different from Jesse Jackson but the epitome of the anti-Jesse.
There are many problems with this. Chief among them is that this `new generation' is itself a crude political construct built more on wishful thinking than on chronological fact. Patrick, born in 1956, is hailed as part of it, but hapless New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who was born the same year, and civil rights campaigner Al Sharpton, who was born just two years earlier, are not. Obama and Booker are always mentioned as members of this new club, but Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., who was born between them and spent his twenty-first birthday in prison protesting apartheid, is not. So whatever else this is about, it is not just about years. It is one thing to say there is a critical mass of black politicians of a certain age and political disposition. It is entirely another to claim that they represent the views of a generation.'
This view also rewrites and narrows the politics of Jesse Jackson, Martin King and a generation of leaders, many of whom were, and still are, clear that racial justice for African Americans is central to deepening democracy for all Americans and who, through the Civil Rights movement and the Rainbow Coalition, mobilized, inspired and transformed the political thinking not only of African Americans but of millions of whites and other people of color as well.
Finally, this view posits associations between black politics and parochialism, mainstream politics and universalism, and white politics and .? Actually, in this view there is no such thing as white politics - that is, politics that represent the interests of whites as a group -only universalist politics inclusive of all and the narrow, race-based politics of the past.
Put fallacies # 2 and #3 together and you get the absurd notion that the undeniably significant expression of politics represented by Obama, Booker, Patrick, et al. is the sum total of black politics -a claim not even they would make -and that the future of black politics depends, first and foremost, upon its appeal to white voters.
Fallacy #4: That African American political expression is the black equivalent of white ethnic voting, and will soon fade as a distinct trend.
The most focused reflection of black political consensus is the 90% of black votes that regularly go to Democratic candidates in presidential elections. No other demographic votes in such a consistently and dramatically lopsided fashion. Whites split their votes, ranging between 55 and 60% Republican and 40 to 45% Democratic. Latino and Asian American votes split much more evenly than those of African Americans, and vary more from one election to the next. So if, as Bai maintains, black politics are 'disappearing into American politics' somebody better tell the Democrats who, in presidential elections, are completely reliant on the consistency of that vote. As Amiri Baraka notes in a recent piece, 'the foundation of Obama's successful candidacy is the 90% support by the Afro-American people.' Even though '90% of 12% is not enough to win the presidency,' it's something to build a campaign around, a stable factor in political strategizing, when you can count on it every time. African Americans widely view the Republican Party as the chief protector of white interests. Until that changes, that is until the Republican Party changes its core platform, African Americans are unlikely to follow the course of Irish and Italian politics and disappear as a remarkably cohesive voting block, at least in presidential elections.
Fallacy #5: That the progress of middle class African Americans is a stand in for the progress of African Americans in general.
Bai notes that 'when millions of black Americans are catapulting themselves to success' it's hard to make a case for the ongoing significance of race and racism. And nearly every election commentator has observed that the changed class configuration of black America has given rise to a new political cohort: those who walked through the doors swung open by the gains of the civil rights movement, and who are now themselves opening new doors in U.S. politics.
But in an era in which significant numbers of African Americans have substantially improved their social and economic standing, there are major countervailing trends: the black poverty rate still hovers between 20 and 25% and remains more than twice that of whites; the class profile of African Americans is still weighted toward the bottom; while median income rose dramatically for African American women in the 30 years between 1974 and 2004, it fell for African American men; and those African Americans who do achieve middles class status face much greater difficulty than whites in passing that status along to their children. It may be that the biggest problem a segment of African Americans faces is whether they can hail a cab successfully in New York City. This is not the case for the black majority.
And so the issue is not whether Black politicians who aspire to represent a broader constituency can do so effectively. Undoubtedly they can. More to the point is whether they also have the orientation and the capacity to represent the interests of those who are disadvantaged on the basis of both race and class. This will take more than lessons in uplift, finger wagging at black fathers and lectures on how to turn off the TV and help the kids with their homework.
* * *
Apart from these five fallacies, the other thing that seems to confuse the post-racialists is that no one in the political mainstream makes overtly racist appeals to the white majority. So maybe racism is over with.
We can count it as a victory, only recently won in terms of the long arc of white supremacy, that blatant racism is widely viewed as morally repugnant. While it is the role of the activist right to preserve the prerogatives of racial hierarchy, they'd prefer to do so without being tagged as the guardians of white power. Happy to claim their allegiance to unregulated markets, regressive tax policies, 'family values,'small government, and robust militarism, the frank embrace of white supremacy is a bit beyond the pale.
And so they've become masterful shape shifters, skilled at promulgating policies that protect white privilege while insisting that race is the furthest thing from their minds and skilled at framing and controlling the national dialogue about race. Racist expression has taken new, coded and perverse form. And the presidential campaign itself provides more than enough evidence that some white politicians recognize the power of race-based appeals.
We now have:
Double-bind racism, in which those who make reference to the actually existing racial regime or advocate on behalf of anti-racist practices and policies are themselves accused of being racist, of 'playing the race card.' (The whose-face-is-on-the-dollar-bill flap.)
Dog-whistle racism, in which racist messages are conveyed on a separate frequency, through racially coded words and phrases, reaching ears that have been primed and are highly attuned. (Clinton's 'hard working Americans' appeal to white working class voters in Pennsylvania. Yep, the Dems do it too.)
Color-blind racism, in which the racial status quo is sustained and defended by those who pledge allegiance to purportedly race-neutral policies. (Perfected by opponents of affirmative action.)
Visually evocative racism, in which imagery is purposefully deployed to surface deeply engrained racial stereotypes. (The Paris Hilton/Brittney Spears/McCain ad fandango.)
All these stratagems and more have been skillfully manipulated to stoke fear and resentment, undermine black candidates, confuse potential allies, undercut the efficacy of racial justice organizing and advocacy, and silence the anti-racist voice. It is our job to learn to decode and expose these forms of expression for what they are - maneuvers to obstruct racial equity.
We will not reach a post-racialist U.S. by announcement or decree. The only way to get there from here is by way of racial justice. We can already identify some of the markers on that route: substantially diminishing disparities in health, education, housing, income distribution, wealth, police practices, sentencing and incarceration, political participation and representation. Whether we steadily approach these markers or they recede into a murky, unapproachably distant future depends, in large part, on the continuation and renewal of black politics in diverse, increasingly effective form.
Christian: peace, good will, Golden Rule, liberty, poverty
Gentleman: justice, manners, exclusiveness, police, wealth
American: defense, caste, propaganda, patriotism, power
White Men: war, hate, suspicion, exploitation, empire
This list was published in 1940. Does that ring true to you even today?
Du Bois also attempts to recount innumerable conversations he's had with white American men into a single imaginary dialogue. They were discussing the contradictions between what it means to a Christian and what it means to be an American. A white friend explained, "We've go to be American even if we give up being Christians and Gentlemen."
And I think that's the problem with what's known as American Christianity today. It's not that white Christians, and I say white as opposed to black Christians, are picking and choosing which commandments to follow or which verses are literal and which are figurative. It's that they're choose between being Christian, being gentle(wo)men, being American, and being white. The problem is they choose which most benefits their sense of morality and self-acceptance.
For example. We all recall what Rev. Jeremiah Wright said about the US of "KKK-A." Was anything he said a lie? No. Was anything he said racist? No. So what was the hoopla about? The fact that he criticized the US. Even Michael Pfleger said nothing sexist or racist; he only pointed out the sense of entitlement white Americans seem to have. This entitlement never displays itself more than when white Americans are called out for it, as it displayed itself in the immediate and extreme punishment Pfleger received from his archbishop.
Let me share more of the Du Bois's conversation:
"Suppose we continue to neglect discipline for the mod and stop teaching thick and thin patriotism? I admit it isn't exactly honest business; America isn't so wonderful as nations go, but must we not make Americans believe it wonderful?"So what's my point? First of all, it's to show that white Christianity is not Christianity at its purest. I've been in many an online argument about the "fiasco and deception" of Christianity. What bothers me most about these discussions is not the intellectual dismissal of Christianity. What bothers me is the intellectual dishonesty when discussing Christianity and history.
Let me just first say as a knowing descendant of slaves and a historian, the God the slaves worshipped and the God white people worshipped wasn't always the same God. For far too many white Americans at the time, god was just a heavenly body to whom you sacrifice your Sunday and did pretty whatever you wanted during the week. Now, this wasn't the God of abolitionists and temperance women and some suffragist; but, this was, and for some still is, the god of the majority of white American Christians. The troubling thing is that the Bible makes plain that God does not accept sacrifices and prayers from people who turn right around and disobey him.
On the other hand, the God of the slaves was personal. S/He was close by and a comforter, a strengthener, and encourager. That's why white Christians emphasis God's love, and black Christians emphasis liberty and deliverance. Even today, hardly a sermon goes by in a black church without the preacher encouraging the congregation that even if you're "going through," God is by your side and you can lean on Him/Her.
Historically, the problem is not and has never Christianity or most religions for that matter. The problem is that historically, European Christians have chosen war and exploitation, hate and empire over peace and justice, love and humility. I challenge anyone to name one horrific tragedy done in the name of "Christianity" that had nothing at all to do with the teachings of Christ. And if you can't see the difference, you're just as intellectually dishonest, bigoted, and close-minded as those you castigate. Just be honest with yourself. It's not that you don't believe in a Higher Being, you just don't wanna except a being Higher than yourself.
And I'm a black Christian. I don't recognize the god so many "Christian" conservatives talk about. How God would prize the "sanctity of life" over the ending of poverty, which is what leads so many woman to chose abortion, is beyond me. How their god seems to think the racial problems today originate from black grievances instead of white racism is beyond me. But, I suppose if the god you serve has blue eyes and long blond hair and pale skin, he may very well think that way. But I don't know that god.
But so anyway, here's the thing. Far too many American Christians, especially white ones, prioritize other codes of ethics over Christianity. And if you're a secularists who's tired of "Christian" conservatives making a mess of the Constitution, stop fighting them and work with those of us who follow Christ, not the most recent POTUS we like. Cause there're millions of us out there who are politically progressive, and we're willing not to evangelize you or expressing our ideas in religious terms. But you've got to stop trivializing our beliefs. Cause we won't stand for that either.
If you wanna confront those conservatives who call themselves Christians, denying the existence of God ain't gonna do. Telling them they're nut cases ain't gonna do it. But, maybe if you learned the 10 Commandments, you could challenge them for the support of a regressive tax system and an economy that distributes wealth upwards and leave the poor behind. And especially when it comes to same-sex marriage. Don't let them beat you up about the "sanctity" of marriage being between one man and one woman. Challenge the divorce rate that's 50% in and outside the church, challenge the fact that the rates spousal abuse are the same in and outside the church. And you should really hit them up with the fact that their seems to be more compassion, understanding, and equal sharing of domestic duties.
Yes. Just like it says under the title, I'm a Christian. I believe that a little over 2000 years ago that the Holy Spirit fell upon a young Jewish virgin girl and impregnated her. I believe nine months later, she gave birth to a baby boy in a manger - or, more to paint a better picture, at the ground level of the housing structure where animals are general held. There was no Motel 6 leaving the light on. It was a perhaps a three level living structure, the "inn" was probably one of the upper levels. Since everyone was returning to their town of birth for tax season, the "inn" and every other "inn" in Bethlehem probably was full.
But, continuing on. Yes, I do believe that he turned 2 fish and 5 loaves of breath into a feast for 5thousand. Yes, I do believe he turned water into wine. Yes, I do believe he held the sick, cast out demons, gave sight to the blind, you know the list.
And yes, most especially, I believe he died on the cross to pay for the sins of the world, most especially mine. And yes, I believe he arose from the dead on the third day.
You can call me crazy for that. You can say I'm believing in fairy tales. I don't care.
But let's get things straight. Just because I'm a Christian doesn't mean I'm a homophobe. I'm perfectly comfortable in sexuality and really couldn't care less if a gay couple moved in across the street. Now, I don't wanna see them hugging and kissing good-bye or hello, but that has nothing to do with guy-on-guy or girl-on-girl action. That's because I hate PDA period. Holding hands, arms over the shoulder, across the waist, anything like that, I can live with. But I hate PDA, and that includes straight couples and any couples on TV.
Just because I'm a Christian doesn't mean I'm anti-abortion. I sincerely wish we lived in a world where every life was precious and safe. Where everyone had the same opportunity to live and enjoy life. But that's just not the case. There's financial and health disparities in the US. There're wars and genocide around the world. Plus, the world is getting to be overpopulated anyway. We don't really need to keep propagating.
Just because I'm a Christian doesn't mean I'm against embryonic stem cell research. Let's be honest, the embryos they used are about to be discarded. And instead of adopting a "snowflake," how about these loving couples, gay or straight, adopt a child out of the foster care system. Yes, they come with more problems and complications. Yes, there may even be problems with the child(ren)'s birth parents, but these are actually living, breath kids who need someone to love them. That embryo you're so concerned about can't feel hurt, hunger, hot, cold, abandonment or even your "love."
And that brings me to a separate but related issue, if you're a Christian, STOP USING FERTILITY TREATMENTS to have kids. Yes, that's what I said, STOP WITH THE FERTILITY TREATMENTS!! You profess to believe in God, you claim to trust him in every way - then why are you undercutting God by spending tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments that may or may not work. Clearly, God's in charge of opening and closing wombs (Genesis 30:2, if that helps). And instead of giving birth to your own child, maybe God has something else for you. And by something else, I mean trust God, what he has for you is actually better than what you think you want. And besides, all these fertility treatments is what contributing to the whole problem around embryonic stem cell research.
You know what, let me make a suggestion. We know that about 66% or more abortions are actually do the financial strain a new baby will place on the family, instead of self-righteously judging women who can't afford, or maybe just don't want to, have another child, keep your tens or thousands of dollars you're wasting on fertility treatments and adopt a child that would otherwise be aborted.
And trust me, I do have some experience with adoption. Two of my cousins are adopted. They were adopted as babies, so maybe that made things easier. But they are family. My aunt and uncle have the two they adopted and one they had on their own, and trust me, if you cross any of the three, they will bust your head till the white meat shows (RIP Bernie Mac). But that's for another post.
Christianity is more than about dos and don'ts. It's not about following a list of rules or reciting pre-written prayers or telling all your business to someone who's confessing to someone else (sorry Catholics).
Christianity is more than fear of hell and desire for heaven. I didn't accept Christ because I was afraid of dying.
Christianity is about connecting to the Higher Power that controls and guides all. Some call that power "the Universe." But it's about connecting to that Spirit that's greater and better and bigger than you. That Spirit that connects us all as human beings, having been made by the same creator. It's about the comfort and wonder, the strength and love I feel right now. Right while I'm alive. Even though things aren't really going "my way," I have a peace and serenity I would not trade for anything in the world. That's what Christianity is about. Not feeling guilty for breaking "rules" or being absolutely certain about anything besides God's love for me.
And really, when it comes to rules, there're only two biggies, and if you get these two, you're good:
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength.
- Love your neighbor the way you love yourself.
That's it. That's all you need to worry about.
More people watched Obama speak from a packed stadium in Denver on Thursday than watched the Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing, the final "American Idol" or the Academy Awards this year, Nielsen Media Research said Friday. (Four playoff football games, including the Super Bowl between the Giants and Patriots, were seen by more than 40 million people.)
Now, of course, the McCain camp will say it's all part of Barack's "celebrity." Then, with contradictory logic, argue that Johnny Mac's the one who can inspire Americans to do the things necessary to secure a better future for our posterity. :snicker: Good luck, Johnny Mac, inspiring upwards of 270million people when hardly 10thousand even wanna hear you speak.
At Americans United for Change, we've already done a little digging, and it turns out Sarah Palin fits in perfectly with John McCain's backwards energy policy, disregard for the environment, and cozy relationship with Big Oil.
Palin has argued again and again in favor of oil-drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, despite clear dangers to surrounding wildlife.
This year, Palin sued the federal government for adding polar bears to the endangered species list, arguing the move would interfere with oil and gas drilling efforts.
Palin's close relationship with Big Oil fits right in with John McCain's reckless energy plan: take millions in campaign donations from oil companies, and in return give them massive tax breaks and free reign to drill in environmentally sensitive areas.
If you got more to say, you can leave your comments here or at Americans United for Change or with Taylor Marsh. Err . . . preferably here, though. Personally, I think she's wrong on any possibly policy matter, and is just in line for McCain's 3rd wife. And what does this say about Johnny Mac's "judgement?" Basically, he has none.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
And, of course, you know how I do, I gotta take a rip and James Dobson, Stuart Shepherd, and Focus on the Family (I would provide links, but I don't have to.) and their call for Christians to pray for rain, even torrential rain to drown out Obama's speech. They claim it was just mean satirically, but all satire has some some element of truth. Well . . . on the other hand, according to Dictionary.com, satire means the following: irony, sarcasm, or caustic wit used to attack or expose folly, vice, or stupidity. So I guess, they were right that the "call for prayer" exposed their own folly, vice, and stupidity.
But their entire act disturb me because there's more to Christianity, there's more to Christ, than abortion and gay marriage.
But I digress. That's for a blog later to come.
Oh. But since it didn't rain, I guess we know where God stands in this election!
And so now, ladies and gentlemen, and for just a few hours, my fellow Americans, here is the next president of our United States of America . . . Senator Barack Obama!!!
And also, a video about Obama's life. Sorry. I'm an MSNBC fan.
But if it matters to ya, Shawn Johnson, winner of the gymnastics individual gold and team silver medals (US . . . y'all know how I feel about that), leads in the pledge of allegiance.
Sincerely volunteers who think they were doing something funny?
Here's another rule about racism - white people do not get to guage the harm or damage caused by an obviously racial act, in fact . . . Well, not all of them of delusional, so I'll leave it there.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Now, Chris Matthews just quoted part of a speech by Hubert Humphrey from the 1948 Democratic convention. That makes me feel better.
And finally, in 2008, we have our first official black nominee of a major party. It's quite historically ironic that that party happens to be the Democratic party. But it's the Republicans party for using the Southern strategy during the 1960s and turning lily white during Counter-Reconstruction. To be perfectly intellectually and historically honest, the entire South had been Democratic. Activists didn't turn to the Democratic party because they felt they'd best represent them socially, though economically, the Dems had quite an argument on their side.
So, just for historical accuracy, the reason blacks "turned" to the Democratic party wasn't because of its stance, but more because we were in the position to change its stance.
And that's basically how I feel about this historic occasion. As far as Barack Obama's historic achievement, my feelings are more, "It's about time!" than, "I never thought I'd see the day." And honestly, I did think I'd be older before this day came. Uh, much older. But from the beginning, I felt Obama was the best candidate. At first, I didn't feel like he had the experience Hillary Clinton had and did like the thought of the first woman president; but, she and Mr. Bill ran off at the mouth and they have no one to blame but themselves.
But here's the thing black people. We can't let this moment past. We can't afford to become as delusional as the rest of America about the state of race relations. I mean, sure Barack's done something stupendous, but his achievement had as much to do with his lack of "blackness" than anything else. And seriously, the struggle for equal rights wasn't about the equal "right to be white."
And let's be honest. Barack group up in white surroundings. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, my mom was a teacher and I grew up seeing white people a lot. I thought they were just like us except their were pink. But there's a privilege in growing up in white surroundings, and this is it: when you get in trouble, you don't get punished like the white kids do. Barack used to drink and do drugs. Do you really think if he grew up in a black neighborhood, he still wouldn't either still be drinking and doing drugs or be in jail for drinking and doing drugs?
This country has a long way to go. My generation can't ease up. We can't take a candidate or hopefully President Obama for granted. We have to keep fighting for better schools in our neighborhoods. We have to keep fighting so that our youth who stumble onto the wrong track have the same chance to right themselves as white youth do. We have to fight so that our single mothers can go to school and live on food stamps, too, without their blackness or sexuality being a barrier.
And lastly, full disclosure, I love segregated Sundays. Call me racist for it, I don't care. Call me narrow-minded. We both know I'm not. I love and treasure segregated Sundays because it gives black folks peace. Peace from the racism and arrogance, from the denials and delusions, and from the judgement of white people. In our churches, jumping up and clapping like your favorite team just won the game on the final buzzer is encouraged. It's space where we can release all the anger and disappointments, all the hurts and pains of the week past. Space where we can hold on to hope in the face of an uncertain week to come. And white, er, person, if you're not going to come and enjoy the service and spirit, but instead come and accuse us of having a victim's mentality or chips on our shoulders, just stay at home! We won't miss you. In fact, we haven't missed you.
But here's my last point, the activists of my generation must keep fighting until the truth we know as expressed by Rev. Jeremiah Wright isn't castigated. We must fight until we're judged as individuals and not by the worst of us. And even then, we have to keep fighting until even those we call the "underclass" has the same opportunities and chances as those we call the "upper class." Even if they aren't athletes.
So all in all, this is a good win. Put the plaque on your wall, the trophy on your mantle. But this is only one win, and there are many more battles to win before we've won the war.
I try to imagine...that we are all equal
in the eyes of the politics.
That's not the truth.
The eyes of the politics are human eyes...
...yours and mine, and until we
can see each other as equals...
...electoral politcis is never
going to be evenhanded.
It will only be a reflection
of our own prejudices.
So until that day...
...we have a duty under
God to seek the truth...
...not with our minds...
...where fear and hate turn
commonality into prejudice...
...but with our hearts...
...but we don't know better.
I want to tell you a story.
Please close your eyes...
...while I tell it.
I want you to listen to me.
I want you to listen to yourselves.
Close your eyes, please.
This is a story about a little boy...
...raised by a single mom on food stamps.
I want you to picture this boy.
All his life, he’s told in America he can be whatever he wants to be.
And after graduating from Columbia University, he works in the poor communities of south Chicago to help people fight for jobs and better housing. Later, he attends Harvard Law School, where he becomes president of the Harvard Law Review and graduates magna cum laude.
Instead of taking any of the several high paying corporate jobs or clerking for a federal judge, he decides to return back to those same streets in south Chicago to continue working for the people.
Soon, he ran for state senate where he passed laws increasing the minimun wage and making healthcare more affordable. In three years, he helped provide over $100 million in tax cuts to families across the state. He also pushed through an expansion of early childhood education. He reached across party lines to get things done for everyday people.
As a US Senator, he passed the toughest ethics laws in decades and worked with Republican Dick Lugar on new non-proliferation efforts.
Then one day, he ran for president. He won his parties nomination, then started campaigning to make lives better for all Americans. Then, while he was campaigning...
Two men grab him.
They drag him into a nearby field...
tied him to a tree and began punching him.
First one, then the other...
...lying on and about him...
hopeful and pure...
...with a vicious false ad after another.
And when they're done...
...killed his good name...
...tried to murdered any chance
...for him to become president...
...to help all Americans...
...have a better shot at a good life...
...beyond his own...
...they use him for target practice.
So they start throwing
cans full of smears at him.
Elitist. (Uppity . . .)
Arrogant. (. . .Negro)
Out of touch. (Radical Negro)
Celebrity. (200,000 showed up to hear him in Berlin)
Unpatriotic. (Cause he didn't wear a flag pin)
They throw them so hard...
...that it tears the flesh
all the way to his bones.
Then they urinate on him...
...comparing him to Brittney Spears...
...and Paris Hilton...
Now comes the hanging.
They have the rope of taxes.
They tie a noose, accusing him...
...of wanting to raise everyone taxes...
...even the taxes on electricity...
...of wanting to destroy the economy.
Then they pour oil on him...
...cause he doesn't want to bend to the will...
...of Big Oil.
Now comes the hanging.
Imagine the noose coiling
tight around his neck...
...and a sudden blinding jerk.
He's pulled into the air
and his feet go kicking....
They don't find the ground....
...but he struggles enough to free himself...
...of the hanging branch...
...it wasn't strong enough.
It snaps and he falls...
...back to earth.
So they pick him up...
...throw him in the trunk of a Lexus...
...drive to the Foggy Creed Bridge...
...that's been polluted by spilled oil...
...(Because we can't drill here and now.)
...pitch him over.
And he drops some feet...
...down to the creek bottom.
Can you see him?
...soaked in their lies...
...soaked in their smears and distortions...
...soaked in his blood...
...left to die.
All for working to make lives better...
for all Americans.
Can you see him?
I want you to picture...
...that little boy....
Now, imagine he's white.
Monday, August 25, 2008
And Keith Olbermann's response. I could probably get Pat Buchanan, but I think he should be fired, so I won't.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
And I. Hate. Duke.
I can't stress that enough. Sure, I have friends who graduated from Duke. A friend of mine is working on a doctorate degree from Duke. I may even attend Duke's grad school myself. But let me be clear.
I. Hate. Dook.
Hate'em. Hate'em. Hate'em.
It doesn't take much to rouse my hatred. Just hearing the word "Duke" pushes my buttons. Just seeing the image of a blue devil makes me wretch a little.
A lot of the time, all it takes is for me to see that deplorable Duke blue.
I can be somewhere talking about something else, say, men in general. The new pieces of eye-candy on prime time TV. I hate Gary Dourdan was killed off CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. But I love that Hill Harper is on CSI: New York. He is delicious! And what can I say about Shemar Moore other than gorgeous.
Then, as soon as I see that dook blue, whether it was a car that drove by or just a passer-by, my. skin. crawls.
Because I. Hate. Dook.
And what's funny is that I used to be a Duke fan. I used to think that Dean Smith's teams were excessively cocky and cheered anytime they got beat. Then it came time to apply for college. I applied for Carolina after a campus visit. The campus felt like home. I decided not to apply for Duke after I saw their thick application. Duke wanted to know too much. My response was, "Mind your own business." It only took a few months at Carolina to come to hate. Dook.
Now, here's how racism works. First of all, we've been steeped in white supremacy in America for centuries. It doesn't take long for European and Asian immigrants to learn that African Americans are socially a level beneath. Even immigrants from Africa and the Caribbeans know to keep their distance from American blacks. Right?
And there are lies and myths about African Americans that have been around for centuries. We're lazy. We're insolent. We hate "whitey." We're wasteful. Because of affirmative action, we get things we don't deserve. We complain. We're liars. We're cunning. By the same token, we can be easily fooled. We're easily scared. And even though we have amazing rhetorical skills, that's all we have: rhetorical skills. There's not much backing up the bluster. We're irresponsible, whether that comes to work or family. Then there're the contradictory myths of the scary black beast and the weak black "boy."
Historically, military leaders have been reticent to put African Americans at the front lines of war, believing we'd be too scared to fight. Even during the Civil War where we had the most to lose or gain. Every since then, our "love of the country" has been questioned.
But, historically, the trait white Americans have been loathed to see in African Americans is self-sufficiency. Independent black folks have historically been hated and feared. As much as some members of mainstream America complain about the amount of government assistance African Americans receive, mainstream America just doesn't know how to deal with a black person who's not accountable to some white person, preferably a white man. Read a history book. Check out some of the more recent, accurate scholarship on racial history from post-slavery to the 1950s. Most of the black men who were lynched hadn't committed any crime aside from running successful businesses. Educated black people who spoke eloquently were labeled "uppity" and were seen as definitely "out of their place."
So, what's my point? How does racism works?
It works kinda like my disdain for Duke. No one has to say, "Don't vote for Obama because he's black." Just look at him. You know he's black. John McCain doesn't have to point out that Obama doesn't look like any other person on the dollar bill to run a racist campaign. He just has to use code words. Then, when Obama tries to bring racism to the sunlight, McCain can cry "race card" as though he, McCain, is the victim.
So what do they say to be racist? They say, "Look, he's presumptuous," walking around Europe like he's already won the presidency. They say, "Look, you don't know that much about him." Cause you can never know too much about black people. (Oh, and in the past, is was seen as white people's duty to know everything about any particular black person.) They question his patriotism. I've heard/read comments about how he's an "empty suit" and how he "just tricking, cunning voters." All these are negative traits that are historically attached to blackness.
That's part of the reason Barack Obama is running from blackness in some ways. That's why he couldn't risk seconding the truth Jeremiah Wright told about America. That's why he had to reject an endorsement from Louis Farrakhan that he didn't even ask for!
They even accuse him of "elitism." A black man in America an elitist?! Take a moment to consider the facts. Black men are more likely to be in prison than college. Even for equal experience and education, they earn less than white men. The unemployment rate for black men is about twice that of the unemployment rate for the general population. Obama's the only black person in the Senate. He attended ivy league schools for both undergrad and law school. And while "ivy league" may be off-putting to people who weren't accepted, do you really know anyone who could go to such a school and wouldn't? And would you call that person an elitist or extraordinarily smart?
Now, let me be clear. It is not the case that any and every criticism of Obama comes down to racism. If you really think taxes should be low for wealthy people, that government should be privatized, that the Iraq Occupation is going great, those are all non-racist criticisms of Obama.
But if you're issue is that he's an "empty suit" or "all talk, no action," which just isn't true; you haven't been listening; that's based on racism. That's what McCain's "celebrity" attack ads are about - black people can be famous, but never serious. And make no mistake about it, black people can be racist against other black people, too. That's why Joe Watkins is always shucking and jiving, shilling for the Republican Party even if he has to lie and deceive himself. (And let me say here, my criticism of Joe Watkins, who happens to be a pastor, isn't that he's not fallen in line with black America, but that he's lying and being deceptive to the disadvantage of black America. If his criticisms were based on policy and not deception, I wouldn't be mentioning him. And while I'm on Republican shillers, Brad Blakely is an imbeccile.)
But the criticism that is most racist is the notion that he's "presumptuous" or "arrogant." I didn't hear such criticisms about Hillary Clinton while she continued to run a primary campaign even after it was clear she'd lost. I still don't hear such criticisms about either Clintons even now while they dominate the convention and refuse to get their supporters under control.
And even after John McCain upstaged the president by making a statement about the Georgia/Russia conflict before Bush did, I don't remember much criticism about his presumption or arrogance. I heard a few comments that by sending his own delegation to Georgia, he was coming close to upstaging the president in an unattractive manner. But nothing about presumption.
If you're accusing Obama of elitism on the bases of his eating arugula and shopping at Whole Foods . . . you're just delusional.
If you're afraid that he's gonna sign an executive order demanding all white Americans everyday give a black person $100 bucks, you're just racist.
So, here's some advice to help you be sure you're views of Barack Obama aren't marred by racism. Cause quite frankly, mainstream/white America, you've never been clairvoyant at recognizing racism even when it knocked on your door wearing a "I hate darkie" t-shirt, holding a noose, and introducing itself as racism.
First of all, keep your critique to policy. There's nothing racist about a policy disagreement. Second of all, keep your critique based on truth and facts. Obama's vote for the FISA act was not a flip-flop. All along, he's said he's about compromise and getting things down.
And finally, before you voice your criticism of Obama or except someone else's, ask yourself and others, "Would we be criticising him for that if he were white?"
To make my point about the racially-biased difference in descibing people as "presumptuous," Jon Stewart.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
“There is a sense of entitlement that almost seems to be inbred,” Panetta said. “They are convinced Hillary is the one who should be assuming the mantle and it’s tough to crack that.”That pretty much sums up the racists "diehards." The keep saying Obama will have a hard time winning, and that the Party should be concerned first with winning, but they seem not to be able to grasp how much easier a time he'd have winning if they would stop being so spoiled.
She [Rothschild] also resents a lack of effort to pay off Clinton’s $20m campaign debt. “He has provided her with a pittance compared to what the Clintons have given Obama,” Rothschild said. “Her [Hillary Clinton] debt could have been cleared within 10 days. It’s ungracious.”What is he obliged to provide? What have to Clintons give? How is it ungracious that her debt wasn't cleared in 10 days after that debt was spent being spoiled, criticizing Obama, and characterizing the process as undemocratic thereby delegitiming his win? He's been far too gracious.
Monday, August 11, 2008
I've been listening to the coverage and no one's connecting the dots. In fact, Pres. Bush and John McCain are rattling sabers at Russia. McCain wants to throw Russia out of the G8. They're just writing checks they can't cash!
Two quick points.
1. The US is hardly in a place to "condemn" Russia's invasion. I mean, how exactly did the illegal Iraq Occupation begin?
2. The reason we can't do anything more about the crisis is that we're in . . . Irag!!
If what you have to say doesn't make these two points, just shut up.
For his part, Barack Obama pressed for strong diplomacy.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
And the idea that college students were only being used as pawns, as though they don't have at least some vested interest in their college's hometown, as though they don't have to live there for the better part of 4 or more years, is insulting. Gilbert can claim it has nothing to do with race, but I've never heard that kind of language being applied to students at majority white colleges.
Obama Incites Republicans With New North Carolina Black Voters
By Heidi Przybyla
BloombergAugust 6, 2008
Aug. 6 (Bloomberg) -- The North Carolina waterfront community of Elizabeth City witnessed an early skirmishin a high-stakes political battle over registering newblack voters, which may help decide the outcome of thepresidential election.
Republican voter Richard Gilbert last year challenged the eligibility of several students at historicallyblack Elizabeth City State University to vote in amunicipal election. The local elections board dismissed Gilbert's complaint that students are only temporary residents in the town of about 20,000 people.
Similar fights over voter qualifications will be waged this year, particularly in southern states, as Democrat Barack Obama's drive to register hundreds of thousands of new black voters clashes with Republican suspicions that get-out-the-vote efforts recruit people who aren't eligible to cast ballots.
``If the Democrats are to have any chance at all ofcarrying this state, it will only be because of a much larger-than-normal and completely united black vote,''said David Rohde, a political science professor at Duke University in Durham.
The North Carolina NAACP in May asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate whether the Elizabeth City complaint was aimed at discouraging lawful voting by black students. ``We challenged that because it could have a ripple effect across North Carolina,'' said thes tate NAACP President, Reverend William Barber.
Gilbert said race played no role in his challenge, which stemmed from his opinion that the students had ``no stake'' in the town and were being used as ``politicalpawns.''
Republicans reject the notion that monitoring voter qualifications amounts to intimidation, saying election fraud is a concern when waves of new registrations pour in.
``Some of the outside groups that will come in and register voters are not familiar with North Carolina law,'' said Brent Woodcox, assistant legal counsel for the North Carolina Republican Party.
``They don't have a lot of oversight from the Democratic Party,'' he said. ``We're going to be vigilant through the election cycle that all the rules are followed.''
Republicans scored an election-year victory in April, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana's law requiring voters to produce photo identification. Democrats had challenged the measure, saying photo identification requirements in Indiana and other states discourage voting by the elderly and the poor.
In North Carolina, Democrats want to register at least120,000 new black voters to help efforts to end a string of seven Republican presidential victories in the state, said U.S. Representative G.K. Butterfield, who coordinates daily with Obama's campaign.
Obama has set similar goals in other Southern states, including Virginia, Florida and Georgia.
Throughout those areas, Democratic registration drives will run into Republican-backed efforts to police vote religibility.
Georgia in 2006 imposed new voter identification requirements. In Louisiana, the Republican secretary ofstate started an investigation of registration drivesafter getting complaints about duplicate or invalidapplications. In Florida, new registrations must beturned in within 10 days, a requirement that's had a``chilling effect'' on voter sign-ups, according to the NAACP.
Democratic activists and civil rights groups say many new rules will suppress voting by blacks and otherminority groups that historically favor Democrats. While voter-eligibility clashes have happened before, Obama's registration push raises the stakes and the intensity of this year's contests.
``Almost every one of those provisions that have beensponsored at the state and national level have beensponsored by Republicans, and almost uniformly opposed by Democrats,'' said Jonah Goldman, director of theNational Campaign for Fair Elections, Voting RightsProject. ``It is an incredibly poisonous partisan environment.''
In North Carolina, ballot battles started during this year's primary elections. The NAACP filed a complaintwith the Justice Department charging that members of agroup called Women's Voices Women Vote called black citizens who were already registered, falsely telling them they needed a registration packet to vote. The packets never arrived, the NAACP said.
``It apparently was successful'' in leading many peopleto believe they weren't registered, said Stella Adams, a North Carolina voting rights activist. ``Their tactics,if they're not properly punished, will be repeated.''
Washington-based Women's Voices Women Vote, which promotes voting by unmarried women, released a statement saying members never intended to suppress black voters.
Ed Turlington, a former adviser to presidential candidates, including former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, said he expects more eligibility challenges as Obama seeks record black voter turnout.
``The other side is going to throw everything they canto stop him,'' Turlington said. A high level ofparticipation in the May primary may cut down on the effectiveness of those efforts, he said. ``Many people participated in the May primary and will not be susceptible to the smokescreens.''
The Obama team already has several lawyers in North Carolina, Butterfield said.
``There are going to be a lot of issues that spring up,'' said Ben Ginsberg, a Republican strategist and lawyer who played a central role in the Florida recount in the 2000 presidential election. ``The degree of caffeination of the lawyers involved in this, at least on the Democratic side, is higher than I've ever seen it.''
To contact the reporter on this story: Heidi Przybyla inWashington at firstname.lastname@example.org .
But Don't Jack My Genuis
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