Friday, November 07, 2008

'Twas the Day of Election

“When out in the world there arose such a clatter
I turned on my TV to see what was the matter
On all of the stations there were millions of Blackfolk
Standing in lines to cast their Black votes

More rapid than eagles their relatives came,
Cousins and aunts and voted the same
Voting for history and deep in their hearts
They honored their Ancestors who had done their part.

And then in a twinkling I heard at eleven
That Barack had been chosen over McCain and Palin
Tears flowed down the cheeks of people worldwide
And I saw My People bursting with pride

They were chubby and thin, the old and the young
They came from all places to right the wrongs
The world saw a people who were always denied
The justice for which many had died.

And then in a moment the Beautiful First Family
Came on the stage in front of humanity
And the tears flowed even more as we saw this great sight
And we said to the world on that glorious night:

‘The struggle continues, it will be hard and raw
But at this moment in time it is worth it all
For we can tell our daughters and we can tell our sons
That if we band together victories can be won…’”

Monday, November 03, 2008

"Twas the Night Before Election"...

"Twas the night before election, when all through the land,
Everybody was stirring, to see who'd be the Man.
The Republicans were attempting to steal it again.
With visions of Oval Offices as part of their plans.

The voting booths were nestled all snug in their places,
Ready to discriminate against those with dark faces
With McCain in Arizona and Palin in Alaska
I tuned into the pundits to see what was the matta..."

More tomorrow...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Racial DNA of The United States of Amnesia

We're one week exactly from the most historic election in American history, and I continue documenting events during this period. I'm writing this from Thurgood Marshall/Baltimore-Washington International Airport while waiting for a flight to Toledo Ohio where I will be speaking to city residents on how to talk about racism.

My job should be easy tonight since yesterday a plot was uncovered to assassinate Barack Obama. Two white white supremacists from Tennessee were planning on killing 88 Africans in America, don all white tuxedoes then die in a hail of bullets attempting to kill Barack Obama. The news media is covering these events heavily and pundits are snickering about the absurdity of the plot and portray the two would-be assassins, Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman on the fringes of society and dismiss them as malcontent looney tunes vying for attention.

They're not.

They represent a large segment of the United States that has tolerated the existence of white supremacist groups since the founding of the Ku Klux Klan on Christmas Eve 1865, in Pulaski Tennessee. Like albino roaches, the KKK, Neo-Nazi, Skinheads and other white supremacist groups are born as mutant offspring of an America that spawns domestic terrorism against Black people. Members of these groups know that they say and practice what is on the minds of many white Americans too afraid to express their hatred toward Black people openly, but code it in syrupy language such as, "Country First!", "not like us", "Obama associates with terrorists" and "I just can't identify with him."

We forget how the KKK has a history of influence on electoral politics, particularly presidential elections particularly between 1915 and 1944.

We forget that white supremacists have routinely been found innocent despite overwhelming evidence that they are guilty of killing Africans in America.

We forget that Tuskegee University recorded 3,437 lynchings of Black people between 1880 and 1951, though some estimate that the number of unrecorded lynchings could be double or triple that amount.

We forget that embedded in the minds of many white women is that they will be paid attention to, rescued and exonerated from crimes if they blame an imaginary Black man for molestng, raping or hurting them. Behold the dumpy looking Ashley Todd last week accusing an imaginary "6 foot 4 inch" Black man with "shiny shoes" of carving a "backward 'B'" on her cheek and sticking his hand up her dress because "he" was angry about her support for John McCain. Salivating conservatives like McCain's Pennsylvania media director exaggerated the claims of "victim" Todd before she confessed that she had lied about the entire incident.

Yes, white supremacists know that embedded in the racist wombs of many white people is a primeval fear of Black people and how these wombs can become racist embryos if the right racial sperm penetrates them.

Todd knows it.

Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman know it.

David Duke knows it.

And so does Sarah Palin...

They all understand the racial DNA of the United States of America all too well...

Monday, October 20, 2008

What "Bradley Effect"?

We've heard so much about the so-called "Bradley Effect" regarding race and this year's presidential election. I still am amazed how media, like the proverbial snowball rolling down the hill, can turn non-issues into "reality", distort history and confuse their viewing public.


Read the following New York Times written by Blair Levin who actually worked on the 1982 campaign for the late mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley...

October 20, 2008
What Bradley Effect?


WITH only two weeks to go before the election, talk has turned to the Bradley effect. The phenomenon is named for Tom Bradley, the African-American mayor of Los Angeles, who lost the 1982 California governor’s race even though exit polls predicted he’d defeat his Republican opponent, George Deukmejian. Some white people, the theory goes, tell pollsters they will vote for black candidates and then, once in the voting booth, don’t.

While it’s no surprise that this has become a topic of discussion as John McCain and Barack Obama near the finish line, as someone who worked for Bradley’s campaign, I think it’s worth pointing out that the effect has been widely misunderstood.

On election night in 1982, with 3,000 supporters celebrating prematurely at a downtown hotel, I was upstairs reviewing early results that suggested Bradley would probably lose.

But he wasn’t losing because of race. He was losing because an unpopular gun control initiative and an aggressive Republican absentee ballot program generated hundreds of thousands of Republican votes no pollster anticipated, giving Mr. Deukmejian a narrow victory.

This is not to say that race wasn’t an issue; it was in 1982 and it has been since. But to those who keep citing the Bradley effect — not so fast. It’s more complicated than you think.

As we’re on the subject, we should free Tom Bradley’s name from an association he would have abhorred. After all, he practiced the sort of politics whose goal was to bring people together, not to play up their differences. He was the opposite of the “Us vs. Them” politics so often cited as demonstrating the Bradley effect.

I worked for Bradley in his 1973 mayoral campaign against Sam Yorty, the incumbent. Bradley was holding his own. But a key group, Jewish voters, was up for grabs. One Sunday, I drove Bradley to a banquet with a Jewish group. Walking in, I noticed many men wearing yarmulkes. I had one in my jacket and gave it to Bradley. He put it in his pocket.

When the event began, Yorty was called to the podium and given a yarmulke, which he put on. Then Bradley was called up. When offered a yarmulke, he said, “I have my own,” reached into his pocket, took it out and put it on. The response? Laughter, applause, smiles. It sent a message not of pandering — “I am one of you” — but rather, “We are all in this together.”

Bradley won the day and then the election. Over 20 years as mayor, he had the same effect on many diverse audiences. To me, that’s the real Bradley effect.

Blair Levin is managing director of a financial services firm.

Monday, October 13, 2008

IT'S ALIVE!!! John Muckain and Sandra Palinothology's Racial Frankenstein Monster

Still blogging after all these years, especially now as we countdown to the most historic presidential election in American history...

The nearer we get to the election, the higher the anxiety is among people classified as white struggling with their racism. Five other points to ponder:

1. Consider the idiot who got up last Friday night and said that Barack Obama was an "Arab" (??!!)

2. The racism tolerated by both Muckain and Palinothology have come back to haunt them so that they are actually forced to defend Obama against the vile and vicious attacks of Joe and Josephine Six Pack. Like Shelley's monster, the encouragement of racist chants during political rallies has come back to haunt them. John Lewis likened the Muckain's rallies to those of George Wallace in 1972 that were a feeding frenzy for racists disguised as populism.

3. Muckain is plummeting in the polls and Americans are saying they're tired of the attacks on Obama.

4. The economy is on a roller coaster ride globally. It is a pyrrhic victory for Obama since the mess caused by Bush's "deregulation" and lack of oversight by a Republican Congress from 2000 to 2006 has created an unprecedented global financial crisis.

5. Palinothology's being found guilty of ethics violations by an Alaskan legislative committee.

It is fascinating how the media is now pumping up the notion of the so-called "Bradley Effect" which refers to the failed 1982 gubernatorial bid of Thomas Bradley because white voters lied to pollsters about who they would vote actually for.

CNN and other news outlets are raising the same specter with Obama's campaign and reports that he could lose as many as six points due to the fact that whites lie about voting for Black candidates to pollsters and actually vote for white candidates when the voting booths curtains are closed. It's almost as if the media is suggesting that white voters actually do this at the very last minute, and mentioning it over and over provides a "See? I'm not the only one who feels this way" rationale for the individual sitting on the white supremacy fence.

I think that this campaign will be written about for decades because so many ugly but ever present issues are surfacing: racism, sexism, voter disenfranchisement, experience of elected officials and the relationship between religion and the state.

More later...I hear the #1 Hockey Mom is about to make a speech...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Racism and the Election: Slithering into November 4...

I've decided to do a daily blog from now until November 4 about this historic election. It is important that Africans in America provide an historical voice about what is going on now so that generations who follow might read Ourvoices rather than what a future or even contemporary white historian says about these events.

Last night I watched the debate between Barack and McCain. I got a little nostalgic since the debate took place at Belmont University, just a few miles from where I taught at Vanderbilt and Fisk Universities for 22 years while I lived in Nashville.

McCain is a mean-spirited S.O.B. and when he pointed to Barack as "that one", while lying about an energy bill, I winced since it reminded me of the "you people" comment of Ross Perot during the 1992 Presidential campaign. McCain's campaign is in a desperate situation since it's behind in all of the national polls. Sarah "Hockey Mom" Palin is appealing to white racists in a speech she made two days ago in Florida. Blackfolk are very skilled at reading coded racist language, simply because of the fact we have to in order to survive in a white supremacist society. I don't expect either Palin or McCain to apologize for their not-so-coded racist remarks. They're appealing to the hardcore white supremacist element that comprises a third of all of those who will vote in the first place and their votes are definitely needed to get McCain back in the race.

Stock markets around the world are tanking and the stupid $700 billion "bailout-to-Wall Street-executives" simply isn't working. This has been to Barack's advantage since Americans see the Democrats are viewed as being better able to handle the economy. Are we looking at a global depression? Who knows, but regardless the end of America white supremacist rule over the world is waning...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Whipping Black Professionals in America...

Like other Black professional males, I am asked to serve as a “role model” and speak to Black children and professionals about a host of issues.

I have seriously thought about incorporating a business dubbed “Rent a Male Black for Your Organization” (RAMBO for short), because of the high demand for “professional” African-American males to talk before various groups about their “endangerment” and to serve as “role models” for Black children. I rarely decline these invitations, and when I do it has been primarily because of the stupidity of persons -both Black and white - who believe that they should “screen” what I say before it is presented to the designated group. Fear of my presentation “offending” someone about race is uppermost in their minds. I always refuse to do this...

I have heard other brothers give similar stories of how persons have persuaded them to avoid mentioning “controversial” topics such as Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, the Million Man March or even the continent of Africa! I am very forthright with these organizations and tell that perhaps Clarence Thomas would make a better keynote speaker than me. These organizations---public and private---while outwardly professing to want their children and employees to “see and hear a positive Black male role model” in reality wish to keep the jelly beans stuck at the bottom of the bag to quote the infamous “Rodney King” tape of corporate America.

Being a RAMBO is akin to being an advisor to guerrilla fighters in the midst of the enemy's camp with limited weaponry.

In the case of employees, their frustrations over the racism present in their particular company is expressed by furtive glances at their white colleagues when I say something that sends a message they dare not utter for fear of retaliation. There is a vicarious satisfaction derived through me in “telling it like it is” as a Black man to “the man” in their company. On one occasion a brother came to me after I had made my presentation, shook my hand vigorously and told me that I had “got them”--- “got” meaning that I had said some things that he wished he could say, and “them” being his white co-workers. I asked him what prevented him from telling his co-workers about daily job related ills involving racism in a company known for its hostile working environment toward African Americans. Without hesitation he said “fear”. He said that mortgages, children's tuition and other financial considerations forced him to keep his mouth shut and his opinions to himself.

I thought about the captured African men on plantations over the centuries who performed the drudgery of slavery on a daily basis, but were unable to express their frustrations and/or suggestions to a "master" who could punish quickly and with extreme severity. These captured men harbored anger, fear and rage as they saw relatives and friends sold, beaten, raped and mutilated.

I have been told that it is a bad analogy between them and Cinque's children who have “made it” in Fortune 500 corporations and are getting paid for the work they do. After all, aren't Cinque's children “getting paid”, commute to homes that hardly resemble slave quarters and eat the finest food that money can buy? Aren't Cinque's children, joining country clubs that historically excluded them? Aren't Cinque's children sending their children to the Ivy League for training to cope with white America? Hell, aren't Cinque's children making progress, if you please?

If the analogy stays at the level of material comparisons, perhaps the comparison is extreme. If it corresponds to the psychology of Cinque's children and his ancestors, then I would argue that it is entirely accurate. The slave on the plantation, intimidated by the "master's" whip is psychologically identical to the Black male executive who bites his tongue for fear of the whip of firing, demotion or isolation on the rungs of the corporate ladder. I have been asked repeatedly by white colleagues if Blacks are as “angry” as Elise Cose says they are in his book Rage of a Privileged Class. My reply is “angrier”. No African American professional doubts the genuine fear of retaliation at the end of Du Bois's century of the color line, and find themselves remarkably similar to their ancestors who feared rope and whip as they worked to harvest massa's crop.

This fear of the economic “whip” of slavery is not limited to the expanded Black professional class, but pervades all Black working males in America. I have heard Black men and Black women debate strategies concerning how they might wear their hair---facial and braided--- not only in corporate settings, but in gas stations, fast food restaurants and at hotels.

The whip extends to any African American who comes “too Black and too strong” in an educational, government, or corporate setting. White America prefers a timid approach to African Americans' “blackness” especially the Blackness of Cinque's children. Toni Morrison's brilliant essay on the smile of Clarence Thomas tells how Black smiles provide a degree of comfort for whites in dealing with Black males. The rapper Ice Cube in one of his rhymes asks the rhetorical question, “Why do Black folk always have to show their teeth?” It is because shiny white teeth assure white America that Black males are still happy with the treatment received by them at the hands of a society that daily disaffirms both their manhood and Blackness. The teeth of an Eddie Murphy assuages consciences wondering about their own complicity in the continued whipping that Cinque's children receive at the post of an America desperately looking for an internal enemy to blame for its ills.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Thus Spake HiLIARy Clinton...

In the beginning, Politricks created HiLIARy

HiLIARy's campaign was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of HiLIARy as she saw the rise of Prophet Barack who would be King of Americaland.

And Politricks said, let there be lies: and there were Lies.

And Politricks saw the lies, that they were good...

And HiLIARy became the Princess of Lies.

HiLIARy divided the people by the lies she told.

She spake about being shot at in Bosnia.

And it was not so.

She spake about the unimportance of Prophet Martin during the Civil Rights Movement

And it was not so.

She promised that the Lands of Michigan and Florida would not be counted because of their sins against the Democratic Party.

And it was not so, especially when she saw the rise of Prophet Barack.

She said that she would not seek her throne in Florida.

And again it was not so...

And the rise of Prophet Barack brought great fear unto the heart of Princess HiLIARy.

And her great fear of Prophet Barack causeth her to speak unto her servants, "Come, let us tell even greater lies about why Prophet Barack might be slain if he is elected King of Americaland."

And the people were wroth with the words of Princess HiLIARy. She spaketh a loathsome thing unto the land where several kings had been slain.

And the wrath of the people turned against Princess HiLIARy because she spake of the death of former Prince Bobby and Prophet Barack.

And so Princess HiLIARy wrote unto the great kingdom of New York words that were also lies about her not meaning what she had spaketh.

But the people did not believe her because their wrath was kindled against her words suggesting that the young Prophet Barack might be slain...

And the people started thinking and turned their eye with favor toward the young Prophet Barack...

Thus the seeds of anger were sown again Princess HiLIARy.

And the people saw that it was good...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Black Bogeymen, Barack and the 2008 Presidential Vote

This article first appeared as an editorial written by me in the May 6, 2008 Nashville Tennessean.

A double standard for a black candidate

Two months ago, white America had only two black activist ministers as their bogeymen, the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

They can now add a third: the Rev. Jeremiah Wright of Chicago, since most of white America did not know he existed prior to March 13, when ABC News aired highly edited segments of his sermons.

The sermon segments, looped thousands of time on news outlets and YouTube became the most talked about "political issue" of the 2008 presidential campaign since Wright's most famous parishioner was Barack Obama. I believe that clear thinking Americans will hold the candidates responsible for their policy proposals rather than their pastors' utterances.

As an African-American, I am used to experiencing double standards in every aspect of my existence in this country. Stiffer sentencing for rock (crack) cocaine users (majority of whom are black) than powdered cocaine users (majority of whom are white), lighter sentences for white than black juveniles, whites "finding food" during the Katrina disaster while blacks "looted" for the same food are just three examples of how white America places a Band-Aid on white "challenges" and performs major surgery on black "problems"…

Hold white candidates' feet to fire

So for a change, let's follow the logic when by holding some of the white 2008 candidates' feet to fire the way some white Americans have done with Obama's:

• Mitt Romney was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints before 1978 when it taught that some black people of "Hamitic lineage" were banned from its priesthood.

• Priests in Rudy Giuliani's faith community, the Roman Catholic Church, had molested children and banned women from its priesthood.

• John Hagee, John McCain's pastor, referred to the papacy as "The Great Whore."

By the standards imposed on Obama, all of these candidates should be castigated and vilified for not leaving their respective faith communities and held accountable for not "repudiating and denouncing" their pastors and priests. But we forget one thing: they're all white and Obama is black, and so the white double standard forces Barack to be joined at the hip with Jeremiah Wright for the duration of his bid for the presidency.

Because of this racial hypocrisy, I am convinced that nothing Obama says or does will be enough to satisfy the feeding frenzy involving his former pastor.

Even though we have 4,000 dead Americans in Iraq.

Even though the dollar is at an all-time low in global markets.

Even though gas is creeping toward $4 per gallon.

Even though the mortgage crisis is snatching the "American Dream" of owning one's home from millions.

Even though these real crises exist in a nation that has never dealt honestly with racism, we choose to make Barack Obama responsible for the utterances of his minister. The 51st state of the United States is the "State of Denial." So says political commentator Paul Levy.

I agree with him.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Jeremiah's Right!

"Your own conduct and actions have brought this upon you. This is your punishment. How bitter it is! How it pierces to the heart!"

--- Jeremiah, 4:18, NIV

During the past four days, I've been amused to "hear" the corporate news media react to Dr. Jeremiah Wright's three extraordinary presentations on the Bill Moyers Show, the Detroit NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet and the National Press Club.

The silence has been deafening compared to the corporate media feeding frenzy over the out of context snippets from Wright's sermons delivered nearly seven years ago. The media "experts" on nearly nothing but commenting on nearly everything have zipped their pie holes shut.

This silence is because Jeremiah's right.

He is right about how a consistent and bloody history of domestic and international terrorism cause "chickens to come home and roost"

He is right about the cultural differences existing between Africans in America and European Americans relative to educational learning styles, music and linguistics.

He is right that his vilification by the corporate owned media is really an attack on the Black church and its historic role in forcing this nation to live up to the principals outlined in the Constitution which has always been a fickle lover to Africans in America.

He is right in speaking truth to power and questioning Dick Cheney's "patriotism". Cheney received five --- count them --- five deferments to avoid being drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

Jeremiah is right that few white Americans, and particularly reporters know anything about Black Liberation Theology.

If your perceived world through its media, educational and entertainment systems, reinforce the false notion that "white" culture, accomplishments, history, music and even "white" interpretations of the Sacred and the Eternal should be viewed as "righteous", "infallible" and superior, you will begin to think of yourself as a perverted "First Cause" --- a "god" if you please --- and see all others, not only as inferior, but possessing an inability to challenge anything about how you perceive the world in which you think you have created.

You will be utterly confused.

You will be unable to accept the simple idea that you may be incorrect about people of color, incorrect about how people should worship, and incorrect about the "superiority of white culture". In sum, you will have little need for anyone's opinion except your own and a narrow interpretation of the world around you.

Yes, Jeremiah's right, and unfortunately you're wrong...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Toni Morrison's "The Seven Days" from the Song of Solomon

'Okay, said [Guitar], 'but you have to know that what I tell you can't go any further. And if it does, you'll be dropping a rope around my neck. Now do you still want to know it?'"
"You sure?"
"I'm sure."
"'I suppose you know that white people kill black people from time to time, and most folks shake their heads and say, 'Eh, eh, eh, ain't that a shame?"

"Milkman raised his eyebrows. He thought Guitar was going to let him in on some deal he had going. But he was slipping into his race bag. 'I can't suck my teeth or say 'eh, eh, eh.' I had to do something. And the only thing left to do is balance it; keep things on an even keel. Any man, any woman, or any child is good for five to seven generations of heirs before they're bred out. So every death is the death of five to seven generations. You can't stop them from killing us, from trying to get rid of us. And each time they succeed, they get rid of five to seven generations. I help keep the numbers the same.'"

"There is a society. It's made up of a few men who are willing to take some risks. They don't initiate anything; they don't even choose. They are as indifferent as rain. But when a Negro child, Negro woman, or Negro man is killed by whites and nothing is done about it by their law and their courts, this society selects a similar victim at random, and they execute him or her in a similar manner if they can. If the Negro was hanged, they hang; if a Negro was burnt, they burn; raped and murdered, they rape and murder. If they can. If they can't do it precisely in the same manner, they do it any way they can, but they do it. They call themselves the Seven Days. They are made up of seven men. Always seven and only seven. If one of them dies or leaves or is no longer effective, another is chosen. Not right away, because that kind of choosing takes time. But they don't seem to be in a hurry. Their secret is time. To take the time, to last. Not to grow; that's dangerous because you might become known. They don't write their names in toilet stalls or brag to women. Time and silence. Those are their weapons, and they go on forever."

"You? You're going to kill people?"

"Not people. White people."

"But why?"

"I just told you. It's necessary; it's got to be done. To keep the ratio the same."
"And if it isn't done? If it just goes on the way it has?"

"Then the world is a zoo, and I can't live in it."

"Why don't you just hunt down the ones who did the killing? Why kill innocent people? Why not just those who did it?"

"It doesn't matter who did it. Each and every one of them could do it. So you just get any one of them. There are no innocent white people, because every one of them is a potential nigger-killer, if not an actual one. You think Hitler surprised them? You think just because they went to war they thought he was a freak? Hitler's the most natural white man in the world. He killed Jews and Gypsies because he didn't have us. Can you see those Klansmen shocked by him? No, you can't."

Friday, April 25, 2008

172 Bullets in Three Black Bodies...

As many Blackfolk were, I was looking at CNN about two hours ago when the verdict came in that all of the "police officers" were found not guilty of killing 23-year old Sean Bell on November 25, 2006 --- the day of his wedding. One of my former students at Vanderbilt University, Jackie Lopardo an attorney in New York, texted me her anger over the media and the verdict. I heard from Yaa Asantewaa who doubts if anything will be done in this latest case of police violence toward us.

And the beat goes on...

Sean Bell - 50 bullets
Amadou Diallo - 41 bullets
Deandre Brunston - 81 bullets

These are all Black men who were murdered by police. The total bullets in the bodies of Sean, Amadou and Deandre: 172. That's an average of 57 bullets ripping through the flesh of each of these Black men.

57 bullets
57 bullets
57 bullets...

These police murders have long been so routine, that I believe if I had to make a choice between abolishing the death penalty and abolishing "justified homicide" by police officers, I would choose the latter.

172 bullets
172 bullets
172 bullets...

While white folks get alarmed at the righteous indignation of Jeremiah Wright toward a nation addicted to violence at all levels, they should see this indignation arising in part from the long, sordid and murderous conduct of police in the killings of Sean, Amadou and Deandre and other Blackpeople. Police departments kill Blackmen as an indoor sport --- target practice if you please and no one gives a damn. It is sanctioned by a nation that has always seen Blacklife as cheap and dispensable.

We will see what Blackpeople in New York and the nation do about this latest "abortion of justice" as Al Sharpton labels it. Probably nothing, because we yield to white supremacy's aggressive brainwashing that convinces Us that Our lives are indeed cheap. I'm reminded of the last verse of Jayne Cortez' powerful poem, "There it is::

"And if we don’t fight
If we don’t resist
If we don’t organize and unify and
Get the power to control our own lives
Then we will wear
The exaggerated look of captivity
The stylized look of submission
The bizarre look of suicide
The dehumanized look of fear
And the decomposed look of repression
Forever and ever and ever
And there it is."

172 bullets...
172 bullets...
172 bullets...

Monday, March 17, 2008

The White Man's Burden is Not the Black Man's Responsibility

Sister Jasmyne Cannick nails white supremacy's attempt to discredit Rev. Jeremiah Wright and by default, any political utterings from Black pulpits. I've asked my friends, "What is incorrect about anything Rev. Wright has said?" Absolutely nothing...

The White Man's Burden is Not the Black Man's Responsibility

Jasmyne Cannick

Posted March 17, 2008 12:44 AM

Jasmyne Cannick is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who can be reached at

Wright may be retired now, but thank God for us that there are still pastors and ministers like him out there who aren't afraid to tell it like it is when it comes to the United States Government and the history that was so conveniently left out of the schoolbooks.

Well I guess on the bright side of things, there should be no more questions about whether or not Senator Barack Obama is a Christian.

If you recall, throughout his campaign for the presidency, he's been painted out to be an undercover Muslim who was sworn into office on the Koran. When that didn't work, they switched to rumors that he doesn't say the Pledge of Allegiance and he was the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan's flunky. They said he's anti-Israel, friends with terrorists...who actually want him to win. And the most absurd rumor of all...he's the Anti-Christ.

Now the focus for Obama haters has turned to his former pastor, Dr. Jeremiah Wright of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, and what are being called "controversial" comments he's made from the pulpit regarding America's politics.

It seems that it's not enough that we've adopted their religion and most Blacks are worshiping to their white blue-eyed Jesus, but now they want to dictate the message that we receive as well. And in the process, they've backed Obama against a wall, forcing him to publicly distance himself from his pastor in order to prove that he's not an angry Black man in disguise.

Civil rights icon the Rev. Joseph Lowery once said, "The country's creating a 51st state--the state of denial.

I guess if the history books favored my race against all reality, I'd be pissed off at anyone who tried to say otherwise. Too bad.

The fact is that Rev. Wright isn't the first or the last preacher or Black to call out America for her racist history. A history that for some reason we are always being encouraged to forget because today Americans are transcending race. Is that why Black men and women are being imprisoned almost as fast their mothers can give birth to them? Is that the reason why a man who called a group of young Black women "nappy-headed ho's" is still on the air? And were we rising above race when it was joked that Tiger Woods should be lynched? Is the transcending of race to blame for the pimps and ho's parties on university and college campuses around the country?

The belief that America is somehow transcending race because whites voted for a Black man is dangerous thinking.

Another greatly feared Black man, Dr. Maulana Karenga, taught me that I am American by birth and African by choice and quite frankly that's the feeling of a lot of African-Americans who are fully aware of the United States' role in the history of not only the underdevelopment of Africa, but generations of Black Americans. One Black man running for president isn't enough to erase that history or the feelings that many Blacks harbor -- whether publicly or on the down low -- towards the United States government and white folks. We haven't touched on the issue of reparations, which our government continues to downplay.

But it's this constant state of denial that continues to have some white folks' sheets all up in a bunch to the point where they want to now go into our churches and dictate the message that the pastor delivers. And if they have their way, we'll be singing hallelujah and thanking Jesus for slavery, Jim Crow, and the end of affirmative action, because if you recall it was the Bible that justified whites' mistreatment of Blacks. But wait---we haven't forgotten Guyana.

The church, our church, white Jesus aside, is the one institution that carried Blacks through America's state-sanctioned slavery, lynching, racial discrimination, oppression, disenfranchisement, and exploitation. It is not our responsibility as Blacks to sugarcoat the truth to make it a easier pill for some whites to swallow. We didn't have a choice between the red or the blue pill, reality or make believe. We came out of the womb awake to the ways of the world.

And it'll probably be right about now that most whites reading this will begin to tune out.

Yes, it's that state of denial that begins to kick in right about now whenever the words lynching, racism, and slavery are mentioned in relationship to the Black experience and the role whites played in it that is hard for some to comprehend. Unless, however, it's in the form of a primetime movie special during Black History Month, then it's all good for about two hours and some change to remember.

So here comes the mainstream, and at times divisive, media trying to take Wright's comments out of context and making it into a bigger issue than what it should be, perhaps to make up for a slow news day and/or Clinton's complaints of a media love affair with Obama. Either way, I thought race wasn't supposed to be a factor in this election? Maybe they're forgetting that Wright is but one Black pastor in this country and I am willing to bet that a peek into other Black churches around the country and the message is quite the same, maybe even more controversial. And that's just Black churches.

Let's not forget All Saints Church in Pasadena, California, which had been under investigation for a guest sermon its former rector had given just before the 2004 presidential election. In it, he strongly criticized the war in Iraq but said he believed that both President Bush and his Democratic opponent, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, were good Christians. This was taken as an endorsement of Kerry over Bush and in came the IRS.

I know it's hard to believe for some, but everyone isn't down with America's unwritten policy of bomb now, ask questions later. I think we all know what lengths the American government will go to keep the truth from coming out.

It wasn't that long ago when we were dealing with the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow. Then came the mysterious arrival of crack cocaine in Black neighborhoods around the country and COINTELPRO. By the late 70s, the white sheets had been replaced with business suits and phony smiles. And even though the damage had been done that didn't stop them from giving us Reagan.

A.M.E. church founder Richard Allen said "the only place that Blacks felt they could maintain an element of self-expression was the church," and I'll add, but they still managed to burn down more than a few back in the day.

Fortunate for Dr. Wright, it's not so easy to get rid of dissident voices today as it was 30 and 40 years ago.

Dr. Wright may be retired now, but thank God for us that there are still pastors and ministers like him out there who aren't afraid to tell it like it is when it comes to the United States Government and the history that was so conveniently left out of the schoolbooks.

Those who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it...and this ain't no reentry in slavery. Preach on, preach on.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Mammy Goes to Washington

Melissa Harris-Lacewell's article is the most brilliant analysis I've read about the role of gender and race in the 2008 presidential race. Here it is:

Mammy Goes to Washington by Melissa Harris-Lacewell

Feb. 8, 2008–There’s been a lot of talk about women and their choices since Super Tuesday, when African American women overwhelmingly voted for Sen. Barack Obama, while white women picked Sen. Hillary Clinton. Some pundits automatically concluded that “race trumped gender” among black women. I hate this analysis because it relegates black women to junior-partner status in political struggles. It is not that simple. A lot of people have tried to gently explain the divide, so I’m just going to put this out there: Sister voters have a beef with white women like Clinton that is both racial and gendered. It is not about choosing race; it is about rejecting Hillary’s Scarlett O’Hara act.

Black women voters are rejecting Hillary Clinton because her ascendance is not a liberating symbol. Her tears are not moving. Her voice does not resonate. Throughout history, privileged white women, attached at the hip to their husband’s power and influence, have been complicit in black women’s oppression. Many African American women are simply refusing to play Mammy to Hillary.

The loyal Mammy figure, who toiled in the homes of white people, nursing their babies and cleaning and cooking their food, is the most enduring and dishonest representation of black women. She is a uniquely American icon who first emerged as our young country was trying to put itself back together after the Civil War. The romanticism about this period is a bizarre historical anomaly that underscores America’s deep racism: The defeated traitors of the Confederacy have been allowed to reinterpret the war’s battles, fly the flag of secession over state houses, and raise monuments to those who fought to tear down the country. Southern white secessionists were given the power to rewrite history even as America’s newest citizens were relegated to forced agricultural peonage, grinding urban poverty and new forms segregation and racial terror. Mammy was a central figure in this mythmaking and she was perfect for the role. The Mammy myth allowed Americans in the North and South to ignore the brutality of slavery by claiming that black women were tied to white families through genuine bonds of affection. Mammy justified past enslavement and continuing oppression.

Privileged, Southern white women were central in creating and propagating the Mammy myth. In 1923, the United Daughters of the Confederacy were nearly successful in lobbying Congress to erect a statue on federal land to honor “the memory of the faithful colored mammies of the South.” The desire to memorialize Mammy reveals how Southern white women reveled in the subordinate role of their darker peers. These black women were vulnerable to the sexual and labor exploitation of slaveholders and household employers. These women masked their true thoughts and personalities in order to gain a modicum of security for themselves and their families.

The Mammy monument was meant to display black women as the faithful, feisty, loyal servants of white domesticity. In the face of the Mammy myth, real black women spoke for themselves against the monument. It was substantial, sustained, opposition from organized African American women and the black press that killed the Mammy monument proposal.

Media have cast the choice in the current election as a simple binary between race and gender. But those who claim that black women are ignoring gender issues by voting for Barack just don’t get it. Hillary cannot have black women’s allegiance for free. Black women will not be relegated to the status of supportive Mammy, easing the way for privileged white women to enter the halls of power.Black feminist politics is not simple identity politics. It is not about letting brothers handle the race stuff or about letting white women dominate the gender stuff.The black women’s fight is on all fronts.

Sisters resist the ways that black male leaders try to silence women’s issues and squash women’s leadership. At the same time, black women challenge white women who want to claim black women’s allegiance without acknowledging the realities of racism. They will not be drawn into any simple allegiance that refuses to account their full humanity and citizenship.Black women want out of the war.Black women need health insurance. Black women need decent schools for their children. Black women need a strong economy that creates jobs. Black women need help caring for their aging parents. Black women want a Democratic win in the fall. Sisters chose Barack on Tuesday because they believe he can deliver these things and that is much more empowering than just having a woman in the White House.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Massa Bill, Missus Hillary and Oh

(With apologies to Richard Pryor's character, Mudbone)

Once upon a time on the Clinton Plantation, there was a young slave named Oh.

That's right, Oh.

White folks back in the day called Black folks what they wanted to and they decided to call this one "Oh" because he was so smart. When people on the Clinton Plantation asked him questions, his answers surprised Massa and Missus Clinton so much, they would just say, "Oh!".

People would ask Oh all types of questions about the world, the plantation, cotton and 'gators and he'd always give such wonderful answers so much so that questions started coming from the slaves like, "was he really Black enough". Now, keep in mind that on most plantations there wuz always slaves who had white daddies and on occasion, while Massa was lookin' the other way, a slave might even have a white mama. Yes they did.

But that ain't what this story is 'bout. Let's get back to what happened to Oh. He taught himself to count and read --- somethin' slaves just wasn't spozed to do. He preached on Sunday down at the slave quarters and the Black folks just loved how he told them about the visions God had given him, just like Prophet Nat Turner. Oh was smart all right, and white folks loved to hear him make speeches and Black folks loved to hear him tell them about the world beyond the Clinton Plantation.

One day, after the harvest was in and the cotton was chopped, Oh called a secret meeting down in the slave cabins and told his friends and family that he thought it was time for them all to run away from the Clinton Plantation. Just get up and get and don't look back. The slaves looked shocked and many of them just said, "Oh!" real loud. One of the old slaves, Rastus, (who some say came from the Johnson Plantation in South Carolina) got up in the back and said that he'd been servin' Massa and Missus Clinton for 16 years and he wasn't 'bout to run away. Massa Clinton was gettin' old Rastus said, but Missus would take his place when De Lawd called Massa home.

Many of the slaves mumbled their approval of what Rastus said, but the younger slaves and many of them who learned to read from Oh, said there were better places than the Clinton Plantation and that running away was important so that they could decide what they wanted to do rather than being told what to do. Even if they were caught and killed, it was better to be dead and free rather than alive and enslaved by the Clintons. Some of the old slaves said Massa and Missus acted like they was Black anyways because they would eat in the slave quarters during their birthdays and Massa Clinton could play the banjo better than some of them!

Never mind that the Clintons had told them that if they were caught stealing a hog they would be sold...

Never mind that the Clintons had ignored the slaughter of hundreds of slaves on a nearby plantation when the Massa went away to visit New York...

The old slaves loved the Clintons a lot and just couldn't imagine life without them since they had treated them so well. They felt that other white folks might be mad at them if they were caught runnin' away and so would the Clintons.

They might not get any more Christmas hams, Saturday night socials or chances to buckdance at very rapid speed. They remembered how the slaves Jesse and Al had tried to run and they almost got away but were brought back to the plantation and watched carefully.

The vote was taken. Oh's followers won and decided to run before next harvest depending on weather, when the Clintons would leave and how bad the world was around them. But for sho they wuz gonna to run. Oh's plans weren't perfect, but he had the future in his eyes and had always been able to pull people together during harvest plantin' season and teachin' them how to read and write.

The next mornin', Rastus and a group of others went to the Big House's back door and told the Clintons that Oh was plannin' to run. The Clintons were shocked. They knew Oh was smart but they had always kept him in his place and were disappointed that this smart young slave was organizing others to escape from the Plantation. They were afraid however, to punish him because they feared that the other slaves would see through their hypocrisy of being "benevolent slave owners." Instead, they decided to start a whispering campaign against him. Why not talk about his "lack of experience" in leading Blackfolks to the Promise Land? Why not talk about their skills at running a plantation and how kind they had been to their slaves? might work...

(to be continued...)