the Publishers of The Black Commentator:
NAACP has placed a weak and confused guardian at the gates of its
venerable publication, THE CRISIS. Founded by W.E.B. Du Bois in
1910, the magazine is edited by Victoria Valentine, who answers
to publisher and magazine board chairman Roger Wilkins. In an editorial
remarkable for its shallowness and laziness of mind, and dangerous
in its implications for the organization's political cohesion, Valentine
managed to attack the NAACP's friends, give comfort to its foes,
and insult the intelligence of its readership.
September - October editorial, titled "Black According to Whom?"
completely obscures the substantive issues surrounding the new crop
of "Black leaders" touted by corporate media and funded
by rightwing dollars. Editor Valentine bestows political cover and
the publication's imprimatur to congresspersons-elect Denise Majette
(D-GA) and Arthur Davis (D-AL), and failed Newark mayoral candidate
Cory Booker, describing all three - with no justification - as "liberal
like their opponents." Booker's leadership of a Right-bankrolled
organization formed solely to promote private school vouchers becomes
openness "to ideas in education reform."
urges the THE CRISIS board to remove Ms.
Valentine before she makes further gifts of the magazine's space
to proponents of private school vouchers and others whom the Right
is grooming to undermine and supplant established Black leadership
- including the NAACP. Her presence at the magazine is wholly inexplicable.
are pleased to publish the following Open Letter from Harvard political
scientist Dr. Martin Kilson, a longtime NAACP supporter and author
of the forthcoming two-volume work,
Making of Black Intellectuals: Studies on the African-American Intelligentsia.
editorial follows Dr. Kilson's letter.
TO VICTORIA VALENTINE'S EDITORIAL IN OCTOBER
2002 ISSUE OF "THE CRISIS'
the leadoff editorial in the October 2002 issue of THE CRISIS titled
"Black According To Whom," I thought the editor of THE
CRISIS erred in several basic respects. Victoria Valentine doesn't
distinguish between the types of persons among African-American
political activists who opposed a group of "challengers"
to established African-American office-holders in citiesand
Congress. She also implies, erroneously, that the opponents of the
"challengers" were of one political outlook, namely, proponents
of a "Black-authenticity" test for judging African-American
candidates. Furthermore, THE CRISIS editor implies, erroneously,
that the "challengers" - such as Cory Booker in Newark's
mayoral election, Denise Majette in the Democratic Primary in Representative
Cynthia McKinney's 4th Congressional District in Georgia - were
either politically benign or "liberal" in regard to key
public policy issues relating to African-American citizens.
while there was a petty resort to a kind of "Black-authenticity"
rhetoric by Reverend Al Sharpton while campaigning for the Democratic
incumbent Representative Earl F. Hilliard in Alabama, and while
the incumbent Mayor Sharpe James in Newark's mayoral campaign erupted
with the emotional outburst that his challenger Cory Booker was
a "faggot White boy," the main body of political opponents
of the "challengers" to incumbent African-American office-holders
during the past year's elections did not participate in petty "Black-authenticity
" rhetoric. I myself joined in critiquing one of the "challengers"
to incumbent African-American office-holders during the past year's
elections - namely, the Cory Booker campaign in the Newark mayoral
I had no doubt about the stupidity of Mayor Sharpe James' emotional
outburst about Booker being a "fag boy," the real substance
of Mayor James' campaign strategy revolved around the major political
facts that characterized Cory Booker's campaign. It is unfortunate
that the editor of THE CRISIS apparently made no serious effort
to uncover these major political facts. If she had done so, she
would have concluded, I am sure, very little was politically benign
or liberal about Cory Booker's campaign. Cory Booker's campaign
stood for many things of political substance for the status and
conditions of African-American citizens that contradicted the
civil rights policy agenda of the NAACP. Above all, Booker's
campaign in Newark functioned as a rightwing conservative beachhead
governance base in a city with a majority
Black/Latino population. Booker's "stealth candidacy"
was a precondition for realizing this rightwing Republican goal.
core defining feature of Mayor Sharpe James' campaign strategy revolved
around the core political facts of councilman Cory Booker's campaign.
Namely, the numerous political linkages between Cory Booker and
blatant rightwing forces in American politics in general and the
Republican Party in particular. First, the initial public evidence
of the nominal Democrat Newark councilman Cory Booker being operationally
a rightwing conservative candidate was revealed through the ultra-conservative
columnist George Will, through his March 17, 2002 weekly column.
Celebrating Cory Booker's campaign in Newark, George Will informed
America that "Booker's plans for Newark's renaissance are drawn
from thinkers at
the Manhattan Institute think tank
I can inform THE CRISIS editor that it is at the Manhattan Institute
where numerous rightwing opponents of the mainline African-American
leadership's civil rights agenda (the agenda of the NAACP in regard
to housing, jobs, education, criminal justice, and a proactive federal
role in vanquishing the legacy of racism in American society) hang
Cory Booker's campaign was financed mainly through a Booker-friendly
network of conservative organizations, especially ones launched
to spread a rightwing Republican agenda among African-American voters.
Organizations like the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO),
founded by the former Black education superintendent in Milwaukee,
Howard Fuller. BAEO is a group that's vociferous in support of education
vouchers - which by the way Black and Hispanic voters have roundly
defeated in major elections around the country, e.g., California,
Michigan. It is massively funded by rightwing foundations like the
Bradley Foundation and the Walton Foundation, and gains additional
resources from Alan Keyes' rightwing Republican organization called
Black America's Political Action Committee (BAMPAC).
a longstanding NAACP supporter, I consider it a political obligation
to oppose electoral candidates - White and Black ones - whose function
is to advance the policy agenda of rightwing organizations like
BAEO and BAMPAC, and also the policy agenda of the rightwing forces
in the Republican party, the forces now represented by President
George W. Bush's Administration. On the other hand, liberal and
moderate Republican candidates - White ones and Black ones, such
as former Senator Edward Brooke from my state of Massachusetts -
have gained my political support on some occasions. Such liberal
and moderate Republican office-holders have also sustained a respectful
outreach relationship with the national NAACP leadership. But
such respectful outreach relationship with the national NAACP has
never been a bona fide political posture or practice with conservative
rightwing leadership in the Republican party - under Nixon, Reagan,
the first President George Bush - and it is not a posture presently
under President W. Bush.
it was not difficult for me to oppose Cory Booker's candidacy for
mayor in Newark, N.J., and I wrote a memorandum on Booker's deep
linkages to rightwing Republican groups, which was broadly circulated
during the Newark Mayoral campaign. There are, in short, just two
words required to inform Ms. Victoria Valentine, editor of THE CRISIS,
about the real political character of Cory Booker's campaign. It
was a "stealth candidacy," with Booker putting forth to
Newark's voters - and especially its African-American voters - a
pretender or false "public face" as a new-guard liberal
Black politician, while in actuality his substantive "private
face" was a rightwing conservative one.
Janus-faced "stealth candidacy" pattern might also have
been the case with Denise Majette, who defeated the pro-civil rights
agenda oriented Representative Cynthia McKinney in Georgia. I will
await further research into Denise Majette's real political ties
to determine this.
the way, Ms. Valentine's attempt to suggest a parallel political
symmetry between Cory Booker - a genuine "stealth candidate"
- and Tennessee's U.S. Representative Harold Ford is just plain
wrong. While Representative Ford, as a Black member of Congress,
has fashioned a neo-liberal format for himself, this neo-liberal
format remains genuinely committed to the core public policy goals
of the longstanding mainline African-American leadership's civil
rights agenda. CRISIS editor Valentine even tries to maneuver a
parallel political symmetry between Cory Booker and other young
Black politicians, such as Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL)
and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, but this is just analytically
disingenuous. Jackson and Kilpatrick, like Representative Ford,
while creatively broadening the alliance pattern among African-American
office-holders, remain genuinely committed to the core public
policy goals of the mainline African-American leadership's civil
rights agenda. In short, the NAACP's agenda.
NAACP is, after all, the premier articulator and practitioner of
the mainline African-American leadership's civil rights agenda.
Critics of Cory Booker's campaign in Newark's mayoral election season,
like myself, recognized the assault on the NAACP's civil rights
agenda emanating from Cory Booker's campaign, and we accordingly
publicly opposed Booker's campaign, whatever misgivings we might
have had with corruption and patronage violations under Mayor Sharpe
James' four-term administration. Happily, our opposition role assisted
in Cory Booker's defeat. It is rather disappointing to read in the
October issue of THE CRISIS that its editor, Victoria Valentine,
believes the opponents of Cory Booker were wrong. I submit that
it is Victoria Valentine who is wrong.
Frank G. Thomson Research Professor
According to Whom?,
A Message from the Editor, Victoria L. Valentine...
election season there were a number of heated contests in which
Black incumbents faced Black challengers. In these races pitting
Democrats against one another, most of the focus has been on the
fact that the incumbents have been political veterans who have rarely
faced real competition and their challengers have often been younger,
relatively green candidates.
there are other qualities about the opponents that the veteran politicians
have exploited in their efforts to hold onto the support of their
constituents. The political establishment has characterized the
challengers as not authentically Black, an indictment once only
lavished (with equal ridiculousness) on Black republicans.
newcomers are liberal like their opponents, but because they may
have attended Ivy League schools, haven't grown up poor enough,
have a diverse base of support and may be more moderate on key issues,
they are being cast as not Black enough.
young politicians, including Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. (D-TN) and
former Newark City Councilman Cory Booker are open to ideas in education
reform, that are controversial to civil rights veterans who fought
to integrate public schools. And candidates such as Denise Majette,
who defeated Rep. Cynthia McKinney in the Democratic primary for
the 4th district of Georgia, and Artur Davis, who successfully challenged
Rep. Earl F. Hilliard (D-Ala.) for his seat in the U.S. House of
Representatives, have courted controversy in the Black establishment
because their campaigns were significantly supported by Whites and
Jewish organizations outraged at their opponents' views on the Middle
East. Rev. Al Sharpton, campaigning in Birmingham for Hilliard,
said, "Everybody that's our color is not our kind. Everybody
that's our skinfolk is not our kinfolk."
most poignant example occurred in this season's mayoral election
in Newark, N.J. Mayor Sharpe James, who has served since 1986, faced
a viable opponent in 33-year-old Booker, a tenant lawyer who had
already beaten a four-term incumbent for a seat on the city council.
Next, Booker who grew up in a New Jersey suburb, and graduated from
Stanford University and Yale Law School before heading to Oxford
on a Rhodes Scholarship, challenged James, 66, in the mayoral election.
James managed to garner 53 percent of the vote and will serve a
fifth four-year term. But the campaign was ugly. It was widely reported
that James called booker a "faggot White boy." According
to New York magazine, James' spokesman explained the slur as an
no doubt that these up and coming leaders are passionate about their
race. And that's likely why they entered politics to begin with
- to better the lot of the African American community. But as beneficiaries
of civil rights and other legislative advancements accomplished
by their predecessors, rising Black politicians like Rep. Jesse
Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick have benefited
from integrated environments at school, work and home. While their
priorities remain with issues of traditional concern to Blacks,
they also have expanded interests and expertise. Which was the goal,
I thought, of us overcoming.
in office, Black politicians trying to build coalitions and work
on business issues, for example, have enough problems dealing with
the biases of those outside the race without worrying about being
judged by those within the race.
really should come down to the issues. The Black community has traditionally
voted as a bloc (sometimes with success, sometimes not) in areas
such as welfare and education reform and tax cuts, but increasingly,
depending on income, age and education level attained, African Americans
greatly differ on these matters.
we don't agree with a Black politician's stand on issues (or are
concerned about the source of his or her financial support), we
just shouldn't vote for them, not question their Blackness.
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