Black Commentator has called on the NAACP to dismiss the editor
of its publication, THE CRISIS. In our November
4 issue, we published our brief against Victoria Valentine,
along with an Open Letter to the magazine and its parent organization
from Harvard political scientist Dr. Martin Kilson.
Dr. Todd Burroughs, who writes frequently for THE CRISIS, Africana.com
and other important Black political publications, rose to Valentine’s
defense. Dr. Kilson responded with expected brilliance, and the
publishers of BC have also taken the opportunity to elaborate on
Valentine’s “weak and confused” guardianship of the magazine’s legacy
and the interests of the NAACP.
offending editorial, “Black According to Whom?” is the last item
on this page. We begin with BC’s position, followed by Burroughs’
letter and Dr. Kilson’s response.
the Publishers of The Black Commentator:
of this publication are familiar with our efforts to expose the
new crop of politicians that we call Black Trojan Horses, nominal
Democrats who consciously collaborate in the rightwing and Republican
mission to destroy existing Black political structures. These “stealth”
politicians are most useful to the Right in creating the illusion
of grave divisions among African Americans along age and income
lines. According, they are heavily funded by conservatives, and
receive intense and uniformly positive coverage in the corporate
anointed by media as “new Black leaders,” these subsidized pretenders
walk the political high wire for their paymasters. For example,
they endorse public vouchers for private schools, a political demand
first put forward by the most extreme elements of the Hard Right
in order to encourage privatization of public institutions, drive
a wedge between Blacks and public employees (a large proportion
of whom are Black), and undermine the political positions of established
organizations such as the NAACP.
our shock and amazement, Victoria Valentine, editor of THE CRISIS,
the NAACP publication founded by W.E.B. DuBois in 1910, dedicated
the online home page of the September/October issue to a defense
the most notorious Trojan Horse of all: Cory Booker, the failed
candidate for Mayor of Newark, NJ.
a board member of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO),
a Bradley Foundation-created school voucher front-group (see Trojan
Horse Watch in this issue), is described by Valentine as a “liberal,”
a term she also applies to Denise Majette, the Right-funded, onetime
Republican who defeated Georgia Rep. Cynthia McKinney, and to Artur
Davis, whose victory over Alabama Rep. Earl Hilliard was bankrolled
by the Right. Worse, editor Valentine arbitrarily linked the Trojan
Horse trio to other young Black politicians such as Rep. Jesse Jackson
Jr. (D-Ill.), Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and Tennessee Rep.
Harold Ford, Jr. – a grave disservice to Jackson, Kilpatrick and
swallows whole the Right’s and the corporate media’s unsubstantiated
line, that Blacks “greatly differ” on issues of “welfare and education
reform and tax cuts... depending on income, age and education level
most grievous, direct damage was done to Valentine’s parent organization,
the NAACP. She dismisses Booker’s voucher activities and leadership
position in the BAEO, facts of which she should be aware, as openness
"to ideas in education reform."
Valentine not know that the NAACP has locked horns with Booker’s
voucher crowd across the length and breadth of the nation, in courtrooms,
statehouses, on Capitol Hill and in the streets? That the NAACP
is the object of ridicule and scorn in the ranks of Booker and Majette
supporters and funders, everywhere? That the oft-stated goal of
right-wingers in money and media is to replace the NAACP
and other “civil rights-type” organizations with “new Black leaders”
of more “moderate” and “independent” bent – invariably citing Cory
Booker, Denise Majette and Artur Davis?
seems oblivious to the NAACP’s position on defense of public education
– or does she believe that the ongoing conflict over vouchers amounts
to no more than a preference for white wine over red?
us remind Valentine what her leaders have to say about vouchers
for private schools.
President Kweisi Mfume: "Vouchers are a pernicious, steal-from-the-poor-and-give-to-the-rich
scheme. They take money from our public school students, give it
instead to private schools, and abandon many of our children in
Chairman Julian Bond: "We oppose vouchers. We support public
education, where over 80% of American children are educated."
Levering Lewis, DuBois biographer and CRISIS board member, believes
the magazine's great founder and editor would oppose vouchers: "I've
heard Dubois' name invoked as an enemy of affirmative action, someone
who might favor vouchers. Those things seem quite unlikely to me...."
Colorado Springs NAACP head Willie Breazell was ousted because of
his support of vouchers. Breazell now sits on the board of the BAEO,
with Cory Booker.
Victoria Valentine gives aid and comfort to Booker, and has so far
gotten away with it.
CRISIS board of directors is separate from, but includes many notables
of, the NAACP. They are: Mfume, Bond, Levering Lewis, David Schneiderman,
Ken Bentley, Justice Laura Blackburne, Bishop William Graves, Gwendolyn
Smith Iloani, Vernon Jarrett, and Joe Madison. Roger Wilkins is
Chairman of the Board and Publisher of the magazine, directly responsible
for editor Valentine.
at The Black Commentator are most concerned that the NAACP does
not appear, in this instance, to be prepared to defend itself
from propaganda generated by the magazine's own employee, within
its own pages. This does not augur well for the long struggle ahead,
which will be waged against the same rich think tanks and corporate
media whose premises Valentine repeats like a catechism.
our November 4 issue,
we called for Valentine's dismissal by the board as "a weak
and confused guardian at the gates of its venerable publication."
Our colleague Todd Burroughs, in his reply, published below, calls
that "destructive criticism" and urges us to "save
it for those who oppose us, not those with whom we just disagree."
accuses us of lacking "civility" toward Valentine and
suggests that we got carried away due to being "caught up in
their righteous and proper campaign against Booker's affiliations."
resent the condescension. Our criticism and conclusions regarding
Valentine's editorial are direct and need no interpretation. She
undermines the NAACP's mission in fundamental ways, and has shown
a mindset to do future damage to the organization - an institution
that is an important part of the African American legacy. If Burroughs
thinks this is a matter of politeness, he needs to get serious about
struggle and the real meaning of solidarity. The collegial embrace
from the editor of THE CRISIS is exactly what Booker needed to show
his paymasters that he, Majette and Davis remain a credible alternative
to... the NAACP! Valentine gives the trio her blessing, and they
march off to do surrogate battle against her employers and what's
left of Black leadership - after a stop at the bank, of course.
opposite Valentine's odious editorial is a link to a statement by
DuBois, edited by CRISIS board member David Levering Lewis. Here
is how the man who inspired generations of progressive Black intellectuals
and activists viewed corporate dominion over political discourse
in the United States:
organized effort of American industry to usurp government surpasses
anything in modern history, " he warned. "From the use
of psychology to spread the truth has come the use of organized
gathering of news to guide public opinion and then deliberately
to mislead it by scientific advertising and propaganda. This has
led in our day to suppression of truth, omission of facts, misinterpretation
of news, and deliberate falsehood on a wide scale. Mass capitalistic
control of books and periodicals, news gathering and distribution,
radio, cinema, and television has made the throttling of democracy
possible and the distortion of education and failure of justice
THE CRISIS employs an editor who takes her cues from the corporate
media, ignores the funding sources of people she describes as "Black
leaders," and attacks those who document the activities of
the NAACP's enemies.
has no place, here. Get rid of her.
Burroughs' Defense of Editor Victoria Valentine
sincerely appreciated the spirit in which the deservedly legendary
Martin Kilson responded in BlackCommentator.com to The "Editor's
Note" of the September/October 2002 edition of The Crisis,
a publication of which I have been proud to freelance for during
the past two years. However, I disagreed with the editorial context
in which Kilson's comments were placed, and would like to present
my own views on the entire controversy.
agree with Kilson that Booker's affiliations with the Bradley Foundation
and the Manhattan Institute, among other right-wing groups, should
have been included in Crisis editor Victoria Valentine's
column. I also agree with him that any implication that Denise Majette
and Cory Booker are "liberals" is incorrect. I think that
any editorial errors were honestly made and were not designed, as
BlackCommentator.com's introduction seemed to imply, to "bestow
political cover" to closet Black conservatives. I hope Ms.
Valentine will consider a future "Editor's Note" column
clarifying her views and discussing this controversy.
I believe that the issues Ms. Valentine brought up are completely
valid, as is the framework in which she presented the conflict.
There are serious generation, "authenticity" and ideological
gaps in Black America in 2002, and constantly bringing up the NAACP's
long and illustrious history can't paper that reality over. I humbly
suggest that Dr. Kilson expose himself to Black-targeted media forums
designed for those under 30 so he can see the diverse political
and social views held by Black young adults. He could start with
magazines such as Port of Harlem, Colorlines and The Source.
have written about the issues surrounding Booker for another Black-oriented
website. Although I appreciate BlackCommentator.com's muckraking
on the issue of Booker's "stealth candidacy," my reporting
- which included interviews with several liberals and progressives
in the city - found that Booker and his political views were more
complicated than the simplistic labeling of him because of some
of his sponsors. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I doubt that even the Democratic
Leadership Council - the neo-conservative group that spawned Bill
Clinton, America's so-called first "Black" president -
would recognize an arch-conservative "plant" as a future
leader of the party. I believe Booker is just a Black version of
Clinton - an Ivy League political opportunist who plays all sides
for his benefit.
may be to the right of Harold Ford and Jesse Jackson, Jr., but all
of them can be placed together as a "new" generation of
Black political leaders who do not necessarily see themselves as
being in lockstep with the traditional liberal-to-left-of-center
civil rights agenda. That is a documented sociopolitical reality
within the Black community. For example, some Black educators who
own private community schools may not necessarily be against vouchers,
and may see the issue as necessary "education reform."
If Ms. Valentine chose to make an argument in the pages of The
Crisis from that point, it would be an opinion, not an error.
And that's what Ms. Valentine wrote - an opinion.
us remember that Crisis founding editor W.E.B. DuBois used
to write his opinions in the publication, and not all meshed with
current NAACP policy. It's good to see 20th century traditions continue.
to the call for Valentine's removal. I have disagreed with editors
of Black publications before, and have not been afraid to tell them
of my disagreement to their faces. But I would never publicly call
an editor of a Black publication a "weak or confused guardian,"
or called for her ouster, if I disagreed with her or thought her
analysis or reporting was faulty. I would instead look at the opportunity
to educate a powerful player on an important issue. By calling for
the NAACP board to remove Ms. Valentine, The BlackCommentator.com
obviously disagrees with this tactic.
the past, I have yielded to the temptation of publicly criticizing
other writers as an attempt to generate heat. I learned my lesson
from that experience when I saw it alienated instead of educated.
I'm sure that BlackCommentator.com wants to generate light,
saving the heat for those who really deserve it. If our criticism
is constructive, it may not generate the welcome attention to our
worthwhile endeavors that we want. But it also will not create unnecessary
antagonisms among our few existing Black-controlled media outlets.
will continue to support The Crisis, The BlackCommentator.com
and all Black media that honestly attempt to explain and define
issues from our varied perspectives. I only humbly request that
we are civil in our dealings with each other---a civility Dr. Kilson
displayed and that The BlackCommentator.com editors, in my
opinion, seemed to jettison because they were caught up in their
righteous and proper campaign against Booker's affiliations.
we must engage in destructive criticism, let's save it for those
who oppose us, not those with whom we just disagree.
Solidarity And With Respect,
Steven Burroughs, Ph.D.
REPLY TO TODD STEVEN BURROUGHS: THE ISSUE
IS NOT THE
OPINIONS OF "THE CRISIS'S" EDITOR, BUT HER ANALYSIS
general, my reaction to Todd Burroughs' comments on my Black Commentator
column that critiqued the "Editor's Note" in the September/October
issue of THE CRISIS and his comments on the introductory note by
the editors of Black Commentator is a mixed one.
First, I can see how Burroughs' could interpret
the introductory note by the editors of Black Commentator as being
somewhat "uncivil" - causing Burroughs to request that
"we are civil in our [argumentative] dealings with each other".
But as I read the introductory note it struck me as "tough-minded"
rather than "uncivil."
the "tough-minded" commentary by the editors of Black
Commentator is, I think, a keen recognition that the public policy
purposes driving rightwing conservative and Republican party forces
which launch "stealth candidacies" among African-Americans
(like the Cory Booker candidacy in Newark's mayoral election this
year) are systemically reactionary. Accordingly, "hard-headed"
and "tough-minded" thinking and action are required on
the part of the liberal and progressive sector of African-American
leadership groups like the NAACP, National Urban League, the Congressional
Black Caucus, etc., not fantasy-prone "polite thinking"
or "civil thinking." I got the feeling from Burroughs'
reply that he was confusing "tough-minded" discourse with
"raucous-prone" discourse, but this, I can assure Mr.
Burroughs, is just not the intellectual style of the intellectually
sophisticated editors of Black Commentator.
I couldn't agree more with Burroughs that in commenting favorably
on the emergence of "new generation" political leaders
among African-Americans, Victoria Valentine - editor of THE CRISIS
- has a right to "her opinion." However, the important
issue in regard to these inevitably new developments in African-American
society that relate to generational patterns is not "our opinion".
The important issue is that we produce in our writings on new generational
dynamics a viable and effective analysis. And this is especially
so for someone writing as editor of the main organ of African-Americans'
premier and most effective ethnic-bloc political organization -
it was for this reason that I pointed out in my original reply to
Valentine's "Editor's Note" in THE CRISIS (September/October)
that Valentine was gravely in error when suggesting, as I put it,
"a parallel political symmetry between Cory Booker - a genuine
'stealth candidate' - and Tennessee's U.S. Representative Harold
. 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 [the NAACP's agenda in effect]."
Victoria Valentine, as I pointed out in my reply, compounded this
erroneous "opinion" when she went on to suggest, as I
put it, "a parallel political symmetry between Cory Booker
and other young Black politicians, such as Representative Jesse
Jackson Jr. (Democrat- Ill.) 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."
let me say to Mr. Burroughs that this issue is not a simple matter
of Ms. Valentine's "opinion". Rather it is a crucial matter
of presenting a viable and effective analysis of new patterns
in African-American political life. Ms. Valentine, I suggest, did
not produce a viable and effective analysis in her "Editor's
Note" in September/October issue of THE CRISIS. Given the fact
that THE CRISIS functions as a crucial organ of the premier political
agency for African-Americans - the NAACP - I for one consider it
imperative that pieces written either by staff of THE CRISIS or
officials of the NAACP emphasize the goal of viable and effective
noticed in Mr. Burroughs' reply that he mentioned the name of the
great W.E.B. DuBois (next to Frederick Douglass and Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr., one of the three greatest African-American leaders ever)
in regard to the production of THE CRISIS. Mr. Burroughs failed
to mention what was most crucial about DuBois' three-decade headship
of THE CRISIS. Namely, his brilliant capacity to attain the goal
of viable and effective analysis in virtually every essay and commentary
he penned for THE CRISIS.
final thought. The American media - newspapers and magazines especially
- have given a lot of attention to the "generational issue,"
let's call it, in African-American society over the past decade,
and in the past several years political aspects of the generational
issue have been particularly emphasized. The most up-to-date survey
of African-American political attitudes available to me is the "2002
National Opinion Poll of Blacks" produced by the Joint Center
for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, DC.
the various questions put to African-Americans in this poll clearly
reveal "generational differences" on a variety of political
subjects, these differences are in general not massive. For instance,
TABLE 5 records responses to the query, "Do you feel things
in the country are generally going in the right direction
Some 66. 4% of Blacks in 18-25 age bracket and 67.5% in 26-35 bracket
replied "wrong direction." This compared with 70.4% in
36-50 age bracket and 68.8% in 51-64 bracket who replied "wrong
direction." Viewed in generational terms, the foregoing cross-generational
differences are not at all large.
differences get larger when the Joint Center pollsters asked African-Americans
to express their "party identification." In general, the
older you are the more likely you identify as a Democrat. Thus,
in 51-64 bracket some 70% of African-Americans identified as "Democrat"
as did 65% in the 36-50 age bracket. On the other hand, in the 26-35
age bracket some 56% identified as "Democrat" as did 54%
in the 18-25 age bracket. However, the lower identification as "Democrat"
among the younger age brackets (18-35) did not translate into a
sizable identification as "Republican". Only 9% of 18-25
bracket identified as "Republican", for example. Instead,
the lower identification as "Democrat" among 18-25 bracket
translated into identification as "Independent" - one
third - while 21% among both 36-50 and 51-64 age brackets identified
compared with the small generational difference among African-Americans
in regard to attitudes toward the policy direction in America under
the Republican Bush Administration as the "wrong direction,"
the generational difference in "party identification"
is more distinct and
larger. Even so, when African-Americans were asked to "pull-the-election-trigger",
so to speak, the larger generational difference in "party identification"
did not show up in TABLE 9 of the Joint Center's poll which asked
African-Americans how they would vote in the upcoming 2002 elections
for the House of Representatives.
response to this question, 74.7% of 51-64 age bracket replied, "Vote
for Democrat" and 72.1% of 36-50 age bracket replied likewise.
By comparison, nearly 70% (69.8% to be exact) of 26-35 age bracket
replied "Vote Democrat" as did 69% of the 18-25 age bracket.
On the other hand, at the younger end of the generational spectrum,
only 14.7% of the 18-25 age bracket replied "Vote for Republican,"
compared to 10.7% of the 36-50 age bracket and a miniscule 3.2%
of the 51-64 age bracket.
short, when it comes to making the crucial decision of voting in
the American electoral process as of November 2002, the so-called
"generational gap" among African-Americans is still relatively
marginal. Whether the launching of "stealth candidacies"
by rightwing conservative and Republican forces among African-American
voters - candidacies like that mounted by city councilman Cory Booker
in Newark's mayoral campaign this year - will intensify a political
"generational gap" among African-Americans remains to
be seen. Also, it remains to be seen whether efforts by some African-American
legislators at the federal or state level to maneuver in the direction
of neo-liberal legislative alliances will similarly intensify a
political "generational gap" among African-Americans.
I don't want to wager a prognosis on this very
important issue here. But I can say that as long as broad sections
of our African-American citizenry continue to confront numerous
barriers to attaining access to viable working-class and middle-class
existence in our society that are a legacy of America's century-old
racist practices, I don't envisage anything one would call a "cataclysmic
generational gap" politically among African-Americans. Today,
perhaps some 35% to 40% of African-American households fall in the
category of "poor families" and "weak working-class
families," and from where I sit ideologically and politically
I would hope generational cleavages will not weaken the capacity
of future African-American political patterns to play a major role
in facilitating the advancement of these poor and weak African-American
families. For me, this must be a major future goal of the liberal
and progressive sectors among African-Americans today.
Martin Kilson is a longtime NAACP supporter and author of the forthcoming
two-volume work, The
Making of Black Intellectuals: Studies on the African-American Intelligentsia.
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.
of THE CRISIS
e-Mail address for Letter to the Editor of THE