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In last week's issue of BlackCommentator (Issue
240), two articles were published regarding the action
or lack of it by Rep. John Conyers.
BC Columnist Larry Pinkney defended Conyers
in his Keeping
It Real column entitled, "John Conyers: What Of Impeachment?." Here
are a few excerpts:
There has been a bit of a buzz emanating for some time from
certain quarters about impeaching President George W. Bush
and Vice President Dick Cheney. Recently with this buzz has
come a virulent attack by certain white so-called progressives
and leftists upon US Representative John Conyers who is a member
of the Democratic Party and Chair of the Judiciary Committee
in the US House of Representatives.
...it becomes obvious as to why this "White progressive
anti-war movement" apparently felt no compunction in publicly
attacking John Conyers. It is, after all, by definition a "White
anti-war movement." However, first and foremost, what
is needed in the US is a Pro Peace With Justice movement, not
a "White progressive anti-war movement" that is,
by definition, fundamentally flawed and privileged.
For a certainty, there can be no question that Bush, Cheney,
and their arrogant and bloody ilk (including certain alleged
people of color) have committed (and are no doubt continuing
to commit) impeachable offenses. However, the public targeting
of John Conyers by some in the US white left is undeniably
racist, totally unacceptable, and in the final analysis, it
is self defeating and divisive.
What needs to be impeached by the majority of the people is
this entire filthy, hypocritical, bloody, racist, capitalist
Pinkney was reacting to a number of published comments on the
issue including Race
is the Tripwire for the Progressive Movement: John
Conyers and Impeachment, by the Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., President
of the Hip
Hop Caucus, which BC re-printed in Issue 240. The following
are excerpts from Yearwood's article:
Rep. Conyers is a great mentor to me and
my respect for him is unquestionable. He has been fighting for peace and
justice and civil rights for decades inside and outside of
Congress. He is a man for the people and for America. So,
it was a truly disappointing moment ...when we realized that
we do not agree on his role as the Chairman of the U.S. House
Judiciary committee to uphold our constitution by holding our
President and Vice President accountable for their impeachable
To my African-American counterparts
who take issue with the White progressive anti-war
movement, I understand your criticism
of our recent action in Mr. Conyers office, but I do not
was extremely difficult to challenge a man who means so much
to African-Americans, but impeaching Bush is critical to the
future of our country. We cannot let the precedent stand
that Bush has established, which severely oversteps the bounds
of executive power. We cannot send the message that
such actions will not go unpunished, or at least unchecked.
The challenge we face as activists
and leaders is how can we possibly bring an end to
this madness when the Democrats
in power are not with us? We need a broad-based movement
that can hold our elected officials accountable and to create
such a movement, we need to address our internal divides. The
reason many African-Americans have interpreted our action against
Rep. Conyers as racial betrayal goes deep into the tradition
of the progressive movement. How we can begin to address
this is something I will discuss in an upcoming article.
Both the Pinkney and Yearwood writings brought forth a great
deal of reaction from BC readers.
The Rev. Yearwood did not respond to the Pinkney commentary,
but Cindy Sheehan, who was part of the demonstration at Conyers'
Dear Mr. Pinkney,
I did not confront Mr. Conyers because he is black, but because
he is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
I am not running against Ms.Pelosi because she is white, or
a woman, but because she fails to hold this administration
I want two white men held accountable.
Please don't make this about race, it's about justice.
There are many brown people in the Middle East suffering because
of BushCo and I want it to stop...along with saving our troops
who often suffer too because of a racist economy-based draft.
When I was camped outside of George Bush's ranch...was I racist
I sincerely apologize if what we did looked racist, but it
Love and peace,
Stating that your having publicly "confronted" Rep.
Conyers was not done "because he is black" is missing
the point. Black America, and in particular our Black youth,
have far too few publicly known and respected progressive Black
men and women as it is; publicly attacking Rep. Conyers was
ill conceived, unnecessary, and divisive. Moreover, as was
pointed out in my piece, Rep. Conyers is the Chair of the Judiciary
Committee, not the entire Committee. Notwithstanding his influence
on the Committee, he nevertheless has only one vote. To have
publicly targeted him and not the other Committee members also,
was as I stated in my piece, "tactically and strategically
incorrect." Whether intended or not, it gave the distinct
impression of active white racism.
Moreover, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
(of the increasingly white racistly gentrifying City of San Francisco)
the person in the House who has far more party-line influence
and Democratic Party clout than does Rep. Conyers, or
any other member of the Judiciary Committee for that matter.
or not you plan to run or are "running against Ms. Pelosi" does
not alter this present reality. Whether it does in the
future, remains to be seen.
I agree with you that the suffering of "Brown people" in
the so-called "Middle East," due to the actions of "BushCo," etc.
needs to "stop," but the horrible ongoing suffering
of Black, Brown, Red, and Yellow peoples right here in
racist white America also needs to be stopped. Not to
and address this is both hypocritical and incredibly racist.
To paraphrase the words of the esteemed brother
Malcolm X, "Let
us have our disagreements in the closet and come out as a united
front." I would hope that especially white progressives
and / or leftists would remember Malcolm's wise words
and the enormous damage that can be done by engaging
in (albeit perhaps
unintended) chauvinistic actions. None of us, regardless
to color or gender, is without flaws, which is the beauty
comrades to help us grow, develop, and press on...
Larry Pinkney, BC Columnist
BC reader RW thinks the blast against Conyers
was a mistake:
I have just read your article in Black Commentator re: Representative
and Judiciary Chair John Conyers. I too was quite disappointed
that Conyers did not support the effort to impeach Cheney and
Bush; but on the other hand I will not criticize him. And I
think that those that went to his office made a terrible tactical
and strategical mistake - that still needs to be rectified.
I was at the rally in Washington DC yelling and waving my
impeachment sign when Conyers talked about firing George Bush.
I got up close to lead the effort and so that Conyers could
clearly see that so many of us wanted Bush and Cheney to be
impeached. But I also know that it would be disastrous for
Conyers to table an impeachment effort too soon.
As of last count there were only 14 supporters of Kucinich's
Bill. We need 15 to 20 times that number to be successful.
Of course, Conyers doesn't want to support the impeachment
effort before it even stands a chance of winning. It was not
the right time for us to challenge him. We should have asked
him in advance to what extent he could support us and then
have gotten the best statement we could from him as to what
he would do if and when a sufficient number of representatives
are ready to impeach.
We still need to get this, but first we need to go and apologize
to him for how poorly this was handled. Here is a man that
was willing to lead the impeachment effort and hold hearings
about it before the last election; and [instead] we put him
on the spot and embarrassed him (and in the process ourselves)
because we have not raised sufficient political support yet
for him to be able to again lead the effort and movement.
I wrote to Democrats.com and AfterDowningStreet.org, right
after the confrontation and said something similar. I will
include it below for your consideration. I hope that you will
contact those leading the impeachment effort and encourage
them to take steps to repair the damage done and again build
a constructive working relationship with Congressman Conyers.
The big meeting with Conyers should have been held in private
and without the press around; and perhaps with a couple of
supportive congressional representatives. Such a meeting should
probably be organized again now, after the apologies have been
made. It may mean that the Impeachment Movement will also need
to do some internal processing to understand the mistake that
they have made and that one can not just alienate their allies
because they disappoint us when they make their own strategic
WT wants a follow up from the Rev. Yearwood:
I appreciated your careful explanation
of the Conyers event. However, there needs to be a follow
up on the continuing reaction
by those who sincerely feel that the action was as Larry
Pinkney says "undeniably racist, totally unacceptable,
and in the final analysis it is self defeating and divisive."
To say something is undeniably true seems more
of an emotional assertion than a useful statement of fact. Except
that it is
now undeniable that racially charged statements such as
saying Conyers is no MLK or betrayed his race, were at least unconsciously
racist and certainly "self defeating and divisive." So
as one among a growing majority that wants to see us unite
more effectively, I think we must work to both appreciate
legitimate emotional reactions and more importantly, to
differences this event has surfaced, so we can unite and
Since last week, the Rev. Yearwood followed up with Part II
of his article:
As a minister, an activist, and the president of a Hip Hop
organization, I speak often on a number of issues. When I speak
at anti-war rallies the audience is usually all White, when
I speak at immigration rallies the audience is usually all
Brown, when I speak at rallies and events with Katrina survivors,
the audience is usually all Black. Global warming, usually
White, police brutality, usually Black, and so on. The progressive
movement is segregated, and race is the tripwire that prevents
us from coming together. Not only do I find this to be very
discouraging, it is self-defeating.
Last week, the impeachment movement
challenged Congressman John Conyers on Capitol Hill to
put impeachment back on the
table. As chair of the U.S. Committee on the Judiciary,
Mr. Conyers is the only person in Congress who can move
proceedings forward. When he refused to put impeachment
on the table, several key progressive activists wrote articles
that said Mr. Conyers had “betrayed” our country
and that he “is no Martin Luther King” because
he is not using his constitutional powers to begin impeachment
proceedings against President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
Many in the African-American community felt that the attack
was deeply disrespectful of Mr. Conyers.
I agree that these personal attacks are uncalled for and inappropriate.
Mr. Conyers represents our struggle for racial and social equality
in this country at the Congressional level and is a hero to
many African-Americans. However, as I explained in the first
article of this series, I believe that impeachment of the president
and vice president is an issue of critical importance to our
country. At this moment in history we must overcome the racial
barriers that so often prevent us from working together.
To our detriment, we define some issues
as Black issues, some issues as White issues, and some
issues as Brown issues. When
White progressives call for impeachment, the African-American
community says we won’t stand with you on impeachment
because you won’t stand with us on reparations. The
White folks give an entitled rebuttal, arguing that they
for reparations, but impeachment is more important.
Amidst this back and forth, we are missing
two critical points. Firstly, African-Americans are the
most anti-Bush demographic;
nearly 90 percent support impeachment. Secondly, we are
at a critical moment in history. For the sake of our country’s
standing throughout the world, we all need to challenge
the Democrats, including Congressman Conyers, on the issue
Instead, the progressive movement is
fragmented along issues and these issues provide cover
for our race divides. Ostensibly,
identity-based politics has emerged because certain issues
are more relevant or of more concern to specific communities.
Unfortunately, this current paradigm discourages people
of different backgrounds from working together and limits
issues people are "supposed" to work on.
Racist oppression means that certain populations and their
experiences tend to be viewed as essentially irrelevant. Among
White progressives, race is treated as a special interest issue,
which is why it is so difficult for people of color to buy
into the progressive movement, as it exists today. Our entire
perspective is basically regarded as irrelevant.
The way that this links in with the Conyers controversy is
that insofar as White progressives are not seen as consistent
allies of the Black Freedom Movement and its demands, their
criticisms of liberal and progressive Black elected officials
are viewed as suspect. In other words, when our experiences,
e.g. Katrina, are treated as exceptional rather than something
around which there needs to be broad unity, African-Americans
tend to become suspicious of White progressives who call upon
us to unite on issues that they believe to be important.
This, I should note, is a problem with
a long history. In the aftermath of the Civil War, White
organized labor, which
largely excluded the Black former slaves from union membership,
turned to the freed population and asked that we unite
with them to form a labor party separate from the Democratic
Republican parties. While this may sound revolutionary,
the Black “Freedmen” found this to be a peculiar
offer since it was coming from those who would not permit
us to enter
into their unions and from those who seemed to ignore the
growing terror against the African-American population
in the South
by White supremacists. In other words, our experiences
and our pain were considered to be irrelevant, or at least
that could/should be easily ignored in the interest of
the larger unity or greater good.
I chose to protest Congressman Conyers’ stand
on the question of impeachment, but not out of disrespect
Congressman. Rather, as I wrote in my earlier piece, because
I believe it to have been the right thing to do. Nevertheless,
it is quite understandable that some of my sisters and
brothers would raise questions about this and I respect
I would say to my White progressive friends that they should
be careful of whom they condemn for not following in the
steps of the late Dr. King, if they themselves have not
to walk in those steps and be champions of the consistent
fight for social justice.
At the same time, to my African-American sisters and brothers,
I would suggest that irrespective of what White progressives
do or choose not to do, we must do the right thing even when
it means crossing or disagreeing with one of our own. It is
easier to see that in the case of a Condoleeza Rice or Colin
Powell who are in Black skin but have advanced policies antithetical
to the interests of Black America. But sometimes it also means
challenging our friends, such as Congressman Conyers, and suggesting
that our respect for them necessitates that we openly disagree
In my opinion, we have no choice but to stand for what is
BC reader DN had a couple of questions for
I attended a Peace Action meeting last year at which Mr. Conyers
spoke. One of his aides spoke as well, stating as how a Democrat
majority needed to be elected in order to ensure that Mr. Conyers
ended up as head of the House Judiciary committee to ensure
that impeachment proceedings could begin against Bush and Cheney.
Obviously, Mr. Conyers has modified his position, and just
as obviously, you feel is should not be held accountable for
his about face because he is black.
The question is, how is your position that Mr. Conyers should
not be held accountable for his action, a position clearly
based on Mr. Conyers race, not racist?
You are absolutely and totally incorrect
in stating that I "feel" that
Rep. Conyers "should not be held accountable...because
he is black."
As I clearly stated in my article, "The
Democratic and Republican Parties of this nation are simply
two wings of the same Party." Moreover, I also wrote in
that article that, "attacking John Conyers and clamoring
for impeachment might serve adequately to assuage the consciences
of some in white America, but it does not seriously address
the horrible ongoing systemic injustices and 21st century
economic apartheid, experienced on a daily basis by Black,
Brown peoples in this nation. Only real systemic change
will do this."
Regarding the Yearwood article, JRJ wrote BC that
he feels and shares the passion in the message, and thanks The
Black Commentator, for printing it:
When Rep. Pelosi was voted Speaker of the House, she forcefully
declared that Impeachment, would not be considered. By the
way, I live in San Francisco, Pelosi's district. Would you
truly expect that Rep. Conyers, would go against his Speaker,
after her clear declaration? Would you please explain through
The Black Commentator, why the Anti War Progressives did not
stage their event at Speaker Pelosi's office, rather than Conyers,
given the circumstances? It appears to be a very deliberate
act, to put Brother Conyers, in an impossible position of embarrassment.
While I personally would love to Impeach both Bush and Cheney,
it would simply be an exercise in futility, because the votes
are not there to be successful.
MC wrote that he understood Pinkney's strong dissatisfaction
with the assault on Rep. John Conyers' office by "white
When I heard that people in the movement to impeach Bush
and Co. did so, I winced, thinking it was the wrong target.
I say this though I am in league with those who were arrested
at his offices and believe that the work they are doing is
valuable to help change the course of this nation.
I do not believe for one second that race had anything to
do with this as you suggest. I also don't believe that people
in the movement for change should quit working on issues only
because they do not specifically deal with the deep systemic
problems of our system that you point out and [I believe many
work] on more specific issues (such as impeachment, or the
environment, or on even local control of public access, whatever
this issue) because our total system is fundamentally flawed.
The problem all of us in the movement for change have is that
we do not have a coordinated effort, one that includes all
the various participants working to stem the residual effects
of particular policies but at the same time always [have] its
eye on dealing with the root cause of our problem as a nation:
the pure corporate rule of our nation that keeps pushing us
To taint those with good intentions, even if with bad tactics
using what happened in Conyers' office as an example, does
a disservice to those working to make the world better. As
a white American, a clock card-worker and truck driver for
UPS, a middle class representative, I should not have to apologize
for being white if I work to try to stem the effects of specific
government policies. I know the problem behind all these effects
is deeper and have [their root cause] on a systemic level.
But we need ways to forge all these separate entities into
a real movement that is unified in its end game, not one that
name calls (as you have in calling those who are white and
middle class in the movement) and divides those who are doing
their best to move the country in the direction that I think
all on the left agree would bring about an expansion of democracy
and an extension of justice to a greater number of people,
not only in our nation but in the world at large.
In short, let's try to bring people together and not divide.
We already are rendered more ineffective by our inability to
see how the many separate issues [on which] different groups
work in our nation have systemic roots and need a complete
overhaul. Let's keep the thrust moving toward more unity in
the goal to change, the core failing of our capitalistic system,
and include all those who are trying to do something, in any
way we can.
JT felt the Keeping It Real column was absolutely correct:
While living in Boston (until very recently), I alienated
much of the membership of the local chapter of Veterans For
Peace for making the same basic argument vis-a-vis their refusing
to see the war as a symptom of the disease, rather than as
the disease. Please keep speaking out.
BC Reader MS, who claims to be an African-American
combat veteran of the Vietnam war, totally disagrees with Pinkney's
defense of Rep. Conyers and what he calls his disparaging of
the so-called White Progressives:
George Bush is responsible for the murder
of over one million people of (Iraqis) color, with another
four million internally
displaced or refugees. One of the oldest civilizations
(Iraq) has been turned into a failed state. Why on earth
condemn white progressives for trying to end the carnage
in Iraq? Keep in mind that young Black men and women are
in Iraq on behalf of racist psychopaths, Bush & Cheney.
Not to mention the bad image this presents of these Black
troops throughout out the third world by assisting white
men in the
murder (genocide) of other defenseless and innocent people
of color. Also, let's not forget the massive damage inflicted
on third world consciousness by the Black savage of the
State Department Condi (Birth Pings) Rice.
Question, Mr. Pinkney, what Progressive Black organizations
are confronting the racist onslaught Black people have been
subjected to since the White Nationalist Party (Republicans)
came to power decades ago? The Black Congressional Caucus are
a joke. Where were they when the racists Nazi's controlled
by Tom Delay were pissing on Black folks, just for fun? Where
were they when Aristide was abducted from office? Where were
they when Bush militarily assisted the Ethiopian government
in attacking the elected government of Somalia, murdering thousands
of innocent Blacks and causing massive refugee problems? Where
was the black caucus when Cynthia McKinney was being attacked?
Why did 37 members of the Black Caucus vote in favor of racist
sanctions against the government of Zimbabwe, yet will fall
all over themselves to vote for what ever is appropriated for
the racist, apartheid, terrorist occupying force that is Israel?
These are the same Israeli racist thugs who had no problem
giving the bomb to the racist apartheid regime of S. Africa
while committing genocide against the Palestinians. Conyers
as you know, is a staunch supporter of Israel. Cindy Sheehan
has spoken out against the terrorists of Israel.
I'm sure there are multitudes of Black folk who agree with
the white progressives concerning their confrontation with
Conyers, but for various reasons are unable to participate
politically. But our concern should be the de-legitimizing
the white (sick) power structure of its supposed God-given
right to murder people of color anytime, anywhere for whatever
WK reacted to the impeachment issue this way:
John Conyers should repay the money he received when he ran
on impeaching bush if democrats were to take back the house
and senate. Does he understand the seriousness of asking for
money and then not doing what he said he would do if we poor
blacks would send him money? Damn John.
One final note:
David Swanson (AfterDowningStreet.org),
who has been in the forefront of the impeachment drive and keeps
a head count in the House of Representatives, reports the following:
Forty-five Congress Members now stand in one manner or another
Congressman Steve Cohen from Tennessee, and Congresswoman
Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas have signed onto H.Res. 333.
That makes six Judiciary Committee members ready to impeach
Vice President. The other four are Hank Johnson of Georgia,
Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin,
and Maxine Waters of California. Four of these six are African
American. A fifth, Cohen, is white but represents a majority
black district and attempted unsuccessfully to join the
Black Caucus. All six represent urban districts, three
from the South, two from the Midwest, and one from Southern
All six are Democrats. None of the six chairs a subcommittee.
Three of them are freshmen.
There are 23 Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, and 17
All told, 19 congress members have signed on as cosponsors
of H.Res. 333, a bill proposing articles of impeachment against
Vice President Dick Cheney. H.Res. 333 cosponsors include, Dennis
Kucinich, Jan Schakowsky, Maxine Waters, Hank Johnson, Keith
Ellison, Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee, Albert Wynn, William Lacy
Clay, Yvette Clarke, Jim McDermott, Jim Moran, Bob Filner,
Sam Farr, Robert Brady, Tammy Baldwin, Donald Payne, Steve
Cohen, Sheila Jackson-Lee. Nine are African-American, ten are
white. All 19 are from urban or suburban areas, three from
the South, five from the Midwest, five from the East, and six
from the West. One, Jan Schakowsky, is Chief Deputy Democratic
Whip. Let's hope she starts whipping!
Twenty-eight Congress Members have signed onto H.R. 589, a
bill proposing the impeachment of Attorney General Alberto
Gonzales. The cosponsors are Jay Inslee, Xavier Becerra, Michael
Arcuri, Ben Chandler, Dennis Moore, Bruce Braley, Tom Udall,
Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, Hank Johnson, Steve Cohen,
Keith Ellison, David Wu, Yvette Clarke, Darlene Hooley, Betty
McCollum, Timothy Bishop, Barney Frank, Carolyn Maloney, Ed
Perlmutter, Tammy Baldwin, Shelley Berkley, Raul Grijalva,
Ed Pastor, Ellen Tauscher, Rush Holt, Jim McGovern, Gary Ackerman.
Only Johnson, Ellison, Clarke, Baldwin, and Cohen have signed
onto both bills (four of them Judiciary Committee Members,
four of them freshmen). (19 + 28 - 5 = 42)
Congressmen Jesse Jackson Jr. and Maurice Hinchey have recently
said that they support the impeachment of Cheney and Bush,
but have not yet signed onto any bills. (42 + 2 = 44)
Other Congress Members have said privately that they favor
impeachment but not these bills, even that they would only
support impeachment if it included Bush. The lack of cross-over
support between the two existing bills is an indication of
the importance of petty personal politics within Congress,
and the extent to which Congress Members will sign onto a bill
based on who the sponsor and cosponsors are and who asks them,
and whether anyone asks them, to sign on.
Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has opposed impeachment
since May 2006, but this week said that if she were not the
Speaker she would probably be backing impeachment, and that
impeachment of Gonzales is clearly merited. (44 + 1 = 45)
In November of 2006, BC
Editorial Board member Bill Strickland wrote the following
in a commentary
What Do We Do
If They Steal This Election Too?:
John Conyers in his August
Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes
and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution and Cover-ups
in the Iraq War”, charges that the level of misconduct
by this administration in leading the nation into war rises
to the "level of impeachable conduct."
BC thanks all those readers who responded to
the articles on Conyers and Impeachment.
Please stay tuned for more on the discussion in BlackCommentator.com,
of this important issue .
Larry Pinkney is a veteran of the Black Panther Party,
the former Minister of Interior of the Republic of New
Africa, a former political prisoner and the only American
to have successfully self-authored his civil/political
rights case to the United Nations under the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Click
here to contact Mr. Pinkney and BC.
The Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr. is
the President of the Hip
Hop Caucus. The Hip Hop Caucus is a national, nonprofit,
non-partisan organization meant to inspire and motivate those
of us born after the ‘60s civil rights movement. Click
here to contact the Rev. Yearwood and the Hip Hop Caucus and BC.
David Swanson is the Washington Director of Democrats.com and
He is co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition,
creator of MeetWithCindy.org,
and a board member of Progressive
Democrats of America, and of the Backbone
Campaign. He was the organizer in 2006 of Camp
Democracy. He serves on the steering committee of the Charlottesville
Center for Peace and Justice and on a working group of United
for Peace and Justice. His website is www.davidswanson.org. Click
here to contact Mr. Swanson and BC.
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