white man in the White House has his Black operatives running
up and down the streets of Washington, DC, waving millions of
dollars in private school voucher money - and nobody's taking
the bribe. Mayor Anthony A. Williams says, No. Bush says, No
matter. The city school board says, No. The White House doesn't
hear them. A poll shows that overwhelming majorities of the
public reject vouchers. Bush insists it is his compassionate
duty to foist the scheme on the recalcitrant natives, anyway.
no longer be any doubt: The Bush push for school vouchers has
been definitively exposed as a phony issue, an invention of
Right think tanks and their hired Black hustlers that has only
the thinnest support among the people who are the supposed beneficiaries.
Nobody ever marched for vouchers.
set aside $75 million to fund vouchers programs in seven or
eight cities, part of $756 million in so-called "school
choice" money in Bush's 2004 budget. The U.S. Supreme Court
has ruled that voucher programs are constitutional. So is sex,
but that doesn't make it mandatory. A Zogby poll taken in November
showed that 76 percent of DC residents - and a whopping 85 percent
of Blacks - reject vouchers. It is a sentiment of longstanding
- back in 1981, nine out of ten DC voters turned down a voucher
tax credit scheme. DC's elected representatives are speaking
for their constituents. To the Bush crew, this is a mere technicality.
school board issued a written statement: "Vouchers drain
critical dollars from neighborhood schools and divert attention
from the reform effort already under way in the DCPS System."
So Bush sent in his Education HNIC, Rod Paige, to browbeat the
Mayor. Clearly, the voucher scheme is being presented as an
offer that cannot be refused with impunity.
meeting, Paige spokesman Dan Langan tried to put the best spin
on the conversation, indicating to the Washington
Post that the Mayor was amenable to putting the voucher
money in a non-profit "entity" for distribution to
families. That's not the way Mayor Williams remembered it. "He
is not in support of that at all," said mayoral spokesman
Tony Bullock. No means no.
operatives whispered a different story, forcing the Mayor's
man to speak more expansively. "We needed that face-to-face
[meeting with Mr. Paige] to agree to disagree," Bullock
told the Washington
Times. "And we wanted to do so in ways that didn't
prevent us from accessing funding for other school-choice programs
offered. But you are not going to see our government participate
in a government-sponsored voucher program. Once you have moved
past that immovable position, we are really flexible about school
choice and have a proven track record with it."
person can read between those lines. Bush is threatening to
punish DC's public schools unless he is given a green light
for his private voucher showcase. Washington maintains one of
the nation's most extensive charter public school networks -
the implicit target of Republican political retribution.
rest of urban America, DC is in need of... everything. Even
the unwanted programs favored by the powerful are not rejected,
lightly. However, "The notion of skirting the public officials
by finding a private entity [for vouchers] is both insulting
to public officials in the District of Columbia and treating
the District in a way no other city or state is treated,"
said Washington's non-voting Congressional Representative Eleanor
Holmes Norton. "And we will not be treated unequally. We
demand equal treatment when it comes to federal funds."
attempting to steamroll DC because he can - and because it is
Black. In the process, he is demonstrating that the voucher
scam is a foreign political object that must be forced down
the throats of Black America. The Hard Right plan to showcase
the wonders of educational privatization in the nation's capital
has gone awry, and been revealed as its opposite: a thuggish
display of the administration's contempt for democracy in general,
and the rights of Black children, parents and voters, in particular.
the last shall be first
Democrats are gearing up to mount a bum rush of their own, one
that could change the political and racial texture of the coming
American presidential selection process begins in the glaringly
white environs of New Hampshire and becomes progressively more
distorted as the primary schedule lurches along. If a unanimous
DC City Council gets its way, Washington will preempt New Hampshire
to hold the nation's first primary on January 10, 2004, giving
its Black (and relatively progressive white) electorate first
whack at the candidates.
Iowa farmers demand that candidates take firm positions on hog
prices, Democrats who want to break out of the pack with DC's
convention votes in hand and momentum in their campaigns will
be pressed on full voting rights for Washington. This is not
a local issue: in addition to a fully privileged U.S. Representative,
the District would elect two U.S. Senators.
DC Democracy Fund Executive Director Sean Tenner informs
us that the City Council will hold public hearings on its historic
"first in the nation" legislation on Wednesday, February
19. The measure, introduced by Councilman Jack Evans and supported
by Mayor Williams and the entire City Council, including Republicans,
may well overcome initial resistance from the National Democratic
Party. As Tenner wrote in last week's :
activists and politicians are fed up with 200 years of second-class
status and are asserting themselves in ways that would have
previously seemed unthinkable. Along with Evans, DC Council
Chair Linda Cropp (D) went on the radio and stated she would
fight to hold the primary regardless of opposition from Congress.
"This is a local matter that should be decided locally,"
Cropp said. "They may be able to keep us (delegates)
from being seated but they cannot keep us from voting."
the prospect of a "DC first" primary season more than
Rev. Al Sharpton, who would be favored to win. Instead, Sharpton
this week found himself having to admit to Iowa farmers that
he has not yet developed a full-fledged agricultural policy,
but will put together "a progressive farm agenda in Iowa"
by sometime next month. According to the Des
Moines Register, Sharpton considers himself not just the
only Black in the contest, but one of the few real Democrats.
"We have far too many people who will be coming through
Iowa that are elephants in donkey clothes," he said.
is also probably the best speaker and quickest mind in the bunch
- bad news for those who seek to marginalize his candidacy.
The "Black Hope" of this crowd is Carolyn Moseley-Braun,
former Senator from Illinois who, the theory goes, would split
the African American vote.
Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown caught Sharpton's act last weekend.
He thinks Moseley-Braun is outclassed:
has the potential to be hugely popular with black voters all
across the country, possibly enough to win a southern primary
or two in a crowded field. And, believe it or not, he might
even attract a small following among white voters looking
for somebody to "tell it like it is."
others had started to figure out the same thing and became
the source of some of the encouragement for Moseley-Braun's
sudden interest in the presidency. It's the old divide-and-conquer
strategy that is well-known in Chicago ward politics. If the
first black woman in the U.S. Senate can dilute some of Sharpton's
support, he becomes a non-factor.
Moseley-Braun is going to enter the fray with Sharpton, she'd
better bring her "A'' game if she doesn't want to look
like a fool.
Mark Brown titled his piece, "Sharpton not the dullest
tool in the shed" - a strangely backhanded compliment.
Black excellence is circumscribed by the practice of comparing
Blacks only to other Blacks, allowing inferior white contenders
to shine, undeservedly. Sharpton should be measured against
presidential standards, such as those set by George Bush:
war on terror involves Saddam Hussein because of the nature
of Saddam Hussein, the history of Saddam Hussein and his willingness
to terrorize himself." - Grand Rapids, Mich., January 29.
a dull tool.
It may surprise
some readers to learn that the publishers of The Black Commentator
give corporate America much of the credit for the limited gains
of affirmative action in the U.S. Although big business certainly
did not welcome Dr. Martin Luther King and his movement, it
was corporate planners who realized that southern cities like
Atlanta would be doomed to remain provincial backwaters while
in the grip of Jim Crow.
Once a mega-corporation
decides on a course of even limited diversity among its tens
of thousands of employees, the imperatives of corporate policy
- matched with corporate power - can move significant numbers
of lives in new directions. People's activism provides the push
for social change but, once corporate institutions have been
forced into motion, they exert a powerful pull on everything
around them. Specifically, corporations have tremendous influence
on American higher education, which has been molded over generations
to service corporate demands.
is not surprised that corporations are prominent supporters
of the besieged affirmative action program at the University
of Michigan. As the February
11 Washington Post reports:
the organizations and individuals who are planning to submit
friend-of-the-court briefs supporting the university are several
dozen Fortune 500 companies, the nation's elite private universities
and colleges, the AFL-CIO, the American Bar Association -
and a list of former high-ranking military officers and civilian
defense officials, according to attorneys involved in the
is this consensus that much of big business, a major component
of the Republican Party's political coalition, is parting
company with President Bush, who has sided with the white
students challenging Michigan's admissions programs as a form
of "reverse discrimination." Bush's brief agreed
that diversity was a "paramount" goal - but said
Michigan should pursue it by race-neutral means.
Man's Party is a mechanism for gaining political support among
the racist American majority for the economic policies of rich.
It promises many things to people who - very much like the clinically
insane - operate in a false reality; huge numbers of whites
believe they are victimized by affirmative action, based on
no personal evidence whatsoever. Conversely, the corporate planner's
job is to see the world clearly, adjust to it, and influence
the future to his company's advantage.
understand that Black people will not allow the clock to be
turned back. These executives see no profit in fighting the
tides of history. Corporate defense of affirmative action is
a testament to Black American tenacity - recognition of our
will to resist.
For a lawyerly
approach to affirmative action, we highly recommend Kimberle
W. Crenshaw's excellent piece at NorthStar
Network - a new and valuable Black political resource.
Crenshaw is a nationally recognized expert on critical race
theory and Professor of Law at UCLA Law School and Columbia
University Law School. Her treatise is titled, The Preference
of White Privilege.
Action is often misunderstood as a preference, while the real
preferences that happen every day are virtually ignored in
a discourse that uses stereotypes and race baiting to do its
work. Consider the experiences of Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr. and George Bush, two names that will certainly come up
in the conservative assault on affirmative action. We know
that tests tend to under-predict the performance of certain
members of the population, especially people of color.
score on the GRE placed him in the bottom percentile of all
test takers, yet he is probably the most gifted orator and
one of the most brilliant visionaries of the 20th century.
Think about all the other would be gifted orators, surgeons,
lawyers, teachers, and business people whose potential remain
tragically wasted by unwarranted reliance on such an artificial
benchmark of merit as a test score. One the other hand, when
we think about preferences, let's consider our president,
whose SAT score was 150 points below the average Yale matriculant.
And who no doubt benefited from his pedigree.
of privileging constitutes a preference, the kind that is
most responsible for excluding the wealth of talent that would
otherwise gain access to higher education while maintaining
white hegemony. This simply shows the hypocrisy of the argument
against affirmative action; it's really not about equal opportunity
or merit at all. It is largely a racially coded, and delimited
diatribe that trains attention on those aspects of educational
policy that are least responsible for the current state of
require a multidisciplinary assemblage of experts to undertake
a meaningful study of why Blacks are underrepresented at anti-war
rallies. Two facts are, however, undeniable: the Black public
has consistently opposed U.S. military adventures during the
past 40 years, and current African American political leadership
- elected and institutional - is generally reflective of that
felt justified in describing as The
Four Eunuchs those Black congresspersons that voted for
Bush's war powers resolution, in October. We knew with absolute
certainty that Harold Ford (TN), William Jefferson (LA), Sanford
Bishop (GA) and Albert Wynn (MD) had acted in scornful disregard
of the sentiments of the overwhelming majority of their Black
constituents and a significant minority of white voters in their
districts - ironically, the same white voters most likely to
have supported them.
Journal-Constitution/Zogby America poll released this past
weekend shows that less than a quarter of Blacks (23 percent)
support Bush's war against Iraq, versus 62 percent of the white
public. 64 percent of Blacks surveyed "somewhat or strongly
oppose" the planned attack, while 13 percent "aren't
sure" what to think.
of white American males is astounding: 68 percent of men surveyed
are gung ho, indicating that the white male pro-war cohort soars
somewhere in the high seventies. Less than half of all women
polled nearly as warlike as whites. When asked the general question
on war, 60 percent support it.
of empathy with Iraqis as human beings marks white American
males as a collective danger to the species. Zogby pollsters
asked: Would you support or oppose a war against Iraq if it
meant thousands of Iraqi civilian casualties? A solid majority
of white men answered in the affirmative, as did more than a
third of white women. Only seven percent of African Americans
favored a war that would kill thousands.
lost some of their bloodlust when confronted with the prospect
of mass Iraqi civilian casualties; only 16 percent are willing
to support such an outcome.
no stand up guy
Harlem Congressman Charles Rangel pointed out in a recent television
interview, George Bush spent months in hiding during the Vietnam
War, absenting himself from his Air National Guard unit long
enough to have earned a non-privileged officer five years at
Leavenworth. "There have been a lot of people who have
stood up for this country and I don't think that President Bush
has been in that number," said Rangel, a Korean War veteran,
Iraq war opponent, and sponsor of a bill to bring back compulsory
are headlining Rev. Jesse Jackson for this weekend's anti-war
demonstration, in London. Jackson believes that British public
opinion may be "more critical" to averting war than
U.S. public opposition.
challenged British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush's principal
yes-man in Europe, to "use his talents" to find a
peaceful solution. Speaking to the British newspaper The
Independent, Jackson said:
the people of Britain must pressure [Tony Blair]. He has dug
his heels in, but in a democracy while leaders speak, people
speak louder and people over the world are impressed by the
demonstrations of the people of London. It was the same with
the demonstrations in London over the freeing of Nelson Mandela.
They have left a very powerful impression on people around
the world. There is no future in war. The [London] marchers
help the chance of people. The [world] will be looking at
also sent an open letter to Saddam Hussein, whom he met prior
to the 1991 Gulf War. "Once more, I call on you with our
countries on the verge of war, just as I did 12 years ago. Once
more, we face a war of terrible consequence. Once more, I appeal
to you to act now to avoid the impending catastrophe,"
Jackson wrote. "Once more the fate of your country lies
in your hands. I beseech you to act now, boldly, destroy your
weapons to avoid a catastrophic war."
expect the Hyde Park demonstration to be Britain's biggest since
the end of World War Two. Protests are planned in at least 300
police got a judge's permission to confine hundreds of thousands
of demonstrators to a strip of midtown Manhattan, Saturday.
United for Peace and Justice organizers had planned to march
to the United Nations headquarters, but police argued that the
crowd would pose a danger to public safety and the security
of the UN. "We are appalled by this attack on our basic
First Amendment rights," said the organizers, calling the
quarantine "an attempt to stifle the growing opposition
to Bush's war."
Glover and South African Bishop Desmond Tutu accused New York
officials of acting in solidarity with Bush's war aims. "If
we were marching in support of war or in celebration of Saint
Patrick's Day or some other celebration, we would have been
granted a permit immediately," said
Glover. "It is tragic that this city, which prides
itself on leading the world as a cultural center, would not
allow a march at this time."
compared Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg's New York to apartheid-era
South Africa, adding that New York "will probably be the
only city in the world on February 15 that will not be permitting
its citizens and others to express a differing point of view."
say the city has not allowed any demonstrations south of 59th
Street since September 11.
Julian Bond and Martin Luther King III will also address the
rally. San Francisco will be the site of a major demonstration
coalition, which spearheaded the demonstrations in Washington
and San Francisco on October 26 and January 18, is in the role
of supporting player for this weekend's events. A.N.S.W.E.R.
organizers are already busy preparing for War Day, itself.
do not believe that war is inevitable," said the coalition.
"However, if the war starts we must be organized to resist
and disable the war machine." The group urges activists
to gather for emergency protests at pre-selected sites in their
localities on the day that war begins, and to prepare for a
on White House," March 1.
comments are welcome. Visit the Contact
Us page for E-mail or Feedback.
here to return to the home page