Jayson Blair - New York Times affair is a portal to the labyrinth
of American racism. Deep in the tangle of passageways and
diversions lies the central question of Power. Notions of
prestige, merit, fairness and process present themselves along
the way, drawing the visitor into intriguing areas of tangential
discussion. But it's all really about who's got the Power
- to hire or fire, promote or discard, elevate or vilify.
our May 15 Cover Story, subtitled "Blaming
Affirmative Action for White Folk's Mistakes," we
attempted to get to the heart of a matter that is made elusive
only by the pervasive racism that beclouds American perceptions.
Times needs an affirmative action program because it does
a terrible job of hiring competent Black reporters, many
hundreds of whom are willing and able to perform the corporate
mission. The same racism that has historically prevented
the Times from sufficiently staffing itself with minorities
also causes it to hire the wrong candidates. White people
have been screwing up affirmative action since before the
term was coined, sometimes on purpose, more often through
an inability to objectively assess non-whites - one of the
definitions of racism
problem at the Times is a general American problem which,
through the magic of corporate media's efficient dissemination
of shared white delusions, is made to appear as an aspect
of Black group unworthiness.
good way to begin this week's EmailBox column, we think, is
with a letter requesting "clarification" of our
May 15 commentary. Patty Brockingham, of Victoria Island,
through a posting on IndyMedia
Victoria. Below is her letter, followed by our response:
just read this article. I'd like to ask a question to clarify,
so I don't take something from this article that it is not
trying to convey. Are you saying that Jayson Blair is not
responsible at all for his actions and it is completely
the New York Times who is at fault?
are saying that the principles of "affirmative action"
are not to blame for Jason Blair's behavior, that white
people are to blame for racial disparities in the U.S. and
cannot be trusted to behave objectively in hiring and firing
simply because they claim to now practice "affirmative
action," and that the New York Times is no arbiter
of objectivity or fairness in any case.
That's what we said.
We also believe that white institutions
use affirmative action as a cover to continue the kind of
Black hiring they have always practiced - if they have hired
Blacks, at all. White managers choose Blacks they believe
will reflect well on their institution's racial image.
(Black managers at white-dominated institutions often use
the same criteria, re: Times managing editor Gerald Boyd,
whose presence appears to have no effect on the paper's
corporate culture.) This kind of "double standard"
- a self-serving white invention - rejects Blacks who make
whites uncomfortable (a helluva burden to overcome) and
elevates Blacks who possess white people-pleasing skills.
The theoretical goals of diversity are defeated by white
subjectivity, and enormous distortions are inflicted on
Black society, which must look to role models from a list
of African Americans compiled on the basis of white imperatives.
Thus, Jackie Robinson, who by most accounts was not the
best player in the Negro Leagues, was chosen to break the
color bar because of his ability to bear white insults,
If you have read any absolution of Jayson
Blair into our commentary, it is a product of your imagination.
Washington Post columnist Terry Neal points out, the New York
Times "diversity" program that introduced Jayson
Blair to the paper recruited 37 persons, only 16 of whom were
minorities. "Of those, seven have been promoted, and
only three - of which Blair was one - have been black,"
reported. The program began in 1995.
wonder the Times makes such a fuss about the Blair embarrassment
- he represented one-third of their Black "diversity"
success stories! It is clear that the paper was not prepared
to expose itself to any large measure of Black malfeasance
- or excellence.
are capable of turning almost any tool to the purpose of humiliating
reader Janet Hoo knows the deal. She writes:
article regarding Jayson Blair and the New York Times was
incredibly insightful and well written. Your article voiced
what I have been feeling, but was unable to verbalize.
you for this thoughtful article. I am grateful that voices
such as yours are out there.
is no slight against non-African American minorities to point
out that affirmative action was originally conceived to redress
specific historical injustices against Blacks. Then, in the
blink of an eye, all racial minorities were compelled to compete
with one another in the affirmative action sideshow, and white
women were thrown into the mix. We have wound up with no choice
but to defend the feeble, limitlessly subjective concept of
"diversity" - not a call to "action" at
all, but an amorphous and highly manipulable "goal"
divorced from history.
the actual results of the New York Times recruitment and promotions
program, as outlined by the Post's Terry Neal, it is fair
to say that the Times never really mounted an effort worthy
of the name affirmative action - at least, not for African
Deep wounds and strangulation
from Haiti speak of an escalating, U.S. abetted terror campaign
against supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. American
diplomats, frustrated that a three-year aid embargo against
the island nation has failed to topple the elected government,
openly employ the language of "regime change." (See
Plots Regime Change in Haiti," May 15.) Assassins
and saboteurs associated with previous military rulers operate
with impunity from the neighboring Dominican Republic.
envelops the buildup to next year's bicentennial celebration
of Haiti's glorious victory over French slavery to become
the world's first Black republic. As a discreetly anonymous
observer reported from the island:
symbolism of having a populist government in Haiti, that
represents the interests of the poor black majority, is
intolerable to US foreign policy, especially as all the
parallels with the history of US slavery are sure to be
drawn," said a well-placed observer who must remain
nameless due to the atmosphere of terror in the country.
"They want a subservient client in power when the
bicentennial comes down. They cannot control Aristide,
therefore they must do as they always have in these situations,
destroy him and his government by any means necessary."
24 Guest Commentary, former TransAfrica Forum President
Randall Robinson wrote of an unfolding, "bloodless
coup" that has, nevertheless, proved fatal to many
thousands of Haitians:
there are bodies. They are the bodies of Haiti's nameless,
faceless poor who, no longer able to bend, break. They buckle
under the weight of an embargo that - incredibly - denies
their elected government already-approved loans for safe
drinking water, literacy programs, and health care that
they need. They die out of earshot, out of sight, and unremarked
by "those who matter" beyond their shores.
U.S. cites "irregularities" in Haiti's 2000 elections
to justify the aid embargo.
contributor Kevin Pina supplied this retort from a member of
President Aristide's Lavalas Party:
of the problems we had with our elections it is pure hypocrisy
for the US to lecture us about democracy and methods for
counting our ballots. It is very ironic that the world's
first black republic, which arose from the world's only
successful slave revolution, is being lectured to by a government
whose methods of determining victory in a presidential election
were originally designed over 200 years ago by a small clique
of white male slave owners."
Steven Hunt digested these articles, and seethed.
became very angry as I read Randall Robinson's article on
Haiti. So much disinformation in the dominant press; I jump
to the conclusion that there is a deeply set racism that keeps
journalists from even doing cursory research into the Haiti
The fact that the US government hates the
authentic democratic aspirations of the dominant political
party, Lavalas, is in keeping with this nation's hatred of
democratic people's movements worldwide.
Randall Robinson and Kevin Pina are incredible
people. I hope you keep us posted on what is going on in Haiti,
because even in the left/progressive press most journalists
have a blind spot for Haiti, the first nation to successfully
free itself from racist colonial domination.
Keep up the good work, Black Commentator.
Hopefully in the near future you can change your name to the
Black Instigator because the African American community is
one of our last hopes if we are to initiate a revived progressive
democratic politics in the US.
declared for Glover
Danny Glover is deeply involved in Haiti's bicentennial celebration.
As chairman of TransAfrica's board of directors, Glover has
also spoken out against the U.S. embargo against Cuba and Bush's
war on Iraq.
Watch and other Hard Right outfits demanded that MCI fire Glover
as the telecommunications giant's ad spokesman. TransAfrica
mounted a counter campaign, urging MCI customers to email and
telephone their support for Glover. (See "Danny
Glover Targeted as MCI Spokesman," May 15.)
week, TransAfrica President Bill Fletcher issued another "Urgent
contract with Danny Glover runs through January
2004 and we intend to honor our contract... "
message resonates with the sound of victory for our "Dial-in
for Democracy" Campaign. It was launched in response
to the right-wing attack on TransAfrica Forum
Board Chairperson Danny Glover. Our action alert last week
asked friends and supporters to contact MCI to insist that
it not back down in its relationship with Danny in the face
of attacks from right-wing extremists. Our alert was followed
by an outstanding commentary by Tavis Smiley on the Tom Joyner
Morning Show (May 15th), along with other media attention.
A massive response ensued. MCI was deluged with telephone
calls, e-mails and faxes.
morning we confirmed that the message above is the official
position of MCI. To put it in another way, we won!
behalf of TransAfrica Forum, I personally thank you for your
overwhelming support. Dial-in for Democracy was not simply
about defending Danny Glover and his right to appear in television
spots for MCI. It is about Danny Glover's right to free speech
without fear of being targeted and isolated from any entity
with which he chooses to be associated. It is about the rights
of all of us to be free to oppose the policies of this administration
without fear of reprisal, repression or the bully-type tactics
that characterized the war on Iraq. If these extremists can
successfully silence Danny Glover, they are a step closer
to silencing all of us.
this immediate campaign was a success, none of us can afford
to rest on our laurels. What has become clear is that there
are active forces who wish to narrow the acceptable space
for debate. Using smear tactics and fear, their hope is to
crush opposition to their agenda. We cannot ever permit this
to happen. This effort in support of Danny is a reminder that
in a society that professes democratic values, we all have
a right, and in fact a responsibility, to express our views
and be heard.
thanks very much for your support.
Fletcher, Jr., President
those who appreciate Danny's artistry, please note, he is
currently performing on Broadway in Athol Fugard's critically-acclaimed
"Master Harold" and the boys.
days, we will take our victories anyplace we can find them.
Verdi makes an interesting contribution to the MCI-Glover conversation:
might be interested to note in any follow-ups to the Danny
Glover story that MCI (ex WorldCom) has (a) close political
and financial ties to the Bush administration and (b) was
recently awarded a lucrative contract in Iraq although they
were recently fined $500 million for an accounting scandal
which netted them $11 billion.
Deal in Iraq Troubles Critics"
It doesn't surprise me that Bush supporters/employees
are bringing pressure to bear on MCI. Smear campaigns against
critics of Bush and the invasion of Iraq have been fanned
by big financial/political supporters of Bush (such as Clear
Channel, the radio network that blacklisted artists like the
Dixie Chicks). The editors of Rock and Rap reported that ClearChannel
first started harassing the Dixie Chicks at the behest of
the White House.
that MCI isn't "firing" Glover ... just "moving
to new creative [ad campaign] which is more closely tied to
our new MCI corporate branding campaign in terms of its look
hope more publications expose the White House's inexcusable
campaign of harassment of artists' dissent.
Bruneau got her licks in, while the campaign lasted.
you for your coverage on Danny Glover's persecution. I am
outraged by this rampant neo-McCarthyism (hitting us on all
fronts), and have e-mailed MCI, and everyone else I can think
Cole, of Joseph, Oregon, had written the Glover case off as
lost. (And, of course, the victory was only partial, in that
Glover was not terminated, outright.) Although Ms. Cole was
a bit off about the outcome, she's on the mark about everything
MCI did to Mr. Glover was loathsome; if not the act, the rationale
(irrationale?) behind it. But I got to thinking, why would
anyone decent want to be associated with this rotten POS company,
anyway? And so I present to you my letter to MCI regarding
the issue of Danny Glover and MCI, Mr. Glover ought to thank
the heavens above that he will not be associated with your
horrid company. Your reason for breaching the agreement
with Mr. Glover is yet another despicable sign of the times,
in the Bush game of "how low can you go." You
have just been fined $500 million for nine billion dollars
worth of fraud, and right on the heels of that ruling you
have "miraculously" acquired the contract to build
the Iraq cell network. I wonder how that fine piece of bargaining
came about. Are you going to rebuild in Iran, too? Syria?
Lebanon? Like the Bush Gang, you at MCI have dirty hands
and sticky fingers. Mr. Glover is well rid of any association
with you. MCI: Malfeasance, Corruption, Ignorance.
think I pretty well covered it all. Mr. Glover is too fine
a man to jeopardize his integrity by associating with criminals.
use the term "hyena" when describing corporations
like MCI. They lurk, they steal, they laugh while they're
like Ms. Cole's style.
an upright Black Man
demeanor and character of Malcolm X shaped the moral outlook
of a generation of Black men and women. Malcolm stood
- as a Man.
Negro "revolution" is controlled by these foxy
white liberals, by the government itself. But the black
revolution is controlled only by God. The black revolution
is the struggle of the nonwhites of this earth against their
white oppressors. The black revolution has swept white supremacy
out of Africa, out of Asia, and is getting ready to sweep
it out of Latin America. Revolutions are based upon land.
Revolutionaries are the landless against the landlord. Revolutions
are never peaceful, never loving, never nonviolent. Nor
are they ever compromising. Revolutions are destructive
and bloody. Revolutionaries don't compromise with the enemy;
they don't even negotiate. Like the flood in Noah's day,
revolution drowns all opposition, or like the fire in Lot's
day, the black revolution burns everything that gets in
Come Home to Roost" speech, December 4, 1965)
Lee wrote us the most poignant letter of the week.
your article of Malcolm's speech brought back memories. In
the summer of 1959 my mother brought me to New York City.
I had been living in the South under America's racist apartheid
system .I had never heard a Black man speak like that before.
It made me proud to be Black.
overstated in African AIDS
rich and the racist always describe problems that they choose
not to address as "intractable" for one reason or
the other, while pursuit of their own comfort and privilege
is eminently "tractable." Thus, the intractable aspect
of the African AIDS pandemic is said to result from unique and
fatal patterns of sexual conduct south of the Sahara.
our May 15 item, "Sex
Less a Factor in African AIDS," we noted the findings
of economic anthropologist David Gisselquist, who has concluded
that sex is an exaggerated factor in the spread of the virus.
found that the mothers of 39 percent of HIV-positive Congolese
babies were uninfected by the disease. The infants had probably
been exposed to the virus by substandard health facilities.
In Zimbabwe, said the article, "HIV incidence rose by
12 percent per year during the 1990s, even as sexually transmitted
diseases sank by 25 percent overall and condom use rose among
high-risk groups." Zimbabweans got the message, but the
disease kept spreading.
and lack of development are the great abettors of AIDS in
Africa - a fact that should have been obvious to anyone not
intent on condemning Africans to some special, subhuman zone
of amorality. It is clear that a racialist view of sex and
AIDS is as virulent a threat to Africa as the disease, itself.
conclusions are widely shared, as we were informed by David
Crowe, President of the Alberta (Canada) Reappraising AIDS Society.
is good to see coverage of the important papers by Gisselquist
et al that question whether AIDS in Africa is heterosexually
have swallowed the story that Africa is a seething orgy for
years. But, this appears to be thinly disguised racism with
politically correct icing. It is ironic that AIDS is fading
away in America which is more sex-obsessed than anywhere,
but in Africa when many cultures are quite sexually conservative,
and many people have more basic concerns than sex (e.g. getting
enough food to eat) AIDS is supposedly growing rapidly.
papers postulated two hypotheses. They argued against heterosexual
transmission and they argued for medical transmission (e.g.
second hypothesis seems more tenuous, and it is not the only
possible alternative hypothesis. Another is that AIDS is not
an infectious disease in Africa at all. Note that the definition
of AIDS used in the Third World, the W.H.O.'s 'Bangui' definition,
allows AIDS to be diagnosed without an HIV test based
on three of the following four symptoms - persistent fever,
cough, diarrhea or weight loss (> 10% of body weight).
sounds remarkably like what one would expect from malnutrition,
exposure to parasites, poor living conditions, and lack of
treatment for tropical diseases. The real scandal may be that
by redefining malnutrition as AIDS the solution becomes ...
you guessed it ... expensive (and highly toxic) Western pharmaceuticals
rather than adequate nutrition, clean water and housing!
Unwanted DC Vouchers
DC's residents overwhelmingly oppose private school vouchers.
The District is among the most Democratic jurisdictions in the
country. Mayor Anthony Williams handily won re-election last
year, and need fear no Republican challenger in the foreseeable
future. Only three months ago, Williams vowed to resist White
House pressures to accept $75 million dollars in unwanted voucher
money, calling that his "immovable position."
as if massively dosed with Ex-Lax, Williams was moved to abject
capitulation, as we reported in our May 8 piece, "Black
Spinelessness in High Places."
in February, Williams pretended to have a spine and a decent
respect for his constituents, who only months before had polled
76 percent against private school vouchers. A whopping 85
percent of Black Washingtonians rejected vouchers. Anti-voucher
sentiment goes way back. In 1981, 90 percent of DC voters
turned down a scheme to fund vouchers through a tax credit.
But the White House is determined to make Washington a showcase
for school privatization ....
has exposed himself as just another Voucher Trickster - albeit
one lacking even minimal skills at sleight of hand. He robs
the office of all dignity, and shames a Black city.
O'Sullivan writes to put in "a shameless plug for my wife
Melody Webb," who heads the anti-voucher "Coalition
for Accountable Public Schools."
agree entirely with your commentary about this. It is so telling
that the Republicans are trying to get this passed by bypassing
the regular political process (you know, votes, and stuff
like that), since they know that as soon as there is an informed
debate about this all these truths about who is putting up
and money and who will receive the money will come out. Further,
it is either heavily ironic or heavily insulting that they
talk about "choice", when the means they use to
get this passed is by relying on the complete lack of choice
and self-government which the citizens of Washington DC have.
When they start talking about choice in terms of voting rights,
then I'll believe them.
urge our DC readers to check out the Coalition's web site.
views Rev. Al Sharpton's presidential candidacy as essentially
an intra-Black Democratic affair whose effectiveness must be
measured in terms of its impact on Black power within the Party.
the Black Presidential Candidate Must Do," April 24.)
Electability has nothing to do with it. Rather, the primaries
present an opportunity to counter the contention that the Black
bloc vote has been extinguished - wishful thinking enthusiastically
embraced by corporate media, Republicans and many white Democrats.
common goal is to fracture the Black vote and, thereby, eliminate
from American political debate the essential elements of the
broad Black political agenda. If the Black bloc vote is fractured,
or can be made to appear unfocused, the media will declare
that the African American vote is no longer strategically
important. From that point on in national contests, the Black
electorate will be treated as less than the sum of its purportedly
N. Johnson is concerned that the Black candidate energize
the electorate from the bottom, up.
must agree with your assessment of the national scene with
regards to the presidential race and Al Sharpton. But I think
you under-defined his role as a national spoke person/candidate
for a black agenda. The truly black candidate for president
must support a black agenda at the national, international,
regional and, particularly, the local the level.
The local level is where we all exist. It
was Tip O'Neal who said all politics is local. I believe this.
For there are activist struggling against the forces of reaction
on the ground and with the people. The black presidential
candidate must be willing to stand with the grass roots activist
instead of posturing and avoiding the nitty gritty local issues.
In other words the black candidate must be willing to take
a principled stand at every level of the struggle: locally,
regionally, nationally and internationally.
Otherwise the black candidate appears to
be vying to become the new broker of the black vote and settling
for voter registration dollars and time to speak at the democratic
Yes voter registration and sending more people
to congress is needed but if these congressional delegates
are as weak as the current crop then their value is dubious.
How many members of the Congressional Black caucus came to
the aid of Cynthia McKinney? Where are they on the question
of land in Zimbabwe?
Another concrete case in point was the most
recent mayoral election in Chicago where so-called black leadership's
silence in that election in the city was bought and sold by
the Daley administration despite police brutality, poor schools,
gentrification of historic black communities, and the displacement
of black folks to the suburbs. All along the major "civil
rights" organizations and the black congressional leadership
vied to get the academy award for the deaf, dumb and the blind!
Sharpton came to Chicago and dodged the black
candidate for mayor of Chicago who was the only voice speaking
to the issues in Chicago.
The days of flying into town, giving a speech
and flying out with out helping to build independent political
organizations in black communities must end. The black candidate
for president must give impetus to and support for real grassroots
organization at the local level with regional and national
linkages. Anything less than this is tokenism.
Two weeks after the mayoral election, a leading
black journalist, Salim Muwakil, was fired by the Chicago
Tribune because of his opposition to the Bush administration's
march toward war without a response from the local black political
Black elected officials and the presidential
candidates must commit to building political institutions
outside of the regular Democratic Party. Otherwise black folks
will continue to be taken for granted by Democrats and ignored
and/ or out right attacked by Republicans. Worst yet black
people become further despondent as they experience the ravages
of the postindustrial/global economy and the rightward drift
in domestic policy.
Running for president without a strategy
and plan for building local organizations is like trying to
build a house from the roof down.
Harvard in perspective
rummaging through our archives, Harvard Ph.D. candidate Jason
Glenn came upon a Guest Commentary he found unsettling. Shelton
Amstrod's December 5 "Harvard:
The Strange Career of a Troublesome Institution" is
a sweeping indictment of both the university and a large chunk
of its Black alumnae.
have so many Blacks with suspect motives, and having no organic
relationship to any Black institution, been placed in front
of Blacks to speak on Blacks' behalf? Maybe it is time to
examine the legacy of this institution to understand the nature
of those Blacks who so proudly wear its brand. Such Blacks
continue to be given extraordinary access to public airwaves
to opine on and interpret the Black condition for white America.
More than a generation ago Adam Clayton Powell confidently
asserted that Harvard has "ruined more negroes than bad
whiskey." A brief racial history of America's intellectual
Vatican puts its special role, and Powell's biting assessment,
in proper context ....
those Blacks who seek to append themselves to this corrupt
legacy will suffer a shameful disgrace. For increasing numbers
of Blacks today are in complete agreement with the great "uneducated"
freedom fighter Fannie Lou Hamer, who could not have been
clearer when recounting the battles she fought for political
representation and justice:
that would compromise in five minutes was the people with
a real good education. I don't understand that - I really
don't to save my life. Them folks will sell you - they will
sell your mama, their mama, anybody else for a dollar."
candidate Glenn, at Harvard's Department of the History of Science,
believes Mr. Amstrod's piece lacks proper context.
informative article for sure, but it is an argument that could
benefit from a more sophisticated and complex presentation.
Certainly, the history of almost every single white institution
in this country would reveal a great deal of racism in its
past and present, and a great many of the Black people emerging
from those institutions are "house Negroes" that
have been co-opted to a greater or lesser extent. Harvard,
in this sense, is no exception. Having spent some significant
time with them, one could examine the past graduates of HBCUs
and also find just as many sell-outs, Uncle Tom's and house
Negroes - if not more - because of the greater number of Blacks
that attend. The reason being that the Black schools, trying
to prove themselves against the standard of the white institutions,
often have a more rigorously European curriculum than the
Carter G. Woodson tried to teach us as far back as 1933, it's
not the institution or any inherent evil on the part of people
who attend them that produces racism among whites and self-hatred
among Blacks, but the content of the textbooks. If the texts
are the same, it doesn't matter where the student went to
school. What does make the difference is the perspective with
which a student reads those texts. If you know the texts you
are reading are the ones used to validate and legitimize the
current world system, and replicate - generation after generation
- the set of behaviors that keeps that system in place, then
you read those texts with the purpose of deconstructing them,
not as the truth that would make one "educated."
(And Woodson, by the way, received his Ph.D. from Harvard
- the very first Ph.D. whose parents were slaves - and one
could by no means classify Woodson as a "ruined Negro.)
write this not trying to defend Harvard, heavens no, but just
to add some balance to the discussion. I would hate to have
Harvard singled out as the seat of racism and have people
attending Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Brown, etc., thinking
their schools do not have a similar history.
Delay is a bookstore manager at Xavier University in New Orleans,
a city of many contradictions that escape the tourist. Delay
describes his current occupation as "working for the white
man," while he aspires to achieve "a better day."
In between, the scene gets gloomy.
haven't begun reading your latest issue and I am already excited
and saddened by the discussions that will be generated. We
are at an amazingly volatile time in humanity. Our basic belief
systems are being assaulted daily, our existence gambled and
still we can only hope for an unimportant victory on 'American
Idol'. America is truly revealing her evil nature, both at
home and abroad, yet some of us still treat her as though
she is a nurturer to be admired. Living in one of the most
downtrodden cities in this America, New Orleans, I see everyday
how our lack of recognition and sometimes denial of this 'Great
White Assault' will leave us crippled with poverty, fear,
and hatred ....
is truly amazing the depth of ignorance in this society. I
applaud you on changing the curve ever so slightly because
it is an uphill battle. Keep up the good fight.
hope and trust that Mr. Delay's place of employment has Molefi
Kete Asante's latest work in stock. Dr. Asante is an esteemed
author and professor at the Department of Africology, Temple
University - and a
are so good it is unbelievable. I want to thank you for your
strong, consistent, and brilliant insights into the contemporary
news items. Please watch out for my new book, "Erasing
Racism: The Survival of the American Nation."
Asante's book is available at Amazon.com.
gratefully acknowledges the following organizations for sending
visitors our way during the past week: