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It is easier to spit into
a hurricane than to attempt an objective political observation at
the height of the primary campaign season – as we learned shortly
after last week’s Cover Story, “Dean
Makes Racial-Political History,” hit the Net. Howard Dean’s December
7 speech, “Restoring
the American Community,” was “the most important statement on race in American politics
by a mainstream white politician in nearly 40 years,” we wrote. “Nothing
remotely comparable has been said by anyone who might become or who
has been President of the United States since Lyndon Johnson’s June
4, 1965 affirmative action address to the graduating class at
indicted Republicans for their four decades long “Southern Strategy” of
running “elections based on race” to “convince white Americans
that minorities were to blame for all of America's problems,” all
the while “making sure that wealth and power is concentrated
in the hands of a few.” The speech broke the covenant that has
allowed a tiny corporate class to dictate the national agenda
through domination of both political parties. Corporate power
requires a coded or overtly racist national political conversation
(our words, not Dean’s) in order to mobilize white voters against
their own interests.
politicians speak to this reality all the time, and many white
progressives (although never enough) have preached a non-racialist
message since the Reconstruction era. But these men and women
were not potential Presidents of the United States – and neither
are Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich, unfortunately. The Dean
statement rates historical superlatives because it is likely
that he will be the Democratic nominee. His words can have profound
effects on the national conversation.
this measurement – and because the national white discourse has
been allowed to retreat into delusion and denial on race – we
believe Dean’s words were comparable to Lyndon Johnson’s robust
exposition of the necessity and rightness of affirmative action: “We
seek not just freedom but opportunity. We seek not just legal
equity but human ability, not just equality as a right and a
theory but equality as a fact and equality as a result.”
African Americans demanded
affirmative action, but they could not effect it. Lyndon Johnson
compelled the Congress to pass enabling legislation and, just as
importantly, stamped the concept with the imprimatur of the presidency.
Johnson’s voice imposed affirmative action on the national conversation. That is
the significance of his speech at Howard University.
Johnson used the presidential
pulpit to skewer contemporary (and present day) white conventional
wisdom, that poverty can be disconnected from issues of race. Under
the subhead, “Special Nature of Negro Poverty,” Johnson declared:
Negro poverty is not
white poverty. Many of its causes and many of its cures are the
same. But there are differences – deep, corrosive, obstinate differences – radiating
painful roots into the community, and into the family, and the
nature of the individual.
differences are not racial differences. They are solely and simply
the consequence of ancient brutality, past injustice, and present
prejudice. They are anguishing to observe. For the Negro they are
a constant reminder of oppression.
Racial “oppression” as a
root and discreet cause of Black poverty. “Present prejudice” as
an active agent of Black misery. Past oppression replicated and reinforced
in the present. These have always been core premises among Black
folks, and were shared by white social scientists worthy of the title
in 1965. But it took a President’s voice to intrude on the general,
circular white conversation of the day – to proclaim the authenticity
of self-evident truth.
Johnson was no hero; he
had dispassionate reasons for articulating the Civil Rights Movement’s
message, and in the end it does not matter whether he had a soul
or not. History turned. Public policy was transformed. White folks
backed up for awhile, at least pretending to have learned something.
Black people knew that we had won something – that our will
and our actions had caused a national sea change.
Frontrunner Dean, the focus
of corporate media attention, was uniquely positioned to say the
words that may set in motion another national sea change. To be brutally
frank, we don’t care if Dean has a soul, either, as long as he keeps
framing the argument as he did on December 7, while the cameras are
rolling. The Black Commentator does not “endorse” – we attempt to
examine and explicate the world around us. That’s our contribution
to an informed, self-conscious and intelligent Movement. When history
makes an entrance, we point it out.
we published the Dean piece, we anticipated a number of letters
challenging our sweeping statement: “Not since Lyndon Johnson
vowed to harness the power of the federal government to redress
the historical grievances of Black America has a potential or
sitting President made such a clear case against racism as a
political and economic instrument…” No such letter arrived. Instead, the commentary
almost instantly appeared on the site of Dean’s
Internet-driven campaign, triggering a wave of mail from white
liberals. For the next several days, visitation soared higher
than when Republican Senator Orrin Hatch gave a cartoon the
starring role in Janice Brown’s confirmation hearing. (Thankfully,
it was a much nicer crowd than the troglodytes Hatch directed
our way, in October.)
piece popped up all over the Net, and roused our ever-growing,
stunningly intelligent weekly readership, as well. The e-mail
response can be roughly grouped as (a) Dean supporters, glad
to see that appreciates
their guy’s virtues; (b) Dennis Kucinich
and/or Al Sharpton loyalists, angry that we “endorsed” Dean,
sold the “Two Civilized Men” short, or sold out, period;
(c) Carol Moseley-Braun admirers, damning us for failing to even
mention the former U.S. Senator’s name; and (d) people who refused
to allow their zeal to cloud their mental processes, who read
what we actually wrote, and engaged our arguments, directly.
Since most of these folks agreed with us, we like them best.
surprising number of readers imagined that had
predicted Dean would win the South with a non-racial message.
We did not. “Although
corporate media called Dean's statement his ‘southern strategy,’” we
wrote, “it is in fact the only position that holds out any hope
for a national Democratic victory in 2004 – whether enough southern
whites emerge from their racist ‘false consciousness’ or not.”
Our position is that Democrats
can and must be prepared to win without the South. The problem
has been that national Democratic campaigns are neutered by efforts
to pander to white southerners. The Democratic message must be the
same, North and South: vote your interests.
reviewing a cross-section of the mail, we are compelled to remark
on the base, vulgar and degraded state of American politics. How
amazing this nation must appear to sane persons! A party
that is absolutely dependent on the Black vote for its continued
existence finds excruciating difficulty in formulating a national,
non-racist message. We grow very tired of saluting white men for exhibiting
simple decency, competence or intelligence – traits that are
in such abundance among the non-privileged. How unfair that,
for those who are white and powerful, the bar of political heroism
is set so low. Apparently, even Wesley
Clark gets qualifying
marks on some Black scorecards, despite his best efforts to say
nothing at all of consequence.
it is irritating to read letters that depict us as having become
groupies if we commit the sin of praising a particular action of
a politician. Despite our acknowledgment of Lyndon Johnson’s role
in institutionalizing the Civil Rights Agenda of the Sixties, both
of ’s publishers were glad to see Johnson slink from the scene
in 1968. Civil rights legislation does not negate war crimes. Similarly,
last week’s commentary dealt with the historical significance of
Dean’s December 7 speech on race, and we are obligated to defend
nothing but our assessment of that particular speech.
Should we find ourselves
in need of a strong defense, we will instantly call on Maddi Bee,
whose neighborhood activist troops defeated the U.S. Army in the
battle of Dayton, Ohio, an important engagement in the ongoing environmental
racism wars. (See , November
13.) Maddi Bee’s ready for a
throwdown in 2004.
A million thanks for the
excellent article on Dean, Sharpton, and Kucinich! The full
court press against Dean has started openly now. God only
knows what else the appointed-powers are doing under-the-white-sheets. It
is a stroke of pure genius to print the entire Dean speech, especially
noting how the mass corporate media distorts words of those
on the "other" side.
My head is fully prepared
for a barn-burner, bruising campaign by these power-hungry killers
of innocent women, children, and men in useless wars; by the corporate
raiders of pension funds and the wealthy who hide their cash on distant
islands; by the financiers manipulating entire markets and lands;
by the procurers of cheap labor in many countries, depriving U.S.
workers of decent jobs, and on and on and on. They will not
give up power easily. They truly believe they can buy their
way to power through the corporate elite class in the U.S. and around
the world. They totally discount the power of We the People. We
the People will find our guts and grab the power back. Think
of the amazing guts it took for our forefathers and mothers to grab
the power back from those who shackled them, from those who worked
them to death, from those who tried to relegate them to inferiority. They
spoke truth to power. So can we. It is past time to be
polite to killers!!! Let us do as Dr. Dean says: take our country
back in 2004.
John Clark Pegg of the United Church of Christ in Duluth, Minnesota,
currently ministers on social justice issues of U.S. foreign policy.
to commend you on an outstanding piece of political reflection
in the Black Commentator of 12/11/03. I appreciate your calling
our attention to the more important issues at stake in this campaign
and the need for us all, as citizens of this country, to look beyond
narrow self-interests to the greater good of our people and the overall
future of our nation. I hope that this piece is read widely! Keep
up your good work!
commentary seems to have made the rounds of progressive circles
in Boston. We got this note from Dr. Paul Spirn, of Brigham and
I just discovered Black
Commentator via a forward of your piece “Dean Makes Racial-Political
History” from Mel
King, Boston politician and emeritus professor
at MIT. I will now check your site regularly.
I agree fully with your
analysis – I and many others have been making the same points for
decades. The fatal weaknesses of Populism and trade unionism have
been their failures to generate alliances on broad economic grounds
across racial divides, instead, ironically, both succumbed to racism,
overt in the case of Populism, covert regarding trade unionism.
Thank you for the stirring
quotes by Rev. Jackson and by Lyndon Johnson, both powerful statements. And
you are quite right to shine the light of truth on the ludicrous
characterization of Bill Clinton as a black president.
In the same way that Howard
Dean’s attacks on Bush’s invasion of Iraq moved the other candidates
to be more critical of Bush, Kucinich and Sharpton may, by their
critiques of the economic-racial axis, have moved Dean to be more
outspoken. Where Sharpton is concerned I must focus on the message,
not on the messenger. It is hard to look at his personal history
and see more than an opportunist, who for years pandered to racism
and fear. I hope there will soon be a dozen equally clever and
compelling black politicians who can inspire America with their
deeds as well as their words.
wish Dr. Spirn had omitted the gratuitous swipe at Al Sharpton,
but we’re not the Reverend’s political bodyguards.
Racial-Political History” is a truly superb statement: clear, insightful,
and beautifully written. I doubt we will read anything as good
between now and when Dubya steals the next election. I wish every
high school and college student could read it. Keep up the great
work. You're the best!
very grateful that Mr. Fasciani didn’t say that any high school
student could have written it.
Balaji is a newcomer to .
This is the first time
I visited this site. Your commentary was amazing in its insights
and the forthright manner in which it was stated.
I am a naturalized citizen
from India where I belonged to the upper(most) caste and have always
worried about the legacies of historical injustices (which my caste,
in collusion with the kingly classes, had perpetrated on people
of low castes). Politicians cynically exploiting these deep
divisions for their power consolidation is the oxygen ensuring
continuation of these divisions and preventing healing and reconciliation.
Dean is dead on, calling
the Republicans on their despicable strategy of playing to the
fears. For this reason alone, as Dean would say, Dean deserves
to get into the White House.
I absolutely detested
Souljah moment, too – I thought that was cynical – but
forgiving him is easy since, I think I know he is better than that
and was just trying to cement a few cheap votes.
for your commentary, it was good for the brain and the soul.
Brenda Bayne is from South Carolina, now
living in Gainesville, Florida.
Thank you so much for
this outstanding, articulate and concise article.
Not only do I feel that
Gov Dean is honest about race relations, I feel that he has a genuine
passion for equal rights. When I looked at his record
in Vermont and saw that he had voted for civil unions (when 70%
opposed it in his state), I decided then that he had the courage
to stand up and speak out.
of Dean supporters visited directly
from their candidate’s web
site. Some were quite emotional, like Carole Glickfeld.
brought tears to my eyes. (I'm a Caucasian baby-boomer.) I
am supporting Dean because I believe he is a decent man, and we desperately
need decency in our government. We need someone who will say
and do what needs saying and doing, not the least of which is bringing
Bryan Hitchcock, of Stockton,
California, came upon our piece in the Daily
was brilliant. I have been a volunteer host for the Dean Meetup in
my area for 8 months. One of the things which drew me to Dr. Dean's
campaign was this idea of "Restoring American Community." I
am a Californian, raised by peace-loving hippies and I do not understand
very much about the South. But it has always been clear to me that
racial issues and fear of minorities (racial, cultural or sexual)
is being used in the South and all over America to keep us from recognizing
our common interests and coming together as people to improve our
lives and those of our children and fellow human beings.
Your article made this aspect of Dr. Dean's candidacy crystal clear. It gives
me renewed energy and hope that we can overcome our weaknesses, ignorance
and fears to create a better America. I will do everything I can to keep
my candidate true to this message.
Montgomery is a white southerner who wants progress, not pandering.
on the money! Thank you for your great article on Howard Dean's South
I am 60 yrs old, a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, white – who was at age
15 was horrified at the blatant racism that exploded in my community during
the Little Rock Central High School integration crisis – all, of course,
triggered by then Gov. Orval Faubus's political ploy to close the schools
to protect us from "outside agitators."
I also have been privately outraged over the years at the way Bill Clinton
squandered his vast political talents and the chance to energize the Democratic
Party – just to pander to the corporate boys.
But, now, Howard Dean has cut through all that – and I agree 100% with your
analysis of the role that Sharpton and Kucinich are playing.
Thank you so much. Wonderful, incisive commentary. It feels good to
know we are heading toward a real yellow dog democrat in the White House
who will get things done for the people and take care of the Number 1 Problem:
rein in the corporate fascist racist theocrats.
opposes any notion of
a “Southern Strategy” that treats white racism as a peculiar, southern
vice. Nance Crow feels the same way.
so much for your prophetic words.
I've been supporting Dean for awhile because of speeches like this one, and
because the process that's brought him to the top provides the first opportunity
for large numbers of citizens to re-engage the process. But I am so
glad the Rev. Sharpton and Rep. Kucinich are there to together present a
truly "fair and balanced" view.
I'm particularly glad that we Dems are indicted, too. It wasn't southern
whites that segregated and marginalized Blacks in Chicago and all the other
cities where "urban renewal" took its toll.
Growing up a white female with racism, sexism and violence took its toll,
but it opened me to seeing what pain others were in and how they are abused;
to seeing the white privilege that has me retired early living comfortably
in a fancy home I didn't earn. I've tried within my nearly all white
churches to get some sort of dialogue going so that minority experience is
listened to and shared. This 2004 campaign gives me the energy and
hope to try again.
And Carole deserves credit for being "the clearest alternative to Bush."
get to Carol Moseley Braun later in this column.
Dhungana offers his perspective.
your article of Dec 11, 03 'Dean Makes Racial-Political History'.
I am not a Black, but I am almost black, of South Asian origin, in
my heart because I feel the pain and the oppression black people
endured in racial America. Despite King's Civil Right march and "I
Have a Dream" speech, organized racial injustice still persists
in corporate boardrooms. After more than forty years after Blacks
marched and fought for civil rights, now is time for Whites to deliver
the truth and educate fellow whites. I think this presidential
election will be a moment of truth. And no other candidate can deliver
what is rightfully blacks’ than Howard Dean, a white from rural America,
because he seems to capture the young minds. With every young generation
America has become less racial but not race neutral. Dean may be
able to bring us to neutrality by defeating right wing Democrats
and Republicans and winning American hearts and minds.
But I whole heartedly I agree
with your comment that "Dean's
political leap would not have been
possible in the absence of Sharpton's
energetic Black candidacy and Kucinich's
principled, progressive white voice
from the Left. At this historic juncture
they dare not go anywhere. Dean has
picked up the torch that Sharpton and
Kucinich have been carrying and they
must stay in the race to make sure
he doesn't set it down." Dean
needs to court Sharpton and Kucinich
if he wants to be the president of
people not the white
Give props to Sharpton,
Colita Nichols Fairfax is
an assistant professor at Norfolk State University, Virginia.
regarding Dean's platform was a provocative piece and so appreciated
by this reader. We must analyze his comments not only in relationship
to the platforms of the other Democratic nominees, but in relationship
with the unique issues of the beloved community. I agree with
you that Sharpton is not the King of Black voters, but his presence
does allow a national platform, and/or reminder of America's betrayal
of Black people through social policies.
of the Blacks" phrase was our coded reference to Sharpton's
on-off relationship with the Jacksons, Junior and Senior. Sharpton's
outburst against Dean on November 4 was prompted by anger at Rep.
Jackson's endorsement of Dean. Sharpton the next day defamed all
of Black leadership over the Janice Brown issue. He lost his bearings.
This is part of the internal struggle to be the most prominent
African American: King of the Blacks. We didn't want to revisit November’s
incident in detail, so we referred to it obliquely. It is important
that neither camp allow this intra-Black dispute to create the impression
that Dean’s line on race is "controversial" among African
Americans. It is largely because of Sharpton's presence that Dean
has adopted the line, which serves Black political purposes.
Prof. Fairfax responded: “Yes,
Dean is walking the tight-tope now, but I am most concerned with
whether he will continue to walk the plank or jump ship if elected.
Sharpton and Kucinich won't be with him in the White House.”
She is correct, of course.
In a piece syndicated by BlackPressUSA, University of Maryland
political scientist Dr. Ron Walters pointed out that Dean’s message
contains “no targeted strategy…directed
to Black urban voters.” The closer we get to the general election,
the more pressures will be exerted to move Dean rightward. “Sharpton
needs to stay in the game because he can help put the brakes on any
sharp swing to the center-right, especially if he has the delegates
to support him,” said Dr. Walters. “Sharpton and other Black leaders
need to be poised to make sure Dean doesn’t turn his back on us.”
Alvin Foster, of Boston,
Massachusetts, is still steamed over our November 13 “shacking” of
Al Sharpton, as he puts it.
of Al's behavior went beyond just reporting to describing what was
going on in his head! I accept your original proposition – only two
candidates are even talking civilized about the Iraq war and the
problems we face as USA citizens. Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton
should be at the top of anyone's list who decides or cares to vote.
Dr. Howard Dean demonstrated his incompetence/uncivilized planning on
Ted Koppel's meet the candidates night this week. If he wins, he
plans on occupying Iraq for a long time.
Leutisha Stills, in Oakland,
California, offers some insight on the subject.
interest you to know that this past March, 2003, I served as
a volunteer at the California Democratic Convention where I first
heard Howard Dean speak. He also made his "Democrats
need to be the party of those who drive pickup trucks with Confederate
flags" comment and the crowd went wild. Al Sharpton
was on the same ticket with him and he made no comment about Dean's
remarks being racist. Nor was there the fuss that came with
Dr. Dean making the same remarks in March, when he made them this
I read your article with
great interest, and those of us who were in attendance at the State
Democratic Convention knew what Dr. Dean meant, then and now, by
his remarks. He was simply telling white people in the South
to look past race and look at how the Republicans were screwing
them over economically, physically, as well as morally. He
effectively took the covers off what the Republicans have been
able to do to those in the South since Nixon.
is also forcing them to look at what's a sacrifice if there's no
benefit? Do you think Clinton knew this when he acquiesced
to the Republican's demands to reform welfare, since he knew the
majority of those on welfare were poor Whites in the South, as opposed
to the lie that was always being told (Blacks made up the majority
absent from our piece was Carol Moseley-Braun, the only woman in
the race. Two readers newly arrived from the Dean camp took umbrage,
i.e., got real mad. First, Heather Stewart:
First of all, I would
like to say thank you. This article well captured and well
represented some of the core values of the Dean message. Talking
with each other, and talking with those whom we know best, are
critical to sharing that message.
As much as I appreciate
your comments, I must point out that Rev. Sharpton is not the only
Black candidate. I found appalling the complete and utter
omission of Carol Mosley Braun as a critical voice in this conversation
about race and gender equity. Granted, she has not been as
colorfully outspoken as Sharpton. She has not delivered her
speeches as evangelical as Kucinich. No, instead she has
been an articulate, unflappable, and moving candidate who speaks
with experience and intellect and has inspired many people as well. She
has been a voice on the left who's message has not been significantly
different than that of Kucinich. The only difference? She
is a woman.
that far too often, all communities of color (and yes, I include
white folks in this too...white is a color) are too quick to ignore
the contributions and capabilities of women. This has been
a huge message in CMB's candidacy. I would love to see her
do well in this campaign, but unfortunately, not only is this country
not yet able to accept a Black president, it is certainly not ready
to accept a Black woman. To so completely ignore her contribution
to this campaign in your analysis does nothing but a disservice to
I hope that CMB remains
in the race as long as she possibly can to continue to bring a
balanced voice to this campaign. She and Howard Dean have
shown nothing but respect toward each other in this primary race. I
think they well represent the type of mutual respect that this
country that is sorely lacking. I would love to see her as
the VP running mate of Dr. Dean, but I just don't think the country
is willing to go there yet. I look forward to the day when
women like her are looking for men like Howard Dean to be her VP
Cynthia Fabrizio Pelak, from the University of Memphis, Tennessee:
I just finished reading
the recent piece titled "Dean Makes Racial-political history." I'm
astonished that the authors of the piece failed to mention Presidential candidate
Carol Mosley-Braun. Or, is this a male-only piece? Will
there be a separate piece that discusses female presidential candidates
and female political leaders? African American women have historically
been invisible and silenced in the broader political sphere as well as
the civil rights movement. It is a shame
that the "The Black Commentator" continues this tradition
and contributes to this invisibility and silencing of African American
women. When will gender bias in
the "commentary, analysis and investigations on issues affecting African
Americans" be addressed? I thank you in advance for your serious
consideration of my concerns.
it proper to send identical responses to Ms. Stewart and Dr. Pelak:
Our piece was about Dean's
statement, not an overview of all the actors in the campaign. If
we were to have mentioned Moseley-Braun, it would have been in
the same paragraph in which we sharply criticized Dean for his
Iraq occupation position, "which makes him an apologist for
American Manifest Destiny." Her position is similar to Dean's.
More to the point, Moseley
Braun is not and does not claim to be the "Black" candidate.
Our piece was about Race, not gender or fairness issues, and it
is a leap for you to imply that we ignored her because of her sex.
we believe her campaign was not directly relevant to the
Actually, there’s a lot
more to say about Carol Moseley-Braun, now that her supporters have
opened the door. In addition to the dubious circumstances surrounding
her entrance to the race (See “Mosley-Braun
and the Game to Contain Sharpton,” February 20), there are clear
reasons for to
exclude her from among the (two) candidacies that pull the primaries
conversation leftward. Moseley-Braun failed to make the short list
in our October 2 commentary, “Two
Civilized Men Among the Barbarians,” a
critique of the September 25 Democratic debate:
Possibly hoping to somehow
escape from marginality, Carol Mosley-Braun revealed that in the
final analysis she, too, is a creature of barbarism. Moseley-Braun
has opposed the war for nearly as long and as fervently as Kucinich
and Sharpton but, like Lot’s wife, at the critical moment she looks
back – and is lost.
Braun: “…it is absolutely,
I think, critical that we not cut and run…” In the end, the former
U.S. Senator cannot escape the imperatives of Manifest Destiny.
By her moral compass, demonstrations of U.S. resolve are more important
than other people’s national sovereignty. The Black woman from
Chicago cannot imagine that she is talking like a barbarian, that
such patterns of thought are the principal threats to the survival
of the human race – in short, that she is warring against civilization.
Seconds later, Moseley-Braun
waged war against English as a coherent language: “…it's going
to be important for us to come up with the money to make certain
that our young men and women and our reputation as leaders in the
world is not permanently destroyed by the folly of preemptive war.” It’s
not so much Moseley-Braun’s fault that this sentence makes no sense.
The logic of barbarism does not mesh with the realities of an inter-dependent
globe. It becomes difficult to communicate in civilized company – the
essence of George Bush’s problem at the UN, last month.
we do not believe that progressives have a critical interest in Moseley-Braun
remaining in the race, although we recognize that she has a following,
chiefly among white women. And it makes sense that supporters of
Dean’s Iraq occupation position also have a soft spot for Moseley-Braun.
Kucinich: “In It
to Win It”
gradations of policy differences that separate Dennis Kucinich
and Al Sharpton are in some instances so fine as to seem academic.
However, their missions are quite different, because – one is Black
and the other is white, and this is America. (We are allowed to
take shortcuts in the e-Mailbox column.) Without Sharpton and Kucinich
in the race, the December 7 speech would not have been written,
and who knows what would remain of the former Governor’s anti-war
posture? It was Kucinich and Sharpton who hauled the holy water
for non-stop exorcism of the demonic presence within the party:
the Democratic Leadership Council. The corporate devil hasn’t been
sent to Hell, yet, despite Al Gore’s endorsement of Dean. (As we
put it: “The DLC-Emeritus has effectively jumped ship.”) The “Two
Civilized Men” must stay the course, we wrote:
By persevering in pressing
the Left edges of the Democratic envelope, the “Two Civilized Men” created
the political space for Dean to make his historic break. Although
we cannot expect either candidate to rejoice in the frontrunner’s
actions, Dean’s leftward march is also their victory over
the DLC, and they must defend it – against Dean himself and his
newfound allies, if need be.
expected, our friend David Swanson, Kucinich
secretary and genius at bringing coherence to wild and wooly movement
politics, was not entirely in accord with our commentary.
You're dead right – almost. It's
early, and Dennis is in this to win it, not to influence someone
describes himself as “a Southerner and not so-white guy.” He does cultivate
a style of his own.
read your article and must admit, I was looking for dirt. I didn't
get any filth but you did give a legitimate raison d'etre for Rev.
Al and Skinny Dennis to be in it. Though I'm for DJK, I love Sharpton
as his acumen is displayed in razor sharp repartee that only someone
of his ilk, like Jesse Jackson, could deliver and especially how
he stands on all of the righteous sides of issues. I think
it's way too early for Sharptonians or Kucitizens to consider backing
Dr. DINO (Democrat In Name Only). Come next November we might have
to don a gas mask to enter the voting both. But until one of
these valid candidates caves or Boston in July, my progressive candle
is staying lit for the only "two civilized candidates." Let's
not forget, both Carter and Clinton were at about 1% at this juncture
and look where they ended the marathon.
I think a utopian dream ticket would be Kucinich/Sharpton or John Conyers
with Carol Moseley-Braun, who is admired by nearly every one that I've spoken
with, getting the Secretary of the Department of Peace and Wes Clark as the
Secretary of Defense.
A civilized response
David Bright thought he
could convince us to run a commentary opposed to our position,
on the front page of our magazine. However, like Homie the
Clown on “In Living Color,” don’t play that. Diversity in progressive
media should result from a proliferation of publications and other
outlets, not through an eclectic bundling of viewpoints.
On the other hand, we encourage
readers to argue with us (within progressive parameters) in the e-Mailbox
column. Mr. Bright’s commentary, now a letter, is titled, “The real
leaders are Sharpton and Kucinich.”
Dean is only following Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton (The Black
Commentator, Dec. 11, 2003), why should voters follow Howard Dean?
Why wouldn't it be better for America to follow the real leaders – Sharpton
Dean said nothing in his Dec. 7 South Carolina speech that Kucinich and Sharpton
have not said earlier and oftener during this campaign. The only difference
is the mainstream media has purposely and blatantly marginalized the Kucinich
and Sharpton campaigns (and that of Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun) while
at the same time fawning all over Dean as the liberal messiah. For to
buy into that and now proclaim Dean as the second coming of LBJ just makes
the situation worse.
If you carefully read the Dean speech you see skillful rhetorical references
to many of the problems in America, but you will find few suggestions for
how to solve them. If you read the Dean platform you'll find only half solutions
for those problems he does identify: universal health care for some, not
all; try to fix an unfixable NAFTA instead of abandoning it; new strings
on student loans instead of free public higher education; civil unions
in place of true civil rights.
then there's Iraq. As late
as the Dec. 11 ABC debate,
Dean was calling for a U.S.
occupation that could last
two years or more, while Kucinich
Sharpton have been consistent in their demand that the U.S. must abandon
its plan to confiscate what's left of the Iraqi economy. Only with the capture
of Saddam Hussein has Dean dared join Sharpton and Kucinich in their call
to get the U.N. in and the U.S. out.
LBJ may have seen the need for civil rights reform in America, but it
was Martin Luther King who recognized that there would be no progress
as long as there was Viet Nam.
Dean’s speech writers may be able to identify the symptoms of what ails America,
but it is Kucinich who pointed out during the Dec. 11 debate that no prescription
for a healthy America will work while all of our nation's energy and money
is focused on Iraq.
The endorsement of Dean by former Vice President Al Gore, far from being
proof that " The DLC-Emeritus has effectively jumped ship," is
in effect the second wooing of Dean by the DLC (the first being convincing
him to abandon campaign finance reform).
long ago signaled his true
nature ("I don't mind being characterized
as 'liberal' – I just don't happen to think it's true." "If you
want universal health care, I'm not your guy."), yet praises
Dean because he "is attempting to get the Democratic Party – and himself – in
Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich
not only have been in step
since day one, they're the
ones calling out the cadence.
No matter what happens down
the road, their path is clear
and will not waiver. Should
Dean win the Democratic
nomination, look for his steps to turn decidedly to the right.
The Dean-Gore platform offers only Band-Aid help to those Americans struggling
to better their lives.
The Kucinich-Sharpton vision is a world vision, dedicated to true peace
and true prosperity for all.
If Mr. Bright writes like
a professional journalist, it’s because he worked as a daily newspaper
reporter and editor for 26 years. He serves as the volunteer state
co-coordinator of the Kucinich for President campaign.
Rather than gather up our
previously stated arguments and refutations (concerning ,
not Dean) from various places on this page and in the December 11
let Mr. Bright have the last word.
March on Media
and Moseley-Braun appeared on Democracy
Now! last Friday
to discuss ABC’s decision to withdraw dedicated coverage of their
campaigns. It’s a question of corporate power, said Kucinich.
I think that the attempt by the media to determine who people should
vote for and who they shouldn't vote for to determine who the candidates
are, and who are not acceptable as candidates is something that raises
real questions about the nature of the media's role in our society,
and about what right they have to be able to engage in a process
of pre-selection. When you understand the corporate nature of the
media, it further troubles one who is concerned about the nature
of democracy itself.”
Darwin Overson wants to rip away corporate media’s journalistic
let me thank you for the wonderful article on the Dec 7 Howard Dean
Second, the debates the
other night really highlighted the fact that a lot of people of
all walks of life are not satisfied with the news they are being
fed. Journalism today is at its worst. I know I don't
have to say much more than that.
It dawned on me that perhaps
what is needed is a Media March, similar to the Million Man March,
but instead of marching on Washington, the march would be on one
or two major media outlets, such as the NY Times or a similarly "established" news
entity. Literally hundreds of protests have gone on during
the past months without much notice by the media. We had
and have a war that has been reported on from one point of
view. Stories, important ones, don't get any coverage. When
they do, they are distorted beyond recognition.
A Media March to the doorstep
of the NY Times would be a difficult thing for the media to
ignore and it might just embarrass some journalists into doing
I am in the process of
raising this idea at every point I possibly can and thus far
have got nothing but positive feedback from many different kinds
The publishers of have
long maintained that media is a weak link in the corporate armor,
and quite vulnerable to direct action. (See “Treat
the Corporate Media Like the Enemy,” May 1, 2003.)
Kimberley hitched her Freedom Rider column to a parking meter
outside the Cincinnati Police Department headquarters, and called
them out. And bring the police beat reporter out with you, Kimberley
effectively demanded in her December 11 piece, “Nathaniel
Jones – 350-pound Black Man.”
was killed by police first, and the media afterward. The old maxim
that we should not speak ill of the dead doesn’t apply to black people
in general, it never applies to black people killed by police. Bill
Cunningham, a Cincinnati-based conservative talk radio personality
was allowed to give supposedly expert testimony on the famously unbiased
Fox News network. He had this to say about Jones: “I'll bet you a
dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts this guy died of congestive heart failure,
because he weighed almost 400 pounds.” Not one to leave an insult
unturned, Cunningham gave this all important information describing
Jones as "…unemployed, had two kids he didn't support. Previous
criminal record." Cunningham lied about Jones not supporting
his kids, but he certainly creates a rationale for murder. A black,
fat, deadbeat dad, and drug user certainly deserved to be killed.
Cincinnati doctor named Donald Rucknagel swallowed enough attitude
pills to convince himself he could step to the Freedom Rider.
us a break in Cincinnati. Several years ago a mental patient escaped
from the University Hospital Psychiatry ward. When the cops cornered
him he was threatening them with a brick. So they killed him with
17 shots. By that measure we have made real progress. I saw
the footage of the beating and there was no doubt in my mind that
the first thing that happened was that he took the first cop down.
To expect the cops to subdue him without using force of some kind
is unreal. It was not pretty to see them beating him with their
night sticks but I start with the premise that one cannot kill
a large man by beating him with night sticks on the limbs. They
did not strike him on the head or torso according to press reports.
I can give you another hypothesis for why he died, and that is that the cocaine
caused a generalized constriction of his small coronary arteries and that
he was striking out at the cops in desperation because he was fighting death.
Having had a patient who experienced that problem I can attest to it. Also,
remember Len Bias? The same thing happened to him.
I wonder how many people have read your article. Do you ever wonder about
the consequences of what you write when you write on the basis of second
and third hand data and do not have all of the facts?
just wrote a prescription for his own humiliation. Margaret Kimberley
we be happy that Mr. Jones died from a beating instead of 17
gun shots? You have certainly damned the police with your faint
praise. Also, a physician should know better than to hypothesize
anything in this case. You should let the coroner who performed
the autopsy do the explaining. After all, you don't want to rely
on second or third hand data, do you?
does not need "a break." Nathaniel Jones needed a break.
He needed intelligent people to make the common sense determination
that because he had no weapon, and was harming no one that
he did not need to be subdued at all. Cincinnatians
such as yourself need a lot more introspection and a lot less
defensiveness. My column was not about you and others who take
umbrage when your police or your city are scrutinized. If
you want a break from criticism I suggest you use your medical
expertise to keep your fellow citizens from being killed unnecessarily
by the people who are supposed to protect them. Perhaps you can
start by training the paramedics who were called to help an unconscious
man but instead involved the very people who took Mr. Jones life.
for the consequences of my column, they can only be positive. A
medical professional should know that it is healthy to be
confronted with opinions other than one’s own. My prescription
for Cincinnati is a good dose of thought. Take some and
call me in the morning.
lecturer, prolific writer and frequent contributor
Tim Wise wrote to congratulate Ms. Kimberley on “another great column.” Kimberley
noted that 67-year-old country music singer Glen
Campbell recently fled the scene of an accident while extremely
drunk, then assaulted a police officer – and still managed not to get killed.
Tim Wise wrote:
contrast between Campbell and Jones was brilliant. Absolutely perfect.
Wish like hell I'd have thought of it! I'll be using it (with proper
attribution of course) in upcoming lectures and writings quite
Mr. Wise most recently authored
a three-part series for titled, “Ghettos
are Not a Game.”
crisis in Haiti grows more acute by the day, the Bush administration’s
transparent campaign to plunge the poorest nation in the Western
Hemisphere into some new dimension of Hell. Associate
Editor Kevin Pina this week filed the fourth in his series of reports
from Port-au-Prince, “US-Backed Haiti Opposition Emboldened,” an eye-witness account
of the U.S.-backed opposition’s efforts to overthrow the elected
government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Nadege writes in appreciation
of Pina’s work.
Thank you so much for
publishing such fair, thorough, and insightful articles on Haiti's
political situation. We must stop this New World Order agenda
now! Continue the struggle.
The “con” in “neo-conservative” is
put forth an agenda of less government to protect us (the average
American), more government to enrich themselves (the economic elite),” wrote
Dedrick Muhammad in his December 11 Guest Commentary, “The
Conning of Black America.” Although almost everyone is treated
like a sucker in the neo-con’s game, some are more vulnerable than
are the constituency with the most to lose from this conning of America.
We must be at the forefront of making America live up to its ideals. From
the Homestead Act to the GI Bill, America has invested billions in
making sure its citizens have the opportunity to attain a middle-class
lifestyle. Just as America began to acknowledge Blacks as citizens,
it is now pulling up the economic ladder that had been so readily
available previously to white Americans. Pouring funds into “national
defense” and tax cuts for the rich will institutionalize the racial
wealth gap for generations to come. If we follow the neo-conservative
agenda, the U.S. will not be able to leave the legacy of racism behind.
Black America must not fall victim to this con.
are an oasis of truth in a desert of corporate media misinformation.
Thank you for the insightful and well written articles which I eagerly
await each week.
Every black adult in America should make it his/her business to read Dedrick
Muhammad's piece on the "Conning of Black America." We cannot afford
to remain ignorant about what the neo-cons have in store for us.
American public policy of mass Black imprisonment not only robs
men and women of their freedom, it also has profound effects on
the economic and political vitality of the neighborhoods and
cities the prisoners come from. In his December 11 article, “The
Political Consequences of Racist Felony Disenfranchisement,” Chicago
Urban League Vice President Paul Street traces the dollars that
accompany offenders on their journey from city streets to rural
[E]ach black prisoner is worth tens
of thousands of economic development dollars. According to
distinguished criminologist Todd Clear, writing in 1996, the
prison boom fed by the rising “market” of Black offenders is
in fact a remarkable economic multiplier for communities that
are often far removed from urban minority concentrations. “Each
prisoner,” he found “represents as much as $25,000 in income
[annually] for the community in which the prison is located,
not to mention the value of constructing the prison facility
in the first place. This,” Clear says, amounts to “a
massive transfer of value.”
the negative economic impact on communities that are the source of
prisoners as “a form of Reverse Racial Reparations.”
Mass incarceration savages
democracy. “No other nation imprisons a larger share of its population
or marks so large a share of its population with the lifelong mark
of a serious (felony) criminal record. According to the best estimates
last year, 13 million Americans – fully 7 percent of the adult population
and an astonishing 12 percent of the adult male population – possess
felony records,” says Street. Among some Black cohorts, one in three
adult males have felony records.
Such statistics are incomprehensible
to Canadians like Diane, from Kingston, Ontario.
regarding the loss of vote to those individuals who are incarcerated
or have been designated felons is astonishing to me. In Canada, those
of our fellow citizens currently incarcerated have the right to vote
while in prison and certainly the right to vote once released.
It is incomprehensible to me that a government which preaches democratic
rhetoric can so shamelessly deny the very citizens which make up
that democracy the right to vote.
Ahrens is familiar with the American Gulag, which houses one of
every five prisoners on the planet, half of them Black. Ahrens
is Director of the Real Cost
of Prisons Project. She writes:
for the excellent article by Paul Street which I have posted on various
listserves to which I belong. There is always something of compelling
interest on the Black Commentator.
Leroy Pletten has been compiling
figures on his own site, How the 2000 Election was Stolen.
is phony. He stole the 2000 Election. 1,400,000 black Americans
were denied the right to vote in 2000 – with 400,000 denied the
right to vote in Florida alone.
Had black Americans been
allowed to vote
(i.e., not been subjected to the dual criminalization-disenfranchisement
processes), the year 2000 would have been a Gore Landslide. The
Presidential Election 2000 was stolen.
The techniques used to steal the election are well-established,
well-rehearsed, long practiced, and are intended to be
used again in 2004.
Our enemies know the techniques
of disenfranchisement. Too bad our side generally does not
know how it is done.
The techniques for disenfranchising black Americans so that their names
are NOT included on the voter lists provided the election workers, have
been mastered since the 1868 election. Action is needed quickly to halt
the underlying criminalization process that serves as the pretext
for the en masse disenfranchisements of potential black voters, in large
numbers sufficient to alter election results dramatically. Otherwise we
will see a repeat in 2004, of the 2000 debacle.
Our side will be placing
most all our focus on Election Day events and the counting
process! That's what the Bush side wants us to focus on – not on
the massive disenfranchisement process that occurs pre-Election
Day, that keeps black Americans' names OFF the election roster. That
means they can't vote even when they show up!
To win, it is crucial
to note, head off, prevent, the process of keeping names off
the roster of eligible voters.
The Right Rev. Dr. Greedygut
has transformed dusty old periodical back issues into fresh, easily
accessed “archives” – a boon for researchers and casual readers,
It’s been almost
a year since we introduced readers to The Right Reverend Dr. Greedygut,
our stand-in for the sorry class of predatory, opportunistic preachers
the Bush men are enlisting as born-again Republicans in exchange
for faith-based contracts. Eventually, the Reverend’s greed and
insatiable gut will land him in jail for misappropriation of ill-gotten
political funds – or so we wistfully imagined in our January 2,
2003 piece, “De-funding
the Right Rev. Dr. Greedygut: Faith-based Bribery’s Sleazy Constituency.”
contracting is designed to create centers of well-funded, compliant,
self-satisfied alternative "leadership" among Blacks.
The secret is out: All of those furious, Republican rages against
the "poverty pimps" and "entitlements" of
old are now revealed to have been jealous outbursts. Bush aims
to become the ultimate Poverty Pimp, Mac-Daddy of the ghetto.
The ministries in his stable will represent a constituency for
privatization of social services, the larger Republican mission.
Persons formerly entitled to assistance, the infirm, ex-public
employees, all can line up at taxpayer-funded church soup kitchens.
First, however, they must greet Bush's emissary, the Right Rev.
Dr. Greedygut. He is the one who is entitled, now.
Maggie Bagon, of North Bend,
Oregon, found Rev. Greedygut in our archives, for which we are grateful.
She says the Reverend’s paler counterparts infest her part of the
I just wanted to agree
with the writer concerning the commentary on the Right Rev. Greedygut.
He is not only preying on black communities. He also has a stronghold
on rural communities where there are no jobs and even fewer safety
net options, where welfare recipients are supposed to walk five
to ten miles to go on a job search even though there aren't
any jobs. And the faith-based communities that are receiving the
grants say yes you can get services from us but...you must attend
our churches and live by our morals even though we don't live by
that there is targeting and preying upon the African American communities but
I think that black and white and red yellow green and blue people
who are progressive in their thinking must band together to fight
God that was awful. Seeing poor Laura Nelson hanging, still with
dignity. Termed vicious, I would assume because she fought for her
son. Mother and son hung together. And all those grinning
White faces, like they're at an ice-cream social. You've used the
term "Depraved indifference" before, but this is far beyond
Here is what I cannot
grasp – the contempt for an enemy who either threatens you
or is seen as more powerful is understandable. Dragging the American
soldier in Somalia might be an example. Terrible to see, yet maybe
to the Somalis he was proof that Americans were not invincible.
But White Americans have been on top for hundreds of years. The
majority of the photos in the exhibit were in the early 1900's,
far before any nascent Black struggles. Why the vicious hatred?
Is it something intrinsic to Europeans?
was excellent as always, it's just at this moment the photo exhibit
is still paramount. Keep up the great work.
Thurmond’s daughter: “At
last, I feel completely free”
There is no counting the
number of unpublicized lynchings incited by the late South Carolina
Senator Strom Thurmond and his fellow political terrorists, masters
of a very specialized oratory that leads inevitably to ritual murder.
The loathsome Thurmond died in June at 100 years of age, which makes
him more a curse than a man. DNA tests have since proven that Thurmond
has left his mark on an African American family line, through 78-year-old
Essie Mae Washington-Williams, his daughter by a 16-year-old maid
impregnated by 22-year-old Thurmond in 1925.
We first brought Mrs. Washington-Williams
to our readers’ attention on December 19 of last year, when we republished
the 1996 Washington
City Paper article,
Thurmond’s Black Daughter: Common Knowledge About a ‘Special Relation,” by
Black political commentator
Earl Ofari Hutchinson has a personal connection to this political-genealogical
drama. Shortly before the DNA results were announced, Hutchinson
wrote a piece called, “Ol’ Strom and Me.”
If Essie Mae Washington-Williams
is indeed his daughter, and she claims to have documents, and has
offered to take DNA tests to prove it, then my two granddaughters
who are her great granddaughters are Thurmond’s great-great granddaughters.
That raises troubling
concerns for me. The girls are 8 and 2 years old, and I don’t want
them exposed to the public rancor and bitterness that has raged
between the black and white descendants of Thomas Jefferson. That
type of public nastiness could confuse, distract, and embitter
them. But they need to know the truth about their heritage…
helped insure that the Republicans would be major players for decades
to come in national politics. Bush and the Republicans owe Ol’ Strom
an eternal debt of gratitude. That’s not the debt that my granddaughters
owe their presumed great-great grandfather. However, when they’re
old enough to understand I’ll talk candidly with them about the racially
indelible political stamp that he put on the nation.
Ol’ Strom’s death has done
his Black daughter a world of good. At a press
Mrs. Washington-Williams said, “There’s a great sense of peace that
has come over me this past year… At last, I feel completely free.”
If only it were that simple.
Tyler dabbles in the cryptic arts.
your astute take no prisoner analysis of American political, economic,
society and current events. There is although a certain euro centric
structure and syntax to your approach that I'm not too keen on but
I understand the necessity of it for you to reach the masses.
Please keep up the
good work. You provide excellent talking points that enable me to converse
effectively with folks that unfortunately still "believe the hype."
have no idea what Mr. Tyler meant – but we hope it is, on the whole,
Lessoskalow, a “faithful reader” from Germany, is a lot more understandable
than Mr. Tyler.
As a German who’s always
been most interested in America I long ago came to two conclusions:
Blacks are more true Americans than Whites and their points of
view are as a rule more interesting. Why? They´ve been there longer
than most of the white people and a disproportional part of what
the rest of the world considers to be American culture (especially
music) originated with them.
The reason that blacks
excel in the arts is probably that "normal" advancement
was (and is to some extend) closed to them. Black people seem
to have a special inside outside view of America that gives
them insights that normal Americans seem to lack. Case in point
is the Black Commentator. Really, there are lots of mainstream
liberal or even leftist American websites. But none is as interesting
as you. So please Black Commentator continue to enlighten
the world with your special point of view – the
world needs to know another face of the US.
found Mr. Lessoskalow’s observations very interesting, and were
prepared to offer some thoughts of our own on the subject. But
Mr. Tyler has flummoxed us with his remarks about “euro centric
structure,” causing us to feel suddenly uncomfortable with cross-cultural
issues. We’ll get back to Mr. Lessoskalow, privately.
Kim tells us straight up
that she is “thinking in San Francisco.”
await your updates each Thursday. The first thing I do when
I get to the plantation is to check your website and often I have
to wait to get the message of Truth. You Negroes need to get
off of C.P. time and update your website first thing on Thursday
mornings! I need your insightful revelations awash in sanity
to get me through the week. If you weren't such lazy colored
folks, you would publish twice a week to appease your loyal following. But
noooo, just like the White folks say about us, when given an opportunity,
we don't take advantage. Go ahead, stay in your little once
a week ghetto and see where it will get you. Meanwhile, Salon.com
has pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps and publishes
once a day.
your fault for getting to the plantation on White Folks’ Time. You
make it bad for the rest of us. You apparently do not understand
our sophisticated strategy, which is to incrementally slow down the
rate of oppression by purposeful delay of publication. We have it
on good authority from a well-placed Spook lurking near very important
Doors that Ashcroft does not release his weekly Black Subversive
Targets Reports until his agents have reviewed the latest .
Therefore, we publish later…and later…and later. Now that you’ve been schooled,
we’re sure you’ll agree that we have devised the perfect plan to,
at long last, SEIZE THE TIME!!!
Seriously speaking, traffic
jams on the Internet sometimes delay the arrival of our weekly notifications
of new issues.
However, readers can go to www.BlackCommentator.com at
any time to see if the site has changed. You don’t have to wait for
the message. Bookmark it.
Note: the following is legally
and technically correct, if not spiritually uplifting:
President Bush signed a bill
into law on December 16, 2003 to restrict junk commercial e-mail,
or spam, which now accounts for more than half of all e-mail traffic.
The law, which takes effect
on Jan. 1, will ban the sending of bulk commercial e-mail using false
identities and misleading subject lines. It will also require all
commercial e-mail messages to include a valid postal address and
give recipients the opportunity to opt out of receiving more messages.
Since The Black Commentator
published its first issue on April 5, 2002 we have never sent any
e-mail using a false identity or misleading subject line. In addition
every e-mail message we have ever sent included a valid method giving
recipients the opportunity to permanently and immediately opt out
of receiving more messages.
Our postal address has existed
on our Re-Print Policy page for some time. Beginning with the notification
of publication e-mail message for this issue our postal address is
now included. It has also been added to our About
157-B Bridgeton Pike # 254
Mullica Hill, NJ 080626
comments are welcome.
the Contact Us page for E-mail