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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 Howard University.”

Dean 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.

Black 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.

By 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.

These 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.

Front page Dean.com

When 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.)

The 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.

A 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.

Before 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.

Conversely, 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.

Dean Team

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.

Rev. John Clark Pegg of the United Church of Christ in Duluth, Minnesota, currently ministers on social justice issues of U.S. foreign policy.

Just wanted 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! 

Our commentary seems to have made the rounds of progressive circles in Boston. We got this note from Dr. Paul Spirn, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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.

We wish Dr. Spirn had omitted the gratuitous swipe at Al Sharpton, but we’re not the Reverend’s political bodyguards.

Joseph Fasciani writes:

”Dean Makes 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!

We’re very grateful that Mr. Fasciani didn’t say that any high school student could have written it.

Radha 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 Clinton's Sister 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.

Thank you, 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.

Thousands of Dean supporters visited directly from their candidate’s web site. Some were quite emotional, like Carole Glickfeld.

The article 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 America together.

Bryan Hitchcock, of Stockton, California, came upon our piece in the Daily Kos.

This article 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.

Bo Montgomery is a white southerner who wants progress, not pandering.

Damn!  Right on the money! Thank you for your great article on Howard Dean's South Carolina speech.

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.

Thank you 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."

We’ll get to Carol Moseley Braun later in this column.

Atulya Dhungana offers his perspective.

I admire 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 corporate cronies.

Give props to Sharpton, Kucinich

Colita Nichols Fairfax is an assistant professor at Norfolk State University, Virginia.

Your comments 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.

replied:

The "King 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.

Your descriptions 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.

It may 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 Fall.

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.

Dr. Dean 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 on welfare)?

Moseley-Braun, missing

Totally 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.

I believe 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 this perception.

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 running mate!

Next, Dr. 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.

We thought 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. 

In short, we believe her campaign was not directly relevant to the piece.

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.

No, 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”

The 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.

As expected, our friend David Swanson, Kucinich campaign press 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 else.

Trey Santelli describes himself as “a Southerner and not so-white guy.” He does cultivate a style of his own.
I just 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.”

If Howard 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 and Kucinich?

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.

And 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 and 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 in America 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).

Dean 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 step."

Al 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 piece, we’ll let Mr. Bright have the last word.

March on Media

Kucinich 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.

”You know, 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.”

Reader Darwin Overson wants to rip away corporate media’s journalistic disguise.

First, let me thank you for the wonderful article on the Dec 7 Howard Dean address. 

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 their job.

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 of people. 

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.)

Freedom Rider

Margaret 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.

Mr. Jones 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.

A Cincinnati doctor named Donald Rucknagel swallowed enough attitude pills to convince himself he could step to the Freedom Rider.

Give 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?

Rucknagel just wrote a prescription for his own humiliation. Margaret Kimberley responds:

Dear Dr. Rucknagel,

Should 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?

Cincinnati 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.

As 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.

Educator, 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:

The 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 likely.

Mr. Wise most recently authored a three-part series for titled, “Ghettos are Not a Game.

Tortured Haiti

The American-orchestrated 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 corporate game

The “con” in “neo-conservative” is simple. “Neo-cons 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 others.

We African-Americans 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.

Dedrick Muhammad is coordinator of the Racial Wealth Gap Education Project at United for a Fair Economy. Gwen found the piece enlightening.

, you 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.   

White empowerment through prisons

The 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 prisons.

[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.”

Street describes 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.

Your article 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.

Lois 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:

Thanks 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.

Yes, Bush 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

Digital technology has transformed dusty old periodical back issues into fresh, easily accessed “archives” – a boon for researchers and casual readers, alike.

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.

Faith-based 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 world, too.

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 them.

I agree 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 this despot.

A lynching postcard for the family

Last week we posted, without comment, a link to “Without Sanctuary: Photographs and Postcards of Lynching in America,” a film and exhibit by James Allen. Joseph Osorio, a reader from Oakland, California, relates his experience.

My dear 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 that.

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?

Your issue 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, “Strom Thurmond’s Black Daughter: Common Knowledge About a ‘Special Relation,” by Ken Cummings.

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…

Thurmond 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 conference Wednesday, 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.

folks

Thomas Tyler dabbles in the cryptic arts.

I appreciate 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."

We have no idea what Mr. Tyler meant – but we hope it is, on the whole, positive.

Tom 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.

We 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.”

I eagerly 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.

Seriously, thanks for the breath of sanity!  Keep up the good work!

replied:

That’s 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.

Required reading

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 Us, Contact Us and Privacy Policy pages. For the record our postal address is:

Publishers
BlackCommentator.com
157-B Bridgeton Pike # 254
Mullica Hill, NJ 080626

Since we published our first issue we have existed at the same IP address with the same e-mail address (publisher@blackcommentator.com). Our voicemail number is: 856.823.1739.

Spammers pretend to be someone they are not, change IP addresses constantly and most often cannot be contacted.

We at The Black Commentator are who we say we are and plan on keeping it real.

Keep writing.

 

gratefully acknowledges the following organizations for sending visitors our way during the past week:

BuzzFlash

Democratic Underground

Official Howard Dean blog

Sons of Afrika

Moun (Haitian)

Daily Kos

Black Electorate

All Facts and Opinions

Portside

AntiRacismNet

Counterpunch

New California Media online

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia

The Progressive Populist/ Nathan Newman

 


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