From the Publishers of The Black Commentator:

The NAACP has placed a weak and confused guardian at the gates of its venerable publication, THE CRISIS. Founded by W.E.B. Du Bois in 1910, the magazine is edited by Victoria Valentine, who answers to publisher and magazine board chairman Roger Wilkins. In an editorial remarkable for its shallowness and laziness of mind, and dangerous in its implications for the organization's political cohesion, Valentine managed to attack the NAACP's friends, give comfort to its foes, and insult the intelligence of its readership.

The September - October editorial, titled "Black According to Whom?" completely obscures the substantive issues surrounding the new crop of "Black leaders" touted by corporate media and funded by rightwing dollars. Editor Valentine bestows political cover and the publication's imprimatur to congresspersons-elect Denise Majette (D-GA) and Arthur Davis (D-AL), and failed Newark mayoral candidate Cory Booker, describing all three - with no justification - as "liberal like their opponents." Booker's leadership of a Right-bankrolled organization formed solely to promote private school vouchers becomes openness "to ideas in education reform."

urges the THE CRISIS board to remove Ms. Valentine before she makes further gifts of the magazine's space to proponents of private school vouchers and others whom the Right is grooming to undermine and supplant established Black leadership - including the NAACP. Her presence at the magazine is wholly inexplicable.

We are pleased to publish the following Open Letter from Harvard political scientist Dr. Martin Kilson, a longtime NAACP supporter and author of the forthcoming two-volume work, The Making of Black Intellectuals: Studies on the African-American Intelligentsia. Valentine's editorial follows Dr. Kilson's letter.


In the leadoff editorial in the October 2002 issue of THE CRISIS titled "Black According To Whom," I thought the editor of THE CRISIS erred in several basic respects. Victoria Valentine doesn't distinguish between the types of persons among African-American political activists who opposed a group of "challengers" to established African-American office-holders in citiesand Congress. She also implies, erroneously, that the opponents of the "challengers" were of one political outlook, namely, proponents of a "Black-authenticity" test for judging African-American candidates. Furthermore, THE CRISIS editor implies, erroneously, that the "challengers" - such as Cory Booker in Newark's mayoral election, Denise Majette in the Democratic Primary in Representative Cynthia McKinney's 4th Congressional District in Georgia - were either politically benign or "liberal" in regard to key public policy issues relating to African-American citizens.

Now while there was a petty resort to a kind of "Black-authenticity" rhetoric by Reverend Al Sharpton while campaigning for the Democratic incumbent Representative Earl F. Hilliard in Alabama, and while the incumbent Mayor Sharpe James in Newark's mayoral campaign erupted with the emotional outburst that his challenger Cory Booker was a "faggot White boy," the main body of political opponents of the "challengers" to incumbent African-American office-holders during the past year's elections did not participate in petty "Black-authenticity " rhetoric. I myself joined in critiquing one of the "challengers" to incumbent African-American office-holders during the past year's elections - namely, the Cory Booker campaign in the Newark mayoral race.

While I had no doubt about the stupidity of Mayor Sharpe James' emotional outburst about Booker being a "fag boy," the real substance of Mayor James' campaign strategy revolved around the major political facts that characterized Cory Booker's campaign. It is unfortunate that the editor of THE CRISIS apparently made no serious effort to uncover these major political facts. If she had done so, she would have concluded, I am sure, very little was politically benign or liberal about Cory Booker's campaign. Cory Booker's campaign stood for many things of political substance for the status and conditions of African-American citizens that contradicted the civil rights policy agenda of the NAACP. Above all, Booker's campaign in Newark functioned as a rightwing conservative beachhead governance base in a city with a majority Black/Latino population. Booker's "stealth candidacy" was a precondition for realizing this rightwing Republican goal.

A core defining feature of Mayor Sharpe James' campaign strategy revolved around the core political facts of councilman Cory Booker's campaign. Namely, the numerous political linkages between Cory Booker and blatant rightwing forces in American politics in general and the Republican Party in particular. First, the initial public evidence of the nominal Democrat Newark councilman Cory Booker being operationally a rightwing conservative candidate was revealed through the ultra-conservative columnist George Will, through his March 17, 2002 weekly column. Celebrating Cory Booker's campaign in Newark, George Will informed America that "Booker's plans for Newark's renaissance are drawn from thinkers at…the Manhattan Institute think tank…." I can inform THE CRISIS editor that it is at the Manhattan Institute where numerous rightwing opponents of the mainline African-American leadership's civil rights agenda (the agenda of the NAACP in regard to housing, jobs, education, criminal justice, and a proactive federal role in vanquishing the legacy of racism in American society) hang their hats.

Furthermore, Cory Booker's campaign was financed mainly through a Booker-friendly network of conservative organizations, especially ones launched to spread a rightwing Republican agenda among African-American voters. Organizations like the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), founded by the former Black education superintendent in Milwaukee, Howard Fuller. BAEO is a group that's vociferous in support of education vouchers - which by the way Black and Hispanic voters have roundly defeated in major elections around the country, e.g., California, Michigan. It is massively funded by rightwing foundations like the Bradley Foundation and the Walton Foundation, and gains additional resources from Alan Keyes' rightwing Republican organization called Black America's Political Action Committee (BAMPAC).

As a longstanding NAACP supporter, I consider it a political obligation to oppose electoral candidates - White and Black ones - whose function is to advance the policy agenda of rightwing organizations like BAEO and BAMPAC, and also the policy agenda of the rightwing forces in the Republican party, the forces now represented by President George W. Bush's Administration. On the other hand, liberal and moderate Republican candidates - White ones and Black ones, such as former Senator Edward Brooke from my state of Massachusetts - have gained my political support on some occasions. Such liberal and moderate Republican office-holders have also sustained a respectful outreach relationship with the national NAACP leadership. But such respectful outreach relationship with the national NAACP has never been a bona fide political posture or practice with conservative rightwing leadership in the Republican party - under Nixon, Reagan, the first President George Bush - and it is not a posture presently under President W. Bush.

Thus, it was not difficult for me to oppose Cory Booker's candidacy for mayor in Newark, N.J., and I wrote a memorandum on Booker's deep linkages to rightwing Republican groups, which was broadly circulated during the Newark Mayoral campaign. There are, in short, just two words required to inform Ms. Victoria Valentine, editor of THE CRISIS, about the real political character of Cory Booker's campaign. It was a "stealth candidacy," with Booker putting forth to Newark's voters - and especially its African-American voters - a pretender or false "public face" as a new-guard liberal Black politician, while in actuality his substantive "private face" was a rightwing conservative one.

This Janus-faced "stealth candidacy" pattern might also have been the case with Denise Majette, who defeated the pro-civil rights agenda oriented Representative Cynthia McKinney in Georgia. I will await further research into Denise Majette's real political ties to determine this.

By the way, Ms. Valentine's attempt to suggest a parallel political symmetry between Cory Booker - a genuine "stealth candidate" - and Tennessee's U.S. Representative Harold Ford is just plain wrong. While Representative Ford, as a Black member of Congress, has fashioned a neo-liberal format for himself, this neo-liberal format remains genuinely committed to the core public policy goals of the longstanding mainline African-American leadership's civil rights agenda. CRISIS editor Valentine even tries to maneuver a parallel political symmetry between Cory Booker and other young Black politicians, such as Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, but this is just analytically disingenuous. Jackson and Kilpatrick, like Representative Ford, while creatively broadening the alliance pattern among African-American office-holders, remain genuinely committed to the core public policy goals of the mainline African-American leadership's civil rights agenda. In short, the NAACP's agenda.

The NAACP is, after all, the premier articulator and practitioner of the mainline African-American leadership's civil rights agenda. Critics of Cory Booker's campaign in Newark's mayoral election season, like myself, recognized the assault on the NAACP's civil rights agenda emanating from Cory Booker's campaign, and we accordingly publicly opposed Booker's campaign, whatever misgivings we might have had with corruption and patronage violations under Mayor Sharpe James' four-term administration. Happily, our opposition role assisted in Cory Booker's defeat. It is rather disappointing to read in the October issue of THE CRISIS that its editor, Victoria Valentine, believes the opponents of Cory Booker were wrong. I submit that it is Victoria Valentine who is wrong.

Frank G. Thomson Research Professor
Harvard University

Black According to Whom?,
A Message from the Editor, Victoria L. Valentine...

This election season there were a number of heated contests in which Black incumbents faced Black challengers. In these races pitting Democrats against one another, most of the focus has been on the fact that the incumbents have been political veterans who have rarely faced real competition and their challengers have often been younger, relatively green candidates.

But there are other qualities about the opponents that the veteran politicians have exploited in their efforts to hold onto the support of their constituents. The political establishment has characterized the challengers as not authentically Black, an indictment once only lavished (with equal ridiculousness) on Black republicans.

The newcomers are liberal like their opponents, but because they may have attended Ivy League schools, haven't grown up poor enough, have a diverse base of support and may be more moderate on key issues, they are being cast as not Black enough.

Some young politicians, including Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. (D-TN) and former Newark City Councilman Cory Booker are open to ideas in education reform, that are controversial to civil rights veterans who fought to integrate public schools. And candidates such as Denise Majette, who defeated Rep. Cynthia McKinney in the Democratic primary for the 4th district of Georgia, and Artur Davis, who successfully challenged Rep. Earl F. Hilliard (D-Ala.) for his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, have courted controversy in the Black establishment because their campaigns were significantly supported by Whites and Jewish organizations outraged at their opponents' views on the Middle East. Rev. Al Sharpton, campaigning in Birmingham for Hilliard, said, "Everybody that's our color is not our kind. Everybody that's our skinfolk is not our kinfolk."

The most poignant example occurred in this season's mayoral election in Newark, N.J. Mayor Sharpe James, who has served since 1986, faced a viable opponent in 33-year-old Booker, a tenant lawyer who had already beaten a four-term incumbent for a seat on the city council. Next, Booker who grew up in a New Jersey suburb, and graduated from Stanford University and Yale Law School before heading to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, challenged James, 66, in the mayoral election. James managed to garner 53 percent of the vote and will serve a fifth four-year term. But the campaign was ugly. It was widely reported that James called booker a "faggot White boy." According to New York magazine, James' spokesman explained the slur as an "emotional reaction."

There's no doubt that these up and coming leaders are passionate about their race. And that's likely why they entered politics to begin with - to better the lot of the African American community. But as beneficiaries of civil rights and other legislative advancements accomplished by their predecessors, rising Black politicians like Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick have benefited from integrated environments at school, work and home. While their priorities remain with issues of traditional concern to Blacks, they also have expanded interests and expertise. Which was the goal, I thought, of us overcoming.

Once in office, Black politicians trying to build coalitions and work on business issues, for example, have enough problems dealing with the biases of those outside the race without worrying about being judged by those within the race.

It really should come down to the issues. The Black community has traditionally voted as a bloc (sometimes with success, sometimes not) in areas such as welfare and education reform and tax cuts, but increasingly, depending on income, age and education level attained, African Americans greatly differ on these matters.

If we don't agree with a Black politician's stand on issues (or are concerned about the source of his or her financial support), we just shouldn't vote for them, not question their Blackness.

Website of THE CRISIS
e-Mail address for Letter to the Editor of THE CRISIS
[email protected]


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Issue Number 15
November 4, 2002





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Other commentaries in this issue:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Bogus Election "Study"
Black Majette vote grossly inflated, analysis reveals By Bruce A. Dixon, Associate Editor

Guest Commentary 2
Land Struggles and Democracy in Zimbabwe
by Chris Lowe

Wellstone: The best of them all

Permanent war, permanent Uncle Toms
NAACP for peace
Solitary killers and mass muderousness
Prisoners of the American gulag

Politics Trumps Religion:
Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative
By Barbara Miner

Belafonte’s courage
Race and war hysteria
Baraka’s verse
Unpaid debt in Zimbabwe

Commentaries in Issue 14 October 17 , 2002:

Permanent War: Permanent State of Emergency

Trojan Horse Watch: Bob Johnson’s message invades Black radio...Rep. Harold Ford: mess of the blue dog...The Trojan Horse TV show

Briefs:The Four Eunuchs of War...The most dangerous game...Smack, Blow, and Blowback...Lethally stupid and more...

IRAQ, WAR & COLOR RACISM: By Dr. David Graham Du Bois, Guest Commentator

A Jewish Peace Activist on Baraka’s Poem: Urban Legends by Rachael Kamel, Guest Commentator

e-MailBox: The Real Rosa Parks...NAACP challenged on war...Plato and the Emperor George...Deceitful billionaire busted...Anglo-Saxon alarmed

RE-PRINT: Harry Belafonte on Colin Powell...CNN Larry King Live Interview with Belafonte

Interview: Educate and Advocate - Henry Nicholas on social justice in America

You can read any past issue of The Black Commentator in its entirety by going to the Past Issues page.