June 29, 2006 - Issue 189

Freedom Rider
McKinney, Jackson Lee: Separated at Birth
by BC Editor and Senior Commentator Margaret Kimberley

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Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney has had a rough year, but she had a lot to smile about recently. A grand jury declined to indict her for using a cell phone as a lethal weapon, and the Bush administration vindicated her.

White House press secretary Tony Snow was not content to use the term “tar baby” and then act put upon when he was criticized for doing so. He had to do himself one better and demean black people all over again.

At a June 8th press briefing Snow reported that the president met with Republican and Democratic members of Congress recently returned from Iraq. While trying to make the case for Bush, Snow quoted McKinney, or so he thought, to make it appear that she was praising the actions of the U.S. military.

“Cynthia McKinney made the point yesterday in the meeting with the President that the one thing they had gotten from generals there were thorough and honest assessments of what's going on.”

One week later, Snow was forced to admit that he didn’t know one black woman from another. “. . . I misidentified Representative Sheila Jackson Lee as Cynthia McKinney.” Snow’s insult did not go unnoticed by Rep. Jackson Lee who called him up and called him out. Snow said they had a “wonderful little conversation.” Just for good measure he praised Jackson Lee and added a little self-flagellation to get himself out of trouble. “It really was a charming phone conversation, so I apologize for being an idiot on that.”

Jackson Lee had a different recollection of their talk. She did not use the words wonderful or charming. "We had a very interesting, or I should say, accommodating, conversation." The Congresswoman clearly has a gift for understatement.

Jackson Lee must have been furious and deeply offended. Not only does the White House think that she looks like any and every other black woman but they misidentified her in an attempt to make Bush look good. Jackson Lee is somewhat equivocating about Iraq, but she is a member of the Out of Iraq Caucus. She is a Democrat who usually takes the positions that Democrats ought to take. She cannot have been happy about being used by the Bushites.

Jackson Lee and McKinney have different styles and different politics. McKinney gets an A from the Congressional Black Caucus Monitor report card while Jackson Lee rates only a grade of C. McKinney goes toe to toe and lost her seat in 2002 because of her uncompromising commitment to speak truth to the powerful. Jackson Lee gave public support not once but twice, to ubercrook Ken Lay during his recent trial related to his wrong doing at Enron.

Jackson Lee does deserve praise for literally standing beside McKinney on the floor of the House when she apologized for the incident with the police officer. Others ran away or lied about their willingness to support McKinney in her time of need.

After McKinney was grabbed by cop Paul McKenna she was treated like a criminal. Even liberal favorite talk show host John Stewart compared her to the truly criminal Tom Delay and called her “bat shit insane.”

How odd that the White House would quote McKinney, even mistakenly. She was used as the Republican’s favorite punching bag, called everything but a child of God and was even criticized for her hairstyle. McKinney has been one of the most outspoken if not the most outspoken critic of the administration’s foreign policy. The White House and their allies were gleeful about her troubles, and yet they had the gall to use her name in order to bolster their arguments in favor of the occupation of Iraq.

The Capitol Hill police made a federal case out of the McKinney incident by claiming that a new hairstyle made the Congresswoman unidentifiable. Jackson Lee has a hairstyle similar to McKinney’s older look, hence the confusion for white America.

McKinney was dismissed, ridiculed and called crazy when she said she was the victim of racial profiling. She was certainly proven right when the White House used her name for its own purposes. The woman who was treated like public enemy number one was suddenly quoted when the powers thought she might be useful to them.

The moral of this story is clear. It doesn’t matter what McKinney, Jackson Lee or any other black person does or achieves. One is a former college professor and the other an attorney who graduated from an Ivy League school. Both are United States congressional representatives. Tony Snow doesn’t think either one of them is worthy of respect or consideration of any kind. One is indistinguishable from the other and they will be treated the same, with disdain, regardless of their opinions, actions, or CBC monitor grades. Apparently it is true. We all do look alike.

Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BC. Ms. Kimberley is a freelance writer living in New York City. She can be reached via e-Mail at [email protected]. You can read more of Ms. Kimberley's writings at freedomrider.blogspot.com.



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