Number 20 - December 12, 2002
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post-Thanksgiving mail and visitation has been so heavy, we imagined
countless family gatherings dominated by intense, Black Commentator-inspired
political debate, resulting in massive exchanges of URLs. More likely,
good people are slowly coming to grips with the grand scope of evil
emanating from the White House, and seek ways to meet the challenge.
George Bush's favorite
law firm, the Center for Individual Rights, may succeed in effectively
dismantling affirmative action in higher education, this summer, when
the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the "diversity" program at
the University of Michigan law school. Two white women claim that minority
students are taking up seats to which they are entitled, based on grades
and standardized test scores. 's
position is that Blacks and progressives must at long last stop dithering
around the edges of the problem, and fight to "abolish
the racial tyranny of the tests."
"If the Supreme
Court rules in favor of the white women," we wrote, "persons
who have achieved higher test scores will be entitled to commensurate,
enhanced 'rights' under the law as long as these tests carry weight."
There is no room for compromise. SATs will doom Black hopes for meaningful
representation in the more prestigious colleges and universities, as
confirmed by a report of the Journal for Blacks in Higher Education.
"In a race-neutral
competition for the approximately 50,000 places for first-year students
at the nation's 25 highest-ranked universities, high-scoring blacks
will be buried by a huge mountain of high-scoring non-black students.
...black students make up at best between 1 and 2 percent of these high-scoring
groups," according to the JBHE autumn issue.
Jeremy D. Roberts
has some experience with standardized tests.
I was particularly
happy to see your headline about abolishing the SAT. Although I'm
a Black man who has always done well on standardized tests and owe
a great deal of my current "good life" to the tests (more
appropriately to the access they afforded me), I believe they are
obviously designed to always keep Blacks and Latinos in "their"
One of the arguments
I had hoped to see in the article is the question of how the tests
are themselves tested. In other words, when a testing company - and
they're all private - wants to know whether they've designed a "good"
test, they include a "dummy" section on the actual test.
Test takers' answers are then evaluated and, I would imagine, racial
and gender characteristics are assessed against the results. So, if
it turns out that Blacks outscored whites on that particular version,
it would probably be rejected as being not representative of "reality".
I'm not sure if this is actually done since I don't work at a testing
company, but it seems reasonable that that's how they would operate.
If that's how it works then the conclusion is obvious - Black students
will never close the gap and, of course, makes clear that these tests
are no measure of any objective reality.
The tyranny of the
SATs is yet another manifestation of the privatization of civil society.
The tests are products, sold for profit. The prime consumers of these
tests are the same social demographic favored by the universities that
collaborate with the Princeton Educational Testing Service. The consumers
and colleges get what they pay for. Now the withered "diversity"
fig leaf is about to be snatched away, and supporters of "equality
as a fact and as a result" - President Lyndon Johnson's words -
have no alternative but to eliminate the tests as arbiters of advancement.
Otherwise, high scorers will have achieved an entitlement under law
- another white right.
the vast advantages conveyed to whites by tailor-made tests, the Hard
Right lawyers of the Center for Individual Rights rigged the evidence
in their assault on the University of Michigan affirmative action program.
Tim Wise tackles racism by-the-numbers with his commentary "Selling
Sloppy Statistics," reprinted in this issue.
Marty Williams was
thinking about the end result of the higher education process, the point
at which Black intellectuals achieve the recognition they seek - and
from whom. Mr. Williams was moved to write to us after digesting Shelton
Amstrod's historical critique of Harvard University and some of its
Black alumni. (See "Harvard:
The strange career of a troublesome institution," December
I read the recent
commentary by Shelton Amstrod on Harvard University. I was wondering
what the author's opinion is of Henry Gates? Would the author level
the same criticism cited in his commentary against Mr. Gates?
In addition, I've
always found it interesting that the so-called "Black Intellectuals"
are most often associated with predominantly white universities. Why
is it that those determined as "Black intellectuals" come
from these schools, instead of from Black colleges and universities?
And just who determines who is a "Black intellectual?"
Thank you for
the very insightful commentary.
In my opinion,
the best analysis of the Harvard Uncle Tom Henry Louis Gates is in
the recently published book, "The American Directory of Certified
Uncle Toms," pp. 315-24. The book is available at Black bookstores
and through several WWW sites. Try a Google search for the title.
I am in complete and total agreement with the authors.
Marvin C. Pittman
took extreme and lengthy exception to Mr. Amstrod's critique. We offer
it in full:
I read Shelton Amstrod's
article "Harvard: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Institution."
I am interested in his assessment of Harvard's long career of racism
and upholding racist beliefs. In other ways, I am appalled at his
apparently shoddy journalism and name-calling.
I think that before
Amstrod wages his war of words on Harvard, he had better know something
about the place. I graduated from the place this past June. The Harvard
that Adam Clayton Powell spoke of is not the same Harvard from which
I graduated. And the history of the place as racist does not exactly
make it a breeder of Uncle Toms, as Amstrod suggests.
Before he uses
Adam Clayton Powell's quote, Amstrod should also use the context of
that statement for the reader. The quote sounds too much like it was
taken out of context. Also, Powell attended at a different time than
now, a different Harvard in many ways, though still the same in others.
Just like the rest of America.
He should begin
by telling us whom he thinks these Toms are. That would be helpful.
Also, he should look more into the personality and career of Randall
Kennedy himself. What is his stance? Did Amstrod even read Kennedy's
book? And does Amstrod know the difference between Kennedy's wearing
Harvard on his sleeve, and the media putting it there? Kennedy is
a Harvard professor; that's a fact. The media is going to say that
no matter what, and no matter what Amstrod thinks, or what the media
thinks, it's a big deal. (Don't ask me why, because I still don't
know.) Amstrod does not take that into account, either. Instead, he
provides Kennedy as a weak segue into what could have been a promising
look at the hidden racist history of Harvard, a subject that needs
to be talked about. In fact, it's something some black students there
Before he heaps
on Harvard's racist history, he must also keep in mind that nearly
every institution held the same views and had people working or attending
them who held such views. Amstrod can write the same piece about just
about anything in the United States, hell, any Western country. By
his shoddy application of such facts to today, he discounts any idea
of progress that has been made at the school. And progress has been
Also, if Amstrod
makes these statements in order to show how Harvard is still an overwhelmingly
racist place that creates Uncle Toms, then he had better make a better
case, since he pretty much overlooks most of the 20th century, and
especially overlooks 1970s - today, when blacks starting gaining more
admittance to Harvard, and things have drastically changed since then.
Things are far from perfect, but you'd get the idea that like W.E.B.
DuBois, black students still commute from Roxbury. Did Kennedy even
attend Harvard? Amstrod assumes it; attending and teaching there are
two different things.
Do not use Kennedy
as a means to call the rest of us black students Uncle Toms. In fact,
many black students attend Harvard to get a chance at gathering the
power of society in order to make change for our people. But then,
it doesn't appear that Amstrod talked to any black Harvard students.
Even one day's experience on the Harvard Black Men's Forum's listserv
will change his perspective.
Before he assaults
and insults us, he should get to know us in our collectivity and our
individual diversity. I wonder if he has even visited. He should see
the Harvard African Students Association, the Black Students Association,
the Black Men's Forum, the Association of Black Harvard Women, the
Caribbean Club, the Kuumba Singers, the Harvard Black Arts Festival,
and other groups. He should see just what we, as individuals in the
classroom, are doing - from economics to politics to community service
to law to education to world health to sports to humanities to art
to just plain being there for each other in sometimes-hostile territory
- all to make black people better, to make all people better. Some
of us rock Angela Davis and Huey Newton; others rock Ralph Lauren;
and most of us fall in the middle, but most of us work with that same
purpose, to help our people.
I must reiterate:
Amstrod, do not use Kennedy to mark the rest of us black people who
happen to be at Harvard. Most of us hate it there, and most of us
love it for other reasons. Personally, it was a chance to be around
some of the damn brightest brothers and sisters acting with a purpose
that I had ever seen. For that I will always be thankful.
And if Amstrod
is going to use Kennedy to paint the rest of us, then he does the
same for folks such as Lani Guinier, Charles Ogletree, William Julius
Wilson, other professors and lecturers, the Afro-American Studies
Department, as well as the more than 1,000 undergraduates and grad
students currently enrolled. Does he dare call us all Toms and Jemimas?
Better yet, does he call Cornel West, who graduated Class of 1974,
an Uncle Tom?
Just as he claims
Kennedy is being used to speak for all black people, Amstrod uses
Kennedy to speak for all black people who happen to attend Harvard.
He falls into the same trap of which he accuses white journalists.
This is unacceptable.
This is poor journalism. This is poor writing. This is poor characterization.
And, in the end, it sounds like 100 percent pure hateration.
Marvin C. Pittman
Harvard College Class of 2002
journalism master's student
S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications
The Black Plague
week saw worldwide commemoration of AIDS Day. The disease afflicts 40
million people, 75% of them African. "It is blatant discrimination
- on the basis of race, class, gender and sexual orientation - when
governments deny the urgency of this global crisis because of who the
victims are," wrote Africa Action director Salih Booker in his
Guest Commentary, "AIDS
- Discrimination is Deadly" (December 5).
From England, David
Burnett sends a message that would rate as ghoulish if the new "Black
Plague" were not so horribly real.
One question occurs
to me. Since AIDS seems to be one of a group of disorders made to
measure for de-population, the designers surely would have provided
a safety measure to protect themselves? First the American urban gay
communities, then Africans in Africa. Now it is blitzing the Chinese,
the Russians and people in India and South East Asia. Left to it's
own capabilities it could kill off 60% of the world's population.
Surely the makers who lighted this fire had figured out their own
If so, there is a big secret hidden away in Fort Wotzit.
Pirates at the
It must have been
something we said. "The people in charge of Bush are different
from their class predecessors, a relatively recent mutation spawned
by hyperactive capital, massive corporate corruption and the maddening
allure of global plunder. They are pirates."
visitation, which has grown steadily since we began publishing in April,
doubled. Clearly, there is something cathartic about calling the monster
by its name. "Rule
of the Pirates: The $200 billion Payday," also generated more
mail by far than any previous commentary. The December 5 issue also
coincided with a radio appearance by
co-publisher Glen Ford on Working Assets Radio with Laura Flanders Friday,
December 6 (Media Roundtable Program - KALW 91.7 FM in the San Francisco
Bay Area.) Readers may Click
on this link to listen to the broadcast.
I heard you (Glen)
on the Bay Area's Working Assets radio show [writes John].
The sense of relief
and solidarity you feel when someone else says things you have been
formulating in your car or kitchen - "Yes, finally!" - has
some kinship with joy.
in his Owners Manual for Spaceship Earth, talks of the Pirates whose
world view was based on maps whose focal point was the middle of various
oceans. If I remember correctly, these individuals saw the terrestrial
world as a fringe of ports-sites of destination and departure and
sites of accessible resources which, gathered, would then depart for
If I remember
correctly, he asserts that World War One was a result of these pirates
losing control of the scrum for dominance and survival amongst these
I am increasingly
thinking the word Fascism - we already have the generals, the fancy
uniforms, with the rack of metals on their chest, the strutting little
man full of rage over entitlement denied; the outrageous explanations
of reality, the pubescent circle jerk admiration of the man of action
(a G.I. Joe kind of action hero)....
Mr. Ford did not
expect that his brief talk with Working Assets' Laura Flanders would
inspire such imagery.
Our central premise
is that Bush and Cheney represent an ascendant class for whom "war
is the ideal business environment." This group, most conspicuously
under the corporate brand of Halliburton - Cheney's true fatherland
- sees the estimated $200 billion cost of war with Iraq as a big payday.
Their behavior seems piratical because that's how they thrive, remarkably
like the old buccaneers. International outlawry comes naturally to these
guys who, as we wrote, have "no direct connection to the well
being of the domestic economy and those of us who depend on it."
Georgia State Representative
Nan Grogan Orrock wrote, from Atlanta:
This is a great
article - the unvarnished truth on how to understand what the Cheney-Bush
crowd is up to in promoting war against Iraq. This article should
be spread coast-to-coast. People need to understand what we are up
against. Thank you for shedding light on this nest of vipers!
We did some checking
on State Rep. Orrock, and found that she was down with SNCC's Mississippi
Summer project, in 1963. Her perspective carries weight with us.
Reader Marco Zonka
offered comments and a question:
I am someone who
reads lots of alternative in depth reportage about the hidden agenda
of imperial aspirations that defines the US secret government. Your
article "Rule of the Pirates" is really a brilliant piece
of work. Thanks for speaking truth to power in such an incisive, comprehensive,
and cogent way.
I'm curious: Do you know what percentage of your readers are black
or white? Are you bridging the Black/White cultural divide in some
measurable ideological fashion?
Our readership roughly
reflects the audience we initially targeted: Black "influencers"
from all sectors and progressives among the general population. The
racial/ethnic breakdown is about 70% African American, 20% white American,
about 10% other non-African American. Whites write to us in dramatic
disproportion to their numbers in the readership. We don't know why,
although we have theories.
Our mission has always been to create a political conversation on issues
that are vital to African Americans; others are free to opt-in. If this
amounts to "bridging the Black/White cultural divide in some measurable
ideological fashion," that's fine with us. Black progressives should
take the lead in the struggle for social and economic justice and peace,
just as Black people have long represented the only dependable mass
base for progressivism in the United States.
In other words,
has no problem telling white people what we believe they should
Peter Hollings writes
with an interesting angle on public monies spent on war compared to
the value of the resources at issue.
"Rule of the Pirates The $200 billion payday," is dead-on.
The only thing I might add would be to point out the folly of spending
$200 billion with the thought that it would safeguard the $25 billion
worth of oil that we import from the Middle East each year. Such wasteful
spending of the national treasure in service of narrow interests is
a sure path to decline, as the demise of the British Empire demonstrated.
May I propose
that our government impose a tax on imported oil equal to the costs
of our activities in the Middle East. This would remove the hidden
subsidy that our petroleum industry now enjoys, encourage the development
of alternative energy sources, and provide an environmental benefit.
Propose, and propose
again. We will have an encyclopedia of demands before this battle is
done. The current regime in Washington threatens the delicate fabric
of civilization and the principle of the rule of law - that's part of
what makes them pirates. They rip things apart, so that others will
have to patch them back, again. The new forms that result should be
superior to the old.
Far from championing
the interests of domestic and global business, the Bush-Cheney pirates
threaten planetary stability in ways that create uncertainties among
everyone except those sectors that have a direct interest in war.
That's why we were not surprised to hear from Kathy Smith, vice president
of iDSO International, Inc.
At last, truth.
It is encouraging to know that others know and are concerned, nay,
outraged, at what is happening now. Your current newsletter was forwarded
to me, and I forwarded it to my entire address book, who I hope will
do the same. Our very future depends on intelligent, thoughtful, principled
people spreading the word. Keep up the good work.
Khalil Bendib, succeeds where our prose falls short.
to have worked some metaphorical mo-jo on writer Fred Jakobcic.
The American public,
and the world deserve better than more water under the bridge, or
in this case, over Niagara Falls.
Beating the drums
of war, as depicted in this cartoon, is an attempt to make it a fait
accompli, should the "war" against Iraq start for any reason,
using any excuse, for the American public and the world at large.
The Bush administration is aided and abetted in the endeavor by the
corporate owned and controlled mainstream media that follows the money
first and writes the story that the money allows. Since Bush has a
lot of that money his fairy-tale of the threat Iraq is against us
prevails, with reality buried in the obituary. So, over the waterfall
and through the woods we go....
Russell Camp, on
the other hand, has s a more straightforward style of expression.
Your piracy article
is very much on target. I was firmly of the opinion that piracy was
the proper term, but I didn't think far enough evidently. The potential
of profiting from the control of the assets of weaker countries was
my perspective. Connecting the money trail to Halliburton is very
much a realistic view, that way they can profit at the expense of
the taxpayers as well as the expense of the conquered countries. I
enjoy the feeling that there are people out there that are unaffected
by the constant propaganda.
That's because the
louder Bush gets, the wronger he sounds.
Gertrude F. Treadway
confirms with the authority of her seniority that the current regime
is a different kind of animal.
This was a wonderful
article about Bush and Cheney as pirates. You are right on the money
with your analysis. I sincerely hope the American electorate mobilizes
to do something to change the direction of our country. In all of
my seventy-two years of life, I have never been more anxious and afraid
of the conditions which prevail here now.
If one wanted to
sound like money, Jordan Chadwick would be a good name to have.
Mr. Chadwick does not disappoint us.
Thank you for
your informative article. I was wondering if your research staff had
also looked into the Bush family investments in GOLD... particularly,
Newmont Mining. With the dollar being devalued and unemployment soaring,
gold becomes the currency of choice and investment. With George in
the presidency and all restrictions off mining of federal lands, this
is another bonanza for the Bush and Cheney investment portfolio.
We had not thought
about gold, but that would have great allure to a family of pirates,
Black GOP fantasies
Blenus Martin is
tired of the constant insults to Black voters' intelligence.
are trying to convince black America that a particular party cares
nothing for them, and in return they show even less of a desire to
I think our biggest problem is we, as citizens of this nation, have
become too comfortable and too thick headed to realize we must participate
and become part of what this country is supposed to be, and stop standing
on the sidelines cheering.
I was once asked what has the democratic party done for me? My reply
was, nothing! But, individuals within the Democratic Party (both black,
white and Hispanic) have given me the opportunities to be a part of
the "life" in this country. Whereas, I see Republicans/conservatives
doing nothing more than convincing whites that I'm taking away their
jobs and their classroom spots in colleges, and trying to tell me
how I should be thinking and behaving.
The blacks who are running to the Republican party with open arms
are doing so with their eyes closed, meaning they are buying into
a fantasy that will never make them equals among those who are convincing
them they are a much better plan for them.
We as black Americans, need to wake up, take care of our children,
listen to what is being said and how it's being said about us, and
change those things.
can take a toll on a progressive citizen. Johns Rabun is exposed to
a bunch of people who are definitely not credits to their race.
I am a 51-yr old
white male liberal democrat who has the misfortune of living in Alabama.
I don't know who sent it to me, but I am glad I found your site. I
am so pissed off and embarrassed by most of my party's (mostly white)
leaders that if there was any way I could change my race, I would.
This started when ALL of my party's senators - and its candidate -
sat on their white butts and failed to support the [Congressional
Black Caucus] when the electoral votes were certified, and it hasn't
let up since. I have that on tape (C-SPAN) and watch it every now
and then, whenever I find myself getting complacent.
and website are excellent! I'm forwarding articles to my friends and
letting all of them know this perspective and insight is available.
They no longer have to listen to the media talking heads to find out
what the black voters are thinking. Keep up the excellent work.
There is powerful
irony in the scene Mr. Rabun describes. Black lawmakers resisted Bush's
installation, but the party apparatus meekly certified the pretender.
Yet every absent Black vote spells defeat for the Democrats, who would
rather lead a retreat than follow Blacks into battle.
New readers are
appearing hourly. Doug Pibel found us while circulating among folks
whose opinions he respects.
Links to your
site have just recently started turning up on forums I read. I am
wildly impressed. Your material is as good as it gets, both in content
Julie Butler isn't
the wild type, but she does tend to exclaim.
I am a democrat
and I just discovered your web site. Great job!!!! The writing is
fabulous! Thanks for expanding democracy on the web!!!!
And, Dorina Moreno
is refreshingly... happy.
I have just subscribed
and am happy to join your cyber family.
the overflow of mail, next week. Keep writing.