In last week's issue of BlackCommentator (Issue
240), two articles were published regarding the action or lack
of it by Rep. John Conyers.
BC Columnist Larry Pinkney defended Conyers in his Keeping
It Real column entitled, "John Conyers: What Of Impeachment?." Here
are a few excerpts:
There has been a bit of a buzz emanating for some time from certain
quarters about impeaching President George W. Bush and Vice President
Dick Cheney. Recently with this buzz has come a virulent attack by
certain white so-called progressives and leftists upon US Representative
John Conyers who is a member of the Democratic Party and Chair of the
Judiciary Committee in the US House of Representatives.
...it becomes obvious as to why this "White progressive anti-war
movement" apparently felt no compunction in publicly attacking
John Conyers. It is, after all, by definition a "White anti-war
movement." However, first and foremost, what is needed in the
US is a Pro Peace With Justice movement, not a "White progressive
anti-war movement" that is, by definition, fundamentally flawed
For a certainty, there can be no question that Bush, Cheney, and their
arrogant and bloody ilk (including certain alleged people of color)
have committed (and are no doubt continuing to commit) impeachable
offenses. However, the public targeting of John Conyers by some in
the US white left is undeniably racist, totally unacceptable, and in
the final analysis, it is self defeating and divisive.
What needs to be impeached by the majority of the people is this entire
filthy, hypocritical, bloody, racist, capitalist system.
Pinkney was reacting to a number of published comments on the issue
is the Tripwire for the Progressive Movement: John Conyers
and Impeachment, by the Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., President
of the Hip Hop
Caucus, which BC re-printed in Issue 240. The following are
excerpts from Yearwood's article:
Rep. Conyers is a great mentor to me and my respect for him is unquestionable. He
has been fighting for peace and justice and civil rights for decades
inside and outside of Congress. He is a man for the people and
for America. So, it was a truly disappointing moment ...when we
realized that we do not agree on his role as the Chairman of the U.S.
House Judiciary committee to uphold our constitution by holding our
President and Vice President accountable for their impeachable offensives.
To my African-American counterparts who take issue with the White
progressive anti-war movement, I understand your criticism of our recent
action in Mr. Conyers office, but I do not agree. It was extremely
difficult to challenge a man who means so much to African-Americans,
but impeaching Bush is critical to the future of our country. We
cannot let the precedent stand that Bush has established, which severely
oversteps the bounds of executive power. We cannot send the message
that such actions will not go unpunished, or at least unchecked.
The challenge we face as activists and leaders is how can we possibly
bring an end to this madness when the Democrats in power are not with
us? We need a broad-based movement that can hold our elected officials
accountable and to create such a movement, we need to address our internal
divides. The reason many African-Americans have interpreted our
action against Rep. Conyers as racial betrayal goes deep into the tradition
of the progressive movement. How we can begin to address this
is something I will discuss in an upcoming article.
Both the Pinkney and Yearwood writings brought forth a great deal of
reaction from BC readers.
The Rev. Yearwood did not respond to the Pinkney commentary, but Cindy
Sheehan, who was part of the demonstration at Conyers' office did:
Dear Mr. Pinkney,
I did not confront Mr. Conyers because he is black, but because he
is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
I am not running against Ms.Pelosi because she is white, or a woman,
but because she fails to hold this administration accountable.
I want two white men held accountable.
Please don't make this about race, it's about justice.
There are many brown people in the Middle East suffering because of
BushCo and I want it to stop...along with saving our troops who often
suffer too because of a racist economy-based draft.
When I was camped outside of George Bush's ranch...was I racist then?
I sincerely apologize if what we did looked racist, but it was not.
Love and peace,
Stating that your having publicly "confronted" Rep. Conyers
was not done "because he is black" is missing the point.
Black America, and in particular our Black youth, have far too few
publicly known and respected progressive Black men and women as it
is; publicly attacking Rep. Conyers was ill conceived, unnecessary,
and divisive. Moreover, as was pointed out in my piece, Rep. Conyers
is the Chair of the Judiciary Committee, not the entire Committee.
Notwithstanding his influence on the Committee, he nevertheless has
only one vote. To have publicly targeted him and not the other Committee
members also, was as I stated in my piece, "tactically and strategically
incorrect." Whether intended or not, it gave the distinct impression
of active white racism.
Moreover, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (of the increasingly white
racistly gentrifying City of San Francisco) is clearly the person in
the House who has far more party-line influence and Democratic Party
clout than does Rep. Conyers, or any other member of the Judiciary
Committee for that matter. Whether or not you plan to run or are "running
against Ms. Pelosi" does not alter this present reality. Whether
it does in the future, remains to be seen.
I agree with you that the suffering of "Brown people" in
the so-called "Middle East," due to the actions of "BushCo," etc.
needs to "stop," but the horrible ongoing suffering of Black,
Brown, Red, and Yellow peoples right here in racist white America also
needs to be stopped. Not to acknowledge and address this is both hypocritical
and incredibly racist.
To paraphrase the words of the esteemed brother Malcolm X, "Let
us have our disagreements in the closet and come out as a united front." I
would hope that especially white progressives and / or leftists would
remember Malcolm's wise words and the enormous damage that can be done
by engaging in (albeit perhaps unintended) chauvinistic actions. None
of us, regardless to color or gender, is without flaws, which is the
beauty of having comrades to help us grow, develop, and press on...
Larry Pinkney, BC Columnist
BC reader RW thinks the blast against Conyers was a
I have just read your article in Black Commentator re: Representative
and Judiciary Chair John Conyers. I too was quite disappointed that
Conyers did not support the effort to impeach Cheney and Bush; but
on the other hand I will not criticize him. And I think that those
that went to his office made a terrible tactical and strategical mistake
- that still needs to be rectified.
I was at the rally in Washington DC yelling and waving my impeachment
sign when Conyers talked about firing George Bush. I got up close to
lead the effort and so that Conyers could clearly see that so many
of us wanted Bush and Cheney to be impeached. But I also know that
it would be disastrous for Conyers to table an impeachment effort too
As of last count there were only 14 supporters of Kucinich's Bill.
We need 15 to 20 times that number to be successful. Of course, Conyers
doesn't want to support the impeachment effort before it even stands
a chance of winning. It was not the right time for us to challenge
him. We should have asked him in advance to what extent he could support
us and then have gotten the best statement we could from him as to
what he would do if and when a sufficient number of representatives
are ready to impeach.
We still need to get this, but first we need to go and apologize to
him for how poorly this was handled. Here is a man that was willing
to lead the impeachment effort and hold hearings about it before the
last election; and [instead] we put him on the spot and embarrassed
him (and in the process ourselves) because we have not raised sufficient
political support yet for him to be able to again lead the effort and
I wrote to Democrats.com and AfterDowningStreet.org, right after the
confrontation and said something similar. I will include it below for
your consideration. I hope that you will contact those leading the
impeachment effort and encourage them to take steps to repair the damage
done and again build a constructive working relationship with Congressman
The big meeting with Conyers should have been held in private and
without the press around; and perhaps with a couple of supportive congressional
representatives. Such a meeting should probably be organized again
now, after the apologies have been made. It may mean that the Impeachment
Movement will also need to do some internal processing to understand
the mistake that they have made and that one can not just alienate
their allies because they disappoint us when they make their own strategic
WT wants a follow up from the Rev. Yearwood:
I appreciated your careful explanation of the Conyers event. However,
there needs to be a follow up on the continuing reaction by those who
sincerely feel that the action was as Larry Pinkney says "undeniably
racist, totally unacceptable, and in the final analysis it is self
defeating and divisive."
To say something is undeniably true seems more of an emotional assertion
than a useful statement of fact. Except that it is now undeniable that
racially charged statements such as saying Conyers is no MLK or betrayed
his race, were at least unconsciously racist and certainly "self
defeating and divisive." So as one among a growing majority that
wants to see us unite more effectively, I think we must work to both
appreciate legitimate emotional reactions and more importantly, to
reconcile our differences this event has surfaced, so we can unite
and not divide.
Since last week, the Rev. Yearwood followed up with Part II of his article:
As a minister, an activist, and the president of a Hip Hop organization,
I speak often on a number of issues. When I speak at anti-war rallies
the audience is usually all White, when I speak at immigration rallies
the audience is usually all Brown, when I speak at rallies and events
with Katrina survivors, the audience is usually all Black. Global warming,
usually White, police brutality, usually Black, and so on. The progressive
movement is segregated, and race is the tripwire that prevents us from
coming together. Not only do I find this to be very discouraging, it
Last week, the impeachment movement challenged Congressman John Conyers
on Capitol Hill to put impeachment back on the table. As chair of the
U.S. Committee on the Judiciary, Mr. Conyers is the only person in
Congress who can move impeachment proceedings forward. When he refused
to put impeachment on the table, several key progressive activists
wrote articles that said Mr. Conyers had “betrayed” our
country and that he “is no Martin Luther King” because
he is not using his constitutional powers to begin impeachment proceedings
against President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Many in the African-American
community felt that the attack was deeply disrespectful of Mr. Conyers.
I agree that these personal attacks are uncalled for and inappropriate.
Mr. Conyers represents our struggle for racial and social equality
in this country at the Congressional level and is a hero to many African-Americans.
However, as I explained in the first article of this series, I believe
that impeachment of the president and vice president is an issue of
critical importance to our country. At this moment in history we must
overcome the racial barriers that so often prevent us from working
To our detriment, we define some issues as Black issues, some issues
as White issues, and some issues as Brown issues. When White progressives
call for impeachment, the African-American community says we won’t
stand with you on impeachment because you won’t stand with us
on reparations. The White folks give an entitled rebuttal, arguing
that they do stand for reparations, but impeachment is more important.
Amidst this back and forth, we are missing two critical points. Firstly,
African-Americans are the most anti-Bush demographic; nearly 90 percent
support impeachment. Secondly, we are at a critical moment in history.
For the sake of our country’s standing throughout the world,
we all need to challenge the Democrats, including Congressman Conyers,
on the issue of impeachment.
Instead, the progressive movement is fragmented along issues and these
issues provide cover for our race divides. Ostensibly, identity-based
politics has emerged because certain issues are more relevant or of
more concern to specific communities. Unfortunately, this current paradigm
discourages people of different backgrounds from working together and
limits what issues people are "supposed" to work on.
Racist oppression means that certain populations and their experiences
tend to be viewed as essentially irrelevant. Among White progressives,
race is treated as a special interest issue, which is why it is so
difficult for people of color to buy into the progressive movement,
as it exists today. Our entire perspective is basically regarded as
The way that this links in with the Conyers controversy is that insofar
as White progressives are not seen as consistent allies of the Black
Freedom Movement and its demands, their criticisms of liberal and progressive
Black elected officials are viewed as suspect. In other words, when
our experiences, e.g. Katrina, are treated as exceptional rather than
something around which there needs to be broad unity, African-Americans
tend to become suspicious of White progressives who call upon us to
unite on issues that they believe to be important.
This, I should note, is a problem with a long history. In the aftermath
of the Civil War, White organized labor, which largely excluded the
Black former slaves from union membership, turned to the freed population
and asked that we unite with them to form a labor party separate from
the Democratic and Republican parties. While this may sound revolutionary,
the Black “Freedmen” found this to be a peculiar offer
since it was coming from those who would not permit us to enter into
their unions and from those who seemed to ignore the growing terror
against the African-American population in the South by White supremacists.
In other words, our experiences and our pain were considered to be
irrelevant, or at least something that could/should be easily ignored
in the interest of the larger unity or greater good.
I chose to protest Congressman Conyers’ stand on the question
of impeachment, but not out of disrespect for the Congressman. Rather,
as I wrote in my earlier piece, because I believe it to have been the
right thing to do. Nevertheless, it is quite understandable that some
of my sisters and brothers would raise questions about this and I respect
those questions. I would say to my White progressive friends that they
should be careful of whom they condemn for not following in the steps
of the late Dr. King, if they themselves have not been prepared to
walk in those steps and be champions of the consistent fight for social
At the same time, to my African-American sisters and brothers, I would
suggest that irrespective of what White progressives do or choose not
to do, we must do the right thing even when it means crossing or disagreeing
with one of our own. It is easier to see that in the case of a Condoleeza
Rice or Colin Powell who are in Black skin but have advanced policies
antithetical to the interests of Black America. But sometimes it also
means challenging our friends, such as Congressman Conyers, and suggesting
that our respect for them necessitates that we openly disagree with
In my opinion, we have no choice but to stand for what is right.
BC reader DN had a couple of questions for Pinkney:
I attended a Peace Action meeting last year at which Mr. Conyers spoke.
One of his aides spoke as well, stating as how a Democrat majority
needed to be elected in order to ensure that Mr. Conyers ended up as
head of the House Judiciary committee to ensure that impeachment proceedings
could begin against Bush and Cheney. Obviously, Mr. Conyers has modified
his position, and just as obviously, you feel is should not be held
accountable for his about face because he is black.
The question is, how is your position that Mr. Conyers should not
be held accountable for his action, a position clearly based on Mr.
Conyers race, not racist?
You are absolutely and totally incorrect in stating that I "feel" that
Rep. Conyers "should not be held accountable...because he is black."
As I clearly stated in my article, "The
Democratic and Republican Parties of this nation are simply two wings
of the same Party." Moreover, I also wrote in that article that, "attacking
John Conyers and clamoring for impeachment might serve adequately to
assuage the consciences of some in white America, but it does not seriously
address the horrible ongoing systemic injustices and 21st century economic
apartheid, experienced on a daily basis by Black, Red, and Brown peoples
in this nation. Only real systemic change will do this."
Regarding the Yearwood article, JRJ wrote BC that he
feels and shares the passion in the message, and thanks The Black Commentator,
for printing it:
When Rep. Pelosi was voted Speaker of the House, she forcefully declared
that Impeachment, would not be considered. By the way, I live in San
Francisco, Pelosi's district. Would you truly expect that Rep. Conyers,
would go against his Speaker, after her clear declaration? Would you
please explain through The Black Commentator, why the Anti War Progressives
did not stage their event at Speaker Pelosi's office, rather than Conyers,
given the circumstances? It appears to be a very deliberate act, to
put Brother Conyers, in an impossible position of embarrassment.
While I personally would love to Impeach both Bush and Cheney, it
would simply be an exercise in futility, because the votes are not
there to be successful.
MC wrote that he understood Pinkney's strong dissatisfaction with the
assault on Rep. John Conyers' office by "white anti-war" people:
When I heard that people in the movement to impeach Bush and Co.
did so, I winced, thinking it was the wrong target.
I say this though I am in league with those who were arrested at his
offices and believe that the work they are doing is valuable to help
change the course of this nation.
I do not believe for one second that race had anything to do with
this as you suggest. I also don't believe that people in the movement
for change should quit working on issues only because they do not specifically
deal with the deep systemic problems of our system that you point out
and [I believe many work] on more specific issues (such as impeachment,
or the environment, or on even local control of public access, whatever
this issue) because our total system is fundamentally flawed.
The problem all of us in the movement for change have is that we do
not have a coordinated effort, one that includes all the various participants
working to stem the residual effects of particular policies but at
the same time always [have] its eye on dealing with the root cause
of our problem as a nation: the pure corporate rule of our nation that
keeps pushing us toward fascism.
To taint those with good intentions, even if with bad tactics using
what happened in Conyers' office as an example, does a disservice to
those working to make the world better. As a white American, a clock
card-worker and truck driver for UPS, a middle class representative,
I should not have to apologize for being white if I work to try to
stem the effects of specific government policies. I know the problem
behind all these effects is deeper and have [their root cause] on a
But we need ways to forge all these separate entities into a real
movement that is unified in its end game, not one that name calls (as
you have in calling those who are white and middle class in the movement)
and divides those who are doing their best to move the country in the
direction that I think all on the left agree would bring about an expansion
of democracy and an extension of justice to a greater number of people,
not only in our nation but in the world at large.
In short, let's try to bring people together and not divide. We already
are rendered more ineffective by our inability to see how the many
separate issues [on which] different groups work in our nation have
systemic roots and need a complete overhaul. Let's keep the thrust
moving toward more unity in the goal to change, the core failing of
our capitalistic system, and include all those who are trying to do
something, in any way we can.
JT felt the Keeping It Real column was absolutely correct:
While living in Boston (until very recently), I alienated much of
the membership of the local chapter of Veterans For Peace for making
the same basic argument vis-a-vis their refusing to see the war as
a symptom of the disease, rather than as the disease. Please keep speaking
BC Reader MS, who claims to be an African-American
combat veteran of the Vietnam war, totally disagrees with Pinkney's defense
of Rep. Conyers and what he calls his disparaging of the so-called White
George Bush is responsible for the murder of over one million people
of (Iraqis) color, with another four million internally displaced or
refugees. One of the oldest civilizations (Iraq) has been turned into
a failed state. Why on earth would you condemn white progressives for
trying to end the carnage in Iraq? Keep in mind that young Black men
and women are dying in Iraq on behalf of racist psychopaths, Bush & Cheney.
Not to mention the bad image this presents of these Black troops throughout
out the third world by assisting white men in the murder (genocide)
of other defenseless and innocent people of color. Also, let's not
forget the massive damage inflicted on third world consciousness by
the Black savage of the State Department Condi (Birth Pings) Rice.
Question, Mr. Pinkney, what Progressive Black organizations are confronting
the racist onslaught Black people have been subjected to since the
White Nationalist Party (Republicans) came to power decades ago? The
Black Congressional Caucus are a joke. Where were they when the racists
Nazi's controlled by Tom Delay were pissing on Black folks, just for
fun? Where were they when Aristide was abducted from office? Where
were they when Bush militarily assisted the Ethiopian government in
attacking the elected government of Somalia, murdering thousands of
innocent Blacks and causing massive refugee problems? Where was the
black caucus when Cynthia McKinney was being attacked? Why did 37 members
of the Black Caucus vote in favor of racist sanctions against the government
of Zimbabwe, yet will fall all over themselves to vote for what ever
is appropriated for the racist, apartheid, terrorist occupying force
that is Israel? These are the same Israeli racist thugs who had no
problem giving the bomb to the racist apartheid regime of S. Africa
while committing genocide against the Palestinians. Conyers as you
know, is a staunch supporter of Israel. Cindy Sheehan has spoken out
against the terrorists of Israel.
I'm sure there are multitudes of Black folk who agree with the white
progressives concerning their confrontation with Conyers, but for various
reasons are unable to participate politically. But our concern should
be the de-legitimizing the white (sick) power structure of its supposed
God-given right to murder people of color anytime, anywhere for whatever
WK reacted to the impeachment issue this way:
John Conyers should repay the money he received when he ran on impeaching
bush if democrats were to take back the house and senate. Does he understand
the seriousness of asking for money and then not doing what he said
he would do if we poor blacks would send him money? Damn John.
One final note:
David Swanson (AfterDowningStreet.org),
who has been in the forefront of the impeachment drive and keeps a head
count in the House of Representatives, reports the following:
Forty-five Congress Members now stand in one manner or another for
Congressman Steve Cohen from Tennessee, and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee
of Texas have signed onto H.Res. 333. That makes six Judiciary Committee
members ready to impeach the Vice President. The other four are Hank
Johnson of Georgia, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin,
and Maxine Waters of California. Four of these six are African American.
A fifth, Cohen, is white but represents a majority black district and
attempted unsuccessfully to join the Congressional Black Caucus. All
six represent urban districts, three from the South, two from the Midwest,
and one from Southern California. All six are Democrats. None of the
six chairs a subcommittee. Three of them are freshmen.
There are 23 Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, and 17 Republicans.
All told, 19 congress members have signed on as cosponsors of H.Res. 333, a bill proposing articles of impeachment against Vice President
Dick Cheney. H.Res. 333 cosponsors include, Dennis Kucinich, Jan Schakowsky,
Maxine Waters, Hank Johnson, Keith Ellison, Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee,
Albert Wynn, William Lacy Clay, Yvette Clarke, Jim McDermott, Jim Moran,
Bob Filner, Sam Farr, Robert Brady, Tammy Baldwin, Donald Payne, Steve
Cohen, Sheila Jackson-Lee. Nine are African-American, ten are white.
All 19 are from urban or suburban areas, three from the South, five
from the Midwest, five from the East, and six from the West. One, Jan
Schakowsky, is Chief Deputy Democratic Whip. Let's hope she starts
Twenty-eight Congress Members have signed onto H.R. 589, a bill proposing
the impeachment of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The cosponsors
are Jay Inslee, Xavier Becerra, Michael Arcuri, Ben Chandler, Dennis
Moore, Bruce Braley, Tom Udall, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, Hank
Johnson, Steve Cohen, Keith Ellison, David Wu, Yvette Clarke, Darlene
Hooley, Betty McCollum, Timothy Bishop, Barney Frank, Carolyn Maloney,
Ed Perlmutter, Tammy Baldwin, Shelley Berkley, Raul Grijalva, Ed Pastor,
Ellen Tauscher, Rush Holt, Jim McGovern, Gary Ackerman.
Only Johnson, Ellison, Clarke, Baldwin, and Cohen have signed onto
both bills (four of them Judiciary Committee Members, four of them
freshmen). (19 + 28 - 5 = 42)
Congressmen Jesse Jackson Jr. and Maurice Hinchey have recently said
that they support the impeachment of Cheney and Bush, but have not
yet signed onto any bills. (42 + 2 = 44)
Other Congress Members have said privately that they favor impeachment
but not these bills, even that they would only support impeachment
if it included Bush. The lack of cross-over support between the two
existing bills is an indication of the importance of petty personal
politics within Congress, and the extent to which Congress Members
will sign onto a bill based on who the sponsor and cosponsors are and
who asks them, and whether anyone asks them, to sign on.
Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has opposed impeachment since
May 2006, but this week said that if she were not the Speaker she would
probably be backing impeachment, and that impeachment of Gonzales is
clearly merited. (44 + 1 = 45)
In November of 2006, BC Editorial Board member Bill Strickland wrote
the following in a commentary entitled: "Boxed-In"-
What Do We Do
If They Steal This Election Too?:
John Conyers in his August report, “The
Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception,
Manipulation, Torture, Retribution and Cover-ups in the Iraq War”,
charges that the level of misconduct by this administration in leading
the nation into war rises to the "level of impeachable conduct."
BC thanks all those readers who responded to the articles
on Conyers and Impeachment.
Please stay tuned for more on the discussion in BlackCommentator.com,
of this important issue .
Larry Pinkney is a veteran of the Black Panther Party, the former
Minister of Interior of the Republic of New Africa, a former political
prisoner and the only American to have successfully self-authored
his civil/political rights case to the United Nations under the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Click
here to contact Mr. Pinkney and BC.
The Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr. is the President of the Hip
Hop Caucus. The Hip Hop Caucus is a national, nonprofit,
non-partisan organization meant to inspire and motivate those of
us born after the ‘60s civil rights movement. Click
here to contact the Rev. Yearwood and the Hip Hop Caucus and BC.
David Swanson is the Washington Director of Democrats.com and
He is co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition,
creator of MeetWithCindy.org,
and a board member of Progressive
Democrats of America, and of the Backbone
Campaign. He was the organizer in 2006 of Camp
Democracy. He serves on the steering committee of the Charlottesville
Center for Peace and Justice and on a working group of United for Peace
and Justice. His website is www.davidswanson.org. Click
here to contact Mr. Swanson and BC.