Blacks favor peace, whites opt for war
Affirmative action's heavy-hitter allies
Shoving vouchers down DC's throat





The white man in the White House has his Black operatives running up and down the streets of Washington, DC, waving millions of dollars in private school voucher money - and nobody's taking the bribe. Mayor Anthony A. Williams says, No. Bush says, No matter. The city school board says, No. The White House doesn't hear them. A poll shows that overwhelming majorities of the public reject vouchers. Bush insists it is his compassionate duty to foist the scheme on the recalcitrant natives, anyway.

There can no longer be any doubt: The Bush push for school vouchers has been definitively exposed as a phony issue, an invention of Right think tanks and their hired Black hustlers that has only the thinnest support among the people who are the supposed beneficiaries. Nobody ever marched for vouchers.

Congress set aside $75 million to fund vouchers programs in seven or eight cities, part of $756 million in so-called "school choice" money in Bush's 2004 budget. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that voucher programs are constitutional. So is sex, but that doesn't make it mandatory. A Zogby poll taken in November showed that 76 percent of DC residents - and a whopping 85 percent of Blacks - reject vouchers. It is a sentiment of longstanding - back in 1981, nine out of ten DC voters turned down a voucher tax credit scheme. DC's elected representatives are speaking for their constituents. To the Bush crew, this is a mere technicality.

The elected school board issued a written statement: "Vouchers drain critical dollars from neighborhood schools and divert attention from the reform effort already under way in the DCPS System." So Bush sent in his Education HNIC, Rod Paige, to browbeat the Mayor. Clearly, the voucher scheme is being presented as an offer that cannot be refused with impunity.

After the meeting, Paige spokesman Dan Langan tried to put the best spin on the conversation, indicating to the Washington Post that the Mayor was amenable to putting the voucher money in a non-profit "entity" for distribution to families. That's not the way Mayor Williams remembered it. "He is not in support of that at all," said mayoral spokesman Tony Bullock. No means no.

The Bush operatives whispered a different story, forcing the Mayor's man to speak more expansively. "We needed that face-to-face [meeting with Mr. Paige] to agree to disagree," Bullock told the Washington Times. "And we wanted to do so in ways that didn't prevent us from accessing funding for other school-choice programs offered. But you are not going to see our government participate in a government-sponsored voucher program. Once you have moved past that immovable position, we are really flexible about school choice and have a proven track record with it."

Gangster conservatism

An illiterate person can read between those lines. Bush is threatening to punish DC's public schools unless he is given a green light for his private voucher showcase. Washington maintains one of the nation's most extensive charter public school networks - the implicit target of Republican political retribution.

Like the rest of urban America, DC is in need of... everything. Even the unwanted programs favored by the powerful are not rejected, lightly. However, "The notion of skirting the public officials by finding a private entity [for vouchers] is both insulting to public officials in the District of Columbia and treating the District in a way no other city or state is treated," said Washington's non-voting Congressional Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton. "And we will not be treated unequally. We demand equal treatment when it comes to federal funds."

Bush is attempting to steamroll DC because he can - and because it is Black. In the process, he is demonstrating that the voucher scam is a foreign political object that must be forced down the throats of Black America. The Hard Right plan to showcase the wonders of educational privatization in the nation's capital has gone awry, and been revealed as its opposite: a thuggish display of the administration's contempt for democracy in general, and the rights of Black children, parents and voters, in particular.

... and the last shall be first

Washington's Democrats are gearing up to mount a bum rush of their own, one that could change the political and racial texture of the coming primary season.

The formal American presidential selection process begins in the glaringly white environs of New Hampshire and becomes progressively more distorted as the primary schedule lurches along. If a unanimous DC City Council gets its way, Washington will preempt New Hampshire to hold the nation's first primary on January 10, 2004, giving its Black (and relatively progressive white) electorate first whack at the candidates.

Just as Iowa farmers demand that candidates take firm positions on hog prices, Democrats who want to break out of the pack with DC's convention votes in hand and momentum in their campaigns will be pressed on full voting rights for Washington. This is not a local issue: in addition to a fully privileged U.S. Representative, the District would elect two U.S. Senators.

DC Democracy Fund Executive Director Sean Tenner informs us that the City Council will hold public hearings on its historic "first in the nation" legislation on Wednesday, February 19. The measure, introduced by Councilman Jack Evans and supported by Mayor Williams and the entire City Council, including Republicans, may well overcome initial resistance from the National Democratic Party. As Tenner wrote in last week's :

The city's activists and politicians are fed up with 200 years of second-class status and are asserting themselves in ways that would have previously seemed unthinkable. Along with Evans, DC Council Chair Linda Cropp (D) went on the radio and stated she would fight to hold the primary regardless of opposition from Congress. "This is a local matter that should be decided locally," Cropp said. "They may be able to keep us (delegates) from being seated but they cannot keep us from voting."

The Democrat's Sharpton dilemma

Nobody savors the prospect of a "DC first" primary season more than Rev. Al Sharpton, who would be favored to win. Instead, Sharpton this week found himself having to admit to Iowa farmers that he has not yet developed a full-fledged agricultural policy, but will put together "a progressive farm agenda in Iowa" by sometime next month. According to the Des Moines Register, Sharpton considers himself not just the only Black in the contest, but one of the few real Democrats. "We have far too many people who will be coming through Iowa that are elephants in donkey clothes," he said.

Sharpton is also probably the best speaker and quickest mind in the bunch - bad news for those who seek to marginalize his candidacy. The "Black Hope" of this crowd is Carolyn Moseley-Braun, former Senator from Illinois who, the theory goes, would split the African American vote.

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown caught Sharpton's act last weekend. He thinks Moseley-Braun is outclassed:

Sharpton has the potential to be hugely popular with black voters all across the country, possibly enough to win a southern primary or two in a crowded field. And, believe it or not, he might even attract a small following among white voters looking for somebody to "tell it like it is."

Apparently others had started to figure out the same thing and became the source of some of the encouragement for Moseley-Braun's sudden interest in the presidency. It's the old divide-and-conquer strategy that is well-known in Chicago ward politics. If the first black woman in the U.S. Senate can dilute some of Sharpton's support, he becomes a non-factor.

But if Moseley-Braun is going to enter the fray with Sharpton, she'd better bring her "A'' game if she doesn't want to look like a fool.

Columnist Mark Brown titled his piece, "Sharpton not the dullest tool in the shed" - a strangely backhanded compliment.

Of course, Black excellence is circumscribed by the practice of comparing Blacks only to other Blacks, allowing inferior white contenders to shine, undeservedly. Sharpton should be measured against presidential standards, such as those set by George Bush:

"The war on terror involves Saddam Hussein because of the nature of Saddam Hussein, the history of Saddam Hussein and his willingness to terrorize himself." - Grand Rapids, Mich., January 29.

Now, that's a dull tool.

Affirmative business actions

It may surprise some readers to learn that the publishers of The Black Commentator give corporate America much of the credit for the limited gains of affirmative action in the U.S. Although big business certainly did not welcome Dr. Martin Luther King and his movement, it was corporate planners who realized that southern cities like Atlanta would be doomed to remain provincial backwaters while in the grip of Jim Crow.

Once a mega-corporation decides on a course of even limited diversity among its tens of thousands of employees, the imperatives of corporate policy - matched with corporate power - can move significant numbers of lives in new directions. People's activism provides the push for social change but, once corporate institutions have been forced into motion, they exert a powerful pull on everything around them. Specifically, corporations have tremendous influence on American higher education, which has been molded over generations to service corporate demands.

For this reason, is not surprised that corporations are prominent supporters of the besieged affirmative action program at the University of Michigan. As the February 11 Washington Post reports:

Among the organizations and individuals who are planning to submit friend-of-the-court briefs supporting the university are several dozen Fortune 500 companies, the nation's elite private universities and colleges, the AFL-CIO, the American Bar Association - and a list of former high-ranking military officers and civilian defense officials, according to attorneys involved in the case....

So powerful is this consensus that much of big business, a major component of the Republican Party's political coalition, is parting company with President Bush, who has sided with the white students challenging Michigan's admissions programs as a form of "reverse discrimination." Bush's brief agreed that diversity was a "paramount" goal - but said Michigan should pursue it by race-neutral means.

The White Man's Party is a mechanism for gaining political support among the racist American majority for the economic policies of rich. It promises many things to people who - very much like the clinically insane - operate in a false reality; huge numbers of whites believe they are victimized by affirmative action, based on no personal evidence whatsoever. Conversely, the corporate planner's job is to see the world clearly, adjust to it, and influence the future to his company's advantage.

Corporations understand that Black people will not allow the clock to be turned back. These executives see no profit in fighting the tides of history. Corporate defense of affirmative action is a testament to Black American tenacity - recognition of our will to resist.

Unearned privilege

For a lawyerly approach to affirmative action, we highly recommend Kimberle W. Crenshaw's excellent piece at NorthStar Network - a new and valuable Black political resource.

Attorney Crenshaw is a nationally recognized expert on critical race theory and Professor of Law at UCLA Law School and Columbia University Law School. Her treatise is titled, The Preference of White Privilege.

Affirmative Action is often misunderstood as a preference, while the real preferences that happen every day are virtually ignored in a discourse that uses stereotypes and race baiting to do its work. Consider the experiences of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and George Bush, two names that will certainly come up in the conservative assault on affirmative action. We know that tests tend to under-predict the performance of certain members of the population, especially people of color.

Dr. King's score on the GRE placed him in the bottom percentile of all test takers, yet he is probably the most gifted orator and one of the most brilliant visionaries of the 20th century. Think about all the other would be gifted orators, surgeons, lawyers, teachers, and business people whose potential remain tragically wasted by unwarranted reliance on such an artificial benchmark of merit as a test score. One the other hand, when we think about preferences, let's consider our president, whose SAT score was 150 points below the average Yale matriculant. And who no doubt benefited from his pedigree.

This form of privileging constitutes a preference, the kind that is most responsible for excluding the wealth of talent that would otherwise gain access to higher education while maintaining white hegemony. This simply shows the hypocrisy of the argument against affirmative action; it's really not about equal opportunity or merit at all. It is largely a racially coded, and delimited diatribe that trains attention on those aspects of educational policy that are least responsible for the current state of educational mis-opportunity.

To read more, click here.

The Black-white war divide

It would require a multidisciplinary assemblage of experts to undertake a meaningful study of why Blacks are underrepresented at anti-war rallies. Two facts are, however, undeniable: the Black public has consistently opposed U.S. military adventures during the past 40 years, and current African American political leadership - elected and institutional - is generally reflective of that popular opposition.

For these reasons, felt justified in describing as The Four Eunuchs those Black congresspersons that voted for Bush's war powers resolution, in October. We knew with absolute certainty that Harold Ford (TN), William Jefferson (LA), Sanford Bishop (GA) and Albert Wynn (MD) had acted in scornful disregard of the sentiments of the overwhelming majority of their Black constituents and a significant minority of white voters in their districts - ironically, the same white voters most likely to have supported them.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Zogby America poll released this past weekend shows that less than a quarter of Blacks (23 percent) support Bush's war against Iraq, versus 62 percent of the white public. 64 percent of Blacks surveyed "somewhat or strongly oppose" the planned attack, while 13 percent "aren't sure" what to think.

The bloodthirstiness of white American males is astounding: 68 percent of men surveyed are gung ho, indicating that the white male pro-war cohort soars somewhere in the high seventies. Less than half of all women favor war.

Hispanics polled nearly as warlike as whites. When asked the general question on war, 60 percent support it.

The lack of empathy with Iraqis as human beings marks white American males as a collective danger to the species. Zogby pollsters asked: Would you support or oppose a war against Iraq if it meant thousands of Iraqi civilian casualties? A solid majority of white men answered in the affirmative, as did more than a third of white women. Only seven percent of African Americans favored a war that would kill thousands.

Hispanics lost some of their bloodlust when confronted with the prospect of mass Iraqi civilian casualties; only 16 percent are willing to support such an outcome.

Bush no stand up guy

As Black Harlem Congressman Charles Rangel pointed out in a recent television interview, George Bush spent months in hiding during the Vietnam War, absenting himself from his Air National Guard unit long enough to have earned a non-privileged officer five years at Leavenworth. "There have been a lot of people who have stood up for this country and I don't think that President Bush has been in that number," said Rangel, a Korean War veteran, Iraq war opponent, and sponsor of a bill to bring back compulsory national service.

Peace Weekend

The Brits are headlining Rev. Jesse Jackson for this weekend's anti-war demonstration, in London. Jackson believes that British public opinion may be "more critical" to averting war than U.S. public opposition.

Jackson challenged British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush's principal yes-man in Europe, to "use his talents" to find a peaceful solution. Speaking to the British newspaper The Independent, Jackson said:

I think the people of Britain must pressure [Tony Blair]. He has dug his heels in, but in a democracy while leaders speak, people speak louder and people over the world are impressed by the demonstrations of the people of London. It was the same with the demonstrations in London over the freeing of Nelson Mandela. They have left a very powerful impression on people around the world. There is no future in war. The [London] marchers help the chance of people. The [world] will be looking at them.

Jackson also sent an open letter to Saddam Hussein, whom he met prior to the 1991 Gulf War. "Once more, I call on you with our countries on the verge of war, just as I did 12 years ago. Once more, we face a war of terrible consequence. Once more, I appeal to you to act now to avoid the impending catastrophe," Jackson wrote. "Once more the fate of your country lies in your hands. I beseech you to act now, boldly, destroy your weapons to avoid a catastrophic war."

Organizers expect the Hyde Park demonstration to be Britain's biggest since the end of World War Two. Protests are planned in at least 300 cities, worldwide.

New York police got a judge's permission to confine hundreds of thousands of demonstrators to a strip of midtown Manhattan, Saturday. United for Peace and Justice organizers had planned to march to the United Nations headquarters, but police argued that the crowd would pose a danger to public safety and the security of the UN. "We are appalled by this attack on our basic First Amendment rights," said the organizers, calling the quarantine "an attempt to stifle the growing opposition to Bush's war."

Actor Danny Glover and South African Bishop Desmond Tutu accused New York officials of acting in solidarity with Bush's war aims. "If we were marching in support of war or in celebration of Saint Patrick's Day or some other celebration, we would have been granted a permit immediately," said Glover. "It is tragic that this city, which prides itself on leading the world as a cultural center, would not allow a march at this time."

Bishop Tutu compared Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg's New York to apartheid-era South Africa, adding that New York "will probably be the only city in the world on February 15 that will not be permitting its citizens and others to express a differing point of view."

ACLU lawyers say the city has not allowed any demonstrations south of 59th Street since September 11.

NAACP chairman Julian Bond and Martin Luther King III will also address the rally. San Francisco will be the site of a major demonstration on Sunday.

War Day

The A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition, which spearheaded the demonstrations in Washington and San Francisco on October 26 and January 18, is in the role of supporting player for this weekend's events. A.N.S.W.E.R. organizers are already busy preparing for War Day, itself.

"We do not believe that war is inevitable," said the coalition. "However, if the war starts we must be organized to resist and disable the war machine." The group urges activists to gather for emergency protests at pre-selected sites in their localities on the day that war begins, and to prepare for a "Convergence on White House," March 1.

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Issue Number 29
February 13, 2003

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Other commentaries in this issue:

Osama is Calling…

Toward a Black Democratic primary... More faith-based foolery... A benediction for

Behind from the Start: Black kids begin school disadvantaged

Commentaries in Issue 28 February 6, 2003:

Send in the Clowns: The GOP’s two-ring Black "outreach" circus

Condoleezza: Appointee-in-Chief... Shock, awe and revulsion... Plain language on Blacks and Hispanics

The Issues
Desegregating U.S. African policy... Haitian poor ignore capital "strike"... A more colorful anti-war movement

Guest Commentary 1
"Shrub" Bush's Pathological Focus On Saddam Hussein by Alvin Wyman Walker, PhD, PD, PC

Guest Commentary 2
...AND THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST: Shunned DC Demands Full Voting Rights, First Primary By Sean Tenner

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