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Dr. Martin Kilson has placed his mark on many lives – and on The Black Commentator, as well. Kilson, a Frank G. Thomson Research Professor at Harvard and the first Black to be awarded full tenure at the institution, in 1968, was also the first Guest Commentator for . Kilson aptly characterized Newark mayoral candidate Cory Booker in his May 8, 2002 piece, “How To Spot A Black Trojan Horse” – a term we immediately appropriated to describe African American politicians who front for the racist Right.

Dr. Kilson has collaborated with us many times over the past 14 months. Last issue, he authored our first article under the heading, “Think Piece” – a less formal approach to commentary. The 71-year-old political scientist stirred the pot vigorously with his scathing piece, “The Pretense of Hip-Hop Black Leadership”:

Whether they recognize it or not, Todd Boyd, Michael Dyson, and their hip-hop intellectual colleagues have become advocates of anti-human and Negro-minstrel skewed dynamics in contemporary African-American entertainment. It is utter nonsense to pretend that this amounts to a new kind of leadership paradigm for African-American society. Yet this is precisely what Professor Boyd claims in his article. He writes with pride that “Whereas the civil rights generation found its calling in politics and the pursuit of political institutions, this hip-hop generation has contempt for these institutions and finds [commercial] culture to be the primary means of expression.” Thus, for Todd Boyd and also Michael Dyson, African-Americans worthy of respect today are not “Thurgood Marshall, Medgar Evers, James Meredith, Fannie Lou Hamer…etc.,” but “Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs, Russell Simmons, Master P., Queen Latifah, and Missy Elliot….”

Clearly, something quite awful has gone wrong in the intellectual character of the new advocates of hip-hop culture like Boyd and Dyson. Their intellects have become saturated with inhumane, politically useless and morally repugnant pop entertainment modalities.

Paula Matabane is quite familiar with Kilson’s work. She’s down with “Dr. K.”

Thank you for publishing Dr. Kilson's penetrating right-on-the-eye essay. My Lord, the so-called intellectuals of hip-hop are sick.  And Dr. K pulled the dressing off of them. I have been a long admirer of Dr. Kilson's scholarship and quoted him extensively in my own dissertation – his groundbreaking work on blacks' attitudes toward the police versus white's attitudes.  He is a true scholar and not just some big mouth with a big education.  I greatly appreciate him and hope that he will continue to write on this subject.  

Jared Ball is a journalist and activist from Washington, DC, and a close associate of .  

Having no real need or desire to defend Dyson, I do think that to be fair it should be noted that the first 100 pages or so of his book on King (“I May Not Get There With You”) go a long way in helping uncover the King we all need to know more about.  That is, Dyson does assist in the important need to expose people to the "radical" King, the Where Do We Go From Here King, the Riverside Baptist church King, the SCLC leadership speech King...

Secondly, Dr. Kilson – in his justified defense of Civil Rights leadership – is too narrow in his view of hip-hop.  What many ignore in their criticism of hip-hop (justified as it may be) is that what is promoted as hip-hop is but one segment of the community and arguably only a much smaller segment.  What many focus on or know about is corporately created, promoted and distributed.  It is not reflective of a thriving hip-hop community that is progressive, political and positive.  We in this wing of the hip-hop community simply lack exposure as we do not appeal to the ideological function and purpose of an American corporate structure.

Groups like KRS-One, Dead Prez, Chuck-D & Public Enemy, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Bahamdia and many more lesser known groups are far more representative of a substantial segment of the hip-hop community than those found everyday on MTV and BET.  Locally speaking, here in DC, Head-Roc and EuRok, the Poem-Cees and more are absolutely following in the footsteps of the Black Arts Movement.  And the work I do with Malik Russell on the Fluid Radio Mix-Tapes ( and with Radio CPR are further examples of the kind of hip-hop that Kilson says does not exist.  We must always remember that we are not in control of our image and that what is purported to be "us" is not so much the us we are but the "us" "they" would prefer we be.  

Mr. Ball is active with Washington’s Organized Community of United People, or C.O.U.P.  As evidence of the self-examination that is occurring in hip-hop, Ball offers these lyrics from De La Soul's recording, “Stakes Is High”:

"I’m sick of 'bitches' shakin' assess, I’m sick of talkin' about blunts,sick of Versace glasses, sick of slang, sick of half-assed award shows, sick of name brand clothes, sick of R&B 'bitches' over bullshit tracks, cocaine and cracks which brings sickness to Blacks, sick of swole-head rappers with their sickening raps, clappin' gats makin' a whole sick world collapse, the facts gettin' sick even sicker perhaps..."  

Hollis, Queens-born Michael H. believes Dr. Kilson is distorting the hip-hop picture by using too broad a brush:  

Although I appreciate Mr. Kilson taking time from his schedule to write about hip-hop. I am disappointed by some of his words.  

I am a 25 year-old law student who was born and raised in the birthplace of hip-hop: NYC. I went to block parties, had friends who did graffiti, had friends who danced, had friends who emceed and in an earlier life attempted a career at deejaying. I can honestly say despite my age I am as qualified as Mr. Kilson, Mr. Dyson and Mr. Boyd on the subject. Their PhD's give them no additional credibility with my "peoples." As a child I was taught never to disrespect the older and much wiser adults. I wish Mr. Kilson extended the same courtesy to his brethren – although much younger – in the academy.

I think Mr. Kilson's attack is very personal. Mr. Dyson – this young whippersnapper – "How day he say anything about Mr. King and Ms. Parks," Kilson probably mused as he wrote his diatribe. Mr. Kilson whole view of Mr. Dyson has been reduced to a barbershops and a movie about barbershops. Although I am not a fan of Mr. Dyson and thinks he does more talking than thinking, Mr. Kilson should know better than to reduce a college professor's curriculum vitae to an op-ed piece. Mr. Dyson's views on the subject could never be truly understood reading one op-ed piece. And if Mr. Kilson did further reading, it is not apparent from his article.

Secondly, his comments about Mr. Dyson's views on black organizations really show Mr. Kilson's age. In my experience organizations like the NAACP are not, in Mr. Dyson's words, "antidemocratic" but they do have apathetic staffers in the wings. I have observed that when these organizations gather for their grand meetings what makes the event a success for some is not whether the black community has to organize a front against pending legislation but rather whether the people in attendance secured enough drinks from the open bar. This is not hip-hop's fault.

When Mr. Kilson attempts to slam Mr. Boyd's analysis of the hip-hop generation, he once again falls on his face. The first paragraph is just intellectual rambling by a professor who is mad that people my age are not marching on Washington. King's words are once again being taken out of context to advance a cause. I have had many conversations with my parents and many of their contemporaries and have concluded that although the road they have traveled is why I am here today, what was good for the goose is not good for me. We don't live in a black and white society anymore. Increases in interracial marriages, increased immigration from Latin America and the Far East has shifted the paradigm more than Mr. Kilson is willing to admit. Times have changed.

My generation is not nihilistic but realistic. We have appropriated hip-hop music to communicate our everything; our own language (to an extent), our life stories and MOS-DEFinitely our politics, which are radical AND progressive AND moderate AND conservative.

Mr. Kilson is not all wrong. Hip-hop is slowly losing me as a fan. The music has become very misogynistic and materialistic and its future as a viable means of progress is questionable. But Mr. Kilson’s argument fails to separate the art from the state of the art. Hip-hop is not bad. What is being done to hip-hop is bad.  

An older reader directed twenty-something Anthony Gayle to the Kilson article.  Gayle calls Prof. Kilson “naïve” and, possibly, “cynical.”

I am familiar with the piece Dyson wrote for the Times. I am also somewhat aware of Boyd.  

Dr. Kilson wrote: "The fact of the matter is, there's nothing whatever that's seriously radical or progressive about hip-hop ideas and values."

I wonder if he's aware that he is referring to an entire culture. I'm not aware of a single culture that does not have its progressive, radical, and conservative sides (and others). I understand what Kilson is saying, but I think he's being a little naive. The reality is, most of the Civil Rights organizations from the 60's are obsolete. Moreover, it is entirely their fault.

They have not done enough to clearly define their position and incorporate their greatest resource – the community. I'm tired of seeing all of these highly educated, three piece suit wearing, conference attending, brothers and sisters who barely know any of the people they serve (I call them Negroes in glass cases. Just break in case of emergency). This is not to say that they do not do important work, but many of them have been assimilated, and the institutions they represent have been relegated to tools of the status quo and reactionary politics, instead of tools of social action and justice.

I think there is a tendency to romanticize past Civil Rights leaders, to almost make them deities. Ironically, I think this removes them from the people they served. It also has the effect of reinforcing the perception that we are a monolithic group of people, by virtue of creating a few individuals who are beyond reproach to whom we all must either agree with, or acquiesce to. I think the leaders of yesterday, were heroic, but they were also human. They had their faults and their failures. In my opinion, their triumphs are matched only by their failures. Regardless of the stance you take, the leaders of today and tomorrow are being cultivated within the hip-hop culture. If one believes that there is nothing progressive or radical about its values or ideas, then I would submit that that is cynicism beyond anything Dyson or Boyd could muster.    

Tray Bailey invokes the age of the writer, and throws Harvard into the mix.

The disconnect between old and new Black American ideologies and communicative forms is not as great as Dr. Kilson suggests. Hip Hop is an exponent of the long lineage of Black American activism and thought that he calls honorable.  But Hip Hop, its proponents and exponents are not 71-years-old.

Part of Hip Hop's ethos is the establishment of a clear-cut, uncompromised profile for the Black American. Post-Civil Rights Black Americans, disappointed with the shortcomings of hard-won parity, often reacted by denouncing White America and its institutions in deference to their own set of standards, principles and mechanisms. Hip Hop, in its most political guise, succeeds the sentiments of Newton, Malcolm and Garvey; it seeks to wrest material wealth via its own economic, social, and political structures while self-consciously maintaining Black American cultural by-products and traits, especially Black American English. This is important, because when one gives up one's mother tongue in favor of the slothful duality peculiar to Black Americans, one also abdicates power and the benefit of self-definition. For Dr. Kilson, like all "African-Americans who work alongside our White American compatriots," success at Harvard would've been impossible without such concessions. No more duality, no more bilinguals, says Hip Hop – keep it real.

The parity Dr. King and Ms. Parks helped secure was an indispensable step to be sure, but of ultimately greater import is the full maturation of Black America, one that doesn't look to White America for its definitions and freedom. A movement that argues such is as political and valid as any. The booty shakin' and apparent misogyny trumpeted on MTV is the most banal example of Hip Hop's ideals. It is notable, though, that MTV is a principally white-owned and -targeted commercial entity, and as with many such entities, is only interested in the most salacious and banal examples of any form, let alone those by Black Americans.  

Dr. Kilson’s article had a salutary effect on Anthony Green.  

It was rejuvenating to read Dr. Kilson's commentary on Todd Boyd, Michael Dyson and their assertion of a post-civil rights hip-hop generation "leadership."  Without wading into a fray, I can comment only on what I see and perceive.  The United Corporations of America (formerly the U.S.A) can be nothing but delighted to have Black Americans as consumers rather than citizens.  It bothers the rulers of this country and the corporations that employ them not one whit that Black youth has contempt for political institutions, politics, and the requirements for collective political expression.  They are happy of course that nearly ALL Americans, of all ethnicities, have become consumers rather than an informed and active electorate, but they are surely pleased that the masses of Black young people would rather emulate Snoop and Lil Kim than Malcolm X, mistaking the acquisition of bling-bling for value in their lives and the sacrifice of making it in the entertainment industry for sacrifice to the greater communal good.  They are exactly where White America wants them to be, and there is, sadly, nothing revolutionary about it.  Anyway, it was good to know there are intellectuals like Martin Kilson out there, thanks.  

Brenda J. Brody is a communications specialist with the Housing Authority of New Orleans. She shares her views on hip-hop and Black youth behavior.

I just read Dr. Kilson’s magnificent article rebutting Eric Michael Dyson and Todd Boyd and I could not agree more.  He truly spoke the truth and what has been simmering in the back of my mind for a long time.  His quotes from Todd Boyd sound like the rantings of a psychotic.  That child's Mama forgot to teach him respect, obviously. 

I didn't go see "Barbershop" after I read about the controversy and it breaks my heart to hear young people trampling the accomplishments of those regal brothers and sisters who laid down their lives so that we could have the privileges we so thoughtlessly enjoy. 

I've been present a few times when Dyson has spoken at seminars at the Essence Music Festival and I have wondered if he lives in a mirror galaxy with realities that we do not share.  He is loud, brash and I guess that is why he gets the attention of the youth.  It's all very pathetic.  

For all their "bling bling" and so-called new realities, most of the hip-hop generation have yet to learn the way the world really works.  Many of their young idols have gone down in a haze of gunfire and drug abuse.  I know that every generation looks at the one coming up with disdain and sometimes pity, but the problems have been exacerbated now with the rise of the senseless violence.  Here in New Orleans, we had a young 16 year-old girl murdered by two other teenaged girls only because she was "cute."  This happened just about a week ago, during the Essence festivities.  Just that week, another two young girls had been sentenced to prison because they too stabbed a 15 year old to death in an argument.  The neighbors and parents of the children had encouraged the fight and no one ever expressed any remorse at the needless death of a child. 

I saw Smokey Robinson at Essence and I realized how much he influenced the young people of my day.  We learned that love was going to hurt sometimes and that it was beautiful despite the pain.  We learned that sometimes the one we loved would not love us but that we could live our lives expecting to find "More Love."  I told a young person that night that I learned all about love and pain from Smokey Robinson and I still love him for it.  And this generation will learn to "Back dat thang up" and that "It's hot in herre" (misspelling and all) and that it's all right to slap women and call them bitches, that you settle a disagreement with a knife or a gun and that those who choose an education are "ackin' white."

Is this what we have to look forward to from the "hip-hop" generation? The likes of P-Diddy (what the hell is a P-diddy, somebody please tell me!), Master P and Missy Elliot as the revered figures of this generation? And Carmelo Anthony, who won an Espy award last night got on the stage and thanked himself!  Lord, save us all!

This week’s final word on Dr. Kilson’s hip-hop analysis is from someone who has observed the professor in action. Darryl Cox writes:  

Prof. Kilson is a gas.  When I was a student at Harvard back in the 80s we invited him to come talk to our black students’ group at the Kennedy School.  During his discourse someone in the group asked him about a black conservative and professor who was getting a lot of exposure at the time.  Kilson’s response was immediate and sharp: “That nigger”, he said, “ain’t talking about shit.”  I have always loved the way that he cuts through the cant and bullshit.

A policy of Hell on Earth 

“American policy is designed to place Africans at the extremes of insecurity, in order to foreclose the possibility of civil societies taking root. This policy has always resulted in mass death,” we wrote in our July 17 Cover Story, "Barefoot, Sick, Hungry and Afraid: The real U.S. policy in Africa."  

John F. Eden digested the piece, and wrote to us, from Jesup, Georgia.  

I am awed at the depth and breadth of understanding revealed in the article "The Real US Policy in Africa." As a social studies teacher for many years, I struggled to understand what was going on in Africa and to give my students some understanding of the colonial roots of the problems – and found the resources available to be woefully inadequate. Thank you for the fearless clarity on US policy there.

And as I finished the article, I stared at the circle that says "Click here to send this page to a friend", asking myself, do I have any friends who care what's happening in Africa? and What can I do to get them to even think about it? In Fortress America with its highways full of stylish tanks, "national interest" is all Jr. Bush's men need invoke to get our approval for any action, however heinous, directed against the "others."

I will send this article to everyone that I think will read at least part of it. Maybe it will send them looking for more. And thank you for the history and perceptive analysis that you consistently provide. At times, living here in the heart of the flag-waving South, I need assurance that I'm not totally crazy for thinking that we favored ones of America are seriously culpable for what's happening around the world.  

Beginning with the Eisenhower administration, we wrote, the U.S. was determined that “the process of African civil development had to be interrupted, not only in those new states that were economically valuable to Europe and the U.S., but in all of Africa, so that no healthy civil model might emerge. If this could be achieved, there would be no need to fear the actions of assembled heads of African states – an irrelevant gaggle of uniforms and suits, standing in for nations, but representing no coherent social force.”  

took issue with NAACP chief Kweisi Mfume’s recent characterization of U.S. Africa policy as “inconsistent and incoherent.”  Rather, we consider it purposefully and consistently murderous.

Greg Arnold agrees.  

Only because I sought and read transcripts from hearings held by Congresswoman McKinney did I become aware of the true nature of U.S. policy in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region.  I am by no means naïve about the nature or consequences of this country's foreign policies.   However, awareness of the magnitude of the crimes against humanity which were allowed to occur in Rwanda because the Clinton administration desired "regime change" shook me to my absolute core.  That this crime was so huge that it could be covered up by "copping a plea" to the lesser offense of "indifference due to racism" thoroughly disgusts me. 

For a time, I tried to tell others about what had really happened in Rwanda, but no one seemed able to hear me.  (Maybe I was just screaming too loudly!) 

It is my opinion that your able analysis of policy should include more emphasis on the role of Cold War anti-communism in the promotion of the "Big, Big man" form of dictatorship in Africa. Such an emphasis goes a long way to explaining why nearly forty years of corruption from Mobuto became unacceptable after the fall of the Soviet Union.  The old regimes were designated as bulwarks against communism and any other anti-colonialist formations.  Necessarily, in such regimes state institutions become all-powerful relative to other social institutions.  The now dominate neo-liberal ideology seeks only complete freedom for multinational  corporations – with state bureaucracy becoming no more than an anachronistic obstacle to wealth and power. The old regimes had to topple because they were no longer "profitable." 

As you write, it appears the modern corporations have learned to thrive in midst of chaos, requiring only hired armies to protect their "interests."  For this reason, I'm not holding my breath waiting for Iraq to become a viable state again.  

The Cold War did not provoke the U.S. and European war against civil society in Africa, a policy that has continued since the fall of the Soviet Union. On the other hand, the Soviet presence in the world was indispensable to forcing Belgium, Britain and France to begin the decolonization process; to the liberation of Portugal’s colonies; and to the overthrow of white minority rule in southern Africa.  

Iraq has a well-developed civil society, which will generate an ever more sophisticated resistance to U.S. occupation.  

Carol Christen has been educating herself about U.S. global depredations.  

Thanks for the article today.  I didn’t realize the ugly extent of the US involvement in Africa.  I’ve read a book called “Economic Democracy” by J. Smith, and, it is basically saying the problem is the way we go about pushing resource-rich countries to the edges and keeping them poor.  Your article enlarged on the exact mechanism we are using.  I am so sorry the US has strayed so far from the purpose of the Constitution to “establish justice” and “secure the blessings of liberty to our posterity.”  All peoples are one and if we act one way to rob and terrorize some, we rob ourselves.  I absolutely hate this greed and murder and mayhem in the name of the United States.  

McKinney on Zimbabwe

Cynthia McKinney makes sense like it’s a habit – and is pleased to be among her enablers. Our June 26 issue featured the former Congresswoman’s speech to a church in her Georgia home district. “How can we save Zimbabwe when we haven’t yet taken the necessary steps to save ourselves?” she asked.  

In George Bush’s New World Order, all roads lead to Washington, DC.  And it is only in Washington, DC that we can effectively deal with our problems and those that plague Africa.  The Bush cabal is planning regime change operations all over the world.  They’re currently threatening Iran and Syria; rattling sabers at North Korea and China.  They’re unhappy with Russia and Germany.  But if we don’t organize ourselves carefully in this country, and reach across the oceans to our African brothers and sisters, and they reach back, this could truly be the twilight of our freedoms.  

C. Lee is part of McKinney’s political congregation.  

Cynthia McKinney was right on point. When we look at what’s happening in America today we see all the things that the brothers and sisters told us about in the Sixties. America is becoming a police state and our civil liberties are being taking away. We now have a counterfeit president who acts if he has a mandate to do as he pleases. America has become an oligarchy right before our eyes.  

Negro in a bottle

The “mystic icon” has magical powers to change white lives but, as in Michael Clark Duncan’s role in “The Green Mile,” he can’t even save himself. Rita Kempley’s July 3 piece, “Magic Negro Saves The Day” was one of our best-read Re-prints.

Kempley traced the Hollywood history and underlying politics of magically endowed Black characters from the Fifties to the present. “For the most part,” she wrote, “they materialize only to rescue the better-drawn white characters.”  

T.S. is a 22 year-old hairstylist and student who likes the movies, and reads, too.  

The article on blacks in film playing the parts of gods to save white characters was very informative.  I always knew there was something that made me feel kind of uncomfortable.  You hit it right on. Thanks

Kempley’s article first appeared on DVRepublic, a project of the Black Filmmakers Foundation.

Plague of the Bush Mental Disorder

Mass delusion as public policy. The current vector of this peculiar American phenomenon/malady, according to July 17 Guest Commentator Mamadou Chinyelu, is George Bush, who has earned a place for himself in the annals of psychology. Chinyelu described the presidential pathology in “The Consequences of Believing Your Own Propaganda.  

Space for this new category should be reserved for inclusion in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  Until a more media-savvy term is coined, perhaps its working title can be National Collective Self-Delusional Foreign Policy….  

In the next edition of the DSM, this new category of mental disorder, Bush SS, should be perfectly placed between two new companion disorders; that is, (1) Those Who Laugh At Their Own Jokes; and (2) Those Who Bask In The Smelling Of Their Own Broken Wind.  And it can be cross-referenced with Those Who Don’t Know When To Quit.  

From Michigan, Charles Cross offers a concurrent opinion: the patient is truly diseased.  

The article by Mamadou Chinyelu perfectly summarizes much of the whole Bush/Iraq matter.  Truly one of the most insightful articles, among many in , to date.

In fact, in my opinion, this article is an excellent lead-in to what is the untold story of Bush et al/Iraq. 9-11, too, was just as fabricated as the Iraq/WMD/Niger/Uranium fable.  9-11 "legitimized" an otherwise unfit person to pose as a genuine hero in the eyes of those who, like his family, stood to make money from any war he could contrive and trick the country into.  I have long maintained that the Army and Marines should wear shoulder patches that bear the names of Oil USA Consortium for whom they actually work for in Afghanistan, Colombia, Kuwait, Iraq, and wherever else the black mud is found.

Following is an excerpt from an article published in the Augusta (GA) Chronicle:

"During the first two weeks of the war, the 319th hauled all the bulk fuel for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in its drive to Baghdad, a job that took them through hostile territory and into ambushes and firefights.

The 319th is now working for the Army's 260th Quartermaster Battalion. It is stationed at Camp Arifjan, south of Kuwait City.

Soldiers say most of their work involves civilian contractor Kellogg Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, Halliburton Corp. The company has contracts to haul fuel, and 319th members are riding along as armed escorts.

"The main reason we're still here is to support Brown and Root," said Sgt. 1st Class David Uthe, 45, of Augusta."

One only needs to follow the money to see this Criminal Enterprise (or as puts it, these 'Pirates') are the guilty, causative, parties in 9-11, Afghanistan and Iraq, as they and their class make money from the deaths of both, those who fight the wars and those innocent, "collaterally damaged" (killed) persons.

Keep up the good work.  

Diversity triumphs over justice

In our July 3 commentary, “The Slow and Tortured Death of Affirmative Action,” we argued that the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision definitively finished affirmative action as public policy in the U.S. The “diversity” programs favored by the High Court majority are not affirmative action as understood by the Civil Rights Movement and President Lyndon Johnson.  

Johnson’s meaning [in 1965] was unmistakable. The power of the government of the United States would be harnessed to redress the historical grievances of, and harms done to, a specific people: African Americans. Public policy would affirmatively address the legacy (“chains”) of slavery, by instituting programs designed to achieve equality for Black people “as a result.”  

What has definitively replaced affirmative action is a kind of soccer mom diversity consensus….  Diversity is good for the country, just as it’s nice to look out on the soccer field and see kids from various ethnicities playing together. Which means that white folks are free to play at diversity and use race as a factor, as long as the rules don’t address racial injustice or demand results.  

Mary Gravitt, of Milwaukee, has a somewhat different take on the matter.  

There has always been some confusion about the term diversity when used in the "legal" context and content.  For instance diversity in the classroom means: Little Darky, I am going to teach you to "be like me," White in everything but appearance.  If you cannot think like me and ape me in all ways, then you are intellectually inferior.

Diversity in all quarters in America means White Think.  There is no give and take because Blacks of all people are considered to have nothing to give intellectually in any environs that relate to Euro-centric thinking.


Lani Guinier makes an important contribution when she points out that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor seemed most concerned that there be "diversity" in American "leadership" ranks. (See Village Voice, July 2.) O'Connor wants to insure that there are sufficient "minorities" that can represent "us" - meaning the whites like herself. Clearly, she sees elite educational institutions as places where the proper specimens can be molded to the task.

The Supreme Court's rationale for "diversity" is that it is in the government's interest. O'Connor makes it plain that she wants to manufacture colored folks who will, as you put it, "be like me."  

Eric Bogan joins the discussion, from the state of Washington.  

Again, brilliant and piercing analysis on the Univ. of Michigan decision. As you've pointed out, the acceptance of Affirmative Action as an all-encompassing expression of "power-sharing", to borrow your phrase, "shared" the original goal, to redress historical Black realities of inequality and racist exclusion into the present situation where white women, as one did in my place of employment, arrogantly claimed "minority" status, the fact that women make up close to half the population apparently lost on her, as well as the fact that many of her class are the real beneficiaries of affirmative action. What the recent decision proves is, when it comes to redress of the specific and justified claim of descendants of slaves, white America will always fall back on its all-too familiar delusional qualities of NEVER dealing effectively with issues of race, falling back on safe, non-threatening buzz words like "diversity."  

Leroy Wilson, Jr., a veteran attorney, finds it curious how "fairness" has become the watchword of the Right.  

I think that President Kennedy’s Plans for Progress might have antedated LBJ’s concepts of Affirmative action by a few years, but I agree that LBJ was the President who started putting teeth into the concept.  My great fear however, is that too many of us are without knowledge of what the state and federal governments did to put African-Americans in our historically continuing status.  Because of this, I believe we are going to find ourselves asleep at the switch when the far right begins to define the debate on what was “fair” historically.  We are going to lose out because we will not know how to frame the argument for lack of knowledge.  The right’s entire argument against affirmative action has been defined in terms of “unfair” racial preferences.  They built a well-coordinated network of people around the nation, at all levels, to carry their definition of the argument.  In the future, look for them to define how “fair” it was for the Texas territory to award 80 acres of land to white settlers for every slave that they owned, or how “fair” it was for the government to give away millions of acres of land to the railroads, etc. and how “fair" it was for whites to have been given free land; i.e. “capital”, as well as free labor from slaves.  

For a description of “affirmative action” under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, we recommend the memoirs of administration operative Lee C.White:  

One of the first JFK actions was to establish the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity and designate the vice-president as its chairman. With his usual vigor and industriousness, LBJ talked Hobart Taylor, a brilliant lawyer and the son of one of his black friends and supporters in Texas, to be the staff director. With whites and blacks, lawyers and businessmen, and Taylor's pushing spirit, the Committee produced a program known as Plans for Progress, which amounted to pledges by corporations to increase the number of minority employees by an agreed percentage over a specified period of time. The program was not without its critics, who contended that it was window dressing because there were no sanctions and the program was the equivalent of the federal government awarding "Good Housekeeping Seals of Approval." Word reached Bobby Kennedy, the Attorney General, who passed on the criticism to JFK. I wound up with the assignment to check it out. Working with Taylor and George Reedy, an assistant of LBJ and later his press secretary, I went over the numbers and the nature of the Plans for Progress program and concluded that it was a step in the right direction, that there were no sweetheart deals, and that the participants on both sides were sincere. The major deficiency was that there was no statutory underpinning for the program and that it was not possible to require or enforce sanctions. Ultimately, Congress did create the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr. was its first chairman.  

President Johnson’s June 4, 1965 speech to the graduating class at Howard University was the first presidential exposition of the rationale for results-oriented affirmative action as national public policy to redress the historical grievances of African Americans. 

Living in the Bubble

Among the legacies of African slavery and Indian-extermination is – madness within the host society. Mental incompetence, broadly defined as an inability to perceive and act upon reality, is the general condition among the majority of the white American population. Like a curse from the graves of centuries, the twisted processes that allowed whites to commit and countenance daily, unspeakable crimes against “others” have rendered their cultural heirs “Blind, Deaf, Dumb and Deluded,” the title of our June 26 commentary on the vast chasm became U.S. and world opinions and perceptions.  

The crisis of disintegrating order that is gripping the globe, although initiated by the Bush Pirates and materially rooted in the contradictions of multinational capital, is made grotesquely more complicated by a cruel trick of history. The population of the superpower that seeks to subdue and reorder the world is cognitively damaged. Americans appear to be incapable of perceiving the social realities of other peoples and nations. It is a brain-lock so profound, so nearly perfect in its insulating mechanisms, as to be described as a society floating in a bubble.  

The desire to support the war is a desire to kill Arabs, which requires the justification of WMDs. In the same manner, white American failure to recognize the humanity of Blacks and Indians was a convenient psychological device to make their extermination and enslavement less troubling to the mind. 

This is quite obvious – unless you’re in the bubble.  

Dave Turner begins his letter with a disclaimer.  

I'm white, I read your article "Blind, Deaf, Dumb and Deluded," and I'm not in "The Bubble." It breaks my heart that America is being led down the path to ruin by the Bush administration. Your point is well-taken that white America tends to have a distorted world view that admits none of America's wrongs and is ethnocentric. However, I think the real reason Bush and his cronies are literally getting away with murder is the fact that our media in this country, owned by corporations that have an interest in allowing the Bush administration's escapades, crusades and deception to go unexamined, are not exposing the truth.  

I believe I am in the minority listening to Mike Malloy's radio show, from which I learned of your intriguing article and many others. I work hard to stay informed. I dig deep and get my information from many sources including those from around the globe and people like Greg Palast (a white man, by the way), who exposed the tremendous crime in Florida when voters (many Black) were wrongly purged from the voter rolls, leading to Bush's illegitimate placement in the office of the President.  

I read the writings of historian Howard Zinn, a white man who taught and lived on the campus of Spelman College in Atlanta in the 1950s and 1960s and who presents the history we never learned in school. My eyes were opened by the book, "Makes Me Want To Holler" by Nathan McCall about his experience as a young Black man in America and I think it should be required reading for white Americans. Most Americans don't get this information. Most Americans are ill-informed because of the enormous power of the mainstream media here. Having said that, I also believe that most Americans are shirking their responsibility to educate themselves and be actively involved in their own democracy. I also know first hand that there are surprising levels of racism still present in our country, particularly in the Southeast. But I believe the solution is not to divide white America and Black America but for all compassionate, educated, well-informed, reasonable, progressive people of all colors to unite and throw the bums out.

In closing, I think of Gil Scott-Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." I know this was written around Black issues, but I think it can apply globally today.

Sincerely, and with hope for peace and justice in our time. 

Since we are singing the praises of white men who have struggled against racism, offers the late Herbert Aptheker, author of the multi-volume “A Documentary History Of The Negro People In The United States,” who died March 17 at age 87.  

Bruce Tyler Wick, of Westlack, Ohio asks, “Can the world survive “Bubble America?”

JP Morgan is supposed to have told a younger colleague, "I have two reasons for everything I do, a 'right' reason and a real reason." 

Americans' post-invasion reactions are helpful, I think, in determining how many were truly deceived into war by any of the various explanations for invasion offered by the Bush Administration.  Not many would be my guess.  Whatever the justifications for invasion, what NOW explains our continued occupation of Iraq?  If we cannot simply "cut and run," leaving the country in chaos, what steps are we taking to place control in international hands – to restore order, and for peacekeeping and nation-building purposes?

Human interaction can be both subtle and complex, and hypocrisy is a good example of this.  Bush & Co. did convince a majority of Americans that we needed Iraqi OIL, and could seize it or take control of it at relatively little cost.  Repeated denials only remind the public why we're there.

With special urgency, the United States has needed "right" reasons to justify its conduct, ever since World War II.  "Special," because the US emerged from W.W.II the world's superpower; had to share the title for about forty years with the Soviet Union; and then regained full possession in the early 90's.  At least until recently, the only "legitimacy" which mattered to American politicians and people was the legitimacy of US power in American eyes.  

Maintaining that legitimacy in our own eyes has become the full-time job of politicians, their media consultants and the media themselves – which suggests the task is growing increasingly difficult.  Put another way, the pretense is wearing thin – the pretense of pretending to believe our leaders' "right" reasons.  Hence, for example, the need to resort to various, and shifting, justifications for war and occupation. 

Will legitimacy in our own eyes be sufficient in the new century?  I suspect, as you do, we are crossing a threshold and entering a world, where we must justify ourselves and our conduct to an increasingly skeptical world.

Sorely tested

In our December 5, 2002 commentary, “College SATs Incompatible With Black Mobility “ we argued that African Americans must struggle to “abolish the tyranny” of the education testing services, which have effectively narrowed to near-vanishing the pool of Black students “qualified” to enter top-ranked universities.  

Our piece cited a report of the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (JBHE) that found “black students make up at best between 1 and 2 percent of these high-scoring groups” sought by ranked universities. We wrote:  

Black student bodies are destined to whither away unless the relative weight of standardized testing is drastically reduced or eliminated. There is no other choice….  

The assault against the Black presence in higher education is fundamental, and can only be effectively countered by a battle to expunge the SAT's from national life. It's us or them.  

Cece, in Minnesota, expands on the subject.  

I totally agree with the premise that we should push for less weight to be given to standardized test scores.  However, one other salient point in the JBHE was the core curriculum or college prep curriculum of blacks vs. whites during high school.

I think that the changes in curriculum are a major component of the decline in scores post 1988.  Hence, we should be pushing for more rigorous curriculum in our schools as well as for less weight being given to std. test scores.

I frankly do not understand the lack of rigor in the curriculum today. The content of an Honors English class today is what was standard curriculum in the Seventies in my high school. That to me is the most significant change, the content of the curriculum.  I believe if we put the rigor back in the regular classes our students would once again close the gap in the scores.

Moreover, by making this the content of the 'regular' English curriculum we would circumvent the tendency of our children not to aspire to honors classes for fear of being called nerds. While that issue certainly needs to be addressed as well, it will be a good start to simply have honors content in the regular English class.

I think our math classes should incorporate the instructional methods of Kumon, which has been demonstrated to be quite successful and this will enable more black children to develop higher order math reasoning skills and keep them on track to calculus without the math phobia creeping in. It has been repeatedly shown that math phobia is due to not mastering a basic concept in one course prior to proceeding to the next level. The Kumon methodology decreases the chance of that occurring.

Our major focus should be on curriculum content if we want to close these gaps.

Keep up the outstanding work. I thoroughly enjoy your weekly viewpoints.

Obama is off the DLC list

This issue’s e-Mailbox column gives us the opportunity to report that Illinois Black State Senator Barack Obama’s name has, in fact, been struck from the Democratic Leadership Council’s “New Democrats Directory.” Obama is a very serious candidate for the U.S. Senate, a professor of constitutional law with a solidly progressive legislative and activist record. Our three-week dialogue with him over his listing on the noxious DLC directory culminated in Bruce Dixon’s June 26 commentary, “Obama To Have Name Removed From DLC List: “New Democrats” acted “without my knowledge.  

Associate Editor Dixon posed three “bright line” questions to the Senate candidate, “that should determine whether you belong in the DLC, or not.”  

1. Do you favor the withdrawal of the United States from NAFTA?  Will you in the Senate introduce or sponsor legislation toward that end?  

2. Do you favor the adoption of a single payer system of universal health care to extend the availability of quality health care to all persons in this country?  Will you in the Senate introduce or sponsor legislation toward that end?  

3. Would you have voted against the October 10 congressional resolution allowing the president to use unilateral force against Iraq?  

Obama answered all the questions in the affirmative, as would be expected from a progressive. urges that all Democrats be confronted with these “bright line” issues that separate the DLC from the bulk of Democratic legislators.  

From her vantage point in San Francisco, Virginia Vélez sees only one “progressive” on the presidential horizon.  

Bruce Dixon’s article on the perils of going along with the DLC was the most informative and clearest that I have seen, and I am a political news junkie.  I will examine the link to the DLC’s recommendations closely. If everyone continues to be taken in by the DLC and only a DLC-man wins the nomination, I will vote for a third party.  I was already angry at the way the party has been abusing us, Blacks and Latinos, taking our votes for granted and trying to dictate what our agenda should and shouldn’t be.  

Dixon’s conclusion is the only thing I quarrel with.  He states that if Lieberman becomes the Democratic candidate it’s time to leave the Democratic Party.  I agree.  So what is my quarrel with Dixon’s conclusion?  Only this:  I wish he had said that, as it stands, the viable progressive candidate is Dennis Kucinich. 

I hope Black Commentator will endorse Dennis Kucinich for President, and soon so that our people are not misled and donate their hard-earned dollars to deceptive candidates.  As a woman of color, I believe Kucinich will make the world safer for our young people, especially. 

Kucinich will cooperate with other nations to avert war, end the death penalty and the Drug War that has really been a war on people of color.  I believe he will raise the minimum wage, and I know that he will expand healthcare to cover all needs, including a woman’s right to choose or to end a pregnancy if it threatens her life.  As a woman of color, I especially appreciate that he wants to put in the policies to support women who want to have children, so that they don’t feel their only choice is extreme poverty with no healthcare or having no children. 

Dennis has also made a commitment to expand affirmative action and work to ensure that it, and environmental and international laws, all get enforced.  Kucinich is the only one with a health plan that would eliminate insurance companies from the equation, and that is so long overdue! 

Whatever you do, please, don’t endorse Dean, who is opposed (so far) by the DLC, because Dean is too close to AIPAC, the American Israel PAC that supported apartheid in South Africa and fosters militarism and apartheid against the Palestinians.  His campaign fundraiser, Grossman, was a head man with AIPAC and AIPAC has already given Dean a free trip to meet Israeli leaders, and he met with no Palestinians. 

Thank you for Dixon, and for your great magazine.  I’ll read it regularly and share it with everyone I meet.  

bell hooks defended 

Readers perusing our archives continue to pause at Joseph Anderson’s June 12 Guest Commentary, “Right Hook at the Bell! Bell Hooks’ Black male-bashing.” Anderson made author bell hooks the straw-woman for what he believes is wrong with the Black male-female discourse. Hooks, wrote Anderson, depicts Black males as  

“…at root, not only fundamentally different, but uniquely pathological, uniquely predatory (especially sexually) and misogynist - in Hooks' words, sexually immature, traumatized and dysfunctional.”  

Alicia Banks leaps into the fray.  

I and millions of other black women agree with bell hooks.

Essentially, I have not heard her say anything more or less than Ellis Cose has in his classic book "The Envy of the World." I have also heard Dr. Mike Dyson say similar truths.

I ask Mr. Anderson: does the gender of the message make said message more tolerable? Has he ever penned such a rant against black men who dare to tell the same truths about their flawed fellow black men?

Do not kill the messenger!!!  

The southern, Republican Army

Co-Publisher Glen Ford’s piece, “Fear Of A Black Street Army” (July 3) came late to the pages of The Black Commentator, having first appeared in the Spring Issue of Color Lines magazine under the title “Buffalo Soldiers.” Ford credits African American soldiers in Vietnam with “shutting down” the U.S. war machine – a “nightmare” the Pentagon is determined never to revisit under the all-volunteer regime.  

The Pentagon and the corporate War Party worked tirelessly to cultivate the current U.S. military demography, to suit the purposes to which it is presently deployed in Iraq, and for future aggressions and occupations throughout the non-white world. The volunteer force is the product of three decades of social engineering, designed to prevent a return of the Pentagon’s worst nightmare: a “critical mass” of Black soldiers in the combat arms, as occurred in Vietnam.  

Through careful demographic engineering, the U.S. military has created what Ford calls “a Confederacy in arms.”  

Forty-two percent of the U.S. military enlisted from southern states in 2000, up from 31 percent in 1980. Dixie’s military dominance dwarfs all other regions – the Northeast accounts for just 14 percent of recruits, the West, 23 percent, and the Midwest, 20 percent.


Although African Americans comprise 26 percent of the Army (and 22 percent of the combined services), that proportion is halved among the “combat” specialties such as infantry and armored gun crews, and sliced further in the elite units that form the cutting edges of war. The good old boys rule in these outfits – by design.


Just as ominously, the 80 percent white officer class has grown far more politicized than the public at large during the last few decades, according to the immensely valuable March 30 New York Times article, “Military Mirrors Working-Class America.”  

Among the experts and authors quoted in the commentary was Terry Anderson, professor of history at Texas A&M University. Prof. Anderson saw the piece when it appeared in Color Lines.  

Mr. Ford:  I was sent your article, "Buffalo Soldiers," and enjoyed it a lot.  Historians of the Vietnam war and of the 1960s have written about the insubordination among the troops in Vietnam after 1969, see my book, The Movement and The Sixties, or a chapter that I wrote for Melvin Small and William D Hoover, eds, GIVE PEACE A CHANCE (1992), "The GI Movement and the Response from the Brass," and David Cortright's chapter, "The GI Resistance."     

You are certainly right to point out that the longer this "occupation" continues the more racial hatred will be seen in the ranks, as happened in Vietnam.  This Iraq was a grave mistake.  

J. Osorio caught up with the story in .  

I greatly enjoyed your article on the "Black Street Army." I had no idea of the black influence on ending the war, or the Armed Forces deliberate plans to guarantee white southern officers, although it doesn't surprise me.  

It brings to mind a recent article I read concerning the US presence in Lebanon during the early 80's. The author said that among the US troops, only the blacks understood that they were there to support a war against the poor.  

Keep up the excellent work.  

Tar Baby Outrage – again!

Now, here’s one from way back in the archives, connected to a tale from the mists of time.

On June 7, 2002, the 4th issue of lit a fire under the military brass from Redstone Arsenal, near Huntsville, Alabama, all the way to the Pentagon. Titled, “Tar Baby Outrage: Racism and Corruption at Redstone Arsenal,” the article revealed what the good ole boys are up to at America’s hi-tech weapons production center:  

       What do they call a Black Ph.D. at Redstone?  Tar Baby.

"No matter what I do from here on in, I will always be labeled as the Tar Baby Lady." - Clara Denise West, Ph.D., Redstone Arsenal

White managers at one of the nation’s most sensitive military installations routinely assault Black employees with an archaic racial epithet, undermining even the pretense of unified national resolve in the "War on Terror."  At Huntsville, Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal, a military and civilian culture holds sway that seems to revel in the language of unrelenting war against the humanity and dignity of African Americans.

May 20, 2002 News Release:


Verbal outrage part of pattern of racism and corruption, minorities charge

"This is the rocket capital of the world, the home of Americas’ weapons of the future,” said RAM Executive Director Matthew Fogg. “But minority employees still have to struggle with obscene prejudices and insults that should have been left in the past after we defeated Jim Crow.” African Americans at Redstone “are afraid of reprisals if they speak out against discrimination", said Fogg, also a Chief deputy U.S. Marshal. "The racial atmosphere is hostile."

Fogg said he is in possession of an April 16 2002 email, written by a US Army GS-14 manager, that openly describes an African American woman Information Assurance (IA) officer as a Tar-baby”.   The target of the epithet holds a Ph.D. in Systems Engineering.

The scientist in question is Dr. Clara Denise West, a single mother of two who has earned four degrees, including the doctorate. 

A reader who is a government employee in Huachuca, Arizona happened upon our article. As our anonymous correspondent reports, Tar Baby is still part of the vocabulary of the U.S. military.  

I just finish reading the Redstone article and we have the same problem here at Ft. Huachuca, AZ. We had a Director GS-14 made a statement "just like a tar baby, you can not get rid of them” to a group of about 45 or more employees. The group was of all races, black, white and others. Some of the whites could not believe he made the remark knowing the meaning of the term. The blacks within the directorate fear the blacklist, blackball or losing there job if they speak out.  This is a small military retirement city and if you are not working for the government it's hard to find a good paying job. The good ole boy network is still alive and strong here.  

replied: Down-South, Up-South, East-South, West-South – it's all Dixie in the U.S.A.  

For updates on the Redstone Tar Baby saga, consult the RAM website ( or contact Matthew Fogg at [email protected].

A cool breeze in Arizona

Jeff Jones is trying to catch some shade in, Cottonwood, Arizona. We’re glad he’s thinking about us.  

Damn it's good to read someone telling the truth without dressing it up in flowery apologetic feel-good bullshit. Your observations regarding the U.S. hypocrisy in Iraq were particularly delightful. How anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of history and current events can buy our government's lies astounds me. Are our fellow humans really that incredibly stupid? Apparently, to a discouraging degree, yes.

I discovered your site through the Common Dreams site and proceeded to read nearly everything in your archives and every issue since. The ignorance here in Redneckland is overwhelming, and I often feel quite politically and intellectually isolated. Your commentary is like a strong clean breeze clearing out foul stale exhalations from a closed room.  

Keep Writing.  

gratefully acknowledges the following organizations for sending visitors our way during the past month:

Black Electorate

Information Clearing House

Black Voices

Black Planet

Democratic Underground

Mike Malloy Radio

Liberal Oasis


Babelogue City Pages


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