would you call someone who appeared at a Black History Month
then proceeded to dismiss Black people? You would call that
person United States Representative Harold Ford, Jr. The good
accepted an invitation to speak at a Black History Month program
at Lane College in Tennessee. But as we already know from his
previous machinations, Mr. Ford did not disappoint in displaying
the ignorance, opportunism, and self-hatred that has become
customary for DLC Black
Democrats who promote reaction under the guise of advocating
Ford opined that he isn’t “a fan” of Black History Month because
he looks forward to the day when it will no longer need to
be celebrated. It is unclear what utopian age in the future would
make it unnecessary to remember American history. Even if our
ancestors’ dreams are realized and we reach the nirvanas of equality
and justice we will still need to ponder the past.
The way that Black history
is celebrated in our nation does leave much to be desired. Not
only do we celebrate our history during the shortest month of
the year, but most Americans conclude that they have done their
part if they think about Black people once or twice in February.
As of March 1 they are off the hook and can go back
to being willfully ignorant. Every Black history month we can
count on PBS documentaries, and advertisements from fast food
restaurants and liquor companies, complete with colorful calendars
dedicated to the lives of African kings. The average American
has by now concluded that the contributions of Egyptian pharaohs
consisted of grabbing a cold brew every February.
Harold Ford’s political
history gives us some indication of his thinking on this topic.
He would not be shy about declaring his constituents’ history
unimportant. In the same speech he excused himself from his disgraceful
vote in favor of the Iraq war and scolded young Black people
for not being active enough. Perhaps witnessing the handiwork
of cynical politicians has made young people equally cynical.
His politics make it easy to dismiss his foolish words but in
honor of Black history month an effort should be made to give
the good congressman a history lesson. We need go no further
than his home state of Tennessee.
Tennessee is the birthplace
of the Ku Klux Klan and the place that provided a precursor to
Klan-inspired terror that lasted for over 100 years. On April
12, 1864 Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest overran Fort
Pillow, which was located 40 miles from Memphis. The garrison
included 262 Black and 295 White soldiers fighting for the Union.
Unfortunately, the policy of the Confederacy was not to take
Black soldiers prisoner, but to kill them or return them to slavery.
After the surrender few of the Black soldiers were left
alive. Black soldiers and civilians, including women and
children, were killed by
with gaping wounds, some bayoneted through the eyes, some
with skulls beaten through, others with hideous wounds
as if their bowels had been ripped open with bowie-knives,
plainly told that but little quarter was shown to our troops.”
Ford must certainly remember Fort Pillow because it caused
him embarrassment during
the 2000 presidential election, all because as William Faulkner
said of the South, “The past is not dead. In fact it isn’t
even past.” Some southern Whites have in recent years engaged
in an orgy of honoring long-dead men who lost a war. It hasn’t
occurred to them that the way to emerge from an inferiority
complex is not to worship the cause of inferiority. Of course,
Nathan Bedford Forrest, killer of Black soldiers, creator of
the Klan, has to be one of those remembered in this twisted
worship at the altar of evil doing.
Ford came close to
making himself a righteous man when he demanded that presidential
candidate Al Gore denounce plans to create a memorial to Forrest
in Nashville. But when confronted by supporters of the Forrest
backed down and declared, "I don't want to offend
the Sons of Confederate Veterans, or anyone else, and the matter
was bad enough that the Congressman made a statement offensive
to any thinking
American but to add insult to injury he is also incapable of
even being honest. Ford’s record shows that he does not want
to offend those who long for the days when White men ruled
with an iron fist. Conversely, he doesn’t mind offending Black
people at all. As is often the case with questionable political
judgment, the culprit is naked ambition. The Congressman has
achieved quite a lot at the age of 34 but he wants to be a
United States Senator. His calculations have told him that
the Sons of Confederate Veterans are not to be trifled with,
but the Sons of Fort Pillow can be easily disregarded.
Ford, Jr. is a media and political darling for the simple
reason that he
goes out of his way to misrepresent the politics of Black
America. Because of Ford and his ilk we are forced to hear
from the punditocracy that Black people really are becoming
more conservative, and that the Black vote is up for grabs.
And yet just like clockwork Black voting patterns remain
the same and our opinions remain uniform. But the same
inane claims will be made this year and probably in 2008,
2012 and beyond.
education is so obviously lacking he would need an intensive
crash course. One might tell him that Ida B. Wells-Barnett,
the journalist and gun carrying crusader against lynching,
was a Tennessean. Student involvement in the civil rights movement
had its beginnings in Nashville when Ford’s congressional colleague
John Lewis along with other activists such as Diane Nash spoke
truth to the powerful. Isaac Hayes and Otis Redding changed
American popular music at Stax Records in Memphis. It is a
frightening thought but Mr. Ford might even have to be reminded
that Martin Luther King was assassinated in Tennessee.
Harold Ford, Jr. should
keep attending Black History Month events. Perhaps it would
be better if he were not a speaker, however. He might want
to spend his time learning about the history of the people
he already represents.