greatest irony and tragedy of all is that our nation,
so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world,
now cast in the mold of being an arch anti-revolutionary.
Martin L. King, Jr.,
Casualties of the War in Vietnam,”
lives matter—at least since the presidential election in
November of 2016. The black vote was down from 12.9% in 2012 to 11.9%
in 2016, according to Pew Research. So pollsters have been busy.
months now, former Vice President Joe Biden leads among black voters
as the most likely candidate to beat the racist Trump in November of
this year, 2020. Sen. Bernie Sanders is second with black voters—at
least black voters under 35 years old. And according to pollsters and
pundits, black voters see in Biden Barack Obama. Biden, too, declares
he’s not a racist since Obama selected him to be the first
black president’s VP.
ambitious do gravitate toward each other.
I recall Anita Hill, Dr. Hill, seated in the senate, giving testimony
against a nominee for a seat on the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas. A
baffled Biden questions Hill’s narrative against Thomas, a good
memory. Recall Obama but forget Hill sitting at the table in front of
those cameras being humiliated by white men.
is most troubling for me about polls showing Biden in the lead among
older African American women is the way the pollsters assume all
African Americans grew up in the “Black church.” All are
Baptist. All are familiar with the long Sunday services. Preachers
familiar with the Baptist tradition. I grew up in Chicago, and every
Sunday, my grandmother had the dial of the kitchen radio tuned to a
black radio station. From early morning until late in the afternoon,
one Baptist church after another was given an hour for the choir to
sing and the preach to delivery a sermon. It was easy after a time to
know the most stirring of choirs and the most profound pastors…
I mention that my grandmother (both maternal grandparents) were
worked for years for the Catholic parish church and school (where I
and my five younger siblings and five younger cousins attended
grammar school) until the very day she died in 1986. And, when I
attended Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church for a year or two while
in high school, during the early 1970s, the family was furious.
older deceased family members were Catholic. I no longer. And, if you
believe the Pew Research poll (2016), I’m among the 78% of
Americans considering themselves of no religious affiliation.
are Catholic blacks in the US, Muslim, Buddhist, and who knows what
all else! Agnostics! Nones! Vegans! Trans! Single Mothers!
Professional women without children! Just humans!
these black Americans matter too?
Baptist church, for a long time, was a thorn in America’s side.
Just like Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. Before King was assassinated, even
the Black church turned away from him. In fact, in Chicago, one
conservative church refused to deal with King whereas the late Rev.
Clay Evans at Fellowship opened his doors to the Movement.
But the pollsters and
media pundits lump the whole race in the black Baptist corner, and
then calling on a now celebrated King, a black choir or two, and a
few black male pastors, insists we are all (except those young folks)
following lockstep behind Biden.
Americans have a socialist tradition that includes the
against-all-odds struggle and work and sacrifice of Paul Robeson,
Pauli Murray, W.E.B. Du Bois, Hubert Harrison, Cedric J. Robinson,
C.L.R. James, Angela Y. Davis, and others. The list includes Dr.
Martin L. King, Jr.
asks older blacks not lockstep with the Democratic or Republican
parties what they might think about the presidential candidates. It’s
safer for America to privilege one black tradition, and sear images
of black choirs and black pastors onto the minds of white America
whenever it’s convenient, efficient for the nation. The image
of the black church singing and preaching is salable whereas the
image of a black community that leans socialist threatens the
interests of the powerful—no matter how corrupt, how vile and
According to the
pollsters, older blacks are standing by Biden, a man who once thought
it a good idea to stand with Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley,
during the Reagan era, and call for a freeze “on federal
spending and insisted on including Social Security in that freeze”
(The Intercept), is already a winner in the black community.
it’s Biden when black lives matter?
the meantime, over a billion animals are dead. It’s hard to
imagine a billion anything, let alone, animals. A billion
creatures—amphibians, koalas, birds. Plants, fungi, insects.
Bacteria, too. According to a report in the Washington Post, the
kangaroos on Kangaroo Island are in danger of becoming extinct.
species matter. Do we know if the Democratic candidates understand
What must a square foot
of that fire scene in Australia be like to the wildlife
running just ahead of flames and smoke are mostly from the
economically poor and Indigenous populations.
eight people have died.
perhaps more adequate to say that the life already consumed in fire
and the life on the run are trying to survive other people’s
insistence that life is worthwhile only when profits flow from
digging for fossil fuels. So what are a billion dead animals?
Australian PM, Scott Morrison, the sun still shines. Even coal shines
in his hands. There are images of Morrison holding a lump of coal.
According to The Guardian, it’s “a neatly shellacked lump
of coal.” What could be wrong with coal? Huh? It’s like
that water in Flint, Michigan that Obama drank. Clean water!
fossil fuel industry wants Morrison in power.
in the US, at the last Democratic presidential debate sponsored by
CNN, the three chosen moderators failed to asks any of the contenders
about those one billion animals consumed in those blazing flames.
What about those homeless as a result of climate change? Two thousand
homes lost so far in Australia. Millions of acres destroyed.
anyone remember the California fires of 2019? The Amazon fires in
Does a Biden or an
Elizabeth Warren recognize the urgency do take drastic,
stop-the-press measures to combat climate change?
fires in Australia alone have emitted 400 megatons of carbon dioxide
and have produced harmful pollutants, according to Reuters. We live
on the same planet. Air travels to neighborhoods where there’s
already a population of the economically poor, the working class,
blacks, brown, Indigenous, and migrants from South America and with
pollutants from fracking and corporate dumps of waste in our
Biden and Warren talk
about the “middle class.” The middle class, says Biden,
built America. A middle class! It seems he’s conveniently
omitting the Indigenous populations of people who had things going
for quite a while before Europeans arrived to destroy everything that
was built on Turtle Island. It’s seems too that he’s
conveniently omitting 400 years of forced labor from African
Americans who built the industries, the foundations of the corporate
world. But the image of an America built by the middle class is
salable narrative—even if fewer and fewer Americans can claim
to prospering within this “middle class” of Biden and
unaware, too, of migrant families in Miami protesting, begging for
homes and not shelters. Tents. African Americans are still
experiencing a shut out from the banking and real estate industry
when it comes to homeownership in the US. For African Americans, home
ownership is down. Employment means a job here and a job there. Maybe
a third job. The increasingly higher cost of living anywhere in the
US doesn’t receive as much notice as the Obama’s purchase
of a home in Martha’s Vineyard or even Prince Harry and
Princess Meghan scouting about in Canada for a place to work and live
as regular folk, whatever that means.
the backlash from regular folks: The Royal couple should remain in
their 3 million dollar home!
live in a city like Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, San Francisco,
Los Angeles—a black American had better have a real “middle
class” job. Or if retired, Social Security and pensions. Good
sick, using all your resources at once! And older African Americans
are more susceptible to stress than other Americans. Stress, we’re
told, will do us in!
you think Biden’s intends to move the country from Affordable
Care to Medicare for All is in the works, think again. What’s
salable for the capitalist class is good for America! Biden and
Warren need the capitalist class.
for the capitalist class, black lives matter—now!
would it be ALL black lives?
any Democratic presidential candidate hear about Atatiana’s
mother? I would have liked to know if anyone did. Heart attack! She
died of a heart attack and hadn’t been well in that house where
her daughter, Atatiana Jefferson, a 28-year old Xavier University
(Louisiana) graduate, cared for her. In the house where her daughter
was shot through her bedroom window. A Fort Worth, Texas police,
responding to a wellness check, saw a black woman. She, hearing a
noise at night near her bedroom window, had a gun in her hand.
check on her, said a neighbor. The door is open).
nephew, Atatiana’s little eight year old nephew is right there
next to her. He’s still there, I’m sure. Still sees his
father died two weeks after that bullet struck his daughter, ending
Heart failure, for
Erica Garner, the 27-year
old daughter of Eric Garner, died of a heart attack in 2017, three
years after her father is choked to death by several police officers
in New York.
about being black in America. And no matter how many family members
and lawyers we can muster to surround the immediate family, the
damage is done when the politicians vote for war, or speaks of waging
“just wars,” and the news media is 24-7, raking in the
profits from staging “breaking news” debates that are
supposed to represent the hearts and minds of the American
pundits do just that. In tangent. That is, focus on the hearts and
minds of the American people. That’s what’s worth
tweaking to meet the ever growing demands of the corporate
Don’t think about
all the 8-year old black boys who daily witness their parents dragged
off by ICE or the local police. Or worse, deported. Or shot dead
without so much as a warning. So not one candidate was asked anything
about Atatiana’s mother.
the years I taught literature and cultural theory (race, women, and
class) in English departments, I was under pressure to not offend
white students. No one mentioned students of color. How about these
It was the
white students that mattered. The white students who are not to be
made to feel “uncomfortable” by you and your subject
matter. Even your scholarship, said one chair, will be of no concern
What is always
sacrificed if not the matter that is our lives, that is America’s
uncomfortable history? Where’s the demand for truth?
and Warren are about the business of comforting the angry
Americans—when not doing the bidding of neo-liberalism. There’s
little room in that agenda for anything else.
other day, at a rally for climate change protesters, I hear the actor
and activist Martin Sheen tell this story—about an “Irish”
guy. But I’m sure it could be anyone.
reaches heaven and is asked a question, “Where are your
Where are your scars?”
have none,” answers the guy.
a pity. You found nothing worth fighting for.”
we take risk, fight back, challenge and question, we have scars. We
are the brave. Acceptance of what’s given to us, of the same
old s---, as Jean-Michel Basquiat would say, is no longer viable.