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Est. April 5, 2002
Jan 30, 2020 - Issue 803
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Where Are Your Scars?

"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 mean-spirited."

The greatest irony and tragedy of all is that our nation, which

initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world,

is now cast in the mold of being an arch anti-revolutionary.

Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.,

The Casualties of the War in Vietnam,”

February 25, 1967

Black 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.

For 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.

The ambitious do gravitate toward each other.

But 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 ol’ guy.

Selective memory. Recall Obama but forget Hill sitting at the table in front of those cameras being humiliated by white men.

What 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 and Mothers.

I’m 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…

Did I mention that my grandmother (both maternal grandparents) were devout Catholics?

My mother 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.

The 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.

There 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!

Do these black Americans matter too?

The 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.

It’s history.

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.

African 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.

No one 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 mean-spirited.

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.

So it’s Biden when black lives matter?


In 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.

All species matter. Do we know if the Democratic candidates understand this?

What must a square foot of that fire scene in Australia be like to the wildlife inhabitants?

Humans are running just ahead of flames and smoke are mostly from the economically poor and Indigenous populations.

Twenty eight people have died.

It’s 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?

For 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!

The fossil fuel industry wants Morrison in power.

Here 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.

Does anyone remember the California fires of 2019? The Amazon fires in Brazil?

Does a Biden or an Elizabeth Warren recognize the urgency do take drastic, stop-the-press measures to combat climate change?

The 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 waters.

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 Warren.

Perhaps Biden’s 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.

And the backlash from regular folks: The Royal couple should remain in their 3 million dollar home!

To 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 pensions.

Don’t get 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!

But if 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.

And for the capitalist class, black lives matter—now!


But would it be ALL black lives?

Did 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.

(Just check on her, said a neighbor. The door is open).

The nephew, Atatiana’s little eight year old nephew is right there next to her. He’s still there, I’m sure. Still sees his aunt…

Atatiana’s father died two weeks after that bullet struck his daughter, ending her life.

Heart failure, for him.

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.

It’s all 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 public.

Politicians and 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 class.

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.


During 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 paying students?

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 to us!

What is always sacrificed if not the matter that is our lives, that is America’s uncomfortable history? Where’s the demand for truth?

Biden 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.


The 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.

He’s reaches heaven and is asked a question, “Where are your scars?”


Scars! Where are your scars?”

I have none,” answers the guy.

What a pity. You found nothing worth fighting for.”

Because 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. Editorial Board member and Columnist, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has a Doctorate in Modern American Literature/Cultural Theory. Contact Dr. Daniels.
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