All Articles Tagged "black politics"
In 1964, Malcolm X said, “Anytime you throw your weight behind a political party…and that party can’t keep promises that it made…and you’re dumb enough to walk around continuing to identify with that political party, you’re not only a chump, but a traitor to your race.” So what do you think Malcolm X would say to radio host Tom Joyner’s “plea to the Black man” blog statement: “Let’s not deal with the facts right now…let’s just deal with our Blackness and pride – and loyalty. We have a chance to re-elect the first African-American president, and that’s what we ought to be doing…because he’s a Black man”?
By Jay Anderson
With Chris Christie and Sarah Palin wisely choosing to sit 2012 out, there aren’t many “colorful” candidates left vying for the chance to unseat President Obama next year. One exception, literally and figuratively, is former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and radio talk show host Herman Cain. Seemingly left for dead once Tea Party favorites Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry ascended the ranks, Cain has recently seen his poll position improve dramatically. A recent string of straw poll victories has Cain back in the game, trailing only perpetual snooze/frontrunner Mitt Romney in most reputable polls. Of course, given the topsy turvy nature of the race and his frequent bouts of verbal diarheaa, Cain could very easily be back in single digits next week. So what better time to review some of his most infamous statements? After all, nobody will care come January when he finishes 8th in New Hampshire, so why let a perfectly good slideshow go to waste? Shall we?
1. Black Folks Are “Brainwashed”
For a guy who has shouted “I left the Democratic plantation!” to adoring Tea Party crowds, Cain’s black folks “have been brainwashed into not being open-minded, not even considering a conservative point of view” proclaimation during a CNN interview wasn’t exactly new news. In fact, it’s a pretty standard Black Republican talking point. What’s interesting is that Cain claimed he could salvage the “one-third to 50 percent of black Americans” who are open-minded. Yep, cause as we all know, insulting people’s intelligence is the best way to get them to vote for you.
(Washington Post) — As many as one-quarter of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus could face significant primary opposition in their new House districts in 2012, a development that could significantly change the face of the CBC and/or reduce its membership heading into 2013. With nationwide redistricting slightly more than halfway done, at least 10 of the 41 members of the CBC already have well-known politicians eyeing their new districts. As Roll Call’s Shira Toeplitz noted on Monday, a few of those members are actually facing matchups with current or former Members of Congress who are white. These members include Reps. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.), Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) and Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.). But others are facing primaries with ambitious black politicians who see opportunities in newly drawn districts.
(Afro) — Spending nearly eight years laboring Inside the Beltway as a communication strategist, Melanie N. Roussell has reached a critical position that could make or break the reelection chances of President Barak Obama. As chief spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the former press secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing must carefully craft messages about the commander-in-chief. Roussell said she’s ready. Roussell got her first taste of politics as a senior at Florida A&M University, a historically Black college in Tallahassee, Fla., when she got involved with the Bush vs. Gore 2000 election. The FAMU graduate, then a member of the school’s Student Government Association, said there were 500 reported cases of voting disenfranchisement in which students were turned away from the polls or told they couldn’t vote, even though they had current registration cards.
“I freed thousands of slaves, and could have freed thousands more, if they had known they were slaves.” – Harriet Tubman
During an interview on Fox News last week, black Republican Congressman and GOP longshot, Allen West took to cable television to express his sentiments toward his people and their faithfulness to the Democratic Party. West accused Democrats of “taking black votes for granted” and compared prominent black leaders, such as Maxine Waters, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson, to “plantation bosses” (or overseers). “So, I’m here as the modern-day Harriet Tubman to kind of lead people on the Underground Railroad away from the plantation and into a sense of sensibility,” he contended.
Now Mr. West may not be the most popular guy in many circles, surely not mine, and the plausibility of him snagging the Republican nomination is nil. So, whether or not he is the modern-day Harriet Tubman is a rhetorical question. However, the weight of the black vote is one worth exploring.
With the rate of unemployment climbing and monstrous corporations like Bank of American planning to lay thousands more off, poverty is a major concern as middle class is quickly becoming the new poor and the poor grow poorer. The whimpers of the impoverished are faint and have been overshadowed by partisan bickering, debt-ceiling ridiculousness and Tea Party-ing. Yet, despite these things, the black community continues to demonstrate unwavering support for Democrats and President O.
Upon criticizing President Obama and embarking on a nationwide “Poverty Tour,” Tavis Smiley and Cornel West have quickly become objects of ridicule. Radio show host Tom Joyner declared he would never work with Smiley again and alluded to the possibility of a Smiley/West “relationship.” Steve Harvey also used his widely syndicated morning show to voice his discontent, citing the tour as a hustle and labeling the duo poverty-pimping Uncle Toms.
We all know the issue is not Smiley’s (alleged) attempt to stay relevant or Harvey securing a spot in the rich-black-Obama-supporters inner circle. It’s the fact that black Americans have pledged their allegiance to the Democratic Party and expect one another to support President Obama regardless of whether or not we agree with his politics and performance thus far—which is ridiculous.
(Daily Beast) — With a stinging budget defeat behind them and unemployment in the black community soaring to 16 percent, members of the Congressional Black Caucus say they’re done waiting for Barack Obama to fight their battles for them. Instead, the 43 African-American lawmakers say they’re taking matters into their own hands and will carry the fight to Tea Party Republicans, whom they blame for Obama’s latest lurch to the right. “The Tea Party discovered something. That is if they organize, if they talk loud enough, if they threaten, if they register to vote and elect a few people, they can take over the Congress of the United States,” said Rep. Maxine Waters. “They called our bluff and we blinked. We should have made them walk the plank.”
Blockbuster movie “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” has just come out on top after a competitive weekend at the box office. Raking in $27.5 million, this prequel to the 1968 classic “Planet of the Apes” beat out the controversy-laden film “The Help,” which came in at No. 2. “The Help” is hated by black female historians, cultural critics and average folks alike for what many see as the stereotypical mammy imagery they believe the film promotes. But “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” does something even more crafty. To make audiences sympathize with the abused chimps, its storytellers borrowed images from the most emotionally arresting moments of the black Civil Rights Movement. It’s impossible to imagine that Hollywood artists at the top of their game did not know what they were doing. Tinseltown has finally given our history its due — even if brilliant animals have to be a stand-in for blacks to gain mainstream empathy. Here are the most obvious grabs from the rich repository of the black political past that usually go unremembered.
[SPOILER ALERT: This slide show contains spoilers.]
The Black Power Fist
In this UK poster to promote the film, we see a clear copy of the black power movement’s fist gesture from the ’70s.
Why is it suddenly okay to hate Tavis Smiley? I ask this in all seriousness and sincerity because honestly I just don’t get it.
Tavis, along with Cornel West, has embarked on a road trip to highlight the plight of poor people of all races, colors and creeds so they will not be forgotten, ignored, or rendered invisible during this difficult and dangerous time of economic deprivation and political cowardice — this according to the tour’s website. But with the 25 million both unemployed and underemployed; the unemployment rate among blacks hovering around 16 percent; the number of children living in poverty of all colors rising by 10 percent and the greatest transfer of wealth happening faster than we ever seen, it would be an appropriate time for someone, anyone, to give a voice to the countless number of Americans still waiting for that change we can all believe in, right?
But, as you might imagine, West and Smiley are getting a lot of criticism over this tour. Together they have been labeled as self-promoting, self-serving Obama haters, using the plight of the poor to line their own pockets. Former friends and fellow radio personality Tom Joyner has accused both Smiley and West, but particularly Smiley, of fostering and encouraging the kind of atmosphere that leads to open disrespect of the President. Even slightly funny comedian Steve Harvey has gotten in on the act and suggested the two were “Uncle Toms”. Ouch. This Uncle Tom comment is coming from someone who hosts the Hoodies, which gives, among other things, awards to the best fried chicken and the best nail salon. Surely he is the last person who needs to be referencing stereotypical caricatures of blackness.
So when did it all of a sudden become in vogue to use Tavis Smiley as the whipping boy for the black community?
Okay let me not tell false truths, I do know part of the reason: Smiley made the faux pas of speaking out against then senator Obama on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, after Obama “dissed” him for not showing up at one of his televised forums. And over the last few years his heavy-handed criticism of the president’s policies – or lack thereof – in regard to a black agenda has left many in the community with a bad taste in their mouths, believing the president has to be leader of all Americans, not just us. I can somewhat understand why folks may want to flip him off with a “whatever Tavis” from time to time, but this whole idea that if you don’t agree with the administration’s policies, you somehow deserve to get ignored, publicly abused and kicked out of the black race, is past the point of ridiculousness.
Folks apparently have a short-term memory regarding Smiley and the valuable service, he used to offer to the community. There was a time, way back in 1996, when Smiley was the go-to personality for black thought and public discourse. It started with his talk show on BET called “BET Tonight”, where he would put forth issues facing the community and soon after was followed by a list of socially-themed books, including his New York Times bestseller (the first time that ever happened for a black non-fiction author) “The Covenant with Black America”, which sought to lays out a national plan of action addressing the African-American community’s primary concerns.
The book was followed by a national tour of the same name, which in most cities was standing room only. I went to Philadelphia leg of the tour and was pleasantly surprised to see the room full of a range of people coming together to address our issues. And folks did not complain one bit – even though I, and quite possibly a few others, thought that the whole thing was just a clever marketing ploy to push books. However, the larger Black community’s silence on Smiley perceived ulterior motives was largely due to two things: one, the event was free and the choice to buy a book was solely up to you; and two, there really weren’t many public forums where black educators, elected leaders and Hill Harper could address strategies for effectively dealing with healthcare, public education, the criminal justice system, affordable neighborhoods, democracy, strengthening rural roots, economic prosperity and environmental justice in the community.
Likewise, Smiley gave us the same opportunity for public discourse in the televised-form through the State of Black Union forums, which had just about everybody and their mammas calling their cable subscribers to find out exactly where C-Span 1 or 2 (or 3) was on their cable dials. Not since “Tony Brown’s Journal” had there been that a chance to see the likes of Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan, package Gregory, Randall Robinson, Dr. Julia Hare, Lani Guinier, and a gang of other folks all on one stage pontificating on economic, social and political issues facing black America. That might not mean anything other than a bunch of talk, but I, for one, appreciated seeing black folks on television thinking and speaking on a certain truth, without holding tongue or fearing what white folks would think. This sort of candor in our community is missing today. And unfortunately, a lot of this has to do with the election of our first black president.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally get it. With the persistence of racism in our country, including the mindless attacks and sheer obstruction from those on the right, it is hard not to want to wrap a protective bubble around President Obama and support him no matter what. However, our love and support of the country’s first black president has left us impotent on issues facing our community and unable to hold him accountable when the change for all Americans fails to trickle down to us.
My favorite quote is by G.B. Stern, “Both optimists and pessimists contribute to our society. The optimist invents the airplane and the pessimist the parachute.” I don’t know much about G.B. Stern other than he has a very valid point. And in the case of Smiley, I don’t agree with everything he says or stands for but I am at least willing to listen and consider what he has to say before writing him off. Besides, where would we be as a community if it weren’t for the likes of W.E.B DuBois and Booker T. Washington, readily defending and representing the interest of the two (or more) nations of black America?
How long will Black Americans serve as sacrificial lambs? On August 4th the National Association of Black Journalists held a plenary session at their 2011 conference that consisted of Michael Steele, Dr. Cornel West, Sophia Nelson and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. The session stirred up a lot of engaging discussion but what stuck out to me most was a statement made by our Atlanta mayor. Though I voted for him and consider him to be a smart business man, a remark made by him at this conference severely disturbed me. Reed responded to a statement West made in reference to President Obama helping the poor. “The minute Obama tries to provide programs specifically for Blacks, he will be out of office faster than you can bat an eye…” he said.
Steve Harvey had his share of remarks on his syndicated show saying, “Healthcare reform is a plan that helps Blacks the most and we should understand if the POTUS doesn’t mention a program being directly for Black folks… he is the President of the entire United States, not president of the hood.”
What I am trying to understand is why do politicians mask helping Blacks as helping the poor, convicts and the jobless. Will there ever be a time when can we directly say, “I pour out this liquor for my black homies”, similar to when the president (or other elected official) says this program is for Native Americans (federally protected reserves, casino subsidies), Hispanic immigrants (immigration repeals, ESOL in public schools), corporations (stimulus packages), unions (protective laws for collective bargaining) or for the gay community (incorporation of civil liberties). What is the shame in helping Blacks? Is this really political progress or is it societal setback? Imagine the commander of a military unit that refuses to help remove a fallen soldier from danger, even if that soldier brought the situation upon himself? We would be outraged.
Are Blacks that soiled, infected and bastardized that a politician can’t say that a specific program, aid or relief is designed to help Black folks without committing political suicide? Are we only good enough to meet up with shady elected official at the motel but not good enough to say hi to him at a political function? These are the same persons who directly ask for the votes of Blacks. This seems as exploitive as the crooked pastor who says tithe your entire paycheck this week and you will see a doubling of your investment within a week and when it doesn’t happen, find rationale to justify them missing the mark. Meanwhile, when they asked for the money they promised an instant return by a specific deadline! It keeps the Black group poor but Black politicians economically sound and America divided.
The vast majority of national voters are White, so when we say we can lose a national political seat we are accepting that Whites dictate what is politically acceptable. However, after further assessment of this design I feel that not being able to directly assist Blacks only contradicts many of the statements made by Whites (and others) that racism is a thing of the past. I would want to believe that the majority of our country isn’t racist, so why is helping a disenfranchised group political suicide? If the educated members of the Black group who have been selected by a diverse group of people aren’t the ones to help tear down these walls of division, then who is it supposed to be?
Exactly what is it? Is it that blacks are too ugly to take to the prom, or is having a relationship with us against the religion of our country? Always a bridesmaid but never a bride? I would be the first to point out when we, as Blacks go wrong but in this case it’s hard to go against us socio-economically when there’s no justification.
If an esteemed, respected and prestigious Black politician isn’t there to help change the way people view Blacks but are willing to help change the way people view Latinos or Gays, what are they there for? We are not talking about White politicians who would feel it would lead them to political suicide because they are directly helping Blacks. There may be some patience in that area. However, we are talking about “supposed” Black change agents who are able to reverse the stereotypes that plague the Black group, cripple America and keep us racially divided and at odds!
As soon as it is time for Blacks to receive relief, our President becomes the President of the United States, which infers to me that theoretically Blacks aren’t a part of the United States. If you are President of the United States, president of a state, or president of a city then there should be no issue helping a woman, man, child, animal, Black, Jew, White, immigrant, poor, business owner, union, teacher, convict, Latino and all others because all of these groups contribute to the growth of this country.
At the end of the day we know hate is wrong in theory but so few are willing to take the step to bridge the disparities. I always say, if no one takes a chance, it leaves everyone at risk. Let’s stop feeling like being friends with the less popular people in our society is a stain to our personal repertoire because really and truly it is a stain on us as a nation.
Devin Robinson is a business and economics professor, columnist and author or “Rebuilding the Black Infrastructure: Making America a Colorless Nation.” You can reach him at email@example.com.
The funny thing about the much ballyhooed and ridiculed Tavis Smiley/Cornel West joint production poverty tour is how the tables are turned. In the tag team summer wrestling rift between Smiley/West and Sharpton/Joyner – which seemed more like salty long-nailed high school girls scratching it up over the basketball team captain that is President Obama – there were some very distinct class conflicts playing itself out.
Smiley and West were characterized as part of the “Ivory Tower” elite, that Black “Bougie” Jack-and-Jill-like crowd of pretentious and highly educated “middle-class” African Americans that had much to say about the struggle but had never really struggled; in the case of these two, they were bohemian intelligentsia accused of fighting the fight from the comfort of marbled institutions and never really being “on the street.”
Sharpton – with Joyner and then others like Steve Harvey now joining in for fun and ad revenue – represented that “street cred” that Smiley and West never had, highly stylized, sophisticated and very loud “ghetto” activism that spoke to the everyday worries and hardships of the “working class.” If something goes down or pops off “in the community” in any location that is Black USA, you’d find Sharpton replete with entourage, banner signs, megaphone and trademark perm.
For the most part, the distinctions are stylistic (and somewhat demeaning) more than philosophical. Lecture halls versus talk show radio, essentially. Soft versus hard. One “N.I.C.” versus the other “N.I.C.” Mainstream versus fringe. You see where this is headed.
Now, with the Smiley/West co-produced poverty tour, we find an unusual and somewhat silly reversal of roles. The reasons for both men embarking on this multi-city tour are varied and complex. Both need a way to reconnect and remain relevant as they are sensing a loss of audience share; a quarter of the professional, middle-class black population has evaporated with recession, therefore cutting into their earnings of everything from book sales to speaking engagements. Hence, it’s time to find new audience and, possibly, reach out to the old now relegated to poverty and unemployment benefits (or just ran out). Hit the streets, so to speak. In the process, both might discover the “street cred” they either lost or just didn’t know.
Sharpton, on the other hand, enjoys unparalleled access to the White House and with it the perks of visible “power” and celebrity. His stock is rising and the perms are looking less mangled since he combined shrewd visionary street politics with a refined spectacle that is neo-Sharpton. National Action Network is no longer viewed as second-tier or on the margins; its gala dinner in New York earlier in the year enjoyed the presence of the Leader of the Free World, who actually stalled negotiations with Congressional Republicans at the White House just so he could make the trip. And, membership – plus aggressive lobbying of Comcast and NBC – has its rewards.
Surely, Smiley is fuming with apoplectic rage that he’s still hustling on PBS while Sharpton now enjoys national notoriety as MSNBC’s new host. Sharpton is getting showered with much more corporate love than Smiley. So, Smiley and West are on the fringe. Sharpton, with a wide range of popular urban talk show hosts complimented by the mindless and rather incessant rotation of the same Top 40 hits, is now in the mainstream.
The point is that, well, the point is not really about poverty or unemployment or a nation in double-dipping economic meltdown. In the case of these players, everyone is looking for rank and position. Smiley/West are not so much interested in “poverty” as they are in reversing the poverty of their newly found status in the political conversation. It’s interesting how Steve Harvey would refer to both men as “Uncle Toms” for attempting a veiled shot at the Obama Administration with a “poverty tour.” There’s lack of logic in the statement; but, then again, is there anything ever logical emanating from the mind of Steve Harvey? Even if that is their plan – don’t disagree with the premise – it’s not certain if it rises to the level of racial sell-out if the focus is on the poor. In a sense, Harvey is lashing out at Smiley/West for brining attention to the struggles of a large share of his mostly urban audience. He’s acting as if black folks are not struggling when, clearly, they are.
There’s a lot of that going on. It’s a hot mess. But, ultimately, at least someone is bringing up the term “poor” in multiple sentences. Politicians, obviously, are too afraid to do it, mired in their love affair with “the middle class.” There is much discourse on the “recession,” but few – including the President – dare to acknowledge that it has, in fact, made people poor and the poor poorer. There was surreal contrast during the President’s State of the Union earlier in the year when he made no mention of the “poor,” yet House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) actually said “the poor” in his GOP response. There might be something to that as corporate-backed Republicans continue enjoying electoral success from the mobilization of poor, working class whites eagerly identifying with tea party picket signs.
In the recession, it might seem like common sense to offer some reflection on the 40 million Americans feeling their way in the dark of poverty. But, apparently not, since most politicians assume poor folks don’t vote or cut checks to their campaigns, anyway. It is what it is.
Charles D. Ellison is Chief Political Correspondent for The Philadelphia Tribune, author of the critically-acclaimed urban political thriller TANTRUM and a nationally recognized, frequently featured expert on politics.