- Created on 14 May 2013
Last year, James Porter, the recently-elected president of the National Rifle Association, declared that President Obama was a “fake president …[whose] entire administration is anti-gun, anti-freedom, anti-Second Amendment.”
Earlier this month, Adam Kokesh, a failed Republican candidate for Congress from Arizona and Internet talk show host, declared he would lead a July 4 march in Washington, D.C. of thousands of followers with loaded rifles slung across their backs as a demonstration against “tyranny.”
District law bars private citizens from carrying firearms in public, and city police officials have said they won’t permit such a march. Kokesh said such action would show that “free people are not welcome in Washington, adding that “we would rather die on our feet than live on our knees.”
The bipartisan Congressional effort to craft an immigration bill exploded in controversy last week when it was revealed that, Jason Richwine, a co-author of a heavily-criticized study on the subject submitted by the conservative Heritage Foundation, had previously asserted it was unlikely “Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites” and that, despite their long existence in America, Black Americans have yet to adapt properly to American culture.
You can believe that these three expressions of conservative political opinion – and scores of other similar ones – are unconnected. But that would be exactly the wrong analysis.
If the first term of the Obama presidency proved anything about today’s American political culture, it showed conclusively that we live in an era of conservative extremism.
The assertion of extreme ideas and actions spewing from conservative elected officials, office-seekers, political operatives, talk show hosts and donors has become so commonplace that it’s sometimes difficult to gauge the depth of this GOP-led corrupting of the traditional practice of politics.
But this is how Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, two longtime and respected students of Washington governance, put it in an April 27, 2012 op-ed column for the Washington Post: “The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”
The “old” American political tradition enshrined the “win-some-lose-some” notion of compromise as the only way a nation full of competing political, social and business interests (a nation that was from the beginning multiracial) could continue to exist.
Of course, no one knows better than Black Americans that for most of American history the White majority’s adherence to compromise cost them and other people of color dearly – because their rights were often “compromised” out of existence.
But they bore that burden for centuries because of their faith in the ultimate triumph of the American Ideal. Albeit slowly, the fruit of their labors and patience was that a critical segment of White Americans came to understand what democracy means.
It’s long been clear, however, that not all Americans – especially those on the right – want to accept that lesson.
There’s seemingly no end to the bizarre notions and tough-guy posturing and outright racism, sexism and homophobia that represent conservatism today. This nihilistic politics has underscored that conservatism is rooted in callousness, and the more it comes under pressure from the movement toward greater equality of opportunity, the more deranged it becomes.
Thus, as the three examples above show: The resort to conspiracy theories, especially those involving federal government “tyranny.” Concomitantly, the indulgence in fantasy notions of the lone-hero super White man, armed to the teeth and ready to preserve his I-made-it-all-myself “independence.” And, most of all, the designation of “enemies” who are, first, dehumanized – so they can be dealt with without mercy.
This perspective on the conservative movement’s unyielding obstructionism to anything President Obama proposes, whether it be legislative policies or appointees to the cabinet and federal judgeships, makes his achievements in office all the more impressive.
But it also indicates what grievous damage has been done to the president’s program – and to the American political tradition. In their Washington Post op-ed column of last year, Mann and Ornstein looked ahead to the November presidential election and ruefully predicted that no matter who won, “If anything, Washington’s ideological divide will probably grow after the 2012 elections.”
Unfortunately, they were right about that, too.
Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His latest book is Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America.
- Created on 14 May 2013
When the FBI announced that they were placing fugitive Assata Shakur (Joanne Chesimard) on the list of most wanted terrorists and that they were offering an additional $1 million for her capture, it caught most of the world by complete surprise. Assata has been living quietly in exile in Cuba where she was given political asylum for 30 years.
The former member of the Black Liberation Army escaped captivity after being tried and convicted—under controversial circumstances—in connection with the killing of a New Jersey State policeman. Several other allegations against her were dropped either through acquittals or mistrials.
Assata Shakur had been a member of the Black Panther Party, later joining the Black Liberation Army. Like many other Black activists in the late 1960s and early 1970s, she witnessed the vicious repression of the Black Freedom Movement—and other movements of the time—by agencies of the U.S. government, including through the use of the now notorious COINTELPRO (the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program). COINTELPRO involved the infiltration and disruption of organizations that the FBI concluded were a threat to the U.S. elite. Disruption included rumor-mongering, provocation, the encouraging of splits, imprisonment and murder.
The intensity of the repression of the Black Freedom Movement, in this case, led many activists to conclude that, at a minimum, self-defense was necessary. For others the conclusion was that a military arm of the Black Freedom Movement was needed.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with the conclusions arrived at by Assata Shakur, one thing is very important: she was never a terrorist. Let us be clear about the meaning of this word that we hear so regularly these days. A “terrorist” is someone who uses military methods/violence against civilians in order to advance a political objective. There is nothing in the activism of Assata Shakur that displays anything approaching terrorism. Additionally, since her exile, she has not been involved with any activities in the U.S. that could be construed as terrorist.
So, what is this about? It appears that the main inspiration for this outrage is to derail any efforts at the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Upon the reelection of President Obama, there have been rumors circulating that there might be efforts to remove Cuba from the list of countries supporting terrorism. There were additional suggestions that there might be efforts towards normalization.
There are groups in the U.S. who oppose normalization of relations with Cuba and they will do anything that they can to disrupt such efforts. Whether those elements convinced the FBI to take this step is irrelevant. The fact is that this step complicates discussions about changing the terms of U.S./Cuban relations. Right-wing Cuban exiles as well as ultra-conservative elements in our political establishment have an interest in the status quo; most of this country is more interested in improvement in relations with Cuba.
For this reason, we need to understand the upping of the ante on Assata as not only a threat to her existence, a violation of Cuban and international law, but also a cynical move to disrupt efforts to end the Cold War in the Western Hemisphere.
Now is the time to demand that President Obama and Attorney General Holder reverse the decision of the FBI. Let’s end this ridiculous melodrama.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him at www.billfletcherjr.com.
- Created on 13 May 2013
The Senate’s Gang of Eight have put together an 844-page monstrosity known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, legislation that President Obama says he “basically approves” of. This essentially unreadable bill was put together by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Michael Bennett (D-Col.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.).
On its surface, the bill provides much-needed relief to many of the 11 million undocumented people who live in our country. The challenge is that it disadvantages some immigrants, especially African and Caribbean immigrants, while helping others.
Further, the Senators crafting the bill put goodies into the bill that only serve to advantage themselves or their states. Senator Lindsay Graham wants more visas for the meat packing industry. Senator Charles Schumer provided special provisions for Irish people with a high school diploma (why?), Senator Marco Rubio, the much touted possible presidential candidate in 2016, asked for more visas for the cruise ship industry, and Senators Michael Bennett wants more visas for workers in ski resorts.
Meanwhile, the legislation would eliminate the Diversity Visa Program, which allows a visa lottery for countries that have low levels (less than 50,000 people) of immigration to the United States. Many African immigrants come here through this program (Ghana and Nigeria each had 6,000 immigrants through this program in 2011; African immigrants are 36 percent of those receiving diversity visas). Thus, while Senator Schumer pushes for special provisions for Irish immigrants, there is no one on the Senate side pushing for special provisions for African and Caribbean immigrants.
Instead of the Diversity Visa Program, the Senate Bill 744 creates between 120,000 and 200,000 visas on a “merit based” system, which gives highest priority to those who have future employment opportunities. Because employers do not seek out African and Caribbean immigrants for employees (as they seek out Indian and Chinese employees), the merit-based point system is likely to provide fewer opportunities for those from Africa and the Caribbean. Senator Schumer’s special provision for the Irish carries no stipulation that these people be employed, essentially granting them a pass from the merit-based point system.
Many hi-tech companies use the H-1B visa program on the grounds that there is a shortage of skilled workers in the United States. There is evidence that this claim is specious and that employers prefer foreign workers who they can pay less and control more. The new legislation will prevent employers from holding workers hostage because their continuing employment is necessary in order to keep their visa. The new legislation gives H-1B 60 days to find a new job. But why do we have H-1B visas at all. With unemployment over 7 percent, and Black unemployment over 13 percent, surely there are unemployed people who could work effectively in technology companies. Howard University economist Bill Sprigs has written that there are proportionately more African American students majoring in computer science than White. Many of these graduates cannot find jobs. Meanwhile, African and Caribbean immigrants get just a small percentage of H-1B visas.
The Immigration Modernization bill will spend $4.5 billion in an attempt to secure the southern border, which will “secure” our country from Mexican immigrants, but ignores the northern border, which makes our country more open to Canadian immigration. Of course, Canadian immigrants are more likely to be White, and thus less feared, than Mexican immigrants. The Congressional Black Caucus is one of many groups that suggest that this $4.5 billion could be more effectively spent, perhaps on STEM education.
The immigration bill is by no means final. The House of Representatives still has to vote on it, and many of them will add amendments and exceptions to take care of their “pet” causes. Meanwhile, President Obama has been urging Democrats to accept the immigration bill as it is, because too many amendments may jeopardize the bill. For example, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) would like to propose an amendment that would allow gay Americans to sponsor their partners for green cards. The Judiciary Committee is likely to pass this amendment, but the whole Senate might not pass it.
President Obama has had a bad year, so far. He didn’t get his way on gun control, and he’s been kicked around by an obstructionist House of Representatives. He needs immigration reform to fulfill promises he made to the Latino community during his campaign. But the unwieldy 844-page piece of legislation contains lots of provisions that don’t pass the smell test. It makes it more difficult for African and Caribbean immigrants to become citizens of the United States.
The African American community must take a closer look at this legislation. If Senator Schumer can give 10,000 Irish immigrants the open door, how many Africans and Caribbeans will he make exceptions for? At the very minimum, Congress should restore the Diversity Visa program. The bill is called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act. Exactly who will have more economic opportunity? And is immigration really being modernized when it locks foreign-born Black people out of the process?
Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.
- Created on 13 May 2013
“Brighter days are ahead.”
“The check is being put in the mail.”
That is what the Republicans seem to be saying after they released their “Growth and Opportunity Project” report in March. Six months after Republicans took a drubbing in the 2012 elections, GOP National Committee Chair Reince Priebus announced a $10 million outreach program to seek more minorities as members.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) provides national leadership for the Party. It is responsible for developing and promoting the Republican political platform, coordinating fundraising and election strategy. The problem for Priebus and the party is that the RNC is often viewed as “an old White guy’s club” that is unsympathetic to the needs of Blacks and minorities.
So, in March, Priebus decided that it was time for the party to “call Tyrone.” In past months, the Republicans set new goals for “outreach” and their spring meeting was to “focus on putting the party on a path to fulfill” their goals. The agenda for the RNC’s spring conference called for strategy sessions and workshops on voter outreach and party coordination.
The “Growth and Opportunity Project” chided the Republicans for not dealing with “shifting” voter demographics. Just after the “Growth and Opportunity Project” was announced, the RNC tapped Raffi Williams, son of TV newscaster, Juan, to be an African-American press contact with a focus on youth outlets. During the spring meeting in Hollywood, Calif., the RNC announced hiring Asian and Pacific Island field and communications directors and election of a state party director “to support and empower the work of grassroots activists and volunteers.” There are reports that “some RNC members discussed working with minority media” in their quest.
In past months, the Republicans haven’t actually called Tyrone, and have stepped back from the heady days of the “Growth and Opportunity Project” announcement. Short of sending checks in the mail to Black voters, the Republicans face long odds connecting with them. Unless, the Grand Ole Party expands its level of electoral support, it could slide into complete irrelevance.
Bottom line is the Republicans will need minority media to develop meaningful relationships and channels of communication to change Black Americans attitudes. The way Republicans make inroads among African Americans is to help them gain weight in their wallets. Priebus and Company need to take public policy positions that have potential to advance Blacks’ interests. As they make their way through the “hood,” Republicans can make much of the fact that Black population, uptown and in suburbia, have always done well economically under their governance. Under Republicans, Blacks could again know political reciprocity like they did the last time they supported a Republican presidential ticket in any sizeable numbers, and gave Richard Nixon more than 30 percent of their vote. Nixon, in turn, generated millions of dollars through Black-oriented programs and projects.
In 2012, just 5 percent of African Americans considered themselves Republicans. And Republicans need to do more than shout slogans to gain higher numbers of African American registrants. It’s time greater numbers of Blacks and Republicans align in projects that generate mutual benefits. Such alliances can repair and bring new successes to Black communities. In the past, Republican practices have helped empower Blacks – from President Lincoln’s Emancipation to Booker T. Washington’s post-slavery practices of commerce to Richard Nixon’s endorsements for “minority enterprise.”
Even a slight GOP inroad among Blacks could swing a state or two in close 2014 elections and the 2016 presidential contest. The promotion of the Republican brand among Black Americans requires messages that connect with the realities of Black life in America. As opposed to tepid trials of the past, the GOP’s chiefs and corps have to move quickly to have a meaningful presence among Blacks, and at their community events and cultural ceremonies.
The RNC should have no reservations in chronicling that they’ve “made progress” in mending relationships with African Americans; but for the party to be viable on the national stage so much more needs to be done.
William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey Group.org.
- Created on 10 May 2013
I call it The Hip Hop Dilemma. The symptoms are all around us. You hate the new direction Hip Hop is going in and you hate that the young boys are wearing tight jeans. Still, Hip Hop has a tremendous pull, something that you can’t ignore.
And if it’s a dilemma for our younger generation, imagine what it’s like for adults. Ask your mother or aunt what is their dilemma with Hip Hop and the question will ignite a long, drawn out conversation because in some way or another Hip Hop bothers them. Deeply.
I am writing this column, in part, because I want to help bridge the generation gap in our community. Just because our elders don’t like our music – and will admit that their elders didn’t like what they were playing when they were growing up – doesn’t mean I have to ascribe negative motives to them or they to us.
Civil Rights leaders just want us to use our power wisely and remember the battles from which we came. At the same time, the Hip Hop pioneers and legends just want to be recognized for their greatness and they want the true meaning of Hip Hop to be appreciated by all age groups.
True Hip Hop artists and fans have been preparing for the day real Hip Hop returns. In the meantime, a new school of young people are making their own way, making their own rules with the power that has been prematurely handed to them. .
What is Hip Hop?
If you ask most, it’s music gone wild. But it’s more than that. This art form represents a way of communicating – an attitude, a position, a swag, life lived freely. When people talk about Hip Hop, they say it’s a youth movement. This is our first dilemma. Hip Hop will be 39 years old this year (it began August 11, 1973). That was the age of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he was assassinated in Memphis.
More than half of African Americans were born after Dr. King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech at March on Washington. That was nearly 50 years ago! Instead of teaching the younger generation, some elders have left the youth to their own devices, expecting them to absorb the lessons of their movement without providing the needed guidance.
Consequently, some of our artists make missteps – Lil Wayne denigration of Emmitt Till is one example – because our music legends are not spending enough time with younger artists.
Who should be leading them?
Logically, legends such as Afrika Bambataa, Kool Herc, Grand Master Caz, Pebblee Poo, Roxanne Shante and Kangol Kid. They should be schooling the young people on respectful content, situations to avoid and direction. The Tru School artists like Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, KRS-ONE, Del La Soul Brand Nubian, and Monie Love should be the body of A&R’s who are nurturing the music we know and love at the record labels and the radio stations.
Young people naturally look to their elders for direction, but what do they see? Do they see someone they want to model themselves after? They don’t see benefit and prosperity in what their parents are telling them? Or, do they see broken homes and gun shots? They can’t help but see the legends trying to get back in the game, the real Hip Hop heads fighting the power, and no one with solutions.
Where else can you have a job making $300 million with no educational requirements, no drug testing, no prior experience and your only responsibility is to come up with a slick line that everybody in the hood will repeat.
Hip Hop teaches them they can stay true to themselves and represent who they are in the streets. The street is the place where they feel most comfortable because the streets are real with them; the streets don’t lie; the streets give them experiences that are relevant to the world they are growing up in. The schools are not teaching at the pace and in the language that these young people are learning and absorbing information. So Hip Hop music becomes their outlet like generations before but today there is no agenda, no demand for progress.
We therefore render our entire community defenseless when we allow major entities to use the power of money to entice our young people with a false sense of reality. We are fed images that represent attitudes and personalities of cookie cutter artists who have no vision, who have no morals and who have no idea what kind of damage they are causing. These artists, corporations, and record labels have access to the minds and ears of our most precious cargo. When we don’t step in and protect our children from harm in any form, we ourselves are an accessory to the crime.
This conversation will be continued next week.