- Created on 07 June 2013
Hooray! The Associated Press reported that America’s Blacks voted at a higher rate than Whites in 2012 for the first time in history. Was it because there was a Black man running for president, or because threats of voter suppression? Was it a combination of the two? Or, did White America vote in fewer numbers because they felt, like many Blacks have felt for years, that neither candidate represented them and their views?
Whatever the reason, 1.7 million more African-Americans voted for Obama in 2012 than in 2008. That raises another question: Do we understand what role we play in American politics?
When I was a young girl, I asked my mom if we were Democrats or Republicans. She told me we were Democrats. I asked why, thinking I was going to get an explanation with so much substance that I could rush to school and educate my classmates. Her reply was simple and direct: “Because we are Black.”
Until then, I had thought the political process was one in which I could choose my affiliation based on my personal beliefs. However, it seemed my political fate was already determined. As I ventured out into the world, what my mom said seemed to resonate among most Black Americans. People really don’t ask African-Americans if they are Republican or Democrats unless they are the stereotypical Black conservative who goes out of his or her way to walk, talk, dress and act differently from the rest of Black America. As conservative darling Ann Coulter put it, “Our Blacks, are so much better than their Blacks.”
Our Blacks? This is not slavery and Coulter is not my slave master.
For most of my life, I went to the polls and voted a straight Democratic ticket, never learning about the candidates and the political process. It wasn’t until a Black Republican entered my life and challenged my reasons for being a Democrat did I begin to see the process clearly. He made me think, if all Black people are Democrats, what happens when Republicans or any other party wins? Do we expect those who won without our support to vote for legislation that resonates with the Black plight? We make it easy for Republicans and even Democrats to run game on us by not participating or only choosing to be Democrats.
On the other hand, should vote for Republicans simply because they are not Democrats? According to the last NAACP Legislative Report Card, every Republican in Congress earned an F when voting on issues deemed important to us. Not even a D in the whole bunch.
We must hold Democrats – including the ones who vote like Republicans – accountable. Black Americans want better for our communities, but just don’t know how to get better from either Democrats or Republicans.
We know most politicians, Black, White or Brown, come to our community and say what they need to say to get elected. In Malcolm X’s acclaimed speech of 1964 “The Ballot or the Bullet,” he says we should control the politics and the politicians in our own community through Black Nationalism. He says, “We must understand the politics of our community and we must know what politics is supposed to produce. We must know what part politics play in our lives. And until we become politically mature we will always be mislead, lead astray, or deceived or maneuvered into supporting someone politically who doesn’t have the good of our community at heart.”
We underestimate our political power. Thanks largely to Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Blacks voted solidly Republican until Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Even as late of 1960, Republicans were receiving 30 percent of the Black vote.
Blacks left the GOP in droves after Barry Goldwater’s right-wing presidential defeat in 1964 and the Party’s adoption of a “Southern Strategy” – concentrating on White voters at the expense of Blacks.
Many worry what will happen now that Obama’s name will never appear on another presidential ballot. But Hip Hop can play a unique role in keeping our issues on the front burner.
Rev. Jackson Sr. put it best when he said “We never lost a battle that we fought, but if we don’t fight we can’t win.”
Most of us who don’t vote, are certain not to win. Our non-vote is also a vote – a vote for the opposition.
As political season begins and petitions begin circulating, don’t suck your teeth and walk away. Demand that these candidates that are asking you if they can have a job representing your community have a plan for fixing problems and a vision for the future.
- Created on 07 June 2013
One would be hard-pressed not to acknowledge that Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, has had a spectacular business career, the kind that is often described as affirming the claim that America is a land of golden opportunity.
The Harvard-educated Sandberg is also a powerful symbol of the rise over the past four decades of women to the highest levels of the American workplace: as senior executives of Fortune 500 corporations and small businesses alike, presidents of major colleges and universities, heads of federal agencies, governors of states, mayors of cities and towns, and even contenders for the presidency of the United States.
And yet, the very achievements of women like Sandberg have simultaneously underscored the reality that women are still under-represented in the society’s decision-making positions – a fact that has raised trenchant questions why there aren’t more women filling more of those niches at the high levels of the American workplace – and the middle levels, too.
Spurring a more effective search for answers to those questions – and solutions to the problems behind them – is the purpose of Sandberg’s new book, "Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead."
Its major point is that women who want careers in business, higher education, government service, the nonprofit sector, and so on need to be more assertive inside their place of work in building their careers.
Sometimes citing what she says were mistakes she made in her career, Sandberg repeatedly contends women need to become more effective in taking on responsibility for “big” projects, in touting their own achievements, becoming less risk-averse in seeking assignments, and in learning how to better negotiate for higher positions, and greater compensation and benefits.
She asserts that too many women, both those who are married with children and those who are not, have surrendered – often for understandable reasons – to the barriers set against them. Sandberg uses the metaphor of a group holding a discussion around a conference table to declare that women as a group need to not shrink back but “lean in” to the conversation and make sure that their voices and ideas are heard.
By dint of her highly-visible position and her smooth rise to it, Sandberg’s book set off a controversy even before its official March publication date. Much of the pre-publication discourse focused on whether Sandberg was, in effect, downplaying or completely ignoring the impact of discrimination against women in the workplace and playing a “blame-the-victim” game against women.
Does that criticism sound familiar?
Doesn’t it sound like the debate over the use of and the notion behind the phrase “no excuses” that’s long been part of the discourse about the status of Black Americans? Indeed, just last month some commentators charged that in urging graduates of historically-Black Morehouse College to adopt a “no excuses” attitude about pursuing their future careers, President Obama was ignoring the continuing persistent discrimination in the society.
But, just as the criticism of the president’s use of “no excuses” was incorrect, anyone who gives Lean In even a cursory reading will quickly come to the conclusion that on that charge she is decidedly not guilty.
In fact, Sandberg’s book identifies both the overt and deliberate barriers and the implicit, institutional obstacles and innumerable cultural stereotypes and societal obstacles that impede women as a group from achieving their full potential as participants in the workplace. Her argument is powerful and accessible, and the scholarly studies and other materials she references in the footnotes are invaluable in grounding Sandberg’s contentions and advice, and offering a guide to those who wants to go even deeper into the issues she discusses.
But I consider Lean In an important addition to the discourse about opportunity in America for three additional reasons.
The first reason is that its discussion of how gender discrimination operates offers a sharp comparative perspective on how structural barriers, cultural stereotypes and “benevolent racism” in the workplace operate against Black Americans and other Americans of color.
Secondly, Lean In also underscores that although there are many similarities about how workplace discrimination prevents Blacks and women alike from realizing their full potential; the discourse about the two is almost always conducted on a deeply segregated basis.
This stems in part from the reality that, although, as Sandberg acknowledges, women of color face the same gender-based difficulties as White women, their situation is then compounded by the facts of race and color.
Finally, Sandberg perhaps could have made more of an effort to cross that particular racial line. But in terms of what she has accomplished – and left for others to pursue further – I consider that a small flaw. For what she makes clear is that, on both the gender and racial fronts, American society is still just in the era of advanced tokenism and that there’s a lot more “leaning in” we all have to do if we want to get beyond it.
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 06 June 2013
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the GOP and their archaic attitudes about sexuality, race, and anything that doesn’t involve White heterosexual men only into missionary sex and controlling birth canals have alienated them from younger voters.
Everyone and their MSNBC-watching nephew knows this, but the Republican Party recently conducted a...
- Created on 07 June 2013
Get up, a-get-get down, Dallas, because 911 is definitely a joke in your town. And you have racist — now terminated — operator, April Sims, to thank for it.
Sims took to her Facebook page to post bigoted, stereotypical insults about Black people, particularly those who call 911. Though her page is private, a friend sent screen caps to a...
- Created on 06 June 2013
Do you still believe what U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was saying during her infamous five Sunday show appearances? By now, we all know that these appearances contained “inaccurate information.” Clearly, President Obama and Congressional Democrats went to great lengths to defend Rice’s role in the aftermath of the 9-11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Over the past months, Rice’s defenders claimed that her initial public assessment regarding the attack on the Consulate in Benghazi was a “spontaneous protest” in reaction to an anti-Islamic film that had aired on YouTube.
The question now is about Blacks and their ethics. Is it acceptable that Black officials leave concepts of truth and honesty at the office door? Some say that the statements that Rice made were “just her following orders.” In the latest iteration about what happened in Benghazi, Gregory Hicks, a foreign service officer and former deputy chief of mission in Libya, testified before Congress that “I was stunned, my jaw dropped and I was embarrassed” in response to Rice’s series of television appearances last Sept. 16.
Do you view it as “just partisan politics” when Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) said the talking points Rice used were “absolutely” altered and incorrect? At the heart of what is being labeled “a cover-up,” is Rice, an African American, who in September conveyed what has been proven to be “false and inaccurate information” about why the four Americans were killed in Benghazi. Are you one of many who think that Republicans who signed a letter telling President Obama: “Ambassador Rice is widely viewed as having either wilfully or incompetently misled the American public” as being racist?
“Racism and sexism” have been alleged toward those who oppose Rice. Rep. Marcia Fudge, a Democrat from Ohio and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) said, “It is a shame that anytime something goes wrong, they pick on women and minorities.” Does that equate to racism if you criticize Rice for promulgating false information?
Be you a Black Democrat or Republican, it must be something in the water at the State Department that causes Blacks associated with the position to become conveyors of deceit and subterfuge. The lure of holding the office of secretary of state has caused Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and would-be Secretary of State Susan Rice to willingly step to the microphone, and subsequently be caught reciting and reading inaccurate information to go along with the wishes of their boss.
Is it possible that we have engaged in another political farce with high-ranking Blacks at the core of the conflict? It would appear that Rice was part of a coordinated White House effort to downplay the terrorist aspect of the Benghazi attack, which happened on the 11th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. While Congressional Democrats have sought to portray the investigation into Rice’s role in the Benghazi cover-up as a “witch hunt” based on racism and sexism, some of these same Democrats harbor their own concerns about Rice.
In 1997, when President Clinton sought to promote Susan Rice to the position of assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, members of the CBC objected to the appointment based on her history of being part of Washington’s elite. This is the same CBC that in 2012 defended her failings with charges of racism and sexism.
It’s much more than just following orders. Rice’s shameful political cronyism is now covered in the blood of four Americans, so how can her loyal defenders continue to make this about her race and gender – disregarding falsehoods that have fueled the controversy? Let’s not follow Obama off on a “racial and sexual discrimination” tangent to support the Party in which Rice and politics that have gone astray. Surely, there are Blacks who would not let the title “Secretary of State” lure them into accepting the tales such as Susan Rice, Condoleezza Rice and Powell justified as “the price you have to pay” in that position.
William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey Group.org.