Nikki Tinker, Corporate Mammy

Standard

Stunningly beautiful, flawlessly dressed, seemingly cosmopolitan and well educated, Pinnacle Airlines Attorney Nikki Tinker looks nothing like the plantation throwback and sellout that she is.

Yes, Children, she ain’t nothin’ but a corporate mammy and Trojan horse for white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

A protégé of Harold Ford, Jr, Tinker is an agent of the Memphis corporate power structure and has been running behind her corporate slave master, Phil Trenary, CEO of Pinnacle Airlines, like a 21st century Mammy.

The mammy archetype is such a powerful symbol of black subjugation. For some, it is soothing, and for others, it enrages. I’m one of the latter. For me, the mammy stereotype is evocative of a particular Memphis twist to the racist mammy image, and is so appropriate to a discussion of the impending primary challenge Tinker is mounting to freshman Congressman Steve Cohen.

  

During the forties, Memphis blacks continued chafing under the dictatorial rule of E.H. “Ed” Crump, the local political boss who ruled both Memphis and Tennessee for over forty years.

Crump ran a sophisticated operation in which his operatives paid the poll taxes of African Americans and he voted them for his slate of candidates. Crump supported white supremacy and never backed a black candidate. For years, most could be bought off with copious amounts of walking around money, beer and barbeque.

Others needed something more and sometimes got it as Jim Crow weakened. G. Wayne Dowdy penned an article in the Journal of Negro History entitled “The White Rose Mammy: Racial Culture and Politics in World War II Memphis.” He wrote, “…forty years of Crump rule allowed blacks access to the political process through him or his subordinates. Better schools, housing and city employment were results of this alliance between white and black. To be sure, the relationship was at best an unequal one, leaving most African Americans with little protection from the overall practice of white supremacy. Indeed, when individual blacks challenged Crump and the local Democratic Party, retribution followed.”

Population changes as a result of the war swelled the black population to 41% and racial tensions increased and dissent from the black community followed. Dowdy takes up the story, “As this unrest was spreading, the White Rose Laundry Cleaners erected a mechanical sign on Linden Avenue, which was not very far from prominent Peabody Avenue where Mayor Chandler and Mr. Crump both lived. The sign depicted an African American woman, dressed in traditional mammy garb, bending over a wash tub.”

“Founded by Jewish immigrant Henry Klyce in 1928, the White Rose Laundry was representative of the economic importance of the local Jewish community. Nominally a minority, the Jews of Memphis had almost completely assimilated into the prevailing white southern culture. Several Jews even held important posts within the Crump organization. The depiction was apparently done in a humorous fashion, with the woman bending over and revealing her undergarments. Many blacks saw little humor in this and instead were angered.”

African Americans protested and wrote Mayor Chandler, “The advertisement represents a complete effrontery to Negro people, in its subtle although effective ridicule of the race.” Chandler intervened on behalf of the offended African American community and asked the owners of the White Rose Laundry to take down the offending mammy sign. While it is unknown the extent of Boss Crump’s involvement in this case, what is known is that nothing of consequence happened in Memphis without his consent and the sign came down, although when is not remembered.

Today, what should offend the black community is the Trojan-horse candidacy of Nikki Tinker, a twenty-first century white rose mammy, and the machinations of her plantation puppet master, Phil Trenary. Her $100,000 haul at the end of the last fundraising quarter has proven that she’s still as serious a contender as she was in 2006, when she raised over $577,000. The Corporate Mammy’s candidacy is an affront to the black community, fueled as it is by the corporate friends and associates of her plantation puppet master, and is inimical to our social, political, and economic interests in Memphis. If black folk ain’t careful, they’ll empower another Boss Crump in the form of a present day corporate executive, or they will continue to empower the slightly less objectionable Steve Cohen, a man who has coveted this seat for years and who ran for it and lost to Harold Ford, Jr back in 1996.

It used to be different. Proud black women like Ida B. Wells and Maxine Smith, a civil rights crusader, school board member, and community elder, showed the young how its supposed to be done. They used whatever community resources they had to work on behalf of the community and to hold the white power structure to account. Today’s black politicians worship at the altar of the corporate power structure and like American Express, don’t leave home without it.

Campaign receipts and news stories to date reveal Tinker to be a Trojan horse candidate willing to pander to homophobia in the black ministerial community. The names of prominent black homophobes like Rev. LaSimba Gray, a supporter of last year’s “independent” candidacy of Jake Ford, are littered throughout her campaign report. It won’t work with bloggers like Thaddeus Matthews and me willing to spread the word.

Steve Cohen

More progressive than either Ford, Jr or Tinker, Cohen’s motives in running for this seat aren’t as pure as he claims. He won this seat because of divisions in the black community and a slate of too many black candidates. Only in Congress for nine months, it hasn’t taken him long to travel to Israel and cavort with the most extreme right-wing political actors in that country-the same people who brought last summer’s war with Lebanon that was roundly condemned by human rights groups. Nobody was blameless during that war-Hezbollah was not, but like a fight among children, somebody started it. Israel started the conflict last summer with cluster munitions supplied by the United States.

While a strong opponent of the Iraq War, Cohen has said nothing that I can find about the indiscriminate use of cluster munitions by Israel to kill innocent civilians in Lebanon. That war was an abrogation of the international rules of war and a stench in the nostrils of God. What is needed in Memphis is a real progressive candidate willing to stand up and fight all forms of injustice. Neither the Corporate Mammy nor Cohen fit the bill. However, in the absence of a true progressive, Cohen will have to do until the real thing comes along.

 

Hillary and Barack vie for Jewish support

Standard

WASHINGTON, March 13 — As Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama compete for Jewish donors and voters, Mrs. Clinton is following a tried-and-true rule of hers from New York — support Israel to the last — while Mr. Obama is trying a more delicate strategy that hit some bumps this week.

At a pro-Israel conference here on Monday night, Mrs. Clinton told an audience of 1,000 that Israel deserved “every bit of our support” and that Iran “will not be permitted to have nuclear weapons.” There were no shades of gray about Israel, which has been her style since falling into trouble with Jewish voters in 1999 when she did not quickly denounce controversial remarks about Israel made by Suha Arafat, the wife of the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat.

Mr. Obama, meanwhile, is making a personal overture to Jewish voters that threads together history from slavery to the Holocaust to Jim Crow. Yet he is also talking about the needs of the Palestinians. Less experienced than Mrs. Clinton in the thicket of Jewish and Middle Eastern politics, he became a bit tangled in the eyes of some voters during his appearance Monday at the same conference that Mrs. Clinton attended, a forum sponsored by the America Israel Public Affairs Committee, known as Aipac.

Several Jewish conferencegoers said they were concerned by Mr. Obama’s remark Sunday in Iowa where, in a reference to the Middle East, he said, “Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.” According to The Des Moines Register, Mr. Obama put the blame on the stalled peace efforts with Israel and on the refusal of the Palestinian government to renounce terrorism.

Mr. Obama has said in the past that both Israelis and Palestinians had “suffered” because of the lack of a peace agreement, and a spokesman said on Tuesday that Mr. Obama believed “the security of Israel should be America’s starting point in the Middle East.” Yet by singling out Palestinian suffering on Sunday, Mr. Obama could be tempting fate with some Jewish voters.

“Awarding first place in the suffering matrix is odious and infelicitous,” said Rabbi Steven Silver of Redondo Beach, Calif., after listening to Mrs. Clinton speak at a reception at the Aipac conference. “I think a lot of Americans would find that comment offensive, too.”

Mr. Silver’s son, Jesse, a college student who supports Mrs. Clinton, said he was spreading the word at the conference about Mr. Obama’s remark.

“It’s just clumsy of him to say that on the eve of the Aipac conference,” Jesse Silver said. “His inexperience is showing.”

The two candidates’ courting of Jewish voters was also on display as they nearly faced off at the conference: They held receptions in banquet rooms about 25 yards apart at roughly the same time on Monday.

They sounded some of the same themes, yet Mr. Obama proved more expansive by bringing up the Palestinians and ruminating on the Holocaust and slavery and on cynicism in politics.

Using the same language at points, both candidates lamented terrorism aimed at “innocent” civilians. They talked tough about Iran, with Mr. Obama calling Iran “a genuine threat” to the United States and Israel and forswearing “a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.”

Mrs. Clinton stayed focused on Israel and its safety, emphasizing, as she has before, that “no option is off the table” if a confrontation escalates with Iran. By contrast, while Mr. Obama flatly said at one point, “I am pro-Israel,” he also pointedly mentioned the Palestinians.

Toward the end of his speech, after heaping praise on Israel, he said, “All of us are committed to two states living side by side in peace.” And as soon as there were Palestinian partners who “renounced violence,” he added, peace negotiations with Israel should unfold. These remarks drew scattered applause.

Barack’s Buckdance for the Israel Lobby

Standard

Brotha Barack’s Safe Negro tour makes an obligatory stop today to pander and buckdance in blackface for the Israel Lobby’s political action arm: AIPAC.   

AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), as Ari Berman has written in the Nation is “the leading player in what is sometimes referred to as “The Israel Lobby”—a coalition that includes major Jewish groups, neoconservative intellectuals and Christian Zionists. With its impressive contacts among Hill staffers, influential grassroots supporters and deep connections to wealthy donors, AIPAC is the lobby’s key emissary to Congress. But in many ways, AIPAC has become greater than just another lobby; its work has made unconditional support for Israel an accepted cost of doing business inside the halls of Congress.  AIPAC’S interest, Israel’s interest and America’s are perceived by most elected leaders to be one and the same.”

Barack Obama doesn’t support the entire AIPAC line but he doesn’t significantly depart from it either.  He intuitively understands the price he must pay to ascend to the Presidency. According to Jewish Week, “The [Obama] Campaign has…signed on a leading Jewish Mideast expert, Dan Shapiro, a former National Security Council official in the Clinton Administration.  Shapiro is leaving his position as a top aide to Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla) for a…role doing Mideast policy and Jewish outreach for the Obama campaign.”  

Gotta admire Brotha Barack for getting all his ducks in a row and stealing prominent Jewish fundraisers like David Geffen and George Soros away from Hillary.  He plays political chess masterfully and executes his moves deftly. Anybody who still believes that the brotha wasn’t planning a run for President from the moment he stepped on the national stage in 2004 is a damn fool. This shit didn’t just happen, it was methodically planned like a new Microsoft product launch.  His flacking for Israel and his votes on the Senate floor are as calculated and cynical as every word in the Audacity of Hope.

M. J. Rosenberg has written on TPM Cafe, “A new voice like Obama really has no need to adopt the me-too policies on the Mideast that have been de rigueur for 30 years.  The status quo types are not going to support him anyway but the overwhelming majority of pro-Israel (and that means pro-peace) Jews will.  By that I mean the overwhelming majority of the Jewish community which, according to the AJC poll, is the most anti-Iraq war segment of the population.  They are not neocons, not on Iraq, not Israel.”  I wish I could believe that.  Obama’s actions during the latest Israel/Lebanon conflict contradict that presumption, underscore his compliant “Me-too” attitude, and sour my disposition towards his Presidential bid.  

Israel’s actions last summer toward Lebanon were unnecessary and constituted war crimes in violation of international law.   Israel’s government has been swapping military hostages for decades with the Lebanese and the illegal seizure of two more Israeli hostages became a convenient pretext for war to Israel’s new Prime Minister.  Obama rubberstamped Israeli war crimes when he said, “I don’t think there is any nation that would not have reacted the way Israel did after two soldiers had been snatched.  I support Israel’s response to take some action in protecting themselves.”

As a reasonable person, I do not argue against Israel’s right to exist or that it has a right to defend itself when attacked.  The Lebanese government is not blameless here nor is the Iranian backed paramilitary organization Hezbollah.  What I contend is that Israel defend itself in conformity with international law, something it has categorically refused to do for decades.

Obama voted for a manifestly fraudulent nonbinding Senate resolution that Stephen Zunes has said, “reinterpret(s) the United Nations Charter by claiming that Israel’s attacks on Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure is an act of legitimate self-defense under Article 51 despite a broad consensus of international legal scholars to the contrary. In short, both Democrats and Republicans are now on record that, in the name of “fighting terrorism,” U.S. allies—and, by extension, the United States as well—can essentially ignore international law and inflict unlimited damage on the civilian infrastructure of a small and largely defenseless country, even a pro-Western democracy like Lebanon.”

Obama’s fraudulent vote and his endorsement of unilateral war should be all the proof one needs that his perspective is warped and his focus on just and equitable conflict resolution in the Middle East will be lacking as President. When Africa cries out for help, brotha Barack, like Colin and Condi before him, will be too preoccupied with “more important” whitefolks problems to deal. As a freshman Senator and imperialist in training, he learned his lessons well. This is the real reason why our white brothas and sistahs in the beltway establishment can’t curb their enthusiasm for Barack.  

However, if that isn’t enough for you, consider this:  Obama’s address today to AIPAC called for “preserv[ing] our total commitment to our unique defense relationship with Israel by fully funding military assistance and continuing to work on the Arrow and related missile defense programs.  This would help Israel maintain its military edge and deter and repel attacks from as far as Tehran and as Close as Gaza.”  Consequently, this is a recipe for generous military subsidies to keep the Israeli Defense Forces armed to the teeth and a continuation of Israel’s unjustified militarism toward its perceived enemies.

This speech does more to call into question Obama’s blackness more than any single address he has given because it is nothing but blackface minstrelsy calculated to appease wealthy and influential actors interested in keeping the status quo in place. The brotha has sold his soul for a chance at Presidential power and he clearly hasn’t sold it to blackfolks.   The speech is standard AIPAC friendly boilerplate that national candidates on the make give at one time or another.  

Lately, there is always some Iran and Ahmedinejad bashing, a commitment to large military subsidies, and a tacit acknowledgement that we will look the other way when they do their dirt to the Palestinians and Lebanese. Moreover, unless he commits to Israeli military supremacy, he’ll never be able to compete with Hillary in the money chase of which the Jewish community always plays an integral part on the Democratic side of the aisle. 

Jewish Voice for Peace, a California based peace group has written, “Massive military aid promotes militarism, which has led to a reliance on military, rather than diplomatic means to work for a solution to this ongoing [Israel vs. Arab] conflict.” Like Iraq, imposing a military solution has solved nothing between Israel and its neighbors and has increased instability in the region.  

Jewish Voice for Peace has also written that, “Furthermore, when our government arms proponents of massive human rights abuses, we become complicit in their crimes and hated by their victims. U.S. support of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands and its abuse of human rights undermines any moral authority to criticize human rights abuses in other countries. And it shreds the U.S. of any credibility in acting to promote peace in the region.”   

Last month, a movement was afoot in Oslo, Norway by 40 nations to ban the cluster munitions that proliferate in current conflicts, which continue to kill and maim people long after the battles are over. Human Rights Watch has documented that “Israel used cluster munitions containing some 2.6 to 4 million submunitions in Lebanon, the majority of which were produced in the United States. Israel’s use of cluster munitions was the most extensive anywhere in the world since the 1991 Gulf War.” The United States opposes this effort and there were no calls from either the Obama or Clinton camp for U.S participation because neither will sacrifice their ambition to sit in the Oval Office for peace.

It is a violation of U.S. law to provide military aid to governments, which consistently give short shrift to human rights as defined in international law. Israel is always given a pass no matter what it does or how many civilians it illegally targets and kills. Both Obama and Hillary could have stepped up at anytime to pressure the Administration to cut off military aid to Israel and prevent the atrocities that routinely occur in the Palestinian territories or in Lebanon because of Israel’s over-the-top defensive posture.    

It is all very Orwellian to me. Indeed, “War is Peace” to all of the leading contenders for the imperial power of the Presidency. A showdown is developing in Selma, Alabama this weekend in the continuing battle for the black vote between Hillary and Obama. They both need to be seen paying homage to Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement’s direct action campaign, which culminated in “Bloody Sunday” and the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.     

Whatever both candidates say will be more empty rhetoric that quotes Dr. King without adhering to the spirit and substance that he advocated. “The stability of the large world house which is ours will involve a revolution of values to accompany the scientific and freedom revolutions engulfing the earth.  We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing”-oriented society to a “person” –oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” That’s the message Obama needs to embrace instead of embracing more war. He never will because he is lost to us forever.