Demonizing Barack: The enduring racist double standard

Standard

(Obama sets the record straight on Race, Religion, and his Pastor)

Having absorbed all of the calumny, reprobation, and histrionics I can stand regarding Barack Obama, Trinity United Church of Christ and its former Senior Pastor, Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, I can be silent no more.

Having failed to make the manufactured Farrakhan smear stick, Obama’s tormentors have succeeded in distorting Jeremiah Wright into his horrifyingly racist doppelganger.

First, let me say that Barack Obama’s “denunciation” of some of Dr. Wright’s justifiable indignation about America’s hypocrisy regarding race, war, and Hillary Clinton, left a bad taste in my mouth, a very bad taste indeed.

Obama, the Junior Senator from Illinois, has labored mightily to run a campaign which focuses on that which unites rather than that which divides because it is a reflection of the way he has lived his life and made his career as an organizer, lawyer, state legislator, senator, and presidential candidate. He hasn’t always met that goal. His unequivocal support of Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of innocent Lebanese civilians in 2006 and his failure to adequately address the Clinton campaign’s deliberate and repeated attempts to racially polarize Democrats reflect his craven accommodations to America’s racial hypocrisy.

A sistah named Cassandra from Michigan emailed me saying, “For the first time I don’t care whether or not he wins if he must shed his spirituality and dilute his soul to neutralize the stench and sting of truth that so many White Americans refuse to acknowledge…The hypocrisy and denial of how racism is destroying the integrity of working class and poor American blacks, whites, Latinos, Arabs and Asians is the seam that is dividing and will eventually shred the Democratic Party.”

Americans talk a good game, but in the end, as Jesse Jackson before him, he is being held to a racist double standard that previous white Presidents and Presidential Candidates were not held too.

Barack Obama’s religious affiliation with Trinity United Church of Christ is an affirmation of his own bi-racial heritage as the son of a Kenyan and white Kansan. To say that his membership in the United Church of Christ, a predominantly white denomination created in 1957 from the Congregational Christian Church and the Evangelical Reform Church is somehow suspect or racist is both ludicrous and false.

Trinity United Church of Christ is both integrated and welcoming of all people-including gays and lesbians. When Hillary Clinton’s denomination, the United Methodist Church, sent conflicting signals over the issue of homosexuality and restricting the role of gay clergy and the ability of gay congregants to have their unions blessed in the Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ went in the opposite direction in affirming its covenant with gay clergy and parishioners. Years before then, Wright established an AIDS ministry and a singles ministry for gay and lesbian congregants.

Lisa Miller, writing in Newsweek said, “As a leader, Wright defied convention at every turn. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune last year, he recalled a time during the 1970s when the UCC decided to ordain gay and lesbian clergy. At its annual meeting, sensitive to the historic discomfort some blacks have with homosexuality, gay leaders reached out to black pastors.”

“At that session, Wright heard the testimony of a gay Christian and, he said, he had a conversion experience on gay rights. He started one of the first AIDS ministries on the South Side and a singles group for Trinity gays and lesbians—a subject that still rankles some of the more conservative Trinity members, says Dwight Hopkins, a theology professor at the University of Chicago and a church member.”

Given the hatred and venom spewed forth in too many black pulpits toward black gays and lesbians, Dr. Wright stands out as enlightened, inclusive, and welcoming. But he would have to be in order to grow the church from 80 to 8000 members in three decades. Dr. Wright is the opposite from the bitter, angry, and bigoted portrait the corporate media has fashioned.

Come on, people. Do you really believe that a “black racist” would choose a 90% white denomination in which to plant his flag or are you just some kind of a damn moron engaged in a typical form of racist projection. I defy anyone to name one integrated, gay-friendly, mainline, protestant, predominately African American congregation you’ve ever stepped foot in where you’ve experienced hatred. I know damn well that nobody can because there is no such thing. Are you seriously scared of a moderate, bi-racial politician who bends over backwards to be inclusive, mainstream and non-threatening? Please.

Don’t fall for the right-wing attack campaign launched by Fox News and its corporate mimics.

Obama’s rise to prominence has been swift but it is not unlike that of another little known state politician who rose to prominence over thirty years ago, Jimmy Carter. Carter, you’ll recall was a born-again Baptist layman who also made common cause with all people regardless of race, religion, or background in order to heal the nation after Watergate. During the first months of his presidency in 1977, his home congregation, the Plains Baptist Church, of Plains, GA, forced out Pastor Bruce Edwards, because he sought, with the support of the President, to integrate the church.

During the waning days of the Presidential campaign, a black minister and “publicity seeker,” Rev. Clennon King, challenged the official policy of the church forbidding “Negroes and other civil rights agitators,” from membership. I find no record of the firestorm of criticism we see regarding Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright. Nobody called on him to resign his membership or denounce the racially prejudiced people with whom he had lived his entire life.

Plotting a middle ground, the church, following Carter’s lead, denied Rev. King membership. The final straw, however, came after Pastor Edwards and his wife adopted a half-Hawaiian child. According to the President’s brother Billy, it was bad enough that the pastor was a liberal integrationist, but adopting the “tan-skinned” child was “99 per cent of the preacher’s problem,” wrote Margaret Montagno in Newsweek.

The Plains Baptist Church subsequently changed its policy in word, but not in deed. Nicholas King, writing in the New Republic said, “The ‘opening’ of the Plains Baptist Church was achieved last fall under the leadership of the Carter family…But there was opposition to the opening from the church’s old guard, and the only black face in the congregation the Sunday Jimmy Carter first returned to Plains as President belonged to a Secret Service man.” After he left the presidency, Jimmy Carter left the church and joined with former Plains Baptist Church members at Maranatha Baptist Church. The small congregation of 135 opens its doors to 12,000 visitors a year to hear the President teach Sunday School. A few years ago, Carter also left the hopelessly right-wing Southern Baptist Convention.

According to the Los Angeles Times, during the 1980 presidential campaign, in the midst of a conservative tide taking over the Southern Baptist Convention, the President of the Southern Baptist Convention, Bailey Smith, proclaimed, “God almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.” Again, nothing was heard from the media calling on President Carter to renounce the convention of which he was a member or for then Governor Ronald Reagan, who had addressed the same gathering of evangelicals in Dallas that same day to renounce the divisive and anti-Semitic statement of a right-wing supporter. The Washington Post covered the story on page F10 on September 26, 1980. The New York Times covered the story on three occasions and A 18 was the closet it came.

Lastly, can anybody recount for me the media firestorm over Pat Robertson’s endorsement of Rudy Giuliani. Refresh my memory about how many times the clip of the Religious Broadcaster and Baptist Minister advocating the assassination of the president of Venezuela, a supplier of oil to the United States, was run on Fox News and the rest of the corporate media in denunciation of Giuliani. How many times did they run the clip of Robertson agreeing with Jerry Falwell about the proper blame for 9/11 on abortions and gays and lesbians in a manner meant to accuse Giuliani of intolerance?

Today, nothing is materially different for the Hawaiian bred Barack Obama than it was for the half-Hawaiian son of Jimmy Carter’s Pastor. America, like Plains Baptist Church, has the same problem and like Jeremiah Wright has pointed out eloquently for thirty-six years as Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, race is 99 per cent of it.

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.

 

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.