OBAMA GOT GAME: Junior Senator crushes Hillary and Edwards in historic win

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I’m sorry I took too long, but as Gene Robinson of the Washington Post has said, this is a “Goosebumps moment.” As I write and listen once more to the victory speech, the tears are coming and I feel as emotional as a pregnant woman does. I will be in church on Sunday morning and nobody will be able to hold me down because I will be a shouting fool.

I needed this as my grandparents needed Martin and Malcolm. I needed this because I need to believe in something again. I needed this because my spirit has been shattered, my joy has been stolen, and my hope in my country destroyed. God has moved and his hand is clearly on Barack Obama. Iowa, 95% white, has sent the nation and the world a message that in the words of one of Sam Cooke’s signature tunes,”A Change gon’ Come.” And come it has.

Last night, Barack Obama, finally gave us, his people, “a word from the Lord.”

“They said this day would never come. They said our sights were set too high. They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. But on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do.”

“You have done what the state of New Hampshire can do in five days. You have done what America can do in this New Year 2008. In lines that stretched around schools and churches, in small towns and big cities, you came together as Democrats, Republicans and Independents to stand up and say that we are one nation, one people, and our time for a change has come.”

I still have Goosebumps. I could shout right here in this internet cafe. I don’t know about you, but after the almost divine intervention of Oprah, I could feel this tectonic shift in American politics coming.

Basking in the glow of this historical moment, one I’ve dreamed of for 25 years, I’ve overcome my bitter and sarcastic cynicism, and I have decided to endorse Barack Obama for President of the United States.

I am not taking back the substance of my criticisms because they represent my unvarnished feelings. Today, however, I feel like Patti Labelle and have “a new attitude.” Looking back over last year, I skillfully erected a wall of opposition to Barack Obama as strong as anything in the biblical Jericho because of his various missteps and obvious pandering to the corporate power structure. It got to the point where I could not even hear the brotha speak without picking out how he was telegraphing his mainstream intentions to the establishment and I just tuned him out. He didn’t move me until last night but Michelle and Oprah did, I must admit.

Michelle Obama cracked the walls of my ideological Jericho with her forthright manner in general and her South Carolina speech in particular. I cannot say enough about how attractive, articulate and persuasive a spokesperson she is on behalf of her husband. In February, after hearing him in person for the first time, I made it clear how necessary it was for Barack to give blackfolks, “A Word From The Lord.” He did and I guarantee that Black America will respond by abandoning Hillary Clinton en masse.

For me, however, Michelle Obama had already beat him to the punch with her address to a Orangeburg, South Carolina gathering. Sistah girl nailed it.

Michelle is able to communicate from the heart in a way that is both uplifting and empowering to me. Her spiel serves the dual purpose of communicating to whitefolks her safe middle class bonifides and her commitment to black empowerment. The frank recounting of the reservations she expressed about a presidential bid tells us that the sistah is grounded by the love of her upbringing, and will use those values as a guidepost for the road ahead. For Michelle, the personal is political which is demonstrated by her faith in a loving God and her wholesome commitment to strengthening families, especially the black family. I can think of no other woman I’d rather see become First Lady.

Michelle’s statuesque beauty, effortless style, bottomless grace, quiet intellect and amazing humility are exactly the qualities that America’s trailblazing black First Lady must exhibit and that her husband ought to have at his side.

Oprah, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. Being in South Carolina with that massive crowd was almost a religious experience. The walls of my ideological Jericho came down with a mighty shout. I’ve been wrestling with how to tell y’all because I knew when I left the stadium that I would support Obama.

I traveled to South Carolina alone and adopted the lady in line next to me as my play mom for the day. I asked Ms. Johnson how many of her girlfriends supported Hillary. Ms. Johnson told me, “I don’t know nobody supporting Hillary.” I shoulda known then that Obama had ended Hillary’s chances of the nomination. Taking nothing away from the formidable imperial guard surrounding Hillary, I am quite comfortable predicting that Hillary will lose New Hampshire and the nomination to Obama.

Trailblazers like Oprah were way ahead of people like me. Never a true skeptic although she remained aloof from politics, Oprah, a billionaire as a result of her finger on the pulse of this country, knew a winner when she saw one.

Pondering the import of Oprah Winfrey’s whirlwind tour on behalf of Barack Obama has left me seeing the world in a new way and has me viewing Obama’s groundbreaking candidacy through the prism of Oprah Winfrey’s experience. Oprah’s humble yet passionate articulation of Obama’s cause brought the right touch of star power and street cred. Skeptical pundits have been forever silenced by Oprah’s power to help Obama draw weekend crowds of 66,000 in three states.

Both Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, as Maya Angelou would agree, are phenomenal women, phenomenally. Just like Michelle Obama, I’ve had trouble reconciling Barack Obama the man and Barack Obama the phenomenon. Together, Michelle and Oprah helped put it into the proper perspective for me. Let me break it down, it’s all about the O, and I don’t mean Overstock.com.

Examining the arc of her remarkable life from Mississippi, Tennessee and Illinois, I am struck by how similar it tracks the same path as another daughter of Mississippi: Ida B. Wells-Barnett. I’ve always believed that although a prominent heroine of black history, Mrs. Wells-Barnett never fully received her due as a result of the bitter Victorian sexism of her time. Mrs. Wells-Barnett more than earned her place in the pantheon of black historical legends like Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. DuBois.

Born into slavery in 1862, orphaned at 14 by a yellow fever epidemic and left to raise five younger siblings, Ida B. Wells rose from the grinding poverty of Holly Springs, Mississippi to the highest echelon of black society. A teacher, journalist, anti-lynching activist, feminist, suffragist and Republican politician (we were republicans then), her significant contributions to our struggle against white supremacy and Jim Crow segregation cannot be exaggerated.

Crusader in Defense of the Black Body

Well educated for a child of slaves, she was educated at Mississippi’s Rust College and Tennessee’s Fisk University, both HBCU’s. By twenty, she moved with her siblings to Tennessee and settled in Memphis. By twenty-two, Wells-Barnett was leading campaigns against segregation in public accommodations. By twenty-four, she was writing editorials and investigative pieces to fight against lynching and white supremacy. She became a crusader in defense of the Black Body and a defender of our lives against the relentlessly racist oppression imposed by Jim Crow.


Crusader in Defense of the Black Spirit


Kosciusko, Mississippi born Oprah Winfrey, a trailblazing journalist, businesswoman, media personality, philanthropist, and child advocate, picked up Ida’s torch and has become a crusader in defense of the black spirit. Nashville’s first Black news anchor, she has used her life to fight a crusade against child sexual abuse, racism, poverty, and neglect. Single-handedly, the victim of rape and sexual molestation at the hands of cousin, uncle and her mother’s boyfriend, she is responsible for federal legislation that she authored to create a national registry of sex offenders to track predators against our children.

A philanthropist of legendary scale, she has given millions to black colleges and universities, is spending more money on rebuilding housing for hurricane Katrina victims than the damn federal government-over $17,000,000 million, despite billions appropriated and not spent by Washington, and is channeling millions of dollars for educational programs and HIV/AIDS programs in this country and worldwide.

An actress of legendary prowess, she came to national attention in her portrayal of Sophia in Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple.” The character Sophia is asked by the wife of the town’s Mayor if she would like to be her maid. Sophia’s reply, “Hell No” is so robust, vehement, and unexpected that it ends up causing a dust-up in which she has to defend herself from a racist physical assault for “sassing” Miss Millie and her white male defenders. Sophia ends up rotting in Jail for years before being re-united with her family and the “kind-hearted” bitch for which she initially refused to work-as her maid.

Domestic servitude in the kitchens of white women is part and parcel of the history of black women in this country and touches upon a raw nerve that exists for black women of multiple generations-even now. Black women’s unjustified allegiance to Hillary Clinton tap dances on that nerve. My maternal grandmother, now in her 8th decade, is a woman of remarkable intestinal fortitude, humor, wisdom, and unassailable dignity. She is the rock upon which our family has relied for nearly 60 years. As a young mother of three and wife of an abusive husband, she found herself having to abandon the marriage and flee to the safety of family a good distance away. Work as a domestic in the homes of white women was what was available to her and she took it and used it to put herself through nursing school.

Mama told me how she was asked by the south Florida matron she worked for if she knew what “elbow grease” was. The woman wanted Mama to get down on her hands and knees and scrub the floor with a toothbrush like a house slave on the plantation. That vignette has always stayed with me and is like a festering boil that never heals. My grandmama’s story reveals the texture, depth, and authenticity of black women’s struggle in this country. It is something that Hillary Clinton, blinded by her sense of royal entitlement, will never understand and something that the grandson of a British colonial servant does.

Reminding us of the “Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” on the tour with the Obama’s, Oprah echoed Jane Pittman when she famously asked each of the children, “Are you the one, Are you the one that will save us.” He won’t single-handedly save us, but I sincerely believe that he is the one for this moment.

His election as president, should it occur, will not overnight result in a diminution of the world’s oppressive racial order, but it will be a step in the right direction for change. I could never get the image out of my head that Michelle conjured up of her husband taking the oath of office. I don’t think he can single-handedly end white supremacy and the grip of capitalist patriarchy, but I think that he may serve as an inspiration to the child or children who can.

Obama truly got game. He can unite this racially divided country in the spirit of brotherhood as nobody can, and for this reason, he will have my unswerving support.

Jesse disses Obama in Chicago Sun-Times Op-Ed piece

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Brotha Jesse is pissing outside of the tent again, this time its in the form of an op-ed piece in the Sun-Times. After reading it, give me your take.  Is Jesse’s criticism valid and is his timing right?  He’s endorsed the brotha and is pulling even with Miss Hillary in Iowa.  This piece begs the question of whether Jesse really wants Obama to win.

Hat Tip: By Rev. Jesse Jackson, Chicago Sun-Times  

Can Democrats get the votes they need simply because they’re not Republicans? You might think so in this presidential campaign. African-American and urban votes are critical to any Democratic victory. Bill Clinton won two terms without winning the most white votes. His margin was the overwhelming support of black voters. George Bush learned that lesson; that’s why his campaigns spent so much effort suppressing the black vote in key states like Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. His victory margin was the tally of votes suppressed or uncounted.

Yet the Democratic candidates — with the exception of John Edwards, who opened his campaign in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward and has made addressing poverty central to his campaign — have virtually ignored the plight of African Americans in this country. The catastrophic crisis that engulfs the African-American community goes without mention. No urban agenda is given priority. When thousands of African Americans marched in protest in Jena, La., not one candidate showed up.

Democratic candidates are talking about health care and raising the minimum wage, but they aren’t talking about the separate and stark realities facing African Americans.

The civil rights movement succeeded in ending segregation and providing blacks with the right to vote. But the end of legal apartheid did not end the era of discrimination. And the ending of institutionalized violence did not end institutionalized racism.

Patterns of discrimination are sharply etched. African Americans have, on average, about half of the good things that whites have, and double the bad things. We have about half the average household income and less than half the household wealth. On the other hand, we’re suffering twice the level of unemployment and twice the level of infant mortality (widely accepted as a measure of general health).

African Americans are brutalized by a system of criminal injustice. Young African Americans are more likely to be stopped, more likely to be searched if stopped, more likely to be arrested if searched, more likely to be charged if arrested, more likely to be sentenced to prison if charged, less likely to get early parole if imprisoned. Every study confirms that the discrimination is systemic and ruinous. And yet no candidate speaks to this central reality.

African Americans are more likely to go to overcrowded and underfunded schools, more likely to go without health care, more likely to drop out, less likely to find employment. Those who do work have less access to banks and are more likely to be ripped off by payday lenders, more likely to be stuck with high-interest auto and business loans, and far more likely to be steered to risky mortgages — even when adjusting for income. And yet, no candidate speaks to this central reality.

The result is visiting a catastrophe on the urban black community. I and many others campaign for young people to stay in school, to graduate and not to make babies until they are prepared to be parents. My son and I write and teach about personal financial responsibility. Personal responsibility is critical. But personal responsibility alone cannot overcome the effects of a discriminatory criminal justice and economic system in generating broken families and broken dreams.

The Rev. Martin Luther King saw the movement to end segregation and gain voting rights as the first stage of the civil rights movement. The second stage — to gain economic justice and equal opportunity in fact — he knew would be more difficult. Now, 40 years later, it is no longer acceptable for candidates to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to entrenched discrimination and still expect to reap our votes.

Obama declares Iowa voters beyond race

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photo courtesy of flickr by Guy as in Gee

The “Safe Negro,” Barack Obama, has declared that Iowa voters are beyond race.   He is quoted by the Associated Press as saying, “People are less concerned about race and much more concerned about, is this somebody who is going to be fighting for me.”   That is an astounding statement of cynical calculation which panders to Iowa’s lily white electorate that is false on its face and goes to the root of why black people like me remain skeptical brotha’s and sistah’s.    For the record, all of my closest friends are supporters of the Safe Negro, but I just can’t go there.   I probably never will as long as he keeps serving up rhetorical gems like this to a narcissistic and oblivious white electorate.

Let me be clear, y’all.   I was born and raised in a neighboring state to a family of southern transplants looking for a kinder and gentler racism so that they might have a fighting chance to raise healthy and happy chirren.  My grandparents largely succeeded.  After high school, I realized that in terms of a future, there was no there there and decided to strike out for the greener and decidedly blacker pastures in the south.  

After a false start in Louisiana, I ended up in the Carolinas.  Having four generations of my family living in the rural Midwest, you’d think that our sense of pride in self and community woulda dimmed somewhat, quite the opposite is true.    We know exactly who we are, where we came from, and we appreciate it and celebrate it.   We’re realists that were raised to see the world as it is, defects and all. It is because we do that statements like Obama’s can be decisively debunked with little effort.

According to Human Rights Watch, it is patently ridiculous for Barack Obama to be giving racial absolution to Iowans, “In every state, the proportion of blacks in prison exceeds, sometimes by a considerable amount, their proportion in the general population (Figure 2). In Minnesota and Iowa, blacks constitute a share of the prison population that is twelve times greater than their share of the state population. In eleven states — Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming –the percentage of the prison population that is black is more than six times greater than the percentage of the state population that is black.”

“Racially disaggregated incarceration rates that measure the number of confined blacks and whites per 100,000 residents of each racial group yield another perspective on the extent of racial disparities in imprisonment. Nationwide, blacks are incarcerated at 8.2 times the rate of whites. That is, a black person is 8.2 times more likely to be in prison than a white person. Among individual states, there are even more extraordinary racial disparities in incarceration rates (Figure 3). In seven states — Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — blacks are incarcerated at more than 13 times the rate of whites.”

“….Nationwide, black men are incarcerated at 9.6 times the rate of white men. In eleven states, black men are incarcerated at rates that are twelve to twenty-six times greater than those of white men (Table 5). Thus, in Minnesota, the state with the greatest racial disparity in incarceration, a black man is 26.8 times more likely to be in prison than a white man. In Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, a black man is more than fifteen times more likely to be in prison than a white man.”

The criminal justice system is always an accurate measure of how deep the sickness of racism is. In Iowa, on the basis of these 7-plus-year-old figures, the sickness is profound.   Apparently, Barack Obama is a glass is half-full kinda guy.  I’m just the opposite.  It’s one thing to campaign on the basis of optimism and hope, its quite another to pander to some white people’s grossly inflated sense of racial fairness and fairplay when statistics clearly show that their “fairness” is a lie from the pit of Hell.  Because of these and other reasons, I shall continue remaining skeptical about Barack Obama.  

 

Byrds of a Feather Flock Together

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Byrds of a Feather Flock Together: How Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama learned to accommodate white supremacy under the tutelage of Robert C. Byrd

In West Virginia’s State Capitol rotunda, there is an immense bronze monstrosity that commemorates the massive ego of its favorite son, Senator Robert Carlyle Byrd Jr, the longest serving U.S. Senator in American history. It is a monument to the incredible ignorance and servility of West Virginia’s electorate and its silent ostentation makes a cruel mockery of the state’s history of opposition to slavery and the suffering of its ever-present poor and working class majority.  

Senator Byrd’s principled opposition to the war in Iraq brought the Senate’s oldest war-horse some much needed prominence and acclaim as he trudged toward his crusade for the record books: a ninth six year term.  The Senator likes round numbers and at the conclusion of the current term, Byrd will have served in Congress for 60 years, shattering all previous records for congressional service. 

An orator of some heft, the Napoleonic Byrd routinely regales the Senate with perorations about the Senate of ancient Rome, U.S. Senate history, and mom and apple pie.   Behind those grandfatherly pontifications is something sinister, something dark, and it is the Senator’s own history of white supremacist advocacy as a member of the Ku Klux Klan and his record of opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

Eric Pianin of the Washington Post picks up the story, “In the early 1940’s, a politically ambitious butcher from West Virginia named Bob Byrd recruited 150 of his friends and associates to form a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.  After Byrd had collected the $10 joining fee and $3 charge for a robe and hood from every applicant, the “Grand Dragon” for the mid-Atlantic states came down to tiny Crab Orchard, W. Va., to officially organize the chapter.” 

“As Byrd recalls now, the Klan official, Joel L. Baskin of Arlington, Va., was so impressed with the young Byrd’s organizational skills that he urged him to go into politics. ‘The country needs young men like you in the leadership of the nation,’ Baskin said.” 

With that chilling advice, Byrd embarked upon his legendary political career, which saw service in both houses of the West Virginia legislature and both houses of congress.  Along the way, he was attacked for his Klan associations, which he later “disavowed,” until the next election.   The friendships he made and the alliances built on a foundation of hate, lasted well into the second decade of his political career and they greased his path until he finally ran the U.S. Senate as its Majority Leader.    

A 1978 Time Magazine profile of Senator Byrd reads, “An archconservative, Byrd was regarded by many as a lightweight hanger-on to the influential group of Southern conservatives led by Georgia’s Richard Russell.  What no one realized was that Byrd was already planning his move to gain power in the Senate.  His strategy: to emulate Russell’s mastery of the Senate’s rules.  ‘Senator Russell’-out of reverence, Byrd always called him that-also advised him to study the book of precedents.  Byrd did, religiously, just as he had earlier pored over his butcher’s manual” 

“…Loyal to the Southern wing, he voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Pianin of the Washington Post continued, “Byrd filibustered the bill (the Civil Rights Act of 1964) for more than 14 hours as he argued that it abrogated principles of federalism.  He criticized most anti-poverty programs except for food stamps.  And in 1967, he voted against the nomination of Thurgood Marshall, the first black appointed to the Supreme Court.” 

The illumination of Byrd’s opposition to the Marshall Nomination and what that reveals about Hillary and Barack’s craven cultivation of a segregationist fossil is what I wish to focus on.  

Byrd was the final member to address the Senate and blustered “I have reached the conclusion, only last evening, that I shall vote against Mr. Marshall’s confirmation. I shall vote against his confirmation realizing that, from a purely political standpoint, my vote will probably not be a good vote.  Mine being a political career, it is only natural that I cannot be averse to political considerations in many of the decisions which I am called upon to make.   Nevertheless, I feel that political considerations must be subordinated to my strong convictions in matters, which will leave a lasting imprint upon the country, which the next generation will inherent from our hands.”  

“There are those critics who may say that my vote against Mr. Marshall is a “racist vote.”  There are those who may say my vote indicates that I am anti-Negro.  “… Mr. President, the truth of the matter is that I would like to vote for Mr. Marshall, and I am frank to say that I would like to vote for him particularly because he is a Negro.  Yet, I consider it my duty as a Senator, under the Constitution, not to let Mr. Marshall’s race influence my decision.  Having reached the definite conclusion that were Mr. Marshall white, I would vote against him.  I cannot, therefore, let the fact that he is a Negro influence me to vote for him when I would not do so otherwise.”  

“What is the basis for my decision to vote against Mr. Marshall’s confirmation?”  Byrd disingenuously raised the specter of black crime and the liberalization of Supreme Court rulings. He thundered, “I have repeatedly spoken out against Supreme Court decisions which have placed shackles upon the police and which have made increasingly difficult the problem of law enforcement.  …I do not believe that I can be justified in criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court for decisions which favor the criminal if I, by my own actions, fail to take a stand against the appointment of any individual to that Court whose past record in the legal profession and as a jurist point unmistakably, in my judgment, to the likelihood that the nominee will add to an already dangerously imbalanced High Tribunal.”  

Thurgood Marshall’s remarkable career is a powerful testimony to the existence of God because his hand is so clearly visible in the miracles of advocacy Marshall routinely pulled off in hostile southern courtrooms on behalf of African American defendants.   Noted for his groundbreaking and successful strategy of challenging segregation, his work on behalf of black defendants in criminal cases is often overlooked. 

Marshall was the senior member of a triumvirate of black generals leading the charge against segregation and discrimination in this society.  Congressman Adam Clayton Powell led the battle in Congress, Martin Luther King Jr. fought the struggle in the streets and Thurgood led the protracted struggle against discrimination in the civil and criminal courts of the country.   The only thing standing between some criminal defendants and the electric chair, he rode into sleepy southern locales on his white horse, at great personal risk to himself, and fought with the whole armor of God for his clients and won more often than not.   

In 1940, after seven years of private practice, Marshall won his first case in the U.S. Supreme Court.  During the fifties, King asked for Marshall’s help during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. As head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Marshall was glad to oblige.  King underscored the thrust of Marshall’s trial advocacy and the philosophy behind the protests “One thing the gradualists don’t seem to understand: We are not trying to make people love us when we go to court; we are trying to keep them from killing us.” 

Alabama was ground zero in the fight for civil rights by 1955.  Robert J. Norrell, author of “Law In A White Man’s Democracy,” for the Cumberland Law Review, recounts the racist history of Alabama’s Judiciary and the fight against it for equality. Norrell wrote, Electoral forms in Alabama created from 1874 onward were intended primarily to ensure white political supremacy. Despite divisions among whites, the first concern of most white politicians after Reconstruction was to maintain white dominance and to undermine any black influence.  In the new century, much of the effort to maintain white supremacy was focused on the criminal justice system in Alabama. The courts helped to maintain an unfree labor system and discriminatory application of law. 

In 1960, Marshall had moved the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to back up the civil rights movement almost exclusively and the ramifications were profound for the movement.  Again, Norrell, “By 1961, racial feelings had surged to new heights as a result of black challenges to segregation. In the spring of 1960, the sit-in movement protested lunch-counter segregation in most Alabama cities. In May 1961, the ‘freedom-riders’ came to Alabama, and the ensuing violence in Anniston, Birmingham, and Montgomery took racial tensions even higher. A sense of siege pervaded the feelings of many white Alabamians, and predictions of a coming race war were commonplace.” 

Marshall waded in again personally in 1961 on behalf of Alabamian Charles Clarence Hamilton, a black defendant convicted and sentenced to death for raping a white woman. Thurgood got the conviction reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court for a due-process violation. Far from admiring Marshall’s legal acumen as he had done in the past by voting to confirm him to the U.S. Court of Appeals and as Solicitor General; Byrd turned on a dime and reviled it. Confirmed by a vote of 69-11, Byrd’s Machiavellian grandstanding on the nomination of Thurgood Marshall had an audience of one: Senator Richard Russell of Georgia. He was the one man with the power to punch his ticket and smooth the glide path to Senate leadership.  

His efforts paid off handsomely. Pianin of the Washington Post wrote, “…As a rising member of the leadership, Byrd paid close attention to minor legislative details that made life easier for other senators, always showing elaborate courtesy, and wrote thank you notes on the slightest pretext.  In 1971, he challenged Sen. Edward M. Kennedy for the majority whip post and unseated him, after securing the death-bed proxy of the legendary Sen. Richard B. Russell D-Ga …the architect of the southern filibuster against civil rights legislation.” 

After Senator Russell’s death, Byrd sponsored legislation to honor his segregationist legacy by naming the first Senate Office Building in his honor and he paid tribute to him in a 1988 address on the Senate Floor in which he reminisced at Russell’s final resting place, “As I stood by his graveside there beneath the a soft southern sky, my thoughts ran backward across the years we had served together and to the many times when I had sought his sage counsel and advice.  I thought of the example that he had set, as a senator who had truly revered the Senate, and of the impact of his life upon my own.  Here, I thought, was a senator who would have graced the Senate well in any era, at any period, in the broad sweep of its two hundred-year history.  Richard Russell was someone who, more than anyone else I have ever met, should have been President of the United States.” 

A bitter segregationist should have been President of the United States-yeah, right. 

Not content to oppose the form and substance of equality, Byrd also opposed its number one spokesperson and sought to install Supreme Court Justices inimical to civil rights. The Harvard Crimson, Harvard’s student run newspaper, said in a January 11, 1977 article, “He once condemned the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a ‘self seeking rabble rouser,’ suggesting later that the slain civil rights leader had incited the riots that broke out in the wake of his assassination.  Byrd was so opposed to the progressive decisions of the Warren Court that he broke ranks with his colleagues in supporting President Nixon’s ill-fated nominees for the Supreme Court, W. Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell.” 

In 1977, Senator Byrd defeated former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, a passionate civil rights advocate and leader of the forces pushing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for Senate Majority Leader. Again, the Harvard Crimson, “Surprisingly, Byrd received strong support in his campaign for the post not only from conservative Southern Democrats, but from liberals who might more naturally have been expected to support Byrd’s challenger, Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey D-Minn.  In fact, so widespread was the liberal defection to Byrd that Humphrey, recognizing he had no chance of winning, withdrew. 

This is the person to whom Hillary and Barack turned to school them in navigating the corridors of senate power. They turned to a former Klansman, segregationist, and archconservative. 

In the November 2006 issue of the Atlantic, staff writer Joshua Green wrote of Hillary Clinton, “Before she was even sworn in, she went to pay obeisance to the very man who had all but driven a stake through her health-care plan, Senator Robert C. Byrd…’I was not exactly a disciple,’ Byrd told me.  ‘I thought she would play upon her having been a president’s wife and expect to have a lot of favors done, a lot of bending and bowing.’ He added huffily, ‘That didn’t concur with my impressions of what a senator should be.’ 

“Instead, Clinton asked Byrd for advice on being a good senator, and got a primer on how to comport herself.  Afterward, she announced her intention to heed Byrd’s advice: ‘Be a workhorse, not a show horse.’…The meeting with Byrd accomplished two things: it sent a public signal about how Clinton planned conduct herself in her new job, and it sent a private signal to Byrd that she wanted to apprentice herself to him.  A senate staffer told me that Clinton also asked Byrd at the meeting if he would lead a series of classes for the freshmen, which she would arrange, on his specialty of parliamentary rules and procedures.  Byrd delightedly agreed.  For more than a year, groups of Senators large and small filed through Byrd’s ornate office in the Capitol for their lessons.  There was no question who was the star pupil.”  

Not to be outdone, Senator Obama wrote in the bestselling Audacity of Hope, “…among Senate Democrats at least, my meetings would end with one consistent recommendation: As soon as possible, they said, I should schedule a meeting with Senator Byrd-not only as a matter of senatorial courtesy, but also because Senator Byrd’s position on the Appropriations Committee and general stature gave him considerable clout.” 

“…We spoke about the Senate’s past, the Presidents he had known, the bills he had managed.  He told me I would do well in the Senate but that I shouldn’t be in too much of a rush-so many senators today become fixated on the White House, not understanding that in the constitutional design it was the Senate that was supreme, the heart and soul of the republic.” 

“…Listening to Senator Byrd speak, I felt with full force all the essential contradictions of me in this new place, with its marble busts, its arcane traditions, its memories and its ghosts. I pondered the fact that, according to his own autobiography, Senator Byrd had received his first taste of leadership in his early twenties, as a member of the Raleigh County Ku Klux Klan…I thought about how he had joined other giants of the Senate, like J. William Fulbright of Arkansas and Richard Russell of Georgia, in Southern resistance to civil rights legislation…I wondered if it should matter.” 

Apparently, in Obamaworld and Hillaryland, it really doesn’t matter. All is forgiven. Senator Obama contemplated the contradictions so deeply that he campaigned for Senator Byrd’s 2006 re-election and raised $634,000 towards his re-election bid through the political action committee, MoveOn.org.  The audacity of Obama’s genuflection to Byrd, and his accommodation of white supremacy meant that like Hillary, he also had internalized his power tutorial well.   

I should hope that the irony of a woman and an African American beating a path to the door of a former segregationist whose “reverence” for the constitution is evidenced by his carrying around a copy of it in his pocket for the entirety of his 6 decades of service in congress is not lost on anyone. Byrd has brandished his little copy of the constitution on the Senate floor for decades but has consistently failed to defend the constitutional rights of African Americans.    

The same could be said of both Hillary and Barack. The constitutional guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment is fungible in the Clinton household.   As a young law professor demonstrating an idealistic commitment to justice, Hillary Clinton wrote a brief that freed a retarded inmate from death row. It was a commitment that was to be sacrificed in order to embrace the calculated and bloodless political expediency that propelled the Clintons to Washington.

In her husband’s final term as governor, as he campaigned for President, she stood mute as he allowed the execution of a brain damaged black man, Ricky Ray Rector, who killed a police officer and then lobotomized himself with a gun shot to the head. 

Christopher Hitchens described the craven act brutally, Executed by Clinton to draw attention from the Gennifer Flowers flap (about which he also lied) Rector outdoes Willie Horton by every definition of racist grandstanding.” Rector was so mentally impaired that Rector’s prison guards called him “the Chickman” because he thought the guards were throwing alligators and chickens into his cell. He would grip the bars and jump up and down like an ape. On the night of his execution, Rector saved the slice of pecan pie to be eaten before bedtime, not realizing his death would come first. He also told his attorney that he would like to vote for Clinton in the fall,” wrote Alexander Nguyen of the American Prospect.

Rector was a man that Thurgood Marshall, then in his final term as a justice, would have ruled to spare had the Court chosen to hear his last appeal.  Marshall wrote in his dissent, Ultimately, then, the common law conception of incompetence embodies the principle that it is inhumane to put a man to death when he has been rendered incapable of appealing to the mercy of the society that has condemned him.”   The Clintons respected Marshall’s point of view so thoroughly that they fast-tracked executions when Bill signed the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which allows the death penalty for an additional 60 crimes and short circuits death row appeals based on due process violations and actual innocence.    

In Chicago, a twenty-year reign of racist terror by Southside Chicago Cops was summarily ignored by Barack Obama and his political patron, Mayor Rich Daley. From the website of the University of Chicago Police Torture Archive, “Between the years of 1972 and 1991, approximately [192] African American Men and women were arrested and tortured at the hands of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and officers under his command at Area 2 police headquarters.  Some of these victims were as young as thirteen years old. Various court cases have established that the methods of torture used in the interrogation of suspects included electric shock to the ears and genitalia, mock executions, suffocation, and burning. While Jon Burge was ultimately fired by the Chicago Police Department, not a single perpetrator of the tortures has ever been criminally prosecuted.”  Fourteen of those tortured were sent to death row.  

Throughout almost the entire period of racist terror, either the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, or his son, Richard M. Daley, was in a position of power to stop these human rights violations and neither did anything.  Knowing all of this, Barack Obama endorsed the Mayor’s re-election bid for a sixth term and accepted the Mayor’s endorsement for President while simultaneously grandstanding on the Senate floor against the torture of foreign terrorism suspects.   Barack Obama, like Hillary, defecated on the legacy of Thurgood Marshall and showed to all the world that Byrds of a feather do indeed flock together to accommodate white supremacy.

 

Obama 08: a black bourgeois fantasy

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“Despite their solid achievements and the satisfactions which they derived from their way of life, there was always an atmosphere of unreality surrounding the isolated life of the small black middle class.  …urbanization and the increasing occupational differentiation of the Negro population undermined the privileged position of the old middle class.  But more important still, the compensations which ancestry, puritanical morals, and especially education, provided in a hostile white world were inadequate in the life of the new black bourgeoisie.”   

“Having become less isolated and thus more exposed to the contempt and hostility of the white world, but at the same time cherishing the values of the white world, the new black bourgeoisie with more money at their disposal, have sought compensation in the things that money can buy.   Moreover, their larger incomes have enabled them to propagate false notions about their place in American life and to create a world of make-believe.” 

- E. Franklin Frazier, in “Black Bourgeoisie”   

Because of the illusory affluence of conspicuous consumption and the presence of the largest black middle class in history, some of us have bought into the lie of American democracy and have become captivated with the idea that we can somehow elect a black president.  We have bought into the rhetoric of hope and the audacity of bourgeois hubris.  

Sistah Obama was right when she said  “If Barack doesn’t win Iowa, it’s just a dream.”   It is a dream because Political Scientist Michael Parenti describes the Presidency as nothing more than a bait and switch game intended to pull the wool over the eyes of the public while slavishly serving the powerful.  We have studiously avoided seeing that Barack Obama has signaled his intention to serve the powerful in everyway he can.   

He rejects reparations, played footsie with Chicago’s corrupt Daley Machine and ignored its police brutality, caved to the Israel Lobby, voted for Condi Rice, equivocated on war funding (voting for it before he was against it), and his health care plan isn’t universal. The only thing he hasn’t done is walk up and down the streets of America peddling his ass like a prostitute.  

Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is a black middle class fantasy, an idealistic delusion of epic proportions that those outside of the black community have hijacked to achieve their own malevolent ends. Most Americans will never grasp the significance of our nation’s role as an imperial power that enforces a bloody and repressive economic and political hegemony upon the world’s colored peoples.  They have been uniformly brainwashed by patriotic propaganda advanced by a greedy and self-interested corporate media and indoctrinated by historical revisionists that omit America’s history of genocide, slavery and discrimination.  

The President is the guardian of our undemocratic system and the character of the presidency perverts any good intention.  Parenti writes, “If presidents tend to speak one way and act another, it is due less to some inborn flaw shared by the varied personalities who occupy the office than to the nature of the office itself.  Like any officeholder, the president plays a dual role in that he must satisfy the major interests of corporate America and at the same time make a show of serving the people. He differs from other politicians in that the demands and expectations of his office are greater and therefore the contradictions deeper.  …Like other politicians, perhaps more so, the president is caught between the demands of democracy and the powers of plutocracy.” 

No matter what set of progressive policies our president claims fealty to, his responsibility to the capitalist power structure will always be greater and his response to the entreaties of its emissaries shall forever be swifter.  Placing Barack’s narrow behind in the oval office won’t change this dynamic of power.  

The futility of this delusional presidential exercise is borne out by poll numbers, which reveal that the majority of African Americans are still with Hillary.  During the period of sky-high poll numbers and uncritical acclaim, Obama’s poll numbers with the black community were in the toilet.  Now that the newness has worn off the Safe Negro and whitefolks adoration and worship has cooled, blackfolks have started to take a second look.  He ain’t never gonna get off that racial seesaw and it will eventually become his undoing as a candidate.  

We have the means through which to control a great deal that happens to and within our communities but haven’t because of a lack of vision. That will not change because Barack Obama stepped onto the scene.  The relative weakness of our political leadership and the precariousness of our economic strength keep the enormous power of the world’s wealthiest black middle class in check.  

In this respect, little has changed since Dr. Frasier wrote, “Since the black bourgeoisie is composed chiefly of white collar workers and since its small business enterprises are insignificant in the American economy, the black bourgeoisie wields no political power as a class in American society.  Nor does the black bourgeoisie exercise any significant power within the Negro community as an employer of labor.  Its power within the Negro community stems from the fact that middle-class Negroes hold strategic positions in segregated institutions and create and propagate the ideologies current in the Negro community.” 

“In the political life of the American society the Negro political leaders, who have always had a middle-class outlook, follow an opportunistic policy.  They attempt to accommodate the demands of Negroes for better economic and social conditions to their personal interests which are tied up with the political machines, which in turn are geared to the interests of the white propertied classes.” 

Ultimately, it is the white power structure, not us, that will benefit from the next presidency, whichever candidate is selected.  In the unlikely event that I am wrong and an Obama presidency materializes, those whose mission it is to turn back the clock on social progress will have all the ammunition they need to destroy forever the possibility of progressive change.  His election will be hailed from coast to coast as a triumph over racism and our legacy of discrimination when it will be anything but.  

It’s time to wake up from our middle class fantasies and realize the ideological cul-de sac American politics is and do something about the unequal power relationships that disadvantage us socially, economically, and politically.

The Audacity of Evasion: Barack Obama and the Reparations debate

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Barack Obama nimbly evaded the question of reparations last month in CNN’s Youtube debate and tried to turn the question toward something more “mainstream” in calling for more funding for education for our schools.  It was a deliberate and craven deception that calls into question his true love for African people in this country and throughout the diaspora.

While increasing numbers of us are singing Kumbaya with white liberals over his ground-breaking candidacy, there are people like me who believe that his reparations equivocation is yet another affirmation of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. 

Obama, a former constitutional law professor, rarely sprinkles any of his stump speeches with critical race theory. Some of our contributors, like NMP and yogo, are lawyers and have found no contradiction between support of Obama or Hillary and their support for the African American community.  I am not so sanguine.  

One candidate had the cohones to support reparations for African Americans and Congressman Kucinich is to be commended.  Hillary, Biden, Richardson, and Dodd didn’t comment.   Edwards and Obama shot the idea down and yet we still shout Barack’s name from the rooftops.  Why?

Obama’s peers in the constitutional law community are not so sanguine either, and many have written extensively  regarding the need for and the ample legal precedent supporting the call for slave reparations.  I’d like to explore some of those with you here. 

Professor David Hall of Northeastern University School of Law has written, “Reparation is deeply rooted in the American legal system.  All first-year law students during their course in contracts are made aware of the contractual injury of unjust enrichment.  The legal remedy for unjust enrichment is restitution, one of the three main remedies for contractual breaches.”

“Reparation, though generally thought of as applying to collective or group remedies, is merely another form of the historic and accepted remedy of restitution.  Some authors have presuasively demonstrated how restitution, and thus reparation, in addition to their longstanding legal tradition, have deep spiritual roots within various religious traditions.  Thus, our culture and our legal system have a long-standing affinity with these remedies.”

Opponents downplay and reject the concept of historical enrichment by their ancestors and question the necessity for restitution. Alfreda Robinson, Associate Dean of the George Washington University Law School has written, “In contrast, reparations opponents contend that reparations discouse and demands for reparations unnecessarily “trouble ‘settled’ waters.”  In their view, reparations discourse creates racial and ethnic strife by resurrecting painful memories that Americans would rather forget.” 

“Reparations opponents further argue that the reparations debate wastes sparse intellectual, social, political, and economic resources that African Americans should direct elsewhere, that it focuses on ancient claims, blames inappropriately present day white Americans for the sins of their deceased ancestors and racial blood group, and holds African Americans captive to an underserved and debilitating victim’s image.”

This seems to be the side that Obama’s on.  The side that would rather not have this discussion and the side the rejects out of hand a discourse of restitution.   His collegues reject that handkerchief head talk and have moved forward to initiate litigation despite the presence of resistance. 

Again, Professor Hall, “Despite this resistance, the idea of reparations for African Americans for the atrocities and unjust gains of slavery and the slave trade has now reached center stage.  The prominence is due in large part to recent lawsuits that have been filed against corporations, and against govermental entities.  But reparations for African Americans is not a new topic or issue. It has always been with us, yet we have always managed to keep it locked up in the closets of our collective consciousness.”

The question of restitution is clearly locked up in the double consciousness of former Harvard Law Review President Barack Obama, and will not ever be set free as long as he believes himself to be a viable Presidential candidate.  Y’all may not like that, but it’s the damn truth.  I see no need to let the “Safe Negro” slide on that.   In the place of reparations, we see the cruel and deceptive attempt to graft the candidacy of Obama, as if by its mere existence, it has the power to heal the deep wounds of genocide, slavery, and white supremacy. It doesn’t. 

The healing that needs to take place can only take place by advancing the discourse reparations and by creating a framework that leads to resititution.  Professor Hall writes, “As we go through the difficult and technical issues related to reparations in the context of American slavery and racism, it is important not to lose sight of the spiritual dimensions and realities of this remedy within this context. For if understood properly, we could begin to see that reparations, like all legal remedies, are attempting to do more than just transfer resources form one party to another.

“The legal system, through its system of remedies, is also trying to address deep wounds and restore broken relationships.  If there is a compelling scenario where psychic wounds and broken spirits exist, it is within the collective experience of slavery and racism in America.  Reparations, despite its long delay and its numerous procedural and substantive challenges, offers this nation a great opportunity for spiritual cleansing.”

Healing and spiritual cleansing are both advanced subliminally by the Obama campaign as traits he has the capacity to bring to our nation as President.  The reality is that we”ll get neither if he doesn’t have the courage to acknowledge the necessity for reparations.  The conundrum of power in this country is that those who demonstrate the cohones to lead rarely get elected or stay elected to do so.