We’re in Hell

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I remember it like it was yesterday.  In the fall of 1994, I was an intern for the North Carolina Democratic Party. The 1994 elections were a watershed of fear, racist projection, and ignorance. The election night parties were full of tears and slack jaws as damn near everyone went down.  I went home with my tail between my legs.

Devastated by the previous evening’s events and looking for solace I stepped into the HBCU counseling center office of my play mom, Ms. Chisholm.  A South Carolina native, she made everyone feel like family but wasn’t a stereotypical, syrupy sweet, southern Mom. She looked up and saw the newspapers I had collected announcing the Republican sweep and said gravely, “we’re in Hell.”

This week has felt like that as a veil of ignorance and fear descended over Washington in the wake of Scott Brown’s election to the United States Senate in Massachusetts.  A wake up call to be sure, it provoked some interesting reactions and farcical moments.   As the president finally located his stones and called for a broad tax on the predatory banks to recoup the trillions in bailout largess they extorted from the U.S. Treasury, the Supreme Court reversed a century of precedent and plunged the United States back into the Gilded Age of Robber Barons and monopolistic trusts.

President Obama only had a year-long window to make any kind of change and he squandered it by trying to compromise with the Republicans, the banks, and the insurance companies.  Everything from here on out will be filibustered unless Harry Reid uses reconciliation.  But even that handy little tool will be useless with the new toy the Supreme Court has given our corporate overlords.

Campaign Finance Reform, an issue I care deeply about but never discuss was front and center yesterday as the Supreme Court struck down any limits on corporate independent expenditure campaigns on free speech grounds.  They now have the power to use their general treasuries and their billions in profits to buy every friendly politician in sight or mount saturation level campaigns targeted at their political enemies.

Scared by the browning of America and the Presidency of Barack Obama, the Supreme Court finally pulled the trigger on fascism, shredded the constitution under the guise of interpreting it, and effectively destroyed our Democracy.  The Republicans will finally be able to rely on an endless tsunami of cash to fund their campaigns and elections will be nothing more than contests to see who can most effectively whore out to the corporations.

I refuse to participate in, to borrow a phrase from Keith Olbermann, a “farcical perversion.” I will finish this election season out and work for the candidates I have committed to but this is Skeptical Brotha’s last campaign.  I’m done.  I am going to do what I should have done years ago and finally learn Spanish and French.  I am going to leave this country and go somewhere that doesn’t elevate the rights of corporations over the rights of people.  I love my Momma.  I love my Daddy.  I love my family, but I refuse to stay here and be a slave on this corporate plantation.

If Troy Davis Dies, blame the Clintons

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If anyone has sought to confuse you or just plain insult your intelligence by intimating that the United States has entered into a “post-racial” age of enlightenment, you have this Skeptical Brotha’s permission to curse them out so hard that they beg your forgiveness.  All one really has to do, if the aforemetioned is unappealing, is just say two words: Troy Davis.

I am primitive enough to actually believe in the death penalty despite knowing full well that the way in which it is administered discriminates against people on the basis of race and class.  I am also old fashioned enough to want any would be victimizers of me or my family to pay the ultimate price. 

The case against Georgia Death Row Inmate Troy Davis, 38, changes all that for me and it has me reconsidering  the fundamentally corrosive nature of prolonged righteous rage brought on by the machinery of death.  The family of the murdered police officer  is prevented from having closure and so is the family of Troy Davis who are convinced of his innocence.

Anger and rage are the essential building blocks of any activism for good causes, but they are also the essential tools of the demagogue.

This is where Bill and Hillary Clinton come in.  In the run up to the 1992 New Hampshire primary, Bill Clinton left the campaign trail and the questions surrounding the revelation of his affair wth Gennifer Flowers to execute a brain damaged brotha, Ricky Ray Rector. 

Christopher Hitchens was blunt:

I disliked Clinton because of the Ricky Ray Rector business. He left New Hampshire to go back to Arkansas and execute a man who was essentially unfit to plead–he certainly didn’t understand the charges against him,  would have met any ordinary definition of clemency.  I don’t think the Chinese execute people who are mentally disabled.  Rector was lobotomized. And it was clear that Clinton did what he did to send a racist signal.  It was as clear as it could possibly be.  The week of Gennifer Flowers he kept saying, “Why don’t we talk about the issues?”  So I asked him this: “Isn’t executing a mentally retarded black man for votes a clearer indication of what your morality is than what you do with blondes on the side?” Clinton turned his back on me. Walked away.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Clintons dipped into the well of racism against Barack Obama having deliberately used the unjustified execution of a black man to make a naked racial appeal to whitefolks back in 1992. 

Once elected, Bill and Hillary Clinton continued turning their backs on justice.  Bill signed the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.

According to Amnesty International:

President Bill Clinton signed the AEDPA into law on 24 April 1996. “I have long sought to streamline federal appeals for convicted criminals sentenced to the death penalty,” he said at the signing; “For too long, and in too many cases, endless death row appeals have stood in the way of justice being served.”  He added that “from now on, criminals sentenced to death for their vicious crimes will no longer be able to use endless appeals to delay their sentences.”

The Act placed new, unprecedented restrictions on prisioners raising claims of constitutional violations.  It imposed severe time limits on the raising of constitutional claims, restricted the federal courts ability to review state court decisions, placed limits on federal courts granting and conducting evidentiary hearings, and prohibited “successive” appeals except in very narrow circumstances.

As one leading lawyer has said “The provisions of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 restricting the power of federal courts to correct constitutional error in criminal cases represent a decision tat results are more important than process, that finality is more important than fairness, and that proceeding with executions is more important than determining whether convictions and sentences were obtained fairly and reliably.”

Under the AEDPA, once Troy Davis’ conviction and death sentence had been upheld by the Georgia Courts, the possibility of relief in the federal courts was curtailed. Federal relief was only permissible if the decision of a state court had “resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved in an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States.”  This deferential “reasonableness” standard represented “a remarkable departure from the traditional role of federal courts…to declare what the law is.”

The amazing thing about the case against Troy Davis is that there is literally no case.  There is no physical evidence at all. No DNA, no murder weapon, no fingerprints, no footprints. Nothing.  All there was against the brotha was the perjured testimony of coerced witnesses, 7 of whom now say in signed affidavits that one of their number was the real killer and that the combined effects of sloppy police work, prosecutorial misconduct, ineffective assistance of counsel, and their fear of the real killer, produced this twisted and tragic result.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles delayed this execution for over a year to supposedly investigate the claims of innocence here thoroughly and completely. They still came to the same racist result as the orignial jury and every court of review.

At the end of the line and with state court appeals exhausted, executive clemency denied, and all federal appeals over, they appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court one last time. The Supremes delayed the execution until next Monday.  While a six-day repreive is cause for celebration for some, I am not hopeful.   A Supreme Court that would essentially overturn Brown v. Board of Education is a Supreme Court that will come up with some convoluted, racist rationale for the execution of the innocent.   Only time will tell.

The only thing I know for sure is that if Troy Davis dies, you can blame the Clintons for setting him up and sabotaging his legitimate claim of innocence.

Bastardizing the Dream: Alveda King

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This is the week set aside in honor of one our own, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Normally a time for celebration, I have come to dread our annual commemoration because of photo-op’s like the one above with Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Dr. King’s niece, Alveda King, has fallen off the mountaintop, bumped her damn head, and become a member of the vast right-wing conspiracy.

 

Employed full-time by the religious right, she is an aggressive pro-life activist, minister, and professional public speaker. As she has moved steadily to the right, Alveda has provided political cover and given full license to those who would distort, defame, and destroy the dream of her late Uncle in the name of a fictitious colorblindness that is really white supremacy.

 

A long time opponent of Affirmative Action, she is entangled in a network of right-wing preachers hell bent on destroying the progressive social change that Dr. King fought for. While Dr. King spoke of the power of love and the creation of the beloved community, the glue that holds their little movement together is hatred, homophobia and a fixation with stopping same sex couples who love each other from having the right to marry.

 

In the month of Mrs. King’s death, Alveda participated in “Justice Sunday,” a wingnut gala consisting of the full constellation of reactionary politicians and their talabangelical brethren dedicated to fighting for the confirmation of Bush’s judicial nominees like Samuel Alito. Alito, an archconservative with a history of hostility to civil rights, provided the fifth vote to strike down voluntary Affirmative Action plans in the public schools last year. Weakening the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education without the guts to admit it, Alito and his allies on the court dealt the principle of ending separate but equal education a mortal wound.

 

Among those beating the drums of fascist religiosity with Alveda were Justice Sunday colleagues Tony Perkins, Head of the right-wing Family Research Council and a former Louisiana politician who paid white supremacist and neo-Nazi David Duke for his mailing list, and Jerry Falwell, a former segregationist who smeared Martin Luther King, Jr. as a tool of communists.

During most of Dubya’s first term, he found some way to paw Coretta Scott King in a manner that made my blood boil. Born on the same day as my grandmother two years apart, Mrs. King was always an icon in my household. I would NEVER allow George W. Bush to put his damn hands on my grandmother and I could never understand why Mrs. King visited the White House of a man who stole the Presidency. Her graciousness was always taken advantage of by this White House and she invariably became a colored prop in Dubya’s annual racist stage play of deceit every third Monday in January.

 

My personal favorite was the 2003 King Holiday. Within days of the holiday, the Administration announced a bold frontal assault on Affirmative Action by filing a brief against the Affirmative Action Admissions programs for both the University of Michigan and its School of Law. Writing a powerful Five-to-Four opinion upholding the principle of Affirmative Action, Sandra Day O’Connor ended her twenty years of steady opposition to Affirmative Action programs. Within two years, she resigned from the court only to be replaced by Alveda’s choice, Samuel Alito. It is only a matter of time now before Affirmative Action is destroyed by the Roberts Court.

 

Monday, I kept hearing reports of Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee being invited to attend King Day services at Ebenezer Baptist Church by a member of “the King Family.” While not identified, I have a hunch that the black fool in question was Alveda. She was the one sitting next to the presidential contender that told White South Carolina Republicans that they shouldn’t tolerate anybody dictating to them about where, when and how to fly the confederate flag. After desecrating the sanctuary with his presence, Huckabee used the occasion to accept the endorsement of a group of black wingnut preachers, the “Coalition of African American Pastors,” a group Alveda has claimed a board membership of on her website.

 

 

This week, Martin Luther King III, “deeply” concerned about politicians misappropriating the legacy of his father, wrote John Edwards a beautiful letter telling him to keep fighting and stay in the race. If he was truly concerned about folks distorting the dream, he would have stopped his Mama from being used by George W. Bush, stopped his sister Bernice from demonizing gays and lesbians, put his foot down to permit the man who paid for his Daddy’s funeral, Harry Belafonte, to eulogize his mother instead of the ignorant patrician in the White House, and done something to put his cousin Alveda in check.

 

As adherents of the drum major for justice who preached non-violence, it would be unseemly for the members of the King family to take Alveda aside and beat her ass until she remembers what the hell the dream is really about. Nevertheless, let me be the first one to say to the King family that all of black America would happily forgive y’all if you laid down the principles of non-violence temporarily to “lay hands” on Alveda with “the love of the Lord.”

 

I won’t tell nobody and I am quite sure that Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, a King family friend, would help. After all, she has kept her girls outta jail, despite the mess they’ve been involved in, and I’m very sure a discrete word from the mayor to the Po-po would squash it. If Shirley can’t help, somebody can always call Bishop Thomas Weeks, Juanita Bynum’s soon-to-be ex-husband. The way I see it he’ll pop either the question, Alveda, or both.

 

Although I can’t help but lampoon Alveda and make light of this situation for the sake of my fragile sanity, bastardizing Dr. King’s dream is no laughing matter.

Roberts court overturns Brown v. Board of Education

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The racial reactionaries on the Roberts Court, the ones neither Hillary or Obama could be bothered to aggressively filibuster, have overturned Brown V. Board of Education without tacitly acknowledging that fact.  And have, once again, used the equal protection clause of the constitution, placed there to protect the rights of black folk, to defend white privilege.

The opinion and dissents are here.

The U.S. Senate, in another development, also killed Immigration reform for the year.

Clarence Thomas: White Supremacist in blackface

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Clarence Thomas official.jpg

Hat Tip: Melinda Hennenberger, Huffington Post

WASHINGTON – Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas famously opposes affirmative action, and clearly feels slandered by the suggestion he ever benefited from such a thing.

So, if we no longer need such programs, how’s that working out in Thomas’s own office?

Not well, as it turns out: “Mine happen to be all white males,” Thomas said of his current crop of clerks. “I don’t have quotas.”

When Rep. Jose Serrano, a Democrat from New York, asked about diversity today at a Congressional hearing on the Supreme Court’s budget, it was Justice Anthony Kennedy who answered first: “We’ve made strides,” he said, but there is just tremendous competition for qualified minority law students. “The profession as a whole is very conscious of it, very conscious.”

“Conscious,” Serrano persisted, “but, have we made progress?”

Of the most recent class of 57 clerks, Kennedy answered, only 7 were minority. And the number of women in the group has fallen dramatically, from more than a third to only 17 percent this year.

In a rare interview last week, Thomas told a writer for Business Week that the notion he was recruited to attend the College of Holy Cross because he is black was “a lie. I don’t mean a mistake. It’s a lie.”

After Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, Holy Cross did begin recruiting young black men. But that had nothing to do with his entrance the next year, Thomas said: “A nun suggested Holy Cross. That’s how I wound up there. Your industry has suggested that we were all recruited.”

“That was the creation of the politicians, the people with a lot of mouth and nothing to say, and your industry. Everything becomes affirmative action.”

There are no words that adequately express my contempt for Clarence Thomas and the inimical self-loathing ideology he espouses.  I ain’t got the “Love of the Lord” for him and it is something that I must pray over.  I’m gonna leave it at that before I say somethin’ truly hateful.

O’Malley takes a stand against Death Penalty

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Governor Martin O'MalleyMaryland’s new Governor has taken a forceful and courageous stand against Maryland’s Death Penalty. It is a bold and unexpected move that distinguishes him in the public mind as a conviction politician.  I couldn’t be more overjoyed.  

In the days of focus groups and weekly tracking polls, it is rare to see politicians taking a stands like this based on conviction.   It is so rare that even a Skeptical Brotha like me had to sit up, take notice, and applaud him.   He definitely is the hero of the Week.

After eight years of this, I see something else on the horizon for this conviction politician bigger and better than Annapolis.   Something in Washington, D.C. perhaps?  

Opponents of School Desgregation tell Court: I’m White, I’m Right, let me have my way!

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The Supreme Court heard oral argument today in the most important civil rights case since Gratz v. Bollinger.  The case involves a challenge to voluntary desegregation plans in Louisville, KY and Seattle, WA. The advocates against voluntary desegregation ooze insincerity.  They live in a wingnut fantasyland in which whites are victimized by “reverse discrimination” and pernicious “race consciousness” in which whites are illegally disadvantaged in schools and in the workplace. It is a patently ridiculous argument and downright disingenuous.

Theodore Shaw, Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund has written, “The notion that race-conscious efforts to address racial inequality are racially discriminatory is like telling a physician that she cannot make a diagnosis when treating a disease because the diagnosis equals the disease.  There is no equivalency, moral or legal, between race-conscious attempts to address racial inequality on the one hand, and racial discrimination based in notions of superiority and inferiority on the other.”

The advocates against voluntary desegregation are the same people opposed to affirmative action.  They seek to get the Courts to genuflect to their superior racial position in American society, which is essentially: I’m White, I’m right, let me have my way! Invoking white privilege has gotten them all the way to the Supreme Court and the Justices always affirm this spurious reasoning or meet them halfway.

The truth of the matter is that in most urban locales, whites have abandoned the public school system for reasons, which have nothing to do with educational quality and everything to do with race.  They just don’t see educational quality in public school systems with “too many” black and brown faces.  Voluntary desegregation plans are an attempt to respond to white flight and create racially diverse, high-quality public schools that don’t ghettoize children of color in inferior schools populated by the children of disadvantaged working class people.

It should be noted that the cumulative efforts of the Reagan-Bush Administrations has been to stack the federal courts with right-wing ideologues sympathetic with the fantasy jurisprudence of white victimization. The timid efforts of the Democratic Party to halt the long march of the Right for federal judicial dominance have led us to the dangerous racial precipice we are dangling on today.   What is at stake is the continued life of equal opportunity in this country. The Right believes equal opportunity is synonymous with white privilege and seeks to render us blind to the institutionalized racism against people of color.

Theodore Shaw believes  “The work of racial justice  does not require us to gouge out our eyes so that we cannot see race. The race problem in America has never been mere race-consciousness; it has been White Supremacy. The question is not whether we see race; the question is, having seen it, what is its significance? Having seen it, are we an inclusive or exclusive society? This is not a time for blindness. This is a time for sight.” 

Amen, Brotha.