The Congressional Black Caucus sits on the cusp of dramatically increased power since the resounding defeat of the Republican Party in last fall’s elections. Tomorrow marks the first day of Democratic power in 12 years. They are officially large and in charge. It’s been a long time in coming and the excuses and evasive maneuvers to do anything progressive will no longer be accepted.
Tomorrow, these Negroes become the most powerful black politicians in the world. With power comes enormous responsibility. In the sixties, seventies, and eighties, although significantly smaller in number and influence, the CBC used its power to empower the Diaspora. Adam Clayton Powell used his Chairmanship of the House Education and Labor Committee to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through Congress in cooperation with LBJ and MLK. He played Mr. Inside to Dr. King’s Mr. Outside.
The Seventies saw my personal hero, Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to sit in Congress, run for President. The Caucus pushed for full employment with the Humphrey Hawkins Bill, renewed and expanded the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to include language minorities, defeated two right-wing Nixon nominees to the Supreme Court, and pushed for a progressive urban agenda for our urban centers.
The Eighties saw the CBC again renew and expand the Voting Rights Act for 25 years, fight the racist neo confederate ideology of the Reagan Administration to destroy busing, affirmative action, and Civil Rights Enforcement. In addition, the Caucus belatedly supported Jesse Jackson’s path-breaking runs for President, and aggressively fought to increase the minimum wage and end Apartheid in South Africa. Moreover, the Caucus took some high profile chairmanships and elected Bill Gray Majority Whip, the highest ranking position an African American has ever held in the leadership.
The Nineties and the new millennium brought in a reigning ethos of complete abdication of responsibility to the black community and a dangerous sycophancy toward the Clintons that the Diaspora still hasn’t recovered from. CBC sycophancy allowed the caucus to endorse the dangerous Crime Bill of 1994, a regressive and racist regime of three strikes and you’re out, the legislative failure of the caucus to equalize crack and powder cocaine sentences and the failure to pressure the Clinton Administration to accept the Racial Justice Act, which would have allowed defendants to challenge the racially disproportionate application of the Death Penalty. The Caucus suffered another high profile setback when it failed to effectively fight a horrific Effective Death Penalty Effectiveness Act in 96 that gutted Habeas Corpus and converted the nation’s death rows into assembly lines of punitive and racist retribution.
However, the greatest failure of the Caucus during this period continued to be Foreign Policy and the persistent neglect of the African Diaspora. Caucus negligence during this period allowed the Bush and Clinton Administrations to escape accountability for genocide in Rwanda, the overthrow of two democratically elected Haitian governments, civil war in Liberia, Angola, Zaire, Ethiopia, Sierre Leone, Sudan, Somalia, and the Congo. It also allowed the Clinton Administration to completely escape it’s complicity with multi-national pharmaceutical companies to commit genocide by charging full price to the poorest, most indebted nations on earth for life saving anti-retroviral medications. Their subsequent actions serve only to place ineffective band aids on genocide.
The poverty, misery, war, and death that beset the entire African Diaspora is enough to keep the entire Caucus busy playing defense for our people and aggressively challenging the inimical foreign policies of every Administration. They allow all of this while simultaneously genuflecting to a right-wing Israel lobby so effective in defending Israel that it is beginning to look like a mafia inspired protection racket.
Israel is allowed to do anydamnthing that violates the sovereignty and human rights of its neighbors and receives generous foreign aid while Black countries languish in dysfunction, marinate in poverty and civil war, and collapse under the weight of the global pandemic of HIV/AIDS. Our CBC is too distracted and fearful of the wrath of the Israel lobby to fight back. Several members of the CBC are Israel’s bitches up on Capitol Hill: Artur Davis, Hank Johnson, Kendrick Meek, John Lewis, Alcee Hastings, and Gregory Meeks. Nobody heard a peep from any of them while Israel was bombing Lebanon in an unjustified fusillade of missile attacks this past July which disproportionately targeted civilians in direct contravention to the laws of war. Artur Davis and Hank Johnson hold their seats, as I’ve previously explained, as a result of the previous CBC member’s lack of fealty to the Israel lobby’s agenda on the Hill. The ramifications of this betrayal is to elevate Israel’s interests over those of the African Diaspora.
Israel, hellbent on subjugating the Lebaneese, killed 63 children under 18 in a series of attacks analyised by Human Rights Watch which killed 153 non combatant civilians. They ultimately killed at least 400 civilians in indiscriminate attacks that “also killed many dual nationals who were vacationing in Lebanon when the fighting began, including Brazilian, Canadian, German, Kuwaiti, and U.S. citizens.” They did all of this without much of a peep from the CBC so you know when something similarly dirty goes down in the African Diaspora at the hands of devilish American minions, nothing will be said or done by our so-called representatives who claim that they are the “conscious of congress.”
The African Diaspora is dying and nobody seems to care, not even the Congressional Black Caucus.