A must read by ALL on July 4th. This was written before the end of slavery…over 150 years ago…
Contextually, while some things have changed since July 5, 1852, I am struck, every year when I re-read it, at how the themes he discusses apply to myself and my community even today.
I would love your thoughts on this piece once you have read it…
Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too Ñ great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory….
…Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?
Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation’s sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation’s jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the “lame man leap as an hart.”
But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common.ÑThe rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!
“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.”
Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave’s point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America.is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery Ñ the great sin and shame of America! “I will not equivocate; I will not excuse”; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.
But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, “It is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, an denounce less; would you persuade more, and rebuke less; your cause would be much more likely to succeed.” But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia which, if committed by a black man (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the acknowledgment that the slave is a moral, intellectual, and responsible being? The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read or to write. When you can point to any such laws in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, then will I argue with you that the slave is a man!
For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are ploughing, planting, and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver and gold; that, while we are reading, writing and ciphering, acting as clerks, merchants and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators and teachers; that, while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hill-side, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives and children, and, above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian’s God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men!
Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for Republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to be understood? How should I look to-day, in the presence of Amercans, dividing, and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom? speaking of it relatively and positively, negatively and affirmatively. To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding. There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.
What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their mastcrs? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employment for my time and strength than such arguments would imply.
What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman, cannot be divine! Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may; I cannot. The time for such argument is passed.
At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.
Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival….
…Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from “the Declaration of Independence,” the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind. Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. It makes its pathway over and under the sea, as well as on the earth. Wind, steam, and lightning are its chartered agents. Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday excursion. Space is comparatively annihilated. — Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic are distinctly heard on the other.
The far off and almost fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our feet. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, “Let there be Light,” has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China must be seen in contrast with nature. Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. ‘Ethiopia, shall, stretch. out her hand unto Ood.” In the fervent aspirations of William Lloyd Garrison, I say, and let every heart join in saying it:
God speed the year of jubilee
The wide world o’er!
When from their galling chains set free,
Th’ oppress’d shall vilely bend the knee,
And wear the yoke of tyranny
Like brutes no more.
That year will come, and freedom’s reign,
To man his plundered rights again
God speed the day when human blood
Shall cease to flow!
In every clime be understood,
The claims of human brotherhood,
And each return for evil, good,
Not blow for blow;
That day will come all feuds to end,
And change into a faithful friend
God speed the hour, the glorious hour,
When none on earth
Shall exercise a lordly power,
Nor in a tyrant’s presence cower;
But to all manhood’s stature tower,
By equal birth!
That hour will come, to each, to all,
And from his Prison-house, to thrall
Until that year, day, hour, arrive,
With head, and heart, and hand I’ll strive,
To break the rod, and rend the gyve,
The spoiler of his prey deprive —
So witness Heaven!
And never from my chosen post,
Whate’er the peril or the cost,
The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, Volume II
Pre-Civil War Decade 1850-1860
Philip S. Foner
International Publishers Co., Inc., New York, 1950Africans in America/Part 4/Frederick Douglass speech.
I just can’t say or write it any better than this!! Race, racism, white privilege & entitlement, and supremacy is written all over this incident. The implications are long and deep. Hopefully, not just those who are victimized by this type of behavior and thought will speak on it. For it is those with the power that must work to change themselves and their effects on those they victimize.
Racism = Prejudice + Power… Do the Math!
If you understand nothing else, know this. To be Black in America means “we can’t do what they do.” A dear friend spoke those words to me over 20 years ago and I have never forgotten them. Forget making derisive remarks about others in the public square, the fact is we aren’t allowed to get angry or show disappointment openly. To be labeled “difficult” or “angry” is to be marginalized. For African American men and women the vicious stereotypes around what is deemed “aggressive” for us but standard behavior for others is often the difference between a paycheck and the soup line.
“Who do you think you are?” I’ve been asked. “You think a lot of yourself,” the same boss said. I collected myself and quietly left his office that day. I ain’t nobody’s saint but, like Obama, there was nothing I could say without getting frog-marched out of the building.
So Obama will say nothing. He will never address the malicious attacks on his character by respected journalists or side-show carnival barkers. He can’t. He cannot say a nary word about how utterly indecent it all is.
There is something to be said about what we’re becoming. Or maybe it’s about what we’ve always been. A nation with two sets of rules. Mark Halperin may as well have called the president an “uppity Negro.” We’ve been here before. – Goldie Taylor
Without coalescing around some type of political power, legislators too often don’t give those most in need top priority. The poor don’t “butter their bread” so they fall down the list of important constituents…
It is in that context that I am forced to assume that if Washington politicians ever knew the sting of poverty then they have long since vanquished the memory. How else to qualify their positions? In fact, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, nearly half of all members of Congress are millionaires, and between 2008 and 2009, when most Americans were feeling the brunt of the recession, the personal wealth of members of Congress collectively increased by more than 16 percent. Must be nice.
Poverty is brutal, consuming and unforgiving. It strikes at the soul.
You defend yourself with hope, hard work and, for some, a helping hand. But these weapons grow dull in an economy on the verge of atrophy, in a job market tilting ever more toward the top and in a political environment that would sacrifice the weak to the wealthy. – Charles Blow
A legitimate critique…
“Today’s economy has made it easier to fall into poverty. … Every American is vulnerable to the insecurities and anxieties of this new economy. And that’s why the single most important focus of my economic agenda as president will be to pursue policies that create jobs and make work pay,” Obama said that day to his mostly black audience.
At that time, the nation’s overall unemployment rate was 4.7%. Whites had a jobless rate of 4.2% while the black unemployment rate stood at 8.1%. Today, the black rate is 15.5%, nearly double that of white job-seekers.
I don’t blame Obama for the economic conditions that are responsible for so many blacks being out of work. The seeds of this problem were planted long before he moved into the Oval Office. But I do fault him for not doing more to fix this problem.
The poor in urban America, he said in that 2007 speech, “suffer most from a politics that has been tipped in favor of those with the most money, and influence, and power.” And then he asked rhetorically, “How can a country like this allow it?” To which he answered, “We can’t.”
But so far, under his leadership, he has allowed it.
Finding work for the jobless is the best anti-poverty program this nation can mount. But while the Obama administration spends $608 million during the first 17 days of its involvement in Libya’s civil war — it can muster neither the money nor the will to combat black unemployment. – DeWayne Wickham
The Zookeeper Ads
The title role of The Zookeeper is played by Kevin James. No coincidence. No relation to LeBron James (Uh, actually I don’t know about that. Consult your nearest white anthropologist.) Zoos have lots of animals. Yet, during this showdown against LeBron James, the the commercials featured only one animal consistently. Yep. A gorilla. Said beast is shown thumping to hip-hop in one commercial with the white zookeeper and playing basketball with him in another.
I kid you not.
This is very serious comedy for Racist Man—and for Racist Woman; who is seen dancing cheek to cheek in a bar with the gorilla while the zookeeper looks on.
Planet of the Apes Ads
The Planet of the Apes commercials don’t clown nearly as much. These really just emphasize and amplify the threat of apes that have, finally, gotten smart. This part is not complicated. And, that’s what makes both films so fun and funny to white people. No need to whisper or hide these messages. As we have yet to get smart, a fun past-time for white people is to check the tweets on the commercials and then forward them to their friends for a high-five belly-laugh. Here’s a tweet by a black person that likely made the rounds on the droids of some white people: “I can’t wait for this to drop so I can take my nieces and nephews to see it.”
If you go to see either of these films, please don’t take little victims with you. Here is my recommended method of viewing the film if you decide to pay for it: Go with a more informed black person. Sit in the middle of the theatre and turn to each other at every racist punch line.—- When white people sitting in the rows in front of you deduce from the quietness of those behind them that there is a smarter black person in their midst, the theatre will start sounding like a Lutheran church funeral. Then, when the film is over, be the last to leave the theatre to bask in the bizarre silence that confirms that you’ve taken some enjoyment out of practicing racism for white people. It might make the film less profitable for them in more ways than one. Now, that’s good fun.
*GWH =great white hope.
Postscript: If I could write the screenplay to this Bosh-James-Wade drama, the Heat would win the championship and all three would retire at the main news conference following the series with no explanation given.
Post-postscript—Because there is no logical placement for this observation it clumsily appears here. There is an AT&T commercial that appears during the series showing intermittently a gorilla climbing a skyscraper. At the end of the commercial, there is a black male with a hardhat standing at the top of a skyscraper that is under construction. There is no relationship of the gorilla to the product or narrative of the ad. It’s just raw racism (white supremacy). Grab your women. Grab their women. The black male is loose and climbing. Stop him. – http://cree7.wordpress.com/
Honestly, I’m not sure I know of an instance where someone Black has brought up race illegitimately. Race is everywhere. The notion that Blacks play the race card to gain advantage is silly to me. Considering race is used against Blacks and other minorities on a daily basis by the majority culture in power with impunity, how can minorities play the race card “for advantage” at all? We are, consistently, disadvantaged…
There’s a reasonable debate to be had here, even if many Americans don’t want to hear it.
Instead, we continue to insist on taking a dispositional, personality-based view of racial bias. Only “racists” exhibit bias, we think. Therefore, to admit that race could have played a role in a given decision is to paint the decision-maker in the broad brushstrokes of hopeless bigotry. And we’re hesitant to do that since most of the decision-makers in question don’t look to us like out-and-out bigots. Instead, we assume there must be a reasonable race-neutral explanation:
• Most employers aren’t racists, so racial disparity in a company’s hiring tendencies must result from other factors, like there simply not being enough strong applications from qualified minority candidates.
• Few attorneys or judges are bigots, so what look to be racial differences in say, how they evaluate potential jurors must result from other, race-neutral considerations in their jury selection calculations.
• The arresting officer used to run diversity training sessions for his colleagues, so race couldn’t have played a role in his decision to arrest the Black professor who was legally inside his own home–the professor must have been a disorderly jerk who warranted arrest.
• Race has nothing to do with it; we just don’t believe that the dark-skinned president with the funny name was born in this country (or that many of his supporters are “real Americans,” for that matter).
The ready availability of race-neutral explanations for any given decision allows us to stick to the party line that “this one isn’t about race.” But the aggregated data tell different stories. Résumés with Black-sounding names get 50% fewer call-backs than résumés with White-sounding names. The same juror background is seen more positively by a prosecutor when the juror is White than when the juror is Black. And so on. – Sam Sommers
His critique is and has always been…legitimate. You cannot argue with his point of view…
Hard to see how this type of manifested self-hate (intra-racial prejudice) as a direct result of 400 years of slavery, Jim Crow, white privilege and white supremacy that has played a lawful, psychological and physical effect on an oppressed people. The results of which play and manifest themselves generation after generation after generation…
Racism = Prejudice + Power
This piece is so powerful. It outlines how racism inhabits the actions and thoughts of those who not only claim not to be racist but also claim that they really do want and value diversity. While the writer couches her thoughts on racism through the work she does with feminist groups, I’m sure you can imagine this sort of story repeating itself in the halls of academia, religion, corporate and industry institutions, police forces, financial institutions and so on. Diversity, like Love, is an action word. It’s not enough to say it. You have to actively pursue it. What I found fascinating was that given the choice of continuing the comfortability of racism and white supremacy and the uncomfortability of diversity and power-sharing and equal opportunity…these women in power CHOSE racism.
This happens everywhere. And it needs to be called by its name…Racism.
This is the moment when personal prejudice can be coupled with power to enforce discrimination at an institutional level: this, in short, is where racism lives. It is a small group of 4-5 women who really control all the decisions and resources of the organization, and who will set a tone of cooperation or poison the atmosphere. 501(c)(3)s — especially the small ones — are personality driven. This means that a small group of women pour their hearts and souls and much of their financial resources into building the organization, and feel a strong proprietary interest. They are comfortable with each other, often because they are all the same race and class, etc. Mary and I eventually came to realize that unless the core group wants the change, no change will ever happen. Short of voting with their feet (which many feminists do), the members of the organization have no instrument with which they can force positive change that the Powers That Be don’t want to make.
…In short, given the comfort of racism, and the discomfort of active anti-racism, they chose racism, outright. What was there for me to do at that point, except clarify that they had chosen to perpetuate racism, rather than to end it? – hepshiba
Please read this post and comment…
Cornel West’s policy critiques of this President should not be ignored. While his phrasing and word-smithing may need some work, the issues he discusses mirror my own…and I’m certainly happy he is lending his voice to it. Professor West is not lessening Obama’s blackness. But he is calling into question what a president who is supposed to be more attuned to Black issues is doing (or not doing) for that community. As Wilmer Leon, so eloquently says in this video clip, if AIPAC is a constituency that the President must address (peace with Palestine), and Latino’s are a constituency that must be addressed (immigration & Judge Sotomayor), and Gay issues must be addressed (DADT & DOMA), and if Labor issues can be addressed, and of course the corporations and the financial systems have to be spoken too (TARP under Bush & the bailouts of the banks)….why is it so taboo to critique the President for not dealing with a constituency that voted in the upper 90 percentile for this President?? Are our issues not important enough… This is POLITICS people…
Let me know what you think of this clip:
An enlightened discussion on race. One that doesn’t get enough discussion in the dominant culture. Racism is more implicit than explicit nowadays…but it still has detrimental affects and it needs to be called out.
SN: I don’t believe that Cornel West’s recent critique of the President caled into effect the authenticity of Obama’s Blackness. That part of the critique has been greatly over blown…
To the extent that racism remains a problem in America, it isn’t because, as in the 1960s, there was a segment of the American polity that openly embraced the doctrine of white supremacy. Quite the opposite really, Americans are fully capable of both indulging in blanket generalizations in matters of race while forming relationships with members of the group they hold broad negative beliefs about. There’s nothing particularly new about this sort of cognitive dissonance–Thomas Jefferson may have loved Sally Hemmings but it didn’t stop him from owning slaves.
What this means though, is that it’s really not useful to talk about people being “racist,” in the sense of people being committed to white supremacy, but rather the the lingering cognitive dissonance that allows people to reject racism as an idea while still succumbing to prejudice, particularly in anger. No, the Tea Party is not, and never has been the KKK. But that’s really irrelevant to the question of how racism factors into if not opposition to Obama (since, as Somerby points out, any Dem president would be getting the business), but more importantly, how that opposition manifests.
The extent to which Cain and other black conservatives hold appeal to the GOP remains sadly linked to the degree to which they can exonerate Republicans from charges of racism, particularly when it comes to racially charged attacks on Democrats. Take for example, Cain’s declaration that he’s disliked because Democrats are “are doubly scared that a real black man might run against Barack Obama.” The implication here is that Obama is “not a real black man,” because, well, I have no idea, Cain’s dumb critique wasn’t as well fleshed out as that of Cornel West. But conservatives really like the idea of challenging Obama on matters of racial authenticity. As Matt Lewis wrote, “Cain — unlike President Obama (a point sure to come up if Cain gains traction) — knows what it’s like to drink from a “colored” water fountain.” Of course this really just means Cain is older than Obama but you get the point, you don’t have to be a celebrity professor at Princeton to question whether Obama is “really black.” Does Somerby believe this isn’t racist? – Adam Serwer
I support the President. I believe in Hope and Change we can believe in. I campaigned and walked city streets in 2008. And I will vote for him again in 2012. Let’s be clear… I’m not a registered Republican hiding in the cloak of conservatism or acting like I’m an independent. I support the President and my critique doesn’t come from the mindset of nullification or reflexive disagreement for any and everything the President does. They are haters… I am not. Critique does not equal haterade.
Too much of the heat coming from the Chris Hedges piece is focused on the personal rift between West and Obama and not enough on the policy critique that actually is more of a focus of the piece. This Gary Younge post discusses a point of view that is not getting the media attention that is emanating from the discussion of Cornel West’s critique of the President… Let’s talk about it…
“…the post–civil rights era concept of corporate diversity, which many black people have embraced, is central to his symbolism. Racial advancement is increasingly understood not as a process of social change but of individual promotion—the elevation of black faces to high places. Instead of equal opportunities, we have photo opportunities. “We have more black people in more visible and powerful positions,” Angela Davis told me before Obama’s nomination. “But then we have far more black people who have been pushed down to the bottom of the ladder….There’s a model of diversity as the difference that makes no difference, the change that brings about no change.” – Gary Younge
I’m sorry but I have to say it. Again, from my perspective, the elephant in the room is race. O’Reilly has no outrage with Dylan, Bono, Springsteen, or Cash getting invites to the White House when they have made similar stances, in song, as Common. Which begs the question: Why the (feigned) outrage on Fox? What is it about Common or the current White House that causes this angst when none has existed before? Is the difference based on rap music (a predominately Black art form)? Is it the notion that Blacks with guns are considered menacing in this culture? Is it that police are considered beyond reproach when it comes to the Black community (despite copious evidence of generational police brutality in our community)? Is it that Blacks are not allowed to question the authority of white or American institutions? Is it that Blacks cannot portend to anything that is not relatable to white culture? Is it simply the Black man in the White House occupying that space that is not relatable to some in the white culture? Do we as Blacks have to assimilate into white culture and strip away our culture before we can be accepted fully? I’ll even go as far as to say had Michael Eric Dyson or Jeff Johnson or you or I been allowed on O’Reilly’s show and made the same argument as Stewart, would the argument be taken seriously or would it have been dismissed out of hand? Is our commentary not worthy of consideration? Are we not Americans too? Is our story of continued oppression not American enough?
As Joe Madison (Sirius/XM 128) says atleast 3 times a day, “In America, we are culturally conditioned to believe that (anything) Black is inferior and white is superior. And the manifestation of that cultural conditioning is that blacks are underestimated, undervalued and marginalized.” In every aspect of life. At it’s core, I think this is the essence of racism today. As evidenced by the Common firestorm. And I never even heard the N-word once…
Again, Ta-Nehisi Coates:
Though they certainly didn’t tell anyone:
In February 1861, just weeks after Louisiana seceded from the Union, Randall Lee Gibson enlisted as a private in a state army regiment. The son of a wealthy sugar planter and valedictorian of Yale’s Class of 1853, Gibson had long supported secession. Conflict was inevitable, he believed, not because of states’ rights or the propriety or necessity of slavery. Rather, a war would be fought over the inexorable gulf between whites and blacks, or what he called “the most enlightened race” and “the most degraded of all the races of men.” Because Northern abolitionists were forcing the South to recognize “the political, civil, and social equality of all the races of men,” Gibson wrote, the South was compelled to enjoy “independence out of the Union…”Gibson’s siblings proudly traced their ancestry to a prosperous farmer in the South Carolina backcountry named Gideon Gibson. What they didn’t know was that when he first arrived in the colony in the 1730s, he was a free man of color. At the time the legislature thought he had come there to plot a slave revolt. The governor demanded a personal audience with him and learned that he was a skilled tradesman, had a white wife and had owned land and slaves in Virginia and North Carolina. Declaring the Gibsons to be “not Negroes nor Slaves but Free people,” the governor granted them hundreds of acres of land. The Gibsons soon married into their Welsh and Scots-Irish community along the frontier separating South Carolina’s coastal plantations from Indian country. It did not matter if the Gibsons were black or white — they were planters.The Gibsons were hardly alone in their journey from black to white. Hundreds of families of color had gained their freedom in the colonial era because they had English mothers, and within a generation or two, they could claim to be white. Their claims were supported by law, which never drew the color line at “one drop” of African ancestry in the antebellum era. Most Southern states followed a one-quarter or one-eighth rule: anyone with a black grandparent or great-grandparent was legally black, and those with more remote ancestry were legally white. Antebellum South Carolina, though, never had a legal definition of race. “It may be well and proper,” a state judge and leading defender of slavery wrote in 1835, “that a man of worth, honesty, industry and respectability, should have the rank of a white man, while a vagabond of the same degree of blood should be confined to the inferior caste.” Preserving the institution of slavery mattered far more than preserving the purity of white “blood.” As long as people who claimed to be white were productive members of society — in effect, supporting the prevailing order — it made little sense to mandate a stricter measure of race.
It’s important to keep that in mind.
- Tracing lives of three ‘white’ families and their black forebears (boston.com)
- Shades of White (nytimes.com)
The portion of this piece that really struck me was the notion that the injustice alone is not enough for change. Only in the presence of “white interests” is there room for policy changes. This quote said it all:
“Given this political reality (the political reality being White middle class tax hikes that would be necessary to continue state funded mass incarceration), it is hardly a surprise to read a headline that says, “N.A.A.C.P. Joins With Gingrich in Urging Prison Reform,” rather than the other way around. If there were ever an illustration of Professor Bell’s theory that whites will support racial justice only to the extent that it is in their interests, this would seem to be it.”
Even with my political leanings and racial consciousness, this article focused and expanded the extent of white supremacy, for me ,in this country and, I hate to admit, left me a bit nonplussed, frankly. I always say, “race and racism is everywhere” but this really proves the point. Martin Luther King Jr’s quotes below continue to make the point…
In 1963, in his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” he chastised white ministers for their indifference to black suffering: “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.’ ”
He continued: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.” Such language would not have tested well in a focus group. Yet it helped to change the course of history.
Those who believe that righteous indignation and protest politics were appropriate in the struggle to end Jim Crow, but that something less will do as we seek to dismantle mass incarceration, fail to appreciate the magnitude of the challenge. If our nation were to return to the rates of incarceration we had in the 1970s, we would have to release 4 out of 5 people behind bars. A million people employed by the criminal justice system could lose their jobs. Private prison companies would see their profits vanish. This system is now so deeply rooted in our social, political and economic structures that it is not going to fade away without a major shift in public consciousness. – Michelle Alexander
It’s not enough to be against racism. Without actively pursuing it’s end and offering shared power and responsibility, you are only propagating the negativity that is racism…
- Harlem Riverside Church hosts discussion on “The New Jim Crow” (unprison.com)
- Earl Ofari Hutchinson: Method to the Madness in Ron Paul’s War Against Civil Rights (huffingtonpost.com)
At the signing of the historic Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965 striking down the discriminatory practices many states had put in place to prohibit Blacks from exercising their right to vote, President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “Today is a triumph for freedom as huge as any victory that has ever been won on any battlefield.” Many Americans think of the fight for voting rights as a struggle that was settled once and for all during the Civil Rights Movement in that celebrated “triumph for freedom,” and is now a piece of history. But that’s a dangerous assumption. While the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting laws prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, language, ethnicity, religion and age, there is still no law that affirmatively guarantees citizens the right to vote. Just as we are experiencing a quiet but systematic rise in school segregation across the country, many people don’t realize that there is once again a quiet but systematic movement that would deny many African Americans and other American citizens the ability to vote with 21st century versions of old exclusionary practices. – Marian Wright Edelman
I make it a point to read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ columns whenever I can because his style and insight gel with my own. I truly respect his point of view. I found this particular piece worth posting because it discusses race in the context of how the media machine sells us a story that is not a true reflection of the context or the history of the time period…and those perceptions impact our own thoughts. While I never was a fan of the Dukes of Hazzard or the General Lee or the Legend of Jesse James, their American personas have been cleansed from their ugly racial, white supremist and racist histories. I’ve often said that race, for me, drips off of nearly every aspect of life and after reading this piece, I stand more solidly behind that conclusion.
Read this Coates piece and tell me if you agree…
Overall, this is the biography of a violent criminal whose image was promoted and actions extenuated by those who saw him as a useful weapon against black rights and Republican rule. To his credit, Stiles does not shy from employing stark language rarely encountered in American historical writing. During the Civil War, he writes, James was a member of a “death squad” (96) that targeted Unionist civilians and slaves. If he were alive today, Stiles adds, James would be called a “terrorist.” (6) Such language is, of course, anachronistic. But it reminds us that the Klan and kindred groups during Reconstruction killed more Americans than Osama bin Laden. At a time when it has become fashionable to attribute terrorism and the support it engenders to some timeless characteristic of “Islamic civilization,” it is worth remembering that our own history does not lack for the mass killing of civilians or for those who make heroes of murderers.
I grew up, like all kids, admiring the Dukes of Hazzard, thinking the General Lee was cool, and loving Jesse James. It is beyond creepy to be repeatedly confronted with the meaning of so many symbols, and so many people I once admired. I had no idea that Jesse James was, essentially, a white supremacist. I never even considered it. I was just dimly aware that he was a rebel fighting against some ill-defined, hazy order.
But he was fighting against me.
I’m not saying that anti-black racism is the whole of American history. But it runs all through the entire narrative. As a young person, it would have never occurred to me that there was some relation between Jesse James and slavery.
From my perspective, these are some of the truest words I’ve ever heard. I, for one, will not apologize for conscious, truthful, hard-hitting, soulful Black art…and those that produce it.
This manufactured controversy surrounding Common is just another iteration of right-wing racism where the mirror is positioned in front of the collective face of the majority culture and they refuse to see themselves. They refuse to hear any critique of this country from people of color. The same people that built this country and have been and continue to be oppressed by systems, institutions and people that continue to undervalue, underestimate and marginalize us. They continue to talk about “personal responsibility”, all the while dismissing their own as it relates to race and its continued effects. And they have the power to do so. Racism at its finest.
Conservative/Republican/Tea Party members will try to find ANYTHING to be outraged over. This is another in a long line of made up controversies that right wing media has manufactured. Let’s be clear, I don’t care for a lot of the music porported by the right wing media. Some of it I find highly offensive and racist but that never seems to be an issue with them being invited to a Republican Whitehouse or Hannity’s show. Likewise, the President’s choice of vistors doesn’t have to be ok’d by a constantly nagging and perpetually inane right wing media. And its time the media stop being led around by the nose as the right-wing media manufactures another nothing story. After Van Jones, Sherrod, NPR, Planned Parenthood, ACORN, Black Panthers, birthers, deathers, Donald Trump and the like, you would think they would learn.
Common has been an advocate of Obama’s since his presidential campaign. Get a life. And listen to some good music while you’re at it… Check the lyrics.
Updated: Common performs at The White House…
- After White House Invite, Conservatives Get Tough on Soft Rapper | The Nation (bruceturnerjr5.wordpress.com)
- Ari Melber: After White House Invite, Conservatives Get Tough on Soft Rapper (huffingtonpost.com)
- Conservatives upset over rapper Common’s White House invite (cbsnews.com)
- Fox News & Palin Attack White House Poetry Event & Rapper – Common – As “Vile” (jackandjillpolitics.com)
This is the follow-up to Part 1…. (make sure you read the previous post as well…)
It should also be noted that White people (good grief! I hate repeating myself over and over, but some things bear repeating) set up the social institutions in this country in the first place and have continued to run them ever since. So every single problem we have in this country is directly or indirectly attributable to that simple fact. Face it or not, folks. White-controlled social institutions — including the family, education, religion, politics and the economy — are the base foundation from which everything else (bad or good) emanates. Holding Black folks responsible for practices, attitudes, and systems they had NO part of setting up and have not ever even had the least part in running is (1) blaming the victim and (2) sweeping White power under the rug.
Interestingly enough, this is EXACTLY the world view the White Supremacist system (it’s a system, folks, not a person or group of persons) wants folks like Ma (and everybody else) to espouse. It works to keep White Supremacy in place to convince as many as possible (including as many people of color as possible) that Black folks are the problem. That Black inferiority is endemic to their nature. That they can’t help it. That White people and their institutions and their “values” (such as money being more important than life, for example, or the idea that torture is reasonable to accomplish one’s agenda?) are just superior to all others — especially any that might be conceived by anyone else.
- Dismantling Racism (ganglifechicago.com)
Again, the N-word is not necessary for racism to exist…
Obama: Affirmative Action Figure
“Obama had horrendous grades! He only got into Harvard via affirmative action! Good white students have tried to get into Harvard, and they were bounced, but the Negro who wasn’t even trying got in!”
Now, a lot of you with common sense probably thought, “Um … if Obama got in with affirmative action and became the president, isn’t that the best advertisement for affirmative action ever?” Sure. That is, if you cared about the historical context for affirmative action in the first place. Other people don’t agree. They look at affirmative action as yet another way to cater to minorities — you know, like white women, who are the biggest beneficiaries of affirmative action.
It’s not really necessary for me to explain how this particular talking point works. It’s been explained ad nauseam by many. Even the way Trump explains why he was so interested in seeing the president’s birth certificate is a classic game of “Look at the other! He might not be from here! His real certificate might say he’s a Muslim!”
And God forbid that it says that, because of course, when you’re born into the world, you’re forced to keep the religion (even super-evil religions like Islam) of your parents. What? That’s not how it works? Oh. Let’s move on.
Relations With “the Blacks”
We all shook our heads and did a collective “Really?” when Trump bragged about his great relationship with “the blacks.” This statement was immediately followed by Trump’s commentary about how it’s “frightening” that so many blacks support Obama.
“The blacks” went full swing on him for this, but one group wasn’t upset at all — the white Americans who have thought or perhaps even talked out loud about the blacks: “That doesn’t make him racist. I mean, come on! You’re going to attack Trump for a simple slip of the tongue? This is what’s wrong with the liberals and their political correctness. White people can’t say anything!”
And voilà. Support for Trump stays amazingly high within conservative circles, while the media, which are largely responsible for his rise in the GOP ranks, act flabbergasted by his popularity. We aren’t postracial, no matter how much everyone says we’ve gotten past our race issues or denies the racist language of so many in the GOP — including Trump. Perhaps there should be some rephrasing: The folks who have gotten past race are largely the same folks who didn’t have to deal with it in the first place. Privilege has its, well, privileges.
Jesse Jackson recently came out and said that the Birther nonsense is racial code. Is it really code when anyone who’s paying attention can plainly see it? The media are so afraid of playing the “race card” that when something is actually about race, they stand impotent.
It’s this failure to call Trump and others like him on what they’re doing that keeps Trump looking like a contender within the GOP presidential-nominee race. And if Trump isn’t aware of the code he’s dropping, he’s more ignorant than we could ever imagine.
Many people, myself included, are full of rage after the president’s birth certificate press conference and the crowing from Trump that immediately followed. I’ve had friends shed tears over the overt racism seen in Trump’s messaging and its delivery through the mainstream media. Some people have asked, “What do we do now?”
I think the answer is simple: We hold the media responsible. Rage without action equals complacency. We can’t allow this type of backward messaging to go unchallenged. We can’t be afraid of the race card because, for millions and millions, it’s not a card. It’s their life.
To allow the silencing of real issues out of discomfort or fear is unacceptable. Not calling out racism doesn’t make the act less racist. It makes an entire race of people less American. – Elon James White
Agreed. Personally, I wouldn’t have characterised Mendenhall’s tweets on 9/11 or the killing of bin Laden as a “poor decision” because I assume he was smart enough to weigh the consequences of his tweets and it must have been worth it to tweet HIS truth as opposed to staying silent…but I generally agree with everything written here. I was especially stricken by the quote, “…the new definition of insanity (as opposed to the other one that deals with repetition of an old act expecting new results) should be expecting a group of people to be loyal to a country that hasn’t treated them well. It’s like an abusive or neglectful lover getting angry when their partner doesn’t throw them a birthday party; shouldn’t you just be glad she didn’t set your house on fire and leave?” because I don’t think some people of the majority culture get the emotion behind this type of writing. Generally, there is a lack of the ability to see the world with the same eyes as those that have been oppressed in this country. Oppression is not a “one-off” event. There are deep scars and emotional sequelae as the result of oppression. And we don’t spend enough time discussing it.
Speaking of, the treatment of President Obama is a prime example of the way Black people are treated as ‘less-than’ Americans. We are expected to pledge allegiance and commit our loyalties to this country, yet not made privy to the rights and privileges that are guaranteed to its citizens. A White athlete may have been slapped on the wrist and chided for his poorly timed thoughts, but it is unlikely that he would have been attacked in the way that Mendenhall has. If the persons who are so quick to denounce the running back had the same historically abusive relationship to this country, perhaps they would understand how easy it is to question it’s actions.While there is no universal Black American consciousness, there is a long history of Black reticence to accept what has been presented to us by the US government as indisputable truths. Why? Because we have been manipulated, lied to and abused by this country so long as we’ve been here. When we stand up and denounce our mistreatment, we hear “America’s the greatest country in the world! If you don’t like it, leave!” Spoken like a true patriot: someone so blindly loyal to this country- White supremacist patriarchy and all- that they can’t or don’t want to see the misdeeds it has committed against the Colored, the poor, the gay, the female, the immigrant…While I wish that this young man knew better than to use social media to express these particular thoughts, I’d be lying if I said I could blame him for feeling like he doesn’ know the entire story. Sadly, Mendenhall’s race made him a ‘less-than’ American before he opened his virtual mouth and his thoughts confirmed what a lot of folks felt in the first place: that he doesn’t love this country like a ‘real’ American ought to.But why should he?While Mendenhall’s words didn’t seem particularly patriotic, was he not exercising his right to freedom of speech? One of the many rights that the enemies of America seem to resent? One of the freedoms that those like Osama Bin Laden cite as evidence of this country’s evils and reason that we should be taken down? Rashard Mendenhall made the mistake of acting like an American and got a good old fashioned ‘Black wake-up call’. – Jamilah Lemieux (Sista Toldja)
For those that wanted the bin Laden photos released for purely ideological reasons and just because they HAVE to be on the opposite side of the President on every issue…
Since you want the bin Laden photos, should we release the Bush torture photos at Abu Ghraib too?? Be consistent.
The President has decided NOT to release the photos of Osama Bin Laden. Good for him. We killed him; did the DNA test on him, he’s dead, that’s the end of it.
So, why are so many GOPers ‘insisting ‘ that the President release the photos of Bin Laden?
I could go into a long treatise about why, but I think I’ll leave the explanation to our poster coop10, who dropped this knowledge yesterday, and all I could say when I read it was AMEN.
So, why are some GOPers saying that the President should release the photos?:
Let’s not get it twisted. It’s not about the photo of Bin Laden. It’s about exerting power over President Obama. “Boy, since you got Bin Laden on your own without our (Obama-haters of all stripes) input, you bedda damn well put them pictures out.”
What President Obama did, ladies and gentlemen was to emasculate the white man, and they are furious about his doing so. If they can force his hands on those photos, then they can maintain their control over him and the narrative. But he trumped them this time with the mother of all trumps –the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
But what do white men do? They minimize, denigrate, doubt, deride, scorn,and equivocate.
“He didn’t give Bush credit.”
“He just signed off on the mission.”
“He didn’t release the photos. ”
“We don’t know if he’s really dead.”
That a black man with the name of Barack Hussein Obama achieved the ultimate white male fantasy –killing America’s number one enemy–is unforgivable to white men. Obama’s achievement rendered the white man impotent, and so they try to reclaim their power –by demanding the pictures….“Give me those pictures, boy.”But the President of the United States, Barack Obama, won’t give them the chance to assume their white machismo. Instead, he says that we don’t do trophies. We don’t do heads on spikes. We don’t do drunken frat boy stunts.
The black president is rewriting the rules on manhood and American-ness, and the white boys can’t stand it. But after the slap down of Paul Ryan and Donald Trump, the release of his birth certificate and the killing of Bin Laden, President Obama stands as a man among boys– white boys — so they better grow up, in a hurry.