The Black Commentator has called on the NAACP to dismiss the editor of its publication, THE CRISIS. In our November 4 issue, we published our brief against Victoria Valentine, along with an Open Letter to the magazine and its parent organization from Harvard political scientist Dr. Martin Kilson.

Journalist Dr. Todd Burroughs, who writes frequently for THE CRISIS, Africana.com and other important Black political publications, rose to Valentine’s defense.  Dr. Kilson responded with expected brilliance, and the publishers of BC have also taken the opportunity to elaborate on Valentine’s “weak and confused” guardianship of the magazine’s legacy and the interests of the NAACP.

Valentine’s offending editorial, “Black According to Whom?” is the last item on this page. We begin with BC’s position, followed by Burroughs’ letter and Dr. Kilson’s response.

From the Publishers of The Black Commentator:

Readers of this publication are familiar with our efforts to expose the new crop of politicians that we call Black Trojan Horses, nominal Democrats who consciously collaborate in the rightwing and Republican mission to destroy existing Black political structures. These “stealth” politicians are most useful to the Right in creating the illusion of grave divisions among African Americans along age and income lines. According, they are heavily funded by conservatives, and receive intense and uniformly positive coverage in the corporate media.

Once anointed by media as “new Black leaders,” these subsidized pretenders walk the political high wire for their paymasters. For example, they endorse public vouchers for private schools, a political demand first put forward by the most extreme elements of the Hard Right in order to encourage privatization of public institutions, drive a wedge between Blacks and public employees (a large proportion of whom are Black), and undermine the political positions of established organizations such as the NAACP.

To our shock and amazement, Victoria Valentine, editor of THE CRISIS, the NAACP publication founded by W.E.B. DuBois in 1910, dedicated the online home page of the September/October issue to a defense the most notorious Trojan Horse of all: Cory Booker, the failed candidate for Mayor of Newark, NJ.

Booker, a board member of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), a Bradley Foundation-created school voucher front-group (see Trojan Horse Watch in this issue), is described by Valentine as a “liberal,” a term she also applies to Denise Majette, the Right-funded, onetime Republican who defeated Georgia Rep. Cynthia McKinney, and to Artur Davis, whose victory over Alabama Rep. Earl Hilliard was bankrolled by the Right. Worse, editor Valentine arbitrarily linked the Trojan Horse trio to other young Black politicians such as Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. – a grave disservice to Jackson, Kilpatrick and Ford.

 

 

 

 

Valentine swallows whole the Right’s and the corporate media’s unsubstantiated line, that Blacks “greatly differ” on issues of “welfare and education reform and tax cuts... depending on income, age and education level attained....”

The most grievous, direct damage was done to Valentine’s parent organization, the NAACP. She dismisses Booker’s voucher activities and leadership position in the BAEO, facts of which she should be aware, as openness "to ideas in education reform."

Does Valentine not know that the NAACP has locked horns with Booker’s voucher crowd across the length and breadth of the nation, in courtrooms, statehouses, on Capitol Hill and in the streets? That the NAACP is the object of ridicule and scorn in the ranks of Booker and Majette supporters and funders, everywhere? That the oft-stated goal of right-wingers in money and media is to replace the NAACP and other “civil rights-type” organizations with “new Black leaders” of more “moderate” and “independent” bent – invariably citing Cory Booker, Denise Majette and Artur Davis?

Valentine seems oblivious to the NAACP’s position on defense of public education – or does she believe that the ongoing conflict over vouchers amounts to no more than a preference for white wine over red?

Let us remind Valentine what her leaders have to say about vouchers for private schools.

NAACP President Kweisi Mfume: "Vouchers are a pernicious, steal-from-the-poor-and-give-to-the-rich scheme. They take money from our public school students, give it instead to private schools, and abandon many of our children in the process."

NAACP Chairman Julian Bond: "We oppose vouchers. We support public education, where over 80% of American children are educated."

David Levering Lewis, DuBois biographer and CRISIS board member, believes the magazine's great founder and editor would oppose vouchers: "I've heard Dubois' name invoked as an enemy of affirmative action, someone who might favor vouchers. Those things seem quite unlikely to me...."

Former Colorado Springs NAACP head Willie Breazell was ousted because of his support of vouchers. Breazell now sits on the board of the BAEO, with Cory Booker.

Yet Victoria Valentine gives aid and comfort to Booker, and has so far gotten away with it.

THE CRISIS board of directors is separate from, but includes many notables of, the NAACP. They are: Mfume, Bond, Levering Lewis, David Schneiderman, Ken Bentley, Justice Laura Blackburne, Bishop William Graves, Gwendolyn Smith Iloani, Vernon Jarrett, and Joe Madison. Roger Wilkins is Chairman of the Board and Publisher of the magazine, directly responsible for editor Valentine.

We at The Black Commentator are most concerned that the NAACP does not appear, in this instance, to be prepared to defend itself from propaganda generated by the magazine's own employee, within its own pages. This does not augur well for the long struggle ahead, which will be waged against the same rich think tanks and corporate media whose premises Valentine repeats like a catechism.

In our November 4 issue, we called for Valentine's dismissal by the board as "a weak and confused guardian at the gates of its venerable publication." Our colleague Todd Burroughs, in his reply, published below, calls that "destructive criticism" and urges us to "save it for those who oppose us, not those with whom we just disagree."

Burroughs accuses us of lacking "civility" toward Valentine and suggests that we got carried away due to being "caught up in their righteous and proper campaign against Booker's affiliations."

 

 

 

 

We resent the condescension. Our criticism and conclusions regarding Valentine's editorial are direct and need no interpretation. She undermines the NAACP's mission in fundamental ways, and has shown a mindset to do future damage to the organization - an institution that is an important part of the African American legacy. If Burroughs thinks this is a matter of politeness, he needs to get serious about struggle and the real meaning of solidarity. The collegial embrace from the editor of THE CRISIS is exactly what Booker needed to show his paymasters that he, Majette and Davis remain a credible alternative to... the NAACP! Valentine gives the trio her blessing, and they march off to do surrogate battle against her employers and what's left of Black leadership - after a stop at the bank, of course.

Directly opposite Valentine's odious editorial is a link to a statement by DuBois, edited by CRISIS board member David Levering Lewis. Here is how the man who inspired generations of progressive Black intellectuals and activists viewed corporate dominion over political discourse in the United States:

"The organized effort of American industry to usurp government surpasses anything in modern history, " he warned. "From the use of psychology to spread the truth has come the use of organized gathering of news to guide public opinion and then deliberately to mislead it by scientific advertising and propaganda. This has led in our day to suppression of truth, omission of facts, misinterpretation of news, and deliberate falsehood on a wide scale. Mass capitalistic control of books and periodicals, news gathering and distribution, radio, cinema, and television has made the throttling of democracy possible and the distortion of education and failure of justice widespread."

Yet THE CRISIS employs an editor who takes her cues from the corporate media, ignores the funding sources of people she describes as "Black leaders," and attacks those who document the activities of the NAACP's enemies.

"Civility" has no place, here. Get rid of her.

Todd Burroughs' Defense of Editor Victoria Valentine

Dear BlackCommentator.com,

I sincerely appreciated the spirit in which the deservedly legendary Martin Kilson responded in BlackCommentator.com to The "Editor's Note" of the September/October 2002 edition of The Crisis, a publication of which I have been proud to freelance for during the past two years. However, I disagreed with the editorial context in which Kilson's comments were placed, and would like to present my own views on the entire controversy.

I agree with Kilson that Booker's affiliations with the Bradley Foundation and the Manhattan Institute, among other right-wing groups, should have been included in Crisis editor Victoria Valentine's column. I also agree with him that any implication that Denise Majette and Cory Booker are "liberals" is incorrect. I think that any editorial errors were honestly made and were not designed, as BlackCommentator.com's introduction seemed to imply, to "bestow political cover" to closet Black conservatives. I hope Ms. Valentine will consider a future "Editor's Note" column clarifying her views and discussing this controversy.

However, I believe that the issues Ms. Valentine brought up are completely valid, as is the framework in which she presented the conflict. There are serious generation, "authenticity" and ideological gaps in Black America in 2002, and constantly bringing up the NAACP's long and illustrious history can't paper that reality over. I humbly suggest that Dr. Kilson expose himself to Black-targeted media forums designed for those under 30 so he can see the diverse political and social views held by Black young adults. He could start with magazines such as Port of Harlem, Colorlines and The Source.

I have written about the issues surrounding Booker for another Black-oriented website. Although I appreciate BlackCommentator.com's muckraking on the issue of Booker's "stealth candidacy," my reporting - which included interviews with several liberals and progressives in the city - found that Booker and his political views were more complicated than the simplistic labeling of him because of some of his sponsors. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I doubt that even the Democratic Leadership Council - the neo-conservative group that spawned Bill Clinton, America's so-called first "Black" president - would recognize an arch-conservative "plant" as a future leader of the party. I believe Booker is just a Black version of Clinton - an Ivy League political opportunist who plays all sides for his benefit.

Booker may be to the right of Harold Ford and Jesse Jackson, Jr., but all of them can be placed together as a "new" generation of Black political leaders who do not necessarily see themselves as being in lockstep with the traditional liberal-to-left-of-center civil rights agenda. That is a documented sociopolitical reality within the Black community. For example, some Black educators who own private community schools may not necessarily be against vouchers, and may see the issue as necessary "education reform." If Ms. Valentine chose to make an argument in the pages of The Crisis from that point, it would be an opinion, not an error. And that's what Ms. Valentine wrote - an opinion.

Let us remember that Crisis founding editor W.E.B. DuBois used to write his opinions in the publication, and not all meshed with current NAACP policy. It's good to see 20th century traditions continue.

Now to the call for Valentine's removal. I have disagreed with editors of Black publications before, and have not been afraid to tell them of my disagreement to their faces. But I would never publicly call an editor of a Black publication a "weak or confused guardian," or called for her ouster, if I disagreed with her or thought her analysis or reporting was faulty. I would instead look at the opportunity to educate a powerful player on an important issue. By calling for the NAACP board to remove Ms. Valentine, The BlackCommentator.com obviously disagrees with this tactic.

In the past, I have yielded to the temptation of publicly criticizing other writers as an attempt to generate heat. I learned my lesson from that experience when I saw it alienated instead of educated. I'm sure that BlackCommentator.com wants to generate light, saving the heat for those who really deserve it. If our criticism is constructive, it may not generate the welcome attention to our worthwhile endeavors that we want. But it also will not create unnecessary antagonisms among our few existing Black-controlled media outlets.

I will continue to support The Crisis, The BlackCommentator.com and all Black media that honestly attempt to explain and define issues from our varied perspectives. I only humbly request that we are civil in our dealings with each other---a civility Dr. Kilson displayed and that The BlackCommentator.com editors, in my opinion, seemed to jettison because they were caught up in their righteous and proper campaign against Booker's affiliations.

If we must engage in destructive criticism, let's save it for those who oppose us, not those with whom we just disagree.

In Solidarity And With Respect,

Todd Steven Burroughs, Ph.D.
Researcher/Writer-At-Large

tburroughs@jmail.umd.edu


REPLY TO TODD STEVEN BURROUGHS: THE ISSUE IS NOT THE
OPINIONS OF "THE CRISIS'S" EDITOR, BUT HER ANALYSIS

By
MARTIN KILSON

In general, my reaction to Todd Burroughs' comments on my Black Commentator column that critiqued the "Editor's Note" in the September/October issue of THE CRISIS and his comments on the introductory note by the editors of Black Commentator is a mixed one.

First, I can see how Burroughs' could interpret the introductory note by the editors of Black Commentator as being somewhat "uncivil" - causing Burroughs to request that "we are civil in our [argumentative] dealings with each other". But as I read the introductory note it struck me as "tough-minded" rather than "uncivil."

Underlying the "tough-minded" commentary by the editors of Black Commentator is, I think, a keen recognition that the public policy purposes driving rightwing conservative and Republican party forces which launch "stealth candidacies" among African-Americans (like the Cory Booker candidacy in Newark's mayoral election this year) are systemically reactionary. Accordingly, "hard-headed" and "tough-minded" thinking and action are required on the part of the liberal and progressive sector of African-American leadership groups like the NAACP, National Urban League, the Congressional Black Caucus, etc., not fantasy-prone "polite thinking" or "civil thinking." I got the feeling from Burroughs' reply that he was confusing "tough-minded" discourse with "raucous-prone" discourse, but this, I can assure Mr. Burroughs, is just not the intellectual style of the intellectually sophisticated editors of Black Commentator.

Second, I couldn't agree more with Burroughs that in commenting favorably on the emergence of "new generation" political leaders among African-Americans, Victoria Valentine - editor of THE CRISIS - has a right to "her opinion." However, the important issue in regard to these inevitably new developments in African-American society that relate to generational patterns is not "our opinion". The important issue is that we produce in our writings on new generational dynamics a viable and effective analysis. And this is especially so for someone writing as editor of the main organ of African-Americans' premier and most effective ethnic-bloc political organization - the NAACP.

Thus, it was for this reason that I pointed out in my original reply to Valentine's "Editor's Note" in THE CRISIS (September/October) that Valentine was gravely in error when suggesting, as I put it, "a parallel political symmetry between Cory Booker - a genuine 'stealth candidate' - and Tennessee's U.S. Representative Harold Ford…. While Representative Ford, as a Black member of Congress, has fashioned a neo-liberal format for himself, this neo-liberal format remains genuinely committed to the core public policy goals of the longstanding mainline African-American leadership's civil rights agenda [the NAACP's agenda in effect]."

 

 

 

Alas, Victoria Valentine, as I pointed out in my reply, compounded this erroneous "opinion" when she went on to suggest, as I put it, "a parallel political symmetry between Cory Booker and other young Black politicians, such as Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. (Democrat- Ill.) and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, but this is just analytically disingenuous. Jackson and Kilpatrick, like Representative Ford, while creatively broadening the alliance pattern among African-American office-holders, remain genuinely committed to the core public policy goals of the mainline African-American leadership's civil rights agenda. In short, the NAACP's agenda."

Again, let me say to Mr. Burroughs that this issue is not a simple matter of Ms. Valentine's "opinion". Rather it is a crucial matter of presenting a viable and effective analysis of new patterns in African-American political life. Ms. Valentine, I suggest, did not produce a viable and effective analysis in her "Editor's Note" in September/October issue of THE CRISIS. Given the fact that THE CRISIS functions as a crucial organ of the premier political agency for African-Americans - the NAACP - I for one consider it imperative that pieces written either by staff of THE CRISIS or officials of the NAACP emphasize the goal of viable and effective analysis.

I noticed in Mr. Burroughs' reply that he mentioned the name of the great W.E.B. DuBois (next to Frederick Douglass and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of the three greatest African-American leaders ever) in regard to the production of THE CRISIS. Mr. Burroughs failed to mention what was most crucial about DuBois' three-decade headship of THE CRISIS. Namely, his brilliant capacity to attain the goal of viable and effective analysis in virtually every essay and commentary he penned for THE CRISIS.

One final thought. The American media - newspapers and magazines especially - have given a lot of attention to the "generational issue," let's call it, in African-American society over the past decade, and in the past several years political aspects of the generational issue have been particularly emphasized. The most up-to-date survey of African-American political attitudes available to me is the "2002 National Opinion Poll of Blacks" produced by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, DC.

While the various questions put to African-Americans in this poll clearly reveal "generational differences" on a variety of political subjects, these differences are in general not massive. For instance, TABLE 5 records responses to the query, "Do you feel things in the country are generally going in the right direction…?" Some 66. 4% of Blacks in 18-25 age bracket and 67.5% in 26-35 bracket replied "wrong direction." This compared with 70.4% in 36-50 age bracket and 68.8% in 51-64 bracket who replied "wrong direction." Viewed in generational terms, the foregoing cross-generational differences are not at all large.

Cross-generational differences get larger when the Joint Center pollsters asked African-Americans to express their "party identification." In general, the older you are the more likely you identify as a Democrat. Thus, in 51-64 bracket some 70% of African-Americans identified as "Democrat" as did 65% in the 36-50 age bracket. On the other hand, in the 26-35 age bracket some 56% identified as "Democrat" as did 54% in the 18-25 age bracket. However, the lower identification as "Democrat" among the younger age brackets (18-35) did not translate into a sizable identification as "Republican". Only 9% of 18-25 bracket identified as "Republican", for example. Instead, the lower identification as "Democrat" among 18-25 bracket translated into identification as "Independent" - one third - while 21% among both 36-50 and 51-64 age brackets identified as "Independent."

When compared with the small generational difference among African-Americans in regard to attitudes toward the policy direction in America under the Republican Bush Administration as the "wrong direction," the generational difference in "party identification" is more distinct and larger. Even so, when African-Americans were asked to "pull-the-election-trigger", so to speak, the larger generational difference in "party identification" did not show up in TABLE 9 of the Joint Center's poll which asked African-Americans how they would vote in the upcoming 2002 elections for the House of Representatives.

In response to this question, 74.7% of 51-64 age bracket replied, "Vote for Democrat" and 72.1% of 36-50 age bracket replied likewise. By comparison, nearly 70% (69.8% to be exact) of 26-35 age bracket replied "Vote Democrat" as did 69% of the 18-25 age bracket. On the other hand, at the younger end of the generational spectrum, only 14.7% of the 18-25 age bracket replied "Vote for Republican," compared to 10.7% of the 36-50 age bracket and a miniscule 3.2% of the 51-64 age bracket.

In short, when it comes to making the crucial decision of voting in the American electoral process as of November 2002, the so-called "generational gap" among African-Americans is still relatively marginal. Whether the launching of "stealth candidacies" by rightwing conservative and Republican forces among African-American voters - candidacies like that mounted by city councilman Cory Booker in Newark's mayoral campaign this year - will intensify a political "generational gap" among African-Americans remains to be seen. Also, it remains to be seen whether efforts by some African-American legislators at the federal or state level to maneuver in the direction of neo-liberal legislative alliances will similarly intensify a political "generational gap" among African-Americans.

I don't want to wager a prognosis on this very important issue here. But I can say that as long as broad sections of our African-American citizenry continue to confront numerous barriers to attaining access to viable working-class and middle-class existence in our society that are a legacy of America's century-old racist practices, I don't envisage anything one would call a "cataclysmic generational gap" politically among African-Americans. Today, perhaps some 35% to 40% of African-American households fall in the category of "poor families" and "weak working-class families," and from where I sit ideologically and politically I would hope generational cleavages will not weaken the capacity of future African-American political patterns to play a major role in facilitating the advancement of these poor and weak African-American families. For me, this must be a major future goal of the liberal and progressive sectors among African-Americans today.

MARTIN KILSON

Dr. Martin Kilson is a longtime NAACP supporter and author of the forthcoming two-volume work, The Making of Black Intellectuals: Studies on the African-American Intelligentsia.

Black According to Whom?,
A Message from the Editor, Victoria L. Valentine...

This election season there were a number of heated contests in which Black incumbents faced Black challengers. In these races pitting Democrats against one another, most of the focus has been on the fact that the incumbents have been political veterans who have rarely faced real competition and their challengers have often been younger, relatively green candidates.

But there are other qualities about the opponents that the veteran politicians have exploited in their efforts to hold onto the support of their constituents. The political establishment has characterized the challengers as not authentically Black, an indictment once only lavished (with equal ridiculousness) on Black republicans.

The newcomers are liberal like their opponents, but because they may have attended Ivy League schools, haven't grown up poor enough, have a diverse base of support and may be more moderate on key issues, they are being cast as not Black enough.

Some young politicians, including Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. (D-TN) and former Newark City Councilman Cory Booker are open to ideas in education reform, that are controversial to civil rights veterans who fought to integrate public schools. And candidates such as Denise Majette, who defeated Rep. Cynthia McKinney in the Democratic primary for the 4th district of Georgia, and Artur Davis, who successfully challenged Rep. Earl F. Hilliard (D-Ala.) for his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, have courted controversy in the Black establishment because their campaigns were significantly supported by Whites and Jewish organizations outraged at their opponents' views on the Middle East. Rev. Al Sharpton, campaigning in Birmingham for Hilliard, said, "Everybody that's our color is not our kind. Everybody that's our skinfolk is not our kinfolk."

The most poignant example occurred in this season's mayoral election in Newark, N.J. Mayor Sharpe James, who has served since 1986, faced a viable opponent in 33-year-old Booker, a tenant lawyer who had already beaten a four-term incumbent for a seat on the city council. Next, Booker who grew up in a New Jersey suburb, and graduated from Stanford University and Yale Law School before heading to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, challenged James, 66, in the mayoral election. James managed to garner 53 percent of the vote and will serve a fifth four-year term. But the campaign was ugly. It was widely reported that James called booker a "faggot White boy." According to New York magazine, James' spokesman explained the slur as an "emotional reaction."

There's no doubt that these up and coming leaders are passionate about their race. And that's likely why they entered politics to begin with - to better the lot of the African American community. But as beneficiaries of civil rights and other legislative advancements accomplished by their predecessors, rising Black politicians like Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick have benefited from integrated environments at school, work and home. While their priorities remain with issues of traditional concern to Blacks, they also have expanded interests and expertise. Which was the goal, I thought, of us overcoming.

Once in office, Black politicians trying to build coalitions and work on business issues, for example, have enough problems dealing with the biases of those outside the race without worrying about being judged by those within the race.

It really should come down to the issues. The Black community has traditionally voted as a bloc (sometimes with success, sometimes not) in areas such as welfare and education reform and tax cuts, but increasingly, depending on income, age and education level attained, African Americans greatly differ on these matters.

If we don't agree with a Black politician's stand on issues (or are concerned about the source of his or her financial support), we just shouldn't vote for them, not question their Blackness.

Website of THE CRISIS
http://www.thecrisismagazine.com/
e-Mail address for Letter to the Editor of THE CRISIS
thecrisiseditorial@naacpnet.org

 

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Issue Number 16
November 14, 2002

 

 

 

 

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Other commentaries in this issue:

Trojan Horse Watch
Bush Funds Black Voucher Front Group... Your tax dollars pay for propaganda blitz

e-MailBox
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Exposed... The Trojan Horse in CBC... Wild about Harry

Briefs
The Simple Sayings of Harold Ford, Jr.... Sad and silly remarks from Sharpton, Rangel... Putting together a winning minority

Re-Print
Environmental Justice for People of Color... Summit draws 1,200 delegates to Washington

Guest Commentary
The Sniper & the Nation of Islam...By D.H. Muhammad


Commentaries in Issue 15 November 4 , 2002:

Analysis
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Bogus Election "Study"
Black Majette vote grossly inflated, analysis reveals By Bruce A. Dixon, Associate Editor

Guest Commentary 1
Harvard Professor Lambasts THE CRISIS Editor
Martin Kilson says magazine bolsters NAACP foe

Commentary
Wellstone: The best of them all

Briefs
Permanent war, permanent Uncle Toms
NAACP for peace
Solitary killers and mass muderousness
Prisoners of the American gulag

Re-Print
Politics Trumps Religion:
Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative
By Barbara Miner

e-MailBox
Belafonte’s courage
Race and war hysteria
Baraka’s verse
Unpaid debt in Zimbabwe


You can read any past issue of The Black Commentator in its entirety by going to the Past Issues page.