Early 20th Century America had its minstrel shows and other depictions
of grinning, red-lipped watermelon-eating pickaninnies; its Topsy
and Sambo figures in print, advertising and elsewhere. They
lent comforting affirmation to white supremacist fantasies
of black degradation. At the dawn of the 21st century, we have
another cohort of black public figures eager to please the powers
that be by debasing themselves and demeaning their black audiences. No,
not the ignorant studio gangsters on BET. Well, yes, maybe
them too. But today we refer to the clownish cohort of black
political figures in Congress and elsewhere, determined to embarrass
themselves and frustrate the principle of representative democracy
by representing interests other than those of the Black Consensus
which elected them.
To hold these characters up to the scorn and ridicule they deserve,
it was announced in last
week's column, that some of us at BC and CBC
Monitor were thinking about holding a DC awards dinner this summer
to hand out what we call the Lawn Jockey Awards, in the tradition
of the eminent George Curry, whose 1996 Emerge magazine cover depicted
the loathsome Clarence Thomas as "Uncle
Thomas: Lawn Jockey For the Far Right." After shopping
the idea around and checking our reader email, we can now confirm
that the first annual Lawn Jockey Awards will indeed be handed out
early this coming summer at a date and location to be announced
Reader J. Dahl Murphy wrote to us about the upcoming awards:
Just finished reading your column about having a lawn jockey
awards ceremony in the D. C. area sometime this year. I'm
writing to let you know I agree wholeheartedly with the idea. The
Jesse Petersons, Niger Innises, Star Parkers, Larry Elders
and the likes must be called out. Having the awards ceremony
expose these folk out for exactly who they are and what they are
trying to do. They must not continue at our expense. We
have to start putting them on notice.
Would love TV and Radio One to carry this ceremony live…it will
be a yearly tradition.
The Lawn Jockey Award, provided we can make the first one happen,
is sure to become an annual event. Failed entertainers and
rancid talk show figures like those just mentioned will not be considered. Not
that they aren't embarrassing caricatures in their own right, but
like the fool DC talk show host Don Imus hired
to do on-air N-word jokes, such people are actually doing what they
were hired to do. Black elected officials, on the other hand, are
generally chosen by large black constituencies, and so have little
or no excuse to ignore the Black Consensus. Lawn Jockey awards
will therefore be limited to public officials, most likely members
Luther Allman was one of several readers who wrote about the runners-up
for Lawn Jockeys.
In addition to bestowing the supreme award of "Lawn Jockey"
at your upcoming dinner, there will be more than enough runner-ups
that should be "honored" as well.
Brother Allman went on to offer specific and useful suggested runner-up
awards, which we are holding back for publication. The Lawn
Jockey is but one member of a whole cast of debased and demeaned
black characters called into existence by white supremacy. We
may expect that the application of any reasonable yardstick will
show other political figures to be guilty of lesser offenses.
We invite readers to send more suggestions for runner-up awards
and citations, in the spirit of appropriate ridicule and mockery. We
promise to print the best of them.
BC readers have been known to suggest article
topics. We like it even better when they submit well-written
article copy themselves, but we do listen.
Carol Hollins wrote:
I would like BC to make some comment regarding Mary
Matlin's scurrilous description on Hannity and Colmes this week
of African Americans as "...people forced to feel like
victims..." By the way, I love it when you call out the phony
members of the black caucus, especially Imus's boy, Harold Ford. I
look forward to the Lawn Jockey Award.
There is only one BC, and only once a week. Know-nothing
rightist media pundits are so plentiful that deconstructing them
would consume all our limited energies. Last month's correction
of the Wall Street Journal's opinion page, which branded African
Americans as disposable political "outliers" for disagreeing
with the bulk of white America will have to do for the moment. African
Americans have quite a lot of in-house correcting to do just now,
which brings us to one of our least favorite topics - the latest
outrage from the execrable congressperson and wannabe U.S. senator
from Memphis, Tennessee, Harold Ford Jr.
First, reader Elinor Bowles writes:
Thanks for the scorecard for the CBC. It confirmed some
of my thinking and shed a new light on some questionable persons,
i.e., Harold Ford. I think this is a real service. I
really appreciate the Black Commentator and look forward to getting
And now for the outrage: fresh from the Atlanta funeral of Coretta
Scott King, at which several speakers voiced opposition to the Bush
gang's spies and lies, its imperial wars abroad and efforts to repeal
the twentieth century at home, Harold Ford went out of his way to
show his hindquarters
to black Tennessee and black America. He kissed up to negrophobic
campaign contributors and courted the white racist vote, declaring
that "...there may have been some comments that were a bit
out of line..." and adding that "...I can appreciate some
people thinking that it was a bit overboard at times..."
BC has to agree with the Pesky
Fly, who observed that the craven congressperson sounded "...like
a Southern white racist campaigning in Coon Town... He can 'APPRECIATE'
people who think it went 'overboard?' This is country club code." And
it is. What else can we expect from a black congressperson
who let it be known that if Social Security privatization ever came
to the floor of the House, his vote would be in play. And what
should we expect of such a creature as a U.S. Senator? Ford
may yet accomplish the difficult task of making Illinois' Barack
Obama and the rest of the sorry Senate Democrats look like a bargain. And
maybe that's the idea.
Last week's BC cover story on the Failures
of the Black Misleadership Class prompted a number of responses
from our readers.
Thomas wrote us thusly:
You wrote a very insightful and powerful article that provides
a very clear look at an issue that is very relevant. The
old axiom that power corrupts applies! We must train young
We respectfully disagree with Thomas. BC
thinks we have enough "trained" leaders and wannabe leaders. What
we lack is a broad social movement, first in black America, then
in the wider America to which leaders can be held responsible. Absent
such a broad movement, the pervasive corruption which is at the
heart of our culture of public officialdom, and the very possibility
of getting near to power and acclaim are usually more than enough
to take one's breath, or one's principles away, assuming one ever
had any. In his recent troubles, entertainer Dave Chappelle
pulled an old and unattributed saying out of some pocket or other
place to the effect that "talent takes you where character
cannot sustain you," and that's the way it is with young leaders.
we can't expect black leadership to be accountable when there is
no public space among us for dialogue in which our voices can be
heard demanding accountability. We need to put the struggle
for community control of media on the top of our list. Otherwise
we will never hear each other. Struggles on the other side
of the country, or a half mile up the street will continue to be
invisible to us, and to potential supporters and adherents. Movements
will be stillborn.
Finally, Clinton E. Warner writes:
This commentary is reasonable. It spelled out the fact that
the Black middle class obviously accepts the status quo. If
you believe that Maynard Jackson was compliant to the white power
structure, you are wrong. He brought the airport in on time and
under budget, while insisting on equal opportunity for all. The
proof is that after leaving office he was virtually ignored by
the local power structure. He had to develop his own rather
It is my belief that relief will come only by politics or insurrection.
The latter is out of the question - but a solid Black vote only
ONCE in an important election would demonstrate unity that could
not be ignored or shoved aside by aspiring office holders.
BC really doesn't believe this is about any "middle
class" compliance at all. The black business and leadership
class are not a "middle class" in any way that people
typically use that term. In capitalist America capital rules,
and business is king. The business schools are the best-endowed
sections of the universities, and their graduates are a huge chunk
of the ruling class. It should be no surprise that, with a
lot of help from white America, black America would have aped this
Our black political leadership has more and more identified with,
and often become synonymous with the black business class, which
as it has expanded, has identified more with the fashions and fads
of the white business class. It was the Freedom Movement, which
mobilized large numbers of ordinary non-business-class blacks, that
brought Maynard Jackson and his ilk to the table. Atlanta's
multibillion dollar airport would have been built with or without
Maynard Jackson. And while Jackson and his ilk have done well
enough for themselves, they are only a small minority of black America.
And now the white business class is in a crisis. Rates of
profits have been declining slowly for a generation. The white
business elite has looted the nation's private pensions and privatized
huge swaths of government and militarized the economy to guarantee
its rate of return. Social
security privatization, a large chunk of which was inserted
into this year's budget, is a transparent attempt on the part of
the white business elite to grab the last big chunk of cash and
create another stock market bubble so they can walk away with the
savings of millions of workers.
Rather than act like black leaders, this part of our talented tenth
has chosen to act like businessmen and women, and ape their white
mentors. Instead of going back and helping mobilize the masses
that got them their seats at the table in the first place, this
class has embraced privatizations and the looting of the public
sector which sustained a real black middle class. While the
only useful thing they can tell the black masses is to come out
and vote, they have helped engineer the demolition and spatial deconcentration
of black communities, diluting the effectiveness of that vote.
Why can't more black state and local politicians stand up for a
local and statewide living wage, or for universal medical care for
all as a way of leveling the playing field between businesses that
provide health care and those that don't? Why aren't more of
them trying to replicate Maryland's Fair Share Health Care legislation? Why
aren't they trying to pass anti-usury laws that would curtail predatory
lending and cap credit card interest rates?
Why can they not bring themselves to question the legitimacy of
the crime control and prison industries? Why can't any of them
run for state legislatures, for sheriff, for district attorney promising
a jurisdictional commitment to reducing racial disparities in policing,
in prosecution, in sentencing and in prison populations? Why is
it that advocacy which benefits the masses never seems to cross
And why is it that when local elected politicians of this business
class smell the chance of breaking out of majority black constituencies
and running for statewide or other higher office they routinely
feel the need to embrace the very imperial wars that their black
constituencies overwhelmingly reject?
Contact Bruce Dixon at Bruce.Dixon@blackcommentator.com.