The national Black infrastructure has failed utterly
to respond to the Katrina crisis - the wiping out of a majority
The Congressional Black Caucus, which claims to be
the "conscience of the congress," has shown itself to
be an appendage of the white House leadership. They slavishly followed
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s command to make the Democratic Party
look good - as opposed to the Republicans - rather than directly
address the crisis that was affecting their own people.
Forty-one of the forty-two Black members of congress
obeyed Pelosi’s edict, that the House Committee on Katrina be boycotted.
They accepted the order that Democratic legislators would not attend
the meetings of the Katrina committee, because it was stacked against
the Democratic Party.
Of course, every committee of congress is stacked
against the minority, Democratic Party. That’s the way congress
works. All committees of congress are controlled by the majority
party. But Democrats go to committee meetings every day, faced with
a Republican majority. Nancy Pelosi, however, was able to convince
the Congressional Black Caucus, as a body, to stand down in the
face of a horrific crisis: the displacement of hundreds of thousand
of residents of New Orleans.
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) failed to step
up to the plate - to act as the legislators that folks voted them
into office to be. Only Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney broke
the Pelosi-invoked boycott. She attended every session, and made
good use of the experience, challenging the administration’s witnesses
every step of the way. The rest of the Black Caucus abstained from
the hearings except for the occasional appearance of New Orleans
Black Rep. William Jefferson, who, as a representative of the affected
region, was given a pass by Pelosi.
Collectively, the CBC abdicated any semblance of leadership.
They failed to make use of the forum in which the New Orleans debacle
was being discussed. Why? Because they collectively had nothing
to say. And, as a body, they deferred to the Minority Leader, Nancy
Pelosi, who had decided that Katrina was not something that the
Black Caucus should bother their minds about. She ordered them to
boycott the Katrina hearings, and CBC chairman Mel Watt (NC) obliged
her. Only Cynthia McKinney did her job, on our behalf.
this is not a commentary about the minutia of legislation that has
been introduced under the signatures of various Black congresspeople.
None of it is going anywhere, anyway. It is about Black leadership,
and its failings in the wake of the Katrina crisis. Black congressional
leadership been has been dragged around by the nose by Nancy Pelosi
and the rest of the white folks who are indebted to corporations.
They showed their true colors on the Iraq War, when only Cynthia
McKinney, out of the whole Black Caucus, voted for the Murtha bill
that called for an immediate
exit. The Congressional Black Caucus left sister Cynthia out
to dry on that one, too. She was the only CBC member to vote for
We have a dysfunctional Black Caucus. It cannot cope
with the biggest crisis that has befallen our people…ever. A whole
Black city wiped off the face of the map. Yet the CBC allows itself
to be manipulated into towing the party line - a white line - based
on the logic of a bunch of white consultants who are in search of
some mythical white American heartland. That’s not where we live.
White folks live somewhere else. In their world, it
is in the Democratic Party’s interest to find middling ground -
which we don’t live on. So they speak to the middling grounders,
who only exist in their minds.
What we must do is address our own concerns, and not
become confused by the verbiage that has nothing to do with us.
It is clear that our congresspersons have drunk too much of that
wine. They are drunk on somebody else’s power - but it’s not ours.
is in times of crisis that people show what they really have, and
are actually about. Nobody but our congressional representatives
can make billions of dollars move. That’s their job, the only reason
that we bother to put them in office. But, instead, they posture
and primp and don’t go to the hearings where they should be making
our case, speaking our position.
Obviously, we need a new leadership. That Cynthia
McKinney should be so isolated does not reflect badly on her - it
shows the true nature of what we have accepted as the Black leadership
class. They cannot fix their mouths to say that they are against
the Iraq War, and they cannot bring themselves to make any case
on our behalf, even when a whole city - New Orleans - was taken
away from us. If the CBC cannot rise to that occasion, it is worthless.
BC Publishers Glen Ford and Peter
Gamble are writing a book to be titled, Barack Obama and the
Crisis in Black Leadership.