have heard by now the good news: The tireless activist Rev. Edward
Pinkney of Benton Harbor, Michigan and
“the only Preacher in the history of mankind, who was thrown into
prison for Quoting the Bible” (Rev. Pinkney), will spend the holidays
at home! For more than a year, no less than four of Michigan’s
“finest” prisons (extraordinary rendition?) have had the honor
of fortifying the fighting spirit of Rev. Pinkney.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008, a Court of Appeals granted a motion
for bond on behalf of the minister. The “court properly recognized
that serious constitutional questions are raised when a minister
is thrown in prison for predicting what God might do,” said Michael
J. Steinberg, Michigan, ACLU. In other words, the walls of all four prisons and their
guards couldn’t restrain Rev. Pinkney from organizing against
racist corporate destroyers, against unlawful local and state
officials, and against an unjust judicial system. The bit about
Rev. Pinkney’s “predictions” is a smoke screen, a 10-second sound
bite for the benefit of an American public accustomed to accepting
the incarceration of Black Americans. These incarcerations, here
and there, of the “criminal” elements of American society is part
of the landscape. The influential community organizer challenged
an anti-human prosecution and subjugation of Black auto-industry
workers in the Benton
Harbor. But who is listening beyond 10
second “news” bit?
so long ago, I co-chaired a small group of activists dedicated
to bringing the troops home and the impeachment of King George
and Darth Vader. I was living in a region known to many as the
Upper South. I believed that impeachment hearings should commence
for King George and Darth Vader - and soon. (Now that this is
December, lets hope that prosecutions begin in this country -
and soon). A dew of my articles for the local paper there and
the Black Commentator addressed the issue of impeachment.
War is war. It’s no good. The invasion of Iraq
(based on a lie) and the subsequent deaths of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi citizens are still evident
of barbaric diplomacy and an even more criminal economic system
that depends on death and destruction for survival. What part
of that equation is hard to understand?
members of this anti-war-impeach-the-King-and-his-court group
were all white and male. I am still Black and a woman.
Soon I recognized I was not in Dorothy’s “Kansas” or the North for that matter: I was in the U.S. A.! The group
couldn’t fathom a Black woman’s interest in dying soldiers and
citizens in a far-off land and impeachment! Impeachment! The
government in question looked like these guys and the King
and Darth are white guys! It was more than a pinch of the
long after, I began to realize the dilemma my presence posed for
them, the chair took to the road to gather signatures. I received
the chair’s written agenda for each meeting. But in the chair’s
absence, the members expressed their unease about the unwanted
merger of race, war, and impeachment - not
that race was even on the table. But it was in a chair seated
at the table! Perhaps I was the embodiment of the “returned” native,
staking a claim to bounty long absconded by my oppressors (since
“militants” like me see whites as oppressors). But there was a
“cleaner,” easier sound bite for outsiders, should they hear about
this business: I was perhaps planning (single-handedly) to usurp
the chair, a long-time area activist and become chair of the group
and present an agenda of my own! The sons and daughters of Black
parents are in Iraq
and the King and his court’s utter disregard for Katrina victims
and for Black Americans in general has been abominable. But there
was no room in their imaginations for recognizing Black as victims
of this government’s wedding to the corporate rulers.
the absence of conscious Black, Latino/as, Native Americans, some
white activists can imagine, if they imagine people of color at
all, themselves as the leading “victims” of inequity with a sprinkling
of some imagined “poor and helpless,” usually at a safe
spatial distance. They can define themselves as “radical” in thought
and deed and place themselves as members of and fighting spirits
on behalf of the “hard working” American people. Who will challenge
this conception of themselves and reality? And when challenged,
it’s better to believe I would overthrow the established
order, no matter how unlikely or impossible, if I presented a
threat to the status quo. Eventually, I left the group before
talk of change in my constitution became an issue for an
didn’t grow up in the South under Jim Crow, I used to say. Instead,
I experienced Chicago’s
indirect segregation of Blacks and whites. But nothing ever dies.
“Jim Crow” is more than a system of laws; it’s an acceptance of
social and economical order that feels comfort and less threatening.
Fear of losing political and economic privilege has led to millions
of deaths in sovereign lands such as Chile and Argentina,
Japan, Indochina, Iraq
and Afghanistan. “Jim Crow in the U.S. and Operation
Kill and Destroy abroad lays the narrative justification (ground
work) for multinational corporate dominance in the world.
Parks tested the system’s visceral signs and eventually Martin
Luther King, Jr. brought them down. But what’s alive in the man
who stood quietly waiting for Parks to move - to give him his
seat, the seat she unfairly occupied? She would have
known. She would have seen with her eyes and felt with her heart
the frightful cancerous growth standing above her, waiting. The
cancer growing larger as its host became more and more indignant.
Parks would have seen what no one in the front of that bus could
see. Legal justifications and visible signs kept them safe from
professor, a regular commentator on U.S. and world matters, (I am not sure if that’s
not redundant in some cases), wrote an article expressing anger
at the silence or backpedaling of liberals and progressives. Where
are the voices of concern about Obama’s selection of centrists,
old school Clintonites for his cabinet? Mmm. It is not a futile
exercise, really, I told myself. So I sent the writer an email.
I wrote that there are liberals and progressives - Black ones
- who didn’t throw their credibility away in support of Obama
and who are at least critical of Obama’s cabinet nominees. Some
of us have remained consistent challengers of the Democratic Party
as lite-corporatists as opposed to overt and heavy-handed
Republican corporatists (not that this distinction makes a difference.
party represents the interests of workers). His response: You
know who I meant!
I don’t know, I wrote back. But then, of course, I do. He meant
his fellow white visible-recognizable-look-alike-twins-liberals,
mainstream or alternative - but white! See the “Whites” only sign?
think it was a classic American failure to communicate. Is there
a Black liberal or alternative press or not? If so, do white liberals
bother to read these voices? Yes or No - it’s a pinched nerve
syndrome again. But that statement about the Black liberal or
alternative press was absent. And because it was absent
in print - it may well be absent in mind - and only an unfair
request to include the voices of the Black press - liberal,
progressive, or (heaven-forbid) radical would be akin to a disruption
of order! Change, we can’t believe in, yet! He meant the high
profiled white liberal and progressive establishment, often highlighted
by the corporate media to represent the Left in the U.S. to the
exclusion of Black, Latino/a, Native American voices that don’t
capitulate to the “polite” talk of politics.
Black Commentator columnists and writers didn’t spend those
18 months of the presidential campaign teaching its readers how
to cook an omelet! They didn’t spend their time chasing the “story”
surrounding Brittany Spears or the Hilton girls or even interview
experts to comment on Sen. Hilary Clinton’s pantsuits! But the
Black Commentator is perceived as a journal with a large,
but not exclusively, Black readership and a majority Black columnists
and writers. And regardless of how astute the readership and regardless
of the columnists’ and writers’ academic credentials, their high
level positions as community leaders and activists, and their
expertise in being Black and Left’s core activists, they are,
after all, Black - and well, Black! A fringe element of that DOMESTIC
ENEMY’S list (on the ledgers marked “sold” or “traded” for untoward
behavior) long before McCarthy and Nixon made compiling “enemies”
the corporate and sometimes liberal or alternative media,
Blacks are relegated to the “Black issues.” Crime, crime, and
crime are the first three big news items for Black commentators.
This past year saw the rise of a few new Black faces because there
was (did you notice?) an African American running for president.
Otherwise, they have their Juan Williams and their Shelby Steele
or some young, elite, talented-tenth guy or gal praising in high-pitched
tones the age of “race transcendence.” (And these guys won’t talk
about re-distribution of the wealth or U.S. aggression, no!). All are allocated their
five minutes to speak: “Black people ‘too,’ ‘also,’ and ‘in addition’
to the American people…” Beep! Over. Or turn the dial or click
to the station - or whatever you do. The “is you” crowd of Black
radio talk show hosts is brought to you by such and such corporation
without conflict of interest! “Is you there?” “Is you with
me?” Chuckle and a crack up because she or he is dating the best
friend of the best girl friend - and it’s all so hysterical. Black
infotainment - with an emphasis on entertainment. Corporate
sling shots enabling collectors of cash for dishing out trash
and keeping up the much needed distraction that is anything but
democratic and empowering. And I’d like to think there’s shame
or humiliation here because there’s no memory of the terror in
these voices! You have to stand “outside” this comfortable paradox
to understand what is happening and to know you are experiencing
something akin to torture.
is how it begins.
a white woman standing and waiting. It’s hard for you to maintain
employment in “esoteric” literature, she tells me. It’s a bolt
out of the blue, uninvited and without warning. Move! Is that
“esoteric” literature in general or Black literature or race,
gender, class (troublesome) literature? Is “esoteric” literature
the literature of the oppressor or the literature of people of
color? Is this the “esoteric” writings of Euro-American “great”
men, but not exclusively men, avoiding reality with endless meters
describing a spring day or the fluttering eyelids of Lady so-and-so
or pages if winding sentences to disguise the horror of the “returning”
native or the torturous depiction of encroaching dark clouds over
pastoral landscapes? Our heritage, beginning with the Ausetian
Age (c.6000-4000), our stories, and our liberation narratives
are withheld from our young and without this knowledge, they can’t
think? - and she looks at me, seriously. You think? Yes,
I think because we think!
I know what is happening.
is how it began here.
Americans (descendants of the enslaved) and the Black Left in
particular fell out of favor with white liberals and progressives.
In the late 1960s and 70s, when this nation-state wrote the script
for planned CIA-backed terror in Latin America, here in North
American cities, Kwame Ture, Angela Davis, and the Black Panthers
echoed Malcolm and King, and all - speaking in unison, cried out
that the U.S. has a problem with equality with Blacks; the U.S.
is an imperialist State that “colonizes” the people of color within
and without its borders; and the imperialist State is the greatest
purveyor of violence. These voices pinched nerves! Don’t look
for these voices on the commodity exchange in the free market;
for, as long-time warnings about the disaster that is capitalism,
they are not usable. Some of the best witnesses to disaster capitalism
and Operation America are never called upon until they are killed!
There is a market, however, for posters, t-shirts, and books in
which these voices are linked to a past, in history,
and today’s warnings by Black Americans are described as the voices
“planned misery” slain Argentinean writer Rudolfo Walsh noted
in the 1970s (Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,
Naomi Klein) took root here in genocide and in slavery. There
was always an “enemy within” and they, as unpaid workers toiled
in “planned misery.” The urban unrest of the 1970s only served
as an excuse to initiate, without social or moral “regulations,”
the beginnings of corporatism in the U.S. Whites only took on
a new (but not unfamiliar) implications.
is not free to develop anywhere.
the teens and young people are fed up with the way their government
has tried to strangle students and workers, making it impossible
for many to pursue an education and a livelihood. We witness the
anger of those teens and young college students in Greece
as they set fire to buildings and shops. I have listened to the
National Public Radio and BBC among other news sources, interview
Socialist student leaders and the adult leadership, reserving
reverence for their cause. Yet, few Americans would see in these
Greek students the anger of young Blacks of the 1970s in Watts
as anger against a system for which they knew “planned misery”
was the agenda established by the political and economic apparatus
especially for them. Invisible on sunny days when capitalism seems
to work for a few, these were the voices “disappeared” from the
white liberal’s radar.
this collective disaster, I do feel a sense of shame and humiliation
because I know who we were and who we could be as a people, if
we were well in mind and in body. But the damage has been done
and may not be undone.
that is why, when I think of the courage and bravery of Rev. Edward
Pinkney, I’m inspired to move - not backward but forward. I’m
reminded of the determination of our ancestors, the unfree,
who first cried and then organized for freedom and the abolishment
of slavery. I’m reminded of Denmark Vesey’s shout: “Die like a
Man!” I’m reminded of Harriet Tubman and her warning to quaking
“slaves.” Democratic Socialism is the goal. Those
of us alive and undamaged must remain steadfast for the whole
community of those who want and end to anti-human systems of “planned
misery.” We must renew our vow, once again, in the new year to
keep hold of that part of ourselves that makes us activists.
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has been a writer,
for over thirty years of commentary, resistance criticism and
cultural theory, and short stories with a Marxist sensibility
to the impact of cultural narrative violence and its antithesis,
resistance narratives. With entrenched dedication to justice and
equality, she has served as a coordinator of student and community
resistance projects that encourage the Black Feminist idea of
an equalitarian community and facilitator of student-teacher communities
behind the walls of academia for the last twenty years. Dr. Daniels
holds a PhD in Modern American Literatures, with a specialty in
Cultural Theory (race, gender, class narratives) from Loyola
University, Chicago. Click here
to contact Dr. Daniels.