Dr. Martin Kilson has placed his mark on many lives – and on The
Black Commentator, as well. Kilson, a Frank G. Thomson Research
Professor at Harvard and the first Black to be awarded full
tenure at the institution, in 1968, was also the first Guest
Commentator for .
Kilson aptly characterized Newark mayoral candidate Cory Booker
in his May 8, 2002 piece, “How
To Spot A Black Trojan Horse” – a term we immediately appropriated
to describe African American politicians who front for the racist
Dr. Kilson has collaborated with us many
times over the past 14 months. Last issue, he authored our first
article under the heading, “Think Piece” – a less formal approach
to commentary. The 71-year-old political scientist stirred the
pot vigorously with his scathing piece, “The
Pretense of Hip-Hop Black Leadership”:
recognize it or not, Todd Boyd, Michael Dyson, and their hip-hop
intellectual colleagues have become advocates of anti-human
and Negro-minstrel skewed dynamics in contemporary African-American
entertainment. It is utter nonsense to pretend that this amounts
to a new kind of leadership paradigm for African-American society.
Yet this is precisely what Professor Boyd claims in his article.
He writes with pride that “Whereas the civil rights generation
found its calling in politics and the pursuit of political institutions,
this hip-hop generation has contempt for these institutions
and finds [commercial] culture to be the primary means of expression.”
Thus, for Todd Boyd and also Michael Dyson, African-Americans
worthy of respect today are not “Thurgood Marshall, Medgar Evers,
James Meredith, Fannie Lou Hamer…etc.,” but “Sean ‘P. Diddy’
Combs, Russell Simmons, Master P., Queen Latifah, and Missy
quite awful has gone wrong in the intellectual character of
the new advocates of hip-hop culture like Boyd and Dyson. Their
intellects have become saturated with inhumane, politically
useless and morally repugnant pop entertainment modalities.
Matabane is quite familiar with Kilson’s work. She’s down with
you for publishing Dr. Kilson's penetrating right-on-the-eye
essay. My Lord, the so-called intellectuals of hip-hop are
sick. And Dr. K pulled the dressing off of them. I have
been a long admirer of Dr. Kilson's scholarship and quoted
him extensively in my own dissertation – his groundbreaking
work on blacks' attitudes toward the police versus white's
attitudes. He is a true scholar and not just some big
mouth with a big education. I greatly appreciate him
and hope that he will continue to write on this subject.
Jared Ball is a journalist
and activist from Washington, DC, and a close associate of .
no real need or desire to defend Dyson, I do think that to be
fair it should be noted that the first 100 pages or so of his
book on King (“I
May Not Get There With You”) go a long way in helping uncover
the King we all need to know more about. That is, Dyson
does assist in the important need to expose people to the "radical"
King, the Where Do We Go From Here King, the Riverside Baptist
church King, the SCLC leadership speech King...
Secondly, Dr. Kilson – in his justified defense
of Civil Rights leadership – is too narrow in his view of hip-hop.
What many ignore in their criticism of hip-hop (justified as
it may be) is that what is promoted as hip-hop is but one segment
of the community and arguably only a much smaller segment.
What many focus on or know about is corporately created, promoted
and distributed. It is not reflective of a thriving hip-hop
community that is progressive, political and positive.
We in this wing of the hip-hop community simply lack exposure
as we do not appeal to the ideological function and purpose
of an American corporate structure.
Groups like KRS-One, Dead Prez, Chuck-D &
Public Enemy, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Bahamdia and many more lesser
known groups are far more representative of a substantial segment
of the hip-hop community than those found everyday on MTV and
BET. Locally speaking, here in DC, Head-Roc and EuRok,
the Poem-Cees and more are absolutely following in the footsteps
of the Black Arts Movement. And the work I do with Malik
Russell on the Fluid Radio Mix-Tapes (http://www.voxunion.com/chaos)
and with Radio CPR are further examples of the kind of hip-hop
that Kilson says does not exist. We must always remember
that we are not in control of our image and that what is purported
to be "us" is not so much the us we are but the "us"
"they" would prefer we be.
Mr. Ball is active with Washington’s Organized Community
of United People, or C.O.U.P.
As evidence of the self-examination that is occurring
in hip-hop, Ball offers these lyrics from De La Soul's recording,
“Stakes Is High”:
"Im sick of 'bitches' shakin'
assess, Im sick of talkin' about blunts,sick of Versace
glasses, sick of slang, sick of half-assed award shows, sick
of name brand clothes, sick of R&B 'bitches' over bullshit
tracks, cocaine and cracks which brings sickness to Blacks,
sick of swole-head rappers with their sickening raps, clappin'
gats makin' a whole sick world collapse, the facts gettin'
sick even sicker perhaps..."
Hollis, Queens-born Michael
H. believes Dr. Kilson is distorting the hip-hop picture by
using too broad a brush:
I appreciate Mr. Kilson taking time from his schedule to write
about hip-hop. I am disappointed by some of his words.
I am a 25 year-old law
student who was born and raised in the birthplace of hip-hop:
NYC. I went to block parties, had friends who did graffiti,
had friends who danced, had friends who emceed and in an earlier
life attempted a career at deejaying. I can honestly say despite
my age I am as qualified as Mr. Kilson, Mr. Dyson and Mr. Boyd
on the subject. Their PhD's give them no additional credibility
with my "peoples." As a child I was taught never to
disrespect the older and much wiser adults. I wish Mr. Kilson
extended the same courtesy to his brethren – although much younger
– in the academy.
I think Mr. Kilson's attack
is very personal. Mr. Dyson – this young whippersnapper – "How
day he say anything about Mr. King and Ms. Parks," Kilson
probably mused as he wrote his diatribe. Mr. Kilson whole view
of Mr. Dyson has been reduced to a barbershops and a movie about
barbershops. Although I am not a fan of Mr. Dyson and thinks
he does more talking than thinking, Mr. Kilson should know better
than to reduce a college professor's curriculum vitae to an
op-ed piece. Mr. Dyson's views on the subject could never be
truly understood reading one op-ed piece. And if Mr. Kilson
did further reading, it is not apparent from his article.
Secondly, his comments
about Mr. Dyson's views on black organizations really show Mr.
Kilson's age. In my experience organizations like the NAACP
are not, in Mr. Dyson's words, "antidemocratic" but
they do have apathetic staffers in the wings. I have observed
that when these organizations gather for their grand meetings
what makes the event a success for some is not whether the black
community has to organize a front against pending legislation
but rather whether the people in attendance secured enough drinks
from the open bar. This is not hip-hop's fault.
When Mr. Kilson attempts
to slam Mr. Boyd's analysis of the hip-hop generation, he once
again falls on his face. The first paragraph is just intellectual
rambling by a professor who is mad that people my age are not
marching on Washington. King's words are once again being taken
out of context to advance a cause. I have had many conversations
with my parents and many of their contemporaries and have concluded
that although the road they have traveled is why I am here today,
what was good for the goose is not good for me. We don't live
in a black and white society anymore. Increases in interracial
marriages, increased immigration from Latin America and the
Far East has shifted the paradigm more than Mr. Kilson is willing
to admit. Times have changed.
generation is not nihilistic but realistic. We have appropriated
hip-hop music to communicate our everything; our own language
(to an extent), our life stories and MOS-DEFinitely our politics,
which are radical AND progressive AND moderate AND conservative.
Mr. Kilson is not all wrong. Hip-hop is slowly
losing me as a fan. The music has become very misogynistic and
materialistic and its future as a viable means of progress is
questionable. But Mr. Kilson’s argument fails to separate the
art from the state of the art. Hip-hop is not bad. What is being
done to hip-hop is bad.
reader directed twenty-something Anthony Gayle to the Kilson
article. Gayle calls
Prof. Kilson “naïve” and, possibly, “cynical.”
am familiar with the piece Dyson wrote for the Times. I am also
somewhat aware of Boyd.
Kilson wrote: "The fact of the matter is, there's nothing
whatever that's seriously radical or progressive about hip-hop
ideas and values."
I wonder if he's aware that he is referring
to an entire culture. I'm not aware of a single culture that
does not have its progressive, radical, and conservative sides
(and others). I understand what Kilson is saying, but I think
he's being a little naive. The reality is, most of the Civil
Rights organizations from the 60's are obsolete. Moreover, it
is entirely their fault.
They have not done enough to clearly define
their position and incorporate their greatest resource – the
community. I'm tired of seeing all of these highly educated,
three piece suit wearing, conference attending, brothers and
sisters who barely know any of the people they serve (I call
them Negroes in glass cases. Just break in case of emergency).
This is not to say that they do not do important work, but many
of them have been assimilated, and the institutions they represent
have been relegated to tools of the status quo and reactionary
politics, instead of tools of social action and justice.
I think there is a tendency to romanticize
past Civil Rights leaders, to almost make them deities. Ironically,
I think this removes them from the people they served. It also
has the effect of reinforcing the perception that we are a monolithic
group of people, by virtue of creating a few individuals who
are beyond reproach to whom we all must either agree with, or
acquiesce to. I think the leaders of yesterday, were heroic,
but they were also human. They had their faults and their failures.
In my opinion, their triumphs are matched only by their failures.
Regardless of the stance you take, the leaders of today and
tomorrow are being cultivated within the hip-hop culture. If
one believes that there is nothing progressive or radical about
its values or ideas, then I would submit that that is cynicism
beyond anything Dyson or Boyd could muster.
Tray Bailey invokes the age of the writer, and throws
Harvard into the mix.
disconnect between old and new Black American ideologies and
communicative forms is not as great as Dr. Kilson suggests.
Hip Hop is an exponent of the long lineage of Black American
activism and thought that he calls honorable. But Hip
Hop, its proponents and exponents are not 71-years-old.
Part of Hip Hop's ethos is the establishment
of a clear-cut, uncompromised profile for the Black American.
Post-Civil Rights Black Americans, disappointed with the shortcomings
of hard-won parity, often reacted by denouncing White America
and its institutions in deference to their own set of standards,
principles and mechanisms. Hip Hop, in its most political guise,
succeeds the sentiments of Newton, Malcolm and Garvey; it seeks
to wrest material wealth via its own economic, social, and political
structures while self-consciously maintaining Black American
cultural by-products and traits, especially Black American English.
This is important, because when one gives up one's mother tongue
in favor of the slothful duality peculiar to Black Americans,
one also abdicates power and the benefit of self-definition.
For Dr. Kilson, like all "African-Americans who work alongside
our White American compatriots," success at Harvard would've
been impossible without such concessions. No more duality, no
more bilinguals, says Hip Hop – keep it real.
The parity Dr. King and Ms. Parks
helped secure was an indispensable step to be sure, but of ultimately
greater import is the full maturation of Black America, one
that doesn't look to White America for its definitions and freedom.
A movement that argues such is as political and valid as any.
The booty shakin' and apparent misogyny trumpeted on MTV is
the most banal example of Hip Hop's ideals. It is notable, though,
that MTV is a principally white-owned and -targeted commercial
entity, and as with many such entities, is only interested in
the most salacious and banal examples of any form, let alone
those by Black Americans.
Dr. Kilson’s article had
a salutary effect on Anthony Green.
was rejuvenating to read Dr. Kilson's commentary on Todd Boyd,
Michael Dyson and their assertion of a post-civil rights hip-hop
generation "leadership." Without wading into
a fray, I can comment only on what I see and perceive.
The United Corporations of America (formerly the U.S.A) can
be nothing but delighted to have Black Americans as consumers
rather than citizens. It bothers the rulers of this country
and the corporations that employ them not one whit that Black
youth has contempt for political institutions, politics, and
the requirements for collective political expression.
They are happy of course that nearly ALL Americans, of all ethnicities,
have become consumers rather than an informed and active electorate,
but they are surely pleased that the masses of Black young people
would rather emulate Snoop and Lil Kim than Malcolm X, mistaking
the acquisition of bling-bling for value in their lives and
the sacrifice of making it in the entertainment industry for
sacrifice to the greater communal good. They are exactly
where White America wants them to be, and there is, sadly, nothing
revolutionary about it. Anyway, it was good to know there
are intellectuals like Martin Kilson out there, thanks.
Brenda J. Brody is a communications
specialist with the Housing Authority of New Orleans. She shares
her views on hip-hop and Black youth behavior.
just read Dr. Kilson’s magnificent article rebutting Eric Michael
Dyson and Todd Boyd and I could not agree more. He truly
spoke the truth and what has been simmering
in the back of my mind for a long time. His quotes from
Todd Boyd sound like the rantings of a psychotic. That
child's Mama forgot to teach him respect, obviously.
I didn't go see "Barbershop" after
I read about the controversy and it breaks my heart to hear
young people trampling the accomplishments of those regal brothers
and sisters who laid down their lives so that we could have
the privileges we so thoughtlessly enjoy.
I've been present a few times when Dyson
has spoken at seminars at the Essence Music Festival and I have
wondered if he lives in a mirror galaxy with realities that
we do not share. He is loud, brash and I guess that is
why he gets the attention of the youth. It's all very
all their "bling bling" and so-called new realities,
most of the hip-hop generation have yet to learn the way the
world really works. Many of their young idols have gone
down in a haze of gunfire and drug abuse. I know that
every generation looks at the one coming up with disdain and
sometimes pity, but the problems have been exacerbated now with
the rise of the senseless violence. Here in New Orleans,
we had a young 16 year-old girl murdered by two other teenaged
girls only because she was "cute." This happened
just about a week ago, during the Essence festivities.
Just that week, another two young girls had been sentenced to
prison because they too stabbed a 15 year old to death in an
argument. The neighbors and parents of the children had
encouraged the fight and no one ever expressed any remorse at
the needless death of a child.
I saw Smokey Robinson at Essence and I realized
how much he influenced the young people of my day. We
learned that love was going to hurt sometimes and that it was
beautiful despite the pain. We learned that sometimes
the one we loved would not love us but that we could live our
lives expecting to find "More Love." I told
a young person that night that I learned all about love and
pain from Smokey Robinson and I still love him for it.
And this generation will learn to "Back dat thang up"
and that "It's hot in herre" (misspelling and all) and
that it's all right to slap women and call them bitches, that
you settle a disagreement with a knife or a gun and that those
who choose an education are "ackin' white."
Is this what we have to look forward to from
the "hip-hop" generation? The likes of P-Diddy (what
the hell is a P-diddy, somebody please tell me!), Master P and
Missy Elliot as the revered figures of this generation? And
Carmelo Anthony, who won an Espy award last night got on the
stage and thanked himself! Lord, save us all!
This week’s final word on
Dr. Kilson’s hip-hop analysis is from someone who has observed
the professor in action. Darryl Cox writes:
Prof. Kilson is a gas.
When I was a student at Harvard back in the 80s we invited
him to come talk to our black students’ group at the Kennedy
School. During his discourse someone in the group asked
him about a black conservative and professor who was getting
a lot of exposure at the time. Kilson’s response was immediate
and sharp: “That nigger”, he said, “ain’t talking about shit.”
I have always loved the way that he cuts through the cant
A policy of Hell on Earth
“American policy is
designed to place Africans at the extremes of
insecurity, in order to foreclose the possibility of
civil societies taking root. This policy has always resulted
in mass death,” we wrote in our July 17 Cover Story, "Barefoot,
Sick, Hungry and Afraid: The real U.S. policy in Africa."
John F. Eden digested the
piece, and wrote to us, from Jesup, Georgia.
am awed at the depth and breadth of understanding revealed in
the article "The Real US Policy in Africa." As a social
studies teacher for many years, I struggled to understand what
was going on in Africa and to give my students some understanding
of the colonial roots of the problems – and found the resources
available to be woefully inadequate. Thank you for the fearless
clarity on US policy there.
And as I finished the article,
I stared at the circle that says "Click here to send this
page to a friend", asking myself, do I have any friends
who care what's happening in Africa? and What can I do to get
them to even think about it? In Fortress America with its highways
full of stylish tanks, "national interest" is all
Jr. Bush's men need invoke to get our approval for any action,
however heinous, directed against the "others."
will send this article to everyone that I think will read at
least part of it. Maybe it will send them looking for more.
And thank you for the history and perceptive analysis that
you consistently provide. At times, living here in the heart
of the flag-waving South, I need assurance that I'm not totally
crazy for thinking that we favored ones of America are
seriously culpable for what's happening around the world.
with the Eisenhower administration, we wrote, the U.S. was determined
that “the process of African civil development had to be interrupted, not only
in those new states that were economically valuable to Europe
and the U.S., but in all of Africa, so that no healthy civil
model might emerge. If this could be achieved, there would be
no need to fear the actions of assembled heads of African states
– an irrelevant gaggle of uniforms and suits, standing in for
nations, but representing no coherent social force.”
issue with NAACP chief Kweisi Mfume’s recent characterization
of U.S. Africa policy as “inconsistent and incoherent.”
Rather, we consider it purposefully and consistently
Only because I sought and read transcripts
from hearings held by Congresswoman McKinney did I become aware
of the true nature of U.S. policy in Rwanda and the Great Lakes
region. I am by no means naïve about the nature or consequences
of this country's foreign policies. However, awareness
of the magnitude of the crimes against humanity which were allowed
to occur in Rwanda because the Clinton administration desired
"regime change" shook me to my absolute core.
That this crime was so huge that it could be covered up by "copping
a plea" to the lesser offense of "indifference
due to racism" thoroughly disgusts me.
For a time, I tried to tell others about what
had really happened in Rwanda, but no one seemed able to hear
me. (Maybe I was just screaming too loudly!)
It is my opinion that your able analysis of policy
should include more emphasis on the role of Cold
War anti-communism in the promotion of the "Big, Big man"
form of dictatorship in Africa. Such an emphasis goes a long
way to explaining why nearly forty years of corruption
from Mobuto became unacceptable after the fall of the Soviet
Union. The old regimes were designated as bulwarks against
communism and any other anti-colonialist formations. Necessarily, in
such regimes state institutions become all-powerful relative
to other social institutions. The now dominate neo-liberal
ideology seeks only complete freedom for multinational
corporations – with state bureaucracy becoming no more than
an anachronistic obstacle to wealth and power. The old regimes
had to topple because they were no longer "profitable."
As you write, it appears the modern corporations
have learned to thrive in midst of chaos, requiring only hired
armies to protect their "interests." For this
reason, I'm not holding my breath waiting for Iraq to become
a viable state again.
Cold War did not provoke the U.S. and European war against civil
society in Africa, a policy that has continued since the fall
of the Soviet Union. On the other hand, the Soviet presence
in the world was indispensable to forcing Belgium, Britain and
France to begin the decolonization process; to the liberation
of Portugal’s colonies; and to the overthrow of white minority
rule in southern Africa.
has a well-developed civil society, which will generate an ever
more sophisticated resistance to U.S. occupation.
Christen has been educating herself about U.S. global depredations.
Thanks for the article today. I didn’t realize the
ugly extent of the US involvement in Africa. I’ve read
a book called “Economic Democracy” by J. Smith, and, it is basically
saying the problem is the way we go about pushing resource-rich
countries to the edges and keeping them poor. Your article
enlarged on the exact mechanism we are using. I am so
sorry the US has strayed so far from the purpose of the Constitution
to “establish justice” and “secure the blessings of liberty
to our posterity.” All peoples are one and if we act one
way to rob and terrorize some, we rob ourselves. I absolutely
hate this greed and murder and mayhem in the name of the United
McKinney on Zimbabwe
McKinney makes sense like it’s a habit – and
is pleased to be among her enablers. Our June
26 issue featured the former Congresswoman’s speech to a
church in her Georgia home district. “How can
we save Zimbabwe when we haven’t yet taken the necessary steps
to save ourselves?” she asked.
In George Bush’s New World Order, all roads lead
to Washington, DC. And it is only in Washington, DC that
we can effectively deal with our problems and those that plague
Africa. The Bush cabal is planning regime change operations
all over the world. They’re currently threatening Iran
and Syria; rattling sabers at North Korea and China.
They’re unhappy with Russia and Germany. But if we don’t
organize ourselves carefully in this country, and reach across
the oceans to our African brothers and sisters, and they reach
back, this could truly be the twilight of our freedoms.
C. Lee is part of McKinney’s
McKinney was right on point. When we look at what’s happening
in America today we see all the things that the brothers and
sisters told us about in the Sixties. America is becoming a
police state and our civil liberties are being taking away.
We now have a counterfeit president who acts if he has a mandate
to do as he pleases. America has become an oligarchy right before
Negro in a bottle
“mystic icon” has magical powers to change white lives but,
as in Michael Clark Duncan’s role in “The Green Mile,” he can’t
even save himself. Rita Kempley’s July 3 piece, “Magic
Negro Saves The Day” was one of our best-read Re-prints.
Kempley traced the Hollywood
history and underlying politics of magically endowed Black characters
from the Fifties to the present. “For the most part,” she wrote, “they materialize only to
rescue the better-drawn white characters.”
is a 22 year-old hairstylist and student who likes the movies,
and reads, too.
The article on blacks in film playing the parts of gods to
save white characters was very informative. I always
knew there was something that made me feel kind of uncomfortable.
You hit it right on. Thanks
article first appeared on DVRepublic,
a project of the Black Filmmakers Foundation.
of the Bush Mental Disorder
Mass delusion as public
policy. The current vector of this peculiar American phenomenon/malady,
according to July 17 Guest Commentator Mamadou Chinyelu, is
George Bush, who has earned a place for himself in the annals
of psychology. Chinyelu described the presidential pathology
Consequences of Believing Your Own Propaganda.”
Space for this new category should be reserved
for inclusion in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Until a more media-savvy
term is coined, perhaps its working title can be National Collective
Self-Delusional Foreign Policy….
In the next edition of the DSM, this new category of mental disorder, Bush SS, should be
perfectly placed between two new companion disorders; that is,
(1) Those Who Laugh At Their Own Jokes; and (2) Those Who Bask
In The Smelling Of Their Own Broken Wind.
And it can be cross-referenced with Those Who Don’t Know
When To Quit.
Michigan, Charles Cross offers a concurrent opinion: the patient
is truly diseased.
The article by Mamadou Chinyelu perfectly summarizes much
of the whole Bush/Iraq matter. Truly one of
the most insightful articles, among many in , to date.
In fact, in my opinion, this article is an excellent
lead-in to what is the untold story of Bush et al/Iraq.
9-11, too, was just as fabricated as the Iraq/WMD/Niger/Uranium
fable. 9-11 "legitimized" an otherwise unfit
person to pose as a genuine hero in the eyes of those who, like
his family, stood to make money from any war he could contrive
and trick the country into. I have long maintained that
the Army and Marines should wear shoulder patches that bear
the names of Oil USA Consortium for whom they actually work
for in Afghanistan, Colombia, Kuwait, Iraq, and wherever else
the black mud is found.
Following is an excerpt from an article published in
the first two weeks of the war, the 319th hauled all the bulk
fuel for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in its drive to
Baghdad, a job that took them through hostile territory and
into ambushes and firefights.
The 319th is now working
for the Army's 260th Quartermaster Battalion. It is stationed
at Camp Arifjan, south of Kuwait City.
Soldiers say most of
their work involves civilian contractor Kellogg Brown and Root,
a subsidiary of Vice President Dick Cheney's former company,
Halliburton Corp. The company has contracts to haul fuel, and
319th members are riding along as armed escorts.
main reason we're still here is to support Brown and Root,"
said Sgt. 1st Class David Uthe, 45, of Augusta."
One only needs to follow
the money to see this Criminal Enterprise (or as
puts it, these 'Pirates') are the guilty, causative, parties
in 9-11, Afghanistan and Iraq, as they and their class make
money from the deaths of both, those who fight the wars
and those innocent, "collaterally damaged" (killed)
Keep up the good work.
Diversity triumphs over justice
In our July 3 commentary,
“The Slow and
Tortured Death of Affirmative Action,” we argued that the
recent U.S. Supreme Court decision definitively finished affirmative
action as public policy in the U.S. The “diversity” programs
favored by the High Court majority are not affirmative action
as understood by the Civil Rights Movement and President Lyndon
meaning [in 1965] was unmistakable. The power of the government
of the United States would be harnessed to redress the historical
grievances of, and harms done to, a specific people: African
Americans. Public policy would affirmatively address the legacy
(“chains”) of slavery, by instituting programs designed to achieve
equality for Black people “as a result.”
has definitively replaced affirmative action is a kind of soccer
mom diversity consensus…. Diversity is good for the country, just as
it’s nice to look out on the soccer field and see kids from
various ethnicities playing together. Which means that white
folks are free to play at diversity and use race as a factor,
as long as the rules don’t address racial injustice or demand
Gravitt, of Milwaukee, has a somewhat different take on the
There has always been some confusion about the term diversity
when used in the "legal" context and content.
For instance diversity in the classroom means: Little Darky,
I am going to teach you to "be like me," White in
everything but appearance. If you cannot think like me
and ape me in all ways, then you are intellectually inferior.
Diversity in all quarters in America means White Think.
There is no give and take because Blacks of all people are considered
to have nothing to give intellectually in any environs that
relate to Euro-centric thinking.
Lani Guinier makes an important contribution when she points
out that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor seemed most concerned that
there be "diversity" in American "leadership"
ranks. (See Village
Voice, July 2.) O'Connor wants to insure that there are
sufficient "minorities" that can represent "us"
- meaning the whites like herself. Clearly, she sees elite educational
institutions as places where the proper specimens can be molded
to the task.
The Supreme Court's rationale for "diversity" is
that it is in the government's interest. O'Connor makes
it plain that she wants to manufacture colored folks who will,
as you put it, "be like me."
Eric Bogan joins the discussion,
from the state of Washington.
brilliant and piercing analysis on the Univ. of Michigan decision.
As you've pointed out, the acceptance of Affirmative Action
as an all-encompassing expression of "power-sharing",
to borrow your phrase, "shared" the original goal,
to redress historical Black realities of inequality and racist
exclusion into the present situation where white women, as one
did in my place of employment, arrogantly claimed "minority"
status, the fact that women make up close to half the population
apparently lost on her, as well as the fact that many of her
class are the real beneficiaries of affirmative action. What
the recent decision proves is, when it comes to redress of the
specific and justified claim of descendants of slaves, white
America will always fall back on its all-too familiar delusional
qualities of NEVER dealing effectively with issues of race,
falling back on safe, non-threatening buzz words like "diversity."
Leroy Wilson, Jr., a veteran
attorney, finds it curious how "fairness" has become
the watchword of the Right.
I think that President Kennedy’s Plans for Progress might
have antedated LBJ’s concepts of Affirmative action by a few
years, but I agree that LBJ was the President who started putting
teeth into the concept. My
great fear however, is that too many of us are without knowledge
of what the state and federal
governments did to put African-Americans in our historically
continuing status. Because of this, I believe we are going
to find ourselves asleep at the switch when the far right begins
to define the debate on what was “fair”
historically. We are going to lose out because we will
not know how to frame the argument for lack of knowledge.
The right’s entire argument against affirmative action has been
defined in terms of “unfair”
racial preferences. They built a well-coordinated network of people
around the nation, at all levels, to carry their definition
of the argument. In the future, look for them to define
it was for the Texas territory to award 80 acres of land to
white settlers for every slave that they owned, or how
it was for the government to give away millions of acres of
land to the railroads, etc. and
how “fair" it was for whites to have been given free land;
as well as free labor from slaves.
For a description of “affirmative
action” under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, we recommend the
memoirs of administration operative Lee
One of the first JFK
actions was to establish the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity
and designate the vice-president as its chairman. With his usual
vigor and industriousness, LBJ talked Hobart Taylor, a brilliant
lawyer and the son of one of his black friends and supporters
in Texas, to be the staff director. With whites and blacks,
lawyers and businessmen, and Taylor's pushing spirit, the Committee
produced a program known as Plans for Progress, which amounted
to pledges by corporations to increase the number of minority
employees by an agreed percentage over a specified period of
time. The program was not without its critics, who contended
that it was window dressing because there were no sanctions
and the program was the equivalent of the federal government
awarding "Good Housekeeping Seals of Approval." Word
reached Bobby Kennedy, the Attorney General, who passed on the
criticism to JFK. I wound up with the assignment to check it
out. Working with Taylor and George Reedy, an assistant of LBJ
and later his press secretary, I went over the numbers and the
nature of the Plans for Progress program and concluded that
it was a step in the right direction, that there were no sweetheart
deals, and that the participants on both sides were sincere.
The major deficiency was that there was no statutory underpinning
for the program and that it was not possible to require or enforce
sanctions. Ultimately, Congress did create the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr. was
its first chairman.
President Johnson’s June
4, 1965 speech to the graduating class at Howard University
was the first presidential exposition of the rationale for results-oriented
affirmative action as national public policy to redress the
historical grievances of African Americans.
Living in the Bubble
the legacies of African slavery and Indian-extermination is
– madness within the host society. Mental incompetence, broadly
defined as an inability to perceive and act upon reality, is
the general condition among the majority of the white American
population. Like a curse from the graves of centuries, the twisted
processes that allowed whites to commit and countenance daily,
unspeakable crimes against “others” have rendered their cultural
Deaf, Dumb and Deluded,” the title of our June 26 commentary
on the vast chasm became U.S. and world opinions and perceptions.
The crisis of disintegrating order that is gripping
the globe, although initiated by the Bush Pirates and materially
rooted in the contradictions of multinational capital, is made
grotesquely more complicated by a cruel trick of history. The
population of the superpower that seeks to subdue and reorder
the world is cognitively damaged. Americans appear to be incapable of perceiving the social
realities of other peoples and nations. It is a brain-lock so
profound, so nearly perfect in its insulating mechanisms, as
to be described as a society floating in a bubble.
The desire to support the war is a desire to
kill Arabs, which requires the justification of WMDs. In the
same manner, white American failure to recognize the humanity
of Blacks and Indians was a convenient psychological device
to make their extermination and enslavement less troubling to
This is quite obvious
– unless you’re in the bubble.
Dave Turner begins his letter
with a disclaimer.
white, I read your article "Blind, Deaf, Dumb and Deluded,"
and I'm not in "The Bubble." It breaks my heart that
America is being led down the path to ruin by the Bush administration.
Your point is well-taken that white America tends to have a
distorted world view that admits none of America's wrongs and
is ethnocentric. However, I think the real reason Bush and his
cronies are literally getting away with murder is the fact that
our media in this country, owned by corporations that have an
interest in allowing the Bush administration's escapades, crusades
and deception to go unexamined, are not exposing the truth.
believe I am in the minority listening to Mike
Malloy's radio show, from which I learned of your intriguing
article and many others. I work hard to stay informed. I dig
deep and get my information from many sources including those
from around the globe and people like Greg Palast (a white man,
by the way), who exposed the tremendous crime in Florida when
voters (many Black) were wrongly purged from the voter rolls,
leading to Bush's illegitimate placement in the office of the
read the writings of historian Howard Zinn, a white man who
taught and lived on the campus of Spelman College in Atlanta
in the 1950s and 1960s and who presents the history we never
learned in school. My eyes were opened by the book, "Makes
Me Want To Holler" by Nathan McCall about his experience
as a young Black man in America and I think it should be required
reading for white Americans. Most Americans don't get this information.
Most Americans are ill-informed because of the enormous power
of the mainstream media here. Having said that, I also believe
that most Americans are shirking their responsibility to educate
themselves and be actively involved in their own democracy.
I also know first hand that there are surprising levels of racism
still present in our country, particularly in the Southeast.
But I believe the solution is not to divide white America and
Black America but for all compassionate, educated, well-informed,
reasonable, progressive people of all colors to unite and throw
the bums out.
closing, I think of Gil Scott-Heron's "The Revolution Will
Not Be Televised." I know this was written around Black
issues, but I think it can apply globally today.
Sincerely, and with hope for peace and justice
in our time.
we are singing the praises of white men who have struggled against
offers the late Herbert
Aptheker, author of the multi-volume “A Documentary History
Of The Negro People In The United States,” who died March 17
at age 87.
Tyler Wick, of Westlack, Ohio asks, “Can
the world survive “Bubble America?”
Morgan is supposed to have told a younger colleague, "I
have two reasons for everything I do, a 'right' reason and a
Americans' post-invasion reactions are helpful,
I think, in determining how many were truly deceived into war
by any of the various explanations for invasion offered by the
Bush Administration. Not many would be my guess.
Whatever the justifications for invasion, what NOW explains
our continued occupation of Iraq? If we cannot simply
"cut and run," leaving the country in chaos, what
steps are we taking to place control in international hands
– to restore order, and for peacekeeping and nation-building
Human interaction can be both subtle and
complex, and hypocrisy is a good example of this. Bush
& Co. did convince a majority of Americans that we
needed Iraqi OIL, and could seize it or take control of it at
relatively little cost. Repeated denials only remind the
public why we're there.
With special urgency, the United States has
needed "right" reasons to justify its conduct, ever
since World War II. "Special," because the US
emerged from W.W.II the world's superpower; had to share the
title for about forty years with the Soviet Union; and then
regained full possession in the early 90's. At least until
recently, the only "legitimacy" which mattered to
American politicians and people was the legitimacy of US power
in American eyes.
Maintaining that legitimacy in our own eyes
has become the full-time job of politicians, their media consultants
and the media themselves – which suggests the task is growing
increasingly difficult. Put another way, the pretense
is wearing thin – the pretense of pretending to believe our
leaders' "right" reasons. Hence, for example,
the need to resort to various, and shifting, justifications
for war and occupation.
Will legitimacy in our own eyes be sufficient
in the new century? I suspect, as you do, we are crossing
a threshold and entering a world, where we must justify ourselves
and our conduct to an increasingly skeptical world.
In our December 5, 2002 commentary, “College
SATs Incompatible With Black Mobility “ we argued that African
Americans must struggle to “abolish the tyranny” of the education
testing services, which have effectively narrowed to near-vanishing
the pool of Black students “qualified” to enter top-ranked universities.
piece cited a report of the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education
(JBHE) that found “black students
make up at best between 1 and 2 percent of these high-scoring
groups” sought by ranked universities. We wrote:
student bodies are destined to whither away unless the relative
weight of standardized testing is drastically reduced or eliminated.
There is no other choice….
assault against the Black presence in higher education is fundamental,
and can only be effectively countered by a battle to expunge
the SAT's from national life. It's us or them.
Cece, in Minnesota, expands
on the subject.
totally agree with the premise that we should push for less
weight to be given to standardized test scores. However,
one other salient point in the JBHE was the core curriculum
or college prep curriculum of blacks vs. whites during high
think that the changes in curriculum are a major component of
the decline in scores post 1988. Hence, we should be pushing
for more rigorous curriculum in our schools as well as for less
weight being given to std. test scores.
frankly do not understand the lack of rigor in the curriculum
today. The content of an Honors English class today is what
was standard curriculum in the Seventies in my high school.
That to me is the most significant change, the content
of the curriculum. I believe if we put the rigor back
in the regular classes our students would once again close the
gap in the scores.
Moreover, by making this the content of the
'regular' English curriculum we would circumvent the tendency
of our children not to aspire to honors classes for fear of
being called nerds. While that issue certainly needs to be addressed
as well, it will be a good start to simply have honors content
in the regular English class.
I think our math classes should incorporate
the instructional methods of Kumon, which has been demonstrated
to be quite successful and this will enable more black children
to develop higher order math reasoning skills and keep them
on track to calculus without the math phobia creeping in. It
has been repeatedly shown that math phobia is due to not mastering
a basic concept in one course prior to proceeding to the next
level. The Kumon methodology decreases the chance of that occurring.
Our major focus should be on curriculum content
if we want to close these gaps.
Keep up the outstanding work. I thoroughly
enjoy your weekly viewpoints.
Obama is off the DLC list
This issue’s e-Mailbox column gives us the
opportunity to report that Illinois Black State Senator Barack
Obama’s name has, in fact, been struck from the Democratic Leadership
Democrats Directory.” Obama is a very serious candidate
for the U.S. Senate, a professor of constitutional law with
a solidly progressive legislative and activist record. Our three-week
dialogue with him over his listing on the noxious DLC directory
culminated in Bruce Dixon’s June 26 commentary, “Obama
To Have Name Removed From DLC List: “New Democrats” acted “without
Associate Editor Dixon posed three “bright line” questions to the Senate candidate,
“that should determine whether you belong in the DLC, or not.”
you favor the withdrawal of the United States from NAFTA?
Will you in the Senate introduce or sponsor legislation
toward that end?
Do you favor the adoption of a single payer system of universal
health care to extend the availability of quality health care
to all persons in this country? Will you in the Senate introduce or sponsor
legislation toward that end?
you have voted against the October 10 congressional resolution
allowing the president to use unilateral force against Iraq?
Obama answered all the questions
in the affirmative, as would be expected from a progressive.
urges that all Democrats be confronted with these “bright line”
issues that separate the DLC from the bulk of Democratic legislators.
her vantage point in San Francisco, Virginia Vélez sees only
one “progressive” on the presidential horizon.
Bruce Dixon’s article on the perils of going along with the
DLC was the most informative and clearest that I have seen,
and I am a political news junkie.
I will examine the link to the DLC’s recommendations
closely. If everyone continues to be taken in by the DLC and
only a DLC-man wins the nomination, I will vote for a third
party. I was already angry at the way the party has
been abusing us, Blacks and Latinos, taking our votes for granted
and trying to dictate what our agenda should and shouldn’t be.
Dixon’s conclusion is the only thing I quarrel with. He states that if Lieberman becomes the Democratic
candidate it’s time to leave the Democratic Party. I agree. So
what is my quarrel with Dixon’s conclusion? Only this: I wish he had
said that, as it stands, the viable progressive candidate is
I hope Black Commentator will endorse Dennis Kucinich for
President, and soon so that our people are not misled and donate
their hard-earned dollars to deceptive candidates.
As a woman of color, I believe Kucinich will make the
world safer for our young people, especially.
Kucinich will cooperate with other nations to avert war,
end the death penalty and the Drug War that has really been
a war on people of color. I believe he will raise the minimum wage, and
I know that he will expand healthcare to cover all needs, including
a woman’s right to choose or to end a pregnancy if it threatens
her life. As a woman of color, I especially appreciate
that he wants to put in the policies to support women who want
to have children, so that they don’t feel their only choice
is extreme poverty with no healthcare or having no children.
Dennis has also made a commitment to expand affirmative action
and work to ensure that it, and environmental and international
laws, all get enforced. Kucinich
is the only one with a health plan that would eliminate insurance
companies from the equation, and that is so long overdue!
Whatever you do, please, don’t endorse Dean, who is opposed
(so far) by the DLC, because Dean is too close to AIPAC, the
American Israel PAC that supported apartheid in South Africa
and fosters militarism and apartheid against the Palestinians.
His campaign fundraiser, Grossman, was a head man with
AIPAC and AIPAC has already given Dean a free trip to meet Israeli
leaders, and he met with no Palestinians.
Thank you for Dixon, and for your great magazine. I’ll read it regularly and share it with everyone
bell hooks defended
perusing our archives continue to pause at Joseph Anderson’s
June 12 Guest Commentary, “Right
Hook at the Bell! Bell Hooks’ Black male-bashing.” Anderson
made author bell hooks the straw-woman for what he believes
is wrong with the Black male-female discourse. Hooks, wrote
Anderson, depicts Black males as
not only fundamentally different, but uniquely pathological,
uniquely predatory (especially sexually) and misogynist - in
Hooks' words, sexually immature, traumatized and dysfunctional.”
Banks leaps into the fray.
I and millions of other black women agree
with bell hooks.
I have not heard her say anything more or less than Ellis
Cose has in his classic book "The Envy of the World."
I have also heard Dr. Mike Dyson say similar truths.
I ask Mr. Anderson: does the gender of the message
make said message more tolerable? Has he ever penned such
a rant against black men who dare to tell the same truths
about their flawed fellow black men?
Do not kill the messenger!!!
The southern, Republican Army
Co-Publisher Glen Ford’s piece, “Fear
Of A Black Street Army” (July 3) came late to the pages
of The Black Commentator, having first appeared in the Spring
Issue of Color
Lines magazine under the title “Buffalo Soldiers.” Ford
credits African American soldiers in Vietnam with “shutting
down” the U.S. war machine – a “nightmare” the Pentagon is determined
never to revisit under the all-volunteer regime.
The Pentagon and the corporate War Party
worked tirelessly to cultivate the current U.S. military demography,
to suit the purposes to which it is presently deployed in Iraq,
and for future aggressions and occupations throughout the non-white
world. The volunteer force is the product of three decades of
social engineering, designed to prevent a return of the Pentagon’s
worst nightmare: a “critical mass” of Black soldiers in the
combat arms, as occurred in Vietnam.
careful demographic engineering, the U.S. military has created
what Ford calls “a Confederacy in arms.”
Forty-two percent of the U.S.
military enlisted from southern states in 2000, up from 31 percent
in 1980. Dixie’s military dominance dwarfs all other regions
– the Northeast accounts for just 14 percent of recruits, the
West, 23 percent, and the Midwest, 20 percent.
Although African Americans comprise 26
percent of the Army (and 22 percent of the combined services),
that proportion is halved among the “combat” specialties such
as infantry and armored gun crews, and sliced further in the
elite units that form the cutting edges of war. The good old
boys rule in these outfits – by design.
Just as ominously, the 80 percent white officer
class has grown far more politicized than the public at large
during the last few decades, according to the immensely valuable
March 30 New York Times article, “Military Mirrors Working-Class
Among the experts and authors
quoted in the commentary was Terry Anderson, professor of history
at Texas A&M University. Prof. Anderson saw the piece when
it appeared in Color Lines.
Ford: I was sent your article, "Buffalo Soldiers,"
and enjoyed it a lot. Historians of the Vietnam war and
of the 1960s have written about the insubordination among the
troops in Vietnam after 1969, see my book, The Movement and
The Sixties, or a chapter that I wrote for Melvin Small and
William D Hoover, eds, GIVE PEACE A CHANCE (1992), "The
GI Movement and the Response from the Brass," and David
Cortright's chapter, "The GI Resistance."
are certainly right to point out that the longer this "occupation"
continues the more racial hatred will be seen in the ranks,
as happened in Vietnam. This Iraq was a grave mistake.
Osorio caught up with the story in .
I greatly enjoyed your article on the "Black Street
Army." I had no idea of the black influence on ending the
war, or the Armed Forces deliberate plans to guarantee white
southern officers, although it doesn't surprise me.
It brings to mind a recent article I read concerning the
US presence in Lebanon during the early 80's. The author said
that among the US troops, only the blacks understood that they
were there to support a war against the poor.
up the excellent work.
Tar Baby Outrage - again!
Now, here’s one from way
back in the archives, connected to a tale from the mists of
On June 7, 2002, the 4th
lit a fire under the military brass from Redstone Arsenal, near
Huntsville, Alabama, all the way to the Pentagon. Titled, “Tar
Baby Outrage: Racism and Corruption at Redstone Arsenal,”
the article revealed what the good ole boys are up to at America’s
hi-tech weapons production center:
do they call a Black Ph.D. at Redstone? Tar Baby.
matter what I do from here on in, I will always be labeled
as the Tar Baby Lady." - Clara Denise West, Ph.D., Redstone
managers at one of the nations most sensitive military
installations routinely assault Black employees with an archaic
racial epithet, undermining even the pretense of unified national
resolve in the "War on Terror." At Huntsville,
Alabamas Redstone Arsenal, a military and civilian culture
holds sway that seems to revel in the language of unrelenting
war against the humanity and dignity of African Americans.
2002 News Release:
"TAR-BABY" EPITHET FUELS RACIAL
TENSIONS AT REDSTONE
Verbal outrage part of pattern of racism
and corruption, minorities charge
"This is the
rocket capital of the world, the home of Americas’ weapons of
the future,” said RAM Executive Director Matthew Fogg. “But
minority employees still have to struggle with obscene prejudices
and insults that should have been left in the past after we
defeated Jim Crow.” African Americans at Redstone “are afraid
of reprisals if they speak out against discrimination",
said Fogg, also a Chief deputy U.S. Marshal. "The racial
atmosphere is hostile."
said he is in possession of an April 16 2002 email, written
by a US Army GS-14 manager, that openly describes an African
American woman Information Assurance (IA) officer as a “Tar-baby”.
The target of the epithet holds a Ph.D. in Systems
scientist in question is Dr. Clara Denise West, a single mother
of two who has earned four degrees, including the doctorate.
reader who is a government employee in Huachuca, Arizona happened
upon our article. As our anonymous correspondent reports, Tar
Baby is still part of the vocabulary of the U.S. military.
just finish reading the Redstone article and we have the same
problem here at Ft. Huachuca, AZ. We had a Director GS-14 made
a statement "just like a tar baby, you can not get rid
of them” to a group of about 45 or more employees. The
group was of all races, black, white and others. Some of the
whites could not believe he made the remark knowing the
meaning of the term. The blacks within the directorate
fear the blacklist, blackball or losing there job if they
speak out. This is a small military retirement city
and if you are not working for the government it's hard to find
a good paying job. The good ole boy network is still alive and
Up-South, East-South, West-South – it's all Dixie in the U.S.A.
For updates on the Redstone
Tar Baby saga, consult the RAM website (www.ramea7.com)
or contact Matthew Fogg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A cool breeze in Arizona
Jeff Jones is trying to
catch some shade in, Cottonwood, Arizona. We’re glad he’s thinking
it's good to read someone telling the truth without dressing
it up in flowery apologetic feel-good bullshit. Your observations
regarding the U.S. hypocrisy in Iraq were particularly delightful.
How anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of history and
current events can buy our government's lies astounds me. Are
our fellow humans really that incredibly stupid? Apparently,
to a discouraging degree, yes.
I discovered your site through the Common
Dreams site and proceeded to read nearly everything in your
archives and every issue since. The ignorance here in Redneckland
is overwhelming, and I often feel quite politically and intellectually
isolated. Your commentary is like a strong clean breeze clearing
out foul stale exhalations from a closed room.
acknowledges the following organizations for sending visitors
our way during the past month: