Dr. Jonathan David Farley, Green Party candidate
for U.S. Congress from Tennessees 5th district ( http://www.votefarley2002.org
), is a Fulbright Distinguished Scholar at Oxford University and assistant
professor of mathematics at Vanderbilt University, Nashville. He graduated
summa cum laude with an A.B. in Mathematics from Harvard University
in 1991. He received his doctorate in Mathematics from Oxford University
In 1994 he was awarded Oxford University's Senior Mathematical Prize
and Johnson Prize for his research (Oxford's highest mathematics awards).
From 1995 to 1997, he was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Mathematical
Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, California.
Research Interests: Lattice Theory, Theory of Ordered Sets, Discrete
was at a house party in Murfreesboro, just south of Nashville, a town
known primarily for being the home of professional wrestler Hulk Hogan.
It was just before the presidential elections, but I had nothing on
my mind except having fun.
was the only African-American in the house, and I figured that, since
everyone there was a liberal, I wouldnt hear anything shocking.
I was dead wrong. This is what I heardand when I did hear
it, I had to sit up and take notice:
The Green Party, someone said, in another conversation,
is the first party since the Black Panthers to support reparations
I was floored. Immediately I was energized, excited, and determined
to do what I could to build the Green Party. I had missed the
Sixties (by five months); but this was the organization, the Movement,
that I had been waiting for.
Nevertheless, given the disaster that has been the Bush presidencygiven
his rejection of the Kyoto accords, his flouting of the UN Conference
on Racism, his catastrophic war against Afghanistan, his saber-rattling
with China, his threat of a renewed arms race with Star Wars, his shredding
of the Constitution and the subordination of the peoples interests
to those of the oil lobbyhow could any rational being support
the Green Party? Didnt the Green Party, by tipping the balance
in favor of Bush, hand the Republicans a noose to put around our necks?
Before the party in Nashville, I had already been drifting Greenward
for a couple of weeks. I decided not to vote for Gore after I
learned of his running mates hostility towards affirmative action,
and I gave the Green Party a look when I learned that Dr. Ray Winbush,
director of the prestigious Race Relations Institute at Fisk University,
had attended the Green Party convention.
Still, I didnt think much of the Greens. They seemed to
be just another group of alienated white hippies primarily concerned
with the environment, but ignorant (perhaps willfully so) of the issues
that affected black people specifically.
I remembered the lesson of black communists and socialists in the Thirties,
Forties, and Fifties. Eminent scholars like W.E.B. DuBois realized
that white socialists, though in principle opposed to racism, remained
embedded in Americas racial matrix. By playing down the
importance of race in history, the white socialists were essentially
relegating black political issues to the back of the bus.
When I heard Green presidential candidate Ralph Nader speak in Nashville,
he only confirmed my views, dismissing a question about police brutality
with the glib response, Not all policemen are bad.
That was before the party in Nashville.
Historically, many black political movements have demanded reparations,
of course, but they have always been small, and too radical even for
most African-Americans. The Green Partyyes, to a large extent
because it is whitemay succeed where these fringe parties have
failed: It has a larger base of support, international connections,
and, as its presidential candidate, Ralph Nader, a universally respected
champion of consumer rights, occupational safety, and the environment.
(The Green candidate for Senate in Tennessee was Tom Burrell, an African-American.)
The Green Party platform reads: We recognize that people of color
have legitimate claims in this country to reparations in the form of
monetary compensation for these centuries of discrimination. We
also uphold the right of the descendants of the African slaves to self-determination.
What other issues do Greens and blacks support?
1. The removal of the Confederate
flag from all public spaces.
2. A reappraisal of Third World
3. Community control of the police.
4. An end to the war on drugs,
Three Strikes, and the prison-industrial complex (which has left over
a million blacks in prison).
5. Abolition of the death penalty.
6. Statehood for the District
of Columbia (so blacks can get in the Senatecrack addicts who
have been caught on film need not apply).
7. Free public education through
college or vocational school.
8. Universal health insurance.
9. A living wage (so minimum
wage workers can afford to raise a family).
10. The granting of new trials to political prisoners
like Native American activist Leonard Peltier and former Black Panther
11. An end to corporate welfare and the surrender of
our government to big business.
12. Electoral reform, including making Election Day a
holiday, and the abolition of the Electoral College.
The list goes on. The full platform can be found at http://www.gp.org.
(Readers beware: there is a tiny organization masquerading as the
Green Party which also has a web site, leading to endless confusion.)
When people ask me why I support the Green Party, I say that I will
support a party that supports me, that supports us, that supports reparations.
This is not mere idealism. We are taking the struggle for reparations
to another level, that of electoral politics.
Yes, a Bush administration and Supreme Court may repeal our hard-won
freedoms, but we must remember that the Supreme Court did not grant
us those freedoms: the people, united and organized, demanded and won
them. We must stop wishing that a white-led administrationDemocratic
or Republicanwill throw us a few crumbs, such as affirmative action.
After all, we got affirmative action because, in the Sixties, organizations
like the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam were demanding reparations,
even a separate nation. We got affirmative action because they
were strident, uncompromising, and organized. In the Eighties
we stopped demanding and started petitioning. And thats
when the Right, sensing weakness, began to turn the clock back.
Weve gotten too used to the warm bed of straw that the Democrats
have laid out for us in the barn. So afraid are we of the cold
night air, that we are unwilling to leave themwhen in fact, the
Big House and all thats inside it belong to us by right.
The owners will not yield it to us willingly. They wont
give it up even if we ask with sugar on top. A thousand disparate
voices, dispersed among a thousand fledgling organizations, wont
make them surrender. But they will run for the hills if we shout
with one voice.
One of Our Candidates Is Missing
A major concern African-Americans had in the last election was this:
a vote for the Greens seemed to be a vote for Bush.
Unfortunately, the flip side is that a vote for Al Gore was a vote
for Al Gore. Since the Democrats lost the race anyhow, it was,
ironically, Gore supporters who wasted their votes.
Lets set the record straight: No one in the Green Party expected
Ralph Nader to win. What we were hoping forand, yes, it
was a gamblewas 5% of the vote. Indeed, if it hadnt
been for the millions of yellow Greens who chickened out
at the last minute and voted Democratic, the Green Party might have
gotten its 5%, and hence might have become eligible for federal election
matching funds, which we need to win the battle for democracy.
This would bring with it publicity, with which we could pressure the
media to cover real issues. Green issuesnot tissue issues
(like whether rap CDs should have warning labels)would begin to
occupy their rightful place on the center stage of political debate.
The fact that (it seems) we lost the gamble does not mean we were wrong
to make it.
Liberal Democrats often charge Ralph Nader with saying that theres
no difference between the Democrats and Republicans. I personally
have never heard him say that. I believe there is a marked difference
between Al Gore and George Bush, as the last 15 months have proven:
Al Gore grew a beard, and George Bush didnt.
But seriously, dont be fooled by the rhetoric. We have
little reason to believe that the Democrats, long-term, would have been
any better than they have been in the past. Dont take it
from me: take it from Bev, a woman I corresponded with. Bev was
Those Democrats take our vote for granted, she complained: They come
around begging for our votes once every four years, and then they ignore
us until the next election.
But whats a girl to do? Vote for the Republicans, who,
aside from sprinkling Spanish into speeches here and there and showcasing
four-star generals, are openly hostile to minorities? Heck, no.
So the Democrats keep us in their corner, expecting us to help them
win the prizefight, but giving us nothing in return but their sweaty
Take Bill Clinton, hailed by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison as the
first black president. When Clinton was choking on cigar
smoke at the height of the Lewinsky scandal, his greatest defenders
were the members of the Congressional Black Caucus. But this is
the Clinton who, in 1992, dissed Jesse Jackson (the Democratic Partys
election-year minority whip and whipping boy) in front of
the entire country. This is the Clinton who, his first week in
office, blockaded Haiti to keep black political refugees from coming
This is the Clinton who got my vote, twice.
Take Montgomery, Alabama. The white Democratic mayor, elected
by a narrow margin thanks to
the black vote, showed his gratitude by refusing to discipline police
officers who bullishly beat a black man.
So whats a people to do?
African-American political leaders have failed to put into practice
a saying everybody else understands: You scratch my back, Ill
scratch yours. Or, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice,
shame on me. Instead, we seem to think the saying goes: Ill
scratch your back, you shovel *** in my face, and Ill scratch
your back again, with a smile!
Dr. Lenora Fulani, one-time leader of the now-fratricidal Reform Party,
says we need a third party. But it cant be a party that
focuses on black interests, she argues, because were only 12%
of the population. We have to assimilate, merge with whites, even
if they are anti-Semites like Pat Buchanan.
The good doctor is partly right. We do need a third party.
But shes also partly wrong. A Black Bloc Party (call it
what you will) is viable. In Europe, minority parties, such as
the Ulster Unionists in Britain, do have influence precisely because
the major parties are almost evenly balanced. They let the major
parties know what it will take to garner their support; and the major
parties had better deliver.
But, one might argue, wouldnt such a third party only hurt the
Democrats? You bet it would. They would have to make a choice:
Continue the slide towards the right, or address our issues.
They might call our bluff, or decide that they would rather lose the
White House than lose white votes, but its all good: At least
wed finally see that the liberals weve trusted
for decades are, at the end of the day, nothing but a bunch of good
ol boys in white sheets.
For too long, African-Americans have been living off the Democratic
Party the way a lamprey lives off a shark; and we all know that the
Replutocrats are no alternative. What we need is a Black Bloc
Partybecause the roof is on fire. I believe the Greens
can be the vehicle we need to reach that party. We need candidates
who will represent us, and not merely black skins in white masks who
will sell us out. The Green Party and the black agenda are going
in the same direction. So lets join.
Election 2000, Ground Zero
Dont get me wrong: I felt unwell the morning after the presidential
elections. I live in Nashville, TennesseeGore Country, Ground
Zero of the campaign. I had woken up at 3 a.m. on November
8 to turn on the TV and see who won, only to learn that it was too
close to call.
And when I learned how close500 votes in FloridaI became
positively sick. The Green Party had won more than enough votes there90,000to
put Al Gore over the top, even if just 0.5% of those Nader supporters
had voted for Gore instead.
Ralph Nader is at the bottom of the moral scale, angry
Democrats told me. Ill never vote for him, ever!
But I felt better when I realized who was really to blame for Gores
(apparent) defeat: Gore himself.
The way politics works is, if you want my vote, you have to do something
for it. Gore had months to court the Green vote; but even two
weeks before the election, he explicitly said he would not.
Of course, if Gore had catered to the Greens, and instead conservative
Democrats had defected from the party and voted for Bush, no one would
be blaming the conservatives. Instead, they would be asking themselves
how they could win those voters back. This is not speculationit
is what actually happened in 1984 and 1988. Thats why Gore
helped found the Democratic Leadership Council.
Despite African-Americans record turnout at the polls, Gore even
ran from blacks, up until the last few weeks: He chose an anti-affirmative
action running mate. He refused to speak at Fisk University, despite
repeated invitations (until the last week, when the race was close).
Even when it could have won him the White House, Gore did not back up
Jesse Jackson and the NAACP in their investigations of voter intimidation
Gore's campaign staff was incompetent. He could have crushed Bush in
a landslide. Gore lost because his supporters lacked the fire of the
Gore lost because of Gore.
Unipolar Disorder: The World after September
While I agree that there is a significant difference between Al Bush
and George Gore, we cant blame Greens for what happened post-September
11: the emergence of the United States as a global behemoth, a bull
in a china shop, unencumbered by treaties, diplomacy, or human rights.
After all, no Greens are in Congress, and its Congress that has
surrendered completely to the madness of King George.
And lets not paint too rosy a picture about America under President
Gore: One girl I met claimed that we had to support Gore for president,
because then-Governor Bush was executing so many people. She seemed
to forget that Bush, Cheney, Lieberman and Gore all support the death
A white man I met claimed that Gore would have pursued a radically
different course in the Middle East than Bush has. He ignored
Liebermans recent resolution supporting Israels military
attacks in Jenin, and Al Gores own statement, during the second
presidential debate, that without question, we stand with Israel.
Bush is proceeding madly towards drilling in Alaska, but Occidental
Oil, a company closely linked with the Gore family, was, until recently,
determined to drill in Colombia, despite the fact that the Uwa
people (whose ancestral lands would have been desecrated by the drilling)
were determined to commit mass suicide rather than allow that to happen.
Incidentally, it was the Clinton-Gore administration that approved $1.3
billion in military aid for the Colombian government, with Clinton even
demanding that the aid not be dependent on Colombias improving
its human rights record. As is well known, the Colombian military
works closely with paramilitary death squads, who together kill about
80% of the 3,000 people who are massacred each year in Colombias
And most importantly, we must recall that, despite Bushs horrific
record, all the media pundits claimed that the winner of the election
would be the loser, a four-year lame duck president, facing gridlock
at every juncture. That it did not turn out this way should shame
the pundits, the papers, the political scientists, and, most of all,
the party of Gore.
This is not to say that a Gore presidency would have been isomorphic
to Bushs; it is merely acknowledging reality: To call Albert a
prince is to believe in fairy tales. It is the Greens, not the
Democrats and certainly not Al Gore, who are the opposition in America
The Color Blind Spot
One objection many African-Americans have to the Green Party is that
it is a white party. To which I respond:
Oh, and the Democratic Party isnt?
Indeed, of the three main presidential candidates in 2000, Ralph Nader
is the only one who could be considered non-white. (His parents
are from Lebanon.) His 2000 running mate, Winona LaDuke, is a
So when I hear people say that the Green Party consists almost entirely
of white hippie tree-huggers, I always laugh. To be honest, the
Green Party does consist almost entirely of white hippie tree-huggers,
but I laugh anyway. While the Green Party, despite its name, has
very little color in it, it is still the most pro-black of the three
Nonetheless, Grady, a student at Fisk University, told me that he believed
Nader and Bush were conspiring together to undermine blacks. Other
blacks have told me that the Green Party only takes the positions it
does to trick blacks into voting for them.
So basically, these blacks are saying that they wont support
a party that claims it supports reparations; they will only support
a party (like the Democrats) that has proven that it wont.
Someone please explain the logic here?
As to the Green Partys secret agenda to undermine Black America:
I only wish the Green Party were that well organized. But the
fact is, the Green Party was not trying to trick blacks into supporting
them by adopting its amazing pro-reparations platform. I know
thisbecause the Green Party made no effort whatsoever to recruit
people of color!
Colorlines Magazine accused Nader of having a racial blind spot.
But as Nader himself has pointed out, when we fight big polluters, when
we fight for a living wage and better schools, its people of color
who benefit. But if thats not a convincing defense, let
me add that the Green Party is not your average bear (or elephant or
donkey): It is not a top-down party, led by Ralph Nader.
It is a grass-roots party. The Green Party of the United States
does not tell the Green Party of Tennessee what to do; the Green Party
of Tennessee calls the shots in Tennessee.
This is why blacks who want to start chapters of the Green Party need
not be concerned that their party will be co-opted or taken over by
whites. What they (the blacks) say, goes. This makes the
Green Party more democratic than a lot of black organizations, the church
and the NAACP included.
This bottom-up structure is a strength and a weakness. Many local
Green Party chapters are not ready for prime time. In Nashville,
for instance, when Ralph Nader came to speak, the local Green Party
did not even have a literature table set up at his talk, so that people
who wanted to join the party could find out more. Despite the
Green Partys lack of organization, I want to be a part of it.
It is African-Americans who can help build it.
Of course, we must remember the lesson of DuBois and still be wary
of majority white parties: Soon after I started campaigning for the
Greens, instructing party officials that they would bring thousands
of blacks into their ranks by publicizing the reparations issue, I got
this message from a Green activist:
Dear Professor: Reparations on slavery? Get over it, its
time to move on! (This man soon stepped down from his position
after other Greens chastised him.)
When I decided to run for US Congress as a Green, despite my getting
the endorsement of the Green Party, some of the officers of the Green
Party of Tennessee conspired to keep information about my campaign off
the party website. Their fear was that reparations would
be destructive to the Green Party and its relations with both
the black and white communities. This is classic white liberal
paternalism: they know better than we do about what we should ask for,
Having said this, the Green Party of the United States is progressiveat
the national level. The national co-chairs get it,
people like Anita Rios (a Latina) and Ben Manski (awell, a white
guy). It is just some local chapters that need to be brought in
line. And I am proud to be in the same party as people like Donna
Jo Warren of California (who has been investigating the crack-CIA connection),
candidate for Lieutenant Governor. So when people ask me if I
am still running under the Green banner, I reply, Yes!
I will not let the reactionaries chase me out of the party. Instead,
I will rout them.
To the Spoiler Goes the Victory?
An NAACP official said recently that he wont work with Greens
because Greens arent winners. But Greens can
win. Were part of the government in France and Germany.
And in Nashville, where I am running for Congress, weve even gotten
international publicity. The congressional elections will see
a conservative Democrat (old, white, male) and an almost identical conservative
Republican (old, white, male) split the vote. Given that Nashville
is 25% black and our agenda is 100% black, we might just slip into office
with 34%. Im working on my professional wrestling moves
even as I write.
More is true. The Green Party can shift the terms of debatewithout
a major electoral victoryso that the Democrats adopt our main
platform issues. Already, former president Jimmy Carter is suggesting
an Election Day holiday. Municipalities and universities across
the country are adopting the living wage. Rapprochement with Cuba
is around the corner. And of course, the degradation of our rivers,
woods and air is a problem that wont go away.
The Green Party is not just an environmental party. While it
does support the traditional environmental issuesthe abolition
of nuclear weapons, the search for renewable energy sources like solar
and wind power, the labeling of genetically engineered Frankenfood
in supermarketsit also has a social justice agenda that cant
be matched by the Demopublicans. This agenda is so radical that
the Greens wont ever be a majority party; but they can become
the party of color.
Towards a Politics of the Future
My vote for the Green Party was not a protest vote. I did not
vote Green because I am a naïve idealist: It was a pragmatic choice.
While I am cognizant of the dangers of a Bush Supreme Court, I know
that, every election, we will be presented with the same choice between
a conservative Democrat and a Republican bogeyman. That cycle
must be broken.
The Green Party is not perfect, but, as one former Black Panther recently
told me, its all we have. The whiteness of the Green Party
does not prevent it from having the most pro-black platform of the three
major parties; and the best way to keep the Greens from betraying us
is to join them.
African-Americans must start thinking about long-term political objectives,
about building a true opposition. Green should be in the middle
of our rainbow coalition. If blacks join the Green Party en masse,
it will become our party. And, with that base, we can begin to
build the nation that Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X only dreamed about.
After all, black and Green make goldthe colors of African liberation.
The Democrats and Republicans are like Siamese twins, joined at the
wallet. At some point, we must break the stranglehold they have
on electoral politics. Someone once said that, if wed begun
building a third party in 1980, we would have had a viable alternative
by now. With two parties, we only have two choices. With
three parties, we have only one.
Everythingnations, movements, universesmust have a beginning.
For us to have a future worth having, there must be a change in the
political order. The world is relying on us to effect that changewe,
who live in the belly of the beast. So let us take up our tools,
makeshift as they are; let us assemble our armies, and sail to meet
the foe. The beach is before us, our ships eager to reach it.
There are enemy cannons there, exploding with thunder and light.
Many fall away. But this we know: the freedom or servitude of
an entire continent, of future generations, is in our hands. We
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