Point of View Columns

Black Lives Don’t Matter

The recent revelation by Richard Nixon’s domestic policy advisor that primary motivation behind the so-called War on Drugs was to destabilize the national black community should have ignited a firestorm of outrage. The truth is that the outrage has been muted in the black community and the white community has been just plain mute. Given how successful the War on Drugs has been in accomplishing its mission in destabilizing black lives, the deathly silence at its revelation raises the legitimate question, do black lives really matter in these United States of America?

Since the inception of the “Black Lives Matter” movement a constant question has hovered regarding its necessity. After all, don’t “all lives matter”? And that ought to be true that “all lives matter”, but clearly that is not the case.

Imagine if the revelation of the racist origins of the War on Drugs indicated a focus on the Irish community, or the Italian community or the Jewish community. Imagine that the results of this racist policy were the destabilization, degradation and incarceration of millions of members of the targeted ethnic group. It is fair to imagine that there would be one hell of a firestorm of justifiable outrage accompanied by clarion calls to eliminate all vestiges of this “war” as a reasonable first step – followed by enormous remediation strategies including reparations for the victims.
Putting aside this bit of imaginative thinking, the revelations of the Nixon policies targeted black Americans has elicited barely a yawn. It has been a 24 hour story at best.

There have been no calls for Congressional investigation and there has be virtual silence from the Congressional Black Caucus.

CNN, MSNBC and BET have dedicated a few moments of air time to this horror of historic proportions and then gone back to the mind numbing coverage of the Republican Clown Show that is disguised as a presidential campaign. Indeed, none of the remaining five presidential candidates, Democratic and Republican have taken note of this governmental atrocity.

It seems as if all Americans have become anesthetized when it comes to tragedies in the black community. Whether it is police violence, infant mortality, mass incarceration, gang violence or truncated life expectancy there is no shock value left regarding these tragedies and so many more.

And perhaps the final and sad explanation is that black lives really do not matter in this country. And that final and sad explanation is supported by the fact that the story of the Nixon race strategy, a strategy that comes uncomfortably close to community genocide, is not surprising given past American history and current American reality. And clearly the institutional disaster visited upon the national black community is not enough to elicit protest, demonstration and demands for true justice.

Where are the black ministers thundering from the pulpits, calling out this injustice and demanding justice? When is the next NAACP march, when is the next Black Lives Matter demonstration, when is the issue even going to be raised during the seemingly infinite number of presidential debates?

The answers are nowhere, never and never. The reality of black lives really not mattering in this country is a suffocating and sad reality in the United States of America.

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Point of View Columns

Richard Nixon – Worse Than We Thought

Of the forty-four men who have been President of the United States, there have been many who have been outright hostile to the interests and well-being of Americans of African descent. But Richard M. Nixon, although known for his consideration of the policy of the “benign neglect” of black people, has not been considered to be one of the worst presidents on the issue of race. Now it is clear that we need to rethink our thinking.

It is, of course, all a matter of perspective. After all, we must consider Nixon in comparison to some of the other 43 presidents. After all, eight of the first ten presidents owned slaves and Rutherford B. Hayes stood by and let the Ku Klux Klan ravage black people in the South. And it should not be forgotten that Woodrow Wilson not only segregated the federal civil service but he also hosted the world premiere of the incredibly racist film, “Birth of a Nation”.

But now a voice from the grave of John Ehrlichman, President Nixon’s Domestic Policy Advisor, gives us a very clear picture of how vile and villainous the Nixon Administration was on the issue of race. In a 1994 interview with journalist Dan Baum that is now published in the current issue of Harper’s magazine, Ehrlichman is quoted as saying that black people were seen as enemies of the Nixon White House. He goes on to say:

“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

In this quote, Ehrlichman sounds like an advisor to the Third Reich instead of the President of the United States. As a result of this mindset, the Nixon Administration began the so-called War on Drugs, which has been termed by many, a War on Black America. As Professor Michelle Alexander has pointed out in “The New Jim Crow”, the War on Drugs and the commitment to racially biased massed incarceration has eviscerated black communities in this country for over forty years. Trillions of dollars have been wasted and millions of lives have been ruined in the name of a policy that was born out of racial hatred and bigotry.

The sad part of this miserable story is that Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush propagated and even doubled down on this dark plot to demean and diminish black America. And when black critics of the Obama Administration get ready to hurl more epithets against the first black President of the United States, they should pause and remember that he is the first and only President of the United States to initiate the process of decriminalizing federal drug laws while seriously attempting to end the scourge of mass incarceration – a Nixonian legacy that has outlived its authors as it continues to torment black men and women and children to this day.

The takeaway of this miserable story is not simply that the War on Drugs was born of malicious racial policies. The real takeaway is that five presidents, the United States Congress, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party continued and propagated this awful “War”. And even after the casualties –  black Americans and their families and their communities-  piled up in cities across this nation the entire governmental apparatus of this country supported it.

We are now witness to fresh thinking finally beginning to take hold as the “War” threatens to bankrupt states and cities financially. But even now, it seems that we are decades away from the stench of Nixon’s War on Black America being cleansed from this country.

And is not Watergate or Cointelpro or the “Enemies Lists” that are the worst part of that stained and battered Richard Milhous Nixon legacy, it is the systematic and systemic War on Black America.

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Point of View Columns

The Birth of Trumpageddon

Historians will undoubtedly look at the 2016 presidential campaign as being unique. The looming and tantalizing presence of Trumpageddon will virtually overshadow everything, much the same way as Donald Trump himself sucks up the media oxygen every day of this very bizarre year. But the most astute historians will go back a half century earlier to discover the roots of Trumpageddon, roots that have nothing to do with Donald J. Trump and have everything to do with the intentional reinvention of the Republican Party in 1964.

Prior to 1964 the national Republican party was indisputably more progressive when it came to civil rights for black Americans. After all, the Democratic Party was deeply rooted in the South, roots that went back as far as the end of Reconstruction and the federal occupation of the formerly treasonous Confederacy in 1876.

After all, the Republican Party came into being with the abolition of slavery being a principal plank in its national political platform in 1860. Abraham Lincoln, the author of the Emancipation Proclamation was a Republican. And when the seething South was liberated from federal occupation in 1876, due in large part to the tricknology of Rutherford B. Hayes who swapped the freedom, civil rights and physical safety of Southern black people in exchange for the presidency, southerners embraced the Democratic Party as their own.

The Democratic Party in the South was the party of Jim Crow and lynching. Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican president, invited the first black American to dine at the White House. Woodrow Wilson, a Democratic president, hosted the premier of “Birth of a Nation” in the White House.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democratic president, never supported anti-lynching legislation for fear of alienating his Southern party members. And it was Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican president, who sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce the Supreme Court’s decision that racially segregated public schools were unconstitutional.

Prior to his untimely death, Democratic President John F. Kennedy was nowhere near a staunch supporter of the Civil Rights Act that was passed posthumously. And in 1960, Richard Nixon, his Republican opponent in that presidential election, had virtually the same amount of support in the national black community as did Kennedy.

As late as 1964, the Democratic Party was the home of  blood-soaked and hate drenched racist villains such as Thurmond and Stennis and Faubus and Wallace and Bilbo. And in 1964 every state that had been a part of the Confederate States of America was firmly on the Democratic side of the national political register.

And then the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed with the urging of Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson, followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And as if by magic, during the following decade, the Republican Party was ascendant in the South, vacuuming up all the disenchanted white Southerners, supposedly in the name of conservatism and state’s rights, but in reality the transition was fueled by the deep and abiding resentment that black Americans were afforded some measure of citizenship and recognition of their humanity by the Damned Democrats.

Should there any be any doubt regarding the linkage of race and the Republican ascendancy, it should be remembered that Ronald Reagan, the patron saint of Republican conservatism, launched his national presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, less than twenty years after three civil rights workers were lynched within miles of the podium on which he stood. And when Reagan proclaimed that “government was the enemy”, he was referring to that same federal government that was often the only source of protection for black Americans seeking asylum and vindication in their own country. That dog whistle blew loud enough for white ears in the South and throughout the nation.

It should, therefore, be no surprise that the modern Republican Party, reborn in radical response to the advancement of racial civil rights progress would be the home of the impending Trumpageddon. It certainly should be no surprise that the political party that turned a blind eye to the clearly racist and racial efforts to delegitimize the first African American presidency would serve as the incubator for those would seek to delegitimize the entire apparatus of the federal government.

Republican leaders like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell who refused to extinguish the dark magical thinking that claimed that Barack Obama is a Muslim, or “hates America” or is not even a citizen, cannot be surprised that a master manipulator like Donald Trump could harness this malevolent harvest and turn it into a movement. And now, for good historical reason, Trumpageddon is upon us.

The Republicans are reaping what they have sown, and that harvest is being served to America.

 

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Point of View Columns

Trump and Cruz – Beware of the Head Fake

In most sports the head fake is an important weapon, both on offense and defense. The intent of the head fake is to get the opponent to go in a direction different from that which is planned. The head fake is meant to trick, fool and bamboozle the opponent. And, the more that we hear about members of the Republican establishment uniting to derail the Trump candidacy, the more we should beware the dreaded head fake.

So much, too much, has been written about Donald Trump and his presidential campaign. It is quite clear that he can be profane, insulting, bombastic and boorish in the extreme. He may be the most unpresidential presidential candidate since………Michele Bachman, and that’s saying a lot. Many leaders of the Republican Party find the idea of a Trump presidency so repulsive that they are supporting Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio as viable alternatives to Trumpageddon.

With Donald Trump so much is so wrong, be it is his endorsement of torture, his willingness to insult everyone and everything, or his mythic policy proposals – from building walls with Mexican money to winning trade wars with China and Japan. As a result, the prospect of Trump as the Republican standard bearer strikes many Republican leaders as the beginning of the last days and times of the G.O.P. And according this same Republican establishment, the antidote to this noxious prospect is Ted Cruz or maybe Marco Rubio.

For those who care about what happens to this country, this Cruz-Rubio alternative to Donald Trump is the ultimate right wing head fake. If the rationale for the Cruz-Rubio antidote for the virulent form of Trumpitis that is sweeping this country is that either one of them is better than Donald Trump, the American people are being forced to pick their poison.

Far too much has been written and said about the odious Mr. Trump, but that does not make Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio gifts from heaven. Consider that both of them are irrationally committed to the total dismantling of the Affordable Care Act “on day one” of their presidency. The fact that almost 20 million Americans will lose health care coverage on that dreaded “day one” has not inspired either of them to propose and alternative for what will take place on “day one”.

Consider that Ted Cruz has called for the carpet bombing of various parts of the Middle East “until sand turns to glass”. He has held to this position despite the opinion of various military experts that such a strategy would result in untold civilian deaths and the virtually eternal enmity of the survivors, thereby confirming the rhetoric of jihadists throughout the region who reference the United States as “The Great Satan”.

Both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio adhere to an antediluvian Neanderthal view of the right of women to choose their healthcare provider (e.g. the proposed defunding of Planned Parenthood) and the right of women to freely exercise their Constitutional right to access abortion services. The administration of President Cruz or President Rubio would take this country back to a time before the Roe v. Wade decision of 1972 when women had to exercise their right to choose in back alleys.

Their positions on immigration reform can be distilled in a few words – when to deport and how to deport. The fact that close to 12 million human beings might be subject to policies that are sickeningly close to fascism do not seem to faze either of these children of immigrants.

Ted Cruz proposes a flat tax and the abolition of the Internal Revenue Service without telling anyone how taxes will be collected in the United States of Cruz. Both Cruz and Rubio do not believe in the science that supports the existence of climate change on this planet, which means that President Cruz or President Rubio would have a good chance of dooming the children of this country to inhabiting and environmentally damned planet.

The point is that the entire Republican presidential campaign cycle has revealed the party to still be the Party of No. The Republican platform that is hammered together in Cleveland will once again demean the humanity of immigrants, place the gun on an altar, demean the rights of women and worship a fossil fuel philosophy when it comes to climate change.

So when Mitt Romney or John McCain or Lindsey Graham tells the American people that Cruz or Rubio are palatable alternatives on the Republican menu as opposed to the option of a Trump entrée, we should remember that any of these choices will make America sick to its stomach.

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Point of View Columns

Trump and Black People. It was Just a Matter of Time.

Since he announced his candidacy for president, Donald J. Trump has serially assaulted the sensibilities of…..well, just about everybody. Everyone remembers his inaugural smear of Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers. His appearance before a group of Jewish leaders and praising them for “making good deals” was a Trump classic. In a bizarre cross-cultural slur, Trump has made Muslims his personal piñata. And all along black Americans knew, just knew, that it was a just a matter of time.

Donald Trump managed to insult every woman who does not aspire to look like a runway model when he went after Carly Fiorina. He bashed differently able citizens of this planet when he mocked a New York Times reporter with physical challenges. And all along black Americans knew, just knew, that it was just a matter of time.

And true to form Donald Trump added a race-baiting grenade to his arsenal. When asked whether he disavowed the tacit endorsement of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke he tiptoed, spun and moonwalked all over the place before finally “disavowing” Duke. Of course he “disavowed” with a dog whistle, a Trumpian wink and an elbow nudge to all those who think that David Duke isn’t such a bad guy and that the Ku Klux Klan is no worse than Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

The reason why black Americans have been so prescient is not due to some shared race memory. It has been one of the sad themes of American racial history that when hatemongering begins in this country, black Americans will not fare well. And when it comes to Donald Trump his record regarding racial issues goes back a lot further than his recent Texas Two Step with the David Duke question.

Over twenty years ago, during the furor surrounding the Central Park Five, it was Donald Trump who called the black and brown defendants “animals” and stoked the flames that in earlier times would have resulted in a lynching. And even when the five (now not so young) men were fully exonerated and received some compensation for their suffering, it was Republican Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump who said they should not receive a penny.

And it was only six years ago that Donald Trump assumed the mantle of leader of the “birther” movement, seeking to delegitimize the Obama presidency by casting doubts on his citizenship. It is important to remember that there was never any question or doubt that Barack Obama’s mother was a white American woman from Kansas and (according to the supporters of the Canadian-born Ted Cruz) that should have ended any questions regarding the citizenship of Barack Obama.

But Donald Trump persisted with a passion that bordered on obsession, demanding to see the Obama birth certificate. And when that Hawaiian document was presented Trump went on to seek Obama transcripts from Columbia and Harvard. This bizarre and possessed questioning of the qualifications of Barack Obama is all too familiar to any black American with any aspirations and any experience on Planet America. And black Americans know that this questioning is undoubtedly race-based.

But Trump’s shadowboxing with the Klan question is particularly troubling because it would be easy enough for him to channel his inner hypocrite and denounce an original domestic terrorist organization. His failure to do so raises the same concerns that we should have if he failed to clearly denounce Nazis or Isis.

Of course, Donald Trump is not really interested in the black vote or what black people think. He is outreach to the black community is limited to a neo-minstrelsy opening act of the “Diamond and Silk” black sister act and the few black apologists who do not know of the tragic intersection of black heritage and the Klan, or just don’t care as long as Trump is signing the checks and those checks don’t bounce (with Trump one never knows, do one?).

Again, Donald J. Trump is not really interested in the black vote. But he is very interested in those disaffected, angry white voters who hear his racist dog whistle loud and clear.

Who let the dogs out? Donald J. Trump, that’s who.

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