Point of View Columns

My Last Black History Month Speech of 2022

Greetings and thanks to the introduction and to all of you for attending today’s program. It is always a pleasure to join you brothers and sisters during Black History Month.

On this wet and rainy Friday, I am glad to begin this presentation with some truly good news. Today some more Black history has been made. Today, President Biden nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be the first Black woman to serve as a Supreme Court Justice.

It should be noted that in the 233-year history of the Supreme Court, she will be only the third Black American to serve on the Supreme Court – and that we are still talking and rightfully celebrating Black “firsts” in the third century of this country’s existence is yet another illustration of the racist and supremacist virus that still courses through the veins of this nation.

Of course, during Black History Month we celebrate what has been – but we also have to take to time to observe, assess and consider the present and the future because if we ignore the present and fail to consider the future, then we do so at our own peril.

It should be noted that the origins of Black History Month began with the work of the great Black Historian G. Carter Woodson. The celebration began in February because the birthday of the great Frederick Douglass was in February. And I would like to begin with a quote by Brother Douglass:

There is no Negro problem. The problem is whether the American people have honesty enough, loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough to live up to their constitution.

Over the last six years it would seem that nothing could be worse for Black America than the presidency of one Donald J. Trump. And then came the torrent of sanctioned murders of Black Americans including George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and so many more (and of course we should remember that Eric Garner was strangled to death by NYPD Officer Pantaleo and there has never been justice for him and his family even though the President and the Attorney General of the United States were Black at the time.

We have seen the birth and the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement and white corporate America has paid lip service to the concept – but institutional change has been elusive at best for Black America.

By every indicia – family income, infant mortality, life expectancy, incarceration rates, poverty levels, education and income deficits – the narrative of this country is that no matter where we live, no matter how much money we make, no matter where we went to school – if you are a Black woman, man or child – we live in a different country than that of our white sisters and brothers.

It would seem that since I first had the honor of joining you 4 years ago – so much has happened. And now so much is about to happen. Since the November 2020 election we have seen the deconstruction of American democracy moving from slow motion to warp speed. And even though American democracy has never been the saving grace of Black America that it should be, its demise simply cannot be a good thing. That is because the successor to American democracy could be very well be an authoritarian America that will certainly not be the friend of any Black woman, man or child.

Since January 1, 2021 19 states have passed 34 laws that make it more difficult to vote and in particular making it more difficult for Black Americans to vote. As you might guess, this is no accident.

Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 – and I realize that many of you gathered today were not even born then and therefore have enjoyed a level of franchise entitlement that never existed for Black people before that year and…. may soon evaporate within the next 36 months.

We have seen the deconstruction of the Republican Party, at one point the party of Reconstruction- seemingly a million years ago, and is now the vehicle for a proto-conservative, authoritarian, neo-fascist, jackbooted and tattooed cadre of shock troops hell-bent on a reconstruction of America that will not resemble anything that has been seen in this country’s history.

We must understand that instead of worrying about how many times Joe Rogan says “nigger” we should be worrying about how many members of Congress and the Senate will no longer consider Black Americans as a legitimate part of their constituency. And once that becomes the case, the remaining guard rails are coming down.

Due to our collective inattention and lack of focus, the Supreme Court now has a 6-3 proto-conservative majority. My sad prediction is that the following rights are on the chopping block and will be eviscerated or eliminated within the next 36 months – abortion rights, universal healthcare, universal voting rights, affirmative action, rights to public accommodations, gender equity, rights of the differently abled, same sex marriage and anything resembling for undocumented immigrants.

And keep in mind that this Court will have this right wing of the right wing majority for at least the next two decades – and that’s why elections do matter.

The American house is on fire. Like many house fires it may not be that noticeable at first – there might be some oily rags in the garage waiting for a moment of ignition or some old and moldy magazines smoldering in the attic and then – conflagration.

In the future we should never look back and say that we had no idea that it could get this bad. We have been warned and we have a choice. As Frederick Douglass said:

Power concedes nothing without demand

The question now is what do you demand? What do we demand?

We can regroup and reorient our focus towards resistance and resilience. We have to realize that our forebears didn’t even have shoes, but they marched to freedom – spiritually and literally.

Anything that we might consider to be freedom today is in jeopardy.

And if we just hope for better times, if we just go about our daily business with the assumption that things really cannot get that much worse, if we cross our fingers and refuse to imagine a more negative scenario than that in which we live, then we dishonor and disrespect everything that Black History Month is supposed to stand for:

-We will dishonor the enslaved mothers and fathers of our people who endured unspeakable horror, somehow holding on to the hope that if not their lives, the lives of their descendants would be better

-We will disregard the historic and epic achievements of Harriet Tubman and Nat Turner and Frederick Douglass on through to Fannie Lou Hamer, Harry T. Moore, Martin Luther King, Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X and so many others whose names we will never know

-and we will disrespect the rich legacy of hope and expectation that has been our inheritance

What can we do? We can invest strategically in that aspect of the political process to which we still have access and demand of our elected officials that every moment of every hour of every day should witness their working with the realization that we are at an existential point in American history and our continued existence is not a given – we don’t have time for political labels or petty partisanship or anything else that does not aim for resistance and resilience

What can we do? We can focus on education, healthcare and community development as if our lives depend on it – because they do.

What can we do? We can immediately stop acting like business as usual is going to yield useful results.

What can we do?


We can get more serious about voter registration and, as importantly, voter education and, most importantly voter engagement – in your neighborhood and in your community.

We can learn from the opposition to play the long game – focus on the community boards, the school boards, the state legislators.

We can develop a real agenda that needs to be supported by candidates at every level – local, state and federal– healthcare, housing education, police/criminal justice reform, voting rights, abortion rights – what exactly do you want? You cannot complain that the system isn’t serving your needs if you don’t know what you want, and you don’t know what you need.

What can we do?



Point of View Columns

Black Lives and the Scales of Justice

On this day, February 18, 2022, America once more proved that, while Black lives matter, white lives matter more. The background is a sad replay of the horrific murder of yet another Black person in America- this time at the hands of the police.

On April 11, 2021, Daunte Martin – a 20-year old Black man who was a resident of a Minneapolis suburb, was stopped by the police for a traffic violation. The violation? An air freshener hanging from his rear view mirror.

Mr. Martin was concerned about an outstanding warrant on another (nonviolent matter) and for whatever reason a 20-year old was thinking, he tried to escape the police officers and was shot by one Officer Kimberly Potter, who claimed that she thought that she was using her taser when she shot and killed him with her pistol.

We can start with a basic look at the facts. Why on Earth anyone is stopped by the police for an air freshener on the rear view mirror is more than a mystery. Why Mr. Martin needed to be detained for a non-violent offense is another mystery.

But the true mystery is how/why Kimberly Potter, a 26-year veteran of the police force could possibly confuse her pistol for a taser? It is virtually impossible to confuse a bright yellow plastic gun (that looks more like a water pistol) with a lethal police pistol.

And the further mystery is that even if Mr. Wright had gotten in his car and driven away, how far was he going to go before being apprehended for these non-violent offenses.

We know of the racial disparity in penal sentencing in America. Black defendants are almost always going to be sentenced to serve more time in prison than their white counterparts – for the same offense.

In this case there was no allegation that Ms. Potter had some pre-meditated, malicious, intent to kill Mr. Martin. But she was certainly reckless to confuse a plastic Taser with a police pistol.

Ms. Wright was duly convicted of manslaughter for her reckless killing of Mr. Martin. And then………………. the judge sentenced Ms. Wright 2 years in prison (since she had been incarcerated for four months, the actual sentence is sixteen months) although most experts believe that a 6-8-year sentence would be appropriate.

However, it should be noted that Ms. Potter is a white woman and Mr. Martin was a Black man.

And once more it is clear that, while Black Lives Matter, white lives still matter more.

Point of View Columns

A Week in the Second Month of the Third Year of 2020

February 1, 2022

As midnight in America persists, the news reports that at least 10 HBCU institutions have received bomb threats on this one day, which happens to be the first day of Black History Month. That this is a coordinated set of threats seems obvious.

What is also obvious is that even during the time of the plague of lynching and the KKK and so many abuses of Black Americans, this particular threat is new.

But sadly, it is not surprising.

February 2, 2022

The Republican-contrived controversy regarding what it means to be a qualified candidate for the Supreme Court will not stand up to even the most cursory view of the history of who, exactly, has been deemed to be qualified.

In his history of the Supreme Court Henry J. Abraham points out the following facts:

-Of the 108 men and 2 women to have served on the Supreme Court before 2007 – 38 had no judicial experience – 46 had token experience at best

-Justices Roberts, Thomas nd Barrett have spent very little time on the bench before become Supreme Court justices – Justice Kagan was never a judge.

-William Howard Taft’s greatest qualification to be a Supreme Court Justice was that he had been President of the United States

-8 of the 16 chief justices were “judicially inexperienced” – including John Marshall, Charles Evans Hughes and Earl Warren

So all of this talk about “the best qualified” candidates to be on the Supreme Court is just talk. At the end of the day qualifications are directly related to the views/perspectives of those who do the appointing and the confirmations.

And President Biden needs to be quick in finding his way to the finish line successfully.

February 6, 2022

Over the weekend the Republican National Party literally excommunicated Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger by censure –their crime was that they were participated in the House January 6th Committee investigation of the 2021 insurrection. But according to the leadership of the RNC there was no insurrection. What was happening that day?

“Legitimate political discourse”

According to the RNC using bear spray and batons and clubs against the police, trashing the Capitol and bringing gallows to “hang Mike Pence” constitutes political discourse.

Welcome to the world where no sense makes sense.

Of course, what makes all of this more appalling is that there is a very real chance the Republican Party will control the House, Senate and presidency by 1.20.25 and that is when the nightmare will be real.

February 7, 2022

Today the Supreme Court of the United States opened the door for the wholesale denial of voting rights for Black Americans. By allowing the state of Alabama to implement a redistricting system that the lower court found to be obviously racially-motivated, it is clear that many states around the country will see the green light of disenfranchisement blinking brightly.

We will look back on this day when race-based disenfranchisement began the process of the total removal of Black Americans from any significant aspect of the American political power structure.

The House is on fire.

February 8, 2022

Yet another interesting phenomenon in these interesting times is the awesome amount of energy that is being expended by those who are looking to push back the study of American history to some time before the truth started being told. As late as the 1960’s American children were taught a plain vanilla version of American history, glossing over slavery, simply not mention the genocide and land theft perpetrated against the indigenous people or the Chinese Exclusion Act or the 100 years of lynching perpetrated against Black Americans after the Civil War or the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

All of these cosmetically eliminated American warts and scars started to make their way into the normal curricula of American schools, colleges and universities. That is, until the right wing of the right wing and the resurgent white supremacists felt sufficiently empowered to put the pancake makeup on American history.

So just like King Canute trying to hold back the tides, these assassins of history are trying to make sure that young Americans, especially young white Americans, believe in the myth of America instead of the truth.

As if that will make the truth go away.

Because it never will.

February 9, 2022

Meanwhile…. just to keep things interesting Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to threaten to invade Ukraine despite a rising tide of threats of sanctions that would be a consequence of such an invasion.

Already there are more troops that are battle ready in and around Ukraine than at any other time in Europe since the end of World War II. And while the sanctions are formidable, it is important to remember that Russia lost 13 million soldiers and a total of 27 million people during World War II, so threats may not have the same impact as it would with nations that have not endured such horror.

It is clear that President Biden and the United States and the Western Alliance are being tested.

All the while Chinese President Xi is watching…and watching…and waiting

February 10, 2022

It would appear that by now Trump has lost his ability to shock us – there is no bottom to the pit of darkness in which he dwells. However, he still retains the ability to surprise.

Consider the most recent news that, during his benighted tenure in the White House, plumbers (real plumbers not Watergate plumbers) had to be called on multiple occasions to unclog toilet pipes that were full of torn and shredded pieces of documents – the tearing and shredding courtesy of the President of the United States.

It is clear that burning the documents never crossed the fevered swamp of his mind. But it is stunning to know that so many documents were personally flushed down the toilet by Trump – clearly trying to hide something.

In that regard that workers at the National Archives are taping and pasting together other shredded documents (no recovered from the Trump toilet).

Clearly this man without even a hint of shame and about whom we know so much, has something he still needs to hide.


Point of View Columns

The House is on Fire

By now there should be no doubt that the American house of democracy is on fire. It is not fully ablaze – yet – but now there is more than smoke and the flames are impossible to ignore.

As is the case with many house fires, the occupants are not fully aware of the conflagration until it is close to out of control. That is because many times the fire is not out in the open, the embers begin to blaze in a closet, a basement, a garage or a seldom used room.

While some aspects of this conflagration are seemingly obvious, much of it is out of sight. We are aware of the inflammatory rhetoric spewing from Trump and his MAGA nation sycophants, but is still hard to believe that all of this amounts to more than a few harmless sparks that will dissipate when realization of all of this nonsensical madness douses any real potential danger.

We are aware of the fact that the United States has the most well-armed civilian population in the world. We are aware that there are 330 million Americans and there are over 300 million guns, rifles and assault weapons in this country. We are aware that 35 per cent of Americans actually own guns. And we are aware that most of these well-armed Americans are members of MAGA nation.

We know that the protoconservative supermajority in the Supreme Court is intent on dismantling an array of rights and expectations that were assumed to now be a part of the America Way. The articulation and protection of civil rights and voting rights will soon be on life support. The protection of the abortion rights of women may just be a part of past history within a year of this writing. Environmental protection, the rights of workers and immigrants can soon become fading memories.

And for the last three decades the right wing of the right wing has assiduously pursued a strategy of disenfranchising and dispossessing all who do not kneel at the altar of white right-wing supremacy by seizing control the apparatus of local and state governments. While progressives and liberals have focused on the bright shiny objects like the White House and the Senate, the right wing of the right wing actually read the Constitution and realized that the real political power in this nation flows from the states to the federal government and not the other way around.

And now the right wing of the right wing is close to getting a stranglehold on democracy and extinguishing current rights and expectations and demolishing the expectation of things getting any better any time soon. Which means that progressives, liberals and those who care about any of this will need to focus on the crisis at hand.

Internecine battles between so-called moderates and so-called progressives will one day seem to be absurd when viewed by historians in the future (if historians in the future are able to write and publish true history and not the imaginary history that is being advocated today).

Certainly, there are enough men and women of good will in this country to douse the fires that currently threaten American democracy.

But it will require putting aside petty battles that do not lead to real strategies that address this existential threat.

After all, it is never too late until it is too late.