Point of View Columns

Herding Democratic Cats – Continued

As has been noted, Donald Trump has lowered the bar for qualifications for President of the United States so far, that it is underground. The American myth to the effect that “anyone can be president” has become a reality during the Age of Trump. And that can be the only rational explanation for why there are now nineteen people running for the Democratic nomination for president, and none of them are named Biden. And with or without Uncle Joe, the number of Democratic wannabees will exceed twenty in the blink of an eye.

Clearly there is a need for some adult supervision for this herd of Democratic cats. There is no way that twenty men and women running for president is a sustainable model for ending the Trump presidency in November of 2020. Consider that Donald Trump will have at least $1 billion to spend on his campaign next year. Consider that many right wing of the right wing conservatives love their faux billionaire president that $1 billion is just a number and they can go higher they need to do so. And that doesn’t include his fervent and fevered base that will give until it hurts, and then give some more.

And then realize that the Democrats do not have that kind of billionaire bank roll, and certainly the Democratic billionaires (with a few exceptions – George Soros comes to mind) are not as numerous as their Republican counterparts. And even the robust small donor base will be spread too wide and too thin to give any presumptive nominee the wherewithal to go up against the Trump Machine in the fall of 2020.

We know that Trump can seem unhinged and a distant relative of reality from time to time, but the lemming-like surge of Democratic candidates raises the question as to what these people are thinking. Most of the Talented Twenty are sufficiently well-versed in politics to know that this herd mentality is going to distract/bore/dismay the Democratic base until there is only a glimmer of hope left in the party by the time the exhausted delegates and their favorite sons and daughters depart Milwaukee in July of next year.

Tom Perez, Chair of the Democratic National Committee has been too silent on this matter. At least the captain of the Titanic didn’t see the iceberg until it was too late. Captain Perez can see this disaster materializing a full year away and he has to take action.

This is no ordinary presidential election. The re-election of Donald Trump will be a true disaster for the United States and most of the world – Russia excluded (not colluded), of course. And in exigent times, bold action must be taken. To put the matter bluntly, it is already time to thin the herd.

Giving any semblance of legitimacy to these presidential campaigns that are doomed to defeat is to risk the dilution, if not extinction, of enthusiasm and energy in the Democratic Party, and that is a risk that Tom Perez and his fellow Democrats cannot afford to take. In no more than ninety days Perez needs to establish some further parameters (not just the number of individual donors – low qualifier in this age of social media and GoFundMe)so that there no more than a half dozen credible candidates by the middle of summer.

Tom Perez needs to put an end to these vanity campaigns as well as the fantasy campaigns. Donald Trump is a real threat to the present and future of the United States, and the Democrats need to start acting as if they understand the true scope of this dire emergency.

It is past time to thin the herd of Democratic cats.

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Point of View Columns

Herding Democratic Cats

Donald Trump has taken the expression “anybody can be president” and turned it into a caricature of his own presidency. He has set the bar so low that now literally anybody believes that they can be president. Look at the gaggle of candidates that have encountered their conversion into a presidential candidate as they encountered their transformation much as Saul of Tarsus became Paul on the road to Damascus. A coffee salesman, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana (seriously???), a spiritual advisor and many more are deluging the media in a way that would cause a Russian hacker to blush. And then there are the Democrats.

It is an article of political faith that a third party candidate would almost ensure Trumps reelection and that is why the Democratic nomination appears to be the most likely way to win three free debates with Donald Trump as well as the presidency of the United States as a bonus. And there are enough people who believe that they could/should be president and see the Democratic nomination as the vehicle to realize that dream. And so, by the end of the month of April 2019 there may be as many as twenty (20) (XX) men and women running for the Democratic nomination.

There is such a thing as an embarrassment of riches and then there is such a thing as too much. The surfeit of wannabe presidential candidates is turning into a circular firing squad of epic proportions. There is simply no way that all of the candidates for the Democratic nomination, announced and going-to-announce can be successful, but there is a way that highly ambitious group of overachievers can exhaust the attention span of the American voters so that by the time the Democrats convene in Milwaukee in July of 2020, only the very close relatives of the candidates and miscellaneous media masochists will care.

Anyone and everyone can understand the collective dismay at the thought of a Trump second term. As bad as this man has been as president, he has provided clear evidence that there is no bottom to the swamp of discord, lies, racism, white supremacy and neonationalism in which he resides. Nevertheless, there is no way that 15-20 eager Democrats can define and craft a coherent message that will stop the impending disaster of Trump’s reelection.

Perhaps Tom Perez, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, can make one of his increasingly rare appearances and bring his party to order. He is a veteran of electoral politics and he must know that this candidate cattle call will not end well for the Democratic Party. If the former governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper can raise $1 million in a day, and if South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg can raise $7 million in a month, a fundraising criteria may not thin the herd. But if he can get this herd of hounds who want to catch the fox called Trump to agree that anyone not polling over 5% by Labor Day 2019 will graciously withdraw from the race, the Democrats stand a chance of avoiding the Republican errors of 2016 when the sixteen candidates were distilled into the toxic Trump candidacy.

While there may not be a Trump in hiding in the Democratic candidates corral, there is no way that the best candidate will necessarily come out of the process at this point in time. And there is a real danger that in a 20 person field, the winner will stagger into combat with 19 arrows in his/her back and then have to do battle with a fat and sleek and rested Trump. That will not be a fair fight.

This no longer a partisan issue. There is a national crisis besetting this country and it goes by the name Donald J. Trump. Right now the Democratic Party offers the best chance for this country to avoid true disaster.

The Democrats need to figure this out and get it right.

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Point of View Columns

Back to the Future

In the process of completing my new book, “A Decade to Remember Through the Eyes of Janus” (which should be published later this year), a compilation of my columns during the past ten years, I came across a column, written on September 21, 2010, that is eerily prescient. Please read on and see what you think, keeping the dateline and today’s news in mind.

G.O.Tea Party – September 21, 2010

It was with great interest and no small sense of irony, that I read a recent article about Democrats debating whether or not to link the Republican Party to the Tea Party movement that is surging and deluging the right wing of the right wing. I actually wonder if prior debates involved determining if the sky is in fact blue or if the law of gravity is a scientific fact.

My unsolicited advice is to simply state the facts – the Republican Party has become the carrier for the virulence and ugliness that is the Tea Party and is as dangerous and as toxic as the legendary Typhoid Mary or Gaetan Dugas (also known as Patient Zero and reputed to having been responsible for introducing the AIDS virus to North America).

The historical legitimacy and institutionalized stature of the G.O.P. has been hijacked and used to camouflage the nihilism and racism and extremism that are the true hallmarks of the Tea Party movement. And the traditional Republican leadership has been a willing participant to the hijacking, kind of like the Stockholm Syndrome on steroids.

Exhibit A: The REPUBLICAN senatorial candidate in Nevada, a Tea Party alumna by the name of Sharron Angle, is on record as saying that if a woman is impregnated as the result of rape she should not be permitted to have an abortion. Instead, according to Ms. Angle, the woman should look to “make lemonade from a lemon moment” and forego abortion and have a baby conceived by force and violence. Not one Republican leader has refused to support Ms. Angle’s candidacy.

Exhibit B: The REPUBLICAN senatorial candidate in Delaware, another Tea Party savant by the name of Christine O’Donnell, is on record as saying that women in the American military academies tends to weaken the capabilities of the armed services. Despite the fact that women in the military as an issue was decided many years ago, Ms. O’Donnell felt compelled to dredge up the bones of this moldy corpse of discrimination. Not one major Republican leader has refused to support Ms. O’Donnell’s candidacy despite the fulminations of Karl Rove to the contrary (he is supporting her, by the way).

Exhibit C: The REPUBLICAN gubernatorial candidate in New York, a Tea Party troglodyte by the name of Carl Paladino, has admitted to distributing e-mails containing pornography and titles like “Run Nigger Run” and has referred to the Jewish Speaker of the New York State “the ant-Christ”. While it is amazing that thousands of New Yorkers would find Mr. Paladino qualified to serve as governor, it is even more amazing that not a single Republican leader is sufficiently repulsed or revolted by his commentary to speak out against him.

We are witness to the Republican Party hierarchy remaining silent while their Tea Party spawn refers to President Obama as Hitler and an enemy of America. We have heard Republican candidates and wannabe candidates use terms like socialist, communist and Nazi when referring to President Obama and his Administration and I no longer wonder when they will hit bottom. The answer is never.

The silence of the Republicans, and too many Democrats and independents, is dangerous because hyperbole begets more hyperbole until the entire political discourse becomes overheated and potentially destructive. When “the tree of liberty must be watered by the blood of tyrants” becomes a campaign slogan we should be concerned. When “Second Amendment solutions to our political issues” becomes a political strategy we should be afraid.

America does not do simile and metaphor very well. Not too long ago a misguided fool and Tea Party advocate flew his plane into an IRS office building to protest big government. He not only killed himself, he also killed an innocent IRS employee who thought he was serving his country and was not its enemy. We should be afraid to ask what is next.

But we should not be afraid to speak out against the madness that is being foisted upon the American people. The bright light of public attention and scrutiny must shine on the bizarre, fallacious and misanthropic rants and ravings that are thinly disguised as campaign rhetoric.

In point of fact we are witness to an effort designed to fundamentally change this country. Talk of “taking this country back” is not idle chatter. This is a clarion call to take this country back into a time when civil rights and social compassion were simply not a part of the national dialogue. It is a call to take this country back into the hands of an almost entirely white, monochromatic segment of this population, relegating everyone else into the class of the “other”.

That is why the Lower Manhattan Islamic center controversy is so important. Today it is the Muslims and the Arabs. Tomorrow it is the immigrants who can be racially profiled. It is always the black people and the day after it may be gays or Jews or any other “other”. The stampede towards mindless prejudice in the name of some barely articulated concept of patriotism and nationalism is a story that has been told many times in history. It never has a happy ending.

It is time for those of us who have a different vision to be heard. Silence would be a greater sin than all the clarion calls for injustice.

 

 

 

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Point of View Columns

The Unending Saga of Trump against America

The Mueller Report and the Barr Cover Letter bring to mind the old fable about the mountain laboring and bringing forth a mouse. There is no rational scenario whereby Donald Trump was going to be indicted and now lawyers can dance on the tip of a needle deciding whether he might be guilty of obstruction of justice, even though he has stated in his own words that he did seek to impair the process of justice at every turn during these past two years.

And so it would seem that the Saga that is Trump will continue to torment this country and this world. But for those that were hoping that the Mueller Report would signal the beginning of the end for Trump, an end that looked a lot like impeachment, it is important to note that this Report might be the gift that keeps on giving. And the final gift might be a new President of the United States in January of 2020.

But before moving on, however, it should be noted what the Mueller Report appears to say, and as importantly, what it does not say. The Report does say that there is not sufficient evidence to conclude that Trump and his minions colluded with the Russian government. To translate into simple English, the Report states that at this point it is not possible to prove collusion beyond a reasonable doubt.

What the Report does not say is why at every possible opportunity Trump has chosen to praise Vladimir Putin on every conceivable issue. The Report does not say why at every possible opportunity Trump has chosen to take the word of Putin over the national security and intelligence community of the United States. And the Report certainly does not explain why Trump has never provided any contemporaneous notes or reports of his solitary private meetings with Putin, even going to the extent of confiscating the notes of his interpreter.

What the Report does say is that Trump is not exonerated when it comes to the issue of obstruction of justice. But anyone with eyes and ears over the past eighteen months has seen Trump say and do everything imaginable and unimaginable to derail the Russia investigation.

From firing the FBI Director (James Comey), to harassing and bullying his Attorney General (Jeff Sessions), to publicly dangling the offer of pardons to witnesses and defendants called to account by Robert Mueller and my casting major shade at Mueller. And then, there is the constant “witch hunt” refrain that Trump has repeated whenever and wherever. These actions and rhetoric by the President of the United States with respect to the Russia investigation certainly sound like the quacks of an obstruction duck.

It is highly doubtful that the current Attorney General William Barr will ever pursue this matter any further, regardless of any feckless rhetoric that his office might issue. He may not have taken a bloodbrothersohelpmeGod oath to protect Trump with the lives of his children if necessary, but it is a pretty safe bet that he accepted the appointment with the clear understanding that his job was to play the role of Tom Hagen to Trump’s Vito Corleone. And, by the way, there is probably no truth to the rumor that Barr also had a hand in crafting the Jussie Smollett exoneration letter.

Democrats have to be careful not to wrestle with the Russia/Collusion Tar Baby in Trump’s briar patch. Because while the nation is watching the multitude of sideshows that characterize his presidency, other of his minions are working to take away the current healthcare apparatus for over 150 million Americans, as well as destroying the environment and degrading America’s international relationships, to name just a few really important issues. And while it might provide psychic satisfaction to have a Trump impeachment, the Trump lackeys, a.k.a. Senate Republicans, will never convict him.

Nothing would please Trump more than to be able to play the role of Trump Agonistes – a Martyr for All Time. And make no mistake about it, martyrdom might be the role that could actually result in Trump being a two-term president, dooming this country to an unimaginably bleak and dystopian future.

There are enough reasons why Trump should not be president aside from the Russia issue. The busloads and boatloads of Democratic candidates for president would do well to focus on the reasons why they should be president as it is already painfully obvious as why Trump should not be president.

It is said that free advice is worth what you pay for it. But in this case let’s hope that the Democrats are listening.

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Point of View Columns

College Admissions in America – The Tip of the Iceberg

The series of revelations describing a veritable cesspool of corruption, cheating, bribery and betrayals in the admissions process at prestigious schools of higher education including Georgetown, Stanford, the University of California, Los Angeles, University of San Diego, University of Southern California, University of Texas, Austin, Wake Forest and Yale leaves one spectacular question swinging in the air like a rotting corpse of lies – what is it that we don’t know? In other words, in the jet-propelled world of high stakes college admissions, are we to believe that only the nine schools mentioned are the bad actors? Or are we looking at the tip of the iceberg?

In a country where a fake billionaire can lie his way into the presidency, why should we be surprised when anyone with $50,000 to $4,000,000 can lie and cheat to get their son or daughter into the college of their choice, instead of their child being chosen by the college? The audacity of the half a hundred otherwise wealthy and respectable defendants is breathtaking in that whatever concerns that they might have about equity, fairness or….wait for it…..setting a good example for their children, were outweighed by their desire to be able to say that their child was a student at Yale, UCLA, Georgetown, etc.

In a culture where imagined success literally trumps actual success, we cannot be surprised to find out that there are privileged young men and women are at this very moment students in colleges and schools that they are not qualified to attend. And it is tragic that students who might actually benefit from having a cherished once in a lifetime opportunity to attend these schools are not attending because their place has been taken by someone who already has access to every opportunity that life has to offer.

But we should not be deceived into thinking that this is simply a matter of a few (fifty???) bad actors trying to game the college admissions system with several millions of dollars and some photo shopped applications. This is not the only way that the United Privileged Parents of America are gaming the college admissions system.

We should understand that even reasonably bright and capable young men and women are being asked to compete for seats in universities and colleges all over America with young men and women (who may or may not be reasonably bright and capable) who have the advantage of having SAT “coaches” and college admissions consultants which can cost their parents tens of thousands of dollars a year – not to mention the fact that attendance a prestigious (and therefore brutally expensive) private prep schools and “special” public schools. In other words, the system is so rigged that the notion of equal access and success based on merit are simply wisps of words that need not even be spoken.

The magnitude of these crimes are almost too profound to comprehend as we will never know how many truly qualified students are being denied admission to colleges. The magnitude of the crime of rigging the entire college admissions system to solely benefit the children of the rich and privileged not only deprives the children of everyone else, it also deprives this country of its best talent and its best chance for a successful future.

John D. Rockefeller, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Michelle Obama, Reginald Lewis, Mario Cuomo, Mark Cuban, Elizabeth Warren and Ted Cruz are just a few of the contemporary prominent achievers who would never have been able to compete in the high stakes college admissions racket – their parents simply didn’t have enough money to “buy” opportunity through SAT coaches, college consultants, etc., much less be able to buy their children’s admissions at schools where the price only needs to be right.

We may never find out the scope and breadth of the outright bribery that is taking place in the college admissions universe. There are prosecutors and judges and juries and prisons that can address this kind of bad behavior. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The iceberg is the entire imbalance in the K-12 and college/university environment where power plus money equals college admission. And this situation makes it all the more problematic when conservative foundations and their attack lawyers seek to eliminate the few programs that seek to successfully level the playing field for those whose parents are not rich and powerful. Because some day, sooner than later, those without power and money will simply need not apply.

And that is the real tragedy for these United States.

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Point of View Columns

Giving Trump the King Kong Treatment

Giving Trump the King Kong Treatment

The line of Democrats seeking the nomination so that they can unseat Donald Trump is getting to be so long that one wonders if a new club or restaurant is opening somewhere soon. The fear and loathing that are driving these candidates onto the field of battle with He Who Shall Not Be Named provides the will and drive to vanquish the current occupant of the White House. September 7, 2020 will mark Labor Day and the official start of the presidential campaign between the Democratic and Republican nominees – along with any Nader wannabees like Howard Schultz. But it can be argued that the battle has already begun as the Democrats adopt the tactics that were used to topple King Kong.

For those who have followed Donald Trump through his checkered and deeply flawed career and his gossamer litany of largely fake, false and faux achievements, it is more than amazing that he has become this larger than life character has sucked up the oxygen of a seemingly moribund Republican Party while scrambling all rational discussion with his fire hose stream of lies, insults and sheer madness.

Nevertheless, Trump is the President of the United States and anyone who believes that he cannot be reelected should take a seat next to President Hillary Clinton or President Jeb Bush or………you get the idea. Trump is worthy of revulsion, disgust and derision, but he should never be ignored or underestimated. A clear-eyed vision of the American political landscape reveals that as disastrous as a second Trump presidency might be, his reelection is possible if not probable. These are odds that favor Trump in the bar fight that will be the 2020 presidential election.

And that is why the end of the Trump’s presidency calls for Democrats promoting a King Kong strategy when going after him. And this being a reference to the long line of movies chronicling the tragic capture and downfall of the Great Ape, beginning with the version starring Fay Wray in 1933, we can look at an analogy for the times in which we live.

One recalls the climactic scene in “King Kong” when after raging through the streets of New York City, Kong climbs the Empire State Building (carrying Fay Wray on his way up). It is at this point that he is attacked by airplanes that resembled a cloud of mosquitoes. No one plane could shoot Kong down, but by relentlessly attacking him from all angles, the Great Ape grows increasingly frustrated and fatigued and ends up falling to his death as he succumbs to his multiple minor wounds.

Following this analogy, it is possible to visualize the 10-20 announced and potential candidates for the Democratic nomination for president fighting among themselves and attacking each other until the bloodied and exhausted victor stumbles into the arena to take on Trump who will have had the benefit of a Republican coronation and the advantage of a bloodless nomination process. Such a scenario could easily result in another four years of Trump.

Or, the Democratic candidates and wannabees might do well to concentrate all of their fire on Donald Trump instead of each other. Let the contest be about who will be the best person to take on Trump and beat him in November of 2020.

What we know for sure is that Trump cannot help himself and will respond to each and every attack and those attacks should come every day and from every direction. Let him spend his minute attention span on responding to each and every attack every hour of every day. And just like King Kong on the Empire State Building, the daily mosquito attacks from every direction will exhaust and distract an already exhausted and distracted individual who will ultimately be sufficiently frustrated and fatigued so that he will be a weakened and diluted version of his unfortunate self.

Let the Democratic candidates declare the Democratic process a fire-free zone, in the process advocating whatever programs, strategies and visions that they might have for the American people. But under no circumstances should these candidates attack each other because whatever slings and arrows that they use will end up in the Trump arsenal in September of 2020.

It is said that free advice is worth what you pay for it. But in this case we can hope that the Democratic presidential field will listen to this advice.

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Point of View Columns

Reflections on Black History Month 2019

It should be clear to anyone and everyone who cares at all about the legacy of Black History Month that since January 20, 2017, that legacy has been challenged, insulted and degraded. And it should be clear to anyone and everyone who cares about the legacy of Black History Month that the challenge and attack emanates not only from the current occupant of the White House – the challenge and attack emanates from America itself.

How else do we explain how over 62.9 million American voters – overwhelmingly white – chose a man to be President of the United States who openly and blatantly challenged the citizenship and legitimacy of the first black President of the United States for the sole reason that he is black. Donald Trump employed the dog-whistle of race politics like the racist virtuoso that he is – and over 60 million white Americans came running.

I hope that you will bear with me while I reference a book that was published in 1852, 167 years ago, a book that literally changed life for black Americans as it changed America itself. That book was “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” written by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

“Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was one of the first international bestselling books in history, and it served to provide the platform for the abolitionist movement to make a virtually complete transition from advocating something called “moral suasion” to a call for immediate and complete action. And that action finally manifested itself in a civil war which opened the path to freedom for black Americans while almost destroying these United States in the process.

When you read “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, you will be struck by how Harriet Beecher Stowe described slavery in human terms, in the process humanizing black slaves which, for most white Americans, was a revelation. One cannot read this book without being struck by the author’s very clear effort to present black Americans as human beings, no different from the white readers who were holding that book in their hands.

It is important to note that abolitionists, located primarily in the North, advocated the end of slavery, but for the most part they did not consider black Americans to be equal to white Americans. White supremacy did not reside only on Southern plantations, it could also be found in New York City, Boston and in the halls of Congress in Washington, D.C. where the Capitol and the White House were built by black slave labor.

“Uncle Tom’s Cabin” galvanized the abolitionist movement into an action movement that ultimately morphed into the Civil War. The book horrified readers as it revealed that the black victims of slavery were indeed human beings. And certainly Harriet Beecher Stowe succeeded in convincing many white Americans that black Americans were human, even if they weren’t equal.

There seems to be little doubt that America has accepted the fact that black Americans are human. But equal? That is another story.

While America has taken steps to recognize that black Americans are human beings, we have yet to see institutional or cultural recognition that black people are equal to human beings in terms of our humanity and in terms of equality or equity. Give this some thought:

Black people comprise 13.2% of this country’s population. Black players comprise 70% of all NFL players. In the NBA, 69.8% of all players are black. Unless you want to buy into the ancient slavery-based notion that black people are just superior athletes, you should be troubled by these numbers.

Because what they represent is a lack of educational and vocational opportunity for black Americans, many of whom turn to these sports as a path to success. Why not medicine, law, business, public service, the military or education, one might ask? It is clear that the opportunities to those goals are much more difficult for black Americans to access. This is what happens when white America sees black America as The Other, and not as equal.

Consider that sociologists and criminal justice experts estimate that one out of every five black boys born today will end up in the criminal justice system – arrest/parole/incarceration. I trust that we agree that if those statistics applied to young white boys born today a true national emergency would have been declared. White America still sees black America as The Other.

We have a current illustration of what it means to be The Other in America. During the 1980’s and 1990’s the crack epidemic was totally criminalized. New crime bills were passed in Congress, prisons were built, more police were hired and police departments were weaponized as never before.

It should be pointed out that crack was seen as an epidemic in the black community and a criminal justice response was the only strategy that was seriously considered. And mass incarceration and consequent devastation was visited upon black communities across this country.

Now we have an opioid epidemic. Now we have an epidemic that disproportionately impacts upon white America. And this epidemic is deemed a health problem, not a criminal problem. The tools being employed for this emergency involve medical treatment, counseling and decriminalization. This is a clear illustration of how White America still sees black America as The Other.

I am clear that the parents of our grandparents faced greater challenges. I am certain that our parents would not be deterred by the racism and discrimination and dehumanization that we face today. And I know, and you know, that we would dishonor the history that we celebrate if we allowed ourselves to be dismayed and defeated.

Nobody is going to turn us around. Not the miserable human being in the White House. Not the avowed racists and white nationalists who march by the light of tiki torches. And certainly not the closet racists who claim to support equality while watching the reality of inequality without taking any action.

Maybe it is time for a sequel to “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. Maybe it is time to remind white America that black America is here, black Americans aren’t going anywhere, and that black Americans are humans. Equality is not just a word – it is a culture. And is finally time for the American culture that treats black Americans as The Other to change – forever.

In closing I want to reference that it is important to understand the historical context within which Black History Month has its origins in 1926, inspired by Carter G. Woodson, the great black American historian. From 1882 to 1964 at least 3,446 black Americans were lynched in the United States. Men, women, children, returning war veterans in uniform, the aged, crippled and blind were killed by “civilized” American mobs. In 1926 black people lived in a reign of terror throughout the United States and not only in the South.

In 1926 voting rights were simply unknown for many black Americans. And in 1926 the great migration of black Americans from the South to the North, Midwest and West Coast was moving at a rapid pace. Of course “migration” is not the correct word, because many of the men, women and children leaving the South were refugees from the organized and casual terrorism that described the lives of so many and too many.

In 1926, the Black National Anthem, words by James Weldon Johnson and music by John Rosamond Johnson, had been introduced and sung since 1900. And during those 26 years Jim Crow segregation was cemented into the American way of life. During those 26 years President Woodrow Wilson, (the most racist U.S. President in modern history until the current resident of the White House assumed that title) reinstituted segregation in the Federal Civil Service and allowed the racial obscenity of a movie, “Birth of a Nation” to premier in the White House.

And so, as we observe Black History Month I would like to refer to “Lift and Every Voice and Sing”, the Black National Anthem, to provide some frame of reference and an historical perspective.

Consider the first verse:

Lift every voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty,
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.”

Remember that these words were written in 1900. Remember again that the horrors of human bondage were a recent memory and that the terror of the Ku Klux Klan and lynching were very much in the present tense.

Yet, listen to the power of hope and the absolutely magnificent belief in the promise of freedom and dignity – despite the fact that the fulfillment of this promise of the American dream had been so cruelly denied. Listen to these words and you begin to understand the strength and resilience that has sustained a people through the unimaginably worst of times.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us

Listen to these words and you hear that recurring theme of faith. The “dark past” is not a euphemism in this song. The “dark past” refers to the slave ships, and the centuries of bondage and human trafficking and rape and torture and degradation. And yet, despite and through these horrors, there is faith. And through faith resilience rises and through resilience comes the hope that sustains even during the present tense of 2019.

And we should understand, that the resilience reflected in these lyrics are accompanied by the theme of resistance. This is not a passive anthem. This is not a hymn in praise of eternal suffering. This is a call to action.

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Consider the words – “new day” is such a clear reference to the dawning of a new era occasioned by Emancipation. We sit comfortably in the 21st century and find it difficult if not impossible to understand what it could have been like to have no living relative who had ever lived in freedom. We find it difficult to imagine the profound effect that the vile virus of slavery must have had on an entire people – both slave and free.

But if we try, we can imagine that the glorious day of Emancipation must have provided not only faith and hope, not only resilience, but also the will to resist encroachments on that new found freedom. And so, we begin to understand the strength and determination that underlies the words “till victory is won”.

Victory was never about just a seat on a bus or a seat in a public school. Victory was not about the first ballplayer or the first black president. Victory has always been about claiming dignity and humanity and finally being acknowledged as a full partner in the enterprise known as the United States of America.

And in a very real way, the struggle for humanity, dignity and full citizenship is a struggle that has been undertaken on behalf of all the participants in the gorgeous mosaic known as America. And we have seen that the civil rights struggle has empowered women – white and black, Latinos, Asians, the differently abled and men and women across the spectrum of gender choice. And what we know is that this country, imperfect as it is, is a better place because of the resistance and resilience of black Americans.

We should be clear that if there was ever a time to renew the call for resistance and resilience it is now. And we should never forget that Black History Month is about so much more than a litany of achievements.

Black History Month is a solemn occasion to reflect on the unfulfilled promise of greatness to which this country has aspired and will hopefully achieve on some great and wonderful day.

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