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.

Point of View Columns

All Guns, No Roses

While the G.O.Tea Party presidential circus careens across America spreading lies, misinformation and worn out comedy routines, black and brown America is killing itself. This is not a metaphorical observation. I mean it literally.

The latest New York City crime statistics indicate that even though 30% of the city’s population is African American, fully 60% of all homicide victims are black and 60% of the suspects in these crimes are black. If you add in members of the Hispanic community, fully 90% of all homicide victims in New York are black and Hispanic and 90% of the suspects are black and Hispanic.

Aside from reaffirming that the world is going crazy, these statistics tell a very interesting story. Most of these murders are committed with guns. It would be fair to say that there are too many guns that are too easily available.

But it is also about culture. For the past thirty years popular music, movies and literature have glorified violence, “gangster” ethos and disregard for human life. This cannot be disputed.

Consider the latest video game miscreation, “Call of Duty – Modern Warfare 3”, sold hundreds of thousands of games as soon as it was released. This game modernizes, romanticizes and glorifies warfare – basically the wholesale slaughter of the “enemy”. While the “enemy” might be mythical in the video game, an impressionable youngster who plays the game incessantly can easily translate the ethic and mindset to the streets on which he lives.

Meanwhile, for the past thirty years popular music and music videos have promoted, popularized and glorified violence – all in the name of “keeping it real”. Fifty Cents might be wearing a coat and tie now, but he made his money rapping about killing other people. The same is true for Jay-Z, BET and too many others.

The argument that these performers and entertainment networks are just “keeping it real” and “giving people what they want” is facile and baseless and virtually unworthy of serious consideration. The bodies of men, women and children pile up on the streets of New York and across this country while the beneficiaries retire to their mansions while riding in their Maybachs.

Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association and promoters of the “rights” of gun owners pervert the Constitution to somehow support the notion that everyone has the right to own as many automatic weapons as they can afford. States’ rights advocates in Virginia and South Carolina falsely claim that they have no responsibility for the carnage in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York even as they profit from the sale of weapons that have only one purpose – the wholesale slaughter of other people.

The combination of this country’s gun culture and the gangster culture promoted in communities of color has produced a lethal cocktail. If the Ku Klux Klan or Posse Comitatus or the Tea Party was killing blacks and Latinos at the rate that blacks and Latinos are killing blacks and Latinos, national outrage would rock this country to its very foundation.

The NAACP and the Urban League and the Congressional Black Caucus would be demanding Congressional investigations and the intervention of the United Nations. If white people were killing people of color at the current levels of homicide being perpetrated by people of color it would be an international disgrace.

Somehow, a black man killing a black woman or a Latino boy killing a Latino girl does not provoke the same level of outrage and concern. The combination of the gun culture and the gangster culture has turned every inner city street into a potential killing zone. And when the bodies fall there are the obligatory candle light vigils and marches and then it’s back to business as usual.

The problem is that “business as usual” shields the men and women who are responsible for creating this toxic atmosphere from any responsibility. The men and women who are responsible for the blood and gore and death never touch the rotten fruits of their labor while vacationing in St. Bart’s or taking private jets to Paris.

The numbers simply don’t lie. “Business as usual” means death on the streets of the cities of America. And the purveyors of this lethal, toxic and poisonous culture are able to escape any blame or responsibility.

The problem is that “business as usual” means another black girl or Latino boy will die before the end of the week. The rap potentates and music producers and gun advocates sleep easily in their beds of luxury.

The victims of their vicious “business sleep” forever.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – December 17, 2010

Some have said that the best part of 2010 is that it is ending. Nevertheless, we celebrate the gift of every day:

Happy Birthday BET?

This week marks the 30th anniversary of Black Entertainment Television. There is a lot to celebrate, but not everything.

As the first black-owned national television network, BET is undeniably an historical achievement. It has served as a unique and important news source as well as the launching platform for scores of black men and women in the journalism, entertainment and corporate management professions.

However, it was also BET that served as the spigot from which spewed some of the most racist, sexist, violent and misogynistic portrayals of black Americans in the history of this country. The music videos that have been the cornerstone of BET pioneered the popular and common usage of terms like “nigger”, “ho”, “bitch” into common parlance.

It is a noteworthy achievement, but certainly not a laudable one. It is fair to say that some of the music videos played on BET make “Birth of a Nation” seem like a Black History Month documentary.

There is no direct statistical connection between BET programming and the explosion of blood and gore in too many communities. But it stands to reason that if images of mindless violence are pumped into impressionable minds of adolescents, the results will be counted in numbers of body bags and shattered lives.

The disrespect for black women in these images has reached epic proportions, all in the name of “keeping it real”. The dumbing down of culture and language is undeniable and while BET cannot be held totally accountable for this tragedy, its contribution to the tsunami of ignorance, self disrespect and mindless violence that is sweeping across too many communities is a matter of fact.

The corporate achievement of Black Entertainment Television is undeniable. The damage inflicted by BET is also undeniable.

Senior executives of BET have been quoted as saying that they would never let their children watch the kind of programming that depicts violence and misogyny. Presumably it is alright to profit from letting other people’s children soak up the poison.

It is hoped that as the 30th anniversary of BET is celebrated that there may also be a new commitment by this company to instill more positive values in the community that has sustained it for three decades.

Tom Brokaw – The Aesop of the “Greatest Generation”?

Tom Brokaw has had an outstanding journalistic career including stints as a host for “The Today Show” and the anchor for “NBC Nightly News”. Then he decided to be a historian. And it’s a funny thing about history; it all depends on who is telling it.

Mr. Brokaw decided to describe the generation of Americans that came of age during the Depression and World War II as the Greatest Generation. Presumably, this was in comparison to the Baby Boomers who came of age in the Sixties and by his standards came up short.

After all, in the World According to Brokaw, it was the Greatest Generation that survived the Depression, fought World War II, conquering globally tyranny in the process. Then this mythic gathering of gods and goddesses established America as the transcendent and dominant nation on the planet providing a virtual cornucopia of goods and services and luxuries for its citizens and for all the people of the world.

A closer look tells a very different story. To be fair, we have to also recall the Greatest Generation countenanced the internment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps, vociferously and violently supported racial segregation, gave birth to McCarthyism and participated in lynching until well into the 1960’s.

Under the benevolent hand of the Greatest Generation women were lucky to get half the pay for doing the same work as men. Environmental concerns were limited to Ansel Adams exhibitions.

There are many good things that were accomplished by this generation and all the generations before and after. But Tom Brokaw is walking on very shaky ground when he starts using the G-word.

Have a great weekend!