Point of View Columns

The Eternal Terror

Perhaps the Confederate flag in South Carolina will fly at half mast now that a damaged excuse for a human being named Dylann Roof killed nine black people in a South Carolina Church. All reports indicate that Roof sought to kill black people so this was not a random act of murder – this was an act of terrorism. And this latter day Neanderthal monster reminds us that American terrorism directed against black people is a horrific and very real part of the history and present tense of this country.

Consider the irony in the fact that the site of the murders, Emanuel AME Church, was founded by Denmark Vesey who had plotted an extensive slave revolt which failed in 1822. After Denmark Vesey as executed, white South Carolinians burned the Emanuel AME Church to the ground and actually banned all black churches in the state in 1834. The history of Emanuel AME Church is soaked in blood and scarred by the fires of hatred and bigotry.

And the history of Emanuel AME Church is an important reminder as we consider the current atrocity at that church. Terror against black people has been a constant theme in this country starting with the Barbadian Slave Codes which were then exported to the American colonies, beginning with South Carolina.

The Slave Codes were created to impose absolute white domination over black slaves, and to protect against slave revolts and as well as safeguarding the significant financial investment that slaves represented. Under the Slave Codes there were literally no limits to the violence and savagery that could be suffered by black Americans. Indeed, it can be argued that Slave Codes injected the virus of white racist violence and terrorism that still runs through the veins of America.

There should be no doubt that the Slave Codes begat Jim Crow which begat wholesale lynching which begat legally sanctioned terrorism to confront the civil rights movement. Lest one think that this virus is confined to the former Confederate States of America it should be clear that New York City and Boston police worked closely with slave catchers and the state of Indiana had the largest Ku Klux Klan membership of any state in the history of this country.

Dylann Roof is a direct descendant of the mobs that confronted the Little Rock Nine in Arkansas and James Meredith at the University of Mississippi as well as Louise Day Hicks who encouraged the attacks on school buses carrying black children in Boston. Dylann Roof is a direct descendant of the Klansmen and the “ordinary citizens” who organized and participated in the lynching of thousands of black men and women in the 19th and 20th centuries. Dylann Roof is a blood relative of the terrorists who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham and he belongs to the same family as the scores of police officers who have shot and killed black men, women and children without cause, simply because they were black men, black women and black children.

We should all be saddened by the carnage in Charleston. But we should not be shocked. Terrorism directed against black Americans is part of American history.

And we should certainly not be shocked by Dylann Roof’s actions – after all, he is a white American. And there can be no cure for the disease of white racial terrorism in this country that still afflicts so many white Americans until we are willing to accept that the illness exists.

It is the first step to recovery.

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Point of View Columns

The Difference Between White Robes and Black Robes

Sometimes irony just isn’t very funny. The Supreme Court is currently considering a case where it is contended that the Voting Rights Act of 1964 should be overturned as it is no longer necessary. Wouldn’t you know that the case is being brought by the State of Alabama. And wouldn’t you know that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia thinks that is just fine.

A quick tutorial – the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1964 to provide a legal framework that would protect black people in the South who were regularly lynched, bombed and massacred for trying to exercise their right to vote. The fact that much of the violence directed against black men and women (and their white supporters) was sanctioned by the southern state and local governments made it absolutely necessary for the federal government to step in.

The law has stated that before any state can make any fundamental changes in the voting process those changes have to be approved by the United States Department of Justice. Not surprisingly, there are nine states on the federal government’s “watch list”, and all nine states are southern states, each with a bloody and grisly history of violence against black people, especially when it comes to voting.

We now fast forward to 2013 and the attorney general of the state of Alabama comes before the Supreme Court of the United States and argues with a straight face that the Voting Rights Act of 1964 is no longer needed because Alabama, like the rest of this country is in a post-racial era and there need be no further worry about government-sponsored discrimination against black people or other minorities.

Incredibly, if you are reading this during the daytime, the state flag of Alabama, a St. Andrew’s Cross modeled after the Confederate flag is flying over the state capital in Montgomery. For some perspective, imagine a German provincial government disavowing anti-Semitism while flying a flag “modeled after the Nazi swastika” and you can understand why the United States Department of Justice along with black people of Alabama look at that state’s post-racial contention with something less than confidence.

Now comes Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, he of the ScaliaRobertsAlitoThomas right wing cabal. Although he had a singularly undistinguished career as a lawyer he somehow has stumbled onto the pages of American history as one of the architects of the highjacking and theft of an American presidential election in 2000.

Not satisfied with that unfortunate distinction, Justice Scalia is now taking the lead in rolling back the legal and legislative accomplishments of the civil rights movement. During oral arguments he had the temerity and reptilian insensitivity to refer to the Voting Rights Act of 1964 as another example of “racial entitlement”.

Where does one begin with racism soaked in stupidity and ignorance? In 1964 Justice Scalia was 28 years old and a lawyer who had already graduated from Georgetown University and Harvard Law School. It is impossible that he was not aware of that Birmingham, Alabama was known as “Bombingham” because of the relentless bombing attacks carried out by white citizens against black people who sought to exercise their right to vote.

Antonin Scalia may feign ignorance, but he had to know about the four black girls that were killed in a Birmingham church bomb because that church was the base for civil rights efforts. He had to know about Schwerner, Cheney and Goodman and Medgar Evers and Viola Liuzzo and the Ku Klux Klan and George Wallace standing in the doorway of the University of Alabama blocking the entry of a black woman who wanted to attend school.

To term the Voting Rights Act or any civil rights legislation “racial entitlement” is either ignorant or racist. That is because one would have to be ignorant of the institutional racism that consistently denied civil rights and humanity to black people since the ratification of the Constitution that sanctioned slavery in 1789.

One would have to be a racist to think that dismantling an legal and legislative infrastructure that imperfectly protects the rights of blacks and minorities could possibly be a good thing. Antonin Scalia is the son of an Italian immigrant family that never faced obstacles to the exercise of his civil rights as his father could literally get off a boat from Sicily and immediately walk a paved road to citizenship.

How dare Antonin Scalia and the AlitoRobertsScaliaThomas cabal try to deny that right to black Americans or anyone else? There may be a day when specific civil rights legislation to protect the rights of blacks other minorities and women is not necessary.

This is not that day and Antonin Scalia should know that.

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Be My Guest

Be My Guest Column by Dr. William Pollard

Reflections on 9/11

A quiet, bright, sunny, September morning.

People were going about their routine business. The warm sun’s glow seemed to comfort all.

Suddenly in a horrifying instant the peace was shattered — a loud explosion, screams, flames spewing out of windows, smoke clouding the streets obscuring vision amidst the panic and chaos.

Sirens screeched as police and firefighters rushed to the scene while people frantically searched for loved ones in the mass of confusion.

In that terrible moment more than brick and mortar, more than glass — even more than lives were shattered. Peace and hope and freedom from fear were also torn apart that September morning.

The Date: September 15, 1963
The Place: 16th Street Baptist Church; Birmingham, Alabama
The Dead: 14-year-old Addie Mae Collins; 14-year-old Cynthia Wesley;
14-year-old Carole Robertson and 11-year-old Denise McNair
The Injured: Some 20 others, 10-year-old Sarah Collins who lost her right eye

This act of terrorism was by no means the first on American soil and far from the first in Birmingham, where there had been three other bombings in 11 days following a federal court order that had mandated the integration of Alabama’s school system. In the previous 18 years there had been at least 50 bombings there. It should come as no surprise that the town was nicknamed “Bombingham.”

Subsequent violence in the city led to the killing of two Black boys, one by police bullets, prompting the National Guard to be summoned in to restore order.

This came just thee months after the assassination of Medgar Evers, for whom the college is named. Evers was a civil rights activist and an NAACP Field Secretary.

As we mourn the losses of those who died on September 11, 2001, and honor those who were involved in heroic acts on that day, we should not lose sight of the fact that acts of terrorism in America did not begin on either of those September days.

The moral outrage over the vicious murder of four little girls who were sitting in Sunday school, led to outrage around the country. It helped provide a momentum of support behind the struggle for equal rights and end to segregation. Within two years there came passage of the Civil Rights act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Bill of 1965.

What then has been the legacy of September 11, 2001? What can we point to that has spawned some lasting good?

Many may express despair with reports of acts of harassment and violence against Middle Eastern and Muslim people here in the United States. Or the feelings and attitudes of apprehension and suspicion that many harbor since the September 11 attacks. Those unfortunate facts cannot be denied.

Then came the 10th anniversary commemoration. I was stuck by the images of the powerful and tasteful memorial at the World Trade Center site, as well as the progress made on the new towers being built. It occurred to me that we are all in a rebuilding process.

It is a rebuilding of the spirit of America and of freedom that cannot be destroyed by bullets or bombs. It is a freedom that the people in Birmingham and places throughout the south sacrificed so much for. They managed to build more than the buildings – they rebuilt their faith and dedication to freedom.

And that is what I see happening here in New York City.

When you look closely — when I walk the halls of Medgar Evers College and the streets of its Crown Heights community, I see something happening. I see a glass that is more than half full with students and faculty, and staff and folks on the block, learning, working, playing and living together. People who are trying to manage, people trying to succeed and excel.

The rebuilding is usually not a dramatic process, but it is evident in those most simple, routine, things.

After all isn’t that what freedom is — being able to go about your routine in peace? Shopping, working, playing, socializing, traveling – even going to Sunday school on a bright September morning?

And although there is still much rebuilding to do, when I look at Medgar Evers College’s diverse community I know that we are all sharing in the rebuilding Medgar’s dream and that of many others out of the some dark days of our past.

Dr. William Pollard is president of Medgar Evers College – http://www.mec.cuny.edu

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – September 17, 2010

Fall has arrived. Once the NFL season begins in earnest there is no meteorological dispute. Summer may officially depart next week, but autumn has definitely arrived. And, now that all of the midterm primaries are concluded, the silly but deadly serious season has also arrived:

Enough is Enough!!!
In the most recent edition of Forbes magazine, an article, “How Obama Thinks” written by Dinesh D’Souza needs to be read at http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2010/0927/politics-socialism-capitalism-private-enterprises-obama-business-problem.html?boxes=Homepagetoprated – I commend this piece of journalistic offal posing as an erudite analysis of President Obama because it calls our attention to the very deep and deadly dangers coursing through the veins of the body politic these days. Please read this one quote from this damned and damnable architect of hate and confusion:

“Our president is trapped in his father’s time machine. Incredibly, the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s. This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions, is now setting the nation’s agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son.”

To make matters worse Newt Gingrich, that well-known paragon of justice, fairness and intelligent insight, picked up D’Souza’s filthy baton and ran another few media laps with it. Gingrich proclaimed that the bizarre and illogical analysis articulated by D’Souza clearly demonstrates the dangerous path that President Obama has chosen for these United States.

I think that it’s about time to understand and to clearly state that the critiques and criticisms being directed against Barack Obama have little or nothing to do with policy differences and are most certainly rooted in the ancient muck of racism and bigotry. The fact that Forbes magazine would print such a scurrilous and intellectually useless article about the President of the United States can only be explained by the deep seated racial and ethnic prejudices that still infect this country.

If we continue to wait for “reasonable” conservatives and mainstream pundits to finally say enough is enough, we will be waiting for a very long time. And it is not enough to shrug off pseudo intellectuals like D’Souza and wannabe leaders like Gingrich, assuming that most of the American public will not take this foolishness seriously.

Consider that more Americans think that Barack Obama is a Muslim today than when he was elected President. More Americans today think that Barack Obama was born outside of the United States (and therefore is not legitimately the President) than before he was elected to the office.

While the Obama presidency is submitted to a death of a thousand rhetorical cuts, too many of his supporters have remained mute. It is clearly time to push the “unmute” button before the waves of disinformation, distraction and pure hate that are spewing over the national landscape become insurmountable.

You can comment on http://www.Forbes.com, you can ask your elected officials to speak on your behalf. This is the media era, you can send in your own op-ed articles or comment on Point of View. The point is – DO SOMETHING! Enough is enough!

Remember 9/15
Just as it will always be important to remember 9/11, we should never forget September 15, 1963. It was on that day, a Sunday, in the morning in Birmingham, Alabama that bloody and vicious aspects of racism surfaced again in this country. This time through the bombing of a church that resulted in the deaths of four black girls.

This awful and unspeakable act was damnable in the absolute. What was worse is that the bombing was intended to kill the young people in the choir who were about to prepare for the church services.

And what was the offending act that motivated this bestial outrage? It was the sustained and extended protests by the black community in Birmingham against racial discrimination in the city and state and country in which they lived.
Ultimately the disgust and dismay engendered by the Birmingham church bombing added to the rising tide of sentiment and common sense that resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawing most types of racial segregation and discrimination throughout Alabama and the rest of the United States.

So in a very real way the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a memorial to the four black girls who were killed on September 15, 1963 along with the hundreds and thousands of other black and white people who died and suffered in furtherance of the greatest social change in this country in the twentieth century.

And it is this same Civil Rights Act that Tea Party activists, conservative Republicans and so-called strict constitutional constructionists would eviscerate or eliminate if given the opportunity to do so. Rand Paul, the Republican candidate for senator in Kentucky is on record as saying that he would not have voted for this bill if he was a senator in 1964. United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has publicly cast doubts on the constitutional viability of this historic legislation and has gone further to say that he would have voted against the majority in the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision that ruled that racially segregated schools were unconstitutional.

As November 2nd and election day approaches, it is important to note that those who would dismiss the meaning and import of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – which now addresses issues of discrimination in addition to racism, such as gender discrimination and rights for the disabled – are dismissing a major moment in the history of this country.

That Act was the result of sacrifice and dedication and determination to change this country. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a memorial to many sacrifices and those who dismiss it dishonor those sacrifices and the men and women…………and children who died in making it a reality.

Whatever Happened To……Fairness?
Advocates of messages of every sort are regularly counseled to “stay on message”. Whatever distracting facts or circumstances might arise, it is important to stick to the basic themes of that message.

I had always believed, however, that news reporting was supposed to present the facts, not a message. Clearly that message has not gotten through to Mr. Raymond Hernandez, a reporter for The New York Times.

On September 14th the Democratic primary election in New York had a number of interesting results. The primary that garnered national attention was the one that involved Congressman Charles Rangel.

There have been some supporters of Congressman Rangel who are of the opinion that one source of his travails and adversity has been the press. It is a very subjective perspective indeed, and one not easily proven or supported by facts.

And yet…..I was at the Rangel campaign celebration on the evening of September 14th and I witnessed a large and jubilant crowd at the Uptown Grand supper club in Harlem. At 11:30 p.m. Congressman Rangel gave a rousing speech after his electoral victory had been confirmed.

Mr. Rodriguez reported that this speech was given to a crowd of 75 people.
Having been present I was surprised, as were other attendees, to read in the September 15th edition of the Times that 75 people were in attendance as we collectively recalled a crowd of at least 200 and perhaps closer to 300 were in attendance at precisely 11:30 p.m.

It is hard to believe that a trained and respected reporter like Mr. Rodriguez could be off the mark by a factor of 3 or 4 in estimating the crowd. It is even harder to believe that he and his colleagues at the Times would be complicit in some effort to intentionally diminish the size of the crowd cheering Rangel.

But that subjective perspective regarding the press and Congressman Rangel held by more than a few is a little bit easier to understand.

Have a great weekend!

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Be My Guest

Never Forget – Guest Column by William Burgess III

Sunday, September 15, 1963 at 11:00AM

Today marks the 47th Anniversary of the terrorist Bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama and the tragic death of 4 friends of mine.

Bless their souls & supreme sacrifice for our freedom.

Never forget,
Bill

William Burgess is the President of The Burgess Group – Corporate Recruting International – http://www.theburgessgroup.com. He was a pallbearer at 3 of the 4 girls’ funerals (Carol Robinson/14, Cynthia Wesley/14 & Denise McNair/11 yrs. old).

William H. Burgess, III
President
The Burgess Group – Corporate Recruiters International, Inc.

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