Be My Guest

Can We Talk? A Guest Column by Herb Boyd

Don’t you know that: “If they come for me in the morning, expect that they will come for you at night.”

“Hands off our leaders,” was one of several demands posted on a demonstrator’s sign during the recent “One Nation Working Together” rally in the nation’s capital.

When asked what leaders she was talking about she answered: “All of them.” She quickly ticked off the names of Representatives Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters. “And the other members of Congressional Black Caucus, and statewide Latino and Black Caucuses,” she added.

The total members of the House of Representatives is (435) fewer than ten (10%) percent, (42) are members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) but of that number it is disturbing to know how many CBC members are under serious ethic investigation.

Last fall, thirty (30) members of Congress were brought up for investigations by the House ethic committee; eight (8) of them (27%)were CBC members, including Donald Payne, Gregory Meeks, Bennie Thompson, Mel Watt, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Carolyn Kilpatrick, Charles Rangel, and Maxine Waters. Although they have been summoned and two (Waters and Rangel) have to date been brought up on charges, according to U.S. canon’s of laws they must be presumed to be innocent unless proven to be guilty after charges and investigation.

Unfortunately and historically, indictments of African Americans and Latinos are most often than not tantamount to convictions before the fact. This disproportionate rate of allegations against long serving elected officials of color where many of the charges are baseless and trivial makes it all the more unreasonable to think that we today live in a post-racial society.

Moreover, it is difficult to separate and discern the degree to which these accusations are related to the ongoing vile, vicious, unpatriotic and blatantly racist attacks on our President Barack Obama.

But if our elected officials of color are to be open game for Congressional and Statewide committees then it stands to reason that the first black President and the first black Governor in the history of New York, David Paterson can and will be publically assailed, ridiculed, insulted, and lambasted from every nook and cranny. And then it obviously also stands to reason that no one in our communities is or should feel safe from the same.

To a great extent, the corporate media has taken its cue from or leads Congress in aggressive attacks on elected officials of color especially Black politicians. Of course most will agree that the New York Post has its own agenda and needs no prompting from anybody for its wholesale assaults.

If the mainstream media chooses to target an individual or organization, it’s a good chance they will come up with something, even if they have to make it up as they go.

You will hopefully remember that a few years ago The Daily News, with an aggressive “fishing expedition” assigned reporters to dig into the financial affairs at the Apollo Theater. Out of this scurrilous mission they brought back a pack of unsubstantiated charges of wrongdoing against one of our most esteemed national leader Percy Sutton and Congressman Rangel that was enough to earn them a Pulitzer Prize only to find out after the fact following a thorough, time consuming and very costly (to state tax payers) investigation by the NY State Attorney General that all of the charges were false and baseless.

Of course, during the two plus years of investigation Mr. Sutton and Mr. Rangel were dragged through the public mud in with full pages of attacks over many months with only a one day, small paragraph of retraction on their innocence.

No less nefarious is The New York Post,
particularly with its Page Six slander and character assassination of the Rev. Al Sharpton which was matched by the New Yorker magazine cover with its so-called satirical send-up of President Obama and First Lady Michelle.
All of these nasty depictions and insinuations were brought to mind again with the barrage of demeaning emails sent by New York state Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino.

Paladino is just another example that racism is alive and well in America. And with each inane utterance, each absurd word the media provides him coverage thereby giving credence to his crazed and ridiculous conclusions.

African American institutions, and media including the stalwart Amsterdam News and now especially the NY Carib News, are not immune to media or House ethics machinations, in fact there is an all out effort underway to destroy the NY Carib News, because it has successfully promoted international unity of countries of color. We need to support and standby Carib News and the Rodney Family now more than ever.

A few weeks ago on the front page of the New York Times, above the fold in space usually reserved for national and international stories, The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, one of our city’s most important community service organizations, its tough, but highly respected President Lloyd Williams, and one of our city’s most important and straight forward council members, Inez Dickens (who has always fought for the interest of our communities) were attacked and implicated on groundless irregularities and accused of shady dealings between Dickens and the Chamber.

Dickens and Williams were mainstays in turning Harlem around for the better. They have lived here with their families for generations and the Dickens’ and Williams’ families remained in our community in bad times as well as good as has the Rangel, Paterson, Sutton, and Wright families (Dickens and Williams are not for sale, as are too many others). They have all truly “CAST DOWN THEIR BUCKETS.” They are not here as are some others because “Harlem is now in vogue.”

The targeted attacks on Dickens and Williams are because they are strong supporters of Charlie Rangel and Charlie is to powerful, independent and un-bought.

Nonetheless, charges such as that in the New York Times, however baseless, are incriminating and the victims have little recourse and often have to suffer the humiliation and indignities without a chance to prove their innocence.

And a close reading of the article attacking Dickens, Williams and the Chamber, individuals and an organization that have been so dedicated to the empowerment of our community, reveals all sorts of misguided conjectures and contradictions that even the writer admits are without merit.

For example, what the Times reporter, attempts to do is to show an assignation of corruption between the GHHDC and the Majority Whip of the City Council, Inez Dickens. “A review of the public record makes clear the decision to award the money [a $2.5 million forgivable loan] came just as the [Bloomberg] administration was in the final push to gain City Council approval for one of its largest and most controversial neighborhood rezoning initiatives, a plan to change the rules for development in an area that straddles 125th Street,” Buettner wrote.

For the Times reporter the timing of the deal was propitious but a few paragraphs later, he cites a comment, a spokesman for the city’s Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), who said “there was no connection between the capital improvement grant and the Dickens’ support of the re-zoning plan,” in fact the grant approval took place over a year before the re-zoning plan was approved.

But by then the damage intended, had been done.

There’s a simple answer to this problem, an easy way to deal with mean-spirited Congressional committees and menacing media, and even right wing groups, such as the Tea Party, and that’s unity.

If Black, Latino, and Asian elected officials, if our important community institutions and organizations were united with a resolve that an attack on one is an attack on all, then they could and would possess the strength not only to withstand those attempting to harm and destroy them, but also the means, will, support and power to fight back.

Those under attack have every right and responsibility to resist; every right to voice their position on an issue; every right to insist on the necessity to speak truth to power.

The demonstrator at the October 2 rally in Washington, D.C. had it right—“Hands off our Black leaders!” and off of our cherished Black organizations and institutions too.

How can you fight back against these negative trends? You can do so immediately by remembering to vote on November 2 and by reminding your family, friends, neighbors, church members, co-workers, etc to do the same.

An historic march to Washington in October is one thing; but a march to the voting booth in November is the real thing.

There is an old saying “that the enemy of your enemy may be your best friend.”

Remember: “If they come for me in the morning, expect that they will come for you at night.”

Herb Boyd is an author, activist, teacher and journalist. Herb Boyd is a resident of Harlem, New York