Point of View Columns

The Two Faces of America

The United States was founded while suffering from moral schizophrenia. While words of freedom and liberty and human rights were being written into the Declaration of Independence in 1776 the systematic genocide campaign against the indigenous people of this continent (erroneously and carelessly labeled as Indians) continued at an horrific pace. And as the Constitution was written in 1787, the unspeakable peculiar institution of race-based slavery was literally written into that national founding document.

This bizarre compulsion on the part of Americans to deny and/or ignore this country’s history is clearly a part of the DNA of these United States. And this chasm that separates noble ideals from sad reality is on display in so many ways every single day.

A recent news report described a settlement between a Dutch railroad company (NS) and the families of Holocaust survivors which will result in payments to those families in recognition of the fact that NS transported Dutch Jews to concentration camps. While no amount of money could ever erase that singular evil, the attempt at justice is noteworthy.

What is also noteworthy is that this same news report stated that the Dutch company was pressured by U.S. lawmakers to arrive at a reparations settlement. Those would be lawmakers from the same United States that has yet to reconcile the genocidal near destruction of the lives, property and culture of the indigenous peoples of North America. And that would be the same United States that has yet to fully reconcile or recognize the virtually permanent damage that race-based slavery has caused along with its spawn of discrimination, bias and prejudice that lasts to this very day.

And the two-faced nature of America was seen again in Mississippi this week as we witnessed the election of a white woman named Cindy Hyde-Smith who proudly wears the hat of a confederate soldier and brags about being willing to accompany a supporter to a “public hanging”. And it should be understood that the confederate states fought to maintain the so-called peculiar institution of slavery and that the public hanging and assassination of black Americans has been a blood sport in Mississippi for almost two centuries.

Yet, this woman was elected by a large margin in Mississippi, the so-called Magnolia State. And yet, this woman will be sworn in and admitted to the United States and she will be counted as one of 24 women in the Senate – an historic high that will be celebrated even though Number 24 is a clear and present and unrepentant racist masquerading as a family values conservative. And while the presence of 24 women in the Senate could be the cause for celebration it is worthwhile to note that there have only been seven black Americans in the entire 229 year history of the Senate.

And yet business as usual will continue in these United States. And the accompaniment to that business as usual will be the continued moral schizophrenia that is so perfectly American that rarely is the dichotomy pointed out in polite company.

It is that dichotomy which results in a black security guard being gunned down by police as he tried to apprehend an offender while white perpetrators of mass shootings are “talked down” by the police. It is a sign of American schizophrenia that when with all deliberate slime Trump singles out several black female reporters by name for insult and disdain his actions merit a passing commentary in the news. But when Trump attacks Jim Acosta, a white man, CNN and every major news organization in America takes him to court. Did someone say “double standard”?

And it the two faces of America are there for all the world to see in this most recent instance of U.S. lawmakers pressuring a Dutch company to pay reparations to the families of Holocaust survivors (which is the least that NS should do as an accomplice to horror). All the while these same U.S. lawmakers will not even consider any kind of reparations for the families of survivors of the Holocaust suffered by the indigenous people of North America or for the black American families of the victims of slavery.

The dichotomy, the two faces, the schizophrenia of America needs to come to an end. And it begins with realizing the deep-seated and race-based hypocrisy that enables the daily injustice that arises from such hypocrisy.

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Point of View Columns

The Birth of Trumpageddon

Historians will undoubtedly look at the 2016 presidential campaign as being unique. The looming and tantalizing presence of Trumpageddon will virtually overshadow everything, much the same way as Donald Trump himself sucks up the media oxygen every day of this very bizarre year. But the most astute historians will go back a half century earlier to discover the roots of Trumpageddon, roots that have nothing to do with Donald J. Trump and have everything to do with the intentional reinvention of the Republican Party in 1964.

Prior to 1964 the national Republican party was indisputably more progressive when it came to civil rights for black Americans. After all, the Democratic Party was deeply rooted in the South, roots that went back as far as the end of Reconstruction and the federal occupation of the formerly treasonous Confederacy in 1876.

After all, the Republican Party came into being with the abolition of slavery being a principal plank in its national political platform in 1860. Abraham Lincoln, the author of the Emancipation Proclamation was a Republican. And when the seething South was liberated from federal occupation in 1876, due in large part to the tricknology of Rutherford B. Hayes who swapped the freedom, civil rights and physical safety of Southern black people in exchange for the presidency, southerners embraced the Democratic Party as their own.

The Democratic Party in the South was the party of Jim Crow and lynching. Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican president, invited the first black American to dine at the White House. Woodrow Wilson, a Democratic president, hosted the premier of “Birth of a Nation” in the White House.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democratic president, never supported anti-lynching legislation for fear of alienating his Southern party members. And it was Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican president, who sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce the Supreme Court’s decision that racially segregated public schools were unconstitutional.

Prior to his untimely death, Democratic President John F. Kennedy was nowhere near a staunch supporter of the Civil Rights Act that was passed posthumously. And in 1960, Richard Nixon, his Republican opponent in that presidential election, had virtually the same amount of support in the national black community as he did.

As late as 1964, the Democratic Party was the home of  blood-soaked and hate drenched racist villains such as Thurmond and Stennis and Faubus and Wallace and Bilbo. And in 1964 every state that had been a part of the Confederate States of America was firmly on the Democratic side of the national political register.

And then the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed with the urging of Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson, followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And as if by magic, during the following decade, the Republican Party was ascendant in the South, vacuuming up all the disenchanted white Southerners, supposedly in the name of conservatism and state’s rights, but in reality the transition was fueled by the deep and abiding resentment that black Americans were afforded some measure of citizenship by the Damned Democrats.

Should there any be any doubt regarding the linkage of race and the Republican ascendancy, it should be remembered that Ronald Reagan, the patron saint of Republican conservatism, launched his national presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, less than twenty years after three civil rights workers were lynched within miles of the podium on which he stood. And when Reagan proclaimed that “government was the enemy”, he was referring to that same federal government that was often the only source of protection for black Americans seeking asylum and vindication in their own country. That dog whistle blew loud enough for white ears in the South and throughout the nation.

It should, therefore, be no surprise that the modern Republican Party, reborn in radical response to the advancement of racial civil rights would be the home of the impending Trumpageddon. It certainly should be no surprise that the political party that turned a blind eye to the clear racist and racial efforts to delegitimize the first African American presidency would serve as the incubator for those would seek to delegitimize the entire apparatus of the federal government.

Republican leaders like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell who refused to extinguish the dark magical thinking that claimed that Barack Obama is a Muslim, or “hates America” or is not even a citizen, cannot be surprised that a master manipulator like Donald Trump could harness this malevolent harvest and turn it into a movement. And now, for good historical reason, Trumpageddon is upon us.

The Republicans are reaping what they have sown.

Wallace Ford is the Chairman of the Department of Public Administration at Medgar Evers College in the City University of New York. He is the host of The Inclusion Show and the author of two novels, “The Pride” and “What You Sow”

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – June 28, 2014

Seeming to respond to the Teapublican chicken hawks beating the drums of war, President Obama has announced that he will send $500 million of military aid to Syrian rebels. What could go wrong? Meanwhile, in Mississippi we had the opportunity to watch Teapublicans flip the script with Senator Thad Cochran trying to get black people to vote. And finally, House Speaker John Boehner has announced that he plans to sue President Obama for not upholding the laws of this country. Is this a flimsy and transparent prelude to impeachment?

The Bloody and Slippery Slope

President Obama now wants to inject a half billion dollars of weapons and military assistance into the churning and bloody swamp of sectarian violence known as Syria. He has stated that this aid will go to “moderate” rebels, whatever that is supposed to mean.

This is a movie that we have seen before. Then it was called assistance to the “freedom loving people” of Afghanistan who turned out to be the Taliban, al Qaeda and………..Osama bin Laden.

There are several outcomes and none of them good. The “moderate” rebels may turn out to be not so “moderate” and use their gift of weapons against Americans and American interests the next time some yahoo minister in America burns a Koran.

The “moderate” rebels may turn out to be stand-ins for al Qaeda and ISIS and the gift of arms will go directly to sworn enemies of the United States.

Or, the “moderate” rebels may turn out to be not such great fighters and will simply surrender their weapons or lose them in battle – weapons that will then be used against the United States.

Or, the targets of the “moderate” rebels will decide to attack the United States soldiers, personnel and interests wherever they can find them.

This move by the President seems to be a sign that the pressure from the Teapublican chicken hawks is finally getting to him, and that he feels it is necessary to “do something” in Syria. But this is wrong in conception, wrong in execution and fraught with fatal circumstances for this country. Senator Obama was elected to do better than this. President Obama was re-elected to do better than this.

Nothing good can possibly come from this move.

Mississippi Scam

Mississippi has always been the place where the dreams of black people go to die. During the horror of American racial slavery, Mississippi and Louisiana were the worst places for black people.

Since Emancipation, black people have been routinely and institutionally terrorized. The history of black people seeking to vote is written with the blood of martyrs.

This past week, the irony of Teapublican Senator Thad Cochran seeking the vote of black Mississippi citizens in order to eke out a primary win was ghastly and instructive. It is ghastly because Senator Cochran is a blatant hypocrite in seeking the vote of the black people of Mississippi. His record indicates absolutely nothing that the black people in Mississippi should support – except that he was slightly less racist than his opponent who accepted campaign donations from the Ku Klux Klan.

The instructive aspect of this horror show is that the black people of Mississippi have more power than they have exercised. With 37% of the registered voters in that misbegotten state being black, there is tremendous potential for change, reformation and progress.

Perhaps Thad Cochran’s chicanery can serve as a wakeup call for the black people of Mississippi.

Sneak Preview

House Speaker John Boehner has determined in his wisdom that he should further waste taxpayer dollars by suing President Obama for not faithfully carrying out the laws of the United States. His real, and thinly veiled, cause of action is that President Obama is not doing what Speaker Boehner and the Teapublicans want him to do.

Even though Barack Obama has won two national elections by significant margins, the Teapublicans will stop at nothing in their efforts to delegitimize this lawfully elected President of the United States.

Is this the prelude to an impeachment strategy in 2015? What do you think?

Stay strong and be great!

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – August 12, 2012

It has been said that Sunday is the most racially segregated day of the week in the United States. Two weeks ago in Mississippi, this saying was proven true once more. Meanwhile, the mystery of Mitt Romney’s taxes continues. Can he really be elected without disclosing his tax returns? And finally, Michael Jordan is already in the Hall of Fame. Now he is doing something that is more important that scoring baskets.

Mississippi Goddamn!

About 45 years ago jazz legend Nina Simone wrote the song, “Mississippi Goddamn”. It was a song that highlighted the outrageous racism that was unique even during the worst racist eruptions that have convulsed this country. Sadly, Mississippi has fairly earned its characterization as an ultra-racist enclave that is truly the last holdout of the Confederate States of America.

So we shouldn’t have been surprised that a predominantly white Christian congregation in that state of confusion called Mississippi actually banned a black couple from being married in its church. Keep in mind that this couple was not committing the unpardonable sin of engaging in interracial marriage. Both the prospective bride and groom were black.

The couple, rather than fight foolishness on what is supposed to be a day of joy and celebration got married in another church. After a few days a representative of the church apologized with one of those gossamer “if we offended anyone” routines that are employed by gaffe-prone celebrities, politicians and athletes.

And at the end of the day nothing has changed in Mississippi.

Mitt’s Mystery

In 1968, George Romney, Mitt Romney’s biological father, became the first presidential candidate to release his tax returns and he released twelve years of his returns. Since then, liberal and conservative and Republican and Democratic candidates have all released their tax returns as a matter of course.

It seems reasonable, after any cabinet secretary has to release his/her tax returns. Certainly appointees of many local, state and federal offices have to release their tax returns. And, come to think of it, shouldn’t the American people have the right to know how their president makes his/her money?

Apparently Mitt Romney doesn’t think so. He has spoon fed the public one year of tax returns and has only committed to releasing one more year at some point in time. The contempt that he has for the political process and the American people is so foul that you can almost smell it.

While it is true that tax returns and private finances are personal, it seems pretty clear that an individual who chooses to hold public office has to give up some of that privacy.
Or else they can just stay home and stay private.

It will be interesting to see if Mitt Romney can continue with this stubborn refusal to hold on to his tax returns and still get elected president.

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can’t fool all of the people all of the time”. Mitt will just have to learn the hard way.

Hooray for #23

Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest professional basketball player who ever lived. And while there is an argument in a sports bar or a barber shop that is just waiting to begin, there is no doubt that Mr. Jordan has come a long way from his apolitical days (remember “Republicans were sneakers too”?).

Michael Jordan and several other NBA players have endorsed the candidacy of President Obama and are actively campaigning for him. And while supporters of Barack Obama are understandably pleased there is another positive dynamic that cannot be ignored.

For too long too many black professional athletes confine their celebrity to selling overpriced sneakers to underserved youngsters. In the alternative they engage in saluting conspicuous consumption while promoting self-destructive behavior. Clearly Mr. Jordan and some of his colleagues have realized that they can be a force for positive change and engagement in the political process which can result in benefits that even the best sneaker can never provide.

Hooray for #23.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – May 4, 2012

President Obama went to Afghanistan to make history while Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani had pizza in a firehouse in Lower Manhattan. There’s a message in there somewhere, starting with the hypocrisy of Romney and Giuliani being in that firehouse. Meanwhile there are some real head cases in the NBA and its going to get worse before it gets better unless someone starts treating the matter seriously. And finally, Nina Simone wrote a song over fifty years ago entitled “Mississippi Goddamn!” Guess what? The tune still fits.

Lies and Damned Lies

President Obama flew to Afghanistan last week to formalize an agreement whereby U.S. (and NATO) troops will essentially withdraw from that country by 2014. That means that 90,000 American troops will remain in a country where the President of the United States has to fly in and out under the cover of darkness because the place is so dangerous. It also means, however, that finally there is an end in sight to this war born of warped and certifiably insane neo-con strategy.

As fate would have it, President Obama was in Afghanistan on the day that Osama bin Laden was killed pursuant to his direct order one year ago. Predictably, the Teapublican sound machine started the wailing siren, claiming that President Obama was “politicizing” the anniversary and that he was wrongfully taking credit for the actions of the Navy SEALs who actually killed bin Laden.

The G.O.Tea Party has long gone off the tracks of logic and common sense and this most recent reaction/response is one more example. It might help to point out that President George W. Bush played dress up on the navy aircraft carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, posing as the fighter pilot that he was supposed that he was supposed to be during the Vietnam War but never was claiming “mission accomplished” in Iraq – after which over 4000 American military personnel were killed and well over a trillion dollars was spent until the nebulous “mission” in Iraq (which ultimately became just getting the hell out of Iraq) was accomplished.

Teapublican stalwarts Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney decided to commemorate the killing of bin Laden by having pizza at a firehouse near Ground Zero. That would be the same Rudy Giuliani who not only politicized the 9/11 tragedy but made a small fortune pretending to be the hero that he never was while simultaneously pretending to be the law enforcement and security expert that he most certainly never was and never will be.

Somehow on the Planet Teapublican, Barack Obama is wrong for taking credit for making bold executive decisions that worked, while Teapublicans can take credit for accomplishments that never existed. No one expects the Disloyal Opposition to be fair, but it would be a welcome change if it would shed the cloak of hypocrisy and try to make some sense.

Headaches in the NBA

Almost two weeks ago Metta World Peace (the basketball mayhem artist formerly known as Ron Artest) of the Los Angeles Lakers blindsided James Harden of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the head with an elbow that could have killed him. For readers who think that this is an exaggeration, please keep in mind that Mr. World Peace is 6’6” tall and weighs 250 pounds and is reputed to be one of the strongest men in the NBA.

Fortunately for Mr. Harden his is still alive. Whether he is well is another story as he did suffer a concussion and the recent suicide of football star Junior Seau is a reminder that head injuries can have horrific results years after the actual injury.

In any penitentiary worth its name Metta World Peace would be receiving a righteous beat down for such a cowardly and punk-like move. However, Metta World Peace is not in prison, he is not in jail; he is not in any kind of custody (for his protection or for the protection of the rest of the planet). NBA Commissioner David Stern responded to this attempted murder/aggravated assault on national television by suspending Metta World Peace for seven games. A seven game suspension for an act that would result in a 5-10 year sentence in any city in these United States sends the worst kind of wrong message.

The NBA has countenanced, encouraged and enabled outrageous and potentially murderous behavior. And somehow the young men and women who watched this sad and dismal deed are supposed to understand that wrongful behavior has consequences.

A seven game suspension doesn’t sound like much in the way of consequences or deterrence. Perhaps we should ask James Harden in about ten years what he thinks of David Stern’s decision.

Mississippi Goddamn!

Some recent statistics came to light which sound a lot like old statistics. Mississippi leads the nation in illiteracy. It also leads the nation in obesity and infant mortality. And, for good measure, it also leads the nation in Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.

It is a very sad commentary on the quality of life in one of the United States. We should also keep in mind that Mississippi is a Teapublican stronghold that has elected one Republican governor after another for over two decades. And there is little or no indication that Mississippi will change its ways anytime soon.

When you wonder what that country might look like after a few decades of unadulterated Teapublican-approved policies, take a look at Mississippi.

As Nina Simone once sang, “Mississippi Goddamn!”

Have a great weekend!

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To Live A Lie

It is probably slightly counterintuitive to discuss a book that one hasn’t read yet. But I have read the reviews of “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson, along with an in depth article about this book in last week’s New Yorker. The subject matter, the great migration of black Americans from the South during the period of 1910-1970 is so compelling that, if only for the subject matter, the book is worthy of note.

But there is more, much more. “The Warmth of Other Suns” is not simply an historical narrative filled with facts and statistics. Rather, the book focuses on the real life stories of real people. And given that almost all Americans are descendants of immigrants, the story has to resonate in a very personal sense for so many of us regardless of ethnic heritage.

I read about the stories told in “Warmth” and I can feel the story of my grandparents and the grandparents of so many friends, classmates and colleagues. And one begins to grasp the courage, determination and perseverance of these men and women who left the awful and often bloody grasp of the South for the unknown possibility of a glimmer of opportunity in the North, Midwest and Far West regions of the United States.

Ms. Wilkerson makes it clear through her series of interviews and compilations of life stories, that fear and terror and violence were the motivating forces that drove these American immigrants elsewhere in their own country. According to statistics compiled for “Warmth” during the first three decades of the twentieth century a black American was lynched every four days. An amazing statistic because it cannot possibly be inclusive of all lynchings or beatings or other acts of terror perpetrated with virtual impunity. And these acts were typically not perpetrated by criminals and outlaws but rather, the actors were in the main upstanding and respected members of the community who considered themselves to be honorable men and women. (The authoritative book on lynching in the South, “Without Sanctuary”, is recommended on this painful subject)

“Offenses” that resulted in lynching included not only being accused of criminal acts such as stealing livestock or assaulting a white woman, impertinent language directed towards a white person or “reckless eyeballing” (looking a white person in the eye) could get a black man or woman killed. Other “offenses” included being a successful farmer or business owner or being the owner of desirable farmland and refusing a lowball offer to sell.

It was the terror of the day and the night that drove millions of black Americans from their homes to someplace else, anyplace else. More than the declining economy of the primarily rural South or the siren song of employment in the factories of the North and Midwest, fear and terror was their inspiration. A realization that injustice would be eternal in the South and the chance of living without fear of the torch or the noose in the middle of the night was enough for people to change their lives, and America, forever.

Absorbing and understanding this part of American history is important. The men and women who crowded onto trains and buses and trucks to come to Chicago and New York and Los Angeles also played a crucial role in the founding of the black middle class in this country. Speak to any African American doctor, corporate lawyer, investment banker or elected official about their lineage and long silent strains of the South can be heard.

And while absorbing this bit of history, check out the latest news reports that Haley Barbour, the Republican Governor of Mississippi has temerity to suggest that, at age 62, he is part of the “new generation” of the South that had gotten past segregation and discrimination directed against African Americans.

Amazing, because in 1964, when he was 16 years old, three civil rights works – Cheney, Schwerner and Goodman – were lynched in the “new” Mississippi. Its hard to see how you just get “past” that awful event. Amazing, because as a teenager Haley Barbour had to have been witness to federal troops having to escort James Meredith onto the campus of the University of Mississippi because of the violent threats from rioting white students. The same University of Mississippi that Barbour attended soon thereafter. How do you get “past” that?

Amazing, because to this day Mississippi is Ground Zero for the tenacious grasping of traditions of racism and racial discrimination in this country despite the progress that has taken place in this state. The pathologies experienced by the black community in Mississippi continue to this very day. How do you get “past” that?

And Governor Barbour would have us believe that this tremendous “change” has taken place because the Republican Party has taken the leadership in progressive and affirmative action in the South. And so he lives a lie and invites us to join him.

There was virtually no Republican Party in the South until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, at which point white Democrats quit the party wholesale and moved to the Republican Party, where they have stayed ever since. They left the Democratic Party because of its support of civil rights and equal rights and human rights and it is simply a lie to suggest that the Republican Party came to life in the South for any reason other than the disgust and disappointment experienced by many white Democrats.

Haley Barbour is entitled to his opinions. He is not entitled to his own set of facts

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