Point of View Columns

The Congressional Black Caucus – MIA

Begun as the Democratic Select Committee, the Congressional Black Caucus was founded in February of 1971 with twelve members. At the time, it was the only voice of black elected officials with a national platform. The CBC, as it came to be known, was a voice of opposition to the Nixon presidency and supported what became the successful liberation movement in South Africa. Now that the CBC has 49 members, one should expect that it would be a strong in mighty voice in the face of the storm that is the Trump Administration. But that is clearly not the case. The CBC is MIA – Missing in Action.

Over the years, the CBC has spoken out on a number of issues that affected black America. Every American President since 1971 has met with the CBC and on many occasions, listened to the CBC. And, although most CBC members did not initially support the candidacy of the man who became the first black President of the United States, it continued to elicit the perspective that it was important, influential and relevant.

And now, when this unofficial of voice of Black America needs to stand up to President Trump and his minions, the CBC is curiously muted, and many times it seems that it has joined the ranks of the Silent Minority. And this is not a matter of opinion. Recent news proves that this is a fact.

Consider that just three weeks ago, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, a CBC member from Florida along with the widow of a slain black serviceman were called a liars by not only the Liar-In-Chief, President Trump, but also by his Chief of Staff, John Kelly. And after it was absolutely proven that Trump and Kelly had lied about Representative Wilson, Mr. Kelly went on to lie about her public record and insulted her in a most base and common manner.

If the CBC took a position on this outrageous incident, if the CBC called out Donald Tinyhands and his minion Kelly, it must have been hidden on the back page of a shopping mall handout. If the CBC took to the steps of the United States Congress to denounce the President for treating Congresswoman Wilson like the field hand he thinks she is, they must have done it in the dead of night when no one was watching. Obviously, the CBC was MIA.

And it gets worse. Earlier this week, Mr. Kelly reiterated his lies about Congresswoman Wilson and virtually pledged never to apologize to her. And then………..Kelly claimed that the Civil War came about because of a failure to compromise. He stated that there were men and women of “good faith on both sides” and that Robert E. Lee, was a heroic figure even though he led a rebellion that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of soldiers who were fighting for the United States of America. And in the face of these horrific and demonic lies and distortion of history the CBC has been silent. Once again the CBC is MIA.

The notion that the enslavement of black Americans could be the subject of compromise is a vile notion. It is the dehumanization of black lives that permits someone like John Kelly to say something like that. To suggest that there are people of “good faith” on the side of slavery is to offer a view of the speaker’s mind that does not believe that black people are as human as white people. And to suggest that Robert E. Lee was a hero is more unpatriotic and insulting to the stated ideals of this country than all of the kneeling NFL players put together.

And yet, the CBC is MIA. And what is so ironic is that when the CBC consisted of only twelve members it was more vocal than now, when the CBC consists of forty nine members. That is more than a tenth of the entire   House of Representatives, almost a third of the Democratic members of Congress and close to double the number of the Freedom Caucus, aka Tea Party. Nevertheless, with that kind of clout, the CBC remains the Silent Minority even as black Americans suffer insults and true degradation by reason of the policies of the Trump Administration.

Why is the CBC not standing on the steps of the U.S. Congress every day denouncing the Trump Administration as it attempts to shred the social safety net? Why is the CBC not speaking out on the floor of Congress at every opportunity, reading into the Congressional Record the litany of terrible deeds that are defining the Trump Administration?

Ironically, the CBC was more vocal about criticizing what President Obama wasn’t doing for the black community than it is in attacking President Trump for what he doing to black people. A most curious double standard indeed.

To put it most simply, why is the CBC MIA silent or muted at just that moment in history when it is needed the most? Unless and until the CBC finds its voice, it will be judged very harshly by history – and that would be a shame.

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Point of View Columns

Statues and Flags and Sanity

When the Trump legacy is written, it may be that the only best thing that was done by Donald Tinyhands was to help make it clear that the notion of America being in a post-racial status has always been a myth. It is useful to recall that when Barack Obama was first elected in 2008, accompanied by post-racial anthems, the skinheads, Klansmen, Aryans and assorted white supremacist mouth breathing Neanderthals were already deeply imbedded in America – everywhere.
Clear evidence of the virulent racism in this country, accompanied by the more insidious passive aggressive dehumanization of black Americans, are the scores of statues, busts and plaques throughout the country that honor the leaders of the Confederate States of America. These celebrations of traitors should not be seen as some kind of limp effort at reconciliation.
The CSA was founded on the principles of slavery as just, white supremacy and black inferiority. Any and every Confederate honoree – Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, Nathan Bedford Forrest, etc. – believed absolutely in these principles, principles that were way ahead of more esoteric notions of states’ rights and constitutional interpretations.
This is not a subjective perspective; it is a matter of fact that the first article of the constitution of the Confederate States of America upheld the eternal preservation of slavery. It is a matter of fact that the leadership of the Confederacy was wedded to an unshakeable belief in white superiority and black inferiority. And it is a matter of fact that Confederate generals like Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Nathan Bedford Forrest were absolutely complicit in the unconscionable wholesale slaughter of black Union troops who had the misfortune of surrendering to CSA soldiers.
All of this has been known since the end of the Civil War. Yet white Americans have stood by silently while these villains and war criminals were honored, all in the name of intimidating and bullying black America. The fact that there is even a conversation about depopulating this nation’s public spaces of such obscenities is an obscene, but telling commentary as to the status of black Americans and it is fair to ask – do black lives really matter?
Consider that it is simply against the law to honor Adolf Hitler in Germany. Wearing a swastika or giving the Nazi salute on the streets of Berlin will land you in jail. The same is generally true in France. And consider that these proscriptions on honoring Nazis came about not because of pressure from the Jewish people, the banning of Nazi celebrations came from German and French men and women of good will who understood that the horror of the Nazis not only should never be repeated, it should also not be honored, celebrated or even exist in the public space.
It is 152 years since the end of the Civil War. It is astounding that there is even a conversation about celebrating Southern “heritage”, when that “heritage” encompasses the enslavement and degradation of human beings. It is shameful that there are public officials that refer to some beautiful past that should be celebrated when that past includes the wholesale slaughter, rape and exploitation of black Americans for the better part of two centuries.
It is well past time for conversation or debate. The Confederate statues, flags, busts and plaques are wrong – they have always been wrong – and any American who supports their existence is wrong. The descendants of slaves have endured this ongoing insult for too long and white Americans who accept the humanity of black Americans will understand this. And white Americans who do not accept the humanity of black Americans will not and should be adjudged as racist as the most vile skinhead goose stepping down the street.
When it comes to the Confederacy and its moldering and vile relics, there is simply no middle ground.

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Point of View Columns

November 8, 2016 – The Second Battle of Gettysburg

The noted journalist and historian Carl Bernstein has observed that the 2016 presidential election is “the Gettysburg of the culture war” and he is absolutely right. And with Election Day just a few days away, some historical perspective will be helpful in truly understanding how important November 8, 2016 will be in American history

In July of 1863 the Union army had yet to win a major, much less decisive battle against the armed forces of the Confederate States of America. Led by the flawed but charismatic General Robert E. Lee, the Confederate Army had actually invaded Pennsylvania with the plan of encircling Washington, DC and forcing President Abraham Lincoln to agree to a negotiated settlement that would recognize the independence of the CSA.

The three day battle was epic in its loss of life, demonstrations of bravery and insane bravado as well as the gut-wrenching shifting of fortunes that ultimately left Lee and his Army a shadow of itself as it limped out of Pennsylvania, never to win another major battle as the CSA simply bled to death, the funeral ceremonies being held in Appomattox in 1865.

But it didn’t have to be that way – with a few twist and turns of fate and luck Lee could have won. And if Lee had won the CSA would almost certainly have become an independent country, immediately recognized by Great Britain which hungered for southern cotton. Racial slavery would have been institutionalized for at least another half century and literal complexion of the North and South would in no way resemble the America we know today.

The Gettysburg analogy is appropriate for the next week’s election because for the past half century there has been a cultural civil war being waged in this country. Issues ranging from racial civil rights to gender equality to the right of women to control their bodies to environmental sanity to marriage equality have resulted in battles that have raged in cities, states and in Washington, D.C.

There might actually be common ground on issues such as taxation policies and the limits of social service support by government. But there are entrenched forces on both sides of basic issues such as racial and gender equality or the right of women to decide how they will live their lives and control their bodies. On these and other issues there really is no middle ground.

And what we now see with not only the candidacies of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is not only incredible divergence of temperament, qualifications and personalities, but also a yawning gap between the policies of the platforms of the parties that they represent. And while there might be some value in parsing Clinton’s e-mails or coming to grips with Trump’s incredible obscenity, the fact is that the platform of the Republican Party calls for the repeal of Roe v. Wade as well as the mindless denial of climate change.

The fact is that the Republican Party is the home of men and women who have spent a half century of their lives seeking to roll back the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and who literally celebrated when the Supreme Court gutted that historic and foundational pillar of the civil rights movement in the Shelby v. Holder decision of 2013.

And the fact is that a President Hillary Clinton will appoint Supreme Court justices who will defend Roe v. Wade and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and a President Donald Trump has promised to do just the opposite.

In 1863 the literal character of the nation was at stake and that battle of Gettysburg, which could have gone either way, determined that the United States of America, flawed and faulty as it has been, had the potential and the possibility of aspiring to and achieving the greatness articulated in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

In 2016, the literal character of the nation is again at stake. A victory by Donald Trump will guarantee the degradation of the rights, hopes and aspirations of millions of Americans in order to keep the promise to the shrinking majority of non-college educated and angry and disaffected white Americans to “Make America Great Again” –an America when blacks and women and gay Americans knew their place in the shadow….an America where the myth of liberty and justice for all satisfied the then white male American majority.

It is not possible to exaggerate the apocalyptic results of a Trump presidency. Hillary Clinton will not be a perfect president, but there has never been a perfect president.

The Gettysburg of the culture wars will be fought on November 8, 2016 – each and every one of us has the power to make a choice.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – June 28, 2013

The evisceration of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court this week is the most racially damaging decision by that Court in exactly 117 years – almost to the day. Meanwhile the end of the DOMA as we know it has been a cause for justified celebration but it is celebration that should be muted given the near death of the VRA. Finally, given the precarious health of Nelson Mandela President Obama’s trip has a somber tinge but it does provide yet another opportunity to put the spotlight on what is good about Africa these days.

RIP VRA

In May of 1896 the United States Supreme Court dishonored itself by confirming the legality and constitutionality of racial segregation in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson. For the next 100 years almost every Supreme Court decision on racial matters has been part of incremental progress.

Now, in its most recent ruling the Supreme Court has eviscerated the Voting Rights Act, one of the pillars of progress built by the civil rights movement of the modern era. Using sham analysis to mask the obvious intent to disenfranchise black Americans and other people of color, the majority on the court has disgraced itself and desecrated the memory of all of the American heroes, black and white, honored and anonymous, who worked and struggled and died so that civil rights could become a civil reality in this country.

The majority of the Supreme Court should be ashamed of themselves but they are not. They will continue to wrap themselves in the self-righteous literal translation of the Constitution whenever it is convenient and suits their damnable purpose.

Somewhere in the depths of Hell Strom Thurmond, the Ku Klux Klan, Lester Maddox, John Stennis, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and the rest of the members of the unrepentant American racist terrorist movement are celebrating.

DOMAcide

The signing the Defense of Marriage Act into law in 1996 was one of the more regrettable aspects of the presidency of Bill Clinton. This law was obviously unconstitutional and was a legislative expression of pure prejudice.

Seventeen years later DOMA has been dismantled by the Supreme Court. While the outcome of this case should have been inevitable – the ScaliaAlitoRobertsThomas wing of the Court has proven itself capable of trampling even the most basic of rights.

While there are twelve states and the District of Columbia where same sex marriage is now legal, that means that there are 38 states that still need to come to the realization that the right to love and care for someone is not something that should be subject to legislative rule or permission.

Back to Africa

As noted, the precarious health of liberation icon Nelson Mandela casts a somber light over President Obama’s trip to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania.

While our prayers are with Mr. Mandela and his family we should not that President Obama’s trip does provide the American media and the American business community with an opportunity to focus on the positive aspects of Africa, not only in the visited countries but throughout the continent.

Business expansion, technological progress, increased democratization and gradual but steady improvement of living conditions are all characteristics of large parts of the African continent.

We have to hope that this message about the “other” Africa will resonate long after President Obama returns to Washington.

Have a great weekend!

 

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Point of View Columns

A Celebration From Hell

I do not generally engage in forecasting and prognostication, but I can safely predict that on Thursday, April 7, 2011, there will be multiple celebrations throughout the southern states of this country noting the commencement of the Civil War. That such appalling and offensive revelry will be done in full view of the American public and the world is shameful.

Yet, this Thursday fools, buffoons and adherents to a cruel, vile and false version of history will parade down streets and in “secessionist balls” reveling in some romantic notion of states’ rights and the preservation of the “southern way of life”. In no other country on this planet is treason celebrated without censure and punishment.

Yet in the United States traitors, war criminals and slave owners like Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis are honored with their names on streets, boulevards and universities – indeed their portraits are still hanging in state capitols rather than being strewn on the trash heap of history where they belong.

And all the while black Americans are treated like the non-persons that the original Constitution of the Confederate States of America proclaimed them to be.

This is not simply a matter of racial sensitivity or political correctness. The mindset that celebrates treachery and treason cannot be fully committed to a truly united United States of America. The man or woman who believes that the “southern way of life” should be honored and glorified cannot also believe in racial equality or diversity in the twenty first century. There is simply no middle ground.

At the outset of the Civil War there were nine million people living in the South and four million of them were slaves. Four million black men, women and children were owned by white men, women and children and they had the same status as horses, cattle or other chattel.

Slaves were routinely beaten, tortured, killed and abused. Families were torn asunder to satisfy gambling debts, settle estates or to liquidate assets for an investment.

There was nothing good, pleasant, uplifting or ennobling about the peculiar institution of slavery in the United States. And the Confederate States of America was formed in order to protect and preserve the institution of slavery.

The Civil War had many ancillary factors that contributed to the bloodiest conflict in American history but there should be no doubt that slavery was the central cause. All sane and honest historians agree that but for slavery there would not have been a civil war.

And we should be clear that while slavery ended with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States the spirit and heart of the South barely changed for more than a century. The Ku Klux Klan and its adherents tortured maimed and massacred black people with impunity throughout the South and beyond. Jim Crow laws not only segregated just about every aspect of life in the South, it degraded and debased the dignity of black men, women and children as a matter of law.

And it has only been in the last fifty years that real progress has been made although if you scratch beneath the surface in too many corners and nooks and crannies in the South the vile stench of racial hatred and white superiority wafts into the political atmosphere barely disguised with fig leaf phrases like “states’ rights” and “taking America back”.

It is amazingly sad that men and women of good will sit by idly while this celebration from hell takes place. We do not have to be Jewish to abhor the Holocaust. We do not have to be Native Americans to decry the genocide perpetrated against the original residents of this continent. We do not have to be Tutsis to denounce the mass killings in Rwanda.

Why then is there such deafening silence in the face of this ghoulish perpetration of the myth of the Confederate States of America and the celebration of a way of life that trafficked in human flesh and blood for centuries? I would hope that people – regardless of their political persuasion, could coalesce around the basic principles of decency and justice.

It is not right for the secessionist celebrants to dance on the graves of the men, women and children who suffered and died because of the southern “way of life” Their celebration is indeed ghoulish and mawkish and all the more wrong because they know better.

Their celebration is truly a celebration from Hell.

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