There’s a new poll out today that shows Brother Barack gaining some steam among black voters. Let’s face it — unlike the proven product that are the Clintons, Obama is a new face for African-Americans. Black people are like other people. We actually take voting seriously (if you consider our voter registration and participation rates) and many African-Americans are discerning values voters. They listen to a candidate before deciding to vote for him or her.

Ari Melber at the Nation writes:

Then this month, The New York Times offered a front page news flash under the headline, “So Far, Obama Can’t Take Black Vote for Granted.” The article quoted Debra J. Dickerson’s claim that “Obama isn’t black” in an American racial context, and then explored why “some black voters” are “so uneasy” about Obama. One barber explained that Obama might not be right for the Presidency because he was not “born, raised, bred, [and] fed in America.” Whatever. That kind of talk has been shredded by The Nation’s Patricia Williams, among others. Now these new poll numbers should remove one crutch reporters were using to write premature stories about how black voters supposedly did not like Obama “enough.”

Couldn’t agree more. I hope we’ve all learned something from this experience.

Loathe Thy Neighbor

28 Feb 2007

This is a frightening video segment from the Daily Show. More evidence that Muslims are the new blacks. (hat tip: Dean Obeidallah) Very worth watching:

When I read that the Congressional Black Caucus was considering partnering with FoxNews for another presidential debate, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was one thing to do it in 2004. Perhaps the motive was increased recognition of the CBC among a new audience.

Isn’t time to question both the CBC and FoxNews’ motives here? Let’s first look at FoxNews. These are the same people who have at least twice publicly attacked a CBC member, Barack Obama and got pushed back by other media sources. First there was the consistent, disingenuous linking of Sen. Obama’s name with Osama, as in Bin Laden. Newscasters and commentators would repeatedly make a pseudo-Freudian slip…”Sen. Osama…pardon me, I meant to say Obama!” The confusion extended even to photos and captions on TV. This continues today, btw, on Fox and other channels. Then there was the fabricated story that Obama had attended a madrassa in as a child living in Indonesia in order to spread the mis-information that he is a Muslim and not Christian. When confronted, FoxNews blamed the Clinton campaign for spreading the story, thus managing to damage two Democratic contenders with a single blow.

This is just par for the course for the regularly racist, rightwing Fox News. Maybe it’s news to some, but the whole point of FoxNews is to deliver a conservative slant on the news. FoxNews is owned by Rupert Murdoch, a well-known conservative moneybags man originally from Australia.

Does Murdoch really have black voters’ best interests at heart in sponsoring a presidential debate? Or does he want to appear to be modern and open while creating a forum in which his team can control the outcome. What influence does he want to have over the presidential campaign – one in which Republicans are entering even weaker than they did in 2004 if you go by the TechPresident blog mention rankings?

Murdoch is the same guy who publishes the neoconservative Weekly Standard magazine. According to RightWeb, “Conveniently, every Monday one of Vice President Cheney ‘s aides stops by the office to pick up 30 copies of the magazine…”

Not only does this hand legitimacy to those who fight regularly against the priorities of our communities, it erodes alliances in the progressive movement and even undercuts the existing African-American owned media outlets like TV1.

Cathy Hughes
and her investors including Quincy Jones founded TV1 to provide an alternative to the disgusting, unrepresentative BET. How better to show our new power than supporting a black-owned channel that is trying to provide positive programming that is more representative of our culture. Did you know TV1 is going to re-broadcast Roots during Easter week? Why not have the presidential debate on TV1?

Furthermore, Hughes has proved herself as someone who is on our side. A good old progressive organization the National Council of Negro Women honored her in 2006 with their Uncommon Height Award which is named after stalwart civil rights soldier/saint Dr. Dorothy Height.

I hope no one is taking some kind of under the table kickback from FoxNews at the CBC. I really do. I think our CBC brothers and sisters are better than that though. I want to think that the new CBC wants to show America how strong we really are and represent. Let’s hope they make a different choice.

This just came down

(AP) All but closing the books on a crime that helped give rise to the civil rights movement, a grand jury has refused to bring any new charges in the 1955 slaying of Emmett Till, a black teenager who was beaten and shot after whistling at a white woman in the Mississippi Delta.

The district attorney in rural Leflore County had sought a manslaughter charge against the white woman, Carolyn Bryant Donham, who was suspected of pointing out Till to her husband to punish the boy for what was a grave offense in the segregated South.

But the grand jury last Friday issued a “no bill,” meaning it found insufficient evidence, according to documents made public Tuesday.

I don’t know if this happens with kids today, probably not, but when I was coming up in the 80s, you couldn’t be a black boy and have avoided the tale of Emmett Till. It was a rite of passage to be told about the brutalization of someone your age a few decades earlier for the crime of being black.

This legal effort was the last best attempt to being someone to justice. The men who committed the crime had been acquitted and later admitted to the murder.

I love the stubbornness of one of the players in the situation. From the article:

Horace Harned, 86, a former Mississippi legislator and member of the Sovereignty Commission, a state agency that worked clandestinely to preserve segregation, said he was glad to see no charges filed. He said the suggestions that Donham had a role in the crime are “a bunch of foolishness.”

“Of course, I don’t believe in murder. That’s the wrong thing. It always backfires on you. That shouldn’t have happened,” he said. But he added: “You can’t correct all the ills of the past. If we did, the Southerners were treated much worse than anybody back in the Civil War.”

Yes, murder should not be committed because it always “backfires” not because it’s wrong, and Southerners were of course treated much worse than anybody in the Civil War. I suppose if you don’t consider blacks to be people, that’s a very easy statement to make.

Recently on Feb 8, I quoted from the Wikipedia entry for “African-American” on our economic status. The comments I received in part showed that even black people have trouble seeing ourselves in a new light. We have been so conditioned by what we see in TV and hear on the radio to think of black people in America as uneducated, deprived, disadvantaged, diseased and dysfunctional. Listen up Progressives, Liberals, Democrats and other well-meaning people who want to “help minorities”. It’s time that all Americans sat up and looked around.

While poverty and its corresponding symptoms of poor education, income and healthcare still afflict African-Americans disproportionately, the facts show that we are an emerging economic power whose strength and contribution is growing. Sure, the nation was built on our sweat, blood and tears and America still owes us a great debt for that. Yet, from the Wikipedia, here are more facts you need to recognize if you want to work with us, help us, understand us.

Original links and footnotes can be found here. Emphasis mine. Note that the entry recently changed and deleted some interesting info comparing African-American wealth as comparable to that of Poland and 80% of Russia’s. I hope that gets added back in. The original entry I saw was even stronger and better-written and researched.

By 2003, sex had replaced race as the primary factor in life expectancy in the United States, with African American females expected to live longer than white males born in that year.[17] In the same year, the gap in life expectancy between American whites (78.0) and blacks (72.8) had decreased to 5.2 years, reflecting a long term trend of this phenomenon.[17] The current life expectancy of African Americans as a group is comparable to those of other groups who live in countries with a high human development index. In 2004, African American workers had the second-highest median earnings of American minority groups after Asian Americans, and African Americans had the highest level of male-female income parity of all ethnic groups in the United States.[18] Also, among American minority groups, only Asian Americans were more likely to hold white collar occupations (management, professional, and related fields),[19] and African Americans were no more or less likely than whites to work in the service industry.[20] In 2001, over half of African American households of married couples earned $50,000 or more.[20] Although in the same year African Americans were over-represented among the nation’s poor, this was directly related to the disproportionate percentage of African American families headed by single women; such families are collectively poorer, regardless of ethnicity.[20]

Collectively, African Americans are more involved in the American political process than other minority groups in the US, indicated by the highest level of voter registration and participation in elections among these groups in 2004. [3] African Americans collectively attain higher levels of education than immigrants to the United States.[21]

It’s time to stop feeling sorry for black people and structure outreach accordingly. We don’t want your noblesse oblige or your pity. But we do want to be partners with you in building a stronger nation both culturally and economically.

Update: Welcome Blog Report Readers! I’ve gotten a lot of great comments from folks. A reader calling his/herself “No Note” found the cite for the Martin Luther King Jr quote below

The “nourished by …” quote is from MLK’s Letters from a Birmingham City Jail, April 16 1963.

Also, “Face” left a comment after looking up “judicial activism” in the Conservapedia:

If you search “judicial activism”, as an example they offer “Brown v. Board of Ed”.

They cast jud. activism in a very negative light, then list desegregation as an example of it? This would appear as though the author is pro-segregation, which is about as racist as one could be.

I looked it up too. They use Roe v. Wade as the classic example and then swing into Brown v Board of Education and Loving v Virginia — the case that removed the bar for blacks and whites (and any other ethnicity) to marry one another legally. So that puts the Conservapedia squarely in the camp of those who believe America was better off when we kept the darkies in their place and disallowed racial mixing in public or private places. Classic KKK racism. Original post begins below.

The Conservapedia was recently launched as a rival to the Wikipedia. The Eagle Forum sponsors this repugnant trash. You know the Eagle Forum — it’s Phyllis Schlafly the anti-feminist ultra-conservative. She’s against Title IX, against “judicial activism” (code word = nigger loving dismantlers of segregation) and pro-Mexican border fence. Here’s a quote from one of her recent columns supporting Pat Buchanan’s just-published book State of Emergency on immigration:

Today, our elites celebrate diversity rather than American ideals and identity. To justify the enormous numbers of foreign born entering the United States, legally and illegally, we are reminded ad nauseam that we are a nation of immigrants.

However, immigrants, legal and illegal, don’t come to America because of our diversity of residents, but because we are a land of freedom and opportunity. Most of the creators of our unique land were not immigrants.

Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 48 were native-born Americans and two of the others came to this country as babies. Of the 39 signers of the U.S. Constitution, 32 were native-born Americans, and the few signers of both documents who were not native-born all came from Great Britain or British colonies.

The most diversity we had in the founding of America was that some came from big states like Massachusetts and some from small states like Delaware.

Buchanan’s book lists all the obvious solutions: no amnesty, a border fence, eliminate birthright citizenship and taxpayer-paid social benefits, prohibit dual citizenship, require businesses to match employees’ Social Security numbers, and time-out on legal immigration.

Right. So let’s take a look at her alternative to the Wikipedia which supposedly provides, according to Conservapedia’s homepage:

… an online resource and meeting place where we favor Christianity and America. Conservapedia has easy-to-use indexes to facilitate review of topics. You will much prefer using Conservapedia compared to Wikipedia if you want concise answers free of “political correctness”.

1) In the Wikipedia there is an extensive and well-written entry on the term African-American which serves as an anchor pages for many other related topics on our history, culture, religions, political movements, civic organizations and more. In the Conservapedia, I could find no entry for African-American, Black or even Negro. There is however, a page there for “Mulatto“. Just in time for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign! That said, the Wikipedia entry for Mulatto could also use some work.

2) The Conservapedia entry for Baraminology which is supposedly an alternative to the “secular concept of species” has a few nuances that the Wikipedia entry on the subject does not share. Apparently creationist theory conveniently makes room to perpetuate discredited racist scientific theory. The terminology used below somehow implies that people of certain ethnicities are not the same biologically(an excerpt):

  • Monobaramin: A monobaramin is an ad hoc group of organisms who share common descent. Caucasians and Negros are a monobaramin, as are any group of specific members of a holobaramin such as wolves, poodles, and terriers or the humans Tom, Dick, and Harry. Holobaramins contain monobaramins; for instance, wolves are a monobaramin of the Dog holobaramin.
  • Apobaramin: An apobaramin is a group of holobaramins. Humans and Dogs are an apobaramin since both members are holobaramins. A group containing Negros and wolves is not an apobaramin since both members are monobaramins.

3) In contrast to the rich biography in the Wikipedia for Martin Luther King Jr., the Conservapedia chooses to dwell in their King entry on a seldom cited quote that no doubt furthers their agenda to combat the ahem, dark forces of “judicial” and other forms of “activism”:

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers …

I stand in the middle of two opposing forces … One is a force of complacency … The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups … the largest being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement.

Nourished by frustration over racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America …

I have tried to stand between these two forces … for there is the more excellent way of love …

The quote is given no time or place. There are many gaps here in between the cited passages. Which speech or book of Dr. King’s is this quote from, exactly?

4) The Conservapedia’s entry on Slavery focuses on the encouragement of the slave trade from 1455 to the 1800s by Africans themselves for profit. The style of the passage is best described as 4th grade book report. The Wikipedia entry on Slavery is lengthy and covers slavery throughout the ancient world, the same period as the Conservapedia and slavery as it exists today. The entry also describes the abolition movement, apologies and reparations, and links to other forms of human rights abuses.

5) There is no entry for W.E.B. DuBois or even Booker T. Washington but there is one in the Conservapedia for Marcus Garvey who advocated a “Back to Africa” approach for African-Americans in the first half of the 20th century to solve the problem of American racism.

I could go on. And on. Ms. Schafly thinks she can bamboozle her supporters with a false set of fact free information. But I’m not fooled. And her Conservapedia is about to get schooled.

I agree with Prometheus 6Oliver Willis couldn’t be more right on in taking the Democratic Party to task for ignoring its own values voters: African-Americans. The whole lexicon of speaking religion and politics to Christian and other religious voters that the right has been using frankly was stolen years ago from us.

From Oliver:

Imagine if you will, a substantial group of regular churchgoing Christians. They are active in their community, they believe in God and Heaven and Hell. Their entire life is about living up to the Word of God, and when they vote that belief is a driving moral force in how their ballot is cast. These Christians are vital to their party, if they stayed home on election day there’s no way the party could win.

Surely these people are part of the “values voters” so often courted by the GOP.

Did I mention that they’re black. Because, you see, they’re Democrats.

This really isn’t that hard. The way you speak to African-American voters will also work with many other voters who are informed by big ideas, by a desire for a better future and by faith.

Bill Clinton got it and won. Gore kinda sorta did and kinda sorta lost. Kerry didn’t get and lost. Which candidate will get it this time finally and decide to win?

I disagree with Willis on whether black churches are at risk of dying out as a political force. They remain as strong as ever — the Bush campaign figured that out and used them as a wedge to increase their share of the Black vote in 2004. We’re still out there but our priorities have changed. Democrats mis-read those shifts in what we are talking about — education, the war, healthcare, Africa, building greater prosperity in our communities — at their peril.

I was surprised by Nancy Pelosi’s appointment of William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson (D-LA) to the Homeland Security Committee. James Collier over at Acting White and I agree: The thought that a criminal like him can represent the interests of New Orleans residents post-Katrina would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad.

Jefferson, 59, is the subject of a federal investigation into whether he accepted bribes related to a telecommunications deal in Africa. The FBI’s evidence against him includes $90,000 found in his freezer fodder for late-night talk show jokes but not funny to Pelosi, who had promised to run the most ethical Congress in history.

Pelosi stripped Jefferson of his seat on the Ways and Means Committee over objections from some members of the Congressional Black Caucus.


I was surprised, that is, until I took a look at who’s on the HS Committee. The chair, Bennie Thompson, is a Congressional Black Caucus member who has spent quite a bit of time in the House. Let’s take a look at the other Democratic members and see how many CBC members there are (I will bold them):

Majority Members

Bennie G. Thompson (MS-2)
Chairman of the full Committee on Homeland Security.

Loretta Sanchez (CA-47)
Vice Chair of the full Committee and Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism

Ed Markey (MA-7)

Norman D. Dicks (WA-6)

Jane Harman (CA-36)
Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment

Peter DeFazio (OR-4)

Nita Lowey (NY-18)

Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC)

Zoe Lofgren (CA-16)

Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX-18)
Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection

Donna Christensen (USVI)
Rep. Donna M. Christensen continues to distinguish herself as a leader in the United States Congress. As a Member serving her fifth term, she is the first female physician in the history of the U.S. Congress, the first woman to represent an offshore Territory, and the first woman Delegate from the United States Virgin Islands…

Bob Etheridge (NC-2)

James R. Langevin (RI-2)
Chairman of the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, and Science and Technology

Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Chairman of the Subcommittee on Emergency Communications, Preparedness, and Response

Christopher P. Carney (PA-10)
Chairman of the Subcommittee on Management, Investigations, and Oversight

Yvette D. Clarke (NY-11)

Al Green (TX-9)

Ed Perlmutter (CO-7)

Interesting, isn’t it, that two non-voting reps, both CBC members, are also both on the HS Cmte. Doesn’t that strike anyone else as strange? Look, Homeland Security is no place for games and cronyism. It should not be a dumping ground for weakened reps, either, if Democrats want to be taken seriously on national security.

Bennie, I am certain that Dollar Bill plays a great game of golf and has a mean jambalaya recipe. But exposing the nation and the Democratic party to perceived risk and deserved censure just so you can stock the Committee with friends that you can easily persuade? Not cool. And Pelosi? Don’t you want to distinguish your term as Speaker from the protectionism of the previous Congress? Ugh.

Update — hey y’all, thanks to a reader, I’ve been informed that I failed to highlight a couple CBC members: Gwen Moore (D-WI) and Julia Carson (D-IN). They are now highlighted below. Out of 37 Democratic committee members below, 10 are African-American and 5 are members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. It will be interesting to see if what changes the financial services industry may experience in the next 2 years (if any).

Skeptical Brotha recently made note of Harold Ford Jr.’s taking of a high profile position at Merrill Lynch. I can’t blame Harold. I don’t know what they are paying Vice Chairmen at major financial houses but I bet Harold is making more in one day than I might see in my entire career. I bet if one of us was to see his first paycheck from ML, we would have to say “Day-amn!”

Ford already has a job heading up the DLC. So why all of a sudden is Merrill Lynch on the man like white on rice? As a certified house negro, I am well-versed in the language of The Man. Thus the many press releases and news reports of Ford’s new additional gig raised an eyebrow and peaked my interest. Let me bring your special attention to this quote (emphasis mine):

“We are delighted to have a dynamic, energetic visionary like Harold Ford join Merrill Lynch,” said Stan O’Neal, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer. “At a young age, Harold has excelled in virtually every assignment he has ever taken on, distinguishing himself in the Congress and bringing fresh ideas and solutions to government that transcended partisan politics.”

That’s an awful lot of breathless excitement. So why now is Merrill Lynch so very, very excited to have Harold on their team? And er, what partisan politics will he be transcending in his new Vice Chairman’s role, dare I ask? Hmmm, let’s take a look at the new Democratic-controlled House Financial Services Committee and see how many Congressional Black Caucus members are on it, shall we (I’ve bolded CBC members):

“Chairman Barney Frank represents Massachusetts’ Fourth Congressional District. The other Democratic members of the Committee are:

Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski, PA
Rep. Maxine Waters, CA
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, NY
Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, IL
Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez, NY
Rep. Melvin L. Watt, NC
Rep. Gary L. Ackerman, NY
Rep. Julia Carson, IN
Rep. Brad Sherman, CA
Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, NY
Rep. Dennis Moore, KS
Rep. Michael E. Capuano, MA
Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, TX
Rep. William Lacy Clay, MO
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, NY
Rep. Joe Baca, CA
Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, MA
Rep. Brad Miller, NC
Rep. David Scott, GA
Rep. Al Green, TX
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, MO
Rep. Melissa L. Bean, IL
Rep. Gwen Moore, WI
Rep. Lincoln Davis, TN
Rep. Albio Sires, NJ
Rep. Paul W. Hodes, NH
Rep. Keith Ellison, MN
Rep. Ron Klein, FL
Rep. Tim Mahoney, FL
Rep. Charles Wilson, OH
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, CO
Rep. Christopher S. Murphy, CT
Rep. Joe Donnelly, IN
Rep. Robert Wexler, (FL)
Rep. Jim Marshall, GA
Rep. Dan Boren, OK”

Quite a few influential CBC Members of long standing on the Democratic side of this powerful Committee. There are a number of Latino members on this committee as well. What a coincidence that Harold Ford was recently himself a member of the CBC! My hunch is, given that the Financial Services Cmte is currently chaired by card-carrying liberal Barney Frank with several progressive and activist CBC members on board like Rep. Maxine Waters, financial services companies must be scared near to death. The U.S. finance sector and the African-American community have a mixed history together as we all know. I don’t think we need to go into the details of predatory lending and housing loan discrimination, etc. I would suspect that Merrill Lynch is taking a divide and conquer approach. If they can sway some of the more corporate-friendly CBC members using Harold Ford as ambassador, this will weaken Frank’s support within his own committee for changes that will benefit the poor and middle class.

I hope the coming CBCMonitor report features some info on past votes involving finance such as the Bankruptcy Bill and so on. I think it will be important to shed light on who stands for what. Who in the CBC will be willing to stand up to Harold Ford and stand up for the black middle class?

Cross-posted at MyDD

Matt Stoller recently wrote here about the State of Black America conference which takes place annually during Black History Month. Beginning in August 2006, I was invited to write a weekly summary of race and politics in the blogs with a focus on left-leaning bloggers on MyDD and cross-post on my own blog at Jack and Jill Politics. The goals of “Racial Politics This Week — A Roundup” at the time were:

  1. To increase discussion about how race impacts American politics in the progressive blogosphere
  2. To introduce MyDD readers and bloggers to new perspectives on smaller blogs and build bridges across the racial divide
  3. To strengthen unity in diversity in what is perceived as a homogenous group of politically-active internet-connected folks
  4. To build awareness and generate creative thinking among some really smart people (that’s you) around race and politics for Election 2006 with an eye to 2008

Why is this important? After all, talking about race and U.S. politics is to explore a territory dotted with painful landmines in the national psyche. Race is not easy to talk about. It’s not easy for me. I expect for all of us, no matter your ethnicity, talking or even thinking about how race and ethnicity has screwed us up and held us back as a country is difficult.

For progressives, it is essential that we do a better job understanding this dynamic than our competitors for the nation’s hearts and minds. The demographics of our country are changing rapidly. This has the potential to create a solid base of power for progressives if we tap and expand traditional alliances among minorities, liberals, labor and spiritual communities. Costly missteps such as those seen in the 2004 election cycle that will undermine this fragile connection can be avoided with greater awareness and discussion.

The stakes are high.

Crablaw described in a Racial Roundup comment the changing demographics in MD that can be seen across the country:

In Maryland, Steele was (almost) able to take advantage of conditions that will not exist again.

First, African-American, Latino and Asian-American (specifically Korean-American) communities are growing larger, and that will affect redistricting significantly. Maryland has the second largest Korean-American community in the country by proportion of population…Meanwhile, the old beat-up rural white part of the state is losing population or at least proportion. The parts that are growing are, with one exception, turning bluer.”

Or *could* turn bluer. Building a strong long term progressive base with minority support is promising, but success is not guaranteed.

I’ve been looking at the previous Racial Roundups that got over 10 comments to see what struck a nerve. Looking back the comments *really* vary. There are 2 one comment posts and several that got lots (27, 50, 60) of comments.

People tended to comment on items that they’d seen in the media or the blogs already and were eager to discuss:

– Candidates you like or hate: esp. Burns, Steele, Cardin, Webb, Donna Edwards (but not Al Wynn), Obama, Ford vs Corker, Dollar Bill Jefferson v. Karen Carter (Again more Carter, less Jefferson)
– Campaign ads: racist or not
– Republican racism in general: the concept and history and specific examples like immigration
– Affirmative action — the general concept and history but not specific examples like the so-called Michigan Civil Rights Initiative
– Pop culture and politics: Obama, Oprah, Borat
– Leading Democrats signifying on race: Dean’s comments after the election, the Clinton blogger lunch

The mid-term election roundup got only 10 comments, but they were all really substantive ones. I would love to see more high-level, thoughtful discussion in a similar vein. What do you think? I’ve seen more diversity of opinion on MyDD around the Racial Roundup posts and I think there has been much greater exposure of minority-written blogs to other bloggers and blog readers — some of which are run by regular MyDD and DKos diarists. This is a good thing

“Does racism still exist, to what extent and how do we know” seems to be the theme of many white comments. Not so much: “what do we do about it” as much as “that makes me mad” or some other emotional response. I know that talking about race is emotional. I don’t claim any greater right to short out my brain cells and become ahem…inarticulate over injustice and cynicism just because I am black. But we need to get beyond yelling “I am not inferior!” and “I am not a racist!” past each other when discussing race and politics — and beyond scared silence — if we are to build a united front that creates a better future for all Americans.

Yet, I find the lack of recognition of how race and racism impacts our political present (and future) troubling. I think that the blogs have an important role to play in calling attention to dynamics in action whether it’s the failure to re-build New Orleans and help Katrina victims or the real cost to our nation of a failed immigration system. To be progressive means that you are interested in social reform. It means, unlike conservatives who tend to believe that yesterday was better than today, we believe that tomorrow can be better for everyone than today.

Almost every issue facing America today has a racial component. The majority of African-Americans were against the Iraq War before it started. Few aside outside of Army recruiters appear interested in our opinion then or now however. Take health care. An estimated 40 million Americans are uninsured today. Yet you can’t own a car without insurance in most, if not all states. But you can be an American citizen and have no health insurance. There are actually people in the U.S. whose cars are better insured than their own children. How did we decide as a nation that some people’s lives are worth less than cars? How does race factor into that decision-making? Or who gets sent to Iraq? Or who gets a good education? Or who gets a job? Or who gets to be an American citizen? Or who lives near a toxic power plant? Or who gets hassled or even shot down by the police for no reason?

The digital divide has changed and now splits along economic and educational rather than racial lines. According to a recent Pew study, American bloggers are actually more diverse than the internet itself. Here’s one of my previous comments responding to what I see as common mis-perceptions in the progressive community:

…thanks for your comment. Pew Internet released a study bloggers in July that shows that bloggers are more diverse ethnically than the rest of the internet. Which is already itself pretty diverse now racially if not educationally or economically. The internet increasingly reflects the ethnic makeup of our country. The digital divide breaks along different lines these days, but people’s concept about the character of the internet has not, yet.

The demographics of the United States is changing rapidly. To believe that minorities are not online and therefore not a part of the conversation is wrong. How is the progressive blogosphere going to help embrace the opportunity this presents?

There’s a blacks-only political conversation raging online — in bestselling books, on tv, in the Wikipedia and on radio with a similar one happening with Latinos and Asian-Americans in print, on radio (especially AM radio) and online. There are different heros and villains but with shared progressive goals. In order to create a powerful, lasting movement, we’ll need to bridge the divide and figure out how to get on the same page.

Francis L. Holland is the uninvited guest. He is the bull in the china shop. He says the things that people don’t want to hear. That other people are afraid to say. And people are noticing.

I may question his methods — he was kicked off of DailyKos and not without justification. Before you blast me, hear me out. Let me repeat myself: I question the method, but not the message. The DailyKos is a community. And it has rules that are outlined — and unspoken. Technically speaking and politically (in the relationship sense) Francis broke some of those rules gleefully. I’ve read some of his posts and the comments. The brother stepped on toes, rattled cages, confronted people personally. Under the Dkos troll rating system, it’s true that he may well have crossed the boundaries of sounding like a “Purity Troll” at times.

Calling sympathetic people “racists” and generally adopting a defensive, belligerent, aggressive stance is not likely to open constructive dialogue. What happened was that the discussion became about that instead of some valid points Francis brought that clearly resonate with other black bloggers like Field Negro and African American Political Pundit and that might be of interest to other folks in the political blogosphere.

Bloggers and readers of many ethnicities have questioned where blacks are in the progressive blogosphere. While there has been considerable attention and resources devoted to helping sponsor and foster local blogs, it’s true that there has been less of that among progressive blogs.

It’s also true that despite the fact that upper and middle class blacks are online at rates approximating those of other races in the same income bracket, they don’t seem interested yet in participating in the political blogs. The facts (and keep in mind this data is from Oct 2005):

Nearly 80 percent of African Americans surveyed have access to the Internet, compared to the 88 percent of the general population. Two-thirds of online African American households have access to broadband connections, compared to 53 percent of the general population. [...] African Americans say they’re more likely than the general population to participate in several online activities. Sixty-eight percent of visit news sites, while only 56 percent of the general online population is likely to visit news sites. — 2005 AOL African American Cyberstudy

I have some questions of my own.

1) I’ve heard from bloggers that they want to hear the black perspective. Well, sorry, but Francis — like it or not — represents a perspective that is valued among some in the black community. You wanted to know what we’re thinking. Now you know. I’m sorry if it hurts your feelings. I really am. But isn’t it better to know? We don’t all think this way. There is a diversity and spectrum of opinion just like among other ethnicities.

2) Black bloggers — should we demand greater inclusion and support among larger, whiter blogs? Or should we focus on strengthening our own networks with each other and deepening our support/building our audience within the black community and beyond? Several blogs, most notably FireDogLake, MyDD and yes DailyKos have worked hard to bring a diversity of voices to the table. Read Matt Stoller’s post on the State of Black America as an example. Both the BlackProf and I have been invited to cross-post over at MyDD. Should blogs like these be encouraged to do more or excoriated for not doing enough? Which approach is likely to be more effective — or do we need both to make progress?

3) Right now many black blogs have small audiences, aren’t part of the BlogAds or other ad networks in significant numbers (their black blog selection in BlogAds is quite sad and lacking, frankly) and we aren’t big fundraisers yet on ActBlue or elsewhere. If we want to be included and respected, should we focus more on building our base of power within those currently important frameworks or create our own frameworks. Should we build our own ActBlue (ActBlack?) or our own blog ad network (BlackAds?) Corporations are eager to reach out to the black community even if progressive political organization s appear less so. Do we attempt assimilation with the “whitosphere” or self-segregate in the “blackosphere”? Is there a middle ground?

4) Was it appropriate to ban Francis Holland from DailyKos? If you go by “the rules” , maybe. But did that only create a martyr and a hero? And was an interesting writer who opened a frank and difficult line of discussion lost? Francis’ posts on MyDD have been more moderate in tone which I think is helpful. Francis, my brother, this is my advice to you: slow your roll. You have some important things to say. There’s a way to say them that will get heard and make friends instead of shut down and demonized. You make valid points. If your point is to be heard only by black people, keep throwing bombs. If you want to impact and move white opinion, put your message in terms they can understand. African American Political Pundit, Angry Black Bitch, Skeptical Brotha and Black Agenda Report are good examples I think of where the comfort zone boundaries might be. Their blogs have a bite and deliver a zing while managing to attract a diverse audience. When in Rome, speak as the Romans do. When among the family, pour on the hot sauce. We can take it.

There hasn’t been a huge amount of discussion among black bloggers yet about the right-wing attack from Bill Donahue and others on Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, well-known progressive bloggers who until recently worked for the Edwards campaign. I wouldn’t mistake that for lack of interest. Instead, at least for me, the whole episode is discouraging and disappointing. It saps the energy and sucks the air out of the room. It doesn’t augur well for the Democratic candidates and their agendas in general.

I feel terrible that on the human level that Marcotte and McEwan are experiencing violent threats on their lives. In some ways, the terror they are experiencing is not too different from what black women fear secretly day in and day out. We must always wonder if the type of hate-filled feelings expressed here are lurking in the unexposed hearts of some of the people we encounter in our daily lives. This kind of irrational sex-accelerated hatred is something we are conditioned to expect to experience at some point in some way on some level — it doesn’t surprise. We still live in a racist, sexist, violent society. It does disappoint though because Americans are better than that.

It’s especially disappointing when those who have the power to push back are slow to do so. The inability of the left to isolate and counter-attack in the public arena against a divisive figure like Donohue is troubling. It says the Democratic party remains weakened at heart and easily cowed by the ultra-conservative noise machine. A bunch of rightwing haters can whip up a fuss and our team ducks and covers, whimpers and apologizes.

That’s too bad, because the country is looking for new leadership. Let’s hope that the current slate of Democratic leaders can re-group and do a better job next time in protecting its own. That’s what Americans want. Let’s not let the Republicans out-flank us in the Strength department since strength is shown in more than one way.

Until then, here’s wishing Marcotte and McEwan the best. Be safe, sisters.

That’s the question they are asking over at BlackAgendaReport. They are working on a new report card for the CBC. Never before in American history have individual African-Americans had more power to shape how the government responds to the needs of other African-Americans. And measures to help African-Americans help a whole lot of other Americans who have had the American dream deferred or delayed, frankly. BAR says:

The words “politician,” “leader,” and “political leader” are often used interchangeably. If they are indeed the same things, we have the right to demand that black politicians act like leaders. True leaders never confine their demands to the immediately possible, to those measures which can be enacted into law in this month, this year, or the next. Leaders possess vision, and they exercise leadership to make today’s political impossibilities into tomorrow’s realities.

Including when it comes to issues like Katrina:

Thousands died in the man-made disasters attendant to Hurricane Katrina due to government failures on every level, from presidential refusals to fund and maintain levees, to the failure of federal, state and local officials to plan for evacuation, but so far as we know only one government employee was fired, and none have seen a day in a court of law. The majority of pre-Katrina New Orleans residents were black and renters. So-called reconstruction efforts have pointedly excluded jobs, housing, schools, health care and infrastructure that would enable them to return, to re-unite their families and to rebuild their communities. National Democratic party leaders, always afraid of being too closely identified in the minds of white America with the problems of blacks can never be counted to stand up for us if our own nominal representatives, the Congressional Black Caucus, does not.

BAR says they are working with the CBCMonitor on a new CBC 2007 report card. Chances are good, people will be paying closer attention given the CBC’s new power. I hope that the report addresses individual voting records on some of the bright line issues like Katrina, defense spending, voting rights, healthcare and education that BAR mention in this article.

The public’s reaction to Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign will apparently drag us through an intensive national discussion on race whether we like it or not. Never before have I seen such a pervasive discussion of what race means today in America since his campaign. When white people ponder out loud how black is black, a black person must take a step back.

Glenn Beck, professional braying conservative jackass, has sought to convince us that Obama may as well be white. From Media Matters:

If you start to, you know, delve around the edges, say, ‘Wait a minute, isn’t he mixed race? Weren’t we told that last year?’ Or whatever, biracial. Not allowed to say that anymore.” Beck responded by saying “he’s very white in many ways,” adding, “Gee, can I even say that? Can I even say that without somebody else starting a campaign saying, ‘What does he mean, “He’s very white?” ‘ He is. He’s very white.”

Oh but there’s more! Beck went on to clarify later:

Beck claimed that Obama “is colorless,” adding that “as a white guy … [y]ou don’t notice that he is black. So he might as well be white, you know what I mean?” In addition, Beck said: “I guarantee you, there will be blogs today that will have me being a racist because I say that.”

Pam Spaulding has a great post on the meta-topic of race and the reaction to Obama. I’d like to add to this. She offered her perspective as a light-skinned black person. I too have light skin. Our family has many shades though so I know the historical tension between darker and lighter-skinned African-Americans.

You see, I think many darker folks believe that white people view them more negatively and that light-skinned folks have an easier time of it in American society. I have always resisted that notion. Certainly I have faced discrimation at school and at jobs (or when trying to get a job) as a black woman. The one-drop rule has always applied in my mind. Yet, perhaps I’ve been mistaken all this time. Perhaps Obama’s light-skin and mixed heritage do make a difference in the minds of white voters and pundits.

Besides Beck, I give you Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It’s a book many Americans read in high school or college and one which no doubt leaves an lasting impression as it did in its heyday before the Civil War. In class, we never discussed the different ways in which Stowe distinguishes her lighter characters from her darker characters. It was a taboo subject, it would seem. It was after class that white classmates whispered to me, “Are you a quadroon?” or “Would you consider yourself mulatto?”

Carefully I would answer no as I’d been coached to do so by my parents, who anticipated such divisive questions. “I’m black like every other black person. There’s nothing different about me.” But what were my white classmates and friends to think when their (also white) teachers allowed such racism to slide unquestioned. What am I talking about? Here’s Stowe on darker slaves (emphasis mine):

“Now, Jim, show this gentleman how you can dance and sing.” The boy commenced one of those wild, grotesque songs common among the negroes, in a rich, clear voice, accompanying his singing with many comic evolutions of the hands, feet, and whole body, all in perfect time to the music. (Chapter 1)

and again here:

In order to appreciate the sufferings of the negroes sold south, it must be remembered that all the instinctive affections of that race are peculiarly strong. Their local attachments are very abiding. They are not naturally daring and enterprising, but home-loving and affectionate. [...] This nerves the African, naturally patient, timid and unenterprising, with heroic courage, and leads him to suffer hunger, cold, pain, the perils of the wilderness, and the more dread penalties of recapture. (Chapter 10)

In contrast, Stowe’s light-skinned characters do not speak in pigeon English or Ebonics. They are portrayed as kin to the whites with all their complexity and sophistication. An example:

The traveller in the south must often have remarked that peculiar air of refinement, that softness of voice and manner, which seems in many cases to be a particular gift to the quadroon and mulatto women. These natural graces in the quadroon are often united with beauty of the most dazzling kind, and in almost every case with a personal appearance prepossessing and agreeable. [...]She had been married to a bright and talented young mulatto man, who was a slave on a neighboring estate, and bore the name of George Harris. (Chapter 2)

My question is: is this type of underlying set of assumptions about light-skinned, mixed race blacks the secret to Obama’s acceptance among whites — his half-blackness makes him “safe”. More like a white man. More like them than the darker Jesse or Al or Carol. And yes, Glenn Beck, I’m talking to you.

And: is this one of the factors behind discomfort with Obama among some in the African-American community? Black Agenda Report, Skeptical Brotha and African-American Opinion are all black blogs with some real questions about Obama and the issues, Obama and the man.

Having listened to the 60 Minutes profile on Barack Obama, I know he understands what being black means. Anyone who understands that “he could be shot going to the gas station” (with the implication being under a racial profiling incident) knows how being black can impact your life. I was impressed by Obama’s announcement speech and want to hear more from him. In the meantime, I remain alert to his portrayal and perception in the society at large as it reflects upon my personal perception among both whites and blacks. There are no taboos now inside Uncle Obama’s Cabin.

From Raw Story:

…at a Republican luncheon yesterday White House adviser Karl Rove was overheard explaining the Bush amnesty immigration plan by saying, “I don’t want my 17-year-old son to have to pick tomatoes or make beds in Las Vegas.”

Wow — just when you think that immigration is splitting Republicans into the racists and the less racist, we find out that it’s all racist and anti-brown people. There are just differences in opinion on what to do about all the brown people.

There are the Buchananites who think we should re-patriate as many as possible and block entry lest we be overtaken and Mexicanized. And there is apparently the Rovian approach of using the brown people in measured, reasonable ways to preserve the status quo for an upper crust of privileged whites. Not so much the idea of free trade and cooperation with one of our largest trading partners, I see. More: making the world safer for rich people. The Rove Doctrine.

IMO countering the Buchanans and the Roves is what the Congressional Hispanic Caucus needs to focus on instead of their ridiculous infighting. Latinos are facing real threats from powerful people. It’s time for the CHC to get unifying leadership that understands that. And pronto.


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Cheryl Contee aka "Jill Tubman", Baratunde Thurston aka "Jack Turner", rikyrah, Leutisha Stills aka "The Christian Progressive Liberal", B-Serious, Casey Gane-McCalla, Jonathan Pitts-Wiley aka "Marcus Toussaint," Fredric Mitchell

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