You are currently viewing archive for March 2008
Posted on: 03/24/08:

Choosing the Democratic Nominee

Category: Politics
Posted by: minruth

One should note with regard to the national discussion about the Democratic Primary race that the DNC is a private organization, not the United States government. As such its officials and members have a right to determine who is best suited to represent them in the up coming general election. Having said that, the DNC, its officials and members, have decided to set 2024 pledged delegates as the benchmark a candidate must attain before being considered the presumptive nominee. In more concrete terms, the apprehension of that benchmark by a candidate is accepted as a mandate of the people. Absent the apprehension of that benchmark by any of the candidates the DNC assumes the race is too close to call and consequently allows the selection of a nominee who represents the party to pass from the people to independent super delegates. To date the national discussion has centered on Barack Obama’s mathematically insurmountable lead in pledged delegates, his edge in the popular vote, his record breaking fund raising and his advantage in the number of states won. Undoubtedly, these considerations will weigh, perhaps heavily, in the decision of the Super Delegates, they are nonetheless not the deciding factor. Neither Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton can attain the 2024 pledged delegates necessary to assume a mandate of the people. Therefore, the Super Delegates will decide the nominee who will represent the Democratic Party in the general election.

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Category: Politics
Posted by: RBAFounderX
Barack Obama & Jeremiah Wright

Probably one of the most apparent and unquestioned problems regarding the backlash of Jeremiah Wright's sermon excerpts and Obama's response is the equivocation on the terms - "American" or "patriotic." More specifically, Wright and even Michelle Obama have been called anti-American and unpatriotic. Yesterday in Obama's exclusive ABC News post-race speech interview with Terry Moran, he was asked, "Do you consider yourself a black man or an American first?" Obama responded, "An American, absolutely," with no qualifications or corrections. But that is what's problematic. The problem turns on the misguided question itself because it unnecessarily bifurcates "American" and "Black" when in fact one entails the other. For a Black person who is an American citizen, being an American does not mean one should choose between two mutually exclusively options as if they are at odds. In other words, to be American is to be Black.

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Category: Politics
Posted by: RBAFounderX
Obama's pastor and the Politics of Patriotic Treason
By Jonathan L Walton

This past week, the controversy surrounding Senator Barack Obama’s pastor, Dr. Jeremiah Wright, reached a head. Investigative reporters at ABC released excerpts from Dr. Wright’s sermons where he appears to be making inflammatory and unpatriotic pronouncements against the United States. Excerpts include Dr. Wright attributing the 9/11 attacks to a matter of “the chickens coming home to roost,” and suggesting African Americans sing “God Damn America” in place of “God Bless America.”

As expected, Senator Obama offered his ceremonial denouncement in response to the perceived outrage of the “American mainstream.” And conservative pundits are sure to have a field day with this story. But before Obamamaniacs jump on the demonizing bandwagon (one that Senator Obama himself seems a little too quick to fuel), let’s view Dr. Wright in proper perspective. Placing the recently retired pastor in appropriate historical context should keep us from castigating him as a race-obsessed fanatic, as anti-American, or as analogous to the late Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson or John Hagee.

First, the progressive strand of the black church, of which Dr. Wright is situated, has been in conflict with the American mainstream at each given epoch of this nation’s history. Its raison d’etre is found in both a figurative and literal interpretation of Luke 4:18—preach the gospel to the poor, heal the broken-hearted, set the captives free, offer sight to the blind and liberate the oppressed. Fighting on for liberation, whether against slavery, legalized segregation, racial discrimination, structural poverty and many other forms of systemic evil, has always been at the top of the ministerial agenda. Thus to hear Dr. Wright lambaste America for its record on racial apartheid, imperialistic tendencies abroad, and draconian policing practices at home in relation to persons of color and the poor is unsurprising. Dr. Wright, in many ways, represents the progressive black church at its best.

Second, condemning a nation for its unjust practices should not be viewed as being against the nation. To the contrary, it may reveal a deep commitment to the society of one’s birth by demonstrating a willingness to hold the nation accountable to her citizens, particularly the “least of these.” For instance, the Hebrew prophets, whose voices were particularly unwelcome in 7th and 8th century B.C. Israel, spoke to the plight of the poor and spiritual well-being of the nation as a sign of their abiding faith in what Israel was called to be.

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Category: Culture
Posted by: RBAFounderX
History, Amnesia, and the N Word
By Darryl Lorenzo Wellington

The N Word
Who Can Say It,
Who Shouldn’t, and Why
by Jabari Asim
Houghton Mifflin, 2007 239 pp $26

Nigger: The Strange Career
of a Troublesome Word
by Randall Kennedy
Vintage, 2003 208 pp $12.95 paper

THE SUBJECT is small—a word. Yet the subject contained within the subject is immeasurable: racism American-style. It isn’t always a good idea to reduce vast social dimensions to a pithy cognomen—all the great “isms” are finally irreducible—but there are special cases, and when Jabari Asim asks us to examine American racism (particularly racism against black Americans) through the lens of a single word, it’s remarkable how much history he squeezes into the text.

For truly the N word (as it has been known for several decades now) is the privileged American racial epithet. It sits at the heart of the American consciousness like the evil twin of “liberty” or “justice.” Its familiarity has outlived that of other racial epithets once commonplace. It so sums up the essence of the racial stereotype that it can be used as a slur against any group being portrayed as lazy, shiftless, and stupid—including, by the way, white Americans. “For much of the history of our fair republic, the N word has been at the center of our most volatile exchanges [to the degree that] no discussion of American race relations can be complete without it,” writes Asim.

The N word’s story is tortuous, but not always predictable. Its first written usage on New World soil may have been in the diary of John Rolfe in 1619, noting the arrival of the first African slaves in British North America. “Twenty negars,” wrote Rolfe. Charting the 1700s, Asim pays special attention to Thomas Jefferson’s 1785 Notes from the State of Virginia, a text that, coming from a man of Jefferson’s renown, “established a model of rationalized racism.” The N word itself may not appear in the section in which Jefferson discourses on race, but the word has at its foundation an image, and Jefferson’s sexually tempestuous, uncreative, and genetically inferior American Negro “conveniently codified truths held to be self-evident by most white Americans at the end of the eighteenth century.” The (pseudo) scientific racism that marked the 1800s—harebrained theories of human intelligence as determined by cranium dimensions—was occasionally dubbed by its practitioners “niggerology.”

I will spare readers a blow-by-blow account of the N word’s maleficence. Asim’s book is also an account of social anomalies: use of the word within the black community, which Asim shows is nothing new. He quotes an editorial in the Freedman’s Journal, the nation’s first black newspaper, circa the mid-1800s, lamenting “the adoption of racist epithets by blacks themselves.” “Negroes often reproached one another as ‘dirty black naygurs’ an insult usually reserved for especially dark Negroes, lower-class blacks, or newly arrived immigrants.” Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston teased (and angered) fellow black artists by dubbing them “the niggerati.”

By the mid-twentieth century, in public, at least, the word was less than fully acceptable. Improper speech, it remained in popular usage—like a bad habit that very few people are reprimanded for. It was a convenient weapon used by Southern politicians, whenever they needed to stir anti-black sentiment. In the civil rights era, President Lyndon Johnson passed sweeping civil rights legislation, but Johnson habitually used the N word and racially derogatory language in private. By the late 1960s and 1970s, public opinion denounced it, finally perceiving that the word—and, what’s worse, the image behind the word—is not only uncivilized, it’s uncivil. In a better world that might be the end of the story, but not in ours.

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Posted on: 03/04/08:

Blackness Primer Revisited

Category: Black
Posted by: RBAFounderX
John McWhorter defends fried chicken, dancing and Ebonics.
My recent piece on a definition of blackness seems to have created some misunderstandings. Many seem to think that if all people of African descent do not exhibit a cultural trait, then there are no grounds for designating that trait "black."

Upon which I note: ostriches do not fly; bats do. Does this mean that we are "stereotyping" in making the generalization that birds fly?

Of course not. Most birds fly. My quick list of some traits that can be considered "black" was based on the same logic. That is: There are definable cultural characteristics and behaviors that link black people to one another culturally, and this complex of characteristics and behaviors can be designated "black culture." This particular complex of characteristics and behaviors does not describe Jewish people or Armenians. It describes black Americans.

Black English was created by black people; most black people speak it to some extent. If there were no black Americans there would be no Black English. It is a black cultural trait.

Christianity is a bedrock of cultural blackness. There are, of course, Black Muslims, but not as many as Christians. Barack Obama was counseled by black ministers that if he was to have credibility in the community where he was organizing, he would have to join a church. Their counsel would seem to suggest that Christianity plays a central role in black culture. Were they "stereotyping" black culture? Christianity played a central role in the Civil Rights movement: that is, the black people with most influence over the community were Christian ministers.

In the program to the original Broadway production of the musical Hairspray, six of the eleven black cast members thanked God (not Allah) for their success. One the 24 white cast members, only one did that. This was another indication that Christian faith plays a central role in black culture – unless for some reason white actors have a commitment to suppressing evidence of their faith in their program bios, which obviously they do not.

Or: in the film of Waiting to Exhale, there is a quick exterior sequence of the protagonists leaving church on Sunday, despite that the movie is not about religion. Think about how much less likely that shot would be in the latest film with people like Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts, or Katie Holmes. If they were seen leaving church – especially four characters together – then the movie would likely be about the church in some way. In Waiting to Exhale, that sequence was a nice touch of authenticity – in that Christianity is part of the warp and woof of the culture.

Fried chicken is a part of black culture. It was created in the South, and black Americans once mostly lived in the South. Naturally, fried chicken would remain popular with black people. In addition, black people helped develop its seasoning, and ate it especially often because slaves were only allowed to keep chickens.
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Category: Politics
Posted by: RBAFounderX
Perhaps, European news are handling the elections better than U.S. media outlets?
One of Britain’s most influential black figures today accused Barack Obama of cynically exploiting America’s racial divide and gave warning that he could prolong, rather than heal the rift.

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, claimed that the Democratic front-runner would ultimately disappoint the African-American community and dismissed the notion that he would be "the harbinger of a post-racial America" if he becomes the country’s first black President.

Writing in Prospect, the monthly current affairs magazine, Mr Phillips suggested that guilt over transatlantic slavery was behind Mr Obama’s support from middle class whites.

"If Obama can succeed, then maybe they can imagine that [Martin Luther] King's post-racial nirvana has arrived. A vote for Obama is a pain-free negation of their own racism. So long as they don't have to live next door to him; Obama has yet to win convincingly in white districts adjacent to black communities," he wrote.

Mr Phillips compared Mr Obama to Bill Cosby and Oprah Winfrey, prominent black “bargainers” – those who strike a deal with white America not to make an issue of historical racism if their own race is not used against them.

But, in a warning to the Democratic candidate, he added that Cosby now cut a “sad and lonely figure” because he had abandoned the moral weapon used by figures such as Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X and Jesse Jackson in insisting that “in the end, salvation for blacks won’t depend on the actions of whites.”

"In truth, Obama may be helping to postpone the arrival of a post-racial America and I think he knows it," Mr Phillips wrote. "If he wins, the cynicism may be worth it to him and his party. In the end he is a politician and a very good one: his job is to win elections."

He added: "If he fulfils the hopes of whites, he must disappoint blacks – and vice versa."
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HT: Cory Ruth