Tag Archives: Progressive Politics

Jesse Jackson Speech to 1988 DNC Convention

My right and my privilege to stand here before you has been won, won in my lifetime, by the blood and the sweat of the innocent.

Twenty-four years ago, the late Fannie Lou Hamer and Aaron Henry — who sits here tonight from Mississippi — were locked out onto the streets in Atlantic City; the head of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

But tonight, a Black and White delegation from Mississippi is headed by Ed Cole, a Black man from Mississippi; twenty-four years later.

Many were lost in the struggle for the right to vote: Jimmy Lee Jackson, a young student, gave his life; Viola Liuzzo, a White mother from Detroit, called “nigger lover,” and brains blown out at point blank range; [Michael] Schwerner, [Andrew] Goodman and [James] Chaney — two Jews and a Black — found in a common grave, bodies riddled with bullets in Mississippi; the four darling little girls in a church in Birmingham, Alabama. They died that we might have a right to live.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lies only a few miles from us tonight. Tonight he must feel good as he looks down upon us. We sit here together, a rainbow, a coalition — the sons and daughters of slavemasters and the sons and daughters of slaves, sitting together around a common table, to decide the direction of our party and our country. His heart would be full tonight…

C-Span Video – http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/3504-1

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/jesse/speeches/index.html

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The Novocaine Effect | Obama and Black America | By Kevin Alexander Gray

“It’s like when you go to the dentist, and the man’s going to take your tooth. You’re going to fight him when he starts pulling. So he squirts some stuff in your jaw called novocaine, to make you think they’re not doing anything to you. So you sit there and ’cause you’ve got all of that novocaine in your jaw, you suffer peacefully. Blood running all down your jaw, and you don’t know what’s happening. ’Cause someone has taught you to suffer – peacefully.”

Malik Shabazz (Malcolm X), Message to the Grassroots (1964).

There’s a picture of Barack Obama next to one of Jesus in the front window of the small, black art gallery that I drive past almost every­day. And I still see someone wearing an Obama t-shirt maybe once a week, but sometimes it’s the same guy. If you’re looking, you can a find a variety of shirts in just about every corner store where I live. They’re on the wall, next to the Bob Marley, Tupac, Biggie Smalls and Al Pacino “Scarface” t-shirts. You can get an Obama hat and a presidential calendar there too. There are still a few Obama yard signs in the neighborhood, usually in a window. A few people still have an Obama bumper sticker on their cars. Not as many as some might think. Certainly not as many as the number of Confederate flags on vehicles in this part of the country.

Racial solidarity is the mood that helped get Obama into the White House. The traditional source of power and sur­vival among blacks, it is also the novo­caine of the moment, a numbing agent as people suffer through what, despite the more hopeful official forecasts, feels like a full-blown depression where I live. The pride is real, but so is the pain, and it’s coming in sharp stabs despite the shot. The novocaine is still working, just not so well, and the result is a discomfiting confusion.

In late September I spoke at a ‘‘Black Male Summit” about 80 miles north­west of Columbia in Rock Hill, South Carolina, which is famous in civil rights’ lore as the first stop in the Deep South for the Freedom Riders testing the 1960 Supreme Court decision outlawing ra­cial segregation in all interstate public facilities. Rock Hill is where Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) activist John Lewis and another man stepped off the bus and were beaten by a white mob. The town is mentioned in Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land” – only the “poor boy” on the Greyhound is lucky as his bus “bypassed Rock Hill” in the song. Things are still tough in the town just south of Charlotte. Since February of 2008 the number of jobs here has fallen by 15 per cent, and the average salary for people lucky enough to be employed is about $28,000. In June of this year, Yvette Williams, a 15 year-old black girl, was shot and killed by two police officers after she robbed a grocery store. The two of­ficers fired on Williams five times after she pointed a gun at them and refused to drop it, according to Rock Hill Police Chief John Gregory. He said he felt the police response was justified. A witness who lives across the street from where the shooting happened, told the local paper she was in bed when she heard shots and got up, looked out her window and saw the girl fall to the ground. She said she then saw an officer shoot again.

The theme I was asked to speak on in Rock Hill was “How do we restore dignity back to black communities?” My initial response was I didn’t know we’d lost it. But I knew the idea was a nod to Obama’s tough-love trick bag. “Post-racialism” is nonsense, but as an ideological concept it’s real, with real political consequences. On the right, it is license for white blow­hards to go on any racist tirade they like so long as they don’t actually broadcast the word “nigger.” In the black communi­ty it’s alive wherever blacks argue among themselves as to whether they are indi­vidually or collectively responsible for the conditions they face, or if they’re as criminal or immoral or lazy or violent or promiscuous or stupid as racists believe them to be. Sherman Porterfield, one of the organizers of the event, was quoted in the local paper, “Obama talked about it,” this claimed loss of dignity; “he has challenged us. The question now is, are we up to the challenge? Our young peo­ple are dropping out of school in record numbers, and it’s our fault. Nobody is shooting water hoses at us anymore. But we are allowing our young brothers to shoot each other. And that is not accept­able.” Continue reading

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Edward Said | “The Myth of the Clash of Civilizations”

Edward Said Memoir

Edward Said Memoir

Edward Said’s lecture on Samuel Huntington’s essay and book on the “Clash of Civilizations,” at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (1996). Said, a Christian Palestinian, was one of the greatest thinkers of our time.

“Said said “the West mainly sees Islam through distorted, Orientalist, lenses. Also, correlation alone is not sufficient to prove that what you said must mean there is a ‘cultural clash’. There could be a clash in some areas, but this is created by powerful people to make Islam seem threatning so regions, like Iran, can be dominated for oil.””

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Firas Alkhateeb | Obama Joker artist

Los Angeles Times

The Joker

[FOR STORY CLICK IMAGES]

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Tim Wise | RACISM, RIGHT-WING RAGE AND THE POLITICS OF WHITE NOSTALGIA

 

Tim Wise

Tim Wise

How dare you say this is about racism!”

 

And a pleasant Monday to you too sunshine, I thought, as I stared at my computer screen this morning, reading over the first e-mail of the day.

It was from someone who had apparently seen my presentation on CNN last night, in which I explained why racism is indeed a driving force behind the outpouring of anger we’ve been seeing at the various town halls around the country, in opposition to health care reform and pretty much all things Obama.

Although I had been careful to point out that not everyone who opposes the President’s agenda is a racist, but rather had made the more nuanced argument that racial resentment and white racial anxiety was the background noise of that opposition–often being stoked quite clearly by the radio talk show hosts on whom the mobs have been relying–my electronic interlocutor was having none of it. He had no more listened to me than he had actually read the health care proposals about which he was frothing so at the mouth.

The message continued:

“You know full well that no one is talking about wanting to go back to the days of segregation.”

Well, no, I don’t know it. I don’t know that at all, seeing as how so many of the tea-bag set and anti-health care folks make “taking their country back” one of the most prominent lines of their vocalized outrage. What does that mean, coming from people in their 60s and 70s, for whom the America of their youth was indeed a white supremacist place? A place where white hegemony could be taken as a given, something that could be presumed in perpetuity? What does it mean when someone says that they want to go back to the country the way the founders envisioned it, as many have also explained at these rallies? After all, they envisioned a white republic. They envisioned and sought out the extirpation of indigenous peoples, most believed in the enslavement of African peoples, and none truly believed that blacks should be treated as equals.

“But that’s not what we’re talking about when we say we want our country back,” another writer intoned, also angered by my televised comments: “We aren’t talking about the racism part. We mean the rest of it.” How fascinating. That it is factually impossible to separate out the “racism part” from the rest of it is something many white folks seem not to understand. They seem to think there was once a time of innocence when oppression wasn’t happening, or that we can easily extract from our accounting of those crimes the great and noble things about our forefathers and view them in some patriotic vacuum. But we can’t. Anymore so than we can say that the man who beats his wife might still be a loving father. Or that the company that poisons the air and water with toxic chemicals is still okay because they have a good record on labor or because they give a percentage of their annual profits to charity.

This second writer sought to explain herself further however, just so as not to be misunderstood. When people like her claim they want to return to “what our forefathers started,” she continued, they simply mean the part about being dependent on God, rather than government. 

Okay, I suppose. Of course, last time I checked God wasn’t offering to pick up the tab for chemo treatments, organ transplants, or any other medical procedure for that matter. Oh, and not to put too fine a point on it, but the founders actually did foster quite a lot of government dependence: enshrining slavery was about government protecting white people from the competition of free black labor, and white folks becoming quite dependent on that protection. Stealing native land and then redistributing it to white people was about dependence on government-imposed violence. And later, yet still in the supposedly “good old days,” government dependence was at the heart of segregation–which artificially subsidized white people in the job, school and housing markets–and was at the heart of the FHA and VA loans that white families used (and from which black families were all but completely blocked) in the 40s and 50s, which literally built the white middle class.

But I’m guessing that when she uses a phrase like “dependence on government” she isn’t thinking about the white folks who were given 270 million acres of essentially free land under the Homestead Act. Or the 15 million or so white families who got those racially preferential home loans, with government underwriting and guarantees, thanks to programs implemented by liberals and thanks to pressure from the left. I’m thinking she isn’t talking about the white soldiers (but typically not the black ones) who were able to return from World War II and make use of the GI Bill to go to college, or get job training. And the fact that she likely doesn’t think of those kinds of things and those kinds of people as being dependent on government is, of course, precisely the problem, and the point I was trying to make. 

Indeed several of the e-mails made this same argument about opposing “government dependence,” all the while oblivious, it appears, to the way in which that concept has become so color-coded in the white imagination over the past several decades. In fact, this is a point I had made on the program: that according to a significant body of social science research (among the most prominent, Martin Gilens’s brilliant book, Why Americans Hate Welfare), most whites perceive social program spending aimed at helping the have-nots (be they income have-nots, housing have-nots, or health care-have nots) as being about giving something tothose people, who are, of course, conceived of in black and brown terms, and taking from “hard-working” white folks in order to do it. So if the notion of government dependence itself has been racialized–and the evidence says it has been–to say that it is only this dependence you oppose, and that racism has nothing to do with it is to either lie or engage in self-deception of a most unfortunate and unbecoming variety. 

There were of course others who wrote to me, and who felt no need to finesse their hostility; those who wore that hostility quite clearly on their electronic sleeve, in fact. Like the one guy who called me, in big capital letters, a “FUCKING FAGGOT,” because nothing demonstrates a keen command of the health care issue better than a little random homophobia.

Or the guy who mentioned–in response to an incident I had discussed on the show–that he too had cheered when the white man attacked the black woman holding a Rosa Parks poster in the Missouri town hall meeting. To him, the woman deserved to be assaulted and thrown out of the hall because she was (and here he was simply stealing the latest line from the woefully under-medicated Michael Savage) “nothing but a race baiter.” This, unlike, say, the whites in the crowd with signs calling the President a nigger, or the talk show hosts who have been claiming for months that Obama hates white people, hates white culture, and really only wants health care reform as a form of reparations for black people. To him, the black victim of white thuggery is a race-baiter, but the white kid with the sign calling Obama a monkey is probably just an all-American boy, and the whites with the signs comparing the President to Adolph Hitler, are just under-appreciated amateur historians, making obvious analytical points that real historians are just too obtuse, or, ya know, educated, to understand.

In the end, although there are many people, with many different reasons for opposing the President or his health care proposal, the role that race and racism is playing cannot be ignored. With major conservative spokespersons stoking the fires of racial resentment daily, and with most whites having long ago come to the conclusion that social program spending is something done on behalf of racial “minorities” at their own white expense, it is not too much to insist that race is operating, for some quite overtly and for others more subtly. 

And for those who insist racism has nothing to do with it, the question remains why they have said nothing to those persons coming to their rallies and giving exactly that impression by way of the signs they carry. Where are their letters or calls to Limbaugh or Beck, chastising them for saying Obama hates white people, or that health care is just a form of reparations–racial payback of white America? Of course they have written no such letters. They have made no such calls. They are too busy. Busy waxing nostalgic for bygone days, which they mis-remember as a time of innocence, of decency, and of self-reliance, but which days were really days of widespread injustice, profound indecency, and institutionalized racial preference for people like them.

They can neither accept the present as it is, nor, interestingly, the past as it was. So they invent a phony version of the latter, while hoping against hope for a reversal of the former. Let us deny them the ability to do either for very long.

Tim Wise is the author of four books on racism. His latest is Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama. (City Lights, 2009)

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Cindy Sheehan heads to Martha’s Vineyard to Confront Obama on the War

 
John Conyers and Cindy-Sheehan

John Conyers and Cindy-Sheehan

Cindy Sheehan will join other like-minded peace activists to have a presence near the expensive resort on Martha’s Vineyard where President Obama will be vacationing the week of August 23-30.

 
From her home in California, Ms. Sheehan released this statement:
 
“There are several things that we wish to accomplish with this protest on Martha’s Vineyard.
First of all, no good social or economic change will come about with the continuation or escalation of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. We simply can’t afford to continue this tragically expensive foreign policy.
 
Secondly, we as a movement need to continue calling for an immediate end to the occupations even when there is a Democrat in the Oval Office. There is still no Noble Cause no matter how we examine the policies.
 
Thirdly, the body bags aren’t taking a vacation and as the US led violence surges in Afghanistan and Pakistan, so are the needless deaths on every side.
 
And, finally, if the right-wing can force the government to drop any kind of public option or government supported health care, then we need to exert the same kind of pressure to force a speedy end to the occupations.”
 
Cindy Sheehan will arrive on the Vineyard on Tuesday, August 25th.
 
For more information, or to request an interview with Cindy Sheehan please contact:
 
Laurie Dobson
lauriegdobson@yahoo.com
(207) 604-8988
 
or
Bruce Marshall
brmas@yahoo.com
(802) 767-6079
 
To donate to help with logistical support, or to help Cindy and other Gold Star Families (families who have lost loved ones in war) get to Martha’s Vinyard please go to:
 
Or go to
www.Paypal.com and put in the email: Cindy@CindySheehansSoapbox.com
or
Mail a check to:
Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox, LLC
55 Chumasero Dr STE 5D
San Francisco, Ca 94132

Families who oppose the wars and have lost a loved one during the Obama Regime are especially encouraged to attend.
Please forward this far and wide!

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Ishmael Reed on Henry Louis Gates

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How Henry Louis Gates Got Ordained as the Nation’s “Leading Black Intellectual”

Post-Race Scholar Yells Racism

By ISHMAEL REED

Now that Henry Louis Gates’ Jr. has gotten a tiny taste of what “the underclass” undergo each day, do you think that he will go easier on them? Lighten up on the tough love lectures? Even during his encounter with the police, he was given some slack. If a black man in an inner city neighborhood had hesitated to identify himself, or given the police some lip, the police would have called SWAT. When Oscar Grant, an apprentice butcher, talked back to a BART policeman in Oakland, he was shot!

Given the position that Gates has pronounced since the late eighties, if I had been the arresting officer and post-race spokesperson Gates accused me of racism, I would have given him a sample of his own medicine. I would have replied that “race is a social construct”–the line that he and his friends have been pushing over the last couple of decades.

After this experience, will Gates stop attributing the problems of those inner city dwellers to the behavior of “thirty five-year-old grandmothers living in the projects?” (Gates says that when he became a tough lover he was following the example of his mentor Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka as though his and Soyinka’s situations were the same. As a result of Soyinka’s criticisms of a Nigerian dictator, he was jailed and his life constantly threatened.)

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