Tag Archives: Congressional Black Caucus

Unconditional, unrequited love? | By Kevin Alexander Gray

(Note: edited version, “Obama and Black America: Who Has Whose Back?”’ published in August 2011 edition of The Progressive | updated data –WashPost/ABC News Poll: Big Drop In Black Support For President Obama )

“I’ve said to you on many occasions that each of us is something of a schizophrenic personality. We’re split up and divided against ourselves. And there is something of a civil war going on within all of our lives. There is a recalcitrant South of our soul revolting against the North of our soul.”

—Martin Luther King, “Loving Your Enemies,” November 17, 1957

I ran into Congressman Jim Clyburn at Brookland Baptist Church, here in Columbia, during the 2010 midterm election season while campaigning with South Carolina Green Party senate candidate Tom Clements. As we all exchanged pleasantries, I jokingly mentioned to Jim that I had gotten his campaign mail with the picture of him and President Barack Obama on it. He seemed genuinely pleased, so much so that he walked me over to check out the special poster he had at his campaign material table. The poster was also of Clyburn with the commander-in-chief. Clyburn appears to be making a point in the President’s ear. Obama looks and leans as though he’s listening. The U.S. flag is in the background. At the bottom of the poster read the caption: “JIM HAS THE PRESIDENT’S EAR, AND WE MUST HAVE THEIR BACKS!!!”

Clyburn didn’t really need Obama’s help in getting reelected in his safe district, which is 57 percent African American. And he’s never had any serious opposition to his seat. But it would have taken some help from Obama for him to keep his spot as the second-ranking Democrat in the House after the drubbing their party took in the midterm elections. That help was not forthcoming. When the dust settled, Clyburn wasn’t even offered the minority whip job, which went to Steny Hoyer of Maryland. Clyburn was given the new title of assistant Democratic leader. Clyburn has fewer staff than before, he is no longer involved in vote-counting, nor is he a key party messenger. Clyburn’s demotion has not sat well with the Congressional Black Caucus, which he used to chair. But it typifies Obama’s indifference to African Americans across the board.

Last December, when he was polling in the mid-nineties among blacks, during a White House press conference a black reporter asked Obama about grumblings among the black leadership. He replied: “I think if you look at the polling, in terms of the attitudes of the African-American community, there’s overwhelming support for what we’ve tried to do.”

Yet even as he boasted, that same month the black unemployment rose from 15.7 percent to 16 percent, almost double the Dec. 9% national rate (Aug 2011- 9.1%). Black male unemployment rose from 16.3 percent to 16.7 percent as 1.3 million black men were out of work. For black women it jumped from 12.7 percent to 13.1, or roughly 1.2 million unemployed black women. And the unemployment rate for black teens stood at a staggering 46.5 percent (by contrast, the rate for white teenagers was 23.6 percent).

When Obama entered office, the black unemployment rate was 12.6 percent. But rising unemployment still didn’t dampen black optimism going into his second year. According to a Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard University poll conducted Jan. 27-Feb. 9 of this year, 85 percent of blacks said they were optimistic about the future course of the economy while 72 percent of white held that view. Eighty-four percent of blacks felt hopeful about their personal financial situation, compared with 73 percent of whites.

Obama and Black AmericaObama is right that the African American community gives him overwhelming support, but it’s not as overwhelming as it used to be. In the most recent polls blacks see “the economy” or unemployment as the nation’s top problem with one in seven or 2.9 million African Americans out of work — the highest number in nearly a quarter century. And some economists argue that 16%+ rate isn’t the “real” or accurate rate. They say that if one takes into account those people who want work and cannot get it and have stopped looking, those not counted such as the 900,000 incarcerated black men and women, and those recently released from the military– the “real” underemployment rate may be 25% or higher.

Back in 2008, nearly all (95 percent) black voters cast their ballot for Obama. Presently, they give him approval ratings just above 80 percent although there are polls with higher numbers.

Blacks still seem to have Obama’s back, but does he have theirs? Continue reading

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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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Barbara Lee | On the 6th Anniversary of the Iraq War

Barbara Lee
Barbara Lee
(photo by Ayesha Walker)

US Congresswoman representing the 9th Congressional District of California (CA-09). [Oakland, Berkeley, Castro Valley, Emeryville, Ashland, Cherryland, Fairview, Piedmont, Albany, and parts of San Lorenzo and Hayward.]

March 19, 2009 – Lee speaks on the floor of the US House of Representatives on the 6th Anniversary of the invasion and continuing occupation of Iraq.

http://www.commondreams.org/views01/0923-04.ht

Published on Sunday, September 23, 2001 in the San Francisco Chronicle
Why I Opposed the Resolution to Authorize Force
by Barbara Lee
ON SEPT. 11, terrorists attacked the United States in an unprecedented and brutal manner, killing thousands of innocent people, including the passengers and crews of four aircraft. Like everyone throughout our country, I am repulsed and angered by these attacks and believe all appropriate steps must be taken to bring the perpetrators to justice. We must prevent any future such attacks. That is the highest obligation of our federal, state and local governments. On this, we are united as a nation. Any nation, group or individual that fails to comprehend this or believes that we will tolerate such illegal and uncivilized attacks is grossly mistaken.

Last week, filled with grief and sorrow for those killed and injured and with anger at those who had done this, I confronted the solemn responsibility of voting to authorize the nation to go to war. Some believe this resolution was only symbolic, designed to show national resolve. But I could not ignore that it provided explicit authority, under the War Powers Resolution and the Constitution, to go to war.

It was a blank check to the president to attack anyone involved in the Sept. 11 events — anywhere, in any country, without regard to our nation’s long- term foreign policy, economic and national security interests, and without time limit. In granting these overly broad powers, the Congress failed its responsibility to understand the dimensions of its declaration. I could not support such a grant of war-making authority to the president; I believe it would put more innocent lives at risk.

The president has the constitutional authority to protect the nation from further attack and he has mobilized the armed forces to do just that. The Congress should have waited for the facts to be presented and then acted with fuller knowledge of the consequences of our action. Continue reading

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