Sunday, February 24, 2008


This election has created a major rift within the Black Community. The affects aren’t quite evident as of yet but it is there. Look at it as the BIG PULL BACK of a tsunami wave. That one wave that rolls back about one or two miles then rises up fifty feet to then crash and destroy everything in its way. I wrote an observation of a Harlem altercation over one BLACK man’s support of Hillary Clinton over Barak Obama (I'm Gonna Kick Your Hillary Lovin Ass). The scene was centered upon members of the community physically beating up a man who worked for the Hillary Clinton campaign based in Harlem. I will admit, based upon the tensions in the air, the history of the community, the legacy of activism plus the fact that many people felt betrayed by Bill Clinton’s presence in the community and the economic incentive he brought in relation to the continued political and financial down turn of Black and Brown people in Harlem, any reminder of the OLD GUARD would be seen as being a JUDAS to one’s race. It did not matter if the man was exercising his right to choose or even work for a candidate of his choice; he was in enemy territory and as a result, paid the price.

It’s been a few weeks since then and I really didn’t concentrate on that event until now. Since we are entering into the last round of Preliminary votes to determine who the Democratic Presidential candidate will be, words and actions for or against one candidate over the other is quickly becoming more than just a debate of words but THREATS to more than just the livelihood of people, particularly Black People and Black Community Supporters.

I have stated on many occasions, not only is the United States venturing into new territory of Political participation, so are Black people in America. The ability to effect this type of Political change has not been seen since the days of American Reconstruction, an era no one Black person alive has experienced but was the foundation for Black Intellectualism which sprung wells of purpose and direction for generations. Black people did not just talk about politics; they SPOKE to it in ways that was NEW and exciting, the inaugural seeds for inclusion in modern America growing into Black communities or at least the potential of it.

The drawback of this inclusion of political vigor was that many were not necessarily searching for all the required information and or only accepting information from bias sources. Taking this part of past history and applying it today. the price for accepting bad political advice diminishes any person voting and the process limits where one can find the complete information needed for future consideration. Granted, Black people are still behind the starting line and slowly inching toward the “Merge Here” lanes of the Information Highway, they are, however, are quickly moving to get into the flow with the help of Black youth and those few that have taken advantage of technology and willing to get the information out to an information starved community. As a whole, like all things involving Class and Black America; those opportunities are slightly below the National average. Just the nature of knowing HOW the political machine works is below average enough, almost POOR. So while this campaign continues to CHANGE and TRANSFORM a Nation, America is on the other side of the ethnic line while others are looking to Black People to catch up with their numbers at the same time they are looking for their active VOICES. Not saying that WHITE America and other ethnic groups are better as a whole, but it is statistically true that other groups, by their numbers, positioned themselves in AMERICA as practicing their political participation more efficient and more effective for their community needs with better results. This meaning, ethnic groups POLITICALLY know when to be heterogeneous in living the American Dream and homogeneous then voting as a BLOCK for a desired goal for Self and Community. The closest Black Folk have come to this phenomenon was the 1960’s and even then, Blacks were not monolithic enough to move forward as a block to effect complete CHANGE. So when Michelle Obama says that, "for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is making a comeback", her words reflect not only her political history but her social reality in relation to her History as a Black person living in America. The Civil Rights Movement transformed an OLD America but it did not evolve enough to move with a continuing advancing America. To question this as a non-White experience and you know that the naiveté of it is rooted in one’s lack of knowledge of Black struggles. To question it as a White American, you sense that the question comes from a rejecting and or resisting the importance of Black "struggle". So that there is no mistake or clarity issue for those reading this with a Conservative or Republican slant, I define “struggle” as, a means by which Black people pushed for equality and fairness Politically, Economically, Legally, Socially and Ancestrally to be on par with those Groups that have benefited from constraining Blacks as a whole from evolving in America as human beings with full citizenship. This would include individuals, groups, businesses, religions and countries.

I define “struggle” this way because too often I have been asked by WHITES and challenged by Conservative BLACKS that Black people in America should be Proud to be in America. If not for the “sins” of America, Black people as a whole would still be in Africa and not part of the Greatest Country in the World. To which I quickly remind them BOTH, “So who holds PRIDE for all those hundreds of thousands of Africans thrown overboard during the Trans-Atlantic Middle Passage? What you seem to be arguing is much like kidnapping 300 people in America and sending them all by plane to Europe and half way over the Atlantic Ocean the plane explodes or crashes. When asked my reaction, I respond that they all should be happy they had “experienced” what it was to fly on an air plane.

This type of response would be in total IGNORANCE, total ARROGANCE and ultimately a total DISCONNECT with people’s lives and history, their family and their potential. Especially since the practice of African slavery extends beyond 500 years with America constituting the worst of its practice. The nature and existence of America is in the writing off people's existence as insignificant no matter who they are. This is why I use the word, ”struggle” because it takes work to CHANGE the perception of people who do not SEE, even when the limitation of vision comes from within one’s Race.

So as Black folk continue to “struggle” through this election, we are finding not all are familiar with the terms and terminology that comes with a complete understanding of elections and government. Blacks that are new to the process (be it a young generation with a lack of history to base sound judgment upon or an older generation plagued with apathy and betrayal) all are not astute in the thought process just to prepare, judge, question and finally decide on issues and or candidates. I basically refer to this as missing the prerequisite VOTING 101’s course. Distressingly so, this is also an American phenomenon (excluding the foreign born and naturalized citizens for most often they come from countries where voting is not a Right and once in America their responsibility to voting is exercised as strongly as their Faith).

As an educator, the lack of the basic understandings of the American political structure is not due to any malignant force or hidden agenda group (or maybe so); it has more to do with the direction the American educational system had evolved into. The moment ETHICS, GEOGRAPHY, PHONICS and CIVICS were removed from the core curriculum of schools, the need to know “the what and the who” of the REPUBLIC became moot. Couple this with age and complacency and you have several generations of Government Illiterates pulling leavers for unfamiliar names with unfamiliar agendas come election time. With Black folk leaving the line, thus leaving all other Americans behind a BIG 8Ball to move from behind. Although History is fundamental for understanding American’s past, it is Civics and Ethics, which makes clear it’s present.

There are many reasons why it is important to question everything about voting and our candidates. Politicians have for years come to Black communities with promises of contributions and economic incentives only to fall short of many. Elections have placed political pawns that depend upon the PORK from Top Government to skim while giving the gristle to the reserved few. Black communities have seen career Politicians live out several generations of stagnation only to leave in shame and scandal. Many of these Politicians enter with a genuine interest in Civic Duty and grow into self-satisfied Political Royalty throwing crumbs to a hungry community. Wrap it all in the traditional clothe of Spirituality and you have bonifided stereotypical Leader of Blacks as oppose to the Self-Proclaimed Black Leaders for an extended lease on a community. And yet, this can only happen when a community has a HANDS OFF approach to their voting and voting knowledge.

For years you had Politicians in New Jersey’s largest city of Newark plunder and deprive the citizens of improvements and social gains. In a period of over four decades, the city had two mayors, Kenneth Gibson and Sharp James, each holding on to that title without CHANGE or challenge. The mantra for each was that of Change and Hope and Renaissance but it was all code for VOTE FOR ME BECAUSE I LOOK LIKE YOU. And Black folk did. This, for years, was the standard TOP DOWN way of doing Politics and a sure way to guarantee the success of the DREAM KILLING MACHINE and deter any “Excitement of the New”. No one could challenge the establishment because no one KNEW how or even if they could. No one knew the rules. No one knew what the mayoral title and responsibilities entailed. In not knowing, no one questioned how a Mayor of the largest city of the State can simultaneously hold a seat on the NJ State Legislature or questioned if it was a conflict of interest for the City of Newark. So when a community doesn’t know the basics, the VOTING 101’s, voting and politics, government becomes a perpetual machine that is self sustaining and hostile to its citizens. Long story short, a gentleman OUTSIDER, by the name of Cory Booker who no one knew, arrived with EXCITEMENT AND A MESSAGES OF HOPE AND CHANGE. No one initially trusted or wanted to take a chance on the unknown, untested Politician. Who was this Man who wasn’t even a Newark native? Words where exchanged and the politics got ugly but after his second attempt, Booker eventually replaced Sharpe James as the Mayor of Newark (who is at the time of this posting is under indictment for several charges of impropriety).

Booker, a schooled Politician with a DOWN TOP style of governing, is now working to undo almost 40 years of political abuse. Part of that undoing is bringing People to the table and making sure they understand the inner workings of the Government, the very basics of how a City works. The task is great and the issues deeply rooted as well as his criticisms on the time and speed of his results but it had to be done and can only be done with the help of the people.

The moral of the story; knowledge of the political system, no matter how basic, is a community’s saving grace. Unfettered “passion” can do more harm than logic because even in the absence of logic, COMMON SENSE should kick in and rule. But in the rare cases of the absence of logic and common sense, PASSION can be a "wicked bed fellah" if the people serving up the EMOTION, also controls the OCEAN. It was passion that kept the previous mayors in office, it was trust, which grew into Hope, and then CHANGE to move the city forward; SLOWLY, to get this one in the driver's seat.

What Black folk currently lack with this new found Political energy is "Sophistication". I say this meaning that when you compare the Latino vote (which is near 15% of the Nation’s population, surpassing the 13% that make up Black Americans), there are inherent differences, which should be acknowledged, but the major social and economic concerns are shared with Black Americans. The diversity within the Latin communities speaks volumes and yet when it comes down to voting, as a collective, their vote always comes with DEMANDS, even from their own Latin Officials. Demands that regardless of the region of the Americans they come from; the Caribbean, Mexico, Latin America, South America, the boughs of New York, the barrios of LA, the end result is “all Latinos” move that much closer in closing the Brown “struggle”. How does this affect Black folk? Well, it depends.

There is no doubt many of the social achievements of Blacks have benefited many other People of Color. Many of those benefits have opened the door for whole groups to move quickly to the front for social and economic gains. The only difference when it comes to voting is that Black folk traditionally VOTE for the Rights for “ALL” and other groups vote for benefits of the “Group”. While Black folks are politicking for fair and affordable housing, education, equal opportunity in employment, other group’s vote for the zoning for specific businesses within their ethnic communities, language inclusion, Green Card and VISA extensions, Grants dedicated for specific cultural reparations that will collectively aid in the growth of their community. It doesn’t matter that Blacks win fair housing because the result will benefit all communities (Asian, Black, Latin, White) but those groups politicking for economic gains win for their communities WITH the additional benefits of fair housing. Blacks fall short with their GAINS and often see the small gains of other ethnic communities as SELECTIVE TREATMENT and not their POLITICAL SAVVY. Again, like the Latin vote, no politician will get it without a solid DEMAND by them. To Black folk, this may appear unfair and showing favor, especially when all groups benefit with their demands and in the end, it shows how much Black folk are slow at catching up in their Voting 101’s.

This political practice from other ethnic groups (LATINS, ASIANS, EASTERN EUROPEANS) has clearly defined their “Sophistication” to the politician and Political Party Groups. Politicians know going in that they are not loyal to any one Party. Bi-partisan is a fantasy for what is real to non-Black folk is WHO IS IN THE MAJORITY. It is in their lack of LOYALTY which lies their political POWER. Black Americans aren’t there yet. In the 1960, Malcolm X prior to his assassination preached to Black people in Harlem that as a collective, the Negro should change his political affiliation to Independent. This would allow the Negro to be courted by both Republican and Democrat. This would also place the Negro in a position of bargaining and thus economic positioning within his own community to own property, expand business and self-determination from under White domination. Almost 50 years later, the idea maybe slightly different, but Black people are on the precipice of getting it.


1 comment:

dejanae said...

great post
too many stuff for me to even begin to cover
but you can't beat the system if u dont know the goings on