mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Democrats And Black Voters”: To Win The Support Of People Of Color, You Have To Incorporate Their Concerns

It has been pretty well established by now that a Democratic candidate can’t win the presidential nomination (much less a general election) without the support of African Americans. Due to that fact, it is interesting to take a look at how Charles Blow is summing up the challenge that faces Bernie Sanders in that regard.

Blow interviewed Sanders and then attended his rally at Benedict College in South Carolina. His column about that summarizes both some of his potential as well as missteps.

There is an earnest, if snappy, aura to Sanders that is laudable and refreshing. One doesn’t sense the stench of ambition or the revolting unctuousness of incessant calculation.

There is an idealistic crusader in the man, possibly to the point of being quixotic, but at least it doesn’t come off as having been corrupted by money or power or the God complex that so often attends those in pursuit of the seat behind the Resolute Desk.

Sanders’s message of revolutionary change to save a flailing middle class and challenge the sprawling influence of what he calls “the billionaire class” has struck a nerve with a fervid following.

When it comes to that Sanders message, I was struck by something that Blow tweeted, but left out of his column.

In his interview with Blow, Sanders stressed that his campaign recognizes that it is important to “aggressively reach out and bring the African-American community and the Latino community into our campaign.” And yet it appears as though Sanders is making the same mistake a lot of white people do when they realize the importance of garnering support from the African American community…they tweak their own message rather than listen and incorporate what they hear.

For example, Blow points out the tone-deafness of assuming that a Black man like Cornell West helps in that regard.

But Sanders’s ability to win Obama’s supporters may have been made difficult by his associations. On Saturday, Sanders campaigned with Dr. Cornel West, who recently issued an endorsement of Sanders.

West’s critique of the president has been so blistering and unyielding — he has called Obama “counterfeit,” the “black face of the American empire,” a verb-ed neologism of the n-word — that it has bordered on petulance and self-parody.

I would also suggest that one of the reasons Sander’s message fails to connect with African Americans is that – even in the midst of economic conditions that were much worse than today – Ellis Cose pointed out in 2011 that African Americans are the country’s “new optimists.”

As the United States struggles through its worst economic crisis in generations, gloom has seized much of the heartland. The optimism that came so easily to many Americans as the new century dawned is significantly harder to summon these days. There is, however, a conspicuous exception: African-Americans, long accustomed to frustration in their pursuit of opportunity and respect, are amazingly upbeat, consistently astounding pollsters with their hopefulness.

To the extent that optimism has dimmed more recently – it is in response to the shootings of unarmed Black men (often by police officers) and the lack of a “just response” from our justice system. No matter how hard Sanders tries to tie that one to his message about income inequality and economics, it will fall short of connecting to the souls of African Americans.

There is a lesson in all that for Democrats: to win the support of people of color, you have to incorporate their concerns…not simply tweak your own agenda and expect them to climb on your bandwagon.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 13, 2015

September 16, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Bernie Sanders, Democrats | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Don’t Let This Fester”: Hillary Clinton Needs To Address The Racist Undertones Of Her 2008 Campaign

Black Lives Matter, the advocacy group for black interests, has gotten the attention of the Democratic presidential candidates, who are reportedly scrambling to reach out to the movement. Even heavy favorite Hillary Clinton is getting in on it, addressing the movement in a Q&A session on Facebook, where she checked most of the right boxes.

DeRay McKesson, one of the movement’s leaders, wrote on Twitter that the post was “solid.” But he also noted that she had two days to work on it, and did not attend the liberal forum Netroots Nation, unlike her challengers Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, who flailed in front of activists from Black Lives Matter.

McKesson is right to be suspicious. Hillary Clinton’s record on race is not great. If she wishes to earn some trust on issues of racial justice, a good place to start would be with the distinctly racist undertones of her 2008 campaign against Barack Obama.

As the first primaries got underway in 2008, and Obama began to slowly pull ahead, the Clinton camp resorted to increasingly blatant race- and Muslim-baiting. It started in February, when Louis Farrakhan, the head of the Nation of Islam, endorsed Obama in a sermon. In a debate a couple days later, moderator Tim Russert repeatedly pressed Obama on the issue, who responded with repeated reassurances that he did not ask for the endorsement, did not accept it, and in fact was not a deranged anti-Semite. That wasn’t enough for Clinton, who demanded that Obama “denounce” Farrakhan, which he did.

About the same time, a picture of Obama in traditional Somali garb (from an official trip) then appeared on the Drudge Report, and Matt Drudge claimed he got it from the Clinton campaign. After stonewalling on the origin question, the campaign later claimed it had nothing to do with it. A Clinton flack then went on MSNBC and argued that Obama should not be ashamed to appear in “his native clothing, in the clothing of his country.”

Later, a media firestorm blew up when it was discovered that Obama’s Chicago pastor Jeremiah Wright once delivered a sermon containing the words “God damn America.” In response, Obama gave a deft, nuanced speech on racial issues, but Clinton kept the issue alive by insisting she would have long ago denounced the man.

The late Michael Hastings, who covered Clinton’s campaign, described one instance of this strategy on the ground:

[Clinton supporter] Buffenbarger launched into a rant in which he compared Obama to Muhammad Ali, the best-known black American convert to Islam after Malcolm X. “But brothers and sisters,” he said, “I’ve seen Ali in action. He could rope-a-dope with Foreman inside the ring. He could go toe-to-toe with Liston inside the ring. He could get his jaw broken by Norton and keep fighting inside the ring. But Barack Obama is no Muhammad Ali.” The cunning racism of the attack actually made my heart start to beat fast and my ears start to ring. For the first time on the campaign trail, I felt completely outraged. I kept thinking, “Am I misreading this?” But there was no way, if you were in that room, to think it was anything other than what it was. [GQ]

Then there was Bill Clinton comparing Obama’s campaign to that of Jesse Jackson’s unsuccessful run in 1988. The capstone came in May, when Hillary Clinton started openly boasting about her superior support from white voters.

The effort was not so blatant as George H.W. Bush’s Willie Horton ad, but the attempt to play on racist attitudes through constant repetition and association was unmistakable — in addition to playing into right-wing conspiracy theories that Obama is a secret Muslim who was born in Africa. It’s likely why in West Virginia — a state so racist that some guy in a Texas prison got 40 percent of the Democratic primary vote in 2012 — Clinton won a smashing victory.

This brings us back to today’s presidential race. Many of the demands posed by activists focus on rhetorical gestures of support and solidarity (a notable feature of the Netroots confrontation last weekend). But this raises this issue of trust: A very charming, cynical person could simply promise support using the right words, win the election, then forget all about it.

Does the Hillary Clinton of 2008 sound like someone who’s genuinely committed to the cause of racial justice? If she has changed her views, now would be a good time to explain.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, July 23, 2015

July 28, 2015 Posted by | Black Lives Matter, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Netroots Nation | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Who Gets To Be A ‘Neutral Observer’ On Race?”: It’s Hard To Be Neutral On A Moving Train

On “Meet the Press” yesterday, host Chuck Todd asked Gerald Seib, the Wall Street Journal’s Washington bureau chief, about the inherent challenges President Obama faces when discussing issues of race. “I’ve talked to people close to him,” Todd noted. “The president is self-aware that when he talks about race he thinks it polarizes the conversation and therefore he can’t – it defeats the purpose that he wants to have.”

It’s a perfectly fair point. The way in which the president approaches these issues is complex, and it’s not unreasonable to think the White House addresses these debates differently, in part because of expectations surrounding public reactions.

But something Seib said in response stood out for me:

“Yeah, and this is the great irony I think of the first African-American president. In some ways, he finds it harder to talk about race because he carries, you know, his own background into it obviously. He’s not seen necessarily as a neutral observer.”

This got me thinking: who gets to be a “neutral observer” on matters of race? And why can’t President Obama be one?

If the point is that the president, as an African-American man, is shaped by his experiences and background, all of which contribute to his personal feelings about race, I’ll gladly concede the point. But therein lies the rub: aren’t we all shaped by our experiences and background? Is it not true that every American, regardless of race or ethnicity, draws conclusions about these issues based on what we’ve seen, felt, and lived?

I’m sure Seib didn’t intend for his comment to be controversial, but his remark raises some obvious questions that deserve serious answers: are any of us neutral observers when it comes to race in America? Does our lack of neutrality matter or make our perspectives less valuable? Or more?

It reminds me a bit of the criticisms center-left Supreme Court justices have received after officiating at same-sex weddings. For some on the right, this is an automatic disqualifier when it comes to ruling on the constitutionality of marriage equality – these jurists, the argument goes, can’t be “neutral observers” because they know gay people, apparently like and respect gay people, and have been a part of weddings involving gay people.

But pure “neutrality” is a tricky thing to find. If a justice refuses to officiate at a same-sex wedding, is he or she better able to consider the constitutionality of marriage equality? What about if he or she officiated at an opposite-sex wedding? If a justice is outwardly hostile towards the LGBT community, is he or she suddenly better suited to hear the case?

To borrow an overused cliche, it’s hard to be neutral on a moving train.

Debates about race, bigotry, and justice are always multifaceted, but we all bring our own baggage onto the train with us. To assume there are some among us who have the privilege of serving as a “neutral observer” is a mistake.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, June 22, 2015

June 24, 2015 Posted by | Meet The Press, Race and Ethnicity, Racism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s Hard To Be Too Exercised Over This”: Rachel Dolezal Proves Race Not A Fixed Or Objective Fact

Of the 60 people who co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909, only seven were, in fact, “colored.” Most of the organization’s founders were white liberals like Mary White Ovington. Its highest honor, the Spingarn Medal, is named for Joel Spingarn, who was Jewish and white.

Point being, white people have been intricately involved in the NAACP struggle for racial justice from day one. So Rachel Dolezal did not need to be black to be president of the organization’s Spokane chapter. That she chose to present herself as such anyway, adopting a frizzy “natural” hairstyle and apparently somehow darkening her skin, has put her at the bullseye of the most irresistible watercooler story of the year. This will be on Blackish next season; just wait and see.

As you doubtless know, the 37-year-old Dolezal was outed last week by her estranged parents. In response, they say, to a reporter’s inquiry, they told the world her heritage includes Czech, Swedish, and German roots, but not a scintilla of black. In the resulting mushroom cloud of controversy, Dolezal was forced to resign her leadership of the Spokane office. Interviewed Tuesday by Matt Lauer on Today, she made an awkward attempt to explain and/or justify herself. “I identify as black,” she said, like she thinks she’s the Caitlyn Jenner of race. It was painful to watch.

Given that Dolezal sued historically black Howard University in 2002 for allegedly discriminating against her because she is white, it’s hard not to see a certain opportunism in her masquerade. Most people who, ahem, “identify as black” don’t have the option of trying on another identity when it’s convenient.

That said, it’s hard to be too exercised over this. Dolezal doesn’t appear to have done any harm, save to her own dignity and reputation. One suspects there are deep emotional issues at play, meaning the kindest thing we can do is give her space and time to work them out.

Besides, this story’s most pointed moral has less to do with Dolezal and her delusions than with us and ours. Meaning America’s founding myth, the one that tells us race is a fixed and objective fact.

It isn’t. Indeed, in 2000, after mapping the genetic codes of five people — African-American, Caucasian, Asian, and Hispanic — researchers announced they could find no difference among them. “The concept of race,” one of them said, “has no scientific basis.” The point isn’t that race is not real; the jobless rate, the mass incarceration phenomenon, and the ghosts of murdered boys from Emmett Till to Tamir Rice argue too persuasively otherwise.

Rather, it’s that it’s not real in the way we conceive it in America where, as historian Matt Wray once put it, the average 19-year-old regards it as a “set of facts about who people are, which is somehow tied to blood and biology and ancestry.” In recent years, Wray and scholars like David Roediger and Nell Irvin Painter have done path-breaking work exploding that view. To read their research is to understand that what we call race is actually a set of cultural likenesses, shared experiences and implicit assumptions, i.e., that white men can’t jump and black ones can’t conjugate.

To try to make it more than that, to posit it as an immutable truth, is to discover that, for all its awesome power to determine quality of life or lack thereof, race is a chimera. There is no there, there. The closer you look, the faster it disappears.

Consider: If race were really what Wray’s average 19-year-old thinks it is, there could never have been a Rachel Dolezal; her lie would have been too immediately transparent. So ultimately, her story is the punchline to a joke most of us don’t yet have ears to hear. After all, this white lady didn’t just try to pass herself off as black.

She got away with it.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, June 17, 2015

June 17, 2015 Posted by | NAACP, Race and Ethnicity, Rachel Dolezal | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: