Mel Reeves is a freelance writer, activist and organizer living in Miami, Florida and will be contributing regularly to The Liberator. He is also the former editor of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder newspaper in Minneapolis and the Miami Times.
40 years later; who sounded the ideological retreat?: The new Kerner Commission report and the Institute for Policy Studies report State of the Dream 2008 indicate that 40 years after the passing of Dr. Martin Luther King in what academics call the post-Civil Rights era blacks are continuing to loose ground economically, socially and politically. But just as importantly on the ideological battlefield we seem to be giving up ground with our eyes wide open and without putting up much of a fight
Barack Obama’s struggle to rise above persistent attacks on his character and associations are evidence of this. We have watched with slack jawed amazement as he back peddles time and time again. During Obama’s run for president he has had to: hedge on his blackness; denounce his pastor, his Islamic roots, Louis Farrakhan, the Palestinians right to exist; and hide the fact that he likes chicken. I am joking about the chicken and just a little about the Palestinians, but Obama has acquiesced a bit too easily and too quickly on these issues and allowed enemies of black folk to put us on the defensive.
But before we point the finger at Obama, he is not the only one giving up political ground the rest of us have some “splainin” to do as well.
There should have been a lot more outrage from our community, about the fact that Dr. Jeremiah Wright of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago felt the need to defend his liberationist theology. He and his church have the right to focus on the needs of black folk first and foremost, especially in the light of the fact that black folks are still victimized and oppressed in this community. And they should not have had to apologize for a church covenant that celebrates positive values and the uplift of the black community. To focus on your own house is not exclusionary, its good common sense.
Mitt Romney was definitely backed by the Church of Latter Day Saints and nobody put pressure on Romney to denounce his church, with its history of doctrinal black inferiority and black exclusion.
Obama is being castigated by right wingers and even his own sneaky Democratic Party mates for having Islamic ties. When did it become a crime to be a Muslim in this country? Some have gone as far as to accuse the Senator of being Muslim. If we had any intestinal fortitude, we would say: So what? What if he is? What does that have to do with anything? The violent and irrational actions of a few factions, is no cause to demonize folks who practice Islam. Now I am very aware of the anti-Islamic bias on the part of many blacks because the vast majority are Christians, but it does not make it right and its time we give up this imperialistic attitude. It doesn’t benefit us, and only serves to divide us from our Muslim brothers and sisters.
The Farrakhan flap is shameless as well. Can’t we decide for ourselves who we will and will not associate? Why couldn’t the only black candidate for president just say that he didn’t solicit the Nation of Islam’s leader’s endorsement and leave it at that? Farrakhan has been accused of being anti-Semitic, but I really doubt that anyone who accuses him of being anti-Semitic can provide evidence that the Nation of Islam’s leader hates Jews. Now that’s not to say, that he is totally blameless, but should the presidential candidate have to go to such extremes to “reject and denounce” Farrakhan and his endorsement. After all, it wasn’t solicited.
And since when can’t black folks decide for themselves who is right and who is wrong in the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis? And who said that support for the oppressed Palestinians is paramount to anti-Semitism? How did we let folks who are Jewish, control how we are going to have that discussion?
Let’s face it we are retreating in the ideological fight for racial justice. Whites are becoming more and more comfortable saying; racism doesn’t exist; blacks are just whining, or that we are just playing, a so-called race card. And more and more blacks tend to agree. Racism does exist and if any people ever used a so-called “race card”-- if there was such a thing --it would be white folks and they used it as a trump card to either hold us back, or jump ahead. And can we please stop talking about something that does not exist.
And let’s stop agreeing with our enemies about how we or others should be able to overcome the obstacle of racism. And we must cut out the moralizing crap. The point is that the obstacle shouldn’t be there in the first place, to any degree, and not how good you are at hurdling it. Denied opportunity opens the door for all kinds of failure moral and otherwise.
And since when did legitimate complaints about being done wrong, become whining? When rich white folks are wronged, they don’t mess around, they sic their lawyers on you and no one dares say, ‘aw just let it go, drop the suit and quite your whining.’
Some folks even naively proclaim that we have transcended race. And almost as frightening, is the fact that more and more, black folks mouth this foolishness.
Several years ago comedian Chris Rock popularized the idea that, there were two kinds of black folks; niggers and the rest of us. I knew it was going to come back to haunt us. I was having an intelligent conversation with a white person about why some of our people struggle more than others and he sent me a copy of that joke. I was reading someone’s introduction of themselves on an internet site and they said,” they love black people but hate niggers.” Enough said! The obvious problem with this is that, the folks that hate us and limit our progress at every opportunity, don’t really bother to distinguish which one is the “nigger” and which one is the “nigga.”
It still is true that a house divided against itself, can not stand. Today you may be patted on the back for being a good “one” (Negro) and tomorrow you may have to go, just because you are “one.”(Negro). I don’t know who sounded the retreat, but if we keep backing up and failing to stand up to these attacks, it may become even more difficult than it already is, for us to go forward.
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