ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
It is widely acknowledged that linguistic opposition, the dislike whites have for the way many African Americans talk,
is one reason many blacks have getting jobs in the service section of the economy; jobs that would require blacks
to come in contact with non-black customers.
Harry Reid and the Demagogues
By Jean Damu
America needs to get a grip. The idiotic controversy that is the focus of the nations media and which claims Nevada Senator Harry Reid uttered racist comments is mind boggling in its obtuseness. Its clear he is being pilloried for making comments inherently not racist merely as an attempt to sidetrack the healthcare reform debate.
Reid was quoted by authors John Heilmann and Mark Halperin as saying in 2008 he told Barack Obama he should run for president because he is light skinned and has no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one.
The only thing more mind boggling and more obtuse about this non-issue is that the Republicans, who lit the match to ignite the controversy and continue to pour gasoline are getting away with it. Democrats and honest Republicans, white and black, cannot seem to gather the moral energy and mental clarity to call the Republicans who are promoting this issue by their true namedemagogues.
Giving Republicans any credibility on issues of defending blacks against racism is ludicrous. For 40 years the Republican Party utilized the so-called southern strategy to create a divide between white and black voters in widely successful attempts to create fear on the part of whites in regards to civil rights legislation and to drive white voters into the Republican Party.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein is typical of the muddled thinkers. In her appearance on Face the Nation she did not seem to understand the issue. Equating Reids comments with the Jesse Jackson “hymietown” comments of the late 1980s, Feinstein lamely said, “First of all, all of us are imperfect.” She conceded the issue to the Republicans but went on to say because Reid had apologized, so therefore the matter was closed.
Apologized for what?
Without defending Reid on other issues of racism of which he is certainly guilty, on this issue he was merely speaking a truth that virtually every black person in the US, including Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, the Republican Partys walking and talking lawn jockey, knows to be true.
Admittedly there are things black folks can say (but shouldnt) that white folks cant. Think the N-word here. But Reids controversial comments werent among them.
Every African American has heard the maxim, If youre white, youre all right. If youre yellow, youre mellow. If youre brown, stick around-but if youre black, get back. Though not as true today as it was in the 1950s, its still true enough.
For instance, do people really think someone with Flava Favs complexion could be elected president? Or someone who talks like Snoop Dogg. No. Harry Reid was right.
Furthermore, every African American also knows that every black person raised and nurtured in the black communities and churches and who has been successful and gainfully employed in the US business and political communities speaks virtually two different languages; the language of home and the language of the work place.
This has been written about extensively.
It is widely acknowledged that linguistic opposition, the dislike whites have for the way many African Americans talk, is one reason many blacks have getting jobs in the service section of the economy; jobs that would require blacks to come in contact with non-black customers.
Also the issue was the focus of the 1996 Ebonics debate that saw the Oakland School Board adopt, then rescind (under massive public pressure and ridicule) a program to use Ebonics as a tool to teach Standard English. Ironically the proposal was inaccurately written, offering evidence of the need for such a program, and the entire discussion went sideways because the true intent of the proposal was never made clear until the issue Ebonics as a recognized language was dead and buried.
The other element of idiocy in this issue, and here is where the true nature of Republican demagoguery is encountered, is the attempt to equate what Harry Reid said to what Mississippis Trent Lott said.
In 2002 at a 100th birthday celebration for South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, Lott said,
I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president (1948), we voted for him. Were proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldnt have had all these problems over all these years, either.
This is to say if Strom Thurmond had won the 1948 presidential election there wouldnt have been a civil rights movement and most blacks, rather than the approximate 30 percent today, would still be relegated to an underclass status.
For these sentiments Lott was forced to resign his leadership position in the Senate and Steele and other Republicans want Reid to pay the same price, a move that would clearly sidetrack the healthcare reform debate.
The only difference of course is that comparing what Reid said to what Lott said is like comparing a Grimm Bros. fairly tale to Hitlers Mein Kampf: the degree of difference between the Reid and Lott statements is immeasurable. Reids statement offended almost no oneLotts statement offended nearly every black person and many others in the US.
But the Republican demagogues are going to milk this issue for all its worth and then some.
The only question is will someone with a clear sense of the racial issues confronting the US stand up and call out the demagogues?
Jean Damu is a former member of the International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, taught Black Studies at the University of New Mexico, has traveled and written extensively in Cuba and Africa and currently serves as a member of the Steering Committee of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. firstname.lastname@example.org
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By Andrew B. Lewis
With deep admiration and rigorous scholarship, historian Lewis (Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table) revisits the ragtag band of young men and women who formed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Impatient with what they considered the overly cautious and accommodating pace of the NAACP and Martin Luther King Jr., the black college students and their white allies, inspired by Gandhi’s principles of nonviolence and moral integrity, risked their lives to challenge a deeply entrenched system. Fanning out over the Jim Crow South, SNCC organized sit-ins, voter registration drives, Freedom Schools and protest marches. Despite early successes, the movement disintegrated in the late 1960s, succeeded by the militant Black Power movement. The highly readable history follows the later careers of the principal leaders. Some, like Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown, became bitter and disillusioned. Others, including Marion Barry, Julian Bond and John Lewis, tempered their idealism and moved from protest to politics, assuming positions of leadership within the very institutions they had challenged. According to the author, No organization contributed more to the civil rights movement than SNCC, and with his eloquent book, he offers a deserved tribute.
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By Noam Chomsky
In this urgent new book, Noam Chomsky surveys the dangers and prospects of our early twenty-first century. Exploring challenges such as the growing gap between North and South, American exceptionalism (including under President Barack Obama), the fiascos of Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S.-Israeli assault on Gaza, and the recent financial bailouts, he also sees hope for the future and a way to move forwardin the democratic wave in Latin America and in the global solidarity movements that suggest “real progress toward freedom and justice.” Hopes and Prospects is essential reading for anyone who is concerned about the primary challenges still facing the human race. “This is a classic Chomsky work: a bonfire of myths and lies, sophistries and delusions. Noam Chomsky is an enduring inspiration all over the worldto millions, I suspectfor the simple reason that he is a truth-teller on an epic scale. I salute him.” John Pilger In dissecting the rhetoric and logic of American empire and class domination, at home and abroad, Chomsky continues a longstanding and crucial work of elucidation and activism . . .the writing remains unswervingly rational and principled throughout, and lends bracing impetus to the real alternatives before us.Publisher’s Weekly
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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posted 12 January 2010