I don’t actually have a lot of stats to back this assertion up. Only observations, anecdotes. Still, I think any assumption that African-Americans will vote for one candidate or another during the Democratic primaries is faulty. Optimistic and naive at best.

All the middle class black folks to whom I’ve spoken — those most likely to vote — seem dubious and underwhelmed by Barack Obama’s candidacy, Oprah’s support notwithstanding. This goes for liberals and conservatives. The remarks are surprisingly similar across the generations and the political spectrum among African-Americans. Honestly, there is way more excitement about the fact that 2 black coaches will face each other in the Super Bowl. People were saying today – that’s real black history.

What’s up with that? For one thing, he is not exactly one of us. His father was from Africa. He has no legacy of slavery in his past, only the taint of association by skin color. No segregation. No violence. No American-style apartheid.

Also, garden-variety black folks are suspicious of Obama’s popularity. Whose side is he really on, anyway? Unlike Hillary Clinton or John Edwards or even Blii Richardson, Obama is still someone black people want to get to know better.

White folks seem to expect more excitement. After all, here we have a candidate of color who has a legitimate shot at the White House. Black people deep down don’t think that white people are really going to vote for him. Actually pull the lever. There’s the lesson of Harold Ford Jr. In that poll booth, idealism can fall away.

According to a recent Newsweek poll:

If the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2008 comes down to a choice between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, 50 of those polled say they would most like to see Hillary Clinton nominated; 32 percent say they would like to see Barack Obama nominated.


John Bohrer at Huff Post
is right on — black support is going to be all over the place in the primaries. Our vote is up for grabs.

Candidates — start your church visits and pandering now.

Kos has a point — Bill Richardson don’t get much love from the Democrat Party. He’s probably the best known Democratic Latino political leader today (cept for maybe that truly sinister super-lawyer Alberto Gonzales. And despite the double-barrel slam dunk provided in part by Latino votes swinging blue in the last election, (hmm) immigration wasn’t part of the 100 hour congressional agenda.

The 100 Hour Agenda seems to exclude anything controversial. Savvy, but morally a bit hollow? On the right, Mel Martinez seems to have triumphed over the haters…for now. They’ll be back though. The conservatives specialize in hate and they will use the technique of a thousand paper cuts against that spic-coddler Martinez. (I wonder what “maverick” John McCain has to say about the RNC election? Why hasn’t the press asked about that?) Liberals on the other hand tend to prefer a more paternalistic or blithely ignorant stance toward Latinos, their representatives and their issues. What a way to treat those hoping for support and rational immigration reform.


So folks seem just giddy as all heck about Barack Obama’s almost-but-not-quite an announcement on his presidential aspirations. Seeing all the white folks holding up signs with his name on it and hearing their poignant hopes of deliverance that he seems to engender, well, it got a sister to thinking.

Things are bad here in America. America has started to wake up — and it doesn’t like what it sees in the mirror. Especially with George Bush staring back just over their shoulder.

Barack Obama looks to be as different as can be. Maybe like Morpheus or the Oracle in the Matrix or Morgan Freeman in Driving Miss Daisy or Bruce Almighty or even Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act or Ghost, Obama can redeem the soul and character of our nation. Yes, that’s right. Perhaps he’s the biggest Magical Negro we’ve ever created for ourselves in our country’s history.

What’s a “magical negro“, you ask? From the Wikipedia:

When he first encounters the (invariably white) protagonist, the magical negro often appears as someone uneducated and in a low station of life, such as a janitor or prisoner. The black character is depicted as wiser and spiritually deeper than the protagonist, and the magical negro is often used as a plot device to help the protagonist get out of trouble, and to help the white character recognize his own faults and overcome them. As a plot device, the magical negro is similar to the Deus ex machina; a simple way for the protagonist to overcome an obstacle almost entirely through outside help.

Prometheus 6 asks if people (white people, really) are mad enough to vote for a Black guy and send a strong anti-establishment message? Is it possible that Obama’s popularity strikes an even deeper, archetypal chord than we may have imagined?

One thing’s for sure, Obama may be Magical and Safe, but ain’t nothin’ magical about Al Sharpton. ‘Cept possibly his hair.


You know, it seems like Martin Luther King Day is the one day when white people feel it’s safe to talk about race. Or maybe some feel like it’s their civic duty. For some reason, this has begun to strike me as lip service frankly. Particularly in the wake of Katrina, Bush’s desperate old trick of surrounding himself with disadvantaged Negro, ahem African-American children is too insulting to watch. MLK and CSK are no doubt twitching in their graves.

I think Dr. King would be disappointed that his death left a gaping hole in American society for a true African-American leader who could transcend racial and socio-economic boundaries to become truly one of the greatest Americans ever.

We’ve made great progress as a people. Yet there is still great inequity. Race plays a factor in almost every issue we face in America — whether it’s Iraq, healthcare, housing, education, immigration, national security and law enforcement — you name it and I can tell you how racism has blocked reasonable, rational action, impacting all Americans adversely.

And this is not to say that America is not without great American leaders who happen to be black. Barack Obama would appear to have an multi-racial appeal unseen since King’s time. Within the black community, Tavis Smiley and Rev. Lennox Yearwood are among my candidates for emerging African-American leaders. Tavis Smiley is getting ready to put out a new book that is highly likely to be another NY Times bestseller. It is supposed to be more action-oriented Strange that the man has written 2 bestsellers recently and yet I have yet to see him on the Today show. Funny that.

Presidential candidates and progressives looking to harness the energy, passion and resources of the black middle class — I would strongly suggest that you take a look at the Covenant with Black America which climbed to #1 on the NY Times bestseller list back in April 2006 and the soon-to-be-released Covenant in Action. If you want to see the future of black activism and power, I would follow Tavis Smiley’s movements very carefully. Brick by brick he is building the foundation for a powerful force. From the Amazon.com description:

The Covenant in Action is organized into three parts: (1) stories about the projects and actions that everyday people have undertaken over the past year that were inspired by the Covenant With Black America; (2) motivational essays from young Black activists who are on the ground impacting their environments; and (3) a toolkit outlining steps you can take to organize, connect, and act. The toolkit contains not only traditional action strategies, but includes innovative approaches to organizing and community building that will result in stronger, more bonded communities that are reflective of their history and past experiences. The Covenant With Black America was only the first step.

Skeptical Brotha says that Harold Whore Jr has found a new John: the DLC (Shout out to Rikyrah!) The Democratic Leadership Council believes that the Democratic Party needs to shift to the right to be viable in contemporary America. Even if this might have been true 10 years ago, the U.S. public seems more ready today to correct its overindulgence in disastrous unconstitutional theocratic neo-conservatism with a big swing to the Left.

SB seems surprised that Harold didn’t find a more straight up corporate gig. I’m not. How better positioned could he be to maintain contacts and fundraise for another campaign in a few years while remaining in the center of political power in the meantime. Prince Harold is too fine to settle for a mere lobbying gig, even if it’s at the top of the house. It is necessary that at least some people quiver at his power when they see him rather than being obviously on the take.

We should assume that Ford is already planning his next candidacy for another office. For now, he will stay the latter day Michael Jordan — handsome, safe, inoffensive, corporate-friendly, backbenched with an injury. I agree with SB — this brotha bears watchin’ even if his brand of politics is quickly falling out of fashion like a high top fade.

I’m with Digby. Bush’s speech put me to sleep. I actually fell asleep during his speech because the delusion, lies and blather are just so tedious at this point for me. Why isn’t anyone willing to stand up and call this guy a dangerous maniac who would blithely kill as many people and start as many wars as it takes just so he isn’t seen to be wrong? I am just glad the public isn’t buying his bull anymore. At least we’re finally past the point where people believe him or put faith in his loco ideas anymore. 12% support for this escalation actually gives me a little hope. It was a lot scarier when Bush would say crazy things like let’s invade Iraq or Saddam Hussein was connected to 9/11 and 70% of Americans would nod their heads.

The news is making me physically ill right now in away not since Bush was first elected and we faced down a real constitutional threat. The situation is sickening and scary, at least for me. To do what Bush appears to want to do which is expand the war and try to distract from the failure in Iraq and the re-surgence of Al-Qaeda — a draft will ultimately be necessary. We certainly don’t have enough troops at the moment to wage war in Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Somalia and hold Iraq at the same time. What people aren’t talking about is that black people, where they can, have opted out of Bush’s war.

The majority of African-Americans have never supported the war. Nowadays, to quote a Pew pollster:

“it would be hard to find a group where the war in Iraq is less popular.”

You can imagine what we’re thinking about Bush’s provocation of the Iranians: stupid, crazy and suicidal. And how exactly are we going to pay for World War III? Is the war-ballooned budget deficit already big enough to put our grandchildren potentially in the poorhouse? No one’s talking about that either.

Where are the troops to send off to battle? Part of the trouble with the low tide in the armed forces is that black people have stopped joining. From an old Nov 2005 USAToday article:

In the midst of the nation’s first prolonged war since Vietnam, the Army is having difficulty finding enough recruits. One of the main reasons: African-American enlistments, for decades a sure thing, have declined about 40% since 2000.

Five years ago, nearly one in four recruits was black, according to the Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, Ky. In fiscal 2005, a year in which the Army missed its goal of signing 80,000 recruits by nearly 7,000, the number of black enlistees fell to about one in seven.

Better believe this trend is accelerating. Call it passive resistance. Voting with your feet. I think that resistance might get more assertive a la Muhammad Ali and the Vietnam war if Bush tries to expand the war to Iran. Because it’s our kin that would be sent as cannon fodder. No one listened to us then when the war began. Now the 88% of Americans who are against escalation can get a sense of how some of us have felt for years now. Like the country is in the hands of a man who doesn’t care what you or anyone else with common sense thinks.

It’s time Bush is reined in or removed from office — and quickly.

The Afro-Netizen has some solid articles up that I want to comment on.

1) Somalia — Black people’s eyebrows tend to rise a little whenever there’s any serious U.S. government interest in Africa since the usual mode is blithe ignorance and dismissal. For example, Darfur. So I got an “aha” when I read this article and saw that the Horn of Africa is oil-rich. No wonder the Bush regime is so interested. And I thought they wanted to do something about Al-Qaeda finally. Silly me. The Bush strategy for dealing with a Democratic Congress would appear to be do whatever we want before we get caught/stopped such as beginning the Iraqi troop escalation before Congress can say no.

2) James Brown helped to popularize the term “Black” as a self-description now used throughout American society — almost single-handedly. It was an example of the power of black radio. Today, one of the wealthiest and most powerful black women in America, billionaire Cathy Hughes, built her empire in black radio and has since launched a compelling, less embarrassing competitor to BET — TVOne. How much money and power is there in black radio? Ask Tom Joyner, Steve Harvey, Tavis Smiley and all the politicians and corporations supporting their programs. Props to the Black Agenda Report for this analysis.

3) The Oprah Effect. It would be easy to look at the success of Oprah, Magic Johnson, Kenneth Chenault and say, wow black people are doing alright. There’s no need for programs to level the playing field like affirmative action. African-Americans wield more economic and political power than ever before. But we still have an uphill climb.

Economic inequality correlated so closely with race that:

• African-Americans were twice as likely to be unemployed as whites.
• To attain equal employment in the United States between blacks and white, 700,000 more
• African-Americans would have had to be moved out of unemployment and nearly two million
African-Americans would have to be promoted into higher paying positions.
• The poverty rate for blacks was more than twice the rate for whites.
• Nearly one out of every two blacks earned less than $25,000 but one in three whites made that little.
• Median black household income ($27,000) was less than two thirds of median white household income ($42,000).
• Black families’ median household net worth was less than 10 percent that of whites. The average white household has a net worth of $84,000 but the average black household is worth only $7,500.
• Blacks were much less likely to own their own homes than whites.
Nearly three-fourths of white families but less than half of black families owned their homes.

We must achieve solid economic power if we are to exert real political power. Discussions of affirmative action that howl about making sure that the economically disadvantaged be taken into account rarely talk about the strong correlation between race and economic disadvantage. And the fact that racial discrimation is one of the root causes of poverty (at least if you believe these stats). Hmm…why is that?

Man, I don’t know about you but I am all Christmas’d out. I don’t think I can handle another Christmas season for at least a year. I am still getting back into the swing of things and coasting on the good vibes and joyful outlook of the holidays. Until today that is.

The NAACP Image Awards were announced today and my initial reaction was: please tell me why I should care? Why is this a news story? Is anyone in America interested in anything African-Americans say or do or need that does not include entertainment or athletics (which is actually a form of entertainment in my opinion)?

Furthermore, I am sorry. But it looks like a whole lot of time, attention and dollars went into creating this flashy website for the NAACP Image Awards. Don’t get me wrong…it is very slick. Dazzling, fast-paced and professional.

Would it be at all possible to put a fraction of those resources into protesting the Iraq war or into Katrina relief or into racial profiling, climate change, education, jobs and healthcare? Would it be possible for the NAACP to put its moral weight and star connections strongly behind any of those issues facing ordinary African-Americans — and Americans in general everyday. Maybe that’s a crazy question. But just maybe it’s a question the NAACP’s 500,000 members need to start asking.

I will be watching the awards show on March 2 to see if any of these current issues are represented or if the theme is all about the accomplishments of the past. For if the NAACP can turn away from the victims of Katrina in their time of need — at the moment this post was written, not one word on the NAACP’s home page mentions Hurricane Katrina) — then whom and what do they now truly stand for.

I’ll tell you whom. The growing black middle and upper classes. From Variety:

Gordon’s biz background also jibes with the org’s evolving struggle for equality, which is no longer just about civil rights: One of his key goals as org president will be to gain more traction for minority-owned businesses in the corporate world, he explains.

“The focus is civil rights. That is what we have done and will continue to do,” Gordon says. “But there will be more of a focus than there has been previously on economic rights and economic justice. That allows advancement in other aspects of civil rights.”

And as far as Gordon is concerned, there’s no business like show business. “We want to make sure we’re in the middle of the entertainment action,” he says.

Issues around racism, minority portrayals and hiring in Hollywood exist, no doubt. Let’s read between the lines here though. Listen up black people — the NAACP wants to help you make more money. As one of the 2/3rds of black people in America today making money, making more money sounds great to me.

Yet, there are serious issues facing our nation. It’s time for the NAACP and their peer organizations to show that they are serious about representing the concerns of their members in addressing those issues.

Prometheus 6 says that brand new Rep. Keith Ellison from Minnesota is a better man than him for speaking cordially to hate-baiting Rep. Virgil Goode. I’m not sure about that as I like Pro 6, yet I agree that Keith Ellison has so much more to offer America than token status as the first Muslim elected to Congress.

Check out his widely read opinion piece “Choose Generosity, Not Exclusion” he wrote for Newsweek that was linked by the Washington Post. His progressive voice of tolerance, compassion and common sense is badly needed in an American agenda gone awry.

Read it. Here’s a snip:

If scarcity is a myth, then poverty is not necessary. America need not have 37 million Americans living below the poverty line. It is a choice. Hunger is a choice. Exclusion of the stranger, the immigrant, or the darker other is a choice.

We can choose generosity. In America today, we spend more on health care than any other industrialized nation, yet 46 Million people have none. Canada spends half of what we spend and covers everyone. Perfectly? Of course not. But adequately. That’s more than what a lot of people have right now.

We live in a society which says that there is enough for a tax break for the wealthy but not enough for an increase in the minimum wage or for national health care. There is enough for subsidies to oil and coal companies but not for families who are struggling to afford child care or a college education. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

We need more men in the CBC like Rep. Ellison.

(Sorry for the belated post — I had trouble getting into Blogger yesterday. How about you?)

Now that the Congressional Black Caucus is flexing their new power, it’s important for us to keep an eye on them. As we know, different rules apply still for black folk. Our actions are viewed as representative not just of one person, but of an entire race.

Which is why Dollar Bill’s continued bad apple behavior reflects poorly on the CBC bunch that refuses to distance themselves from him.

Rep. Bill Jefferson recently sent around a fundraising letter to his House colleagues with hat in hand asking for money to retire $200K in campaign debts. He violated the rules by sending it on Congressional stationary however. You’d think a guy in this much trouble trying to explain the $90K found in his freezer would be more careful. CBC members had better be careful lest they be tarred with the same brush. Get the scoop at Political Wire.

Gerald Ford and James Brown died only within a day of each other. You may be wondering how those 2 connect. Ford may not have known this but James Brown wrote a song about Ford called “Funky President (People It’s Bad)” in the wake of the Watergate meltdown.

Given all the talk about escalating a failed, non-defensive war in a foreign land, I think it’s not a waste of time to look back at the close of the Vietnam era and what people were saying and thinking at that time about their political leadership.

If you’re not black, you may be curious, dismissive or even contemptuous about all the attention given to James Brown’s funeralization process. Brown’s posthumous farewell tour of several American cities with its celebrity appearances and patient queues of people waiting to pay their respects mirrored Ford’s pomp and circumstance in a way. That’s because musicians like Brown are not only creatives but spokesmen. You can say and do things through art that may not be acceptable otherwise. This has been particularly true for African-Americans as historically, our real political and economic power through the establishment tended to be thwarted and curtailed. Brown was one of those artists like Kanye West and Marvin Gaye who used his influence and medium to communicate. “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud!” Call it social power.

Things are different in 2007. One of the founders of the Congressional Black Caucus (Charlie Rangel) is about to become one of the most powerful Congressmen in Washington as the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee. Another CBC member, Barack Obama, is a frontrunner and serious potential contender for the White House. Now that we are gaining actual political and economic power to match our social power, African-Americans need to do more than revere musicians who push on the powers that and recognize that now WE are the powers that be. We need to start asking and expecting more from our elected leaders — black, white and otherwise — as citizens with an equal stake and an equal contribution in the success of America.

In the meantime, here are a few stanzas from Funky President:

Hey, country
Didn’t say what you meant
Just changed
Brand new funky President

Stock market going up
Jobs going down
And ain’t no funking
Jobs to be found

Taxes keep going up
I changed from a glass
Now I drink out of a paper cup
It’s getting bad

Turn on your funk motor
I know it’s tough
Turn on your funk motor
Until you get enough

I got to say it again
We got to get together
And buy some land
Raise our food just like the Man
Save our money, do like the Mob
Put up your fight right on the job

We gotta get over
Before we go under
Time’s getting short, Lord

Country, do you know
Just what I meant
We just changed, we got
A brand new funky President

Jackson speaks for me on this one. And probably a lot of other African-Americans too. From his official statement:

“The U.S. should discourage the barbarity of hanging Saddam Hussein. His execution will not make us safer or more secure. It will not increase our moral authority in the world. It will increase tensions.

Saddam’s heinous crimes against humanity can never be diminished, for he was our ally while doing them. Pictures of Saddam and Rumsfeld shaking hands have been projected all over the world. His trial and preparation for hanging are taking place while he is in U.S. custody.

“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” will make us blind and disfigured. The most civilized of us must break the cycle of violence.

To whom is the U.S. accountable for our role in thousands killings and being killed in Iraq? For our role as invader and occupier, under false pretense of weapons of mass destruction and al-Qaeda connections and imminent threat? We must not live above the world, nor operate beyond the rules of international laws. Saddam as a war trophy only deepens the catastrophe in which we are embroiled.”

Jeralyn at TalkLeft is reporting that Saddam may be hung as soon as 10pm EST or 6am Baghdad time. According to the BBC: The U.S State Dept has “cabled all embassies, and also denied reports that Iraq’s former leader had already been transferred to Iraqi custody.” Steve Gilliard says: “Weak governments kill their enemies” and compares the execution to that of the Russia czar and their family by a still fragile Soviet state.

Saddam Hussein was a tyrant and despot, no doubt. Yet, this probably, um, wasn’t one of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, I’m guessing. Is there a risk that this will exacerbate the situation on the ground while making Hussein a martyr of the American occupation of Iraq? Doesn’t this action of hangin’ Hussein high put our troops at even greater peril?

Our European allies tend to see capital punishment as barbaric so I have real concern about our deteriorating image abroad both there and in the Middle East. What exactly does the Bush Administration hope to gain in doing this? Don’t get me wrong –> Saddam Hussein = bad man. It’s said though that many Iraqis compare their lives under Saddam more favorably than their current lives under the U.S. occupation. Is Bush killing a perceived rival? This execution — aided, abetted and sponsored by America — seems like a risky maneuver at best that, like the Iraqi invasion itself, we may come to rue and regret. This just looks like a very bad idea.

There must be some rather complicated math behind CNN’s decision to text message “breaking news” to the people. Sanctions on Iran? Text it. Britney’s divorce? Text it. Death of one of the most influential musical and cultural figures of the 20th century? Nah!

James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, hardest working man in show business and many other titles died yesterday. He was 73 years old but still had moves like the 20-something who shook the foundation of American music 50 years ago, with more swagger, slide and coife than we knew how to handle, then or now.

Some music you can live without. Other music puts a nice beat into your head. For me, James Brown’s music transported me back through time and into the spirits of my parents. When I see old photos of them dashiki’d out, marching down the street, I hear James backing them up. And when I hear James, I see my parents loud, black and proud.

Let’s have a moment of silence for a man who barely gave us one himself.

While I’m here: habari gani!

Umoja — unity — the first day of Kwanzaa.

peace people.

Wow. Apparently she also said some stuff about Iraq and how she thinks we can still succeed there. Whatever. What people really noticed is (from the AP via Washington Times):

The nation’s highest-ranking black government official, Rice has said repeatedly she will not run for president despite high popularity ratings and measurable support in opinion polls.

“Yes, I think a black person can be elected president,” Rice said in an Associated Press interview Thursday.

Apparently she was asked whether watching Obama’s success, if Americans were ready to put a black presidential candidate in the White House. According to the article, about 80% of Americans say race does not matter to them at the polls. Hmm…we’ll see! Especially since she echoed what I think your average African-American thinks based on our daily experiences:

At the same time, [Rice] said, “we should not be naive. Race is still an issue in America. When a person walks into a room, race is evident. It’s something that I think is going to be with us for a very, very long time.”


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