From Raw Story:

…at a Republican luncheon yesterday White House adviser Karl Rove was overheard explaining the Bush amnesty immigration plan by saying, “I don’t want my 17-year-old son to have to pick tomatoes or make beds in Las Vegas.”

Wow — just when you think that immigration is splitting Republicans into the racists and the less racist, we find out that it’s all racist and anti-brown people. There are just differences in opinion on what to do about all the brown people.

There are the Buchananites who think we should re-patriate as many as possible and block entry lest we be overtaken and Mexicanized. And there is apparently the Rovian approach of using the brown people in measured, reasonable ways to preserve the status quo for an upper crust of privileged whites. Not so much the idea of free trade and cooperation with one of our largest trading partners, I see. More: making the world safer for rich people. The Rove Doctrine.

IMO countering the Buchanans and the Roves is what the Congressional Hispanic Caucus needs to focus on instead of their ridiculous infighting. Latinos are facing real threats from powerful people. It’s time for the CHC to get unifying leadership that understands that. And pronto.

The Wikipedia entry for “African-American” is well-written. I wish I knew who has contributed to it. A few highlights that bear notice. Links and citations can be found on the wiki itself.

The nation’s most affluent county with a majority African American population is Prince George’s County, Maryland, with a median income of $62,467. Other affluent African American majority counties include Dekalb County in Georgia, and Charles City County in Virginia. Queens County, New York, which is part of New York City, is the only county with a population of 65,000 or more where African Americans have a higher household income than White Americans.

These areas of the country and their nearby cities of Washington DC, Atlanta and New York are critical centers of the black middle and upper classes. This is where the action is.

But there’s more on our economic status:

Although the unemployment rate among African Americans (in 2002, approximately 11%[19]) has typically been twice the rate among European Americans (approximately 5% in the same year[21]), it is still comparable to rates found in France and Spain,[22] [3], and is slightly higher than the overall rate of the European Union [4]. When compared to populations outside of the United States and European Union, the collective affluence of African Americans is even more striking and disproportionate. Based on worker income alone (excluding purchasing power parity and extra wealth, both of which would accentuate the comparative affluence of African Americans), African Americans produced $586 billion in 2004[5],[6], slightly smaller than the GDP of Brazil in 2006 (even though Brazil’s population is about 5 times the size of the African American one) [7], and approximately 80% the size of Russia’s 2005 GDP (even though Russia’s population is nearly 4 times the size of the African American one [8]. In 2004 this amount would have been ranked as the 15th largest GDP internationally (out of 177 ranked) [9], compared to a population ranking of 33 in 2005[10].

Lazy and shiftless, indeed. Our growing economic power will likely translate to greater political power soon. Smart candidates will understand this and speak to us accordingly — not with condescension but with recognition of our strength. Now that government has gotten out of our way, we’re able to show what we can do. There’s more on the wiki. Check it out.

ThinkProgress has some video of O’Reilly and Beck mouthing off about use of the word “articulate” in reference to educated black folk.

O’REILLY: Now you got to feel sorry for us white folks here, because I’m telling you now I’m afraid to say anything. You know, you’re an articulate guy, doctor, but I’m never going to say that. You’re a smart guy. Is that bad if I say you’re a smart guy? … Yes, absolutely, instead of black and white Americans coming together, white Americans are terrified. They’re terrified. Now we can’t even say you’re articulate? We can’t even give you guys compliments because they may be taken as condescension?

BECK: You know, Shelby, I don’t know if anybody else in the audience — oh, this is just going to be a blog nightmare over the next few days. But let me just be honest and play my cards face up on the table.

I was thinking about this just last week. I don’t have a lot of African-American friends, and I think part of it is because I’m afraid that I would be in an open conversation, and I would say something that somebody would take wrong, and then it would be a nightmare. Am I alone in feeling that?

So now there’s a new cover for not having black friends? It’s that “there’s nothing we have in common.” Apparently O’Reilly and Beck are just appalled at the thought of hurting my widdle feelings. It’s almost like a Masterpiece Theatre British drama.

Glenn and Bill, it’s tragic that mere words are keeping us apart. P.C. dictates be damned — call me clean, bright, articulate — whatever you like.

Seriously, how is this OK? Imagine how ridiculous this would sound if you substituted another ethnic group — Jewish or Irish or Italian? God forbid such shy and retiring gentlemen say something awkward to a friend — surely they couldn’t just discuss it together? Instead of hearing our point of view, there’s just more self-defense — I wonder how often either has referred to a black conservative as “articulate” in conversation…

Although it took them awhile, I’m actually gratified to see that the MSM is paying attention and covered the Joe Biden “articulate” story. This NY Times story — The Racial Politics of Speaking Well was the #1 most emailed this am for the Grey Lady and has only dipped to #3 as I write this. It’s in the Top Ten Most Blogged.

Black bloggers — ‘twould appear we’ve hit a nerve.

My favorite quote:

It’s like an educated black person is a rare sighting, like seeing a spotted egret. We’re viewed as a fluke. How many flukes simply constitute reality?

— Reginald Hudlin, president of entertainment for Black Entertainment Television.

Interestingly, Republicans actually get this. Before Katrina, they were on track to drive a wedge among African-Americans eager to be recognized for our new gains in society — and our new priorities in contrast to condescending white Democrats who don’t get it.

Get this:

The poverty rate among African-Americans has fallen from 28.4% in 1996 to 24.7% in 2004. W.E.B. DuBois spoke of the “talented tenth” of educated, prosperous blacks who would inspire social change. Yet now those have become the majority — 3 out of 4 African-Americans. Most blacks in America are not poor and most of the poor in America aren’t black. The spotted egret has become common indeed.

You wouldn’t know that to listen to how some Democrats like Biden approach the black community.

The priorities of the black middle and upper class include (in no particular order):
* help for small businesses
* tax relief
* education including student loan relief and stronger public schools
* affirmative action in education and jobs
* job training opportunities

Priorities all African-Americans share include:
* action on police brutality and racial profiling
* healthcare protections
* strong law enforcement
* maintaining the social safety net including Medicare and Social Security
* an end to the war in Iraq, bringing our family members home

Democrats need to understand how the African-American community is changing. Otherwise, they will face an eroding base of support over time as alternative aspirational messaging penetrates.

What do you think about the changing priorities for African-Americans?

From ThisJustIn.com
You’ll want to spread this one around. Nice to see black folk getting in on the political satire.

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Liza Sabater of Culture Kitchen and other blogs is an established, talented and energetic black Puerto Rican blogger based in NYC. When she writes. I listen (or “read” you know what I mean). She has posted about a “blograiser” for New York State Senate candidate Craig Johnson.

The issues:

even though New York has had its fair share of Democratic governors, its state government has been in the clutches of the Republicans for 150 years

And, related to my recent post about Gov. Spitzer’s mild but welcome prison reform, there is this audacious corruption which Johnson and Spitzer plan to combat:

It is outrageous that NYC, the single largest demographic in the state, does not have proportional representation in Albany. This is because for years Republicans have been able to pass legislation that favors their districts.

Only in New York would you have majority white and Republican districts inflate their demographics by counting their prison population

Yes rural and suburban white legislators count their non-voting, black and brown prisoners as citizen-constituents. They use their inflated districts to represent their own interests which are certainly at odds with the prisoners and their city-based families downstate.

If you live in or near NYC, please attend the blograiser tonight. Major political and NY bloggers and politicians will be there in person. Great fun. Great networking. Great cause.

Raising New York with Eliot Spitzer
Feb 1 2007 – 6pm
Prey NYC
4 West 22nd Street

If you live farther away, Culture Kitchen will be hosting a liveblog of the event. Join and engage in the conversation. Register your support with funds and with comments.

You can also participate with neighboring blogs like The Albany Project, The Daily Gotham, or On NY Turf.

I was just sent a link to this listing of Black History Month television programming. You click on a date, and it will tell you what’s coming up. Gear up your Tivo’s and knockoff versions of the same. Maybe Michael Richards and Isaiah Washington can co-host “The N-Word F-word Showcase!”

Jill just tossed up an excellent racial rap sheet on Joe Biden. My own reasons for distrust stem from his support of the 2005 bankruptcy legislation. CommonDreams provided an excellent breakdown of turncoat Dems.

Biden supports a bill in Congress that would make it harder for people to declare bankruptcy. This is one of those abysmal pieces of legislation that exists only because businesses with a vested interest in it have lobbied hard for its passage and that would have no chance of success if more than a tiny fraction of the public were aware of its existence.

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Someone just asked me, “Hey Jill, do you think Joe Biden is DOA.” My answer to that is: of course and that was before his racist coded comments about his competitor Barack Obama. In case you hadn’t heard, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware recently launched another ridiculous vanity presidential campaign with this comment about frontrunner Obama:

“I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” he said. “I mean, that’s a storybook,man.”

African-American Political Pundit says back:

“I mean, Joe Biden’s comments were storybook old school ‘read between the lines’ bigotry, man.”

Spencer Overton at BlackProf says:

First, the comment seems to put down past African-American presidential candidates like Shirley Chisolm, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Carol Moseley Braun.

Second, the use of the word “articulate” hits a special nerve. African Americans often feel as though many Whites use the word “articulate” as acceptable code for “he/she doesn’t sound ‘Black…”

La Shawn Barber sadly isn’t so sure but if you read comments to her whimpering post and the comments at the BlackProf, you will get a solid picture of what the average black middle class person(read: critical Democratic voters) think about Biden’s comments.

Predictably, Jackass Joe’s just digging himself deeper in the pile of manure with attempts at ahem, clarification like:

About his use of the word “clean” to describe Obama, Biden explained by saying, “My mother has an expression: clean as a whistle, sharp as tack. That’s the context.”

Before I remind everyone about Biden’s recent history of racism and assert why Democrats need to make an example of Biden, please allow me to decode this statement — also by Biden:

“So I called Barack,” he added, “and he said ‘Joe you don’t have to explain anything to me.’”

I have to give it to my man Barack on this because at least to African-Americans, Obama just fought back Biden’s code with a little code of his own — and let Biden carry the message to us for him. Clever. See, Biden doesn’t have to explain anything to Obama because Obama (and the rest of black folk) already knew he was racist. This just further confirmed our conclusions. There’s nothing to explain.

To those white people who don’t get it, let me break it down for you. The only people described as “articulate” regularly in American society are precocious children and Negroes. People — “well-meaning” white people over 55 usually — will actually say this in the faces of children and African-Americans of all ages as if it’s a compliment. When said to black people, we know what it means. It means “you don’t sound black.” Whatever it is that “black” is supposed to sound like. It’s a back-handed compliment meant to degrade passively/aggressively. It’s meant to diminish our uppity ambitious behinds, our accomplishments and poise, and put us right back in our place. Biden’s use of the childhood phrase “clean as a whistle, sharp as tack” only cements the latent racist connection apparent in his mind — and in mine.

It’s happened to me. And when someone apologizes in the working world context to me for something they’ve said that’s ahem, unfortunate and ethnically offensive, I look that well-meaning white man or woman right in the eye and say “You don’t have to explain anything to me. I understand exactly what you were trying to say.” Then I smile and walk away with a clenched jaw and a mental note: “Undercover Racist.” What I’d like to say is: “I understand that you are unable to articulate appropriately how my presence as an equal in your world makes you uncomfortable.”

The problem for the Democratic Party is that Biden’s racism is no longer so undercover. It’s making manifest more and more. And doing damage. There was this last July from Biden:

In Delaware, the largest growth of population is Indian Americans, moving from India. You cannot go to a 7/11 or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.”

Ha ha.

Then in December 2006, there was this sad attempt to woo Southern conservatives:

Delaware, [Biden] noted, was a “slave state that fought beside the North. That’s only because we couldn’t figure out how to get to the South. There were a couple of states in the way.”

Democrats must prove to minorities that they are different from the Republicans. They have to distance themselves from guys like Biden if they hope to retain and build the strong minority turnout that tips the red-blue balance in their favor.

Without leading Democrats like say, Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid, coming out and condemning Biden’s repeated comments, it sends a message to African-Americans, Indian-Americans — all Americans — that Joe Biden’s viewpoint is as valued and protected by the Democrats as that of Trent Lott and George Allen by the Republicans. Unless Democrats want Biden to continue his Macaca moments and drive away voters, unless they don’t want to be the party of the future instead of the party longing for the past, Biden must be punished in a public way for me to see that the Democratic party is interested in keeping my loyalty for the long term.

We are.

A few years ago, I signed up for emails from Black Box Voting. Without authentic elections, what’s the point of any democratic action? The paper trail-less, non source code-inspectable “black box” machines scared the hidden ballots out of me.

Yesterday, I got an email from them. Here are some worthy excerpts to get us all thinking:

(Warning: You might really hate this story.) This story represents months of original research by Black Box Voting. We went into this looking for the defense industry contractors we’d heard had lobbied for the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). That legislation has been blamed for the touch-screens (DREs) that showed up all over America. Well, that’s not what we found. The real story on who was behind HAVA may come as a surprise to you. It was to us..

I forgot that the voting machinery was promoted after the 2000 election by the HAVA. What I remember is Diebold’s “promise” to deliver results for Bush. BBV goes further:


Many of the HAVA reformers believed that with DREs, people with less education would be more likely to fill out the whole ballot. In fact, they reasoned, the DRE machines would be easier to use for educationally disadvantaged populations, minorities, non-English-speaking voters, and the disabled.

As their report found, most of these claims were unsubstantiated or contradicted by real-world results. Black folk, for example, don’t actually seem to trust the machines. This is a painful irony considering who promoted the machines in the first place:

While many election reform activists are under the impression that touch-screen (DRE) voting machines were some sort of Republican plot to take over America, the truth is that lobbying for the DRE-seeking “Help America Vote Act” came primarily from the foundation of the Democratic Party itself.

Activists throughout America have expressed surprise at the Democratic Party’s unwillingness to pull DREs off the shelf. One reason is simply this: To do so would damage the credibility of those who lobbied for HAVA.

This is a painful, painful indictment. We won’t demand change, because it would be embarrassing and call into question our previous actions. Hmm, where have I seen this movie before?

This is a novel approach notable for its daring. You had to figure that the new power and unity of the Congressional Black Caucus with one member as a presidential candidate and a few others as committee chairs has to be scary. This is a direct, racist attack that I am willing to bet that more wingnuts will be pushing as the CBC begins to assert their growing power.

Tancredo:

“It is utterly hypocritical for Congress to extol the virtues of a colorblind society while officially sanctioning caucuses that are based solely on race,” said the Colorado Republican, who is most widely known as a vocal critic of illegal immigration.

Any black person will tell you — this society ain’t color-blind just yet. I hope the CBC members led by Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (a good progressive) will get aggressive out there with the message that the CBC is too black and too strong to get snowed under by a wannabe like Tancredo. The type of misdirected energy in defense of smooth criminal Dollar Bill Jefferson — getting all up in Nancy Pelosi’s face about his congressional privileges — needs to be re-focused on fending off GOP playahate.

As for whites and non-blacks wanting to join the Congressional Black Caucus, I agree with the BlackProf — how can we demand inclusion when we practice exclusion? Why give our enemies ammunition in the public space? Whites on the left need blacks. But you know what — we need their support too. The CBC ultimately will need to find a way to open the door to folks who can help move the agenda forward for African-Americans. The Republican version of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has twice as many “associate” non-Hispanic members than they do actual Hispanics. How powerful would it look to dwarf that with a strong associate membership of folks who say that, despite not being black, that they want to stand with African-Americans for a country that serves all its people equally?

I’m just sayin’…

So amazingly, there was no mention in George Bush’s speech about the largest humanitarian disaster the United States has ever seen. None of the dusky heroes waving from the gallery were Katrina-related, although Dikembe and Wesley’s stories are admirable. There were no updates on assistance. No commitments to re-build the region. Just nothing.

Maybe if we ignore the Gulf region, they’ll go away and stop asking for help. Maybe people will stop caring. I don’t think that’s true though. Both Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D) and Susan Collins (R) — powerful Congressional women — has looks of pure, barely disguised hatred/disgust smoking from their faces during the speech.

I think politicians who think that the American people have forgotten about Katrina are deluding themselves. The people of Houston and New Orleans certainly haven’t forgotten. The compassion and commitment to support those impacted by Katrina, both inside and outside the black community is there. But the leadership, save for John Edwards and his announcement from the region, is not. Why is that?

Harold Ford Jr. and Atlanta Mayor Shirley Jackson will be speaking today at the National Democratic Mayor’s Convention in Northwest DC. As Jill mentioned a little while back, it’s worth keepin an eye on this brotha. If anyone gets word of how the meeting goes down, do tell.

On a side note, can anyone actually see this blog on the web? I can’t get it to come up in Safari or Firefox on the Mac or IE or Firefox on the PC. My newsreader stops the feed at Jan 12. Do tell.

Three stories caught my attention today, and they’re all about racial politics in the South.

First up, white Republicans in Atlanta are still bitter about what they call a race-baiting ad (NY Times) from the recent mid-term elections.

In the advertisement, Atlanta’s three most prominent black leaders, Mayor Shirley Franklin, Representative John Lewis and Andrew Young, the politician and civil rights leader, evoked the police dogs and water hoses of the civil rights movement to urge voters not to support a Republican candidate for the Fulton County Commission. Though the candidate was not named in the advertisement, the three leaders, who are all Democrats, warned that right-wing Republicans would “turn back the clock” on equality and undo the efforts of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others.

“Your very life,” Mr. Lewis said in the advertisement’s conclusion, “may depend on it.”

“Outrage” over this ad has spilled into the second story that caught mine eye: an effort by the upper third of Fulton County to separate from its lower two-thirds (AP). The upper part is mostly white and affluent. The other part is black and a whole lot poorer. The issue over the advertisement has fueled the move by many whites to separate.

It’s more than ironic that Republicans are complaining that a campaign ad “crosses the line.” This is the party of Willie Horton we’re talking about. The party of Condi “those who don’t support the war in Iraq would have supported slavery (WaPo)” Rice. The party of fear.

All of this brings me to story number three. Someone fired two shots (NY Times Select) into the home of Greenwood, Louisiana’s black mayor, Ernest Lampkins. In this case, his very life actually was at risk.

First of all, apologies for sleepin on the blog, yall. I’ll be steppin up with Jill’s announced vacation, and I’m back with this story which slipped through the radar for me, but I think it’s worth a deeper look.

Costs of Inmates’ Calls Cut

In what some are calling the first tax cut of the Spitzer administration, New York is slashing the cost of phone calls between prison inmates and their families, friends, and lawyers by more than half.

Governor Spitzer said yesterday that starting April 1, the state will no longer collect a share of the gross revenue generated by the state prison collect call service operated by Verizon Communications

This is very good news.

According to the article, a 20 minute call currently costs $6.20. That will drop to about $3: from 31 cents per minute to 15. Wow. It should be mentioned that some money from the excessive fees went to fund prisoner programs, but Gov. Spitzer has vowed to match that money from other areas of the prison budget.

The prison industrial complex has been in high gear over the past several decades with massive construction activity, the damaging impact of mandatory sentencing and the transfer of this public service into a privately-run, corporate product. Also know that the incarceration rate for black men is over 4,900 per 100,000 (nearly 3x that of Hispanics and 7x that of Whites).

Prisoners are considered disposable people. Remember during Hurricane Katrina that several hundred prisoners were abandoned in their locked cells, left to rot in feces-infested flood waters, left to die by the police.

It’s common to say that no politician ever got elected by standing up for the poor, but that statement has to be extra true for prisoners and their families. In an age of “tough on crime” rhetoric and the creation of “victims rights” initiatives, we often forget that prison is no walk in the park, and we refuse to remember that many in prison simply do not belong there.

I applaud that Gov. Spitzer made reform of this exploitative system one of his first moves in office and look forward to a point where our whole society re-evaluates the role of the prison in modern America.


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Cheryl Contee aka "Jill Tubman", Baratunde Thurston aka "Jack Turner", rikyrah, Leutisha Stills aka "The Christian Progressive Liberal", B-Serious, Casey Gane-McCalla, Jonathan Pitts-Wiley aka "Marcus Toussaint," Fredric Mitchell

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