"... I don't think we've invested well... in the last few years..."- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (daughter of late mayor of Baltimore, Maryland; multimillionaire; Democratic congresswoman, 8th Congressional district, California - San Francisco) on the current state of U.S. society, government and economy, in a Capitol Hill news conference, Thursday, 2 Oct 2008.
Politics may make "strange bedfellows," as the saying goes, but there have to be limits, and every now and then I reach one of mine. In this case, for me, it's around the 2008 U.S. presidential election. As Peter Finch's character shouted in the film Network, this is one year when I am not going to "take it" anymore.
Less than two years ago, in late November 2006, I received an email from a reader describing himself as a White American, telling me that (in his opinion - the only one that really counts, of course) he's "never committed even one act of "racism"..." [his quotes] in his life. Bravo for you, dude.
In fact, he started his email telling me that he's voted Democrat all his life. As I read, I wondered, "What Democratic Party member-profile does this guy fit?" How many Democrats think like him? I wondered,Are Democrats like him just ignored, or even accepted?That was then and this is now, and I leave it to others more interested than I to answer such questions. (Don't hold your breath...)
In 2008 the Democratic Party took things a step farther and found themselves the "kind" of "black" (as so many white Americans seem to like to say) they could feel "comfortable" to back for president; one whom even Joe Biden could bring himself to admire.
So this is the year when some Black people with the privilege to vote in the U.S. - i.e., people from different ethnic and national backgrounds (continental African, Caribbean, Black American, Afro-Latino) have convinced themselves that voting Democratic will somehow be "pan-African." Not only are most White voters left clueless aboutpan-Africanism and what it's supposed to be, some of those who will vote Nov. 4th for the Democrats selected black guy are the descendants of the same people who enslaved my family: in Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, South Carolina - and elsewhere. I call them "slaveholder descendants for Obama." These slaveholder descendants will feel good about themselves and their motives as they cast their votes for the Democratic candidate, even while they avoid and still steadfastly refuse any contact with or acknowledgement of me, my family and the history, places and country (also names and bloodlines) we share. Then there is the guy who sent the email below. Are these people really all on the same page?Good question, and yet relatively few Americans seem to have the stomach to attempt any acceptable answer.
In 2007 I finally shared the message below with Democrats Abroad email list. As I wrote to Dems Abroad, there is no etiquette for how to bring up such subjects, and yet I also know that they need to be raised and addressed, and not just by persons who look like me.
Thanks to my sister for sharing news of veteran U.S. legal aid attorney William Brennan and his testimony in Congresson 24 May 2000. So Congress had first-hand knowledge of what was going on from an attorney helping elderly, often female and Black persons (who quite often already owned their homes) from becoming statistics in very elaborate, far-reaching and high-pressure credit scams. In May 2000 Carlo and I were in Skopje, Macedonia. On 9 Aug 2007 we published an entry here at Marian's Blog entitled "The colour of sub-prime, & trans-Atlantic cash."Who knew that ever-larger financial chips would still be falling more than a year later? Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac... And that's only the U.S. list. In 2007 I blogged, "How about "trans-Atlanticism in the 'hood", as France's largest bank, BNP Paribas, temporarily shut down investor access to three BNP private-investor funds linked to U.S. so-called 'sub-prime' mortgage lending." Is anyone in the international human rights establishment paying the slightest attention?
Today I am writing to remember and honour Thomas Gudger, father of my maternal grandmother and her three brothers. I never met any of my grandmother's brothers. Thomas Gudger died on this day in March 1913, in a place called Chanute in the U.S. state of Kansas. One day he went to his job in the local cement plant and this act of responsibility ended his life. He was 34 but already a widower with four children. He'd lost my great grandmother, his wife, in childbirth in Tennessee, yet he made an heroic effort to keep his family together and give them a better life. As Black Appalachian people, my great grandfather (called mulatto but whose family was tri-racial - Black American/African, American Indian and white/European), his maternal uncle (also "mulatto") and other family members, moved to Chanute in 1911 or 1912 from their Tennessee-North Carolina mountain home. Less than twenty four hours after my grandfather's death, crushed to death at his job, the local newspaper published the front page story: Thomas Gudger, colored, killed; four little children left without parents. The article, which eventually I will transcribe, states uncategorically no one was present at the time of the "accident." At the same time, curiously, this statement wasn't a quote attributed to any official such as, say, local police. The article contains no comments from any local authorities. Is it also coincidence the headline and article seem to read like a warning? Was it intended as a warning to other Blacks who might attempt to settle and work in this part of southeast Kansas? I think of renowned photographer Gordon Parks whose family, in the same general period of the early 1900s, fled southeast Kansas and its anti-Black racism. For the rest of my life I will wonder how many Black Americans, over decades and centuries, have lost their lives; how many of our loved ones have been murdered in our country, the USA, with total impunity and with continued anonymity for the perpetrators and the places that enabled, even rewarded, them. Much more often than our society thusfar has acknowledged our family members lost their lives for what we now call racially motivated reasons. We love you always, Grandpa Gudger.
Came across an interesting article from nearly a year ago: author Yvonne Bynoe's Black America After Jim Crow: Still Feels Like Segregation, published on AlterNet. (They have good stuff and deserve your consideration of $upport.)
For decades I've been having "frank and candid" conversations, personal and public, with Black folks from around the world outside the USA, as well as with my folks here at home. I agree with much but not all of what Bynoe writes. I remember a surreal moment in the Kenyan government representative's speech at the U.S. 4th of July diplomatic event in Nairobi a few years ago. Johnnie Carson, a Black American, was ambassador. But I'll save this for another time.
"What has not occurred are frank and candid conversations between native Black Americans and immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean that aim to update the public face of "Black America." These dialogues would first need to acknowledge the unique cultures and histories of the various groups, while forging relationships based on our shared interests and challenges in this country as people of African descent." - writer Yvonne Bynoe
The 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver marks a mere forty (40) years since Fannie Lou Hamer became the first post-Reconstruction Black American official delegate of a U.S. national political party convention. So many other things about the 1968 Democratic National Convention have been allowed to overshadow this historic fact for Black Americans. Virtually no one mentions this or the fact that Hamer was the first woman ever to be a political convention delegate from her state of Mississippi. This is all poetic justice but perhaps especially the latter, yet what good is justice when few heed and respect it, or keep the flame alive?
We live in a time when there's a tangible sense of sleepwalking in U.S. society. 2008 is the anniversary of Mrs. Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party finally gaining official inclusion in the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. This was a culmination of fights and of sacrifices made by Mrs. Hamer and thousands more, fights we've been told and once believed were truly over. Yet August of 2007 came and went with no mention of it being the 45th anniversary of the same woman's courageous though initially unsuccessful struggle to register to vote in her state and in her country. That day was the31 August 1962. Forty-five years later, no news, no mention, no national commemoration.
History hasn't given up on us, yet. 2009 is the 45th anniversary of Mrs. Hamer's historic and moving speech to an otherwise oblivious credentials committee at the 1964 Democratic convention in Atlantic City. This was the convention where the president of the United States, Mr. Johnson, as delegated to Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale, maneuvered into obscurity Mrs. Hamer and the human rights issues she and others had come to AC to represent. This is where she gave the speech in which she said "... I question America."
"... All of this [intimidation, beatings, sexual humiliation]is on account of we want to register, to become first-class citizens. And if the Freedom Democratic Party is not seated now, I question America. Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?"
Mrs. Hamer has been in my mind a lot lately, leading me to compare days not so long ago with today. Back then I was a child yet forced to negotiate an early comprehension of my people's collective resolve to march and protest, to die and risk injury against the kinds of violation I had yet to feel. In those years I eagerly learned the names and independence dates of anglophone African countries. Looking back I doubt my Nigerian and and Kenyan and Ghanaian homologues learned enough, if anything, about me. I can only wonder what Miss Fannie might think and what she'd dare say about the Democrats now aspiring to be president; a field of candidates with no one really like Mrs. Hamer. But today in the Americas, we're sleepwalking through so many issues.
To be honest the only real news about Dick Cheney and Barack Obama being related is that yet again we see a person from a different background is treated quite differently from we Black Americans.
Just like the central yet undiscussed fact that he bears his own family's African name (which by definition of our experience, Black Americans do not) Barack Obama's blood tie with Dick Cheney is not through enslavement. Instead it's through white families up to and including his mother, who conceived him with a continental African, from Kenya, to be precise.
What of we millions of Black Americans? Up to the present no white American (nor European) politico has yet bragged of or publicly mentioned their family relations with us. And yet that area is such fruitful turf! Through my own arduous and emotionally tortuous family research I've connected with maybe two or three white relatives from my mother's family. Luckily, they've been good people. Mind you, a bit like Mr. Obama, these folks were not slaveholders. They are not related to my family through slavery, but through my white female ancestors in Tennessee and North Carolina. In another part of my family, my maternal grandfather confided to me forty years ago how his white cousins came to eat and play at his mother's home in Leavenworth, Kansas. But when they turned twelve, with no warning, they just stopped coming. My grandfather added that some of the white kinfolk moved from Leavenworth to New London, Connecticut where they took jobs at a federal naval base. This was 60 years ago, at least.
The Congressional Black Caucus annual legislative conference ends tomorrow, Saturday. Monday, Oct 1st, I plan to attend "A New Challenge to the Congressional Black Caucus", my former boss Major Owens'Library of Congress think-tank panel on the CBC and his forthcoming book, The Peacock Elite: A Subjective Case Study of the Congressional Black Caucus. I'm interested in the results of Mr. Owens' opinion survey that he's asked his former colleagues - Black Caucus members (Members of U.S. Congress) to complete. Monday's panel includes current Congresswoman Maxine Waters (Los Angeles, California); former CBC members, Oakland (Cali) Mayor Ron Dellums and attorney Louis Stokes; author and Univ. of Maryland political science prof Ron Walters; and author Michael Eric Dyson, now on faculty at Georgetown University. I have not yet seen results of the congressional opinion survey, though I'm certain we'll hear more on Monday. Since retiring last January after 24 years representing Central Brooklyn, NY's 11th congressional district, Mr. Owens is now a distinguished visiting scholar in the Library of Congress's Kluge Center.
I couldn't believe the news at mid-afternoon today that on a 57 "yes" to 42 "no" voice vote, the U.S. Senate today failed to endorse S. 1257. This bill finally would have given Washington, the District of Columbia its own voting representation in the House of Representatives. Can any Americans truly be proud of, or indifferent to, this outcome?
This probably is particularly sobering for 87 year old, former Massachusetts senator Edward Brooke, a Republican who is Black. Despite his best bi-partisan efforts, today's vote split along party lines. With eight exceptions, other Republicans voted against 1257 despite the fact that its major compromise would have given Utah one more congressional seat.