Did Cornel West Go Too Far — Again? l Zerlina Maxwell

Did Cornel West Go Too Far — Again?

After his “blackface” quip, maybe he’ll learn to make his critiques more constructive and less offensive.

By: Zerlina Maxwell | Posted: November 14, 2012 

Cornel West (Karen Bleier/AFP)

(The Root) — Professor Cornel West has struck again. The always outspoken Obama critic recently said in an interview with Democracy Now: “I think that it’s morally obscene and spiritually profane to spend $6 billion on an election, $2 billion on a presidential election, and not have any serious discussion — poverty; trade unions being pushed against the wall, dealing with stagnating and declining wages when profits are still up and the 1 percent are doing very well; no talk about drones dropping bombs on innocent people … I mean, I’m glad there was not a right-wing takeover, but we end up with a Republican, a Rockefeller Republican in blackface, with Barack Obama, so that our struggle with regard to poverty intensifies.”

Putting aside the substance in West’s comments, since there are certainly valid and substantive policy critiques to be made of the Obama administration, it is completely unnecessary for him to attack the president in such a racialized and offensive manner. Any good points he made are lost.

This isn’t the first time that the Princeton and Union Theological Seminary professor has attacked the president as a person instead of sticking to policy. West has previously called the president a “black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.” West and his partner Tavis Smiley (they have a public-radio show together, Smiley & West), also an outspoken Obama critic, have failed, time and again, to keep their critiques focused on policy when commenting on the shortcomings of the Obama administration.

High-profile black intellectuals who dared to support the president in public are not immune from the wrath of West and Smiley, either. The Rev. Al Sharpton, Melissa Harris-Perry and Michael Eric Dyson are “for sale” for access to Obama, according to West. This an interesting choice of words, considering Smiley’s history with corporate sponsors including Wells Fargo and Exxon Mobil.

Perhaps, with a second Obama win, West and Smiley feel their influence diminishing within the black community, which supported the re-election of President Obama with even higher turnout than in 2008 in key states, despite criticism. President Obama has been elected and re-elected, and the old guard of black political thought is becoming more and more marginalized as a result. No longer does a black politician need to be ordained by Smiley orgrace the stage of his (now-canceled) State of the Black Union speech-a-thon to be considered a contender for high office.

There are legitimate critiques of the president and serious issues to tackle during his second term. The challenge for Obama critics is to point out areas that absolutely need to be addressed — high black unemployment and, yes, poverty — without attacking the president as a man. With pride continuing to cloud their critiques of President Obama, West and Smiley have failed to do this time and again. It seems that they are facing a future in the black-intellectual wilderness over the next four years.

Let’s hope that during Obama’s next term, we can all work together to push the president and his administration to make big changes (or at least use his bully pulpit to talk about big changes, since the balance of power in Congress is unchanged) that will benefit the lives of the millions who voted for him. Offering constructive criticism and applying public pressure that is intended to assist the president rather than undermine him is a much more effective strategy going forward. Maybe more high-profile black thinkers will take note.

Zerlina Maxwell is a political analyst and contributing writer for Ebony.com, theGrio.com and Feministing.com. She writes about national politics, candidates and specific policy and culture issues, including domestic violence, sexual assault, victim blaming and gender inequality. Follow her on Twitter.

 

Will Globalization Destroy Black America? l THE BLACK STAR PROJECT

Will Globalization Destroy Black America?

Will Globalization Destroy Black America?

The lack of response to globalization by Black America is frightening and troubling. While much of the world has adapted to the new-world economy and new-world standards of existence, most of Black America is still operating much the same way it did in the 1950s and 1960s. But now, throughout Black communities in America, there is a whisper campaign by Black people who don’t know each other and Black people who live in different parts of the country, saying to each other, “We are in trouble!” We know it and the rest of the world knows it! Black America, as we know it, is in danger of not surviving globalization.

In the 21st century, there are only two kinds of people. Not Black or White, or rich or poor, or foreign or national. The two kinds of people in the world today are those who are educated and those who are not. Although education has become the new currency of exchange in the 21st century, the old American educational paradigm stopped working decades ago for Black Americans. Simply sending Black children to American schools without a clear purpose or goal has contributed to the demise of the Black community. Black America watched formerly third-world countries catapult over America to become educational super powers while America rested on its old, stale educational laurels and fell way behind much of the world in educational performance. And because Black America unthinkingly depended on the American education system to educate its children, we have fallen way behind.

The horrific educational, social, health, economic and criminal justice indicators in much of Black America predict a meltdown of gargantuan proportions in the near future for the Black community. But still, the thing that is most remarkable and unbelievable is the lack of response by Black Americans to this impending doom! Without numerous positive changes, practical well-thought-out ideas, massive mobilization and immediate action, the fate of many Black Americans is sealed. We will not be able to prosper in the cities of America or possibly in any city in the world where the new currency for existence is access to global information, higher-order critical thinking and advanced technological skills. There used to be a time when it was better to be poor in America than rich in other countries. Now it might be better to be poor in some other countries than to be poor in America.

Black people in America must immediately disengage from the diversions of mind-deadening entertainment, useless sports, hyper-sexuality, excessive social celebrations, pointless conversations and debates, meaningless media and the civil rights issue de jour approach to managing our problems. We must focus on the most important issue in our communities — making education the highest priority. We must create a culture of literacy and learning that replaces intellectual apathy and resistance to educational progress. Somehow, we must re-inspire our children to want to learn and to love to learn. But having educated children is not enough. We must have educated families and educated communities. Every Black man, woman and child must become part of this new community of learners.

Black America must take education out of the schools and universities and root it in our homes, our workplaces, our communities, our churches and even in our streets and prisons. The purpose of education as defined by the Equipped for the Future initiative, a federally sponsored effort to develop a framework for accountability in adult education, is to help people actualize their roles in society as parent/family members, citizen/community members and workers in the economy. If the education system that serves us is not meeting these objectives, it is a disservice to our children and our communities.

The ability of a people to survive in changing times is not magic, nor is it by chance. Success depends on people being able to change to survive in a new environment! And new environments demand new skills for survival. Equipped for the Future tells us that without certain basic skills, survival will be extremely difficult for Black people, or any people, in the 21st century. These essential skills are the ability to read with understanding; convey ideas in writing; speak so that others can understand; observe critically; listen actively; solve problems and make decisions appropriately; plan and put those plans into action effectively; use math to solve problems and to communicate; cooperate with others; guide others; advocate and influence; resolve conflict and negotiate; take responsibility for life-long learning; learn through research; reflect and evaluate; and use information and communication technology. These are the skills necessary to survive in the 21st century.

The solution to the issue of Black America’s poor response to globalization is to 1) Deconstruct value systems that have caused Black people to arrive at the precipice of non-existence; 2) Construct value systems that will rebuild the Black family as a purveyor of positive values, cultures, mores and education, and re-establish the Black family as the primary and most important social unit of our culture and society; 3) Embrace education as the highest value in the Black community; 4) Effectively manage the negative cultural influences that hugely impact the thinking and actions of Black boys; and 5) Understand that for the rest of existence, change is a required part of the living process. The faster Black America is able to put this plan into action, adopt these new principles and manage change, the more likely we will survive.

Today, many Black people seem to be having “cosmic flashbacks” to our time in slavery, which was the first crude effort at globalization that helped to set the stage for today’s globalization. For years, Black America was buffered from modern globalization by political boundaries and economic barriers. Now globalization has come to our country, our cities, our communities, onto our blocks and into our homes, schools and workplaces. Globalization has happened, whether Black America is ready for it or not. We still have time to make the necessary changes that will guarantee that Black people will survive into the 21st century and that we will thrive in this global economy. But there is not much time. With globalization, Black America has entered into the “Educate or Die” era. In this era, there are only two questions worth answering: “Will we change? Can we survive?” How we emerge from this era is up to us.

Phillip Jackson, Executive Director
The Black Star Project
3473 South King Drive, Box 464
Chicago, Illinois 60616
773.285.9600 or email at blackstar1000@ameritech.net

 

EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION

Where does Jesse Jackson’s family go from here? l KultureKritic

Where does Jesse Jackson’s family go from here?

By  David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove

 February 22, 2013

jesse-jackson-family-16x9

Are we witnessing the end of the Jackson dynasty?  Where does this once beloved political family go from here?

With former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. pleading guilty to spending $750,000 in campaign funds on a personal spending spree—and his wife Sandra Stevens Jackson pleading guilty to knowingly filing false joint federal income tax returns—the couple is facing years of prison time.

Mrs. Jackson, who resigned as a Chicago alderman last month, failed to declare $600,000 to the feds.

For a man who was once considered a contender for mayor of Chicago, the fall from grace was swift and sudden.

But even more dramatic than the fraud and conspiracy charges against the son of the veteran civil rights leader is how so much was thrown away on so little, it seems.  Is one’s career and reputation worth a$43,000 Rolex watch, nearly $9,600 in children’s furniture, over $14,500 in dry cleaning, $5,800 in drinks and $5,150 in furs?  An even better question: Is the legacy of the civil rights movement worth a man benefiting from his father’s name and enjoying a lavish lifestyle in the process?

“Over the course of my life I have come to realize that none of us are immune from our share of shortcomings and human frailties,” the former congressman said in a statement.  “Still I offer no excuses for my conduct and I fully accept my responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes I have made.”

“The guilty plea today is so tragic because it represents such wasted potential,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. at a news conference.  “Jesse Jackson Jr. had drive, the ability and the talent to be the voice of a new generation, but he squandered that talent.  He exchanged that instead to satisfy his personal whims and extravagant lifestyle.”

Meanwhile, in light of his brother’s political woes, Jonathan Jackson, a professor at Chicago State University, was viewed as a possible replacement for Jesse Jr. in Congress, but declined to run for the seat due to a lack of interest in politics.

So, now what?  As for Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., who may have had hopes of building a political dynasty that once knocked on the White House door, just as another prominent black Chicago family moved into the White House, it would appear that dynasty has ended.  And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Empires and dynasties decline and crumble for a variety of reasons, including corruption, greed and excess, mission creep, and mediocre successors to the throne.  Old dynasties are replaced, and time goes on.  The senior Jackson, known for his role in the civil rights movement working with Martin Luther King, became a power broker with his 1984 and 1988 presidential runs. He has a long track record of fighting for economic and social justice for the poor and disenfranchised, and for his international activism, including aiding in the release of Americans captured in foreign countries.

His accomplishments are to be honored and appreciated, personal foibles, stumbles and all. After all, no one is perfect, and we are all human beings with imperfections.  But that otherwise great legacy does not translate into a right to cash in the chips of past civil rights struggles for personal fame and perpetual power.

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Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove

“Restorative Justice, Slavery, and the American Soul” . . . The Question of Reparations” l This Week on Our Common Ground

OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham

“Restorative Justice, Slavery, and the American Soul”
. . . The Question of Reparations”

February 23, 2013 10 pm ET

02-23 Blevins

OUR Guest: Michael BlevinsAuthor, Professor, Change and Justice Leader/Activist

 Founding Executive Director, NE Iowa Peace & Justice Center

ABOUT Michael Blevins

Mike Blevins fall.2012.Michael Blevins, JD, M.Div, LL.M (Intercultural Human Rights) works from Decorah, IA. He was a defense attorney for ten years in the state of Kansas and is an ordained pastor. He currently is a human rights advocate and activist who teaches Ethics and Philosophy at the college level and was recently the founding Executive Director of the NE Iowa Peace & Justice Center in Decorah, Iowa.

Mike is a Diversified Social Change and Non-Profit Professional with over twenty years experience in law, ministry, classroom teaching, community organizing, non-profit leadership, conflict resolution services, strategic planning, human rights advocacy and non-profit community development–including non-profit leadership, human rights education and advocacy.

He authored “Restorative Justice, Slavery, and the American Soul, A Policy-Oriented Approach to the Question of Reparations”, which was awarded the 2005 Institute of Policy Sciences Best Graduate Student Paper prize; the paper was presented by the author at the Annual Symposium of the Institute of Policy Sciences at Yale University Law School in October, 2005; Published by the Thurgood Marshall Law School Journal (Volume 31, No.2, pp. 253-322, Spring 2006.

Our discussion with Mike with focus on the following topics:

  • What is Restorative Justice and how might it apply to the evil of White Supremacy
  • Mass Incarceration and other aspects of the New Jim Crow
  • The Question of Reparations 
  • Reparations Initiatives including HR 40 (Conyers) and other proposals for approaching reparations 

HIS WORK
Blevins, Michael F. (2005). Restorative Justice, Slavery, and the American Soul, A Policy-Oriented Intercultural Human Rights Approach to the Question of Reparations. Thurgood Marshall Law Review. 31:253-322. Summary by Restorative Justice.Org:
“Blevins provides an overview of how past slavery has an effect on present society; reparations have not been paid to the African American community and injustice remains. Reparations, Blevins states, should come in the form of aid, not charity, and that the United States owes reparations to both Africa and African-Americans. The current theories and laws addressing slavery reparations are centered on a litigation approach. This approach is ineffective and inhibits justice from being served. Blevins then discusses the Restorative Justice approach, briefly mentioning the Truth and Reconciliation processes in Africa, the Truth Commission established in Peru, and other Restorative Justice initiatives around the world. The article states that if nothing is done in the United States to address the past and present problems with slavery and racism, these problems will continue. To be successful, the reparations movement must occur within the academic, professional, civic, and religious sectors. Blevins suggests that an African American Redress Commission should be established by the House and Senate. Additionally, a commission would then be established in each district, with the purpose of conducting investigations and research, holding hearings, and holding community forums. The most important aspect of these commissions being the forums because the community would have a chance to be heard and to come up with solutions for the present problem. Each district would then submit a plan to the executive Commission, complete with legislative recommendations, entitled “America’s 21st Century Contract with African Americans.” Blevins ties this whole process to the commencement of slavery in Jamestown Virginia, comes up with an outline of a possible payment plan from the United States government to both African Americans and Africans, and challenges individual States to take action.”OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham

“Speaking Truth to Power and Ourselves”
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Community Forum: http://www.ourcommonground-talk.ning.com/
Twitter: @JaniceOCG #TalkthatMatters
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theGrio’s 100: OUR COMMON GROUND Voice, Nina Turner

theGrio’s 100: Nina Turner, taking on voter suppression in Ohio

Senator Nina Turner (OhioSenate.gov)Senator Nina Turner (OhioSenate.gov)

Who is Nina Turner? 

The Ohio state senator emerged as one of the loudest voices in the country against controversial voting laws advanced by Republicans in her state, which was one of the most important battlegrounds in the 2012 campaign. Turner, 45, represents the Cleveland area, where she  grew up and and later served as a city councilman.

Why is she on theGrio’s 100? 

Ohio was one of the biggest flash points in the various controversies over voting laws and restrictions during the campaign. And Turner was a constant voice, insisting on making sure that it was as easy as possible for people both in Cleveland and throughout the state to vote. She made numerous appearances on MSNBC and other cable news outlets, as well as making her concerns known locally.

“Public officials at all levels have a moral obligation to make it easier to vote, but some of Ohio’s leaders have ignored this responsibility,” she said last year in the midst of the voting controversies.

Ohio state senator Nina Turner wears T-shirt: ‘GOP: Get out of my panties’

Her actions had impact. In the end, public attention and legal decisions forced Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, to abandon many controversial ideas that could have depressed the Obama vote in the Buckeye State, which the president won.

What’s next for Turner? 

Turner could eventually consider a run for the U.S. House or Senate or as Cleveland mayor. But more immediately, she is likely to continue playing a role in elections in 2014 and 2016 in battling Republicans on voting laws.

In 2014, Democrats want to win back the statehouse in Ohio, and Turner could help rally the party’s base to ensure reelection. And in 2016, Ohio is very likely to remain in the spotlight as a battleground state.

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theGrio’s 100: OUR COMMON GROUND Voice, Barbara Arnwine

theGrio’s 100: Barbara Arnwine, keeping civil rights front and center

Laywers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Executive Director Barbara Arnwine (2nd R) speaks during a news conference to voice opposition to state photo identification voter laws with the Rev. Jesse Jackson (C) and members of Congress at the U.S. Capitol July 13, 2011 in Washington, DC. In what the the committee calls 'vote supression legislation,' eight states require photo identification for people to vote and 22 others are considering similar legislation. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)Laywers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Executive Director Barbara Arnwine (2nd R) speaks during a news conference to voice opposition to state photo identification voter laws with the Rev. Jesse Jackson (C) and members of Congress at the U.S. Capitol July 13, 2011 in Washington, DC. In what the the committee calls ‘vote supression legislation,’ eight states require photo identification for people to vote and 22 others are considering similar legislation. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Arnwine is president and executive director of theLawyers Committee on Civil Rights Under Law,which works on issues like racial profiling and voter protection.

Why is she on theGrio’s 100? 

Arnwine and her group were instrumental in battling controversial voting laws, such as ones requiring photo identification to vote, that were passed by Republican legislatures in 2011 and 2012. The committee joined lawsuits against many of the laws, helping lead to many of them being struck down by courts. The group also created a “Map of Shame” depicting which states had the most controversial voting laws and a hotline for people to report voting or registration problems in the months before Election Day.

“Voter suppression legislation that has been debated and passed across the nation since the 2010 mid-terms threatens to heighten voter confusion this November,” Arnwine said in the midst of the campaign.

The effort by Arnwine and others was successful, as Obama campaign aides said the voter laws had little impact on the 2012 election results.

What ‘s next for Arnwine? 

The battle over voter laws is likely to continue. While courts put aside many of the laws in 2012, Republican-led legislatures and governors are likely to propose them again in the future. And the 2014 and 2016 campaigns are not far away.

Arwine

LISTEN TO OUR COMMON GROUND with Barbara Arnwine HERE

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7 Electoral Scenarios Most Likely to Trigger Armed Rebellion

 7 Electoral Scenarios Most Likely to Trigger Armed Rebellion

Or, you know, a total cable news freakout.

By 

| Tue Oct. 30, 2012 2:03 AM PDT
Obama vs Romney

On November 6, the fate of the free world will be decided by a handful of voters in Iowa, Virginia, Ohio, and Colorado, many of whom will have made up their minds at the last minute after a frantic bout of Googling (“Mitt Romney” + “Gangnam style”). If all goes as planned, the losing candidate will call to graciously congratulate the winning candidate sometime before the East Coast has gone to bed, the losing party will begrudgingly accept the result, and the transfer of power will continue in peace, as it has without exception every four years since 1860.

Probably. But there’s another possible outcome: Instead of a smooth transition, the nation could be thrown into a constitutional crisis, or at the very least, a few more weeks of waiting. Here’s a look at what could happen, in no particular order of probability:

Unpopularly elected: President Obama wins the Electoral College by the narrowest of margins—but loses the popular vote to Mitt Romney. That could trigger a coordinated challenge to the legitimacy of the election. As CBS News’ Scott Conroy notes, “In the days before the 2000 election, George W. Bush’s campaign reportedly prepared talking points to dispute the democratic fairness of what was then seen as a more likely outcome—that Al Gore would win the Electoral College while losing the popular vote.” (When the opposite scenario unfolded, Gore pushed wary Democrats to accept the outcome.) The New York Times‘ Nate Silver projects that there is a 5.2 percent chance of Obama winning the Electoral College while losing the popular vote—and a 2 percent chance of the reverse.

Romney-Biden: Barack Obama wins the popular vote on November 6, winning every state John Kerry did in 2004, plus Iowa and Virginia, getting him every state he needs to clinch the election. But there’s a catch: Romney pulls off an upset in Maine’s second congressional district, the state’s most conservative (Todd Palin campaigned there in 2008). Maine is one of two states to split its electoral votes, and the victory would put Romney and Obama in a 269-269 Electoral College tie.

Or: Obama loses every swing state but Ohio.

Or: Obama wins Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, and New Hampshire. But he loses two blue states—Wisconsin and Iowa—along with Florida and Ohio.

Or: Obama peels off one congressional district in Nebraska (Omaha), wins Ohio and Virginia, but loses Wisconsin, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Florida, and Colorado.

The presidential tie then goes to the Republican House of Representatives. (Silver’s model gives this an 0.3 percent chance of happening.) Each state delegation gets one vote. Romney wins easily.

But it’s not that simple. In the event of an Electoral College tie, the Constitution stipulates that the vice president be chosen by the Senate—which is in Democratic hands until at least January. Even if a few Democrats peel off (we’re looking at you, Joe Manchin), a 50-50 tie would be settled by the vice president. Voting for yourself to be second-in-command to your ideological opposite? Sounds like the ultimate Biden move.

President Boehner: Thanks to a combination of lame-duck congressmen and turncoats, the House ends up in a 25–25 tie, making Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) president. He immediately breaks into tears.

Nader 2.0: Democrats fall flat on November 6. Romney wins the big three—Florida, Virginia, and Ohio—plus Iowa, and Obama falls below the 50 percent mark in Colorado and Nevada. But aided by disaffected Ron Paul supporters who feel they’ve been pushed around by the GOP one too many times (and a marijuana referendum in Colorado), Libertarian Gary Johnson has one of the best performances in his party’s short history, taking in 4 percent of the vote in both states. It’s enough—barely—to put Obama over the top.

Recount! With visions of hanging chads still fresh in everyone’s heads, the presidency once more comes down to one or two pivotal states. On November 7, it’s still too close to call. Likely candidates include Iowa, whose GOP caucus last January was marred by vote-counting troubles, or—perish the thought—Florida. In Colorado and Ohio, a recount is automatically triggered if the difference between the two candidates is half of 1 percent or smaller. In Virginia, a recount can be requested if the margin between the two candidates is less than 1 percent of the non-write-in vote. Minnesota Sen. Al Franken wasn’t seated until July of 2009, after an eight-month legal battle and recount process.

Going rogue: In September, the Associated Press reported that at least three Republican electors were considering not voting for Mitt Romney in the Electoral College should he win their state in November. (A fourth resigned his position in protest.) In a close race, those three votes—which would likely go to Ron Paul—could make all the difference. They could also lead to messy legal action, since Nevada, home to one of the potentially wayward electors, requires electors to abide by the popular vote result.

November surprise: Biblical prophesy guru and Michele Bachmann confidante Jan Markell has warned that this election would have “apocalyptic” consequences. And she was right. As the nation awaits the returns on election night, President Obama reveals that he is really one of the therion, a seven-headed, 10-horned sea beast prophesied in the Book of Revelation. The world immediately plunges into war, ending, after many years of violent upheaval, with the therion being thrown into the Lake of Fire. Interestingly, the Constitution makes no provisions for this kind of scenario, although presumably it will end with Virgil Goode seizing power.