Mike Holt - Signifyin'
Even as she assembled school supplies for distribution at the Parklawn Housing Complex Sunday morning, you could see the sadness in my niece’s eyes.
Or maybe sadness is not the appropriate expression.
Maybe the look in her eyes was one of confusion, with a tinge of anger. Better yet, the look was of emptiness and consternation.
The comforting stares and gentle embraces by other members of the House of Grace Ministry told the story before I was informed my niece had been car jacked the night before our ministry mission.
The carjack took place, ironically, on the eve of her birthday, and within a stone’s throw of the sanctuary of my father’s home, in a once proud neighborhood we once called Blackfish Bay (so named when Black folks were legally forbidden from moving in the nearby suburb of Whitefish Bay).
My niece was refueling her vehicle at the Citgo station on Teutonia and Hampton Avenue when she was carjacked at gunpoint by a duo of urban terrorists.
To say the experience left her traumatized would be an understatement. That she was able to partly mask her psychological scars long enough to carry out the biblical mandate (few churches adhere to) to serve the poor and spread the gospel is nothing short of astounding.
Instead of an outpouring of pent-up emotions, she put on a smile as she knocked on doors to offer Parklawn residents’ children packages of school supplies. Watching her, I could only assume she will be rewarded in the next life. Planet earth today, many have concluded, is the hell of the Bible, complete with devilish neophytes whose god is the fairytale image of a demon with horns, a pocket full of money and driving a Bentley.
These “terrorists-in-training” are doing Satin’s work. They challenge us daily. They have effectively altered our lifestyles and forced us to assume the worst.
And given that we have stepped off our spiritual and cultural foundation, their numbers are growing.
I mention this scenario not to solicit sympathy (as many offered on my Facebook post), but instead to recognize the strength and conviction of my niece (whose name I won’t reveal for obvious reasons).
Equally important, I do so to warn every resident to be vigilant, for we live in perilous times.
And it will remain that way until we do more than pray and complain and hide our heads in the sand (or dirt).
Before breaking up into teams to distribute the school supplies, we formed a circle to pray. It was similar to the prayer circle we form weekly to conclude our services. More often than not, our prayers include a request for peace on the streets, for the unification of our community, and for wisdom to achieve those goals.
But we do so recognize that prayer without works is a delusion.
I am the penultimate example of prayer in action. Twice, I have ventured into the abyss of another dimension (call it what you want), and twice prayer brought me back.
The last time was documented and told in news articles and on social media. I know there is a form of prayer that Nyame responds to.
Not all prayers are answered; I assume because Nyame frowns on those of us who are looking for a welfare check. Praying that the terrorists who control our streets alter their lives or turn themselves in to the law, apparently fall on deaf ears.
An effective prayer is one in which you pray into a mirror.
In other words, if we want to live in relative safety, if we want our children to achieve more than the prior generation, if we want a strong and vibrant community, we have to do more than ask for divine intervention, because my assumption is things don’t work that way.
From my perspective, we’re living in a man-made hell, and the more we’ve moved away from our cultural and spiritual foundation, the more gasoline we’ve added to the fire.
Hey, I’m not preaching, cause most of you would probably reject many of my assumptions. But I am spreading the gospel of action and liberation: prayer without works is a fallacy.
We didn’t get the civil rights legislation passed by prayer alone. Prayer hasn’t paid my bills. And our prayers haven’t made our streets safer or turned the hearts of the thugs who so callously put a gun in my niece’s face and forever traumatized her. They too are “praying,” but their prayers replace the “a” with an “e” (“preying”).
I don’t know what form our “prayer actions” should take. The Facebook responses I received ranged from buying an industrial size can of Raid to knocking on their doors with armed patrols of our neighborhoods.
A couple of weeks ago I shared my admiration for a Black couple (married) who turned in their son whose picture was broadcast on television as a suspect of interest in a series of crimes.
Are you willing to replicate that action? Or what about chastising a wayward teen doing something inappropriate on the streets (something trivial but far-reaching, like throwing trash on the sidewalk).
Would you be willing to do something as simple as stop calling each other niggers, bitches and THOTs if I explained how negative self-images help create future terrorist?
Can you stand tall on a cultural paradigm that our ancestors stood upon? Would you be willing to mentor a child, volunteer at a school or Community-Based Organization, pick up the trash that devalues our streets?
What about a block club? Don’t have one? Are you willing to start one? What about thanking a cop? (get over it, please), or establishing a relationship with your neighbors?
Simple stuff really, but collectively, they are answers to a prayer.
Of course, if none of those suggestions appeals to you, or you’re too preoccupied with playing with your smart phone, you can try praying that the terrorists go away, or are transported to a distant planet by an alien race.
But if you’re waiting on that option, don’t be surprised if you find a gun put in your face someday.
I pray it doesn’t take that drastic a scenario to wake you up.
Almost a decade to the day after members of a task force officially reached an impasse in efforts to turn around the fledgling North Division high school, many of the same stakeholders held court again to discuss the future of the school.
Ten years ago, North Division—once the educational hub of the Black community—was ranked near the bottom among state schools, prompting then-Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Will Andrekopoulos to form a task force to look at innovative new paradigms for the school.
But dissension among the task force members, who were divided almost evenly between pragmatists who sought to convert the school into a community-controlled charter, and alum who wanted it to remain a traditional school, eventually led to a report long on rhetoric but short on fundamental change.
Though the latter group won that battle, North continued to deteriorate and at the end of this school year, the Northside school is now ranked as the worse school in the entire state, with a graduation rate barely surpassing 30%, and the lowest proficiency rates for math and reading among Wisconsin high schools.
Ironically, many of the “filibusterers” from 10 years ago are now on the side of reformers, and helped organize the Thursday meeting under the banner of “Call to Action.”
Call to Action is a coalition of nearly a dozen central city organizations and dozens of North alumni, and grew out of the frightful realization that not only was North failing yet another generation of Black students, but unless something drastic takes place, the central city school may be taken over by a White charter.
The organization has been meeting for months, growing weekly, as interest in saving North has become a hallmark of the community.
Several months ago, the coalition put its support behind a proposal led by Howard Fuller to merge the Milwaukee Collegiate Academy with North. But after teachers organized students and a couple of alum to oppose that proposal, the MCA board dropped its quest, even though it had the reported support of the superintendent and several Black board directors.
Much to the disappointment of Call to Action and many alum, Fuller said the decision to withdraw MCA was rooted in his personal decision not to engage in a public fight between Black people.
The Call to Action group then shifted its focus to the plan discussed Thursday, for a community-control paradigm in which a voluntary board would have oversight over the school.
That proposal, however seemed to be obscured during much of the meeting held at the school, as teachers, union representatives and myopic or ill-informed participants attempted to carry out a plan of subversion and misdirection in an attempt to derail the proposal and block “Black” control over the school.
That scheme included planting critics of Fuller, who was called upon by the coalition to explain the difference between a community school and a community-controlled school. And far more revealing, to “use” a handful of North students to question the motives of anyone who dared suggest a new educational model. In other words, to weaken the stranglehold of the union over the school (what they called privatization).
Within a few minutes of arriving at North, the scheme became obvious.
I quickly learned as the meeting was getting started of their orchestrated plan to block reform.
Seconds after I talked with a trio of North students wearing t-shirts proclaiming their support for their school, a White teacher interceded and whisked them away. A minute later she told me not to talk with them further, that I was “disturbing” them by discussing the African necklace I was wearing.
When I explained we were engaging in a conversation about Black history (which one of the students said was lacking as part of the curriculum) the teacher, Gina Marie Jorgensen, contradicted him by saying they received ample lessons.
When I asked her a couple of questions my six-year-old granddaughter could answer, but she couldn’t, she became irritated and “explained” she “collected African art,” which I took to mean she was an expert because she appreciated our crafts.
But that wasn’t the most appalling example of the missionary agenda at work this night.
Seconds later the “teacher” escorted the students into the hallway where I listened in as she was joined by two other adults who attempted to further brainwash the students, concluding with an order from a young Hispanic “mentor” who told them to “wait until Fuller’s presentation on community-controlled schools, ‘and then attack him’.”
Yes, you read that right! But don’t take my word for it. Educator Dr. Pam Malone happened upon the conversation and overheard the inflammatory words as well (although she was hopeful what she heard was not what she meant).
And what’s worse, when I asked the “mentor” who she was, she arrogantly said her name was Salina and that she worked for the “alumni” association.
I didn’t get an opportunity to confirm her relationship with the association, although there are several members who previously stood with teachers against the MCA proposal, and apparently sided with the union, or disliked Fuller for reasons ranging from jealousy, to his support for school choice, which the union feels is a threat to their employability.
(For the record, a significant percentage of Black middle-class view union membership as central to their upward mobility.)
Neither of those reasons should have swayed the agenda, as Fuller was asked by Call to Action to merely explain the proposal through which a board of experts and stakeholders would be structured to have oversight over the school.
Under that paradigm, which has been successful elsewhere, and was a template for Bradley Tech many years ago, the voluntary board could introduce a new educational model and have control over “some” hiring.
And while that might seem like a common-sense proposal to stakeholders who have witnessed the decline of the school since it was reopened in the mid-1970s, it was interpreted as a Satanist plan by the MTEA.
That observation was self-evident when the question was raised as to whether Black people should have control over the school. While a majority of Black people in attendance applauded in response to the question, not a single White person in attendance did.
If that response was not a significant indicator of the divisions in the room, a question from a Black teacher who described herself as working at a nearby elementary school revealed not only the agenda of teachers, but her apparent naiveté as well.
The “sister” angrily accosted Fuller in the midst of his explanation, asking what credentials did he possess to make an important presentation.
Fuller, who had previously explained his role as presenter and challenged the handful of dissenters who opposed him because he operated outside the failing educracy (“no one here can question my loyalty to this school or our children”), provided only a sentence or two from his vast resume, including his previously held position as secretary of human services for Milwaukee County and dean at Milwaukee Area Technical College.
He could have easily revealed that he is a former superintendent of MPS, a noted author, founder of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, and recognized nationally as an expert on urban education. Or, that it was only because of his leadership through the “Coalition to Save North Division” in the mid-1970s that the school was open to neighborhood children. Prior to the demonstrations by the coalition, the school board had intended to make North a magnet school and close it to neighborhood children.
Nonetheless, Alderman Russell Stamper, host of the event, interjected that Fuller’s credentials were not at issue, nor should his support for school choice and other educational options. The issue at hand was the proposal by Call to Action.
Of equal importance was whether Black people, stakeholders, all of whom say they are interested in the welfare of Black children, should finally step up to the plate and control the educational process that impacts our children.
Not to be forgotten in the process is the speculation that a third entity will seek to take over North, or that the status quo will continue and hundreds of Black students will continue to fall between the cracks.
If nothing else came out of the meeting, it was that there are clearly defined divisions, and while everyone in attendance is supposedly interested in the welfare of our children and the districts most valuable facility, too many people support a paradigm that puts adults’ interests before that of the children.
As Fuller explained, while we are fighting, the district will not for long support a school that was designed for 1,700 and occupied by 350. And most of them are failing by most reports.
But apparently, that means little to the North teachers and union that have staked out their positions and have maintained their stranglehold by convincing some students to lobby for continued mediocrity.
One of the students I talked to said, “We like the school the way it is. If things are going to get better, we (believe) they (teachers) have our interest at heart.”
His position reeked of youthful ignorance of agendas, and of history, but was confirmed by Jorgensen, who suggested that the school’s ranking at the bottom of all state public schools was not reflective of what was taught, but instead the byproduct of poverty and dysfunctional families.
In a classic example of blaming the victim, Jorgensen said students attending North have been exposed to “lead all of their lives”, and poverty and crime.
In other words: “no poor Black child can be educated if they don’t live in Waukesha, and it’s not the teachers’ fault.”
Then there are alumni who either don’t like Fuller, school choice or both. Some of them have brought into the asinine belief that Black empowerment is the enemy of African Americans, and the educracy and missionaries are better suited to determine where our children shall go to school and what they should be taught.
The members of Call to Action were in the majority, but they at times seemed to be outnumbered.
And lastly, there were the stakeholders with no agenda who attended the meeting with open minds, but quickly found out this debate actually transcends North Division and gets to the core of an age-old battle between accomodationists and those seeking Black self-empowerment.
That point was made abundantly clear when a White administrator said she was disappointed and upset that she, nor members of another group had not been invited to the Call to Action meetings. Her remarks prompted Fuller to detour from his presentation on the merits of Community-Control to assert his belief that “Black people should be able to hold their own meetings and invite whoever they want.”
Wow, that sounds like a novel idea, doesn’t it?
Mac Weddle, one of the leaders of Call to Action believes so, and stated that point emphatically as he was bringing the meeting to a close.
Weddle said it has become apparent that the volunteer work of alumni to mentor, purchase materials and provide scholarships and otherwise assist students at North over the years was not enough to dent the failing status quo.
Nor has been the dozen or so so-call reforms enacted by the MPS school board and administration.
“We finally reached the point where we realized there must be drastic change here if we are to preserve this institution and help our children,” Weddle said.
“We realize what we were doing was not enough, and now the possibility exists that a White group will take over the facility.”
While many alumni are dismissive or in denial of what North has become, the very real possibility exists that if the community doesn’t step forward, others will.
The “new” North has never reached the expectations of those who fought for it to be built after the facility many of his peers attended was torn down.
“We need to make things right,” he declared. “Why can’t Black people have our own, and to leave here with nothing, would be a tragedy.”
A tragedy that even the youngest alum would not like to see happen.
Appropriately, the closing remarks came from a recent North graduate who has become a leader in the Call to Action coalition.
Martinez Milton, a 2017 graduate who admitted to having to take a year of remedial courses during his probation at UW-Whitewater, said he was frustrated by what he heard over the course of the two-hour meeting.
Of his small graduating class, only 10 students were accepted into college, six attended, and four have since dropped out because they were not academically prepared.
His anguish is not necessarily for them, but the majority who slipped through the cracks.
Only three of 10 students graduated from North in four years (slightly more in five), and only a handful of teachers seem to care, or have the respect of students, Milton said. Plus, on any given day, the facility takes on the image of a dumping ground where learning is difficult to impossible.
“North used to be a top public school, and now we’re last (in the state). This is not the old North (which produced some of the most influential and powerful Black leaders in the city). We need to get back there.
“I (pray) we can put our biases aside,” he said, “and put the energy and commitment into turning North around that you put into the civil rights movement.”
“That means a new paradigm,” he said.
A decade after the task force attempted to turn North Division around through a form of community control, stakeholders set the stage once again for a renaissance. Hopefully, by virtue of the call Thursday to hold another meeting to fine-tune their plans, they won’t let this historic precedence slip through the cracks.
Black Nationalism is making resurgence in America. And it’s not a moment too soon.
Some say the most vocal Black Nationalists went underground or were drowned out by the chorus of other people’s equal rights and integrationists at the conclusion of chapter four of the Civil Rights history book, which in Milwaukee coincided with the 1976 federal court school desegregation ruling.
The fact that the process was overseen by an appointed special overseer (yeah, that was his apropos title) should have revealed to the naïve that the “integration” ruling was a placebo.
Others believe Black Nationalism was pushed to the side by missionaries and poverty pimps who took over the movement when Black leaders gave them the keys to the Freedom Train a decade later.
Another theory is that the election of Barack Obama signaled a new world order that “we had made it” and the quest for equality and equal opportunity was at hand.
That later assumption went out the window with the election of Donald “The Trumpster” and the resurgence of racial animosity and bigotry, orchestrated attacks on civil and human rights and the tsunami of police killings of Black men (which was occurring with alarming regularity under Obama).
Under closer scrutiny it is obvious that while Black Nationalism is no doubt one of the most misunderstood—albeit practical—ideologies for Black America, its advocates have been scorned and attacked by enemies of Black self-determination and economic equality in part because the message holds the key to remedying the myriad of ills facing the African American community then, and now.
Many of those who historically denounced “BN” (Black Nationalism) did so in fact because they knew it was fueled by an African cultural paradigm that would empower our community and remove us as pawns in an economic and political chess game played by missionaries and poverty pimps.
Moreover, Black Nationalism would provide a sense of dignity and self-respect to those who have not found their way from under the cloud of slavery.
That’s a dangerous combination if you’re profiting from Black misery.
It was, and is, then incumbent upon those who benefit financially to confuse the issues and discredit those with the wisdom to set our own agenda.
This game has been played for centuries, yet only lately has our situation deteriorated to the point where people are starting to see through the fumes.
With smoke clouding our visions, we were blinded into believing that miscegenation was the only cure for injustice and American-style Apartheid, and that because we are (supposed to be) intellectually inferior and immoral by nature, we need the assistance and guidance of missionaries to be made whole, or three-fifths of a man as the constitution declared.
Supporting our own, building our own communities and embracing a communal system of self-determination were contrary to the dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King.
Dating back to the 1920s, those who espoused Black Nationalism were ostracized and silenced (jailed, deported or killed). Marcus Garvey was a case in point.
Later it was Huey P. (Newton), H. Rap (Brown), Stokley (Carmichael), Malcolm (X), and dozens of other first name leaders who had the initials “BN” tattooed on their backs.
King was also labeled by the establishment, but actually didn’t fit the profile other than seeking equality and an end to poverty. That latter goal got him killed (not his outspokenness against the Vietnam War).
To achieve a level of creditability before the major media during Chapter 5, you had to disguise your agenda by calling for the unattainable goal of integration, or assimilation by embracing the welfare paradigm of servitude.
You’ll find the same scenario today among the “endorsed” Black leadership—mostly Black politicians, civil servants and radio revolutionaries.
Most will, on occasion, espouse a nationalistic line and, by necessity, a sporadic stroke of righteousness while standing under our banner.
But generally, their agenda is to attack the conservatives, tout the benefits of poverty programs and articulate the problems without offering a solution.
Being a BN doesn’t mean you’re a racist, separatist or anarchist.
It does mean you love your people, recognizing the truth of the African adage, “I am because we are.”
It means you have rejected denigrating propaganda, do whatever to loosen the shackles of slavery and inferiority, as well as “his-story”.
Being a BN means, as Milwaukee’s foremost Griot, Teju Ologboni often says, “If all things are equal go Black.” In fact, even if things aren’t.
BNs understand that we will continue to be subservient and dependent until we realize every Black dollar must touch four Black hands before exiting our community.
It means supporting Black institutions, businesses and politicians exclusively, unless our choices are limited or another entity supports us.
It means we hold no blind allegiance to any political party (unless we control it), but we will support candidates who advance our agenda.
Being realistic, we recognize that the Democratic Party is far more in tune with our issues than are the Republicans, and that Black candidates must run on their ticket to be elected.
But they should never put their party before the people, or accept the party platform when it doesn’t serve us.
As Black Nationalist Polly Williams was fond of saying, “we have no permanent friends, and no permanent enemies, just permanent interests.”
Moreover, as historian Stephen Tillette wrote, the Democrats are not the good guys. “The difference between Democrats and Republicans is that the Democrats kiss you first.”
Black Nationalists generally view the world through an Africentric lens. We are part of the global majority, and of the African Diaspora. Those of us who have blanketed ourselves with the cloth of African culture, subscribe to and promote the Nguzo Saba, and the principles of Maat.
Black Nationalists reject the racist stereotypes that underscore the goal of apartheid, and vehemently question traditional Black (mis) leadership who believe our salvation will be handed to us by social services, government schools or either major political party (which are essentially different wings on the same bird).
We recognize that not everyone can, or will, embrace our philosophy—some out of fear, others out of ignorance.
But we stand on truth and history. That means we know Jesus “the” Christ was not a blond with blue eyes. And Nyame did not give Europeans a mandate to murder Native Americans and enslave our ancestors (not to mention rape our mothers).
We know that there is but one race, and divisions between people of different hues and cultures have been orchestrated to divide and conquer.
And we also recognize the difference between nationalism (observe the Jews, Asians and Native Americans), and patriotism; concepts that Donald Trump has successfully merged and used to distract and divide.
We are not a monolithic people. And there is a diversity of opinions on how to solve our myriad of problems; which train to ride on the Freedom track.
My philosophy is grounded in a belief our African roots provide a platform for empowerment. There is a reason why Nyame created life on the continent of Africa, and the commune evolved from that foundation.
I have yet to see any cultural system that is better than the Africentric model. But as we strayed from those tenets, particularly the nuclear family, spirituality and community economics, our nation within a nation has suffered.
Milwaukee has the highest Black male unemployment rate in the country. Seventy percent of Black households are headed by women. We host the lowest Black reading proficiency rates in the country, and not by coincidence along with the highest poverty rate in the country.
As I think back to my youth in Milwaukee, it was the exact opposite. There were Black banks, groceries stores, auto dealerships, a Black hospital and even an African American owned brewery. We were segregated, isolated and ostracized, but had we maintained those institutions, along with nuclear families and a spiritual foundation we would be much better off today. I guarantee it.
Most of us were Black Nationalists in 1970, as much by necessity as by culture.
But then we brought into the lie, and our cultural and socio-political paradigm was pushed to the side, save for the few voices who pushed Black empowerment projects under a different flag.
The School choice campaign was the epitome of a Black Nationalistic movement that sought to empower Black people.
And the opposition to that program proved Polly’s point about “friends,” but also about what happens when Black people come together. School choice was not only an example of Harambee—pulling together—but also of how the establishment will respond to our efforts to control the instructions that serve our community.
The establishment looks at our children as commodities, dollars signs. We look at them as our family and our future.
One of the best things to happen for those of us who espouse a philosophy of Black Nationalism was the election of 45IQ. The tidal wave of racism and bigotry that followed his election is again forcing Black American to wake-up, and seek answers beyond singing “We Shall Overcome.”
Trump’s election not only revealed the level of race manipulation that continues to thrive in America still, but also what we must do to survive, much less prosper.
Merely supporting the new party of “no” is symbolism at best. Welfare is being pared down to the bare bones (Neckbones at that), and there is a far greater possibility of you being shot by a Black terrorist than murdered by a cop.
Drugs remain the most successful Black business other than barbershops and the church, which explains how we can have the highest Black male unemployment rate in the country, and the highest Black incarceration rate at the same time.
And you can be assured that those negative social indicators will remain unless and until we seek another engineer for our Freedom Train. Maybe Black Nationalism isn’t the answer, but if you have a better one, I’m open. Just remember as you process that question, the old adage about doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result. I think they call that stupidity.
By Mikel Kwaku Oshi Holt
Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has confirmed the legality of online betting, I plan to head across the state line to place a bet that within 10 years, some alt-right group will propose creating a monument of Donald Trump. And even if the sponsoring organization is the KKK, I’ll send in a couple of dollars in support of that cenotaph.
Why? For the same reason I’m opposed to taking down confederate flags and other racist monuments. I say keep them in public view, maybe even erect new ones for placement in front of schools, government offices and churches. I wouldn’t be opposed to erecting a statute of Laura Nelson next to them. Nelson was the Black woman featured on the front page of last week’s WEEKEND edition. Because there is no public statue of her to remind us of the evil cancer that continues to fester in this country, few of you have ever heard of her. But it’s important for you to tell your children that Nelson, a Black woman, was raped by a crowd of racist farmers and then hung, beside her 14-year-old-son, for allegedly confronting a police officer in 1911.
She was among the thousands of African American lynching victims in the south—north, east and west—prior to, during and after the civil war. No ‘Hue-man’ was safe from the terrorists, who often enjoyed bar-be-cue and beer while lecturing their children on the importance of keeping the sub-human darkies in check.
Many people assume, or were erroneously taught that the lynchings, along with Jim Crow policies, were restricted to the south, and that residents of the north were all good hearted Christians who gave their lives to free the African slaves.
Irish and German immigrants, who were “forced” to join the Union army, rebelled in New York—they not only rioted in protest, but murdered, lynched and burned hundreds of free Black men, women and children to make their point. Maybe a monument of the victims, and the perpetrators should be placed outside of New York’s Laguardia Airport. White travelers will have to deal with true history, vs. H.I.S.T.O.R.Y, and Black travelers will be reminded of their reality. They also need to be reminded to be on guard, because they lynched two brothers in Oklahoma last month.
Maybe some politicians will see the monuments and vote affirmatively for an anti-lynching law, which has yet to be passed 150 years after the civil war. Instead of trying to censor history, we should construct new monuments to place outside of the White House and congressional chambers so our “elected officials” can link our myriad of problems to their true source.
I assume some of you think I’ve finally flipped my weave, and although that’s always a possibility if you dedicated your life to trying to wake up comatose Black folks as I have, that’s not the case.
At least not yet.
And I haven’t gone temporarily insane learning that the president of the United States, who wants to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, Medicaid and Medicare, but doesn’t know the difference between HIV and HPV, although it’s not a coincidence that this is the commander and chief who wants to return America to the good ole days? (Yeah, if we survive his presidency, we need to put up a statute of him right next to his idol, Andrew Jackson, a slave owner who murdered hundreds of thousands of Native Americans.)
Naw, the truth of the matter is I’ve always had mixed feelings about demonstrations to relocate or destroy monuments glorifying the racist civil war “heroes,” or to take down the confederate flag in southern states. I understand what activists are trying to do, and support their “cause” if not their “cure.” That may sound like a contradiction, but it isn’t. Hear me out.
As some of you know, I’ve been traveling around Metro Milwaukee for the last two weeks wearing a ball cap with a confederate flag on it. More often than not, I also wear a “Black” themed t-shirt, sometimes featuring Barack Obama, Malcolm X or Marcus Garvey. Most folks understand the incongruity and absurdity of my “message,” and thus can figure out I’m trying to provoke some and educate others.
During the process, and much to my surprise, a significant number of Black Millennials didn’t even know what the flag is, or represents. (I’ll provide my thoughts on the various responses at a later date.) I could easily dismiss their ignorance as a byproduct of a school system that “whitewashes” American history. By that I mean, the textbooks provide little more than a perfunctory or superficial look at the events that shaped and supported apartheid in America.
Or, maybe this is part of a new agenda, a coordinated scheme to pacify and confuse a new generation of African Americans who can’t relate to our struggles and as such don’t know why there are so many obstacles in their path. I believe, whether consciously or unconsciously, political and so-called progressives are being manipulated to assist in efforts to strip American injustices from the history books. Some are doing so because they hate being reminded of what their parents did, and why they benefit from white privilege. Others may believe this is a new starting point, and we should forget the past and move forward.
To that I say: those without a sense of history (or culture) can be easily tricked into believing the problems facing them are genetic, or self-inflicted. A miseducated person is gullible enough to believe slavery and the paradigm of American-style apartheid are not the reasons we have not achieved equality, it is instead because we don’t have the intelligence to reach the bar, or pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. But as Al Sharpton said on his radio show a few days ago, you can’t “divorce the reality from its roots.” He wasn’t talking about racist monuments or rewriting history. But his point was as both apropos and profound.
There’s a reason why European Jews tell their children about the holocaust, and keep historic monuments of Nazi oppression in plain view in Germany. Their motto is “never again!” In essence, they are stressing the importance of being forewarned and armed. The European Jews use that horrific history of attempted genocide to motivate and inspire.
Today’s American history books are PC. They are sanitized, incomplete sentences. When I was growing up, the books we used blatantly lied about slavery and bigotry. Today they confuse and diminish.
For example, the killing of untold millions of Native Americans is glossed over or justified by the need to expand and bring civility to the savages. Thus, the killing (legalized genocide) of millions of Native Americans was God-ordained Manifest Destiny. And nowhere will you find a history book that describes slavery as the worse form of oppression in world history. They won’t tell you of the horrors and cruelties, the separation of families, and the pathological mythology of the bigots who maintained it. Their history portrays George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as American heroes who planted the seeds of equality and democracy in a barren land.
But our history—Africans, Native Americans and Latino—views them also as liars, murders and rapists.
Harsh? Yes, but truthful.
Give the Founding Fathers credit for what they did to bring about a beacon of democracy for the world, for planting the seeds that have made America—today—the greatest country in the world. But we cannot forget that mixed in with the seeds were and are weeds.
We should not, and cannot forget, that we were treated worse than animals; in fact, we were considered animals, chattel and through forced labor created this country.
Our sweat lubricated the mortar and our blood and tears bleached the paint.
Our children must be taught how and why the system of apartheid was created and has been sustained, and how our White cousins and friends were also victims.
Black and White Americans have been pitted against each other by design. Racism was created to separate the masses, and bigotry (the manifestation of racism) has been orchestrated by the “haves” to keep the “have nots” at each other’s throats.
The history brought to light by the confederate flags or the statutes of bigoted heroes should spark consternation at the very least. It should also serve as a launching pad for global study, not to mention Black empowerment.
That we survived “in spite of…” should be our motivation and war cry.
Thus, we must explain to our children that they are not niggers—another creation of the “haves” to create a layer of separation through false paradigms that we are inferior, pathological, lazy and uncivilized.
Our children can’t understand why they walk around in circles until they know where the starting point is, and why they put “can’t” in our vocabulary. They must be told why there is more crime in poor Black communities, why Black men and boys impregnate gullible Black sisters like they are being paid (they are), and denigrate each other with adjectives/nouns like “nigger” and “bitch.”
We must teach them, and each other, that none of this is by accident or coincidence. We are in the predicament we’re in today by design, or maybe divine purpose. Whatever theory you subscribe to, you have to recognize that the civil war didn’t end in 1865, and that the transformation of a once proud African people was permanently altered through socialization and victimization.
Equally important, a large percentage of us don’t recognize that we suffer from PTSD. Far too many youth and their parents, think we came here on the Good Ship Lollipop, that we were always slaves. And if you believe that idiotic bipolar” Con-yea” West, we were contented happy-go-lucky slaves.
Or, as Secretary Ben Carson believes, we should feel “honored” that the well-meaning bigots took us out of the jungles of Africa, gave us civility and a religion.
A move to remove all remnants of the disease—albeit well intentioned—will only perpetuate our suffering because we don’t realize that we are in the situation we are today because of yesterday.
Moreover, the Emancipation Proclamation, 13th and 14th Amendments or the Civil Rights Acts of 1968 did not exorcise the cancer of bigotry and social injustice.
Instead, erasing history is the greatest con since they started using in 1490 a portrait of Cesare Borgia, the son of Pope Alexander IV, as the “true” image of Jesus. Five hundred years later, the imprint of Jeffrey Hunter—blond hair, blue eyes—became the new Messiah.
By and for the same reasons “they” created racism.
I strongly believe Nyame (God) is judging evil people based on their repentance and current good will. But there is nothing to repent from if you remove all symbolisms of evil. You effectively erase sin by taking down the monuments.
As Sharpton promulgated, follow today’s reality back to its roots. After you return, you’ll understand why the hateful monuments, the confederate flags and the Black holocaust museums are needed today and tomorrow.
Let us teach and preach, for you if you know how and why, you can figure out when and how. We need to look at them and get mad, get angry, and seek reparations vs. getting even.
The evil monuments should strengthen our resolve to create a better place for our children and ourselves.
Some White Millennials are uncomfortable being reminded. That’s too bad, but not as alarming that many young Black Millennials don’t want to be reminded.
A Marquette student I talked to recently agreed with Snoop Doggy Dud’s belief that there are too many “slavery” movies being shown of late. She feels “they” are overdoing it.
Actually, there were only a handful produced in the last decade, but even if a new one came out every month, that’s not enough in my book. Show them in schools, on bus videos, in churches before the sermon. Show previews prior to singing the national anthem at football games, since a racist slave owner wrote it.
Keep showing them until it motivates White progressives to talk to their cousins, and grandparents and significant others.
As I said earlier this year, we—African Americans—cannot eliminate racism. Only Whites and their churches can.
Until that day arrives, I propose putting a racist monument on every corner.
I say keep them up until we don’t have to talk about this anymore.
By Mikel Kwaku Osi Holt
Which would you rather be called: “colored,” or a “nigger”?
I grew up being called colored and didn’t take offense. But nigger? I detest the word whether it comes from a racist, a brother, sister, or even a “colored’ person.
Most of us battle-fatigued civil rights soldiers feel the same way.
Conversely, many recipients of our campaigns—including many liberal “massas”—think “colored” is not only outdated, but ranks up with “coon” and “Kaffir” (which is White South African Afrikans for the “nigger”) as an offensive, racist adjective.
The liberal media in Huntington Beach, California has been on a tear and in full cavalier mode over a local school board member’s reference to Black folks as “colored.”
One headline in the Orange County Weekly newspaper called the remarks by Gracey Van Der Mark “bigoted.”
Van Der Mark defended using the adjective—or is it a noun?—colored in a YouTube video, noting that the NAACP is an acronym for “National Association for the Advancement of ‘Colored’ People”.
She has a point. Sort of.
But you have to take Van Der Mark’s comment in context.
Her remarks came as a Alt-Right, neo-racist public official barged into a “white privilege workshop” held in Santa Monica, and charged that the meeting was organized by Jewish seniors who had “duped” Black people into staging the session.
According to Van Der Mark, Jews have historically “used” African Americans to do their bidding, pushing us to advance civil rights crusades that will benefit them more than us.
I won’t get into a debate about that accusation. I will note, however, that Jews and African Americans share a history of victimization by global oppression. The cloud of bigotry has fallen evenly on our ethnicities.
Four million Jews were murdered by Hitler, and an untold number escaped to America only to face another form of bigotry by so-called WASPs who viewed them through the same lens as their German persecutors.
Upwards of eight million (let me spell that out 8,000,000) Africans were killed during the Maafa (the transatlantic sojourn from the Motherland to hell, aka America), and during the worse form of slavery known to mankind. Those who survived (not to be appreciated by “Con-ye” West) found themselves lynched, bar-be-cued or disemboweled as the adoring crowds called them niggers.
It’s true, Jews were involved in the formation of the NAACP, and some say they were in leadership positions.
If that means they “used” us, so be it. But I don’t think anyone could have led W.E.B. Dubois or Ida B. Wells, co-founders who put the civil rights organization on the map.
Obviously, not all Jews were in our corner, and some had ties to the same system of apartheid that limited opportunities for both of us, but there were also many Jewish Americans who marched beside us in the various civil rights battles. Dozens of Jewish Americans died for voting rights and during the freedom bus rides to challenge Jim Crow and American Apartheid (maybe that word Apartheid should begin with a small “a”).
The last two decades have witnessed strained relations with Jews, some of it linked to their hatred for Minister Louis Farrakhan and Barack Obama, Black leaders idolized by many African Americans.
Yet, no one can deny that most Black leaders, particularly politicians and the heads of civil rights organizations, have no problem sharing a bed with Jews (although many will say they are not under the covers).
The reality is that they support civil rights and political organizations when we have not.
So, from that perspective, they have influenced our agenda. Don’t like it? Change the paradigm by supporting something besides barbershops, the church and the dope man.
But the focus of this column is not on our relationship with Jews, but instead about whether the adjective “colored” is offensive.
Most folks my age grew up “colored” and “Negro.” I don’t remember my parents or grandparents ever taking offense to being called either one. But nigger, on the other hand…
Some of us have made colored and Negro offensive, as if being outdated implies irrelevancy or negativity. Many of us have linked those adjectives/nouns to an era of overt oppression, as if apartheid and bigotry ended with the Civil Rights Act. Strangely, some folks believe Negro has the same meaning as nigger.
In fact, I’ve written about the reactions I have received when I wear one of my “Not a House Negro” tee shirts. The implication is that since I don’t refer to myself or anyone else as a nigger, that “Negro” is a kinder, gentler way of saying it. Kinda like the term, “n” word, a universally accepted way of getting past saying nigger. But I’ve always thought that was a stupid, redundant expression. That’s why I say “nigger,” because that’s not only the proper word, it’s the offensive expression of what I meant to say. And I say it loudly and often with all capital letters, because I don’t want to sugar coat a cancerous growth that is eating away at the core of our culture and humanity.
NIGGER, NIGGER, NIGGER. It doesn’t mean Black or African American. If it did, that means that Jesus the Christ is a NIGGER.
By the way, for the ill-informed, my t-shirt refers to my being a “Field slave,” versus a “House slave.” This takes us to Lena Taylor and how her use of that negative expression has put her on the world stage.
State Senator Taylor has come under attack—ironically mostly from Whites—for calling a bank teller a “House nigger.” Oh, excuse me. She called the brother (a Black man) a “House Nigra,” as if that’s somehow different than nigger other than its ghettoization.
Many in the Black community have come to Lena’s defense, noting that the fiery politician used the term in a way that is acceptable in our community.
I’m not among that naïve and disingenuous segment.
Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Lena; I would go into battle with her anytime. I consider her to be among the few independent Black voices in politics, an elected official that puts her people before the party. Which is, in truth, why she was recently thrown off the powerful Joint Finance Committee last week.
The Democratic Party leadership supposedly took that unprecedented action based on a complaint from a former aide. But everybody except the Tooth Fairy knows the truth: It was orchestrated because Lena is a loud-mouthed, uppity “Field Slave” who wouldn’t stop complaining about racism and injustice, and, her party’s inability, or unwillingness to do anything about it.
That her dismissal coincided with the “House Nigger” comment was a Godsend for the Dems who tried to lump the two incidents together, assuming that negative publicity about Lena’s confrontation at the bank would provide them with cover.
Unfortunately, many Black folks were confused about whether the chicken or egg came first, and also linked the two incidents together.
But I’m not among them.
Lena was politically lynched supposedly for the staffing complaint. She deserves criticism for calling another “colored” person a nigger.
If you look in the mirror and see a nigger staring back at you, you’re still a slave, house or field. If you consider your brother, sister or mother a nigger, the chains have been moved from around your wrist to your head (meaning your brain—or mind—is still enslaved).
And if you’re not offended if I call Jesus a nigger, there is truly a hole in your soul.
Willie Lynch spelled it out in his manifesto about how to keep the slaves in place for 300 years.
Part of his recipe for maintaining obedience and a sense of subordination in his slaves—and their descendants—was to inject a subconscious cancer of self-hatred and inferiority into his subject: Teach them to hate each other, to denigrate themselves and each other, to cement their feet in the bloody ground of apartheid while standing under the shadow of slavery.
“Nigger,” or “nigga,” or “nigras,” or whatever you want to call Jesus, or Nat Turner, to Martin Luther King, or Malcolm X or your mama, keeps us in bondage.
Obviously, not all of y’all agree with me. Some of you believe you have changed the paradigm, and taken the hatred out of the adjective and recreated it as a noun of endearment.
Yeah, right. Tell me, which one of you will smile and befriend a racist who calls you a nigger?
I bet a dollar against a dime that if a White person (except for a liberal, who we’ve given a pass to along with the keys to the freedom train) calls you a nigger you will respond by putting your foot up that bigot’s behind. And chances are in Wisconsin you’d be justified because a judge once ruled nigger is a fighting word!
Conversely, I might look at a White person who calls me “colored” with curiosity. Or, I will accept it as an oversight if they are old, a Hillbilly or a member of the Trump family.
If it is meant in a disparaging way, I’ll probably laugh, or tell them I haven’t been colored since I was 10 years old. I might even call them one in return, explaining we are all colored—like the rainbow, exclusive of blue—and there is but one race, and it started off being Black, which in Spanish is spelled Negro.
Which takes me back to my original question. Which would you rather call Jesus?
By Mikel Kwaku Oshi Holt
Of the many African American women who helped mold me during my formative years (which continue to this day), three in particular can be credited with tilling the hardened American soil deeply enough to seed my growth.
And while each have joined our ancestors, I (we) continue to stand in their shadows reaping the benefits of their wisdom and maternal instincts.
Civil rights icon Vel Phillips, cultural advocate and educator Virginia Stamper and Polly Williams, the mother of school choice were on different political and cultural trains, but the same track, which intersected at the waystation of Black empowerment.
Some of us boarded their trains, while unfortunately far too many others chose instead to find comfort under the shadow of slavery, which explains why we have not fully progressed as a people.
Phillips, who died last week, was the matriarch of Milwaukee’s civic rights movement, breaking ground in the political and legal battlefields.
Queen Virginia was the personification of Ghana’s Yaa Asantewa, introducing hundreds of college students—including myself—to the richness of our native land, inspiring intellectual curiosity, and more importantly, planting the seeds of cultural pride.
Mother Polly was the only true independent state representative of my era, putting her people before her “adopted” political party (and thus incurring their wrath), and espoused a Black Nationalist philosophy that ultimately resulted in the most significant educational movement in U.S. history.
I loved all three sisters, each of whom played an important role in my life.
Call it fate, coincidence or a nudge from Nyame, each of these pioneer sisters’ voices have been in my ear this month.
Vel’s death last week sparked a well-earned citywide commemoration. The city’s first African American and female alderwoman, judge and state office holder (secretary of state), she was a tireless worker for civil rights and equal opportunity.
I first met her through my mother, who Vel would always describe as, “my dearest friend.”
Vel opened doors for my mother when she recommended her to cater a series of functions for Milwaukee’s Black Bourgeoisie.
I use that term because there was—and continues to be—a caste system within the confines of apartheid that provides a clear distinction between the haves and have nots (which is not to say they were any less “Black”, or committed to overturning apartheid, but that they separated themselves from us through culture and social mingling.
Among the elite were the doctors, lawyers and “some” entrepreneurs who met specific educational and lifestyle prerequisites.
W.E.B. Dubois called them the “Talented Tenth,” theorizing they would lead. But my first exposure to them left a bad taste in my mouth that took years to cleanse.
My mother was consumed with the idea of being a first-class caterer. She studied the culinary arts, and put that knowledge to good use. Equally important, she took particular joy in service, both because of her upbringing and also her strong Christian ethics.
My two siblings and I generally accompanied my mother at her catered functions, but I could never get over how these members of the Negro hierarchy seemed to look down on us.
Obviously, I was wrong in one respect: while a caterer was commissioned to serve, he or she was not a servant, but an entrepreneur.
But at the time, I viewed our “clients” as prestigious “House Negroes” who disrespected my mother and every hard working menial Black worker by their uppity attitudes.
Maturity and exposure ultimately changed my minds about them.
Vel helped to change my perception.
She could have sat on a throne. Instead, she dedicated her life to activism, starting with her championship of the open house ordinance, which was my first exposure to the civil rights movement.
The White media painted a picture of the “po’ Negroes” being led by the “great White father,” Roman Catholic Priest Father James Groppi during the 200 days of the open housing campaign. But while I would recommend him for sainthood, the marches were the brainchild of Vel, and orchestrated by the NAACP and Commandoes.
Vel inspired and tasked us to continue marching even as we confronted racists on the Southside who refused to allow us to live in their neighborhoods. The bricks and bottles thrown at us were not enough to stop us from revealing the system of apartheid that still exists in Milwaukee.
Vel’s involvement in dozens of other political campaigns opened many doors, and while we disagreed on her seemingly blind loyalty to the Democratic Party and her opposition to school choice, I loved, respected and applauded her accomplishments.
Queen Virginia, was my cultural mentor, my Black English and creative writing teacher and my co-parent (that latter title given for her help in raising my late son, Malik, as I took on the challenge of being a single parent).
Queen Virginia brought Africa to life through her cultural mentorship, and opened my eyes about the African elements that we subconsciously kept alive that link us back to the Motherland.
Did you know that we say “dis” and “dat”, not because we have poor grammar, but because there was no “t” sound (as in “this” and “that”) in many West African languages? The Queen taught us that in her pioneering study of African American linguistics. She proved Ebonics was rooted in African languages and Black English is a result of a culture that refused to be beaten out of slaves.
Virginia took us through a matriarchal-inspired rites of passage, opening our eyes to the rich and beautiful culture of our ancestors.
And her dedication was such that she left UWM to run Urban Day school, where she could plant seeds in the fertile minds of hundreds of Black youth.
And unbeknownst to many, the Queen was also one of the early catalysts for the school choice revolution. She attended the historic meeting in 1988 with MPS Superintendent Robert Peterkin who sought a partnership with Black independent schools. The bill he “authored” was ultimately high jacked by the teachers’ union. The next year, a bill introduced by Polly was signed into law, where upon the Queen proudly filled out the application making Urban Day the first school in the program.
There was probably no more polarizing and empowering sister in politics than Polly.
Over the years, she lambasted Republicans on a regular basis and Democrats as often as necessary. She was forced to turn to the Republicans to support the school choice legislation because her Democratic Party colleagues put special interests (teachers) before Black children, prompting Polly to declare, “No permanent friends, no permanent enemies, just permanent issues.”
Indeed, Polly was one of the few Black leaders who was unafraid, didn’t care about party politics and was quick to call a liberal a racist, as she was a conservative.
Polly was unapologetically Black. And although she was a champion for justice for all, she prioritized what was best for Black folks, and was uncompromising in her ethics and her sledgehammer tactics.
She first emerged on the scene as co-chair of the Coalition to Save North Division (which has been resurrected in light of the meddling of the same union that wanted to limit Black student options) and even sponsored legislation to carve out a separate school district that would be totally staffed and controlled by Black educators.
When the union stopped that revolutionary effort, she turned to school choice to empower Black families to control the education of their children.
I served as a lieutenant in Polly’s Army and learned to appreciate her tenacity and philosophy (which I shared).
After this paper took on the establishment (“eduacracy”) in support of choice, Polly and I traveled the country promoting Black empowerment.
My book, “Not Yet Free at Last” paints a portrait of this dynamic leader.
In fact, it was originally conceived as a biography of her, but morphed into a chronology of the educational revolution.
The seeds these three women planted in the hard ground of American apartheid can be witnessed in the advocacy of their protégés, each of whom takes on the attributes of their mentors.
Alderwoman Milele Coggs is today’s Vel Philips, following in her footsteps as an attorney (Vel once said all council members should have law degrees—obviously I disagreed) and alderwoman.
Coggs learned through Vel to analyze issues from all perspectives, to stand fast in her positions and to use her office to close the gap between rich and poor, business and labor, haves and have nots.
Russell Stamper II has taken into office many of the attributes of his mother: her tenacious spirit, her cultural foundation and her unwavering desire to empower our people.
As an added bonus, he also carries with him into battle his father’s intellect and assertiveness.
I am a product of each but many would assess Polly’s imprint is my most obvious tattoo.
I don’t disagree, but Vel and Queen Virginia significantly influenced who and what I am.
Virginia explained to me the importance of planting a tree to commemorate my son’s passing. That cultural paradigm is particularly apropos given that each of these sisters have now joined him among the ancestors.
So, next time you feel a tug on your shoulder or a tingling sensation and no one is there, it just might be these sisters trying to tell you something. You should listen.
More often than not, something said in this column gets up under a few readers’ skin.
Last week’s column apparently sent a few people’s bodies into Nuclear convulsions.
In case you missed it and want to utilize your insurance before the GOP kills Obamacare, go to milwaukeecommunityjournal.com.
But I warn you to put on your seatbelt ‘cause it’s gonna be a rough ambulance ride, particularly if you were brought up to believe Barack Obama was the first Black president or that white ice get’s colder.
For that I’m not apologizing, since as usual, that was my intent.
If you missed it and want to find out what the hoopla was about, go to milwaukeecommunityjournal.com and entertain and educate yourself.
The column posed the question of whether President Donald Trump—45IQ as some of us call him—is a racist.
Or, as some claim, including the nephew of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (aka the Far Right’s “Negro of the Week”) that he’s just misunderstood; he’s “ignorant, or an arrogant elitist”.
I answered affirmatively to the question and added that 45IQ was in “good” company, as many, if not most, members of the 18th and 19th century Presidential Fraternity were not only racists, but also bigots. And in the column, I not only named names, but offered evidence.
For point of clarification, I offer my definitions:
A racist is someone who believes their “race” (actually ethnicity) is superior to another, or, that another race is genetically, culturally or spiritually inferior.
A bigot is a racist with power, someone who undertakes actions to hinder, hurt or harpoon people because of their ethnicity.
Thus, the White Supremacists who marched in Charlottesville were racists. The racist who murdered the counter-demonstrator—who happened to be white—was a bigot.
Neither of those two concepts should be confused with prejudice, which means to pre-judge someone—to believe unfounded stereotypes and assumptions.
That Black people have rhythm is a stereotype—albeit true. Conversely, to assume the three teenagers heading in your direction with their pants down by their ankles are thugs is to pre-judge, or to be prejudicial (and that’s not based on race, since most Black folks will probably make the same assumption).
Some would say there is a thin line between prejudice and racism. To surmise that Black people are lazy is an erroneous stereotype, disproved by history and circumstance. But if you say, we are lazy because of some genetic trait, that’s racist.
Racism, as I view it, isn’t just an attitude, it’s a cancer, a deadly man-made disease that is contagious and frequently incurable. And sadly, it’s often undetectable.
Racism is an invention, a tool created to divide the ethnicities.
Even the term is abstruse on its face since there is but one race, which undermines the essence of the concept of White supremacy since the “human race” originated in Africa, which means the original man and womb-man were Black.
I hope I’m not confusing you, but apparently, clarification is needed before I get to people’s complaints/comments/misconceptions/fears.
Several readers seemed to be upset that I called out a half dozen U.S. presidents as being racist. Actually, I was being modest, as there are far more than six who believed that they were Tarzan and we were the apes.
A schoolteacher (is it prejudicial to assume she was white?) was shocked that I referred to Thomas Jefferson as a rapist, along with him being a racist.
She said it was particularly a disingenuous statement given that the country is in the midst of a sexual harassment backlash as a result of the “Me Too” Movement to suggest a founding father, a hero of the empire (my words) who penned the Declaration of Independence could have his reputation tarnished by my declarations.
To the teacher I say, even the most sanitized His-story book acknowledged that Jefferson owned slaves, and while there are those who want to advance the illusion that his mistress, Sally Henning, was his love interest, she was still his slave.
I don’t know if Henning loved Jefferson. Maybe she was infatuated with him. Or maybe she felt it better to be his booty buddy than his cotton picker.
Either way, by all accounts Jefferson had sex with her when she was underage, which is statutory rape (unless he used the Roy Moore defense) and, as a slave wasn’t afforded the God-given right to resist her “massa”.
Hmmm. Now that I think about that scenario, by today’s culture, Jefferson could have been charged with pedophilia and bestiality. The latter indictment stemming from the laws of the land that made slaves chattel…in essence animals.
OK, I’m on a roll, so let’s continue.
A couple of folks also questioned my statement that you can be a “hero of the realm”, or do noteworthy things and still be a racist.
My assessment, it was noted, sounded much like 45IQ’s declaration that there were “good” people on both sides of the battlefront in Charlottesville.
Hmm. Yes, no, maybe?
Was Abe Lincoln a good person? Wasn’t he a hero to African Americans? Wasn’t he the “great emancipator”?
If you say yes, how do you reconcile those “facts” with his belief that we were inferior to White people?
What about President Lyndon B. Johnson? He did more to advance civil rights than any other president in history did, but he was known to be a racist, and called Black folks niggers as often as Snoop Doggy Dud does.
This prompted another question. Can you say something racist, but not be racist?
I grew up with a white guy who earned his stripes in the civil rights movement and married a sister. He was known to call close Black associates his “nigga” (not me, cause this homey never played that self-denigrating game). Is he a racist?
In fact, let me take this to another level.
Can a liberal Democrat be a racist?
I say, helllllllllll yes, because I know many who fit both descriptions.
You can march alongside us, vote for Obama, learn the lyrics to every hip hop song and have sex with a Black person and still be a racist, in fact, many of those who pose for holy pictures and call Trump a bigot, are in fact themselves racists. And what makes them worse is that most don’t even know it.
What would you call a White teacher who perpetuates the lie of European superiority through the use of “His-story” books, manifest destiny and a Caucasian Jesus? Can they still love the ‘po, underprivileged and uncivilized Black boys and girls? Obviously.
Let me spread a little lens cleaner on your fogged-up glasses.
I contend that political conservatives want Black folks to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Inherent in that suggestion is that there’s something wrong with us, otherwise we would be equal and more adapt at achieving the American dream. The fact that we are dependent upon government assistance implies we are lazy or uncultured. They actually believe the Bell Curve theory.
But at the other end of the spectrum are the liberals who think we need assistance, a Nanny State, because we can’t take care of ourselves. They believe we have loose morals and lack an acceptable value system. In other words, we are inferior.
Paternalism in that sense, is racism masked over.
In a nutshell, conservatives want to manufacture and sell us the boots. Liberals want to loan us the money to make the purchase.
And both entities benefit from White privilege and the residuals from our ancestors who built this country and the corporations and colleges that divide the races.
The most frequent concern I received was based on a misunderstanding of intent and definition.
Many people apparently confuse prejudice with racism. And what we may perceive as a racist comment, with the utterer being a racist.
Black people, particularly of my generation, are overly sensitive about perceived racist comments. We see a racist behind every tree, and as such hear some comments with a discomfiting ear.
During my 20-plus years on Sunday Insight, I was often confronted by Black viewers who surmised that the host, Charlie Sykes, was a racist because he didn’t put a disclaimer on any statement about Black people.
Strangely, that changed after he emerged at the vanguard of the anti-conservative Trump movement and moved from occasional commentaries on Fox News to MSNBC and, the Bill Maher show. As I told him humorously, he finally came over to the dark side.
More often Charlie was accosted because he was conservative and frequently talked about the social negatives associated with Black people.
When I asked critics what he said that was “racist”, generally the response was a less than faltering statistic. For example, he might say most Milwaukee crime is committed by African Americans, that 70% of Black households are headed by women, or that Milwaukee was home to one of the highest Black high school dropout rates in the country, a fact that was exacerbated by our hosting the worst 4th and 8th grade reading proficiency rates in the nation.
Racist? I guess you could try to link those statements to intent, or see some malice behind the words. But what if a Black person said the same thing?
Or what if the end result of an action is racist?
Hillary Clinton lost thousands of Black votes because of her support for her husband’s criminal justice overhaul and his legislation to end welfare. Since both had an adverse impact on Black people, they were considered racist. But how can that be, given that Bill Clinton was once the darling of the Democratic Party, and the “first Black president” according to one activist?
In case it wasn’t clearly offered in my column last week, I don’t think my grandchildren will live long enough to see a “raceless” society. I have more hope than ever that we are moving in the right direction, particularly given the emerging Millennial culture that is more accepting of diversity than any before it.
In fact, I was talking with a bi-racial Millennial at a Vietnamese restaurant about my column a few days ago. As we were talking, a white woman entered to place a take-out order. A nice looking young boy who I assumed was about the same age of my granddaughter accompanied her. The woman smiled at me, which provided an opportunity for me to say, “if your son marries my African princess, it’ll be a giant step toward solving the race problem in America.”
I don’t know if she was being facetious or not, when she responded, “yeah they would make some very beautiful children, I’m sure.”
Well, that’s probably true. But more importantly, is how they will look on the inside.
By Mikel Kwaku Oshi Holt
With so many stereotypes and prejudges providing the only window to our world, I love it when White folks ask a serious question about any aspect of Black life.
Thus, I was thrilled when the waitress asked me about a button I was wearing.
She was somewhat embarrassed when she asked what it meant, offering that it was actually her boss who had made the inquiry. No matter, I thought, knowledge is power, and if I could educate him, maybe he’d pass along the blessings.
Her boss was a middle-aged Greek man (a hint to where I was dining), who had been in America for only a brief time. His relative had invited him to Milwaukee to work in the family diner, a scenario most Black folks (not including Africans) have yet to adopt.
He was working the cash register when I entered, but walked the few feet to my table to hear my response.
He too seemed somewhat embarrassed as he turned to me with a half nervous smile, staring intently at the button on the label of my sports jacket which read: “We don’t have any Black bitches.”
“Well, it’s a response to gangsta rap artists, Black comedians and their naïve, impressionable followers who denigrate Black women by referring to them as bitches,” I explained.
“Oh yeah, rap music!” the restaurant manager mused. “Even my daughter like your rap music. Why they call women bitches, though? That’s a bad word is it not?” he asked in broken English.
“Yeah, of course,” I responded. “It’s part of a sub-culture that too many Black men and women, boys and girls have embraced without fully understanding its consequences.
“We treat our women with the utmost respect, is that not how your people act,” he asked. “Women, they are our mothers, sisters and wives. My daughters, I treasure them. They are God’s gifts to us. Don’t your people feel the same?”
I was now embarrassed, searching for words to explain this dichotomy. “Of course,” I said, somewhat defensively. “But our youth are rebelling, or are trapped in a subculture of poverty that promotes self-degradation and self-destructive behavior. It is the byproduct of 400 years of social brainwashing. The Willie Lynch programing …”
“Who? Willie Lynch? Did he invent lynchings?”
“Naw, but he may have well had. He came up with a process through which to permanently ingrain a slave mentality in Black people; to pit us against each other and to undermine our culture and self-esteem. Some of this rap is an expression of his proselytization…”
“Sorry, wrong word.
“Anyway, you can’t blame it all on Big Willie,” I said.
“Drug exploitation, ‘pimpology,’ poor educations, and White Supremacy, all play a part in this phenomenon.
“The rappers glorify a negative lifestyle and culture and sadly our children pick up on it; think that’s the way of the world, as Earth Wind and Fire wrote.”
The more I tried to explain, it seemed the more confused the Greek businessman seemed to become. Or maybe I was explaining it to someone without knowledge of true American history.
Off to my right, I noticed the waitress was half smiling, apparently enjoying my unsuccessful attempt to explain the unexplainable.
If that was her thought, she was right. How do you explain insanity?
How do you explain a cultural phenomenon that no other ethnicity on Nyame’s earth has to contend with?
So as a journalist who has studied politicians for decades, I redirected the conversation, offering an implausible, but debatable excuse: “It’s the water. Milwaukee’s lead infested water has made an entire generation brain dead,” I offered only somewhat humorously since it has a grain of truth to it.
I’m sure he didn’t fully accept that excuse, but he thanked me for my time, told me my meal was on the house, and returned to his register. (Hey, who am I to turn down a meal. I’m just a poor Black journalist with no pension. Politicians get paid to confuse people.)
I only hoped I was successful in planting a seed strong enough to withstand the “fertilizer” some of his Black customers would cover it up with when they jokingly called each other “bitches” and “niggers.”
A Black waitress, who heard only tidbits of the conversation, smiled as I was exiting the restaurant. Louder than necessary—or maybe because of it—I acknowledged her as “SISTER” as I pushed through the door.
I hoped against hope that the white waitress and manager observed the affection we shared.
The conversation haunted me as I drove to my next meeting. For whatever reason, my mind floated back to a presentation educator and activist Virginia Grant-Stamper had provided many years ago.
The late queen’s words were so powerful and prophetic I wrote them down for reference at some later date. Like now!
Dr. Stamper, one of my favorite instructors from college, spoke about conditions in the African American community from an Africentric perspective. She surmised that one of our greatest problems is the unwillingness—or inability—by too many of us “to accept that we are free”.
Too many of us apparently don’t recognize that the Civil Rights Movement was successful (at least in providing us with most rights taken for granted by those who blocked the school house, legislative, and out house doors).
“It’s obvious that we don’t understand or recognize that fact because too many of us don’t act accordingly,” she explained.
Far too many of us continue to stand under the cloud of slavery—thus, we are psychologically and spiritually enslaved and culturally deficit.
Moreover, we are playing out the Willie Lynch script, displaying the behavior of self-hated and self-destructiveness that allows the “massas” of today to easily control us.
“With freedom comes responsibility,” Grant Stamper said, adding we have a responsibility to our community, our neighbors, and of course, our families.
“Men have to stand up and be men to be kings—chiefs. Girls must be trained to be ladies (all of them will become women)—to be queens.
We should ingrain the principles of discipline and excellence in our children, maintain safe and nourishing villages, work toward the collective good of our community, she explained.
That we don’t, she went on to say, is a direct result of our slave mentality, our refusal to recognize our freedom and the God (Nyame) spirit that is in us.”
“It’s time we acted like free people. We can’t blame White people for our conditions any more White people don’t’ put trash on our lawns. They don’t force drugs down our veins. They aren’t robbing us or exploiting our women,” she said.
One reason so many of us are heading down the path to self-destruction is rooted in our lack of cultural identification, she surmised.
We are either so confused we don’t recognize our African roots, or have been brainwashed to reject them.
The former UW-Milwaukee Black English and history instructor went on to assert we search for meaning from meaningless self-destructive behavior, grasping for identity through alien actions that ensure the perpetuation of a vicious cycle.
Our children have children without the benefit of the most fundamental foundation—a nuclear family—and raise them to follow in their footsteps.
We then redefine family and as a community, accept the unacceptable.
We embrace welfare as a life style, single-headed households as the norm, sexual promiscuity, drugs and violence against each other as excusable behavior.
As the head of a Black independent school, Dr. Stamper said she sees up close how our children have been indoctrinated to believe they are inferior, or can’t learn because of poverty and skin color. Once she is able to ground them in an African cultural paradigm, to drill in them to accept the fact that they are great and can achieve anything they want, they excel.
“Too many of us have embraced a culture of poverty and despair; they believe that is their destiny.
We live in drug-infested neighborhoods on blocks littered with filth that we refuse to clean up and we call each other “niggers” and “bitches,” and then blame our condition on White America. “It is incredulous, at the very least.”
Grant Stamper was not only my teacher, but also my mentor. She was a powerful intellect who taught hundreds of future leaders who in turn passed along the knowledge.
She helped link us to the diaspora, and espoused an Africentric cultural paradigm, which if accepted, would empower us and move us closer to Nyame (by any other European name).
My late son, Malik, and Russell Stamper II, were best friends, sharing households and brotherhoods. I was a single parent back in the day, and Queen Stamper served as a surrogate mother. He gave up a basketball scholarship to attend a college with an education major to follow in her footsteps.
Suffering from inoperable cancer, and near death, she nonetheless “left her deathbed” to comfort me when Malik died in a car accident. She performed a libation, and called upon our ancestors to accept him. We then planted a tree in his honor.
At her funeral, I posited that Malik was up, or over in heaven—Nirvana—teaching and she was standing behind him grading papers.
I wish she had been with me at the restaurant, because she could have recited what I recalled only after leaving.
Later that day, I ran into a sister who taught at a private school. She too asked about the button, and this time I recited what Virginia had told me many years before.
The sister listened intently, and asked where she could buy the button because she wanted to use it as subject matter for a lesson for her eighth grade students.
She wanted to incorporate Virginia’s “lesson” and make note that she saw a “brother” wearing the button to elicit dialogue in the slave quarters.
Instead of telling her where I got it from, I gave it to her, and wished her well.
Her question brought a smile to my face and lightened my heart.
There is hope, I thought to myself, because the message has been heard. Together, our tiny footprints in the sand might turn the course of the mighty ocean.
And when our job is finished, and we get to the other side, the Queen Mother will be waiting, with a smile on her face.
(As a matter of fact, may have even REGRESSED!)
A national coalition of faith based organizations has expressed “disappointment” and “frustration” over the findings of a report that revealed America continues to be two countries, one whose residents are poor, undereducated and unemployed, and the other prosperous, educated and healthy.
Well, I’m also frustrated and disappointed. But not at the report’s finding, but at the faith community for being disappointed and frustrated.
The report, published in last week’s WEEKEND edition, showed little progress has been made in closing the economic, educational and health care disparity gaps that divided the two countries.
(I’ll get to my emotional reaction in a minute [or 500 or so words].)
The Kerner Report was the end result of a seven-month long study of race relations and the apartheid-type conditions that sparked civil unrest in the late 1960s. Presumably motivated by the economic losses, not to mention the international embarrassment reaped on the U.S.A., the commission, created by President Lyndon B. Johnson, solicited testimony and conducted research from any and everybody before issuing its report.
The highlight of the report was the admission that: “There were two Americas, separate and unequal” one brown, poor and educated, and the other white, financially stable and well educated.
In other words, America was not too far removed from South Africa. The only difference was apartheid in South Africa (supported by the international Western community, including America was legal. In the good ole U.S.A., it came under the heading of Jim Crowism and institutional racism.
A half-century and billions of dollars later, a study by the Economic Policy Institute showed that little has been accomplished to close the gaps.
Aside from educational attainments (Black graduation rates supposedly doubled) the only notable achievement was by whomever pocketed the money for selling the 450-plus-page report. Over two million people purchased copies of the report, apparently to use as doorstoppers and step stools.
According to the Institute report, Black folks with a diploma or GED still earn 82 cents for every dollar a White drop out makes.
The Black homeownership rate has virtually remained the same since 1968, and the incarceration rate has tripled.
Blame much of that on the policies of former President Bill Clinton whose crime bill sent thousands of Black men to prison for using the wrong drug—crack instead of cocaine, which was preferred for whites.
The employment rate supposedly increased. But I assume it included some of the aforementioned brothers whose found employment behind bars making license plates.
The report also showed that the “typical Black family had almost no wealth in 1968, and while that increased six fold, it is still not that far from zero when you consider that families typically draw on their wealth for larger expenses such as meeting basic needs of the court of retiring,” the report explained.
Over the same period, White wealth tripled.
“In 2016, the medium African American family had only 10.2% of the wealth of the medium White family ($17,409 versus $171,000).”
On the positive side, Black life expectancy only increased slightly in 50 years, meaning the suffering of Black folks is over sooner.
Hopefully, heaven is not color-coded. And even if it is, we’re in good shape, since God made us in His image. This brings me back to my frustration and disappointment over the faith community’s frustration and disappointment.
Attribute my frustration to the inability, or unwillingness, of the faith community to look inward, to self-reflect. From my perspective as a Griot and Black Nationalist, I’m among the silent majority who believe the faith community, not the government, holds the key to Black equality, if not empowerment.
Our churches, mosques and television pulpits (for the Bedside Baptists) hold the key but have been unwilling to unlock the door of opportunity and empowerment.
True, government has a role, particularly as it relates to education and economic development. But government has also been an impediment. It has bricks in the walls of apartheid and has contributed to the despair of Black America through legislation and programs that sustain the culture of poverty.
Indeed, government—through politicians of both parties—is controlled by special interests, some of which have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. To expect that body to remedy a condition it benefits from is akin to asking 45IQ to act with civility. Or to use common sense. Or to treat women with respect.
And then there is the church.
Frederick Douglass once declared that the American Christian church was the main culprit in the establishment and maintenance of the slave trade. Racism would be ended in a generation if the American Christian Church attacked and discredited it.
One hundred years later Martin Luther King, Jr., echoed those sentiments.
But King fell short of pointing out the role of the Black Church in equalizing the playing field, of empowering its constituency.
While King understood the value and necessity of the Black Church leading the civil rights crusade, of serving as the moral arm of the fight for justice and equality, he didn’t recognize or pursue the power of the Black church as an agent to address the economic and educational aspects of the quest.
King made the mistake of aligning the movement with self-serving politicians and civil rights leaders whose agenda was to make the poor comfortable in poverty, to accept handouts as reparations.
In his quest for universal brotherhood, he made the mistake of believing integration was a cure-all, without realizing and anticipating that “desegregation” was a placebo and the real problem was unequal resources and lack of educational options and opportunities.
Imagine where we would be today if King had espoused a philosophy of liberation theology? Imagine how history would have been changed if the Black church viewed itself as more than an insurance agency, or business, it could have closed the gap and made the social negatives, positives and stepping-stones.
Thus, is it any surprise the lofty goals outlined a half-century ago in the Kerner recommendations—to bring together the two Americas—to reduce, if not eliminate poverty, to close the educational gap and to eliminate health care disparities have not been realized?
Instead, the faith community should look at themselves in starting a conversation about the Kerner Report.
I contend that the faith community, and the Black church, had, and continue to have the power, influence and resources to respond to the Kerner recommendations.
Think about it. The Black Church collected over $450 billion in tithes since the 1980s. That’s something like $508 per person. But where does that money go? And for what?
How does it benefit the lives of its congregants on this side of “paradise”?
That question was raised 200 years ago as the Black church sought out its role. Remember, most Africans were taught from a bible with only a half dozen scriptures, all of which either told them to obey their “massas” or be content in their sufferings. Their reward would be in heaven; they were told, not on earth.
That was in sharp contrast to the teachings of liberation theology, which spoke of the hereafter, but focused on here and now.
Had that philosophy been more widely embraced, we would not be talking about a Kerner report.
Still can’t visualize that reality?
Imagine a world where the Black church reinvested that half a trillion dollars back into its community? Where employment opportunities abound.
Rev. Floyd Flake, the former congressman who left his high paying, prestigious job to focus on Black empowerment through theology, should be praised, his path duplicated.
His church, Allen Temple A.M.E., not only rehabs but also sells housing to his congregation. Carpenters trained in his church and employed by the church corporation rehabbed the homes.
He maintains a credit union to provide the loans, an insurance company to cover the home, and a car dealership to provide transportation for congregants to get from home to various church enterprises.
Hundreds of jobs are created in those enterprises. Others, including a school, employ Black professionals who in turn open the doors for another generation.
On the drawing board are grocery stores, furniture outlets and eventually, the most important lucrative business of all: weave and wig shops. (It’ll be interesting to see if Bishop Flakes can convince sisters to purchase their “hair” from anyone but an Asian or Arab? Everybody knows yellow ice is colder, right?)
My point is we’ve always had the mechanism to uplift our people. We’ve just been too confused to use it.
The latest assessment has Black consumers spending in America at $1.2 trillion annually.
Sadly, 90% never touches two black hands before existing our community.
If we’re too dumb to realize what we’re doing to ourselves, maybe the church, the most power and sustaining institution in our community, should provide leadership.
If ministers stood at their pulpits in their expensive suits and gold crosses (is there something wrong with that picture?) and instructed their congregations to put their money in black banks, to purchase their goods and services from Black businesses, and to invest extra cash in Black IPOs, the light at the end of the tunnel would not be on-coming police, but instead a brighter future.
And, we wouldn’t be begging, complaining or turning on each other.
Under those circumstances, we wouldn’t worry about there being two Americas, for then ours would be equal to theirs and we would have an opportunity to enjoy heaven on earth.