Are Black politics chained to the status quo?
I finished the first day of Black History Month realizing that there are two—count ’em, one plus one—“legitimate” African American candidates running for president, meaning both have a realistic chance of actually winning next year’s race against 45-IQ.
That’s assuming we—African American voters—don’t derail their respective trains before they get out of the Democratic Party station or fall prey to the diseases of apathy or disunity.
California Senator Kamala Harris announced her candidacy on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s holiday.
Given her ideology and family structure, that was the perfect occasion to unveil her intentions.
It was equally significant that New Jersey Senator Cory Booker announced his candidacy on the first day of Black History Month. Booker is the only announced political candidate willing to put his people before his party, a rare commodity among national politicians. And it speaks volumes that he is the only senator who lives among the poor people he represents.
If you recall, a decade ago Barack Obama also announced his historic bid during Black History Month.
And keenly aware of its significance, Obama held his announcement press conference at the Illinois state capitol where a century earlier Abe Lincoln proclaimed in a historic speech that this nation could not survive if it continued to follow the dictates of Satan as a divided house.
The symbolism behind their respective announcements could not be any clearer, at least to those of us who study and appreciate Black History and can read between the lines in both English and Ebonics.
Moreover, those of us who view American politics through Africentric prisms and also see how both Harris and Booker can find themselves trapped in that crab barrel that has stagnated our political growth since Frederick Douglass graced the ballot as a vice presidential candidate for the Equal Rights Party in 1872 (a dozen years before he received a vote toward his nomination at the 1888 Republican Party convention, becoming the first African American to be so honored).
But his political career was under scrutiny from some Negro leaders who objected to his being married to a White woman, even though she shared his passion for justice and was a leader of the women’s suffrage movement.
Douglass, revered as one of our tribe’s greatest chiefs, also found himself under fire in 1864 for not supporting the re-election of Lincoln, who Douglass felt was not fully sincere in his public position on ending slavery and granting Africans full rights. Douglass endorsed a third-party candidate instead.
In a sense, the resulting criticism of Douglass—and the snickering and backstabbing that has greeted Booker and Harris—is endemic of an ignorance and jealousy that are the cornerstones of the Willie Lynch tactics to promote disunity and psychological enslavement among our people.
It can be dated back to Douglass, but it has reared its ugly head dozens of times in the 20th and 21st centuries as well.
You may have fully appreciated the roots of this cancer, but it takes both the form of our myopic allegiance to a two-party system—and the dictates of its corporate and special interest engineers—as well as the refusal to give credibility to Black civil rights champions who run on “independent” party tickets.
To clarify, let me ask this question: would you have supported Obama had he run as a member of the Worker’s World, Green or Black Freedom Party?
Obviously, Obama understood a political fact that even former Sheriff David Clarke took for granted: our people are conditioned to support only those Black candidates who are sanctioned or appear to be a part of—the status quo.
That’s why had King looked over the mountain top at Washington, D.C., he would have not seen himself sitting in the Oval Office had he ran as an independent.
Of course, running as a Democrat—at least since Kennedy—doesn’t guarantee massive Black support until and unless it is sanctioned by the CEO’s of the corporation.
Ask Rep. Shirley Chrisom, considered the first serious candidate for the Democratic Party nomination. She was never treated fairly within the party. Nor was Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, both of whom were also limited by an undercurrent of Black distrust.
In fact, none of the half dozen other Black candidates for the Democratic party nomination over the last 50 years had more than a lottery ticket’s chance of winning the nomination because Black folks didn’t use our collective power to get them over the hump.
That includes (here’s some Black history for you) Channing Phillips in 1968, Walter Fauntroy in ’72, followed by Barbara Jordan, and Douglass Wilder. (Fauntroy ran twice).
And the two dozen brothers and sisters who ran on “third party” tickets, were never taken seriously, even though their platforms were imminently more in tune with Black empowerment than the Democrats, who none can deny have historically taken our vote for granted.
Have you ever heard of James Ford, who ran three times on the Communist Party ticket? Or how about Julius Hobson on the People Party ticket, or Angela Davis, Jim Lawrence or Ajamu Baraka. One of my favorites was Larry Holmes (not the boxer), who ran on the Workers World Party ticket.
Holmes was a true warrior for justice and equality who risked his life to bring forth a message of solidarity and Black empowerment.
Yet, I was soundly criticized by several “Black political leaders” for suggesting he was a viable candidate and the suggestion that Black folks should wake up to the reality that we would never achieve our quest for equality as long as we allowed ourselves to be pawns of a two-party political system.
I am neither socialist or communist (when asked for my political affiliation I generally say Black Empowerment Party, or African Christian), instead I believed then, as I do today, that we should form our own political party.
It’s not that bizarre of an option is it? After all, most of us attend segregated religious institutions, don’t we? And that’s far more significant than which political party we belong to, isn’t it?
To suggest that dramatic shift in the status quo, however, is blasphemy. As is educating our own, creating our own businesses outside of beauty and barber shops and churches, or returning to our God-ordained role as household leaders.
But I realized even as I said it, that most of us are either too “educated” or too afraid to step out from under the shadow of dependency and second-classcitizenship.
If truth be told, or accepted, the independent candidates were the only ones—including Obama—who addressed the issue of specific importance to Black America. Douglass campaigned on guaranteed jobs—or job creation through the 40 acres and mule placebo—before it became the slogan and unkept promise of Bill Clinton.
Angela Davis was talking about equal rights for women before Hillary Clinton used that theme as part of her so-called progressive platform. And Holmes was talking about full health care, a redistribution of wealth by forcing the rich to pay their fair share and reinvesting in urban American infrastructure before Nancy Pelosi discovered that most Hue-man Democratic
Party voters lived under the poverty line. When Jackson and Sharpton talked about ending segregation and addressing the cancer of racism, their words fell on deaf ears within the party, while
Black folks indicted them, using microphones supplied by the party chief propagandists, as poverty pimps.
Had either of those ministers called upon Nyame (West African name for God), and espoused a campaign grounded in liberation theology maybe they could have wrestled the Freedom Train from the missionary engineers who now control its speed and direction.
Instead, they too played the game according to the rules set forth by those with a vested interest in benefitting from our captivity and obedience.
But maybe it’s a new day. Maybe we’re about to chart a new page in our history books.
With Booker, more so than Harris, we can have our cake and eat it too. That’s if we don’t contribute to their candidacies imploding from misguided morality or unsubstantiated innuendoes.
For Harris, that means scrutiny for her position on three strikes and you’re out, and California’s disingenuous truancy laws. But most disconcerting are the rumors of an affair with former California state assemblyman and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown with all the drama of a Tyler Perry movie.
Booker will have to navigate around his vote on legislation to lower the costs of pharmaceuticals. And already pundits have questioned his marital status—a curious concern for discussion whether in English or Ebonics.
I favor Booker. His credentials far overshadow anyone else running at this point and he has put his fellow Democrats on defense in trying to explain why they—like Obama—send their children to private schools but refuse to support vouchers for the poor.
But I see the very real possibility that he and Harris can split the Black vote and knock each other out.
That’s why I’m suggesting that stakeholders—the Congressional Black Caucus, civil and silver rights organizations and the Black church—organize a Black primary, a poll or consequence, to ascertain who has the best chance of painting the White House Black—or at least brown.
Who knows, even the attempt to organize such a Herculean task could set the stage for a new page in Black History, one that details how we took back the keys of the Freedom Train from the missionaries and poverty pimps who derailed it.