Category: barack obama
WHY ENLIGHTENED, BLACK AMERICANS NEED TO WAKE THE HELL UP
Three days ago, while scrolling through my daily Twitter feed, I came across a meme that read, “Ron DeSantis has banned AP African American Studies from being taught in Florida.” He reportedly claims the teaching of AP African American Studies violates the Stop Woke Act and has no educational value. However, he doesn’t make the same claim about the teaching of AP European Studies. In fact, he reportedly continues to allow AP European Studies to be taught in Florida’s public schools.
To be honest with you, I’m not surprised that the Florida Governor is taking such drastic measures to deny the teaching of Black American history in Florida. He is vying to become the 2024 Republican presidential nominee against former Republican president Donald Trump. But DeSantis’ maneuverings should serve as a wake-up call for us enlightened, Black Americans. Ron DeSantis is borrowing pages from Trump’s playbook, the ones that detail how he ascended to the American presidency in 2016 by using the Black American populace as his shill.
A shill is the accomplice of a hawker, gambler, or swindler who acts as an enthusiastic customer to entice or encourage others. Truth be told, I reject the notion that a vast majority of us Black Americans are acting as enthusiastic customers to entice or encourage others to ban AP African American Studies in Florida, or African American-written books in schools and public libraries, but I do believe our notable silence on the banning of Black American-written content is telling. It’s almost as if more of us Black Americans are believing this bigger lie, that public K-12 history teachers shouldn’t be teaching lessons about White American prejudice, discrimination and racism in their schools because it makes White American children, adolescents and adults feel uncomfortable. But I have a news flash for anyone who chooses to believe such nonsense. The commission of White American prejudice, discrimination and racism has been making Black American children, adolescents and adults feel uncomfortable since the first enslaved Black Africans were brought to America in 1619.
Ron DeSantis claims teaching AP African American Studies violates his Stop Woke Act. First off, the act itself is a joke. On May 26, 2022, the April 2022 passage of Florida’s HB 7 (DeSantis’ Stop Woke Act) prompted the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization that works in partnership with communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements, and advance the human rights of all people, to file an amicus brief in a federal lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.
In a statement quoted on TheHill.com (August 19, 2022), DeSantis is quoted saying, “We won’t allow Florida tax dollars to be spent teaching kids to hate our country or to hate each other. We also have a responsibility to ensure that parents have the means to vindicate their rights when it comes to enforcing state standards.”
DeSantis’ Stop Woke Act undoubtedly penalizes the largest segment of our population that has historically been taking responsible, reasonable and respectful approaches to solving complex social problems around White prejudice, discrimination and racism. But it also rewards the smallest segment of our population. This smaller segment is now being allowed to turn a blind eye to DeSantis and other Alt-Right Conservative legislators’ wrongdoing because they seemingly believe this wrongdoing allows them to confound and confuse the Black American voting electorate within and outside the Democratic Party. In other words, the enactment of legislation such as this allows DeSantis and other Alt-Right conservatives to test Black Americans’ loyalty to the Democratic Party. More than anything, though, they want to know if we Black Americans are still about the business of building upon the gains of the Civil Rights Movement. If not, they’re going to bend over backwards to show us Black Americans how to build upon these gains their way.
What they see us Black Americans doing is using outdated approaches for airing our grievances. While there will always be a need for us to peacefully march in the streets and occupy once inaccessible spaces, we must be willing to have in-person conversations with White Americans who have embraced the big lies being floated by Ron DeSantis and other Alt-Right conservatives. More than anything, though, we must also win hearts and minds by producing televised and written content that appeals to people’s sense of right and wrong.
Nikole Hannah-Jones is doing this with The 1619 Project book and the six-part Hulu series by the same name.
Brian Stevenson is doing this through his Equal Justice Initiative.
And President Barack Hussein Obama is doing this through his foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance.
What Ron DeSantis doesn’t understand is Black Americans aren’t “woke,” we’re wary.
We’re wary of individuals who show through their unrighteous words and deeds that they have learned very little from this country’s racist past.
We’re wary of individuals who don’t believe that 400 plus years of enslaving and oppressing Black Americans has given White Americans an unmerited advantage over Black Americans and other Americans of color.
More than anything, we’re wary of individuals who get elected to serve all the people but once elected serve only a select few.
Fruit trees are judged by the good fruit they produce. I like the fruit that is being produced by Hannah-Jones, Stevenson and President Obama. These leaders are not endeavoring to divide Americans; they’re endeavoring to unite us, all of us. Joe Biden, our current president, should also be included in this number. But the same cannot be said about Ron DeSantis and other Alt-Right conservatives. They want to keep us divided so they can exploit the United States electorate for gain during midterm and presidential elections. But the January 6th insurrection and the lies that Alt-Right conservatives have been telling to cover up previous lies is the rotted fruit that the American electorate should never have an appetite for.
Black America, we must wake the hell up so we can continue leading efforts to make our nation a more perfect union. Nikole Hannah-Jones is right. No people has a greater claim to the American flag than we (Black Americans) do.
Our Black American ancestors were the ones who suffered the most by being the victims of institutionalized enslavement and oppression, first inflicted on them well before 1619. And during Reconstruction, many of them were hung by their necks from trees while crowds of White Americans watched the commission of these murders with glee not horror. But the common refrain from Alt-Right White conservatives like Ron DeSantis is we should forget what happened to our Black American ancestors, and what is happening today to our Black American contemporaries, and move on.
If anything, we should increase our activism at the polls, at school board meetings, and on the Internet. In other words, we have to continue debunking big lies about local, state and federal elections being stolen, Critical Race Theory being taught in public K-12 schools, and White American children, adolescents and adults needing to be comforted when their most unenlightened members have been going out of their way to make Black American children, adolescents and adults feel uncomfortable about something White Americans did, and continue to do, to us Black Americans.
In other words, we Black American must also be about the business of meeting Alt-Right conservatives’ points with counterpoints. If they say elections were stolen, we must demand that they submit proof that elections are being stolen. But we must also conduct our own independent research through a heavy reliance on reliable sources. If our courts have ruled on the matter, and the rulings confirm that elections aren’t being stolen, then we counter with that. If they push for the banning of books written by Toni Morrison (Beloved), Angie Thomas (The Hate U Give) or Ibram X. Kendi (How To Be An Anti-Racist), we need to ask them why. And if they say because these titles promote Critical Race Theory, we need to say, “Bullshit. These books shine a brighter light on White racism and provide prescriptions for the adoption of anti-racist thinking and the subsequent actions that must follow.
My fellow, Black Americans, our work is far from being done. We have always rejected this notion that America needs to be made great again. What we embrace is the American people’s desire to create a more perfect union. And while it is true that we need a majority of our White American brothers and sisters to be on the same page as us when it comes to creating this more perfect union, we Black Americans must also understand the importance of us Black Americans being on the same page when sharing our grievances.
Yes, there will be some Black Americans who give Alt-Right conservatives the impetus they need to tell more lies, but we must understand why they do it. They seemingly do it because they falsely believe the pie crumbs they receive from privileged White Americans is enough to make and keep them whole. But their self-serving acts do nothing to repair the damage wrought by 400 years of mistreatment at the hands of the unenlightened segments of White America. Consequently, we should reject their admonition to move on. After all we Black Americans have had to put up with then and now, it’s apparently clear that we deserve an equal share of the pie, the country’s work, wages and wealth.
Why ABC’s “Women of the Movement” Gives Credence to the Need for Racial Reckoning
Like many of my Black American brothers and sisters, I watched ABC’s Women of the Movement with a profound mix of sadness, joy and pride. I knew the Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and Will Smith-produced drama series about the 1955 murder of Emmitt Till would spark collective action and solidarity within the Black American community, especially at a time when unenlightened members of the Conservative Movement are pressing forward with their nefarious campaign to suppress these kind of stories in the lead up to the 2022 midterm elections. For these unenlightened, White conservatives, Women of the Movement seemingly is nothing more than another attempt by Black Americans to make White people feel “uncomfortable.” But then I got to thinking. Not about the White American fragility that is on full display for all to see. But about how this new series gives credence to a more immediate need for a racial reckoning.
We haven’t seen anything like Women of the Movement since the January 23, 1977 broadcast of Alex Haley’s Roots. I was only eight years old when this series aired, but my single-parent mother made sure my younger brother, sister and I paid attention to what was being portrayed on our small television set. Because it was a mini-series, we had to pay attention for eight consecutive nights as Kunta Kinte, a Gambian warrior belonging to the Mandinka ethnic group, and his descendants navigated enslavement, war and emancipation to give us a man named Alex Haley, one of the most prolific, Black American authors of my grandparents’ generation.
I am not going to lie; it was tough seeing Kunta Kinte getting his toes chopped off for running off the plantation and refusing to say his new name – Toby – after being commanded to do so by his White enslavers. But according to History.com, Roots was one of the most-watched television events in American history and a major moment in mainstream American culture’s reckoning with the legacy of slavery.
But on the same day that the final episode of Women of the Movement aired, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) uttered the gaffe heard around the world. During a January 20, 2022 press conference, when responding to a reporter’s question about voting access protections for American voters, McConnell said, “Well, the concern is misplaced, because if you look at the statistics, African-American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.”
If you’re having a hard time fully processing that last paragraph, let me make it plain for you, based on what McConnell said. Mitch McConnell unashamedly made a distinction between Black Americans and Americans, who, in his world, are undoubtedly White Americans. But we all know that making this distinction is unnecessary, resulting from the fact that Section 1 of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (National Constitution Center)
The inconvenient truth here is Black Americans have been the most durable Americans since the first Africans were brought to these shores, against their collective will, in 1619. And Mitch McConnell and other members of the Conservative Movement know this. Truth be told, their Republican Party used to champion causes that supported Black Americans’ citizenship and voting rights. Sadly, their present-day shenanigans are a sign that this support has been rescinded.
THE SHIFT IN BLACK LOYALTY
The Republican Party of today is not the Republican Party of yesteryear. They have shown that their number one objective is to game and rig the system so they can continue to expand a Southern Strategy that allows White citizens to hold onto wealth that was largely attained through the subjugation and terrorizing of Black Americans. This is not governing; this is blatant disdain for a significant portion of their constituency. And they are attempting to do this by conditioning members of the White electorate to respond negatively to Black Americans’ push for more privileges and immunities, life, liberty and property, and equal protection of the laws.
As I watched each episode of Women of the Movement, I conceded that individuals once loyal to the Democratic Party are responsible for the most heinous crimes against Black Americans. The institution of slavery. The rise of the Confederacy. The institution of Jim Crow legislation. The withholding of justice in the Emmitt Till Trial. The denial of Black Americans’ voting rights. All Democratic Party efforts to keep Black people in their place. Consequently, it is no surprise to most why our Black ancestors pledged their allegiance to the Republican Party.
But this loyalty started to shift following the Great Depression, when the New Deal “made the Democrats a beacon for Black Americans deeply affected by the crushing poverty that was plaguing the country” (npr.org). This shift was slow, evidenced by the fact that about two-thirds of the Black American electorate remained loyal to the Republican Party. However, Karen Grigsby Bates offers the following in her npr.org article, “Why Did Black Voters Flee The Republican Party In The 1960s?”. She writes:
“(Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater) wanted the federal government out of the states’ business. He believed the Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional — although he said that once it had been enacted into law, it would be obeyed. But states, he said, should implement the law in their own time. Many white southerners, especially segregationists, felt reassured by Goldwater’s words. Black Americans felt anything but” (npr.org).
According to Bates, Black Americans made an abrupt exit from the Republican Party because Goldwater and the Goldwater wing of the Republican Party opposed not only the Civil Rights Act, but the civil rights movement (npr.org). This opposition became apparent during the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco, California. Peniel Joseph, the Tufts University historian quoted extensively in Bates’ article, said when Goldwater became the Republican Party’s 1964 presidential nominee, he was speaking of a very specific notion of liberty when he told the ecstatic convention “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” Joseph also told Bates that Goldwater advocated for a smaller federal government, one “that doesn’t give handouts to black people. A government that doesn’t have laws that interfere with states’ rights. A government that is not conducting a war on poverty” (npr.org).
These comments, Bates writes, represented a signal that both sides heard loud and clear. “Goldwater attracted the white Southern votes his advisors thought were essential, paving the way for the ‘Southern Strategy’ that Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan would use successfully in later years” (npr.org). However, the employment of this Southern Strategy by Nixon and Reagan is also what ultimately caused the remaining third of black Republican voters to exit the party” (npr.org).
As I consider this shift in light of the Emmitt Till story, I realize that White racism has nothing to do with party affiliation. All Mamie Till-Mobley wanted for her murdered son was justice, but she didn’t receive it because, in the mid- to late 1950s, White rule made it impossible for Black people to receive the same level of justice as Whites. As the drama series depicted, even though Black Americans were granted voting rights in 1870, with the passage of the 15th constitutional amendment, and were eligible to sit on trial juries, no Black Americans had been seated for the Emmitt Till Trial. Consequently, the men who murdered Emmitt Till were tried by an all-white jury.
The only play that today’s Republican Party has is its appeal to White Americans fears and resentments about Black Americans. They realize Black Americans’ distrust of their party is baked in, so they continue to falsely claim that we gravitate to the Democratic Party because the Democratic Party is giving us handouts. But this is nothing but a dog whistle that elicits conditioned responses from White Americans who feel it is important to protect the gains White Americans have made by subverting Black Americans’ interests and disenfranchising them from the ballot box.
Mamie Till-Mobley’s pursuit of justice for her son, Emmitt Till, was subverted because the vast majority of the White people in Money, Mississippi thought the freedom of two White murderers was worth more than the life of a 14-year-old teenager from Chicago, Illinois.
AN ALL-TOO-FAMILIAR PLAYBOOK
My hope is more White Americans will awaken to the fact that their whiteness is now being used by conservative Republicans to elicit disrespect and disdain for us, their Black American neighbors. These unenlightened White Americans falsely blame Black Americans for making White children, adolescents and adults feel uncomfortable when they call attention to White racism, prejudice and discrimination. But not once do they test the accuracy of these claims, instead choosing to cover their ears and say, “Nah! Nah! Nah!” to prevent themselves from hearing them.
But we shouldn’t be surprised by this type of behavior. They did the same to Mamie Till-Mobley. Everyone in Money, Mississippi knew Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam brutally attacked 14-year-old Emmitt before shooting him in the head and sinking his body in the Tallahatchie River. But, again, their White neighbors protected them because they lacked the empathy that most caring adults display toward individuals who have just lost loved ones.
I get that Mamie Till-Mobley wasn’t a Money resident.
I get that Mamie Till-Mobley not being a Money resident denied her opportunities to befriend White Money residents.
But none of that should have mattered.
Bryant and Milam should have received the death penalty for what they did to Emmitt Till. More importantly, Mamie Till-Mobley should have received the closure she deserved.
These days, conservative Republicans are trying to convince the American electorate that providing a fuller account of American History is a bad thing. It’s not. But the fact that so many White Americans are falling in line with this effort to recast White children, adolescents and adults as victims is telling. These unenlightened, conservative Republican politicians only want to enflame their emotions so they can remain in power. But when they are sent home after we reject them at the ballot box, the White American citizens that voted for them will have to explain to Black Americans why it was so easy for them to believe the big lies about Critical Race Theory and 2020 Presidential Election results, and not their Black American neighbors’ and colleagues’ heart-wrenching testimonies about their experiences fighting against White racism, prejudice and discrimination.
None of us can escape the racial reckoning that is sure to come. That’s why it is so important for us to turn to each other, not away, and have the kind of discussions that heal old wounds.
What’s So Inconvenient about Truth?
If you’re a regular visitor to this site, you’re probably asking yourself, “What’s so inconvenient about Truth?” That’s a good question, one that deserves an answer. But first I need to set the table, establish the foundation for my argument.
I just purchased a book that chronicles the presidency of Barack Hussein Obama, the first Black American to occupy this office. I am not going to use this space to cite quotes from Obama: The Historic Presidency of Barack Obama, but I am going to write about why I purchased it. I purchased this book because I wanted to have something in hand that serves as a reminder about how responsible leaders are supposed to behave.
Most of the people I associate with know that Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential Election because of loyalists here at home and nationals in countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia. Again, I’m not going to use this space to cite quotes from the Mueller Report, but I am going to encourage you to read it. When you do, you will learn that the Republican Party is no longer the party of Abraham Lincoln; it is now a cult whose subjects kiss the ring of Donald Trump, who, sadly, had no plan for governing this country. He seemingly looked at the presidency as a way to enrich himself and his loyalists at truly patriotic Americans’ expense. And while he was United States president, he and members of his party went out of their way to appeal to White citizens’ fears and resentments about non-White Americans. He made them feel proud to be White, and went out of his way to denigrate Black Americans and other Americans of color for making White people feel uncomfortable for exercising their White privilege. But the truth is we non-White Americans don’t want White people to feel ashamed of their Whiteness; we just ask that they focus more on their ancestorial ethnicity rather than their racial designation. When White people shift their focus, they may discover that we have more similarities than differences.
But if you do a critical analysis of the Obama Presidency, you will conclude that President Obama went out of his way to lift all boats. In other words, if you are a United States citizen, the Obama Administration endeavored to institute policies and practices that made our lives better, regardless of our race, ethnicity. One of the first things he did after being elected was pass the Affordable Care Act, which expanded health care coverage to over 40 million Americans. He also signed Recovery Act legislation that saved the auto industry and many other small businesses. More than anything, though, Barack Obama, his wife Michelle, and children Sasha and Malia exhibited the kind of charisma that inspired both young and old to work collaboratively to create a more perfect union. Moreover, they appealed to our best instincts, not our worst.
Barack Obama did not lose the 2016 Presidential Election. He had served his two terms, and now it was time for another civil servant to occupy the Office of the Presidency. Unfortunately, it was Democrat Hillary Clinton who lost to Donald Trump. If she had been elected, Secretary Clinton would have become the first female, as well as the first former First Lady, elected to office.
What impressed me most about Hillary Clinton was the way she accepted defeat. She suspected Donald Trump had help from foreign allies in Russia and Saudi Arabia, and she knew Trump used his racist dog whistles to leverage White electorate votes. He referred to Black and Brown countries as shit-hole countries, and even suggested during the aftermath of the Unite the Right Rally that “you had very fine people, on both sides” when trying to make an equivalence between the peaceful protestors and the White supremacists that converged on Charlottesville, Virginia from August 11-12, 2017. And after losing the 2020 Presidential Election to Democrat Joe Biden by over seven million votes, Donald Trump encouraged his supporters to convene in Washington, DC on January 6th to “stop the steal.” His supporters tried, and they failed because there was no “steal” to stop. The bottom line here is Hillary Clinton, and so many other unsuccessful presidential candidates before her, exited gracefully and honorably to unconditionally love on others in their roles as United States citizens.
So, what’s so inconvenient about truth? Well, the answer to that question is it depends on who you ask. But based on what I just presented above, truth is inconvenient when it infringes on one’s ability to hold onto power, influence and/or control. We all must acknowledge that we are not holding our elected leaders accountable for their destructive actions. The Republican Party showed us during both the Obama and Trump presidencies that their only concern is to win congressional seats and the presidency so they can engage in nefarious maneuvers that impede on our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These nefarious maneuvers are being hatched by duly elected leaders within the Republican Party, and their campaign to make it harder for Americans to vote shows they are more concerned about expanding their power, influence and control than meeting their constituents’ needs.
What is so disheartening about their efforts is so many of their supporters, which includes Evangelical Christians, believe their cause is righteous and just. It’s not. How can it be when they are working to restrict access to the ballot box for non-Whites, women, college students and poor people? I get that many of our urban sectors have become havens for progressive-minded voters. And this fact alone makes it difficult for Republicans candidates to win some local, state and national elections. But they can’t say they’re for the people when they are endeavoring to restrict constitutionally protected rights and silence the voices of their constituencies. Our founding fathers intended for this power to rest with the citizenry, not politicians and the lobbyists that work to keep them in office. However, if we allow Republicans’ nefarious maneuvers to continue unabated, We the People should expect a rude awakening, for the power that we hold so dear will rest squarely in the hands of these nefarious Republicans.
But my question to you is do we keep electing these villains to office or do we finally say no more?
I look forward to hearing your response when you cast your votes in the 2022 midterm elections.