Monday, January 21, 2008

Down That Dark Alleyway—Part Two

Call Guinness. We Have Found The World's Biggest, Half-Baked S'More™


BET's Bob Johnson and the House of Representatives' Charles Rangel, the Clinton camp's most vocal African American backers scan to the untrained eye as reasonable enough “chaps” of distinction in the Black hierarchy and have for decades.

They're the “old” guard.

Ward heelers.

Black folk of standing thanks to their length of tenure and connections. And ultimately, they're a pair of players who were never more powerful than during the Bill Clinton heyday of 1992 to 2000. They've waited patiently for Clinton Re-booted—where their patrons could again bestow great power upon them, and an Obama presidency would derail that gravy train they've waited so long for at the station. To that, they've emphatically said “Hell to the no.”

So, they say what the Clintons can not, and will not...but don't mind hearing voiced—especially by dusky proxys who they feel can not be assailed because of the color of their skin. Unfortunately, Bill and Hillary suffer from a touch of “lockstep myopia” in their thinking about how folks “around the way” would actually react to Johnson's and Rangel's coarse words.

Let's look at Johnson's “words”, shall we?

“And to me, as an African-American, I am frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues since Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood –­ and I won’t say what he was doing, but he said it in the book —when they have been involved...”


Johnson is considered by many in Black America who know his something of an embarrassment. Yes, he is a billionaire a few times over, a financial success story who founded Black Entertainmant Television, a major media arm jacked directly into the culture-consumption vein of the Black community—but for the better part of a decade, Black folks openly and brusquely questioned the quality of just what it was he was pumping into the Black community. The network was harshly criticized for its ugly messaging insofar as its video content—a super-reliance on lowest common denominator marketing of the dopiest elements of Black music, in addition to a willful shunning of using the station to do anything culturally or intellectually challenging. Ask Black folks about BET and you'll get a lot of head-shaking and hear words to the effect of “a waste”, “lost potential”, “an embarrassment”, or worst of all, “a joke”. Johnson would eventually cash out, selling the net to Viacom a few years ago for a few billion dollars and of course, enriching himself while giving up an actual Black-owned broadcast network. Not a crime in itself, but something indicative of the level of importance he actually placed on Black folk having some control over their media image. This heavy-pocketed, self-centered apparatchik now has the nerve to rent himself out (he also supported Bush's killing of the estate tax and gutting of Social Security) as a mouthpiece to trash what Obama did in his community as a teen. The one thing I've heard more than a few Black folk say post his slam on Obama is “Johnson's got a lotta nerve talking about somebody damaging the community considering what he let his network become.”

Beyond the “Black Enterprise” subscribing set, his reputation is considerably less than stellar. And his dunder-headed slam on Obama—who rails against the very negativity Johnson championed through his network's bent merely confirms the retrograde image that too many Black people have of him. The end result of his idiocy? Bad press, a re-focusing on his many negatives, and finally, a sheepish public apology to Obama to stem the blowback the Clintons found themseves facing as a result of employing him as a dusky stalking horse.

Onto his fellow dark rider Charles Rangel, and his dagger-tossing....

In a candid interview on "Inside City Hall," Rep. Charles Rangel calls Barack Obama "absolutely stupid" for attacking Hillary Clinton for remarks she made about President Lyndon Johnson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

How race got into this thing is because Obama said ‘race,’" Rangel tells Political Anchor Dominic Carter. "But there is nothing that Hillary Clinton has said that baffles me. I would challenge anybody to belittle the contribution that Dr. King has made to the world, to our country, to civil rights, and the Voting Rights Act. But for him to suggest that Dr. King could have signed that act is absolutely stupid. It’s absolutely dumb to infer that Doctor King, alone, passed the legislation and signed it into law.

I swear to God, I just love watching Ray Bolger do his scarecrow dance in “The Wizard Of Oz”, don't you? All that flying straw. “Sigh.”

Rangel is a different, and more deeply ironic story. He would wield almost unprecedented power should he end up as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee under a payback-ready Clinton administration. As an old-line Dem with 35 years in the House, he's something of an institution in D.C. Democratic circles, and an Obama presidency where his loyalty to the Clintons when they were under siege would not be as well rewarded is anathema to him—and his attack on Obama only serves to highlight another bit of “Twilight Zonie-ish” irony that is utterly lost on a lot of non-New Yorkers.

The man who held Charles Rangel's congressional seat for the twenty three years before him was perhaps the greatest political figure in terms of “getting the job done” for African Americans and the poor that the country has ever known, as well as an activist Civil Rights leader and one of the century's finest orators—the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Without Adam Clayton Powell, there is no Operation HeadStart or Guaranteed Student Loans, or government-sponsored college grants. He passed the bills that officially made lynching a federal crime, challenged the racist southern “poll taxes”, and increased the minimum wage. There is no federally-funded education for the disabled, federal school lunch program or EEOC as we know it without him. Powell ascended from 1944 via tenure to one of the highest spots under old House rules that a congressman could achieve, as head of its Education and Labor Committee. He was the Alpha and Omega insofar as impactful power in the hands of a person of color in Washington D.C.—the closest thing to an actual “Black President” that there has ever been. And he wielded said power with a fierce hand and a sense of justice unseen ever since. But he was also a protest and march leader outside the halls of Congress and in effect, was the near-perfect hybrid of King's dynamism and LBJ's legislative clout. Powell's progressivism ran him afoul of certain White leaders of the House, as did his living out loud as a functioning voluptuary, a proud indulger in all of the finer things in life. (much like many of his White colleagues) The House leadership came after him vengfully on a trumped-up charge (libeling a known Harlem numbers dealer who would later be proven to be just that), and they expelled him from the House. Powell sued and won his case and was re-elected but he lost all of his seniority—and a House rules change fixed it so NO member could amass power as Powell had. He was after 23 years, a back-bencher again. Still a media star, but no longer a power broker.

A group of Harlem Democrats took that opportunity to grab Powell's seat from under him, playing off his depression and yes, disinterest after being politically castrated.

The young man they ran against the established old lion? One Charles B. Rangel., age 40. Powell would lose that election after being derided as old, out of touch and from another generation.

And here we are, some thirty-six years later, and it is now the establishment representative Rangel practically celebrating the atrophying of the mating of activist action with governmental muscle while screaming bloody murder at the new guard that threatens to displace him in the Black political power firmament,


One of the most tired clichés in Black America is the whole “If Dr. King were here today, what would he say?” thing. Idiocy like these naked toadying attacks by Johnson and Rangel (Who also apologized when his broadside backfired—surprise, surprise!) makes even me think about that hoary meme. And when I do, Aaron McGruder's controversial “Return Of The King” Boondocks episode comes to mind. Minus perhaps the rougher invective from a revived MLK, but retaining his visceral frustration with the squandering of so much of his sacrifice.

But alas, the King “dream” of eventual equality is a tough road to hoe, and if you're a power broker into more superficial things—well...onto the ttrash pile it goes, mixed in with all the other silly, surface, racial garbage. And then, adding insult to injury, the class garbage dumpster gets emptied out as well, as Johnson and Rangel represent that old-school Black Bourgeoisie intent on milking everything it can from the power structure they've invested in for decades. They are NOT going to be cheated out of their golden years “golden parachute” by some jitterbug kid who “hasn't paid his dues”

Johnson's post-gaffe/pre-apologia words on Obama strike an odd chord when you listen to them closely:

A day after his remarks about Sen. Barack Obama helped fuel a rancorous debate about race in the Democratic presidential contest, an unapologetic Robert L. Johnson escribed how frustrating it is to be on the other side of a candidate he compared to Teflon.

"We've always said we need a perfect, well-spoken, Harvard-educated black candidate who would prove we've transcended race," the billionaire African American businessman and supporter of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) said in an interview yesterday. "Well, now we've got him and nobody knows how to campaign against him."

So...the candidate you always longed for has come along, and now you're pissed because you don't know how to campaign against him?

Which is it, br'uh? “And who the fuck is this we you're talkin' 'bout, Kemosabe?”

Did you really “want” a candidate like that knowing the odds against one coming along were going to be tough, and then when one actually did, (be careful what you wish for...) found he wasn't down with your okey-doke?

Looks like, Bobby. You too, Charlie.

Thanks to the MLK “gaffe”/surrogates flap we then find ourselves covered in (as opposed to standing in a puddle of) the slag and scrap of race and class bickerage in this campaign season. All while the slag-gers and scrap-pers desperately fear the coming of something new on the horizon. NuNegro 2.0, the rewrite that threatens to overwrite the standby operating system of Negro 1.0—walking away from all that old code and feature set, and perhaps most alarming to the old heads, dragging along a new, younger and more diverse user base. A totally different “class” than these fellows are used to getting their votes from. Thus, Johnson's and Rangel's need to kick Obama back down into the ghetto.

The ghetto Johnson alluded to in his craven “neighborhood” statement. And the ghetto he shamelessly pandered and condescended to with BET's shitty programming. It's also the ghetto Rangel tried to intellectually relegate Obama to with his “stupid” statement. A real-life ghetto Rangel's sadly also done piss-poor little for in his last twenty years of representing it in congress.

I can say that—as a consumer of BET “product” from its inception, and as a child of Harlem who lived there during the transition from Powell to Rangel, and even after my family moved away, still went to school there, did business there, lived it up and “loved” it up there, and in adulthood moved back there.

Now we're deep in that dark alleyway, and all that's left is to stumble over the reeking dumpster contents of sexism. Thank simple fatigue, political cageyness, and a misogynistic media as exemplified by the spluttering Chris Matthews for sticking out a leg and sending us staggering face-first into the pile.

Mrs. Clinton's “tears” over the question posed to her at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire didn't read to me as an act. I've been burnt-out enough after extended, over-the-top stress to where I've been at the same point and done pretty much the same thing. I've seen others do it too. You get...melancholy. Fact is, she never cried, really. She just sounded weary and burnt an amped-up Fred Thompson, I guess. But the fact that her voice dared quaver, like Romney's has at the drop of a hat on the trail, or House Minority Leader John Boehner's (minus the glycerin tears) was red meat to the “gurl-maddened” nutbars in the media and society in general. It sent them over the falls of sense and into paroxysms of raw estrogeneous fear. All of a sudden, everyone was Tom fucking Hanks in “A League Of Their Own”, bitching about “No Crying!” when none had occurred. (And few noted Clinton's gathering herself immediately afterward and returning to the attack).

It played to the worst in women-haters of prominence, and helped galvanize female support for Hillary—and as a good politician would, she milked it for every vote once it became a factor. Useful idiots like the aforementioned über-trogolodyte Matthews couldn't help themselves and waxed clownishly, almost salivating at a chance to wave a flaccid pecker at those icky, troublesome girls. It was just an awful display that Matthews has yet to truly apologize for and may yet face reprimand over. (His rambling, half-assed mea culpa last week sounded like somebody put an acid suppository up his ass from upstairs) Now, add that bit of polarizing arsenic into the roiling stew of the race and class issues—taking time to note that anything that feminizes Mrs. Clinton works very much against Obama in terms of his ability to confront her...especially as he'd just been re-racialized thanks to the MLK scuttlebutt (an angry “race man” going up against a freshly feminized White woman is a battle the “race man” can never win in America's simplistic racial eyes, while also being the sort of battle a muckraking media feeds on) and you have the mess we're in as of now.

There we that dark alleyway. Covered in the sludge of the un-discussion of race, slathered in the rotting leftovers of classism, and knee-deep in the reeking mounds of sexism.


So-called Democrats. So-called “Progressives”.

In 2008. Backsliding into the same stupid-ass addiction to the dog-whistle opiates that have strung America out since...forever. Old defense-mechanisms were mounted against shady-assed offenses–real and misconstrued. And we pretzel ourselves, with able help from a bloodthirsty media aiding with every tuck and bend, becoming double-jointed contortionists, kicking our own selves dead in the ass—and then reacting with an idiot's shock, looking around saying “Who did that?”

It's a slow-motion radiation poisoning as a result of the not-so-low grade nuclear war within our so-called coalition. A nuclear war that can only end as all nuclear wars must—with a sad, mutually assured destruction.

So, instead of seeking peace and actual understanding...we—the fearful pragmatists—just declare a silly, self-serving “detenté” when the stupidity threatens to burn us all into ash.

But of course, the message of positivity is now old hat in a mere span of days. Long live pragmatism's horn-rimmed, fidgety, stuttering ass.

We haven't backed out of the alley inasmuch as we've just put a bulb in it so we can see a bit better, and maybe picked up some of the garbage. Put it back in the dumpsters...that won't get emptied. That have NEVER been emptied...not for 135 years at the least.

That long? Yes, that long. We documented it here five months ago:

Before The Civil War, the most prominent spokesman for equal rights for Blacks—runaway slave, and self-taught scholar Frederick Douglass, and the most famous and fervent advocate for Women's rights, Susan B. Anthony, would become friends, and eventually alllies against the racist and sexist mores of the day—and against those who supported those disgusting, life-limiting tropes.

Those, as know, scared, retrograde White dudes of means. The "Man", if you will. Douglass, a true Progressive of his time, was the only man to attend the first Women's Rights Convention headed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an Anthony mentor in 1848, and was the driving male force in the then nascent Women's movement. Anthony would become a loud and leading voice in the steamrolling Abolitionist movement when she joined the Anti-Slavery Society of New York State. In fact, speaking at the Womens Conference a decade later, she would say, "Where, under our Declaration of Independence, does the Saxon man get his power to deprive all women and Negroes of their inalienable rights?"


You see, Douglass and Anthony became friends. Close enough friends that he delivered the eulogy for Anthony's father upon his death in 1862. But that friendship would never be quite the same after 1869 when the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution were up for ratification. The 15th Amendment would have given Black men the right to vote, but not women just yet, which infuriated feminists, and Susan B. Anthony particularly, moving her to rally hard and heavy against it. And that angry rallying against it put her in close quarters unfortunately with some of the most vehement anti-Black demagogues of that time. This was even after the Equal Rights Association, a coalition that fought for the right for Blacks and Women to vote, and in which Anthony was a member of some prominence, opted to back the 15th Amendment.

The two friends, and compatriots in arms for the struggle against discrimination saw their friendship damaged in ugly ways. Susan B. Anthony would pretty much abandon her vocal support for equal rights of Blacks after the 15th Amendment passed, to push exclusively for Women's rights and suffrage. And in spite of Douglass' return as a strong voice for Women's suffrage after the Constitutional change (He called for another amendment that would give women the vote the following year and would write editorials advocating for it—one entitled “Women and the Ballot”), the Women's movement's time had seemingly peaked, and passed.

That "peaking and passing" was key, because it happened to coincide with the "Holy shit! What have we done?" head-shake and re-focusing of state-sanctioned hate that was Civil War Post-Reconstruction, where Blacks would again get the back of the hand of hard, naked racism, after getting a helping hand upward to quasi-equality. This duo—Anthony & Douglass, working in tandem was an F-5 strength, potential juggernaut for equality. But once they were pitted against each other, their collective strength was effectively diminished, and the power structure itself was able to buy extra decades of pretty much unchallenged hyper-dominance over both Blacks and women. It's worth noting that there was a great deal of voyeurism and much whipping up of the differences between these two giants of the political stage at that time. You'd almost think that certain people had a, you know... vested interest or something, in busting that coalition to keep shit

"Oh, ho-ho-ho-ho-ho—SNAP!"


Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, whatever their "differences", are being actively set against each other here in '07 by forces that very much need ...their relative positives and powers stripped away from the Democratic field. Attractive things like Obama's fire, and his injection of excitement and new life into the staid "yawn" that is the "optics" of what we've come to know as a real candidate these days. And other things like Hillary's seasoning and gravitas, as well as her solid "name branding" and unique "optics" as a candidate as well. For all of their wedded-ness to certain elements of the status quo, they represent something new, challenging and in the heart of hearts of the descendants of those shit-stirrers of the mid 1800s, arma-fucking-geddon.

Black man. White woman. Dictating terms? We'll see about that!

Of course, Barack and Hillary are absolutely not the firebrands and apple cart-flippers that Douglass and Anthony were. In their own ways, they are so tied in to the establishment that it's laughable. But it is how they change "optics" of what the President looks like, and how that might empower others who look like them to reconsider their influence on government that is so very dangerous. It's why Matthews, and Blitzer, and the whole passel of so-called entrenched media folk are wearing out their elbow joints in the fevered circle jerk that is the coverage of the largely-pushed-by-them, "spat".


To you the candidates—Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton—you're both reasonably intelligent people, so I would have thought that you'd know better than to get sucked in as totally as you have on all this. But Goddammit, you have. I don't know if it's your personal vanity, or blinding ambition or what, but evidently neither of the two of you have read about the Douglass/Anthony situation from that parallel time. I emphatically suggest that you do. Maybe looking at what your candidacies mean in the grand scheme of things, comes across as taking your eyes off the prize you both so crave. Perhaps you think that it weakens you, and turns you into respectively, a dusky and a brassiered pair of latter-day Adlai Stevensons. You'd be wrong. Wrong as all hell, in fact. Nobody's asking the two of you to drop everything and tour the country in road companies of "My Sweet Charlie" and "A Patch Of Blue", but the least you can do is consider that there are people—probably very close to you and advising you who are either so single-minded that they can't see the long-term ramifications of this silly pissing match, or worse...actually do see them and simply don't give a fuck about the damage it can do in the long run. There's nothing wrong with disagreeing on policy. Every candidate is an individual. But when you're on the playground at 3:05 and you're about to scrap with that other kid over shit that seems fuzzy, at best—it behooves you to take a look around at the knuckleheads cheering on the rumble the loudest. If they're the ones who were running to you both with dirt, and then broadcasting that "dirt" to everyone who'd might wanna think twice about "throwin' bows"..


Differ. Disgaree. Doubt if you must. But cut the dumb shit that demeans the two of you. Because if you don't—neither the results, nor the spyglass of history when it looks back on your actions will serve you in good stead. That is all. Now enjoy your rubber chicken and ill-flipped pancakes as you beat the red, white and blue hustings for votes.

I shouldn't have had to say it twice. Shouldn't have had to say it once.

“Play in trash, come up dirty.

Unless they just don't care and have decided to simply say, “fuck it.”

And if that's the case, no one gets to cry when voters and non-voters opt to exercise their say the same Goddamned thing.