AF-AM News bits – March 2018


Pipsqueak, “…an insignificant or contemptible person or thing…” (Oxford Dictionary)

As a matter of information for the unknowing and still maturing, I have been in contention with Raymond Jordan for legitimate ideological reasons for decades and will remain so for whatever years we have remaining, which I hope are many. Yet, I consider him a noble warrior who doesn’t need or deserve the indignity of pipsqueaks defending him to promote their own shortsighted interests.

Springfield’s Mayor Domenic Sarno may be faced with an embarrassing dilemma when Springfield is offered its share of the $133,000 the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts contributed to help school districts in Springfield, Holyoke, Amherst and Northampton hire 20 new teachers of color by the year 2020. His recent declaration, “I don’t give a damn what color skin someone has” flies in the face of the well established consensus that Black and Brown students would benefit from the presence of role models of their same race in their classrooms. Maybe the color “green” will modify his thinking.

“…city officials know the waves of gentrification (influx into a neighborhood or city of middle class, white folks) are approaching and so do the residents of this Dorchester neighborhood, who worry an influx of affluent renters could spur a rise in rent that will drive out longtime low-income residents….In an effort to avoid that fate, the city and its partners are trying to act preemptively, acquiring property before the private real estate market pushes prices too high. The city aims to redevelop the properties based on recommendations from residents, said John Barros, chief of economic development for Mayor Martin Walsh.” (The Boston Globe, February 12, 2018) Further evidence that some responsible White people in power understand that “COLOR MATTERS.”

Ayanna Pressley, who made history in 2009 as the first woman of “color” elected to the Boston City Council, is running for Congress against White incumbent Michael Capuano. One of her comments in a news release announcing her candidacy was particularly relevant: “Our country is facing a critical moment. While the cruel and dangerous tenor of the national political debate is new, the issues we are struggling to address – income inequality, systemic racism, and lack of economic opportunity – have dogged our nation for years. We have not yet delivered on our nation’s foundational promise of equality. Not everyone is granted the opportunity that each of us deserves: to fulfill our God-given potential. Making progress on longstanding challenges requires a different lens and a new approach.” (emphasis added) I emphasized the last line because it summarizes Pressley’s response to those who argued that she and Capuano are both liberal-leaning politicians who agree on most issues. Her point is that, even so, the same problems remain and progress requires a view of the problems and potential solutions through the lens of a person of “color.” The same could be said about Richie Neal’s opponent, Tahira Amatul-Wadud, a Black, Muslim woman who unabashedly sports a hajib. She, like Pressley, is highly intelligent, conversant on the issues and courageous enough to challenge entrenched powers to promote the interest of those who have been left out as many other folks of color are beginning to do, such as our own City Councilor Adam Gomez who is challenging the well-established State Senator Jim Welch whose district covers a substantial portion of voters of “color.” COLOR MATTERS!

I see no reason not to honor Red Auerbach during Black History Month. He was the first to hire a Black player in the NBA, the first to field an all-Black team and the first to hire an African-American coach, Bill Russell, who he had previously hired to play for the Celtics. And while we’re at it, let’s honor Branch Rickey for hiring Jackie Robinson as the first Black MLB player and Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, the two White civil rights workers who were lynched along with a Black Mississippi colleague, James Chaney, in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Black folks in Boston and some White folks, including Mayor Marty Walsh, were offended when the Boston Police Department honored Auerbach on its website and the backlash caused the Department to remove it. And an editorial in Springfield’s Republican (February 16, 2018) criticizing the Department said: “To honor a white authority figure during Black History Month…was not just unnecessary but frankly clueless.” What nonsense! It’s called “Black History Month,” not “Black People’s Month.” Should we erase Lafayette from our celebration of the history of the Revolutionary War because he was not American or the Prussian officer, Baron Frederich Wilhelm August Heinrick Von Steuben, who trained George Washington’s army? Should we eliminate Abraham Lincoln from Black History Month? The writer referred to the fancy term “white savior trope” to describe making White people heroes for rescuing people of color while it strikes me as simple “gratitude.”

Today’s Millennials may not know the significance of Lerone Bennett, Jr. who recently passed at the age of 89 after retiring as editor of Ebony magazine. Some of us Baby Boomers knew him as the author of “Before the Mayflower,” a blockbuster book on African American history that debunked the prevailing mythology of the history being taught in our schools and colleges. His timing couldn’t have been better. His book provided the historical underpinning for the emerging Black Pride movement that invigorated the Civil Rights movement. History will not forget him.

“…the politicized sectors of conservative evangelicalism have been associated with bigotry, selfishness and deception for a long time. Trump has simply revealed the movement’s priorities. It values preservation of traditional racial and sexual hierarchies over fuzzier notions of wholesomeness….I think the 2016 election demonstrated that the religious right was circling back to the founding principles of the movement. What happened in 2016 is that the religious right dropped all pretense that theirs was a movement about family values.” (Michelle Goldberg, New York Times as reprinted in The Republican, January 30, 2018)

After all these years of courting the White southern vote through racist catcalls, Republicans are finally showing some open regret as in the words of one reporter who wrote: “Republican opponents of Trump should not make (Mitt) Romney into the sole savior of the GOP. He is one figure who might contribute to a cleansing of the party. But, in our view, the GOP will need a thorough change of leadership, a reinvention of its policy approach and a new base (less dependent on the South (emphasis added), more open to millennials and suburbanites) if it hopes to repair the damage wrought by Trump and his apologists.” (Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post as reprinted in The Republican, February 20, 2018)

Bill Belichick’s benching of defensive end Malcolm Butler for the entire Super Bowl LII didn’t sit well with most Black sports fans. It smacked of a common syndrome that befalls many a proud Black man. It wasn’t enough for Belichick to just let Butler go into free agency untarnished. He had to try to strip him of his manhood first. As Jim Brown might say, Belichick had to “break him like a runaway slave” before selling him. I hope, wherever he lands next, Butler rises above it all and it would be nice if he picks off a couple of Tom Brady’s future passes. As for Bill Belichick, he will never again have my full respect.

Even before I saw the movie “Black Panther,” I knew I would like it even if I never got to see it. The very title has a special meaning to those from my generation who witnessed the FBI and CIA systematically eviscerate, dismantle and completely destroy the Black Panther Party after first spreading propaganda that made White America associate it with crime and danger. We lost a lot of good Black leaders to the resulting White hysteria that continues to this day. I saw the $200 million film as laying the foundation for a washing away of much of the divisive acrimony and the beginning of setting history straight. I was also pleased that the film was directed by a Black man and that most of the actors were Black although Disney will wrack in most of the billion dollars the film is expected to make. So far it has earned $361 million in its opening weekend, not just because it is a good Black movie but because it is a good adventure film. I was born when so-called Black music could not make it in White America primarily because the producers and distributers prevented it until White singers confiscated our music and made millions off of it. We turned that around through true grit. “Black Panther” is evidence that we can do the same with movies. By the way, it was a great movie. (See my 11-year old grandson’s review on page 33.)

Fox News’ incredibly biased “news” coverage notwithstanding, Lebron James’ comments are valuable contributions to the political narrative of our rocky times. He is very vocal about his opposition to the bizarre behavior of President Trump which makes Fox News’ neck hairs rise through the likes of Laura Ingraham, the unbalanced but fiery pseudo-conservative who would do the world better by crawling back into the dark hole she came from. Keep it up, Lebron. You are more genuine, more popular and more powerful than Laura Ingraham can ever even hope to be.

The recent school shooting in the Florida school resulting in the loss of 17 lives seems to be ushering in a new political awakening by Millennials. It’s unfortunate that the new activism came after the loss of so many lives but it may well be what results in real gun law reform. It is reminiscent of the activism that brought the Vietnam War to an end. Let’s hope it lasts and is just the beginning of a general political awakening that pushes out the selfishness of the previous generation. ■

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