What it Looks Like Now: The Obama Presidency

Yesterday I appeared on GRIT.TV with Laura Flanders talking about controversy surrpinding Obama’s choosing Rick Warren as the person giving the Invocation for the Inauguration. I said on the show, that to me, the choice represented 3 things:

  1. Obama has officially bgean his 2012 run, and this choices was to bring Christian conservatives to his side.
  2. To finally neutralize the rumors that he’s a Muslim, and who better to reassure White American than Rick Warren?
  3. That perhaps he actually is more of a Clintonian Democrat than Progressives would like to believe.

My co-panelists disagreed, and I wish I’d have been better prepared for such opposition. I agree that some of his policy platform looks at this point to the left of Bill Clinton, but many of the people he’s appointed to carry out policy are either to the Right of, or very directly from the Clinton Administration. I also added that Obama’s use of the Clintonian political tactic of triangulation  is very much a part of his political strategy as a “uniter.” Wikipedia defines triangulation as:

Triangulation is the name given to the act of a political candidate presenting his or her ideology as being “above” and “between” the “left” and “right” sides (or “wings”) of a traditional (e.g. UK or US) democratic “political spectrum”. It involves adopting for oneself some of the ideas of one’s political opponent (or apparent opponent). The logic behind it is that it both takes credit for the opponent’s ideas, and insulates the triangulator from attacks on that particular issue.

Obama has clearly used this strategy in his statment about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict (“When bombs are raining down on your citizens[ISRAEL, THAT IS], then there is an urge to try and put an end to that.”) But beyond triangulation in speech and Cabinet choices, there is just general political calculation that is going on.

Case in point: After many re-iterations of the “I believe a marriage should be between a man and a woman” talking point, The Windy City Times just published a questionnaire from Obama in 1996 where he clearly states “I favor legalising same-sex marriages.”

Now I am not turning this into a “gotcha” blog post because I am interested in pusing Obama to try to pass same-sex marriage legislation–in the absense of something more expansive to self-define my family–I’ll take the civil union, thank you very much. But it is an example that our soon to be sworn in President is not capable of the same political re-positioning of past Democratic Presidents.  I think it’s time to put the party favors down and change the lenses in the rose-tinted glasses .  If we’re planning to have anything to really celebrate materially 4-8 years from now, we’ve got to take the kid gloves off.

Note: The New Issue of Black Commentator has apublished part 1 of a new 3-part  piece dealing with the significance of this moment, as it relates to the politics of the last 40 years withthe author, Dr. Horace Campbell refers to as the counter-revolutionary period.

Sharpton Turns the Church Out On “Gay Marriage” Focus

The Southern Voice reported today that Reverend Al Sharpton on Sunday in Atlanta called out Black church community on how much energy they put on the same-sex marriage issue, and little else about anything else in the Black community. Here’s what he said:

“It amazes me when I looked at California and saw churches that had nothing to say about police brutality, nothing to say when a young black boy was shot while he was wearing police handcuffs, nothing to say when the they overturned affirmative action, nothing to say when people were being delegated into poverty, yet they were organizing and mobilizing to stop consenting adults from choosing their life partners,” Sharpton told a packed audience on Jan. 11.

“There is something immoral and sick about using all of that power to not end brutality and poverty, but to break into people’s bedrooms and claim that God sent you,” Sharpton added.

(DAMN, THAT LAST LINE IS FIERCE!!!)

He spoke at Tabernacle Baptist Church, which was written about in the New York Times in 2007, because Rev. Dennis Meredith proclaimed the church open and accepting to the LGBT community, which meant much of his congregation went elsewhere. According to SOVO, Reverend Meredith has since come out as bisexual.

Sharpton goes onto speak more about the hypocrisy of minister who are often in the closet themselves, and preaching hatred of gays, as well as their lack of participation in racial & economic justice issues.

“I am tired of seeing ministers who will preach homophobia by day, and then after they’re preaching, when the lights are off they go cruising for trade…“We know you’re not preaching the Bible, because if you were preaching the Bible we would have heard from you…We would have heard from you when people were starving in California, when they deregulated the economy and crashed Wall Street you had nothing to say. When [alleged Ponzi schemer Bernie] Madoff made off with the money, you had nothing to say. When Bush took us to war chasing weapons of mass destruction that weren’t there you had nothing to say. … But all of a sudden when Proposition 8 came out you had so much to say, but since you stepped in the rain, we gonna step in the rain with you.

Let the church say Amen.

Hiram Monserrate & Gucci Mane: On Violence Against Women & What We Don’t Do About It

Despite my outrage at the continued and ongoing disrespect for Black male life exhibited by police departments all over the country, (the death of Oscar Grant in the San Francisco Bay area being the most recent case), I am equally as disturbed by the continued and ongoing violence against women, LGB and transgender people that receives hardly as much as a footnote by the Left, Black, Brown, or otherwise.

Two cases in point:

New York State Senator (and former NYPD officer, military officer, and chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus of the NYC Council) Hiram Monserrate, was arrested in December for allegedly slashing his girlfriend Karla Giraldo in the eye with a broken drinking , apparently in a “jealous rage.” He denied the charges, but security cameras in his apartment building were pulled and showed him dragging the woman down the hallway and trying to throw her out of the building. Other video shows her banging on doors and asking for help–and though people were home and heard the commotion, no one responded. Monserrate had the audacity to refer to the NYPD investigation as a political lynching. Like Clarence Thomas before him, Monserrate, in order to defend oneself against allegations of violence and harrassment of women, invokes the language of lynching to suggest that this, like the numerous Black men who were lynched when accused of sexual advances toward white women, is another historical instance of a false allegation against a man “of color.”

Of all the Black and Latino, other people of color ,and white lefties who mobilize when (presumably straight) men are assaulted by the police are dead fucking silent about this? I haven’t gotten one email, text or phone call from the usual suspects in NYC demanding Monserrate’s resignation. I am not sure if Giraldo is white or not, but if she is white, how do people of color activists and organizers think about, and operationalize an analysis about violence against women when the perpetrator is of color?

In Atlanta, the following video shows a local rapper, Gucci Mane performing on stage and violently shoving his collaborator and lover (according to her), ATL hip-hop artist Mac Breezy. She retaliated by throwing her cocktail glass at him, and he punches her in the face. In an interview after the event, she explains that he did that because his other girfriend of 8 years was present, and he didn’t want her to know he was seeing someone else. I am reminded of the lack of a response by Black folks in 1990 when hearing about Dr. Dre assaulting Black woman rapper and radio DJ Dee Barnes. Wikipedia recalls the details of the incident:

After a 1990 interview with Ice Cube in which the rapper discusses his leaving N.W.A. at the height of their feud,[2], the group, feeling they had been negatively portrayed, sought retaliation. On January 27, 1991 Dr. Dre would encounter Barnes at a record release party in Hollywood. According to Rolling Stone reporter Alan Light:

He picked her up and “began slamming her face and the right side of her body repeatedly against a wall near the stairway” as his bodyguard held off the crowd. After Dre tried to throw her down the stairs and failed, he began kicking her in the ribs and hands. She escaped and ran into the women’s rest room. Dre followed her and “grabbed her from behind by the hair and proceeded to punch her in the back of the head.” [3]

N.W.A.’s MC Ren later said “bitch deserved it“, and Eazy-Eyeah, bitch had it coming.” As Dr. Dre explained the incident, “People talk all this shit, but you know, somebody fuck with me, I’m gonna fuck with them. I just did it, you know. Ain’t nothing you can do now by talking about it. Besides, it ain’t no big thing– I just threw her through a door.” Barnes sued in February 1991, telling reporter Alan Light: “They’ve grown up with the mentality that it’s okay to hit women, especially black women. Now there’s a lot of kids listening and thinking it’s okay to hit women who get out of line.”[3] In February, Barnes would file assault charges bring a $22.75 million lawsuit against Dr. Dre, who pleaded no contest to the assault. He was fined $2500, placed on two years’ probation, and ordered to perform 240 hours of community service and produce an anti-violence public service announcement.[4]

What’s sad (but not atypical) is that in the Giraldo case, she has apparently stopped cooperating with the investigation and her story has changed from what she initially reported at the hospital. Mac Breezy says she threw the glass because she never lets anyone get away with disrespecting her, but by the end of the interview, says she still loves him and that basically everything is all good. I don’t blame either of these women for the violence they suffered, and then their attempts to cover up or try to make some sense of it (for personal or professional reasons), but rather to question why so-called movement people continue to ignore partner violence, and violence against women and queers in general?

People will point to the popularity of Byron Hurt’s film “Beyond Beats & Rhymes” as a step in that direction. I think that the film is an important intervention on Black masculinities and violence, and I completely think we need to intervene on violence and misogyny among Black men, but I do think that work (like Aishah Shahidah Simmons’ “NO!”) that centralizes the experiences of women and queer Black people’s relationship to intra-racial violence is marginalized. It’s not that the two have to be diametrically opposed, but I know political organizations (black, “people of color” or white-led) or who have hosted screenings of Hurt’s film but who won’t show NO!, Tongues Untied, or a range of other work that exists.

Senegal Sentences 9 Gay HIV Activists to Prison. For Being Gay.

Despite my celebrating the recent Uganda high court decision in favor of several lesbians abused by police, we still obviously have a long way to go. This past week, a Senegalese court sentenced 8 gay men who worked for AIDES Senegal (an organization that provides condoms and HIV treatment, in a country that has one of the lowest prevalence rates on the continent) to 8 years in prison for “homosexual acts.” Ironically, the country just played host to a regional gathering of the International AIDS Conference. The BBC reports:

“This is the first time that the Senegalese legal system has handed down such a harsh sentence against gays,” said Issa Diop, one of the men’s four defence lawyers. Mr Diop said he would be appealing against the sentences.

The IGLHRC’s Cary Alan Johnson said he was “deeply disturbed” by the case.

“There have been pretty consistent human rights violations… in Senegal,” he told the BBC’s Network Africa programme from Cape Town in South Africa.

“But the extremity of this sentence [and] the rapidness of the trial all really shocks us in a country which has been moving so positively towards rule of law and a progressive human rights regime.”

According to the website Behind the Mask (which documents what’s happening to LGBT people on the African continent.), the law governing “homosexual acts” reads (in English) as follows:

“Without prejudice to the more serious penalties provided for in the preceding paragraphs or by articles 320 and 321 of this Code, whoever will have committed an improper or unnatural act with a person of the same sex will be punished by imprisonment of between one and five years and by a fine of 100,000 to 1,500,000 francs. If the act was committed with a person below the age of 21, the maximum penalty will always be applied”

Human Rights Watch has also issued a statement demanding their release.

5 Things You Can Do Right Now About the Oscar Grant Shooting

5 Things You Can Do Right Now About the Oscar Grant Shooting

(originally posted on RaceWire.org)

Oscar Grant, an unarmed man, was killed by an Oakland police officer. Here are five things (compiled by Makani Themba-Nixon) that you should do right now to respond to the senseless death of this 22 year old Black man. Video footage of the shooting recently surfaced.

1. Digg the story so that the national media can pick up on it

2. Contact BART Director Carole Ward Allen and demand that 1) the officers involved be taken off duty without pay and charged and fully prosecuted; 2) there be an independent investigation of the shooting that includes a review of training and hiring practices; and 3) BART establish an independent residents’ review board for the police Call her at 510-464-6095 or email the BART Directors at BoardofDirectors@bart.gov

3. Call the BART police to complain about the officers’ conduct and demand immediate action: Internal Affairs: Sergeant David Chlebowski 510.464.7029,dchlebo@bart.gov; Chief of Police: Gary Gee 510.464.7022, ggee@bart.gov

Call them toll free at 877.679.7000 and press the last four digits of the phone number you wish to reach.

4. Talk it up on your blogs, networks and talk radio shows (call Michael Baisden 877-6BADBOY or Rev. Al, etc. to get this on the national radar)

5. Stay tuned for other actions, protests, etc., especially if you are in the Bay.

Click through to watch video of the shooting…if you can stomach it…

Beating a Dead Horse: Prop 8 & Race

So finally the new data on the exit polls on what voters helped pass Proposition 8 in California has come out. And it shows about a 58% pro-Prop 8 voted amonf Black voters in the state of California, which is only slightly higher than other racial groups, but far less than the 70% once stated. What’s interesting is that the original exit polling data was reported by CNN, and I have yet to see a story on CNN about the new data, or retracting their intial projections. Anyhoo, the stories written by the San Francisco Gate and The Advocate. But here are a couple comments by readers of The Advocate, a gay magazine. It really speaks to how non-Black members of the community are committed to believing that “Black people hate gays” more than other groups, despite data in this case to prove pretty similar vitriol to other groups.

Name: Pedro
Date posted: 2009-01-07 2:49 PM
Hometown: San Diego

Comment:

People LIE about knowing a gay person. There is no way more than 30% of the population KNOWS a gay person in real life. I believe the CNN and AP polls were correct or close to correct in the actual numbers of black voters casting their ballots for discrimination. I think this survey is an attempt to rollover to blacks who do not want to take responsibility for the overwhelming anti-gay hatred in their community and instead want to blame gay people for Prop 8.

Name: Alan Pires Ferreira
Date posted: 2009-01-06 8:00 PM
Hometown: Belo Horizonte, MG

Comment:

So 57% of the blacks voted against full citizenship to homosexuals. Will they be considered gay-friendly now? Will they win a GLAAD nomination?