The Dirty Dozens: Race, Civil Rights and the Democrats

It’s gettin hot in herr! The gloves are coming off, and people are now being forced to take sides. Senator Hillary Clinton has been trying to spin herself out of a whole she dug when she, at an attempt to dig at Senator Barack Obama, said that while he likes to compare himself to MLK, it took a president–Lyndon B. Johnson–to pass the Civil Rights Act.

The blacks are giving her hell over that comment, and on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” she said that the Obama campaign was “deliberately distorting” her comments.

Well I saw the interview when it aired, and no, no one is distorting her comments. She said something really politically foolish trying to one-up Obama, and she got caught out there. I thought at the time that that statement was going to come back to haunt her.

But it doesn’t end there. Saturday, Bob Johnson, founder of BET had the unmitigated gall to stand up in front of a crowd and act as the authority on Black people, and defend Clinton’s record with Black people. Johnson said

“To me, as an African American, I am frankly insulted 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 — when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood; I won’t say what he was doing, but he said it in his book — when they have been involved.”

He later said he was not referring to Obama’s admitted drug use. As black as the Clintons think they are, they are white enought to not realize how many Black people actually despise Bob Johnson. Many of us blame him for cutting BET news programming (and firing Tavis Smiley), and turning the channel into a video channel replete with images of violent black masculinites, hypersexualized black women, with a hefy dash of homophobia. In fact, THE SAME NIGHT he made these comments, Black folks were protesting outside the taping of a BET Awards show in DC.

Johnson is also the sleaze bag who moved the show Comic View from Los Angeles to Atlanta, allegedly in order to avoid paying unionized rates to comics appearing on the show. Not that I care about that modern day minstrel show, but it was still a low blow.

To make matters even worse, I just saw a debate on PBS’ The New Hour between SCLC veteran Rev. Joseph C. Lowry (Team Obama) and Civil Rights vet Rep. John Lewis (Team Clinton). John Lewis had the nerve to defend Clinton on the basis that “The Clintons would never do anything to harm African-Americans.” I am not sure if that’s a direct quote, but it’s definitely not far off. He said it twice.

WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH US?

I can definitely understand why black people may not necessarily be in 100% Barack’s camp, but I certainly cannot understand why some of us back Clinton over him–and completely uncritically.

But I said a few posts ago this election was going to help expose the tensions of the civil rights old guarde as they fall out of favor. Not because Black people are more conservative, but because they are now too entrenched in the machine to be effective as agitators. And their tacit support of the Clintons against a Black candidate generally more progressive than either Bill or Hillary, is quite telling. William Jelani Cobb has a great article in the Washington Post about this very issue.

AP Distorts Andrew Young’s Statements on Obama

The Associated Press published a story about Civil Rights veteran and Atlanta former Mayor Andrew Young going on an Atlanta show saying that he thought Barack should run for president in 2016, because he is too young to run for president and that he thought, essentially, the Clintons were as black as Barack. Here’s what they quoted from the Young interview:

“I want Barack Obama to be president,” Young said, pausing for effect, “in 2016.”

“It’s not a matter of being inexperienced. It’s a matter of being young,” Young said. “There’s a certain level of maturity … you’ve got to learn to take a certain amount of (expletive).”

Young went on to say that Obama needs a protective network that he currently lacks — a quality that could hurt him if he were to be elected. He said Hillary Clinton already has that kind of network, including her husband to back her up.

“There are more black people that Bill and Hillary lean on,” Young said. “You cannot be president alone. … To put a brother in there by himself is to set him up for crucifixion. His time will come and the world will be ready for a visionary leadership.”

I watched the interview on NewsMakers Live. Young did say those things. A lot of the issues I have with Young’s interview was the sexism in which he couched his views–“Clinton has probably gone with more black women than Barack.” Why does ‘how many black women you fuck’ make you implicitly a black man? That’s disgusting about what it says about black manhood and black womanhood both. Ugh. By this logic, Black women’s bodies are the only relevant as avenues for defining masculinity. That’s offensive as hell! And I am over that “Clintons are black” bullshit. Can we just really have a moratorium on that nonsense? I don’t care if they can huck-a-buck or Soul Train-line with the best of them–they’re not Black and there are countless ways the Clinton Administration sold black people down the river to save his own political career–Welfare reform act, Rwanda, massive prison expansion– hello! Lets not get political amnesia.

But what is perhaps most useful about Young’s comments, the AP report chooses barely to report. Young goes on for most of the interview to talk about how he’s worried about Obama’s (and his family’s) safety–even going so far as to say he wants Obama’s daughters to be older to deal with the way people are going to attack them.

After living through the Civil Rights Movement and what happened to King, Young is saying Barack has yet to develop the kind of insular network of folks to really protect him from the worst of what is sure to come. Essentially, he’s actually saying white racism is so fierce that Obama needs to develop more of aggressive tactics to be able to go after the forces that are most likely to undo him were he to win the presidency. And Young is drawing on the Civil Rights Movement and MLK’s experiences with violence and surveillance as the prime example.  I question Young’s assertion that King sacrificed the most personally–what about Fannie Lou Hamer or Angela Davis, or a host of others who history has forgotten who lost life and limb fighting for freedom? That’s a hard thing to quantify, even if he knew King personally. He also has a silly analysis of why Barack would be great at foreign policy–because, as Young asserts, his experience with “the Chinese” and with “Islam” via his sister and childhood upbringing, will make him adept at dealing with China and the Middle East.

OK. That’s a stretch.

That aside, it’s a wonder how the AP reporter got away with filing this half-assed story that takes the most sensational things that Young said, and doesn’t comprehensively report Young’s concern and critique–which is really about Obama’s readiness to deal with the racist/violent backlash. The reporter only gets to at the end of the story when it is actually, in my book, THE story.

And journalists wonder why the public has lost trust in them.