Posts Tagged blacks

Hillary Clinton Does Not Deserve The Black Vote

Poor black people in this election cycle, most notably poor black women, have become the new poor, white Southerner hicks of yesteryear who voted against their own self interest for George W. Bush and every Republican there is. I say this because  Hillary Clinton’s support among women of color is stronger than among white women. In fact, it appears as though poor black women are responsible for Clinton’s lead in the Primaries and are her winning card, one that she is eager to play and one which black people seem all too eager to get played. Again.

Black voters have been remarkably loyal to the Clintons for more than 25 years. It’s true that they eventually lined up behind Barack Obama in 2008, but it’s a measure of the Clinton allure that Hillary led Obama among black voters until he started winning caucuses and primaries. Now Hillary is running again. This time she’s facing a democratic socialist who promises a political revolution that will bring universal healthcare, a living wage, an end to rampant Wall Street greed, and the dismantling of the vast prison state—many of the same goals that Martin Luther King Jr. championed at the end of his life. Even so, black folks are sticking with the Clinton brand.

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Frankly, I fail to understand why Clinton has earned the loyalty of black voters at all.

Why black people think a corporatist one percenter who has worked all her life against them, is good for them in any way imaginable.

On the campaign trail back in 1992, Bill Clinton made the economy his top priority and argued persuasively that conservatives were using race to divide the nation and divert attention from the failed economy. In practice, however, he capitulated entirely to the right-wing backlash against the civil-rights movement and embraced former president Ronald Reagan’s agenda on race, crime, welfare, and taxes—ultimately doing more harm to black communities than Reagan ever did.

Back then, Clinton was the standard-bearer for the New Democrats, a group that firmly believed the only way to win back the millions of white voters in the South who had defected to the Republican Party was to adopt the right-wing narrative that black communities ought to be disciplined with harsh punishment rather than coddled with welfare. Reagan had won the presidency by dog-whistling to poor and working-class whites with coded racial appeals: railing against “welfare queens” and criminal “predators” and condemning “big government.” Clinton aimed to win them back, vowing that he would never permit any Republican to be perceived as tougher on crime than he.

Just weeks before the critical New Hampshire primary, Clinton proved his toughness by flying back to Arkansas to oversee the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a mentally impaired black man who had so little conception of what was about to happen to him that he asked for the dessert from his last meal to be saved for him for later. After the execution, Clinton remarked, “I can be nicked a lot, but no one can say I’m soft on crime.”

Bill Clinton presided over the largest increase in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history. Clinton did not declare the War on Crime or the War on Drugs—those wars were declared before Reagan was elected and long before crack hit the streets—but he escalated it beyond what many conservatives had imagined possible. He supported the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity for crack versus powder cocaine, which produced staggering racial injustice in sentencing and boosted funding for drug-law enforcement.

Clinton championed the idea of a federal “three strikes” law in his 1994 State of the Union address and, months later, signed a $30 billion crime bill that created dozens of new federal capital crimes, mandated life sentences for some three-time offenders, and authorized more than $16 billion for state prison grants and the expansion of police forces. The legislation was hailed by mainstream-media outlets as a victory for the Democrats, who “were able to wrest the crime issue from the Republicans and make it their own.”

When Clinton left office in 2001, the United States had the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Human Rights Watch reported that in seven states, African Americans constituted 80 to 90 percent of all drug offenders sent to prison, even though they were no more likely than whites to use or sell illegal drugs. Prison admissions for drug offenses reached a level in 2000 for African Americans more than 26 times the level in 1983. All of the presidents since 1980 have contributed to mass incarceration, but as Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson recently observed, “President Clinton’s tenure was the worst.”

Some might argue that it’s unfair to judge Hillary Clinton for the policies her husband championed years ago. But Hillary wasn’t picking out china while she was first lady. She bravely broke the mold and redefined that job in ways no woman ever had before. She not only campaigned for Bill; she also wielded power and significant influence once he was elected, lobbying for legislation and other measures. That record, and her statements from that era, should be scrutinized. In her support for the 1994 crime bill, for example, she used racially coded rhetoric to cast black children as animals. “They are not just gangs of kids anymore,” she said. “They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”

Both Clintons now express regret over the crime bill (and this has become a pattern: do horrible things and then apologize for it later. When apology becomes policy). And now that it seems politically expedient, Hillary says she supports criminal-justice reforms to undo some of the damage that was done by her husband’s administration. But on the campaign trail, she continues to invoke the economy and country that Bill Clinton left behind as a legacy she would continue. So what exactly did the Clinton economy look like for black Americans? Taking a hard look at this recent past is about more than just a choice between two candidates. It’s about whether the Democratic Party can finally reckon with what its policies have done to African-American communities, and whether it can redeem itself and rightly earn the loyalty of black voters.

To make matters worse, the federal safety net for poor families was torn to shreds by the Clinton administration in its effort to “end welfare as we know it.” In his 1996 State of the Union address, given during his re-election campaign, Clinton declared that “the era of big government is over” and immediately sought to prove it by dismantling the federal welfare system known as Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC). The welfare-reform legislation that he signed—which Hillary Clinton ardently supported then and characterized as a success as recently as 2008—replaced the federal safety net with a block grant to the states, imposed a five-year lifetime limit on welfare assistance, added work requirements, barred undocumented immigrants from licensed professions, and slashed overall public welfare funding by $54 billion

Extreme poverty doubled to 1.5 million in the decade and a half after the law was passed. What is extreme poverty? US households are considered to be in extreme poverty if they are surviving on cash incomes of no more than $2 per person per day in any given month. We tend to think of extreme poverty existing in Third World countries, but here in the United States, shocking numbers of people are struggling to survive on less money per month than many families spend in one evening dining out. Currently, the United States, the richest nation on the planet, has one of the highest child-poverty rates in the developed world.

Billions of dollars were slashed from public-housing and child-welfare budgets and transferred to the mass-incarceration machine. By 1996, the penal budget was twice the amount that had been allocated to food stamps. During Clinton’s tenure, funding for public housing was slashed by $17 billion (a reduction of 61 percent), while funding for corrections was boosted by $19 billion (an increase of 171 percent), according to sociologist Loïc Wacquant “effectively making the construction of prisons the nation’s main housing program for the urban poor.”

Bill Clinton championed discriminatory laws against formerly incarcerated people that have kept millions of Americans locked in a cycle of poverty and desperation. The Clinton administration eliminated Pell grants for prisoners seeking higher education to prepare for their release, supported laws denying federal financial aid to students with drug convictions, and signed legislation imposing a lifetime ban on welfare and food stamps for anyone convicted of a felony drug offense—an exceptionally harsh provision given the racially biased drug war that was raging in inner cities.

Perhaps most alarming, Clinton also made it easier for public-housing agencies to deny shelter to anyone with any sort of criminal history (even an arrest without conviction) and championed the “one strike and you’re out” initiative, which meant that families could be evicted from public housing because one member (or a guest) had committed even a minor offense. People released from prison with no money, no job, and nowhere to go could no longer return home to their loved ones living in federally assisted housing without placing the entire family at risk of eviction. Purging “the criminal element” from public housing played well on the evening news, but no provisions were made for people and families as they were forced out on the street. By the end of Clinton’s presidency, more than half of working-age African-American men in many large urban areas were saddled with criminal records and subject to legalized discrimination in employment, housing, access to education, and basic public benefits—relegated to a permanent second-class status eerily reminiscent of Jim Crow.

It is difficult to overstate the damage that’s been done. Generations have been lost to the prison system; countless families have been torn apart or rendered homeless; and a school-to-prison pipeline has been born that shuttles young people from their decrepit, underfunded schools to brand-new high-tech prisons.

Economic insecurity is the root cause of a lot of the issues facing African Americans who are scoring low, compared to a lot of other segments of society, on almost all socio-economic indices.

Someone who takes 250,000 dollars in speaker fees from Goldman Sachs to congratulate them on a job well done and for being “job creators” is not going to do the bidding of people socioeconomically disadvantaged by the very policies Clinton endorses.

It is utterly bizarre to me that poor, disenfranchised black men  – and most notably women  – would support this corporatist Establishment candidate.

Bernie Sanders wants to address those very inequalities Clinton’s policies have created. Clinton doesn’t. She has, time and again, ridiculed Sanders and his supporters as a bunch of naive dreamers with their head in the sky and already promised that none of the things Sanders wants done, like money out of politics, universal health-care, affordable education etc – will happen.

Sure, she has learned to use the kind of language that sounds inclusive of African Americans and that they want to hear, but without any real intention to truly reform things where they need to be, namely on the economic level, which is where the African American community is hurting the most.

 If you listen closely, and it truly bothers me that Clinton supporters clearly are not, you’ll notice that Hillary Clinton is still singing the same old tune but in a slightly different key. She is arguing that we ought not be seduced by Bernie’s rhetoric because we must be “pragmatic,” “face political realities,” and not get tempted to believe that we can fight for economic justice and win. When politicians start telling you that it is “unrealistic” to support candidates who want to build a movement for greater equality, fair wages, universal healthcare, and an end to corporate control of our political system, it’s probably best to leave the room.

For the record:  Sanders opposed the 1996 welfare-reform law. He also opposed bank deregulation and the Iraq War, both of which Hillary supported, and both of which have proved disastrous. In short, there is such a thing as a lesser evil, and Hillary is not it.

I can only surmise that black women who reflexively vote for Clinton because “Sanders is white” and a man, are oblivious to the policies and legislation Clinton stands for as well as oblivious to what Bernie Sanders stands for. Clinton stands for legislation that is un-progressive and that does not truly intend to economically empower individuals, especially African American communities that have been, and continue to be, under a massive assault by the class warfare created by the likes of Clinton and the Democratic Party which has not only capitulated to right-wing demagoguery but is now owned and controlled wholly by a relatively small number of millionaires and billionaires.

I find all this incredibly frustrating because it seems as though election outcomes always seem to be dictated by ignorant tools whose votes create the majority a candidate needs to win.

So, it’s either dumb-as-shit, white Southerners who determine everyone’s fate by voting against their own self interest.  And this year it seems to be  dumb-as-shit, black Southerners who determine everyone’s fate by voting against their own self interest.

Of course, people can vote however they want. I just hate that they are basically taking the rest of us down with them.

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The Thought Police

Donald Sterling is a racist scumbag and worthless human being. He is a white supremacist who has been hating on, harassing, bullying and discriminating against black people all his life and it is doubtful that anything is going to change about his behavior anytime soon, despite his half-assed, desperate, insincere “apology” about the things he had said to his girlfriend in a private conversation over the phone about black people.

It is entities like him that are part of the problem and if he is going to lose a tiny piece of a kingdom that he undoubtedly built at the backs of those he hates, harasses, bullies and discriminates against as a result of his gross rank racism, I will not lose any sleep over it.

That said, I completely and fully support Donald Sterling’s right to be able to say whatever he wants to anyone in a private conversation without fear of persecution and without losing his business, pay fines or be subject to similar reprimands. And I do so, not because I particularly care about Donald Sterling or the Donald Sterlings of the world (if you ask me, the only good one percenter is one behind bars) but because by upholding Sterling’s right to say whatever he wants in a private conversation without having to pay for it professionally, I uphold my own right to do the same.

I admit, it’s a difficult point to make given the collective outrage that sprung up once Sterling’s comments were broadcast.

But that is hardly the point, is it? Because what I am trying to get at is that people should be able to think what they want and say what they want in private conversations, without the fear of losing their business and their jobs.

We cannot, and should not, go after people for their privately held beliefs, especially if those beliefs are shared in private conversations with partners, spouses, friends or even on Facebook.

To be clear, this has nothing to do with the First Amendment. The First Amendment merely protects a person’s right to free speech without government interjection and persecution. Since the federal government did not go after Sterling after his remarks to his girlfriend were published, this is not a First Amendment issue here, and it is rather bothersome that people who do defend Sterling’s right to say what he wants erroneously use the First Amendment and “free speech” clause to make the point.

What this is, however, is a matter of living in a society in which people are able to express their personal thoughts to those around them without the fear that doing so may cost them a job, a promotion or their business.

Donald Sterling’s private words (just as your private words, and my private words and John Doe’s private words) should have remained private – even after they were published.

He was not talking to anyone in HR demanding, and thus in a business capacity,  that they not hire any more blacks or recruit any more black players for the Clippers; he was not having a conversation about his sentiments about black people in a business capacity; on the contrary,  he was talking to his partner over the phone about his racist views on blacks.

Sterling should have the right and freedom to think what he wants and say what he wants in private without fearing that once his thoughts are public, he may lose his business or have to pay a substantial fine for holding those thoughts. it is ridiculous.

Going after Sterling for thinking that blacks are less than sets a terrible precedent and tomorrow, in a not so cut-and -dry case, someone may use the same rationale to go after someone who supports Socialism, or atheism, or after someone who works in a Conservative firm but supports gay rights.

Do not think for one second that doing what was done to Sterling is going to be merely confined to the “bad guys.”

Liberty in America is a transactional experience. In affirming the right of a man to express an opinion in the privacy of his own bedroom (however obscene that opinion may be ) I affirm my right to express my opinion in the privacy of my home.

In affirming the rights of bigots to freely express themselves in any venue, I enhance my own freedom to oppose policies indifferent to popularity without fear of retribution.

It is a two way street.

In condemning the freedom of one man you condemn the freedom of all.

We must live in a country that punishes based on people’s actions, not based on their opinions or thoughts that they express to partners, spouses, friends and family in private conversation.

Simply because a man holds a view that 98% of Americans don’t like and it leads to declining revenue does not justify what the NBA did. By this logic, an owner who tells his wife in the privacy of his own bedroom that he supports the Communist party, can then be banned by the game due to capitalist outrage.

The irony here, of course, is that Donald Sterling was, in action, discriminating against blacks and racial minorities in his housing communities for decades and no one cared, not even these very black Clippers players who are now so deeply offended.

In response to the 2003 suit, one of his property supervisors testified that Sterling said all blacks “smell” and are “not clean,” that he wanted to “get them out” of his properties to preserve his image, and that he harassed tenants and refused to make repairs until they were forced to leave, according to depositions obtained by ESPN The Magazine

Gross and blatant housing discrimination is Sterling’s biggest offense and it was documented, even with the Department of Justice that sued him (and no one can tell me that the honorable NBA and Clippers players did not know about it).  Yet,  it took insulting and alienating a few wealthy athletes and sponsors during a private conversation to finally give this piece of shit what he deserves. 

Something is upside down here. Fining Sterling and pressuring him to sell his business because of what he said in a private conversation is going entirely too far.

I condemn this Clippers owner because he violates everything I have worked for and believe in but I defend his rights of expression just as ardently as they were my own.

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When Racism Matters Insofar As It Affects The Rich

That wealthy entities in our society do not pay fairly and squarely for the transgressions and crimes they commit vis a vis their poor, often minority, counterparts is no revelation. Just look at the tropes of Wall Street executives that were escorted out of government offices with fat bail-out and bonus checks for the economic meltdown, due to their criminal activities, they had caused, no less.

Such trends are to be found quite abundantly, across all lines.

For example, last month, billionaire heir Robert H. Richards IV who was found guilty for having raped his three year old daughter, was sentenced to house arrest instead of jail because the Judge in the case deemed that Richards would not fare well “if he is sentenced to prison.”

A court in Florida sentenced an African American woman to jail for 20 years because she fired a few warning shots in the air in self defense against her abusive husband.

Discrimination against the poor (and in our society, racial minorities are disproportionately poor) is well established. In legal matters, it is a prominent factor in the availability of legal counsel.

The death penalty, for example, is fraught with racial and economic disparities, whereby the poor, the friendless, the uneducated, racial minorities, and the despised are unable to get quality legal representation, thus resulting in them more likely to end up on death row versus a wealthy, privileged defendant who can afford top legal representation.

Fairness in capital cases requires, above all, competent counsel for the defendant. Yet approximately 90 percent of those on death row could not afford to hire a lawyer when they were tried.  Common characteristics of death-row defendants are poverty, the lack of firm social roots in the community, and inadequate legal representation at trial or on appeal. As Justice William O. Douglas noted in Furman, “One searches our chronicles in vain for the execution of any member of the affluent strata in this society“(408 US 238).

Case in point: OJ Simpson. If he did not have a stellar, and expensive, legal team defending him, he would, most likely have been convicted and ended up on death row. He got out of it – or, his legal team was able to wiggle him out of it, because, unlike underpaid and incompetent public defenders, Simpson’s legal team had the resources and expertise to defend their affluent client.

I will address the terrible injustices and immorality inherent in the death penalty at a later time. What I do want to address with this post is the fact that, overall, in our society, the wealthy are shielded from taking responsibility for various crimes they commit, while crimes, injustices and bigotry committed against and directed at the  poor, the friendless, the uneducated, racial minorities, and the despised often go unnoticed and unpunished and bigotry and racism only seem to matter insofar as they affect wealthy entities.

Case in point, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling who has been outed as a rank racist whose racially incendiary remarks leaked to TMZ last weekend.

His remarks, which were recorded by his gold-digging piece  – who clearly set him up –  lead to a lifetime ban from the NBA and a fine of $2.5 million.  Several major Clippers sponsors had previously dropped or were re-evaluated their association with the team, including State Farm, CarMax, Kia Motors America, Virgin America and Red Bull (speak of the pot calling the kettle black), not to mention the athletes for the team and prominent members of the African American community, all of whom are wealthy.

People have been applauding the decision to ban Sterling and fine him, as a victory for the team and a lesson to be learned by racists, but what most people have been missing is that this is not the first time Sterling has been facing accusations of racial discrimination.

In 2006,  sports writer and pundit Bomani Jones wrote a column titled “Sterling’s racism should be news” following the Department of Justice suing Sterling for housing discrimination. Sterling allegedly refused to rent apartments he owned to African Americans, Latinos and people with children in the suit.

The charges made against Sterling were stomach-turning. In response to the 2003 suit, one of his property supervisors testified that Sterling said all blacks “smell” and are “not clean,” that he wanted to “get them out” of his properties to preserve his image, and that he harassed tenants and refused to make repairs until they were forced to leave, according to depositions obtained by ESPN The Magazine.

It is interesting that while gross and blatant housing discrimination is Sterling’s biggest offense, it took insulting and alienating a few wealthy athletes in and sponsors during a private conversation to finally do something about this scum.

As alarming as the claims against Sterling are, housing discrimination as a practice is alive and well in America, yet goes largely unnoticed.

For individuals and families, it limits their housing choices, it dictates where you can and cannot live, and that means limited access to other opportunities: educational opportunities, employment opportunities, health care services, other amenities,” Fred Freiberg, director of the nonprofit Fair Housing Justice Center, told the HuffPost. “It sustains and enforces patterns of racial segregation and poverty concentration, and it creates a whole host of inequalities that we could, frankly, do without.”

All that stuff that’s happening in housing discrimination, which is the biggest reason that we can point to historically for why we’ve got all these dead kids in metros like Chicago and New York fighting for turf, fighting for real estate with poor accommodations and facilities and everything that you’re supposed to have in a city  – all these are an economic byproduct of the people like Donald Sterling. Yet, no one paid attention to that.  No swift action was taken against Sterling by the Clippers who are outraged now.

On the contrary, the lawsuits took years to go through, because those he hurt are poor and the poor have become invisible in this country and only seem to matter and be brought up when it comes to either slashing funding for them or to vilify and scapegoat them as lazy, unmotivated mooches who allegedly want to take away from the hard-working American blah blah fart.

It is a testament to our sad state of affairs that a bigot’s actions (such as housing discrimination)  – which are illegal and directly harm people, and which he has been engaging in for decades – have not ultimately been what got him in trouble, but the fact that he said racially offensive things to his piece of ass du jour in a private conversation, insulting wealthy athletes – who also happen to be racial minorities.

Moral integrity had little to do with  why the NBA did what it did as the NBA has known about Sterling’s racism for years and yet they only took action action because it hurt business – because a few wealthy athletes were outraged and because sponsors pulled out.

Having an opinion about blacks is one thing (and I personally think it was wrong to fine and ban him for that opinion), discrimination is another, and Sterling was penalized by the NBA for the former while he got away with the latter for years.

So, if you are sitting there celebrating the fact that the NBA has taken the moral high ground and has zero tolerance for racism, think again. Publicly chastising and punishing Sterling was a good business decision by the NBA to protect business interests and assets. And while Sterling’s racism has been rejected by everyone from Snoop Dogg to the President, when it comes to everyday acts of insidious, life-ruining racism these very, ostensibly men of honor have stayed silent with regard to the Sterlings of the world.

Screaming racism and bigotry when only the wealthy are affected but staying silent when the same happens to poor people everyday leads to the systematic marginalization and exclusion of those very people and their causes. This is how marginalization works, leading to the systemic inequalities that make it impossible for people to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”

Karl Marx believed that racism was just another form of class struggle. That it ultimately was not about race that some people were enslaved and subjugated but that race was used as an excuse to morally justify slavery and subjugation to ultimately create an underclass to be exploited; free labor. This is the reason why, ultimately, wealthy racial minorities begin to be have in very much the same way as their white counterparts once they reach the high social class of affluence. In fact, they then become just as “bad” and exploitative as the very “white” people they have been accusing of having done the same for centuries. The NBA’s ignorance towards the black communities that have been harmed by Sterling for decades while the NBA stated silent is the perfect example to the point.

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Quote of the Day

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“Banning people and things because of the way they look went out a long time ago. But here they are again. The color of a gun. The way it looks. It’s just bad politics.”

Marion Hammer, former president of the National Rifle Association speaking out against an effort by congressional lawmakers to reinstate a ban on assault weapons, comparing such action to discriminating against people “because of the way they look.”

She is right, you know. It is just too convenient to blame guns for gun violence, especially when most guns are black and we all know what happened to black people here not too long ago. Martin Luther King., Jr., if he was alive today, would totally side with the NRA as he too understands the plight one faces because of one’s color – just like guns.

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