The Bernie Bunch vs. #BlackLivesMatter

Bernie has a Negro problem.

Much to his chagrin Bernie Sanders is learning it isn’t easy being a liberal darling and expecting the various voting blocs of the Democratic Party to tag along.   Sanders had another bad expereince with #BlackLivesMatter activists and this time he walked off the stage when they shut him down cold.

Sanders’ inability to either address this issue or shut it down should begin to send up some warning flags that his popularity with the Left may not carry out to the general election and his floundering response to being targeted by #BlackLivesMatter says a great deal of how Democrats can’t take it on faith Barack Obama’s base will automatically line up for their nominee next year.

Being the darling of the White progressives within the Democratic Party was never going to be all it took for Bernie Sanders to out-maneuver Hillary Clinton on her Left flank. Sanders was in trouble when he said this at the NetRoots meeting a few weeks ago, “Black lives, of course, matter. I spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights and for dignity. But if you don’t want me to be here, that’s OK. I don’t want to outscream people.”

The mistake Sanders and his supporters have made is thinking a progressive agenda,  being pro-civil rights and marching with King is all it takes to win over a bloc of voters who don’t know what the agenda is or don’t think your agenda is pro-enough. Sanders could put an end to these protests, but that would take him acknowledging he needs to. He’s being challenged by these activists to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. He has failed to rise to the challenge.

Whether Sanders is or is not on the side of the #BlackLivesMatter activists is a debate we’re going to keep having until its been resolved. Right now, they obviously feel Bernie isn’t enough on their side and is only saying what he thinks he needs to say to placate them. Lip service is not going to get it done.

Why should they get Sanders get a pass? I’m speculating, but perhaps the reasoning of #BlackLivesMatter is to their supposed allies to come correct before going after their likely adversaries in the GOP. It only makes sense to hold the Democrats accountable because unlike the Republicans, they actually need to be on the right side of this issue.

#BlackLivesMatter isn’t the only issue in this campaign, but Sanders putting a “racial justice” link on his website does not reach and resonate with the Black community. Neither do interviews where he says dopey stuff like, “I have a long history in fighting for civil rights. I understand that many people in the African-American community may not understand that.”

Oh, Bernie. You really are lost up your own ass, aren’t you?

I’m not the only one saying this. Douglas Wilder, the former governor of Virginia and presidential candidate, said on NPR the issue of race is not going away in the 2016 race.

“Let me tell you one of the things that’s going to be on the agenda … The issue of race is going to be the 800 pound gorilla in the room even though it might not be spoken … because everybody’s talking about the enemy that’s going to be beating us. The enemy is not the enemy with-out our country, it’s going to be the enemy within our country. It’s not going to be ISIS, it’s not going to be al-Qaida, it’s not going to be the Taliban, it’s going to be the people in this country coming to have to believe that we are one nation, indivisible. We are not a police state that treats certain people as second class citizens. Governors have something to say about that.”

Doug Wilder has some advice for the Democrats they might want to take

“I don’t know what’s going to be the top issue, but it’s going to be the issue relative to what we need to do to make our country strong. Yes, it’s a stronger issue than al-Qaida, ISIS, ISIL, Taliban and all of them together because if we are not strong within, then we cannot fight that which attacks us from the outside.”

Are the candidates saying what you want to hear as the first elected African American governor in this country?

“No, they are not. First of all, the African-American vote is taken for granted by both sides — one side says, well we’re not going to get them, and the other side says, well we don’t have to worry about them, so let’s concentrate on the Hispanic vote. That’s a big mistake. Take nobody for granted and be certain to understand that you can’t take people shot and killed because they don’t have a license plate on the front of their car, or …”

You don’t sound like someone who is ready to vote for Hillary Clinton.

“I don’t sound like anyone whose ready to vote for anybody. I have a reputation that no one takes my vote for granted and I think that’s the way it should be, and I’m not suggesting that Hillary and I and her husband and I — we have great relationships — but we’re not talking about personalities. We’re talking about the nation. The country. The people. Where are we? People are saying ‘this exceptional nation.’ Who built the nation, what made the nation great? Who were the people that were enslaved and made others rich and then left to paddle their own canoes and pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, and then criticized for every little thing that goes askew.”

“I think it’s more important for the candidates to speak to how they regard race in America, how they see what’s taking place, and what they would do to offset some of the things that are taking … this vigilante mindset, and second class citizenship for some just by virtue of the color of the skin…”

Echoing Gov. Wilder here: I’m not ready to vote for anyone yet either and It is insulting to suggest Blacks should be fall in love with Sen. Sanders because he’s the poster boy of White Progressives. Sanders, like Chaffee, O’Malley, and Clinton (the hell with Jim Webb) can’t expect to get the Black vote if they don’t work for the Black vote. Democrats are entitled to nothing simply because they are Democrats. They don’t have the Black vote sewn up and Sanders and Clinton had better wake up to that reality.

Michelle’s advice to Hillary.

The Dems cannot win the White House without the support of Black and Latinos and Sanders doing a humblebrag about what he’s done in the past isn’t going to help him now with a part of the base that doesn’t know him.

Race matters and race is going to matter in the 2016 presidential election no matter how much the candidates would prefer it would not.

For decades, the conventional wisdom has been Republicans don’t want to work to win the Black vote and Democrats don’t have to because they know they’re going to get it anyway. Those young women were being obnoxious, disruptive and rude. But their cause is just and holding the feet of so-called liberals to the fire to put some teeth behind their lofty principles isn’t a bad thing.
It’s too bad for The Bernie Bunch these activists are offending them so much, but it is through dissent is that things get discussed and things get changed. If Sanders can’t handle two angry women calling him out then its better for him to be exposed as a lightweight now because he isn’t ready to deal with Vladimir Putin, Islamic State or a hostile Republican Congress.
Suck it up sweethearts. Being pissed off against young Black folks because they aren’t oohing and ahhing over Bernie isn’t going to make the issue go away.   This is the big leagues and now Sanders is playing small ball.

“I saw ‘Selma’ Bernie and I didn’t see you marching with MLK!”

 

The Wrong Guys For the Right Reason?

The return of J&A's excellent adventure?

Even tragedies can present opportunities and the killing of Trayvon Martin is no exception.  The mainstream media took their sweet time in discovering what Black bloggers and media was already reporting, but now they have made this the biggest story in America.

It’s been great for ratings.  And it’s been great for Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton as well.  Instead of trying to bite off Occupy Wall Street or some other topic in the news, the two former unofficial presidents of Black America are back on their favorite beat, marching, demonstrating and protesting and all in the name of Trayvon Martin.

I have a colleague whom I used to work with at a newspaper and we get together to shoot the breeze. His problem with Jackson and Sharpton are their claims that they are “Black leaders.”

That sets my friend all the way off.  Who made THEM “Black leaders?” Did you vote for them? I know I didn’t! Where’s MY ballot?

There is something to that. Why are Jackson and Sharpton considered Black leaders? Why do Black folks even need leaders?  Who are the leaders of Latinos? Who speaks for lesbians? Who’s the great leader of Asians? Who’s the greatest White leader? Or does even posing the question seem ludicrous to even ask?

The last great Black leaders were Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.  They became leaders the hard way.  They earned it and they were killed for being leaders.  You could not find two more different men with different approaches than Martin and Malcolm.  Jackson and Sharpton on their best day couldn’t touch them on their worst. Neither one of them are worthy heirs of King’s mantle of civil rights advocacy.  Neither one of them are as bold and willing to face White supremacy the way Malcolm X did.

What keeps J&A on the front pages is the passionate hatred they provoke from right-wing critics.  Jesse and Al are considered by the Right as race hustlers who stir up trouble, shakedown businesses, show up wherever there’s a controversy and a camera and are generally unscrupulous, unprincipled, con men.  Some of this criticism is both verifiable and irrefutable.

Any honest critique of Jackson and Sharpton must take in account their pros and cons.

Once giants walked among us.

Positives: protecting civil rights, keeping a spirit of activism alive, bringing attention to issues and stories that would go unnoticed and unaddressed otherwise, ticking off the right-wing something fierce.

Negatives: attention whores, lack of identified achievable goals, unwilling to get off the stage so younger leaders can emerge, egotistical, poor tacticians, dubious personal conduct,

The biggest negative is neither Jackson or Sharpton will confront and criticize Democrats and liberals when they come up short or sell out the interests of African-Americans.  A true Black leader has to be willing to be bipartisan in their criticism.  Jackson has mildly criticized Obama and Sharpton flaunts his connections to the White House. Can you imagine J&A publicly and vocally breaking with a Democratic president the way Martin Luther King, Jr., broke with Lyndon Johnson over the Viet Nam war and poverty in America?  With Jackson and Sharpton beholden to the Democrats, they can’t be truly independent.

Martin and Malcolm may have created the template for Al and Jesse, but what sets them heads and shoulders above Sharpton and Jackson is they never craved the spotlight.  King was a reluctant convert to political activism and X transformed himself from a small-time hustler, pimp, and convict to the most powerful and charismatic spokesman for Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam until he broke with him.

Neither Martin or Malcolm were wealthy or sought the spotlight the way their would-be successors have.  You can’t fault them for finding a way to turn a buck off of being a political gadfly, but it leaves them open to charges that they are chasing publicity and dollars, not justice.

I was too young to march with Martin Luther King or listen to Malcolm X, but their authenticity was above reproach. . They were the real deal and they both got taken out for it. Al and Jesse? I think they believe what they say, but I don’t need “leaders” any more and I don’t want to be “led.”

Obama has proven you can be a leader through obtaining political legitimacy.  Jackson and Sharpton both mounted presidential bids, but they never seemed fully committed.  If conservatives really want to make J&A relics of a previous time, they need to stop trying to demonize the pair  That gets them nowhere and only makes Jackson and Sharpton even more beloved, and why not?  Pissing off the Right has a considerable upside.

Conservatives could neutralize J&A, but what it would take is something they have shown little interest in.   Make Dr. King’s dream a reality and they’re both out of business.

That would require the Right to give up their fear and loathing of uppity Black men.  But since conservatives like the Koch brothers like their Negroes docile and childlike (Where’s my mint julep, Herman Cain?) and hate to be reminded racism still exists that seems unlikely.

We are going to have to learn to live with Sharpton and Jackson, warts and all.  Reservations aside, Trayvon Martin needs champions to find justice for him and while they are no Martin or Malcolm, this is the right cause even if they are the wrong men.

The right men for the right cause?

The Long Shadow of America’s Greatest King

When your birth date falls on the same day as the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday observance you accept the fact that you’re going to have to settle for second billing and like it.   Fortunately, Dr. King is one of my few heroes and sharing my day with him honors and humbles me.

As I have said in the past, King was far more than an action figure with a string in the back that says “I Have A Dream”  when pulled.   That’s too simple and King was far too complicated to be reduced down to a catchphrase.

King was not a popular man at the time of his assassination.   Breaking with President Johnson over the Vietnam War had done more than cost King the best friend the movement ever had in the White House.  He was vilified by the Left and the Right.  Black revolutionaries sneered at his message of non-violence.

But most of all,  King was tired.  Tired of marching. Tired of re-fighting battles that should have already been won.   Tired of being away from his wife and children so much.   Tired of the death threats on his life.

Michael Eric Dyson, scholar and author of I May Not Get There With You,  the account of King’s later years says we should note King cut less than an iconic figure at the time of his death.

[King] was at the low point of his popularity at the time of his death. When Martin Luther King Jr. met his end on that balcony in Memphis, he was indeed at the low point of his popularity for the first time in nearly a decade. He didn’t make the most admired list for the Gallup poll. Very few universities wanted to hear from him. No American publishers wanted to publish a book by him. And he was being questioned, even in African-American culture, for the relevancy of his non-violent approach. Dr. King was facing tremendous odds. His back was against the wall. His resources were drying up within his own organization. He was fighting with a prominent northern board member about whether or not he should speak out against the war in Vietnam and paid the price for it. So, he was facing opposition from within his organization and more broadly from the civil rights movement, and even more broadly from the mainstream American press as well as from public policymakers and politicians in America. He was quite on the outside and outskirts of popularity and acceptance in America. This notion that Dr. King was widely praised is one of nostalgia and of amnesia, and it should be combated.

Some might think it audacious and brazen to call King the greatest American ever.   Shouldn’t that sort of accolade be reserved for presidents and statesmen, not a Baptist preacher?

It is neither audacious or brazen to tell the truth and I have no problem defending Dr. King as a greater transformative figure than George Washington, Abraham Lincoln or Franklin D. Roosevelt.   A listing of the Greatest Americans places King at third, ahead of Washington and just behind Lincoln.  Ronald Reagan was named Number One, so take that as you will (I take it as patently ridiculous).

It is expected that presidents will be–for better or for worse–transformative figures.   For a private citizen to do so the unmeasurable help of millions of dollars backing them up and effecting their change by way of non-violent resistance against the evil of state-sanctioned racial discrimination is almost impossible to fathom.   Bill Gates with all his billions could not have done what King did with shoe leather and faith.

By no means was King the only one marching.   It took the commitment of thousands of like-minded souls willing to be spat upon, beaten, bitten by dogs, and in some cases murdered for their courage to be the change they sought to bring to the world.

Without them and the leadership and inspiration of a Dr. King, the part of the Dream that was realized with the election of Barack Obama does not happen.   Without Dr King there is no President Obama.

There is an urge by some to see Obama as the realization of King’s dream.  I  understand this urge, but it should be resisted. Obama is not so much the manifestation of the Dream as he is the greatest beneficiary of The Dream.   King’s mark on the world is established beyond dispute.   Obama is still attempting to make good on his and like any politician it’s a mixed bag.  “Change We Can Believe In” is hard to bring about when there is a rigid status quo resistant to changing a thing just as Dr King’s dream seemed like a waking nightmare to his opponents.

On MLK Day the man who would be Obama’s replacement praises the preacher man.  Writing on his Facebook page, Mitt Romney says,  “Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an occasion to reflect on the legacy of an outstanding American. Dr. King not only believed in the fundamental truth that we are all made in God’s image, he fought for that truth in a campaign that brought our country closer to fulfilling its historic promise of liberty and justice for all. The United States has made enormous strides toward racial equality in the decades since Dr. King’s death, but we must never rest until all people are judged, in his immortal words, not ‘by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

On the Today Show,  Romney, who got wealthy by shutting down companies and putting workers on the street said all this talk about income inequality was simply “envy.”

“You know, I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class warfare. When you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on the 99 percent versus one percent — and those people who have been most successful will be in the one percent — you have opened up a whole new wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God.”

A clueless plutocrat like Mitt Romney could never understand a humble man like King who was motivated by a fierce sense of justice, not personal wealth.  If King were doing in 2012 what he was doing in 1968  Romney would not be mumbling empty platitudes he neither wrote nor believes.   He’d be condemning King as a dangerous radical who wanted to take from the 1 percent and give to the 99 percent.

I Mittens ever read King’s A Proper Sense of Priorities speech he would have ample reason to be scared right down to his silk skivvies.

Someone said to me not long ago, it was a member of the press, ‘Dr. King, since you face so many criticisms and since you are going to hurt the budget of your organization, don’t you feel that you should kind of change and fall in line with the Administration’s policy. Aren’t you hurting the civil rights movement and people who once respected you may lose respect for you because you’re involved in this controversial issue in taking the stand against the war.’ And I had to look with a deep understanding of why he raised the question and with no bitterness in my heart and say to that man, “I’m sorry sir, but you don’t know me. I’m not a consensus leader.  I don’t determine what is right and wrong by looking at the budget of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  Nor do I determine what is right and wrong by taking a Gallup poll of the majority opinion.” Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher of consensus but a molder of consensus.  On some positions cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.

Mitt wouldn’t know a thing about that.  That’s why he isn’t a leader and should never be president.

Dr. King had so much more to say than just “I Have A Dream.” Take two minutes out of your day and get hip to a King many Americans do not know.   The radical Dr. King.  The threat to both racists and reactionaries Dr. King.  The Dr, King that was too dangerous to live.

I could not love Martin more if he were my father.  He inspires me and guides me as much as a father ever has a son or daughter.   This is his day and the legacy of America’s greatest King is far richer and more complex and enduring than a fading memory of a distant figure whose legacy has been watered down to four words.