- Created on 20 May 2013
I have always suspected that racists didn’t like being called out for their racism. Now I have proof.
When I told MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts on May 14 that the Tea Party was “the Taliban wing of American politics,” a firestorm erupted. Arguing the IRS was correct to target them for extra scrutiny, I also said “Here are a group of people who are admittedly racist, who are overtly political” and therefore worthy of IRS concern.
I was not prepared for the slew of angry emails, including two from self-identified Black people (your worst nightmare, one said) I received. Many of them suggested I leave the country, reminiscent of the “Go back to Africa” chants racist crowds of Whites shouted at Black protestors in my youth.
One said my advanced age – I am 73 – meant I would not be around to make such mischief much longer, and I should prepare for that quick eventuality.
A few suggested my employer fire me, not knowing that I retired from that job a year ago. Several of the messages were badly written with misspelled words, including one from a relative by marriage – you can’t choose your in-laws – reading “Your calling folks Talabans borders on Traitorism.”
This same correspondent noted I had been “head of the most classic Racist group in our country,” referring to the NAACP, whose board I chaired for 11 years. Others characterized the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights group, interracial in membership and dedicated to racial integration since 1909, in the same way.
After an exchange of messages with some of them, trying to convince them that while I opposed it, I didn’t condemn every member of the Tea Party, the interactions became more civil and less hostile. Some even wished me well.
But to a person they rejected the labels “racism” and “racist,” even as I thought I had proved that the Tea Party has had racist, anti-Semitic and nativist elements from its beginning until today.
One source is a study conducted for the NAACP by the Institute for Research and Education for Human Rights. Their study, called Tea Party Nationalism, found “Tea Party ranks to be permeated with concerns about race and national identify and other so-called social issues. In these ranks, an abiding obsession with Barack Obama’s birth certificate is often a stand-in for the belief that the first black president of the United States s not a “real American.”
It says Tea Party organizations have given platforms to anti-Semites, racists and bigots and “hard-core white nationalists have been attracted” to Tea Party protests.
The link between the Tea Party and the Taliban was made by a prominent Republican office holder.
In 2008, the Washington Post reported that former chairman of the Republican Congressional Committee and present day Congressman Pete Sessions likened the GOP House minority to the Taliban, saying, “Insurgency, we understand perhaps a bit more because of the Taliban.”
Just as my arguments failed to convince my correspondents, so apparently does the actual evidence.
Not the ugly racist signs and placards displayed at Tea Party rallies, not the shouts of the “n” word aimed at members of the Congressional Black Caucus, not the spittle hurled at civil rights icon and Congressman John Lewis, not the racists expelled from the Tea Party for their venom, not the association of many members with the Council of Conservative Citizens, a lineal descendant of the White Citizen Council, not the anti-gay slurs aimed at former Congressman Barney Frank (d-Mass.), not the members whose racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia should be an embarrassment – not all or any of this could get them to acknowledge the label “racist.”
My Black correspondents even claimed that their race prohibited them from being racists, as if skin color was a proscription against ignorance. And many of my presumably non-Black correspondents accused me of being a racist, so my race apparently offered me no protection from this evil.
What is the lesson here?
That the label “racist” has become so toxic almost everyone rejects it? That the toxicity makes the label unacceptable but its actual practice is still tolerable for many?
Or that it is a defense against itself? As the relative-I-try-not-to-claim wrote, “I don’t know any white people who hate blacks like you advocate blacks should hate whites.”
Or only that while the United States has made much progress in race relations, we still have a long, long way to go?
Julian Bond is Chairman Emeritus of the NAACP and a Professor at American University in Washington.
- Created on 20 May 2013
Over the past few weeks, President Obama has made comments that seemed to signal his support for expanding LNG exports, a welcomed gesture delineating a business forward attitude that will boost our economy and make our nation more energy secure. During a meeting with business leaders in Costa Rica, the president said “I’ve got to make…an executive decision broadly about whether or not we export liquefied natural gas. . .But I can assure you that once I make that decision, then factoring in how we can use that to facilitate lower costs in the hemisphere and in Central America will be on my agenda.”
Why is this important to communities across the country? In simplistic terms, it means job creation and economic growth in the U.S., including in predominantly African American communities.
Many Americans are already familiar with the abbreviation LNG. For those that aren’t, LNG stands for Liquefied Natural Gas that is basically natural gas put into liquid form through a cooling process. This process allows for the safe and efficient transportation of natural gas to and from terminals around the world. LNG is popular because natural gas is the cleanest of all the fossil fuels and it’s a highly abundant resource.
In the energy industry, LNG is viewed as a game changer because this energy resource allows for economic growth and huge opportunities for job creation. Natural gas has already been credited with creating a large number of American jobs, and experts forecast that by expanding LNG exports this job growth trend can continue well into the future.
A new study by ICF International looked specifically at this issue. Across all the scenarios examined, it found there to be significant net job creation from allowing the export of LNG. In its most optimistic case, net job creation from exporting LNG could reach as many as 452,000 new jobs by 2035 – 76,800 of which would come in manufacturing alone. In our stalled American economic recovery, those numbers are nothing to sneeze at.
Natural gas production has hit a small speed bump recently because of extremely low natural gas prices. This deceleration in production levels comes as no surprise however as natural gas production increased a staggering 27 percent from 2005 to 2011 according to a new study on natural gas from the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council (SBE Council).
So how does America get back to the days of robust natural gas production and job creation that were seen from 2005-2011? Simple. Encourage LNG exports. By increasing exports of natural gas, the U.S. will create a market for excess supply. Domestic natural gas prices will remain affordable and job growth in the energy industry will continue higher.
The author of SBE Council’s natural gas study, economist Raymond J. Keating, explains the natural gas situation best:
“The tremendous increase in domestic natural gas production has been a boon for small business and job growth in the energy sector in recent years. Looking ahead, growth opportunities for small businesses and employment in the U.S. energy sector look bright due to increased natural gas demand, including in international markets.”
Another recent report, this one from Moody’s Investor Service, shows the U.S. is in a good position to become a top exporter of LNG in just a few years, thanks to new facilities that can transport natural gas shipments to Asia. It’s believed that between now and 2020, the U.S. will be competing with countries such as Canada and Australia that are also focused on Asia’s appetite for cheap and plentiful natural gas.
So what does this all mean for families and communities here in America? Much needed jobs and economic growth. These reports from SBE Council and Moody’s on natural gas come as good news particularly in the wake of the Labor Department’s April jobs report. The April job numbers showed a small drop in the overall U.S. unemployment rate, down to 7.5 from 7.6 percent, yet the African-American rate remained unchanged at 13.2 percent.
Fortunately, three of the four American LNG terminals expected to come online in the not too distant future are located in Louisiana and Maryland, both states with significant African American populations. These states will benefit from new investment, new jobs and increased tax revenue as a result of the construction and operation of new LNG export terminals.
With an anemic economy, America needs to grab this opportunity to promote a real economic recovery and put people back to work. Public policies that support natural gas production and LNG exports will be vital to putting our economy on the right path. So let’s move forward on LNG exports.
- Created on 17 May 2013
“Raise your eyes now, and look from the place where you are…for all the land that you see I will give to you.” Genesis 13: 14-15
University commencement season is a time of high hopes and great celebration. I was again reminded of that when I delivered the commencement address at Huston-Tillotson (HT) University in Austin, Texas. This coming weekend, I will also speak during graduation ceremonies at Tuskegee University and Alcorn State.
Perhaps best known as the university where Jackie Robinson served as athletic director and basketball coach before he set out to break the color barrier in baseball, Huston-Tillotson is the oldest Historically Black College and University (HBCU) west of the Mississippi. For 137 years, it has opened doors of educational opportunity that might have otherwise been closed to many African American students. The enthusiasm and optimism I saw in the faces of this year’s HT graduates – and that I expect to see at Tuskegee and Alcorn – reaffirmed my belief that the future is indeed in good hands.
My message to the graduates was simply to make sure that in addition to emerging from college academically prepared, they should also embrace their obligation to pave the way for the next generation and leave this world better than they found it. I am all too aware that this is easier said than done. So, I also shared three key observations, or better yet life lessons, to help them navigate this next phase of their journey. I call them the three C’s – courage, choice and compassion.
The class of 2013 is graduating at a pivotal moment in American history. Fifty years ago, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared his passionate dream that America live up to its promise of liberty and justice for all. That same year, four little Black girls were killed by a terrorist bomb planted by the Ku Klux Klan at Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, and civil rights hero Medgar Evers was assassinated in the driveway of his home in Jackson, Miss. Now 50 years later, we have witnessed the second inauguration of the nation’s first Black president. As I told the HT graduates, we’ve come a long way baby, but we still have a long way to go.
While many of the legal impediments to equal opportunity have been eliminated over the past half-century, new challenges including voter suppression, criminal justice abuses, economic inequality and opposition to common sense gun safety legislation, have risen to take their place. All of these problems will require this generation of graduates to muster the kind of courage shown by people like Jackie Robinson, Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, and National Urban Leaguer Heman Sweatt, who fought the battle to integrate the University of Texas in 1950. They each found the courage and made the choice to devote themselves to a cause greater than themselves. They each demonstrated the kind of compassion required to act beyond individual interests and clear obstacle-laden paths so that those who followed could have better opportunities. The baton is now passing to a new generation, and I have no doubt they will rise to the challenge.
The National Urban League has always engaged young people in our empowerment movement. For more than 40 years, our Black Executive Exchange Program (BEEP) has been cultivating new leaders and inspiring achievement by enabling African American students to interface and network with African American business professionals to prepare for careers in corporate America. In addition, the National Urban League Young Professionals (NULYP) engages young professionals ages 21-40 in voluntarism and philanthropy to empower their communities and change lives.
Many of today’s HBCU graduates have been touched by those and similar efforts. We expect that they will use the blueprint of courage, choice and compassion summoned and shown by so many before them. We expect that they will pass it on and choose to serve.
Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.
- Created on 20 May 2013
In February of 2000, four N.Y.C. police officers were acquitted of all charges in the death of Amadou Diallo, an immigrant from Guinea who was shot 41 times after police thought his wallet was somehow a gun. In January of 2004, 19-year-old Timothy Stansbury was shot and killed by an NYPD officer patrolling the rooftop near his building who said he...
- Created on 17 May 2013
Dudley Randall’s poem, “It seems to me, said Booker T, I disagree, said W.E.B.” points out an issue that has plagued Black folks for generations. During Booker T’s time, some Blacks said he was working “for the man” as he tried to build an economic foundation for his people via education, industrial training, self-help, and business principles. W.E.B. DuBois said Washington’s program came along “at the correct psychological moment,” but he ended up being Booker T’s antagonist because Black people began to choose sides. Rather than take the best of both of those giants, we succumbed to the “divide and conquer” syndrome.
In 1915, Marcus Garvey decided to come to this country to meet with Booker T., who died before Garvey’s arrival. But, the naysayers and detractors soon started dividing the people again, pitting DuBois against Garvey instead of taking the best of what both offered and working toward our collective uplift.
Since then, we have seen similar scenarios played out, such as Malcolm and Martin, Stokely and Martin, Al and Jesse, Tupac/Biggie/Knight/Dogg and all that madness, Eddie Long and Al Sharpton, Smiley/West and Dyson/Harris-Perry, and the list goes on. It’s not that we should agree on everything; that would create a bunch of robots. We should, however, have enough sense and knowledge of the past and the present to deal with our personal disagreements in private while moving collectively and publicly toward one goal. Could our penchant for one-ups-man-ship be attributed to another syndrome called, the “HNIC,” as described in Norman Kelley’s excellent book of the same name?
All the silliness, rancor, redundancy, and, yes, jealousy among our people are both unnecessary and divisive. I recall when George Bush attended the 2003 Urban League convention but dissed the NAACP’s meeting. Marc Morial and Kweisi Mfume were at the helms of those two organizations, and the feathers started to fly about what George Bush did. More importantly, our folks began to take sides because Bush decided he would deal with Morial rather than the fiery Mfume.
As long as we, both individually and organizationally, are fighting one another and choosing sides, as if we are on different teams, our economic empowerment will always be an illusory, quixotic, and romanticized state of mind rather than a substantive realization.
In my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, our NAACP branch will be 100 years old in 2015. Under its current leadership over the past seven years, we have advanced from a fledgling 400 or so membership base and a tenuous financial position, to a 2,400 membership base and a long-term and stable financial position. We have also built strong, mutually beneficial, broad-based relationships – unprecedented in the history of this branch.
Around the first part of this year, 98 years after the founding of Cincinnati branch of the NAACP, a local chapter of the National Action Network (NAN) was established. Some say it was simply an effort to “compete” and make irrelevant the NAACP and its president, who overwhelmingly defeated his opposition candidate last November. Idiocy has prevailed since then, mainly because of a few malcontents and sore losers who “don’t like” the NAACP president and are desperately trying to bring him down. At the same time, the images of our two organizations are being dragged through the mud on, of all places, a “Black” radio station. How stupid is that?
The new president of the NAN chapter has not had the common courtesy to contact the leader of the NAACP branch to explore ways to cooperate and move forward on common agenda items. Rather, he has operated under the guise of “neutrality,” knowing all along that the main intentions of many of his founding members are divisiveness, rancor, adversity, and ultimate destruction of the NAACP branch – unless they can take it over. Their feeble attempts and bully tactics will not work. Still, it is sad to see a few jealous, envious, and spoiled Black folks attempt to stymy and negate the tremendous progress made in this town over the past seven years via the NAACP.
My use of Al Sharpton and Ben Jealous in the title of this article is just a generic representation of how some of our people have and continue to make Randall’s W.E.B./Booker T. poem relevant today. Al and Ben may disagree on some issues, but they are not trying to tear each other down.
Our penchant for choosing sides and trying to destroy the opposite side is detrimental to our progress. Whether we like it or not, we are all on the same team; and like on any sports team, the best players are starters and the less accomplished ones are benchwarmers. Yes, some on the bench may secretly hope for the demise of a starter so they can get into the game, but at least they are not sitting there outwardly booing their own team in order to get their chance to play.
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, blackonomics.com.