Category Archives: African-American Politics

Too Respectable to Fight?: Why I Am Not Surprised that Derrick Johnson, Chokwe Lumumba, Myrlie Evers Did Not Take The Fight to Donald Trump at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

There is no other way for me to say this; I have tired of dignified black leaders. To be honest with you my list of dignified leaders that I have tired of reads like a who’s who of the modern Civil Rights Movement. This list of far too dignified black leaders includes the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson, John Lewis, Barack Obama, and after allowing Donald Trump to bring his vaudeville show to their environs with minimal interference, I must include every purported black leader within the state of Mississippi.

Although many consider the respectability politics that serve as a thin-veil over what any courageous people would recognize as cowardice, there is no doubt that today’s black leaders routinely seek an escape route from political fights and cultural wars. When examined in its totality, black leaders avoid direct public conflict with whites “by any means necessary.” However, even a cursory examination of recent history proves that it is only black leaders who are devoted cowards.

I am confident that you remember the blatant disrespect that President Barack Obama routinely experienced at the hand of whites behaving as if they were raised by wolves. Let us not forget that such treatment aimed at black men possessing some semblance of power as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., suffered similar treatment on a routine basis, not even MLK’s application of a forgiving and long-suffering Christian ethos protected him from white bigots.

Although I am certain that this determination to not address whites in the midst of their most inappropriate moments may have begun as an attempt for black leaders to “not show their color.” However, after watching this sordid saga occur to black leaders throughout this nation’s existence, such avoidance of conflict has transitioned from an act to remain above the public moments of disrespect into the realm of cowardice; one can rest assured that angry whites recognize this fact. One has to wonder if none of these black leaders are capable of channeling the spirit of Frederick Douglass who courageously advised our kind that “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.”

The latest moment of white folk disrespecting not only contemporary Black America but also our ancestors who miraculously were able to “make a way out of no way” is the appearance of Donald Trump in Jackson, Mississippi, to deliver a speech at the new Civil Rights Museum. Now I fully understand that it was Mississippi’s Republican Governor Phil Bryant who extended the invitation and there was little that the black community could do about Trump’s appearance. However, one has to wonder why none of the leading Civil Rights leaders in that city, let us not forget that Jackson, Mississippi, the location of the Museum, has an African-American mayor, did not use their political clout to deliver a message inside of that venue in Trump’s presence?

Make no mistake about it, moments such as this one are wasted opportunities to strike a blow for black liberation that would make both our ancestors and future generations of Black America proud. It is time that black leaders abandon their respectability politics and begin channeling the spirit of Malcolm X who admonished Black America over a half-century ago that they “make it hard on themselves when they go around that white man with those sweet words. No! Tell that man exactly how you feel.”

Instead of taking the fight to a figure like Trump who has spent his entire life opposing Civil Rights and one could argue the right for black people to exist on planet Earth with even a modicum of dignity, black leaders adorn themselves with a cloak of cowardice also known as ‘respectability politics’ and rationalize that this is not a good time to address racial matters in the presence of whites. I am here to tell you that there is no better time to address those whites who routinely execute devious plans and public statements that rally a bigoted base to double-down on their attacks on Black America than the present. It angers me that white bigots and the conservative Sambos that dance to their tune never measure if the time is right to demean, disrespect, and exterminate our kind.

It is this failure to take the fight to these avowed enemies, meaning white conservatives and their black Sambo lackeys, at every turn that causes me to express my righteous indignation at the black demonstrators who stood outside of the venue protesting, a location that guaranteed that they could be easily ignored, and Derrick Johnson, the head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Chokwe Lumumba, the Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, and Myrie Evers, the wife of Civil Rights stalwart Medgar Evers.

I have no problem with saying that each of these figures displayed copious amounts of cowardice that they couched in typical respectability politics. Johnson and Lumumba were not even on location, choosing to have a “news conference” a safe distance away from where the action was occurring. While Myrlie Evers was inside of the room listening to Trump fumble and stumble through a prepared 10-minute speech that amounted to absolutely nothing.

It appears that black folk in general, and our so-called leaders in particular, are afraid of “white folk power.” One thing is certain, if the tables were turned, there is not a single racial/ethnic group in America — white, Jewish, Japanese, Mexican, or Chinese — who would have behaved like good little children while an African-American President who demeaned their kind at every turn appeared to address them about matters that his entire being and financial resources have been used to oppose.

It is befuddling that the most significant resistance that Black Mississippi could muster was a statement from Myrlie Evers who broke an earlier promise to directly address Trump in her comments by offering the following. Regardless of race, creed or color, we are all Americans. … If Mississippi can rise to the occasion, then the rest of the country should be able to do the same thing.

Anyone interested in the liberation of black folk has to be left scratching their heads at the antics of so-called black leaders. Where is their anger? Where is the impulse to attack this enemy at every turn? Judging by the actions of our leaders we have not had our fill of white oppression yet. Now what it will take to get us to that point; only the Lord knows. At least we didn’t “show our color” on national television.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

The U.S. vs. Booker: The Reason Black Men Are Being Sentenced to Longer Prison Sentences than White Men

You better duck because the book is comin’.

So just pass the car keys to your woman.

(Ice Cube)

I remember the names and faces well. How could I not? They are my relatives, friends, classmates, and many were mere acquaintances whose lives were relatively inconsequential to the path that I was traveling. However, it was an unwritten rule that when we were together that it was mandatory that we greeted each other in a heartfelt and soulful manner. I soon learned that this greeting was tantamount to a cultural adaptation that conveyed an understanding that this could possibly be our final time together. I guess that such logic is only understandable to those of us who hail from poor and working-class communities. No one knew better than us that black men routinely disappeared from our midst without a moment’s notice.

And for the unknowing, when I say disappear, I am not talking about being absent for a day or two; I am talking about their smiles, laughs, and ingenuity being inaccessible to their community for a decade or more. Were they killed, kidnapped, or stolen? No, not exactly. The alluded to individuals had somehow found themselves in the clutches of an unforgiving criminal justice system that has always punished black men, women, and children in an unduly harsh manner.

For those of us reared in predominantly African-American communities, the disappearance of black men was a fact that we needed no academic study to verify; we had repeatedly seen it take place. There is not a single person in Black America who if forced, to tell the truth, would not tell you that African-American men receive harsher penalties than their white counterparts for the exact same criminal offense.

Hopefully, the protestations of white opponents who dismissed our personal stories regarding this matter as anecdotal evidence will finally be silenced by the release of a U.S. Sentencing Commission Report that provides definitive data-driven proof that there is most definitely disparate sentencing occurring between black and white males being sentenced for the same crime.

According to the alluded to report that covers a period between 2012 to 2016, African-American men serve 19 percent longer sentences for the same offense as their white counterparts. Researchers found that the cause of the lengthier sentences handed down to black men is solely attributable to the decision-making of judges.

The source of the judicial discretion mentioned above is the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision, United States vs. Booker. It was this decision that provided judges unconscionable power to extend sentences if they deemed it appropriate; prior to this decision, judges were forced to work within guidelines provided by the sentencing commission.

As a black man in America who has lived enough to realize that life has many unanticipated twists and turns, it is frightening to consider that judges are no longer handcuffed by sentencing guidelines and therefore able to behave as an omnipotent being capable of altering life in an unforeseen manner. Although it is unfashionable to make statements such as the following, however, one must remember that Judges are people like anyone else in this nation who carry past observations and life lessons with them onto the bench that they mete out justice. I repeatedly tell others that it is impossible to be raised in America and not develop stereotypes that feed the manifestations of discriminatory behavior for individuals who have some access to power. When considered in this light, it should frighten Americans that sentences for crimes are being decided in such an arbitrary manner. Unfortunately, we as a national populace rarely consider such matters until it is our turn to deal with the issue.

And far too often when African-American males are standing before a judge awaiting his/her decision on you and your family’s future the best advice that they can receive comes from famed rapper Ice Cube who once advised those in this situation in the following manner.

“You better duck, because the book is comin’. So just pass your car keys to your woman.”

I am confident that you agree that we need a concerted and organized effort to address this issue, otherwise we will continue to see black men, women, and children disappear for no apparent reason.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017.

Please support Independent Black Scholarship by purchasing a book. I am confident that you agree that such support is the only way that we are going to free our minds. Books published by Dr. James Thomas Jones are as follows:

Creating Revolution as They Advance: A Historical Narrative of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

‘Foolish’ Floyd: The Life & Times of an African-American Contrarian

O’Bruni: An African-American Odyssey Home?

 

 

 

 

What John Conyers Fall From Grace Reveals About Charismatic Centralized Leadership to Black America

When one considers the manner that U.S. Representative John Conyers Jr. (D-Detroit) political career that extends beyond fifty-years ended, feelings of sadness and disappointment naturally arise within Black America. The alluded to feelings are in many ways applause for the phenomenal work that Conyers performed during his time as a U.S. Congressman in what could be appropriately termed a lily-white Congress. If nothing else, Conyers must be applauded for his willingness to “speak truth to power” in one of the least racially representative locations known to humanity.

Despite what can only be termed a risqué cloud of sexually based accusations surrounding Conyers’ resignation, anyone familiar with his congressional work is aware that it was Representative Conyers that championed civil rights and social justice like none other. When other members of the Congressional Black Caucus displayed a lack of courage in regards to contentious racial matters, it was Conyers that Black America could count on to resist political attacks from white opponents regarding matters such as unfair mandatory sentencing guidelines that threatened to put black men, women, and children behind bars for lengthy prison sentences. For many, there was much comfort found in knowing that Representative Conyers was on the job 24/7.

There is no doubt that it is Conyers public greatness that makes his fall even more difficult to accept for politically astute African-Americans. However, this situation is yet another reminder for Black America that it is a risky prospect to put all of one’s faith in our political or religious leaders as if they are some type of deity sent to save us from an angry white horde determined to end our existence. I take no pride in saying that we have seen this theatrical tragedy before and most likely will see it again.

When one considers the list of well-known black politicians (Jesse Jackson, Ray Nagin, Jesse Jackson Jr., Kwame Kilpatrick, Marion Berry) who have suffered an all too public and disgraceful fall from grace, it reminds us of something that we already knew, the charisma that seemingly drips from these men in no way cancels the reality that they never ceased to be highly flawed mortal beings. If nothing else, each of their falls from grace should cause African-American activists to re-evaluate the charismatic centralized leadership construct that we have applied to our peculiar plight in America. History has once again proven that the idea of Black America being successfully guided around the tripwires and snares that have curtailed our freedom since the settling of the Jamestown colony is a foolhardy perspective that invariably ends in copious amounts of disappointment.

Conyers fall from grace returns Black America to an all too familiar position of Where Do We Go From Here? Even a cursory examination of African-American history proves that the charismatic centralized leadership model invariably ends in failure and disappointment for all adherents. Most disappointing of all is that not even an easily accessible historical record has caused black activists to abandon figures such as John Conyers, Umar Johnson, Kwame Kilpatrick, or Jesse Jackson.

In many ways, it appears that Civil Rights organizer Ella Baker was correct in her warnings regarding the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the centralized leadership model that plagued the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Baker not only questioned what would become of SCLC if Dr. King were killed but also offered an alternative decentralized leadership structure that would allow an organization/movement to continue in the wake of a charismatic leader being removed for whatever reason.

If it can be said that politics begin locally, it can also be said that the heaviest portions of racial uplift must occur at the most local of levels; that being, in the realm of personal responsibility. If Conyers fall from grace teaches us nothing else, I pray that it impresses on individuals within our community that it is they, not John Conyers, Umar Johnson, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Michael Eric Dyson, Louis Farrakhan, or any other national-level political spokesperson who is ultimately responsible for their plight. The time has come for African-Americans on an individual basis to seize the time and take control of their own fortunes and realize that if the saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, our community needs them to dedicate themselves to not being that weakest link in regards to education, political acumen, social graces, and entrepreneurial/economic/business endeavors. We can not afford inefficiency in any shape, form, or fashion. One thing is for certain, John Conyers fall from grace definitively proves once again that even notable political figures have their hands full managing their own lives and therefore little time to help you with your unique issues; that job is yours.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

Why Black Men Should Applaud the Development of a Black Woman’s Movement and Political Agenda

I must be forthright and state that I believe public protests and marches should be at best a minimal portion of strategies aimed at liberating Black America. A century ago, public protests and marches were a phenomenal way to inform naïve whites of bigotry, racial discrimination, and institutional racism, the need for such measures are long gone as all Americans realize that we have a Race problem in this nation. The historical record indicates that over the past half-century public protests have failed to make significant strides toward solving the underlying catalysts to racial inequality. Put simply; the typical march for racial justice amounts to little more than our people talking loud and achieving nothing.

Although I hold fast to the belief that marches such as the March for Racial Justice and the March for Black Women planned today in Washington, D.C. will fail to make a tangible difference in the plight of black people in America; there is a silver lining to be found regarding the latter. To the chagrin of many who oppose black liberation, it appears that a segment of African-American women have channeled the spirit and intelligence of their brave sisters of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, and the Black Liberation Army and realized that black women have tended to exist in a peculiar space that lends itself to political invisibility.

Consider for a moment that it is common for the needs, wants, and particular issues facing black women to be muted by their identity. Unfortunately, black women are too female to be adequately represented in the male-dominated African-American freedom struggle and too black to be centered in a women’s movement that disregards the pernicious evil of racial oppression. Verification of such an assertion is found throughout the entire feminist movement that has “welcomed” black women into their fold under the condition that they must adopt a pre-existing agenda that has nothing to do with their particular needs, wants, and desires. The issues that matter most to black women conflict with the “white world supremacy” that provides great privilege to white women; it is, after all, their first inheritance as an America.

In many ways, it should be difficult for anyone who has any love for black women not to applaud this courageous decision by march leaders to articulate a political agenda that highlights peculiar issues that will never be found within either the African-American freedom struggle or the feminist movement. This decision should ensure that black women are no longer eclipsed by an African-American freedom struggle that accentuates racial matters at the cost of ignoring gender issues or a white female-headed feminist movement that will never work toward eradicating white supremacy.

Although I know that many black men will shudder at the prospect of black women having a separate political agenda, they have little to worry about as African-American women have historically supported the African-American freedom struggle. I am confident that the March for Black Women will not change that fact. The alluded to fears should be quieted by the reality that politically astute, courageous, disciplined, and educated black women are central to the creation of and the maintenance of an active black community.

Failure to understand this fact dooms us all and ensures that racial disparities will continue unabated. And that is a reality that all of Black America should consider revolting.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

Donald the Unifier?: Maybe Black America Should Thank Trump for “Being Trump” After All

An understanding of racial concepts is by-far the most difficult thing for my undergraduate students to comprehend. Now, I fully understand how confused they must be when they hear my belief that the only reason they call themselves black is due to the presence of whites. The bare bones truth of Race in America is the fact that if white people did not exist there would be no black people. After all, the current racial identifiers have been haphazardly constructed over the past four centuries.

The historical record proves that regardless of geographical location or other peculiarities, the most reliable solidifying agent for any group is the presence of what is best termed the “other.” It is this opposing force that threatens a particular group’s access to limited resources and therefore causes them to mobilize under a racial or ethnic grouping. There is no room for sensible debate disputing either white’s status as the “other” for blacks or the phenomenal impact that White America’s decisions and actions have had on Black America.

The general threat that White America poses has sporadically caused blacks to abandon petty disputes in favor of an attempt to organize their prodigious politico-economic resources in an attempt to fight against white world supremacy and the tyrannical leaders who impose it on black men, women, and children.

Donald J. Trump, the current occupant of the Oval Office, is the most recent representation of white tyrannical rule over a politically disorganized black populace that has failed to make any significant strides for racial equality since the Black Power Era’s decline.

Although difficult to comprehend, Donald J. Trump is actually the best thing to happen regarding the political engagement of a black community whose interests in such matters tends to ebb and flow. It appears that the most reliable steroid shot for black political engagement is the appearance of a veritable “boogeyman” capable of efficiently reminding Black America of their subordinate status. A cursory examination of the plight of blacks displays that not even their lagging behind in every economic, political, health and educational measurable is as powerful as the arrival of a polarizing figure such as Trump. The mere presence of the alluded to figure reminds the black community that there is unfinished business in the battle against discrimination, bigotry, racial bias, and institutional racism.

Without the presence of a “boogeyman”, a sizable portion of the community has little interest in political engagement, while a few “educated” blacks can be found debating if Civil Rights Organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored or the National Urban League have outlived their utility.

Although unfortunate, it appears that the foremost pre-requisite to a significant reengagement with political matters by Black America is the appearance of a hateful, ignorant, and socially inappropriate figure that offends all. Donald J. Trump is that figure for Black America.

One needs to look no further than the quickening politicization of professional athletes occurring throughout the National Football League and the National Basketball Association for proof that Donald J. Trump has intentionally fashioned himself as the “other” as it benefits his drastic efforts to pander to a disenfranchised white populace; unfortunately for Trump, his traveling vaudeville show has also quickened the political pulse of Black America.

It is this increasing interest in political matters that causes me much concern as many are mistaking it for a growth in political acumen and sophistication. Trust me when I say that those are two very different things. Instead of serving as a sign of burgeoning political maturation, much of Black America’s increasing awareness of political matters is merely a superficial reaction that will invariably be overcome by some other distraction. I am certain that we agree that when this occurs, the African-American community will be left in an all too familiar position. Indicative of such knee-jerk reaction politics is the presence of persons such as Ray Lewis who do their best to ride the rising and falling political winds; an obvious indicator that their interests are in a word, unanchored.

At this crucial moment, it is imperative that politicized blacks infuse their community with a progressive political education aimed at improving the black community. Failure to do such will serve as yet another indicator that blacks have yet to develop an understanding of this thing called life.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017