Links of Interest, 9/15/2008

[1] No Obama = Black Community Drama?

Recent articles from The Wall Street Journal (Black Voters Fret Over Obama) and the Washington Post (The Big ‘What If’) discuss the possible fall-out in the black community from a Barack Obama loss in the November election.

From the WSJ article:

An anxious murmur is rising among black voters as the presidential race tightens: What if Barack Obama loses?

Black talk-show hosts and black-themed Web sites are being flooded with callers and bloggers reflecting a nervousness — and anger — over the campaign. Bev Smith, a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host, devoted her entire three-hour show Monday night to the question: “If Obama doesn’t win, what will you think?”

“My audience is upset,” she said in an interview. “Some people said they would be so angry it would be reminiscent of the [1960s] riots — that is how despondent they would be.”

Myself, I think this talk of a devastating blow to the collective black psyche from an Obama loss is itself overblown. People will no doubt be unhappy, but they’ll get over it. The black community has been through much worse.

My own concern is this: will the organizational structures and practices that are being used in this campaign be repurposed as part of an ongoing effort to boost black political participation? If they are, then that will be a lasting legacy of this campaign. If they are not, then this will wind up being a bright and shining moment with no long term impact. Now that would be something to get upset about.

[2] 11 Black Americas

Algernon Austin of the Thora Institute has an excellent summary of Radio One’s Black America study. This is an excerpt of his comments:

…based on demographics, values and consumption patterns, black Americans were segmented into 11 distinct groups. The following are abbreviated descriptions of the groups, from youngest to oldest group:

1. Connected Black Teens: “They are tech savvy, highly social, brand driven and fans of Black music (Hip Hop
and R&B).”

2. Digital Networkers: “Over half of this web savvy, high tech, mobile segment are college or high school students who ‘network’ heavily using Facebook, MySpace, instant messaging and their cell phones.”

3. Black Onliners: “Heavy web users, this mostly male segment is stressed by their work/life balance and the need to straddle Black and White worlds; they are focused on money as the most meaningful measure of success and are the most stressed of any segment about ‘having to fit in’.”

The rest of the list can be found at the Thora Institute site. Refer to the post dated 8/17/08.

[3] Condoleezza Rice: Not Enough Blacks at the State Department

CNN reports that “Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said there are too few black Americans in the State Department. She was delivering the keynote speech at the annual Conference of the White House Initiative on National Historically Black Colleges and Universities.”

The article also notes that “Rice praised partnerships between federal government departments and agencies and black colleges. Last year, such colleges received $5 million in scholarships and grants from the State Department for language training, study abroad and exchange programs.”

[4] Obama Stumps the Experts

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting article titled Wanted: More-Sophisticated Theories of Racial Politics. The article discusses an address by Dianne M. Pinderhughes, who is the first African American female president of the American Political Science Association, to the association’s annual conference in June:

…as recently as a year ago, Pinderhughes and many of her colleagues failed to predict that Mr. Obama’s campaign would succeed — an error that she likened to the discipline’s failure to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The failure to foresee the possibility of Mr. Obama’s success, Ms. Pinderhughes said, was just one small symptom of the discipline’s general failure to develop serious models of the politics of race. “We must begin to consider race in a complex way,” she said, “in the same way that we consider the Founding, international relations, and constitutional law. We’re facing a profound change in American public life without the theoretical tools that we need to explain it.”

It’s an interesting thought. But the fact is, the Obama candidacy surprised a lot of people inside and out of academia. Sometimes it’s about vision, not theory.

[5] Black Minority in Iraq Faces Discrimination; Is Inspired by Obama

I want to give a hat tip to Tariq for pointing to an article from the LA Times, IRAQ: Black Iraqis hoping for a Barack Obama win. The article speaks of the struggles of the African minority in the majority Arab country of Iraq, and how Barack Obama, who is seen as a son of Africa, inspires them.

The post on Nelson’s blog has some interesting comments concerning race as a factor in Islamic culture and relations.

[6] Former Nation of Islam Leader W.D. Mohammed Dies

Wallace Mohammed, AKA Warith Deen Mohammed, son and successor to Elijah Muhammad as a leader of the Nation of Islam, passed away on September 9th. W. D. Mohammed was notable for abandoning the Nation’s previous views on white supremacy and moving its followers into mainstream Islam.

However, W. D. Mohammed was never able to gain the media prominence of Minister Louis Farrakhan, who broke with Mohammed over the changes to the Nation’s philosophy and direction. Farrakhan went on to lead his own group, also called the Nation of Islam.

I was surprised at how little news coverage there was of this. At one time, the Nation of Islam captured the imagination, if not large numbers of members from, large segments of the African American community, especially in the North and Midwest. The scant attention given to Mohammed’s passing shows how weak a force the Nation has become in black America’s consciousness.

(Off Topic) CBS Gets Punked by the McCain Campaign. Are They Acting Like Punks Now?

In the brouhaha over the lipstick faux controversy, an even bigger issue was overlooked by the media: the McCain campaign’s false and misleading use of the words and images of CBS news anchor Katie Couric in the original version of the lipstick ad.

In the initial version of the ad that was posted on YouTube, footage of Couric complaining about sexism (specifically, the way that Hillary Clinton was treated by the media) was added at the end. The way the editing was done, it appeared that Couric was criticizing Obama for sexism; the ad was clearly constructed to have that effect.

The ad was pulled from Youtube after CBS asked it be removed. A CBS News spokesperson stated that “CBS News does not endorse any candidate in the presidential race. Any use of CBS personnel in political advertising that suggests the contrary is misleading.”

And that’s all well and good. But shouldn’t CBS be saying more than that?

This is a case where the image of a major figure on a major network was misappropriated and misused for political purposes. Where is the outrage?

I would have expected, at the least, an on-air statement that “Katie Couric’s image was used in a fraudulent manner by the McCain campaign. Many of you don’t know this. We want the viewers to know.”

And they could have taken that further by saying “We want the McCain campaign to issue an apology.” And even further: “We want an assurance that it won’t happen again.”

If something like that happened to NBC, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann would have made a 15 minute special comment to decry the egregious behavior of the McCain campaign. (Heck, Olbermann probably wishes this had happened to NBC.)

But CBS did none of that. I hate to be cruel and crude, but I have to say it: the dispassionate statement by CBS amounts to, in street terms, a punk’s response. It’s tone and tenor was nowhere near proportionate to the level of the offense. I’ve seen slaps on the wrist that are harsher.

Let me make it clear: this is not about McCain or the GOP or Palin. This is about a news network taking a stand for its integrity and respect. If CBS can’t stand up for themselves, how can they stand up for their viewers, who are expecting CBS to be a strong and independent voice for the reporting of the news?

Perhaps, after being burned by the controversies involving Dan Rather, CBS is fearful of another charge of liberal bias from the Republican Party. I can sympathize with those concerns.

But the news business is not a place for the weak of heart. If CBS is going to be so reticent that it can’t properly respond to such a blatantly fraudulent use of their top newscaster, then they might as well sell the network to somebody who has the spine to do so.

(Satire) Lipstick Sublimina

Is there a subliminal message in the McCain lipstick ad that claimed Barack Obama was smearing Sarah Palin?

Probably not. But just think of the impact on the unconscious mind of the images conjured by these words:

• black male
• white female
• lipstick
• smear

Now, I’m not saying there was something “intentional” about the way the ad was devised. Nobody could be that cynical and calculating… right? But I had to laugh when I thought about it. I wonder if anybody else gets the joke.

Where are social comics like Richard Pryor and George Carlin when we need them?

Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats? MLK, JFK, and LBJ

{This is the third in the series, “Why do Blacks for Democrats?” The previous two posts are:
• Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats? Inclusion and Diversity.
• Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats? See Jesse Helms.}

All people live through history. Great people change it.

The course of history was changed in the 1960s. And in this case, I am talking about African Americans’ preference for the Democratic and Republican parties. Consider these statistics from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies:

Presidential Vote and Party Identificaiton of African Americans, 1956-1964

Source: Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Blacks & the 2008 Democratic National Convention, page 8

As you can see, over the course of just eight years, African American support for the Republican Party practically evaporated.

How did this happen? It can be tied directly to the acts and leadership of three men: Martin Luther King, Jr., who was the leader of the Civil Rights movement; John F. Kennedy, the nation’s president from 1961 through November, 1963, when he was assassinated; and Lyndon Baines Johnson, Kennedy’s successor as president.

Most know who Martin Luther King, Jr, was, and probably President Kennedy as well; President Johnson, although pivotal in the passage of civil rights laws, is undoubtedly the lesser known and least revered among these three historical figures.

But they were all key players in eliminating segregation and legalized discrimination in the South. This excerpt from the book Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America, which was written by Lee A. Daniels, talks of how these three men were linked in changing the face of African American politics:

In October of 1960, less then three weeks before the presidential election, Martin Luther King Jr., already recognized as Black America’s most prominent civil rights leader, had been arrested in Georgia on a traffic technicality: he was still using his Alabama license, although by then he had lived in Georgia for three months.

A swift series of moves by the state’s segregationist power structure resulted in King being sentenced to four months of hard labor on a Georgia chain gang. He was quickly spirited away to the state’s maximum security prison, and many of his supporters, fearing for his life, urgently called both the Nixon and Kennedy camps for help.

Nixon, about to campaign in South Carolina in hopes of capturing the sate’s normally solid Democratic vote, took no action. Kennedy took swift action. He made a brief telephone call to a frantic Coretta Scott King, speaking in soothing generalities and telling her, “If there’s anything I can do to help, please feel free to call on me.”

It’s likely that Kennedy did not at that moment realize the political implications of that call. Ever the pragmatist, he had resisted the pleas of several aides throughout the campaign that he take bolder public stands on civil rights issues. The telephone call came because one aide caught him late at night after a hard day of campaigning and staff meetings as he was about to turn in. The aide, Harris Wofford, pitched it as just a call to calm King’s fearful spouse. Kennedy replied, “What the hell. That’s a decent thing to do. Why not? Get her on the phone.”

King was soon released, unharmed, due to a groundswell of pressure directed by blacks and whites in numerous quarters toward Georgia officials (Robert F. Kennedy himself, who was managing his brother’s campaign called the judge who sentenced King to prison). At the time, the white media paid little attention to the call, which suited the Kennedys fine. But it likely transformed the black vote. King’s father, Martin Luther King Sr., a dominating, fire-and-brimstone preacher with wide influence throughout Black America, had, like many black Southerners, always been a Republican and until that moment had said he couldn’t vote for Kennedy because he was a Catholic.

(But) the day his son was released from prison, the elder King thundered from the pulpit of his famed Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta: “I had expected to vote against Senator Kennedy because of his religion. But now he can be my president, Catholic or whatever he is… He has the moral courage to stand up for what he knows is right. I’ve got all my votes and I’ve got a suitcase, and I’m going to take them up there and dump them in his lap.”

From that moment on, JFK’s bond with blacks, despite his initial tepid support for the movement, was sealed. His assassination, less than six months after proposing what became the Civil Rights Act of 1964, cemented his place of honor among blacks: for years afterward, inexpensive commemorative plates with his likeness were ubiquitous in the homes of blacks across the country. And when his successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson, took up the civil rights cause and pushed both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act through Congress, black voters moved in massive numbers to the Democratic party.

Continue reading

The Schott 50 State Report: The Mis-Education of the Black Male Child

Public education for inner city children of color is in a state of crisis, and has been for some time. To address the need for information on this issue, the Schott Foundation for Public Education, a public interest group with a focus on improving public schools in Massachusetts and New York, has developed an outstanding website named Black Boys that provides “parents, educators, media, policymakers, elected officials—and anyone who cares about education and equity—with direct access to important, alarming data on the devastating reality of education for Black males across all 50 states.”

The site is built around the 2008 edition of Schott’s 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males. The Executive Summary of the Report lays out the issues:

(Our 2008 report), Given Half a Chance: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males, details the drastic range of outcomes for Black males, especially the tragic results in many of the nation’s biggest cities.

Given Half a Chance also deliberately highlights the resource disparities that exist in schools attended by Black males and their White, non-Hispanic counterparts. The 2008 Schott report documents that states and most districts with large Black enrollments educate their White, non-Hispanic children, but do not similarly educate the majority of their Black male students. Key examples:

✦ More than half of Black males did not receive diplomas with their cohort in 2005/2006.

✦ The state of New York has 3 of the 10 districts with the lowest graduation rates for Black males.

✦ The one million Black male students enrolled in the New York, Florida, and Georgia public schools are twice as likely not to graduate with their class as to do so.

✦ Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, South Carolina, and Wisconsin graduated fewer Black males with their peer group than the national average.

✦ Nevada and Florida graduated less than a third of their Black male students on schedule.

✦ Illinois and Wisconsin have nearly 40-point gaps between how effectively they educate their Black and White non-Hispanic male students.

One of the things that makes this site so useful is, it provides a state of the art way to drill down to educational information and data about particular states. The webmasters deserve a lot of credit for the way they “architected” the site, to use a techie term.

Source: the Schott Foundation for Public Education,

But even more that that, Black Boys shows in chilling detail how poorly black males are performing in our public schools. The site is not just informational; it’s stark presentation of the issues is motivational. I highly recommend that you give it a look.

Will Racism Prevent White Americans from Voting for Barack Obama?, Part 2: WSJ Doesn’t Think So; Republicans Do.

In the previous post (Will Racism Prevent White Americans from Voting for Barack Obama?, Part 1), I spoke about concerns that whites might not vote for Obama because he is black.

There are some who are skeptical of the idea that race will be a decisive factor in the election. Count the Wall Street Journal among them. An opinion piece by WSJ titled The Racism Excuse begins by saying “Things are supposed to be looking rosy for Democrats this November. But in case Barack Obama loses the Presidency, an excuse is all ready to go: America’s too racist to elect a black man. ”

So it’s worth noting that Republicans themselves are factoring racism into the way they view and manage the election. Consider this comment on polls, from reporting at the Republican National Convention by Southern California Public Radio:

(At a brunch for Californai delegates to the Convention) Republican Pollster and author of “Words That Matter” Frank Luntz was the featured speaker. He openly spoke of the “BRADLEY EFFECT.” That refers to the 1982 California gubernatorial election when then Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley was leading in the polls against George Deukmejian. Bradley lost the race. Analysts believe voters lied when they said they’d vote for Bradley, when in fact they were unwilling to vote for a black man. Luntz predicted the same thing would happen with Barack Obama. He told California delegates not to get discouraged if John McCain is trailing in the polls, because the Bradley effect will make up for some of that.

A more pointed comment comes from a unnamed Republican source in this article from

I was talking the other day to a prominent Republican who asked me what I thought John McCain’s strongest issues would be in the general election.

Lower taxes and the argument he will be better able to protect America from its enemies, I said.

Republicans have a pretty good track record with those two.

The Republican shook his head. “You’re missing the most important one,” he said. “Race. McCain runs against Barack Obama and the race vote is worth maybe 15 percent to McCain.”

The man I was talking to is not a racist; he was just stating what he believes to be a fact: There is a percentage of the American electorate who will simply not vote for a black person no matter what his qualities or qualifications.

So, Republicans know what we all know: race is a factor in the election. A bigger question is, are Republicans using overt or subtle appeals to race in this campaign? I have some thoughts on that here.

PS: See also: this article in USAToday dated 9/3/08: Armey: ‘Bubba vote’ to hurt Obama

The “Bubba vote” and underlying racism will hurt Democrat Barack Obama in key battleground states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, Republican and former House majority leader Dick Armey said Wednesday.

“The Bubba vote is there, and it’s very real, and it is everywhere,” Armey told USA TODAY and Gannett News Service. “There’s an awful lot of people in America, bless their heart, who simply are not emotionally prepared to vote for a black man.

“It’s deplorable, but it is real,” said Armey, adding that he believes “Republicans would not encourage” such prejudices. He said the “Bubba vote” is “invisible” in pre-election opinion polls, because voters do not admit they would oppose a candidate because of race.

The “Bubba vote” is shorthand in politics for white, working-class voters who often live in rural areas — a group Obama did not dominate in state primaries.