Between Barack and a Hard Place — March 2015

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman March 21st, 2015

The “experiment” that featured a Black man in the White house is on the downside now. Folks in the Obama administration are busy looking for their next job and jumping ship faster than rats. But you can’t blame them; that’s the way it is in politics. You ride your horse as long as you can and then you find a new horse. That’s just what folks in Presidential administrations do. The question is: What horse will Black folks ride now?

With Barack, came new line-dances at the clubsline dance, new phrases, and new “hope” that would finally move Black people to the front of the line for a “change.” We were large and in charge, big-ballers and shot-callers, cool and stylish, but we soon found that we were not really running anything. Having bet the farm on our horse, we now look on in agony as he comes down the home stretch. We want to move the finish line a bit farther down the track because we don’t yet have the victory, and it looks like we’re not going to get it. All we can hope for now is just a little more euphoria before November 2016.
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Right now many Black people, “sheeple,” as some are called, are between Barack and hard place. We don’t know if we are pitching or catching. As that Richard Pryor movie asked, “Which way is up?” We invested nearly 100% of our political capital in our current President, thinking we would get a decent ROI (Return on Investment). Unless there is a drastic uptick in the next few months, our investment will be lost forever, because we know this experiment will not be done again for a long time.

Between Barack and a hard place means that Black people, collectively, are now without a comfortable place to turn, without someone we can look to for hope and change, and without what we considered to be a foothold in politics. Being between Barack and a hard place is causing anxiety, doubt, and even fear among some of our people.

Being between Barack and a hard place will make many of us revert back to our political ways by staying on the Democrat’s wagon because the Republicans ignore us and don’t like us anyway. We will rationalize our allegiance to the same party that takes us for granted, however. And some of us will opt out of the system altogether because we are so frustrated and angry at how the previous two terms went down.

It’s very uncomfortable being between Barack and a hard place. To whom will we turn? Will Hillary help us? Will one of the Republican candidates help us? Maybe Doctor Ben will win and come to our rescue. Dr Ben What are Black folks to do in 2016 as we now find ourselves wedged between Barack and a hard place with no wiggle room? Maybe we could “apologize” to Hillary for abandoning her in 2008; maybe we could do a public mea culpa to the Republicans. After all, we need someone to turn to now, right?

Well here are a few thoughts: Maybe we can now turn to ourselves; maybe now we will fully understand the error of our ways and make appropriate change; maybe we will finally work together as a solid bloc to leverage our precious votes against the 2016 candidates; maybe we will understand that no matter who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Black folks still have to be vigilant about our political and economic position in this country; and maybe, as we struggle to remove ourselves from between Barack and a hard place, at least a small percentage of us will organize around economic and political empowerment.

The Barack experiment was cool. He sings like Al Greenal green, dances like the steppers in Chicago, shoots three-pointers on the court, plays golf with Alonzo Mourning, and even gets his preach on when speaking to Black audiences.Obama pulpit In other words, Barack could make us feel real good, so much so that we kicked back, relaxed, and waited for him to fix our problems, to speak on our behalf, and to give us the same deference he gives to other groups. Now, we find ourselves between Barack and a hard place—no turning room, very little breathing room, and much uncertainty about our future in the political arena.

There will be a new sheriff in town in January 2017, and our guy will stand there with him or her to give congrats and well wishes right before he rides off into the sunset, back to Chicago, Hawaii, or wherever, to enjoy the fruit of his labor, and I do mean fruit. He and his family will be well taken care of, but most of our families will be in the same or worse condition, having been stuck between Barack and a hard place for eight years.

What can we do? Glad you asked. Join the One Million Conscious Black Voters and Contributors. Just go to http://www.iamoneofthemillion.com and sign up. Economic and political powers respond best to leverage. There’s a lot of leverage in one million voters who control millions of dollars.

 

 

Selma – 50 Years Later — March 2015

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman March 18th, 2015

I remember back in 1999 when my daughter came to me crying about something she had seen on TV. It was the movie, “Selma, Lord, Selma!” selma4 She was distraught, even at six years old, at the mistreatment of Black folks in Selma in 1965. My daughter related to Jurnee Smollett and Stephanie Peyton in their portrayals of Sheyann and Rachel, two young girls growing up in Selma during that time. That being a teaching moment, she and I had a talk about Selma and other issues pertaining to injustice toward and mistreatment of Black people in this country.

Adding to the title of that movie, by making it “Selma, Lord have mercy, Selma!” captures my effort to highlight and reemphasize not only the historical tragedy of Selma but also its current political and economic condition in light of the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

Last week, March 3-7, 2015, tens of thousands of people converged on Selma, including politicians, of course, celebrities and corporate executives. Selma enjoyed the national and world spotlight for a brief time, but I wondered if those folks would leave Selma without addressing current critical issues that exist there. Daily life in Selma includes a 40% poverty rate, high unemployment, low median family income, crumbling infrastructure and building facades, and closed businesses.

I can only pray that some of the folks who visited and made speeches also left some money there, maybe to start a micro lending fund, an equity fund, or even invested in a business in Selma. I hope the politicians who say they hold Selma in such high esteem went back to their respective offices committed to allocate funds to help the city that some refer to as, “The Third World of Alabama.”

selma5As Representative Terri A. Sewell (D-Ala) said, “We have to move beyond the bridge.” Along with all the crying, preaching, inspiring speeches, and marching back across the bridge, I trust that on this 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday the folks living in Selma received more than just well wishes.

During our family visit there in 2001, former head of the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute, Joann Bland, gave us a tour (Even though it was past closing time); she told her personal story of being in the march at 10 years of age and shared her wealth of knowledge with my then 8-year old daughter. My eyes were opened to the history and the present state of Selma, a city still waiting for change, especially economic change.
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Fifty years since 1965 that famous bridge, named for Edmund Pettus, a former U.S. Democratic Senator, chairman of the state delegation to the Democratic National Convention for twenty years, and Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan, has even greater meaning. Back then it symbolized the struggle for voting rights; today it is a guidepost for a new struggle, the struggle for economic justice and empowerment. Those who walked that bridge in 1965 won their battle; we must be as strong and as determined as they were then to win the battle we face today.

Obviously the political environment has changed in the city that elected as its Mayor the sheriff who supported the beat-down in 1965, and kept him in office until 2000. selma2Selma leaders like Terri Sewell know, however, that political change is not enough; they know change must also come in the form of economic empowerment and federal support.

Is it enough to have gone to Selma simply because it was the 50th anniversary? Albeit a treasured occasion, for some it has become more symbolism than substantive, a photo-op, just as the 50th anniversary of the famous March on Washington was in 2013. Today our words and activities in Selma must result in progressive and appropriate action, so that next year we can celebrate the victorious culmination of that revered freedom march, rather than lamenting our continued frustration over the fact that 50 years later, as some of the dignitaries said, “Our march for justice continues.”

Selma needs much more than an annual celebration. It needs economic development, businesses, employment, and revitalization. It should be valued well beyond the platitudes, pretentiousness, and pontification proffered by politicians and their pundits. That city, so important to our history, should be held in the highest esteem by Washington D.C., the State of Alabama, and the rest of us. In addition to an annual spotlight, we must keep it on the political radar screen throughout the year, until it is given the assistance it certainly commands and truly deserves.

The culmination of true freedom is economic freedom. Selma citizens and those who endured the batons, horses, dogs, and those who were murdered leading up to and during the march, are certainly deserving of more than 50 more years of “We ‘shall’ overcome.”selma1

 

 

Injuries, Insults, Injustice — March 2015

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman March 7th, 2015

Ever since President Bill Clinton apologized for the Tuskegee syphilis “experiment” in 1997, we have heard calls for apologies from the government and individuals for a myriad of transgressions against Black people. I came to the conclusion a long time ago that apologies are highly overrated and mean very little when it comes to initiating substantive change and reciprocity toward the offended class or individual. We witnessed the latest apology by the Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, Mayor Jacksonto the family of Tamir Rice, after the police findings relative to Rice’s killing were made public.Tamir Rice

The report stated Rice’s death was caused by, “by the failure … to exercise due care to avoid injury.” In other words, the 12-year old boy caused his own death. The Mayor apologized not for the killing but for the words used to describe the cause of the killing. Rice was shot for holding a toy gun 1.7 seconds after the cops pulled up to his location in a park. No warning, no command to drop the gun, and no attempt to speak to Rice; they shot first—immediately, and now we are asking the questions.

We will hear the usual excuses and legal rationales, but the bottom line is that the taxpayers of Cleveland will pay dearly for this tragedy. That’s right, the taxpayers, not the police officers, which brings me to the point of this article. Yes, you’re right; here comes the economic side of things.

From 1995 to 2001, in Cincinnati, Ohio, police killed 15 Black men, some of whom were wielding guns and some who were innocent victims of overzealous quick-on-the-trigger officers. http://www.enquirer.com/editions/2001/04/15/loc_stories_of.html In addition to the killings, many Black people were harassed, profiled, illegally stopped and searched, and unjustifiably injured, physically and psychologically, by police officers.

Those incidents, undergirded by economic sanctions imposed against our city and a class action lawsuit, led to several capitulating concessions, which included cash payouts that amounted to more than $16 million as I recall. Who paid it? The taxpayers, those of us who protested, helped pay the bill for the injuries and injustices that we fought against.

Looking back on those days makes me see how ridiculous it is for us to follow the same pattern to redress injustices like the killing of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, and others. Most taxpayers give little or no thought to where the millions of dollars come from when monetary penalties are imposed and paid out to victims of police violence or mistreatment of citizens. Maybe if more of us knew the money was coming from our pockets, money that, in many cases, could have been used for street repair, business development, or capital improvements, we would get together and put an end to this madness.

In return for insults, injuries, and injustice we demand apologies and, in some instances, remuneration. What we get are empty words replete with condescension, and payouts from our own tax dollars, which have no real effect on the perpetrators of the insults, injuries, and injustices we suffer. The real culprits have nothing to lose; they commit their acts with impunity. They can even say Tamir Rice and John Crawford caused their own deaths by holding a gun in an “open carry” state, a state where other folks carry guns openly and never get shot for doing so.

We watched Rice and Crawford lose their lives in a matter of seconds after the police came on the scene. We saw Eric Garner killed in a matter of minutes for “failing to comply,” while we see others questioning police officers and “refusing” to comply, only to be allowed to either walk away or otherwise have their say as the police back off.

Despite the graphic evidence of disparate treatment, Blacks get weak apologies and insulting rationales as mitigation for our injuries and injustice. If there were a price to pay for police officers who commit these kinds of acts, since most will never be indicted, maybe they would exercise more restraint before they fire their guns. If they were required to have personal malpractice insurance, for instance, not paid by the municipality but by themselves, or if court awards had to be paid from police department budgets, maybe there would be fewer killings.

Injustice can and does lead to violence in return, and it could ultimately be one reason for young people turning to terrorism. While some naively think jobs will stop terrorism, a report, “The Age of the Wolf,” cited an 18-year old boy who stated, “I did not join the Taliban because I was poor; I joined because I was angry.”

There is a lot of anger out there about our broken criminal justice system. I believe economic responses will accelerate the process of repairing it.

 

 

Black Dollars Matter! — Febraury 2015

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman February 28th, 2015

Cannot breathe shirtsThe protest slogans relative to our latest struggle for justice and equity compel me to come up with a new phrase. The signs and T-Shirts emblazoned with “I Can’t Breathe!” “No Justice, No Peace!” and the latest, “Black Lives Matter,” carry connotations related to action. I often wonder what the folks who wear the t-shirts and hold the signs are doing to back up the slogans thereon. More importantly, I wonder who makes the shirts and who sells them. With that in mind, my slogan for action—economic action is, “Black Dollars Matter!”

The “I Can’t Breathe” shirts worn by the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers, for instance, were sold by NYC Customs, a shop in Long Island, owned by Helen Mihalatos, a friend of Rameen Aminzadeh, member of Justice League of NYC. The initial gesture and resulting “hook-up” came from Nets team member, Jarrett Jack, followed by help from LeBron James and Russell Simmons’ political director, Michael Skolnick. The shirts were ordered by Jay-Z, who bought 1000 more shirts after the basketball game. dollars1

I truly hope those “Big Ballers” and “Shot Callers” had enough consciousness to give the profits to Eric Garner’s family. The Washington Post reported that “Skolnick obtained shirts from a store in Long Island City, whose owner confirmed in an interview that the shirts were manufactured by Gildan, a large Canada-based apparel company…According to pro-labor activists, Gildan has a poor record when it comes to respecting workers in its manufacturing plants in Haiti.” Click on this link: http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2014/02/11/haitian_garment_workers_low_pay_has_them_still_going_hungry.html The story discloses that Gildan’s workers are paid $6 per day for their work. Skolnick’s response was, “I think we want to assume sometimes when we’re ordering shirts that they’re not being made in a sweatshop; we’ve got to do better.” You think?

Now you would think that someone in this chain of events involving t-shirts that carry the last words of a Black man who was killed on the streets of New York by police officers would be conscious enough to say, “Hold up! Let’s not just go for the symbolism of wearing shirts on the basketball court; let’s make a substantive statement as well, via a Black business transaction and a financial benefit for the Garner family.” Sound reasonable?
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Instead we now have “I Can’t Breathe” shirts sold on Amazon and elsewhere as if they are some kind of novelty rather than a sincere, compassionate, and meaningful response to the homicidal death of Eric Garner, the originator of the “I can’t breathe” phrase. We saw him take HIS last breath; he was the one who couldn’t breathe for real. dollars3 The above travesty reminds me of an article I wrote after Trayvon Martin was killed; it’s titled, “The Profit of Protest.”

In light of the hype of “I Can’t Breathe” and now the phrase, “Black Lives Matter,” the slogan we should emblazon on shirts, and instill in our brains, the one by which we should live and the one that, if inculcated into our daily lives, will move us from the rhetoric of freedom to the action of freedom is, “Black Dollars Matter!”

Despite the wasteful and nonsensical spending by Black folks, from the poorest to the super-rich flamboyant celebrities, dollars5dollars7dollars6we must all realize that “Black Dollars Matter” and they should matter to us first. Right now, they matter most to everyone else; and other folks are doing everything they can to get more of our dollars with no reciprocity other than symbolic gestures that make us feel good.

It’s great for athletes to wear shirts with slogans, but they should move to the next step of starting initiatives that not only sustain their gestures but build economic empowerment for Black people. dollars2Our athletes and celebrities, as they protest inequities and injustice, should keep in mind that “Black Dollars Matter,” and they should consider that as they come up with their solutions to effect real change within the systems against which they protest—and so should we.

After the chanting, the marching, the protests and demonstrations, the outrage, the threats, and the unjustified killings of our people with impunity, if all we do is sit back and wait on the next crisis, why should we even bother with the above actions in the first place? We must be smarter and we must be conscious. We must always be aware that money runs this country and it has its place in everything, yes, even in the deaths of our people.
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Indeed, Black lives matter above all; but to those who kill us, those who economically exploit us, and those who are indifferent toward us, Black lives don’t matter as much as Black dollars do. Start a “Black Dollars Matter” campaign. Make some shirts displaying that attention-grabbing slogan, and act upon it. “Black Dollars Matter,” but only if they start making more sense.