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Is Ron Paul a Racist (Part II)

3 Jan

Ron Paulby Yvette Carnell

Over the past couple of weeks, two distinct memes about Ron Paul have grabbed hold; 1) Ron Paul is racist 2) a racist should never be President. I submit to you that even if both these suppositions are true, they still don’t matter, certainly not in any meaningful way that actually matters to African Americans.

Firstly, I would like to fundamentally change the definition of racism:  To the extent that policies target and do damage to the African American community, they’re racist. So being a racist and behaving as a racist isn’t solely a function of calling a black person the “N” word, making demeaning or disparaging comments, or harboring bias. It’s much, much broader than that, and it extends to all Presidents and public officials who marginalize the core issues impacting the African American community.

So please, stop thinking that the worst thing a white politician can do to you is call you a nigger, because it’s not the worst by any stretch of the imagination. The worst thing any politician can do to you is refuse to take your demographic seriously and thus, recapture and neutralize your political power. The worst thing a politician – any politician – can do to you and me is saturate us with symbolism and starve us of substance, as is the case with our current President who sends us Christmas cards showcasing a beautiful black family, with few policy initiatives that actually support any black families other than his own, to match the card.

This is politics people. It’s a tough game. Get your emotions out of it. It’s not about cute kids, cute families, or a dog named Bo’. It’s about the Deal. It’s about the Exchange. Many people have attributed racist views and comments to both Presidents Nixon and LBJ, but we still extracted a good deal from their administrations. We made mutually beneficial deals which were free from emotion and sentimentality, something the African Americans electorate has been utterly incapable of achieving during the era of Obama, the defining aspect of which is the foil of imagined post racialism.

Would Ron Paul make a good President? I’m not sure, but he’d certainly make an effective Republican nominee for President. I wholeheartedly believe that having a Republican nominee in the fray who has real policy differences with establishment politicians would be superior to having Obama face his slightly more evil twin – Mitt Romney – in the 2012 election.

On most issues, Romney and Obama are in close alignment and so a race between the two of them would be a Presidential campaign in futility, without any meaningful distinction. This would not be the case for Paul candidacy. An Obama v. Paul race would force Obama to clarify, defend, or maybe even change some of his most heinous policy positions. These are issues we should all take into consideration before bashing Paul. In fact, I would encourage AA’s to stop reacting as Pavlovian dogs whenever the issue of race is injected into the national conversation. Right now, black writers and commentators are being dispensed by the establishment media to take down Ron Paul, and although they may get rewarded with extended contracts and higher pay packages, bashing Ron Paul won’t get us any closer to having our needs met or having our issues heard by the current President.

It’s time to cut a deal. The Wall Streeters cut a deal to ensure that they weren’t held accountable by the Obama administration for engineering the second Great Depression. Hillary Clinton cut a deal that netted her the position of Secretary of State in exchange for the women’s vote. Even Al Sharpton cut a deal to defend this President in exchange for a national television show, so the only question is; where’s your deal?

If I can cut a deal with Ron Paul whereby I exchange my vote for an end to the failed War on Drugs, a war that has unfairly imprisoned far too many of our young black men, and put an end to a War on Terror that has redirected tax dollars from our communities to drone attacks, then I’ll consider it. It’s not personal. It’s business. It’s politics.

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Why Stanley Crouch is Wrong About Black People and Soul Food

29 Dec

soul foodThe hyperbolic sensationalism of Stanley Crouch’s article “Soul Food is Killing Black America” is laughable on its face. And the initial silliness I felt when reading the title was solidified by the nickname Crouch gave the filmmaker who is developing the soul food documentary – “Braveheart”. Just call me “Chuckles”, then. Because this is the funniest and most self-negating piece of trite I’ve read all week.

First, the notion that filmmaker Byron Hurt is somehow brave for “tackling” an issue which has been addressed a multitude of times is just daft.  Wasn’t the movie “Soul Food” based on the Sunday coalescing of black folks around a table of collard greens, fried chicken, corn bread, and ham hocks? And didn’t untreated diabetes kill Big Mama?

It seems that Crouch is nicknaming Hurt Braveheart not because he’s actually brave, but because Hurt’s assessment of the ills affecting the black community matches Crouch’s own assessment. We tend to view the people who agree with us as somehow braver and smarter than the people with whom we disagree. In this way, Crouch has fallen victim to a trap laid by his own ego.

But the larger issue is whether Crouch is right about soul food being kryptonite to Negroes. Crouch laments, “This is a common problem. There is no joke in the film about the frightening degrees of black illness from consuming too much ethnic food dripping in grease and containing too much fat, sugar and butter. Worst of all, people consume too many ethnic imitations in fast food places that are so prevalent in black and Latin neighborhoods.”

Maybe that’s true, but even if it is, that seems more an issue of moderation than anything else.  And if black people are consuming too many “ethnic imitations”, then the issue African Americans face is the same issue that all Americans face; limiting our intake of processed foods. Again, this is not a black thing. It’s not even a soul food thing.  It’s about eating too much of the wrong kinds of foods, and it’s probably also about leading sedentary lifestyles – an issue not addressed in Crouch’s article.

Additionally, in recent years several soul food restaurants have cropped up to meet the needs of African Americans who prefer less fat or even vegetarian alternatives to traditional soul food. But even at its worst, soul food is a rich part of our history  and if eaten in moderation and prepared with organic meats and veggies, it can be a part of a healthy lifestyle.

Is the soul food slathered in hog grease good for us? Of course not. But I doubt authentic Italian cuisine is actually good for you, what, with all its richness, creams, butter sauces and pastas, but you don’t see Italians making documentaries about how bad Italian food is or how stupid Italians are for eating it.

Soul food is not a problem for black America but self-negation, especially the variety espoused by Crouch and “Braveheart”, is debilitating. Not every issue that negatively impacts black people can be pigeon holed as a black issue. Now, we can of course discuss the issue of alleviating the health consequences of poor diets by doing things that work, such as adding to our dietary choices by creating permaculture gardens and sustainable communities, but those are real issues that require real thinkers. I suppose it’s much easier to grab headlines by insinuating that black people are just too stupid or too lazy to sort the good food from the bad.  “Put down that chicken wing and grape soda!” Yeah. OK.

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Blackest Ads of 2011

27 Dec

As we edge closer to the end of 2011 and the beginning of a new year, it’s time to take a look back at the retailers who tried the hardest to separate black folks from their money.  Most striking is that, in these commercials, the advertisers focused more on symbolism than substance.

1.)   Chrysler – Since all African Americans love a good gospel hymn just as much as a good rap verse, Chrysler gave us a  commercial with both. This ad, however, gets a pass because it was so artfully executed.

2.) Verizon- Apparently, Madison Ave. believes African Americans are more enticed by boomin’ beats than by an affordable family plan or any other cell phone feature.   Here goes Verizon’s attempt at wooing the black dollar:

3.) And last in this race to the bottom are the folks at McDonald’s, who understand that we measure our satisfaction with a meal by whether or not we have food all over our face and fingers at the end of it. And oh, don’t forget to drop that beat:

What did I miss?

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Is Ron Paul a Racist?

21 Dec


Ron Paul newsletter

As candidate Ron Paul turns up the heat in Iowa, I see, rather predictably, that mainstream writers are turning up the heat on Ron Paul (see here, here, and here). At issue now are the 20 plus year old newsletters, many of which were filled with racist rants, all of which were written under Ron Paul’s name. Ron Paul has previously denied both writing the letters and knowing who did, but that doesn’t stop elite media types from trotting out that very same skeleton from the closet every few years, all in hopes that getting black folks all riled up will be enough to beat back the momentum of Ron Paul’s supporters.

But there are some very important questions we should ask before arming ourselves with pitchforks and tearing off to the nearest Ron Paul for President campaign headquarters. When discussing Ron Paul, it’s important to consider whether all things are equal. I mean, does Ron Paul’s political philosophy still lend itself to the racist rants of twenty plus years ago? Or does his Libertarian philosophy trump a two decade old racist rag?

I’m not saying that Paul’s association with the newsletter bodes well for his personal ethics, but it does demand that we weigh its proportionality. Historians have sharpened our perception of Lincoln by highlighting that he was a man of the times and, although he did emancipate the slaves and save the union, he didn’t necessarily believe in race equality.

More recently, the American electorate brushed off charges that candidate Obama was some sort of hate monger simply because his pastor said “God damn America”.   In  both cases, what we did was view these men in their specific context; Lincoln in the context of 19th century America, which included the antebellum south,  and Obama in the context of the black nationalist church, born of the black resentment which was the natural outgrowth of white supremacy.

And if we conflate fact with fiction, meaning if we conflate campaign promises with executive action, then we’re also forced to weigh the potential impact of a candidate’s platform. And for African Americans, there are some clear winners on Ron Paul’s platform that don’t exist on either the platform of Obama or Romney.

Paul would pardon all nonviolent drug offenders, end America’s foreign policy adventures abroad which are siphoning billions from domestic programs, and end a drug war that disproportionately relegates black men to a life behind bars. This is big; certainly it’s bigger than anything we hear coming from the milquetoast campaigns of both the Democrat and Republican establishment.

This is not to say, however, that I don’t have issues with Ron Paul, just that my issues with him have little to do with race. For example, since I don’t buy into the notion that markets do a good job of regulating themselves, I don’t believe in Paul’s “right to work” (for pennies) initiative, nor do I buy into any plan which asserts that the solution to our energy crisis is to remove restrictions on drilling. These are both 20th century solutions to 21st century problems.  I would also add that Ron Paul’s position on faith stands in direct contradiction to his Libertarian principles, so that too is a problem for me.  But that’s me taking a principled stand. That’s me focusing on the issues of the day instead of the politics of the 1980’s. That’s me not responding to the dog whistles of politics. Not to be a narcissist or anything, but sometimes I wish folks would be more like me.

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J.C. Watts Endorsing Newt Gingrich is Awful Political Calculus

20 Dec

Doing the wrong thing, at the wrong time, for the wrong person requires a particular aptitude for homing in on a coalescing mix of unfortunate events and latching on.  It would seem that few people have a knack for enjoining themselves to such perfect storms the way J.C. Watts does.

Just as Newt Gingrich’s numbers begin to bottom out, J.C. Watts pulls up from the flank, almost out of nowhere, to endorse him.   We should call Watts Black Magic. Because who in their right mind would come out of political hiding to endorse a lightning rod of a candidate with no establishment or on the ground support?

Even though Watts effectively served as water carrier for Gingrich’s duplicitous leadership,  he was never rewarded with a House leadership position (although he did serve as Chairman of the House Republican Conference). He should’ve been. One has a hard time imagining a young white upstart with the particular background and talent of Watts not being rewarded with a leadership position (see the much less stellar and less accomplished Eric Cantor).

So, unless there are back door dealings here that I’m unaware of, Watts doesn’t owe Gingrich anything.  Coming out of retirement just to carry a bit more water has a kind of somber sadness to it. Maybe I’m being overly perceptive, but I just get the feel that Gingrich, for whatever reason, felt he could wrangle Watts into his corner, even though he had no real basis for such an assumption.

Either way, it worked. J.C. Watts popped out of private life to add his name to a half dead, zombie campaign. No matter how you twist it, that sucks.

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On Why Eric Holder Shouldn’t Play the Race Card

20 Dec

Eric HolderI really don’t know what to make of this comment by Attorney General Eric Holder:

“This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him,” he said, “both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American.”

It just strikes me as a play for sympathy. Maybe the Right wing is unfairly impugning Holder’s Justice Department, but to what extent does the right actually matter? The right wing is a core constituency of the Republican Party and doesn’t, at least not yet, have the power to seriously derail anything on Holder’s agenda.

This is why Holder’s deference to race is a bit of a smash and grab in the sense that Holder knows there are serious issues with the way he’s running the Justice Department, all of which should be met with serious answers. Throwing the red meat of race into the debate cheapens it and allows Holder to skirt away with a cheap political win that he really didn’t pay for, not with currency that counts or matters anyway.

If the right or left is behaving increasingly erratic, it may have a bit more to do with Holder’s unprincipled stand on issues than race baiting. Take for example Holder’s decision to renege on his promise to respect state law and not prosecute state marijuana sellers, the F.B.I.’s raid on homes of several non-violent activists across the Midwest, the A.T.F.’s  “Fast and Furious” gunrunning scandal, or Holder’s inability to plot a way forward for prosecuting terror suspects.

If ever Eric Holder is able to formulate a consistent approach to federal law, one that reflects both American principles and the spirit of the 2008 Obama campaign, then he can cry foul about unwarranted and unearned criticism. Now, however, he’s deserving of every scrap of criticism that flys his way.

On both the right and the left, there is a veritable potpourri of reasons to question both Attorney General Holder’s integrity and ableness. I suspect that in either case, race is far down on the list of considerations.

I’m Not Always Proud of My Country, Either

13 Dec

When Michele Obama remarked during the 2008 Presidential campaign that, for the first time, she was proud of her country, she was largely discredited by the Right for not having met the patriotism quota. By their estimation, if you’re not oozing the red, white and blue or pinning old glory snug to your lapel, the terrorists win. Except that, black people have existed for far too long at the receiving end of both state and federal government malfeasance to slurp down that falsehood.

The New York Times reported on Friday that North Carolina ran a eugenics program, whereby “oversexed” and supposedly unintelligent people were sterilized by the state. And this was not some flash in the pan that can be written off with the trite “mistakes were made” line. This largely subjective and well-funded program lasted from 1924-1974. For fifty years, a pet project promoted by wealthy interests took away reproductive rights of young people, and not surprisingly, minorities were disproportionately impacted.

I was saddened, but not shocked at the NYT article and I’m sure that if you shared these revelations with Michele Obama, she wouldn’t be shocked either. The idea that North Carolina, California, and Virginia sterilized people – most times accompanied by the threat that if they didn’t have the surgery their welfare benefits would be revoked – is not news to us.

It is the Right wing who, on one hand pretends to fear big government, but on the other, views any politician who refuses to boast an extreme brand of American zealotry as treasonous. There’s a contradiction in that political philosophy that black folks recognize.

It’s simply wrong to characterize black folks as unpatriotic because we know this country – the good, bad and ugly –more intimately than you do. As more and more of these stories of state and federal government agencies behaving immorally begin to emerge, the more I think the Right owes the First Lady an apology.