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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Black Intellectuals Decry White House

AAPP: I have been wondering for some time if I am one of the few black folks that "get it" regarding Barack Obama's lack of effort in addressing the needs of black folks in this country. Not until last night when I read the article "Black Intellectuals Decry White House 'Beer Summit'; Say Notion of a Post-Racial America is a Myth by Zenitha Prince in the special article for NNPA from the Afro-American Newspapers, did I realize that some people are getting it.

AAPP: This Cambridge Police officer could care less
about Henry Louis Gates.
He and his family got a free trip to the White House and a grand tour for his deeds
Great Job Barack Obama!

You see Zenitha Prince writes in many ways about how I also feel when she wrote that;
Despite the overwhelming election of President Barack Obama, the inherent prejudice against people of color remains alive and well in American society, said a panel of Black intellectuals, critics and activists last week.

''This whole notion of a post-racial society is ridiculous, we need to stop saying it, we need to stop even talking about it,'' said BET's Jeff Johnson. ''Let's be honest about the fact that many of us from all races are racist…. We've lied about progress.''

The statement was part of an assessment of the ''State of Black America,'' an annual conversation held at the yearly convention of the National Urban League, which produces a report of the same name.

Johnson's statement emerged out of a conversation that revolved around – you guessed it – beer.

Even here at the Urban League, the media's binge on the Thursday tête-à-tête between President Barack Obama, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge, Mass. Police Sgt. James Crowley to discuss the officer's arrest of Gates in his own home and the president's resulting criticism continued.

But unlike some in the media who saw the meeting as a significant step forward in resolving the issue of racial profiling and the underlying prejudice, many on the panel thought it was a mostly empty gesture.

''It is a significant brouhaha [but] I'm not sure it gets to what 'ales' (ails) us,'' commented George Washington University professor Michael Eric Dyson. ''The real problem is still on the streets where disproportionate numbers of Black and Latino men and women are subjected to arbitrary forms of police power.'' Johnson agreed in even starker terms.

''I'm offended by the discussion at the White House,'' the political commentator said, ''because if they were serious about solving this problem, Gates would be there, Crowley would be there, but so would Tyrone and Shaniqua and other young people who have dealt with this kind of psychosis from the police; they are not represented in this conversation.''

Asked by moderator, CNN special correspondent Soledad O'Brien, about Sgt. Crowley's questioning of Gates' anger at being asked to produce several IDs and the professor's lack of gratitude for the officer's presence, MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard said she hoped the White House talk would foster better understanding.

''I think the most important thing that has to come out of this meeting today is an understanding of where each person is coming from—that's what's missing from the debate,'' she said. ''I don't think other races have a fundamental understanding of why we feel the way we do [about police].''

She continued, ''[But] if we're going to talk about a quote unquote 'post-racial America' – I still don't understand what that means – it's not just talking about history, it's talking about what it is that people feel when a White man shows up at your door and you've worked very hard to get where you are and they say, 'Show me your ID.'''

Where Gates was coming from is a history of Black men like Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo, who have been shot and killed by police, and longtime criminal policies that disproportionately target Black and Hispanics, several on the panel said.

And those structural inequities would not be addressed by looking only at individual cases like Gates'.

''We're looking at a macro problem through micro lens,'' said Schott Foundation President John Jackson, who said the larger problem was the law enforcement environment created by former President Ronald Reagan.


''In 1980, the Reagan administration institutionalized new criminal justice policies [and] you began to see a 70 degree spike in the number of incarcerations for Black males,'' Jackson said. ''So we can't have this conversation without talking about the systemic policies and practices. And you're not going to solve that macro challenge by just tipping back a few beers at the White House.''

Johnson said solving that overarching problem of deep-seated racism is something that has to happen on a personal level, he's more concerned about acts of discrimination within government agencies.

''I don't care if you're racist or not…I am concerned with the way you do your job,'' he said.

Calling for the federal government to withhold funding from police departments that practice racial profiling and for the empowerment of citizen review boards to conduct reviews of police behavior, Johnson said it will take the coordinated effort of community organizations to push for those changes.

Saying progress lies in the election by communities of politicians that represent their interests, Dyson added that Blacks also need to hold those lawmakers responsible – beginning with President Obama.

''I'm a lover of that brother … but you've got to call him on the stuff he's not doing right,'' Dyson said, pointing to what he saw as Obama's unnecessary ''non-apology apology'' for his criticism of Gates' arrest. ''You shouldn't expect more from the president of the United States because he's Black, but you [darn] sure should not expect less of him.''

AAPP: I agree with Dr. Dyson, ''You shouldn't expect more from the president of the United States because he's Black, but you [darn] sure should not expect less of him.'' My question iswhen are we going to call it like it is and stop expecting less of Barack Obama when it comes to black folk?

Read more thoughts by African American Political Pundit HERE

Read the full article HERE

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