An Open Letter to Black and Progressive Minded People
by Stanford Lewis
On November 10, 2016 two days after Donald Trump’s stunning victory over the most favored Hillary Clinton, I was visiting a friend and on her kitchen table there was a Memphis Flyer the 1446th issue and there he was a profile shot and at the bottom of the page were the giant letters WTF? I didn’t know what WTF stood for not being aware of the latest computer jargon so curious I inquired of my friend and she told me her daughter had told her what it stood for. I laughed. I kind shrugged it off because although I voted for Hillary Clinton I was neither shocked nor surprised that Donald Trump won.
It is an unfortunate reality that American citizens in general and Blacks in particular are poorly educated on how the political system in this country works. Twice in the last sixteen years the candidate who received the most popular votes failed to win the presidency. Why? That is because for all of its vain boasting about being a democracy America is in fact a plutocracy, ruled by a few and is not a representative democracy when in fact you have 270 electoral college votes out of a possible 538 votes which determines who will be the leader of America out of an overall population of over 300 million. This system is antiquated when we have the technology to count every vote. This is the lingering legacy of the founding fathers who often thought the masses were asses and could not trust the future of the country with the people and lamented over the tyranny of the masses. Some scream electile dysfunction unaware that this was part of the plan from the beginning. Even one of its creators, Alexander Hamilton found the process problematic and sought to correct it. He failed to fix the system.
Black people in particular and brown people in general are particularly broken hearted and are preparing for yet another season of suffering under the leadership of a white man who appears to be a virulent racist. But like the sign read in the antique shop nothing new here. Trump used the politics of divisiveness but he is in a long line of politicians to do so. Goldwater in the 1964 elections did the same thing when he said, “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” President Eisenhower attacked the press and declared that they were not friends of the Republicans and received cheers. Robert Byrd of West Virginia filibustered for over 14 hours to stop what he saw as the monstrous Civil Rights Bills and in the process of his diatribe he gave a segregationist interpretation of who one’s neighbor is. He argued that the scripture did not prohibit us from choosing our neighbor nor does it admonish that we shall not build a wall between us and our neighbor.
Doesn’t this sound familiar when Trump maintains he wants to build a wall between America and Mexico? He attacks the media. Denial is not a river in Egypt. Racism as the late legal scholar Derrick Bell taught us is a part of America’s DNA—it’s permanent and unretractable. Trump stands in an American tradition of racism and hate-filled individuals who have served as commander-in-chief such as Woodrow Wilson, William McKinley, and Calvin Coolidge who were members of the Klan, and others such as Harry S. Truman who were Klan sympathizers. We who believe in freedom and justice must stop sugar coating the hard headed reality of American racism.
It appears that the Black middle class in our efforts to make America home have been willing to compromise the truth of white America’s racism and now we have come again face to face with this ugly reality and our children are less equipped to confront it because their reality has been different. In order to prepare ourselves for what’s coming it’s right to keep a light on Donald Trump and his behavior. Just like lights are used in high crime areas to expose criminal behavior, Trump and his new team bear extreme watching. The people must be ready to mobilize with great force and numbers.
There is a small movement afoot to eliminate the Electoral College. Its primary function is to keep the presidency within the control of a small elite group. We should begin to think in terms of a third party because the two party system has not serve us well as a people. Remember the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). It was created without racism and especially dealt with problems that confronted Black and poor people. We must not be afraid to create a more perfect union. We as Americans have failed to become politically astute for if more of us had read “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander we would know that our beloved Bill Clinton, husband of Hillary Clinton laid the foundation for the mass incarceration of Blacks with his three strikes bill aiding in the demise of the Black family. It’s because we have chosen all things liberal too uncritically that we find ourselves again suffering with the profound words of Stevie Wonder echoing in our minds when you believe in things you don’t understand then you suffer superstition ain’t the way. We are very superstitious when it comes to critiquing America’s so called democracy.
America has never been a democracy and all our wishful thinking will not make it so. We as a people must return to our spiritual source. We must understand that the course we must chart has not been charted before. We must be prepared to leave false friends, false ideologies and false political allies who never support us in public nor come to our aid in private. We must learn to only support those who support us and align ourselves with that which leads to our ultimate liberation. This is a difficult task for a people who wish to be loved by a people who clearly do not love us.
We the middle class must accept our role in keeping our people enslaved to concepts and ideas that do not serve them in particular but rather serve the black educated elite as individuals while the black masses continue to suffer. The Black educated elite have forsaken what should be the primary mission which is to help liberate the masses of our people. Black schools have been resegregated in many parts of the United States yet our protest has been minimal. The white educated elite have found and are finding new ways to keep the economic and educational gaps between them and the masses stable while we the so called educated are content with our own economic and educational advancement.
Reliving the victories of the 1960’s while some Civil rights leaders have not had an original thought since Dr. King was alive nor have they updated their political strategy while racist white America has advanced their political strategies. We should be ashamed. The men and women both living and dead who struggled to elevate the stature of the masses of our people deserve better. Take for example, in our local Black paper in Memphis, The Tri-State Defender in February 2009 there was a statement that read: “what we want, we can have. But we must work together. Damn Racism, Full Speed Ahead!”
This statement seems to suggest that a year after the election of our first Black president, Barack Obama we are now living in a post racial democracy and that racism is a thing of the past. This is both naďve and ahistorical. The educated elite in a rush to join the mainstream found it easy to negate white America’s bloody deeds against us. We forgave and forgot only to be mistreated again. It has led us to the beginning of this new season of suffering. We must remember all of the unprovoked church bombings, murders, brutal beatings, stabbings, and lynchings that white people committed against Blacks for simply wanting the right to vote and to be seen as human in this society. We must hold white America accountable for their barbaric history.
In our effort to join the white American mainstream we gave away our constitutional right to self defense by being uncritically nonviolent while physically fighting in every American war except the one being waged on us in America. Our president, a Harvard trained constitutional lawyer made no comment on the violation of Trayvon Martin’s constitutional rights but chose to identify with his race when violating his human rights was the issue. Our brilliant profound and impassioned first lady, Michelle Obama made one of the most eloquent speeches for women rights I’ve ever heard condemning the sexist and patriarchal behavior of president-elect Donald Trump. White women responded by voting for Donald Trump over 50 percent. Jane Crow overwhelmingly vetoed Michelle’s call for female solidarity.
My question for Michelle is where is her passion and eloquence for unarmed Black men routinely murdered during her husband’s administration? My position is not women less but unarmed Black men more. We have a Black president, a Black attorney general and yet the crimes against Black men go unprosecuted. Why? Either these elected Black officials are not concerned with how justice is administered or it is a functioned of the position to murder and send Black men to prison in disproportionate numbers or both. The Black intelligentsia must stop lying to ourselves and to the masses of our people. America is and always has been anti-Black. This does not mean we cannot function productively in this world because we can. It simply means we must be aware of our reality.
Black Nationalism has been falsely equated with white nationalism. Black Nationalism has no documented history of Black people physically or mentally terrorizing white people. It is possible for black people to be pro black and teach self love without being anti-white. This has not been proven with white nationalism. White nationalism or what is now called the alt right has been copiously documented with heinous crimes against African Americans and people of color. The Black educated elite have accepted the false comparison between Black nationalists and White Nationalists. The two are as opposite as pecans and horses. We must return to the values of family, community and self-help while maintaining that the government has a major role in assisting Black people for its centuries of legalized enslavement. The police force who has historically acted as race soldiers for white America must prove that they can enforce the law against their criminal minority or be content to be seen as the enemy of poor Black and Brown people. Donald Trump like a group of his predecessors such as the dixiecrats like George Wallace, Strom Thurman and Robert Byrd who all found the 1964 Civil Rights Bill as monstrous and turning liberty on its head did not succeed nor will he in his efforts to make America white again. Those days are gone. But for those of us who believe in freedom we must tell the hard truth. We must not hide behind the illusion of inclusion and we must be prepared to live for that which is most precious—freedom for all of humanity.
Finally, the ultra conservative right who claim fundamentalist Christianity must take credit for the religious backlash that has caused many to come out to stop what they perceived as an assault on traditional values. Slavery was once a traditional value too—it was wrong. Some traditions must be changed for America to be great again. Many of these pseudo Christians reacted negatively to members of the LGBT community achieving equal rights in many areas. They came out to vote in mass. Irrespective of their position on sexual orientation LGBT people are human beings and should be accorded all the rights of human beings. All religious teaching and doctrines are created by human beings. Behind the naďve and primitive claim that God created these laws lies the religious spirit that reduced Africans to chattel property when it maintained, “slave obey your master.” I’m so glad that Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, Harriet Tubman and John Brown saw through the divine lie. America’s future shall be greater than our past if we can stop romancing the past. It takes us being honest about America’s wrongs pledging to never allow them to occur again in order for America to truly be great.