December 23, 2006

As we entered 2006, there were a number of issues on my mind -- as I'm sure there were for everyone -- and I was attempting to get a sense of what the future would bring. So there were some predictions running around my head. Some of these were publicly proclaimed, others were private. Here's a limited review.

First, and most personally, I predicted I would win the Democratic Primary in Brooklyn's 11th Congressional District. I was wrong. I predicted that David Yassky would not win that election. I was correct. (Maybe one day I'll share my thoughts on this contest in detail; at the moment, however, there's still a burning sensation ...) I do wish Yvette Clarke the best as she starts her Congressional career.

I predicted that the Congressional Black Caucus in the 110th Congress would have no more members than it had in the 109th Congress. I was correct. Brooklyn's 11th District did remain a CBC district. In Tennessee, however, a "progressive" white candidate split the vote amongst many Black candidates in the House district formerly represented by African American Harold Ford, Jr. Fortunately, in Minnesota of all places, an African American candidate was victorious in the battle for a seat formerly represented by a Republican. And, to make life even more interesting, Keith Ellison, the winner, is the first member of Congress (either house) to practice Islam. Needless to say, Ellison has received alot of attention recently -- particularly from bigots.

On the Senate side of the CBC, there was hope that Illinois Senator Barack Obama would be joined by as many as two new African American colleagues. Kweisi Mfume (Democrat) and Michael Steele (Republican), both African Americans, each lost to Rep. Ben Cardin in Maryland. It was notable that Steele was thoroughly rejected by Black voters in that state during the General Election. And, again in Tennessee, Harold Ford, Jr., easily won his Democratic Primary for the U.S. Senate, but lost a squeaker of a general election. To Ford's credit, his moderate to conservative policy approach and personal charisma enabled him to overcome some of the racism involved with a statewide electoral contest in a Southern state. (Progressives in the House of Representatives were happy to see Ford depart from Washington, however.)

So there are still 43 members of the CBC -- only one of whom is a U.S. Senator. I focus on this because the 42 CBC House members make up less than 10% of the 435 Representatives ... and African Americans constitute more than 10% of the U.S. population. And, of course, African Americans only represent 1% of the U.S. Senate membership. This inequity and disempowerment can only be countered through sensible and serious campaign finance reform for federal elections -- and less racism in our media and our daily lives.

I predicted that the situation in Iraq would worsen dramatically. Unfortunately, I was right. As we experience this holiday season and approach a new year, the loss of life on all sides saddens and depresses me. Deserving of our prayers and praise are our brave and dedicated Americans putting their lives on the line in both Iraq and Afghanistan -- as well as throughout the rest of the world. And the catastrophe currently experienced by Iraqis also deserves our attention and creativity as we pursue peaceful options.

I predicted that Iraq would undermine the Republican Party's ability to act politically. Fortunately, I was correct. I predicted that that Democrats would retake control of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Fortunately, voters were very cooperative in fulfilling this one -- however slim the Senate majority for Democrats may be. (I had no idea that stem cell research would become as much of a political flashpoint as it did during this election cycle. But I'm glad it did because the Missouri Senate race may have turned on it.)

I predicted that the demographic changes within Iran would have more of an effect on Iranian political posturing than anything the U.S. can do and that the U.S. would have to deal with Iran in a more direct manner. This has been proven true despite the fact that the Iranian President is a demagogic, anti-Semitic whacko. The U.S. and Europe cannot stop Iran from generating "peaceful" nuclear capabilities. An extreme hardline, however, means that the U.S. and Europe can actually increase the likelihood that Iran will expand to military capabilities.

I made no predictions regarding North Korea, though I was not surprised by the report of a nuclear test, and I did not know what to expect in the Darfur region. I had no special insights regarding police brutality; I always expect a problem with the NYPD and they never fail to meet my expectations. Most of you read my thoughts on the Sean Bell case in my last post so I won't rehash it all here.

In September, 2005, I predicted that New Orleans would never again by the center of the Louisiana Democratic Party as African Americans were displaced and unlikely to return in large numbers. Nothing happened in 2006 to convince me otherwise, unfortunately. I expected William Jefferson to retain his seat in Congress, unless he was indicted. He wasn't and he retained his seat. I expected Mayor Ray Nagin to win re-election in New Orleans -- though I am still unsure of how I really feel about him. Speaking of Mayors ...

I predicted that the less rosy truth regarding the Bloomberg educational experimentation would start to reveal itself -- and it has. Outrageously low high school graduation rates across the board -- and particularly for African American children -- are highlighting weaknesses in the grand plan. It is incumbent upon the activist community to ensure that Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer fights to ensure equitable distribution of education funds AND, since education is an area governed by state law, that there is aggressive oversight of the Bloomberg administration and Chancellor Klein.

Most unfortunate was my prediction that the disastrous Alantic Yards project here in Brooklyn would receive required government sign-offs. I won't predict the outcome of the legal cases that are pending in this matter, but I am confident that the plaintiffs will make a first-rate effort. Below are lyrics roasting New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, sung to "Silver Bells" and provided by brilliant and committed activists. Mr. Silver had the power to slow down approval for Atlantic Yards this past week and chose not to exercise it. Silver had allegedly expressed concern regarding the impact of this project on New York State's finances. It is rumoured that his concerns were addressed. Too bad the public still has no clue regarding the real finances or financing of this project. In New York State, this is what democracy looks like ...

Skeptic Sheldon, spoiler Sheldon / feigned concern for awhile.
We all thought that he'd cover our assets
Bucks are passing ... traffic's massing ... / backed up mile after mile.
And from every blog pundit you'll hear...

Silver bails! Silver bails! It's rip-off time in the city!
Ching-ka-ching! Feel it sting! Revenue floating away.

Pretty pages ... reams of pages / sent by KPMG
filled with data -- but no information.
No numbers crunched ... just a big bunch / of stuff Bruce gets for free.
And above this boondoggle you will hear...

Silver bails! Silver bails! It's rip-off time in the city!
Ching-ka-ching! Feel it sting! Oversight is so passe!
Revenue floating away.
Oversight is so passe!
Revenue floating ... a-way.

On behalf of my entire family, I hope that those of you who celebrate Hannukah enjoyed a good one, and that those of you who celebrate Christmas or Kwanzaa have a wonderful and safe holiday as well!



December 18, 2006

Like you, I was supposed to be shopping. (I'm a man; you don't really think I finished my holiday shopping, do you?) So shopping could not help but creep into my brain as I moved up 5th Avenue in Manhattan this past Saturday towards 59th Street.

I could not also help but notice that 99.99% of the people to be found on 5th Avenue were white. Yes, there were plenty of tourists, but 5th Avenue -- home of so many high-priced stores -- was seemingly patronized by and only catering to white people. New York is definitely a segregated city in so many ways.

Which brings me to my point. Where were the white people at the "Shopping for Justice" march this past Saturday? The march was dedicated to the memory of police shooting victim Sean Bell and the desire to ensure that there is justice in the case and better work by the New York City Police Department going forward. Where were the white people? Where was the great progressive coalition?

Maybe the white people were at the back of the line engaging in a symbolic act? I don't think so. I watched a very long line of folks march into Herald Square -- many times more than the 10,000 people expected to participate. To be fair, there were white people marching -- particularly elected officials, union members and people who genuinely care about the issues of police brutality and related injustices. And I'm not picking on the folks organizing for upcoming anti-war demonstrations elsewhere -- though they should have made time, too. In the end, however, there were no large contingents of whites -- not even as many as were arrested protesting the murder of Amadou Diallou in 1999. There was something missing from the rainbow. In fact, the percentage of people participating in this march who were African American paralleled the percentage of people shopping along 5th Avenue who happened to be white. Not good.

Back in 1999, I remember feeling such disbelief, disgust and anger as I crowded into One Police Plaza with hundreds of other people counting the 41 shots fired at Amadou Diallou. How could such an outrage take place? During the protest and subsequent post-arrest detention at Harlem's 28th Precinct, there was a solidarity amongst Black, brown and white faces. Yet here we were again a few years later -- now counting off 50 shots that killed a man and critically wounded two others -- all young, unarmed and Black! (The Bell family and Rev. Sharpton had requested that marchers proceed silently without signs, but those wishes were honored on an inconsistent basis.)

And yet this shooting was not motivating our white brothers and sisters in the same way it was motivating us. Do they believe that Mayor Bloomberg is doing a great job on this issue? Do they believe that he can solve this problem without pressure? Do they think that activism is not needed if Giuliani is not Gracie Mansion's occupant?

Many white people, led by a media in denial, want to treat racially sensitive issues as if the sensitivity itself is an illness or even evidence of irresponsible behavior. This is evident in the responses of New York City's -- and America's -- powerful classes to the challenges presented by gun violence, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the American AIDS epidemic, the affordable housing crisis, the lack of quality health care and education for all, the manner in which law enforcement handles its work, the recruitment of young people by representatives of our armed forces, and the people who receive financial and editorial support for political offices. (So, is someone willing to start by questioning why guns are the reaction of first resort for officers and detectives?) To take on injustices, however, you have to conquer many fears. And you have to embrace that which true justice requires in America today.

In the 2005 book, Inequality and American Democracy, there is a chapter entitled "Inequality and Public Policy." The academic writers state that "Economic and racial segregation exacerbate eachother in predominantly black neighborhoods, perpetuating numerous and intertwined forms of disadvantage ... Neighborhood effects also appear to harm individuals' life opportunities..." The authors specify a long list of disadvantages and harmful effects, but since they don't identify the psychological effects of economic and racial segregation on police officers -- and other folks involved with service delivery -- let's just say it right here. You have to respect a community before you police it, and it is hard to learn respect when you're taught to fear a community. This applies to everyone -- the police and those who support and rely on the police as well.

Read my lips. If you want people to believe that you care, then show you care! There is a perception within the Black community that, overall, white people don't care about them -- they can afford not to. If this perception is going to change, then the reality of white people not taking actions to address the oppressive realities faced by Black people must also change. The group with the power must act -- in the legislative halls, in the Board rooms and in the streets. Blacks and others are not the groups with power at this time. White people must take on public policy challenges from the Iraq War resource drainage to media consolidation that excludes Black voices -- to police officers so embedded within the oppression of communites that the officers of the law have lost their own humanity.

I'm a pretty reasonable Negro most of the time. Rev. Sharpton and City Councilmember Charles Barron would not consider me in their rhetoric league. There are many like me. We are "reasonable" because we don't talk as loud as the young man who exploded with profanity ("F--k the PO-lice!") during the march. He claimed to be in the club when his friend Sean Bell was murdered that morning and he had had enough. We are "reasonable" because we are willing to invest energy in policy development and we have some faith in the slow, incremental progress of our social and political systems.

Don't get too comfortable, however. I saw a major Wall Street player quietly marching -- a Black Wall Street player. He had had enough. And there were many others. There is a deep river of anger wrapped in frustration amongst the "reasonable" people. This Sean Bell killing has hit a very tender nerve -- as it should for everyone. One woman with a video camera recalled her participation in the Diallou protests. She then expressed her concern that if there is a "next time," New York City will be rocked by serious social explosion. She could not see how the situation would not result in violence. Let's not get there.

Mayor Bloomberg has announced many grand plans for the future of New York City. We have yet to see, however, the master plan for reducing the grand inequality that truly characterizes this grand City. In fact, what we have seen are steps that will exacerbate the inequities. Where is the white outrage? Where is the white understanding of the long-term sacrifices needed to make positive changes?

As long as we see poor neighborhoods -- neighborhoods populated primarily by Blacks and Latinos -- as "inferior" and "dangerous" rather than as communities, the police shootings will continue. This is another ugly intersection of race and class. As long as we are consumed by the need to reduce our own taxation and not the need to increase everyone's well-being, the police shootings will continue. And the anger wrapped in frustration and garnished with civility will grow.



November 26, 2006

Welcome, friend, to "Power From Truth" -- my personal and political blog. This is my opportunity to experiment with free thought and free speech. I am not an experienced blogger, so forgive me if I breach protocol from time to time. And what I present here will often be controversial. What moves me to speak is the need for honesty in our discussion of issues -- particularly issues of race and class and their joint impact upon the American political environment.

We cannot grow as a nation -- we cannot truly protect ourselves as Americans -- unless we do the hard work and make the sacrifices needed to build a more democratic and more egalitarian society. That is why I participate in the political process; that is why I have embarked on this journey.

Regretfully, while I encourage you to share your thoughts with me, I am less likely to respond in kind. At this point in my life my time is limited. As some of you may know, I was an "aggressive progressive" candidate for membership in the U.S. House of Representatives from Central Brooklyn during 2005 and 2006. Though unsuccessful, the campaign was a wonderful experience ... and one that drained my family and me of many resources -- particularly time together as a family. I have no regrets about becoming a candidate, but I also have a great debt that I owe my wife and kids.

So this blog becomes a new platform for me and I hope to use it well. Some of my writings will also appear in local print publications, but most of what's here will only be seen here.

It is my hope that a project dear to my heart will soon visit your television screen. Since 1996, I have been involved with the Black Education Network, Inc., in an effort to generate and distribute quality, positive programming for communities of African descent -- as well as general audiences. The new public affairs show, "Inside The Congressional Black Caucus" (ICBC) first aired on the Black Family Channel and the CoLoursTV Network at the end of 2005. ICBC focuses on the work and members of the Congressional Black Caucus. This is of particular importance now that Democrats control the U.S. House of Representatives and a number of CBC members are poised to yield power -- including several Committee chairmanships.

And, of course, if U.S. Senator Barack Obama decides to seek the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, the CBC will have earned an even higher profile.

After a hiatus brought on by my campaign, the program is scheduled to return this coming February on the same two networks and possibly additional ones. ICBC will also be distributed via additional platforms. Business arrangements are still being finalized, so the next two months will be critical to the program's ultimate success. The ICBC website is not yet available for viewing. I will keep you posted as things develop.

I look forward to our new relationship.



December 11, 2006

The Congressional Black Caucus has unanimously elected 10-year incumbent Representative Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick from Michigan as its new Chair for the 110th Congress. Kilpatrick, 61, is the fifth woman to lead the CBC in its 37-year existence. She succeeds Congressman Mel Watt of North Carolina as leader of this active group of 42 U.S. Representatives plus one U.S. Senator.

Rep. Kilpatrick, a lifelong Michigan resident, represents the 13th Congressional District in that state, which includes Detroit and parts of the surrounding suburbs. Kilpatrick was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996, unseating an incumbent Black female Democrat -- Rep. Barbara-Rose Collins. Kilpatrick is currently a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Within the CBC, Rep. Kilpatrick has been a rising star. Congresswoman Kilpatrick was the first African-American Member of Congress appointed to the United States Air Force Academy Board, which oversees the programs of the U.S. Air Force Academy. She was selected to serve as the first Chairwoman of the CBC's Political Action Committee. Most recently, Kilpatrick was 2nd Vice-Chairperson of the CBC during the 109th Congress, and she served as Co-Chair of the CBC Foundation's 36th Annual Legislative Conference.

Rep. Kilpatrick could not ask for a better time to become Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. With Democrats holding a majority in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in 12 years, African Americans could be heading as many as four Committees and 20 subcommittees. Even the New York Times is paying more attention to the CBC's ascent to new political heights.

On the other hand, at a time when disparities between communities of African descent and white communities are evident in almost every aspect of American life, Chairwoman Kilpatrick will be under pressure to increase the CBC's ability to pressure the new Democratic leadership of both Houses of Congress -- and to deliver for communities across the nation. And the CBC's work during these two years will be performed with the 2008 Presidential election as a key factor in decisionmaking by all Democrats. If U.S. Senator Barack Obama (IL) becomes a Presidential candidate, the CBC will be under even more scrutiny.

The CBC has consistently submitted its alternate budget reflecting different priorities from the House as a whole. Long-time incumbents such as Rep. John Conyers (MI), Rep. Ed Towns (NY), and Rep. Donna Christiansen (Delegate - Virgin Islands) have held high-profile hearings an gatherings on key issues in the Black communities, including health care disparities and police brutality. As the Sean Bell police shooting in New York City sadly illustrates, such energetic leadership is as needed today as it ever has been.

In addition, critical matters such as Hurricane Katrina's aftermath and voting rights are ongoing concerns that require and will receive maximum vigilance on the part of the Caucus. Victories may be hard to come by and they will certainly be hard fought. Rep. Kilpatrick pledges to be up to the tasks at hand. After her election as Chair, the Congresswoman is quoted by the Associated Press as saying "watch out for us" -- "We will take this Caucus to another level."

Regarding her personal political history, Kilpatrick's past voting record reflects a party line approach overall. This includes her 2005 vote against H.R. 3045 -- the Free Trade Agreement involving Latin American nations and the Dominican Republic. One deviation from the Democratic Party line was her December 6th vote on H.R. 1082. Kilpatrick refused to condemn a town in France that is naming a street after Bro. Mumia Abu-Jamal, the controversial activist and writer convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer. Jamal has maintained his innocence, and his case has generated national and international attention.

Kilpatrick received a B+ rating from one advocacy group for her votes on the Darfur crisis, placing her in the top 146 of the 535 total Congressional members (including Senators); this grade happens to be below that of her Michigan colleague, John Conyers, who received a grade of A. Critics of the CBC maintain, however, that the female CBC members have, as a group, been a more progressive force in the Congress than the male members.

Relatively low-key on the national level, Rep. Kilpatrick is also known as the mother of controversial Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Mayor Kilpatrick struggled during his first term as Mayor but made a "miracle" comeback to win re-election in 2005. Personally speaking, when I saw the Mayor's inspirational speech at the funeral of Mother Rosa Parks, I knew he would win the election -- which was only days away. He might agree that it was indeed the speech of his life.

All hail Queen Carolyn Kilpatrick!


December 4, 2006

Since all politics is local, let us start with the fact that Sean Bell's shooting by New York's Finest is a vicious reminder of the fragility of life and the twists of American justice. When victimized by the combined forces of economic oppression, racial discrimination, and fear of criminal behavior, Black people are asked time and time again to give the criminal justice system another chance.

Yet "second chances" are not often offered to Black people -- particularly Black elected or appointed leaders -- unless we actually control the decision making process. Examples to consider include the late Harlem Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Rep. William Jefferson from New Orleans, and former Judge Alcee Hastings, a Congressman from Florida.

Powell was repeatedly re-elected by his Black constituents even after several small scandals had led the House of Representatives to strip Powell of his seniority during the 1960s and expel him from its ranks. (It should be noted that both acts by the House were later found by the U.S. Supreme Court to have been illegal on Constitutional grounds.)

Congressman Jefferson currently faces indictment in a messy bribery case. Investigators found $90,000 in his freezer prior to Hurricane Katrina, and Jefferson's Capitol Hill offices were raided by federal authorities -- an unfortunate first in American history. Yet Jefferson is on his way to re-election.

The Alcee Hastings case, however, is equally interesting and very sad. Hastings was a federal judge in Florida. Corruption and perjury charges led to Hastings' impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives and removal from office by the U.S. Senate in 1989. Then, in court, Hastings was acquitted of the charges by a jury after an alleged co-conspirator (himself later pardoned by President Clinton) refused to testify against him. In 1992, Hastings was elected to the House of Representatives, where he has served without scandal and has risen to leadership posts within the House Democratic Caucus.

One of Hastings ' committee assignments is the Intelligence Committee. As a House member with significant seniority on the Committee, Hastings had the potential to become Chair of this important committee should the Democrats regain control of the House -- which happened on November 7th. The new House Democratic leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, had long indicated that the most senior Democrat, fellow Californian Jane Harmon, would not be her choice to lead the Intelligence Committee due in part to Harmon's support of the Iraq War.

As the incoming Speaker of the House of Representatives, Pelosi needs and wants the Congressional Black Caucus to work well with her. Several high-profile CBC members, such as Representatives John Conyers (MI - Judiciary), Charles Rangel (NY – Ways and Means), and Bennie Thompson (MS – Homeland Security) are in line to lead either Committees or Subcommittees. The CBC's potential power and influence is significant.

Speaker-elect Pelosi tripped up on her politics, however. She supported Pennsylvania Representative John Murtha against the perceived rightful occupant of the Majority Leader position, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland. Murtha, a war hawk who saw the light on Iraq and made headlines pushing the Bush Administration into a corner, also has a tainted ethical history. Hoyer is a popular Democratic Caucus leader who happens to have had long-standing tension with Pelosi.

By unsuccessfully supporting Murtha for Majority Leader, Pelosi appeared to have exhausted whatever latitude she had in making appointments based more on her personal preferences than the realpolitik of the Democratic Caucus. Murtha was soundly defeated and the media started chewing on Pelosi's leadership style and potential.

The real loser, of course, was the Black man. In this case, Rep. Alcee Hastings was perceived as the heir apparent to lead the Intelligence Committee. In the aftermath of Pelosi's Murtha miscue, the media harped on Hastings' impeachment as evidence of corruption and disqualification. Note that no one has claimed any improprieties or problems with Hastings' service in the House or on the Intelligence Committee itself. Hastings' impeachment might have been awkward for Pelosi but it need not have been fatal to his selection as Committee chair if Pelosi really wanted to make it happen.

Frankly, however, Speaker-elect Pelosi may never have intended to select Hastings but wanted to look good to the CBC by implying she would. Pelosi always knew that the Hastings judicial impeachment would be a handy excuse -- and a key one in the aftermath of her Murtha debacle -- for pursuing a more important long-term objective.

The resulting selection of Texas Rep. Sylvestre Reyes, a Hispanic and former Border Patrol guard, to lead the Intelligence Committee highlighted the political strategy that the Democratic leadership will pursue not just between now and 2008 but going forwards. Democrats need Hispanic support to be as strong as possible. Republicans handed Democrats an opportunity to hold and strengthen their appeal to Hispanic voters, but the Democratic leadership knows that, in the end, issues like immigration will bite them as much as they have Republicans. And Democrats want political cover.

Accordingly, every opportunity to bolster Hispanic political strength will be grabbed by the Democratic Party leadership. More than likely, Rep. Rahm Emmanuel (Illinois), a former Bill Clinton operative and architect of Democratic House gains in this past election, had a strong hand in ensuring that Pelosi followed this script.

One of the reasons why New York's 11th Congressional District Democratic Primary battle to succeed Major Owens earned many headlines was the disparity between the fundraising capacity of Black candidates and incumbents and the capacity of whites. Simply put, it is huge -- remember that the white candidate raised as much money as the three Black candidates combined. Rahm Emmanuel and Company want to bolster DCCC coffers and keep or increase the Party's power. That is why incredible pressure is placed upon incumbent House Members to cough up tens of thousands of dollars in "dues" to the House Democratic Caucus as well as contributions to the DCCC. And this is one reason why CBC members can be treated as expendable.

For various reasons that would take too long to discuss here, Hispanic members as a group have done a better job of bringing in the dollars and there is even greater potential as demographic changes morph majority Black districts into mixed minority or majority Hispanic districts. (House seats like those held by Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California are already unlikely to remain represented by an African American after the next census.) The Democratic Party leadership, therefore, is not overly concerned about being "nice" to the CBC; they really want more money from members and expand support in America's Hispanic communities.

So here is the irony. Black Americans are the most loyal Democratic voters; far more loyal than whites. (An excellent case in point is Maryland's U.S. Senate race, where an African-American Republican candidate nearly won in a Democratic state. Yet, in this race, Black voters actually rejected the Black candidate by an 80% to 20% margin.) And, white power brokers want to raise money to convince Blacks to vote Democratic -- which is necessary since both Democrats and Republicans have not done enough, for example, to assist the Black victims of Katrina. Yet, as leaders within the Halls of Congress and elsewhere, Blacks are more expendable because they themselves do not bring in enough big dollars to keep the institution known as the Democratic Party either competitive or in power.

In short, America has moved to the right -- not simply on principles, but also with regard to the methodology of taking and holding power. "Corporate" power -- the dominance of money -- was pushed to the fore by the Republicans but the Democrats are not backing away one bit. Though demographic-driven tensions are inevitable, conflicts between Blacks and Hispanics should not sap each group's energy and political capital with each other while the corporate white powerstructure goes relatively unchallenged. America cannot be the nation it can and should be without a truly representative and inclusive political system.

Whoever is weak politically suffers at the policy table. Yet, across the board, what is good for African Americans is good for all Americans. So what choice do Black House members have? African Americans with seniority must now be at the table – even those with imperfect backgrounds, like Alcee Hastings. If the CBC does not fight to maximize its power now, then historic and irreplaceable opportunities will be lost.

Let the justice games begin.

FEAR OF FEAR (Post #2)

November 27, 2006

The late President Franklin D. Roosevelt was so correct when he proclaimed that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." How graphically this concept has been illustrated this past weekend as police officers and citizens in Queens each reacted in fear of each other -- and in ignorance of reality -- with a most tragic outcome. A groom-to-be is dead for no good reason.

Another Black man died at the hands of the police. Yet while the pundits and community leaders sort out fact and fiction, one truth stands clear: we live in fear. Americans are terrorized by the fear of crime -- particularly violent crime -- and by the fear of unchecked authority -- particularly if you are a new American, legal or otherwise. Yes, we live in fear of failure and of the incredible economic uncertainty before us and before our children.

Polls show that South Koreans are less concerned with the nuclear testing of North Korea than they are with their economic struggles. One article quoted a South Korean as saying that, despite figures showing national economic growth, life for the average South Korean is getting more and more difficult. Where have we heard this before?

The gun violence that grabs headlines and steals innocent and brave lives in the Bronx or in Brownsville is much like the violence that undermines society in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq. And, like Baghdad, the solution is not simply to get guns off the streets or out of the hands of thugs.

We have experienced a national election during which the American people declared their concern with the direction our nation and the world are headed. The details may be fuzzy, but Americans understand that their jobs are being lost to other nations, yet those nations are not, in turn, really deriving benefits from exported exploitation opportunities.

The details may be unclear, but Americans understand that international competition for natural resources breeds inequality and resentments. Global warming represents the extreme arena for this competition. How will we live the way we have -- or the way we wish to -- if climate changes lead millions to starve from droughts or lead entire economies to disintegrate as shorelines disappear.

Americans want to be secure at home. They understand, however, that borders alone don't work. And neither do oppressive and unwieldy attacks on new Americans. Enough alienated and TV-stuffed white children buy into romantic notions of rebellion and glory right here at home for us all to quiver in fear.

And Americans do not want to deal with the intersection of poverty and race. Hurricane Katrina highlighted the same ugly realities that gun violence do on an ongoing basis. Poverty injects fear ... and race provides a rationale to store that fear away. Black and brown people suffer disproportionately from the ills of American society -- both at home and abroad -- making the issue of "equality" -- not "democracy" -- the central issue for the 21st Century.

Our "new" Congress has much work to do. Talk will not be enough; there must be concrete action that puts people first. There must be courage exhibited by every new member of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as the more senior members. The new Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, needs to show courage -- not simply political gamesmanship -- to the American people. There cannot be justice without courage. And there will be no courage without a commitment to social and economic justice.

In the coming weeks, this column will hopefully be profiling courage.