Although President-elect Barack Hussein Obama promised “change,” his definition of the term remains illusory. The two groups that are pleading for ameliorative change are Blacks and Indians. Both have suffered the brunt of white supremacy. In Congress, they will suffer dwindling representation. They have never been political fixtures.
Five of the 10 fastest-shrinking congressional districts in the United States are represented by members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The member of the Ohio district was the late Stephanie Tubbs Jones. The other members are Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, Chaka Fattah, John Conyers and Julia Carson.
The other five members of Congress in the 10 fastest-shrinking districts are already of particular interest to Obama. They are Rahm Emanuel, a Clintonite and Obama’s designated chief of staff; Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House; Jan Schakowsky, front runner for Obama’s senate seat; Louise Slaughter, chairperson of the influential Rules Committee; and Mike Doyle, an advocate for sweeping changes in health care.
According to a study by the Pew Forum, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus will be underrepresented when the 111th Congress convenes on January 6, 2009. Catholics, Jews and Mormons, on the other hand, will be overrepresented, and Christians will still form a majority of Congress. Only Cong. Pete Stark of California has openly admitted no faith in a supreme being.
The only positive change for Blacks may be Obama sleeping in the White House in a non-menial job. The other change may be the absence of a Black person in the U.S. Senate and dwindling representation in the House. The high watermark for Blacks was 41 members although, proportionately, there should be 54 Black members in the House of Representatives. Blacks have already started to self-destruct politically. As the name expresses, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 only protects voting rights. Even with voting rights, Blacks should receive voter education. Rev. Jesse Jackson put Blacks on the wrong track. His emphasis was on voter registration. The Democratic Party was the beneficiary, and the result is plantation politics.
Political rights, on the other hand, not only provide for the election of candidates, but also for their selection. The selection of a candidate precedes an election. The Democratic and Republican parties still write the political menus and until Smith v. Allwright, sanctioned overt, white primaries. Both of these political parties were formed before the Civil War. Neither party had a real interest in the political enfranchisement of Blacks. During Reconstruction, Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts warned Blacks to form their own political party. Instead, Blacks chose political integration. Over the years, Blacks had to fight inch by inch to secure the Voting Rights Act of 1965.There have been many racial massacres, including the ones in Colfax, Louisiana, and Camille, Georgia. Blacks were simply seeking to enjoy First Amendment rights. Beginning in 1873,the federal government turned a blind eye to those massacres.
Today, the prisons are filled with political prisoners, including Matula Shakur, Mumia Abu-Jamal and Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin. Last month, James Bevel was given bail so that he could die outside of prison walls. Bevel had been Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s chief lieutenant and the architect of the Million Man March.
In the meantime, Blacks are shooting themselves in the foot. Until 2006, Harold Ford represented the 9th Congressional District in Memphis, Tennessee. The district is 60 percent Black. Today, Steven Cohen represents it. With a distinct numerical advantage, Blacks have been unable to take it back. Cohen was a legal advisor for the Memphis Police Department. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 carved out the 2nd Congressional District of Louisiana for Black representation. William Jefferson won the seat in 1990 and lost it to Anh “Joseph” Cao, a Vietnamese and Republican. The district is still a majority Black district after Hurricane Katrina. Asians only constitute 3 percent of the congressional district. This Republican will be working against Obama in Congress. Once again, Blacks have endorsed their own oppression. Ballots in the hands of Blacks in New Orleans were like Blacks holding ticking time bombs. Without voter and political education, a ballot is a self-destructive weapon.
Blacks in New York nearly suffered the same fate. In 2006, Councilman David Yassky stalked the 11th Congressional District, which is 60 percent Black. His plan would have succeeded, but for Ollie McClean of the United African Movement and Charles and Inez Barron, who helped her secure a space on the ballot as an independent.
Leading Blacks, including Black politicians, initially supported Yassky, who had raised over $1.3 million. This amount was more than that of his three rivals. Of course, the white media generally sided with Yassky. Black-oriented radio, including WKRS-FM, WLIB-AM, WBLS-FM and WWRL-AM barred McClean from the public airwaves, despite federal regulations guaranteeing her media access. After Congressman Anthony Weiner and John Murtha sprinted to her side, coupled with support from the Service Employees International Union, Yvette Clarke barely defeated Yassky in the Democratic primary. If Clarke had lost to Yassky, McClean’s race and gender would have been enough to defeat Yassky in the general election. McClean saved the Black community from a racial embarrassment. Cong. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.must be turning over in his grave. Political chicanery caused him to lose his congressional seat. After Cong. Charles Rangel exits Congress, Harlem will turn back to 1943. The New York Legislature, without any challenge, has already liquidated the 15th Congressional District. Blacks now make up only 30 percent of the district’s population.
Those Blacks who ushered in gentrification will feel its punch. After Powell, Harlem was reduced to a colony. Its overseers are Black politicians and preachers. Harlem will never be the same again. Despite the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 12 members of the Congressional Black Caucus represent districts in which Black constituents number under 40 percent. Two others are under 50 percent. This means that those political representatives must play to different interest groups. Our political presence in Congress satisfies the three-fifths provision of the U.S. Constitution.
Political lines in the states are about to be redrawn soon. Blacks have no political strategy. If Blacks are not a political force in 2010, they will have to draft an exit strategy from politics. It will require the establishment of political institutions to keep Blacks in the hunt. In politics, you must pay to play.
Plantation politics will not do the trick. Political hustlers and parasites need not apply. Blacks are in dire need of a political party, political scientists and political shepherds. Crunch time is on the horizon. When Obama leaves the White House, there may be only token, Black representation in Congress.
Jan. 2, 2009–Secure colorful Malcolm, MLK, Obama et. al. UAM calendars, a collector’s item, to support 2009 Freedom Retreat for Boys and Girls. Call UAM at (718) 834-9034. Jan. 7–The next UAM forum will occur at 7:30 p.m.at the Elks Plaza, 1068 Harriet Tubman Avenue (Fulton Street) near Classon Avenue in Brooklyn. Dr. Arthur Lewis, an esteemed medical doctor, historian and confidant of Dr. Ben, will deliver a lecture on health care issues facing the Black community. Take the “C” train to Franklin Avenue. Jan. 10–UAM Kwanzaa Breakfast, Cotton Club, 656 West 125th Street in Harlem 8:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Jan. 11–Great Harlem Debate: “The Bible: Is It Good for Black People?” Salem United Methodist Church, 211 West 129th Street in Harlem at 3 p.m. Jan.17–UAM Membership Dance, Cotton Club, 656 West 125th Street in Harlem at 9 p.m. Supporters are invited for 2009 Freedom Retreat for Boys and Girls.