One of the most nauseating mantras of the far right–be they in the Republican Party or some of the silent so-called Democrats whose political views are still in the closet–has been “Let’s take back America.”
Whenever I hear it, I ask, “Back to what?” My response is almost immediate: “Back to our enslavement? Back to a time prior to the Civil Rights Act? Back to a time when white men were in complete control of the reigns of the economic, social and political power of the nation.”
Note that I did not say our nation. Why? Because Malcolm X once taught us that “sitting at a table does not make one a diner,” and although we are sitting at the national table, President Barack Obama notwithstanding, we are still not diners!
Knowing and fearing the resurgence of one of our main maladies, selective amnesia, I believe it is imperative that we attempt to fully comprehend what is occurring on the political scene, especially on the streets of Harlem.
Again, it was Malcolm who spoke of our people being “bamboozled” and of our apparent penchant to fall for the “okeedoke.” I am hoping that we will not permit ourselves to be bamboozled again.
Here is what I mean.
The relentless pursuit of the far right, in the words of its leadership, is to “take back America,” meaning to regain total and complete control of all of the pedestals of power of the country and return them fully into the hands of the super-rich and the corporations controlled by them.
They seemingly desire an America where the poor, whether Black, Brown or white, will once more “know their place” and genuflect to the vision of superiority of those who should, as they believe, rule by right and not by the consent of the people who desire a just, democratic and egalitarian America.
This may sound like hyperbole, but I do not think it is. Ask yourselves, why would so much money be invested by a select few of the super-rich in this election? Why are they so afraid of President Obama? Why would they–even before he had sat behind his desk–pledge that he would be a one-term president?
Further, why would they pour so much money into Wisconsin to save Gov. Scott Walker, whose purpose was to destroy the voice of the working class, namely the labor unions. And, sensing the possibility of victory, they are now moving voraciously across the land.
Now that greedy army of the far right is intent on devouring Harlem. They and their fellow travelers are investing millions of dollars, ostensibly for the establishment of “good government.” They argue that Rep. Charles Rangel, for example, has served too long and he should be replaced by a younger person.
Why, one can objectively ask, is Rangel at the point of their spear? Is it because he knows their game plan? May I remind you that part of the African and Native American tradition is to respect the wisdom that comes from experience.
May I respectfully suggest that whether Rangel stays or is removed is a decision to be made by the people of Harlem, NOT by those whose not-too-hidden agenda is to regain control of America and who are convinced that Harlem could give them a launching pad to capture the state of New York.
Think about this! Upstate New York is primarily Republican; so, too, is much of Long Island. If they can win Harlem by placing a wedge between Latinos and Blacks and do the same in Central Brooklyn, their chance of winning the state is not so far-fetched. A first step is to defeat Rangel and replace him with a politically weaker, less influential Latino. Divide and conquer.
There was a time when this would have been difficult for them to accomplish. Sadly, over the years, we have contributed to the existing division–a division that must be healed if we are to continue to control our communities.
There are those who will say it is time for Rangel to go. To do so, in my view, will be, as my grandfather used to say, “cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.” I am looking at the bigger picture and would not want to give the far right any further possibility of encroachment into our communities.
Let us not let them take back Harlem nor Central Brooklyn. Let us defeat the harbingers of re-enslavement. Let our ballots say “Not in Harlem….Not in Harlem…Not in Harlem where Malcolm once walked.”
Carlos Russell, Ph.D., founder of Black Solidarity Day, is a playwright and professor emeritus of Brooklyn College. He is a former ambassador to the United Nations representing Panama, his birthplace.