Archive for May, 2010

After The Gulf Oil Spill…

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , , , on May 29, 2010 by playthell

  James Carvelle freaking out!


 What Now: Passion or Reason?

Like his fellow Chicagoan Oscar Brown Junior, Barack Obama appears to conduct his life by one golden rule: “whatever happens don’t blow your cool.”  Hence it is no accident that he has gained the sobriquet “No Drama Obama.”  His constant cool was much remarked about during the Presidential election; it enabled him to appear calm and “presidential” when John McCain was running around in circles like the “Energizer Bunny” during the financial crisis. 

 Mr. Obama displayed that same cool, calm, collected manner during his press conference explaining his administration’s response to the burgeoning oil crisis in the Gulf Of Mexico that threatens to obliterate the economy and culture of the states nestled along the Gulf.  The President systematically laid out his plan to deal with this crisis and placed his critics on the defensive in his forthright answers to the probing questions put to him by the press corps. 

No doubt he had heard the mounting criticisms about him moving too slowly, appearing unattached and overly calm in the face of disaster.  Perhaps the President’s cool resulted from the fact that he knows the catastrophe in the Gulf is just one more crisis he inherited and he is doing all that can be done at the moment…so his conscience is clear.  However Barack’s caution in predicting precisely when the problem will be solved reflects the uncertainty of our best scientific minds. 

For instance Professor Mishu Kaku, an internationally renowned theoretical physicist at the City University of New York and my longtime colleague at WBAI, compares the effort to plug the leak in the underground pipe to a Three Stooges skit with everybody running around in a whack-a-mole routine.  Dr. Kaku explained “This is the biggest scientific experiment of our time; nobody in the world has experience with this type of operation.”  Hence the Republican attempts to blame this disaster on the President, and their constant carping about the failure of “the federal government” to solve the problem ignores both the technical difficulties involved and exposes all of their anti-government rhetoric as the mindless BS that it is.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the President’s performance before the media inquisition was his grasp of the both the factual minutiae and the broader realities implied by the massive oil spill.  This guy is obviously a quick study and a brilliant analyst of complex facts who can make sense of situations that appear beyond the grasp of our ability to comprehend.  Unaffected by even the most provocative questions, Mr. Obama was the personification of the level headed and thoughtful leader. And he explained the complex relationship between the US government and the British Petroleum Corporation in exquisite detail.

The President displayed the same calm and thoughtful manner when he visited the Gulf Coast on Friday and stuck his hands in the oily water.  He was reassuring to the country when he calmly explained that “There are only three beaches in the Gulf region that are contaminated; the rest are clean and safe.” The local officials – especially the representatives of commercial fisherman, who are dying a slow death – were ecstatic with his response, including his plans for recovery. 

If anything they seemed buoyed by his serenity and candor in admitting that cleaning up this mess would be no easy task and that there would be mistakes: “there are no silver bullets here,”  the President said.  He also said he understood their anger because he was angry too, and he responded to the hysterical outbursts of James Carvelle and his dreadful Republican wife with the simple observation that Mr. Carvelle didn’t know all the facts regarding the actions the Federal government is taking.

The mark of the true leader is to keep your head when all around you are losing theirs as the poet counsels.  In this, as in his ability to communicate with elegant oratory that is both inspiring and enlightening, Mr. Obama is peerless among world leaders and has rarely been equaled among those who have occupied the Oval Office before him.  He is a man of vision and high principle who possesses both a brilliant mind and a compassionate heart. 

Those who say he lacks passion – like TV pundit Chris Matthews or the long time Democratic Party strategists and Louisiana native James Carville – evidently prefer words to deeds, heated rhetoric over constructive action.  I say let the banshees wail but the president should pay them no mind and keep his eyes on the prize.  For what the world needs now is less passion and more reason. This is especially true in regard to the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico – which promises to get worse before it gets better – where passion now threatens to overwhelm reason. And that’s bad news indeed, for when this happens things rarely get better and the situation goes from bad to worse!

     The Thinker

President Obama Droppin Science…Again!


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

May 29, 2010

On The Disaster In The Gulf Of Mexico

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , on May 26, 2010 by playthell


How The Oil Spill Exposes Republican Duplicity

 Sarah Palin, the embarrassing unremittingly stupid shrew from Alaska, blames President Obama for the horrendous oil spill by the British Petroleum company. And she has called for an investigation of President  in order to see if he has financial ties to the multi-national oil companies that supply this nation’s energy needs.  If this were anybody but the Alaskan Barbarian talking I would simply dismiss the suggestion without comment, but this is a woman who not so long ago was shouting “Drill Baby Drill!” before massive crowds of screaming acolytes at Republican confabs who contemtously dismissed those who were concerned about protecting our environment as leftwing whackos.  

 Like most things Silly Sarah says on it’s face her suggestion is ridiculous. The people whose ties to big oil cry out for investigation is Bush and “Dirty Dick” Cheney.  To this day the public, or even the Congress, have been denied access to the notes from the meetings that Bush and Cheney held with the princes and powers of the oil industry who wrote the Bush Administration’s energy policy.  Since both of these guys – the President and Vice President – were oil men with clear ties to the industry, logic and prudence would dictate that this is where any investigation of the roots of the present disaster should begin: These two guys should be deposed under oath!

Chances are the seeds of the present disaster were sown during the last eight years of Republican rule; it is the inevitable result of their hostility to government regulation and their “leave it to the private sector” dogma. Hence it comes as no surprise that a British Petroleum memorandum has surfaced that exposes a decision making process where  maximization of profits vs. expenditures for worker’s safety was subjected to a cost/ benefit analysis and they choose inferior safety standards to increase the margin of profit and oil workers in Texas were later maimed and killed as a result. This is what happens when private corporations are entrusted to protect the people’s interests without strict government regulation.

This policy has also resulted in the present situation where – according to Admiral Ellis, commandant of the US Coast Guard – all of the materials and expertise required to fix what is rapidly becoming the worst ecological disaster in American history are in the hands of private industry.  And thus the US government is an impotent giant that is helpless in the face of this swelling catastrophe.  This is the tragic result of the triumph of Republican “private enterprise/ free market “ theology.

Hence it comes as no surprise that a British Petroleum memorandum has surfaced – the so called “Three Pigs” memo – that exposes a corporate decision making process where  maximization of profits vs. expenditures for worker’s safety was subjected to a cost/ benefit analysis and they choose inferior safety standards to increase the margin of profit and oil workers in Texas were later maimed and killed as a result. This is what happens when private corporations are entrusted to protect the people’s interests without strict government regulation.

 This policy has also resulted in the present situation where – according to Admiral Thad W. Ellis, commandant of the US Coast Guard – all of the materials and expertise required to fix what is rapidly becoming the worst ecological disaster in American history are in the hands of private industry.  And thus the US government is an impotent giant that is helpless in the face of this swelling catastrophe.  This is the tragic result of the triumph of Republican “private enterprise/ free market “ theology.

 Yet with out a trace of irony we now hear a rising clamor for the government to save the day from the same people who have been telling us the federal government is our enemy; that the government cannot do anything right; indeed, as their patron saint Ronnie Reagan declared and they have repeated ad nauseum: “Government can’t solve our problems because government is the problem.” Now in increasing numbers these Republican fakers and fools are demanding that President Obama kick British Petroleum to the curb and the federal government take command.  Alas, when questioned about this government option the coast guard commandant looked wryly into the TV cameras and asked “replace them with what?” 

As we stand on the brink of witnessing the destruction of the economy, natural beauty and cultural life of the entire gulf region – if not the beaches of the Atlantic seaboard too – the Republican policy of favoring private interests over the public interest is exposed for the morally bankrupt, politically irresponsible, dangerous nonsense that it is.  As I have argued elsewhere in these commentaries: The anti-government hysteria manufactured by Republican shills on WABC radio and Fox Television represent a growing menace, a danger to the national security.  

For in their attempt to immobilize the federal government, incite armed rebellion and cultivate hatred for our President their goals are not much different from Al Qaeda.  Rush Limbaugh has suggested that “Civil War” is a logical avenue of resistance to the President’s policies and Congresswoman Michel Bachman said she likes her Minnesota constituents “armed and dangerous.”  And by accusing the President of imposing a Nazi/Stalanist dictatorship on the American people, a view as  the Republican view of the US government and that of Al Qaeda represent a distinction without a difference!

 Doomed Ducks


 Victims of human folly

In their lust for power leaders of the GOP – Grand Obstructionist Party – will say anything.  And the result often sounds like a tower of babble.  Witness the governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal, who was once a rapidly rising star in the GOP before his misfortune in being chosen as the sacrificial lamb to reply to an address by President Obama, which quickly exposed him as a shallow charlatan.   Jindal’s anti-government rhetoric was so rabid and irrational he publicly threatened to refuse money from President Obama’s economic stimulus package to extend unemployment to tens of thousands of workers in his state; then was seen in photo-ops cutting ribbons and taking bows for projects  financed by the stimulus money.  And most recently he can be seen tagging around with Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, with both hands out begging for all the federal help he can get.

Bobby Jindal nodded “Amen!” when Secretary Salazar said “We will keep our foot on British Petroleum’s neck” until they stop the thousands of gallons of crude oil presently gushing into the gulf.  But the newest rising star in the GOP, Rand Paul, has denounced the president’s decision to keep the governments foot on the neck of BP as “un-American.”  Furthermore Dr. Paul cavalierly dismisses BP’s culpability by evoking the Rumsfeld axiom: “Shit happens.”  However Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama has said BP must be made to pay the full cost of the clean-up even if it causes them to go out of existence!  Hence these Republican palefaces speak with forked tongue; so who knows what they actually believe?

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

A Clueless Charlatan

Then there is the incessant chatter of the supposedly oughtful conservatives like David Brooks and Joe Scarboro, the former Republican Congressman from Florida who now earns his bread as a TV talking head.  I have always suspected that Mr. Scarboro owes his television success more to the fact that he looks, walks and talks like the young John Wayne – which is no picayune matter in a nation that continues to worship celluloid heroes ala Ronnie Reagan – rather than what he actually knows about the world.  And his criticisms these last few days about the leadership of President Obama – which border on the hysterical – only confirms my suspicion.

While sophistry is Mr. Scarboro’s stock in trade, his incessant carping about the fact that President Obama is responding to the Gulf Crisis in his normal cool, calm, thoughtful manner represents a new low for “Morning Joe.”  It seems that Mr. Scarboro thinks the situation would be better served if the President was running around like a chicken with his head cut off.  The problem with the criticism of Mr. Scarboro and all Republicans is that it is precisely those pro-corporate anti-regulatory policies they have championed which has led us to the disaster in the Gulf!

The truth is that all theses guys are wolves in sheep’s clothing crying crocodile tears who emit more heat than light. Having roused the rabble with incendiary slogans alas, they have no clearly defined program to address the myriad problems facing the American people and advance the nation. As the crisis grows the Republican solution to the Gulf Oil  disaster is the equivalent of locking the barn doors after the horses have run away!  The suspicions about possible corporate malfeasance – such as that suggested by BP’s “Three Little Pigs” memorandum that has surfaced as I write – should have been advanced before the disaster and addressed in the regulatory policies of the federal government.

The main obstacle to instituting such policies has been the hysterical anti-government ideology promoted by the GOP!  We are now reaping what they have sown. Hence should the American electorate vote the Republicans back into power in the next elections given President Obama’s spectacular performance – in spite of the endless machinations of the Grand Obstructionist Party – no matter how right wing pundits spin the matter it will be incontrovertible proof that the American political system is dysfunctional because most white Americans are racist idiots who seem determined to slay the goose that’s laying the golden eggs because he’s the wrong color!

 On Pristine St. Augustine Beach


 Will The Louisiana Oil Slick Destroy All This?


Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

 May 26, 2010

On Black Pundits In White Media:Two Essays

Posted in On Black Pundits, Playthell on politics with tags , , , , , , on May 22, 2010 by playthell

 Roland Martin: An Eloquent Voice Of Reason


  Black Pundits and the Harry Reed Affair

 The fire storm whipped up by Senator Harry Reed’s Comments on President Obama not only  highlighted Republican duplicity on the race question in the US and caused white Americans to confront unpleasant truths about their racial attitudes toward African Americans, it also exposed the confusion and ignorance of many black pundits. As is usually the case, whenever an explosive issue regarding racial conflict in America pops-up the Television producers rush to their rolodex’s and call out the black punditariat for comment.  

To be fair, this is a reasonable response on the network’s part, and quite frankly I am glad they don’t follow their usual procedure and quarantine black commentators the way they do on other important issues.  The last thing the country needs is to have a group of clueless white folks offering uninformed commentary that only serves to further confuse an issue which is already hopelessly confused.  However the people that they called on this occasion – the usual suspects actually – had little to offer beyond dramatic displays of outrage at what they took to be Senator Reed’s ignorance and insensitivity on the race question, especially in regard to his use of the term “Negro” and “dialect” in referring to the race and speech patterns of President Obama. 

American Studies Scholar Dr. Tricia Rose


She be dropping science!

Sadly, with few exceptions – mainly the academics they called upon for expert analysis such as Dr. Tricia Rose, Princeton’s Dr. Maria Lacewell, Dr. Todd Boyd, the preacher/professor/ philosopher Michael Eric Dyson, etc – most of the sable pundits were as shallow as a dry creek bed.  It didn’t take long to recognize that if the producers who booked them on these shows expected deep insights into the matter they had called out the wrong crew.  For these chatter boxes provided far more heat than light; in spite of much impassioned rhetoric, the heat never became incandescent. Instead  far too often they exposed themselves as frightfully unread in the relevant texts and abysmally ignorant of history and the realities of politics. 

The Republicans are clear in their purpose. We have seen enough of their reckless folly to understand that their only interest in the Reed debacle is to try and sabotage President Obama’s efforts to bring much needed changes in this nation.  It appears that the racist reactionaries in the GOP – Grand Obstructionist Party – will stop at nothing, including inciting a race war, destabilizing the social order, or provoking the assassination of  President Obama.  They simply cannot accept the fact that a brilliant young black man is the most powerful man it the world, the top executive and the Commander-In-Chief of the nation’s mighty armed forces.

In view of this reality the black pundits should have moved to counter the hypocritical attacks of the Republicans, who were clamoring for Senator Reed’s head, but in too many instances they came dangerously close to aiding and abetting their assaults. The general level of analysis offered by the black punditariat was embarrassingly superficial.   All of them felt that Senator Reed had committed a grave offense by referring to black Americans Negroes, and some, alike Audrey Bernard – who is billed as an independent commentator – almost became unhinged with anger over this issue, self-righteously assuring the viewing audience that “nobody calls black people Negroes anymore.”

But that assertion is demonstrably untrue.  To begin with the most important organization funneling funds to black colleges, where a large share of Afro-American students are still educated, bears the venerable name “The United Negro College Fund,” and the NAACP still uses the far more antiquated term “Colored People;” yet this term is more accurate in terms of their actual work.   However these irate but obviously unread pundits seem unaware that the tern “Negro” is the name of choice for black Americans by some of our greatest writers and thinkers who have out rightly rejected “Black” and “African American” for serious historical and cultural reasons. 

Al Murray and Ralph Ellison

Two Cool Blues “Negroes” Chillin

Had they read, for instance, Arnold Rampasad’s scholarly and poetic book on Ralph Ellison they would know that Ellison passionately defended the use of Negro until his death.  And two of Ellison’s literary comrades – Stanley Crouch and Albert Murray – continue to defend and embrace Ellison’s argument as I write.  And I am certain from their arguments that none of our pundits in question have bothered to read Dr. Robert Janken’s seminal study “Rayford Logan and the Dilemma of the African American Intellectual.” 

For had they perused this text they would know that one of our most brilliant and militant historians insisted that he was an “American Negro” and rejected the racial terminology that is au courant today in their infancy!  That these people, who claim to be serious writers and thinkers and presume to speak for the black community on critical matters, have not engaged these writers speaks volumes about the intellectual quality of  those black pundits with whom the white editors and broadcast media producers seem most comfortable.

Finally, it is not without irony that the most important book these folks need to read in order to get a clue as to what they ought to be about, and quickly assess their shortcomings, is “The Crisis Of The Negro Intellectual,” by Harold  Cruse.  Perhaps some of these pundits passed the book by without ever opening the cover to see what lay inside because they were offended by the name.  If so, they will now recognize the gravitas of the old admonition: “Never judge A book by it’s cover!”  For it is obvious from their deeds that their intellectual development has suffered because they didn’t read it!  

                          Harold Cruse : The Seer                           

His Text Enlightened A Generation Of Intellectuals  

 In any case Harold Cruse and the other writers cited here were all aware of the arguments regarding the term Negro. But  they were unmoved by the passionate polemics against this word.  They were well aware that the Radical West Indian writer/activist Richard Moore wrote a book against it: “The Word Negro: It’s Origins and Evil Use,” and that Queen Mother Moore (no relation to Richard,) Matriarch of the black liberation movement of the 1960’s –  argued: “Negro means no, nay, never grow!” An interpretation which I must confess that I subscribed to for many years, and even now probably find the word “Negro” as distasteful as the pundits under discussion here.

Ironically, I am even now writing a critique of Stanley’s stubborn persistence in using the word.  Yet the reality remains: If black Americans are so torn over the use of the term Negro, how are other’s to know what to say?  No wonder many well meaning white folks are puzzled. This is the worse than can be said about Senator Reed; he should be applauded for pulling the covers off the secret prejudices that lay behind the smiling faces of duplicitous white folks.  Now smart and talented people with hues darker than blue, can know for sure that their suspicions were true.  I say give honest Harry a hand!




 Black Pundits Vs  Killer White Cops!


 Stanley Crouch: Off Beat and Out Of Time


 A Twisted Tale of Faustian Bargains Vs. Sacred Honor

*Another Golden Oldie

A few days ago a shock wave rippled through the journalistic community when village Voice reporter/feature writer, Peter Noel, announced that if a cop gunned down his son he would kill the cop!   While many white commentators and assorted mucky mucks expressed shock at Noel’s remarks, I felt as if he were reading my mind.  However Noel – a veteran journalist who labored for years in the black press – is unique among black journalist with a by-line in a white publication.  This is especially true among those whose job is to comment on current events and interpret the pressing issues for the public.  And there is a reasonable explanation for this puzzling phenomenon. 

 IN his recent book, “THE COMING RACE WAR IN AMERICA,” Carl Rowan, the dean of Afro-American Pundits, convincingly argues that there is a hidden litmus tests for most blacks writing on the editorial pages and hosting talk shows in the white owned media.  The result of these clandestine tests is that the blacks they select end up sounding just like the whites – who are speaking with an increasingly reactionary and racist editorial voice.  Hence it is not surprising that the commentary written by black pundits in the white owned papers of New York City – the scene of the crime – reads as if we are set upon by a gang of charlatans and fools, fakers and frauds, who inhabit a morally impoverished intellectual landscape into which a wise man occasionally stumbles. 

Of the regular black columnists in the three major dailies – the Daily News, the Post and the Times – only Bob Herbert of the Times viewed the shameful mishandling of the Diallo case as a logical result of the systematic abuse of police power in non-white communities.  In a column entitled “Tragic Continuum,” Herbert tells us that “We are riding a continuum that leads from the harassment of law abiding individuals on the street to the arrest of innocent people like Alton White, the actor from the musical Ragtime, to the non-fatal shooting of teenagers like Robert Reynoso and Juval Green, to the choking death of Anthony Baez in a dispute over a football, to the profound tragedy of Amadou Diallo.”    

            On the other hand Stanley Crouch and E.R. Shipp of the Daily News – who were both on leave from the paper but was summoned back to give a black spin on the official white wash – unconditionally supported the police, the Mayor, and the machinations of the judicial system in their commentaries on the Diallo slaughter.  Rather than reflect the righteous anger of a besieged black community they, like those famous icons of black servility Aunt Jemima and Uncle Tom, chose to give aid and comfort to the white apologists who try and justify this deadly abuse of police power.  And, unlike Bob Herbert, who has pounded the side walks of New York in search of the truth, Crouch and Shipp have conducted themselves like two lazy coons, depending on public relations hype issuing from the police department and pillaging the work of other reporters.     

           Amadou Diallo

Shot Down Like A Dog By Trigger Happy Cops

In a commentary published by Salon.Com, Stanley Crouch, without a hint of doubt, has this to say about the killer cops who snuffed out the life of Amadou Diallo “their acquittal was a just verdict given the risks that attend work in areas where there are many illegal automatic weapons, on streets where cops have died in action.”  The objective observer must view the confident tone of Crouch’s conclusions with suspicion, since a host of black police officers – active duty and retired – who have worked undercover vehemently rejected this explanation for the increasing use of deadly force against unarmed black men by white cops. 

For instance, retired detective Graham Witherspoon, an Afro-American male who spent twenty years on the NYPD, has been a ubiquitous figure in the media, explaining to anyone willing to listen how these practices represent a perversion of police authority.  Witherspoon and a phalanx of black cops have put forth compelling arguments regarding the differences in police practices in black and white communities in New York, and offered a chilling explanation of what that means for black and Hispanic citizens- especially our youths. 

The persistent theme in all the black police narratives is that in white communities the cops are careful to distinguish between criminals and law-abiding citizens, but in black communities especially, they treat everyone as a criminal suspect.  That is why, they explain, wholesale violations of our constitutionally protected right against unreasonable search and seizure are commonplace, and why black men become victims of deadly force by policemen far more often than whites.  No one I know can remember when last deadly force was used by a black cop against a white citizen.

 Yet even after I pointed these facts out to out to Crouch in a conversation about these issues and suggested that he talk to these Afro-American officers he replied with a column on March 30, “Numbers tell the story: Cops are legit,” which is a slavish regurgitation of information supplied to him by the police department.  Anyone who reads Stanley Crouch’s oeuvre will readily recognize that he has a long-standing aversion to statistics.  But he suddenly develops a perverse love for numbers in his brazen defense of the reign of terror presently conducted by white and Hispanic cops in the black communities of New York. 

 The gist of Crouch’s argument is that the police are justified in violating black men’s Constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure – and even take the lives of unarmed citizens ala Diallo and Derision – because there is more crime in the black community than other communities.  This argument is the moral equivalent of saying that a community that has been ravaged by murderous bandits should expect that the sheriff and his posse will ride in and shoot the survivors.  “The fading confidence in how well the New York police department is doing it’s job dosen’t seem to have much to do with the real world…there are other hard facts that none of the professional protesters and serial shirkers want to take into consideration” writes Crouch. 

 Notice the contemptuous language he employs to characterize the righteous cries of those who seek redress against the escalating murder of innocent black men by trigger happy cops.  And although Crouch confessed to me during the writing of this article that he thought Guiliani was “irrational,” I gurantee that a search of Crouch’s columns on the internet will yield no such snide references to that stiff neck greasy headed racist clown who occupies City Hall. But as bad as the above statements are, the column goes downhill from there.  “What I find most repulsive is the fact that the life of a black person is only important to politicians and rabble rousers if he or she is killed by somebody white, especially a cop.”   This comment exposes the author in an unflattering light, because it requires only minimal intelligence to understand that it is a far greater outrage for an innocent person to be murdered by an officer of the law than by a criminal.  After all, cops are entrusted with firearms in order to serve and protect law-abiding citizens!

 This is the kind of argument one expects to hear from a fool, a charlatan, or the most foul hearted white racist.  It is an argument worthy of David Duke, and I have heard several of Duke’s disciples and fellow travelers quoting Crouch’s column on racist white talk shows.  Since Crouch loves to hurl dirty names at people who demonstrate against killer cops – which includes my family, especially my wife, who went to jail demonstrating – perhaps he should recognize that progressive black New Yorkers also have some choice names for him too.  How about “a bald headed ass kissing Sambo,” or “a grinning shufflin chittlin eatin white folks nigger who hates himself and his people so much he is willing to dance on the graves of his ancestors to amuse his white massas.”  And those are some of the nicest names I’ve heard on the streets around my way.                         

A Demostration For Justice!

Crouch scoffs at the righteous anger of the citizenry

Crouch’s motives for advancing arguments designed to relieve the killer cops from criminal culpability must be considered deeply suspect when one considers the questions that he fails to ask, let alone attempt to answer.  For instance: Why are there no black cops murdering unarmed black, white or Hispanic men on New York’s streets?  Are there more automatic weapons in the hands of criminals in the Soundview section of the Bronx than in say, the Bensonhurst and Brighton Beach sections of Brooklyn?  The questions stated above are so obvious that even a cub reporter would be expected to ask them…unless he were participating in a white wash.  Everybody – especially the cops – know that these areas are strongholds of the Italian and Russian mobs, and there are all kinds of armed gangsters and wannabes walking around with every type of exotic weapon.  But not only have there been no fatal shootings in these areas, it was recently revealed that cops were providing protection for organized crime figures there! 

  All the data on drug use shows that there are far more drugs in the suburbs than in the inner-cities, but it is unthinkable to have a squad of plain clothes black cops running around in the long island neighborhoods where the white killer cops live.  And is there anybody who really believes that there would be any black cops assigned to white communities if they conducted themselves like white cops routinely behave in black communities?  Several black detectives claim that the undercover “Operation Condor” does not operate in white neighborhoods at all.  These are questions that any competent and honest journalist would be expected to ask.  But, alas, Crouch and his fellow black pundit/apologists never mention any of these contradictory facts let alone try and reconcile them with their pro-cop apologia. 

Crouch ignores the very public testimony of lieutenant Eric Adams and other members of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care- a group of Veteran African American policeman who have courageously put their lives and careers on the line in order to expose the racial profiling and unprofessional practices in the NYPD, practices that are the root cause of the escalating abuse of police power resulting in the slaughter of unarmed black men. “You have countless numbers of policemen engaged in undercover activities who are completely untrained in this type of operation,” Lt. Adams told host Gil Nobel on the March 25, edition of “Like It Is,” a Sunday public affairs program on WABC  Television in New York.     

           Lt. Eric Adams

A Righteous Cop Who Cares

Adams, the president of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, was speaking in the aftermath of two more killings of unarmed black men by the NYPD since the Diallo verdict: twenty three year old Malcolm Ferguson on March 1, and 26 year old Patrick Dorismond fifteen days later on March 16.  Ferguson was gunned down in a hallway just a few blocks from where Amadou Diallo was killed, and Dorismond was shot in front of a bar in downtown Manhattan.  Both were killed by Hispanic cops working undercover and, ironically, the cop who shot Ferguson says he was selling drugs, while Dorismond was shot after vehemently rebuffing an attempt by an undercover cop to buy drugs from him.  It seems that young black men are in constant danger of being snuffed out by the NYPD no matter what they are doing! 

  Some of this reckless behavior began to make sense when Adams pointed out that most of the cops in Operation Condor – the unit to which 29 year old Anthony Vasquez, the cop who killed Patrick Dorisman, belonged – volunteer for service in this undercover unit because they can collect overtime.  When one considers the fact that this unit is charged with inflating the arrest statistics, the slaughter of black men takes on the character of bounty hunting.  But you will learn nothing of this aspect of the aggressive police tactics that is at the heart of the crisis between the cops and the black and Hispanic communities in the columns of Crouch, Shipp, Thomas Sowell (whose syndicated column appears in the post) et al.  In fact, Uncle Thomas Sowell, who can always be counted on to rush to the aid of right-wing whites, wrote an exceedingly simple minded column justifying the Diallo murder.     

 A Highly Educated Sambo!


 Uncle Thomas Sowell

While Crouch makes much of the fact that he has been appointed to two citizen commissions formed by Mayor Guiliani to look into police conduct, he does not tell the reader is that perhaps he was appointed to these commissions because he has served as a leading apologist for a mayor who is almost universally regarded as an arrogant racist in the black and Hispanic communities, regardless of class.  Indeed, reporting from the scene of a huge Hillary Clinton for Senator rally, Bob Herbert tells us in his March 23, column “Mr. Guiliani is widely despised by blacks in this town, and that seems to be fine with him.  He is disliked by the young and the old, the wealthy and the poor, everybody.”  Everybody but the black columnist at the Daily News and the Post, who, based on what I hear from people in the black community, inspire almost as much enmity as the mayor.  

 Bob Herbert


  A Great Columnist Speaking Truth To Power

 It should be noted that the columnists at the post, a paper which is openly hostile to the aspirations of the black community and employs virtually no black journalists, are not professional writers.  Floyd Flake and Michel Meyers, both of whom had no prior experience as journalists, were chosen for their right-wing political views not their competence as writers.  Flake – a former Democratic Congressman who is the Pastor of The Allen AME church in Queens – has a host of church projects which require the support of the Republican Mayor and Governor. 

 Michael Meyers


A Shameless Quisling

Michael Meyers, who has been described by a former associate as a “kept man,” heads a paper organization called “The New York Civil Rights Coalition” which has no visible membership or program.  I once did an investigation of this organization for the Village Voice, and discovered that it was originally funded by two right-wing white men.  The article was published under the title “A Convocation of Charlatans,” and it details where the initial funding for the Civil Rights coalition came from.  While Flake has been rather silent about the issue of police brutality Meyers, who was also a member of the Mayor’s Commission that investigated police practices after the Abner Louima atrocity, has on occasion been a vocal critic of the NYPD and the Mayor’s mismanagement of them. 

But Meyers’ irrational hostility – which appears to be inspired by envy – toward the established black leadership such as Rev. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the NAACP et. al. often places him in opposition to the organized struggles of the Afro-American community.  This explains his otherwise inexplicable comment on Kiss FM’s Sunday morning public affairs forum on March 26,, that the prolonged demonstrations against police brutality inspired by the Diallo slaying were “fake demonstrations.”  Since Meyers was referring to the largest multi-racial protest held in New York since the 1960’s, the real civil rights coalition, this remark could only have been made by a deluded fool or a shameless liar. 

 In any case, Meyers’ following in the black community wouldn’t fill up a phone booth, and that’s because everybody knows that if honesty and integrity was ink he wouldn’t have enough to cross a T!  Perhaps the longtime civil rights lawyer Alton Maddox, who is now disbarred but remains one of the finest legal minds in New York, said it best.  Maddox, Who represented victims of some of the worst cases of police brutality in  the 1980’s, observed that “Michel Meyers couldn’t get three black junkies to follow him around the corner to get some free dope!”                

While Guiliani’s racist attitude towards the black and Hispanic communities has been a major source of discontent with his administration, this Mayor’s tendency towards secrecy and autocratic behavior has been the subject of more lawsuits by government agencies, public interest organizations, and the press seeking access to public records than any Mayor in recent history- and perhaps ever.  So Guiliani has been more than happy to find a few black flacks in the press.  It is hard to find a more brazen suck-up to Guilliani than Stanley Crouch, even if one includes the vulgar white racists who daily pollute the airwaves of the city like Sean Sanity and Bob Grant.  If the reader has any doubt I again invite you to look up his columns dealing with the Guiliani administration in the New York Daily News. 

Both Crouch and his soul sista E.R. Shipp exposed themselves as intellectual Quislings when they applauded the decision to remove the Diallo trial from the Bronx and conduct it upstate. While the overwhelming majority of black New Yorkers and their progressive white allies thought the fix was in, this gruesome twosome shamelessly rushed foward to co-sign the racist decision to deny the black and brown people of the Bronx their constitutional right to sit in judgement of the white cops who police them and, with what the prosecution argued was a depraved indifference to life, had gunned down an innocent man standing in the doorway of his home.   

 When the mostly white jury let the killer cops walk I felt sure that anyone who had supported the change of venue, but was interested in justice, would finally see the error of their ways. I was wrong.  E.R. Shipp, who is trained in the law, was no more repentant than Stanley Crouch for having supported the decision to move the trial to mostly white Albany.  “I did not need to see the tearful testimony of Police Officer Sean Carroll to know this cop and his colleagues should not be on trial for murdering Amadou Diallo.”  She writes in the February 21, Daily News. 

This Clairvoyant declaration is followed by torrent of sophistic drivel which blathers on ad nauseum.  “I just refuse to join the softheads who see in this case an opportunity to settle scores” she tells us.  “The ones who refuse to acknowlege that for those of us who are law abiders, the Guiliani led police force has made life much better on sidewalks in Harlem.”  Well, I live in Harlem and I am no less a law abiding citizen than  Ms. Shipp – and so is my 18 year old 6’ 2” 230 pound son – and I feel more unsafe than I have ever felt in my life, and that includes when I was growing up in the deep south 40 years ago.  After all, was not Amadou Diallo and …Dorisman “law abiding” citizens going about their business?  

 I never felt as afraid of deadly violence from the police when I was a teenager in the segregationist south as I now feel for my son.  I am glad that he is away in college down south.  When he was home on spring break recently I was terrified every time he went out at night, especially if he was carrying a cell phone.  And I find this to be true of every black parent I know who has a young son.  Every black woman I talked to, including some police women, is afraid for her husband or brother.  How could it be otherwise when innocent unarmed black men are being beaten up or gunned down for nothing more that living while black! 


The Enigmatic E. R. Shipp

However, since Ms. Shipp has neither a husband nor a son perhaps it is easier for her to empathize with white killer cops than the innocent black men who are their victims!  After all, one of the fundamental characteristics of the old southern black mammy types – of whom Shipp appears to be a throwback – is their ability to sympathize with the problems of their white masters and nurture their families while neglecting her own.  I have seen her type in action before, but I thought they had all faded from the scene, gone with the wind. 

But now I find that they are just better dressed and educated, and disguise their true identities by removing the handkerchiefs from their heads and wrapping them around their souls.  Anyone who wants to understand the mind-set of the backward Negro women who voted to let those white killer cops walk need look no further than E.R. Shipp!  In view of the string of police abuses -including the execution of young unarmed men black and Hispanic men like – Anthony Baez, Clifford Glover, Amadou Diallo, et. al. – it is ridiculous for anyone to argue with certainty that the four white cops who executed Amadou were not influenced by racist attitudes toward black people. 

  To argue that a fair trial could not have been held in the Bronx – as did Shipp, Crouch, Meyers and legions of racist reactionary white commentators who evidently believe that black folks should never be allowed to judge their white transgressors – is to ignore the racist history of white juries acquitting white cops accused of crimes against black folks, no matter what the evidence.  We must remember that the all white jury in Semi Valley California let the cops go in spite of the fact that they were shown a video tape of the cops in the act of criminally assaulting Rodney king. 

New Yorkers have witnessed case after case of white juries letting white cops walk after killing innocent black people.  Furthermore many of them recognize that there is a virtual epidemic of police killings of innocent Afro-Americans all over this country.  Even E.R. Shipp, in a transparent effort to redeem herself with an outraged black community – many of whom, based on what I’ve been hearing, would like to tar and feather her and run her out of town on a rail! – has belatedly written a column with a very different tone from her previous mindless prattle. 

In her February 21, column Ms. Shipp said that the Murder of Amadou Diallo had nothing to do with “the centuries of racial history in the Americas.”  But in her April 3, column she apparently has a change of heart – or maybe she just happened upon some real information on the subject of police brutality without having to do any work.  I’d bet on the latter explanation because the substance of the column is taken from the new book entitled “Police Brutality,” edited by the veteran journalist and prolific author Jill Nelson, an engaged intellectual who has more to say than the lot of these coons and mammys put together, and will call injustice by it’s proper name.  And that’s exactly why she doesn’t have a column in any of the dailies – read her revealing book “Volunteer Slavery,” which contains an amusing account of her experience writing for the Washington Post.

           The Real Deal!


   Jill Nelson: Fearless Warrior with A Pen


In any case Ms. Shipp, speaking with the fervor of a reformed whore, tells us that “the history of the abuse of police powers in dealings with blacks dates to antebellum times when patrols were used to control slaves.  Where some see aberrant behavior in the assault on Abner Louima and the killings of Amadou Diallo and Dorismond, many blacks see and react to the pattern.”  While I feel like shouting amen!  I am restrained by a nagging suspicion that there is something phony about this dramatic conversion.

My suspicion is based upon the fact that Ms. Shipp is a highly educated woman who should have recognized these obvious factors from Jump Street.  In fact, it is nearly impossible for me to believe that someone who spent thirteen years as a reporter with the New York Times, holds graduate degrees in Journalism and law, is working on a Ph.D. in American history, and is a Pulitzer Prize winner could write such foolishness unintentionally.  I once had great respect for her as a skilled and honest journalist when we wrote on the same page at the Daily News, but I remain unconvinced that Ms. Shipp’s behavior is untainted by vulgar amoral careerist opportunism. 

As for Stanley Crouch, he has been accused as such by no less a person than his longtime mentor, the octogenarian novelist, essayist and critic Albert Murray – from whom Crouch recieved his basic intellectual and political orientation.  In a widely read New Yorker essay on Murray, written by Henry Louis Gates Jr. a couple of years ago, Mr. Murray said proudly that he considered Stanley the son that he never had.  But now he will gleefully tell anyone who calls him that Crouch is “A careerist opportunist who believes in nothing!”  If you don’t believe me just call him and ask…his number is listed.

 Albert Murray


 The Brilliant Blues Philosopher at Home in Harlem

 Crouch’s column of March 29, “What The NYPD did Right,” offers compelling evidence for Murray’s claim.  Commenting on the violent clash between demonstrators and cops outside the funeral of Patrick Dorisman, he finds another occasion to praise the police – which he somehow manages to do whether they gun down an unarmed man or batter innocent mourners.  He assures us the cops were models of beneficence but the public doesn’t recognize this because “so far the media has done little hard reporting.” 

 Well, he’s a media professional, where is his reporting?  Too lazy to actually go to the scene like a real reporter, Crouch invents some unidentified eye witnesses.  “According to black community workers who were in the crowd outside the Brooklyn church where the funeral was held, the place was crawling with anarchist, black nationalist, Marxist revolutionaries and others who saw the people on the streets as cannon fodder.”  Does anyone believe this really sounds like the language of some black community workers? 

As I read Crouch’s description of the crowd I kept seeing the twisted face of the unreconstructed George Wallace, and a thousand tobacco chewing redneck southern sheriffs.  For that’s the language they employed to describe those who marched with Dr. King!  As one Brooklyn church lady who had attended the funeral said to me after I read her Crouch’s description of the altercation: “Tha boy is a liar and the truth ain’t in him!  That kinda talk might git him over wit tha white folks, but it won’t get him into the kingdom of heaven: come judgement day he gonna bust hell wide open!” 

 In contrast to Crouch’s mythical witnesses, my colleague at WBAI radio, Errol Maitland, a real reporter, was reporting on the scene when he witnessed a group of rioting cops attack a black woman, knock her down, and began beating her.  And when he demanded that Captain explain the police action he was told to shut up and get out of there. When he persisted in doing his job Errol was brutally beaten and had a heart attack! 

We have the entire episode on tape, no phantom witnesses here.  As of this writing Mr. Maitland is still in the intensive care coronary unit at the  Down State Medical Center, put there by what Crouch considers the praiseworthy actions of the NYPD.  There is a special element of tragedy to this episode, because a couple of years ago Errol Maitland’s son was unjustly murdered by a white cop, after being wrongly accused of shoplifting in Georgia. 

However it wouldn’t surprise me if Crouch has never heard of Maitland’s ordeal – even though it has been all over the media – because he has no genuine interest in current events.  That’s why his columns read like a jazz musician riffing on the same two or three tunes.  Check him out and you’ll see.   Since Stanley Crouch and I are longtime friends – although it is anybody’s guess how long we will remain friends after this essay is published, since he can dish out criticism out but he can’t take it – writing this essay has been painful for me.  Still, I think it’s high time he gets a taste of his own medicine.  I wish it could have been otherwise but the issues at hand are bigger than both of us, and the lord knows that I tried to educate him in private. 


Errol Maitland: Live on WBAI

But Crouch is not a dumb guy, so I believe he knows better than a lot of the nonsense that he has written regarding the reign of terror that the NYPD is presently conducting in the black community.  Considering the fact that he does not live within a hundred blocks of Harlem or the Bronx, one could argue that he just doesn’t understand what we who reside in these communities are going through.  But that’s precisely why I have constantly briefed him on what was happening – especially since I have strolled around his lily white Greenwich Village neighborhood with him and observed how his white neighbors affectionately greet him as a sort of kindly old Uncle Remus, a harmless old fart, not the sort of virile young black male who strikes terror in the hearts of effete white folks secretly plagued by the sins of their fathers. 

Hence Crouch does not feel any danger from the police because his white folks can vouch for the fact that he is “good Negro.”  He is the personification of what the old folks used to call “a white folks nigger” when I was growing up in Florida.  Such “Negroes” were held in contempt by the black community back in the day…and they are still held in contempt by the black community of New York today.  In any case, I and my son are not so lucky; there are no good white folks to vouchsafe us.  We live in Harlem where all coons look alike to predatory white cops: we have to dodge the bullets of the cops and the criminals!  That’s why I have absolutely no respect for anyone who is willing to use the rare opportunities afforded black writers to speak to the general public to promote their career ambitions at the expense of the black community, whose historic struggles are the only reason any of them are employed by major white media corporations. 

Of course, many of them are too vain to admit that the black struggle against institutional racism had anything much to do with their personal success.  But just ask any black journalist who has been able to survive in that business for the last 35 years and they will readily tell you how it took massive riots in the streets to get them in the door.  Carl Rowan is one of the few who made it into mainstream white journalism before the riots, but now – given the well educated crop of mammys, coons and Sambos available – Rowan is considered too militant for the present crop of white editor, which is an extreme irony. 

A Pioneering Black Pundit


Carl Rowan Conferring with President Johndon

 The best evidence of how their white editors perceive their role is the fact that the Daily News editors did not call Crouch and Shipp back from their leave to ask them to write an analysis of the rise of Alexandar Putin to the pinnacle of power in Russia, or the geo-political implications of nuclear weapons in southern Asia, or the consequences for social policy suggested by the billions spent on corporate welfare while cutting aid to dependent children.  These are the kinds of issues I routinely wrote about before the news dropped my column in favor of what one reader described as “two compliant coons” – and I’ve got beaucoup clips to prove it!  But, with the glaring exception of the splendid work Bob Herbert is doing at the Times, these other guys mostly write servile prattle on questions of race or, ironically, as Crouch puts it: “they stay in the coon cage.”          

               The Amadou Diallo Slaughter….


As seen by:

Steve Sack, Editorial Cartoonist, the Minneapolis Star Tribune




 *Playthell Benjamin

Commentaries On The Times

 Harlem New York

 April, 2000

Barack Omama and the White Working Class

Posted in Playthell on politics on May 21, 2010 by playthell

 The Real Deal!

* A Golden Oldie

As the general election approaches the verbose wannabe prescient white pundits who insist that white workers will never cast their votes for a President Obama fail to tell us is why they are so confident on this question.   Do they all have crystal balls?   Or perhaps it is because poor white folk putting racial preference ahead of their economic interests is par for the course in the bizarre masquerade in black and white that passes for race relations in America. 

Everyday we witness the absurd Orwellian spectacle of people like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reily and Pat Buchanan railing against the “racism” of Reverend Jeremiah Wright while they conduct a non-stop ritual lynching of Barack Obama from the broadcast booths of stations that refuse to hire African Americans as on-air hosts such as WABC – White Apartheid Broadcast Company – the premiere talk station in America. 

Hence the working class white audiences they target – the proverbial “angry white males” – about whom their better educated bourgeois white brothers know little and care less – receive a non-stop dose of racist propaganda and white resentment.  While the White Apartheid Broadcast Company fires up the misplaced resentments of these displaced anxiety ridden white workers 24/7, no one is telling them the real story and preaching a message of human brotherhood and interracial cooperation.  One can only wonder what goes on in their churches, many of them Catholic, which are as segregated on Sunday mornings as the line-up at WABC radio.   My portrait of who these blue collar white workers are is not mere conjecture; I know whereof I speak from both scholarly research and personal experience. 

            The recent Democratic primary election in Pennsylvania is a poignant case in point, and may well prove a harbinger for the general election without some vigorous campaigning from both Clintons.  They especially need Bill out on the stump because he is the last Democratic presidential candidate to carry the Appalachian region – which stretches from New York to Tenneesee – and he did it twice!   By contrasts only 48 of the 410 counties in the region voted for John Kerry four years ago and only 66 of the region’s counties went for Al Gore in 2000. 

The voting patterns in this region present us with a portrait of the racial attitudes among the white working class, for this region has more impoverished and badly educated white folks than anywhere else in America.  Hence it came as no surprise to this writer that Hillary Clinton carried Lackawanna County Pennsylvania by over 80%.  

            The next morning all the clueless talking heads were yakking away about how Barack just can’t bust the grape an put Hillary away because ”he can’t win the blue collar white ethnic vote; Yhadda yhadda yhadda!”   After stating the obvious, that Hillary had busted Barack’s butt at the polls in dramatic fashion, the conversation went quickly downhill.  I listened in vain for any hint that white racism, with it’s commitment to the ideology of white supremacy, had played any role in determining the outcome of the vote. 

 Instead we were subjected to an endless barrage of ignorant prattle about the effects of Obama’s comments regarding the desperate lives of small town Americans in a rustbelt state whose manufacturing sector has been exported to countries where union organizers are routinely murdered!  One is forced to wonder why the pundits and reporters don’t tell these people what their real problems stem from, rather than fake shock and outrage when Barack Obama exposes their anger and confusion. 

The truth is that there is a deeply racist strain among the largely Slavic Catholic population in Lackawanna County, a coal mining region of North East Pennsylvania, that goes back a while.   The scholarly evidence for that claim can be found in many sources, but the most impressive and relevant to our discussion of the role of race in the politics of the white ethnic working class is The Politics of Rage: George Wallace, the Origins of the New Conservatism, and the Transformation of American Politics.  Written by Dr. Dan T. Carter, a Bancroft Prize winning southern historian, this learned text plots as if on a graft the movement of northern white workers from “Yellow Dog Democrats” to “Reagan Republicans.”  And his recreation of George Wallace’s 1968 foray into the northern states in search of like minded whites – i.e. white racists – is an eye opener. 

            Although Prof. Carter provides a plethora of evidence one example will suffice to demonstrate the level of anti-black hatred Wallace found among northern ethnic white workers of the sort that Bill O’Reily Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity preach to by the millions on a daily basis.  Recounting a speech George Wallace made in Massachusetts during his ill fated 1968 campaign for the presidency at the height of his fame as America’s number one racist politician, Prof. Carter quotes Tom Turnipseed – a top aid to Wallace whose grandfather was a “dedicated Klansman” and had “received a gubernatorial pardon for killing a black man over a ‘trifling’ matter in the 1920’s.   “While most followers were satisfied just to listen to Wallace’s talk of ‘skinning heads’ and ‘popping skulls’ others wanted the real thing. 

Tom Turnipseed got a taste of that dark side when he stopped in a small working class district outside Webster Massachusetts…to arrange a Wallace Rally at a local Polish-American club.  Their members, club officers told him after a few drinks at a local bar, were one hundred percent behind the Alabama governor.  ‘Now let’s get serious a minute,’ said the club president.  When Wallace is elected president, he’s going to round up all the niggers and shoot them, isn’t he?’”   When Turnipseed told them “Naw…We’re just worried about some agitators,” their mood changed dramatically. “This guy got pissed …and he said ‘Well I don’t know whether I’m for him or not.”

            The most telling part of Professor Carter’s analysis is his careful documentation of the central role played by the firebrand racist George Wallace, in formulating the political blueprint that the Republican Party would employ under Richard Nixon as the  infamous “Southern strategy” to become the majority party in the US.  At the time Wallace was world famous for personally standing in the doorway at the University of Alabama in defiance of a Federal Court order and yelling: “Segregation Now!  Segregation tomorrow!  Segregation forever!!” as a group of young Afro-American students tried to go to class. This was the man whom millions of white workers in the north chose as their hero; they even voted for him for President en mass!   And the Republican’s learned their lesson from this even while publicly distancing themselves from George Wallace.

            These white Massachusetts workers share not only the same class background as the people in Lackawanna County Pa., but also ethnicity, religion and anti-black racism.  Yet I would have been convinced that Barack would lose Lackawanna County big time because of his race even if I had never read Dr. Carter’s book, because I have some first had evidence to make my case. 

I became aware of the virulent anti-black racism of the whites in Lackawanna County Pennsylvania when I met one of the region’s finest daughters, a child of that same Slavic Catholic working class, and against all odds we fell madly in love.  It was a crazy thing that could only have happened in America during the 1960’s, when our society was in upheaval and old injustices were being eradicated through militant struggle, and some  white and black Americans came together in spite of the criminal acts of violent white racists.  

            The day Tanya and I met it was purely by chance. I was presenting a lecture on the history of the African and Afro-American liberation movements in the twentieth century, sponsored by the Philadelphia Board of Education, and she to just happened to attend on a lark, tagging along with a group of her fellow Philadelphia public school teachers.  By the time we met all traces of her background as a Pennsylvania coal miner’s daughter had disappeared.  Although she was only 23, and I was 25, she had traveled to Europe and Brazil and hopped around the Caribbean.  Tanya had earned two degrees from distinguished universities and was a member of the National Honor Society. That’s how she got the opportunity to attend these elite universities in the first place; it was a road seldom traveled by coal miner’s daughters from Lackawanna County. Tanya was, like Michele Obama observed about herself, “the evidence of what investment in public education can produce.”

    Tanya’s Luminous Smile was like first morning light 

My Lackawanna Lady Love

      Tanya had a passion for fashion and was a real clothes horse.  Yet she was at once a very modern woman completely at home in the testosterone polluted world of the hard sciences, and an artist of a house keeper to boot.  She was a gourmet cook who had studied at the famous Cordon Bleu in Paris, and knew all about the chemistry of foods.  And she was a gifted seamstress and designer who would go down town when the new fashion collections came out and stand outside the display windows with her sketch pads and copy the design, come home and make a pattern from her sketches, go down into the garment district and acquire the finest fabrics, then make the garment to fit her fabulous frame perfectly.  Plus she was a stunning blond beauty on top off all that and I was her first lover.  

    Five foot ten inches in her stockings, Tanya was well over six feet in high heels…and she loved them.  She was the kind of stunner who could stop traffic or command the attention of men – and women with an eye for fashion – in any room she entered.  And she loved me madly.  She wanted to be my baby’s mama.  And she made no bones about it; early on she let me know she wanted to have my babies.

            The reason why she wanted to have brown skinned curly haired babies was because of a bizarre experience she had before we met involving race and the “good white people” of Lackawanna County, who convinced her that they – her family prominent among them – were sick and twisted when it came to questions of race.   Since there were no black people around, except in far away Scranton, questions about race relations wasn’t a part of the conversation among her family and friends growing up.  But once she moved to Philadelphia, remember this was during the era of black radicalism and urban riots, she would get a steady stream of questions laced with vulgar racist comments about African Americans. 

At first this was merely annoying because she had black colleagues whom she had grown fond of and the Principal of her school was a black man, who she thought very highly of.  At the time Philadelphia had an old black middle class, and she had discovered that some of these African American families had achieved affluence and were broadly cultured before her ancestor’s ever left Eastern Europe -mine among them.  If I had a dollar for every time she said my family was superior in education, culture  and achievement to hers I would be living as large as P. Diddy.

            Being real swift on the cap, it didn’t take her long see that the people of Lackawanna were railing at ghost with their simple minded notions about black people because she was getting to know all kinds of fascinating Afro-Americans. Then she met me…and everything changed.  After we started hanging out she would get really pissed off when she went home for holidays and her uncle’s would start in with the “nigger” jokes and general put downs of black people, although none of them really knew any black people. 

The incident that pushed her to challenge the racist attitudes of her family and insist that they not use racist language in her presence or she would stop coming home to visit, was when the mother of her favorite student abruptly withdrew the child from class and enrolled her in another school. The catalyst that sparked this drastic step was the fact that Tanya noticed that a beautiful, gifted, little brown girl in her class had a Slavic name, and she later learned that the girl’s father was from Lackawanna County.

            Since the name was so unusual, Tanya could think of only one person with the name: an elderly widow woman in her home town.  When she asked her mother if the woman had any children she said that the woman had a son who lived in Philadelphia.   She went on to say that she had seldom seen him over the years because when he came home he visited his mother and split back to Philly; he didn’t get around the old town much anymore.  It didn’t take much for Tanya to put the pieces of the puzzle together, and when her student’s mother came to pick up her daughter from school she told her that her husband was from her hometown.  She never saw the kid again!

            A sensitive and loving soul, Tanya was crushed and still grieving over the abrupt separation from her favorite student when we met.  And she would soon decide that here was her chance to have a beautiful brown baby of her own.   But I was skeptical about having a mixed race child in racist America, and after she told me about the racist attitudes of her family that was that.  There was no chance I was going to bring a child into that mess.  I had read the story of Phillipa Schyler, the beautiful and supremely gifted daughter of the black writer George Schyler and a blond Texas beauty Queen from a filthy rich family. 

It was one of the great love stories of the twentieth century – far more productive and romantic than the union between the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.  But it was also tragic.  Although Phillipa was a musical prodigy who was performing the masterworks for the piano at eight years old, and her compositions were compared to the young Mozart’s by some of the nation’s leading music professors, plus she was also a stunning beauty, her white family never even agreed to even meet her!  When her mother went home she had to pretend that her daughter didn’t exist!  And this screwed Phillipa up for life.  I wanted no part of that, and I had no intention of enduring any racist insults from her family for a nano-second. 

            As far as I was concerned everybody in Lackawanna County could kiss my black ass!  A sentiment I remain loyal to.  After seven years together we broke up:  mainly because of the racism of her family and community.  But she was a magnificent woman and had there been no race problem in America I would have married her faster than Zorro could draw his sword!  Less than six months after we broke up I met my wife, a wonderful African American lady who also hails from a coal mining town in Pennsylvania.   And we produced a pair of beautiful chocolate twins who are grown people now making their mark in the world.

So I have no complaints; yet there remains something tragic about my experience with Tanya.  She lost someone she loved twice because of the racism of her community in Lackawanna Pennsylvania.  So it comes as no surprise that Hillary won the votes of these people four to one, especially since she is willing to appeal to their racism with coded messages.  And act she has repented for in grand fashion – witness the speech in Unity New Hampshire.  Barack Obama is holding no grudges, and since I can’t be more royal than the King I ain’t mad at her either.  This is the ideal circumstance to say let bygones be bygones.


            Thus it is my actual knowledge of the racial attitudes of the white ethnic blue collar class that enables me to see with great clarity the critical role that race could play in this presidential election. This was made quite clear in the primary elections in North Carolina and Indiana. The voting patterns show that few working class whites voted for Obama.   Unable to admit the truth about white working class racism, the pundits hem, haw and stutter as they dance around the truth.   Yet every time they use the euphemism “Reagan Democrats” they are tacitly admitting that racism is determining these people’s political choices.  

Hence what Barack needs is for somebody who has the ear of the white proletariat to serve as his surrogate.  Because the truth is that white workers have often voted against their interests in a futile quest to maintain a system of “white supremacy”, seduced by white supremacist propaganda that told them the advance of black people was their death nell.  They even supported slavery although it denied them the opportunity to bargain for a decent wage for themselves, keeping them impoverished.  Hence we should make no mistake about it; Bruce Springsteen backing Barack is no mere celebrity endorsement, it could redirect the tide of history.  For he is a true voice of the progressive white working class that is represented by intelligent unionist like the UAW, and his endorsement will give them another talking point for the unelightened and wavering white workers.

            For most of the twentieth century only committed Marxist believed that unity between the black and white working classes could be achieved in racist America.  The skeptics ranged from the broadly learned Dr. DuBois, to twisted redneck crackers like Strom Thurman, to my uncle Buddy Harris.  Strom Thurman was convinced such unity could not be achieved because self respecting white men would never break bread with “niggers,” even if it prevented them from organizing themselves to collectively bargain in their own economic interests with the giant corporations who were exploiting them, because the unorganized pool of black labor could always be employed to break their strikes!  

            My Uncle Buddy was so suspicious of the working class whites he grew up around he walked out of a Communist Party meeting in Philadelphia and fled the party – whose program was making a lot of sense to the son of a black Georgia landowner who had been driven from his home by white terrorists just for being an industrious man – because they accepted white southerners in the membership.  Uncle Buddy was as convinced as Strom Thurman that white southerners couldn’t change.  And Dr. DuBois, who brought infinitely more analytic tools to the subject, thought that any attempt to organize American workers around class issues rather than questions of race and ethnicity would be defeated by the peculiar sociological realities of American society.  

            Dr. DuBois argued that the average white American worker would identify with the rich and powerful in their racial/ethnic groups before they would join hands with some “niggers” to fight their bosses for better wages and working conditions.  And too often the prescient Dubois proved right.  In any case’ the racism and ignorance of the white working class threatens to wreck the chances for Barack Obama to turn our nation away from war, racism, and hostility to the public interests that has been the hall mark of Republican rule.  We shall see how things turn out…but that’s how it looks from here.

By: Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem New York

June, 2008

* This essay is taken from a forth coming book, “Ouantum Shift: Reflections On The Obama Phenomenon

Bye Bye Cutie Pie

Posted in Cultural Matters on May 12, 2010 by playthell

 Lena Horn Dances Into Immortality


 I cannot remember a time when Lena Horne did not fuel my erotic fantasies and haunt my dreams.  When I was a boy only two women in the world seemed able to match her beauty: Dorothy Dandridge and my mother, Queen Elizabeth. Lena was superbly talented, irresistibly charming and drop dead gorgeous. And she was quintessentially American: nowhere but in the United States would she have been considered “a Negro.” 

In other parts of the world she would have been classified as some species of racial hybrid – which, in biological terms she was; as are many Americans whether they know it or not.   But the fact that she was considered black speaks volumes about the arbitrary nature of race in the US.  It is a sociological construct not a biological fact.  Hence in America “Negroes” run from light bright damned near white, to blue black.  In order to really understand Lena – i.e. the path her life and career took – it is necessary to understand the peculiar relationship between race, color and rights in the United States.

In Cuba Lena would have been a “Mulatto,” if not white, in Puerto Rico she would have been a “Moreno,” or possibly white, in Brazil she would have found her place in what seems like an endless array of racial categories, and in South Africa she would be a “Colored.”   During slavery times in the US she would have been considered a quadroon and wealthy white men would pay handsomely for her favors or set her up in grand style as an undercover lover. 

Although New Orleans was infamous for its Quadroon Balls where wealthy white men came to meet beautiful mixed blood women and form forbidden liaisons, all of the southern cities had similar social arrangements. Urban historian Richard C. Wade documented the existence of mulatto classes in every major southern city, which was formed by illicit sexual intercourse between white men and African women in the anonymity of the city.  The mixed blood females of that class were sometimes rescued by their white fathers who sent them away to be educated and live as free colored women – especially in Louisiana because of the Gents de Colour tradition – but others were abandoned to their fate in racist America.

Because she came along in the Twentieth Century, was a New York City girl, and the daughter of a well to do numbers racketeer – a gentleman gangster – she never wanted for anything.  And when she was offered her first movie contract her father accompanied her to the business meeting and told Otto Preminger that he could provide his daughter with a maid so he didn’t want her playing one in the movies.  And that was that!  Lena remembered the incident the rest of her life, and would say many times “Mr. Preminger had never dealt with a strong black father” and didn’t quite know how to behave in his presence.  “The Hornes,” a book written by Lena’s daughter Gail, presents a detailed portrait of the remarkable family from which she hailed.

Although she went on the appear in glamorous cameo’s in Hollywood Musicals, her only starring roles came in all black productions like “Cabin In The sky” and “Stormy Weather.”  These movies were few and far between, but when they did get the green light to make one they were all-star affairs.  The black community was bursting with great performers in this period, as show business really was one of the few avenues to affluence open to “Colored People” back in the day. 

Hence whenever anybody wanted to stage a musical production – on stage or film – there was a treasure trove of talent to choose from.  Lena was among the brightest stars and her talent illuminated every production she was in.  She was what everybody in Hollywood wanted to be, what Maureen O’Hara called “a triple threat.”  She could sing, act and dance.  And still, she had to compete with other superbly gifted black performers like Dorothy Dandridge and Pear Bailey – who could also sing, dance and act – for the limited roles available to black female performers. 

 Lena Performing In “Jamaica”


Given the blatantly racist nature of American society, with its absurd pigmentocracy that judged people on the basis of their color and not their character, Lena was no doubt favored over her darker sisters for some roles and invited to perform in venues where they were not.  Yet Lena was a real talent and came up through the ranks in learning her craft – she paid her artistic dues and suffered every indignity on and off the stage that every black American suffered.

Coming of age at a time when live shows were the order of the day, she was a chorus girl at Harlem’s world famous Cotton Club – a racist venue that rebuffed most black customers while employing world class black entertainers for the amusement and amazement of whites – fans and performers alike.  Many a famous white act in this period stole their material from visits to black nightclubs, Yet because the black originators were excluded from white clubs the white plagiarizers could get away with grand cultural theft…and they did.

 At L.A’s Coconut Grove

 The White Folks Favorite Negro…Until She Denounced Racism!


It is virtually impossible for those of us living in America today to imagine what her life was like.  To live and work in a country obsessed by color, where the races existed side by side in an uneasy truce that could break down at any time, resulting in murderous violence; yet you look like the enemy.  To know that it was possible to slip into the dominant “race” and enjoy all the amenities that are routinely accorded them, yet choose to remain true to yourself and your people although it carried unimaginable burdens, was nothing short of heroic!    

She could have left this country and settled in Europe or Mexico, and just passed into the local population without further reference to her “Negro” lineage. But Lena not only stayed in the racist land of her birth but became quite active in the struggle to change it.  After becoming a bonefide star in show business, where her name and image was one of the best known brands in America, she embraced and supported the militant spokesmen for Afro-American liberation like Paul Robeson and Dr. Martin Luther King.  This came as a surprise to many people – black and white – because it seemed that had risen above the problems other blacks faced: she was wealthy, famous and married to a white husband.

Yet despite all appearances, things were not what they seemed. She remained a Negro in America despite these advantages, which means that she was ever in danger of being subjected to racial prejudice and embarrassing acts of discrimination alas. Her affluence and fame did not abrogate the fact that in much of her native land she could be insulted or assaulted with impunity by the most down and out cracker.  For as Dr. Dubois once observed about racial incidents in America:” Not all the time but anytime…not everywhere but anywhere.”

Thus unlike most black celebrities of her generation, who quaked with fear for their careers and kept quiet, Lena joined militants like Harry Belafonte, speaking out strongly and consistently against the racist practices black Americans were regularly exposed to. This is as much Lena’s legacy as her brilliance as a performing artist and world famous entertainer, who continued to cast a spell over audiences well into the autumn of her life. 

As for me she will forever be remembered as Afro-America’s answer to the white glamour girls who seduced our minds on the silver screen, and were proffered as the epitome of feminine grace and beauty. That she somewhat favored my mom made her celluloid image real to me.  In my mind all the white girls, on the silver screen and off, paled in comparison!

Anybody who reads this piece and suspects that I have claimed too much for Ms. Horne, heaped upon her undue accolades like an unthinking love struck fan, then I invite you to expose yourself to the magic of “You Tube,’ and check her out with the great Duke Ellington Orchestra singing the title tune from the movie “Stormy Weather.”  To say that she is entrancing only bespeaks the failure of the English language – the language of Shakespeare and the King James Bible – to provide suitable superlatives.  The performance is a cameo from the movie, and even the five blind boys of Alabama can see that no more modern, elegant and sophisticated representation of American civilization can be found anywhere in the world of American art.

 Stormy Weather

Her magnetic talent and beauty were unmatched in white Hollywood







Playthell Benjamin

         Harlem New York

         May 11, 2010

Elena Kagan Is a Savvy Choice for High Court

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , , on May 10, 2010 by playthell

 Solicitor Kagan conferring with Former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor


President Obama had hinted that his next appointment to the high court would not be a former judge. It was also rumored that the new Justice would not be an academic. Although I would not be averse to seeing a great trial lawyer with a background in defending civil liberties like Justice Thurgood Marshall, or the brilliant trial lawyer and Yale lecturer Martin Garbus, ascend to the bench: Elana Kagan is an excellent choice!

Her tenure as Dean of the Harvard Law School verifies her stature as a brilliant scholar in the law; her present service as Solicitor General testifies to her skill as a litigator, and the fact that she clerked with Justice Thurgood Marshall – whom she said “did more to promote justice in his legal career than any lawyer during his life time,” in her acceptance speech – tells us that she stands firmly on the side of equal opportunity under the law. And as the Charles Hamilton Houston Professor of Law at Harvard, she must have been ever mindful of the role the law can play in righting society’s wrongs against powerless and unpopular groups.  

For even more than Thurgood Marshall, who was his student, Charles Hamilton Houston shaped Civil Rights law in twentieth century America..  A graduate of Harvard Law, Houston founded both the NAACP legal department and the Law School at Howard University. Thurgood Marshall was a product of both institutions. Hence Elena Kagan’s views on critical issues like equal opportunity and Affirmative Action are informed by the two towering figures in this area of constitutional law.  Furthermore, she was chosen by Barack Obama, a constitutional scholar who is the best qualified President to pick a Supreme Court Justice in American history. 

Like Justice Marshall, Ms. Kagan was elevated to the Court from the Solicitor General’s Office, and I am certain that, like Justice Sotomayor, she will bring the unique perspective of the brilliant female professional who has competed with men on the highest level and had to overcome institutionalized sexism to crash through the glass ceiling and reach the top.  As the first woman Dean of Harvard Law, or to serve as Solicitor General of the US, Ms. Kagan is certain to bring a wise female point of view shaped by these experiences to the interpretation of the laws. 

It is an insight that only women can bring to our understanding of the laws because they affect the life’s chances of half the population and no men have endured such “real life” experiences.  This fact should be borne in mind when we are forced to listen to the bogus clap trap emanating from reactionary male chauvinist Republican Senators who clamour on ad nauseum about Solicitor Kagan’s lack of “real life” experience.

Ms. Kagan’s decision to turn away from a highly lucrative career as a corporate lawyer, and the types of cases she has chosen to argue before the Court as Solicitor General – For instance the Citizen’s United case for campaign finance reform, which sought to limit corporate contributions to candidates for public office was the first case she chose – tells us that she will protect the public interests.  As President Obama noted this is the first time three women will be seated on the high court – there have been only four in the history of the Court.  He went on to point out that this court would be “more inclusive, more representative; more reflective of us as a people than ever before.”  I say that’s a good thing for us all.  And I listen with amused contempt at what the reactionary Republicans, who run with the rabble and hunt with the plutocrats, have to say on the matter.




Playthell Benjamin

May 10, 2010

























































































































































































































































































On The Arrogance of Power

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, Playthell on politics with tags , , , , on May 5, 2010 by playthell


 Dismissing the Iranian Critique


Although the Iranian President often sounds like a mad man when discussing the German holocaust – he apparently is not convinced it actually happened – and his religious beliefs strike me as irrational as Sarah Palin’s, his arguments regarding the fundamental immorality of nuclear weapons and those who base their relations with other nations on the threat of their use was right on the mark.  Because he is an odd ball who also questions the legitimacy of Israel – a widely held sentiment in the Muslim world – it is easy to simply dismiss anything he says. 

However the man does hold a PhD and was once a professor in the social sciences; hence whatever one may think of him President Ahmadinijad is no fool.  And, in any case, I can name a half dozen important Republican elected representatives of the American people who routinely say things every bit as absurd as anything the Iranian President has said…and they are far more damaging to our national interests.

In his fundamental condemnation of nuclear weapons as immoral and the hypocrisy of nuclear states who deign to preach the virtues of a nuclear free world to those who don’t possess them – i.e. the US and Iran – we see eye to eye.  I have written repeatedly that I believe the mere possession of nuclear weapons is immoral; and a first strike policy testifies to the fact that a nation is prepared to commit a massive crime against humanity.  It is an indisputable fact that the US has never been willing to adopt a “no first strike” policy, even though its main nuclear adversary, the Soviet Union, repeatedly declared that they would never do so.  And considering the fact that the US was the first nation to include such unprecedented weapons of mass destruction in its arsenal, and remains the only nation to have used them, our government should have been the first to declare that they would not initiate a nuclear attack.


Ahmadinejad Delivering His Critique of Nuclear Weapons

 “Regrettably, the government of the United States has not only used nuclear weapons, but also continues to threaten to use such weapons against other countries, including Iran,” Ahmadinejad observed.  This is the plain truth, and only in the context of a policy of “might makes right!’ can such an obvious truth be ignored or dismissed.  The same is true of his observation that the US was vilifying Iran “on the false pretext of probable diversions in their peaceful nuclear activities without providing even a single credible proof to substantiate their allegation.”  Indeed it takes a special arrogance for the US to call again for sanctions and threaten military action if Iran does not bend to US dictates on the pretext that they are building an atomic bomb, when we are still fighting a war in Iraq where we have wrecked the country and caused the deaths of countless thousands of innocent Iraqi’s over a false charge that Sadam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction!’ Listening to Secretary Clinton’s self-righteous rhetoric at the UN, painting Iran as a nuclear threat to the world, I was overcome with de ja vu: could we really be headed down that road again?   

            Ahmadinejad really put the American Secretary Of State on the spot when he proposed that the entire Middle East should be a “nuclear free zone.”  Ms. Clinton was forced to offer up duplicitous platitudes explaining how she supports the idea in principle but now is not the time to put such a radical policy into practice.   The question that any fair minded reasonably intelligent person must ask is: If the US is so worried about nuclear weapons in the region why does our government not support a nuclear free Middle East?   This question above all others exposes the US as a colossus with clay feet.  The reason Secretary Clinton could not agree to the Iranian President’s proposal, which would end the danger of nuclear proliferation in the Mid-East, the stated goal of the US government, is because it would force the Obama Administration to deal with the yellow gorilla in the room: Israel’s nuclear arsenal!

At present the Israeli’s are estimated to have about 80 nuclear weapons; which is about 20 more than Great Britain!   Hence we are talking about one of the world’s major nuclear stockpiles – although the US and Russia own 96% of all the nukes in the world.  Alas, while all the agencies that monitor the whereabouts of nuclear weapons in the world know about the Israeli arsenal, as does all of the good intelligence services, the US government pretends it does not exists and virtually forbids discussion of it in the UN.  This is why the Obama Administration dare not agree to a nuclear free zone in the Mid-East no matter how much they pay lip service to the idea in their attempt to cast the Iranians in the role of nuclear pariah.  

While most Americans are clueless on these matters, and the pundits talk like fools or cowards on the issue of Israeli nukes and American hypocrisy, people all over the world view American policy as shameless duplicity.  And no amount of anti-Jihadist propaganda of the sort proposed by Eric Cantor, the bone headed Republican Congressman from Virginia, that state of unreconstructed Confederate nostalgia, will work so long as the US continues it’s one sided policies in the region.  While the Saudi Royal Family, the Pakistani elite, the new leaders of Iraq, Hamid Karzi in Afghanistan and the secular Egyptian ruling class are allied with the US government, all of them are sitting on volatile populations percolating with religious passions and Pan-Arab nationalism fueled by deferred dreams. 

Hence these regimes owe their existence to the support they receive from the US, for without American support they would all be overthrown by the Jihadists.  Since the US has always based its foreign policy on securing American interests not the welfare of foreign citizens, despite endless rhetoric about promoting democracy abroad, our government has long supported undemocratic regimes in places like Saudi Arabia, Jordon, Egypt, etc so long as they support American policy objectives.  In the past the bogey man that struck fear in the hearts of the democratic Americans and the Islamic despots was international communism.  In those days US policy was singularly concerned with stopping the expansion of communism into the oil rich Middle East.  They even entered into a Faustian bargain with the Muslim Fundamentalist because they believed they were natural enemies of atheistic ideologies like Marxism. 

Yet because the American government has historically shown little concern with what powerless colored people thought, they didn’t bother to study what the Muslims actually believed.  Hence the people Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson got the CIA to arm and train to conduct an insurgency against the Russians, including urban terrorist tactics, metamorphosed into the Taliban and Al Qaeda, two movements against whom we are now bogged down fighting Afghanistan and all over the world.  One of them, Al Qaeda, struck us a more devastating blow on our homeland than they ever dealt the Russians.  

The truth is that US policy in the Middle East has been based upon an amoral real politique camouflaged as crusade for freedom against communist slavery.  Now the US position on the Mid-East is that we are fighting for freedom against religious tyranny of “islamo-fascism.”  But if we are ever to envision an era of peace between the US and the militant fundamentalist of the jihadist’s movement, we must make the kind of accommodations that will allow a modern secular leadership to flourish in the Islamic world. 

                                                 Muhammad Mossedeh

An Enlightened Secular Democrat

It is sadly ironic that that’s just the kind of leadership Iran enjoyed under the leadership of the democratically elected western educated modern secular President Muhammad Mossedek; before the United States decided to overthrow him over a dispute about oil rights in Iran.  He was accused of being a communist because he demanded a fair price for Iranian oil from western oil companies.  The giant American companies thought he was setting a bad example and convinced our government to teach him, and by implication the Arabian oil Sheiks, what the limits of their sovereignty was.  After the CIA  engineered the overthrow Mossedek they installed Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, a cold blooded tyrant who was willing to play the American vassle in the Islamic world. 

A modernizing autocrat of questionable religious piety, the Shah earned the enmity of the Mullahs and the masses.  In order to sustain the Shah’s dictatorial control over Iran for a quarter of a century the US made him the best armed ruler in the Middle East next to Israel.  And our government also trained SAVAC, the murderous secret police who routinely engaged in torture of dissidents.  The result was an underground resistance movement led by the Mullahs, in concert with militant intellectuals, that overthrew the Shah in 1979 and the soldiers never fired a shot.  This was the first successful Islamic Revolution in the modern world.   And the Islamic state under Sharia law that emerged in Iran is the antidote to the secular Islamic state founded by Kamal Ataturk in Turkey in the minds of Jihadists.  The US government, who emerged as “The Great Satan” misunderstood both the impetus that gave rise to the revolution and its meaning of the Iranian masses. 

           The Shah: America’s Choice


A Murderous Martinet


 After The Fall

             An Embarrassing Anachronism

And they certainly misunderstand how a one sided policy that seeks to punish Iran because they may get a bomb somewhere down the line and represent a danger to Israel, while turning a blind eye to the burgeoning threats of an imminent attack against Iran by a nuclear armed Israel, can fuel Iranian nationalism and strengthen the regime.  But then, this would be par for the course for US policy in the Middle East: Snafu – Situation normal all fouled up!   The ultimate tragedy is that the kind of liberal secular leadership that could modernize Iran and get along with the West cannot happen so long as the US continues to behave as though there is one set of rules for us and our client Israel, and another set of rules for everybody else.  After all, in proposing a strategy of preemptive attack the Israeli’s are following a precedent set by the Bush Administration in their invasion of Iraq.

As I have written in previous commentaries, President Obama must reject this disastrous policy and present the Israeli’s with an ultimatum: No attack on Iran!   If they do they will be sanctioned like all aggressor states and they will be on their own.  I remember well how the members of the Arab League pleaded with the Bush Administration not to attack Iraq.  In one statement they said it would “open the gates of hell” in the region.  They were right.  And Dr. Zbiegnew Brzezinski is right when he says that “we know how to deal with an Iranian state with a nuclear weapon but we don’t know what will happen if the Israeli’s attack Iran.” 

The learned doctor offered a litany of potential disasters that could result from an Israeli attack – like 20$  a gallon gas after the Iranians mine the strait of Hormuz – and he pointed out that none of these scenarios were in the national interests of the USA.  Yet our secretary of state, perhaps eager to show that her balls are as big as the boy’s – or proving anthropologist Margaret Mead’s hypothesis that females in power would prove more deadly than males in waging wars – is still rattling the swords.   Alas Hillary Clinton is an avowed American Exceptionalist – but being smart and black Barack must know better yet dare not say it – she really does believe that Americans are superior in talent, intelligence and virtue to the rest of the world. 

That’s why the U.S. delegation walked out of the hall as the Iranian leader spoke, followed by our allies and client states – which was probably the result of much behind the scenes arm twisting. This demonstration of flagrant disrespect for the singular head of state who thought the conference important enough to show up and address them, can only serve to widen the divide between America and much of the Islamic world.  It will also cause people of all religious and ideological persuasions who would like to rid the world of nuclear weapons to view the US as a callous colossus, an impossibly vain people who really believe their country is exceptional and therefore does not have to abide by the rules it sets for others.  That’s why Madam Secretary’s haughty performance at the UN conference to deal with controlling the doomsday weapons that threaten to end our world – professing moral superiority while speaking with forked tongue – is a personification of the arrogance of power.

Playthell Benjamin,

Harlem New York

May 4, 2010



Some Unpleasnt Truths About The Arizona Law

Posted in Playthell on politics, Uncategorized on May 1, 2010 by playthell

  Mexicans Protesting the Bill In Phoenix Arizona
A State Immigration Law Sparks A Local Crisis and National Debate

The recently passed Arizona Immigration law – SB 1070 – signed by governor Jan Brewer last Friday, has forced the nation to finally discuss the  thorny question of illegal immigration that our politicians have for so long been dodging.  The governor complains that her state was forced to take this action because the federal government has refused to fulfill its responsibilities, and she assures us that the law will not provide a license for white policemen to engage in wholesale racial profiling of Arizona’s Hispanic population.

Well, on the face of it, no matter what the Governor’s intentions the careful observer can easily detect half-truths and unknowable predictions in the Governor’s statement.  For there is abundant evidence that the failure of the Feds to effectively deal with border security, a situation that is rapidly evolving into a full blown crisis along the border states, serves as a fig leaf for rabid white racist to hide behind as they go about their nefarious business of keeping America white.  Anyone who doubts this should go online and watch Dr. Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC report on April 26, as she carefully exposes the neo-Nazi forces that crafted Senate Bill 1070 and shepherded it through the Arizona legislature.

These are people who harbor beliefs about racial purity that informed the Eugenics movement and led to the passage of The National Origins Act, which restricted entry into the US of people of certain racial backgrounds while encouraging immigration of others. The ideas that formed the intellectual underpinnings of the American Eugenicist movement was given its classic formulation in “The Passing OfThe Great Race, a wildly influential book published in 1917 by Madison Grant, the sitting President of the New York Zoological Society. 

Madison Grant



Hitler’s Mentor

 Madison Grant’s views on race, education and environment as determinants of human character and mental capacity are summed up in this passage from the second chapter, The Physical Basis Of Race:

There exists to-day a widespread and fatuous belief in the power of environment, as well as of education and opportunity to alter heredity, which arises from the dogma of the brotherhood of man, derived in turn from the loose thinkers of the French Revolution and their American mimics. Such beliefs have done much damage in the past, and if allowed to go uncontradicted, may do much more serious damage in the future. Thus the view that the negro slave was an unfortunate cousin of the white man, deeply tanned by the tropic sun, and denied the blessings of Christianity and civilization, played no small part with the sentimentalists of the Civil War period, and it has taken us fifty years to learn that speaking English, wearing good clothes, and going to school and to church, does not transform a negro into a white man. Nor was a Syrian or Egyptian freedman transformed into a Roman by wearing a toga, and applauding his favorite gladiator in the amphitheatre. We shall have a similar experience with the Polish Jew, whose dwarf stature, peculiar mentality, and ruthless concentration on self-interest are being engrafted upon the stock of the nation.”

The extent of this books influence on the development of Nazi master race ideology is verified by the fact that a letter from Adolph Hitler has been found in Grant’s personal papers by a British researcher.  “Your book is my Bible” gushed Der Fuehrer.  And it was the first book by a non-German writer published by the Third Reich.  One has only to compare Grant’s polemical text with the sections on the contributions of the blond blue eyed “Aryans” to the building of world civilization in Hitler’s Mein Kempft to see the influence of Grant in molding Hitler’s racist views.

And many of the atrocities committed by the Nazi racial hygenicists were justified by theories adopted from the American eugenicist movement – who were also advocated racial hygiene theories of the sort that led to euthanasia of the “unfit” and extermination of “inferior races,” the worst example of which was the holocaust against European Jews.  Since the Pioneer Fund, who are avowed Eugenicist, has been a major financial supporter of the effort to pass this Bill, those who see signs of Nazi Germany in the Arizona law are spot on.  Surprisingly, even Congressman Connie Mack, a Republican from Florida, has compared the law to Nazi tactics!

Given the persistently racist climate of Arizona it is impossible for the Governor to guarantee that white policemen will not engage in racial profiling of Hispanic Citizens.  In fact, her claim contradicts human nature.  The fact is that the closet Eugenicist who promoted this law are all avid fans of Madison Grant, who remains a towering intellectual hero among this crowd.  Hence it is not unreasonable to suppose that they have read his views on Mexicans:

What the Melting Pot actually does in practice, can be seen in Mexico, where the absorption of the blood of the original Spanish conquerors by the native Indian population has produced the racial mixture which we call Mexican, and which is now engaged in demonstrating its incapacity for self-government. The world has seen many such mixtures of races, and the character of a mongrel race is only just beginning to be understood at its true value.”

The resistance of racist whites to the Civil Rights Movement’s assault on segregation can be attributed to views like this regarding interracial children.  That’s why it took an economic boycott to get the white princes and powers of the state to recognize Dr. Martin Luther King’s holiday, and it may well take a similar boycott to get this law repealed.  The depth and longevity of racist feeling in Arizona is verified by the fact that it is the home state of the late Senator Barry Goldwater, an icon of the southern racist who committed violence against Civil rights demonstrators in my home town during the 1960s. One can simply read the paper clippings from reporters like John Hebers of the New York Times to see that wherever the violent rednecks congregated there were pictures of Barry Goldwater, who once commented that extremism in defense of their idea of “freedom” – which, under the circumstances, is a synonym for the perpetuation of “white supremacy” – was a virtue.  

It is apparent that Madison Grant believed this too. In his social Darwinist view of human society, which was red of tooth and claw like the jungle, Grant speaks of the dispossession and genocide that land hungry murderous white settlers employed against non-whites during the expansion of Europe into the Third world as if it was simply the natural order of things.  It was the price that must be paid so that the superior white race could rule; the end justified the means.   

Australia and New Zealand, where the natives have been exterminated by the whites, are developing into communities of pure Nordic blood, and will for that reason play a large part in the future history of the Pacific. The bitter opposition of the Australians and Californians to the admission of Chinese coolies and Japanese farmers is due primarily to a blind but absolutely justified determination to keep those lands as white man’s countries.” It is no wonder Hitler loved this guy.

  No doubt this vision of the world was widely shared by the English settler colonialists who crushed the native peoples and expropriated their lands, and it fuels the passion for keeping Arizona a predominately white state with all the racial privilege that implies.  This sentiment is so strong that even John McCain, Arizona’s senior senator, who used to be a progressive on immigration but now finds himself leading by only three points in a hotly contested election centering around the immigration issue, has genuflected before the reactionary Republican right and their Tea Party cohorts.  This is because the polls show that 70% of the citizens of Arizona, which is just about the percentage of whites in the state, favor the new immigration law.   

Hence for McCain to oppose the bill would be an act of martyrdom; and clearly Big John is not prepared to commit political Hari Kari for principle. After all, this is a man who has repeatedly demonstrated that his allegiances are dictated by expedience.  So now he has cast his lot with State Senator Russell Pearce, a natural ally of the right wing racist and verbal arsonist J.D. Hayworth, who was only three percentage points behind McCain in the polls in the race for McCain’s Senate seat.  Pearce, who is given to wearing neckties that are designed to look like the American flag, once forwarded an article to potential supporters when he was running for the state Senate titled “Who Rules America;” it is an article Madison Grant, former ABC racial provocateur Bob Grant and Adolph Hitler himself would be proud of.

“Who Rules America? The Alien Grip on Our News and Entertainment Media Must Be Broken,’ the article criticized the media for promoting multiculturalism and racial equality, for portraying ‘any racially conscious White Person’ as a bigot and for presenting the Jewish Holocaust as fact. The media presents a ‘single view of the world – a world in which every voice proclaims the equality of the races, the inerrant nature of the Jewish ‘Holocaust’ tale, the wickedness of attempting to halt the flood of non-White aliens pouring across our borders, the danger of permitting citizens to keep and bear arms, the moral equivalence of all sexual orientations, and the desirability of a ‘pluralistic,’ cosmopolitan society rather than a homogeneous, White one,’ the article says.” [, 10/10/06]

When he was confronted with this article recently, Pearce couldn’t deny sending it so his excuse was that he had never read the article before forwarding it to his Mesa Arizona supporters.  This, of course, is about as believable as the innocent piano player in the whorehouse parlor who didn’t know the girls were turning tricks upstairs.

Although most Americans wish it would simply disappear, the immigration problem is not going away; especially since many Mexicans on both sides of the border really feel that based upon the facts of history Arizona actually belongs to them.  And the demonstrators are beginning to display signs that say so!  Anybody who lives in states that were formerly a part of Mexico – Texas, Arizona, Nevada, California, New Mexico, Colorado – knows the Mexicans have a point.  Even if, as is far too often the case, one happens to be abysmally ignorant of American history, it must be obvious that the English colonist named their cities New Amsterdam, Baltimore, and Washington not El Paso, San Francisco and Los Angeles!  And it does not require broad erudition on politics and economics to imagine how different Mexico’s economic predicament would be in comparison with the USA had the retained this territory, much of which Mexico was forced to concede to their powerful and better armed neighbor the USA. 

One need only consider the role these states have played in the economic history of the US to recognize that had these vast resource rich territories remained a part of Mexico, many Americans might well be slipping across the border heading south.  Unfortunately for the “keep America white” crowd – led by white supremacist propagandists like Pat Buchanan and Lou Dobbs – facts are stubborn things!  Our history, as sanitized as the popular version remains, is a bloody tale of slavery, genocide, apartheid and big power imperialism in dealing with its neighbors in Latin America.  While these facts may appear shocking to the untutored mob who substitute myth for history, this is conventional wisdom among the professional historians.  Hence the present flow of Spanish speaking immigrants from Mexico – and elsewhere in Latin America – is the consequence of that shameful history.


Yet the question remains: Should the burden of America’s imperial history in its relations with Latin America – which mainly enriched those who owned the wealth producing land and businesses – be borne by the working class?  And are the workers of the US justifiably angry about the fact that the Federal Government allows the capitalists to hire desperate foreign workers for less money and throw them onto the streets?  After all, we are in a contracting economy where millions of workers are experiencing prolonged employment.  Moreover, it is becoming all too obvious that much of this employment is structural – see “Can President Obama solve the Unemployment Crisis? – which means that many jobs will not return when the economy recovers. 

Since much of this has been caused by the decision of multi-national corporations to eradicate millions of manufacturing jobs through robotization, and export what remains of the manufacturing sector to third world countries where unorganized workers are so poor they fight for jobs with wages, benefits and working conditions that resemble 19th century conditions in America.  Those dark days before the unionization of our work force.  American workers have suffered grievous losses as a result of the relocation of manufacturing jobs, and are thus faced with trying to make a living in post-industrial America.  It is hard to imagine a worse environment for the importation of impoverished and desperate foreign workers. No amount of altruistic rhetoric, regardless of how sincerely rendered, can assuage these unpleasant facts.

Hence, like the unreconstructed confederates who have captured the Party of Abraham Lincoln – the most passionately hated figure in southern history – and now try and claim the progressive legacy of Lincoln who ended slavery and Jacob Javitz, who opposed the racist Dixiecrats and help pass the 1964 Civil Rights Bill, those who support unlimited immigration by constant reference to the cliché “America is a land of immigrants” are distorting history. The fact is that the Republicans became the dominant party in what was the solidly Democratic South by catering to the resentment of southern racist who fled the Democratic Party when Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the periods when the US managed to absorb large numbers of immigrants the American economy was rapidly expanding.

However even during these periods there was opposition from American workers – even some who belonged to the ethnic groups that were pouring into the US – because these foreign workers expanded the labor pool that business could choose from and thus made it more difficult to bargain for better wages and benefits.  Many businesses formed ethnic work crews where everybody was from the old country including the foreman.  Often the workers didn’t even speak English and were so desperate for work they were oblivious to the struggles of American workers for better conditions.  These practices are still going on today in the construction.  I have first hand knowledge of this because I conducted several worksites for the painters union in New York City.  And those who have suffered most from the mass immigration of foreign workers – now and a century ago – have been African Americans.

It is a demonstrable fact that Black Americans have fared best in the American economy during periods when immigration was restricted. And it would be fairly easy to prove that it was the mass immigration of   impoverished Europeans that cut African Americans out of participation in the new urban based industrial proletariat created by virtue of the American industrial Revolution at the end of the 19th century. This historic injustice is directly responsible for the prosperity of white ethnic communities and the impoverishment of African American communities.  And now we must watch their descendents – racist charlatans like Pat Buchanan, Sean Hannity  and Rudy Giuliani – add insult to serious injury by sitting in judgment on us as they mock our poverty and catalogue our failures


From the outset organized labor, represented by the American Federation Of Labor – the AFL – was openly racist.  Many of the unions had actually had clauses in their constitutions confining membership to “sober and industrious white men.”  And historian Robin Kelly has documented “hate strikes” by white industrial workers protesting the hiring of black workers in “their” plants.  Yet foreign born white workers were welcomed into the great American labor force, although not without conflict from time to time.

 Frederick Douglass tells of being chased off the job by foreign born white workers when he was practicing the caulker’s trade in the Baltimore shipyards during slavery times, and the great post-slavery leader Booker T. Washington warned Afro-Americans about migrating to the northern states where white foreign workers could force them into starvation.  This was the impetus for the recurrent theme, “Cast down your buckets where you are,” delivered in his famous 1895 speech at the World Exposition Of Cotton Growing States in Atlanta Georgia.  Washington was a man of the old south who spent the first decade of his life as a slave.  And like most ex-slaves he hungered for an education because he knew that was the surest path to advancement in life. 

 Booker T. Washington


He Saw The Dangers Of European Immigration

But Washington also knew that most Afro-American ex-slaves would haveto earn their daily bread from physical labor.  And thus he founded Tuskegee Institute in order to teach black workers skills that would make them valuable contributors to the welfare and prosperity of their communities.  But so many black people where abandoning their native southland in search of greener pastures and personal freedom in the north that Washington decided to travel through the northern states and assess the state of African Americans living there.

Having recently emerged from 250 years of chattel slavery, African Americans were the natural work force to man the factories along with their white countrymen at the dawning of the industrial age in America.  But they were passed over, now as black workers scramble for the remaining blue collar jobs they are being passed over again in favor of the new immigrants from Latin America and Asia.  However this time white workers are increasingly suffering the same fate.  Herein resides the source of the growing hostility toward immigrants, especially illegal immigrants. 

By some estimates there are as many as 12 million illegals that hold 8 million jobs in the US economy.  It is a state of affairs that has resulted in a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment resulting in 60% of the American public saying they support the Arizona law. Hence President Obama, who has criticized the law, must tread carefully on this issue.  There is a cautionary tale in the ordeal of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose reelection bid might well be lost as the result of him labeling one of his constituents a bigot because she complained about the influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe, and it was accidentally recorded by the news media who broadcast it across the nation. There was such uproar when the nation heard his candid views broadcast over the airwaves the Prime Minister, in a scene reminiscent of the King of England prostrating himself before his subjects to be whipped in Beckett, returned to the working class woman’s house and begged her forgiveness.  Then he emerged from her humble abode and announced that he was a “repentant sinner.”                                                                                                                    

The fact is that in these instable and uncertain economic times many people are afraid and angry.  It is no wonder that armed white power hate groups are mushrooming – sad deluded dangerous dupes on a fool’s errand leading to their ultimate destruction should the act on their threats.  Alas white cops, who often hail from the working class, are not immune to white supremacist propaganda. Seething with rage and resentments from hearing hard luck stories from unemployed family and friends, and listening to the likes of Rush Limbaugh and that racist jerk and verbal arsonist J. D. Hayworth, as he challenges John “Chameleon” McCain for his Senate seat in a heated race, it is reasonable to surmise that some white policemen who are charged with enforcing the Arizona law are confused and emotionally combustible regarding the immigration question. In so charged an atmosphere it will be a miracle if some police do not abuse their new powers. Hence the Federal government must finally, and quickly, address the immigration issue or, as in Arizona, your local neo-Nazi’s will!