On Black Pundits In White Media:Two Essays

 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

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