Archive for July, 2013

Sargent Charlie Rangel: American Hero!

Posted in Uncategorized on July 28, 2013 by playthell

Congressman Charlie Rangel

A Decorated Combat Veteran

 A Salute to an Old Soldier Still In the Trenches

Today is the 63ard anniversary of the Truce than ended the bloody Korean War, a conflict that cost more American lives than the Iraq and Afghan wars combined.  Yet it is barely remembered today although we are technically still at war with North Korea, since a peace treaty was never signed.  The truce is merely a cease fire agreement, and the Korean Peninsula is still divided and living under the constant threat of a new outbreak of armed hostilities.  Despite the lack of public recognition for their sacrifices some great men fought in that war and they went to made great contributions to American society when their military service was over.

 In the first rank of these intrepid warriors is  Charles Bernard Rangel, venerable Harlem Congressman, senior member of the New York congressional delegation, and hero to the people of Harlem is also a war hero.  Few people, even in his beloved Harlem, know that Congressman Rangel is a highly decorated combat veteran.  As the bearer of a Bronze Star for valor under fire and a Purple Heart for the wounds he sustained in rescuing forty of his comrades from behind enemy lines, Rangel may well be the most decorated combat veteran in the United States Congress.  He is the antithesis of the verbose Republican chicken hawks who love war so long as the children of the poor fight it – even if they are undocumented.

Yet spending time in Congressman Rangel’s presence one is most impressed with his charm, eloquence and gentile elegance of style and manner.  I have observed him for years, both as a constituent and as a journalist.  And the more I saw of him the better I liked him.  Everyone who is familiar with my work in the New York Press – feature writer and cultural critic at the Village Voice, Editorial Columnist at the New York Daily News, commentator and talk show host at WBAI, Panelist on WCBS television’s Sunday Edition, Contributing Editor at Emerge, a New York based nationally distributed magazine, et al – know that I do not play favorites and spare no one I have reason to believe is abusing their office.  I think creating a free press to oversee the activitivies of those entrusted with the power to govern us is one of the greatest achievements of the architects of the US constitution –a document that also contained some shameful provisions.

Hence I take no prisoners when I catch elected official involved in malfeasance.  In fact, in the 1996 letter nominating me for the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Commentary – which can be read on this blog – I am cited for taking on “demagogues of the left and right both black and white, with equal fervor.”   Yet in all my time in the media Rangel was in the House of Representatives and I never written a single line criticizing Congressman Rangel.  Indeed, I thought him a model public servant.  He is a master of the Washington political game and he always brought home the bacon.

He was everywhere in Harlem, a place he dearly loves, and when he became the first Afro-American Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee he was heralded on the streets by well-wishers with the honorific “Mr. Chairman.”  And he accepts the adulation about as gracefully as anyone I’ve ever seen. Although he has the aristocratic aura of Harlem royalty Rangel grew up in very modest circumstances.  This came as a surprise to me once when I was conducting an interview with him and assuming he came from the same bourgeois background as the former Congressman whom he had replaced, Reverend Adam Clayton Powell Jr., and he informed me that he had been a gang leader in Harlem as a youth.

To be a gang leader in New York in the 1940’s demanded a lot of courage and cunning.  And these qualities would serve him well in combat.  Hence in one of the most devastating battles of the Korean War, he rose to the occasion and took charge.  Speaking of of Rangel’s censure by the House, after serving 20 outstanding terms where he enjoys the reputation as the most outstanding legislator in the Congress, Republican commentator Ben Stein offered the following explanation of why Rangel remains a great American hero.

In unbelievably difficult service in the Korean War,” says Stein, “his unit was swamped, cut off, overwhelmed by hordes of Red Chinese crossing into Korea. In the worst cold weather imaginable, under fire, starving, acting Sergeant Charles Rangel, in a black unit led mostly by white officers, took a large group of men, led them by example, lifted their morale, as they fought their way out to safety. Men were being shot, freezing, getting captured all around him, yet he got most of his men out…. Now, he has been humiliated over what seems to me like almost nothing… I hope that history will record that a truly great man, Charlie Rangel, a hero of the first rank, was laid low by trivial, no-account matters, censured by people who mostly have no clue of what true courage, fighting, blood and frostbite mean. Charlie Rangel does know, and to me, he is still a hero.” Although I rarely agree with Ben Stein on anything, he is right on the money this time.  Recalling how he was the last man alive on a Korean battlefield, as he heard the voices   of victorious Chinese soldiers walking amongst the American Dead, Sargent Rangel says “I haven’t had a bad day since!”  In fact that’s the name of his Autobiography.  Charlie Rangel is indeed a living American hero, which is why we voted him back in office by a landslide after his censure in a Republican led witch hunt aimed at stripping him of his chairmanship of the all-powerful Ways and Means committee.

For many Harlemites Charlie Rangel is more than a great public servant, although that would be quite enough to inspire a sense of pride and gain our respect; he represents the grandeur of a bygone age when Harlem was the incubator of cultural trends and high style that captured the imagination of the world!   It is no accident that he is the best dressed man in Congress.

At the Tribute for Abiodun
 Abiodun's Tribute 115
Paying homage to the Last Poets
At the Charlie Parker Festival

Congressman charlie Rangel at Bird parker-festival-fine-booties-0441 

As Always: Dressed to the height of fashion!

When the people of Harlem returned Congressman Rangel to the House after his censure I wrote a commentary titled “Charlie’s Victory Comes as No Surprise!’  In this essay I attempted to describe how we feel about Charlie as an exemplar of Harlem’s finest.

“One might well ask,’ how did Mr. Rangel acquire such elegant manners and eloquent speech, and where did get that fine sense of style that has made him the best dressed man in the House Of Representatives.’  I think it all comes from having grown up in Harlem when he did. I have talked to many people who came to Harlem when Rangel  was coming of age, and they all tell me that they didn’t show their faces on Seventh Avenue unless they were dressed to kill. 

Charlie Rangel worked as the night clerk in the Teresa Hotel on Seventh Avenue and 125th Street, Harlem’s epicenter.  The fact that downtown hotels refused to accommodate black people, whatever their stature, meant that all the beautiful, affluent, famous, black people from everywhere in the world resided there.  Located just around the corner from the legendary Apollo theater, many world famous performing artists made the Teresa their home during their performance tour. 

Thus we know that during the years he was forming his identity as a young man Charlie had a bird’s eye view of the nightly doings of some of the most elegant, stylish and sophisticated people in the world.  These were black people who had succeeded in a wide variety of fields even with all of the racial barriers erected against them.  There can be but little doubt that Rangel found his role models in this fascinating cultural milieu.   Watching him at the recent Charlie Parker Festival in Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park, he seemed part old school hipster, benevolent potentate, and part wise elder.  But he is, in fact, a very skilled player in the field of politics.   And it is all too obvious that he still loves being the Congressman from Harlem, as his face lights up with an incandescent smile each time he is approached by an admiring constituent.”

We are fortunate indeed to have had such a splendid man representing Harlem…and we may never see his like again.



Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

July 27th, 2O13

Is Corny Crazy of Just a Phony?

Posted in My Struggle On the Left!, On Dr. Cornell West with tags , , , on July 26, 2013 by playthell

Barack and CornyThe fury of unrequited love?

 Corny West’s MSNBC Attack is Sour Grapes

 “Deep down in his soul I think he really does feel a fire, but he can’t allow that fire to in any way spill over toward the White House. Why? Because he’s still too tied, he’s too uncritical, he’s too deferential, he’s too subservient as it were and as long as that’s in place we’re going to find ourselves unable to tell the fundamental truth,” Corny West speaking about the Reverend Al Sharpton, to his sidekick Tavis Silly.

In the latest revelation of Dr. Corny West we are told that Rev. Al Sharpton, host of the increasingly popular and critically important nightly MSNBC television show “Politics Nation,” is but an obsequious slave on “the Obama plantation.” Like those two mischievous trickster crows Heckle and Jeckle, Tavis asks Corny a question regarding the Trayvon Martian murder, “What’s your sense of how the media, and not just Fox News but beyond that, your read as you’ve been watching this, how the media handled this case?” To wit Corny, the consummate media whore, tells his partner in crime: ““I think that it’s been decrepit though, brother. I mean, you get a focus on some of the upper middle class folk. I mean, what I call the ‘rent-a-negro’ phenomenon on MSNBC.” 

I guess when you are a lower upper-class cultural icon that can command $40.000 a speech to spout incoherent jibber jabber to adoring albeit clueless white audiences, and live in suites ensconced in posh hotels – as he did during his Harvard years when he dwelled in the Four Seasons– it is fairly easy to be contemptuous of “upper middle class folk.”

Yet like most supreme egotist Dr. Corny ignores the warning: “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”  For he is the ultimate “Rent A Negro!”  What does this guy take us for?  Does he really believe that anyone who has watched him kiss Newt Gingrich’s ass on television – affectionately referring to him as “Brother Newt” – don’t know that he has long ago sold his soul…that Faustian bargains are routine transactions to him?  Is Corny so drunk on the wine of hubris that he thinks his true intentions are invisible to us; that we don’t know he would run over his mother with a semi-trailer if it would gain him the spot on MSNBC now occupied by Reverend Al?

 Can no one rid us of this vicious, duplicitous, bushy headed, gapped tooth, forked tongue, motor mouth philosophe?    Jamaicans have a folk expression that pegs him just right: “The bwai mout run like sick batty.”  In other words: Corny is spouting shit!  Of all the important things in the world to write about, I find myself compelled to write yet another essay addressing the vicious folly of Corny: A man driven mad by vanity and envy.

I can think of no one who has fallen so dramatically in my estimation.  Once I had nothing but love and respect for this guy and more than once sang praises unto his name….but that was before I discovered he was an intellectual fraud, an amoral megalomaniac whose allegiances are dictated by expedience and thus would stoop to anything to gain and maintain an audience and the perks they provide – from public adulation to increasing his coin.

Although I hold no credentials as a behavioral scientist, I am a serious observer of human character, especially public figures who aspire to the role of leadership, and I have gained some understanding of what drives them from both literature and life. Alas Dr. West seems addicted to the intoxications of celebrity, and his ravenous outsized ego fuels the delusion that he is so wise and good he is compelled to act as moral arbiter of the nation. That’s the most charitable explanation I can conjure for his bizarre behavior.  An alternative view is that he is just an egomaniac and bullshit artist.

From Shakespeare, to Robert Penn Warren, to Chinua Achebe we are provided powerful portraits of the havoc created by the duplicity of men driven by vanity, avarice, envy, malice and blind ambition.  Having met these characters in the fictions and dramas of these masterful painters of human life and character, I recognize them when I encounter them in real life and understand the roles they are playing.  If Shakespeare was right and “all the world is a stage and we are but players upon it,” the question of this historical moment  is what role is Corny West playing?  Is he fool or villain?  Ignoramus or charlatan?

Well, based on the clearly observable facts – Harvard man, Doctor of Philosophy, learned theologian, author of several published texts, Professor at great universities, highly compensated public orator – it is safe to say he is neither an ignoramus or a fool: Which leaves the charlatan and villain.   This conclusion does not require  the wisdom of a Sigmund Freud, it is a matter of simple deduction – although I would love to know what Dr. Freud would make of this verbose pretender to the role of national moral scold.  A self-reverential town crier who is false to his profession, false in his stated objectives, and hopelessly confused in his historically appointed role.

Either Corny does not know who the enemy of progress and justice is; or he is a traitor to the people for whom he vainly claims to speak, people who continue to be denied both.  Nobody in a position of power in the US is trying harder to change their predicament than President Obama!  And one of his staunchest allies in this fight is MSNBC!  As Harold Cruse noted a half century ago, in the geopolitical circumstances of the US, mass media is more powerful than the military in the struggle to influence mass political behavior.

Even a cursory glance at the media landscape will easily demonstrate the towering importance of MSNBC, whose role is indispensable to achieving the liberal left agenda.  They are the first line of defense against the aggressions of the rabid right.  And it is an understatement to say that they understand their role in the fight against the Tea Party Right, far better than does Phony Corny.   This is demonstrated by the high quality of the information and analysis they put out compared to the hysterical confused gibberish we routinely get from Corny West.

The worst show on MSNBC, Morning Joe, provides a superior political education to anything we are likely to hear from Dr. West.  Yet he refuses to play the critical role he is best suited for, leading an assault on the blasphemous theology of the so-called “Christian Right,”  those impassioned bible thumpers who have made Jesus Christ the God of the greedy who trample on the needy; the God of billionaires rather than the meek that Jesus Christ said shall inherit the earth.  If this is not blasphemy then such a thing has never existed in the world.

However most of the broadcast day on MSNBC is spent attacking and debunking the political expression of the Christian Right’s theology.  And their efforts are nothing less than heroic.  I can envision no other media venue where one can get the kind of information that equips American citizens to make intelligent political decisions in defense of the progressive agenda for the working classes and oppressed minorities than the nightly line-up on MSNBC.

Beginning with Chris Matthews, a feisty New-Deal democrat who constantly preaches the virtues of large scale government projects which will alleviate mass unemployment by rebuilding the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.  This is the only means by which the President can immediately address the jobless recovery; it is the classic cure for the ravages of economic depression prescribed by Dr. John Maynard Keynes, the prescient British economist whose brilliant mathematical formulations and policy recommendations rescued the world economy from the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

However this time we are dealing with a new phenomenon which was not much in evidence during the Depression of the 1930’s, what Keynes called “technological unemployment” and contemporary economist call structural unemployment. He predicted that this category of the unemployed would grow in the future.   Well now we are living that future and most commentators on the unemployment problem don’t understand this phenomenon; that’s why they mistakenly blame President Obama.   However he has proposed policies to deal with the crisis of structural unemployment but they are constantly blocked by the Republican mad men that control the House. (See: Can President Obama Cure the Unemployment Crisis? On this blog

Chris Matthews is followed by a succession of left of center hosts that are even more uncompromising defenders of the liberal legacy, rooted in the achievements of the New Deal entitlements of the 1930’s and their extension in the landmark Civil Rights legislation and Great Society programs of the 1960’s.  Al Sharpton is a direct descendant of the Civil Rights leadership of the 60’s, groomed as he was by the legendary Harlem Congressman Adam Clayton, Powell Jr., and the great charismatic revivalism of the Reverend Jesse Jackson, an activist Baptist Preacher and close comrade of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Under the tutelage of these two masters of the game, Sharpton learned how to play politics from the inside and the outside: how to be a “tree shaker and a jelly maker” in the coinage of the Revered Jackson.  The former being a guy who shakes thing s up through direct action, and the latter helps translate those demonstrations  into legislation.

I believe that Corny’s attack on Reverend Sharpton in particular is motivated by a transparent envy that arises from the fact that Corny is an intellectual snob who believes his Ivy League education and professorships better qualifies him for such a high profile position of media advocacy.  This must be especially galling for this brazen egotist since they are both on the same side of the fence so to speak.  After all, the things that Dr. Advocates is barely distinguishable from the things Sharpton has been fighting for his entire adult life.

Yet in the eyes of the pompous Dr. West – who wouldn’t even consider spending a year or two at a historically Black university, despite a personal plea from the distinguished Afro-American journalist George Curry, when Harvard kicked his butt to the curb with good wishes on his budding hip hop career – Reverend Al is just a Jack Leg unlettered preacher who has somehow usurped a position that rightly belongs to him.  I advance this view only as a suspicion, a theory of what motivates the behavior of the enigmatic Dr. West.

However, as in many other matters Corny is sadly deluded.  Al Sharpton is far more effective in the role of television advocate/interviewer than Corny would be.  The reasons why this is so are obvious: Al has mastered the art of the sound bite, which is essence of good television commentary, he is a longtime public advocate, and like the “old time black preachers” celebrated in James Weldon Johnson’s epic poems God’s Trombones, he has all the devices of eloquence at his command.

Reverend Al is followed in the line-up by Chris Hayes, a wonkish young journalist who gleefully assaults the most preposterous assertions of right/wing Republicans who have made a cottage industry of lying on President Obama.  He is the newest member of the team, having replaced Big Ed, who moved his popular show to the weekends. Hayes is a well-informed and thoughtful advocate for the liberal left agenda whose erudition is matched by his passion.   He is an excellent comrade in arms for anyone in the fight for progressive policies that address the plight of the working poor, middle class and full equality for everyone without regard to race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Dr. Rachel Maddow is a veritable fount of factual information.  She has a crack research staff and every show is like a graduate seminar in public affairs.  She is a powerful advocate for all the aforementioned issues and groups and is also the most powerful voice in the media regarding women’s issues and the struggles of the LBGT community.

She is a marvelous motor-mouth who can spew out weighty information at a machine gun pace, dropping science at the speed of thought while bewitching her audience with a devilish smile and infectious charm.  There is no more able soldier in the struggle to defend liberal left values from the persistent attacks of the malicious ideologues on the right than Doc.

The Final Word from Laurence O’Donnell completes the lineup at ten O’clock, and the entire cycle begins again minus Al Sharpton’s “Politics Nation.”  I must admit that I often wonder why this is the case, because when I miss the 6 o-clock broadcast I wish Sharpton was in the rotation so I could see the program later. Suffice it to say that in my view O’Donnell is the most interesting of all the television talking heads….and he may well be the smartest.  A Harvard trained lawyer and writer, O’Donnell has also served as a congressional staffer.

Hence he brings an inside perspective to his analysis of the machinations in Congress that helps us to better understand how the political sausage is made.  He is openly contemptuous of white racist arguments and does not suffer fools gladly.  With an easy charm to match his easy erudition and wicked wit, Laurence O’Donnell is the kind of intellectual warrior I want to go to war with!  The MSNBC lineup is a great way to end your day.  There you will find an intellectual balm to heal the plague of ignorance that has infested the country and threatens paralyze the body politic and inflict lasting wounds on ourselves.

Despite Corny’s badmouthing this is the reality at MSNBC, and I invite anyone to challenge that assessment.  I challenge Dr. West to address the question as to which network represents the greatest danger to Afro-Americans: MSNBC or Fox?   And if he agrees with me – as he must – that it is FOX hands down, not even close, I’d like the learned Doctor to explain why he is not attacking FOX: whassup wit dat Corny?  Now is not the time for shuckin and jiving Dog.

As I write MSNBC is having a series of discussions dissecting the multiple machinations of the Republican right to defund the Affordable Care Act, ass laws to stop Afro-Americans, Hispanics, et al from voting, nullify women’s reproductive rights,  kill the Senate immigration bill, block important judicial appointments, examining the explanation of a juror in the Zimmerman case as to why she felt forced to vote for acquittal when in her heart she was convinced he was getting away with murder, etc.  These people are doing the Lord’s work; they are a righteous crew, so why can’t our theologian recognize this?

We are in the heat of battle; the Supreme Court just gutted the Voting Rights Act and further crippled already hobbling Affirmative Action programs.  The courts in Sanford Florida so interpreted the law the jurors felt forced to release a wanna-be redneck who hunted down and killed an unarmed black child – effectively declaring open season on black males in Florida – and this is all the evil work of Republicans.

The major advocates for these nefarious political forces is the FOX network; they are practically celebrating the release of the murderer, George Zimmerman, who told Sean Hannity that he felt killing Trayvon Martian was “God’s Will.”  Why isn’t Dr. West, a learned Professor of religion, critiquing a Christian belief system that would lead to such a conclusion?  Why is he not arguing that the slaughter of Trayvon is not God’s will but the work of the devil?

An even more pressing question is why is Dr. West aiming his guns at Reverend Sharpton and MSNBC, rather than Bill O ’Riley and FOX. A vulgar overbearing, megalomaniac and sexual harasser O’ Riley called everybody that protested the “not guilty” verdict in the Zimmerman case “a race hustler.” And he had the unmitigated gall to lecture the black community on our moral failings, demanding that we shut up about white racism and clean up our messy house.  But the Sacramento motor mouth hasn’t said squat to these brazenly racist white boys.  Rush Limbaugh has been going crazy spouting insulting racist drivel!

Nobody has pushed back on these verbal assaults from the racial arsonists on FOX like the commentators on MSNBC; even Joe Scarborough, a Florida Republican, has offered more potent critiques than Dr. West.  The question is why; what accounts for this strange state of affairs?   It is so bizarre the elements themselves seem out of kilter.  Dr. West is behaving like a sheriff who rides into a town recently ravaged by cold blooded bandits…and orders his men to shoot the wounded!

Corny’s assault on MSNBC and Reverend Sharpton is a purposeful if puzzling act; far too clever and calculating to be mere happenstance or the work of a fool.  As a witness to it all, observing the foibles and folly of this celebrated theologian, I cannot escape the feeling that we are witnessing not the incompetent bumbling of a hapless fool, although it often seems so, but the calculated deceptions of shameless charlatan and soulless villain.   Driven by blind ambition fueled by envy, he might look and talk crazy…. But there is a method to Corny’s madness.

Is this Jigaboo Crazy or What?


 He sure do look and talk crazy…but he just envious and evil!


 Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

July 26, 2013

Reflections on the Zimmerman Trial

Posted in Guest Commentators, The Travon Martin Trial with tags , , on July 20, 2013 by playthell
  Trayvon Benjamin Martin 
Trayvon-Martin-2 Murdered for being a Black Male in America

 A Commentary on the Slaughter of Innocence

 The Trayvon Martin murder case has created a national outcry, while generating a critical conversation on race and gun violence in America. This case is a reflection of the nation’s true racial identity and society’s every shifting posture on acceptable gun violence.

Racial elements cut through every facet of this case, fostering the many assumptions that were made beginning with George Zimmerman’s racial profiling of an innocent black 17 year old on his way home from a Skittles run and the value he put on that young life because of the assumptions he made.

The assumptions continued at the Sanford Police Department, which from the beginning saw young Trayvon as the suspect and George Zimmerman as the victim. A police department that accepted Zimmerman’s portrayal of this violent black youth that fit the images they already carried. A police department that buoyed by that acceptance failed to do their job and conducted no real investigation of the actual crime, the fatal shooting of a 17-year old boy.

No forensics were gathered from the obvious suspect, George Zimmerman. There was no examination of Zimmerman’s clothes, or hands; no toxicology report and no medical examination to determine the true extent of his injuries. This was perhaps the worst criminal investigation since the “good ole days” when in certain parts of this country, Florida included, whites murdered blacks with impunity and without fear of the law, which was always expected to turn away. How far we have come?

“Trayvon Martin Could Have Been Me 35 Years Ago”

Barak Chillin

Does he look like a criminal to many whites?

These same racial assumptions permeated the District Attorney’s office as a decision was made that no charges whatsoever should be made against George Zimmerman, a decision that would never have been made had Trayvon been white and Zimmerman black. It is interesting that when defense attorney West was asked if things would have been different if Trayvon had been white, he chose to ignore that question and rather respond to his belief on what would have happened if Zimmerman had been black.  And no one associated with the trial on either side asked the question the President raised on Friday: “Would Trayvon have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman because he felt threatened because he was following him?”

The Prosecution Dropped the Ball

The Prosecuter

 They didn’t ask the obvious questions

When after great public outcry a special prosecutor was appointed resulting in the indictment of George Zimmerman and his consequential trial, race continued to play its role in the selection of a jury which contained not even one black person.

During the trial in order to extricate their client the defense painted a picture of young Trayvon Martin as an angry black man, physically superior to the defendant, who with little provocation attacked George Zimmerman and beat him to a point where he so feared for his very life that his only recourse was to shoot and kill him.

The prosecution failed to convince the jury otherwise, partly because of their own failed strategy, but largely due to the racial stereotype this jury had to subscribe to in order to accept Zimmerman’s version of what happened in spite of the series of lies and inconsistencies in the Zimmerman story exposed by the prosecution.

The reality is, despite a black man rising to the Presidency of the United States, and the countless examples of black men doing great things in this society, there remains a deep seeded image of the black thug, a basic criminalization of the majority of black males by many whites who do not see themselves as racist and who outwardly are not. This image has substantiated by the unbalanced incarceration of black males nationwide and the images commonly seen on the nightly news, and those projected by Hollywood and a gangsta hip hop culture that permeates our airwaves.

Interestingly the Treyvon Martin case is also perhaps the most profound gun violence in recent history. Yes Newtown, Aurora and Ft. Hood were all tragic with greater loss of life, but what is unique about this case is that it is the only gun violence case where the loss of innocent life has been socially justified. It is the only case where the rights of the killer were held above the rights of the victim; where the law gave more protection to the killer than to the victim.

A law advocated by the NRA which seems to be hell bent on creating an America where every citizen has a right, no a duty to carry a gun and to evoke their God given and Constitutional right to vigilantism. Are we to literally digress to the days of the OK Corral where the citizenry along with officers of the law were regularly engaged in shootouts in the streets?  And why?  Liberty? Second Amendment Rights?  No, just increased gun sales, as the NRA now represents gun manufacturers far more than they do gun owners.

One must be struck by the poise and graciousness demonstrated by the parents of Trayvon Martin. Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton have exhibited true Christianity and instead of revenge have sought only justice and even now instead of hatred, offer George Zimmerman prayer.

Their wish is that Trayvon’s memory not be tarnished by violence, but honored by change, a change in attitudes, a change in the laws that would allow such a legal travesty to follow the tragedy of the death of their son. They seek the type of change best represented by the group led by “Dream Defenders” that now protest at the Florida State Capitol Building with a clear agenda for change!

This spirit for change, this demand for change must spread throughout the nation. State to state and to Washington’s doorstep where real gun reform must finally be addressed and Democrats and Republicans alike must see through the veil and challenge The NRA’s real agenda and their vision for America.

We as a nation must now sympathize with Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton whose wish is that their son should not have died in vain and that we all benefit and move to taking what steps we may towards eradicating racism and gun violence in America.


 By: Kwaku Leon Saunders

Atlanta, Georgia

July 20, 2013

Trayvon, Tragedy and Travesty

Posted in The Travon Martin Trial with tags , , on July 19, 2013 by playthell


Treyvon with his loving Dad
 Like many Americans my sleep was troubled last night, troubled by the ghosts of past injustices, a feeling given fresh currency by a late-hour not guilty verdict from Sanford, Florida that freed George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.

Equally aroused, unfortunately, was the 800-pound gorilla called race and many of us were hoping and praying that justice would enter the hearts of the six women jurors, none of them African American like the slain Martin.  One of the defense attorneys for Zimmerman said he was glad the outcome did not turn a “tragedy into travesty,” and like much of his cross-examination he was wrong again.

No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus, nor is there justice in American courts—Supreme or otherwise—particularly when it comes to Black Americans.  Yes, my sleep was troubled and there came the jangling discords of all the cases of police brutality—and these were not “wanna be cops”—that I’ve covered in my years as a journalist.

I was barely in New York City to live for the third time when I was dispatched to cover the Howard Beach incident; then there was the outrage Tawana Brawley inspired; and the wanton shooting of several teenagers by Bernard Goetz in 1984, who claimed he was being robbed.  His later acquittal was my re-introduction to jury nullification, which I will discuss further in a moment.

Bernard Goetz: Killer Wimp! 

Bernie Goetz

The Subway Shootist

Even before scurrying to rallies and marches, and sitting hour after hour in the city’s courtrooms, the back stories of recent injustices, mainly by the NYPD, shaped my outlook, especially what I had heard of Eleanor Bumpurs, Michael Stewart, Clifford Glover and Randy Evans, all of them victims of overzealous police officers.

But last night’s visitations were more immediate and once again I saw families in tears after the acquittal of cops who killed Amadou Diallo, Anthony Baez, Sean Bell, Ramarley Graham and savagely sodomized Abner Louima.  They tugged at my memory, most of them cases I had covered that often left me feeling like Digger O’Dell, fighting each time to ward off that scab of callousness that inures one’s sensitivity.

Beyond the precincts and journalism that have informed so much of my thinking about race and society, are the lessons I’ve gathered from history.  One would have to turn a blind eye to history to think that five white women and another of mixed-race would convict a white man of killing a Black boy.  Pages of American history weighed on my sleep last night and I thought of chapters of atrocities about the lynching of Black men in America, the senseless mayhem that has made living in this country a daily challenge for Black Americans.

A Southern Tradition
Crucifying African Americans for Sport

To date, there has been much talk about the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the assassination of Medgar Evers and the insidious slaughter of four little girls in Birmingham, and even as far back as 150 years ago with the commemoration of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.  And to recall a moment in our nation’s history 150 years ago brings to mind the Draft Riots in New York City in the midst of the Civil War.

On July 13, 1863, the same day of Zimmerman’s emancipation, African Americans were set upon by whites in the city who were angry that they were being conscripted to fight in a war over slavery only to watch Blacks take their jobs once they were sent off to battle.  Without going into great detail, suffice it to say that 100 to a 1,000 people perished during the four days of rioting, most of them African Americans some of them strung up on lampposts or dragged through the city by white hooligans.  So vicious was the turmoil that some rioters were so full of hatred that they set fire to the Colored Orphan Asylum, but luckily none of the children there were killed.

The New York Draft Riots of 1863
 The Authentic History Center
An Artist Rendition of the Carnage
 Thinking about Trayvon, I recalled the words of President Obama—who stands as the poster boy for those who believe we now live in a post-racial society—when he said that if he had a son, he would look just like Trayvon.   I have a son who is an older version of Trayvon and is no less safe in a country where in an instance an innocent Black life can be snuffed out.

The miscarriage of justice—no, the abortion of justice, as one reverend might call it—was reminiscent of what happened to Emmett Till, another young teenager who ventured to the South and felt the full wrath of Mississippi menace and mendacity. Several years ago I had the opportunity to work on a book with Simeon Wright, Till’s first cousin who slept next to him that fateful morning when two white men snatched him from slumber, spirited him away, and later beat him mercilessly, so much so that his face was disfigured; there was a bullet hole through his head.   An all-white jury acquitted the two white men and nothing was done to them years later after they confessed to the murder.

    Emmitt Till


 Fourteen Year old Emmett Till Before and after he was lynched

 Earlier, I had mentioned jury nullification and the Till case is a good example of this in which jurors, having considered evidence that pointed overwhelmingly to the guilt of the accused, is circumvented.   A cursory glance back on American history and the instances of such practice are replete.  Take for example the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, when juries refused to convict slave owners and bounty hunters who had violated the law.  And the case of James Hickok in 1865 bears some similarity to what occurred in the Zimmerman/Trayvon case.

Hickok was on trial for manslaughter, and the judge gave the jury two instructions. He instructed them that a conviction was its only recourse under the law; he then told them they could apply the unwritten law of the “fair fight” and acquit.  Hickok was acquitted and it caused a public outcry of injustice.  Fair fight can be compared here with Zimmerman’s so-called self-defense or the nefarious “Stand Your Ground” law.

Of course, when jury nullification was bandied about sometimes before and certainly following the O.J. Simpson trial, the shoe was on the other foot, so to speak, when Simpson was acquitted in 1995.   For many Black Americans this verdict was a form of payback and vindication in a racist criminal justice system that always rendered Black Americans as the victims.

Jury nullification may not get much attention after this case and it may go as unspoken as racial profiling, which the judge refused to allow in the courtroom.  Even so, race continues to plague our society, continues to be the 800-pound gorilla in practically every endeavor of social relations.

The recent monumental decisions by the Supreme Court on the Voting Rights Act and affirmative action signals loudly the presence of race and the inability of some of our justices to speak its name.  Race is something that resonates in the highest realms of our government and in the lowest quarters of our cities, and certainly in the deepest sinews of citizens who swear they haven’t a racist bone in their body.

Yes, Virginia, racism is alive and well in America, and those who for a minute thought it was on life support only have to open their eyes and read tomorrow’s headlines and see again Trayvon’s tragedy and travesty that troubled my sleep—and yours should have been troubled too.

           Trayvon Martin


Murdered for being black and male in America!!!


By: Herb Boyd

Harlem, New York

July 18, 2013

The Real Lesson of Zimmerman Case

Posted in The Travon Martin Trial with tags , , on July 17, 2013 by playthell
         images        The Eyes of a Crazed Child Killer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                …..TrayvonShouHave Trayvon Should Have Killed Him!

There is a lesson arising from the George Zimmerman trial that must not be lost on Afro-Americans.  It is better to kill a white attacker than attempt to reason with them – especially in states with “stand your ground laws” like Florida.  If they step to you with any sign of aggression shoot first and ask questions later.  And if there are no witnesses just go on about your business.

For the two most valuable lessons we learned from the Zimmerman case is that white boys will shoot and kill you if you kick their asses in a fair fight, and not only will the judicial system exonerate them, they will scandalize your name and give the “creepy ass cracker” his gun back.  So you might as well take his ass out and take your chances.  The one thing we know for sure is that had Trayvon Martin Killed Zimmerman it is his narrative that would have dominated the discourse and not Zimmerman’s transparent lies during trial.

It is a cruel irony that the killer should be the author of the story relating the circumstances of the killing.  It is in the nature of things that the story will be self-serving, given the severity of the penalty for murder.  The extent to which Zimmerman’s version of events, recast in the hands of smart amoral lawyers who were totally ruthless in their courtroom tactics, influenced the way jurors saw the case was made clear in the testimony of one of the jurors.

Appearing behind a veil of darkness to conceal her identity the juror, known only as B37, provided us a peek into the mental process by which they arrived at the verdict that Zimmerman was not guilty on all counts.  The most revealing aspect of her testimony was the extent to which she bought Zimmerman’s version of events.  She kept referring to him affectionately as “George.”  She said his “heart was in the right place” but things got out of hand.  She held Trayvon equally responsible for his death, and said the issue of race never came up in their deliberations.  And to add grievous insult to fatal injury she said she felt equally sorry for both Trayvon and “George.”

It was a shocking revelation to most, but it confirmed my theory of how the case was decided.  I have argued all along that the most important factor influencing the way this case was adjudicated is the race question.  It was clearly apparent to me, as it was to everyone that is not totally clueless, that if the racial identity of killer and victim was switched – Zimmerman an angry black man and Trayvan a middle class white teenager going about his business in a gated community- the response of the police, the judge and the Jury would have been radically different.

To argue otherwise is a fool’s errand or an exercise for charlatans.  Who is naïve enough to believe that a black man could have stalked and killed a white teenager and be allowed to walk away from the scene instead of being arrested?  Who can believe they would have allowed him to go on about his business after the murder of the white teen without being arrested for over a month?

Is there anybody in America who believes that it would have required a mass movement just to secure an arrest?  And nobody believes that the black child killer would have been found not guilty on all counts!  Although white apologist try to confuse the conversation by arguing that the judge’s instruction – which was almost 30 pages – to the jury were too complex and therefore confusing, the fact remains they would have had no problem convicting the killer of Second Degree Murder if the Trayvon was white and Zimmerman Black!

Alas, if a white jury in Florida could find a white sleaze ball with a record of odious offenses like Zimmerman – who molested a child, battered his wife and assaulted a cop before murdering Trayvon – not guilty on all counts based on his word that he did nothing wrong, the chances that they would have found a black perp was justified in shooting down an unarmed and unoffending white kid is about equal to a snowflakes chances in a pizza oven!

One does not have to be clairvoyant in order to predict that in a violent encounter between a white and black American Mighty Whitey will get the nod in court.  Both history and present circumstance tells us so.  Hence the conclusion reached by Robert Williams in Monroe North Carolina in 1960, over a half century ago, is true in Florida today: “We must judge and convict our white attackers on the spot!

For Afro-Americans living in the big cities of the north, Midwest and the pacific coast, it is hard to get firearms legally.  But in the south it is relatively easy to get a gun, and every law abiding black person should own a few: a shotgun, a rifle and a side arm.  Let me make it clear that I am not a gun freak, and I do not share the National Rifle Association’s fetish for guns or their ambition to put a gun in the hand of every American.

In fact I have written a persuasive historically based essay arguing for repeal of the Second Amendment, the constitutional basis upon which laws conferring the right to own guns is based.  Alas, it did not convince the princes and powers who rule the nation to correct the error of their ways.  So I have arrived at this decision that black Americans must take up guns and shoot white aggressors by the logic of events.

As Abraham Lincoln said when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, although he had not been an abolitionist when he assumed the presidency but had been converted by the blood and fire of southern succession and Civil War: “clearly I have not controlled events…but events have controlled me.”  It is unreasonable, indeed an invitation to disaster, foe Afro-Americans to stand idly by while whites buy guns by the tons.

Although Trayvon Martin was too young to get a gun permit, if he had a legal gun, or managed to take Zimmerman’s gun and shot the pig through his fat head, he would be alive today, and even if convicted we could mount a movement for a presidential pardon. Black men have as much right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as white men, despite the fact that many whites still swear by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney’s opinion in the 1857 Dread Scott Decision: “Black men have no rights that white me are bound to respect.”

Alas, in Florida today it seems with some belligerent whites respect only comes from the barrel of a gun.  If that’s the price of the ticket so be it. When in Rome do as the Romans, and when in “The Land of the Flowers,” my ancestral home, get you some guns!

Southern Black Folks Set the Precedent

Robert Williams and Friends II

Monroe North Carolina 1960


Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

July 17, 2013

Zimmerman Gets Away with Murder!

Posted in The Travon Martin Trial on July 14, 2013 by playthell


A Murdered Black Child   vs.     A White Child Killer

 On Race, Crime and Punishment in America

 Now that the Jury has returned a verdict of “not guilty” in the case of The People of Florida vs. George Zimmerman, we are inundated by questions about the black community’s  response, but the most important question is how is it possibile that an unarmed teenager going about his business can be stalked and murdered by a armed adult, and that adult walks away free?

It’s been a strange affair, bizarre even, this trial of George Zimmerman, a white adult male who killed Trayvon Martian, an innocent black child going peacefully about his business in a Florida gated community, but no mention of race, or the motive force of racism, a phenomenon for which Florida has a long infamous history, was ever mentioned during the trial.  Yet many people believe, this writer included, that racial perceptions determined the outcome.

From all that I have seen of this guy Zimmerman he is a cowardly, deluded, caricature of a man who looks like a pig and has the values of a moral pathogen.  This moral cretin even had the unbelievable gall to come on FOX network, the right-wing Republican antidote for the truth, and tell Sean Hannity – one of the most odious and moronic talking heads in right-wing media – that he had no regrets about murdering an innocent black man-child because “I believe it was God’s plan.”

And yet as I listened to much of the commentary by white observers of this trial, I found that most of them believed that Zimmerman would get away with this murder without serving a day in jail; the authorities were already putting plans in motion to deal with the black rage they suspected would boil over when Zimmerman walked.   The national and local leadership of the Afro-American community were assuring everyone that the black community will not explode.

I’m not so sure the explosion will not happen. Given the high rates of unemployment among Afro-Americans; the things people are hearing about the meaning of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act; the sharp rise in student loan interest rates due to inaction in in the Republican controlled House that will prevent many black students from re-enrolling in college this fall; the seeming impotence of the first black President to enact programs that address the crisis in the black community due to white Republican opposition, which is accompanied by racially tinged insults to the President; the constant television reports of racist whites arming themselves to the teeth and using posters of President Obama for target practice; the widespread police brutality in poor black communities, and now they are told any white fellow citizen can shoot them down and kill them like dogs then walk away free because in their racist white mind you are criminal?

This mixed bag of hostile government policies puts them at risk and limit their life’s chances, plus a rising tide of racism endangers their very lives, it is an explosive concoction…one could say it is social dynamite.  It is a wicked combination of dire circumstances that can rob youth of their ambition and make them believe the fabled American Dream is beyond their grasp.

All things considered perhaps it is wiser to seek the vision of poets rather than the prognostication of lawyers and pundits.  Langston Hughes, the Poet Laureate of Harlem in troubled times of joy and pain, posed questions a half century ago that we should all be asking now: “What happens to a dream deferred? / Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun/ does it cake over like a syrupy sweet then run? / Does it sag like a heavy load / Does it Corrode? / Or does it explode!”

Yet should black communities explode in violence we will add a self- inflicted wound to those inflicted upon us by others, from the racist policies of the Tea Party politicians to the ahistorical and immoral decisions of the Supreme Court.  Among those who would be injured by a violent uprising of Afro-Americans is President Obama.  We need only look at two incidents in order to envision what could happen: The Skip Gates Affair and President Obama’s statement that Trayvon Martian looks like he could be his son.

In the first instance the President had to invite a racist Boston cop to the White House for a beer in order to prevent wildcat strikes by white policeman all over the country, creating havoc and imperiling the public safety.  And his embrace of Trayvon –  declaring “If I had a son he would look just like Trayvon” – provoked hysterical cries of racism from the right-wing media, feeding the racist hysteria of their white fans –who also happen to be armed to the teeth and more than a little paranoid.  Yet these events are small potatoes compared to mass riots, like those of the 1960’s, by enraged Afro-American mobs broadcast in real time on the 24 hour cable news stations and played endlessly on the internet.

Everyone will demand that President Obama take a public stand on the riots – and he will be dammed if he does and damned if he doesn’t.  For whatever he says will be offensive to millions of Americans.  If he does not unequivocally condemn the black rioters it would be a boon to the white verbal arsonists in right-wing media who have no qualms about leveling virulent charges of black racism against the president.   Yet if he denounces the black rioters, as he must being President of the United States sworn to uphold the Constitution, which clearly defines how our system of trial by jury works – and it offers no provision for riots by the losing side in a trial.

As a professor of Constitutional law Barack knows that while the Constitution provides for a trial it cannot guarantee the outcome.   And since the jury is a group of ordinary citizens giving of their time and efforts in order to serve the cause of justice, the President of the United States cannot impugn their motives or second guess their verdict.

Thus we see that his statement on the verdict today was very measured; like all of the lawyers who have commented on the verdict he implores us to accept the jury’s decision peacefully, and after acknowledging the loss of Trayvon Martin’s family he urged us to move on as a society and find ways to prevent these type of tragedies from happening again.  There is really nothing else he could say at this moment.  However I’d bet my bottom dollar that he is looking into the possibilities of a federal case based on Civil Rights violations, which is the only option available to the Feds since murder is a local crime.

However some black people will not understand this; many would like him to denounce the decision, or believe that he has the power to intervene.  The truth is that Trayvon Martin would have been better off if he had killed George Zimmerman.  First of all he would be alive to tell the story so it is his narrative that the trial would have revolved around, and if he were convicted the President could pardon him!  But as things stand there is really nothing he can do since he does not have the power to overturn jury decisions.

Many Afro-Americans also fail to understand the fact that we are a small percentage of the US population and therefore must form coalitions with whites and others in order to elect people to Congress that will vote for the policies President Obama is trying to enact that benefit poor, working and middle class Americans…including us.  Hence he must avoid taking positions that may appeal to black Americans but alienate other factions in a winning coailtion.

Alas, should the riots come many Afro-Americans will bitterly resent the president’s denunciation of black rioters -which will be confused and conflated with the scathing racist condemnations from the right.   It will be seen by many as proof that every scurrilous and spurious charge leveled against this president by the chorus of black magpies and intellectual poseurs that for a variety of reasons – some transparent, some incomprehensible – have questioned his blackness, his commitment to Afro-Americans…and even his personal integrity.  They are either too full of themselves; envious that it is him and not them in the White house; too politically backward or simply soulless opportunists trading on the misery and hopelessness of some classes of black Americans, ala Cornel West and Tavis Silly!

Then there are the hysterics of the hard left, black and white, those lost souls who have no agenda beyond incessant debate and acting out in public temper tantrums with ineffective demonstrations.  High on that list are Marxist ideologues like Comrade Carl Dix, of the “Revolutionary Communist Party,” that leftwing Uncle Tom who is Bob Avakian’s puppet, spouting words put in his mouth by this all-knowing white “theoretician.”  According to Dix, who heads something called “The October 22 Coalition Against Police Brutality And the Criminalization of a Generation,” the Trayvon Martin killing is a reenactment of the Emmitt Till Case of the 1950’s.  And he concluded that if the jury lets Zimmerman walk it is proof that in American society whites never pay for crimes committed against Afro-Americans.

Yet just a few days ago a white man was put to death for murdering James Bird, a black man, in Texas – the reddest of red neck states!  So Comrade Dix is clearly wrong on that claim, and he is equally wrong when he says if Zimmerman walks we need to stage a “rebellion,” like the one in LA after the cops who beat down Rodney King on video was released by an all-white jury in Semi Valley.  Alas our militant Comrade evidently forgot that even Rodney King opposed that one.

However this kind of talk from the left, and the fear mongering among heavily armed racist whites, could spark a social explosion now that Zimmerman has not only gotten away with murder, but to add insult to injury the police gave him his gun back!  Which is the best argument for law abiding black citizens of Florida to arm themselves with the best shootin irons they can get their hands on.  and when they encounter a creepy ass cracker on a dark road open fire on his ass if he gives you any trouble!

The Defense

Mark Omara

Relied on Charts and regurgitating Witness Testimony

The Prosecutor

The Prosecuter

Marshaled the evidence with passion and spoke to Juror’s Hearts

Given the volatility of this trial, which the world watched on television, the lawyer’s arguments took on an outsized importance to the stability of the body politic.  In our system of adversarial jurisprudence the jury is presented with competing narratives from the prosecution and the defense.  Since the outcome of the trial depends upon which lawyer tells the most convincing tale, the closing arguments in a serious case is high drama – which is why there are so many TV dramas about crime and punishment featuring lawyers.

In the closing arguments the lawyers for the prosecution and defense employed radically different approaches to telling their version of events on the night George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin in Sanford Florida.  The defense relied on charts and graphs and snippets of witness testimony that supported their narrative.  But the prosecutor emphatically denounced Zimmerman as a damned liar who killed an innocent kid while acting out his wannabe police fantasies and spun a “web of lies” to conceal his crime.

The defense spoke to the intellect and the Prosecution appealed to the hearts and the common sense of the jurors, believing that since several were mothers’ they would think of their own children as the contemplated the fate of Trayvon.  While we have no way of knowing how the jury arrived at their verdict, it is fairly safe to assume that they didn’t see Trayvon as their son.

As for me, I think George Zimmerman should at least have been convicted of second degree murder.  And although I understand the theory of the law under which the accused must be presumed innocent, even when we know that the accused stalked and murdered an innocent child, I would still love to just string the lying fat child killer up from the nearest tree!  And despite the fact that competing narratives gives the prosecutor and defense the freedom to present their version of events, I found defense attorney Mark O’Mara offensive; like a low down dirty egg sucking dog!

On the other hand, even amidst charges of ineptitude the prosecutors in this case are heroes to my eyes; they properly charged Georgie the Child Killer, and I believe their version of events.  It is only by virtue of their efforts that the family of Trayvon Martin could receive a measure of justice for the murder of their innocent child – although the white female jury nixed it by freeing the killer.  Yet every Afro-American I know – especially my friends and relatives who live in Florida – believe the prosecution’s version of events. They  watched the court room drama with rapt attention and believe Zimmerman is a guilty as sin!

A good friend in Florida law enforcement is convinced that given the racist history of the Sanford police, it is quite possible that the cops conspired with Zimmerman to cover up the murder of Trayvon Martin; even helping him construct his self-defense hoax by smacking him around a bit so he would look like he was under attack.  The Florida lawman has been asking around and assures me that quite a few of his black colleagues in law enforcement share his suspicions.  Whether this is true or not is sort of beside the point; if law enforcement professionals believe this, who knows what kind of conspiracy theroies the average black person believes.  And perception is reality to the believers.

The stories told by the Florida lawmen about his experiences on the job reflect the same kind of racist stuff we heard about from the black LA police officer Christopher Dorner, a real life 21st century Django trained as a special forces killing machine, who went on an armed vendetta against his former LAPD colleagues because of the racist practices he witnessed and was driven from the department for complaining about.  Listening to his story one could clearly see how a devoted public servant in a dangerous profession, fully prepared to die in the line of duty, could go rogue and turn on his colleagues with a murderous rage.

Reflecting on the lives of black males in America today I am once again reminded of the title the great Afro-American novelist Chester Himes chose for the second volume of his auto-biography: “My Life of Absurdity.” Unlike his more famous contemporary Richard Wright, who the peerless Florida writer/folklorist Zora Neale Hurston said viewed Afro-American life as unrelieved tragedy, Chester Himes saw his life in America as absurd.  It is interesting that both Himes and Wright quit America for the expatriate life in Europe.

Zora, like novelist/essayist Ralph Ellison recognized the tragic/comic character of Afro-American life that produced the art of blues and accounts for the joi di vivre that gives Afro-American song and dance its universal appeal.  And they stayed at home to fight the battle for a better society where Afro-Americans could realize their dreams.  In order to survive and thrive in America when prospects for Afro-Americans were far worse than they are today, they learned to roll with the punches and keep on keepin on.

Despite the temptation to sink into mindless rage and nihilism, this moment requires us to keep our heads, maintain our cool, and make no bad moves.  The first thing we must do is take an accurate accounting of the present situation.  Things are not all gloom and doom, far from it, but in order to fully recognize this one needs the added dimension of historical perspective.

As one who grew up in apartheid Florida I can testify to the fact that Afro-Americans are routinely doing things that were unimaginable when I left there in the summer of 1960 to keep from killing or being killed by “a creepy ass cracker,” as Trayvon Martin described Zimmerman with uncany accuracy.  Yet notwithstanding monumental changes in the status of Afro-Americans in Florida and the nation – including a black family in the White House – Trayvon Martin, an innocent teenager was murdered by that creepy ass cracker while going about his business at 7:30 in the evening….simply because he was black.

I can conjure no other explanation for the Jury’s verdict than race was the controlling factor.  Anyone who doubts that race was the deciding factor in this case need only reverse the racial identities of the murderer and victim – imagine five black women who would be much closer to a “jury of peers” required by the Constitution rendering the verdict in this case.  Despite the dramatic progress Afro-Americans have made over the last half century, the most accurate thing that can be said about our present predicament in America is echoed in the opening lines of Charles Dickens’ classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities:  It is the best of times and the worst of times.

George Zimmerman: Child Killer


A Real Creepy Ass Cracker!


Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

July 14, 2013

Secularists vs. Theocrats in Egypt!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , , on July 12, 2013 by playthell


                       A Muslim Imam and Colonel Nasser

 Can Egyptians Avoid Civil War?

The present Egyptian crisis, in which 51 people have been killed in the last few days and threatens to rip the nation apart, was sparked by events growing out of the last election a year ago, yet it has deep roots in the nation’s modern history, harkening back to the founding of Egypt as an independent nation in the middle of the last century.  At best it is old wine in new bottles. Hence the issues that have moved the nation to the brink of what increasingly looks like a brewing Civil War represent a persistent theme in the political history of Egypt over the last 61 years: The struggle between the secularists, represented by military strong men, and the Theocrats in the Muslim Brotherhood.

It is only when viewed from this perspective that the present conflict can be understood. Since the middle of the 20th century the Egyptians have gone through three major struggles in an attempt to forge an independent modern nation state.  First there was the movement for national independence from British protectorate status, secondly there was the struggle for a more equitable society, and finally there was the struggle against a takeover of the country by Islamic extremist, who were represented by the Muslim Brotherhood.

During the anti-colonial struggle to overthrow the government of King Forouk, Colonel Abdel Gamel Nasser, a secular nationalist soldier trained in the art of war at Sandhurst, England’s elite military academy, enlisted the Muslim Brotherhood in the fight.  In 1952 he led a group of military men called the “Free Officers” that overthrew the Farouk regime and set up the Revolutionary Command Council, which was headed by Major General Muhammad Naguib.  But Nasser removed him from office two years later and declared himself Prime Minister.  In 1956 he was elected President of a new single party socialist government, whose constitution was also approved in the election, both by 98% of the vote

At first all was well, as both the secular nationalists and the Muslim Brotherhood wanted to put an end to foreign domination, however when Egypt emerged as an independent nation the radical differences in their vision of the ideal society came to the fore and would eventually lead to open conflict.  Things got so bad the Muslim Brotherhood tried to assassinate Colonel Nasser, and he in return imprisoned their leading theologian Sayeed Guthb, author of the massive thirty volume theological exegesis “In the Shade of the Koran,” which along with Sayeed’s single volume treatise Milestones underpins the theology of the modern Jihad.

In 1966, Sayeed’s opposition to the secular Egyptian government, which inspired Islamic fanatics to attempt another assassination of Colonel Nasser, resulted in Nasser’s decision to send the militant Muslims an unmistakable message and hung Sayeed Guthb – who remained an unrepentant fanatic to the end, kissing the scaffold just before the put the noose around his neck.  This initiated a protracted struggle between the Secularist government and fanatical theocrats who want to establish Islamic Sharia law in Egypt that persists as I write.

This is why Egypt has been governed by a succession of secular military strong men over the last fifty years, and they kept the Muslim Brotherhood in check.  However it was not an easy task.  Colonel Anwar Sadat, who succeeded Colonel Nasser, was the first Arab leader to sign a peace treaty with Israel.  He was assassinated by an Islamic fundamentalist as he sat on a reviewing stand during a military parade and he was followed by Colonel Honsi Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for the next 30 years, until he was driven from office by the recent uprisings and put on trial for crimes against the Egyptian people.  The first multi-party elections in Egyptian history were held last year and Mohammad Morsi, who was backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, was elected.  A year later he was deposed and placed under house arrest by the by the military…to many observers it looks like de ja vu.

Sayeed Guthb

Saayd Guthb

Militant Theologian Hung by Nasser

Anwar Sadat

Anwar Sadat

Assassinated by a Muslim fundamentalist

However a closer look will reveal some important differences.  In 1952 the military overthrew a universally hated regime and held power, until the military leader was confirmed by a vote in a one party election four years later. In 2012 the military forced one of its own to step down as a result of a mass uprising of the Egyptian people.

The present takeover occurred after Mohamad Morsi was elected in a multi-party election in which many of the people who voted for Morsi vehemently disagreed with the decision of the military to depose Morsi.  Their massive demonstrations, vows of further resistance and the violence that followed Morsi’s removal make it clear that the situation in Egypt is far from resolved.

However while Morsi’s die hard supporters took to the streets in a fit of rage, some even fired on the police, many millions more cheered his removal by the army.  They cheered, and sang, and even set off fireworks while chanting “God is great!”  This is what distinguished the action of the military in this instance from a traditional coup, although some American politicians, like Senator John McCain, argue that it is.

The truth is that the military was carrying out the popular will, many on the scene observers who were there during the demonstrations that brought the authoritarian Mubarak regime down, say the demonstrations demanding the ouster of Morsi were larger.  This is because many Egyptians, who hoped the new government would bring a wider arena of freedom and democratic practice, felt that the actions of the Morsi government were a betrayal.  Before the army intervened the country was on the verge of anarchy and religious conflict, hence I think Dr. Ziebneiw Brzezinsky is right when he calls the military’s actions “a coup against anarchy.”

The People Return to the Streets in outrage

Egyptian Revolution 2013

Demanding an end to the Islamist Government!
Then the Army Stepped In
And Restores Order

The fundamental problem with the new Egyptian “democracy” is that it was in reality a “tyranny of the majority,” a term coined by the French social theorist Alex de Tocqueville in his two volume masterwork “Democracy in America,” the pioneering study on the American style of governance published in 1830, in order to distinguish a true democracy in which the opposition and unpopular minorities are protected in the law, and a system in which the majority simply imposes it’s will without regard for dissenting opinions.

The latter approach is how the Morsi government went about its business as they cobbled together a constitution that was laying the groundwork for the establishment of an Islamic state; which has been a longtime objective of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Furthermore the constitution had no mechanism such as impeachment or recall procedures for the lawful removal of a president who misused his office.

It was clear that, like all Islamic parties when they come to power, these people believed their actions were ordained by God, so who cares about the wishes of men.  This kind of thinking leads to a system where you have one person one vote once!  Hence the Egyptian people, who sought a true democracy where political decisions are based on the will of the electorate, not the word of God whispered into the ears of some Islamic zealot, wouldn’t stand for it and took to the streets en mass.

Only the intervention of the army could prevent chaos.  That’s why in the eyes of the majority of Egyptians the soldiers are heroes who rescued the nation from catastrophe; and those Americans who oppose the wisdom of the Egyptian people – like the Arizona bully John McCain – remind me of the suspicious characters an old Ibo proverb warns us about:” Beware of the stranger who comes to the funeral and cries louder than the bereaved family! “


NOTE: This is the first of a multi-part series on the Egyptian crisis.

Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

July 11, 2013

Open Letters to A Black Obama Basher

Posted in My Struggle On the Left! with tags , on July 7, 2013 by playthell
At WBAI Jpeg
Droppin Science live on the Great Issues

An Open Invitation to Discuss President Obama

 Greetings and Salutations Dr. Johnson

During the breaks on my radio show I am bombarded with excerpts of your passionate assessments of Barack Obama’s presidency.  The affect they have on me is a jarring sensation much like that described by a musician friend with perfect pitch when he hears a singer singing off key.  For instance your description of President Obama as “a right of center” Democrat has that effect; it assaults my sense of intellectual integrity much as an out of tune singer savages a melody; it is such a gross mischaracterization of the President’s position IT CANNOT BE HARMONIZED WITH THE EVIDENCE!   Hence it is becoming painful to remain silent as I am forced listen to your impassioned preachment every week.

Furthermore, I believe your charge that the President has failed in a “moral” mission that you say he assumed – although it sounds to me like you assigned him the role – or your suggestion that this moral mission should take precedence over the political imperatives of his office, is dissonant nonsense.  It suggests that your understanding of the paramount duties of the Presidency and the complexities of the problems President Obama is confronted with –which are made infinitely more complicated by a recalcitrant, rejectionist, obstructionist, Republican opposition whose actions border on treason – leaves much to be desired….to put it kindly.

Some of my listeners who are also avid readers of my commentaries have asked why I allow your critical comments on President Obama to go unchallenged.  It is the same question I have been asked by young scholars who read the book on Dubois, in which Stanley Crouch and myself presented interpretations of the life, work and legacy of the great black scholar.  They wonder how I allowed Stanley to write certain things without opposition.

In that case I had no choice.   Motivated by a justified fear of public chastisement and exposure as an intellectual lightweight, Crouch craftily clutched his essay – which was about one fifth the length of mine – close to his vest and I never saw it until the book was published.  Fortunately I do have an opportunity to respond to your position on Truthworks Radio.

Hence I have decided to critique your views on the President, and I would love it if you would participate.  It is my conviction that intellectuals who take themselves seriously – as opposed to opportunistic charlatans and self-important poseurs – should be willing to defend the positions they take publicly.  The things I wrote I meant…hence I will show up anywhere and represent!

First I’d like you to refer me to a program where you elaborate on your views of President Obama, as well as anything you have written on him.  I have written several hundred essays and am selecting a group of them for a book.  The problem is that the book is already 500 pages yet I still feel that there are other essays that should be included…and I keep on writing them.  I sometimes feel like John Coltrane, who when asked by Miles Davis why he always played such long solos, replied “I can’t figure out how to end them.”  To wit Miles replied “why don’t you just try taking the damned horn outta yo mouth?”  Alas I have decided that I will just have to get up and walk away from my computer.

As you might imagine, I don’t believe that there are many people who have observed this president more closely or insightfully than I have.  Thus I readily see the flaws in many of the opinions that are presented about him and how he has handled his job.  It saddens me to confess my disappointment at the sloppy thinking, careless analysis, and blacker than thou silliness that have passed for serious critiques postulated by some black intellectuals. I not only think this pompous pretentious prattle is irresponsible but dangerous.

After listening to your radio comments I decided to read back over the private exchange we had about this president on Facebook a while ago.  I found your arguments weak then and upon review they appear even more spurious now.  Furthermore – based on the excerpts I heard –   I find your present radio declarations to be intellectually indefensible.

If you believe your analysis will stand up under a rigorous critique then I am inviting you to come on the show and defend them with me and Dr. Wilson.  It will be the kind of fact driven collegial discourse that we normally undertake, and you will be provided the opportunity to present your views at length. My intention in producing Commentaries on the Times Radio is to engage in extended discussion of the commentaries that I or Basil writes on the great issues of the day.  Since we are compulsive pedagogues ever looking for opportunities to teach important lessons, this is our way of providing audio documents that are readily available and can be widely employed to politically educate activist who want to bring about change in America and elsewhere.

This is especially true when I write about mass transformative movements.  I approach these movements as a class of phenomenon whose organization and dynamics follow similar patterns of development no matter when or where they appear in the world.  You have simply to read my essays on the upheavals during the so-called “Arab Spring” and Occupy Wall Street movements to see what I mean.

Hence I find that just as my generation of radical Afro-American activists were informed by the writings of foreign theorists such as Karl Marx, V.I. Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg, Emma Goldman, Mao Tse Tung, Kwame Nkrumah, Franz Fanon, George Padmore, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, CLR James, Amilcar Cabral, et al, young people from South Africa to Indonesia and Australia write and tell me how much they have learned from my writings.

And for those who seek a broader understanding regarding the role of cultural matters I include criticism of the arts, and the occasional sports essay because as the ever insightful Trinidadian polymath CLR James has taught us: popular sports mirror the character and values of a society.   I am well aware that we are working in a world-wide medium of communication that no other generation has had the benefit of –which is why we should be careful what we put into cyberspace – and I intend to make the most of it. For a deeper understanding of my longtime interests in international issues see “Why I Opposed the Iraq War from the Beginning” –which is a news video on YouTube.

I anxiously await whatever material – written or spoken – you can refer us to that will clarify your views on the President.  That way we can avoid taking your comments out of context and thus misrepresenting your arguments.  In the absence of your participation however our critique of the assertions that you make during the breaks on our show will serve as the basis for a critique of your views…which will go on in any case. In the mean time I can recommend several essays by myself and Dr. Wilson where you can get a capsulized version of our views.

The Struggle for Enlightenment Continues
Playthell G. Benjamin



 Doctor…Heal Thyself!

Dr. Matthew Johnson
Dr. Johnson Pontificating On Truthworks Network

 An Open Letter to a Self-Righteous, Confused Obama Basher

“I think that if you feel so inclined you should probably listen to more of my shows on issues related to Obama than a snippet someone else harvested for advertisement. You may find them more balanced than you suspect. But if not, please understand that time spent on a show with you is for me time spent far more productively elsewhere. God Bless you my atheistic friend. And keep struggling for enlightenment.”

Dr. Matthew Johnson’s response to Playthell’s  Invitation to a debate on President Obama.


 My Dear Reverend Dr. Johnson

I too am a very busy man and do not have the time or inclination to sift through your many shows and endure hours of impassioned pious preachments in order to cull the answers to a few specific questions about politics. You evidently consider your time far more valuable than mine…For I would never make such an unreasonable request of you.  If you asked me for my opinions on the President – foreign or domestic policy – I could easily refer you to WELL THOUGHT OUT WRITTEN ESSAYS or SPECIFIC CONVERSATIONS – it is interesting that you cannot, or will not, do the same.  And I take your attitude as a dis.

Therefore it is impossible for me to take you seriously as a critic of the president.  Thus far in my exchanges with you about Barack Obama, I find your arguments to be lightweight and unworthy of a serious black intellectual when discussing the first African-American to rise to the most powerful office in the world!!!

Hence I shall proceed to write a critique of your views based on the private conversation we had in our first kerfuffle over the President, since the text is still there – and combine it with the claims you make in the excerpts aired on my show – that will be quite enough to paint a picture of your argument, which has so many flaws I could write a book.   Since you seem confirmed in your folly, and thus beyond instruction, I shall leave the veil of political ignorance firmly over your eyes where I found it and simply use you as a foil, a teaching prop, to address a larger audience.

But I must say that I find your response disappointing.  What exactly do you stand for as an intellectual Dr. Johnson? What do you value?  Based on your attitude here it is certainly not honest critical discourse with other serious Afro-Americans trying to think through these thorny issues that could well determine the life’s chances of the working class in general, and future generations of minorities in the US.  Since only a fool could fail to recognize the importance of these critical issues, or the need to seriously discuss them in a public forum, I can only conclude that you think it a waste of time because you find me and Dr. Wilson unworthy partners in such a dialogue.  The refusenik posture you have assumed puzzles me.

Perhaps your attitude is the inevitable result of preaching to people all the time who believe your words represent some kind of divine wisdom and therefore never question anything you say. It is fairly easy to see how one who envisions himself as a Shepherd ordained by God to lead his flock to salvation could develop the kind of arrogant imperious attitude that causes you to think any questioning of your views is somehow an affront.

This is, I suppose, the price of the ticket; but your attitude strikes me as self-important, pompous and ultimately absurd.   I strongly suspect that it is a thin veil to mask what is in essence intellectual cowardice…because you are smart enough to know that you cannot defend your silly and unfair criticism of this President against the rigorous examination Dr. Wilson and myself will subject to!  As for me, I have no doubt that your argument would crash and burn rather easily.

However I was prepared to be gentle with your instruction, to treat you as a learned, earnest, albeit misguided junior colleague.  But your condescending dismissive attitude has aroused the intellectual thug in me.  In that regard you should know that the great novelist essayist Ishmael Reed has dubbed me “a peerless literary street fighter” and Professor Mike Thelwell, Novelist/essayist/ Professor of comparative Literature, has accused me of having “a curious affection for back alley intellectual muggings!” Alas, since I have failed to appeal to your pride in private I shall commence to peel yo hide in public!

Most surprising in our last conversation was my discovery that you have the unmitigated gall to laud your blackness over President Obama, bragging about your grandmother having been “black” and a descendent of slaves and Obama’s being white and “a racist.”  A fact that to me suggest absolutely nothing about the content of your character – HERMAN CAIN AND CLARENCE THOMAS’ GRANDMOTHERS WERE BLACK TOO!!!!!!  And judging by your complexion – which is about the same as Obama’s with straighter hair, with no trace of West African ancestry that I can discern – their grandmothers were a lot blacker than yours!  Do you see how silly that sounds?

When you said it I was shocked that a man of your learning could advance such a simple minded argument; I regard it as characteristic of the lightweight prattle advanced by black critics of President Obama in general.  It is in the same category as the silly comments of Dr. Boyce Watkins, a failed academic who now anoints himself “The People’s Scholar,” who constantly refers to the President as “Bi-Racial,” in an attempt to suggest that racial purity should be a definitive factor in our evaluation of this President.  It is an attitude that reminds me of Bishop Alexander Crummel – another pompous black clergyman with a degree in philosophy – who constantly referred to Frederick Douglas as: “That mulatto showman!”  These are ideas that properly belong to the 19th century….it is now 2013 Dr. Johnson!!!!!

Herman “Suga” Cane
Is he black enough for you Doc?
Barack Obama
*Apr 21 - 00:05*
He’s Black Enough for Reverend Al!
And Black Enough for Michelle
And black enough for me…and I’m Soul Brother #1

It should be obvious that I find you silly Negro intellectuals’ petty pigment politics pretty much beneath contempt!   If you were not equating racial purity with political reliability what do you mean by reference to your “black” grandmother in this context? Are you implying that because your grandmother was “black” she was free of color prejudice?  Well, I say just like the things you’re libel to read in the bible: IT AIN’T NECISSARILY SO!!!!

If she was a light skinned Afro-American she might have been as “racist” toward dark skinned African type Afro-Americans as Barack Obama’s grandmother…if not worse!  Surely you know enough about Afro-American history and literature to know that.  If not just read the writings of Charles Chestnut – The House Behind the Cedars, The Marrow of Tradition, The Bride of His Youth, etc – Or Wallace Thurmond’s “The Blacker The Berry,” or Nella Larson’s “There is Confusion,” the writings of sociologist E. Franklin Frazier and Nathan Hare and many other texts I could cite.

Some mixed blood blacks were worse than whites in their hatred of black skin!  You have but to look at Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, Brazil, South Africa, Cape Verde, Louisiana, or any southern city where Mulatto offspring from slave masters and their dark concubines formed a privileged class in the Afro-American community – See Professor Richard C. Wades’ “Slavery In The Cities.”

They were very proud of their light skin and were as contemptuous of dark skinned people as the most racist whites.  Dr. DuBois pegged them just right when he called them “an aristocracy based upon bastardry.”  You have but to read the descriptions of what is was like at Howard in the late 19th century, written by the brilliant ebony complexioned scholar Edward Wilmont Blyden, when black and mulatto professors ate at different tables in the dining hall –see Dr. Hollis Lynch, “Edward Wilmont Blyden: Pan-Negro Patriot.” 

Blyden had such a hard time with light skinned Afro-Americans that he said when he died he wanted his tombstone to read “Here Lies Edward W. Blyden: Pan-Negro Patriot and he Hated Mulattos!”   I can even remember the famous “blow hair” and “brown bag” parties at Howard.  So if we are to be suspect of Barack because of his grandmother, what about all of the light skinned blacks whose grandmother’s also hated dark skinned black people?

In Fact….Light Skin Only Parties Still Go On!

Light skinned Party Poster

Wonder what their “black” grandmother’s taught them?

This kind of argument about the President’s race would be surprising to hear from a member of the untutored mob – unlettered ignoramuses – but it is utterly shocking coming from a cultivated Negro who is obviously mixed blood and holding “a terminal degree” as you were quick to remind me.  Should you have difficulty remembering your silly statements, which I am certain by now you would rather forget, I will publish the Private Message transcripts.  You can run but you can’t hide!


From all accounts, Barack’s African father had a far easier time of it with his white in-laws than Ward Connely’s dark skinned daddy had with his grandmother!  Remember Ward?  The brainwashed washed light skinned suckass nigger who led the fight that successfully ended all Affirmative Action programs in the California university system which has dramatically reduced the number of black students matriculating on campus?  The man was a puzzle to me; I just couldn’t understand what would drive an Afro-American to spearhead such an effort in league with whites who were transparent racist!

Then a cousin of Ward’s came forth and provided the key to solving the puzzle.  He said that their grandmother was very light skinned and hated dark skinned Afro-Americans.  He told how she had destroyed the marriage between her light skinned daughter and Ward’s dark skinned father, and then she never ceased telling Ward lies about his good for nothing black daddy.  He says that she cultivated a hatred and contempt for black people in general.  And his fight against educational opportunities for Afro-American youths was the result of all that ingrained hate!

So should us dark skinned blacks be suspicious of what light-skinned blacks grandmother’s taught them?  Surely by now you see how simple minded your comment is.  Please do not misunderstand me Dr. Johnson this is not to suggest that dark skinned confers any special virtue; that one is more likely to act in the best interest of Afro-Americans the blacker they are.

Four of the biggest ass kissing black traitors – that are confused with Uncle Tom, who is a paragon of virtue compared to these soulless blaggards – are melanin rich: Clarence Thomas, Herman Cane, Dr. Allen Keyes and Tim Scott.  I once wrote an essay on Armstrong Williams, another ebony complexioned charlatan, titled “Little Black Sambo of the Right,” just as I wrote an essay on Tim Scott’s appointment to the Republican Senate seat formerly held by that right-wing mad dog Jim Demint, titled “Sambo goes to the Senate.”  Hence my real point in discussing this question of color is to demonstrate its irrelevance in politics!!!!!

Ward Connelly and wife

Ward Connerly and wife

Well…we see that Ward sought the approval of his Grandmother

Uncle Justice Thomas!

Clarence Thomas II

He he black enouh for you Doc? Color is irrelevant to quislings

So, as far as I am concerned such commentary on Obama’s racial heritage of the sort that you misguided confused black intellectuals are engaging in, is at best superficial and at worse dangerous to the interests of black Americans.   Some of our most effective leaders were mulattos just like Barack: Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington for instance.

Many Afro-Americans are more than half white, including some of our greatest heroes – Walter White, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Ralph Bunche, Dr. Rayford Logan, Dr. Charles Drew, Thurgood Marshall, et al.  I am quite frankly astonished at the low intellectual level of much of the criticism aimed at this President by some Afro-Americans with advanced degrees…even terminal degrees.

All this suggest that the new black intelligentsia is as confused about their historically appointed role as those Harold Cruse wrote about in his masterpiece “The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual” almost 50 years ago!  Have you ever read this canonical text in black critical thought Dr. Johnson?  If so, I can detect no evidence that you learned anything from it…and since you don’t impress me as being a dullard, I shall assume you have not read it: but you need to.

Well whatever your black grandmother taught you she certainly didn’t teach you to respect your elders….which is a direct African inheritance and a very deeply held value in the black community that I grew up in. I am 71 years old and I have been in this struggle for over 50 years – probably before you learned how to pee straight.  You will be fortunate indeed if you make a contribution to the advancement of Afro-Americans that will equal mine in your lifetime.

And despite the fact that you found it necessary to refer to my atheism, I am more than willing to compare my service to the black community with yours any day…serving the least of us just as Jesus Christ commanded; and it was not dependent on my being financially compensated by a congregation.   Like Catholic Priest and Bhuddist Monks I was prepared to endure poverty to carry out my work. And that has not changed.  You cavalierly dismiss Barack Obama’s time spent as a community organizer in the Chicago projects, but the people he worked with, teaching them how to organize and fight for their rights, spoke of him as if he were a saint!

It just like the kind of generous heartfelt praise I heard from Afro-Americans in the Mississippi Delta – the cousins of those blacks in the Chicago projects – when they spoke of the great Bob Moses from SNCC.  It was their testimony that initially attracted me to Barack.  Hence I never questioned his blackness, nor his concern for the black poor, because he had already been vetted by the real deal!

If you have any imagination at all Dr. Johnson, you might conjure how absolutely irrelevant and ridiculous the questions about Barack’s blackness sounds to me when it emanates from bald headed buffoons like Boyce Watkins; or tragic/comic philosophers like Cornel West, who is so confused about his proper role he reminds me of the man who couldn’t tell his rectum from a hole in the ground; or pompous preachers like yourself!  You got a graduate education in Chicago Reverend Johnson, may I ask how much time you spent working in the projects after you obtained your “terminal degree?”

I would also like to know if you are aware of the testimony of these people in Chicago.  I wrote about them at the time, so I remember it well.  And given that you question President Obama’s commitment to poor black folks I am compelled to ask if you are aware of his legislative record in the Illinois state Legislature.

Well I am, and you certainly don’t talk like you are, but you ought to be acquainted with this record before concluding that he is not primarily concerned with addressing the problems of working people and the poor. You are a scholar and therefore if you were motivated by a serious concern about the President’s values, rather than just throwing mindless verbal spitballs – researching his record is basic stuff.

However if you consult my essay “Civilization or Savagery?” – Which is the text of a speech I presented in defense of President Obama’s presidency at a “Great Debate,” here in New York – sponsored by the Committee against Media Offensive to African People – you will find a listing of all the legislation authored or Co-Sponsored by Barack Obama during his days in the Illinois legislature and the US Senate.  This body of work is distinguished by a profound concern for the least of us….and it is brilliantly reflected in the policies he has fought for as President, but he has been restrained by a racist reactionary Republican House.

It is fair to say that many of the opportunities that you now enjoy – like the right to vote and go wherever you want down there in Georgia and be served – is due to the activities of people like me, activists of my generation.  Barack Obama followed it their footsteps.  Yet you think that to have a discussion with me and Dr. Basil Wilson – another elder with a distinguished history of activism and intellectual service – is a waste of time?

As I noted earlier, your response strikes me as the comment of someone who is either stupid or an intellectual coward.  And since you are obviously not stupid, the only plausible explanation is cowardice.  You may attempt to disguise it as aloofness or disdain for my challenge, but I see you clearly for what you are: a political junior flip who knows that you will be in way over your head should you attempt to argue that pious anti-Obama piffle I hear you spouting on my show!!!!

Thus, quite to the contrary, I would argue that spending two hours in a serious discourse with me and Dr. Wilson would be far from a waste of time: It would provide you with the kind of advanced political education that would restrain you from spouting some of the nonsense that you so often mistake for wisdom.   In fact it is fair to say that much of your argument against Barack Obama is pure bullshit; which the imminent moral philosopher and Princeton Professor Harry G. Franks argues is more dangerous to the truth than an outright lie in his book titled “Bullshit.”

In our first discussion of the President you were so anxious to find some reason to try and discredit him you even attempted to dismiss him as a constitutional scholar, although he had been president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review and taught Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago, where you received your graduate education. Your argument was so ridiculous I felt embarrassment for you…but it didn’t keep me from candidly dismissing it as foolishness.

I could hardly believe it when you said:

I do not privilege Obama’s understanding of the constitution over mine. He is a lawyer I am a trained hermeneutician. I have a terminal degree. He has a JD and not much experience practicing law or community organizing. So that question is moot.” 

When I reminded you of Barack’s credentials as a scholar of constitutional law you wrote:

“There is a difference between the history of constitutional decisions and interpretations and correct interpretations. You can’t at all be serious in thinking that an educated Black man would really trust the history of white interpretation of the constitution to somehow be synonymous with correct interpretation. Perhaps it is time we revisit Woodson’s Miseducation of the Negro, I think it may be instructive in this instance.”

After explaining that Dr. Woodson’s book was the most often cited, albiet  seldom read and even less understood, book in black letters, I pointed out that it has little relevance for our time and none for the argument we are engaged in, I replied thusly:

“The point of this statement escapes me. The first thing that puzzles me is that you state the obvious as if it were a profound revelation. I am further confused by the implication that white Constitutional Law Professors are incapable of rendering fair and accurate lessons about the role of racism in shaping both the constitution itself and the interpretation of the Constitution. Surely you cannot be saying anything as silly as that: SINCE VIRTUALLY ALL OF YOUR TEACHERS IN GRAD SCHOOL WERE WHITE!!!!!!!!!!!!  Yet you trust them to interpret the bible.”

It gets more confusing when we apply your arguments to President Obama.  Are you suggesting that the President has only had racist white tutors? Do you believe that he is not aware of the rich body of critical writings on the role of race in the interpretation of constitutional Law? Are you arguing that studying Constitutional Law with professors like Derrick Bell, Charles Ogeltree and Lawrence Tribe is insufficient training in the history of US Constitutional Law to critique the influence of race in deciding Constitutional issues in American history? If you are arguing that you are dramatically demonstrating your ignorance of the subject, and if not: what are you saying?” I can hardly wait for your answer, because the argument you have presented here is about as DEEP AS A DRY CREEK BED! “

You also attribute feelings to President Obama for which you have absolutely no evidence.  For instance you wrote: “His folk were not slaves in this country.  I was raised by my grandmother too. My grandmother was Black his was white and racist and he is still trying to win their approval. And that makes him dangerous.”  I believe what is dangerous is for black intellectuals to engage in this kind of divisive, self-destructive drivel and attempt to pass it off as serious analysis.

In truth, this kind of blacker than thou talk is nothing more than some “crab-in-the-barrel nigger mess” as my black grandmother would say!    So what if you are a descendent of slaves?  You were not a slave and therefore don’t know any more about the experience than anybody else who picks up a book and reads about it.  There are beaucoup white scholars who know far more about the experience than you; really Doc, how silly can you be?

Since you have never had President Obama on the couch in a clinical setting, on what are you basing your conclusion that he is “still trying to win their approval,” and that this fact “makes him dangerous?”  When I look at the choices that President Obama has made in his life, I see just the opposite.  Barack Obama chose to identify with Afro-Americans, to become a part of our culture and community.  His commitment to this choice is abundantly clear.  One wonders what you are looking at; you remind me of the man who went around with his nose turned up claiming everybody stinks, when in reality he was smelling his top lip.

For most of American history the individual had no choice in the matter of deciding racial identity, but by the time Barack graduated Harvard Law School the racial situation was fluid enough where an eloquent brilliant bi-racial light-skinned Harvard trained lawyer could marry a white woman and loose himself in the white upper classes.

Instead Barack married a strong brilliant black woman, joined a militant Afrocentric church whose pastor is a great preacher of the social gospel, worked with poor black folks in Chicago, celebrated the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement, chose personal heroes like Muhammad Ali and Nelson Mandela, and grooved to the funky beats of R&B and hip hop.  And his spirit swings to the sounds of Miles Davis and John Coltrane.  That ain’t black enough for you Dog?

Barack is a serious student of Afro-American history and culture, and his love and respect for Afro-Americans and our traditions is transparent. (See: “A Love Supreme: Chilly B. Raps to His Peeps)   I’m glad he chose to be one of us; he is everything I want to see in a young black man, or any man, entrusted to exercise great power.  He is brilliant, thoughtful, compassionate, humane, visionary, eloquent of speech and elegant of style and manners, strong, sensitive, funny, fearless, unpretentious and hip!   He is also a great husband and father; something the black community is in dire need of.  I see no downside to him at all.

As a manhood role model for black youths, Obama is a priceless gift from the ancestors: I can’t imagine a better example than the one he is setting.  So you and other muddle-headed, envious black intellectuals may agonize over the President not being black enough and try to use that complaint to heap hate on him Dr. Johnson, but for me it is the classic fool’s errand.  I wouldn’t trade one Barack for an army of melanin rich charlatans and quislings such as Clarence Thomas, Alan West, Alan Keyes, et al.  or his any of his black intellectual bashers….bar none. So there!

But I am giving you fair warning: Just as you have done unto President Obama, I shall do unto you by critically analyzing your political positions– what goes around comes around: Judge not that ye be judged!   However I shall show far greater regard for the facts than you have displayed in your attacks on the President; I won’t make the mistake of judging a politician by the standards of a saint!  At one point you said President Obama has neither the “character or the courage” to qualify as a Messiah.  But my question is who does?  In any case, as I have told you before, I consider  ALL TALK of messiahs to be just so much hocus pocus.

As is my fashion I shall approach this task in the even handed manner cited in the letter nominating me for the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary – which is in the bio section on my blog.  I will symbolically render unto God that which is God’s and unto Caesar that which is Caesars’….and even give the Devil his due.

And yes I shall continue to struggle for enlightenment, just as I was doing before you started coming out of the yard by yourself – and I shall do so with or without your assistance!  I will also take these exchanges as an opportunity to demonstrate why you shouldn’t get cheeky with your learned elders; you could talk yoself up on a good ass whippin boy!   Now answer this missive if you dare.  Alas, since I don’t believe in Gods of any sort I cannot in good conscience return your blessing…although I certainly wish you well.




Playthell G. Benjamin

The village of Haarlem

On The Perils of Arab Democracy

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , on July 3, 2013 by playthell
Police and Protesters Clash

 The Troubling Case of Egypt

 The brief reign of the Muhammad Morsi’s government in Egypt confirms verifies some critical points that I have argued for some time about the pitfalls of democracy in the Arab world.  Two things in particular: If allowed to express their will the masses in most Islamic countries will elect Islamic parties to power – they even did this in Turkey, a country founded as a secular state by Kamal Ataturk.  The only force in the Muslim world that prevents the Mullahs from taking over is the secular military strong men.

This is precisely the reason why modern Egypt has been ruled by a succession of military for over half a century.  They went from Colonel Abdel Nasser, to Colonel Anwar Sadat, to Colonel Honsi Mubarik, and they ruled under a constant state of emergency.  Their greatest fear was that that the Muslim brotherhood would take over the country if given the opportunity.  Rule by marshal law allowed the Egyptian government to outlaw the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood and keep track of all radical religious trends.

Although it was not always the subject of news coverage, the struggle between the Islamic and the secularist forces in the Muslim world has been ongoing since the last century.  I first made this point in my essay opposing the decision of the Bush administration to invade Iraq on the premise that Sadam Hussein was secretly in league with Osama Bin Laden see: The Prophetic Commentary on Iraq.  I pointed out that Sadam and Osama were direct opposites and there was no way they were collaborating in a plot complex enough the massive attack of 9/11.

The other point that I have argued is that there is no institutional or ideological foundation on which to build a functional democratic government in most Islamic countries.  Hence when a popular vote is finally held what will emerge is a tyranny of the majority, not a liberal democracy in which the rights of unpopular minorities and opposing political parties are protected by law.  Such a system is a perversion of the ideal of democracy which is incapable of transferring power from one party to another, we often get one man one vote one time.

This is clearly at the root of the present uprising that has resulted in the military overthrow of the first elected government in modern Egyptian history after only a year in office.  What is most fascinating about this sudden turn in the political fate of Egypt is the military removed the recently elected President by popular demand.  The mass demonstrations that brought down the 30 year reign of Honsi Mubarik a year ago are out in the streets raising hell again, and by several estimates they are even bigger than before.

The ouster of the Egyptian President in order to restore law and order has set a bad precedent.  If a democratically elected president can be overthrown by the military acting on the demands of the mob in the largest and most advanced Arab country, what does that portend for the future of democratic governance in the Arab world?  Although President Obama stood aside and let the Egyptian people work their will – even while taking severe criticism from the Republican right, who felt we should have supported Honsi Mubarik a reliable supporter of US policy – some of the protesters are unfurling banners blaming President Obama for his support for what they are now calling Islamic “Fascist!”

It is a totally unfair charge: President Obama supported the government they elected.  In fact, he persuaded Honsi Mubarik to step aside and allow the people to express themselves at the ballot box.  The attempt to blame him for the government they chose demonstrates how little these people understands about the working of the democratic process.

This banner announces the high level of confusion among the Egyptian opposition.  From the beginning of the first uprising I pointed out that the opposition didn’t have a coherent ideology, or commonly agreed upon principles about governance, and thus anything could happen.  Early on I predicted that the Muslim brotherhood would emerge as the ruling faction when the smoke cleared, because of their superior and coherent world view compared to the other factions.  I also said that no matter what kind of smiley faces the Muslim Brothers adopted, nor how much lip service they paid to “democracy,” once they took power religious tyranny will be the inevitable result.

 The Revolt is fueled by Hatred for the President
Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi speaks during a news conference with Turkish President Abdullah Gul after their meeting at Presidential Palace "Qasr Al Quba" in Cairo
The Odd Man Out: The hated face of the Islamist

This is exactly what happened.  The reason for the mass uprising today is that the opposition saw the Brotherhood dominated government rapidly taking steps to Islamize the country and felt they must be stopped now, before they could put their ideas into law.  They were not reassured that this would not happen even after President Morisi publicly resigned from the Muslim Brotherhood, whose party had  elected him President  with great fanfare.  Hence they are calling the role played by the military a “democratic” coup.”  The army has announced that it is acting in defense of the people, declaring itself an instrument of the popular will.

What is clear about the first uprising is that the various factions that came together to overthrow Honsi Mubarik were sleeping in the same bed but dreaming different dreams.  Now the country has been thrown into a world of confusion that could result in Civil War unless the army swiftly cracks down on any resistance by militant Islamists.  The US has no role in this, it is a purely Egyptian affair and they must resolve it.  And it could take a civil war to decide who shall rule Egypt.  It is a sad end to Egypt’s first democratically elected government…and we may yet see the same fate befall the democratically elected Islamist government in Turkey if the military is forced to step in.

There is a strong cautionary tale in all this regarding US policy in Syria, under no circumstance should Barack allow the Republican and Democratic hawks to force him into getting militarily involved…even to the extent of arming rebel factions, who are more mysterious than the various forces that comprise the Egyptian opposition.  We will be watching the situation closely: Stay tuned!


Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

July 3, 2013

For further reading: Look under the section titled War and Peace in the Middle East