Archive for July, 2016

On Blacks in the White House

Posted in Cultural Matters, You Tube Classics with tags on July 25, 2016 by playthell

barack-and-michelle-obama-fashion

President Obama and the First Lady

A Must See Documentay by Professor H.L. Gates

Serious students of history have a different, and deeper, understanding of the present. Indeed, as the great Afro-American historian Benjamin Quarles – a long time professor of history at Morgan State University and author of “The Negro in the American Revolution,” warned: “He who would understand the complexities of the present need the added dimension of historical perspective.” The video below supplies that mush need historical perspective what the election of Barack Obama as President of the USA tells us about how far we have advanced in America.

This is a much needed perspective because there are far too many black people, especially the so-called “radicals,” who evaluate everything in terms of political victories i.e. the achievement of specific policy goals. Yet the election of Barack Obama has a significance that goes beyond politics and speaks to a pscho-cultural revolution in race relations that has opened up possibilities that were unimaginable when I went off the college at Florida A&M University in the fall of 1959.

The student sit-ins began that spring of 1960, and a brash young boxer named Cassius Marcellous Clay danced himself to a Gold Medal in Rome a few months later. He would go on the become a powerful symbol of the revolt of my generation. We set out to change race relations in ths country by destroying the de jure (legal) racial caste system in which the subordination of black people and white supremacy was the law!

There was no shame in those crackers game. Well we did destroy it! And while we have not solved all of the problems confronting America, and others gave arisen over the last half century:We have come a long way baby! I know first hand of which I speak because I WITNESSED IT!!! I watched these events unfold as an activist; a soldier in America’s nuclear strike force; a professor of history; an award winning journalist; music and theater critic; broadcaster; bandleader and boxing promoter. I saw it from ALL SIDES!

This film below, produced by “The Root” and narrated by Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., Professor of the Humanities at Harvard, is a brilliant, succintly rendered, history of Afro-Americans in the White House. This is a GREAT CONTRIBUTION to the full understanding of our history in this Republic, and Professor Gates – a cultural treasure – presents a learned and moving narrative accompanied by a splendid array of photographs and paintings.

http://theroottv.theroot.com/embed/player/container/1366/667/?layout=&content_type=content_item&playlist_cid=&media_type=video&content=RNYV4J3G2YCX7N72&read_more=1&widget_type_cid=svp&referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2F

************

A You Tube Classic
Selected and posted by: 
Playthell G. Benjamin

Paul Ryan is a Shameless Charlatan!

Posted in On the 2016 Presidential Election, Playthell on politics with tags , on July 10, 2016 by playthell
Paul Ryan - charlatan
Paul Ryan: Bunko Artist

On Playing Politics with National Security

It is nearly impossible to find a principled Republican these days.  In fact, it is becoming something of an oxymoron.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in the way they routinely deal with the dangerous enigma that is Donald Trump – talking out of both sides of their mouth in an attempt to endorse him as their presidential candidate while disassociating themselves from his offensive and often anti-Republican ideas – and now their response to the FBI investigation into the E-mail accounts of Hillary Clinton.  After making much ado about nothing when Bill Clinton and Attorney Lynch had an unscheduled meeting on the tarmac of an airport where both of their planes were parked, the Republicans in Congress are now refusing to accept the FBI report and the recommendations of the FBI Director.

No one personifies this Republican duplicity more than Paul Ryan, the current Speaker of the House, a sleazy apparently amoral guy who will compromise the integrity of his office for political advantage.  This is not the first occasion that I have pointed out these flaws in Speaker Ryan’s character.  During his run for Vice-President with Mitt Romney topping the ticket I wrote four essays on Ryan.

In one essay titled “Is Ryan a Bullshit Artist” I pointed out “Ryan is trying his best to bury his intellectual debt to the atheistic Russian Social Darwinist philosopher Ayn Rand.” But “MSNBC host Laurence O’Donnell aired a video tape…recorded in 2008, where Ryan tells us that Rand is the source of his entire political philosophy; he says that she inspired him to enter politics to help realize her vision of society.  And he required all of his congressional staff to read and discuss Rand’s books “Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged.” 

“Then, with a devilish Grin,” I reminded the reader “O’ Donnell produced some rare footage of Ms. Ryan in an interview with Johnny Carson where she scoffs at the idea of God, said the family was not a necessary institution, and said the Vietnam war was and said he Vietnam war was an absurd American imperialism.  She is also on Record calling Ronald Reagan a moron!”  All of these positions of Ms. Rand contradict core Republican beliefs. Yet these blatant contradictions had no discernable effect on Mr. Ryan as he went merrily about his way like a drunken man running down the street and stumbles across the naked truth but gets up runs on as if nothing had happened.

When subjected to rigorous inquiries about his cold-blooded economic proposals Ryan said that his ideas were based on “traditional Catholic teachings” on social policy.  However it quickly became apparent that this duplicitous scam artist would find no sanctuary in the Catholic Church.  For as I reminded the reader “Catholic theologians and the Council of Bishops rebuked him for elevating the teachings of Ayn Rand on the ideal society over the teachings of Jesus Christ…If  Mitt is Mr. Chameleon  Ryan is trying his best to become “The Invisible Man.”

This is the tactic Ryan is presently employing in the Presidential race, where he is trying to support the Republican presidential race without mentioning their deeply flawed candidate’s name.  Hence he has adopted a strategy of tearing down Hillary Clinton without risking his political credibility by building up Donald Trump.  He has very much been the Invisible Man when it comes to singing the praises of Trump.

Indeed it is only when viewed from this perspective that one can understand the contrast between his extreme caution in supporting Trump with his reckless demand that Hillary Clinton be denied access to the classified National Security briefings that are given to presidential nominees…despite the fact that from all appearances she might well be the next president of the USA!

Yet Ryan has no objection to this Top Secret intelligence be given to Donald Trump – an undisciplined, unprincipled, megalomaniac and compulsive liar with the temperament of a schoolyard bully.  A joker whom Ryan finds an embarrassment and supports with the attitude of Hollywood stunt man who must hold his breath and role in horseshit because the script calls for it.

Paul Ryan would deny Inteligence Reports to Hillary

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks at his South Carolina campaign kickoff rally in Bluffton, S.C., Tuesday, July 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

And give them to this guy?

This is an act of shameless political opportunism that would compromise the national security of this country if Ryan’s request were granted.  But since such an act is the prerogative of the executive branch, which means that President Obama would have to sign off on it.  Nobody knows better than Congressman Ryan that there is no chance of this happening, so it is an act of transparent and shameless duplicity designed to gain a partisan political advantage in the presidential elections.

This is clearly the act of a charlatan who is willing to play Russian Roulette with the fate of the nation in order to win an election.  It is a good thing that the America electorate was wise enough not to put this flawed man just a heartbeat away from the presidency.

***************************

Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
July 7, 2016

What Jesse Williams Should Have Said

Posted in Cultural Matters, On the 2016 Presidential Election with tags , on July 1, 2016 by playthell

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 26: Honoree Jesse Williams accepts the Humanitarian Award onstage during the 2016 BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater on June 26, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/BET/Getty Images for BET)

Jesse Williams: June 2016

On Recieving BET’s Humanitarian Award

To the Black entertainment Network, the audience, and my wonderful parents sitting out there; thanks for inviting me, thanks for listening to me….and thanks for raising me right mom and pop; for equipping me to overcome life’s adversities and make a contribution to our community. Like it or not, those of us who have managed to achieve some measure of fame and fortune are duty bound by an ancestral imperative to use our platforms to advance the struggle for full justice on behalf of our brothers and sisters who still face racial discrimination as an everyday fact of life.

We must raise our voices in a swelling chorus and pledge our money to this herculean struggle for justice.  For that is how we have come thus far along the way – as the poet and Reniassance Man James Weldon Johnson wrote in the immortal anthem: Lift Every Voice and Sing, composed by his brother J. Rosamond Johnson in 1901, just 31 years after the abolition of 250 years of chattel slavery here in the “land of the free.”

Yet unless we fully understand the complex problems confronting us, we could end up like “Jack the Bear,” whom Duke Ellington – that indefatigable painter of Afro-American life in song – immortalized.  We’ll be making tracks but getting nowhere!  Some of our problems are obvious, like fatal encounters with the police.

Yet as horrible as it is we can envision a solution to this problem: Mandate that all police everywhere video tape every encounter with a citizen and pass a federal law requiring the states to hire Special Prosecutors to try every case involving the police use of firearms… or fatalities by any means. These measures will pretty much put an end to this problem.  But even so, alas the major danger to our lives from random gunfire remains a nihilistic, angry, uneducated young black male. The statistics are indisputable cause numbers don’t lie.

However as the prescient Afro-American sociologist and Harvard Professor William J. Wilson demonstrates in seminal texts like “The Truly Disadvantaged,” “When Work Disappears” and “The Declining Significance of Race,” we are facing devastating problems that limit our chances in life and the solutions are elusive. For these problems are deeply rooted in American history and exacerbated by the realities of a predatory economic system where Darwinian laws of the jungle prevail.  As Senator Bernie Sanders has adroitly pointed out: The big dogs are taking all the bones in a cruel environment that’s red of truth and claw. It’s a for real jungle out there!

Hence while continuing to vigorously fight the lingering vestiges of the American racial caste system we must not be so blind that we fail to see the wider struggle between economic classes.  If the US economy continues in the direction  it is headed, with runaway cyber-technology wiping out millions of jobs and no plan for the survival of workers who are rendered obsolete, it won’t matter what your race or ethnicity: we are all be in the same sinking boat!  It is this economic disaster that fuels social pathologies from widespread out of wed-lock births, drug and alcohol addiction, spiraling homicides, mass slaughters, etc.  And it is devastating the working classes of all racial and ethnic groups.

This is why silly talk about not voting, or there is no difference between the candidates, represents a dangerous intellectual laziness…or worse an impulse to cut off your nose to spite your face.   Either choice is self-destructive folly.  If I had unlimited time on this podium I could obviously say much more on these critical issues….and much more certainly needs to be said.  But as I am laboring under the tyranny of the clock I shall proceed directly to the marching orders.

The first and immediate plan of action is to defeat Donald the Clown, a vain megalomaniac and intellectual light-weight who would set our country back and endanger the entire world.  So register to vote! Get your friends and family to register to vote, and badger them to badger their friends and family to register and vote.  To put the argument in a nutshell, I shall leave you with quotes by two philosophers: One an ancient Greek, the other a twentieth century African.

“Unless you are a God or a beast your life will be ruled by politics” warned Aristotle.  “Seek ye first the political Kingdom and all else shall be added there unto,” spoke Kwame Nkrumah, independence leader and President of Ghana, the first modern African nation.  Impassioned rhetoric is fine, it’s inspirational, it makes us feel good, but if we not act its just a pity party!

For as our great ancestor Frederick Douglass warned: Where there is no struggle there is no progress….power concedes nothing without demand…it never has and it never will.  We may not always get what we pay for in this life…but we shall sure as hell pay for all that we get!  I thank you for this honor.

*****************

A Note of Clarification on My Purpose

Jesse Williams was brought to my attention by the persistent and vociferous praise for his acceptance speech upon receiving the “Humanitarian Award” presented by Black Entertainment Television. So I looked the speech up online and watched it for myself.  I found Mr. William’s to be eloquent, impassioned and poetic; the kind of verbal virtuosity that excites the emotions and fires up a crowd.  But this is what one would expect from an accomplished actor giving a great performance.   Alas, I had hoped for something different…something more.

If Mr. Williams had been allotted twice the amount of time this would have been a great closing commentary. Appeals to the emotions can be powerful adjuncts to a substantive speech, a means of inspiring people to action after a precise analysis of the problem, and clear marching orders to correct it.   Only then are powerful rhetorical exercises truly useful in waging real struggle.

I know that some will complain that I am judging the Brother too harshly, and I answer their complaints by simply pointing out that had Mr. Williams been presented this award as an actor I would have judged him as an actor and simply applauded his performance. For he certainly did what actors do and did it well.  However Mr. Williams was presented an award for his activism with “Black Lives Matter.”   It was announced that the award was given for “His continued effort and steadfast commitment

Hence his speech has to be judged by a different standard.  The question before any activist who is provided such a powerful platform, a chance to speak to millions, in these turbulent and dangerous times, is how can I make the best use of the opportunity to advance the struggle?  If that is the objective then it will determine the form and content of the speech.  The role of a movement orator is always the same: To move the masses to action with the magic power of the spoken word; what our Swahili speaking brothers call “Nommo.”

But action without a correct analysis and a plan is an invitation to chaos and defeat.  Hence as an able actor adept at tugging our heart strings and jerking our tears Mr. Williams gave a bravura performance.  But as a charismatic revivalist giving direction to a movement he was a bust.  Fortunately, all is not lost, for there is a valuable lesson to be learned here.

We will forget at our peril that actors, be they Bernie Sanders surrogates like Susan Saranden, or Black Lives Matter’s spokesman Jessie Williams, spend their working lives a vehicles for the thoughts of others; those who write the script.  Hence all Mr. William’s or Ms. Sarandon need is a good script to give a great speech that can move the masses to positive, constructive, action…not simply emotional catharsis and continued confusion.

The great Afro-American intellectual historian, cultural critic and political theorist Harold Cruse argued in his masterpiece “The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual” that the problem with lack actors is that do not turn to black writers for their scripts. It is with that objective that I suggest “Here is What Jesse Williams Should Have Said.”

(Click on Link and wait for video to appear to watch the Speech)
http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2016/06/27/actor_and_activist_jesse_williams_gave_a_fiery_speech_at_the_bet_awards.html