Archive for the On Black Pundits Category

On The Juan William’s Mess!

Posted in On Black Pundits, Playthell on politics with tags , , on October 23, 2010 by playthell

A case of poetic justice?

Like everybody else I have heard remark on the incident, I was shocked at the summary dismissal of the highly regarded long time journalist Juan Williams by NPR because of an allegedly bigoted comment against Muslims. After I actually viewed the video clip of Juan’s statement I concluded the executive who fired him must have a hidden agenda, or she has lost her mind!

Taken in context Juan’s comments are clearly a repudiation of the anti-Muslim attitude of Bill O’Reily; his intent is unmistakable!  Hence this decision by NPR can only be viewed as a brazen abuse of power, and the response of Ms. Schiller, the CEO of NPR, to Juan’s complaint that he was never consulted about his comment by Ellen Weiss, the Vice President for News, only adds insult to injury. Schiller said he should talk to his publicist or “psychiatrist.”

The sheer arrogance of her attitude reminded me far too much of the kind of white arrogance that African Americans have had to contend with from white males throughout our history.  Hence for black Americans this incident raises the question: “Are we now going to have to go through this again with newly minted white female power brokers?” Yet even if we remove the race issue, it remains a harrowing case of management abuse of a worker which should every on air talent in the industry.  The whole affair is so disconcerting that it has led me into a position that I could never have imagined just a few days ago: A defender of Juan Williams.

Let me be candid: I detest Juan Williams!  I have made no secret of this virulent enmity; you can even see me shadow boxing and challenging him to a fist fight, threatening to whip his ass on YouTube.  My challenge was sparked by Juan’s attempt to get Professor Boyce Watkins, an Afro-American professor of finance at Syracuse University, fired from his job because he criticized Juan’s coon show antics on Bill O’Reiley’s show. Thus one could view Juan’s present predicament as poetic justice!

My disdain for the much celebrated journalist and ubiquitous commentator on political affairs goes far beyond that incident however.  It is fired by my conviction that Juan is an intellectual quisling who supports reactionary political forces that oppose the aspirations of Afro-Americans and all working people.  His long association with FOX News is, in my eyes, an indictment.

Yet it must be said that he is more often than not the oppositional voice in the discourses, offering a counter-statement to the mindless right wing drivel that passes for serious argument on FOX.  Watching him I have sometimes felt that he is like the carnival clown who holds his breath and kisses a hog because it’s part of the show.  But other times I am convinced that he has made a Faustian bargain; selling his soul to the Devil in exchange for the sweet smell of success.

Whatever is the real deal about Juan’s motivation to do the jive things he do, his firing from NPR is dangerous abuse of power by management.  For in the final analysis this is a problem of management employee relations. Is there anyone in American who is a worker that would like to be treated like that by their boss?  Ironically, this foul deed may well blow back and devour his executioners. Already the forces on the right who have long wanted to scrap NPR are sharpening their rhetoric and their knives.

We are provided a glimpse of the role bullshit and duplicity will play in the unfolding drama, when we witness Roger Ailes, the head honcho at FOX television, stepping forth and awarding Juan a Two Million Dollar Deal, which surely makes him the highest paid black journalist in America. Considering the propaganda value of the signing, it was well worth the investment.  Among the nation’s serious journalists, media critics and Journalism professors – and I have been all three – the FOX network is a joke, a shill for the most deranged elements of the Republican right.

Yet FOX advertises itself as the place where one can always find a “fair and balanced” account of the news. Thus it is not without irony that by its precipitous dismissal of Juan Williams the management of NPR has provided this bogus outfit with the opportunity to play the knight in shining armor defending free speech.  And Roger Ailes, sly old fox that he is, has made the most of it. When announcing the fabulous contract extension he awarded Juan, Ailes pronounced that although he is an avowed liberal Juan was a fine journalist and his right to speak his mind will be protected at FOX!

The problem NPR management will have in defending their decision to terminate Juan is that the overwhelming majority of Americans share his feelings on the questions of Muslims on airplanes that they are boarding.  His statement that caused all the trouble is considered reasonable by most Americans…including this writer.  It is only natural considering that we are at war with Islamic Jihadists who view airplanes as weapons of mass destruction.  Hence one has to wonder if the management of NPR is totally out of touch with what the Average American feels.  And to say that everyone who feels this way is a bigot is prime facie absurd!

A great part of the problem here is that many on the left mistakenly believe that to admit there is a real threat from Islamic militants somehow dilutes, or weakens, their critique of American aggression in the Islamic world.  But it doesn’t!  This is not an either or situation – as few things in real life are.  Not only do these two positions fail to cancel each other out, they have a symbiotic relationship.  The reason why the Jihadist want to blow up American Airliners is precisely because of American policies in the Middle East for the past sixty years.

They have repeatedly told us that they wish to kill as many Americans as possible when Islamic militant are captured.  And  they keep trying, as the numerous foiled plots verify.  Anybody who does not believe this threat is real, a clear and present danger, is either a mad man or a moron!   In our present situation being a little suspicious is not only a good thing: It could save your life! That’s why Juan enjoys broad support from the American people, and NPR is now being targeted for destruction by forces on the reactionary right.

As I write Bill Bennett, that flawed old Republican war horse, has denounced Juan’s firing and used the incident to paint NPR as some far left mass indoctrination outfit posing as an honest journalist enterprise working in the best interest of the public – whose tax dollars are funding it.  And he says he can envision no justification for spending the public purse in this way.  Demented Jim Demint, the Republican Senator from South Carolina, has already announced that he will be introducing a bill to cut off funding for NPR.  And some people are even calling for President Obama to get involved…which is the last thing he needs to be distracted by.

All of this, the entire shit storm that threatens to obliterate NPR, was precipitated by this arrogant and thoughtless decision.  If the Republicans take the congress in the coming elections as predicted, there will be hearings on this affair and the inquisitors will have subpoena power.  These reactionaries will try their best to cut the budget and even repeal the act creating the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Should they succeed in their nefarious ambitions the management of NPR will have dug their own graves, achieving what the Republican ideologues have failed to do on their own.




Playthell Bejnamin

Harlem, New York

October 23, 2010

On Moral Preachment Vs. Political Realities

Posted in My Struggle On the Left!, On Black Pundits, On Dr. Cornell West, Playthell on politics with tags , , , on August 7, 2010 by playthell

The Learned Professor West in his Element

A Response To Dr. Cornel West

Anybody who was looking for evidence that history repeats itself need only read my critiques of Dr. Cornel West since the first Bush election – when he thought it was wise to support Ralph Nader over Al Gore.  Well, we all know how that worked out. But let me declare from the outset that I consider Cornel West to be one of the most learned and humane citizens to ever call him self an American, and I agree with him 90% of the time.

As a fellow Democratic Socialist we share the same basic vision and hopes for America.  But from time to time I am forced to part company and criticize his views on a particular question.  In the past we disagreed on his assessment of the character of Dr. WEB Dubois, and the viability of Ralph Nader’s bid for theu presidency and its implications for African American political strategy.  And now I passionately disagree with his assessment of President Obama’s political strategy and policies.  It is this question that I wish to address in the present commentary.

The differences between me and the learned Dr. West derives from our ways of looking at socio/political reality.  Dr. West is a philosopher and theologian, which means he is given to grand mystical musings and philosophical speculations; whereas I rely on the evidentiary rules of the sober historian dispassionately assessing provable facts, and my strategy is determined by the cold realities of the political arena – a heartless place red of tooth and claw where grand speculators, dreamers, preachers and wishful thinkers are devoured like Christians facing the lions in the Circus Maximus of ancient Rome.  In other words Dr. West is a moral scold whose actions are motivated by what he believes is right, no matter what, and I am a political animal who is looking for the best deal I can get because politics is the art of the possible!

It’s all well and good to speak in utopian language about everybody loving each other if your work is in the church, temple. Mosque or synagogue.  There it is sufficient to speak in vague moral platitudes.  Don’t misunderstand me; I too am interested in brotherely love and Christian charity.  But in politics you have to have clearly defined earthly goals and a means of achieving your ends.

Alas in America today prayer and high minded ideals won’t deliver the bacon, this means one must  find a way to successfully put together coalitions in Congress to get the votes you need for your agenda enacted into law. This is about hard nosed bargaining i.e. horse trading….And compromise!  Such is the reality of politics in a participatory democracy.  In our system of government we debate the issues, each side takes their case to the voters, and whoever convinces the majority of the electorate carries the day.  That’s how it’s done.

In view of this reality, Professor West’s observation in the following passage from his recent NPR interview with I Cox makes no sense.

I know my dear brother, President Obama, has a bust of Martin King right there in the Oval Office, but the question is are is he going to be true to who that Martin Luther King, Jr., actually is?  King was concerned about what?  The poor. He was concerned about working people. He was concerned about quality jobs. He was concerned about quality housing. He was concerned about precious babies in Vietnam, the way we ought to be concerned about precious babies in Afghanistan and precious babies in Tel Aviv and precious babies in Gaza. 

“Martin King was fundamentally committed to the least of these. Of course, he was a Christian soldier for justice from the 25th chapter of Matthew. And so more and more black folk tend to be well-adjusted to Obama’s presidency, but does that mean they’re well-adjusted to injustice?  Because we don’t hear our president talking about the new Jim Crow, the prison-industrial complex.”

I am, to say the least, disappointed at this niggling level of analysis from one of our leading critical thinkers and activist public intellectuals.  In whose intrests was the President laboring when he expended loads of political capitol to push a national health care plan through Congress?  Something popular Presidents of both parties have attempted to do and failed since Teddy Roosevelt proposed it over a century ago!  And in whose interests was he laboring when he rammed equal pay for women into law?

Professor West, Pray tell us whose interest he served when he forced BP to establish an open ended fund to clean up the Gulf of Mexico and compesate the victims of the rig blowout, which began with a mandatory deposit of twenty billion dollars?  And this at a time when Republicans were apologizing to the oil execs and criticisizing President Obama’s magnificent deal!

It is the clear task of the intellectual left to educate the public as to the real difference between what President Obama is doing and what the Republicans advocate.  And for African American intellectuals it is an ancestral imperative!Instead we see leading intelectuals on the left, Professor West chief among them, whining about the fact that he cannot instantly address their favorite complaints, no matter that he is dealing with matters that are more important to stability and home and abroad.

Do we really want our President to be bogged down in discussions about “the prison industrial complex?” Just what country does Professor West think he’s in? The last thing on most of the electorate’s mind – black, white or Hispanic – is the plight of convicts. With black and Hispanic communities plagued by murderous criminals and dope fiends, many people believe there should be more prisons!  This writer included!!!

But then, I live in Harlem, while Professor West resides in the pristine lilly white well protected precints of Princetown.  And most white Americans certainly don’t want to hear about how hard convicts are having it when they are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table, and personally know good law abiding people – friends and family – who have lost the ability to do both.

I voted for Barack Obama, and campaigned for him with my voice, pen and personal efforts.  And he’s doing just what I want him to do.  But then, I voted for a President, not a preacher or protest leader.  The difference between what I expect and what Dr. West longs for is clear from his comment in the Playboy interview, where he wished the President was “more Martin Luther King like.”  This statement, like most of his critiques of the President, reveals that the good Professor is clueless in regard to the type of leadership the present moment requires form the Chief Executive of these United States.

This is not about rethorical moralizing; it’s about the exercise and retention of power  – which is the ability to do what you want when you want to doit, to get others to do what you want when you want to do it, and to get the most, and the best, of what ever there is to get!  Hence we need sober pragmatist who know how to keep their eyes on the prize; who see the world as it is and not how we wish it to be.  Cornel West’s evocation of Dr. King demonstrates that in spite of his prodigious learning he does not understand this fundamental point.

Dr. King was a charismatic revivalist in a mass transformative movement whose objective was to change the moral tenor of American civilization – to persuade racist whites to recognize the error of their ways in race relations and repent.  Hence his training as a theologian and philosopher was, when coupled with his verbal virtuosity as an Afro-American preacher, ideal tools for his task.  But Barack Obama is the President of the USA, a demanding job unlike any other on earth,  for which a different skills set is required.

To begin with, Dr. king did not have to seek the votes of a diverse constituency who are largely non-black in order to keep his position as head of SCLC and “leader” of the Civil Rights Movement.  But Barack Obama does.  Dr. Kings’ objective was to engage in “creative” disruptions of society in order to dramatize his point.  Which is the proper role of outside agitators, but as President Barack is the ultimate insider. So his interest is in maintaining the orderly working of society with as few disruptions as possible.

This explains why revolutionaries so often became staunch law and order advocates once they seize power.  It is in the nature of things.  One’s perspective changes with one’s position in society.  Revolutionaries are totally concerned with disrupting the existing order and seizing power; therefore the tactics they choose are suited to achieving that goal.  But once they succeed in taking power then they have the problem of governing, creating a society more fulfilling to its citizen’s aspirations that the government they overthrew. And that requires a radically different program; in their new role the old tactics are no longer useful.

Barack Obama is tasked with rebuilding the nation from the rubble of eight years of disastrous Republican mismanagement of the nation’s affairs.  It is, to say the least, a Herculean task even if all things remained equal and he received no opposition from the Grand Obstructionist Party. But our President has not been so lucky.  His task is more difficult than that of the Hebrew slaves who were ordered to build bricks with no straw, or that of Booker T. Washington in Tuskegee Alabama a mere generation after slavery  who was tasked with “building buildings in America with no money.”

Since, as Harold Cruse correctly argued, “Americans are anti-historical,’ let me remind the good Professor that when Barack Obama took office the nation’s economy was virtually crumbling around him, and he was presented with two foreign wars both bogged down in a quagmire.  And he has been burdened by a do-nothing obstructionist Republican minority, and a right-wing mass media apparatus dedicated to scandalizing his name, casting doubt on the legitimacy of his Presidency, and apparently trying to get him assassinated.

If I believed all the vicious lies they tell about him 24/7 on WABC AM and Fox television, I’d want to knock him off myself.  Then the critics on the left have been only marginally better.  Both extremes exhibit what the distinguished American historian Richard J. Hofatader calls “the paranoid style in American politics.”  After reading Dr. West’s comments the great novelist and peerless essayist Ishmael Reed has concluded in his ever insightful and candid fashion: “progressives” and their front men are out to destroy Obama just as they did Humphrey, Carter, etc. they’re staying home and pouting will lead to Republican victory and a corporate plant plain victory in 2012. Then you can forget about Social Security, Medicaid, welfare, etc.” because of progressives’ ego.”

And from where I sit this prescient brother has got a point.  Everything that President Obama has done since he took office has been to try and fulfill the promises he made to bring about substantive change that we can believe in.  And this has sparked a vilification campaign like none that I have witnessed in my lifetime.  The Republican opposition has made no bones about the fact that they have one objective: To bring Obama down.  I believe, as the courageous comic Wanda Sykes said at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner last year, what some of these crackers are doing verges on treason!

And now we hear Professor West, a moral clarion of the democratic socialist left, railing about the President being more concerned about saving Wall Street than unemployed workers.  Since I have written a piece on the subject I won’t belabor it here– for an intelligent discussion of this question see:  ‘Can President Obama solve the Unemployment Crisis?” at  The plain fact is that the only way a President can directly influence the unemployment situation is to make the federal government the employer of last resort.

Yet in the present political climate that’s impossible because there are not enough votes in Congress to pass another economic stimulus bill – despite the fact that the country clearly needs one.  In fact, the Republicans are running against the last stimulus package, although it prevented an imminent castastrophe that would have resulted in the firing of thousands of critical public sector workers all across the country and deepened the recession.  Hence to blame President Obama for high unemployment is ridiculous, and to criticize him for bailing out the banks at the same time, when failure to do so would have brought on a world wide economic collapse, is well….just plain silly!

But what is even more disturbing in Professor West’s case, his criticism seems to be sparked by the fact that he feels ignored, or snubbed, by President Obama.  Recalling an incident where he was in attendance when the President spoke, Dr. West tells Tony Cox:

“He made a beeline to me, though, brother, and he was deeply upset. He talked to me like I was a Cub Scout, and he was a pack master, you know what I mean? I said, well, my mother and father raised me right. I respect my dear brother, but I don’t like to be demeaned and humiliated in that way, and I didn’t get a chance to respond to him. And I hope maybe at some time we can. But it was very, it was a very ugly kind of moment, it seems to me, and that disturbs me because then it raises the question for me: Does he have a double standard for black critics as opposed to white critics?  Frank Rich, Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd, a whole host of brilliant, courageous critics say all kinds of things, and he treats them with respect. They get invited to the White House. I say the same thing, he talks to me like I’m a Cub Scout.” 

That Dr. West felt the need to tell this tale is bad enough, but that he did so without irony or shame on public radio is shocking!  It seems to never have occured to the self-important Professor that the three pundits he mentioned are among the best and the brighest of the punditocricy, and since they all appear on the editorial page of the New York Times, all the most powerful people in the world reads them!

On the other hand, despite his brillance – or perhaps because of it – his audience is far more limited.  And besides, precisely because he is a brilliant and broadly learned African American intellectual Barack had every right to expect him to understand what the real deal is.  And to be pissed off that he didn’t!  I know I feel like pulling a Stanley Crouch and bitch slapping him myself when I read what he says sometimes.

Yet when all’s said and done, the most disturbing development is that  on some critical questions the left’s position is becoming indistinguishable from the reactionary right. The anti-bailout hokum is a graphic case in point.  Instead of closing ranks behind our visionary and courageous President and defending him from the Tea Party Brown Shirts, employing their formidable intellectual skills to counter the relentless ideological war being waged against him on the right, the left, who appear to be content in the role of a permanent national debating society with no chance of taking power, is finding common cause with the enemy!

Yet in the face of all these seemingly insurmountable obstacles Barack Obama’s performance has been nothing short of outstanding!  I’d give him an A+ faster than the Lone Ranger could draw his gun.  While Professor West may seek salvation in some heavenly realm, I shall abide by Kwame Nkrumah’s axiom: “Seek ye first the political kingdom, and all else will be added there unto.”


An American Dilemma

Posted in On Black Pundits, On Foreign Affairs with tags , , , , on June 2, 2010 by playthell


Israeli patrol boat stopping relief ship in International waters


After the blood Bath…what now?

The horrific slaughter of unarmed relief workers in international waters, who were bringing much needed supplies to the besieged Palestinians of Gaza, has the world in an uproar and threatens to become a major foreign policy crisis for President Obama. After killing nine workers and wounding dozens of others on the Mavi Marmara – a Turkish ship that was a part of the “Free Gaza Flotilla” – the Israelis are unrepentant. This has already resulted in the Turkish government calling the Israeli actions “murder by a state,” recalling their ambassador home and canceling a scheduled joint military operation.  Turkey’s actions amount to a diplomatic disaster for Israel, since Turkey has been the Jewish state’s staunchest ally among Islamic states.

Already we can gage the outrage around the world by the swelling protests, which have come from every quarter of the globe. The European Union, which has distinguished citizens including members of parliament on board the relief boats, has roundly condemned the slaughter and is calling for it’s own investigation. The moral and legal issues are clear; all that remains is to establish the facts about what actually happened. 

What we know for sure is that this incident was inspired by the fact that Israel decided to ignore the democratically elected government in GAZA, which is headed by the dreaded HAMAS, and starve the Palestinians into submission through an economic blockade.  The Israeli plan was to make life so difficult under HAMAS’ rule that they Palestinian people would regret their decision to elect HAMAS and throw them out of office.

We Also know that the US has acquiesced in this anti-democratic policy, just as successive American governments – Republicans and Democrats – have turned a blind eye to the fact that the Israeli’s have already amassed a nuclear arsenal, even as we insist on a “nuclear free zone” in the Mid-East and threaten the Iranians who may be approaching the capacity to build one bomb sometime in the future.  And we know that no matter what crimes the Israeli government commits against the Palestinians the US government will either endorse Israeli actions or say nothing.  The Israelis know it too, that’s why so small a state has been able to ignore United Nations condemnations and thumb its nose at the world!

While all this may or may not be good for Israel, the question remains: Is this good for the USA?  This is the question President Obama must now answer. Although this incident would be disastrous for any president at any time, it is very bad news for this President at this time.  Aside from the fact that he is despised by the majority of Israelis – who don’t trust him because they suspect he is pro-Arab – militant Muslims believe he is a Zionist pawn!  Here at home the left wants him to condemn the Israeli slaughter and put this renegade ruling clique in check, but the Republican right will yell “betrayal if he does so. Hence Barack is the object of suspicions and hostilities from all sides.

It is also an unpropitious time for a crisis in the Middle East because the President is already consumed with multiple crises – the massive oil spill in the gulf Of Mexico, widespread structural unemployment and the threat of war on the Korean Peninsula among them. And he is also conducting two wars in Muslim countries who are Israel’s neighbors and supporters of the Palestinian struggle. 

As Israel’s foremost ally and sponsor, the US is automatically drawn into any conflict Israel enters into in the Middle East, and is blamed for any acts of aggression by our client state.  Hence an anxious world wonders how long the tail will continue to wag the dog while waiting for the US to denounce Israel’s actions and take the lead in seeking redress for the injured parties.  But the President says he is weighting the claims and counter claims of all parties in an effort to ascertain the facts. Yet to the rest of the world, this writer included, it appears the Middle East is burning while Barack fiddles.

By any objective analysis of the Israel/Palestinian relationship, and its effect on America’s relations with the Islamic world, it is clearly not in the US interest to swim against the tide of world opinion and give the Israeli government a pass on their decision to slaughter unarmed people on a humanitarian mission to the beleaguered Palestinians. Under any circumstances this would be a bad decision because it exposes American foreign policy as an amoral doctrine based on the concept that “might makes right,” but silent acquiescence would be disastrous for America just now, when the Obama Administration is crowing about their assassination of Shiek Sa’id Al Masri, a hero to the Jihadists who founded Al Qaeda with Osama bin Laden and is said to be third in command. 

Hence slavish US support for the Israel slaughter of innocents on a humanitarian mission to Palestine would be the best recruiting material Al Qaeda could possibly wish for; they couldn’t do better if they wrote the script themselves and spent a billion dollars in advertising! Yet if the President does the right thing for our country it might well insure him a one term presidency due to the power of the Israel Lobby.  This is the fundamental choice President Obama must make: will he stand on principle and protect American interests come what may? or will Barack bend to the pressure of special interests and inspire yet another generation of Jihadists dedicated to destroying America.




Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

June 2, 2010


On Black Pundits In White Media:Two Essays

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

 Roland Martin: An Eloquent Voice Of Reason


  Black Pundits and the Harry Reed Affair

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

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

American Studies Scholar Dr. Tricia Rose


She be dropping science!

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

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

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

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

Al Murray and Ralph Ellison

Two Cool Blues “Negroes” Chillin

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

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

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

                          Harold Cruse : The Seer                           

His Text Enlightened A Generation Of Intellectuals  

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

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




 Black Pundits Vs  Killer White Cops!


 Stanley Crouch: Off Beat and Out Of Time


 A Twisted Tale of Faustian Bargains Vs. Sacred Honor

*Another Golden Oldie

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

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

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

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

           Amadou Diallo

Shot Down Like A Dog By Trigger Happy Cops

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Demostration For Justice!

Crouch scoffs at the righteous anger of the citizenry

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

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

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

           Lt. Eric Adams

A Righteous Cop Who Cares

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

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

 A Highly Educated Sambo!


 Uncle Thomas Sowell

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

 Bob Herbert


  A Great Columnist Speaking Truth To Power

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

 Michael Meyers


A Shameless Quisling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Enigmatic E. R. Shipp

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

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

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

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

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

           The Real Deal!


   Jill Nelson: Fearless Warrior with A Pen


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

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

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

 Albert Murray


 The Brilliant Blues Philosopher at Home in Harlem

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

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

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

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

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

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


Errol Maitland: Live on WBAI

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

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

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

A Pioneering Black Pundit


Carl Rowan Conferring with President Johndon

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

               The Amadou Diallo Slaughter….


As seen by:

Steve Sack, Editorial Cartoonist, the Minneapolis Star Tribune




 *Playthell Benjamin

Commentaries On The Times

 Harlem New York

 April, 2000