A Word For Democrats About 2020

by Leslye Joy Allen

Copyright © by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

I cannot really comment right now about the recent mass shootings because I am soul weary from it. I will write about it another day. I will only say we need to look very carefully at all candidates on this issue of gun control and the banishment of assault rifles. Democrats also better learn to really listen to young people, those Millennials who out-voted Baby Boomers in the 2018 national elections, if they want to win the Whitehouse and put a reasonable dent in the Republican-dominated Senate.

I watched political pundit Thomas Friedman talk about the possibility of Trump winning re-election on MSNBC, right after the publication of his New York Times op-ed “Trump’s Going to Get Re-elected, Isn’t He?”. It’s a chilling thought. Friedman noted that Democratic candidates for president produced some pretty radical ideas in the first debate: everything from advocating for open borders, to free healthcare for anyone who crossed our borders. He was right when he said most Americans, including many on the Left, are not going for any of this. So, after I listened to Friedman, and watched as much of the two Democratic presidential debates I could stomach, I saw several problems Democrats must overcome in order to win the White House in 2020 and possibly pick up more seats in the Senate.

Democrats must recognize that they are no match for our current president when it comes to spin. The current president is a damned reality TV star. He knows how to spin a story, create a repetitive slogan and throw his base enough raw meat to keep them snapping and cheering. If Trump (who already said as much) murdered a man in broad daylight for no reason, most of his supporters will still support him because they are, after all, frightened white people who are now forced to come to terms with what author James Baldwin tried to tell them a long time ago, mainly, that “the world is not white.” Europeans and White Americans are older than everyone else on the planet save the Japanese. Europe’s average age is 42 years old and that fact is coupled with a low birthrate.  Of course we must also consider that 13 percent of Black American men who voted for the current president too. These are the Black ass, sexist and self-defeating Neanderthals who are scared to death of women being in any kind of control to the point where they would willingly throw their own people (and themselves) under the bus in the antiquated belief that only men, and only white men at that, can get anything done…But I have not the time to digress about the current Massa’s favorite Darkies…let me get back to the demographics that matter.

When you toss in the relative youth of the rest of the world, it gets even scarier for some folks. Across the entire African continent, the average age is around 20 years old. With the continent of Africa, South America, the Caribbean, India and much of Southeast Asia containing young fertile populations, the death knell of worldwide white supremacy is ringing in many white folks’ ears. We already know the kinds of fears our current president stokes among his supporters, but we cannot spend all of our energy responding to his spin and his lies; we have to use them as fuel for some other strategy to beat him because the Democrats are never going to be able to beat him at propaganda, which leads me to something one of my young friends said. His name is John Jordan, Jr. and he’s a Black, 29-year-old entrepreneur and Morehouse College graduate. We trade ideas often.  As Joe Biden seems to be the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president, John said this:

“I’m a millenial and the one thing I know is the world has changed and will continue to change.  Baby Boomers, especially politicians try to act like they know…Biden’s entire candidacy will rest on his ability to show that as an old, white man he can listen and adapt based on what he is learning.”

John, who was mentored by a Black woman, is right. Democrats are going to have to overcome the generational gap and the intra-party gender and racial biases that threaten the best work of our most activist and youngest Congress persons, namely Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley. Our current president has continued to verbally beat up on these four women, not simply because they are people of color, but also because they are women, and young women at that. Tragically, many men of color and white men will not defend women of color whenever those men fear that such a defense will cost them their own personal connections and favor with powerful white men. Additionally, men of a certain age (along with women who’ve learned to adapt to their habits), even when they respect the abilities of women, still tend to expect to direct women. Many of the men I know well over the age of 50 (and I will exit my 50s at the end of 2020), don’t always know how to not place themselves at the center of attention or how to not always have to direct the proceedings.

In my experiences mentoring and/or doing business with well-educated Black men in their 20s to early 40s, I learned that most of them are not terrified of the word “feminist” and can accept direction from a woman, particularly if they think she has a great idea or a better idea. They do not flinch from matters that concern or affect LGBTQIA communities either, but, more often than not, recognize those concerns as inextricably tied to the fabric of our entire community. They tend to worry a whole, whole, whole lot less than their older counterparts about who is going to get the most credit and the most limelight and the most money.  Importantly, they don’t see women as competition, and are rarely as defensive as some of their older counterparts when a woman offers an honest critique. In fact, they welcome these critiques as a way to brainstorm and look for new and better ideas. While I cannot speak for other people’s experiences, I can say the young, college-educated Black men I’ve been privileged to meet and mentor are a breath of fresh air.

So, when Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden got blind-sided by Kamala Harris in the first Democratic debate about the subject of bussing, it was largely due to his underestimating Harris’s abilities at debate, and it was also due to his walking into that debate with a set of assumptions, which are, thank Goddess, becoming obsolete. The second Democratic debate became, unfortunately, one where the candidates spent far too much time critiquing Obama’s policies than expressing in clear language what they would do as president and how they would reverse much of the damage done by the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I really do not care much for Democrats savaging each other, but Harris’ one-two punch in the first debate exposed some of Biden’s weaknesses.

Young adults of all genders, women, and Black women in particular, are underestimated by a lot of Baby Boomers and older folks ALL THE TIME. It dawned on me that Biden could easily have his ass handed to him in a debate with the incoming first-year classes of all-women Agnes Scott College or all-women and historically Black Spelman College with ease. Biden wouldn’t fare too well with the students of all-men and historically Black Morehouse College either. If you don’t believe me, go visit those campuses. Go listen to them. Go sit and answer their tough questions. Better yet, go unprepared with the same old weak assumptions about what you think you don’t have to know in order to persuade these brilliant young women and men to vote for you. See what happens to you.

If Biden remains the frontrunner, and eventually the Democratic nominee for president, and the best choice for beating our current president, then there are two things he needs to correct ASAP.  First, he cannot dig in his heels and shrug off complaints about something he said simply because he feels like he didn’t do or say anything wrong or potentially offensive. I understood what Biden meant when he said he worked with segregationists because I was born in 1960 during a period when civil rights legislation was being passed, and there was no choice but to work with those segregationists.  A young man or woman born in the 80s, 90s or early 2000s would not/will not interpret his comments the same way I do.  So, he needs to get over himself enough to listen to and respond effectively to younger voters who he needs to win.

Second, Black women of all ages vote more consistently and solidly Democrat, more often, and in higher numbers than any other voting bloc. In the last election, this group voted 8 percentage points higher than the national average. Black women’s interests cannot be ignored and will be central to most Democratic victories. Black women, along with Millennials helped usher in a massive wave of Democrats in the House of Representatives with over 100 Congresswomen whose ideas and talents have been muted for far too long. Most of these newly-elected women are Millennials, with enough stamina to weather this current hate-filled political climate and most of them, if they wish to do so, will still be here 40 years from now.

I’ve lived long enough to become an elder. I relish my conversations with young Black men and women all the time. And as one told me, “We respect you because you respect us.” Whoever is the Democratic nominee for president better understand that the overwhelmingly young, Black and women voters that turned the House of Representatives BLUE in 2018 need to be listened to, not talked at. Democrats will not, cannot win without them.

Copyright © by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: https://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.

 

Of Violence and LO$$

By Leslye Joy Allen

Copyright © by Leslye Joy Allen

As the Trump administration orders and sanctions attacking immigrant women and children with teargas at the US-Mexico border, let’s consider the long term effects, not just in terms of human physical and psychological suffering which will go on for the rest of these women and children’s lives, but what it can cost the United States. I offer you two smaller historic examples: Atlanta, Georgia in 1906 and Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.

For the record, I am the granddaughter of an Atlanta Race Riot survivor. My maternal grandmother Lorena, born in 1886, was a 20-year-old student at Clark College when the Atlanta Race Riot broke out over roughly three days in 1906.  Georgia’s candidates for governor claimed that Black people, graduating from our numerous historically Black colleges, were going to take over and rule over White people in the city.  Of course there was also the usual rhetoric about Black men raping White women. So, on September 22, 1906 an angry mob of Whites began to attack Black people and Black businesses in Atlanta’s downtown area.  I won’t bore you with the details except to say that my grandmother and Black scholar, W. E. B. DuBois basically said the same thing: If White folks began the riot against Black people, it was Black people who ended it. Everybody who was Black bought or stole a gun.  By September 24 the riot was over. Black Atlantans did not just fight back, they shot back. My grandmother remembered the sounds of gunfire well into the night. Grandma roomed with a lady and her small daughter on Thirkield Avenue near where the original Clark College campus used to be, long before any colleges and universities in Atlanta had dormitories.  You can read more about the riot here: Atlanta Race Riot of 1906

As Atlanta’s population shrunk, due to deaths as well as from people who fled the city in the aftermath of the the riot, the City Fathers—always, always keeping an eye on business—vowed to never let anything like this happen again.  They weren’t playing.  They created interracial coalitions, successfully defended a Black man charged with the rape of a white woman who misidentified him as her assailant—and he lived to tell about it!  From that point on, measures were taken not to make Black people socially equal, but to insure that the city didn’t descend into violence and chaos…Now, take Birmingham, Alabama.

In a nutshell, when Commissioner Bull Connor ordered Birmingham’s fire department to turn its hoses on innocent Black children and adolescents and ordered the police to unleash dogs against Black protestors, the whole world saw it unfold on television. Whatever steps Birmingham took to alter this image were minimal; and the city went from being the number one industrial city in the South to being abandoned by businesses that would not, could not operate in a city filled with violence and destruction.  Birmingham survived, but it never fully recovered nor regained the title of industrial giant. You can watch a couple of quick videos about this here: Bull Connor used fire hoses, police dogs on protestors (May 3, 1963) (videos)

So, what is my point. Because Trump ordered the US Military and Border Patrol to unleash tear gas on innocent immigrant women and children at the US-Mexico border, the entire nation suffers. In addition to these actions being immoral and inhumane and illegal, it also sets a precedent that will inevitably provide other nations the excuse to mistreat and mishandle US citizens once they set foot on foreign soil. It also tells major corporations that the United States is not safe to do business in.  If Trump supporters—and there are many of them—don’t give a rat’s ass about people of color, that’s their prerogative.  Their hatred is nothing new; and people of color have neither the time to pray for or worry about converting “the unconvertable” to anything resembling people with basic human decency.  These are not and never have been rational people. Yet, in addition to these immigration policies being heartless and cruel, these policies are really, really bad for business.

The white business people who court and bait white racists and xenophobes and sexists and misogynists of all colors and ethnicities, along with the white politicians who tell these white masses that their world is coming to an end—because people of color are ending it—have proven for centuries that Money is their God. In a week where General Motors announced its laying off 15,000 American workers while the company enjoys a Trump tax cut; in a week where Trump is attempting to build a wall at the US-Mexico border and doesn’t have any way of forcing Mexico to pay for it; in a week where Mueller’s Russia investigation seems to have Trump constantly spinning the news and tweeting endlessly, I hope the folks who follow/ed Trump, who are so easily duped every single time, I hope they can learn to live with less money.  They could, very soon, find out the true cost of hate—the only cost any of them ever understands.

Copyright © by Leslye Joy Allen

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: https://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.

 

A Good Day In Court

by Leslye Joy Allen

Recently I went to court on a routine traffic offense.  Last year, I pleaded “Not Guilty” to this offense and requested a trial.  There is/was no way in hell I was going to roll over for some cop sitting near a corner on a street where the Stop Sign was and remains completely obscured by an oak tree.  Well, after the City of Atlanta finally transferred my ticket to Fulton County Courts—for those of you who don’t know, most of our city is located in Fulton County, Georgia—I arrived on time and anticipated having a long stay.  Well, something different happened.  The Solicitor General of Fulton County, Keith E. Gammage walked in the courtroom.

Gammage told all of us that we were the first group to participate in a brand new program.  This was its first day.  He noted that many of our tickets could possibly be dismissed, and that the Solicitor General’s Office wanted to prosecute real criminals rather than tie up its time with cases involving minor offenses like “failing to yield.” Then the next thing he said floored me.  All offenses for everyone’s minor traffic violations would be reduced to a fine of $75 dollars rather than the $250 to $450 plus dollars that most of us expected to pay if found guilty. My fine, had I been required to pay it, would have been $265.  Gammage stood there and answered everyone’s questions about what plea they should enter to what did they have to do if they couldn’t pay that $75 on their day in court.  Everyone with this $75 fine would have a full 30 days to pay it.

While seated in court and waiting for my name to be called, I made small talk with a Spelman College alum who was also a teacher.  I told her about my dissertation research; and when I discovered that she was a Kindergarten teacher, the conversation shifted to my late Mama (also a kindergarten teacher) and we laughed about some of the crazy things that five-year-olds can do and say.  I mentioned to her that I voted for Keith E. Gammage for Solicitor General after attending a conference devoted to the late Sandra Bland, who tragically died in jail for failing to put her blinker on.  Bland was ordered out of her car by a cop that resented her asking him why she had to put her cigarette out.  My brilliant performance artist-writer-educator-poet-actor-activist-sister/daughter Talitha Anyabwelé organized a “Sandy’s Day” program in her honor.  A young Black woman on Anyabwelé’s panel of speakers named Anana Harris Parris brought up Keith E. Gammage’s name as someone who wanted to help straighten out our criminal justice system.  This same young woman, who worked for a law firm, recalled in vivid and horrid detail how she had been stopped by police one night right in front of her parents’ home when she was a college student. Ms. Anana Harris Parris was physically searched and had her breasts groped by a male police officer right in front of her home.  So when Anana Harris Parris brought up the name Keith E. Gammage as a young Black man trying to do the right thing, I remembered his name…So

as I sat in court, Mr. Gammage looked in my direction, walked over to me and said, “Didn’t I meet you before?”  I honestly don’t know why or how he remembered me.  I told him we did meet over a year ago at a coffee shop in our neighborhood when he was out campaigning to become the new Solicitor General of Fulton County.  We exchanged pleasantries and he handed me his business card.  He resumed wallking around the courtroom.  I turned back to talk with my Spelman sister and told her that I thought he was an impressive young Black brother trying to do the right thing.  She confessed that she was worried about being in court all day.  I totally understood her point of view. When you plead “not guilty” or don’t just pay the fine, the City of Atlanta and Fulton County drags the process out.  Just as she was beginning to worry about having to go out to put money in the parking meter, Keith E. Gammage pulled her aside to speak with her.  When she came back to where I was seated she said that he found out she was a school teacher and since her offense was so minor it was dismissed.  “After all,” he said, “Your money is best spent on the things you need to teach our kids.”  Everyone in that courtroom had only $75 to pay (well below the $250 to $450+ original fines) within 30 days or no fine to pay at all; and for a change being an educator was treated with the respect that it deserves.  Remember the name of Keith E. Gammage because this court date/my court date was one of the very few times it was pleasant.

Copyright © by Leslye Joy Allen.

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: https://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.

Out of the Fog: A Christmas and New Year’s Wish

Photo of Bank of America Building by
© Leslye Joy Allen

By Leslye Joy Allen

Copyright © 2017 by Leslye Joy Allen

While driving in the early morning hours in my beloved city of Atlanta, I saw the usual signs of city growth:  traffic that can make a Nun cuss, shiny new buildings, massive construction everywhere, people bustling off to work, school and the airport, and homeless people huddled under bridges.

When I witnessed the top of the super large Bank of America Building on Peachtree Street, its steeple-shaped illuminated top seemed to hang in the air in our unusually heavy fog.  If I did not know anything about this building or if I was a kid with a vivid imagination, the sight of that lighted steeple would have given me the best fantasies of flying saucers and aliens.

As I took that quick snapshot of the top of the Bank of America Building it made me think of the Star in the East.  Even when I looked at the top of this building and recognized it in the distance, I knew that what I saw was only one component of the building.  Maybe it was the brightest component, certainly the top of it.  But it wasn’t hanging in the air by itself.  So here is something to think about:

Puerto Rico, Dominica and St. Johns, Virgin Islands still have no electricity. There will be no Christmas lights and there probably will be no lights on New Years’ Eve.  These tan and brown and black human beings have been without power for over 14 weeks at this writing.  And just like the homeless in downtown Atlanta, many folks stay on these islands to protect what little possessions that they have left after hurricanes.  They take cold showers when they can, and eat food prepared from makeshift kitchens.  You may not give a damn about any of this because it doesn’t directly affect you, but it actually does. You may not care about all of these people of color, but you will because they are necessary in ways you may never have imagined.  Remember, no one gave a damn about a homeless brown couple–with the wife being very pregnant–in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago, either.

For much of the past year, many of us have whined and moaned about the current state of affairs in Washington, D. C.  We have often exhausted ourselves with tales of political misconduct and malfeasance and sexual impropriety.  We have listened to racist, sexist, homophobic, and misogynist rhetoric.  And at times, I have to say, I wondered when (or if) anyone was going to get tired of feasting on all of it.

It’s not that these evil things don’t exist; they do!  Yet, in our well-meaning attempts to publicize many of these problems, we often perpetuate our own lack of resolve to change any of it simply by believing that ranting about it on social media does anything more than help us blow off some steam. We often forget that much of this nation is built off and on the backs of people who now lay on the streets in cities all over the nation and throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.  In 2018, let’s plan to get out and stay out of the fog long enought to recognize the rest of the building; and that the top cannot and never has stood without the support from all those floors and a steady foundation.

That’s it for the year folks. If you didn’t understand this post, I’m sorry, but that’s it. I’m tired, happy, at times anxious, exhilarated by our capacity to triumph, glad about the women who no longer ask permission to be great or to do the work they were born to do. I know we can change anything we want to change.  But we can’t do any of it in a fog.  Peace.

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: https://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

A Messed-Up Religious Narrative

by Leslye Joy Allen, Copyright © 2016. All Rights Reserved.

“Self Portrait” by Copyright © 2015 Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

“Self Portrait” by Copyright © 2015 Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

On Easter Sunday morning, 27 March 2016, I received a rather cryptic text message from Facebook.  It read as:

“Facebook Safety Check: Are you affected by the explosion?

Reply SAFE if you’re ok or OUT if you aren’t in the area.”

I got nervous.  I went online to look up if there had been any explosions.  I did not find anything on the Internet that said anything about a recent explosion.  I found older stories about bombings and terrorist attacks in other parts of the world from last year, but not one for Easter Sunday in 2016.  Then I really got paranoid…

I rarely use my smart phone for anything other than an occasional phone call.  I almost never use apps—don’t exactly trust them—and I was slightly worried that this Facebook text might be some hoax going around to see how many people would respond to such a strange message.  If I respond, I thought, I am going to end up with some computer virus…

Reluctantly, I replied “OUT” to the Facebook text. Whoever (or whatever) sent the text would know that I was not in or near this explosion wherever it was, I thought to myself.

I checked the Internet again in about an hour.  The news reports began coming in, stating that some group of Muslim terrorists was claiming responsibility for an explosion in Lahore, Pakistan that killed a minimum of 72 people, and injured over 300 people who were celebrating the Christian holiday of Easter, which commemorates the resurrection of Jesus (Yeshua), the Christ.  The murder of Christians by Muslims would again frame much of the news coverage. The religious narrative would—at least superficially—be a Muslim versus Christian narrative.  That narrative is messed-up…

I have never visited Lahore, Pakistan.  Yet, one of my former professors was born there. Indirectly, my association with him, a man who I consider a mentor and good friend, has introduced me to many people located in or from Pakistan.  I am proud to say that I have given academic advice and encouragement via my Facebook inbox to many young men in Lahore who are either going to college or planning to attend graduate school.   So, Facebook, for what it is worth, obviously assumed that I, an African American woman who is from and located in the United States, might actually be located in or near Lahore, Pakistan.  This time Social Media’s interpretation of who (or even what) I was taught me a lesson via an obvious scan of my Facebook Friend list…

I am not Muslim.  The natives of Pakistan that I personally know and those I am in contact with are all Muslims.  They are Muslims who constantly pray for peace, and who condemn the heinous acts of extremists and terrorists, and who also speak out against racism and sexism and religious intolerance. The American news media, however, has conveniently forgotten to tell Americans that the splinter group that broke away from the Taliban, named “Jamaat-ul-Ahrar,” killed as many Muslims as it has Christians. In fact, the majority of those Pakistanis who died in the attacks on Easter Sunday in Lahore, Pakistan happened to be Muslim.

CNN’s provocative and rather misleading headline was “In Pakistan, Taliban’s Easter Bombing, targets, kills scores of Christians.”  To be sure, scores of Christians died in that awful attack.  Yet, to ignore the random acts of violence by groups like this (including ISIS or ISIL) that have, honestly, killed more Muslims than Christians is to perpetuate a religious narrative that can get us all killed, have all of us turning on each other instead of talking to each other.

If you have half a brain, you know that to single out any group of people as the sole source of your problems is to also invite a group (any group) outside of that definition to do all manner of harm to you.  This all reminds me of the time when one of my history students hipped me to a video where all of a particular department store’s security guards were watching all of the store’s African-American customers.  Yet, while those same security guards were scrutinizing the Black customers, there was a small band of White patrons who were shoplifting at the store. 

I am only a historian and academic.  Yet, I am one who knows that when people do not do their research, when they fail to look below the surface, when they do not think outside the box, when they succumb to easy answers and easy stereotypes because those stereotypes make them feel safe or superior, all of us suffer.  With an Internet that contains volumes of information—some tainted information, and some that is accurate—there is really no excuse for you or I not knowing anything and not questioning those easy answers that our bought-and-paid-for media and politicians and pundits hand to us on a regular basis.  

Do not be a fool.  Do your work.  Do your research.  Now some people reading this will be upset or annoyed by my comments.  Religion for many people is, after all, a cultural, national, and often racial marker.  After all, the first terrorists my people knew were so-called Christians wearing sheets, lynching and torturing Black bodies and burning crosses on Black families’ lawns.  I would hate to think about my ancestors enduring that on Easter Sunday.   Àṣé!

Leslye Joy Allen, Copyright © 2016.  All Rights Reserved.

 

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.   Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: http://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.