A Message for Democrats

by Leslye Joy Allen

About a year ago, I was interviewed by veteran broadcast journalist Maynard Eaton. One of the things I told him was that “No one ever asks educators anything.”  The recent election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old Latina who unseated a veteran Congressman for New York’s 14th District DID NOT COME AS A COMPLETE SURPRISE TO ME.  Ocasio-Cortez is a newly elected Democratic Socialist and her opponent Joe Crowley, a 20-plus year veteran Congressman, out spent her campaign by a margin of 18 to 1.  Go figure. Well, here are about five of my own observations that I think Democrats need to pay attention to:

First things first.  Women are a big trend this year.  We, women are sick and tired of being talked down to, ignored, condescended to, assaulted, raped, murdered, denied equal pay, you name it. The current administration’s open hostility to women has made it abundantly clear that more women should be and are running for office and winning.  Men might start thinking about the fact that women are the majority.  Now, many women will vote against their own interests to keep the peace in their households or to hold onto a deeply flawed belief that the needs of their particular ethnic or racial group outweigh the real problems and needs of women. A lot of young women no longer have the capacity to be that self-sacrificing; and that’s a good thing. Self-sacrificing for others has never gotten women much reward, only fatigue, frustration, and maybe a few extra flowers on Mother’s Day.

Second, women (and a few men I know) are now tired of the “Pissing Contests” far too many male candidates and political pundits make of the Democratic process. I personally find that “male competitive streak” a complete turn off.  Very little productive work gets done when a group of men are trying to out talk, out preach, out pontificate, out work each other in their quest for some top position or for some form of dominance.  This kind of competition can destroy a perfectly good social movement when hyper-masculine egos worry more about what will happen to and for themselves as individuals. Many women have adapted this masculine paradigm, but it rarely works for them.  Women work best when they celebrate those things that are uniquely female and then fight against anything and anyone who works against women’s interests. I never forget that most of the so-called “established” Black male leadership and their attendant pontificators such as Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, John Lewis, along with pundits like Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Stanley Crouch, Cornell West, and Tavis Smiley, all went out of their way to hyper-critique Barack Obama when he sought the Democratic nomination for president in 2008.  NONE of these men were Obama supporters until it became apparent that Obama would win the nomination. They were wrong over eight years ago, so I don’t trust their political instincts and I don’t like their pettiness.  Women of all races and ethnicities were Obama supporters long before a lot of men decided to join his campaign.  Right now, younger women (and by young, I mean any woman born after the Baby Boom) are successfully collaborating with each other on everything from television production to political campaigns.  All Democrats might want to take a play out of the Feminine Playbook of female teamwork if you want to get elected.

Third, the Democratic Party is still currently dominated by aging men and women that young candidates and young voters see as part of a corrupt system.  Some of these Democratic politicians are now in their late sixties or well into their seventies and they haven’t had a new idea in two decades.  However, Bernie Sanders was an older white man that reached young America, the Millennials. Young Democratic Millennial America wanted Sanders as their Democratic candidate.  My own “play niece” CeAvani who graduated Maynard Jackson High School here in Atlanta in 2017 told me that ALL of the students at her high school were “Feeling the Bern.” Democrats, hell bent on focusing on Hillary Clinton, never bothered to find out what portion of Sanders’ message and platform resonated so well with young voters and those who would soon be registered voters.

Fourth, every teacher, college instructor, and college professor you know could have told you that there were Bernie Sanders loyalists sitting in their classrooms.  One of my former students told me point blank that there were elements of Socialism in Sanders’ message.  There’s that terrifying word: Socialism.   Yet, she said, that is exactly what drew her to him. Now, none of these young people are talking about Cold War Era Soviet-style Socialism where the government owns and controls everything. Yet, they do think certain protections (like having healthcare and not drowning in Student Loan Debt) ought to be things that they shouldn’t have to constantly worry about. It is no accident that newly elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is defined as a Democratic Socialist.  I met and meet young Democratic Socialists with a variety of ideas almost every day. Yet, you can’t find any career Democratic politicians willing to examine this particular pulse in the youngest voting population in this country.  (And here’s another sidebar to remember: It wasn’t Democratic or Republican members of Congress that put the National Rifle Association on notice; it was a group of high school students, led by 18-year-old Emma González, who formed the March For Our Lives Movement because they are weary of seeing their classmates shot to death because some crazy guy could easily purchase an assault rifle. They are currently going around the country registering people to vote.)

Finally, young people, and young women in particular, are about to reshape American politics in ways no Democrat over the age of 50 has ever seen. These young people do not engage in Twitter wars of words (a waste of time, if there ever was one).  They don’t respond to or post every ridiculous comment our current president says.  They are back on the streets.  They are knocking on doors. They are going to places of business and schools and talking to people face-to-face instead of doing what lazy ass politicians do: namely, annoying everybody with robocalls. They are doing things not always covered by the news media. They have also discovered and perfected methods of campaigning where they don’t need as much money to get elected as the long term Congress People they intend to replace; and not a single current member of Congress can tell you how these young people are accomplishing any of this.  So Democrats, if you want to regain some political momentum, you need to stop acting like young people have nothing to tell you. They do.  You also need to stop thinking that the only way you should leave public office is in a coffin or an urn.  For God’s sake, please retire with some grace; and remember our young people are not supposed to think just like you and I.  If you care anything at all about them and about our future, you might consider that they are the future. They will outlive and out last us all.  They will turn the tide.

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.

 

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9+ Goals for Black Folks for the Next Four Years and Beyond

by Leslye Joy Allen

Historian, Educator, Theatre and Jazz Advocate & Consultant, Doctoral Student

Copyright © 2012 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

1.  Do not spend one dime at anything owned or managed by Donald Trump.  Trump is within his rights to dislike President Obama; he is within his rights to criticize President Obama’s policies.  He should not be allowed, however, to disrespect the office of the president simply because the person who occupies that office is a person of African descent.  He can call his behavior whatever he wants to call it, but if you are Black, you know exactly what Trump’s problem is.  Do not spend your money with him or with any person or organization that does business with him.  Here’s an extra history lesson on Donald Trump for you:  When Trump filed for bankruptcy over a decade ago because his casinos lost money, he tried to blame federal and state laws that have little control over Native American casinos.  Because Native American Nations are technically sovereign nations within the United States, states and the federal government have not exercised a high degree of regulation on these casinos when they are operated on lands owned by Native American Reservations.  Trump voiced opposition to some states and the federal government’s lack of interference and regulation of Native American casinos because he wanted to monopolize the casino industry.  What kind of a person would deny Native Americans—arguably the most oppressed group in the United States—a means of self-determination?

2.  Boycott Florida.  Keep your Black behinds off its beaches and out of its hotels.  Stay out of Disneyland.  Do not even buy Florida oranges and orange juice.  Here’s another history lesson: In 1990 White Cubans in Miami and other Florida cities designated South African leader Nelson Mandela persona non grata because he dared praise Fidel Castro for supporting him when Mandela was fighting against an apartheid system that demoralized and murdered hundreds of thousands of South African Blacks.  Do not misunderstand—White Cubans have the right to hate Fidel Castro.  He stripped many of them and their ancestors of their property in the early days of the Cuban Revolution.  Other individuals were imprisoned and brutalized.  To diminish or disregard Castro’s persecution of them is not fair.  However, many of these same White Cubans also persecuted and routinely discriminated against Black Cubans.   Moreover, when any group of people suffer persecution—particularly as long and as virulently as Black South Africans—you would think that Mandela, a man wrongly imprisoned for 27 years, would receive some level of understanding and empathy from other persecuted individuals.  Mandela did not receive that kind of consideration in Florida.

Florida has also had a lot of trouble with voting procedures.  Remember the state  needed federal and Supreme Court intervention to settle the 2000 presidential election.  Florida is also the same state that spent much of 2012 trying to disenfranchise voters to the point where it angered so many voters that they came out in record numbers to vote in the presidential election.  That number included entire communities of Latinos, African Americans, Jews, women, and etcetera.  It also took the state three days to finish counting the votes.

This is also the state where in February 2012 Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Black boy, was killed walking home from a store, unarmed.  We can grant George Zimmerman, his killer, the right to call the police and say that Martin looked suspicious.  Yet, until he actually saw Martin do something, Zimmerman should have stayed in his car as the 911 Operator told him to do.  Do you need me to keep going?  Do not give Florida your money; and demand this boycott of Florida from all Black organizations, performance artists, politicians, clergy, you name it.  We have earned the right to protect our interests.

3.  Keep your money in your pocket and in your bank account as much as possible.  Many of President Obama’s enemies think that WE Black folks only take handouts from the government rather than earning a combined $836 billion dollars a year working on a variety of jobs and in a variety of professions.  So many of the President’s enemies do not know or believe that WE Black folks place a minimum of over $500 billion dollars (or more) back into the United States economy every year.  Since so many folks assume WE contribute nothing, let us hold on to our money and spend it wisely and only with those businesses, corporations, and individuals that put something tangible back in our communities.  If you want to know where our money goes, visit: Target Market News and read the best consumer and spending reports on Black Americans on the web.

4.  Face the reality that we need to cut federal spending.  Some social programs need a serious overhaul or elimination.  For example, the Housing Voucher Program (formerly called “Section 8 housing”) demands that the people that qualify for such housing must have an income that is at least 50% less than the average income in the neighborhood where the house of their choice is located.  Rental rates are based on the average rental rates in the neighborhood where the houses are located.  Typically Housing voucher renters pay 30 per cent of that average rental rate, with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) paying the remaining 70 percent to the owner of the property.  Occasionally renters’ portion of rents are raised should they begin to earn higher salaries.  However, there is no time limit on how long an individual can remain in this kind of housing.  There is no concrete incentive in this program for participants to seek higher-paying jobs and risk disqualification from participation in the program. Even worse, if property values suddenly go up in a neighborhood where some Housing Voucher renters live, these same renters have another risk: they might be priced out of the houses they currently rent and live in.  Why continue to rent to a Housing Voucher Renter if you can acquire another renter that can afford the higher rents without the assistance of HUD?  It is time to set some limits.

5.  For that percentage of Black Americans who have problems with Latinos and other immigrants, remember that a considerable number of Latinos and other immigrants are also people with African ancestry (whether they admit it or not).  While I have certainly met many folks who would rather die than highlight or admit any African ancestry, I have also met many more who freely acknowledge and embrace their Africanity!  Many of them have lived here in this country for a long time and many others who are recent arrivals are here to stay, so you would do well to build or continue building coalitions with them and find ways to work together.

6.  Do not put up with racism, but do not hyperventilate about it either.  Some White folks are not going to change.  Stop wasting your time, efforts and energy trying to change them.  And those White folks that you know that are always so nice to you, but who always try to look the other way when you or someone else brings up a racist incident; and when they can no longer ignore what happened they try to act like that kind of incident is so unusual—Be courteous to them, but keep them at arms length.  No matter how seemingly innocuous and/or well-meaning and/or kind and/or generous they may be, any person or group of people that attempts to deny the obvious are part of the problem.  It is not your job to teach them or fix them.  No one can fix anything if one refuses to look at it for what it is.

7.  Invest in Africa!  Hell, the Chinese are already heavily invested and building in several developing African countries.  You might as well join the effort.

8.  Global Warming is not a joke; and we as a people contribute as much or more to the problem as anyone.  Read everything you can from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC)  (I have been a member for 15 years).  Study the reports on the household and cosmetic products you use at Environmental Working Group (EWG).  Make sure you read their report Pollution in Minority Newborns,” if you want to know how serious this is.  Check out my old blog “Mercy, Mercy Me: Black, Clean and Green!” plugging a younger and progressive Black man who runs a business that offers products that help clean up the environment and save you money in the process.

9.  Talk to people and listen to people who do some kind of work or express ideas that are different from the work you do and from the ideas you express and believe in.  This is how new ideas are born and it is also the best way to find out what is truly going on with people you may someday have to rely on.  I recently met a group of young academics that only socialized with each other.  These same academics also wrote some of the most useless scholarly work I have ever read.  I also have met many younger performance artists (35 and under) who do the same thing—they only interact with one another and still cannot figure out why no one comes to see the show!  If you do not communicate with folks outside your profession and inadvertently imply that those other folks’ contributions are not as important as your own contributions, then you cannot expect them to follow you or support you.  The current Republican Party and Mitt Romney’s failed presidential campaign provides a good lesson—They lost the election for a variety of reasons.  Yet, they truly lost the bid for the presidency because they only talked to each other and they believed that their opinions were the only ones that mattered; everybody else had to have been wrong.  Do not stay in the same kind of cocoon, that is unless you want to resemble the current Republican Party.

10. This line is for you to add your own personal goal.  You know what you want to do.  You know what you are capable of doing.  Do it!

Peace.

Copyright © 2012 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

Leslye Joy Allen is proud to support the good work of Clean Green Nation.  Visit the website to learn more about it: Gregory at Clean Green Nation!

Creative Commons License 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 blog, or any total or partial excerpt of this blog must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: http://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author.

Much To Do With Manhood

By Leslye Joy Allen

Historian, Educator, Theatre and Jazz Advocate & Consultant, Doctoral Student

“Weary – Self Portrait, ” Copyright © 2012 by Leslye Joy Allen. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2012 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All rights reserved.

I strongly urge every one to read “Fear of a Black President” by Ta-Nehisi Coates in September 2012’s Atlantic Magazine; and “Barack X: Race and the Obama Presidency” by Atlanta’s own Jelani Cobb posted on October 8, 2012 in The New Yorker.  These are two superior essays that deal with the shifting attitudes about race as this nation examines the record of our current President Barack Obama.  While I cannot give you an analysis of everything Coates and Cobb discussed, I can say that these essays are masterpieces by two very thoughtful Black scholars.

It is worth mentioning that Coates noticed a definitive and more negative shift in the manner in which some members of the Right viewed and spoke about Obama once he came out and stated that if he had a son that son would look like Trayvon Martin.  He also stressed that the President did not point accusatory fingers at anyone, but simply asked for a thorough investigation of the killing of the unarmed teenager.  However, Cobb beautifully and uniquely compared Obama to the late Malcolm X.  Once Malcolm X returned from his pilgrimage to Mecca and reappraised his approach to dealing with America’s racial problems, he was confronted by many people, Black and White, who were not prepared to accept his evolution into an activist that would and could build multiracial coalitions to fight for racial and economic justice.  Cobb underscored that like Malcolm X, Obama simultaneously represents different things to different sets of people, almost none of who are prepared to grant him much wiggle room to change.

In both essays Obama appears as much set free by his racial identity as he is boxed-in by it.  Although Coates and Cobb’s commentary was deeply moving, I noticed how their and others’ discussions about President Obama and the death of Trayvon Martin have so rarely focused on gender, on the very idea of manhood and even Black manhood itself.

As a self-designated Black man—and please, let us not discuss the fantasy that Black Americans are racially pure because miscegenation, during and after slavery, ended that purity—President Obama has, according to many pundits, simply not been able to publically show anger because, God-forbid, he might appear to White voters as the stereotypical angry Black man.  Black male aggression (and violence) is fine on a football field or against other Black people or in the movies.  Yet, such imagined or real aggression is not acceptable in the Whitehouse or on a street in a gated suburban enclave: that is, if you believe the late Trayvon Martin was the aggressor against neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman who pulled the trigger on Martin allegedly in self-defense.

For Black men, any demonstration of a more forceful masculinity is fraught with dangers.  If Black men act angry and are loud, they risk stigmatization as “thugs,” or worse they might conjure up that age-old stereotype, the “Black Buck.”  The “Black Buck” was almost always a villainous rapist and/or thief and/or murderer or all of the above.  The stereotype is almost as old as the American slavery that allowed White southern slave holders to manufacture it, in part, to justify Whites’ continued enslavement and persecution of Black people.  Black people en masse, but Black men in particular, Whites reasoned, needed supervision.

President Obama knows this history of Black America.  Was Trayvon Martin familiar with this history?  Does George Zimmerman know anything about this narrative?  We do not know.  We also cannot know if Zimmerman saw (or sees) himself as somehow having transcended that category known as “person of color” due to his having a Jewish father.  The media first described George Zimmerman as, “Hispanic White” or “White Hispanic,” to the surprise and confusion of many enlightened members of an ethnically and racially diverse Hispanic American population, many of who have some African and/or Amerindian ancestry themselves.

When protests over Martin’s death became a national and then an international cause célèbre, the media pivoted and identified Zimmerman as the visibly brown-complexioned man of Peruvian extraction on his mother’s side that most of us already assumed he was.  So, what does all of this mean?  Well, it means that President Obama and George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin have much in common, even if their commonality is not strikingly evident.

Obama, Martin, and Zimmerman are (and were) manipulated and trapped, by real and perceived definitions of masculinity—masculinity viewed through the prism of race and certain inter- and intra-racial expectations.  All three males are confined not only by their own definitions of manhood, but also by classifications that come from others who place certain expectations on them for reasons that have everything to do with their race and gender.

Zimmerman has a police record.—He once fought a police officer that tried to arrest one of his friends.  Such a brawl appears, on the surface, as one example of swaggering male bravado.  If Trayvon Martin did in fact confront Zimmerman—the man who was following him—he probably did so in order not to appear weak or afraid.  Remember, Martin was on the phone with his girlfriend, a young woman who told him to run.  How many boys, to say nothing of men, want to appear weak or afraid in front of women who are important to them?  While we will never have a complete account of that tragic night in February 2012, it is plausible that Martin’s flawed teenage wisdom incorrectly told him to “Stand His Ground,” pardon the pun.  How many fathers and men (and mothers for that matter) have you heard tell sons, nephews, and any male friend or family member to, “Protect yourself; protect your mother, your sisters, your girlfriends, your wives.  Do not start a fight, but do not allow anyone to push you around or run you away.  BE A MAN!”  For most of us, the opposite of being a man is to be a coward.  And then…

There was President Obama’s polished and fact-filled, but rather lackluster, performance in the first Presidential debate of 2012.  Critics rightfully thought he should have hammered away at some of Mitt Romney’s falsehoods.  Instead, Obama seemingly held back, and people on all sides of the political spectrum saw Romney as the winner.  The president appeared to many people as weak.  Was he tired?  Maybe.  Has his notoriety as being cool and level headed, restricted his responses?  Perhaps.  We do not know.  Yet, there is such a thing as being too calm or even too cautious.  I would not wish the balancing act that the President has performed for nearly four years on anyone.  However, there was something about the glee coming from many folks on the Right, that made Romney look like the Great White Hope—all puns intended—a man that had the stamina to beat a Black man.

I do not know what may happen in the next debate or in November 2012.  Perhaps everything I have written here will become obsolete in just a few days.  Yet, I do know this.  At this late stage of the game, President Obama has little to lose if he shows a flash of righteous anger.  In fact, I believe he is entitled to it.  And here is why: In a gated community in Sanford, Florida, neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman might not have followed a Black female for no other reason than her being Black.  It is easy to dismiss a Black female as harmless even when they often are not. Zimmerman did not follow Trayvon Martin because of something Martin did or was doing.  He followed Martin because of what he thought Martin might do.  And Black males always might do something, right?

I do not want to give the impression that we Black females have not been and are not subjected to some of the worst brutalities and indignities.  Yet, Black females, are too often dismissed as non-threatening simply because we are women.  WE Black women fight for our personhood, not our womanhood.  And because we are often dismissed, those of us with brains can use our inconsequentiality to get away with any number of things that Black men might be reprimanded for or killed for attempting to do.  It is no accident that it was Black females who first refused to relinquish their seats to White passengers on those buses in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 (and there were several who did it before Rosa Parks).   A Black man or boy might simply have been killed.  WE sisters have always known how to use our persecutors’ varied and negative definitions of us against those same persecutors.

Now, too many folks followed President Obama in the mistaken belief that the sheer virility of his Black manhood, with all of its alleged hyper-masculine implications, would cause the earth to spin in a different direction and the “Magic Negro” would appear and solve everyone’s problems.  Throughout history Black folks have often been viewed simultaneously as having some special qualities all the while being villainized, often by the same people.  This is not new.  When folks on the Left and the Right discovered the President to be a mere, albeit talented and highly intelligent, mortal Black man, the disappointment resonated everywhere.  How dare he defy that racialized masculine stereotype of what Black manhood must be, should be.  George Zimmerman bought into the flip side of this fallacy and followed and subsequently shot and killed an unarmed Black teenager in alleged self-defense.  He has arrived at this tragic moment in his life precisely because he mistakenly believed that the boy needed to be followed in the first place.  Yet, Zimmerman himself could not/cannot escape the stigma(s) that follow “men of color” either.  He was first conveniently a “White Hispanic.”  He became a “Brown man” the moment public opinion turned up the heat about the killing of Trayvon Martin.  So here is my message to President Obama:

Your enemies will not acknowledge your triumphs no matter how gracious you are, no matter how genteel you are, no matter how big the victory, no matter how much you love and respect your wife or spend quality time with your daughters.  Some of your allies worry that if you show any anger you will frighten someone–mainly some already nervous White folks.  But here is the dilemma, you already frighten a lot of people for reasons we all understand.  No matter how skinny or seemingly innocuous or peaceful or tempered your demeanor and responses may be, you remain a threat, a Black male threat.  (WE also know that if you had been 17-years-old in Florida and walking back from the store wearing a hoodie, you too probably would have been followed or worse.)  Now, I am not suggesting that you show up at a campaign rally or a staff meeting or a debate and punch somebody’s lights out.  I have no desire for you or any other Black man to be violent, loud or profane.  I expect decorum at all times.  However, since you are already perceived as a threat, you might as well turn up the heat.  History has shown that turning up the heat is all our enemies truly respect.  WE, your sisters, know what real dignified Black manhood looks like. WE have been warmed by it, loved by it, respected by it, protected by it and defended by it; and WE have your back!

Copyright © 2012 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All rights reserved.

Leslye Joy Allen is proud to support the good work of Clean Green Nation.  Visit the website to learn more about it: Gregory at Clean Green Nation!

Creative Commons License 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 blog, or any total or partial excerpt of this blog must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: http://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author.