The Death of Black Politics


New York Rep. Charles Rangel is among the many Black elected officials that make periodic figurative and actual pilgrimages to Israel, swearing undying loyalty. In a shamelessly groveling performance last week, Rangel took part in a Times Square press conference where he “claimed a bizarre connection between the freedom flotilla and the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.”

There is no longer any semblance of black politics left in cities and states across the country. That is to say, there is no longer a structure or movement serving the needs of millions of black people. The city, state and federal officials charged with representing black constituencies in fact do nothing of the kind. The people and institutions that pose the biggest threats to the quality of life of black voters are the very same people and institutions whom politicians depend upon to stay in office.

That deadly dichotomy was on full display last week in New York’s Times Square, the scene of a political crime. Congressman Charles Rangel joined with his colleagues Anthony Weiner, Carolyn Maloney and Elliott Engel in denouncing those who participated in the Gaza freedom flotilla. Those peace-makers were met with violent force when they were attacked by Israeli Defense Force commandos. Nine of them were killed.

The assembled congressional representatives all called for the thwarted humanitarians to be investigated before being allowed entry into the United States. No matter that some of the passengers on the Mavi Marmara and other vessels were American citizens and that one of them, Furkan Dogan, was killed as a result of receiving four IDF gun shot wounds to the head.
“There is no longer a structure or movement serving the needs of millions of black people.”

Rangel put the crassness of American political life on full display when he claimed a bizarre connection between the freedom flotilla and the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. He is facing a primary challenge in his race for re-election in November and he has to raise as much campaign money as possible. Yet even that doesn’t fully explain the spectacle Rangel made of himself.

It doesn’t matter that Rangel’s constituents do not support Israel’s human rights violations. As pointed out in Black Agenda Report, Rangel and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus are terrified of facing an onslaught of Zionist fundraising, and with good reason. In the past their colleagues who dared to step out of line and defy the pro-Israel lobby were defeated by suddenly well-funded opponents. Rangel can easily put two and two together and chose to speak words that will gain him additional campaign dollars. That degree of support is yet unknown, but shame would be added on top of shame if Rangel sold himself too cheaply.

The Rangel humiliation in Times Square is but a symptom of a larger problem. There was no outcry when Rangel trampled upon his constituents’ own political and moral convictions. But then again, there is no outcry when the New York City police department stops and frisks hundreds of thousands of black New Yorkers without probable cause either. Politicians are silent, and few citizens are willing to take part in the direct political action that might put a stop to these violations.

Politicians have a safer, surer path to re-election when they act in defiance of the people they represent. New York state legislators recently voted to raise the cap on the number of charter schools from 200 to 460 over the next four years. Now that the state has approved the slow strangulation of public education, it stands to receive $700 million in the absurdly named Race to the Top pool of funds. Once again big money wins the day, politicians see the hand writing on the wall, and the people lose out.

Rangel is one of the longest serving members of the House of Representatives but his constituents don’t profit from his seniority. He finally began serving as chairman of the Ways and Means committee in 2006, only to be dethroned due to an ethics investigation. Whether he is chairman or not, Harlem gentrification continues unabated, and black unemployment remains at high levels without being addressed by Rangel or the rest of black political leadership.

The absence of citizen action and the ever increasing pressures of big money in politics have made for a horrific combination. The lack of an organized citizenry encourages political expediency at the very least, and corruption in the worst case scenario. The success of the mediocre and crooked only exacerbates the situation.

If Rangel and his colleagues thought that they would be turned out of office for defying the public will, they would behave very differently. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. The more responsive they are to their constituents’ enemies, the more likely they are to keep and hold their positions.

It is time for the people to reawaken and force elected officials to meet their needs. Political movements must not be seen as ancient relics of the past, but as the only means of guaranteeing that our representatives are just that. They should fear destroying public education, they should be in the forefront of demanding an end to police brutality and they should not utter words of support to nations whose actions we denounce. That will only be the case if the people take the lead and tell the politicians how to follow.

MARGARET KIMBERLEY’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in Black Agenda Report. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.Com.




October 07, 2015
Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Witness to a Troubled Saint-Making: Junipero Serra and the Theology of Failure
Luciana Bohne
The Double-Speak of American Civilian Humanitarianism
Joyce Nelson
TPP: Big Pharma’s Big Deal
Jonathan Cook
Israel Lights the Touchpaper at Al-Aqsa Again
Joseph Natoli
The Wreckage in Sight We Fail To See
Piero Gleijeses
Jorge Risquet: the Brother I Never Had
Andrew Stewart
Do #BlackLivesMatter to Dunkin’ Donuts?
Rajesh Makwana
#GlobalGoals? The Truth About Poverty and How to Address It
Joan Berezin
Elections 2016: A New Opening or Business as Usual?
Dave Randle
The Man Who Sold Motown to the World
Adam Bartley
“Shameless”: Hillary Clinton, Human Rights and China
Binoy Kampmark
The Killings in Oregon: Business as Usual
Harvey Wasserman
Why Bernie and Hillary Must Address America’s Dying Nuke Reactors
Tom H. Hastings
Unarmed Cops and a Can-do Culture of Nonviolence
October 06, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Afghanistan, the Terrible War: Money for Nothing
Mike Whitney
How Putin will Win in Syria
Paul Street
Yes, There is an Imperialist Ruling Class
Paul Craig Roberts
American Vice
Kathy Kelly
Bombing Hospitals: 22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Ron Jacobs
Patti Smith and the Beauty of Memory
David Macaray
Coal Executive Finally Brought Up on Criminal Charges
Norman Pollack
Cold War Rhetoric: The Kept Intelligentsia
Cecil Brown
The Firing This Time: School Shootings and James Baldwin’s Final Message
Roger Annis
The Canadian Election and the Global Climate Crisis
W. T. Whitney
Why is the US Government Persecuting IFCO/Pastors for Peace Humanitarian Organization?
Jesse Jackson
Alabama’s New Jim Crow Far From Subtle
Joe Ramsey
After Umpqua: Does America Have a Gun Problem….or a Dying Capitalist Empire Problem?
Murray Dobbin
Rise Up, Precariat! Cheap Labour is Over
October 05, 2015
Michael Hudson
Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism
Patrick Cockburn
Why We Should Welcome Russia’s Entry Into Syrian War
Kristine Mattis
GMO Propaganda and the Sociology of Science
Heidi Morrison
Well-Intentioned Islamophobia
Ralph Nader
Monsanto and Its Promoters vs. Freedom of Information
Arturo Desimone
Retro-Colonialism: the Exportation of Austerity as War By Other Means
Robert M. Nelson
Noted Argentine Chemist Warns of Climate Disaster
Matt Peppe
Misrepresentation of the Colombian Conflict
Barbara Dorris
Pope Sympathizes More with Bishops, Less with Victims
Clancy Sigal
I’m Not a Scientologist, But I Wish TV Shrinks Would Just Shut Up
Chris Zinda
Get Outta’ Dodge: the State of the Constitution Down in Dixie
Eileen Applebaum
Family and Medical Leave Insurance, Not Tax Credits, Will Help Families
Pierre-Damien Mvuyekure
“Boxing on Paper” for the Nation of Islam, Black Nationalism, and the Black Athlete: a Review of “The Complete Muhammad Ali” by Ishmael Reed
Lawrence Ware
Michael Vick and the Hypocrisy of NFL Fans
Gary Corseri - Charles Orloski
Poets’ Talk: Pope Francis, Masilo, Marc Beaudin, et. al.
Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria