Earl Ofari Hutchinson:
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Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a noted author of nine books about the African American experience in America. His numerous published articles appear in newspapers and magazines across the country as well as some of the most popular web sites on the Internet. He is a radio host and TV commentator. He  has received several awards for his writings.


Obama Should Repudiate and Cancel His Gay Bash Tour, and Cancel it Now

October 21, 2007

Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama ripped a page straight from the Bush campaign playbook with his announced upcoming three date barnstorm tour through South Carolina with notorious gay basher, gospel singer Donnie McClurkin. The Grammy winning black gospel singer’s last effort on the political scene was his song and shill for Bush’s reelection at the Republican National Convention in 2004. Obama has hitched his string to McClurkin’s high flying gay bash kite in part out of religious belief (he purports to be somewhat of an evangelical), in bigger part because he’s falling further and further behind Hillary Clinton with the black vote in South Carolina and everywhere else, and in the biggest part of all because he hopes that what worked for Bush’s reelection will work for him. Enter McClurkin. He’s black, he’s popular, and gospel plays big with blacks in South Carolina, especially black evangelicals, and many of them openly and even more of them quietly loathe gays.

Bush masterfully tapped that homophobic sentiment in 2000 in part with McClurkin and even more masterfully in 2004 again with McClurkin and the top gun mega black preachers in Ohio and Florida. He tapped it so masterfully that Bush‘s naked pander to gay bashing with the GOP spawned anti- gay marriage initiative in Ohio did much to win over a big chunk of black evangelical leaning voter to Bush.
In fact, the great untold story of the 2004 presidential elections was the black evangelical vote. Although black evangelicals still voted overwhelmingly for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, they gave Bush the cushion he needed to bag Ohio and win the White House. There were early warning signs that might happen. The same polls that showed black's prime concern was with bread and butter issues – and that Kerry was seen as the candidate who could deliver on those issues – also revealed that a sizeable number of blacks ranked abortion, gay marriage and school prayer as priority issues. Their concern for these issues didn't come anywhere close to that of white evangelicals, but it was still higher than that of the general voting public.

A Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies poll in 2004 found that blacks by a far larger margin than the overall population opposed gay marriage. That raised a few eyebrows among some political pundits, but there were much earlier signs of blacks' relentless hostility to gays and gay rights. A survey that measured black attitudes toward gays published in Jet magazine in 1994 found that a sizable number of blacks were suspicious and scornful of them. Many blacks also were put off by Kerry's perceived support of abortion. In polls, Kerry got 20 percent less support from black conservative evangelicals than Democratic presidential contender Al Gore received in 2000.

In Florida and Wisconsin, Republicans aggressively courted and wooed key black religious leaders. They dumped big bucks from Bush's Faith-Based Initiative program into church-run education and youth programs. Black church leaders not only endorsed Bush but in some cases they actively worked for his re-election, and encouraged members of their congregations to do the same.

This lesson isn’t lost on Obama. Desperate to snatch back some of the political ground with black voters that are slipping away from him and to Hillary; Bush’s black evangelical card seems like the perfect play. Obama wouldn’t dare go down the knock gay path, and risk drawing the inevitable heat for it, if he didn’t think as Bush that anti-gay sentiment is still wide and deep among many blacks.

And that’s what makes Obama’s ala Bush pander to anti-gay mania even more shameless and reprehensible. From the moment that he tossed his hat in the presidential ring, Obama has done everything he could to sell himself to voters, as the Man on the White Horse, a fresh new face on the scene, with new ideas, and the candidate that’s not afraid to boldly challenge Bush and the GOP on everything from the Iraq war to health care. He’s also sold himself as a healer and consensus builder. Legions have bought his pitch, and have shelled out millions to bankroll his campaign. But healing and consensus building does not mean sucking up to someone that publicly boasts that he's in "a war" against gays, and that the aim of his war is to "cure" them. That’s what McClurkin has said. Polls show that more Americans than ever say that they support civil rights for gays, and a torrent of gay themed TV shows present non-stereotypical depictions of gays. But this increased tolerance has not dissipated the hostility that far too many blacks, especially hard core Bible thumping blacks, feel toward gays.

Obama has spent months telling everyone that he's everything that Bush isn't. He can proof it by saying a resounding no to McClurkin and to gay bashing. He can repudiate and cancel the South Carolina “gospel” tour, and do it now.

 

Will They Arrest Britney
in Mansfield for Sagging Pants?

September 5, 2007
 

It’s a good thing that Brittany was at the MTV TRL show in London a year or so ago and not in Mansfield, Louisiana when she pranced across the stage with her pants slung low around her behind. If Spears had dared to show so much belly and behind flesh in the town on September 15 she would be fined $150 and tossed in the slammer for 15 days. But we all know that the screwy, harebrained law that the fashion censors in Mansfield and a handful of other Louisiana cities passed in recent years that mandate fines, community service, and now jail time for sagging pants wearers don’t really apply to the male or female Brittany’s of the world. They apply to young black males. The laws are much more than a terribly wrong headed effort to regulate public dress, decency, discipline, or moral values. They reinforce the worst media and publicly ingrained stereotype of young black males as drug dealers, drive by shooters, gang bangers, and educational cripples.


Sagging pants are an easy and convenient symbol of the supposed dereliction and menace of young blacks. The consequence of that symbol and thinking has been devastating. Despite the plummet in crime rates, racial stereotypes have deeply embedded the popular and terrifying belief that crime in America comes exclusively with a young, black male face. The result: nearly one million blacks are now warehoused in America's jails, the majority of them young blacks, and a significant number of them are there for non-violent, petty drug crimes.

Sagging pants are such a soft and juicy target for the scapegoat of young black males that even comedian Bill Cosby couldn’t resist taking a swipe at it and them in his now legendary tirade a couple of years ago against low achieving, bad behaving young blacks. He fingered sagging pants as proof to him that they had become a menace. Cosby later made a partial recant of his knock and explained that it was a call for action and not a broad brush stroke indictment of all young black males. But it was too little, too late. The sagging pants equals black male perversity notion was even more firmly imprinted in the public psyche.

Though Cosby is one of the best-known blacks to fan negative racial stereotypes, he's hardly the only one. Despite much evidence to the contrary, many blacks routinely trash, demean and ridicule themselves. In fact, it was the African-American councilpersons in Shreveport, Mansfield and the other small towns that dredged up the ridiculous sagging pants laws. Some blacks in the rap and hip-hop world, of course, are deeply complicit in fanning the stereotype. The rap moguls have reaped king's ransoms peddling their music-video-cartoon version of the thug life. The rebellious young of all colors that shell out billions to enrich them are almost totally mindless of the social complexities, and the artistic and intellectual richness of the black experience. Even more tragic, some blacks further bolster the thug life stereotype by committing or winding up as victims of violence. The murders of rap icons Tupac Shakur, and Notorious BIG have been the stuff of cheap media sensationalism.

The spate of sagging pants laws does even more social damage than just reinforcing vile stereotypes and potentially swelling the jail population. It also confirms for many that the problems of poor blacks are self made and insoluble. Many employers admit that they won't hire young blacks because they believe they are lazier, more crime prone, and educationally deficient. Many politicians, even without the excuse of ballooning state and federal budget deficits and cutbacks, mightily resist efforts to increase spending on job, health and education programs for the poor.

In Shreveport, where the sagging pants law passed by a narrow four to three vote, the opponents raised the standard arguments that the law infringes on personal and freedoms, probably violates free speech, free expression constitutional protections, and will overburden police and the courts by forcing them to waste valuable time and resources measuring the hem line on pants when they should be about the business of dealing with serious crimes. The opponents of the law though didn’t raise any protest that the law won’t provide jobs, skills training, fix failing schools, and provide greater mentoring and family support programs for young black males.

The sagging pants law has been the butt (pardon the pun) of jokes, and much ribald fun poking. But stereotypes and bad social policy are no laughing matter. The city fathers and mothers in Mansfield, and the other towns that foisted the law on their books should stop the craziness, realize that this law solves no problems, and wipe it off their books. That is before some other cities are tempted to follow their lead and make themselves look silly and pass this crazy law too. That is unless they plan to arrest Britney for her bottom dragging pants.

Earl Ofari Hutchinso's new book is The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press and Hispanic Economics New York) in English and Spanish will be out in October.

 

Snatching at King's Legacy
January 9, 2006

The scramble to snatch and grab a piece of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy has not diminished one bit in the twenty years since the first King national holiday was celebrated. Ironically, Ronald Reagan was the first to grab at it. Reagan fought tooth and nail against passage of the King holiday bill. After insinuating that King was a Communist, Reagan signed it only after Congress passed it overwhelmingly, and virtually insured that the bill was veto proof. But then Reagan reversed gears and apologized to a deeply hurt Coretta Scott King, King’s widow, and effusively praised King as a champion of freedom and democracy. Reagan said that King’s struggle for equality was his struggle too.

During the furious battles that raged over affirmative action in the 1990s, conservatives snatched a flowery line from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and boasted that he would have opposed racial quotas, preferences, and by extension affirmative action if he had lived. It was a wild stretch. King almost certainly would have been a vigorous supporter of affirmative action if he had lived. But in his speeches and writings, he also stressed personal responsibility, self- help, strong families, and religious values as goals that blacks should strive to attain.

In the late 1960s when King denounced the Vietnam war, embraced militant union struggles, and barnstormed around the country blasting wealth and class privilege, the red-baiters and professional King haters branded him a Communist. The Lyndon Johnson White House turned hostile. Corporate and foundation supporters slowly turned off the money spigot. The NAACP, Urban League, black Democrats, and some in King’s own organization turned their backs on him. During his last days, King spent much of his time fund raising and defending his policies against the critics within and without his organization. The back biting, carping of and backpedaling from King not by his enemies, but by some of his one-time friends and supporters got worse when he railed against the penchant for lavish personal spending, luxury apartments and fancy homes by some of his group’s staffers.

In his last installment on King, At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68, Taylor Branch tells how King stormed out of a planning meeting on his Poor Peoples March in fury at the attacks at him by some of his top aides who wanted to scrap the March. The issue of uniting masses of poor people for economic uplift, smacked of class war, and was just too risky and dangerous. The fear was that it would hopelessly alienate their Democratic Party boosters. King was unfazed by their criticism and hurled another broadside at them for their personal egoism, selfishness, and opportunism. King’s civil rights friends weren’t the only ones that took shots at him.

Many black ministers joined in the King bash. At the National Baptist Convention in 1961, then and now the largest black religious group in America, King and a band of dissidents challenged the Convention’s leaders to give more active support to the civil rights battles. They wanted none of that. They flung un-Christian like threats and insults at King and the civil rights advocate-ministers, engaged in fisticuffs with them, and slandered King as a “hoodlum and crook.”

When the dust settled, King was summarily booted out of the organization, and set up a rival ministers group. Even after King’s death, and he took his place among America’s heroes, many black ministers still remained stone silent on the assault on civil liberties protections, the gutting of job and social programs, and U.S. militarism. These were all issues that King relentlessly and loudly spoke out against when he was alive. In an even more insulting twist, many black ministers, and that included one of King’s daughters, shamelessly and unapologetically evoked King’s name to pound gay rights and same sex marriage. There’s not a shred of evidence that King would have been a gay rights opponent. Coretta even demanded that one group of ministers cease using his name to back an anti-gay referendum in Miami a few years ago. Yet they still snatch at his legacy and hail King as one of their own on the King holiday.

Then there’s the King holiday. Though many corporations and government agencies plaster full- page ads in black newspapers that extol King on his holiday, and tout how much he’s done for them, the King holiday is still rock bottom among the national holidays that business and government agencies observe. An annual survey by BNA Inc., a Washington based business news publisher, revealed that about one-quarter of businesses give their workers a day off with pay. That number pales even in comparison to the next least celebrated holiday, Presidents Day.

King is no different than other towering historical figures, especially those that had the bad fortune to fall to an assassin’s bullet. The hypocrisy, mythmaking, embellishments, and outright distortions, quickly kicks in about them. Everyone wants a piece of the fallen legend to puff up their importance and whatever social and political ax they seek to grind. Fortunately, King’s legacy is still big and wide enough to snatch chunks of.


Remember Cochran For More Than O.J. Simpson
March 30, 2005

The defining moment for me in the O.J. Simpson trial was not Simpson’s acquittal and the firestorm that it ignited nationally. It was a note I got from an associate in Johnnie Cochran’s law firm. He said that Johnnie wanted me to know that he admired my comments in the case. I was one of the legion of talking head analysts during the trial, and like many of the other analysts, I was skeptical, even critical, of some of Cochran’s legal maneuvers.
 
I thought he badly overplayed the race card in the case, and deliberately played to the anti-police sentiments of some of the black jurors. But Cochran still went out of his way to pay me the compliment. I then paid even closer attention to Cochran’s arguments and presentation in the trial. By the end of the trial Cochran convinced me that there was more than enough reasonable doubt to acquit Simpson. Most legal experts that worked with him and battled against him in major criminal and civil cases in the more than four decades of his legal career, agreed that Cochran was more than a flamboyant, race conscious, courtroom showman. He was a consummate legal professional that sought to use his prodigious legal talent to defend the rights of the poor and the dispossessed.
Cochran set a lofty standard for advocacy law that influenced a generation of criminal and public advocacy attorneys.

He was deeply influenced by the monumental legal battles that civil rights legend Charles Houston and Thurgood Marshall fought against segregation and police violence. Cochran publicly credited them for inspiring him to champion civil rights causes in the courtroom Cochran stamped his biggest imprint on the volatile issue of police abuse. In 1965, Cochran defended Leonard Deadwyler, an unarmed black motorist shot by an LAPD officer while he was taking his pregnant wife to the hospital. The LAPD had long been recognized by many as America’s poster police department for brutal treatment of blacks. Deadwyler was the latest in the legion of blacks that had been shot by the police under dubious circumstances. During the coroner’s inquest into the Deadwyler killing that was televised, Cochran riveted public attention on the LAPD’s policies and practices. The officer was exonerated, but Cochran’s skill at fingering police abuse heightened public awareness of racism, police violence, and the need for major reforms in police practices.
Over the years, Cochran’s fame and reputation grew, and he got richer in the process. Yet, he still continued to battle police abuse. He waged a quarter century fight to free Black Panther Elmer Geronimo Pratt who was falsely convicted of the murder of a white woman in 1972. Cochran exposed how the government used paid agents to frame black militants and disrupt black organizations.

Pratt was released in 1997. Cochran repeatedly said the Pratt case and victory was the defining moment of his career. But the case was an extension of his relentless fight for justice in the courts.

The Simpson case was yet another example to Cochran of how a black defendant, even a rich black celebrity defendant such as Simpson, could be victimized by the criminal justice. The issues again were racism, and police misconduct.

Cochran did not, as I mistakenly believed, play on race to manipulate the jurors and get Simpson off. He meticulously picked apart the flaws, contradictions and inconsistencies in the prosecutions case. The case was won on the evidence or lack thereof, and not race, and Cochran paid a steep price for his skill.

Much of the public enraged at the verdict, blamed him for letting a murder skip away free. Cochran would spend the next decade in the case, in speeches, two autobiographies, and several articles explaining his action in the case.

In those years I would occasionally see Cochran at different functions, and each time he did not duck the thorny issues in the Pratt, Simpson and the other police abuse cases that he was involved in during his career. The audiences always sat in rapt attention, and when he finished they would leap to their feet in sustained applause to show their deep appreciation and admiration for his work.

In his final years, Cochran railed at the Bush administration for trampling on civil rights in the war on terrorism. In one of his last major speeches at the mostly white, upper crust Commonwealth Club in Los Angeles in 2002, Cochran blasted then Attorney general John Ashcroft for eroding civil rights and warned, “They’re not going to say later, hey, you know, we’re just taking those for a little while until we work this little problem out.” Cochran understood that civil rights were not a “little problem” but were precious commodities that had to be safeguarded at all costs, and that the Bush administration imperiled those rights. That’s why Johnnie Cochran should be remembered for much more than O.J.

 


Revisiting The Malcolm X Assassination
February 23, 2005

Forty years after the assassination of Black Nationalist leader Malcolm X the question still dangles: Why was Malcolm X murdered? The easy answer is that his murder was a revenge killing for the bitter and contentious attacks he made on his former mentor and father figure, Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad. Louis Farrakhan, then known as Louis X, candidly admitted years later, “There was not a Muslim who loved the Honorable Elijah Muhammad that did not want to kill Malcolm.” Farrakhan at the time repeatedly lambasted Malcolm as a betrayer of the faith. Years later, though, Farrakhan attempted a public reconciliation with Betty Shabazz, Malcolm’s widow and other family members.

The three men convicted of the killing were all fanatic followers of Muhammad. But did they kill Malcolm out of robotic blind hatred? Were there others involved? And who stood to benefit the most from Malcolm’s death? Those are the tougher questions that beg answers, but remain shrouded in mystery.

The men almost certainly hated Malcolm and believed they were being good Muslims by killing him. However, the FBI and the New York police department’s super secret elite undercover unit, the Bureau of Special Services (BOSS) also hated Malcolm. They waged a fierce illegal, shadowy campaign to undermine Malcolm and the Muslims. They riddled the Nation of Islam and Malcolm’s group, the OAAU, with informants, and police agents. They dogged his tail on his travels in Africa, and the Middle East. FBI and BOSS agents reported on every word of his speeches and press conferences.

FBI officials were well aware of the threats made on Malcolm’s life by Muslims, and they knew that some in the organization were more than willing to carry out his murder. Months before the killing, FBI informants supplied verbatim accounts to FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover of death threats made against Malcolm at Black Muslim meetings. During a European jaunt, Malcolm was not allowed to leave the airport in London and Paris. Reportedly, British and French intelligence agencies feared there would be an assassination attempt against him in their countries.

Malcolm knew that he was a marked man, and that the FBI and local police had taken a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil attitude toward the threats against him. He fired off an angry letter to then secretary of State Dean Rusk charging that, “the government had no intention to help or protect my life.” He often told friends and reporters that there were forces bigger then the Muslims who wanted to kill him.
 
The FBI’s interest in Malcolm’s murder didn’t stop with the conviction of his killers. FBI agents closely monitored the trial proceedings. In memos to top FBI officials, their prime concern was to protect their informants and undercover agents planted in Malcolm’s organization from public exposure. At one point during the trial, one of the hit men, Talmadge Hayer, claimed that he was promised several thousand dollars for the murder by a non-Muslim. The prosecutor and defense attorneys did not press him to name names. The judge sternly warned the jury to consider only that part of Hayer’s testimony that was directly pertinent to the case and disregard the rest of his statements. Hayer’s statement may have simply been hyperbole to get press attention, or inflate his importance, but it was another loose end that deliberately was not tied up.

Those loose ends still tantalize and intrigue four decades later. Malcolm had become a major national and international figure who shortly before his death had worked out a constructive program for domestic social and economic change. Asian and African leaders increasingly viewed him as an able, respected, and visionary spokesman against apartheid, colonialism, the Vietnam War, and for world peace. Malcolm had evolved from the race-baiting, demagogue of his early Nation of Islam days to become one of America’s leading social critics.

There is no evidence that the FBI, intelligence agencies, or the New York police had a direct hand in Malcolm’s murder, and the contour of any conspiracy by anyone other than the Black Muslims to get Malcolm remains hazy, problematic, or non-existent. But Malcolm’s murder can’t be totally separated from the well-documented savage war that the FBI waged against Martin Luther King, Jr., black organizations, and black leaders during the 1960s. In an infamous memo from those years, FBI officials flatly warned of the necessity to prevent “the rise of a “black messiah” among blacks. The FBI was more than willing and able to do whatever it could to make sure that that didn’t happen. Malcolm undoubtedly was an unwitting casualty of Hoover and the FBI’s obsession to decapitate black leadership. FBI officials undoubtedly shed few tears over his murder.

The whitewash of the issues and even mystery that often surround the murder of a popular, but controversial leader always raises questions and doubts, no matter how many years pass. Forty years later, those questions and doubts are still there in Malcolm X’s murder.
 

Earl Ofari Hutchinson has a weekly on-line news and information service,
The Hutchinson Report

 

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