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Ignoring 40 Percent of the South Carolina Electorate

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(NNPA) On a recent visit to South Carolina, I was reminded that last November President Obama received 40 percent of the state’s vote. There are a number of things that make this fact interesting but one really struck me: No significant funds were spent in South Carolina by anyone to turn out the vote in favor of Obama. The other interesting point is that that 40 percent is repeatedly ignored after Election Day.

The U.S. electoral system is blatantly undemocratic. Think about it for a moment. When it comes to electing the president of the United States it is not one person-one vote. Instead, there is this bizarre institution called the Electoral College. As a result no matter how many votes are cast in Texas or California, for instance, those states receive a set number of electoral votes to cast. These are added up and whoever comes out on top in a particular state gets that state’s entire Electoral College allotment. Republicans, by the way, are trying to change that so that states can parcel out their Electoral College votes, not proportionately but according to the manner in which the Republicans have gerrymandered states that they dominate.

What the Electoral College system means, however, is that there are certain states that are considered solidly Democratic or solidly Republican because a majority consistently (or relatively consistently) votes in the direction of one or the other party. South Carolina, in this case, is considered solidly Republican. Because of our voting system that means that those voters who consistently reject the Republican candidates are treated as if they never existed.

Forty percent is an interesting figure. Forty percent of the vote with no outside assistance is an even more interesting figure. That means that conceivably South Carolina, and several other states that are considered solidly Republican, may actually end up in play in upcoming elections but only if a new strategy is implemented. The key elements of such a strategy were summarized in the 1988 presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson when he suggested that voters in the South needed to have a voting card in one hand and in the other hand they needed a union card.

Moving states into play will necessitate greater resources at election time, for sure, but the longer term commitment must be to the organizing of workers in the South. What the Republicans are very well aware—which is why they are desperately pushing so-called “right to work” laws—is that the stronger workers are through their unions, they more likely it is that Republicans will lose elections. Why? Because labor unions will be challenging candidates on questions of economic justice and in light of the Republicans consolidating as both the ‘non-Black’ party as well as the party in favor of economic inequality, labor unions are a direct threat.

If we want to flip the script in future elections in states such as South Carolina not only do serious resources need to be put in at election time, but labor unions need to be built and rebuilt as bases for progress. They are one of the few organizations that brings workers together across racial, ethnic and gender lines. This is also what makes them so dangerous for corporate America and their political allies in the Republican Party.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him at www.billfletcherjr.com

Black History Month's Powerful Question

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By Lee A. Daniels
NNPA Columnist

(NNPA) I have a rule about this month. If it’s February, I know that somebody somewhere has given an interview or written an article declaring America no longer needs Black History Month.

And, sure enough, the conservative National Review Online of February 4 has given us the article of one Charles W. Cooke. Its title is succinct – “Against Black History Month: This month is Black History Month. Let’s hope it’s the last.”

That snarky comment is revealing, isn’t it? Even if you’re opposed to Black History Month, no one would credibly think there’s any chance that this month’s, or next year’s, or the year after that’s, or … you get the picture … would be the last Black History Month American society commemorates? It’s not a serious comment, of course, and it indicates we’re not going to get a logical argument from Cooke.

But then, that’s not entirely Cooke’s fault. That’s because there is no logical argument against commemorating Black History Month. Indeed, now it’s more important than ever that we plumb the facts and complexities of African-American history.

This is not a matter of “segregating” American history into racial and ethnic enclaves. It is a matter of acquiring a fuller understanding of American history by not pretending that considering American history primarily through that of White Americans is the only approach that counts. Indeed, it’s clear that Carter G. Woodson, the great scholar who established Negro History Week in 1926, had two goals in mind. One was to enable African Americans to see that Blacks had a rich history before their capture and transport to the Americas; and that pursuing the truth of the Black experience in America was the only way to construct an America worthy of its ideals.

Cooke’s article follows the usual scheme of the attack on Black History Month. He asserts that the undertaking was necessary before the 1960s, when de jure and de facto segregation ruled the land. Now, however, it’s outlived its usefulness and in fact is harming the ability of all Americans to gain a shared understanding of American history. Black History Month should be eliminated and the Black American experiences should be integrated into schools’ regular curriculum. “If there is still too little ‘black history’ taught in America’s schools,” Cooke writes, “or if ‘black history’ is being taught incorrectly – then we should change the curriculum. If black Americans remain unfairly in the shadows, then the solution is to bring them out, not to sort and concentrate them by color.”

This is an argument built on sand. For one thing, Cooke cites no actual examples of the supposed sins of Black History Month – no examples of schools or school systems where Black history is taught only in February and ignored in the curriculum the rest of the year. No examples of colleges where Black studies courses ignore the impact of the other currents of American society. No examples where in either elementary and secondary schools or colleges there is what he calls the “equally absurd” repetitive focus on heroic Black figures.

These attacks on Black History Month ignore many things: They ignore how deeply Black history has already been “integrated” into broader examinations of American history, as even a cursory perusal of popular and scholarly books would indicate. They ignore how complex and searching explorations of Black history have become – as a forthcoming documentary airing next week on the Public Broadcasting Service on Whitney M. Young, Jr., the charismatic leader of the National Urban League from 1961 until his untimely death in 1971, will show.

Most of all, they ignore why over the last four decades other sub-groups of Americans have adopted the “special month” model. Cooke does list some of these: Women’s History Month, South Asian Heritage Month, Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, Haitian Heritage Month, Jewish American Heritage Month, Caribbean-American Heritage Month, National Hispanic Heritage Month, National American Indian Heritage Month, and Alaskan Native Heritage Month.

Revealingly, he merely lists them, ignoring the implications of their founding, and the fact that, just like Black History Month, their establishment was approved by acts of Congress, and signed by Republican and Democratic presidents. In fact, just as Black History Month does, they underscore valid – and widespread – educational practice of focusing on particular facets of a broad topic and the widespread social-group practice of closely examining their particular experience in America.

And they do something else. They all echo the question that Carter G. Woodson’s Negro History Week, now Black History Month set before the nation more than 80 ago.

That question was never more powerfully expressed than in the penultimate line posed by Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions in the title track of their 1969 album, “This Is My Country:”

“Shall we perish unjust,” the song asks, “or live equal as a nation.”

Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His latest book is Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America.

A Ball of Confusion

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(NNPA) “That’s what the world is today.” So says the Motown hit sung by Edwin Star and later by the Temptations. The description still applies today but for different reasons. This confusion or chaos is coming at us like a freight train. Let’s examine some of the reasons.

The violence in our cities is at an all-time high. The city of Chicago leads the way in this show of hatred and lack of value for human life. Funny, you cannot buy a gun in the Chicago city limits but they are everywhere. As many so called or self-appointed Black leaders scream about this madness, they seem to miss or ignore the big reason. It is really very simple. The amount of violence or murder of our youth comes from drugs wars or turf wars both perpetrated by street gangs. The existence of street gangs and all the ills that go with it is directly correlated to the amount of corruption within the law enforcement agencies. They could lock up the leadership of these gangs and dealers within a month. Drugs and violence is a business to some and right now business is great.

Our “leaders” also cry for more entitlements, AKA welfare, Medicaid, food stamps, etc. That is not what we need. The aforementioned things poison the soul, kill ambition and destroy the Black family unit. What we need are jobs and there is only one way to get jobs – create them through entrepreneurship. Small business is the best creator of jobs, which brings paychecks to households and motivates accountability and inspires ambition and dreams. Our families are busted up – where’s daddy? Baby mamas are expected to cover all the bases. The Black segment of our population needs new, young and progressive leaders who are totally dedicated to returning us back to greatness.

What we have now was explained over 100 years ago: “There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs – partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.” That is how Booker T. Washington explained our situation.

It is all about jobs. One of the newest job killers is Obamacare. This monster is getting bigger and bigger as we unravel what is in this massive bill. The IRS has just admitted that the cheapest family plan will cost a family of five (husband, wife and three children) at least $20,000 per year. Didn’t we think this would decrease the cost of healthcare? Small businesses will be forced to suppress their jobs. If your payroll exceeds 50 people then the business owner will be forced to pay significantly more per employee. Thus, most small businesses will suppress their workforce limiting the job potential in a local community. Worst of all, the employer will be taxed extra for hiring low income personnel (for some stupid reason). Therefore, those living in poverty wanting to lift themselves up will be denied by this law alone.

There have been many political attacks against the successful job creators. These successful entrepreneurs and executives account for the majority of jobs in our nation. I think those attacking them should listen to another great leader who stated this more than 70 years ago: “You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred. You cannot build character and courage by taking away people’s initiative and independence. You cannot help people permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves.” William J. H. Boetcker

They make the “hole” we are in bigger and more difficult to get out. They get away with it because we are too trusting and depend on people to lead us who have not committed to really leading us and setting us free and away from their influence. They control us. I finish with one more quote: “When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his ‘proper place’ and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.” Carter G. Woodson

Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: halford@nationalbcc.org.

Django Unchained: 'Brilliant' or 'Offensive'?

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By William Reed
NNPA Columnist

(NNPA) Have you gone to see Django Unchained yet? Activist Dick Gregory called the current box office smash “brilliant,” while filmmaker Spike Lee said it was “offensive to my ancestors.” All the while, the force behind Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino, is taking bundles of money to the bank from throngs of Blacks who have attended showings. The movie is pure fantasy and takes privileges with history, but Blacks like it a lot.

Django Unchained is a 2012 American western film written and directed by Tarantino. The film stars Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, and Samuel L. Jackson and was the fifth highest-grossing Christmas release in history. At a New York City premiere, Black society and its media were “overwhelmed” with the film and its cast.

Black historians see similarities of abolitionist John Brown and his Gang of 21 in Tarantino’s tale. Django Unchained is set in 1858 as several male slaves are being transported across Texas by the Speck brothers. In their group is Django (Jamie Foxx), who has been sold away from his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). The Speck brothers encounter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a German immigrant dentist and, unbeknownst to them, bounty hunter.

Schultz takes Django and kills one of the Speck brothers, leaving the other to be killed by now-free slaves. Schultz reveals that he sought out Django to aid him in identifying the Brittle brothers, a trio of ruthless killers working for a plantation owner. Schultz confesses that his bounty hunting is opportunistic, but emphasizes to Django that he despises slavery. The two come to an agreement: in exchange for helping locate the Brittle brothers, Schultz will free Django from slavery and give him $75 and a horse. After hunting down and killing the Brittles, Schultz takes Django on as his bounty hunting associate.

In many ways Django is three hours of caricature. After their bounty hunting success during the winter months, Schultz and Django confirm that Broomhilda’s current owner is brutal plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). At Candie’s plantation, Candyland, some male slaves are trained to fight to the death (called “Mandingo fighting”). Schultz and Django devise a plan to reach Broomhilda by posing as potential purchasers of a Mandingo fighter. Schultz introduces Django as a free man and “expert” on Mandingo fighting. Candie and Schultz come to an agreement to purchase a Mandingo fighter for $12,000. Schultz also offers to purchase Broomhilda, claiming that she would help alleviate his nostalgia for his mother tongue because she speaks German. Django raises the suspicions of Candie’s house slave, Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), who correctly deduces that Django and Broomhilda know each other, and that the Mandingo sale is a ruse. He informs Candie.

Throughout, Django Unchained is a brutal tale of retribution based on the theme that punishment doled out is morally right and fully deserved. Django is an audacious Black hero who shoots White slavers with impunity and lives to tell about it. The film’s violence is used as a kind of spiritual redemption which Black audiences are meeting with glee.

But, is this the “spiritual redemption” the descendants of slaves need right through here? With the “debt due” and legacy of slavery continuing in our daily lives, how can self-respecting descendants of African slaves be party to such a charade that mocks us and our ancestors?

Today’s Blacks deal in movie “make believe” and are loath to accept the reality of slavery and its legacy in our lives. Blacks accept as “fact” that they have high unemployment rates, and that Whites rightfully have 20 times our wealth. To be about eliminating America’s gross inequities, Blacks need to be organizing constructive collective actions. Stop accepting that “slavery was a long time ago and there is no one alive to collect or pay reparations.”

The legacy of slavery is without end across America. Those who profited from slavery don’t just owe reparations for the past, but for the inequities of the present as well.

William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey Group.org.

One Fontana – One Leadership Team - Regardless of Politics

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By Acquanetta Warren
Mayor, City of Fontana

During my tenure as mayor of this great city of Fontana I have had a consistent message: “One City – One Leadership Team.” It has been this philosophy which has allowed us, as a city, to be highly successful in providing quality services to our residents, building infrastructure to meet the needs of the entire community, and engender trust so our city council can provide nonpartisan leadership in solving the cities challenges.

There is only one goal: To always move Fontana forward in a positive direction.

Non-partisan leadership is the key to this success. Putting party labels on local government officials directly defies what the founding fathers of this nation envisioned. Whether Republican or Democratic, our duty is to serve this community and assure that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is achieved by all. While I serve as mayor, this will continue to be the guarantee to all the citizens we are privileged to represent.

Building a library, interchange, road, or storm drain system is necessary, irrespective of a public official's partisan registration. Providing police and fire safety services, or a quality after school program to enhance the educational system is all about meeting needs and doing the right thing.

However, recent discussions about the implications of the recent election are misplaced when they focus strictly on partisan issues, rather than focusing on the needs of the community. Fontana is one city, with one elected leadership team, and we will continue to work together for the good of all. Pursuing policy based on partisan politics is counterproductive to the success of the community as a whole.

If you look at the other levels of government where partisan and parties dominate you see the business of the people taking a back seat to the partisan gamesmanship of both political parties. You need to look no further than the current battle between the Executive Branch and the House of Representatives to stave off the “Fiscal Cliff” which could result in an economic downturn for the entire nation. This is not what we want to happen to local governments and particularly in our city.

In Fontana, city elections the ballot doesn’t list the party affiliations of the candidates because once elected you must leave those affiliations at the door. Once elected to the city council, you only need to address one basic issue as you consider your vote. “Is This Good for Fontana?” We all have our beliefs and they pattern our ability to govern but they can’t be the driving force when we decide at the local level to serve our neighbors. I respect each person’s voice and opinion on local issues and encourage everyone to participate in the process of Fontana government. Whether Republican or Democrat, your opinions are important to me and to the other members on the City Council. Let your voice be heard because it will be listened to by all.

Right now, Fontana is fortunate to have a diverse city council representative of the community as a whole. That is truly positive.

Fontana, beware of partisan party interests from any political party organizers who want to interject party politics into this city and local government. There is no place for it here at the local level. We must not allow partisan politics to polarize the community by race, gender or party affiliations. We have far too many challenges and good work ahead of us to be distracted by such counter-productive messages.

Fontana is indeed a very diverse community with a rich history of being a family oriented community. Let's keep it that way.

Surely, we don’t desire the dysfunctional structure that governs us at the state and federal level, because we want to get things done and be responsive to the needs of our citizens. Fontanans demand action and results, not finger-pointing and political games.

Our Founding Fathers, who sat down in Philadelphia in 1787 and wrote the seventeen page document known as the Constitution of the United States of America, didn’t intend party politics to destroy the ability of our nation at the federal and state levels to dominate every decision made for our nation from our birth to our death. It should be this Constitution, our laws, and the needs of our community that drive our decisions, not special interest groups.

As long as I am mayor, Fontana will continue to be successful because we will not allow the interference of political parties to dominate our policy discussions. Rather it will be the needs and voices of our citizens that each and every member of this city council to whom we will listen.

Fontana has been and will continue to be a glowing example of what happens when party politics doesn’t get a chance to dominate. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your trust in me as mayor. I look forward to working with each and every one of you, regardless of whether you are a Republican, Democrat or neither. This community deserves nothing less.

The future of Fontana is exceptionally bright. By working together, there is nothing we cannot do!

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