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(A Presidential Fight in Black and White)
Part 1 of 3
“The white race is a wicked race,” said one prominent national leader. Provocative words indeed. Who’s the author? Malcolm X? Louis Farrakhan? Khallid Abdul Muhammad? All these were at one time spokesmen for the Nation of Islam. (Of course, Minister Farrakhan currently leads the Nation.) Might it be Malik Zulu Shabazz, head of the New Black Panther Party? What about the leader of some other prominent Black Nationalist organization? While these may share or may have shared sentiments similar to our mystery leader, neither of them authored the unflattering words above. The man who spoke these 19th-century words was the revered Native American Chief Tecumseh. He explains the reasons for his bold declaration.
“Since the days when the white race first came in contact with the red men, there has been a continual series of aggressions. The hunting grounds are fast disappearing, and they are driving the red man farther and farther to the west. Such has been the fate of the Shawnees, and surely will be the fate of all tribes if the power of the whites is not forever crushed. The mere presence of the white man is a source of evil to the red men. His whiskey destroys the bravery of our warriors, and his lust corrupts the virtue of our women. The only hope for the red man is a war of extermination against the paleface.” What happened to brave Tecumseh? The “paleface” exterminated him. According to one account, he was betrayed by the British and subsequently killed by Col. Richard M. Johnson, future vice-president of the United States under President Martin Van Buren.
Although presidential hopeful Barack Obama directly addressed the issue of race in a recent speech, the slinging of arrows and accusations of character assassinations persist between some Black backers in the Obama camp and White supports in the Clinton camp. Former congresswoman and vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Feraro, a prominent White Clinton supporter, was accused of being a racist when she said: “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.” Her comments have been interpreted as suggesting that Obama is the Affirmative Action poster boy.
After Obama’s South Carolina win, Bill Clinton dismissed the victory by saying that presidential candidate Jesse Jackson also won there, but didn’t gain his party’s nomination. And there’s the Obama-dressed-as-a-Taliban photo, allegedly circulated by the Clinton camp. Then Hillary “misspoke” about coming under sniper fire as First Lady while visiting Bosnia, even though she carefully documented her account both verbally and in colorful detail in her book. Sinbad, a Black man who happened to be with her, sided, not with Obama, but with truth. There was no sniper fire. In a court of law she would be said to have a “credibility” problem. In the court of public opinion, she’s said to be a goddamn liar.
This is war, ladies and gentlemen. The party’s nomination for President is up for grabs and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are engaged in a slugfest. Oh yes, outwardly the gloves have a velvety texture when it comes to actual comments made by the candidates themselves. But the flying fists of fury originating from their respective camps are of tempered iron! Let’s call it what it is folks. We have a political Civil War going on in the Democratic Party-obviously along racial lines-tinctured with the blood of Blacks and Whites.
Ironically, it’s not all black and white. Although Hillary has the White vote for the most part and Obama the Black vote in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia’s Black mayor, Michael Nutter (swept into office by both Black and White voters), supports Clinton, along with Ed Rendell, the popular White governor of the Quaker State. Although dwindling, Hillary Clinton has some measure of Black voters behind her, and Barack Obama has a steady if not growing number of White supporters. And with the endorsement of New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, he may lay claim to a bigger chunk of the Latino vote. (Of course, James Carville, an avid White Clinton supporter, called Richardson “a Judas” for what Carville sees as a betrayal on Richardson’s part since the Clintons help jump start his political career. Richardson responded by charging Carville with “gutter politics.”) Still, experts say that with his lead narrowing, Obama may have to rely more on the White male vote specifically. In his approach to the debate about race, can the White Man be as candid as Tecumseh?
“I can say that [God] has shown special favors to some nations, some races of people, more than to others,” said one prominent White man in the early 20th century. “While I was in India, for instance...I looked at the poor people there and tried to put myself in their places, and tried to gauge them as near as I could, I said to myself, in what respect are these people deficient? Have they not the mental capacity?...’Why has God so favored the white race above all other races? Are we better than others?’ And then I compared matters and said, ‘There are more of our race in the Insane Asylum than there are of these Indian people. There are more of our race in jails than there are in India.’...I found indeed many things in which I believed these people seemed to be superior to us, and I felt somewhat ashamed of my own race, that while we have greater blessings in so many ways and greater ability in some ways, those abilities seem to be largely in the way of taking what other people have and appropriating it to ourselves: that seemed to me the great mark of the white man everywhere I have been: he was shrewder than the others and therefore more able to grasp. Selfishness is more predominant in the white race than in others....Pretty hard on us, isn’t it?”
Not if you ask the late Minister Elijah Muhammad. He could not agree more with the conclusions reached by Pastor Charles Taze Russell, the “founder” of the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (The Witnesses contend that Jesus Christ is their real founder.) Russell’s scathing denunciations are proof to many that the “paleface” can indeed be honest in his self-appraisal. That’s why Muhammad, though calling the White Man the Devil, did not include Russell, and later Joseph Franklin Rutherford, second president of the Watch Tower Society after Russell’s death, in this characterization. In fact, Karl Evanzz, in his book, The Messenger: The Rise and Fall of Elijah Muhammad, said that “without Fard as his guide, Muhammad became increasingly dependent upon Rutherford’s [radio] broadcasts and writings for his own interpretations of scripture and for ways to lure underclass African Americans to his temples.”
But is the situation really that bad? Should the entire White race be indicted for the sins of a few? Is it really the nature of the White race to be evil? Are their Black people who fit the profile hoisted on the White Man? What about those of other races? Can they display evil on unprecedented scales too? How does it all affect the presidential race? Watch for the smoke signals in Part 2 of this 3-part series! Amen.
Dr. Firpo Carr n can be reached at 800.501.2713 or