ebogjonson.com's black president archive

April 5, 2007

why does the Congressional Black Caucus suck so much?

As you already know, I am not a fan of the CBC. As I wrote almost exactly a year ago:

The votes [by CBC members against net neutrality] throw a neatly illuminating light on the coming disconnect between the civil rights establishment and the overwhelmingly white "net-roots." It's fair to say both sides view each other with some distrust. We're living through a deeply contradictory time when black folks (and what's left of the unions) are the Dems only truly reliable voting block, and yet every other manifesto for Democratic revitalization is some kind of attenuated, okie-doke Souljah-moment retread. War or no war, that particular center will not hold, and when it comes finally undone the pressure will be on our black and Latino Democrats to articulate a vision of civil rights, diversity and community that intuitively understand issues of net neutrality as one of "our" issues. Performances like yesterday's make me a little nervous, though. [full me]

It's a common talking-android punk-move to gripe about black leadership, but jeez! Must we be so consistently let down by our so-called leaders? The decision by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute to partner with FOX News on presidental debates is just another crap move by an organization that increasingly seems to serve no real purpose. To (mis)quote a (white) man:

Have you no sense of decency, Congressional Black Caucus Institute, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency? [the real quote]

Rather than repeat myself, I would instead like to turn the floor over to the folks at Color of Change:

Last Thursday, the Congressional Black Caucus Institute announced plans to partner with Fox News to host presidential debates--using the name and legacy of the Congressional Black Caucus to legitimize an organization that has shown nothing but hostility to Black Americans.

The announcement came after the Institute ignored more than 12,000 emails from [Colorofchange.org] members, and after 790 phone calls to CBC leaders asking them to denounce the deal were met with side-stepping and inaction.

The CBC and CBCI are betraying Black America, not just by partnering with Fox, but by willfully ignoring the people they claim to represent. It's a display of irresponsible representation and disconnected leadership.

Voices of protest from Black America and our allies are getting louder every day, but members of the CBC still haven't responded. Will you join us in demanding that they take a public stance, today?

Today, we're launching a campaign to ramp up pressure on the CBC. We have two goals: to force the CBC Institute to call off the Fox debates and to make it clear that Black elected leaders cannot act in our names while ignoring our voices.

Our first step is targeting members of the CBC. We know that some members of the CBC oppose a partnership with Fox, but none have spoken publicly. Their silence implies agreement and lends credibility to the Institute's decision. If we can force each member to publicly take a stance on this issue, we're confident some will come out against the partnership. Once there's dissension in the ranks, the Institute's leadership will not be able to maintain the legitimacy of their decision.

But getting there won't be easy. CBC offices have given our members the runaround for weeks--saying the Fox debates are an Institute issue that they can do nothing about and then referring our members to a CBC Institute voicemail box that was full for over two weeks. Members are clearly not trying to go on the record about this issue. But with enough pressure, they will have to speak, and if they continue to hide, we will broadcast their cowardice to Black America and voters in their district.

The pressure is already mounting. Following the lead of ColorOfChange.org members, Black bloggers, academics, and community newspapers have all taken bold stands. Now it's up to us. If we keep up the pressure, we can force voices of reason and conscience to arise from within the CBC, and help bring the CBC back in line with Black America. Please join us.

Thank You and Peace,

-- James, Van, Clarissa, Gabriel, and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
April 5th, 2007


ColorOfChange.org members taking a stand on this has helped it get plenty of coverage: in national news, blogs, online journals, and the Black press. Here are links to some of the posts and articles, as well as letters sent from ColorOfChange.org to CBC members and the CBC Institute.

Black blogs:

"Who will lead?" Afro-Netizen.com, April 4, 2007

"Update on CBC Fox Debates," Jack and Jill Politics, March 30, 2007

"Fox News sets debates with Congressional Black Caucus Institute???" Superspade.blogspot.com March 29, 2007

"Why is the Congressional Black Caucus Institute hopping in the sack with Faux News?" Pam's House Blend, March 30, 2007

"The CBC Needs to Learn From Us: Just Say No to FOX," CorrenteWire, March 14, 2007

Because the so-called netroots are currently, like, whiter than my graduating class at Yale, web outrage at a Democratic caucus getting in bed with FOX has been pretty much akin to the sound of your nutty Polish neighbor yelling at something across a backyard fence. You don't talk Polish, she don't speak English; who knows what the fuck old girl is going on about today.

The outrage of the white folks is meaningless to black incumbents sitting in safe districts. Until they feel pressure from black folks, the CBCI will continue to sell us out in order to get available pieces of the pie. It was telecom pie last year, FOX pie this year, who knows the year after that?

I was speaking to a pretty smart person yesterday who was like: well, it's not as if anyone is lining up to give the CBCI money. Sure, of course. I understand that no one is lining up to give the CBCI money. But an organization's values are best indicated by the hard choices it makes when the proverbial chips are down. I already know you're broke and that you wouldn't dream of taking money from the Klan; big deal. If you want to impress me, show me real character and vision. I don't give a fuck about your lengthy record of fundraising balls, invite-only morning legislative breakfasts, and yearly conventions; I have no interest in partying with Michael Eric Dyson. Lead, already, or get out of the way.

This is an aside, but if Obama becomes president, who do you think is going to have more room on his coat-tails: ColorofChange.org or the CBCI? Black-enuf, not-black-enuf isn't about race, it's about political power in a post-internet political context. There is a realignment coming, and when it does, these folks will not know what hit them. At that point, the CBCI will likely go running to Russell Simmons or maybe BET asking to be made relevant again "with the youth." I dunno about Viacom, but Russell will likely oblige, this as long as the CBCI agrees to partner with him on an educational program about "underbanking," this as a trojan horse to promote his crap, stored-value RushCard. You heard it here first!

Posted by ebogjonson at 12:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

June 28, 2006

thank you, white jesus [updated]

[update below]

[updated again 07_09, just to clean a few typos up for the folks coming over from wayne's house. Because mom was really right about never hitting publish unless my knickers were clean.]


"Kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side of Chicago, I felt I heard God's spirit beckoning me," he said of his walk down the aisle of the Trinity United Church of Christ. "I submitted myself to his will and dedicated myself to discovering his truth." Sen. Barack Obama [Full obama jesus confessional] [hat tip atrios]

I dunno about re-connecting white evangelicals and the Democratic party, but Obama's god-gambit is certainly the law of the land when it comes to the marketing of commercial products to African Americans. You see, African American mass media comes in two basic flavors - urban and god-fearing, and woe be unto any black media professional meeting with white folks who isn't ready to go gully or gospel at a moment's notice. Jesus and street are the ultimate aces in a black media worker's hole, our version of going nuclear when it comes time to show white executives that we "get it." Unless you are down for one or another opiate of the masses you will always be dogged by a whiff of inauthenticity, a taint that like BO or bad dandruff can permanently mark you as the kind of person who can't be trusted to effectively represent, say, TW or Viacom, among the coloreds.

This bit of wisdom was re-affirmed for me just yesterday over dinner with a group of reasonably successful black editors and writers in NYC. Everyone at the table worked for some or another white owned "African American" media outlet - magazine, publishing imprint, teevee, interactive - and each and every one reported that over the last few years their venues have gone increasingly god intensive with their coverage, profiling ministers, crafting faith editorial, hiring spirituality columnists, doing jesus diet-plans and so on.

This completely dovetails with my own experience interpreting and building pixellated drums for white corporations. Although I am 100% certified heathen (i.e., I was raised a Catholic) I can say with some pride that I've had a hand in building more than one money-changing, interactive temple honoring the various Protestant heresies. (Save the email, my Protestant friends; I largely (semi?) kid.) Why would I get into the god business, you ask? To make money, of course. For one thing, there is an endless supply of marketing "data" that suggests there is an "audience" interested in soul/spirit material. For another thing, assuring a room full of white men that black folks are just desperate for 24-hour streaming video of Creflo Dollar is a handy way to fend off other black executives vying for the job of interpreting and building drums. Most white executives can't actually tell the difference between good and bad plans for targeting the AA audience, and so their decisions ultimately reduce to referendums on the planner: do they like you? Do you make them feel comfortable or virtuous or cool?

And most importantly: Do you strike them as a "real" black person? Since there are all kinds of constraints on playing the gully side - age or gender, for example, vocal presentation or a clean driving record - playing the "I heart white jesus" card is what dicks in the internet business like to call "low hanging fruit:" a fast, easy and unimpeachable way to don the mantle of authoritative blackness. Because while one can conceivably trash hip hop to white people (it's a sign of how "grown" you are, how suburban Atlanta) no corporate negro in their right mind comes out against LaShawn Barber's lord and savior.

(Apropos of nothing, the phrase "low hanging fruit" always cracks me up. Ostensibly straight managers love saying that shit, and it brings to mind an image of nuts every time I hear it--nuts as in male sac. You collect all those yourself and on your own time, Kimosabe.)

I will confess to certain sensitivities about that last, crucial referendum question, though. When I look back, it really is kind of a miracle that I ended up doing the work I do, in that I don't fit the profile. I don't look right. My family roots are in Haiti instead of the American South. I went to the wrong, pre-dominantly white schools. I am definitely not trying too hard to keep anything particularly real. And yet despite those obstacles, I have not only had the privilege of spending a ton of white folks' money in order to reach AA audiences, I've also actually succeeded in reaching a fair number of a folks.

Thank you, Jesus!

UPDATE: But to bring it all back to Senator Obama's comments, white commentators who are keying in on Obama's rehash of the right's "Why Do Democrats Hate Religion?" meme are correct, but they're also missing a (likely minor) nuance re: the specific use value the god thing has had for newfangled black politicians like Obama. No multiracial, Harvard educated, liberal pol gets anywhere near being taken seriously as a "black leader" unless he can put in credible church time. This makes Obama's comments less a case of pandering than of habit. Obama is applying a previously raced strategem to the non-raced (or at least less raced) problem of getting folks who are more conservative than you are to vote for you. This mean's he is not so much making a case for a new politics as for for an old marketing, which in the end makes his use of the moral-hoo-haa verbiage somewhat cynical in my mind. But he may believe it. I know a ton of internet ad sales people who genuinely believe they are providing a service to the race every time they sell our eyeballs off to the higest bidder.

Posted by ebogjonson at 2:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)