Saturday, February 28, 2009

Michelle Obama and Stokely Carmichael

My friend Juan Williams is losing it if he thinks comparing First Lady Michelle Obama to Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) is a bad thing! Furthermore, Black journalists and others who took offense at the Williams absurdity should do some research before they recoil in horror because Stokely Carmichael was and is a hero.
On a cable TV show, on a network I avoid watching like the plague, Mr. Williams baselessly attacked the First Lady recently, claiming that “her instinct is to start with this ‘blame America’ stuff.”
Well the cable, so-called “all news” channels really offer nothing “new.” That’s first. Rather they simulate the sound of the AM-talk-radio, junior varsity, locker room, echo chamber, where snide putdowns resound like the snap of towels on bare bottoms. The remark was intended to appeal to the White-guy, beer-guzzlers in the cheap seats.
The author of the television documentary “Eyes on the Prize,” and a biography of former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall clearly forgot everything he learned doing research on those projects when he asserted that Michelle Obama’s “instinct” is to “blame America” or to be “the victim.” Then he said she has “this Stokely Carmichael-in-a-designer-dress thing going.” Rim-shot! Zinger!
He went on to say that she could be a “liability” or an “albatross” for President Barack Obama. Mister, please! He once previously claimed Michelle Obama sometimes uses “this kind of militant anger.”
Now, I personally like most expressions of Black militant anger.
Next, I can’t imagine that a woman as brilliant and self-assured as Michelle Obama could ever be anything but an asset to anyone with whom she was ever associated. In fact, Prof. Charles Ogletree—who taught both Michelle Robinson and Barack Obama at Harvard University’s law school—told me in an interview that at that time, he thought Michelle would eventually be more politically successful than Barack.
I don’t know either of the Obama’s personally, so I’ll take Prof. Ogletree’s word on the worthiness of their characters. And so far as I’ve been able to see from the public records, he’s been a pretty darn good President, and she’s been a very charming First Lady.
But I do know Stokely Carmichael. He was one of my very special all-time heroes! He was responsible for a number of detours in my life and career and I am eternally grateful (eternally grateful!) for having known him! He was a decent, honorable, principled, generous, and loving man who made a tremendous contribution to our struggle, making it possible for the likes of Juan Williams to even be at The Washington Post, or NPR, or PBS-TV, or Fox News in the first place.
In 1966, after his famous “Black Power” declaration, made literally while in the “teeth of the beast” with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others on James Meredith’s Mississippi “March Against Fear,” he single-handedly began the full-employment- for-Negro- reporters- movement, by demanding that the National Press send only Black reporters to cover his events, otherwise they would not be admitted to his press conferences! Those bold declarations came after his heroic work in Lowndes County, Ala. where in just a few months Black voter registration increased from 70 to 2,600. I read no offense in comparing the First Lady to a great champion like that!
Before I ever met this hero of mine in the flesh, the subject of one of my first journalistic adventures while I was still in school at San Jose State University, taught me to revere Stokely Carmichael. I met and frequently interviewed then 70-plus-year old Lorna D. Smith, a White woman who lived in San Jose, who had been a researcher for renowned journalist and author Theodore Dreiser.
Miss Smith spent a summer working on the Mississippi Project in 1964 and was so inspired by Stokely Carmichael that she collected “All Things Carmichael” for the next 8 years, compiling more than a dozen huge (five linear feet-worth) scrapbooks, which are now a part of the permanent collection of the Stanford University Library!
I repeat, if Juan Williams meant to insult First Lady Michelle Obama by comparing her to my champion, then he missed the mark big time! And any young journalist in particular who takes the comparison of anyone to Stokely Carmichael as anything but the highest compliment, even in this “post racial” era needs to study more.
So, to my friend Juan Williams (of whom I never expect anything better), and to all other un-informed Blacks who trembled at Juan’s lame-brained remark, I ask simply: What’s wrong with being like Stokely Carmichael? Absolutely nothing! We need more thinkers and leaders like him!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Obama camp: 'Certain Muslims' need not apply

When it comes to being kicked out of some pretty fancy parties, I have an enviable track record.

“What are you doing having a Black Muslim call my office,” Housing and Urban Development Secretary Patricia Roberts Harris demanded of Louis Martin, Editorial Director of The Chicago Daily Defender, after he sent me to Washington to cover the Jimmy Carter White House for that newspaper in 1977. But I was never thin-skinned about having a name which evokes a strong racial and religious identity.

But I didn’t just get kicked out then, I was never even invited to some pretty fancy parties in this town, I’ll have you know.

Such treatment goes with the territory.

A past president of the National Press Club once tried to get me declared ineligible for Club membership because of my relationship with The Final Call. I’ve been kicked out of some pretty fancy parties, but the Press Club Speaker’s Committee and my friends in the Club would have none of it. The former Press Club President was rebuked.

So, I thought I would have common cause when Sen. Barack Hussein Obama came to Washington after the 2004 elections, then four years later became the Democratic nominee for President, and then on January 20, 2009 was inaugurated the 44th President of the United States. He used to refer to himself as a “skinny guy with a funny name.” But that was then. This is now.

You see, maybe I was wrong. Maybe President Obama is just like all the rest of those folks in high office: judgmental, xenophobic, Islamophobic.

But why shouldn't he be? Was he born on the Planet Krypton or something? No. Was he born in a manger in Bethlehem? No. They called him everything but a child of God during the campaign. Lied and said he was a Muslim. So, during the presidential campaign he tried to stay as far away as he possibly could from all things Islamic. Despite the fact that as an acknowledged "Constitutional scholar" he should have known and should have told his critics at that time that the U.S. Constitution says very plainly in Article 6 that "there shall BE NO religious test" (emphasis mine) for any position in the Federal or any state government! But alas!

It got so, nobody wanted to be identified with “them”...that is us. That is until Gen. Colin Powell finally came out and said publicly there's nothing wrong with being a Muslim in America!

Still, the Obama campaign quickly accepted the resignation of an otherwise squeaky-clean Chicago lawyer, Mazen Asbahi, its coordinator of Muslim outreach, back in August. His sin? About six or seven years ago he served for three whole weeks on a committee with another, very suspicious Muslim. There were also “questions” about Mr. Asbahi's involvement in an Islamic investment fund and various Islamic groups: "Certain Muslims" need not apply!

Then there were the two women with the Islamic head scarves removed from their seats at a rally so they wouldn’t be seen in a picture where then candidate Obama was speaking. The candidate called himself to personally apologize. He had to. Ray Charles could see that was wrong.

Once again, the Obama campaign got a little squeamish after its new director of Muslim outreach attended and made remarks at an event in September which was attended by Imam Mahdi Bray of the Muslim American Society and Nihad Awad, Executive Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). Both men are pictured here at a protest at the State Department in 2001.

What are Imam Bray's sins? He’s African American—a “Black Muslim” if you will (although he's not affiliated with the Nation of Islam), and he has a background of leadership in the Civil Rights movement. Scary huh?

Add to that, the fact that NBC news reported “he has a history of defending terrorists.” Huh? Sure. Mahdi Bray’s critics point to a video of him at a rally in 2000, in which he can be seen pumping his fist in the air in support of the "terrorist" groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

Stunning! Wow! Someone still watches all those old anti-war rally videos eight years later? Simply shocking! Obviously dangerous characters, right?

Do Mahdi Bray and Nihad Awad have Green Cards? (Well Mr. Bray was born in Georgia, I believe, so that makes him a natural-born "citizen." As punishment, he could of course be deported back to Dixie.) Do they have U.S. passports? Have they ever had their taxes audited? There must be something Western Civilization can do to defend itself from Muslims like Mahdi Bray and Nihad Awad.

Why once, Mahdi Bray reportedly said in a 2004 interview, that the Israeli assassination of a Hamas spiritual leader was an “unlawful, cowardly and dangerous act of state-sponsored terrorism.” Fancy that!

I thought the freedom of speech was protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution? Unless, of course, you’re a Certain Kind of Muslim. I guess you’re on your own, Imam Mahdi Bray. Never mind the White House briefings you attended during the Clinton, and/or early Bush administrations. You and others like you are officially Persona Non Grata. Do not ever rush to the mailbox looking for your engraved invitation to any White House State Dinner for any visiting foreign head of state.

Muslims like Mahdi Bray and Nihad Awad ought to "overstand" these things. Certain Muslims need not apply! But if they don't, I do "overstand" clearly. You see, I've been kicked out of fancier parties than this one.