"The magnet that
gets people to Georgia is not social services,''
according to Georgia Senate Democratic leader Robert
Brown. "They're enticed here for work. If you really
want to deal with the issue, you have to do it at the
point of the spear. . . . When an African
American legislator volunteers himself as spear-chucker
for white racism against brown people, something is
In Chicago last Friday, March 10, no less
than 300,000 people hit the streets, bringing the city center to
a standstill with the largest demonstration in its history. They
marched in protest of legislation which has already passed the
House of Representatives making the "unlawful presence" of
immigrants in the U.S. a federal felony. If enacted the new laws
also make an instant felon of anyone who offers medical care or
rents a room to, shelters or even gives directions to an
"unlawfully present" human in the U.S. If enacted, it would
provide up to five years in prison for each such offense.
While Chicago's sizeable African and
Caribbean communities were much in evidence, the main flavor of
the day was Mexican. Hispanic media played a major role in
getting the crowds out. In the closest thing to a general strike
in the city's living memory, Latino factory workers, students,
janitors, hotel staff, teachers and the self-employed called in
sick, asked for or gave themselves permission to be absent. Many
employers looked the other way, and workplaces along the march
route emptied into the street.
Chicago's Dr. Prexy Nesbitt is a veteran
human rights activist and one of the architects of the global
anti-apartheid campaigns of the 70s and 80s. He summed up the
feeling of the city's progressive black leadership thusly:
"It's another nail in the coffin of Bush's
policies, which aim to subjugate all people of color, and a
major statement from hundreds of thousands of Latinos that they
reject divide and rule politics. It reflects the growing
consciousness of Latinos that their destiny is inextricably
intertwined with that of us, and especially with black America."
"African Americans tend to be sympathetic
to the plight of nonwhite immigrants," says James Thindwa of
Chicago Jobs With Justice, an African immigrant himself.
more than one black audience where a woman or someone gets up
and launches into a diatribe about 'those Mexicans taking all
the jobs' but by the end of the evening that person is often
preaching tolerance and solidarity to the crowd herself. It's a
mark of the moral character of black America that African
Americans are very reachable and teachable on that issue, and
very accepting of the right message, when that message reaches
The message however, has not reached some
black Georgia state legislators. Atlanta's Kasim Reed, DLC
Democrat, has authored a particularly loathsome anti-immigration
bill which he hopes will mirror and exceed the racist
immigrant-baiting of his Republican colleagues. Reed proposes to
lock up anyone who tries to get a job with a piece of false ID
for five years. Unsurprisingly, this morally bankrupt attempt to
outflank Republicans on the right has been embraced by leading
white Georgia Democrats.
"The magnet that gets people to Georgia is
not social services,'' according to Georgia Senate Democratic
leader Robert Brown. "They're enticed here for work. If you
really want to deal with the issue, you have to do it at the
point of the spear.''
When an African American legislator
volunteers himself as spear-chucker for white racism against
brown people, something is deeply wrong. It's something
that goes beyond a single morally compromised black politician.
Georgia's Democratic party, as BC pointed out back in 2004, has
been on life support for some time now.
Only a shell of its former self, the party
has been hollowed out by the defection of most white voters and
office-holders to the White Man's Party, the GOP
process that began in the 1960s and continues to this day.
Several white Georgia Democratic state legislators defected just
last year, and the current Republican leader of the Georgia
State Senate is a former Democrat.
Georgia Democrats did the rest of the
damage to themselves, by embracing the Bill Clinton/Democratic
Leadership Council (DLC) brand of dollar-politics. This fatal,
corporate-financed strategy encouraged white and Black Democrats
to adopt watered down Republican positions in an ever-rightward
search for white "swing" voters."
Georgia's governor is a former elected
white Democrat, and each election cycle is still marked by its
cohort of whites who get elected as Democrats and switch parties
before being sworn in. With few Republicans in his Atlanta
district, Reed seems to want Republican votes and Republican
money without the formality of political rebirth. The former
campaign manager of Atlanta's current mayor, he is thought to be
the business community's favorite to succeed incumbent Mayor
Shirley Franklin. With the dispersal and emptying out of
Atlanta's chocolate inner city long underway thanks to the
policies of thirty years of black mayors, popular wisdom is that
electing another black mayor in Atlanta may be impossible. But
by nakedly pandering to white racism against brown people, Reed
may hope to better his chances in a future mayoral race when
Atlanta's black voters are no longer a majority.
Beyond the corruption and enfeeblement of
Georgia's DLC-led Democratic party lies another and large factor
enabling Reed's and other treacheries. That factor is the
continued shrinkage, and in Atlanta, the near absence of local
news coverage in the mainstream media. Democracy Now's Amy
Goodman, nailed it in her March 14 broadcast:
"...a new report from the Project for
Excellence in Journalism warns that there has been a seismic
transformation in the media landscape as media companies
slash the amounts of resources put into original reporting.
The study said,
new paradox of journalism is more outlets covering fewer
stories.' The report notes that in Philadelphia the number
of newspaper reporters has fallen from 500 to 220 in the
last quarter century. Five AM radio stations used to cover
news in Philadelphia. Now there are two. Nationwide it's
estimated that there are 3,500 fewer professional newsroom
jobs since 2000, a drop of 7%. Just last week, the
Washington Post said that it would cut 80 newsroom jobs."
A local news whiteout of news coverage of what
should have been a 2005 mayoral campaign garnered Atlanta mayor
Shirley Franklin the Saddam-like total of 93% of an alarmingly low
turnout, and assured the installment of compliant meat puppets on
the city's school board and city council. Atlanta is by no means
Although broadcasters are granted licenses to
serve the public, and journalism has its own constitutional
amendment so it can fearlessly tell the truth, corporate media,
including black-owned media starves communities across the land of
the information we need about how our own affairs are handled.
Hence, aside from Latino media, news of the historic Chicago march
was scarcely covered outside that city. And clowns like Kasim Reed
can count on continued non-coverage freeing them to move against the
prevailing moral current of their own constituencies and of black
Harry Belafonte likes to tell the story of how
Dr. Martin Luther King confided in him in moments of doubt, as we
all do with our friends. King sometimes pondered the question of
whether he might be assisting the integration of African Americans
into the moral and political equivalent of a burning building. Dr.
King's answer, Harry's answer, and ours was and ought to be that
black America must be the moral conscience of all America,
demonstrating by our example how the fires of racism, sexism,
economic injustice and inequality can be extinguished.
BC caught up with another companion of Dr. King
this week. SCLC's Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, wisely opined to BC that
Kasim Reed's cynical pandering
"...sounds like a rather insensitive and
unkind way to approach the immigration problem. The Bible calls
us to be careful how we treat strangers in our land, that it's a
measure of how we ourselves might be treated some day. To solve
the immigration problem we have to deal with it at its root. We
have to improve the quality of life for people in Mexico and
other places. It doesn't help when corporations close down
operations here, move jobs to Mexico and still pay slave wages.
People want to come here and make a better living, to send money
back and keep their families alive. And once they're here, we're
all, in a sense, immigrants."
Dr. Lowery swims confidently in the moral
mainstream of black America, just as Dr. King did a half century
ago. SCLC's motto, chosen at its 1957 founding was "to save the soul
of America." Ever the optimist, Dr. Lowery added that he'd like to
talk to Kasim Reed sometime real soon about his immigration bill.