Reading the attack by Moveon.org on New York Councilman Charles Barron was a reminder of how little things change in America. The need to demonize Black leaders who are unrepentant in organizing a sphere of Black political power and in holding independent political positions is as alive today as it was during the Black Power era of the 1960’s. Since the destruction of that movement, white political elites are vigilant in guaranteeing that Black leaders who step outside the acceptable parameters of political thought gets knocked down. Liberals believe that they represent the cutting edge of a rational left discourse. Through their delusional fog of self-righteousness, they believe they should gut-check anyone who steps outside their artificial boundaries.
Leaving the showmanship of a Charles Barron aside, it is quite obvious that the attacks against him from liberals (and the right wing) are because of his independent thinking. He won’t subvert his beliefs to fall in line with the dominant liberal narrative of what it means to be “progressive.” According to Move-On, his clear view that U.S. foreign policy is about controlling resources for the West and destabilizing any nation or land mass that does not heed to that authority makes him a “tea-partier.” Not supporting Israel – a state created by the West on the land of the indigenous Palestinan population through genocidal practices including killings, mass expulsions and apartheid practices (hmm…does that sound familiar to anyone in terms of U.S. history?) – makes him anti-Semitic in the eyes of liberals. Apparently, to be a good “progressive” – the new buzz word for liberals today – apparently you have to be down for a little European land-grab and you have to uphold the U.S. State Department’s and corporate media’s pronouncements about the enemy-of-the-week who is “trying to take away our freedoms.”
On gay marriage, Mr. Barron says that he won’t block any legislation, but that does not agree with the idea of same-sex marriage because of his religion. He also says that he won’t compare the struggle for marriage equality to the civil rights or human rights struggle of the formally enslaved population of this nation. Is this really the most backwards position on this issue? According to Move-On this position is a primary reason why Mr. Barron, a three-time New York City Councilman, should not hold office.
Finally, he is opposed to the idea of charter schools becoming the new education paradigm because they are mostly profit-driven entities with strong corporate backing that feed off public funds. The charter school industry has yet to produce any evidence of their vast superiority over public schools in test scores or academic achievement. In fact, most studies rank them below public schools in academic achievement. But these issues are at the heart of the MoveOn attack; they are the reasons why his opponent is receiving so much support from liberal and corporate pay-masters. (For more infomraiton on that, you can read Juan Gonzales’ story in the NY Daily News.)
Liberals have similar anxieties as the right wing. However unlike the right wing – who still like their Black people invisible – liberals want Black faces who will promote the issues that are most sacred to them…but only in the language that makes white people feel safe, snuggly and secure. To be good with the liberal crowd, you must always conclude any critique of US policy in one of several ways: “Always support the troops and the good intentions of US foreign policy” (no matter how many people of color die); “Respect the ‘great promise’ of American democracy” (no matter how long slavery and Jim Crow lasted and no matter how great the poverty of Black communities);” or “‘Hope’ is only an election or legislative session away.” The liberals have too much skin in the game to have someone – especially independent Black leadership – attempt to dictate any vision for significant change or to weaken the airtight grip they now enjoy over the Black populace.
To make matters worse the social justice left – which includes many people of color groups – is mostly silent when it comes to protecting a natural ally like Charles Barron. These groups want plenty of Black faces and ideas, but they are also leery of independent Black leadership. There has been an uneasy relationship forged with liberals and the foundation world since the 2008 right-wing-led economic collapse. This has led to a shift right for some in the left world in the sometimes understandable chase for relevancy. This shift means that Black leaders and organizers can also feed off the trough as long as they get their priorities straight. Priority #1 is to learn that the term “People of Color” is the new “Black.” No more speaking about Black issues, unless it’s in the context of a broader “people of color” framework. Otherwise, you will be out in the cold when it comes to funding and access.
This last decade has now – more than ever – silenced independent radical Black leadership. Charles Barron’s attempt to win a New York Congressional seat has exposed the sentiments of our time. The right is opposed to that project, and they will let you know it. Liberals and certain members of the corporate class want an alternative they can control, and they have the money to make it happen. Meanwhile, most of the formally radical – now “progressive” – left stays silent, because to speak up jeopardizes their alliances and their hopes for relevance.