Am I kidding? Am I being serious? You will have to see Tusk and decide for yourself.
As is our habit here on WARN let us proceed to our weekend semi-open thread.
Charles Cobb is a veteran of the Black Freedom Struggle. He was on the front lines of the insurgency against Jim and Jane Crow and its regime of racial terrorism.
Cobb is also the author of This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement. He has both the practical credibility that comes from risking his life in the fight against American white supremacy during the civil rights movement, and the research/academic credentials to locate his own individual experiences within a broader historical and theoretical context.
Writing for the Washington Post online, he recently dropped what fans of professional wrestling call a "pipe bomb".
A pipe bomb is when a person tells the truth instead of limiting themselves to the official public script and/or narrative.
The public discourse on the police riot in Ferguson that occurred in response to the execution of Michael Brown by the cowardly thug cop
Because of the clear and obvious questions of morality and injustice at play, the dominant media frame has (and in my opinion quite correctly) placed the responsibility for the police riot and momentary spasmatic citizen's revolt, on the local and state authorities in Ferguson, Missouri.
While acknowledging the fact of white police thuggery and racism, Cobb's essay, "Black people had the power to fix the problems in Ferguson before the Brown shooting. They failed." asks raw questions about black folks' responsibility in perpetuating the conditions of their own disenfranchisement.
Many images that came out of Ferguson, Mo., last month looked like scenes from Birmingham, Ala., in the 1960s: the gun-wielding police officers, the sign-carrying protesters and the chants demanding equal treatment and human dignity. But that’s where the similarities ended.
For all the righteous indignation it inspired, the Ferguson turmoil has become the latest in a series of flash-in-the-pan causes that peter out without inspiring lasting movements for racial justice. As an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Mississippi during the ’60s, what I learned was the importance of organizing at the grass-roots and how even small actions at this level can have national impact. That is why I cannot help but notice that many black leaders, in their efforts to drive change, are ignoring some of the great lessons of the Southern Freedom Movement.
For one, the black leaders we most often see in the public eye have become experts at complaining about what the white man does to black people. Al Sharpton and others fill their rhetoric with fury about the white power structure, but ultimately serve messages that are superficial and myopic. To be clear, I am no right-wing ideologue blaming black people for the oppression that has beset them for generations. At 71 years old, I have experienced my share of brutal and dismissive racism. But this one-track approach will not generate change. Perhaps the great lesson of the southern Civil Rights Movement is that as much as it challenged white supremacy, it was the challenges that black people made to one another that truly empowered the movement.He continues to bring the heat here:
Now consider Ferguson. Only 6 percent of eligible black voters participated in the last municipal elections — this in a town that is more than two-thirds black. No wonder the six-person City Council only has one black member and the 53-person police force only has three black officers. Just two generations ago, black Southerners endured arrests and beatings in order to vote. And yet, it seems we’ve already forgotten the immense power of the ballot. With the existence of the Voting Rights Act, low black voter turnout or registration cannot be charged solely to white people, no matter what machinations they use to suppress voters.
Black people are not faced with anything like the violence that confronted those seeking voting rights five decades ago. Let’s end the excuses. The people of Ferguson have all the power they need to simply get rid of their unrepresentative government — vote them out. This does not take any great political computation.Charles Cobb has brought to the public forefront the conversations which occur in the semi-private spaces of the black counterpublic.
The abysmal voting numbers in Ferguson — and in communities like it around the country — are a failure not only of the people, but of black leaders. We see them parachute in and out of Ferguson, Harlem and Sanford, Fla. We see them on TV. We see them in marches. But ultimately, they offer nothing enduring.
He is also signalling to how in a digital global era the events in Ferguson (and elsewhere) are mediated visuals which are depicted in a spectacular fashion that in turn create a sense of immediacy on the part of the viewer, but where the images themselves (and the momentary public outrage they create) may not result in long-term systemic change because substantive political work takes blood, resources, and long-term planning, sacrifice, and energy.
In all, "hashtag activism" and "liking" posts via social media are not replacements for real, substantive politics.
Cobb is also asking an important foundational question about what constitutes a "leader" for a given community? This is very timely given the recent release of the The Root's List of 100 Top Black Influencers under 45. While I like and respect the work of many of the folks included on the list, one must ask, how is their work actually impacting and improving the day to day life chances of black and brown people? Should this be a criteria for being considered a "black leader" or "influencer"?
And are leaders a reflection of the particular social and political circumstances of a given era? Is there some universal rule or definition?
Cobb's essay is bold and necessary; it is also missing some nuance. The people of Ferguson and other dis-empowered communities do not participate in government because they correctly sense that the State is non-responsive to their needs and lacks legitimacy. However, this calculation leads to do a dualism and feedback loop: the State is non-responsive and does not serve the needs of the black and brown folks of Ferguson and similarly situated communities because the latter are not participating and included in it.
It is important to locate this angst, citizenship, and non-participation within a dynamic context. Racially discriminatory laws remove millions of black people from full democratic citizenship because felony disenfranchisement deems them as unable to vote. Black political leaders and organizations were destroyed by a decades-long effort by the federal government and other actors to discredit, kill, undermine, and imprison them.
The remnants of the civil rights movement were then corralled into the "success" of leading bankrupted central cities that were robbed of resources by suburbanization, globalization, and the removal of federal support for America's cities just at the moment (what was not a coincidence) when they became more black and brown demographically.
In addition, during late 1960s and 1970s many civil rights leaders were bought off and cooptated by corporations and private foundations that sponsored events and conferences such as the 1972 National Black Political Convention.
Black politics and its traditional models of protest, organization, and engagement are obsolescent and ineffective in the post civil rights era and its long shadow of the neoliberal state, austerity, and consumer fundamentalism.
Naivete about the relationship between government and civic involvement must always be pushed back against: Power does not want an active citizenry; an elite and corporatist democracy wants to limit effective citizen participation not expand it.
The people of Ferguson, and the majority of the American public, are forced to deal with the consequences of a broken and ineffective government that is working precisely as intended by the 1 percent, the rentier banking and finance classes, and the other members of the American plutocracy and deep state.
Dysfunctional government creates a lack of faith in democracy. Neoliberal governance and policy makers use those feelings to expand their influence and power. Empirical research has documented how American policy makers are most responsive to the demands of the rich while being relatively indifferent towards the needs and wants of the American people.
There are a litany of reasonable and centrist public policy positions and initiatives which are favored by the American people but that its elected "leaders" ignore. American government officials also have contempt and loathing for the public.
Sheldon Wholin's vision of what he termed as "inverted totalitarianism" is the result of the above processes.
In the United States, inverted totalitarianism is also advanced through the rise of persistent and intrusive surveillance technologies, anti-democratic interest groups that subvert the public will as enabled by the Supreme Court and decisions such as Citizens United, and an exhausting and distracting media environment in which spectacle has replaced responsible reporting and advocacy work.
Could it just be that the people of Ferguson know that "normal politics" and the system are a sham? And if so, what are the alternatives to the United States' broken, non-responsive, and corrupt arrangement(s) of political power?
As always do feel free to share new items, or other information of public and private concern that you think may be of interest to the readers and followers of WARN.