Michael Fauntroy Comments on Race, Politics, and Shirley Sherrod
Here is video of my appearance on the Thursday, July 22nd edition of the Fox Morning News in Washington, DC. It's right on the heels of the Shirley Sherrod controversy and the NAACP/Tea Party flap.
The NAACP Tea Party Resolution
Edmund Burke once said, “All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Racism is evil and needs to be exposed wherever it exists. For that reason, I think the NAACP’s resolution regarding racism in the Tea Party movement is appropriate and necessary. The conservative push to brand any discussion of racism in America as “playing the race card” has had a chilling effect on our public discourse in this area.
One of the great things about this nation is that you can be whomever you choose and associate with whomever you want. That includes being a racist and associating with others. People who oppose those viewpoints have the right and responsibility to speak loudly against them. I don’t believe that everyone in the Tea Party is a racist. I believe that the Tea Party is a magnet for racists who feel they have no other way to politically express themselves. I'm reminded of Sarah Palin’s late 2008 campaign events in which hostile opponents of Barack Obama shouted racist things from the audience. The racist element within the Tea Party is worried that their grip on the nation is slipping and the party is their last best hope stop the change that is clearly coming to the nation. An esteemed organization such as the NAACP has done the nation a great favor by shining new light on this element of the Tea Party.
I discussed this in the following Minnesota Public Radio clip. Kerri Miller is the host and Cord Jefferson was the other discussant.
Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Wednesday, July 21, 2010
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The Public Discourse Deserves Better than Steve King
I have heard a number of false allegations leveled against President Barack Obama – socialist, communist, illegal immigrant, terrorist sympathizer, etc. Iowa Congressman Steve King (R-Limbaugh/Coulter/Palin) took things to a new level when he said on G. Gordon Liddy’s radio show that the president: “the President has demonstrated that he has a default mechanism in him that breaks down the side of race – on the side that favors the black person.” This charge, completely unsubstantiated by the factual record, would be laughable were it voiced by someone with no responsibility for national leadership. Coming from a member of Congress, however, it only contributes to the animus that some on the Right feel toward Obama. America’s racial issues require serious words from serious people.
Steve King is not among them.
Don’t get me wrong: Presidents can be racists too. Even Black ones. But to hurl that charge without legitimate evidence simply adds fuel to the fire that burns in some people who will believe anything about the President that confirms their own narrow view of him and the world. King just gave rhetorical nourishment to the Tea Party crowd and others who just can’t accept the fact that a Black man is President of the United States.
Indeed, to the extent that national reporting touches on Obama’s personal security, we know that the life of this President is under threat moreso than any previous person to hold the office. Is it because he is left handed, a lawyer, or we are in a recession? No. We have had southpaw presidents, lawyer presidents, and recession presidents, so I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it’s probably BECAUSE HE IS BLACK. CNN and the London Telegraph reported in August of 2009 that threats against Obama were up 400 percent from his predecessor, George Bush, who received about 3,000 per year. Even with that reality, the president has bent over backwards to overlook race.
I have been critical of him for his clear unwillingness to use his bully pulpit, one which no other person on the face of this earth has, to lead the country in a new direction on race. Silence on the prison-industrial complex which has destabilized Black and Brown communities around the country. Silence on the race-based exploitation of Africa. Silence of racism. Barely a peep on racial profiling. Indeed, he publicly scolded his Attorney General for having the temerity to say that America has been cowardly when it comes to race. Obama’s plan has been to largely ignore race, as if a lead-by-example philosophy will fade this historic stain on the American quilt. I believe this the wrong approach. No systemic societal problem in all of recorded human history has gone away because it was simply ignored.
Meanwhile, King’s comments reflect the conservative narrative on race in America: charge liberals with being racists to change the subject and hope the country does not examine the Right’s record on race. There is no legitimate support for King’s claim. But he lodged it anyway because, in America, race is one of the few topics that will get a rise out of people. As we look move closer toward the November elections, look for King and people of his ilk to amp up the rhetoric to drive their supporters to the polls.
Michael K. Fauntroy is an associate professor of public policy at George Mason University and author of the book Republicans and the Black Vote. He blogs at: MichaelFauntroy.com
Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Monday, June 14, 2010
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Charlie Crist’s Declaration of Independence
It’s been six weeks since Florida Governor Charlie Crist announced that he would seek the open Florida U.S. Senate seat as an Independent. This decision represented a major break from the Republican Party under whose banner he won the governorship. While that could be seen as his own political Declaration of Independence, his recent veto of a bill that forces women seeking abortions to first view an ultrasound and requires doctors to describe the fetus shows that partisan independence reveals the true Crist – an ideologically moderate politician who was forced to kowtow to the right wing of his party to win elections. Crist’s independence should be a lesson to both voters and prospective candidates – rigid ideology is not in the best interest of public policy because it forces good people out of the policy debate.
I changed my party affiliation a few years back from Democrat to Independent. I’m still the same ideologically, but I did it, in part, because I wanted to call it as I see it and not be worried about hearing from party hacks telling me that I wasn’t supporting “so-and-so” like a good Democrat would. I’ve found independence to be great. It’s intellectually freeing and I really believe Crist will grow more politically as a result of his independence.
I’m not saying his veto is solely about political courage; he’s been on both sides of the abortion debate and I’m certain there was some general election political calculus in his decision. However, there should be no doubt that this decision would not have even been an option for Crist if he were still a Republican. While the true Crist is now anathema to the Grand Old Party, the fact that his view of ideology is more in line with the majority of Floridians than the party he left should be disconcerting. How do we know that his view is more in line with the voters? Well, he’s been ahead in the polls since his party switch and, barring any major unforeseen screw ups, he is the favorite to beat both Republican nominee Marco Rubio and Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek in November. While he’s still to the right of me ideologically, I want to salute Crist and his Declaration of Independence.
Michael K. Fauntroy is an associate professor of public policy at George Mason University and author of the book Republicans and the Black Vote. He blogs at MichaelFauntroy.com
Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Monday, June 14, 2010
U.S. Electoral Politics
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Michael Fauntroy’s Channel Now on YouTube
I just wanted to let you know that Michael Fauntroy's Channel
is now up and running on YouTube. It's a repository of some of my television work, interviews, and commentaries. I hope you'll subscribe to the page so to get video sent to you as soon as it is uploaded. Thanks.
Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Wednesday, June 09, 2010
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If Helen Thomas, Then Why Not Pat Buchanan?
Helen Thomas recently set off a firestorm with her comment that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home” to Germany or Poland. The comments resulted first, and predictably, with her apology. Over the weekend, with the heat turned up considerably, she decided to retire immediately (before she was fired). Her comments have raised a number of questions – What was she thinking? Is she an anti-Semite? Should she lose her coveted front-row seat in the White House briefing room? However, one question immediately came to my mind when I learned of her retirement that I have yet to hear discussed: If she has to go, then why does Pat Buchanan still have a job?
Helen Thomas’ view of the Israeli-Palestinian situation is out of step with mainstream American thought. She’s been nearly universally condemned and rightfully so. And I’m not arguing that she’s been wronged; words are weapons and sometimes, you shoot yourself. However, people should not be shocked at her comments. She is the daughter of Lebanese immigrants (no, I don’t think all Lebanese think like this) and has long had very well know views on the Middle East.
Buchanan, meanwhile, has been able to successfully launder his racism through CNN, MSNBC, and as a syndicated columnist for decades despite that a career including stints in the Nixon and Reagan White House’s in which he advised Nixon that Martin Luther King was “one of the most divisive men in contemporary history”; referred to the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre in South Africa as “whites mistreating a couple of blacks” (sixty-seven Blacks were killed and scores more beaten and injured); defended South African Apartheid, belittling the Free South Africa Movement, and delivered that disgusting 1992 Republican National Convention speech in which he declared that the country was in a culture war and his side had to “take back our cities, take back our culture, and take back our country.” Allow me to translate: Black and Brown people out of the cities, no diversity, immigrants go home.
Buchanan has often waxed nostalgically about his upbringing in segregated Washington, D.C. He has written of Blacks having their place and Whites having theirs and everyone was fine with it. As a fourth-generation Washingtonian, I’m particularly struck by his coded racism: “There were no politics to polarize us then, to magnify every slight. The negroes of Washington had their public schools, restaurants, bars, movie houses, playgrounds and churches; and we had ours.” My father and Buchanan are about the same age and his stories of growing up in segregated D.C. were not anything like Buchanan’s. They revolved around police oppression, out-of-date hand-me-down school books, and racism.
While my reference to Buchanan is certainly aimed at him, his inclusion here speaks to the larger phenomenon of certain kinds of people spewing racism and being treated with impunity. For me, there are more than a few people of his ilk who don’t get fired for inflaming the public discourse with racist talk.
So let Helen Thomas go; she earned her unemployment (though I am concerned about the free speech implications in all this). But the public discourse requires that people of goodwill to respond forcefully to racists, so let’s make sure Thomas is not alone on the “retired” list. Buchanan is far more dangerous than Thomas ever was.
Michael K. Fauntroy is an associate professor of public policy at George Mason University. An author, commentator, and columnist, he blogs at MichaelFauntroy.com.
Artur Davis Dissed his Base and Paid the Price
While Congressman Artur Davis’s stunning loss in his quest to win the Alabama Democratic Gubernatorial nomination was a sad turn for one Black man, it was a great moment for Black voters. It revealed a heightened level of political sophistication among Black primary voters who rejected Davis’s “I-don’t-need-to-spend-time-on-them-'cause-I-know-they’ll-be-with-me” approach to campaigning. Black Alabamians did not simply genuflect before a polished Black candidate. He gave them nothing; they returned the favor. Davis has ambitiously positioned himself for higher office for some time. In so doing, he took his base for granted. That’s the best way to lose an election.
Davis tried to replicate Barack Obama’s coalition campaigning by de-emphasizing race. In running from race, he ran from reality – and a chance to win as Black voters comprise 60 percent of Alabama’s Democratic primary electorate. I don’t think any reasonable person would expect Artur Davis, Barack Obama, or any other Black elected official to legislate or govern on with a “Black only” philosophy. It’s not unreasonable, however, to expect a Black candidate to conduct him- or herself with a particularly sensitivity and understanding of the intersection of race and public policy. By acting like that intersection does not exist, Davis told Black voters that they and the unique race-based problems facing Black Alabamians, in some ways, do not exist.
He legislated in Congress with an eye toward the entire state, sometimes to the detriment of his constituents. Particularly notable was his vote against the health care reform bill passed by Congress this spring. That stupid move revealed a disconnect between his political aspirations and the needs of the voters in his district and throughout the state – one of the poorest and least insured in the nation. And in unnecessarily stiff-arming Black leadership throughout the state in an attempt to win White Democratic voters, he also showed himself to be just another craven politician.
While Davis’s loss is largely his own fault, we can not ignore Alabama’s conservative culture. At it's core, conservatism is about resistance to changes to the racial, economic, and social the status quo. Not matter how cute Davis tried to play it, how conservative he tried to portray himself, or how much he tried to fit in, his Blackness represented a significant challenge to Alabama’s conservative orthodoxy.
His defeat also appears to reveal some remnants of the “Wilder Effect”. The New York Times reported that he led his opponent, Ron Sparks, by as much as 10 percentage points in some late polls. However, he got routed by 24 points, winning just 38 percent of the vote. He could have lost that badly by just being a real liberal, so a 34-point swing can not simply be attributed to just his campaign strategy. Swings like that do not happen without a major screw up by the leader – a "macaca moment" for example. That didn't happen in this race.
Artur Davis’s loss should be a signal to candidates of all stripes. Ambition is fine, but do not take your base for granted. Doing so could have a harmful impact on your electoral goals.
Michael Fauntroy is an associate professor of public policy at George Mason University and specializes in race and politics. He blogs at MichaelFauntroy.com.
Michael Fauntroy and Brian Lamb Go One-on-One on C-SPAN
I did an interview with Brian Lamb a few months back for the C-SPAN program "Q and A." I enjoyed the discussion and hope you'll check it out when you get a few minutes.
Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Friday, May 21, 2010
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John McCain: Pretzel Maker
Senator John McCain is a craven politician with either a poorly functioning memory or great faith in the ability of the public to forget the past. He now claims that he's never claimed to be a "maverick", a political persona he has regularly invoked to show his independence.
While I, too, believe that the public too easily fails to connect the dots on things, I am thankful that their is irrefutable evidence to support my claim. The Huffington Post has compiled a series of McCain commercials and other public statements touting his "maverickiness." This is must-see stuff, so click the link when you can. It would be funny were it not so sad. John McCain is contorting himself into a pretzel so as to not fall prey to his primary challenger, scum tea bagger, J.D. Hayworth. Former Representative Hayworth is an unserious man without any particular contributions to the public discourse that one could consider substantial, yet he's breathing down McCain's neck because of an overheated movement that is a magnet for politically ignorant people, some of whom add racism to their portfolios.
Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Tuesday, April 06, 2010
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Michael Fauntroy on the Need for a Black Agenda
Here are some comments I made at the We Count! forum in Chicago.
Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Sunday, April 04, 2010
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Watch Michael Fauntroy on We Count! on C-SPAN 2
I participated in the We Count! The Black Agenda is the American Agenda symposium on Saturday, March 20 at Chicago State University. It was an incredible experience for me to be a part of the event, which was designed to highlight the reasons why issues of unique importance to African Americans need to be addressed by the Obama administration and Congress (picture left: Jesse Jackson, Michael Fauntroy, and Cornel West). Given all of the controversy surrounding the event, I'm proud that we were able to cut through all that negativity to have a good dialogue on important issues.
C-SPAN 2 recorded the event and will broadcast it in prime-time, Monday evening, March 29th at 8:30 p.m. EDT/
7:30 p.m. CDT.
I hope you will be able to check it out. The final hour was an audience question and answer session. No filtered questions!
Mike Fauntroy on Health Care Protests
Here is a piece done by the Washington, DC Fox affiliate in which I comment on the out-of-bounds protests against Members of Congress on the health care bill. The bottom line for me is simple. People who can't control themselves and are determined to spit on Members of Congress, yell racial and other kinds of epithets, and vandalize property should not be able to do so and escape public ridicule. People have the right to be racists and homophobes, but people of good will should shine a light on their dark hearts. I come in about two minutes in.
The Stimulus is Not Getting to the Grassroots
The stimulus bill was designed to help stabilize the national economy and get hurting communities off the ground. Communities of color were told that the stimulus would be a boon to Black and Brown communities. A year later, the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity has studied the impact of the stimulus on minority communities and the results are not pretty. According to their report -- ARRA & the Economic Crisis -- One Year Later: Has Stimulus Helped Communities in Crisis? -- the results are poor or worse:
Although consistent state level data on ARRA contracting to minority firms is not widely available, figures from federal procurement indicate troubling and disparate contracting patterns. While Black‐, Latino‐, and Women‐ owned businesses represent 5.2%, 6.8%, and 28.2% of all businesses respectively,12 as of February 1, 2010, they had only received 1.1%, 1.6%, and 2.4% of all federally contracted ARRA funds.13 Of the $45 billion in direct federal contracts allocated by February 1st 2010, less than $2.4 billion (5% of the total) were allocated to Black‐, Latino‐, and Women‐ owned businesses.
This is unacceptable in an environment in which Black and Brown communities are worst hit by the economic downturn, with some Black communities
suffering from unemployment rates above 30 percent (In October 2009, the
jobless rate for black males age 16-to-24 was 34.5 percent in my home
city of Washington, D.C., a place that has made out reasonably well in
the current recession and Milwaukee, Wisconsin has recently had a Black
male unemployment rate hovering around 50 percent) and dangerously high
dropout and criminal justice supervision rates, a unique, special, and
acute problem has been established that requires attention above and
beyond what our leaders – elected and appointed, and without regard to
race are willing to acknowledge.
Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Wednesday, March 24, 2010
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Michael Fauntroy to Serve as Panelist in “We Count!” Symposium
I'm pleased to announce that I will be a panelist on the We Count! symposium on Saturday, March 20th at the Jones Convention Center at Chicago State University. I will be part of a group discussion on the kinds of issues that should be included in a political, economic, and social agenda for African Americans. Many thanks to Tavis Smiley for inviting me to join in the discussion. I'm looking forward to participating and consider it an honor.
C-SPAN will broadcast the event live at 9:00 AM Eastern. You may also check it out live online at UStream.
Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Thursday, March 18, 2010
Race and American Politics
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New Audio: Fauntroy on “Tell Me More” with Michel Martin
is a link to the Friday, February 26, 2010 edition of NPR's "Tell Me More" with Michel Martin. I participated in the "Barbershop" segment and discussed New York Governor David Paterson, Tavis Smiley, and Al Sharpton.