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E- Letter To The Washington Post and Courtland Milloy Re: Colin Powell: Bush Man Or Black Man?


Your excellent column,Colin Powell: Bush Man Or Black Man?, definitely supports our argument that the access to power does not guarantee the influence of power. Unfortunately Blacks for too long have accepted the former over the latter. Your piece also reveals that Citizen Powell has always had more potential to do more for Blacks than Secretary Of State Powell.

You did very well to point out the warm, personal nature of Powell’s interaction with Dorothy Height. We too, have learned of similar ongoing cordial relations that the Secretary has with a few Black leaders. From what we have been told by those “in-the-know”, General Powell has been privately seeking the advice and input of a few Black opinion leaders who are not Republicans or conservatives. We think that is great start and demonstrates Powell’s ability to connect with Blacks of all walks of life. We have always noticed how White conservatives have been frustrated with Powell as they have not been able to totally subsume him and control him like they do other Black Republican and conservative surrogates who become famous off of reading the latest GOP talking-points. It is hard for Whites to control a Black man from the boogie down Bronx (smile).

However, at a certain point, listening to Blacks is worth nothing if it does not result in a “Black” view being reflected in some of the Bush administration policies – domestic and foreign. And this is where Powell must be assertive. He does not have to apologize for representing a certain ethnic group. No other ethnic/interest group apologizes for pushing its “narrow” interests in the halls of power – in the White House or U.S. Congress.

That argument or request for an apology is only applied to Blacks. Blacks can’t be “Black” and involved in the American political system without it being said that there is a conflict of interest or evidence of treason and subversion. And Powell can’t be “Black-minded" and U.S. Secretary of State at the same time, according to American political orthodoxy.

We find that interesting considering that President Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeline Albright proudly affirmed that she was Jewish while Secretary of State and admitted her warm feelings for the Jewish people and that her identity affected the level of intensity that she devoted to Middle East affairs. That is natural and appropriate. In fact, over 40% of President Clinton’s administration – staff and cabinet officials – were Jewish. It is only natural that the Clinton administration, especially on foreign affairs, would lean toward the support of Israel over the Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians, although the administration attempted to style itself as an honest broker.

People are scared to death to write and talk about this – even supposedly progressive, radical and independent Blacks. We don’t share their fear, at all, and could care less about the consequences of not being “politically correct” on this particular subject. The question that we ask, that makes our point and moves the discussion out of the tired realm of “anti-semitism” is: Why does Israel receive more aid from America than all of the 48 countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined?

The answer can’t be found in “national security interests” as many fallaciously argue. The answer can be found in the influence of domestic interest groups.

Even though there are only 6 million Jews in America and around 10 million worldwide, while there are 40 million Blacks in the U.S. and over 600 million Blacks in Africa, the influence of the domestic Jewish interest groups supercedes that of Blacks. Why? They are better organized, better financed and better at lobbying politicians of all ethnicities and backgrounds than are their Black counterparts.

In addition, the Jewish vote, civic organizations, media, and opinion leaders are more unpredictable than their Black counterparts, giving their community more leverage with politicians of all persuasions.

As an example, while the NAACP has more members, AIPAC has infinitely more power and influence with both major parties.

As a result, the Bush administration listens and responds to the arguments of the U.S. Jewish political establishment in reference to the upcoming conference on racism in South Africa while it ignores those made by the U.S. Black political establishment. President Bush responds to the arguments of Jewish leaders on the subject of Zionism while he ignores the arguments of Black leaders on the issue of reparations.

President Clinton did the exact same thing.

While there are only 10 million Jews worldwide and 1500 million Muslims in the world, 40% of President Clinton's cabinet and support staff was Jewish , while not even 1% was Muslim. As a result, he could bomb the Sudan and Afghanistan without having to hear a dissenting point of view of a Muslim-American from within his own cabinet. How can anyone reasonable explain that the composition of President Clinton’s cabinet did not affect his judgment of Middle Eastern affairs? How could anyone intelligently argue that it was not evidence of a narrow interest prevailing that not one of President Clinton’s top foreign policy advisers was a Muslim? How can a man deal intelligently with nearly 7 million Muslims in his own country and 1,500 million people around the world if he does not readily seek their counsel from a representative of theirs in his team of advisers?

But Bush does what he does, even with a Black Secretary of State, showing that there is no room for a “Black” point of view on foreign policy (at least) while there is room for a Jewish point of view. Again, it is pure nonsense and deceptive to say that race should not factor into policy. Again, why does Israel receive so much foreign aid while Africa gets so little, if ethnic considerations and the pressure of special interest groups who identify themselves in terms of the ethnicity are not being considered?

It is a shame that Blacks have to “prove” they are American before they can advance the cause of their people at home and abroad. The Irish, Polish, Italians, Armenians, and Jews don’t have to do that before their interests at home and abroad are considered and advanced by the political establishment.

The difference between these groups and Blacks is that the others, generally speaking, are unable to be pacified by political appointments, while Blacks sadly, still equate appointments with influence – symbol over substance. Issues, agendas and results are more important to the other ethnic interest groups.

Your article should cause all Blacks to consider their collective impotence when it comes to influencing U.S. decisions via Black appointees and Cabinet officials near the top. The problem did not begin with Powell. It actually began with the relationships to U.S. presidents maintained by Frederick Douglas and Booker T. Washington.

More recently, we have to look no further than the fact that Rev. Jesse Jackson was Clinton’s special envoy to Africa. What did that produce for Africa or Blacks in this country? Some say it provided a cover for President Clinton’s bombing of the Sudan; the looting of diamonds in West Africa; and deflected criticism of the Clinton administration’s lack of response to what happened in Rwanda, among other things.

So, you do well to ask whether or not Secretary Powell is a “Bushman” or “Blackman”. And when it came to foreign policy, especially, we could have asked the same of Rev. Jackson – was he a “Clintonman” or a “Blackman”.

They will never be “Blackmen” as long as they accept the role of junior partners and managers of the affairs of a political establishment that has little room for non-White and non-Jewish points of view on matters of foreign policy.

The Black electorate could save itself a lot of energy, disappointment and frustration if it would realize that.


Cedric Muhammad

Thursday, August 2, 2001

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