Politics Mondays: The Dis Double Standard: Your Aunt Jemima Is Their Bitch
Now that we are several months removed from the uproar surrounding the 2004 White Liberal attacks on Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Clarence Thomas, we can review and start checking off the days until the next time that season rolls around on the racial calendar. When that season does return (and as Chris Rock said “that train is never late”) it will, as it always is, be accompanied by talk of a “double standard.” On January 18, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will begin their hearings concerning President Bush’s nomination of Condoleezza Rice for Secretary of State, so we might be publishing in the eye of the storm. Last year, the Progressives were delivering Black Conservative related gaffes in a succession faster than syllables in the average Twista song, so there is a chance that the Condoleezza Rice hearings will inspire another Lefty character to reach for his or her 15 minutes of shame. If not, maybe some of their Rightwing counterparts will take the opportunity to get back in the game.
Though in the past I might have unfairly singled them out, I presently find it silly when Black Conservatives, alone, are called out for alleged subservience to their White counterparts. Are the relationships of Black Liberals and Progressives with their White counterparts so radically different than those we see among Blacks and Whites on the Right? Do those who attack Dr. Rice for what they portray as a subservient relationship to President George W. Bush find the relationship between former Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman and President Bill Clinton to be superior? Black Electorate has touched on this subject on several occasions, most recently within Cedric Muhammad’s “E- Letter To Joe Watkins and 1210-AM WPHT, "The Big Talker" Re: The Cultural Challenge of The Black Conservative" where he wrote the following:
I tend to smile when I hear Black conservatives, liberals and progressives fighting each other, with many of the Black conservatives saying the Black liberals work on a plantation; the Black liberals saying the Black conservatives are Uncle Toms and Aunt Thomasinas; and the Black progressives, at times, referring to both as sell-outs.
My personal experience (which includes very specific anecdotes that I am holding back to avoid embarrassing specific Black opinion leaders) shows me that some of the Black progressive support from White Unions; the Black conservative support from conservative and libertarian foundations and think tanks; and the Black liberal support from White political interest groups equates to the same thing - Black dependence on Whites. There is nothing liberal, conservative or progressive about this fact. I don't think any of these groups would be immune to appearing as pawns, sell-outs or on a plantation, upon scrutiny.
Yes, I see the kid in the back raising his hand so he can tell me that the recent Armstrong Williams mess “proves” that Black Conservatives are prostitutes and Muppets for the White Right, in a way that Black Progressives are not for the White Left. Re-read the quote above and consider that the present Bush Administration is not the only patron of Negroes for hire in this country.
With news links and a few Deeper Looks, we have covered the apparent Black and White Liberal double standards that often appear when hapless Progressives or Democrats lose their heads in racial matters. When dealing specifically with attacks on Black Conservatives, you can expect to see many references to how “Black Leaders” have not said anything about the treatment of a given Black Conservative, even if some of the “usual suspects” have deviated from the expected script (perhaps we are witnessing an evolution). In any case, as Republicans rediscover their abolitionist heritage (smile), and stand up for a maligned Black Person, we get to see the Left painted as the “true racists.” This is good stuff. The new Rightwing Fox (not the old Wolf) remains the totem of choice for the twitching sissies of the “Whites are one quota from being enslaved under a black fist school”, but it also gets to attempt expansion into a new market and play the role of champion against racism.
With the Justice’s good friend, and fellow Conservative Icon, Augustus Freeman IV, otherwise occupied, Ann Coulter came to the rescue of Clarence Thomas when Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid and pundit Pat Halpin lobbed some ill advised barbs in his direction. I haven’t read the warning that Mel Watt and the Congressional Black Caucus delivered to Harry Reid, but it couldn’t have been as entertaining as when Ann Coulter addressed him. But look at the last lines of Ann Coulter’s piece. She wrote:
Curiously, of all the liberals launching racist attacks on black conservatives I've quoted above, only two are themselves black: the two who write for the New York Times. So I guess there are still a couple of blacks taking orders from the Democrats. Isn't there an expression for that? I think it begins with "Uncle" and ends with "Tom."
So after her excellent defense of Clarence Thomas, and her earlier defense of Condoleezza Rice, Ann Coulter called two Black Liberals "Uncle Toms." I assume that Ann Coulter’s work has circulation comparable to Ted Rall or the White Radio host who felt “down” enough to call Dr. Rice "Aunt Jemima", but her use of "Uncle Tom" doesn’t seem to have been a problem with any of the people who had an issue with John "Sly" Sylvester’s use of the “Aunt Jemima” slur. Maybe this isn’t so strange given that several White Conservatives are given a pass to regularly refer to Black Democrats as being on a “Liberal Plantation” (i.e. slaves to White Liberals). Perhaps some of us believe that it is different when Conservatives call Black Liberals "Uncle Toms" or refer to them as if they were slaves because, unlike when Liberals use the slurs, it is "true."
Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson, Founder and President of BOND and its home for boys, appears to have moved from his 2002 position, where he called Harry Belafonte and Jesse Jackson “house slaves”, because he made the following statements when John “Sly” Sylvester appeared on the Jesse Lee Peterson Show and explained that he used the “Aunt Jemima” slur only after it had been used by his Black callers and associates:
You do know that when your Black callers use that term in reference to Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell that they are calling them sell outs? They are calling them niggers. It is a degrading term. You are aware of that because they are Republican or because they are conservative. If Condoleezza Rice was working for Bill Clinton, in the same capacity, you wouldn’t use that term neither would your Black callers use that term.
I want to understand something. Are you aware, Sly, that when Blacks use those terms on other Black Republican Conservatives that they are using those racist terms to degrade Black Americans who are Republican Conservatives? You can disagree with Condoleezza Rice; why do you have to call her Aunt Jemima? Why do you have to call her names?
It appears that the “double standard” isn’t limited to the Left. I can appreciate how several Black Conservatives participated in the scolding of Trent Lott, but it seems that passes are regularly given to members of the Conservative team when they attack Black Liberals in the same way Dr. Rice and Colin Powell have been attacked. If anyone is aware of them, please send us any articles or op-eds that show how the recent defenders of Black Conservatives showed the same principle and defended Democrat Cynthia Mckinney when Republican Congressman Call Ballenger chose to call her a "bitch" and "would have developed a little bit of a segregationist feeling" if he had to listen to her. If anyone can show where Conservatives, who defended Dr. Rice, Justice Thomas, and Colin Powell, defended the Black Democrats who are spoken of as slaves, please send those pieces in as well. If, for example, we were to use what appears to be Jesse Lee Peterson's current standard, the “Aunt Jemima” and “House Slave” slurs that appear on the Left are equal to the “Bitch” and “Slave" (on a Liberal Plantation) slurs that appear on the Right.
It is likely that each time the season of the racial gaffe and the double standard comes around we will be able to recycle parts of the following statement ,made by our publisher in 2002, concerning the Trent Lott controversy
In the entire week that I have spoken to Blacks that I know about the Lott controversy, not a single person has said that they were surprised by what came out of Senator Lott's mouth. Nor has a single person expressed their conviction that White Democrats are any less racist than White Republicans. And this includes the views of Black Republicans who make the case that racism abounds on both sides of the political spectrum. Armstrong Williams, Star Parker, Thomas Sowell and John McWhorter - leading black conservative opinion leaders - have all criticised Senator Lott for his comments. But what has been the Black Republican/Conservative motive? Has it really been a quest to stamp out racism wherever it appears? Or have their pens been guided by a short-term need to put out a fire that threatens not only their own credibility as conservatives but also the inroads that the movement was making within the Black electorate, via the Republican Party?
So if not a deep sincere committment to eradicate racism and repair the damage of slavery, on either side, what is this controversy really all about?
Well, that remains to be seen, as a lot of good can come out of a serious conversation about race, when it takes place. Perhaps this controversy is a catalyst for such a badly-needed undertaking. But will we really get that awesome result from this current superficial exercise? Or will we ultimately be innundated with politically-correct statements, symbolic gestures, photo-ops, apologies and rhetoric and that which falls short of the real process of repair, reconciliation and atonement that is required to overcome America's racial divide?
Certainly, the Black community should know better than to fall into a superficial partisan discussion of the most serious problem that has ever faced this country, of which which they are at the center. While it is good to hear the subject of race relations verbally acknowledged, right now it looks like White Republicans are most interested in overcoming an image problem that could cost them votes; while White Democrats are interested in scoring quick political points after a poor showing in an election.
So, the subject and headline may read "Senator Lott Makes Racist Comments" but the game is still the same, for the two parties. And Blacks are still pawns, on both sides.
It is a shame that leading Black surrogates are helping to forward such limited partisan objectives in the face of the yet unsolved problems that are the real legacy of slavery and racism.
With the hearings concerning the friend of Denise McNair upon us, we can be certain our Conservative friends will be looking for "Aunt Jemima" but it remains to be seen whether they would recognize "Aunt Jemima" in the form of a "Bitch."
Andy J. Solages is Contributing Editor of Black Electorate.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Andy J. Solages
Monday, January 17, 2005