As Black leaders are biting off their fingers waiting for the start of the Democratic National Convention later this month in Boston, I will be reminiscing about Johnson versus Goldwater in 1964. Because Georgia allowed persons to vote at 18 years of age before the 26th Amendment, this would be my first vote in a presidential election.
This election would introduce me to the politics of fear. Barry Goldwater would nuke the world. Lyndon Johnson was the Great White Hope. The same modus operandi is in play today. Only President-select George Bush can save the United States from another 9/11 attack. Homeland Security is busy disseminating color-coded alerts.
My father gave me some advice for the next presidential election in 1968. Like myself, he never experienced any obstacle to voting in Coweta County. The reason was simple. Georgia used the white primary system and county officials were indifferent to Black voting preferences. A white, male segregationist would win every election.
His advice was simple: You should always vote for a Black person if the opportunity presented itself. Voting for white males had been an exercise in futility. My opportunity to vote for a Black presidential candidate presented itself in 1968. Dick Gregory was on the ballot. This was probably a first in the South.
I voted for Gregory even though the Gregory vote, like the Ralph Nader vote in 2000, probably defeated the Democratic presidential candidate. My vote, however, was consistent with the 1960s agenda of Vote Black! Buy Black! and Think Black! Tricky Dick Nixon was elected president and he ushered in Gov. George Wallaces states rights platform.
By 1968, I had learned another valuable lesson: Politics is not about whom you send home. It is about what you bring home. The return of Muhammad Ali to the boxing ring is a perfect example. No state would issue him a boxing license. Georgia did, even though Gov. Lester Maddox vowed that Ali would only fight in Georgia over his dead body.
Ali did fight in Atlanta because of the political and legal skills of State Senator Leroy Johnson, who was the first Black elected to a state legislature in the South since Reconstruction. Using Black political clout, Johnson was the political kingpin in Georgia. Most white politicians kowtowed to him.
Without his endorsement, Sam Massell would never have become the first Jewish mayor in Atlanta. Johnson was no slouch, however. White politicians had to pay off their political debts. Aside from political slaves, political creditors know how to enforce a debt.
Because Georgia was without a boxing commission, Johnson knew that Maddox had no any jurisdiction over boxing. That being the case, he directed Massell to issue Ali a license to fight in Atlanta. For Ali, the rest is boxing career.
For me, politics started in the 1960s. I envisioned Blacks in Georgias Black Belt securing and exercising political power. I went to the Voter Education Project seeking funding. Both Vernon Jordan and John Lewis once headed the VEP which, I later learned, had secured funds to persuade Blacks that the political process was superior to urban rebellions.
VEP gave me the shock of my life. My proposal was rejected because it was too Black. Voting was not intended to give Blacks political power. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 only gave Blacks a political presence. Black power was out of the question.
This same strategy was employed in 1866. Rather than to write a citizenship provision in the Constitution, Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Newly freed Blacks protested and Black soldiers refused to participate in the toys for guns program.
This protest prompted Congress to author the Fourteenth Amendment, as an equalizer, to get guns out of Black hands. Congress never intended to enforce the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, and the rights under them are illusory.
After the political debacle in 1876, Jim Crow was crowned. Voter fraud in Florida precipitated the Hayes-Tilden Compromise. Seven years later, the Supreme Court invalidated the Civil Rights Act of 1875. History repeated itself in 2000 and, in 2007, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 will expire. We must study political and constitutional history.
I will be watching the Democratic National Convention with great sadness. Every Black elected official in New York will be enthusiastically endorsing the Kerry-Edwards ticket because white men told them to do so. This is white paternalism and Black treason.
None of them would confront Eliot Spitzer, the state attorney general, over Spitzers takeover of BUFNY or my illegal, protracted suspension from the practice of law. Spitzer will never tolerate any Black confronting white authority. Through voting, we are endorsing our own oppression.
To add salt to an open wound, Spitzer is supervising the writing of the National Platform for the Democratic National Convention. He intends to do nationally what he has already done locally. His views on race can be found in his argument before the states highest court: New York should not finance education beyond the eighth grade for Black children.
I am inviting all Black elected officials and Black leaders to stand with Kermit Eady and me before they trek off to Boston to bless the Kerry-Edwards ticket. More importantly, they should come out and outline, in detail, their political agenda for the Democratic National Convention and any retaliatory action to be taken if their agenda is rebuffed.
Attorney Chokwe Lumumba, who is also facing a disbarment proceeding in Mississippi, will be the keynote speaker. Trans-Atlantic Productions will be showing a critically informational film on Tawana Brawley and the unveiling of www.reinstatealtonmaddox.com.
It will all take place at the Oberia Dempsey Center, 127 West 127th Street in Harlem on Wednesday, July 21, at 7 p.m. Kudos to Sis. Karen Mason for the website and Sis. Clara Jones as media liaison. For further information call 718-834-9034.
Political lessons for a perpetual Black activist