by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
“Both men know the rules of life in America and the first is ‘Thou shalt make white people comfortable.’”
Few people outside of the St. Louis, Missouri, area had heard of the town of Ferguson before August 9, 2014. On that day 18-year old Michael Brown was shot dead by police officer Darren Wilson. Brown was shot six times, and after he was killed the police left his uncovered body to lie in the street for four hours.
The people of Ferguson were fortunate in not having any prominent political, religious or media “leaders” in their midst. They had no power brokers dissuading protest, claiming to speak for them or cutting deals behind their backs. So they took to the streets day after day and worldwide media attention soon followed.
Press attention can be both good and bad. It is obviously a good thing that Brown’s murder received so much coverage. But of course the usual suspects of chicanery and modern day Uncle Tomism are in the media fray too. A black reporter for the New York Times, John Eligon , felt it necessary to opine that the teenaged Brown was “no angel.” Eligon and the Times first attempted to defend themselves but were ultimately forced to admit that the “choice of words was a regrettable mistake.” Unfortunately Eligon was not alone and not the worst of the black journalists who made their bones over Michael Brown’s body.
One evening this columnist chose to watch CNN, which would not have been the case absent the desperate need to see any news of the Ferguson protests. It was difficult to watch New York Times columnist Charles Blow  and CNN pundit Van Jones  eagerly diminish the extent of the racist terror still practiced in this country.
“Blow and his ilk are trotted out at moments such as these to ostensibly speak for 30 million other people.”
In the first instance, host Anderson Cooper asked Charles Blow an odd question about whether the actions of the demonstrators and the police response were distractions from the search for justice. Of course Blow should have replied that the demonstrations were all about the need for justice but instead he made this bizarre statement.
“It is a distraction in all cases. It is a distraction for the death of this young man. You cannot bring him back. I think it is a distraction also from the larger more sophisticated questions about race which are not necessarily whether someone is or isn’t an angel or demon sorts of comparisons in these cases. That’s not how people operate. And you know Wilson does not have to be the worst person in the world to have made a really horrible choice in that moment and I think we have to have a nuanced conversation about how bias creeps into split second decisions.”
Ida B. Wells-Barnet must have turned in her grave when Blow spoke those words. One hundred years ago that courageous journalist documented every instance of lynch law violence that she could find and she was unafraid to say that white racism was indeed the demon. In the 21st century a smart black man with the right connections can have a New York Times column but that personal success comes at a high price for the rest of black America. Blow and his ilk are trotted out at moments such as these to ostensibly speak for 30 million other people. In reality they speak only for their corporate media minders. In the glare of black anger they make it clear that they are on the side of the well paying gig which means they are the enemies of the people they are alleged to represent.
“Lemon made a name for himself as the go to guy for racism dispensation.”
That evening Blow played an Uncle Ruckus tag team with Van Jones and CNN anchorman Don Lemon. After the trauma of the not guilty verdict in the case of Trayvon Martin’s murder, Lemon took the opportunity to side with white people against black people. He made constant and vocal appeals to the worst of respectability politics, promoting the false equivalence of “black on black crime” with lynch law murder. Lemon made a name for himself as the go to guy for racism dispensation.
Van Jones was famous for being kicked to the curb  by Barack Obama from his position as “green jobs czar.” His crime was being mildly progressive and garnering the attention of right wing pundits like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. Jones then went on to the Moveon.org Rebuilding the Dream  project, rebranding the same Democrats who gave him the ax. He then parlayed what at first appeared to be bad luck as a host of CNN’s Crossfire where among other things he advocated killing Syrian president Bashir al-Assad . On the night in question on CNN, Jones picked up where Blow left off. A Don Lemon town hall was his venue for speaking lies and treachery.
“One of the things I’m very interested in is this whole idea of cognitive bias. We have come to a point, and you’ve said this so many times Don, where in our conscious mind everybody is with Dr. King. Nobody consciously anymore wants to be a racist. You have very few people who still feel that way and they’re going away, they’re graying out. But what is being shown now by the science Don is that it is our subconscious mind and where when you put the wires on people’s heads and show them a picture of a black youth, even people who don’t want to be racist still have that fearful reaction including some African Americans. And until we have that deeper conversation not about willful racism but that subconscious, unconscious bias I think we’re going to have these kind of scenes play out.”
Van Jones is either stupid or a bald faced liar. The Yale educated attorney is probably not stupid but he is the worst kind of charlatan. The video shows him speaking without any hint of irony as he declared that white people must have wires placed on their heads in order to manifest racism. To add insult to injury, Jones implied that black people have the same degree of racism as whites. There are thousands of black police officers but few Darren Wilsons among them.
If there are no more “conscious racists” then Michael Brown would still be alive. So would Eric Garner and the 300 other black people who lose their lives to extra judicial killings every year. There would not be a fund supporting Brown’s killer, which has raised $250,000, if in fact everybody wanted to be with Dr. King. Bias against black people does not live in the recesses of the racist brain and it doesn’t needs electrodes attached to heads in order to be observed. It is right up front and impacts whether black people live or die.
“Jones implied that black people have the same degree of racism as whites.”
CNN probably didn’t send a memo telling Blow and Jones to make white people feel better by allowing them to leave the crime scene without being charged. They didn’t have to do that. Both men know the rules of life in America and the first is “Thou shalt make white people comfortable.”
There was a time when minstrels made white people happy by presenting the worst caricatures of black people. Now as Jones said, we must speak in more sophisticated terms, and the minstrels are well educated, well spoken black people with all the right credentials. Yet they are even more despicable than the coon show characters of decades past. Stepin Fetchit had little choice in how he could make a good living in the media of his day. Now people who have more options always seem to include throwing other black people under the bus as part of the job description. It is no doubt difficult to turn down seven figure life styles but the rest of us should make no mistake about where these people stand. We know that Darren Wilson is a demon who has millions of kindred spirits in this country and that not all of them have gray hair. We know that racism is open, deliberate and conscious. Most importantly we must know that the black misleaders whether in the Congressional Black Caucus or in front of a news camera are very dangerous and we shouldn’t be shy about calling them to account. And we shouldn’t need to have wires placed on our heads in order to name names.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com . Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.
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