Tuesday’s NY-8 Primary: Will Voters Choose the 20th Century, or 21st?
The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line. The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois
On June 26, residents of the 8th Congressional district have a choice to make: should the district have representation with a single-minded focus on the 20th century’s color line, or does the district deserve 21st century representation that will serve the diversity of all residents regardless of race, gender, religion, disability, and sexual orientation?
Charles Barron is an icon of color line ideology. Throughout his 10 years in the City Council, he has demonstrated time and again that race is his singular focus. That focus, coupled with a keen knack for self-promotion, is the hallmark of Barron’s public career and sometimes borders on emotional abuse of the public. Here are some examples.
In early 2009, Barron stood beside Sharpton calling for an inquiry into Rupert Murdock’s broadcast license waiver in the wake of a NY Post cartoon characterizing President Obama as a shot gorilla one day after the president signed the stimulus bill. Both led protests in front of News Corp.’s NYC headquarters, home to the NY Post and Fox News, and threatened to go directly to the FCC with their complaint. Going after Murdock’s license was viewed as a laudable goal by community supporters. Protests reached a fever pitch, then… nothing.
Barron’s longest running racial episode under the guise of defending Black free speech began in 2007 when his then Chief-of-Staff Viola Plummer disrupted a Council Stated Meeting during a vote for a street re-naming of Gates Avenue in honor of Sonny Carson. Plummer was asked to leave, then while still on City Hall grounds, called for the “assassination (of Council member Leroy Comrie’s) ass” after he abstained. Plummer later claimed she meant it in a political sense, but the comment was widely viewed as unseemly considering the late Councilman James Davis was shot to death in City Hall Council Chambers. Apparently nothing says Blackness and self-determination like calling for the assassination of a member of the City Council on City Hall grounds where a real assassination of a Council member took place just a few short years ago. Despite this, Barron steadfastly stood by Plummer.
One month later, Quinn initiated a series of actions that culminated in Plummer’s firing. As Our Time Press reported, this is where Barron arguably made a tactical error. Instead of “symbolically” suspending his friend and employee for a day or a week, Barron non-action opened the door for Quinn to reach in and discipline his staff member. Quinn requested Plummer sign a letter stating Plummer would behave appropriately during meetings. Plummer refused. Barron held a press conference on City Hall steps where he tore the letter into shreds. Quinn fired Plummer in July 2007. Self-determination firmly in tow, Barron supported Plummer through 3 years of failed state and federal lawsuits against Quinn. As vocal as they were during the court cases, they were silent when they lost. Along the way, grassroots support for the street re-naming was transferred to support for Plummer, her behavior in Council Chambers and her statement.
In June of 2010, Barron announced his candidacy for NYS governor. The campaign was an attempt to acquire ballot status to promote a “Black people’s agenda” as Barron said at the time. Our Time Press had regularly covered the Freedom Party which first emanated from within Alton Maddox’s United African Movement in 1994. It was re-incarnated when UAM member Ollie McClean was drafted to run for Congress to prevent David Yassky from getting the seat in 2006. When Andrew Cuomo chose no diversity for his gubernatorial ticket, it was UAM that resurrected the Freedom Party in May 2010. UAM’s choice to lead the slate was Michael Greys, spokesman for 110 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care. By June, Barron has displaced Greys. Maddox claimed to have “personally opposed” Barron’s candidacy, but relented. UAM financed several thousand dollars’ worth of campaign literature and expenses, mostly for upstate. According to one of Maddox’s writings during the campaign, “Councilman Charles Barron had made it clear that only D-12 (December 12 Movement) and the ‘Black United Front’ would be entitled to any reimbursement or compensation” for campaign literature and related expenses. On Election Day, ballot placement and allegations of other voting irregularities prompted Maddox to seek a recount. Barron disagreed. Since the candidate is the only one with standing to request a recount, Barron’s disinterest stymied Maddox’s efforts. Maddox stated he has been attempting to schedule a sit-down between himself and Barron ever since. Barron has been re-added to Maddox’s list of Black (s)elected officials and activists “hustling” the Black community.
In a post-gubernatorial debate debriefing in 2010, Jitu Weusi, Barron’s campaign manager during the Freedom Party gubernatorial race and current campaign manager responded to Barron’s debate statement that “The Freedom Party had not made a decision” on marriage equality. “I think that was an honest answer,” said Weusi. “I think that was an answer that will not lose us any votes because if there are some gays, they can’t say we weren’t going to vote for that. And, if there are some people who are against that, they can’t say that either.” (After the gubernatorial election, numerous LGBT people from a variety of races told me they deliberately voted against Barron and for Rent Is Too Damn High McMillian “the clown” because Barron refused to take a position during the debate.) Since then, Barron has made his position clear. On a recent primary debate on Up Close with Diana Williams, Barron said, “I define marriage as between a man and a woman. For those of us who feel we are against same sex marriage that should be respected. I don’t support same sex marriage.” Regarding a possible vote to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) Barron said, “I don’t think the federal government should impose itself on a state or a nation.” (But, Barron does support federal intervention regarding civil rights, i.e. “Black issues.”)
During that same televised debate, regarding the civil side of marriage equality candidate Hakeem Jeffries said, “I don’t believe we as a state can make a distinction based on race or gender or sexual orientation or religion.” Jeffries defined marriage as “between two loving individuals who decide they want to commit themselves to a union that will involve a variety of different rights, responsibilities, and privileges that is conferred by the state. It can also be blessed by a religion or religious practice, but we’re talking about the civil institution of marriage and that license that is conferred by the state.”
In March 2011, a billboard was erected in lower Manhattan that stated, “The Most Dangerous Place for an African American is in the Womb.” Though the billboard was meant to single out Black women for having abortions and using birth control if they choose, the statement was a direct attack on African American women’s bodies. Barron, who calls press conferences immediately whenever racial incidents occur, issued a statement after repeated queries from OTP: “We are going to send a letter immediately to the Life Always group responsible for the ad to demand that it be taken down.” When has Barron been known to “send a letter” in response to a racial insult? Under the Black Nationalist rubric that Black = male and Black women’s issues don’t really count, Barron’s response was lukewarm, but not surprising.
During the 2009 Public Advocate race, in a NY Post article about de Blasio featuring his wife and children on campaign mailings, Charles Barron is quoted as saying, “The insulting part of it is that if you want to appeal to the black community, then appeal to us based upon our issues, not based upon who you're married to.” This from the same man who single-handedly caused a change in policy towards politicians at St. Pauls’ Community Baptist Church when he spoke in a negative manner about de Blasio from the pulpit, then commented about de Blasio's “Black wife” in a published report about the incident. This is the same man who began calling himself “Mr. Inez Barron” after his wife won the 40th Assembly seat. I posted my take on Barron’s comments about Chirlane deBlasio here on R8 in "Charles Barron Should Shut Up", which thankfully led sound bite seeking white reporters to stop chasing Barron on the issue.
Just this week, Chair of the Council’s Women’s committee Julissa Ferreras announced the passing of a law that would help combat sex trafficking by creating civil penalties for TLC-licensed drivers who actively participate in and profit from coerced prostitution. Barron has been a member of the Women’s committee for at least two terms, yet he was not present at the announcement. Neither has he disseminated information on the law, nor any other progressive legislation coming out of the committee on behalf of women and girls, even though he knows commercial sex exploitation a major issue in his district and across Black Brooklyn.
From the beginning of his tenure in the Assembly, Jeffries has demonstrated the use of sound legislative practices to advocate for a wide variety of constituents. He had voted in favor of marriage equality several times. He is solidly pro-choice. Jeffries even went up against the hyper-male rap music industry for its negative, disparaging lyrics against Blacks women and the rampant use of the N-word, eliciting the wrath of some industry icons that hide behind the 1st Amendment.
In 2007 Jeffries noted that approximately $3 billion of the NYS Pension Fund is spent on 16 major entertainment companies such as Time Warner, Disney and Universal. Jeffries asked NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to review the appropriateness of continuing the state’s multi-billion dollar investment in the entertainment industry, to the extent companies like Universal refuse to address the corporate responsibility issue. At the time, Jeffries stated he is uncomfortable with “our public money being used to support negative imagery and offensive language put forth by gangster rap music, and their corporate sponsors. The hip hop industry must begin to bring some measure of social responsibility to the content they distribute.”
The color line is still an issue requiring advocacy, as was demonstrated in the Father’s Day Silent March against Stop-and-Frisk. However, the definition of “Black issues” that require policy attention and legislation must be expanded to include others. Civil Rights and Black Nationalist male leadership needs to disavow itself of having a monopoly on public policy debate.
Black = male is so 20th century.
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