ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


Home  ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more) 


But I am just as sure that if Obama went after Hillary Clinton to reveal the real record

of the period she seems intent on restoring, he would be savagely attacked for

playing the race card by the very same media that is fawning over him now.



Playing the Race Game in South Carolina

By Kevin Alexander Gray 


I hesitantly step into the Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama family scuffle over South Carolina's black vote.  Both candidates are products of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the conservative wing of the Democratic Party.  Clinton is a DLC star, chair of its American Dream Initiative touting free markets, balanced budgets and middle-class know-how, while Obama's political action committee, the Hope Fund, has raised money for half of the DLC's representatives in the Senate.  This is how America measures progress: the DLC, founded as a vehicle for pro-business Southern white men, is now the arena advancing a black man and a white woman who talk as if the more populist Southern white man in the race were invisible.

The "controversy" over Clinton's Martin Luther King comment ("it took a president to make the dream a reality") was, if anything, a set up to push Obama to talk race, something he has taken pains to avoid beyond the occasional King quote he tosses into the mix. Talking race in a white media echo chamber works to Clinton's advantage.  First, it is a subtle nod to subconscious and not so subconscious racism.  Secondly, it gives her the chance to expound upon the Clintons' fictional race history with blacks. 

What Bill knows, Hill knows.  And Southern politician Bill Clinton has always played race politics to perfection. Many have perhaps forgotten about Bill, speaking in the last pulpit King stood in, telling blacks in 1993 how disappointed "Dr. King would be [in them] if he were alive today," because of black on black crime. "Crime" has long been a white politician's code to signal, "I can stick it to blacks."  In his first presidential race Governor Clinton supported the death penalty at a time when the country was split almost down the middle on the issue. For good measure, he made sure to oversee the execution of convicted killer Ricky Ray Rector, a brain-damaged black man, in the heat of the primaries.  Then right in time for the Southern primaries in 1992 he posed with Georgia Senator Sam Nunn in front of a phalanx of black inmates in white prison suits at Stone Mountain, Georgia, second home of the Ku Klux Klan. That picture appeared in newspapers across the South the day people went to the polls. It was Clinton's way to reassure racists.

Now, I have no expectations of Obama taking up race issues or attacking policies that have disparate negative racial implications.  I have no expectation of him highlighting his blackness.  He isn't running to be "president of black America" (at least not yet).  His message is of the elusive and metaphoric "one America" as opposed to John Edwards' "two Americas" divided between the "haves and have-nots."  Yet, as Clinton discovered before she started appealing to women and ripping off some of Edwards' with-the-people rhetoric, looking ahead and trying to run a general election campaign in the midst of primary battles can bring problems.  For Obama, it has meant ignoring what should be his natural base—black voters.  That is, until he needed them.  

In politics you start with a base.  Yet either the Obama campaign is attempting to reverse the process, or he doesn't see black voters as his base, or he thinks the majority of blacks will vote race without courting.  Of course he can't openly appeal to black people to vote for him solely on race, although several of his supporters on black talk radio have demanded that blacks do just that.  The irony is that Hillary Clinton is openly appealing to blacks to vote for her solely on Bill. One of the reasons the battle between Clinton and Obama seems so personal at times is that Clinton considers black voters her natural base, and Obama the upstart usurper who didn't wait his turn. It's almost as if, like a disappointed patrician, she were saying, "After all we've done for you people . . ." Meanwhile, neither she nor Obama is taking on the weighty substance of our issues.

It would be perilous for Obama to respond to "Friend of Bill" Bob Johnson, founder of BET, on yet another insinuation about his past drug use.  It only keeps the drug-using (and, implied, dealing) black guy stereotype alive.  Johnson's comments were deplorable—especially coming from a person who made his money on the exploitation of rump shaking and rap music while simultaneously removing news and public affairs from BET.   Moreover, I have been involved in enough campaigns to know that very few things said during them are unintentional, especially with smart people. Johnson will now move along, just as Clinton's New Hampshire chairman did after mentioning Obama and cocaine in the same breath.  There's always someone willing to fall on his sword for the king or queen, and another one waiting to take his place.

To Obama's credit he put his past drug use out there first in an effort to inoculate himself from attack.  That's how the game works—tell your own story before your enemies tell it.  It doesn't stop folk from throwing mud, but it makes the stuff less sticky.  Perhaps if Obama spoke more forcefully about the tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands?) of nonviolent drug offenders who were not as fortunate as he, and are now locked up in jail, he might gain a bit more credibility and support from those who accuse him of being devoid of substance. 

Obama is fortunate he wasn't busted during Bill Clinton's years in office. Clinton left behind a larger, darker prison population than when he took office.  Black incarceration rates during the Clinton years surpassed those during Ronald Reagan's eight years. That Clinton did nothing about mandatory minimum sentences was no surprise. That he did nothing to change the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine that disproportionately affects African Americans was no surprise. That he successfully stumped for "three strikes and you're out" in the crime bill, for restrictions on the right of habeas corpus and expansion of the federal death penalty was no surprise. When he came into office one in four black men were in the talons of the criminal justice system in some way; when he left, it was one in three. In many states ex-felons are denied the right to vote, a factor that had a direct impact on the 2000 presidential vote in Florida.  

Hillary Clinton strikes a pose as the wife of "America's first black president," even as Bill's policies on due process, equal protection and equal treatment - in other words, civil rights - were horrible.   One Clinton initiative required citizens, mostly black, in public housing to surrender their Fourth Amendment, or privacy, rights.  His "one strike and you're out" policy for public housing residents, under which people convicted of a crime, along with anyone who lives with them, may be evicted without consideration of their due process rights is still creating housing problems for the poor.  Bill (convicted of perjury) and Hillary Clinton were not similarly chucked out of their publicly subsidized housing, aka the White House. If they were poor and trying to get back into their old place in the projects right now, they might not stand a chance.

That's reality in a country that left people on their roofs to die. John Edwards used Hurricane Katrina as his entrance ticket to the 2008 campaign, but at a substantive level he, Obama and Clinton seem incapable of addressing "the right of return" for the 250,000 displaced residents relocated after the storm.  A "right of return" would require that they have somewhere to live and work upon return.  Many of the displaced were renters before the flood.  Many have the kind of credit rating that disqualifies them for most private housing and some types of government assistance.  New Orleans had the highest poverty/crime rate in the region before the storm, and many of the now displaced were unemployed.  A significant percentage of the 250,000 have criminal records, or someone in their immediate family does, thus disqualifying them from public housing under the one-strike policy even if forces in New Orleans weren't intent on eliminating public housing.  Will Edwards, Obama or Hillary Clinton support the repeal of the one-strike policy?  Will they support waiving or lowering credit requirements?   Will they come out for homesteading or granting people a home and a clean start? 

If Obama wanted to go after the Clintons on race, there's plenty of ammunition out there, like Governor Clinton's refusal to sign a civil rights bill in Arkansas. Or President Clinton's dumping of his friend Lani Guinier from consideration for the Justice Department's office of civil rights over her advocacy of cumulative voting,—the next frontier for civil rights, which would break down voting by race and party. But I am just as sure that if Obama went after Hillary Clinton to reveal the real record of the period she seems intent on restoring, he would be savagely attacked for playing the race card by the very same media that is fawning over him now. The fact is, talking up race or even recognizing the racial challenges of living in America brings more peril to Obama than talking up gender does for Hillary. Lately some of Clinton's black supporters here have taken to whispering to black voters that if Obama can't bring himself to talk about race in South Carolina, he's not going to talk about it anywhere else. They're right, but they're also snakes. As Clinton sniffed the other day on Meet the Press, "This race is not about gender, and I certainly hope it's not about race!" 

Nonetheless, if Obama insists on casting his campaign as a movement, he has to add some substance to it.  It's not just the "old politics of division" that the Clintons represent; it's the consequences of the policies that they left behind, including the demobilization of a lot of progressive black and working class forces who gave Bill a pass because he said, in many politically masterful ways, "I feel your pain." Whatever candidate starts defining "change" in terms of abandoning those policies will get my vote.  Until then the Clinton-Obama race spat is just a family spat that soon will pass.

Kevin Alexander Gray is a longtime civil rights activist and journalist, living in South Carolina. He can be contacted at

Source: Black Agenda Report

*   *   *   *   *

Barack Obama claims big win in South Carolina—With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Obama had 55 percent of the vote. Clinton was second with 27 percent, followed by Edwards, with 18 percent. Obama's likely victory capped a heated contest in South Carolina, the first Democratic primary in the South and the first with a largely African-American electorate. CNN // “Tonight, the cynics that said what began in the snows of Iowa was just an illusion were told a different story by the good people of South Carolina,” Mr. Obama said . . .“After four great contests in every corner of this country, we have the most votes, the most delegates and the most diverse coalition of Americans we’ve seen in a long, long time.” NYTimes

posted 23 January 2008 


*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

*   *   *   *   *


Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

*   *   *   *   *

Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.WashingtonPost

*   *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *

*   *   *   *   *

ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)  






update 25 March 2012




Home  Obama 2008 Table  Jamie Walker Table  Criminalizing a Race: Blacks and Prisons Table  Hip Hop Table  Another Look at Israel

Related files: Lifting   Mama's Magic  / She /   Mango /  If I Aint African / Village Cry  /  ClassWhat We Carry