Black conservatives have often argued that the nation’s black political and civil rights leadership puts loyalty to the agenda of the liberal progressive Democratic establishment above its commitment to the interests of its own people.
Judging from how that leadership has reacted to three recent events of interest to black Americans lends credence to that argument: President Trump’s granting a posthumous pardon to boxer Jack Johnson; granting clemency to Alice Marie Johnson; and, historic low levels of black unemployment.
They have one thing in common — virtual silence by the black political and civil rights communities.
Jack Johnson was the first African-American world heavyweight boxing champion. His conviction and one-year imprisonment by an all-white jury in 1913 under the Mann Act for taking his white girlfriend across state lines for "immoral" purposes ended his boxing career.
Trump pardoned Johnson at the request of actor Sylvester Stallone. Over the years many others, including film maker Ken Burns and a bi-partisan group of Congressional advocates have urged multiple presidents to pardon Johnson
In 2016, then-Senator Harry Reid, D-Nev., Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Reps. Peter King, R- N.Y., and Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Member Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., petitioned Obama to grant a pardon.
The first black president did not.
Last year, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who is black, joined the group replacing retired Harry Reid saying: “…it is far past time that we honor his legacy and his life with the integrity and dignity he deserved…”
You can bet that he never thought Trump would ever do it.
After Trump pardoned Johnson, McCain praised him saying the boxing legend’s “reputation was ruined by a racially charged conviction over a century ago.”
Meeks deserves credit. At least he showed some class tweeting: “Jack Johnson's pardon is great news. Imagine my shock and surprise that the President and I actually agree on something.”
As far as I can tell, he is the only black political figure to commend Trump.
As to Booker, who wants to be the next black president, if he made any positive comments on the pardon, after he had joined in requesting it, I have not seen them.
And where were the NAACP and the CBC?
They gave the same silent treatment to Trump’s granting of clemency to Alice Johnson.
She is the 63-year-old black grandmother who was convicted and sentenced to life without parole in 1996 for her role in a cocaine trafficking operation. Ironically, Obama and his black Attorney General refused to grant her clemency in December of 2016 when he granted clemency to 231 persons including many convicted of drug related charges.
Her release was occasioned by the intervention of Kim Kardashian West who met with Trump in the Oval Office after she reached out to his Senior Adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Again, silence from black leadership.
Amazingly, the same silence from these groups came with news of the record low 5.9 per cent black unemployment rate.
Notwithstanding such historically good numbers, one is hard pressed to find, other than National Urban League President Marc Morial, any major black political or civil rights leader willing to applaud these numbers or even acknowledge the beneficial impact of the Trump economy in bringing jobs to black America.
Of course, that would not please the Democrat leadership. It’s true politics over their people.
As far as I have been able to determine, only Morial has shown the integrity and honesty to acknowledge these gains — although he did hedge his bet. He said on that he was willing to “applaud the good news” and give the administration a “cup of gumbo, not a bowl…for what has occurred.”
Not so with the CBC which sat on its collective Democratic hands during Trump’s State of the Union Address when he mentioned the even then historically low black unemployment rate.
They have been mum ever since with some even arguing that Obama was responsible.
If Obama had overseen an economy with under 6 percent black unemployment the CBC, the mainstream media and the NAACP would be delirious.
I guess they have forgotten how he slapped them in the face in 2011 when the black unemployment rate exceeded 16 percent:
“Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying.”
As Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy wrote at the time: “The unemployment rate among blacks stands at 16.7 percent…up from 11.5 percent when Obama took office. By some accounts, black people have lost more wealth since the recession began than at any time since slavery. And Obama gets to lecture us.”
As black newspaper publishers know, their black readers are smarter than some of their political leaders think and no doubt consider such silence a shameful betrayal of their interests.
Clarence V. McKee is president of McKee Communications, Inc., a government, political, and media relations consulting firm in Florida. He held several positions in the Reagan administration as well as in the Reagan presidential campaigns. He is a former co-owner of WTVT-TV in Tampa and former president of the Florida Association of Broadcasters. Read more of his reports — Go Here Now.
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