The implication of those messages was that to be black and a philosopher was a contradiction.
By: Antone White
The U.S Constitution body of rules and principles endows protections and enforcements of private rights( as to life, liberty and property). The constitution body of rules reposes ultimate power in the people, by the people and for the people of the United States to preserve and maintain a liberty thesis of “Freedom, Justice and Equality”.
The genius of the “Constitution Protection” was established to safeguard its democracy against the will and tyrannical effect of a government to imprison and exercise complete control over its citizens; stemming from the oppression of England’s Star Chamber. The protection ordains that an individual’s life, liberty or property can only be stripped away by due process of law; from results in either a plea of guilt (by the individual) or by a jury of its peers upon proof of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
The foundational role of due process is that all citizens have entitlement to a presumption of innocence! Otherwise, a person may not be convicted of a crime unless the government proves them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; without any burden placed on the accused to prove its innocence. Due process grounds citizens’ the right to a trail by jury. Thereby, according to an underlying provision in the “Due Process Clause” of the U.S Constitution, “ no courts, nor any officer of law may presume a person guilty of a crime enough to demand sanctions ( as to life liberty, or property).
However, congress legislated a policy imputed by the United States Sentencing Commission in 1984; the Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Guidelines. Spanning three decades, almost four, these guidelines have eroded the foundational tenants of America’s Democracy bringing forth a Jim Crow climate that systematically demoralizes criminal defendants “Constitutional Protection”, at sentencing.
At sentencing, the courts are authorized to consider “relevant conduct” for the purpose of calculating the sentencing guidelines, which may include uncharted crimes that otherwise are inadmissible at trial.Even more, the courts are permitted to extract offenses from acquitted and dismissed charges which consequently nullify principles of the 5th Amendment of the constitution that decrees ..” no person shall be held to answer for an infamous crime, unless on the presentment of an indictment of a Grand Jury, nor be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process.
In a constitutional system that relies upon the jury to stand as a great bulwark and neutral arbiter between criminal defendants and government bent on depriving them of their civic duty; hereof, an axiom adhered by Judge Millet of DC Circuit Court of Appeal:
“Allowing courts at sentencing to materially increase the length of imprisonment based on conduct for which the jury acquitted the defendant guts the role of the jury in preserving individual liberty, and preventing oppression by the government”.
The unfairness perpetuated by the use of uncharged, dismissed, and acquitted conduct to heighten criminal defendants sentences in federal court are uniquely malevolent. As well as a dubious infringement of individuals rights to due process and trial by jury.
Imagine the abhorrent act of a man or woman’s sentence being double, triple or virtually scaled to a lifetime of imprisonment for crimes or otherwise conducts for which they were neither charged nor convicted. One wonders what the reaction of the jury would be if the jurors were told at outset:
“If you convict the defendant on one charge, but deadlock or acquit them on the other count, that the court may utilize a different standard of proof and consequently sentence the defendant as though he was convicted of both “
Would this resonate with the jury as being fair and worthwhile of their time and effort while still respecting the admiration for our system of justice? I sincerely doubt it!
For the constitution to have meaning it must not be pure words we recite but also the words we live by as Dr. Martin Luther King Junior emphasize from Birmingham jail or April 16, 1963.
“An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law”
*For more information on the Star Chamber, read article “Star Chamber: How Secret Courts Fuels Mass Incarceration”
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By Elliot Booker — 4 years ago
By: Lucius Gantt
African Americans can’t wait to get to the polls to cast their ballots in the 2016 United States elections.
One Presidential candidate is “Heckle” and the other one is “Jeckle”. One candidate is Tweedlee Dee” and The other one is “Tweedlee Dum”.
It doesn’t matter who is running for the nation’s highest office, most Black voters will do as they are told. They will be given a list, or slate, and instructed to vote for candidates that political exploiters want them to vote for!
Call me a hater if you want to but if you hate the truth I don’t give a damn!
First of all, you have a Constitutional right to vote for whomever you want to and, yes, you should exercise that right but I pray that you will vote smart.
I pray that you will put your voter support behind candidates that support you., stand up for you, speak out for you, be accessible to you, listen to you, be responsive to you and care about you!
And, don’t give me any crap about voting for the “Black” candidates!
Most Black politicians today are completely worthless and of no use to Black people.
You tell me, who are the candidates that look like you that will fight for the governmental policies and programs that you want? When Congress persons, legislators, commissioners and councilmen vote to appropriate, or divide up, tax dollars to special interest groups, corporate cronies, favored ethnic groups, desired sex and gender groups, who are the Black elect officials that will say “there are more Black people that are suffering, and more Black communities struggling than anybody else why does government give Black people, Black businesses and Black schools and other Black institutions the least government money”?know you don’t like for me to write like this but it is true!
You think you are going to the polls to vote strong Black men and women but, in many cases, you stepping into the voting booth to cast ballots for dummies and puppets!
You’re not voting for the best representation that we can get, you are voting for Negroes who are willing to be controlled by the Democratic or Republican Parties!
The Democratic Party, for instance, is Willie Tyler and you are voting for Lester. The Republican Party is Buffalo Bob and you’re voting for Howdy Doody!
You think The Gantt Report is crazy? Prove it!
Who is running for office in 2016 that will represent you today like Black people were represented in the past by Adam Clayton Powell, or Maynard Jackson, or Shirley Chisholm or Harold Washington or even Florida’s Carrie Meeks or Betty Holzendorf?
I knew Meeks and Holzendorf and the candidates of today are not them.
I’ve written it a thousand times but if you forgot it, let me repeat it. If Black political candidates believe that Black business are inferior, Black people are unimportant, Black issues are OK to ignore during the political campaign, they will feel the same way after you elect them!
A Black guy running for a seat in the Florida Legislature called me and asked me to give him some money for his campaign. I asked him to name the Black vendors, political professionals and Black owned media outlets he would spend money with and he told me ALL Black people working on his campaign would be volunteers so he could save his money for white media, white consultants and white vendors.
I hung up the phone on his pitiful ass!
Any Black voter or Black citizen that would give their support to any candidate, Black or white, that thinks all Blacks are worthless is not only a political fool they are a traitor to their race!
Black people have to control the politics in Black communities, Black districts and in Black precincts.
When political parties control Black candidates and tell them what to do, what to say, what to vote for and who they should hire, the Black voters and the Black people will continue to be exploited and oppressed.
If you are interested in politics, start grooming our young people. Teach Black youth how to campaign and generate votes. Teach Black boys and girls how to be strong, proud and politically intelligent Black men and women.
The only Black political clown I’ll support is “Homie the Clown” because if Homie ran for office, Homie wouldn’t play that “I want to be controlled” stuff!
By Elliot Booker — 4 years ago
By Ezrah Aharone
Nate Parker’s movie The Birth of a Nation has revived the question: What caused Nat Turner’s 1831 uprising? Turner, first of all, was not a deranged misfit who acted outside of a historical context of previous African freedom fighters. Throughout slavery’s duration, resistance was not only constant and fatal, but twofold. Africans equally resisted both slavery and Americanization.
Contrary to popular “feel good” versions of history, the “fight against slavery” should not be presumed as a “fight to become American.” For enslaved Africans like Turner, Americanization was the obstacle — not the vehicle — to the freedom they sought.
A largely overlooked factor that forged Africans into Americans was their inability to muster enough weapons to militarily free themselves from Americanization. Along with the 2nd Amendment which allowed Whites to bear arms, slavery was also backed by America’s military, which is why 800 soldiers deployed against Turner. Within this context of warfare (which fomented at least 313 recorded armed uprisings), there is provable evidence that Africans became Americans — not by virtue of winning the Civil War — but by virtue of prior military defeats.
CNN’s Town Halls won’t discuss this, but numerous captives were already soldiers in Africa beforehand, who like Turner, held deep monotheistic beliefs. Once in America, these battle-tested troops launched guerilla forms of warfare whenever possible, using whatever weapons possible, with clear theological convictions that fused spirituality with revolution. Naturally, after being forcibly uprooted 5,000 miles from long-lived kingdoms and cultures, they deemed Euro-Americans as new adversaries, and Americanization was certainly not their goal.
This explains why tens of thousands of Africans militarily fought with the British against America during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Plus, another 100,000 fled or died fleeing to join British forces. Conclusive stats are unknown, but from a sheer combat perspective, the Revolutionary War could be framed as the largest uprising of Africans who ever unified to militarily free themselves from Americanization . . . including Africans reportedly owned by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
Despite being defeated, it is still necessary to credit legitimacy to such Africans, beyond distorted narratives that label Turner an “African American” even though men like him sought America’s military downfall. Olaudah Equiano (an Ibo, captured at age 11, who published the first surviving “slave account” in 1789: The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano) wrote, “When you make men slaves, you compel them to live with you in a State of War.” Once freed in 1792, he bolted like lightning to England.
Haiti’s independence (1804) ignited further military motivations. On July 4th, 1804, instead of recognizing US independence, hundreds of Blacks in Philadelphia stormed Independence Hall to live Haitian independence vicariously. Flanked in military formations, they carried swords and attacked Whites for two days, chanting “we will show them [whites] St. Domingo [bloodshed like Haiti].”
So, by the dawn of his 1831 uprising, Turner was just one cog in a long continuum of such idealists. Other notable military operations involved: Fort Mose in Florida (1738-1763); the Stono Uprising in South Carolina (1739); the German Coast Uprising in Louisiana (1811); Negro Fort in Florida (1815); and David Walker’s Appeal (1828) advocated revolution and religion (even though Walker was more an assimilationist than sovereignist).
Men like Turner also equated themselves to other hemispheric freedom fighters (in nations like Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Columbia) who gained independence . . . including Euro-Americans. For example, before being hanged for their 1800 planned uprising, one of Gabriel Prosser’s soldiers retorted, “I have nothing more to offer than what General [George] Washington would have had to offer, had he been taken by the British and put to trial. I have adventured my life in endeavouring to obtain the liberty of my countrymen, and am a willing sacrifice in their cause.” In translation, he meant, “Bring it; I stand upon universal principles of freedom that — just like you — I will never compromise.”
Interestingly, in a “60 Minutes” interview, Nate Parker paralleled Nat Turner to George Washington in terms of their shared idealisms to “Birth a Nation.” From this perspective, whether you agree or disagree with Turner’s guerilla tactics, his comparative cause to end tyranny was no less honorable than America’s founders.
Tyranny, however, can be a very peculiar and subjective creature, since “one man’s tyranny can be another man’s liberty.” Hence, George Washington, who enslaved and tyrannized over 300 Africans is deified on Mt. Rushmore as a hero, while conversely, Nat Turner who fought against slavery’s tyranny is demonized as a savage. To this contradiction, James Baldwin once quipped, “In the US, violence and heroism have been made synonymous . . . except when it comes to Blacks.”
This article was culled in part from “The Sovereign Psyche: Systems of Chattel Freedom vs. Self-Authentic Freedom” by Ezrah Aharone, who is an adjunct associate professor of political science at Delaware State University. He is also a political and business consultant on African Affairs, as well as the author of “Sovereign Evolution and Pawned Sovereignty.” He can be reached at www.EzrahSpeaks.com.
By Elliot Booker — 5 years ago
This is the second in a series of dialogues with philosophers on violence for The Stone. This conversation is with George Yancy, a professor of philosophy at Emory University and author, editor, co-editor of many books, including “Look, a White!” — Brad Evans
Brad Evans: In response to a series of troubling verbal attacks you recently received following your essay in The Stone in December, “Dear White America,” the American Philosophical Association put out a strongly worded statement criticizing the bullying and harassment of academics in the public realm. But beyond this, shouldn’t we address the broader human realities of such hateful speech, and in particular, how this sort of discursive violence directly impacts the body of the person attacked?
George Yancy: Your point about discursive violence is an important one. Immediately after the publication of “Dear White America,” I began to receive vile and vitriolic white racist comments sent to my university email address, and verbal messages sent to my answering machine. I even received snail mail that was filled with hatred. Imagine the time put into actually sitting down and writing a letter filled with so much hate and then sending it snail mail, especially in our world of the Internet.
The alarming reality is that the response to “Dear White America” revealed just how much racism continues to exist in our so-called post-racial America. The comments were not about pointing out fallacies in my position, but were designed to violate, to leave me psychologically broken and physically distraught.
Words do things, especially words like “nigger,” or being called an animal that should go back to Africa or being told that I should be “beheaded ISIS style.” One white supremacist message sent to me ended with “Be Prepared.” Another began with “Dear Nigger Professor.”
The brutality and repetitiveness of this discursive violence has a way of inflicting injury. Given the history of the term “nigger,” it strikes with the long, hate-filled context of violence out of which that term grew. This points to the non-spectacular expression of violence. The lynching of black people was designed to be a spectacle, to draw white mobs. In this case, the black body was publicly violated. It was a public and communal form of bloodlust. There are many other forms of violence that are far more subtle, non-spectacular, but yet painful and dehumanizing. So, when I was called a “nigger,” I was subject to that. I felt violated, injured; a part of me felt broken.
Only now have I really begun to recognize how discourse designed to hurt can actually leave its mark. I recall after reading so many of these messages I began to feel sick, literally. So, words can debilitate, violate, injure; they can hit with the force of a stick or a stone and leave marks on the body. In this case, I began to feel the posture of my body folding inward, as it were, under the attacks. Franz Fanon talks about this as not being able to move lithely in the world.
B.E.: How does this relate to the intellectual history of racial persecution, oppression and subordination, especially the denial of the right of black people, and specifically black intellectuals, to speak with their own voice in a public setting?
G.Y.: I shared some of the malicious discourse used against me with some very prominent white public intellectuals. We began to exchange experiences. The exchange was helpful to me; it helped me to understand what is at stake when engaging in courageous speech. What was immediately clear, though, was the absence of specifically racist vitriol directed at these white public intellectuals, which in no way downplays their pain. Yet we must bring attention to the difference, to the perils of being a black intellectual. Not only was I being attacked for my courageous speech; I was being attacked as a black man. Yet I was also being attacked as a black philosopher.
There were some very nasty remarks that were designed to question my status as a philosopher because I’m black. The implication of those messages was that to be black and a philosopher was a contradiction, because “niggers” can’t be philosophers. So, I agree; the discourse was far more pernicious. But to understand this is to come to terms with the history of white violence in this country used to control and silence black people.
To see my experience as a single episode or an anomaly is to deny the logic of the long history of white racist violence. bell hooks recalls that as a child she thought of whiteness as a site of terror. In a country in which white people would brutalize and kill a black person on a whim, that is far from irrational.
For centuries, black people lived in fear of white terror. That fear partly captures the contradiction of being black and an American. Black people were not the American “we,” but the terrorized other. The symbols of white sheets and cross burnings must be recalled. Think here of black World War II veterans who returned home from the war and were severely beaten and lynched by whites, even as they wore their uniforms. They fought against Hitler only to return home, to the land of “democracy,” to be attacked by what might be called white terrorists.
Or think here of the slave trade, the institution of American slavery, black codes, convict leasing, the lynching of black men and women and the flaying of black flesh, the castration of black men, being burned alive. Violence, within these contexts, is a specific racialized form of inculcating black people with fear and controlling their social mobility. There is nothing episodic about it; this form of white violence is historically grounded and systematic.
The coldhearted use of white violence was very effective. Not only were there actual beatings, there was the fear of possibly being beaten. So, the black imagination, though never defeated, was weakened. The lynching of a black person wasn’t just a form of theater (where the root meaning suggests a kind of “beholding”), but a way of communicating fear and terror through mass displays of violence. For someone white, the spectacle was a sport, a kind of national pastime activity, but for a black person, one could always imagine that one was next, and thereby stand in fear of what could happen at any moment.
Cornel West talks about the “death shudder” as a kind of existential moment of realization that one is finite. I think that we are all open to experience that dreadful sense of our existence coming to an end. However, when black life is forever in a “state of exception,” it is an additional weight. Black people not only experience the death shudder, but a specific kind of shudder that involves an emotional intensity that speaks to the disposability of black life.
For example, the other day, a white police officer walked into a store where I was buying some food and I remember feeling this powerful sense of wanting to flee, of feeling as if the rules and laws that are designed to govern our (white) society didn’t apply to me. I could move “too quickly,” placing my hand into my pocket to pay for my food, and my life would end just like that. The white police officer would explain how he felt “threatened” and had “reasonable” suspicion. And I would be dead.
Read previous contributions to this series.
B.E.: These connections between the continuum of racial violence and the terrors of the everyday are crucial to understanding the normalization of humiliation and the outright denial of the most basic qualities that make people feel part of a society and “human,” as such. This demands a more serious intellectual engagement with the “marking out” of the black body as incapable of philosophical thought and deliberation. Does this make a return to thinkers such as Aimé Césaire and Frantz Fanon all the more relevant in the contemporary period?
G.Y.: Yes. And racial violence takes many forms and raises larger issues. For example, Judith Butler’s concern about questions of grievability is important. Racial violence is linked to forms of racial vulnerability, disposability and our tendency as a nation to grieve the deaths of certain racialized persons and not others. The disproportionate number of poor black people affected by Hurricane Katrina, or the sentencing disparities when it comes to locking up black people for nonviolent offenses, or the shooting in the back of Walter Scott by the white police officer Michael Slager are all examples of forms of racialized disposability. They speak to how black humanity is deemed of little or no human value.
The process of marking the black body as incapable of philosophical thought is longstanding. It is one of those major myths that grew out of Europe, even as Europe championed “humanism.” The poet Aimé Césaire, through immanent critique, knew that European humanism was a farce. Of course, Jean-Paul Sartre knew this as well. And Fanon knew what it was like to embody reason and have it denied to him. In “Black Skin, White Masks,” he argued that when he was present, reason was not, and when reason was present he was no longer. So, one might argue that reason and black embodiment, from this perspective, are mutually exclusive. And yet, at the end of that text, Fanon says, “My final prayer: O my body, make me always a man who questions!”
Fanon appeals to something that is beyond abstract political rights discourse. He appeals to his own body, something concrete and immediate. Fanon asks of his body not to allow him to be seduced by forms of being-in-the-world that normalize violence and dehumanization. Doubt can be linked to critique. In a society that hides beneath the seductions of normalization, critique is undesirable and deemed dangerous. Yet in our contemporary moment, the fulfillment of Fanon’s prayer is desperately needed.
America needs a movement that transcends the civil rights movement.
These examples are manifestations of a racialized, selective misanthropy. This is why I have such a negative visceral reaction to Donald Trump’s promises to build a wall along the Mexican border. That discourse is one of labeling certain bodies as “unwanted,” “deviant,” “sub-persons.” And to say that Mexico is sending “rapists” to the United States is a form of deep insult, of marking certain bodies as violent and pathological. Trump is, sadly, able to play on the racist biases and fears in many white people. It is a divisive tactic that exploits both latent and manifest bigoted assumptions in many white Americans. It is not by accident that David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the K.K.K., supports him.
B.E.: As you point out, a conceptualization of political rights must also include the right for the marginalized to critique power. Does philosophical inquiry have to do with the ways we might reconceptualize the meaning of rights, especially considering that the denial of persons’ humanity often occurs within normative legal frameworks?
G.Y.: Absolutely. After all, slavery, which was a vicious, death-dealing and violent institution, was legal. I think that rights-based discourse is necessary, but there is this sense in which rights can be given and, by implication, taken away. Within this context, I think that America needs a movement that transcends the civil rights movement. Applicative justice might be necessary, but not sufficient. Imagine a scenario where justice is being applied across the board, and the rights of people are being upheld. In a country like ours, saturated by racism, that scenario might still involve blacks being hated, seen as “inferior,” as sub-“persons.” In such a world, white people can continue to insulate themselves from the “others.”
We are desperately in need of a movement that shakes us at the very core of how we think about ourselves as individuals, masters of our own destiny. While this isn’t philosophically fashionable, I want to know what it means to love with courage. What would it mean to make love an integral feature of moral reasoning, the kind of love that risks profound ways of being mutually vulnerable, of placing no limits on who we call our neighbors? This means radically changing how we currently relate to one another. I recall when we killed Osama bin Laden in 2011 that there were Americans who were cheering. As unpatriotic as some will say I’m being, we must keep in mind that bin Laden was someone’s son, father and husband.
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This speaks to the limits of our moral imagination as a nation. Can you imagine President Obama saying at a press conference that he is sorry that we killed bin Laden, that we loved him as a human being despite his violence? Can you imagine what would happen if Israelis and Palestinians were to cease their “peace” talks and radically deploy a discourse of love? Imagine the many whites who read “Dear White America” saying to me: “We return the love to you that you’ve shared with us!” I think that we are an impoverished nation when it comes to loving our “enemies.” God bless America is an empty politicized gesture if we are not also saying God bless our “enemies.”
B.E.: There is an ethical aspect to “Dear White America” — particularly the honest reflections put forward regarding your own prejudices and fallibilities when it comes to relations of power. While a critique of violence demands attention to historical forces of domination and exploitation, it also asks how each of us shamefully compromise with power, often against our better judgments.
A critique of violence must include an understanding that one doesn’t escape the many ways in which one perpetuates violence
GY: Yes. This raises the issue of complicity. As I discussed in the essay, there are ways in which I have been shaped to believe that looking at women with a dominating gaze or desiring women only for sexual pleasure is “normal.” Yet it is this process of “normalization” that produces a kind of “walking dead” mentality where many of my social practices (sexual desire being one, fixed gender role expectations being another) support the oppression of women. The process of normalization is often so effective that there isn’t much resistance coming from one’s “better judgment,” especially as one’s better judgment has already been defined by the terms of normalization.
In this case, one’s “better judgment” has already been compromised, has already become an extension of the power of normalization. Your use of the term shameful is important. Shame implies a powerful sense of disgrace. It is not limited to the assignment of blame, which is more like guilt. Shame suggests the sense of disrupting one’s ethical “certainty,” or business as usual. After all, one can be guilty without ever feeling shame. So, violence, for me, has to be attended to at those levels where we are going about our business as if we are not doing violence to other individuals.
The fact that we don’t hear cries of pain doesn’t let us off the hook. Ethical discourse and practice must be imbued with an effort to remain honest, especially about one’s own ethical shortcomings and the pain and suffering that we cause others.
A critique of violence must include an understanding that one doesn’t escape the many ways in which one perpetuates violence — violence against those who we may never see face to face, violence against those who are closest to us, violence against the earth, and perhaps even violence against one’s own sense of self-integrity.
Violence is all around us. Yet we prefer to remain asleep — the walking dead. For me, personally, the more I become aware of the magnitude of violence in our world, what many of us would rather deny or not see, the more I enter into that space of the “dark night of the soul,” a place where dread and hopelessness reside. The objective, though, is to continue, to remain awake, to keep fighting for a better world even as one endures the dark night of the soul.