Belafonte Blasts Bush

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If you ever want to see how divided this country is along the ever-unstable  cultural fault called the color line, all you have to do is observe the blowback for a Black celebrity who summons up the gumption to offer an opinion most African-Americans feel, but don’t have enough job security to say in polite company. For instance, it might have been bad timing when Kanye West said, “George Bush doesn’t like Black people,â€? in the middle of nationally-televised fundraiser for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, but his honesty was a breath of fresh air for disgusted folks who had retched earlier that same day after watching the President praise his inept, absentee FEMA director Mike “You’re doin’ a heckuva job!â€? Brownie. Meanwhile, the cable news network featured 24-hour coverage of soldiers who couldn’t decide whether to shoot or save the citizens of New Orleans.

Yet, you had all the predictably-aghast TV pundits who were quick to chastise Kanye for even suggesting that Bush could possibly be a racist, instead of criticizing the worthless politicians who were pointing fingers at each other while applauding themselves. No, the right-wing bloggers went after Kanye with a vengeance, too, demanding an apology, creating demeaning caricatures, calling for a boycott of his concerts and the burning of his CDs, and urging Pepsi to dump the popular hip-hopper as a pitchman.

Today, it’s 78-year-old Harry Belafonte who has ruffled Red State feathers with remarks he made to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez while in Caracas as a goodwill ambassadors on behalf on behalf of UNICEF.

Belafonte said to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: “No matter what the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world, George W. Bush says, we're here to tell you: Not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of the American people—support your revolution."

And there was hell to pay after Belafonte, with actor Danny Glover and Princeton Professor Cornel West at his side, said he was speaking for millions, meaning Blacks and other disenfranchised minorities, when he referred to Bush as a tyrant and a terrorist. “Mainstream,� i.e. white, reaction has ranged from ridiculing the retired Calypso singer’s remarks as reckless, to paraphrasing his hit songs like Day-O in giddy parodies parroting a right-wing political agenda. But while Harry’s words might not play in Peoria, he was speaking a plain truth which resonates in the souls of a sizable segment of American society.

For despite the fact that Congress ratified the 15th Amendment to the Constitution in 1869, granting Blacks the right to vote, it still took the efforts of many civil rights martyrs before the Voting Rights Act finally forced the reluctant Southern states to abide by the law of the land. Then, along came the disgraceful election of 2000 in which African-American Floridians were disenfranchised by the tens of thousands.

Some were turned away by state police on their way to the polls; others got past the roadblocks only to learn that their names had been mysteriously removed from the rolls. Then there was the matter of the confusing ballot and the dimpled and hanging chads in heavily-Democratic districts.

As the results rolled in, Bush brazenly refuted all the exit pollsters who had awarded the Sunshine State to Gore after scientific surveys with a one-in-a-million chance of being wrong. “That’s not what my brother tells me,� he announced, as if knowing Governor Jeb could be relied upon to put his thumb on the scale when tallying the Republican votes. Sure enough, the stacked U.S. Supreme Court would agree, and specifically order that there be no recount.

Then, as soon as he was sworn into office, Bush focused his attention on finding an excuse to attack Iraq. So, he sent an emasculated Oreo named Colin to the U.N. armed with a substance-eating grin and lots of doctored satellite photos of supposed WMDs. And although the weapons inspectors announced progress and begged for more time, the President ordered the invasion to commence immediately anyway.

Listen, it’s not that I think George Bush is a bad person, just not very bright. On second thought, it is precisely that I think George Bush is a bad person. How else do you describe the dictator atop a drive-by administration which, from day one, has been imposing its self-interest without the consent of Congress or the people?

I say, when you hijack an election, ignore the suffering of homeless hurricane victims, and unilaterally declare an unprovoked war which results in the deaths of over 100,000 civilians and counting, that fits the dictionary descriptions of “tyrant� and “terrorist.� So, Belafonte is to be commended, not condemned, for bravely confronting the skin pigmentation chauvinism which keeps the majority otherwise smug, silent and immobile during rigged elections, non-existent rescue efforts, and the decimation of innocent Arab populations.
Whites, in general, are okay with the status quo, since they see both Blacks and Iraqis as subordinate or irrelevant. But the destabilizing risk is that Blacks and Iraqis increasingly see themselves as disrespected in a rapidly-deconstructing, valueless universe. It’s easy to stage elections, whether here or overseas, and euphorically declare democracy a success. But it is far more difficult to establish a meaningful political order which embraces everyone and generates a meaningful sense of participation and inclusion.

Black Star News columnist Williams is an attorney and a member of the bar in NJ, NY, CT, PA, MA & US Supreme Court bars.

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