The tiny, fringe New Black Panther Party did a great service for the Obama and race baiting conservative attack machine. It finally gave it another excuse to tee off on the Justice Department, the Obama Administration, and civil rights groups for supposedly turning a blind eye toward black law breakers. The Justice Department alleged blow off of the voter intimidation charge against the Party at a polling center in Philadelphia in 2008 has been debunked every which way.
The main claimant, J. Christian Adams, a conservative flack did not work on the case, the Bush administration's Justice Department (not Obama) dropped criminal charges against the Party for alleged voter intimidation, and Obama's DOJ did aggressively pursue and get a default judgment against the one alleged Panther member that Fox News continually looped carrying a nightstick outside the Philadelphia polling center. No voters ever claim that they were intimidated from voting.
But that still begs this daunting question. Why didn't blacks vehemently denounce the Party, the character parading around with the stick, and his either deranged or put up act?
If ever there was a need and time for an outcry, it was the antic of the Panthers in Philadelphia. Their hate whitey, anti Semitic, slurs, and there at times photo-op staged theatrics have been rich fodder for the rightwing echo chamber. The original 1960's Black Panther Party sued them, and demanded it cease and desist using the Panther name. It lost. The original Panthers then issued a formal statement denouncing the group as racial extremist and for "denigrating" the name of the original BPP. The Southern Poverty Law Center, hardly a shill for conservatives, branded the New Panthers a hate group. This hasn't raised much of a stir among black leaders and civil rights groups. Their response has been silence, indifference, to scream racism, or to finger-point the Bush Justice Department as mute and lax in prosecuting the pile of civil rights violations and voter intimidation cases against minorities. This is an arguable but moot point. The silence, racism charge, and the racial double standard argument effectively opens the field to conservative talking heads to tar the Obama administration and Obama as a closet bigot, that loathes (white) America and, who every chance he gets will give away the company store to minorities.
There are two troubling reasons for the blind eye of many blacks to the New Panthers. Blacks have been the ancient target of racial stereotypes, negative typecasting, and mockery. This has made them hypersensitive to any real or perceived racial slight from whites. That's totally understandable, and the NAACP and other civil rights leaders are right to call out the tea party for saying and doing nothing about the racists within the party that spew open or borderline racial invectives against Obama. They are equally justified in calling on the carpet the legion of white celebrities, politicians and public figures that get caught with their racial pants hanging down for their racial gaffes, slips, or outright verbal broadsides.
The second reason is that blacks fear that if they publicly air their dirty racial laundry it will be gleefully twisted, mangled, and distorted into a fresh round of black bashing by whites. That's a lame reason for not speaking out, and speaking out loudly against those blacks who either out of ignorance, for profit, or misguided, or just plain blind anger, attack whites. This failure fuels the suspicion that blacks, and especially black leaders, are more than willing to play the race card, and call a white a bigot when it serves their interest, but will circle the wagons and defend any black who comes under fire for bigotry, or for any other malfeasance.
A loud, swift and very public condemnation of the New Black Panther Party a decade ago and a relentless repeat of the condemnation of the Party every time it or one of its alleged members spews racial gibberish or hate whitey, or kill whitey slurs before an always eager and accommodating TV camera, reporter, or radio microphone must be made. It will not stop the Fox Network and the rightside blogs and talking head jocks from deliberately misconnecting the dots and claiming the stray loose lipped black proves that all blacks snatch at the race card. The criticism will send the strong message that bigotry is bigotry no matter whether the racial offender is the tea party or the New Black Panther Party.
The Black Panther Party's antics in Philadelphia grandly aid and abet the racial assault on Obama and civil rights. The blind eye of black leaders and civil rights organizations to this hurts, and hurts bad.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge (Middle Passage Press).
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