David Mark Greaves
One of the problems with Khalid Muhammad is that he believes too much in the myth of “America”. He believes first of all in the First Amendment and the notion that he, a black man, has as much right to speak as provocatively and wrongheadedly as any leader outside the mainstream. The police usually put up protective lines to keep groups safe from others who object to what’s being said. They do not attack the stage or the speaker. Khalid thought the same rule applied to him. It was not that he was mistaken putting his faith in New York’s Finest to responsibly fulfill their obligations to protect the Constitution and the right of free speech. His faith was well placed in the majority of officers at the event, particularly the community patrol officers who are closest to the people on a daily basis. They, along with many of the other officers, were looking at a good overtime day of standing around in a peaceful crowd, being bored and being well paid for it. Had these officers been left in charge, the event would have ended safely.
We have learned that there are two elements in the police department. There are the everyday cops doing their jobs, and then there are the Special Units. Every fascist has them. Sometimes they’re called the SS, the Gestapo, or the Palace, Praetorian or Presidential Guard. These are the Elite troops that the maximum leader knows he can count on when the task is subduing the citizenry, a task that officers too close to the people may blink at. Those special forces were nakedly revealed at the Saturday march, and the effectiveness of their tactics is unquestionable.
Khalid… a Disappointment
And that’s where Khalid was a disappointment. His remarks at the end of the march were ill-advised at best and deliberately provocative at worst. That he bracketed them with words of peace, love, self defense and legalisms, are fine points that his lawyers may have to bring up in a court of law. But they are fine points that are lost in the media’s editing room. And that they were spoken by a man who then sped off surrounded by security while women and children were left to be protected by those with the courage to stay, that was inexcusable.
The fact is, Rudolph Giuliani is mayor of the city, he’s a totalitarian leader, and he don’t cotton to that kind of talk around here. If Khalid were a Jew in Nazi Germany, he would know better than to get on a soapbox and speak ill of the Nazis. If he were in America in Puritan times, he would not proclaim that those who burned witches should turn to Allah. He would know better. We live in New York City, a place where the Mayor is floating balloons for a Presidential run. The mayor could not care less about black people in New York. They don’t vote generally, and when they do, it’s not for him. Mayor Giuliani was busy calculating the affect in Iowa, Florida, and Arizona. He wants his future to lie on the national stage and a 15% voter turnout puts the backs of black folks at the right level to step up on.
What is in danger of being lost here is the best of what the march could have been. What is clear at this point is that only organized, political action can achieve any measurable goals.
There was a lot of potential at the march. A lot of good energy and sincere people, many ready, willing and able to work toward goals. But much of it was lost in violent rhetoric. Young people have to be taught how to use language in a more sophisticated way. Because of Khalid’s remarks and the easy path they gave for the mayor to dash for the high ground, movement energy will be spent defending him, rather than lining up the political power to destroy this mayor’s presidential ambitions. The only way that is done is with voter turnout. And if that is the legacy of this march, then it would be well-remembered. If it made people look back at the courage and discipline of the nonviolent resistors who faced dogs, cattle prods, and water hoses, at the height of the civil rights movement, then it will be well-remembered. There was once a time of meetings in homes, organizing across groups, and door-to-door outreach into our communities. It was these efforts and those of people like the freedom riders of the sixties that reshaped America. Those were revolutionaries who were on a mission and who were able to achieve goals. They walked on dusty roads and in and out of yards, having to be watchful of ever-present dangers. They were attacked and beaten. Some lost their jobs, others lost their homes and their health. Many like Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner, were beaten to death. Others like Medgar Evers were shot. They endured all of it in the faith that later generations would take the right to vote that had been so painfully won and use it to continue the march toward a free society. In the face of those sacrifices, African Americans in New York should be awash in embarrassment at their 15% turnout in the September Primary.
The vote is the only thing that keeps the fascist element in politics at bay. With a 15% voter turnout, it’s no wonder they’re at our front door. With a 15% voter turnout it’s no wonder politicians don’t respect us, why should they? Because we’re Black and Beautiful? Because we can dress in wonderful colors and march in righteous indignation? Because we’ve got a couple of jobs in midtown or Wall Street and promise to be good?
This is the United States of America. It is a market driven society. It is run by white males and they aren’t playing games. Black people had better get to work, and quickly. David Mark Greaves