Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Hatian-American is not an African-American

Last Wednesday, the following ran in C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Glen Ford, Bruce Dixon and Margaret Kimberly have addressed race seriously throughout the campaign. Matthew Rothschild? Not at all. In fact, you could easily call Matthew Rothschild a RACIST based on his actions. As CEO and editor of The Progressive, Rothschild is in charge of the magazine. Who does he chose to share that real estate with? An African-American can stop by with an article every now and then (not to often) but the regular columnists? Where's the African-American with a regular column? No where to be found. Molly Ivins (a regular columnist for the magazine) passed away in January 2007. Rothschild announces in this month's issue of The Progressive that he's just added not one but two new columnists. And who does he share the 'neighborhood' with? Two White men (Dave Zirin and Jim Hightower). Matty really wants Bambi in the White House, he just doesn't want to share his own real estate with African-Americans. The magazine has no African-American columnist. Matty adds two this month and they're both White (and male). He probably is bothered that Ferraro dared to mention race -- it makes it that much harder for people like himself to pretend how 'good' and 'wonderful' and 'noble' they are by occassionally printing an African-American freelance writer while REFUSING to put an African-American writer on staff. Maybe Matty frets that to do so would lower the property value of The Progressive?

This resulted in one person e-mailing the public account of The Common Ills repeatedly. C.I. blew them off and now they're e-mailing us. We're being kind and not naming but let's walk through slowly for the idiotic.

The Progressive does not, as the e-mailer maintain, have an African-American columnist. It is true that once a year, a person with Black skin does contribute a column. We don't consider once-a-year piece to rise to the level of columnist for a monthly magazine.

Assuming that you can't grasp that, let's go ahead and explore further. African-Americans have a common experience having grown up in the United States, a country that can be, and has been, highly racist -- yesterday and today and probably tomorrow.

So to claim that an academic at a university can represent African-Americans due solely to her skin color is a bit of a stretch. The woman in question was not born in this country. She was born in Haiti and lived there for most of her life only coming to the United States late in life. She can certainly speak in an informative manner on immgiration, Hatian-Americans and Haiti but she cannot pretend to understand what it's like to grow up African-American in the United States or what it's like to be African-American. As far as we know, she's never tried to represent as if she could.

The Progressive has no African-American columnist. That was true when C.I. wrote it and it's true now. Hiding behind an immigrant from Haiti just due to her skin color implies you have serious problems grasping the issues of race. Nothing in The Progressive in the last years has done anything to educate you in that area.
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