Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Politics of Racism, The Democratic Party, and Barack Obama


Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), who like Mahoney has not endorsed either Obama or Clinton, is concerned about Obama's poor performance among Latino voters in California and Texas. "It's unfortunate," he said, "because Barack Obama has done very well with Latino voters in Illinois, and I know his heart, and it's for an inclusive agenda."


This very revealing quote by Senator Salazar above speaks directly to the hostile political forces of white and Latino working and middle class RACISM that is currently stifling Obama's chances for the Democratic Party nomination. If it were not for what has been in effect A NATIONAL ANTI-OBAMA COALITION of white and Latino working and middle class voters in the states of California, New York, New Jersey, Texas, Ohio, and Nevada Obama would have already won the nomination a month ago or at least no later than last tuesday. It's now also crystal clear to me that with an almost certain primary defeat looming on April 22 in the racially hostile state of Pennsylvania Obama's very real chances to secure the nomination are being severely curtailed if not sabotaged by this geographically selective coalition that the Clintons knew they could and would tap into from the very beginning of their campaign. Clearly the Clinton machine made all kinds of secret promises of political patronage, appointments, and MONEY to the national Latino political leadership because they knew about (and cultivated) the already simmering racial and political hostility many Latinos feel and have historically felt toward African Americans (this is especially true of Mexican Americans though many Puerto Rican Americans aren't much better). The ugly truth that very few Democratic Party political organizers and operatives are willing to admit or publicly say out loud is that other minority groups of color as well as the white working and lower middle class often ENVY, HATE, AND FEAR black people and are deeply jealous of their political and cultural independence and savvy. Many whites and Latinos even have the rather bizarre and erroneous idea that African Americans have more "status" than they do or that blacks don't really deserve what they do have. If you don't believe this check out the general racial attitudes of urbanized Latinos and suburban based white workers and middle class professionals toward urban blacks and suburban based black middle class professionals in states like Michigan, Ohio, California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Florida.

I fear that Obama is definitely suffering the social and political fallout from this 'racial coalition' of working and middle class whites and Latinos and further this situation tells me that Obama is in real danger of losing the nomination if the DNC and the internal Democratic Party elite (mostly via the superdelegate vote) decide that Hillary would fare better with this essentially anti-Obama coalition in the states I mentioned above. IMO it's definitely something to ponder and makes me particularly worried about Obama's chances at this point. Because let's face it: IF SOMEONE LIKE OBAMA WITH ALL HIS PROFESSIONAL, POLITICAL, AND EDUCATIONAL BONA FIDES CAN'T GET THE NOMINATION NO AFRICAN AMERICANS ANYWHERE WILL EVER HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO SERIOUSLY RUN FOR THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCY. So long as Latinos and the white working class and lower middle class keep opposing black people on racist principle we haven't got a chance in hell to be a major force in American politics in the future. Even now the Clintons are essentially saying "A black guy CAN'T win the Presidency" though absolutely no one in their camp has the guts or honesty to say it this directly out loud in public. But that's what they really mean when they talk about who now has the best chance of "winning key states" in the national election. By courting and for the most part "buying off" the national Latino vote in the ways that they have the Clintons have made absolutely sure of that. Under these circumstances it's a huge understatement to say they're also aware why the task for Obama is even more difficult.

As usual for African Americans in this country the fundamental problem is still far TOO MANY RACIST ENEMIES. As always in American history outside of capitalism itself, anti-black racism remains by far the most powerful and destructive ideological, political, and social force in American society--even among many other people-of-color. Or as the old expression goes: "Always outnumbered, always outgunned." The essential and tragic truth of that fact is predictably playing itself out in this race no matter what anyone says otherwise.


Downside of Obama Strategy
Losses in Big States Spur General-Election Fears

"If you don't win Ohio, if you don't win Pennsylvania, you've got problems in November," a Clinton supporter said.

By Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, March 8, 2008

Democrats in Wyoming will hold caucuses today and -- following what is now a familiar pattern -- are expected to give Sen. Barack Obama the majority of their 12 pledged delegates.

The Illinois Democrat's strength in a Republican state that has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964 is the latest example of an ingenious strategy that neatly addresses the advantage Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) enjoys in Democratic strongholds where she and her husband have long-standing ties.

But Obama's losses Tuesday in Texas and Ohio -- coupled with his Feb. 5 defeats in California, New York and New Jersey -- have not only shown the strategy's downside. They have also given supporters of Clinton an opening for an argument that winning over affluent, educated white voters in small Democratic enclaves, such as Boise, Idaho, and Salt Lake City, and running up the score with African Americans in the Republican South exaggerate his strengths in states that will not vote Democratic in the fall.

If Obama becomes the Democratic nominee but cannot win support from working-class whites and Hispanics, they argue, then Democrats will not retake the White House in November. "If you can't win in the Southwest, if you don't win Ohio, if you don't win Pennsylvania, you've got problems in November," said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), a Clinton supporter.

Even some Obama advisers see a real problem. "Ultimately, all that matters is how the nominee stacks up against John McCain," said one adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity, referring to the senator from Arizona and presumptive GOP nominee. "Right now, Barack is not connecting with the children of the Reagan Democrats. That's a real concern."

"It's now a battle between the base and the new young Democrats and Democrats who are more energized than they've been in the past," agreed Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), an Obama supporter. "I don't know how that's going to play out."

With the campaign moving next week to Mississippi, another Republican state where Obama is expected to do well, these questions will only grow louder as the Clinton camp tries to minimize the importance of those states while raising the stakes for Pennsylvania on April 22.

Obama and his allies counter that California and New York are firmly in the Democratic column and that, as the party's nominee, he could carry them just as easily as Clinton.

David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, said he is not going to be goaded into shifting from the current strategy, which is to get as many delegates from wherever he can. And he rejects what he says is the Clinton campaign's attempt to give greater legitimacy to certain states -- especially Pennsylvania, where Clinton is expected to have an advantage because of her support from the Democratic establishment there and because its demographics are similar to Ohio's.

But many Democratic elected officials are worried. "No one's jumping up and down in Okeechobee, Florida, saying we've got a perfect ticket," agreed Rep. Tim Mahoney (Fla.), a moderate, unaffiliated Democrat in a swing district. "If you're a Barack Obama, you're going to have to figure out how to reach out to white, middle-aged men."

Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), who like Mahoney has not endorsed either Obama or Clinton, is concerned about Obama's poor performance among Latino voters in California and Texas. "It's unfortunate," he said, "because Barack Obama has done very well with Latino voters in Illinois, and I know his heart, and it's for an inclusive agenda."

Obama rejects the charge that he has failed to reach important segments of the party, noting that he has shown he can crack Clinton's coalition of working-class voters, women and Latinos with his wins in the bellwether state of Missouri, the swing state of Virginia and the Rust Belt redoubt of Wisconsin. He also showed that he can expand the battleground into the coveted Mountain West, with his convincing win in Colorado.

"If you don't win Ohio, if you don't win Pennsylvania, you've got problems in November," a Clinton supporter said.

"I don't buy into this demographic argument," Obama said. "Missouri, Wisconsin, Virginia -- in many of these states we've won the white vote and the blue-collar vote and so forth. I think it is very important not to somehow focus on a handful of states because the Clintons say those states are important and that the other states are unimportant."To be sure, Team Obama's small-state strategy may have been the candidate's only option against a far-better-known opponent, and it has worked. In the Feb. 5 Super Tuesday contests that Obama's campaign staff had hoped to merely survive, Obama and Clinton just about broke even. He won more delegates in Kansas and Idaho than she won in New Jersey. Her big win in California -- with its net gain of 41 delegates -- was negated by his wins in Georgia and Nebraska.

"Senator Obama went where he had to go," said former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack (D), a Clinton backer. "They had a well-thought-out strategic plan, and they carried it out with real discipline."

In the ensuing weeks, Obama appeared to consolidate his support among the rest of the Democratic coalition. He prevailed in the diverse state of Missouri, won over rural and working-class whites in his Virginia and Maryland routs, and then prevailed easily in Wisconsin.

David Axelrod, Obama's chief campaign strategist, said the strategy had an upside beyond the compiling of delegates. Obama was building a case with superdelegates that his appeal to nontraditional voters would have a ripple effect down the ballot in swing states such as Colorado and Iowa, where some of those superdelegates will be running for reelection. And by building organizations in all 50 states, Obama can make the case that he has an infrastructure primed and ready for the general election.

Then came Ohio and Texas, and all the old fears of Obama's narrow appeal came flooding back.

"A lot of the states he's winning are states that we're not going to win in November," said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), a Clinton supporter. "It's not a strategy that bodes well, in my opinion."

A Clinton campaign memo on Wednesday noted that of the 11 core Republican states that have held primaries or caucuses, Obama has won 10: Utah, Idaho, Nebraska, North Dakota, Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, South Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana. In 2004, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the Democratic nominee, lost each of these states by 15 points or more.

Obama aides still insist that it is a strategy that will work. Even after Tuesday, when he lost three out of four contests, Obama maintained his delegate lead. Indeed, his strength in the parallel caucuses in Texas may have actually given him more delegates than Clinton, even though she won the popular vote by 51 percent to 47 percent. But his campaign faces a legitimacy test that is beginning to resonate throughout the Democratic establishment: Can Obama win the big prizes?

With Pennsylvania looming, Obama has few good options. Some advisers say he should stick to a plan, hatched before Tuesday's defeats, to spend some time in the next weeks traveling to Europe, Israel and Asia to bolster his credentials for the general election. But if he cedes the state completely, he destroys his strategy of winning big in the small states and staying close in the big ones.

Axelrod and other Obama aides said they have learned their lesson from Tuesday. Rather than accept Pennsylvania as a tiebreaker, they will play down their chances there and keep the focus on states such as North Carolina and Indiana, where they think their chances are better.

Pennsylvania's primary will be followed by contests in West Virginia, Indiana and Kentucky, all of which have similar, lunch-pail demographics. If Clinton enters the summer on a roll, especially in the big states, the superdelegates may no longer feel that backing her would be opposing the will of the voters, an Obama supporter said.

"Superdelegates are politicians. They will not buck the will of the voters," said a superdelegate supporting Obama. "The danger point comes if the superdelegates don't see a vote for Clinton as bucking anyone."

Friday, March 7, 2008

Obama Or Nothing in 2008!


What did I tell you about the sheer viciousness of the Clinton campaign? 'Billary' is nothing but Karl Rove the notorious political gangster and campaign mastermind of Bushwhacker II (you know--"Bush's Brain") in bisexual drag. Now THAT monster's brain has mutated and engulfed the Vampire cranium shell that is Hillary /Bill Clinton. It's a measure of just how thoroughly corrupt and criminal American politics truly are that Samatha Powers has to be victimized FOR MERELY TELLING THE TRUTH. My grim electoral predictions for 2008 stick more than ever now that it's crystal clear that the white elite leadership of the Democratic Party (and their endless array of Latino, white--and even some black-- lackeys, tokens, and SYNCOPHANTS of the MONSTROUS CLINTON MACHINE) are ready to hand the nomination over to Hillary the way street level thugs hand over their tribute to their "Godfathers' (and Mothers)...

My prediction is not only that if she receives the Democratic Party nomination that she will LOSE to McCain and the protofascist Republican Party but IF she gets the nomination I TRULY HOPE AND PRAY THAT SHE LOSES.

Maybe the sheer HORROR of yet another Republican administration in the White House might finally wake us all up from this nihilistic/cynical zombie state we've been in for the past 40 years (FACT: Since 1968--the year of the assassinations of Dr. King & Senator Robert Kennedy--there have been 10 presidential elections and the virulent racist, sexist, and imperialist rightwing Republican Party has won 7 of them. McCain would be the 8th). That would mean that the Republican Party would have won 72% of all the elections held in this country over the past FOUR DECADES. How's that pathetic record for a braindead republic?...



"Dare To Struggle, Dare To Win"

March 7, 2008, 9:46 am
After ‘Monster’ Remark, Aide to Obama Resigns


Updated | 11:45 a.m.: CHICAGO – A senior foreign policy adviser and close friend of Senator Barack Obama said today that she was resigning from the campaign, after she apologized for referring to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as “a monster.”

Samantha Power, a professor of public policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, made the comment during an interview in London with The Scotsman, a Scottish newspaper. She derided Mrs. Clinton as a desperate candidate who is “stooping to anything,” according to the newspaper’s account.

“With deep regret, I am resigning from my role as an adviser to the Obama campaign effective today,” Ms. Power said in a statement released by the campaign. “Last Monday, I made inexcusable remarks that are at marked variance from my oft-stated admiration for Senator Clinton and from the spirit, tenor, and purpose of the Obama campaign. And I extend my deepest apologies to Senator Clinton, Senator Obama, and the remarkable team I have worked with over these long 14 months.”

Ms. Power was an unpaid adviser to the campaign, but a member of Mr. Obama’s close inner-circle of academic advisers. She worked for a year as a fellow in his Senate office, advising him on Africa and other foreign policy subject areas.

Ms. Power’s resignation was announced today as Mr. Obama was boarding his campaign plane in Chicago for a flight to Wyoming, where he will spend the afternoon and evening campaigning. He did not speak to reporters and aides said they did not expect him to address the matter.

The swift resignation was designed to contain the story and the fallout.

The derogatory remark violated Mr. Obama’s often-repeated pledge to run a hopeful political campaign, free of gratuitous negativity and name-calling.

The comments came as feelings intensify and harden between Clinton and Obama loyalists in the protracted fight for the Democratic presidential nomination. And her misstep came on the heels of the controversy involving another Obama adviser whose remarks to Canadian officials about Nafta drew heated criticisms from Senator Clinton’s campaign for days before the Ohio primary.

Another comment from Ms. Power has also been attracting notice: During a BBC interview she expressed a lack of confidence that Mr. Obama will be able to carry through his plan to withdraw troops from Iraq within 16 months. The Clinton campaign posted the interview and a transcript on its Web site.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Chester Himes & John A. Williams--The Letters of Two Literary Giants


This is a major publishing event detailing the long term friendship and intellectual camaraderie of two of the finest and most important American writers of the 20th century. John A. Williams (born 1925) and the late, great Chester Himes (1909-1984) have written over 40 books between them and are widely considered to be two of the most widely read and influential African American novelists, intellectuals, and critics of our time. Buy this book!! You WON'T be disappointed. This is what great writing is really all about...


Dear Chester, Dear John: Letters Between Chester Himes and John A. Williams (African American Life Series)--Wayne State University Press (Detroit, Michigan)

by Gilbert H. Muller (Foreword), John A. Williams (Editor), Lori Williams (Editor)

Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Wayne State University Press (January 7, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0814333559
ISBN-13: 978-0814333556

Editorial Reviews


Reading these letters, one is delighted to be in the company of two friends who truly like each other. One also feels the passionate excitement and richness of their intellect and creativity, their anger and joy. And by chance one learns a great deal about the publishing world. But most of all one learns what it is like in the 20th. century to be an African-American writer in America and Europe. The book is a treasure. --Clarence Major, professor of English at the University of California Davis and author of Dirty Bird Blues


Gentle and forgiving, John A. Williams endured trying as well as exhilarating moments in his long friendship with the tormented, often unpredictable Chester Himes. One rupture in their friendship, provoked by Himes, lasted several years. Both men, however, were prolific writers of lasting importance. They were also defiant observers, as proud black artists, of a publishing culture that often tried to thwart and mock their best efforts. Dramatically entertaining as well as educational, this book casts invaluable light on a crucial slice of American literary history in the twentieth century. --Arnold Rampersad, Sara Hart Kimball Professor in the Humanities and cognizant dean for the humanities at Stanford University


Chester Himes and John A. Williams met in 1961, as Himes was on the cusp of transcontinental celebrity and Williams, sixteen years his junior, was just beginning his writing career. Both men would go on to receive international acclaim for their work, including Himes's Harlem detective novels featuring Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson and Williams s major novels The Man Who Cried I Am, Captain Blackman, and Clifford's Blues. Dear Chester, Dear John is a landmark collection of correspondence between these two friends, presenting nearly three decades worth of letters about their lives and loves, their professional and personal challenges, and their reflections on society in the United States and abroad.

About the Author

John A. Williams is the author of numerous books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. His critically acclaimed novels include Sissie, The Man Who Cried I Am, and Captain Blackman. From 1979¬ to 1994, Williams was the Paul Robeson Professor of English at Rutgers University. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, Lori.

Lori Williams is a graduate of Hunter College and was a production editor for many years in both magazine and book publishing. Following her retirement, she became a freelance editor and proofreader.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Literary Fraud & Corruption in the American Publishing Industry


This is yet another ugly example of the rampant and largely racist corruption, dishonesty, and rank intellectual bankruptcy that rules much of the publishing industry in this country. The elitist, mercenary, cynical, and greedy coven of white publishers, editors, and agents who run the industry love to publish stupid voyeuristic CRAP about what these cretins think characterizes "black inner city urban life" (i.e. drugs, dire poverty, violence, wanton, reckless sex, more drugs, more violence, more kinky sex etc.). This brand of brutal commercial exploitation has become a viral disease in the (white) publishing, academic, and literary worlds since the late 1980s when every other book billed as "by or about black people" was cynically marketed and promoted as "another lurid expose" of cruel, stupid, and pathological subhumans engaging in criminal and psychopathic behavior for fun and profit (and did I mention more sex and violence)...Percival Everett, Ishmael Reed, Cecil Brown, Al Young, Paul Beatty and a number of other prominent black writers have often written critically scathing books attacking just these sort of racist media and literary stunts over the past 25 years...

Anyway this racial madness continues apace in all media. For example It is and has been duplicated in an endless series of utterly contemptible yet highly successful, award winning programs on HBO, Showtime, and other cable outlets which have produced such hit shows as 'OZ', 'The Corner', and 'The Wire' etc. which depict black people as though we were all predatory urbanized beasts living in horrific anarchic zoos of our own design.


Unfortunately many of these pervasive racist antics and frauds are too often inspired by, are the moronic offspring of, and exploitive fallout from, the most rancid and notorious lies and stupidity perpetuated by the rash of equally bad and backward books "written" by barely literate adolescents and young adults in the now thriving "urban market" of the publishing industry about--what else?--violence, drugs, sex, and crime. Of course the publishers, editors, and agents for these misguided and cynical youth are--you guessed it--more rich white people exactly like the ones depicted in this article.



Now just who does the New York Times think would be STUPID enough to believe the following ridiculous quotation from the article below of the con artist (Ms. Seltzer) who "wrote" this book. Check this nonsense out:

"Ms. Seltzer added that she wrote the book “sitting at the Starbucks” in South-Central, where “I would talk to kids who were Black Panthers and kids who were gang members and kids who were not.”“I’m not saying like I did it right,” Ms. Seltzer said. “I did not do it right. I thought I had an opportunity to make people understand the conditions that people live in and the reasons people make the choices from the choices they don’t have.” Ms. McGrath said that she had numerous conversations with Ms. Seltzer about being truthful. “She seems to be very, very naïve,” Ms. McGrath said. “There was a way to do this book honestly and have it be just as compelling.”

Wow. Just how full of it can people be?...These individuals need ENEMAS...

Dig the way the white female "author" (who is 33 years old!) and all her professional white enablers in the publishing world (publishers, editors, and agents alike) try to justify and defend their own roles in this (ongoing) scam by claiming "innocence", "naivete", and a "misguided desire to do good." Along with the casual and mercenary racism in these incidents there's always a trail of still more bullshit lies and delusional self aggrandizing postures by those responsible who then try to retroactively pretend that "they didn't really mean it" and they were "just trying to help the unfortunate and those unable to speak for themselves." Notice all the endless lies that continue even in the interview for this article about "kids who were Black Panthers" (Hey you duplicitous PHONY!--you couldn't possibly have talked to any "kids" who were Panthers because the Panther Party was dissolved in 1980 when you were six years old!). This woman is a certified pathological liar. To make things even worse the transparent lies and delusions continue in this article as well but that's the media for ya...


Gang Memoir, Turning Page, Is Pure Fiction*

Published: March 4, 2008

In “Love and Consequences,” a critically acclaimed memoir published last week, Margaret B. Jones wrote about her life as a half-white, half-Native American girl growing up in South-Central Los Angeles as a foster child among gang-bangers, running drugs for the Bloods.

The problem is that none of it is true.

Margaret B. Jones is a pseudonym for Margaret Seltzer, who is all white and grew up in the well-to-do Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles, in the San Fernando Valley, with her biological family. She graduated from the Campbell Hall School, a private Episcopal day school in the North Hollywood neighborhood. She has never lived with a foster family, nor did she run drugs for any gang members. Nor did she graduate from the University of Oregon, as she had claimed.

Riverhead Books, the unit of Penguin Group USA that published “Love and Consequences,” is recalling all copies of the book and has canceled Ms. Seltzer’s book tour, which was scheduled to start on Monday in Eugene, Ore., where she currently lives.

In a sometimes tearful, often contrite telephone interview from her home on Monday, Ms. Seltzer, 33, who is known as Peggy, admitted that the personal story she told in the book was entirely fabricated. She insisted, though, that many of the details in the book were based on the experiences of close friends she had met over the years while working to reduce gang violence in Los Angeles.

“For whatever reason, I was really torn and I thought it was my opportunity to put a voice to people who people don’t listen to,” Ms. Seltzer said. “I was in a position where at one point people said you should speak for us because nobody else is going to let us in to talk. Maybe it’s an ego thing — I don’t know. I just felt that there was good that I could do and there was no other way that someone would listen to it.”

The revelations of Ms. Seltzer’s mendacity came in the wake of the news last week that a Holocaust memoir, “Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years” by Misha Defonseca, was a fake, and perhaps more notoriously, two years ago James Frey, the author of a best-selling memoir, “A Million Little Pieces,” admitted that he had made up or exaggerated details in his account of his drug addiction and recovery.

Ms. Seltzer’s story started unraveling last Thursday after she was profiled in the House & Home section of The New York Times. The article appeared alongside a photograph of Ms. Seltzer and her 8-year-old daughter, Rya. Ms. Seltzer’s older sister, Cyndi Hoffman, saw the article and called Riverhead to tell editors that Ms. Seltzer’s story was untrue.

“Love and Consequences” immediately hit a note with many reviewers. Writing in The Times, Michiko Kakutani praised the “humane and deeply affecting memoir,” but noted that some of the scenes “can feel self-consciously novelistic at times.” In Entertainment Weekly, Vanessa Juarez wrote that “readers may wonder if Jones embellishes the dialogue” but went on to extol the “powerful story of resilience and unconditional love.”

In the vividly told book, Ms. Seltzer wrote about her African-American foster brothers, Terrell and Taye, who joined the Bloods gang when they were 11 and 13. She chronicled her experiences making drug deliveries for gang leaders at age 13 and how she was given her first gun as a birthday present when she was 14. Ms. Seltzer told The Times last week, “One of the first things I did once I started making drug money was to buy a burial plot.”

Sarah McGrath, the editor at Riverhead who worked with Ms. Seltzer for three years on the book, said she was stunned to discover that the author had lied.

“It’s very upsetting to us because we spent so much time with this person and we felt such sympathy for her and she would talk about how she didn’t have any money or any heat and we completely bought into that and thought we were doing something good by bringing her story to light,” Ms. McGrath said.

“There’s a huge personal betrayal here as well as a professional one,” she said.

Ms. Seltzer said she had been writing about her friends’ experiences for years in creative-writing classes and on her own before a professor asked her to speak with Inga Muscio, an author who was then working on a book about racism. Ms. Seltzer talked about what she portrayed as her experiences and Ms. Muscio used some of those accounts in her book. Ms. Muscio then referred Ms. Seltzer to her agent, Faye Bender, who read some pages that Ms. Seltzer had written and encouraged the young author to write more.

In April 2005, Ms. Bender submitted about 100 pages to four publishers. Ms. McGrath, then at Scribner, a unit of Simon & Schuster, agreed to a deal for what she said was less than $100,000. When Ms. McGrath moved to Riverhead in 2006, she moved Ms. Seltzer’s contract.

Over the course of three years, Ms. McGrath, who is the daughter of Charles McGrath, a writer at large at The Times, worked closely with Ms. Seltzer on the book. “I’ve been talking to her on the phone and getting e-mails from her for three years and her story never has changed,” Ms. McGrath said. “All the details have been the same. There never have been any cracks.”

In a telephone interview, Ms. Seltzer’s sister, Ms. Hoffman, 47, said: “It could have and should have been stopped before now.” Referring to the publisher, she added: “I don’t know how they do business, but I would think that protocol would have them doing fact-checking.”

Ms. Seltzer said she had met some gang members during a short stint she said she spent at “Grant” high school “in the Valley.” (A Google search identifies Ulysses S. Grant High School, a school on 34 acres in the Valley Glen neighborhood in the east-central San Fernando Valley.) “It opened my mind to the fact that not everybody is as they are portrayed on the news,” she said. “Everything’s not that black and white or gray or brown.”

She said that although she returned to Campbell Hall, she remained in touch with people she met at Grant and then began working with groups that were trying to stop gang violence. She said that even after she moved to Oregon, she would often venture to South-Central Los Angeles to spend time with friends in the gang world.

In the book, she describes her foster mother, Big Mom, an African-American woman who raised four grandchildren and a foster brother, Terrell, who was gunned down by Crips right outside her foster mother’s home.

Ms. Seltzer, who writes in an author’s note to the book that she “combined characters and changed names, dates, and places,” said in an interview that these characters and incidents were in part based on friends’ experiences. “I had a couple of friends who had moms who were like my mom and that’s where Big Mom comes from — from being in the house all the time and watching what goes on. One of my best friend’s little brother was killed two years ago, shot,” she said.

Ms. Seltzer added that she wrote the book “sitting at the Starbucks” in South-Central, where “I would talk to kids who were Black Panthers and kids who were gang members and kids who were not.”

“I’m not saying like I did it right,” Ms. Seltzer said. “I did not do it right. I thought I had an opportunity to make people understand the conditions that people live in and the reasons people make the choices from the choices they don’t have.” Ms. McGrath said that she had numerous conversations with Ms. Seltzer about being truthful. “She seems to be very, very naïve,” Ms. McGrath said. “There was a way to do this book honestly and have it be just as compelling.”

Tracking the Fallout of (Another) Literary Fraud

Published: March 5, 2008

One day after the author of “Love and Consequences” confessed that she had made up the memoir about her supposed life as a foster child in gang-infested South-Central Los Angeles, the focus turned to her publisher and the news organizations that helped publicize what appeared to be a searing autobiography.

Susan Seubert for The New York Times
Margaret Seltzer admits fabricating her gang-life memoir.

Related articles:

'Love and Consequences,' by Margaret B. Jones: However Mean the Streets, Have an Exit Strategy (February 26, 2008)

A Refugee From Gangland (February 28, 2008)

The articles above were published before the author admitted the book was largely fabricated.

More on the story: Author Admits Acclaimed Memoir Is Fantasy (March 4, 2008)

Geoffrey Kloske, publisher of Riverhead Books, the unit of Penguin Group USA that released the book, by Margaret Seltzer, under a pseudonym, Margaret B. Jones, said on Tuesday that there was nothing else that he or Sarah McGrath, the book’s editor, could have done to prevent the author from lying.

“In hindsight we can second-guess all day things we could have looked for or found,” Mr. Kloske said. “The fact is that the author went to extraordinary lengths: she provided people who acted as her foster siblings. There was a professor who vouched for her work, and a writer who had written about her that seemed to corroborate her story.” He added that Ms. Seltzer had signed a contract in which she had legally promised to tell the truth. “The one thing we wish,” Mr. Kloske said, “is that the author had told us the truth.”

Riverhead has recalled nearly 19,000 copies of the book and is offering refunds to book buyers.

Ms. Seltzer told her editor and her publisher that she wanted to use the pseudonym because it was the name she was known by in the gang world and because she was trying to reconnect with her birth mother and felt that using her real name would complicate this effort. But she lied to them and in the book about most of the basic elements of her identity, claiming that she was part American Indian and that she had moved from foster home to foster home as a child. In fact, as she admitted on Monday, she grew up with her biological family in the prosperous Sherman Oaks neighborhood of Los Angeles, and graduated from a private Episcopal day school.

Ms. McGrath, who never met Ms. Seltzer during three years spent editing the book, said Ms. Seltzer, who lives in Eugene, Ore., had provided what she said were photographs of her foster siblings, a letter from a gang leader corroborating her story and had introduced her agent, Faye Bender, to a person who claimed to be a foster sister.

Ms. McGrath said she also trusted Ms. Seltzer because she had come through “a respected literary agent” who had in turn been referred to the author by a writer whom Ms. Bender had worked with previously.

Despite editing the book in the aftermath of the scandal surrounding James Frey, author of a best-selling memoir, “A Million Little Pieces,” who admitted making up or exaggerating details in his account of drug addiction and recovery, Ms. McGrath said she did not independently check parts of Ms. Seltzer’s story or perform any kind of background check. She said she relied on Ms. Seltzer to tell the truth.

“In the post-James Frey world, we all are more careful,” Ms. McGrath said. “I had numerous conversations with her about the need to be honest and the need to stick to the facts.”

Ms. Bender, Ms. Seltzer’s agent, said that the author had been using a false persona for years and that friends and colleagues — including Ms. Bender — believed she had grown up in foster care in the gangland of Los Angeles.

“There was no reason to doubt her, ever,” Ms. Bender said. Similarly, reporters who interviewed Ms. Seltzer were also taken in by her story. Tom Ashbrook, the host of “On Point,” a program on public radio, ran an interview with Ms. Seltzer (as Margaret B. Jones) in which she recounted her fake life. Mimi Read, a freelance reporter, wrote a profile of Ms. Seltzer that appeared on Thursday in the House & Home section of The New York Times and did not question the memoirist’s story.

“The way I look at it is that it’s just like when you get in a car and drive to the store — you assume that the other drivers on the road aren’t psychopaths on a suicide mission,” said Ms. Read, who was never told Ms. Seltzer’s real name by the publisher or by Ms. Seltzer. “She seemed to be who she said she was. Nothing in her home or conversation or happenstance led me to believe otherwise.”

Ms. Read said that she did contact Ms. Seltzer’s fiancé and also asked her to provide information about Uncle Madd Ronald, who Ms. Seltzer claimed was her gang leader and was now in prison. Ms. Seltzer provided a prison name and prison identification number, and a copy editor confirmed that the prison existed.

Ms. Read said she wished she had been more skeptical and done further fact-checking. “Of course I wish I could do it differently,” she said. “I think a lot of other people were fooled before me.”

Tom de Kay, editor of the House & Home section, said he asked Ms. Read to track down other people from Ms. Seltzer’s past to corroborate her story. Because Ms. Seltzer told Ms. Read that her foster siblings were dead, in prison or no longer in touch, it was difficult for Ms. Read to find people to interview.

Mr. de Kay said that ultimately, “I was to some degree trusting that the vetting process of a reputable book publisher was going to catch this level of duplicity.” But, he added: “Do I wish in retrospect that we had called L.A. child services and tried to run down the history of this person? I certainly do.”

In a publishing landscape that has been rocked by scandals like Mr. Frey’s fabrications and the hoax perpetrated by Laura Albert, the woman who posed as the novelist J T LeRoy, a supposed addict and son of a West Virginia prostitute, other publishers and agents said their business still operated on trust.

“It is not an industry capable of checking every last detail,” said Ira Silverberg, an agent who represented J T LeRoy (without knowing he was actually Ms. Albert) and Ishmael Beah, author of the best-selling memoir “A Long Way Gone,” who was recently accused by Australian journalists of distorting his service as a child soldier in Sierra Leone’s civil war during the 1990s, a charge that he and his publishers have repeatedly denied. “So to present yourself as something you are not betrays all the trust.”

Nan A. Talese, who published Mr. Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces,” said the combination of these recent episodes could start to change the business’s practices. “I think what editors are going to have to do is point to the things that happened recently and say to their authors, ‘If there is anything in your book that can be discovered to be untrue, you better let us know right now, and we’ll deal with it before we publish it,’ ” Ms. Talese said. But she added: “I don’t think there is any way you can fact-check every single book. It would be very insulting and divisive in the author-editor relationship.”

Sarah Crichton, publisher of her own imprint at Farrar, Straus & Giroux and the editor of “A Long Way Gone,” said she did some background checking on Mr. Beah. “I come out of journalism and so I certainly wanted to make sure the historical record was accurate,” said Ms. Crichton, a former editor at Newsweek. “But I will confess that I did the checking that I did also in part just to protect us, because I knew that we were going to be publishing into a changed landscape.”

Good News/Bad News for Obama in March 4 Primaries


The good news for Obama is that despite losing three of the four primaries last night he still maintains the lead in the overall delegate count for the nomination. The bad news is that the voters in the next big primary on April 22 in Pennsylvania are probably going to vote for Clinton largely because of the legendary and widespread racism among white voters in that state. Just two weeks ago their own Governor Ed Rendell who is a big supporter of Clinton publicly said that he didn't think that "most white voters in [his] state were ready to vote for a black man" (for which Rendell was justly and highly criticized and reprimanded by the Democratic National Committee and some of the media but of course just because what he said was blatantly racist and inappropriate doesn't make it untrue) The way it stands now (and let's assume Hillary wins in Pennsylvania on April 22) Obama and Clinton would be in an almost deadheat tie (with Obama still slightly ahead in delegates but with still not quite enough delegates overall to seal the nomination). This would then mean that both candidates would go into the summer fighting tooth and nail for the remaining unpledged "superdelegates" support and that in August the Democratic Party would be locked into their worst political nightmare--a brokered convention.

If that is the case (and let us all really hope and pray it's not) highly secretive and ruthless backroom "deals" will be made by the candidates--especially the Clintons who are not only by far the most experienced in these matters, but clearly the most ruthless and Machiavellian as well. Already the Clintons have started to use far more negative campaigning against Obama as they clearly did in Ohio and Texas over the past couple weeks and it's guaranteed this will not only continue but become even worse over the next couple months. The Clintons are a lot like the vicious Republican strategist and campaign mastermind Karl Rove in their unrestrained no-holds-barred scorched earth approach to running campaigns. It's one of many things about the Clintons ('Billary' indeed!) that makes the Clintons such an utterly repugnant and alienating political force for many (including me)...

The bottomline conclusions to be drawn from last night's primaries are the following:

1) The Latino vote continues to be by far THE MAJOR PROBLEM for Obama and it has now been the absolutely deciding factor in four major primary states so far --California, New York, Nevada, and Texas--and it's crystal clear to me as it is to many other political observers across the country that much if not most of this vote is fueled by pervasive Latino racism against a black candidate. In fact if only 40-45% of Latino voters had voted for Obama in these primary races HE WOULD HAVE EASILY ALREADY WON THE DP NOMINATION BY NOW. For example Hillary only beat Obama by a mere 3 percentage points in the Texas primary last night. Since Latino voters there make up nearly 50% of all DP primary voters in the state it's obvious why Obama lost to Clinton in Texas. It's already been reported on a great deal this primary season that the Latino vote has often been as much as 75-80% for Clinton vs. Obama which is a phenomenal and glaring stat and there has been quite a few disturbing racially-tinged remarks by leading Latino politicians in all four of these states about Obama's ethnicity. It's a recurring problem and it indicates a very serious crisis within the national Democratic Party as well as in the rest of the country. I realize that a lot of people simply don't want to hear it or want to PRETEND that it's not the case but the overwhelming evidence of this anti-Obama sentiment being fueled in a systematic way by racist attitudes is UNDENIABLE . When one considers that a larger percentage of Latino voters generally have voted against Obama than WHITE MEN in all the DP primaries (Obama has consistently lost 65-75% of the total national Latino vote thus far) clearly there is a national political vendetta against Obama that has nothing whatsoever to do with Obama's actual record vis-a-vis the national Latino community which is actually quite good in support of issues Latino voters specifically care about. I've always maintained that if Obama loses to Clinton it will ultimately be because racism trumps even sexism in any political contest involving a black male candidate and a white female. However even I didn't think that it would ultimately be largely because of LATINO RACISM instead of the historical white variety. It just reaffirms the grim perspective that I share with many black people that despite the fact that we collectively will support any and all candidates regardless of their racial background (and have so many times throughout our history--just look at the 9-1 support of all African American voters for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996 for starters!) the favor is very rarely returned or extended to qualified black candidates by whites, Latinos, and Asians--especially in state and national elections. IT'S A HARD PILL TO SWALLOW AND ALL THAT BUT IT'S TRUE. That's the real ongoing power of racism and the doctrine of white supremacy in this society and I see no hard evidence that it is changing significantly--even among many people-of-color...

2) IF and I stress IF Hillary wins the DP nomination by blatant arm twisting, ruthless backdoor deals and negative campaigning tactics (as seems likely in her case) and the DP convention is brokered in August I predict that the Democratic Party will be so divided and so bitterly split along racial, class, and gender lines that John McCain and the notorious Republican Party will win their 8th out of the last 11 national elections for the Presidency since 1968 which would mean the virulently rightwing Republicans would have won a horrifying 72% of ALL the presidential elections of the past 40 years!

Even worse I further predict that IF Hillary somehow pulls off the Democratic Party nomination SHE WILL LOSE TO MCCAIN ANYWAY because of three major factors--1) WHITE MALE VOTERS -- 65% of whom voted for George Bush in 2004 across both political party and class lines!; 2) INDEPENDENT VOTERS--especially younger voters--many of whom have voted for Obama and will to a certain degree either sit out the election in disgust at Clinton and/or vote Republican, and 3) A SMALLER TURNOUT AND THUS LOWER VOTE TOTAL AMONG AFRICAN AMERICANS--ESPECIALLY YOUNGER and even middle aged black voters for Obama who will be deeply angry and alienated from the process thus seriously decreasing the number of votes cast by African Americans-- a very important and absolutely necessary voting bloc that NO Democratic Party candidate can afford to lose. It's called ARITHMETIC folks and not even the "Latinos for Hillary" will be mathematically capable of making up the difference...In other words IMO it's now either "OBAMA OR NOTHING" for both the Democratic Party and this country... Stay tuned...


March 5, 2008

Big Wins for Clinton in Texas and Ohio; McCain Clinches Race as Foe Concedes


Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton defeated Senator Barack Obama in the Ohio and Texas primaries on Tuesday, ending a string of defeats and giving her a chance to soldier on in the Democratic presidential race.

Mrs. Clinton also won Rhode Island, while Mr. Obama won in Vermont. The primary contest in Texas was close early Wednesday morning, but Mrs. Clinton maintained her slim lead in the late returns. Texas Democrats were also holding caucuses for some delegates and Mr. Obama had an early lead there.

By winning decisively in Ohio, Mrs. Clinton was able to deliver her party’s only victory speech of the evening. And the result there allowed her to cast Tuesday as the beginning of a comeback even though the full story of the results was not yet known and she stood a good chance of gaining no ground against Mr. Obama in the hunt for delegates.

“No candidate in recent history — Democratic or Republican — has won the White House without winning the Ohio primary,” Mrs. Clinton, of New York, said at a rally in Columbus, Ohio. “We all know that if we want a Democratic president. We need a Democratic nominee who can win Democratic states just like Ohio.”

On the Republican side, Senator John McCain swept to victory in Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont and claimed his party’s nomination, capping a remarkable comeback in his second bid for the presidency.

Mr. McCain’s main remaining rival, Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, announced he was dropping out minutes after the polls closed and pledged his cooperation to Mr. McCain. Aides to Mr. McCain said he would head Wednesday morning to Washington to go to the White House and accept the endorsement of President Bush, his one-time foe, and begin gathering his party around him.

Mr. McCain, of Arizona, delivered his victory speech in subdued tones to a boisterous crowd of supporters in Dallas.

“Now, we begin the most important part of our campaign,” he said, “to make a respectful, determined and convincing case to the American people that our campaign and my election as president, given the alternatives presented by our friends in the other party, are in the best interests of the country we love.”

Mr. McCain proceeded to offer a preview of attacks for his Democratic rival.

“I will leave it to my opponent to propose returning to the failed, big-government mandates of the ’60s and ’70s to address problems such as the lack of health care insurance for some Americans,” he said. “I will campaign to make health care more accessible to more Americans with reforms that will bring down costs in the health care industry without ruining the quality of the world’s best medical care.”

Mrs. Clinton’s victory in Ohio gave her, at the least, a psychological boost after a tough month in which she watched Mr. Obama, of Illinois, roll up victory after victory and build a lead in delegates. There was virtually no chance that Mrs. Clinton could have survived had she lost both Ohio and Texas; her husband, former President Bill Clinton, said last month that his wife needed to win both states.

Mrs. Clinton will continue to find herself in a difficult position mathematically. Given the way the Democratic party allocates delegates, it remained possible that Mrs. Clinton could win the popular vote in as many as three states on Tuesday but end up winning fewer delegates than Mr. Obama.

Even before the polls closed, Mr. Obama’s aides said that given their lead in delegates over Mrs. Clinton, it was not possible for her to catch up in the few remaining contests.

Mr. Obama came out shortly before midnight to speak to a crowd in San Antonio, and laid out the argument his campaign would make in the days ahead.

“No matter what happens tonight,” he said, “we have nearly the same delegate lead that we did this morning, and we are on our way to winning this nomination.”

But Mrs. Clinton’s supporters, exultant over the victory, tried to cast the results in Ohio as a turning point in the race.

Mrs. Clinton took the stage before a sea of waving white-and-blue “Hillary” signs and immediately portrayed her victory in Ohio as an indication of her electability in a general election. And she reprised a line of criticism against Mr. Obama that appeared to have gained her some traction in this contest.

“Americans don’t need more promises,” she said. “They’ve heard plenty of speeches. They deserve solutions and they deserve them now.”

As she spoke, the crowd responded with chants of “Yes, she will!” — apparently an orchestrated response to Mr. Obama’s trademark “Yes, we can!”

Turning one of Mr. Obama’s themes against him, she said, “Together, we will turn promises into action, words into solutions and hope into reality.”

The results left the two parties at very different stages of the race. Mr. McCain’s nomination has been all but assured for almost a month. His campaign looked to the results on Tuesday as an opportunity to begin framing the contest ahead. In contrast to his previous victory speeches, Mr. McCain made no mention of Mr. Obama, presumably because the result when he spoke was hardly clear.

Nonetheless, Mr. Obama called Mr. McCain at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday from his hotel room in San Antonio to congratulate him and said he looked forward to running against him, said Mr. Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs. Mrs. Clinton said much the same in her acceptance speech.

The voting proceeded on a day of problems at the polls in both states, in part because of a recurrence of the huge turnouts that almost every contest to date has experienced. In Ohio, the Obama campaign asked a judge on Tuesday evening to keep polls open longer in Cuyahoga County because of paper ballot shortages.

The Texas vote was actually two contests, with a primary where two-thirds of the delegates were selected followed by a caucus where the remaining one-third were selected. The Clinton campaign claimed irregularities by Mr. Obama’s supporters who, Mrs. Clinton’s aides said, sought to gain improper advantage in the caucuses.

The exchange suggested the tension between the two campaigns when Bob Bauer, an election lawyer for Mr. Obama, called into a conference call arranged by the Clinton campaign. The call had been set up to discuss the Texas caucuses, and Mr. Bauer challenged the assertions being made by Howard Wolfson, Mrs. Clinton’s communications director. The men, referring to each other by first names, engaged in a testy seven-minute exchange.

For Democrats, and particularly for Mrs. Clinton, the contests were as consequential as any to date. After her defeats, she was looking to win at least Ohio and Texas to remain in the race.

To that end, Mrs. Clinton delivered some of the toughest attacks of her campaign over the weekend, including a television advertisement that challenged Mr. Obama’s national security credentials in Texas and attacks on Mr. Obama in Ohio over free trade and a meeting his economic adviser had with a Canadian diplomat about the North American Free Trade Agreement.

There was evidence that the attacks had some effects. Mrs. Clinton did well among the 20 percent of voters in both states who said they made their decision in the last three days. She won about 60 percent of those voters in Texas and about 55 percent of those who voted in Ohio, according to exit polls poll conducted statewide by Edison/Mitofsky for the National Election Pool.

Surveys of voters leaving the polls showed Mrs. Clinton doing well among Hispanics in Texas, a major target for her there, as well as among lower-income voters and women in Ohio, suggesting that she was reassembling the coalition that had broken down in her losing 11 straight state contests to Mr. Obama. Mr. Obama was showing strength among black voters who made up 20 percent of the Democratic electorate in both states.

In Ohio, Mrs. Clinton’s emphasis on economic issues helped her to some extent. Three-quarters of respondents said they were concerned about their families’ financial situation, and more than half of those voted for Mrs. Clinton. She also won a majority of union households in Ohio and, in a reversal of her standing in early races, won decisively among white men.

Marjorie Connelly and Megan Thee contributed reporting from New York, and John M. Broder from Columbus, Ohio.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

Monday, March 3, 2008



This year marks the 100th anniversary of Richard Wright's birth.

Richard Wright (1908-1960) and his work, life, and legacy as novelist, essayist, critic, journalist, political activist, philosopher, poet, and literary icon is being celebrated and critically examined by a massive global array of scholars, critics, historians, and writers from the U.S., Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands in the "International Centennial Conference at the American University of Paris Celebrating 100 Years of Richard Wright" which is being held over three days from June 19-21, 2008 in Paris, France. All the pertinent details about the conference and who is involved in the 27 panels and the 8 plenary papers presented by prominent writers and intellectuals from all over the world can be found in the link provided above. You can also find further information on, and extended critical discussion of, Richard Wright's extraordinary life and work (and his various literary, intellectual, cultural, and political legacies) throughout the rest of this centennial year at this blog/magazine site. ENJOY...and check out Paris this summer if you can...


Richard Wright: The Centenary Celebration

The American University of Paris announces the International Richard Wright Centennial Conference. The Conference will represent broad international and interdisciplinary explorations of Wright’s life and writing, with a special emphasis on the Paris he inhabited (1947-1960), both what it was and what it is today as a result of the marks he left behind, and on his experiences in Africa. Stressing the importance of Richard Wright, the conference hopes to be an international point of intersection for all those interested in Wright’s work from literary and cultural critics, to political activists, poets, musicians, publishers and historians. We seek the widest range of academic and public intellectual discussion around Wright’s work which has influenced so many and so much.


June 19-21, 2008

The American University of Paris
31, avenue Bosquet
75007 Paris


Blueprint for Negro Literature
By Richard Wright

1. The Minority Outlook

Somewhere in his writings Lenin makes the observation that oppressed minorities often reflect the techniques of the bourgeoisie more brilliantly than some sections of the bourgeoisie themselves. The psychological importance of this becomes evident when one recalls that oppressed minorities, and especially petty bourgeois sections of oppressed minorities, strive to assimilate the virtues of the bourgeoisie in the assumption that by doing so, they can lift themselves into a higher social sphere. But not only among the oppressed petty bourgeoisie does this occur.

The workers of a minority people also strive to forge organizational forms of struggle to better their lot and they manifest the same restlessness. Lacking the handicaps of false ambition and property, they have access to a wide social vision and a deep social consciousness. They display a greater freedom and initiative in pushing their claims upon civilization than even the petty bourgeoisie. Their organizations show greater strength, adaptability, and efficiency than any other group in society.

That Negro workers have demonstrated this consciousness and mobility for political and economic action there can be no doubt. But has this consciousness been reflected in the work of Negro writers? Has it been manifested in Negro writing in the same degree as it has been in the Negro workers’ struggle to free the Scottsboro boys, in the struggle to free Herndon in the fight against lynching? Have they as creative writers taken advantage of their unique minority position? The answer decidedly is no. Negro writers have lagged sadly, and the gap between the militant Negro workers and the Negro writers widens relentlessly.

How can the hiatus between Negro workers and Negro writers be bridged? How can the enervating influence of this long-standing split be eliminated? In presenting a problem of this sort, the old accepted attitude of following precedent can lead nowhere. A slavish respect for past standards hinders rather than helps. An attitude of self-consciousness and self-criticism is far more likely to be a fruitful point of departure than a mere recounting of past achievements.

Since there is a big task to be done, an emphasis upon tendency and experiment, a view of the world as something becoming rather than as something fixed and admired, is the one which points the way for Negro writers to stand shoulder to shoulder with Negro workers in mood and outlook.

2. The Role of Negro Writing: Two Definitions

Generally speaking, Negro writing in the past has been confined to humble novels, poems, and plays, decorous ambassadors who go a-begging to white America. They entered the Court of American Public Opinion dressed in the knee-pants of servility, curtsying to show that the Negro was not inferior, that he was human, and that he had a life comparable to that of other people. These were received as poodle dogs who have learned clever tricks.
White America never offered them any serious criticism. The mere fact that a Negro could write was astonishing. Nor was there any deep concern on the part of white America with what role Negro writing should play in American culture; and if there was any role, it was through accident rather than intent or design. It crept in through the kitchen in the form of jazz and jokes.

On the other hand, these often technically brilliant performances by Negro writers were looked upon by the majority of literate Negroes as something to be proud of. At best, Negro writing has been external to the lives of educated Negroes themselves. That the productions of their writers should have been something of a guide in their daily living is a matter which seems never to have been raised seriously. Negro writing became a sort of conspicuous ornamentation.

In short, Negro writing on the whole has been the voice of the educated Negro pleading with white America. Rarely has the best of this writing been addressed to the Negro himself, his needs, his sufferings, and aspirations. Through misdirection Negro writers have been far better to others that they have been to themselves. And the mere recognition of this places the whole question of Negro writing in a new light and raises a doubt as to the validity of its present direction.

There is, however, a culture of the Negro which has been addressed to him and him alone, a culture which has, for good or ill, helped to clarify his consciousness and create emotional attitudes which are conducive to action. This culture has stemmed mainly from two sources: (1) the Negro church; and (2) the fluid folklore of the Negro people.

It was through the portals of the church that the American Negro first entered the shrine of Western culture. Living under slave conditions of life, bereft of his African heritage, the Negro found that his struggle for religion on the plantation between 1820–60 was nothing short of a struggle for human rights. It remained a relatively progressive struggle until religion began to ameliorate and assuage suffering and denial.

Even today there are millions of Negroes whose only sense of a whole universe, whose only relation to society and man, and whose only guide to personal dignity comes through the archaic morphology of Christian salvation.

It was, however, in a folklore moulded out of rigorous and inhuman conditions of life that the Negro achieved his most indigenous expression. Blues, spirituals, and folk tales recounted from mouth to mouth, the whispered words of a black mother to her black daughter on the ways of men, the confidential wisdom of a black father and to his black son, the swapping of sex experiences on street corners from boy to boy in the deepest vernacular, work songs sung under blazing suns, all these formed the channels through which the racial wisdom flowed.
One would have thought that Negro writers, in their last century of striving at expression, would have continued and deepened this last effort, would have tried to create a more intimate and yet more social system of artistic communication between them and their people. But the illusion that they could escape, through individual achievement, the harsh lot of their race swung Negro writers away from any suck path. Two separate cultures sprang up: one for the Negro masses, crude, instinctive, unwritten, and unrecognized; and the other the sons and daughters of a rising Negro bourgeoisie, bloodless, petulant, mannered, and neurotic.

Today the question is, Shall Negro writing be for the lives and consciousness of the Negro masses, moulding those lives and consciousness toward new goals, or shall it continue begging the question of the Negroes’ humanity?

3. The Problem of Nationalism in Negro Writing

In stressing the difference between the role Negro writing failed to play in lives of the Negro people, and the role it should play in the future if it is to serve its historic function; in pointing out the fact that Negro writing has been addressed in the main to a small white audience rather than to a Negro one, it should be known that no attempt is made to propagate a specious and blatant nationalism. Yet, the nationalist character of the Negro people is unmistakable. Psychologically this nationalism is reflected in the whole of Negro culture, and especially in folklore.

In absence of fixed and nourishing forms of culture, the Negro has a folklore which embodies the memories and hopes of his struggles. Not yet caught in paint or stone and as yet but feebly depicted in the poem and novel, the Negroes’ most powerful images of hope and longing for freedom still remain in the fluid state of living speech. How many John Henrys have lived and died on the lips of these black people? How many mythical heroes in embryo have been allowed to perish for lack of husbanding by alert intelligence?

Negro folklore contains, in a measure that puts to shame more deliberate forms of expression, the collective sense of the Negroes’ life in America. Let those who shy at the nationalist implications of Negro life look at the body of folklore, living and powerful, which rose out of a unified sense of a common life and a common fate. Here are those vital beginnings of that recognition of value in life as it is lived that marks the emergence of a new culture in the shell of the old.

And at the moment that starts, at the moment a people begin to realize a meaning in their suffering, the civilization which engenders that suffering is doomed. Negro folklore remains the Negro writer’s most powerful weapon, a weapon which he must sharpen for the hard battles looming ahead, battles which will test a people’s faith in themselves.

The nationalist aspects of Negro life are as sharply manifest in the social institutions of the Negro people as in folklore. There is a Negro church, a Negro press, a Negro social world, a Negro sporting world, a Negro business world, a Negro school system, Negro professions, in short, a Negro way of life in America.

The Negro people did not ask for this, and if they express themselves through their institutions and adhere to this special way of life, this special existence was forced upon them from without by lynch rope, bayonet, and mob legislation. And what few crumbs of American civilization the Negro has gotten from the tables of capitalism have been through these special, separate institutions. No attempt is made here to glorify these institutions.

Many of them are cowardly and incompetent; but they are all that the Negro has. And any move, whether for progress or reaction, must come through them and them alone for the simple reason that all other channels are closed. Negro writers who seek to mould or influence the consciousness of the Negro people must address their messages to them through the ideologies and ideals fostered in such a cramping and warping way of life.

The social institutions of the Negro are imprisoned in the Jim Crow political system of the South, and this Jim Crow political system in turn is built upon a plantation feudal economy. Hence, it can be seen that the emotional expression of group-feeling which puzzles so many people and leads them to deplore what they call “black chauvinism” is not a morbidly inherent trail of the Negro, but instead is the reflex expression of a life whose roots are imbedded deeply in Southern soil.

Negro writers must accept the nationalist implications of their lives, not in order to encourage them, but in order to change and transcend them. They must accept the concept of nationalism because in order to transcend it they must possess and understand it. And a nationalist spirit in Negro writing means a nationalism carrying the highest possible pitch of social consciousness.

It means a nationalism that knows its limitations, that is aware of the dangers of its position, that knows its aims are unrealizable within the framework of capitalist America; a nationalism whose reason for being lies in the simple fact of self-possession and in the consciousness of the interdependence of people in modern society.

For Negro writers, even more so than for Negro politicians, nationalism is a bewildering and vexing question, the full ramifications of which cannot be touched upon in a paper of this sort. But among the Negro workers and the Negro middle class the spirit of nationalism is rife in a hundred devious forms; and a simple literary realism, which seeks to depict the lives of these people, devoid of wider social connotations, devoid of nationalist tendencies, devoid of the revolutionary significance of even its nationalist tendencies, must of necessity do a rank injustice to the Negro people and alienate their possible allies in the struggle for liberation.

If there are writers, white or black, whose social consciousness is so barren that they cannot see the significance of the lives of the Negro people even though those lives are couched in national forms, then the meaning of the lives of the Negro people will remain obscure even to themselves. One of the great tasks of Negro writers of the future will be to show the Negro to himself; it will be, paraphrasing the language of James Joyce, to forge in the smithy of our souls the uncreated conscience of our race.

4. Social Consciousness and the New Responsibility

Naturally, all of this places upon Negro writers, who seek to function within their race as purposeful agents, a new and fearful responsibility. In order to do justice to their subject matter, in order to depict Negro life in all of its manifold and intricate relationships, a deep, informed and complex consciousness is necessary, a consciousness which draws for its strength upon the fluid lore of a great people, and moulds this lore with the concepts that move and direct the forces of history today.

Every short story, novel, poem, and play should carry within its lines, implied or explicit, a sense of the oppression of the Negro people, the danger of war, of fascism, of the threatened destruction of culture and civilization; and, too, the faith and necessity to build a new world.

With the gradual decline of the moral authority of the Negro church, and the increasing irresolution which is paralyzing Negro middle-class leadership, there is devolving upon Negro writers this new role. They are being called upon to do no less than create values by which their race is to struggle, live and die. They are being called upon to furnish moral sanctions for action, to give a meaning to blighted lives, and to supply motives for mass movements of millions of people.

By their ability to fuse and make articulate the experience of men, because their art possesses the cunning to steal into the inmost recesses of the human heart, because they can create the myths and symbols that inspire a faith in life, they may expect to either to be consigned to oblivion by the silent judgment of workers who ignore their writing, or to be recognized for the valued agents that they are.

For the creation of a vigorous and forthright literature, the historical tide is running with Negro writers today. Electric and basic changes in social and economic conditions foreshadow commensurate changes in the arts. Since the World War a great many disturbances have broken the slumber of the Negro people. The period of migration, the boom, the Depression, the struggle for unionism, all these have created conditions which should complement the rise of a school of expression. The millions whose lives have been touched or moulded by these forces constitute an audience. The question no longer is will they respond, but can the need be filled. They are hungry for food of more than one kind.

This mandate, and it is nothing than that, raises the inescapable question of the personality of the writer. It means that in the lives of Negro writers must be found those materials and experiences which will create in them a meaningful and significant picture of the world today. Many young writers have grown to believe that a Marxist analysis of society presents such a picture. It creates a picture which, when placed squarely before the eyes of the writer, should unify his personality, organize his emotions, and buttress him with a tense and obdurate will to change the world.

And yet, for the writer, Marxism is but the starting point. No theory of life can take the place of life. After Marxism has laid bare the skeleton of society, there remains the task of the writer to plant flesh upon those bones out of the plenitude of his will to live. He may, with disgust and revulsion, say no and depict the horrors of capitalism encroaching upon the human being. Or he may, with hope and passion, say yes and depict the faint stirrings of a new and emerging life.

But in whatever social voice he chooses to speak, whether positive or negative, there should always be heard or overheard his faith his necessity. And this faith and necessity should not be simple or rendered in primer-like terms; for the life of the Negro people is not simple as some dyspeptic intellectuals contend. The presentation of their lives, should be simple, yes; but all the complexity, the strangeness, the magic wonder of life that plays like a bright sheen over even the most sordid existence, should be there.

To borrow a phrase from the Russians, it should have a complex simplicity. Eliot, Stein, Joyce, Hemingway, and Anderson; Gorky, Barbusse, Nexo, and Jack London no less than the folklore of the Negro himself form the heritage of Negro writers. Every iota of gain in human sensibility and thought should be ready grist for their mill, no matter how far-fetched they may seem in their immediate implications. It would be a sad brigade of Negro writers who would be afraid of this; and it would be a limited consciousness that could not assimilate these influences.

5. The Problem of Perspective

What vision must Negro writers have before their eyes in order to feel the impelling necessity for an about-face? What angle of sight can show them all the forces of modern society in process, all the lines of economic and political development converging toward a distant point of hope? Must they believe in some “ism”?

They may feel that only dupes believe in “ism”; they may feel with some measure of justification that another commitment means only disillusionment; but any one destitute of a theory about the structure, direction, and meaning of modern society is a lost victim in a world he cannot understand or control.

But even if Negro writers found themselves through some “ism,” how would that influence their writing? Are they being called upon to “preach”? To be “salesmen”? To “prostitute” their art? What is the relationship between “something to believe in” and artistic expression? Must they “sully” themselves? Must they write “propaganda”? No. It is a question of awareness of consciousness; it is, above all, a question of perspective.

Perspective is that part of a poem, novel, or play which writers never put directly upon paper, but which is sensed in every line of the work. It is that fixed point in intellectual space where writers stand to view the struggles, hopes, and sufferings of their people. There are times when they may stand too close and the result is a neglect of important things. Of all the problems faced by writers who as a whole have never allied themselves in act or thought with world movements, perspective is the most difficult of solution. At its best perspective is a pre-conscious assumption, something which writers take for granted, something which they win through their living.

A Spanish writer recently spoke of living in the heights of one’s time. Surely, perspective means just that.

It means that Negro writers must learn to view the life of a Negro living in New York’s Harlem or Chicago’s South Side with the consciousness that one sixth of the earth’s surface belongs to the working class. It means that Negro writers must create in their readers’ minds a relationship between a Negro woman hoeing cotton in the South and the men who loll in swivel chairs in Wall Street and take the fruits of her toil.

Perspective is the frame in which the picture is hung; it is the invisible brake or accelerator upon the tempo of a poem; it is that part of a novel that is remembered long after the story is forgotten.

Perspective for Negro writers will come when they have looked and brooded so hard and long upon the harsh lot of their race and compared it with the hopes and struggles of minority peoples everywhere that the cold facts have begun to tell them something.

6. Subject Matter and Theme

Once perspective has been gained, Negro writers face a new landscape of subject matter. Negro politicians and the social forces that shape their characters; Negro leaders and the tactics they employ in satisfying both the masses of their race who long for freedom and the whites who place them in positions of authority; the thousands of juvenile delinquents upon the streets of Chicago’s South Side and New York’s Harlem; the role of sluggish reaction Negro teachers play in moulding the minds of the young; Negro women who carry the triple burden of their sex, of their race, and of their class; the maneuverings of that vulture breed called the Negro lawyer; the strange doings of that sainted devil, the Negro preacher; the two million black John Does who trekked North in 1917; the battled thoughts of that Negro woman social worker who works in the slum areas of her race; and that sixteen-year-old Negro girl reading the True Story Magazine; all constitute a landscaping teeming with questions and meaning.

If this is the Negro writers’ subject matter, then it must be marshaled toward some goal, some critique; it must be linked with the imaginative representations of the rest of mankind. Negro writing must be placed somewhere in historical space and time; in short, it must have a theme.

This does not mean that Negro writers’ sole concern must be with rendering the social scene; but if their conception of the life of their people is broad and deep enough, if the sense of the whole life they are seeking is vivid and strong in them, then their writing will embrace all these social forms under which the life of their people is manifest.

And in speaking of theme, one must necessarily be general and abstract; the temperament of each writer moulds and colors the world he sees. Any one theme may be approached from a thousand angles, with no limit to technical and stylistic freedom. But at the core of the life of a people is one theme, one historic sense of life, one prismatic consciousness refracting aesthetic effort in a whirlwind of color.

Negro writers spring from a family, a clan, a class, and a nation; and the social units in which they are bound have a story, a record. Sense of theme will emerge in Negro writing when Negro writers try to fix this story about some pole of meaning, remembering as they do so that in the creative process meaning proceeds equally as much from the contemplation of the subject matter as from the hopes and apprehensions that rage in the heart of the writer.
Reduced to its simplest and most general terms, theme for Negro writers will rise from their understanding of their being transplanted from a “savage” to a “civilized” culture in all of its social, political, economic, and emotional aspects. It means that Negro writers must have in their consciousness the foreshortened picture of the whole nourishing culture from which they were torn in Africa, and the long, complex (and for the most part unconscious) struggle to regain in some form and under alien conditions of life a whole culture again.

And not only does this mean that they must have this picture, but also a knowledge of the social and emotional milieu that give it tone and solidity of detail. Theme for Negro writers will emerge when they have begun to feel the meaning of the history of their race as though they in one lifetime had lived it themselves throughout all the long centuries.

7. The Problem of Judgment and Criticism

As can be seen from the Negro writer’s subject matter and theme, his rebellion will be not only against the exploiting whites, but against all of that within his own race that retards decisive action and obscures clarity of vision. And his loyalties will be toward all those forces which help to shape the consciousness of his race toward a more heroic cast. His will be the task to arrange into significant artistic patterns all the experiences of his people, those experiences which converge toward death as well as those that converge toward life, and stamp them with his judgment of hate or love.

Hitherto, a cowardly sentimentality has deterred Negro writers from launching crusades against the evils which Negro ignorance and stupidity have spawned. Negro writers should not hesitate to tell the truth about their people for fear of harming them, or for fear that these truths may be used by belligerent whites against them. The problem of judgment for Negro writers is bound up with the problem of their becoming whole men, human beings.

There is but one searchlight that can help Negro writers to walk along this rocky ledge, and that is the pitiless glare of a criticism whose frame of reference is historical, political, and economic as well as aesthetic. Over and above all their achievements, Negro writers should never feel that their goal has been reached; always ahead should be the sense of areas of experience to be conquered; problems to be framed, pondered and solved; always in them should reside the sense of becoming. And out of this sense will, should, grow the need for criticism.

Only when Negro writing is bathed in the white light of a constant and responsible criticism and only when that criticism has become the conscience of Negro writing, can it be said that Negro writing has come of age.

8. Autonomy of Craft

To depict this new reality, to address this new audience, requires a great discipline and consciousness than was necessary for the so-called Harlem School* of expression. Not only is the subject matter dealt with far more complex and meaningful, but the new role of the writer is qualitatively different. The Negro writers’ new position calls for a sharper definition of the status of craft, and a sharper emphasis upon its functional autonomy.

Writers should seek through the medium of their craft to play as meaningful a role in the affairs of men as do other professionals. The limitations of the craft constitute some of its greatest virtues. And if the sensory vehicle of imaginative writing is made to carry too great a load of didactic material, the artistic sense is lost. And if imaginative writing is required to perform the social office of other professionals, then the autonomy of craft is submerged and writing fused detrimentally with other interests.

The relationship between reality and the artistic image is not always direct and simple. The imaginative conception of a historical period will not be a carbon copy of reality. Image and emotion possess a logic of their own. A too literal translation of experience into images is a defeat for imaginative expression. And a vulgarized simplicity constitutes the greatest danger in tracing the reciprocal interplay between the writer and his environment. Like medicine and engineering, writing has its professional autonomy (not absolute independence). Writing should complement other professions, but not supplant them.

9. The Necessity for Collective Work

It goes without saying that these things cannot be gained by Negro writers if their present mode of isolated writing continues. This isolation exists among Negro writers as well as between Negro and white writers. The Negro writers’ lack of thorough integration with the American scene, their lack of a clear realization among themselves of their role, have bred a whole generation of embittered and defeated literati.

This isolation is not a voluntary thing as would appear at first sight, and it is not something which Negro writers ultimately wish. Barred for decades from the theater and publishing houses, they have been made to feel a sense of difference. Their unspoken wish for isolated working and living—though they verbally deny this!—is but the reflex of the whole special way of life that has been forced upon them.

The problem by its very nature, is one which must be approached contemporaneously from two points of view. The ideological unity of Negro writers and the alliance of that unity with all the progressive ideas of their day is the primary prerequisite for collective work. On the shoulders of white writers and Negro writers rests the responsibility for ending this mistrust and isolation.

By placing cultural health above narrow sectional prejudices, liberal white writers can help to break the stony soil of aggrandizement out of which the stunted plants of Negro nationalism grow. And the Negro writer can help to weed out these choking growths of reactionary nationalism and replace them with hardier and sturdier types of vegetation.

These things are imperative in light of the fact that we live in an age when the majority of the most basic assumptions of life can no longer be taken for granted. Tradition is no longer a guide. The world has grown huge and cold. And time has come to ask questions, to theorize, to speculate, to wonder out what materials can a human world be built.

Each step along this unknown path should be taken with thought, care, self-consciousness, and deliberation. And when Negro writers think that they have arrived at something which smacks of truth, humanity, they should test with others, feel it with others. They should want to feel it with a degree of passion and strength that will enable them to communicate it to millions who are groping like themselves.

To recapitulate: We are writers of a minority people whose working class is pushing militantly forward. We have the choice of writing for Negro and white “Society” or for our working class and the cause of social justice it represents. If we choose to stand on the side of social progress, then our artistic expression must shape the (folk-national) aspirations of our people. This necessitates a basic realignment, ideologically and aesthetically, on our part.

It calls for a new consciousness and a new responsibility. Negro writers must live on the heights of their time and weave their subject matter into artistic patterns and suffuse these patterns with their will to live. Their resurgence against the bulwarks that stand in from of them might necessitate a resurgence against those obstacles within their own group which retard them.

Writers faced with such tremendous tasks can have no possible time for malice and jealousy. The conditions for the growth of each writer depend too much upon the good work of other writers. Every first-rate novel, poem, or plays lifts the level of consciousness higher. When we start, we start from the beginning, but from the height reached by the last aspirant. Every contribution fertilizes the soil out of which we as writers grow. We need one another.

Richard Wright 1937

* Harlem Renaissance

A shorter version of this essay appeared in the fall issue of a magazine called New Challenge in 1937. This version is a much longer development of the original one and it is being published for the first time.

Source: Edited by John A. Williams and Charles F. Harris • Amistad 2: Writings on Black History and Culture • Copyright © 1971 by John A. Williams, et al. • Vintage Books Edition, February 1971 • New York, NY

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Articles on Obama in Texas & Ohio


The following links will take you to various important news articles and political analyses on the crucial upcoming Democratic Party primaries in Texas and Ohio and a couple other smaller states. The voting in Texas and Ohio will in all likelihood finally determine who will be the Democratic Party nominee for 2008. The bottom line is that Hillary Clinton has to win big in both states by margins that are at least 20 points ahead of Obama to have any shot at all at prolonging the primary process beyond the March 4 date. If Obama WINS these two states IT'S ALL OVER AND HE'S THE NOMINEE. However, all Obama has to do IF he doesn't win both of these primaries is to stay at least within striking distance (5-8 points) of Clinton and HE'S STILL IN. The reason for this is because Texas and Ohio--like nearly all the Democratic Party state primaries--award delegates in any race on a PROPORTIONAL basis instead of winner-take-all (which is the system that the Republicans use for their primaries). So if Obama can get at least 42-45% of the vote in both Texas and Ohio he will have enough delegates to pull within 150 delegates of victory (the final balance of which he no doubt has among his already pledged 'super delegates' if Clinton foolishly decides to go that route at the convention). But even before that there is still another major primary in Pennsylvania on April 22 where Obama would only have to win 40% of the vote if he loses by margins of 5-8 points or less in Texas and Ohio. But the Democratic National Committee and their most prominent superdelegates in the DP (90% of whom are elected officials) have already stated loud and clear that they will NOT have a brokered convention where an extended slugfest over superdelegate votes within the Party would seriously undermine the possibility and obvious need of the DP to reach a consensus of complete political unity going into the fight for the White House after their convention in August.

So to make a long story much shorter the voting in Texas and Ohio on tuesday March 4 looks extremely good for Obama right now based on the polls. But of course one can't only go by that because as we all know polls can be very unreliable in terms of their capacity for consistently accurate predictions. But based on the news coming directly out of these two states which can be found in the articles below things do look VERY GOOD FOR OBAMA going into March 4. Let's all hope Barack can wrap it up on tuesday night and effectively end this primary season as the Democratic Party choice in preparation for the DP convention in August (and the inevitable bloody battle against John McCain and the notoriously racist, sexist, authoritarian, and reactionary rightwing monsters of the Republican Party) as the next nominee for the Presidency of the this country. Let the games begin...


OBAMA IN 2008!

Click on the following links:

An AP article: Candidates' backers not as predictable

MarketWatch story: Clinton barely edging out obama

NY Times article on what a long battle holds for Obama

SF Gate on How to Hate Obama

Reuters on Urban Texas turnout for Obama