Saturday, October 10, 2009

My New (Actually My Longtime) Hero: Julian Bond

I had the pleasure of meeting Julian Bond when he spoke to a history class at American University where I served as the Teaching Assistant. I escorted him to the class, and in the time that we had together, I mentioned that we had something in common: a single sex college education. Bond ribbed me about not having gone to Morehouse College, and I let him know that I was able to blaze a trail at Hampden-Sydney, since no one in my family had been there (an older cousin of mine is a Morehouse man).

We met again a few years later in Richmond, when Bond served as the 2005 keynote speaker at the Commonwealth Dinner for Equality Virginia. He remembered our men's college connection, and I thanked him for serving as a speaker on the issue of gay rights. In that speech, Bond made a very cogent argument showing the connection between the Civil Rights Movement and the Gay Rights Movement.

It was with great surprise that I saw this op-ed in yesterday's Washington Post. Once again, Bond reiterates his full support of GLBT equality by heartily endorsing the Equality March set for DC tomorrow, and he shows once again the connections between the two rights movements. Bond belongs to a small minority of black leaders, past and present, who speak forcefully and publicly in favor of gay rights, and for this I say thanks, once again.

Read Bond's op-ed, or watch the following video of Bond speaking to the Los Angeles chapter of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights lobby. It's a compelling presentation, and one that I think more than quells those weak attempts by too many to deny a relationship between the rights movements. And, I especially want black folks to listen to what Bond has to say here, and I dare them to challenge his understanding of Civil Rights history:


Anonymous said...

I'm surprised to hear you say that Julian Bond is your hero. He seems to be a figure of hate and intolerance. You rightly criticize Right-wing figures for using overheated rhetoric, but it was Bond who said "[The Republicans'] idea of equal rights is the American flag and the Confederate swastika flying side-by-side." He also referred to Secretaries Rice and Powell as "tokens" and compared Bush's judicial nominees to the Taliban. This is your HERO?

But he has done great work with various organizations, right? He founded the Southern Poverty Law Center, which the liberal Harper's magazine wrote that in 2007 "the organization was spending twice as much on fund-raising as it did on legal services for victims of civil-rights abuses…" Or how about his leadership of the NAACP? What does it actually do? Do they feed people? Educate children? Provide job-training? They lobby. I went to their website looking for the concrete steps that they have taken to help African-Americans. Here is the description of "Field Operations" division: "Through civil rights advocacy and community organization, each Unit of the NAACP works to improve the political, educational, social, and economic status of minority groups and eliminate racial prejudice. They keep the public aware of the adverse effects of racial discrimination and take lawful action to secure its elimination." Where are the verbs? "Advocacy" and "keep[ing] the public aware" of discrimination. It hardly sounds action oriented. But surely they must actually have DONE SOMETHING under Bond's leadership. How about their National Prison Project? Maybe they are training prisoners for jobs, or helping prisoners get GEDs? Nope. "The purpose of the NAACP Prison Project is to promote partnerships, legislation, and initiatives that positively impact inmate recidivism…" They lobby other groups (the government) to do the real work. This is your hero? A guy who spews hatred and leads organizations that are devoted to…their own existence.

First your new hero is Rep. Grayson who says that Republicans want a holocaust in American and now this?

hscfree said...

So will Julian Bond be my Bill Ayres should I run for office someday? Yes, the man remains my hero. For some Republicans, particularly in the South, Bond is on the money. On Powell and Rice, that's his opinion. And on some of those appointees, particularly from a gay perspective, a comparison to Islamists (fundamentalist Muslims) is not far from the mark (though I am confident that death for those who disagree is not in the equation, thankfully). No one will ever agree with everything that that a hero says or does. That's why we can still appreciate the Founding Fathers, unless you secretly support slavery (like many of them did).

Last time I checked, non-profit organizations (and I worked for one) continually hawks for money. You should see the expenditures of my old organizations Development department, and then check out the multiplicity of membership/development requests.

The NAACP is an organization that needs a massive overhaul and makeover. It's board is littered with folks from the Civil Rights generation who have not recognized the changed landscape. And many gen-X black folks, for example, are not members, because we live and see the changes.

All heroes can be subjected to scrutiny, and sometimes there can be disappointments, but that does not diminish their larger accomplishments to those who find their work important and heroic.

I know that thousands of people viewed Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms as heroes. Was the Dixiecrat move a good one for Thurmond? Was Helms continuing defense of segregation and disdain for Civil Rights praiseworthy? For some the answer is yes, but I would lay money down that there are people on the right who will say that I am not looking at the whole picture. Fine, then I offer my Julian Bond for someone else's Strom Thurmond.

hscfree said...

And on Grayson, he apologized for his use of the term holocaust. He's Jewish, and got caught up in his rhetoric there. And again, he apologized, as he should have done. I accepted his apology, and I hope he continues to lob barbs at the GOP.

Micheal Sisco said...

Oh good lord (allegedly, of course).

That organizations like the NAACP are still important, I think, is without question. The Jena 6, and other incidents -- not taking into account the casual racism and discrimination -- show that there is still quite a bit of work to be done, equality wise.

that being said, however, I think Bond MUST spearhead an initiative to make the NAACP relevant again. It MUST attract new members (and maybe convince them why it is still relevant).

As one of the younger generation, he is in a perfect position to do that.

It's time that we move past ... WAY past the days where Jackson and Sharpton are still the faces of black activism.

Anonymous said...

We seem to be in agreement that the NAACP needs to be reinvented, but I'm not sure that the Jena 6 are the right symbols for racism in the country. The incident revolves around 6 black students beating a white student into bloody unconsciousness. Mychal Bell was originally charged as an adult because he was already on probation from his violent criminal record. The idea that the civil rights community rallied to defend these criminals only goes to show how far they have slid from their original noble mission. And this type of violent attack is hardly unprecedented. Just this year, once again, a white student was attacked by a gang of black students. But will Eric Holder's Justice Department investigate that?

"A Belleville West High School student was beaten aboard a bus on the way to school Monday, and a police spokesman said the beating could be racially motivated. The 17-year-old victim was white and the teen assailants were black. Police released a video of the beating, which shows the victim being punched repeatedly while other students on the bus gather to watch, some cheering. It doesn't appear that the victim did anything to provoke an attack and tried only to defend himself."

I'll take your Thurmond analogy with two caveats. One, Thurmond's faults are well known. Bond's are not usually acknowelged. Second, after decades in public office Thurmond demonstrably helped thousands of constituents of all races in SC. He was reelected with majorities of black voters. It's not clear to me that Bond has ever really helped anyone. He probably gives nice speeches, but that is in a different category than actually solving a problem.

hscfree said...

Don't forget that Bond was an elected official as well, thus accountable to constituents. He was a state Senator, and though it isn't the same as a U.S. Senator, I am sure Bond delivered, like Thurmond, for his constituents.

hscfree said...

And on the student that was recently attacked, you are taking the Limbaugh talking points and trying to make them real. All of the people involved in that horrible incident have agreed that the action was not racially motivated. It was a classic bully v. nerd situation, and the principles in that sitch happened to be black and white respectively.

On the Jena six issue, I thought that it was an odd and complicated case that needed to be looked into, but I wasn't sure about the galvanization point. Those boys were not the new Scottsboro boys. However, one of the roles of the NAACP is to look into those types of situations; that is a part of their mission, so they were right to go there.

Anonymous said...

When a white student is attacked it is a nerd vs. bully situation, but when a black student is attacked it is a civil rights case? I guess I'm less interested in whether the white victim's civil rights were infringed than why the predators on the bus should not be locked up now before they begin their life of crime.

On Jena 6 you have a gift for understatement. Of course it would be reasonable if the NAACP had simply "looked into the situation" in Jena. What they did instead was whip of a national hysteria and lead 20,000 marchers on the city.

hscfree said...

So black children who end up in fights with white children first are predators, and second are on the path to a life of crime. I was almost in a fight with a white classmate back in middle school. It had nothing to do with race, and I would have won. Based on your logic, my actions would have been racially motivated and then led to a life of crime.
I wonder if that is the case with school fights in schools that have little to no diversity. Are the "winners" of the fights all potential criminals?

And again, Bond has made moves that I don't agree with. And I go right back to the examples of Helms and Thurmond. With heroes, you take the good with the bad. MLK cheated on Coretta, it doesn't overshadow his good works. Jefferson held and slept with slaves, yet he is still a great man.
Your disdain for some of the actions of Bond, in my opinion, is clouding your perspective on the shortcomings of people, even those we admire. Therefore, you will not change my mind on me calling Julian Bond my hero, and I have done more than enough to explain why.

Anonymous said...

I find you potentially getting in a fight at school very different from a group beating. We have decades of experience with criminals who begin their paths at a young age and go in and out of the court system until they escalate to a crime that puts them away for a long time. Society is only protected from them when they are locked up. Every once and a while a miracle occurs and someone breaks out of that cycle. But I would bet the odds.

I guess hero is a pretty strong word for me for anyone these days. Perhaps it is a consequence of growing up at a time when the left has done everything they can to destroy the image of America's traditional heroes, that I just have a hard time using that word. I don't know of anyone of our generation that has called Thurmond or Helms their hero. They may have done a lot of good work, but hero goes a bit further. Of course, Bond can be your hero if you want him to, but I think it is important to recognize his significant limitations.