Thursday, April 27, 2006

Cynthia McKinney, the true voice of Courage and Integrity in Washington

The singling out of Georgia's Rep. Cynthia McKinney for the sins of demanding a sane and even handed foreign policy in the Middle East, for questioning the war in Iraq, and for having been first to demand an investigation into what the government knew or should have known prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001 continues. So does the telling silence of established black leadership including most of the Congressional Black Caucus. Thankfully, there are exceptions. BC received the following communication last week from Dr. E. Faye Williams, Esq., Chair of the National Congress of Black Women.

Like Cynthia McKinney, I am a Black woman who has withstood many indignities – racial and otherwise. But as Maya Angelou says, "Still I Rise." I know that Cynthia will rise from this, too. Many Black women I know join me in standing with Cynthia for responding in a way that many of us often want to when we get so tired of racism, sexism and all the other garbage other women don't have to endure.

Whatever anybody else thinks of Cynthia, I love her for what she has done for the peace movement, for progressive politics, for standing firm even when others disagree with her, and just for being a beautiful and courageous human being. I know Cynthia. I know her family. She's my neighbor, and I call her a friend, so even if she did one thing that some may see as wrong, she is still a wonderful person who is not afraid to stand for what she believes is right.

Not one of us is perfect. Show me a Member of Congress who has not done something that at least somebody thought was wrong, and maybe then, I will listen to that person criticize Cynthia and tell me why I should desert my sister because of a little turbulence caused by a system she did not create.

Tell me no other Member of Congress has walked into congressional buildings without a lapel pin, or rushed in to vote without showing any type of identification! I've worked there and I know better. Cynthia is one of the most recognizable Members of Congress, so by no means will I buy the fact that an officer who works there would not know who she is.

It doesn't matter what the Grand Jury decides or what anyone else thinks of her, Cynthia McKinney is a woman who is widely known around the world, much loved and highly respected – and no incident like the one here that's been so blown out of proportion BECAUSE SHE IS CYNTHIA MCKINNEY will ever change that.

Dr. Williams has it about right. Everyone has a certain amount of good credit to exhaust, and Rep. McKinney's record of public service has earned her more than most. She has also earned the unremitting hostility of the establishment media who have knowingly lied about much bigger things than what did or didn't happen at a Capitol Hill checkpoint.

Reportedly, white and black Capitol Police are bitterly divided over the McKinney incident, with African Americans insisting the Georgia congresswoman is being unjustly harassed, while many white officers maintain that she's only getting what she has coming.

Howard University's Dr. Paula Matabane was kind enough to share with BC a letter she wrote to the Washington Post's Robin Givhan in response to an April 7 fluff story on Rep. McKinney, which seemed to reduce the discussion around the Georgia congresswoman and her career to trivializing speculations about her hairdo:

Ms. Givhan,

After reading your caustic if not toxic essay today on Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, I thought about a line from the film "Brother Future" when enslaved Isaac says to Zeke, the black overseer slave, "You like being massa's darkey."

Your complaint that McKinney has made her hairstyle part of her politics is juvenile journalism especially for a fashion editor. All fashion is politics especially in race divided, racist driven commercial America. Have you not noticed that white women's hair has been the standard of femininity and female beauty for the past four centuries – at least since the first slave ship arrived to these shores? Hair in America is not just a hairstyle but a path to defining black women out of the female gender and into the animal kingdom.

If fashion were not part of your politics, then why didn't you rag out Susan Taylor for her braids, sophisticated or not, that have apparently eaten her hairline a mile back from normalcy? No, you wouldn't because you freelance for Essence and you're not about to bite the hand that feeds and coddles you. Plus, Taylor's achievements earn her more respect than such a cheap shot.

I found a 2002 interview on-line in which you proudly proclaim that you were not surprised when you got your present position because "I think highly of myself." And yes, maybe you ought to. But you also have a responsibility to think critically even as a fashion editor. You would not have license from the Post to reduce McKinney to the black mammy of fashion if her politics were popular and mainstream. Your article could easily be a companion to “Birth of a Nation” ridiculing and judging black politicians for a personal appearance that deviates from the white norm.

In the same way that you ought to be respected for your substance and achievement, McKinney is due not less but more as a clear trailblazer of substance not trivia. Clearly, you are open to a stinging critique as the editor of fluff by any culturally conscious and intelligent black person. Your clinging to and advocating white standards of beauty even in your own appearance condemn you, too, as a time dated (pre-civil rights) symbol sporting an expired white woman hairstyle.

Finally, while I think McKinney can push the envelop politically at times, I fully understand her reaction to the white police grabbing her. I asked several Ph.D. black women colleagues (all over 50, i.e. daughters of segregation) at Howard University what they would do at the building entrance if a white cop grabbed them versus a black one. They all said they would do what McKinney did – recoil, protect themselves including jabbing with a cell phone. Their response to a black officer would be different. This speaks to history not hairstyle.
Ms Givhan, maybe you ought to do an article on what hairstyle the black woman raped by the Duke lacrosse team was wearing. I wonder was she "fashionable," "professional" or wearing the crown of a "washerwoman" who, by the way, sent many a Negro child to college including the ivy league and also deserve respect for what they achieved on their knees.

Fluff and trivia may be your arena, but when you step into politics and history, please try to write critically and respectful of those who have blazed a path for you.


Like Drs. Williams and Matabane, we support Rep. McKinney without reservations. So does BC reader Ed Rynearson:
Rep. McKinney is a courageous American who asks the questions I want asked on the behalf of myself and millions of other loyal tax paying citizens about the high price of oil, the 9-11 attacks, the muscle flexing at Iran, and related matters. My only recommendation to Ms. McKinney is that she get a Taser so that next time she can put one of those SOB's on the ground where they belong.

While we endorse the spirit of Mr. Rynearson's accessorizing suggestion, it is doubtful that the congresswoman will adopt such a measure any time soon.