Tavis/West: We Know We’re Hurting, Now Tell Us the Truth About Why


Beneath the Spin * Eric L. Wattree


This is a reprise of an article that I did back in December of 2005. At the time, I pretty much predicted what we’re going through today. No, I don’t claim to be a prophet, but the writing on the wall was so clear back then that anyone with common sense could easily connect the dots. The very same is true today. That’s why it is so hard to fathom why Tavis Smiley and Cornel West are spending so much time and effort stating the obvious instead of telling us what we need to hear as a people, and then coming up with a plan of action – that is, unless you take their own self-interest into account:

Wake Up, My People

I went to view the remains of Stanley Tookie Williams last week– he went to Washington high school with my late wife. When I went inside the mortuary’s Slumber Chamber where Tookie’s body lie in repose, there was a lady sitting in the front pew crying, presumably a member of Tookie’s family. It was obvious that the lady was in great pain, so in spite of the fact that I didn’t know her, I offered her my condolences. The chamber was quiet and solemn. Then I walked out the side door of the mortuary—and into an absolute zoo.In the parking lot next to the mortuary there was a crowd of people partying like it was New Years Eve–the music was blasting, one car was on lifters so high that it seemed to be standing on end, and three sisters were dancing in a heated frenzy before a crowd of maybe a hundred people shouting, “Go ba-by! Go ba-by! Go ba-by!” It was unbelievable. But the scene outside the mortuary that night served to reinforce a point of view that I’ve held for many years now–it’s time for our people to wake up and sniff the funk, because the fumes are emanating from all around us, and it’s coming at us from every direction. That goes for the American people in general, but black people in particular.As black people, we have a beautiful and festive culture, and I realize that in the past that festive spirit has been used to great effect as a defense against pain. But times are changing in this country, and they’re changing faster and more drastically than we’ve ever known before. So, if we are to survive as a people, we must adapt to that change–and we’d better do it real fast.

Looking at the United States today, one can’t help but recognize that it’s become reminiscent of Germany during the 1930s, just prior to the rise of fascism. We have a regime currently in power that’s stolen two elections and has taken over every branch of government; they invaded a sovereign nation under false pretenses and they’re saber rattling towards others; They’ve set up concentration camps all over the world, and they’re torturing innocent people. As we party, they’re not only passing laws that will allow them to spy on American citizens, but arrest those citizens, while denying them rights supposedly guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States.

We’ve got to start thinking the way this government thinks (notice that I didn’t say “the White man”, because if a White man happens to be poor ormiddle class, he’s in trouble too). We‘ve got to start thinking ahead. When I was in The Marine Corps way back in 1971, even then, they had me out in Twenty-nine Palms training reservists in desert warfare. So you see, while we’re living in the moment, this government is thinking ahead. And when you consider the fact that Bush is now spending 2 billion dollars a week in Iraq, and sending this country into so much debt that it precludes our funding education, Medicare, most entitlement programs, and possibly, even Social Security, you’d better believe they have a game plan in mind. They have to have one, just to deal with the resulting social upheaval that is sure to result—and they are practicing that game plan in Iraq as we speak. So it is past time for black people to set our party shoes aside, at least for the moment, and embark on a very serious and sober reassessment of where we stand in this country today.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-America–I Love America. America has provided me and my family with a way of life and opportunities that we might not have found in any other place in the world. But what I love most about America is the American ideal, those ideals that we may not always live up to, but we aspire to. It is the American ideal that makes America special, and it is the assault on those ideals that makes me very nervous about the Bush administration. Under Bush, we seem to be losing sight of what America stands for. He claims that the terrorist hate us because of the American ideal of freedom, justice, and equality. But if that is indeed the case, the terrorist are clearly winning this war, because with every day that passes those ideals are being whittled away.When Bush invaded Iraq in response to 9/11 he demonstrated very clearly his propensity for venting his hostility towards people of color. In spite of the fact that all available evidence pointed to the fact that Saddam Hussein had absolutely nothing to do with attacking this country, his invasion of Iraq seems to say, “Oh well, one Arab is just like another—they’ll do.” That is not the American way.And as a result of that policy, United Press International reported on July 12, 2005 that according to an Iraqi humanitarian organization, 128,000 Iraqis have been killed since the U.S. invasion began in March 2003. The report goes on to say, “chairman of the ‘Iraqiyun humanitarian organization in Baghdad, Dr. Hatim al-‘Alwani, said that the toll includes everyone who has been killed since that time, adding that 55 percent of those killed have been women, and children aged 12 and under.” Thus, according to this report, more women and children are being killed in Iraq than anyone else–and that, is not the American way.

In addition, it has now come to light that the Bush administration has been spying on Muslims in their homes, businesses, and mosques, without warrant, since September 11, 2001. Conservative spin masters try to justify this policy by saying that this fudging of the Constitution only affects 0.1% of the people, so those of us who don’t have anything to hide don’t have anything to worry about. But the fact is, these violations set a precedent that sends the nation down a slippery slope that affects us all. It’s not only a gross violation of an entire community of people, but a corruption of the United States Constitution that places us all in jeopardy. That is not the American way.

So it is clear that our government, under Bush, has no understanding, nor respect, for limits. Since he’s already demonstrated his propensity to paint all people of color with the same brush, it’s not a very big leap from terrorist, to Muslim, to Black Muslim, to black people in general. While that’s not the American way, it’s a glaring reality.

So, again, it is past time for the black community to turn down the music for a minute and get serious. The Cabbage Patch can wait, because if there has ever been a time in our history where it is incumbent upon us to focus, educate ourselves, and become politically engaged, it is now. We’ve demonstrated over the years that we can party hardier than any group of people in the world, but at this point in our history, we have nothing to party about. Tookie’s body should attest to that fact.

Eric L. Wattree
[email protected]
Citizens Against
Reckless Middle-Class Abuse (CARMA)

Religious bigotry: It’s not that I hate everyone who doesn’t look, think, and act like me – it’s just that God does.


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Eric L. Wattree is a writer, poet, and musician, born in Los Angeles. He's a columnist for The Los Angeles Sentinel, The Black Star News in New York, and a Staff writer for Veterans Today. He's also the author of A Message From the Hood.