Last year, U.S. Rep. Allen West proclaimed himself as “the modern day Harriet Tubman” who would lead black people away from the Democratic plantation into some sort of GOP land of milk and honey.
That craziness not only exposed West’s ignorance of black history and the perverse extent of his willingness to pander to his Tea Party masters, but showed his insensitivity to it as well.
And he’s at it again.
Earlier this month, the Republican congressman told people at a town hall meeting in Jensen Beach, Fla., that as many as 80 House Democrats are members of the Communist Party. When a reporter pressed him for names later, he had none; he simply accused the Congressional Progressive Caucus of being part of the Communist Party.
That’s right, the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
That’s the caucus that has been working on things like laws to fight massive foreclosures and too much corporate influence in elections; laws that try to even the playing field so that most Americans have a decent shot at a decent life in this country.
You’d think that West, being black and all and wanting to fill Tubman’s shoes, would be supportive of the caucus – especially since the unfairness that it fights tends to disproportionately hurt black people. Instead, he baselessly accuses them of being Communists.
And that’s the last thing that a black man with any knowledge or respect for black history, or, for that matter, black reality, ought to be doing – especially since many of the black people who have been largely responsible for black progress were often vilified as Communists by racists who wanted to discredit them.
There was W.E.B. DuBois, the author and sociologist who helped found the NAACP and advocated agitation, instead of accommodation, as a means for black advancement. He was indicted as being an agent of the Soviet Union in 1951 – during the beginnings of the Cold War and the reign of Sen. Joe McCarthy and the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
DuBois ultimately was acquitted of that charge – and eventually moved to Ghana, where he died.
There was the poet, Langston Hughes, whose writings about black people and their humanity got him accused of being a Communist. But he survived his hearings unscathed.
Not so for Paul Robeson.
Robeson, a black actor who appeared in films such as “The Emperor Jones,” in the 1930s, and was known for his booming voice, his intellect and his athleticism, was blacklisted as a Communist during the McCarthy era.
That happened after he expressed admiration for the Russian people and their culture, and as he pursued the fight against racism in the U.S. Even though he was never proven to be a member of the Communist Party, Robeson’s passport was revoked in 1950, which made it virtually impossible for him to travel and earn a living.
In short, that accusation ruined him.
And let’s not forget Martin Luther King Jr., whose detractors – from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to the staunchest segregationists – accused him of being influenced by Communists simply because he dared to challenge a social order that relegated black people to second-class citizenry.
You would think that someone like West would know better. You would think that a black man, even if his chooses to be part of a party that most black people avoid, would at least care enough about his own history and the pain of black people in this country to not buy into the tactics of white people who don’t.
In short, you’d think there are some places where even he wouldn’t go.
But it’s obvious West isn’t that type of black man. And that’s troubling on so many levels.
He’s a guy who seems to define freedom and American-ness in the same way that many racists do; by how many brown people he killed in a war and by how many ways he can demonize people who don’t share his views.
Or by how much admiration he can garner from Tea Party people who claim to love freedom, but only loved it when they were free to discriminate or to do other things to keep black people in their place.
West may think that’s freedom, but it’s really another kind of bondage.
And what’s sad is that he doesn’t even realize it.