Rev. Pinkney is “Banned” – Like in the Old South Africa
Rev. Pinkney is "Banned" - Like in the Old South Africa
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
"He is banned from
exercising any of his political rights."
As the United States prepares to indulge in a ritual of
self-congratulation on its miraculous journey to race-neutrality, we need only
look to southwest Michigan to find the old America shuffling along as if the
national transformation never happened. Rev. Edward Pinkney, from the mostly
Black town of Benton Harbor, would like to tell you what race relations in the
so-called "heartland" are really like, but his lipped are sealed by court
order. A Black man's freedom of speech is not a right in Benton Harbor - in
fact, it's a criminal offense, for which one can be sentenced to three-to-ten
years in prison.
The persecution of Rev. Pinkney exposes both the grand and
petty aspects of 21st Century American racism.
Benton Harbor has the misfortune of being situated in a sea
of white folks who have managed to remain untouched by the Obama phenomenon. The
Whirlpool Corporation, which dominates the political and economic life of the
region, decided that a golf course would be the best use for 22 acres of local
parkland. Under Rev. Pinkney's leadership, Benton Harbor's impoverished Blacks
sought redress of this and other grievances through the electoral process -
resulting in Rev. Pinkney's conviction by an all-white jury on charges of vote
tampering. He was sentenced to a year in prison and five years probation.
"A Black man's freedom
of speech is not a right in Benton Harbor - it's a criminal offense."
When the Reverend expressed his political opinion in a
newspaper piece, prophesying that God would "curse" the judge unless he
"hearkened unto the voice of the Lord thy God to observe and to do all that is
right,' the judge went ballistic. He revoked Rev. Pinkney's bail - "the first
time in modern history that a preacher has been imprisoned for predicting what
God might do," according the ACLU.
Just before Christmas, the Michigan Court of Appeals
allowed Rev. Pinkney to be released on bail, a victory that is credited to
massive public expressions of support for the Reverend's liberationist
ministry. But Rev. Pinkney is by no means a free man. Under the terms of his
bail, he cannot use a cell phone or a pager, is barred from public speaking or
preaching, cannot use a credit card, is prohibited from saying anything that
might be considered defamatory about the racist judge who sentenced him, and is
under a 24-hour curfew. If, for some reason, Rev. Pinkney is ordered back to
prison, he has every reason to believe that his life will be in danger.
So we see that southwest Michigan is not very different
than southwest Georgia. Corporate domination in Benton Harbor meshes quite
nicely with your garden variety white racism that sentences Black men to prison
for the simple exercise of their fundamental constitutional rights. Benton
Harbor embodies the full-spectrum racism - from corporate headquarters to
county courthouse - that is actually the norm in the United States.
Rev. Pinkney is no longer imprisoned, but is instead
subjected to the same kinds of restrictions that were called "banning" in
white-ruled South Africa. He is banned from exercising any of his political
rights. The newfound American rhetoric of race neutrality seeks validation
through endless repetition - but it's still a lie.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford.
We are informed that Rev. Pinkney would like very much
to be contacted. Reach out to the brother at: firstname.lastname@example.org
or call him at 269.925.0001. As you can imagine, he's near the phone.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.