by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
The Black sheriff from Milwaukee is a cartoon character whose elevation to Homeland Security is intended as an insult to Black people and a sop to the most bigoted elements of Donald Trump’s base. Clarke’s “talent is to cultivate a crude and shameless contempt for his own ethnicity, tuned to the racist receptors of his white patrons.” He’s a sick Black cat in a hat -- but he’s got company.
Black-Hating Negroes and Their Uses: David Clarke at Homeland Security
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“Clarke fills both a psychic and political need of the racists, insulting Blacks with words that even modern day Klansmen hesitate to use in public.”
David Clarke, the sheriff of Milwaukee County who appears slated for a top post at the Department of Homeland Security, has made himself valuable to the White Man’s Party through ostentatious display of hatred and contempt for his fellow Blacks. Clarke is the go-to Negro for denunciations of Black Lives Matter (“Black Lies Matter,” in his words) as Islamic State sympathizers who should be “scooped” up, charged with treason and detained “indefinitely at Gitmo.” Clarke shares his repugnant political specialty with a debased cast of domestic and international characters, including presidents Yoweri Museveni and Salva Kiir, of Uganda and South Sudan, respectively, and Roy Innis, the late former leader of CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality.
All three of the living professional Black-hating-Negroes make themselves readily identifiable as eager allies of American-style white supremacy by wearing huge black cowboy hats. Yoweri Museveni, Ronald Reagan’s favorite African since seizing power in Uganda in 1986, turned his country’s army into a central African military appendage of U.S. imperialism. Under Washington’s direction, Museveni incorporated minority Tutsis from neighboring Rwanda into his armed forces, then supported their 1990 invasion of Rwanda, which led to mass tribal slaughter and the overthrow of the majority Hutu government, followed by the invasion and occupation of the Democratic Republic of Congo by Rwandan Tutsi forces under Paul Kagame, resulting in the death of more than six million Congolese, and still counting. (Kagame should also wear a cowboy hat, but prefers the military beret.) As mercenaries of U.S. Empire, both Museveni and Kagame contribute troops to virtually every western-funded “peace keeping” operation on the continent.
“Clarke shares his repugnant political specialty with a debased cast of domestic and international characters.”
Salva Kiir sports a cowboy hat reportedly given to him by President George W. Bush during a visit to the White House in 2006, five years before South Sudan declared independence under U.S. sponsorship. The hat has become an even more important signifier that Kiir has superpower support, now that he has reverted to the role of warlord in his country’s catastrophic tribal conflict.
Roy Innis, who died in 2017, usually went hatless. He kicked whites out of staff positions in the Congress of Racial Equality in 1968, then almost immediately endorsed Richard Nixon for president. Innis’s vicious diatribes against fellow Blacks earned him a steady stream of speaking engagements at rightwing Republican functions. He backed Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork for the Supreme Court in the 1980s, Clarence Thomas in 1991, and Rudolph Giuliani for Mayor of New York in 1989.
David Clarke plays cartoon Black cowboy kiss-up to the same white supremacist audience on the U.S. domestic circuit, and has counterparts in the far-flung Black diasporas of the other white settler colonies and “mother countries.” His talent is to cultivate a crude and shameless contempt for his own ethnicity, tuned to the sick receptors of his white patrons. He fills both a psychic and political need of the racists, insulting Blacks with words that even modern day Klansmen hesitate to use in public: "Let me tell you why blacks sell drugs and involve themselves in criminal behavior instead of a more socially acceptable lifestyle — because they're uneducated, they're lazy, and they're morally bankrupt," Clarke said on a rightwing podcast. Clarke and his ilk serve to sanitize and normalize the most vile, blatantly racist behavior (and thoughts), simply by playing “crackers” in blackface. (The hat conveys the message to even the dullest bigot.) He invoked a lynching party when he vowed, during the campaign, to bring out “pitchforks and torches” against the media and political establishment in Washington.
“Innis’s vicious diatribes against fellow Blacks earned him a steady stream of speaking engagements at rightwing Republican functions.”
Clarke and his despicable domestic cohort do not proselytize to Black people. They are not seeking to build a base of support in their “own” community -- which they constantly dis-own -- so they cannot sway significant numbers of Black people to vote for racists. They are the Anti-Blacks, useful because their antics drive other Black folks up the wall -- to the delight of white racists.
Patrisse Cullors, of the Movement for Black Lives, has good reason to think that David Clarke would use his influence at Homeland Security to make her a political prisoner. “The way he demonizes Black Lives Matter is befitting for an enemy in a war zone,” she writes. “He openly dismisses civil liberties and suggests introducing limitless detention.”
Clarke’s services to white supremacy became much more marketable with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. He became a regular on Fox News in the aftermath of the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. In that sense, he is in debt to Cullors and her comrades for his political fame and new job.
But, let’s be clear: the pursuit of upward mobility through cultivation of white folks’ political favor is not confined to base and conniving caricatures like David Clarke. Sadly, it has become the main route to political fortune in Black America. The best (or worst) example is Barack Obama, who spent a lifetime making himself acceptable to the more politically correct section of the white ruling class. Obama was not a Black leader; he was the Black politician most acceptable and attractive to white Democrats and moneybags – “articulate and bright and clean” in the whitest kind of way, not “like Jesse Jackson.”
What’s more dangerous: a Black opportunist that curries favor with the worst elements of the White Man’s Party, but whose primary effect on Black politics is to make Black folks more vigilant, or a smooth Black operator who is so good at gaining the confidence of the ruling class that they entrust him to wage war on most of the world, and to impose capitalist austerity at home, knowing his mere presence will pacify Blacks and neutralize them as a force for change?
Neither of these political actors advance the cause of Black political self-determination, and one of them is threat to human survival in general.
Malcolm X would see them as two sides of the same treacherous coin.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].