Some will simply say, “She’s at it again, that loud-mouthed Black woman in Congress. Why doesn’t she just shut up and vote, like all the rest of them?”
Others will (and have said), ‘She needs to be shut down! Off with her head! We’re coming after you, you crazy woman!”
Interesting, isn’t it, that freedom of speech, a basic constitutional guarantee for U.S. citizens, is so readily complained about and denied to certain people who speak out when those in power much prefer that they shut up. This has been a regular ingredient in much of U.S. history, and very much a part when the controversial ones have been Black folk. It is as if Black folks who complain of injustices and mistreatment are sore losers and ingrates who should be glad and appreciative that they are here at all.
Since 1870, when Hiriam Revels became the first elected African American member of the U.S. Congress until the present day 48-person membership of the Congressional Black Caucus, elected Black folk have understood that being silent was the most usual path to being ignored and considered irrelevant. So many Black elected officials have become known as hell-raisers and master critics.
Congresswoman Shirley Chisolm from New York, known as the first African American woman elected to Congress, came into government to speak her mind and challenge the powers that existed, whether Black or White. When she became the first Black woman to mount a discernible presidential campaign, she irritated a large number of people, including many African American male politicians. But she persisted, kept talking and kept raising important issues. She was labeled a troublemaker, but kept on making trouble regardless of the political consequences.
Harlem congressional member, Adam Clayton Powell, who first used the concept “Black Power” in a public speech, was censured by his congressional colleagues and banned from serving his New York constituents. Not known for quietly going away, he kept talking, irritating people and speaking out for better treatment for Black folk, and the U.S. Supreme Court vindicated him by ruling that Congress had unconstitutionally denied him his duly-elected seat. In 1969 he triumphantly returned to Congress to cause even more irritation to the White racist establishment in charge of the U.S. Congress at that time. He remained a troublemaker and a controversial speak-truth-to-power type of politician, and Black folk were better off for that.
Currently, California congresswoman Maxine Waters continues in that same tradition. Already well known for challenging former President Reagan’s administration for bringing drugs and guns into the Los Angeles Black community and instigating the rise of the street gang culture popularized by the Crips, Bloods and other gangs, Congresswoman Waters is now into a major public challenge of the immorality and misuse of power by the Trump administration. Accordingly, she has been castigated in public, called a low IQ person (by someone who should look in a mirror), and threatened with physical harm if she does not shut up. So what does she do? Of course she keeps talking, raising the issues, being a troublemaker and a major irritant to those who abuse power.
We say, right on for the right on, congresswoman. Give them, especially him, hell! We’ve got your back !!
You’re speaking for us all. If we’d wanted or expected your silence and acquiescence, we’d have sent and supported someone else. You speak for us all !! Keep calling them out and troubling their waters!! You represent our most effective Black political tradition in this country. Going along to get along has regularly been counterproductive for our welfare.
Power to the people!!!
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.