Links To Truth

Thank you to Laura Conaway and James Ridgeway for the article "Democracy in Chains" [December 5]. I have been searching the media for coverage of what to me is the most important aspect of the election in Florida: the systematic disenfranchisement of people of color. I am dismayed that the Democrats have latched onto the butterfly ballot—an inadvertent irregularity—and ignored racist tactics that are among the ugliest legacies of our system, which we all need to work to change. Thanks for covering this important story when our officials and the rest of the media are letting us down.

Kelcey Jacobsen
Santa Rosa, California

Well-written article by Laura Conaway and James Ridgeway. Let me tell you a story my mother told me when I was starting first grade. She said that our great-great-great uncle had been a slave. One day, the slave master came to him and told him to take a note to a neighboring slave master's plantation. Suspicious of the note, he stopped by a slave woman's cabin and asked her to read the note. It said, "Kill this nigger." Hearing the story, I understood that my life depended on learning how to read. It was not my enemy's job to ensure my survival—it was my mother and father's job, and they did it well.

Black people have been lulled into complacency by the Democrats. Until Black folks in Duval County recognize that they are living on a psychological plantation, they will remain disenfranchised.

Media Wright
Reno, Nevada

Back To Florida

Laura Conaway and James Ridgeway's article on black voters being thwarted at the polls contained some shortcomings. In particular, the statement that the creation of majority-black districts would partly fulfill "the prediction of Marcus Garvey, who argued the only way for black people truly to be free was to found a nation-state of their own" does not seem logical. All-black districts would actually waste votes by clustering black citizens.

If blacks represent a certain percentage of voters in a district, then the fairest representation would be maximum turnout. If you are not the majority, then you must turn out. Why not have the black voice heard in all districts and as loudly as possible?

In addition, the authors seem to have gotten carried away with showing how well versed they are in black studies and missed providing solutions for the problems mentioned. How about less rhetoric and more substance?

Daniel Sheets
Athens, Georgia

Re the piece by Laura Conaway and James Ridgeway: Why blame white people for the fact that blacks in Duval County have a low reading level? I grew up in the inner city and chose to not be a functional illiterate. There were no white people holding me back from pursuing my education. We must stop making excuses for failure. Blaming the evil white man is unacceptable.

Christopher Oliver

Snow Job

I was disappointed to see James Ridgeway print ridiculous rumors about Florida secretary of state Katherine Harris [Mondo Washington, December 5]. Whether she was Snow White in a Disney parade in the '70s or can stick her entire fist in her mouth is irrelevant to her ability to perform her duties. She should be judged by her job record.

Denise Scott


Peter Noel, in the article "Fear of the Williams Sisters" [November 14], discusses the book Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We're Afraid to Talk About It by Jon Entine. Entine believes that people of African ancestry have a genetic advantage in sports. Everybody has African ancestry. As an indication of how absurd the argument is, according to Andrea Dworkin's brave new book, Scapegoat, pseudo-scientists in Nazi Germany regarded the Jews as a separate "dark" race; Entine describes himself as a liberal Jew.

Ishmael Reed
Berkeley, California

Sisterly Advice

Reading Peter Noel's article "Race and Class" [November 28] about Yaa Asantewa Nzingha, I was deeply disturbed by the methods she used to supposedly empower her African American students. As a high school teacher, I try my best to teach my students to question what they see and read without giving my opinion. If they ask for my opinion, I am honest with them, and I explain that they have every right to disagree with me.

As an English teacher, I want my students to think and question for themselves and to form legitimate arguments to support opinions that they have. Although Nzingha has her own opinions about how African Americans should identify themselves, true empowerment comes from allowing young people to express themselves, without preaching to them. As an African-Latino American, I support any teacher who takes students beyond the constrictions of what society has embedded in their minds.

I am not going to deny what my ancestors have done for this country, or my connection to what my ancestors built. However, if I had children, I would not want to have a teacher telling them that they are African and not American. To Ms. Nzingha: Get your shit correct, sister. You know how people think we still abide by CP (Colored People) time. If you are going to make some noise, make sure they have absolutely nothing against you (i.e., latenesses and absences).

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