Some Say Russia ‘Collusion’ Investigation Distracting From Black Issues
ABOVE: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) was among several members of the Congressional Black Caucus in the hearing room as Comey testified. Some say the CBC is among the lone voices currently leading on Black issues.
During former FBI Director Jim Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week, the irony of Black people cheering for Comey didn’t escape African Americans who watched the on-going saga unfold in public view last week.
In more than three hours of testimony, Comey said under oath that the president repeatedly pressed him for a pledge of loyalty and asked him to drop the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. And after Comey failed to fulfill the president’s wishes, Trump fired him.
In casual conversations, political discussions and debates in Black communities across the country, the question has centered on how invested African Americans should be in the hearings and their outcome given the FBI’s history of unfairness to Black leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Moreover, with Black progress at stake,some wonder whether the focus on the Trump-Comey controversy is too much of a distraction.
Mimi Machado-Luces, a documentary filmmaker, photographer and mother of two, said she watched the hearing and believes Trump is a liar who lacks the skills or temperament to be president. This is all the more reason that Black people must escalate their attention to Black progress.
People of African descent in America, she said, were lulled to sleep by eight years of a Barack Obama presidency and now most still can’t rouse themselves to fully confront the dangers that the Trump administration has spawned.
“I think that we’ve fallen back onto this lull of ‘Oh…good times are over.’ We’ve fallen back into this reactionary mode,” she said. “Black Lives Matter and other groups like that are grand but I don’t see anyone coming out aggressively about things we need to be pursuing in our agenda, talking about the effects of things Trump is coming in to dismantle.”
Machado-Luces, an artist-in-residence teaching Digital Media at several DC and Maryland schools, said she wonders if and when Black people will come together and coalesce around a meaningful, substantive agenda.
“I don’t know if that will happen, probably not in my lifetime,” she said. “All I know is that there’s so much work to do. I don’t want to say we as a people lack vision. We’re psychologically lulled into accepting the oppression. I see some people trying to change things but part of the oppression is written into law. People get off when they shouldn’t.”
The intrigue and importance of the topic of possible collusion with a foreign country by a U. S presidential administration has not escaped coverage by the Black press, which has historically covered the antagonist relationship between the Black community and the FBI as well as other law enforcement agencies. DC-based independent journalist and political analyst Lauren Victoria Burke said she was among those glued to coverage, mainly because of the gravity of the events.
Burke said unlike the Iran-Contra scandal, for example, the ethical lapses and conflicts of interests swirling around this White House is a “much more serious matter because of the possibility of the president or his people being involved in treasonous activity.”
She said, “It’s a spy-level novel situation…No. I’ve never seen anything like this. The idea that somehow this is normal – none of this is normal.”
Burke, who covers Capital Hill daily, says Black Democratic lawmakers like Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Al Green (D-Texas) have been leading the charge in criticizing Trump, calling for a special prosecutor and seeking impeachment.
“They’ve been a little bit more out in front than most people. Green and Waters have called for impeachment. They’re the only members to call for impeachment,” said Burke. “Waters came out in front very early. She talked in a way that people were saying to take it back. But it’s almost mainstream now.”
Sam Collins, a millennial grassroots journalist and activist, said he watched sections of the Comey hearing with a jaundiced eye. He’s tired, he said, of the mainstream treating critical, potentially life-and-death issues and the dysfunction and chaos emanating from the White House as a pay-per-view event. Even though he has a good handle on the inner-workings of government and its relationship with the people it purports to serve, Collins said he’s still not sure whether the entire Russia debacle is just a diversionary tactic.
“Our leaders are following Russia while districts are going through issues, such as access to quality healthcare, unemployment and other problems that were here long before Russia or Trump,” said Collins, who is a teacher with District of Columbia Public Schools. “It’s proxy war. They’re putting up this proxy war to distract us.”
As he’s watched the Trump White House try, unsuccessfully, to fend off a rising chorus of accusations of collusion with Russia and a variety of other potential misdeeds, Collins believes Black leaders have become distracted as African Americans and people of color face more overt racism, unprovoked attacks, hostility from the Trump administration, and the reversal of hard-earned gains by regressive forces.
“We need to organize among ourselves,” he concluded. “The NAACP is going through an identity crisis and may be about to fall under. I wouldn’t be mad,” Collins said with a chuckle. “There are no radical voices…All this political stardom and we have no juice to move anything.”