Notes from a Hip Hop Radical: The Van Jones takedown and the politricks of the Obama Administration
by Rosa Clemente September 11th, 2009
Over the Labor Day weekend Van Jones, a member of the Hip Hop generation and special advisor for green jobs at the White House Council for Environmental Quality, tendered his resignation, and it was accepted by the Obama administration. I will be the first to say that I never found Van Jones to be a radical, a Black Nationalist or a communist as Fox News has suggested.
Although I appreciate his book The Green Collar Economy, I never believed that a green economy will save working people. I felt that the book gave solutions on how to save the current capitalist system. And fundamentally that presents a problem, as many in this country are suffering because of capitalism and its failures.
No matter my political differences with Jones, I will never discount his work, energy, community organizing skills and progressive tendencies, which have reconnected urban youth with Mother Earth and have inspired many in my generation to create space in the predominately white liberal “green” movement. As the former Green Party Vice-Presidential candidate, I am not surprised that Jones turned out to be a high-profile casualty of an administration that started at the center and continues to move to the right.
But what has surprised me is that people are not holding the Obama administration for its role in the matter. Do not be fooled. There is no doubt that the Obama administration knew about Jones’ so-called “radical” past. I am not willing to believe that they never did a Google search on Jones or looked at his past comments, speeches or actions. By accepting Jones’ Resignation the Obama administration essentially gave a victory to the very racist Glenn Beck and the most vile “news” station in modern time. They have put a target on all of us who would be deemed activists or radicals. Accepting Jones’s resignation is a slap in the face to all of us.
So for those who voted for Obama, when will you let him know that you will not accept Van Jones as a casualty of an administration capitulating to the right? How dare we allow a bunch of white boys whom in the 1950’s would have been wearing hoods and burning crosses on Black peoples lawns have this much power. Where is the movement? Where is our infrastructure? Where is progressive media?
So where do we go from here? I caution people, first do not make Jones a martyr. Van jones is not Jesus, God or Malcolm reincarnated and elevating him to icon status is dangerous and does us no good. I am urging people to go back to the grassroots, go back to local community organizing and support progressives and 3rd party candidates in local elections. Stop thinking that once you vote that is your contribution, the easiest thing to do now-a-days is vote, the work begins after you cast your ballot. Malkia Cyril the Executive Director of the Center for Media Justice the other day on Democracy Now! stated, “We need to create an echo chamber of progressive media to counter the echo created by the right.”
The Van Jones takedown has revealed our own frustrations and inability to build and sustain a powerful multi-faceted, multi-racial, self-sustaining movement. I do not know all the answers and solutions to the chaos we finds ourselves in at this moment in history, but I do hope that people take one lesson that I learned from Van Jones’ book, “Stop fight against something and start fighting for something.” Maybe our fighting for something began at 11:45pm this past Saturday. If that is the case, we should all thank Van Jones for leaving the manicured green lawns and oak offices of the White House and for those who are still not convinced, the words of dead prez:
“Everywhere we go, everyday on TV, they be talking about who you gonna vote for,
Got a Black man running but I wonder if he get in who he gonna open up the door for
I don’t want to discourage my folks I believe in hope I just want us to want more
Politics is a game, how they keep us contained, there’s gotta be more that we can hope for
Democrats and Republicans just two sides of the same coin, either way its still white power, it’s the same system just changed form,
You wanna vote, please do, cast your ballot, let your voice be heard
But what I do wanna say is after the election you’ll see mark my word
It’s Politrikkks time again.”
© KnowThySelf Productions LLC.
Rosa Alicia Clemente is a community organizer, Hip-Hop activist, journalist and the Green Party 2008 Vice-Presidential candidate. Rosa resides with her husband and daughter in the South Bronx and is currently on her speaking tour, Its Bigger than Black and White. She is also at work on her first book: When a Puerto Rican Woman Ran for Vice-President and Nobody Knew Her Name and will soon begin her doctoral studies in Political Science. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and facebook.