Senate Majority Leader Democrat Harry Reid from Nevada has been exposed as the latest white politician to make an insensitive comment about a black person. A new book, Game Change, says that Mr. Reid essentially made the comment that then Democratic presidential hopeful Illinois Senator Barack Obama would be an ideal candidate because he was a light skinned Negro and had the ability to sound black only whenever he wanted. And now, conservatives are crying foul because they contend if one of their own said this, they would be deemed a racist and therefore, Mr. Reid should resign.
Okay I’ll bite. When was the last time any high profile political conservative ever expressed the slightest concern about somebody using racial slurs against a black person? Was it when Rush Limbaugh was playing that Barack the Magic Negro song? Was it when South Carolina Senator George Allen referred to the minority in the crowd at one of his rallies as macaca? Did conservatives care when a conservative bureaucrat distributed an image of all the Presidents with Mr. Obama depicted as little more than a pair of bulging eyeballs on a black background? The answers are nope, nada, and hell no.
Conservatives are accusing liberals of having a double standard. And that might be true. If liberals heard somebody like South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson, who is already on their shit list for shouting out his infamous comment calling Mr. Obama a liar during a formal address to the Congress, they’d have a totally different reaction.
But the conservatives are guilty of their own double standard. Conservatives have never expressed any concern over anyone using a poor choice of words in reference to the black community. Rush Limbaugh makes racial offenses part of his standard operating procedure on his conservative talk radio show. Way too many conservatives applaud when black people are the subject of some racist rant. It ain’t black people watching reruns of Seinfeld with Michael “Did someone say nigger” Richards, Duane “My son ain’t going to date some soulless nigger” Chapman, or Don “Nappy headed ‘ho’s” Imus. Compared to these offenders, Mr. Reid calling Mr. Obama a light skinned Negro shouldn’t even register as a blip on their offense meter.
But now that Mr. Reid is the offender, the conservatives are pulling out the stops, pointing the figure in feigned astonishment, trying to make a case on black people’s behalf. I think the last time conservatives did something specifically for blacks was when President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. And even with that gesture of racial generosity on conservative’s part, it is a matter of contention whether or not it was for the welfare of black people. A lot of white people were complaining that they couldn’t find work as long as black people had to work for free. Mr. Lincoln’s personal opinion was that no black person would ever have the same status as any white person. No doubt, Mr. Lincoln could have given a rat’s ass about black people. And that conservative mindset appears to be the popular sentiment of today.
So now a lot of conservatives want to point to liberals and cry foul and we’re supposed to take them seriously. This morning Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele wants to point his subjective finger at Mr. Reid and say if a conservative did it the liberals would be having a field day. Yes, and if a conservative did it, Mr. Steele would be on the other side of the fence as well. That’s what happens in political circles.
In the game of politics, nothing is done with fairness in mind. No decision is made with impartiality. It’s all about whatever benefits my side. Do the conservatives care what white people in high places think about the black community? No. Do the liberals give a damn about the black community? Hell no! Nobody is saying that the Democrats have the black community’s best interests at heart. Our politicians ignore every social problem that continues to plague the black community. But somehow we’re supposed to believe that Harry Reid’s comment about a black man a year ago means something to someone now.
Everybody who sits in one of those high seats of government has referred to a black person some time in their life with a derogatory racial slur. Harry Reid is definitely not the first and he certainly won’t be the last. But now Republicans want to call for his resignation. I say good luck. If it didn’t matter to them then it probably doesn’t really matter now. But in the game of politics, it’s hard to pass up a chance to score points.
Bernard Madoff is accused of perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in history by losing somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty billion dollars of investors’ money. Like just about anyone who works as an executive on Wall Street or simply wants to be one of the big money pushers and shakers, he was an intensely competitive person with a need to prove to the world that he was somebody who was powerful, intelligent, and clever. Mr. Madoff began legitimately enough by building a securities trading firm that by the mid nineties had become the envy of many in his business. Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities was an innovative and imaginative, technically cutting edge operation that matched small buy and sell orders from retail investors.
Mr. Madoff’s business model was actually winning a good share of the volume from the New York Stock Exchange by trading many of its listed stocks. Mr. Madoff had anticipated that the buying and selling of stocks would become computerized, and his systems provided better prices and services and eventually attracted big name clientele. When so called trading experts visited Mr. Madoff’s high tech office at Manhattan’s Lipstick Building, they were impressed. He sold people on the idea that here was a very intelligent man who knew his business really well and was very driven to succeed. He had managed to sell himself as a major player and a force to be reckoned with on the frontline.
Mr. Madoff’s success had come through a lot of hard work in the trenches of Wall Street. Matching buy and sell orders has never been glamorous work, not like managing other people’s money. He had earned Wall Street credibility.
He bolstered his reputation through activism in industry organizations. He eventually became a non-executive chairman of the NASDAQ. At that point, Mr. Madoff was earning tens of millions of dollars. Here was a man who didn’t need to start a scam to become a multimillionaire many times over. Yet, there was some flaw in his personality that led him into the mess he made and to dig himself deeper and deeper until the fraud that started out a relatively paltry tens of million ballooned into a fifty billion dollar fraud.
He created an aura of exclusivity by selectively choosing whose money he would manage. In wealthy circles Bernard Madoff’s reputation as a financial wizard grew. And no one could touch him. He was an emperor in fancy duds that only those pure of heart who trusted him completely could reap the benefits of profit from. That’s how he suckered people in and it was an excellent job of image marketing. People had to write personal letters to do business with Mr. Madoff. It wasn’t meant as something for everyone. The image was that you were very fortunate to be part of Madoff’s circle. In all honesty, like many things exclusive, the fortunate were the ones who were kept on the outside.
Under the weight of the collapsing stock market where more and more investors began to demand the withdrawal of their money, Mr. Madoff had to admit to that his investment management setup was nothing but a fraud. It was nothing but a giant Ponzi scheme where profitability was nothing but fiction and any cash paid to older investors was nothing but the cash received from newer investors. What began as an honest investment business had mutated into an ugly financial fraud of epic proportions.
Mr. Madoff managed to create a religion around himself. He sold people an idea about what he could do for them and used it for his personal benefit. While people around the nation and potentially around the globe are discovering the impact to their financial portfolios, Mr. Madoff made like a bandit, pun intended. He lived in a posh Manhattan apartment and a Hampton estate that dwarfed the homes of many of his investors.
I look at what happened between Mr. Madoff and his investors and I cannot help but see a parallel between people and their spiritual leadership. I think of my experiences with my early Ifa teachers and communities and see some harsh resemblances. The leadership of the Orisa houses I’ve visited as a young practitioner always kept an air of exclusivity that made you feel special just to be accepted. Not just anyone can walk off the street and participate in Orisa ceremonies. It was a privilege to have an Orisa priest do a reading and be told that a way must be cleared so that you could join their Orisa house. And the fees you paid to have spiritual work done on your behalf were an investment in your spiritual development.
As individuals developed their credibility within the house, through the development of superficial manifestations such as reciting prayers, memorizing songs of praise, dancing and contorting in traditionally African techniques or other talents that will impress peers but in all honesty do little in the development of a true sense of spirituality. But the investment of time and money in the development of spiritual credibility with our peers will allow up and coming priest to develop a similar investment pyramid that will allow them to exploit even younger practitioners.
No where is this violation of trust more evident than when an Orisa priest makes a conscious decision to use the ritual of divination to manipulate others for their own personal benefit. Unfortunately, for most practitioners, there is no spiritual stock market to come crashing down to expose the charlatans. There is no commission of holiness ready to pounce on those that have traded their spiritual integrity for personal benefit. While Mr. Madoff is simply stealing people’s money, other people are actually blocking people’s spiritual development and taking their money in the process. And that’s a true tragedy.