Over 20 years ago, I gave a speech at the Jamaican-Canadian Association in Toronto in which I asserted that Blacks in the world should behave like the Jewish people have behaved where no matter where they are, try very hard to assert their common experiences and rights, in the main stick together in forming associations, cultural linkages, schools, family foundations, economic entities, commemoration days and bow to their common heritage. Jews have schools, children and family aid societies, community halls etc. I didn’t forget to itemize to reasons for their success: they hue from one heritage whereas Blacks are fragmented by multiple origins, say Jamaica, Nigeria, Barbados etc and come from different ethnic,racial, religious and multicultural heritages. Even colour does not unite Blacks whereas Jews are mainly one colour and one religious heritage despite the complex other historical passages. Jews have experienced much oppression and have vowed “Never Again”. They are also based on strong family foundations. At the individual level, they also strive for economic success. They strive for educational success. They have conquered and have achieved in the main. In most professions like law, medicine, accountancy etc, they are at the top of these professions in Canada, the U.K., Australia, South Africa, France, Netherlands and the USA and once they get there, they pull each other up.
Despite my very well crafted and modulated paper, those who invited me decided to deliberately misrepresent and truncate my discussion and make it into a single disagreeable construct, which is that I was advocating that Blacks should be like what Shakespeare portrayed the Jews in Merchants of Venice as misers, shylocks, greedy and worse. I was never invited to speak there again.
I have over the years extended this analysis to the differences between Democrats (Labour in the Uk) and Republicans. Democrats must behave exactly like Republicans in the fight for what they believe in. The Democrats always adopt a timid approach to their politics, ideology and goals. They tiptoe or sleep-walk during their rulership. They behave as if they are usurpers and pretenders to the throne. They apologize and squander their mandates. They feel disentitled to power. They want to please the Republicans. They want coalitions and bi-partisan agreements.
Did Margaret Thatcher look like a person who was afraid to implement what she had stated she would do? Did Reagan appear hesitant in forging ahead with his well-stated ideology? Is Trump a person who is afraid to take no prisoners? Did Brian Mulroney not implement hated policies like GST and Trade pacts which have not been repealed 34 years later? Didn’t Michael Harris in Ontario fundamentally change irrevocably, municipal governance?
No imagine if Barack Obama governed with the gusto of a Reagan or Thatcher or Trump. He had the majorities in his first two years. Trump hasn’t even taken power, yet his majorities are already working hard to implement their stated mandates. Power is about governing by implementing your ideology regardless of the optics and consequences.
In Ontario, Premier Bob Rae of the NDP ended his rulership by doing what one scholar in a book wrote as “Giving Away A Miracle”. He ended up ruling in a fashion that I have termed “Inquirization of Politics” where before he implemented any major policies, he had to set up a Commission of Inquiry for legitimation. He set up commissions of inquiries on Systemic Racism in the Criminal Justice System; on Tax Reform; on Insurance Reform etc. These commissions reported at the end or after his mandate had expired and these major electoral platforms were never implemented. The reports which I have are glowing. The best reports ever on these subjects. They are gathering dust in the archives. A flagship achievement of Employment Equity was immediately repealed by Michael Harris who termed this policy as a hated “quota system”, just like Trump is moving with supersonic speed to repeal the Obamacare. Thatcher, Reagan, Bush, Mulroney, Harris and Trump never set up Commissions of Inquiry to inquire into the legitimacy of their campaign platforms. Bob Rae ended up becoming a Liberal. Comical but tragic. Point to any committed Republican who turned NDP Liberal!
I have seen perfectly dynamic defence lawyers turn into whimpering crown attorney-worshippers once appointed to the judiciary. They begin to lambast the defence council and accused uncontrollably because they don’t want to be seen to be favouring their former consorts. Former crown attorneys who become judges never become turn-coats. I have appeared before Law Society Benchers who are solid defence or civil lawyers and should know and behave better who behave as if they are bewitched by Law Society Prosecuting Counsel and give them whatever they want even if it is against the law or it is not the law. I have seen good defence lawyers compromise unnecessarily with crown attorneys and sell their clients short instead of going to trial. Crown attorneys hardly ever compromise except in rare occasions when they deal with moneyed lawyers and moneyed accused. Bug this is no compromise. It is in keeping with the status quo of the wealthy getting away with murder. Look at how all the media types who lose all their composure when they criticize so-calked black criminality, all if a sudden developed complex explanations and defences in favour of Martha Stewart and Conrad Black as well as Donald Trump when criminality was alleged against them. Abash.
Look also at what Blacks ( as compared to Jews and White women) do when they acquire positions of power in form of Judgeships, Professorships, Lawyership, Mayorship, Presidency, Councillor-ship and the like: they distance themselves from their people, they use harsher words on their people, they are afraid to be kind to their people, they demand higher and unequal standards on their people, they don’t promote their people, they become proud and lord it over their people and so on. Do Jews and White Women do that? Study the career of Justice Clarence Thomas of the United States Supreme Court and see what I mean. Of course there are always exceptions to every example that I have given. In general however, the picture is the way I have portrayed it above.
I come back to where I started, if only Blacks could behave like Jews and Democrats could behave like Republicans, if Blacks who come to power could behave like White Women when they come to power in the judiciary, medicine, professorship etc, no one would suffer the consequences of inequality. Instead of filling in historical gaps and experiences of inequality, Blacks and Democrats strive to ensure that they are not seen to be doing just that, instead they endeavour to assist in the results if not in action, the trappings of the historically privileged status quo.
Obama learnt too late in his office about Conservative politics. They never compromise no matter what one does. He started issuing executive orders to implement his policies. But that is too little too late. What Obama needs to do now includes commuting the sentences of all Blacks who were unequally charged and sentenced or wrongfully convicted; he should pardon wrongfully imprisoned Native Leader, Leonard Pelletier(Clinton chickened out despite the evidence); Obama should posthumously pardon first Black heavy weight champion, Jack Johnson( even Senator John McCain had championed this cause) and most of all since Obama may be the first and the last Black President in our life time and beyond, he must unequivocally and irrevocably apologize on behalf of the United States for American slavery. This gigantic move will be a small step for Obama but a gigantic leap for American history and for humankind, a step that will begin to heal the wounds of that racially wounded nation, a wound that remains poisonous in world politics.
Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa is a Senior Lecturer of Law at Zambian Open University in Lusaka. He practised law in Toronto for 25 years.