Rev. Pinkney is "Banned" - Like in the Old South Africa
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
"He is banned from exercising any of his political rights."
As the United States prepares to indulge in a ritual of self-congratulation on its miraculous journey to race-neutrality, we need only look to southwest Michigan to find the old America shuffling along as if the national transformation never happened. Rev. Edward Pinkney, from the mostly Black town of Benton Harbor, would like to tell you what race relations in the so-called "heartland" are really like, but his lipped are sealed by court order. A Black man's freedom of speech is not a right in Benton Harbor - in fact, it's a criminal offense, for which one can be sentenced to three-to-ten years in prison.
The persecution of Rev. Pinkney exposes both the grand and petty aspects of 21st Century American racism.
Benton Harbor has the misfortune of being situated in a sea of white folks who have managed to remain untouched by the Obama phenomenon. The Whirlpool Corporation, which dominates the political and economic life of the region, decided that a golf course would be the best use for 22 acres of local parkland. Under Rev. Pinkney's leadership, Benton Harbor's impoverished Blacks sought redress of this and other grievances through the electoral process - resulting in Rev. Pinkney's conviction by an all-white jury on charges of vote tampering. He was sentenced to a year in prison and five years probation.
"A Black man's freedom of speech is not a right in Benton Harbor - it's a criminal offense."
When the Reverend expressed his political opinion in a newspaper piece, prophesying that God would "curse" the judge unless he "hearkened unto the voice of the Lord thy God to observe and to do all that is right,' the judge went ballistic. He revoked Rev. Pinkney's bail - "the first time in modern history that a preacher has been imprisoned for predicting what God might do," according the ACLU.
Just before Christmas, the Michigan Court of Appeals allowed Rev. Pinkney to be released on bail, a victory that is credited to massive public expressions of support for the Reverend's liberationist ministry. But Rev. Pinkney is by no means a free man. Under the terms of his bail, he cannot use a cell phone or a pager, is barred from public speaking or preaching, cannot use a credit card, is prohibited from saying anything that might be considered defamatory about the racist judge who sentenced him, and is under a 24-hour curfew. If, for some reason, Rev. Pinkney is ordered back to prison, he has every reason to believe that his life will be in danger.
So we see that southwest Michigan is not very different than southwest Georgia. Corporate domination in Benton Harbor meshes quite nicely with your garden variety white racism that sentences Black men to prison for the simple exercise of their fundamental=2 0constitutional rights. Benton Harbor embodies the full-spectrum racism - from corporate headquarters to county courthouse - that is actually the norm in the United States.
Rev. Pinkney is no longer imprisoned, but is instead subjected to the same kinds of restrictions that were called "banning" in white-ruled South Africa. He is banned from exercising any of his political rights. The newfound American rhetoric of race neutrality seeks validation through endless repetition - but it's still a lie.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford.
We are informed that Rev. Pinkney would like very much to be contacted. Reach out to the brother at email@example.com or call him at 269.925.0001. As you can imagine, he's near the phone.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.