By George Condon and Jim O’Sullivan
Bernard Anderson, a pathbreaking African-American economist, understands the importance of rhetoric. He was up front at the Lincoln Memorial when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. And he was in the audience on the Howard University campus in 1965 to hear President Johnson deliver a grim view of the state of black America and declare war on “past injustice and present prejudice.”
So Anderson had high hopes as he sat at home in Pennsylvania watching President Obama deliver his second Inaugural Address this year. He wanted Obama to acknowledge that even five decades after Johnson’s stirring oration, African-Americans in today’s America still struggle against discrimination. And when the president started talking about “We, the people,” the veteran civil-rights champion grew excited. “As he was going through ‘We, the people’ and ‘We, the people,’ my heart started to beat,” Anderson said. But just as fast, his spirits sank. “I didn’t find me among the people he was talking about.”
Eleven days later, Anderson—an early supporter and fundraiser for Obama, an Obama delegate in 2008, and an expert on economic disparities who has been called to the Obama White House several times—allowed himself to vent his frustration and call for more high-level attention to the black community’s economic challenges.
Grumbling that he had heard “not a single blessed word on race” in the Inaugural Address, Anderson told attendees at the fourth annual African-American Economic Summit at Howard, “I believe now is the time for the president to find his voice, summon his courage, and use some of his political capital to eliminate racial inequality in American economic life.” To applause, he added, “We cannot let the president off the hook in the second term. Black people gave him a pass in the first term…. He is not going to run for anything. He doesn’t deserve a pass anymore.”
READ MORE of this week’s cover story.
While President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have publicly said their bond is strong and their policy differences are not significant, several events over the president’s first term have come to define a complicated relationship.
(Photo illustration by Rachel Fauber)
In Mississippi, the Mysterious Murder of a Gay, Black Politician
It’s tempting to think Marco McMillian was killed because of his race, his sexuality, or because he was running for mayor. The truth is more elusive.
By Ben Terris
CLARKSDALE, Miss.—”The devil is running rampantly,” pastor Jimmy Glasper thunders. “Seeking who he may devour.”
Glasper is telling the New Jerusalem Baptist church that we live in devastating times. The congregants shout affirmations. They have recent proof.
Marco McMillian had belonged to the church, and this was the first Sunday service after police found his body in late February. The 33-year-old political consultant, who was both black and gay, had spent most of his adult life building a promising career in Washington, D.C., and Memphis, Tenn. Recently, he did what few people who leave here ever do by choice: He came back. And he decided to run for mayor.
“He moved away and had practically lived all over the world,” Glasper told me before the service. “He said God spoke to his spirit and said he should come back and be a help to his people. To go back home and help his own people climb out of poverty.”
McMillian never got the chance. On Feb. 27, sheriff’s deputies discovered his body next to a levee outside of town, where it had been dumped days earlier.
McMillian had been beaten, dragged, and set on fire, according to his family. They want his killing investigated as a hate crime. The coroner and the sheriff dispute the family’s account and say they have no reason to approach it as anything other than a typical murder.
Lawrence Reed, a 22-year-old man originally from the nearby town of Shelby, has been arrested and charged with the killing. According to investigators, Reed wrecked McMillian’s car in a head-on collision before anyone knew of the mayoral candidate’s whereabouts. Under questioning, Reed pointed police to the levee.
The rest of the story is a fog of rumor and paranoia. One take has McMillian and Reed as lovers. Another claims they were just friends, and Reed panicked after McMillian made a sexual advance. And a few people in town even think the sexual intrigue is a smokescreen for a political assassination.
None of this matters at church, where Glasper is drawing a very different lesson. Inside the chapel, the pastor is choosing which parts of McMillian’s life to hold up for public consumption (his vision to save the town), and which parts to brush aside (his sexuality).
Glasper is only doing what everyone in Clarksdale and beyond has done since McMillian’s untimely death—appropriating the parts of his life that line up with the story they want to tell. The lack of detail surrounding the crime has granted them that license. For Glasper, it is the life of a spiritual man, cut devastatingly short by a wicked crime. For the downtrodden in Clarksdale, McMillian offers the promise of a sunnier future. For civil- and gay-rights activists, it is a tale of martyrdom—of a conservative South stubbornly resistant to progress.
The problem, however, is that as the details trickle out, none of those narratives entirely hold up. In this sense, McMillian’s death was inconvenient, devoid of clarity—something that has already allowed his life to take on a quality of tabula rasa. The idea that he was about to become mayor and save the city is complicated by his relative anonymity and poor electoral chances; his status as a gay activist is muddled by the fact that few people knew about his orientation; and the discussion of a possible hate crime is made difficult by his possible sexual relationship with the black man charged in the slaying.
But because this is Clarksdale, a haunted town with an unclean past, and because McMillian was black, gay, running for office, and cut down in his prime, the speculation has run wild and fierce. The story people tell often says more about the teller than the subject…
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A Mesmerizing Real-Time Map of Cyberattacks
President Obama is convening a meeting Wednesday with corporate executives in the White House Situation Room to talk about cybersecurity. One topic that is sure to come up is the sharing of information between government and business on cyberthreats.
Such information-sharing has been a controversial issue for privacy advocates, and it’s one reason why Obama’s executive order on cybersecurity, unveiled in January, steered clear of that issue. The Obama administration is also bound by the scope of its authority — it can’t set up a more comprehensive system without permission from Congress. For their part, companies can be skittish about volunteering information to the government, fearing lawsuits in the event something goes wrong.
If you ask Deutsche Telekom, though, it shouldn’t take an act of Congress for publicly traded companies to do what’s in the general interest. The German parent of T-Mobile USA has begun to make threat information partially public. Using their new monitoring tool, Sicherheitstacho, you can actually watch cyberincidents beoing logged in real time. Above is a GIF of it in action from Wednesday morning.
Does Ben Bernanke Care Too Much About Jobs?
By Caren Bohan and Catherine Hollander
Critics say the Fed chair has tried so hard to get Americans back to work that he may cause another financial crisis.
No good deed goes unpunished.
Can This Congress Be Saved?
By Alex Roarty
Our annual vote ratings show a Congress as paralyzed and polarized as ever. But better days may lie ahead.
Read our latest cover story.
INTERACTIVE: Sort the Senate by Ideology
INTERACTIVE: Ranking Who’s Left, Center, and Right in the House of Representatives
Can Marco Rubio Live Up to the Hype?By Beth Reinhard
He’s the GOP’s Barack Obama, a fresh-faced politician with an immigrant name, a playlist full of rap, and a collection of fawning press clips. The challenge: He’s selling the same old party message.
ICYMI: Marco Rubio takes a water break mid-State of the Union response.
(P.S. Need a recap of the State of the Union? Here you go.)
The Scary Truth About How Much Climate Change Is Costing You
By Coral Davenport
While policymakers fiddle, the threat of economic harm posed by rising sea levels, devastating storms, and drought is growing every day.
Read this week’s cover story.
Warhol, who challenged the fine-arts tradition by using popular culture in his work, created a nearly 2-by-3-foot chart of the U.S. unemployment rate in 1984. The piece, pictured above, shows the spike in unemployment during the recession in the early 1980s. It goes on sale at Christie’s next month and is expected to bring in $20,000 to $30,000.