One of the brightest lights ever to shine during the civil-rights struggles of the 1960s, Mississippi-born sharecropper-turned-activist Fannie Lou Hamer was the very embodiment of courageous, principled struggle.
As an organizer working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committtee, Hamer stood up to the racist terrorism of the South by daring to register blacks to vote. As “reward” for her work, white cops once arrested Hamer and beat her so savagely and for so long that she nearly died. Although the incident left her partially blind in one eye, she continued to fight.
Later, as vice-chair of the famed Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party—formed in response the state’s bigoted, all-white DNC delegation—Hamer shamed and enraged (and frightened) mainline Dems by challenging the party’s delegation credentials and threatening to derail Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidential run. When Johnson (who loathed Hamer and once insulted her as “that illiterate woman”) called himself compromising by offering the MFDP two meaningless “at-large” seats on the delegation, Hamer and her group chose to walk out of the convention rather than sell out to the illusion of power.
Quoth Fannie Lou: “We didn’t come all this way for no two seats…”
This is the woman who once said “we want ours and we want ours now;” the woman famous for telling the world that she was “sick and tired of being sick and tired;” the woman who, when a scared black minister once tried to rebuff voting-rights organizers by claiming he didn’t want to bring politics into his church, said, “He’s telling a big lie because every dollar bill got a politician on it and the preacher love it. And if this man don’t choose to be a shepherd, he can be a sheep and follow the shepherd.”
And now you’re trying to tell me that this woman would support Robert Ficano?
The Detroit News wrote:
Wayne County Excutive Robert Ficano received the endorsement Tuesday of the Rev. Wendell Anthony and the Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee.
Anthony, who founded the PAC in 1991, said because of Ficano’s experience and commitment to the community, he “deserves another opportunity” to lead the county.
The incumbent has been dogged by controversy since four former Ficano aides and a contractor have been convicted of corruption or obstructing justice. In addition, the county has an accumulated deficit around $175 million.
“We are very much aware of the many issues and challenges that face our county,” Anthony said, speaking at the Fellowship Chapel Church on the city’s west side. “We are not indifferent to any mistakes that may have been made in the county of Wayne by any particular individual. However, we believe that more has been done right and has been proven to be a benefit to our citizens than any speculation or negative suggestion.”
The Fannie Lou Hamer PAC bills itself as backing candidates who “further the cause of African-Americans primarily and persons neglected and often over-looked by the electoral process.”
Sorry, but I call that bullshit.
I mean, obviously, the PAC has the right to back anybody it wants. And in a field of largely unimpressive candidates vying for the county executive job, Ficano is hardly the only stomach-turning option in the race (though he may likely be the worst).
But to attach Fannie Lou Hamer’s name to this PAC endorsement garbage? To give even the suggestion that Hamer, a woman who devoted her life to combating political rot and injustice, would back a man whose administration gave us the likes of Turkia “severance payoff” Mullin and Mike “hair plugs” Grundy and left us with the embarrassing husk of an overpriced, unfinished jailhouse? To lead people to think that Hamer would support an executive who gave away millions to cronies even as he proposed closing down the city’s lone water park, one that serves a largely poor and working-class black community?
To exploit her name while dishonoring her values?
That is 31 flavors of just-plain wrong.
It’s not merely that nothing about Hamer’s history suggests that she would approve of someone using her name to promote shady politicians. Rather, it’s that everything we know about her suggests she would have fought against Robert Ficano tooth and toenail.
How then can anyone in good conscience co-opt Hamer’s image to cover off on an endorsement of a candidate whose shady behavior has been so antithetical to her raison d’etre when she was alive? What next, the Malcolm X Tea Party Movement? The Martin Luther King Jr. Gun Club? The Black Panthers for Machine Politics Association? (Oh, wait…)
At what point do we become “sick and tired” of seeing history’s populist heroes pimped, played and used to make selfish opportunists seem noble?
I don’t know what deal, if any, was cut to get the “Fannie Lou Hamer” PAC to back a guy who not only has proven himself unsuited for office but who probably won’t win anyway. I don’t know how much in notes “with a politician on it” was exchanged.
But I do know that Robert Ficano doesn’t deserve the votes of those “often overlooked by the electoral process”—and that the late great Fannie Lou Hamer deserves a whole lot more respect than having her name sullied by pairing it in any way with his.