Home PoliticsAfrica News Black people didn’t see Colin Powell as a ‘typical’ Black Republican and there were reasons

Black people didn’t see Colin Powell as a ‘typical’ Black Republican and there were reasons

by AfroWorldNews

Since my Oct. 20 column on Colin Powell, several colleagues have sent me links to articles examining his life and legacy.

I couldn’t help but notice a recurring theme, that is, Powell’s supposed complex legacy.

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Several writers, the majority of which are African American, seem to be convinced that many within the Black community did not view Powell as a leader.

I’m not sure what the writers meant by “many.”

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It is true that African American Republicans are often looked at skeptically by their own people.

It is also true that any time a person of African descent experiences a breakthrough in an industry or profession where most Blacks have historically encountered a glass-ceiling, that person is often met with more than a few raised eyebrows.

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However, the idea that such sentiment was in any way widespread among African Americans as it relates to Powell, warrants re-examination.

I remember my father, a Navy man, and Korean War Veteran, being especially proud upon hearing that Powell had been appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That was all he and his cronies could talk about. It was the topic of conversation at academic conferences, among servicemen and women across branches as well as at Black barbershops.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell points to Iraqi airbases that have shown some activity in the last few day at a Pentagon briefing on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 1991 in Washington. Powell gave the Washington press a detailed briefing on the Persian Gulf War.

The level of suspicion that Black republicans typically encounter was not something to which Powell was subjected.

It is possible that such sentiment may have existed among a generation of Blacks that were too young to fully appreciate the fact that Powell’s success was made by possible by the likes of Generals Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., and Roscoe Robinson, Jr., as well as the struggles waged during the modern civil rights movement that ultimately opened avenues that for many years were closed to Blacks.

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Interestingly, these same writers fail to acknowledge that had Powell run for president, it is likely that the decades-long hold that the democrats had on the Black vote would have come to an end in November of 1996.

Judson L. Jeffries is professor of African American and African Studies at The Ohio State University. He has published widely on police-community relations, urban uprisings and the politics of state repression.
Judson L. Jeffries is a professor of African American and African Studies at The Ohio State University. He has published widely on police-community relations, urban uprisings, and the politics of state repression.

Republican or not, I would argue that there were few African American Democrats who would have voted for Bill Clinton and risked missing out on a potential history-making night.

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And for those who believe that perhaps Powell did not do anything to help people who look like him, they should ask the countless numbers of Black servicemen and women who sought his counsel and benefitted from his recommendation.

Let’s also not forget about his work with young people.

In 1997, he and his wife Alma founded America’s Promise Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping at-risk children, a disproportionately number of whom tend to be kids of color.

The non-profit promises that: a) every young person will grow up with the help and guidance of caring adults b) kids will enjoy healthy childhoods c) kids will live in safe surroundings d) youth will get a good and effective education and e) children will be given opportunities to serve others.

What about Powell’s work in Africa?

When George W. Bush was elected president, there were civil wars in Sierra Leone, Angola, the Congo, and Liberia. When Powell resigned as secretary of state there were peace agreements in each of those countries.

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Many observers like to point to Powell’s 2003 speech, where he erroneously claimed that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, as a permanent stain on his legacy. They forget that in 2004, Powell testified before the U.S. Foreign Relations Committee, making him the first U.S. official to declare genocide in the

Sudanese region of Darfur. They also forget that he was instrumental in the peace agreement that put an end to Sudan’s long-running civil war, thus laying the groundwork for South Sudanese independence.

A close look at Powell’s legacy reveals the one that is not as complicated as some would have us believe.

Judson L. Jeffries is a Professor of African American and African Studies at The Ohio State University.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Judson Jeffries: How was Colin Powell viewed by Black people?


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