Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Colin Powell had a mixed heritage among some African Americans

DETROIT. As an American leader, Colin Powell had an impeccable reputation as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State. But his legacy as the first black person in these roles is darker, with some African Americans saying his voice on their behalf could have been louder.

Powell, who died Monday from complications from COVID-19, spent 35 years in the military and achieved political prominence under Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. His status was fueled by insistence that one day he would run for president as a member of the Republican Party.

Despite all of this, Powell never felt comfortable talking about race, according to Kevin Powell, a New York-based writer and human rights activist who has nothing to do with Colin Powell.

“I think that’s why many blacks never saw him as a leader. It never felt like Colin Powell was one of us, ”said Kevin Powell, who met him in the 1990s when he was often discussed as a potential presidential candidate.

Colin Powell later became disillusioned with the GOP and supported Democrats for president, starting with Barack Obama. Powell also called then-President Donald Trump a shame on the country and said he no longer considers himself a Republican since the storming of the Capitol on January 6.

“By the time the Bush years ended, in 2009, he was virtually invisible in many of the events taking place – Trayvon Martin, Ferguson, George Floyd,” said Kevin Powell, who is also Black. “It was clear that the party he was a member of was moving correctly. I don’t remember him ever saying that this party turned into nothing more than racers. ”

But according to Sam Riddle, an army veteran and political activist from Detroit, Powell’s dignity and composure should not be interpreted as evidence that he did not understand the struggles of his people.

“He personified the quiet inner strength that we knew he had on the battlefield for America and black Americans,” said Riddle, who also hosts a talk show in Detroit. “The mouthpieces we can use may just be calm competence, decency and perseverance.”

Powell expressed concern about the U.S. prison population, which is consistently the highest in the world. He supported policies to keep young people, especially black Americans, out of the criminal justice system.

In the years leading up to the assassination of George Floyd in 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement renewed calls to “protect the police.” Powell said he does not support cutting law enforcement budgets to tackle police brutality. He suspected that many black Americans agreed.

A June 2020 poll by the Associated Press-NORC Public Relations Research Center at the height of the police protests that summer found that 43% of black Americans strongly or partially supported cuts in police funding, while 30% opposed the idea.

“You can’t say, ‘We have to get rid of the criminal justice, police and courts,” Powell said in 2017. “They’re not just there to protect white people. They are there to protect blacks too. “

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He continued, “If you tell the black community leader that the police won’t be there, he might say, ‘Wow! Wait a minute!’ They want fair and balanced justice for all Americans. “

A child of Jamaican immigrants who grew up in the Bronx area of ​​New York City, Powell said he grew up in a society where his neighbors were as interested in his safety and success as his own mother and father.

“I had adults taking care of me,” Powell told Mic in 2017. “My two parents, all of my relatives from Jamaica in the South Bronx, looked after us children. And if you’ve ever done something wrong, I mean, you would understand. “

Powell graduated in 1958 from the City College of New York, which later established the Colin Powell Center for student leadership development and community engagement on campus. Ultimately, the program was renamed the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership.

Following the assassination of Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests, the school launched the Racial Justice Fellowship Program as a joint initiative of the Colin Powell School and the CCNY Black Study Program.

According to Andrew Rich, Dean of the Colin Powell School, Powell once said that he wants the next generation to have the same opportunities as him.

Being a black American “defined his experience,” Richard said. “He was a pioneer in every sense. I think he was perfectly aware of the obstacles that he overcame. One of the things he was so proud of was that he knocked down doors and didn’t close them behind him. “

Former President Barack Obama said on Monday that Powell has helped “a generation of young people set their goals higher” and “never denied the role that this race has played in his own life and in our society as a whole.”

“But he also refused to accept that the race would limit his dreams, and through his firm and principled leadership, has helped pave the way for many who will follow him,” Obama said.

According to Frederick Gooding, associate professor of humanities at Texas Christian University, many blacks expect successful African Americans to act on their behalf.

“Maybe they just disproportionately expect Colin Powell to do more or be more than he needs. This may be one of those deals where he may not have spoken on behalf of every black person, but at the same time, it’s okay that he doesn’t, ”Gooding said.

Gooding added that Powell’s career and years of public service attest to his excellence.

“When it comes to African Americans, often when you have been affected by a struggle, so to speak, when you have the power and privilege, do you use it?” Gooding said. “He may not have been that frontline cheerleader, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t influenced by the fight.”

Morrison reported from New York. He and Williams are members of the AP group by race and ethnicity.

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