. . . That Paid Operative Evokes 'Jim Crow' Laws in Campaign Against Insurance Reform
California Black Media (CBM) founder and Black Voice News publisher emeritus Hardy Brown is demanding an apology from Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court, who drew outrage this week for evoking one of the worst times in American history in his zeal to defeat an insurance reform initiative on Tuesday's ballot.
In a shocking essay published Thursday by the Huffington Post, Court likened Prop. 33, which would make insurance discounts portable, to "Jim Crow" – a tragic period in the South when African-Americans were routinely brutalized by authorities bent on denying their right to vote, assemble or even attend school.
"Mr. Court's determination to minimize the Black civil rights struggle, by employing the imagery of that ugly time in American history, is the height of racist cynicism and unthinking arrogance," said Brown. "He has every right to engage in a scorched-earth campaign against insurance reform, but he is not free to soak himself in the blood spilled during that time. It is particularly offensive to me: I grew up in North Carolina during the actual time of Jim Crow, and have vivid memories of my firsthand experiences in that very ugly time in our history. I lived it. Mr. Court owes an apology to every African-American who shared my experiences, and all those whose families were affected by Jim Crow -- which, I can assure him, had nothing at all to do with auto insurance. Our history is not for sale and well-paid political operatives are not entitled to use it to advance an agenda that is antithetical to the interests of African-Americans."
The online essay is not the first Court has drawn the ire of Brown and others for wrongly injecting race into the debate over Prop. 33. Last month, during a spirited debate with a supporter of the initiative, he chastised Rachel Hooper live on the air for holding her position in light of the coincidental fact that her husband is African-American. Informed by a fellow publisher about the little-noticed but stunning incident, Brown wrote an op-ed piece blasting Court for injecting race into a debate where it has no place, and offered an alternative view detailing the many ways that insurance reform could benefit Black consumers.
After Brown's piece was published by the San Bernardino Sun, an unapologetic Court doubled down on his comments with a response carried in the same newspaper. In that essay, he sank even lower, invoking his own interracial marriage in a desperate bid to distract attention from a racist and sexist attack broadcast to an audience of thousands. He concluded his piece with a thinly-disguised attack on the Black press -- insinuating that Brown, whose newspaper's sales staff had sold advertising to the Yes on 33 campaign, could not hold an independent viewpoint and was acting as a "paid spokesman."
"Mr. Court, whose website lists no endorsements from African-American organizations or media outlets, has no place criticizing me for expressing an opinion about a basic kitchen-table economic issue – one that I arrived at independently," said Brown. "Like most Black publishers in California and across the nation, I have spent a lifetime building a reputation for independence and strong advocacy for the community, and I will not stand by while someone who has no relationship at all with the Black community – outside his own home, apparently -- tries to demean the work that we do."
Added Brown: "Instead of using buzzwords like 'poor' and 'minority' to exploit our community, raise fears that serve his own interests and make lots of money in the process, Mr. Court might be better served to consider making his case directly to the Black community through its most trusted source, the Black press – which he seems to have discovered only last week with a Google search. He routinely boasts about support from major daily newspapers -- which is ironic, since the Black press was formed out of frustration over the mainstream media's refusal to plead our case. In 2012, Mr. Court is repeating that historic error by once again leaving African-Americans out of the conversation – talking about us and over us, but never to us.
"Given that he has now learned that we exist, I would encourage all of my fellow publishers to contact Mr. Court's organization, Consumer Watchdog, for last-minute advertising to support his cause. That way, he can test both his newfound devotion to the well-being of the Black community, and his ridiculous and outrageous assumption that our opinions are somehow for sale."