He asserted that competing forces continue to keep Blacks suppressed, adding another Martin Luther King will rise again. “You can keep millions of people oppressed for too long. Another King will come back,” he stated. Below we publish the interview with Justice Pincham
Inquirer: You’ve been around since the Dr. Martin Luther King era. He spoke about dreams. How far has the nation gone now that we have a black senator in Congress?
Pincham: It’s nice that we have a new senator in Barack Obama but attaining the dreams Dr. King spoke about has been extremely slow and limited. Black progress has been extremely painful. Racism is unfortunately still with us. Sexism unfortunately is still with us. Since Dr. King’s leadership, we have been held down by visible barriers of racism subject to Blacks participation in the vote. The invisible barriers are still there, unfortunately. We have not come to the point of dealing with some cultural inhibitions retarding our progress. Blacks are making very, very slow political progress. Unfortunately we are not making the kind of economic progress we would like to make. We have a Black mayor in Memphis, Jackson Mississippi, and Birmingham, Alabama. These are some of the progress in the political arena but it has been painfully slow.
Inquirer: Why is it slow?
Pincham: We are confronted with 400 years of oppression, racism, legal slavery; legal cultural oppression and the circumstances by and large necessarily put Black people in position of attempting to overcome the evil of racism and oppression while simultaneously attempting to become integrated into the very culture that oppress us.
Inquirer: Whom do we blame for that?
Pincham: The circumstances have done that. When emancipation proclamation went into effect back in 1863, our president tended to look or reflected upon slavery as something that happened overnight of between 15-20 years. And Black people were brought from our native land in Africa, separated from our traditions and cultures and brought into the culture of the colonists. And as time past, most slaves at the time of the emancipation proclamation knew nothing about Africa. We were between 4-6 generation slaves. We’ve become assimilated into the slave culture. Some historians said less than five percent of the slaves in America in 1863 at the time of the emancipation proclamation had come from Africa. Ninety-five percent were four-six generation slaves and had become assimilated into the slave culture mentality. When we were emancipated, the laws were still in force to continue to enslave us. We continue to survive and exist in the very culture that was oppressing us. We find ourselves trying to survive against those competing forces that were attempting to keep us suppressed. In today’s 2005, we are still doing the same thing.
Inquirer: Where do we go from here?
Pincham: First, we must recognize what we are doing. Once we recognized that we are attempting to become assimilated and a part of this culture and circumstances are kicking out butts, hopefully we can deal with it. We must recognize that we are not dealing with it. A lot of Jews all over the world want to go back to homeland. By and large, there was an effort after world war 11, for the Jews to go to Israel. The closest we had to that was the Back to Africa movement and the creation of Liberia in West Africa.
Inquirer: The Jews’ situation appears different from the African American situation. There are 54 countries in Africa and most African American doesn’t know where they came from. Many associated themselves with Ethiopia, the only authentic African country that was never colonized.
Pincham: That is true. We didn’t know and we don’t even know about them.
Mrs. Pincham: (interjected)We had no education. We were not reading about the things in the world. It was a crime to teach us to read. The law was abolished in the late 1890s.
Pincham: Even before that, the only way we disseminated information was by the word of mouth. We had no books, radio and television. Many of the Blacks at the time of emancipation couldn’t speak any African language. The only thing they knew about Africa is “where the sun rise”. The only way they knew that was because they need to know directions. The only reason we knew that was when we were brought from Africa, as the boat departed every morning the sun is behind us. And we if we turn back towards the sun direction, we know we would be home.
Inquirer: Now that we know how to get there, it’s tough going back and claiming to be Africans.
Pincham: The answer is so simple. It’s frightening. We have been culturized into not to be who we are because it is detrimental to us. Detrimental because we’ve been discriminated against because of whom we are. Our mindset doesn’t want to be who we are. We’ve got to change that mentality. We’ve got to be who we are and be proud of whom we are, reacting positively who we are and support who we are. We’ve got to do what other groups did since they came here: The Germans, Italians, and the Dutch. Every ethnic group that has come here and supports each other because of whom they are.
Inquirer: Is it because of racism these ethnic groups are doing that?
Pincham: No, it’s because of culture. When you’ve been abused because of your color; when you have been mistreated because of your color, what goes into your mind is to deny who you are. If I can avoid being my color, I can afford being abused.
Inquirer: Can Blacks run away from their color?
Pincham: That is not possible. For example, we’ve been culturized into believing that our hair is ugly because our hair is kinky and we are told that kinky hair is ugly, and Black people by and large bought into that notion to the extent that the largest industry of Black people in America is beauty product where Black women go to get their hair from kinky to get it straight. They are trying to change their hair. I agree that they can’t change their color, but they try to change their hair. The hair they had is unacceptable to them because they have been made to believe it is ugly. We are trying to make our kinky hair straight in compliance with the dominant culture.
Inquirer: Where do we go from here?
Pincham: It is very simple. We’ve got to start acknowledging that we’ve been culturized into demeaning ourselves and to recognize that Black is not ugly. Black is beautiful. The kinky hair isn’t ugly. The big lips aren’t ugly. Our nose isn’t ugly. It is the dominant culture that is labeling us. Once we get to think about ourselves in a decent way, the political arena is ours for the taken. Black people in America numerically hold the balance of political power. We must register and we must vote. And when we do that, the answer is simple. Registration and voting. We have not the resources to acquire economic power because God is not going to make more lands. And all those wealth comes from the land. Since the land has been taken, we don’t have those resources available to us for economic power. We can’t go climb the mountain, cut down the forest and sell lumbers to become millionaires selling the trees and lumbers. The resource available to us is in the political arena. The budget for the city of Chicago this year is $5.1 billion. That exceeds the budget of most corporations in America. And the power structure that controls the corporations control jobs. There are over 250,000 jobs in the city of Chicago. Our salvation is in the political arena.
Inquirer: It looks simple the way you analyze it but in the last Mayoral election we had a Black pastor running, and the first group that disowned him are the Black pastors. How do you see that?
Pincham: It looks simple. You are talking about the means to the process and I’m talking about the results. Of course if the incumbent power structure got us divided; of course if you got us not dedicated to the proposition of the advancement to the course of the Black people, that will always happen.
Inquirer: What will stop the division?
Pincham: There is nothing unusual or extraordinary about the entrenched power structure. buying influence to retain power, it has been going on since the beginning of time. The entrenched power structure is defeated when the masses of the people come to recognize that the entrenched power structure is not acting in their best interest. And we have not come to recognize that. Of course we find Black politicians, Black lawyers, Black pastors, judges, doctors and all of that for their own personal gains. But when the masses of the people begin to wake up and say you must work in the best interest of the people instead of your self, it will happen. It happened in Memphis, we have a Black mayor, it happened in Jackson, Mississippi, Atlanta, Georgia, and Birmingham, Alabama. It happened in Chicago in 1983 and 1987 and it will happen again.
Inquirer: How soon do you think it will happen here?
Pincham: It will happen here again. Take that as a fact. The people who were motivated to vote for Harold Washington and elected him were by and large the poor and the downtrodden people who had never participated in election before. With his election, it was impossible for him to give the benefits to the people that got him into office. If you recalled that the first two or three years, he was denied the control of the city council and when he got control of the council and was re-elected, he died. The people who really elected him were not able to get the benefit of their efforts because he died before they could get the spoils. They are not enthusiastic about a Black mayor again because when they did, they never got the spoils. That too will pass away with time. That concept was the reason why the power structure is dismantling public housing and dispersing Black people throughout the county. They recognized that what they did with public housing was creating a political giant they will not be able to deal with. If the people on the 22nd Street where public housing begins to 55th Street, from state street to Rock Island tracks, all public housing had registered and voted, they can elect anybody in the state of Illinois to public office. That is the power right there and the power structure recognized that power in that small geographical area. There is enough people in the area to determine the governor, the senator because if they voted in block, that is the balance of power. You have white people who voted according to their economic interest. You got more white folks whose economic interest is synonymous with Black people than they have with white people and vice versa. The struggle has always been the same since the beginning of time. It’s the rich against the poor, the haves against the have not. It is been misguided sometimes by religion and color. It has nothing to do with religion or color but it has been misled and mislabeled from time to time. Protestants against Catholic, Mosl ms against Christians. The bottom line has always been survival. The solution to Black people in America is to get up on your legs to go and register and vote, and vote intelligently in your own best interest. Our problem is going to be worse initially when we begin to doing that because we are going to convince poor white folks to vote in their own interest too because they’ve been voting racial. Take a white man, he will vote for a rich white man. You got poor white folks voting for white billionaires against their own best interest. It won’t take them long to wake up and realize that when they do that, when they cast ballot motivated by race rather than motivated by economics it is against their best interest.
Inquirer: Could you elaborate on the statement of Blacks holding political balance of power?
Pincham: The bottom line is that people vote basically to promote and to protect their economic interest. Of course there are some people in America today who say they are voting according to their religious interest, family values but they are economically secured at that point in time. They can concern themselves with abortion, size of classrooms because they are secured. They got their pension and other source of income. They don’t have to worry about eating and sleeping. They are worrying about something else. But when that basic necessity is challenged-the house you live in, your pension, your social security, educating your children- the bottom line in political arena is economics. White Americans have the same economic concerns as Black Americans. How do I keep a job, how do I educate my children, and all that. Also, what political part of the issue that is of need for me. You got white people who are in the same economic boat as Black people in America. You got white people who are not in the same economic boat. The Black people hold the balance of power between the whites that don’t have the economic support or interest as those who do. The red and the blue concept in the last election were distorted because you allow the Bush administration to camouflage and to misdirect issues in the last election. The issues were misdirected for a deliberate purpose. Take public housing (Robert Taylor) on 22nd to 55th street for example. If every potential voter that register to vote in the area would be 200, 000-300,000 voters in that geographical area, if they register to vote, don’t you know (Mayor) Daley will set up a campaign office on 22nd street and state for campaigning. The Governor will be right there campaigning.
Inquirer: Besides the public housing, churches and liquor stores are the only economic activities in that stretch of about 40 blocks. There is no economic power to attract the politicians.
Pincham: Of course there is economic power there. The balance of power is there to serve as the economic power. If the balance of political power there is used, the city’s $5.1 billion budget will be controlled there. The people there could tell the Mayor and governor that if we don’t have any benefit from the $5.1 budget, we will not re-elect you. That was what Mayor Harold Washington was about to do. You’ve got a police force of 13,500 men in the city of Chicago and only about 2500 are Black. The same is happening in the fire department, Bureau of Street and Sanitation, State Attorney’s office. There are over 1200 lawyers in the state attorneys office. In Cook County, you don’t have a Black justice presiding in any courtroom. You have less than 50 Black lawyers in the State Attorneys office. With the political divide, Blacks could insist from the power structure in the State Attorney’s office that if we don’t have more Black lawyers we are not going to re-elect you. That is economic power. If you bring in some secretary, we would not re-elect you. The same with investigators and other sensitive positions in the state elective offices.
Inquirer: Whom do we blame for voters in Robert Taylor homes for not fulfilling their civil duty?
Pincham: We blame ourselves. It is in the best interest of the oppressor to keep us misinformed not to register to vote. We are still looking for white folks to liberate us. That is not going to happen. We are looking for a messiah to liberate us. We are looking for another Jesus. People should liberate themselves. The reality is, the oppressive power structure deliberately misuses the civil rights movement to mislead the people and it worked. The civil right movement was the movement of the people. The people decided they were going to boycott the Montgomery bus system. The people decided they were tired of being discriminated against and a movement sprang up. The only thing that the power structure talked about is the King’s speech. Quite frankly, when Rosa Park was arrested for refusing to stand up for white person in the bus, the question arose as to who will lead the movement. That was not the question. The question was who was going to be the spokesman for the movement. Names were mentioned among Black ministers in Montgomery and they were rejected because most of them have some kind of economic attachment with the power structure. Some of the ministers had loans from the power structure to build churches, others to buy cars and the people considered them vulnerable. Most of the ministers had economic ties with the power structure and they were rejected. Dr. King was chosen not because of his leadership skills because people didn’t know about him at all. He was not chosen because of his oratory because most people had not heard him preach before then. He was chosen because for the brief period he arrived in Montgomery, he had not had adequate time to become tied in with the power structure. He was independent, not by choice but by circumstances. They didn’t know his integrity, oratory and leadership skills before he was chosen. He was not chosen as the leader but as the spokesperson of the movement. When the power structure got tired of him, they agreed to kill him and thus kill the movement. But another Dr. King will rise again. You can’t keep millions of people oppressed for too long. Another king will come back.
Inquirer: Is the one coming in the form of a black senator now that we have Barack Obama?
Pincham: We are still looking for a messiah. The civil rights of the 60s was successful not because of a messiah. The civil rights of the 60s was successful not because of Dr. King. The civil rights movement of the 60s was successful because of the people. The Voting Right and Civil Rights bills were passed not because of the speech Dr. King made but because of the half a million people that listened to him.