MANSFIELD: “Puttin’ on ‘Ol Masta”


An article I wrote a bit over a week ago asked if we were about to witness “The Rebirth of the Black Republicrat?” It caused more of a stir in the black community than anything I’ve written of late. In it I detailed the efforts of Basheer Jones, who was organizing a civil rights march under the banner of the Cleveland Renaissance Movement, which, by all accounts, went off very well indeed on Saturday, April 4.

The problem for some folks — particularly Democrats — is that the event was sponsored by the Cuyahoga County Republican Party (in the previously referenced article I mistakenly said the National Republicans paid for it), which they posit is scurrilously attempting to make inroads with black voters in order to improve their chances of capturing the White House in 2016.

Of course these suspicious folks are absolutely correct; why else would the Republicans reach out to blacks if they didn’t feel they could sway some of us to their side of the aisle?

However, Jones stated at the rally held at the Free Stamp that he was interested in talking to and working with anyone who was interested in helping his community, no matter their political party … and considering the monumental amount of work to be done in inner city neighborhoods, it’s hard to find fault with his logic.

What he eventually manages to get out of the Republican Party is another matter entirely … it may be little more than a march and a cookout, but then again, it could be more, a lot more. Nonetheless, the only way for Jones to find out is to begin a dialogue with Republicans and see where it goes.

The fear among naysayers is that Jones is being set up to get snookered. They question how can he — or any other black for that matter — throw their support to a party whose policies on minimum wage, abortion, immigration (and a whole host of other social issues) are totally anathema to the goals and aspirations of the vast majority of black Americans. There’s certainly some legitimacy to their point of view.

Their fear is based on the fact Republicans have, over the last 40 or 50 years, been relatively adroit at fooling working-class white voters, convincing them to vote against their own economic self-interests.  They’ve been able to accomplish this political slight-of-hand by promising things to these “values voters” they know they can’t deliver on, such as bringing prayer back into public schools, restricting abortion funding at the federal level, and a whole host of other issues Republican Party leaders already know, when they make such promises, that they are — for the most part — lying.

But some voters are so disillusioned with the truth they’re looking for a good lie they can believe in.

So, are Republicans above lying to black voters in the same manner? Of course they’ll lie, but then some folks say politicians do nothing but lie all the time. But if Jones and his followers are as clever as I think they are, they’ll pretend to believe the promises, take their money, and then run … or at least when election time rolls around they’ll vote their own best self-interest. After all, even if the Republicans attempt to purchase the allegiance of blacks with empty promises, they can’t be there with them, holding their hands in the voting booth.

Indeed, there’s a long history of blacks fooling white folks in America, it’s just that the stories have never really been popularized.

During slavery the practice of “Puttin’ on ‘Ol Masta” was relatively common. Clever slaves, realizing they were not getting paid, soon developed ways of avoiding work — why the hell wouldn’t they? The result was the image of the shuffling, stupid, lazy niggra, who was too dumb to do anything right, and, as the tale goes, “like a bull in a china shop, anything he didn’t break he’d find a way to shit on.”

In this manner the slave masters, who still had to feed and clothe them (since, after all, they were valuable property), left them pretty much alone to do as they pleased. All they had to do was play dumb, which sure beat the hell out of working for free.

The key was to always let the white folks think they were smarter; this is how various con games were invented in this country by blacks who thought nothing of “bumping white folks’ heads” … meaning to cheat them any way they could.

Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry, better known by the stage name Stepin Fetchit (a contraction of “step and fetch it”), played the role of “the laziest man in the world” to the hilt during his long and successful vaudeville and film career, eventually becoming a millionaire, the first black actor in history to do so. But he was roundly criticized by black civil rights organizations due to his film persona and stage name being seen as illustrative of negative stereotypes of blacks. Nonetheless, Perry always saw his character as being somewhat subversive to the white power structure.

After all of the free labor whites have stolen from blacks over the years, if Basheer Jones discovers a way of somehow getting compensated, more power to him. And if he has to do a little “buck and wing” on occasion to achieve his goal, I think he’s secure enough in his own self-worth and identity to pull it off neatly without damaging his psyche.

Republicans deserve to get their heads bumped every now and then. And let us not forget that by his cozying up to Republicans, the Democrats just might start divvying up the pie a bit more equitably to keep him and his followers voting Democratic … and they also just might quit taking black voters so much for granted, as they’ve done for decades.

The way I see it, either way Jones wins.
From Cool Cleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available again in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author by visiting



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