Pick Declines Chamber Post In Race Flap

Paul Bass PhotoThe Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce is resuming its search for a new president after concerns over its top pick’s published views on white supremacy led him to turn down the job.

The regional chamber’s search committee had offered the job to Fred McKinney, a longtime regional community leader, business development promoter and economics professor.

McKinney would have succeeded Anthony Rescigno, who’s stepping down this month as Chamber president after 17 years at the helm. (The Chamber held a going-away party for him last Thursday.) Before taking the Chamber job, Rescigno, a Republican, had served as first selectman of the town of North Haven.

Paul Bass PhotoThe Chamber of Commerce advocates for business interests in New Haven and 15 suburbs, from Madison to Wallingford to Orange to Milford. McKinney would have been the group’s first black president.

In an interview Monday, McKinney said that he had orally accepted an offer to take the job. he said the two sides agreed to salary and benefit terms around Nov. 8.

Then he received a call from the Chamber’s headhunter.

“There is a problem,” the headhunter said.

The problem: There had apparently been a negative reaction at the Chamber to an opinion article McKinney authored and posted on his LinkedIn page on Sept. 24 entitled, “White Supremacy as the Root Cause of the Korean Crisis.”

“White supremacy (WS) is not only the root cause for problems like mass incarceration, police murders, slavery, colonialism and poverty,” McKinney’s article began. “WS is also the root cause of the Korean crisis. Until and unless the United States president, and US policy makers, diplomatic and military, realize this, the Korean people, all Americans, and indeed the entire world is at great risk. The recognition that WS is at the core of the crisis will not be easy for most Americans to accept. WS is so endemic for White Americans that self-awareness of this pathological condition is almost impossible and is quickly rejected as outlandish and possibly even ‘racist’ for anyone to claim that WS is the root cause. But like the fish who most likely cannot conceive wetness until they have felt its opposite, White Americans, and particularly this president may be incapable of recognizing the real problem.”  (The full article appears at the bottom of this story.)

The headhunter did not tell him who or how many people had objected to his article, McKinney said. “Initially I offered to meet with anybody who the board thought would object to or did object to my article, and to talk about white supremacy and business and foreign policy or anything they want to talk about.”

Then he thought about it further. He thought about “the prospect of spending an inordinate amount of time trying to convince people that white supremacy and white privilege exist.” He asked himself: “Do I want to spend the next three or five years of my life in an environment like that?”

On Nov. 20 he informed the search committee that he was withdrawing from the process.

He concluded, he said, that “I can have a bigger impact elsewhere.”

Michael Schaffer, head of the Chamber’s 12-person search committee, said a “significant portion” of the group remained in support of hiring McKinney.

He declined to comment on who or how many members had objected to the article.

“We offered him the position. I respect him for not continuing. He’s a talented individual. He has other opportunities,” Schaffer said. “I thought he was the best candidate. I thought his skill set was unique. He brought a lot of talent, skill and ability to the position first and foremost. I also felt he could help expand the organization and [make it] far more inclusive, bringing organizations that he’s worked with under the fold of the Chamber as well.”

McKinney, who lives in Trumbull, earned his Ph.D. in economics from Yale in 1983. He is currently managing director of minority-business enterprise programs for Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. He previously served for 15 years as president and CEO of the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council. He has served on the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Community Advisory Board, Gateway Community College Foundation, and Bridgeport Hospital, among many other boards.

Mayor Toni Harp called the episode “unfortunate.”

Speaking on her latest appearance on WNHH FM’s “Mayor Monday” program, Harp said “a number of people of color have come to me and expressed a concern” that McKinney’s race prevented him from getting the Chamber job.

She also said she has spoken with Schaffer, who told her the group wants to “have a candidate that represent[s] inclusion.”

“I don’t know what happened,” Harp said. “I hope the Chamber has a way of demonstrating to this community — which is a majority-minority community, at least in New Haven —  that everyone who lives in New Haven who is in business is welcome.”

McKinney’s Article

Following is the text of the article McKinney posted on LinkedIn:

White supremacy (WS) is not only the root cause for problems like mass incarceration, police murders, slavery, colonialism and poverty, WS is also the root cause of the Korean crisis.  Until and unless the United States president, and US policy makers, diplomatic and military, realize this, the Korean people, all Americans, and indeed the entire world is at great risk. The recognition that WS is at the core of the crisis will not be easy for most Americans to accept. WS is so endemic for White Americans that self-awareness of this pathological condition is almost impossible and is quickly rejected as outlandish and possibly even “racist” for anyone to claim that WS is the root cause. But like the fish who most likely cannot conceive wetness until they have felt its opposite, White Americans, and particularly this president may be incapable of recognizing the real problem.

The Korean Crisis goes back at least to the late 19th century when Japan conquered the peninsula and brutally ruled the entire country through the very end of the Second World War. Days after the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Russia declared war on Japan. The war in Europe was officially over and with the potential of sending millions of Russian troops to Japan and further U.S. nuclear attacks, the Japanese were forced to surrender. But before surrendering, Russian troops moved into the north of Korea and waited for the Americans to come to the southern part of the country, all but ending Japanese rule in the late summer of 1945.

Korea, like China during this period also had a civil struggle going on that pitted nationalists aligned with Western (US) interest and nationalists aligned with Communist interest. Both nationalists were opposed to Japanese occupation and indeed, any occupation by any foreign power. The Russians and the Americans actually agreed to turn over power to the Korean people, but things got messy in the height of the start of the Cold War between the United States and Russia, and were complicated further by the Communist revolution and their success in China. The current North Korean president Kim Jung-Un’s grandfather (Kim Il Sung) was a Korean nationalist aligned with the Chinese and led thousands of Koreans on the side of Mao Tse Sung’s forces in China. The solidarity between Kim Il Sung and Mao Tse Sung forged a relationship between the Communist in China and the North Korean leader that last to this day. (I imagine it was this history that the current president of China, Xi Jinging, “educated” President Trump on when he visited Mar-a-Lago earlier this year.)

If it had not been for U.S. massive intervention in the early days of the Korean War, there is no doubt that today Korea would have consolidated under the far superior Kim Il Sung’s forces, despite the population advantage of the South. American intervention in the Korean War, which is officially not over, reached an uneasy settlement for both the North and South that was only possible with continued U.S. forces. We Americans have been in Korea since 1945. It is time for us to go.

But America is stuck and does not realize that the only solution is for American forces to withdraw totally from the Korean peninsula. This does not mean that the Koreans will settle their problem easily, without bloodshed and turmoil, but our interruption of the nationalist reconciliation only has been made worse by our presence.  And here is where WS comes into the play.

American policy in Korea since the end of the Second World War is based on White American leaders and policy makers believing that we knew what was best for the Koreans, the Vietnamese, the Cubans, the Columbians, the Chileans, the Africans, and others around the world. And that we were prepared to enforce that smugness and callous hubris with state sanctioned mass murder. It is only because of WS that people can believe that somehow this will result in more good than harm.

President Trump is only the most recent manifestation of the WS that even kept the Obama Administration from admitting that we are in the wrong in Korea and the only solution is to leave. But President Trump has openly and aggressively pursued a foreign and domestic policy that is based on WS. Literally everything he does is based on his firm belief that White folks know what’s best for brown and black folks, and more importantly, policies must be designed to promote the primacy of White folks. Is there any doubt that President Trump is White Supremacist and a racist? Is there any doubt that his preferred solution would be to engage in the mass murder of Koreans? He has said it himself – “fire and fury the likes the world has never seen.”

Americans must vote out the White Supremacists. WS has been able to hold power because of the allure of WS to working class Whites who have thrown in with the White Supremacists because they feel that no matter how bad their condition is,  in their minds, they are better than Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians.  And make no mistake, working class Whites are catching hell. They are experiencing an opiod addiction crisis that will have long-term implications on their social mobility, health and life expectancy. Until working class Whites recognize the folly of their beliefs, they will never thrive.

WS is a dangerous philosophy. WS resulted in the kidnapping, murder and enslavement of millions of Africans. WS led to genocide in Germany of Jews. WS led to the disaster in Vietnam. WS is even the cause of our endless war in the Middle East. There will be no peace until the White Supremacists either have a “Damascus Road” conversion, or they are voted out of power.

Click on or download the above audio file or the Facebook Live video below to listen to the full episode of WNHH FM’s “Mayor Monday” program.

This episode of “Mayor Monday” was made possible with the support of Gateway Community College and Berchem Moses P.C.

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posted by: 1644 on December 11, 2017  4:36pm

Okay, this guy is off the rails.  FYI to all, Korea has always been pulled between China and Japan, and only since the later 19th century did Russia join in.  Neither the Chinese nor Japanese are white.  Also, most of those killed by the Nazi’s in WWII were white.  So are most Chileans, and many Columbians.

posted by: Babz Rawls Ivy on December 11, 2017  6:19pm

Dr. Fred! I had the opportunity to work with him when he was heading up the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Counci. The Inner-City News is a member. It is most unfortunate that he withdrew his name. But I can’t blame him. He’s talented and he will go where he is wanted and welcomed. Too bad for us though, he would’ve bought an exciting and necessary energy to this chamber of commerce.

posted by: LoveNH on December 11, 2017  8:59pm

The head of the chamber of commerce needs exactly one skill - road paving.  If s/he can go repave the last 500ft of Tweed’s runway to accommodate bigger jets, this region will have all the commerce it needs. What it doesn’t need is talking about the Korean penninsula.
Skip the fish epistemologist, and go find the head of an asphalt company, folks.

posted by: RatashaSmith on December 11, 2017  10:29pm

I sure do hope he reconsiders. I understand his concerns, but we need to be in these rooms and although he was greeted with a cold welcome, he was given a seat at the head of the table. While some may have not taken to the article he wrote, he is right — white supremacy is the root cause for many of the issues our people still face today. I don’t know much about Korea so I can’t speak to his point about that but I digress. I believe if he was to take this position, we as a collective would be one step closer to achieving racial equity and economic security in a New Haven thus fighting directly against the white supremacy he speaks so passionately about in his article. It would be nice to see him take one for the team to not only ensure diversity in the Chamber but inclusivity which would be mutually beneficial for African - Americans within New Haven and New Haven as a whole.

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on December 12, 2017  5:41am

It sounds to me like he stirred the pot and did not like the stew but if you can’t stand the heat why start cooking? What better place to effect the change that he purports is needed than in this position? His stated principles are not in line with his actions and nobody sent him packing save himself.

posted by: robn on December 12, 2017  5:55am

Another frightening failure of a historical revisionist to recognize the real creeping totalitarianism of communist USSR in the 20th Century. Hey I’ve got an idea. Apply for a job with Vladimir Putin’s agitprop hackers. They’ll love you.

posted by: Babz Rawls Ivy on December 12, 2017  11:04am

Sista-Gurl, I hear you. But honestly so many of us have taken one for the team. And this climate is ripe for folks coming out their bag. Dr. Fred is cool people.  Folks have the right to change their minds… That’s what freedom allows. I’ll see him soon enough and we’ll “talk-talk”. Maybe he’ll come through the Knick…

I’ll see you soon and we can talk-talk too! Ha!

posted by: duncanidaho645 on December 12, 2017  12:28pm

I thought the Korean war was about capitalists not allowing a successful communist state to avoid of domino effect of disenfranchised countries adopting communism.  It is truly hard to see how white supremacy has anything to do with it.

posted by: robn on December 12, 2017  12:40pm

Comrade Duncan,

How many of those “successful” communist countries are still around? Before you mention China, remember that it’s actually a capitalist economy with centralized command.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on December 12, 2017  1:57pm

There seem to be a level of ambiguity associated with this appointment from the inception.  Didn’t Mr. McKinney know, that the vast majority if not all of the voting members in the Chamber were white?  Also, I’m certain that all of the voting members knew he was black.

This idea that Mr. McKinney would somehow think that he would be received with open arms after blaming white people for everything wrong with the world’s society, is laughable.  So this entire conundrum begs in my view a very salient question, why did he apply? 

To Mr. McKinney, figuratively speaking, you can’t quit now.  You cast aspersions on the entire white community and then decline a position because some of the members didn’t greet you with the pleasantries you felt you deserved.  Please! 

Nevertheless, I commend the Chamber for still reaching out to Mr. McKinney in spite of.

posted by: 1644 on December 12, 2017  3:50pm

Ratasha:  Yes, white supremacy is, at least partly, responsible for many social problems through the Americas.  It is not, however, responsible for Korea’s problems.  McKinney’s blaming white racism for problems it had no role in indicates a lack of discernment.  As Brian mentions, it bodes ill for his ability to work with a predominantly white organization, one in which his role is not an activist, but to bring diverse groups together towards a common goal of economic growth for all.  The role calls for a diplomat and coalition builder, not a divisive (metaphorical) bomb thrower.