"You're an outsider. You'll always be an outsider."
-Billy McKinney to his daughter, Cynthia McKinney
If you've heard of Cynthia McKinney, you probably know her as the Congresswoman who got into a fight with a police officer at the U.S. Capitol. That's too bad.
McKinney, who visited Racine on Friday, is a far more interesting, accomplished and dangerous figure than the meaningless 2006 incident - which happened to occur at the same time as powerful Republican Congressman Tom DeLay was indicted for corruption. But that run-in isolated her political support and silenced her fight against what she calls "excessive government secrecy."
McKinney raised uncomfortable questions about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the murder of Tupac Shakoor and government surveillance of the hip-hop community.
These aren't questions asked by many people in power, and it didn't help she was an African-American woman from conservative Georgia. (While serving in the Georgia state House, she challenged long-standing rules that women legislators had to wear dresses. She wore slacks her first day.)
She paid the price for her activism. First elected to Congress in 1992, she was voted out in a 2002 primary. She was re-elected in 2004, but lost in another Democratic primary in 2006. In the second loss, 12,000 Republicans crossed over and voted against her.
Burned by the two-party system, McKinney turned to the Green Party. She's running this year as the third party's presidential candidate along with Rosa Clemente, a hip-hop activist, independent journalist and community organizer.
Cynthia McKinney outside of Waldon III School on Friday, Sept. 5 during her visit to Racine. McKinney is the Green Party candidate for president.
It may seem like an odd pairing - two minority women - for a party most people associate with environmental issues. But in an interview on Friday, McKinney pointed out that she wasn't a member of the Green Party when social justice, grassroots democracy and peace were voted three of the party's four pillars.
The difference is McKinney and Clemente are getting the Green Party's message to a new audience. While Ralph Nader in 2000 and David Cobb in 2008 came across as white male intellectuals, this year's Green Party campaign is young, diverse and, well, hip. Check out this video for a taste:
In an interview, McKinney described the key to her life journey with the advice from her father quoted at the top of this post: "You're an outsider. You'll always be an outsider."
But the other sense you get from McKinney is things are not OK. People in power work to assure everyone that everything is fine, nothing to see here. In her stories and memories, McKinney doesn't believe that.
During her visit to Racine, she met with students at Waldon III. After holding an assembly, she went into a classroom. The first question she asked the students was: Do you know how Martin Luther King Jr. died? The students knew he was shot, but no one knew the specifics about the assassination.
McKinney's believes no one knows the specifics, and the government wants to keep it that way. The same goes for federal records that show hip hop and entertainment performers are under surveillance by the federal government, and that stories were planted in the New York Times, Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times and other major newspapers to discredit the hip-hop community.
McKinney believes it's this same collusion of government interests and corporate media that suppresses discussion of meaningful change or simply lies to the public. By McKinney's count, corporate media lied 935 times about the need to invade Iraq - lies that led to a war we're still fighting.
Here's what makes McKinney dangerous. In a change year, she and the Green Party represent real change. While they may not draw significant numbers in November, word is getting out that a legitimate third party exists. It may take a few more presidential elections, but on our current path, people are going to be disillusioned and look for an alternative.
This could be the year because Obama is galvanizing young and minority voters. If he loses, it would be the third straight loss for a Democratic Party that routinely gets beat up by the Republicans. People will be looking for an alternative, and a McKinney-led Green Party may be it.
Of course, under this scenario, the only people in danger would be the Democratic Party, a mainstream media that needs people to believe they report the truth and the keepers of government secrets.
You can bet if these groups ever feel threatened, McKinney will find herself in the middle of another scandal designed to keep her on the outside.
Local Green Party activists Pete Karas (right) and Stephan Kalmer (left) attend Cynthia McKinney's visit to Waldon III School.