IN 1972, THE blaxploitation movie ''Superfly'' glorified a slick-haired drug dealer who claimed to want to get out of the trade but held on for one last score, imprisoned by the mantra, ''It's a rotten game, but it's the only one The Man left us to play - and that's the stone cold truth.''
For the week of Sept. 27, 1972, ''Superfly'' was the top film in America. Black folks got fantasies of wealth and wiping out Whitey for a day, but they also got stereotypes of pushers and pimps that haunt us to this day as sure as you can say ''racial profiling.''
One would think black folks would be tired of this rotten game. We are not. Superfly is back. We still have Bill Clinton.
Having made himself undesirable white trash for office space in midtown Manhattan with his personal quirks and political pardons, the former president fled uptown. During his impeachment he found refuge in black churches, and now, having again rolled craps with white America, he selected 125th Street for his post-presidency office. Clinton said, ''Harlem is the perfect place for me to be. I'm close to the Apollo Theatre, I'm close to soul food. I feel like I'm home.''
Harlem responded in kind, with crowds chanting, ''We Want Bill!'' Individual women screamed ''I love you!'' Sylvia Woods of Sylvia's soul-food restaurant told reporters, Clinton's arrival ''has just as much impact as the first time the astronauts took off.'' Percy Sutton, the former Manhattan borough president and Harlem business giant, said Clinton's presence would so increase investment and real estate values in Harlem that ''it would be the height of my dreams.''
To see how delusional this all gets, it helps to remember that Sutton and Sylvia's also hosted a Harlem welcome-home rally in 1995 for convicted rapist Mike Tyson, who had just gotten out of prison. Six years ago, Harlem was praising an ex-con. Today, Harlem welcomes with open arms a man who feigns being our brother, yet has sent more brothers to prison than any president in the history of the United States.
Next week, the Justice Policy Institute will release a study that shows that, despite all the legendary cruelty of President Reagan, far more people went to state and federal jails under Clinton than Reagan. In Reagan's eight years, 478,800 prisoners were added to America's jails. In Clinton's eight years, America's prison population increased by 673,000.
Under Clinton, the prison population shot up from 1.4 million to more than 2 million. Fearing being seen as soft on crime, Clinton did nothing to stop the racism of the so-called drug war. Clinton never fought seriously to eliminate the massive disparities in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine even though there was no medical evidence to support such disparities.
Clinton did nothing to stop local police departments from singling out nonviolent black nonusers of drugs, who are easier to snatch off street corners than off half-acre suburban lots. Even though African-Americans consume 13 percent of illegal drugs, roughly our share of the population, we made 74 percent of drug offenders sentenced sent to prison.
Under Clinton, the overall rate of African-Americans going to prison continued to soar. In the Reagan-Bush years, the rate grew from 1,156 prisoners per 100,000 black men to about 2,800 per 100,000. In the Clinton years, the rate grew to 3,620 prisoners per every 100,000 black men.
By the time the Clinton years were done, he had become such a sous chef in helping the Republicans cook the black goose, 14 percent of African-American men had lost the right to vote because of felony convictions. You could even argue that by going along with the recipes that Reagan and Bush set down, Clinton helped cooked his own vice president to a crisp.
In Florida, where Al Gore lost by 537 votes, 31 percent of African-American men, 200,000 of them, cannot vote because of felony convictions. For the Florida Republican Party, that was not enough. They hired a firm to purge the rolls even more, wrongly slashing thousands of people who were guilty only of misdemeanors.
Had Clinton, somewhere in his presidency, called for a halt to the mass imprisoning of black people, Gore might be president. Instead, Clinton convinced black people he was The Man, the only game in town, a man to be loved no matter how rotten and stone cold he was to the ghetto's black men. By the cheers he received in Harlem, Superfly is still making the big score. Profiting from black votes while punishing black men, Clinton now claims to be coming ''home.'' He preens, expecting to be permanently pampered, instead of being called what he always was on criminal justice: a pimp.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company