Tuesday, March 31, 2009

News: Philly Cop Under Fire for Racist Comments

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

A college class assignment may have gotten a Philadelphia police officer into some hot water.

William Thrasher, a white cop in the 22nd District, at 17th and Montgomery, has been put on desk duty after an article written by a Temple University student quoted him describing his disgust for black people in the district where he works, likening them to animals and calling their problems "typical n---- s---," or "TNS," during a ride-along with the student Jan. 30.

The article enraged The Guardian Civic League, an organization of black Philadelphia police officers, which is calling for his dismissal.

Read More

Monday, March 30, 2009

Chair of RNC = Leader of Free World

Michael Steel, chair of the Republican National Committee, and source of perpetual entertainment for Democrats, apparently thinks that his job is on par with being president, and he even left the door open to the possibility that President Obama is jealous of him.

Each time this man opens his mouth, I simultaneously am amused and a little less desiring to acknowledge my blackness. Again, why does Steel have to come along just as Obama was really getting people to warm up to black politicians?

Stat of the Day: Racial Violence?

Ever hear people talk about how it's really black people who are so racist because they are so much more likely to commit violent crimes against white people then the other way around? Conservatives often use this argument to paint a picture of white America under attack from blacks. This is an image in which blacks are some great threat to the white community.

Well, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, withes are about 5 times more likely to be attacked by another white person than by a black person.

So, maybe instead of [some] white people being so afraid of blacks, instead of conservatives use this to argue that white racism isn't really that prevalent and "reverse racism" is the real problem, and instead of people trying to justify the over representation of blacks in America's prisons and jails, people should look a t the actual facts.

Source: United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Criminal Victimization in the United States, 2004, Statistical Tables, (U.S. Department of Justice, 2006)
*** Based on analysis of tables 40 and 42; originally found here; Justice Department tables here

Friday, March 27, 2009

White Privilege: Teaching Race at The University of Delewar

For a long time I debated myself on writing on the topic of white privilege. Did I really have the skill to describe and debate such an important and complex topic? Did I really want to get into all of that? I could keep a whole blog for a long time on just the topic of white privilege. Recently, with all the talk of living in a post-race society now that we have a black president, and with the current discussion here at LC21 and over on Free Racine, I decided that this was an important topic. However, how would I bring it up? I pondered this for a while until I stumbled onto the clips that I have posted below.

I found these clips posted at an apparently conservative blog called Founding Bloggers. It's an infomercial/PSA about a former University of Delaware residential life orientation program that was essentially exposing students to the concept of white privilege. In the videos, members of trustee boards are warned not to let similar programs destroy the reputations of their schools. If you live in the Philadelphia media market, you may remember this story.

Now, of course, I have my own opinion on this. If you follow my blog you can probably guess that I agree with the basic aim of the residential life program, although I wouldn't approve of all of the activities as they are described by those in the video.

So, here you have it, my foray into the hotly contested area of white privilege. For now, I'll keep posting videos from voices on either side of the issue, with some of my own commentary mixed in. One of these days, I'll get around to writing in depth my own observations.

Enjoy and Comment!

Stat of the Day: Black Vote in Presidential Elections

I was thinking about how everyone complained during the election that blacks were being racist by voting for Obama. I decided to look at the previous Democratic nominees, who, surprise, surprise, were white, and see how their share of the black vote compared. What I found was that Obama did perform better than them, but not by much. Democrat's also managed to win more than half of the Latino vote in the past three presidential elections, with Obama gaining a higer percentage than either Gore of Kerry.

source: CNN.com

So, based on this, I have to conclude that African Americans, and to a lesser extend Latinos, just like voting for Democrats. Did the race of the candidate play a factor in the past election? Likely it did for many voters, but there were so many other factors (the quality of campaigning, the state of the economy, and the approval rating of the sitting president, among them) that to call minorities who voted for Obama racism would be inappropriate.

It could also be pointed out that McCain won 55% of the white vote. I wouldn't call all whites who voted for McCain racist.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Steel For President

Michael Steel says he'd run for president if he felt God leading him to.

Please, God, don't do it. Even though it would be really entertaining, and guarantee a Democratic win, black people already have enough problems. Obama just convinced people that we're not all crazy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Stat of the Day: Minority Enrollment in Public Schools

From the National Center for Education Statistics:

From 1993 to 2003, minorities increased as a percentage of total public school enrollment, from 34 percent to 41 percent.
You can read more about this trend and other trends in the area of public education here.

Stat of the [Tues]Day: Rise in Hate Groups

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate groups in the United States is on the rise. Here are the stats:

  • 926: number of active hate groups identified by the SPLC in 2008
  • 54%: the rise in the number of hate groups from 2000 to 2008
  • 4%: the rise in the number of hate groups from 2007 to 2008
  • 40%: the rise in hate crimes against Latinos from 2003 to 2007, according to the FBI
As explanation for the rise in hate groups and hate violence, the SCLC cites the immigration debate, the economic crisis, and the election of Barack Obama.

You can read more about the SCLC's findings here.

Stat of the [Mon]Day: Employment Discrimination

A study conducted by Princeton University Professors Bruce Western and Devah Pager found the following disparities in employment opportunity:

  • "White males with criminal records were just as likely as blacks with no criminal history to find employment"
  • "Having a criminal record reduced the number of positive responses from employers by 57% for black applicants but only by 35% for their white counterparts"
Here's some more info on the study:
As part of the study, which began in February 2004, 13 applicants went on nearly 3,500 job interviews with 1,470 private companies. All jobs were entry level.

The men were given the same qualifications and experience, while criminal history was randomly assigned.
You can read more about this study here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Technical Difficulties

I'm lagging behind on the stat of the day due to some technical difficulties. I will catch up on that, plus a shortened version of my last post soon.

Monday, March 23, 2009

What is Racism? (the long version)

Sunday afternoon, I came home to find out that another blogger (Denis Navratil), one who has offered thoughtful and challenging comments on my own writing, chose to use the way that I define racism as a launching point for one of his own post. After reading what he wrote, realized that, neither on this blog nor in the comments that I had made on his blog, I had never explicitly offered my own definition of racism. I also came to the conclusion that he had not fully comprehended all that I had said. So, what follows is my appraisal of what racism is.

First, for the sake of background, the post that started it all is here. That post was followed by comments back and forth between the two of us. You can check out my post for the past week or so to see his comments. Then, there was the post Denis's post that mentioned me specifically. Here's how it started:

Kevin Lockett (see comments on most recent post) is an advocate for the new definition of racism (prejudice plus privilege plus power) as it acknowledges "the history of racism and the power structure in this country" and it acknowledges that racism is not just an individual problem but also a collective problem.
Now, of course, I never explicitly said that this is how I define racism. However, I can see how he would get the idea that I do define it in this way. Denis then goes on to list his critique of my argument. He says that I use the word racism to define racism, which, of course, we all learned not to do in elementary school. He also argues that I focus only on the United States, when racism is a global phenomenon. For much of the rest of his piece, he explains why he thinks that "changing" the definition of racism is wrong.

Now, I don't want to sound too much like I'm picking on Denis. It's just that, he's such a good representative for one side of the discussion on how to define racism. He started out on the subject by criticizing a local YWCA leader for defining racism as "prejudice plus privilege plus power to oppress." It appears to me that Denis agrees with a more "basic" definition of racism that basically boils down to not liking people of other races (Denis, my apologies if I am misrepresenting your view). The contrasting view is that racism is tied to those who control the power structure. This is the view that Denis is challenging, and the idea that I want to discuss a little further.

Let's take a look at some of the various definitions of racism. First, the definition that people from Denis's side of the argument would be more likely to agree with: the dictionary definition. Here's an offering from Merriam-Webster:
1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
2 : racial prejudice or discrimination
Now, that is a very brief, easy to understand definition. It is likely in line with how many of us are used to having racism defined. However, some (like me) would say that this is a somewhat cowardly definition. It is completely divorced from the history and context of racism. In addition, it is reasonable to question whether or not the dictionary should serve as the final authority on such an issue. After all, there are other definitions of racism, offered by people who have devoted their lives and professional career to studying, researching, and analyzing subjects relevant to this discussion. Let's consider some of the definitions offered by sociologist and anthropologist - people who study human behavior.

In 1993, David Wellman defined racism in this way:
Culturally sanctioned beliefs, which, regardless of intentions involved, defend the advantages whites have because of the subordinated position of racial minorities
First of all, this definition can be applied to a variety of countries. Even though it mentions whites specifically, it could conceivably be tailored to nearly any imaginable scenario. It also acknowledges the historical context of racism, which was created for the purpose of subjugating and oppressing particular groups, but we'll get to that later. This definition also deals with the systematic and societal nature of racism, instead of looking at it as only individual instances of prejudice.

Wellman is not the only sociologist to offer a definition of racism. Noël A. Cazenave and Darlene Alvarez Maddern define racism as follows:
A highly organized system of 'race'-based group privilege that operates at every level of society and is held together by a sophisticated ideology of color/'race' supremacy. Racist systems include, but cannot be reduced to, racial bigotry

Again, the systemic nature of racism is emphasized. Cazenave and Maddern are defining racism as a system or force, and not simply something someone does or feels toward another person.

Anthropologist have also made attempts at defining racism. The following definition was written by Dr. Helen Enoch Page for the Center for the Study of White American Culture. This long, and fancily worded definition is actually the first part of a much longer definition of racism, but I think it captures Dr. Page's main argument:
Racism is an ideological, structural and historic stratification process by which the population of European descent, through its individual and institutional distress patterns, intentionally has been able to sustain, to its own best advantage, the dynamic mechanics of upward or downward mobility (of fluid status assignment) to the general disadvantage of the population designated as non-white (on a global scale), using skin color, gender, class, ethnicity or nonwestern nationality as the main indexical criteria used for enforcing differential resource allocation decisions that contribute to decisive changes in relative racial standing in ways most favoring the populations designated as 'white.'
Let me make a [lame] attempt as summarizing that in a way that is easier to understand: racism, according to this definition, is a tool used internationally by the dominant white culture to maintain their own benefit and at the expense of non-whites.

Now, there's one last piece that I want to bring into this conversation, and then I'll stop with the long, boring, academic quotes. See, at this point some people probably think that we're I'm just beating up on white people. "Why are whites the only ones who can be racist? Don't some blacks not like whites?" Yes, certainly there are many prejudiced blacks, and we need to have serious conversations about how we can all deal with our personal biases. However, in discussing race and racism, we must also take a look at the history of this phenomenon. So, i want to bring in some of this history. Now, If you find this kind of stuff boring, skip the long quote and read my summary at the end. This is from the American Anthropological Association's Statement on Race:
Today scholars in many fields argue that "race" as it is understood in the United States of America was a social mechanism invented during the 18th century to refer to those populations brought together in colonial America: the English and other European settlers, the conquered Indian peoples, and those peoples of Africa brought in to provide slave labor.

From its inception, this modern concept of "race" was modeled after an ancient theorem of the Great Chain of Being, which posited natural categories on a hierarchy established by God or nature. Thus "race" was a mode of classification linked specifically to peoples in the colonial situation. It subsumed a growing ideology of inequality devised to rationalize European attitudes and treatment of the conquered and enslaved peoples. Proponents of slavery in particular during the 19th century used "race" to justify the retention of slavery. The ideology magnified the differences among Europeans, Africans, and Indians, established a rigid hierarchy of socially exclusive categories underscored and bolstered unequal rank and status differences, and provided the rationalization that the inequality was natural or God-given. The different physical traits of African-Americans and Indians became markers or symbols of their status differences.

As they were constructing US society, leaders among European-Americans fabricated the cultural/behavioral characteristics associated with each "race," linking superior traits with Europeans and negative and inferior ones to blacks and Indians. Numerous arbitrary and fictitious beliefs about the different peoples were institutionalized and deeply embedded in American thought.

Early in the 19th century the growing fields of science began to reflect the public consciousness about human differences. Differences among the "racial" categories were projected to their greatest extreme when the argument was posed that Africans, Indians, and Europeans were separate species, with Africans the least human and closer taxonomically to apes.

Basically, the point of this quote and of the entire AAA document is to say that race has not always existed. Rather, it was created as a way to control and oppress non-whites. Once created, race was used to justify the enslavement of African Americans, the oppression of Native Americans, and the mistreatment of various other groups around the world. This system of classifying, labeling as inherently inferior, and oppressing is racism. This is how the sociologist and anthropologist mentioned above come to their definition of racism. This is why it is important to look at the historical context of this issue.

Now, some may say that this type of definition leaves out many prejudiced people. Certainly it does. However, I would argue in some instances these people are products of racism. They don't always represent racism itself. Rather, their prejudices are created from this process. An individual white may not feel that they have "power to oppress," but their prejudice may be the result of this system of racism, which operates apart from that individual. There are some African Americans who are express prejudice against whites. Is this racism? I would argue that this is not racism, but rather a response to racism. Is it wrong? Yes. But it is important to be honest about what it is and why it is wrong. In many instances, the solution to the prejudices of minorities is not to simply label them as racist. Instead, we must address the racism that is responsible for creating their prejudices. Likewise, we can not deal with the issue of white racism if we view it only as many instances of individual prejudices. Instead, we must address the system, the force that is racism, that has caused such a twisted way of thinking.

Now, someone like Denis may argue that this is letting minority groups off the hook. I would argue that his definition of racism lets white people off the hook. Why should we not acknowledge the unique role that whites play in the creation and perpetuation of this phenomenon? By using the same terminology to describe whiter racism and minority prejudice, or by using phrases like "both sides are wrong" or "we all need to stop the hate" we're ignoring this unique role. What such language does is place an equal responsibility for racism and an equal burden for fixing the problem on all races. However, when one looks at the history of race, it is clear that not all groups are equally responsible. When one looks at the present situation that has been wrought by that history, it is clear that we do not all share the same burden. So, my question to those who want to stick with the strict dictionary definition: Why do you want to let white people off the hook?

So, clearly I have a lot, maybe too much to say on this topic. I think you can see that I agree more with the definitions offered by people who actually study this topic. Racism is not when one person does, thinks, or says something bad to another person. Racism is a systemic force created tosubjugate the non-white people's of the earth. It is based on the idea that certain groups (defined by physical traits, and increasingly in combination with culture) are inherently inferior. Racism creates privilege and power for whites, even those who are not racist, and even those who do not feel particularly privileged or empowered.

I've talked long enough, but before I go, I just want to clear up some things between me and Denis. He wrote:
It seems to me that the most charitable explanation for the redefinition (including the power element) is to accomodate or account for the differing expressions of racism. I do understand this argument. A great example is anti-semitism. This could range from a mildly harmful attitude to death in a gas chamber. But the range of actions that might flow from a mindset (anti-semitism or racism) is not sufficient, imho, to justify changing a definition and confusing an already difficult issue.
Sadly, it does not appear that I made my opinion clear, and Denis misunderstood what I was saying. When I talked about different types of prejudice, I was not simply pointing out the differences among racism and anti-semitism and xenophobia (actually, I consider the last two part of the system of racism). What I mean was that a white racist who feels he has the right to subjugate blacks because he is biologically superior is a lot different than an African American who doesn't like to be around whites because he is angry about racism. A white voting public that refuses to fund pubic education in black communities on the basis that black cultural deficiencies are to blame for academicweaknesses is a lot different than a black student who doesn't like whites because they refuse to fund his school. The fact of the matter is, many minorities feel that whites can't be trusted. And while it is inaccurate to create such a generalization, it's notsurprising that people feel this way. As far as those individuals are concerned, whites have not shown themselves to be trustworthy. Their hatred, hanger, and prejudice is a result of the ways in which they andtheir community have been harmed by racism. So, to call them racist is inappropriate.

Denis has characterized my opinion on racism as hinging solely on one's ability to inflict harm. He writes:
So my point is that if we are to change the definition of bad attitudes, like racism, to reflect the varying ability of people or nations to act on said bad attitudes, then we should do the same with good attitudes.
However, in trying to shift responsibility off of whites, he has totally missed my point. It's not just about one's ability to act on bad attitudes. It's about the source of those attitudes. Are they birthed out of the system of racism defined above? Or are they in response to the pain of being oppressed by that system? I think this is a key question to ask in such a discussion. I hope that all who read (or, let's be real, skim) this post will join in this discussion by posting a comment.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stat of the Day: Minorities in the Senate

In the history of the United States Senate there have been:

6 African American Senators
(1 currently serving - may soon be zero)
5 Asian American Senators
(2 currently serving)
6 Hispanic American Senators
(2 currently serving - one set to retire)
3 Native American Indian Senators
(zero currently serving)

Since it's inception in 1789, nearly 1,900 individuals have served as United States Senator.

This means African Americans and Latinos each make up approximately 0.32% of all senators in U.S. history. Asian Americans account for 0.26%, and Native Americans 0.16%.

Of all U.S. Senators in history, 98.9% have been white.


News: Medical Racism

From The Boston Herald:

A patient alleges racism in a hospital's handling of a botched surgery and the lax investigation that followed. Here are excerpts from his letter that appeared in the Herald:

My name is Michael K. Hicks and on June 27, 2008, I had a liposuction and breast reduction procedure at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center by Dr. Loren Borud.

This is a high-profile case because of the allegations that Dr. Borud was impaired while doing my surgery.The Department of Public Health conducted what they claimed to be a full investigation and cleared Beth Israel of any wrongdoing. However, the DPH did not interview Dr. Loren Borud, the lead plastic surgeon; they did not interview me the victim; nor did they interview Dr. Eran Bar-Meir, who is the fellow surgeon that put me back together the best way he knew how.


Three days after my surgery, another surgeon at Beth Israel Deaconess operated on a white woman on whom a wrong-side surgery (orthopedic surgery) occurred. Beth Israel Deaconess apologized to her immediately after she awoke from surgery. They even made the statement public and did everything right and respectfully for the white woman, and gave her dignity. In my case, they sent me home the same day of the surgery without a doctor even seeing me. What was different about Michael Hicks? I am African-American, and to Beth Israel I am a Negro. My life is worth absolutely nothing to them. It is apparent my civil rights are being violated by Paul Dreyer, Beth Israel Deaconess and the Department of Public Health.

Read More

Go read the full letter, and then leave a comment on what you think. Does he have a case?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Stat of the Day: School Spending in Philadelphia Area

Today's stat of the day looks at the per-pupil spending for the Philadelphia school district in relation to surrounding districts.

$10,189: 2005-2006 per-pupil spending for the School District of Philadelphia. This places the district in the LOWEST quintile for all school districts in the five-county Philadelphia.

Surrounding school districts by comparison:
$19,543: Lower Merion
$15,093: Colonial
$15,687: Springfield Township
$14,757: Cheltenham
$13,125: Abington

Remember this when you hear conservatives insist that black inner-city children don't learn because they're lazy brats born to single-parent, welfare-queen, crack-whore mothers who think that being smart is bad because it's acting white. Remember this when you hear the argument that money doesn't matter in public schools. If you can't remember the text above, remember the chart below:

Now, if money doesn't matter, let's see how quickly those other school districts give up theirs.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer School District Report Card

Friday, March 20, 2009

Stat of the Day

Each day (hopefully), I'll bring in a new statistic that is in one way or another related to issues of race. For our innagural "stat of the day," we'll start with the criminal injustice system, where blacks and latinos are overrepresented.

Blacks constitute 13 percent of all drug users, but 35 percent of those arrested for drug possession, 55 percent of persons convicted, and 74 percent of people sent to prison.
Sources: Drug Policy Alliance Network / Human Rights Watch Report: Punishment and Prejudice: Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System, May 2000 Vol. 12, No. 2 (G).

Poster: The Ice Queen

The Ice Queen: a title befitting for a heart so cold and rock solid

News: Russian Ads Using Obama Seen as Racist

From Asiaone News / Associated Free Press

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - Obama ice cream, anyone? Chocolate-vanilla ice cream is one of several Russian products being marketed using America's first black president, even as critics call the ads racist.

Other ads featuring US President Barack Obama have promoted tanning salons and tooth-whitening services.

But the creator of one Obama-themed ad - for ice cream bars which have a chocolate-flavoured centre embedded in a layer of vanilla - insisted Friday that it was not racist and should be seen as a joke.

Read More

So, what do you think? Racist? A good marketing ploy? Just a joke? Or all of the above?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

President Obama Can't Talk About Race

Every superhero has something he can't do. Superman can't read your mind. Batman can't fly. Spiderman can't turn into a giant tiger.

Sometimes, it seems like President Obama is a superhero. He defeated what was considered the nation's most potent political machine. He was elected president, despite being a black man in a white America. He even plays basketball, and actually plays well. And he does it all without breaking a sweat (except for maybe that basketball part). But there's one thing he can't do, no matter how hard wants to: talk openly, honestly, and consistently about race.

That was the topic of a recent POLITICO article by Nia-Malika Henderson and Carrie Budoff Brown:

It was a year ago today that Barack Obama, then a candidate for president fearing a divisive racial backlash over his pastor, took to the stage in Philadelphia and said it was time to have a new conversation about race.

“We have a choice in this country,” Obama said that day. “We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the O.J. trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. . . .That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, ‘Not this time.’ "

But in the year since that speech – through campaign and convention, election and inauguration – Barack Obama hasn’t taken part in the discussion of race in America in any sustained way, the way he did that day in Philadelphia to get out of a campaign jam.
Why is this? Henderson and Budoff Brown point to various explanations floating around. Some say Obama is "post-racial" and represents the fact that the nation has moved past discussing old, divisive racial categories. Others argue that it's just not in Obama's nature to talk about race. Still others suggest that there's just so much that Obama is dealing with, mainly the economy, that to have a full-blown discussion on race right now would be an unwise allocation of his time and energy resources.

However, I think there are two other factors at play that really prevent Obama from participating in the discussion on race in the way he may like to, and that I certainly wish he would.

Let's first consider that Philadelphia speech that the POLITICO article references. When Obama came to the National Constitution Center to deliver that speech, it was after much national outrage over controversial soundbites from his former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright (who, ironically, grew up in Philly). Rev. Wright's comments on race were taken by many to be racist and anti-American. However, some saw at least nuggets of truth and honesty in Rev. Wright's ill-expressed words.

Obama's widely hailed speech was an attempt to move the nation toward having an honest, adult conversation on the very complex topic of race. What he soon found out is that the United States is simply a nation of small children in the bodies of adults. There was no willingness to engage in a real conversation on the merit of Jeremiah Wright's words or the motivation behind his rage. There was no real attempt to discuss the complexity of Obama's grandmother's views on race (except for maybe by accident on Angelo Cattaldi's Morning Show). Certainly, the speech received high praise from the mainstream media. However, that praise was framed in the tired perspective of moving on from racial division or constant obsession with race. The measuring stick for the success of the speech was how well Obama could put to rest the discussion of race or how well he could repudiate Wright's words.

I still argue that the speech was totally misinterpreted. If you actually listen to Obama's words - instead of trying to force them into and old and inaccurate narrative of racial history in America - you'll see that he was calling the nation to a more complex and mature conversation on race. Remember, Obama talked about how he could not "disown" Wright, and attempted to explain the source of Wright's anger. Also, remember that Obama did not initially leave Trinity United Church of Christ. Clearly, he had a more complex view of Wright than most of pitch-fork-toting America.

Still, most took his words and ran in a totally different direction. The United States proved itself to be a nation of cowards by avoiding a real conversation on race. Obama's speech became a new excuse to try to be post racial. So, when we consider that Obama does not speak much on the issue of race, at least not to the white media, we must remember that he tried that before, and the nation gave a resounding "we're not ready."

The second factor is that, even though he's the leader of the free world, Barack Obama is still a black man in America. The fact that there are certain things that a black person can not talk about openly without being attacked beyond reason hasn't changed. There can be steep consequences for a black person saying something that white America does not approve of. That's just part of white privilege and racial dynamics in this country. For examples, see Jeremiah Wright, Eric Holder, and even some of Obama's comments, such as calling his "typical white person" comment on Caltaldi's show.

For President Obama, more than any other African American, and more now than in the past, such statements carry a greater risk. There is, of course, the political risk. There is also the possibility that they become distractions that hinder his ability to enact key policy initiatives. With many crisis or near-crisis situations on his plate, the President simply can't afford that.

However, we can.

We can speak up on race. We can talk about how racial dynamics in this country binds the tongues of black leaders in this country. We can begin to create a climate that confronts race, so that when this financial crisis has subsided (which will hopefully be soon), the President will be able to engage the nation in a REAL conversation on race. And, when that time comes, we will be able to hold the president accountable for having this conversation. Although there will still be many in this country who won't be ready for such a conversation, one thing we've learned from the long journey to a black head of state is that waiting for the nation to be "ready" is not an option.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Speak for Yourself, Chuck Norris

Straight from Chuck Norris's own blog post, "I may run for president of Texas":

On Glenn Beck's radio show last week, I quipped in response to our wayward federal government, "I may run for president of Texas."

That need may be a reality sooner than we think. If not me, someone someday may again be running for president of the Lone Star state, if the state of the union continues to turn into the enemy of the state.

From the East Coast to the "Left Coast," America seems to be moving further and further from its founders' vision and government.

Norris then goes on to list all of the bad things he sees Obama doing:

  • Aid to Gaza
  • Increasing the deficit
  • "Stampeding" the Constitution
  • Secularizing the country
This, of course is accompanied by references to our "Founding Fathers." For each offense, Norris juxtaposes Obama's actions with the intents of leaders of old. Of course, if we want to go down the "what did the founders intend" road, we could also point out that they intended for blacks to be slaves, for women to be invisible in the eyes of the law, for poor people to have no political agency, and for the country to be ruled by a small, educated, landed, and elite minority of white men. But then we would be letting facts get in the way.
How much more will Americans take? When will enough be enough? And, when that time comes, will our leaders finally listen or will history need to record a second American Revolution?
Yes, when will we listen to our leaders and get overthrow the government when we don't like the people who are leading it? Oh wait, I think I know the answer. 2010 and 2012 - our next congressional and presidential elections! After all, isn't one of the good things about this country supposed to be that we can vote out leaders we don't approve of? In fact, didn't we just do that a few months ago? Yeah, we thought the Republicans had screwed up our country so much that we voted in this new guy. What was his name again? Oh yeah, Barack Obama, they guy Norris is complaining about.

So, Norris is saying that we should abondon our practice of a peiceful transer of power, overthow the will of the people expressed in a mostly free and fair election, and break away to form a new country. Didn't we do this already, in 1860?
When I appeared on Glenn Beck's radio show, he told me that someone had asked him, "Do you really believe that there is going to be trouble in the future?" And he answered, "If this country starts to spiral out of control... Americans won't stand for it. There will be parts of the country that will rise up." Then Glenn asked me and his listening audience, "And where's that going to come from?" He answered his own question, "Texas, it's going to come from Texas. Do you agree with that Chuck?" I replied, "Oh yeah!" Definitely.
So, he thinks Texas will be the first state to seceed.

He then invites readers to join him, Beck, and other conservates for a telecast about the current "crisis." He ends with this:
Again, Sam Houston put it well when he gave the marching orders, "We view ourselves on the eve of battle. We are nerved for the contest, and must conquer or perish. It is vain to look for present aid: None is at hand. We must now act or abandon all hope! Rally to the standard, and be no longer the scoff of mercenary tongues! Be men, be free men, that your children may bless their father's name."
We should all be paying attention, so that these not jobs can't scheme in secret.

Friday, March 13, 2009

News: NAACP Sues Mortgage Lenders, Alleging Racism

From CNN.com:

The NAACP filed lawsuits Friday against two of the nation's largest mortgage lenders -- HSBC and Wells Fargo -- alleging "systematic, institutionalized racism" in their subprime lending.

NAACP CEO Benjamin Jealous says, "We are not seeking damages; we just want them to fix the problem."

"We have targeted these banks because we have gone through what we can get our hands on, and it seems like there's a real problem here," NAACP CEO Benjamin Jealous told CNN.

Jealous said the group wants "transparency." "We want to see the books," he added. "We are not seeking damages; we just want them to fix the problem."


Under subprime lending, people who don't qualify for lower interest rates can borrow money at higher rates. The NAACP argues that the companies gave subprime rates to African-Americans who qualified for better rates and gave better rates to white customers with similar credit histories.

The lawsuits note studies showing African-Americans have been disproportionately affected by subprime lending. But that's not solely because of intentional efforts to target African-Americans, according to the lawsuits.

"These statistical disparities are not mere happenstance, but instead result from the systematic and predatory targeting of African-Americans, as well as facially neutral lending policies and practices that have a disparate adverse impact on African-Americans," said the lawsuits, which were filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

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Ironic, considering some have tried to blame the financial crisis on African Americans.

Meet the New Confederacy

For fun...

Speak for Yourself, Peggy Noonan

Peggy Noonan on Morning Joe earlier this month:

Thanks for letting us know that you think having a diverse staff means sacrificing quality. It's good to know where you stand on the issue.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chuck Norris and the New Confederacy

When Abraham Lincoln, a lawyer-turned-congressman from Illinois, relatively new to national politics was elected president in 1960 at a time of great national turmoil, many panicked. Even though Lincoln insisted that he would not abolish slavery, many feared the young radical would do exactly that. As a result, most of the Southern states decided that they no longer wanted to be part of the United States. They quit the country. It was this conflict that lead to the Civil War.

Over a century later, Barack Obama, a lawyer-turned-congressman from Illinois who was relatively new to national politics has been elected president at a time of great national turmoil, and many are panicking. Recently, I posted a news item noting Chuck Norris's desire to run for “president of Texas” and his claim of many conservative cell groups ready to join his cause. I also noted various individuals who seem to have issues with the very notion that President Obama is eligible to be president. One member of the military is even contending that he does not have to follow the President's orders until he sees the president's birth certificate: proof that he was born in the U.S.

As a side note, I know of no such demands for past presidents. Also, John McCain was born in Panama.

As I observe all of this, my mind is drawn back to Lincoln, and not just for all the weird Illinois connections. The main fuss over Lincoln was race: “We're quitting the country because the president might free blacks.” Is it totally illogical to suggest that race may also be at the root of all the fuss over Obama?

First, let's look quickly at some of the complaints about Obama:

  1. He's an unpatriotic socialist who wants to destroy American values and make America less American

  2. He wasn't really born in the United States, but, rather born to an African, Muslim father and raised by Islamic extremist

Of course, we know that neither of these claims are true. There's no reason to believe that Obama is particularly unpatriotic (not that I think these empty displays of blind patriotism are all that good for the country anyway). He's not a socialist. He, like probably 99.9% of other sane Americans, just doesn't believe in pure capitalism. Translation: he likes people. The president was born in Hawaii, after Hawaii had become a state. His birth certificate has already been checked. His father was atheist. He's been a Christian for two decades. He actually gave his testimony of how he got saved (look up his Call to Renewal speech).

So, why have these attacks been so persistent? Let me ask this: what are “American values”? This is a phrase often used attack liberals and minorities. “American values” are hard work, industry, and capitalism – Joe the Plumber stuff. Minorities have been stereotyped as lazy, unindustrious, and desiring handouts. Apple pie is American, sweet potato pie isn't. Baseball is American (but not really), basketball isn't (but really it is). Rock-and-roll is American (now that they've gotten rid of all the blacks), rap isn't. Small towns are American, big cities (where most Americans live) aren't. So, when the President, a black man, talks about improving education, or lowing taxes for 95% of working families raising them on only the wealthiest 2%, or when he discusses issues relating to urban areas, or when he talks about his experience as a community organizer, it's no surprise that the fringe, right-wing nuts that make up what's left of the Republican party label him as an un-American socialist.

It's not just that Republicans disagree on policy issues with Obama. It seems that he, for them, embodies the great threats to the American way. I truly believe, deep down, for many Americans, whiteness is American. Not that blacks can't be American, they just have to be white. This presents a problem, because while Obama is no Al Sharpton, he is also makes no apologies for being black. He plays basketball. He fist-bumps his wife and easily makes references to hip-hop because he actually listens to it (heck, his generation invented it). He's also a liberal Democrat. He talks about cities. He appointed the first black attorney general, who recently made a big stink about race. He used to go to a church where the pastor dared to talk about race openly. His wife is Michelle Obama (read: “angry black lady”), and their kids aren't named Sally and Betty Sue. For all those with JTP Syndrome, these things are threats.

Certainly, there are lots of factors in Obama being labeled “un-American,” but it is clear that race plays an important role in this characterization. I would take this a step farther, arguing that, in fact, many who think like Chuck Norris feel the need to tear down Obama because they are frightened by the fact that a black man is their president. Just as many were repulsed by the idea of living in a land lead by Lincoln, many view being governed by a brotha' is an apocalyptic event. They see opposing him to the point of rebellion as defending the American way. This, by the way, is one of the most disheartening things for blacks: the idea that anyone, let alone a seizable group of people, could find us so repulsing because of our skin tone.

However, such hatred still exist. Somehow, questions of where Obama was born have been raised by military personnel, and notable politicians, including Alan Keyes and Senator Richard Shelby. Was this such an important issue with George W. Bush? Bill Clinton. George H.W. Bush? Ronald Regan? Why was there not more of a challenge to John McCain's status? He wasn't born in the United States. It's sad that so many can not accept the idea that Barack Obama is the president.

So, what can we learn from all of this? For all the talk of unity, hope, and change over the past several months, our nation remains very divided. On one side, there are the sane individuals. On the other is a minority of ignorant, hot-headed, hateful hooligans. Their number is small, but their voices are loud, and their potential for causing damage is great. Unless the economy miraculously turns around in the next few months, which it likely won't, we'll be dealing with these people. Will he have another Civil War? Likely not. However, we should prepare for a level of venomous hate higher than this country has seen in a while. I'm guessing this isn't the last we'll hear of Chuck Norris and the New Confederacy.

Joe Scarborough: Shut Up and Listen

I probably shouldn't say this, but when will white people shut up and actually listen to black people when we talk about race?


So, black people aren't allowed to talk about racial injustice or inequality or the lack of substantial dialogue on race if we do something successful? Do we need your permission to speak our minds?

And are you really responding with "guys our age don't think about race?" Joe, that just shows how ignorant you are on this issue. It also shows how much of a coward you are that as soon as someone starts talking about race in a way that doesn't make white America look like angles sent from heaven, you go to "I'm not a racist." No body called you racist. Yet you go straight to talking about how colorblind you are.

If you wonder why some blacks feel so fed up with, so annoyed by whites, here's your answer. If you really want to make progress on the issue of race, try this: shut up and listen.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Various Repots: Obama is the Preident! Get Over It

And now, time for an LC21 News tri-fecta.

This all centers on the notion of Obama not being eligible/worthy of being president, and flat out rebellion against the President of the United States. We start with the article that exposed me to this triplet of news alerts.

From the "Attywood" blog in the Philadelphia Daily News:

It was just one year ago that right-wing martial arts guru Chuck Norris was a sought-after "get" for the GOP presidential candidates like Mike Huckabee, who paraded the star of "Walker, Texas Ranger" around the nation after the anti-abortion actor endorsed him in the primaries.

But now it's 2009, Barack Obama is in the White House, and the inventor of chun kuk do is preaching the martial art of insurrection against the U.S. government. He also wants to run for -- and no, I'm not making this up -- "the president of Texas.":

The call by some right wing leaders for rebellion and for the military to refuse the commander in chief’s orders is joined by Chuck Norris who claims that thousands of right wing cell groups have organized and are ready for a second American Revolution. During an appearance on the Glen Beck radio show he promised that if things get any worse from his point of view he may “run for president of Texas.” The martial artist/actor/activist claims that Texas was never formally a part of the United States in the first place and that if rebellion is to come through secession Texas would lead the way.

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Yes, you read that correctly. Chuck Norris is talking about seceding from the United States. Literally "let's quit the country because we don't like Obama." Yes, if you're wondering, this is how the Civil War got started.

So, then I thought, "What's this about military personnel refusing their commander in chief's orders?" Here's what I found out (from The Examiner.com):
Alan Keyes' rant that soldiers should refuse orders given by President Obama has produced at least one tangible example. World Net Daily reports that Scott Easterling a U.S. soldier on active duty in Iraq has called President Obama an "impostor" in a statement in which he affirmed plans to join as plaintiff in a challenge to Obama's eligibility to be commander in chief.
The statement was publicized by California attorney Orly Taitz who, along with her Defend Our Freedom Foundation, is working on a series of legal cases seeking to uncover Obama's birth records and other documents that would reveal whether he meets the requirements of the U.S. Constitution.
"As an active-duty officer in the United States Army, I have grave concerns about the constitutional eligibility of Barack Hussein Obama to hold the office of president of the United States," wrote Scott Easterling in a "to-whom-it-may-concern" letter.
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Yeah, seriously. All of a sudden, he needs to see the President's birth certificate before he believes that Obama's really the president. I wonder if he saw Bush's.

But wait, there's more. This is from the Colorado Springs Gazette, but really from the Associated Press:
Civilian workers at an Air Force Base in Colorado have filed a union grievance over the removal of a portrait of President Barack Obama from the base commissary.

Obama's photograph was on a sign at the Peterson Air Force Base commissary in Colorado Springs listing the store's Presidents Day hours for Feb. 16, commissary employee Lavonda Bacon said. She said it was replaced Feb. 10 with a sign with no picture.

Bacon said the store's director, Andrew J. Brookes, told employees that a customer had complained that Presidents Day was meant to honor George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, not current presidents. Bacon, who orders store merchandise from suppliers, said she believes the day honors all presidents and that she and other workers suspect racism was behind the complaint.


Twenty-three workers and customers signed a separate petition demanding that Obama's picture be posted at the commissary and other public places at Peterson.

It also asks for an investigation into whether there is "a systemic pattern of hostility toward people of color" at the base. The petition alleges that military contractors or their employees have used a derogatory term to describe black commissary workers, that a white commissary worker dressed in blackface on Halloween, and that at least one employee's formal civil rights complaint has never been addressed.

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Now, you may be wondering, why I have taken up so much space posting articles from elsewhere. I will be giving my own analysis on this in a little while, discussing how these three separate incidents tie together. What I want to do with the LC21 News feature is to give a sampling of what's going on in the area of race relations. So, enjoy the blurbs and check back for analysis.

Friday, March 6, 2009

News: Advertisement Industry Under Fire

From Target Market News:

The inability of the advertising industry to fill its desks, cubicles and offices with a diverse work force is coming under fire again, this time from a lawyer with a track record of extracting large settlements on behalf of employees of giant corporations like Coca-Cola, Morgan Stanley and Texaco who believed they had been the victims of racial discrimination.

Cyrus Mehri (above), a lawyer who has sued corporations over racial discrimination, said that "favoritism rules and merit is cast aside" in the advertising industry.

The lawyer, Cyrus Mehri, joined the N.A.A.C.P. at a news conference on Thursday in Midtown Manhattan to release a report on race and employment in advertising. The 100-page report, addressing subjects like hiring, compensation, assignments and promotions, is part of what the N.A.A.C.P. and Mr. Mehri, of the Washington law firm of Mehri & Skalet, are calling the Madison Avenue Project.
There's More:
Blacks remain underrepresented on Madison Avenue, according to the report, "Research Perspectives on Race and Employment in the Advertising Industry," which concluded that only 5.3 percent of managers and professionals at agencies in 2008 were black.
And those blacks who do manage to land jobs on Madison Avenue are significantly underpaid, the report said, earning 80 cents for each dollar earned by their white counterparts.The economy worsens the problem, Ms. Ciccolo said, because "many training, recruitment and antidiscrimination programs come to a complete halt" in hard times.
Read the full article
or Read more about the Madison Avenue Project
This is for all those that think that discrimination in the workplace is a thing of the past.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Left Can Be Racist, Too

I don't like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Can't stand him. His speech last week - I couldn't decide if I was annoyed, horrified, or amused it was so horrible. But none of that excuses this.

We have to stop this. How can those of us on the left combat racism if we participate in it. There are about 197,298,200,912 things to make fun of Bobby Jindal for that aren't racist. Let's stick to those.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Report: Housing discrimination on LI 'routine practice'

Newsday.com Report:

In 2004, Kirk and Orlandina Carter, a young African-American couple soon to marry, started to look for a house to buy in a "good neighborhood."

"We probably had about three to five Realtors," said Orlandina Carter, 32. "They would always lead us to neighborhoods that were low-income, rundown."

A new study released today suggests the Carters' experiences were not unusual.

In "Racial Equity Report Card: Fair Housing on Long Island," the Syosset advocacy group Education Research Advocacy Support to Eliminate Racism criticizes real estate brokers and federal, state and local government agencies, which the group says do not act aggressively on discrimination complaints or enforce fair housing laws.
Read the entire article