Friday, July 31, 2009

In Conclusion, The Recap On Race

So class, what did we learn today?

There are many conclusions and inferences (some founded, some unfounded) that can be drawn from the recent events surrounding the Gates arrest. Whereas the respective camps who fundamentally and vehemently disagree about race relations in America have likely dug their collective heels in as to who was "right" and who was "wrong" in this particular Gates-Crowley controversy, the focus should and must shift away from the "trees" of this case in order to truly discover the valuable lesson provided by the "forest" here. When we place this one case into the larger context of race and our concepts of a so-called post-racial America, it becomes clear that America has come a long way in terms of acknowledging and dealing with its original sin: race. Likewise, it also becomes equally clear that America still has much work to do in order to avoid not only situations like these, but the swath of derivative racial backlash that is invariably produced in the aftermath whenever the media covers a story on this taboo topic.

And why is it so hard for us to talk about race? Why does simply uttering the word "race" or "racial" or "racism" automatically elicit such a negative and divisive response in America? Why does it cause ears to close up and conversations to shut down?

In my short time on this planet as a child of a diverse heritage spanning the chasm between "Black" and "White," I have learned to see things through the the lens of both perspectives, and in so doing, I would like to share a few observations on race in America that may lend themselves to at least partially answering the question of why it is so hard for Americans to talk about race and how we may at least attempt to overcome it.

Perhaps it is difficult for us to talk about race because of the guilt associated with being labeled as a "racist" when you know you're not but you're still a little unsure as to why you prejudged a person in a certain way. Perhaps it is because of the unfair and inaccurate presumption that only White people can be racist. Perhaps it is because of the many cries for "wolf" over the years by Blacks and other minorities that have muddied the waters and prevented us from being able to distinguish actual racial injustice from mere racial grand standing/opportunism. Perhaps it is because it is difficult for a White majority to understand or recognize the history of how it came to be a majority in America in the first place. Perhaps because it is difficult for Blacks to ever really and truly know to a substantial certainty whether they were passed over for a promotion because they simply did not work hard enough, or whether they were passed over on account of their race. Perhaps because it is difficult for Whites to accept that "racism" is not a figment of the imagination that only exists in the collective minds of Black people.

But most importantly, I feel it is difficult for us to discuss the topic of race in America because by and large, it is difficult for Whites to view the issue of race through the eyes of Blacks, and it is likewise difficult for Blacks to view the issue of race through the eyes of Whites. Far too often, we become so entrenched in our own racial perspectives that we end up exacerbating a situation instead of diffusing it.

Chief Justice John Roberts once said “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race." In a vacuum that sounds like a noble idea, however before we rush out to give Roberts the Nobel Peace Prize, its important to understand what he actually meant. What he meant was that we need to stop considering race, or to put it more succinctly, stop talking about it. With all due deference to the Chief, I categorically reject that line of thinking.

I submit that the most important thing we can do to overcome the issue of race in America is quite simple: talk about it. Don't run away from it. Don't try to sweep it under the rug. Don't get upset and throw your hands in the air and walk out of the conversation room because somebody said something you don't agree with. This country has existed for slightly over 200 years, folks - the issue of race is not going anywhere anytime soon. And just like the proverbial thorn in one's side, ignoring it for another 200 years is not going to magically make it go away. So the sooner we address the pink elephant in the room, the better we'll all be for it.

Situations like the Gates arrest can do 1 of 2 things: (i) bring us into discussion together or (ii) separate us into different corners. I chose the former and I reject the latter as an all to convenient cop out. I applaud President Obama for publicly addressing the elephant in the room (especially in light of how many political points he will lose for doing so) and I recognize it as merely one step among many in order to help this country get to the point where racism and its recalcitrant disciples are relegated to an extremely small, insignificant, and discarded portion of the American population.

Thoughts?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gates Incident Implicates More Than Racial Discrimination


The more I listen and read about the arrest of Harvard Professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr. a man I’ve known about and read since I was a kid, the more I conclude that there is a deeper issue in play besides racial discrimination. More so than being considered a violation of civil rights, I’m beginning to see this as more of a freedom of speech issue. Let me clarify…

As we already know,Professor Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct, a popular charge given by cops, when the citizen has spoken words that the officer is unhappy with, or in our case, stepped out of his/her place. Many supporters of the arresting officer feel as though Gates was wrong for verbally disrespecting the officer, who was merely trying to do his job. Supporters of Gates have stated that the Professor should have been able to say whatever he wanted, short of threatening the officer, given the fact that he was in his own home. I say, no matter where Professor Gates was in the US of A he was protected under the first amendment, which gives one the right to say whatever he wants, short of a threat, or what JD would call “fighting words.”

In short, the real question is whether or not what Professor Gates said to the officer was vicious enough to be considered disorderly conduct and worthy of an arrest. Since we know that he did not threaten the officer and at the very worse and by the officer’s own account, only yelled insults and accusations of racism then the answer is a resounding NO! However we also know that a white officer would almost certainly have much less tolerance for any back talk coming from a black man than he would a white man… Think, “Do The Right Thing” when the guy is sprayed by the fire hydrant and he proceeds to curse the officers out. So a sprinkle of racism and a whole lotta free speech violating seems to resonate with this case.

So as to not draw this out, I would like to open up a new discussion about this case. What are we dealing with here...Is this just racism, or are we as ordinary citizens expected to keep our mouths shut when we see the badge and the gun? If so, then why doesn't the constitution make that clear??

Monday, July 27, 2009

Dr Conrad Murray....A Drug Dealer??


Apparently sources have released information that blames Dr Conrad Murray, Jackson's in house Physician for the King of Pop's untimely death. A powerful drug administered by the doctor is said to have been the official cause of death. Now I know that many of you are sick of this ongoing Michael Jackson saga, even those of you who adored the iconic performer and believe that there will never be another like him, but I think that it is important we understand the implications that this new information brings.

Up until recently the investigation had been labeled a death investigation. A few weeks ago that changed to a possible murder investigation. Since Michael Jackson's death it had been hinted, at least by my interpretations, that there was foul play involved and the media had all but come out and said that this in house Physician was a bit shady. So here we are, a month later and it seems that any day now this man could be brought up on charges that relate to the MURDER of Michael Jackson? Manslaughter...Well that hasn't been stated yet, but c'mon people lets be real here, according to the media the authorities have been itching to obtain evidence against this guy, because lets face it, Dr Murray was the only person around when Michael Jackson, the greatest performer who ever walked the earth, closed his eyes for good. So what you're telling me media, is that there is a chance that the King of Pop did not die because of his own addictions and at his own hands, but at the hands of a black physician, who gave him a powerful drug. Hmmm...

I really hate to go here, but this is the Urban Politico...This is what we do folks! How do I say this...Sigh..I'll just come out with it...

They would blame global warming on the black man if they could, as well as poverty, the current recession and the deterioration of the American family! Don't get me wrong however, I am not saying that this is false. I'm not saying that the Dr did not have a hand in MJ's death...Obviously I have no idea, yay or nay, but my goodness, why??? It's sort of like one of those incidents when you're in public and you see some ignorance going on and you can't quite see who the cause of the disturbance is and the whole time your approaching the scene in your mind your saying "please don't let this fool be black." Then you realize they are and you feel like disappearing beneath the concrete or assassinating the perpetrator for setting us back 100 years...The death of Michael Jackson is one of the single most significant events of the 21st century and quite possibly the cause of it was a black physician. This is worse than the recent OJ Simpson trial...Does anyone understand my plight here, amidst all this rushed, crappy writing??

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Guest Post on the Gates Incident

At The Urban Politico we're always looking to take provocative and insightful Guest commentary so if you have something to get off your chest shoot it over to us via email and we'll be glad to take a look at it. Today's Guest Post is regarding the recent Gates incident and comes to us from somebody who went to school in the battle zone area:

The
Real Contest
by

Diana Banks

The real contest in the Gates case is who should have backed down. Who should be the one who has to put his dick away in a dick measuring contest? Should it be the officer? Or should it be the homeowner in his own house, who pays taxes that pay the salary of the officer? People want to get all up in arms because Gates has pulled the race card, but that is not the real issue. The real issue is that for TOO LONG, Black people have been expected to cower to the police to avoid problems. People are finally saying you know what? We have a Black President - why can’t the police treat us with some respect? Why is it that an officer who has a badge and carries a gun can’t tell the difference between a common criminal and a Harvard professor? Why are people defending the fact that he can't?

Who freaking cares if Gates was racially profiled? He's going to be alright. He'll probably make some money and sell some books by gaining more fame because of the incident. What about the people who are treated this way who aren't Skip Gates? Why are they entitled to any less respect from the police than what Gates should have gotten? When young Black men are profiled and then end up in the penal system, there's no way out for them. Once a Black man has a criminal record its a wrap. Studies show that black people without records get fewer interview callbacks than white people with them!

That's why this incident is important - because it highlights something that desperately needs to be changed: the way Black and Brown people are treated by the police. This was Obama's point last night, and the one people need to be focusing on.

And by the way, how crazy is it that the people leaving no leaf uncovered and no stone unturned to prove that this WASN'T about race are the same ones who claim that White people are discriminated against???

People who are arguing that Gates should have just been quiet - basically, that he should have just bowed down - are really just saying that nobody should be back-talking the police. They're saying that we should all just accept that this is how it is. That police should just be allowed to treat you however they want, even in your own home, ignore their own policies (in MA, officers are required to give name and badge number if requested) and arrest you if you have something to say about it.


The Author is a 2009 graduate of Harvard Law School studying for the bar exam and just wanted to offer some stream of consciousness thoughts on the recent Gates fiasco.

Being Black In America




So essentially I was forced to take a break from my "Next Big Project" to talk for a few tics, about the Black in America 2 series that began last night on CNN, with host Soledad O'Brian. First off, is she black?? If not does anyone know what race she is? Just curious because of the title of the program. Ya know, semantics!

This highly anticipated sequel to it's controversial predecessor Black in America, attempted to take a more positive look at the trials and tribulations of being black in this country, an extreme contrast to the first installment, which was overwhelmingly filled with negative circumstances regarding black folks. The way I see it folks is that there are two ways to look at this. Either they don't realize that blacks are as diverse if not more diverse than the rest of the country or the point that I believe is closer to accuracy is that they really don't realize this! In the wake of an Obama Presidency, a racial incident at a Philadelphia swimming pool and the continued harrassment, brutality and sometimes murder of black men at the hands of racist, cowardice cops, (Skip Gates knows this all too well now) should let us know that our stories cannot be told in 4 hours of prime time television. It should also show that some form of racism can be blamed for much of the problems we face...Sorry to say to all those who hate when we blame the white man for our problems. I'm not blaming the white man, I'm blaming the institution of racism which still exists in America in a strong way, I don't care who the president is.

Take my own story for example. A black man, grew up in West Philadelphia, attended Philadelphia Public Schools and was surrounded by the best and the worst of our culture. Was hired by FOX TV at 17 and traveled to Africa and Italy at 18 as a documentary filmmaker. Attended Drexel University by 18 and was incarcerated by 21 in NYC and would not see the outside world for a year. Came home, went back to school and then went back to the Prison I had been released from 2 years prior....But not as an inmate, as a creative writing teacher. Published a book 2 years later. Happy ending? I guess in some ways it is. I tend not to give myself credit for things that should already be embedded in the fabric of our culture and psyche, such as not returning back to prison, after almost 10 years or choosing to be a part of the lives of my 2 children, weather I am with the mother or not. My book was not a best seller and I was not on Oprah. I'm still poor and need to find employment ASAP and yes, my criminal record effects my job search tremendously. So do I fit into a stereotype that can be profiled on CNN's Black in America...Probably so. But it would not fit the mold of many of our people, unless you dissect certain aspects of it to make it do so. Our paths our so different. We are as diverse as the sun and moon, yet as similar as the stars (which interestingly enough are also very diverse yet similar from our earthly view) and our stories are ever changing and are affected by many variables. Variables which we have no control over.

With that said, what I would like to see on what it means to be Black in America, is maybe a history or some sort of acknowledgment of how blacks have been exploited and systematically picked off like cotton in the fields, since Jim Crow. Get it?? Like cotton in the fields??

Let us discuss the history of the black man (and I mean black woman too) and how he has been the target of extinction, his whole life. Don't believe me? Look at the last 40 years. Look at the lynchings, look at the 70 and 80's with the infiltration of drugs into our communities. First the heroine boom of the 70's and as if that wasn't bad enough the crack epidemic of the 80's. The children of these addicts became the gangsters of the 90's and now their kids have completely ruined hip-hop! Let us also discuss this hip-hop culture and it's effect on the black mans perception and outlook on life. Those being raised on this music and this alone, tend to have a warped sense of beauty as it relates to black women, they also tend to try and find the quickest and easiest road to money and success. The proverbial path of least resistance. Anyone who's read my work is probably sick of me using this phrase...Sorry! Also, prison becomes more of a rites of passage, rather than a horrible punishment to a crime. My point is that these are the pitfalls that exists for blacks in this country and it's done very intentionally and very intelligently. Please people do not be so foolish to be believe for one minute that it is as easy as choosing not to commit a crime, or to just simply stay in school, when your dad is in jail and your mom is strung out on crack. Much of this can be related back to Willie Lynch!!! So that's my 2 cents...What do u think???

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Real Life "Amos & Andrew?"

Back in 1993, a movie by the name of Amos & Andrew (a play on the infamous title "Amos 'n' Andy"), staring Samuel Jackson and Nicolas Cage, explored racial stereotypes in comedic fashion. In the movie, a wealthy third-generation college educated Black author and Pulitzer Prize winner (Jackson) from New York City moves into a nearby predominantly White Connecticut suburb where he is viewed one evening through his living room window by his new white neighbors as he attempts to set up his TV and VCR. The neighbors instantly assume Jackson's character is a burglar and call the police. Subsequently, when asked by news media how they knew the man was a burglar, the neighbors responded: "well when you see a black man in this kind of a neighborhood with electronics in his hands, you know damn well what he's up to."

In an eerily similar "Art Imitates Life" type scenario, on Thursday, July 16, 2009, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a Yale educated, world renowned author and Harvard professor who lives in a white suburb of Boston, Massachusetts was spotted by one of his white neighbors having trouble with the key to his house. The neighbor, assuming Gates was a a burglar, called the police who showed up to investigate, much to the dismay of Gates. According to the police report, Gates was agitated when he was asked to step outside of his home to speak with the officer. After that, according to the report, Gates then asked the police officer who he was and what he was doing there. The officer responded that he was there investigating a robbery-in-progress reported at Gates' residence. According to the report, Gates then responded "why, because I'm a Black man in America?"

After much back and forth between Gates and the Police officer, Gates was then arrested for disorderly conduct in his front yard and taken into police custody.

And in an interesting twist of events, Professor Charles Ogletree has stepped forward as legal counsel for Gates. (Now they have officially messed up - you do NOT want to see Ogletree on the other side of the courtroom)

My take on it after reading the police report is that Gates, who had a clear right to exist in his home and who was under no obligation to allow the officer to enter his home, was understandably upset. Lord knows, as Black people in America, we've all been profiled at some time or another. However, I think his frustration should have been directed at the neighbor who assumed he was a burglar instead of towards the police officer who had to respond to the call placed by the neighbor. Of course, when the police show up to your house, they rarely, if ever, tell you who called them there so my point is kind of moot, but you see what I'm getting at. Sometimes (key element being "some") its not always the fault of the police that they had to show up at our door or pull us over on the road. Sometimes their hand is forced.

Nevertheless, speaking of the police, I will say this - once the man identified himself...what are you still doing there, Officer Crowley? It is then time for you to go. You came to investigate a claim of breaking and entering, you did a little police work and found out that the alleged house "burglar" was in fact, the house "owner." OK. False alarm. Time to go. The fact that the owner of the house is pissed at you is irrelevant at that point. They have a right to be pissed - it's their house! Furthermore, why would you then, knowing that this is the owner of the house, arrest the man? You had to know that was going to at least give off the appearance of a racially motivated arrest. Good luck with Ogletree.

Reactions?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Maddow v. Buchanan



Reactions?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ricci Part III: The Empire Strikes Back


Today, the word on the Hill is that Frank Ricci from the White Firefighters Case has been invited to speak at Judge Sotomayor's Senate Confirmation Hearings (presumably by the Republicans???). I'm still baffled as to why exactly a prior litigant has been invited to a Supreme Court Nominee's confirmation hearing, but I'm sure this will prove to be interesting.

Thoughts on this or the Confirmation Hearings so far?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Whites Only Pool

Here is a way in which we can all get involved to let the racists know that we will not tolerate injustices against our children! Please read and ACT!!!

Peace
GODSON



Dear friends,

Two weeks ago outside Philadelphia, sixty-five children from a summer camp tried to go swimming at a club their camp had a contract to use. Evidently, the club didn't know the kids were largely Black.

When the campers entered the pool, White parents took their kids out of the water, and the swimming club's staff asked the campers to leave. The next day, the club told the summer camp that their membership would be canceled and that they would refund their money. When asked why, the club's leader said the "kids would change the complexion ... and the atmosphere of the club."

A "Whites only" pool in 2009 should not be tolerated. The club's actions appear to be a violation of section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act. Whether or not any laws were violated, a "Whites only" pool should be something every American condemns.

I've just joined ColorOfChange.org in doing exactly that -- will you join me, and email your friends and family asking them to do the same? We're also calling on the Department of Justice to evaluate suing the facility under federal law. It takes just a moment to do both, here:

http://www.colorofchange.org/swim/?id=2353-475677

Obama is President but that doesn't mean that suddenly all is fine when it comes to race in America. This is a vivid reminder of what we know still lies beneath the surface.

We all know stories like this one -- similar incidents play out quietly every day in different communities across the country. The difference in this case is that folks got caught and there was a contract in place that makes for a potentially illegal act.

Standing up now isn't just about making things right for these kids in Philadelphia or bringing consequences to this swim club (called the Valley Swim Club). It's about creating a climate of accountability everywhere. If we can publicly shame the Valley Swim Club and hold them accountable for this incident, it will make others think twice before engaging in this kind of discrimination.

Please join me in condemning the Valley Swim Club's blatant discrimination and calling on the Justice Department to investigate whether they violated civil rights laws. And please ask your friends and family to do the same.

http://www.colorofchange.org/swim/?id=2353-475677

Thanks.

Here are some links to more info:

"Pool Boots Kids Who Might 'Change the Complexion,'" NBC Philadelphia, 07-08-09
http://bit.ly/90Zyr

"60 Black Kids Booted from Philly Pool For Being Black -- Speak Out," Jill Tubman at Jack and Jill Politics, 07-08-09
http://bit.ly/GkJTs

"Valley Swim Club: Day Two," Adam B at Daily Kos, 07-08-09
http://bit.ly/qbpSA

"Section 1981 Summary," Employment Law Information Network
http://www.elinfonet.com/1981sum.php

Monday, July 13, 2009

And another thing Barack

So now what Africa needs is an American military presence there (Africom), hey
Barack? Sort of like Israel needing Germany to guard its borders. Maybe the
f--king slave trade should be revived too!!

Sotomayor Hearings Today!!!



In case you didn't know, Judge Sonia Sotomayor is seated before the United States Senate today as she goes through the official Confirmation Hearings that will decide if she becomes the nation's first Latina Supreme Court Justice. If you're in front of a TV somewhere or if you can stream live video at your office, check it out. (on all major news networks)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

You Coulda Stayed At Home Barack

Hey Barack, while you're so busy lecturing African nations on democracy, stop by the Central African Republic and pick up President Aristide and return him to Haiti, do something about Cynthia McKinney's arrest and help restore the elected president to Honduras. Then lecture the US Congress about the African dictators they love to support, eg., Theodore Obiang Nguema (Equatorial Guinea) and Meles Zenawi (Ethiopia), Joseph Kabila (DRC), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Paul Kagame (Rwanda) and Denis Sassou Ngwesso (Congo).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Just In Case You Forgot That Racism Exists...

No need for me to even say much on this one. It speaks for itself. I'll just let this article from the Philadelphia NBC News do the talking:








More than 60 campers from Northeast Philadelphia were turned away from a private swim club and left to wonder if their race was the reason.
"I heard this lady, she was like, 'Uh, what are all these black kids doing here?' She's like, 'I'm scared they might do something to my child,'" said camper Dymire Baylor.
The Creative Steps Day Camp paid more than $1900 to The Valley Swim Club. The Valley Swim Club is a private club that advertises open membership. But the campers' first visit to the pool suggested otherwise.

"When the minority children got in the pool all of the Caucasian children immediately exited the pool," Horace Gibson, parent of a day camp child, wrote in an email. "The pool attendants came and told the black children that they did not allow minorities in the club and needed the children to leave immediately."

The next day the club told the camp director that the camp's membership was being suspended and their money would be refunded.

"I said, 'The parents don't want the refund. They want a place for their children to swim,'" camp director Aetha Wright said.

Campers remain unsure why they're no longer welcome.

"They just kicked us out. And we were about to go. Had our swim things and everything," said camper Simer Burwell.

The explanation they got was either dishearteningly honest or poorly worded.

"There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club," John Duesler, President of The Valley Swim Club said in a statement.
While the parents await an apology, the camp is scrambling to find a new place for the kids to beat the summer heat.



View more news videos at: http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/video.




Special Urban Politico Note:
When I volunteered for the Obama Campaign along with GodSon I was stationed in Northeast Philly, which is a different animal from the rest of Philadelphia in that it was the only part of Philly that went overwhelmingly for Hillary during the Primary as opposed to Obama like the rest of the city. We had some pretty interesting conversations with the people there to say the least. In the end, we won the district, but it was a challenge.
To that end, please take a moment to shoot an email and contact the representatives of Northeast Philly to urge them to take action against the Valley Swim Club.
The United States Congresswoman representing Northeast Philly is Allyson Schwartz (D):

Philadelphia Office
7219 Frankford Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19135
phone--215/335-3355
fax--215/333-4508
Washington Office
330 Cannon Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
phone--202/225-6111
fax--202/226-0611
The United States Senators representing Pennsylvania are Arlen Spector (D) and Robert Casey, Jr. (D):
Arlen Spector
711 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
phone--202/224-4254

Robert Casey, Jr.
392 Russel SenateOffice Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
phone--202/224-6324


The Pennsylvania State Senators representing Northeast Philly are Michael J. Stack, III, (D), Shirley Kitchen (D), and Christine Tartaglione (D):
Michael J. Stack, III
Philadelphia, PA 19154-1927
phone--(215) 281-2539
stack@pasenate.com
Shirley Kitcken
1701 West Lehigh Avenue, Suit 104
Philadelphia, PA 19132
phone--(215) 227-6161
kitchen@pasenate.com
Christine Tartaglione
1061 Bridge Street
Philadelphia, PA 19124
phone--(215) 533-0440
tartaglione@pasenate.com


The Pennsylvania State House of Representatives representing Northeast Philly are Dennis O'Brien (R), John Perzel (R), and Mark Cohen (D):
Dennis O'Brien
9811 Academy Road, Lower Level
Philadelphia, PA 19114-1715
Tel: 215-632-5150
Fax: 215-281-2094

Hon. John M. Perzel
7518 Frankford Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19136
(215) 331-2600
Fax: (215) 708-3135
Hon. Mark B. Cohen
6001 North 5th Street
Second Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19120
(215) 924-0895
Fax: (215) 924-8480

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Does the American (White) Press Get Michael? Did It Ever?

As the memorial services come to an end and the reality of Michael Jackson’s untimely death sets in, many black folks have expressed both concern and in some cases, outrage over the mainstream media’s coverage of the demise of the incomparable rock and soul entertainer. The unprecedented displays of remorse and anguish from the entire world seem to be somewhat at odds with the tenor of the reports emanating from the American broadcast networks. (For a sense of how the world is responding, check out the British Broadcasting Corp)

While international correspondents shared the feelings of adoration from fans in distant lands, I simply shook my head as one music journalist from a cable service here stated, “if you had asked someone two years ago what they thought of Michael, they would have probably talked about his weirdness.” Another American reported suggested that if Michael had decided to start his tour in the U.S., it probably would not have sold out. A segment of white media community in America just didn’t get. They never really did.

The difference in reporting on Michael between black and white reporters was almost palpable. If you could just read the reports, with no visuals or vocals, discerning the race of the writer might not be too difficult. It seemed as though white reporters in this country invariably would 1) invoke the name of Elvis Presley, 2) pay inordinate attention to Michael’s scandals and 3) be rather miserly with respect to bestowing superlatives on the superstar (never seemed to want to use the term genius). Black reporters and media outlets and many devotees in the rest of the world lauded Michael for his supreme talent and unparalleled achievements. In the larger scheme of things the coverage is emblematic of the schism between white and black America, and in fact, the schism between white (male) America and much of the rest of the world.

The deal is the mainstream press was never too fond of Michael (it’s been lukewarm to black American music, particularly over the last 30-40 years). The reason being mainstream journalism has been transfixed with elevating white artists and their music in the eyes of public.
This isn’t a new phenomenon but it is an odd one because it is both obvious and at the same time subtle. Since approximately the mid-seventies, white rock and roll has been in decline and in search of a new “king”. Remember, the end of the 60s and the beginning of the 70s had been brutal for the white rock movement. The Beatles, Joplin, the Doors, Hendrix (don’t have time to explain), Cream to name the most prominent had either died or disbanded.

At the same time, the thriving black music movement of the 60s exploded in the 70s. The building blocks of rock and roll – jazz, blues and gospel – evolved, permutated and then coalesced into a magnificent array of sounds that literally lifted an industry. Whether it was jazz rock or fusion, Southern soul, singer-songwriting, group vocalizing, reggae or straight up funk, the music that reflected the breadth of the global black experience had experienced unprecedented critical and popular success.

However, the white corporate music media, by the mid to late 70s, found this situation untenable. Two attempts by the journalistic cabal to hype a new voice, sound or direction for rock and roll failed miserably. The super public relations stunt – placing Bruce Springsteen on covers of both TIME and Newsweek (in 1975) and anointing him as “the future of rock and roll” – and then embracing and promoting of punk rock as the new, significant movement in rock and roll did not catch on with the public or musicians.

The 80s begin, rap and hip-hop are gaining momentum with youth of all races everywhere and then to top it off, Michael follows his hugely popular Off The Wall album with Thriller. Game, set, match. If Mike had been white, the press would have appointed him the new king of rock and roll.

This is the 80s. Ron Reagan and a country desperate for nostalgia. Without a white music king to prop up, they ignore black music – witness MTV. It’s incredible to think that in the early 80s a music broadcast network would attempt such a punk-ass, Jim Crow move but they did. (Also interesting that no one really discusses the importance of this.) For too many music industry Negroes of the era, go along to get along and make as much money as possible were the orders of the day, so one didn’t hear much protest from them.

Michael was never too political. He wanted his just due: acknowledgement of his greatness. He had earned it. But this was and is America, and no matter what he did to establish himself as entertainment royalty – change his appearance, marry the white king’s daughter, buy the Beatles music catalogue – it only made the mainstream press more antagonistic.

So when the accusations of pedophilia surfaced, the media was anxious to destroy and discredit him. His crime wasn’t his love of children, it was challenging the myth of white supremacy.
They say God works in mysterious ways. Black radio and its audience in general has been the target of significant criticism the past two decades. And understandably so. The once great institution that was black broadcasting used to be a clarion for the struggles freedom riders and fighters carried on in the streets of America. They played the anthems that informed us about our common bonds of liberation with South Africa and Central America and black radio helped articulate our demands to commemorate those who died for our freedom.

But whatever you think about us - the black entertainment community and its followers - there was something about this incredible, genius of a performer, Michael Joseph Jackson, that moved us to say enough – we will speak for Michael. We will tell you of his greatness, of his legacy, of his life. We will let you know what he meant to us and what is to be said and remembered about him. And it was damnedest thing, the rest of the world was right there with us.

No Keith. You Can't Do That

(OK. I'm late again with this. Sue me)

I really enjoy Keith Olbermann. Watch his show religiously and I don't think it can be understated how much his show helped defeat the Pig Party and elect Barack Obama.But I also wake every weekday to a sermon by Reverend Dr. Jeremiah Wright, broadcast on WURD 900AM. A month ago, Reverend Wright, when asked by a reporter had he spoken with the President, responded, "Them Jews won't let me talk with Obama," or something to that effect.The comment prompted Olbermann that evening on his show, Countdown, to cite the pastor as one of "the worst persons in the world" and declared that Wright should turn in his collar and that he was no longer a man of God.Excuse me Keith, I dig your show and intend to keep checking it out. But, as folks say in the 'hood, "you ain't built like that." Yes, the right reverend's remarks were intemperate and flip, but you can't, even in your fantasy world of the media, strip Reverend Wright - imperfections and all - of his hard earned and well deserved status as a representative of the Most High.

I often find it passe or worst, irrelevant, when you take time to laud an actor or broacaster who did his or her job with dignity. Although I admire and strive to be one, my sense is the world is full of such folks, who do well what they're paid to do.However, people who put careers, reputations and even their lives on the line for others earn a special place in my heart and I'm quite sure in the hearts and minds of the thousands who know and love Dr. Wright. And because Dr. Wright has been so selfless and preached truth to power for so long, we can and will forgive this indiscretion.

Reminiscent of Jessie Jackson's "Hymietown" remark, we know neither of these Christian soldiers would do nor has done anything that would materially harm or disenfranchise Jewish people. For Reverend Wright, and for those of us still committed to justice and equality, the substance of the issues regarding southwest Asia (the middle east) is what matters. We know Reverend Wright takes seriously criminal actions that result in ethnic cleansing and refugees. After all, many of us are descendents of refugees. (What else do you call people who have to flee political and violent oppression?)

We have to give Reverend Wright some slack here because we can imagine what it must be like to have peacefully challenged corrupt authority for decades - and yet see people and nations profit so much from violence and hate. And then, to have to deal with sorry ass media reporters and even religious leaders who ignore atrocities committed in their name, and refuse to stand against it.

We forgive Reverend Wright and we can't let anyone diminish his importance because he has genuinely earned the accolades we bestow upon him. From his service in the U.S, Marine Corps to the U.S. Navy, then the National Naval Medical Center (where he helped care for President Lyndon Johnson, to his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Howard University and subsequently a Masters Degree in Divinity from the University of Chicago and a doctorate from United Theological Seminary to his Rockefeller Fellowship to his seven honorary degrees to his consistent, unrelenting determination to speak truth to power - on South Africa (before it was popular) to South America, Reverend Wright leads by his example, deeds and accomplishments. The Reverend was in error, but you, Mr. Olbermann cannot take from him what you did not give.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sarah Potter and the Half-Done Job

I was trying to avoid this one but it seems to keep pulling me back in like the Godfather. In case you were living under a rock for the past week, on July 3rd, 2009 Sarah Palin (pictured), perhaps motivated by the 4th of July spirit, announced that she will be resigning from the Governorship of Alaska effective July 26, 2009. It is notable to observe that there are still 18 months remaining in her gubernatorial term.

Helping us to understand her rationale for the move, Palin provided the following at her July 3rd announcement:

"Let me go back to a comfortable analogy for me - sports... basketball. I use it because you're naive if you don't see the national full-court press picking away right now: A good point guard drives through a full court press, protecting the ball, keeping her eye on the basket... and she knows exactly when to pass the ball so that the team can WIN. And I'm doing that - keeping our eye on the ball that represents sound priorities - smaller government, energy independence, national security, freedom! And I know when it's time to pass the ball - for victory."

Not clear yet? How about after you read this:

"Some Alaskans don't mind wasting public dollars and state time. I do. I cannot stand here as your Governor and allow millions upon millions of our dollars go to waste just so I can hold the title of Governor. And my children won't allow it either. ? Some will question the timing. ? Let's just say, this decision has been in the works for awhile."

The "public dollars" she is referring to relates to the 15 ethics violation investigations that have been alleged against Sarah Palin since taking the office of Governor of Alaska in November of 2006. 15 in just over 2 years? That's gotta be some kind of record right?

Speaking of the ethics allegations, the Lt. Governor of Alaska who will be taking over later this month, Sean Parnell, stated that:

"I think what I heard from the governor really had to do with the weight on her, the concern she had for the cost of all the ethics investigations and the like — the way that that weighed on her with respect to her inability to just move forward Alaska’s agenda on behalf of Alaskans in the current context of the environment. So that’s what I saw."

Indeed, the Palin's have incurred over half a million dollars in legal fees regarding the defense of Sarah Palin from ethics violations. Although rumors were flying high over the weekend as to whether or not Palin was under federal investigation, the FBI confirmed that they have no such investigation in the works for Palin.

Which brings us back to the issue of the true reason for her resignation. The political rumor mill has been busy with speculation that the legal fees that she cited in her speech are merely pretext for the true reason for Palin's resignation: a presidential run in 2012. If a run for president is truly what she is after, the conservative pundits on the Right are saying this is one of the most ill-advised moves in the history of ill-advised moves. But then again, would we expect anything less from the lady who failed to list a single newspaper that she regularly reads, cite a single Supreme Court case other than Roe v. Wade, provide an accurate definition of the "Bush Doctrine," or exhibit a working knowledge of the duties for the office that she was running for?


What is this really all about? Weigh in with your thoughts on the Palin resignation:

Sunday, July 5, 2009

All I Wanna Say is They Don't Really Care About Us


After the untimely passing of music legend Michael Jackson, there has been quite a buzz stirring about the internet regarding Jordan Chandler (pictured left), the then 13-year-old whose parents accused Jackson of child molestation back in 1993 as we all most likely remember. The buzz stems from rumors that Jordan now admits, in the wake of Jackson's death, that he (Jordan), in fact, lied about the whole thing. To date, no major news media source has been able to substantiate this claim.
As a quick recap of the events that went down back in '93, Jordan Chandler apparently was befriended by Michael Jackson in the preceding year, and eventually was invited to visit Jackson at Neverland Ranch. Jordan's father, Even Chandler, was publicly opposed to this relationship between his son and Jackson. Upon returning from the ranch, Jordan's father had him admit that Jackson had, among other things, touched his penis. The tabloids got a hold of this story and the proverbial stuff hit the proverbial fan. The media backlash was strong against Jackson, as many of us probably can recall around that time. As a result, this was around the time that Jackson, buckling from the pressure, became dependent on drugs. In the end, after a year of controversy, Michael Jackson settled with the Chandler family for $22 million. It is most notable to observe that, after the million-dollar settlement, the Chandler family withdrew young Jordan as a witness in the criminal investigation and the California prosecutor's office was forced to drop the charges due to the obvious lack of eye-witness evidence.
In 1996, Jordan's father, Even Chandler, sued Michael Jackson for allegedly breaching their settlement agreement by discussing the case in public. The suit went before court in 1999 and a jury rendered a verdict in Michael Jackson's favor and dismissed the case on the merits. After that case, Michael Jackson paid the Chandler family the last installment of the settlement agreement in June of 1999. And that was that.
Fast forward 10 years later to last week, the Chandler family now has a $2.35 million-dollar home in Long Island, New York, a multi-million dollar condo in Santa Barbara, California, and (because why stop there?) a $775,000 dollar high-rise apartment right here in Manhattan. Not too shabby.
Sometime after Michael's passing last week is when the rumors started to buzz around the internet, that, if true, would confirm what many of us believed to be true 16 years ago: Michael Jackson didn't do it.
I don't know if Jordan Chandler truly made this admission or whether it's just the internet rumor-mill hard at work, but what I do know is that the facts on the Chandler side of the story have never seemed to add up. If the boy really was molested, then it is difficult to imagine why the family of the "victim" was not at all concerned with pressing charges when it had the chance to do so after the financial settlement. So after the multi-million-dollar settlement was reached, I suppose the family figured justice had been served?
In sum, I'll reiterate that I am unable to verify if the alleged admission by Jordan Chandler actually took place. But if it did, that must have been an awful lot of guilt resting on that man's heart for the past 16 years.
Weigh in with your thoughts on the Chandlers and MJ:
EDIT: For a more in depth rendition of the facts click HERE.