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Most young people today have studied the stories of the great civil rights struggle in this country and the heroic acts of many from all walks of life that eventually brought about change in America. While older generations may recall segregation or the disturbing days of water hoses and police dogs, young kids today for the most part haven’t experienced open violence at the hands of bigots. Even though racial inequality clearly exists, they have been lucky to grow up in an integrated society that grows increasingly diverse by the day. So when news of the Trayvon Martin shooting first broke, it was no surprise that it sent shockwaves among our youth — and continues to do so today. To add to the troubling climate, over the weekend, three black adults were shot to death and two were wounded at the hands of white gunmen who have since confessed to the horrific act in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Though not officially ruled racially motivated yet, this latest incident has all the underpinnings of a despicable hate crime. It’s no wonder young people have taken to the streets to march, organize and let their voices be heard. We are at a precarious moment. We must stop ourselves from regressing. We cannot allow our future to be hijacked with hate. We need not a moment, but a true movement immediately. When people discuss justice and equality, they often forget that progress didn’t simply take place overnight or occur in a vacuum. Countless individuals organized and strategized actual concrete steps on how to bring about change. They saw unfairness, figured out mechanisms to tackle it and organized a massive effort. Today, when we witness these unfortunate reminders of the historical imprint of racism resurfacing, we cannot act as if the issues can simply be swept under a rug. It’s time all of us engage in a long-term conversation on the elephant in the room — race. And as the Trayvon Martin case tragically proves, the topic cannot be discussed without dedicating an equal amount of time towards a serious look at our justice system. In addition to the criminalization and harassment of young men (and women) of color, the system often unfairly favors those not deemed a ‘threat’. Case in point: we are still waiting for the arrest of George Zimmerman, the accused shooter in the Trayvon incident. But the difference between mere rhetoric and sustainable results is action. Gravely troubled by these recent events and more, major civil rights leaders, clergy, victims, parents, grandparents and concerned folks from all races, backgrounds and communities are assembling in the nation’s capital this week. From Wed., April 11th through Sat. April 14th, National Action Network (NAN) will be conducting its annual convention where we will discuss these issues and more, while we plan and organize a strategy to combat them. In addition to a slew of panel discussions and plenary sessions, we will be holding a ‘Measuring the Movement Forum’ event at Howard University next Saturday with the first-ever dialogue between the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Amadou Diallo. We will organize ways to energize the country on pressing social issues that really do impact each and every one of us. And we will formulate concrete steps for achieving those goals. There are some in positions of power that would like nothing more than to make us believe that racism, classism and other inequities don’t exist. But they do. And the only way to combat them, and stop our nation from reverting back to days when the Trayvon and Tulsa shootings were the norm, is to have an honest dialogue and most importantly, take action. The worst thing we can do is come together and walk away doing nothing. There is far too much at risk. We owe it to the next generation to allow them to live in a better world than we did.
Flying the friendly skies always feels a bit like playing a game of Russian roulette. There are the real life-and-death worries, like hoping and praying that you and your plane arrive at your destination in one piece. Then there are the worries that only feel like life-and-death, like hoping that you and your plane arrive on time and that your luggage does, too. Then there are the worries that make us contemplate the meaning of life, and whether it’s worth living at all. Of course I’m talking about the fear of losing the ultimate game of traveler’s roulette: finding yourself seated next to a screaming child during a long flight. For the first time in a relatively well-traveled life, I recently lost this game of roulette, big time. In what I would have considered a hysterical story had it happened to someone else, I lost not just once, but twice, in a single flight. After an apologetic father sat down next to me with his toddler, who was screaming as they boarded the plane and showed no signs of letting up, Dad graciously apologized in advance for the inconvenience that we both were resigned to me experiencing for the next couple of hours. When his son specifically began screaming for his mother, who was seated with other children in another row, Dad decided the best thing for all of us was for the parents to do a kid swap. Mom would take the toddler screaming for her, while Dad would take a slightly older and “more well-behaved little lady” (his words). Only half way through the flight the little lady must have reached her daily quota for being “well-behaved.” She decided she wanted Mommy, too, and wasn’t taking “no” for an answer. So she did what any diva in the making would do: she stood on her seat and screamed, “I want Mommy!” at the top of her lungs for a few minutes, followed by other indecipherable high-pitched screams for more than 10 minutes. (I gave up counting after 10.) Her screams then woke up another baby, who, you guessed it, began crying, too. Part of me felt bad for the dad. After all, when most of us get a poor job performance review, at least it’s not in front of a room full of strangers. But here’s a guy whose two kids, in less than two hours, let the entire plane know he was simply not up to the standards of Mom. He essentially got a public dressing down, Simon-Cowell-style, from two people who can barely speak complete sentences. That’s got to be tough. Of course, the other part of me (the part that had gotten just four hours of sleep and had planned to catch up on the plane) didn’t feel sympathy for anyone except the people unlucky enough to cross paths with me after I got off that plane. I was in a great mood. Let me tell you. Apparently my experience with my tiny, vocal in-flight neighbors is not exactly what you’d call uncommon. Days ago Malaysian Airlines sent around a final warning notice to travel agents informing them that they will soon be launching child-free cabins to accommodate adult travelers tired of trying to drift off to a symphony of childhood cries while flying the friendly skies. According to the new policy, children under the age of 12 will not be permitted in the upstairs economy section of the airline’s Airbus A380. While countless business travelers cheered the new policy, when it was first proposed months ago, many insulted and beleaguered parents angrily cried discrimination. (I missed this tidbit of history, but apparently at some point, having the right to foist unruly children upon the public became akin to efforts to garner African Americans the right to vote in terms of major civil rights battles. Who doesn’t see the similarities?) One argument made by some parents, which did strike a chord with me, however, is this: What about misbehaving adults? Why single out kids? This is a fair question. After all, while I’ve lost the traveler’s game of roulette once in recent memory when it comes to children, I cannot count the number of times some misbehaving adult has helped disrupt a trip. Just off the top of my head, I can think of four times in the last month when I was comfortably seated in Amtrak’s designated “quiet” car, which, as its title suggests, is for passengers who want to ride in a quiet car, and yet every single trip, some moron who can read English perfectly chooses to chat on his or her cell phone — this despite the fact that the car is plastered with signs reading “Quiet Car: No cellphone use permitted.” Mr. or Ms. Chatty then becomes indignant when anyone (I or another brave soul) politely points out that, “as the sign above you says, we’re not supposed to use cell phones in this car.” The most galling response I have received so far was last week, when a woman looked at the sign, then back at me, and snapped, “I can read!” to which I replied, “Apparently not, since that’s your second call.” Police actually escorted one woman off a train for refusing to refrain from using her phone in the quiet car. (For the record, I didn’t call them!) Yet it’s the stories regarding unruly children that generate the most headlines, including a landmark lawsuit that was recently settled when a passenger experienced hearing loss after being seated next to a screaming child for an extended period of time. (Click here to read about that case and other infamous stories of bad behavior in the air.) So are segregated flights, with child-free cabins, the best solution, and potentially the wave of the future for airlines around the world? One flight attendant I spoke to, who identified difficult children on flights as one of her jobs’ greatest stressors, seems to think so. (She asked that I not use her name or identify her airline, because she is not authorized to speak to the media.) Calling Malaysian Airlines’ plans for kid-free flights “a genius idea,” she added, “I cannot think of a better solution than this one.” But maybe I can. What if airlines or trains just fined people for unruly behavior? Before you dismiss the idea as crazy, consider this: Is it really any crazier than airlines charging us extra for checked bags when the service we are paying them for in the first place is to transport us and our belongings? The flight attendant I spoke with seemed to think it was actually a doable idea, in part because she confirmed the existence of something I had heard about years ago: airline reports on passengers who use a specific airline more than once. These “reports” are not background checks per se, but if a passenger gets drunk and belligerent on a flight, for instance, this will be noted, so that on their next trip flight attendants will be warned to pay extra special attention as they serve that person. If this is true, then why can’t airlines and other industries of travel simply implement a financial penalty system for unruly travelers of all ages? Those who consistently display the most disruptive behavior in the air or on the train could be made to pay up accordingly (or their parents could). The way it could work is thus: As part of the terms and conditions we all agree to when we purchase our tickets, a new condition would be added, one that states that we agree to accept an automatic flat fee charged to our credit card — let’s say $100 to start — if the flight staff deem us (or our minor children) an intentionally disruptive presence on the trip. (Intentional meaning, it’s one thing if a kid gets sick. It’s another if they want to play hide and seek on a flight, and Mom and Dad choose to do nothing to stop it.) If a passenger racks up a certain number of penalties, then their future tickets would simply double, and perhaps eventually triple, in price automatically. (My friend Dylan Ratigan compared this to car insurance pricing.) Maybe if they charged such a penalty to the businessman who got so drunk that he defecated on a food service cart in flight ( true story ), or to the parents of children who significantly delay a flight because they refuse to buckle up ( happens more often than you think ), either A) they could stop charging some of us those ridiculous fees for so-called extras that are actually basic service (like checked bags), or B) they would finally deter some people who lack the basic manners to exhibit appropriate behavior in shared public spaces, or who know that their kids lack the ability or maturity to display such behavior but travel with them anyway without thinking twice about the impact their choices have on others. Maybe if we were to hit people where it really hurts, in their pocketbooks, they would think twice, or three times, until finally they got the message that incivility is not a civil right. Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate and a Contributing Editor for Loop21.com , where this post originally appeared.
There is no perfect thing to say in the wake of a tragedy, particularly one that involves the loss of a young person. Entire etiquette guides are devoted to telling us what not to say when someone is grieving, with “I know how you feel” being at the top of the list. And yet there is something oddly comforting about such clichÃƒÂ©s, causing many of us cling to them like a life raft during tragedy. Especially when our own grief, shock and anger has render us incapable of forming the words that those most affected by the loss really need to hear. Besides offering the family of Trayvon Martin my sincerest condolences, and letting them know that like much of America they remain in my prayers, I am going to ignore the etiquette guides for a moment to say something else: Regardless of what happens to the case involving their son, his death was not in vain and will ultimately save countless other lives. Months ago I wrote a piece titled, ” Is Racism Worse in the Obama Era?” In it I discussed the psychological impact of subtle racism, a subject covered in the book Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? In the piece I also briefly touched upon my own experiences with subtle racism. (As I, and plenty of friends have learned, what walking down the street in a hoodie is to black men, walking into the wrong store with the wrong skin color is to black women.) The reaction to the piece was fascinating, with some weighing in with their own experiences. Others, however, were livid that in the age of a black president “people like me” would still find something to complain about and my complaint is about discrimination that you can’t even see or touch, let alone prove. The fundamental question raised by the column was whether or not subtle racism is actually far worse, and more dangerous, for that very reason. As I noted, in my parents’ generation (they both grew up in the segregated South) a store simply hung a sign that said “No Coloreds” allowed. Today a store wouldn’t dream of doing that and yet most black people I know, and most black celebrities have a story (often more than one) about being blatantly denied service at a store due to race. In the case of Oprah Winfrey on two separate occasions at two different stores the stores in question locked the doors and claimed to be closed when she attempted to enter. In the case of Condoleezza Rice , a sales clerk questioned whether she could actually afford the jewelry she was eyeing. To those who have never endured such experiences, they may sound like minor indignities. But the Trayvon Martin case illustrates how easily subtle racism — which usually involves racial profiling — can escalate from indignity to death. One installment of CNN’s “Black in America,” hosted by Soledad O’Brien, actually noted that many black parents are so conscientious of such profiling that those with teenage boys often provide them with a prepared speech for interacting with police officers to avoid them becoming another Robbie Tolan , the unarmed Houston teen shot by an officer who mistakenly believed Tolan had stolen the car he was driving. (He hadn’t.) O’Brien noted that this unofficial profiling speech is so pervasive within the black community it cuts across class lines. From working class black Americans to A-list celebrities, many of them consider the profiling talk just as important, if not more so, than the birds and bees talk. Trayvon Martin is a powerful reminder of why. Only who knew that we would come to a point where the profiling “talk” would have to be revised by parents to not only include police officers, but any man who may see you as a so-called threat because of the color of your skin. (On that note, some critics have blamed Martin’s attire for his death. See my reply and others, here and here .) Which brings me back to the legacy of Trayvon Martin. Much like Emmett Till’s racially charged murder in 1955 at the age of fourteen forced our country to finally confront the brutality of Jim Crow as more than just a “Southern problem” but a national shame, my hope is that Trayvon’s death will spark long overdue outrage and ultimately, a movement against, the subtle racism known as profiling that has risen in Jim Crow’s wake. The fact that so many people of diverse political persuasions have condemned his killing gives me hope. I pray that this, and the lives he may ultimately help save, give his family peace. It is clichÃƒÂ© to say in times of tragedy, “I know some good will come from this,” but in this case I believe it to be true. I have to. We all do. Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate and a Contributing Editor for Loop21.com where this post originally appeared.
Melissa Harris-Perry What does it mean to be a young black male in the United States?
Arizona is on a roll. First, state lawmakers offered up a proposal which would’ve limited women’s access to contraception, now one state lawmaker is proposing that women seeking an abortion be forced to watch an abortion being performed prior to getting the procedure. State Rep. Terri Proud sent the following reply to one of her [...]
I wait for an era when young Black men will no longer have to live in fear. Decades after the abolishment of slavery, we were haunted by the reality of being hunted down, beaten and lynched by both everyday citizens and law enforcement. Young boys like Emmett Till were openly and viciously murdered because of the sentiments of bigoted individuals who believed they had the right to carry out their own brand of injustice. Today, Black (and Latino) youth are routinely targeted, profiled and ‘mistakenly’ shot by those sworn to serve and protect us (i.e. Sean Bell). And now, in what can only be described as the most blatant form of vigilante murder, a 17-year-old named Trayvon Martin loses his life at the hands of self-proclaimed ‘crime stopper.’ But the only crime here is that this killer has ended poor Trayvon’s life under the guise of his own preconceptions and has not been charged, nor arrested. We will head to Florida to ensure that all that changes immediately. On Thursday, March 22 at 7 p.m., National Action Network (NAN) and I will convene an urgent rally at the First Shiloh Baptist Church in Sanford, FL. to demand justice for Trayvon Martin. We will be joined by community leaders and concerned citizens from all ethnicities, backgrounds and walks of life that cannot even begin to comprehend this nightmarish situation. A young teenager walking home, armed only with candy and a drink, should never lose his/her life because someone in a gated community feels ‘threatened.’ George Zimmerman, the accused adult shooter, is roaming the earth freely while Trayvon’s mother, father and family members must bury their precious child. It is an atrocious miscarriage of justice, and we demand that authorities in Florida arrest Zimmerman immediately and charge him for the crime of murder. Anyone with sound reasoning cannot disagree. In 2005, the state of Florida enacted one of the toughest ‘stand your ground’ self-defense laws which allowed civilians to use deadly force against ‘intruders’ or anyone they believed was a ‘threat’ to their life. Supported — and in many ways lobbied — by the National Rifle Association, these laws don’t require a person to retreat from the situation, thereby allowing them to even pursue someone who ‘threatens’ them. The legislation not only protects individuals from prosecution, but goes so far as barring them from civil suits in many cases as well. As the model for dozens of other states that now carry similar laws, the Florida self-defense rule creates an environment where anyone at any moment can claim they were fearful of someone as a justification for cold-blooded murder. And that’s exactly what we see here in the tragic case of Trayvon Martin. In the recently released 911 tapes of that fateful day, Zimmerman was clearly told to stand down by authorities, but he didn’t comply. Many eyewitnesses said they heard screams of help, but no one came to Trayvon’s assistance in time to save his life. Zimmerman claimed he had spotted a ‘suspicious’ individual, and as several news outlets have reported, he pursued Trayvon, not the other way around. In a society that still views young men of color as threatening, dangerous and suspicious without cause, these self-defense laws in Florida and elsewhere give free rein for anyone to openly kill those that they may not like or those that make them feel uncomfortable because of their own inherent prejudices. And the race/ethnicity of Zimmerman or any citizen in this type of scenario doesn’t matter, because at the end of the day, it is the race of the victim — Trayvon — that does matter. It is his race and his demographic that is consistently depicted as the threat, and negatively portrayed in popular culture. A few years ago, a man in Oklahoma City shot and killed a 16-year-old who allegedly tried to rob the drugstore where he worked. This pharmacist attempted to plea self-defense, but because he shot the teenager in the head, chased someone else out and returned to shoot the kid five more times as he lay on the floor, he was sentenced to first-degree murder. Young Trayvon’s only crime was buying a pack of skittles and walking through the wrong neighborhood. He had his entire life ahead of him and we demand justice without delay. Zimmerman must be held accountable. Join us in Sanford on Thursday as we call for a repeal to Florida’s outrageous self-defense laws. It’s about Trayvon’s life, not supposed self-defense. I’m still waiting for the day that young Black men (and women) can walk freely in any neighborhood without fearing for their lives.
by Yvette Carnell Pastor and former Bush aid Joe Watkins discussed a controversial, and recently torn down, billboard which depicted a black man in shackles and read, “Slaves, Obey Your Masters.” Watkins called the billboard â€œhurtfulâ€ and â€œmean-spiritedâ€ for depicting the image of a shackled slave beside the quote from Colossians 3:22. I, however, suspect [...]
During her remarks at this year’s Newsweek/Daily Beast Women in the World Summit , former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright reiterated one of her favorite maxims: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” According to a new study, it looks like the ladies’ room in hell will be quite crowded. Just in time for International Women’s Day, which was March 8, London-based company Business Environment released a study of 1,000 women, and let’s just say the results didn’t exactly scream, “Girl power!” The study found that 25 percent of female managers expressed reluctance to hire a woman who has children or is of a child-bearing age, while 72 percent admitted to judging female coworkers for what they deemed inappropriate dress, compared with just 60 percent of men. The findings seem to confirm earlier data, including a 2010 study from the Workplace Bullying Institute, that found that when women are accused of workplace bullying, the targets are almost always other women, in numbers that outpace the number of men accused of bullying other men. So why should we care if a few women engage in a bit of Mean Girls behavior around the office water cooler? Because the long-term ramifications for all women are much greater than just a few hurt feelings. The bullying directed by some women in the workplace appears to rear its ugly head in the voting booth. Though women have comprised both the majority of the population ( 51 percent ) and the majority of the electorate ( 56 percent ) in recent years, women have struggled to translate these numbers into any representative majority in elected offices. According to the 2012 Project at Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics, the U.S. currently ranks 71st worldwide in terms of female elected officials — just behind someplace called Turkmenistan. While there have been some high-profile successes here and there, Governors Nikki Haley and Susana Martinez being recent examples, last election cycle the number of female members of Congress dipped for the first time in more than three decades. This step backward in the House, combined with our country’s inability to elect women — of either party — to the highest or even second-highest office in the land (something nations like Pakistan have done) begs the uncomfortable question: if women are the majority of American voters, then does the blame for the dearth of women leaders lie with women voters? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Gov. Sarah Palin, and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann may have little in common, politically speaking, but one common bond they all share is running, and failing, at the highest level and on the biggest stage in politics — and being a lightning rod for female voters while doing so. Though some female voters were their biggest supporters, many others were their toughest critics, with few occupying the middle ground. According to the Associated Press , these two extremes are not limited to these three women, who many consider polarizing: An AP analysis of data from the 2006 American National Election Study Pilot Test found that when it came to selecting a candidate for president, gender matters more for women than for men. But it’s a two-way street; women are more likely to vote for a candidate because she is female, and also more likely to dismiss a candidate because of her gender, according to the analysis. While it would be easy to dismiss the opposition of these women among women as being partisan-based, it’s not that simple. It was noted during the panel discussion on female leadership at the Women in the World Summit (a panel that featured Gloria Steinem and Jill Abramson of The New York Times , among others) that while Hillary Clinton enjoyed support from women over 50 during the 2008 election, she trailed behind two male opponents for the support of younger women (Barack Obama and John Edwards, respectively). Polls showed that Sarah Palin’s favorability rates were always higher among men even before her personal baggage and struggle to answer questions about her reading habits came to light. At some rallies headlined by Palin during the height of the 2008 presidential campaign, the gender ratio in the crowd reportedly skewed 70-percent male to 30-percent female. “If you look at Sarah Palin, men supported Sarah Palin more than women did,” said Anne Kornblut, who covered the 2008 election for The Washington Post . She added, “Women also look at women’s appearances and judge them just the way men do, and sometimes more harshly… I think women are critics across the board in ways you may even consider sexist if you didn’t know who was saying it.” Tiffany Dufu, president of the White House Project, a nonprofit organization committed to increasing female leadership at the highest levels, including the White House, was more circumspect. “Yes, female voters are tougher on female candidates. Male voters are tougher on them, too. Any individual who does not fit the leadership status quo has to meet a higher bar.” Congresswoman Jackie Speier recalls being surprised by the reaction of female voters to her candidacy for Congress: “When I first ran for Congress in 1979, I was 28 years old, and I kept hearing, ‘I’m not going to vote for her just because she’s a woman,’ and it wasn’t men saying it but women.” Kornblut, who also authored the book Notes from the Cracked Ceiling: Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and What It Will Take for a Woman to Win , adds, “Women look at women running for office and say, ‘I couldn’t do that. I’m a mom with two small kids, and I couldn’t be governor. How could she do that?’ Or they say, ‘Why is she so ambitious? Why does she want to do that when she has a family at home?’” Rep. Speier echoes this sentiment: “For whatever reason, there’s a competition that some women see when other women succeed. We’ve got to change that dynamic. Men see an opportunity of both rising. Women see a threat that somehow if one woman succeeds, another falls.” So how do we begin changing that dynamic? “I think we change it in part with our young girls in soccer and baseball and playing a team sport, so they recognize the power of working together,” Rep. Speier said. “When I was a youngster, that wasn’t available, but it is for this generation. I’m hoping it will have an impact on how they view each other as they move forward.” (Click here to see my interviews with Rep. Speier, Angelina Jolie, and other speakers at the Women in the World Summit.) In the new book INSPIRATION: Profiles of Black Women Changing Our World , CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King weighed in on the competitiveness that so often seems to rear its head among professional women. “It saddens me when women think there’s not enough to go around, because there’s more than enough,” she said. “It’s a big old pie out there. I believe that when you’re good at what you do, it only makes me better.” If only more women agreed. Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate and a contributing editor for Loop21.com , where this post originally appeared.
by Yvette Carnell Much of the attention given to the asinine birth control debate has centered around Catholicism vs. Women’s Health, and when that’s not at the center of the firestorm, it’s the Republican fiction – pushed by Limbaugh – that somehow the taxpayer is footing the bill for the pill. The bigger issue though, [...]