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By Darron Smith Kelli Higgins is a white woman, a photographer, who adopted 13-year old Latrell as a teenager. Latrell is a young African American boy transracially adopted by Kelli and her husband. When Kelli decided to take pictures of her son, she had no idea the reactions that they would evoke. “I put them [...]
The bigger they talk, the weaker they usually are. Ted Nugent is known for being the biggest anti-Obama voice of the Right Wing. He is also considered somewhat racist for attacking the president in a really nasty way. Nugent has even gone as far as stating that he’d like to see President Obama gone…for good…sent [...]
I don’t like Steve Harvey – yes, I said it. To be more precise, since I’ve never met the man personally, I don’t like what Steve Harvey represents. There is an arrogance — a barely sheathed tone of alpha-male superiority that permeates everything he spews from politics to relationships — that simply makes my skin crawl. In his controversial [...]
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.
America and the world owe a great debt to Occupy Wall Street for making the problem of economic inequality impossible to ignore. The tiny spark that began in Zuccotti Park just six weeks ago has triggered a major shift in the national dialogue on inequality, our economy and our democracy. Now it’s time to begin a conversation about solutions — solutions big enough to fit the scale of the problems that Occupy Wall Street has highlighted. Fortunately, the American Dream Movement spent this last summer taking on this very challenge. We are a vast, growing network of progressive organizations and individuals. We are fighting to renew the American Dream and return our country to the principle of liberty and justice, for ALL (not for some). We launched in June 2011, with the support of more than 70 national organizations, including MoveOn.org , Planned Parenthood, Center for Community Change, Campaign for America’s Future, SEIU and AFL-CIO. Since then, more than half a million people have joined our ranks and become members on www.RebuildtheDream.com . We now have membership in every congressional district of the country. In July, the American Dream Movement created an inclusive process to forge a jobs agenda that would put the country back to work without hurting essential programs like Medicare and Medicaid. More than 131,000 people got involved, both online and in person (NOTE: That is nearly three times the number of people who helped craft the Tea Party’s famous”Contract from America.”) Participants generated more than 20,000 ideas, then rated and ranked them to identify the best ones. The outcome was our 10-point program: the Contract for the American Dream . The common sense remedies in the Contract are based on the fundamental idea that a functioning U.S. economy requires opportunity for all and responsibility from all. Here are the ten items: I. Invest in America’s Infrastructure – Rebuild our crumbling bridges, dams, levees, ports, water and sewer lines, railways, roads, and public transit. Invest in high-speed Internet and a modern, energy-saving electric grid. These investments will create good jobs and rebuild America. II. Create 21st Century Energy Jobs – Invest in American businesses that can power our country with innovative technologies like wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal systems, hybrid and electric cars, and next-generation batteries. And put Americans to work making our homes and buildings energy efficient. We can create good, green jobs in America, address the climate crisis, and build the clean energy economy. III. Invest in Public Education – Provide universal access to early childhood education, make school funding equitable, invest in high-quality teachers, and build safe, well-equipped school buildings for our students. This is critical for our future and can create badly needed jobs now. IV. Offer Medicare for All – Expand Medicare so it’s available to all Americans, and reform it to provide even more cost-effective, quality care. The Affordable Care Act is a start, but it’s not enough. We can save trillions of dollars by joining every other industrialized country — paying much less for health care while getting the same or better results. V. Make Work Pay – Grant all Americans the right to fair minimum and living wages, to organize and collectively bargain, to enjoy equal opportunity, and to earn equal pay for equal work. Corporate assaults on these rights must be outlawed. VI. Secure Social Security – Keep Social Security sound, and strengthen the retirement, disability, and survivors’ protections Americans earn through their hard work. Pay for it by removing the cap on the Social Security tax, so that upper-income people pay into Social Security on all they make, just like the rest of us. VII. Return to Fairer Tax Rates – End, once and for all, the Bush-era tax giveaways for the rich, which the rest of us — or our kids — must pay eventually. Outlaw corporate tax havens and tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas. And with millionaires and billionaires taking a growing share of our country’s wealth, let’s add new tax brackets for those making more than $1 million annually. VIII. End the Wars and Invest at Home – Bring home our troops. They’ve done everything asked of them, and it’s time to bring them home to good jobs. We’re sending $3 billion each week overseas that we should be investing to rebuild America. IX. Tax Wall Street Speculation – Make Wall Street pay. A tiny fee of a twentieth of 1% on each Wall Street trade could raise tens of billions of dollars annually with little impact on actual investment. This would reduce speculation, “flash trading,” and outrageous bankers’ bonuses. X. Strengthen Democracy – Hold clean, fair elections — where no one’s right to vote can be taken away, and where money doesn’t buy you your own member of Congress. We must ban anonymous political influence, slam shut the lobbyists’ revolving door in D.C., and publicly finance elections. Immigrants who want to join in our democracy deserve a clear path to citizenship. We must stop giving corporations the rights of people when it comes to our elections. And we must ensure our judiciary’s respect for the Constitution. Many elements of the Contract are already under consideration in various forms in Congress, even as we speak. The idea of taxing Wall Street speculation at this moment in history should be a no-brainer. Let’s bring all ten points through the political system. There’s always a danger that even mass protest will not result in concrete policy change or real-life improvements for ordinary Americans. The challenge we face is critical: It is time to turn this unleashed energy into power. We must go beyond changing the conversation on inequality to also changing the conditions under which millions of Americans are suffering economically. Let’s use this pivotal moment in history to make America work for the 99%
“If #occupyoakland was in Damascus, U.S. State department would be telling Wolf Blitzer how unacceptable it was to teargas peaceful marchers.” @techsoc As two activists who have called Oakland home, we are appalled at the events of our city in the last 36 hours. Last night the country joined us to watch in anguish as the Oakland Police Department, with back up from a dozen law enforcement agencies from around the region, used excessive levels of force against hundreds of mostly peaceful Occupy Oakland protesters. In a city with a long and painful record of police violence, it is especially disturbing to witness scenes of women, children, the elderly, and the disabled under assault by rubber bullets and tear gas. This kind of crackdown is bad for our democracy, and it’s bad for public safety. Mayors and police chiefs at Occupy sites across the country should take note: this is the wrong way to respond to the Occupy movement. Oakland, one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the nation, is a true reflection of the 99%. For this reason, the Occupy movement stands directly for the people of Oakland — so many of whom have lost their homes, lost their jobs, and lost the services they rely on. Our city’s unemployment rate is over 10%. People are angry. Let us not forget that this frustration and anger is real and justified. Oakland also has a rich history of protest and political action. Occupy Oakland builds upon this legacy. Sitting at lunch counters and burning bras were symbolic political acts of previous generations, acts which we now celebrate as part of American history. The Occupy protests should be allowed to continue, as should all political expressions protected under our Constitution’s First Amendment. Therefore it is even more embarrassing and unfathomable that the City would so badly miss the mark in its treatment of Occupy Oakland. Let us be clear: there is no justification for the use of violence against a non-violent protest. The vast majority of people were peacefully marching and demonstrating. The police department and the mayor should apologize for an inexcusable use of excessive force . And they should publicly commit to ending these tactics immediately Finally, let us remember what the Occupy movement is actually about. Regrettably, the City of Oakland’s mis-step last night shifted the focus to a “police vs people” narrative, distracting from the real problem: the big banks and corporations responsible for causing our economic crisis. The Occupy movement is powerful, not because it is fighting for the rights of a few hundred people to sleep outdoors, but because it is fighting for the right of millions of Americans to sleep indoors. These excessive responses from law enforcement, from Atlanta to Oakland, not only violate the law, but take our collective eye away from the economic violence occurring daily in this country. Today, the mayor and police department should apologize. And they should apologize loudly and sincerely. And then tomorrow, they should join us all in fighting for the 99%. P.S. Our hearts and prayers go to Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen who was injured after being hit in the head with a police projectile at the Occupy Oakland rally 10/25/11. Olsen is a member of Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against The War (IVAW). We encourage people to send donations to IVAW who are currently accepting donations for Olsen and his family.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is making a cowardly attempt to end Occupy Wall Street, the anchor of a movement that has captured the hearts and minds of the country in just four weeks. Tomorrow at 7 a.m., under Bloomberg’s orders, the NYPD will evict the 99%. Unless we stop that from happening. We have very little time to act. There are at least three things you can do right now: SIGN THIS PETITION now. MoveOn.org has started a major petition drive to tell Mayor Bloomberg: “Respect the protesters’ First Amendment rights. Don’t try to evict Occupy Wall Street.” The petition will be put in the hands of the occupiers TONIGHT, and then delivered to the mayor. A massive stack of signatures will show Occupy Wall Street and Bloomberg that the nation stands with the 99%, not the 1%. Tell everyone you know in the New York area that they should head to Zuccotti Park at 6:00 AM tomorrow (Friday Oct 14) to prevent Bloomberg from evicting the protesters. If enough people literally stand with the protesters, Bloomberg could back down. Call 311 (if you live in New York City) or 212-NEW-YORK (if you live elsewhere in the US) and demand that Bloomberg back down from interfering with the occupiers’ brave stand on behalf of the 99% of us. The mayor’s justification for this eviction is a ruse. Bloomberg says authorities need to “clean” the park. Meanwhile, he refuses to acknowledge that Occupy Wall Street has a functioning sanitation detail, just as they’ve self-organized every other aspect of their dignified, intentional community (including a working library). Bloomberg says the protestors may return after the “cleaning,” but this also is less than honest. Upon returning to the park, occupiers must follow rules that make the occupation impossible: no camping; no sleeping bags; no tents; no lying down; no storage of personal property. Make no mistake — this is an eviction. Winter is coming, and the occupiers cannot continue without the ability to stay safe, warm, and dry. This is about more than just one protest. What’s at stake is the very right we have as Americans to speak out when we’ve been wronged, and to peaceably assemble as a community to seek redress from the government. Occupy Wall Street is resonating with the American people. More than a thousand occupations have sprung up in cities and towns everywhere, following the example set by those in New York City. As Al Gore said, Occupy Wall Street is a “primal scream of American democracy.” This beautiful manifestation of moral clarity and dignified, nonviolent protest must be allowed to continue.
Whenever people champion change or challenge the status quo, distractors will undoubtedly come. They will call you anarchists, extremists, troublemakers and try to paint you as the problem. They will dismiss your grievances and cast doubt on your purpose, but remember that they did the same to some of our greatest leaders that pushed for change. Today, I joined with the demonstrators of Occupy Wall Street as I broadcast my radio show live on location; Saturday I will lead National Action Network’s (NAN) rally for jobs and justice in Washington, DC. As we address issues like corporate greed, an increasing wealth gap, lack of employment and unequal access in society, we will march on for our collective future. Don’t let the train of progress roll right past you. For weeks, the disenfranchised have been gathering in Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan to voice their discontent with banks, other financial institutions and corporations that led to our economic downfall while amassing their own wealth. At a time when millions of Americans are without work, and economic disparity is at astronomical levels, we need immediate financial reform, job growth and a level playing field. Earlier, I broadcast my radio show, Keepin’ it Real live from the park in the heart of the Occupy demonstration from 1-4 PM ET because I heard the frustration and anguish in the protesters voices and I am not oblivious to their suffering. In five days, I will be heading to the nation’s capital to lead our annual march for jobs and justice. We at NAN have been advocating for a redistribution of wealth for years that allows the historically marginalized to share in the benefits of society. Today, as more and more Americans find themselves outside of the small percentage that controls the bulk of our capital, we urge everyone to join us on October 15th as we raise similar concerns and seek solutions to these most egregious injustices of our times. The day following our rally and march in Washington, the official Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. monument unveiling ceremony will take place. There was a time when this most noble civil rights leader in our nation was castigated and dismissed as an anarchist. There was a time when people said he was simply a troublemaker out to create havoc and instability. And there was a time when they did anything and everything to disparage his character and halt his mission. But Dr. King pressed on, just as we must press on today. If you are unable to join an Occupy rally in your city, or you cannot make it to our demonstration in Washington, be sure to actively create change in your immediate surroundings. Support the President’s jobs bill, hold Congress accountable and call out all those that are willing to keep our country hostage for their own political gain. We — the people — cannot be duped, nor can we be bought. Whether it’s Occupy Wall St. or the annual rally for Jobs & Justice, we will continue on until justice prevails. Dr. King didn’t allow the naysayers to deter him; nor should we.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been over two years since the world first mourned the loss of the King of Pop. While some of his fans expressed remorse on June 25, 2009, many knew that the cost of Michael Jackson’s death went far beyond his impeccable music. Although entertainment remains severely devoid of Michael’s unmatched talent, perhaps even more profoundly, many charities and innocents around the planet no longer have the ability to benefit from his overwhelming generosity. And for his children and family, Michael’s departure was and is felt on the deepest level as the daily battle to carry on without him continues. This week, as the involuntary manslaughter trial for Dr. Conrad Murray (his doctor at the time) gets underway, it’s important to keep in mind precisely who the accused criminal is — and who the victim was. During my teenage years, I had the pleasure of first being introduced to Michael. Both blessed to have received mentorship and guidance from the late great Godfather of soul, James Brown, we quickly formed a kinship and bond that was virtually like family. Even though I focused on advocacy/activism and he on creating incredible music, we were on the same social and political page and worked through our respective fields to bring light to inequality wherever and whenever we viewed it. Our friendship lasted through the decades, through all of the ridiculous false accusations and through a media frenzy that tried its hardest to paint him as somehow odd or peculiar when he was only highlighting our own abnormality as a society. In 1984, during Michael’s Victory Tour, I took on the role of his community relations director. Working in such a capacity, I again witnessed the unprecedented reaction people from all walks of life had towards this man, his music and impact in the world. And whether it was openly reminding all of us to ‘heal the world’ or quietly giving away hundreds of millions of his own wealth to the impoverished, Michael’s imprint everywhere was remarkable. And yet, many still attempted to portray him as somehow peculiar. Dr. Conrad Murray is on trial this week. Accused of violating standards of medical care by leaving Michael unattended and failing to call 911, his defense will do whatever they can to keep him from serving jail time. They’ll argue his innocence, his years of service and most importantly, they will attempt to put Michael on trial yet again. Already this week, we heard the defense argue that Michael died from a combination of tranquilizers and a surgical anesthetic he took without Murray’s knowledge. Defense attorney Ed Chernoff even stated that Michael took enough prescription drugs to ‘put six of you to sleep’ and then somehow he self-administered Propofol (anesthetic usually used in hospitals). It is an outrageous statement compounded by the fact that it is Dr. Murray himself that stands accused of administering Propofol in excessive quantities and then leaving Michael unattended. Great talent comes with great consequences. As an artist, when you are so intricately in touch with emotions, and think and feel on a deeper level than most, you are often viewed as an outsider when you don’t conform to conventional norms. That is the double-edged sword Michael dealt with throughout his lifetime. I had the unique pleasure of getting to know him for years and working with him on a host of issues. In 2002, Michael came to our National Action Network headquarters in Harlem as we marched together to Sony Music along with hundreds of supporters to demand his right to ownership of the very masterpieces he created. And I watched as many often tried — and of course failed — to vilify him over and over again. As I told Michael’s children during his funeral in ’09, there was nothing strange about your daddy, it was strange what your daddy had to deal with. As the strangeness unfortunately plays out yet again in another court drama over two years after Michael’s passing, let’s be sure to remember precisely who is on trial here.