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Showing posts from February, 2014

My Brother's Keeper: Addressing the generational cycles of racism

Last night Chris Hayes hosted a conversation about President Obama's new initiative "My Brother's Keeper" with professors Imani Perry and Jelani Cobb. Due to the fact that this initiative will primarily be privately funded, the title of the segment was The Politics of Philanthropy . In it both the host and the guests made assumptions that are simply untrue. Their first error was to assume that philanthropy only funds programs that address the needs of individuals to the exclusion of public policy. I know from my own experience of working in nonprofits that this is simply not true. Many of the individuals and foundations with which I came in contact were transitioning into providing support for systemic change - recognizing that an either/or approach was not sufficient, but that both are needed. I also know that many organizations struggle with this tension. As children of color are literally being lost daily, limited resources often mean making decisions about whe

GOP on the issues for 2014: FAIL

I keep hearing that Republicans are expected to do well in the 2014 midterm elections. So I'm trying to figure out what issues they'll be running on. Here's how the landscape looks to me: Obamacare  - We hear a lot these days about how the main focus for Republicans will be to run against Obamacare. But is sure seems like every time they highlight a scare story about its implementation - it turns out to be a hoax . Then yesterday's Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll was bad news for the Republicans in that it showed that a majority of Americans want Congress to keep the health care law in place.  Furthermore, Republicans keep fumbling with the "replace" part of "repeal and replace." CBO just scored their latest attempt and said it would mean that 1 million people would lose their health insurance and it would cost an additional $73 billion. Government Spending  - Reducing government spending has been the standard "go-to" message f

What Democrats need to do to maintain the "coalition of the ascendant"

We've seen how it worked. In both 2008 and 2012, President Obama put together a " coalition of the ascendant " that recognized the changing face of America and beat the historical odds to win two national elections. That coalition was made up of people of color, millenials and college educated white people (mostly women). But while pundits are warning Republicans that if they don't reach out to Latinos their Party is doomed in the future, most of the advice they are giving Democrats tends to ignore the very coalition that brought this success to Democrats. The narrative that we hear most often is all about a progressive populism that focuses primarily on income inequality. And so I'd like to counter that narrative by suggesting that there are some things Democrats need to do in order to maintain the momentum started by President Obama and build on the success of the coalition of the ascendant. First and foremost, they need to go "all in" on the 201

The current GOP battle is between those who are telling the lie and those who believe it

Nothing that has happened over the last few years illustrates the vacuity of the current Republican Party better than the recent vote on raising the debt ceiling. As you might know, it passed the House primarily with Democratic votes and then went to the Senate. Minority Leader McConnell's plan was to allow it to pass there with only Democratic votes - giving Republicans the cover of claiming that they did not support it. But Sen. Cruz threw a monkey wrench in those plans by insisting on a super majority of 60 votes for passage. That forced McConnell and a few others to actually vote FOR raising the debt ceiling in order to avoid a global economic crisis. Take a listen to how Sen. Cruz talks about all this to CNN's Dana Bash. Republican leadership said we want this to pass, but if every senator affirmatively consents to doing it on 51 votes, then we can all cast a vote 'no' and we can go home to our constituents and say we opposed it. And listen, that sort of show

White privilege: Embracing the lie

At least Ross Kaminsky  acknowledges that Michael Dunn (the man who murdered Jordan Davis)  is a racist. He seems to use the word “thug” as a synonym for “young black male.” In a letter he wrote from jail to his grandmother, Dunn said, “The Jail is full of blacks and they all act like thugs. This may sound a bit radical but if more people would arm themselves and kill these (expletive) idiots when they're threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior.” In my opinion, stipulating that my information is limited, Dunn seems to be an angry racist who was looking for trouble. But I expect he mirrors the feelings a lot of white people have to the recent verdict in this case. And so its worth deconstructing what he has to say. Kaminsky levels his most virulent criticism at the response of Ta-Nehisi Coates - who provided this historical context. I insist that the irrelevance of black life has been drilled into this country since its infancy, and shall

Dear White America: Its time to get the message

For decades now, black people have been trying to tell us white folks something. Here's how it looked in the 1960's: With the advent of social media, the same message was communicated following the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin via the hashtag #HeIsNotASuspect. @essencemag #HeIsNotASuspect he is a scholar and helper! And Will Not leave this earth before his time purpose — MsKaiTweets (@KaiH23) July 20, 2013 Today, we're seeing black people doing their best to communicate the same thing via the hashtag #dangerousblackkids. #DangerousBlackKids getting ready to steal — Val Rice (@RiceVal) February 17, 2014 Doctoral Students preparing to KickAss BEWARE #dangerousblackkids — Ada RenĂ©e Williams (@MsARW) February 17, 2014 The Gaithersburg high chapter of B.R.O.T.H.E.R.S. Inc is dangerous beause they feed the homeless #dangerousblackkids

Jordan Davis and the heritage of racism

I first heard of the death of Jordan Davis from Melissa Harris Perry when she reacted to it by suggesting that "this is no country for young black men." Then a few nights ago, I got obsessed with watching videos of the testimony in the trial and closing arguments. I became pretty well versed on the issues of the legal case. As we heard the questions emerge from the jury, by yesterday morning I knew what the verdict would be. Last night when it finally arrived, it came as no surprise to me. While I join with those who are disappointed that the jury was deadlocked on the charge of the murder of Jordan, it is important to me that this is NOT the same thing that happened when George Zimmerman was tried for the murder of Trayvon Martin. First of all, Michael Dunn was convicted of attempting to murder the other three boys in the car. For that he will likely be in prison for the rest of his life. And secondly, the prosecutor has already announced that she will re-try Dunn on the

How political journalists gave up the freakin' plot

You've all seen the headlines. Here's one from today: The good health-care news for the White House -- enrollment is no longer a problem Or how about this one: Why the CBO report is (still) bad news for Democrats As someone who loves looking at the big picture, I am particularly glad to see Jay Rosen write about this kind of thing. He zero's in on that second article by Chris Cillizza in a piece aptly titled: Behold how badly our political journalists have lost the freakin' plot . Nobody knows exactly when it happened. But at some point between Teddy White’s The Making of the President, 1960 and the Willie Horton ads in 1988, political journalism in this country lost the plot. When it got overly interested in the inside game, it turned you and me and everyone who has to go into the voting booth and make a decision into an object of technique, which it then tried to assess. We became the people on whom the masters of politics practiced their craft. Then

President Obama's faith: "Maintaining your moral compass"

As someone who is dedicated to trying to understand President Obama, it is always interesting to come across a speech or an interview with him from the past that I haven't seen before. And so I was delighted to find this interview from March 2004 that he did with Cathleen Falsani about his religious faith. If you are interested, I suggest that you go read the whole thing. But I'm going to excerpt a few things he said that stood out to me. First of all, he recounts a history that we have all become familiar with by now. 
I am a Christian. 
So, I have a deep faith. So, I draw from the Christian faith.
 On the other hand, I was born in Hawaii where obviously there are a lot of Eastern influences. 
I lived in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, between the ages of six and 10. 
My father was from Kenya, and although he was probably most accurately labeled an agnostic, his father was Muslim.
 And I’d say, probably, intellectually I’ve drawn as much from Judaism a

"My Brother's Keeper"

Anyone who has listened regularly to President Obama's speeches knows that there is a refrain that he returns to over and over again because it makes up the core of his values. Here is how we were first introduced to it in his 2004 speech at the Democratic Convention : For alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga. A belief that we are connected as one people. If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandmother. If there's an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It's that fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper that makes this country wor

NSA AND Drones...Oh My!

Anyone who has been watching Glenn Greenwald for as long as I have can probably get inside his head and figure out his strategies. So with the launch of the first stage of his new media platform, it doesn't surprise me that he went with a story that could maximize the fear-mongering by combining talk of drones AND the NSA . The gist of the "revelations" is that the Obama administration uses signal intelligence collected by NSA to target the SIM cards of suspected terrorists for drone strikes. First of all...DUH!!! Their big leap is to suggest that since this is not coupled with affirmation from human intelligence, mistakes are likely. Yet they provide not one single piece of actual evidence to back up that claim. In addition to the fact that their sources for this story seem to rely almost exclusively on the use of intelligence and drone strikes in Afghanistan (where we are clearly still engaged in a war with the Taliban), their assumption is that these mistakes inev

The Faces of Change

I promised pictures of the Moral March , and here they are. These are just a few of the photographs taken by an amazing photographer Adrian Resa Jones . You can see her whole flickr page from the march at that link. Those, my friends, are the faces of change. And when you put them all together - they look like this... So if you are ever tempted to get discouraged and think the lunatics are winning, just go take a look at these faces and rest assured that, as Rev. Barber said: So we're not confused, we're not schizophrenic, we are quite clear, we're clothed in our right minds, WE KNOW WHO WE ARE, we believe we've been born for this moment. Anybody that thought difficulties would depress us better look again. Resurrection always wins. Justice always wins. Love always wins. Courage always wins.

"North Carolina is ground zero" (updated w/ video of #MoralMarch)

The national media has collectively decided that the next wave of a liberal movement for Democrats will come in the form of populism fueled by income inequality. Occupy Wall Streeters take the credit for igniting this movement while liberal bloggers promote politicians like Sen. Elizabeth Warren as its leaders. Meanwhile, only a few are paying attention to the actual movement underway in North Carolina...the one being led by Rev. Dr. William Barber and the NC NAACP called "Moral Mondays." Yesterday that movement drew 80,000 to 100,000 for the Moral March in Raleigh, North Carolina. Ari Berman is one of those few journalists who is paying attention. The Moral Monday protests transformed North Carolina politics in 2013, building a multiracial, multi-issue movement centered around social justice such as the South hadn’t seen since the 1960s. “We have come to say to the extremists, who ignore the common good and have chosen the low road, your actions have worked in reverse,”

Reality check

These guys just won the Superbowl... ...while this ad aired. The next day, Vanity Fair released their latest cover photo of Hollywood's biggest stars... ...and lets not forget that all that happened while this family occupies the White House. Any surprise that the racists are going a bit nuts?


I wonder if any of you - like me - grew up being told that children are to be seen but not heard. If so, then you'll understand why I find these to be some of the most powerful pictures of President Obama. And here is perhaps my very favorite picture. It was taken back during the 2008 primary when not many people were paying attention to that skinny guy with the funny name. I imagine that all this little girl knew was that she had his undivided attention. Recently Jim Stuart has written about the fact that one of the characteristics of an integral leader is their ability to engage in deep listening. It's hard to describe this deep listening that is the foundation of the integral leader's personal power. You the reader need to reach into your personal experience for a time, a moment when you felt totally seen, totally heard - as if the person listening to you was offering you a safe, even sacred space in which to be heard. If only for

The struggle is both/and, not either/or

Ta-Nehisi Coates has done it again. What I LOVE about him is that he reaches down into the struggle in his soul and lays it all bare - and so beautifully written. Barack Obama was not prophecy. Whatever had been laid before him, it takes gifted hands to operate, repeatedly, on a country scarred by white supremacy. The significance of the moment comes across, not simply in policy, by in the power of symbolism. I don't expect, in my lifetime, to again see a black family with the sheer beauty of Obama's on such a prominent stage. (In the private spaces of black America, I see them all the time.) I don't expect to see a black woman exuding the kind of humanity you see here on such a prominent stage ever again. (In the private spaces of black homes, I see it all the time.) And no matter how many times I've seen it in my private life, at Howard, in my home, among my close friends, I don't ever expect to see a black man of such agile intelligence as the current presiden