Category Archives: Politics

Two cents worth: on the benefit of the doubt

Comedian D. L. Hughley said on his radio talk show recently that “the benefit of the doubt” was definitely racist.  His crew on the show laughed, as did myself and many other Americans, similarly situated.  We laughed because we didn’t want to cry.  The fact is that the benefit of the doubt i.e. innocent until proven guilty seldom, if ever, applies to African Americans.  Here’s my two cents worth on it.

Just looked what happened in Texas on September 6, 2018. A 26- year-old, black man, alone in his apartment after work was shot to death by an off duty female white police officer, who thought he was in her apartment.  The victim, Botham Jean had just text his sister about his plans to chill for the evening and catch a football game on television.  He lived on the fourth floor, the cop officer Amber R. Guyger, 30, lived directly below him.  Somehow, she got off the elevator on the wrong floor, went in through and open door and fired her service weapon twice, striking him once in the torso. He died later at the hospital: tried, sentenced and convicted by a cop’s fear.

So it should be no surprise to anyone that African Americans know very little about the benefit of the doubt.  There are more cases like this than I have space to write about. You know there’s the infamous Central Park Five.  Back in 1989 five young black men were wrongfully convicted of raping a woman jogging in New York City.   Then real estate baron, Donald Trump, led the charge condemning the boys, even signing full-page newspaper advertisements implicitly calling for the boys to be put to death. Not surprisingly, all five of the boys were found guilty, based on circumstantial evidence alone: no eye witnesses; no DNA, just confessions of juveniles after many hours of questioning without their parents. They were sentenced to jail terms, ranging from five to 10 years and five to 15.  (Note: the oldest of these boys was tried as an adult, yet was under 18 just like the nominee for SCOTUS.)

Then in 2002, a serial rapist and murderer, already serving life inside, came  confessed to the Central Park rape. A re-examination of DNA evidence proved it was the convicted rapist alone, whose semen has been found on the victim’s body.  After three years, just before Christmas that year, the convictions against each member of the Central Park Five were vacated by New York’s supreme court.

There were no newspaper ads about that. You know how the benefit of the doubt was not accorded  these guys and they had been wrongfully convicted.  None of that. So please forgive us, when there are credible allegations against a nominee for the Supreme Court, when a victim gives a gut wrenching first hand account, and it is ignored, for thinking that the benefit of the doubt must be a part of a privilege we are not afforded as citizens.

Maybe we should be glad Kavanaugh got it.. One thing for sure is that we should pray and hope that from this day forward, black folks, red folks, brown folks, immigrants, LGBTQ and others will all get to know what it’s like to be innocent until proven, beyond the shadow of a doubt, to be guilty.  What scares us the most are the words of the poet, Langston Hughes, “America, never was America to me.”

 

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Diplomatically Speaking

Last Saturday (November 12, 2016), the American Medical Association, AMA honored Dr. Omalu with its Distinguished Service Award.  The award is a well-deserved honor, and probably long overdue, for a man, who despite being denigrated, maintained his professionalism and spoke truth to power.  There’s a lesson here for all of us, moving forward into a new political era.

Dr. Bennet I. Omalu, MD, MBA, MPH, was working as a forensic neuropathologist in Pittsburgh, when he conducted postmortem examinations of former NFL offensive lineman Mike Webster’s brain. He spotted what would become the hallmarks of CTE, a chronic traumatic encephalopathy, caused by repetitive brain trauma, resulting in lots of bad plague in the brain and leading to a new type of dementia. Omalu published this case in 2005; and subsequently, identified CTE in the postmortem examinations of many other former NFL players.

dr-omalu

If you saw Will Smith’s movie, Concussion, or heard about it, or think about it for two seconds, you’ll realize the National Football League, NFL did not welcome this information.  Remember, the witch singing in, The Wiz, “don’t nobody bring me, no bad news.”  Yet, Omalu even when faced, with concerted efforts:  to discredit him and his research, verbal insults and abuse, pressure on his firm to let him go, and even death threats, stayed the course.

Today, because of Omalu, CTE is widely recognized as a health risk in millions of patients with histories of repetitive brain trauma, including military veterans. Dr. Omalu knew he had to fight for those who needed help and didn’t know it and those who could no longer fight for themselves.  He protested by working harder to develop a preponderance of substantive evidence that was undeniable. Even in the face of overwhelming opposition, and having to confront his own fear, Dr. Omalu persisted.  He finally overcame both ignorance and resistance and earned being honored.

Omalu is not an isolated example of diplomatically speaking.  Think about Nathan, a prophet in the Bible’s Old Testament.  Nathan had the thankless task of having to tell King David that his affair with Bathsheba made him both an adulterer and a murderer. Like Omalu, Nathan’s position was absolutely and morally correct; but he needed a strategy for how to talk and be heard. Nathan knew he had to tread softly, when facing someone, who had unlimited power, privilege and authority, plus a huge ego.

nathan-confronting-david

So, in 2 Samuel:12, Nathan chose to tell David a story, which was too compelling for the King to ignore. As he listened, his eyes were opened to see the hurt, and his heart to feel the pain. He not only sympathized; he empathized.

The situation angered the King, and yet blinded, by his own privilege and circle of enablers, David was unwilling or unable to recognize his own faults or sins. Then, Nathan held up a mirror.

The moral from both these stories is that even when unwelcomed, diplomatically speaking, could prick the bubble of indifference.  Equally important, being diplomatic is a way to use your platform, and appeal to the opposition’s humanity; ultimately influencing, possibly changing their viewpoint.

Obama Girls should be saluted; not criticized

The folks who are spending their time sounding off about the Obama girls, all dressed up for the State dinner with the Canadian Prime Minister are making what Shakespeare called, “Much Ado about nothing.”  Here we have two smart, stylish teenagers, who chose dresses that were tasteful and stylish to attend a formal event with their parents.  As the mother of a teenage daughter, who I put in a debutante program, let me tell you, getting Generation X and Millennials in a formal dress, was  and is no easy task.

In eight years, I never read a piece questioning the cost of Laura Bush or her daughters’ dresses.  Those girls has some “wilding out” incidents, involving too much alcohol, but were excused and allowed to grow up, sheltered by their parents.  Now the Obama’s daughters have come of age and are getting to have one-of-a-kind memories, before they leave the White House.

So what’s the issue, that contrary to the erroneous information tweeted, the First Lady’s budget pays for their clothing.  Moreover, as I know from working at Red Book Magazine in New York, if you borrow clothing for an event i.e. photo shoot, when you’re done, you take it back.  That’s what the Obama family has to do when they borrow. And, if its donated it goes to the first lady Museum.  Truth is I could use a museum for some of these bridesmaid dresses, I will never wear again, but I digress.

These girls are good students, respectful, and have no piercings or tattoos or other markings, (don’t get me wrong those could be tasteful), but the point is, these girls are still in the age of innocence.  They are just getting their feet wet in the real world.  Let’s give them a break. It has to be hard enough to listen to those most vile, ignorant and hateful speech about your Dad and Mom, on a daily basis, without being attacked for looking good in a dress.

Remember they are still young, let them grow up without all this bullying.

 

 

 

 

The Colors of the Americas

Some folks are making a lot of noise that our Head of State, Barrack Obama, treated the other American heads of state, like they were Presidents. He treated them with dignity and respect, providing an example in words and deeds on how a President must be a diplomat. Critics from the right are quick to deride shaking hands with Venezuela’s Chavez, who last year at the U.N. called George W. a devil. They also pushed Obama to maintain 50 year old sanctions against Cuba, 90 miles off our southern border, which still has political prisoners.

   But Obama held stuck to his message. He knows that you insult people by not giving them the right to speak their mind. He didn’t agree or acquiesce. He simply listened and understood.  He knew something before he went there about where he was and who he was dealing with. Compare that to President George W. Bush, who went to Brazil and asked if there were any black folks there. Only 90 million. Brazil has the largest concentration of Africans outside of the Motherland. That’s right Portuguese-speaking black folks in Brazil outnumber English speaking black folks in the U.S.  Obama knew this.  He knew that in the America’s: it’s just the U.S. and Canada that are predominantly white.  The rest of the Americas is increasing black, brown, red, and yellow think America Samoa. 

    Obama has taken steps to normalize relations with Cuba. He should. Imagine living in Miami and not being able to go to Cuba just to visit your Momma for the weekend. What did they think?  Who would go and stay in a communist country?  The fact is that we gain respect and make people listen by showing the quality of our liberty, a liberty that respects the right to free speech and listens even when it disagrees. A liberty that engages and does not marginalize, or trivialize. 

   The only place Obama was criticized was here in the U.S.  Well you know what the Bible says about a prophet’s respect at home. Obama is restoring the U.S. standing in the world.  So all he has to do is what he says, “take the Lord with him wherever he goes and keep doing the right thing.”  Critics will rant and rave, while he takes care of business.

Expanding the Culture

Obviously some folks are ignorant about African American culture. How else can you explain someone sending out a card with the White House covered with watermelons instead of eggs for the annual Easter Egg Hunt?  Luckily, we don’t have to depend on ignorant fools to tell us what black culture is.  We have the Obamas for that. And they are doing it up in style.

First, Obama had a superbowl party which was bipartisan.  His team Pittsburg won in a tight, heart-stopping game.  The President showed he understood America’s sport culture.

The first lady was not to be outdone. She celebrated Black History in style. She had a group Sweet Honey in the Rock entertain 200 6th and 7th graders in the East Room.  The culture of call and response poetry, acapella singing, and drama came to life for the kids and the nation.  Only covered intermittenly by the media, it still changed the Black History celebrations forever.

Next the Obamas showed they could hold a formal dinner, black tie with the best of them. They hosted the Governors of all 50 states for a formal state dinner.  The Obamas were gracious to the Governors and their spouses, including Jindal of Louisiana. (We now know he exaggerated and lied in his rebuttal to Obama’s press conference, but then we all knew he wants Obama’s job in 2012.)

But what really put the icing on the cake was the Greshwin award for Stevie Wonder.

Obama the Entertainer

Obama played the role of “first fan” at the Wonder tribute, and opened up about his and his wife’s common enjoyment of Wonder’s music
He gave Stevie credit for getting Michelle to date him.

“As Stevie knows, I’m a huge fan. And he has been a great supporter,” Obama said before presenting the award-winning singer-songwriter with the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song from the Library of Congress.

He said Wonder’s songs “became the soundtrack of my youth” and that in them he “found peace and inspiration, especially in difficult times.”

While some attending the even sat straight in their seats. The President and First Lady were jamming:  clapping, snapping their fingers and singing along.

The bottomline is we know the haters will keep drawing monkeys and watermelons and just trying to get attention, but the Obams wiell have the last work on what black culture and American culture is for the next four years. They are expanding the culture and making int clear that the Cosby Show’s Huxtables were just a hollywood ideal for black families, but the way it is for so many. 

So the haters will hate and we will let them know that we do not suffer fools gladly.  Even Rupert Murdoch himself had to apologize for the monkey joke, the watermelons were met with swift protest and Rush Limbaugh has taken some hits for wanting Obama to fail.

It will continue, but for those of us who’ve waited for black culture and art, music, song and style from the cut of his suit to her short sleeves not that what the Obamas do, not what the haters say, is defining black culture and expanding America’s.

Obama presented the medal to Wonder, then wrapped the singer in a bear hug. As the media were led out of the room, Wonder struck up “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours,” which was a staple of Obama’s campaign rallies.

Atlanta’s Police Convictions in Neal Street assassination

    When undercover cops broke in an 92-year-old woman’s house in Atlanta in 2006, they claimed that three of them were shot.  The media instead of questioning the information, reported that 3 cops had been shot.

    No matter where you went, from the braid shop in West End ot the black bank, nobody believed the report.  The surrrounding community had said foul immediately.  

As more questions came, and one cop retired.  The cops started changing their story.  The news media reported that black families and individuals were shelterin drug dealers. There was a sketch released of someone, rumored to have stayed with Ms. Kathryn Johnston, who allegedly was dealing drugs. 

        Reports claimed drug had been found in the house.  But the truth is that none of that was true.  The police went in the womena’s houwe with a no-knock warrant. She got her little pee shooter of a un, and tried to scare away who was breaking in. They emptied their guns at point blank range and then shot each other to cover up, what has not been called, but was an assassination, or execution.

      Today three cops, all white, got sentenced. The longest sentence was only ten years and the shortest term was only five years.  The cops all changed their pleas and confessed that the pressure of meeting a quota for drug busts led them to lie.

     Now there are so many things wrong. It’s almost hard to know where to begin.  The family of the victim, got the youngh Reverned Markell Hutchings   to be their spokesman. He questioned the police raid and procedures.  Their story fell apart, under just a likttle scrutinly. 

     It is good that the cops have apologized and been sentenced.  But is it fair. OJ Simpson got more time, for trying to recopu his own memorabilia.  The black teenager, who accidentally shoots their elderly neighbor would probably get life.  The bottomline is that extenuating circumstances do not help black folks even in cirmes of passion, like when the abused wife stabs the husband.

    I just wished justice was equal and fair for everyone.  I just wich the whole community acknowledged, in a day of mourning that what happened to Ms. Johnston is not an isolated incident.  It happens all the times. Consider the California case, where a copy said he meant to taser a young man, being held down on the ground and cuffed, but instead shot him at point blank range. 

     There is a national problem with how cops, black or white, treat black suspects. There needs to be a national requirement for multi-cultural and black sensitivity training. 

       Ms. Johnston was sitting in her own home, minding her own business, when cops took her life.  Her blood cries out for justice and the sentences these Atlanta cops got is not propottionate, when considered against the sentences black folks get.

       My young cousin shot a drug dealer in her yard. She’d told him to leave, then went inside and got her pistol.  He bled while riding around the county, not seeking medical assistance. She got 10 years for a first offense.

        Cops are trained to protect and serve.  These Atlanta cops did neither. Their sentences don’t send the message that black life is just as valuable as anybody else’s.

Black Jokes Prove nation is not yet Postracial

  The New York Post’s cartoon of a monkey shot dead by police with a caption about the economic stimulus is not only distasteful, but is provocative of racial stereotypes.                               NY Post Cartoon

It comes from a time not too long ago, particularly when black soldiers were in Europe in World War II, where whites told European women, blacks had tails.  Then there were the justifications for slavery, which suggested that blacks were dumb creatures like apes.

And in the midst of that controversy, my fellow Columbia alum, Eric Holder, in my opinion, hits the nail on the head.  He said:  “Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot in things racial, we have always been, and we, I believe, continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,” Holder said at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. “Though race-related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about things racial.

“This is truly sad. Given all that we as a nation went through during the civil rights struggle, it is hard for me to accept that the result of those efforts was to create an America that is more prosperous, more positively race-conscious, and yet is voluntarily socially segregated.”

Folks have gotten hot over Holder’s remark.  To me that is because the truth hurts.  We are voluntary segregated, just get up on Sunday and go to two churches of the same denomination on the opposite sides of town.

We are not yet comfortable discussing race, if we’re over 22, and I can say that because I think the Millennial generation talks openly.  Although, they still have tensions, they do talk. 

The rest of us still, as Andy Young says, “bear the scar of the Civil Rights movement.”  We have the knowledge of how we were raised and what the times were like. 

As a child I remember my Grandmother insisting we go to the bathroom, because when we went to town the courthouse had “white only” signs.  At the time, I just thought my grandmother hated public toilets and water fountains. I didn’t know  she was sheltering us from racism.

I also remember going up North from my homestate Georgia, to Philadelphia or D.C.  We would take a car trip that include cooking fried chicken, making sandwiches, packing drinks and planning whose house we’d visit on the way. I thought we planned our visits with friends and relatives, stopping in North Carolina, because we wanted to see them.  I didn’t know it was because there were few hotels where we could stay and even less facilties we could use. 

That’s only been 50 years America. We are a young country. That we have tackled head on issues of race and differece that still divide countries hundreds of years older than the U.S. is admirable. But tackling them, even voting for a black man to be President, doesn’t mean we’ve overcome. Not yet.  We aren’t post racial yet. But, we’re moving in that direction. 

All we need to do now is check the folks like the New York Post, who think making racial jokes, is funny.  As the song “Jacob’s Ladder” puts it “every rung goes higher and higher.”  It means we get closer to postracial everytime we, none of us, find the jokes funny.