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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.”


Give the Devil His Due

Like the President or hate him, he is a Master of stealing headlines, leading the broadcast and by any means necessary spinning the news to his liking.  The headlines today should have been dominated by the fact that a district in Philadelphia, that the President won by more than 20 points in 2016, was too close to call, but leaning democratic.  This despite  the fact that both the President and Vice President went and campaigned in person for the Republican incumbent, or dude sitting in the seat.

When it became clear on Tuesday that the Democrats might pull off an upset, with polls showing a slight lead, what does the President do? Pull a rabbit out of his hat? Yes, in a manner of speaking.  He did something he had been hinting at for months, if you paid attention and fired the Secretary of State. How’s that for grabbing the lead? Rex Tillerson, former head of Exxon, could have been dismissed at anytime, since there were numerous instances of their statements downright contradicting each other like when Tillerson tried to play down the President’s intent to build a real wall across the Southern border, engage North Korea and agree that Russia interfered with the 2016 elections.  And let’s not forget that Tillerson allegedly called the President a moron, last October.

So firing him by a Tweet, while Tillerson was flying back from meetings in Africa was guaranteed to dominate the news cycle.  All the talking heads could question and analyze what it meant that he didn’t even call him in person, that subsequently Tillerson’s media person was canned and that the world would be confused with upcoming talks expected with North Korea.  But let’s face it, those headlines and questions are far better than a constant pounding about how the Republicans could lose a seat in an areas the President had won by nearly 20 points and the incumbent had run twice, unopposed.

This feat of media mastery is only surpassed by the President changing the channel from Stormy Weathers suing to get out of a Non-disclosure agreement by announcing direct talks with North Korea.  The South Koreans had only expected to put the idea on the table as an option, knowing there would be pre-conditions like stop nuclear testing, but given the non-ending news cycle on Weathers, Trump jumped on the chance to change the topic.  He did.  Weathers and her antics were lost in the historic first of meeting with North Korea face-to-face, a move suggested by President Obama. Trump telling the media, “I hope you give me credit.”

I agree, let’s give him credit. When it comes to using WMD, weapons of mass distraction, dominating the media’s coverage and changing the subject, this President is in a class by himself.  So let’s give the devil his due; the President is a master at playing the media, like a harp from hell.

And a little child shall lead them

It should not come as a surprise that sometimes to get something done, the Lord has to leave the elders wandering in the wilderness and go on to the “Joshua generation”.  The students, who are survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Highschool massacre in Parkland, Florida, decided to turn their tragedy into a message.  Using social media, with Twitter hashtags such as #NeverAgain and #Enough they are planning many events including a March 14 event in Washington.

Reaction to these passionate, articulate, injured and hopeful kids at minimum should be sympathetic, if not empathetic, regardless of your politics. But, instead opponents, particularly it seems Republicans, like former Savannah Congressman are concerned these students are being used by left-wing anti-gun movement radicals. He wants to know whose financing the kids. Laughable. We, U.S. citizens can get info on whose contributing to political action committees and how much, which is impacting everything from immigration to women’s rights, but if someone is supporting kids who don’t want to live through another machine gun massacre, we need full disclosure.

Come on critics, walk a mile in these kids shoes.  Forget the mile,  just walk across the campus with them.  Think about the hours these kids had to hide, texting their loved ones good-bye in some cases, and scared for their lives, while a lone gunman terrorized them and then just mingled in and walked out with the crowd.

There may be opportunists seeking to jump on the kids band wagon. They may be receiving funding, although as middle class teenagers, just taking the allowance for video games and sneakers could buy them several bus tickets and hotel accommodations. Plus with the advent of such things as Air Bnb and students’ naturally tendency to bunk in with each other and share, their being able to manage trips to the state’s capital.

I don’t know why anyone would think it would be impossible for the most impacted by the tragedy to not take the lead.  We have seen this before.  Students took the lead against denial of citizenship rights to Blacks in the South.  It was college students and then children, marching on Bloody Sunday and the many marches, which followed that aroused the sensitivity of this nation.  It was students, who ended an unpopular war in Vietnam.

Yes these students are younger, but the information age, means kids have access to more information sooner; even a kindergartener can download games and buy things on a cell phone.  My dad used to call them, the push button generation, if there’s a button they can push it.  Their gift of preference for birthdays and holidays are gift cards, some from specific places, most often cash cards from banks or American Express.

Our kids have the money, the access and in this case the interest and the time. As any parent, whose tried to put off getting a family pet knows, the next generation can be very single-minded and determined.  So our failure to act, has force the next generation to rise up, just as it says in Isaiah 11:6…and a little child shall lead them.

We grownups need to get on board the Freedom train and support the kids. They are clear-minded, focused, and they are not going to let anyone turn them around. We need to think about what we do and say, remember its your future and the planet’s you could be taking away.  So forget trying to lick them; join them. Salute!





Stay in the Game

            Our son threw the bat across the field.  My husband rushed down the bleachers to grab him.  By this time, our little boy was having a full temper tantrum. He folded his arms, refused to walk toward the opposing team, called them every ugly name he knew, while pulling his teammates in the opposite direction.  Just as he was about to throw the first punch, my husband grabbed our five-year-old and spun him around.

By the time I joined the duo, tears were streaming down his face, he kept saying “It isn’t fair; I quit.”  My husband asked, “why are you quitting?” He shrugged and said, “they won.”

My husband sat down on the curb, put our son in his lap and explained, “they won today, because they played better, and wanted it more.”  Our son asked, “Dad, can we beat them?”

“Yes you can,” my husband said.

Our son ran to the middle of the field, joining his team as they slapped hands with the opposing team.  When he came back to us, he smiled, “Next time, we’ll win.”

Tuesday’s election reminded me of our child’s heartbreak, over twenty years ago. We urged him then to be a good sport, and keep on playing. In that spirit, the day after the election, I called my friend, Jim, a white Republican male and offered congratulations. Jim voted twice against President Obama, I voted for him. Still, we haven’t’ let what divides us become stronger than what unites us.

During our sixteen-year relationship, we’ve debated politics, without personal insults. We’ve learned that, neither of us is extremely conservative or liberal, we’re middle-of-the-road. We disagree on which party will best achieve our shared values.  But our engagement, reminds the other, although Jim leans to the starboard (right), and I lean to the port side (left), ultimately, we’re in the same boat, and together will sink or float.

That’s how the losing side achieves what our son and his teammates did that next season, win the championship game.



The Elephant in the Room

elephant vs donkeyCould it be that the Hillary Hatred is more about gender than emails? It just seems to me, no pun intended, that Hillary’s gender is the elephant in the room.  It’s there everyone sees it, but no one discusses it.  Her opponent is not only less qualified, he is as the President said recently,” totally unqualified and ill-prepared.” His resume against hers would be laughable, even in a mood of “get rid of the bums.”  See we already know when people say that they mean get rid of the bums from another state, not ours.

How else can you explain that a man who has been twice divorced, swears like a sailor and utters more bigoted things than a Klan member on steroids is even considered worthy to be on the same ballot? In any previous election just one of the Republican nominee’s gaffes and derogatory statements would have been enough to drum him out the race, without the instantaneous echo of Twitter.  What gives him a bullet-proof vest against the bullets and arrows that come up against him readily?  Is it a special teflon coating?  Or is it just the subliminal messaging of, “boys will be boys.”

You ask where does the elephant sit, and the answer is:  anywhere it wants.  That’s because it’s an elephant and who is going to stop it.  In this case, that’s how the media is treating the Republican flag bearer:  he is the nominee and he has certain rights, privileges protections and immunities that come with the titles: male and nominee.  True enough, but that still doesn’t explain why someone hasn’t washed his mouth out with soap.

Could it be that somewhere lurking in the hearts of men, and some women, is a fear and mistrust of a woman’s leadership that is so deep and resentful that it is too embarrassed to face itself?  Instead, it comes out in other ways with words like “weak, lying and devil.”

Hillary’s run for President is historic.  We’ve come a long way.  But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t those who like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, would “rather bear the ills we have than fly to those we know not of.”  In other words, there have been 44 men, so we know about men, but what about a woman?

Yes she’s Superwoman, like Sidney Poitier’s character in “Guess Whose Coming to Dinner,” far above reproach on the resume.  So now its all vague feelings about not liking her as a person, when 99% of us don’t know her personally.  Only in America.  We’ve paid lip service to equality for women for generations, now we get to vote on it. Can’t wait to see the numbers roll in.




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.





Republican Chickens Come Home to Roost

I never thought I would live to see the day, when the Republicans would actually have to sleep in the bed they have made, but it has happened. Witnessing former GOP Presidential Candidate of 2012, Mitt Romney, lashing out against front-runner, Donald Trump in 2016, besides being what my grandmother would have said, “was the pot calling the kettle black,” was also what Malcolm X meant, when he said, “chickens come home to roost.”

Let’s face it, the good book says, “you reap what you sow.” After being obstructionists, and deciding before President Obama could even take the oath of office in 2009, that the Republican response was going to just say, “No”, this party is wondering why the American people are fed up. The Republicans laughed hard when they failed to do their job, and instead let blanket across the board cuts go into effect cutting the same percentage from domestic programs as defense.  Quiet as it’s kept, this was all done in the name of being too chicken to go on the so they just let the funds be “sequestered.” Too bad this no more worked for them, than Pontius Pilate, getting a bowl and claiming he had washed his hands of Jesus blood. Making no decision is making a decision and now the general public is fed up with it.  We send folks to Washington to do a job for the American people and they have failed to do it.

Instead we got government shut downs and failure to address the critical looming crisis in health care and student loans, just to name a few. To the surprise of the elite, who many have not had to do their own grocery shopping, and thought cheap gasoline was all the public really wanted, the average Americans: Jane Q and John Q public are fed up. They have decided they no longer want politicians handling government business and want someone with a record of decision making to take the reins.

Reaction among the Republican Party was to laugh in amusement, to congratulate each other after the 2016 Iowa Caucus did not result in a loss for Trump, and they sat on their hands waiting for nature to take its course. Wrong answer!  Donald Trump has now won ten states and seems unstoppable, at least by the existing Republican competitors.

Perhaps the Republicans should evaluate their past failings and recognize just how much they have fanned the flames of hate and mistrust among group, pitting the lower social economic levels against new arrival immigrants to fight over who is the legitimate poor in the U.S. Meanwhile, the rich keep getting richer, and everyone has realized that for the first time in U.S. history this generation may not leave the next generation better off than it was.

So I guess the time is right for the Republicans and Democrats alike to reconsider what Malcolm X said in an interview in 1964 after Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali)’s victory over Sonny Liston:

If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out, that’s not progress. The progress comes from healing the wound that the blow made and they haven’t even begun to pull the knife out much less try and heal the wound. They won’t even admit the knife is there.

The knife has cut both ways and the U.S. has never been brave enough to have its own version of a truth and reconciliation process to heal its wound. You know that’s where we have hearings, from the heartland to the ghetto, and all around in between and let everyone from the ex-Black Panthers and Blacks Lives Matter Activists, to the Grand Wizard of the KKK and those who “stump for Trump” lay all the cards on the table. We then would calculate the equity, which African Americans have in the system.  Don’t give me that baloney that you can’t calculate reparations, if you owe the bank a debt, it could be hundreds of years old, and they can tell you what you owe them down to the last copper penny, so it can work in reverse too. Reparations can be calculated\ just estimate the labor on all the public buildings and everything else we built, like the phone, and adjust for inflation and you have the amount.  And, we’ll be nice and set up finance plan to be repaid in installments, you know like in those “rent to own” plans you sell in the neighborhood.

II am willing to bet that even when you deduct all the welfare and other benefits like scholarships and affirmative action, there will be more than change left over.  So stop making folks feel bad for wanting to cash in on their markers, because as Dr. Martin King Jr. said in that part of the 1963“I Have the Dream” speech we don’t mention often….

“America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds…..We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”

So after two decades of being closed, out to lunch, and calling the police, it’s time the Republicans learned that if you dance to the music, eventually you pay to the piper. Watching the Republicans fight is like witnessing Emperor Nero play the fiddle while Rome burned. They are out of control. But what can you say when someone shoots a bullet at others and it ricochets and hits them, right between the eyes. That’s what’s happened to the Republicans and having generally seen the Democrats in such disarray, its great theatrical television. The only tragedy is that their game is our bread and butter.

Maybe the Republicans will wake up in time to remember that no matter if you came here on the Nina, Pinta or the Santa Maria, in the slave bowel of the Amistad, or on a life boat or raft, we are all in the same boat now.   You can’t sink the stern and keep the aft afloat; we sink or swim together.

Maybe the Republicans will finally connect the dots and create policies that don’t require poor people to cut off their noses to spite their faces and stop the “us and them” competition. We are as, then Senator Barack Obama said, at the 2004 Democratic National Convention “, one people all pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, not red states and blue states, we are the United States of America.”

The Lesson for Republicans is the refrain of that old song “United we stand; divided we fall.”  I guess Romney’s speech, called the Donald, the Donald, made it clear where they stand.