Showing posts from 2008

Urban Policy and Corporate Dominance

In his last book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote: “Most people are totally unaware of the darkness of the cave in which the Negro is forced to live. A few individuals can break out, but the vast majority remains its prisoners. Our cities have constructed elaborate expressways and elevated skyways, and white Americans speed from suburb to inner city through vast pockets of black deprivation without ever getting a glimpse of the suffering and misery in their midst.” American urban ghettos are even more devastated today than they were 40 years ago when Dr. King wrote those words. What is the reason for this? By way of explanation, by the early 1970s, America’s central cities started to crumble under the weight of globalization and deindustrialization. Manufacturing jobs were being exported en masse . At the same time, there was no place for the masses of unskilled and semi-skilled laborers in the new technology sector that sprung up to repl

A Few BIG IDEAS: How President Obama Can Promote Social and Racial Justice

My fraternity brother, friend, and colleague, Dr. Lester Kenyatta Spence, put together this excellent list of BIG IDEAS for President-elect Obama and anyone else interested in promoting an agenda aimed at social and racial justice. 40 Big Ideas for Obama (and everyone else) October 17, 2008 By: The Good Doctor Category: afrofuturism A while back I noted the powerful black party discipline that attended Obama. Rather than take the opportunity to talk about ideas, about what we would actually want from an Obama presidency, we talked more about getting him over that electoral hump. To the point of cutting off dissent in some limited cases. What I’d like to do is begin a conversation about what comes next. And as a first step I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. Folks talk about the first 30 days of a presidency? I’m going to up the ante. My motto next year is “40 is the new 40.” So in that spirit I’m going to present 40 ideas for O

The Power and Potential of the Black Vote

The Barack Obama victory, without a doubt, is testimonial to the power of the black vote. According to exit polls, 95 percent of Blacks voted for the President-elect. Now, of course, black people alone did not (and could not have) make Barack Obama the next president of the United States of America. Nonetheless, the Black vote was a key in this election. A number of states saw record-breaking levels of registration and turn-out by Black people. In states such as Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, the Black vote gave the President-elect the votes he needed to secure his historic victory. Yet, more than 40 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the expansion of the criminal justice system - particularly the War on Drugs – continues to marginalize the political voice and limit the potential clout of the black community. Felon disenfranchisement laws have disproportionately impacted the ability of black people to fully realize the potential of the ballot b

A Presidential Debate on Domestic Policy That Does Not Mention Issues Related to Race Or Class.

As I watched the second of the three scheduled presidential debates last night, I thought to myself, “what a charade.” I’ll probably end up holding my nose and voting for the Obama-Biden ticket, but nothing the Senators from either Illinois or Arizona said last night made me feel confident that they really understand or care how race and class continue to shape life chances and opportunities in American society. The lack of a substantive discussion of issues related to race or class was very unsettling and should disturb anyone seriously committed to racial and social justice in American society. For example, consider that the subprime mortgage meltdown has a huge racial dimension. This fact has been ignored by both candidates. As I’ve mentioned in this blog before, for the last 40 years, homeownership has been the ticket to middle-class stability for many black and Latino families. Studies show that the subprime meltdown is disproportionately affecting people of color: their total los

Turn The Tables Of The American Racial Order By Properly Naming The Main Problem: Racism

I’m sitting in a hotel room in Oakland in the wee hours of the morning (coming from the east coast to the west coast has me wide awake at 4:00 am) as I write this post to my blog. Riding to my hotel from the airport, I got an opportunity to get a small glimpse of the urban landscape of the city. I was struck by just how similar Oakland is to my hometown, Detroit , and any other post-industrial city I’ve visited across the country – a decayed (or decaying) infrastructure and a whole bunch of disadvantaged people. Concerned as I am with promoting racial justice, I tend to be preoccupied with thoughts about how to lift up the mass of people of color I see in these once great American cities. To turn the tables of the American racial order, it is important that we properly name the main problem: racism. Although it is less malicious and intense than it was in the pre-civil rights era, racism – in all its variations, including silent racism, everyday racism, color-blind racism, an

Reverend Jackson Was Right: Uhhhhhh, His Point That Senator Obama Talks Down To Black People

By now, everyone knows about Reverend Jesse Jackson’s hot mike comments about Senator Barack Obama. Of course the Reverend was wrong for joking about emasculating the brother. But, Reverend Jackson was right about one thing: Barack Obama has been “talking down to black people.” Not everyone has taken Reverend Jackson’s critique of Senator Obama as seriously as they should. Instead, the Reverend has come under attack. The critics of Reverend Jackson accuse him of being a “Playa Hater.” They contend that he and other civil rights leaders of his generation – those who risked life and limb to end de jure segregation – are jealous of Senator Obama, resenting his rapid rise to political prominence. Reverend Jackson, in particular, is thought to be envious of Senator Obama because he believes that he, not the Senator, should be the nation’s first black president. Reverend Jackson is also believed to be angry at Senator Obama because the Senator fails to give him and other civil rights leade

The Looting of Black People’s Wealth: From Land Grabs to Subprime Loans

“For generations, black families passed down the tales in uneasy whispers: ‘They stole our land’” began an award winning 2001 Associated Press series titled “Torn From the Land.” The culmination of an 18 month investigation, AP’s three-part series revealed a systematic pattern in which blacks were “cheated out of their land or driven from it through intimidation, violence and even murder.” The looting of black wealth began shortly after the Civil War and continues to this very day. Tracking more than a century of land cases by searching through deeds, mortgages, tax records, estate papers, court proceedings, oil leases and Freedmen’s Bureau archives, the AP reporters were able to show how everyone from US government officials to Southern segregationist got in on the act of stealing land owned by blacks. Notably, the reporters make a compelling case that the government either approved of the theft of black land or took part in the thievery. This first phase of the looting of black wealt

Silky Smoothing it all the way to the White House

I never thought that I would see a politician slicker than ex-president, Bill “Slick-Willie” Clinton. Well, you might ask, “How slick was Bill Clinton?” “Slick-Willie” was so slick that he sweet-talked black folks into calling him the first black president. Up until his white privilege meltdown during the South Carolina Democratic Party primary, it was not unusual for black people – from pulpits to barbershops – to refer to the ex-president as “Fam (short for family for some of my un-hip readers).” Who is slicker than my “Fam?” The answer is Barack “Silky” Obama. “Silky”… Is… SMOOTH! Like Clinton, “Silky” is one hell-of-an orator. And, like “Slick Willie,” Senator Obama is as much a politician as the rest. The warning signs are all over the place. Take, for instance, his steady march to the right. Uhhhhhhhh, I mean the middle. There are, of course, the flip flops: he opposed NAFTA, now he is not against NAFTA; he would take public financing, now he won’t take public financing; he would

Part II: Black Males and The Prison-to-Schools Pipeline

I was born a black male, raised in a single parent household in an impoverished, crime-plagued, neighborhood on the lower-eastside of Detroit . The odds were stacked against me. I’ve been asked more times than I can remember: “How did you make it out?” I’ve asked myself that question more times than I have been asked it. My ticket out of poverty and the door to a better future was getting an education. Amazingly, I was just shy of my 29 birthday when I received my Ph.D. in political science from Ohio State University . Unfortunately, for black men born under similar conditions in America , I am the exception, rather than the rule. In June 2006, the Washington Post produced an intriguing series on being a black man in America . In the first article, “ At the Corner of Progress and Peril ,” the Post laid out some mind-numbing data (a book that is worth buying was produced from the series as well as an interactive website that is worth visiting). According to the author of the articl

Part I: Boys Crisis Disputed!: Says Who?

On Tuesday, May 20, 2008, the Hartford Courant printed an article that first appeared in the Washington Post with the following headline: “‘ Boys Crisis’ Disputed. Report: Gender Differences In School Success Overstated .” As a black male professor, the headline caught my attention because the title appeared to contradict what I have been observing (and what friends at other universities say they have been observing) and fretting over the last several years, the declining number of black men in my classes (although, at my university, a growing percentage of the student body is black). Whenever I walk across my campus, but especially when I enter a classroom for the first time, one of the things that I notice is that women of color outnumber, sometimes 3 to 1, men of color. And though I realize that gender inequity is real in many facets of American life and that one of the only ways to close those gender gaps is to have more women of color successfully matriculate through college

Reverend Jeremiah Wright Is Controversial; Says Who?

Many of Rev. Wright's so-called "controversial" statements are really not that controversial. Does that mean that blacks who have pinned their hopes and dreams in the Obama campaign wish Rev. Wright had kept his mouth shut until after the election? Of course they do. But, does that mean that black people think that what he said is wrong? Nope. There are many good reasons why Rev. Wright’s core message and hyperbolic style of delivering that message resonated for so many years with blacks in Chicago , including his former parishioner and protégée, Senator Obama. Let’s take a look at one of his most controversial statements: “The government gives them drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing God Bless America? No, no, no. God damn America, for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating us citizens as less than human. ” “ The government gives them drugs… ” What in the world did Rev. Wright mean by this statement? To answe

Accommodating White People... Until It Hurts

I am a strong advocate of speaking the truth about race. But the reality is that most Black people - including me - don't really say what’s on their mind. This reality is the source of my own rage that Obama talked about in his speech on race at Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ellis Cose described what I feel and countless other middle class Black people in the introduction of his book, The Rage of a Privileged Class : “Despite its very evident prosperity, much of America ’s black middle class is in excruciating pain. And that distress – although most of the country does not see it – illuminates a serious American problem: the problem of the broken covenant, of the pact ensuring that if you work hard, get a good education, and play by the rules, you will be allowed to advance and achieve to the limits of your ability.” “Again and again, as I spoke with people who have every accouterment of success, I heard the same plaintive declaration – always followed by v

Nothing Is Wrong With A Radical Critique of Racism and Racial Inequality in American Society; Well…, Unless You Are Running For President

I was down-right giddy as I sat in front of my television set waiting to hear Senator Obama give what was billed as “a MAJOR address on race in America .” I was overwhelmed with joy by the idea that a black man would be talking about race (and though it was NOT billed that way, racism), that white Americans were eagerly waiting to hear what he had to say, and that it would be broadcasted, discussed and analyzed for days by all of the major (and world) television, radio and print media. Yet, because I’ve been very skeptical of the Senator’s presidential campaign from the start, I was really worried. Would he do a good job? The truth of the matter, I thought to myself, is that he has been soft-shoeing it on race, avoiding the issue like the bubonic plague. I dropped to my knees, betraying the fact that I am an agnostic secular humanist, and did what everyone does when faced with a crisis: I prayed. I prayed that the Senator would not squander this opportunity. I prayed that he

Win the Battle only to Lose the War

Senator Hillary Clinton has moved closer to winning the battle for the Democratic nomination - and perhaps forever etching her name in the history books as the first women and the first spouse to win the Presidency. But by fighting so aggressively against Senator Barack Obama, she is perhaps setting herself up to lose the “war” for the ultimate prize, the White House, to John McCain. In spite of her stunning victories in the Presidential primaries in Texas and Ohio , there does not appear to be any way that Hillary Clinton can catch up to Barack Obama in the pledged delegate count. Obama has 1340 pledged delegates to Clinton ’s 1206. Thanks to the Democratic Party’s convoluted process for selecting delegates across the states, the most likely scenario is that neither candidate will make it to the Democratic convention with enough pledged delegates to win the nomination outright. So, how can Hillary Clinton win the battle for the Party’s nomination? One way that she can do it is

Bill Cosby Doesn’t Know My Mama, Just Racial Stereotypes of Low and Moderate Income Black People

Bill Cosby is at it again. He recently joined forces with professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School , Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint to author a new book, “Come on People!” Thematically, the book is a literary extension of his “call-out sessions.” For the last 3 years or so, Cosby has traveled around the country calling black people (well, poor black people) out about their so-called pathological behaviors (having babies out of wed-lock, giving their children African names they can’t pronounce, calling each other Nigga, talking loud in public places, dropping out of school, being illiterate, buying rap music, wearing baggy pants, not speaking right, and so on). The recent hoopla about Cosby’s book made me think about a piece I wrote that appeared in the Hartford Courant on July 15, 2004, shortly after Cosby had visited Springfield, Mass., near the beginning of his call-out tour. As you can tell from the piece, I think Cosby’s moral crusade is problematic for a number of reasons

The Black Church in Contemporary Politics

Churches (and other religious institutions) play a very special role in American life. Compared to people in other countries, Americans are more likely to be affiliated with a church, to attend services, and to participate in educational, charitable, or social activities organized by their churches. [1] By providing “an important incubator for civic skills, civic norms, community interests, and civic recruitment” churches also help to build up the civic skills and attitudes church members need to become active in politics. [2] The Black church has a unique importance in the American political system. Any candidate – Democratic or Republican – running for local, state, or national office, who wants the support of the black community must don their “Sunday’s best,” and go to church. [3] The reason, as Political Scientist, Melissa V. Harris-Lacewell, so aptly puts it, “Black churches are a site of organized, committed, well-networked, partisan faithful who can be influenced and mobili