Showing posts from 2009

This Ain’t No Spectator Sport: Black Scholars Fighting For Social and Racial Justice In The Age of Obama

When it comes to discussing my political views or advocating for what I care for, most people who know me know that I do not pull many punches. Over the years, as my understanding of and thinking about racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, materialism, economic exploitation, militarism, violence and various other systems of oppression deepens, I've intensified my activism and become more strident in my critiques. Indeed, I believe that raising one's voice in opposition to injustices is a moral obligation that falls upon all of us, especially black scholars such as me. Black scholars occupy a unique position in American society. Freed from the oppressive labor conditions most black people have experienced throughout our presence in America, whether it be the slave plantations and kitchens of white people or the steel factories and manufacturing plants of the North, for those of us privileged to work in the academy – an arena that allows us to teach, intellectualize, and write –


On December 3, President Obama is scheduled to convene a jobs summit at the White House . It is music to my ears that the Administration is going to finally focus on job creation after arguing for over a month that the worst economic recession since the Great Depression (technically, back-to-back severe recessions) had ended and that America is in the midst of an economic recovery. The problem with the Administration's once rosy assessment is that the nation has been experiencing a jobless economic recovery: profits are up on Wall Street, but, the nation's unemployment rate is also up (above 10 percent) and rising. Political pundits (on the left and right) and the "Oppose Anything Obama Does" political party on the right jumped all over the Administration's utterly ridiculous claim that things are getting better, even though people continue to lose their jobs or are being forced to cut back hours to improve company profits. Almost uniformly, they have asked one qu

The Kind Of Health Care System We Need Is Not Likely To Be The One We Will Get

Our nation's health care system is broken. More than 45 million Americans are without health insurance. Many of the uninsured pay dearly for their lack of coverage. Experts estimate that roughly 22,000 people die annually because they are not covered by an insurance plan. Like most Americans, I've had a very difficult time following the health care debate in Washington. The competing claims about what ails our health care system are nearly as difficult to follow as the competing policy prescriptions being offered to fix it. What I am most certain of, however, is that repairing our nation's health care system is of critical importance to communities of color. A report released earlier this year by the Connecticut Citizen Action Group (CCAG) as part of Heath Care for American Now (HCAN) – a coalition of over 1,000 organizations – makes a compelling case that communities of color would benefit most from comprehensive health reform. "Throughout the nation's history,

The Political Consequences of Growing Income Inequality in America

According to a new report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities , based on an analysis of IRS data by economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, the rich are getting richer while the poor... well, you know the rest. Income inequality is not a new phenomenon in American society. But, as Piketty and Saez find, we have not seen such large shares of income go to the nation's top earners in a very long time. "Two-thirds of the nation's total income gains from 2002 to 2007 flowed to the top 1 percent of U.S. households, and that top 1 percent held a larger share of income in 2007 than at any time since 1928," write the authors of the CBPP summary of the Piketty and Saez research. To my astonishment, they add that during this period, "the inflation adjusted income of the top 1 percent of households grew more than ten times faster [my emphasis] than the income of the bottom 90 percent of households." Income inequality has been growing since the

Reclaiming Black Men’s Mental Health

The death of Michael Jackson has made me think a lot about the problem of mental illness in the black community. On the one hand, Jackson's talents were indescribable. He mesmerized (including me) crowds across the globe with his singing and dancing for decades – I nearly broke my ankle trying to do that damn moonwalk back in the 80s. Jackson made it all look so easy. Without a doubt, he is one of the greatest entertainers to have ever lived. But, it has been nearly twenty years since Jackson had a bona fide hit record. His stardom and the public's obsession with his life, however, did not fade away. Sadly though, Jackson stayed in the media for all the wrong reasons: the bizarre effects of numerous cosmetic surgeries, the child molestation charges, the designer surgical masks, the strange looking clothing, the brink of bankruptcy despite making hundreds of millions of dollars over the years, and dangling his infant son over a railing at an hotel, just to name a few. Jackson wa

Apologies For Slavery: But, Where Are The Reparations?

Almost 150 years after the Civil War, and the day before Juneteenth – which commemorates the emancipation of slaves in Texas who did not know that the Civil War had ended two years earlier – the U.S. Senate finally approved a resolution apologizing for slavery. The resolution passed in the Senate on a voice vote, said it was important for Americans to apologize for slavery “so they can move forward and seek reconciliation, justice, and harmony for all people of the United States .” The Connecticut General Assembly recently adopted its own apology for slavery. The General Assembly’s resolution: urges schools, colleges, universities, religious and civic institutions, businesses and professional associations to do all within their respective powers to acknowledge the transgressions of Connecticut's journey from a colony to a leading state in the abolition efforts and to learn the lessons of history in order to avoid repeating mistakes of the past and to promote racial equal

Systemic Racism In The Housing Market: How Reverse Redlining Works

During the past couple of weeks, I read several articles that really made me think a lot about racial inequality in our country. One article that really caught my attention appeared in the New York Times . I like the Times article, " Bank Accused of Pushing Mortgage Deals on Blacks ," because it sheds light on a key, yet rarely spoken, reason behind the collapse of the nation's housing market in cities such as Detroit, Cleveland, and Gary, Indiana. Though they don't name it, the problem identified by the Times is systemic racism. It is really rare for me to find in the mainstream media – unless I am looking especially hard – reporting that focuses on how race continues to shape outcomes and opportunities in America. But, before I dive into the Times article, I have to write a little about my home town, the Motor City. How bad are things in Detroit? A January 29, 2009 article in the Chicago Tribune reported that the median price of a home sold in Detroit last Decem

Hey Newt, Rush, and Coulter: Do Me A Favor And Shut Your Big Fat Mouths

President Barack Obama’s nominee to the U. S. Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, is under attack by three lunatics to the right of the fringe right of the Republican Party for comments she made during a speech during a 2001 lecture at the University of California-Berkeley. Referring to former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's saying that "a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases," Judge Sotomayor said, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." Because of this statement, the “three horsemen of the loony right,” Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter are calling her a racist and are demanding that she withdraw her name from consideration for the nation’s highest court. Judge Sotomayor will make history if she is appointed to the High Court; she is the first Latino(a) to be nomina

Unseen, Unrecognized and Unaddressed: A Silent Depression in Communities of Color

According to the authors of, The Silent Depression: State of the Dream 2009 , an annual report by United for a Fair Economy , people of color are suffering through a “Silent Depression” because although the evidence of its devastating effects are everywhere, it is going largely unseen, unrecognized and unaddressed. Instead, the country’s attention has been focused on the year-old recession afflicting the nation. People of color, however, have been experiencing a recession for the last five years, which has evolved into a full-blown depression where they live. “But there has been no recognition of this depression by the Congress, the President, or the mainstream news media. There has been no bailout, no aid package, no rule changed to reverse this disaster,” write the co-authors of the report. This year’s report, released on the 80th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., presents some jaw-dropping statistics about unemployment, and income and wealth inequality in American society: --

Herbert Lee And The Continuing Struggle To Secure Voting Rights

On September 25, 1961, in the small town of Liberty in Amite County, Mississippi, Black farmer, Herbert Lee, 52, was shot and killed by E. H. Hurst, a white member of the State Legislature. At a coroner’s inquest, Hurst, testified that Lee owed him money and that when he asked about being paid, Lee had “come at him with a tire iron.” Hurst explained that the .38 he was holding “accidentally” fired a bullet into Lee’s head. “I must have pulled the trigger unconsciously,” he swore. An all-white jury ruled Lee’s murder a “justifiable homicide.” His killer, Representative Hurst, never spent a moment in jail. It is highly unlikely that Lee would have attacked Hurst. The father of nine children, Lee was a small (5 feet, 4 inches, and weighing only 150 pounds) man. As a matter of fact, two of three witnesses who testified at the inquest later admitted that they were coerced by the Sheriff and others into testifying that Lee had tried to hit Hurst (6-2 and 200 pounds) with the tire iron found

What the Black Community Can Learn From A Tragic and Senseless Death

I am still in shock about the death of a former student, Tiana Notice. Only 25, Tiana was a bright, talented, articulate, and highly motivated student who was making a difference in the world. Tiana had done a lot in her short time with us. She earned a bachelor’s degree in politics and government in 2007, and was pursuing a master’s degree in the School of Communication. While pursing her bachelor’s degree, she almost singlehandedly founded the University of Hartford chapter of the Roosevelt Institution , a national network of student think-tanks that conduct policy research on pressing issues. Tiana was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, James Carter II. Tiana did what was expected of victims of intimate partner violence (IPV); she got a restraining order. However, that did not stop her ex-boyfriend from stalking and harassing her and finally on Valentine’s Day, stabbing her to death. When I first heard about her death, I wondered how someone with the smarts and abilities of Tiana could

A Call For A New Black Politics

Commentators on both the left and the right sides of the political spectrum have been suggesting in their writings that the election of Barack Obama points to the end of black politics and that America has now become a post-racial society. Without a doubt, the election of the son of an African immigrant and a white woman from Kansas is a monumental step forward for America. But, America is not a society free of racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of exploitation and oppression. For the descendants of those who survived centuries of chattel slavery and Jim Crow segregation, the journey is incomplete. Black (and brown) communities across America face a litany of social problems, including poverty, unemployment, inadequate access to quality housing and healthcare, rape, HIV/AIDS, mass incarceration, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and intraracial violence just to name a few. According to “ State of the Dream 2009: The Silent Depression ,” the sixth annual Martin Luther King, Jr. D