Sunday, December 4, 2011


For months I’ve been following the “Occupy” mobilizations and pondering what –- quite frankly –- felt “wrong” about something that -– on the face of it -– seems oh, so right.

Then I read an article by journalist Stacey Patton ("Occupy isn't black America's fight", The Washington Post Outlook section, 11.27.2011), who oh-so-brilliantly provides the context and sheds light on what seems to be Black America’s relationship with this overwhelmingly white mobilization.

In her article, “Occupy isn’t Black America’s Fight”, Ms. Patton serves up an October 2011 Fast Company survey finding that African Descendants, who are 12.6% of the population in America, make up only 1.6% (!!!!!!!!) of the Occupy Wall Street mobilizations. As New York WBAI radio host and producer Nathalie Thandiwe summed up in the Patton interview: “Occupy Wall Street was started by whites and is about their concern with their plight. Now that capitalism isn’t working for ‘everybody’ some are protesting.”

Talk about speaking Truth!

There has not been a time in this country’s history when income inequality, unemployment, disparate economic opportunity, and America’s capitalist system have not been racialized. Yet –- all of a sudden -– these things are JUST NOW coming into the public consciousness of “everybody” else –- enough for them to start mobilizations? Although few say this publicly, there is much chatter and questioning regarding where “they” have been for all the years that communities of color have been organizing around these very same issues. And it is not going un-noticed how -- instead of joining mobilizations of color that have structure, clear messages, actual strategies, and organizing experience -- “Occupy” mobilizers are instead perpetuating historical plantation dynamics when they insist that people of color join THEM in agendas developed according to THEIR racialized interests, experiences, and goals.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but it seems as though the offer being made to people of color by Occupiers is the offer of cleaving to an agenda of THEIR making, choosing, experiences and suffering, while being allocated segregated “safe spaces” to discuss their own concerns in return.

And they are expressing surprise that many activists of color are declining their urgent invitations.

In Patton’s article, a New Jersey comedian says “high joblessness and social disenfranchisement is new to most of the Wall Street protesters. It has been a fact of life for African Americans since the beginning.”

And he is not joking.

“Black America’s fight for income inequality is not on Wall Street, but is a matter of day-to-day survival. The more pressing battles are against tenant evictions, police brutality and street crime. This group doesn’t see a reason to join the amorphous Occupiers,” Stacey Patton affirms.

And it is that crucial difference in focus, history, and “lived experience” –- along with the (I’m sure) unconscious but palatable plantation dynamics –- which is keeping the “Occupy” mobilizations majority white.

Patton states “Beyond a lack of leaders to inspire them to join the Occupy fold,
[B]lacks are not seeing anything new for themselves in the movement. Why should they ally with whites who are just now experiencing the hardships that [B]lacks have known for generations? Perhaps white Americans are now paying the psychic price for not answering the basic questions that [B]lacks have long raised about income inequality.”

Perhaps. Or perhaps “Occupy” mobilizers will stay in the game as long as it takes for THEIR interests to be met. And organizers and communities of color will once again be left in the dust of their “safe spaces.”

Moving Forward,


Sunday, October 16, 2011


Today is the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and, of course, the only thing that too many Americans seem to know about this great man – his “I Have a Dream” speech –- is on full display as the national narrative for this event is being woven by media and participants.

Looking at and listening to the dedications and speeches and remembrances, I admit that, rather than feeling pleasure and pride, I am feeling sadness and pure panic:

• Panic that this dedication will be yet another reason -- for Americans who are always looking for reasons -– to say “okay, let’s now ignore racial disparities! This is more proof that we are ‘post racial’! And anyone who says otherwise is a race-baiter and a racist!”;

• Panic that we will forget the economic realities of living Black in America: that the unemployment rate for African Americans is the highest that it has been in 27 years at 16.2% (when the total national unemployment rate stands at 9.1%);

• Panic that as a country we continue to demonize African Americans as thugs and criminals – even those as young as 8 years old! -- instead of correcting a system that encourages gross disparities in the sentencing and imprisonment of Black men, and increasingly Black women, and that feels no shame or remorse about their state-sanctioned killing even when there is reasonable doubt supporting their innocence;

• Panic that we live in a country that is okay with disparities that disproportionately impact African Americans, whether economic, legal, educational, health and well-being, and in just about every systemic indicator of health and life in America.

How can this country –- who now professes to love the Reverend Doctor King as a great man, a great AMERICAN, for all they tormented and demonized him when he was alive – not know any of his other writings that so clearly address the economic disparities and other issues that we are so tragically facing now?

How can this country ignore with clear conscious the increasing and racialized gap between rich and poor? And how can we say that we adhere to the great man’s message when the two most media-prominent mobilizations –- the tea party and the “occupy” movements –- are majority white and acting out of all the privileges of that whiteness?

As much as my heart might want, celebrating today as progress for “The Dream” seems more of a matter of celebrating symbol over substance. But too many Americans are living in this on-going racialized nightmare, which this country seems determined to ignore, for that to happen.

In Dr. King’s last book, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos to Community” (New York: Harper and Row, 1967) he said:

“Let us take a look at the size of the problem through the lens of the Negro’s status in 1967. When the Constitution was written, a strange formula to determine taxes and representation declared that the Negro was 60% of a person. Today another curious formula seems to declare that he is 50% of a person. Of the good things in life he has approximately one-half those of whites; of the bad he has twice those of whites. Thus half of all Negroes live in substandard housing, and Negroes have half the income of whites. When we turn to the negative experiences of life, the Negro has a double share. There are twice as many unemployed. The rate of infant mortality (widely accepted as an accurate index of general health) among Negroes is double that of whites.”

Forty-four (44) years later, for all that we acknowledge changes, let’s at least have the courage to admit that not much has changed on that score. And for all the symbolism of his memorial now being on the National Mall, neither has the following (which Dr. King also noted in 1967):

"Depressed living standards for Negroes are not simply the consequences of neglect. Nor can they be explained by the myth of the Negro's innate incapacities, or by the more sophisticated rationalization of his acquired infirmities. They are a structural part of the economic system in the United States."

Now why don’t we hear more about THOSE Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quotes?

And most importantly, why are we not doing anything about these structural issues?

If Americans are REALLY interested in achieving “The Dream”, they first need to acquire the will to address our on-going national, racialized nightmare.

Moving Forward,


Sunday, September 11, 2011


This was the sign held up by Kirtland High School students and their parents (according to all media reports) to taunt the losing Harvey High School team at the end of their recent football game in Ohio.

In the week since, the Ohio NAACP condemned the sign as "racial and ethnic intimidation."

Now we see the media equivalent of "You Mad Bro?" as media and bloggers engage in a campaign to discredit the Ohio NAACP as "race baiters" while excusing the race-baiting actions of those Kirtland students and parents as "bad sportsmanship".

However, in their rush to whitewash this incident as one of bad sportsmanship devoid of any racialization, they have failed to report the environmental / social context in which this "You Mad Bro?" drive-by assault occurred.

Not usually included in the reporting about this incident is the fact that Kirtland High School has a 98% white student population and is located within a white (99.1%) enclave.

Nor does the media usually include the fact that Harvey High School's student population is 53% students of color.

Nor does anyone really bother to mention that Painesville OH, where Harvey High School is located, has a higher representation of Afrikan Descendant and Latino residents than other areas of the state.

Nor do those reporting feel it important to mention the stark economic contrasts between the privileged Kirtland High students and the challenged Harvey High students. Media reports do not mention that in Painesville OH, people of color are experiencing a high level of poverty, with 31% of Afrikan Descendant and 50% of Latino residents classified as "living in poverty" by the state nor that 83% of the student population at Harvey High School are eligible for free lunches. (All data from,, and

Only the most determined, pugnacious, willfully blind will deny what this means in terms of the vulnerability of Harvey High students to being stereotyped racially, economically, educationally, in the media, and by their white Kirtland High peers. And the "You Mad Bro?" sign clearly shows how well that message has been learned by these young Kirtland students.

If this were only a case of bad sportsmanship, they could have used any of a number of slogans that did not hint of racial/cultural appropriation and micro-aggression. Instead, they went straight to the heart of it, as their racial inheritance and racial history dictated, and as their familial and societal institutions supported.

And now their actions are being shielded and co-signed as officials, media, and bloggers coddle and protect them, hide them behind a "youth are post-racial" banner, and excoriate NAACP officials for "making this a racial issue" -- right, as if THAT were the egregious offense! -- when what the NAACP is doing is calling a racial micro-aggression exactly what it is.

"You Mad, Bro?"

About this? Yes, I am. And you ought to be, too.

Moving Forward,


Monday, August 15, 2011


The movie “The Help” is joining the book (of the same name) in near unanimous cultural acclaim for highlighting a fictional 1960s era Civil Rights story about the “relationship” between economically privileged white women, the African American women they employed as domestic help, and the white supremacist cultural dominance that allowed their abuse
at the hands of their white employers.

In reading and hearing about the major swoon that white America has taken over this piece of fiction, I naturally wondered whether this feel-good, sugar-coated version of '60's Racial Apartheid would finally create space for a serious conversation regarding ways to repair the damaging impact that the history of Racial Apartheid continues to have on the African American community. I wondered whether white America would finally be able to acknowledge that so many of the benefits they enjoy today were built on the backs of this Apartheid.

"Oh no" a white friend, who has seen the movie and was deeply affected by it, said; "that won't happen; that isn’t what this movie is for or is about."

And there it is. . .

How you view "The Help", of course, depends on your world view lens. And this book -- and now movie -- has exposed how comfortable we are with "history light": touching on the edges of our national tragedy of racial apartheid and needing even that tentative toe dip wrapped in a generous helping of comic relief and a story told through the lens and world view of a "good" white protagonist.

This book and resulting movie -- which puts as its "lead character" individual acts of racial oppression and only as "supporting characters" the white supremacist cultural and structural dominance that supported those individual acts --have already spawned debates that, as much as they straddle racial fault lines, are really about how the narrative of America's history of Racial Apartheid will be (re-) written.

It -- along with other movies of this genre that have made their way into the consciousness of white America -- gives a very skewed view of the role of whites in the Civil Rights Movement, giving the impression of whites’ creating opportunities for and leading and hand-holding scared Black people to opportunities to find their voices, as well as giving the impression of white people being so incensed by racial apartheid that they worked actively and on the front lines, taking the lead in "liberating" Afrikan Descendants from "extremists" white groups like the Klan, the White Citizens’ Councils and even (the book’s main antagonist) Miss Hilly.

And while that framing is a "feel good", affirmative framing for white America, it is also a lie.

There have been many books written about the 1960's Civil Rights Era in recent years, by both African American and white authors, that are more historically accurate. Yet they have not been as enthusiastically and broadly received as this book. Why have they not spawned the massive cultural push and discussion given this book (and now movie)?

Is it because the racial apartheid messaging of this book and movie gives perfect opportunity to inculcate a new (and historically false) narrative about the era into national consciousness for generations who were not there to experience it?

Is it that, by condoning this kind of false messaging as “real”, we successfully backtrack regarding having an honest national conversation regarding the normalized role that Racial Apartheid enjoyed since the country's inception, and of the psychological toll and economic losses incurred by Afrikan Descendants, and the myriad of ways in which the white supremacist system – which was enshrined in law for the majority of this country’s history – still impacts that population today?

Is it that books and movies like this help distort and erase national memory regarding America's legal and structural roles supporting unearned and unfair psychological, economic, educational, career, vocational and other opportunity- and asset-benefits incurred -- and still being enjoyed today -- by whites?

Is it that books and movies like this now frame Racial Apartheid in a way that gives whites a new narrative of their (supposed) primary role in the Era: not as Oppressors who benefited (regardless of whether they were active or passive participants) but as Freedom Fighters with the central role of working for the liberation of Black people?

Because what white person, really, would want to identify with a Hilly when they can think of themselves as a Skeeter? And this is where the embrace of this distorted view of Racial Apartheid, this “history light” tale works as a dangerous cultural tool:

In the book, it was mentioned that Skeeter's father owned a cotton farm.

But see, this is what the book's "history light" approach and new narrative of that era does not mention: cotton was the economic king of the South that built economic assets for the owners of those farms and plantations AS WELL AS economic opportunities and assets for that region; including for those whites who were not active enslavers. And that helped build an entire culture -- such as the one that was the support for all the individual acts of racial apartheid in the book -- that fueled the racial privilege of whites and the racial oppression for African Americans (Afrikan Descendants).

And although the book does not say, I wonder whether that farm that Skeeter's father owned was inherited and whether Skeeter's education -- and the education of her brother, who was in law school -- was financed through the wealth and the access and opportunity that came from ownership of that cotton farm. I wonder whether Skeeter's family line included plantation owners who enslaved Minnie's and Aibileene's ancestors there. We already know that the same culture that fueled the rise of Skeeter’s family and families like hers was the often-insurmountable barrier that denied comparable opportunity and access to those African American families they employed as their domestics.

So if all that comes from the on-going cross country discussions about "The Help" is buy-in to a new “feel good” narrative about the false role of whites in the movement of that era and a glee about Minnie desecrating HER OWN KITCHEN – where her children ate! – to make a Dung Pie for her white employer without any talk of the connections between what happened then, what is going on now, and what society needs to do to repair that generational damage, then I have a HUGE problem with this love affair with “The Help.”

Because this exposes where we are as a country on the history of Racial Apartheid: our lack of willingness to look at hard historical facts and perspectives and our comfort level with feel good lies that hold us all in bondage.

And while I am quite sure that the author did not intend it in this way, how the book ends is the truest statement she made of the historical relationship between African Americans and whites: while the Black "Help" are left waiting for the fallout that threatens their livelihood -- and even their lives -- because of the risks THEY took to write the book that gave Skeeter the opportunity to climb yet another rung on the American ladder of success, climb she does: over their sweat, their tears, their tragedies, their stories, and their bodies to New York to begin the fabulous new career she has always wanted, with a salary that gives her some measure of financial independence.

More than anything else in the book, THAT part of it -- historically – rang very true.*

Moving Forward,


* The author of "The Help" is being sued by her brother's maid for using her name (in the book, "Aibileene Clark", in real life, Ablene Cooper) and likeness without permission or compensation. As was part of the character "Aibileene's" story in the book, Ms. Cooper has a gold tooth and had an adult son who died just before the birth of her white employer's first child. The author's publisher insists that there is no basis to Ms. Cooper's lawsuit.

** For a non-fictional read, go to "We Are Literally Slaves": An Early Twentieth-Century Black Nanny Sets the Record Straight.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Appreciation, Appropriation, and Micro-aggressions

Okay, so I have been thinking about this for awhile, mostly because my work on these issues and because of what I see as a growing trend of those with white skin privilege: at what point does “appreciation” -- the recognition of the quality, value, significance, or magnitude of people and things -- become “appropriation” -- the act of setting apart or taking for one's own use (personal, commercial, cultural, etc), often without the consent of the owner? And does racialized and cultural “appreciation” and “appropriation” blind us to the racial micro-aggressions –“everyday insults, indignities and demeaning messages sent to people of color by [the] well-intentioned who are unaware of the hidden messages being sent to them”, as defined by Asian-American Columbia University psychologist Derald Wing Sue, PhD – that people of color regularly experience?

Now, bear with me here . . .

We see racial appropriations all the time. They are like the air we breathe, the water we taste: expected, unnoticed, and necessary. From TV shows who use hip hop and other music to emphasize story lines and the actors in them as being "cool" and "hip" and "street smart" and "dangerous" -- and other adjectives that are racialized as the cultural norm -- while only using white actors as the lead characters; to young white suburbanites who are the major purchasers of hip hop music; to these self same youth who easily purchase and walk around decked out in the hip hop styles that Afrikan Descendant youth can't afford; to the white people we see walking down the streets in dreadlocks and who will argue that dreadlocks are not an indigenous style from the loins of the Afrikan Diaspora but is instead a "lifestyle choice" found naturally in all cultures (free tip: don’t fall for that. . .).

Appropriation – otherwise known as being a “culture vulture” (someone who not only racially appropriates but makes reputation and money off that appropriation – for example, Elvis Presley, Eminem, and Quintin Tarantino are names that are often mentioned. . .) -- has long been part of the American Narrative. And although one could debate the degree to which America in 2011 finds its Afrikan descended citizens palatable – despite the election of President Obama – there can be little credible argument regarding the role of America’s racial appropriation and white-washed assimilation into the white cultural narrative the cultural markers of Afrikan Descendants.

So now here we are in 2011, and because of what has become the “norm” in the American Narrative as racial appreciation and marketed and prostituted through racial appropriation, we have normalized more than ever racial micro-aggressions.

In other words, we have people – acting individually or under institutional authority -- who feel free to act out their racial biases with unconscious abandon. Think about the debate that percolates just under the surface (and in many cases, on top of it) about whether it is “racist” for white people to say “nigger” since Afrikan Descendants say it in rap songs. Or whether pulling a college student off a plane and arresting him because of an originating complaint about his pants not being pulled up – while letting a white man dressed in ONLY women’s lingerie regularly fly with the same airline without complaint or incident is “racist.” Or commemorating the Civil War and “celebrating” soldiers on both sides while divorcing the national narrative of the war from the horrible crime of enslavement and 100+ years of American Apartheid (how must that feel to Afrikan Descendants?). Or a rising-in-popularity party that has as almost an anthem the phrase “take our country back” within the context of the country’s first Afrikan Descendant president?

When conversations such as this one are raised, many say that folk are being too “sensitive” and just need to get over it.

But Sue and his colleagues are building upon the works of African American psychiatrist Chester M. Pierce (who first coined the term racial micro-aggressions) and African American Stanford University psychology professor Dr. Claude Steele (who is known for, among other things, his groundbreaking work on stereotype threat) to explore and document how the societal normality of these “psychological slings and arrows” erode mental health, the quality of social experience, identity, and even job performance.

"It's a monumental task to get white people to realize that they are delivering micro-aggressions, because it's scary to them," Sue asserts. "It assails their self-image of being good, moral, decent human beings to realize that maybe at an unconscious level they have biased thoughts, attitudes and feelings that harm people of color."

Sue is developing a theory and classification system to describe and measure this slice of American life that is as old and familiar as our national apple pie. He first proposed a classification of racial micro-aggressions and how they manifest in clinical practice in the American Psychologist (Vol. 2, No. 4). The three types of current racial transgressions that he notes there are:

Micro-assaults: Intentional actions or slurs, such as using racial epithets, displaying swastikas or deliberately serving a white person before a person of color in a restaurant.

Micro-insults: Nonverbal communications that subtly convey rudeness and insensitivity and demean a person's racial heritage or identity. An example is an employee who asks a colleague of color how she got her job, implying she may have landed it through an affirmative action or quota system.

Micro-invalidations: Communications that subtly exclude, negate or nullify the thoughts, feelings or experiential reality of a person of color. For instance, white people often ask Asian-Americans where they were born, conveying the message that they are perpetual foreigners in their own land.

Social psychologists Jack Dovidio of Yale University, and Samuel L. Gaertner, PhD, of the University of Delaware, have also conducted studies that established that many well-intentioned whites who consciously believe in and profess equality unconsciously act in a racist manner, particularly in ambiguous circumstances. This often unconscious pattern -- one that is not necessarily grounded in any white supremacist ideology but refers in part to the aversion of whites to being seen as engaging in racialized thinking -- especially given the conscious belief of these people in the adherence to racial equity principles (these are the people who will triumphantly crow or quietly beam that they “marched with Martin Luther King”; or that they have Black people in the family [“my son/daughter is married to a Black woman/man. . .”]; or that they have “given my life to the struggle”) -- is called “aversive racism."

Because whites very rarely-to-never are held accountable for incidents of aversive racism or micro-aggressions, and because the impact to people of color in the face of the same is that they are left dealing with the emotional baggage and confusion or social condemnation if they call a white person out on the behavior (as surfacing such behavior will lead to denials that such a thing took place, as well as the onus being turned on the person surfacing such behavior as being "the problem" while the micro-aggressive attacker is treated as the one being attacked), it is important to understand aversive racism, micro-aggressions, and the whole vocabulary. Surfacing and understanding these prevailing types of racialized manifestations in the 21st Century provides us all with education, protection, and a base of empowerment when it (inevitably) occurs.

Moving Forward,


Monday, May 30, 2011


I think about this every Memorial Day, but this year – the year that we are also “celebrating” the 150th anniversary of the Civil War – is a good time for a public pondering: what are we really honoring when we acknowledge Memorial Day?

On November 19, 1863 – widely acknowledged as the first observance of what would be called Memorial Day, although it was not declared a national holiday until 1971 – Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address in dedicating a cemetery for fallen soldiers. He said:

“That from these honored dead we take increased devotion of that cause which they gave the last full measure of devotion . . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. . .”

Yet on this day, we also honor soldiers who, certainly, were not fighting so that others would have “a new birth of freedom.”

Others were, however, and their struggles and sacrifices should be included and honored on this day. They were not necessarily the military veterans of which Lincoln spoke; in fact, military pathways for them were banned or obstacle-laden. And their service – as military soldiers and as civilian Racial Apartheid Freedom Fighters -- was denigrated, overlooked, and for the majority of this country’s existence, relegated to the back pages of its history.

These domestic Freedom Fighters served in the full spirit of Abraham Lincoln’s remarks. Some served publically and some served quietly, but all served under the noses of American laws which supported every defense of American Racial Apartheid. Soldiers in these wars were Afrikan Descendant and they were white, working apart and together, living embodiments of dreams for “a new birth of freedom.”

It is they, above all others, who brought us here today. It is they whom we should be honoring today and every day. It is they, above all, who deserve remembrances and gratitude, in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln’s words and hope for this day.

And yet here we are, another year, and they who deserve it the most continue to be overlooked and just plain ol’ dissed on this day.

So this is my “shout out” to those Warriors and Transformers, with Thanks, and Gratitude, and Appreciation. On this day especially, I acknowledge your sacrifices, which were made beyond measure and reason. You lived up to a vision that America, for all its words, spat upon every day for the majority of its existence. You are whom I think of whenever I read the words: “That from these honored dead we take increased devotion of that cause which they gave the last full measure of devotion . . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. . .”

Quite simply, because You Were, I Am, and others have a chance to be . . .

Your examples continue to inspire me, and your Spirit is needed as we are quickly slipping backward to America’s Racial Apartheid roots. But that is another story and should not mar this, the day we remember you.

And you are who I honor on this day, for because of you, I have opportunity to say and pray that we are:

Moving Forward,


Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Well, America has finally -- on President Obama's watch -- tracked down Osama bin Laden, who was hiding in plain sight, and killed him -- allegedly unarmed -- in his compound.

After 10 years, $1,291-plus trillion spent*, and more than 12,2712 American military casualties** (deaths and those wounded in action; this does not include Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani casualties), President Obama finally did what George Bush so wanted to do but couldn't: kill Osama bin Laden and avenge the 9/11 attack in American soil.

And after a week of media orgy covering every unclassified aspect of the raid and as I watched repeated images of young -- and mostly white -- Americans literally dancing in the streets celebrating Osama Bin Laden's death, one question kept running through my mind: I wonder if white America will FINALLY give Obama his "freedom papers" and concede once and for all that he is American and Christian and -- that Holy Grail word when white America is talking about anyone who is not white, but most especially African Americans -- Qualified.

From the Tea Party to professional self-promoter Donald Trump, President Obama's politics (including the characterization of his healthcare policy as "reparations" to Black America) and person (seriously, do I really need to give examples?), have been racialized and put under unrelenting assault to prove to white America that his perceived "otherness" will not betray their interests.

So we have had the 3 year campaign for President Obama to release the long-form of his birth certificate. And immediately after its release, we've seen a grassroots campaign mobilizing around proving it’s a forgery.

Now we have Donald Trump clamoring for the release of President Obama's school transcripts, stating:

"I heard he was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard? I'm thinking about it, I'm certainly looking into it. Let him show his records."

In this Associated Press interview, he went on to say "I have friends who have smart sons with great marks, great boards, great everything and they can't get into Harvard. We don't know a thing about this guy. There are a lot of questions that are unanswered about our president."

And -- just so we understand that Trump speaks for more than just a small, marginalized segment of society -- his questions about Obama's legitimacy as a United States citizen and as someone who is "qualified" to be president shot him to the top of the polls as a Republican presidential candidate contender. Not only that, his allegations have been treated as serious news by "mainstream" media (which is to say, media where the news "lens" of newscasters, their "experts", and their audiences are not generally inclusive of the world views and experiences of people of color).

USA history, in relation to its African American population, has example after example of the very clear message that generations of African Americans have received: that there is nothing people of color can do to instill white America’s confidence in and respect for their merit accomplishments. And in this instance yet another generation is having reinforced the old adage that African Americans have to be "twice as good to get half as much" played out through the example of President Obama.

We are seeing that even graduating magna cum laude and as president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review -– noteworthy accomplishments by any measure but extraordinary accomplishments considering the school's history, culture and climate -- does not insulate people of color from having to prove that they are merit worthy. It reaffirms that no matter how accomplished, no matter how smart, no matter how many credentials they have, they are somehow “less than”, in terms of their intellectual capacity, and that their accomplishments can be challenged and called out at any time. It reaffirms the historical racial and power dynamics of this country.

Unless "Trumpers", Tea Partiers, or other naysayers have proof in their back pockets that President Obama’s accomplishments were somehow rigged -- and unless they are willing to go on record accusing Columbia and Harvard of collaborating and colluding with Barack Obama in false academic achievement -- THEIR motives and biases should be scrutinized and THEY should be called to explain their racialized rumor-mongering. THAT should be the "serious news story" to which the mainstream press gives credence. America has an opportunity here to say that long-gone are the days when any and every white person can call into question a person of color's achievements -- or citizenship, for that matter -- based on a feeling or whim and have it taken seriously. They have an opportunity to pull the white sheets off the heads of those who would put the burden of proof on a person of color to disprove such ramblings.

Let me put this another way: if President Obama -- with his centrist, colorblind universalist philosophy, record of achievement at Ivy League schools, and direct connection to "whiteness" -- has to show his "papers", what hope can the rest of us have in a country where the "wrong" skin color seems to trump honest merit every single time?

And so here we are. Bin Laden has fallen and America is in a "feel good" moment, on Obama's watch.

Let's see how many of those who count themselves as Americans are willing to concede that President Obama is too. Let's see how many of them will speak out, demand a stop to this newest round of madness, and give President Obama his "freedom papers" of citizenship, religion, and merit qualifications for holding the office of president.

Moving Forward,


* Congressional Research Service, "The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11". Belasco, Amy, 3.29.11 (Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress).

** US Department of Defense, Statistical Information Analysis Division,

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Here we go again, as Ronald Reagan famously said.

For the umpteenth time – and quite frankly, I’ve lost count – someone says or does something that is historically contextual in-your-face-racism and then -– after days of denying that they've done anything wrong –- issues a weak apology to anyone who “. . .was offended by my action” along with an excuse such as "at the time I received and forwarded the email, I didn't stop to think about the historic implications and other examples of how this could be offensive.”

Yes, yes, I’m talking about 74 year old Marilyn Davenport, elected official of the California Orange County Republican Central Committee, self-described “Christian” Sunday school teacher, and a woman who is now claiming that –- at 74 years old -– she is somehow clueless to the “. . . historic implications and other examples of how this” –- and by “this” she meant sending out an e-mail depicting President Obama and his family as chimps -- “. . . could be offensive.”

Well, I don’t buy what she is trying to sell and neither should you.

Depicting African Americans as monkeys has a long history in the popular culture of this country. Examples abound, including and especially from two sources that consciously, systematically, and “benignly” inculcates Americans into cultural thought: popular entertainment and the media. From the 1933 “classic” King Kong; the ubiquitous Disney machine’s offerings, such as a 1948 Mickey Mouse book, “Mickey Mouse and Boy Thursday” (where Mickey the Mouse receives a crate full or West African bananas only to find an sub-humanly drawn African in the crate instead) and a 1967 film, “The Jungle Book”, showing a Black ape-like King Louie; to countless European and American pictures, texts, and other images, America has a long and despicable history of depicting African Descendants as monkeys, chimps, gorillas, and apes.**

For SEVENTY-FOUR year old Marilyn Davenport to claim that she did not think about the implications of her e-mail is ludicrous.

The LA Times reported this written message from her (emphasis is mine):

“I’m sorry if my email offended anyone, I simply found it amusing regarding the character of Obama and all the questions surrounding his origin of birth.” In no way did I even consider the fact he’s half black when I sent out the email. In fact, the thought never entered my mind until one or two other people tried to make this about race. We all know a double standard applies regarding this president. I received plenty of emails about George Bush that I didn’t particularly like, yet there was no ‘cry’ in the media about them.”

Now come one!!! Isn’t it funny – and not in a “ha ha” way – how President Obama all of a sudden becomes “half black” when people are trying to back their way out of a charge of racism? As if American history is not replete with examples of “half black” people and other people of African descent being enslaved, lynched, raped, AND being depicted as monkeys. Because in this society – and correct me if I am wrong here – “half black” has meant “all Black and we are asking no other questions, Nigger” if one did not hold white skin privilege.

For Ms. Davenport –- at 74 years of age, and with all the historical perspective of that –- to claim that race did not enter in this shows, more than any words can say, the arrogance with which she holds her own white privilege at the expense of the historical oppression of others.

Scott Baugh, Orange County’s Republican chairman, rightly said that he condemned her actions despite her apology and he believed that she should resign. But do he and others believe that enough to mount an intra-party campaign for her to do so?

Because in the industry of “racism repentance” what does an “I’m sorry” mean if you –- or your party or your government or your businesses or your country –- continue to do it again and again?

Moving Forward,


** For more information on the depictions of African Descendants by Europeans and white Americans, see Winthrop Jordan’s study “White Over Black.”

Sunday, April 10, 2011


"For Whites Only" scholarships take you back to the "good old days" when the concept of white entitlement was a given: the overriding custom, law, and influencer of opportunity and access affecting all aspects of life from cradle to grave.

For less than 50 years -- and that would be less than a quarter of this country's long, sordid history of institutional racial terrorism and oppression of African Americans to the benefit of whites as a group, mind you -- programs have been put in place to try to "even" a racial playing field in a country that has yet to acknowledge the severity of the impact of racial terrorism on generations of its citizens of color or the myriads of ways in which its white citizens continue to benefit, especially economically (

Yet a new generation of young white men in Texas and elsewhere -- the same generation famously touted as being "colorblind" and "post-racial" -- have decided to take a "blast from the past" and institute their own form of Jim Crow, 21st Century style, with the introduction of scholarships for whites / white men only.

In its most recent incarnation, 28 year old founder and Iraqi veteran Colby Bohannan says "We're not racists, just guys trying to help young Americans." He says "In the landscape of the scholarship foundations in this country, there is just one demographic that does not have a single dedicated scholarship, and that demographic is white males. That's the gap we're trying to fill” (

Although careful to distance their group’s philosophical perspectives and motives from "extreme" white supremacist groups, they heartily continue the (white) American tradition and mindset of ignoring the historical and on-going manifestations of institutional racism, opting instead for a "fish in water" approach to the issue: if you are a fish, you do not see your water privilege --even though you swim in it every day (or maybe because of that?) -- until you see your exclusive right to the water being threatened.

Although much of the recent press has been about the Texas "For White Men Only" scholarship, this concept, and the white racial victimology that drives it, is not new or strictly Southern.

Any rudimentary Google search will bring up pages on the subject, including one, established in 2004 by a Republican student organization at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island and another established by college Republicans at Boston University in 2006.

Those who create “For Whites Only” scholarships are disingenuous in their logic about the purpose. They ignore the vast number of opportunities and scholarships at their disposal. They also very deliberately and willfully ignore the fact that what they term "affirmative action" scholarships account for less than 4% of college scholarships.* They are ignore a couple of other very pertinent facts: that those 4%of scholarships targeted toward racially marginalized groups were created less than 50 years ago -- in their parents and grandparents time -- when scholarships and most opportunities were "For Whites Only"; that they are still economic and social beneficiaries of privileges bought as a result of the racial oppression of the very groups they accuse of receiving "racial preferences" today; and that they, as a group, still hold the "golden ticket" when comparing life opportunities and chances of any other racial group.

So what gives here? Draw your own conclusions -- panic over changing racial demographics that have whites seeing themselves as "minorities" and "victims" because of the color of their skin, stoking their racial fears; the changing national and global economic climate which stokes their racial insecurities and fears; inch-worm slow movement toward a semblance of "racial equity" which stokes their racial insecurities and fears; and a myopic view of life, centered on the fast growing concept of white racial victimhood which obliterates historical perspective and all data regarding current racial realities of life's opportunities and chances.


As a country we are famously ahistorical, and whites as a group -- famously -- seem to have perfected a form of collective amnesia when it comes to acknowledging and truly seeing the day-to-day impact of their continuing white privilege, even as they pass the baton of this legacy to succeeding generations.

But whether we as a country acknowledge the slippery historical slope of "For Whites Only" scholarships or continue to falsely equate them with so-called "affirmative action" scholarships, one thing is for sure:

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

Moving Forward (or, in this case, Back),


*U.S. General Accounting Office, 1994. “Information on Minority Targeted Scholarships,” B251634. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, January.

**George Santayana, Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Vol.1

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Wow. After an extended period of disinterest in blogging -- I mean, what is there to say that others have not discussed, either with more clarity and insight or just clogging up the blogosphere -- I finally came across a topic that has pulled me back in.

I had the privilege of participating as a panelist in a Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle Freedom Forum titled "Can Youth Lead". Great topic, but my oh my did our unconscious "Western" philosophical perspectives show as we fell all over ourselves affirming youth leadership. We spoke about the leadership of youth in every movement in America while leaving out the strategic context of putting youth bodies on the front lines - not because youth were leaders (although some were) but because of the strategic hope that perhaps the white supremacist agents of the state would be more humanistic towards youth than adults (as history records, they weren't).

We spoke about the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and discussed them as "youth leaders" when in reality they were young ADULT leaders with families of their own. They were PARENTS, REAL PARENTS taking care of their children while facing real risks (not just "Baby Mamas" and "Baby Daddys" who paraded their children as new accessories before handing them off to grandparents or foster parents responsible for their day-to-day care . . .but I digress).

Finally, during the forum's Q & A period, one 17 year old stated that youth -- she in particular -- should be on panels like this because, after all, she was 17 and was a youth and had opinions while everyone else on the panel were adults. One panelist immediately ceded her seat to the youth, who went on to mis-characterize what panelists had said about youth leadership. Only one panelist dared to challenge her mis-framing of what the other adults on the panel had said, while the others watched in indulgence and affirmation. No one challenged her on her seeming belief that individuals with actual bodies of work and expertise on these issues that transcended the scope of personal experience, could actually be advocates with insights to share in this forum. As adults on the panel, we failed -- miserably and completely -- in our responsibility to make that happening a "teachable moment" and an example. Acknowledging this does not negate that 17 year old's point, but it is an example of how we adults fail in our roles of teachers of respect and models of appropriateness to younger generations.

There was much talk by panelists about getting back to the communal interdependent Afrikan model of community that has brought us so far in surviving and even thriving in this country. But in that model, adults were ADULTS who did not cede their responsibilities AS ADULTS to learning youth. ADULTS parented, educated, taught, nurtured, modeled, listened to and mentored youth, readying them for leadership and the assumption of their place as responsible adults in society. Youth LEARNED to lead. FROM ADULTS.

Have we so assimilated that we have fallen into the trap of believing that "children shall lead us" (and can we please acknowledge already that we so take this Bible quote out of context!)? If we truly believe that this is the case, then why parent youth? Why protect them? Why guide and nurture them, why impose standards and parameters for their safety? Western society tries to have it both ways -- on the one hand, it says that we need to protect, shield, and teach youth. On the other hand, it promotes an "our children shall lead us" philosophy that fuels the entitlement thinking among youth that youth for youth's sake is enough to lead and adults should just listen to and hear their wisdom and follow their lead.

Let me put it this way: if you are not willing to say that you will allow your teenage youth to lead in your home -- to run your home -- then why are we willing to sign on to the fiction that they are ready to lead in forums that are not appropriate to their levels of experience, expertise, or skills? As one panelist said, we should tell the truth! And the truth is that there are different scales of leadership and certainly arenas appropriate to youth who are learning to be leaders or who are leaders in some of those arenas. But leading outside of those arenas? Taking on the full scale of risk, responsibility, and accountability that those in the full bloom of leadership take? Don't try to sell me that putting youth leaders in those arenas is an Afrikan model or responsible behavior.

What is wrong with this picture? Are we afraid -- in a youth obsessed society -- to be adults, to be Elders, with all that means? Is that why we run from the responsibilities of those roles and from the voices of those individuals speaking unpopular truths in this society about the differences between youth and adults and about the critical role of experience gained from life's journey? Do we run because we are trying first and foremost to be friends with youth instead of stepping up to our central role of preparing them? Or do we run because we are still trying to BE them?

If we are still claiming -- at 24, 26, 30 and older -- that we are "youth" instead of young adults, adults, and Elders, we need to seriously take a look at ourselves and figure out why we are clinging to an extended state of self-described adolescence -- and whose model we are emulating and assimilating into -- even if and while we are stepping up to the work.

And if adults and Elders believe that youth can "lead" them in forums where experiences, expertise, a body of work, a wider worldview, and life "seasoning" greatly inform decisions as parents and leaders, then we have larger issues to discuss: namely the abdication of our own roles, as adults, in their lives.

Moving Forward!