Friday, September 26, 2014

Post Ferguson: Lest We Forget Young Black Women

American society is rallying around black male teens.

On August 9, 18-year-old Mike Brown was shot six times by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer. The young man was unarmed, and an autopsy performed found that the fatal bullet struck him in the top of his head.

The country has held protests almost every day and night since Brown was slain. Rallying around the teen and his family, protestors wore T-shirts like “Don’t Shoot Me” and sent selfies of themselves with their hands up in the air as if surrendering. Their cry for Brown’s justice, Trayvon Martin’s justice, Oscar Grant’s and many others, has been the same “No justice, No Peace.”
Mike Brown was 18-years-old when he was shot 
and killed in Ferguson, Missouri
The killing of black men in America by police officers is an ill, cyclical atrocity. From slavery, through reconstruction, to the Civil Rights movement, those killings, were justified or excused in some way.

In 1955, when black teen Emmett Till, 14, was murdered for whistling at a white woman, the defendants were easily found not guilty by an all-white, all male jury. After the two men were acquitted, they comfortably admitted to Till’s murder in Look magazine.

Brown has been trot out in the media as ‘guilty until proven innocent’ when revelations that he allegedly robbed a convenience store were brought to light by the Ferguson police department. A rotten, irrelevant calamity that his loving parents could not protect him from. 

But tragically as mothers and fathers fight more and more to keep their sons safe in what should be a post-Emmett Till era, there is a bittersweet lag in that goal.

Their daughters.

On July 29, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times, pointing out that young women of color face some of the same odds as black men, but they are often overlooked.

“In February, when Mr. Obama announced the [My Brother’s Keeper]  initiative — which is principally financed by philanthropic foundations, and did not require federal appropriations — he noted that boys who grew up without a father were more likely to be poor. More likely than whom? Certainly not their sisters, who are growing up in the same households, attending the same underfunded schools and living in the same neighborhoods.

The question “compared with whom?” often focuses on racial disparities among boys and men while overlooking similar disparities among girls and women. Yet, like their male counterparts, black and Hispanic girls are at or near the bottom level of reading and math scores. Black girls have the highest levels of school suspension of any girls. They also face gender-specific risks: They are more likely than other girls to be victims of domestic violence and sex trafficking, more likely to be involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, and more likely to die violently. The disparities among girls of different races are sometimes even greater than among boys.”

Young black women might not be facing cops’ fear factors – that police shoot black men first out of fear – like black men, but tragic killings happen.

Many months after Trayvon Martin’s death, but just 8 months before Brown’s, there was Renisha McBride.

McBride, 19, was and shot and killed in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, when she went to a stranger’s home for help after she was seriously injured in a car accident and could not use her cell phone to call for help. Although McBride was unarmed, her killer, Theodore Wafer, claimed self-defense.
Renisha McBride

In Salon, author Roxane Gray wrote that "Trayvon Martin was murdered while walking home from a convenience store" while "Renisha McBride thought, like any reasonable person, that she could ask a stranger for help." Both of their deaths, she argued, are evidence that the "environment in the United States is toxic for black people."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the statistics that Williams Crenshaw pointed to in her article, 673 black girls 10-24 were killed with a firearm between 2008-2010 is the highest among all other ethnicities. Black men ages 15-19 were eight times as likely as White males of the same age and two-and-a-half times as likely as their Hispanic peers to be killed in a gun homicide in 2009, says.

By implementing My Brother’s Keeper, Williams Crenshaw suggests that the idea is let’s take care of our young boys first and then the fixing will somehow trickle down or bubble up.

“Proponents of My Brother’s Keeper — and similar programs, like the Young Men’s Initiative, begun by Michael R. Bloomberg in 2011 when he was mayor of New York — point incessantly to mass incarceration to explain their focus on men. Is their point that females of color must pull even with males in a race to the bottom before they deserve interventions on their behalf?”

And this Darwinist idealism is not hallucinated by Williams Crenshaw.

Barbara Smith, an African-American activist, who taught the first class on black women’s literature at Emerson College in 1973, talked about the sexism that she experienced during the Black Power Movement as it related to black nationalism in the late 1960s, winding up in the late 1970s.

“A part of the black nationalist perspective and analysis was that black men were kings and black women were supposed to be queens, and our major role was to walk three or seven steps behind our men and have babies for the nation.

“Black studies and black literature was about black male experiences, and women’s studies, which was just beginning, at the same time was very much about white women’s experiences,” Smith said. We [black women] were just left out of the curriculum.”

In 1965, during the peak of the Civil Rights Movement, black women were visible but unsung.

From, listed as a digital publishing company that provides credible academic resources written by educators and experts from America's top universities, including Stanford, Harvard, and UC Berkeley, said in an analysis called “Civil Rights Movement: ‘Black Power’ Era” that:

“Despite the fact that women spearheaded the Birmingham Bus Boycott, galvanized the "freedom rides" and sit-in demonstrations, and served as important political representatives, men controlled the organizations, often disregarding the weight of these contributions. For instance, in 1963, at the height of the movement, tens of thousands of women, including activists and organizers such as Jo Ann Robinson, Ella Baker, and Fannie Lou Hamer, joined the March on Washington, yet the all-male march committee neglected to invite any woman to make a speech before the crowd.”

“There’s a Chinese saying, ’Women hold up half the world,”’ said Julian Bond, a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to NBC. “In the case of the civil rights movement it’s probably three-quarters of the world.”

So what, per se, should be the initiative for young women of color?

While in Ferguson, St. Louis rapper Nelly indirectly pointed out that incarceration is a plague that has disproportionately infected young black men.

“We've got to understand that we have options and stop choosing the reaction option ‘cause at the end of the day we gonna pay - our brothers are gonna be the ones in jail," he told a crowd via the Independent during a Mike Brown rally.

It’s an issue that my Brother’s Keeper has also pledged as an important call to action; one other artists feel connected to.

Jay-z, attended a Trayvon Martin rally in New York, and during a performance with Justin Timberlake, he dedicated his “Forever Young” performance to Martin.

And while several artists like Nelly and Jay-z understand how crucial it is that young black boys and men of color are not dehumanized, these are the exact men who young black women need as ralliers in a different sense.

In Nelly’s music video “Tip Drill” he proceeds to slide a credit card down a woman’s backside; Jay-z’s (and other artists’) comfort level with saying ‘bitches and/or hoes” isn’t challenged as destructive to women (by male rap artists). Neither is the pervasiveness of pornifying black women as commonly as buying a magazine on the street and registering it as appropriate “speech.” And there are far to many more explicit examples.

The pornification, dehumanization of black women in music videos, lyrics, books and elsewhere is so trite that it runs the risk of fostering an indecisiveness in young women; wrongly pointing out their value to men, and in turn, how society should value them.

Dorian Miller Rosenberg, of Elite Daily writes, “Self-aware misogyny is the best kind.
Every day, a child is born to a woman who will someday grow up to think, talk and rap just like this. Judgment is corny, but examining the cultural forces which shape our perceptions and actions is essential.”

The signs held up in protest during the Civil Rights marches and demonstrations, “I Am a Man” sum up what was called for, perfectly. These signs were also held by some of the protestors in Ferguson, explaining that the heart of the matter is that all people deserve to be respected and viewed as human beings.

Admittedly, these salacious, unredemptive images and lyrics about women are not murderous, but they too call for signs that read “I Am a Woman.” The question is will America’s conscious hold them up.

Emmett Till will not be forgotten, neither will Mike Brown or Trayvon Martin, but lest we forget our black girls.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Beyonce's not a Feminist, She’s a Boss

Madonna wore the Like a Prayer bra with the dizzying cone spirals in 1990, Lady Gaga held a lit ice fountain of some sort wearing a plastic see through “dress” with plus signs covering her nipples in 2011, and this year, at the Grammy's Beyonce wore a La Perla thong to show her “fatty.”

Associated Press
These aren’t examples of feminism or anti-feminism (each of these women have struggled to call themselves feminists). These are examples of women who are clearly comfortable with starting pseudo-sexual revolutions -- for profit.

In the book Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, Bell Hooks, a leading black feminist and scholar said, "It is obvious that many women have appropriated feminism to serve their own ends, especially those white women who have been at the forefront of the movement; but rather than resigning myself to this appropriation, I choose to re-appropriate the term 'feminism,' to focus on the fact that to be 'feminist' in any authentic sense of the term is to want for all people, female and male, liberation from sexist role patterns, domination and oppression."

When Forbes questioned whether the Drunk in Love performance was for record sales. The answer is yes, and Bey should not disagree.

Off the Grammy stage, however, Beyonce is liberating herself from the sexist role patterns by taking up a good cause. In a recent campaign to ban the word “bossy” as being damaging to young girls’ desires to be leaders, Mrs. Carter one of #BanBossy’s spokespersons said, “I’m not bossy. I’m the boss.”

But the best bosses -- and Beyonce is one; she made $53 million last year out earning Jay-Z -- get the “good good” for their companies.

"I'm never satisfied," she told Forbes in a 2009 cover story. "I'm sure sometimes it's not easy working for me... I've never met anyone that works harder than me in my industry."

Part of what the media perceived as feminist was Beyonce’s argument in the letter she wrote for The Shriver Report which pointed out the fact that the gender inequality gap is largely economic.  

“Today, women make up half of the U.S. workforce, but the average working woman earns only 77 percent of what the average working man makes. But unless women and men both say this is unacceptable, things will not change. Men have to demand that their wives, daughters, mothers and sisters earn more – commensurate with their qualifications and not their gender. Equality will be achieved when men and women are granted equal pay and equal respect.”

Tapping in to that “equal respect” idea, when Target choose not to sell the self-titled album after she gave iTunes a one week digital exclusive, Bey went to a Wal-Mart store in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, and offered every customer the “first $50 on me”during the Christmas season, effectively giving Target the finger and figuratively saying ‘here’s some extra money to buy my album.’ That's what bosses do: protect their brand.

But in the quest for the almighty dollar, do artist's pause for a moment to consider how much power they have? Great art foes require great responsibility. 

Recently, on the Bill O’Reilly show, the Fox host gasped at guest Russell Simmons’s  (the co-founder of Def Jam) belief that Beyonce’s Partition video, which is about sexual interludes in the back of a limo, is art. O’Reilly asked Simmons if that video gives “girls of color” who look up to her a bad impression.

Simmons just said, “She’s a great artist.” 

Bey gives her hubby space to croon on Drunk in Love by role playing with the lines Ike Turner forced on Tina as their relationship became even more abusive. "I'm Ike, Turner turn it up / Baby no, I don't play / Now eat the cake, Anna Mae / I said eat the cake, Anna Mae. I'm nice." 

These examples aren’t oozing with feminism. And if feminism is about embracing sexuality, it does so with some morality.

What is moral about Beyonce’s Beyonce are her references to African novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TEDx talk from which she sampled lines for her song Flawless.

"We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are,” Adichie said. “If we have sons, we don’t mind knowing about our sons’ girlfirends, but our daughters’ boyfriends? God forbid. But of course when the time is right we expect those girls to bring back the perfect man to be their husband.” 

But girls are not boys. So girls, by nature are not going to be sexual beings in the way that boys are. It’s not a learned thing. It’s a gender thing.

For example, boys/men think about sex 19 times a day, according to scientists. Girls or women think about it 10 times a day. 

The pop icon quotes Adichie’s definition of a feminist as “a person who believes in the social, economic and political equality of the sexes.”

Women should not have barriers to being their own bosses, or starting decent sexual revolutions, but when we continue to allow men to accept what is unacceptable, then one third of feminism falls into nothingness. And that, then, is not feminism.

What do you think?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Interracial Relationships: Time to Move Toward Colorblindness

More than 45 years after Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court case that made interracial marriage legal, many Americans still consider interracial marriage and dating taboo.

When Bill DeBlasio was elected mayor of New York City on November 5, a plethora of news articles about his marriage to Chirlane McCray, who is black, made headline news. Media sprung in to action claiming that the de Blasio's interracial marriage "shattered the traditional ideas about race and politics." Their marriage commanded the news-cycle spotlight, more than the fact that de Blasio was the first Democrat elected mayor of New York City since David Dinkins in 1993. 

Plaintiffs, Richard and Mildred Loving
in Loving v. Virginia (

De Blasio's election also conjured up a diverse set of viewpoints on marriage and interracial dating. Tiya Miles, the chair of the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan, blogged on the Huffington Post about her experience seeing her black male family members with women who she wrote looked like "Barbie." 

"Try as I might to suppress the reaction, I experience black men's choice of white women as a personal rejection of the group in which I am a part, of African American women as a whole, who have always been devalued in this society." 

Miles's feelings of personal rejection might be relatable to many African-American women, but certainly not all. Many have found happiness dating outside (or within) their race. McCray is an example.

America has further to go when it comes to interracial relations, but it doesn't hurt to take baby steps. A first step is to avoid seeing race as monolithic. It's become ubiquitous for many to lump the ideas expressed by a few members of a cultural group into the same prism of identity for all members of that group (i.e. black voters when Obama won re-election last year).The danger is that the "lumping" creates separatist attitudes. Nikki Giovanni said, “Deal with yourself as an individual worthy of respect, and make everyone else deal with you the same way.” 

Bill de Blasio celebrates win with
his son, Dante, left, daughter Chiara, and wife Chirlane
Reading Miles's article, I couldn't help but think that there's no proof that all black women rest their self-worth on a black man's decision to date outside his race or that all black women feel devalued in society. Attributing her personal feelings about rejection to "African-American women as a whole" does not move the idea of colorblindness in this country forward. It negates an opportunity to move away from monolithic-ness. 

In the article, Black Women, Interracial Dating andMarriage: What's Love Got to Do With It? Miles candidly talks about where these feelings came from.

"Once I overheard my black boyfriend telling his buddies how he preferred white women; on another occasion (with a different black boyfriend) a guy told me he didn't care that I was breaking up with him because he could go out and get a white woman," Miles wrote. (She said that this happened when her boyfriends were barely 20 years old. They were probably scared—a lot of bros have tried and been rejected by black women too.)

But Miles said she doesn’t see that moment as “the driving force behind my resentful feelings about black male-white female relationships." Instead she said it was about her “awareness of all of the (straight) African American women--beautiful, smart, good women, some of them my own family and friends--who might not have a honey to bring home this Thanksgiving holiday because they cannot find a date, even as rising numbers of eligible African American men will be wooing white women.”

But if we step back and take a look at America, the interracial wooing isn't exclusively rising among black men. It seems to have become less taboo, since Shonda Rhimes brought us ScandalFox allowed SleepyHollowABC greenlit Betrayal (where one of the subpolts is about an older white man's regrets about moving on without his black woman lover) and Rookie Blue (the detective, Traci Nash, is dating Steve Peck, her white co-worker); and audiences watched Megan Goode and Wes Brown on NBC's Deception before it was canceled. If that's not enough, Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad, Phylicia and Ahmad's Rashad's daughter, are starring in Romeo and Juilet on Broadway.

According to Ivory A. Toldson, Ph.D., a Howard University professor and research analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation; and Bryant Marks, a psychology professor at Morehouse College and faculty associate at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, it is a "cultural myth" that successful black men are likely to be unavailable to black women because they prefer to marry outside their race.

Toldson and Marks point out that among married black men with a personal income above $100,000, 83 percent have black wives. Among married black men with college degrees, 85 percent have black wives. Toldson cautions against exaggerating a behavior that we might see as negative, when in reality it occurs a small percentage of the time.

In Waiting to Exhale, Angela Basset's character, Bernadine, is devastated when her husband of 11 years leaves her for a white woman. 

She rips down his ties, suit jackets, shirts and pants from their shared closet, gathers all of these things up, takes his belongings outside and puts them in a car. Then, she sprinkles gasoline all over the car, lights a cigarette, smokes it and tosses the match into the car. Everything he owns burns in that car. A profound scene of the woman scorned.

But another scene proved poignant, Bernadine confronts her soon-to-be ex-husband, John: 

Bernadine: I give you 11 f----g years of my life and you're telling me you're leaving me for a white woman?
John Harris Sr: Would it help if she was black?
Bernadine: No. It would help if you were black.

Does the fact that the woman is white really cause her to dish out that rage of rejection? If it were Lela Rochon's character, Robin, who is African-American, wouldn't Bernadine be just as devastated?
Angela Bassett in Waiting to Exhale
Miles might say no. "Whiteness has been a privileged and prized identity in the U.S.; our national culture has made it this way. So when black men select white women and de-select black women, they are doing so in a context of charged racial meanings."

According to a 2005 census data poll, 82 percent of African-American men marry within their race as compared to other minorities; Hispanic men, 65 percent, and Asian men, 48 percent. And 97 percent of white men marry white women. 

Statistically, black men are not deselecting black women.

Miles says that “the human family is so genetically close that we share more than 99 percent of our DNA. Genetically speaking,” wrote Miles, who is married to a man of Native American descent, “there are no racial categories; race is merely skin deep. Dating and marrying across racial lines should therefore be natural, common and acceptable.” But, she finished that thought saying that the United States is not a colorblind nation.

I agree, The USA isn't a colorblind Nation, but it might begin to be if we take baby steps and realize that we all have the same DNA.

What do you think?

Friday, September 6, 2013

I'm Just Trying to Get Home Too


At a reasonable time several nights ago, I walked to Duane Reade to buy a pack of M&M's. When I came out of the store on my way back to my apartment, it happened. For the 18-millionth time -- I know that's not a number or a realistic figure, but I'm making a point -- I've walked down a New York City street to hear a random Harlem area stranger lean in to me and say: "Sexy."

This is not a compliment.

The headline is not mocking Rachel Jenteal's explanation of what Trayvon Martin was doing on the night he was shot and killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman (in an exclusive interview, Jenteal told Piers Morgan on CNN that Martin was "trying to get home" on the night he was killed). That was a real tragedy and I wrote about it on RCJ News. I am, however, trying to explain that I'm tired of being harassed.

"Hey baby", "Hey Princess" or any other distillation are not compliments either. Catcalls, sexually explicit comments, and groping or unwanted touching is street harassment. Can we include leaning in too?

Recently, Michaela Cross, a University of Chicago student posted her account of street harassment after traveling abroad to India. Cross said that she

Michaela Cross in India
(photo credit michaela cross and
and others experienced repeated sexual harassment in India and those encounters resulted in her diagnosis of PTSD.

She wrote a essay that was tracked by CNN. Here are parts of her story:

"Do I tell them about our first night in the city of Pune, when we danced in the Ganesha festival, and leave it at that? Or do I go on and tell them how the festival actually stopped when the American women started dancing, so that we looked around to see a circle of men filming our every move?

"Do I tell them about bargaining at the bazaar for beautiful saris costing a few dollars a piece, and not mention the men who stood watching us, who would push by us, clawing at our breasts and groins?

In my reporting, I have covered several areas in New York City and I have watched many women leave their apartments, specifically those women in public housing, to be harassed by large groups of men outside their building. I remember seeing a man try to grab a woman's arm as she walked by. She was moving briskly. As if she knew something was coming and trying to avoid it. A pseudo "duck and cover" technique. Maybe she knew him, maybe she didn't. It doesn't matter.

In broad daylight, I walked by five men after covering a story in Brooklyn who said "oh, she's sweet, she's sweet" leaving me with a deafening sexual undertone. They did not need to grope me for me to feel uncomfortable.

But I felt excruciatingly uncomfortable more than a decade ago during a college trip. I took a Greyhound Bus with a group of friends to Biker Beach Week in Datyona Beach, Florida (the things we did at 19...). I was completely unprepared for what I saw. Keep in mind that everyone is wearing short shorts and bikini tops. I was wearing a tank top and jean shorts. We were walking down the street and passed a group of guys. The minute we walked pass them, I felt a smack on my backside. I didn't know how to react, but I remember staring the bro down in complete shock.

Women like Cross, and those women walking into their buildings are not assaulted with guns, but, I'm sure these women are being provoked like Martin was. How? Cross' account of reaching her boiling point while traveling in India: "When people compliment me on my Indian sandals, do I talk about the man who stalked me for 45 minutes after I purchased them, until I yelled in his face in a busy crowd?"

A few years ago, the Huffington Post reported that the NYC City Council heard testimony from women who felt unsafe and threatened after experiencing street harassment. They even considered introducing legislation to thwart the harassment, but the issue was: how could they execute it. Council member Julissa Ferreras, chair of the women's issues committee, was supportive of the legislation and certainly, Holly Kearl, who was mentioned in the article, would be as well. 

"Because of street harassment, from a young age women learn that public spaces are male territory," Kearl told the Huffington Post. Kearl is the author of Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe and Welcoming for Women. "They learn to limit the places they go, they try not to be in public alone -- especially at night -- and when they are alone, they stay on guard."

(RCJ News reached out to Council member Ferreras, but emails and calls were not returned)

In Egypt, where women are harassed constantly and aggressively on the streets -- some incidents are due to weak public order since the revolution ousting the President Mubarak in 2011; and now, the same unrest is happening with the ousted Morsi -- men are trying a new shaming method to help prevent street harassment. The Washington Post posted a video on their blog showing two male activists, who had just witnessed women being harassed, pin the harassers against a wall use a stencil to spray paint in Arabic, "I'm a harasser" on their T-shirts. A riskier method, but indeed, the harassers got the point.

A softer solution to the execution problem, is an app (and there really is an app for everything) called "Not Your Baby."  The app will allow users to input where they are and who is harassing them. A response will be generated to the user "in the moment" for direction from others who have been harassed on how they dealt with it. has also created a new app where victims can upload in real time information about where they experienced harassment on the street. 

But, there could be technical difficulties if you use it on the subway. A temporary solution in that case is to ignore it.
Stop street harassment art by Brooklyn artist 
Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. (photo credit, Fazlalizadeh)

Coincidentally, however, while waiting for the subway, one guy with his wide-brimmed sport team hat and baggy jeans, again, leaned in to me for a full sentence: "It is too hot to be drinking that coffee [on the subway]." Really? Or, you could have walked by and said absolutely nothing. 

Ugh, I get it, critics. I've heard it 50 million-thousand times (again, trying to make a point): they are only being friendly; just smile back and say hello. But, the difference is that it is unwanted attention. And I don't want to smile back. 

I wonder if harassers feel provoked while trying to get home.  

What do you think?

Friday, August 16, 2013

The West/Smiley Criticism of President Obama Comes Down to Ego

By D. Price
RCJ News Op-Ed Contributor

Dr. Cornell West’s take on President Obama’s comments following the George Zimmerman verdict—“But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken”—have left me stunned. Here is one of West’s comments: "We know anybody who tries to rationalize the killing of innocent people is a criminal. George Zimmerman is a criminal. But President Obama is a global George Zimmerman because he tries to rationalize the killing of innocent children...”

Growing up in New Jersey and New York, West’s name was highly regarded in my home. Primarily because of my father, who like West, also studied theology and is a Princeton alum. I remember Dr. West’s name coming up in several of my father’s conversations on myriad topics ranging from politics, race and Christianity.   
Princeton University Professor Dr. Cornel West (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Now an adult with my own family, I’d like to think West’s name will be highly regarded in my home; synonymous with people like Cory Booker, Anthony Foxx and (yeah) Jay-Z. But, sadly, after West’s recent rants, I am not hopeful the latter may be true.

West is not the only black activist or media figure who feels President Obama’s post-verdict remarks were insufficient in addressing the dissatisfaction Trayon Martin supporters feel. Tavis Smiley took to Twitter stating: “Took POTUS almost a week to show up and express mild outrage. And still, it was as weak as pre-sweetened Kool-Aid.”

Honestly, I was a bit surprised President Obama commented at all. While I wanted him to, I understand the compromising position in which he is often placed because of his biracial status. Especially in this particular case, when black, white and brown faces were involved.

So forgive me, but that is why I assumed the “Dr. West’s” and “Tavis Smiley’s” of the world would be less caustic in their public judgment of the president’s comments. Yes, the Trayvon Martin verdict speaks to the serious level of racial injustice in the United States. But, in President Obama’s defense, what everyone must remember is that while he “could have been Trayvon Martin 35 years ago,” there is a significant difference between he and Trayvon Martin that many African Americans choose to ignore: President Obama’s mother.

The president has been careful about racializing issues during his presidency, which may attribute to blacks overlooking his biracial status. Regardless of whether he has chosen to identify more with his black roots than his white, President Obama cannot escape the fact that he shares a commonality with the racial majority in America. That is why he must be extremely careful of every single thing he says.

But West seems not to be so careful. To say that, “President Obama is a global George Zimmerman,” is offensive and blasphemous. The word rationalize means an: Attempt to explain or justify (one's own or another's behavior or attitude) with logical, plausible reasons, even if these are not true. While West and others might not agree with President Obama’s comments that the “jury has spoken…” right or wrong, the verdict is final. The president’s statement doesn't mean he agreed with the jury’s decision. He was simply reiterating the facts, which cannot be changed, so now it is time for everyone to move forward.

West also said that the president is responsible for “criminalizing” the black poor and creating the “re-niggerizing of the black professional class.”  This I find quite interesting for two reasons: West is a member of the black professional class, and, while West does a superb job of pinpointing all that President Obama is not doing, I have yet to see any successful proposals or solutions of his own, such as voter registration drives, that aim to combat the plight of Americas’ poor.

A bit softer than West, regarding President Obama’s second public statement following the Trayvon Martin verdict, Tavis Smiley on NBC’s Meet the Press said, “a week of protests outside the White House, pressure building on him inside the White House, pushed him [the president] to that podium.” Maybe it did. Either way, Smiley later stated, “I disagree with the president, respectfully, that politicians, [and] elected officials, can’t occupy this space on race.”

If it is in fact public knowledge that the president would rather not use his position to discuss race and/or the events surrounding the Trayon Martin verdict, as one could easily see how that might become problematic, what more is there to say?

Maybe it’s just a case of different opinions. Maybe West, Smiley and Obama simply cannot agree to disagree. Whatever it is, there has to be more to West and Smiley’s blatant animosity toward the president than that.

Ironically, there is.

In 2008, then, Senator Obama, declined Tavis Smiley’s invitation to the 2008 State of the Black Union forum in New Orleans. With campaign and traveling conflicts, he offered to send Michelle Obama instead, to which Mr. Smiley declined. Feel free to read the president’s apology letter to Tavis Smiley, here.
Smiley and West (Credit:

Four years later, a similar, yet, more personal blunder occurred with West. According to him, phone calls to President Obama were not returned, and he and his mother were slighted on tickets to the second inauguration. You can read more about that story, here.

Most Americans do not know what it is like to have a personal relationship with a United States president. And those who are privileged to be among the elite inner circles obviously feel entitled to certain luxuries such as: having Mr. Obama speak at their functions, return their phone calls or provide them with tickets to presidential events.  But if the goal is to do work that reduces or eliminates the ills that plague black America, how can that be done when leaders of the black community continue to tear theirs down in public every chance they get?

Based on the facts presented, I cannot be certain that Dr. Cornell West and Tavis Smiley would be harboring the same disgust for President Obama’s policies on race and economics, had the events in 2008 and 2012 not occurred. For that reason, Cory Booker, Anthony Foxx and yes, Jay-Z, will continue to be highly regarded names in my home.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Edward Snowden Can Keep A Secret

The recently sheltered, and alleged leaker, Edward Snowden is good at keeping secrets. Just not secrets about national security.

According to news sources (, Snowden never told his girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, 28, that he planned to leak pages of classified documents, jeopardizing US national security and adding strain to US relations with other countries, notably Russia, where Snowden was granted a year of asylum.

Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters
NBC news has reported that Snowden's lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said that his client misses Mills, and in an article by UK publication the Daily Mail online Snowden kept her in the dark in order to protect her. Snowden and Mills lived in Hawaii and were dating for four or five years before Snowden suddenly fled to Hong Kong to leak the secrets. Friends close to the couple, some who did not want to be named, said that they were set to get engaged. And recently when talking to the media, Mills' father, Jonathan Mills, said that his daughter was heartbroken and "barely holding on" after Snowden left her without warning.

Arguably, one of the biggest leaks in US history comes down to loyalty. Snowden loved his girlfriend and wanted to protect her, so he kept a secret from her: he did not place her in harms way (if there would be repercussion on her from his leakage). Snowden has the ability to be loyal to Mills. But arguably, not to the NSA or USA, at least not during his three months as a CIA contractor.

But by revealing the US surveillance strategies -- the leaks allegedly revealed the depth of the National Security Agency's (NSA) 'spying' on communications transmitted between countries through their emails and phone calls -- isn't Snowden in effect putting his girlfriend in jeopardy? She is an American. And the government, simply put, is monitoring communications to protect its citizens.

Jonathan Mills said that Snowden was a man who "has strong convictions about right and wrong" and that "he must have found something disturbing him enough that he would go this far." What Snowden leaked was information regarding NSA operations called PRISM: collections of data from U.S. phone call records to search for possible links to terrorists abroad and surveillance of online communications to and from foreign targets to detect suspicious behavior. What was shocking about what he leaked was perhaps how much personal information the government has access to about us.
Lindsay Mills and Edward Snowden (by\ Edition)

But, doesn't the average American citizen already know that the government is, in a sense, 'watching us.' Is there really such thing as privacy in any country and how should that right evaporate if we are being protected? Legally, once issues of national security are involved, the government has standing to take protective action to do anything and everything it can to keep the country safe. It's not the prettiest thing in the world but, why risk not keeping us safe just so that an NSA agent in Virginia will not know what kind of clothing you buy -- although, I agree that they really do not need to know everything that we do.

So, Snowden was more loyal to his convictions (aka himself) than he was to Mills. After all, Mills is in 'the news cycle'; naked from any real protection.

What do you think?