Category Archives: Black Issues

There Oughta Be a Law

OK so we can’t agree on which Democrat healthcare reform bill will best preserve insurance company profits, at least we can all agree that there oughta be a law that David Brooks not be allowed to masquerade as a psychologist, historian, economist, or – Dawg forbid – a philosopher. Can’t we? Please?

And no matter which h r b will best p i c p, any bill that passes ought to require that “crazy fatigue” is fully covered, even if 2/3 of the country needs treatment.

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Seems to me that of all the contests to cheat on, the Miss America contest ought to be the one most cheat-free. I mean, if the contest organizers are going to pay for contestants’ boob jobs, where will it end? Is nothing real any more? This has to be a violation of the truth-in-advertising law, doesn’t it?

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The black community ought to consider passing a law against Star Parker. She’s giving them all a black eye. So to speak.

Sharpton blocked Limbaugh like Governor Orval Faubus tried to block black children from entering Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957.

Can’t say it any better than TBogg.

Yes. Keeping Rush Limbaugh from joining a bunch of rich white men attempting to buy their way into a fairly exclusive club made up of other rich white men is just like calling out the National Guard to keep black children from going to school with white children.

Awesome analogy.

Troy Davis May Get New Trial

After several weeks of dicking around, the Supreme Court has sent Troy Davis’ case back to Georgia. Continue reading

“We let em use our water fountains. What do they want?”

A “dust-up” on one of Kevin Hayden’s posts at a blog called The American Street in which the cluelessness and ferocity of right-wing intolerance was vividly in evidence, brought together a number of things I’ve been thinking about since I came South. Savannah is, in some ways, the epitome of the contradiction that still exists between what people say about racism and what they feel. There is a genuine sort of truce here where, at least on the surface, people accept each other at face value and try to deal with each other that way. But the truce doesn’t affect any emotions that may be roiling beneath that surface. They remain as strong as they ever were, often for good reason.

The title above wasn’t actually said by anyone but it encapsulates the feelings of an awful lot of white people I run into down here (not all, I hasten to say, and certainly not just in Savannah). There’s an impatience to “get over it” on the part of whites, who either don’t know or don’t accept that the realities of black life haven’t really changed since the 60’s in many significant respects. We feel the “injury” of forced integration and the social changes it has wrought in the last 40 years but have no real understanding of how superficial those changes have at the same time proved to be.

For example, yes, blacks don’t sit at the back of the bus any more and they drink at the same fountains and sit in the same section of the movie theaters with whites and own homes and hold down jobs and are elected mayor and so on. To whites, this is a Big Deal. Many of u8s experience such things as great sacrifices on our part and are justifiably proud of making them. We honestly don’t know what else we can do and tend to fall back on the usual Right-wing folderol, “personal responsibility”. The society has made blacks equal to whites so if blacks aren’t scaling the social ladders, acting with grace and wit, and educated to within an inch of their lives, it’s not our fault. They need to take responsibility for their own failures now.

The corollary, of course, is that if blacks aren’t easing into white society with grace and wit, it just goes to prove what we’ve been saying about them for years: that they’re inherently inferior. “What do you expect?” people whispered to me when I got here. “It’s a black town.”

But under the cover of the superficial changes, even a cursory acquaintance with the black community in Savannah turns up lots of anger, residual and current, because to a large degree despite the overwhelming changes of the past 40 years, not much has actually changed: they’re still the last hired and the first fired, they’re still constantly badgered by police even though the police force has lots of black faces in it, some of them in positions of authority, and they are still given very little room to move compared to whites. A white teen who gets caught selling drugs will be sent to rehab; a black teen likewise caught will go to prison.

Even in tolerant Savannah, it is hard to find a black family in which no member has been to jail. It is still a constant part of their lives. You hear the DWB stories (police stop them for the crime of Driving While Black), the endless stories of being hassled just because you’re walking in a white neighborhood, of being arrested for “trespassing” in the parking lot of the motel in which you’re staying, and so on. Whenever the brothers get together, a basic staple of their conversation is who went to jail, who got out, who was accused of what, whose lawyer was good, whose wasn’t, which cops treat you like a human and which treat you like an animal.

These are fundamental differences between the cultures, and the expectations of whites that letting blacks drink at the same water fountain is going to solve the whole problem is just a form of denial about how deep the problem really goes, and how hard it will be to fix it for real. Major portions of the society we accept will have to be reorganized, and though we’re doing that – slowly – we resent doing it at all and drag our feet, bitching and moaning about how we wouldn’t have to do it at all if those damn blacks would just accept “personal responsibility” for the way they live.

But that’s like saying that if those people from New Orleans had just accepted personal responsibility for Katrina the hiurricane never would have happened and they never would have lost their homes.

It isn’t a surprise that white people feel that way, but it came as a surprise to me to find out that many blacks feel that way, too. Especially the women for some reason. They can be as hard as nails with their own, as unwilling to forgive as the most bigoted white you can conjure up. Only three times in all the miles I was hitching was I picked up by a black man even though most of the cars that passed me were driven by blacks. Of all the people who’ve offered me money, only two were black. They were both women and they each gave me a dollar.

With the first (in Richmond), I had the feeling that she was making a sacrifice, that even a dollar was going to cause a problem to her week but she was going to do it anyway. I was grateful and even humbled by that sacrifice. The other (in Fayetteville) was slumming. She had just put over $40 worth of gas in her SUV and she wanted to feel, perhaps, that she wasn’t as selfish as she sometimes thought she was.

The point here is not that black people are stingier or meaner with money, gifts, or aid. The point is that they, too, have bought a certain amount of the “personal responsibility” swill that conservatives have been peddling for the past 30 years. Not as much as whites but quite a bit all the same. Bill Cosby started a furor several times in the last few years when he publicly took the standard conservative attitude – “I did it so if you can’t it’s because you’re lazy and undisciplined” – and beat his own people over the head with it. Of course they were angry. They’re used to hearing that crap from whites. It was an insult to hear it from one of their heroes.

But it does make plain the split in the black community between those angry because the discrimination never seems to end despite all the white promises (and now the incredibly frustrating white insistence that it has ended when it so clearly has not) and those who are angry because their friends and loved ones often seem to be taking the easy way out, proving to the whites that “they’re all like that” and similar cliches.

There’s nothing really new about this split. It has been there for generations but conservative propaganda has given it new life and force so that even blacks are asking themselves, “What’s wrong with us? Why haven’t we come further in the last 40 years since the civil rights movement than we have? Are they right? Are we just lazy, undisciplined, and dependant on government handouts?”

The poison is everywhere – both in the unrealistic expectations of whites that blacks ought to have become docile and obedient once segregation was technically over even though in many ways how they’re treated hasn’t changed much, and in blacks’ expectations for themselves that it must be their fault if they haven’t made more progress. It’s a game of Victim/Victim that has to be played out, I suppose, but it isn’t helping anybody.

Martin Luther King’s Daughter, Yolanda, Has Died

Yolanda Denise King was only 51 years old. The cause of her death is not known.

From the Associated Press:

Yolanda King, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s eldest child who pursued her father’s dream of racial harmony through drama and motivational speaking, has died. She was 51.

King died late Tuesday in Santa Monica, Calif., said Steve Klein, a spokesman for the King Center. The family did not know the cause of death, but relatives think it might have been a heart problem, he said.

yolanda-king.jpg

Yolanda Denise King, daughter of the late Rev. Martin Luther King, speaks on the burden of stroke and the experiences regarding her mother’s stroke, at a briefing sponsored by the American Stroke Association and the Congressional Black Caucus, Tuesday, May 23, 2006 on Capitol Hill. King, daughter and eldest child of civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., has died, said Steve Klein, a spokesman for the King Center. King died late Tuesday May 15, 2007 in Santa Monica, Calif., at age 51. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)

“She was an actress, author, producer, advocate for peace and nonviolence, who was known and loved for her motivational and inspirational contributions to society,” the King family said in a statement.

Born on Nov. 17, 1955, in Montgomery, Ala., Yolanda Denise King was just an infant when her home was bombed amid the turbulent civil rights era.

She became an actress, ran a production company and appeared in numerous films, including “Ghosts of Mississippi,” and as Rosa Parks in the 1978 miniseries “King.”

“Yolanda was lovely. She wore the mantle of princess, and she wore it with dignity and charm,” said the Rev. Joseph Lowery, One of her father’s close aides in the civil rights movement. “She was a warm and gentle person and was thoroughly committed to the movement and found her own means of expressing that commitment through drama.”

Continue reading

Blacks Have a Compassionate Friend in Bush

Rather a startling headline, isn’t it? One’s instinctual reaction is ‘Huh??!! Did I just wander into some alternate universe by mistake?’ Well, sort of. We now enter the Land of the Bush Defenders, a separate country where otherwise intelligent people have bought hook, line, and sinker the BushCo fantasy that up is down and black is white and rhetoric is more important than action.

Instead [of addressing the NAACP], the president chose to address the National Urban League, a black organization whose mainstream leadership is focused on ideas for improving life in inner cities rather than on politics and racial demagoguery.The president used the occasion to announce an administration initiative to expand business ownership and entrepreneurship among minorities. The program will turn local offices of the Urban League into one-stop centers for business training, financing and contracting. Bush said he saw this program as part of his administration’s efforts to create “an ownership society” that would give minorities a stake in America’s future as owners of homes and small businesses.

Mr Sahm, in the mouth of this president, a man who has broken more promises than Clinton ever made, ‘initiative’ doesn’t translate into ‘will’ but into ‘might, maybe, if he remembers after the election that he said it–which he won’t–and if he’s willing to put a little muscle behind something other than tax cuts–which he isn’t–and if there’s any money in the budget to get the program off the ground–which there won’t be.’

Even after 3 1/2 years of Grand Canyons between what he says and what he actually does, in the Land of the Bush Defenders we must treat them as if they are one and the same or our defense crumbles. Thus:

This is just the latest example of the solid record the Bush administration has built on issues of concern to African Americans. Despite the criticism he’s received on race-related issues from elements of the black leadership and from Democrats generally, the reality is that he has consistently championed initiatives focused on economic and social empowerment rather than further dependency on social welfare programs.

Um, ‘championed’ is a mite strong, don’t you think? He’s mentioned them in passing a few times. How does mentioning initiatives he then does nothing to initiate entitle him to a ‘solid record’?

The day after his inauguration, Bush brought together a renowned group of education experts who began to craft the No Child Left Behind Act, which Congress passed a few months later with overwhelming bipartisan support. This landmark legislation, which increased federal education funding by nearly 50%, has brought elements of accountability and competition into the equation for the first time. (emphasis added)

‘Increased funding by 50%’? Huh? Where’d that come from? Bush cut the NCLB funding out of the budget–we ‘couldn’t afford it’ he said, and then cut a $$$Trillion$$$ in corporate taxes and taxes on the wealthiest 1%. You see, in the LotBD’s, we support our defenses with lies and obfuscations equal to his own because his actual record doesn’t deserve support. We’ve learned to make it up as we go along.

Bush has also strongly supported school-choice programs aimed at helping liberate African American children from dysfunctional urban public schools — the last civil rights battle. This year he joined forces with Washington’s black Democratic mayor, Anthony Williams, to win passage of the first federally funded voucher program, which will provide $7,500 each to poor minority children in the nation’s capital, giving them some of the same educational options that their wealthier neighbors enjoy.

Bush has supported school voucher programs as a way of killing public education and slipping Federal money under the table to schools run by Christian theocrats. He’s using the DC ‘initiative’ as a Trojan Horse and DC’s black community as cover. And btw? The bill hasn’t passed and the money isn’t in the budget anyway.

In January 2001, Bush, surrounded by two dozen black ministers, fulfilled another “compassionate conservative” campaign promise by creating the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, making it easier for inner-city black churches to receive public support for providing social services.

And much easier for white Christian theocrats to receive ‘public support’ for their religious propagandizing by simply calling it ‘providing social services’. Look at the list: black churches received a pittance compared to fundamentalist white churches. More Trojan Horse stuff. What is it, Mr Sahm, do you like being conned, is that it?

The administration has also tried hard to help lift Africa out of its deepening misery. Last year the president pledged $15 billion — a twentyfold increase from Clinton-era funding levels — to help stem the AIDS pandemic sweeping the continent–

‘Pledged’, Mr Sahm, is the key word here. He ‘pledged’ $15B, he ‘delivered’ $5B, none of which has been paid out yet. First he cut it because he said the infrastructure couldn’t handle it, and then he said we couldn’t afford it, and then the truth came out (you must have missed it what with you being so busy cheerleading and all): his far-right Christian conservative base vetoed it because too many of the programs the money would have supported were advocating birth control! Horrors! Now there are strings attached the the $5Bil that may one day in the distant future be dispersed, and the strings are that it has to go only to agencies that advocate abstention and only abstention as a way to fight the epidemic. Think that’s going to work, do you? I bet you still stay up every Christmas Eve waiting for Santa to slide down your chimney, don’t you? Your belief is touching but believing something doesn’t make it true.

–and Bush has sent troops and diplomatic envoys to try to quell violence in Liberia and Sudan.

He sent a token force into Liberia only when he was shamed into it and envoys to the Sudan only when the UN demanded it at a time when he wanted something from them (approval of the interim Iraqi govt’s ‘sovereignty’). Neither was more than a PR effort. He had successfully refused even to acknowledge the existence of Sudan for all three of the prior years of his admin.

I could go on, but what’s the point? Sahm spends the rest of the essay lauding a speech–a speech, for chrissake. Words. Of actions there is nary a mention because there haven’t been any. But in the LotBD, actions are unimportant–it’s the rthetoric that matters. ‘Saying” becomes the same as ‘doing’. It has to or there’s nothing left to defend.

(I wonder if TCF has seen this?)

A Bad Day for Bad Science

After taking a whipping over changng a negative health report into a positive one, The NY Times says the Bush Admin has decided to change it back.

The theme of the original report was that members of minorities “tend to be in poorer health than other Americans” and that “disparities are pervasive in our health care system,” contributing to higher rates of disease and disability.By contrast, the final report has an upbeat tone, beginning, “The overall health of Americans has improved dramatically over the last century.”

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The reversal comes in response to concerns of Democrats and the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee. They are pushing separate bills to improve care for members of minorities.

“African-Americans and Native Americans die younger than any other racial or ethnic group,” Dr. Frist said. “African-Americans, Native Americans and Hispanic Americans are at least twice as likely to suffer from diabetes and experience serious complications. These gaps are unacceptable.”

In response to this high-level tongue-lashing, the original report is now going to be published as originally written. This is all well and good. It’s a positive step. We like it. But get a load of HHS-Sec Tommy Thompson’s unmitigated gall:

Mr. Thompson said that “some individuals took it upon themselves” to make the report sound more positive than was justified by the data.

He’s decided to blame unnamed “individuals” and claim that they did it on their own. Who’s he trying to kid and exactly how gullible does he think we are? Some faceless clerks took it into their own heads, without authority, in this the most authoritarian Admin in history, to risk their careers by re-writing a key report in a way that their changes just happened to justify Bush budget cuts?

President Bush’s budget would cut spending for the training of health professionals and would eliminate a $34 million program that recruits blacks and Hispanics for careers as doctors, nurses and pharmacists.

Tommy must think we’re all morons. Fortunately, the NYT reporter, one Robert Pear, nailed down at least one of the people probably responsible.

Among those who wanted to rewrite the report was Arthur J. Lawrence, a deputy assistant secretary of health and human services.”The present draft remains highly focused on the health care system’s supposed failings and flaws,” Mr. Lawrence said in a memorandum to Mr. Thompson last fall. “In short, the report lacks balance.”

Mr. Lawrence said that geography, income and other factors could be more important than race. For example, he said, whites in rural northern Maine may have worse heart problems than blacks in big cities. In addition, he said, the report should place more emphasis on “personal responsibility for one’s own health status” and on “problems with the medical malpractice system. (emphasis added)

Lacks balance. Oh, that again. Those damn liberal scientists, anyway. They always insist on using evidence instead of faith, and they clearly don’t believe in “balance.”

Lawrence’s whole line of argument is so incredibly thin that a sheet of paper would look like a cement slab by comparison, yet the report was changed along exactly those lines. Mr Lawrence is NOT a faceless “individual” but a Deputy Asst Secretary, a position of some responsibility only two steps removed from Tommy himself, so the decision to whitewash the report in order to cover Bush’s ass was made at a pretty high level. And Tommy wants to pretend he never approved it and didn’t know anything about it?

OK, Tommy, and my daughter had no idea how the cookies I had put aside for my lunch found their way into her school backpack. Some faceless “individual” must have put them there, and she was entirely innocent. Uh-huh. Sure.

What a maroon. How did Wisconsin stand him all those years?

Here are some of the statements that were purged:

¶”We aspire to equality of opportunities for all our citizens. Persistent disparities in health care are inconsistent with our core values.”¶”Disparities come at a personal and societal price.”

¶”Compared with whites, blacks experience longer waits in emergency departments and are more likely to leave without being seen.”

¶When hospitalized for heart attacks, “Hispanics are less likely to receive optimal care.”

The original report included a stark, prominent statement that “black children have much higher hospitalization rates for asthma than white children.” The final version included the data, without comment.

Junior Writhes–Er, Wreaths (Updated)

El Presidente had his little photo-op at Martin Luther King’s tomb, as threatened. You can find it here if you’re interested, though I can’t imagine why you would be. It was, as predicted, a hit-and-run visit–a few seconds with Coretta Scott King, 5 minutes to dump the wreath and have his picture taken, and then he was off to a $$$1.3MIL$$$ fund-raiser.

Incidentally, about that fund-raiser…. This Admin is so commercial that it charges–wait for it–$$$20,000$$$ for a picture with Junior. $$$20,000$$$. I can’t give mine away, but then I’m not the world’s first Western Emperor of Modern Times, which I suppose makes a difference. However, Junior’s supporters seem to be a group of world-class simps, judging by the one who’s quoted in the accompanying AJC article.

Dan Wykoff, a 23-year-old Georgia State University graduate from Lawrenceville, said he was impressed by the visit.”He’s one of the most sincere presidents we’ve had in 12 years. He’s compassionate,” Wykoff said. “I think it’s a sincere gesture to reconcile racial tension.”

There you go. Schedule a last-minute hit-and-run photo-op for these gullibles and you’ve just done everything you need to do to prove you’re “sincere”. Uh-huh. And this clown’s a graduate from one of the more prestigious universities in the country.

Maybe that’s the problem….

Largely unnoticed (certainly by Junior, who ignored them) was a crowd of about 1,000 demonstrators chanting anti-Bush slogans and holding anti-Bush signs:

Despite the warm greeting he received at the Georgia World Congress Center, demonstrators at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Change and on downtown streets expressed strong opposition to the president and his visit.Atlanta police estimated the King Center protesters numbered about 1,000. Two were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

“What the Bush administration stands for is the exact opposite of what Dr. King does,” said Beth Anne Matari, 51, of Atlanta, standing with a “War is not the answer” sign near the King Center, where police used MARTA buses to separate protesters from the president. “It’s hypocritical for him to come on Dr. King’s birthday.”

So not everybody was fooled. On the bright side, at least Junior didn’t have the demonstrators arrested as domestic terrorists, which is something, I guess.

The $$$2,000-a-plate$$$ dinner that was the actual focus of his visit was attended by a number of leading Georgia lights, including, predictably, Zell Miller (America’s main Republican-in-Democrat’s-clothing) and, disappointingly, Andrew Young, the Democratic ex-Mayor of Atlanta and a man who used to know better. But I suppose when the Emperor comes to town, you bow obediently or risk losing your head on the chopping block.

BTW, if you doubt that his trip to MLK’s tomb was more than a photo-op, you might take notice of the singular fact that, despite his supposed reverence for the murdered civil rights leader, Junior never–not once–made a reference to King in his speech either at that dinner or at the one he made earlier in the day in the Big Easy, which wasn’t easy since he was speaking in the same New Orleans church where King had spoken:

The president also attended a fund-raiser in New Orleans earlier in the day, where he promoted his faith-based initiatives to African-Americans.The White House defended both visits. “The president spoke earlier today at a church in New Orleans where Dr. King spoke in 1961,” said White House spokesman Taylor Gross. “It is important to this president to honor [King’s] memory and he has a commitment to building on Dr. King’s legacy of equal justice for all,”

“Important to honor his memory” but not to mention his name, apparently. That would have taken the concept of “honoring” too far for this President. After all, he might have risked having to say something about the parlous state of race relations in this country that his ultra-radical conservative base wouldn’t have appreciated. Can’t have that.

All in all, a shameful performance by a pretend president. So what else is new?

Update: What Junior Might Have Said (from an editorial in the Boston Globe by Abigail Thernstrom):

[T]he most discouraging news of all is that which has been barely discussed until very recently: the appalling racial gap in academic achievement in the K-12 years.That gap between whites and Asians on the one hand and blacks and Hispanics on the other is the main source of ongoing racial inequality. Students who have equal skills and knowledge — whatever their color — will have roughly equal earnings. That was not true yesterday. It is today. Schooling has become the key to racial equality.

Here’s a brief glimpse of the racial gap in skills and knowledge:

On the nation’s most reliable tests — the National Assessment for Educational Progress — the typical black or Hispanic student at age 17 is scoring less well than at least 80 percent of his or her white classmates. On average, these non-Asian minority students are four years behind those who are white and Asian. They are finishing high school with a junior high education. Thus the employer hiring the typical black high school graduate (or the college that admits the average black student) is in effect choosing a youngster who has made it only through eighth grade.

In five of the seven subjects tested by NAEP, a majority of black students perform in the lowest category — Below Basic. And very few score at the top of the NAEP scale. In math, for instance, only 0.2 percent of black students fall into the Advanced category; the figure for whites is 11 times higher and for Asians 37 times higher. Again, Hispanic students are only slightly ahead of blacks. The racial gap in academic achievement is an educational crisis. But it is also the nation’s most important civil rights issue. King’s work remains unfinished. It’s time to join a new crusade — one dedicated to changing American education in ways that will truly create a level playing field. Tinkering around the edges of school reform will not do. We still need desperately the radical and imaginative leadership that King once so brilliantly provided.

That would be in the kind of speech that almost any other (rational) politician would make on such an occasion. You wouldn’t think it would be too much to ask from a self-styled “compassionate conservative” and the no-child-left-behind president, would you? But no, nothing like it.