Eric Holder - on race, Palin and the DC football team
Commentary by Black Kos editor Denise Oliver-Velez
Wingnuts are at it again—frothing at the mouth about Attorney General Eric Holder. Not that they have stopped since he was confirmed by the Senate on February 2, 2009. But the escalation of their hate has moved from contempt of Congress to cries of "impeach...impeach!"
I refuse to link to right wing sites—take my word for it, the attacks are vile. The comment sections are even worse. I think he is the "2nd most hated by racists" black man in America—after the POTUS.
He knows it. It doesn't stop him from speaking out—which he did in depth in an interview with ABC News' Senior Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas, which has escalated the calls for his removal.
I was pleased to hear him go on record about DC's football team, and the drive to change its racist name. He, like many of us, believes that a name change is "obviously right".
His terse, concise read of Sarah Palin's impeach screeches had me chucklin'.
He said of Palin "She wasn't a particularly good vice presidential candidate, and she's an even worse judge of who ought to be impeached and why." Heh. A nice way of saying that Palin should STFU.
He acknowledged that a part of the animus directed toward the both President and himself has to do with race. He then went on to address voting rights, and dismissed the whole Republican "voter fraud meme" as being "belied by the facts". He pointed out that the DOJ has already filed to stop voter suppression in North Carolina and Texas, and stated that they expect to be filing in Wisconsin and Ohio.
On voting rights he said firmly, "it's the most basic of all of our rights, it's the most treasured of all our rights and I’ll use every ability that that I have, every power that I have as attorney general to defend that right to vote."
The right wing in this country have had it in for Holder from jump street. I haven't forgotten that it was only 16 days after his confirmation that he delivered his landmark speech on race at the Department of Justice African American History Month Program on Wednesday, February 18, 2009. I decided to revisit it today to refresh my memory, and thought it would be a good idea to post the entire transcript rather than just linking to it, and bolding some of the passages I found noteworthy.
Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards. Though race related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race. It is an issue we have never been at ease with and given our nation’s history this is in some ways understandable. And yet, if we are to make progress in this area we must feel comfortable enough with one another, and tolerant enough of each other, to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us. But we must do more- and we in this room bear a special responsibility. Through its work and through its example this Department of Justice, as long as I am here, must - and will - lead the nation to the "new birth of freedom" so long ago promised by our greatest President. This is our duty and our solemn obligation.From my perspective no matter what critiques we may raise from the left about specific DOJ policies, Holder has not and will not back down from his fundamental support for voting rights. I would argue that since the ALEC, Koch, Teapublican agenda is to remove from many of us our democratic right to vote and elect those who govern, that Holder as a result has become a target second only to Barack Obama. The Senate rejection of Debo Adegbile, in March, for the post of head of the Civil Rights Division at DOJ is part of this attack—and I haven't forgotten that Chris Coons (Del.),Bob Casey (Pa.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Manchin (W.V.), Joe Donnolly (Ind.) and John Walsh (Mont.) were part of the problem.
We commemorated five years ago, the 50th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. And though the world in which we now live is fundamentally different than that which existed then, this nation has still not come to grips with its racial past nor has it been willing to contemplate, in a truly meaningful way, the diverse future it is fated to have. To our detriment, this is typical of the way in which this nation deals with issues of race. And so I would suggest that we use February of every year to not only commemorate black history but also to foster a period of dialogue among the races. This is admittedly an artificial device to generate discussion that should come more naturally, but our history is such that we must find ways to force ourselves to confront that which we have become expert at avoiding.
As a nation we have done a pretty good job in melding the races in the workplace. We work with one another, lunch together and, when the event is at the workplace during work hours or shortly thereafter, we socialize with one another fairly well, irrespective of race. And yet even this interaction operates within certain limitations. We know, by "American instinct" and by learned behavior, that certain subjects are off limits and that to explore them risks, at best embarrassment, and, at worst, the questioning of one’s character. And outside the workplace the situation is even more bleak in that there is almost no significant interaction between us. On Saturdays and Sundays America in the year 2009 does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some fifty years ago. This is truly sad. Given all that we as a nation went through during the civil rights struggle it is hard for me to accept that the result of those efforts was to create an America that is more prosperous, more positively race conscious and yet is voluntarily socially segregated.
As a nation we should use Black History month as a means to deal with this continuing problem. By creating what will admittedly be, at first, artificial opportunities to engage one another we can hasten the day when the dream of individual, character based, acceptance can actually be realized. To respect one another we must have a basic understanding of one another. And so we should use events such as this to not only learn more about the facts of black history but also to learn more about each other. This will be, at first, a process that is both awkward and painful but the rewards are potentially great. The alternative is to allow to continue the polite, restrained mixing that now passes as meaningful interaction but that accomplishes little. Imagine if you will situations where people- regardless of their skin color- could confront racial issues freely and without fear. The potential of this country, that is becoming increasingly diverse, would be greatly enhanced. I fear however, that we are taking steps that, rather than advancing us as a nation are actually dividing us even further. We still speak too much of "them" and not "us". There can, for instance, be very legitimate debate about the question of affirmative action. This debate can, and should, be nuanced, principled and spirited. But the conversation that we now engage in as a nation on this and other racial subjects is too often simplistic and left to those on the extremes who are not hesitant to use these issues to advance nothing more than their own, narrow self interest. Our history has demonstrated that the vast majority of Americans are uncomfortable with, and would like to not have to deal with, racial matters and that is why those, black or white, elected or self-appointed, who promise relief in easy, quick solutions, no matter how divisive, are embraced. We are then free to retreat to our race protected cocoons where much is comfortable and where progress is not really made. If we allow this attitude to persist in the face of the most significant demographic changes that this nation has ever confronted- and remember, there will be no majority race in America in about fifty years- the coming diversity that could be such a powerful, positive force will, instead, become a reason for stagnation and polarization. We cannot allow this to happen and one way to prevent such an unwelcome outcome is to engage one another more routinely- and to do so now.
As I indicated before, the artificial device that is Black History month is a perfect vehicle for the beginnings of such a dialogue. And so I urge all of you to use the opportunity of this month to talk with your friends and co-workers on the other side of the divide about racial matters. In this way we can hasten the day when we truly become one America.
It is also clear that if we are to better understand one another the study of black history is essential because the history of black America and the history of this nation are inextricably tied to each other. It is for this reason that the study of black history is important to everyone- black or white. For example, the history of the United States in the nineteenth century revolves around a resolution of the question of how America was going to deal with its black inhabitants. The great debates of that era and the war that was ultimately fought are all centered around the issue of, initially, slavery and then the reconstruction of the vanquished region. A dominant domestic issue throughout the twentieth century was, again, America's treatment of its black citizens. The civil rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's changed America in truly fundamental ways. Americans of all colors were forced to examine basic beliefs and long held views. Even so, most people, who are not conversant with history, still do not really comprehend the way in which that movement transformed America. In racial terms the country that existed before the civil rights struggle is almost unrecognizable to us today. Separate public facilities, separate entrances, poll taxes, legal discrimination, forced labor, in essence an American apartheid, all were part of an America that the movement destroyed. To attend her state’s taxpayer supported college in 1963 my late sister in law had to be escorted to class by United States Marshals and past the state’s governor, George Wallace. That frightening reality seems almost unthinkable to us now. The civil rights movement made America, if not perfect, better.
In addition, the other major social movements of the latter half of the twentieth century- feminism, the nation's treatment of other minority groups, even the anti-war effort- were all tied in some way to the spirit that was set free by the quest for African American equality. Those other movements may have occurred in the absence of the civil rights struggle but the fight for black equality came first and helped to shape the way in which other groups of people came to think of themselves and to raise their desire for equal treatment. Further, many of the tactics that were used by these other groups were developed in the civil rights movement.
And today the link between the black experience and this country is still evident. While the problems that continue to afflict the black community may be more severe, they are an indication of where the rest of the nation may be if corrective measures are not taken. Our inner cities are still too conversant with crime but the level of fear generated by that crime, now found in once quiet, and now electronically padlocked suburbs is alarming and further demonstrates that our past, present and future are linked. It is not safe for this nation to assume that the unaddressed social problems in the poorest parts of our country can be isolated and will not ultimately affect the larger society.
Black history is extremely important because it is American history. Given this, it is in some ways sad that there is a need for a black history month. Though we are all enlarged by our study and knowledge of the roles played by blacks in American history, and though there is a crying need for all of us to know and acknowledge the contributions of black America, a black history month is a testament to the problem that has afflicted blacks throughout our stay in this country. Black history is given a separate, and clearly not equal, treatment by our society in general and by our educational institutions in particular. As a former American history major I am struck by the fact that such a major part of our national story has been divorced from the whole. In law, culture, science, athletics, industry and other fields, knowledge of the roles played by blacks is critical to an understanding of the American experiment. For too long we have been too willing to segregate the study of black history. There is clearly a need at present for a device that focuses the attention of the country on the study of the history of its black citizens. But we must endeavor to integrate black history into our culture and into our curriculums in ways in which it has never occurred before so that the study of black history, and a recognition of the contributions of black Americans, become commonplace. Until that time, Black History Month must remain an important, vital concept. But we have to recognize that until black history is included in the standard curriculum in our schools and becomes a regular part of all our lives, it will be viewed as a novelty, relatively unimportant and not as weighty as so called "real" American history.
I, like many in my generation, have been fortunate in my life and have had a great number of wonderful opportunities. Some may consider me to be a part of black history. But we do a great disservice to the concept of black history recognition if we fail to understand that any success that I have had, cannot be viewed in isolation. I stood, and stand, on the shoulders of many other black Americans. Admittedly, the identities of some of these people, through the passage of time, have become lost to us- the men, and women, who labored long in fields, who were later legally and systemically discriminated against, who were lynched by the hundreds in the century just past and those others who have been too long denied the fruits of our great American culture. The names of too many of these people, these heroes and heroines, are lost to us. But the names of others of these people should strike a resonant chord in the historical ear of all in our nation: Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Walter White, Langston Hughes, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson, Charles Drew, Paul Robeson, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Vivian Malone, Rosa Parks, Marion Anderson, Emmit Till. These are just some of the people who should be generally recognized and are just some of the people to whom all of us, black and white, owe such a debt of gratitude. It is on their broad shoulders that I stand as I hope that others will some day stand on my more narrow ones.
Black history is a subject worthy of study by all our nation's people. Blacks have played a unique, productive role in the development of America. Perhaps the greatest strength of the United States is the diversity of its people and to truly understand this country one must have knowledge of its constituent parts. But an unstudied, not discussed and ultimately misunderstood diversity can become a divisive force. An appreciation of the unique black past, acquired through the study of black history, will help lead to understanding and true compassion in the present, where it is still so sorely needed, and to a future where all of our people are truly valued.
I hope everyone will be following DOJ efforts to stop voter suppression in the months and years ahead and perhaps let AG Holder know he has our support in this.
News by dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor
Who owns a gesture? Who owns a phrase? Who owns a particular style of moving through the world? Slate: The Trouble With “Stealing” Cultures.
These kinds of questions—aspects of the larger issue of “cultural appropriation”—have emerged again this week in the form of an open letter by Sierra Mannie, a rising senior at the University of Mississippi whose college newspaper article, “Dear White Gays: Stop Stealing Black Female Culture,” was reprinted on Thursday on Time magazine’s website. Because she conflates a number of different issues (on which more in a moment), it’s hard to summarize Mannie’s essay succinctly, but what’s clear is that she has grown tired of the way in which certain white gay guys identify with a certain strain of black femininity and partake in its cultural vocabulary. “You are not a black woman,” Mannie writes to the offenders, “and you do not get to claim either blackness or womanhood. It is not yours. It is not for you.”
There is nothing wrong with this argument, as far as it goes. Gay white men like myself are indeed not black women, and for us to “claim either blackness or womanhood” would be strange, if not outright offensive. On that limited point, I join with Mannie in bemoaning the type of white queen who struts around in a kind of performative blackface, claiming to hold a “strong black woman” captive inside himself and invoking other Tyler Perry-like caricatures with oblivious glee. This kind of behavior, I think it goes without saying, is racist.
Likewise, Mannie’s survey of Structural Inequality 101 is well-taken, if not particularly original. Anyone at all familiar with these issues can only nod at a statement like: “A culture of racism is bad enough, but pairing it with patriarchal structures that intend to undermine women’s advancement is like double-fisting bleach and acid rain.” Indeed, being a woman of color in the United States is in many ways a bum deal—and probably, on balance, a worse one than gay white men enjoy.
Photo by Toby Melville/Reuters
Before we phase out racial considerations in college admissions, let’s remember that historically, affirmative action helped preserve the gains of the civil rights era. The Root: What the Book Place, Not Race Doesn’t Get: There’s Still a Place for Race-Based Affirmative Action.
I vividly remember the affirmative action debates that raged on my campus when I was a college student in the early ’90s. Many of our debates centered on Stephen L. Carter’s Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby. To me, Carter was a person who had benefited from his inclusion in formerly all-white spaces who had suddenly turned on my generation as we were attempting to set down our own roots in a wider, post-civil-rights America. Others felt that we were taking advantage of something we had not earned.
I read Carter’s book as a betrayal. Not only had I earned my scores and achievements, but I also felt as though I more than deserved a place at the University of Virginia, precisely because of its history: My “home” in the “academical village” was literally built by my ancestors. This centuries-long history enriched my quest to learn everything I could at a university that had once barred black Americans and women.
So as I read Georgetown law professor Sheryll Cashin’s new book, Place, Not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America, I felt a familiar kind of disappointment. Cashin, the child of civil rights activists and a self-described “affirmative action baby,” now frames affirmative action as a dying and failed approach to achieving racial equity.
She sees political alliances with white Americans as essential—so much so that given that most white Americans are against affirmative action, she argues that the policy must be changed. According to her, policies that consider race as a factor in college admissions have not done enough to alleviate poverty, and she insists that affirmative action has faltered because it has left white Americans outside a coalition of people concerned with improving education for the poor.
Except that she never solidly makes her case.
Relying on personal anecdotes about her life among the black upper middle class in Washington, D.C., rather than on statistics or clear definitions, Cashin says that the black middle class, not the black working class, are the main beneficiaries of affirmative action. Given the success that she sees among black middle-class kids—but citing, among others, African-American royalty like Blue Ivy Carter and the Obama girls—she insists that members of today’s black middle class no longer need access to programs that factor diversity in the admissions process.
High numbers of new cases of the Ebola virus are being reported in Sierra Leone and Liberia, with 19 deaths over three days this week, the UN's World Health Organization (WHO) says. BBC: Ebola deaths mount in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Such figures showed that it was a race against time to control the epidemic in Sierra Leone, medical charity MSF said.
In total there have been 539 deaths in West Africa since the outbreak began in neighbouring Guinea in February. Regional leaders have now agreed to set up a fund to combat its spread.
Ebola spreads through contact with an infected person's bodily fluids and there is no vaccine or cure.
It kills up to 90% of those infected but if patients receive early treatment, they have a better chance of survival.
Is this a trend or simply a blip. The New Republic: Why Network TV Has Become Home to Black Female Oscar Winners.
Movie actors heading to TV has become fairly typical, even trendy. But Berry, along with Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Taraji P. Henson, are appearing on old-fashioned broadcast networks, not HBO or Netflix. Octavia Spencer, who won a supporting actress statue for The Help, is starring in “Red Band Society,” a Fox series about patients in a hospital’s psychiatric ward. (It’s like “Glee” with cancer.) Viola Davis—nominated twice, for Doubt and The Help—is starring in the latest snappy drama produced by Shonda Rhimes, “How to Get Away With Murder,” as a law professor in the Olivia Pope mold: smart, intimidating, sexy. And Taraji P. Henson, nominated for her role in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, will star in Fox’s "Empire," a drama about the family behind a hip-hop music empire. (Jennifer Hudson can also be seen on TV screens, in Weight Watchers commercials.)
It’s both a sign of the increased attraction of a regular TV paycheck, and an indication of how much more welcome television has been to women and non-white actors than the film industry. (Last month, Zoe Saldana told an interviewer that the best roles for women are in outer space.) Studios, as has been extensively documented, are more hesitant than ever to take risks. Meanwhile, TV executives are no longer under the illusion that they will ever be able to attract the huge audiences that they used to. And so as Hollywood’s output becomes more homogenized, television—network TV, not just niche cable channels—has begun to pick up the slack. According to a recent UCLA study, more than half of films in 2011 had casts that were 10 percent minority or less. In TV, that was only 23.2 percent. (And note that this was 2011, before the debut of shows like “Scandal,” “Mindy Project,” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”) This fall season will be network TV’s most diverse within memory, thanks in part to what Buzzfeed’s Kate Aurthur has called the “Shonda effect.”
Not all these shows will be successful, or even particularly good. At least a few will be cancelled by spring. But they all give talented actresses the chance to play characters who aren’t slaves or maids or nannies. Davis, Spencer, and Henson, who haven’t had Berry’s trainwreck film career, still have found their opportunities limited because they don’t look like Anne Hathaway. Mo’Nique, who won best supporting actress in 2010 for Precious, hasn’t appeared in theaters since. Gabourey Sidibe had found the greatest success on TV shows like “the Big C” and “American Horror Story.” At least for now, Lupita Nyongo—who also established herself as a fashion icon—may be breaking the trend: She’s been cast in the upcoming Star Wars film, and is signed to produce and star in a film adaption of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah. But she may want to keep Shonda Rhimes on speed dial.
Voices and Soul
by Justice Putnam
Black Kos Poetry Editor
Two quotes by Malcolm X resonated with me during my early childhood in Oregon; and resonate still.
"We didn't land on Plymouth Rock, my brothers and sisters, Plymouth Rock landed on us!"
"I have no mercy or compassion for a society that crushes people, and then penalizes them for not being able to stand up under the weight."Many things have been written and speculated about the Rap Artist, Tupak Shakur. He was certainly a child and man of his times; and he died far too early. His social commentary and poetry of the human condition; particularily, the conditon of black men and women, is certainly informed by the two quotes I cited. His poetry addresses the plain facts of what it is to live under a dual system of Due Process and Equal Protection. It might be argued that the "apartheid" Jim Crow laws were overturned in the public and private arenas; but Shakur saw how that Jim Crow mentality is alive and well in the most cherished of our "Ideals." Because when millions of black men and women are incarcerated and war criminals walk free, one would think that...
Liberty Needs Glasses~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Liberty Needs Glasses
excuse me but lady liberty needs glasses
and so does mrs justice by her side
both the broads r blind as bats
stumbling thru the system
justice bumped into mutulu and
trippin on geronimo pratt
but stepped right over oliver
and his crooked partner ronnie
justice stubbed her big toe on mandela
and liberty was misquoted by the indians
slavery was a learning phase
forgotten with out a verdict
while justice is on a rampage
4 endangered surviving black males
i mean really if anyone really valued life
and cared about the masses
theyd take em both 2 pen optical
and get 2 pair of glasses
-- Tupak Shakur
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