Practicing the politics of divisiveness

A  friend who contributed the post below expresses our concern if the hateful and divisive language of President Trump’s campaign will empower some Americans to threaten and discriminate against women, Muslims, African Americans, those with disabilities and ordinary folks. Just ask around and there are more and more stories like the customer who told a sales clerk in a tech store to “speak English or the story below.

I got up this morning to have a cup of coffee and read the paper before I start a day of mostly school work and taxes. I opened the paper in the A Section and read a headline, “Man accused of attacking Muslim worker at Airport.”

A white businessman flew in from Aruba to Kennedy Airport in New York. He had a connecting flight to Massachusetts, which included a layover. He spent his layover in the Delta Sky Club. There was a woman wearing a traditional Muslim hijab. She was minding her own business and sitting in the utility room. The man saw her through the glass portal in the door. He went over to her, totally unprovoked, and slammed the door in her hitting her head against the door. He asked her if she was in there praying? He then kicked her, the woman got out of the room and away from the man. The man then fell on his knees like he was praying in a mosque and started mocking her. The man yelled, “Trump is here now. He will get rid of all of you. You can ask Germany, Belgium and France about these kinds of people. You will see what happens.”

He thought he was going to jail just for disorderly conduct and even said so to the policeman who arrested him. Thank goodness New York airport authorities charged the man with assault and the commission of a hate crime. Much more serious than just disorderly conduct.

I think I got so upset reading this article because the article made me realize that for the past eight years we have been able to practice the politics of inclusion under President Obama. Now we are practicing the politics of division (and out right hate.) The saddest part of all of this is Donald Trump feels absolutely no responsibility for unleashing this type of venom into our society. What Donald Trump has unleashed is not patriotism; it is a malevolent nationalism we have not seen since the 1940’s.

I’m just venting over the sad state of affairs we are going to have to survive for the next four years. The only thing I know to do is to personally resist such despicable, (and yes deplorable) behavior. I will speak up and I will speak out when I see these types of injustices. I want to live in Obama’s America, not Trump’s America.

Kellyanne the GOP should seize this time to lead

gopKellyanne Conway, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, said Hillary Clinton, President Obama and Democratic leaders should encourage demonstrators to be peaceful and welcome the nation’s transition to a Trump administration. No, Kellyanne it was the GOP that made the threats, and it should be your responsibility as a GOP leader to right the wrong you created.

As stories emerge of violence as a result of words or actions from the fallout of the presidential campaign it is important for us to look forward while we assess the damage of the hateful language and threats used by the GOP candidate. As a nation we are sorting through our political options with the presidential election behind us.  Community leaders from all sectors have their work cut out for them for the foreseeable future. Our children and youth need our guidance to avoid the negative psychological effects of the angry discord they have witnessed in the presidential campaign. Their fears of danger must be assuaged. Political campaigning can be scary even for those of us who have been in the thick of political “battles”. The GOP leaders must put the hateful threats and rhetoric in check by making clear that all Americans, immigrants, Muslims, women, African Americans, the LGBTQ community, Hispanics, disabled people, and those who disagree with the President-elect are not under attack nor will they ever be. The reckless attacks on these Americans and immigrants are harmful and dangerous.

In the last Atlanta citywide election a former council member viciously attacked my family members in the media and I was subject to an untruthful and hateful citywide robo call assumedly designed to scare me and my family into silence. Rumors attribute those strategies to political leaders at the highest levels of Atlanta politics. That’s a story for another time. Fortunately, my grandchildren weren’t harmed by the attacks but many children and youth are confused by the misbehavior of adults and the discord they are witnessing in their neighborhoods, on the Internet and on television. The GOP leadership has a unique opportunity to reverse this madness by issuing a pledge to cease the banal explanations of why the President-elect’s threats weren’t meant to hurt anyone nor were they intended to provide the foundation of public policy. No, Kellyanne, it is your responsibility to reassure Americans. The GOP should seize the time to lead an inclusive, fair and just America.

 

 

Gun Control Legislation Has Me Asking Georgia Senators, “What’d I Miss”?

nolawnobreakEvery 9 out of 10 Americans believe that anyone on a government terror Watch List should not be permitted to buy an AR-15 assault weapon. It is time for Georgia Senators Isakson and Perdue to listen to the people. It is time for them to listen to Republicans and Democrats who want background checks and want to keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists.  Many polls show gun owners agree with increased national gun control measures.Who are Senator Isakson and Senator Perdue representing? And why?

If Senator Lindsay Graham gets it and has stepped forward to support Senator Susan Collins’ legislation it is time for Georgia’s Senators to wake up to the reality they are not operating consistent with the beliefs of most of their constituents. As Daveed Diggs’s Lafayette sings in the hit Broadway play, Hamilton, “What’d I miss”. Well, it seems Senator Isakson and Perdue “have  missed” that Georgians and Americans  believe their safety requires federal law with tighter gun control and expanded background checks.

It is time to suspend partisan politics, Senators.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/06/22/democrats-stage-protest-on-house-floor-to-force-gun-control-votes

#NoBillNoBreak

The Wizard of Fear

bwbtrumpRepublican presidential candidate Donald Trump made his rounds on the Sunday morning talk shows amidst criticism that he has incited the recent violence at his campaign events. His public remarks on the campaign trail against Muslims, immigrants and others have fueled physical attacks and angry protests. In the spirit of throwing a rock and hiding his hands, his response on “Meet the Press” was, “I don’t accept responsibility…….They’re not angry about something I’m saying. I’m just the messenger”.

The impassioned anti-Trump protestors that appear to be diverse and varied are increasing as the campaign travels. There are ample photos and video footage from protests that led up to the cancellation of the Chicago campaign event due to security concerns. The violence has grown from a simmering dislike to full on hate. From protestors being ordered out of Trump events to being punched in the face to yelling obscenities and even to journalists being roughed up and thrown out of his events. This weekend, in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, there were injuries and arrests and in Kentucky, Trump reportedly promised to defend his supporters if they fought with protestors and in Chicago, he relegated his detractors to “thugs”. It is rumored that Trump may pay the legal fees for the supporter who punched the protester at his recent rally. If so, then his responsibility will be decisive and clear—he will be putting his money where his mouth is.

And in another unbelievable act of messenger amnesia, Trump warned Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders that if his campaign people keep coming to his events, he would send his supporters to Sanders’ events. Whether it is threatening or bullying, Trump’s bravado has instigated flagrant and irresponsible discourse. Trump’s shameless reliance on fear and intolerance to fuel his campaign is likely the result of frustration and resentment from the crowds who support him. People who have seen their lives dramatically impacted by economic and social changes they were unprepared for. People looking for hope in small towns and big cities—desperate for a new and better future. Unfortunately, the billionaire candidate has chosen to pillage their hope with the tactics of fear. He has found acceptance as the messenger of hate but as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear”. The only question now is when will it be too much for the majority of GOP voters because it is already too late for the rest of us to believe he is more than the Wizard of Fear.

 

The Status Quo Has Got to Go!

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Chicago protesters stopped by police at Black Friday rally after Thanksgiving Global Post photo

The year 2015 is behind us and a new one has just started and I am baffled by the continuing contradictions evident in what we believe, how we live and how we treat one another in the name of religion, security and cultural values. As a mother whose child has died, my heart aches for others whose loved ones have been buried too young. The stories of those who die violently from war, from abuse and hatred linger as troubling reminders of a world detached from the reasonable standards of fairness and justice.

In Cleveland a grand jury decided not to charge police officers in the shooting death of 12-year old Tamir Rice. In Chicago, police officer Jason Van Dyke pleads not guilty in the death of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year old who was killed last October. And the recent death of 19-year old Northern Illinois college student Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones, 55, a mother of five who were both killed the day after Christmas by a Chicago officer responding to a domestic disturbance call. Officials have admitted that Jones was killed accidentally, but she was a mother who is already missed by her children. The family of both victims has filed lawsuits in Chicago.

At 70 years old, my life is more over than not. Yet I live another day baffled by the mystery of my long life in the face of the death of the young. Someone wrote to me during this difficult time that, “I know you like me, would give your life for your child.” What parent wouldn’t?  Imagine your loved is a 12 year-old boy in the park like Tamir, or on a street at night in the lights of a police car like Laquan or on the other side of an apartment door like Quintonio.  Public debate about these cases dominate the local and national news and casual discussions among friends and neighbors. Lots of people are baffled about how these horrific instances continue.

In the absence of Congressional legislative action, today President Obama has exercised his executive powers to tighten access to guns and to address the nation’s deficiency in mental health care access and funding. This is a positive development. In Georgia we have witnessed decades of denial and underfunding for mental health care.  The Department of Justice (DOJ) forced the state and the Governor to invest in mental health reform and care a couple of years ago. Georgia had spent decades underfunding and ignoring the needs hundreds of mentally fragile residents. It is yet to be seen whether the state’s DOJ approved plan has reached the majority of those in need of mental health services.

Solutions are possible. They always are in a country as resourceful and wealthy as America. Mayors, governors and other elected officials must own the actions of police and government to better understand the challenges the officers face, the demands of the public for safety and the rights of everyday folks including those they distrust or fear.

Elected officials must adopt a fearless position to honor their commitment to transparency even in when its unpopular to be honest about what might have happened. The cover up of information is never acceptable. Citizen Review Boards can exercise their full authority to investigate…….States, cities and counties can adopt the DOJ standard ………..And all of us must question the use of force, especially deadly force in every case.

Or let’s try other ideas… But the status quo has got to go!!!!!

Moral Contradictions Can Be Dangerous

trumpAs we celebrate this holiday season marred by a spirit of hate hanging above us like wilted mistletoe, it is worth examining Mr. Trump’s rise to radical ridiculousness.

If we allow the moral line of what is right to be moved at will, then the outcome should not surprise us but instead frighten us.

The debate on gun control in this country is not an argument for the Constitution—the Second Amendment is not an excuse to buy military-style assault weapons. However, couched under the anger and debate about guns are some contradictions that cannot be ignored.

Some obvious contradictions.

If you have legislation that allows law enforcement to determine their level of threat and fear without intermediate options then there will be countless and arguable cases of citizens being subjectively shot and killed.

If there are laws that allow private citizens to gauge their fear, based on personal stereotypical interpretations like hoodies and Skittles, then neighborhood watch programs become appealing to vigilantes.

If a US presidential candidate can, criticize his female opponent’s physical attributes, make light of Americans with disabilities, be a finalist for Time magazine’s Person of the Year, and call for the ban of any group of people, not just Muslims, but especially a group that represents 1.6 billion of the world’s population then we should be afraid of him and the crowds who eagerly support and endorse him.

Republicans today may not publicly agree with Donald Trump’s ban on Muslims from entering the US, but they seem to care more about keeping gun laws unchecked, rather than terrorists from entering the country since they are unwilling to support “no fly, no buy” gun laws.

It is no surprise that Trump continues to move the line on who is excluded from his brand of fear-based patriotism. Trump’s latest attack on Muslims reignites the words of Protestant pastor Martin Niemöller who opposed the Nazi regime and whose words are now famous……..

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Moral contradictions can be dangerous.

 

New York Times op-ed columnist, Thomas L. Friedman shares his views on the subject.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/09/opinion/you-aint-no-american-bro.html?mwrsm=Email

 

Mizzou is a Reminder to Reset our Moral Compass

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Missouri football players who are refusing to play until president Wolfe resigns.

While the national media attention has shifted from protests about police shootings and the racial identity of the victims in those shootings to the 2016 presidential candidates squabble of the day, the students at the University of Missouri are struggling with increased racial, sexist and hateful behavior on their campus in Columbia. National coverage and social media are telling the story of a climate on campus that is the impetus of the current protest that now includes the Mizzou football players of color who are supporting the protest by refusing to play until the president resigns.

It has been reported that the incidents that lead to the latest activism on campus started a few months ago when the president of the Missouri Student Association shared a racist experience on Facebook. Members of the Black student organization (Legion of Black Collegians) were targets of racial slurs on campus; Black students created a group called Concerned Student 1950 (the year that the first Black student attended the school); protesting students were bumped by the car of the University of Missouri System president Tim Wolfe during a homecoming parade when they blocked his vehicle; and a swastika was smeared with feces in a dorm bathroom. Graduate student Jonathan Butler is currently on a hunger strike that he said he will continue until Wolfe resigns.

The students and athletes on that campus have decided not to look the other way. Their collective resistance to derogatory comments and treatment is both courageous and reminiscent of a time when students refused to just go along and ignore an uncomfortable situation because it didn’t affect them. The problem of race and hatred of all kinds is everywhere and we see it, whether we want to or not because technology puts us in the heat of the battle in real time.

A few years ago I asked a retail telephone salesman if I could buy a cell phone without the camera because I didn’t need it. That was a pretty naïve request. The phone images are a window to what can happen when our worse selves are in charge. It allows us to see and hear for ourselves what has been known in some communities and unknown or ignored in others. America needs to reset its moral compass to respect human life and the students at Mizzou are yet another reminder of that charge.

Remembering Julian Bond

JBond987As many of you may know, I am a visiting professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas Austin. I have had the pleasure of hosting Julian Bond twice at the University. Once this February as the keynote speaker for the annual Barbara Jordan Forum at the LBJ School and last year at the Civil Rights Summit lecture in April.

Shirley Franklin, “His life’s work and writings serve as a blueprint for all who seek social justice and equality for all Americans and peace in the world. His sharp intellect and unflinching courage in the face of obstacles and ridicule inspire each of us to stand up, speak up and act up for the principles of democracy and justice.

Julian was an inspired teacher, committed human rights activist and a courageous spokesperson for peace, equality and justice for people of color, for women, for LGBT community, for immigrants and for all Americans and people around the world.”

One of the students, Virginia Cumberbatch introduced Julian Bond at the Barbara Jordan Forum this year and her remarks are included here as well as an interview that I conducted this week honoring Bond on the Boston NPR program, Here and Now.

Julian Bond Introduction by Virginia Cumberbatch

2015 Barbara Jordan Forum

Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs

The University of Texas at Austin

UT-Austin

Julian Bond and LBJ student Virginia Cumberbatch

Good afternoon, today I have the honor of introducing a life-long advocate, activist and an architect of civic engagement in America. As the country engages in important conversations on civil rights and human rights, the voice and virtue of Julian Bond represents a model of advocacy and activism that stands to forge connection between

legacy and momentum. The life-long work of Julian Bond should not only impress us, it should also inspire us to sustained and meaningful action, as his leadership stands as a blueprint for social advocacy. As a student he challenged the status-quo through the work of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, as a politician he advocated for the voiceless, as a teacher at some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions he models the principles of conviction, as a thought leader he’s created new paradigms of engagement through his governance of the NAACP and today Bond stands to deliver a message of equality, freedom, and justice with a renewed sense of relevance.

In the past year The University of Texas and the LBJ School have reengaged the civil rights legacy of Lyndon B. Johnson and the Civil Rights movement at large – reminding us that we cannot forget the past, as it plays a vital role in informing our future. Representative John Lewis reminded us at last year’s monumental LBJ Civil Rights Summit, that “we can’t re-remember things incorrectly, or past hurts and misguidances will continue to lead us.” Such words ring true in the wake of the national headlines that continue to shake the American conscience. Likewise, these words evoke a pivotal sentiment for the millennial generation. Although decades removed from the impetus of Civil Rights moments like the Selma to Montgomery march or the March on Washington we cannot continue to live in naivety, failing to recognize that such historical travesties are indeed a part of our current realities.

As students, community members and leaders in the 21st century, we find ourselves in the crux of past and present, but Julian Bond demonstrates for us all a pivotal balance between mere historical reflection and celebration AND vigilant observation and engagement in facing current challenges of equality, access, and social justice.

Whatever the human rights issue Julian Bond has advocated for fairness and inclusion. He has been steadfast in his fight to make real the American Dream and the principles of equity and equality promised in the U.S. Constitution. Such responsibility should still rest on the shoulders of us who call ourselves policy students, community leaders, and human beings.

On behalf of my generation, thank you, Mr. Bond, for demonstrating time and time again that we cannot and must not be silent in the face of prejudice, inequality and discrimination. May today’s conversation reengage us, reinvigorate us and redirect us.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please help me welcome the 2015 Barbara

Jordan Speaker, the Honorable Julian Bond.

Boston NPR’s Here and Now 

 

Celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Everyday by Service to Others

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A national protest for change … but what does change look like?

A start is revamping our grand jury system!

For the second time in a month, a prosecutor has announced a grand jury indictment would not be forthcoming in the death of a U.S. citizen at the hands of image001local law enforcement officers. Regardless of the circumstances of the deaths of African American males Eric Garner in New York, Tamir Rice in Ohio, and most notably Michael Brown in Missouri, they were all killed at the hands of their local police. A much needed and overdue national debate is currently underway regarding race, the militarization of our local police departments, community policing and the very definition of “equal justice under the law.” National protests have ranged from Congressional staffers walking off the job with their “hands up” to sadly, violent protests in Ferguson, Berkley, California and Atlanta, Georgia.

President Obama has called for body cameras to be issued to every police officer in America. This is a starting point. But, does it get to the root cause of the current protest – distrust in our judicial system? Attorney General Eric Holder, recently in Atlanta, is grabbing the bull by the horns in his final months in office. The AG is to be commended for calling to an end to racial profiling by police – especially where young African American males are immediately assessed a “threat” by law enforcement. Body cameras, an end to racial profiling, a return to community policing and moving from the post 9-11 bunker mentality by police departments are parts to a whole that need to be addressed. Even here in Georgia, the GBI has indicated they will release police shooting investigative materials as quickly as possible. But, still the answer of how we obtain equal justice for all citizens is not being addressed.

In 1992, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia noted in United States vs. Williams, “… neither in this country nor in England has the suspect under investigation by the grand jury ever been thought to have a right to testify or to have exculpatory evidence presented.”[1] This means policemen have been traditionally granted a right to defend their actions before a grand jury that you and I, as regular citizens do not have! This is an inherent troubling issue – police officers are allowed to testify in their defense before a grand jury. The officer, like all of us, might naturally portray their actions in the best possible light. Police may cast dispersions on the perceived guilty party in an effort to justify the use of deadly force. To do otherwise could mean possible indictment.

A starting point for public debate to redefine equal justice under the law might include:

1.) Governors empanelling a board of judges, lawyers, law enforcement, district attorneys and lay people to recommend ways to “fix” our grand jury system.

2.) In the interim, when a citizen dies at the hands of a police officer, prosecutors should consider recusing themselves and bringing in an outside special prosecutor, with no ties to local law enforcement or the court system – we already do this with judges. In New York, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has requested Governor Andrew Cuomo to allow the AG’s office play the role of “Special Prosecutor” until their state legislature revamps their grand jury system.

3.) Stop calling officers before the grand jury immediately. Their statements should be videotaped (until body cameras are fully implemented), and submit their recorded statements to the grand jury prior to their testimony.

4.) Congress should give immediate and strong consideration for grand jury reform at the national level. Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) has received criticism for his legislation but he has publicly acknowledged the system needs to be reformed.

5.) We need to rethink police polices of “shoot to kill” and the use of deadly force.

It is time to revamp our justice system to reflect that no citizen no citizen is above the law. The taking of a citizen’s life without due process should be held to the highest level of legal scrutiny no matter the perpetrator.