Freedom and Football

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“People don’t get mad when people are shot or killed, but they’re getting mad because a football player is kneeling or raising a fist,” said Melendez, who is African-American. “The double standard is crazy.” This quote comes from a story in the New York Times from a fan at the Jets game.

This weekend was the third week of the NFL season and one television commentator said, “President Trump goes for cheap applause”. He does that and more. He chooses to divide Americans by race, gender, and national origin. He chooses to start divisive debates about who is a “good” American and who isn’t as if he has the power beyond the bully pulpit to make such a decision. It is as if our democratic system of checks and balances, our laws, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution are his alone to interpret. Yes, he likes applause and plays to crowds of supporters caught up in the moment. I presume those supporters would fight for their rights if they felt at risk of losing them. When President Trump has been rendered powerless at the job he was elected to do, he vigorously attacks those he deems powerless to divert attention from his failings. This is the “give them red meat and they won’t notice your failure” approach to leadership. The NFL players and owners stood, kneeled and displayed the resistance to the President’s divisive remarks and hateful behavior that we who love America should emulate. Their demonstration reflected a peaceful but loud and bold resistance.

For those who want athletes to be quiet and just play the game, they should consider the historic relationship between athletes and activism. It was important for John Carlos and Tommie Smith during the 1968 Summer Olympics and it is important to Venus and Serena Williams who are advocates of equal pay for women tennis players. As Americans, we have the right to decide when we speak up, kneel, stand or sit despite who likes it or not. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin surely must have known this, so must United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, HUD Secretary Ben Carson and other Cabinet members who reflect the diversity that makes America great.

It is in times like this that we remember Martin Luther King Jr.’s powerful words from a Birmingham Jail, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

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.

We stand in the shade of a tree planted by others

DFranklin2DFranklin2 1Born and educated in Atlanta, David Franklin loved Atlanta and all the possibilities it offered for all Atlantans never expecting African American economic opportunities would come without controversy and lots of public debate. Rarely did he speak in public settings but he had lots to say in hundreds of conversations and to political allies.
This is one of the few letters found in his desk when he died a few years ago. The letter to Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Jack Tarver along with a Hosea Williams campaign poster, a Maynard for Mayor button and a copy of a 1974 New York Times article about Atlanta politics along with family photographs were worthy of saving as prized possessions.
Forty-one years ago David and a small group of black and white leaders joined Mayor Maynard Jackson in pushing open the doors of economic opportunity in public and private business sectors. Such courage was demonstrated by few but many have benefitted. The biggest beneficiary is the city itself whose economy has grown by leaps and bounds over four decades.
This week was David’s 73rd birthday and it reminded me of a familiar phrase. We stand in the shade of trees planted by others. Thoughtful, grateful people know so and are thankful for the opportunities afforded them by the actions of others. Only fools think otherwise or worse, believe that they stand alone as champions for their or the city’s success.

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!!!!!

Justice Scalia and Racism

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Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

This post originally appeared on the American Constitution Society Blog on Dec. 11, 2015.

Were Justice Scalia’s Remarks in Fisher v. Texas Racist?
Guest Post
by Tanya Washington, Professor of Law, Georgia State University College of Law. Follow the professor on Twitter @Profwashington8

Perhaps.

But, more important than how his comments are perceived is how they frame the debate about affirmative action and how they will inform the Supreme Court’s decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.

The issues before the Court center on whether the means of obtaining the racial diversity that serves educational prerogatives is narrowly tailored and therefore constitutional, and not whether the end to be achieved (educational diversity) is a compelling and constitutional goal. Though the constitutionality of educational diversity was settled as a matter of law in Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003, the comments of several justices, including Justice Scalia, during oral arguments in Fisher suggest that its constitutional future is far from certain.

In oral arguments before the Court on December 9, 2015, Justice Scalia made the following controversial statements about the legitimacy of educational diversity:

There are . . . those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, … a slower-track school where they do well. . . . One of the briefs pointed out that most of the Black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. . . . They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them. . . . I’m just not impressed by the fact that the University of Texas may have fewer [Blacks]. Maybe it ought to have fewer. And maybe some you know, when you take more, the number of Blacks, really competent Blacks admitted to lesser schools, turns out to be less.

Justice Scalia is not the first justice to express these views. In his dissent in Grutter v. Bollinger Justice Thomas observed, “[O]vermatched students . . . . find that they cannot succeed in the cauldron of competition. And this mismatch crisis is not restricted to elite institutions.” These views tap into the perception of affirmative action as a way of admitting “unqualified” students of color into colleges and universities where they cannot compete.

Of greater concern to me than the patronizing tone of Justice Scalia’s remarks and Justice Thomas’ observation is the fact that both reveal a lack of understanding of educational diversity. The University of Texas (UT) is using race to obtain an educational benefit. Can the Court determine whether how UT is using race is constitutional if it doesn’t understand why it is using race?
The goal that the majority in Grutter recognized as a compelling interest was educational diversity, of which racial diversity is but one aspect. Educational diversity relies on the theory of cognitive disequilibrium as provoking higher order thinking. It takes advantage of a racially diverse student body to provide the cognitive dissonance that forces students to reconcile different perceptions produced by different experiences.

Justice Scalia’s comments cast affirmative action as an ill-conceived goal that harms, rather than helps, Black students. Implicit in his statement is the idea that the goal of affirmative action is to help Black students, when in fact the goal of educational diversity is not to remediate the effects of racial discrimination for students of color; rather, it is to use racially diverse experiences in the classroom to enhance the educational experience of every student.
To be fair, Justice O’Connor’s opinion in Grutter did not distinguish between remedial affirmative action and educational diversity, leaving room for Justice Scalia to confuse the two goals. The confusion has constitutional consequences and will inform two questions the Court’s decision in Fisher is expected to answer: 1) whether UT’s use of race as a “factor of a factor of a factor” in a holistic review of applicants is narrowly tailored to achieve educational diversity; and 2) how much racial diversity is enough for UT to achieve the educational benefits it seeks?

As a proud beneficiary of affirmative action and a graduate of the University of Maryland and Harvard law schools, I was offended by Justice Scalia’s statements, and I know that his comments linking intellectual capacity and race are not true for Black or White students. Having taught at esteemed historically Black colleges and universities, like Howard University, I also know that institutions Justice Scalia refers to as “slower track schools” and “lesser schools” educate and graduate some of the most brilliant minds in the nation, including the late Justice Thurgood Marshall. I understand why his statements inspired such passionate debate.

Pondering whether Justice Scalia’s comments are racist is certainly a provocative question – hence the title of this post. However, it is also important to consider how his remarks obscure the goal that schools employing race-conscious admissions policies seek to achieve. Those Justices in favor of upholding Grutter’s ruling that educational diversity is a compelling interest would do well to define the goal, thereby increasing the odds that using race to that end will withstand constitutional scrutiny in Fisher and beyond.

https://www.acslaw.org/acsblog/were-justice-scalia’s-remarks-in-fisher-v-texas-racist

 

 

 

 

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.

Dorn: Donald Trump’s dog whistles

EDornBy Edwin Dorn – Special to the Austin American-Statesman

Donald Trump’s bombast boils down to this: “If you hate minority groups, you’ll love me, ’cause I’m gonna Make America White Again.”

Trump doesn’t use those specific words. Instead, he uses what University of California-Berkeley Professor Ian Haney Lopez calls “dog whistles,” phrases that perk up the ears of bigots. I am not saying that all of Trump’s supporters are racists; but a quarter of Republicans have responded enthusiastically to his dog whistles, so we need to be clear about what is going on.

Three years ago, Trump revived the dying “birther” movement. He probably didn’t really believe that nonsense, but he knew that many white Americans were angry and anxious about the election of a black man to the presidency. They needed a story to explain how such a thing could have happened — thus the fantastic tale about Barack Obama’s birth in Kenya. In some surveys, more than 40 percent of Republicans said they believed that story. This does not mean that 40 percent of Republicans are stupid. What it means is that many of them would say outrageous things to delegitimize Obama’s historic achievement.

Similarly, most of Trump’s supporters are not dumb enough to take his immigration proposals literally. They don’t believe that most undocumented immigrants are rapists and criminals, or that a President Trump would expel 11 million people from the country, or that he could make Mexico build a 2,000-mile wall, or that he could unilaterally reinterpret the 14th Amendment to deny citizenship to children born in the U.S. However, they love to hear his dog whistle tweeting “We don’t want Mexicans here.”

“Chinese” is another of Trump’s code words. Few Americans are bothered by imports from China, which include everything from toys to iPhones to Trump’s own signature-label shirts. But for Trumpists, “Chinese” is another way to say “yellow peril,”reminiscent of the 1870s. What worries them is not China’s manufacturing capacity; it is Chinese immigrants. And for many Trump supporters, “Chinese” is an umbrella category for the millions of Asians – Vietnamese, Cambodians, Japanese, Koreans, even Indians and Pakistanis — who have immigrated into the United States during the past 50 years.

What solutions does Trump offer for the decline that he claims the United States has been suffering? How does he plan to “Make America Great Again”? By putting white men back in charge! Trump knows that he cannot reduce the number of blacks, Hispanics, and Asian-Americans; but as president he could enhance the GOP’s voter suppression efforts. Reducing the voting power of minority citizens would help to restore what many Trump supporters believe to be the proper racial order.

A series of laws passed a half-century ago — the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1965 Immigration Reform Act — ended centuries of lawful white privilege. Then came the women’s movement. Men who thought they should be running things started to feel emasculated.

Trump is rich. He boasts that foreign leaders will do whatever he tells them to do — and one of his former wives has vouched for his sexual prowess. His phallic symbol is a long, sleek jet airplane. A few weeks ago, Ted Cruz posted a video of his own phallic symbol: a gun barrel wrapped in a strip of bacon.

Ridiculous as he is, Trump has helped to expose the breadth and intensity of prejudice in the GOP. The question is, do any of the other candidates have the decency and courage to stand up to their party’s bigots?

Dorn is a professor of public policy at the University of Texas. He is a former undersecretary in the Department of Defense and former dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

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