Tag Archive | Race

Overplaying the Race Card

Originally posted at the Center for Community Change blog.

The race card

Racism still alive/They just be concealin’ it — Kanye West, Never Let Me Down

Hearkening back to the days when American conservatives openly defended the “peculiar institution”, today some conservatives are returning to their prejudiced roots and embracing hate speech and hateful policies across the country. The moral bankruptcy, practical lunacy and political idiocy demonstrated by these short-sighted tactics undermine their future as a palatable movement. Several examples follow: Read More…


Racism has consequences

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made an unfortunate mistake when he said privately:

Obama, as a black candidate, could be successful thanks, in part, to his light-skinned appearance and speaking patterns with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one…He [Reid] was wowed by Obama’s oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama — a ‘light-skinned’ African American ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.

The comments and the response to the comments have been laughable, disconcerting and indicative of the broader race-related issues that our country continually kicks down the road.

I’m frustrated that the only tellers at the Bank of Apologizing to Black People are still Rev. Al Sharpton and/or Jesse Jackson. Many have used the fact that Rev. Sharpton accepted Reid’s apology as grounds for vindication. Rev. Sharpton is as much a proxy for Black America’s social consciousness as the CEO of Goldman Sachs is a proxy for the interests of community banks. Just like there’s a movement to move our money out of big banks, Black folks should be moving their representation away from Rev. Sharpton and to community voices.

It’s further frustrating to think about how the latent prejudice of our politics has contributed to structural inequity reinforced by public policy.

Take health care reform. Why is there disagreement between the House and Senate over the need for reform to narrow disparities in health care coverage? The House bill does this; the Senate bill does not.

Take unemployment. A community jobs program would work wonders for communities over-represented on unemployment roles: Black and Latino people. Yet the current debate on public job creation has shown little interest in this regard.

Perhaps there is more at work than the latent racism that leads to remarks that are at their best in poor taste and at their worst indicative of utter moral failure. The way to work through a controversy like today’s uproar is to put these incidents into a larger narrative about the consequences of entrenched racism and prejudice. Once that narrative is constructed, we can create a solution.

One Love. One II.

We must be bold in our principles

What’s up fam, Long time no see I know. First let me say that I have started law school at UDC so any SuperSpade fam in the DMV, let me know what’s up. Moreover, my partner in crime Garlin got married and would you guess it, moved to DC!!! Suffice it to say that a ton of change has happened in the past couple months and our posting has been….well let’s just get back into it.

So I am really smarting over the Van Jones resignation and the implications it has on the next twenty years of political life in America. President Obama is wrong for allowing this to go through. This has nothing to do with Van’s liberal values but it is pure politics. Jones was ousted in large part to the enraged and deranged rhetoric of Glenn Beck…of all people. I get it you that can’t fight every fight but come on. I will even give you some slack if we are talking about appointments that need the consent of the Senate but this was not the case. Then, the communication’s director of the National Endowment for the Arts, Yosi Sergant is forced to resgin in part due to Glenn Beck. Obama, you can’t allow Glenn Beck to pick off your staff one at a time. This is crazy!!!!

The larger problem is what this says for the generation coming of and preparing to take the reins. What Van said about Republicans pales in comparison to what I hear Republicans have said and say about Obama. The signal being sent though is that if you are left/liberal/progressive, keep your mouth shut. We live in the information where even the most insignificant speech is recorded, and who knows what to think of what is going to happen to all the emails/facebook posts, blogs, blog comments, etc. I say that to say that anyone talking themselves out of politics (or influencing politicians) took the wrong lesson from the Jones resignation. We have to be bold in our principles. Seriously, I don’t know when this happened but “birthers” get regular play over the media airwaves. Where are we?

Let’s be honest shall we?

  • Have you deleted or re-worded a comment or email because while what you said was perfectly reasonable you didn’t want to be branded as a crazy liberal? -When in conversation have you bashed a liberal idea that you really support?
  • What rally did you want to go to but you didn’t want to risk being photographed?

My only point is that you are wrong if you are waiting for progressive values (that is the word I use, don’t get caught in semantics) to become mainstream, stop waiting! Politics doesn’t work when you don’t show up so don’t let this moment go to waste. Let principles guide you, not random reactions to the absurd.

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.

College-educated Blacks have less job security

I’d like to follow up on a post from Brandon from last week on the gender gap in Black students with undergraduate degrees.

Are we protected by our education?

In the midst of this economic downturn, it only makes sense that people take refuge in education. This is especially the thinking of minorities and disadvantaged people, and rightfully so. “Education,” they say, “is a great equalizer.”

This may indeed be the case for entering the workforce. However, some recent, alarming data seems to indicate that having that degree isn’t helping Black folks keep their jobs.

Unemployment of college educated workers, by race

Unemployment of college educated workers, by race

What does this mean?

Make no mistake: you have more security being educated than you do being under-educated. That being said, we may need a little more nuance in our thinking about the whole “get educated to get employed” approach that most of us take to education. As my mentor & friend Calvin Mackie often says, “if it only makes dollars, then it doesn’t make sense.”

In this time where cornerstone companies like GM are entering bankruptcy and promising to come out “leaner” (read: they’re going to fire/lay off/buy out a lot of people), we have to protect ourselves. The harsh truth is that even good people are being let go.

What can we do?

Here are some things we can all do to survive & thrive in this economy:

  1. Add as much value as you can.
    At your job, do what you can to over-achieve. This goes without saying typically, but it’s especially important now. This is good because a record of over-achievement will serve your career well.
  2. Keep your resume up to date.
    Even if you’re not looking for work, re-visit your resume every 6 months. Have you had interesting projects or achievements on the job? Have you attended trainings or acquired some type of certification? Promotion? Adding these things as they happen ensures that you’re never unprepared. Consider creating a profile on LinkedIn. (For an example, look at my profile).
  3. Build transferable skills outside of your day job.
    Try to read, practice, volunteer and/or consult in areas of interest or expertise you have outside of your primary work. If there are things that you enjoy or are good at or want to learn that could have monetary value, grow these skills. After you’ve done some work on them, add them to your resume.
  4. Network to net work.
    The people you know can and will help you get the work you need and want. The old saying is “network or not work,” but I like this more positive, proactive version. We all know people that know people that are [at least] tangentially connected to whatever you want to pursue professionally. What we fail to realize is that they are often more than willing to talk with us, offer advice, and help us take our next step in our careers.

I’m sure many of you have tips we all can benefit from to help us find and keep jobs in this day and age. Please share them.

One Love. One II.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor will be our next Supreme Court Justice

We will have a new Supreme Court Justice by October 2009, and her name will be Sonia Sotomayor. This is a plain, simple fact.

I waited to write about this because I wanted to see the full range of juvenile, senseless, and viperous statements made be conservative critics of this nomination.

A laughable argument

The most ridiculous and confusing argument against soon-to-be-Justice Sotomayor is that she is unfit to be on the Supreme Court because her personal positions, ethnic heritage, and life experience could influence her decisions. Show me a person who’s life experience doesn’t reflect in their decisions, and I’ll show you a person’s life that is a rudderless, abject failure.

Last I checked, judges are people. Persons even. People, like you, me, your mother, your brother, your neighbor and everyone else you know all have histories, opinions and talents. To deny this is to deny the value of life, family, friendship, education, work, and everything else that happens during our time on this earth.

It is beyond ridiculous then to think that people’s decisions are not impacted by the things that they have seen or that have happened to them. Why must judges divorce themselves from their humanity in the name of something as transient and subjective as the law? Are these people saying that they want law machines and not judges? (Note: I’m absolutely not a lawyer, so I’d love to hear from lawyers on this.)

We elect/appoint people

The actual world and the movie world are different. We don’t live in the world of Terminator or iRobot. When we look for ways to solve problems, to explain happenings, or to interpret law, we look to people, not robots. The idea that judges appointed by conservatives apply no personal thought or empathy when deciding cases is as dishonest and supported neither anecdotally or statistically. The most recent example is [current & most recently appointed] Justice Sam Alito’s comments during his confirmation regarding applying his personal and family experiences to his judgements.

Should disagreement disqualify?

Maybe, maybe not. Disqualify is probably the wrong word, but in the real world, this is about more than qualifications. No one has said that Sotomayor is unqualified because that would be the only argument weaker than the laughable one described above.

Elections have consequences. The should have consequences; that’s the point. It is perfectly legitimate to vote against a judicial nominee because you disagree with their ideology as demonstrated in their record. It is not, however, legitimate to vote against a nominee because they do what all other people do: think about their history when making decisions in the present.

I pray that one day we can have an honest dialogue in our government and body politic without the salacious, counter-productive, dishonest rhetoric. If you don’t like her record, say you don’t like her record. That’d be a lot easier on all of us.

One Love. One II.

Racial inequity has our economy rigged

Many people still think racism is intentional, conscious and personal. It’s not. As the economic crisis shows, we are facing racial inequities that have their roots in the explicit racism of earlier generations but which now devastate communities of color without intent. This is where we now need to turn our attention.

From Stop the Next American Nightmare by Seth Freed Wessler at Huffington Post

My take:

  • The common argument that “the racism that happened in the past is not important today” is flatly wrong. Some complain that pollution today hurts children in the future. Others say that poor financial decisions will burden our children with unthinkable debts & deficits. In exactly the same fashion, the racism of our forefathers hurts people in the here and now.
  • This is further evidence of the myth of the Post-Racial Society. In order for a Post-Racial Society to come into being, the racism and the remnants of that racism, and them impact of that racism must be dealt with justly.
  • The problem is racism is at a minimum both moral & economic. Once one agrees that racism [and other manifestations of prejudice] are morally wrong, there are economic questions that must be addressed. The Applied Research Center’s report outlines how racism hurt both the hearts and wallets of people of color during this very recession.
  • The solutions to the problem of racism help us all. I’m not a fan of playing the race card unjustifiably. However, when we justly and ethically deal with racist norms, policies and practices, all people benefit.
    • Fair lending practices benefit all people looking to qualify for a home or car loan.
    • Fair admissions & financial aid policies make college education accessible for all students.
    • A more responsible police force better protects all members of community.

One Love. One II.

Take This Hammer: James Baldwin talks Race, Religion, and Activism

James Baldwin

James Baldwin

Take This Hammer is a 1963 documentary film that shows author/activist James Baldwin’s fact-finding mission to San Francisco that same year. His purpose was to answer the question: is the Negro in San Francisco, CA any better off than the Negro in Birmingham, AL? He concluded that:

There is no moral distance between the facts of life in San Francisco and the facts of life in Birmingham.

Baldwin presents an extraordinary social critique of America North & South, white liberalism, and the angst of Black teenagers. What’s exceptional are some of the specific barometers he uses to judge young Black people’s view on their future.

Will there ever be a Black President?

There is one exchange where he asks a group of young men if there will ever be a Negro President in this country. They flatly tell him “No, never.” Baldwin retorts with solidly nuanced optimism: “Yes, there will be a Negro President, but this country will be different from the one that exists now.”

Obviously, we have a Black President now. That begs the question: was Baldwin right? Is this a different country than it was in 1963? Yes in many ways, and no in many others.

The failure of Christianity

Near the end of the film, Baldwin opines on the almost comical hypocrisy of American [white] Christianity. Baldwin asserts that:

…these churches are absolutely meaningless and almost blasphemous…more social club than spiritual institution…the Christian church in this country has never, as far as i know, been Christian.

Baldwin is himself a Christian, but he sees and hears the spiritual frustrations of Black youth. One young man told him that the best way for Black people to organize [for revolution] was by “coming together as Muslims.” What does that mean? That spirituality & religion as forces of identification, pride, and community were as important then as they are today. It also speaks to the fluidity of religion, to people’s desire to find a spiritual persuasion that speaks to their needs. Baldwin’s critique on American Christianity shows that many young, militant Black folks rejected a faith they saw as hypocritical and weak. Today’s Christianity is still fighting this battle. 

On “liberalism”

Baldwin shares an intellectual pedigree with Steve Biko with his disdain of “liberals” (in this context, they both mean White liberals). In the film, Baldwin has a lot to say about this:

Everywhere I’ve been in this country, white people think race relations are excellent.

Liberals are looking for an alleviation, a protection of their own consciousness.

Liberals can’t be fake and be heroic too.

White people think of themselves as missionaries…but we don’t want you to do it for the Negro, we want you to do it for you.

His critique is not of liberalism, but of dishonest, half-hearted activism. Activism and organizing are based upon trust, and Baldwin did not trust white liberal activists in many cases.

This tension still exists in some circles today. Most interestingly, it creates a chasm between those arguing over whether the shortest path to equality and freedom in this country is through racial reconciliation or class-based economic struggle. Baldwin, Biko, myself, and others saw this as a false choice, but it creates a very real debate for many activists and thinkers.

Where do we go from here?

Baldwin in the film is neither overly optimistic nor terribly pessimistic. He does offer some thoughts that give insight into his thoughts on the future:

Buildings without foundations will inevitably come down.

I can be fooled, but my kids won’t be…either we will correct what’s wrong, it will be corrected for us.

This is something that’s been hitting close to home with me in recent years. The aspirations and assumptions of one generation are often realized, debunked, and adjusted by the next. Baldwin speaks specifically about ideas such as the “fakeness” of the American dream (i.e. having a garage) and what is actually meant when politicians & developers say “redevelopment” (to Baldwin, that means “remove the Negro”).

As my generation of activists, thinkers, leaders, and citizens chart our course through this dynamic social landscape, we can learn a lot from those that came before us. However, learn means neither repeat nor ignore. Instead, it means absorbing the knowledge and experiences, examining the current context for similarities and differences, applying what we’ve absorbed where appropriate, and innovating where necessary.

One Love. One II.

Photo credit: Ben Wheeler on Flickr