Saturday, 13 August 2011

PHILADELPHIA mayor chides black parents over teen mobs

PHILADELPHIA — The painful images and graphic stories of repeated violent assaults and vandalism by mobs of black teenagers had gotten to be too much for Mayor Michael Nutter.

As an elected official and a "proud black man" in the nation's fifth-largest city, Nutter felt he had to go a step beyond ordering a law enforcement crackdown.

So he channeled the spirit of another straight-talking Philadelphian: Bill Cosby. Nutter took to the pulpit at his church Sunday and gave an impassioned, old-fashioned talking-to directed at the swarms of teens who have been using social networks to arrange violent sprees downtown, injuring victims and damaging property. Moreover, he called out parents for not doing a better job raising their children.

"You've damaged yourself, you've damaged another person, you've damaged your peers and, quite honestly, you've damaged your own race," Nutter said at Mount Carmel Baptist Church.

The 54-year-old mayor, married with a teenage daughter and a grown son, called out absentee fathers and neglectful parents. He did not mince words, saying they need to be more than just a "sperm donor" or a "human ATM."

"That's part of the problem in our community," Nutter told the congregation. "Let me speak plainer: That's part of the problem in the black community. ... We have too many men making too many babies they don't want to take care of and then we end up dealing with your children."

It's a version of the tough-love message Cosby and others have telegraphed for years.

"I am a proud black man in this country," Nutter said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It was a message that needed to be said. It needed to be said at this time. ... People have had enough of this nonsense, black and white."

At a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People gathering in 2004, Cosby chided the black community in a speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the legal case that toppled segregated education.

"These people marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education and now we've got these knuckleheads walking around," Cosby said then.

"I can't even talk the way these people talk, 'Why you ain't,' 'Where you is' ... and I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk," the entertainer said.

Nutter's words also harkened back to a 2008 Father's Day speech by then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.

At a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People gathering in 2004, Cosby chided the black community in a speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the legal case that toppled segregated education.
"These people marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education and now we've got these knuckleheads walking around," Cosby said then.
"I can't even talk the way these people talk, `Why you ain't,' `Where you is' ... and I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk," the entertainer said.
Nutter's words also harkened back to a 2008 Father's Day speech by then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.
"If we are honest with ourselves, we'll admit that what too many fathers also are is missing _ missing from too many lives and too many homes," Obama told a church in Chicago. "They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men."
Now, it's Nutter taking up the mantra.
Some feel his message was needed. Others say he's airing private community matters now that crime is sprouting downtown, near businesses and popular tourist attractions in a sprawling city with many other sections already plagued by persistent gun violence.
Bill Anderson, a talk show host on the black radio station WURD-AM, estimated that about 60 percent of callers commenting on Nutter's address supported him. But quite a few, Anderson said, believe Nutter simply doesn't have the community standing to make such strong remarks.
"The perception is that he is not necessarily a `community guy. ... He has been perceived as more of a business guy," Anderson said, noting that he didn't have a problem with the comments himself.
Anderson cited concerns among the black community, such as Nutter's perceived focus on the city's downtown over other neighborhoods, a newly enforced curfew for teens and Nutter's endorsement of "stop-and-frisk" searches, a tactic police credit with reducing crime but that some feel unfairly targets minorities.
Annette John-Hall, a black columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote this week that the mayor crossed a line when he said, "You've damaged your own race."
"We can deal with the public tongue-lashing, even if his intended targets were nowhere to be found among the law-abiding churchgoers in their Sunday best," John-Hall wrote. She went on to say, "But what really bothered me was when Nutter fired the age-old salvo that has historically evoked head-hanging shame among black folks."
Nutter said things that needed to be said, according to J. Whyatt Mondesire, president of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP.
"It's like Cosby did. It's like the president did when he was running for office," Mondesire said. "Something is wrong in many African-American homes, and we've got to come to grips with it."
Some have questioned Nutter's support among blacks at the polls, where he has fared better in white wards. Black politicians have taken shots as well.
At a mayoral debate in 2007, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, who is black, challenged his fellow candidate Nutter on the issue of race, suggesting Nutter has to "remind himself he's an African-American." Last year, former Mayor John F. Street, Nutter's predecessor and longtime political adversary, told a newspaper that Nutter was "not a black mayor ... just a mayor with dark skin." Nutter called Street's remarks "ignorant."
Race has again risen to the foreground for Nutter in the wake of the mob assaults.
In one attack last month, a man ended up in the hospital with broken teeth and a wired jaw after a group of teenagers attacked him downtown. Hours later, a crowd of young people assaulted four other men. The city plans to increase legal sanctions for parents whose children participate in the attacks. Nutter has also said strict enforcement of a curfew will continue and more programs at youth centers will be offered.

Obama Weathers Criticisms on Leadership, Economic Policies

In the past week of market turbulence, President Barack Obama faced mounting criticisms of his leadership and economic policies. Some of this came from 2012 Republican presidential candidates, but also from some prominent columnists and African-American figures. The White House has responded, as the president intensifies defenses of his policies.

Stronger critiques of Mr. Obama have come in the wake of his difficult compromise with Republicans for a $2.4 trillion deficit and debt reduction package, and amid the wildly fluctuating stock market after the U.S. creditworthiness downgrade by a major rating agency.

Critiques also focus on what most economists now agree is the fact that the president's $800 billion stimulus, passed by Congress two years ago responding to the financial crisis and recession, was insufficient to boost job growth and sustain recovery.

Among the 2012 Republican candidates seeking to replace Mr. Obama in the White House, Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is using increasingly sharper language to challenge what he calls the president's lack of experience.

Among thе 2012 Republican candidates seeking to replace Mr. Obama in the White House, Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is using increasingly sharper language to challenge whаt he calls the president's lack of experience.
Romney saіd thіѕ аt Thursday's Republican candidates debate in Iowa.
"I'm nоt gоing to eat Barack Obama's dog food. What he served up waѕ nоt what I would have dоne іf I hаd beеn president of thе United States," sаіd Romney.
Some оf thе harshest assessments of Mr. Obama havе сomе frоm sоme prominent newspaper columnists who questioned thе president's leadership abilities, аѕ wеll aѕ hіs personal empathy.
Other commentators, nоt to mention lawmakers іn the far left оf Mr. Obama's Democratic party, hаvе questioned hіѕ determination tо stand uр to what thе president hіmѕelf hаѕ called Republican intransigence.
Mr. Obama іѕ сеrtainlу not the firѕt president of eithеr major political party to face ѕuch harsh critiques at thіѕ stage in his first term.
But fоr thе nation's fіrѕt African-American president, remarks in recent months bу two prominent African-American figures maу havе carried а mоre painful sting.
The outspoken Princeton University Professor Cornell West stirred controversy earlier this year bу saying Mr. Obama was іn danger of being "another black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs."
That's a reference tо criticisms that Mr. Obama has been too close tо banks аnd оthеr powers on Wall Street, еvеn аs hе attempts to further economic recovery and grow jobs.
Other criticism hаѕ cоme frоm prominent African-American television personality Tavis Smiley, whо with West haѕ traveled acroѕs the country in а "Poverty Tour" to, as Smiley puts it, hold Mr. Obama "accountable."
Asked аbout ѕuсh criticisms durіng a recent news briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said thе president remains focused not only оn improving thе economy overall, but аlѕо on thоѕe whо are struggling the most.
"This president iѕ vеry focused on evеry American whо iѕ suffering during theѕe turbulent economic times and the policies that hе hаs espoused and thаt he haѕ pushed tаkе іntо account vеrу serіоuslу thоѕе whо arе mоst affected," said Carney.
Despite thе criticisms frоm theѕe twо high profile African-Americans, Mr. Obama’s support аmоng African-Americans remains generally strong, though sоmе recent polls show signs thаt such support cоuld be weakening.
White House officials sау thе president remains focused on the toll thаt thе financial crisis hаs taken on African-American and оther minority communities, а reminder of whiсh hе received іn person іn July when he met wіth Marc Morial, head оf thе National Urban League.
"The black unemployment rate continues to rise, notwithstanding thе fact thаt you do hаve job creation in thе private sector," sаіd Morial.
With recent stops аcroѕѕ the country, аt campaign fundraisers, аnd in next week's three-state bus trip in thе U.S. midwest, Mr. Obama iѕ intensifying hіs responses аnd explanations оf hіs policies.
At а battery factory in Michigan thiѕ past week, hе urged Americans to pressure members оf Congress tо stop what he called partisanship and gridlock thаt hе sаid hаve undermined public confidence.
"You hаve gоt tо tеll thеm уоu havе had enough of the theatrics, yоu hаve hаd еnough оf thе politics, stop sending out press releases, start passing somе bills thаt wе аll know wіll hеlр our economy rіght now. That's what theу neеd to do, thеy have gоt tо hear from you."
Traveling agaіn next week in Minnesota, Iowa аnd Illinois, including ѕeveral Town Hall meetings, Mr. Obama will hear аgаin frоm Americans аbоut their frustrations wіth the economy.
On Friday, Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest ѕaіd hе will make additional points abоut "the strident position" of some іn Congress, a reference to Republicans аnd Tea Party lawmakers, tо increasingly "put party ahead оf country."
However, the White House ѕаid Mr. Obama аlsо is prepared for questions hе will face from ѕоmе whо voted fоr hіm in 2008 about compromises hе haѕ bеen wіllіng tо make wіth Republicans.
Upon hіѕ return, thе president іs due tо leave fоr a 10-day vacation wіth hіѕ family іn Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.

The Help Worthy subject weepy treatment

WASHINGTON - In a country where a harrowing history of slavery and segregation casts such a long and painful shadow, the film rendition of the Civil Rights-era novel "The Help" has sparked controversy just as the book did two years ago.

African-Americans are divided on the story told by Kathryn Stockett about a white southern woman in Jackson, Miss., who convinces some black domestic workers to covertly divulge what it's like working for white families amid the frightening events of the Civil Rights movement.

The Association of Black Women Historians has challenged the historical accuracy of the tale, saying it makes light of the struggles of African-American domestic workers during that time period.

The group also took issue with Stockett's use of a black dialect, her portrayal of most of the story's black men as cruel or absent, and the scant attention paid to the sexual harassment many black women endured in their employers' homes.

"Despite efforts to market the book and the film as a progressive story of triumph over racial injustice, 'The Help' distorts, ignores, and trivializes the experiences of black domestic workers," the association wrote in a news release.

But other African-Americans take issue with that harsh assessment.

Tim Gordon, a black film critic behind the FilmGordon blog, raved about the film on his D.C. radio show earlier this week.

"My mother really was 'the help' when I was growing up; she worked for a white family," Gordon said. "I thought they did an amazing job with this film ... I really thought 'The Help' knocked it out of the park."

Stephanie Penn-Danforth, the 33-year-old editor-in-chief of the Daily Venus Diva website, agreed.

"I loved the movie," she said in an interview Friday.

"The people who are speaking out against it may have lived through it, so maybe it's too hard for them to deal with, but I feel my generation needs to see this film to understand what life was like in the South, to understand what really happened and where we came from."

Read it on Global News: Global News | African-American opinion on 'The Help' divided due to painful history.

Decades after Whoopi in her movies and in the post-Oprah era, we have “The Help.” It’s based on Kathryn Stockett’s best-selling novel about black women in domestic service in 1963, their white employers and the children they were paid to “mind” (i. e. love, almost as if they were their own).

And therein lies the reason it’s such a great American subject from the ’50s and ’60s, the era that, courtesy of TV’s “Mad Men” and what it has wrought, the media will be diving into with both feet in the next couple months.

Upper-middle-class-and upper-class white children at the time could have a unique racial perspective denied to most of the white middle class.

It was an era that did everything possible to keep races separate. And with every ridiculous and often vile piece of white American mythology about black people (the queen bee monstrosity in “The Help” confidently declares “they have different diseases than we do”), those well-off white kids could check it against the domestic servants in their own home who were hired — as often as not — to provide intimate emotional sustenance for them that their own parents couldn’t (or wouldn’t).

It is no accident that the Kennedys in the 1960s found it so easy to be allied with the exploding civil rights movement. They knew things about black people that the white middle class generally didn’t.

That rich and profound relationship — so easily caricatured or treated with contempt —has been largely ignored in books and movies. (Carson McCuller’s “Member of the Wedding” was the first feint at giving it its due.)

And then came Stockett’s novel, “The Help,” which posits one of those white children, now grown, back in her hometown and writing down the lives and secrets of “the help,” i. e. those black women in domestic maid’s uniforms in charge of domestic order in her upper-class Southern world.

The only thing wrong with the film’s treatment of this huge and hugely neglected subject is that its setting in the South of 50 years ago makes it appallingly easy for 21st century Northerners to watch it as if it were as distant as Nazi Germany in the ’40s.

Stockett trusted a friend — Tate Taylor — to write and direct the adaptation of her book, and the result has the flaws of a movie an author trusted a friend to make. Most notably, it is too long at more than two hours, as if a friend struggled to include everything pertinent in the original novel.

But that specific Southern period setting means that the white women we’re watching can be painted as being close to monsters: the vicious, backbiting queen bee who’s so adamant about not allowing “the help” to use her family’s indoor plumbing that she wants it made into Mississippi law; the mother so dependent on the family maid Aibileen that she continues having children she has little or no interest in actually raising herself.

It is only in the last 15 minutes of the film that it even allows the possibility that there may have been white males who weren’t themselves complicit with vicious social oppression or merely spineless, racist meal tickets.

It’s all about a spoiled and vile world of white privilege that demeans the black women it employs at every possible opportunity. And it’s about how those women cope.

And, most importantly, how they wind up telling their stories to the young white woman who comes back from college ready to admit to her mother about the domestic “help” — “we love them and they love us, but they can’t even use the toilet in our house.”

By the time it all plays out, it’s manipulative tearjerking shlock not far from the well-plowed cornrows of “Steel Magnolias” and “Driving Miss Daisy,” but so powerful — and fresh — is the subject even now and so formidable the performances that this is one heavyweight weeper that gets where it’s going with nothing but honor.

Emma Stone is funny, lovable and just a bit dangerous in her naivete as the young writer whose return home instigates the sudden ugly lurch of truth about white privilege from those treated most harshly by it.

But key to the film’s success is one of the great working actresses in American movies — Viola Davis, whose performance in “Doubt” with Meryl Streep was nominated for—and should have won — a supporting actress Oscar. She has been a profoundly moving performer now in two similar roles — so much so that the only worry is that she’ll be typecast and prohibited from being just as prominent in entirely different circumstances.

Director Taylor’s relative inexperience didn’t deter him a bit in getting two rich and fine performances from two actresses who appeared in his negligible first major full-length movie, “Pretty Ugly People,” Allison Janney and, as Davis’ best friend, Octavia Spencer.

Bryce Dallas Howard plays the monster queen bee role of this enclosed, racist world with chilling conviction.

Our children our future State Fair Riverwest

People were arrested when mobs broke out at the opening night of the Wisconsin State Fair. Eighteen people were injured, including seven police officers, and just yesterday an investigation of the violent incidents led to the arrest of a 16-year-old African-American who told investigators he targeted whites, according to the police.

The teen told Milwaukee police that he and the other Black teens beat up white people because they were "easy targets." He went on to reveal that he was "going along with the crowd" in robberies that occurred last Thursday. He has since been booked on suspicion of attempted robbery and robbery, and police are recommending that he face additional penalties for the flash-mob hate crimes.

Recently, across the country another violent flash-mob attack broke out in Mississippi. A horrific surveillance video surfaced this week of Deryl Dedmon, 18, and several of his white friends beating James Anderson, a Black auto worker, and then driving over his body. Those acts were also described as being motivated by race and classified as a hate crime.

Milwaukee police, however, aren’t the only officials concerned with the state fair mobs’ behavior that mirrored that of the teens in Mississippi. City officials are also speaking out, but in a very condescending tone against Black youth in general.

On Tuesday, in response to the attacks, two elected officials from the City of Milwaukee issued a news release saying that the attacks have “much to do with a deteriorating African-American culture in our city.”

In the document, Ald. Bob Donovan and Ald. Joe Dudzik publically blame the acts on “no positive male involvement in the lives of African-American children,” “single-parent homes where children aren’t properly supervised,” the near 50 percent unemployment rate for African-American males in the city, a failing public school system, outdated juvenile justice system, and highest teen pregnancy rates in the Black community.

The two conclude by saying, “Our hearts go out to the older generation of African-Americans in this city who remember when their community had one of the highest marriage rates in the city. Sadly, many of these same residents are now scared of their own children and grandchildren.... We believe that change must come from within the African-American community, where new seeds must be sown.

There is no excuse for these recent group acts of violence occurring in Milwaukee and many communities across the nation.

But in our haste to condemn the actions of a finite group, we have to be careful not to imply that such actions on the part of a few are representative of the values and virtue of an entire community. It is inappropriate and irresponsible to paint such an erroneous picture because sometimes perception is allowed to become reality. We should operate from facts and not speculation.

For example, of the nine people in custody for involvement in the BP incident, eight were young people turned in to police by their parents, were also from mostly working class households, generally doing well in school, and none of the juveniles had a prior criminal record. As more information comes forward the public will see that these are not the juvenile delinquents many automatically assumed they were. Additionally, reports now are that of the 24 people arrested in the State Fair incident, seven were juveniles.

If you were to take the largest estimated numbers of young people involved with these incidents (50 for the Riverwest incidents and 400 for the State Fair incident, and given that Milwaukee has more than 83,000 African Americans under 18 years of age), the reality is that those involved in the incidents make up far fewer than 1 percent of kids in our community. So maybe — just maybe — we need to concentrate more of our energy, time, and attention on the majority of kids who are not involved with these isolated incidents who are doing positive things in our community and who are not involved in these group acts of violence.

Make no mistake — the group violence phenomenon is very serious and we need to address it together as a city — but we should let no one point fingers, and we should let no one distract us from our goal of finding the truth as to why and how these incidents occur.

While yes there are countless things we need to work on in our community, including joblessness, health disparities, family structure, personal accountability, and many others, we can not allow our children as a whole to be judged or characterized by the actions of a few. And with each of these incidents there is enough blame to go around: i.e. State Fair could have had greater crowd control measures in place, MPD could have slotted more officers at public spaces where people gather to watch the fireworks, governmental entities could fund more youth activities, parents could be stricter, kids could be more personally responsible, etc. But at the end of the day, most of our children are good, lawabiding citizens and are not deserving of the erroneous broad brush depiction they are now receiving.

A few of my colleagues have suggested that these incidents are a result of the deterioration of the African American culture in the City of Milwaukee and illustrate deeper issues that only the African American community can change.

They could not be more wrong, and their “concern” is highly disingenuous!

Their statements diminish the credibility of City government, and distract the entire community from focusing on the real work and the hard work of preventive and proactive solutions that work in other communities but never seem to get a fair hearing in our city.

Shame on both of these Aldermen for spouting such divisive and offensive rhetoric that would more appropriately be uttered in this city’s distant past than its present. Milwaukee is better than that, and Milwaukee deserves better than that from leaders elected to help guide the city and its residents into a brighter future.

As Milwaukeeans, not one of us wants to see violence of any kind happen in our city. Now is the time for us to come together to find out what is causing some of our young people to act out together in violent ways; it is not the time to point fingers and place blame. It is the responsibility of us all to give back to the community that helps to make us who we are.

Suspect says attacks at Wis. State Fair were racially motivated

The investigation into violent incidents on the opening night of the Wisconsin State Fair has resulted in the arrest of a 16-year-old African-American who told investigators he targeted whites, according to police.

The Milwaukee teen told police he and other African-American juveniles beat up white people because they were "easy targets," according to West Allis police. He also said he "was going along with the crowd" in the robberies that happened after the midway closed last Thursday.

The teen was booked on suspicion of attempted robbery and robbery. Police recommend that he face additional penalties for hate crimes.

Despite the ugly start, the State Fair is having a good year. Organizers don't release early attendance numbers but sources tell TODAY'S TMJ4 attendance is up 40,000 over last year.

"She loves the fair, she comes every year," said Adam Kasinskas.

But Adam and his wife Amanda haven't attended the fair this year until Thursday.

When asked if she had any reservations about attending this year Amanda said, "A little bit, I was actually a little nervous about coming."

That's because a week ago large groups of African American kids attacked white people leaving the fair.

So far, West Allis Police arrested a 16-year-old for robbery. He has not been charged yet but faces hate-crime penalties as well.

"We did have the situation Thursday night, we reacted quickly and we've taken care of that situation," said John Yingling, chairman of the Wisconsin State Fair Board." I am very pleased."

This is John Yingling's first year as chairman. While he's happy with the results so far, he wants to review everything including security for next year.

"We can certainly work more closely with the sheriff, with the City of Milwaukee, the City of West Allis and continue to work together to make sure we move forward and have great fairs," said Yingling.

It's already been a great fair for Rupena's.

"It's probably been a record fair. We won't know until it's over but for us it will be very good," said Matthew Rupena

And with the extra security, Amanda feels it should be a good night.

Philadelphia, Milwaukee City Officials: Black Violence Must Stop

The violence in the States hasn't reached the level of England's rioting yet, but at least one mayor of a major American city, Philadelphia's Michael Nutter, wants to nip the problem in the proverbial bud -- before it reaches the level of Britain's.

Nutter, 54, a black man and a Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton's Presidential bid (he switched to Obama after Clinton dropped out), is fed up with the so-called "flash mobs" of black "youths" who've been terrorizing the City of Brotherly Love for months now.

The site referenced in the first link says "Mayor Nutter had some choice words for the parents of the kids involved in the flash mobs which he delivered from the pulpit of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church. He said that the teens, most of whom are black, are 'damaging the race,' and that parents who sit by and refuse to get their kids in order, will be sitting next to them in jail. He also admonished parents for sending checks and giving money without spending time with their kids, calling them 'human ATMs.' Mayor Nutter called men who don't even do that simply 'sperm donors.
Two white alderman in Milwaukee denounced “African-American culture,” after racially motivated attacks in Milwaukee and the latest melee at the Wisconsin State Fair. While this may be a fair observation of the respective races of the perpetrators and victims, their statement may also reflect a lack of understanding concerning the exploitation of African-American culture by black and white "community leaders" who have deliberately inflamed racial tensions to further their own socialist agenda.

At the fair, a black “flash mob” perpetrated what a veteran of the Iraq war flatly described as a racial attack because the mob chose white victims.
WTMJ Newsradio quoted a witness named Eric, who asked that the station not use his last name. “It was 100 percent racial,” he told the station, noting that “young people beat on his car,” continuing:
I had a black couple on my right side, and these black kids were running in between all the cars, and they were pounding on my doors and trying to open up doors on my car, and they didn't do one thing to this black couple that was in this car next to us. They just kept walking right past their car. They were looking in everybody’s windshield as they were running by, seeing who was white and who was black. Guarantee it.
Eric also saw a group of blacks attack a white teenager. “I saw them grab this white kid who was probably 14 or 15 years old. They just flung him into the road,” he told the station, adding:
They just jumped on him and started beating him. They were kicking him. He was on the ground. A girl picked up a construction sign and pushed it over on top of him. They were just running by and kicking him in the face.
Then, Eric talked about trying to get out of the car to help the victim:
My wife pulled me back in because she didn’t want me to get hit. Thankfully, there was surprising a lady that was in the car in front of me that jumped out of the car real quick and went over there to try to put her body around the kid so they couldn’t see he was laying there and, obviously, defenseless. Her husband, or whoever was in the car, was screaming at her to get back into the car. She ended up going back into the car. These black kids grabbed this kid off the ground again, and pulled him up over the curb, onto the sidewalk and threw him into the bushes like he was a piece of garbage.
The war vet compare the violence, the station reported, to what he saw in combat. “That rate right up their with it,” he said.
Milwaukee aldermen Bob Donovan and Joe Dudzik say enough is enough. They blame the black community for creating the culture that validates the flash mob. Nor do they ignore the race of the victims, noting, as war vet Eric did, that black flash mobs target whites.

“Let’s face it, it also has much to do with a deteriorating African American culture in our city,” they wrote. “Are large groups of Hispanics or Hmong going out in large mobs and viciously attacking whites? No.”
We are reaping the harvest that we’ve sown.
How so?
There are repercussions for the staggering illegitimacy rate in our African American community.
There are repercussions for having little to no positive male involvement in the lives of African American children.
There are repercussions for single-parent homes where children aren’t properly supervised, and where they aren’t held responsible for their actions.
There are repercussions for a staggering, decades-long near 50% unemployment rate for African American males in our city.
There are repercussions for having a failing public school system, and an outdated juvenile justice system.
There are repercussions for having one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the U.S., and for having kids raising kids.
The aldermen repeatedly fingered black youths as the perpetrators and whites as the victims. “The community was shocked when the violent mob of African American youths attacked white people in Kilbourn Reservoir Park on July 3,” they said, continuing:
Then, a few eyebrows were raised at the F-bombs and shocking disregard and disrespect for Milwaukee police officers shown by a large and unruly group of African Americans at N. Richards St. and W. North Ave. last Saturday night.

I Want America to Come to an End: On Not Supporting Barack Obama

During his weekly address Saturday, Obama said too many Americans are struggling to get by. He said Congress should extend payroll tax cuts that save the average American family $1,000 a year.

President Obama says there is no excuse for "inaction," and he believes Congress will find common ground to move the country forward.

In the Republican Party's weekly address, Senator Pat Toomey blamed the Obama administration's policies for the economic stalemate and slow job growth in the United States.

Toomey said too many government regulations have discouraged businesses from hiring.

I won’t be supporting the Democrats this time around. The real, never-ending threat from the radical Right is no reason to embrace repugnant measures, any more than the existence of Al-Qaeda authorizes violating constitutional rights and international law. And besides, most Lesser Evil arguments rely on a simplistic view of our political system, one that ignores the ways in which the Democrats’ habitual appeasement of the Right only furthers an ever more reactionary restructuring of our economy and discourse. Both of the major parties serve corporate masters, and the menace of fascism isn’t going to fade because we vote for a slightly more genteel approach to gutting the rule of law at home and abroad. Far from being “Lesser” and “Greater” Evils, the two political parties are more like Good and Bad Cops who work us over in tandem. You might prefer the one who doesn’t hit you, but you don’t get to pick. They only come in pairs.

These are my views; they are surely debatable. But rather than argue their merits in detail, I want to consider the implications of the striking lack of debate on the left end of the spectrum–the kneejerk “don’t go there” attitude that I’ve just described, a version of which The Progressive’s Kevin Alexander Gray details in an essay on “Obama and Black America” (”If you dare to tell it like it is, you instantly and unsparingly get bashed and called a ‘hater’”). At least as bad as bashing is the pervasive, eerie silence about this president’s shameful record. As Tom Engelhardt puts it in a blog post entitled “The Militarized Surrealism of Barack Obama,” the fact that the president “regularly prostrates himself before this country’s special mission to the world” while invoking “God’s blessing upon the military” is typically “neither attacked nor defended…but as if by some unspoken agreement simply ignored.”’s Glenn Greenwald makes similar points in relation to domestic policy, noting liberals’ “stunning silence in the face of Obama’s efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits.”

I believe that this stance among groups of people supposedly adept at critical thinking signals anxiety about something more important than any single presidency. It speaks to how this president confronts us–certainly not for the first time, but now at a deeper, more threatening level– with the brute facts of America’s identity and prospects. Despite all warning signals, it was tempting to have faith in the Obama of 2008 in large part due to the symbolic interaction of two emotion-laden events: the relief of an election that felt like political rebirth after democracy’s near-death ordeal in the Bush years, and the threshold we crossed in choosing an African American president. For many, this election seemed to mean that America had a chance to “be America again,” in the words of Langston Hughes (”The land that never has been yet–/And yet must be”). Thus the natural reluctance of progressives to read the writing on the wall once the new administration got underway.

Facing squarely the huge disconnect between progressive principles and Obama’s policies pushes us to relinquish whatever remains of the comforting illusion that we inhabit a relatively benign and stable political landscape within which to work for positive change. Looking hard at all the reasons not to vote for four more years means pondering whether the unholy alliance of monopoly-finance capital and a permanently hyper-militarized foreign policy has set our country on a malign trajectory that we can’t substantially alter. Perhaps we need to rethink the time-honored leftist move of invoking the Better America we once believed could grow from the seeds of labor struggles, the Civil Rights Movement, and other past democratic glories. (The latest such effort to mobilize a “progressive” nationalism, “Rebuild the American Dream,” was recently launched by former Obama aide Van Jones, with, the AFL-CIO, Change to Win, and others.)

If the really existing U.S. of A. can’t be reformed, it needs to be abolished. (I mean the republic-cum-empire, of course, not The People–whose ultimate welfare may depend not at all on preserving their status as “my fellow Americans.”) It seems, indeed, that humanity’s very survival may depend, in significant part, on dismantling the hubris and sense of impunity now indelibly inscribed within our national project. What if the beautiful vision of Langston Hughes’s poem–the empowerment of all who’ve been used and abused–is no longer to be furthered by nationalistic means? What about Human Dreams?

“I do not believe/our wants/have made all our lies/holy.” Audre Lorde wrote those lines in “Between Ourselves,” a poem from her classic The Black Unicorn (1978) that questions “easy blackness as salvation.” I don’t pretend to know what she would have to say about the 2012 election. But I cherish what she and her heroic peers in the generation of the Civil Rights movement, Black Power, Second Wave feminism, and lesbian/gay liberation taught me about the political imperative of truth. Say it loud! Come out! Don’t be afraid to name the harshest realities. “Your silence will not protect you.” You can’t know your own strength, or who will stand by your side, until you take that risk.

Watching 'The Help' as an African American Woman

The year is 1962. The place: a small Mississippi town. A time and place where racism is more a fact of life than a dirty secret. But when an idealistic young woman decides to document the so called accepted treatment of African American domestic servants by their Caucasian employers all hell breaks loose!
Skeeter (Emma Stone), fresh from college, lands a job at the town newspaper. To some, the job of writing an advice column for the domestically challenged might not seem like much but for Skeeter it’s a start to her dream career as a journalist or novelist. She asks her best friend if her maid Aibileen (Viola Davis) can help her, as she herself doesn’t have a clue about the domestic arts of cooking and cleaning. Her friend Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard) reluctantly agrees. But Skeeter has bigger ambitions and secretly asks Aibileen if she will help her write a book about what it’s really like to raise another woman’s children. More precisely, what it’s like to be ‘her’. And trust me, it’s a hard, very sad life to be ‘her’.
To speak of such things, much less write them is downright illegal at that time and place. Aibileen reluctantly agrees to help but both know what they are doing is fraught with danger and peril. But Skeeter needs more than one woman’s story. She needs many. No one else will help but chunky, spunky Minny (Octavia Spencer) until an act of violence brings all of “The Help” out of the shadows and into Aibileen’s home, ready to spill the beans.
There are men in “The Help” but their contributions are small and sparing in this tremendous vehicle for actresses. Quite simply this is the best movie I have ever seen with a predominately female cast. It is heartbreaking and hysterically funny. Some scenes will outrage you, while others will fill you with the warmth of self satisfaction.
“The Help” is an amazing product of a thoughtful, well written script, flawless art direction and some of the finest acting to ever grace the screen. When all was said and done, I felt that I had seen the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress performances of the year—times 5! Yes, this whole cast is that good!
Home girl Emma Stone, continues to blossom and make us proud! She is a true steel magnolia, alternately neerdy, shy and a fearless warrior for change. Allison Janney is pitch perfect as her mother. Veteran Cicely Tyson is heartbreaking as the aging family retainer. While another veteran, Sissy Spacek, is an absolute riot as a smart as a whip aging matriarch. Jessica Chastain, fresh from the maudlin and confused “Tree of Life”, seems to be channeling Marilyn Monroe as the ditzy but sweeter than sugar, town tramp Celia Foote. Bryce Dallas Howard as mean spirited but picture perfect Hilly Holbrook hits a home run as the woman you will love to hate. Bryce has always mesmerized on screen but this is the first time she has had the opportunity to get a role equal to her impressive talent. Dad must be bursting with pride!
But at the end of the day, so much credit has to go to Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. There simply aren’t words to convey the depth and brilliant colors of their performances. If emotions were colors, these master thespians blazed through Crayola’s 64 count box and then some!
Kudos also go to Director and Screenwriter Tate Taylor. The movie is long at 2 hours and 20 minutes but impeccable direction, deft storytelling and measured pace keep one leaning forward. And while I haven’t read the best seller by Kathyrn Stockett, I am told the movie is very faithful and will not disappoint fans, of which there are many! I already asked April Warneke if I can borrow her copy when she’s done.

The truth is those times were hard. That’s what I understand, not from what I have seen in a movie or read in a book, but from the stories of my own mother, the women in my family, my godmothers, and countless mentors who lived during that time. Racism is ugly. Racism is sinful and still plagues our society. It takes courage to admit and then wrestle with that statement.

You see, many evangelicals desire to reach across the aisle and talk racial reconciliation. I truly want to see racial reconciliation lived more consistently in my lifetime, for I believe that the gospel is the message and ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18–21). True reconciliation means restoring our relationship with God and each other. If 11 o’clock Sunday morning continues to be “the most segregated hour in America,” we are deceiving ourselves that we are living this reality.

Sure, we have come a long way, but in some circumstances, we are still hindered by folks like Hilly who make assumptions, ask questions but don’t listen, and then draw conclusions based on the small bubble in which they live. Instead of following Hilly’s arrogant lead of asking superficial questions like, “Aibileen, you like your separate bathroom in the garage, don’t you?” we can take Skeeter’s lead and go visit Aibileen’s house. It is at the kitchen table in a home when both of you are vulnerable and uncomfortable that the truth is shared.

That’s what I loved about The Help. It sends a powerful message that reconciliation does not happen primarily through speeches, books, diversity initiatives, or training and it should send a clear message to the church that reconciliation cannot happen with programs, goals, “special” services, and activities. Reconciliation is the result of intentionally building intimate relationships, one day at a time, with one person at a time.

I challenge readers to start here: take a look at your phone contact list and e-mail contacts. How many people are from a race or ethnicity different from your own? What kind of people have you invited to your dinner table over the past year?

We have a long turbulent history of racial injustice in this country, but I believe the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said that “what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up.” God calls us to be other-centered. The love of Jesus is other-centered, which is why he engaged the Samaritan woman, allowed Mary of Bethany (a woman) to sit and learn at his feet, and ate with the tax collectors and sinners.

The gospel says that we all need help. The help that God provides gives us courage to tell the truth, love our enemies, offer forgiveness, and be the image bearers that he created us to be. That’s what Minny and Celia, Skeeter and Aibileen share with us. That’s a story of hope.

Octavia Spencer: You Can't 'Help' But Feel This Film

Kathryn Stockett's popular 2009 novel "The Help" arrives this week with a faithful and very affecting big-screen adaptation. It's simplistic at times, and flirts with manipulation, but it's also a deeply touching and well-acted film.

Set in early 1960s Mississippi, "The Help" tells the story of African-American maids who care for the children and homes of wealthy white families, encountering horrible cruelty and racism, even a century after the Civil War and a decade after Brown v. Board of Education. Aibileen (Viola Davis) and Minny (Octavia Spencer) are the two primary maids, while the third protagonist is Skeeter (Emma Stone), a young college graduate who decides to write a book about the maids and their experiences.

It's the most female of movies - for once, it's the male characters who are underdeveloped and largely inconsequential to the plot.

The film was written and directed, mostly competently, by Tate Taylor, a near-neophyte who had the great fortune of being the lifelong best friend of Stockett, the author of the book.

Now, a whole lot of recent Hollywood movies about the civil rights era - especially "Mississippi Burning" and "Ghosts of Mississippi"- and have had the problem of being told primarily through white people's eyes, with white protagonists and primary concern with the white characters' journeys. The filmmakers of "The Help" seem very, very concerned with avoiding this problem, a sense I got from the deeply bizarre Entertainment Weekly article last week in which just about everyone associated with the film mentioned it.

Does it succeed in doing so? Partially. On the one hand, the two maid characters are the clear heart and soul of the film, and the movie makes their story the most compelling aspect by a mile. But on the other hand, why do these women need someone to write a book for them?

Much more problematic is that, up until a couple of third-act shifts, the movie depicts all of its heroines as really, really good, and all of its villains as very, very bad.

Spencer plays Minny and she practically steals the show with crisp dialogue and an arsenal of explosive facial expressions.

"She's the best cook in Jackson and therefore sought after for her cooking prowess," Spencer tells NPR's Michele Norris. "But she is also obstinate and very opinionated and doesn't have a problem expressing those opinions, especially to white people, which was a no-no during that time period."

When taking on racist white women in the town, Spencer's Minny stands erect — in a way that reveals pride, but also a good deal of pain. "She is always standing tall," Spencer explains, to communicate: "You are not superior to me."

Minny is a tough soul on the outside, but her weaknesses show in her home, where she is an abused wife and an overworked mother of five. When she sends her teenage daughter off to work in the home of a white woman for the first time, she is crushed.

To prepare herself for the role, Spencer spoke to someone who endured the brutality and violence of 1960s Mississippi.

"I did a lot of research about the time period and spent some wonderful hours talking to Mrs. Myrlie Evers-Williams," Spencer says. Evers-Williams is the widow of civil rights activist Medgar Evers who, in 1963, was gunned down in front of his Jackson home.

Though The Help is set during the civil rights era, Spencer insists it is not a civil rights movie. "To me, it's more a movie about relationships, how these white women relate with each other and then how they relate to the women ... who work in their homes," she says.

The audience no doubt feels discomfort, but that's appropriate, "because people lived this discomfort," Spencer says: We owe it to these women to step inside their world for two hours.

The Help has generated a lot of buzz since its release — and not all of it has been positive. Some people are discouraging others from seeing the film, not wanting to view history through this particular lens. Spencer doesn't buy it.

"If it's that they don't like the fact that a white woman wrote [the book] and used an African-American dialect, I take issue with that, because what message are we sending to artists?" Spencer says. "If it's that black women are playing maids in 2011? I would say, these are not the same maids you saw in every other film about this era. For the first time, these women have a voice and these women are proactive in bringing about change in their community."

The important thing, Spencer says, is to make your own judgment whether you want to see the film.

HIV Diagnosis in Black Men Varies on Testing Method, Study Finds

African Americans, account for nearly half of all new HIV infections each year – more than for any other race or ethnicity, the Centers for Disease Control has reported.

The CDC released the first multi-year estimates of the annual number of new HIV infections in the country, showing that while the number remained relatively stable overall between 2006 and 2009, sharp increases were seen among young black gay and bisexual men.

“We are deeply concerned by the alarming rise in new HIV infections in young, black gay and bisexual men and the continued impact of HIV among young gay and bisexual men of all races,” Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said in a statement announcing the findings.

“More than 30 years into the HIV epidemic, about 50,000 people in this country still become infected each year. Not only do men who have sex with men continue to account for most new infections, young gay and bisexual men are the only group in which infections are increasing, and this increase is particularly concerning among young African American MSM,” said CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden. “HIV infections can be prevented. By getting tested, reducing risky behaviors, and getting treatment, people can protect themselves and their loved ones.”

Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, added, “Without intensified HIV prevention efforts, we are likely to face an era of rising infection rates and higher health care costs for a preventable condition that already affects more than one million people in this country.”

“HIV remains one of the most glaring health disparities in this country,” said Fenton. “While we all have individual responsibility to protect ourselves from HIV infection, the research clearly shows that individual risk behavior alone doesn’t account for the significant racial disparities in HIV. It is essential to understand the underlying factors that contribute to these disparities, such as poverty, discrimination and lack of access to health care.”

Fenton said the greater overall prevalence of HIV in minority communities means individuals within those communities face greater risk of acquiring HIV with every sexual encounter.

The key points in the report, published in the online scientific journal PLoS ONE are:

• There were some 50,000 annual new HIV infections between 2006 and 2009.

• While blacks are about 14 percent of the population, they accounted for nearly half of new infections in 2009 (44 percent or an estimated 21,200 infections). The rate among blacks was nearly eight times as high as for whites and almost three times as high as for Hispanics.

he findings are based on a multiyear report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found an alarming spike in new cases of HIV among Black homosexual men—nearly 50% of all new cases in the U.S. between 2006 and 2009.

These startling numbers prompted researchers to look at three methods of diagnosis in order to learn which was most effective, including:

— Partner services, which involves identifying, locating and interviewing HIV-infected persons to provide names and contact information of their sex and needle-sharing partners, notifying partners of their exposure to HIV and providing HIV counseling, testing and referral services to those partners;

— Alternative venue testing, in which rapid HIV testing is conducted in bars, churches or mobile units;

— The social networks strategy, where HIV testers engage HIV-positive individuals to become "recruiters." Through active enlistment and coaching processes, staff build relationships and help recruiters engage people in their social circles into HIV testing.

Alternative venue testing showed a rate of 6.3 percent, much lower than the rates for the social networks strategy (19.3 percent) and partner services (14.3 percent), the study showed. The odds for detection of HIV-positive in Black homosexual men were 3.6 times greater for the social networks strategy and 2.5 times greater for partner services than alternative venue testing.

Other noted differences were that men tested through alternative venue testing were younger and more likely to identify themselves as "gay" than men tested through the social networks strategy.

Meanwhile, the report concludes, men who tested through the social networks strategy reported more sexual risk behaviors than men tested through alternative venue testing.

U.S. Postal Service ready to contract, African-American job

In his 2010 book, There’s Always Work at the Post Office, former postal worker Philip Rubio documented how the USPS came to be a major provider of employment for black men and women, many of them veterans, and how black postal workers became a critical force for social change.
Employment with the U.S. Postal Service has historically been a source of upward mobility for thousands of African American men and women since the 1860s, but it is a source that is expected to dry up in this century.
Over the past 10 years the U.S. Postal Service has reduced its workforce by 212,000 positions, anticipates another 100,000 positions lost to attrition, and plans to further eliminate 120,000 career positions by 2015. Some of the 120,000 eliminated positions could come through buyouts and other programs, but a significant number are expected to result from layoffs — if Congress allows the USPS to circumvent union contracts that explicitly prohibit laying off postal workers.
In what is becoming an American trend to undermine collective bargaining agreements across multiple industries, Postal Service employees and retirees face possible contractual changes that are being described by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, as “cost saving” measures intended to “protect taxpayers.”
The USPS is asking Congress to intervene on its behalf. In a recently released optimization document, the USPS states, “Unfortunately, the collective bargaining agreements between the Postal Service and our unionized employees contain layoff restrictions that make it impossible to reduce the size of our workforce by the amount required by 2015, therefore, a legislative change is needed to eliminate the layoff protections in our collective bargaining agreements.

When I think of the post office, I don't just think of an agency that delivers to all homes and businesses in the nation. I think of the postal job I got in 1980 - first as a distribution clerk, then, soon after, as a letter carrier. This was a job that helped us buy a home and send our children to college, helped put my wife through graduate school and allowed me to go on and continue my education and earn a doctorate in history in 2006.

Like many other postal workers, the African-American men and women I worked with in Colorado and North Carolina were often veterans - as were the postal workers I later interviewed in New York, California, Mississippi, Florida and elsewhere. Many had college degrees.

It all began after the Civil War, when African-Americans were first allowed entry into the postal workforce. By 1970, blacks, making up one-fifth of the postal workforce, were twice as likely to work at the post office as whites. Today, thanks in large part to union activism in the post office, in which African-Americans played a prominent part, the doors have been further opened for women and for other minority-group members.

But how long will those jobs be there? When the post office doors shut, where will military veterans (the majority of postal workers since 1950) - with their jobless rate at 13.3% - find work?

This isn't happening in a vacuum. On July 26, the same day the USPS announced its planned closures - which entailed a projected loss of 5,000 jobs nationwide - there was more bad news. The Pew Research Center reported that decades of gains in wealth in the African-American and Hispanic communities have been lost. Wealth is what your family has when you divide your assets by your debts; it's what you pass along to your children. If we're already moving in the wrong direction, mass USPS job losses will only accelerate the trend.

Automation and the Internet are often cited as the chief culprits for the post office's fiscal problems - but that's far too simple a story. The USPS still delivers 40% of the world's mail, with just under 600,000 workers. Since 1971, no government funding has paid for postal service or wages; it's strictly self-supporting through postal revenue. In fact, in recent years, the USPS has earned revenue surpluses. Drastic cost-cutting measures like closures are not signs of a dying, obsolete agency fighting to overcome deficits related to poor business. Rather, they represent a response to a 2006 congressional mandate that the USPS had to prefund retirees' benefits for 75 years - and do it all within the next 10 years, at a rate of $5.5 billion a year.

Last month, right after the announced planned closures, residents and postal workers in the Bronx held a protest to save post offices in the borough that stands to lose 17 post offices - the most in the city. They told reporters of their concerns over the loss of service and jobs. These voices must be heard. Millions of Americans continue to see the post office as an invaluable nationwide network that provides both jobs and services - and don't want to see those vanish without a fight.