Over time, the perseverance of African Americans in the face of insurmountable challenges has been extraordinary. Triumph over these challenges has created a powerful, close-knit community that is dedicated to positive change and development. Now, in Black History Month, let’s celebrate technology as the catalyst for further development, paving the way for new opportunities in the African American community.
Communication Is Soaring
Going digital has meant a significant increase in communication. This has opened doors for people to engage with one another, to relay concerns, desires and—most importantly—goals.
Interestingly, 91% of African Americans own smartphones, deeming them the second-largest multicultural group of ownership. Additionally, in 2016, 91% of African Americans had internet access via smartphones or broadband—an increase from 86% in 2015— surpassing all other ethnic groups. This significant rate of change shows that opportunities for community development through communication is readily available to most, with technology
Social Media Is Increasing Dialogue
In addition to the general influx of smartphone and broadband utilization, African American millennials are leading the charge in communications through their significant presence on social media. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 83 million millennials in the U.S., 14% of which are African American. This group isn’t just utilizing social media for overall engagement or for consumer purposes, but also as a powerful platform to make their voices heard on issues affecting the African American community, which is a significant step toward garnering solutions and ultimately bringing about positive change.
Careers Are on the Rise
Did you know that the Obama administration set aside $850 million to increase the number of African Americans involved in STEM? This amount will be used on campaigns spanning the next 10 years with a focus on studies and jobs. The end-goal is greater than just inserting African Americans into the industry workforce; it’s also to help the community secure leadership positions. Remarkably, the percentage of African Americans in C-suite positions has doubled from 3% to 6% over the past 20 years. With such funding available to increase African American presence in STEM, it’s likely we’ll see that leadership number increase even more.
Tech Leaders Are Inspiring
The spotlight on leaders within various ethnicities has seemed to widen, and the African American community will flourish as the spotlight continues to expand. Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code; Laura Weidman Powers, co-founder and chief executive officer of CODE2040; and Brandon Nicholson, founding executive director of The Hidden Genius Project are just three of the many examples of contemporary inspiring African American leaders, who are propelling the technology industry forward. The African American community can look to these examples as a guiding map on how to achieve personal success.
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If you truly knew what the N-word meant to our ancestors, you’d NEVER use it. It was used and still can be used to make us hate ourselvesBy Elliot Booker — 2 years ago
A few years ago, I read slave narratives to explore the lives of black agricultural workers after the end of the Civil War. The narratives came from the Federal Writers Project of the Works Progress Administration, a program that employed researchers from 1936 to 1938 to interview former enslaved people, producing more than 2,300 narratives that, thankfully, reside online and are fully searchable.
Those whom the law defined as property recounted various unique human experiences — their daily horrors and monotonies, how they freed themselves or learned of their emancipation, the surge of exhilaration upon securing freedom, and how they endured life on the edges of a white supremacist society in the decades thereafter.
As I pored over the narratives, I was struck less by their experiences, as heartrending as they were, than by how their experiences sculpted their self-perceptions. The best explanation of what I gleaned, what social scientists called internalized oppression, describes the psychological trauma that ensues when a person from a stigmatized group believes those negative stigmas.
White folk indoctrinated them into accepting their supposed inferiority. These narratives illustrate the success of this campaign of mental terrorism, and no word conveyed the depth of this internalized oppression more than “nigger.” Now, whenever I hear the epithet, a visual and emotional representation of the heinous process by which a people — my people — were induced to think they were less than trespasses into my thoughts. After years of habitual use of “nigger,” I banished it from my speech to honor the humanity that many never saw in themselves.
The internalized oppression revealed itself in various ways. Sometimes the former enslaved people clearly, perhaps subconsciously, considered themselves subhuman, just like how their former owners regarded them. Jim Allen, for example, dubbed himself his master’s “pet nigger boy” and a “stray” and thought himself privileged because he could sleep on the floor beside his master’s bed. That he likened himself to a fortunate mangy mutt or frisky feline crushed me. The word laid bare a worldview that held black folk as a lower order of being, as when Irene Robertson claimed her former master Mr. Sanders was mean, in part, because “he beat his wife like he beat a nigger woman.”
“Nigger” also signaled antipathy toward fellow black folk. After the end of slavery, Mattie Mooreman went north to Wisconsin with a white family for whom she worked. Members of the family wanted her to go to the circus to watch a black boy’s performance. She told her interviewer, “Guess they thought it would be a treat to me to see another niggah. I told ’em, ‘Law, don’t you think I see lots, lots more than I wants, every day when I is at home?’ ” But read how she talks about the family’s baby, whom she constantly watched over, fearing, irrationally, someone would kidnap him: “No matter what time they come home they’d find me there. ‘Why don’t you go in your bedroom and lie down?’ they’d ask me. ‘No,’ I’d tell ’em, ‘somebody might come in, and they would have to get that baby over my dead body.” Her eyes fixated on the white baby, but she saw too many niggers.
A barrage of dispiriting uses of the word bloodied me as I combed through the narratives. “The Ku Klux kept the niggers scared.” “The Ku Klux did a whole lot to keep the niggers away from the polls. …” Slaves owned by “nice” masters are repeatedly called “free niggers.” “Niggers ain’t got no sense. Put ’em in authority and they gits so uppity.” “I’se just a poor old nigger waitin’ for Jesus to come and take me to heaven.” Slave traders are called “nigger traders.” Defiant enslaved people required the service of a “niggerbreaker.” “Nigger dogs” aided the recapture of those who escaped.
Perhaps more depressing, ironically, was that circumstances sometimes led them to opt against calling a black person a nigger. William Porter stated that “some of the Tennessee niggers was called free niggers. There was a colored man in Pulaski, Tennessee, who owned slaves.” A black man who kept others in bondage — he’s a “colored man,” yet those who were owned were “niggers.” I instantly thought of a moment from the O.J.: Made in America documentary when a white woman who saw black people talking to Simpson uttered, “Look at those niggers sitting with O.J.” Simpson delights in hearing this because she “knew I wasn’t black. She saw me as O.J.” Porter’s outlook matched that of both the racist white woman and the unspeakably racially deranged O.J.
Since reading those narratives, I’ve noticed this mindset when perusing the remarks of freed people in other contexts. For example, before the trial of Rufus Martin, a black man who stood accused of the 1903 murder of Charles Swackhammer, a woman whom the Fort Worth Star-Telegram referred to as an “old negress who occupied a front seat in the court room” bellowed:
It’s the white people that is to blame. They know that they got to make niggahs work or they ain’t no good and they know as long as they ‘low niggah men to loaf aroun’ low down saloons they ain’t goin’ to work. This man come from a good niggah fam’ly — one of the best I knows of, but the p’lice ‘lowed him to loaf aroun’ without workin’, and to drink and gamble, till he just got to be no good and thought he didn’t have to work. The p’lice ought to raid them low down niggah saloons every day and every night till they make every blessed one of the niggah toughs go to work or else send ’em all to the county road. Them saloons is what makes bad niggahs and the white folks is to blame for it, ’cause they let ’em run.
That Martin sported a reddish mustache, light hair and skin so bright he could pass for white almost certainly colored her perception that Martin came from a “good niggah fam’ly.”
Black folk rescued the word from the smoldering debris of a virulently racist land, reclaimed it and renovated the slur into a celebration of black comradery — defenders of contemporary usage of “nigger” repeat this. When this tale collides with reality, however, it shatters as a misreading of history — the current use of the word is owed less to white folk calling black folk “nigger” and more to black folk who thought they were niggers and said so. Black people have hurled the infamous word for nearly as long as white folk have. It exists within black speech now because it existed within black speech then. The uncomfortable truth must be confronted: Absent the internalized oppression of those who called white men and women their masters, “nigger” would probably not be a part of black folk’s lexicon. We black folk are reclaiming it not from bigoted white folk but from our ancestors, who, sadly, deemed their blackness a badge of inferiority.
I seek not to usher the word to the gallows. I harbor no aims to kill it. I can still bump a Young Thug track or chortle at a Dave Chappelle routine. “Nigger” does not bar my enjoyment of popular culture. My soul, though, winces whenever I hear it. The decision for black people to include it in their vocabulary, nonetheless, remains personal, and I reject the criticism of black folk who continue to wield it.
I write only to summon the words of former enslaved people from beyond the grave to express that “nigger” is haunted by the ghosts of hate and the more spiritually chilling ghosts of self-hate.
Brando Simeo Starkey is an associate editor at The Undefeated and the author of In Defense of Uncle Tom: Why Blacks Must Police Racial Loyalty. He crawled through a river of books and came out brilliant on the other side.Post Views: 131
By Elliot Booker — 2 years ago
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Watching the protests that ensued after Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, Morgan DeBaun knew that the online forum that she had been working on part-time now needed her full-time attention.
Called Blavity (a mashup of “black” and “gravity”), the web site is a gathering place for black millennials to share their thoughts, stories and experiences. And, as protests across the country heated up, it seemed to DeBaun that there was no better time to bring the web site to life.
So in the fall of 2014, she quit her high paying Silicon Valley job at Intuit and dedicated herself to getting the online community off the ground.
“Yes, I could have marched in the streets,” said DeBaun. “But really my unique contribution and the contribution of our Blavity team was being able to be a platform and a space for people to get the word out about what was happening in their cities.”
Blavity aims to feature the hottest topics of the day, whether it’s Twitter’s reaction to a picture of Michelle Obama sporting natural hair or the latest wage gap statistics for black women. Content on the site is created both by readers and by Blavity’s own staff and partners.
“Blavity is supposed to be the vessel, but it’s up to our community to fill it with whatever they think is important,” she said. “So if one week, Beyoncé releases Lemonade and like, we get a thousand articles, who am I to say Beyoncé is or isn’t important?”
After leaving Intuit, DeBaun teamed up with co-founders Jonathan Jackson, Aaron Samuels and Jeff Nelson to turn Blavity into a business. The team has since secured more than $1 million in venture backing. According to Blavity’s web site, it now reaches more than 7 million people a month.
And DeBaun isn’t done yet. Recently, she announced the launch of another site called 21Ninety “exclusively for women of color.”
Only 26, DeBaun’s early successes have gotten her named as one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 and nominated for TechCrunch Founder of the Year.
Here is her American Success story:
What was your life like when you decided to create Blavity?
I worked in different parts of [Intuit], one of which was a start up that had been acquired by the company. So I moved to San Francisco, and as part of that, I found myself in your typical start up environment, even though I was working for this big company. It was very much like, lots of beer and dogs running everywhere.
I found myself thinking ‘Is this really the world that I want to live in for the rest of my life?’
Why leave the security of a full-time job to start a company?
People say ‘Why quit?’ Right? Like, why potentially go broke doing something?
And the answer is that around the same time, Mike Brown happened. So I’m sitting in my cubicle with puppies running around me and my city is in turmoil and there’s tension and it’s being broadcast around the world and what was my contribution to that?
Yes, I could have marched in the streets. Yes, I could have flown back to St. Louis, but really my unique contribution and the contribution of our Blavity team was being able to be a platform for people to get the word out about what was happening.
There wasn’t really a place that I felt like was giving the people who were actually doing the hard work a mouthpiece to amplify what they were working on and the problems that exist.
[Plus] I get to work with the most creative people in the world, I get to empower people that I care about that have been underserved by the technology industry and the media industry.
I get to wake up and literally think about how we can make the world better: How can we create more opportunities for people? How can we make more lanes for people to swim in?
How did your parents feel about this?
We’re two and half, almost three years into the business and I think just now do they feel a little bit more comfortable. After I’m nominated for Founder of the Year, after I was in Forbes 30 Under 30… like just now are they like ‘Ok cool, she’s not going to go bankrupt.’
But it was really tough. There were a lot of tears, a lot of family dinner conversations where I wanted to just hide in the corner. Because they worked so hard to get me and my brother here.
So it didn’t go well at first, but we’re all in it together now.
What was your biggest hurdle when trying to get Blavity off the ground?
I think my biggest hurdle was myself, my own mentality.
There are some things that I wish I had done earlier personally, in terms of believing in myself and what we were creating. I had a little bit of imposter syndrome.
I think that has probably held us back. We could probably be further and bigger and have given more opportunities to people a little bit earlier if I had been able to get my mind right.
How important do you think Blavity is as a platform for people to share their opinions and their work right now?
It’s incredibly important. I think people being able to say what they need to say and having a place to say it that is going to take them seriously and amplify it is paramount to us as a country — particularly for minorities and people who are not a part of the mainstream dominant culture right now.
I feel like it’s important for us to have stories and messages and for us to see others who reflect our own values — especially if we’re not in power.
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By Elliot Booker — 1 year ago
Communities of color are actually disproportionately likely to report crimes—it’s police themselves who have maintained a corrosive culture of silence.
IBRAM X KENDI May 14, 2018
A 911 caller living in a nonwhite neighborhood snitches.
A man wearing a black hoodie “busted both my truck windows out,” the caller reported on March 18, “and he’s in people’s backyards right now.” Two officers, Terrence Mercadal, a black man, and Jared Robinet, a white man, arrived on the nighttime scene in South Sacramento. Several minutes later, Mercadal and Robinet were running up a dark driveway, pursuing the suspect, flashlights clearing their sight. “Hey! Show me your hands! Stop! Stop!” one shouted. They turned a corner and through the glare of their flashlights saw a 22-year-old black male in his own backyard.
“Gun, gun, gun!” an officer yelled seconds later. Body-cam footage showed Stephon Clark seemingly abiding by their last order, turning to them to show them his hands, one of which clasped his white iPhone. A belief “the suspect was pointing a firearm at them,” to quote the Sacramento Police Department’s statement, is all police need to become executioners. Police officers do not require certainty to exact the certainty of death.
Both officers unloaded 20 shots into the darkness, at the darkness. “Are you hit?” one officer asked after the 20th shot. “No, I’m good,” the other responded.
Minutes later, a police sergeant arrived. The sergeant escorted Mercadal and Robinet to the street. “Hey mute,” the sergeant said, as he reached for his body camera. The audio of the Mercadal’s and Robinet’s body cameras fell silent, like Clark’s unarmed body nearby. More officers arrived on the scene and muted the audio of their body cameras, as shown in the more than 50 videos and two audio clips that Sacramento Police Department released in April.
Nearly two months have passed and only protesters have been arrested. Was justice muted in those critical moments after the shooting? What were those officers saying that they did not want investigators to hear? Will the Stephon Clark death story begin and end like far too many high-profile officer-involved death stories? A citizen, living apparently in a no-snitch black culture, snitches to police. Officers arrive, use lethal force, claim no misconduct, and every officer on the scene refuses to say otherwise. All too often, police officers appear dead-set on ensuring such incidents do not end how they began—in snitching.
Americans have talked constantly about a no-snitch black culture hampering police investigations, leaving violent criminals on the streets. But what about the no-snitch police culture that has hampered investigations into officer misconduct, leaving violent criminals on the streets?
Police officers should lead the way in fostering an American civic culture of reporting lawbreakers. It is their professional duty to snitch, to enforce the law first and foremost against themselves. How can they expect citizens to snitch to them if they refuse to snitch? How can they expect citizens to trust the criminal-justice system if they don’t trust the criminal-justice system? Snitching on each other remains their only salvation from this hypocrisy, their best tool for building trust with the communities they purport to serve and protect. But first, they’ll have to grapple with an empirical truth: Communities of color are actually disproportionately likely to report crimes—it’s police themselves who have maintained a culture of silence.
That’s not something most law-enforcement leaders seem inclined to acknowledge. “Law enforcement as a whole has been unfairly maligned and blamed for the unacceptable deeds of a few bad actors,” complained Attorney General Jeff Sessions in February. “There is no ‘Blue Wall of Silence’ … meaning no cops are covering for cops in Las Vegas,” an apparently all-knowing Las Vegas real-estate investor and police watchdog claimed in the Las Vegas Sun. “It’s not that we’re all out here covering for one another,” said Sergeant Dan Hils, president of the Cincinnati police union. Loyalty “ends with criminal activity.”
Since the 1980s, police officers have grumbled of a growing no-snitch culture—not within their own ranks, but outside their blue wall in black and Latino neighborhoods. “I have been in hospital rooms, even on the street standing over somebody being loaded into an ambulance, and they refuse to talk, and you think, ‘What in the world are we here for?’” Sergeant Mike Huff said recently in Tulsa. “But you know this violence is going to spread.”
The mix of neighborhood anecdotes, police reports, media stories, no-snitch videos, apparel, television shows, and music lyrics have baked the popular belief in a no-snitch black culture, even among black people. The “no-snitch mentality is killing the black community,” a black prisoner serving a life sentence proclaimed in the Toledo Blade in 2014.
Police defenders like to point to the falling clearance rate for homicides as proof not of the falling clearance rate, but of the no-snitch black culture. In 1965, the rate of homicide cases ending in an arrest was more than 90 percent. By 2015, the rate had fallen to 64.1 percent.
Anecdotal evidence persists about individuals of all races refusing to report crimes. But evidence of uniquely black cultural hostility to snitching does not exist—it is yet another racist idea without any evidentiary standing. But when did Americans ever need evidence to believe something was culturally or behaviorally wrong with black people as a group? Racist ideas are believable, not provable.
The evidence points to black communities perhaps being more likely to snitch than white communities—and Latino communities being the most likely to snitch. The National Crime Victimization Survey compiled each year by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found in 2010 that violence against black people and white people were reported at nearly identical rates (blacks slightly higher), while violence against Latinos was the most likely to be reported. The latest National Crime Victimization Survey in 2016 again found violence against Latinos (52 percent) was more likely to be reported to the police than violence against blacks and whites (40 percent alike). For serious violent crimes, violence against Latinos (65 percent) and blacks (60 percent) was far more likely to be reported to the police than violence against whites (45 percent). But these statistics did not inflame the policing community to start lamenting about a no-snitch white culture.
Black youth are especially branded with a no-snitch culture, without evidence, and in the face of evidence to the contrary. Preliminary data from a survey administered to 1,500 community college students showed that if the perpetrator was a relative or a friend, whites were less likely to snitch than non-whites, despite whites reporting they trust the police far more than blacks, and despite twice as many blacks reporting they listened to music that ridiculed snitching.
Urban, black high-school dropouts may be the most maligned for not reporting crimes to police officers. And yet, police officers, ironically, rely on snitching especially from the hyper-incarcerated population of black high-school dropouts. The staggering volume of arrests of black and Latino youth over the last four decades would have ground the criminal-justice system to a halt if every single case went to trial. Plea agreements—defendants snitching on themselves and often snitching on others in exchange for more lenient sentences—have become as endemic as police informants in black and Latino neighborhoods. Over nine out of 10 federal cases, for example, end in plea agreements.
Police officers, however, do not appear to be commonly snitching on themselves, and accepting plea agreements. There is a no-snitch police culture that may be as widespread and harmful as the myth of a no-snitch black culture. The National Institute of Ethics surveyed 3,714 officers and academic recruits from 42 states in 1999 and 2000. A no-snitching code of silence commonly exists, responded 79 percent of officers. More than half of the officers said this no-snitch code does not bother them. Nearly half of the officers reported witnessing misconduct and not reporting it. That’s probably because 73 percent of responding officers said they’d be fired if they snitched. And 73 percent of the officers said the individuals pressuring them to keep quiet were leaders.
In 2001, a national survey of police attitudes conducted by the Police Foundation found that a majority of officers said turning a “blind eye” to police misconduct was not unusual. Meanwhile, roughly two-thirds reported they “did not always report serious criminal violations” by fellow officers and they’d be given the “cold shoulder” if they did.
In his forward to that report, the Police Foundation’s president, Hubert Williams, wrote, “Most of America’s police officers are honest, dedicated, hard-working public servants, and it is they, as well as the public they serve, who are victims of the ‘bad’ cop.” If most police officers are good, then they are being forced to operate in a bad policing culture where the personal desire to report misconduct is tempered by the top-down forces to remain silent—or, by their own self-interest of keeping their jobs and staying out of prison.
Even when undercover Atlanta officers fired 39 shots at 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston in 2006 after busting into the wrong home, they refused to snitch. They planted drugs to cover themselves. Caught in their lies, two officers finally pled guilty and received reduced sentences. Three officers were imprisoned. Two years ago, when San Francisco officers accused a sergeant of making racist and sexist comments, the former head and acting consultant of the city’s police union called them “snitches.”
And then there’s the tragic death of 17-year-old LaQuan McDonald in 2014. Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke claimed he opened fire after the teenager lunged at him with a knife, a claim backed up by on-the-scene reports from three other officers. The dashcam video contradicted their claims, sparking protests that compelled Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel to acknowledge the “blue wall of silence” in 2015. The Justice Department’s recent investigations of the Chicago and Baltimore police departments discovered broken systems of silence. When officers have stepped forward in Baltimore, the report found, “fellow officers have retaliated against them.”
In 2011, when a Baltimore detective asked a sergeant about reporting two fellow officers who brutally beat a suspect, he says the sergeant replied: “If you are rat, your career is done.” The good cop decided to be a rat. And the good cop’s career in Baltimore is done. The day before Baltimore detective Sean Suiter was scheduled to testify in a grand-jury hearing against fellow officers, he died from a shot by his own handgun. His death in November remains unsolved—one of the only unsolved deaths of a police officer in Baltimore’s history.
When will police departments focus more on rooting out their own no-snitching culture that undermines their job duties than on attacking a no-snitch black culture that does not exist? Not snitching is not a black problem nor a white problem nor a poor problem nor an urban problem nor a youth problem. Not snitching is an American problem—across races and spaces. When will police officers model for Americans the difficult civic duty of snitching against partners, against close friends, against violent neighbors? When will they show us by their actions that legality must trump loyalty and career and fear?
I want police officers to be comfortable snitching and I want to be comfortable snitching to them. Too often the response to the report of a minor crime like breaking car windows—or no crime at all—has ended in a life being lost and an officer back on duty weeks later. Part of me wants to keep police guns as far away from black bodies as I can. Because we fear their guns. They fear our bodies. Why would I want to play Russian roulette by reporting a crime?
It would be much easier for me to snitch if I trusted police officers around black bodies; if police officers always took the time to defuse and save; if black life mattered more than police fear; if arrests actually reduced crime; and if I saw resources going to rehabilitate human beings, rather than to cage human beings like they are animals.
Black people, in other words, have every reason not to snitch. And yet, the evidence shows, we still do—even as we are ridiculed for not doing so. Police officers have every reason to snitch. And yet they still commonly do not—and get praised as if they commonly do.
Stephon Clark’s death story could end differently if a Sacramento police officer steps forward to lead us all to justice. Police-involved death stories could end in justice if police officers everywhere are willing to do what black people do: start snitching.Post Views: 200