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Report: Black men, boys shot most by Chicago police

CHICAGO (AP)

Every five days, on average, a Chicago police officer fired a gun at someone.

In 435 shootings over a recent six-year span, officers killed 92 people and wounded 170 others.

While a few of those incidents captured widespread attention, they occurred with such brutal regularity — and with scant information provided by police — that most have escaped public scrutiny.

Now, after months of struggles with Chicago police to get information through the Freedom of Information Act, the Chicago Tribune has compiled an unprecedented database of details of every time police fired a weapon from 2010 through 2015.

Analysis of that data revealed startling patterns about the officers who fired and the people they shot at.

Among the findings:

•At least 2,623 bullets were fired by police in 435 shootings. In 235 of those incidents, officers struck at least one person; in another 200 shootings, officers missed entirely.

•About four out of every five people shot by police were African-American males.

•About half of the officers involved in shootings were African-American or Hispanic.

•The officers who fired weren’t rookies but, on average, had almost a decade of experience.

•Of the 520 officers who fired their weapons, more than 60 of them did so in more than one incident.

•The number of shootings by police — hits and misses — declined over the six years, from more than 100 in 2011 to 44 in 2015.

The analysis comes at a time when police in Chicago and throughout the country face heightened scrutiny after several controversial police shootings, often of minorities, have been captured on video and gone viral.

The Tribune’s study encompasses high-profile cases such as the McDonald scandal as well as scores of incidents that were not caught on video and received little or no attention. It begins on New Year’s Day 2010 with a teen shot in the stomach while handcuffed to a security fence in the Park Manor neighborhood. It ends six years later, on the day after Christmas 2015, when an officer wounded an armed suspect on the Far South Side.

For years, examining the full scale of the problem in Chicago was impossible because the city refused to release most details about police-involved shootings. Before the release last year of the video of Laquan McDonald’s killing brought pressure for transparency, the only information made public in the hours after a shooting came in comments from a police union spokesman at the scene and perhaps a short statement from the Police Department. As investigations dragged on for months or years, the details remained hidden.

The data on officer shootings were released to the Tribune only after a seven-month battle with the city over its failure to fulfill public records requests. The department finally produced the data in July after the Tribune threatened to sue. Reporters then spent weeks comparing the data with information that was gathered earlier this year from the city’s police oversight agency as well as with other records, including autopsies and court records.

To be sure, policing the city’s most dangerous streets can be harrowing. Nearly 6,000 illegal guns have been seized in the city so far this year — a staggering amount of firepower that far outpaces other big cities. The dangers were on display in graphic detail earlier this month when the department released dramatic dashboard-camera video of officers being shot at while pursuing a carjacking suspect in their squad cars on the South Side. One officer suffered a graze wound to his face.

“As a police officer, you don’t wait for the shot to come in your direction,” Dean Angelo Sr., president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, told the Tribune recently about the database findings. “You might not get a chance to return fire.”

But for many of those who live in the largely African-American communities where police most often open fire, the narrative of self-defense seems like a familiar script.

At a recent rally protesting police shootings, Charles Jenkins, a 61-year-old community activist who has spent his entire life on the city’s West Side, said he believes race plays a role in how authorities investigate shootings by police.

“It’s easier to believe, because they’re black, that an officer was in fear of their life and get(s) off,” he said

Those shot by Chicago police ranged in age from early teens to the elderly, the records show. The youngest, Dejuan Curry, was 14 when he was wounded in the leg in August 2015 after police said he refused to drop a weapon he held in his hand as he ran. A federal lawsuit is pending against Victor Razo, the officer who allegedly fired the shots. The Tribune’s records show that Razo was involved in two other shootings between 2010 and 2015.

The eldest victim, Hazel Jones-Huff, 92, was wounded when off-duty Officer Courtney Hill opened fire during a quarrel between neighbors, killing Jones-Huff’s 86-year-old husband. Jones-Huff was charged with battery for allegedly going after the officer with a broom, but a judge later acquitted her of all counts.

The records show the shootings in which a civilian was injured or killed were concentrated in a handful of high-crime police districts, all with largely African-American populations.

Leading the list was the Gresham District, which had 30 police shootings in which someone was injured or killed in the six-year span. Next were two other South Side districts — Englewood with 27 and Grand Crossing with 18. The Calumet and Harrison districts on the West Side each had 17, according to the records.

By contrast, the Jefferson Park and Near North districts, which have majority-white populations, each had four police shootings over the six years. The Town Hall District, which includes part of Lincoln Park, Wrigleyville, the rest of Lakeview, Lincoln Square and part of Uptown, had none, the data show.

The officers who shot

From the data, the Tribune was able to identify the race of 300 of the 324 officers who opened fire in shootings that resulted in injuries or death.

Although white officers make up a larger portion of the police force, they don’t shoot citizens at a higher rate. Hispanic officers, meanwhile, make up only 19 percent of Chicago’s police force but fired in 26 percent of officer-involved shootings.

A little more than half of the officers who fired shots at people were minorities — 84 Hispanics (28 percent) and 69 blacks (23 percent). White officers made up 45 percent of the total — 136 officers in all. The other officers were listed as Asian/Pacific Islander.

The officers also tended to be experienced, not rookies who suddenly found themselves in over their heads. The records show officers who have shot at citizens had an average of about nine years on the job.

Not surprisingly, 87 percent of the police officers who fired their guns in fatal or nonfatal shootings were on duty, the analysis found. Yet that meant 31 shootings involved off-duty officers who wounded or killed people.

Over the six-year period, 520 officers fired a gun at a citizen. The force generally has about 12,000 members. But the Tribune found that 64 of them were involved in at least two separate shootings.

Several of the repeat shooters have been featured in Tribune stories in recent years. At least two of them, Marco Proano and Gildardo Sierra, have been the targets of criminal investigations by the FBI, although no charges have been filed against either.

Proano, who remains on the force on paid desk duty, killed a teenager during a struggle outside a South Side dance party in 2011, then was captured two years later on dashboard camera video cocking his gun sideways and firing into a car full of teens as it drove away, wounding two. Sierra was profiled in the Tribune in 2011 after he was involved in three shootings, two of them fatal, during a six-month span. Sierra resigned from the department last year.

In the past, the Independent Police Review Authority has not tracked officers involved in multiple shootings if the shootings were deemed justified.

Guglielmi, the police spokesman, said the department is now developing an early intervention system to identify and mentor officers who may be at risk, including officers who were recently involved in a shooting or other high-stress situation. The system “will not be designed to be punitive” but will function more as a “risk management” plan to get to an officer’s issues before they manifest on the street, he said.

Officers who have fired their weapons in multiple incidents also avoided public scrutiny in part because the police union contract bars the department from identifying officers after a shooting. In most cases, no information about the officers involved was ever made public unless a lawsuit was filed — and even then the city typically fought in court to keep records sealed.

Meanwhile, the Independent Police Review Authority’s investigations of officer-involved shootings often included testimony and reports from other officers who backed up one another’s accounts — a “code of silence” that has been criticized for years.

In all but a handful of shootings that IPRA investigated over the six-year span, the agency ruled the officers were justified in their use of deadly force.

The Tribune’s analysis showed that Chicago police are the only witnesses listed in most of the shootings, with civilian witnesses identified in just 83 of the incidents.

Alexa Van Brunt, an attorney with Northwestern University’s Roderick MacArthur Justice Center, said it’s often challenging to prove misconduct or a cover-up when it comes to an officer’s word against that of a civilian.

“We don’t have video evidence often,” Van Brunt said. “And if you have police officers lying on reports, that becomes the official record.”

‘He put me in that position’

No officer has fired at citizens more during the time period examined by the Tribune than Tracey Williams, an African-American tactical officer with nearly a decade on the job.

Over five years, Williams fired her gun five different times in various neighborhoods throughout the city — from North Lawndale to Fuller Park, the Tribune analysis shows.

Each time, she fired at a black male. The targets ranged in age from 17 to 45. One died, one survived with a gunshot to the leg and three others were not hit.

The only investigation to capture public attention involved the Dec. 4, 2010, killing of Ontario Billups in the South Side’s Gresham neighborhood.

Billups, 30, was sitting in an idling minivan with two friends in the 8100 block of South Ashland Avenue when Williams and her partner pulled up in an unmarked Chevrolet Tahoe, according to IPRA records.

In a statement she later gave to investigators, Williams said the car looked suspicious so she shined a spotlight into the van and ordered the occupants to show their hands. She was running up to the passenger side of the vehicle with her gun drawn when she said she saw Billups with a “dark object” in his hand.

“He turns,” Williams said. “As he’s turning towards me quickly his hand is coming out quickly with this dark object. I immediately fire a shot.”

Billups was shot once in the chest and died. The dark object turned out to be a bag of marijuana. Even though Billups was unarmed, Williams defended her use of force in her interview with IPRA investigators.

“His actions led to my actions,” she said. “He put me in that position.”

Meanwhile, Williams remained on the street. In one six-month period, from July 2012 to January 2013, the officer fired her gun in three separate incidents but missed. The next year, she wounded an armed 17-year-old boy in the leg. A review of that incident is pending, though most of the records have been sealed by IPRA and the Police Department because the boy was a minor.

In November, the city agreed to pay $500,000 to settle an excessive force lawsuit brought by Billups’ family. That brought the total cost to $643,000 for taxpayers to settle four lawsuits related to Williams since 2010, court records show.

The Tribune’s analysis found that most of the officers involved in multiple shootings over the six years were involved in two each.

Holding a socket wrench

The data compiled by the Tribune show how police calls turned into confrontations — ranging from seemingly benign calls such as trespass or drinking in the public way to extremely dangerous situations such as hostage standoffs or gang shootings.

Police released information about why officers were initially at the scene in 185 shootings over the six-year period. About a third of the incidents — 63 in total — began with officers responding to a report of shots fired or a person with a gun, according to the data. Fifteen shootings happened after police responded to a report of a robbery.

At least 40 shootings began with a traffic or street stop, either because of an alleged violation or after officers stopped and questioned a group congregated in public. In more than a third of the stops, officers gave chase on foot, pursuing suspects through residential backyards, alleys or over fences before opening fire, the data show.

In statements issued by police after the shootings, six of every 10 cited a suspect either pointing a gun or shooting at police as the reason officers opened fire. But of the 74 autopsy reports reviewed by the Tribune, at least 11 showed the shooting victims had been struck only in their back, buttocks or back of the head. The data show police also shot people who wielded other types of weapons, including knives — such as in the McDonald case — but also tire irons, screwdrivers, baseball bats and crowbars. In some cases, the gun police thought they saw turned out to be something else entirely — a wrench or a watch, a cellphone box or wallet.

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Georgia Utendhal comforts one of her granddaughters, whose 16-year-old brother was fatally shot by a Chicago police officer in the 8700 block of South Morgan Street in Chicago on July 5, 2014.

The Gantt Report: Homie The Black Political Clown

By: Lucius Gantt

African Americans can’t wait to get to the polls to cast their ballots in the 2016 United States elections.

One Presidential candidate is “Heckle” and the other one is “Jeckle”. One candidate is Tweedlee Dee” and The other one is “Tweedlee Dum”.

It doesn’t matter who is running for the nation’s highest office, most Black voters will do as they are told. They will be given a list, or slate, and instructed to vote for candidates that political exploiters want them to vote for!

Call me a hater if you want to but if you hate the truth I don’t give a damn!

First of all, you have a Constitutional right to vote for whomever you want to and, yes, you should exercise that right but I pray that you will vote smart.

I pray that you will put your voter support behind candidates that support you., stand up for you, speak out for you, be accessible to you, listen to you, be responsive to you and care about you!

And, don’t give me any crap about voting for the “Black” candidates!

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Most Black politicians today are completely worthless and of no use to Black people.

You tell me, who are the candidates that look like you that will fight for the governmental policies and programs that you want? When Congress persons, legislators, commissioners and councilmen vote to appropriate, or divide up, tax dollars to special interest groups, corporate cronies, favored ethnic groups, desired sex and gender groups, who are the Black elect officials that will say “there are more Black people that are suffering, and more Black communities struggling than anybody else why does government give Black people, Black businesses and Black schools and other Black institutions the least government money”?

know you don’t like for me to write like this but it is true!

You think you are going to the polls to vote strong Black men and women but, in many cases, you stepping into the voting booth to cast ballots for dummies and puppets!

You’re not voting for the best representation that we can get, you are voting for Negroes who are willing to be controlled by the Democratic or Republican Parties!

The Democratic Party, for instance, is Willie Tyler and you are voting for Lester. The Republican Party is Buffalo Bob and you’re voting for Howdy Doody!

You think The Gantt Report is crazy? Prove it!

Who is running for office in 2016 that will represent you today like Black people were represented in the past by Adam Clayton Powell, or Maynard Jackson, or Shirley Chisholm or Harold Washington  or even Florida’s Carrie Meeks or Betty Holzendorf?

I knew Meeks and Holzendorf and the candidates of today are not them.

I’ve written it a thousand times but if you forgot it, let me repeat it. If Black political candidates believe that Black business are inferior, Black people are unimportant, Black issues are OK to ignore during the political campaign, they will feel the same way after you elect them!

A Black guy running for a seat in the Florida Legislature called me and asked me to give him some money for his campaign. I asked him to name the Black vendors, political professionals and Black owned media outlets he would spend money with and he told me ALL Black people working on his campaign would be volunteers so he could save his money for white media, white consultants and white vendors.

I hung up the phone on his pitiful ass!

Any Black voter or Black citizen that would give their support to any candidate, Black or white, that thinks all Blacks are worthless is not only a political fool they are a traitor to their race!

Black people have to control the politics in Black communities, Black districts and in Black precincts.

When political parties control Black candidates and tell them what to do, what to say, what to vote for and who they should hire, the Black voters and the Black people will continue to be exploited and oppressed.

If you are interested in politics, start grooming our young people. Teach Black youth how to campaign and generate votes. Teach Black boys and girls how to be strong, proud and politically intelligent Black men and women.

The only Black political clown I’ll support is “Homie the Clown” because if Homie ran for office, Homie wouldn’t play that “I want to be controlled” stuff!

 

An Ode to Obama and the Lie of Equal Grievance

by Kamau Franklin

Here is a man of great intelligence and wit. A man with a beautiful smile and an equally intelligent and beautiful wife with two lovely children. He is studied with great gifts of oratory and persuasion that placed him in the most visible seat of power that the world has known, President of the United States of America. As the first person of color to win the presidency, he has endured a delicate dance of protecting the dominant institutions of the American empire while attempting to give continued hope that the arc of American life will bend toward justice, if we believe in them and trust that the outcomes are good even if they are not perfect.

This is a laborious job in most circumstances. The attempt to direct a country of 300 million people of various backgrounds that the narrative of American exceptionalism, unquestioned moral good, and the possibility of economic advance is open to all, but to do so when you have inherited a great recession and a bungled invasion seems to tilt the balance into the impossible. However, this was a challenge he willingly sought because of his belief that he could navigate us through with his abundant abilities.

Obama entered with a sense of post-racial hysteria fanned by both the corporate press and his own electoral team and administration. His task in the area of racial politics was to make us all believe we shared a common destiny from a history forged through different experiences but still with common values and goals. His technique was to avoid saying anything about black people. He could openly support policies for the other segments of the population, but for us he let his swag speak for him. This was policy enough; with of course the added boot-strap language the black community always gets. He seemed to believe for a time that his mere presence was a fulfilment of racial togetherness as oppose to being the right person at the right time to fill a position.

When racial issues began arising first on the campaign trail with his former pastor Rev. Wright and then after his election with the arrest of historian Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Obama began refining what has become his signature style of racial discourse. He attempted to explain the grievances that blacks and whites have with each other, including assessing the competing interest of being Black and being a police officer who controls black bodies. He used a balanced grievance approach. He attempted to guide us through our troubles by informing us what each group has been experiencing. In this way we could understand where the other side was coming from. He believed that his is extraordinary gifts of speech would serve us all in the impossible task he took on of explaining away history as opposed to examining it.

His most heroic attempts have been wistful sonnets about the American political will to address and overcome strife. He treats us all to post-modernist arguments that there is no right and there is no wrong, just perspectives. The juxtaposition Obama gives us is of two aggrieved groups who must find a middle way. The sweet sounds make us pause in our tracks, until anyone with even a cursory knowledge of American history notices that we are not two sides who are missing each other for lack of a mediator to help us understand. Mr. Obama is a wonderful painter of images, except the canvas is made of crushed bones and grinded flesh.

Mr. Obama did not create the world he inherited, as he has pointed out, but he does embrace its fabric and texture. He will not lift the veil to serve a larger purpose, but hopes only to use his charisma to keep the lid on and hopes that things begin to settle down. There is no deconstructing of the American identity, instead we must suspend truth for the continued unity of the empire.

Black people are asked to pretend that the police and the larger white male population is somehow an aggrieved group worthy of comparison to the Black experience in America. Obama attempts to sell us such feeble arguments that compares the historical loss of millions of lives, culture, language, and land to that of a slightly diminished white-male historical dominance. The enslavement, rape, lynching and mass incarceration of a people later herded into ghettoes, with no collective control over institutions that govern them is compared to lower middle class white-male economic stagnation.  The current taking of Black lives with a “shoot first” mentality, that encourages purposeful and mistaken shootings by the police, will never be punished by judicial institutions because there is always a justification. He had a wallet or a candy bar that looked like a gun. She was assertive, he moved to fast, he moved to slow. Her eyes darted, he looked like he was dangerous, sometimes these things happen. The collective control of black bodies by state institutions through prison, schools, healthcare, workfare, child services and policing is somehow comparable to the angst of diminished white male demographics on the scales.

Obama who has not attended the funeral of any black person killed by the police, as that would send the wrong message to such militarized institutions will continue to make sure the agencies that have control over black bodies are given due respect, that proper remorse is paid. The structures of white supremacy and racism will always have an excuse that needs to be considered when black bodies fall, but no excuse will ever be allowed for the shooter of anyone who is wearing blue. Even though the recent shootings against the police were committed, not by activists and or community people but, by people trained by the US government. The same government that claims to deplore violence at home will take no responsibility for blow-back when it trains, teach and desensitize 18-year-olds to kill anyone they decide is an enemy to the US in foreign lands.

The oppressed understand however that Presidents and media institutions that speak of shared grief, that give us community forums seeking mutual understanding, that highlight hand-pick leaders with only staged arrest records, are no more than holders of the flame for continued outside control Black communities and people. New Sharpton’s for a new era.

The post-war, post-recession post-racial presidential warrior will not be able to deliver on ending inherited U.S. wars, on diverting resources to improve economic conditions in black (or white) communities or on improving the racial climate. That should not be taken as a failure but a mismanaged attempt to keep the status-quo functioning while selling us on lovely words of hope and change. Obama’s presidency was never supposed to be the end of war or economic inequity or racial conflict but a better managed system after the previous disaster of Bush.

The job was too big however because the lie of equal grievance was too big. The purposeful misguiding of people on the historical and current purpose of white supremacy being a malfunction of American history as oppose to the root of American history was way too big to manage. In the twilight of his presidency I am sure he can see the threads coming apart, leaving a talented man of great gifts, that could have been used in service to his community and the larger world as little more than a care-taker of a crumbling empire that a few beer summits and sentimental sweet words could not overcome.

How Dr King’s Inner Circle Views Zimbabwe

During an interview with Playboy magazine in January of 1965 conducted by the author of the book later adapted to a television mini-series “Roots” and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”, Mr Alex Haley posed the following question to the internationally renowned civil and human rights champion Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

Do you feel that the African Nations, in turn, should involve themselves more actively in American Negro affairs? The epic answer by Dr King was as follows “I do indeed. The world is now so small in terms of geographic proximity and mutual problems that no nation should idly stand by and watch another’s plight.

“I think that at every possible instance Africans should use the influence of their governments to make it clear that the struggle of their brothers in the US is part of a worldwide struggle. In short, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, for we are tied together in a garment of mutuality. What happens in Johannesburg affects Birmingham, however indirectly. We are descendants of the Africans. Our heritage is Africa. We should never break the ties, nor should the Africans.”

Because this compelling answer by Dr King has both theoretical and practical implications, we are historically obligated to address the following questions, the first would naturally be, is there an African head of state bold enough to agree to raise the issues of so-called African Americans?, the second would be, would so-called African Americans come to their defence when they incur the wrath of US-EU Imperialism for taking such a bold and visionary stand?

The last and perhaps most formidable question would be, are so-called African-Americans courageous enough to even approach and engage an African head of state whose character and policies have been completely maligned by US-EU Imperialism?

As this year marks the 40th anniversary of what could be labeled Mother Africa’s most devastating political tragedy, Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah’s government being overthrown by the CIA-orchestrated coup alongside British intelligence; It must be stated that Mr Haley’s question to Dr King is indeed two-fold.

The other part must address how so-called African-Americans deal with US policy on Africa. This shameful atrocity was committed while Dr King and his wife Coretta Scott King were dinner guests of the most Honourable Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam, at his private residence in Chicago.

Another historical irony was that Osagyefo was on the way to Hanoi to present a proposal to end the Vietnam War, which as we know voicing his displeasure concerning this issue ultimately cost Dr King his life.

Since Dr King ended Mr Haley’s question by stressing the importance of never breaking the ties between African born in Mother Africa and so-called African Americans born inside US borders, it is only fair to begin by analysing how Dr King’s closest confidants, in particular and the Civil Rights movement in general, along with organised formations who consider the distinguished fighters and groups from this era their inspiration for being involved, have dealt with US-EU Policy on Zimbabwe.

Shortly before the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington in 2003, former US Congressman Reverend Walter Fauntroy had visited Harare and was granted the opportunity to have a private audience with President Mugabe. During this discussion, Reverend Fauntroy made a verbal commitment to use the platform of the march to raise the issue of US-EU sanctions on Zimbabwe, the reason President Mugabe was pleased to explore this strategy was, not one member of the Congressional Black Caucus voted against the sanctions.

The end result was, at no point during the march did Reverend Fauntroy mention a need to make Zimbabwe an issue of importance.

In a private capacity, Reverend Fauntroy stated he felt that it was rather odd that African countries with a revolutionary pedigree like Zimbabwe, hired Caucasian-owned and run law firms to do their public relations and consulting without even considering people like him for the job. In April of 2014 and January 2015, two so-called African Americans, Prince Asiel Ben Israel and C Gregory Turner, were sent to prison for failure to register as agents for a foreign government.

Mr Ben Israel pled guilty and was sentenced to seven months in prison, while Mr Turner pleaded not guilty received 15 months in prison under the guise of illegally lobbying to lift US-EU sanctions on Zimbabwe.

According to the prosecutors, Mr Ben Israel and Mr Turner were to receive $3,4 million to lobby for the lifting of the sanctions. Without debating the accuracy of this point, the fundamental question still has to be raised with Reverend Fauntroy, Mr Ben Israel and Mr Turner, should President Mugabe and zanu-pf have to pay a king’s ransom to so-called African Americans to get them to fight to lift US-EU sanctions on Zimbabwe?

Zimbabweans still are trying to put behind them the shameful and unacceptable manner that former US Congressman Mel Reynolds came to Zimbabwe and attempted to con government officials into believing he could had the influence to help build a Hilton Hotel in Zimbabwe.

It must not be forgotten that Mr Reynolds was introduced to President Mugabe by Reverend Jesse Jackson in New York City at the UN General Assembly.

The day before this meeting, Reverend Jackson had audience with the former Prime Minister of Zimbabwe Morgan Tsvangirai, who attempted to come to the US and upstage President Mugabe’s delegation at the UN, even though he was part of the inclusive government at that particular time.

When highlighting his conversation with the Press that were part of President Mugabe’s delegation, Reverend Jackson admitted that it was an error on his part not to use his historic campaigns for the US Presidency not to call on the President Carter as a private citizen and President Reagan to honour the Lancaster House Agreement. Reverend Jackson also admitted that at no point did his organisation, the Rainbow Coalition, actively lobby to lift US-EU sanctions on Zimbabwe.

History will judge what was worse, not fighting to lift sanctions or exposing Zimbabwe to a two bit hustler like Mel Reynolds.

In 2003, the head of the New York office of the Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, Attorney Michael Hardy had told the former Zimbabwean Ambassador to the US Dr Simbi Mubako, that NAN would like to explore the possibility of creating a humanitarian centre in Zimbabwe. When asked to be part of a delegation to observe the 2005 Parliamentary elections, he stated that NAN would want to meet Mr. Tsvangirai as a precondition for making the trip.

One of Dr King’s closest aides, Reverend Wyatt Tee Walker and a founding member of CORE, Reverend George Houser, who was a recipient of the Oliver Tambo Award from South African President Jacob Zuma in 2010 and founded the American Committee on Africa in 1953, have never called for the lifting of US-EU sanctions on Zimbabwe.

Reverend Houser transitioned last August and Reverend Walker also started the Religious Action Network of Africa Action, which is one of the organisations that is guilty of funneling National Endowment for Democracy blood money to 14 civil society groups in Zimbabwe.

Those who have heard President Mugabe reflect on the Lancaster House negotiations know he is extremely fond of Ambassador Andrew Young, who represented the Carter Administration during that engagement process.

As a special envoy for US Secretary of State John Kerry, Ambassador Young met with President Mugabe before the 2013 elections. This was Ambassador Young’s first visit to Zimbabwe since 2003, where he agreed to lobby for the lifting of US-EU sanctions behind closed doors.

After being in power for 36 years, President Mugabe and zanu-pf have come to the realisation that while Dr King’s disciples are very visible and well respected, health, old age and being hostage to the agenda of the Democratic Party prevent them from leading the fight to lift US-EU sanctions to the very end.

The beauty of this is President Mugabe and Zanu-PF may not even be familiar with the comrades leading this fight, which means they are not seeking compensation or recognition

Obi Egbuna Jr is the US correspondent to The Herald and the external relations officer of Zimbabwe Cuba Friendship Association (ZICUFA). 

The Need for African-American Males in “Higher” Education

My name is Rel Dowdell, and I am an acclaimed screenwriter, filmmaker as well as an English professor who has taught at Community College of Philadelphia for over 13 years. Last December, I filed a federal lawsuit against the college for discrimination in its hiring practices, for I was denied a full-time position in the English department two times, once in 2005, and once in 2015. As a result of my stand against hiring discrimination against African-American males in higher education, other African-American faculty members have respectively filed complaints in hiring and treatment. Additionally, one African-American male finally achieved full-time status in his science department this year after being denied four times in past years.

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In my time working at CCP, I have had tremendous results of success with students of all kinds, literally. I have done so at every campus of CCP, and there are four of them. The letters that students have written to department heads and administrators about my instruction to them are immense and heartwarming to hear about. Also, I do academic advising, assessment, and Allied Health test preparation at the school, and work with African-African males in the Center for Male Engagement.

 

Moreover, I met the qualifications of the human resources department, the hiring committee, and the department heads on two different occasions over the span of a decade. In fact, in 2015, the process included two department heads, for the hiring committee chair was Professor Linda Fellag, who was a previous head of the English department, as well as the current department head, Professor Girija Nagaswami. However, two administrators, one being the Vice President of Academic Affairs (who is African-American) and the Dean of Liberal Studies (who is Caucasian) denied me on both occasions. The first time I was denied, in 2005, I was shocked because the head of the hiring committee at that time, Doug Swauger, told me I was the best candidate that year. I was very optimistic that I would be hired full-time. I remember him telling me, “Rel, you can reach students I know I cannot. I am rooting for you, the committee is rooting for you, and we look forward to the good possibility that you will be a full-time colleague by the fall semester.”

 

That was a very humbling statement to hear from a veteran professor in the English department at CCP. I then met with the department head at that time whose name is Dr. John Howe. He is the one who originally hired me to teach in the department, and he also came to the premiere of my film “Train Ride” in Philadelphia at the International House. He knew of all of the positive assets I brought to the department and the school, and I advanced through that stage with no problem also. When I didn’t get the position, I was disturbed because I found out no African-American males were hired full-time in the English department that year. Since that time, top cable station BET’s website, BET.COM, cited “Train Ride” as one of the “best films about African-Americans in college,” ahead of major Hollywood studio films such as Denzel Washington’s “The Great Debaters” and “Love and Basketball.”

http://www.bet.com/shows/bet-star-cinema/photos/2013/03/college-movies.html#!/

Fast forward to 2015: I knew something was wrong within the hiring process this time, for I noticed that three black men have been hired by these two in the past fifteen years at a predominantly black school that gets substantial funding from the government to educate African-American men. Subsequently, there are only 5 out of 124 African-American men in the entire English department. All the while, I am on CCP posters and in its articles giving spotlight to my accomplishments in screenwriting and film-making. Those highlights have made me proud to be a professor at CCP. There was even a posting on the school’s Facebook page that cites me as a “great and well known professor.”

https://www.facebook.com/CCPeduAlumni/photos/a.371417626219659.102571.244631682231588/1147173325310748/?type=1&theater

 

However, the events that have transpired are very disappointing and make me realize that significant efforts like mine from African-American male instructors at CCP are devalued. It is difficult enough going through such an arduous hiring process where you don’t encounter any African-American males during it, whether in human resources, the hiring committees or the department heads. In the English department at CCP, full-time African-American females outnumber African-American males in a ratio of 3 to 1. When I met with the Vice President of Academic Affairs and the Dean of Liberal Arts during my interview in 2015, I was ironically asked, “What can you do for the profile of the school outside of the classroom?” I had to wonder to myself, “Have they seen the numerous advertisements and correspondences from the college that promoted me and my accomplishments throughout the years?”

 

Dr. Warren Hilton, the former Dean of Enrollment Management, wrote me a letter of thanks last year and stated, “Thanks for your hard work!  I know that there are countless other students you have helped over the years. The work of individuals like you makes our students’ lives so much better.” Additionally, I have a file full of thank you notes from various students over the years that make my heart proud. One student, Jeannie Burns, sent me a note also in 2015 that stated, “I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your great work at CCP.  As an older adult going back to college, I felt it was a challenge. As a mother, wife, and a full time employee, I asked myself, ‘Was I ready for the hard work that was required?’ However, your constant and thorough patient English instruction pointed me and other students like myself in the right direction. You gave me hope and encouragement. Day after day, week after week, you made yourself available for any new challenges that came my way and other students as well.  As a result of your help and support, in 2016, I will earn my BS in Behavioral Health Counseling from Drexel University.”  Additionally, I have even assisted the college in a liaison with University of Pennsylvania. In April of last year, I received an email from Katrina Glanzer, who is an advisor at Penn. In her note to me, she stated, “I am working on a team project this semester to research what Penn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships might do to best support students transitioning from West Philadelphia High School through their matriculation to CCP. The Netter Center currently partners with the guidance counselor at West to help students with the college search, application and financial aid process. As part of this project, we met with Sandy Harrill, who recommended you as an excellent resource.”

In looking back at civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, one has to respect the sinew of the sacrifices each made when each risked his and her life in order to achieve equality for African-Americans. Rosa Parks specifically made a stand that African-Americans should not have to sit in the back of the bus and should be able to sit wherever they want. Nonetheless, it is very disheartening to see that African-American males are being excluded to sitting in the back of the bus when it comes to getting full-time opportunities to teach in the English department at Community College of Philadelphia, and that most assuredly needs to change, and change now, for good. There are a myriad of students that want to get into the profession that I am in and approach me on a countless basis, but it is very difficult to truly help them in the capacity that I would like to unless I am of full-time status.

I hope and pray for change so that collective society can benefit. As Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I am certain that the aforementioned situation of the lack of full-time African-American male professors is something that is unfortunately going on at institutions around the country. Hopefully, there will be those with courage and integrity to champion the cause of equality and bring change. If achieved, it will be evident that everyone benefits from the diversity of integrating full-time African-American male faculty into the fabric of higher education

By Prof. Rel Dowdell

Bigots are Yelling for Black People to ‘Go Back to Africa!’ – But What Does It Mean? And Is It Possible to Return?

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“Go back to Africa!”  It is the phrase du jour for racist whites, typically when used as part of a bitter, angry, expletive-laden rant against Black people.  There are so many examples of the popularity of this insult these days.

A Beaufort, South Carolina teacher told a Black high school student to go back to the continent after he refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.  In Virginia, the Sons of Confederate Veterans told the African-American community to go back amid calls for the city council to remove the Confederate flag from a local museum.  A Black student at Southern Illinois University was told the same thing when she was confronted by Donald Trump supporters in a residence hall.  And at Trump rallies in Chicago and Cleveland, Trump supporters were heard yelling the phrase, along with other racial epithets.

“If you call yourself an African-American, go back to Africa. If you’re an African first, go back to Africa,” said a white man to a Black woman and #BlackLivesMatter supporter at a Trump rally in Cleveland this past March, as reported by MSNBC.

 And recently, a Bank of America employee in Atlanta was fired for her racist Facebook rant.
 “When a bigot says ‘Go back to Africa,’ he or she is simply being nasty and irrational,” Dr. Wilson Jeremiah Moses, Ferree Professor of American History at the Pennsylvania State University, told Atlanta Black Star.  Moses is the author of Classical Black Nationalism: From the American Revolution to Marcus Garvey and Liberian Dreams: Records of an African Return 1853, among other works.  “I am not wise enough to know to how one can best respond to nastiness and irrationality.”

To be sure, there is a nastiness to the phrase, particularly when accompanied by other insults, threats and acts of violence.  For example, in October 2014, when a group of Black protesters outside a St. Louis Cardinals game sought to bring attention of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, they were met with a crowd of virulent white racists.  As Crooks & Liars reported, the white fans responded to the Black protesters by chanting “Let’s go Cardinals,” which changed to “Let’s go, Darren!” in honor of Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Brown. While attempting to initiate acts of violence, the white fans told the protesters to go back to Africa and called them jobless, while one of the white men called a Black activist a “crackhead.”

 “We’re the ones who gave all y’all the freedoms that you have!” shouted one white woman at the African-Americans, as a number of fans began chanting “Africa, Africa” – shorthand for the suggestion they go back to the motherland.

“Go back to Africa!”  It is the phrase du jour for racist whites, typically when used as part of a bitter, angry, expletive-laden rant against Black people.  There are so many examples of the popularity of this insult these days.

A Beaufort, South Carolina teacher told a Black high school student to go back to the continent after he refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.  In Virginia, the Sons of Confederate Veterans told the African-American community to go back amid calls for the city council to remove the Confederate flag from a local museum.  A Black student at Southern Illinois University was told the same thing when she was confronted by Donald Trump supporters in a residence hall.  And at Trump rallies in Chicago and Cleveland, Trump supporters were heard yelling the phrase, along with other racial epithets.

“If you call yourself an African-American, go back to Africa. If you’re an African first, go back to Africa,” said a white man to a Black woman and #BlackLivesMatter supporter at a Trump rally in Cleveland this past March, as reported by MSNBC.
 And recently, a Bank of America employee in Atlanta was fired for her racist Facebook rant.
 “When a bigot says ‘Go back to Africa,’ he or she is simply being nasty and irrational,” Dr. Wilson Jeremiah Moses, Ferree Professor of American History at the Pennsylvania State University, told Atlanta Black Star.  Moses is the author of Classical Black Nationalism: From the American Revolution to Marcus Garvey and Liberian Dreams: Records of an African Return 1853, among other works.  “I am not wise enough to know to how one can best respond to nastiness and irrationality.”
 To be sure, there is a nastiness to the phrase, particularly when accompanied by other insults, threats and acts of violence.  For example, in October 2014, when a group of Black protesters outside a St. Louis Cardinals game sought to bring attention of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, they were met with a crowd of virulent white racists.  As Crooks & Liars reported, the white fans responded to the Black protesters by chanting “Let’s go Cardinals,” which changed to “Let’s go, Darren!” in honor of Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Brown. While attempting to initiate acts of violence, the white fans told the protesters to go back to Africa and called them jobless, while one of the white men called a Black activist a “crackhead.”

“We’re the ones who gave all y’all the freedoms that you have!” shouted one white woman at the African-Americans, as a number of fans began chanting “Africa, Africa” – shorthand for the suggestion they go back to the motherland.

nd part of the assumption among whites is that Black folks should be happy to be in America, which, through its kindness and generosity, has rendered African-Americans the most fortunate Black people around. There is a perverse, outlandish assertion that Black people — kidnapped at gunpoint and brought to these shores in the belly of a slave ship, and, if they survived, were raped, tortured and forced to toil in prison camp plantations — should leave if they cannot appreciate all that white people have done for them. Of course, the parties to whom Black people would presumably return the favor came to North America from Europe — unannounced and uninvited — and stole the land from the indigenous population right from under their feet. Yet, never are there any calls for whites to return to Europe.

This sentiment was best articulated by conservative commentator Pat Buchanan in 2008.

“First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known,” Buchanan wrote on his website.

“Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the ’60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream,” he added. “Governments, businesses and colleges have engaged in discrimination against white folks — with affirmative action, contract set-asides and quotas — to advance black applicants over white applicants.”

While the concept of returning to Africa is pejorative and insulting when articulated by white racists, it also represented a movement throughout history, with Blacks and whites involved in “back-to-Africa” movements — Sierra Leone and Liberia in the 19th century, Marcus Garvey in the early 20th century, and Pan-African activists and intellectuals such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Kwame Ture settling in West Africa.  It is a complicated history.

“In the later editions of From Slavery to Freedom, John Hope Franklin gave a nuanced analysis of the multiple and complicated reasons why some whites and blacks supported African deportation before the Civil War,” said Dr. Moses.

 In that book, Franklin wrote that as early as 1714, there was a proposal to send Blacks back to Africa.  Whites believed the races could not live together in harmony, and free Black people could not adjust to life in America, and created a problem for maintaining the system of slavery.
“There is no adequate history of the American Colonization Society,” said Moses of the organization which helped relocate thousands of freed Black people to what would become Liberia.  “There is no satisfactory treatment of Henry Clay’s advocacy of African deportation or of Abraham Lincoln’s decreasing interest in African deportation, as he evolved from a Whig to a Republican. In my view, Lincoln was never convinced of the practicality of deportation, for reasons that Alexis de Tocqueville had articulated,” Moses offered.   “I touched on my reasons for believing that Lincoln was not serious in my biography of Alexander Crummell (Oxford UP, 1989).   As for Jefferson, I think he was absolutely insincere about African deportation.  Jefferson was a complete phony, and like many populists he used democratic rhetoric to cover up aristocratic programs.   He never joined the American Colonization Society and contrary to popular belief, never supported the abolition of slavery.  Jefferson only called for ending the Atlantic slave trade except in order to inflate domestic slave prices,” he added.

“I would suggest that no discussion of the Back to Africa movements, either the white racist ones, or especially the Black ones (such as Garvey’s), is complete without considerable explanation of the nadir of race relations,” said James W. Loewen, the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me; Lies Across America; Sundown Towns; Teaching What Really Happened; and The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader.  During the nadir, which began during the end of Reconstruction and lasted through the early 20th century, was a time of white supremacy, Jim Crow segregation, racial terrorism and a loss of civil rights for Black people.

“Going back to Africa was hardly irrational, given how race relations grew worse and worse after 1890. That needs to be explained, lest Garvey, et al., come across as charlatans,” Loewen, who taught race relations at the University of Vermont, told Atlanta Black Star.

Meanwhile, many African-Americans today are crossing the Atlantic to live in Ghana, once a major starting point of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and one of the first African nations to emerge from colonial rule. While millions crossed the Middle Passage by force via Ghana for a life of permanent enslavement in America — 40 percent never making it to the other side — some of their descendants are returning for a better, more comfortable life, business opportunities and to rediscover their roots.

Ghana has a Right of Abode program that grants permanent residency and dual citizenship to people of African descent.  According to the African-American Association of Ghana, 3,000 African-Americans live in Ghana, most in the capital of Accra.  So, some Black people are going back to Africa, but they are doing so on their own terms.  And as the future becomes more difficult and more uncertain for people of African descent in the U.S., certainly more will consider the option

Is This the Time for an Independent Black Political Party?

April 24, 2016 | Written by

 

In this election season, as the age of Obama comes to end, Black America finds itself at a crossroads.  And with the first Black president soon leaving office, the issue of a Black political agenda — or lack thereof — is placed in the spotlight.  The questions that arise are whether the two-party system serves the African-American electorate, if Black voters are forced to select between the lesser of two evils, and whether a Black independent political party — or a coalition with other people of color and white progressives – is necessary as a counterweight to donkeys and elephants to ensure that their interests are protected.

At present, Black voters are presented with a Democratic Party that most African-Americans support — even amid decades-long charges that their vote has been taken for granted — and a Republican Party that has emerged as a focal point of white nationalism and is viewed as hostile to Black interests.  Meanwhile, within the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders vie for the Black vote and support of the Black Lives Matter movement, with many Black pragmatists attracted to the former, and idealists attracted to the latter.  But are African-American interests being served?

The notion of a Black party is by no means a new concept.

As noted by William A. Darity Jr., Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of Public Policy at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, an independent Black political party was Malcolm X’s objective at the end of his life.

“I think this is the kind of work that we should have been engaged in a long time ago, well prior to Obama’s election as a Democratic Party candidate.  We should not have had high expectations of what his candidacy would be because it was squarely within the two-party system,” Darity told Atlanta Black Star.  We should have developed a party for a long time.”

Such efforts were attempted.  For example, the preamble of the National Black Political Agenda, also known as the Gary Declaration — an outgrowth of the National Black Political Convention of 1972 — states that “all truly black politics, must begin from this truth: The American system does not work for the masses of our people, and it cannot be made to work without radical fundamental change (indeed, this system does not really work in favor of the humanity of anyone in America).”

In 1980, Black nationalists convened to form the National Black Independent Political Party, out of frustration over the Democratic and Republican Parties.

“The National Black Independent Political Party aims to attain power to radically transform the present socio-economic order. That is, to achieve self-determination and social and political freedom for the masses of Black people. Therefore, our party will actively oppose racism, imperialism, sexual oppression, and capitalist exploitation,” its charter stated.

Darity notes that the successes of past third parties have been tied to the personalities of individual candidates such as Ross Perot or John Anderson.

“Their parties were so associated with them that there was no way to sustain them when their candidacy was done,” he said, adding that a viable third party needs its own base and cannot be dependent on an individual candidate.  The professor, who focuses on inequality, believes a third party is necessary in addressing the problems faced by African-Americans.  He finds the concept of a party focused on social inequality in America “an exciting prospect.”

“It is essential because the national imagination is deeply constrained by the two-party system. There is no effort to solve the degree of racial inequality, joblessness and poverty, and the existing two-party system will not dramatically change those positions,” Darity said.

“One of the obvious issues is, Blacks are an outvoted minority in this country, unlike South Africa, so there would have to be coalition politics.  And those coalitions would have to be carefully crafted so they would be in line with our interests,” he noted.

Darity warned, however, that Black people must be careful about what their interests truly are.

“There is a slippery slope of Black people blaming Black people for our condition. It’s what I call the Bill Cosby point of view — the idea that our problems are a consequence of our actions…which is a complete misanalysis,” he argues.  “It’s not sufficient that this is anchored around Black folk.  The ideological component of that party is crucial also.”

To advance his argument, Darity pointed to his research on the causes of Black disparity, including the finding that Black people who have college degrees have two-thirds of the net worth of whites who never finished high school.  Further, studies have shown that Blacks who have finished some college or have an associate’s degree have a higher unemployment rate than whites who dropped out of high school.  These studies are a “powerful indicator” of the problems faced by African-Americans not of their making, Darity insists.

Dr. Randall Miller, a historian and professor at St. Joseph’s University, believes the idea of a Black political party — not necessarily an exclusive party but one that “would push the interests of Black people to the forefront, and would drive policy and practice” geared towards African-American concerns — is a good one.

“One could also make the case that in terms of effectiveness, and in terms of unity of interests coming from the Black community — Black Lives Matter a case in point — doing it within the present party structure, at least in the short run, might be the most effective,” Miller told Atlanta Black Star.  “There’s a lot of urgency in these issues. What happens historically with third-parties is they are short-lived, and don’t succeed. If organized well enough, they drive certain issues that force people to address them,” he added. “The extent you can mobilize public interests and support could mean one of the two parties would have to take up the issues.”

To make his point, Miller noted how through external pressure from the Civil Rights Movement, and internal pressure from Fannie Lou Hamer and others, the Democratic Party adopted policies of concern to African-Americans.

“The danger in doing so is it co-opts it and mutes it,” Miller said of movements that align with a particular party. Ultimately, he believes that for third-party politics to succeed, a “radical transformation of white views is needed.”

He thinks, however, that there is also much potential for third-party successes on the local level.

According to Vincent Hutchings, Professor, Department of Political Science at the University of Michigan, the challenge for any third-party effort is that the laws as written by the two parties discourage a third party from emerging.

“Unlike other advanced democracies, the U.S. makes it difficult to form a third party,” Hutchings told Atlanta Black Star, noting the winner-take-all system in which a party wins with a majority of the votes and not a plurality.

“The people who are there want to keep it that way,” he said.

Ultimately, because the rules do not favor a third party, “the third party would ultimately have to replace one of the two parties in order for that to happen,” Hutchings added.

Although the prospects are difficult, however, he believes such efforts as a Black independent party should be encouraged.

“A case is to be made for a party outside the Democratic or Republican Party. Just as the system is rigged to prevent the rise of a third party, the system is set up as to not be responsive to the interests of African-Americans,” he noted.  “It’s set up in part because of the nature of the electorate.  Most of the voters are white, and given the peculiar history of this country, they are not inclined to embrace the sorts of policies that would be necessary to address longstanding racial inequities,” Hutchings said.

Given that the system will make no substantial efforts to address these intractable forms of inequality, Hutchings said, it makes perfect sense to consider political structures outside the traditional two-party system.

“The issues that African-Americans and others face in this country can be described succinctly: For multiple generations, the United States has afforded privileges to people classified as whites. We are not only living with the residue of that, but the process is going on in 2016. The issue is not one about Black disadvantage and inequality, but white advantage and inequality that is sanctioned by the state,” he noted, emphasizing the need to address white supremacy and the privileges afforded to white folks.

“That portion of the population, on balance, will be reluctant to give up that power as a rule.  Whites are reluctant to recognize they possess disproportionate advantage and give up anything that would diminish that advantage, and that is whether whites belong to the Republican or Democratic parties,” Hutchings said.

Further, he believes that addressing the concerns of Black people “means taking something away from whites,” which none of the presidential candidates are inclined to do, because “it is not in their political fortunes to do so.”

In addition, the political science scholar views a Black coalition with other groups “as being desirable, though not realistic in the short term.”  However, he also noted that “at one time it was unrealistic to consider abolishing slavery or giving women the right to vote.  History is peppered with things that were once unrealistic.”

Moreover, there are inherent difficulties to establishing an independent Black party, which would require a great deal of grassroots organizing, funding and internal unity.  As Frederick Douglass once said, “If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

For example, as Hurumia Ahati wrote in “An Independent Black Political Party: Posing an Alternative to Asses, Elephants and Rainbows” in the National Black Law Journal in 1988, the party may be labeled as separatist and not desirable for some Black people over being involved in a white-dominated power structure.

Hutchings anticipates some internal barriers to the success of such an organization.  “

Other Black people will be resistant,” he contends.  “Given the depressed disadvantage of many African-Americans, you understand why they cling their allegiance to the Democratic Party, because the other party wants to make things even worse. So a solution outside the two-party system has some risks.  The risk is that the current allegiance to the current Democratic Party might facilitate the success of the Republican Party,” he noted.

“We also risk sticking to the current strategy.  Things are bad, the Democrats are not going to make them better, and the Republicans will make them worse.  So, pick your poison.”

 

Join OMCBV&C the movement is now!!  Go to  http://www.iamoneofthemillion.com/

 

VOA: Enemy of Zimbabwe and Africa

Obi Egbuna Jr

Apr 21, 2016

While Zimbabweans were celebrating their 36th anniversary of independence one of the main propaganda outlets of US Imperialism Voice of America(VOA) had the audacity to host a forum entitled Zimbabwe at 36:  The Way Forward that included a panel discussion with the theme Zimbabwe’s Future: Changes and Challenges.  The participants were Mr. Gregory B. Simpkins the staff director for the US House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, Reverend Issac Mwase of the Zimbabwe Diaspora Network, African Democracy Network and the AGOA Civil Society Network, and Mrs. Sibongile Sidilie Sibanda who previously worked for the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe but now represents Trusted Touch Healthcare LLC which she founded in 2011 the base of operations for TTH LLC is Rockville, Maryland just outside of Washington DC.

 

What the VOA demonstrated on Zimbabwe’s Independence Day through their neo-colonialist pet project Studio 7 created in 2003, is as long as they are in existence, those Zimbabweans who have decided to follow the trail of their countrymen and women who fought side by side with the British and Rhodesians during the 2nd Chimurenga, will always have a safe haven to openly and unapologetically plan the demise of their government country and people in the name of human rights and democracy.

 

It is important for the everyday Zimbabwean and African at home and abroad to understand that VOA is part of an Imperialist media conglomerate called the Broadcasting Board of Governors(BBG) that was connected to the United States Information Agency until 1999. The BBG has 8 bi-partisan members who are directly appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the US Senate, according to law no more than 4 members can belong to either the Democratic or Republican Party, the US Secretary of State is the ex-officio of BBG. In 1990 the Clinton administration established a Bureau of Broadcasting to consolidate three broadcasting services VOA Worldnet Film and Television service and of course arguably their most reactionary  media creation Radio and Television Marti .

 

The BBG has an annual budget of 713 million US dollars whose main goal as they like to put it is to deliver accurate news and information to significant audiences overseas and to serve as trustworthy news and as an example of a free professional press in countries that lack independent media.

Their list of strategic targets include VOA Middle East Broadcasting Networks Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Radio Free Asia and as aforementioned Radio and TV Marti.

What the annals of history demonstrate is whatever nation on earth that VOA gives an unusual amount of attention to, suggests that US Imperialism desperately wants to bring about a regime change and until the political atmosphere has been created to successfully execute their plan, the goal is to make the diplomatic representation of that country have sleepless nights pondering how to respond to the malicious propaganda efforts of VOA firmly backed up by BBG and the White House US Senate and Congress.

When visitors and residents of Washington DC visit VOA the first thing that catches your attention are the huge images and quotations of former US Presidents along with puppets of US Imperialism whose political parties and installations were created and bankrolled right there in the Nation’s capital.

Some of the standouts include Ronald Reagan saying “VOA will not compromise the truth”

The former President of Poland Lech Walesa saying “There would be no victory over communism without the Voice of America” and lastly the Cuban Oswaldo Paya Sardinas who founded the Christian Liberation Movement in Cuba quoted as saying VOA programs represent the ideal medium to inform Cubans about the need to reform the political process in Cuba. For his efforts to bring about regime change in Cuba Mr. Sardinas received the Sakharov Prize from the EU parliament, the Need’s Homo Homini award and just like the former Prime Minister of Zimbabwe Morgan Tsvangirai was a recipient of the W. Averell Harriman Award created by the National Democratic Institute.

 

It appears the goal of VOA studio 7 who in addition to Zimbabwe targets South Africa,Mozambique,Namibia,Malawi,Botswana and Zambia, is to one day reach the heights of Radio and TV Marti in Cuba however forums like the one held on Zimbabwe’s Independence Day, challenge the very authenticity of VOA’s charter specifically the third statute that states VOA will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies.

When Mrs. Sibanda stated that Zimbabweans in the diaspora are not allowed to vote she failed to mention the political makeup and aspirations of this constituency, if these Zimbabweans she speaks of belong the either faction of MDC or the civil society community financed by both the National Democratic Institute and National Endowment for Democracy, it would not be realistic for President Mugabe and ZANU-PF to take this into consideration. Mrs. Sibanda raised the point that for this reason she has a fear and lack of confidence in the financial sector, but failed to answer a question concerning how she felt as an entrepreneur about Zimbabwe being deliberately excluded from the US Africa business forum that the Obama administration hosted two years ago.

 

The most interesting comments came from Reverend Mwase who when asked his opinion of Zimbabwe’s Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Dr. Eng Walter Mzembi engaging not only the Corporate Council of Africa a few weeks ago but Zimbabwean citizens in Dallas, Texas, who along with Zimbabweans in Atlanta make up the largest groupings inside US borders claimed he had no idea Minister Mzembi was in the country. An interesting question is how does a Zimbabwean who oversees a network of his countrywomen and also men and established the African Democracy Network and the AGOA civil society network a coalition of African NGOS whose focus is the implementation of the African Growth and Opportunity Act not have any knowledge that a Minister of his Government is coming to address a body with the stature of CCA yet the main body of Zimbabweans in the diaspora receive him with open arms.

A rather troubling but predictable dynamic was VOA on Zimbabwe’s Independence Day allowing Mr. Simpkins to have the bulk of the time, which meant what was advertised as a forum ended up looking like the individual there to represent US interests received preferential treatment, because the Zimbabweans in attendance were they to reinforce their loyalty to VOA and US-EU imperialism

No one in their right mind would expect them to express any displeasure with this setup.

When Mr. Simpkins was questioned about the recent decision of the Office of Foreign Assets Control targeting the Chemplex Corporation and the Zimbabwe Fertilizer Company, he not only failed to give an informed and appropriate answer, but appeared openly disturbed because it is rather uncharacteristic for a point with that spin to be raised at a VOA sponsored event. After the event Mr. Simpkins reiterated he is not an enemy of Zimbabwe, but with friends who absolve US-EU Imperialism of any wrong doing concerning Zimbabwe past or present there is no need for enemies.

 

The behavior of these particular Zimbabweans is by no means a phenomenon that captures reactionary habits and tendencies of individuals born and raised in the country’s 10 main provinces exclusively. Their willingness to form an alliance with VOA is the historical equivalent of some of our ancestors on the slave plantations, who chose to become slave-catchers instead of working with Sister Harriet Tubman on the Underground Railroad or taking part in the epic slave rebellions Africans organized everywhere in the Western Hemisphere where we languished as chattel in captivity. Their social demeanor and political posture also brings back painful memories of the misguided and brainwashed Kenyans who opted to fight for the British King’s rifles in Kenya as opposed to the Land and Freedom Army better known as Mau Mau.

Because US Imperialism was constructed at the expense of the indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere, we understand why the presence of President Mugabe and ZANU-PF sends chills up their spines, they can never be comfortable dealing with a government and people who truly represent homeland security.

 

Obi Egbuna Jr is the US Correspondent to the Herald and the external relations officer of ZICUFA(Zimbabwe-Cuba Friendship Association) his email is  obiegbuna15@gmail.com

The Perils of Being a Black Philosopher

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This is the second in a series of dialogues with philosophers on violence for The Stone. This conversation is with George Yancy, a professor of philosophy at Emory University and author, editor, co-editor of many books, including “Look, a White!” — Brad Evans

Brad Evans: In response to a series of troubling verbal attacks you recently received following your essay in The Stone in December, “Dear White America,” the American Philosophical Association put out a strongly worded statement criticizing the bullying and harassment of academics in the public realm. But beyond this, shouldn’t we address the broader human realities of such hateful speech, and in particular, how this sort of discursive violence directly impacts the body of the person attacked?

George Yancy: Your point about discursive violence is an important one. Immediately after the publication of “Dear White America,” I began to receive vile and vitriolic white racist comments sent to my university email address, and verbal messages sent to my answering machine. I even received snail mail that was filled with hatred. Imagine the time put into actually sitting down and writing a letter filled with so much hate and then sending it snail mail, especially in our world of the Internet.

The alarming reality is that the response to “Dear White America” revealed just how much racism continues to exist in our so-called post-racial America. The comments were not about pointing out fallacies in my position, but were designed to violate, to leave me psychologically broken and physically distraught.

Words do things, especially words like “nigger,” or being called an animal that should go back to Africa or being told that I should be “beheaded ISIS style.” One white supremacist message sent to me ended with “Be Prepared.” Another began with “Dear Nigger Professor.”

The brutality and repetitiveness of this discursive violence has a way of inflicting injury. Given the history of the term “nigger,” it strikes with the long, hate-filled context of violence out of which that term grew. This points to the non-spectacular expression of violence. The lynching of black people was designed to be a spectacle, to draw white mobs. In this case, the black body was publicly violated. It was a public and communal form of bloodlust. There are many other forms of violence that are far more subtle, non-spectacular, but yet painful and dehumanizing. So, when I was called a “nigger,” I was subject to that. I felt violated, injured; a part of me felt broken.

Only now have I really begun to recognize how discourse designed to hurt can actually leave its mark. I recall after reading so many of these messages I began to feel sick, literally. So, words can debilitate, violate, injure; they can hit with the force of a stick or a stone and leave marks on the body. In this case, I began to feel the posture of my body folding inward, as it were, under the attacks. Franz Fanon talks about this as not being able to move lithely in the world.

The implication of those messages was that to be black and a philosopher was a contradiction.

B.E.: How does this relate to the intellectual history of racial persecution, oppression and subordination, especially the denial of the right of black people, and specifically black intellectuals, to speak with their own voice in a public setting?

G.Y.: I shared some of the malicious discourse used against me with some very prominent white public intellectuals. We began to exchange experiences. The exchange was helpful to me; it helped me to understand what is at stake when engaging in courageous speech. What was immediately clear, though, was the absence of specifically racist vitriol directed at these white public intellectuals, which in no way downplays their pain. Yet we must bring attention to the difference, to the perils of being a black intellectual. Not only was I being attacked for my courageous speech; I was being attacked as a black man. Yet I was also being attacked as a black philosopher.

There were some very nasty remarks that were designed to question my status as a philosopher because I’m black. The implication of those messages was that to be black and a philosopher was a contradiction, because “niggers” can’t be philosophers. So, I agree; the discourse was far more pernicious. But to understand this is to come to terms with the history of white violence in this country used to control and silence black people.

To see my experience as a single episode or an anomaly is to deny the logic of the long history of white racist violence. bell hooks recalls that as a child she thought of whiteness as a site of terror. In a country in which white people would brutalize and kill a black person on a whim, that is far from irrational.

For centuries, black people lived in fear of white terror. That fear partly captures the contradiction of being black and an American. Black people were not the American “we,” but the terrorized other. The symbols of white sheets and cross burnings must be recalled. Think here of black World War II veterans who returned home from the war and were severely beaten and lynched by whites, even as they wore their uniforms. They fought against Hitler only to return home, to the land of “democracy,” to be attacked by what might be called white terrorists.

Or think here of the slave trade, the institution of American slavery, black codes, convict leasing, the lynching of black men and women and the flaying of black flesh, the castration of black men, being burned alive. Violence, within these contexts, is a specific racialized form of inculcating black people with fear and controlling their social mobility. There is nothing episodic about it; this form of white violence is historically grounded and systematic.

The coldhearted use of white violence was very effective. Not only were there actual beatings, there was the fear of possibly being beaten. So, the black imagination, though never defeated, was weakened. The lynching of a black person wasn’t just a form of theater (where the root meaning suggests a kind of “beholding”), but a way of communicating fear and terror through mass displays of violence. For someone white, the spectacle was a sport, a kind of national pastime activity, but for a black person, one could always imagine that one was next, and thereby stand in fear of what could happen at any moment.

Cornel West talks about the “death shudder” as a kind of existential moment of realization that one is finite. I think that we are all open to experience that dreadful sense of our existence coming to an end. However, when black life is forever in a “state of exception,” it is an additional weight. Black people not only experience the death shudder, but a specific kind of shudder that involves an emotional intensity that speaks to the disposability of black life.

For example, the other day, a white police officer walked into a store where I was buying some food and I remember feeling this powerful sense of wanting to flee, of feeling as if the rules and laws that are designed to govern our (white) society didn’t apply to me. I could move “too quickly,” placing my hand into my pocket to pay for my food, and my life would end just like that. The white police officer would explain how he felt “threatened” and had “reasonable” suspicion. And I would be dead.

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B.E.: These connections between the continuum of racial violence and the terrors of the everyday are crucial to understanding the normalization of humiliation and the outright denial of the most basic qualities that make people feel part of a society and “human,” as such. This demands a more serious intellectual engagement with the “marking out” of the black body as incapable of philosophical thought and deliberation. Does this make a return to thinkers such as Aimé Césaire and Frantz Fanon all the more relevant in the contemporary period?

G.Y.: Yes. And racial violence takes many forms and raises larger issues. For example, Judith Butler’s concern about questions of grievability is important. Racial violence is linked to forms of racial vulnerability, disposability and our tendency as a nation to grieve the deaths of certain racialized persons and not others. The disproportionate number of poor black people affected by Hurricane Katrina, or the sentencing disparities when it comes to locking up black people for nonviolent offenses, or the shooting in the back of Walter Scott by the white police officer Michael Slager are all examples of forms of racialized disposability. They speak to how black humanity is deemed of little or no human value.

The process of marking the black body as incapable of philosophical thought is longstanding. It is one of those major myths that grew out of Europe, even as Europe championed “humanism.” The poet Aimé Césaire, through immanent critique, knew that European humanism was a farce. Of course, Jean-Paul Sartre knew this as well. And Fanon knew what it was like to embody reason and have it denied to him. In “Black Skin, White Masks,” he argued that when he was present, reason was not, and when reason was present he was no longer. So, one might argue that reason and black embodiment, from this perspective, are mutually exclusive. And yet, at the end of that text, Fanon says, “My final prayer: O my body, make me always a man who questions!”

Fanon appeals to something that is beyond abstract political rights discourse. He appeals to his own body, something concrete and immediate. Fanon asks of his body not to allow him to be seduced by forms of being-in-the-world that normalize violence and dehumanization. Doubt can be linked to critique. In a society that hides beneath the seductions of normalization, critique is undesirable and deemed dangerous. Yet in our contemporary moment, the fulfillment of Fanon’s prayer is desperately needed.

America needs a movement that transcends the civil rights movement.

These examples are manifestations of a racialized, selective misanthropy. This is why I have such a negative visceral reaction to Donald Trump’s promises to build a wall along the Mexican border. That discourse is one of labeling certain bodies as “unwanted,” “deviant,” “sub-persons.” And to say that Mexico is sending “rapists” to the United States is a form of deep insult, of marking certain bodies as violent and pathological. Trump is, sadly, able to play on the racist biases and fears in many white people. It is a divisive tactic that exploits both latent and manifest bigoted assumptions in many white Americans. It is not by accident that David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the K.K.K., supports him.

B.E.: As you point out, a conceptualization of political rights must also include the right for the marginalized to critique power. Does philosophical inquiry have to do with the ways we might reconceptualize the meaning of rights, especially considering that the denial of persons’ humanity often occurs within normative legal frameworks?

G.Y.: Absolutely. After all, slavery, which was a vicious, death-dealing and violent institution, was legal. I think that rights-based discourse is necessary, but there is this sense in which rights can be given and, by implication, taken away. Within this context, I think that America needs a movement that transcends the civil rights movement. Applicative justice might be necessary, but not sufficient. Imagine a scenario where justice is being applied across the board, and the rights of people are being upheld. In a country like ours, saturated by racism, that scenario might still involve blacks being hated, seen as “inferior,” as sub-“persons.” In such a world, white people can continue to insulate themselves from the “others.”

We are desperately in need of a movement that shakes us at the very core of how we think about ourselves as individuals, masters of our own destiny. While this isn’t philosophically fashionable, I want to know what it means to love with courage. What would it mean to make love an integral feature of moral reasoning, the kind of love that risks profound ways of being mutually vulnerable, of placing no limits on who we call our neighbors? This means radically changing how we currently relate to one another. I recall when we killed Osama bin Laden in 2011 that there were Americans who were cheering. As unpatriotic as some will say I’m being, we must keep in mind that bin Laden was someone’s son, father and husband.

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This speaks to the limits of our moral imagination as a nation. Can you imagine President Obama saying at a press conference that he is sorry that we killed bin Laden, that we loved him as a human being despite his violence? Can you imagine what would happen if Israelis and Palestinians were to cease their “peace” talks and radically deploy a discourse of love? Imagine the many whites who read “Dear White America” saying to me: “We return the love to you that you’ve shared with us!” I think that we are an impoverished nation when it comes to loving our “enemies.” God bless America is an empty politicized gesture if we are not also saying God bless our “enemies.”

B.E.: There is an ethical aspect to “Dear White America” — particularly the honest reflections put forward regarding your own prejudices and fallibilities when it comes to relations of power. While a critique of violence demands attention to historical forces of domination and exploitation, it also asks how each of us shamefully compromise with power, often against our better judgments.

A critique of violence must include an understanding that one doesn’t escape the many ways in which one perpetuates violence

GY: Yes. This raises the issue of complicity. As I discussed in the essay, there are ways in which I have been shaped to believe that looking at women with a dominating gaze or desiring women only for sexual pleasure is “normal.” Yet it is this process of “normalization” that produces a kind of “walking dead” mentality where many of my social practices (sexual desire being one, fixed gender role expectations being another) support the oppression of women. The process of normalization is often so effective that there isn’t much resistance coming from one’s “better judgment,” especially as one’s better judgment has already been defined by the terms of normalization.

In this case, one’s “better judgment” has already been compromised, has already become an extension of the power of normalization. Your use of the term shameful is important. Shame implies a powerful sense of disgrace. It is not limited to the assignment of blame, which is more like guilt. Shame suggests the sense of disrupting one’s ethical “certainty,” or business as usual. After all, one can be guilty without ever feeling shame.  So, violence, for me, has to be attended to at those levels where we are going about our business as if we are not doing violence to other individuals.

The fact that we don’t hear cries of pain doesn’t let us off the hook. Ethical discourse and practice must be imbued with an effort to remain honest, especially about one’s own ethical shortcomings and the pain and suffering that we cause others.

A critique of violence must include an understanding that one doesn’t escape the many ways in which one perpetuates violence — violence against those who we may never see face to face, violence against those who are closest to us, violence against the earth, and perhaps even violence against one’s own sense of self-integrity.

Violence is all around us. Yet we prefer to remain asleep — the walking dead. For me, personally, the more I become aware of the magnitude of violence in our world, what many of us would rather deny or not see, the more I enter into that space of the “dark night of the soul,” a place where dread and hopelessness reside. The objective, though, is to continue, to remain awake, to keep fighting for a better world even as one endures the dark night of the soul.

Dear White America

By

In 2015, I conducted a series of 19 interviews with philosophers and public intellectuals on the issue of race. My aim was to engage, in this very public space, with the often unnamed elephant in the room.

These discussions helped me, and I hope many of our readers, to better understand how race continues to function in painful ways within our country. That was one part of a gift that I wanted to give to readers of The Stone, the larger philosophical community, and the world.

The interviewees themselves — bell hooks, Cornel West, Judith Butler, Peter Singer, David H. Kim, Molefi Kete Asante among them — came from a variety of racial backgrounds, and their concerns and positions were even more diverse. But on the whole I came to see these interviews as linked by a common thread: They were messages to white America — because they often directly expressed the experience of those who live and have lived as people of color in a white-run world, and that is something no white person could ever truly know firsthand.

That is how I want to deliver my own message now.

Dear White America,

I have a weighty request. As you read this letter, I want you to listen with love, a sort of love that demands that you look at parts of yourself that might cause pain and terror, as James Baldwin would say. Did you hear that? You may have missed it. I repeat: I want you to listen with love. Well, at least try.

We don’t talk much about the urgency of love these days, especially within the public sphere. Much of our discourse these days is about revenge, name calling, hate, and divisiveness. I have yet to hear it from our presidential hopefuls, or our political pundits. I don’t mean the Hollywood type of love, but the scary kind, the kind that risks not being reciprocated, the kind that refuses to flee in the face of danger. To make it a bit easier for you, I’ve decided to model, as best as I can, what I’m asking of you. Let me demonstrate the vulnerability that I wish you to show. As a child of Socrates, James Baldwin and Audre Lorde, let me speak the truth, refuse to err on the side of caution.

This letter is a gift for you. Bear in mind, though, that some gifts can be heavy to bear. You don’t have to accept it; there is no obligation. I give it freely, believing that many of you will throw the gift back in my face, saying that I wrongly accuse you, that I am too sensitive, that I’m a race hustler, and that I blame white people (you) for everything.

I have read many of your comments. I have even received some hate mail. In this letter, I ask you to look deep, to look into your souls with silence, to quiet that voice that will speak to you of your white “innocence.” So, as you read this letter, take a deep breath. Make a space for my voice in the deepest part of your psyche. Try to listen, to practice being silent. There are times when you must quiet your own voice to hear from or about those who suffer in ways that you do not.

What if I told you that I’m sexist? Well, I am. Yes. I said it and I mean just that. I have watched my male students squirm in their seats when I’ve asked them to identify and talk about their sexism. There are few men, I suspect, who would say that they are sexists, and even fewer would admit that their sexism actually oppresses women. Certainly not publicly, as I’ve just done. No taking it back now.

To make things worse, I’m an academic, a philosopher. I’m supposed to be one of the “enlightened” ones. Surely, we are beyond being sexists. Some, who may genuinely care about my career, will say that I’m being too risky, that I am jeopardizing my academic livelihood. Some might even say that as a black male, who has already been stereotyped as a “crotch-grabbing, sexual fiend,” that I’m at risk of reinforcing that stereotype. (Let’s be real, that racist stereotype has been around for centuries; it is already part of white America’s imaginary landscape.)

Yet, I refuse to remain a prisoner of the lies that we men like to tell ourselves — that we are beyond the messiness of sexism and male patriarchy, that we don’t oppress women. Let me clarify. This doesn’t mean that I intentionally hate women or that I desire to oppress them. It means that despite my best intentions, I perpetuate sexism every day of my life. Please don’t take this as a confession for which I’m seeking forgiveness. Confessions can be easy, especially when we know that forgiveness is immediately forthcoming.

Being a ‘good’ white person or a liberal white person won’t get you off the hook.

As a sexist, I have failed women. I have failed to speak out when I should have. I have failed to engage critically and extensively their pain and suffering in my writing. I have failed to transcend the rigidity of gender roles in my own life. I have failed to challenge those poisonous assumptions that women are “inferior” to men or to speak out loudly in the company of male philosophers who believe that feminist philosophy is just a nonphilosophical fad. I have been complicit with, and have allowed myself to be seduced by, a country that makes billions of dollars from sexually objectifying women, from pornography, commercials, video games, to Hollywood movies. I am not innocent.

I have been fed a poisonous diet of images that fragment women into mere body parts. I have also been complicit with a dominant male narrative that says that women enjoy being treated like sexual toys. In our collective male imagination, women are “things” to be used for our visual and physical titillation. And even as I know how poisonous and false these sexist assumptions are, I am often ambushed by my own hidden sexism. I continue to see women through the male gaze that belies my best intentions not to sexually objectify them. Our collective male erotic feelings and fantasies are complicit in the degradation of women. And we must be mindful that not all women endure sexual degradation in the same way.

Don’t tell me that you voted for Obama. Don’t tell me that you don’t see color. Don’t tell me that I’m blaming whites for everything. To do so is to hide yet again.

I recognize how my being a sexist has a differential impact on black women and women of color who are not only victims of racism, but also sexism, my sexism. For example, black women and women of color not only suffer from sexual objectification, but the ways in which they are objectified is linked to how they are racially depicted, some as “exotic” and others as “hyper-sexual.” You see, the complicity, the responsibility, the pain that I cause runs deep. And, get this. I refuse to seek shelter; I refuse to live a lie. So, every day of my life I fight against the dominant male narrative, choosing to see women as subjects, not objects. But even as I fight, there are moments of failure. Just because I fight against sexism does not give me clean hands, as it were, at the end of the day; I continue to falter, and I continue to oppress. And even though the ways in which I oppress women is unintentional, this does not free me of being responsible.

If you are white, and you are reading this letter, I ask that you don’t run to seek shelter from your own racism. Don’t hide from your responsibility. Rather, begin, right now, to practice being vulnerable. Being neither a “good” white person nor a liberal white person will get you off the proverbial hook. I consider myself to be a decent human being. Yet, I’m sexist. Take another deep breath. I ask that you try to be “un-sutured.” If that term brings to mind a state of pain, open flesh, it is meant to do so. After all, it is painful to let go of your “white innocence,” to use this letter as a mirror, one that refuses to show you what you want to see, one that demands that you look at the lies that you tell yourself so that you don’t feel the weight of responsibility for those who live under the yoke of whiteness, your whiteness.

I can see your anger. I can see that this letter is being misunderstood. This letter is not asking you to feel bad about yourself, to wallow in guilt. That is too easy. I’m asking for you to tarry, to linger, with the ways in which you perpetuate a racist society, the ways in which you are racist. I’m now daring you to face a racist history which, paraphrasing Baldwin, has placed you where you are and that has formed your own racism. Again, in the spirit of Baldwin, I am asking you to enter into battle with your white self. I’m asking that you open yourself up; to speak to, to admit to, the racist poison that is inside of you.

Again, take a deep breath. Don’t tell me about how many black friends you have. Don’t tell me that you are married to someone of color. Don’t tell me that you voted for Obama. Don’t tell me that I’m the racist. Don’t tell me that you don’t see color. Don’t tell me that I’m blaming whites for everything. To do so is to hide yet again. You may have never used the N-word in your life, you may hate the K.K.K., but that does not mean that you don’t harbor racism and benefit from racism. After all, you are part of a system that allows you to walk into stores where you are not followed, where you get to go for a bank loan and your skin does not count against you, where you don’t need to engage in “the talk” that black people and people of color must tell their children when they are confronted by white police officers.

As you reap comfort from being white, we suffer for being black and people of color. But your comfort is linked to our pain and suffering. Just as my comfort in being male is linked to the suffering of women, which makes me sexist, so, too, you are racist. That is the gift that I want you to accept, to embrace. It is a form of knowledge that is taboo. Imagine the impact that the acceptance of this gift might have on you and the world.

Take another deep breath. I know that there are those who will write to me in the comment section with boiling anger, sarcasm, disbelief, denial. There are those who will say, “Yancy is just an angry black man.” There are others who will say, “Why isn’t Yancy telling black people to be honest about the violence in their own black neighborhoods?” Or, “How can Yancy say that all white people are racists?” If you are saying these things, then you’ve already failed to listen. I come with a gift. You’re already rejecting the gift that I have to offer. This letter is about you. Don’t change the conversation. I assure you that so many black people suffering from poverty and joblessness, which is linked to high levels of crime, are painfully aware of the existential toll that they have had to face because they are black and, as Baldwin adds, “for no other reason.”

Some of your white brothers and sisters have made this leap. The legal scholar Stephanie M. Wildman, has written, “I simply believe that no matter how hard I work at not being racist, I still am. Because part of racism is systemic, I benefit from the privilege that I am struggling to see.” And the journalism professor Robert Jensen: “I like to think I have changed, even though I routinely trip over the lingering effects of that internalized racism and the institutional racism around me. Every time I walk into a store at the same time as a black man and the security guard follows him and leaves me alone to shop, I am benefiting from white privilege.”

What I’m asking is that you first accept the racism within yourself, accept all of the truth about what it means for you to be white in a society that was created for you. I’m asking for you to trace the binds that tie you to forms of domination that you would rather not see. When you walk into the world, you can walk with assurance; you have already signed a contract, so to speak, that guarantees you a certain form of social safety.

Baldwin argues for a form of love that is “a state of being, or state of grace – not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.” Most of my days, I’m engaged in a personal and societal battle against sexism. So many times, I fail. And so many times, I’m complicit. But I refuse to hide behind that mirror that lies to me about my “non-sexist nobility.” Baldwin says, “Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.” In my heart, I’m done with the mask of sexism, though I’m tempted every day to wear it. And, there are times when it still gets the better of me.

White America, are you prepared to be at war with yourself, your white identity, your white power, your white privilege? Are you prepared to show me a white self that love has unmasked? I’m asking for love in return for a gift; in fact, I’m hoping that this gift might help you to see yourself in ways that you have not seen before. Of course, the history of white supremacy in America belies this gesture of black gift-giving, this gesture of non-sentimental love. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered even as he loved.

Perhaps the language of this letter will encourage a split — not a split between black and white, but a fissure in your understanding, a space for loving a Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Aiyana Jones, Sandra Bland, Laquan McDonald and others. I’m suggesting a form of love that enables you to see the role that you play (even despite your anti-racist actions) in a system that continues to value black lives on the cheap.

Take one more deep breath. I have another gift.

If you have young children, before you fall off to sleep tonight, I want you to hold your child. Touch your child’s face. Smell your child’s hair. Count the fingers on your child’s hand. See the miracle that is your child. And then, with as much vision as you can muster, I want you to imagine that your child is black.

In peace,

George Yancy

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