All Articles Tagged "race"

St. Louis County’s Racial Profiling Issue Is Bigger Than Mike Brown

August 27th, 2014 - By Charing Ball
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Does St. Louis County Have A Race Problem?

Jermell Hasson was one of the first people I interviewed in Ferguson. Before he would answer my first question, he schooled me on the matrix that is St. Louis County.

“You see, I live in Ferguson, but I’m originally from St. Louis city,” he said. “Ferguson is just a municipality. I mean we have our own police and mayor, but it is all part of St. Louis. There is the city and then there is Ferguson and all the other little counties. But it is all part of St. Louis; it’s just the county. North County to be exact. You understand?”

I didn’t. “Kind of like the boroughs in New York City,” he added, hoping to clear up my confusion.

While I didn’t quite have the geography down, what was universally understood were his accounts of horrendous and demeaning encounters he had with local police. I asked which county was he referring to?

He replied, “All of them.”

Hasson recalled being by police on numerous occasions. The most memorable incident, he alleged, involved police arresting him and taking him back to the station, where they placed soaking wet phone books on his head and hit his head with nightsticks. He speculated that the phone books were meant to keep bruises from forming.

I asked if he filed a complaint?  “Come on now? What is a complaint going to do?,” he asked, shaking his head. “There’s no evidence; and it’s my word against theirs. Law enforcement gets away with lots of things all of the time. They get away with crime all the time. In [the case of Michael Brown] I felt that this is one they did not deserve to get away with.”

Hasson’s story wasn’t unusual. In fact, most of the young men I spoke with could easily recall negative encounters they had with police. Some of the stories were as equally horrifying as the one Hasson told. And like him, none of the men bothered to file an official complaint. The consensus was “What For?

As I walked around the apartment complex and passed the impromptu memorials which had been set up along the spot where Michael Brown’s murder happened, I met Julian Johnson, pastor of Bethesda Temple Church of the Apostolic Faith in Normandy, Missouri, who was in the neighborhood passing out flyers for the church’s upcoming Know Your Rights clinic. He told me the one-day workshop will bring together young men and women with representatives from law enforcement agencies who will instruct them on their rights, what to do when pulled over by police, and identify common stereotypes young people might want to avoid.

“We have to be aware at all times how some of the law enforcement officers see us,” Johnson said. “I’m not saying it’s right but we need to know that they don’t understand. I think that we can diffuse some of the situations which are happening if we respond to them the right way. Knowing how to respond is important.”

Getting a handle on the antagonistic relationship between police and joe-citizen is going to take a lot more than young people changing their attitudes argued Derek Laney, organizing member of M.O.R.E, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, a local advocacy organization that’s been championing a campaign to transform the way in which St. Louis County deals with minor non-violent offenses before the police shooting of Michael Brown.

“Addressing racial profiling is key here,” he said.

In fact, according to a report by the Missouri Attorney General’s office, African Americans only make up 10.9 percent of the state’s population, yet were searched and arrested by police at a rate almost double that of whites – even as whites had a higher contraband hit rate — in 2013. More local to Ferguson, a new report by non-profit law group ArchCity Defenders has revealed local courts processed 12,108 cases and 24,532 warrants from Ferguson residents in 2013. According to the The Daily Beast, which reported on this matter, this averages to about 1.5 cases and three warrants per Ferguson household. It has also brought in a total of $2,635,400 in fines and fees to city in just that one year alone.

Laney added that in St. Louis alone, there are nearly 300,000 outstanding bench warrants, which he said rivals the entire population. Those bench warrants, he said, many of which are from traffic violations, have become the entry point into the criminal justice system for low income individuals and people of color, especially African Americans,.

“What we are seeing here is people who have no history of violence or criminal activity are being stopped for minor traffic and petty crime offenses and get a court date, which they might miss, and/or a fine which they can’t pay and then they end up with a bench warrant. It turns into a whole saga for them. And that’s why we are working to reform the entire system.”

There are other troubles locally for the department as well. While Ferguson’s population is 67 percent black, only 7 percent of its police force represents this demographic. Furthermore, the department is one of the 23 law enforcement agencies in the state to have its crime statistics rejected for “major errors in data” by Missouri’s Uniform Crime Reporting system, according to the International Business Times.

And if that’s not disturbing enough, a recent Washington Post article revealed Darren Wilson, the officer who shot and killed Brown, once worked with another department in Missouri which was so corrupt, the city disbanded the entire department and fired all of the officers including Wilson.

“When you start to pull back the layers, you see that [Brown] was stopped because he was a young black man walking down the street,” Laney said. “It was racial profiling and it escalated like so many encounters between the police and young black men do with little to no provocation. We’re connecting that process of criminalizing blackness from the profiling to the locking up for minor offenses to targeting my community for drug enforcement We’re connecting all of that together. [Brown] was profiles and that led to him being murdered. People are profiled and that leads to them getting bench warrants and their lives being destabilized. It’s all interconnected.”

Among its many efforts, Laney said M.O.R.E, has sent letters to local municipal court judges in Ferguson and beyond, requesting meetings in hopes of coming up with a plan to make a fair and more equitable system. He also said the group is in the process of organizing community members for more direct actions, including making more forceful demands regarding a change to the system. M.O.R.E also supports a demonstration project by local artists called #ChalkedUnarmed, which draws chalk outlines of people on public spaces along with the names of unarmed people, who have been murdered by the police.

“To sustain this, there needs to be a coordinated effort for long-term transformative justice in St. Louis that’s linked to national causes,” Laney said. “We need distributive action. We need to take it out of just that front line because it’s a proactive struggle for justice. Justice for Mike Brown is huge and something that we are committed to. But it is connected to a larger social injustice that we also want to address.”

Laverne Cox Becomes First Trans Woman To Cover TIME Magazine

May 29th, 2014 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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Laverne Cox TIME Magazine

TIME Magazine

Last year we fell in love with the cast of Orange Is The New Black! One character, Sophia Burset, moved us with her story line of credit card fraud where she steals money in order to become a woman and transgender actress Laverne Cox, who plays Sophia, has become an overnight sensation due to her acting skills and spirited activism for LGBTQ people. This week, TIME Magazine placed Cox on its cover, making her the first transgender woman to accomplish this feat, and published a riveting interview with her on race, gender and bullying. Here are the highlights from Cox’s interview and below, a behind the scenes video of Cox as she prepares for her historic cover.

Are there any particular instances of bullying that stand out in your memory?

There was this one instance in junior high when I had gotten off the bus and I was chased by a group of kids, which was, you know, pretty normal. They couldn’t really bully me on the bus because the bus driver could see in the rearview mirror, and that wasn’t allowed. But the second we got off the bus, they would try to beat me up. So I’d have to start running, immediately. So that day I was running for my life, basically, and four or five kids caught me. They were in the band. And I remember being held down and hit with drumsticks by these kids. And a parent saw it, the parent of some other student, and called the principal and the principal called my mother and my mother found out about it.

Is there a moment or time you remember first feeling like you might be transgender?

I tell this story about third grade. My third grade teacher called my mom and said ‘Your son is going to end up in New Orleans wearing a dress.’ Up until that point I just thought that I was a girl and that there was no difference between girls and boys. I think in my imagination I thought that I would hit puberty and I would start turning into a girl.

How did things change as you got older?

I started trying to find a compromise in terms of gender in high school. I started embracing androgyny. I was just really scared and in a lot of denial. And I wanted to make everybody proud and happy and find a place for myself in the world. The funny thing is being in this androgynous space really wasn’t any better, in terms of perception or reception from people. It was part of my journey that got me to where I am now.

How do you think life might be different for trans kids who are in middle school or high school right now?

There’s a way to connect through the Internet that I didn’t have. So you can connect with people who are like you, who may be in another part of the country. That didn’t exist when I was a kid. I think there are more media representations that young trans people can look to and say, that’s me, in an affirming way. There’s just so many resources out there now that it makes you feel like you’re less alone and gives some sort of sense of, okay, this is who I am and this is what I’m going through, as opposed to being ‘What the f*** is wrong with me?’ That was what I grew up with.

The people out there in America who have no idea what being transgender means, what do they need to understand?

There’s not just one trans story. There’s not just one trans experience. And I think what they need to understand is that not everybody who is born feels that their gender identity is in alignment with what they’re assigned at birth, based on their genitalia. If someone needs to express their gender in a way that is different, that is okay, and they should not be denied healthcare. They should not be bullied. They don’t deserve to be victims of violence. … That’s what people need to understand, that it’s okay and that if you are uncomfortable with it, then you need to look at yourself.

 

Can The Inequality Gap Be A Color-Blind Issue? Politicans Act Like It Is

March 20th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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Shutterstock

Shutterstock

One of the latest political/social issues to grab a lot of attention is the inequality gap. But the discussions often dance around the notion of how race affects the gap. In 1967, in throes of the Civil Rights movement the median household income was 43 percent higher for white, non-Hispanic households than for black households. Things have changed, but for the worse! In 2011, median white household income was 72 percent higher than median black household income, according to a Census report from that year.

The gap is even more glaring when you look at the median household wealth instead of yearly income, reports MSN. The Pew Research Center found that in 1984, the white-to-black wealth ratio was 12-to-1. It narrowed by 1995 when the median white income was 5-to-1 to black income. But incredibly, by 2009 the ratio shot up to a whopping 19-to-1.

Despite this, politicians are avoiding discussing race and the inequality gap. A new 204-page analysis of the federal War on Poverty, led by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), barely mentions racial disparity. And remember Ryan recently said poverty is due in part to the fact that “inner cities” have a culture of “men not working,” a comment he ultimately called “inarticulate.”

While President Obama did note that “the painful legacy of discrimination means that African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans are far more likely to suffer from a lack of opportunity—higher unemployment, higher poverty rates” during a December 2013 address, it was just one line.

So why the deliberate avoidance of race? “I think it doesn’t make for good politics,” Color of Change executive director Rashad Robinson says. “It’s messy and requires us to be deep and think about much bigger and more long-term solutions than Washington’s oftentimes willing to deal with.” But when taking about employment and home ownership it is hard to keep out the issue of race.

A recently study from Brandeis University found that the disparities in homeownership are a major driver of the racial wealth gap especially due to “redlining, discriminatory mortgage-lending practices and lack of access to credit.

And for those black families who finally owned homes, the Great Recession reversed the advancements, many losing their homes in foreclosure.

And when it comes to employment, black unemployment is still twice as high as white unemployment—a ratio that has been solid since the mid-1950s.

“The underlying narrative that many people share is that whatever inequities still exist, they’re due to the misbehavior or dysfunctional behavior of black folks themselves,” said William Darity Jr., the director of Duke University’s Consortium on Social Equity. “So there’s no reason to pay attention to racial disparities because one doesn’t believe they’re still significant, or there’s no need for public policy action by the government because it’s just a question of black folks changing their own behaviors.”

Even Obama often likes to stress personal responsibility when addressing the black community. His new “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative emphasizes it in its effort to help young men of color.

Darity argues that self-perpetuating inequality will only be broken through wealth transfers.

“People’s behaviors are largely shaped by the resources they possess, and if their resources altered, than they might change their behaviors,” he said.

Ya Think?! President Obama Says Some Folks Don’t Like Him Because He’s Black

January 20th, 2014 - By Veronica Wells
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TNYF/WENN.com

TNYF/WENN.com

There’s a little bit of buzz surrounding President Obama’s name this week. In an upcoming interview with The New Yorker, the president spoke candidly about race, saying:

“There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black President.”

But he also acknowledged the fact that his blackness has been beneficial to his political career as well.

“Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black President,”

One the first glance, reading that quote, it’s like “Duh! You ain’t said nothing we haven’t known to be true for years now.” It’s just a big deal because it’s probably something that never occurred to a whole lot of white folks.

In fact, some are mocking the claims, citing the president’s other shortcomings as reason for their distaste.

orwell force

But that’s the job of president, nearly everything that goes wrong in the lives of the people will be attributed to the head honcho. Some of it legitimately. During the interview though, Obama did admit that sometimes the Democratic party has been labeled as shrugging off “the concerns of middle and working class folks, black or white.”

Truth is, whether blatantly or latently, some white folks don’t like that the man the President of these United State, is black. Can’t stand it in fact.

It’s the same thing Jimmy Carter said in 2009, right after South Carolina representative Joe Wilson screamed “You lie!” as the president was speaking to Congress.

“When a radical fringe element of demonstrators and others begin to attack the president of the United States as an animal or as a reincarnation of Adolf Hitler or when they wave signs in the air that said we should have buried Obama with Kennedy, those kinds of things are beyond the bounds. I think people who are guilty of that kind of personal attack against Obama have been influenced to a major degree by a belief that he should not be president because he happens to be African American. 

It’s a racist attitude, and my hope is and my expectation is that in the future both Democratic leaders and Republican leaders will take the initiative in condemning that kind of unprecedented attack on the president of the United States. I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American. I live in the South, and I’ve seen the South come a long way, and I’ve seen the rest of the country that shares the South’s attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African-Americans.”

The key is, it’s not so much that folks fundamentally disagree with the president but the fact that several people, those who hold office and others, outright disrespect the man who holds the highest office in the land as if he were… I can’t even think of what type of person would deserve such treatment.

Anyway, my friend brought another layer of interesting to this discussion. She noted that The Obama administration tried to distance themselves from the issue of race during his first term. When Carter made those comments, President Obama’s former press secretary Robert Gibbs tried to downplay it or gloss over the whole racial component as one of the primary reasons behind the attacks and disrespect. But now that the president is speaking for himself on the issue, it’s no need to lie (Craig).

We all know first term President Obama was really not trying to let race shroud the actual work he and his staff were attempting to do in office. But second term Obama has nothing to lose and is better off just keeping it real and acknowledging that this country is still dealing with the disease of racism.

At the end of the day President Obama and the White House’s handling of the race issue, in some ways, mirror the lives of millions of African Americans attempting to be judged on merit alone in this country. We would love to live and work in environments where something as socially constructed and ultimately trivial as race would not influence the way people treat us and rate our job performance. And we acknowledge that there are certain privileges and loyalties we’re afforded because of our blackness. Even though many of us wouldn’t trade it, being black is a trip. And in this country, race and racism is always there and sometimes just too “in your face” to ignore. And in those instances there’s certainly nothing wrong with speaking out.

What do you think about President Obama’s assertion? Are you surprised he finally acknowledged the racial disrespect?

Garcelle Beauvais: Why Should My Kids Have To Dismiss Their Dad’s Heritage?”

December 15th, 2013 - By Drenna Armstrong
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Back in October, actress Garcelle Beauvais released the first book from her I Am series titled, I Am Mixed. The book tells the story of biracial twins and how they’re able to learn about multiple cultures thanks to their parents being of different races.  I Am Mixed has received quite the warm reception, especially from those who are biracial.

Recently, Beauvais spoke to UK publication The Voice about her thoughts on biracial people, particularly her twin boys whose father is white. In the interview, she said:

“But I don’t know why anybody [of mixed heritage] should have to choose. Why should my kids have to dismiss their dad’s heritage because they have a black mum? It just doesn’t make sense to me. Why can’t people just be happy with what they are and not have to choose?”

She also stated that she noticed how enraged the black community was when he was on the Oprah show (yes, she took it that far back) and didn’t refer to himself as being black.

Beauvais added that she thinks the books are important because they will start conversations between parents and children about the multicultural society we live in today.

It seems like the book has been reaching people in the way she envisioned it. Hopefully, future books in the series which discuss adoption and divorce will also be just as influential.

The Innumerable Problems Behind “Why Every Black Woman Should Marry A Jewish Man”

December 10th, 2013 - By Veronica Wells
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Source: Honeybrownemarriesjewishman.blogspot.com

Somewhere along the way, MadameNoire got the reputation of being the Black Women’s website that promotes interracial dating and marriage and all that. Perhaps it was because of articles like this one. Whatever the case, I feel the need to say that while we believe you should keep your options open when it comes to finding love, you shouldn’t begin your quest with skin tone or racial and ethnic modifiers. And personally, I, Veronica, believe that while black men are flawed like all men, you’ll never catch me out here denouncing all of them. There are enough people outside of our race who do that already. I would think the universal truth that characteristics that make a good partner are not predicated by race and ethnicity is understood by all. But apparently, it’s really not because Dr. Nazaree Hines-Starr, a full time pharmacist and author, recently published a book called Why Every Black Woman Should Marry A Jewish Man. 

Yes ya’ll, every black woman. Before I even begin to dissect the problematic nature of such a premise, let me just share a bit of Hines-Starr’s background and the reasoning she shares for dating and marrying a Jewish man.

All throughout college, graduate school and all of her twenties Hines-Starr, a black woman, dated only black men who shared her religious background. And after that all she had to show for it were a group of men she placed in what she calls the “Scumbag Files.” But Hines-Starr did not give up on love. Instead, she went to the internet and joined an interracial dating site called AfroRomance.com. Let’s pause right here for a minute. I can understand, perhaps, why a black woman would be drawn to a site called Afro Romance but I’m a little perplexed as to why people of other ethnicities would go there unless they’re trying to fulfill some type of chocolate fantasy. But that’s just me. Admittedly, I’m a bit paranoid about such things.

Anyway, looking at the site, I’m guessing Hines-Starr selected “white” for her preferred race and it wasn’t long before she met “Michael, a professional, never-married Jewish man who was two years her junior.”

And apparently, Hines-Starr believes you can do the same. In fact, the way the world is set up right now, you might not even have a choice. She provides the following statistics: “According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 1.8 million more black women than black men in 2000, and that number has not improved since then. That means that if every black man in America married a black woman today, many women hoping to marry a black man would not make it down the aisle.”

Shivers

And then, according to a press release Hines-Starr lists reasons why Jewish men are the new hotness for black women.

– They are the perfect Alpha Male.

– Many African American men and non-Jewish men fall short in the romance department

-Jewish men open wide instead of down low (Is that a sexual innuendo I failed to grasp?)

– Jewish men are not looking for someone to take care of them

– Jewish men attend and graduate college

– Jewish men at least attempt to marry before making babies

-Jewish men are great with financial planning and stability

– Jewish men don’t take everything as a challenge to their masculinity

-Jewish men are often raised with traditional gender roles where the men seek to take care of the women.

That’s enough. Do you see the problems here? Hines-Starr successfully manages to stereotype two groups simultaneously. On the one hand she dogs out black men, calling them unromantic, uneducated, uncommitted and unstable all while lauding not only her Jewish man but all Jewish men above the rest. I think somewhere along the way, people lost sight of the fact that just because a stereotype is positive, it’s still a stereotype. When you reduce people down to a few characteristics, it robs them of their humanity, which is complex.

I wonder if it ever occurred to Hines-Starr that while there are certain culture attitudes that are passed down from generation to generation, the emphasis on education, family and financial security are not just things the Jewish community cares about.

I wonder if in regard to her own dating history if she ever considered the fact that it wasn’t that the men she dated were scumbags because they were all black but because they were just scumbags. And furthermore, since this synopsis seems to present her as blameless in her own dating history, I wonder if she ever stopped to ask herself why she kept attracting and then tolerating scumbags?

I know that since there are far too many, black men berating and degrading black women, some of you will argue that she’s just looking out for numero uno, giving them a taste of their own medicine, trying not to be left behind as she pledges allegiance to black men and black men alone. And I get that. I’m not saying limit your options. If you can, of course you should be open to love regardless of the package it comes in. I just hope black people, men and women alike, haven’t reduced the phenomenon of finding love into some type of calculated trip to the market where you pass up the brand you’ve known and grown up with in favor of something new and exotic.

Source

Black Woman Berates White Girlfriend In A Harlem Barber Shop, What Would You Do?

December 9th, 2013 - By Veronica Wells
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What Would You Do

Source: YouTube

If you’re familiar with the show “What Would You Do?” You know they put people in tight, yet realistic situations that test people’s moral fiber. And even have you asking yourself what you would have done in the same situation. In one of the latest episodes, an actress “Rachel” is pretending to be a stylist in the popular Harlem barber shop Denny Moe’s. She’s giving eyes to one of the male customers, a black guy, when all of a sudden his white girlfriend walks in. And instead of playing cool or sucking her teeth and rolling her eyes on the low she begins to question the black man for his choice and out and out disrespect the white girl in the place. I mean, she goes in.

Take a look at the video to see how the women and men in the shop respond in this scenario. And then ask yourself–though you could never know until you’re in it–what would you have done in this situation?

15 Celebrities Most People Don’t Know Are Black

September 18th, 2013 - By Meg Butler
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Celebrities Most People Don't Know Are Black

Image Source: WENN.com

Race politics can be complicated and bi-racial stars often find themselves on one side of the Hollywood divide. Unsurprisingly, for the stars in this list that side tends to be the white one, with most people not even realizing these actors, actresses, and public personas are in fact mixed — and for all intents and purposes, black.

The Food-Race Connection: Does Race Play A Factor In Access To Healthy Food?

August 26th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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Since race is an issue in most all aspects of life it seems, does it also play a factor in getting access to healthy food?

“The connection is not explicitly based on race; socioeconomic factors play a major role in access to healthy food,” reports the Huffington Post.  Take free lunches for children in public schools. The decision on who qualifies is based on socioeconomic information. Still, larger percentages of African-Americans and Hispanics in the U.S. were living below the poverty line in 2011 than whites or those identified as “other.” Because of these stats, more children who are of Hispanic or African-American backgrounds need free or reduced-priced school lunches.

And being able to get healthy food is vital for long-term health benefits.

At a recent town hall meeting in West Oakland, Nikki Henderson, executive director of People’s Grocery discussed race in the Bay Area and pointed out the connection between food and race. She said this connection “lives very presently because Trayvon Martin was going to the liquor store to get Skittles and iced tea. That’s what he was doing when he was out late at night. That’s what many of our kids do.”

People’s Grocery is more than a place where people come to get food, but also a place that is well-lit, so that children coming to get food are not putting themselves in danger, simply by being outside at night, reports HuffPo. It is a community food store that offers fresh foods, affordable groceries, health services.

This discussion isn’t really new. The debate has been going on for decades but now it has hit the national forum.

“For decades, low-income communities of color have suffered as grocery stores and fresh, affordable food disappeared from their neighborhoods. Advocates have long drawn attention to this critical issue and crafted policy solutions, but access to healthy food is just now entering the national policy debate,” according to a report by The Food Trust organization.  The report, “The Grocery Gap,” found that many low-income communities, communities of color, and sparsely populated rural areas do not have sufficient opportunities to buy healthy, affordable food.

The result is those communities suffer more from diet-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes than those in higher-income neighborhoods with easy access to healthy food.

On one point we’d like to ask: What do you think of the connection between access to healthy food at safe locations and the Trayvon Martin case? Is that too much of a stretch?

It’s A Black Thing: 50 Cent Lawsuit Ruling Went Against Him Because Of His Race

August 18th, 2013 - By Drenna Armstrong
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50 Cent is not happy about a recent ruling against him and it may not have anything to do with money.

According to TMZ, 50 recently lost a lawsuit he filed against Sleek Audio. He said the company owed him $261,00 but they disagreed with that. In the end, an arbitrator sided with Sleek and it is assumed they had to pay considerably less money.

But 50 is not taking this ruling lying down and is in the process of appealing it.  In a new claim that he’s taken to federal court, 50 says the arbitrator (whose name has not be identified) sided against him because he’s black, associates with controversial black figures and because he’s a rapper.

In addition, 50 claims the arbitrator never looked at any of his evidence and didn’t cross-examine any of the witnesses. He wants the ruling thrown out and is asking for a brand new hearing.

Sleek Audio says 50 is reaching with this claim and is trying to get his way, which would be a trial in front of a judge.

No word on when the federal court will hear this case and make a ruling.  If what 50 says is true, he may have found a way to get a new hearing, whether it be in front of a judge or a new arbitrator.