All Articles Tagged "racism"

South Carolina Senate Votes To Remove Confederate Flag

July 6th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
Share to Twitter Email This
Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

The South Carolina Senate voted today to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the State House.

The proposal, which Governor Nikki Haley brought to the table in a press conference after the Charleston shooting, was approved by a 37-3 vote in a Republican-controlled Senate.

The debate will now have to clear the House of Representatives, also Republican lead.

According to The New York TImes, the timeline and general feeling about the debate within the House of Representatives is less clear.

The vote represents a great shift. Just three weeks ago, removal of the flag was considered politically impossible.

Sadly, it took the massacre at the Emanuel AME Church to bring the debate back to the table after 15 years.

With all these steps, we can see why Bree shimmied up that pole to bring that flag down.

Either way, this is certainly a hopeful sign.

Who’s A Gorilla? 15 Times Google Really Messed Up

July 6th, 2015 - By Meg Butler
Share to Twitter Email This
Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock

Mistaking Black people for gorillas through its recognition app is just the most recent of Google fails. Check out some of the other times Google has had some serious explaining to do.

On Geraldo Rivera’s Beef With Kendrick Lamar, And Why He Says Hip-Hop Is More Damaging Than Racism

July 1st, 2015 - By Desiree Bowie
Share to Twitter Email This

On Monday night, Fox News anchor Geraldo Rivera declared that “hip-hop does more damage to African-Americans than racism in recent years.” He made this statement after watching Kendrick Lamar perform his song, “Alright” atop a vandalized police car on last Sunday’s BET Awards. The isolated clip used by Fox News shows Lamar rapping the chorus to his song with the lyrics displayed across the screen:

 

“We been hurt, been down before
Nigga, when our pride was low
Lookin’ at the world like, ‘Where do we go?’
Nigga, and we hate po-po
Wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho
Nigga, I’m at the preacher’s door
My knees gettin’ weak, and my gun might blow
But we gon’ be alright”

The song is explicit and emotional, speaking directly about racial disparity. Current events show us that we are not safe, and some of us feel displaced. There is some hatred for the cops because of the police brutality. You could argue that “my knees getting weak and my gun might blow” is about the helplessness that makes you want to take matters into your own hands, or maybe the helplessness that might make you want to turn the gun on yourself. The song is timely and the black-and-white video that dropped yesterday is gorgeous, packed with symbolism, and even downright depressing.

But as far as Rivera’s statement, two things: 1) Nothing is more damaging to the Black community than racism. 2) Nothing is more damaging to the Black community than racism.

I had to say it twice because his sentiment should be in the Guinness World Records book for the longest reach in the history of reaches.

Now, that is not to say that rap music is not jam-packed with problematic and damaging messages, but using Lamar to make his point displays Rivera’s ignorance of the culture. Kendrick Lamar is one of the few Top 40 rappers whose purpose is to share a message about the trials and tribulations of our current times. Had Rivera referenced Young Thug or The Game, his statement would have some weight, but alas, he did not. Then again, why would I expect the man who blamed Trayvon Martin’s hoodie for his own death to make a valid point when throwing around tone-deaf cultural accusations?

Let’s be honest: Modern-day commercial rap music is theater, akin to the WWE and Love & Hip Hop. A lot of things are said and done to get ahead, not because the lyricist truly means it. Rick Ross is a glowing example of this. Once a corrections officer, the Florida-bred rapper is constantly criticized for spitting bars about a history of drug dealing and arms carrying. Back in 2008, when it was uncovered that he had worked as a prison guard, Ross denied it, insisting that pictures of him in his uniform had been Photoshopped. He later came clean and admitted that if times got tough enough, he would return to his old job though his recent troubles with the law might make that a bit hard. No matter his past, Ross is a character in a costume and his act has paid off.

But for every Rick Ross portraying a hood caricature, Kendrick Lamar lands on the other end of the spectrum. He did grow up in Compton. He is facing internal struggles about his socio-political environment. He did see a lot of violence growing up. He sometimes has girl problems, too. He’s just different. Very different from his colleagues in rap. 

As a Black woman, the violent and misogynistic lyrics in commercial rap definitely make me uneasy but they don’t “damage” my worldview. The first time I really remember being put off by the content of a rap song happened when I was 10 and one of my family members was bumping DJ Quik’s “Sweet Black P***y.” I vividly remember covering my ears in disgust as Quik rapped about his love for, well, you know. Bad words were no friend of mine. As a side effect of hearing this song, I do not prefer to use that word nor hear a woman’s nether regions referred to as such. While I definitely came up with vulgarity-laced hip-hop, there was a balance in my life; my dad constantly exposed us to the oldies from the ‘60s and ‘70s, which allowed me to revel in a time when men were able to sincerely proclaim love for a woman and her beautiful…soul. There are probably a few hours worth of music from the ‘70s devoted to the beauty of a woman’s eyes alone.

Those times are gone. Long gone. Now we have songs about eating booty like groceries. I am forever nostalgic.

The levels of homophobia, violence, exploitation, and misogyny in popular rap are at peak levels. When I get frustrated by any of this, I have to remind myself that the music industry is like theater. It’s a sometimes cartoonish, and troublesome production, much like Ringling Bros. Theater is dramatic and compelling and it requires the views and participation of the audience. What if the audience doesn’t realize it’s watching a show? Do young kids realize that Nicki Minaj is the Hulk Hogan to Onika Maraj’s Terry Bollea? Would it change their views if they understood that Minaj is a character that Onika created to be successful? She is a strikingly talented businesswoman; over the course of 8 years, she has created a multi-million dollar empire that includes a clothing line, signature perfumes, an alcoholic beverage, platinum records, sold-out tours, and three movies. Behind the persona, for the world to see, is a success story. What could be damaging about that?

But a lot of kids take entertainment at face value. Therefore, it falls back on the parents to set the tone and lead their kids by example. The onus is not on Ludacris, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Tyga and any other rapper you can think of to be role models; it starts at home. While I may have had an uncensored entertainment experience as a child, my parents made a lot of lessons very clear to me: Treat people how you wish to be treated, respect yourself and your elders, help others, and act like you got some sense. It was and has always been, just music. It entertained me. It made me think. But it didn’t damage me.

I don’t think the tone of pop rap is going to change anytime soon, so these uncomfortable messages are going to continue to dominate and be passed around. But, in the background and sometimes in the forefront, we get entertainers like Outkast, Common, Mos Def, J. Cole, Jidenna, and yes, Kendrick Lamar. They give me hope that there is a balance in this rap universe, and that positive, uplifting messages are being shared too.

But whether or not there is a balance, rap music does not force or cause racial disparities. Rap music could never be more powerful than racism. Racism is a hateful never-ending plague. Rap music is not perfect. It feeds the culture, and sometimes perpetuates nasty messages, but it can also heal, raise awareness and bring a marginalized group together in celebration of the vibrant culture that racism deems ultimately inferior.

“I Did It Because I Am Free” Bree Newsome Explains Why She Removed The Confederate Flag

June 30th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
Share to Twitter Email This
Source: AP Images

Source: AP Images

This past weekend, many of us were awestruck and inspired by the courage 30-year-old Brittany “Bree” Newsome showed when she scaled the flag pole on the lawn of South Carolina’s State Capitol building, removed the Confederate flag and declared that she had done so in the name of God.

All superheroes don’t wear caps.

After she removed the flag, Newsome, of North Carolina, along with her spotter, James Ian Dyson,  were arrested and charged with defacing monuments on state capitol grounds, a misdemeanor. She could face up to 3 years in prison or a $5,000 fine.

Needless to say, since then we’ve all been anxious to hear what Bree, an NYU graduate and a filmmaker and musician by trade and activist by conviction, had to say about the flag removal and her reason for doing it.

Thankfully, she issued this statement exclusively to Goldie Taylor at Blue Nation Review.comYou can read it, in its entirety, below.

Now is the time for true courage.

I realized that now is the time for true courage the morning after the Charleston Massacre shook me to the core of my being. I couldn’t sleep. I sat awake in the dead of night. All the ghosts of the past seemed to be rising.

Not long ago, I had watched the beginning of Selma, the reenactment of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and had shuddered at the horrors of history.

But this was neither a scene from a movie nor was it the past. A white man had just entered a black church and massacred people as they prayed. He had assassinated a civil rights leader. This was not a page in a textbook I was reading nor an inscription on a monument I was visiting.

This was now.

This was real.

This was—this is—still happening.

I began my activism by participating in the Moral Monday movement, fighting to restore voting rights in North Carolina after the Supreme Court struck down key protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

I traveled down to Florida where the Dream Defenders were demanding justice for Trayvon Martin, who reminded me of a modern-day Emmett Till.

I marched with the Ohio Students Association as they demanded justice for victims of police brutality.

I watched in horror as black Americans were tear-gassed in their own neighborhoods in Ferguson, MO. “Reminds me of the Klan,” my grandmother said as we watched the news together. As a young black girl in South Carolina, she had witnessed the Klan drag her neighbor from his house and brutally beat him because he was a black physician who had treated a white woman.

I visited with black residents of West Baltimore, MD who, under curfew, had to present work papers to police to enter and exit their own neighborhood. “These are my freedom papers to show the slave catchers,” my friend said with a wry smile.

And now, in the past 6 days, I’ve seen arson attacks against 5 black churches in the South, including in Charlotte, NC where I organize alongside other community members striving to create greater self-sufficiency and political empowerment in low-income neighborhoods.

For far too long, white supremacy has dominated the politics of America resulting in the creation of racist laws and cultural practices designed to subjugate non-whites. And the emblem of the confederacy, the stars and bars, in all its manifestations, has long been the most recognizable banner of this political ideology. It’s the banner of racial intimidation and fear whose popularity experiences an uptick whenever black Americans appear to be making gains economically and politically in this country.

It’s a reminder how, for centuries, the oppressive status quo has been undergirded by white supremacist violence with the tacit approval of too many political leaders.

The night of the Charleston Massacre, I had a crisis of faith. The people who gathered for Bible study in Emmanuel AME Church that night—Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson and Rev. Clementa Pinckney (rest in peace)—were only doing what Christians are called to do when anyone knocks on the door of the church: invite them into fellowship and worship.

The day after the massacre I was asked what the next step was and I said I didn’t know. We’ve been here before and here we are again: black people slain simply for being black; an attack on the black church as a place of spiritual refuge and community organization.

I refuse to be ruled by fear. How can America be free and be ruled by fear? How can anyone be?

So, earlier this week I gathered with a small group of concerned citizens, both black and white, who represented various walks of life, spiritual beliefs, gender identities and sexual orientations. Like millions of others in America and around the world, including South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and President Barack Obama, we felt (and still feel) that the confederate battle flag in South Carolina, hung in 1962 at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, must come down. (Of course, we are not the first to demand the flag’s removal. Civil rights groups in South Carolina and nationwide have been calling for the flag’s removal since the moment it was raised, and I acknowledge their efforts in working to remove the flag over the years via the legislative process.)

We discussed it and decided to remove the flag immediately, both as an act of civil disobedience and as a demonstration of the power people have when we work together. Achieving this would require many roles, including someone who must volunteer to scale the pole and remove the flag. It was decided that this role should go to a black woman and that a white man should be the one to help her over the fence as a sign that our alliance transcended both racial and gender divides. We made this decision because for us, this is not simply about a flag, but rather it is about abolishing the spirit of hatred and oppression in all its forms.

I removed the flag not only in defiance of those who enslaved my ancestors in the southern United States, but also in defiance of the oppression that continues against black people globally in 2015, including the ongoing ethnic cleansing in the Dominican Republic. I did it in solidarity with the South African students who toppled a statue of the white supremacist, colonialist Cecil Rhodes. I did it for all the fierce black women on the front lines of the movement and for all the little black girls who are watching us. I did it because I am free.

To all those who might label me an “outside agitator,” I say to you that humanitarianism has no borders. I am a global citizen. My prayers are with the poor, the afflicted and the oppressed everywhere in the world, as Christ instructs. If this act of disobedience can also serve as a symbol to other peoples’ struggles against oppression or as a symbol of victory over fear and hate, then I know all the more that I did the right thing.

Even if there were borders to my empathy, those borders would most certainly extend into South Carolina. Several of my African ancestors entered this continent through the slave market in Charleston. Their unpaid toil brought wealth to America via Carolina plantations. I am descended from those who survived racial oppression as they built this nation: My 4th great grandfather, who stood on an auction block in South Carolina refusing to be sold without his wife and newborn baby; that newborn baby, my 3rd great grandmother, enslaved for 27 years on a plantation in Rembert, SC where she prayed daily for her children to see freedom; her husband, my 3rd great grandfather, an enslaved plowboy on the same plantation who founded a church on the eve of the Civil War that stands to this day; their son, my great-great grandfather, the one they called “Free Baby” because he was their first child born free, all in South Carolina.

You see, I know my history and my heritage. The Confederacy is neither the only legacy of the south nor an admirable one. The southern heritage I embrace is the legacy of a people unbowed by racial oppression. It includes towering figures of the Civil Rights Movement like Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King, Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers and Ella Baker. It includes the many people who rarely make the history books but without whom there is no movement. It includes pillars of the community like Rev. Clementa Pinckney and Emmanuel AME Church.

The history of the South is also in many ways complex and full of inconvenient truths. But in order to move into the future we must reckon with the past. That’s why I commend people like Sen. Paul Thurmond for having the courage to speak truth in this moment.

Words cannot express how deeply touched I am to see how yesterday’s action inspired so many. The artwork, poems, music and memes are simply beautiful! I am also deeply grateful to those who have generously donated to the defense fund established in my name and to those who have offered to cover my legal expenses.

As you are admiring my courage in that moment, please remember that this is not, never has been and never should be just about one woman. This action required collective courage just as this movement requires collective courage. Not everyone who participated in the strategizing for this non-violent direct action volunteered to have their names in the news so I will respect their privacy. Nonetheless, I’m honored to be counted among the many freedom fighters, both living and dead.

I see no greater moral cause than liberation, equality and justice f­­or all God’s people. What better reason to risk your own freedom than to fight for the freedom of others? That’s the moral courage demonstrated yesterday by James Ian Tyson who helped me across the fence and stood guard as I climbed. History will rightly remember him alongside the many white allies who, over the centuries, have risked their own safety in defense of black life and in the name of racial equality.

While I remain highly critical of the nature of policing itself in the United States, both the police and the jailhouse personnel I encountered on Saturday were nothing short of professional in their interactions with me. I know there was some concern from supporters on the outside that I might be harmed while in police custody, but that was not the case.

It is important to remember that our struggle doesn’t end when the flag comes down. The Confederacy is a southern thing, but white supremacy is not. Our generation has taken up the banner to fight battles many thought were won long ago. We must fight with all vigor now so that our grandchildren aren’t still fighting these battles in another 50 years. Black Lives Matter. This is non-negotiable.

I encourage everyone to understand the history, recognize the problems of the present and take action to show the world that the status quo is not acceptable. The last few days have confirmed to me that people understand the importance of action and are ready to take such action. Whether the topic is trending nationally or it’s an issue affecting our local communities, those of us who are conscious must do what is right in this moment. And we must do it without fear. New eras require new models of leadership. This is a multi-leader movement. I believe that. I stand by that. I am because we are. I am one of many.

This moment is a call to action for us all. All honor and praise to God.

 

Is It Right That Rappers Are Being Arrested Over Violent Rap Lyrics?

June 26th, 2015 - By Charing Ball
Share to Twitter Email This
Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Unfortunately, it is not unusual to read about rappers getting arrested for engaging in criminal activity, but what about getting arrested for pretending to be gangsters in a music video?

That is what happened to an unsigned hype from Jersey City, New Jersey. Sort of. According to reports by All Hip Hop.com and NJ.com, nine members of a New Jersey Bloods gang, who also make up the hip-hop group DFG, were arrested for brandishing a gun while filming their their music video. The video, which is for their first single called “MoneyCello,” was posted about a year ago, but somehow it recently caught the attention of the Jersey City Street Crimes Unit who used the “evidence” to get an arrest warrant for the nine men.

According to published reports, one of the rappers was apprehended while at his full-time non-rap gig at a warehouse. Another was arrested while in bed with his girlfriend. During the raids, which included a search for the YouTube music video, police found small amounts of drugs and other paraphernalia in their homes; however, none of the reports specify if the actual guns (or any guns for that matter) used in the music video were recovered. Still, experts from the Newark Police Department’s Ballistic Lab are certain that the guns used in the video were real and have determined that one of the handguns was either a 9mm or a .380 semi-automatic.

And because of the video, which prior to their arrest had only a couple thousand views, the rap group is looking at a litany of charges, including felony unlawful possession of a handgun.

This is not the first time rappers have been arrested for their stellar performances. Last year in San Francisco, Bayview plainclothes officers raided the set of a rap music video and arrested 20 people on various charges, including suspicion of being a felon in possession of a loaded semi-automatic handgun and suspicion of selling drugs. And in 2014, two rappers out of Pittsburgh were arrested and convicted of intimidating witnesses, making terroristic threats and conspiracy. This all stemmed from a YouTube rap video, which included a lyric that threatened two Pittsburgh police officers who arrested the pair in the past on unrelated gun and drug charges. The song also referenced a cop killer who had gunned down three officers in 2009.  The rappers were sentenced to a minimum of two years in prison.

An article from The New York Times entitled “Legal Debate on Using Boastful Rap Lyrics as a Smoking Gun” recently took note of this growing trend in law enforcement. According to the report, in the last two years alone there have been three dozen prosecutions in which rap lyrics were used as either confessions or to help paint an “unsavory picture of a defendant to help establish motive and intent.” As reported by the Times, prosecutors and law enforcement alike see rap lyrics as an important crime fighting tool, however:

“The proliferation of cases has alarmed many scholars and defense lawyers, who say that independent of a defendant’s guilt or innocence, the lyrics are being unfairly used to prejudice judges and juries who have little understanding that, for all its glorification of violence, gangsta rappers are often people who have assumed over-the-top and fictional personas.”

I have to agree with the scholars and defense lawyers. Rappers, particularly those who rap about the streets, are easy prey because they are involved in a profession that requires them to portray violent images and hyper-masculinity. And it really does seem like these law enforcement agencies and prosecutors are exploiting the general public’s–particularly White America’s– ignorance and disdain for hip-hop music to prosecute otherwise difficult cases. Likewise, I am sure there are tons of Hollywood directors being violent gang-related films sitting in their mansions with tons of cocaine and other drugs stuffed up their noses like Tony Montana in Scarface. And yet, I can’t recall a single one of them being targeted for felonies.

The question that comes to mind when I think of this case in New Jersey is how does one determine the authenticity of a gun from a video on YouTube? I know high definition helps to add more resolution to people and things, but it sure as hell doesn’t make them three dimensional. I mean we are talking about law enforcement agencies that can’t always tell the difference between a toy gun and a real gun in the hands of a 12-year-old boy.

But what do folks think? Is this fair or are aspiring rappers being set up by a malicious and opportunistic court system? Leave your comments below.

Serious Question: Should President Barack Obama Issue An Apology For Slavery?

June 25th, 2015 - By Charing Ball
Share to Twitter Email This
"President Obama attack on Syria pf"

WENN.com

In a controversial editorial for the New York Times, columnist Timothy Egan shares an interesting theory about how President Barack Obama could help resolve race relations in this country. He thinks President Obama should apologize for slavery.

Yes, you read that right: Egan believes President Obama – America’s first Black president – should issue an apologize for slavery.

After you are done rolling your eyes into the back of your heads, check out this passage from his essay in the Times:

The first black man to live in the White House, long hesitant about doing anything bold on the color divide, could make one of the most simple and dramatic moves of his presidency: apologize for the land of the free being, at one time, the largest slaveholding nation on earth.

The Confederate flag that still flies on the grounds of the Statehouse in South Carolina, cradle of the Civil War, is a reminder that the hatred behind the proclaimed right to own another human being has never left our shores. An apology would not kill that hatred, but it would ripple, positively, in ways that may be felt for years.

As the son of a Kenyan father and a white mother who died more than a century after slavery ended, Barack Obama has little ancestral baggage on this issue. Yet no man could make a stronger statement about America’s original sin than the first African-American president.

Um, I think there are stronger statements he could make. He could actually call White people out on their current shit (the Charleston terrorist attacks for example), or reclassify hate crimes, particularly murders, as terrorist acts, or sign some laws that would offer harsh penalties for cops found guilty of police brutality. Those “statements” could actually evoke change. Still, Egan has a point. Although Congress apologized back in 2009 for the enslavement of Black people, the apology was a bit half-hearted. You see, it also came with a stipulation that their admittance could not be used as “legal rationale for reparations.”

Egan also has a point when it comes to elevating conversations on race:

For this year’s Juneteenth — commemorating the day in 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, when a Union general landed in Galveston, Tex., and told the last of the dead-enders in Texas that “all slaves are free” — President Obama could close a loop in a terrible history. He could also elevate the current discussion on race, which swirled earlier this week around the serial liar Rachel Dolezal, and the race-baiting billionaire vanity blimp of Donald Trump.

For some (okay, for most), suggesting a Black man apologize to the country for what happened to our ancestors is likely the most egregiously hilarious bit of post-racial victim-blaming nonsense ever heard. While we’re at it, why don’t we ask the Chinese workers making Jordans and iProducts to apologize for slave labor and being locked inside of sweatshops all day. Or better yet, let’s make a pig apologize to a slaughterhouse for becoming a fried pork chop.

But what is particularly absurd about the essay is the part where he states that President Obama wasn’t burdened by slavery like most African Americans because his father is Kenyan. For one, colonization happened in just about every country in Africa. Hell, it happened in much of the brown world even. So what that means is that there is no Black or brown land or person who hasn’t felt the burden of White supremacy. Likewise, the fact that President Obama’s African father is not native to America, and that Obama was raised apart from the American Black community, has not deterred those within Congress, as well as the conservative right, from attacking him because of his race. Therefore, it is naive to suggest that President Obama has somehow been spared the experience of what our ancestors and their descendants have and continue to go through in America.

I also reject Egan’s notion that an apology for slavery is just about sending a strong statement about the historic wrongs committed against African Americans. He seems to believe that a government-issued apology would address what are largely systematic problems. While it is true that it would be a statement, the reality is that we don’t need anymore symbolic gestures. Instead, what we need are tangible assets. A real apology for slavery – one that does not include caveats – should lay the groundwork for a much more substantive legal action. Yes, I am talking about reparations. And not only do I want my 40 acres, preferably the land right under Wall Street, but I will also take the damn mule.

After all, an apology comes with regret. It is meant to show the victim, or victims, that the apologist not only empathizes with how they have been wronged, but it also shows the victim, or victims, that the apologist has every intention to make amends and offer restitution. What an apology does not do is shield a person or even an institution from culpability, which is exactly what another symbolic apology for slavery would mean. What good would an apology do if schools in largely Black communities continue to be underfunded or when cops are still getting passes from the government for killing and maiming Black people? Or better yet, how will an apology help Black redlined communities or reduce the Black unemployment rate, which is usually double that of whites?

Listen, I am all in favor of President Obama issuing a real and substantive apology for slavery. But what Egan has in mind sounds like more political manipulation meant to give the appearance that we are in a post-racial society. And if a symbolic gesture is the only reason for an apology, well Egan and the United States government can keep it.

Autopsy: Freddie Gray Died Of A High-Energy Impact

June 24th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
Share to Twitter Email This
Facebook

Facebook

Earlier today, The Baltimore Sun reported that they had obtained a copy of Freddie Gray’s autopsy report.

You may remember Gray was the 25-year-old man who was stopped by officers, in April, and arrested under no charge.

Officers bound Gray with handcuffs and shackles around his ankles and put him in the back of the police van, without securing him in a seatbelt.

Now, the state medical examiner has ruled that Gray’s death can not be ruled an accident. Instead, it’s being classified as a homicide “through acts of omission,” because officers failed to follow safety procedures.

Gray was loaded into the van on his belly but somewhere along the route, the medical examiner found that Gray got to his feet at one point and was thrown into the wall when the van made an abrupt change in direction.

The examiner said the fact that Gray was not restrained by a seatbelt put him “at risk for an unsupported fall during acceleration or deceleration of the van.”

The examiner compared Gray’s injuries as consistent with those seen in shallow water diving incidents.

All six officers involved in Gray’s arrest and transport have been charged. The driver of the van Caesar R. Goodson Jr., the driver of the van is charged with second-degree-depraved-heart murder while three officers are charged with manslaughter. The final two officers face lesser charges, including second-degree assault.

The officers have all pleaded not guilty and will stand trial, set for October.

“Elsa Isn’t Black” 3-Year-Old Racially Abused While Wearing “Frozen” Costume

June 24th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
Share to Twitter Email This

It’s no surprise that America doesn’t have a monopoly on racism. People of color, particularly Black people, all throughout the the world, are often on the receiving end of racism and discrimination. And unfortunately, it starts early. Three-year-old Samara Muir, an Aboriginal girl in Melbourne, Australia, learned that the hard way at a recent Disney event.

According to the Daily Mail, little Samara was waiting in line for entry to the event and was dressed as her favorite Disney Princess Queen Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. 

Though Samara and her mother Rachel Muir were standing in line minding their business, another woman, a parent, turned around and said,

“I don’t know why you’re dressed up for because Queen Elsa isn’t black.” 

Rachel asked the woman what she meant by the comment but before the mother could respond, one of her two daughters, obviously reciting what she had been taught, chimed in saying:

“You’re Black and Black is ugly.”

Muir said she was shocked by the comments, particularly since Melbourne is one of the most multicultural places in the world.

“I couldn’t believe it.”

Muir said she decided in that moment to ignore the comments as a means of teaching her daughter to take the high road in those types of situations. She did tell Samara that they would talk about the incident later, when they got home.

And she did.

But that wasn’t the end of the ordeal. The next day, when Samara was set to go to her Aboriginal dance class, she told her mother that she didn’t want to go. When her mother asked why she said, “Because I’m Black.”

Rachel Muir was naturally mortified by the effect the racist comments had on her daughter and she took to Facebook to express her frustrations. It wasn’t long before the post went viral.

And though this story started off as a tragedy, like most Disney Princesses, Samara’s story has a happy ending.

People sent in messages of support for both Samara and Rachel.

Eventually, the people at Disney heard about the story. And the real-life Queen Elsa, the one who lives in Orlando, Florida, sent Samara a video message telling her to always be herself.

Rachel Muir recalled the event for The Age saying, “Her mouth just dropped to the ground,” Ms Muir said. “She kept saying over and over ‘she’s talking to me.’ We were in tears. It was so overwhelming.”

Disney on Ice Dare to Dream also took action. Not only did they invite Samara to attend the show, they would like for her to appear in it.

Nick Cannon and Aboriginal rapper Adam Briggs have voiced their support for Samara, with Briggs featuring her in one of his film clips.

The artist and activist said Samara was a “bright, beautiful little girl who can be any princess she wants to be.”

Boop!

So happy for this little one.

While Samara can be any Disney princess she wants, this also highlights the very real issue of inclusion and representation in media, especially for children. It’s no secret that Disney needs more princesses of color so girls of color around the world can see themselves as heroes and heroines on the big screen. It’s so important.

You can watch Samara’s story in the video below.

Who Really Benefits From Forgiveness?

June 24th, 2015 - By Charing Ball
Share to Twitter Email This
charleston shooting

Source: Getty Images

What does it mean to forgive?

That has been the question of the hour after the terrorist attack in Charleston, South Carolina left nine Black people dead inside of what was supposed to be a safe place.

There has been a lot of pushback to the idea that Dylann Roof deserves forgiveness, particularly from the families who offered it to him during his bond hearing for the single gun charge.

Yesha Callahan writes in a passionate piece titled “Dear Black People: Stop Being So Forgiving“:

I’m going to need black people to stop being so forgiving. This forgiveness thing has plagued us for centuries. I’m quite sure forgiveness was taught to black people by slave masters, the same people who taught black people Christianity. Isn’t it ironic?

Throughout history, black people have been benevolent and forgiving. And where has that gotten us? It’s gotten the families in South Carolina a white judge who told them in front of a merciless killer that they should forgive.

No other group of people have been expected to be so forgiving to those who’ve hated, killed and made them second class citizens. Has anyone yet asked or expected Holocaust survivors to forgive?

Roof’s act of domestic terrorism was a calculated and premeditated act. Fuck forgiving him.

And for those who say that forgiveness some how makes your heart better? Show me receipts and prove it.

Echoing those sentiments is Xolela Mangcu, a professor at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, who wrote for The Root:

In every discussion of racial injustice – whether in South Africa or the United States –  the first consideration is to white feelings.  South Africa is in the midst of a national debate about affirmative action. My own university, the University of Cape Town, did away with race-based affirmative action on the grounds that qualified white students were being excluded in favor of unqualified black students. The mobilization of sympathy for these ‘poor’ white kids is blind to the structural exclusion of black kids by not only the admissions process but by a culture that says these institutions properly belong to Whites.  White supremacy reproduces itself by a combination of entitlement to privilege and forgiveness, and an entitlement to black lives as whites present themselves as victims of reverse racism.

I am on the fence. I get it. I get accountability. I get confronting White supremacy, or rather, getting White supremacy to confront itself. Likewise, those in the church have used respectability and the Bible as a way to temper activism and also to inflict harm on others, in particular, the LGBTQ community and women. As such, forgiveness can seem a lot like compliance. At the same time, I am extremely uncomfortable having this conversation right now when the families of these victims – the people who are most affected by these terrorist attacks – are hurting so much.

I don’t know how I would react if I were in that position. I do know that I have held grudges for less. I would like to think that I would be angry, and I would like to think that I would go full Clyde Shelton in the film Law Abiding Citizen and take everybody out. But who is to say? Thank God I am not, and have never been, in that position. In reality, I would more than likely feel helpless, deterred and depressed as opposed to feeling like a vigilante out for justice. And I would probably be wondering to God, why?

What I do know is that extending the olive branch is not something that Black people only do for White people. In Rwanda, where the genocide was Black on Black, Hutu on Tutsi to be more exact, the survivors granted forgiveness as a way to move on. In North Minneapolis, 59-year-old Mary Byrd not only forgave Oshea Israel, who shot her only child, Laramiun, to death during an argument at a party, but she peacefully lives next door to him.

Writer Lauren Giordano profiled Everett Worthington, a professor of psychology at Virginia Community University whose 78-year-old mother was murdered during a home burglary. It was an article in The Atlantic called “The Forgiveness Boost.” Prior to his mother’s murder, Worthington had been actively studying how and why people forgive and even created a method to help others in their own effort to forgive. Naturally, being faced with the reality of what had previously just been a theory was a hard pill to swallow. But Worthington decided to follow through with his method, which included recalling the incident, empathizing, altruistically forgiving, committing to the process and finally, holding on to forgiveness even when anger resurfaces.

And as Giordano wrote of Worthington, the hardest part was empathizing with the man who viciously took the life of his mother. But, “What helped on the empathy front, Worthington says, was that after the intruder killed McNeill, he ran from room to room, smashing all of the mirrors with the crowbar—even in the rooms he didn’t search. Worthington took it as a sign that he couldn’t look at himself.”

Through this process, Worthington told Giordano that he was not only able to forgive in less than a month, but his life was better for the experience. Whereas his brother, who had never forgiven the killer and held onto the anger and pain, killed himself several years later. In the piece, Giordano also wrote about the benefits of forgiveness:

But beyond that, forgiving people are markedly physically healthier than unforgiving ones. A 2005 study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that participants who considered themselves more forgiving had better health across five measures: physical symptoms, the number of medications used, sleep quality, fatigue, and medical complaints. The study authors found that this was because the process of forgiveness tamped down negative emotions and stress.

In other words, forgiveness at times is more than offering someone a pass for their crimes or misdeeds against you. But rather, it is a matter of reaffirming faith, and in some cases, gaining faith. It is a crutch when all else feels hopeless. And it is a matter of moving on instead of being held hostage by pain that is more harmful to you personally than it will ever be helpful.

I am not these families, but I imagine there are probably a few relatives struggling with living after losing someone they loved so much. And their faith and the act of forgiveness is probably the only thing making life bearable right now. I don’t know about anyone else, but who the hell am I to question that or try to take that away from them?

Fashion Chain Zara Profiles Shoppers As ‘Black Thieves,’ Workers Say

June 24th, 2015 - By Kimberly Gedeon
Share to Twitter Email This
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Retail employees from six Zara stores in New York City claim the fashion chain encourages workers to “target potential thieves” in a practice known as “special orders,” Forbes reports. The tactic allegedly leads to racial profiling of Black shoppers.

Forty-three percent of Zara employees, in the new report, did not answer the questions about the “special orders,” but among the 57 percent that did, 46 percent said Black customers were labeled as “special orders” always or often. Compare this to 14 percent of Latinos and seven percent of Whites.

“Most employees broadly defined the term ‘special order’ as a code that is used when someone ‘suspicious’ — ‘a potential thief’ —walks into the store,” the study said, according to Forbes. “Once a ‘special order’ has been called and the customer is described over the headset, employees and managers follow that customer.”

Employees also claimed that special orders were defined as “anyone who looks Black, not put together or urban.”

But Zara’s alleged discriminatory practices does not stop there. The fashion chain also faces some challenges within. According to the survey, darker-skinned employees reported that they are least likely to move up the ranks. Black Zara employees are also twice as likely as Whites to be dissatisfied with work hours.

“Of workers surveyed in the lower prestige back-of-store roles, 68 percent have darker skin,” the survey reported.

This isn’t the first time Zara faced claims of discrimination. Earlier this June, Forbes reported that the fashion retailer was slapped with a $40 million lawsuit for anti-gay and anti-Semitism discrimination.

As for the new report, Zara calls the conclusions “baseless”:

“The baseless report was prepared with ulterior motives and not because of any actual discrimination or mistreatment. It makes assertions that cannot be supported and do not reflect Zara’s diverse workforce.”

The survey was conducted by Center for Popular Democracy, a labor advocacy group.