Monday, May 31, 2010

Setting the Record Straight: A Response to Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Statement by the Committee to Advance the Movement for Reparations

We, the undersigned, take strong exception to the Op-Ed, “Ending the Slavery Blame-Game,” published in the New York Times, April 23, 2010 by Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. There are gross errors, inaccuracies and misrepresentations in Gates’ presentation of the transatlantic European enslavement system. Moreover, we are duly concerned about his political motivations and find offensive his use of the term “blame game.” It trivializes one of the most heinous crimes against humanity—the European enslavement of African people. Gates contradicts his stated purpose of “ending” what he refers to as a “blame-game,” by erroneously making African rulers and elites equally responsible with European and American enslavers. He shifts the “blame” in a clear attempt to undermine the demand for reparations.

The African Holocaust or Maafa, as it is referred to by many, is a crime against humanity and is recognized as such by the United Nations, scholars, and historians who have documented the primary and overwhelming culpability of European nations for enslavement in Europe, in the Americas and elsewhere. In spite of this overwhelming documentation, Gates inexplicably shifts the burden of culpability to Africans who were and are its victims. The abundance of scholarly work also affirms that Europeans initiated the process, established the global infrastructure for enslavement, and imposed, financed and defended it, and were the primary beneficiaries of it in various ways through human trafficking itself, banking, insurance, manufacturing, farming, shipping and allied enterprises.


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Monday, May 24, 2010

Black News: Killer of Three Black College Students Convicted

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, The Institute for Black Public Policy

Nearly three years ago, two black college students and a friend were murdered in a schoolyard in Newark, NJ. Monday, a jury returned guilty verdicts for three of the murders and one attempted murder after deliberating for less than a day.
Rodolfo Godinez, a 26-year old gang member and native of Nicaragua, was convicted of all charges against him, including multiple counts of robbery, weapons possession and conspiracy. He can get up to 30 years to life for each murder count, and the sentences can be given out consecutively.
"This man will never see the light of day," said Robert D. Laurino, the acting Essex County prosecutor.
Sentencing for Godinez is set for July 8. His lawyer, Roy Greenman, said,"Obviously, there will be an appeal on a number of grounds," but he declined to state the grounds on which he'd be filing.
The prosecution did not assert that Godinez was the one who hacked at the victims with a machete or shot each of them execution-style, in the back of the head. He was argued, however, to be the one who summoned the other gang members to the schoolyard on the night when the murders took place. The murders were particularly chilling because all four of the victims were "good kids" with no criminal history and educational plans for the future.

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Julianne Malveaux Breaks Down Obama's Financial Reform

Financial Reform-The Devil's In The Details

By Julianne Malveaux

Late last week, the United States Senate passed a financial reform bill by a vote of 59-39. Two Democrats crossed party lines, as did four Republicans to come up with the result. Now, the House, which has already passed financial reform legislation, and the Senate, will have to reconcile their versions of the bill. Now is the time for consumer advocates and others to counter the aggressive lobbying that will be done by banks and the auto industry to minimize the effects of legislation. This may also be an opportunity for the Congressional Black Caucus to raise its voice on the side of the many consumers who have been damaged by this financial crisis. While legislation is not meant to look backwards, but instead forward to prevent future crises, the CBC are among those who advocate for the least and the left out. Their perspective on financial regulation is badly needed.

The House would create a consumer protection agency that is freestanding; the Senate would house the agency inside the Federal Reserve Bank. In some ways having the Fed run consumer protection is like having the fox patrol the chicken coop. Isn't this the same Fed that was part and parcel of the 2008 financial meltdown, the same Fed (then led by Alan Greenspan) that turned a blind eye to predatory and sub-prime lending and the market distortions that emerged from the packaging of substandard loan paper? The Federal Reserve theoretically already deals with regulation around credit cards and mortgages and to date they've not done a good job. What will change when they now have a consumer protection agency? Hearings, anyone?

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Dr. Julianne Malveaux: Obama Disappoints Black Women with the Kagan Nomination

I was among the many who were disappointed that President Barack Obama did not nominate an African American woman to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. After all, there are six white men, two women, one Latina and one white, and a nominal African American man on the Court.  Why not an African American woman?
The Black Women's Roundtable, led by Melanie Campbell, was so disappointed that they shared their concerns with the President in a letter that spoke both to the contributions African American women have made and the qualifications of a few good women that President Obama should have considered before nominating Ms. Kagan to the nation's highest court.

I won't even speak on what I perceive as some of the shortcomings of the Kagan nomination.  The Solicitor General has earned the support of some colleagues that I fully respect, such as Harvard Professor Charles Ogletree.  At the same time, we have to pause at the fact that her definition of diversity is ideological diversity, not racial and ethnic diversity, and that she seemed to make Harvard a more welcome place for conservatives, if not for African American faculty.


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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Elena Kagan's Sexuality Questioned

Elena Kagan's supporters don't do her or gay Americans any favors by publicly expressing their views on her sexual orientation. Whether or not a future justice is a heterosexual or homosexual is irrelevant to questions about fitness to serve on the Supreme Court. That there are some bigoted Americans who would make sexual orientation an issue is no reason to grant them any legitimacy, which occurs when their perverse and offensive interests are addressed. The proper response is to treat the question of sexual orientation as the non-issue that it is and place the burden on the bigots to make their case in the public square… if they dare.


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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Dr. Miriam Harris: Elena Kagan's Weak Cultural Competence

No one is more delighted than I am that esteemed presidential historian, Annette Gordon- Reed will join the faculty at Harvard Law School. Despite the fact that she was recruited by then Dean Elena Kagan, I respectfully disagree with Charles Ogletree that Elena Kagan is a good choice for the Supreme Court.

Ogletree argues that from 2003 until the end of Kagan's deanship in 2009, the number of African American students matriculating rose to an all time high. I am sure this is accurate, but how relevant is it?

Do these numbers speak to the quality and caliber of student life? Are Harvard graduates fully engaged and can they provide an effective and vigorous understanding with matters pertaining to race? Or, are they merely defenders and justifiers of the status quo?

I suggest that Professor Ogletree look at the April 30, 2010 blog post written by Diane Lucas. Ms. Lucas was a guest blogger for FEMINISTE and authored a piece entitled, "The Racist Breeding Grounds of Harvard Law School". Lucas wrote this article to discuss the racist behavior of Stephanie Grace, a graduating student, and to discuss her own experience as a Black student at HLS. Lucas critiqued Kagan's leadership before she knew that Kagan was the U.S. Supreme Court nominee.


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Black Women's Leadership Groups Disappointed in Elena Kagan Appointment

E KaganFrom Politic 365: The announcement of Elena Kagan could not really be called a surprise, since the White House went out of its way to all but announce her as their pick over the last week. The Obama Administration dropped hints by the dozens to their favored reporters, who dutifully shared their information with the rest of us. I had come to accept it as a done deal, even though I had been a little perturbed at the way the D.C. pundits only mentioned three or four names from the president's short list, as if the rest of the names on it, like Georgia's ownLeah Ward Sears, were invisible.

It wasn't until I called a friend of mine, an African American lawyer here in Atlanta who had been a diehard Hillary supporter and then a reluctant Barack Obama supporter after he became the Democratic nominee, that I realized that others felt the same way. "First he puts a Hispanic woman on the court. Fine. He's paying back the Hispanics for their support," she said. "Then he puts a white woman on the court. Okay – he's paying them back for coming over to his side after Hillary lost. I see that.

But why do I have to be last? Why do black women always have to be last? I don't think he cares."
Where are the Sistahs? See Politic365 to find out

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Black News: African American Scholars Speaking Up on Elena Kagan

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

I started the day thinking about Elena Kagan, Barack Obama's most recent nominee to the Supreme Court. I was wondering how in the world the president could appoint someone who has no experience on the bench, given the number of highly qualified judges he had to choose from. Then I was informed that this might be a good thing, since the Republicans don't have a judicial record to scrutinize. No problemo.

I then noticed that Kagan has past affiliations with The University of Chicago, The Harvard Law School and Goldman Sachs, and that she was appointed to her position at Harvard by Lawrence Summers, the head of the President's Council of Economic Advisors. I was starting to get uncomfortable at that point, because Kagan's appointment would mean that the entire Supreme Court would be filled with Harvard and Yale grads, which effectively says that every other law school in the country need not apply (so much for having a meritocracy). I also saw a very disturbing pattern of cronyism, elitism and Wall Street loyalty that lets us know that perhaps the President of Hope and Change is not quite what we ordered, making back room deals with his buddies, all for the sake of keeping American power locked into tiny social circles.

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Black Scholars Keep Weighing in on Supreme Court Nominee, Elena Kagan

by Dr. Wilmer Leon

On Monday May 10th President Obama nominated Elena Kagan to replace retiring Associate Justice John Paul Stevens. Many see this selection as a prudent political move; as the sitting solicitor general, Ms. Kagan has already been vetted and confirmed by the current Senate. This means that President Obama will not have to expend much political capital in order to get his nominee approved.

There are those who are questioning if not opposing the selection of Ms. Kagan for a number of different reasons. President Obama called her a "trailblazing leader… " and stated "Elena is widely regarded as one of the nation's foremost legal minds … " Some believe that while former President George W. Bush was eroding constitutional protections, Ms. Kagen, this “trailblazing leader” was conspicuously silent.

Others question Ms. Kagan’s record of minority hiring while dean of Harvard University’s Law School. During her tenure Dean Kagan hired 32 tenured and tenure-track academic faculty members. Of these, 25 were white men, 6 white women, and one Asian American woman. During her six years in the position there were no African American or Latinos hired. Just 3% of her hires were non-white. It is important to note that according to Harvard’s 2009 Annual Report the entire Harvard faculty consists of 26% female, 3% African American, and 3% Latino.

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News: Marc Lamont Hill Analyzes Elena Kagan

by Dr. Marc Lamont Hill

Yesterday, President Obama nominated United States Solicitor General Elena Kagan to replace John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. Few were surprised by the choice, as Kagan has long been viewed a frontrunner for the high court. While many observers have applauded Obama’s decision, others like myself were left with a lingering question.
Is this really the best we could do?
Let’s be clear, I am not questioning Kagan’s basic qualifications as a nominee. Unlike those who have questioned her “temperament” and “intellectual curiosity”—loaded queries that only seem to get raised in relation to women and minority candidates—I have little doubt about Kagan’s fitness for the job. Rather, I am concerned about Kagan’s ability to fill John Paul Stevens’ shoes as the progressive anchor of the Supreme Court.
Although she undoubtedly shares the same political persuasion as Justice Stevens, Kagan is considerably less progressive on major issues of the day. While Stevens has filed numerous dissents in an effort to challenge the Bush (and now Obama) doctrine of endless executive power, Kagan has dutifully argued in favor of policies that undermine the spirit and letter of the Constitution. For example, during her confirmation hearing for Solicitor General, Kagan offered unequivocal support for the indefinite detention of suspected terrorists as well as the bizarre belief that the entire world is a battleground. On other issues, from gay marriage to civil rights, Kagan has done nothing to inspire confidence that she would continue Stevens’ tradition of principled and rigorous resistance.
The choice of Kagan is even more disappointing when examining the other viable option. Diane Wood, a highly respected judge who currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, has a long and successful record of defending the Constitution from the onslaught of right-wing jurists. Also, like Justice Stevens, Wood has also demonstrated the ability to persuade conservative judges to change their opinion on controversial cases. In addition, Wood’s Protestant faith and non-Ivy League education would have added another layer of diversity to the court. While Wood was certainly a more contentious choice, there is little doubt that she would have been confirmed by the Democrat-controlled Senate.
True to form, political pragmatists have claimed that Kagan was the best choice available. By choosing a relatively moderate nominee, they argue, Obama effectively prevents the Right from turning the confirmation hearings into a political spectacle designed to make both Kagan and Obama look like ideological extremists. While this argument is theoretically sound, it rests upon the native expectation that the Republican Party operates in good faith.
They do not.


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News: Black Law Professors disturbed by Elena Kagan's Nomination by Obama

AP photo/Jose Luis Magana

Reports suggest that Solicitor General Elena Kagan may be President Obama's choice for the Supreme Court vacancy.

Like everyone in the legal academy over the last decade, we have watched with admiration the amazing changes that Elena Kagan brought to Harvard Law School. A fractured faculty, divided among ideological lines, seemed finally content, if not united. A boisterous student body was finally pacified. The logjam that had stopped faculty hiring had burst. Indeed, she hired so many new faculty the Harvard Law School’s newspaper’s 2008 April Fool’s issue declared, "Dean Kagan Hires Every Law Professor in the Country."

The first woman Dean of Harvard Law School had presided over an unprecedented expansion of the faculty -- growing it by almost a half. She had hired 32 tenured and tenure-track academic faculty members (non-clinical, non-practice). But when we sat down to review the actual record, we were frankly shocked. Not only were there shockingly few people of color, there were very few women. Where were the people of color? Where were the women? Of these 32 tenured and tenure-track academic hires, only one was a minority. Of these 32, only seven were women. All this in the 21st Century.


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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Black Unemployment Remains Strong in April - What are We to Do?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins - The Institute for Black Public Policy


Persistently high black unemployment remains a problem here in the United States, as the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that African Americans have an unemployment rate of 16.5 percent, compared to 9 percent for white Americans. This rate remains the same as last month, even though the economy created 290,000 jobs during the month of April.
White unemployment rose slightly from last month's rate of 8.8 percent, but black unemployment is still over 80 percent higher than that of White Americans.
Black women saw their unemployment number rise to 13.7 percent from 12.4 percent last month. This number is 85 percent higher than the unemployment rate for white women, which is at 7.4 percent. Black males are at the bottom of the barrel, with an unemployment rate of 18 percent, which is 95 percent higher than that for white men.
Black teen unemployment also continues to be a problem. African American teenagers saw their unemployment rate drop from 41.1 percent to 37.3 percent. But this number is 58 percent higher than a white teen unemployment rate of 23.5 percent.
Some argue that President Obama and Congress must do something to help with the black unemployment situation. The Congressional Black Caucus is urging the passage of a $1.5 billion dollar jobs bill to reduce black teen unemployment in order to curb youth violence. Violence among teens tends to increase during the summer months, when kids are out of school.


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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Obama Family Portrayed as Sanford and Son in Newspaper

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University

Phillip Sciarello, a publisher and part owner of the Smithtown Messenger in Long Island, is defending his newspaper after a picture appeared that some believe to be a racist stereotype of the first family. The picture depicts Barack and Michelle Obama as characters from "Sanford and Son." The public backlash has led the paper to announce that it will issue a retraction in its next edition.
The picture is part of a "before and after" sequence of the last six presidents, showing how much they age once they get into the White House. The "after" photo of the Obamas show Barack Obama as Fred Sanford (Redd Foxx) and Michelle Obama as Aunt Esther (LaWanda Page). The characters are standing ready to fight, as was typical on the 1970s television show.The pictures led the Brookhaven town board to remove one of the company's sister publications, the Brookhaven Review, as an official newspaper. This means that the paper will no longer publish town government notices.
"The reference to racial stereotypes is where the line was crossed," Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko said to Newsday.
Hazel N. Dukes, president of the state NAACP conference, stated that the county should pull advertising from any publication that runs the photo.


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Monday, May 3, 2010

Athletes Get Nothing from NCAA's New $11 Billion Dollar Contract

The NCAA men's basketball tournament is expanding, starting next season, but not on the large scale once expected.

The sport's signature event will grow to 68 teams from 65 in conjunction with a new 14-year, nearly $11 billion television agreement with CBS and Turner Sports announced Thursday. That gives the NCAA a 41% hike in annual media and marketing rights connected to the tournament — and "financial stability through the first quarter of this century," interim President Jim Isch said — without the controversy of a more dramatic move to a 96-team bracket.

Negotiations with CBS/Turner, ESPN and Fox Sports initially had targeted a 96-team field, drawing concern and criticism from traditionalists and others over the impact on the tournament's aesthetics, effect on college basketball's regular season and conference tournaments and potential for further intrusion on players' time and studies.


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