Category: Breaking News Written by Javon Johnson, Huffington Post
I am a good Black man. I grew up in Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church in South Central, Los Angeles. I have always maintained at least a 3.5GPA, and, after graduating from Crenshaw Senior High School's Teachers Training Magnet Program with honors, I earned a B.A. and M.A. in Communication Studies from the California State University, Los Angeles, and a Ph.D. in Performance Studies (with certificates in Gender Studies and African-American Studies) from Northwestern University. I earned numerous awards at each stage of my collegiate career, been a part of more honors societies than I can remember, and earned four national titles in intercollegiate speech and debate, All-American honors, and one year was awarded the Brovero-Tabor for being the top ranked competitor at the end of the academic year. I now hold a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Southern California where I teach courses on race, gender, sexuality, class, and pop culture in the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity. I have written blogs as well as newspaper and academic articles on critical issues facing Black people. In addition, I am the Curator and Program Manager of History at the California African American Museum, and I co-founded Say Word, a non-profit in Los Angeles that mentors inner-city teenagers and teaches them self expression and how to use their own voices through spoken word poetry. I am a spoken word poet who has won two national slam poetry titles and, among other things, appeared on HBO's Def Poetry Jam, BET's Lyric Café, and most recently TVOne's Verses & Flow. I stay abreast on most political issues, especially those that pertain directly to Black people. I am generally respectful and I usually address my elders with sir, ma'am, Mr., Mrs., or Ms. By most accounts I am a good Black man. Hell, I even tip a little extra to help offset the stereotypes of the penny pinching Black diner.
While I both worked hard for and enjoy my success, I, for so many reasons, must denounce the title of "good Black man."
When comedian Chris Rock quipped in his 1996 hit HBO special Bring the Pain, "I love Black people, but I hate niggas," he effectively fanned the flames of the "civil war" he claimed was "going on with Black people." Mostly concerned with whether Rock was right or wrong, much has been written about this controversial piece in his otherwise brilliant stand-up routine. Certainly Rock is able to exercise his First Amendment rights, but given that the single most defining characteristic of his "niggas" are those criminals and criminally minded dark bodied human beings in this country, and that Black men are both unhealthily and unfairly caught up in what activist-academic Angeles Davis calls the "prison industrial complex," Rock essentially "niggafied" most Black men in the U.S. and declared war on those "niggas" on behalf of all of us "good" Black people.
Rock went well beyond what Evelyn Higginbotham calls "the politics of respectability," or the demand "that every individual in the black community assume responsibility for behavioral, self-regulation and self-improvement along moral, educational, and economic lines." Rock's decontextualized joke misses the deep and complex histories of the ways in which Black men in the U.S. have been and still are criminalized, or simply labeled "bad," as exhibited in Douglas A. Blackmon's Slavery by Another Name and Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow. Even worse, Rock testifies for the "need" of the state sanctioned violence enacted on Black men, good or bad, on every day basis. And, he is not alone on this position.
"The goal...to distance oneself as far as possible from images perpetuated by racist stereotypes," writes Higginbotham, sets up situations where some Black people are not only disregarding startling studies and statistics that show how Black men are treated as criminals before we are treated as citizens but discarding, not unlike the morning garbage, entire groups of "other" Black people. Despite the fact that Black males face harsher punishments than their White counterparts in the "justice" system and in school, that one in every three Black males can expect to go to prison in their lifetimes, that the war on drugs is essentially a war on people of color, that most Black men will have negative engagements with the law, and that those disempowered Black men with little to no options prior to prison exit disenfranchised, many of us "good Black folks" have at best distanced ourselves from the "bad" and at worst called for harsher punishment (see the Black Congressional Caucus signing the crack sentencing bill), because after all, as Rock said, "niggas have got to go."
But more than rejecting the label "good Black man" because I am not happy with some of the things us "good" folks do, it is my larger contention that writing someone off as bad is not only decontextual but it does not allow for the redemptive qualities that opened the door for Jay-Z, as he said in the song "Shiny Suit Theory," to go from "warring to Warren." Jay-Z, the same rapper Rock champions, went from criminal (or nigga) activities to doing and talking business with magnate Warren Buffett, that is - before he was sponsored by Coke (Coca Cola), he was sponsored by coke (cocaine). More, constructing a group of Blacks as good in order to cast off the bad acts as a pressure release, insuring that a system of inequality (inadequate education, unequal job access, unfair justice system) goes unchecked because it troublingly justifies the myth that EVERYONE can make it in the U.S. so long as they work hard enough and, dare I say, be "good" enough. Even more, my "good" rests squarely on the ability to label someone else "bad," and unlike Rock, the Black Congressional Caucus, or other "good Black folks," I am neither ready nor willing to write off, shoot, or incarcerate a bunch of "niggas". I love Black people too much for that. And simply put, before I ever call for their death, I would rather for my own.
Good Black Man.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 October 2012 16:21
Category: News Briefs Written by Heather Boushey, The Root
Your Take: Still, black employment is up overall, as is total U.S. employment, says an economist.
(Special to The Root) -- The economy added 114,000 jobs last month, on top of an upward revision of 86,000 jobs to July and August. The private sector has added jobs for 31 consecutive months, and after coming into office in the depths of the Great Recession, President Barack Obama has created more than a million jobs over his first term. For the first time since he took office, the unemployment rate is below 8 percent, hitting 7.8 percent in September.
Meanwhile, the share of African Americans with a job edged up from 52.7 percent to 53.0 percent and the unemployment rate fell to 13.4 percent, after hovering just above 14 percent for the past three months. Among adults ages 20 and over, all of the gains for African Americans were among women. Although the share of black adult women overall employed rose from 55.1 percent to 55.3 percent, the share of black adult men employed fell from 57.7 percent to 57.5 percent. Both adult men and women, however, have seen their employment rate rise over the past year 0.5 percentage points.
It is clear that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, support for the auto industry and other policies implemented by the 111th Congress in 2009 and 2010 were the right path forward. Moving to supply-side economic policies, as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney advocates, will not only stymie job creation but also risk pulling the economy backward, since these were the very same policies that got us into the current mess in the first place.
Deficit spending has been effective in boosting job creation. In 2008 the economy began hemorrhaging jobs, and by the winter of 2008-2009, the economy was shedding more than 20,000 jobs per day, more than at any point since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tabulating these data in 1948. The Recovery Act led to a rapid reversal in the number of layoffs, and starting in March 2010, the economy saw jobs being added each month.
Since February 2010 the economy has added 4.3 million total payroll jobs, which rises to 4.6 million when we include the additional 386,000 jobs created as of March 2012, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' annual benchmark-revision process. The Recovery Act not only provided a needed boost to demand but was also the right thing to do for the millions of families left without a breadwinner when the financial industry imploded.
Moreover, during the dark days of the Great Recession, in 2008 and 2009, the U.S. automobile industry looked as if it might collapse. The federal government, however, stepped in and provided $80 billion in aid, with a clear plan for those funds to be repaid. So far, about half of these grants and loans have been repaid, and the automobile industry has added 152,300 jobs since June 2009.
Even as private-sector jobs have grown, however, the decline in public-sector employment is holding our economy back. The economy has lost nearly 700,000 public-sector jobs since April 2009. Our unemployment rate would be at least a full point lower without those losses. Since the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 2011, they have blocked efforts to help support public-sector jobs for teachers, police officers and firefighters.
Last month's decline in the unemployment rate was driven by large reported employment gains, with 873,000 people indicating that they got a job in September. This is an exceptionally large one-month gain in reported employment, and therefore we should interpret it carefully. Higher employment is consistent with data from the establishment survey, however, and while the pace of reported employment in the household survey will likely be slower in the months to come, it is clear that employment is rising.
There are other indications that more people are finding employment: The share of those out of work who voluntarily quit their jobs instead of being laid off rose to 7.9 percent, and the number of discouraged workers fell from just more than a million a year ago to 802,000. However, 582,000 people newly indicated that they were working part time because of slack work or business conditions, which means that not all of those finding work are finding the kind of work that they would like to have.
Both men and women reported increased employment, with 67.5 percent of adult men (ages 20 and over) reporting having a job in September -- up from 67.0 percent a year ago -- and 55.1 percent of adult women reporting having a job -- up from 55.0 percent a year ago. Employment grew most for workers with some college or more, while falling for workers with only a high school diploma.
Alongside hiring, wages grew by 7 cents in September for an annualized quarterly rate of growth of 1.6 percent. However, this means that workers are not seeing real earnings gains, since the rate of inflation over the past year -- as measured by the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers -- rose by 1.8 percent.
These data show that in the wake of a massive recession caused by a financial crisis like the one we have lived through in recent years, the best antidote to high unemployment is deficit spending until the unemployment rate comes down.
Heather Boushey is senior economist at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 October 2012 15:28
Category: Breaking News Written by Todd Johnson, Thegrio
President Barack Obama used two words to describe his performance at last week’s debate against Mitt Romney: “too polite.”
The president called into the Tom Joyner Morning Show Wednesday to assess how he did against his Republican challenger and why he didn’t go on the “attack” as some of his supporters would have preferred. The call-in lasted about eight minutes and Obama said that everyone will see “a little more activity” at the second debate next Tuesday.
Below is the president’s response to ‘what happened’ during last week’s debate:
“Well, two things. I mean, you know, the debate, I think it’s fair to say I was just too polite, because, you know, it’s hard to sometimes just keep on saying and what you’re saying isn’t true. It gets repetitive. But, you know, the good news is, is that’s just the first one. Governor Romney put forward a whole bunch of stuff that either involved him running away from positions that he had taken, or doubling down on things like Medicare vouchers that are going to hurt him long term.
…And, you know, I think it’s fair to say that we will see a little more activity at the next one.”
When asked of the ‘tightening race‘ with Romney, President Obama recalled 2008′s presidential results, reminding callers he “only beat” Sen. John McCain 53 to 47 percent in the popular vote. Obama said this upcoming election was “always going to be a close race,” and his team “internally” understood that all along.
The president was also asked about the perceived lack of voter enthusiasm, particularly among African-Americans, in this year’s election.
“We are doing registration and…early voting in a lot of states…and our numbers are actually higher than in 2008,” Obama responded.
Obama wrapped up his call to the TJMS reminiscing with the show’s host about critics during the 2008 race and how his campaign overcame that.
“How many times did everybody say that somehow we weren’t going to win?” he asked.
The president was much more succinct in his final point:
“As I say in some of these e-mails that go around with my picture on them…I can’t quote the entire thing but… ‘I got this.’”
The second presidential debate is next Tuesday, October 16 at 9 pm/est.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 October 2012 15:18
Category: News Briefs Written by WWJ
DETROIT (WWJ) - Detroit police say a man who was apparently trying to steal copper from a transformer on a DTE Energy pole was electrocuted.
Police told WWJ Newsradio 950 that an investigation is ongoing but they believe the 34-year-old man was attempting to remove the copper from inside the pole, located at Putnam and Lawton, near I-96.
Police said he was then electrocuted by a live wire, causing him to fall off his ladder and be left hanging. He appears to have died sometime overnight
A DTE crew cut power to the pole and used a cherry picker to bring down the man’s body.
His name was not immediately released.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 October 2012 14:55
Category: Breaking News Written by WWJ
DETROIT (WWJ) Former Detroit Lions player and TV actor Alex Karras died Wednesday at home in Los Angeles. He was 77.
“On behalf of the William Clay Ford Family and the entire Detroit Lions organization, we extend our deepest sympathies to Susan, the Karras Family and to all of Alex’s friends and fans across the country,” Lions President Tom Lewand said in a press release. “While his legacy reached far beyond the gridiron, we always will fondly remember Alex as one of our own and also as one of the best to ever wear the Honolulu Blue and Silver.”
Karras’ family released an obituary saying he “had always dreamed of being an actor and began his acting career while he was with the Detroit Lions.”
“Alex was known to family and friends as a gentle, loving, generous man who loved gardening and preparing Greek and Italian feasts,” his obituary adds. “He began a lifelong commitment to philanthropy starting with his work with the Better Boys Foundation. His love of nature and most especially of the ocean, where he spent many happy days on his fishing boat, led him to support numerous organizations committed to protecting our environment for future generations.”
Karras is survived by his wife of 37 years, Susan Clar; and their daughter, Katherine; by his children, Alex, Jr., Peter, Carolyn, George and Renald from his first marriage to Joan Powell (now deceased). He is also survived by his siblings, Louis, Nan, Paul and Ted, as well as five grandchildren.
Karras was released a few days ago from a California hospital with kidney failure so he could spend his final days with family. He’s one of several players suing the NFL over concussions, claiming the league didn’t do enough to protect them.
“He may be dying of kidney failure because now his body is catching up to the deterioration of his mind,” Craig Mitnick, Karras’ attorney in a lawsuit against the NFL, told The Associated Press on Tuesday afternoon.
In his day, Karras was one of the NFL’s best defensive tackles. The Detroit Lions drafted Karras 10th overall in 1958 out of Iowa and he was a four-time All-Pro over 12 seasons with the franchise. Karras became a celebrity with a breakout role in “Paper Lion: Confessions of a Second-String Quarterback.” He was an analyst alongside Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford on “Monday Night Football.” In the acting world, he was well known for roles in “Blazing Saddles” and the TV show “Webster.”
His family asks in lieu of flowers, fans send a donation to one of the organizations he supported: Natural Resources Defense Council, Bioneers, Greenpeace Foundation or the Pesticide Action Network.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 October 2012 14:45
Category: Top News Written by Melody Moore
Orlando and Kyomonique McQueen received a gift they never imagined — a brand new house. The newlyweds won the “Project Welcome Home” contest sponsored by Compuware. In partnership with Habitat for Humanity, Art Van and the Parade Company, their new home will be ready for move in on Dec. 20, just in time for Christmas.
Through the “iWish4Detroit” campaign last holiday season, Compuware invited people to enter an online contest as to why they should receive a new home. The McQueens were one of more than 100 families who entered. During the 2011 Thanksgiving Day Parade, Compuware’s Dream Factory float displayed the wishes for Detroit, which were submitted through the website.
“We got all the information at the last minute and at first we were not going to apply,” said Orlando McQueen, 22. “But we were able to get all the paperwork in on time.”
“We are very honored to play a part in the future of this family,” said Bob Paul, Compuware CEO. “We are looking to build a legacy in Detroit, not just for this family, but in this community. It is one thing to sit back in a corporate office and write a check, but it is different to actually go out and get involved and make a difference, and that is what we want to do.”
Compuware teamed up with Habitat for Humanity to help build the home. Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization that focuses on rebuilding areas, has core requirements for families who are recipients of a home. The family must help build their home and also invest a minimum of 400 sweat equity hours in building someone else’s home.
“We are very excited and grateful,” said Kyomonique McQueen, 21.
Additionally, the mortgage will also be paid for the first two years.
The couple, who married on June 29, have two young sons and faced challenging times over the past few years.
Currently, the McQueens are living with relatives – and all four of them sleep in one bed and are living out of one room. All of their clothes are in crates and they do not have a refrigerator.
While making only $8 per hour, Orlando McQueen, with the support of other family members, paid for him and his wife to attend medical assistance school. Now, they both work at Henry Ford Hospital.
“It feels good not to only help our family but to also help others,” said Orlando McQueen. “This really brings together the community and encourages people to get to know each other and help each other.”
Staff and volunteers at Habitat for Humanity partnered with Compuware to build the home.
“One of the secrets to running a business is that you have to engage your employees. When people are a part of something larger than themselves, it makes them feel valued that they are a contributors too,” said Paul. “This creates lasting memories and it makes the employees feel more valued.”
“It is very rewarding to help rebuild the community,” said Vincent Tillford, executive director of Habitat for Humanity. “We serve about 75-100 families per year and to have the neighboring families coming together to rebuild the community is great.”
Art Van Furniture is also on board to furnish the entire house for the McQueens. More than $10,000 in furniture will be donated.
“When you hear the story of this family, how can you not want to help?,” said Diane Charles, director of corporate communications for Art Van. “This just made sense to do. This is what Art Van is all about – making an investment in the community we serve.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 October 2012 11:58
Category: Top News Written by Bankole Thompson, Chronicle Senior Editor
With Godbee gone, Detroit's leadership crisis deepens.
In every community law enforcement has a crucial and inescapable role in not only protecting the community, but also setting the exemplary standard in leadership. Those who claim to enforce the law cannot be seen as giving the law a different meaning when it applies to them.
We cannot have two sets of laws — one for the powerful and those in law enforcement and the other for those they have been sworn to protect at all costs.
That is why the tragedy of Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee who retired this week in the wake of an explosive sexual scandal with a police subordinate Angelica Robinson, is not only hurtful for those struggling residents looking for protection, but further deepens this city’s leadership crisis.
Godbee’s saga now becomes the latest personification by critics of why so many things have gone wrong in Detroit. Not that sexual scandals and abuse are foreign in the corridors of power where power, in the words of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, is an “aphrodisiac” that comes to the fore when opportunities present themselves for the powerful.
If the allegations by Godbee’s married mistress are true, then both of them have abused their police powers. Both of them have betrayed the public’s trust.
I’m not a moralist, and I’m not interested in further exploring the titillating sexual allegations against Godbee and Robinson.
What concerns me most as is the case with those interested in seeing Detroit move beyond this sort of fractured leadership, and arrest the escalating crime menace, is that these two adults were in positions of influence.
They presided over the affairs of everyday people ensuring that they abide by the law. Yet they themselves allegedly engaged in activities that compromised their ability to execute their duties sincerely and efficiently.
The leader of the police department is the face of law enforcement in the city and he embodies the ideas and aspirations of not only the department, but also the community in which he’s sworn to serve. When the leadership compromises itself, the department in effect has been compromised as well.
That is what happened in the case of Godbee, especially given that this is not the first time sexual allegations have risen concerning Godbee, as was the case with former police chief Warren Evans.
Mayor Dave Bing did the right thing by moving speedily to announce Godbee’s suspension, which weighed heavily into the former police chief’s decision to retire.
But now what?
Interim chief Chester Logan, a veteran of the department, takes over.
Will it stop the nonsense we just witnessed?
Will it stop the leadership deficit of the department and restore public confidence in the men and women in blue?
How much of a free reign will Logan have to make some real changes or stem the tide of rapid violence we are seeing in the city daily?
How does this latest crisis in the police department affect the Justice Department’s Consent Decree given that the police department is still not in full compliance of the decree which came as a result of civil rights lawsuit against the police department?
Put Godbee’s moral dilemma aside given that he is an ordained minister as well, and look at the person outside of the sexual scandal. You’ll see a police chief who tried to do his best.
The few times I interacted with Godbee at public functions and observing him from a distance, I found him to be perhaps the most relatable police chief in recent history.
He went into the community and spoke with residents. He understood the language of the streets and sometimes that played to his own detriment. Perhaps he was too relatable, emphasizing a wholistic approach to the crime problems in a city (and sometimes not seen as tough enough) where relations between police and residents have not been good.
If you met Godbee, it was clear he was not an ivory tower law enforcement officer because at the center of his crime watch was getting the community on board.
For years, victims of police brutality and other abuse of police powers and critics have insisted on better and more effective community policing if the Detroit Police Department was going to succeed.
Godbee tried to put meaning in the words “community policing” because the police department cannot solve crimes if the community is not on board.
I watched him engage the ex-offender community, speaking at the 10-year coming out celebration for former gang member Yusef Shakur, whose remarkable life transformation since leaving the prison walls shows why young men who had misdirection in the earlier part of their lives can once again become productive members of society.
It was the first time I saw a police chief speak glowingly of the transformation of an ex-offender and encourage others to turn their lives around and become active participants in moving themselves and their community forward. The audience, comprised of those once locked in prison cells and their parents, welcomed his remarks.
He challenged the young men to step up and own their community by doing good, rather than engaging in nefarious activities.
In the words of Tupac Shakur, he urged them to become “the rose that grew from concrete,” because too many young Black men face the specter of encountering the criminal justice system in the early parts of their lives.
And if a police chief is out there talking to those young men, telling them that they have a future in this community, that in fact they can be whoever they want to be, we will be far ahead in this community.
When a police chief tells our young men that their future is bigger and greater than robbing someone at a gas station or engaging in other criminal behavior, that’s mentoring.
When such admonition comes from the chief law enforcement officer in the city, it carries more weight than anyone’s advice.
Godbee did set a standard on community policing, but the scale of the sexual allegations put a permanent scar on his legacy and memory as police chief. What he accused of makes him a failed leader.
When Mayor Bing appointed Godbee to the position of police chief, he wasn’t appointing Mother Theresa or the Dalai Lama of Detroit. Yet that did not excuse the chief from maintaining the highest professional standard that is expected of those who enforce and interpret the law.
The unfortunate saga of Godbee is a textbook case of why Detroit’s next mayor will have a lot of work to do, especially with the police department, regardless of who the chief is.
Bankole Thompson is editor of the Michigan Chronicle and the author of a six-part book series on the Obama presidency. His book “Obama and Black Loyalty,” published in 2010, follows his recent book, “Obama and Christian Loyalty” with a foreward by Bob Weiner, former White House spokesman. Thompson is a political news analyst at WDET-101.9FM (NPR affiliate) and a member of the weekly “Obama Watch” Sunday evening roundtable on WLIB-1190AM New York and simulcast in New Jersey and Connecticut.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 October 2012 11:52
Category: Breaking News Written by Huffington Post
Octavia Spencer, Photo Credit: BET
With some 77 percent of students admitting to being the victim of one type of bullying or another, and a growing number of adults falling victim to the trend, there's no question verbal and physical intimidation has spiraled out of control.
But some say the use of the word "bullying" is what's gotten out of hand.
Actress Octavia Spencer thinks so, at least. Spencer, who directed "The Unforgiving Minute" earlier this year, a short film about bullying inspired by a Rudyard Kipling poem, says she thinks the term is dangerously overused.
In a red carpet interview at GLSEN's Respect Awards in Beverly Hills, Spencer spoke out on news anchor Jennifer Livingston's use of the term in which she called out a viewer who essentially called her fat. "She [Livingston] stood up for herself and I appreciate that. I don't necessarily know that it was bullying," Spencer said, according to Jezebel.com.
Clarifying Spencer's definition of the term and the distinction she makes between "being criticized" and "facing coercion or physical repercussions on a daily basis," Jezebel contributor Doug Barry wrote:
...bullying is really a relentless gauntlet that its victims have to run every single day. Bullying is a kid getting a daily punch in the arm from some goon who will grow up to sell used cars and eat meatloafs out of a slow cooker every Wednesday and Friday night for dinner. Or something.
In a similar moment of clarification, TV host Wendy Williams called out "Real Housewives of New Jersey" star Teresa Giudice's on her claim that she had been bullied by cast mate Caroline Manzo on the show.
"Bullying is not a word that applies to Jersey Housewives," she said, agreeing with a viewer who wrote in to BravoTV's "Watch What Happens Live," defining it as "that thing that happened to the girl with cerebral palsy, not when someone tells you how they feel about you."
"I think it's a term that's very serious about what's going on right now in the culture and to throw it on certain instances when people are disagreeing is maybe not an exact ..." WWHL host, Andy Cohen, went on to say, implying that bullying may have become more of a catchphrase than the "major public health problem" the World Health Organization described it as in recent years.
Despite her thoughts on Livingston and her own account of being bullied by a Hollywood director, Spencer says she's no expert, according to Jezebel.com, just offering a word of caution so that we do not "desensitize ourselves to it."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 October 2012 11:36
Category: Breaking News Written by WWJ
DETROIT (WWJ) – A new poll is showing a pretty tight race on Proposal 2, the ballot initiative that would protect collective bargaining rights in the state. Polls show that 48 percent are in favor while 43 percent oppose the proposal, with 9 percent undecided.
Speaking on Monday night on CNBC, Governor Rick Snyder says if it passes, the state’s emergency manager law could disappear.
“This proposal would actually override that, and could leave us in a spot where communities might only have bankruptcy as an option and that’s a very bad answer,” said Snyder.
“They like to call it the collective bargaining proposal and I call it the back in time proposal because it would really take us back many steps – it would challenge a lot of great reforms – Michigan is the comeback state in the United States right now, and this would take us a major step back,” said Snyder.
In Snyder’s opinion, if the law passes, it would take Michigan back in time and erase some of the positives gained over the past several years.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 October 2012 09:48
Category: Breaking News Written by D. Alexander Bullock
Detroit, Mich. has always been a key political and cultural center in America. It has been the Fertile Crescent for the automotive industry, the Motown sound and black self–empowerment movements. Detroit put the world on wheels and provided the sound track for the ride. Elijah Muhammad started his movement in Detroit. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., gave his most remembered speech and led his largest march here in Detroit. However, recently it seems Detroit and its legacy are in jeopardy. The automotive industry had to be bailed out in order to stop an impending collapse. Similarly, the movement for African American and minority self-empowerment is on life support in Detroit.
Polls are interesting instruments. On Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012, the Detroit News reported findings from its own survey funded by the Thompson Foundation. The survey claims that Detroit's crime crisis and citizens lack of faith in the city’s current leadership will potentially cause 40 percent of residents plan to move within five years. Once again Detroit mirrors the nation, as many in America have lost faith in the country’s current leadership and are calling for new leadership. Is this local and national call for new leadership a referendum on African American political leadership? Is the claim that American politics and culture have transcended race a myth?
As the nation moves closer to a pivotal moment of presidential decision Detroit prepares to make its own history. America will soon decide if it can transcend race and potentially re-elect the first African-American president of the United States Barack Obama. Detroit prepares to be thrown into the deep waters of racial politics as Mike Duggan, a white man, seeks to become the first white mayor of Detroit since the historic victory of Coleman A. Young. Additionally, a new national search for chief of police may result in a white chief of police for Detroit.
In a country so defined by race, the election of President Barack Obama supposedly was the dawning of a post racial America. It was the ultimate proof that Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1963 dream had become a reality. America was the land where people were judged not by the color of their skin, but rather by the content of their character. However, almost four years since his election we have seen the demon of racism resurrected as the basis of political posturing. Concerns about the president’s faith, citizenship, vacation schedule and competence mirror the racist mythology of African-Americans as a group that suffers from being deviant – slow, slothful, ignorant and incapable. The president has been described as nice, but not capable. The collective memory of slavery, segregation and degradation at the hands of a perverse and pervasive racist culture provides a tool for translating these innocent words into deep racially charged generalizations the majority culture has long attributed to African Americans. We have been called incompetent for a long time – we have seen this game before. In November, we will discover how far America has come as a nation. In 2013, we will discover how far Detroit has come.
Polls are interesting instruments. Data collection is a tricky science. If a poll suggests that 40 percent of the citizens of the city of Detroit believe their leadership is incapable of implementing the necessary changes for a revitalized and safe city, then that result must be interpreted against this background – most, if not all, of Detroit’s elected and appointed leadership is African-American. The claim for new leadership may be a claim for new people. It may also be code for Detroit needs white leadership, i.e., a white mayor, white city council members and a white chief of police. The word new is not neutral. Against the backdrop of Detroit’s history and current problems, new has a racial dimension that must be explored.
Some might argue that Detroit has not come that far as it relates to combating the reality of racism and a racist culture. Still, one of the, if not the most, segregated places in America, Detroit has a rich history of struggle for minority inclusion and uplift. It embodies the fruits of that struggle and the failure of Great Society public policy to institutionalize a heartfelt passion for equality into law. The failure of legislation, the lack of an urban policy and suburban flight are key features that set the stage for Detroit’s impending mayoral battle. The contrast in this battle will be stark - another black mayor or a new white mayor.
This political battle conjures up all the psychologically demeaning forces of racism latent in Detroit. Unspoken, but some believe that Detroit needs a white savior. The urban legend is familiar, Detroit has been mismanaged and mishandled by a series of black mayors and elected officials. The legend continues. In fact, the blacks were so horrible and corrupt Detroit needed a consent agreement or outside state government intervention to set the city in order. Memories of Kwame Kilpatrick haunt the dreams of some Detroiter’s as they sleep at night; they rant like they are in Nazi Germany shouting, “Never AGAIN!”
Unfortunately, in politics perception is reality. The systemic problems Detroit and other urban centers face in America are much bigger than any personality. In fact, no one person can solve the problems Detroit and southeast Michigan face. It will take a village, a community: business, faith, labor, parents, teachers, and every citizen working cooperatively to accomplish the common good. If the first term of President Barack Obama teaches us anything it is united we must stand – divided we fall. One man, the new leader, cannot fix what a complex series of institutions and history has broken.
Mike Duggan said he is running for mayor because he can do what no one else has been able to do – fix Detroit. After declaring that Detroit suffers from a “sense of hopelessness” Mike Duggan sermonized, "I feel like this is my city.” His potential candidacy reminds me of a scene from The Great White Hype a 1996 film directed by Reginald Hudlin. Although, it will not be lost on black citizens that he is a white man, the color of his skin is not the point. Rather, it is his speech. I fear that what may be lost on ALL citizens is that he is only ONE man. The HYPE is that in order to fix Detroit all we need is one man. Until we begin to reject the belief that one man or woman, despite their race, can save a city or a nation we will continue to be disappointed and stunted in our social and political development.
Polls are interesting instruments. What they suggest is hard to decipher. The point of a poll depends on the questions that were used in the poll and the assumptions of the people who made up the questions. In short, polls are the instruments of the pollsters. If you need to support a story – make up a poll. Maybe what this poll tells us is that the wrong question was asked. The city of Detroit, indeed the United States of America, is a society full of strong institutions that influence our lives. Banks, corporations, government, schools and media all in some part determine what our world and lives look like. Yet, we are not merely passive receivers, we are actors. We have the power and capacity to shape institutions and subsequently change our city, nation and world. It is easy to see the problems we face as simply a result of individual failings and personal problems – some proverbial lack of leadership. However, the problems that Detroit and the nation face are better understood as institutional problems. Our institutions – from the family to the school to the corporation to government - do not challenge us to use all of our capacities to actively engage in contributing to the common good. We are not challenged to do our part. Instead we are encouraged to look for someone else, the new leader, to fix what all of us have broken and what only all of us together can repair. Maybe there should be a new poll, a poll asking how many Detroiters are willing to stay or return and not fix the blame but fix the problem.
D. Alexander Bullock is pastor of Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church, president of the Highland Park NAACP and Rainbow PUSH Detroit Chapter/State Coordinator.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 October 2012 12:26
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