Archive for August 5, 2014

An Open Letter to President Obama

Posted in African Americans, Barack Obama, Black Interests, Black Men, Black Men In America, Politics, President Barack Obama, Racism with tags , , on August 5, 2014 by Gary Johnson

Nick Young

By Nicholas M. Young, Ph.D.

Re: A possible path to Reparations for African Americans? Housing grants as the unfinished path of American Democracy

“To have given each one of the million Negro free families a forty-acre freehold would have made a basis of real democracy in the United States that might easily have transformed the modern world.” W.E.B. DuBois, Black Reconstruction in America, p. 602.

Greetings Mr. President. I hope that you and your family are well. It has been many years since I ran into, and chatted with you at the Hyde Park Hair Salon on E. 53rd St. in Chicago. It has been much longer since my last encounter with your great wife, Michelle. Please know that while it is still a little surreal for me to see you both in The White House, I have accepted the fact that a guy that I used to play ball with at The University of Chicago (The U of C) holds the most powerful position in the world, and his wife is the brilliant, First Lady of The United States.
But, I digress.

I write this editorial to share with you, the country, and the rest of the world my thoughts on how you, The President of The United States, can bring to conclusion the case of Reparations for African Americans. A conclusion that, journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates states recently in his impressive article in The Atlantic, would be just compensation for the “250 years of slavery, ninety years of Jim Crow, sixty years of separate but equal, and thirty-five years of racist housing policy” at the hands of The United States.

While there may be no widely accepted starting point for when the question of Reparations was first raised, the issue of compensating contemporary African Americans from whom originate from families whose ancestors were enslaved actors in the U.S., has never really gone away. Nor should it. To be sure, the question of Reparations became an issue of serious import for U.S. lawmakers after, if not before, the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation—the legislation that “freed” millions of enslaved “Americans” of African descent.

To be sure, while the Emancipation Proclamation (A Civil War measure that proclaimed the freedom of slaves in the ten states that were still in rebellion with the U.S. Government) did not “free” anyone, what the legislation did do was give Lincoln and his political allies in Congress the breathing room that they needed to craft the legislation that would eventually become the following Amendments of the U.S. Constitution: 13th (Abolishing Slavery), 14th (Granted U.S. Citizenship to Blacks, former slaves, and those born or naturalized in the U.S.), and 15th (Prohibits the federal or state governments from denying a U.S. citizen the right to vote).

As Kerry T. Burch points out in his book, Democratic Transformations: Eight Conflicts In The Negotiation of American Identity, the project of compensating the newly freed “Americans” involved promising over one million people of African descent that they would be given land (Forty Acres and a Mule) to help ease their transition from enslaved actors into a self-sustainable agricultural entrepreneurial class, dependent upon only themselves to live and become capable members of society. As Dr. Burch states, “The origin of the phrase is traced to January 1865, when General William Tecumseh Sherman, having just finished the devastating ‘march to the sea,’ issued Special Field Order 15. It set aside ‘forty acres and a mule’ for the newly freed along the coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia, a swath extending some 100 miles in length and 30 miles inland” (p. 56).

Unfortunately, after Lincoln’s Assassination, this “…officially stated promise…was ‘taken back’ by President Andrew Johnson when he began rescinding these federal lands in late 1865. Thus began the process of returning the federal lands (my emphasis) to the confederate aristocracy…For the newly freed, despite their eventual status as formal citizens, the consequences of enforced landlessness—economic and political dependency—crippled their ability to actually be citizens” (my emphasis; p. 56).

Thus, for the newly freed former enslaved actors, the ability to create independent and prosperous lives was taken away from many of them before they had the chance enjoy the fruits of their own labor from living in and on their own property.

However, President Johnson’s reversal of General Sherman’s action also had another effect: Johnson’s policy reversal removed from African Americans the possibility of forming a new middle class that would be built on their own labor. Unfortunately, the plantation sharecropping system put the planter class back on top of the economic arrangement, and hence, back on top of the political system, as well.
Therefore, because of the failure of Reconstruction, African Americans were forced to fend for themselves, and manage their economic and social lives without the benefit of a managed social structure to navigate them from the grips of Jim Crow policies.

Unfortunately, as many African Americans made their way to Northern cities to avoid the aggressive grip of Jim Crow, their happiness was short-lived because, as Mr. Coates states in his article, The Case for Reparations (2014): “In Chicago and across the country, whites looking to achieve the American dream could rely on a legitimate credit system backed by the government. Blacks were herded into the sights of unscrupulous lenders who took them for money and for sport.”

Thus, with this background in mind, I should like to propose the following limited remedy to the Reparations problem: awarding housing grants to needy African American families, to be used for creating new homes or improving existing residential properties.
Mr. President, the creation of these properties, built on federal lands, would provide African Americans with a legitimate chance to form a sustainable black middle class; one built on the basis of their own ethnic heritage, struggle, success, sweat, and tears.

If done correctly, this Presidential program could take the form of a new Presidential Proclamation; a policy that acknowledges the previous mistakes and failures of past Presidential administrations to compensate African Americans for what was promised to them. Further, such a program could redress the problem of land ownership for African Americans seeking to build wealth through home ownership. Such a policy could also help improve the U.S. jobless rate by hiring Americans from different social and economic groups to build and or improve these homes.

In short, I believe that you, Mr. President, represent the last chance for the United States government to fulfill the promise that it made to newly freed Americans of African descent to become property owners in this country. Sir, you are on record for saying that the United States keeps its commitments, not just abroad, but also to our fellow Americans. Therefore, your Proclamation could transform the United States into the democracy that Du Bois imagined. Please know that I, for one, hope that you will use your executive power to help grant home ownership to African Americans; American citizens, after all, whose ability to be landowners was systematically denied to them after the Civil War. I believe that such a proclamation could help establish a sustainable African American middle class. I hope that you will see the importance of creating such a program for African American families that seek this form of redress. All of them.

Take care,
Nick

Sources cited:  Coates, Ta-Nehisi. “The Case for Reparations.” The Atlantic. May 2014.
Burch, Kerry T. Democratic Transformations. New York: Continuum Books.

Nicholas Maurice Young, Ph. D., is a Sociologist, writer, screenwriter, Community Activist, and Independent Scholar. He is a former Fellow with the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University.

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The Ray Rice Apology: Two Points of View

Posted in African Americans, Black America, Black Men, Black Men In America, Women's Interests with tags , , , , on August 5, 2014 by Gary Johnson

Ray Rice, Janay Rice

August 4, 2014
By Gary A. Johnson with contributions from Mildred Muhammad

In today’s 24-hour news cycle, this topic is considered to be “old news.” 4 days ago Baltimore Ravens Running Back Ray Rice, the modern day poster child for domestic violence held a press conference where he spoke for the first time since being arrested for knocking his fiancé unconscious at an Atlantic City casino in February. The NFL “punished” Rice with a two game suspension, which was widely regarded by most sports media observers as insufficient. The length of the suspension, compared with others handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell caused a firestorm of debate. The suspension was so controversial that at least one sports/media broadcaster (Keith Olberman) has called for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to resign his position immediately.

Most of you have probably seen the TMZ video of Ray Rice dragging his then unconscious girlfriend out of an elevator at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City on Valentine’s Day. Rice is seen holding up a motionless Palmer from behind — his arms hooked under her arms and shoulders — dragging her out of the elevator before plopping her down in front of the elevator doors and at one point kicking at her feet. I found that footage to be troubling and disturbing.

I watched the press conference live. I listened attentively in an effort to determine if this guy understands what he did and is truly sorry for his actions. Or was this Ray Rice’s attempt at damage control in an effort to keep his sponsors on-board and save his public image?

Here are two takes (opinions) on this topic. My take and the expert take or opinion of my friend and domestic violence expert Mildred Muhammad. I specifically asked Mildred to share any opinions or insights that she had about the Ray Rice apology. I want to educate myself and others about domestic violence and I want to learn from those who know more about this topic than I do.

Gary’s Take: I have never been a victim of domestic violence, but I have witnessed incidents with family and friends. After watching Ray Rice’s press conference I thought he came off as an individual who is on the right path. He is seeking counseling and it appears to get “it.” I base my assessment on the following observations:

  • Ray Rice had some prepared notes and folded them up and spoke extemporaneously from his heart.
  • He apologized to his wife, his daughter, his wife’s parents, the community, etc.
  • He consistently used the phrase “domestic violence.”
  • He said he took responsibility for his actions and noted that he is in therapy/counseling for what he described as the worst action of his life.
  • He said that when he gets right, that he will commit his life to helping victims of domestic violence.

And yet, there were aspects of that press conference that made me feel uncomfortable. At one point during his press conference Ray Rice said the following: “My actions that night were totally inexcusable. That’s not me. That’s something I have to live with the rest of my life.” That’s not me? 

Ray, that was you.  The video does not lie.  Hopefully, continued counseling will help you come to terms that that was you.

Mildred

Mildred’s Take: First off, Ray Rice has been going through counseling. It’s a positive step that he apologized to his wife, (which he forgot to do in their joint press conference a few weeks earlier). It’s good that Ray apologized for his actions and took responsibility for what he did.

However, he’s positioning himself as a victim as well. He’s connecting his pain with his wife’s’ pain and her pain with his pain when the two are not the same. He knocked her out; she didn’t do that to him. Whatever she did to him in that elevator did not warrant him knocking her out. There are ways you can defend yourself without brutal force. We are talking about a running back who is tackled by 300 or so pound men. He’s hit all the time. A man has to realize that the power behind his punch, shove or hit is so much more than a woman.

His pain is associated with the shame of being captured on tape and how he let everyone down (his mother, her parents, coaches, teammates, etc). Had this not been publicized, we would not be having this discussion.

Ray Rice said his pain is associated with his daughter and how he will have to explain what he did to her mother. He did not speak to or discuss his wife’s pain or what she must be feeling and how this has affected her. On the other hand perhaps he shouldn’t. She is the only one who can speak to this and I don’t believe we will hear from her. She is being counseled and protected during this time, as she should be. I know she is in a lot of pain and probably blaming herself.

He did speak for his wife when he promised that “when the time is right” he and his wife would become active in raising awareness about domestic violence. Everything he says, he includes her instead of just speaking for himself. He speaks like he was the one assaulted and he is going to go out and speak to the world about domestic violence. I don’t think Ray Rice understands that he will be speaking as an abuser.

He doesn’t want to talk about what happened in the elevator because, during his counseling, he was made aware that he was wrong. If he says in public what happened in that elevator, he will make his situation worse. Right now, it sounds like he feels he was wronged. He’s speaking to two different things in one interview.

I hope Ray Rice continues his counseling so he can come to accept what he did and will be able to separate his pain from his wife’s pain.

What do you think?

Mildred D. Muhammad is the ex-wife of John Allen Muhammad – the convicted and executed DC sniper who terrorized the Washington DC metropolitan area in late 2002. To learn more about Mildred and her work via her website Mildred Muhammad.com and through our main website at Black Men In America.com.

Gary A. Johnson is the Founder & Publisher of Black Men In America.com a popular online magazine on the Internet and the Black Men In America.com Blog. Gary is also the author of the book “25 Things That Really Matter In Life.” 

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