Thursday, January 5, 2017

The meaning of tolerance in the Trump era By Issac Bailey

(CNN)To understand the challenge facing those with friends and family members who voted for Donald Trump despite his open bigotry and misogyny, you need to watch a C-SPAN exchange between a black woman and a white man and read about a decision Ellen DeGeneres was forced to make this week. Both incidents illustrate why sometimes it makes sense to be tolerant of opposing views, and other times it is imperative to separate yourself from potentially soul-sapping relationships.
First, the C-Span video. A white man called into the network's "Washington Journal," which featured Heather McGhee, president of Demos, a liberal think tank. He confessed that he was prejudiced against black people because of images he had seen in the news but wanted to be a better American.

Issac Bailey
"What can I do to change?" asked Gary Civitello, a 58-year-old disabled Navy veteran from North Carolina.
McGhee's gracious, empathetic response is the reason at least 8 million people have watched the video and why millions more probably will. She didn't label him racist and demand he go away. Instead, McGhee befriended him, becoming a sort of guide, helping him to get a more rounded view of black people.
McGhee's story is the kind we love, much like the photo of a white police officer holding a distraught young black man caught in the middle of protests in Ferguson. Such stories have the power to touch those who didn't believe they could be touched or needed to re-examine what was in their heads and heart.
But the Ellen DeGeneres story is equally important.
She had to disinvite a guest, singer Kim Burrell, whom she planned to have on her show. Burrell was to perform a song from the upcoming movie "Hidden Figures" with Pharrell Williams. That was until a video surfaced of Burrell making disparaging statements about gay people.

"You, as a man, you open your mouth and take a man's penis in your face. You are perverted," Burrell said on camera during a sermon in a church. "You are a woman and will shake your face in another woman's breast. You are perverted."
Burrell believes homosexual activity is a sin against God -- to not spread that truth would be a violation of a deeply held principle and be harmful to gays and lesbians because they need to be made aware of their sins to repent.
And that's why Burrell didn't issue a full apology or retraction, even knowing DeGeneres is a lesbian and one of the country's most visible, maybe most important, pioneering gay rights activists.
DeGeneres had a few options. She could have allowed Burrell to perform as scheduled. She could have allowed her to come on the show and explain her comments. Or she could have disinvited her. In a world in which people prioritize comfort over justice, DeGeneres would have chosen either of the first two options. Instead, she chose the third.

In a tweet announcing her decision, DeGeneres didn't explain her reasoning. I suspect, though, she understood she was under no obligation to "tolerate" someone who questions her core worth, even if that person does so because of a religious belief.
Unlike Burrell's, Civitello's story was compelling because he sincerely asked for a way to change, which is why McGhee's response was pitch perfect. Burrell believes it's DeGeneres who needs to change, which is why DeGeneres' was pitch perfect as well. She has no obligation to spread a message that could further harm an already-vulnerable minority.

In short, Burrell can have her beliefs, but DeGeneres doesn't need to cosign on them. Similarly, non-Trump voters do not have to embrace what we believe is a betrayal by friends, and even family members, when they didn't declare that open bigotry in a presidential candidate was a deal breaker. There aren't enough viral videos and photos in the world to obscure that truth.

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Monday, October 31, 2016

I'm black and I'm afraid of black men By Issac Bailey

I've braced myself in the presence of unknown black men, felt myself ready for a potential attack even as all they threw my way was a head bob and a "What's up, brother?"

That's why I attended the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., in 1995. I needed to immerse myself in a sea of black men gathered for a cause of uplift so that I could alleviate dark thoughts I'd secretly harbored about men who wear dark skin -- because I've been afraid of black men.
Because I'm a man who has feared black men, despite the gaggle of black brothers and cousins and black father and stepfather who lived in the same house I did and loved me -- despite the dark skin I've worn since birth.
That's why I know that the skin color of the police officer who killed Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte in a still-disputed shooting is largely irrelevant, just as it is in most such incidents, no matter what media critics such as Howard Kurtz think.
"Since the anger in North Carolina's largest city is driven by outrage over a high-profile series of deaths of black men in confrontations with white officers, this would seem to be a highly relevant part of the story," Kurtz wrote.
 know Kurtz is mistaken because I've battled an irrational fear of black men that has, misleadingly, been only attributed to white or other non-black people: Scott was in fact killed by a black officer in Charlotte last week. And a couple of days of violent protests in Milwaukee followed the August shooting of a black man by a black cop in that city.

My own score on the Implicit Association test (a test developed by researchers to test for unconscious racial bias) showed that I found it slightly easier to associate negative things with dark skin -- like nearly 90% of white people and almost half of black people.
This is a key aspect of our ongoing national discussion about race that is too frequently ignored.
But it is because I'm aware of my own fear that I know that even "good" cops can kill unarmed black men and millions of non-deplorable people can find ways to rationalize every such shooting. Because the kind of bias that is most pernicious is the subconscious kind. It can seduce us into believing that as long as we think the right thing or try to do the right thing or be the right kind of person, our actions would never be negatively influenced by racist stereotypes.
I'm not a racist. I love people who wear dark skin like I do. I'm married to a black woman who chopped off her long dreadlocks for a short natural hair look, and am the father of a 14-year-old black son and a 12-year-old black daughter. I've studied the ugly history of race in this country to teach others. I've unflinchingly stood against bigotry and bias and racism in all their forms.
And, still, I've struggled with this self-knowledge.
That's why I know it isn't something you can pray away or think away or effectively corral without deliberative, purposeful action that must become second nature.
Anything less means that this type of bias won't be defeated and will continue playing an important role in ugly confrontations between black people and police, no matter how perfectly the black man complies with commands or how closely the cop follows strict training guidelines.

Our country was founded in part on the belief that dark skin denoted inferiority and danger, a message with roots that are now centuries deep. Without systemic reforms designed to specifically combat implicit bias we will continue running in these circles, forever lamenting our fate.
Airbnb, though it is far from the finish line, is beginning to take such steps to fight the bias among some hosts that participate in the home-sharing service. The company is restructuring the way reservations are made and requests accepted. Orchestras combated gender bias in a similar way by switching to blind auditions.

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NAACP demands federal probe after noose allegedly put on black student

JACKSON, Miss. -- The president of the Mississippi NAACP is demanding a federal hate crime investigation after the parents of a black high school student said as many as four white students put a noose around their son’s neck at school.
“No child should be walking down the hall or in a locker room and be accosted with a noose around their neck,” president Derrick Johnson said Monday during a news conference in Wiggins. “This is 2016, not 1916. This is America. This is a place where children should go to school and feel safe in their environment.”

Johnson said the incident happened Oct. 13 near a locker room at Stone High School in Wiggins.
The group said in a statement that officials have mishandled the situation. The NAACP said no one has been charged with a crime, and the black student’s parents have not told of any punishment for the other students involved.
“They failed to protect this student throughout this ordeal,” the NAACP said. “Allowing students to commit blatant hate crimes without severe consequences, sends a message to students that their safety and well-being are not valuable enough to be protected.”
CBS Biloxi affiliate WLOX reports that, according to the Stone High Student Handbook, the superintendent has the authority to expel any students who commits an act of violence on campus.
The NAACP claims school officials told the victim’s mother they could not tell her about disciplinary actions because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
Mississippi has struggled with a history of racial division. It is the last state that still incorporates the Confederate battle emblem on its state flag. In 2014, two out-of-state students at the University of Mississippi placed a noose on the campus’ statue of James Meredith, the black student who integrated Ole Miss in 1962. Both pleaded guilty to using a threat of force to intimidate African-American students and employees. Neither attends the school anymore.
Names and ages of the students involved in the Stone County incident weren’t immediately released. The Stone County NAACP president, Robert James, said the black student is a football player.
According to a statement from the black student’s family, he returned to practice after the incident, Ayana Kinnel, spokeswoman for the civil rights group, said. 
The Stone County Sheriff’s Department provides officers at local schools and typically is the first to respond to incidents. Sheriff Mike Farmer didn’t immediately respond to a phone message and an email. Wiggins Police Chief Matt Barnett said his agency wasn’t notified.
Stone County High School Principal Adam Stone referred comment to Superintendent Inita Owen. She and school board attorney Sean Courtney didn’t immediately respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment.
State Department of Education spokeswoman Patrice Guilfoyle said the state usually lets local districts handle student discipline.

Why US inmates launched a nationwide strike By Max Blau and Emanuella Grinberg, CNN

Last month, on the 45th anniversary of the infamous Attica Prison uprising, tens of thousands of US inmates launched a nationwide protest that continues today, according to advocates who helped organize the effort.
The inmates' grievances are as varied as the states they came from: Pennies for labor in South Carolina, racial discrimination in California, excessive force in Michigan. However, they share an overarching goal: End legalized slavery inside American correctional facilities.
Jails and prisons don't have to be luxurious -- or comfortable, for that matter -- but the US Supreme Court has said they're not supposed to be dangerous or dehumanizing. Yet the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution, while banning slavery, allows prisoners to work for little to no pay, in what inmate advocates say crosses the limits of human decency, amounting to modern-day servitude.
"I used to think, 'Nah, that ain't America, that's China and Cuba,' " South Carolina inmate Harold Sasa told CNN from a contraband phone. "It's a system that's neither benefiting us nor the citizens outside."
Even the American Correctional Association, the country's largest trade organization for prisons and jails, this year passed a resolution urging the repeal of the amendment's "exclusion clause," which allows for such labor. It has also called on prison work programs to "aspire" to offer wages based on inmate productivity. But many corrections officials say there's nothing punitive about withholding wages from inmates. Often, the funds are used to offset operating costs or pay off inmates' court-ordered restitution while providing them with job training.
Since September 9, the Incarcerated Workers' Organizing Committee, a prisoner rights advocacy group, estimates as many as 50,000 inmates have taken part in coordinated strikes planned through social media on cell phones and snail mail across nearly two-dozen states. That number is impossible to independently verify. Some individual inmates are still protesting, IWOC said.

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