The Philadelphia Black Public Relations Society (PBPRS) has announced its new leadership team, who will serve a two-year term that began June 1 and will run until May 31, 2014.
The new president, Darisha K. Miller, is the director of Media Relations for Ross Associates, Inc. Miller has served as PBPRS vice president for the past two years, along with the immediate past president, Shalimar Blakely. Blakely, president of A Peace of PR, will now serve as chairperson of the PBPRS Advisory board. Miller has appointed Vincent Thompson, principal of Thompson Mediaman Communications, to serve as PBPRS vice president.
“As a premier communications organization we are working to promote an innovative team while ensuring our members receive support from the organization and the community,” said Miller.
“I’m excited to work in this capacity and with community partners to provide a positive business environment and learning experience for all.”
PBPRS’ new advisory board will serve the same two-year term.
Blakely is the new chair. David Brown is the immediate past chair. Board members include Attorney Nichole Badger; Anita T. Conner, CPA; A. Bruce Crawley; Anita Lewis; Rev. Lorina Marshall-Blake; William R. Miller IV; Jamila Patton and Dawn Angelique Roberts.
PBPRS, who has recently entered into a partnership with the Urban Affairs Coalition (UAC), provides PR professionals with a venue for professional support and development.
“It was important for us to put together a team that could continue to move PBPRS in the right direction,” states Blakely.
“The organization is now in a great position that will allow us to focus on building a strong and active membership base.”
The new team will be introduced during the PBPRS Annual Membership Celebration, taking place June 12 at the Kimmel Center.
Police officials in Tulsa, Oklahoma were either lying outright or irresponsibly misinformed when they said, last week, that the random, race-related killings of two Black men and a Black woman, and the wounding of two others, in their city, were “unprecedented.”
Of course, the word “unprecedented” should only have been used about the murders in the predominantly Black North Tulsa community, if the Tulsa Race Riot hadn’t actually happened, on “Black Wall Street.”
But, you know what? It did — and, it was a white-on-Black riot, the second worse in our country’s history. It was 91 years ago, on June 1, 1921, right there, in the same city where the mayor and police officials seemed to be so shocked at even the hint that white Oklahomans could ever have thought about killing their Black neighbors — simply for being Black.
Apparently, people in Oklahoma have very short memories.
No matter — here’s what happened: During the mid-1800s, what was then known as the Oklahoma Territory attracted significant numbers of Black people, especially from southern states, where overt racism was alive and well.
The Territory had actually been designated by the U.S. government as a reservation, or a refuge, for Native American tribes that had been pushed out of their ancestral homelands. And, between 1830 and 1842, a great migration of Native Americans took place, as the tribes headed for Oklahoma. While it is not widely known, it has been estimated that as many as one-third of those on the so-called “Trail of Tears” were Black people, many of whom were owned, as slaves, by various Native American tribes.
Following the Emancipation Proclamation, the recently freed Black Oklahomans moved aggressively to set up a number of “Black towns,” where they controlled every facet of their own local economies.
Under segregation, Black Oklahomans were excluded from opportunities to sleep in hotels, to make deposits in banks, to be buried by white funeral directors, or to eat in mainstream restaurants. So, they simply built and patronized their own. According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, between 1865 and 1920, African Americans created more than 50 towns and settlements, there.
Without question, the most successful example of that Black entrepreneurial model took place on “Black Wall Street,” in a Tulsa neighborhood called Greenwood. As difficult as it still may be for many of us to believe — Black, white, or otherwise — Black folks in Greenwood created a complete “parallel economy,” there, keeping their expenditures largely within their own community and creating several Black millionaires, in the process. Greenwood residents not only lived in the most comfortable and modern homes, they drove the latest automobiles, and six, Black, Greenwood residents even owned their own private planes. This, I have to keep reminding you, was in 1921.
In the movie “Rosewood,” starring Don Cheadle, envious Ku Klux Klan members swarm, pillage and burn a Black community — simply because its inhabitants were Black and prosperous. I’ll never forget seeing one white marauder, on the screen, standing on the porch of a Black household and peering into the window, before setting the house on fire. What he said, so unforgettably, to his fellow, rioting, Klansman was: “Hey, this “N-word” has a piano, I don’t have a piano.”
That, apparently, was all the justification the guy seemed to need. Somehow, it just didn’t seem right to him that there could possibly be peaceful, prosperous, Black people living in his community, if he, himself, also didn’t have the same standard of living.
That same logic, based on that same blind envy, was apparently at work in Tulsa, in 1921. The community of 10,000 predominantly Black residents, in Greenwood, stretched over 35 square blocks of homes and businesses, including The Gurley Hotel and Billiard Parlor (named after the District’s Black founder, O.W. Gurley), 21 restaurants, 21 churches, 30 grocery stores, two movie theatres, a bank, a hospital, a post office, a library and a bus system. It was prosperous, and it was self-contained.
Then, all of a sudden, sparked by a rumor and a specious newspaper report, alleging a minor assault by a young Black man, against a young white woman, the white community struck out, in a blind rage, killing hundreds (some say thousands) of Black residents, setting fire to businesses and, even, dropping sticks of dynamite on the district, from an airplane.
In about 12 hours, it was over; and the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma, for all intents and purposes, ceased to exist.
Amazingly, not a single white aggressor was ever brought to trial. No white rioter was ever incarcerated. A thriving Black community, which stood as a national and international model for the economic potential of recently freed slaves, had been wiped from the face of the earth.
With that background, perhaps you can more readily, now, understand my shock at hearing Tulsa’s police and government leaders say that last week’s random, race-based murders of three African Americans was “unprecedented,” in their city.
It worried me to hear, from the city where “Black Wall Street” once thrived, that the authorities were having difficulty determining whether the indiscriminant Black murders could rightfully be classified as “hate crimes.”
Yeah, Black folks should have been concerned about that, but not for the reasons you probably think. The real crime, in a country wherein a federal conviction for hate crimes can result in life imprisonment, is that the Oklahoma State law limits a hate crime sentence to a maximum of one year in jail.
I guess, at the end of the day, “hate” is all relative, and for the people who actually write and pass the laws in Oklahoma, and who are not likely to be “hate crime” victims, themselves, it’s not such a big issue, and the law was drafted accordingly.
In recent days, we’ve heard that the two alleged murderers, Jake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 32, were being held on “three counts of first degree murder, two counts of shooting with intent to kill, and one count of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.”
Let’s hope those charges don’t get reduced or knocked out, entirely, in court, and that England and Watts don’t wind up only being convicted under a toothless, Oklahoma “hate crime” charge.
But, here’s where the whole “Tulsa thing” gets a bit more complicated. Those who might have quickly thought those shootings were simply white-on-Black crimes really do have another “think” coming. Early eyewitness and police reports described the shooters as “two white men” in a white Chevrolet pickup truck. In recent days, however, we’ve all learned that young Mr. England, he who sent the now-infamous racist email, is actually not white, at all, but a “Cherokee Indian.” To further complicate the story, Mr. Watts, his “roadie,” and co-conspirator, has claimed, over the past few days, that his own family actually includes a “mix of races.”
Now what? Is this a case of multi-cultural-on-Black crime, Native American-on-Black crime, or the increasingly popular, mixed-race-on-Black crime?
No matter how you cut it, we’re being reminded every day that Black people are being targeted in growing numbers of random gun attacks. But, as was also the case in the Trayvon Martin case, the shooter is a person who claims an ethnicity other than non-Hispanic white. Does “post-racial” actually mean that all other ethnic groups are now free to discriminate against, and randomly shoot at, Black people? I hope not.
The pattern is disturbing and our true antagonists are not so simple to identify, by race, anymore. We, in the Black community, need to be cognizant of that, and function accordingly.
In the meantime, as they used to say on one of the old cop shows on TV: “Be careful out there.”
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.
The city’s success as a diverse convention destination was touted during the Multicultural Affairs Congress’ 17th annual recognition luncheon on Thursday.
Mayor Michael Nutter highlighted the economic impact of the city’s multicultural tourism market as he addressed more than 500 attendees who packed the Hyatt’s ballroom.
“As we look forward, Philadelphia’s multicultural tourism market share is only going to keep growing,” said Nutter.
“Over the next four years we expect to see approximately $76 million in multicultural tourism industry economic impact here in Philadelphia.”
Two major conventions are the 2016 Bicentennial Celebration of the AME Church, expected to generate an economic impact of $26 million and perhaps 30,000 visitors; and the 2012 National Association of Latino Arts and Culture Convention.
Other future convention highlights include the Black Engineer of the Year Awards, the National Haitian Charismatic Congress, the North American South Asian Bar Association and Jack & Jill.
Due to the Pennsylvania Convention Center’s expansion, the city needs more hotels. With that in mind, Nutter called for the establishment of a minority-owned hotel.
“What I want to see is a hotel in this city built by minorities, owned by minorities, operated by minorities and supported by this entire community,” he stressed.
“The time has come not just to talk about jobs, not just to talk about contracts, not just to talk about goods and services, but equity and ownership — and this is an industry that will support that kind of activity right here in the city of Philadelphia.”
Held under the theme “Power, Pride and Progress,” the luncheon served as an occasion to honor industry and community leaders for their accomplishments in support of MAC’s mission.
“The individuals and organizations selected as awardees truly embody this year’s theme of ‘Power, Pride and Progress.’ They have been allies in maximizing multicultural hospitality opportunities for our region and represent the type of leadership that MAC celebrates,” said MAC executive director, Tanya Hall.
“We are extremely pleased to be honoring these recipients for their contributions.”
MAC posthumously recognized KYW Newsradio community affairs reporter Karin Phillips with the Legacy Award. The newly created award honored Phillips for her contributions toward raising awareness about the activities and accomplishments of Philadelphia’s multicultural convention and hospitality community. Her work supported many of Philadelphia’s diverse hospitality initiatives and conventions, including the National NAACP Convention, the unveiling of the historic President’s House and the Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Festival. Phillips died Sept. 13 following a brief illness.
Award recipients included Charisse R. Lilllie, president of the Comcast Foundation and vice president for Community Investment, Comcast Corp., Outstanding Recognition Award; El Sol newspaper, Share the Heritage Award; David Kong, president and CEO, Best Western International, Industry Appreciation Award; and local host committee, National Association of Latino Arts and Culture 2012 Convention, Bring It Home Award.
“At Comcast, diversity is really a way of life for us. We have done a number of things since we acquired NBC Universal to really move the ball and to really make sure that we as a company are faithful to the principles of diversity,” said Lillie.
She touted Comcast’s Joint Diversity Council and the company’s Internet Essential program that provides low-cost broadband service to underserved families.
Since MAC’s inception in 1987, Philadelphia has hosted more than 1,000 groups, resulting in an economic impact of more than $900 million.
MAC is a division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.
As many of you are well aware, the Forbes family, which still controls editorial content for the highly regarded business magazine, “Forbes,” allegedly amassed its fortune through the sale of opium, in China.
A family member, Robert Bennett Forbes, was a ship's captain, who participated aggressively in the “Opium War” in the mid-1800’s. As I recall, China pretty much wanted to block the importation of the mind-numbing drug into its country. The British, on the other hand, were largely in favor of distributing opium on a wide basis, throughout China. Hence, war broke out; monies were made.
Like many, I really do believe in letting “bygones be bygones” but that knowledge of the Forbes family’s ill-gotten gains always makes me a little skeptical each time I review the magazine’s contents, including any one of its numerous, published, lists.
The magazine, which has over the years proudly described itself as “The Capitalist Tool,” happens to publish a wide array of anxiously-awaited annual “lists," including the “Richest Americans,” “the Highest-Paid Stars Under 40,” “the Top Grossing Actors," and the “Billionaires" listing, among others.
What worries me is that Forbes’ editorial content always seems to be “not quite right,” when it applies to Blacks, here, and throughout the diaspora.
In that regard, have you ever sat and tried to listen to, and make sense out of the magazine’s editor, Steve Forbes, as he rambles through his archaic hard right-wing political theories during Fox cable interviews? It makes you wonder how any journalistic product that flows from such a mindset could ever be balanced or fair even when it comes to publishing lists.
To be perfectly fair, I do know that the magazine prints separate lists of the “Wealthiest Black Americans,” and “Black Billionaires,” but the editors seem, somehow, reluctant to remove even high black achievers from those "editorial ghettos," or to blend them, seamlessly, into their mainstream lists.
To get a better handle on what I’m saying, take a look at the recent copy of Forbes, the one dated Dec. 24, 2012.
Right there on the cover, off to the right, are the words “The World’s 71 Most Powerful People.” To further entice readers, the cover photo, itself, is a tight, black-and-white headshot of multi-billionaire and political agenda-setter Charles Koch, with a quote from him that says: “Most power is power to coerce somebody.” Seeing that convinces you that you have to read this issue, if only in self-defense, if only to recognize who might be planning to “coerce” you.
When you turn to the actual article, the blaring headline informs you that the people to whom you’re about to be introduced are the “power players” and that, out of the 7.1 billion people on earth, “these are the 71 who matter.”
The actual list, you’ll find, is deeply disappointing, on a number of levels. First, the selection process, as I implied earlier on, seems to be heavily influenced by a severely outdated, segregated and colonialist mindset.
How else do you explain the listing of the World’s 71 Most Powerful People with only 23 of the globe’s 196 nations represented, with no representative from the entire African continent, with only Brazil, Chile and Venezuela represented (one person each) from the entirety of South America, with 25 “powerful people” from the U.S., but only seven from China?
Notwithstanding, the family’s own sordid drug-related history, how do the Forbes’ sleep at night, when their magazine legitimizes the global drug trade, by including at #63, a guy named Joaquin Guzman Loera, whom they identify as the “world’s most powerful drug trafficker,” from the Sinaloa Cartel, in Mexico? In a "business" magazine?
How does Forbes justify ranking Loera above House Speaker John Boehner, at #65; or higher than Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, whom they list at #68? Why is the world’s largest drug trafficker ranked by Forbes is only two steps down in the global power ranking from Dmitry Medvedev, the Prime Minister of Russia?
It’s never been a secret that most list-making and awards presentations are entirely subjective — the Academy Awards, The Golden Globes, awards given by local community organizations, “Most Valuable Player Awards” in sports, and virtually all rankings of “important people.” With rare exceptions, they all reflect a specific political or editorial perspective.
That being said, maybe we’re not entirely surprised that no Africans — I said, no Africans — are considered important enough by Forbes Magazine to be included on its list of the world’s “most powerful people.”
Hey, aside from President Barack Obama, who made Forbes’ list, at "#1 most powerful," given his current title, not a single African American, male or female, was considered to be “powerful” enough to be listed, even among the other ranked Americans.
This blatant disregard for authentic African leadership is a major oversight, if Forbes’ editors are interested at all, in maintaining even a shred of 21st century credibility. Over the past 20 years or so, Africa, like other emerging parts of the world, has become substantially more sophisticated and globally competitive and its leaders are very certainly deserving of recognition.
For example, in Cote D’Ivoire, according to NewAfrican Magazine’s own listing of the "100 Most Influential Africans," there is Tidjane Thiam, who chairs the G-20's High Level Panel on Infrastructure Investment. There’s also a brilliant business leader named Thierry Tanoh, the CEO of EcoBank, the bank with “the largest footprint of any bank in Africa.”
Why wouldn’t they make the Forbes list?
Forbes also had to work hard to ignore Rwanda’s Donald Kaberuka, who happens to be president of the $27 billion African Development Bank. That seems powerful enough to make the magazine’s list, especially when Forbes ranked the President of FIFA, the world’s professional soccer organization, at #69.
How, pray tell, did Forbes leave off the two men who annually compete for the title of Africa's richest man? I’m talking about Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote, with an $11 billion net worth and a “side job” as President of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, and Ethiopia’s Sheikh Mohammed Al-Amoudi, with a personal wealth of $12.5 billion generated through investments in oil, real estate and agriculture.
I don’t know… sounds as though they should have been considered in the top 71.
Want young, powerful African leaders? How about Senegal’s Amadou Ba, CEO of the African Media Initiative and co-founder and chair of the online news portal called AllAfrica.com.
In the same highly influential field of “new” journalism, Forbes completely overlooked Nigeria’s Omoyele Sowore, who launched his hard-hitting, investigative news website, Sahara Reporters, six years ago.
There’s also Jacob Zuma, recently re-elected as President of South Africa, the Continent’s largest economy; Evelyn Oputu, managing director of Nigeria's Bank of Industry and James Mwangi, CEO of Kenya’s Equity Bank, who was named the Ernest & Young World Entrepreneur of the Year for 2012 and whose bank has more than seven million accounts, spread across Eastern and Central Africa.
It’s clear, now, more than ever, that when we want the “whole truth” about the achievements of Black leaders in business, politics, the arts or communications, it’s simply not enough to rely on the “same old” news outlets.
It’s not enough to assume that even the most respected media brands are prepared to include Black American and African achievement as part of their journalistic agendas.
Sad but, unfortunately, still true, judging by the Forbes list.
Maybe the year 2013 will be better.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management, Inc.
In the immortal words of Michael Corleone, "Every time I try to get out, they keep pulling me back in."
It seems that there's always at least one good line that you can take from every classic gangster movie and apply to everyday life. The recent stories about the 2010 Census and Philadelphia's population growth prove the point.
I always look forward, with great anticipation, to new Census Bureau reports. As a marketing professional, I'm always optimistic that I'll see new, fair and accurate information.
More often than not, however, I wind up being not only deeply disappointed, but also outraged, by the way in which the data are packaged and edited.
Whenever this happens, I do feel an absolute obligation to speak out, and to attempt to clear the record, especially as regards the Black economic condition. That's where the "pulling me back in" part comes in.
Sometimes, it's the Census Bureau's own reports that are the culprits. At other times, it's the mainstream media outlets, which cover the Bureau's announcements, and their "opinion managers," such as Pew Research, who do the most damage, following the release of Census data.
Once the most recent Census data was released, for example, the Philadelphia Daily News published yet another Census-related story that managed not to mention the words "Black" or "African-American," at all; and that it failed, once again, to mention that the largest, single, ethnic population segment in Philadelphia –larger than whites, Hispanics, Asians, or any other group – is African-Americans, at 662,287 people, or 43.4 percent of the city's population. This compares, of course, with the 563,096 persons, or 36.9 percent of the population, that is represented by non-Hispanic whites, the 12.3 percent, who are Hispanics, and the 6.3 percent, who happen to be Asian.
If you're counting, that means that there are about 100,000 more Black people in Philadelphia than whites; 434,510 more Blacks than Hispanics, and 526,149 more African-Americans than Asians, in the City of Philadelphia Brotherly Love.
Don't you think a credible story about the population trends in the City should have mentioned those kinds of numbers?
But, hey, what was I thinking?
Most people know that Black people have been "catching a bad break" from the U.S. Census, dating all the way back to 1790, when the first national census was done.
If you'll recall, the 1790 census was the one that included the infamous "three-fifths compromise," in which our government leaders agreed that Black slaves would only count as three-fifths of a white person, for census-taking purposes. Right away, that should have made us all a bit nervous about how willing our national census takers are to "bend" the statistical rules to underrepresent the Black population and its influence, to serve a political agenda.
But, enough of ancient history. Let's fast-forward, now, to the 21st century, and explore whether the modern relationship between the Census Bureau and Black people has improved, at all.
Let me see .......as I recall, the 2010 Census was the one wherein the survey designers thought it made perfectly good sense, once again, to ask Black folks to respond to whether they wanted to be referred to as a "Negro," or not. That question was right there on the form. In 2010. Seriously.
It's not just the Census Bureau we need to be concerned about, it's also the people who manipulate and edit the Census data to make it look like a sales brochure for their new, gentrified vision for Philadelphia.
It's not fair, it's also not productive, and it needs to stop.
Why, for example, do "opinion managers," such as Pew, seem to only want to describe the Black population within the context of the 31 percent of the community that lives beneath the poverty level. The fact is that, if Blacks in Philadelphia look anything, at all, like the national income profile of African-Americans, then, they are, definitely, not all poor people.
According to data buried deeply in the Census Bureau's thousands of charts and graphs, for example, the top five percent of Black households earns an average of $188,338 (about $110,000 less than the white, "top 5 percent" households); "upper middle class" Black households earn an average of $114,808, or about $60,000 less than their white counterparts, and the "Black middle class" quintile earns about $53,286, on average, per household, about $29,000 less than their white, "middle class" peers.
Leaving the ongoing income disparity between Black and white households aside for the moment, there is no escaping the fact that, nationwide, 18.9 million of the 42,020,723 Black Americans earn at a "middle class or above" level, at least $53,286, per household.
No matter what your political views about Black people happen to be, you can't ever equate such numbers with "chicken feed."
If we assume that Black Philadelphians, from a household income perspective, look anything, at all, like the national Black income profile, then it's probably safe to estimate that 298,029 Blacks in Philadelphia reside in households that are, at least, by Black standards, "middle income," "upper middle income," or "upper income" -- ranging from $52,286 to $188,338 per year.
That's a great deal of spending power. That constitutes nearly 300,000 Black family members from households that contribute substantially to the city's economy, who live in well-kept homes, who drive nice cars, and who constitute a critically important part of the city's tax base, and its economic future.
Why doesn't that part of the city's Black community show up as a positive component of the local mainstream media's demographic trend stories? Why doesn't the Pew Research report focus, at all, on this vitally significant population segment?
Indeed, in its recent Census story, the Daily News' staff writer, Julie Shaw, interviewed Paul Levy, CEO of the Center City District, who said good things about the fact that "Young parents (in Center City) are choosing to stay in the city after having babies." What? Did long-time-resident, Black people stop having babies, all of sudden? I'd like to see the proof of that.
Then, treading on very dangerous ground in the same story, Ms. Shaw wrote that the City's continued growth can be "credited to an increase in the Latino and Asian immigrant populations." The most hurtful part of that statement, if you happen to be Black, and are, at all, aware that Black unemployment has consistently been twice that of white job-seekers, is the reporter's closing comment that "Hispanics have been able to find jobs in the restaurant, hospitality and construction industry and Asians have been able to form their own businesses." She said that without referencing, at all, the fact that, according to the 2007 Economic Census, Black business formation rates, in Philadelphia, outstripped those of all other ethnic groups, including Asians.
If we didn't know any better, we might start believing that the mainstream media were writing these misleading and inaccurate stories, on purpose.
Paul Levy is a very nice man, but why couldn't the mainstream press find a single, Black, source anywhere, out of the City's 662,000 Black people, who could have commented on a story about the city's Black demographics, about recent Black employment and job creation history, and, even, about Black propensity, to have babies? Not just now, why can't they ever?
We've all heard of the great Ralph Ellison's book, "The Invisible Man." Now, we have the "invisible 300,000 Black people?" Why?
For the benefit of Black folks, here, and the city, as a whole, I hope these "opinion managers" start doing a better job of telling the complete truth about our community – oon.
Without question, Philadelphia – all of it – will be a lot better off, as a result.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.
Everywhere we turn, it seems, there’s growing evidence that what used to be called “major media” is in deep, paradigm-shifting trouble.
At the end of the day, however, the current crisis for mainstream media may very well be seen as a great opportunity for the nation’s Black-owned media outlets. But, to get to that awareness, we, and they, will have to start “connecting the dots.”
To give you some idea of just how different and “new” things have gotten for newspapers, the percentage of their circulations represented by digital readers now constitutes 14.2 percent of their overall circulation. That’s an increase from 8.7 percent, in just one year.
It’s clear that the newspapers that have figured out how to incorporate and make money out of digital editions are the ones having the greatest success in this new environment.
Among the top five, highest-circulation, newspapers, the Wall Street Journal (2.1 million circulation), the New York Times (1.6 million circulation), the New York Daily News (579,636 circulation), report that digital readership represents 26.1 percent, 50.8 percent, and 26.9 percent of their overall circulations, respectively.
Add the need for newspapers to compete in a rapidly changing, high-tech environment to the overall shrinkage in their advertising revenues, in a recessionary environment, and you have a recipe for their disaster.
Indeed, experts have recently labeled the newspaper business as the county’s “fastest shrinking industry.” In 2009, according to Crosscut.com, 300 newspapers in the United States were driven out of business and, in 2010 another 150 closed shop.
In its 2011 census, the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) reported that “minority journalists” now represent only 13 percent of newspaper workforces, leaving 87 percent of those workforces white, in a country wherein about 66 percent of the population is Caucasian.
Oh, and by the way, when the newspaper industry talks about “minority journalists,” they really mean that about half of them, or about 6.5 percent, are Black.
The problem with all of this is that, as mainstream media continue to lay off minority journalists, there are fewer and fewer people assigned to do, or volunteer to cover, stories in which Black people are featured. There are also, of course, less and less people in the planning meetings who might even recommend having balanced, constructive, non-stereotypical stories about Black folks.
It’s already starting to happen.
According to the Pew Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) Report for 2011, the “big stories” for that year were: The economy (20 percent of the available space for stories, or “news hole,” Middle East unrest (12 percent), 2012 Presidential election (9 percent), the Japan earthquake (3 percent), Osama Bin Laden’s death (2 percent), Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting (2 percent), Afghanistan (2 percent), the European economy (2 percent), the Obama administration (2 percent, and healthcare (2 percent).
Indeed, five of the “ten biggest stories” in 2011 (those that were given the most “space” and news coverage) were international.
Here’s the worst part: Only one percent of the total space available for news was dedicated to stories about “race/gender/gays.”
And, not even all of that was dedicated to Black people.
For all intents and purposes, Black Americans and their issues have all but disappeared from the national media agenda. Was this supposed to happen with a person of color in the White House?
Let’s take all of this a step further: If you were African American, but not a candidate for president of the United States you simply didn’t count, for news purposes, last year, at least as far as mainstream media were concerned.
According to the PEJ, of the top 20 individuals receiving the most news coverage, in 2011,only two of them were African Americans — Barack Obama, in first place, with 3,802 stories devoted to him, and Herman Cain, in third place, with 577 stories, the vast majority of which, as we recall, were not very flattering.
That was it.
News coverage and visibility of Black folks didn’t get much better, at all, in network TV coverage, cable news or on public broadcasting stations. Black America, it seems has been downgraded to “journalistic afterthought.”
When the 2012 news coverage data are finally calculated, I’ll go way out on a limb and predict that the name Trayvon Martin will be highly ranked. I don’t know, though. It doesn’t seem to be worth having to be shot and killed by an irrational town watch official, just to get your name in the paper.
The reality is that newsrooms across America that used to be committed to diversity, that used to brag about grooming young Black interns and promoting accomplished, seasoned African-American journalists to senior positions, now seem to be headed, full-steam, in the opposite direction.
As is the case in far too many other U.S. industry sectors, lately, it’s no longer a high-ranking priority to attract and promote African-American talent in U.S. newsrooms.
Even ASNE, which was a pioneer in the effort to bring racial and ethnic diversity to newsrooms back in 1978, has reported that, in 2011, the newspaper industry reduced the number of “minority professionals” in its newsrooms by 5.7 percent, or a decline of about 500 minority journalists, over the past two years. That compares to overall newsroom employee reductions of just 2.4 percent, over the same period, in 2011. This also follows on the heels of the industry having eliminated approximately 800 minority journalists in 2008 and, again, in 2009.
ASNE went on to disclose that in every market size — from very small to very large — minority newsroom employment is well below the percentage of minorities in those cities and towns.
What does this all mean? Well … several things.
If Black folks have been sitting around waiting for mainstream media outlets to be more fair, more inclusive and less likely to do “stereotypical Black stories about crime, drugs and sagging pants, they’re probably wasting their time.
Over the past 35 years or so, following the establishment and advocacy of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), groups such as ASNE began to think seriously about diversifying their editorial staffs, and began saying all the right things about bringing much-needed, but previously excluded Black, Hispanic and Asian journalists into their news operations.
The integration of the nation’s print and broadcast news outlets that resulted brought not only a new generation of appropriately compensated Black professionals “into the mix,” it also vastly improved the quality and quantity of coverage of Black elected officials, Black neighborhoods and Black businesses.
Today, by comparison, African-American journalists are not only being laid off, they are usually among the first to be shown the door.
And, what has been the response when groups such as the NABJ have spoken out on the topic? Well — not much.
Major media ownership and senior management, now, simply hide behind the “things are tough all over” story, shrug their collective shoulders, issue the obligatory platitudes and return to their ever-more-racially exclusive offices.
But, hey, all is not lost.
The removal of good, Black journalists from mainstream newsrooms should mean that there just have to be rapidly growing numbers of seasoned African-American professionals who are available to move into Black-owned newsrooms — or, indeed, to establish their own traditional or digital outlets.
In addition, in a perfect world, when Black folks realize that their old, reliable mainstream news outlets no longer seem to produce any stories about their communities that they’re actually interested in reading, watching, listening to or downloading, maybe they’ll begin to turn, in increasing numbers, to the Black press, to Radio One, to TV One, and to stations such as WURD, the Black-owned talk format radio station, in Philadelphia.
Hey, you never know.
Stranger things have happened.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.
As strange as it may seem, even after nearly three weeks of non-stop athletic drama, even after nearly 11,000 participants from more than 200 countries have competed for a total of 302 gold medals, we still don’t really know who the “real winners” will be for the 2012 London Olympics, when all is said and done.
When I say “real winners,” I don’t mean, like, the 100-meter dash, the long jump, or the all-around gymnastic competition. We do know that. That’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m referring, instead, to which organizations, which athletes, will come away from London with an economic advantage, and which ones — medal or no medal — absolutely will not.
According to the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) own recent report, the organization generated $5.4 billion in the four-year period up to, and including, the 2008 Olympics, in Beijing. Indications are that IOC revenues for the four-year period ending at the London event will be in the astounding range of $7 billion.
The IOC claims, with a perfectly straight face, that 90 percent of all of that cash, including the $1.2 billion it received from its broadcast sponsor, NBC Universal, goes to support “organizations throughout the Olympic Movement,” and that it only retains about 10 percent of that to cover its own administrative expenses.
Despite those very noble sentiments, when you do the math, you see that, after London, Beijing and all of the other Summer Olympics events before that, U.S. athletes — on the whole — have come away holding the short end of the stick.
It’s not that the IOC is broke — not even close. In fact, on July 23, the International Olympic Organizing Committee announced that its financial situation was “strong and safe,” that it was in possession of $588 million in reserves (up from $105 million in 2001) and that television and sponsorship revenues are continuing to increase. IOC President Jacques Rogge even went on to say that the Committee’s financial plan calls for surpassing $4 billion in TV rights for the next Olympics, up from $3.9 billion generated, leading up to London.
At about the same time, the IOC also confirmed that, up through 2021, its U.S. arm, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), would participate in 12 percent of all IOC TV broadcasting rights fees and 20 percent of all fees generated from the 11 “TOP” Olympic corporate sponsors, an amount estimated at an additional $957 million, as of July, 2012. That, by the way, doesn’t even include revenues from domestic sponsorships generated directly by the USOC.
Again, let’s do the math, but this time let’s focus on the participation of the athletes, themselves, in all of that loot. Adding the USOC’s 12 percent of the $3.9 billion in TV rights, together with its 20 percent of the $957 million in “TOP” sponsor fees, gives the USOC about $659 million in revenues, in those two categories, alone.
And what part of that is shared with the athletes? Not much, it seems.
In London, for example, other than travel expenses, the 530 American Olympians received no direct financial support from the federal government. Aside from the honor of representing their country, U.S. athletes could only look forward to receiving financial rewards if they happened to actually win a gold, silver or bronze medal. Such an accomplishment would earn them $25,000, $15,000 or $10,000, respectively.
According to the most recent count, as of Friday, U.S. athletes had earned 90 medals, in all, 30 gold, 25 silver and 26 bronze. That adds up to $1,610,000, or just .02 percent of the $659 million of USOC revenues. I don’t know ... it just seems as though they could do substantially more.
According to Matt Rudnitzky of Sports Grid, 50 percent of U.S. athletes who rank in the top 10 in their events in track and field earn less than $15,000 annually, including sponsorships, grants and prize money. And, contrary to the popular perception that all Olympic athletes are living the lush life of swimmer Michael Phelps, whose estimated net worth following the Beijing Olympics jumped to $50 million as a result of endorsements from VISA, Powerball, Omega, Subway, AT&T Wireless and Speedo, the overwhelming majority of Olympic athletes go without any endorsement income at all, have to work part-time jobs to continue their training schedules and to support their families, and live essentially, from week-to-week and hand-to-mouth.
Perhaps that’s why, shortly after their arrival in London, several prominent U.S. athletes took to Twitter and spoke to traditional media outlets to register their formal complaints about the fact that Olympic athletes don’t participate, at a more reasonable level, in the Olympic Committee’s substantial profits.
In that regard, two of my newest hero-athletes now include Sanya Richards-Ross, this year’s women’s 400 meter gold medal winner and Nick Symmonds, a very accomplished, high-profile 800 meter runner. Richards exposed herself to great personal and financial risk when she said, “I just believe that the Olympic ideal and the Olympic reality are now different. I’ve been fortunate to do very well around the Olympics, but so many of my peers struggle in the sport.” Similarly, Symmonds, a guy I never previously cared very much about, did not hesitate, at all, to crawl out on the same financial limb that Sanya chose for herself, when he asked, very publicly: “How many have gotten rich using Olympic athletes’ free labor?”
My kind of people. I hope the IOC and the USOC were listening.
A large part of the protest by those two and by other courageous athletes, related to an IOC regulation called Rule 40, which prohibits Olympic athletes from advertising for non-Olympic sponsors, immediately prior to, or during, the Olympics.
What set off the athletes was the fact that the IOC went so far as to prohibit the Olympians from using their own Facebook or Twitter accounts to mention, or to depict themselves, in photos with products of their “personal sponsors.” Those sponsors are the same advertisers who, individually, provide revenues to the athletes during the course of the year, when the IOC and the USOC don’t.
For many athletes that was the final indignity. They began to use the hashtags #Wedemandchange and #Rule40 to make their case to the world. One of the most creative expressions was by American hurdler/silver medalist Dawn Harper, who tweeted a photo of herself with a duct tape gag over her mouth, on which the words “Rule 40” were printed.
It’ll be interesting to see how all that turns out.
In the meantime, I won’t be surprised at all to continue to see stories that give the false impression that most of our hard-working, Olympic athletes are already doing just fine, because 2008 gymnast Shawn Johnson became a “media darling” and is now worth an estimated $9 million; because Nastia Liukin, who won five gold medals as an Olympic gymnast, in the same year, now pulls down about $1 million annually in endorsements, or because the greatest sprinter in world history, Usain Bolt, earned about $20 million, in 2012.
Each of those deserving athletes is to be commended for being able to capitalize on their hard work and Olympic success. I can only hope that other young Olympians, such as Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Claressa Shields, Missy Franklin and Ashton Eaton can, somehow, follow their lead.
At the same time, we should remember that well-compensated and fairly compensated Olympians are still very much the absolute exception to the rule, and we should keep our eye on the larger ball.
It’s still too early to say, for certain, who the real winners of the London Olympics actually were. We’ll find out, shortly.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.
Given the current health challenges facing former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, this may not be the very best time to bring up this subject, but I can’t help but reflect back to the time in 1988 when Texas Agricultural Commissioner Jim Hightower commented on Mr. Bush’s privileged life, saying he was “... born on third base and thought he had hit a triple.”
I, of course, mean absolutely no disrespect to Mr. Bush, especially during this critical period for him. What that quote described, however, even in a way that was clearly understandable to the mass of whites in this country, was the longstanding existence of “white privilege." While it is packaged significantly more attractively now, it still negatively impacts far too many political, academic, economic and media decisions in the U.S., every day.
That brings me to the seemingly never-ending debate over the past four years or so about “post-racialism.” Has it arrived? Is it a myth? Was the concept created by our friends or by our enemies? Have elected officials been compromised by it? Has the promise of it put Black people to sleep politically? Has it helped any of us to put food on our tables? And, finally … if this is all it actually is, then why should we care about it at all?
I’ve come to the conclusion that “post-racialism” is not, never was and never will be a political and social reality in this country and we shouldn’t expect it to be. The greater issue for us as Black people, and for the nation as a whole, is how we have to learn to more constructively address the vestiges of that dangerous old bugaboo, “white privilege," which is described as the advantages that whites have available to them beyond those commonly enjoyed by Blacks or people of color in general. It also reflects unspoken, but real, advantages that white people may not even realize they have, including “greater presumed social status,” “cultural affirmations of their own worth,” and the freedom to “work, play and speak freely.” It also extends to whites being able to perceive, even sub-consciously, that their own culture and experiences are “normal,” and that those of other racial groups are different, “reflective of a minority view,” or “less appropriate.”
I once heard a speaker who said that “white privilege” also includes the presumption that a white person who visits the central city of any new municipality should expect that any barber shop would be willing to cut his hair (or, if female, “do her hair”). They would also feel comfortable in assuming they would be made to feel welcome, if they chose to visit any tavern or bar in the strange city or in new surroundings.
That, by the way, resonated with me immediately, when I thought back to the time that four black friends and I, in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, for a week-long martial arts camp, stopped into a community bar to have a beer, one hot June afternoon.
When we walked in, the music from the sound system was blaring and there was a notably loud din from the conversations being shared by the 75 or so white males in the room.
As they turned and saw us enter, just like in an old “B” cowboy movie, every conversation seemed to stop and all eyes focused intently on us. We approached the bar and I asked for a beer. In an arrogant and condescending tone, the bartender said, rhetorically, "You won’t be needing a glass, will you?” Then, he made a crack about one of my friends looking like Sammy Davis Jr.
I drank half of that one beer — from the bottle — paid, and the five of us backed out of the bar. We could hear the conversations resuming immediately after the doors closed behind us.
What we experienced that day was what happens to a group of Black men when they incorrectly assume that they are automatically entitled to enjoy the same social privileges, in this country, that men of European descent, commonly and unthinkingly, enjoy every day.
White privilege doesn’t just have negative consequences for Black people, in the U.S.
I recently read a story in the New York Times that said that the enrollment of Asians at Harvard University and other Ivy League institutions, since about 1995, has declined, and now stands at a curiously similar percentage, today, as it had, back then, despite a growth of 18-21-year-old Asians, in the general population, from about 175,000 to approximately 440,000 persons.
In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the percentage of Asian Americans enrolled at Harvard, dropped by more than 50 percent, over the period. At the same time, the percentage of whites enrolled at the university remained about the same, despite a significant drop in white population percentages, since that time.
All of this has occurred, despite the fact that, over the period, there has been a huge increase in the number of Asian students who have won top academic awards and who have been named National Merit Scholarship semi-finalists.
According to S.B. Woo, former lieutenant governor of Delaware, “Top colleges are clearly limiting the number of Asians they admit," despite the fact that Asian high school students, as recently as 2006, constituted 27 percent of the nation’s Presidential Scholars, the government’s highest recognition for high school academic excellence.
This is all especially disturbing when we compare university attitudes about admittance of Asians and other minorities to their long-standing support for “legacy admissions," i.e., students admitted to universities based primarily on their family relationships to alumni. The effect of such admissions has been equated to adding 160 SAT points to a prospective student’s application, and increases that student’s chances to be admitted by a whopping 20 percent, as compared to other students, including applicants of color. In addition, a recent study by Harvard University, itself, found that “legacy applicants" are seven times more likely to be admitted to universities than “non-legacies.”
The history of “legacy admissions" is not an honorable one. It dates back, in fact, to the post-World War I period, when U.S. colleges and universities wanted to ensure that coveted seats in their classrooms wouldn’t be filled, excessively, by too-strongly qualified Jewish immigrants. Today, it’s estimated that “legacy-admitted" students comprise around 10 to 25 percent of the student bodies at elite colleges and universities.
The saddest part about all of this, perhaps, is the false sense of superiority many legacy students feel, as compared to students of color, even when they are quantifiably lesser-qualified.
Indeed, a recent poll conducted by Georgetown University and the Public Research Institute disclosed that 57 percent of Americans aged 18-to-25 are opposed to racial preferences being utilized as part of college admissions and hiring decisions.
Maybe somebody should explain to these hopefully well-meaning young white people that students of color aren’t the major reasons for the scarcity of available seats in our nation’s college classrooms. More so than ever, it’s due to those categorized as “legacy applicants."
In 2007 Peter Schmidt, a senior writer at the Chronicle of Higher Education, wrote that about 15 percent of freshmen enrolled in America’s highly selective colleges are white teens who failed to meet their institutions' minimum admissions standards.
Schmidt went on to explain that “a sizable number (of those students) are recruited athletes … but a larger share are students who gained admission through their ties to people the institution wanted to keep happy, with alumni, donors, faculty members, administrators and politicians topping the list."
These are, clearly, students who think they “hit a triple.”
Is this Affirmative Action, or is it simply “privilege." In any event, there hasn’t been much of a public outcry about any of it.
There should be.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management, Inc.
After serving as a guest host on Wednesday and Thursday last week, on the Walter Lomax-owned WURD radio station in Philadelphia, I am absolutely convinced that Black talk radio is the original social media platform. Black radio is simply not being recognized as such by the mainstream experts on social media or, sadly, by members of the Black community itself.
Think about it.
There’s been a lot of buzz about social media in recent years, and its value for getting the word out instantaneously to wide, networked, audiences, and to stimulate engagement, or the two-way flow of information, on any given topic.
Social media have also been praised for providing previously unavailable access to public figures in entertainment, government and business, and for facilitating direct and immediate interaction between them and the everyday individuals who comprise their mass audiences.
According to Sally Falkow, an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America, “Markets have become conversations. Social media are the online platforms and locations that provide a way for people to participate in these conversations. For individuals, it is a way for people to participate in these conversations.”
When you cut through all of the 21st-century digital-focused definitions, you quickly recognize that Black talk radio has been doing precisely that – for years.
It’s interesting to see the new on-line “experts” taking credit for the invention of two-way media-enabled conversations. It’s interesting that they’re all pretending that Black talk radio didn’t actually pioneer the concept.
All of those who are newly fascinated by trending topics on Twitter, for example, should simply tap into the conversations on any Black talk-show-formatted station. In many more than 140 characters, they’ll find several topics of the day – sliced, diced and analyzed from a Black perspective.
Just like blog posts, the “Twitterverse” and any other online platform, the input from Black-talk audience members is not always based on copious research or expert opinions. It does, however, represent an immediate and honest reaction, by certain members of that Black community, to whatever happens to be in the news.
Those early Black talk shows were the places where we discussed civil rights, racial insensitivities by the mainstream, boycott plans, sports results, achievements by community members and a whole lot of politics. Those on-air "villages" were the place to go for incumbent and aspiring politicians, at election time. It was also the place for any person in our community – no matter how humble or unassuming – to go to speak directly with mayoral candidates, CEOs of major corporations, or their city’s most important religious leaders. It was direct access. And it was immediate.
We took it for granted. We still do.
As the Black community has rushed to social media, becoming leaders in the use of mobile devices, as well as Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms, we’ve paid less and less attention to the format that was the communications birthplace of the phenomenon – local, Black, talk radio.
While we’ve been busy moving on to the newest, latest technology, mainstream, conservative, right-wing Americans have quietly and profitably doubled back and co-opted the talk radio format. They're also doing it digitally. The concept of streaming talk radio carried on the Internet on satellite radio, has been a prominent source of radio growth in recent years.
According to Talkers Magazine, the top-rated radio shows in the U.S. now include seven talk formats” Sitting at the top of the list is the Rush Limbaugh show, with 14.75 million listeners. In second place, but coming on strong, at 14 million listeners, is Sean Hannity. In sixth place, with 8.3 million listeners, is their fellow-conservative talker, Glenn Beck. Limbaugh, by the way, has claimed the top-rated radio show in the country, for more than five years.
A few prominent Black talents have parlayed their local talk show expertise and moved into national syndications also. That short list includes Tom Joyner, who’s now heard live in more than 100 cities, on air and by streaming audio. By comparison, the dynamic Black talk personality Steve Harvey plays to six million listeners in 60 markets nationwide, while he’s not also running his new, highly rated TV talk show or hosting the “Family Feud.”
Last week, Arbitron, the marketing research firm that produces audience ratings for the radio industry, disclosed that radio listenership among Black listeners had increased by 920,000 persons over the past year, and that radio now reaches about 92.4 percent of the Black population.
As proud as we are of Joyner and Harvey, the challenge now is to preserve and support local Black radio talk formats, and not let them fall by the wayside simply because we’re all listening to nationally syndicated shows. The local message and its ability to influence political and economic issues still remains vitally important.
In my opinion, as we move into 2013, a conscious effort to preserve Black-owned radio and newspapers has to be at the top of the Black community’s New Year’s resolutions. Without them both, we’re far less able to be aware of, or to impact, the social, political and economic environment.
All of that came crashing home to me during my two days at WURD last week.
As some may be aware, I actually hosted a show along with Anthony Fullard and Billy Brown at noon on Saturdays on that station, for four years, ending in 2008.
It was good to be back in the studio, and to be back among the members of the loyal and close-knit “WURD family” of listeners. Folks such as Ron from North Philly, Debbi from the projects, Cliff from Yeadon, Dr. Burton, “OBM,” Dave-the Rave and Billy “Puppet” Smith, all chimed right back into our topics, as if we had never left the air.
On Wednesday, Fullard and I invited in a long list of local influentials and entrepreneurs to thoroughly discuss the state of Black-owned businesses in Philadelphia.
Our invited guests included City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, fresh from his announcement that he is planning to convene public hearings to ensure there will be Black and minority workers and businesses involved as part of the $6.4 billion airport expansion project.
The councilman was followed by Donna Allie, the principal owner of Team Clean, the Black-owned company that happens to be the largest, single employer of Black people in the city; Joanna Harris, an African-American woman, who owns her own successful construction company; and Steven Bradley, chair of Philly’s African American Chamber of Commerce. Also joining in were two young Black entrepreneurs, Ontario Armstrong, of the high-end men’s fashion brand Armstrong and Wilson; and Dominic Landry, of Common Ground Management, who shared their start-up frustrations, including their surprising difficulty in attracting business from Black customers.
What a lively, brutally honest conversation that turned out to be!
On Thursday, I was back, at 7 a.m., to co-host on WURD, this time with former chair of the School Reform Commission and current CEO of the American Cities Foundation, Sandra Dungee Glenn. Our invited on-air guests included U.S. Sen.Robert Casey, nationally respected economist Bernard Anderson, Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, and Irv Randolph, managing editor of the Philadelphia Tribune.
The dialogue about the Fiscal Cliff and the presentation of a Black action agenda to the incoming Obama administration was stimulating. Lessons were learned. Commitments to follow up were made on air, and there was mucho open engagement and “interaction, as the social media platforms like to claim for themselves. On Black radio, we always described that as “the phones were jumping” By the way, as I was leaving, I was reminded to download the new WURD app to my iPhone. Ouch!
It makes me wonder why we, here, in Philadelphia, and nationwide, don’t do more to support our Black talk radio formats.
What do you think?
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management, Inc.
Each time I see that some highly respected organization has spent another great sum of money to “discover” that Black and white Americans have diametrically opposed views on the continued existence of racism in America, I say to myself, “Hey, I could have told them that — for free.”
Who in their right mind, for example, should be surprised to learn that a recent Newsweek poll has informed us that the number of Americans — of all races — who had expected race relations to improve because Barack Obama was elected president, has decreased from 52 percent, in 2008, to 32 percent, today, and that another 30 percent actually believe that race relations have actually gotten worse, since Obama has been in office?
Who can honestly say they were surprised at the poll’s findings that 70 percent of whites believe Blacks receive equal treatment in the job market, but that only 25 percent of Blacks feel that way? And was it really a surprise that 80 percent of whites believe that the police and the courts treat Blacks and whites the same, but that less than 50 percent of Blacks believe that to be true?
I often sit in meetings with very well-meaning people, of all races, who seem not to fully comprehend how much damage this persistently mean-spirited, racial environment has done, and continues to do, to our citizens, as a whole, to the overall quality of life in our country, to America’s ability to reach political consensus on virtually any important national issue, or to the country’s ability to be truly competitive in global markets.
In 2011, in New York, as an example, 684,330 people were stopped by police; 87 percent of them were Black or Hispanic, although those groups collectively represent just 53 percent of the city’s population. Of those stopped, nine out of ten received no summons and were not arrested.
Furthermore, in an analysis of data in the state of Illinois, in 2008, officials found that minority drivers are more than twice as likely as white drivers to be subject to “consent searches,” but, that police were significantly more likely to find contraband in the vehicles of white drivers, 24.4 percent vs. 15.4 percent.
Introduced in the U.S. Senate, in October 2011, by Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin and, in the U.S. House of Representatives, in December, 2011, by Congressman John Conyers, the End Racial Profiling Act has had a difficult experience on Capitol Hill. It was initiated in 2001 by Conyers, and never passed; it was also introduced in Congress, in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009, but, also, never approved.
The bill needs to pass. Racial profiling, in this country, is real. I’m always mindful of having been stopped and frisked, on average, about five or six times per night, on Fridays and Saturdays, each time my teenaged friends and I ventured out of the housing projects where we lived, to walk up to the corner of Broad and Girard, in North Central Philadelphia, to buy French fries and a grape soda, from a store named “Lou’s.” That was part of our weekend routine, if we happened to have some “change” in our pockets.
Because that whole “stop and frisk thing” was starting to get “old,” we asked one of our neighborhood social workers, a guy named Bruce Jones, what our response ought to be when we next received such treatment. He told us that unless the police had a “reasonable suspicion” that we had done something wrong, or a warrant for our arrest, they had absolutely no right to stop us on our way to Broad and Girard, or anywhere else.
The following Friday, as soon as the police car rolled up on us, one of our friends asked the policeman, innocently, “Hey, officer, do you have a warrant to stop us like this?”
I can still see the cop swinging his open hand toward my friend’s head, shoving him, and commanding him and the rest of us to “assume the position,” face-forward, with our hands spread on the police car, as they commenced their search for weapons or contraband. It was then that we realized, sadly, that Black people in North Philly seemed to have no rights that the police department was obligated to respect.
When I was about 17, my best friend, Wylie Hinson, and I walked into a Center City department store, looking for a pair of new sneakers. More than anything, I remember being amused by the blatantly obvious “undercover security officers” who followed us, about 10 yards back, from section to section, waiting, I guess, to catch us shoplifting. While they kept their eyes on us, they ignored the groups of known, young, white shoplifters we both recognized, moving about the store. As the “undercover guys” usually did, when we went “downtown,” they continued to follow us, from afar, pretending to be shopping for socks or cuff links, right up to the point when we finally left the store.
Receiving a college degree and earning a management position in one of the country’s largest commercial banks, didn’t change my treatment by the police, one iota.
For about a year, I had moved from North Philadelphia to Lower Bucks County, to an apartment complex called Salem Harbor, in Andalusia, near the Great Northeast. My friends were starting to stop by a little too frequently, and I thought it would make sense to be just a bit less accessible to unexpected visitors.
To my great dismay, with my college degree, impressive job, late-model German vehicle, and Black face, I was no less subjected to police harassment.
It happened a lot. You knew the “stops” were “racial profiling” when the officer, in virtually every case, seemed to be deeply disappointed to learn that I actually did own the vehicle, and that my license and insurance were current.
The complete seriousness of these routine, unfair, race-based “pull-overs” didn’t come crashing home until one evening, at about 1 a.m., on my way back to my apartment, during yet another “stop.” Because it was so late, virtually no one else was on that part of Roosevelt Boulevard, but me and the two policemen.
Frustrated, I opened my car door, stepped out and asked one of the officers what I had done wrong. Out of the corner of my eye, though, I happened to see his partner get out of the passenger side of the police cruiser and move toward me, slowly placing his hand on the butt of his revolver.
All of a sudden, I saw visions, in my mind, of what the news stories about me “resisting arrest” and being shot to death on Roosevelt Boulevard, might look like.
I also began to wonder just how many other vice president/advertising directors at major U.S. banks were, at that same time, facing the prospect of being shot to death by police, simply for driving down the street, while being Black.
I instinctively raised both arms in the air and stopped talking, until they finished doing whatever they usually do with your license, registration and insurance card. Immediately after getting my “stuff” back, and pulling away from the intersection, I decided to “cut my losses,” and to move, as soon as humanly possible, back to the city.
These kinds of things don’t happen very much to white Americans, but they do happen every single day to Black folks. It’s, therefore, understandable why the two races continue to have vastly different views about racial profiling and racial equality in this country.
No one should be surprised.
Like I said, I could have saved Newsweek a lot of money on the cost of that survey. I could have told them all of that, for free.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.