It doesn’t take some folks much to get all riled up — especially when it comes to the subject of race.
There is, and always should be, a contingent of strong voices who rise in righteous indignation when an act of racism is committed.
Last week’s victims of foot-in-mouth disease, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, are perfect examples. When Santorum said he wouldn’t help Black people by giving them other people’s money; and when Newt opined that he’d give Blacks janitorial jobs instead of food stamps — you know, so “those people” can learn some sort of work ethic — they were slapped around by everyone from the NAACP to members of their own party.
Both were hauled in front of the cameras and forced to backtrack, explain, and further clarify their idiotic statements until they were blue in the face, and I loved every minute of it. When you say stupid, racist things simply to pander to stupid, racist voters you should be called on it.
But then there is another contingent — with voices just as strong, but whose poor research skills and convoluted logic has them grasping vainly at phantom racist bogeymen. Searching high and low for racism in every dusty corner, they scream “Aha!” with delight when they discover that green olives are sold in clear jars but black olives are sold in cans — no doubt, they argue with satisfaction, because olive packers are ashamed of Blackness and want to hide it from the public.
You know a few of these folks — we all do. They mean well, and God bless them in their constant vigilance against racism, but when raw emotion trumps common sense, then they’re just not helping the cause.
On Jan. 15, 1999, David Howard, a white aide to Anthony Williams, the Black mayor of Washington, D.C., used the word “niggardly” in reference to a budget issue. This apparently upset Marshall Brown, one of his Black colleagues, who interpreted it as a racial slur and lodged a very vocal public complaint. Ten days later Howard tendered his resignation, and Williams accepted it.
Never mind that anyone with a dictionary and half a brain can tell you that niggardly has nothing to do with race, and nothing to do with the unfortunate word that sounds something like it — not even remotely. It means stingy or miserly, and Howard was using the word correctly and in context.
Marshall Brown, who I’m sure is a good person, would probably say he was simply being vigilant about rooting out racism. But that’s not what he did. What he did was get a guy canned for no good reason, and prove his own pitiful lack of vocabulary. He didn’t advance the cause one iota.
I fear that may be the case this week with all the hue and cry over Microsoft’s new GPS application, dubbed Avoid Ghetto by journalists and bloggers. That’s the first important distinction — Microsoft never called it that, it’s just kind of how things end up getting labeled these days.
When downloaded to your smartphone or GPS, the app uses crime statistics, similar to programs used in maps for law enforcement, to help the user avoid “bad” neighborhoods. It also does the same for bad weather, but it’s the crime aspect that has the contingent up in arms.
Crying foul, they have decided that high crime equals Black, and therefore the app is racist.
Here’s the problem with that: The app maps crimes, not ethnicities. It has no idea who lives in the area, just that there’s a high incidence of crime. By hopping up and down to complain, it is the complainers themselves who draw the parallel between race and crime.
We can all name middle and upper class Black neighborhoods that are perfectly safe to walk through, and lower class white areas which are not safe at all. Now, if the app reflects that, and simply shows high and low crime statistics, I have no quarrel with it.
People have a right to decide to avoid high crime areas just like they have a right to avoid traffic jams or road construction if their GPS re-routes them. And don’t think for one minute that Black folks won’t be downloading that app, because plenty of us will. I think women, of any race, who frequently travel alone would probably find it quite useful.
So save the righteous anger for a legitimate race issue. I’m sure you won’t have to wait long — probably just until the next time one of the GOP candidates opens his or her mouth.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
When I began this trek writing commentary for The Philadelphia Tribune on August 13, 1996 I laid out a specific intent.
That stated intent for this column was to “illuminate matters of race, attack the ignorance impacting race matters and contribute to the unrelenting inertia for remedying the malady of racism that threatens our future.”
In the 856-weeks between that inaugural 1996 column and today I’ve attempted to remain faithful to that stated intent.
While I’ve occasionally fallen short in sharply hitting the mark with weekly columns written for this newspaper, I have attempted to execute that initially expressed intent effectively with each column.
Today represents the end of this adventure in commentary writing at The Philadelphia Tribune after a span of 16-years, four months and 26-days.
I want to thank the management of this historic institution and its readers for affording me the opportunity to share analytical insights on critical events/individuals locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.
For me, the opportunity to provide perspectives normally missing from mainstream media coverage, the opportunity to mine information that many want to remain in the margins of societal memory, the opportunity to expose injustices plus the opportunity to do what I really like to do – write – possesses a value more precious than gold.
Yes, winning journalism awards for my column writing has been satisfying but not as personally rewarding as having people come up and say they’ve learned something new about the world from reading the columns that I’ve written.
I must extend a special thanks to Tribune management for ‘backing’ me during these past 16-years when management rejected repeated requests that they ‘fire’ me for news I reported.
Integrity is a word employed more frequently than fully practiced in the news media. Tribune management providing me this platform to freely write commentary for sixteen years exemplifies integrity in action.
My tenure as a Tribune columnist has also given me another reward – association with journalists who’ve served as commentators for the Tribune since its November 1884 inception.
Those columnists included people like William Carl “Billy” Bolivar who wrote a column in the early 20th Century and Harry Amana, my column writing mentor during the mid-1970s.
Bolivar wrote the ‘Pencil Pusher Points’ column that often highlighted Black History. I’ve injected history into my columns, particularly highlighting the fascinating legacy of local Black History that Black Philadelphians so often overlook.
As I noted in that first 1996 column there exists “a basic dishonesty about race matters in America.”
Racist media coverage, for example, remains a problem today as in 1794 when legendary Philadelphia black leaders Richard Allen and Absalom Jones published an extensive retort to a malicious account by a white Philadelphia journalist falsely accusing Philly’s black community of profiteering and plundering during a yellow fever epidemic.
Harry Amana wrote the ‘Amana At-Large’ column.
Harry helped me in so many ways when I began my climb into news commentary writing while working as a news reporter for The Tribune.
I began my journalism career at the Tribune in 1973, working as a freelance writer producing a weekly column featuring community-based entertainment from church choirs to talent shows at recreation centers…before shifting into news commentary.
These past 16-years have encompassed the most fulfilling time-frame of my journalism career now reaching the forty-year mark. That fulfillment arises largely from my being able to infuse investigative reporting with critical analysis for America’s oldest black owned newspaper.
As I stated in that 8/13/96 column: Make no mistake – race matters in America…it always has.
Have things changed race-wise in America since August 1996?
Yes, certainly…but sadly no!
There’s no denying the progress of the self-made Oprah Winfrey moving from the only African-American on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans in 1996 to last year being the only African-American on Forbes’ list of billionaires around the world.
And, there’s no denying the progress within the election/reelection of U.S. President Barack Obama – the first person of acknowledged African ancestry to hold that position – who was Number #1 on the Forbes list of the 71 Most Powerful people in the world in 2012.
But in 2013, America’s black unemployment rate is higher than in 1996.
The “Equality Index” contained in the National Urban League’s 2012 State of Black American Report listed debilitating race-based disparities still confronting blacks in the areas of economics, social justice, health and education.
My inaugural 1996 column assailed race-based slights by Pa’s Supreme Court and its then Republican governor.
Today, employment prejudice continues within Pa’s highest court and Pa’s current Republican governor tried to rob voting rights from blacks last year through a voter suppression scheme he crassly funded with federal money allocated to increase-NOT-decrease voter participation… news revealed in this column on November 6, 2012.
Racism remains a topic that America downplays.
As noted in the last sentence of that inaugural 1996 column: legendary 19th Century black leader Frederick Douglass stressed Blacks cannot “cease to trouble the American people while any right enjoyed by others is denied or withheld from us…”
As I close the door of being a columnist for The Philadelphia Tribune, another door is opening.
I will now produce monthly in-depth and investigative articles for this newspaper … continuing to pursue my passion at an institution that I’m passionate about.
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
The construction of the new state prison in Montgomery County constructively indicts some Black politicians who accept campaign contributions from construction industry entities that black-ball Black businesses and Black workers.
The $315-million SCI Phoenix is the prison complex slated to replace the infamous Graterford prison that is located about 31-miles outside Philadelphia.
This new twin-prison facility (maximum- & medium-security sections) taking shape on Graterford’s grounds projects a capacity of 4,100 inmates.
Based on current imprisonment practices, a sizeable percentage of inmates filling Phoenix will come from Philadelphia.
Philadelphians comprise nearly one-third of the more than 51,000 inmates crammed into Pennsylvania’s expensive prison system according to that system’s latest posted annual statistical report.
The number of persons from Philadelphia County (30.4 percent) inside Pennsylvania prisons far exceeds Allegheny County (7.9 percent), the second largest inmate-contributor to the state’s prison system.
Allegheny County, which includes Pennsylvania’s second largest city (Pittsburgh), is a county with a similar number of residents as Philadelphia, the only combined city/county in this state.
Pennsylvania prisons, incidentally, consume nearly $2 billion annually with the majority of that government funding paying salary and benefit costs for the predominately white staff that oversees the predominately non-white inmate population.
Since 77 percent of Pennsylvania prison inmates possess no or really low work skills at the time of prison admission the fact that Phoenix is rising without equitable involvement of Black-owned construction businesses and Black construction workers adds another near criminal insult to the historic injury of the illegal exclusion blocking equitable economic inclusion.
State officials, during a meeting in Montgomery County, stated that no Black-owned firms were involved in the architectural design phase of Phoenix.
Further, state officials, during a meeting at Freedom Theater in North Philadelphia, indicated that white female owned construction companies — but not Black-owned firms — are onboard for contracts with the Phoenix project.
This perceived black-out of Blacks on the Phoenix prison project fits the pattern of discriminatory exclusion rampant in the construction industry in Philadelphia and across America.
Fall-out from this deliberate exclusion accelerates the societal problems contributing to the mass incarceration arising from convictions that are both legitimate and unjust.
The construction of Phoenix is a part of a $685-million prison expansion program by a state government whose Republican governor ruthlessly slashes funding for public education, health care and other services for the needy in the name of needing to reduce governmental spending.
It is an established fact that poor education is a predictor of criminal misconduct … regardless of the fact that conservative/law-&-order types incessantly ignore this fact.
Nearly 43 percent of all Pennsylvania prison system inmates “have less than a 12th-grade education” according to the system’s latest posted “Inmate Profile.”
The fact that some Black politicians (and Black preachers too) say little to nothing publicly about pressing issues like mass incarceration, construction industry discrimination and derelict public education is offensive.
There’s no polite way to say this.
Some Black politicians (and Black preachers too) need chiropractic care.
These persons tasked with leadership in our communities need spinal adjustments.
Specifically, these persons need some “backbone” — the courage and commitment to stand-up consistently for the best interests of their constituents and congregants.
As the legendary Malcolm X once observed: A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.
A major problem with some Black politicians and Black preachers is not necessarily standing-for-nothing, but failing to do the things screaming for action.
The reality is many problems with education, economic opportunity, employment, etc. which persistently plague Black communities arise from too many leaders falling short or selling out.
Too often, too many of these leaders only stand for their self-interest.
Too often, these (mis)leaders subvert the greater good instead of advancing it.
Self-interest isn’t inherently detrimental but it is damaging from those who position themselves as acting on behalf of the many.
Now, declaring this need for more “backbone” in Black leadership circles doesn’t disparage all in those circles as needing spinal strengthening, because there are many serious and selfless political and religious leaders.
“Backbone” for political leaders, for example, would thrust Black elected officials into the forefront of efforts to achieve real campaign finance reform.
Money is a major pollutant in politics. Politicians need money to finance their election campaigns. And, too often, Black politicians accept contributions from individuals and entities whose interests are antithetical to the interests of the Black community.
In Philadelphia, building trade unions with track records of racist employment practices provide campaign cash to Black politicians resulting in too many Black politicians being too timid about tackling the rancid job discrimination perpetrated by the trade unions that keep constituents of those politicians unemployed.
There’s an ugly twist to the payday interests of those unions receiving precedence over equal employment opportunities of Philadelphia residents (Blacks and others alike) who vote for those politicians (unlike suburban union members).
The money swelling the coffers of discriminatory trade unions from income generated by publicly funded construction projects pays for battles (legal & political) to blunt, if not kill, rare initiatives to rein in their employment racism.
Further, major construction industry companies that constantly hire discriminatory trade unions devote portions of their profits from publicly funded construction projects to pay for battles (legal & political) that gut affirmative action programs.
Ultimately, poor political representation results from people persistently electing unrepresentative representatives.
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
Democrats are giddy with joy this week, popping champagne corks while circle dancing around what they believe is the flaming wreckage of Mitt Romney’s doomed presidential campaign.
I still see plenty of daylight left for Romney to right the ship and give President Barack Obama a run for his money on Election Day. And that word — money — is the reason why. Behind badly in the polls and losing more ground every day, Romney’s staff knows they can’t rely on the gullible American electorate to push them over the finish line. So instead, they rely on the millions contributed by a few very wealthy donors to counter the millions of voters they continue to alienate every day.
Even though the gaffes are coming at a such a furious pace from the Romney camp it’s hard to keep up, and the past ten days have been among the worst in campaign history, there remains among the GOP the reasonable hope that there are enough brain dead knuckle-draggers left out there who can hate a Black president enough to vote against their own best interests.
First there was the GOP convention in Tampa, where racist delegates threw peanuts at a Black CNN camerawoman, and Clint Eastwood turned out to be an incoherent old man who holds lengthy, babbling conversations with an empty chair.
Romney and running mate Paul Ryan had to run away from their own party’s platform, or risk having to answer uncomfortable questions about no-exception abortion bans, and “legitimate” rape. Having just thrown Senate candidate Todd Akin under the bus for expressing the same sentiments, the top of the ticket was forced to remain silent.
The plastic candidate was then chastised by his own party when his nomination speech failed to mention the war in Afghanistan, and failed to thank the troops for their service.
Then Romney shot from the hip in his condemnation of the Obama administration’s response to the spreading riots in the Middle East — one of which resulted in the death of a U.S. ambassador. Romney’s rebuke was early and off the mark, and introduced naked political pandering into a situation that called for cooler heads and critical thinking.
Then the tape came out.
Surely you’ve seen it by now, since the whole country has been obsessed with the YouTube video for almost a week. Romney, at a $50,000 a plate fundraising dinner held last spring at the ritzy Boca Raton mansion of hedge fund manager and Sixers co-owner Marc Leder, said that 47 percent of the country are lazy, entitlement moochers who aren’t going to vote for him anyway, so he’s not going to concern himself with them.
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” Romney said smugly. “All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. And the government should give it to them. . . . These are people who pay no income tax."
As a side note, if you haven’t read the transcript of the videotape, available online, I recommend you do so, if only to amaze yourself at the shocking stupidity of the questions Romney fielded from the fat cat partygoers. Their utter lack of insight, political knowledge, and understanding of the world is dizzying, especially when you consider these are the folks who believe they are entitled to rule over the rest of us simply because of the size of their wallets.
But back to the 47 percent.
I wonder if Romney knows that included in his 47 percent of lazy, unworthy moochers is every wounded soldier who goes to the VA hospital for an artificial limb. It’s every grandmother who relies on Medicare for her prescription drugs. It’s the working mom with two jobs who still has to feed her kids ramen noodles and hot dogs for supper. It’s every hardworking student who needs a Pell grant in order to afford college.
They are the people we care for because they need our help, because helping them is the decent thing to do, and because to refuse that help would make us callous, soulless, self-important plutocrats — like the dimwits who pay $50,000 to listen to an empty suit.
Rather than rejoice in his implosion, in the end, I almost feel sorry for Romney. Almost.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
Rodney King never considered himself a philosopher or phrase-maker despite the fact that words he uttered on April 29, 1992, became one of the iconic phrases of the 1990s in American popular culture.
On that day, during the height of the worst urban riot in American history, King, victimized by police brutality the previous year, reacted to that rioting then burning large sections of Los Angeles with the heart-felt plea: “…can we all get along?”
That riot, lasting six days, claiming over fifty lives and creating billions of dollars in damages, erupted following an all-white jury’s acquittal of the four white Los Angeles policemen charged with the savage beating of King on March 3, 1991, that an eyewitness captured on videotape.
King, 47, died this weekend, apparently the result of an accidental drowning in the swimming pool of the California home he shared with his fiancée’.
King’s April 1992 observation is another example of the phrase about wisdom often being found in the simplest of places.
Rodney King spoke in Philadelphia at the end of April while promoting his recently published memoir, offering insights into the context of that phrase forever attached to him and dropping some other tidbits of grassroots wisdom that those who should hear and act on will continue to ignore.
King said his “get along” plea arose from his upbringing in the Los Angeles area where he got to know people of different nationalities through the church his mother attended.
“It was hard for me to see the city burning during the riot … when I thought about the good times during my youth,” King said. “My lawyers gave me a statement to read but it wasn’t me. I spoke from my heart … what I felt that day when I saw the violence in the streets.”
King did not condone the rioting but understood the reaction to the acquittals that exploded into negative chaos in far in excess to another instance of segments of society excusing another instance of brutal lawlessness by law enforcers.
“There have been brutality cases over the years and police always get away with it. People were fed up with the brutality and violence,” King said during his book tour talk held at the African American Museum in Center City.
“In L.A. at the time police would use the rationale that Blacks were on PCP so they needed to be killed. It is scary how brutality has twisted the minds of people to the point where they think Blacks deserve mistreatment.”
Police abuse, from insulting verbal encounters to fatal incidents, continues to ravish America especially against persons of color largely because few offending police officers ever face discipline, discharge or criminal indictment.
In Los Angeles, 27 years before the riot producing Rodney King’s iconic reaction, another incident of police abuse triggered six days of deadly rioting in the Watts section of that city.
This past March, 20 years after that 1992 riot, police in the Los Angeles suburb of Pasadena fatally shot 19-year-old college student Kendrec McDade seven times, leaving him handcuffed and bleeding on the street instead of quickly taking him to a hospital for treatment.
Rodney King, during his Philly talk drew connections between police misconduct and the violent chaos consuming too many Black communities nationwide.
“When people view you life as nothing it leads to these killings [in Black communities]. Police do this. People look up to police. They see them killing people without punishment and now they are doing it,” King said.
“Police are too comfortable with killing Blacks. Now that feeling is held by Blacks who kill Blacks.”
No need to speculate on whether the powers-that-be will accept the observations of Rodney King about police misconduct being an element in the crime spawning matrix in Black communities.
America is too comfortable with myths even myths that easily melt in the glare of reality.
America, at least the power brokers and many in the media, incessantly push the myth that taxing the wealthy properly is counter-productive for the economy because its siphons money that the rich use to create jobs into the sinkhole of government.
Think about how many jobs that wealthy are not creating with the tons of tax-break cash they are dumping into political campaigns where the wealthy are nakedly seeking to elect politicians that will sustains their tax breaks to the detriment of society.
Wealthy Republicans aligned with the likes of conservative power-broker Karl Rove plan to spend nearly $1 billion to capture the White House and control Congress. Not a dime of that billion dollars planned for buying influence in Washington, D.C., will produce a job for an unemployed person in Watts or rural Wisconsin.
Another myth is that America — the world’s military superpower — needs to spend nearly a trillion dollars on national defense, spending that enriches owners of defense industries but has little impact on winning wars in places like Afghanistan where lightly armed insurgents have battled the hi-tech U.S. military machine to a draw.
A few weeks ago an editorial in the monthly newsletter of AARP (American Association of Retired People) advanced the interesting idea of redirecting a slice of military spending to improve education that will uplift the economy.
Buy several fewer $133-million F-35 jet fighters, using that money to purchase portable computers for every first-grader.
Ignoring reality doesn’t change reality.
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
I got an angry letter from Governor Corbett last week, or at least from one of his minions — chastising me for a column I wrote the week before calling for Corbett’s impeachment.
Click this link to see the letter in its entirety, and you can read it for yourself. I’m not going to refute its content point by point, but there are a couple of highlights that beg further review.
Dennis Roddy, special assistant to the governor, attempts to take me to task for saying Corbett’s been bending over backwards to accommodate his Big Oil and Big Energy friends and contributors tearing up Marcellus Shale and its surrounding communities by reminding readers that Corbett “laid down more than $1 million in penalties on a Marcellus driller for environmental failures.”
Well, Dennis, I took your suggestion and googled “Chesapeake, record fine,” and guess what? The $1 million fine is there, along with the fact that Chesapeake Energy, the company in question, owns 519 well permits in Pennsylvania and has been reporting annual revenues between $7.6 billion and $11.3 billion a year for the past four years. Chesapeake also pays its CEO $116.89 million per year, making him the third highest paid executive in the country. I seriously doubt that the $1 million in fines, however unprecedented, made much of a dent in their $11 billion profit margin. I also doubt that a drop-in-the-bucket fine is much of an incentive to make those corporations accountable for the devastated communities they’ll leave behind, or to discontinue thumbing their noses at environmental regulations.
Also notable is the boast that, “The governor crafted and implemented an impact fee in addition to this, meaning that a fully productive well will pay $310,000 to its host community over a10-year period.”
Wait a second, let me get this straight. A fully productive well, pumping millions of dollars worth of natural gas, will pay the host community — an entire township or borough — a whopping $31,000 per year for ten years. That should be of great comfort to the folks who’ll be able to light their tap water on fire, or find themselves dying of a host of environmentally based illnesses. $31,000 won’t even pay for the water they’ll have to truck in from out of town just to take a shower.
What is most telling, however, about Roddy’s tersely worded retort, is not what it says, but what it doesn’t say.
He doesn’t include one word about the voter ID law, about which I had the most to say in that column, and many columns previous. He doesn’t think its “odd,” “astonishing,” or “alarming” that I called Corbett’s law “the most insidious violation of citizens’ basic rights and dignity since “Colored Only” water fountains.” I compared it to the fire hose and police dog voter suppression tactics of the 1960s, and even headlined one column, “Tom Corbett, meet Jim Crow.”
I mean, if there were ever an opening to defend a policy you strongly believe in, that would have been it right there.
While vigorously defending Marcellus Shale drillers and Corbett’s handling of the Penn State scandal while he was Attorney General, when it comes to defending the most egregious piece of legislation in the state affecting the elderly, the poor, immigrants and ethnic minorities — silence. You can almost hear the crickets.
No attempt to convince Tribune readers that the voter ID law is free of racism, or even partisanship. No defense of voter ID law sponsor state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, who once featured life-size targets of President Obama for his gun-toting contributors to shoot live rounds at one of his fundraising hoedowns. No acknowledgement of the accidental slip of the truth from House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, who bragged to a partisan crowd in June that the voter ID law would insure a Mitt Romney win in Pennsylvania.
Could it be that Roddy simply forgot about all that when crafting the carefully worded defense of his boss? Or could it be that Corbett knows only too well that the voter ID law — and particularly the sinister motivation behind it — is as shamelessly partisan and nakedly racist as anything to come out of Harrisburg in years?
There’s even talk among Republicans nationally of repealing the Voting Rights Act altogether. Women, gays, minorities, senior citizens and immigrants are all in the GOP cross hairs this election season. Vote like your life depends upon it, because it just might.
Then, impeach Corbett.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
Standing outside a residential building in London’s West Kingston section recently, Omowale Rupert revealed some intriguing facts to a visitor about the last years of the life of legendary Black activist Marcus Garvey.
The Jamaican-born visionary Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association — the Harlem USA based organization that remains the largest mass movement among Blacks in history.
During the early 1920s, UNIA membership soared beyond four million across the U.S. and numerous countries around the world.
Garvey, famous for phrases like “Africa-for-Africans,” pushed economic development for empowering Blacks along with inspiring pride through Black-is-Beautiful during an era when violent segregation stalked America and brutal European colonialism exploited most of the Black world.
The still-operating UNIA branch building in North Philadelphia is a Pennsylvania certified historic site.
Rupert asked the visitor to cross the small street where they stood in front of the last UNIA office used by Garvey, who died in London in 1940.
Rupert said he had something curious to show about that building, No. 2 Beaumont Crescent.
“Look at the drain pipes,” directed Rupert, a member of the Marcus Garvey Organizing Committee of London’s Pan-African Society Community Forum.
“See how all the drain pipes on houses here come straight down the far left side of the buildings but the drain piping on the Garvey office house goes from the left side across the house to the right side,” noted the London-born Rupert, whose parents immigrated to England from the Caribbean island of Dominica.
“Someone put that drain pipe there purposefully to block the plaque honoring this Garvey office that people put up in August 1987, the 100th anniversary of Garvey’s birth. That drain pipe wasn’t there in 1987 when people placed that plaque. It shows you how racism operates.”
While that retro-fitted drain pipe does obscure the weathered 1987 plaque on No. 2 Beaumont Crescent, about two months ago, some Garvey supporters in London erected a new blue plaque with silver lettering on the right side of the front door commemorating the location.
In August when Londoners erected that new plaque on the old Garvey office, one mean-spirited Obama administration minion indignantly denied a request for a posthumous pardon for Garvey, whom the U.S. government falsely convicted in 1923, imprisoned and deported in 1927.
The Obama administration pardon attorney issued his denial on the historically inaccurate assertion that Garvey’s mistreatment by the U.S. government did not constitute a manifest injustice.
Aggravating insult, this minion wrote a letter claiming that pardoning Garvey would be a waste of time and resources since Garvey died ages ago.
When a Black U.S. congressman unsuccessful sought a Garvey pardon in 1987, ambassadors and scholars testified in favor of the man who is a National Hero in Jamaica and whose bust is in the Hall of Heroes at the Organization of American States in D.C.
Jamaica’s then ambassador to the U.S. testified that it was the “fervent desire of the government and people of Jamaica to clear the good name of Garvey …”
Professor Robert A. Hill, one of the world’s leading Garvey experts, gave testimony stating that Garvey was “innocent of the criminal charge of mail fraud [and] was unjustly convicted” citing his review of the 2,800-page trial record that Hill said failed “to reveal any substantial support for the government’s conviction …”
Hill concluded that the federal government prosecuted Garvey for “only one purpose — politically ridding the United States of the leader of the largest mass movement of people of African descent ever …”
Simon Woolley, the director of the London-based Operation Black Vote, when praising the August 2011 plaque erection echoed Hill’s conclusion when he said the U.S. government deliberately “thwarted” Garvey’s dream of a “powerful, economically sufficient Black world … because the American authorities simply could not let him succeed.”
The denial of a pardon to right the unjust wrong done to Garvey is sadly consistent with what a Washington Post editorial earlier this month criticized as Obama’s “miserly use of his pardon power.”
To date Obama’s issued only 17 pardons mostly for minor offenses — a posture certainly contradicting his campaign pledges to enact “change” once elected.
Former President Bush recorded the worst pardon record of any modern president and Obama is tracking even worse than Bush.
For those who defend Obama’s pattern of back-handing concerns involving blacks by arguing he has bigger problems to address than pardoning a “Garvey Who?” consider the fact that America’s path toward black political empowerment that Obama references (when expedient for his personal purposes) ran through Garvey’s UNIA.
The UNIA made multiple contributions to the Civil Rights Movement that spawned the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who Obama lauds as laying the foundations for his elevation to the Oval Office.
When King visited Jamaica in 1965 he laid a wreath on Garvey’s grave, praising Garvey as the first man to give millions of Blacks a “sense of dignity and destiny.”
Had America embraced just one-tenth of the 66 items contained in the UNIA’s 1920 “Declaration of Rights,” many of the race-based problems presently besieging this nation would be lessened if not eliminated.
That Declaration decried poor education and unjust punishment, and it opposed employment discrimination — three current plagues.
Garvey once said if Blacks are not careful they “will drink in all the poison of modern civilization and die from the effects of it.”
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
Political conventions are supposed to be the place where candidates shore up the base while reaching out over the airwaves to appeal to the independents and the fence sitters.
But for any politically active potential voter paying even cursory attention for the past two weeks, I don’t see how there can be many undecideds left in the country.
Last week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa was a full-on Obama hate fest, with enough snark and ridicule to last several administrations. If there’s one thing you took from that weeklong spectacle, it’s that those folks really, really dislike the president on a gut level. They hate him, they hate his wife, and they hate everything he’s done since taking office.
Not that there isn’t room for criticism in Obama’s policies, because there is. You can certainly differ with the man’s agenda, or take issue with his methods, without despising him personally or disrespecting the office.
You didn’t see much of that last week, though. The GOP reaction to President Obama is a visceral one — an anger that comes from deep within, and probably has little to do with the man’s policies.
That anger, though, was not reserved for the president alone. Women, gays, immigrants, and ethnic minorities got a taste of what life would be like under a Romney presidency, if only through the fact that so few minorities were visible at the convention.
Contrast that with the diversity on display at the Democratic National convention this week in Charlotte, and the subtle coding of GOP rhetoric becomes clearer. Not only was there a plethora of strong women, Black and brown skinned speakers and delegates, and a significant gay contingent, those groups were encouraged to stand proudly out front.
It’s as if convention organizers had conspired to show America just how progressive, or regressive, their parties can be. Several Republicans noticed, too, and some took to social media to express their derision. One GOP pundit tweeted a sneeringly offensive comment about the podium in Charlotte looking like a scene from the play, “The Vagina Monologues,” because of the number of women represented.
There were other nasty tweets and blog posts, seething about the Democrats’ ability to draw strength from their diversity, as though it really doesn’t matter if everyday Americans see a political party that looks like them.
Note to Republicans: it matters.
America is getting less and less white every year, and most experts estimate that white folks could find themselves a statistical minority in a few short years. If they lose this election, the GOP fade into irrelevance as the good old boys network slowly dies off, leaving the party without its traditional base of rich old white men.
The Democrats, for their part, went out of their way to show up the Republicans, and did so in grand fashion. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, fairly unknown prior to this week, wowed the crowd with his personal story of the immigrant experience, and in doing so blew the GOP’s favorite Hispanic Marco Rubio out of the water.
First lady Michelle Obama reminded Americans why they like her husband, and why she loves him. Her affection for her spouse was evident, and even GOP talking heads had to admit that she has transformed herself into quite a political force in her own right.
Even Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student who was called nasty names by the right for her principled stance on contraceptives, made mincemeat of her former detractors in a well-received speech that belied her status as a political amateur.
But if anyone stole the show from the president, even for one night, it was former president Bill Clinton. Looking strong and fit, Ol’ Bubba recreated his magic spell for the better part of an hour, whipping the crowd into a frenzy with his trademark combination of masterful delivery and boyish charm. Clinton laid out the case for Obama’s reelection while throwing left hooks at Romney and Paul Ryan that couldn’t miss.
Following Clinton’s brilliant oratory, President Obama took the stage briefly to walk Clinton off. The crowd went completely nuts. The two alpha male rock stars embraced warmly and strode offstage while the audience whooped, cried and blubbered as if they’d seen a holy vision.
Sure, I’m biased, but I’m not a ride-or-die zealot. I see the flaws and blemishes in the Democrat way of governing, but I’ve decided I’ll go with the folks who mean well, rather than folks who are just plain mean.
Because if you’re still undecided at this stage, those are your two choices.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
During a brief conversation at an event last week two apparently well-educated African Americans tried to carefully “explain” to me that President Barack Obama has no choice other than to ignore Black political issues because he wants of course to be re-elected and “there are more white voters than Black voters.”
I was deeply disappointed by their easy acceptance of what has become a predictable pattern of second-class economic and political treatment for the Black community over the past few years. Not only did they seem willing to endure 16.2 percent Black unemployment levels (as long as it didn’t include the loss of their own jobs, I guess) but they were also apparently resigned to having four more years of the same if that’s what it will take to return the Obama family to the White House.
There are “more white voters than Black voters?” Is that what went through Harriet Tubman’s mind as she fought to navigate the Underground Railroad and free Black slaves?
Did the fact that there were virtually no “legal” or unharrassed Black voters in many of the Southern states prior to the passage of the Voting Rights Act stop Blacks in those states from speaking out for what was fair and reasonable and for social and economic inclusion?
Did their lack of a voting majority ever stop Black Americans from expressing their outrage over having their men lynched by Klansmen?
Have African Americans ever had a voting majority in any national election in the history of this country anyway? Did that ever stop us from pressing our political issues?
What has happened to us? Why the recent complacency? How dare we try to characterize this curious new brand of self-defeatism and cowardice as “political sophistication?”
Have Jewish Americans ever “bitten their tongue” when they sought support for their issues — here or in Israel— simply because they represented less than 2 percent of the U.S. population?
Where did we learn this new politically spineless behavior?
As much as I and others have been critical of the “Occupy Wall Street” organizers for their lack of true inclusion of Blacks and other diverse economically desperate people, at least the “Occupiers” have demonstrated the courage to stand up for what they believe to be right.
Do you think they took a headcount to determine if they were outnumbered before they put up their tents?
So where do we get this from?
Some of those who have adopted this new laid-back voiceless form of African-American politics seem to be oblivious to how far we continue to fall behind collectively as we express blind support for a presidential administration that treats us as an annoyance.
It was the “hope” of many of us that President Obama would simply find a way to broaden the national dialogue so as to include 40 million African Americans to their full economic and social potential.
In the aftermath of the short-lived euphoria of 2008, however, what we have come away with — in addition to rampant African-American unemployment — is a recent report from the Federal Procurement Data System that informs us that Black-owned businesses received just 1.2 percent of all federal contracts in the fiscal year ended September 30 2011. To put that into context, Blacks constitute nearly 13 percent of the national population and own more than 7 percent of all U.S. businesses.
Adding insult to economic injury we also endured a $787 billion Stimulus Program that produced precious little business/contract stimulation in our community. Indeed nine months into the program $150 million in contracts had been let to companies for streets highway and bridge construction but “not a single dollar had been allocated to any African-American-owned business,” according to the Transportation Equity Network.
Many of these economic disparities pre-dated Barack Obama, including the fact that only 14,500 of the nation’s 1.9 million Black businesses report annual sales of $1 million or more or that 97 percent of Black firms report gross receipts of less than $250,000 per year.
But shouldn’t the president using his bully pulpit establish a task force to explore why these challenges have existed for so long certainly not to disadvantage white Americans but rather to level the playing field once and for all.
Shouldn’t we expect at least that much from a President to whom we gave 95 percent of our votes on Election Day in November 2008?
Here’s the sad thing: We had grown to almost take for granted here in the U.S. dating back to the Kennedy Administration that our country would be working consistently if not always perfectly to bring about racial inclusion in the workforce and in the area of federal contract participation.
Then right after the 2008 election “post-racialism” broke out and all of those beliefs started to evaporate.
It’s hard to believe that 2011 marks the 50th anniversary of the use of the term “affirmative action” by the U.S. government. It wasn’t until March of 1961 that President Kennedy’s Executive Order #10925 was introduced and the Committee On Equal Opportunity was created. That was the one that mandated that all projects financed with federal funds “take affirmative action” to ensure that hiring and employment practices would be free of racial bias.
It’s been 39 years since President Richard Nixon in his own Executive Order #11625 established the national Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) contracting program. In that same vein the 28 years since President Ronald Reagan issued Executive Order #12432 mandating each federal agency with substantial procurement authority to establish an MBE development plan seem to have just flown by.
And wasn’t it just July 1995 (seems like only yesterday) when Bill Clinton after a 4 1/2- month review of federal affirmative action programs and under extreme political pressure from right-wing conservatives gave an historic public endorsement of the program by encouraging the nation to “mend it, don’t end it?”
My, how some things have changed.
Unfortunately there’s been a clearly evident and quantifiable shift in this country away from the spirit and letter of concepts such as “affirmative action,” “equal opportunity,” “minority business enterprise” and even “Black economic development.”
Those who use such terms today in “polite company” risk being called “out of touch,” being accused of “fighting a war that has already been won,” and being branded as excessively hopelessly “politically correct.” Right after those things are said, the term “playing the race card” is usually thrown in for good measure. There’s also been the convoluted argument unsupported by any facts whatsoever of something called “reverse discrimination.”
This is a monumental paradigm shift for this country and like all paradigm shifts the change in attitude that launched it has clearly “flowed down from the top.”
We have a president who has consistently said to any media correspondent with a camera and microphone and to any Black person who has the courage to ask that he has no intention whatsoever of taking any action that would specifically correct years of economic disparities that still impact Black people and contribute directly to runaway Black unemployment levels.
Here’s the question: If Mr. Obama doesn’t want the responsibility, isn’t there anyone else out there with the courage and skill set required to lead this nation in a fair, forceful and inclusive way?
Don’t tell me that if the next president is not Barack Obama we may be stuck with a guy named Perry or a woman named Bachmann. There are more than 300 million Americans, 40 million of whom as I mentioned earlier happen to be Black.
Surely there must be at least one more capable person in this country who wants to do the job.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.
It’s difficult for me to summon up any sympathy for Monsignor William J. Lynn, the high-ranking Roman Catholic priest convicted of child endangerment in a landmark case.
Lynn, as everyone in Philly, and around the country, surely knows by now, was the Philadelphia Archdiocese point man for investigation and action in the clergy sex scandal. Instead of protecting children from these predatory monsters, Lynn protected the church — by transferring the pedophiles to other parishes and sweeping the evidence under the rug.
Now facing the distinct possibility of spending his golden years behind bars, the 61-year-old cleric’s lawyers pleaded with Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina to allow Lynn to remain free, albeit on house arrest, until his scheduled Aug. 13 sentencing.
Sarmina denied that request this week, taking prosecutors’ fears into account that Lynn could be a flight risk. Turns out, there is some interesting evidence to back this up. Some 35 American priests accused of child sexual abuse have fled to Rome in recent years, where they have enjoyed the protection of the Vatican, and rest easy knowing that the Vatican has no extradition treaty with the United States — meaning those runaway pedophiles could conceivably never be forced to return to America to face their crimes.
Lynn, on the other hand, has been tried and convicted, and should be treated like every other convicted criminal. Since his conviction last month, Lynn has been awaiting his sentencing hearing, along with the city’s other miscreants, at the Curran-Fromhold detention center in Northeast Philly.
It can’t be pleasant.
A man in his 60s, never in trouble with the law before, a non-violent pacifist, suddenly finds himself in a very, very unfamiliar environment — and one of the scariest situations imaginable.
His fellow inmates surely know who he is, and why he’s there. They followed his three-month long trial on television, and read the news reports. And even if you’ve never been on the other side of the bars yourself, we’ve all seen enough prison movies to know the other residents do not receive child molesters kindly.
I’m betting Lynn hasn’t had a wink of sleep, or even one restful moment, since he was led from the court in handcuffs three weeks ago. I imagine he spends every moment of every day scared out of his wits, and flinches reflexively if another inmate even comes within arm’s reach.
Years ago, I spent the night in the holding cell at the Roundhouse — strictly as a reporter, of course. I wanted to get a real feel of the sights, the smells, and the overall gloom of the place. I can tell you this: it was far, far more ugly than you can imagine. The stench was incredible – a potent combination of urine, body odor, and unidentified stink that made your eyes water and forced you to suppress the natural gag reflex.
The shouts, screams, and general din are even more distracting. Inmates argue loudly with each other, and with themselves, often yelling at unseen demons both internal and imagined.
And his was only the overnight lockup, not Curran-Fromhold, where the city’s worst offenders — not the most gentlemanly bunch to begin with — wait to learn how long they’ll spend in the penitentiary.
For a man like William Lynn, it must be a nightmare.
But if it is a living hell, it is one of his own making, and I agree with Judge Sarmina in letting him sit it out in a lonely cell, as opposed to relaxing at home with friends and family. Sure, he’s looking at some long, sleepless nights, but how many victims of abusive priests have trouble sleeping, even years later? A good number of them, I’ll wager.
No one accused Lynn of being a child molester himself. He simply aided and abetted child molesters, foisting them on unsuspecting parishes, ignoring the very real danger that more kids would have their innocence stolen by these monsters.
In some ways, what Lynn did was worse.
Having him sweat it out in a cell doesn’t bother me one bit. Neither does the fact that after sentencing, it’s likely that Lynn will spend the rest of his life locked away with very dangerous people. Although he’s not a murderer, or rapist, or an armed robber, Monsignor William Lynn is just as dangerous as the men he’ll spend the rest of his days avoiding like the plague.
It may not be justice, but under the circumstances, it’s as close as we can get.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.