Insight News

Thursday
Oct 23rd

Commentary

If it sounds like racism and acts like racism, then it probably is racism

(NNPA) - This is America, but you wouldn't think so in light of recent events wherein two high-profile, long serving African American congress people have come under attack. They are being dragged through the mud in a rush to judgment regarding alleged ethics violations. US Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) and US Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) are the accused.
Rangel has been found guilty by a House ethics subcommittee of violating ethics rules and will face trial within the next couple of months. He has been under investigation since 2008 due to allegedly using his House position for financial benefit.  Waters is also under the microscope of the House ethics subcommittee for allegedly using her congressional authority in a meeting with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on behalf of  OneUnited bank, in which her husband owns $250,000 in stock.
It is important that our elected officials, those to whom we give our public trust, be ethically sound, but in this current spate of accusations, there is something fishy in the proverbial Denmark! As of 2010, there are presently 42 African American members in the 111th U.S. Congress - 41 in the House of Representatives (39 representatives and 2 non-voting delegates) and one in the Senate. The fact is that African Americans represent only 10 percent of Congress, and 19 percent (8) are under investigation! This raises the question as to whether or not Black lawmakers face more scrutiny over allegations of wrongdoing than their White counterparts. We conclude that if it sounds like racism and acts like racism, then it probably is racism! In America, we need to presume innocence until proven guilty, and we need not be led to judgment.
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Should America have a dialogue based on race?

The past 40 years were the best times ever to be Black in America.  But, is it still?  While the size of Black underclass has tripled since the 1980s, a Black middle-class that was thought to be flourishing may have fallen on hard times.  Studies show: “the wealth gap between White and Black American families has more than quadrupled over the last generation”.

What better man to have on such an issue than the richest Black man in America?  Robert L. Johnson, founder and chairman of the RJL Companies says “a wealth gap Tsunami threatens African American families” and is calling for a national dialogue to get on the problem.  In a presentation he made to members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Johnson advocated legislative activity on the issue.  Johnson said, “We must admit the harsh reality of a history of institutionalized racism and economic discrimination against African Americans is the primary cause of wealth disparity between Black and White Americans and now we must be willing to talk about race recognition remedies”.  He said: “I recognize that public policy based on race is extremely provocative and controversial but controversy should not prevent a reasonable dialogue about a societal dilemma that is real and economically devastating in its potential to millions of African Americans."
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Congressional racism?

Recently, two top ranking Congressional Democrats have been charged with ethics violations by the Office of Congressional Ethics, where members can anonymously accuse their peers of wrong doing. Whether or not there is any merit to the charges remains to be seen but it is interesting that, of the last 10 ethics investigations the Office has conducted, eight of those under scrutiny were black.

New York Congressman Charles Rangel is charged with 13 congressional ethics violations and California Congresswoman Maxine Waters is charged with three. Among the charges Rangel faces are improperly using his office to secure donations for a school of public in New York that is named after him, failing to pay taxes on rental income from a home he owns in the Dominican Republic and for using a rent-controlled apartment in Harlem for his campaign office. Waters has been accused with using her influence to arrange a meeting between the Treasury Department and a bank her husband owned shares in. Both plan to fully fight the charges against them.
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Letter to the Editor: Bicycle apartheid

I read with interest you article on bicycle apartheid.  As cycling is a lifestyle choice for me, many aspects of this issue concern me.  Rep. Champion covered issued of funding and representation in the planning and execution of the bike program.  The funding is public.  It should be expected that its use would be considered for varied populations. In knowing the populations it helps to know where important locations could be to place bicycle stations.  The present sites are primarily downtown, the U-District and Uptown.  As I bike past these places their placement could demonstrate some blind sightedness on the part of the planners.  Even in choosing locations downtown places like Grant & Nicollet, Elliott Park (across from the east end of HCMC) and other similar sites that have tremendously diverse populations (and people who would use the program) are not included.

Someone from among the planners wrote a letter to the editor that was fairly disrespectful of Rep. Champion and demonstrated an arrogance in his/her blind sightedness.  Rep. Champion is busy working on larger issues of concern to his constituents.  Monitoring a bike program for the city would not be what I would expect him to have spent his time.  It is enough that he took the time to note the error.  Focus groups with diverse constituents would be expected of the planners. 
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Celebrate the diva

A few weeks ago, hardly anyone had ever heard of Shirley Sherrod.  Now, across America hers' is a household name.  Americans not only know who Sherrod is, they already had an opinion about her based on what they've been told about her being a Black federal employee who used her position to discriminate against Whites. Race-baiters framed the issue as Black racist ranting, but the episode provided President Obama and Americans an opportunity to discuss whether race should still play a role in federal and state policy and politics.

In the end, will it just became a case of ‘a job lost, and a job regained’ or can more be done to discuss ways to eliminate the racial disparities that exist in the country?  Irony upon irony, the US Department of Agriculture from which Sherrod was fired for appearing to discriminate, has been the epitome of institutional racism for decades.  Because of America’s agricultural past there is a legacy of institutional racism at USDA.  When Tom Vilsack took over as Secretary, he’d vowed to rectify the USDA’s history of discrimination claims.  The Sherrod case now undergirds Vilsack’s case before the US Senate for funding of a $1.15 billion owed to thousands of African American farmers.  In the settlement Vilsack seeks, the USDA admits bias practices against Black farmers between 1983 and 1997. The case not only shows USDA’s decades-long unfair treatment of African Americans when deciding how to allocate farm loans and disaster payments, but intransigent in settling.
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What to do about racism?

Earlier this year, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People passed leadership to what they are calling “the next generation of civil and human rights activists”.    Forty-four year old Roslyn M. Brock is now Chairman of the venerable organization and 39 year-old Benjamin Todd Jealous is CEO.  So, many are wondering what was in their minds when they allowed a resolution during their conference in Kansas City, Mo. calling on Tea Party activists to "repudiate the racist element and activities" within the political movement.  Their reports alleged that the Tea Party has used racial epithets against President Barack Obama and verbally and physically abused African-American members of Congress.  The resolution’s actual language will remain secret until it is approved later this year by the national board.
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Clarity and the New Black Panther Party

In its coverage of the Philadelphia voter intimidation case, conservative media has unfortunately chosen sensationalism over clarity. There are layers to this case to be explored that might highlight the idealism of the right and expose the pessimism of the left.  Unfortunately, those layers of exploration are not as sexy as the continuous video loop depicting New Black Panther Party member King Samir Shabazz screaming about killing crackers.

The vast majority of black people respond to such rants this way:  “That brother is crazy!”  Indeed, to see the video of Samir suggesting that black liberation can be had only through the murder of white babies is to witness a man in the throes of mental illness.
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