Over the last several years, there has been a fair amount of media attention placed on sexual assault of women on college campuses, and the lack of response to those assaults. Most recently, Rolling stone magazine published a scathing article about the response to an alleged gang rape at a fraternity party at the University of Virginia. Though the validity of that assault has recently come under fire, according to the Washington Post, in 2012, sexual assaults were reported on the campuses of at least 55 percent of approximately 1,500 colleges and universities with greater than 1,000 students. The sex offenses include “rape, sodomy, fondling and sexual assault with an object.” This age old issue is finally grabbing the attention of politicians across the country, not just President Obama. “The American people have kind of woken up to the fact that we’ve got a serious problem when 20 percent of coeds say they’ve been sexually assaulted,” said Jackie Speier, U.S. House of Representative Democrat from California.

Fifty-five colleges and universities, including Harvard University, Princeton University and Dartmouth University, are under federal investigation for violations of Title IX, in relation to mishandling of reports of sexual violence on college campuses. Title IX is part of the education Amendments of 1972 that protects people from discrimination based on gender in education programs and activities that receive federal assistance.

Another recent example is the Ray Rice scandal, where on February 15 the NFL star and his then-girlfriend were engaged in an argument that turned physical in the elevator of the Atlantic City casino that they were visiting. During the dispute, Ray Rice hit his fiancé so hard that she was knocked unconscious. As she lay on the elevator floor, he proceeded to kick and pull her, with seemingly no latent regard for her well-being. To make matters worse, as she came to, many witnesses began to gather around. All men, they can be seen on the video leaked my media outlet TMZ just standing there. It isn’t until the first woman comes into the frame that anyone seems to check her condition.

The lack of value for women is further evidenced by the continued wage Gap between comparably qualified men and women.

“There is a belief, which is just not true, that women are just in bad occupations and if we just put them in better occupations, we would solve the gender gap problem,” claims Dr. Claudia Goldin, a Harvard University labor economist.

She further argues that if we could somehow place all women into more prestigious, higher salaried professions such as doctors or lawyers, it would close about “15 percent of the pay gap for all workers and between 30 and 35 percent for college graduates.”

Recently, President Obama spoke about the White House’s “It’s On Us” campaign, to help bring attention to sexual assault and domestic violence issues, saying “It is not just on parents of young women to caution them, it is on the parents of young men to teach them respect for women. It is on grown men to set an example and be clear about what it means to be a man.”

It has long been said that rape is a crime of power and not of sex. I therefore must infer that the number of sexual assaults on college campuses and elsewhere are a demonstration of the imbalance of power between the sexes. I can only hope that we are moving toward a time in society where women are respected for what we have to offer, and moreover, that we will not need to be sexually objectified to prove it.

Civil liberties are often defined as the protection of the individual from the unrestricted power of the government. One important doctrine that outlines our civil liberties is the Bill of Rights.

On September 11, 2001, 19 four commercial airplanes were hijacked and used in a plan to commit acts of terror in New York City, NY and Washington, DC. Both towers of the New York trade center as well as the Pentagon were hit. A fourth attached aimed at the White House was thwarted by heroic passengers, who crashed the plane in a field in Pennsylvania. The results of these attacks were a loss of more than 3,000 lives, major U.S. initiatives to combat terrorism, and the initiation of a war that would last more than a decade.

According to PBS.org, there have been several post 9/11 policy changes, which have affected our civil liberties and life as we know it.

Aviation

The Aviation and Transportation Security Act federalized airport security, which was formerly privatized. This affected our civil liberties by forcing us to go through additional airport security, including new x-ray machines that some experts fear could emit dangerous levels of radiation upon malfunction, among other health risks.[1] There have also been cases of people who were unable to fly because their names were erroneously placed on a national “do not fly” list, as well as women who were harassed about bringing breast milk on the plane under the guise that in violated TSA’s liquid limitation guidelines.[2]

Immigration

The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act is a U.S. federal law that requires illegal immigrants in the United States for more than one month to register with U.S. government, and to have papers certifying their registration and status in their possession at all times. Subsequently, Arizona passed Arizona SB 1070, which allowed Arizona law enforcement to try to determine the immigration status of an individual during a traffic stop, detention or arrest or because of suspicion that the individual is an illegal immigrant. This is said to have increased racial profiling, and has therefore affected the right to unreasonable search and seizure of American citizens, whom law enforcement may mistake for illegal.

Department of Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland security was created after 9/11 to focus on preventing terrorist attacks on American soil. It encompasses 22 other federal agencies, and in my opinion, has been one of the most invasive culprits.

Patriot Act

In October 2001, the USA Patriot Act was passed. The passing gave law enforcement the ability to conduct searches without warrants, monitor spending habits, eavesdrop, detain and deport, people under the guise of suspected terrorism. This act also allowed the NSA to reportedly spy on millions of Americans and Europeans, eavesdropping on and recording telephone conversations.

While each of these policies may be necessary to protect America from the increasing threat of terrorism, it seems that the laws themselves grant too much leeway to the officials charged to enforce them. Many of these agencies and the policies that they create and enforce provide strong provisions for what an officer thinks may be reasonable, and that is a recipe for disaster.

[1] PBS.org News Hour http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/911-to-now-ways-we-have-changed/

[2] http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/tsa-pay-75-000-breast-milk-snafu-article-1.1766297

With rampant killing of unarmed Black men through this country, everyone is talking about racism in America. The death of Michael Brown and failure to indict the officer who killed him, sparked prolonged protests in Ferguson and throughout the United States. As such a hot button topic, it has clearly made its way to social media sites, even garnering it’s own hashtag, #blacklivesmatter, Now while there are many differing opinions on the response to these incidents and even to the incidents themselves, one question that I have seen repeatedly has struck me as strange. I have heard multiple African American friends ask why people are “wasting their time,” protesting and “what does protesting do?”

Are you kidding me? Ever heard of the Freedom riders?


“Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. It is a sword that heals. It cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
From 1955 until his death in 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was a spearhead in the US civil rights movement. Highly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King believed that nonviolent protest was the most effective tactic to fight racism and oppression. Several of the protests planned by King were effective in evoking change; especially the March on Washington and Bloody Sunday, which as a turning point in the civil rights movement. Even as counter protestors exercised brutality, King’s insistence on continuing with nonviolent tactics, was a major factor in the support garnered nationally and internationally during the civil rights movement.
As a result of the march on Washington and the speech, people began to put pressure on the then President John F. Kennedy, encouraging him to advocate for Congress to pass Civil Rights laws at a national level.
Non-violent protests and civil disobedience brought light to the injustices being endured by Black people and the disunion in America and forced the government had to take action.  Notable legislation that came from this period included:
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964 - This banned discrimination in employment and public accommodations based on "race, color, religion, or national origin".
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965 - This act restored and protected the right to vote.
  • Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965 - This allows immigration from groups other than those from the traditional European countries.
  • Fair Housing Act of 1968 - This banned housing discrimination for sales or rentals.
So, if you know your history, you know how very important marching and protesting can be. The overall force that people of color can provide when they galvanize can move mountain; so it can certainly affect change. #marchon #blacklivesmatter

			

Michael Eric Dyson, a Black author and Georgetown professor is one of my favorite activists and orators. Since I had not heard anything about him in the news recently, I decided to Google him. Immediately, I saw the headlines Michael Eric Dyson Slams Cornel West At NAN Convention: ‘You Ain’t That Important’ on April 4th, 2014 and Michael Eric Dyson: Obama “Failed Us Not Only As Black People But He Failed The Nation on August 19, 2014. Now, I know Dyson to have been an avid Obama supporter (I even quoted him in a recent paper on Politics & Race in the Obama Age), so I was interested to see what had sparked this change in feelings.

 

In April, Dyson came to Obama’s defense against Dr. Cornel West, a Harvard-educated author, socialist and activist in the African American community. West, who has said that President Obama “posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit”, criticized Dyson and others earlier this year, saying that he was blindly supportive of Obama. Specifically, West claimed that Dyson had been bought by the “Rent-A-Negro” network, MSNBC, after speaking publicly there about his support of President Obama. Dyson, with his distinctly swagged out delivery, put West in his place; saying that while West was entitled to his opinion, his opinion was not the only opinion, and that his inflated ego caused him to launch a “personal assault” on Obama, instead of a “principled critique.” He says:

“I’m not mad at principled critique, but you still could be wrong. But when you start indicting my soul like I’ve given my soul over to Obama or the devil — now you’re tripping. You ain’t that important. You’re not God to be able to leverage the divine assignment of privilege or punishment.”

Now, Interestingly enough, I had just had a similar conversation with someone around the disrespect that Obama seems to endure from press, Black America and White America simultaneously. While George W. Bush endured his fair share of taunt, the “personal assaults”, as Dyson put them, did not seem as severe as they have with Obama.

So why, in a matter of months, had Dyson changed his tune? Well, turns out he really hadn’t at all.

On August 12, 2014, three days after Michael Brown was gunned down in Ferguson, Missouri, the White House issued a statement. Naturally, the President offered his condolences to the family of the teenager, but failed to take a stance on the racial divide that was quickly forming in the depressed community. Many were disappointed, and have been throughout his Presidency, about Obama’s soft stance on racism. The confines of his carefully constructed, “colorblind” Presidential campaign may have spilled over into his Presidency; even after won his second and final term.

So Dyson spoke up:

“He failed to deal with the particular instances not only of Michael Brown — he doesn’t have to deal with Michael Brown. The president said, I don’t want to put my thumb on it too much to weigh the scales of justice. Don’t even talk about Michael Brown. Talk about what led to Michael Brown. Tell us as a nation what happens when festering rage in a community then begins to ignite and then begins to consume not only that community but the people around the nation who are empathetic. So I think the president has a lot more latitude. Does he have opposition? Yes. But when he opens his mouth on Iraq, he’s opposed. When he opens his mouth on the environment, he’s opposed. When he opens his mouth on gay marriage, he’s opposed. He’s opposed every step. Don’t use this as an excuse to not speak about race.”

And I agree.

 

We all understand that had Obama run a campaign touting “Black Power” and promising to right the wrongs of racial injustice in this country, he never would have been elected. We all understand that he had to play the game to get his foot in the door…but what happens when he is legitimately elected a second time to the highest office of the land? I understand that without a Congress he can depend on, Obama is concerned about leaving a legacy that can mean he did something…but I do feel that he has a responsibility for taking up the cause that his children and grandchild and great-grandchildren will one day face as Black people. That is part of being a President for all Americans. Black people are Americans, too.

 

So, in closing, Dyson did exactly what he said one should do- he offered a principled critique. He didn’t call him the antichrist, speak ill of his wife and children or call his supporters house negroes, but he spoke his mind in a respectful way, which showed that he can be both deliciously articulate AND objective. Mix in there that he listens to Tupac Shakur, and you will understand why I find him so prolific.

 

RIP Marion Barry

When Marion Barry, Washington D.C. ‘s second elected, four time Mayor passed away on November 23, the residents of DC were in shock. In 1990, Barry was caught on tape smoking crack cocaine in 1990. He became known thereafter for his “bitch set me up” comment when he realized he was being busted. Though he struggled with drugs at a time when DC was known as the “murder capital”, Barry was an incredibly smart man, who was an unrelenting advocate or the disadvantaged people of Washington. This got him constant forgiveness in the eyes of the people he served. Despite this, news broke of his death with TMZ’s headline reading “Marion Barry crack mayor dead at 78.”

Outrage started immediately after the headline broke. It wasn’t long before a Change.org petition was started to have TMZ remove and apologize for the headline. “We want his legacy to be honored the right way. Show respect to his family, friends and supporters,” the petition says. Marc Lamont Hill, a journalist for the Huffington Post suggested via Twitter that this was another example of the racism that seems to be front and center in our headlines today. He “something tells me that @tmz won’t write ‘Philandering President passes’ when Bill Clinton dies one day.”

In an interview with Tony Perkins of FOX 5 news, It was also suggested that the comparison between the reports of Health Ledger’s death and Barry’s death also suggested an undertone of racism.

“When Heath Ledger died, there wasn’t a defining video that marked Heath Ledger’s life,” Levin said. “Heath Ledger was an actor who suddenly and shockingly died from something that a lot of people didn’t really think was the case with Heath Ledger. So, the difference is that there was something defining in the mayor’s life that wasn’t defining in the life of Heath Ledger, but in terms of a racial component, no.”
The problem for me, however was the difference in the content of the articles about Heath Ledger and Marion Barry. I get that headlines sell news, but once they grabbed the reader’s attention, there was no effort to talk about all the wonderful things that Barry did, like his masters degree in chemistry, his 1967, Barry co-founding of Pride, Inc., a jobs program for unemployed black men. It didn’t discuss his establishment of the Summer Youth Employment Program and his push to revitalize parts of the city devastated by the King riots. Had TMZ taken the time, after catching the reader’s attention, to report even a modicum of Barry’s successes, I may be able to buy what Harvey Levin is selling.

#Blacklivesmatter

According to a recent MSNBC report by Lawrence O’Donnell, there is even more reason to be upset with the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri.

On August 9th, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer. The shooting prompted protests that roiled the area for weeks. On Nov. 24, the St. Louis County prosecutor announced that a grand jury decided not to indict Mr. Wilson.

Though many tried to remain optimistic of an outcome that would reflect the seemingly egregious nature of this crime, I don’t believe that many were truly surprised when news broke that the Grand Jury had decided not to indict Wilson.

Aside from other anomalies in the operation of this grand jury (everything from the fact that the prosecutor never recommended a charge, to the grand jury having heard from Officer Wilson himself), there is apparently more for us to be worried about.

The reported mistakes made were so outrageous, that I can only believe that prosecutors intended to do everything possible to ensure that charges would never be brought against former officer Darren Wilson.

Prior to hearing testimony directly from Officer Wilson, assistant prosecutor, Kathi Alizadeh gave the jury a print out of a statute, telling them:

And it is, it says law enforcement officers use of force in making an arrest. and it is the law on what is permissible, what force is permissible and when in making an arrest by a police officer.’” 

That statute was deemed unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1985. That is, longer than Kathi Alizadeh had been practicing law.

After being given this incorrect statute by which they were supposed to judge Officer Wilson and the events in Fergusen, the grand jury listened to Officer Wilson testify for four hours.

While watching this video, I immediately though that Kathi Alizadeh should be charged with malfeasance; but turns out she knew how to cover her behind. So that it was on record that she “corrected” her mistake, she then gave the grand jury the corrected statute, mentioning in the most vague way possible that the prior statute was out of date, and never bothering to explain the fundamental differences between the two. What she said was that the first statute did not comply with the rules of the Supreme Court.

Then one of the grand jurors asked Alizadeh the Supreme Court law overrode the Missouri statute.

She replied:

“As far as you need to know, just don’t worry about that.” 

And another prosecutor added, “We don’t’ want to get into a law class.” 

It saddens me to know that there is such an utter, deep-seated, institutional disregard for Black lives, that this type of deliberate, glaring misconduct can stand, and yet we are called animals for rioting in the streets. #blacklivesmatter

See the entire broadcast here.

On October 24, the remains of Hannah Graham were positively identified. Graham, an 18-year-old sophomore at the University of Virginia, vanished on September 13, 2014. A few weeks into the investigation of her disappearance, police suspected Jesse L. Matthew, Jr., 32, of involvement. Matthew initially fled, having been found in Texas weeks after Graham was reported missing. He was the last person to be seen with Graham, and was charged with abduction with intent to defile Graham shortly after his capture.

Graham’s remains were found about six miles away from the place where the body of 20-year-old Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington was found after she vanished in 2009, who police now also suspect was also killed by Matthew.

Like many social media sites, Facebook exploded with the news of the arrest, and provided a platform for people to weigh in on the case. It was there that I first saw the comments linking Matthews to Michael Brown, the 18-year-old unarmed Black man shot by a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9th.

“Yeah, they are all “gentle giants” until they kidnap and kill a stranger or rob a convenience store and attack a policeman. Then they are not so “gentle” anymore”, wrote one commenter.

“You don’t see white people rioting in the streets because a Black guy killed white women, do you? Because we are not barbaric,” wrote another.

News broke today that Darren Wilson, the policeman who shot Brown, is unlikely to face civil rights charges for the killing, because there apparently is not enough evidence to prove that Wilson intended to violate Brown’s constitutional rights.

So we are locked in a cycle of be killed, don’t expect justice and don’t complain about it.

As recently as April 2014, the United States advocated for additional reparations to match the more than 3 billion dollars already paid to Jews and Jewish organizations after World War II. For example, the Holocaust Rail Justice Act has been formed to keep companies such as SNCF, who transported Jews to concentration camps during WWII, from profiting in the U.S. market. Black people, however, cannot be indulged in our cries of inequality on educational, political and socio-economic, levels, despite clear evidence that such inequality exists. According to the 2009 census, Black men made 65 cents for every dollar a white man makes, which is a gap similar to the one that existed 50 years ago. Especially after the election of President Barack Obama, the overwhelming sentiment to Black folk is that racism is dead.

Oh, contraire.

In a country known for it’s Human Rights advocacy, Black folk can’t even complain about being shot in the street. The dominant class sees any protestation as hypercritical, as gratuitous and as an annoyance.

I know that in the comments section of any news story it is commonplace to sensationalize thoughts and feelings, however, I can’t help but see in cases like Michael Brown and Hannah Graham, that race will ALWAYS be a factor; an apples to oranges comparison made by people who cannot understand the history and legitimacy of my oppression. So though we will advocate for a country, for people thousands of miles away from us, in our own country, with our own citizens, no one is interested in equal justice for all. Despite the tragedy of the loss of a young white girl, where a black man is hunted across multiple states to ensure justice is served, a unarmed black boy, fleeing from the police with his hands up will never get the same consideration. His assailant will never be brought to justice. And according to some of the comments on social media, we are supposed to be okay with that.