Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Selecting a mayor in Durham: The political kiss

Deciding among the candidates for Durham’s next Mayor is a tough task.

It reminds me of the time, long ago, when I found myself trapped in making a decision regarding who to date among sisters. Both were cute. Both had a crush on me, and both kissed me near the big oak tree in my parent’s front yard.

I was only 13.

Decisions, decisions. What do you do when you like most of the candidates?

To begin, I consider Farad Ali a friend. He’s the type of guy who easily fits within my inner circle. Yeah, we could drink a beer together, talk mess, and go to a basketball game (unless it’s UNC versus Duke. He did play for the Tar Heels and I have my Duke credentials) and double date at the Beyu. Yup, Ali is my Negro.

I’ve got mad respect for Pierce Freelon. I’ve been following his music and career ever since he performed at The CenterFest Arts Festival just before Dirty Sol, a group I was helping to promote. I didn’t care much for him performing with his shirt off, but that’s a case of undo shade. 

When I see Pierce, I think about King, my son. It’s difficult not supporting a young, black man with all that talent, passion and vision. Did I mention I love his parents?

I used to write for the Indy Week, the publication Steve Schewel founded in 1983. As a journalist, it’s hard not to back a man who introduced a progressive approach to local news. It doesn’t hurt that I witnessed Steve maneuver tense racial hostility when he was a member of the Durham Public School Board. That was back when protesters were sent to jail in the presence of children during meetings and Durham was called the “black sheep” of North Carolina.

There are others running. Traci Drinker, retired member of the Durham Police Department, is the type of friend I’d tell my deepest secrets. In fact, I think I have. Sylvester Williams, who returns after numerous rejections by voters, is a minister on record for opposing members of the LGBTIA community. He gets no love from me.

I don’t know Michael Johnson. I hear he’s a nice guy. I purchased shoes from Shea Ramirez former store near Guess Road. Now she does taxes and helps young people enter the modeling industry. Got to say that’s impressive work.

This is a lineup of friends and a few I do not know. Like those sisters who kissed me, it’s tough selecting when most candidates possess political cuteness.

So, what will it take to get my vote?

This election is about the future. Like a relay race, Mayor Bill Bell is passing the baton after generating massive economic growth. The downtown economic boom, combined with changes a few blocks away on Ninth Street, has drawn new residents with deep pockets and a desire to live near downtown.

The growth has come with consequences. Companies like State Employee’s Credit Union have caged the product, a term used to describe the control of supply and demand, in North East Central Durham, Old North Durham and the Watts-Hillandale community. People crave a home within walking distance of the buzz downtown.

I’m looking for a mayor who can facilitate a conversation related to offsetting massive housing cost. I’ve heard rhetoric, but no plan. I desire an analysis regarding what happened that ponders both benefits and shortcomings. I’m insensitive to the anti-business sentiment of groups who blame private/public partnerships. I don’t want to hear the city is screwed up because of the work of Bill Bell.

I hear talk about increased disparity proven by the construction of that monster building downtown with condos selling for more than $1 million. I’m fed up with attacks that fail to acknowledge the creation of jobs, more taxes to the city and county, more places to eat, hotels and shops with more options that impact tourism.

The growth comes with loads of bad news, but there is good stuff in the shadow of all those buildings. There are more locally owned businesses and places that attract people to Durham for more than a basketball game at the Cameron Indoor Stadium.

I don’t need to hear Durham is worse than before. After living downtown for more than 10 years, I can tell you that isn't true. Durham is more vibrant with places to hear live music. People can select from a bevy of multiple star restaurants with crime not being considered when you park your car at night.

Now that we’re here, who can lead this discussion? Who understands life on both sides of the tracks – the world of business incentives and economic development, juxtaposed against the world of Lord, help me pay these damn bills.

Who, among these wonderful candidates, is capable of navigating conflicting political agendas? Will Durham shift into anti-business mode before black business owners obtain an equitable piece of the pie? Will there be adequate conversations regarding the people being pushed out of their communities due to a plan to cage the market?

Who will I pick among these politically cute candidates?

At the end of the day, it’s not how cute one looks. It’s substance that matters the most.

Thank God I don’t have to kiss them.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

It's time to mute Jason Whitlock's comments about racism

I need an automatic mute button to silence Jason Whitlock

Whitlock, a talking head for Fox Sports, has found a niche in offering a perspective that nurtures post-racism rhetoric.

In July 2016, Whitlock attacked members of Black Lives Matter.

“As an African-American, again, I’ve had problems with the police, and my family lost someone we loved dearly to excessive police force. But, the conversation about police brutality is a lie and dishonest,” Whitlock said, “ You’re more likely as African-Americans to be damn near struck by lightning than to be killed by the police, and no one can have that conversation. And we’re killing ourselves in our own communities, and no one can have that conversation.”

Shaun King, columnist for the New York Daily News, was confronted by Whitlock for an expose on the handling of a sexual harassment allegation against Peyton Manning when he was a student at the University of Tennessee.

“First of all, he’s white and presenting himself as black. He said that as a child in high school he was allegedly attacked by a group of white people because he was black,” Whitlock said about King. “Well, he wasn’t black and there were people saying that wasn’t why he was attacked and there’s no proof of it.”

King responded on Twitter with accusing Whitlock of “cooning” for money and calling him a “Tom ass bastard.”

Truth is, @WhitlockJason has mainly kept a job because he’s the guy white folk use to throw Black leaders under the bus. Steppin fetchin.

— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) February 17, 2016

@WhitlockJason the most relevant you’ve been in YEARS is when you are selling me or @deray or Beyonce out this week. Tom ass bastard.

— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) February 17, 2016

White media has ALWAYS made room for a tom or two who will go on TV or radio and call Black leaders racists. Now they call us “race-baiters”

— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) February 17, 2016

King made an extra hole for Whitlock’s digestive system.

Last month, Charlamagne  tha God, co-host of the nationally-syndicated radio show "The Breakfast Club", named Whitlock “donkey of the day” for defending Kristine Leahay when she attacked LaVar Ball.
Jason Whitlock name "Donkey of the Week"
So, this is old news.
Whitlock is “that guy”. He’s the black guy sanctioned to say what white people want to hear. He’s the black kid embraced for “not being like other black people”. He called Colin Kaepernick “Martin Lither King conrow” and said LeBron James won the genetic lottery.

He’s the black guy that black folks refuse to call black.

Recently, Whitlock came after LeBron again during an appearance on “The Herd” with Colin Cowherd . He was there to discuss comments James made regarding a person spray-paining “Nigger” on the gates of his Los Angeles home.

“I think it is a disrespectful inconvenience for LeBron James," Whitlock said. "He allegedly had the n-word spray-painted on his $20 million Brentwood home. He wasn't there. His family wasn't there. He heard about it."

"Racism is an issue in America but is primarily an issue for the poor. It's not LeBron James' issue," Whitlock said. "He has removed himself from the damages and the ravages of real racism. He may have an occasional disrespectful interaction with someone, a disrespectful inconvenience."

There’s more.

"LeBron needs to quit embracing his victimhood because he's not a victim and it's a terrible message for black people," Whitlock said.

“I used to be a black kid and [people would say racist slurs to me]. It wasn’t that big of a deal. If someone denies you an opportunity — you can’t go to school here, you can’t have this, you can’t have that — that is the impact of racism. LeBron was inconvenienced. Racism affects the poor. For him to sit there and say, ‘No matter where you are, it’s tough being black in America’? It ain’t tough being LeBron James. It ain’t tough being Oprah Winfrey.”

Whitlock argues racism can’t be experienced if you’re wealthy; therefore, people like James should avoid all conversations involving race.

Whitlock is evoking language that demands silence among those with economic privilege.  In his opinion, the only people qualified to speak about racism are people wounded by economic restriction. Black people of privilege have achieved at a level that helps them transcend the burden of racism.

This is the type of code language used by conservative white people to dismiss assumptions of privilege and race. If racism is merely a construction of economic disparity, then overcoming the implications of racism becomes the responsibility of the poor. Those who continue to be maligned by racism are suffering due to an inability to pull themselves up from those bootstraps, while black people like LeBron need to avoid language that foster victimhood.

If one of the benefits of success is the avoidance of racism, we live in a society with the assumption that some people matter more than others. Whitlock argues on behalf of social arrangements that reflect an expanding value gap among black people.

Rich black people don’t suffer from racism. Some black people are worth more than others to the extent that they overcome the burden of racism. James suffers the inconvenience of paying someone to remove “nigger” from the gate, but it’s not racism. It’s only racism when it involves a person who is poor.

Whitlock’s views avoid a long history in which black people are denied access due to racism. There are numerous lessons regarding black people of middle and upper class status who were denied access due to their race.

It happened in 2013 when Oprah was denied entry into Hermes, a Swiss luxury goods store in Paris. It happened in 1999 when Danny Glover filed a formal complaint against the Taxi and Limousine Commission for discriminating against African-American passengers like him, who were routinely bypassed by cab drivers.

Rose, the mother of Chris Rock accused a Cracker Barrel restaurant in South Carolina of discriminating against her in 2006. She alleges the staff went out of its way to delay service.  Henry “Skip” Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher, Jr. University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University, was stopped for walking into his own house.

When Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general, and President Barack Obama discussed being racially profiled, they conceded the emotions related to being inconvenienced. Whitlock is correct in highlighting the aggravation related to paying someone to wash that word from the gate. It’s true that LeBron has the money to get the job done. It’s one of the privileges associated with making all that cash.

Being rich is no protection from the emotions stirred by racist acts. It’s troubling to negate the impact of racist acts based on what is perceived as no more than an inconvenience for those with the money to make it go away.

Whitlock is that dude.

He doesn’t get it.

I recommend he read Ellis Cose’s book “The Rage of the Privileged Class.” There are numerous stories about black people with loads of money who are mad.
Pressing that mute button

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Declining admissions at the University of Missouri reflects the state's ongoing struggles with conversations involving race.

(Photo: Students at the University of Missouri placed post its on a statue of Thomas Jefferson to protest the hypocrisy of his role in establishing the university as the first public institution of higher education west of the Mississippi River in 1839)

There will be a lot of empty seats this fall at the University of Missouri at Columbia. It’s hard to imagine my alma mater returning to what it was before the protest of 2015.

In my mind, that wouldn’t be a good thing.

Officials, at the state’s flagship school, report only 4,009 first-time freshman deposits for the upcoming academic year, a 35 percent decline from the 2015 class of 6,191 students. The student population is shrinking at a rate that has forced the closure of seven resident halls and the elimination of 400 positions.

There’s a lot of blame to go around.  Fewer students are graduating from high schools in Missouri while the University of Illinois aggressively recruits students born in Missouri. Missouri didn’t have a plan. Administrators took growth for granted. 

Blah, blah, blah.

Sure, there are other reasons, but most people blame the reduction in student enrollment on protests led by members of Concerned Student 1950 (a group of black students who called for the ouster of the University of Missouri System President), a hunger strike and a boycott by members of the football team.

If you live in Missouri, and read comments on editorial pages in local newspapers, you will sense the bitterness among residents. As a former columnist for the Columbia Missourian, the daily newspaper run by the school of journalism at the University of Missouri, and adjunct instructor at the school of journalism, I learned to avoid those comments.

They were brutal. Readers blasted me for promoting a racist agenda and participating in the demise of the university. None of that is new. It comes with being a column writer.

What is useful ,related to what is happening at the University of Missouri, is how the politics involving race impacted the ability of those on campus to improve race relations. It was the meddling of members of the Board of Curators, combined with threats from alumni and members of the state General Assembly that complicated efforts to move forward.

Most of it is fueled by perceptions involving race among those who live in Missouri.

In Missouri, the University of Missouri at Columbia is distinguished from other state schools due to its international influence. Its top rated school of journalism draws students from around the world. It’s a research institution that generates interest from students in medicine, the sciences and a bevy of liberal arts programs.

The students who attend the University of Missouri are unlike the people who live in other parts of the state. Missouri is vastly rural with large populations of blacks in St. Louis and Kansas City. Columbia is a city with a small black population suffering from substantial economic disparity.

Black students who attend the University of Missouri come from communities more engaged in addressing implications involving the history of race and racism. Those students are faced with the reality of the university’s inability to confront the lack of diversity, inclusion and equity. Student protest exposed what has always been there.

The response of those outside the university made it difficult to build relationships aimed at repairing division on campus.

While members of the faculty, administrators and students promoted listening sessions, members of the Board of Curators pushed for the termination of Melissa Click. While members of the faculty supported the rights of student protesters, members of the General Assembly threatened to reduce the budget while creating bills to prevent future protests.

Rather than protect academic freedom and celebrate the power of First Amendment rights, critics of student protest concentrated on a false narrative regarding student protesters. Many failed to honor the legitimacy of the demands students made based on their limited perspective..

Why would a parent send their child into a climate that fails to honor their passions? More than the role of student protest in fostering declines in enrollment, it’s the insensitivity of those outside the university that stirs disinterest in attending.

The University of Missouri could have become a model campus regarding how to deal with racial tension. It was the high road that could have led to massive change.

Members of the Board of Curators and the General Assembly took the low road. They blamed black students for compromising the integrity of their happy home.

Why would you want to attend there?

Friday, April 14, 2017

Bombs before Easter

I learned about the launching of the big bomb in the middle of doing a radio show. It followed a high moment of laughter. I can’t remember what I said, but Valerie Whitted and Karl Blake Patterson rolled on the floor and laughed out loud in response as the music played.

It was a much needed break from the lunacy that has come to define our days. Questions about Putin, being dragged on a plane and a myriad of other headlines has made it tough to play. Yes, we needed the break. The music helped.

“I love hearing your smiley faces,” Val Jones, a local poet and weekly contributor on the Creative Colorful People radio show on WCOM, said.  “It’s what I needed given what just happened.”

What happened? We hadn't heard

The news hit us hard and sucked the smiles off our faces like we’d been hit by a big dude holding a two by four.

The obvious questions followed. I wanted to cuss. I wanted to scream. I did.

Then it hit me.

It’s Maundy Thursday, a day on the Christian calendar that forces those connected to the big c Church to contemplate how our sin impacts and impedes the work of Christ. It’s the day we question our motives and assumptions related to the work of the Church. On this day, we ponder how each of us participates in manipulating and executing the teaching of Christ.

How does a Christian find the doggedness required to press the button to launch that huge bomb? How does a Christian do that during the Passion Week? How can we, as Americans responsible for the deaths of men, women and children all over the world, deny how these acts interfere with our high season of spiritual cleansing?

How do we forget Jesus demand – if you deny my desire to wash your feet, you have no part of me? How do we forget the words in the upper room – one of you will betray me. All of you will deny me. You will witness me tolerate extreme punishment followed by my execution. You will say nothing. You will do nothing.

You will forget my teachings and hide among those who requested my death.

The Passion Week reminds the Church of its silence. It forces us to ruminate on a long history of apathy. With each act of terror – the Church was there. With each pride consumed act of rage – America has asserted assumptions of Christian privilege to intimidate other nations.

You can’t do this during our sacred season. You can’t wave the American flag, sing “God Bless America”, while a weapon of mass destructions falls on God’s children in Afghanistan. Not during our holy season.

Not when people are praying to understand lessons related to Jesus’ execution. What role do we play whenever the teachings of Jesus are sacrificed for a national agenda? What happens when the voice of Jesus is relegated in the promotion of an idea that makes America the Christian role model for the world? What are we, Americans who advance a political cause that seeks to execute Muslims, teaching about the life and ministry of Jesus?

The Passion Week is about the silence of the Church. It helps us consider how our silence has showed up historically. It showed up when the Church was silent regarding the execution of Native Americans. It happened when the Church used scriptures to promote slavery. It happens when scriptures are used to silence women.

Yes, the physical body of Jesus was killed. In executing Jesus, the aim was to silence his teaching. Thus, the Passion Week reminds us of how the teachings of Jesus are continually silenced by those who participate in the work of the Church.

Not this time. We have learned our lesson. Not during our week of prayer!

“Play one of those Gil Scott Heron songs,” Whitted said as we approached the end of the show. “He talked a lot about war.”

Blake played one of those songs. I can’t remember the song or the lyrics. Another song penetrated my mind.

“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”

The answer is yes.

It happened on yesterday.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

"Get Out": Confession of a blind date with a white woman

The movie “Get Out” has elevated conversations involving race. Like so many recent movies and documentaries that bare emphasis to the “for real” experiences of black people in America, “Get Out” uncovers the type of black folk talk that happens when white people aren’t around to listen.

There are things too painful to confess in the company of white people. The anguish is entrenched deep in the subconscious of those who have spent a lifetime doing their best to deal with things on their own. Put another way, it’s not worth the investment of being heard to confront the counter punches of white people committed to proving you wrong. Put yet another way, it’s difficult sharing experiences with people who will never fully understand."


The perception is white people lack the ability to fully understand what it means to be black, and talking about it too much leads to conversations that influence typecasting. You become too radical, too emotional, too sensitive and too unwilling to get over things that happened a long time ago. In other words, shut your mouth and move on in a way that proves you’re willing to construct opinions based on credible data.

Insert be a good N-word.

Most black people have dealt with it before. Being in a place where talking critically about how you feel matters. Feeling the rise of rapid heartbeats because you’re the only black person in a room and it feels like everyone is watching you and questioning why you’re there.

Most black people know the dread of being judged and invalidated. Black people know the challenges of sharing those feelings with white people.

“No, it’s your imagination. It’s just you,” black folks have heard that before.

Yes, it feels like a horror movie when you’re surrounded by loads of negative energy.

Which reminds me of that night. It was a painful season. It was the night black students at the University of Missouri were threatened on YikYak and other social media.

“I’m going to shoot every black person I see,” the message later attributed to Hunter M. Park, a 19-year-old sophomore studying computer science at a sister campus in Rolla, wrote.

It was a tough night. To unwind, I decided to accept an invitation to meet a woman at a downtown restaurant. It was days after University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe resigned. I felt conflicted due to my role in consulting Wolfe while writing columns for the Columbia Missourian. I was called a traitor by some and a race-baiter by others.

That’s when the horror hit.

She is a white woman. I went to have a meal, engage in stimulating conversation and to relax. But, given the threat, it was hard not to share how I felt in that moment.

I shared my angst stirred by experiences growing up in Columbia, MO. I talked about how race and racism has impacted my life. I discussed my feelings upon witnessing students confront encounters comparable to when I was a student at the same university. I talked about being drained by the hard work involved in overcoming institutional racism.

I needed to vent. I needed to share. I was not happy. I missed living in a place with a support system to offset the madness I faced. I needed help to filter through the layers of discomfort that left me feeling alone. This is home. This is where I graduated. This is where I teach journalism and work in ministry. I should be happy. I should be celebrating all of it, but I couldn’t.

It felt like a horror movie, and I needed to escape.

Then it happened.

“You are a fucking racist,” another white woman who joined us said. “You’re the problem!”

I felt betrayed. I was disappointed in myself for violating one of those black rules – don’t share with white people. They will never understand.

I didn’t want to believe it. How could I, given my role as the co-pastor of a mostly white congregation? How could I continue to be free and serve in a way that didn’t sacrifice the integrity of things lingering in my gut?

That moment changed me. I felt trapped and afraid. As much as I wanted to “Get Out”, I wanted to find reason to stay. Who could I find to understand the tensions caused by overcoming all that historical pain coupled with anxiety stirred by feeling nothing has changed?

What are the lessons?

Well, it’s hard for me to trust white women. I know, that’s a sad admission. A person like me should model life beyond the divides we humans create. I wish I could witness a different reality, but, when faced with matters of the heart, sharing too much triggers a desire to run for a safe place.

You simply want to get out.

I’ve learned there is little patience when a black man contends with his flaws in public space. I’ve learned to resist the temptation of exposing vulnerability to those with limited perspective regarding the rage black men carry. I’ve learned how radically white women shift when the rage comes to the surface and there is no place to find peace. I’ve discovered what it means to be trapped between a desire to be affirmed and the need to scream – set me free.

I’ve discovered the consequences of running to get away when no one is there to protect you from the madness circulating in your head.

These are tough lessons. Maybe it’s a perspective that reflects stuff that’s all about me. Maybe, well, maybe there’s more to be discussed.

I would love to have that conversation, but, for now, I simply want to “Get Out”.

Is it just me?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

"Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough blames Stephen Miller's alt-right conservatism on liberals

There was an interesting conversation today on the MSNB’s ‘Morning Joe”.  Joe Scarborough, host of the popular show, was furious in explaining his angst as a former conservative college student on a Southern campus.

He explained how liberal professors and students shape the world view of students like Stephen Miller, now the senior advisor to President Donald Trump. Scarborough argues students who begin their college experience right of center embrace more radical brands of conservatism due to the attacks they face.

Scarborough’s diatribe compelled me to consider my actions as a college professor. I reflected on my lecture on being impartial in reporting on subjects that strain your political position. I challenged students to use their bias to force balance. I told them to press beyond their prejudices to consider the other position.

It was a Summer session, and the students were witnessing both the Republican and Democratic debates. A few students admitted allegiance to Donald Trump. I noticed the apprehension coming from their peers.

Scarborough is correct in his assessment of what often takes place on campuses. I noticed nonverbal movements that made Trump supporters feel uneasy.

“How can you be effective as journalist if you can’t take time to understand how your peers came to this conclusion,” I asked. “The story isn’t as much about their decision. It’s more about how and why they made their decision. Your job is to get that story.”

I felt bad for my conservative students. A few thanked me after class. I told them not to be afraid of their views. I told them I disagreed with those views, but, as a journalist, my job is not to judge their position. It is to help others understand their position.

It helped that I had served a church with numerous Trump supporters. I had to come to grips with serving a congregation with views radically different from my own. As a minister rooted in the black faith tradition, my understanding of ministry was different than the people I served. It was that difference that troubled my soul.

Yet, I loved the people I served. I also loved my students.

Which brings me back to Scarborough’s position. Is he correct in blaming liberals for the radical conservatism of people like Stephen Miller. Was it the Liberal professors and students at Duke University who motivated Miller to formulate opinions that were a reaction to their attacks?

I’m reluctant to impute liberals for Miller’s alt-right sentiments. If so, I could charge black nationalist views to white conservatives. If espousing extreme opinions is a corollary of being rejected by those on the other side, there is reason to expect even greater opposition among people representing the extreme left.

The failure of Scarborough’s assessment is in how it disregards the role privilege plays in articulating conservative conclusions. Miller, and people like him, impute positions aimed at maintaining the status quo. They are rooted in class, racial, gender and heterosexual privilege in ways that assume the continued role of the dominant culture.

Scarborough’s rant reminded me of the frustration I carried after reading “Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American”, the controversial book written by Richard J. Hernstein and Charles Murray (1994). The book left me enraged by the assumptions of its authors.

Hernstein and Murray argued that intelligence is inherited, and that blacks are poor because they are not as smart as whites. It is true there was more to the book, but the conclusion formulated in the third and fourth chapters made it difficult to concede the significance of the remaining chapters.
The book reminded me of the long history of using science to justify racism. It took me back to Darwin's “The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”. Darwin is among the scientist credited with creating “scientific racism”.

Darwin applied evolutionary ideas of natural selection not only in constructing views of animal development, but also to the development of human races. He reflected on natural selection in regard to the killing of indigenous people in Australia by the British. He wrote of blacks as “savage races” in a category comparable to gorillas. He advocated against social programs for the poor and weak because they permitted the least desirable people to survive.

‘The Bell Curve” was a distressing reminder of how science has been used to defend racial privilege based on notions of genetic advantages. A further examination of conservatism reveals the defiance people have with many of its assumptions. Scarborough seeks to separate radical conservatism from his brand of political thought, but both are rooted in suppositions that embrace privilege as a construction of natural selection.

Millers conservatism is built on a biologically invalid conception of race. It is built on a foundation that embraces the notion of a cognitive elite. It builds a public policy agenda that assumes genetic superiority. It embraces views of natural selection that allows space for the weak to perish while the strong prosper due to their selection as the more powerful race.

My appraisal of my angst with conservatism results in a conclusion that intensifies my position. My issue isn’t the politics of conservatism. It’s the suppositions that ground its notions. It’s the range of condescension woven throughout its public policies that intensifies my disdain. It’s a long history of research used to support superiority that irks my awareness.

Scarborough’s tirade defied my liberal positions. Could it be that liberals, like me, are responsible in creating alt-right conservatives? Would it be better if liberals took more time to listen and modify their position? Have liberals, like me, been seduced into embracing a narrowly defined position, and, if so, is the truth found somewhere in the middle?

There may be an element of truth in those questions, but how can you fathom listening when doing so involves embracing genetic inferiority?

How do you endorse a conservative agenda that negates the construction of institutions that empowers a set population at the expense of others? How do you invalidate the challenges of institutionalized racism and consequences of generations of sexism?

Scarborough may have a point, but it’s one framed from a place of privilege. People like Miller are angry because their privilege is being questioned. Moving further to the right is not the fault of liberals, it’s the result of his unwillingness to concede his privilege.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Black on black violence is the lesson from Malcolm X's death

On yesterday, 52 years ago, members of the Nation of Islam killed Malcolm X.

Who killed Malcolm isn’t a matter of debate. Leaders of the Nation of Islam haven't been charged with his murder. Some argue the FBI conspired to murder Malcolm.

What matters is how Malcolm's death impacts conversations related to reducing black on black violence. How effective can the Nation of Islam be in leading efforts to convince black people to stop killing one another when their leader has justified the death of Malcolm X

During his 1993 Savior Day message, Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, called Malcolm X a traitor and defended the right of a nation to kill a traitor. 
Louis Farrakhan discusses the death of Malcolm X

It’s a despicable part of black history. Three black men killed Malcolm. Talmadge Hayer, Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson were convicted of murder in 1966 and sentenced to life in prison. All three were members of the Nation of Islam. Prior to his death, Malcolm told Gordon Parks that the Nation of Islam was trying to kill him.

Farrakhan said a nation has the right to be governed by their own laws. He said it’s no one’s business how a nation deals with a traitor. Malcolm was nurtured by the teachings of the Nation of Islam and it’s the right of the nation to punish those who violate their trust.

It’s a lesson that resonates among some black men trapped in the web of street justice. Some die due to the consequences of betrayal. Some are punished for violating a set of rules established within a culture not troubled by the laws of the broader society. They are bond to lessons about solidarity to their own cause. They are taught lessons about manhood that establishes relationships of trust.

Farrakhan said it’s no one’s business. The Nation of Islam has the right, no, in his mind, the obligation, to kill anyone who decides to promote a different message. This is the mindset of groups like the “Bloods” and “Crips”. The death of Malcolm X helps frame discussions involving street justice and the increase of black on black violence. 

Members of the Nation of Islam killed Malcolm.

It was his third death. Each death came with a change in his name.

Malcolm Little was the name on his birth certificate. A part of his past died when he took the last name X. The X denoted the unknown. Little was the name of his ancestor’s slave owners. It implied a relationship with the people who forced faith in the blue-eyed Jesus.

The X was replaced by El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz after his pilgrimage to Mecca. His Hajj was delayed in Jeddah when his U.S. citizenship and inability to speak Arabic raised questions related to his status as a Muslim. He was given Abdul Rahman Hassan Azzan’s book “The Eternal Message of Muhammad” with his visa approval.

He became a Sunni Muslim and returned to America with a different message.

“I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color,”  El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz said during a forum at Harvard Law School on December 16, 1964.
It was a second death.

The final death happened on February 21, 1965.

He was preparing to address the Organization of Afro-American Unity. More than 400 people were gathered at Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom to hear him speak regarding his effort to speak before the United Nations about human rights violations.

"Nigger! Get your hand outta my pocket,” a man yelled.

As his bodyguards attempted to subdue the disturbance, a man rushed forward and shot Shabbaz multiple times with a sawed-off shotgun as two other men fired semi-automatic handguns. The autopsy located 21 gunshot wounds to the chest, shoulder and legs.

The third death was community trust. He belonged to all of us. His words inspired the type of change that challenged movement toward a better way. Three brothers killed his dream. Three brothers taught a lesson we can’t forget.

This is the burden of black on black violence.

It started with Malcolm’s death.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Trump's "fake news" exposed for being the truth

Thank you, Donald Trump.

Really. I mean it with all my heart. I know, it’s Valentine’s Day and love is in the air, but my reasoning behind thanking 45 goes beyond my desire for pieces of chocolate, a fine meal and a bottle of bubbly to set the mood.

All of that is true. My mama raised me to be a romantic, but there is nothing about Orange Julius to trigger warm fuzzy feelings. Put another way, there’s little love in my statement and God’s grace and mercy have nothing to do with my position.

I’m thanking the Orange faced liar for helping people understand the significance of the press. Trump’s feud with the press may be the thing that will boosts confidence in the men and women dedicated to telling the truth.

Prior to this past election, the press was impugned with being responsible for everything wrong with America. No one trusted the media. In fact, the media became synonymous with fiction writers, public relations agents and creatures from outer space. Whenever questions arose related to what aisles America, the media became the predetermined response.

Why do we have crime within poor communities? The media. Why do we have such a high achievement gap between black and white students? The media. Why did Trump win the election? The media. Why is Corrine Olympios still a contestant on “The Bachelor” –  it must be the media, because that stank has to go.

The phrase “the media” has become fixated as America’s villain replacing Lex Luthor, Darth Vador, Hannibal Lector and the Joker as the evil behind the destruction of our dreams. “The media” did it. All of it.

“The media” is controlled by the same stuff that smashed America’s political process. Love for money skillfully manipulated the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Some gluttonous corporate mogul pulls the strings of journalist who wobble from one story to the next like puppets devoid of the backbone to say “Hell no”.

That’s the newest spin regarding the disunited state of America. Be it Democrats on the most progressive end of the political spectrum or Republicans on the alt-right, the press did it – all of it.

The press should have reported more on the rise of Bernie Sanders and the avarice that silenced their pens. The media should have talked about the old school political structure that undermined the voices of young people sick of business as usual. The media should have exposed Clinton’s corruption while spending less time promoting Trump’s agenda.

You heard it all.

It’s the media’s fault.

The media is a bunch of liberal-minded hippies out to destroy America with their socialist agenda. There’s a list for that – the gay agenda, the black agenda, the weed smoking agenda, the agenda to destroy white people – it’s a long list.

All of that ‘fake news is fired by the liberal media. Don’t listen to their version of the news. In fact, there’s alterative news that doesn’t get boggled with insignificant issues like facts. The media wants to pitch facts, but who needs facts?


But, glory be to God and Donald Trump!

This is what happens when the media fails to do their job. If the media stops digging and asking and following up at the end of the press conference, the lies become normative. If the press accepts being censured for refusing to accept the alternative version of the news, America becomes a dictatorship devoid of adequate challenges when the Constitution is thrown out the window.

Trump called reports regarding National Security Advisor Mike Flynn’s contact with Russia “fake news”. Trump placed CNN in a corner, like a second-grader wearing a dunce hat, for doing their job. Americans were told that’s what the press does. Reporters are biased. They never tell the truth.

Thanks to Trump, Americans are being reminded of the role of the press. In a story, reminiscent of the Watergate scandal of 1972, the media is challenged to expose the truth. The Trump administration won’t like it, and many Americans will dispute what’s written.

But this is how we roll. This is what we do, and despite the criticism we have faced, you should thank the media for protecting America’s freedoms.

Mr. Trump, call it fake news if you wish, but the truth will set us free.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Why I'm not praying for Donald Trump

I will not be praying for Donald Trump.

It’s my answer to a question that keeps popping up in my Facebook newsfeed. I’ve read numerous postings arousing people of faith to pray for Trump as a sign of unity, understanding and peace. It all sounds reasonable given how scriptures are manipulated to endorse compromise in times of discord. Who else, if not the Church, will challenge people to end the mudslinging.

So, I will be praying, but not in the way many expect.

Don’t expect a series of sermons regarding the need to move beyond race, gender and a myriad of other groupings used to pit people against one another. Don’t expect the endorsement of an ethic that promotes forgiveness, the turning of the cheek, and checking personal feelings at the door, to engage in a meaningful mountaintop experience.

It’s not that I don’t believe in prayer. I will be praying. In fact, I’m praying more than ever before. So, it’s not an invalidation of the purpose and capacity of prayer, but a question of the focus of my prayers. I will not pray in a way that negotiates the Great Commission to teach and baptize people in a truth that radically changes the world.

I will not pray in a way that panders apathy and relinquish the role of the Church as a mediator of revolution. I will not participate in the type of slapdash engagement that measures faith by partaking in the American dream. I refuse to relegate faith by an unquestioned patriotism symbolized by waved flags and denunciations of those who protest the movement toward a xenophobic agenda.

Why is this important?

Because when the Church prays in a certain way, it is being used to promote an agenda that compromises the work of the Church. The Church becomes slothful and daft with teaching that sponsors the positions of the rich, the privileged and the powerful. The Church prays on behalf of the individuals and institutions that oppress and belittle the weak, rather than teaching a message that demands repentance.

Yes, the Church prays for the minds of the powerful to be changed, not for the dominant to facilitate a process that increases the burden. The Church is commissioned to defy all spirits and systems that limit the advancement of our neighbors. The Church is called to function as the Spirit of the resurrected Christ in ways that evoke the will of a loving God. The Church is challenged with the enduring obligation of reminding institutional leaders to undo the systemic evils that hinder human progress.

Thus, I will not pray for unity and peace that forces compromise related to God’s vision for the world. I will not bid people to pray and get over it, to work harder without confronting revolting systems or to hold hands, sing songs and pretend evil hasn’t been legislated by political and religious leaders.

I know the scripture often used to implore congregants to pray for political leaders

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way,” Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:1-4. “This is good and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior who desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

I’m aware of both the context and culture that frames Paul’s plea for prayer. He’s writing to a community vexed by an oppressive government. I’m aware of the challenges Paul faced due to being jailed for proclaiming a message not endorsed as a legitimate religion. Paul’s appeal for prayer is offered from a unique perspective. He requests prayer for leaders responsible for his imprisonment.

When placed within the context of his writing, these words attributed to Paul, offer a reason for his request. This is not an appeal to pray over the handling of public education, national security or immigration. Paul is requesting prayer that evokes a change of mind. Given the lack of support for his message, the author sought prayers that would correct the way leaders perceived his ministry.

The prayers of the Church weren’t passive acts. The work of the Church coincided with prayer. It didn’t relegate the power of prayer to lofty words during the Sunday morning ritual. Paul, and the other men and women who promoted the teachings of Christ, did more than pray for leaders. They worked to change the minds of leaders by presenting an alternative view on how people can coexist.

They continued to expose hypocrisies within their own religious system and the governments that subjugated poor people, women and sick people. In encouraging a new way of thinking about what makes a community, prayers were needed to change the way people thought about what that means.

This means I will not be substituting prayer for protest. Don’t expect the type of discourse that validates the spirituality of Christians who spew hate towards members of the LGBTQIA community, attacks women’s reproductive rights, have a limited understanding of what it means to be the beloved community or fails to move beyond a fundamental approach of scripture to assist in conversations that undo the tension between the Bible and science.

Don’t expect me to accept Christians who demand the submission of woman and the disallowance of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. I reject the call of “All Lives Matter” as a theological construction. Don’t expect me to pray in ways that refute the pain and passion of hurting people. Don’t expect me to place the impulse for harmony above the commission of the Church.

Jesus came to us to expose hypocrisy. The Church that prays for leaders, devoid of indisputable critique of the systemic evils hindering human progress, is used to advance immoral activity.

The book of James says “faith without works is dead”. To that I add, prayer without activism leads to those dry bones in the valley.

Prophet, preach to the bones.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Trump's fails the Black History Month test

What should black Americans expect from President Trump on the first day of African American History Month?

Maybe a mention of Serena Williams for winning the Australia Open. Williams now stands alone as the all-time leader of Grand Slam titles in the modern era with 23 wins.
Maybe a mention of President Barrack Obama who just left office as America’s first black president.

It was an opportunity for Trump to mend fences caused by his birtherism campaign. Speaking of fences, Trump could have mentioned August Wilson and the performances of Viola Davis and Denzel Washington in the movie adapted from Wilson’s play. He could have talked about “Hidden Figures”, the movie that unpacks the contributions of black women working for NASA.

True to form, Trump used today’s meeting at the White House to celebrate Black History Month to emphasize his grudge with the press.

"I don't like watching fake news," Trump told guests at the listening session.

Given the emphasis on the press, Trump could have transitioned into a discussion involving the work of George Curry, the former editor of the Detroit Free Press and Emerge Magazine, and Gwen Ifill, a veteran television journalist who served as moderator and managing editor of the Public Broadcasting Service's talk show "Washington Week”. Both died in 2016.

You would expect a discussion involving the contributions made by black journalist since the publication of Freedom's Journal, the first African American owned and operated newspaper in the United States. The newspaper was founded by John Russwurm and Samuel Cornish on March 16, 1827 in New York City.

Rather than take the high road, Trump used the opportunity to attack CNN and other news outlets while celebrating the efforts of Fox News.

"Fox has treated me very nice. Wherever Fox is, thank you," Trump said.

It’s disappointing that Trump’s fight with the press took precedence over Black History.

"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice," Trump said.

Is that the best he can do?

It sounded like a lecture from a Black History Month program during an assembly at an elementary school. As bad as the mention of Douglass played in displaying a lack of sensitivity and refined understanding of Black History, Trump quickly launched into another confrontation regarding an erroneous report that a bust of Martin Luther King. Jr. had been removed from the Oval Office.

"It turned out that that was fake news," Trump said. "But that's the way the press is ... Very unfortunate."

Trump failed to mention that the claim of the bust being removed was never a news story. It was limited to a press pool report tweeted out in social media, but corrected within minutes of its release. It was a regretful mistake that deserves censure, but what does it have to do with Black History Month?

Americans should expect more from Trump than a few comments about Douglass, King, Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman mingled with criticisms against the press for spreading his version of “fake news”.

"During this month, we honor the tremendous history of the African Americans throughout our country, throughout the world if you really think about it, right?" Trump said when discussing the life of Douglass. "And this story's one of unimaginable sacrifice, hard work and faith in America."

What’s the point in offering a tribute while attacking the press?

The people invited offers a glimpse of Trump’s views on Black History and black legitimacy. The meeting included black pastors, business leaders and people who supported his presidential campaign. HUD secretary-designate Ben Carson and communication advisor Omarosa Manigault attended as the two black members of the Trump team.

The discussion was not an observance of the contributions of blacks throughout history as much as a strike at black leadership. Trump continued his threat to “send in the feds” if Chicago isn’t cleaned up.

"We're going to have to do something about Chicago," Trump said.

What does that have to do with Black History Month?

The mention of Chicago was prompted by a comment from Darrell Scott.  The Cleveland pastor, who serves on Trump’s transition team, said he’s been contacted by "some of the top gang thugs in Chicago for a sit-down."

What does that have to do with Black History Month?

Absolutely nothing, unless you assume the only relevant issues involving black history happened during slavery or the Civil Rights era. It would help if Omarosa, Trump’s advisor in handling black folks, read a few more books and took classes on critical race theory.

So, Oma-Rosa, check this out. Tell Trump to stay on course when he talks about black people. Don’t mix his beef with the press while reflecting on the contributions of black people in America. It feels like black people are no more than a side chat in your personal agenda to minimize the role of the media.

Point two, surround yourself with some credible black leaders. It’s a dishonor to the achievement and legacy of Dr. King, Gardner C. Taylor, Samuel D. Proctor, J. Alfred Smith, Jeremiah Wright, Vashti McKenzie, Prathia Hall, Renita Weems and Carolyn Knight – men and women who minister from a place of deep theological reflection rooted within the context and culture of the enduring witness of black people in America. Scott lacks the insight and intellect to represent black folks outside his promotion of a prosperity driven theology.

Put some respect on our name. In other words, put on your big boy underwear and talk like you know more than you learned in the second grade.

Trump’s Black History tribute is an offensive display of the type of rhetoric that seeks to minimize the message and focus of black liberation. It brutalized the press for reporting the disdain that fuels protest. In blaming the press and offering a crude statement, Trump once again proves he doesn’t get it.

Sadly, no one is surprised.

Friday, January 27, 2017

"Post-truth" is the word of the year

Oxford Dictionaries has confirmed what many have suspected in declaring “post-truth” its international word of the year.

The word has shown up in books, articles and speeches that describe why people are less dependent on experts, the media, teachers and preachers trained at exposing and promoting truth.

“With only themselves and their appetites as a guide, they bypass any information that doesn’t suit their predisposition and worldview,” writes Jonathan Mahler in a column for New York Times Magazine ( “The self-investigator’s media diet is like an endless breakfast buffet, only without the guilt: Take what you want, leave what you don’t.”

Jonathan Gold, contributor with Huffington Post (, believes today’s students are unskilled at detecting bias and identifying fake news.

“They prefer to seek out evidence that aligns with their preexisting views, to work to dismiss or find counter-arguments for perspectives that contradict their beliefs, and to evaluate arguments that align with their views as stronger and more accurate than opposing arguments,”

The implications related to living in a “post-truth” era impacts numerous core values and assumptions aimed at fostering relationships. It changes the way teachers teach, preacher preach and politicians engage in politics.

“Post-truth” helps us understand the brokenness exposed in the aftermath of the election. It addresses the divergence between the people who promote the “Black Lives Matter” movement and the people who contend “All Lives Matter”. “Post-truth” rebuffs the legitimacy of mandates on the other side.

For those unmoved by the other side, their facts don’t matter. What happened long ago is inconsequential. White people don’t consider black history. Men don’t contemplate the impact of historical and structural sexism. Among many, it no longer matters that America’s pride was grounded in being a safe-haven for immigrants.

“Post-truth” cultivates white nationalism, xenophobia, heterosexism, the renunciation of global warming and an assortment of assertions uncorroborated by experts who offer an unprejudiced evaluation.

The facts don’t matter. That’s what the experts say, but is there more involved in understanding the word of the year?

If truth no longer matters in cultivating consensus, it may help to find ways to help facilitate change beyond the imperative of truth.  If so, what inspires us to bond beyond the numerous versions of truth?

In Durham, it may help to define what it means to be a community transcendent of differences. What are the common interest that make Durham a happy home? What are the obstacles that require massive cooperation after years of fighting to determine the groups in control?

In a “post-truth” era, moving forward will demand a willingness to forfeit control of versions of truth.  It’s an important step in formulating strategies that promote common interest. It means surrendering ideological warfare to promote the advancement of a more vibrant community.

Who leads the way? Will it be leaders in public office or members of the faith community? Will the inspiration come from business owners, educators or private citizens?

The people who have reaped advantages based on an interpretation of truth must lead the way. I know, here we go again in addressing notions of privilege.

Gold challenges us to resist the temptation of laying the responsibility of saving American democracy at the feet of teachers.

“And yet, the dawn of this post-truth era is for me a clarion call to reevaluate and reassert the values of progressive, liberal arts teaching,” Gold writes.  “In the post-truth era, defending truth — and teaching students to seek it — will not be easy, but it’s a worthy fight. We may never be able to recover what we’ve lost.”

Gold seeks strategies that preserves truth. Missing in Gold’s argument is an examination regarding the assumptions Americans make involving truth.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident,” writes Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. “That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,”

It’s a truth questioned by minorities and women. Who are the men regarded as equal? Why no mention of women?

Teaching and preaching the truth doesn’t mean the same among those who question how truth is taught in school, church, the media and in places that advance the agendas of the wealthy. More than a movement that promotes anti-intellectualism, “post-truth” addresses the hostility among people who seek to modernize interpretations of truth.

In the “post-truth” era, the facts are shaped by context. The truth doesn’t mean the same because it can no longer be trusted.

In Durham, it would help to have community conversations involving the differences related to how the truth is understood.

Until then, the truth will fail to set us free.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Black people shouldn't be asked to forgive Trump's birtherism

This feels like another one of those “shut up and get in your proper place” moments. It’s assumed that forgiveness comes promptly after something is said or done to question the integrity of black folks walking in space occupied by white people.

There are things too hard to forgive. Why show up to parties celebrating Donald Trump after he stirred doubt related to the citizenship of President Barrack Obama? After questioning the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency, and promoting a boycott of his inauguration, why should black people support the peaceful transfer of powers?
The good book says you reap what you sow.

“I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president,” Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, told Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected and they have destroyed the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”

Lewis evoked the sentiment felt by many Americans. There’s an uneasy feeling linked to Donald Trump winning the presidency. Be it his loss of the popular vote or the intrusion of Vladimir Putin, being suspicious is a reasonable response.

Sadly, Trump countered with a personal attack following the news that Lewis plans to boycott the inauguration.

“All talk, talk talk - no action or results” Trump tweeted along with attacking Lewis for representing a district he claimed is “crime infested” and “falling apart.”

The outpouring of support for Lewis is squared by critics of his boycott.  

Reince Priebus, Trump's incoming chief of staff, said Lewis' criticism of Trump was “irresponsible” and challenged President Obama to “step up” by telling Democrats to stop questioning "the legitimacy of the next United States president."

"We need folks like John Lewis and others who I think have been champions of voter rights to actually recognize the fact that Donald Trump was duly elected. He's going to put his hand on the Bible in five days," Priebus said.

"I think it’s incredibly disappointing –- and I think it’s irresponsible -- for people like [Lewis] to question the legitimacy of the next United States president,” he added. “I think putting the United States down across the world is not something a responsible person does."

Trump’s hypocrisy is glaring. He launched a birtherism campaign that radically shifted Obama’s message of hope into a movement to prove his citizenship. (read Trump’s tweets on birtherism at:

“Read this--@BarackObama's birth certificate "cannot survive judicial scrutiny" because of "phantom numbers," Trump tweeted on July 23, 2012.

“An 'extremely credible source' has called my office and told me that @BarackObama's birth certificate is a fraud,” Trump tweeted on August 6, 2012.

It was a vicious attack that gained traction with Fox News. It encouraged stereotypes that invalidated Obama based on the fake news that he’s a Muslim born in Kenya. It was the excuse some needed to hate Obama. Being black was enough to discredit Obama’s presidency among those who watch Fox News and listen to Rush Limbaugh and other promoters of fake news on talking radio. The lie that he’s a Muslim born in Africa was enough to justify all of that hidden racism.

It can be argued that Trump is the champion of fake news. His rise as a candidate for office can be linked to his effort to delegitimize the Obama presidency. He has offered no apology.  Rather than concede his role in encouraging hostility toward Obama, he blamed Hilary Clinton for the initial suggestion that Obama is not an American citizen.

Trump refuses to acknowledge the damage he created. In a September 2015 CNN/ORC poll, 43 percent of republicans believed Obama is a Muslim. Another 13 percent believed Obama was born outside the United States. (see: The poll suggested that a substantial number of the doubters were Trump supporters.

Black people have reason to denounce Trump for promoting birtherism. Journalist have reason to question how Trump used birtherism to build a base of backers who believed his fake news. Americans have reason to speculate on Trump’s ties with Russia, and women have reason to boycott Trump’s inauguration.

America’s divide is not something the Obama administration created. It was orchestrated by a media blitz to discredit Obama’s citizenship.

Forgiveness has been part of the black community’s DNA. Not this time. Don’t expect a long line of black people endorsing the Trump administration. Don’t shame black people for refusing to embrace the peaceful transfer of powers.

Doing so is paternalistic and assumes a level of authority that Trump, and many of his supporters, denied President Obama.

Get ready for four long years. This time, moving forward will not be about conceding the will of the President. This time, it’s about doing onto others as others have done onto black people. The other cheek has been turned for over 400 years. This time, expect to be called out for your hypocrisy.

You reap what you sow, and Trump has sowed his share of fake news.