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Election Day 2012: What Did Really It Mean

November 8, 2012 1 comment

Barack Obama has won! But Election Day 2012What does it really mean? While we are very focused on the fact that President Obama will remain in the White House for another four years, the Election Day results are full of complicated victories and valuable lessons.

It would be so easy to take Election Day at face value. I would argue it would be dangerous to do so. Barack Obama’s victory in the Electoral College will look like a landslide, but an examination of the popular vote indicates a much closer race. Further, the results also show a very polarized nation. The Obama campaign is a study of modern political science and demography. They understood what groups constituted their base, and then they pursued them relentlessly. One group that didn’t fall into the Obama base in large numbers was white men who didn’t work in the auto industry. Married white women also were not big supporters of Obama in 2012. They are angry, and the rest of the country should take some time to try to figure out why.

As America’s first Black president anticipates his second term, this nation must confront its resurgent comfort with racism and negative racial imagery and rhetoric. As a candidate, Mitt Romney had the opportunity to repudiate the nasty and unnecessarily inflammatory racial and racist rhetoric spewed by his campaign surrogates. But Romney looked the other way as John Sununu, Newt Gingrich, and Donald Trump took to social media and traditional media in a game of racist one-upmanship with each other. Hopefully, these three men will jump back into the clown car and drive away.

The role of the Latino community will take on mythic proportions as the story of the 2012 Elections will be retold…and rightfully so. After being discussed in a manner that was either dismissive or disgusting during the GOP primaries with talk of “self-deportation” or electrified fences, the Latino community was waiting for someone to say something reasonable. The executive order around the DREAM kids was policy change that the Latino community could believe in. Comprehensive immigration reform is overdue. Let’s hope everyone in Washington is finally gets it.

The LGBT community also knew it had a friend in President Obama, despite earlier frustration with him. President Obama repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a policy that institutionalized keeping active duty military personnel in the closet. Conversely, a deployed soldier was booed during a GOP debate for asking a question. But the LGBT community and the world knew President Obama has the inclusive spirit of equality and justice contemplated when we say “We the People” when he expressed his personal support for marriage equality. Marriage equality initiatives fared well in states…maybe President Obama helped change some minds.

Women make up over 50% of the registered electorate. The first official act that President Barack Obama did in 2009 was to sign the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which makes it easier to sue based on gender discrimination. So Barack Obama hit the ground running where women are concerned and never stopped. The GOP presented themselves as the perfect foil to Obama, especially in the past two years. There were some, including me, who thought that this year was going to become the Year of the Woman. Sandra Fluke was called a “slut” by Rush Limbaugh. Mitt Romney offered some lukewarm response and Barack Obama called Ms. Fluke personally to offer support. There are myriad compelling and complicated cross currents involved in the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which included attacks on privacy and access to birth control. The landmark legislation of the first term of Obama Administration, Obamacare, is extremely beneficial to women, whether it is for our own care, the care of a child, or the care of an aging, sick parent. The Affordable Care Act is now safe from threats to “repeal and replace.”

The election of 2012 is noteworthy for women because it is the year that we rejected efforts to destroy progress and go back to a time when women had little control over our bodies and our earning potential. Throughout the country there were candidates for the House of Representatives and US Senate who expressed extreme views that would have endangered the physical and economic lives of women. Those candidates LOST! The idea that in 2012 there was a debate about the definition of rape is offensive and shocking. Let’s clear it up once and for all: rape is rape because no means no. The law is clear about abortion, but the procedure should be available since it legal. The law is settled, let’s move on. I think equal pay is one area where we could focus our energy instead. The fact that the Violence Against Women Act remains in limbo is also unacceptable. But there are 20 women in the US Senate now, a record. Let’s hope that makes a difference and we can focus on issues that really matter to women and the nation.

President Obama will probably have the opportunity to appoint another Supreme Court justice. It would be amazing to see the first Black woman take her place in the highest court in the land. But there are many other firsts that could be achieved…first Asian-American, first Native-American, first open LGBT justice…there is need for diversity on the bench and President Obama is the person to achieve that goal.

The Obama campaign probably knew whether you preferred Coke, Pepsi or 7-Up. But the one thing they didn’t know was whether you would be subject to voter suppression or voter intimidation. This trend toward shaping the outcome of the election by controlling who can access the polls must stop. All of America benefitted from the fact that the efforts in Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio and other states were not successful. The people who would have been disproportionately impacted would have been the elderly and college students. The folks who invested the country and to whom we owe a debt on one end, and on the other end, we have the generation we are trying to teach the value of civic engagement and instill the habit of voting…these are the targets of the GOP campaign of voter suppression. It is shameful. It is ironic because we recently discovered that a GOP operative has allegedly engaged in voter registration fraud and that the GOP allegedly knew about it. There is such hope for our country because groups like the NAACP, the ACLU and the Advancement Project successfully fought these voter ID laws and state officials. Here’s what was amazing, voters were energized by the obstacles, not discouraged. It didn’t matter what they need to get to vote, they were going to vote. We need to remember that every Election Day and have the same passion and commitment.

Voters waited on line for hours to vote due to reduced early voting hours in Florida. Requests to expand hours in light of the long lines were denied.

Passion and commitment… In the final analysis, that was what made the difference. This election was the most expensive election in American history on the federal, state and local levels. At the top of the ticket, almost $2 billion was spent in pursuit of the White House, with the Romney campaign spending over $1 billion. This campaign was the first presidential campaign is the post-Citizens United world. The big money interests didn’t disappoint. They dumped money into the Romney campaign as though they thought they were buying the very best seats at the opera… Maybe they were. But all the money the world can’t buy passion and commitment. As Election Day drew closer, television ads lost their effectiveness, but passion and commitment motivated tens of thousands of volunteers who fanned out across the country to phone bank, knock on doors, and show up at rallies to support President Obama. Negative ads might move the news cycle, but a Get Out the Vote strategy moves voters.

Barack Obama won. This is great news for the country…all of the country. There are some folks who would have you believe that this is only good news for the people who want free stuff. Absurd. It’s time for the country to unite behind this president…for real this time. No clandestine dinners on Inauguration Night, please…

The “Fiscal Cliff” and potential sequestration loom on the horizon if all of us don’t get our act together and move forward. The time for fighting is over. The time for unity has arrived. This is the United States of America, and we have just re-elected our president. You may not respect the man, but respect the office.

Election Day 2012…What does it mean? It means that we have to realize that the country is changing is some wonderful ways…we embraced our better angels. But after some brief rest, it is time to get back to the work of restoring the nation economically, recovering from Hurricane Sandy, fixing big issues like immigration, the tax code, education and climate change and setting the course for a secure future.

On another day, there will be an autopsy on the Romney campaign, but not today. Today it is sufficient to say that President Obama won. GOP must do some soul-searching about its tactics and its lowest common denominator assumptions about the country.

We all voted. President Obama has reached 332 Electoral College votes. Now we must shift gears, and return to the work governing.

Let’s do what Americans do…Thrive.

All Rights Reserved

Kimberly S. Jones

2012

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Romney Sutra: The Numerous Tortured Political Positions of Mitt

October 26, 2012 1 comment

All three presidential debates have taken place. We have seen Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. There are less than two weeks left until Election Day. We should have a very clear sense of what policies the candidates are proposing, the direction they want to take the country – we should have a full measure of each man running for the office of President of the United States.

But we don’t have the full measure of one of the candidates, Mitt Romney. Instead, it is the numerous tortured political positions of Mitt – the Romney Sutra. It is confusion, entitlement, hypocrisy, dishonesty, chaos and deception.

It is amazing that we don’t know Willard Mitt Romney. He has been running for president since mid-way through his term as governor of Massachusetts, probably before. He began to run for Election Day 2012 on February 7, 2008, as he was suspending his 2008 Presidential Campaign.

It is amazing that we don’t know Willard Mitt Romney. He has been running for president since mid-way through his term as governor of Massachusetts, probably before. He began to run for Election Day 2012 on February 7, 2008, as he was suspending his 2008 Presidential Campaign. But as he was running, he was also hiding.

We have tried to vet Mitt Romney. There are the political masochists who watched all or most of the GOP Presidential Debates – all 20 of them. If the debates were challenging for the viewer, imagine what they must have been like for Mitt Romney. From May 5, 2011 to February 22, 2012, Mitt Romney pulled, twisted, turned, and stretched himself into so many different political positions that I wonder if he recognized himself.

In the course of those debates, the only constant was his steady march to the right. Romney struggled to make the GOP believe that he is “severely conservative.” I suppose STAUNCHLY conservative wouldn’t have been enough. Even linguistically, Romney comes across as lacking authenticity and sincerity.

There was no amount of pandering that was too callow. Who can forget Romney pandering to the non-voting trees in Michigan as being just the right height? I know the folks in the South felt an instant kinship to Romney when he started referring to them as “y’all,” and telling them about his breakfast of “cheesy grits.”

During the primaries, there were certain groups who should have paid very close attention to what Mitt Romney said, or equally important – didn’t say. Seniors, women, Latinos, LGBT, public service employees, college students: you should have been listening to the various contradictory positions that Romney took on the issues of importance to you. Blacks, veterans, the poor, the sick and disabled, the middle class with a job, cities, alternative energy (e.g., wind and solar), etc. if you were marginalized or excluded from Mitt Romney’s political discussion, you will be totally excluded from a Romney Administration. You probably won’t even get a binder…

But the pandering couldn’t remove the taint of his previous remarks and his record. Or could it? A senior Romney advisor, Eric Fehrnstrom, told us they would just shake and reset after the primaries, like an Etch-A-Sketch. Six months earlier, they telegraphed the desperate dash to the middle they were going to make in the first presidential debate, but all of us, President Obama included, were still unprepared when it came. But I am certain that the people of Massachusetts were not surprised at all.

The people of Massachusetts should know him best, right? He has lived there since he moved there to attend Harvard Law School and Business School. Bain Capital is headquartered there. Mitt Romney was governor of the state. With that much history in the state, you would think he would be way ahead in the polls in his home state. You would be wrong. According to the Real Clear Politics Average of Polls, President Obama is ahead of Mitt Romney by a staggering 16.3%.

Romney’s current poll results in Massachusetts are analogous to your significant other starting a committed, passionate relationship your sworn enemy.

But for folks who aren’t from the Bay State, we must stop and ask why? The citizens of Massachusetts DID have the chance to vet Mitt Romney. They saw him in action. Was he able to create millions jobs? Did he mystically change the political culture of the capital? Did he turn water into wine? The short answer is no, not so much.

Governor Romney’s Bain Capital years… key evidence for his ability to turn-around failing circumstances – well, we have to take his word for it because many of those businesses either went bankrupt or they are privately held, so we can’t see their books. We certainly haven’t been offered the opportunity to review the books of Bain Capital during the time that Mitt Romney was running the place.

We have only seen two years of tax returns. Why shouldn’t we trust what Mitt Romney has told us about his tax returns? He contorted himself into a convenient shape on this issue once before to help himself when he was running for governor. Once he won, we discovered the information he gave the citizens of Massachusetts about his taxes was false. By his own father’s standards, Mitt Romney has fallen short by his failure to produce multiple years of tax returns, which is sad and ironic since George Romney initiated the practice in 1967.

If you don’t know who Barack Obama is, love him or hate him, then you haven’t been paying attention. He told us more than we needed to know in the two books he wrote and published about himself BEFORE he became president. The President and First Lady continue to do an amazing job of raising well-adjusted, intelligent and poised young ladies in the white-hot glare of the fishbowl of the White House.

But President Obama isn’t running to be Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, the office pursued is President of the United States.

Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, also known as Bill Cosby

The track record President Obama has established in his first term is full of hits, but if we are honest, it has not been an unqualified success. I could take an entire blog just listing accomplishments achieved during the Obama Administration. But here is Pundit On Point Cliff Notes version: Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act signed; Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created; automobile industry revived; two women, including the first Latina, appointed to the US Supreme Court; after a century of effort, healthcare reform created; end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Iraq War ended; and the man responsible for 9/11, Osama bin Laden, was brought to justice.

There is so much more. Ask the Dream kids, senior citizens, students with federally guaranteed student loans, women who heard Barack Obama state “rape is rape,” and the LGBT community who heard our president say he supported marriage equality.

There is more work to be done on the economy. No one is saying otherwise. But President Obama has been steady. In fact, it has been this type of even-keeled leadership that has provoked endorsements from conservative and careful sources, such as the Salt Lake Tribune and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Governor Romney has tried to strike all of the poses, but he has only succeeded at looking entitled and cheerlessly ambitious, while leaving us questioning his motives and sincerity. Pro-Choice v. Anti-Choice. Varmint Hunter v. Gun Control. Misogynist v. Binder-holder. Neo-Con Hawk v. Peacenik Dove. Severely Conservative v. Moderate. All of this hypocrisy is trapped in one person.

If you are everywhere in your principles, then you will get nowhere. As all of our parents told us, if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything. We live in a time when the President of the United States must stand for more than their own ambition. Listen to the hint the people of Massachusetts are sending. The Romney Sutra, with its numerous, tortured, political positions of Mitt, will not unite and elevate our nation.

Vote. Engage this republic of ours. It will only get better when we all lift it up towards its highest purpose. Vote.

All Rights Reserved
Kimberly S. Jones 2012

Tale of Two Douglases: Gabby v. Alyssa

September 8, 2012 1 comment

Gabrielle Douglas, “Golden Gabby” with her historic Individual All-Around Gymnastics Medal at the 2012 London Olympics

During the London Olympics, I was enthralled by the historic achievements of Gabrielle Douglas. Golden Gabby made history as she was winning gold medals. And she was poised in the face of the white-hot media glare. Even when others lost their minds over, of all stupid things, her hair, Golden Gabby stayed elegant, poised and mature beyond her years.

In the time since the Olympics, Golden Gabby’s future is secure due to the promise of many lucrative endorsement deals. But she appears to remain what she was, a sweet, extremely focused, loving teen aged girl.

Last night, we were introduced to another Douglas girl. Alyssa Douglas. I don’t know very much about Alyssa. Like Golden Gabby, she is a teen age girl, 16 years old to be exact. She is from a town near Cincinnati, Ohio. It is my understanding that she aspires to be a hairdresser. I also know that she spews violent, hateful rants about the President on Twitter. I include her name because she removed any privacy concerns when she publishes her violent post on Twitter. I reconsidered posting her photograph, which is easily found. Just because this child is irresponsible with her privacy, I won’t pile on since I already find her judgment flawed. If you want to know what she looks like, you can do the same google search I did. But I will tell you that Alyssa is white.

Yes, last night Alyssa Douglas took to Twitter to post a simple one line tweet that defies logic and common sense: “Someone needs to assassinate Obama…like ASAP. #DieYouPieceOfShit”

Alyssa Douglas’ Twitter account has been removed, but the damage has been done. I understand that for a time before her Twitter account was removed, she was actually GAINING Twitter followers for dumping that kind of random violent ideation onto the Twitterosphere. Wow. Does this CHILD realize what she has done?

I bet Golden Gabby, who experienced the savage effects of Twitter and Facebook, understood what this stupid child did. But even if Alyssa did not understand the consequences of the stupidity at the beginning of the day, by now I am certain she is grasping the severity of the situation.

You see, the Secret Service doesn’t like it when folks threat the President of the United States…even if those threats are issued on Twitter. A man was recently jailed in Charlotte for threatening the President on Twitter. Frankly, I hope they throw the book at this girl. At the age of 16, you are old enough to understand that your actions have consequences.

The Obama Family after President Obama delivers his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC.

As for the folks who would tell me that I have no sense of humor because Alyssa was only joking. My response is simple. You are right. I have no sense of humor when the life of a man with a wife and two children is concerned. Since someone issued a similar threat against Gov. Romney, I have the same no nonsense attitude. A call to arms to kill a public official is NEVER FUNNY. It’s stupid, reckless, and potentially criminal.

We live in a society where it is easier to buy a gun than it is to vote. In our country, a young man, who would go on to leave a trail of devastation in his wake, was able to purchase SIX THOUSAND ROUNDS OF AMMUNITION on the internet without raising any red flags. Have you bought cold medicine lately? It’s almost as difficult to do as voting, but guns and ammo…no worries. It is in that environment a 16 year old child takes to Twitter calling for the killing of our President.

The Secret Service has already been to her home. I hope she has spent the entire day getting to know them. I hope she has been scared the entire day.

Alyssa’s parents don’t escape my notice in this. Hate like what young Alyssa is spewing is learned. So I say, cart the whole stupid family off to jail, just to be safe.

Gabby and Alyssa… Two girls both 16 years old… Gabby has already accomplished more than many would ever dare to dream, and in the process, she has gained international fame. She represents the very best of aspiration, faith and diligence. We know that Gabby was surrounded by love and support, even when things were challenging.

Alyssa is at the other end of the spectrum. By her small and hateful thinking, which she had the bad judgment to post to Twitter, she will become infamous maybe on an international scale…for wishing a man dead. The irony is that the man she is wishing dead is internationally famous as a champion for hope and change. Alyssa strikes me a symbol of how entrenched racism and hate are…even in someone so young.

Someone ask Gov. Romney what he thinks about the tale of two Douglases. I wonder if there is any honesty left in Romney to recognize how much GOP dog whistle politics probably played a part in the downfall of Alyssa, and that Gabby succeeded in spite of them?

Oh, in case you had any doubt, Gabby wins this gold medal, by a mile!

I hope that you never forgot my open letter to the Secret Service. I hope they didn’t either.

Keep the President and his family safe.

 

Copyright 2012

Kimberly S. Jones

Marriage Equality Hypocrisy: The New Black, Part I

June 9, 2012 1 comment

PART I: PRESIDENT OBAMA AND HISTORY

President Barack Obama speaks to ABC News’ Robin Roberts about Marriage Equality

On May 9th, 2012, President Barack Obama, the first Black President of the United States, did something extraordinary. The day after North Carolina became one of 30 states to vote bigotry into its state constitution, President Obama spoke out against bigotry and discrimination when he expressed his personal support for same sex marriage. I will be honest and say that it has taken me this long to figure out exactly what I wanted to say about the situation. The President’s remarks were a statement that is, arguably, the most significant statement on civil rights made by a President since the Emancipation Proclamation. All of America, but the Black community in particular, should have heaved a collective sigh of relief that any of our presidents finally had the courage to stand for the concepts of equal protection expressed in the Constitution…not just in theory, but in practice.

The Black community should have been so very proud that Barack Obama had the principles to speak out against discrimination in a way that no other president in recent memory had. I was thrilled because I publicly expressed my support for Marriage Equality and my call for every American to take this stance over two years ago. Many didn’t bother to parse the President’s comments on same-sex marriage for their real impact on current policy regarding Marriage Equality, which is minimal. Instead, there was a visceral reaction based in fear and bigotry. What made this reaction so sad and infuriating was that, for many including some in the Black community, their bigoted discrimination is wrapped in the Bible and tied with a bow of “Christianity” that Christ wouldn’t even recognize.

I am underwhelmed and disappointed by the hypocrisy of those in the Black Community who do not support Marriage Equality. The history of Black folks in America is long, complicated and full of painful injustices. The Constitution had its infamous “Three-fifths Compromise” that was good for everyone, except Black people.  The Dred Scott decision was handed down by the US Supreme Court in 1857 showing cowardice and a political cravenness that would make the current Roberts Court jealous. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, in the wake of the Emancipation Proclamation, offered hope that America would finally deliver on the promise of the ideals set out in the Declaration of Independence. But that hope was snatched away with the Plessy v. Ferguson decision in 1896.

If you aren’t aware, Plessy created the doctrine of “Separate, but Equal.” Plessy was also the legal foundation for Jim Crow Segregation, which stood until Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. It wasn’t until 1967, with the Loving v. Virginia decision, which ended race-based impediments to legal marriage, that Blacks could truly marry whoever they wanted. The fight for equality, regardless of race, is by no means over.  The history of civil rights fights and victories in America casts a long and impressive shadow. The Black Community has a long tradition of standing up for what is right and just. Abolitionists, like Sojourner Truth and Fredrick Douglass, who fought slavery in the 19th Century were also active members of the Women’s Suffragist movement. There was a moral consistency in that position.  The Niagara Movement, the precursor of the NAACP, was the manifestation of the old Black community that maintained the fight for justice against all comers, including the Catholic Church, in the very early years of the 20th Century. There was recognition that the expansion of rights enhances the concepts of liberty and justice for every American. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

The new Black community must understand the past and present suffering that comes from discrimination. The new Black community, like the old Black community, must stand on the right side of history and fight for equality wherever discrimination exists. It’s not too late to evolve and follow the fine example set by President Obama. The NAACP did this a few weeks after the President’s remarks when they announced the NAACP’s emphatic support for Marriage Equality.  The old Black community fought for justice, and the new Black community must learn from and follow their example.

The New Black must never side with legal or social injustice, nor should the New Black ever stand for moral hypocrisy.

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The Masters…

April 7, 2012 3 comments

THE MASTERS…

Augusta National Golf Club

The golf world is focused on Augusta, Georgia again as the Masters Tournament gears up. This year, the tournament is cloaked in controversy as IBM Chief Executive Officer, Virginia M. Rometty is not granted the honorary membership that is customarily given to the corporate sponsors of the Masters. The private club that is the Augusta National Golf Club does not, and will not, accept women as members of this exclusive club at this time. In the 21st Century this offends many, but should shock few.

The Masters. The name of the tournament seems to tell you everything you need to know. In the Deep South, a culture that has a history tangled with the painful legacy of slavery and Jim Crow segregation, we ask Black America to celebrate an event called “The Masters.” In 1975, in the wake of death threats, Lee Elder broke the color barrier  and became the first Black golfer to play the fabled course at Augusta National Golf Club, though membership was still a far-fetched thought for him personally. Since 1933, the former indigo plantation has been a preserve and time warp for discrimination and degradation with slow movement from policies that excluded Blacks, Jews and women.

Over time, and due to the financial, political and social realities of the world, Augusta National had to let go, at least nominally, of their some of their prejudices.  Jews were the first to be allowed to become members of the club. Then, in 1990, as the ascent of Tiger Woods as a powerhouse golfer was becoming clearly inevitable, Blacks were allowed in the club as something more than the caddies or the servers – they were members of the club.

But changed attitudes don’t happen overnight – especially in the South and in a sport like golf. In 1997, as a dominant Tiger Woods was winning his first Masters tournament, veteran golfer, Fuzzy Zoeller made a remark about “that little boy” and told the group assembled to urge Woods not to order fried chicken or collard greens for the Championship Dinner for the following year. But what is more important is that Zoeller’s remark seemed to suggest an undercurrent of permissive bigotry in the PGA, which reflects a mindset in America that hasn’t gone away in the passing years.

Here we are in 2012. Along the way, there have been attempts to bring Augusta National Golf Club fully into the 21st Century with women as members. Martha “Hootie” Burk tried to help Augusta to see the light in 2002, to no avail. But Virginia Rometty had a unique opportunity. She had “green”mail. In other words, she had the coercive force that being a multi-million dollar sponsor should bring. Sponsors shape the behavior of the event they are sponsoring all the time. Why didn’t IBM’s Board of Directors stand behind their CEO? How could this board literally sponsor discrimination against their chief executive? At a time when there is the perception there is a systematic offensive being launched on women, how could a business as savvy as IBM not hedge its bets and decide to come down on the right side of history? The situation creates more alarming questions than reasonable answers.

I wish I could explain why Ms. Rometty isn’t wearing an ugly green jacket as she walks around the picturesque, yet historically oppressive grounds of Augusta. There are all sorts of plantations, aren’t there? I guess the one that Ms. Rometty is working now comes with golden parachutes. If they beat you in corporate America, it is the psyche that is scarred, not the body. In the final analysis, I suppose I take comfort in the fact that at least Ms. Rometty isn’t being required to serve the drinks to her guests in a Hooters Girl outfit, rather than the green jacket her position demands, at the Masters. Membership isn’t the hallmark of freedom. But what Ms. Rometty has chosen endure sounds perfect for a tournament called “The Masters.”

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Copyright 2012

Kimberly S. Jones

Categories: Culture, Golf, Race, Women

Playground Realities of Racism – Trayvon Martin

March 30, 2012 1 comment

When I heard about the first reports of the Trayvon Martin shooting death by George Zimmerman, I flashed back to a playground encounter that I had as a child.  I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in second grade. It was early in school year. I went out to play during recess. After I went down the slide, a group of children surrounded me and it started. “Tar Baby!” “Blackie” “Nigger!” “You don’t belong here, Nigger!” “Yeah!” “Nigger, Go Home” “Yeah!” Then the shoving started. Boys and girls pushed, kicked, and spat at me. So I fought back. I was isolated. I was angry. I was frightened. I was the only Black child, other than my older sister, in the school, at the time. I was 8-years old, but it was the first time I was confronted with such blind rage and hatred – from children – for my race. The teacher on recess duty did not rush to assist me nor did the children get into trouble. The whole thing confused me on a fundamental level. When I asked my mother why these children hated me when they did not know me and I did not provoke them, she had the same expression on her face as when I asked her why the sky is blue.

I wanted to hate them back. I wanted to go back to school the next day beat each child up. But my mother began to explain the realities of racism to me. I could tell it was breaking her heart to have to explain something so evil to a child as sensitive as I was at that age. But she told me, because she was, and is, a pragmatic woman and she sensed that I was questioning the entire world and my place in it. She began with the fact that I had a family that loved me more than anything, and they would always do their best to protect me, so I shouldn’t be afraid of going back to school. But that wasn’t the end of it. My mother said I didn’t have the luxury of wasting time hating those silly children back, because I had work to do. My mother said I would always have to strive to be excellent because my excellence would still only be perceived as adequate. My mother said that I would always have to work harder, and never to accept any excuses from myself. My mother said dream big and think without limitation and boundaries. I would learn later in life that James Baldwin referred to this as the “Burden of Representation.” One thing that I credit my parents with doing is taking race out of the equation as a limitation or excuse. Race was always there, because I was frequently the only or one of a handful of Black folks in a setting. But because I didn’t pass some litmus test of Blackness I wasn’t aware of, I was often judged “not Black enough.” So I was a woman without a country.  I knew my identity wasn’t grounded in the opinion of others. Instead I gained confidence in the unique expression of Kimberly. All the while, I was heeding the advice my mother gave me in the second grade when she began to explain the realities of racism to me.

Trayvon Martin doesn’t get to test the limits of his excellence. Trayvon Martin doesn’t get to work hard, then have the satisfaction of realizing that you can work harder and achieve more. Trayvon Martin doesn’t get to pursue his dreams, without boundaries or limitations. George Zimmerman, based on the same racist, stereotypical, childish notions that drove second graders, fatally shot Trayvon Martin and deprived Trayvon of his future.

I think about my playground antagonists now in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting. Racism is a cancer of the mind and heart that is easily spread from generation to generation. It is irrational, sick, and unproductive to humanity and democracy. My playground antagonists, all grown up, are probably also on a computer, cloaked in anonymity, spreading lies about how an unarmed young man deserved to his fate, while defaming him and glorifying his killer. It is disgusting. Just as it was disgusting that they jumped an 8-year old classmate during recess.  I’m not waiting for a teacher to come and save me this time. I can save myself, and I’m going to do my best to make sure that there are no more Trayvon Martins. We all need to commit ourselves to the same outcome – Justice for Trayvon.

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Copyright 2012

Kimberly S. Jones

Categories: Culture, Law, Politics, Race

The Joke Is On Us

July 22, 2010 6 comments

And it is a bad joke.  When I refer to a bad joke, I am being somewhat ironic about Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s apology to Shirley Sherrod. I wanted to write laughingly about the stupidity of celebrity and how the famous are going to jail this week – Lindsey Lohan and Wesley Snipes, but it is not to be this week.  I must be serious and turn to the Shirley Sherrod situation. In case you have been far, far away or in a coma, Shirley Sherrod is a former USDA official in the state of Georgia.  Ms. Sherrod told a story several months ago at an NAACP conference in Georgia about an encounter she had 24 years ago with a white farmer who came to her seeking her help.  Ms. Sherrod told the story about the farmer’s “superior” attitude.  But she also spoke of her realization that it wasn’t a matter of black or white, but of haves and have-nots.  She went on to help this farmer who is still on his farm today and considers Ms. Sherrod a friend.  But out of fear of ending up on Glenn Beck’s Fox News program, officials at the USDA pressured Ms. Sherrod, over three phone calls, to pull over to the side of the road so she could “resign” via Blackberry.  Not to be outdone, the NAACP quickly condemned Ms. Sherrod.  Here’s the problem, no one involved in the forced resignations or the condemnations took the time to listen to the whole speech and put the remarks in context.  So today, everyone is falling all over themselves to apologize and blame Fox News and other extreme right-wing commentators.  Yes, it’s a bad joke.

It’s a joke for the Obama Administration to offer an apology after they jumped on the train to “Rush to Judgment.”  It is too late for the NAACP and for the Obama Administration – and yes, it is also too late for Shirley Sherrod.  The hatchet job done on this woman is disgusting, but is also faintly familiar.  Anyone else recognize it?  It looks like the mauling of Van Jones.  Van Jones, as a young man with world-wide recognition, can, and has, come back from the high-tech lynching that was done to him.  Shirley Sherrod wasn’t a superstar, just a woman with a lifetime of committed hard work.  She should be contemplating retirement, on her own terms and in her own time, not a forced resignation.  As with Van Jones, the hatchet job done to Ms. Sherrod was enabled by the Obama Administration.  An apology is woefully inadequate in this situation, and is in fact, a joke.

But Secretary Vilsack and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ apologies were so badly timed and poorly delivered that, like all bad jokes, they fell flat.  I cannot offer a justification for the Obama Administration that passes a personal “straight face” test, so I won’t even bother.  But there will be a price to pay within the Black Community for the times that the Obama Administration has willfully turned its back on Black members of the Obama Administration and thrown them to the media wolves to appease the rabid Right-Wing.  Has Barack Obama made the classic Democratic mistake and taken the Black Community for granted?  It is a mistake that I wouldn’t advise making.

Speaking of jokes, the NAACP does itself tremendous harm in this whole sordid affair.  In its second century of existence, the NAACP made a stab at relevance last week by condemning “racist elements” in the TEA Party Movement.  It was the sort of bold move of leadership that made the NAACP an organization that used to be worthy of respect.  And hope for the NAACP created by their justifiable action against those in the TEA Party Movement who use the fear of many Americans during these uncertain times as a justification for racism was dashed completely by the actions of the NAACP this week.   The NAACP has assisted in the high-tech lynching of Ms. Sherrod, which is one of the parts of this whole situation that makes it that much more tragic.  A question that we must ask the NAACP, regardless of one’s race, is what its role is in the 21st Century?  Is the NAACP beyond irrelevant?  In its quest for relevance, has it become a danger to the community it is supposed to serve?

There is a special aspect of this affair that has caught my eye.  There is misogyny in the Black Community, the details and permutations of which I won’t go into here, but I don’t doubt it exists.  And the mainstream media loves to demonize Black women as well.  Who can forget the welfare queens of the Reagan Era?  Forget the facts; it was a better story to generate the concept of the Black welfare queen than to examine the facts.  The story created was so compelling that even Black folks started to buy into the “Welfare Queen” fiction.  Since the unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement were women like the late Dorothy Height, the NAACP owes Black women a special debt.  Although we are capable of fighting for ourselves, Black women now have to anticipate attack from Black institutions that won’t take the time to find out the facts and fight with us?  And Barack Obama, as a man with two lovely and smart Black daughters, should be horrified to see how America handled Ms. Sherrod.  I hope that Barack Obama will personally apologize for actions done in his name against an innocent Black woman.

For me, this story has added significance.  My family received land grants during Reconstruction – 40 acres and a mule.  The family has its share of efforts from whites who tried to steal or cheat my family out of this land.  Let’s not forget about the countless Black farmers who were cheated out of their land over the decades.  It is still happening, and not just on farms but in urban areas facing re-gentrification pressures.  I am glad that there was, at least for a time, a Black woman who helped everyone keep land that had been in the family for generations.  In Oakland, Fort Greene, Harlem, San Francisco and countless other cities, where is the outrage for everyone who is losing their homes to foreclosure.  But that is a topic for another day.

Here is the real joke.  Many of us bought into the fiction that we had moved to a post-racial America with the election of Barack Obama.  But in this allegedly post-racial time, we find an elevation, not a deflation, of racial conflicts, confrontations and misunderstandings.  It’s ironic to me that the first Black president doesn’t exemplify this post-racial ideal, instead he allowed his Administration to take out a real example of what the post-racial America should look like. There’s nothing funny about what happened to Shirley Sherrod.  No apology will restore her reputation fully or compensate her for the distress of the past several days.  But it is a joke; to me at least, that anyone is surprised that this happened at all.  And the vast Right-Wing conspiracy that Hillary Clinton used to tell us about – it’s a reverse of Santa Claus – it IS real.