National Urban League hosts real talk about the State of Black America in 2017
TV special tries to addresses questions about an uncertain political future and protecting progress
1:03 PMWhen National Urban League president and CEO Marc H. Morial walked on stage Tuesday at the Howard Theatre, the message he was there to spread applied as much to the building as it did to the black community. The iconic venue in Washington, D.C.’s, Shaw neighborhood, down the block from Howard University, reopened with much fanfare in 2012 after decades in disrepair. But it’s now facing financial trouble and may have to close again.
And with President Donald Trump rolling back nearly every important policy that America’s first president of color (and the first lady) put in place, it feels like we may be going back to a darker era. Hence the theme of the proceedings: “Protect Our Progress.”
The nonpartisan civil rights organization and TV One taped a two-hour town hall special on the State of Black America with the release of its annual report of the same name. It highlights issues facing the community, complete with tangible data to better understand how to tackle these issues.
“Backward never, forward ever. We are bold. We are mighty. We are empowered. We are Urban Leaguers. Protect our progress. Resist the rollback!” was the call-and-response chant that Morial led with those gathered at the 2017 Legislative Policy Conference, before moderator and TV One host Roland Martin took over the proceedings.
— TV One (@tvonetv) May 2, 2017
While the taping schedule made it a slightly different vibe from a live town hall meeting — the show airs May 31 at 8 p.m. on TVOne — Martin kept the crowd loose while also directing the show from the stage. The first panel featured culture critic Toure; Angela Sailor, former director of the Republican National Committee’s Coalitions department; CNN’s Symone Sanders; and activist/TV host Jeff Johnson, who has covered income inequality, education and mentorship in the black community.
Things moved from polite sharing of ideas to actual disagreement when Martin asked Sailor whether black people should trust the Department of Education’s budget when it comes to opportunities for children. She implied that the larger solution would involve more than that anyway.
“We know that they’re not because the budget is not reflective of it,” Sanders retorted. “It is incumbent on us to demand. I think we are doing something. Organizations like us … are definitely showing up in their communities, showing up to the elected officials or coming to the funding table with private and public partnerships to make things work. But we cannot let the Department of Education and other folks off the hook when they don’t include us in their budget. That’s absolutely ridiculous.”
Shortly afterward, Johnson described how black folks too often get caught up in the dream of college — the “bougie wonderland” — and get themselves into debt instead of learning skills that make them marketable in a global environment. I could have listened to him talk about that subject for the rest of the event, but alas, they moved on.
According to the latest State of Black America report, the 2017 National Equality Index compared with white America is 72.3 percent. The Hispanic Index is 78.4 percent. The index looks at five areas: economics, education, health, social justice and civic engagement.
When trying to cover so many topics with so many voices in a limited amount of time, it’s impossible to delve into any one in a truly meaningful way. But the crowd was given Q&A sessions with each panel. “No sermonettes; ask a question,” Martin sternly advised the crowd with a wink.
Before most segments, a vignette was shown about a specific initiative that the Urban League had helped with. In a similar vein before the taping, corporate sponsor Toyota, through its Freedom To Move program, highlighted “Hiplet,” a Chicago dance center that is loosely described as “rap ballet.”
The second panel featured Sailor and author/professor Michael Eric Dyson, along with CNN commentators Parris Dennard and Angela Rye. My favorite moment came from Dyson, who mentioned Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert while discussing the plight of Detroit, which is undergoing one of the harder-core gentrification processes in the country.
“I grew up in Detroit. It’s not just crime, it was white flight that exacerbated the tensions in the city,” Dyson said. “The [areas] around Detroit began to absorb those resources, then they marginalized poor people. Gentrification is predicated upon the access to capital and the ability to own a home, while upwardly mobile, largely white people — and then, in some cases, black and brown people — who then push out those people who are there.
“Once into the exurbs and suburbs, where they were banned, now, as Roland said, there’s no transportation network out there. They’re stuck out there, while Dan Gilbert, who owns the Cleveland Cavaliers and is one of the greatest landowners in Detroit, is creating the tension because he owns so much of the property and now along the lakefront and the waterfront, where blacks are banned. White brothers and sisters are establishing their bona fides while black people are left behind. That’s a problem of not crime. The real crime is white neglect and white flight from a city, then reappropriating black resources.”
Whether any problems were solved Tuesday wasn’t really the point. Some smart minds got together to discuss the problems facing our community. When it airs later this month, I hope discussions will spread outside of that as well.
Don’t buy what Rachel Dolezal is selling
The newly named Nkechi Amare Diallo’s mindset is misguided and dangerous
3:49 PM“I was born to two white parents, but I do have an authentic black identity.”
That’s what Rachel Dolezal told Dr. Phil in an episode that aired as part of the promotional tour for her new book In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World.
By this point, we all know who this woman is. After she was outed as a white person heading up an NAACP chapter in Washington state, her stature rose to prominence in the U.S. when she deservedly became a target of ridicule. At this point, in trying to sell product and art to make a living, she was staring homelessness straight in the face. She’s gotten multiple platforms to spew this nonsense. England’s BBC Newsnight sat her down for an interview. She put her harmful rhetoric on full display, saying, “The idea of race is a lie.” First off, no it’s not. It might not have scientific merit at the core of its existence as anything more than phenotypical differences in humans, but that doesn’t make the effects of said construct any less real. Secondly, if that were the case, you wouldn’t be claiming to be black. Obviously.
Then, The New York Times decided to allow her to reply to reader questions on Facebook Live, for reasons that are still unclear. There, she dropped the word transracial, claiming to be such. In short order, here’s why that doesn’t make sense. When it comes to said matter, it is not a choice.
“The fundamental difference between Dolezal’s actions and trans people is that her decision to identify as black was an active choice, whereas transgender people’s decision to transition is almost always involuntary,” Meredith Talusan wrote for The Guardian in 2015. “Transitioning is the product of a fundamental aspect of our humanity – gender – being foisted upon us over and over again from the time of our birth in a manner inconsistent with our own experience of our genders. Doctors don’t announce our race or color when we are born; they announce our gender. People who are alienated from their presumed gender and define themselves according to another gender have existed since earliest recorded history; race is a medieval European invention.”
Or, in short, there’s no going both ways. Black folks cannot just declare themselves white because they make some cosmetic changes and start listening to Dave Matthews. Not to mention that if she were actually black, she would never have gotten this many chances to plead her mediocre case to various outlets around the world. Even the most respected of our women are routinely denigrated and insulted in public spaces, no matter what.
We’re not even going to get into the absurdity of her changing her name to Nkechi Amare Diallo (but not as her pen name. Yay, whiteness!). The most fundamental portion of her argument is demeaning when it comes to the African-American experience. What she’s essentially asserting is that all blackness is an act. On a basic level, this is where people’s issues with blackface come in. But in reality, it’s far more insidious than college kids painting their faces and saying “n—a” when they sing songs.
Her entire concept of transracialism is closer to what the white family is trying to achieve in the movie Get Out. The idea that blackness is just something you can wake up and feel and thus become is frightening. How little do you have to think of black people to feel like you can just decide it’s something you want to do? It’s the height of a supremacist’s logic. By deleting the experience of actual black people and erasing the years of societal abuse, conditioning and dehumanization we have endured, what you’re saying is being black is so easy that any white person could do it. It’s not just a ridiculous punchline to say you identify as black. It actively reinforces the idea that black people are lesser beings than others.
For her, it’s not enough to love, respect, nurture and support black culture. She’s got to steal it. In the film, the blind man who wants to steal the main character’s brain doesn’t even view himself as racist. Yet, the fact that they keep choosing black people to body-snatch is a clear sign of his ignorance to his own bigotry. Dolezal is no different. Blackness is thus presented as something that exists for the purposes of white taking.
In an interview with VICE News, which traveled to her home in Spokane, Washington, she lays out this terrifying vision while reminding the audience that a lawsuit alleging that one of her family members was sexually abused by another is how this whole situation blew up to begin with.
“What is whiteness or blackness? Or, you know, what does it mean to fall in between,” she says. “In what ways are we who we are? I’m not part of that. Owning, praising, living whiteness. That’s not me.” You could posit that by trying to help black people through her work, her lifestyle and her passion, she was actively making a choice to move away from whiteness as a power structure. But, frankly, she could have likely done a lot more to help others as an actual white person. That’s how privilege works.
At this point, it’s not enough to just say, “Don’t give her a platform” and expect her to go away. While she might be an extreme example, the root logic of her thinking is nothing short of dangerous. Black people have had enough stolen from them in this nation over centuries, so if someone is legitimately trying to rationalize a fake race through some level of science, that’s scary.
Killing, raping, jailing and trying to dishonor black folks is a tradition as old as America itself. But trying to steal our existence from the inside out is quite another. If the idea becomes accepted that somehow people can declare themselves black without connectivity to the problems that come with it, we’ll be setting ourselves up to be wiped out in plain sight, without even having to be removed.
We wouldn’t be the first group in America to suffer that fate, either.
Daily Dose: 5/2/17
Adam Jones says he was taunted by fans using the N-word at Fenway Park
12:31 PMIf you didn’t listen to Bronzeville, the podcast, you should. But if you’ve already knocked it out, check out this bonus interview with Tamron Hall, Laurence Fishburne and Larenz Tate. It’s a fun convo about a great show.
Hey, guess what? Police officers change accounts all the time to make themselves look better. You know what doesn’t happen a lot? The authorities actually admitting to it. Of course, in the case of Jordan Edwards, a 15-year-old in suburban Dallas, that won’t bring his life back. In one of the scarier cases of brutality we’ve seen in a while, a high school kid was shot in the head by cops while a passenger in a car at a party. Turns out the kids were driving away from them, not barreling toward them with a vehicle, as initially stated.
Want to hear something terrifying? Last month at President Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort, he was dropping bombs on Syria while hosting Chinese president Xi Jinping. Even beyond that, the people who were there are telling stories about the night as if the situation was supposed to be funny. Such is the case with Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, who, while speaking at the Milken Institute Global Conference on Monday, made a rather offhanded comment, calling the airstrikes “after-dinner entertainment.”
If you work in the news business, there are quite a few things that can get you fired. No.1 is making up stories. Nobody wants that, it’s unethical and it ruins the public trust. Yet, without getting too far down the list of fireable offenses for journos, let’s talk about the most basic one: Don’t use the N-word if you’re not black. Particularly if you’re in a public forum. But Atlanta reporter and CNN veteran Valerie Hoff decided that she was exempt from said guideline and slid into someone’s direct messages on Twitter for a story, only to end up resigning.
Hey, Boston, let’s talk. You know what doesn’t help the city’s reputation as a place where black people feel uncomfortable? Yelling racial slurs at opposing players from the crowd of a Major League Baseball game. You know what else doesn’t help: immediate defensive claims of “that’s not what we’re about,” as if a) that matters and b) it changes anything. On Monday night, Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said he encountered racist taunts from the Fenway Park crowd. Puts a little more context around this GIF.
Gold Glove performances all around tonight!
— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) May 2, 2017
Coffee Break: Eminem doesn’t play around when it comes to using his brand. So if you’re planning on inserting any of his music into your little advertising campaign, you’d better be prepared to fight him in court. You’d also better be prepared to have a group full of people listen to “Lose Yourself” in a courtroom. On camera. In silence.
Snack Time: Late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel is nothing if not honest. If you haven’t seen it, watch his heartfelt story about the birth of his son and how that related to this country’s health care system.
Dessert: There are apparently plenty of black folks who DON’T want Confederate monuments removed. Oookay.
Daily Dose: 5/1/17
Hasan Minhaj wins the weekend at White House correspondents’ dinner
2:23 PMIt was extremely busy last week and over the weekend. I filled in for Bomani Jones on The Right Time on ESPN Radio. Then on Sunday we did The Morning Roast, which was fun. Then this tweet destroyed my mentions.
The president is back at it. Monday, he released audio of an interview in which he exposed himself as being completely unaware of American history, which is shocking to exactly zero people. What continues to be surprising is how brazenly he just states things that are completely incorrect and seems to think that just saying them will make it so. Not the case. Andrew Jackson wasn’t alive for the Civil War. That’s a fact. Also, it’s extremely not OK to call Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas,” for multiple reasons.
Pres. Trump insinuates that he might be running against Sen. Warren for the presidency in 2020: "It may be Pocahontas, remember that." pic.twitter.com/tlVPhxj9As
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) April 28, 2017
Speaking of the president, he skipped the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Again, that came as no surprise. The annual event that turns D.C. into a raging zoo of celebrity and politics still went on, however, and it was probably better that he wasn’t present, as basically every single person who took the stage was there to let him know exactly how little they think of him. But comedian Hasan Minhaj was clearly the star of the show, stinging the media crowd with a scathing plea to do better while dropping some of the smartest jokes that event’s seen in years.
If you haven’t heard about the Fyre Festival, lucky you. Basically, Ja Rule and a guy whom many people consider to be a scam artist put together a week full of programming that was supposed to blow the festival circuit away in terms of scale, luxury and exclusiveness. All this came at price tags that got up into the tens of thousands of dollars. Seriously. Then, it completely fell apart. Literally. And people were stuck in the Bahamas with no food and no shelter. Total debacle. Now they’re getting sued for $100M, accused of fraud. Life comes at you fast.
The Big3 appears to officially be here. I have to admit, when this idea first came up, I didn’t exactly think it would last. Sure, Ice Cube was involved, but I figured he might lose interest or some other snag would come up that didn’t get it off the ground. I was WAY wrong about that. Over the weekend they league held its draft, which is pretty cool. It’s a 3-on-3 hoops league with former NBA stars, so I don’t know how much good basketball we’ll get, but it’ll certainly have star power. The top pick was Rashad McCants, which is … interesting.
Coffee Break: If you don’t know who Francesca Ramsey is, you will soon. The comedian and Comedy Central star is soon getting her own late night show, which is very special in America, as she’s a black woman. But with that opportunity comes a lot of pressure, never mind responsibility, to a certain extent. It won’t be easy, but we’re glad she’s there.
Snack Time: If you’re wondering, Rep. Maxine Waters is still about that action when it comes to talking about the commander in chief. She laid it out again over the weekend, calling him disgusting and disrespectful.
Dessert: This will make you laugh. Guaranteed.
Daily Dose: 4/28/17
LaVar Ball overplays his hand
11:42 AMWe all know how much President Donald Trump loves Twitter. It’s basically his main mode of expression, which is a tad concerning for the man leading the free world, but it is what it is at this point. The funny thing is that if you go back and read his history, there’s basically a tweet outlining a stance that is completely contradictory to what he’s doing now that he’s in office. It’s genuinely quite remarkable. That said, we’re nearing the 100-day mark, so let’s take a look back at that time in his social media feed.
The franchise of Dear White People holds an important space in the cultural landscape. The film, released in 2014, was an eye-opening look at what black college life can be like at predominantly white colleges, which is basically all of them that aren’t historically black universities. The film clearly made waves in the mainstream, mainly because of the title, which automatically put a lot of people off. They’re back with a new series for Netflix, which is a fantastic evolution for this story. We need this show.
DWP Season is officially here. #DearWhitePeople
Counting down to 4/28. pic.twitter.com/3DNwp5iiKO
— James Jolly (jo lee) (@jamesjolly) April 24, 2017
If you’re wondering, Michelle Obama will not be running for office. It’s been a strange pipe dream for quite a few of her fans who seem to think, understandably, that she would make an excellent public official. But one would think family time would be a priority after eight years in the White House. Getting involved in an election is a time commitment that takes over your life — never mind doing the actual job. Can’t imagine she’s looking to uproot all that anytime soon. But she was more definitive than Chelsea Clinton is about it, recently.
LaVar Ball is finally dealing with the big boys. For all of the entertainment he’s provided from a media and meme standpoint, his antics are not looked upon well by major corporations. Which, ultimately, was everyone’s concern to begin with: that he might actually be hurting his children’s ability to earn money at this point. Well, that’s exactly what’s happened. Nike, Under Armour and Adidas have all said that they don’t want to sign Lonzo Ball, who could potentially be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. Mega wow.
Coffee Break: The 25th anniversary of the L.A. riots is this week, which is kind of wild to think about. It feels like far longer ago. But from a media standpoint, that moment in history was made all the more intense by the fact that we had so much footage of everything. It was early in the 24-hour-news lifetime, and video really shaped a lot.
Snack Time: We use Slack at our office. Most people do. It’s a fun little chat system that, when utilized well, really can improve productivity. Why a dating service needs to be integrated with it, we have no idea.
Dessert: New Gorillaz. Get on it.