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Archive for the ‘Alpha Phi Alpha’ Category

Trayvon Martin, who was shot to death last month, posed for the undated family photo. George Zimmerman, 28, remains out of police custody despite admitting to the shooting of the 17-year-old, unarmed high school student. Authorities haven't arrested Zimmerman, citing a Florida state law that allows people to defend themselves with deadly force. Such an argument has prompted some community leaders to bemoan "white privilege" when a black life is taken. (AP Photo/Martin Family)

When a young American teenager, Trayvon Martin, was gunned down for walking while being black in a diverse suburban community, the first thing many of us wanted to know was the race of the guy who pulled the trigger. That man, George Zimmerman, was described as white by the media and Latino by his father. But why does it matter?

Far from the crime scene in Sanford, Florida, two Boston-area educators offered an explanation last weekend during a workshop on “Transforming Whiteness” at the Kirwan Institute conference on race in Columbus, Ohio. Susan Naimark and Paul Madden didn’t mention the Martin case but instead posed a broad and open-ended question to the interracial audience of progressive academics, social activists, and community organizers that could well resonate in the coming federal investigation of the shooting: “What comes to mind when you hear the phrase ‘white culture?’”

Dare, if you will, to engage in a conversation about race in most places in our country and the issue at hand will likely revolve around the status of black Americans. Perhaps in the fastest-growing parts of the nation, the topic may include concern about the increasing presence and plight of Latinos. Almost instinctively, Americans know and recognize “other” cultures, which are typically described with dark and foreboding adjectives.

But what is “white culture?” (more…)

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Occupy Wall Street protestors march in New York City near Zuccotti Park in October, 2011. Occupy Wall Street began as a movement to expose the growing class stratification in America. (Photo: AP/Craig Ruttle)

In an odd, roundabout way, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has given Americans an opportunity to witness what so many of us have steadfastly refused to acknowledge: Yes, America, we are a class-stratified society.

Of course, the former Massachusetts governor didn’t mean to do this. He probably laments having told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien last week that he wasn’t worried about the poor because they have a safety net to support them. Nor is he losing sleep over the plight of the wealthy. If, as I suspect, he meant exactly what he said, he leaves little doubt with his attempt to clarify. “I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90 to 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling,” he explained.

So he believes that the overwhelming majority of Americans are in that great, nebulous economic cloud called the middle class (or “middle income,” in his words). It’s an easy mistake—most Americans would agree with him, believing the middle class is larger than it really is.

These days Americans seem more class-confused than class-conscious. (more…)

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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer points her finger in the face of President Barack Obama during an intense conversation on January 25, 2012, at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

With a waggle of her right index finger last Wednesday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer erased the question of whether black voters will be enthusiastic about going to the polls in support of President Barack Obama. Now, you can count on it.

Gov. Brewer almost guaranteed that large numbers of black voters will turn out on Election Day because they will march to the polls, still angry about Brewer’s one-finger salute of the commander-in-chief. Nothing motivates voters like anger. So I envision their collective disgust to register in a wave of ballots, striking back at what so many perceive as the ultimate disrespect of the nation’s first black president.

This isn’t a bold prediction. Rather, it’s more of a reasonable assessment of what I’m hearing and reading about the durability of the anger over the now-infamous tarmac photo. (more…)

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By 2050 the United States will have no racial majority and the uneven racial and ethnic population growth of the future could very well reshape the course of presidential politics for generations to come. (Photo: AP/ Charles Krupa)

To keep myself interested while waiting for the GOP to complete its circular firing squad, I’ve begun to look down the road to the campaigns to come. No, I’m not talking about the November general election. Rather, I’m fascinated by what it will take to be president in the decades to come, when the United States will be a much-changed nation from what it is today.

I’m not alone in envisioning such progressive, future-forward politics. Stefan Hankin, president of Lincoln Park Strategies, a Washington-based public opinion research firm that advises progressive organizations and Democratic politicians, told me recently that “[t]he future for progressive policies is not about 2012 or the next election in two years. It’s about growing the future and seeing where the path leads us.”

The path that Hankin referred to is the fact that within the next 40 years, possibly sooner, the nation will no longer have a majority white population. In a study that his firm released late last year, Hankin noted that the U.S. population will grow by 19 percent over the next two decades, but such growth will not be spread evenly over all racial groups. Whites will increase almost 4 percent, which pales in comparison to the 63 percent growth rates of Latinos, 55 percent growth of Asians, and the 27 percent increase in the number of blacks. By 2050 the Census Bureau estimates that white Americans will be a statistical minority in the nation, with no racial group comprising more than 50 percent of the population.

To be sure, demography isn’t destiny. But the uneven racial and ethnic population growth of the future could very well reshape the course of presidential politics for generations to come. (more…)

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Fox News Channel anchor Shepard Smith, background right, conducts an interview during his "Studio B" program, in New York, Tuesday, May 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Can watching Fox News actually make you dumber than if you didn’t watch any news at all? Sure, some of us believe this, but until now there’s been nothing other than anecdotal evidence and Sarah Palin to support our arguments. Now we’ve got facts that make the case with an empirical flourish.

Researchers with Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind Poll asked 612 New Jersey residents a variety of questions to test their awareness and knowledge of current events that dominated the news between October 17 and October 23. The poll’s shocking conclusion was that people who described themselves as heavy Fox News viewers tended to be “even less informed than those who say they don’t watch any news at all.” (more…)

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Our nation's failure to publicly and candidly grapple with the changing demographics only postpones a necessary conversation about what kind of country we will choose to become. By 2050 - possibly sooner - the nation's combined populations of racial and ethnic Americans (blacks, Latinos, Asian-Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans) will outnumber white Americans. (Photo: iStockphoto)

“Do you feel concerned or hopeful about the fact that racial minorities will soon make up a majority of the U.S. population?”

If your dinner table talk resembles some I’ve encountered recently, then you’ve experienced the passionate range of emotions—from head-hanging pessimism to button-popping optimism to shoulder-shrugging ambivalence—that this question usually sparks in private, just-among-friends debates. But rarely does such talk enter polite, public conversation. I suspect that’s because few people are daring enough to ask, fearing the backlash that almost always follows honest discussions involving race.

That’s a pity. Our nation’s failure to publicly and candidly grapple with the changing demographics only postpones a necessary conversation about what kind of country we will choose to become. For sure, change is coming. By 2050—possibly sooner—the nation’s combined populations of racial and ethnic Americans (blacks, Latinos, Asian-Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans) will outnumber white Americans. (more…)

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I was determined to make my first visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on my birthday, which I share with Dr. King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech. Apparently, many other people had the same idea as the base of the statute and the entire four acre park was crowded with visitors. (Photo: Sam Fulwood III)


Before Hurricane Irene blew up the Atlantic seaboard and rained all over the weekend, I had planned to be among the thousands of people celebrating last Sunday’s dedication of the national memorial to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. And how could I’ve avoided it? It was scheduled to take place in my adopted hometown and on my birthday.

For most of my life, I have shared my birthday with a special moment in American history. On August 28, 1963, Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. It’s always irked me that my parents didn’t take me to celebrate my day with those 250,000 people who came out on a swamp-sweltering Wednesday to hear what would become Dr. King’s iconic sermon.

I remember that day vividly not because of the King speech but because I turned 7 that summer, and I was the guest of honor at the only birthday party I ever had. My folks never made much of a fuss about such celebrations. But we happened to be visiting relatives in Baltimore. They couldn’t believe I’d never had a party with bunting and the like. So Aunt Anne, Uncle Frank, and Cousin Frankie took it upon themselves to invite the neighborhood kids to a party in my honor. About the precise time that Dr. King’s booming bass thundered the closing line “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last,” a gaggle of Frankie’s friends, all strangers to me, were singing “Happy birthday, dear Sam. Happy birthday to you.” (more…)

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