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George Curry

Don Lemon Favors Reporters Using the N-Word

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By George E. Curry
NNPA Columnist

Between the drama surrounding the arrest of George Zimmerman for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. and the White terrorists who killed two Blacks and injured five others in Tulsa, you may have missed the news about CNN Anchor Don Lemon, an African-American, defending journalists who use of the n-word while reporting on hate crimes. In case you missed it, let me bring you up to date. The discussion about use of the n-word grew out of reporting on a racial killing spree in Oklahoma. On Good Friday, Alvin L. Watts, 32, who is White, and Jacob C. England, who is 19 and describes himself as White, though he is a Native American, went on a random shooting spree, killing three innocent African-Americans and wounding two others.

The day before, England posted on his Facebook page, “Today is two years that my dad has been gone, shot by a f—— n—–.” Of course, England did not mention that authorities determined that the Black man who shot his father was acting in self-defense. In discussing the case on CNN, Lemon argued that when used in proper context – such as referring to England’s rant – the actual n-word should be used in direct quotations. To substitute “n-word,” he contends, lessens the impact of the slur.

“I think it takes the value out of what that word really means, especially when we are reporting it,” Lemon said. “And I don’t care what color the reporter is, I think someone should say, ‘That person calls someone nigger’ instead of saying the n-word because I think it sanitizes it.” CNN correspondent Susan Candiotti did not sanitize the word the next day. After saying, “Please excuse the language, it’s very sensitive,” she quoted the Facebook post about England claiming that his father had been killed by a f—— n—–.”

Anchorwoman Fredricka Whitfield said, “We apologize to our viewers for the profanities used.” It wasn’t just the vulgarity that merited an apology. And this wasn’t the first time a CNN correspondent had used the n-word. Last month, CNN reporter Drew Griffin used it while reporting on Deryl Dedmon, a White Mississippian convicted of running down a Black man with his truck and killing him.

Griffin said, “To be absolutely factual, at the end of this, Deryl Dedmond is laughing with his friends and actually called on his cell phone and, pardon my language, but there is no other way to say this, and said, ‘I just ran over that f—— n—–.’” Griffin used the actual words. Let’s indeed be absolutely factual. The n-word, according to Merriam-Webster, “ranks as perhaps the most offensive and inflammatory racial slur in English.” When we hear someone refer to the n-word, we understand exactly what they mean and don’t need to hear the full word to realize the depth of the insult.

Contrast Lemon’s argument for uttering the n-word with the controversy that surrounded New York Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin, who is of Taiwanese descent. The nation has been mesmerized by the exploits of Lin, who blossomed from benchwarmer to star for the Knicks. After the Knicks lost to the New Orleans Hornets 89-85 amid “Linsanity,” a writer for ESPN.com posted the headline, “Chink in the Armor.” The post was removed within 35 minutes and the offending journalist was fired. Also, ESPN anchor Max Bretos was given a 30-day suspension after asking, “Is there a chink in the armor, where can Lin improve his game?” ESPN did the right thing in disciplining insensitive journalists. Just as it was wrong to use a slur in connection with Lin, it is equally obnoxious to rationalize the use of the n-word. There is no “context” that warrants its use.

Once you go there, the floodgates are open for every derogatory word used to insult women, gays, Jews and Polish immigrants, to name a few. In one comment on CNN.com, a viewer applauded Lemon’s position on the n-word and urged him to start using the f-word – he said the actual word – to describe homosexuals.

In discussing the n-word, Lemon said, “I hate it in music. I hate those kinds of things. I hate it when it’s misogynistic and rap and all of that. But what I’m saying is in the reporting of a story, you should say the word not to sanitize it.”

I don’t know of anyone other than Don Lemon who considers the n-word – even when not spelled out – sanitized. Instead of standing for Cable News Network, CNN should stand for Can Not (use) N—–.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

The Vanishing Black Middle Class

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A chapter in the National Urban League’s 2012 State of Black America report reached a sobering conclusion about the Black middle class. “Our analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will clearly establish that whether one looks at education, income or any other meaningful measure, almost all the economic gains that Blacks have made in the last 30 years have been lost in the Great Recession that started in December 2007 and in the anemic recovery that has followed since June, 2009.

“This means that the size of the Black middle class is shrinking, the fruits that come from being in the Black middle class are dwindling, and the ladders of opportunity for reaching the Black middle class are disappearing.”

That’s pretty strong language from the four authors: Chanelle P. Hardy, Valerie R. Wilson, Madura Wijewardena and Garrick T. Davis. But they provide strong figures to buttress their case. The Black median household income in 2010 was $32,106. That’s 30 percent less than the comparable figure for Whites. In today’s dollars, that’s where the White median household income stood in 1980. Even with the tremendous income gap, the Black median household income increased by 32 percent between 1992 and 2000. White income increased by 14 percent over that same time period. The latest economic downturn has eroded many of those gains.

“The Great Recession and the recovery has led to a dramatic widening of the gap between White and Black middle class income households,” the report stated. “Although both Blacks and Whites suffered declining median household income during and since the recession, the decline for Blacks has been considerably higher – between 2008 and 2010, White median household income fell by 2.9% while the Black median household income fell by 7.7%.”

A similar decline can be seen in home ownership.

“Since the recovery, Black home ownership has been falling at just under twice the rate of White home ownership – from 2009 to 2011, Black home ownership declined by 1.4 percentage points while White home ownership declined by 0.9 percentage points. This means that almost all the gains in Black home ownership have been lost and now we are at a point where there are real reversals in Black home ownership.”

Education, the ladder to upward mobility, is also going in the wrong direction.

“An especially troubling trend can be observed by looking at the fortunes of those with a 4-year college degree,” the report observed. “The most significant impact of this trend has been on Black college graduates who saw their unemployment rates skyrocket to an average of 7.1% in 2011.

“This led to an unprecedented widening of the gap between Black and White college graduates –in 1972, the gap between the unemployment rates of Blacks and White college graduates was 1.4 percentage points and in 2011 it had increased to 3.2 percentage points.”

Middle class can be defined generally as having income that places one in the middle of overall income distribution. And because White household income is more than 1.5 times Black income, a White family must earn more than African-Americans in order to be considered middle class. Even though Blacks still trail Whites in income, there was no significant Black middle class before the modern Civil Rights Movement.

“…The civil rights movement of the last 50 years forced open the door of full-fledged American prosperity to all those who had been barred from its many comforts in decades past, either through economic, legislative, a racial apartheid, or some institutionalized combination of all of the above,” the report said.

After the Civil Rights Movement and affirmative action opened the doors of opportunity, they are now being slammed in our face. The National Urban League chapter on the Black middle class did not address the issue of Black net worth, which has also been pummeled.

The Economic Policy Institute, analyzing data collected by the Federal Reserve, found that in 2004, the median net worth of White households was $134,280, compared with $13,450 for Black households. By 2009, the medium net worth for White households had declined by 24 percent to $97,860. Over that same period, the medium net worth for African-American households had fallen 83 percent to $2,170.

Despite the Republican crusade for smaller government, the National Urban League report argues that the federal government must be an active partner if these blows to the Black middle class are to be reversed.

“Programs such as targeted job training, Pell grants, small business lending, pre- and post-purchase housing counseling, and Medicare and Medicaid provide the foundation which makes middle class life possible,” the report stated. “These programs should not, and must not be sacrificed in the hyper-partisan debate designed to produce political winners and losers.”

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Romney's Foot-in-Mouth Disease

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(NNPA) Mitt Romney may have made have moved closer to wrapping up the Republican nomination for president on Tuesday but he can’t seem to move his foot away from his mouth whenever he goes off script. Throughout this campaign, the former Massachusetts governor has been his worst enemy as he struggles to connect with average voters.

Here are some examples:

April 25, 2011 – In an op-ed in the Manchester Union Leader, Romney accused President Obama of going on “one of the biggest peacetime spending binges in American history.”

Simultaneously fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan hardly qualifies as “peacetime.”

April 30 – Speaking at an Americans for Prosperity dinner in Manchester, N.H., Romney said: “Reagan came up with this great thing about the ‘misery index’ and he hung that around Jimmy Carter’s neck. Well, we’re going to have to hang the ‘Obama Misery Index’ around his neck.” Romney continued, “…We’re going to hang him…” After stopping mid-sentence, Romney added, “So to speak – metaphorically. You have to be careful these days.”

Yes, Mitt, you do have to be careful these days. And saying even metaphorically that you want to hang a Black man, in this case the president of the United States, shows appalling insensitivity to this country’s long and ugly history of lynching.

June 16 – Speaking to unemployed workers in Tampa, Fla., Romney said, “I am also unemployed.”

When you are worth between $190 million and $250 million and receive more than $20 million a year from investments, you don’t have to work.

Aug. 11 – At the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Romney said: “Corporations are people, my friend.”

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the comment was “one more indication that Romney and the Republicans on the campaign trail and in Washington have misplaced priorities.”

Dec. 10 – During Sioux City GOP debate: “Rick, I’ll tell you what, 10,000 bucks, $10,000 bet?”

Oct. 18 – In the GOP debate in Las Vegas, recalling a conversation he had with his lawn-care service that had employed illegal immigrants: “We went to the company and we said, look, you can’t have any illegals working on our property. I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, I can’t have illegals.”

Would it be alright if Romney wasn’t running for office?

Jan. 9 – Speaking at a Chamber of Commerce function in Nashua, N.H.: “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.”

Jan. 17 – In Greenville, S.C., Romney called the $370,000 he earned in speaking fees in 2011 “not very much money.” According to the Census Bureau, that’s more than seven times the average household income of $49,445.

Feb. 1 – CNN interview: “I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich; they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”

Romney made it very clear that he is no John F. Kennedy. And although he professed not to be concerned for the very rich, independent analyses of his tax plan show that’s the group that would most benefit under his proposal.

Comedian Jon Stewart said on his Daily Show: “It’s like a doctor going, ‘I’m not concerned about the very healthy, because they’re doing fine, or the very sick because, you know, morphine.’”

Feb. 24 – Speaking in Detroit: “I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pickup. Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually.”

Way to go Mitt. Remind the audience that your wife drives two vehicles that sell for $35,485-$54,525 each and that you have two homes, each with its own Cadillac. Working-class people can really relate to that.

Feb. 26 – When asked by a reporter at the Daytona 500 if he followed racing, Romney replied: “Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans, but I have some great friends who are NASCAR team owners.”

One blogger said Romney saying he had friends that were NASCAR owners was akin to saying you enjoy football because you hang out with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a sky box at the Super Bowl.

But Romney didn’t stop there. He told a group of racing fans wearing plastic ponchos: “I like those fancy raincoats you bought. Really sprung for the big bucks.” Describing ponchos as “fancy raincoats” shows that Romney needs to get out of his mansions more often.

Despite Romney’s effort to put his best foot forward, he usually sticks it in his mouth.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Spying on Sharpton and Other Black Leaders

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(NNPA) A recent report that New York City Police Department may have spied on Al Sharpton as he prepared to protest the acquittal of three police officers in the 2006 shooting death of Sean Bell brings back memories of a carefully-orchestrated national effort to discredit civil rights leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In his NYPD Confidential column, posted on the Huffington Post under the headline, “Spying on the Rev.,” veteran police reporter Len Levitt wrote: “A NYPD informant spied on the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network [NAN] as the group was organizing large-scale protests of the Sean Bell case acquittals, a police document shows.”

It continued, “The confidential informant infiltrated a NAN meeting on May 3, 2008, and reported back to the NYPD’s Intelligence Division, according to a document marked ‘secret,’ which was obtained by NYPD Confidential.”

At the time, Sharpton was planning to create a city-wide traffic jam because three plainclothes and undercover officers had killed an unarmed Bell after he left his bachelor’s party at a club in Queens. According to authorities, Bell and two of his friends were shot 50 times. On April 25, three police officers indicted in the case were acquitted of all charges.

“According to the police document, the informant, who was identified not by name but by a five-digit number given to him by the department, provided the NYPD with a detailed description of NAN’s protest plans, including the names of prominent African-Americans set to participate, the locations where protestors would gather and the number of demonstrators who would offer themselves up for arrest,” the story recounted.

Sharpton and nearly 200 protesters were arrested after they brought the city to a halt by blocking major traffic arteries.

Although he gets the headline, this is not about Al Sharpton. Rather, it is about the reprehensible practice by the FBI and local police departments to undermine legal and legitimate protests.

From 1956 to 1971, the FBI operated a program called COINTELPRO, an acronym for Counter Intelligence Program. Initially established to spy on organizations suspected of communist ties, the program was expanded by J. Edgar Hoover to include the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the National Lawyers Guild and other left-leaning groups.

A congressional committee, chaired by Senator Frank Church, issued a report that concluded, “Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO went far beyond that…the Bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas protect the national security and deter violence.”

The stated goal of COINTELPRO was to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, or otherwise neutralize” organizations that it deemed “subversive.”

A book titled, The Lawless State: The Crimes of the U.S. Intelligence Agencies, states: “Officials of the nation’s number one law enforcement agency agreed to use ‘all available investigative techniques’ to develop information for the use ‘to discredit’ King. Proposals discussed included using ministers, ‘disgruntled’ acquaintances, ‘aggressive’ newsmen, ‘colored’ agents, Dr. King’s housekeeper, and even Dr. King’s wife, or ‘placing a good-looking female plant in King’s office’ to develop discrediting information and to take action that would lead to his disgrace.”

The FBI taped what it said were Dr. King’s extramarital sexual encounters.

The book recalled, “Unknown to King…the FBI, at the height of the public controversy, took its most distressing step. It mailed the tapes to the SCLC office in Atlanta with a covering letter urging King to commit suicide or face public revelation of the information on the tapes on the eve of the [Nobel Peace Prize] award ceremonies in Sweden.”

Although COINTELPRO is supposedly a thing of the past, its dirty tricks continue to be practiced today.

In one of his racist rants, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul wrote in the 1990s – or had someone else write under his name – that Dr. King was a “world-class philanderer who beat up his paramours.” In the same breath, he claimed that Dr. King “seduced underage girls and boys.”

It’s a vile and patently false allegation, but the intent was to smear Dr. King, not tell the truth.

A similar campaign was apparently underway to discredit Sharpton.

The news story disclosing that NYPD spied on Sharpton also stated, “Two undercover police officers who spied on black protest groups in the 1980s told this reporter in 1998 that the department was so intent on discrediting Sharpton that they were tasked by their superiors to spread rumors that he was homosexual.”

As one who has covered the Civil Rights Movement for four decades, I’ve heard a lot of rumors that never made it into print. At no time, however, have I ever heard a faint suggestion that Sharpton might be gay. But that’s how these vicious rumors are designed to work. It doesn’t matter whether something is demonstrably false – the idea is to raise enough doubt in some people’s mind and the mission would have been accomplished.

To paraphrase former President George W. Bush: Mission Not Accomplished.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Maryland HBCU Desegregation Trial Nearing an End

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(NNPA) After six weeks of testimony, a major trial to determine whether Maryland’s four historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have been routinely denied funding and other needed resources that would have made them “comparable and competitive” with White universities in the state is expected to end this week, with a ruling expected by this summer.

The overwhelming majority of HBCUs, originally established shortly after the Civil War to prevent African-Americans from attending all-White state universities, are located in the South. The Maryland case (Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, Inc., v. Maryland Higher Education Commission, et al.) has attracted national attention, in part, because it involves a border state that, like the South, operated a rigidly segregated school system, but unlike the South, has largely escaped intense public scrutiny.

U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake presided over the non-jury trial in Baltimore. The lead attorney for the plaintiffs was Jon Greenbaum of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Pro bono work was provided by lawyers from Kirkland & Ellis law firm and the Howard University School of Law Civil Rights Clinic.

The suit was originally filed in 2006 by the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, Inc., a community-based group comprised of alumni of public HBCUs in Maryland and other interested parties. It is seeking approximately $2.1 billion to upgrade the four state HBCUs: Morgan State University, Bowie State University, Coppin State University and the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore.

Named as major defendants are officials of the University of Maryland Higher Education Commission, Gov. Martin O’Malley and Secretary of Higher Education James E. Lyons, Sr.

The state of Maryland’s higher education system has a long history of racial segregation, according to witnesses and court documents.

“Throughout its history, Maryland has systematically engaged in policies and practices that established and perpetuated a racially segregated system of higher education,” the suit asserts. “Maryland first instituted its system of public higher education in 1807 by establishing the University of Maryland at Baltimore. This was a White-only institution.

“Maryland subsequently established four other White-only, public institutions of higher education: the University of Maryland, established in 1865; Towson University, established in 1866, Frostburgh State University, established in 1898; and Salisbury State University, established in 1922,” the suit continued. “The state began its dual-system by assuming control of The Baltimore Normal School, an all Black teacher’s school now known as Bowie State University. This was the beginning of Maryland’s segregated system of higher education.”

Maryland was forced to expand educational opportunities for Blacks in order to qualify for federal land-grant funds. That led to the state also acquiring what is now the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, Morgan State University and adding Coppin State University in 1950.

In 1954, the United States Supreme Court issued its Brown v. Board of Education ruling, holding that segregated school systems violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. “Following Brown, Maryland did nothing more than lift the rule excluding Black students from White schools,” the lawsuit recounts.

After passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the state ended de jure segregation, opening the doors for African-Americans to attend all-White public universities.

“In 1965, however, rather than encourage integration at Morgan State, Maryland established University of Maryland Baltimore County (“UMBC”). UMBC was a complete duplication of Morgan State’s entire institution, not just its programs,” the lawsuit stated.

In 1969, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights notified the state of Maryland that it was one of 10 states operating a racially segregated system of higher education in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Two decades later, the only two states in the group still in noncompliance were Maryland and Mississippi.

Facing the possibility of losing all federal education funds, Maryland reached agreements with the U.S. Department of Education in 1982 and again in 1985. The later called for “the enhancement of HBCUs to ensure that they are comparable and competitive with TWIs [traditionally White institutions] with respect to capital facilities, operating budgets and new academic programs.”

A major component of the plan to strengthen HBCs and encourage more Whites to attend them called for the avoiding program duplication at nearby White universities.

However, Maryland allowed the creation of an engineering program at UMBC that duplicated an offering by Morgan State. Salisbury University was permitted to offer a computer science degree that was already being offered by University of Maryland-Eastern Shore. Especially controversial was the decision made by the state in 2005 to allow Towson University and the University of Baltimore to operate a joint Masters in Business Administration program, which had been offered by Morgan State since 1964. Overall, more than a half dozen programs at TWIs duplicated programs already in existence at Maryland’s HBCUs.

Testifying as an expert witness, University of Wisconsin Education Professor Clifton F. Conrad said that the state of Maryland still operates a segregated higher education system.

“The dual education systems remain,” he testified. “There continues to be substantial differences – severe differences – in terms of the number of programs and the quality of programs. Those students who enter Maryland’s historically Black institutions – whether Black, White, or other races – do not have an equal educational opportunity as those students who attend the state’s traditionally White institutions.”

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

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