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George Curry

Rodney King Symbolized Police Brutality

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By George E. Curry
NNPA Columnist

Rodney King would be the first to tell you that he was no Martin Luther King, Jr. or Malcolm X. His lifelong bout with alcohol and drugs – battles that he always seemed to lose – and frequent run-ins with police did not qualify him for icon status. Yet, that’s what he achieved in 1991 at the age of 27 because of one video clip. It was graphic footage filmed by a bystander showing at least four Los Angeles policemen savagely kicking and beating King with police batons, landing at least 50 blows as the unarmed King was sprawled on the ground or struggling to stand up. In the video, the officers were seen teeing off on King as though they were holding baseball bats or golf clubs. Several other officers stood around, doing nothing to halt the repeated assault on the helpless King.

More than any other event, the brutal beating of Rodney King, an unemployed construction worker, forced America to see what many did not want to believe existed – police officers, hiding behind a badge and a gun, brutalizing citizens who pose no immediate threat to them or the public. King was found dead early Sunday morning at the bottom of his swimming pool at his home in Rialto, Calif. No foul play was suspected.

His entry into the national spotlight has its roots in an incident that took place in 1989. King robbed a grocery store in Monterey Park, Calif. He took $200 and was sentenced to two years in prison. On the night of March 2, 1991, following hours of drinking with friends, King was spotted speeding in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. When cops tried to pull him over, he tried to elude them by driving even faster, up to 100 miles per hour, fearing that he would go back to jail for violating his parole.

After a high-speed chase joined by other officers, King was cornered and ordered out of his vehicle. The two passengers accompanying him, Bryant Allen and Freddie Helms, immediately complied with the order to exit the car and lie face down on the ground. King delayed his exit and when he emerged, he acted strangely, waving at police helicopters that had been part of the chase and giggling uncontrollably.

Sgt. Stacey Koon, the supervising officer, fired a Taser into King’s back, causing him to drop to his knees. Officer Laurence Powell hit King in the head, knocking him to ground, and continued striking King. Other officers moved in as well, pummeling King with their night sticks. After being struck 56 times and kicked a half-dozen times, King was handcuffed and dragged to the side of the road on his stomach to await the arrival of an ambulance. King later reported that he had suffered 11 skull fractures, permanent brain damage, kidney damage and broken bones and teeth. Four of the officers – Koon, Powell. Timothy Wind and Theodore Briseno – were charged with excessive use of force. The trial was switched from Los Angeles to Simi Valley, a largely White community in Ventura County. On April 29, 1992, a jury that contained no African Americans acquitted three of the officers and was unable to reach a verdict on a fourth. Los Angeles exploded upon hearing the verdict. At the end of six days of unrest, there were 53 deaths, 2,383 injuries and property damage was nearly $1 billion. In an effort to end the violence, Rodney King appeared in public to utter his now famous, “Can we all get along?”

After the Los Angeles prosecutor failed to win a conviction against the four officers, the federal government obtained indictments charging the officers with violating the civil rights of King. Koon and Stacey were found guilty and sentenced to 32 months in prison; Wind and Briseno were acquitted. The city of Los Angeles settled a civil suit brought by Rodney King for $3.8 million. Later, it became clear that the Rodney King beating was not an aberration.

Feb. 4, 1999 – Amadou Diallo was killed by New York City police officers who claimed they thought he was reaching for a gun. Four officers were indicted for second-degree murder, but were acquitted.

Sept. 2, 2005 – Following Hurricane Katrina, Henry Glover was shot to death while near a strip mall shopping for baby clothing. Two cops were sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for shooting Glover, tossing his body into a car and setting it on fire.

Nov. 26, 2006 –Three unarmed Black men, including Sean Bell, were shot a total of 50 times by New York police officers. Bell, who had been celebrating at his bachelor’s party, died in the hail of bullets. Three officers charged with manslaughter were acquitted.

Jan. 1, 2009 – Oscar Grant was shot in the back by Officer Johannes Mehserle while on the ground at a train station in Oakland, Calif. The officer was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, but served only 11 months in prison.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of cases similar to the ones above. Thanks to Rodney King, the public is not as quick to believe police officers who abuse their power and violate public trust. George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) 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.

Florida is Again the Laughing Stock of America

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By George Curry
NNPA Columnist

When it comes to national elections, no state makes a bigger fool of itself than Florida. The Sunshine state was at the center of an 1876 controversy over the presidential election between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel L. Tilden. By throwing out many votes cast by Blacks, Florida was able to give Hayes a one-vote margin in the Electoral College although Tilden had won the state’s popular vote by 260,000 votes. The case reached the Supreme Court where Florida’s chicanery was also upheld by a one-vote margin. A book on the election by Roy Morris Jr. was titled, Florida’s Voting Scandal in 1876: The Fraud of the Century.

The 2000 presidential contest between Al Gore and George W. Bush was the fraud of another century, featuring a governor, Jeb Bush, who was brother of the Republican nominee for president, and Florida’s Secretary of State Katherine Harris, with the responsibility of supervising state election procedures, serving as George W. Bush’s state co-chairman. There was widespread confusion leading up to Election Day. More than 54,000 people were purged from voting rolls supposedly because they were felons; 54 percent of the group was made up of African Americans. However, it was later determined that many of those denied access to the ballot were not convicted felons.

A lack of uniformed ballots also caused major problems and introduced unfamiliar terms such as “hanging chads” and “butterfly ballots.” The ballots were so confusing that in the Jacksonville area, home to significant numbers of African Americans, 27,000 ballots were thrown out because they showed votes had been cast for two presidential candidates. In Palm Beach, another hotbed of controversy, the presidential choices were spread over two pages, with voters being instructed to “vote on every page.”

Instead of shedding light on the confusion, the news media added to it. All of the major networks made the mistake of announcing the polls in Florida closed at 7 p.m., EST. That was true in the eastern section of the state. However, polls in the more conservative western counties were open for another hour because they operated on the central time zone. This confusion caused the networks to project at 7:48 p.m., EST, that Al Gore had carried the state. When the final numbers were tallied, however, Bush was declared the winner by 537 votes. Under Florida law, a statewide recount was automatic. And that set off another round of confusion, with Democrats trying to make sure their votes were counted in Democratic strongholds and Republicans guarding their favored territory. During the process, lawyers for Bush appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and on December 4, with George W. Bush leading by 154 votes, the court halted the recount process on a 5-4 vote, effectively awarding the state to George W. Bush. Although Gore won a plurality of the popular votes, Bush was awarded the state’s 25 electoral votes, enough to win the national election.

This year, Florida officials are not waiting until the November elections to disenfranchise voters likely to vote for President Obama and other Democrats. Gov. Rick Scott signed an executive order that, in effect, permanently disenfranchises ex-offenders. In addition, the state eliminated early voting on the Sunday before elections, a move to disrupt “Soul to the Polls” voting campaigns organized by churches. In 2008, 32.2 percent of those who voted early on that last Sunday were Black and 23.6 percent were Latino. To make it more difficult to organize voter registration drives, Scott signed a law requiring groups registering voters to pre-register with the state and turn in voter registration forms without 48 hours of collection.

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle ruled on a suit that challenged those provisions by the League of Women Voters of Florida, Rock the Vote and Florida Public Interest Research Group Educational Fund. The groups said such requirements infringed on their constitutional rights of free speech and association.

Judge Hinkle dismissed the state’s assertion that no constitutional rights were being violated. ‘’The assertion that the challenged provisions implicate no constitutional rights is plainly wrong,’’ he wrote in his decision. ‘’The plaintiffs wish to speak, encouraging others to register to votes, and some of the challenged provisions – for example, the requirement to disclose in advance the identity of an employee or volunteer who will do nothing more than speak – regulate pure speech. This is core First Amendment activity. ‘’Further, the plaintiff’s wish to speak and act collectively with others, implicating the First Amendment right to association. More importantly, the plaintiffs wish to assist others with the process of registering and thus, in due course, voting. Voting is a right protected by several constitutional provisions; state election codes thus are subject to constitutional scrutiny.’’ The U.S. Justice Department has also objected to Florida making it more difficult for citizens to vote.

Not surprisingly, Florida officials are appealing the court ruling and the Justice Department’s intervention.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) 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.

Racist ‘Talk’ with White Children

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By George E. Curry

In the wake of the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., stories appeared in newspapers, on broadcast outlets and on the Internet about “the talk,” a candid conversation Black parents have at some point with their Black sons about surviving  in a society that devalues them as humans. In an April 5 article published in Taki magazine (takimag.com), National Review contributor John Derbyshire wrote, “Yes, talk about the talk is all over.” Under the headline, “The Talk: NonBlack Version,” he said, “There is a talk that nonBlack Americans have with their kids, too. My own kids, now 19 and 16, have had it in bits and pieces as subtopics have arisen. If I were to assemble it into a single talk, it would look something like the following.” He then listed a series of clearly racist and undocumented comments. Among them: The default principle in everyday personal encounters is, that as a fellow citizen, with the same rights and obligations as yourself, any individual Black is entitled to the same courtesies you would extend to a nonBlack citizen. That is basic good manners and good citizenship. In some unusual circumstances, however—e.g., paragraph (10h) below—this default principle should be overridden by considerations of personal safety. In consideration of personal safety, Derbyshire advises: Avoid concentrations of Blacks not all known to you personally; Stay out of heavily Black neighborhoods;  If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with Blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot);  Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of Blacks;  If you are at some public event at which the number of Blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible; Do not settle in a district or municipality run by Black politicians;  Before voting for a Black politician, scrutinize his/her character much more carefully than you would a White;  Do not act the Good Samaritan to Blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway and if accosted by a strange Black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving. As you go through life, however, you will experience an ever larger number of encounters with Black Americans. Assuming your encounters are random—for example, not restricted only to Black convicted murderers or to Black investment bankers—the Law of Large Numbers will inevitably kick in. You will observe that the means—the averages—of many traits are very different for Black and White Americans, as has been confirmed by methodical inquiries in the human sciences. Of most importance to your personal safety are the very different means for antisocial behavior, which you will see reflected in, for instance, school disciplinary measures, political corruption, and criminal convictions. These differences are magnified by the hostility many Blacks feel toward Whites. Thus, while Black-on-Black behavior is more antisocial in the average than is White-on-White behavior, average Black-on-White behavior is a degree more antisocial yet. A small cohort of Blacks—in my experience, around five percent—is ferociously hostile to Whites and will go to great lengths to inconvenience or harm us. A much larger cohort of Blacks—around half—will go along passively if the five percent take leadership in some event. They will do this out of racial solidarity, the natural willingness of most human beings to be led, and a vague feeling that Whites have it coming.

The mean intelligence of Blacks is much lower than for Whites. The least intelligent ten percent of Whites have IQs below 81; forty percent of Blacks have IQs that low. Only one Black in six is more intelligent than the average White; five Whites out of six are more intelligent than the average Black…“Life is an IQ test.” There is a magnifying effect here, too, caused by affirmative action. In a pure meritocracy there would be very low proportions of Blacks in cognitively demanding jobs. Because of affirmative action, the proportions are higher. In government work, they are very high. Thus, in those encounters with strangers that involve cognitive engagement, ceteris paribus the Black stranger will be less intelligent than the White. In such encounters, therefore—for example, at a government office—you will, on average, be dealt with more competently by a White than by a Black.

Derbyshire ended his article by saying, “You don’t have to follow my version of the talk point for point; but if you are White or Asian and have kids, you owe it to them to give them some version of the talk. It will save them a lot of time and trouble spent figuring things out for themselves. It may save their lives.”

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) 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.

A Biblical Reason to Vote Against Mitt Romney

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By George E. Curry

NNPA Columnist

After President Obama expressed his personal support for same-sex marriage, there has been a robust discussion among African-Americans about whether his stance will make Black voters less likely to support him in November. A poll conducted by The Pew Research Center For the People & The Press found that 68 percent of African-Americans said Obama’s announcement did not change their view of him. Of those who did alter their perception of the president, 16 percent said his decision caused them to view him more favorably and 13 percent less favorably.

As the debate over gay marriage seemed to be receding from the public stage, the NAACP gave the issue new life Saturday when its board passed a resolution in support of what it artfully calls marriage equality. After adopting the resolution over the weekend, Board Chair Roslyn M. Brock, President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous, and board member Donald L. Cash held a press conference Monday in Baltimore to announce what they had already announced. Even some supporters of same-sex marriage question why the NAACP is spending so much capital on this issue, considering all of the problems plaguing the Black community. The NAACP’s latest announcement comes less than two weeks after the organization announced that it has initiated a national voter registration drive to help overcome recently-erected barriers designed to dilute the Black vote.

Of course, that’s not the only problem facing African-Americans. As the National Urban League observed in its 2012 State of Black America report: “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.” And there is also the issue of HIV/AIDS. According to Centers for Disease Control data analyzed by the Kaiser Family Foundation, African-American women accounted for 64 percent of all new AIDS diagnoses among women in 2010 and 85 percent of the Black women were infected through heterosexual activity.

There is a similar disparity among teens. Although Black teens represent only 17 percent of those aged 13-19 in the United States, they accounted for 70 percent of new AIDS diagnoses among teens in 2012. Undoubtedly, the debate will continue over how the NAACP should spend its limited resources and whether President Obama should have weighed in on what is essentially a state matter. However, some supporters of same-sex marriage are making the mistake of minimizing the views of many who believe that a marriage should be a union between a man and a woman. This may be more of a religious issue than a racial one. A poll conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found: “More than half of African Americans (53%) report attending religious services at least once a week, more than three-in-four (76%) say they pray on at least a daily basis and nearly nine-in-ten (88%) indicate they are absolutely certain that God exists. On each of these measures, African- Americans stand out as the most religiously committed racial or ethnic group in the nation.” Regardless of where one comes down on the issue, it is the height of political naiveté to expect that we will ever find any politician with whom we can agree on every issue. And the nation’s first Black president is no exception.

Opponents of same-sex marriage are quick to quote Leviticus 18:22, which states: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination (KJV).” If we are going to apply a single-issue test to President Obama, Mitt Romney should not be given a pass. The Bible also says in Deuteronomy 15:7, “If there be among you a poor man of one of thy bretheren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shall not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother (KJV).” And what does Romney say about the poor?

“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,” he said in an interview with CNN. “ 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’s support of Republican proposals in Congress designed to gut the safety net is further proof that he is not concerned about the very poor.

If some African-Americans, albeit a small number, are seriously considering voting against President Obama solely because they do not agree with his views on same-sex marriage, they should apply a litmus test to Mitt Romney and vote against him because he’s not concerned about the very poor.

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

Every Republican in Congress Fails Blacks

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By George E. Curry

The new NAACP Report Card for the first session of the 112th Congress is out and it shows that every graded Republican member of the House and Senate received an F on issues considered important to the nation’s oldest civil rights group. In the Senate, all 46 GOP senators received Fs from NAACP. Of those, 34 voted against the NAACP’s position every time, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and former presidential candidate John McCain. In the House, all 238 Republicans graded also received Fs. Although GOP House members have a reputation but being more conservative than their Senate colleagues, only 10 House Republicans voted against the NAACP every time.

In stark contrast to Republicans, 47 Democrats in the Senate earned As, three received Bs, one got a D and none received an F. The two independents in the Senate, Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, received a B and an A, respectively. In the House, all 238 Republicans graded earned an F. House Democrats voted like their counterparts in the Senate: 159 earned As, 22 got Bs, four earned Cs, one got a D and four received Fs.

I have been studying NAACP legislative report cards for a couple of decades and I can’t remember a time when Republicans in Congress have been this solidified in their hostility towards civil rights. About eight years ago, Republican Congresswoman Mary S. Leach of Iowa earned a C. More recently a couple of Republicans have earned Ds as the rest flunked. In the session of Congress that lasted from Jan. 5, 2011 to Dec. 23, 2011, only one Republican – Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.) – voted with the NAACP 40 percent of the time. The GOP’s so-called moderate senators – Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine – supported the NAACP 33 percent of the time.

The NAACP graded members of Congress on votes taken on such issues as repealing funding for health care reform, judicial nominations, deep budget cuts, job creation and criminal justice reform.

This NAACP Report Card should put to rest the lie that there’s no difference between Democrats and Republicans.  There is difference – a huge difference at that. Even the Black Republican alternatives are not viable alternatives. Congressman Tim Scott of South Carolina backed the NAACP only 5 percent of the time. The only other Black House Republican, Allen B. West, also earned an F, supporting the NAACP 25 percent of the time.

It hasn’t always been this way. In fact, most Blacks voted Republican until switching to Franklin D. Roosevelt. Dwight D. Eisenhower received 39 percent of the Black vote in 1956. In his close election with John F. Kennedy in 1960, Blacks gave Richard Nixon 32 percent of their vote. In the bygone years, the Republican Party had such moderates as New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, Mayor John Lindsey of New York City and Connecticut Sen. Lowell Weicker. It even had Black Republicans who fought for civil rights. But the GOP began the political equivalent of ethnic cleansing in 1964 with the nomination of Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, who made an open appeal to segregationists. Goldwater’s “Southern Strategy” went up with flames, with Blacks giving Lyndon Johnson 94 percent of their vote.

Over the last half century, GOP moderates, such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell have either been pushed out of the party or marginalized. Moderates have been replaced by rabid Tea Party activists who have pushed an already conservative party to the extreme right. The voting records of Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress illustrate the gap in support of African-Americans in the two parties. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, earned an A on the NAACP Report Card (93 percent) as did Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin (100 percent).  Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, got an F (zero percent support of the NAACP). So did Assistant Minority Leader John Kyl of Arizona (zero percent). All Democratic leaders in the House earned As: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (100 percent), Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (100 percent), Assistant Democratic Whip James Clyburn (100 percent) and Democratic Caucus Chair John Lucas (95 percent).

Each Republican leader in the house, on the other hand, got Fs: Majority Leader Eric Cantor (5 percent), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (10 percent), Republican Conference Chair Jeb Hensarling (5 percent) and Republican Policy Committee Chair Tom Price (5 percent). In 2004, the Republican Party announced a goal of quadrupling its share of the Black vote to 25 percent. It has obviously abandoned that goal. The Republican Party’s hostility to civil rights reminds me of a comment made by the father of former GOP Congressman J.C. Watts, an African-American from Oklahoma. His father said a Black voting Republican is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.

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.

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