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George Curry

Civil Rights Warrior Fred Shuttlesworth Wasn't Afraid of Death

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(NNPA) Fred Shuttlesworth, who recently died in his native Alabama at the age of 89, has been widely acknowledged as the Civil Rights Movement’s most courageous warrior. He was so hell-bent on shattering the walls of segregation in Birmingham and throughout the South that he wanted to die for the freedom of African-Americans.

That exceptional insight into the man who led the campaign to desegregate Birmingham long before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. arrived on the scene was chronicled by Joe Davidson, his former son-in-law, in an article published in the September 1998 edition of Emerge magazine and reprinted in a book I edited, The Best of Emerge Magazine.

“I tried to get killed in Birmingham,” he told Davidson. “I tried to widow my wife and my children for God’s sake, because I literally believed that scripture that says ‘…whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.’ I had no fear, you understand.”

There were more than enough volunteers eager to grant Shuttlesworth his death wish.

“In the 15-year period beginning in 1950, there were so many bombings by White supremacists that Birmingham was dubbed ‘Bombingham,’” Davidson wrote. “A city library list compiled from police surveillance files documents 61 bombings during those years, including 45 racially related ones. Two of those were meant for Shuttlesworth.”

Davidson continued, “One exploded on Christmas night 1956. Earlier, Shuttlesworth had announced plans to desegregate city buses on Dec. 26. He was in his bedroom in the parsonage, adjacent to Bethel Baptist. Fifteen sticks of dynamite were placed between the church and the parsonage, about 2 feet from where Shuttlesworth was relaxing. His wife and four children also were in the house, as was a deacon and his wife. The bomb blew a hole in the floor, and its force blew Shuttlesworth into the hole. The bomb destroyed the house. Miraculously, no one was seriously injured. As Shuttlesworth walked from rubble, a police officer, whom Shuttlesworth believes was a Klansman, told him: ‘I know these people, Reverend. I didn’t know they would go this far. If I was you, I’d get out of town.’

“Shuttlesworth replied, ‘Well, you’re not me. And tell your friends God didn’t save me to run. I’m here for the duration and the war is just beginning.’”

The next day, Shuttlesworth was sitting in the front seat of city buses, defying the city’s segregation laws.

U.W. Clemon, Alabama’s first Black federal judge, said of Shuttlesworth: “He was the first Black man I knew who was totally unafraid of White folks.”

In his book, Why We Can’t Wait, Dr. King praised Shuttlesworth, who estimates he was arrested 30 to 40 times, as “one of the nation’s most courageous freedom fighters.”

Not everyone supported Shuttlesworth’s efforts.

After the NAACP was banned from operating in Alabama, Shuttlesworth announced plans to form a new group, the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights.

“One Black minister told Shuttlesworth the Lord wanted him to call off the meeting,” Davidson wrote. “Shuttlesworth replied, ‘When did the Lord start sending my messages through you?...The Lord told me to call it on.’”

In September 1957, three years after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision outlawing segregated public schools, Shuttlesworth led a group that included his wife, Ruby, and their two daughters, Patricia and Ruby, to integrate Phillips High School. Shuttlesworth was savagely beaten by White segregationists wielding knives, brass knuckles, bicycle chains and baseball bats. His wife was stabbed and one of their daughters’ ankle was crushed in their car door.

When doctors at the hospital expressed surprise that Shuttlesworth hadn’t suffered a concussion or broken bones, he remarked, “The Lord knew I lived in a hard town, so he gave me a hard head.”

Hard-headed Shuttlesworth was not afraid to act.

“On the Freedom Rides in May 1961, he took action when others were stricken, immobilized by fear,” recalled John Lewis, now a member of Congress. “When Bull Connor, Commissioner of Public Safety Birmingham, put Freedom Riders out in the heart of danger near the lonely Alabama/Tennessee state line, people were afraid to help us after a bus had been burned in Anniston. It was a brave and daring Fred Shuttlesworth who did not hesitate to meet us at the Greyhound Bus station and then even entertained us at his home, along with 12 others, before we returned to the rides.”

It was the 1963 Birmingham campaign that made Shuttlesworth famous.

Grainy black and white television images of police dogs and fire hoses turned on protestors, including children, awakened the nation’s moral conscience that spring and was instrumental in President John F. Kennedy’s decision to sign the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Firemen aimed high-powered hoses at Shuttlesworth, knocking him up against a wall.

Eugene “Bull” Connor, told reporters, “I’m sorry I missed it…I wish they’d carry him away in a hearse.”

They didn’t. Shuttlesworth lived another 48 years and his name is immortalized in Birmingham. A street is named in his honor, a statue of him stands in front of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and three years ago, the airport was renamed the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.

There will be three days of memorials to Shuttlesworth in Birmingham, beginning Oct. 22 and culminating with his funeral Oct. 24.

Bishop Calvin Woods, president of the Birmingham chapter of SCLC, told the Birmingham News, “He was a hard man for a hard town, who dealt with problems in a way no one else had ever dealt with them. He was a man of love, courage, faith, and he certainly was man of action. Because of his courage, he engendered courage in many of us.”

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.

Herman Cain is Brainwashed and Brain Dead

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(NNPA) Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain professes to know why most African-Americans don’t vote for Republicans – they are brainwashed. Cain’s decision to insult people he hopes will vote for him proves that he is both brainwashed and brain dead.

"African-Americans have been brainwashed into not being open minded, not even considering a conservative point of view," Cain said on CNN's The Situation Room. He added, "I have received some of that same vitriol simply because I am running for the Republican nomination as a conservative. So it's just brainwashing and people not being open minded, pure and simple."

Merriam-Webster defines brainwashing as: 1) a forcible indoctrination to induce someone to give up basic political, social, or religious beliefs and attitudes and to accept contrasting regimented ideas 2) persuasion by propaganda or salesmanship.

Herman Cain fits that description better than Black America.

Anyone with a scintilla of a brain knows that African-Americans have not always favored Democrats. Blacks voted overwhelmingly for Republicans, the party of Abraham Lincoln, until Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, a package of programs that helped lift America out of the Great Depression. By 1936, 75 percent of African-Americans had switched their support from Republicans to Democrats.

Still, the GOP continued to receive a respectable share of the Black vote for the next two decades. Even with a Democratic presidential candidate as attractive as John F. Kennedy, Republican Richard M. Nixon managed in 1960 to capture 32 percent of the Black vote. However, the GOP took a sharp right turn in 1964 with the nomination of ultra-conservative Barry Goldwater of Arizona. Black GOP support plummeted to 6 percent that year and has never risen above 15 percent since that debacle.

African-Americans knew what they were doing in the 1930s when they switched allegiance. And instead of being brainwashed today, they have wisely decided to extend solid political support to the party that supports them. When you examine how differently Democrats and Republicans vote in the House and Senate, it should not be surprising that African-Americans shun the party that shuns them.

With only a couple of exceptions, the record of GOP lawmakers shows that they don’t want to merely turn back the clock on Black progress, they want to turn back the calendar.

This is from a column I wrote in 2008:

The NAACP has been issuing a civil rights report card since 1914. When it comes out, there are often efforts to discredit it, as though the NAACP doesn't know what's good for Black people.

If you read the last report card for the complete session of Congress (the 109th), you might learn why Republicans have such a difficult time attracting African Americans.

In the 109th Congress, 25 Democrats in the Senate received an A from the nation's oldest civil rights organization, 15 earned a B, and two got C's. None was graded D or F.

By contrast, no Republican senator earned an A or B. One, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, earned a C, and another, Mike DeWine of Ohio, was given a D. The other 54 Republicans who served the full session earned F's.

There was a similar pattern in the House, where 133 Democrats earned A's, 41 got B's, 15 received C's, and 19 brought up the rear with D's. Among Republicans, none earned as high as a C. Three received the highest grade of D and 211 got F's.

At the end of this session of Congress, the Republican record will certainly be worse.

Any African-American supporting a party with such an anti-Black record must be, in Cain’s words, brainwashed.

The only reason Cain gets away with making such outlandish charges is because he is Black.

Pollster Cornell Belcher made that point on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360. In a face-off with former George W. Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer, he said: “You know, if I came on your show, Anderson, and I said, all Jewish people are brainwashed, I probably wouldn't be invited back to CNN and I assure you the condemnation would be swift and it'd be powerful and be strong. What Herman Cain said was a racist, bigoted statement and [he] should be treated like a racist and bigoted person who makes those racist and bigoted statements.”

Instead of acknowledging that he can’t speak for all Blacks, Cain likes to frame criticism of him in racial terms.

In a speech in Pella, Iowa, Cain said he would not sign a bill longer than three pages. (He later claimed that he was exaggerating.)

Jon Stewart had fun with Cain’s ridiculous proposal, joking that if Cain were elected president, “Treaties will have to fit on the back of a cereal box … The State of the Union Address will be delivered in the form of a fortune cookie.”

Speaking at the Iowa Falls Fire Department, Cain asserted that Stewart was criticizing him “because I’m Black.”

No, Cain was targeted because he makes ridiculously laughable comments.

Cain could have avoided the brainwashing controversy by asking Republican rival Mitt Romney about his father’s failed 1968 presidential campaign. George W. Romney, the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and ex-governor of Michigan, was considered a serious candidate for president until he gave a radio interview in 1967 in which he said, "When I came back from Viet Nam [in 1965], I'd just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get."

Instead of defeating Richard Nixon for the Republican nomination, Romney’s poll numbers tanked and he never recovered. I don’t know why Herman Cain never asked the younger Romney about his father’s failed campaign. Perhaps Cain had been already brainwashed by then.

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.

President Obama Treated Like Rodney Dangerfield

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(NNPA) Like the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield, President Obama does not get any respect. In fact, no modern United States commander-in-chief has been disrespected more than the nation’s first African-American president.

The most recent example was House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to deny the president’s request to address a joint session of Congress on Sept. 7. It so happens that one of 20 Republican debates was scheduled that evening, prompting Boehner to suggest moving the address to the next night.

According to Betty K. Koed, associate historian of the Senate, “The Senate Historical Office knows of no instance in which Congress refused the president permission to speak before a joint session of Congress.”

Boehner aides defend him by saying the speaker didn’t technically refuse the president permission to speak, he just offered the date. According to the dictionary, however, that’s exactly what Boehner did.

Merriam-Webster defines refuse this way: “to express oneself as unwilling to accept .” Dictionary.com lists this among five definitions: “to decline to give; deny (a request, demand, etc.)”

Hair-splitting definitions aside, there is no denying that President Obama has been disrespected from coast to coast.

Marilyn Davenport, a member of the Orange County Republican Party in California, e-mailed a cartoon last April with the face of President Obama superimposed on a chimpanzee. He was accompanied by two older chimpanzee “parents.” The inscription on the cartoon: “Now you know why – No birth certificate.”

The New York Post was roundly criticized for publishing a controversial cartoon in the wake of Connecticut police shooting a pet chimpanzee that had viciously attacked its owner’s friend.

The cartoon features two cops – one with a gun in his hand still smoking – standing over a dead ape. The caption read, “They’ll Have to Find Someone Else to Write the Next Stimulus Bill.”

Al Sharpton observed, “Being that the stimulus bill has been the first legislative victory of President Obama…and has become synonymous with him, it is not a reach to wonder: are they inferring that a monkey wrote the last bill?”

The racist stereotypes were not limited to animals.

Dan Grose, the appropriately named former mayor of Los Alamitos, Calif., sent out an e-mail shortly after Obama was inaugurated as president in 2009 under the headline, “No Easter Egg Hunt This Year.” There was an image of the White House lawn covered with watermelons.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tried to dismiss Obama as “the food stamp president” and said Obama “knows how to get the whole country to resemble Detroit.”

Oklahoma Senator Tom Colburn, a Republican, said to have a good relationship with the administration, exploited welfare when discussing Obama. He said of the president, “his intent is to create dependency because it worked so well for him as an African-American male.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tells everyone who will listen that his primary goal is defeating President Obama in 2012.

Rep. Joe Wilson, a Republican from South Carolina, interrupted a presidential address on health care to Congress in 2009 by shouting, “You, lie!”

In many instances, the president is not accorded routine courtesy.

At the height of the deficit-ceiling standoff, President Obama telephoned Boehner, only not to have his call promptly returned.

“The president of the United States calls the Speaker of the House, in the midst of an economic crisis, and the speaker won’t pick up the phone? You don’t refuse a call from the president. No matter how deplorable you find his policies,” wrote Michael Kinsley, a member of the editorial board at Bloomberg News. “Everyone knows that, by the rules of telephone tag, it would be Boehner’s obligation to make the next call even if it wasn’t the president of the United States who was trying to reach him.”

After making the first call at night, Obama placed a second call the next day to Boehner, only to be told that Boehner would call him back at 5:30 p.m.

And why was Boehner so busy that he didn’t have time to return President Obama’s call?

Part of that time was spent “chatting with reporters in the Capitol, joking with one guy about his tan and puffing on a cigarette,” according to the Washington Post.

The disrespect has extended to First Lady Michelle Obama and their two daughters – targets normally considered off-limits in partisan political discourse.

Both Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck mocked Malia Obama on air. Beck did so a couple of days after stating a politician’s family should not be criticized in the public arena.

Michelle Obama is often portrayed as an angry Black woman. Bill O’Reilly said she looks “like an angry woman” and Sean Hannity said that she “sounds angry.”

Some of the fireworks have been generated on the left as well.

Former President Bill Clinton has violated the custom of former presidents of not criticizing or offering advice to their successors. And the supposedly liberal New Yorker ran a cover image, said to be a joke, of President Obama dressed in Muslim garb, with an American flag burning in the fireplace of the Oval Office and a photo of Osama bin Laden adorning the wall.

Michelle Obama, wearing an Afro and pictured with a rifle strapped to her shoulder, is giving her husband a fist bump.

Except for standing up more forcefully to his Republican critics, there is not much Obama can do about the disrespect. But there is plenty we can do – kick the bums out.

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.

Obama Must Demonstrate Bold Leadership on Jobs

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(NNPA) Any compromise President Obama reaches with Congress will fail to significantly reduce Black unemployment unless the plan is crafted to address joblessness in the three industries where African-American workers are concentrated – government jobs, education and health services.

According to a University of California-Berkeley Labor Center research brief titled, “Black Workers and the Public Sector,” 20.9 percent of African-Americans are employed in what is called the public administration sector and 18.5 percent work in education and health services.

The report, written by Steven Pitts, shows some variations within the Black community. For example, most Black males (18 percent) are employed in the public administration sector. However, most African-American females (27 percent) are employed in education and health services. Public administration is the second-leading employer for Black women at 23.3 percent.

But the gender differences don’t stop there. After public administration, the next highest employers for Black men are manufacturing (14.7 percent), wholesale and retail trade (14.3 percent), professional and business services (9 percent) and educational and health services (8.4 percent).

By contrast, after education and health services (27 percent) and public administration (23.3 percent), Black women were employed in wholesale and retail trade (11.3 percent), professional and business services (7.2 percent) and manufacturing (7.1 percent).

Thus, when looking at the top five employment industries, the sector most likely to hire Black women – education and health services – was the one least likely to hire African-American men. Any successful job plan must take into account these gender differences.

UC-Berkeley Labor Center research challenges President Obama’s contention that a rising tide lifts all boats.

In a 2009 interview, Obama said: “The most important thing I can do for the African American community is the same thing I can do for the American community, period, and that is to get the economy going again and get people hiring again.”

But as the Labor Center brief observes, “…Often policy prescriptions that, on the surface, are race-neutral can have decidedly racial impacts.”

That’s crucial when considering Black unemployment is at the highest level in 27 years. As the U.S. Department of Labor report titled, “The Black Labor Force in the Recovery” notes, the unemployment rate of Blacks in 2007, the year the recession began, was 8.3 percent, compared to 4.1 percent for Whites and 5.6 percent for Latinos.

Overall unemployment peaked at 10.1 percent in October but fell to 9.1 percent in July and August. Black unemployment had peaked at 16.5 percent in March and April of 2011. But that was eclipsed last month when Black unemployment rose to 16.7 percent – twice as high it was when Obama assumed office.

Although President Obama shouldn’t be blamed for the increase in Black unemployment, he does have a responsibility to effectively address the issue. And there are no simple solutions.

There is a tendency to discuss Black unemployment in the abstract, but a look at the numbers reveals gender and racial variations. The overall unemployment rate in August was 9.1 percent. The unemployment rate for Whites was 8 percent, 11.3 percent for Latinos and 16.7 percent for African-Americans.

Unemployment among Black females edged up slightly from July to August from 14.3 percent to 14.5 percent. Over this same period, Black men saw their unemployment rate jump from 17.7 percent to 19.1 percent.

African-American female teens, ages 16-19, had a higher unemployment level (47.9 percent) than their male counterparts (45.2 percent). The teen female unemployment rate has risen steadily, from 26.8 percent in December 2007 to 33.8 percent in June 2009, to 40.4 percent in July 2011 and to a top of 47.9 percent in August.

Black male teens experienced a more uneven ride, increasing from 39.8 percent in December 2007 to 45.1 percent in June 2009 before falling to 38 percent in July 2011 and rising again to 45.2 percent last month.

Commentators like to remind President Obama that his ability to keep his job in 2012 is contingent upon how well he handles the jobs issue. From time to time, President Obama places the unemployment issue at the top of his agenda. Often – as part of an agenda driven by his political opponents – his attention is diverted by some superfluous issue as his birth certificate or the phony debt ceiling debate.

As evidenced by his speech Thursday night to a joint session of Congress, job creation is back at the top of the White House agenda. After a net loss of jobs in August, the president can’t afford to allow himself to be diverted from his main challenge again. That will necessitate taking bold action to restart the economy and not proposing only what he thinks can be passed in Tea Party-dominated House of Representatives.

Great presidents – including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson – are still respected decades after leaving the White House because they molded public opinion during a time of monumental crisis. If Barack Obama wants to be considered a great president or to even get re-elected, he must demonstrate strong leadership as his opponents try to deliver on their pledge to deny him a second term.

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.

Republicans Contradict Themselves on Taxes

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(NNPA) If there was ever any lingering doubt that Republicans favor the rich over poor and middle-class Americans, it should be removed by the GOP’s opposition to President Obama’s proposal to extend the payroll tax cut for another year.

Let’s face it: Republicans oppose almost everything advocated by the nation’s first Black president. And Republican leaders have made it clear that their top priority is defeating Obama in 2012, even if that means wrecking the country in the process.

Whether it was coming up with a budget compromise last December or the most recent round of deficit haggling, Republicans have adamantly refused to roll back the tax rate for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans to the pre-George W. Bush level. That move alone would cut the federal deficit by half. GOP leaders also refuse to close tax loopholes that allow some U.S. companies to pay little or no federal taxes.

Last year, Congress approved President Obama’s 1-year plan to reduce the share of payroll taxes designated for Social Security from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent. Now, Obama is proposing adding another year, a move that would affect 46 percent of all taxpayers, saving the average family $1,000.

But Republicans, who, until now, had never met a tax cut they didn’t like, are balking.

Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said: “We don’t need short-term gestures. We need long-term fundamental changes in our tax structure and our regulatory structure that people who create jobs can rely on.”

A spokesman for another Republican, Eric Cantor, told the Associated Press, that the House majority leader “has never believed that this temporary tax relief is the best way to grow the economy.”

Republicans are conveniently ignoring the fact that the Bush tax cuts, enacted in 2001 and 2003, were supposed to be temporary. When they were set to expire, both Republicans and President Obama extended them.

When he was a candidate, Obama pledged to end the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent of taxpayers – individuals earning at least $200,000 a year and couples making $250,000 or more. Under pressure from Republicans, however, Obama agreed last December to extend the cuts.

According to Citizens for Tax Justice, 52.5 percent of the Bush tax cuts benefit the richest 5 percent of taxpayers.

David Stockman, the budget director in the Reagan administration, called for letting the Bush tax cuts expire and said the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer. In an interview with 60 Minutes, he said: “In 1985, the top 5 percent of the households, the wealthiest 5 percent, had a net worth of 8 trillion dollars, which is a lot. Today, after serial bubble after serial bubble, the top 5 percent have a net worth of 40 trillion.”

Republican National Chairman Ed Gillespie defends the GOP’s defense of the wealthy by contending that 80 percent of the tax relief to the rich goes to job-creating small businesses. FactCheck.org debunks that myth.

“It may be true that 79% of upper-income taxpayers have some income from business, but Gillespie’s definition of ‘small’ business actually includes big accounting firms, law firms and real-estate partnerships, and ‘businesses’ that are really only sidelines – such as occasional rental income from a corporate chief’s condo,” it said. “In fact, tax statistics show that upper-income taxpayers get more of their income from salaries, capital gains, stock dividends and interest than they do from small business.”

The Tax Policy Center found that slightly more than 22 percent of income reported by the wealthy will be derived from business income.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, providing tax cuts to the wealthy is the least effective way to stimulate the economy because rich people are more likely to save the money. A more effective way to encourage spending is by placing money in the hands of poor and middle-class citizens, people more likely to spend the funds.

And that’s exactly what President Obama seeks to do by extending the payroll tax cut, which would benefit almost half of all Americans. If it is not extended, it will expire Jan. 1.

Social Security payroll taxes apply only to the first $106,800 of wages. Many people are unaware that the rate was reduced by 2 percent last year because they pay little attention to their pay stubs. The employer’s share was not reduced from its rate of 12.4 percent for each worker.

Many Republicans have put themselves in a box by pledging to never raise taxes. Over the past 25 years, Grover Norquist, president of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform, has encouraged Republicans to sign a pledge that they won’t raise taxes. More than 200 members of Congress have signed that pledge.

Republicans have voted against letting the Bush tax cuts expire because, according to their reasoning, that would amount to a tax increase. Many of those same Republicans, however, object to extending the payroll tax cut proposed by Obama. It shows how far Republicans are willing to go to protect the wealthy, to oppose Obama, and to be insensitive to the poor and middle-class.

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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