A+ R A-

George Curry

Obama Races Away from the Issue of Race

E-mail Print PDF

(NNPA) When Barack Obama accepted his party’s presidential nomination in Denver on August 28, 2008 – the 45th anniversary of the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech” – excitement filled the air.

Amid that jubilance, however, it struck me as odd that Obama failed to mention Dr. King by name.

“.. And it is that promise that, 45 years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln’s Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream,” Obama said at the time.

Seconds later, he would add: “’We cannot walk alone,’” the preacher cried. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”

When Obama was inaugurated for the second time on January 21, 2013, the day we officially celebrated as the King federal holiday, I knew – or thought I knew – that President Obama would not make that same omission again.

I listened carefully as he said: “We the people declare today that the most evident of truth that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.”

Why couldn’t President Obama utter Dr. King’s name on the day he used the slain civil rights leader’s Bible to be sworn in? On King’s birthday, why couldn’t he be called more than just a preacher?

Even though Beyoncé lip-synced the National Anthem on Inauguration Day, she hasn’t been accused of faking it when she sings another song – “Say My Name.”

If you ain’t running a game

Say my name, say my name

The problem is larger than the failure to say Dr. King’s name. The problem, according to Michael Eric Dyson, is that, “This president runs from race like a Black man runs from a cop.”

When candidate Obama was forced to address the issue of race in the wake of controversial remarks by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor, he said in Philadelphia: “But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now.”

However, that’s exactly what he has been doing.

Frederick C. Harris, director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University, noted, “… as president, Mr. Obama has had little to say on concerns specific to blacks. His State of the Union address in 2011 was the first by any president since 1948 to not mention poverty or the poor. The political scientist Daniel Q. Gillion found that Mr. Obama, in his first two years in office, talked about race less than any Democratic president had since 1961. From racial profiling to mass incarceration to affirmative action, his comments have been sparse and halting.”

Sure, he had a beer summit at the White House with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and the White police officer who arrested him in his own home. Obama said the officer had “acted stupidly,” but later softened his criticism. The president also said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon [Martin].”

Of course, the issue is not whether Obama has a son who looks like Trayvon Martin. What is he going to do about people who are treated like Trayvon?

To discuss race less than Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, all White southerners who grew up under segregation, should be embarrassing to President Obama. It should be even more of an embarrassment that Obama hasn’t taken leadership on the issue as Bill Clinton did when he launched his “One America Initiative” on race. Putting aside the merits of the initiative, it demonstrated Clinton was willing to confront the issue of race.

As my friend Courtland Milloy wrote in the Washington Post, it’s time to stop making excuses for Obama.

He said, “Obama should not be allowed to get away with thinking that when it comes to making his mark on the issue of race, all he had to do was become the first black president.”

Unfortunately, some of the most vocal Black leaders have either been co-opted by the White House or fear a backlash from adoring Black voters.

The usually outspoken Rep. Maxine Waters [D-Calif.] told a crowd in Detroit, “If we go after the president too hard, you’re going after us.”

And former Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver, II of Missouri admitted, “With 14 percent [black] unemployment if we had a white president we’d be marching around the White House.”

If we don’t get some true leadership on this issue, perhaps it will be time to march around the White House, Congress and the headquarters of some of our civil rights organizations.

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

Hands off Malia and Sasha Obama

E-mail Print PDF

(NNPA) Just when you think leaders of the National Rifle Association can’t stoop any lower, they keep managing to plunge even deeper. This time, they have strayed way over the line of respectability by using Malia and Sasha’s enrollment in Sidwell Friends, a private Quaker school, to malign President Obama over his proposal to place limits on the sale of assault rifles and expand background checks.

“Are the president’s kids more important than yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school? Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes. But he’s just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security. Protection for their kids. And gun-free zones for ours.”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was correct when he said in a statement: “Most Americans agree that a president’s children should not be used as pawns in a political fight. But to go so far as to make the safety of the president’s children the subject of an attack ad is repugnant and cowardly.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, said: “To talk about the president’s children or any public officer’s children who have – not by their own choice, but by requirement – to have protection and use that somehow to make a political point I think is reprehensible.”

I am tempted to call NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and his comrades scum. But I’m going to resist the temptation. Not because they don’t fit that description. I’m restraining myself because to call them scum would be an insult to scum.

A second NRA ad, running four-and-a-half-minutes, tossed in an image of NBC newsman David Gregory – whose children also attend Sidwell Friends School – for good measure. The narrator in the ad says “Armed Guards — Good enough for the David Gregory’s kids’ school, not for the rest of us. …[The] school Obama’s daughters attend has 11 armed guards.”

Not surprisingly, the ad conveniently ignores the fact that the Secret Service is required to protect the president’s children. They protected Chelsea Clinton and Julie Nixon when they attended the school, known as “the Harvard of Washington’s private schools.”

Although the original NRA ad leaves the impression that it is referring to Secret Service agents, the longer version makes it clear that NRA is referencing security guards at the school, which has a lower school campus in Bethesda, Md. and middle and upper schools in northwest Washington, D.C. .The Washington Post’s Fact Checker column awarded the NRA ad four Pinocchios, representing a “whopper” of a lie. The newspaper noted, “…the online directory for Sidwell Friends lists 11 people as working in the Security Department. Five are listed as ‘special police officer,’ while two are listed as ‘on call special police officer,’ which presumably means they do not work full-time. The directory also lists two weekend shift supervisors, one security officer and the chief of security.“

“… But we spoke to parents who said they had never seen a guard on campus with a weapon. And Ellis Turner, associate head of Sidwell Friends, told us emphatically: ‘Sidwell Friends security officers do not carry guns.’”

The NRA’s ad claiming that President Obama is “skeptical about putting armed security in our schools” misrepresents his position. The clip was taken out of context from this exchange between the president and David Gregory on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

GREGORY: Should we have an armed guard at every school in the country? That’s what the NRA believes. They told me last week that that could work.

OBAMA: I’m not going to prejudge the recommendations that are given to me. I am skeptical that the only answer is putting more guns in schools. And I think the vast majority of the American people are skeptical that that somehow is going to solve our problem.

Clearly, the president did not say he was skeptical about placing armed security guards in schools. Instead, he said that is not “the only answer.”

Even more insane, at a press conference, Wayne LaPierre of the NRA asserted that the answer to preventing future incidents like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. is the placement of armed guards in every school.

Among the proposals presented by President Obama is providing federal funds to place more officers in schools, if the school requests them.

After acting on a specific proposal made by NRA, the gun lobbying organization denounced Obama yet again. After coming under attack by even some conservatives, NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said: “If anyone thinks we’re talking specifically about someone’s children, they’re missing the point completely…”No, that’s exactly the point. Leave those beautiful Obama girls out of your degenerate ad campaigns.

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

NRA Maintains Stranglehold on Congress

E-mail Print PDF

(NNPA) In the wake of the killing of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn. last month and just before Vice President Joe Biden presented a list of proposals to President Obama this week that includes banning assault weapons and limiting sales of high-capacity ammunition clips, the president of the National Rifle Association expressed confidence that new gun legislation will stall in Congress.

In an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State Of The Union,” NRA President David Keene said, “I would say that the likelihood is that they are not going to be able to get assault weapons ban through this Congress.”

When asked about placing limits on high-capacity ammunition clips, Keene replied, “I don’t think ultimately they are going to get that, either.”

Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), referring to Keene, said on CNN, “I think he’s wrong.” Murphy explained, “Newtown fundamentally changed things. The NRA doesn’t get this.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) acknowledged that it will not be easy to get Congress to ban assault weapons.

He told CNN, “I think we have the possibility, but it’s going to be difficult.” Cummings said the prospects are brighter for Congress to place restrictions on high-capacity magazines and require expanded background checks.

A 10-year ban on the sale of assault weapons expired in 2004, largely as a result of pressure exerted by the NRA. The organization has risen from being founded in 1871 to help improve marksmanship to a powerful 4 million-member lobbying organization that takes in more than $200 million in annual revenue.

According to Opensecrets.org, NRA spent $20 million in the last election cycle, all on friendly lawmakers who score well on the NRA’s political scorecard. The combination of big bucks and political pressure have made too many members of Congress fearful of bucking the powerful gun lobby, a group that doesn’t even want machine guns banned.

But there are growing indications that the NRA’s political clout might be vastly overrated.

“The gun lobby had an abysmal 2012 election cycle. They spent more than $11 million to defeat President Obama, warning that on Election Day, “Americans will vote either to defend or surrender freedom in the most consequential national decision in U.S. history.” They also failed to elect their preferred candidate in six of their seven top targets for the U.S. Senate. And more than two-thirds of incumbents who lost their seats in the House of Representatives were backed by the NRA, including four Democrats,” noted Media Matters, the watchdog group.

And the NRA got a poor return on its political investment.

“According to open government group the Sunlight Foundation, the NRA Political Victory Fund, the NRA’s political action committee, received a less than one percent return on $10,536,106 spent on independent expenditures during the election cycle,” the media monitoring group also found. “The NRA spent 0.44 percent of its money supporting winning candidates and 0.39 percent opposing losing candidates. The NRA Institute for Legislative Action, the organization’s lobbying arm, garnered a 10.25 percent return on $7,448,017 spent on the election. In seven Senate races where the NRA spent more than $100,000, six of the NRA-backed candidates lost.”

That trend did not start with the November elections, according to ThinkProgress, a liberal blog.

Paul Waldman, contributing editor at The American Prospect, analyzed data from the last four federal elections – 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010.

“The conclusion to be drawn from these data will be surprising to many: The NRA has virtually no impact on congressional elections,” he wrote. “The NRA endorsement, so coveted by so many politicians, is almost meaningless. Nor does the money the organization spends have any demonstrable impact on the outcome of races. In short, when it comes to elections, the NRA is a paper tiger.” Not exactly.

“If you’ve been following the issue of guns over the last few years, you know that these have been good times for gun advocates,” according to ThinkProgress. “In a landmark 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court settled a longstanding question by declaring that the 2nd Amendment confers an individual right to own guns. Under Barack Obama’s administration, the only pieces of legislation on guns have expanded gun rights; for instance, gun owners are now allowed to bring firearms into national parks as a result of legislation Obama signed in 2009. The assault weapons ban passed under Bill Clinton expired in 2004, and despite early indications the Obama administration might try to renew it, they have made no moves to do so.”

Public opinion on gun control has moved, according to a Gallup poll released Monday. It showed that 38 percent of Americans favor stricter gun measures, a 13-point increase from last year and the highest it has been in more than a decade.

Now is the time for Obama to make his move. If not, the NRA will do it for him.

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

Wilmington Ten Pardons: Black Press at its Best

E-mail Print PDF

(NNPA) When then-National Newspaper Publishers Association Chairman Danny Bakewell, Sr. asked me to emcee the Black Press Week luncheon at the National Press Club in 2011, I had no idea that I would be witnessing history. At the urging of Wilmington Journal Publisher Mary Alice Thatch, the NNPA decided to launch a national campaign to win pardons for the Wilmington 10, a group of activists who were falsely convicted and sentenced to a combined total of 282 years.

Everyone knew it would be an uphill battle, but it was a battle the NNPA was willing to wage. It established The Wilmington Ten Pardon of Innocence Project whose goal was “to generate national and worldwide support for the petition, to the state of North Carolina, and specifically the governor, to grant individual pardons of innocence to the Wilmington Ten.”

NNPA publishers saw a video about the Wilmington Ten at the luncheon and its leader, Benjamin Chavis, Jr., was interviewed by me and the publishers. When I asked Ben, a longtime friend, about his lowest point in prison, he tried to steer me away from the question by saying he preferred to focus on the future, not the past.

But the past affects the future, which is why I brought him back to my original question. This time, he gave a direct, emotional answer.

“I was warned not to go into the shower,” he said, his voice barely audible. “I couldn’t take a bath for eight months.”

And the reason Chavis was reluctant to take a bath was because of death threats.

No one should have to live like that, especially after the criminal justice system has been manipulated to obtain a false conviction.

For Chavis, the trouble began after the all-Black high school was closed as part of the court-ordered desegregation of New Hanover County, N.C. schools. The Black students were forced to attend the previously all-White high school, where they were harassed. In February 1971, the United Church of Christ dispatched Chavis, a native of Oxford, N.C., to help organize a school boycott.

During that period of unrest, someone firebombed Mike’s Grocery, a White-owned business located a block away from Gregory Congregational Church, where Chavis had set up headquarters. When fire fighters and police officers arrived, they were attacked by snipers.

Chavis and nine others were charged and convicted of arson and conspiracy in connection with the incident. Most of the defendants received a 29-year sentence, with Ann Shepard, the White woman from Auburn, N.Y., receiving the lightest sentence of 15 years and Chavis, then only 24 years old, getting 34 years, the longest sentence.

In 1980, a federal appeals court overturned the convictions of the Wilmington Ten. The court ruled that the trial judge had wrongly restricted defense attorneys from cross-examining witnesses who had received special treatment in exchange for their testimony and that the prosecutor violated due process rights by failing to turn over evidence that would have impeached the testimony of its chief witness, Allen Hall. In addition, the prosecutor refused to turn over a second statement made by Hall that directly contradicted at least 15 of his allegations.

After taking up the cause of the Wilmington Ten, NNPA newspapers gave prominent display to stories written about the case by Cash Michaels, editor of the Wilmington Journal, and distributed to member papers by the NNPA News Service. Through talent and dogged persistence, neither Cash nor his publisher, Mary Alice Thatch, would let the campaign for pardons stall.

The national campaign heated up last spring when Michaels produced a string of stories examining every aspect of the case. In one story, Michaels traced the shattered lives of the seven survivors (one has since died) and the families of three deceased members of the Wilmington Ten. He found that some of the survivors, including Chavis, had successfully rebuilt their lives while others had not.

One blockbuster story began: “In an extraordinary discovery, the 40-year-old case files of the prosecuting attorney in the two 1972 Wilmington Ten criminal trials not only document how he sought to impanel, according to his own written jury selection notes, mostly White ‘KKK’ juries to guarantee convictions, but also to keep Black men from serving on both juries.”

Michaels story continued, “The prosecutor chose, in his own words, ‘Uncle Tom’ types to serve on the jury, it was disclosed. The files of Assistant New Hanover County District Attorney James ‘Jay’ Stroud Jr. also document how he plotted to cause a mistrial in the first June 1972 Wilmington Ten trial because there were 10 Blacks and two Whites on the jury, his star false witness against the Ten was not cooperating, and it looked very unlikely that he could win the case, given the lack of evidence.”

Without Michaels’ exceptional reporting and the national exposure, many of the facts about the Wilmington Ten injustice would still remain unknown – and Gov. Perdue would not have pardoned the civil rights activists.

This was the Black Press at its best.

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

Social Security, Medicare Should be Off the Table

E-mail Print PDF

(NNPA) Even though feuding Democrats and Republicans reached a last-minute deal on New Year’s Day to avoid the fiscal cliff, a lively debate will continue in coming months over the role the federal government should play in the lives of its citizens.

In one corner are Republicans who contend that federal spending has run amuck – and it should be slashed. In the other corner are Democrats, including President Obama, who make the right oral arguments, but the wrong moves to defend such worthy American staples as Social Security and Medicare. In most political crises, Republicans will fight and Democrats will take flight.

Let’s begin with a president who doesn’t seem comfortable in the rough-and-tumble world of politics. He has a tendency to give away the store even before the store opens up its doors for business.

As Paul Krugman wrote July 31, 2011 the New York Times, “Republicans will surely be emboldened by the way Mr. Obama keeps folding in the face of their threats. He surrendered last December, extending the Bush tax cuts; he surrendered in the spring when they threatened to shut down the government; and he has now surrendered on a grand scale to the raw extortion over the debt ceiling. Maybe it’s just me, but I see a pattern here.”

Unfortunately, that pattern remains unbroken.

A Center for Policy and Budget Priorities blog noted, “Boehner complains that, in what the White House describes as an offer of $1.2 trillion in spending cuts and the same in tax increases, Obama counts interest savings that accrue as spending cuts, thus making the one-to-one ratio illegitimate.

“More importantly, however, is that, when viewed correctly and in their entirety, the non-interest spending cuts under the President’s latest offer would actually exceed his proposed tax increases and would roughly equal the spending cuts that Boehner himself proposed in his deficit-related negotiations with the President last year.”

And that’s on top of cuts already made.

The CBPP also pointed out, “When those negotiations broke down, the President and Congress enacted the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA), which established annual caps on discretionary spending for each of the next ten years. These caps, which will cut spending by what the White House estimates to be $1 trillion over the next decade, reflected a tentative agreement by the President and Speaker over discretionary spending in those negotiations.”

President Obama has already signaled a willingness to make additional concessions on Social Security and Medicare.

Let’s take a closer look at Social Security.

A story by FAIR noted, “Social Security is not bloated or poorly run. Its shortfall is primarily the result of people living longer, and therefore drawing benefits longer.”

As a CBPP fact sheet observes, “In June 2012, 56 million people, or about one in every six U.S. residents, collected Social Security benefits. While three-quarters of them received benefits as retirees or elderly widow(er)s, another 11 million (19 percent) received disability insurance benefits, and 2 million (4 percent) received benefits as young survivors of deceased workers.”

It also noted, “Social Security benefits are much more modest than many people realize. In June 2012, the average Social Security retirement benefit was $1,234 a month, or about $14,800 a year. (The average disabled worker and aged widow received slightly less.) For someone who worked all of his or her adult life at average earnings and retires at 65 in 2012, Social Security benefits replace about 41 percent of past earnings. This replacement rate will slip to about 36 percent for a medium earner retiring at 65 in the future, chiefly because the full retirement age, which has already risen to 66, will climb to 67 over the 2017-2022 period.

“Moreover, most retirees enroll in Medicare’s Supplementary Medical Insurance (also known as Medicare Part B) and have Part B premiums deducted from their Social Security checks. As health-care costs continue to outpace general inflation, those premiums will take a bigger bite out of their checks.

“Social Security benefits are modest by international standards, too. The United States ranks 30th among 34 developed countries in the percentage of a median worker’s earnings that the public-pension system replaces.”

Social Security plays an outsized role in the lives retired African-Americans.

“Social Security is a particularly important source of income for groups with low earnings and with less opportunity to save and earn pensions, including African Americans and Hispanics,” CBPP said. “Among beneficiaries aged 65 and older, Social Security represents 90 percent or more of income for 35 percent of elderly white beneficiaries, 42 percent of Asian Americans, 49 percent of blacks, and 55 percent of Hispanics.”

Yes, money spent on Social Security and Medicare is well spent. And that’s why Obama should summon the courage to stand his ground.

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

Page 13 of 33

Quantcast