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U.S. Inadvertently Helping Assad

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(NNPA) I ‘get’ that ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) are a criminal, fascist outfit.  I also ‘get’ that they are vicious.  I further ‘get’ that they can eventually be a global danger.

Yet, here is the problem. Syria has been in the midst of a horrific civil war in which the government of Bashar Hafez al-Assad repressed a peaceful, democratic opposition using various instruments of violence. This is the same Assad government that refused, until recently, to go after ISIL despite the fact that both Assad and ISIL claimed that they were the enemies of one another.  Instead, ISIL encroached upon and attacked other forces that are actually struggling against the Assad dictatorship.

ISIL, by the admission of President Obama, had been largely ignored by the U.S., though that is not really the full story.  When the Bush administration lied the U.S. into a war of aggression against Iraq, it opened up the doors to hell, encouraging and unleashing sectarian violence. Shiites were placed in positions of power and some of them, such as Al-Maliki, decided to do what they could to exclude the minority Sunnis and to consolidate a religious bloc. This played into the hands of Sunni extremists such as Al Qaeda and, now, ISIL.  In other words, ISIL is the monster that the U.S. helped to create.

ISIL threatens Iraq, and much of its population. To address ISIL a government of national unity will need to be built that guarantees genuine democracy for the Shiites, Sunnis and the ethnic Kurds.  Most people seem to be clear on that.  Air strikes against ISIL, while deadly, will have a limited impact if there is no political settlement.

But then there is Syria. U.S. air strikes are not only taking place against ISIL, but reports are that they are being flown against other Islamists in operation on the ground, groups that are quite different from ISIL and have actually been fighting Assad.  In other words, the U.S.A. is actually helping the Assad regime, which is why representatives of the Assad regime are crowing with support for the air strikes.

So, let’s sum up at least part of this. The Assad regime of Syria has been repressing its population and destroying its cities.  It has conspired with ISIL in order to undermine the legitimate opposition to the dictatorship.  The U.S. is not bombing ISIL along with other members of the opposition, thereby strengthening the Assad dictatorship.

Is this a policy that is going to win the U.S. the friends who matter?

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English.  He is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist.  Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Ebola Won't Block My Return to the Motherland

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(NNPA) Is it me or does it seem like the powers that be are trying to have a Ebola virus scare in the United States?  With all our technology, body scans at the airport, top-flight doctors etc. how did someone get in the country by lying on his questionnaire and then accidentally released from the hospital while still carrying this deadly virus?

The CDC is monitoring 100 people in Dallas who may have come in contact with the Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan.  I thought I lived in the greatest country in the world. How could this happen?  I hate to think that anyone would want to spread this virus, but living in America, I’ve learned to scratch the surface to see what is really underneath.

I’ve allowed myself to believe the age-old myth that doing business with Africa was not possible because the African leaders were constantly at war with one another and had no desire to do business with African Americans.  But for the past few years, I have been seeing an effort from the African presidents and officials to visit America more frequently.  Dripped in their infamous 18 karat yellow gold and fancy garbs with their entourages talking import and export business with African American leaders such as Jesse Jackson.

I haven’t quite been able to figure out how I can begin doing business with Africa, but I am definitely intrigued by the opportunity.  It’s got me thinking about visiting and figuring out what type of exchange the Hip Hop Union will be able to do with the continent.  And just as I begin to think about possibilities in doing business with Africa and finally going to my home, the Ebola virus dominates the news.

What does the Ebola outbreak do to us mentally?  It makes us naturally fear what can hurt us.  The objective becomes not to come in contact with anyone who may have this virus.  That should be easy the virus has only been found in Africa.  What we must remember is there are many Africans that have populated and are beginning to do big business within the United States.

In New York, there are approximately 73,000 Africans, many of whom travel back and forth to West Africa.  In Washington, there are at least 80,000 Africans and as of 2007 there are about 20,000 Africans in Dallas.  Until this Ebola virus is contained, we will all live in fear and do everything possible not to come in contact with someone who is infected.  But who is most likely to be infected?  Right.

Dr. David Nabaro, tells RT News Ebola poses a worse threat to humanity than HIV or SARS.

“I can remember in Africa early on in HIV thinking ‘This is an unspeakably awful situation, but it will not decimate the population’…though we still lost millions. I watch this and I think it is much nastier than HIV. I remember working on SARS and being scared, but this is much worse than SARS. It is just spreading faster and faster and faster,” he told the paper.

So now my African brother goes under scrutiny because he has come into America and cracked the code to the American Dream.  They are driving cabs, they own nice restaurants, they do the tours in Times Square,  they are building their own little Africas throughout the country.  An outbreak in America will ruin trade relations and direct business.

At the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 44th Annual Legislative Conference, Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (d-Texas) hosted a session on “How America and Africa can Create a Virtual Pipeline for Job Creation.”  This is what we want right?  The governor of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria Chief Godwill Akpabio presented a 17 x 22, 43-page full color magazine detailing all the opportunities in his country that have opened in the last seven years. Jesse Jackson pointed out the planes that fly the same distance from America to Europe are doubled the price when traveling America to Africa.

Why these hurdles in the way of me going home?  Why not just provide the aid and wipe out the Ebola virus like we are doing ISIS? It’s because Africa is the land that is filled with milk and honey.  It’s time to reconnect.  We finally can use what we are learned to advance the infrastructure in our homeland.  One of Cheif Godwill’s entourage said, “It is time to come home.”  “I agree.”

Jineea Butler, founder of the Social Services of Hip Hop and the Hip Hop Union is a Hip Hop Analyst who investigates the trends and behaviors of the community and delivers programming that solves the Hip Hop Dilemma. She can be reached at jineea@gmail.com or Tweet her at @flygirlladyjay

Breaking White Silence on Racism

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(NNPA) On September 15, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka did something quite fascinating. He spoke to a labor audience in St. Louis about race and racism. What was particularly noteworthy is that he was not speaking to a largely Black or Latino audience. [To hear and see the speech, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ny8loBhqmhc.]

I have known Richard Trumka for almost 25 years. He has been outspoken against race and racism, but what is significant here is that all too often Whites speak about race and racism to the victims of this oppression, specifically, to African Americans, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans. No matter how powerful a speech it may be, it always begs a simple question: Why are you telling us what we already know?

Trumka decided to flip the script. Seizing on the anger that has arisen in connection with the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Trumka went to the Missouri AFL-CIO Convention to, among other things, speak about race and class. His audience was not the tried and true. Although it was racially mixed, Trumka was especially targeting his remarks towards White trade unionists, many of who have contradictory attitudes toward race and racism.

Trumka’s remarks have set off a whirlwind of excitement on the Internet, and so they should. Yet the problem that we confront is one that the union movement confronted in 2008 when the same Richard Trumka challenged White workers to put aside their racial biases and vote for Barack Obama. The problem is that his speeches—in both cases—were courageous and progressive. Nevertheless, the 2008 speech was not followed up by a broader dialogue in the trade union movement about race and it is far from clear whether such a discussion will happen this go-round subsequent to his September 15th speech.

Organized labor desperately needs a discussion about race. Such a discussion is not only about African Americans and Whites, but concerns the entire racial spectrum of the USA. We are in need of a discussion that helps Whites in particular, to come to understand how and why “race” as a method of social control was introduced into North America. Such a dialogue is not a ‘touchy/feely’ exchange along the lines of too many well-intentioned but misguided multi-cultural programs. Rather, the dialogue needs to rest on history such that workers generally grasp the means through which they have been played against one another and who has actually gained.

The sort of dialogue we need must also tackle questions like immigration, and specifically, why the dramatically different attitudes in White America towards immigration to the U.S. from Ireland and Russia, compared with their attitudes towards migrants from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, and Nigeria.

Trumka deserves praise for his remarks. One does not have to agree with every word, and it is not the speech that I would have delivered. But it was a speech delivered by a White union leader seeking to move White union members to rethink the racial instinct that has been implanted within them, and within generations preceding them. That said, we need to go much further and move a broader discussion and then, of course, together take some very concrete steps to challenge racist oppression.

The silence has been broken by the solo. Now we must have the chorus.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English. He is also a racial justice, labor and global justice activist and writer. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjrs.com.

Violence Against Women and Children is Wrong

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“I also understand after meeting with a psychologist that there are other alternative ways of disciplining a child that may be more appropriate.” — Adrian Peterson

(NNPA) The NFL may have inadvertently done us all a favor by shedding light on a problem that is too often ignored or swept under the rug. Recent incidents of abuse of his then fiancée/now wife by former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and alleged child abuse by Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson are stark reminders that domestic violence against anyone has no place in any relationship, even when it is not captured on camera or doesn’t become a national news story.

As the president of a civil rights organization that is steeped in a tradition of peaceful change, and as a husband and father of two daughters, I have consistently spoken out against the lack of value placed on the lives of Black males, including Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and too many more across the nation.

Today, I want to send a similar message about the value we place on the women and children who live in our homes.  Non-violence has always been the cornerstone of what Dr. King and John Lewis have called “The Beloved Community” – and non-violence begins in the home.

While a wide range of disciplinary choices are available to parents, we must ask ourselves if the way we were raised is the same way we want to raise our children. What lessons are we teaching children when disputes between fathers and mothers are more likely settled with physical confrontations instead of reasoned conversations?

While spanking – sometimes with belts and switches – might have been a part of many of our childhoods, what are we saying to our children when we whip them until their butts are black and blue?  Charles Barkley was a formidable basketball player and is an entertaining sports commentator, but Chuck got it wrong when he recently downplayed Adrian Peterson’s use of a switch which caused lacerations and bruises on his 4-year-old son.  Barkley responded by saying, “I’m from the South.  Whipping — we do that all the time.  Every Black parent in the South is going to be in jail under those circumstances.”

Responding to the fumbling response of the NFL in the wake of recent incidents and allegations of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse involving professional football players,  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted, “I got it wrong and I am sorry.”  Saying that “Domestic abuse and sexual assault have no place in the NFL,” he also pledged to re-examine and change NFL policies to prevent future incidents and toughen sanctions for players who break the rules.

But this is a problem that affects all of us. Domestic violence occurs among all races and in all communities. Parenting is not easy, and none of us are perfect; but when loving discipline crosses the line into angry and hurtful punishment, it is time to take a step back and seek healthier ways to teach our children right from wrong.  Many urban families facing the twin stresses of poverty and single parenthood may need special help. That is why many Urban League affiliates across the country offer parenting counseling as part of their services to the community, and it is why the National Urban League has been such a strong supporter of Early Childhood Education and programs such as Head Start, which include parenting classes.

This issue is about more than Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and the NFL. It is about who we are as a nation. It’s time for all of us to take a stand and make it clear – domestic violence is wrong – no tolerance, no excuses.  Our mothers, daughters, wives, sisters and friends are counting on us.

Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.

Pressure Mounts to Drop Name of D.C. Football Team

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(NNPA) Well, the season has begun and with it another round of calls for the Washington football team to rid itself of its insulting and racist name. What was, only a few years ago, a shout in the wilderness that was largely ignored except by Native Americans and some of their allies, has now become something of a clarion call which has entered the mainstream.  The Washington Post, to the fury of some of its readers, decided to take the symbolic though significant step of ceasing to refer to the Washington football team by their official name on their editorial page.  This action has been one of many that seem to be sweeping the scene.

Despite these repeated calls for a name change, including an implicit call by President Obama, Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington football franchise, refuses to budge.  Under other circumstances his actions would actually be quite hilarious.  He has done virtually everything imaginable in order to convince the public – but probably to convince himself – that there is absolutely nothing insulting, racist, etc., about the name of his team.  The problem is that his actions are simply not working.

Snyder’s adamant refusal to budge forces us to come to grips with the ramifications of racist demonization. The notion of a “red skin,” as articulated by the descendants of settlers who ravaged North America and nearly exterminated Native Americans, cannot be value neutral any more than the N-word. Despite the fact that such derogatory terms may be used within the racial/ethnic group that is being attacked, such usage is quite different than when applied by society as a whole. Regardless of whether you subscribe to the late Richard Pryor’s notion that there “…are no n—— “ (a statement with which I happen to agree), there is a profound difference between two Black people using the term vis a vis one another, and a White person using it.  The White person uses that term as a bat with which to suppress us and remind us of our marginal and subordinate status.  In that sense, names can and do really hurt.

The same is true with regard to the notion of “red skins.”  It really does not matter how many Native Americans Daniel Snyder can dig up who claim that the term is value neutral. The reality can be found in the history of the term and the manner in which it accompanied the process of the removal of Native Americans from their land – and in many cases –  from Earth entirely.

They have been placed them in a status whereby they exist almost in a mythical state, except for the fact that most of them live under conditions of oppressive subordination even if and when they happen to have a gambling casino on their reservation.

Daniel Snyder:  it really is not all that difficult.  Just change the name and keep moving.  History and current political realities stand against you.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of “The Global African” on Telesur-English and is a racial justice, labor and global justice activist and writer.  Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

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