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Is Gender Equality, Equal Pay for Women Falling on Deaf Ears?

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I’ve never seen an image more iconic and telling of the evolution of women’s role in society than the “We Can Do It!” poster created by Howard J. Miller in 1943. As husbands and fathers defended the U.S. during wartime, women were left to fill traditional male-designated roles. This poster, which features a character called “Rosie the Riveter”, was symbolic of female empowerment for many women in the U.S. and beyond. It’s hard not to be awestruck by the poster as the woman stares back with piercing eyes, a steel smile, brimming with confidence because there's no task she can’t overcome. But for all the things women like her could accomplish on their own 70 years ago, today, tough ladies of that bravado haven’t earned a fair share for their efforts. In fact, these absolute and determined women are stifled, using their brawn to chip away at a glass ceiling while too many men sit back and idly watch.

The disparities and discrimination women endure in the workplace are quite real, distressing and staggering to say the least. In a report titled “The Gender Wage Gap: 2013”, data indicated that the ratio of a woman’s weekly full-time earnings compared to a man’s was 82.1 percent. The report, which was published by the Institute for Women and Research Policy, also showed those previous wages were just one percent lower in 2012. Some sections of academia may have issues as well. A UC campus study released this year found that women and ethnic minority faculty earned a little less than in salaries than the non-minority males.

And for those women worried about how their appearance impacts their careers, there may be something to think about. A different study conducted by Jennifer Bennett Shinall, a professor at Vanderbilt Law School, in part, showed that the more a woman weighed, the smaller the chances she would work in a job that involved personal interaction. Yet, there was no difference among obese men in any field.

Increasingly, entertainment awards season means recipients will dig deep and give recognition to a social cause, without or without relationship to their award. Last month, Patricia Arquette’s Oscar speech could have been simply noted and filed away -- there are arguably many pressing issues concerning women. Arquette commanded a moment and urged, “It's our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.” The industry was abuzz after her speech because the timing of her remarks comes during a period when we are all checking ourselves to ask if we are giving women enough respect. The news stories about domestic and sexual violence against women have been pervasive since last year. To correct these unfortunate tragedies, it really starts with confronting the core issues. The answer is more than simply “don’t harm women”, it begins with respecting women on fundamental levels. If we walk backwards from the moment when a woman is struck, before she is violated, or verbally berated, it all began with a lack of respect and parity. We have shaped a society today that directly and indirectly says that allowing a “Mad Men” culture of relegating women is, to some degree, acceptable.

That has to change.

On March 2, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hit the nail on the head as they introduced a new global initiative to bolter education of girls and young women who have little or no access to education. (We’re not even talking about quality education here, just an education). The initiative is aimed at helping girls overcome “barriers, large and small.” During his speech, Obama got it right: “Even today, in some parts of the world, girls are valued more for their bodies than their minds”. It’s true in developing nations, and to some degree, it is a persistent reality for girls and women in America.

President Obama has been on to this for quite a while, long before his March 2 announcement or his unforgettable speech about violence against women during this year’s Grammy Awards. The first bill he enacted was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, to help address unfair wage gaps between women and men. How much progress is being made since the enactment is still in question.

As a man, I cannot relate to some of the pressures that a woman has to consider in the workplace, like “Was my demeanor too tough during my evaluation?”, “Will I still have a job after my maternity leave?”, “Can I still make partner if I get married?”. For as many women as there are working in male-dominated industries, there are a slew of women in industries perpetuated as “female oriented”. The only women in my life gravitated towards professions where there was a strong support system of fellow women -- my mother was a nurse and my sister a social worker. But did they dare to dream they could thrive elsewhere if they chose a different path? It’s hard to avoid these questions because we, as men, have fostered and cultivated this type of environment -- and it impacts all of us, our families, our daughters, and our sisters.

No woman is a second-class citizen -- and it’s only a matter of time before the “We Can Do It!” women of the world prove that point.

Corey Arvin is a Contributing Editor for Black Voice News and a winner of the national Scripps Howard Award for Web Reporting. Follow him on Twitter @coreyarvin or email Corey[at]Blackvoicenews.com .

Giuliani's Words Do More than Hurt – They Divide

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“A new expression has entered the Westminster lexicon: dog-whistle politics. It means putting out a message that, like a high-pitched dog-whistle, is only fully audible to those at whom it is directly aimed. The intention is to make potential supporters sit up and take notice while avoiding offending those to whom the message will not appeal.” – The Economist, March 2005

(NNPA) After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, I brought a delegation of mayors to meet with the city’s then-mayor, Rudolph Giuliani. The delegation’s goal was to help restore confidence in the still-traumatized city and help rebuild what had been so inhumanly destroyed. At the time, I was mayor of New Orleans and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and Giuliani – widely acknowledged and praised for his leadership after the attacks – catapulted onto the national stage to become “America’s Mayor.”

How times have changed.

During a private New York fundraising dinner for Republican presidential candidate Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Giuliani popped onto the national stage yet again – not for the qualities he displayed as “America’s Mayor,” but for the unfounded accusation that President Obama does not love America.

“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Giuliani said in response to a question about the president’s foreign policy and counter-terrorism strategies. He added, “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.”

Speaking in front of a 2016 Republican presidential contender and a mixed crowd of conservatives and business executives, Giuliani – who failed to win the 2008 GOP presidential nomination – attacked the patriotism of our nation’s president, a man whose grandfather served in World War II, whose grand-uncle helped liberate the Nazi death camp at Buchenwald and who was the chief executive behind the operation to kill 9/11’s mastermind, Osama Bin Laden.

Questioning the president’s patriotism isn’t just inappropriate; it demonstrates a complete lack of respect. It begs the question that as Giuliani continues to seek a prominent role on the national political stage: Will he choose to rehearse only in the Theater of the Absurd?

Giuliani’s response was neither an honest critique of the president’s foreign policy, nor was it a considered analysis of our nation’s ongoing discussion on how to combat terrorism.

It was, however, a veiled attack on the character of our president. It was a better-left-buried relic from 2008 when candidates – including Giuliani – purposely appealed to a particular strain of the GOP base who viewed Obama, the Harvard-educated Black man raised by his White family in Hawaii, as “the other” and “not like us.” It was a rehearsal of the kind of divisive rhetoric that has no place in the 2016 race for the White House.

I am the first to assert that honest critiques of any president, administration and its policies are critical in a functioning democracy. But in this case, there is nothing constructive or relevant in maligning a man because of the way he was raised. Further, Giuliani has yet to explain how the president’s upbringing jeopardizes the national security of our nation. How can personal attacks ever have a constructive place in our conversations about degrading and ultimately destroying ISIL or creating jobs or energy independence?

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “It is sad to see when somebody who has attained a certain level of public stature and even admiration tarnishes that legacy so thoroughly.”

Without hesitation, I can say that the Giuliani I met with that mayors’ delegation in the smoldering aftermath of the terror attacks – a bridge-builder, a reconciler and a healer – was not the Giuliani I heard last week. It is quite unfortunate that his reappearance on the national stage recasts and squanders that legacy for a new one that limits him to catering to groups animated by the rhetoric of division at best, and veiled hatemongering at worst.

If I agreed with anything in Giuliani’s statement, it is that, yes, it was a horrible thing to say on many levels. I would add, in a word of advice to the former mayor of New York, that whenever you feel compelled to preface a comment with “I know this is a horrible thing to say,” it is likely a comment better left unsaid.

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

Muslim Lives Matter, Too

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(NNPA) Within days of the murders of three Muslims in Chapel Hill, N.C., a crazed gunman shot several people in Copenhagen, allegedly targeting an illustrator who caricaturized the Prophet Muhammad. One could not have contrasted the media’s response more starkly.

In the case of the Chapel Hill killings, it took a near Twitter uprising to gain the attention of the mainstream media to the tragedy. In the case of Copenhagen, the mainstream media responded near instantaneously.

In the aftermath of the Chapel Hill executions the question of #MuslimLivesMatter has emerged. Actually, it is important to widen the scope. Muslims and non-Muslim Arabs are in the crosshairs of racist, right-wingers in the U.S. Yet, it is not only the targeting of Muslims and non-Muslim Arabs. It is also the targeting of history.

In this regard the right-wing response to President Obama’s Prayer Breakfast remarks about the manner in which religion can be used to justify heinous crimes is relevant.

Those who attacked Obama for suggesting that horrors have been committed in the name of Christianity, along with other religions, have decided that it is appropriate to defy historical facts.

One example, which President Obama did not mention, was the Holocaust carried out against the Jews by the Nazis. The Nazis saw themselves as being good Protestants. They even expressed contempt for Catholics! This is a documented fact. This is not about interpretation and it is not about rhetoric.

Those who ignored the Chapel Hill murders, and/or those who seek to deny that it is a clear example of a hate crime, are those who wish to ignore history and the historical context of these killings.

Muslims and non-Muslim Arabs have been the subject of long-running attacks, caricaturizations, racist insults, and, yes, lynchings, since well prior to the 11 September 2001 terrorist assaults. Though “children of the Book,” Muslims in the U.S. have never been accepted within the Judeo-Christian binary but have been treated as “other.” They have been a source of mystery in the mainstream, a group to be tolerated during the best of times and demonized during the worst.

Arabs have had a very contradictory relationship to U.S. history, in part depending on whether they are Muslim, Jewish or Christian, and also depending on what period in history they arrived in the country. Many Arabs assumed a “White” identity for as long as they could, resulting in complicated and often tense relations with other communities of color. After 11 September 2001, all Arabs found themselves in the category of notorious people of color. There will be no exit in the near future.

The Chapel Hill killings and the initial anemic media response was quite similar to the response to the lynchings of other peoples of color, whether African American, Latino, Asian or Native American. These are killings to be excused away, to be blamed on an individual, at best, or, under certain circumstances, to be blamed on the victim.

This is what is at stake when we hear that the killings may have been about a parking space. Instead of taking seriously the fears and concerns that the victims had prior to their deaths, many mainstream commentators have ignored this altogether, not to mention ignored the larger social/political climate that describes any violent act by a Muslim or Arab as an act of terrorism, and any act against a Muslim or Arab as potentially justified, irrespective of how horrendous.

Did someone say that this was a post-racial society?

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

Are Current Protests Effective?

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One key focus of Black History month is the success that resulted from the Civil Rights Movement and specifically the role of protest in achieving those successes.

Recently, there have been protests after the incidents involving Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, Eric Garner in New York City and Trayvon Martin in Florida. Unfortunately, in these cases it is hard to find any successes. The police officers in Ferguson and New York have not been charged. Just yesterday, the DOJ (Department of Justice) declined to charge Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin. Given these failures, it is time to ask the following questions. Are the current protests effective? If these protests are not effective, then why do we keep doing them?

It should be noted that I am not the only one asking these questions. Apparently, Reverend Al Sharpton has many of these same questions. On February 7, 2015 the Washington Post published a very interesting article entitled, “The public life and private doubts of Al Sharpton” by Eli Saslow. This article shows how long Reverend Sharpton has been using protest and activism to advance the cause of the black community. During the article Reverend Sharpton makes some pointed observations and asks some very relevant questions. Here is a quote:

“We come after a generation that was movement motivated,” Sharpton said. “They started with nothing and took down apartheid, and what have we done so far that compares to that? That bothers me. That haunts me.”

“I got a radio show, a TV show, a direct line to the president, and what good is all that if I still can’t get something done when they choke a guy out on tape?”

Whether you like or dislike Reverend Sharpton, the questions that he asks are very relevant. It often seems that we continue to pursue a protest strategy because that strategy was so effective in the past. However, it should be obvious to everyone in the black community that we are no longer seeing the same level of progress.

Moreover, I believe that we are not going to have the same gains because the situation in America has changed dramatically. We now have large numbers of black elected officials including a Black President. We have more successful black entertainers, athletes and business people than ever. In spite of this progress, I know that there will be immediate responses from those who are invested in the protest approach. They will point out that there have been attacks on black voting rights. They will correctly note that bad policing and educational achievement disparities still plague our community. I agree wholeheartedly that these problems still exist in the black community. I just don’t think that protesting is going to lead to solutions.

In fact, over the past 20-30 years, the effort put into protesting has had diminishing returns. Yet many in our community refuse to confront this reality. Black History Month is an excellent time for us to finally confront this reality. We should note that Black History television programs and movies are limited and only can only show an oversimplification of history. They don’t show the goal setting and planning that occurred before the protests. We do not get any analysis of failures. We seldom see the decisions to “not protest”. I wonder if people are attempting to emulate previous Civil Rights protests without actually thinking about whether or not they will be effective.

I believe that today’s protestors are sincere and are working hard to bring change to their communities. However, sincerity is not enough. Given recent setbacks it may be time to rethink our strategy.

Finally, a lack of success can lead people to become very frustrated. This frustration causes people to make sweeping statements such as, “Things for blacks have not really improved” or “We are just as bad off as we were before”. These are not only untrue but they discredit the achievements made by those who came before us.

The best way to address this frustration is to realize that today’s protests are not going to yield the same level of results that we saw in the 1950’s and 60’s. Let’s use Black History Month as a time to not only celebrate past success but to also look beyond those successes to new and better strategies.

Kevin Martin is an Executive Recruiter and former technology entrepreneur. He can be reached at By1989@pacificnet.net

Endless Plastic Bags Smother Planet Earth

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(NNPA) Maybe it has always been like this. If so, I am not sure precisely what triggered my new concern. But in either case, there seems to be an exceptional amount of plastic on highways, streets, in bushes, etc. It is mainly in the form of used plastic bags.

I became aware that it was entering my consciousness a few weeks ago. I was driving and noticed that there was a lot of trash along a major road in my neighborhood. I noticed that, day after day would pass and it would still be there. But it was not only in my neighborhood.

I started wondering whether it was just a matter of the wind, that all of this plastic was around. That there were wind-tunnels created and the plastic bags were accumulating. I have not been able to figure it out, exactly, but I have come to a few conclusions.

The most obvious is that, as individuals, many of us simply do not care about the planet. When we are finished with something, such as a plastic bag, we are content to let it drop and float away. The second conclusion is that we are increasingly witnessing the impact of the destruction of the public sector. There are fewer city, county and state workers to take care of our streets and roads. More often than not, I see groups of prisoners dressed in their bright, orange attire, doing clean-up. Other times I see no one.

A third conclusion is that we live in a society that creates so much waste and really does not know what to do with it. So, these plastic bags fly around, after we have used them, and start to wrap themselves around trees. I am sure that you have seen this. And they smother the trees over time. Or, they fly into the rivers, ponds, and lakes, eventually making it into the ocean, to be consumed by sea life that can never digest them and, therefore, die. Yet, most of us act more as if it is nothing more than a nuisance rather than a sign of collapse.

The solution goes far beyond recycling, as important as that step actually is. It is really about priorities. What sorts of packaging should we use? Yes, maybe some packaging will cost a little more, but so what? Yes, when we get tired of something, we should restrain ourselves from just dropping it where we want, whether it is a plastic bag or a toxic waste dump.

So, when you are driving down the road and see those plastic bags smothering the trees or when they get stuck to the bottom of your car so that you are forever smelling burnt plastic, remember that this is a symptom of a society that has said, in so many words, we do not care what comes next.

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

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