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It's Time to Legalize all Drugs

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(NNPA) The old British Empire was the founder and leader of the drug trade. This government saw the drug trade, particularly Opium, as a good means to increase its treasury and promote the overall economy to benefit its citizens with jobs and industry. The English would grow and cultivate the opium crops in India and then sell the finished product to the Chinese. The wealth accrued by this system was enormous and it made this nation with such a small population rule other nations with populations exponentially greater. It was about power and wealth.

Today, the United States gives the appearance that drugs are evil and it must do everything in its power to suppress the drug trade. That is the appearance, but the reality is far from that. Drugs are prevalent in the United States more now than ever. It is an extremely large industry with no restraints and a future that seems very bright. At the low end of the trade business are law enforcement agencies locking up users and small traders. At the high end are drug cartels dragging in billions of dollars. The final phase of this industrial transaction is the cleaning or laundering of the dirty money. The largest banks in the world are far too willing to accommodate the drug cartels. They clean the money and give advice on tax avoidance. It is purely criminal but no one is going to jail.

Just last week the U.S. Department of Justice settled such a case with banking giant HSBC. According to Rolling Stone magazine, “The banks’ laundering transactions were so brazen that the NSA probably could have spotted them from space. (Assistant U.S. Attorney General Lanny) Breuer admitted that drug dealers would sometimes come to HSBC’s Mexican branches and “deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, in a single day, into a single account, using boxes designed to fit the precise dimensions of the teller windows.” Yes, they had it down to a finely run routine without fear of arrest or punishment.

For the above criminal activity HSBC received no indictment and no arrests were made at all. The government simply settled with them on a fine of $1.9 billion. They even had the nerve to do a press release on this. The fact is that this was no punishment at all. HSBC makes $1.9 billion in profit every five business days. I can assure you that they won’t stop the activity because the money is just too good.

Meanwhile, out in the streets and neighborhoods, the law authorities are locking up our population with a vengeance. Stiff penalties are handed out to users and low level dealers in rapid fashion. Long sentences are served in our prisons. In fact, our prisons are filling up to the point that they are now cramming our local jails with drug offenders. The rich get richer and the poor go to jail and have their futures terribly damaged. This happens because there is so much profit in the drug business. How do we get the profit out of drugs? There is a model. In Amsterdam, drugs are legal in designated areas. People can go and buy the drugs at low prices and get as high as they want. You won’t see the cartels doing much activity there because they cannot make the kind of big cash they are accustomed to.

Why don’t we do the same as Amsterdam? Let’s identify designated places and provide medical assistance to those trying to break the addiction and control the price of drugs to where the gangsters no longer have an incentive. Also, let us stop prosecuting and jailing our people for this activity. In fact, let’s start emptying our prisons and jails of drug users and low-level traffickers. Bring these people home and work them back into society as productive and full citizens. There would be a dramatically reduced public expense – fewer prisons, fewer guards, fewer lawyers and many other good things like happier families and bright futures for our children.

Oh, it would be so nice to see the cartels dry up and hard crime such as kidnapping, murder, overall violence would be reduced to almost nothing. Every African American family has been damaged or affected by the drug industry. Children, cousins, nephews, husbands, mothers and fathers are missing from our households because of the lure of illegal drug activity. The rich and powerful take part in this and get away with it as the common people suffer immensely. It is just like old China and the British opportunists. The playing field is hardly level. Let us start to go down this road to the legalization of drugs and end this social and economic madness.

Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: halford@nationalbcc.org.

No Reason to Celebrate Tim Scott

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(NNPA) The polite side of me congratulates Tim Scott on being named Senator for the state of South Carolina. Alright, now that we have that out of the way, let’s get down to business.

The appointment of Scott was a move that reminded me of the Republican choice to head the Republican National Committee–Michael Steele–in the aftermath of Barack Obama’s first election in 2008. The RNC seemed to want to go out of their way to demonstrate that they could put a Black person into a responsible position now that the country had elected an African American. In the aftermath of the re-election of President Obama, and the increasing support he is receiving among people of color (as voting blocs), the Republicans seem to, once again, want to demonstrate that they are not the party of whiteness…well, sort of.

The concern for Black America on this appointment is that we fall into the trap of ignoring Scott’s politics in the name of supporting ‘another Black man.’ This is a mistake that many of us have made over the years with one of the most egregious examples being the support gained by Clarence Thomas from too many African Americans when he was appointed to the Supreme Court. Many of us, naively, seemed to believe that Thomas would ‘do the right thing’ once he had the job security of a Supreme Court appointment. Instead we have been treated to an adamantly conservative justice. He has not only been of no help to Black America; he has been a hindrance.

Senator Tim Scott has not sided with the interests of Black America. His politics are not particularly different from outgoing Senator Jim DeMint. Scott essentially embraces the politics of the Tea Party. He happens to have Black skin.

For understandable reasons, we of Black America are frequently willing to give another Black person who achieves high office the benefit of the doubt. We are always concerned about double standards and the sorts of racist assaults that Black elected (and appointed) officials regularly experience. This reality, however, cannot lead us to ignore the actual ‘content of the character’ of such individuals. Whether the person is Tim Scott, Clarence Thomas, or for that matter, Susan Rice and Barack Obama, we need to scrutinize their politics and their policies. This means being prepared to challenge those who, regardless of their face, smile, speeches, or place of birth, advance the interests of the 1 percent over the rest of us.

Happy New Year!

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. He can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com.

Black to the Future

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(NNPA) I was recently in South Africa for a conference. While there, I had two interesting experiences that raised the complications and politics of race.

In the first case I was on a shuttle bus. The driver, ethnically South Asian but a South African, was very friendly. We started up a conversation during which he asked me about life in the U.S.A. Among the things that I noted was the continued existence of racist oppression in the U.S.A. He then made this interesting comment: “Yeah, that’s the way it is here. If you are not Black then you do not get considered for jobs.”

I was a bit stunned by the comment. First, the driver felt completely comfortable saying this to me, which meant that he, apparently, did not see me as Black, or at least not like a Black South African. Second, when we continued the conversation and discussed apartheid and how the African majority had been suppressed and disenfranchised and that there need to be steps taken to repair this damage, he said absolutely nothing. His silence was deafening. He then changed the topic.

The second incident was in the context of a discussion with an Arab from Lebanon. I spoke about African Americans and at a certain point said something like “…we Blacks…” The gentleman looked at me and responded: “Bill, you do not look particularly Black.” He did not say this in an insulting manner but rather in a very matter of fact manner. I replied that what was interesting about his comment is that while I may look like I come from any number of places, e.g., North Africa, the Horn of Africa, Cape Verde, when my plane lands in New York there is no question but that I am Black.

When one is outside of the U.S.A., you are reminded that race is not scientific; it is not genetic; it is not hard-and-fast. Rather it is both social and political and very much defined by the history of one’s location and that location’s experience with Western colonialism.

The shuttle driver apparently thinks that “Black” refers to the indigenous African majority in South Africa. That was not the way that the anti-apartheid movement saw it, by the way. For most of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, “Black” was a political term that included all who were not White and were not in some honorary category (e.g., the Japanese). In other words, it referred to those who were the victims of systemic racist oppression, within which you could find indigenous Africans, so-called Coloreds (mixed race), and ethnic South Asians. The shuttle driver was looking at me as a foreigner, and one who was not black. A light-skinned person of African descent was, apparently, something else.

For the Arab, there was something very similar in play. The individual was a progressive trade union activist, but race, for him, did not look the way that it does for us. “Black” meant dark. It had no political meaning at all. If you were light-skinned you could not be Black. This was not seen as offensive but more a perception of reality.

Why is this important? The short answer is that race changes forms in different countries but also within different historical periods. In the U.S.A, people who are frequently considered White today would not necessarily have been considered White 150 years ago, e.g., Jews, Irish, Sicilians. Race gets revised and reconstructed over time to service those in power who wish to instill divisions among people at the base of society. How that appears depends entirely on what that population looks like; ethnic tensions; and methods of controlling the total population.

Think about this the next time you encounter an immigrant who “looks black.” Keep in mind that they come from a different history than yours and that their response to race and racism will be more influenced by the history of their homeland than our reality here in the USA, at least in the beginning.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. He can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com.

Our Children Deserve Better

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(NNPA) Every generation believes their children deserve to be better off than they were. This belief inspired the first slave rebellion in 1663, when a new law dictated that children of African slaves would not be able to rise above the status of their parents. This belief led Linda Brown’s parents and the NAACP to defeat segregated schooling. And it is this belief that keeps education at the center of the modern-day movement for social justice.

Brown v. Board of Education built a launching pad for education in the 21st century by removing barriers to equality and opening doors to opportunity. African Americans gained the confidence that their children, and generations of children to come, would indeed have access to a better future. But somewhere along the way, America sputtered and lost its way.

Nearly 50 years after the end of desegregation, we are still only sending about one out of four students to college. In a knowledge-based economy, excluding three fourths of our students from higher education is no longer acceptable. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United States ranked 14th out of 34 OECD countries for reading skills, 17th for science and a below-average 25th for mathematics. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called this “an absolute wake-up call for America.”

The time for tinkering and small-scale experimentation is over. In order to lead the world’s global economy, we must create the world’s brightest workforce. This starts by fixing our education so that all students can graduate college- and career-ready.

The NAACP recently released a report titled “Finding Our Way Back to First: Reclaiming World Leadership by Educating All America’s Children.” Our proactive agenda builds off the foundation laid by Brown v. Board of Education, and it is just as focused on quality as it is on access to education.

“Finding Our Way Back to First” offers research-informed prescriptions for tapping the potential of our students. The NAACP is asking its more than 1,200 active units to advocate for the following reforms:

First, all students should have a strong educational foundation before kindergarten. This means high quality, universal prekindergarten that supports strong literacy and language skills.

Second, we need effective teachers and leaders. Every school, regardless of location and resources, should have a strongly prepared, well-supported teacher in every classroom.

Third, students need more time for more learning. This means longer school days, longer school years and more years of education. Schools also need to offer broad-based programs that extend beyond the regular school day, year and curriculum.

Finally, we need to target our resources at those schools that need them most. We should direct additional state funds to school districts with high concentrations of low-income students. And we should target funds from all levels to help those schools and students who are struggling hardest to achieve.

The NAACP earned its reputation in education by removing obstacles that blocked children from learning. But now is the time for proactive reform. To make the promise of a better life for our children real, we must support student learning and achievement. We must be determined to help every child reach his or her full potential and thereby ensure that we, as a nation, lead and serve globally.

Benjamin Todd Jealous is President and CEO of the national NAACP.

Opportunity and Diversity One Industry at a Time

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(NNPA) There is a missing component to the national discussion concerning how to strengthen and rebuild the American economy. It is true that high unemployment, a weak national infrastructure, the need for stronger public education, the concentration of wealth and the deficit are all challenges to the nation’s economy but being left out of the discussion is the continued economic marginalization of racial and ethnic minorities.

The American economy has always been strongest when it’s kept the middle class within reach for most Americans. But with white households holding nearly 20 times the wealth of black or Latino households, and with rising disparities in unemployment, poverty, and income, the future of the middle class has never looked more uncertain. As the country rapidly becomes majority-minority the nation’s economic well-being is increasingly tied to overcoming racial economic inequality.

The economic challenges that people of color face is reflected in the recently released NAACP Opportunity and Diversity Report Card which analyzes the hotel and lodging industry. Mediocre grades among the five leading hotels we examined—Hyatt, Starwood, Wyndham, Marriott and Hilton—reveal the widespread lack of investment in minority suppliers, the over representation of people of color in the lowest paying entry level positions, the under representation in the more highly paid career track positions and finally a lack of commitment to collecting basic diversity data that could be used to strengthen inclusion efforts.

Our report shows that black-owned businesses, which comprise 7% of all businesses in the U.S., make up only 0.9% of all vendors receipts —a troubling red flag that signals how far corporate America has to go in their supplier diversity outreach. And while people of color are 36% of the population, only 13% of the governing bodies in the hotel and lodging industry consists of people of color.

One of the most disconcerting findings of our report card is that all of the top 5 hotel and lodging corporations do not collect diversity data from their franchise properties. This means for four out of five of these leading corporations no data is collected for the majority of their individual hotels. This is unacceptable.

The NAACP is calling for these corporations to collect the diversity data already mandated by the government through EEO1 reports. We are also asking for planners of major events to request EEO1 reports from any individual hotel they are considering for their event so they can make diversity and inclusion part of their assessment as to which hotel is worthy of their business. The National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners has already voiced support for this action and we will be working with our community and civil rights partners as well as local bureaus of tourism to make widespread the use of EEO1 data as an important and widely used factor for determining which hotels qualify to hold major events.

The EEO1 survey is a primary means that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission uses to advance its mission derived from the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act focused on prohibiting racial discrimination in employment and almost 60 years later we still find great racial and ethnic disparities in business and its workforce. The Opportunity and Diversity Report Card and our call to action for greater use of EEO1 data should not be seen as just a “civil rights” matter but should be understood as a means of dealing with one of the greatest threats facing the American economy over the next thirty years, racial economic inequality. We at the NAACP have always seen racial inequality as a grave threat to the country and in the next few decades if serious action isn’t taken to bridge this divide the entire nation will see the economic results of this inequality.

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