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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.

A Black Life is Worth Less than a $50 Box of Cigars?

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(NNPA) Under other circumstances one could simply ridicule the explanations offered by the Ferguson police regarding the killing of Michael Brown. To suggest that the killing was the result of the alleged theft of a $50 box of cigars or, for that matter, an angry exchange in connection with jaywalking, defies belief. To think about the number of people in this country who, in their youth, engaged in some degree of shoplifting or who have jaywalked suggests that there would need to be mass executions on a scale never before seen in the history of humanity.

Clearly, the killing had to do with neither the alleged theft nor alleged jaywalking. It had to do with power and life. The power was the power of a White-dominated police department to assert its total control over the activities of a population that has been largely disenfranchised from a supposed democracy. In that sense, Michael Brown was at the wrong place at the wrong time. That said, while circumstances could have resulted in Brown not having been at that precise location, the reality with which African Americans are all too familiar is that we are all potentially Michael Browns. There are no safety zones; there are no no-shooting zones in the USA when it comes to Black America. It is that point that many Black youth are attempting to capture with photos, tweets and slogans.

The killing was also about life. What White people in the U.S. need to ask themselves is whether there are any circumstances in their respective communities where the killing of a young White man for either allegedly stealing cigars or for getting into an argument with an officer regarding jaywalking would be tolerated. If the answer is “no,” then the follow up question is simple: Why should it be acceptable in African American communities?

The answer is implicit in the reality for African Americans throughout U.S .history: There is not an equivalent value on African American and White life in this society. There is not only the presumption of guilt, when African Americans have an encounter with the police, but an additional presumption that the police are justified in utilizing any means available against a Black alleged criminal, even if no crime has been committed.

Ferguson brought to my mind Gaza and the way in which Palestinian life has no value for the Israeli government. Three Jewish Israeli boys were brutally kidnapped and murdered and the Israeli political establishment decided to unite to punish all Palestinians, and especially those in Gaza, without a shred of evidence. No matter how many Palestinian civilians are killed, it is justified by the Israeli government on the grounds of their need to punish. What is implicit is the math: the deaths of three Jewish Israelis are compensated for by the deaths of more than a 1,900 Palestinians. When the proportions are that extreme the bottom line is simple: Palestinian life holds no value.

Oppression and tyranny can continue and gain popular support when those who are oppressed are deprived of the recognition of their humanity. When African Americans are presumed to be dangerous criminals or when Palestinians are presumed to be murderers, then there is no need for a trial. There is only need for an execution…and be done with it.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a racial justice, labor and global justice activist and writer. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

From 'Hands Up, Don't Shoot' to 'Hands Up, Vote'

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(NNPA) Out of every momentous national tragedy that Black Americans have continued to endure in the United States, there has always emerged a redeeming moment to push harder and further on the long journey toward freedom, justice and equality. The continuing unrestrained fatal police killings of Black American males in St. Louis County, Missouri is now described as part of a national “open season” to kill Blacks in America. What should we do now? What is the redeeming action that should be taken?

In the aftermath of the murders of Michael Brown, Eric Gardner, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis and so many others, what should be our next course of action? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., writing in his last book, pointed the way.

Writing in Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? Dr. King stated in 1967: “The persistence of racism in depth and the dawning awareness that Negro demands will necessitate structural changes in society have generated a new phase of white resistance in the North and South.’’

Dr. King’s prophetic words, written 47 years ago, are equally true today. With the “browning of America,” there has been a steady increase in racially-motivated police violence against Blacks and Latinos.

The tragic murder of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson has reverberated around the world. It is just the latest example of a society that refuses to end racial oppression or acknowledge its racist past. I remember that Dr. King responded to police brutality in the 1960s by telling his followers: “I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.”

As we say of faith-witnessing in the Black church tradition, “Lord, have mercy, we sure have received a lot of unearned suffering…… now it is time for us to get some redemption.” This bring me to my central point. With all that is going on in Missouri, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, New York, California, Louisiana, Illinois, Washington, D.C. and elsewhere, we must transform our anger over police brutality, poverty, and economic inequality into a massive voter turnout. We should be preparing right now in every voting precinct in every congressional district and in every state where we live to have an unprecedented high voter turnout this November. We did it in 2008 we did it in 2012 and we can do it again in 2014.

Too often we live in communities where we have the potential margin of victory for local, congressional, statewide and national elections, but we simply do not go to the polls and vote, even though so many of our people died, bleed, went to jail, and “suffered” for us to get the right to vote. Having a right to vote is not enough. We all must exercise the right to vote not once but in every election. It’s extremely important that we do so this year because people expect us to because Obama’s name will not be on the ballot and mid-term voting is traditionally lower than in presidential years.

Voting our political, economic and spiritual interest is not only “redemptive,” it is also the right thing to do. Very often police officers are not prosecuted for acts of racial violence against Black Americans because locally “elected” prosecutors and district attorneys get elected and stay in office because we do not vote at the rate that we should. Citizens in Ferguson, Mo., a community that is at least 2/3 African American, only vote at a rate of about 12 percent – about a third of their representation in the population. That is a terrible reality that must now change. Understand, I am not saying that voting in record numbers will solve all the problems that we face in America. But what I am saying clearly is that our failure to understand the power of the vote holds back our progress in the United States.

I was so proud to see thousands of people marching nonviolently every day in Ferguson in protest to Michael Brown’s murder. The unified chant, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” captured the energy and aspirations of millions more throughout the country and indeed around the world. Let’s keep that energy going strong. Let’s remain vigilant, vocal and visible. As we move forward over the next 60 days, let’s also organize and mobilize to register to vote and to massively turnout the vote everywhere. Election Day should be Pay Back Day. Let’s also begin to chant “Hands Up, Vote!” Let’s make the difference.

Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the Interim President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: dr.bchavis@nnpa.org; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc

Palestinians and the Black American Freedom Struggles

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(NNPA) Knowing of my concern about  justice for the Palestinians, a friend sent me a link the other day regarding Palestine and Black America. [http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/180382/students-justice-palestine#undefined]

The essence of this piece is the author’s allegation that Palestinians cannot and should not compare their struggle to that of the African American struggle for justice. Actually, there is nothing new in this piece. Those who oppose justice for the Palestinians regularly drag out quotes from various historic African American leaders in order to attempt to make their case.  While this may sway some people, it does not settle the matter of whether comparisons of the Palestinian situation and that of African Americans are legitimate.

To consider such comparisons you have to look at a few things.  Let’s start:

  • Beginning in 1947, Palestinians, including Christians and Muslims, were removed from land that they had inhabited for thousands of years.  The Palestinians, by the way, had not just appeared in that portion of the Middle East in the recent past.  It is now clear that, genetically speaking, the Palestinians have their roots in the ancient Hebrews.
  • With the establishment of Israel in 1948, a dual system was implemented that, among other things, permitted the expropriation of Palestinian land for alleged security reasons. The land was not returned to the Palestinians.
  • A dual educational system was established, with Palestinian citizens of Israel receiving inferior and poorly funded education.
  • Israel has held onto land that it captured in the June 1967 war in violation of international law, resolutions and precedent.  It then began a process of settling the land, again, in violation of international law.
  • The Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have absolutely no security, with their homes subject to being destroyed or seized, and their land divided.  The creation of the so-called Security Wall does not conform to the 1949 Armistice line but goes through Palestinian territory, frequently cutting off Palestinians from their own land.
  • Palestinian citizens of Israel cannot settle in Israel with a Palestinian spouse who comes from the Occupied Territories.
  • Israel refuses to accept the right of return for Palestinians who were driven from their land–or vacated their lands ‘temporarily’ (they hoped)–in the 1948-49 war or the 1967 war.  Again, this violates international law.

So, the question is really who or what does this sound like?  Does this sound like the workings of a democracy?  Or, in the alternative does it sound more like the experience of Native Americans in the U.S; African Americans in the Jim Crow South; and Africans in apartheid South Africa?

The Palestinians have the right to compare their struggle with ours based on the profound similarities in experience.  This is not a matter of rhetoric or sleight of hand; it is about history and current reality.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist.  He is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies.  He can be found on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

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