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Julianne Malveaux

Black Women Killed by Police are Ignored

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(NNPA) You know their names – Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice – because these African American men were unarmed and killed by “law enforcement” officers. Their names have been part of a litany invoked when police shootings are discussed. Their deaths have been part of the impetus for the Black Lives Matter movement, especially because the police officers that killed these men (and a little boy) have paid no price for their murders.

You are far less likely to know about Rekia Boyd, shot by an off-duty police officer in Chicago. While the officer who killed Boyd was acquitted, her killing sparked few protests, and little national attention.

Kate Abbey-Lambertz of Huffington Post identified 15 women who were killed during police encounters when they were unarmed, including Tanisha Anderson (Cleveland), 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones (Detroit), and Yvette Smith (Bastrop, Texas). The killing of another woman, Miriam Carey, was especially egregious.

Carey, a dental hygienist, drove her car into a security checkpoint near the White House. The Secret Service fired multiple shots at Carey, killing her and putting her 13-month-old daughter at risk. Meanwhile, a White man scaled the White House fence without a shot fired. Another made it into the White House residence without encountering a gun. A few people protested Carey’s death, but the protests fizzled.

AlterNet and Clutch Magazine, online sources such as Huffington Post, reported on some of the unarmed Black women who were gunned down. Again, these killings were barely protested, and garnered no national attention. Little seems to have changed since Gloria Hull, Patricia Bell-Scott, and Barbara Smith wrote But Some of Us Are Brave: All the Women Are White, All the Blacks are Men. The book, written in 1993, addressed the invisibility of African American women. While the majority of the unarmed African Americans killed by police officers are men, about 20 percent of those killed are women.

The publicized killings of African American men have happened all too frequently in the past 12 months. Each killing strikes our collective community like a body blow, especially when officers are poorly trained, have records of brutality, and are acquitted. When the roll of recent killings is called, women may be absent because there has been little publicity about assaults against women in the past year. Based on the record, however, we know such assaults are likely to have happened.

Contemporary African American women are not the only ones who history has swallowed. Fannie Lou Hamer was beaten so many times, and so severely that she developed a blood clot and lost much of her sight in one eye. One kidney was injured and her entire body covered with welts and bruises. She never regained her health, yet when people call the roll of civil rights leaders and icons, her name is too often excluded. There is a historical precedent for the invisibility of African American women. Fannie Lou Hamer is but one of many women whose lives and sacrifices are often ignored.

Public policy also ignores the plight of African American women. President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative is well-meaning, but ignores the status of young African American women. While young Black women are more likely to go to college than young Black men, those who do not go to college face some of the same job challenges as men do. Young women can benefit from the same efforts that young men are offered through My Brother’s Keeper, such as mentorship and initiatives to develop pathways to education and employment.

Focusing on young Black women should not minimize efforts to improve the status of young Black men. There ought be no competition, but efforts for inclusion. The Black Lives Matter movement must recognize the killing of Black women as well as Black men. To do any less, to ignore the unarmed Black women who are shot, suggests that only Black men’s lives matter. Any African American who is shot and killed by police officers deserves our attention.

Both African American men and African American women have economic, psychological, and physical wounds because of the racism we experience. Our economic wounds manifest as higher unemployment rates and lower wages. Our health wounds are illustrated through the health disparities we experience, along with differences in life expectancies. Our psychological wounds include dysfunction in our organizations and relationships. We won’t have healthy and functional communities until we focus on healing wounds among all of us – Black men and Black women.

I’ve been impressed and excited by the Black Lives Matter movement and the young leadership that has emerged from it. This is a movement that, powerful as it is, would be so much stronger if it acknowledged that Black women’s lives also matter.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington-based writer and economist. She can be reached at www.juliannemalveaux.com.

A Young Sister 'Hashtagged' Me Out of My Silo

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(NNPA) When a colleague dropped the line, “You can’t hashtag your way to freedom,” I loved it! I laughed out loud, and promised that I’d not borrow the line, but steal it because I was so enamored of it. I’ve used it quite a few times since then, and gotten my share of grins and guffaws. So I used it again and again, always getting the same reaction.

Imagine my surprise, then, when Frenchie Davis, 35, the Howard University alumna who burst onto the music scene with her 2003 turn on “American Idol,” took me to school by telling me she thought my remark was “condescending.” I didn’t mean to be condescending, just to make the point that there is a difference between tweeting and fighting for change. Hashtags are not votes. Even if a million people hashtagged #bringbackourgirls, the hundreds of Nigerian young women abducted by Boko Haram are still missing.

Frenchie Davis thought my glib remark dismissed a form of communication that young people find effective, a form of communication that raises their awareness. She is right to point out that electronic and social media is far more consequential today than it was just a decade ago, and that her generation relies on social media more heavily than it does traditional media. While many people of my Baby Boomer generation use electronic media, we are not as immersed in it as younger folks are.

Reality check. The median age of the African American recorded in the 2000 Census was 30.4, compared to the national mean of 34.4. As of 2013, the mean age of U.S. born Blacks was 29, compared to a national mean of 37. That means the average African American is closer in age to Frenchie Davis than to to me.

Members of that generation – too often disdained by their elders for their work ethic, commitment to civil rights, or style of dress – are the ones who will propel the Civil Rights Movement into the future. So Sister Frenchie was right to call me on my snarly/funny remark about hashtagging to freedom. If the hashtag takes you to a conversation, and that takes you to action, then the hashtag may be a step in the right direction.

My conversation with Frenchie Davis took place when I moderated a panel on “Race, Justice, and Change,” as part of the Washington, D.C. Emancipation Day commemoration. By way of background, the Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862 paid the owners of 3,100 slaves $300 each to emancipate them; for the past decade D.C. commemorates this day with an official holiday.

The other panelists, Malik Yoba, Doug E. Fresh, and Mali Music, are, like Davis, socially and politically active artists, who are also concerned with ways to increase involvement in civil rights matters. Mali Music, 27, was the youngest member of the panel. His comments about young Black male alienation offered an important perspective in a conversation structured to address voting, policing, and organizing. I’d not heard of the Grammy Award nominee before, which perhaps reveals the generational silo I occupy.

I’m uncomfortable in my silo. Uncomfortable with how easy it is to join a conversation about generational differences without embracing generational similarities. “Back in the day,” a phrase I probably should use much less, many of our radio shows or stations were called “The Drum,” after the drumbeat form of communication. Hashtag can rightly be seen as another word for drum. And getting out of my silo, it’s important that drummers (or hashtaggers) both teach and learn.

How do we get young people involved in the Civil Rights Movement? Many already are involved – check them out at #Blacklivesmatter. More than conversation, this communication has galvanized tens of thousands to stay focused on continued police violence and the attacks on Black life. The hashtag has connected people planning marches and protests. That’s involvement.

Are we insisting that young people be involved in the movement as we know it? New organizations and movements are emerging, and some younger folks won’t embrace or engage in organizations they consider irrelevant. Has anyone marketed the contemporary Civil Rights Movement to younger African Americans? Do we feel that we need to? Do we expect people to show up (where?) and roll their sleeves up, task undefined?

How do we get young people involved? Ask them. Sit back and listen, really listen, to their reply. And understand that there are some, not so young, who may also need a nudge to get involved. I am energized, enlightened, and privileged when I am pushed out of my silo. I am grateful to Frenchie Davis, Malik Yoba, Mali Music and Doug E. Fresh for helping me connect the drums with the hashtags. The generational conversation is engaging, frustrating, and effervescent. It is an essential part of our movement for social and economic justices, and its many definitions and experiences.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington-based writer and economist. She can be reached at www.juliannemalveaux.com.

Should African Americans Endorse Whites over Blacks?

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(NNPA) Two prominent Black Maryland officials – Montgomery County Executive Issiah Leggett and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III – have endorsed Congressman Chris Van Hollen, a White, over Black Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards in the race to replace retiring Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski.

So far, Edwards is the only African American in the race and faces the prospect of joining California Attorney General Kamala Harris, an announced candidate for the California Senate seat that will be vacated by Senator Barbara Boxer. Another African American, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Baltimore, is considering running for the seat that will become vacant in 2017 when Mikulski retires.

This may seem like a local story, but it has national implications. Both Edwards and Van Hollen are likely to seek contributions from all over the country. Furthermore, the possibility of having an African American woman in the Senate is an opportunity for African American women’s issues to be raised on the Senate floor. Finally, Edwards’ presence on committees dealing with work, health care, and banking will bring a much-needed perspective to a Senate that is 96 percent White.

With an African American female Senator, would Loretta Lynch’s confirmation for U.S. Attorney General still be languishing? Or, would Edwards remind fellow senators that their treatment of African American women has hardly been fair? Senator Edwards might also raise issues that impact all women, but African American women especially, given the fact that we have lower incomes, and a higher rate of single motherhood. African American women have also been the targets of disparaging remarks about public assistance and food stamps, as if no Caucasian’s participate in these programs. An African American woman senator would likely raise objections and stop senatorial trash talk about African American women it its tracks.

Why, then, have the highest-ranking elective officers at the county level in Maryland, both African American men, chosen the Caucasian Van Hollen over Edwards? And if they don’t like Edwards for the post, why couldn’t they wait until Cummings decides whether to run?

Baker, who served with Van Hollen in the Maryland General Assembly during the 1990s, says he knows Van Hollen and has worked well with him. He says he has made this endorsement “in the interest of the county.” It has nothing to do with race, he says, but everything to do with familiarity.

In his endorsement, Leggett said, “As we look ahead to build a strong Maryland, we need a proven leader like Congressman Chris Van Hollen, whose reputation for leadership, deep intellect and courage is unrivaled. His swift rise through the ranks in the U.S. House of Representatives attests to the respect and esteem he commands from his colleagues, and from other leaders around this country.”

Neither Baker nor Leggett has explained what makes Van Hollen a better candidate than Edwards. I won’t speculate about whether their choice has something more to do with gender than politics, but I do think their actions raises national questions about race and endorsements. When all else is equal, I choose to vote for the African American candidate instead of the Caucasian one. The truth is both Edwards and Van Hollen are likely to vote much the way that the liberal Barbara Mikulski did. However, I expect that Edwards will be far more aggressive in advocating for the African American community than Van Hollen.

Further, in light of the recent killing of Walter Scott in South Carolina, Eric Gardner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., among others, it seems specious to say that race doesn’t matter. In light of the double-digit unemployment rates African Americans experience (twice those of Whites), race still matters and the need to target employment programs have not been raised in this Senate, even when Democrats held it. Edwards would be forceful in pushing these programs.

Baker especially owes his county an explanation both because it is majority African American (65 percent) and also because his county was critical in electing Edwards to Congress four times.

There has been a blurring of racial lines in our nation and in politics. Increasing numbers of Americans are biracial or multi-racial, and identify with every aspect of their background. Many choose to check the “biracial” on census forms, an option that was unavailable two decades ago.

Apparently the “one drop” rule is obsolete, unless a mixed race person collides with the wrong officer of the law. Still, I think that race should matter in endorsements, especially when history is about to be made. Rushern Baker and Isiah Leggett owe their constituents a more substantive explanation than the ones they have offered.

Julianne Malveaux is an economist, writer, and President Emerita of Bennett College. She can be reached at juliannemalveaux.com.

Jailing Educators for 'Cheating to the Test'

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Eleven Atlanta teachers have been convicted of altering student test scores on standardized tests. They are charged with racketeering and conspiracy. The much-celebrated Superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools Beverly L. Hall was among the indicted but was too ill to stand trial. She died March 2.

Another group of teachers, principals and administrators took plea bargains. A total of 178 people were accused of taking part in the cheating “scam” and in 2011 Hall reminded observers that “we have over 3,000 teachers in Atlanta,” and just a few were part of the cheating scandal. She also denied having any knowledge of the cheating. Until her illness, she insisted that she wanted to stand trial and clear her name.

In what was described as the largest cheating scandal in the nation’s history, District Attorney Paul L. Howard Jr. prosecuted the educators under a law originally designed to snare organized crime figures. Of the 12 defendants, 11 were convicted of racketeering, a felony punishable up to 20 years. One defendant, Dessa Curb, a former elementary school teacher, was acquitted. Those 11 convicted were taken straight from the courtroom to jail. Sentencing should take place this week. On top of the 20 years maximum sentence for racketeering, they could be convicted on other charges including making false statements. It is interesting to note that most of these teachers are African American.

You can serve as few as 15 years for second-degree murder in Georgia, and as little as a year for involuntary manslaughter. Further, most convicted offenders get a day or even months to go home and straighten out their affairs before reporting to prison. But not this group of educators. These Atlanta teachers aren’t the only teachers involved in similar cheating scams. A year ago, 130 Philadelphia educators were accused of cheating. In September, several were ordered to stand trial. Why have those who chose a low-paid and little-regarded profession stoop to cheating on standardized tests? Are they judged by the number of students who pass these flawed tests, and the number who fail? Is there a culture of cheating in too many of our nation’s schools? Is there a culture of “teaching to the test”?

There is no excuse for the cheating in Atlanta, or Philadelphia, or in El Paso, where the school superintendent was imprisoned for reporting faulty test scores. While there is no excuse, it would be foolhardy to ignore the pressure that many face when federal laws mandate the use of standardized tests to “prove” that teachers and schools are doing their jobs.

In some districts, including Atlanta, teachers are given bonuses when their students do well on tests, and may be terminated when students do not. Even now, after revisions in teacher evaluation, half of teacher performance is based on standardized tests. Teachers can be reassigned, or schools can be closed if there are too many poor-performing students enrolled.

It makes sense to look at the many ways that the system encourages teachers to manipulate, if not outright cheat, when they administer standardized tests. Some schools spend days preparing students to take the tests. They aren’t spending days teaching the material students must learn, just the rote material needed to pass standardized tests. Passing a test in English and grammar may prove some proficiency, but does it prove that a student can write a paragraph or an essay, or engage in critical thinking?

When teachers spend too much time focused on standardized testing and not enough on course content, are they cheating students? In teaching to the test, are they cheating to the test? I’m not referring to the multiple erasures that investigators found on some of the Atlanta tests, or schemes that excluded poor-performing students from testing so average grades could be higher. I’m referring to teachers who choose to teach content that they know will show up on the test, or those who spend tens of hours in “practice sessions” with old copies of tests used as drills. From my perspective students are being cheated when there is too much emphasis placed on standardized testing.

One might ask how teachers and students can be evaluated without standardized tests, but there is an extensive body of research that suggests other methods of evaluating teachers, including classroom observation and curriculum review. Interestingly, an increasing number of colleges do not use standardized tests to evaluate students for admissions because they recognize such tests are flawed.

Obviously, there must be some way to measure progress among students, and proficiency among teachers. Still, standardized test results should not be tied to teacher compensation, or to threats of school closings. If standardized tests are one way to measure results, they must be combined with other measures to ensure fairness.

It makes sense, though, to ask if there is a racial dynamic to leading nearly a dozen teachers, mostly African American, out of a courtroom in handcuffs. And it makes sense to wonder if the charge of racketeering is being applied to harshly for what is clearly illegal misconduct. While teaching to the test is not against the law, isn’t it cheating our students nearly as much as the scams?

Julianne Malveaux is an economist, writer, and President Emerita of Bennett College. She can be reached at juliannemalveaux.com.

Let Members of Congress Live Like Other People

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(NNPA) Congressman Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) couldn’t bring his French bulldog, Lily, on an Amtrak train. So when Amtrak funding came up for a vote, he inserted a provision that required one car on an Amtrak train to be designated a “pet car.” Pet owners will pay a fee to bring their furry companions on the train, and there are size restrictions to the pets that can travel. Still, this new provision is seen as a victory for pet owners who ride trains.

Would this new provision have been proposed had Rep. Denham’s dog not been rejected from an Amtrak train? Republican members of Congress were warned by the Club for Growth and Heritage Action, fiscally conservative groups, that they should not vote to subsidize Amtrak. Would they have joined Democrats in voting $1.4 billion a year for the next four years had their Republican colleague made his pitch about pet travel?

All too often, good legislation is only supported when someone with a personal agenda is able to add an amendment to further that agenda. Perhaps the pet cars make sense, but there might not be a pet car had not Rep. Denham pushed the agenda for his Lily. I’m not perturbed that he made the personal political. I’m just wondering what might happen if more members of Congress had to experience the same things as the rest of us.

What if members of Congress were routinely rejected from receiving bank loans (unlikely given their average net worth of more than a million dollars and rising, compared to the $81,000 median wealth of a U.S. family)? Might they then not look at some of the rules that banks use to restrict access to capital? What if members of Congress were stopped and frisked occasionally? Might that not provoke examination of stop and frisk laws?

What if members of Congress had to sleep on the street for just one night? Might they not consider the way our nation deals with the homeless? What if they had to travel hundreds of miles to obtain an essential medical service? Might they not, then, reconsider restrictions against abortion, a medical service many women consider essential? What if members of Congress had to survive on food stamps for even a week? Would that increase their empathy for those, some employed full time, who rely on food stamps in order to eat?

Let’s not stop there.

What if members of Congress were required to spend a week, without staff and handlers, in a strange community? Take House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and leave him in East Oakland, Calif. wearing a hoodie and some jeans. Take Small Business Committee Chair Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and leave him in Fifth Ward Houston with just a few dollars in his wallet. Let Financial Services Chair Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) hang with a homie as his BFF in Ferguson, Mo. Put Darrel Issa (R-Calif.) in a housing project in Los Angeles. Let Homeland Security Chair Michael McCaul (R-Texas) spend a little time in New York’s Riker’s where civilization sometimes takes a break. Let Budget Chair Tom Price (R-Ga.) stand in line for a couple of hours to learn about unemployment benefits.

Will these legislators then be able to put their humanity on leave as they process their experiences?

The provision to fund Amtrak passed 316-101, and it wasn’t a perfect piece of legislation. Members of Congress ride the high-revenue Northeast corridor (Washington to Boston), so despite the warning from their influential fiscal conservative groups, they choose to continue to support Amtrak. Still, they didn’t support using revenues from the heavily traveled Northeast corridor to subsidize less-traveled routes in cities that are distant from airports.

This may mean that service in some smaller cities may be cut. Why not drop members of Congress into some of these cities and let them figure out how to get from one place to another? If we believe in the notion of a nation, we ought to have as strong an interest in the citizen in Washington as the citizen in a much smaller city. Those members of Congress who would privatize Amtrak have rejected the notion of national connections and equal access to transportation in favor of profligate profit seeking.

Members of Congress live a privileged existence. Some say they deserve it because of the service they render to our nation. But if their health care access were the same as ours, if their access to transportation were the same as ours, if their access to financial services were the same as ours, might they behave differently? If they spent just a minute with a gun pointed at their head because they had the temerity to jaywalk, if they were beaten because they dared ask questions of a police officer, if their 5-year-old child was handcuffed because she had a tantrum, would our laws be different?

Thanks to Congressman Jeff Denham, whose dog could not ride Amtrak, we know how personal inconvenience can turn into transformative legislation. If members of Congress spent a week living in a constituent’s shoes, how might our laws change?

Julianne Malveaux is an author and economist based in Washington, D.C.

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