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Julianne Malveaux

Connecting the Past with the President

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(NNPA) One hundred and fifty years ago, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. It was a flawed document that freed enslaved people in Confederate areas that he did not control. At the same time, it was a progressive document because it initiated discussion about the “freedom” Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteen Amendments.

One hundred years later, in 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. riveted the nation with his “I Have A Dream” speech during the August 28 March on Washington. Many will remember that he said, “I have a dream that one day people will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Somehow people forget that in the same speech he said, “We have come to the nation’s capital to cash a check that has been marked insufficient funds.” If people said “cash the check” as often as they said “I have a dream,” we’d move more quickly forward in closing the economic gaps that African American people experience.

We’ve been doing this 50-year thing for the past couple years, and we’ll be doing it for another few. The “Greensboro Four” North Carolina A&T State University Students (with the help of Bennett College students, who are often ignored) sat in at Woolworth counter on February 1, 1960. The March on Washington happened 50 years ago. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, and beyond that the 60s will resonate for the next few years with commemorations and anniversaries.

These celebrations are important historical moments, but who remembers? The median age of the population in the United States is about 37 years old. Many of these folks remember the civil rights moment through twice and thrice told tales. Those who are under the median age see the civil rights movement as something like a fable, something they heard about, but doesn’t really matter to them. Many of these young people see themselves as “post-racial.” They hang out with their peers, race notwithstanding. They have never experienced discrimination. Even when they experience it, they are slow to embrace it. They are post-racial, whatever that means.

If some of these young people had been immersed in history, they might understand why the Black unemployment rate is twice that of the White rate. If they had books and speeches by Dr. King, who spoke of racial disparities in much of his work, they would understand the many ways the struggle continues. But popular culture suggests that when Black folks and White folks can both act extreme fools on reality shows (I think I blanked out after about a minute of “Bad Girls Club”); there is some measure of equality.

There has been a rich history and legacy of struggle and protest that has been swallowed by the notion of post-racialism in the first decades of this century. It is laudable that President Obama will use both the Bible of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and that of President Abraham Lincoln, connecting the 150-year-old dots. President Obama’s choice in using both Bibles in this anniversary year is a testament to his sensitivity and ability to juggle the tightrope he must manage as both president of the United States and the first African American president of our nation.

Most folks 50 and older get it. What about those who are both younger than our nation’s median age and unschooled in the nuances of history? Is our conversation about race in America stuck in some kind of time warp, where we are unable to speak cross generationally because we have extremely different memories, recollections, and knowledge about that which happened fifty years ago?

We do our nation a disservice when we duck and dodge our racially tinged history. We have to grace and embrace the past in order to move forward with our future.

Somehow this is a message that needs to be transmitted to young people, especially in this 150th year after emancipation, this 50th year after the March on Washington, this season of embracing and celebrating our history.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

Boehner: Intemperate, Ignorant and Out of Control

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(NNPA) Congressman John Boehner was re-elected speaker of the House of Representatives with a narrow vote. Needing 218 votes, he barely clinched it with 220. His narrow vote reflects the fact that no Democrat would vote for him and that many Republicans are disillusioned of him. Perhaps it also reflects the fact that he has so poorly comported himself that he does not deserve reelection.

Most folks who curse do it behind closed doors. In deference to their position, they attempt to parse their public statements to reflect the dignity of the office they hold. Not Mr. Boehner, who dropped the “f” bomb at Senator Harry Reid not once, but twice, in the middle of fiscal cliff negotiations. To his credit, Senator Reid did not respond, but behaved as if he perhaps did not hear the out-of-control Boehner. The Speaker of the House of Representatives comported himself as intemperate, ignorant and out of control.

The fact that Boehner appeared out of control is no surprise to those who have observed him over these past two years. He leads with bombast and bluster then backs down into defensiveness and profanity. Last December, he refused to compromise with President Obama on fiscal matters surrounded by a defiant set of Republicans who agreed with him. When he backed down, he was surrounded by not a soul, virtually abandoned by his party.

Déjà vu. After pontificating, and offering a nonsensical Plan B for a House vote, his party rebuked him and he had tuck tail and sit down at the negotiating table. No wonder he managed so much ire that he cursed the Senate Majority leader.

You can cuss in public and you can cuss in private. The fact that Boehner chose to kick New York to the curb as a big an “F” bomb as the one he offered Senator Reid. After being promised that relief for Hurricane Sandy was forthcoming, Boehner broke his promise and pushed the vote back to the 113th Congress. Only after Democrats and Republicans, governors and Congressional representatives excoriated him on the House floor, did he agree to vote on $9 billion plan on January 5, with another $53 billion up for vote on January 15.

Meanwhile, many New Yorkers are still living in the backs of their cars, lacking electricity and other basic needs, eating in soup kitchens, bathing in shelters, no better off than they were when the hurricane hit. Have we not learned lessons from Hurricane Katrina? Can we not get relief to people just a bit sooner? Must New Yorkers be treated as pawns in this partisan nonsense? Should Boehner have the right to metaphorically fling the “f” bomb at them?

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, have expressed their righteous rage at Congressional chicanery. This has not moved a Congress that bootstrapped fiscal cliff legislation with goodies for Puerto Rican rum producers, some Hollywood moguls, and other assorted pork. The day of the earmark has supposedly expired, but those with special interests spent more time promoting them than they did no repairing the damage from Hurricane Sandy.

Congressman Peter King (R-N.Y.) calmed down after a private meeting with Boehner. He had it absolutely right before he calmed down though. Then he raised questions about the way Congressional representatives run to New York for fundraisers and support, but have not rushed to support New York and New Jersey in this crisis. While monies may yet be forthcoming, it should have hit New York, Connecticut and New Jersey at least a month ago. And while $9 billion is seemingly assured, with a new Congress, the affected areas may be lacking much longer.
I’d bet that if one of Boehner’s Ohio’s eighth district constituents complained about sleeping in a car, he might care more. I am sure he wouldn’t bristle and use profanity (or behave profanely) with those who presumably vote for him. But Boehner has abdicated all claims to decency in the past year or so. He has led a nonproductive and incompetent Congress, and tainted fiscal cliff negotiations with earmarks and set-asides. Why not an earmark for hurricane victims? Why not pure decency for his peer, Senator Harry Reid? Why not pretend to have good sense, even if you don’t. Can Boehner stoop any lower? Let’s see what other stunts he pulls as House Majority Leader of the 113th Congress.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

Mentoring, Hard Work and the Hook-Up

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(NNPA) How will African Americans improve our situation in 2013? Right now, we have higher unemployment than any other population in our nation, less wealth, higher school dropout rates, and more crime in our communities. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that African American communities had twice the number of negatives and half the number of positives in our country. While the numbers may have shifted somewhat, it is still true that we are more likely to experience negative consequences (teen pregnancy, incarceration, crime) and less likely to experience positives (college graduation, high net worth).

Those of us who focus on public policy will look at past discrimination and ways it manifests itself in the present. We will look at the way race-neutral public policy has a racial impact (for example, changing the terms of the Parent Plus loan hits wealth-poor, credit-challenged Black families disproportionately). We will suggest ways to close gaps, some of which may include ways that government investment, such as job creation and job training, can help close these gaps. And we will be right.

Whether we fall off the fiscal cliff (final negotiations are taking place even as I write this), the focus on the level of debt our nation faces suggests that tax reform will reduce tax deductions, some in ways that may increase income inequality, and that spending cuts are imminent. Many of these cuts will be in social programs and educational spending. Again, some of these cuts will widen, not narrow, the wealth and income gaps.

What does this mean for Black America in 2013? Pretend that it is Groundhog Day, if you saw the movie. The protagonist wakes up every day to the same day when everything happens the same way. If you keep doing what you have been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting. For Black American, this means that if we keep looking external without looking internal, not much will change for us.

Yes, it will change for some of us: Those who are educated, middle class, well networked and disciplined are likely to find significant opportunities in our stagnant economy because even stagnant economies churn and create new opportunities. But it won’t change much for those who are less educated, working class, un-networked and undisciplined, or some combination thereof. Education, networks, and discipline can be fixed. But few have an interest in fixing these things in Black America except for Black Americans. So what are we going to do?

Susan Taylor has been a passionate advocate of mentorship in the African American community. She began the work when she editor-in-chief at Essence magazine and left the magazine to expand her reach in that area. She continues to advocate mentorship and to teach us how to be mentors. Her work supports education, networking and discipline.

Similarly, in Southeast Washington, D.C., Cora Masters Barry leads the Recreation Wish List Committee and works with the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center to nurture more than 150 young people year-round (full disclosure – I am treasurer of the Wish List Board). Students are trained in physical fitness through tennis, and are encouraged in their academics through learning. Most board members have hands-on relationships with our young people, who are held to the highest standards. Again, this work supports education, networking and discipline.

Most historically Black colleges do the same thing, bringing corporate partners to campuses and exposing students to the many ways they can access employment opportunities. In many cases, the entire campus offers students engaged mentorship. Education, networking and discipline.

When people tell the story of the American Dream, they talk about the many ways that hard work will help someone transcend class. They talk about hard work. People who earn the minimum wage work hard. People who make ends meet on public assistance work hard. It’s not just about hard work. It’s about hard work – and the hook up.

A corporate leader who is a wonderful friend once said that she could use her position to hook up women and African Americans who needed a hand up. She also indicated that the hook up could help individuals, but we also, and always, need a hook in to public policy decisions that affect our nation.

That means we need a seat around every table where public policy is being made, whether on issues of race, or on issues that seem race-neutral. We should be talking about the deficit, about tax reform, about government spending. We should be talking about international affairs, about world areas of conflict, about our fluctuating currency. As long as we live in this flawed nation, all issues are Black issues.

Even with the hook in, we need to offer the hook up. That means embracing or mentoring a child. That means providing an opportunity to someone who is unemployed. That means supporting education through contributions to colleges, but also by providing help to individuals. It’s the same hymn book we’ve been singing from for more than a century. Now we need to sing with more energy.

Things won’t change in Black America unless some of us do. We need to both hook in and hook up!

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

Passionate about the Wrong Things

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(NNPA) I was in a cab just the other day when the driver chided me for not knowing football. He was a big Redskins (I call them the Deadskins because they need to change their name) fan, and was obsessed with RG III. I must confess that I did not know who RG3 III was until the driver informed me and told me that I was culturally deficient because I lived in Washington, D.C. and did not follow football.

I observed his passion as I would poke and probe at a sociological phenomenon. The brother was intense, focused, and annoyed by the fact that somebody, anybody, was not caught up in the football drama. At some point I became silent, to see how long the rant would last. And it lasted through the whole 20 minutes of my ride, through stalled traffic and long lights. The man was on a mission.

I understand that folks have to have valves to release the tension of everyday life. Maybe it’s sports, reading, or music. Still, I wonder if we could ever garner these passions for our children, for their needs, for ways that education can build a path to the future.

I’d be overjoyed if a taxi driver told me that he was so excited about education that he could not move. I’d be thrilled if one of them questioned me about education as intensely as he did about football. I could imagine the questions. Why are test scores so low? Why are children not going to college? Why are so many young Black men (and women, but men pose a special set of issues) alienated from the system? What can we do to provide job opportunities for them?

What if someone had passion for our eating habits? Nearly half of the Black population is obese because pork, grease, and artificial snacks are staples of some diets. Why don’t we make healthy living a priority and be as passionate about that as we are about football? Why can’t we teach about ways to be healthy?

What about housing? As African Americans are being put out of their homes, there have been feeble attempts to modify loans. Those who are working on this have insufficient resources, and just a fraction of those who qualify. Nearly $200 billion of Black wealth has been compromised by foreclosures, yet too many are silent about promises unfulfilled.

Shootings in Oregon and Connecticut are heartbreaking manifestations of the violence that pervades in our nation. Anybody with an attitude and a gun can shoot into a crowd and cause major damage. Why have a couple of fools targeted an elementary school in Connecticut leaving dozens dead. Why does the National Rifle Association work so hard to maintain the right to bear arms? Why aren’t more legislators working to limit this so-called right? Why do we continue to leave our population vulnerable to nuts with guns? I’d love to see some passion channeled to this issue? Why are we okay with these massacres?

I’m not so angry at the football (baseball, basketball) aficionados, but I am concerned that so much passion is channeled in one direction but not in others. The passion for sports is so rabid that I’ve listened to preachers pray for victory for their teams from their pulpits, never mind that those on the opposing team are God’s children, too. Can a preacher or two not only throw down on education but also provide vehicles for parishioners to get involved in educating our children? Passion and intensity are important elements of our lives. Without passion we fade into the periphery, ground down by the minutia of everyday life. Get kids to school, go to work, come home for dinner, and relax. If that isn’t your pattern, you’ve got one, and the only thing that pulls you out of pattern is passion.

There is nothing wrong with a passion for football. Can we channel some of that passion, though, that can transform our world by generating safety, education and job opportunities? That’s the kind of passion that could rock our world.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C-based author and economist.

What about Kasandra Perkins?

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(NNPA) By now, it’s old news that Kasandra Perkins was murdered by Kansas City Chiefs football player Jovan Belcher, who was her boyfriend and the father of her daughter. By now we’ve read about how great a teammate Belcher was, how dedicated to his girlfriend and daughter. We’ve read his hardscrabble story of moving from the University of Maine, hardly a football powerhouse, to a coveted slot in the NFL. Belcher has been humanized, even enshrined, as his friends have talked about him not having a violent bone in his body.

What about Kasandra? It has been disturbing that the news focused mostly on Jovan (yes, I know, he was the famous one), with a focus on Kasandra only later in the week. Her friends said they did not want her life to be overshadowed by the sympathetic coverage of Jovan.

While Jovan Belcher was clearly a troubled man, the bottom line is that Jovan Belcher murdered Kasandra Perkins. Not just shot her, he murdered her. And then he killed himself. Yes, this is a tragedy, but it is also a murder, so let’s not use euphemisms, let’s just call it what it is. The news reports that Belcher was angry because Kasandra Perkins went to a concert and came home at about one in the morning. But another report says that he was parked outside some other woman’s house in the middle of the night. Go figure.

What do we know about Kasandra Perkins? The 22-year-old woman from Texas aspired to be a teacher and was studying at a local community college. She had a 3-month-old child, Zoey. She made friends easily and worked with other wives and girlfriends of Chiefs players. She enjoyed going out with friends. There is probably lots more to her story, but it has been scantily reported.

Nobody knows what goes on in a relationship except those who are in it. So it is also disturbing to see Belcher’s friends take to the media to describe the relationship as troubled and to suggest that Kasandra is at fault for her own murder. According to some, she provoked her own murder by staying out late at night. Guess what? Belcher’s mother was caring for their infant. Sounds like a control issue to me.

Too often, men beat and even kill women when they step outside their sphere of control. Women are beaten or killed because they didn’t cook dinner, because they raised their voice, because they chose to spend time with friends or family, because, because. This violence does not know race, class or gender, though different groups have different levels of violence. While 1.5 million women experience domestic violence annually, African American women are 35 percent more likely than White women to be battered.

Without mentioning names, the Kansas City Chiefs called for a moment of silence for victims of domestic violence during the game that Jovan Belcher did not play. With football as the focus, they did not have the grace to mention Kasandra Perkins by name. It would have made a difference if they had. Despite the fact that Belcher was a member of the KC team, there is a villain and a victim in this incident.

This type of violence is such an epidemic that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed in 1994. The act established an office in the Department of Justice works to prevent violence, and allocated $1.6 billion to work on violence against women issues, including strengthening existing state laws and raising awareness of this issue. Now the law is up for reauthorization, and some Republicans are holding it up because they do not agree with protections for Native American women, immigrant women, and people in same-sex couples. We know that VAWA is effective. Since its passage, intimate partner violence has dropped by about 60 percent, but it didn’t save Kasandra Perkins. If nothing else, her brutal murder reminds us why this act is so important.

Jovan Belcher had a temper, drank heavily, and had at least eight guns. Some say he had suffered multiple head injuries playing football. That’s no excuse for a murder so brutal that he shot Kasandra nine times. And the stories about his supposed nonviolence is contradicted by some of his college behavior, including punching through a window when he was frustrated by a girlfriend who did not want to see him. This man was a serious candidate for anger management!

Kasandra Perkins isn’t the only woman who has been murdered by a husband or boyfriend. According to the Department of Justice, three women are killed by spouses or partners every day. I don’t want to hear about the tragedy of football player Jovan Belcher. I want to mourn Kasandra and the many women like her. And in her name, and in the name of others, we must all fight to get the Violence Against Women Act renewed.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

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