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As Blacks Languish, Whither Go Civil Rights Groups?

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By Cynthia E. Griffin, Special to the NNPA from Our Weekly –

The belief that President Obama’s election heralded immediate change was so strong that shortly after his win, the blog Debate Link featured a Nov. 7, 2008, column entitled. “Do We Still Need Civil Rights After Obama?”

It is a penetrating question.

Rozalind Winstead, a San Diego-based compliance consultant who believes that civil rights organizations are definitely relevant today but need retooling, and possibly a return to the street agitation and marches that helped them desegregate the South in the early days of the Civil Rights Movement, says: “As a compliance consultant, I see inequities and disparities in employment practices, construction jobs, and public contracts,” she said. “Black people still do not benefit from the doors that were pushed open by civil rights organizations. If anyone thinks the civil rights era is over and those organizations are no longer needed, she is not paying attention to what is happening across the country.”

In spite of the election of Barack Obama, there are the very obvious economic indicators that racism might be (is) alive and well. The nation has spent the last few years slogging through an economic doldrums that has left millions unemployed, and as usual African Americans were the hardest hit.

In April, the nation’s unemployment rate was nine percent, or 13.7 million Americans out of work. In stark contrast, the unemployment rate for Blacks was 16.1 percent and 11.8 for Hispanics. The pattern displayed by these stats (African American joblessness at almost double the country’s rate) has remained consistent for years.

And, there is no way that these millions of African Americans could all be lazy, shiftless, and uninterested in working. Something else must be afoot, and conversations with those who study such issues would most likely point to the underlying racism that results in qualified Black job candidates being ignored in favor of sometimes less skilled Whites.

Maybe it’s racism. That insidious something that civil rights organizations have been fighting in America for decades. So perhaps groups like the NAACP, the National Urban League, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and Rainbow Push are needed—again.

They are needed, Winstead added, because of all the assaults on Blacks and the achievements of civil rights groups.

But, some wonder if they really are still relevant.

To a degree civil rights groups have stepped up to the plate, most notably in pointing out how national and local policies impact African Americans.

For example in July 2010, a group of prominent civil rights leaders joined forces to push for a federal education agenda that gives all students an “Opportunity to Learn.” Among their demands were to revamp the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act. In the framework developed they also wanted to support universal access to early education for students in all states, including recruiting and retaining highly effective educators.

There is also a need, the leaders said, to address long-standing resource inequities that exist nationwide. Additionally, they believe the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top education funding strategy is inherently problematic for high-need students and school districts.

“Because only a few states will receive competitive grants, most children in most states, particularly the rural South, will experience a real decrease in federal support, when inflation and state and local budget cuts are taken into consideration,” the civil rights leaders pointed out.

The Urban League each year produces a key report that highlights challenges people of African descent continue to face. Called the “State of Black America,” it is a look at a laundry list of indicators—economic, educational, housing, employment, quality of life, etc.—and how Blacks fare on each.

When it comes to relevance, the civil rights organizations themselves stress that they are still needed, but understand why people question their existence.

“There are struggles, battles, and victories to be won in the 21st century,” said newly elected SCLC president, Rev. Dr. Howard Creecy Jr., at the organization’s Atlanta headquarters. “We are near the promise land, see the promise land, sense the promise land but we are not in the promise land . . . SCLC must move beyond the old struggle of empowerment and equality to include equity.”

Creecy, whose family has long been part of the fabric of the Civil Rights Movement (his father was a college roommate to Ralph Abernathy) describes equity as “more than riding on the bus; more than driving the bus; we are ready to own the bus franchise.”

The idea is to give Blacks a chance to participate in the economic life of America, said Creecy, who acknowledged that many people think the Civil Rights Movement has transcended the street and gone into the suites.

“That ivory tower mentality, skyscraper approach ignores the fact that there is more homelessness and hunger in America today than 40 years ago. There is more unemployment and underemployment in the Black community than 40 years ago; that in the contiguous Southeastern states of the U.S.A., more African American males are in a relationship with the criminal justice system than were enslaved in 1860. It’s just incredible.”

Creecy places the blame for SCLC’s current low level of recognition within the larger community on the fact the organization “became sleepy for a few years.”

Khalid Abdullah Tariq Al-Mansour, J.D., author of “Betrayal By Any Other Name: 300 Years of Black and Hispanic Leadership” poses a more stinging indictment of civil rights organizations and/or Black leaders.

He believed groups like the NAACP and the Urban League appointed themselves as leaders, and while they espoused concern for the Black masses, really did not believe they were capable of being redeemed or civilized. Instead, Al-Monsour said they advocated for social programs that do just enough to keep 85 percent of African Americans poor while the upper echelon and middle class benefit from jobs affiliated with managing these programs.

Al-Mansour also writes that while civil rights organizers wanted to be seen as representing the masses, in general they did not necessarily want to be among them.

Like SCLC, which was patterned on Martin Luther King Jr. and his nonviolent protest tactics, the NAACP earned some of its civil rights stripes marching in the streets, but today that is not necessarily a big part of how the organization operates.

“The NAACP, at 102, still stands as the premier civil rights organization seeking to ensure equality and justice for all people. We are out there leading advocacy efforts in all areas including health, education, and economic prosperity,” says Roslyn M. Brock, chair of the NAACP national board of directors. “While you may not see us marching in the streets as often as we used to, we are in the White House, congressional offices, and state capitols advocating on behalf of all citizens.”

According to Stefanie Brown, the NAACP national field director/director of the youth and college division, despite the existence of a national office, people have to remember that the association is really comprised of local chapters staffed by volunteers who see a pressing need in the community. “When you think about your everyday life and schedule, and think about some people out there, who in addition to their everyday lives take time to volunteer on behalf of the NAACP, you can understand why sometimes you call (a local chapter office) and people don’t get right back you.”

According to Brock, the current focus of the NAACP is “on ending the cycle of poverty affecting so many Americans and fostering increased prosperity. In order to do that we must ensure that our leaders are smarter in their policy creation—passing laws that go beyond the immediate need for job creation, and also help erase racial and ethnic disparities in economic security and opportunity. We advocate for our country to make smart investments in education and innovation that will allow us to compete in the global marketplace. We know we cannot simultaneously achieve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness while being too sick to go to work, not being able to see a doctor. and deciding whether or not to pay a mortgage, rent, student loan or a payday lender. It is the NAACP that has and continues to remind this country of its obligation to its people to affirm America’s promise,” Brock said.

The NAACP’s Brown added that what she finds particularly exciting about the organization today is the youth engagement.

“Youth membership is the fastest growing segment in the volunteer base. We are seeing young people who want to get involved, because they realize that all we fought for in the Civil Rights Movement that we haven’t achieved those victories.”

By youth Brown means those under age 25, and she says that essentially they are using the same tactics as have been traditionally used by the organization—mass mobilization.

“Many of the youth are engaged in civic engagement work,” Brown explained. “They are doing voter registration; voter turnout; working to educate their peers; they put on forums and go to city council meetings.”

Perhaps the biggest difference between contemporary youth and the volunteers of the past is that they use social networking as a primary organizing tool.

Additionally, Brown said the association is working to train a new generation of leaders, and one of the ways this happens is through the 5-year-old Leadership 500 summit the organization holds annually. This year’s event takes place at the end of the month in Hollywood, Florida, and is already sold out.

SCLC is also being buoyed the presence of youth and is going back to its traditional support base, said Creecy.

“Some days I come to work and look around the office and think I’m the only one who shaves,” joked the SCLC president, pointing out that his office is staffed by young, bright Ivy League and other university grads, as well as those young people who have graduated from “the university of adversity.”

“This is the new team that makes up the core and backbone of SCLC today. They are from Morehouse, your house and no house. They are from Ivy League schools, are trained theologians, and trained attorneys. Some also have firsthand experience of what it means to be hungry and homeless.”

As part of its effort to retool, Creecy said is stressing three points—credibility, visibility, and viability. The organization is also reaching back and out to its traditional base: churches, sororities, fraternities as well as corporations and civic partners across the nation.

“Historically all the social justice groups had slightly different niches. The NAACP was always about education and litigation . . . SCLC was always a grassroots civic organization. But, what happened is we disconnected from our base . . . churches, labor, and students. We are intentionally going back to our base. That is why [we] have the 100,000 church outreach program. That’s why we’re meeting with labor. Dr. King died fighting for workers rights.

“That’s why we invited 100 college students (from leadership) at HBCUs to our national conference . . . we want to re-establish our grassroots base. That is our No. 1 priority.”

Doing all this takes financial resources, something these civil rights groups are perpetually in search of. Sometimes they are criticized for the way they obtain the resources—from corporate supporters whom they later may have to take to task for actions that negatively impact their constituents.

But every single representative echoed in some way the NAACP’s Brock: “The NAACP has never been afraid to address corporations and organizations that have discriminatory practices. In many instances, it is our existing relationships with these institutions that allow us to sit at the table and assist them in fixing those policies.”

OW Contributor Art Cribbs provided interviews and research for this story.

Chief Judge Belvin Perry, Jr.'s Role in the Casey Anthony Trial

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By Rhetta Peoples, Special to the NNPA from The Florida Sun –

ORLANDO - The American justice system has often been scrutinized for being one-sided or biased when it comes to justice.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice, African Americans make-up more than 38% of national prison inmates, who are also predominantly male. However, the U.S. Census Bureau reports Black people are only approximately 14% of the U.S. population.

A Chief Judge in Central Florida is proof that even national statistics have exceptions.

Often referred to as the “Judge’s Judge”, Chief Judge Belvin Perry, Jr., of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, is the highly respected African American judge with a lead role in one of the most highly publicized court cases in history. Judge Perry received his Juris Doctor from Thurgood Marshall School of Law and received both his Bachelor of Science degree in History and Masters of Education from Tuskegee University.

Judge Perry has served as Chief Judge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court since 2001 and is a member of the Florida Bar, Orange County Bar Association, Texas Bar Association, and Trial Court Budget Commission. Perry said, “I’m humbled and grateful for the confidence of my fellow judges in re-electing me to this position.”

The irony of his position is significant in the overall view of criminal justice in America because African American men highly populate U.S. prisons and jails. Specific to the Casey Anthony case, it is rare to see White women being a part of statistics that have been dominated by African American men in what is sure to be one of America’s most historical and watched cases.

Judge Perry is not only an icon in the African American community but also an inspiration to African American men. His direct manner and voice has been the subject of commentaries and radio mocks because of his southern accent or lack of what broadcasters may call a “General American Speech”, like that of President Barack Obama or General Colin Powell and is typically what mainstream Americans expect to hear from a person of a higher position.

However, journalists and talk show hosts neglect the real issues when they focus on the accent. Dr. Cornel West, Attorney Willie Gary and the late Attorney Johnny Cochran, among others, also spoke with a certain flare of their culture yet, each left footprints in their areas of expertise.

Judge Perry is set to preside over the trial in which Anthony is charged with first-degree murder charge of her 2-year old daughter Caylee Anthony, who had not been seen for more than a month before she was reported missing by her grandmother, Cindy Anthony, after she admitted to smelling an odor similar to that of a “dead body” in her Casey Anthony’s car.

Months later, Caylee was found dead only a short distance from the Anthony family home. The child’s death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner, even though the cause of death remains undetermined.

Anthony became a suspect after she neglected to report her daughter missing, exhibited strange behavior, searched numerous times online for chloroform, an ingredient in children’s medicine that is potentially hazardous, law enforcement found a mysterious stain in the back of her car that resembles a toddler in the fetal position and she gave authorities a vivid description of “zanny the nanny”, a female baby-sitter who she claimed mysteriously disappeared with her daughter. To date, none of her allegations have turned out to be credible.

Anthony still maintains her innocence, claiming she was protecting her daughter from people who she claimed threatened to hurt her and her family if she were to report the child missing.

Defense attorney Jose Baez has filed several motions requesting to dismiss key evidence from the trial, including the infamous stain that appears to resemble a child in the fetal position found in the back of Anthony’s car. Judge Perry ruled the evidence could be admitted into evidence. Also, Judge Perry denied the request of the defense to exclude the expert opinion testimony of Dr. David Hall, a Botanist who testified that he analyzed fragments of roots from the area in which the victim’s body was recovered.

Recently, Judge Perry denied the defense motion to exclude alleged identification of the chemical composition of human decomposition odor, or testimony relating to air, carpet samples or paper towels tested by Oakridge Laboratories.

Judge Perry is not only known as a well-respected judge, but also for his days as a prosecutor. His reputation as a sound prosecutor was solidified in what came to be known as the Black Widow trial, in which Judy Buenoano was sentenced to death by electric chair for the 1971 murder of her husband. She was also convicted for the murder of her son and attempted murder of her fiancé in 1983. She was also believed to be responsible for the 1978 death of her boyfriend in Colorado.

The Court, under the direction of Judge Perry, kept the location of the selection of the jury unknown until the actual day of jury selection. Currently, the jury is being chosen in Pinellas County, an area located on the outskirts of Tampa, Florida. Reportedly, there are four African Americans currently in the jury pool.

Once the jurors are selected, they will be transported to the Orlando area where they are expected to stay in area hotels for the duration of the trial, which is expected to take up to eight weeks. To date, Judge Perry has dismissed dozens of jurors based on conflicts with the case. He said, “I do not want to have to do this again,” respectfully referring to not having the taxpayers or the court spend time, energy, and money to retry this case. Perry said, “I am not naïve enough to think we’ll encounter no one who has heard this case, but the goal is to find people who have not been oversaturated with the media.”

More than 600 media credentials were requested for this case. The Florida Sun will be in the courtroom and will report on the trial. Stay current with the print publication, electronically at floridasunreview.com, and on Twitter and Facebook.

Recession Makes Renting a Nightmare for Low Income

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By Nisa Islam Muhammad, Special to the NNPA from the Final Call –

The Washington family knew home ownership was light years away. Unemployment and bad credit had left them barely able to do more than join the legions of renters across America. Then it hit them, they were barely making enough to even rent.

“It's just really hard out here,” James Washington told The Final Call. “I lost my job and then my wife lost her job. I'm working now and she has a part time job. We have four kids. A one bedroom just won't do but that's about all we can afford.”

The Washington's are a prime example of new research that shows American renters on average must earn at least $18.46 an hour to afford a modest apartment, yet the average renter makes just $13.52 an hour according to “Out of Reach 2011,” a report released annually by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

The study shows the mismatch between the rents available across the country and what low income renters can afford.

According to the coalition, more than 38 million households rent their homes, 1.9 million more than in 2007. The current rate of homeownership (66.5 percent) is now at the lowest level since 1998.

With the foreclosure crisis and recession on the one hand, an aging baby boomer population, and post baby boomers coming of age, the demand for rental housing is projected to grow.

“This year's Out of Reach report is a reminder that millions of Americans are still waiting for economic recovery,” said Senator Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) in the preface of the report. “People burdened by unaffordable housing have less money for other essential needs like transportation, food, and medicine—leaving too many families facing impossible choices at the end of every month.”

High unemployment, falling wages, and low rental vacancy rates driven by a post-recession return to renting have combined to put housing stability beyond the grasp of low income households across the country, according to the report.

“Another problem is that just as we're looking for a place in D.C., so are lots of other families who have experienced the same problems we have like unemployment,” said Sharron Washington.

According to the report, in the District of Columbia, the average rental rate for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,461-a-month. In order to afford this rent and utilities, without paying more than 30 percent of income on housing, a household must earn $4,870 monthly or $58,440 annually. Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this level of income translates into a housing wage of $28.10-an-hour.

However, in D.C., a minimum wage worker earns an hourly wage of $8.25. In order to afford the Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment, a minimum wage earner must work 136 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. Or, a household must include 3.4 minimum wage earners working 40 hours per week year-round to afford a two bedroom, said the report.

According to Out of Reach 2011, the national two-bedroom average rent is $960 per month. A household must earn $38,400 annually in order to afford that rent, the report said. Other key findings include: The two-bedroom housing wage tops $30 in Hawaii, and is over $20 in seven states, California, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Arkansas.

In 2011, the estimated average wage for renters in the United States is just $13.52, a significant decline from $14.44 in 2010.

At the federal minimum wage of $7.25, a household would have to work 102 hours each week to afford the national average for a two-bedroom home.

Much attention has been paid to the effect of unemployment on foreclosure rates. But, the central finding of this report is that the housing crisis is the most severe for low income people.

“Out of Reach 2011 shows that simply having a job doesn't guarantee you will be able to afford even to rent,” said Sheila Crowley, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

The coalition has called on Congress to fund the National Housing Trust Fund, which would provide communities with funds to build, rehabilitate, and preserve rental homes to end the housing struggle of low-income people. This program is not yet funded.

North Carolina Groups Fight for Health Disparities Outreach

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By Sommer Brokaw, Special to the NNPA from The Charlotte Post –

Outreach to eliminate health disparities including the more severe progression of diseases such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS can wind up saving taxpayers money, but community organizers say that their funding to do this is being threatened.

Recently in Raleigh, leaders from community-based health organizations, faith-based health advocacy groups, and legislators gave remarks on the importance of these groups maintaining this funding.

A budget provision was recently proposed for funding for the Community-Focused Eliminating Health Disparities Initiative to provide grants-in-aid to the local health department. The funding is used to close the gap in the health status of African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and American Indians compared to Whites.

Specifically, the grants are supposed to focus on the use of preventative measures to eliminate or reduce disparities in infant mortality, heart disease, cardiovascular disease, asthma, cancer, diabetes, and other conditions that disproportionately affect minorities.

Sharon Elliott Bynum, co-founder and executive director, CAARE, Inc. said that before they went into the press conference, a representative told them that State Rep. Beverly Earle was able to offer an amendment to the proposal. This amendment says that the CFEHDI grants could also go to community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, and American Indian tribes in addition to the local health departments. The N.C. Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities coordinates the grants program.

Elliott-Bynum said that that this funding is especially important because the OMHHD is one of the only state agencies that have made a concerted effort to disseminate money into community organizations, faith-based organizations, and American Indian tribes.

The budget provision with the amendment is before the N.C. House, but still has to get through the State Senate. A State House proposal also calls for an 11 percent cut to N.C. OMH administration and five positions. Director Barbara Pullen-Smith declined comment until the budget is finalized.

Elliott-Bynum said that a premise for the press conference was a letter that she received from Ashley Rozier, a community planner and organizer in Fayetteville.

“It’s imperative that the $3 million previously allocated to the CFEHDI to provide grants-in-aid is targeted to community-based organizations [CBOs] not the local health departments,” Rozier wrote in an email to Elliott-Bynum. “The original purpose of these resources was generated because there existed a major portion of the minority community that was not receiving timely and culturally appropriate services from their local health department.”

He continued: “Available services to males throughout this state are all but absent within the local health department system. Most CBOs as compared to the local health departments have minimal administrative overhead resulting in a greater amount of the resources actually being directed to patient and community services.”

Rozier, CEO of the Cape Fear Regional Bureau for Community Action, said CBOs are uniquely positioned to address health disparities because of their “non-traditional approach” to reach people on nights and weekends. In contrast, local health departments operate on traditional hours typically around 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

In addition to reaching the poor, who Rozier said may not be able to afford to take off work to get to the doctor during traditional hours, CBOs have advocates who can go out and talk to at-risk individuals and test them for HIV.

“We have people who are former drug dealers or prostitutes, but have changed their life,” he said. “Now they have training and schooling, and now they’re able to go back to the community and speak their language.”

He added: “People complain so much about the health care system being overwhelmed. We need to face it. If you don’t go out and inform the poor and also do early screening and early diagnosis we’re going to take care of it one way or another. Prevention and early screening is the best.”

Elliott-Bynum also said CBOs must be included because they are in a unique position to address health disparities. “Because no health department in the state will be able to reach the amount of people and get inroads we’ve been able to do with our connections and because of our positions in communities and relationships in the county,” she said “We’re just really troubled that this is the climate of things.”

Her non-profit organization, CAARE, offers a holistic program of case management, substance abuse treatment, Veterans Administration traditional housing, and the Jeanne Hopkins Lucas Education and Wellness Center.

Elliott-Bynum said that the grant helps CAARE provide free mammograms to screen for breast cancer and pap smears to screen for ovarian cancer.

The CFEHDI grants-in-aid are awarded in the memory of recently deceased members of the General Assembly, including former Rep. Pete Cunningham of Charlotte, who died last year. Elliott-Bynum said that the proposed cut in grants-in-aid to CBOs – including a center named after Lucas, who died from breast cancer – has been “a slap in the face.”

Rozier added: “The importance of this is not a race issue this is a human issue. It affects everyone.”

Has Donald Trump Trumped Himself with 'The Blacks'?

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OPINION-EDITORIAL

By TaRessa Stovall, Special to the NNPA from thedefendersonline.com –

His headline-making announcement that he’d seek the GOP nomination for the 2012 presidential race, distinguished by an obsessive insistence on seeing President Barack Obama’s original birth certificate to establish American citizenship increased the ratings for his NBC reality show, Celebrity Apprentice, and provided rich fodder for pundits and comics alike.

His popularity has seesawed in recent weeks. Talking Points Memo, stated that Trump’s 15 seconds as “frontrunner in the Republican primary is over, according to a [Public Policy Polling] PPP poll released on Tuesday. One month ago, a handful of surveys showed Trump trouncing the GOP field, leading all comers by as much as a nine-point margin. But now, after a month of bruising press coverage, the latest PPP poll shows that Trump’s support has quickly dried up, as he’s dropped back to a tie for fifth place,” or eight percent, after Mike Huckabee (19 percent), Mitt Romney (18 percent), Newt Gingrich (13 percent), and Sarah Palin (12 percent), and tied with Ron Paul (eight percent). PPP polls Republican registered voters nationwide.

“That’s a stunning turnaround from one month ago, when Trump led PPP’s national survey with 26 percent to Huckabee’s 17 percent,” Talking Points Memo reports, adding that Trump’s “sudden downfall” might be due in part to “the fact that the birther population, a group Trump heavily courted by insisting that Obama release his long-form birth certificate, was cut in half” when the document was revealed.

Tom Jensen of PPP wrote on the company blog that, “As Trump got more and more exposure over the last month Republicans didn’t just decide they weren’t interested in having him as their nominee —they also decided they flat don’t like him.”

Meanwhile, for Black people, Trump had other proclivities to consider.

After branding himself as vehemently anti-Obama and taunting the public with promises of a 2012 presidential run, Trump famously trumpeted his “great relationship with the Blacks,’ on a Talk 1300 AM radio show in Albany N.Y. on April 14.

Trump’s “great relationship” claim was in response to radio host Fred Dicker’s reference to a Quinnipiac Poll showing strong support for Obama from 95 percent of Blacks in New York State.” Trump deemed that statistic “frightening,” according to USA Today, which stated that “Trump has said he will decide by June whether to seek the GOP presidential nomination in 2012.”

What could drive The Donald to leave the business world? “Trump is discouraged with the way the US is being run right now, and feels that we are no longer respected the way we used to be respected, and if we keep going like this, within 10 years China is going to overtake us easily,” Bloomberg News Service reported on May 2. “In my mind, I have already decided,” Trump, 64, said in an interview. “I am going to announce. But I can’t do anything until the [Celebrity Apprentice] show ends.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s birther grandstanding was interpreted by some as thinly-disguised racism. Past actions reveal him to be, if not overtly racist, then seemingly two-faced when it comes to African Americans.

On the one hand, Trump described his dream of an America free of “racism, discrimination against women, or discrimination against people based on sexual orientation,” in his 2000 book/political manifesto, The America That We Deserve. According to The Huffington Post, “he once donated office space to [Jesse} Jackson’s civil rights group, The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, he likes to pal around with African-American celebrities such as P. Diddy and Lenny Kravitz and he once hosted an NAACP convention party.”

On the other hand, as The Huffington Post points out, “Trump has been called out several times for racial insensitivity by former co-workers and civil rights activists. In 1991, Trump was accused of making racial slurs against black people in a book written by John R. O’Donnell, former president of Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, called Trumped! O’Donnell wrote that Trump once said, in reference to a black accountant at Trump Plaza, ‘laziness is a trait in blacks.’ He also told O’Donnell: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it!’”

After the 1989 rape of a White female jogger in Central Park, Trump took out full-page newspaper ads calling for the African-American teen suspects (all of whom were exonerated) to be given the death penalty.

Back in 1973, Trump Management Corporation was sued by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for racial discrimination because he allegedly refused to rent to African Americans, giving them false information about prices, conditions, and availability of rental units in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. After holding a news conference to claim that the charges were “absolutely ridiculous,” and telling The New York Times, “We never have discriminated and we never would. He then counter-sued the DOJ for $100 million in defamation damages, then settled the case, but apparently failed to change his ways, since three years later the DOJ again charged Trump Management with discriminating against Blacks to the point where the NYC human rights commission was called in to investigate.

According to VLAD TV, Trump “also talked of running for office in 1988 and 2000, but backed out because of his speculated fear of losing or being humiliated.”

In response to Trump’s birther tirade, Change.org launched an online petition to let the advertisers on Trump’s hit reality show, The Celebrity Apprentice, [who] “are directly supporting the divisive rhetoric of Donald Trump and contributing toward the negative and hostile political climate in this country … know that viewing public will not buy or support companies who are actively supporting the Donald Trump’s ‘birther rhetoric’ and “politics of fear” in this country . The corporate sponsors of “Celebrity Apprentice” are Enterprise Rental Car Company, Clorox Bleach Company, Sprint-Nextel Cellphones, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and The Walt Disney Company, and Groupon. That petition had more than 3,000 signatures at press time. And it seems to be working: Groupon stopped advertising on the show website so as not to intentionally upset part of their customer base.

Karen Hunter, a publisher and contributor to MSNBC, has called for African Americans to boycott Celebrity Apprentice in response to Trump’s trash-talking about President Obama. “Hunter recently called in to the popular Tom Joyner Morning Show to spread the word about the boycott,” reports Atlanta Professional Magazine. “The reactions were mixed. Some listeners agreed to boycott the television show, but others refused. Tom Joyner Morning Show co-host, comedian J. Anthony Brown, in particular opted out of the boycott because he did not want to miss the show down between feuding Celebrity Apprentice contestants NeNe Leakes and Star Jones.”

The New York Times noted in early April that “Something predictable happens to the ratings of Donald J. Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice on NBC when he hints at running for president: They rise. And when he talks about President Obama’s birth certificate, they really rise … Mr. Trump has a history of simultaneously talking up his presidential ambitions while promoting various Trump-branded goods.”

The general consensus in the social media and blogosphere is that Trump’s promised presidential bid is a publicity stunt to boost ratings for Celebrity Apprentice. “But while Trump has gotten plenty of airtime by suggesting, wrongly, that the president was not born in the United States, Nielsen ratings for Celebrity Apprentice are lower than they were a year ago—and dropping fast,” according to The Atlantic. “One reason Trump’s audience is abandoning him may be that, according to demographic research of primetime television viewers provided exclusively to The Atlantic by National Media Inc., a firm that places political ads on television, the audience for “Celebrity Apprentice” is among the most liberal in primetime television (see graphic).

“Rather than add viewers, Trump foolishly appears to be driving them away,” states The Atlantic.

On the other side of the TV ratings coin, MSNBC, though obviously not objective, reported that on May 2, “a night dominated by President Barack Obama’s speech announcing Osama bin Laden’s death, Donald Trump eked out a minor victory as “Celebrity Apprentice” won Sunday’s top ratings slot, according to preliminary numbers.”

Popularity polls and TV ratings aside, Trump’s real capital is his brand, combined with his brash persona, and ability to have everyone pay attention to what he says and does, whether or not they respect or take him seriously. He is a power player, able to toy with the media—they do his bidding when they broadcast his antics—and whether he runs for president is less important than who he throws his weight and support behind.

When it comes to Black people, are Trump’s comments and actions merely clever branding strategies for his various projects and ambitions? Is he simply playing to ratings and polls; or is he cashing in on the incalculable value of controversy, especially in the Information Age. In any case, it’s important to remember that Donald Trump, the man, the mogul, the brand, the icon, and the franchise represents a very real and increasingly organized segment of America who seem to want anyone except President Obama in the White House.

Or, as rapper Snoop Dogg opined at the Trump Comedy Central roast last month about Trump’s quest to take over 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, “Why not? It wouldn’t be the first time he pushed a Black family out of their home.”

TaRessa Stovall is Managing Editor of The Defenders Online.

 

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