Justice for Rodney Reed! Family, supporters press Texas governor for new trial for man on death row

This Article was originally published in The Final Call BY BARRINGTON M. SALMON -CONTRIBUTING WRITER- | LAST UPDATED: NOV 14, 2019 – 10:18:58 AM

A crowd some of Rodney Reed’s family members estimated was about 1,000 people, recently gathered at the Governor’s Mansion in Austin, Texas demanding that Gov. Greg Abbott act to halt the execution of Mr. Reed in a controversial murder case. 

In the past several months, there has been a groundswell of support for Mr. Reed, 51, who has been on death row for 20 years. In 1996, he was charged with and convicted of the rape and murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites by an all-White jury.

Rodney Reed and his family have always maintained his innocence and his brother and family spokesman Roderick Reed said the family wants a stay of execution and a new trial.

Rodney Reed is scheduled for execution Nov. 20.

“All we want is a fair trial. That’s all we’re asking for,” Mr. Reed told The Final Call. “We want to be able to present witnesses and new evidence and clear his name … I believed he would have gotten off when he was on trial because we knew the truth. He and the rest of us as a family have always stood in that truth.”

Roderick Reed said he knew his brother and Ms. Stites had been in a relationship and had met Ms. Stites but because of the racial climate and the potential for backlash and retaliation, the couple had kept their relationship secret. Ms. Stites, at the time, was engaged to a police officer, Jimmy Fennell, who many believed was her killer.

Rally for Reed

The uncovering of new evidence, recent affidavits from witnesses that point to Mr. Fennell’s involvement in Ms. Stites’ death and enduring questions about details of the victim’s death necessitates a new trial, Mr. Reed’s supporters say.

Roderick Reed and his wife Wana Akpan recounted the isolation the family endured. The family approached local churches and civil rights organizations for help but was rebuffed, he said.

“The family had been turned down repeatedly by local clergy. The Nation of Islam was the only one present,” said Student Min. Robert L. Muhammad, who has been supporting the Reed family for about 17 years. “The family has been disappointed and dismayed but recently, we have seen a great outpouring of support recently that is very encouraging.”

Ms. Akpan concurred.

“We were shunned by their people, shunned by Black press,” she recalled. “When the family first went out to Black churches, one pastor said, ‘I wouldn’t touch this with a 10-foot pole.’ ” 

Both spoke of the Reed brothers—Robert, Ronald, Richard, Roderick, Ryan—being denied jobs because of their last names, and some older family members staying away from the family home for fear of being shot, ostracized or punished for their family ties.

Bastrop, Texas is 33 miles from Austin, the state capital and 85 miles from San Antonio. In 2017, the town had 8,802 residents. Min. Muhammad, Mr. Reed and Ms. Akpan described a small Southern town steeped in racism, with the typical American racial hierarchy of Whites on top, Latinos in the middle and Blacks languishing at the bottom. 

“Bastrop is racist but it’s lot different and deeper now,” Ms. Akpan said. “You don’t realize how deep it is because it’s almost second nature. It’s so deeply engrained in people. But it’s not like how it used to be. We have Confederate monuments on the courthouse lawn. Things may be getting better but there is always a sense of looming White supremacy and the racial hierarchy.”

Min. Muhammad, who heads Muhammad Mosque No. 64 in Austin, agreed. 

“Bastrop has a history of racism that existed there from the early 1900s to the ’70s and ’80s,” said Minister Muhammad, who was born and raised in nearby Austin, which is a considerably more liberal city.  

Mr. Reed said he knew his brother was dating Ms. Stites although that wasn’t common knowledge. His brother, his sister-in-law said, got caught up in the narrative of a Black guy was in relationship with White woman in a Southern town.

Staff at The Innocence Project, which is handling Mr. Reed’s case, and the Reed family have raised a number of troubling questions and highlighted a series of discrepancies which they say all add up to Mr. Reed being an innocent man railroaded by the criminal justice system. It includes discrepancies about the time of Ms. Stites’ death as well as, the fact that the murder weapon, a belt, has never been tested for DNA evidence; and the state’s three forensic experts’ admission on the record to errors in their testimony, which led to Rodney Reed’s conviction and death sentence. They have submitted affidavits that the original time of death is inaccurate, charging the timeline for Mr. Reed killing Stites implausible.

Further, renown forensic pathologists including Dr. Michael Baden, Dr. Werner Spitz, Dr. LeRoy Riddick, M.D., and Dr. Cyril Wecht, have all concluded that Rodney Reed’s guilt is medically and scientifically impossible; Mr. Reed and Ms. Stites were having a consensual sexual relationship although at the time of the trial, no one came forward to corroborate their relationship. Today, new witnesses including Stites’s cousin and a co-worker, Alicia Slater, have corroborated Rodney Reed’s claim that they knew that Reed and Stites were romantically involved for months after the murder, and Jimmy Fennell was the prime suspect in the case. Mr. Fennell’s best friend at the time of the crime, Bastrop Sheriff’s Officer Curtis Davis, has now revealed that Mr. Fennell gave an inconsistent account of where he was on the night of the murder.

Two witnesses have come forward in recent weeks and submitted signed affidavits that add to the mounting evidence against Mr. Fennell. These affidavits include testimony from an insurance salesperson who stated that Mr. Fennell threatened to kill Ms. Stites while applying for life insurance. The second witness was a deputy in the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at the time of the murder, who alleges Mr. Fennell made an alarming and incriminating statement at Ms. Stites’s funeral regarding her body. Then there is an alleged a confession by Mr. Fennell that came to light Oct. 29. Mr. Fennell served 10 years and was released from prison in 2018 after being convicted of assaulting a woman who was in his custody as a police officer. Arthur Snow, a former member of the Aryan Brotherhood and prison mate of Mr. Fennell, disclosed a conversation in which Mr. Fennell allegedly confessed to murdering Stacey Stites stating, “I had to kill my nigg**-loving fiancée.”

The prosecution’s only forensic evidence linking Rodney Reed to the crime was semen taken from Ms. Stites’s body, which was attributed to the consensual relationship between them. The prosecution used this to connect him to the murder and refute a consensual romantic relationship, but some testimony has been recanted and discredits the state’s case, The Innocence Project said.

“We identify as death penalty abolitionists,” Ms. Akpan said. “Gov. (Greg) Abbott has been silent. He’s aware of Rodney’s case but has not made any statement, said nothing about it. He may be waiting for the (state) Supreme Court to act.”

Ms. Akpan said there are many holes in this case and substantial doubt. 

“We want the state to give Rodney’s life back, show that he’s innocent,” she said. “The family wants them to stop the execution ASAP. Abbott can issue a stay and he has the power to direct this towards a new case.”

Rodney’s case has caught the attention of celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Kim Kardashian—who Ms. Akpan said has called, kept in touch and who is working behind the scenes along with rapper Meek Mill. Prison abolitionists, anti-death penalty advocates, ministers, priests and pastors have joined to lift their voices calling for Gov. Abbott to issue a stay of execution and order a new trial. Journalist and social justice activist Shaun King started a petition that had garnered more than 2 million signatures. 

Then on Oct. 10-11, Dr. Phil McGraw explored the case on his television show to consider Mr. Reed’s claims of innocence. 

“I don’t think it’s a question of whether he’s guilty or not guilty,” said Dr. Phil, who had an in-person interview with Mr. Reed, according to the Death Penalty Information Centre. I think the question is, has he had a fair trial with a full airing of all of the evidence. And I think the answer to that question, in my opinion, is not just ‘no’ but ‘hell no.’ ” 

The Innocence Project and Rodney Reed are seeking DNA testing of evidence that they say will exonerate him.  

Ms. Akpan described the conditions under which her brother-in-law has lived for the past two decades.

“He’s incredibly strong. God has allowed me to see and witness true strength,” she said. “I went to visit him. He was upbeat. He is in a 6-foot square foot cell 23 hours a day, 7 days a week. He’s a big man in small space. He has pretty severe sensory deprivation. He’s not allowed to hug his mother, family or friends since all this time. But despite all that he’s pretty positive.” 

She said Mr. Reed has no access to a computer, cell phone, or technology. He has supporters who reach out to him and that happens through his partner Judy Ann, who shares every day comments from his supporters and updates.

“He has family visits two hours a week. There’s a lot to get out because he’s trying to get everything out,” she said. “It can be a little tense sometimes. Rodney remains very strong and is being cautiously optimistic.”

Roderick Reed said his brother’s incarceration has been “a game-changer, life changing.” 

“Dealing with this for this amount of time is a life changer. It has changed our lives. We’ll never be the same,” he said. “But every day knowing the truth and that Rodney’s innocent and this experience has brought me to a whole other place in my mind.” 

Now, Roderick Reed said, he’s focused, looking forward to the day when his brother comes home.

“I’m very optimistic. He will be exonerated. We will have time to heal,” he concluded. 

Money, Power, Respect and Major High Court Case

BY BARRINGTON M. SALMON -CONTRIBUTING WRITER- | LAST UPDATED: NOV 6, 2019 – 10:18:39 AM

This article was originally published in The Final Call

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Media mogul Byron Allen poses for a picture, Sept. 5, in Los Angeles. The Supreme Court will hear arguments Nov. 13 in a $20 billion lawsuit Allen filed against Comcast, with the outcome also affecting a $10 billion case he filed against Charter Communications. If Allen wins, it will become easier for Black-owned businesses to bring and win civil rights lawsuits like his that allege discrimination in contracting.

WASHINGTON—Entertainment mogul Byron Allen said the genesis of a $20 billion lawsuit he filed against Comcast Corp. came from a conversation and a question posed to him by Obama administration officials.

Disgusted with the racism—veiled and otherwise—and tired of the institutional barriers put in place to economically stifle Blacks in the business sphere, he said he decided to file a lawsuit against cable giant Comcast and Charter Communications.

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Mr. Allen has offered scathing criticism of Comcast’s position and tactics. Their behavior has been racist and deeply disrespectful despite his being able to amass eight cable networks, 43 syndicated TV series, The Weather Channel, a movie studio and a movie distribution company, according to Mr. Allen.


That was in 2015. After a bruising four-year battle in the lower courts in which the Ninth Circuit court ruled twice in his favor, on Nov. 13 the case is slated to be heard in front of the justices in the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The Obama administration came to me and said some media companies wanted to get bigger, buy bigger assets,” Mr. Allen recently told the crew at The Breakfast Club, a hip hop-oriented radio and internet broadcast. “(They) said Comcast wanted to buy this and Charter wanted to buy that blah, blah, blah. They asked if they were good corporate citizens. I asked if they wanted the Hollywood answer or the real answer. They said they wanted the real answer so I told them, ‘Not no, but hell no,’ they’re not good citizens.”

“They said how do you figure? The industry spends $70 billion in licensing cable networks. Seventy billion dollars and African American-owned media get zero. And that’s not fair. They said we hear that a lot. They asked what I’m willing to do. They said people were afraid to speak up because of repercussions and I said I’ll speak up and do it in a way that it wouldn’t be a problem again. So I filed a lawsuit.”

Mr. Allen, who owns media assets he says total $1 billion, filed a federal lawsuit against Comcast and filed a $10 million lawsuit against Charter. The suit, filed in California, contends that Comcast racially discriminated against him when it refused to carry his cable-TV channels on its systems. He is also challenging the fact that Comcast spends $25 billion a year on licensing channels but less than $3 million of that pot is spent on “100 percent African American-owned media.”

While Mr. Allen hopes to win his case, there is growing speculation that a win could change the way discrimination is handled.

The lawsuit is causing increasing concern among civil rights organizations who worry that if Comcast wins, the Trump administration may take the opportunity to weaken or gut a key provision of discrimination protections in labor and contracts for Blacks, while erasing a 153-year-old post-Civil War civil rights bill that ensured “that all people in the United States—(specifically Blacks)—h(ad) the same rights to make and enforce contracts enjoyed by white citizens.”

Kelly Charles-Collins, a Tampa-based lawyer, said the case has enormous implications.

“With the way that our courts are set up, they’re not the biggest supporters of civil rights, although there are laws intended to protect,” said Atty. Charles-Collins, an American employment law attorney, award-winning TEDx speaker and CEO of HR Legally Speaking, a human resources consulting firm. “The NAACP now understands the importance of this case. It’s not just about his getting his stations on Comcast.”

“This is a really huge issue that people don’t see the nuance in. The bigger issue is being able to contract. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King talked about economic inclusion. This is what this case is about: the ability for us to be included in the economic success of this country.”

Mrs. Charles-Collins said what’s at issue is that Mr. Allen is arguing that race was a factor and insists he can prove it. “With ‘but for,’ the difference is whether race is a factor versus whether it was the factor … but how do you prove that? Very rarely do you have direct evidence of racism. Someone can argue that their decisions are or were race-neutral and under current law is very nearly impossible to prove.

“And now the Department of Justice is involved and looking for ways to erode sections of the Section 1981,” she explained.

The Trump administration through the Justice Dept. signed on as a friend of the court, siding with Comcast. Critics say the feds apparently plan to focus on Section 1981 of the 1866 Civil Rights law in an effort to erode the law. The Trump administration position is in keeping with the government’s hostility to Black people, employee protections and its business-friendly pronouncements and policies, say critics.

Cori Harvey, a Florida-based attorney who specializes in business law, economics and entrepreneurship, said the case could be consequential.

“This could represent a significant lowering of the barrier to justice,” she explained.

“It’s a fundamental question of who has access to legal recourse. The defendant has information needed such as if anything happened in emails, correspondence, etc. The plaintiff is in the dark. There’s power in darkness in shielding the defendant.”

Mr. Allen will “be able to get access to emails … this forces them to deliver into the public sphere information previously hidden,” said the attorney.

“The Ninth Circuit gave Mr. Allen a shot. It forces Comcast to open secret chambers. That doesn’t happen too often. This leaves Comcast exposed and vulnerable.”

Mr. Allen’s lawyer, Louis R. “Skip” Miller, managing partner of Los Angeles law firm Miller Barondess LLP, said he hadn’t expected the case to reach to the Supreme Court.

“We won in the 9th Circuit District Court and I thought it was the end of it because the U.S. Supreme Court takes just a few cases,” said Mr. Miller, one of Los Angeles’ top litigators. “So I wasn’t really expecting this case to be considered but this case is really important.”

Mr. Miller, who has been practicing law for 45 years, said that right after the Civil War, Section 1981 prohibited racial discrimination in contracts to allow freed slaves to move towards economic self-sufficiency.

“It was upheld over the years and construed broadly,” he said. “In our case we say race has to be a motivating factor not one factor. They could say they don’t have the bandwidth and not wanting to add channels. Non-racial, racial, it doesn’t make sense. Racial discrimination is bad. It’s pretty clear that you can’t discriminate.”

When asked, he said he wouldn’t be arguing the case before the Supreme Court. The person Mr. Allen has hired for that task, he said, is Erwin Chemerinsky, who became the 13th dean of Berkeley School of Law in 2017.

“He’s an expert trial lawyer,” said Mr. Miller of Mr. Chemerinsky, who is the founding dean of the University of California Irvine’s Donald Bren School of Law and served from 2008 to 2017. He has argued a number of cases before the Supreme Court.

Mr. Allen has offered scathing criticism of Comcast’s position and tactics. Their behavior has been racist and deeply disrespectful despite his being able to amass eight cable networks, 43 syndicated TV series, The Weather Channel, a movie studio and a movie distribution company, according to Mr. Allen.

He has also inked deals with Dish Network, DirecTV, Verizon FiOS and AT&T/U-Verse.

He accused Comcast of repeatedly lowballing him in negotiations and disrespecting him because of his race. Examples? He said an employee told him a Comcast executive said they didn’t intend to create another Bob Johnson, referring to the billionaire founder of Black Entertainment Television. Another allegedly told his governmental affairs person that Comcast doesn’t negotiate with terrorists.

“They treat us like we’re like a bunch of monkeys looking for a banana. They told me drop the case and we might meet with you, might work for you. That’s racist,” he said on The Breakfast Club. “First of all, we won twice and I didn’t bring it to the Supreme Court. They should do it the same way as they do with all White people … I asked them to sit with me and they said no.”

“Have respect sit down with me, work it out and it goes away. Don’t jeopardize 100 million minorities for this,” he said.

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A host of civil rights organizations agree with the case’s importance. The NAACP, the National Urban League, Color of Change, and the National Action Network are among those who have filed briefs in support of Mr. Allen’s lawsuit. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a separate brief that included 10 other organizations, including the ACLU, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the National Women’s Law Center. Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Richard Blumenthal and Ron Widen signed friendly briefs but only eight members of the Congressional Black Caucus did the same.

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said on Twitter, “Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 is literally one of the nation’s oldest civil rights statutes. We are proud to stand with @NAACP @NAACP _ LDF & @civilrightsorg in calling on the #SCOTUS to reject Comcast’s attempt to cut the heart of this historic law. @LawyersComm.”

The Lawyers’ Committee brief represents 22 organizations, including the Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the National Organization for Women Foundation.

She described the case elsewhere as “the most important civil rights case to be heard by the Supreme Court in term. A negative ruling stands to all but shut the courthouse door on a vast number of victims of discrimination all across the country.”

The NAACP, Color of Change and other civil rights groups have called for a boycott of Comcast because the media giant seeks to change a seminal civil rights law.

In a fundraising letter, Color of Change said, “Comcast and its executives are seeking to roll back landmark civil rights protections for Black people, while also seeking to profit from our pain and the history of struggle … we cannot allow a corporation to set a dangerous precedent with our rights, while also profiting from the painful past that led to the passing of the very civil rights act it is challenging.”

Comcast officials have dismissed Mr. Allen’s claims set forth in his lawsuit.

Comcast said race had nothing to do with rejecting Mr. Allen’s channels, noting that they had low ratings. In response to an earlier NAACP statement, Comcast spokesperson Sena Fitzmaurice said in an email to a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter: “This case arises from a frivolous discrimination claim that cannot detract from Comcast’s strong civil rights and diversity record or our outstanding record of supporting and fostering diverse programming from African American-owned channels.”

“We have been forced to appeal this decision to defend against a meritless $20 billion claim, but have kept our argument narrowly focused. We are not seeking to roll back the civil rights laws—all we are asking is that the court apply Section 1981 in our case the same way it has been interpreted for decades across the country.”

“Given the makeup of the Supreme Court and what the DOJ (Justice Dept.) presents, there may be an opportunity to set forth certain standards in the law,” said Los Angeles attorney Dawn Collins, co-founder of CollinsKim LLP and a specialist in employment law.

“But it may be a opportunity to establish higher standards and burden of proof. The standard from 1866 could change and make it harder to get a trial. That’s the scary part,” she said. “This could have a lasting impact on legal standard and making it more difficult for the plaintiff, making it a lot harder to open the door, get through the door.”

Mr. Allen said he didn’t ask for his case to be considered by the Supreme Court, but asserts he will not withdraw his lawsuit and remains confident that he will prevail.

“Unfortunately, Comcast has chosen to use the U.S. Supreme Court to maximize its own profits. If Comcast thinks that we are wrong, it should go to trial and make its case. It should not challenge and put at risk all minorities’ ability to prove discrimination under the Civil Rights Act that has been in place for 153 years,” Allen said in a guest column in Deadline in August this year. “Meanwhile, I hope that people of conscience will let the U.S. Supreme Court, Donald Trump’s DOJ, and Comcast know, enough is enough.”

“Four hundred years after the start of slavery in America, every day, America kills African Americans in the classroom by making sure we don’t get a proper education; in the boardroom by making sure we don’t have true economic inclusion; and in the courtroom with Jim Crow laws and massive incarceration, long before you watch us bleed to death in the streets. I hope that America takes this historic opportunity to make sure that we have equal rights for all and don’t allow Comcast—headed by CEO Brian Roberts—to manipulate civil rights laws in partnership with the Donald Trump administration, which will hurt millions of Americans, for Comcast’s own financial gain.”

Arizona Apache Tribe Steps Up Fight With Copper Mine Over Sacred Land

https://sptnkne.ws/ArWN This Investigative Piece was originally published in Sputnik News WASHINGTON (Sputnik), Barrington M. Salmon – Imagine standing on the rim of a crater almost two miles wide and anywhere from 850 to 1,500 feet deep that is not a naturally occurring phenomenon, but man-made. … Continue reading Arizona Apache Tribe Steps Up Fight With Copper Mine Over Sacred Land

‘Trump has done Irreversible Damage’

This article was originally published in The Final Call

By Barrington Salmon Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON—Three years into his presidency, Donald Trump has taken a hatchet to the country’s institutions and upended more than two centuries of accepted presidential norms. 

Historians, presidential experts, academics, scholars and swathes of the public are alarmed and dismayed by what the 45th president’s doing, and everyone is weighing in on the fallout, implications and consequences to the country. Some argue that America is fighting for its soul and there are those who are wrestling with questions and concerns about if and how America will survive.

Dr. Wilmer J. Leon, III, paused before trying to answer the question posed about the extent of damage Mr. Trump has inflicted on America’s body politic.

“Ahh, that’s a very hard question to answer because we’re still in the midst of the damage. It’s a more historic question that historians will have to answer,” the political scientist, author and talk show host told The Final Call. “Steve Bannon told us during the campaign that the goal was deconstruction of the administrative state. That’s what they’ve done.”

“All this is to enable the ruling class to get an even stronger hold on the ‘treasury’ so that they can extract every cent possible from this country. Privatization is the neoliberal agenda to put into private hands the military, the educational system, everything the government is designed to provide. The degree to which they’ll be able to do that, time will tell.”

Dr. Leon said this administration “wants to deregulate everything.”

“They want to drill where they want, to deregulate everything, deforest everything, rape and pillage,” he said. “In talking about the administrative state, Trump is a transactional guy. Systems, structures and processes are encumbrances to you reaching your objective. You don’t need the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education or the Energy Department to get in the way.”

Dr. Leon, a nationally syndicated columnist and the host of SiriusXM Satellite Radio’s, “Inside The Issues with Wilmer Leon,” said the damage won’t be as deep as some think because a good deal of what Mr. Trump has done has been through executive orders which aren’t as binding as a court decision, a constitutional change or legislation passed.   

He characterized himself as an eternal optimist who believes the United States will survive and come back stronger.

From the beginning of his presidential campaign, Mr. Trump has pursued a strategy of racial grievance and racial animus and promoting White nationalist extremists, Neo-Nazis and Klan members, while launching targeted attacks against Muslims, immigrants, Latinos other non-Whites, and, of course, Blacks. 

On a broader scale, he assembled a cabinet of millionaires and billionaires as well as lobbyists and other industry types who all oppose the mandates of the federal agencies they’re supposed to be running.   

South Florida resident and radio personality Steven “Sir Rockwell” Warner is on the opposite end of the spectrum compared to Dr. Leon, and try as he might, feels none of the Dr. Leon’s optimism. 

“I think Trump has done irreversible damage,” said Mr. Warner, owner and host of the flagship Internet radio show “Wake Up and Live,” a daily syndicated program of music and commentary that is carried on at least 41 online stations around the world and has just under 200,000 listeners. “His motto is racism and greed. I think he has really opened doors for racist policies and procedures to be put in place. He says to White people it’s your American right to be racist, to put America first. He has given people license to hate Black people, legitimized discrimination, and police think they have the right to kill you.”


The Jamaican native who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., said he’s watched with dismay as the Trump administration has closed the door on legal immigration using race-based criteria to severely limit the number of immigrants coming to this country. Meanwhile, Mr. Warner added, Mr. Trump is “killing small business owners.” 

“ … Because he’s giving big businesses the opportunity to maximize profits and cut overhead,” he explained. “Twenty-five years ago, every corner in South Florida had a Caribbean store but places like Walmart are running Caribbean people out of business. There’s nothing but Haitians and Jamaicans at Walmart. And then they’re automating.” 

“As an immigrant, I know we’re going to feel it the most. It’s sad because there’s a generation now in the position to pull up their grandparents, moms and dads (from the countries of their birth) but immigration restrictions will blunt that.”

Michele L. Watley and Jamila Bey were more philosophical, thinking in terms of the positive benefits that will likely accrue from the destruction or dismantling of this country’s system, and as Ms. Watley theorized that as this system is disrupted, what are opportunities waiting to be reaped?

“I do believe that every destruction carries with it seeds of renewal,” said Ms. Bey, a D.C. metropolitan area-based journalist and commentator. “What he has absolutely done is reawakened a type of understanding of the civic responsibility—what should be the role of government service. Then there’s the question of what are the guarantees of political protection which are being dismissed and denied.”

“Remaking society is the absolute upside and offers some great opportunities for the future. I’m very optimistic that great change will come and give power to we who have lacked it. People are looking at this and saying if he unmade this, we can remake it. Non-profits and community activists are absolutely seeing a bump in volunteering and activism. The thought of the Constitution as a living document will be taken to heart.”

Ms. Watley, founder and owner of The Griot Group LLC, a strategic communications and political advocacy consulting practice, said sometimes disruption can be a good thing. Mr. Trump, she said, has changed the communications paradigm.

“He has changed the communications space. He speaks directly to the people, has no press secretary and tweets with typos and all,” said Ms. Watley, founder of Shirley’s Kitchen Cabinet, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to amplifying the voices and power of Black women through education and advocacy. “He’s cut out the middle man which I think is a good thing. It’s good because it’s coming straight out of the horse’s mouth. It’s transparency of the highest form.”

There are other things, however, that Mr. Trump has done which is of immense concern to her as a Black woman, which is why Ms. Watley’s so involved with organizations like Shirley’s Kitchen Cabinet.

The Kansas City, Mo., native served as the national African-American outreach political director for Bernie Sanders’ campaign in 2016 and worked in other local political campaigns. The brazen racist comments and tactics of the president, the fuel he’s added to racial debates in this country and the struggle women and Black women have in attaining parity in salaries, job opportunities and dealing with gender and race is why she said she’s so committed to organizing and mobilizing Blacks, particularly women, she said.

Whether Mr. Trump wins in 2020 or not, Blacks have their work cut out for them.

“Trump has continued to campaign for the 3½ years he’s been in office. He has very strong support and enthusiastic followers,” she said. “We’re going to have to go above and beyond to match their enthusiasm. I think he’s going to win but I hope I’m wrong. There is hope for continued change. If he loses, him not winning sets the stage for complacency when people are poised for change. What are we going to do if he loses? The problems and challenges this country poses for Black people won’t go away if he’s gone.”

Ms. Watley said the 2018 midterms is a template of what’s possible. Organizing and mobilizing in the Black community made the difference, particularly in House races. In the aftermath, it’s clear that those seeking to become engaged politically don’t have to have an over-abundance of experience and/or knowledge in order to be informed enough to serve.

“This will not be the last time we see this. If we can fight off what we’re facing, it will make us stronger,” predicted Ms. Watley. “And his base of support won’t tuck their tails and go away quietly. They have the resources and power to make things really rough for us. Trump supporters will burn down the country if necessary ….” 

Mr. Trump, Jamila Bey said, represents the worst qualities of this country, citing his administration’s decision to cage immigrant children trying to enter the U.S. and stirring up racial animus as just two instances of a litany of other abuses, but she also said she likes to remind people that nothing lasts forever.

“Some would say he’s Karma, chickens coming home to roost. The reckoning surely is coming. The country will survive and Trump the same. America will survive, but Whiteness as a standard of perfection might not,” she added.

“He feels like he can do what he wants,” Ms. Bey said of Mr. Trump. “The executive branch is a bunch of lying, thieving criminals. (Attorney General) Barr is going to jail; Rudy Giuliani might, too. They all lawyering up because they’ve transgressed.”

Yet despite the abuse of power, the appearance of using his position for personal gain and the  other offenses, Ms. Bey said she doesn’t expect Americans to rise up the way we see in Hong Kong, Chile, Puerto Rico, Paris and other parts of Europe. 

Dwight Kirk, a veteran labor activist, agreed with Mr. Warner that Mr. Trump has done significant damage to America’s institutions and norms. But he said he doesn’t buy into the idea that getting back to normal will be good for Blacks.

“That is not a status quo we want to go back to,” he said. “The status quo was unfair and unjust to begin with. Some things will go back to default but Trumpism has put on the table that things going forward will be different. Forces unearthed by Trump will not go back to normal.”  

“I believe he has legitimized it for some in the country to embrace the notion that institutional norms aren’t necessary,” Mr. Kirk continued. “There are norms that people have to individually respect but we see him continually pushing the boundaries of executive power.”

People involved in what he called “the political game,” saw Mr. Trump as a maverick but expected him to adjust, he said. They also expected him to surround himself with experienced, knowledgeable people. He’s done neither. And he’s acting as if he’s running a company. Norms for him are malleable and he’s enjoyed trampling on norms and institutions, constantly testing the boundaries. He hasn’t played by the rules. No one in his administration has, said Mr. Kirk, a strategist, publicist and photojournalist.

Mr. Trump championed himself as a supporter of ordinary people but that has turned out to be a lie, he said. The president is an enemy of organized labor and has stocked the National Labor Relations Board and the U.S. Department of Labor with people opposed to unions and collective bargaining. 

“But what he’s done is catalyze a resistance that existed anyway. We’ve seen a surge of strikes and solidarity with working people and unions,” Mr. Kirk said. “They are occurring and they’re succeeding. Sixty-six percent of people say they support unions. Collective action is supported by the public, not because they support Trump, there’s a sense that there’s a fundamental imbalance of power. Trump and his attacks have been devastating because he’s unleashed his executive power but people’s resistance movements have gained force.”

Race, Class and Privilege and the NFL’s Unresolved Issues

BY BARRINGTON M. SALMON CONTRIBUTING WRITER @BSALMONDC | LAST UPDATED: SEP 11, 2019 – 9:27:46 AM

Perhaps it was inevitable that the National Football League would not be immune to the raw, angry clashes around race that have exploded into super bursts of toxic energy around the country particularly since wannabe cop George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012.

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P Francisco 49ers Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick take a knee during the National Anthem prior to their game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte North Carolina, Sept. 18, 2016. Photo: MGN Online


Sports, we’re told, is the great equalizer. On the field, they intone, race doesn’t matter, only athletic prowess, hard work and the devotion to winning. But this truism is as false as a $3 dollar bill, as illustrated by the NFL’s reaction to Colin Kaepernick’s fateful decision to kneel before a preseason game in August 2016. His gesture demonstrated his opposition to the second class treatment of Black people, racial injustice and condemnation of a society which condones police brutality and the extra-judicial murders of Black men, women and children.

Since then, the former San Francisco quarterback has been banished by owners of the NFL’s 32 teams, ostracized by some fellow players and shunned because of a principled stance against the laundry list of racial- and racist-inspired challenges that confront Blacks in America. He has also won the admiration of many, inspired a movement, was offered a Nike deal, continued his activism and forced the league to settle and pay him as part of a labor dispute. He still doesn’t have a job in the NFL.

Despite NFL team owners antagonizing, threatening and bullying players who knelt in solidarity, spoke out or displayed other forms of civil disobedience—and President Donald Trump jumping in to disparage and insult the Black players and changing the narrative of the real reasons for the protests—the issue hasn’t gone away.

Color of Change is just one of a number of social justice organizations that have supported Mr. Kaepernick since he began his protest. Executive Director Rashad Robinson said Mr. Kaepernick has played a vital role in pushing forward the struggle for racial equality, fairness and justice.

“Colin Kaepernick and Black Lives Matter activists have opened up the movement and engaged to change written and unwritten rules,” he told The Final Call in a recent interview. “We’ve been really engaged. We’ve done work to push corporations to respond and support Kaepernick and Eric Reid. We’ve gotten members of Color of Change to give visible support. We’ve fought back in the media on behalf of Kaepernick and other players and offered other support with op-eds.”

“We feel that we have to leverage these movements for system change. That’s our goal.”

There have been noticeable impacts on the NFL because of the player protest movement. The subsequent public boycott of the NFL by those supporting Mr. Kaepernick—who last played for the San Francisco 49ers—has hurt revenue, reduced viewership and tarnished the brand.

Fans who support Mr. Kaepernick have refused to watch games, attendance has fallen and big money entertainers refused to be a part of the NFL’s signature Super Bowl 2019 halftime show as the league refused to allow Mr. Kaepernick—who despite his age is still considered an elite quarterback—to vie for and take his place on a team.

At its start in the first year, more than 200 football players joined Mr. Kaepernick in kneeling or engaging in other forms of silent protest. But over time, the numbers have dwindled, with players like Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid and now-Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills being the most outspoken supporters of Mr. Kaepernick and articulators of the protestors’ positions.

Mr. Robinson and other social justice warriors understand and acknowledge how formidable an adversary the NFL is. It’s a $75 billion behemoth promoting the most popular sport in America and the 32 owners wield considerable power. But as several interviewees noted, the players don’t realize the strength they have because the NFL would not and could not function without their participation.

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Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills (10) and Miami Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson (15) kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sept. 9, 2018, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Photo: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee


“This was a golden opportunity missed,” said Gary Johnson, founder and publisher of Black Men in America, a premier online magazine. “One Sunday, just one Sunday, if all or most of the players sat down, it would change everything … it would ripple around the whole country.”

Mr. Johnson’s son Chris agreed.

“The players don’t understand the power they have. They are the billion-dollar product. Until those seats are empty, the owners won’t get it,” said the younger Mr. Johnson, a political commentator and musician.

For three years, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell searched in vain for ways to silence the protestors and turn the page on the social justice demonstrations. He now believes he’s found the perfect tool.

Enter Jay-Z.

The billionaire entertainer and mogul recently joined Mr. Goodell a few weeks ago to announce a collaboration that names Roc Nation as the league’s official live music entertainment strategists. As part of the deal, Roc Nation will spearhead and advise the NFL on artist selection for music performances, including the extremely popular Super Bowl halftime show. In addition, Roc Nation is supposed to also work on the league’s social justice platform called Inspire Change. The initiative, launched earlier this year, aims to address the criminal justice reform, police and community relations, education and economic advancement.

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But the partnership has triggered fierce pushback and invited deepening public skepticism that the collaboration is nothing more than a camouflage and a not-too-subtle way to let the NFL off the hook.

“It’s a little bit of a smokescreen,” sports lawyer and businessman Michael Huyghue told The Final Call. “Top athletes were refusing to perform. The real damage was not the issues surrounding the protests, the real issue was drawing top performers. Bringing Jay-Z in is a way to make performers feel more comfortable, and by the way, ‘we’ll deal with social issues too.’ ”

In actuality, Mr. Huyghue explained, the NFL has no platform on how it will specifically deal with the social justice issues raised by Mr. Kaepernick, and Jay-Z doesn’t have any real civil rights or social justice background to offer the type of depth and expertise needed to foster real and significant change.

Longtime human rights Attorney Nicole C. Lee described the NFL-Jay Z issue as “simple and complicated,” adding that the NFL has shown no sincerity or desire to address the issues Mr. Kaepernick has raised. The larger issue, she contends, is the attempted muzzling of Black athletes and a denial of their constitutional right to free speech.

“The protest was about the treatment of African Americans by police. The support of Kaepernick is this issue but it’s also about how talented athletes and entertainers are treated as if they’re owned,” said Ms. Lee, co-founder of the Black Movement Law Project, principal of the Lee Bayard Group and former president of TransAfrica. “They’re not allowed to express their individual agency. The NFL is bypassing putting Kaepernick on a team and going to Jay-Z. Goodell bypassed the issue and went to Jay-Z. He basically said, ‘See, I got my African American, people like him.’ ”

“I think it’s actually simple and complicated,” continued Ms. Lee, a diversity, equity and inclusion expert, leadership coach, nationally recognized speaker. “People are still upset with Jay-Z’s move because Kaepernick still has not found a team. The fact that Kaepernick isn’t on a team indicates that the NFL is digging its heels and punishing speech. Black folks are penalized when they speak out. The NFL can have Jay-Z but having him will not change the situation or circumstances. People will continue to be pissed off. This is not going away.”

William “Billy” Hunter, former executive director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), said he hasn’t followed everything that’s been going on in the NFL-Kaepernick imbriglio, but offered his perspective. Despite Jay-Z agreeing to work with the NFL, the issues that led to the player protest are still very present and unresolved, he said.

And the length and intensity of any protests or pushback “depends on the reaction you get from the Black community and players. If they decide that Kap hasn’t gotten justice, this will continue,” the former union head said of the public boycott. “The NFL was beginning to feel impact and Jay-Z gives them assurance that everything is alright.”

Mr. Hunter, a longtime attorney who played for the Miami Dolphins and the Washington Redskins, said it isn’t helpful that football players have split into different factions.

“The Players Coalition kinda hurts what Kap and others are trying to do because they took money,” he said of the $89 million the coalition of current players accepted from the owners for social justice programs. “The problem is that with the movement, the question is how many people would go with management. When I was with the NBAPA, (Commissioner David) Stern told me that he always had spies. The players are often insecure. They are the ones who might benefit the most but they don’t make as much as basketball players and don’t have guaranteed contracts. They won’t play for more than three or four years unless you have a breakout career.”

In all America’s other sports, the master-slave attitude persists, Mr. Hunter said.

“We had some knockdown dragouts because of this attitude. They expect that,” he said of the owners. “There are a lot of the vestiges of old days. David Stern was a lot more progressive, but the assumption is that if you have money people are supposed to bend or genuflect.”

Trade unionist, columnist and activist Bill Fletcher, Jr. said the Kaepernick protest overlaps as a social justice issue as well as a test of whether these athletes have a right to protest.

“It’s about the right to be protected in protesting which is an athlete’s right,” he said. “This is a stand against hypocrisy.”

Mr. Fletcher said he has had discussions with key people in the NFL Players’ Association and two issues surfaced: Mr. Kaepernick began his initial protest without informing them and that association leadership would only intervene if he gave the nod; and that NFLPA members were not unified on Mr. Kaepernick’s stand because of the split between conservative and left-wing members.

“I would have told Kaepernick to follow the Curt Flood model because he got player support as he fought for free agency,” said Mr. Fletcher, former president of the TransAfrica Forum and author of “They’re Bankrupting Us! And 20 Other Myths About Unions.” “I would also recommend that he build a strategy committee who was prepared to back him. Instead, he encountered periods of isolation. This needed to be a campaign. He was left standing by himself when he was expecting people to support him.

“Kaepernick taking this step by himself was noble and courageous but not strategic.”

Both Mr. Fletcher and Marc Bayard, a leading expert on racial equity and organizing strategies, cited the need for the NFL and individual owners to develop comprehensive education programs for the players on matters of race in America.

“In the past 2-3 years, I’ve had conversations with the staff at the NFLPA and the political realm has gone from typical bread-and-butter issues of better wages, concussion and safety to free agency,” said Mr. Bayard, an associate fellow and the director of the Institute for Policy Studies’ Black Worker Initiative and the founding executive director of the Worker Institute at Cornell University. “They are well-versed in dealing with traditional issues but in an era of overt political issues, we all have room to grow. It’s incumbent of the league to have education and training on hot button issues to understand the nature of issues such as the policy around police brutality. I also believe that the symbolism and importance of players educating the public on social issues is critical.”

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Rally in support of Colin Kaepernick at Soldier Field in Chicago Sept. 10, 2017.

Harold Bell, long considered the Godfather of Sports Talk radio and television in Washington, D.C., said Mr. Kaepernick’s work is in the longtime tradition of athletes who’ve spoken out. Yet despite the millions of dollars football players make, they are sometimes little more than what sportswriter, author and former New York Times columnist William Rhoden called “billion dollar slaves.”

“This is about how the One Percent controls us; it’s all about divide and conquer,” said Mr. Bell, who created “Inside Sports” in 1972 and who was talking about racism in the NFL, drug use among athletes and other sensitives issues on his radio and television shows decades ago. “When people say sports and politics don’t mix, I say they gotta be crazy. This war has been going on for a long, long time. Jack Johnson, Jesse Owens and Paul Robeson are all strong Black men who stood up but got knocked down.”

Mr. Bell echoed other interviewees who acknowledged that the NFL player protest movement sits at the nexus of sports, race and activism. It’s not a new phenomenon, with athletes in the past like Muhammad Ali refusing to be inducted into the U.S. military to fight in Vietnam, and others like Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Jim Brown, Tommie Smith and John Carlos protesting racism and other racially connected social ills in the 1960s.

But in this case, the players’ opposition to police brutality, institutional racism and oppression had been co-opted by President Donald Trump and others and twisted into criticism of cops, the military, respect for law and order, the appropriateness of protest and patriotism.

“NFL owners have been very embarrassed by this. They would like to do something but they’re afraid of Trump,” Mr. Fletcher said. “You have to look at this at the level of politics. If you don’t organize, it’s very likely that you’ll fail.”

No matter the NFL does, those interviewed said, none believed the collaboration will have any real and lasting effect on the protests that continue unabated as Blacks and others push back against anti-Black racism, police brutality, extra-judicial killings and the increase in nativism, White extremism and hate crimes. What is acknowledged but often ignored too is the fact that the NFL has a White male dominated, conservative, reactionary ownership structure, no Black majority owners and a league where about 70 percent of the players are Black.

“I wonder how long is that going to work; how long is it going to last?” Ms. Lee asked of the Jay-Z and NFL deal. “It may not matter in the short or medium term. Jay-Z has shown he’s fine with capitalism, with being the only Black in the room. The reality is we’re pushing society to be more just. I’m not going to look into the intent of other folks, but I don’t think Jay-Z’s talking about radical change and radical change is needed to change the circumstances of Black people.”

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The Final Call

National News

Millions Of Employed Americans Struggle To Make Ends Meet

By Barrington M. Salmon – Contributing Writer- | Last updated: May 30, 2018 – 10:18:17 AM

 

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By Barrington M. Salmon – Contributing Writer- | Last updated: May 30, 2018 – 10:18:17 AM 
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Americans who fall outside of the categories of rich or wealthy are entangled, trapped in a vicious cycle of debt, lack and poverty. Despite working hard, and ‘doing the right thing,’ economic and financial security continues to elude millions of Americans who are nominally considered middle class. 

The United Way released recent data offering a troubling snapshot of where the United States stands since the 2008 recession ended. The data compiled over a 10-year period and called the ALICE (Asset Limit, Income Constrained, Employed) Project, shows that almost 51 million Americans make less than what’s needed to survive in the modern economy. Stephanie Hoopes, the project’s senior researcher, said that number includes 16.1 million households living in poverty, as well as the 34.7 million families that fall under the ALICE classification.

That translates to what she said is a staggering 43 percent of American households that can’t afford basics such as food, child care, health care, transportation, and a cell phone.

“There are many different ALICE stories. Some people are in different situations because of health problems, natural disasters and a number of other issues,” Ms. Hoopes told The Final Call. “Usually people who are in this field totally understand the magnitude of this problem.

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The cause is a mismatch between basics of the household budget and what people are making. Housing, childcare, food, transportation and health care are rising faster than inflation overall and faster than wages. Increasing wages would help to offset fluctuating wages, unpredictable hours and work hours incompatible with childcare.

“ALICEs are crucial to maintaining our workforce and infrastructure. The change in politics has made our work more important but we don’t make any policy recommendations. This is factual, unbiased, just cold, hard facts.”

Dr. Elise Gould, a senior researcher at the Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute (EPI) said research conducted by EPI experts, scholars and researchers corroborates the United Way findings.

“There are a lot of people working who are still in poverty,” said Dr. Gould, whose areas of expertise include wages, poverty, jobs, healthcare and economic mobility. “We put data out a day ago (titled “50 Years after the Poor People’s Campaign, Poverty Persists Because of a Stingy Safety Net and a Dysfunctional Labor Market”) which shows that a number of Americans living in poverty who may be in school or retired, but two-thirds are otherwise employable. Of those, 63 percent are working and 45.5 percent of them work fulltime,” said Dr. Gould.

“People need more jobs, jobs that have more hours and the pay needs to be higher. What people are earning is simply insufficient. We also need a better safety net for caregivers and students. It seems like people are working really hard and low-income workers are more educated than ever before but the data make it clear that millions of people who are active participants in the labor market are unable to make ends meet, either due to insufficient hours or low wages.”

When asked, Dr. Gould said there’s no evidence that the economy is at full employment, as some economists have argued.

“If the economy was at full employment, you would see higher wages,” she said. “A lot of people not being counted are coming back into the workforce,” she said. “And the Black unemployment rate and the youth unemployment rate is still high. In the late ‘90s and 2000s, we saw wage growth for high school and college students and Black and White workers. We’re not seeing that now.”

While middle class Americans in general are affected by the crush of insufficient wages and rising prices, economists, social scientists and other experts say Black Americans, by virtue of racism, discrimination and structural inequities are more deeply affected financially than their White and Latino counterparts.

Young professional businesswoman and communications consultant Brandi R. Richard said she knows well the reality of being in the place where she makes too much to get assistance from the government but not enough to bridge the gap between what she makes and being able to comfortably take care of herself and her family.

“In my mind, I’m a single parent still struggling to make it. It’s terrible. The most challenging part for me was ensuring that I could cover the basics and have emergency funds too,” said Ms. Richard, the principal at BR Communications. “There were times when I was begging police officers not to give me a ticket. There are people where one bad decision wipes you out. If it had not been for my family who supported me and cared for my daughter, I don’t what I would do,” she shared.

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“It’s more expensive to live, buy food, even put kids through school. You have to make sacrifices. Most people are required to have multiple jobs because rent and housing expenses outpace salaries. People are suffering from depression which compounds the problem. But people are still trying to move ahead. I don’t think the policy makers are having these issues because their friends don’t have those problems or challenges.”

Middle class Americans have been caught in an economic vice spurred by decades of stagnant wages, minimum wages for fast food and service jobs; unemployment; the spiraling cost of food, medicine, and rent; gentrification; foreclosures; and the paucity of affordable housing.

Beverly Hunt, a Washington, D.C.-area resident for more than 20 years, said significant health care challenges threaten to bump her from her middle class perch. The communications and public relations veteran said she has been living an increasingly precarious existence since discovering that she has breast cancer four years ago.

“I was very blessed when I was diagnosed with cancer because I had a good job and good insurance with an 80-20 split, meaning 20 percent of the costs are borne by me,” said Ms. Hunt, a Howard University graduate who has been in her career field for 30 years. “I was paying $200 a month for four whole years to one doctor.”

“This has affected everything with me … it’s scary. Even though I have a great insurance, I still had to pay cash. Acupuncture is no longer covered and I haven’t even begun to figure how to pay for radiation. I’m thinking I may wait for the full seven years when my credit is clear and start from there,” she added.

“It’s certainly taken a toll on my standard of living. I know so many friends with no insurance and the consequences for them have been so much worse. What they’re dealing with has knocked people out of the middle class. One serious illness, being unemployed for several months a year, or us Baby Boomers not being hired—all this affects one’s ability to stay in the middle class. What I see among my peers is that they are jammed up, deciding whether they are going to eat or pay bills.”

It is clear ordinary Americans cannot rely on the Republican-dominated Congress to enact policies to ease their financial and economic woes. President Donald Trump recently signed into law a tax bill voted on by Republicans in Congress that is slated to transfer $5.7 trillion over the next decade from the middle class to the wealthiest one percent. Republican lawmakers promised that regular workers would see pay raises and better wages but only 15 percent of employees around the country have seen any improvement in their wages and salaries, while corporations are enjoying substantial tax breaks and have largely used the windfall for stock buybacks.

The depth of disparities between America’s rich and poor is stark. It is estimated that the top one percent of this nation’s wealthy controls 40 percent of America’s wealth, income and resources.

A 2016 report published by EPI shows that CEOs in Fortune 500 and other top companies make more in two days than an average employee does in a year. Chief executives at 350 companies made $15.6 million on average in 2016—271 times what the typical worker earns. And even though CEO compensation has fallen slightly in the past few years, it has increased by more than 930 percent since 1978. The report notes that CEO pay has grown faster than the stock market or the wages of the top 0.1 percent.

The Institute for Policy Studies quotes Doug Smith, a former partner at the McKinsey Management Consulting Firm, who in an article about the yawning pay gap between CEOs and employees, argues that the economic costs of huge pay gaps go far beyond the problems of low employee morale and high turnover.

“Instead of building a real economy beneficial to all,” he said, “these unethical pay practices spread outsourcing, offshoring, tax avoidance, downsizing, and the substitution of good-paying permanent jobs with temporary, precarious employment.”

Mega-corporations like Amazon illustrate the perverse nature of the current economic system: Owner Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world with a net worth of $132 billion but his company and others like Walmart and McDonalds, pay their employees so little that they’re often forced to rely on food stamps, Medicaid, and other public assistance to make ends meet.

Florida A&M University Associate Professor of Law Dr. Cori Harvey said although she’s an optimist, she fears that the steady hollowing out of the middle could lead to its collapse. She said conditions will improve— but only after they get worse.

“The working class, middle class and the poor are collapsing in,” she said. “At the top, these are all the same people who hang out together, eat steak dinners, go to the same schools and marry each other. Most of them would drop dead where they stand if their daughter brought a policeman or fireman home,” noted Dr. Harvey.

“They’ve created distractions and left those at the bottom fighting against each other and divided. The enemy is not horizontal, the enemy is not working class Black people,” said Dr. Harvey, a graduate of Spelman, Columbia and Rutgers universities and a former Philadelphia public defender.

“The poor and working class should align on income not on race. These groups need to come together. Republican working-class Whites vote outside of their class interests. When police officers vote Republican, I scratch my head.”

Dr. Harvey said one aspect that’s often overlooked is what exactly constitutes the middle class.

“I think first we need to be very honest about the problem,” she explained. “One thing is that there are poor and working-class people who think of themselves as middle class, maybe we need to be clear about who and what constitutes the middle class.”

Among scholars and economists, there is no clear consensus on who is a member of the middle class. In a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center, when polled, fully a third of respondents whose households brought home incomes below $30,000, identified themselves as middle class. Yet 51 percent of people making more than $100,000 also said they are the middle class.

Outside of that though, Dr. Harvey said that significant numbers of Americans, especially Black Americans, are hurting.

“I think that when people are ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul,’ which a lot of us are familiar with, we make bad short-term decisions that are catastrophic in the long run— such as cutting out insurance payments which can be ruinous,” she explained. “Specifically, with Black families, the erosion of the middle class cuts deeper because they have fewer layers of protection and support networks and less equity to pull out of their homes.”

It is incumbent on Black Americans to change their habits and behaviors; to start watching news programs and read about how to make money; to make good choices and prioritize their spending; and to get involved politically and to vote wisely, Dr. Harvey added.

 

Coalition pressuring Twitter to shut down white supremacist accounts

21st August 2019

By Barrington M. Salmon
Contributing Writer

(TriceEdneyWire.com) — A coalition of racial justice and civil rights organizations, based in Charlottesville, Va., has launched a campaign to force Twitter to respond to widespread concerns that Twitter allows white supremacists to flourish on its platform.

For more info go to ChangetheTerms.com

The Change the Terms Coalition was deliberate in timing the launch on the eve of the second anniversary of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville that led to the murder of activist Heather Heyer on August 12, 2017. The 32-year-old paralegal civil rights activist, was struck and killed by 22-year-old James Fields, a Neo-Nazi white supremacist who drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters. Fields is serving a life sentence plus 419 years for the murder.

The announcement also comes on the heels of two mass shootings that killed at least 31 people in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio August 3rd and 4th respectively. The massacres have exacerbated the group’s concerns about racially motivated attacks fueled by inflammatory online hate. They say President Donald Trump is fueling the violence and called for an uprising against it.

“Donald Trump has legitimized violence and it’s time for people to stand up,” said Jessica J. González, co-founder of Change the Terms and vice president of Strategy and Senior Counsel at Free Press.

The coalition, which held a press conference by phone August 7, is demanding that Twitter ban white supremacists and adopt model corporate policies.

“White supremacists fundraise, recruit and normalize the murder of marginalized people,” said González. “We’ve been working with Big Tech to accept our demands. But Twitter is slow to change. It’s the only platform that has failed to commit to banning white supremacists. David Duke, a former grand wizard of the KKK, is one there as is Richard Spencer and key organizers.”

Richard Spencer is a widely known neo-Nazi and president of the National Policy Institute, a white supremacist Think Tank. Spencer was the leader of the torch-lit march in Charlottesville the evening before the death of Heather Heyer.

The Change the Terms Coalition includes more than 55 human-rights, civil-rights and digital-rights groups. They include Free Press, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Center for American Progress, Color of Change, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, MediaJustice, Muslim Advocates and the National Hispanic Media Coalition. It has called on Twitter and other online companies to develop more comprehensive policies to disrupt hate and racism on their platforms and has also urged these platforms to adopt the model corporate policies that Change the Terms has developed.

“When Twitter gives well-known White supremacists a platform, even after they have been deemed too extreme by Facebook and YouTube, their company becomes complicit in normalizing racism and the hateful acts inspired by it,” said González, vice president of strategy and senior counsel at Free Press and co-founder of Change the Terms. “Twitter must tell White supremacists they cannot rely on the platform to espouse harmful rhetoric, intimidate, and plan more attacks.”

Brandi Collins-Dexter, senior campaign director of Color of Change, agreed.

“From Charlottesville two years ago to El Paso this week, we’ve seen the tragic outcomes of White nationalism spreading on Twitter, made even more dangerous every time Trump is allowed to tweet his bigoted rhetoric,” she said. “White nationalists use Twitter every day to harass Black people and users from marginalized communities, to build power and organizational strength, and to amplify violent ideologies in this country. It’s time for Jack Dorsey and Twitter’s leadership to get over their fear of conservative backlash and fully stamp out discrimination on the platform. Our civil rights should not be negotiable.”

Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, president of the diversity consultant firm, Incite Unlimited, cites statistics which illustrate the danger White extremism poses:

• According to the most recent FBI data, the number of hate crimes in America has increased three years in a row, jumping about 17 percent in one year alone.

• The number of white supremacist groups in America has soared 30 percent in the last four years.

• white supremacists account for nearly three out of four murderous terrorist acts in the U.S.

• Counties that hosted a Trump rally during his run for president in 2016 have subsequently experienced a 226 percent jump in hate crimes.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the correlation between the political rise of Trump (his campaign run in the primaries, the general election and his time in office), his specific policy negligence around white terrorism, the white supremacist language he infuses in his rhetoric on a daily basis, and the rise in white nationalist violence that has ensued,” Jones-DeWeever said. “When we refuse to speak this truth, we fuel white terrorism. We not only allow it to exist, we also allow it to thrive.”

González, who moderated the August 7 conference call, said Twitter is a space that allows key White nationalist influencers to operate. Reportedly, there are at least 100,000 verified accounts of racists and White extremists who are sophisticated and organized.

“There are 173,000 tweets, 4,000 per white supremacist account and Twitter has not removed them,” González said. “Twitter talks a good game while vile, racist extremists continue to spew hate. Latinos have been targeted because of Donald Trump. People are scared to go to school, grocery store, other places because of the color of our skins.”

González said Latino communities including where she lives have been profoundly affected by the shooting in El Paso on August 3. Patrick Crusius, a 21-year-old White man drove more than six hours from Dallas to El Paso “to kill Mexicans.”

González said fear has increased exponentially among her friends, family and neighbors and in Latino communities since the killer, who admitted that he is an anti-immigrant white nationalist and Trump supporter, opened fire in a Walmart, killing 22 people and wounded dozens of others.

The coalition notes that a range of Unite the Right organizers and associated White-nationalist influencers continue to benefit from their presence on Twitter. This includes key rally organizers like Richard Spencer, Evan McLaren and Tony Hovater; so-called alt-right podcasters and YouTubers who broadcast live from the rally like Faith Goldy and Mike Peinovich; and figureheads of hate like former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, who attended and broadcast from the deadly rally, and continue to enjoy unfettered use of their Twitter accounts.

Twitter, for its part, released a statement last week saying that it is researching whether white supremacists should be banned or allowed to continue operating on its platform. Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, legal and public policy said in published reports that the research aims to understand the effectiveness of both removing such individuals, as well as allowing them to remain online to be debated by others.

Gadde said in an interview with Motherboard that Twitter is working with academics to see if it can be confirmed that “counter-speech and conversation are a force for good” and “can act as a basis for de-radicalization,” which is Twitter’s current position. She also added that Twitter has seen evidence on other platforms that radical viewpoints can change through an exchange of ideas.

“We’re working with them specifically on white nationalism and white supremacy and radicalization online and understanding the drivers of those things,” Gadde said in the Motherboard interview. “What role can a platform like Twitter play in either making that worse or making that better?”

A Twitter spokesman wrote The Daily Dot saying: “We’ve made great strides in creating stronger policies against hateful conduct, violent extremist groups and violent threats on Twitter. We will always have more to do, and collaboration with outside researchers is critical to helping us effectively address issues like radicalization in all its forms.”

But the coalition contends Twitter’s response is nowhere near close enough.

“Twitter has some responsibility for that. Black and brown communities here and globally are under attack,” said Don Gathers, co-founder of the Charlottesville chapter of Black Lives Matter. “The person who shall not be named has enabled others. It all spews from the same ideology. He has to stand up and speak forcefully. If he’s not willing to do so, we must. As a social platform, Twitter has not taken responsibility. What they’re allowing is not all speech is free, much of it is hate. Intimidation and bullying can’t be allowed. They cannot be allowed to use the cloak and cover of anonymity. We’re calling on Twitter to denounce that … We just have to say enough.”

Gathers, former Chair of Charlottesville’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials, and Public Spaces, said Charlottesville is still reeling from march and rally’s fallout.

“The deadly Unite the Right rally was planned on social media, and our community is still feeling the profound impact of that violence today,” he said. “We’re still reeling from [that] fateful day and fateful actions. Whole communities are still living in fear. It’s time these companies used their terms of service to keep white supremacists off Twitter and reduce the hate that leads to tragedy.”

This article originally published in the August 19, 2019 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.