Category: Uncategorized

Factoid: Black Male Incarceration Rate is 6 Times Greater Than Rate for White Males

Statistics from the Department of Justice indicate that black males are incarcerated – held in prison or jail – at a rate that is over 6 times higher than that for white males.

For every 100,000 black males, an estimated 4,777 are held in federal or state prison or a local jail.

By contrast, for every 100,000 white men, only 727 are estimated to be incarcerated.

Incarceration-Rates-by-Race
Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prison Inmates at Midyear 2008 – Statistical Tables, March 2009 (Revised 4/8/09), Table 18

The Bureau of Justice Statistics report that’s cited above can be obtained here. If you want to go straight to the PDF version of the report, it’s here.

One result of this high incarceration rate is that the percentage of blacks among all males in prison or jail far exceeds the percentage of blacks in the general population:
Prison-vs-Population-Stats
Source: Calculated from Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prison Inmates at Midyear 2008 – Statistical Tables, March 2009 (Revised 4/8/09); Population stats from US Census Bureau

What explains these numbers? It’s a combination of things: African Americans commit more crimes; they commit more crimes that are likely to result in jail time (as a result of sentencing guidelines that, for example, result in more jail time for crack cocaine than cocaine powder); they are less able to afford high quality legal services; and they may be subject to discrimination in prosecution, the rendering of verdicts, and sentencing.

I will try to look at these issues in future posts.

Factoid: Abortions by Race: Rates and Reasons

This is the number of abortions in America by race, going back to 1973, through 2004:

Abortions for Black and White Women, 1973-2004
Abortions-by-Race
Source: Black Americans: A Statistical Sourcebook 2009. Based on information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

These numbers raise the question: why do black women have abortions at such a higher rate than white women?

The answer seems to be twofold: black women are more likely to have unintended pregnancies; and back women are more likely to feel they lack the maturity or resources to raise a child.

This chart, from the article Abortion and Women of Color: The Bigger Picture, shows the high correlation between the incidence of unintended pregnancies and abortions:
Abortion-Chart2

One comment I’ve heard on this subject is that, unfortunately, many pregnant black women use abortion as a kind of birth control. They never intended to have a child. But because they didn’t take effective steps to prevent the pregnancy on the “front end,” they wind up having to terminate the pregnancy on the back end.

Also of note, from the report Abortion and Women of Color: The Bigger Picture:

The abortion rate among women living below the federal poverty level ($9,570 for a single woman with no children) is more than four times that of women above 300% of the poverty level (44 vs. 10 abortions per 1,000 women). This is partly because the rate of unintended pregnancies among poor women (below 100% of poverty) is nearly four times that of women above 200% of poverty* (112 vs. 29 per 1,000 women).

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Truth, Lies, and a Black Confederate Soldiers Hoax; and the True Story of the Louisiana Native Guards

This is a lie:

Fake-Black-Confederates-Picture

This picture purports to show the 1st Louisiana Native Guard, a group of African American soldiers who supposedly served in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. It’s been used in numerous places, including Youtube videos here and here.

The picture has been used by pro-Confederate supporters for its propaganda value: the “fact” that blacks fought in the Confederate armed forces is offered as proof that the South was not fighting the Civil War to defend slavery, but rather, for their freedom or “states rights”… or something.

The problem with the picture is, it’s a fake. It’s a retouched version of this picture, which features a white Union official:
Real-Black-Confederate-picture

The picture was taken in Philadelphia, around 1864. It was eventually used to make an illustration for a Union recruitment poster that was targeted at blacks. The fascinating story of how this piece of history was made into a hoax is detailed at the site Retouching History: The Modern Falsification of a Civil War Photograph. As described at the site,

“In the past decade,” the Yale historian David Blight has recently written, “the neo-Confederate fringe of Civil War enthusiasm . . . has contended that thousands of African Americans, slave and free, willingly joined the Confederate war effort as soldiers and fought for their ‘homeland’ . . . . Slaves’ fidelity to their masters’ cause – – a falsehood constructed to support claims that the war was not about slavery – – has long formed one of the staple arguments in Lost Cause ideology.”

In this paper we discuss a graphic example of Blight’s contention by examining a Civil War-era posed studio photograph of black Union soldiers with a white officer. We maintain that this photograph has been deliberately falsified in recent years by an unknown person/s sympathetic to the Confederacy. This falsified or fabricated photo, purporting to be of the 1st Louisiana Native Guards (Confederate), has been taken to promote Neo-Confederate views, to accuse Union propagandists of duplicity, and to show that black soldiers were involved in the armed defense of the Confederacy.

The actual 1st Louisiana Native Guards, consisting of Afro-Creoles, was formed of about 1,500 men in April 1861 and was formally accepted as part of the Louisiana militia in May 1862. The Native Guards unit (one of three all-black companies) never saw combat while in Confederate service, and was largely kept at arm’s length by city and state officials; in fact, it often lacked proper uniforms and equipment.

“The Confederate authorities,” James Hollandsworth has written, “never intended to use black troops for any mission of real importance. If the Native Guards were good for anything, it was for public display; free blacks fighting for Southern rights made good copy for the newspapers.” The unit apparently was never committed to the Confederate cause, and appears to have disobeyed orders to evacuate New Orleans with other Confederate forces; instead it surrendered to Union troops in April 1862.

The photographs of the Louisiana Native Guards… show how a legitimate photograph can be altered and used to advance and support a particular contemporary political or ideological perspective in the present-day United States.

The group that was the focus of this hoax – the Louisiana Native Guard – makes for an interesting story in and of itself. The guard, which was a militia of the state of Louisiana, consisted of creole (mixed race) soldiers. On Nov. 23, 1861 – after the start of the Civil War – they made their debut, with a show of 33 black officers and 731 black enlisted men along the banks of the Mississippi River next to their white counterparts in the Louisiana militia.

Civil War historian James Hollandsworth wrote a book about these troops titled The Louisiana Native Guards: The Black Experience during the Civil War. He noted:

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Julian Bond on Gay Rights and the Black Community

Julian Bond, the long time civil rights crusader and current chairman of the NAACP, is been an ardent supporter of gay rights. As noted in wikipedia,

Bond has been an outspoken supporter of the rights of gays and lesbians. He has publicly stated his support for same-sex marriage. Most notably he boycotted the funeral services for Coretta Scott King on the grounds that the King children had chosen an anti-gay megachurch. This was in contradiction to their mother’s longstanding support for the rights of gay and lesbian people.

In a 2005 speech in Richmond, VA, Bond stated: “African Americans … were the only Americans who were enslaved for two centuries, but we were far from the only Americans suffering discrimination then and now. … Sexual disposition parallels race. I was born this way. I have no choice. I wouldn’t change it if I could. Sexuality is unchangeable.”

In a 2007 speech on the Martin Luther King Day Celebration at Clayton State University in Morrow, GA, Bond said, “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married.” His positions have pitted elements of the NAACP against religious groups in the Black Civil Rights movement who oppose gay marriage…

Bond was recently interviewed by the student newspaper of Macalester College, and had this to say on the subject of gay rights and the black community:

Q: You’ve taken a very progressive stance on gay rights. Does gay rights fit under the larger umbrella of civil rights?

Bond: Sure.

Q: How would you gauge your organization’s success so far in conveying that message to its supporters?


Bond: It’s been mixed because most of our members and supporters are African American. They tend to be very conservative on these kinds of social issues. Many are tremendously religious, and their religion instructs some of them that homosexuality is wrong. I think we’ve tried to approach it by saying, “I’m not asking you to give up your religion, I’m asking you not to impose your religion on other people.” We have mixed success with this because you know some religious people think they can impose their religion on everybody. And they can’t.

And check out this related story from Jasmyne Cannick of the urbanthoughtcollective.com blog: The SCLC Fight Against Gay Marriage: a No Win Situation.

In Louisiana, a Great Racial Divide

In the 2008 presidential election, whites in Louisiana voted for Republican John McCain over Democrat Barack Obama by a margin of 84%-14%. Meanwhile, blacks voted for Obama over McCain by a margin of 94%-4%.

There is huge divide between blacks and whites in Louisiana. And it’s not just political.

A recent report titled A Portrait of LOUISIANA: Louisiana Human Development Report 2009 shows wide disparities in income, education, and life expectancy between blacks and whites in the state. The report is a product of the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation, the Foundation for the Mid South, Oxfam America, and the American Human Development Project, which did the research and wrote the report.

The findings of the report include:

• Median personal earnings for whites in Louisiana average $28,912, which is slightly above the national average. For African Americans, earnings are $17,010, comparable to U.S. median earnings in the mid- 1960s.

• Nearly one in three African American adults age 25 and over in Louisiana has not graduated from high school. (!!!)

• African Americans in Louisiana are less than half as likely to have completed college than their white counterparts.

• The average life span for African Americans in Louisiana today (72.2 years) is shorter than that of many developing nations, including Colombians, Vietnamese and Venezuela.

• The average life span of an African American in New Orleans is 69.3 years, nearly as low as life expectancy in North Korea, while the life expectancy for a white person is 79.6 years.

• Whites in Louisiana earning the least have wages and salaries on par with African Americans earning the most.

• Louisiana African American women have wages and salaries typical of those that prevailed in the U.S. in the 1950s.

• An African-American baby boy born today in Louisiana can expect to live 68.1 years, a life span shorter than that of the average American in 1960 and on par with that of men in Azerbaijan, Egypt and Jamaica today.

The economic disparity between blacks and whites in the state is illustrated by the following chart, which shows the percentage of Louisiana families that fall within various income groups.

State of Louisiana – Family Income of Whites and African Americans, 2007
Louisiana-Income-by-Race
In Louisiana, nearly 25 percent of white families percent have incomes of $100,000 or more, while about 7 percent have incomes below $15,000. The exact opposite is the case for African Americans.
Source: A Portrait Of Louisiana: Louisiana Human Development Report 2009

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Study Finds Racial Inequalities Cost U.S. Health System Over $50 Billion a Year

Racial inequalities in health care access and quality added more than $50 billion a year in direct U.S. health care costs over a four-year period according to a study released today by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

As stated in the press release from the Joint Center,

In this study, researchers at Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland found that over 30 percent of direct medical expenditures for African Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanics were excess costs linked to health inequalities. Between 2003 and 2006, these excess costs were $229.4 billion.

Further, the researchers estimated that the indirect costs of racial inequalities associated with illness and premature death amounted to more than a trillion dollars over the same time period. Eliminating these inequalities would have saved the U.S. economy a grand total of $1.24 trillion dollars. The study noted that this four-year $1.24 trillion expenditure is more than the annual gross domestic product of India, the world’s 12th largest economy.

Previous studies have established that minority Americans experience poorer than average health outcomes from cradle to grave. People of color are significantly more likely to die as infants, have higher rates of chronic disease and disability, and shorter life spans.

The costs measured in the Joint Center study include those directly associated with providing care to a sicker and more disadvantaged population, as well as such indirect costs such as lost productivity, lost wages, absenteeism, use of family leave for avoidable illnesses and lower quality of life. In addition, the study measured the costs of premature death in the form of forgone wages, lost tax revenues, additional services and benefits for the families of the deceased and lower quality of life for survivors.

The study is available for download from the Joint Center site.

A related article on the nature and causes of racial disparities in health care from the Washington Post, Studies Look for Reasons Behind Racial Disparities in Health Care, provides some insight on this problem:

Racial minorities are less likely to undergo major surgeries at the hospitals where those operations are done best, and black patients at Medicare HMOs fare worse than whites on several health measures regardless of plan quality, according to studies being released today.

The two studies in today’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, plus a third showing that black women are less likely than their white counterparts to survive breast cancer, add to the voluminous evidence that the U.S. health-care system works differently for minorities than for whites despite years of efforts to erase racial disparities.

Studies have demonstrated that blacks and other minorities are far less likely than whites to receive many types of care, such as appendectomies, heart bypass surgery, or basic tests and drugs for heart disease and diabetes. Minorities on average are more prone to illness, have more complications and recover more slowly. They also are more likely to die from their illnesses, and to die younger.

But while the persistent disparities are well-documented, the causes remain the focus of research and debate. One explanation is that minorities tend to be poorer and less educated, with less access to care. And they tend to live in places where doctors and hospitals provide lower quality care than elsewhere. Others suspect cultural or biological differences play a role, and there is a long-running debate about whether subtle racism infects the health-care system.

Why Black Conservatives Don’t Vote Republican

Kathleen Parker recently wrote an essay in the Washington Post titled Can the GOP Speak to Blacks? Before even reading past the headline, I thought to myself: the Republican Party is speaking to Blacks. It’s just that, what they’re saying doesn’t sound too good:

Stuff like that gets to the crux of the issue that’s not addressed in Parker’s article, which talks about a young black conservative who’s trying to convince other blacks to join the Republican Party:

Marvin Rogers, a 33-year-old former aide to South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis, has a plan for the GOP. He wants to change its complexion.

In 2008… he ran unsuccessfully for the SC state House of Representatives. “Unsuccessfully” in this case should be qualified. Rogers won 32 percent of the vote in a blue stronghold, running as a black Republican in the year of Obama.

(When Rogers started to think about his own political leaning), he began by examining issues on paper and recognized that he was philosophically more aligned with Republicans than Democrats. But then a funny thing happened. When he began attending political meetings, he noticed, “Oh, my, I’m the only black guy here. What’s up with that?”

That question led Rogers on a quest that has resulted in a book nearing completion, “Silence Is the Loudest Sound,” in which he attempts to explain how the party of Lincoln lost its black soul. Through five years of study and interviews, Rogers reached the conclusion that the chasm between the black community and the Republican Party is more emotional than philosophical. And, he says, that chasm is more a media template than reflective of reality.

The best explanation for what’s gone wrong, he says, was articulated by Jack Kemp, who told him during an interview: “The Republican Party has had a great history with African Americans and they turned away from it. The Democratic Party has had a terrible history, but they overcame it.”

Part of the turning away followed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy,” which tried to harness votes by cultivating white resentment toward blacks. Rogers is no Pollyanna and recognizes this period for what it was — a “bruise” on the GOP. But he insists that Democrats use the Southern strategy when it suits them.

The biggest problem for today’s Republican Party, he says, is tone-deafness, as manifested by conservative talk radio and TV. Rogers says he and most blacks can’t listen to Rush Limbaugh because all they hear is anger. “They might agree with Rush on the issues, but they can’t hear him because he sounds mad. People don’t follow fussers. People don’t follow angry men. They follow articulators.”

The article reminded me of a point made by one of my college instructors: a key to understanding American politics is to realize that this is a two-party country.

In other countries, especially those with a parliamentary form of government, there can be many parties. But in America, you have have the big two, Democrats and Republicans, and a few smaller parties that lack a record of sustained success.

This means that particular constituents and interest groups are forced to form coalitions with other groups that support one of the dominant parties. That often leads to uncomfortable alliances. But this is the reality of American politics.

And in fact, you will find many African Americans at BOTH the conservative and progressive ends of the spectrum who are not entirely comfortable with the Democrats.

http://23.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_kpzvv6xGNY1qa3xbjo1_500.png
Protesters at the September 12th march on Washington
How many black conservatives want to join with these people?

But consider what blacks would have to put up with, if they were in a coalition with conservatives and Republicans:
The Hate That Hate Produced: The Demonization of Barack Obama by the Republican Party

There are many more examples that could be provided, in addition to the ones noted in the link. Many more. Many many many more.

To be clear: it is unfair and incorrect to say that all Republicans, or even a majority of Republicans, harbor racist feelings toward Obama or African Americans.

But there’s a whole lot more of those kinds of folks, making and sending overt or implicitly racist messages, on the extreme edge of the GOP than there are at the extreme edge of the Democratic Party. And these crazies scare black folks a lot more than the Democratic crazies.

The bottom line is this: most black people will not tolerate, nor join in coalition with, the kinds of extremists that we see in the GOP. Until that changes, the Republicans will continue to get a small portion of the black vote.

See also: Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats?

Know the Facts: The Success of the Stimulus Package

There’s some question/debate about whether the stimulus package that was passed earlier this year has helped the economy or not.

To be sure: there are many structural problems in our economy – such as foreign outsourcing, computerization, uncompetitiveness in manufacturing – that won’t just go away. No bill from Congress will fix all of that, or any of that.

But make no mistake, the stimulus package has helped the economy. As mentioned in the article Stimulus Credited for Lifting Economy, But Worries About Unemployment Persist from the Washington Post,

Half a year after Congress enacted the largest economic stimulus plan in the nation’s history, the measure is contributing to what increasingly looks like a budding recovery…

While some congressional Republicans and others are dubious about the success of the stimulus plan, economists generally agree that the package has played a significant part in stabilizing the economy. They are less certain about the size of the impact.

“It’s starting to play a role, helping us to have slightly positive rather than slightly negative GDP growth,” said Phillip Swagel, an assistant Treasury secretary in the Bush administration who is now a visiting professor at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business. “It’s a gigantic amount of fiscal stimulus, and anyone who tells you it has had no impact, you should be skeptical of.”

IHS Global Insight, an economic consulting firm, estimates that the stimulus has increased the 2009 gross domestic product by about 1 percent over what it otherwise would have been, with the benefit almost entirely in the second half of the year.

The firm also forecasts that the package will, in total, result in about 2 million more jobs than otherwise would have existed at the end of 2010. Moody’s Economy.com estimates that the initiative will increase employment by 2.5 million jobs. Both estimates are below the 3 million to 3.5 million jobs the Obama administration estimated the package would create or save because the firms assumed more modest ripple effects from the stimulus spending than administration economists did.

Still, Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Economy.com, said, “I don’t think it’s any accident that the economy has gone out of recession and into recovery at the same time stimulus is providing its maximum economic impact.”

Now that YOU know, share the knowledge, and let everyone else know.
****

An interesting video, Five Ways President Obama Changed My Life, talks about how the stimulus and other policies have helped a Jane Q Citizen from Philly:

Frederick Douglass: The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro

Frederick Douglass is one of the great figures in American history. This ex-slave became one of the leading voices of the abolitionist movement before the Civil War.

On July 5, 1852, in Rochester, New York, Douglass gave a speech at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence. That speech, The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro, is now famous for its biting commentary about the state of freedom and the races in antebellum America.

Frederick_Douglass_portrait
Frederick Douglass

Douglass says, “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” He goes on to say among many other comments that day:

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.

To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.

There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Americans! your republican politics, not less than your republican religion, are flagrantly inconsistent. You boast of your love of liberty, your superior civilization, and your pure Christianity, while the whole political power of the nation (as embodied in the two great political parties) is solemnly pledged to support and perpetuate the enslavement of three millions of your countrymen.

You invite to your shores fugitives of oppression from abroad, honor them with banquets, greet them with ovations, cheer them, toast them, salute them, protect them, and pour out your money to them like water; but the fugitives from oppression in your own land you advertise, hunt, arrest, shoot, and kill.

You glory in your refinement and your universal education; yet you maintain a system as barbarous and dreadful as ever stained the character of a nation-a system begun in avarice, supported in pride, and perpetuated in cruelty.

You are all on fire at the mention of liberty for France or for Ireland; but are as cold as an iceberg at the thought of liberty for the enslaved of America. You discourse eloquently on the dignity of labor; yet, you sustain a system which, in its very essence, casts a stigma upon labor. You can bare your bosom to the storm of British artillery to throw off a three-penny tax on tea; and yet wring the last hard earned farthing from the grasp of the black laborers of your country.

You profess to believe “that, of one blood, God made all nations of men to dwell on the face of all the earth,” and hath commanded all men, everywhere, to love one another; yet you notoriously hate (and glory in your hatred) all men whose skins are not colored like your own.

You declare before the world, and are understood by the world to declare that you “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; and are endowed by their Creator with certain in alienable rights; and that among these are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and yet, you hold securely, in a bondage which, according to your own Thomas Jefferson, “is worse than ages of that which your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose,” a seventh part of the inhabitants of your country.

Fellow-citizens, I will not enlarge further on your national inconsistencies. The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretense, and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys your moral power abroad: it corrupts your politicians at home. It saps the foundation of religion; it makes your name a hissing and a bye-word to a mocking earth. It is the antagonistic force in your government, the only thing that seriously disturbs and endangers your Union. it fetters your progress; it is the enemy of improvement; the deadly foe of education; it fosters pride; it breeds insolence; it promotes vice; it shelters crime; it is a curse to the earth that supports it; and yet you cling to it as if it were the sheet anchor of all your hopes.

Oh! be warned! be warned! a horrible reptile is coiled up in your nation’s bosom; the venomous creature is nursing at the tender breast of your youthful republic; for the love of God, tear away, and fling from you the hideous monster, and let the weight of twenty millions crush and destroy it forever!

His speech is required reading, even today. I encourage you to read the full version.

Michael Jackson, RIP

Like many of you, I was shocked and hurt to hear of the death of Michael Jackson.

He was an entertainment superstar, and a defining figure of my generation.

He was perhaps the ultimate black “crossover” figure. His Thriller album is the best selling album of all time, with over 100 million copies sold worldwide.

It is amazing to think that a black kid in a soul music kiddie band from Gary, Indiana could grow up and achieve such commercial music heights. Only in America.

Sadly, Jackson will be remembered as much for his eccentricity as his talent. A little while ago, I wrote a post about a play that featured the story of a tragic mulatto.

And that popped into my head when I thought of Jackson. Jackson had facial surgery numerous times, resulting in a face that lacked blackness, and common sense. The brown skinned, afro coiffed, and chubby-cherub face of his early career was replaced by a very light skinned, almost ghostly caricature.

And so, a man who was rich enough to have anything used his wealth to destroy that which made him famous: his own image.

Still, none of that diminished his talent or impact. Michael Jackson’s music was pop and R’n’B at its best. His stuff sounds good, even today; it stands the test of time, and it will continue to do so.

Whatever demons drove him in his later life, I hope he is free of them now.

From Youtube, here is an ode to Michael Jackson and all the black performers who paved the way for him.

Georgia Governor Candidate Blasts Republican Secessionists; Blacks and the Pledge of Allegiance

There’s been a rash of politicians-mainly Southern, always Republican-who have made comments to the effect that their states should secede from the United States. Given that these statements are being made a time when we have an African American President, the symbolism of this rhetoric is extremely disturbing.

General David Poythress is a Democratic candidate for Governor of Georgia. He has this to say about politicians who would “cut and run from America”:

This is some text from the clip:

For years, Georgia’s 8th Grade students read in their history books about our state’s decision to secede from the United States back in 1861. Today, our students need only look at a daily newspaper to see that talk of secession isn’t just a thing of the past. In fact, four of the six Republican candidates said they would support Georgia seceding from the United States of America. This is outrageous.

This is absolutely disgraceful—it’s a slap in the face to every patriotic American, to anybody who has served under the American flag and to those brave Georgians who have fought and died for our country in Iraq…

What really offends me the most, is that none of these Republican secession candidates ever wore, for a single day, the uniform of our country, carried a weapon, or heard a shot fired in anger. Not ONE ever put their life on the line to protect our freedoms and liberty.

But they recklessly call for secession from America. They would in effect, ban the American flag and end the pledge of allegiance. They would say to the world that when they don’t get their way, they quit.

That’s just childish. That’s cowardice, not leadership… Real leadership means we work toward common sense solutions to protect American values, not just quit our country because we don’t agree with other Americans… United We Stand. Divided We Fall… Know this: when I’m the Governor of Georgia, I won’t cut and run from America… When I say the Pledge of Allegiance, I mean it.

I don’t know much else about the General, and let me make it clear, I am not promoting his candidacy. But this is an important and timely message, and I felt strongly that I should help to spread it.

In a related note: earlier this week, I attended a Juneteenth celebration that was held at the main library here in Washington, DC. During the event, one of the speakers asked everyone to rise and say the Pledge of Allegiance.

Most of the people in the almost all-African American audience stood and said the pledge. But there was a bunch of people who did not.

I was troubled by this. Yes, this country has committed its share of offenses. Certainly, slavery and Jim Crow are evils that will forever stain the American legacy.

But darn it, this is our country too. During the Civil War, some 200,000 African Americans served in the Union forces. Many of them died in the cause of our freedom, a freedom that all black Americans enjoy today… and that many black Americans, sadly and unfortunately, squander.

My uncle served in World War II. He was a part of General Patton’s black tank unit. He took pride in showing me a Nazi swastika that he captured from German soldiers. And I took pride in hearing of his accomplishments.

Bottom line, we fought for this country, we built this country, we ARE this country. America is us.

I am proud to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Not necessarily for the America that is, but for the America that I want and am willing to work hard to create. I pledge that I will make America a better place, not just for me, or my family, but for the world community.

And that’s something we should all stand for.

PS: I don’t mean to imply that folks who don’t say the Pledge of Allegiance are unpatriotic or other wise “bad.” What I am saying is, I hope that people won’t see our nation’s horrible race history as a block to saying the Pledge. I’m not saying that we should turn our back on the past, but rather, turn our faces forward to the future, and pledge to the country we want to create, not the one we had before or even the one we have now.

I want to give a hat tip to the folks at Indigo Journal for turning me on to this story.

Juneteenth is Tomorrow! Hold the Date, Seize the Day

Juneteenth (June 19) 2009 is tomorrow. Don’t forget to use this time to reflect on our history and its meaning for the future.
juneteenthflags
American Flag and Juneteenth Flag

Effective January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation declared that all black slaves who lived in the Confederate states during the Civil War were “forever free.” This did not free the slaves immediately; the Confederacy simply ignored the order, and went about with their conduct of the Civil War.

Emancipation became “official” in 1865 when Confederate commander Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. The news of the war’s end and emancipation spread through the South, but it was slow in getting to Texas.

Texas, which was far and isolated from much of the fighting, had become a place of refuge for slaveholders who wanted to keep their slaves from becoming free. But on June 19, 1865, Federal troops came to Galveston, Texas, and announced that all the slaves were emancipated. These blacks in Texas are considered to be the last group of slaves to know that they were freed.

June 19th – Juneteenth – has gone from being a local day of celebration and reflection in Texas, to a national one. Here in Washington, DC, several events have been planned, including a service at the African American Civil War memorial.

juneteenth.JPG
This picture is from a Juneteenth celebration in 1900 at the University of Texas in Austin.

I hope you can all take some time to commemorate this vital part of history.

The GOP Can’t Help It.

I guess the Republican Party just can’t help it. Making crude comments about African Americans, even one who has reached the position of POTUS, seems to be in their DNA. Consider these clumsy remarks by the Republican Party about Barack Obama and his wife Michelle:

• From Newscoma: Tennessee GOP state Senator Diane Black (R-Gallatin) sent an email with this image of our country’s presidents.

GOP_TN_Racism_Presidents

• From the Indigo Journal: Mike Green, a Republican operative who is helping to run the campaign for GOP gubernatorial candidate Gresham Barrett, posted the following joke about President Obama on his Twitter account:

JUST HEARD OBAMA IS GOING TO IMPOSE A 40% TAX ON ASPIRIN BECAUSE IT’S WHITE AND IT WORKS.

Fitsnews.com reports: Republican Rusty DePass, a former SC State Senate candidate, supporter of former President George W. Bush, and Longtime GOP activist, made this comment after hearing about the escape of a gorilla from a zoo in Columbia South Carolina:

“I’m sure it’s just one of Michelle’s ancestors — probably harmless.

And yet they wonder why they can’t get more black votes…

See also:
WTF?!? Racist Insanity
The Hate That Hate Produced: The Demonization of Barack Obama by the Republican Party