Saturday, June 28, 2008

Black Scholars or Black Ballers? Black Athletes May Take Euro Money vs. College


A year ago, there was speculation that former shoe company czar Sonny Vaccaro was set to go barnstorming over in Europe with a group that would include O.J. Mayo, Bill Walker and a few other elite players coming out of high school. At the time, it seemed pretty far-fetched that an American-born player would bypass the college experience to play in anonymity outside his home country.


It didn't end up happening, but now it appears as though Brandon Jennings, arguably the top incoming freshman in the country, could become a trendsetter of sorts and opt for overseas money over a one-year college experience at Arizona.


"He's definitely considering it," said Kelly Williams, the father of New Jersey Nets point guard Marcus Williams and also a close advisor to the Jennings family. "Why wouldn't he?"


"If it's a sweet enough deal, why wouldn't he look into it?" Williams added. "But there's nothing definitive right now. They are in the process of investigating it, but he's not going to go just to become the first kid to go overseas. We're not going to put him in a bad situation. We'd try and put him in a situation where he can grow and develop."


Jennings first hatched the idea from Vaccaro, who is on a personal crusade against the NCAA and NBA because of the restrictions that those organizations impose on young basketball players.


Jennings' camp said that whether or not he achieves the SAT score (he's expected to get the results of his latest test any day now) that will make him eligible to play college ball at Arizona is irrelevant with regards to his decision to play overseas.

click for more

Friday, June 27, 2008

African American Scholary Thought on the Direction of Civil Rights

an open letter to Dr. Boyce Watkins

A little personal background...This political process supports an hypothesis that I have submitted to students in classes for nearly 20 years while doing adjunct faculty work. Among other social science coursework, I teach social welfare policy and urban politics. Naturally, the current political culture, with respect to recent history, results in spirited discussion and interesting papers. I also speak as a brother; a baby boomer and; a resident of an almost exclusively black and not too prosperous suburb of Cleveland, Ohio.

The above mentioned hypothesis...It has been apparent to me for some time that African-Americans, for good reasons (and some not so good) do not understand the fundamental differences between electoral politics and protest politics. But, this election due to its duration and complexity, is becoming a graduate course for the community. Friends and colleagues are redefining themselves with respect to the manner in which they and other black folk should demonstrate civic participation. We are volunteering thoughts and feelings to each other unlike anything I have seen since the "rap sessions" of the early seventies.

Rather than applying the "conventional wisdom" that so frequently results in myths and derogatory conclusions, I believe we need dialogue and research that addresses the relationships between black civic/political participation and the existence (absence) of the types of institutions that engineer and support political participation. All the while remembering that African Americans are a minority people and the blueprint for these institutions generally reflects the dominant culture.

Today's political process, at least as we view the percentages of black voters who support Obama, indicates the utility of electoral politics as a factor in creating cultural bonds that offset social and economic divisions. (sounds like another hypothesis in the making)

I hope that of African American academics like yourself and Michael Dyson can assist us as we negotiate the political, cultural and social learning curves related to blacks taking on leadership responsibilities in electoral politics. This is not to place an unbearable onus on you. That would be unfair. The often amorphous, but real, "black community" must become engaged in every respect, by all forms of media to overcome the habit of ignoring its scholars. Your website is so important in that regard.

Barack Obama is living the "Jackie Robinson Syndrome" as he negotiates the dominant cultures' institutions in the absence of black institutions designed to support and strengthen him. Stokely Carmichael and Charles Hamilton forewarned us 40 plus years ago in the classic book Black Power about the need to develop political institutions that are reflective of the culture. Again, I believe there is a a basic assumption to be considered...politics, whether they be electoral, protest or those politics associated with specified public policy, can and will define culture.

Additionally, Black Power's thesis was, in some regards, old wine in new wineskins if the messages of DuBois, Garvey and some others are carefully examined.

So now that we have all been caught unprepared by the politics of today, the leadership of academicians who still have a semblance of a resonating voice, is "so welcomed". We must support you and dialogue with you just as we make every effort to do the same for and with Barack Obama. I hope Obama's organization functions so that he can be reasonably receptive. I worry because I do not see the strong black institutions required to support this idea.

Personally, I cringed twice-over at Obama's politicizing of black fatherhood just as you expressed on your website. I heartily agree with your sentiments about that. I also believe that Obama, as a politician needs the fuel for more cogent commentary and that must come from all of black educators, researchers, teachers, social workers etc.

In addition, that unfortunate commentary was an example of the need for social science to provide us all with knowledge that countervails the current diatribe that currently prevails about black folks.

Again, I highlight the merits of your website as well as Michael Dyson's book that answered Bill Cosby . I just wish I could receive your beautifully thought out sentiments directly. I will sign on again.

Very Sincerely,

Justin White

African Americans Optimistic About the Future


A sweeping new national study offers one of the most detailed looks ever at the lives and attitudes of America's 39 Million blacks.

USA Today says, overall, the Yankelovich survey finds that African-Americans have made progress economically and educationally and most have a positive outlook for the future.

It also found 11 distinct and diverse segments within black America, linked by interests and perspectives.

Details of the study's findings are available at

More from Radio One's news release....

According to one of the largest-ever studies of Black America, 70 percent of African Americans already have a plan for their future. The survey was released today by Radio One Inc., the study’s sponsor, and Yankelovich, the Chapel Hill-based research firm.

The survey of 3,400 African Americans between 13 and 74 years of age, the only study to include Black teens and seniors, found also that 54 percent were optimistic about their future and 60 percent believe “things are getting better for me.”

The study provides the most detailed snap shot of African American life in the United States today, and finds strong group identity across age and income brackets. It also discloses a comprehensive and nuanced look at how African Americans feel about many aspects of life in America, and cautions against a simplistic reading of Black America as a monolithic group. In fact, it shows that Blacks are divided evenly on how they liked to be described, with 42 percent (who are more likely to be affluent) preferring to be called “Black” and 44 percent preferring “African American.”


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Black Scholar Boyce Watkins on Soulja Boy/Ice T Beef, Black Men

Some might wonder why I have the desire to comment on the beef between Soulja Boy and Ice T. But I hope people remember that professors are also people, and I am not a Finance Professor who happens to be black, I am a black man who happens to be a Finance Professor. So, for those who don't like hearing me speak on hip hop, deal with it.

I get mixed up in some hip hop beefs every now and then, as I spent a lot of time providing perspective on the beef between Ice Cube, 50 Cent and Oprah Winfrey last year. I speak with a lot of artists when I go to Hot 97 and BET, and I enjoy talking to them about how to manage their money and get their finances straight within an industry that is quick to financially rape black men.

The beef between Soulja Boy and Ice T was interesting, as Ice T doesn't seem to feel that Soulja Boy is adding anything to hip hop. In his remarks, Ice T told Soulja Boy to "eat a ....." (no, it was not a cheeseburger). Soulja Boy came back hard, referring to Ice T as an "Old ass n*gga", among other things.

I can't disagree, Ice T is pretty old. I don't know too many rappers born in 1958. He's actually old enough to be Soulja Boy's grandfather. At the same time, elders must be respected, and few artists have this kind of staying power. Ice T printed game unlike any other before or after him, and that contribution must be respected. But respect must be earned, and I don't feel that Ice earned his respect with the way he came at Soulja Boy.

I wrote an article or two on the topic, but I won't go into that. But I can say that when I watched the commentary by Soulja Boy, I saw a confused kid. I saw a young man who was (in his words) "poor as hell" just a year earlier, trying to find a way to make a living for he and his family. He said that he had tremendous respect for Ice T, and I speculate that he would have wanted to hear an older person say "eat your vegetables", instead of "eat a .....".

I could tell that Soulja Boy was hurt by the criticism. But when a man comes that hard at you, you have to respond strongly like a man. I am sure that he would rather have seen Ice T reach out to him and (in his words) "give him some pointers". Instead, Ice T came with the attack first, rather than trying to communicate as a brother or father figure.

I respect Ice T and I know alot about him from my conversations with Wendy Williams at WBLS. He is an amazing talent and his wife Coco, beyond being a stripper, is actually the intellectual engine that makes his empire move. So, seeing such an astute, intelligent and talented man like Ice T come at a 17-year old kid in such a nasty way really shocked the hell out of me.

Ice T, you're a man and a true playa. Now, swallow your pride, pick up the phone and mentor this young kid. Part of being a man means being man enough to admit that you were wrong. Soulja Boy's insults to you were really a reflection of his pain and disappointment. Young people don't need our disses, they need our guidance. Now get to transmittin game.

Top Black Scholar Peniel Joseph Speaks to YourBlackWorld

Interview with Harvard fellow, Peniel E. Joseph, by Tolu Olorunda.

Peniel E. Joseph is one of the nation’s leading scholars of African American history. Although Joseph’s formal expertise includes the Black Radical Tradition, Pan-Africanism, Black Social Movements, and African American feminism, he is currently embarking on a re-evaluation of the Black Power Movement. Professor Joseph is associate professor of African and Afro-American Studies and affiliate faculty in history at Brandeis University. Joseph is the founder of a growing subfield of historical and Africana Studies scholarship that he has named “Black Power Studies.” Joseph's dynamic presentation style and innovative scholarship, place him on the cutting edge of a new generation of public intellectuals. Joseph’s book “Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America,” was a “Washington Post Book World” Best Nonfiction Book for 2006. It was also a finalist for the Mark Lynton History Prize. It received honorable mention for the 2007 Gustavas Myers Center Outstanding Book Award; and received the inaugural W.E.B. Du Bois Book Award from the Northeastern Black Studies Alliance. It was also a Boston Globe paperback bestseller in 2008. Joseph is currently working on a biography of Civil Rights and Black Power activist, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), and a study of postwar African American history. For the 2008-2009 academic year, Dr. Joseph will be a fellow at Harvard University’s Warren Center.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Joseph on a wide array of issues. With topics ranging from politics to culture, and education to sports, he was insightfully-enlightening in his observations:

Thanks for joining us. Can you tell us about your background, and the journey leading up to Harvard?

I’m from New York City, born and raised, and I’m just raised by a single mom. My mom was a trade unionist for 40 yrs in New York City – just retired. So, I was always into social and political activism; I was on my first picket line by the time I was 9 yrs old, so I was always active. I was always interested in Black history, Caribbean history, Asian history and African history, so after college I got my PhD from Temple University. At the same time, I was still involved in community and social activism. I wound up teaching at Arizona State University for a couple of years; then I taught at University of Rhode Island and Stony Brooks University in New York -- which is my alma mater. And now at Brandeis University, but this year, I’m a fellow at Harvard University.

Is the continued presence of Black and Brown intellectuals in Ivy League schools emblematic of any substantive progress for us?

Yes, I think it’s an example of progress, but I also think it that -- well, I’ll do the ‘positives’ first. I think it’s a tremendous example of progress, given the fact that when we think about higher education and academe, especially predominantly white institutions; these we’re set up as spaces for the white, elite and the rich. So as soon as you get any kind of African Americans in there, it’s very positive. And, obviously we owe a lot of these to people like Carter G. Woodson, W.E.B Du Bois and Ida B. Wells; the generation of the 19th and early 20th century intellectuals. Some we’re PhDs and others we’re just organic intellectuals in that degree, such as Marcus Garvey and Hubert Harrison. By the time you get to the 1960s, there’s really a second wave of Black Studies, vis-à-vis the Black Power movement that forces some of these predominantly white institutions to open up their doors, through the implementation of Black Studies majors in programs across the country. So that’s the positive. But the negative is the fact that I think most of these spaces are still overwhelmingly white and racist. So, having Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson and Manning Marable is great, but at the same time, it provides cover for some of these racist institutions as well. So, you have this representative-nature of Blackness, but you don’t have enough Black Undergraduates, or Graduates, let alone Faculty and Administration; because we are sorely underrepresented in all those categories. It’s the same thing with Senator Obama. You might have a black president, but you might also see a lack of Blackness in the federal judges or the news-media. So, there’s the good and bad to the process.

What is your overall perspective on the Senator from Illinois -- especially being that he hails from your very Harvard?

Well, I’m a critical supporter of Mr. Obama, and what I mean by that is that I support Obama’s candidacy; and at the same time, I think that if he is elected, we have to be very vigilant and very critical. So that we force ‘President Obama’ to publicly confront things like, the Prison Industrial Complex and the pervasiveness/viciousness of institutional racism – locally nationally and internationally. But again, I think that trying to run for president is a hard thing to do.

Do you believe that Cynthia McKinney from the Green Party can help in exerting some ‘progressive-pressure’ upon the political landscape?

I think that Cynthia McKinney is obviously a very progressive person -– whom I admire. I think that when we talk of Cynthia McKinney, a lot of activists get confused with Third-Party runs and Community Organizing. Nowadays, some people think that ‘trying’ a Third-Party run - in and of itself - is community organizing, and there’s a problem there. I think that the bankruptcy of that strategy is shown when you have a candidate like Barack Obama, who’s actually energizing millions of people. The Third-Parties don’t seem to have a parallel-outreach and success. When people like Malcolm X and Kwame Ture would say, “We got to follow the people, because the people are ahead of us;” how come they’re following Obama? Masses of the American people are following Obama.

Do you think Senator Obama’s struggle for the White-House is one which we must all embrace?

I think we should be critically supportive of Barack Obama’s candidacy. We’ve seen a lot of debates over this. We saw Tavis Smiley come out and catch a lot of flak for it. But, I do like the idea of holding Barack Obama accountable, but I also feel that he’s in a very difficult position, because he is the first black man that could actually become president. I think the African American community should embrace his candidacy - but critically - and then really watch what’s going on, and try to influence it within the next four years. And then if our needs aren’t being addressed, we can begin making intelligent calculations on what to do next.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Father’s Day Speech that he gave last Sunday. Did you have a problem with it, or did you feel that it was indeed a legitimate critique?

Well, certainly the speech was pandering, but if you’re from that background, where you’re raised by a single parent, you realize that you do need to speak to Black Men about this. And I thought Obama did it in a way that wasn’t quite as condescending as the way in which Bill Cosby did it in 2004. You have to talk about the politics of self-responsibility vis-à-vis our failures, and also the system that is perpetuating that failure, and that’s a dialogue that we haven’t had in a really complex way. If you’re speaking of the politics of self-determination, whether it’s Marcus Garvey or the Nation of Islam, you’re supposed take personal responsibility. But, one big issue with a Barack Obama presidency is that he might not be able to preach responsibility all across the board.

In matters of education, how does the next president rehabilitate the dilapidated public school system?

To be honest with you, all the president can do is propose laws to the Congress for passage. Certainly, he can give more money to public schools and have further accountability by putting more ‘teeth’ behind “No Child Left Behind;” but it’s really based on spending bills.

As an expert on issues pertinent to race, what are the major obstacles threatening our progress?

I think the biggest things are probably lack of access to higher education, the Prison Industrial complex and the Criminal Justice System. Unemployment, Violence and drugs also are power-brokers in our stagnancy. And we’re talking of Black Americans who happen to be part of the so-called “underclass.”

Do the recent victories of Tiger Woods and the Boston Celtic (being overwhelmingly black) have any substantial impact upon the lives of everyday black folk?

I think they might be an inspiration to some, but a Barack Obama presidency would be even bigger. You know, sports is different from politics, and I think if you have a black President, it will transform the way a lot of young people look at themselves. And, I think Obama’s presidency would bring about reverberations in other aspects of American society. I think that newspapers and television and media would be forced to re-examine aspects of how they’re made up vis-à-vis the shock of having a Black President.

What is your advice for the average brother and sister trying to gain access to higher education?

The pursuit of literacy would allow you to really excel; because, a lot of us are woefully unprepared after graduation from High School. The way it is now, so many of our people have a star-crossed relationship with school, and it is not perceived as something which would impact their lives. I think that what the older folks have to do is educate the younger ones about our history and the struggle that took place to get to this point. And, I think that can provide a context for a way to move forward in the present.

Once again, thanks for speaking with us Dr. Joseph.

This interview was conducted by Tolu Olorunda, Staff Writer for

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Black Attorney and Scholar Speaks on Workplace Discrimination

by Leland Abraham, Esq

One of the least discussed national topics is discrimination in the workplace. Discrimination on the basis of race, national origin or sex occurs more than most Americans are led to believe. A few nuggets of knowledge concerning employment discrimination may help those who have been subject to discrimination protect themselves in their respective places of business.
Racial discrimination occurs when an employer makes job decisions on the basis of race. This occurs even when an employer adopts neutral job policies that disproportionately affect members of a particular race.

There are federal and state laws that prohibit race discrimination in every aspect of the employment relationship, including hiring, firing, promotions, compensation and any other terms or conditions of employment. For example, an employer commits racial discrimination when it refuses to hire blacks, promotes only whites, requires only Latinos to submit to drug tests, or refuses to allow Asian-Americans to interact with customers. An employer that discriminates on the basis of physical characteristics associated with a particular race, such as hair texture or skin color, also commits discrimination.

There are even employment practices that may seem neutral on the surface, but they are in fact discriminatory. For example, height requirements may eliminate a disproportionate number of Asian Americans or Latinos. Also, an employment policy that requires men to be clean shaven may discriminate against black men who are more likely to suffer from pseudofolliculitis barbae (a painful skin condition that is exacerbated by shaving). Most employers are aware that the majority of black men do not shave because of this condition. Rules or policies that have a disproportionate impact on a particular race will only pass muster, or be legitimate, if the employer can show that the negative impact that the policy has on the race adversely affected has a legitimate work related purpose. In short, there has to be a real work reason for the policy and it can’t be arbitrary.

Another arena of the employment process where discrimination is often present is in the area of promotions. There are many instances in which employees of color are passed over for promotions in favor of their white counterparts. Many of these employees of color state that their work performance is at the same quality of production as their colleagues who receive promotions. If this is true, the only difference between the employees of color who were passed over for the promotions and their white colleagues who received the promotions is race. If race is the deciding factor, this is a clear case of discrimination.

There are times, when the work conditions become so hostile that an employee is forced to leave his place of employment. When this happens, the employee will still have an action available to him called “constructive termination.” Constructive termination occurs when the conditions at the place of employment become so extreme that an employee cannot possibly remain employed with such an employer. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that there are an increasing number of constructive termination suits that it prosecutes.

Whatever your profession, there has been someone of color who has experience some form of discrimination that paved the way for you to have the opportunity to employed. In honoring those who have paved the way, make sure that you don’t have to be subject to the same form of discrimination that they had to endure.Legal Disclaimer: This site provides information about the law designed to keep readers informed of pertinent legal matters affecting the African-American community. But legal information is not the same as legal advice -- the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a lawyer in your specific location if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.

Leland Abraham, Esq is a practicing attorney and contributor to

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Dr. Peniel E. Joseph on Racism, Black People, White Supremacy

In 1955, representatives of over 29 countries representing over 1 billion people convened in Bandung, Indonesia to craft an alternative vision of global society. Seeking space between Cold War liberalism and Soviet style Communism, radical humanism infused the “Bandung World.” Indeed, it was a glorious moment in recent world history, one that witnessed revolutionary anti-colonial movements sweeping across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. For African-Americans combating domestic white supremacy, Bandung represented the last best hope for dreams of freedom. Liberation movements in Ghana, Kenya, Algeria, Angola, and Mozambique emboldened black Americans engaged in their own life and death freedom struggles.

Unfortunately, the heady rush of post-colonial idealism in Africa gave way to the harsh reality of neo-colonialism. Perhaps the ultimate irony regarding these historic liberation movements is that for a new generation the Third Way—once irrevocably tied to the radical non-aligned movement—has come to be defined by the neo-liberalism and free-market ideology of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.

Almost 50 years after Bandung, the World Conference Against Racism convened in Durban, South Africa to discuss old and new issues related to the continuing legacies of slavery, colonialism, and white supremacy. In truth, there were two separate conferences that, at times, contained overlap. The Non Governmental Organization (NGO) forum that took place from August 28–September 1 was comprised of grassroots activists, community organizers, students, labor representatives, and activist-scholars. The more well-publicized UN Forum that took place from August 31–September 7 featured a staged American walkout and enough expensive suits to keep an upscale men’s store in business through the next century. While not possessing the “official” credentials required to participate in the UN conference, I was fortunate enough to attend workshops, meetings, caucuses, and rap sessions as a delegate to the NGO Forum held at Durban’s Kingsmead Stadium and surrounding venues.

Held in the port city of Durban, South Africa’s third largest metropolis, the conference site provided ample evidence of both the hopes and impediments that course through the post-apartheid era. For first-time visitors to South Africa, which included this writer, arriving in Durban was accompanied by a combination of intense euphoria, gratitude and a humbling sense of the historic struggles that made this trip possible. With over 5,000 delegates in attendance the NGO forum was an energetic mixture of political activity that ranged from press conferences and workshops to plenary sessions. Like the masses of people gathered, the schedule was constantly in motion, slightly disorganized, sometimes disappointing, but always well-intentioned. The agendas were diverse as well. On tap was everything from groups against caste discrimination and land rights for South Africans to reparations for African descendants.

Although representing a wide array of local and geographically specific organizations, the delegates converged in connecting indigenous issues to slavery, colonialism, capitalism and white supremacy. More importantly, the delegates held workshops to inform and strategize on behalf of the dispossessed. The final “Program of Action” included the demand for reparations for Africans and African descendants that would take the form of restitution, monetary compensation, restoration, and satisfaction and guarantee of non-repetition. Instructively, these demands underscore the way in which Western Civilization has been built upon the broken backs of black laboring populations and continues to utilize black subordination to thrive well into the 21st century.

Undoubtedly the NGO’s biggest success was in casting a strobe light on the issues of reparations for the entire world to see. In opening up this Pandora’s box anti-racist activists illustrated the myriad ways that white supremacy, racial capitalism, and imperialism continue to marginalize the lives of billions on this planet. By dragging these issues to the center of an international debate, NGOs sought to shame, embarrass, and harass state power into acknowledging continued political oppression and fashion practical solutions. Rather then viewing slavery, colonialism, and international human rights violations as historical artifacts to be studied and debated over, the NGO Forum focused on the contemporary impact of these debilitating practices. The United States’ shameful refusal to discuss reparations speaks truth to the power of this international forum.

The issue of land reform, restoration, and restitution was poignantly played out during the massive protest march held by the Durban Social Forum on August 31. Over 20,000 strong trekked five miles to protest against landlessness in South Africa, the hegemony of free-market ideology, and the consolidation of world white supremacy. Although South Africa’s ANC government had been generally supportive of both the NGO/UN gatherings, this march revealed the increasingly arid political climate of the post-apartheid era. Over the course of this march and throughout my week in Durban I had the opportunity to listen to grassroots South Africans and their generally caustic assessment of the ANC regime. Moreover, hundreds of indigenous Africans were unable to participate in the NGO forum because of the prohibitive (800 South African Rand, the equivalent of $100 US) registration fees. This situation presents a quandary for African-American activists who were pivotal in abolishing the murderous apartheid regime.

As black Americans have come to recognize through bitter experience, black faces in higher places does not necessarily translate into freedom. In many ways, the crisis of nation-state building in Africa bears striking similarities to black political power in the Post-Civil Rights era. The ANC’s assumption of political power sans economic hegemony is a sad story that has been played out from Detroit, Michigan to Durban, South Africa. However, the march and the conference that was its backdrop represented a response and act of resistance that was global in its make-up and outlook. This of course begs the question: Was Durban the sight of a new radical anti-racist international movement for social, political and economic justice?

Though time and history will be the judge of these recent events, I would answer the question with a resounding yes. The NGO Forum provided a center-point for representatives of hundreds of labor, cultural, and grassroots organizations focusing on issues that ranged from incarceration and the death penalty to reparations and Pan-Africanism. As important as these individual agendas are, the thrust of the Forum revolved around articulating an alternative human rights agenda. Of course, such efforts at united front politics have faltered before. However, the fact that the NGO delegates lacked formal political power represented the conference’s greatest strength and weakness. The strength lay in the fact that the absence of formal ties to state power allowed for a lucid and radical perspective on world affairs. Yet this clear-eyed perspective revealed the domination of formal power in the form of political parties, corporate power, the World Bank, the IMF and, ironically enough, the United Nations. Mass marches, political mobilization, and conferences contribute to the global movement for social justice through education, networking and inspiration but, in and of themselves, are not enough.

With the increasing power of corporate interests coinciding with the decreasing effects of pressure groups and mass demonstrations, a new perspective on the relationship between protest, political power, and social change is needed now more then ever. On this score, the international forces arrayed in Durban caught the attention of mainstream leaders of all ideological and political affiliations. Even the NGO Forum was deemed important enough to warrant the presence of Cuban President Fidel Castro, UN Commissioner Mary Robinson, and the Reverend Jesse Jackson. Like a global March On Washington, the NGO Forum forced the hands of various leaders who were looking for a way to capitalize on the event through association or demonization, and sometimes both.

In contrast to the United Nations’ corporate seminar on diversity, the NGO Forum went beyond sensitivity training and multiculturalism to enact a project that was both descriptive and transformative. The former process involved defining the atrocities that have taken place during modernity and their enduring legacy. This is no small task, and if the NGO Program of Action and Working Draft are any indication, was eloquently handled. This description was controversial only to those who continue to enjoy the ill-gotten gains of slavery, apartheid, colonialism, and white supremacy. The brave new world of the 21st century has ensured that not all of these individuals and nations can be easily distinguished by black/white and east/west binaries. An increasing number of black and Third World descendants are happy to be the beneficiaries of global human rights movements that allow them a measure of prestige, political standing, and wealth. This phenomenon was exemplified by the seemingly incongruous sight of a small number of African nations who, wanting to appease their western masters, disavowed the reparations movement.

The latter process is what the Post-Durban International Movement must now actively engage in. This process must begin with the dissemination of first-hand knowledge from those of us who actually attended the WCAR. Not surprisingly, the amount of disinformation and outright distortions circulated in the American media have been legion. Conference attendees have a counter-narrative that should be shared with friends, families, colleagues, and especially poor communities of color. Young people, who were a welcome presence at the conference and convened their own Youth Conference in Durban August 26–27, should be told how their counterparts across the world are engaged in heroic struggles against racism and white supremacy. If the torch is to be passed, information—both historical and experiential—will be crucial in this endeavor. The warm personal and political relationships that were created, and sometimes renewed, during the NGO Forum represent international and humanistic possibilities that are unlimited. If our efforts in Durban are to prove successful we must ensure that history’s dark days have proceeded for the benefit of the bright nights of a not too distant future where humanity, far from being the reward of the few, will be extended the world over.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Why Barack Was Wrong on Father's Day

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

I received a lot of email from both men and women about my comments on Barack Obama's Father's Day speech. I watched the speech, hoping that I could find some way that I was wrong about Barack. Perhaps his speech writers, surely the best in the business, slid in a line or two conditionalizing his statements to remind us that Father's Day is a day to celebrate good fathers, not to spend all our time mulling over the bad ones.

I looked and looked for that one line of salvation and never found it. That makes me sad, since many of the emails I received were from black fathers who came right out of the Bill Cosby book of parenthood (even though Cosby has made some dirty mistakes of his own as a dad). These men, some of whom were conservatives or in the military, did not understand why little time was spent giving them the same respect we give women on Mother's Day. Instead, they were fed the same old stereotypes of black male irresponsibility. These were the same stereotypes that allowed their ex-wives or mothers of their children to feel completely vindicated for any poor treatment bestowed upon them as they worked hard to stay in their childrens' lives. They were the same stereotypes that keep the 50% of divorced white males of America comfortable that their broken homes are not as bad as the broken homes of black men. After all, the presidential candidates conveniently forget to critique White America in the same way they critique the black male. I thought Obama was 50% white? Doesn't that mean that he is as much a part of White America (thus entitled to critique) as he is Black America? Or is he just the Black Candidate?

To spend father's day obsessing over what black fathers are doing wrong is like going to someone's birthday party with a list of all the things you hate about them. Even if I'd been born with a terrible mother, I would not spend Mother's Day saying "Mom, there are far too many days when you are not there for me the way you should be." It would be even worse if I then went on to tell my father that the breakup of our family was all my mother's fault and that he is completely relieved of any guilt whatsoever.

That is what Obama did when he patted black women on the back and essentially said "That's ok. We know how all those black men are treating you. They're just bad and you're good. Let's spend Father's Day talking about you and how disappointed we are in them." He was preaching to the choir, since I am willing to bet that many of the men in that church were loyal and dedicated fathers, either sitting confused that they were being chastised on their special day or nodding their heads in agreement that black men are collectively a pack of screw ups. "Some do the right thing, but doing the wrong thing is the norm". Does anyone wonder how deformed your existence becomes when you consider the most pathetic segment of American society to be people who look like yourself?

This strikes a chord with me because I have seen it up close. I have seen black women who swear up and down that the reason every man they meet doesn't want to be with them implies that there is something wrong with all men. I see black men who refuse to date black women because they feel that black women are all angry, bitter and nasty. In both scenarios, I correct the individual and encourage him/her to look in the mirror. If all of your relationships are falling apart, you are the only variable that is consistently present in every relationship you've ever had. Either you are consistently choosing the wrong person to procreate with, or you are consistently mistreating the right people who come your way. Women who choose good men and treat them well remain happily married. That's just a fundamental fact and I, as a man, know this because I have chosen the wrong woman at times, and there have been times when I've not given a woman the respect she deserved. In either case, I ended up disappointed.

What is true is that both men and women play a role in the survival of our families. When a divorce or breakup occurs, the children are usually given to the woman. Also, most divorces are not always the sole fault of one party or the other. So, if we are going to define the term "deadbeat dads", we cannot generalize that term to include any man who does not live with his kids. Senator Obama DID NOT, to my knowledge, make that distinction.

What is most interesting is Obama's claim that "far too many men are not in the home....they've chosen to be boys instead of men". This implies that if you get a divorce and the kids live with the woman, then you are effectively behaving as a little boy. This further signals that if Michelle Obama were to divorce Barack and keep the kids, he would effectively become a deadbeat. I am sure that Senator Obama, who would likely spend plenty of time with his children and pay plenty of child support, would become agitated to hear someone speaking about him and other black men as a pack of dead beats, especially on Father's Day. Perhaps he could be consoled with the words "No, we weren't talking about you. We just avoided celebrating you on Father's Day because we wanted to place all the blame on the deadbeats, which includes most black men."

That is where black men are coming from. On Mother's Day, I am not going to spend one second talking about how "there are too many bad baby's mamas keep their child's father from seeing his kids", that "angry black women are divorcing their husbands and taking their children and money from them", or that "black women treat men like crap and then get mad when the man leaves the relationship." I would say none of these things, even though I can name several instances in which this has happened. Instead, I am going to spend Mother's Day celebrating the successes of black women and the wonderful impact they've had on me.

As I said before, it takes two to Tango, black men aren't doing the family break up dance by themselves. Also, the dance of child-rearing is not just being done by the black mothers. Black women are certainly the backbone of the community, but black men aren't just freeloading.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Why College Athletes Should be Paid

Dr. Boyce Watkins

Here is the transcript from an interview I did with, a great sports website. The question for today is why college athletes should get paid. Personally, I feel strongly on the issue, as I've shown in other work. I think that the stronger question is "why should everyone else get paid but the athlete"? The NCAA has some problems and questions they need to answer. As I take a stronger role with the College Sports Research Institute (which has just relocated to the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill), these issues, and how to solve them weigh more and more heavily on my mind.

1) People often say that the opportunity to receive a free education is enough compensation for college athletes. What's wrong with that argument?

A free education is valuable, no one knows that better than a college professor. The problem is that we can’t assume that $30,000 per year is fair compensation for any job. If Tom Cruise stars in a blockbuster film, he is going to kick your butt if you try to pay him $30,000, even if you throw room and board in with it. In America, you get paid what you’re worth.

I see many athletes who are literally responsible for bringing $20M per year into their campuses, yet their mothers are starving to death or homeless. This should be a shame for us all, since I’ve never seen a D-I college coach’s mother go hungry.

2) If colleges could pay athletes, the wealthier schools would appear to have an advantage. Do you think there would need to be a salary cap or other measures put in place to ensure some parity in college sports?

I am not opposed to the idea of a salary cap, although I haven’t seen a salary cap for coaches. My goal is not to support preferential treatment for athletes, I only endorse fairness. I don’t see why coaches and athletes can’t have the same rules. They are all under the same pressure to win, they are both treated as professionals and expected to produce as professionals. This pressure doesn’t come from the fact that their campuses love sports so much, it’s because CAMPUSES WANT THE MONEY. They are pushing these guys much harder on the court and the field than they do in the classroom, because good grades don’t pay university bills; only big wins bring in big paychecks. But in terms of a salary cap, I would not be opposed to that. The NCAA is lucky, since they are the only multi-billion sports league that can get away with paying their players 1/100 of what they are worth. Players would be ecstatic to play for $150,000 per year, which is far less than the millions many of them would earn in a fair market system. The money wouldn’t have to come from university budgets, they could start by sharing the money coaches get from shoe deals. After all, the players are the ones we pay to see and they are the ones wearing the shoes. But as a general rule, the Finance and free market capitalist in me doesn’t like the idea of any kind of government regulation restricting wages. I am sure coaches wouldn’t like a cap on their wages either.

3) Do you think that recruits should be offered contracts by schools based on the performance they showed in high school? How would oneindividual's contract differ from another?

I don’t think that we know all the answers to these questions, but one thing is true: The market knows ALL ANSWERS to ALL QUESTIONS. In other words, if a player is the next Lebron James, then the schools know what he can do in terms of revenue generation. I say let them bid it out and the highest bidder wins. Seriously, who is to say that Rick Pitino is worth $3 million per year? Nobody says it, there is a negotiation and the price that he gets is what he is worth. The beauty about the free market is that when the market is fair, open and efficient, no one gets more than what they are truly worth, since no one pays more than the value of the commodity.What I love about the NCAA (who expends a tremendous amount of money on their propaganda machine) is that they do a good job of making it seem that paying the athletes would be excessively complicated and nearly impossible. The problem is that they find a way to get around the complications when it’s time to bring in a coach for $4M dollars per year. The market works out all complications, because you either get the deal done, or the game doesn’t happen. They have a lot of PhDs working for them, and we are smart enough to help them work out the complications of their contracts.

The reality is that anyone who exploits someone else, whether it’s the NCAA or a pimp on the street, is always going to find a good excuse for keeping their money in their pocket. I say this as a financial expert. I am sure that when Billy Packer or Dick Vitale show up for their multi-million dollar paychecks, they wouldn’t want to hear any reasons that their money isn’t available. For some reason, they expect athletes and their families to accept these excuses.

4) What should be done regarding sports that bring in very little revenue such as golf, tennis, and track? Would the contracts for these athletes be substantially less?

Yes, they would be. That’s the way things work in the real world. I am a professor, and some could argue that educating our youth is far more important than being a Hollywood actor. However, I will always make less money than (and not be attractive enough to date) Angelina Jolie. I accept that.I find it most ironic that when individuals expect payment equity among young athletes, as well as gender equity, they almost never mention the necessity of such equity among the coaches.

Again, going back to a fair market, if an athlete brings revenue to the university, he/she should have the same rights of negotiation that coaches, administrators, corporate sponsors and everyone else getting paid from his/her labor. If you simply release the rules and let the market work, you will get the result you are looking for.

5) How would you like to reform the horrendous academic environment in college athletics?

I agree, the environment is horrific. I’ve seen athletes admitted to college with no expectation that they are ever going to consider graduating. Money is a drug, and a drug addiction can make any of us lower our standards. Universities are no different, as many of them abandon their academic missions in exchange for the opportunity to earn a few million dollars off the next superstar from the ghetto.We must remember that incentives roll downhill. A coach with high graduation rates and a low winning percentage would be fired, while a coach with low graduation rates and a high winning percentage is given a raise and promotion. This shows blatant disregard for the value of academic success. I see universities giving coaches blank checks for controlling every aspect of their players’ lives in order to get them ready to play, but they throw their hands up and negate their responsibility to see to it that these young men and women are getting educated. The excuses are interesting: “We can’t make them study if they don’t want to!” At the same time, the same coach who claims that he can’t make the athletes study miraculously finds a way to get 80 grown men awake at 6 am for intense weight lifting sessions. They are able to motivate the athletes to do what coaches deem to be most important.

I don’t completely blame the coaches for these contradictions, I blame the campus. Coaches understand that they are not going to be rewarded for academic achievement. Winning, however, is key to their job security. Campuses should take the lead in putting oversight in place that insures that academic progress is the most important part of any athletics program. That means that if a player has practice the night before an exam, he/she misses practice. If they have an exam during a game, they miss the game (even if it is a million dollar game on ESPN). THAT, my friend, is the life of a student athlete. Right now, college athletes live the lives of professionals.

6) If you were named President of the NCAA, what other changes mightyou make other than compensating athletes?
I am hesitant to be an armchair quarterback on the NCAA, primarily because I believe that many of the administrators in the NCAA know that what they are doing is wrong. In fact, Walter Byers, the former executive director of the NCAA has reversed his position and stated that athletes should be paid. Honestly, anyone with common sense realizes that if you earn millions for someone else, you deserve more than a college scholarship. I believe that Myles Brand, in spite of the propaganda exercise performed by he and CBS Sports last year (in an attempt to refute my analysis) knows that he would never allow himself or his coaches to operate under the same constraints, penalties and exploitation placed on athletes and their families (especially if his mother were getting evicted, as many of these players come from poverty). In fact, I found it quite ironic that nearly every participant in the CBS sports special was earning at least a few hundred thousand dollars per year while simultaneously explaining to athletes and their families why they shouldn’t get any of that money.

Beyond paying the athletes, I would make a decision: either the NCAA is going to be a professional organization or an amateur one. It’s not going to be a hybrid. A truly amateur organization doesn’t have coaches earning as much as $4M dollars per year. Coaches earn no more than, say, $80,000 per year.

  • An amateur organization doesn’t fire losing coaches with high graduation rates and reward winning coaches with low graduation rates—any coach hired by the NCAA is expected to not only teach at the university, he/she is expected to ensure that academic achievement is first and foremost in the life of each athlete.
  • The rules should disappear: why can’t players transfer to other schools without being penalized? Coaches leave in the middle of the season all the time. Why is it illegal for athletes to receive compensation from outside entities? Coaches take money from whomever they please. Athletes are given the same responsibilities as adults, told to behave as adults, yet we put rules in place that treat them like children. Again, anyone who exploits another human being, whether it’s the NCAA or a corrupt warlord in a third world country, is going to place constraints on you and then guise his/her motivations by claiming that the rules are in place for your protection. That is the consistent theme of the NCAA’s justification for controlling their student athletes. But their desire to protect the athlete goes out the window when an athlete gets into trouble, loses his/her eligibility or loses his/her scholarship for not being able to perform on the field.
  • The NCAA needs to redefine its mission and be honest with the world. Right now, it is an elephant with bunny ears, swearing that it’s nothing but a harmless little rabbit. The truth is that the NCAA is exactly what it appears to be: a professional sports league. So, rather than allowing me to become the head of the NCAA, I would rather be the head of the House Ways and Means Committee, which initiated an investigation into the NCAA and began to question its non-profit status. A bureaucratic beast that has grown so deformed with contradictions needs to be deconstructed and rebuilt in a model of fairness. As it stands, the NCAA exists in stark contrast to the values most of us embrace as Americans. I’ve seen it up close over the past 15 years and it bothers the heck out of me.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Black Scholarship or White Imperalism?

May 23, 2008 · 5 Comments
By Dr. Christopher Metzler

There has been considerable debate among my colleagues about Black scholars and the production of Black scholarship. On the one hand, some White academics complain that Black scholars spend too much time on “ghetto scholarship.” This usually refers to Critical Race Theory, Africana Studies, and the impact of racism on our lives, both historically and contemporaneously. On the other hand, some Black scholars argue that we have a responsibility to study, analyze and write about the continuing significance of race in a thoughtful and substantive matter.

The reality is that the halls of academe are dominated by many White, imperialistic scholars who are rarely taken to task when they write about cultural issues of their choosing, i.e., feminism, essentialism, etc. Yet, many of them see no problem with marginalizing Black studies. Moreover, many of the same ones proudly call themselves liberals and, as such, believe that their White privilege endows them with the inalienable right to judge African diaspora studies by ostensibly neutral standards. Of course, since they set the standards, they determine neutrality.

For all its talk about diversity, the academy lags shamefully and unapologetically behind corporate America in this regard. One only need be a member of the academy to experience the contradiction between what the members of the “ivory tower” say and what they do. So then, does this mean that if Black scholars take to heart the responsibility to interrogate the ways in which racism affects our people, we will have no recourse but to join the faculties of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU’s)? Does it mean, moreover, that a generation of Black scholars will be discouraged from the pursuit of “black scholarship” if they expect promotion and tenure? Will we take the bait of imperialistic “liberal” scholars and model the segregated American society? For at least two reasons, the answer is a resounding no.

First, we have an obligation to study the continuing significance of race, whether on the faculties of majority institutions or HBCU’s. Second, in my experience, we need to confront the arrogance of so many White liberal academics who preach inclusion, yet routinely “Jump Jim Crow,” as they say. If we do not, we will do a disservice to academic freedom and the civil rights movement, both of which are critical to the advancement of our scholarship.

We should define for ourselves what scholarship is and then rigorously pursue it. I, for one, am tired of the academic institutions that airbrush Black faces onto their Web sites, while far too often relegating Black faculty to the institutional margins. Or they attempt to hire chief diversity officers, as if a CDO alone could change the deeply embedded culture of denigration and disrespect that many Black academics face.

When all is said and done, the goal posts for achievement are set up by the dominant culture in the academy. Many of us reach those goal posts, only to find that they have been moved. So, we have to ask ourselves, is this about “Black scholarship” or about the imperialistic, hegemonic nature of the academy?

Dr. Christopher Metzler is Associate Dean at Georgetown University.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Marc Lamont Hill: It's Time to Kill the Abstinence Argument

by Dr. Marc Lamont Hill,

Over the past decade, STD and pregnancy rates have skyrocketed among teens. The response by many has been to promote abstinence-only education to curb this disturbing trend. Unfortunately, after wasting millions of dollars and countless classroom hours, it’s time to accept the truth: abstinence-only programs don’t work. Perhaps the most persuasive argument against abstinence-only education is that it doesn’t stop teens from having sex. Based on data from multiple studies, students enrolled in abstinence-only programs had sex at the same age as those who didn’t. The programs are also fiscally wasteful and notorious for distributing questionable, ambiguous, and outright fallacious information about sexual health that places young people at a greater risk for disease and unwanted pregnancy. Many schools have also used “purity pledges,” where students promise not to have sex until marriage. According to studies, however, purity pledges only work when the students taking them are in the minority. In fact, in places where the majority of teens took the pledge, there was no change in students’ sexual decision making. Some will argue that “something is better than nothing,” and that purity pledges are valuable even if they can only “save” a few teens from the horrors of sex.

In reality, however, the slight gains made by purity pledges are accompanied by other negative consequences. Purity pledgers are more likely to engage in unprotected sex and not to get tested for STDs. Since STD rates are similar among pledgers and non-pledgers despite this underreporting, it is likely that purity pledges actually increase the chances of getting an STD. Why? Because purity pledges and abstinence-only training often deprive our youth of the informational tools necessary to protect themselves. Instead of continuing to push abstinence-only education, we must work toward a complete transformation of sex education in the United States. To be sure, such a transformation includes abstinence education as a desirable option. In addition, we must provide accurate information about how our bodies function, how diseases and infections are obtained, and how to protect ourselves from undesirable outcomes. This type of multi-faceted approach does not encourage students to have sex, but to take responsibility for their own physical, mental, social, and sexual well-being.
Marc Lamont Hill is an assistant professor of urban education and American studies at Temple University.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Black Prof Darren Hutchinson Writes on Racial Exhaustion

by Professor Darren Hutchinson

Contemporary political and legal discourse on questions of race unveils a tremendous perceptual gap among persons of color and whites. Opinion polls consistently demonstrate that persons of color commonly view race and racial discrimination as important factors shaping their opportunities for economic and social advancement. Whites, on the other hand, often discount race as a pertinent factor in contemporary United States society. Consequently, polling data show that whites typically reject racial explanations for acute disparities in important socio-economic indicators, such as education, criminal justice, employment, wealth, and health care. Echoing this public sentiment, social movement actors, politicians, and the Supreme Court have all taken a skeptical stance towards claims of racial injustice by persons of color and have resisted demands for tougher civil rights laws and race-based remedies.

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