Graduation is just the first hurdle

— Marvel’s “Black Panther,” Chadwick Boseman, graduated from Howard University with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts (BFA) in 2000. On May 12, 2018, Boseman returned to his alma mater to address the Class of 2018, while receiving an honorary degree.

The Howard University graduation is one of more than 100 Historically Black College and University graduations and one of more than 4,000 general graduations across the country.

On May 5, 2018, White House Correspondent April Ryan, brought down the house at Bennett College in North Carolina. In Arkansas on the same day, journalist and political commentator Sophia Nelson made lasting remarks during the Philander Smith College commencement exercise.

All across the nation, families are gathering, people are celebrating and graduations are being hailed as an occasion of joy.

However, despite these many festivities, if you are a black American who graduated from the University of Florida (UF), your achievements may have been marred by the horrible memory of faculty marshals physically pushing you off of the stage, after you decided to celebrate your black Greek (fraternity) pride, with the execution of a few “steps.”

More than 20 students were assaulted by an unidentified faculty member (although some say he is a chemistry lecturer), who is now on paid leave.

Why would the university continue to pay someone who seems to have differentially attacked black students, as apparently no white students were assaulted or pushed off of the stage?

This lecturer is a menace to society and college students, who should not be exposed to his racism, either on stage or in a classroom.

According to The New York Times, UF President W. Kent Fuchs apologized to the affected students and left a personal message of apology on Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity member Oliver Telusma’s voicemail, due to the incident.

However, from where I sit, President Fuchs should track that student down along with all of the others and visit them face-to-face.

The UF incident reminds black students that graduation is but one of the many hurdles they must clear.

Every day, every single day, they face the possibility of pernicious racism, differential treatment, and the threat of law enforcement to compel compliance with the most foolish of laws and norms, spoken or unspoken.

That’s why Holly Hylton, the white woman who managed a Philadelphia Starbucks, felt free to call the police on two black men after they had been seated, without ordering anything.

That’s why a hysterical white female bigot, called the police on a black man, who was barbecuing in a public park in Oakland, California, where barbecuing is customary.

That’s why the police were called on three black women (and a white man), because they failed to wave or smile when they exited an Airbnb in Rialto, California, and were detained for 45 minutes despite possessing proof that they had reserved their space.

That’s why the police wrestled a 25-year-old black woman to the ground (exposing her bare breasts) in an Alabama Waffle House, after she asked for plastic cutlery and an ignorant employee reportedly said, “she did not know her place,” and the beat goes on and on and on.

The police are too often called to put black people in their place, to force them to comply, to reinforce the tenet of white supremacy; the notion that when we see a white person, we must shuck and jive and smile. So-called law enforcement officers become servants of racism, who want us in our place.

I want the graduates to know that their place is everyplace.

Class of 2018, your place is in that Starbucks at the table, order or not. Your place is in that Waffle House, getting the utensils you requested. Your place is at the lake in Oakland, burning those bones on your grill. Your place is on that stage at UF.

Resistance has a high price. Who wants to go to jail and end up, like Sandra Bland, whose mysterious death in Texas still has not been solved? Who wants to be handcuffed, humiliated, exposed and maligned, just for asking a simple question?

Starbucks will close thousands of stores to the tune of millions of dollars for unconscious bias training but who will train these biased police officers and the racists who call them, because their feelings are bruised when no one waves at them?

The Class of 2018 will learn, as have millions of other black Americans, that racism is alive and well.

They’ve cleared a hurdle with graduation, but even as some cross the stage, they are being reminded that there are many more hurdles to clear, to survive in our unfortunately racist nation.

Perhaps though, the Class of 2018 will be among those to dismantle the racist hurdles; and perhaps in the process of clearing other hurdles— graduate and professional school, marriage and children, artificial intelligence and gentrification— they will also find the wherewithal to eliminate racial barriers to success.

Julianne Malveaux is an author, economist and founder of Economic Education. For more information, visit her Follow Dr. Malveaux on Twitter @drjlastword.

New ‘Religious Freedom’ appointee is a religious bigot

The newest addition to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Tony Perkins, does not believe in religious freedom.

Perkins, who was appointed to the post by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), will now serve on a commission that supposedly serves as a watchdog “dedicated to defending the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad,” even though he has repeatedly demonstrated that he does not believe in the equal protection of Muslims and others.

The commission has a long history of politicization, along with anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT bias. Perkins’ inclusion will only continue to undermine its credibility.

While he claims to support religious freedom, Perkins believes that the Constitution does not protect the rights of Muslims.

He has said that “those who practice Islam in its entirety” should not be afforded the same constitutional freedoms as other Americans since Islam, in his words, is “incompatible with the Constitution” — an obviously false claim that, in reality, flies in the face of our Constitution. He even goes so far as to make the absurd and bizarre claim that “only 16 percent of Islam is a religion.”

A top official of his organization, the Family Research Council, once called for a ban on mosques, and the group published an essay arguing that Islam is not really a religious faith but rather “a religious government, the establishment of which the Establishment Clause prohibits.” This is clearly nonsensical. He has also smeared and vilified Muslims as violent people and claimed that the U.S. is under no obligation to safeguard their rights.

Beyond Muslims, Perkins has also questioned whether Christians who support marriage equality and members of “fringe religions” should have the same rights under the Constitution as those who follow his personal brand of Christianity. He has also criticized supporters of the First Amendment’s separation of church and state as “cultural terrorists.”

Perkins’ appalling record doesn’t end there, as he is also known for his vicious bigotry towards the LGBT community.

He has called transgender identity a “perversion” and had a role in shaping the Trump administration’s ban on transgender military service members, insisting that it would be “better” to disband the military altogether rather than allow transgender people to serve.

He once praised legislation in Uganda that would have included heinous punishments for homosexuality, including the death penalty, as an effort to “uphold moral conduct” and warned that marriage equality would lead to a revolution and second holocaust.

A commission that ostensibly acts as a fair-minded monitor that calls out other countries for endangering liberties can’t have much standing if one of its own members is actively working to undermine it.

Brian Tashman is a Political Researcher and Strategist for the ACLU

BGE Residential Customers’ Electric Bills to Decrease

The average BGE residential customer who purchases electricity from BGE will see a bill reduction of $11 a month starting June 1, 2018 due to the lowest electric commodity prices in a decade and distribution rate reductions spurred by federal tax reform.

“Customers are reaping the benefits of historic commodity prices and BGE’s innovative and effective efficiency programs. Customers have greater control over the cost of their electric service through managing their energy use, which lowers their bills and helps us meet our efficiency goals,” said Rodney Oddoye, vice president and chief customer officer for BGE. “Our customers are also experiencing the most reliable energy grid in our history. We’ve invested heavily in equipment upgrades and maintenance to better serve our customers with quality electric power and safe, reliable natural gas and it’s paying off.”

The average BGE residential customer’s total monthly bill remains lower than 2008 levels. In addition, customers who take advantage of BGE’s energy efficiency programs and who manage their energy use with real-time information provided by smart meters also use less electricity, save more on their bills.

Customers are also realizing the benefits of federal tax reductions that have resulted in monthly bills reductions amounting to $103 million in tax savings annually for all BGE customers.

BGE offers programs that can help customers save energy and money, especially during times of higher temperatures that often lead to higher energy usage. The BGE Smart Energy Savers Program® can help identify new ways to save energy, money and the environment. The program, which supports the EmPOWER Maryland Energy Efficiency Act, has provided $779 million in rebates to BGE customers and helped customers save more than 3.3 million megawatt-hours of electricity. EmPOWER Maryland programs are funded by a charge on your electric bill. EmPOWER programs can help you reduce your electricity consumption and save you money.

Black women need real change, not just thanks!

— After Roy Moore’s defeat at the hands of Alabama voters— driven by black voter turnout, especially the votes of black women— we saw the celebration, credit taking and meaning-making that usually accompanies a progressive electoral victory. But one thing was different this time. This time, mainstream media and social media feeds flooded with messages acknowledging and thanking black women for our role in the outcome.

Welcome to the reality black women have known about—and named—for decades. One of the hashtags that took off amid the Alabama election returns and the following days was #TrustBlackWomen. But what does it mean to trust black women? What does it mean to advance a policy agenda that addresses the issues black women face in this country?

Black women voters are not a monolith; we are diverse, complex and deeply engaged in national, state and local policy debates. We don’t all agree. But there are a set of values and policies that most black women hold close to our hearts: we want a future where we can live with respect, health, and justice. Where we can decide whether and when to have children, and raise those children without fear of hunger, violence, or discrimination. Where we can realize our dreams and highest human potential.

For a start, I hope that this election can finally put to rest the ludicrous question of whether a progressive agenda must include support for abortion access. (Yes, absolutely it must.) Not only are black women overwhelmingly supportive of abortion access, but nationwide, keeping abortion legal has the highest levels of support in decades. Being able to make our own decisions about our bodies, pregnancy and parenting is crucial to black women’s dignity and self-determination.

Black women are already leading the way in reproductive health, rights, and justice policy. In 2015, after decades of work by black women advocates, Representative Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) led the introduction of the EACH Woman Act to repeal the Hyde Amendment’s Reign of Terror on poor women, and the bill today has 128 co-sponsors in the House, even in this incredibly hostile political moment.

In another show of leadership, women of color in the Senate and their colleagues sent a bold and defiant letter to Trump demanding that he strip the Hyde Amendment and other bans on abortion coverage from the budget. I doubt anyone is holding their breath for him to do the right thing, but that should never stop our leaders in Congress from taking a principled proactive stand.

But a reproductive health, rights, and justice platform that respects black women must go beyond abortion. Black women in the U.S. are dying in childbirth at many times the rate of white women, a national health crisis that has gone largely ignored. Black women also suffer and die at disproportionate rates of reproductive cancers like breast and cervical cancer. In addition to contraception and abortion care, we need access to quality affordable health care and coverage for the full range of reproductive care including cancer prevention, screening, and treatment and prenatal, maternity, and postpartum care. The Affordable Care Act, a law black women championed, was a monumental step in the right direction. Today, we’re fighting to hold on even to that, and we know a much more accessible and comprehensive solution is needed.

Every day in this country, black women face nearly impossible odds to raise our children with dignity, love and abundance. But the cruel anti-family budget and tax policies of the conservative GOP have decimated funding for nutrition, housing, and other necessities while lining the pockets of their wealthy donors— even as they have failed to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program also known as CHIP. We must do everything in our power to reverse this dangerous redistribution of wealth and well being from the poor to the super-rich.

Finally, we must address the ways in which police and prisons have been weaponized against black Americans to rob us of our loved ones through mass incarceration and deadly police violence. Black lives matter is more than a hashtag, organization, or movement. It’s the urgent cry for justice from the mouths of mothers, sisters, wives, partners, and daughters.

Time and time again, black women have been told to wait our turn. When male citizens— both white and black—got the legal right to vote, we were told to wait our turn. When white women built a suffrage movement on our backs and out of our genius and then cut us out of it, we were told to wait our turn. And when Democrats and Republicans alike have taken our votes for granted while ignoring our needs, we have been told to wait our turn.

No longer. It’s time for this country to do more than thank black women— it’s time to put our issues in the center of the political table and follow the leadership of black women as we construct a new nation that affirms the human rights of us all.

La’Tasha D. Mayes, the founder and executive director of New Voices for Reproductive Justice, that presents a clear and compelling case for policies that center black women’s health and needs. You can follow her on Twitter @duxfemfac.

Embrace racial healing to change hearts and minds

Prior to the displays of hatred and the tragic loss of Heather Heyer, a young woman who seemingly embraced the virtues of healing, a transformation was taking place in Charlottesville, Virginia. This college town, where roughly 80 percent of the residents are white, culminated a lawful process in February when its City Council voted to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee from a city park.

Passionate acts came from opposing sides, as opponents filed suit to stop the removal and the city changed the name of Lee Park to Emancipation Park. But there was honest dialogue and truth-telling, the ingredients for healing. Neighbors learned more about one another, their culture and motivations. But the progress was derailed.

The protesters who converged in Charlottesville were largely white men often perceived as privileged in our society, and among their slogans was “We will not be replaced” by immigrants, blacks, Jews, or homosexuals. Instead of feeling empowered, they were threatened and seemed in pain. Their hearts and minds needed healing.

However, racial healing doesn’t begin until you intentionally, respectfully and patiently uncover shared truths, as Charlottesville residents had begun to do before the violence and turmoil. Shared truths are not simply the removal of physical symbols, like monuments.

While it may begin to change narratives, it doesn’t reach the level of healing that jettisons racism from the land or creates equitable communities. Racism has persevered because remedies ranging from public accommodation laws to Supreme Court rulings are limited in scope and reach: They fail to change hearts and minds.

A new approach is needed that penetrates the full consciousness of our society, draws in all communities and focuses on racial healing and truth-telling.

Racial healing can facilitate trust and authentic relationships that bridge vast divides created by race, religion, ethnicity and economic status. Once the truths are shared, racism is acknowledged and hearts begin to mend, only then will communities begin to heal the wounds of the past and together move forward to address the bias in employment, education, housing and health that causes widespread disparities, and denies opportunities to our children.

To be sure, racial healing is predicated not just on an emotional encounter, such as saying, ’you’re sorry,’ rather it’s predicated on a truth-telling— but whose truth? We all have our own truth and we need collective conversations to help us in reaching a common truth and a vision for the future, based on what we decide together.

And while sharing each of our individual truths requires sharing stories, reaching a common truth is more than a blending of stories. It’s about co-creating a common set of morals, principles, wisdom and guidance that is written on our hearts, captured in our faith and in how we treat each other as human beings. It is developed by all of us in the courtyard, in town halls, in living rooms with family and neighbors, all in the crucible of human goodness. That’s where we develop “the” truth.

At the W. K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), we promote racial healing because it moves people to act from their hearts. Real change happens when people work together and build relationships. Rarely does it occur when it is forced upon communities by laws and rulings. Last January, WKKF coordinated an annual National Day of Racial Healing, which inspired civic, religious, community and philanthropic organizations to collaborate on activities to facilitate racial healing. But we can’t wait until next January to embrace racial healing.

Today, with the threat of unrest billowing through communities, our country needs to heal. All sides must air their pasts, fears, and anxieties, and articulate their visions for a future where all children can thrive.

After centuries of racial hierarchy, all sides have been wounded: Whenever a policy or decision gives privileges to some and not others or perpetuates injustices, the collective community suffers, and part of our common humanity is lost. It leaves some wounded and unable to work towards our collective interest.

What is inspiring is the healing that is happening around the country.

Earlier this year, 200 people gathered at the Chicago Theological Seminary for an extraordinary day of racial healing. People of all races, genders, religions and ethnicities, gathered in healing circles to share their “truths” on the racism they endured or consciously or unconsciously unleashed on others. The healing circles were sanctuaries for truth-telling, and helped people see one another, acknowledge differences and begin to build authentic relationships.

WKKF, through our Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) framework, is supporting racial healing in the 14 places where the TRHT is being implemented. Since 2010, when our America Healing initiative launched, WKKF has actively promoted racial healing and supported racial healing practitioners who are available to help communities, concluding that:

•Racial healing accelerates human capacity for resilience, truly embracing one another and reconnecting many people who previously had their identities denied back to their roots, culture, language and rituals.

•The focus of racial healing is our “collective humanity,” and lifting up that which unites us rather than that which divides us, while discovering, respecting and indeed honoring our unique experiences.

•Racial healing will facilitate narrative change, which will help everyone in communities articulate the truth about their collective histories and be exposed to full, complete and accurate representations of themselves and their communities.

Communities must heal so they can grow. Let’s heal and build sustainable progress neighbor by neighbor, community by community to transform America so all children can have a brighter future.

La June Montgomery Tabron is President and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Bill Cosby: A big legacy, forever tarnished

— For those who grew up with Bill Cosby’s comedy, feelings of sadness shouldn’t be confused with sympathy in appraising a legacy that — whatever the eventual outcome of the criminal case against him, in which a jury on Saturday failed to reach a verdict — has already been forever tarnished.

Cosby’s accomplishments as a comedian and TV star are near unique, in part because of the time in which he achieved them and the nature of his appeal.

His comedy albums in the 1960s universally explored childhood through a wonderfully exaggerated lens. An overweight kid weighed 2,000 pounds, and the never-seen belt his father threatened to use to discipline him was nine feet long, with hooks on it.

As Cosby grew older, so did his material, graduating into observations about marriage and parenthood, providing the foundation for “The Cosby Show.” In 2013, a then-76-year-old Cosby headlined a Comedy Central special, “Bill Cosby: Far From Finished,” which dealt with, among other things, some of the indignities associated with old age.

Cosby was a true cross-over star, and worked so clean that his early characters of Fat Albert and the gang could readily be transformed into a Saturday-morning TV show. After shifting his attention to parenting, he triggered NBC’s resurgence and made Thursday night “Must-See TV” with “The Cosby Show,” a sitcom whose idealized version of an African-American family drew the kind of massive ratings that have long since receded in television’s rear-view mirror.

Cosby also broke ground much earlier as the star of “I Spy,” the 1960s series that earned him Emmys and further cemented the notion that this was a star — even in that turbulent era — who transcended race. His whimsical banter with Robert Culp practically defined the “dramedy,” long before anyone had thought to coin the term.

Cosby’s squeaky-clean body of work made him a product-pitchman extraordinaire, from Jell-O to Coke. His association with children included hosting a revival of “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” And he capitalized on his platform and popularity to become a lecturing voice to the African-American community about morality and hard work — a point of considerable irony and derision as the sexual-assault allegations against him mounted.

Indeed, it was what some saw as Cosby’s hectoring tone that brought long-dormant charges back into the spotlight. During a 2014 performance, comic Hannibal Buress questioned Cosby’s status as a moral authority and urged people to “Google ‘Bill Cosby rape,'” producing a clip that went viral.

Cosby is hardly the first celebrity to experience a fall from grace or the taint of scandal. But the nature of his image and the enormity of his success surely exacerbated the process, as well as suspicions that those surrounding him enabled, dismissed or at best ignored anything that might upset the gravy train.

In a recent Los Angeles Times piece, comedian/producer Larry Wilmore noted that while some will be able to compartmentalize their view of a comic whose Hall of Fame credentials earned him the title “America’s dad,” this unsavory chapter “will overshadow his career.”

Others noted that Cosby’s TV, comedy and cultural footprint is simply too large to erase. Although spared a conviction, faced with dozens of accusers, the damage to his image has been done. And even those who can still quote from old Cosby routines will be hard-pressed to do so again without wincing at thoughts of the source and this comedy legend’s tragic last act.

Bill Maher, the n-word and how he betrayed black intellectuals

— When considering the implications of Bill Maher’s latest antics, it is important to level set. Maher has, over the years, become the trusted media host for black left-wing intellectuals. His roster of guests includes a Who’s Who of the black intelligentsia; luminaries from old stalwart Cornel West to MSNBC host Joy Reid and others have been regular guests over the years. So, given this history it would seem surprising that Maher would so readily toss his friends under the bus by his casual on-air use of the n-word.

Armstrong Williams, NNPA Newswire Columnist

Courtesy Photo/NNPA

Armstrong Williams, NNPA Newswire Columnist

But if one really considers Bill Maher and his history, a more complicated story emerges. Maher is a liberal prognosticator who exhibits a pretense of tolerance and open-mindedness—thereby giving him comedic license to offend.

Maher’s latest missive— responding to Senator Ben Sasses’ exhortation to engage in grass roots ‘field’ political organizing in Nebraska with the dismissive remark, ‘Senator, I’m a house n*er,’—is not surprising. But the remark was so out of context that it could not have been anything other than a strategically timed joke— one that unfortunately missed the mark.

Read in the context of Maher’s irreverent stance on many issues— it seems that the use of the n-word was meant to remind black liberal intellectuals that they are the wholly-owned property of the liberal elite. It was an open admission of something conservatives have noted all along—black intellectuals do not have an actual ownership stake of the liberal establishment, but in fact serve at the pleasure and whim of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

Whether Maher, a 61 year-old white guy who has been employed by HBO for the past 14 years, actually considers himself a ‘house negro’ is not what’s significant here. He, in fact, may identify his job with that of a well-kept slave on the media plantation.

That Maher chose to use the n-word on his ‘scripted’ talk show (deceptively named ‘Real Time’) was undoubtedly a calculated act. This was probably not the first time Maher has used the ‘n-word’ in the presence of African Americans— he probably believes that since he allows many of them to come on to his show and debate, and that he sticks up for them against the various conservative ‘straw boogeymen’ whom he constructs for dramatic effect, he therefore has earned license to use the term. Maher didn’t ask any Black person for such license of course, yet he assumed it, in the storied tradition of liberal arrogance and privilege of which he is a proud descendant.

It goes without saying that the n-word is a vulgar, disgusting term, with a history fraught with pain. As someone who grew up in the deep South at a time when many parents and relatives were openly and customarily called the ‘n-word’ by whites, I know first-hand how hurtful it is. The word is an obscene smear created for the specific purpose of putting black people in their place— relegating them to second-class citizenship, and alerting the intended victim that he is less than human. I have personally never used the term (nor any form of obscenity), and regard it as one of the most abhorrent terms in the English language. I don’t like it when black entertainers use it, and I certainly don’t like it when whites use it either—no matter what their so-called liberal bona fides. I believe the word has no place in public discourse, much less in the enlightened sphere of intellectual debate.

Curiously, the reaction among black intellectuals to Bill Maher’s verbal attack has been typically passive. They seem to have taken it on the chin and let him off the hook. No one has seriously demanded Maher’s resignation from HBO, and there has been no organized boycott of his sponsors at the network. Can you imagine the reaction if a conservative host on Fox News or any conservative media channel was caught using the n-word? The black community would be in total uproar, on the warpath, seeking blood, guts and retribution. And yet we’ve heard barely a peep from the black intellectual elite that polices conservatives’ speech like a mall cop on steroids.

The reason black intellectuals won’t challenge Maher—and the reason he still has a show after the ‘n-word’ incident—is because they can’t. Maher is smart. He calculates that he can get away with a lot more offense now that Trump is in the White House. With a guy like Trump on the other side of the street, he reasons, where are black folks going to go? They have no choice but to stay on the liberal plantation, no matter how much abuse the liberal elite heaps on them. Sadly, Maher’s cynical calculus seems to be correct.

Now that he has gotten away with it, Maher’s behavior, despite his tepid apology, is likely to get worse, not better. In the meantime, black intellectuals will undoubtedly accept these betrayals as the so-called ‘price of progress.’ They will lie to themselves and justify such open racism, because, at the end of the day, they think it preferable to be kept on at the Democratic plantation than to leave and have to face big, bad Donald Trump on their own.

Armstrong Williams is the manager/sole owner of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and Executive Editor of American CurrentSee online Magazine. Watch our “Right Side Forum” every Saturday Live Newschannel 8 TV 28 in DC, 10:30 am – 11:00 am and repeats 6:30 pm EST. Follow Armstrong Williams on Twitter @arightside.

GOP and identity politics in the black community

— The Republican Party continues to miss the mark when it comes to engaging the black community.

For those Republicans, who fastidiously claim they don’t believe in “identity politics (IP),” let me give you a piece of advice: Stop It!

Politically speaking, IP is a campaign based on the particular needs of a specific group of people that will give them the rationale or incentive to vote for your candidate.

For example, a Republican candidate would campaign in the black community on issues like entrepreneurship, civil rights, voting rights, etc.; whereas the same candidate might campaign in the Hispanic community on issues like entrepreneurship, immigration and cultural assimilation.

Far too many Republicans assert that “we are all Americans and all want the same things: jobs, education, safe neighborhoods, etc.” This is all true, but a ridiculously bland message when it comes to outreach in the black community.

While core messaging should be a constant for all candidates, the way you communicate that message has to be crafted based on the audience you are addressing.

In business, we call this market segmentation. This is most often done with the S-T-P approach; which is segmentation, targeting and positioning. Once you segment the voters, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, etc., you then create a targeted campaign to speak directly to each individual group; finally, you position your messaging in a way that will resonate with that group.

McDonald’s is a classic example. Their objective is to sell their Big Macs to the American people, so their TV commercials are all trying to convince the country to buy their product, but they also are smart enough to use IP or market segmentation to achieve their stated objective— selling more hamburgers.

So, it makes all the sense in the world for McDonald’s to use black actors when advertising on BET and Hispanic actors when advertising on Univision. This is the commercial application of identity politics.

When have you ever seen men selling women undergarments in Victoria Secrets commercials? That’s right, you haven’t.

Republicans have become so data driven that they no longer have any vision.

It’s not enough for Republicans to reflexively spout out buzz words and phrases like: “We are the big tent party”; “the party of Abraham Lincoln”; “We believe in lower taxes, smaller government, more individual freedom,” yada, yada, yada.

Republicans must first and foremost persuade blacks that conservatism is not incompatible with civil rights, voting rights and equal opportunity, but rather these issues are a fundamental part of conservatism.

Republicans must, by their actions, demonstrate that black businesses tend to flourish when Republicans control the levers of government compared to when Democrats are in power.

I wrote about this, in 2012, in a piece for Black Enterprise. Democrats and the Obama Administration have done very little for black-owned businesses over the last eight years.

Republicans have a huge opportunity to engage directly with the black community on the specific issue of entrepreneurship. Not only are these black businessmen fervent supporters of abolishing the capital gains tax, accelerated depreciation (writing off all capital purchases in year one), and lowering the corporate tax rate, but they also want to be relieved of all the onerous regulations imposed on them by Obama’s reign of terror on small and minority businesses.

According to the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth, “Black buying power is $ 1.2 trillion; which would make black America the 15th largest economy in the world in terms of gross domestic product (GDP).” That is equivalent to the size of Mexico.

Two years ago, the Aspen Institute and “The Atlantic” released a poll that was stunning. According to their poll, blacks represent the largest group in the country that “believes that the American Dream is attainable with hard work.”

So, to those Republicans, who think that blacks are just waiting for more government programs and more handouts, I say, you’re wrong.

The black community is open for business and willing to engage with the Republican Party, but when will the party address the issues we are interested in, not the issues that they think we’re interested in?

We need access to capital, our fair share of government contracts, which is mandated by law, a seat at the decision-making table and input in to policies that affect the economy.

And what will the party get in return for doing business with the black community? The party will see blacks voting for Republicans in double digits. The party will see a growth in financial contributions from leading businessmen, who currently see absolutely no value in contributing to Republican campaigns or entities. The party will also get fresh perspectives and new ideas from the top thinkers in the black community; who are also the “real” leaders within our community.

But most importantly, the party will find that the black community is already in sync with its business agenda; the GOP simply needs to extend a sincere invitation.

Come on Republicans. What in the hell do you have to lose?

Raynard Jackson is founder and chairman of Black Americans for a Better Future (BAFBF), a federally registered 527 Super PAC established to get more blacks involved in the Republican Party. BAFBF focuses on the Black entrepreneur. For more information about BAFBF, visit

President Trump wages war on Obama’s legacy in first 100 days

— There was the proposed massive budget cut to the Department of Housing and Urban Development; the incessant rhetoric about a rise in crime in the nation, that lacked evidence to back it up; the threats of a renewed war on drugs. There was even a failed attempt to bully Republican lawmakers into passing a flawed bill that sought to roll back the Affordable Care Act, a law that provides healthcare to millions of Americans.

This was President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in the White House. Trump didn’t win a single legislative achievement during his first 100 days. For policies that impact the lives of African Americans, it was just as perilous as you thought it would be. During the 2016 campaign, Trump often described the black community as a monolithic, stereotypical caricature. Trump used the types of violent stereotypes one parrots after they’ve binge-watched 11 seasons of “Law & Order,” but have never actually been to an inner city.

So, much of what Donald Trump focuses on is about undoing the accomplishments of the first black President of the United States. The obsession with “alternative facts” and the erasure of President Obama’s legacy continues to be the core focus within the Trump Administration.

Days before his 100th day in office, Trump’s spokesman Sean Spicer blamed President Obama for the fiasco surrounding Gen. Michael Flynn.

Flynn, a loud supporter of Trump during the 2016 campaign, was fired by Trump as National Security Advisor on February 13 and ended up holding the position for the shortest time in U.S. history (24 days) after it was reported Flynn lied to Vice President Pence.

Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions, perhaps the most dangerous federal official for African Americans, sought to revive the “War on Drugs,” a set of policies that disproportionately impacted African Americans in the 1980s and 1990s.

“We can wish that we could just turn away and reduce law enforcement,” said Sessions in 2016. “But I do believe that we’re going to have to enhance prosecutions. There just is no other solution.”

During a trip to Richmond, Va., on April 11 Sessions said: “We need to say, as Nancy Reagan said, ‘Just say no.’ Don’t do it…We can reduce the use of drugs, save lives and turn back the surge in crime that inevitably follows in the wake of increased drug use.”

None of this should be a surprise to the black community. Sessions comes from Alabama where incarceration is high art. Placing humans in cages is Alabama’s leading industry. At 70, Sessions is a stark reminder of another era. He’s also a reminder of how old, failed policy is difficult for so many to break away from. With so many Republicans embracing “smart on crime” policies, Sessions is determined to star in the movie “Groundhog Day” on federal crime policy.

The inmate population in the U.S. rose from 500,000 in 1980 to 2.2 million in 2015 and has made the U.S. No. 1 in the rate of incarceration in the world. When there’s an uptick in law enforcement, do more police show up in Manhattan or the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C.? Of course not. A quick glance at the stop-and-frisk statistics the ACLU tabulated in New York City over a ten-year period, in an effort to identify the communities that experienced the greatest number of interactions with police after an elected official (in that case former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani) decided to “get tough on crime,” tells the story.

Pastor Darrell Scott of Cleveland, a Trump supporter, held a summit on gang violence in Washington D.C. on April 18. The focus was on crime in Chicago and Trump Administration officials attended. Did they introduce or invite any policy proposals to address any of the underlying issues that plague some of the predominately black neighborhoods in the Windy City (i.e., high unemployment, high poverty, poor schools)? Not quite yet.

During Trump’s first 100 days he met with seven members of the Congressional Black Caucus. He also met with over a hundred presidents of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the Oval Office to take what would turn out to be a historic set of images.

In the end the truth is obvious: It will take more than pictures and meetings for there to be verifiable evidence that President Trump actually wants to have a positive impact on the African American community. So far, there has been a ton of talk that has not been reflected in hard policy. As Trump revealed during a recent interview, the job of President of the United States was tougher than he imagined, it’s clear that some policy, particularly policies impacting African Americans, rest in the hands of his appointed minions many of whom have shown no interest in issues affecting the black community.

Lauren Victoria Burke is a speaker, writer and political analyst. Lauren is also a frequent contributor to the NNPA Newswire and Connect with Lauren by email at and on Twitter at @LVBurke.

New Orleans begins removing racist Confederate monuments

— Against a backdrop of death threats and under the cover of night, officials in New Orleans have begun to dismantle Confederate monuments honoring racists of the Civil War and Jim Crow eras of United States history.

Workers removing the first of four monuments wore bulletproof vests, helmets and hid their faces. By 5:45 a.m. on April 24, the monument was gone. Three more monuments are set to disappear, but the city is not announcing publicly which statues will be next and what date the removals will take place.

“The removal of these statues sends a clear and unequivocal message to the people of New Orleans and the nation: New Orleans celebrates our diversity, inclusion and tolerance,” said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu in a statement on April 24.

At a press conference the morning after the first monument, the Battle of Liberty Place Memorial, was removed, the Mayor stated that the other monuments would be removed, “sooner rather than later.”

“Relocating these Confederate monuments is not about taking something away from someone else. This is not about politics, blame or retaliation. This is not a naïve quest to solve all our problems at once,” the Mayor said. “This is about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile—and most importantly—choose a better future. We can remember these divisive chapters in our history in a museum or other facility where they can be put in context—and that’s where these statues belong.”

The Liberty Place Monument celebrated an 1874 insurrection of a group of all-White, mostly Confederate veterans calling themselves the Crescent City White League. The group fought against the racially integrated New Orleans Metropolitan Police. The monument honored members of the Crescent City White League who died during the battle.

In 1932, a plaque was added to put an even finer point on the racist motivations behind the monument. The plaque in part read that the battle was fought to “overthrow of carpetbag government, ousting the usurpers” and that “the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.”

According to The New York Times, “In 1993, the City Council voted to remove the obelisk, but instead the plaque was covered with a new one that read: ‘In honor of those Americans on both sides who died in the Battle of Liberty Place’ and called it ‘a conflict of the past that should teach us lessons for the future.’”

The reactions on social media to the monument’s removal were quite animated.

“It is more nuanced than that. One can support keeping the statues for accuracy…as a historical reminder of a shameful part of our history,” wrote one commenter on Twitter.

Much social media discussion dealt with the issue of whether negative parts of American history should be commemorated.

“When are we gonna put up some Hitler statues, ya know, to remind us of those dark times in History?” another Twitter user stated.

Others debated the role of poor white southerners who participated in the Civil War. “It was the North who refused to recognize blacks as people, resulting in the appalling 3/5 compromise. The South obv wanted,” wrote Erin Greer of Atlanta on Twitter. A Twitter user, who identified himself as Clayton Barnes, responded: “And the South just wanted to own them, treat them terribly, and work them like mules.”

Lauren Victoria Burke is a political analyst who speaks on politics and African American leadership. She is also a frequent contributor to the NNPA Newswire and Connect with Lauren by email at and on Twitter at @LVBurke.