Highlights from the Presidential Debate on Foreign Policy

October 23, 2012 at 11:48 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Editor: Valerie Linson

Associate Professor Jeffrey Taliaferro joined WGBH News Morning Edition host Bob Seay for a conversation on the major takeaways from the presidential debate on foreign policy.  Professor Taliaferro is in the Department of Political Science at Tufts University (Medford, MA).

Professor Taliaferro was a guest on Basic Black last year in a discussion about the political and foreign policy impact of the death of Osama bin Laden.


Historian Peniel Joseph Dissects The Latest Presidential Debate

October 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Editor: Valerie Linson

Peniel Joseph on the set of Basic Black

Peniel Joseph, professor of history at Tufts University and current fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University, spoke with WGBH News radio anchor Bob Seay the morning after the second presidential debate:

Professor Joseph is a regular panelist on Basic Black, Friday’s at 7:30 on Channel 2 (PBS) in Boston, MA.  You can watch the broadcast or live stream and join the conversation via live chat at basicblack.org.


An Open Letter to City Council President Stephen Murphy on Boston Redistricting

October 12, 2012 at 11:41 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Guest editorial by Kevin C. Peterson

Honorable City Council President Stephen Murphy:

In the Boston City Council redistricting process currently underway, the city stands at a crossroads of electoral crisis, marked with ugly reminders of race-based gerrymandering and the suppression of black voting rights.

While it has pleased many in the voting rights community that Mayor Thomas Menino recently vetoed two redistricting laws approved by the city council this month, in general many of us remain disheartened by the redistricting process overall. To date, two different redistricting maps have been voted on to become law by the city council. Yet, advocates disappointedly note that both pieces of legislation offered little electoral advancement and equity for black, Latino and Asian citizens in Boston. Put in a different way, each council plan failed to express a full commitment toward addressing the existing reapportionment opportunities that the city’s emerging diversity presents.

The demographic realities before the Boston City Council are multiple and undeniable: First, the city is 53% people of color—a vibrant mosaic of African-Americans, Latinos and Asians. Yet, these groups represent only 26% of those elected to district seats on the council. This troubling anomaly speaks not only to historic practices of racialized voter suppression in Boston, but is also indicative of the intractable race-conscious electoral proclivities of established conservative white voting blocs which have been reluctant to share their political power as the city has grown more diverse.

Second, in the three-decade history of city council district representation in Boston, never has there been an Asian or a Latino elected from the districts created. To many, this fact is egregiously troubling, specifically when it is gauged against the knowledge that the system of district representation was created in 1982 to ensure diversity on the city council body. To many observers, the political apartheid now characterizing the composition of the council is disconcertingly striking. This reality is the result of past redistricting plans that have organized voting districts in such ways that the electoral strength of so-called minorities has been effectively diluted.

Third, the legislation the city council recently offered essentially eviscerates the civic and political core of the Mattapan neighborhood and poses similar problems for communities such as Chinatown and the Lower Mills section of Dorchester. The city council redistricting legislation proffered ignores the importance of neighborhood cohesion, especially as it pertains to historically disenfranchised voting classes.

In this regard, I am sure you and your esteemed council collegues well know that Mattapan is a unique community, which is both ethnically diverse and racially cohesive. Its residents share common commercial and geographic boundaries as well as known problems such as extreme poverty, high crime and persistent health disparities. Sociologists and political scientists would agree that these commonalities and problems could be more effectively addressed by Mattapan residents if the neighborhood was not split between two districts. Yet, many redistricting map iterations that the city council has favorably entertained ignore fair representation in Mattapan. By including the community of Mattapan in a singular district, the council can promote community-wide organization among residents and support civic purpose and action.

In conclusion, I wish to briefly reflect on an often-misunderstood redistricting concept which has impeded the development of a fair and racially representative redistricting plan in Boston. The matter is this: Some advocates for fair redistricting–even some city councilors–have grossly misunderstood the matter of “packing” and cracking” as it refers to ensuring the voting rights of protected class citizens under the 1965 Voting Rights Act. This misunderstanding has led some to argue that to “pack” a district is wrong or that to “crack” a district is injurious.

Nothing could be further from the truth. And it is unfortunate that civic advocates, city council members and even the mayor of Boston labor under this misnomer.

The issue of “packing” and “cracking” as it appears in federal case law is actually value-neutral. The reality is that forms of “packing” can be used to bolster a case in support of the voting rights of so-called minorities. In similar redistricting cases requiring corrective redress “cracking” district maps is also a proven voting rights protection strategy. There is nothing inherently wrong with “packing” or “cracking” per se. These actions are tools that can be used constructively or destructively. When “packing” or “cracking” harms or “injures” historically disenfranchised voting classes these groups have legal recourse in the federal court.

Some advocates, including MassVote, The Chinese Progressive Association and the NAACP Boston Branch have said that reuniting Mattapan into a single district is a form of “packing”. And they believe they are correct. But in the context of protecting the voting rights of so-called minority groups under the Voting Rights Act, this logic is faulty, at best. Again, the effects of packing, in this instance, can have the effects of strengthening the electoral capacity of a protected voting classes and communities of interest.

Advocates eagerly await redistricting legislation from your body in the coming weeks. We hope that it will include a number of the following desired aspirations: First, the plan should fully represent the demography of the city so that all racial groups are valued equally as citizens. Second, the map should reflect the lowest one-person-one-vote variance to ensure equal representation. After all, this is the expressed and fundamental purpose of redistricting according to the U.S. Constitution. Third, the neighborhoods of Mattapan, Chinatown and the Lower Mills section of Dorchester should be placed in a single district. And forth, a district should be created to allow for the potential of a Latino or Asian to be elected on the district level.

A redistricting plan possessing these broad and inclusive elements will allow the city to avoid the electoral crisis it presently confronts and position Boston toward a more robust, fair and engaged civic life in the years to come.

Sincerely ,

Kevin C. Peterson
Executive Director
New Democracy Coalition

Kevin C. Peterson is founder and director of the New Democracy Coalition, an organization focused on civic literacy and electoral justice, based at the College for Public and Community Service at the University of Massachusetts Boston.  The views expressed are those of the author.

Random hits of information…October 9, 2012

October 9, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Editor: Valerie Linson

Barack X: Race and the Obama Presidency
Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker, October 8, 2012
There are no A-list rappers crafting themes in Obama’s honor, no catchy call-and-response phrases on par with “fired up and ready to go.” Yet here on Lenox Avenue is an Obama testimony in clashing motifs that underscores the complexity of the President’s current undertaking. A handful of men have been elected President and then become a symbol for an era, but very few beyond the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue have made the opposite transition. And it is for this reason that 2012 seems like so much anticlimax: a symbol ran for President four years ago; today a man is seeking to hold onto that position.
Read more here…

Race and College Admissions, Facing a New Test
Adam Liptak, The New York Times, October 8, 2012
…the university she had her heart set on, the one her father and sister had attended, rejected her. “I was devastated,” she said, in her first news interview since she was turned down by the University of Texas at Austin four years ago.

Ms. [Abigail] Fisher, 22, who is white and recently graduated from Louisiana State University, says that her race was held against her, and the Supreme Court is to hear her case on Wednesday, bringing new attention to the combustible issue of the constitutionality of racial preferences in admissions decisions by public universities.
Read more here…

“American Dad:” One of the Most Sophisticated Mainstream Shows on African American Culture
Lauren Mcwen, The Washington Post, October 8, 2012
…one cartoon manages to pull off jokes about race relations without resting on offensive laurels. That show is Fox’s “American Dad.” It’s
“American Dad” — with characters Steve Smith and Lisa Silver, above — represents an emerging sophistication in how mainstream shows treat African American culture. (Fox Broadcasting/AP) quietly becoming more popular among African Americans, and the seemless way the white characters reference black slang, music and expression represents an emerging sophistication in how mainstream shows treat African American culture. No longer a gag or appendage, black cultural references are a central part of “American Dad’s” DNA.
Read more here…

Stopped and Frisked: “For Being a F****ing Mutt” (video)
Ross Tuttle, The Nation, October 8, 2012
Exclusive audio obtained by The Nation of a stop-and-frisk carried out by the New York Police Department freshly reveals the discriminatory and unprofessional way in which this controversial policy is being implemented on the city’s streets.

On June 3, 2011, three plainclothes New York City Police officers stopped a Harlem teenager named Alvin and two of the officers questioned and frisked him while the third remained in their unmarked car. Alvin secretly captured the interaction on his cell phone, and the resulting audio is one of the only known recordings of stop-and-frisk in action.
Read more here…

Afghanistan’s First Female Rapper
Rahim Faiez, Associated Press, October 9, 2012
“Listen to my story! Listen to my pain and suffering!” Afghanistan’s first female rapper Sosan Firooz pleads into her microphone.

With her first rap song, the outspoken 23-year-old singer is making history in her homeland where society frowns on women who take the stage. She is already shunned by some of her relatives.

But for Firooz, the best way to express herself is through rap, a musical genre that is just starting to generate a following in Afghanistan.
Read more here…

A walk around the web… October 5, 2012

October 5, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Editor: Valerie Linson

Love this design…

The Real Economics of Big Bird
Matthew Yglesias, Slate (Moneybox), October 4, 2012
Mitt Romney’s decision to use Sesame Street’s Big Bird character as a synecdoche for cutting funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting which, in turn, served as the only example of a program whose spending he’d cut to balance the budget has prompted a lot of discussion but little really serious analysis of the situation. For starters, cutting federal CPB subsidies actually isn’t the main policy threat to PBS—it’s base broadening tax reform.
Read more here…

It’s Jim Lehrer’s Turn To Respond To The Debate
Paul Farhi, The Washington Post, October 5, 2012
Jim Lehrer has a few words in response to those who thought he let President Obama and Mitt Romney ramble on and roll over him in Wednesday’s presidential debate:

“So what?”

The veteran PBS newsman, who was persuaded by the Presidential Debate Commission to moderate his 12th debate — the last one he’ll do, he vows — says the event wasn’t about “control” or the strict enforcement of rules. It was about producing a sharp discussion and substantive contrast between the candidates. Besides, he says, few people seemed to understand that the new format, which divided the discussion into 15 minute segments, was supposed to encourage such exchanges.
Read more here..

South African Company Fires 12,000 Miners
CNN Wire Staff, October 5, 2012
South African mining giant Anglo-American Platinum said Friday that it has fired about 12,000 striking workers who declined to attend disciplinary hearings.

Workers at the company’s Rustenburg, South Africa, mine have been on strike for three weeks.

The company called for disciplinary hearings for the strikers, and those who attended were informed of the outcomes Friday. Those who did not attend were fired, the company said.
Read more here…

Get To Know “Africa Straight Up”
Stacy-Ann Ellis, TheRoot.com, October 5, 2012
Africa.com plans to school the masses on the continent’s rapidly expanding society in terms of business, politics and technology with its forthcoming documentary, Africa Straight Up.

The website, one of the continent’s leading sources of news and information, will debut the 30-minute film on Oct. 8. Teresa Clarke, the CEO of Africa.com as well as the film’s writer and executive producer, hopes Africa Straight Up will change the way the world sees the region.
Read more here…

An Earthy, Sexy, New “Wuthering Heights” (Heathcliff is black ya’ll!)
Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com, October 4, 2012
In most descriptions of “Wuthering Heights,” Heathcliff (that’s his one and only name) is described as a dark-skinned Gypsy or Roma child, who is found wandering the streets of Liverpool and taken in as a foster child by the sternly religious Mr. Earnshaw of Wuthering Heights (Paul Hilton in the film). But his actual origins are never made clear, and one neighbor even speculates that he might be “a little Lascar or American castaway.” In other words, nobody has the slightest idea who he really is or where he came from, but to use obnoxious contemporary language, he’s clearly a racial “other.”
Read more here…

A walk around the web… October 4, 2012

October 4, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Editor: Valerie Linson

First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton visits Sesame Street, 1993 (source: National Archives.)

Big Bird visits First Lady Patricia Nixon 1970 (source: National Archives.)

What Mitt Romney Can Learn From A Black Republican Like Me
Crystal Wright, The Root DC Live, The Washington Post, October 3, 2012
Ever since I started my blog Conservative Black Chick, I’ve received hundreds of emails, tweets and Facebook message from people wondering (often incredulously) why I’m a Republican. Talking with a friend recently I realized I’ve never written about what drives me to be a conservative.
Read more here…

Kenny Leon Directs A New “Steel Magnolias” for Lifetime
Felicia Lee, The New York Times, September 28, 2012
Easygoing and seemingly supremely confident, the 56-year-old director (once a People magazine “most beautiful”) was sipping water at a favorite Midtown restaurant as he talked about his career and making “Magnolias” — due next Sunday on Lifetime with Queen Latifah, Phylicia Rashad and Alfre Woodard in an ensemble cast — for a new generation.
Read more here…

The Top 10 Coolest Instagrammers
Kimberly Walker, Ebony, October 3, 2012
et your photos tell the story of your life. We sifted through our favorite Instagrammers and found ten that show off sick style, amazing photography skills and the essence of the good life. Peruse these artists, bloggers, celebrities and fashion gurus to find some fresh new follows.
See more here…

African Hip Hop is Recreating America
Afua Hirsch, The GuardianUK, October 3, 2012
These days if you want to get away from US hip-hop’s big bling, Moët overflow and embrace of all things ghetto, Africa is not the place to go. The continent’s burgeoning music industry is churning out images of champagne bucket-laden yachts, fair-skinned girls in bikinis and the entire range of mixed messages that has made black American music so notorious.
Read more here…

A walk around the web…October 3, 2012

October 3, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Headlines and ruminations from around the internet…
Editor: Valerie Linson

Hopefuls line up for auditions to appear in It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown! Little do they know…

The 10 Most Memorable Moments in Presidential Debates
Sean Sullivan, The Washington Post (The Fix by Chris Cilliza), October 2, 2012
Who doesn’t like a good debate? (Here at The Fix, we certainly do.) Debates hold the potential to etch lasting impressions in voters’ minds about presidential candidates’ personalities and policy positions. And part of the appeal of debates stems from memories of past showdowns that have left enduring imprints on our collective political consciousness. (Though, as history shows, there are few examples of debates dramatically shifting the trajectory of a campaign.)
Read more here…

President Obama will win re-election because he’s …black
George Will, The Washington Post, October 1, 2012
Perhaps a pleasant paradox defines this political season: That Obama is African American may be important, but in a way quite unlike that darkly suggested by, for example, MSNBC’s excitable boys and girls who, with their (at most) one-track minds and exquisitely sensitive olfactory receptors, sniff racism in any criticism of their pin-up. Instead, the nation, which is generally reluctant to declare a president a failure — thereby admitting that it made a mistake in choosing him — seems especially reluctant to give up on the first African American president. If so, the 2012 election speaks well of the nation’s heart, if not its head.
Read more here…

Obama, Romney Reject Invitation to Address Black Issues
Freddie Allen, NNPA, October 2, 2012
The NAACP collaborated with the National Newspaper Publishers Association, MSNBC-TV, the Grio, and American Urban Radio Network in preparation for the forum. Veteran award-winning journalist Lester Holt had agreed to moderate.

Jerry Lopes, president of American Urban Radio Network, said on Monday that both candidates declined to appear, citing scheduling conflicts.  NNPA President and CEO Bill Tompkins said that the forums like the one proposed by the black groups would have given Obama the opportunity to outline his support for programs that hope to address issues plaguing the black community.
Read more here…

Black [Consumer] Power! New Report Examines African American Spending
Zerlina Maxwell, Ebony, October 3, 2012
When it comes to consumerism, Black people run things. Well, sorta.
A new report shows that the Black consumer is among the most powerful of any group. That position means that Black people have clout when it comes to which businesses are successful and which are not. This information reminds us of the possibilities for Black-owned businesses who target their products to Black consumers.
Read more here…

The Blacker the Hair, the Rarer the Cut
Rebecca Carroll, Jezebel, September 30, 2012
The receptionist at Tommy Guns had to “double check,” but then came back on the line to let me know with great enthusiasm that “we actually have two stylists” who can deal with black hair (with cuts starting at $95 a head). How does she know? “Well, they actually rotate in between both our locations” (their other spot is on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where there are black people, right?). At another salon, the woman who answered the phone sounded almost indignant that I’d asked: “Yes, as a matter of fact we do have someone who cuts black hair.” I told her I didn’t want to be difficult, but how could she be sure? “Well, she is black, so, you know.” Okey-dokes. Promising-ish.
Read more here…

A walk around the web…

October 2, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Picking up headlines from around the web…
Editor: Valerie Linson

Random image from my office because I like the colors…


Obama, Romney face similar debate test: Staying cool under fire
By Amie Parnes and Justin Sink, TheHill.com – 10/02/12
President Obama and Mitt Romney face a similar test heading into Wednesday night’s presidential debate: staying cool while under your opponent’s fire.

At their first debate in Denver — when tens of millions of voters will tune in to see the competitors clash in Denver — each candidate will have to do his best to keep calm despite the other’s best efforts.
Read the entire article here…

7 of History’s Most Racist Political Ads
The Root, 10/2/2012
This election has produced its own share of memorable ads, among them one that is being touted as potentially effective by some, but racially charged by others. The controversial Romney campaign ad attempts to depict President Obama as the welfare president.

Whether or not the ad is appealing to racism in the electorate may be up for debate, but there’s no doubt that is a timeworn strategy in American politics. Plenty of campaign ads over the years have been undeniably racist. The Root looks at the worst of the worst, in no particular order.
Read entire article here…

Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Ruling: Judge Halts Enforcement Of Law For Election
Marc Levy, The Huffington Post, 10/2/2012
A judge is postponing Pennsylvania’s tough new voter identification requirement, ordering that it not be enforced in the presidential election.

Tuesday’s ruling comes just five weeks before the election. An appeal is possible. The 6-month-old law requires each voter to show a valid photo ID.

Democrats and groups including the AARP and NAACP mounted a furious opposition to a law Republicans say is necessary to prevent election fraud. Critics have accused Republicans of using old-fashioned Jim Crow tactics to steal the White House and have highlighted stories of registered voters struggling to get a state photo ID.
Read entire article here…

Can Social Media Kill Homophobia?
Michael Arceneaux, Ebony, 10/2/1012
Recently, like everyone else of color who has ever written anything online, I was sent a study from the Institute of Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta in Canada chronicling the various forms of homophobia found on social media.
Highlighting how pervasive anti-gay sentiments remain, the study revealed that the word “faggot” and all its variations have been used over 2.5 million times on Twitter. Those variants include words and phrases like “dyke” (300,000 tweets), “no homo” (800,000 tweets) and the increasingly proper “so gay” (800,000 tweets).
Read entire article here…

Everything you need to know about Elizabeth Warren’s claim of Native American heritage
Washington Post (The Fact Checker) Josh Hicks, 9/28/2012
Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) has focused his campaign’s attention back on the self-proclaimed Native American heritage of his Democratic challenger, Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren, who listed herself as a minority in professional directories commonly used by recruiters.

The controversy had faded in recent months while Brown maintained a steady lead in the polls. But Warren overtook the Republican incumbent in more recent polls after delivering a high-profile speech at the Democratic National Convention this month.
Brown brought Warren’s lineage back into the spotlight with his remarks during a debate last week and with an ad that uses old news accounts instead of his own words to renew skepticism about his opponent’s ancestral claims — cleverly avoiding direct accusations. Warren responded with an ad of her own, saying: “Scott Brown can continue attacking my family, but I’m going to keep fighting for yours.”
Read entire article here…

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