The Past Is Never Dead With The N-Word

October 6, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Guest Editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe

In a supposedly post- racial society one would think that the n-word was buried and long gone with it troubled eras of race relations in this country.

But as American novelist William Faulkner wrote in his 1951 novel Requiem for a Nun, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”


As we all try to move from America’s ugly racial past, there are still rock solid vestiges of it.

At the entrance of a secluded 1072-acre property in the West Texas town of Paint Creek is a rock painted in block letters with the word “Niggerhead.”

For decades Rick Perry’s hunting camp hosted fellow lawmakers, friends and supporters.

Already in a declining bid for the GOP presidency, former front-runner Gov. Rick Perry and his father once leased a Texas hunting camp known by a racist term.

When Perry ran for re-election in 2010 for the governorship, no one knew of the rock. And as one observer of the rock glibly told “Real Clear Politics,” “Honestly, it wouldn’t have hurt him in a Texas primary.”

If Perry, however, doesn’t decline into oblivion in this GOP bid, he’ll face off with President Obama and will also have a lot of explaining to do to African American voters — Republicans and Democrats.

Can Perry recover from this?

And can talk show host Barbara Walters of the “View”?

In discussing the offensive racial moniker of Perry’s property, Walters used the n-word, sparking a debate with her co-host Sherri Shepherd.

“I’m saying when you say the word, I don’t like it,” said Shepherd, who said she has used it among African-American family and friends. “When white people say it, it brings up feelings in me.”

I am troubled, however, in this recent kerfuffle concerning the n-word and how many of us African Americans, in particular, go back and forth on its politically correct use.

Let’s do a walk down memory lane:

In December 2006 we blamed Michael Richards, who played the lovable and goofy character Kramer on the TV sit-com “Seinfeld” for using the n-word. The racist rant was heard nationwide and shocked not only his fans and audience that night at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood but it also shocked Americans back to an ugly era in U.S. history.

In July 2008 we heard the Rev. Jessie Jackson used the n-word referring to Obama. And Jackson using the word not only reminded us of its history but also how the n-word can slip so approvingly from the mouth of a man who was part of a cadre of African Americans leaders burying the n-word once and for all in mock funeral at the 98th annual NAACP’s convention in Detroit in 2007.

And in 2009 Dr. Laura Schlessinger ended her radio show, a week after she broadcast a five-minute-long rant in which she used the n-word 11 times.

In January of this year, the kerfuffle concerning the n-word focused on Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known fondly to us as Mark Twain, in his New South Books edition of the 1885 controversial classic Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

In a combined effort to rekindle interest in this Twain classic and to tamp down the flame and fury the use of the n-word engenders both from society and readers alike, who come across the epithet 219 times in the book, Mark Twain Scholar Alan Gribben, an English professor at Auburn University in Alabama, proposed the idea that the n-word be replaced with the word “slave.”

In 2003, the NAACP convinced Merriam-Webster lexicographers to change the definition of the n-word in the dictionary to no longer mean African Americans but instead to be defined as a racial slur. And, while the battle to change the n-word in the American lexicon was a long and arduous one, our culture’s neo-revisionist use of the n-word makes it even harder to purge the sting of the word from the American psyche.

The notion that it is acceptable for African Americans to refer to each other using the n-word while considering it racist for others outside the community unquestionably sets up a double standard. Also, the notion that one ethnic group has property rights to the term is a reductio ad absurdum argument, since language is a public enterprise.

The n-word is firmly embedded in the lexicon of racist language that was and still is used to disparage African Americans. However, today the meaning of the n-word is all in how one spells it. By dropping the “er” ending and replacing it with either an “a” or “ah” ending, the term morphs into one of endearment. But, many slaveholders pronounced the n-word with the “a” ending, and in the 1920s, many African Americans used the “a” ending as a pejorative term to denote class differences among themselves.

Too many of us keep the n-word alive. It also allows Americans to become unconscious and numb in the use and abuse of the power and currency this racial epithet still wields, thwarting the daily struggle many of us Americans work hard at in trying to ameliorate race relations.

Rev. Irene Monroe is a nationally-known writer, speaker, and theologian.  She  has been profiled in O, Oprah Magazine, and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.  (The views expressed in this essay are solely those of the author.)

Quiet Storm: Lowering The Signal On Black Radio In Boston

June 10, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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A Guest Editorial By Kelley C. Chunn

As an African American who specializes in multicultural marketing and whose last name is Chunn, how can I be upset that Boston’s only noted black AM station, WILD 1090, now carries Chinese programming?

Yet I am upset because Boston is a top 10 media market. So it is unacceptable that black people here have lost a local voice and a major cultural connection to the rest of the country.

A trio of popular national talk meisters are now off the local airwaves. Tom Joyner’s popular and influential morning show is gone. Warren Ballentine, “The Truth Fighter,” is gone, as is the Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network.
We are left with the very local Touch 106.1 FM, the Fabric of the Black Community, a small station with a big heart and good intentions — but unfortunately, a limited reach. To his credit, Charles Clemons, station co-founder, owner and general manager, has lobbied Congress to allocate more power to community owned and operated radio stations in the United States. Stay tuned to see what happens with that ongoing struggle.

I admit that after Radio One, the media company that claims it’s the “Urban Media Specialist,” sold WILD FM a few years ago, I listened less and less to the AM side of the station. The music sounded like computerized “plug and play.” Only the talk shows stood out in the daily programming.

Joyner, Ballentine and Sharpton always had something provocative to say about issues of the day and connected with listeners. The few local programs on WILD AM, such as the Sunday family talk show hosted by Larry Higgenbotham of the Osiris Group, gave the station some local flavor and showed a commitment to the black community.

That commitment dates back to Sheridan Broadcasting, which bought WILD in the 1970s and extended to local black entrepreneur Kendell Nash who bought the station in the early 1980s. Until his death in the late 1990s, Nash ran WILD as Boston’s premier urban station. It was based in studios on Warren Street in Roxbury.

That era ended in 2000 when Radio One purchased WILD from Nash’s widow, Bernadine. Radio One moved the station from Roxbury to Quincy and in the following years changed the format, branded the station as WILD AM and FM, hired and then downsized local staff when it sold WILD FM in 2006.

In this latest chapter, it’s out with African American voices and in with the voices of the world’s biggest developing country: China. This is not a bad thing. When you listen to the new WILD AM broadcasted in English, you will learn about some of the key challenges facing China in health and human services, business and foreign affairs. There are talk shows and entertainment news. You will hear an eclectic mix of music from Chinese opera to country to pop. You might even learn a few words of Mandarin because one of the segments teaches you phrases to practice. Beyond China, there are station promos promising global news including the latest from Kenya and Ethiopia. If WILD AM delivers on that, we might learn more about some African countries from the Chinese than we did from Radio One programming.

The backstory is that Radio One still owns the WILD AM call letters and the frequency but has apparently sold or leased the rights to the programming. Ever the savvy businesswoman, Cathy Hughes, founder of the media powerhouse Radio One, which expanded into TV One, was recently tapped by the Obama administration to chair the U.S. Small Business Administration’s newly Created Council on Underserved Communities. The mission is to help emerging minority entrepreneurs.

Here’s hoping that the Council’s mandate, under Hughes’ leadership, includes teaching African American entrepreneurs how to purchase and produce programming for radio and TV stations that reflect the particular concerns of African American audiences.

A footnote: One thing hasn’t changed, though. WILD AM 1090 still comes on air at sunrise and signs off at sundown.

This editorial was originally published in The Bay State Banner.

Kelley C. Chunn is a social entrepreneur specializing in multicultural and cause related marketing for the past 20 years. She is based in Roxbury’s historic Hibernian Hall.

All Eyes On The African Continent: Cote d’Ivoire

March 31, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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While much of the news coming from the continent of Africa is focused on the conflict in Libya, another conflict remains unresolved:  Cote d’Ivoire.  Laurent Gbagbo has refused to step down as president, impeding the installation of Alassane Ouattara, who was elected in November 2010.  President Barack Obama recorded a message to the people of Cote d’Ivoire.  The State Department briefing on Cote d”Ivoire follows the video.

President Obama Speaks to the People of Cote d'Ivoire

Transcript from the briefing at the State Department (Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs):

On November 27, 2010, Alassane Ouattara was elected president of Cote d’Ivoire. The elections were peaceful, and international observers commended the Ivoirian people for their high rate of participation. The United Nations, the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, the African Union, and the international community writ large have reaffirmed President Ouattara’s victory over former President Laurent Gbagbo. 

Since December, Laurent Gbagbo has refused to step down in defiance of the international community and the will of the Ivorian people. Over the past four months, the people of Cote d’Ivoire have lived through a political crisis that has devastated their economy, created a humanitarian crisis that threatens the region, and led to the deaths of over 400 Ivoirian citizens.

This week has seen some of the most intense fighting in Cote d’Ivoire since the political crisis began in late November. The United States calls on all parties to exercise restraint and to make the protection of civilians their highest priority. The people of the Cote d’Ivoire have already paid a very high price for democracy. We call upon both sides to ensure that civilians do not pay an even higher price in the future.

Those who choose not to heed this call will be held accountable for the atrocities and the human rights violations that they commit. The United Nations and the international community will investigate all alleged human rights violations. Those implicated in directing or carrying out these heinous acts will answer for their actions.

The United States and the international community have invested in seeing a peaceful and democratic future for Cote d’Ivoire. On March 30, the United Nations Security Council passed a unanimous resolution reaffirming its support for President Alassane Ouattara and calling on the 11,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission in Cote d’Ivoire to step up its protection of Ivoirian citizens, take direct action against those indiscipline forces who have targeted civilians, and to seize heavy weapons. These measures are absolutely essential in preventing more violence.

This is an important moment for Cote d’Ivoire, a time for all Ivoirians to play a positive and constructive role in the future of their country. The road ahead will not be easy, but the people of Cote d’Ivoire are up to the challenge. President Ouattara has outlined a plan for reconciliation and reconstruction for all of Cote d’Ivoire, and we hope that all Ivoirians will contribute to building a peaceful and prosperous future for their country.

Thank you. I’ll take some questions.

QUESTION: Yeah. This is maybe a little bit out of your remit, and quite frankly, I have to say I’m not optimistic on getting an answer. But what in your mind – the situation that you’ve described in Cote d’Ivoire sounds an awful lot like the situation in other places, or at least one other place, where the Administration has decided to intervene militarily. Can you explain why you don’t – you – don’t think that that kind of intervention is needed or desirable in Ivory Coast, given the fact that things are so dire on the ground?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: The international community has intervened in the Ivory Coast, and that intervention is showing results. The other country that you’re thinking about is in the Maghreb. But let me just say that there are some 11,000 UN peacekeepers on the ground in the Ivory Coast. They are supplemented by French military units that are a part of that UN peacekeeping force.

Secondly, the government – or the former government of Laurent Gbagbo does not have helicopter gunships, jet aviation, or tanks in the numbers that we have seen in the other country that you have mentioned, nor have we seen the tremendous loss of life or the exceedingly large number of people racing for the borders. This is not to say that there is not a humanitarian crisis in the Ivory Coast; there is. The reason why we are so concerned about the Ivory Coast today is that if there is, in fact, a full-scale civil war in that country, it will not only lead to large refugee flows out into Liberia and to neighboring states; it will also probably lead to growing instability in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and other countries that have been plagued by instability before.

We’re concerned about this. We’re concerned about the hundred thousand Ivoirians that have already left and gone to Liberia. But there is a difference between the two countries that you speak of. The United Nations has been engaged, including in a new resolution just last night on this issue.

QUESTION: Right, I got – but what – could you outline for us what the American component of the UN operation is in Ivory Coast, what the U.S. is contributing to that other than perhaps just money?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: The United States contributes about 25 percent of the financial wherewithal to all international peacekeeping operations, and this is no exception. What we have contributed is a great deal of diplomacy, diplomacy at the highest levels of the U.S. Government.

President Obama has been directly involved, Secretary Clinton has been directly involved, Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg has been involved, I have been involved and our Ambassador in the region. We have worked closely with the United Nations, we’ve worked closely with the French, we’ve worked closely with Alassane Ouattara, and we have worked closely with the leaders of ECOWAS. Sometimes our political influence is as significant as what we put on the ground with respect to military might.

QUESTION: Well, right – well, except for, in this case, the political influence doesn’t – which has been brought to bear, since December, it hasn’t resulted in Gbagbo leaving, correct?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Well, I think the situation is quite fluid. If you have followed the events over the last 24 hours, you know that Alassane Ouattara’s forces have made substantial gains throughout the southern part of the country. In the west, they have made gains along the Liberian border. They have captured the second largest port city of San Pedro. They have captured the ceremonial capital of the country, Yamoussoukro. And they have made gains on the eastern side as well.

The only place where there is significant and substantial resistance to the forces of Alassane Ouattara are in and around Abidjan, and the news that we have is that the forces of Alassane Ouattara are now on the outskirts of the city.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Ancillary to that, there’s some reports that this conflict could be over in hours or a matter of days. What is your take on that? Obviously, you would support a complete takeover of Abidjan by the Ouattara forces. Also, are you aware of the army chief of Gbagbo taking refuge in an embassy in Abidjan?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Absolutely. We have confirmed reports from the South Africans themselves, who have released a statement that the chief of the army staff, General Philippe Mangou, his wife, and three children last night asked for asylum in the residence of the South African Ambassador in Abidjan. We have unconfirmed reports that the head of the gendarme has also sought asylum in another embassy, but we have not had that report confirmed.

There is a clear indication that the military forces of Gbagbo have, in fact, started to disintegrate. The rapid pace at which Alassane Ouattara’s forces have been able to move across the country from east to west and up to Abidjan suggest that there have been widespread desertions in the Gbagbo forces. The departure of his army commander lends greater credence to that.

With respect to the first part of your question, I think it would be premature and probably a little bit reckless for me to predict when Gbagbo will fall, whether it will be in the next several hours, the next several days, or the next several weeks. But it is absolutely clear that he is in a substantial and significantly weakened position, having lost most of the territory that he holds in the south and with defections among his senior military ranks.

QUESTION: Yeah. Since Gbagbo and his forces are not doing well at all, are you in conversations with Ouattara’s side about how to handle, say, the eventual capture of Gbagbo, should he be taken alive? And are you – are these talks premature or are you —

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: There is still an opportunity for Gbagbo to step aside in a fashion which will prevent widespread bloodshed and a difficult fight in Abidjan for power. We hope that he will see and seize this opportunity to step aside peacefully and encourage his supporters to lay down their arms and not to engage in urban conflict.

We are especially concerned about the youth militia, the Jeunes Patriotes, who have been manning roadblocks throughout Abidjan – undisciplined, unemployed youth who have come to the side of Gbagbo. We encourage Mr. Gbagbo, we encourage some of his senior leaders, Foreign Minister Djedje, Mr. Blé Goudé, to encourage that all of these young men who are manning roadblocks who have been accused of carrying out assassinations to lay down their weapons and participate in the reconstruction of the country.

If, in fact, there is major violence in Abidjan and Gbagbo does not step aside, he and those around him, including his wife, Simone Gbagbo, will have to be held accountable for the actions that they failed to take to stop it.

QUESTION: Wouldn’t he be held accountable anyway for the actions he’s taken until this point? I mean, he’s been responsible for a number of deaths.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Exactly. We’re looking and we certainly will and I think the international community will certainly hold him accountable. But he does have an opportunity, but that opportunity is slipping away.

MR. TONER: Any other questions? (No response.) Thank you. Thank you so much. That was good. Appreciate it.


President Obama Hosts Emerging Leaders of Africa

August 4, 2010 at 10:10 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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President Obama hosted a town hall of emerging African leaders on August 3, 2010.  Over 45 nations were represented.  2010 also marks the 50th anniversary year of independence for many countries on the African continent.

According to the White House, the schedule for the summit is as follows:

DAY 1: The President’s Forum with Young African Leaders opens in Washington, DC at the State Department where participants will attend a number of small discussion sessions to explore topics including transparency and accountability, job creation and entrepreneurship, rights advocacy, and the use of technology to empower individuals and communities. President Obama will then welcome the delegates and host a town-hall at the White House.

DAY 2: Participants meet with leaders of Congress on Capitol Hill, participate in leadership and empowerment discussions with Peace Corps, and share in service experiences across Washington, DC.

DAY 3: Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale and Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs  Maria Otero co-host “The Way Forward Plenary” at the Newseum where delegates will share their ideas from the forum. Participants will also have an opportunity to network with American civil society leaders and resource organizations at an “unconference” following the plenary. The Forum will close with a featured speaker.

Each night, participants will have the opportunity for peer to peer exchange at partner events hosted by the Aspen Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, McKinsey, and Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.

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