Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families


How To Tell Someone They Sound Racist: A 3-Minute Primer

Jay Smooth's primary message...

  • Be smart and disciplined.
  • Focus on the message and/or action.
  • Don't get tripped up in claiming to know someone's intentions.
  • When others change it to a question of someone's heart and intention, bring them back to what was actually said and/or done.
  • The goal is accountability for one's message and/or actions, and seeing the racist (psycho-)pathology end.


The Lived Reality and Injury of Racism: Past and Present Conditions that Justify Reparations

The following series of videos comes from yesterday's Melissa Harris-Perry Show on MSNBC.

The departure point for the discussion is the analysis presented in Ta-Nehisi Coates' article in The Atlantic, The Case for Reparations.  It's certainly the case that every few years someone or organization picks up the microphone to continue the decades-long public discussion of reparations for the crimes and injuries inflicted on the African American community. In this latest article, Coates reviews the historical record to make the case once again.

One thing different about this analysis is that he's not focusing on slavery in making the case (although that is certainly the historical backdrop); he's primarily pointing out that the injuries of white racism directed against people of African ancestry in this country continued for decades after the end of slavery - and have largely been directed by or facilitated by federal government policy. These policies are directly responsible for the conditions we experience today - both as an African American community and as an entire nation.

The major point we need to keep in mind as we keep up the fight... "The underlying source of the problem is not poverty, it's racism!"


Video: Ta-Nehisi Coates Talks White Supremacy and Reparations

Reviewing the historical record, Ta-Nehisi Coates makes the case that our nation must acknowledge its history of white supremacy, and make deliberate efforts to heal the hurt caused by the explainable "injury gap".


Director Spike Lee Talks Do The Right Thing & His Latest Projects

Director Spike Lee joins HuffPost Live to talk about the 25-year anniversary of "Do the Right Thing," his latest Kickstarter project and more.



Angela Davis on the Abolition of Prisons, the War on Drugs and Increased Activism

From yesterday's Democracy Now broadcast...

Angela Davis on Prison Abolition, the War on Drugs and Why Social Movements Shouldn’t Wait on Obama

For more than four decades, the world-renowned author, activist and scholar Angela Davis has been one of most influential activists and intellectuals in the United States. An icon of the 1970s black liberation movement, Davis’ work around issues of gender, race, class and prisons has influenced critical thought and social movements across several generations. She is a leading advocate for prison abolition, a position informed by her own experience as a fugitive on the FBI’s top 10 most wanted list more than 40 years ago. Davis, a professor emerita at University of California, Santa Cruz, and the subject of the recent documentary, "Free Angela and All Political Prisoners," joins us to discuss prison abolition, mass incarceration, the so-called war on drugs, International Women’s Day, and why President Obama’s second term should see a greater wave of activism than in his first.

PART 2: Angela Davis on Solitary Confinement, Immigration Detention and "12 Years a Slave"

Watch our extended interview with the world-renowned author, activist and scholar Angela Davis about the significance of the Oscar-winning film, 12 Years a Slave, the use of solitary confinement in prisons, and the global movement to challenge the expansion of immigrant detention. "If we are going to mount an effective campaign against what we call the prison-industrial complex," Davis argues, "it has to take into consideration immigration detention is the fastest-growing area of that complex."


The Racial Impact of School Closures

Below is an infographic that sheds a little more light on the racial group impacts of school closures in our major cities. Overwhelmingly Black and Latino. It was developed by the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign, one of several national organizations pushing for more equitable school opportunities (educational justice) for our children, families and communities.

History does repeat, and the fight for high quality public schools for our children is far from over. We can all do more!


More from the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign...

What is the alternative to closing schools? Evidence-based policies that provide students, schools and communities with the opportunities and resources they need to succeed, including:

  • Wraparound academic, health and social services to help struggling students get back on track
  • Recruiting, training and retaining high-quality teachers in every classroom
  • Equitable school funding systems so that those who face the toughest hurdles receive the greatest resources
  • Universal high-quality pre-K so that all students start school ready to learn
  • Expanded learning time, including after-school and summer programming
  • Turning schools into community hubs that provide expanded services to both students and community members

An Educational Journey for Justice: Our Children are Not Collateral Damage

In recent years, an increasing number of school districts, particularly those serving predominantly African American children and families, have been closing large numbers of schools. Simultaneously, those same school districts announce their plans to open large numbers of charter schools.

You should be clear, however, that children, parents and other community activists have been fighting valiantly to not only keep these neighborhood schools open, but to provide them with the high quality teachers, administrators and other resources the highest performing schools receive.

The video below features activists and organizers from across the country, marching on Washington, DC and their local city government centers to demand more national and local leadership, accountability and resources in support of true public education.

Watch below, and visit Journey 4 Justice to learn more, and to get involved.

 KOCO and organizations from 22 other cities travel to DC in January 2013 for a hearing at the Department of Education.


My Take: Racism and College Football – The Curious Case of Charlie Strong

I've always enjoyed sports, but haven't found as much time to watch in recent years. It's usually around tournament or playoff time that I get at least a little more engaged. And it's interesting because, in many ways, you get a pretty good recap of the season during that short period - the highs, the lows, the surprises, and of course the controversies.

Given that I don't watch much during the whole season, I'm usually at a loss when it comes time to pick a favorite. Inevitably, if I don't have some personal connection to a team I immediately look for some other factors. Do I know anyone that went to the school, do I know someone who teaches at the school? And naturally, any one of the racial group connections that might be relevant - is the coach Black, is the quarterback Black, is there something else important about the school's history with respect to African American history and achievement? Every tournament time you hear some of these things come up. It's what we do and what we look for. Given our history, and present, it only makes sense that we promote achievement and our opportunities for greater success whenever we can.

Along those lines, I just came across an article discussing the new hire of Charlie Strong as head football coach at the University of Texas. More specifically, the article was about the fact that Charlie Strong is a Black man, and the remaining unspoken (well, usually unspoken) reality that Black folks still can't get the nod when it comes to these head coaching positions. This article (you can also listen to the corresponding audio), including Charlie Strong and his supporters, takes on this issue directly.

You can read the NPR article here, and listen to the 5-minute audio just below.

Highlighting the enduring reality of racism in sports, in this case college football, there are a few excerpts worth noting.

Acknowledging all of Strong's credentials and a winning record to support his selection, an unnamed school in the south turned him down, acknowledging racism as the driving decision-making factor.

Mike Bianchi, who wrote the story for the Orlando Sentinel, says Strong's name was always mentioned for jobs, but despite being interviewed often, he was never hired.

"There was one particular school that he wouldn't name — it was an SEC school," says Bianchi. "After he interviewed for the job, he was told that he didn't get the job because he was a black man who had a white wife and they didn't think that would go over well in the South."

Snubbed by the Southeastern Conference, the University of Louisville came calling. Strong became the sixth black head coach in the 120-school Football Bowl Subdivision. And in four short years he turned the Cardinals into a powerhouse — the last two seasons going a combined 23-3.

So here comes the University of Texas, recognizing Charlie Strong's success, and their opportunity to hire a winning coach and pull their football program back on track. Unfortunately, a number of the program's boosters aren't so pleased.

Yet when the University of Texas announced his appointment last week, Strong was met with some backlash.

Powerful billionaire, Texas alumnus and former Minnesota Vikings owner Red McCombs told ESPN radio he was stunned at Strong's appointment.

"I was a little bit stunned when Charlie was given that job. I don't have any doubt that Charlie is a fine coach," said McCombs. "I think he'd probably make a great position coach, maybe a coordinator, but I don't think it adds up."

McCombs wanted Texas to hire former NFL coach Jon Gruden, a winner of the Super Bowl. Other Texas big money donors wanted Nick Saban, Alabama's coach.

So we'll see how Charlie Strong does as a Longhorn.  As you can assume given me earlier comments, I'll be pulling for him. It's my own unspoken race favorites rule. We have to support examples of African American achievement whenever and wherever we see it. Opportunities like these don't happen all the time, and we know the cost is ten times higher for other Black head coach prospects if Strong doesn't succeed. It's not right, but that's precisely why we hope for the best.

The article concludes...

If Strong turns Texas back into the powerhouse it once was and wins a national championship, black assistant coaches everywhere could begin seeing those head coaching doors open more than just a crack.

Given the history and present reality of race in this country, I'm justifiably skeptical.

What say you?


The Negative Impact of Racism on African American Men’s Health

There's been a good deal of research on the negative health consequences of racism in American society. Here's an excerpt from a recent article, highlighting some of the newest research to look at this from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Scientists have long known that experiencing racism is bad for your health. In fact, racial discrimination has been linked to depression, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and the common cold among other hemorrhoids treatment issues. But can it help account for the fact that African-American men have a life expectancy nearly five years shorter than their white counterparts?

Maybe so, as a new study suggests that racial discrimination actually accelerates aging at the cellular level.

“Our findings suggest that racism literally makes people old,” lead investigator Dr. David H. Chae, an epidemiology professor at the University of Maryland's school of public health, said in a written statement.

In the study, 92 African-American men between 30 and 50 years of age answered questions about facing discrimination, such as at work, in stores, or from police. The men also completed a so-called implicit association test that measured their attitudes toward different racial groups.

Black consciousness matters. Research also shows that positive attitudes about our racial group has a positive buffering effect...

The researchers found that the men who had experienced greater racial discrimination and also displayed a stronger unconscious bias against their own racial group had the shortest telomeres. But no link was found between racism and telomere length in the African-American men who had pro-black attitudes.

"African American men who have more positive views of their racial group may be buffered from the negative impact of racial discrimination," Dr. Chae said in the statement. "In contrast, those who have internalized an anti-black bias may be less able to cope with racist experiences, which may result in greater stress and shorter telomeres."

The researchers noted that their findings may shed light on the detrimental health effects of policies like "stop-and-frisk" and others that may lead to racial profiling.

"While contemporary forms of racial discrimination may not have an overt racist component, studies consistently underscore a pattern of differential treatment of African Americans across social domains," Dr. Chae told The Huffington Post in an email.

"There need to be efforts to address policies that are discriminatory and also greater enforcement of existing protective legislation," he said, "this includes practices that are subtle and those which may not necessarily be illegal (e.g., receiving poorer service at restaurants, being followed in stores)."

Read the full article, with additional references, at The Huffington Post.


Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, The Invisible Weight of Whiteness

Perceptions about race shape everyday experiences, public policies, opportunities for individual achievement, and relations across racial and ethnic lines. URI's Fall Honors Colloquium will explore key issues of race, showing how race still matters.

Speaker Eduardo Bonilla-Silva is a Professor of Sociology at Duke University.

From the University of Rhode Island.  Fall 2010.