The NBA’s Miami Heat are known for two things this season: having stellar squard of All Stars and future Hall of Famers, and video bombing one another’s video interviews. The team kept up the act on a recent visit to the White House, and Michelle Obama even got in on the action.
There are apparently many racist white people on Twitter who would love to see a “classy,” “measured” (read: white) Denver Broncos Quarterback Peyton Manning teach Seattle Seawhawks Cornerback Richard Sherman a lesson or two in civility because his blackness is getting in the way.
Sherman is now the hottest name in sports, and all the attention has very little to do with how he performed on the field. The Seattle Seahawks cornerback made a game-saving play during Sunday’s NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers and then gave an emotional post-game interview in which he does a bit of dramatic trash-talking that’s been widely mocked with racist invective ever since. But the ensuing drama has put racism in American sports on center stage just in time for this year’s Super Bowl.
For some background: Deadspin rounded up some of the worst of the worst after Sunday’s game (Greg Howard’s piece on the “Plight of the Conquering Negro” is also a must-read). After Sunday’s interview, Twitter’s racist trolls came out in full force and called Sherman pretty much every anti-black slur imaginable, including a”typical nigger,” “ape” and “gorilla.” One user even went as far as to write, “Someone needs to introduce Richard Sherman to George Zimmerman.#ThugLifeOver.”
Sherman later issued an apology for verbally attacking opposing player Michael Crabtree, but also used his statement to speak out against the racist verbal attacks that had come his way.
“To those who would call me a thug or worse because I show passion on a football field — don’t judge a person’s character by what they do between the lines,” Sherman wrote in the column posted on mmqb.com. “Judge a man by what he does off the field, what he does for his community, what he does for his family.
“But people find it easy to take shots on Twitter, and to use racial slurs and bullying language far worse than what you’ll see from me. It’s sad and somewhat unbelievable to me that the world is still this way, but it is. I can handle it.”
More important background: Over at The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates offered up some of Sherman’s biography — including a degree from Stanford — and wrote about the danger of using Sherman’s moment of individual braggadocio as somehow representative of black people everywhere:
And then there is the racism from onlookers, who are incapable of perceiving in Sherman an individual, and instead see the sum of all American fears—monkey, thug, terrorist, nigger. And then there is us, ashamed at our own nakedness, at our humanity. Racism is a kind of fatalism, so seductive, that enthralls even it’s victims. But we will not get out of this by being on our best behavior—sometimes it has taken our worse. There’s never been a single thing wrong with black people, that the total destruction of white supremacy would not fix.
Manning, meanwhile, has long epitomized the so-called “good ole’ days” of buttoned-up, Southern-bred white quarterbacks. As Dave Zirin wrote over at The Nation:
Richard Sherman is consciously an archetype that has been branded a threat as long as African-Americans have played sports: the loud, deeply intelligent black guy who uses this outsized cultural platform to be as bombastic as he wants to be. Whether the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson or Richard Sherman, they tend to be painted with only one dimension, which makes it easier for them to be denigrated and demonized.
Stay tuned to see how this plays out over the next two weeks.
Get your weekend started off on the right foot with an live stream (read: free) of Yasiin Bey’s performance of new material. The “show” starts at 5:30pm EST. Here’s the description that’s on YouTube:
Internationally acclaimed artist Yasiin Bey is set to perform a set of all new exclusive material Live From Africa, capturing this experience from one of the many breathtaking locations on the continent (to be disclosed at the end of the performance)— streaming worldwide in real time, this Friday on January 17th at 12:30 AM (CAT)/17:30 PM (EST).
Presented by the newly formed, Bey-helmed arts collective A COUNTRY CALLED EARTH, this performance will commemorate the birth-date of one of the world’s greatest personalities, Mohammed Ali. This is the inaugural episode for a series of live stream events taking place in Africa, entitled “The Time is Always Now.” Stay tuned for further details.
New Orleans teachers who lost their jobs in the wake of Hurricane Katrina were wrongfully terminated and deserve two to three years of back pay, an appeals court ruled on Thursdsay. The ruling affects more than 7,000 teachers who were fired and comes after years of legal wrangling, The Times-Picayune reported.
Katrina catalyzed the ground-up remaking of the New Orleans public school system, of which the mass layoffs of thousands of teachers was just one part. The layoffs also destabilized neighborhoods.
From The Times-Picayune:
Beyond the individual employees who were put out, the mass layoff has been a lingering source of pain for those who say school system jobs were an important component in maintaining the city’s black middle class. New Orleans’ teaching force has changed noticeably since then. More young, white teachers have come from outside through groups such as Teach for America. And charter school operators often offer private retirement plans instead of the state pension fund, which can discourage veteran teachers who have years invested in the state plan.
Though many schools have made a conscious effort to hire pre-Katrina teachers and New Orleans natives, eight years later, people still come to public meetings charging that outside teachers don’t understand the local students’ culture.
Read the rest at the Times-Picayune.
Pennsylvania Judge Bernard McGinley ruled today that the voter ID law passed in 2012 was a violation of the state’s constitutional protections of the right to vote. Judge McGinley found that the burdens imposed on voters who lacked the documents to obtain a photo ID if they didn’t have one, or lacked access to state offices that supplied IDs were too heavy and could lead to massive disenfranchisement. From the judge’s ruling:
“The burdens the Voter ID Law entails are unnecessary and not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling governmental interest. And the record is rife with testimony from numerous Pennsylvania voters whose right to vote will be — and indeed already has been — denied or substantially and unnecessarily burdened by the Voter ID law.”
The state court agreed that hundreds of thousands of voters would suffer disenfranchisement because of a number of restrictions and obstacles imposed by the state on those seeking photo ID to vote. Lawyers from ACLU, Advancement Project and other legal organizations presented dozens of witnesses who testified to how difficult it was for them to get ID, many of them denied.
The judge also found the state’s voter education campaign — mandated by another court for the state to produce billboards, brochures and other ads about the voter ID law to make sure all were aware of it — to be confusing and ineffective.
This case has ping-ponged from court to court on appeals, starting with a ruling in August of 2012 denying a temporary halt on the law that civil rights attorneys requested so that it would not be in effect for the November presidential elections. The state’s supreme court later told the judge to revisit that decision, though, and to grant the halt if he couldn’t guarantee that no one would be disenfranchised. Unable to make that assurance, the judge blocked the law for the November elections, but with the confusing requirement that poll workers could ask voters for photo ID, though voters didn’t have to show it. And, in fact, voters were confused on Election Day.
Today’s ruling is based on last year’s trial asking for a permanent block of the law, on the grounds that it was both too restrictive and violated constitutional equal protection rights for people of color. Curiously, Judge McGinley found that the voter ID law did not discriminate based on race, despite evidence provided that the law would unfairly disadvantage thousands of voters of color and Puerto Ricans in particular. The state government may appeal this decision back to the state supreme court, but there’s one wrinkle: Pennsylvania has a new attorney general, Kathleen Kane, a Democrat who is less sympathetic to the state’s hopes to preserve the law than her conservative predecessor Linda Kelly, who was attorney general when this case first went to court.
On a press call earlier today, Ben Geffen of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia said he hoped that instead of spending more taxpayer dollars on an appeal, the state would put that money toward better voter education and registration efforts.
“The only fraud uncovered in this case is the ID law itself, which is exposed as a voter suppression tool adopted to game elections,” said Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.
Fast-food worker and organizer Naquasia LeGrand took on host Stephen Colbert last night and came out like a champ. “I have never spoken to someone in your industry without yelling the phrase, How long does it take to fry something, where’s my order?” Colbert says, perhaps speaking for many currently debating whether LeGrand should earn $15 an hour. That new minimum wage—and the right to organize without retaliation—is what she’s fighting for along with hundreds of other fast-food workers across the country.
LeGrand, who works for a New York City-based KFC, currently earns $8 an hour and works a 15-hour shift. It’s impossible to take on a second part-time job, she says, because managers don’t give workers set schedules.
(h/t The Colbert Report)
On Thursday, congressional lawmakers kicked off a new effort to help make college more affordable for undocumented students. Proposed by Washington Sen. Patty Muray and Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, the Investing in Students to Achieve Tuition Equity (IN-STATE) for DREAMers Bill would create a $750 million grant program to be handed out over a decade in the form of need-based financial aid to states which currenly provide in-state tuition and financial aid eligibility to undocumented students. According to the lawmakers’ estimates, 1.8 million undocumented students could be helped by the bill. The grant program would be paid for by increasing F-1 student visa fees $150 to $350, the Huffington Post reported.
Currently, 19 states offer in-state tuition to undocumented students, but many fewer—just Texas, California and New Mexico—allow undocumented students to apply for state financial aid.
Polis and Murray wrote in an op-ed for The Hill:
Over the last decade, the cost of a college degree has skyrocketed, and average annual costs at public colleges and universities have increased by more than 100 percent. The American Dream Grants established by our legislation would supplement existing state financial aid funding for all students and help ensure that states continue to invest in their higher education systems and pass along cost savings to students.
In addition to the difference that affordable tuition makes for students, we’ve already seen that states benefit from equitable tuition policies, too. By allowing all qualified students to access higher education, states can invest in thousands of additional students every year who are able to pursue their dreams, start a career, and contribute to their local economies.
Because undocumented students are considered out-of-state residents—even in the states where they reside and may have spent the entirety of their childhood—they are forced to pay out-of-state tuition which is two and sometimes three times the in-state tuition price. What’s more, undocumented students are ineligible for federal student aid, and unless states proactively extend tuition equity to undocumented students, college can become prohibitively expensive.
Looks like Willow Smith isn’t quite satisfied with being an ordinary kid. She teamed up with big brother Jaden for a new track called “5” produced by Ta-Ku. And while the content may seem a little bit too mature for a 13-year-old, all-in-all, it’s pretty good. Check it out.
Sure, she might have been snubbed at the Golden Globes, but Hollywood’s new “it” girl got a big dose of industry recognition at last night’s Critics’ Choice Awards, where she took home the award for best supporting actress. But beware with this video: It’ll have you in tears, too.
Monday is a federal holiday that observes the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. Accepting the holiday proved difficult with some politicians and some states—so much so that organizers launched a boycott against the state of Arizona, and inspired Public Enemy’s By The Time I Get to Arizona. Today, however, MLK Day is observed without protest. Some people treat it as a day off, while others take time to remember the struggle for racial justice. I personally don’t let the day go by without reading King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
Some retailers use the holiday, however, to hold sales. Offering discounts on clothing on that holiday may prove offensive enough for some people—but The Gap is promoting what it calls an “MLK Event.” The company’s website and emails to its potential customers do not include one mention of the civil rights movement, racial justice, or King himself—but do feature several white women, who are promoting 50 percent off 500 styles from The Gap.
Are you going out shopping on Monday? Why or why not?
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been getting a lot of attention this post-season for his unique fashion sense. The 26-year-old biracial quarterback isn’t a button-up kinda of guy, and his outfits reflect that: snapbacks, sneakers, hoodies, not to mention the tattoos. After San Francisco beat the Carolina Panthers in last week’s divisional playoff game, Kaepernick made it clear that he’s not afraid to take chances in fashion when he wore a vest designed by 13-year-old Jeremiah Jones, who lives in Long Beach, California.
From The Post Game:
Jones was watching the 49ers game with family Sunday when his sister noticed Kaepernick wearing one of Jones’ signature vests at his postgame press conference. They rewinded the TV and sure enough, Kaepernick had on the JY Collection Vest.
Upon seeing his vest on his favorite player, Jeremiah called his father and business partner, Ed.
“He just started screaming,” Jeremiah says of his father’s reaction. “I was speechless at that point.”
Although he’s only 13, Jones surprisingly isn’t exactly a rookie when it comes to his own line. He’s got 27,000 followers on Twitter, a website, and counts his father as his business partner. They sent Kaepernick a birthday package last November that included a red vest and a Postive Achiever Award, something Jones usually gives out to classmates who make the honor roll or have perfect class attendence. He didn’t hear back from Kaepernick, but got the biggest endorsement of his life when he tuned in to watch last weekend’s post-game press conference and saw Kaepernick sporting his red vest.
“I just want to thank him for wearing my brand,” Jeremiah later told the media. “There’s not too many 13-year-olds out there that can say Colin Kaepernick wore their brand.”
Last September, I wrote that Congress would fix the Voting Rights Act by the end of 2013. That didn’t happen. But today, a bipartisan contingent of the House introduced legislation that would modify VRA’s Section 4 and Section 5, which the U.S. Supreme Court disabled in the Shelby v. Holder ruling last summer.
Section 4 previously provided the coverage formula that captured a number of states and jurisdictions, mostly in the South, that would need to clear election law changes with the federal government (“preclearance”) before implementing them. The Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. The new legislation introduced in the House today by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin and Rep. John Conyers of Michigan employs a different coverage formula that would capture states with five violations of federal civil rights laws over the past 15 years. Under that scenario, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas would fall under the preclearance regime, well below the nine states previously covered.
Other changes include a provision that makes it easier to pull additional jurisdictions under preclearance if they establish a pattern of voting rights violations, and a mandate for all 50 states to notify the public, via the media, about any major election changes at least 120 days before a federal election. Ari Berman has a comprehensive guide to understanding the new VRA legislation over at The Nation.
The response from civil rights organizations have so far been a mix of praise and cautious criticism.
“As introduced, this bill does not go far enough in protecting language minorities or voters living in states with restrictive voter ID laws,” said Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “We look forward to working with Congress to improve this legislation and are strongly encouraged by this bipartisan unity for protecting voting rights for all.
“While the start of a critical debate on voting, the bill represents a floor, and not a ceiling, for ensuring that elections are free, fair and accessible to all Americans,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis. “The proposal introduced today contains some positive steps forward, but we have serious concerns. Legislators must make changes to this bill to ensure all citizens have equal opportunities to participate in our democracy.”
One of the major concerns with the legislation is that it excludes voter ID laws as a voting rights violation.
“It is distressing that the bill treats discriminatory voter ID laws differently from other Voting Rights Act violations,” said Katherine Culliton-González, Advancement Project’s Director of Voter Protection. “Under the bill, findings of discriminatory voter ID laws are only partially counted as indicators for determining if a state should be required to have voting changes pre-cleared, while other discriminatory voting practices are fully counted. This exception is arbitrary.
The Senate is expected to follow with an identical bill from Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Now comes the fun part — Congress actually has to pass the bills, and during a year mid-term congressional election year, a period when politicians are hesitant to move or pass any legislation. If it does make it through Congress, it will likely look a lot different than the current version, with new amendments, carve-outs, opt-outs and waivers.
Over at Roll Call, Emma Dumain is reporting that rank-and-file Republicans have yet to rally around the new VRA bill, despite support from GOP brass like House Majority leader Eric Cantor.
What’s a school library without a librarian? For many Los Angeles public school students, it’s a locked room they can’t enter. New figures reported by KPCC this morning show that nearly half of Los Angeles public school libraries have no trained staffers to run them, and 87 percent of school libraries lack a credentialed librarian.
In a district of 768 schools libraries, there are only 98 librarians to teach students how to find information, select a text or coordinate reading programs. Even adding library aides to the mix, 332 school libraries do not have staff.
Without librarians or library aides, many principals have been forced to keep libraries locked or run them illegally with parent volunteers or other school site staff. California law does not allow fill-ins for trained library staff.
The figures come on the heels of the district’s decision to double down on its investment in iPads—the district set aside another $115 million to expand its iPad initiative across the district. The initial iPad rollout has already cost $1 billion. Los Angeles isn’t alone in slashing its school libraries. In Philadelphia, the Bay Area, Oregon, Illinois and New York, when money gets tight—or priorities shift—school libraries are usually on the list of early eliminations.
Lightening dark spots is one thing but the supposed before-after transformation attributed to new skin lightening cream, “Whitenicious,” is shocking. And according to Nigerian-Cameroonian singer Dencia, her new milk-white look is helping to move product. “Whitenicious just sold out. Wow, restocking and will have more products by January 10th…,” says a Tweet sent on January 6, what appears to be the day of the product’s debut.
Either folks from Nigeria to Brooklyn are fed up with their lifetime supply of Ambi, or Dencia is a smart marketer. Whatever the business strategy, the singer’s new appearance sparks a still very necessary conversation about skin color, attractiveness and upward mobility. A Nigerian-American explains the popularity of skin lighteners in Nigeria this way:
“There’s a different treatment and desirability factor in Africa for lighter skinned women, well beyond what we experience in the US,” he tells Clutch. “It’s an epidemic. You can’t walk a day in the streets of Lagos without seeing someone who has/is bleached. The possible benefits (more respect, increased desirability to men) outweigh the consequences, especially in a male-dominated society where women’s “independence” is frowned upon….”
But it’s not just Nigeria, India or the Caribbean where this conversation strikes gold. According to a new small study from San Francisco State University, “educated” black men are remembered as appearing lighter-skinned than they actually are. Researchers ran two pictorial experiments with 125 college student in one, 35 in the other. Both groups participated for college credit. Findings suggest to researchers that, “Black individuals who defy social stereotypes might not challenge social norms sufficiently but rather may be remembered as lighter, perpetuating status quo beliefs.”
The awards season continues to be kind to “12 Years a Slave.” The film is nominated for a best picture award and stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o are up for best actor and best supporting actress awards, respectively. Director Steve McQueen is also up for a best director award.
Also of note: “20 Feet From Stardom,” Morgan Neville’s excellent documentary about backup singers, is up for a best documentary award. And Jeremy Scahill’s “Dirty Wars” is also up for an award in the same category.
Despite “12 Years a Slave’s” presence on this year’s awards circuit, Hollywood’s biggest stage is still overwhelmingly white. My colleague Stacia L. Brown recently wrote over at Salon that people of color are still often snubbed when it comes to actually winning in the big categories.
It doesn’t take much to become deportable. Just ask Justin Bieber. The pop star, who’s facing felony charges for allegedly egging his neighbor’s Calabasas, Calif., mansion to the tune of $20,000 in damage, could face deportation if convicted. The damage from Bieber’s alleged vandalism exceeded $400, which makes it a felony—and felony convictions become deportable offenses, Fox News reported.
Of course a decent attorney, which Bieber can certainly afford, will try to get his charges dropped or lowered to a misdemeanor. Bieber also happens to live in California, which limits immigration enforcement’s involvement with the criminal justice system thanks to the TRUST Act, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed in October. The law should limit the numbers of those who are swept into deportation proceedings as a result of a brush with the law.
But it’s worth keeping in mind that non-citizen U.S. residents have been deported for much less than what Bieber’s being accused of here. Getting caught with a blunt, peeing in public, accidentally identifying oneself as a citizen instead of a permanent resident—these are the kinds of extremely minor infractions which the U.S. has used as catalysts to deport hundreds of thousands of non-citizens and undocumented immigrants every year. In fact, the vast majority of those the U.S. has deported in recent years have no criminal record, and among those who were deported for committing a crime, the vast majority of those convictions were for non-violent offenses. So good luck, Bieber!
Kanye West is angry again, but this time he’s got good reason. Amazon’s part of the new fad of digital currency (aka “cryptocurrency”) and there was a strand of it going around named “Coinye West.”
West has filed has accussed the online retailer of trademark infringement. According to The Hollywood Reporter:
The hip-hop artist has filed a lawsuit, looking to hold liable those who have tendered the digital money. If he wins the lawsuit alleging publicity rights and trademark violations, he could get some cold, hard cash — a.k.a. the Benjamins (no disrespect intended to Mr. Franklin).
In his complaint filed in New York federal court, West says that consumers are likely to mistakenly believe that he is the source of the cryptocurrency. The lawsuit provides examples of tweets like the one fromChristopher Hudson, who wrote, “Move over #Bitcoin, @kanyewest now has his own cryptocurrency called @CoinyeWest.”
The hardest part for West and his legal team will be identifying the anonymous consumers who have exchanged “Coinye” currency. But the suit alleges that Amazon is encouraging and contributing to websites’ use of “Coinye.”
A new national study of 2013 AP Computer Science test takers found that it’s not just the professional tech world that’s an overwhelmingly white and male arena. The tech education pipeline is the same as well. In eight U.S. states, not one Latino student took 2013’s AP Computer Science exam, and zero black students took the exam in 11 states. Meanwhile zero female students took the test in three U.S. states. Altogether, it meant that in Mississippi and Montana, not a single female, black or Latino student took the exam. The figures come from a study released in December by Barbara Ericson, the director of computing research and a senior researcher at Georgia Tech University.
“We were not surprised by Barbara Ericson’s findings because unfortunately, computing courses have historically been dominated by white, male students,” the College Board told Education Week. Our dominant culture sells technology and science as a white and male pursuit, it’s true. But the flipside is that high-level science and computing courses—the kind which encourage students not just to do their homework on iPads but to understand how computers work in the first place—are typically not pitched as girl-friendly, or even offered in the underresourced schools where students of color are concentrated.
The distribution is only ever so slowly improving, but for black students in particular, it’s worsening. In 2006, girls were 17 percent of AP Computer Science exam takers and made up 18.5 percent of the students taking the 2013 test. Black students were less than 5 percent of 2006’s AP Computer Science exam takers and just 3.6 of those who took the exam last year. Latino students were 7.6 percent in 2006, and 8.1 percent of 2013’s test-takers. In 2006 Asian-American students were a fifth of the national test-taking pool and last year they were 28.6 percent. White students were 58 percent of the 2006 test-takers and 54 percent of the test-taking pool.
(h/t Education Week)
Let the Grammy promos begin. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, the Seattle-based MC and producer combo behind the 2013 smash hit Grammy-nominated album “The Heist,” brought their signature style to an unconventional New York Cityl location: a bus. Check out the video and let us know what you think.
“The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975,” the powerful 2011 documentary by Sweedish filmmaker Göran Hugo Olsson that used archival footage of America’s black power movement, is coming to audiences in book format. It features a preface written by Danny Glover and new work from Angela Davis.
Haymarket Books will publish the project on February 4. It will include historical speeches and interviews with some of the era’s most important figures, including Stokely Carmicheal (Kwame Ture), Angela Davis, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale, and Huey P. Newton along with contemporary commentary from today’s prominent black artists like Talib Kweli and Erykah Badu.
You can pre-order your copy on Amazon.
(h/t Shadow and Act)