ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
If we leave our values at the door, we abandon much of the moral glue that has held our
nation together for centuries, and allowed us to become somewhat more perfect a union.
Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Jane Addams, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy
Day, Abraham Heschelthe majority of great reformers in American history did their
work not just because it was sound policy. . . but because their faith and their values dictated it . . .
Avoiding Phony Religiosity, Listening to Him
Remarks by the President Barack Obama
at the National Prayer Breakfast
Washington Hilton Washington, D.C.
2 February 2012
Thank you. Please, please, everybody have a seat. Well, good morning, everybody. It is good to be with so many friends united in prayer. And I begin by giving all praise and honor to God for bringing us together here today.
I want to thank our co-chairs Mark and Jeff; to my dear friend, the guy who always has my back, Vice President Biden. All the members of Congress Joe deserves a handall the members of Congress and my Cabinet who are here today; all the distinguished guests whove traveled a long way to be part of this. Im not going to be as funny as Eric but Im grateful that he shared his message with us. Michelle and I feel truly blessed to be here.
This is my third year coming to this prayer breakfast as President. As Jeff mentioned, before that, I came as senator. I have to say, its easier coming as President. I dont have to get here quite as early. But its always been an opportunity that Ive cherished. And its a chance to step back for a moment, for us to come together as brothers and sisters and seek Gods face together. At a time when its easy to lose ourselves in the rush and clamor of our own lives, or get caught up in the noise and rancor that too often passes as politics today, these moments of prayer slow us down. They humble us. They remind us that no matter how much responsibility we have, how fancy our titles, how much power we think we hold, we are imperfect vessels. We can all benefit from turning to our Creator, listening to Him. Avoiding phony religiosity, listening to Him. This is especially important right now, when were facing some big challenges as a nation. Our economy is making progress as we recover from the worst crisis in three generations, but far too many families are still struggling to find work or make the mortgage, pay for college, or, in some cases, even buy food. Our men and women in uniform have made us safer and more secure, and we were eternally grateful to them, but war and suffering and hardship still remain in too many corners of the globe. And a lot of those men and women who we celebrate on Veterans Day and Memorial Day come back and find that, when it comes to finding a job or getting the kind of care that they need, were not always there the way we need to be.
Its absolutely true that meeting these challenges requires sound decision-making, requires smart policies. We know that part of living in a pluralistic society means that our personal religious beliefs alone cant dictate our response to every challenge we face.
But in my moments of prayer, Im reminded that faith and values play an enormous role in motivating us to solve some of our most urgent problems, in keeping us going when we suffer setbacks, and opening our minds and our hearts to the needs of others.
We cant leave our values at the door. If we leave our values at the door, we abandon much of the moral glue that has held our nation together for centuries, and allowed us to become somewhat more perfect a union. Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Jane Addams, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Abraham Heschelthe majority of great reformers in American history did their work not just because it was sound policy, or they had done good analysis, or understood how to exercise good politics, but because their faith and their values dictated it, and called for bold actionsometimes in the face of indifference, sometimes in the face of resistance.
This is no different today for millions of Americans, and its certainly not for me.
I wake up each morning and I say a brief prayer, and I spend a little time in scripture and devotion. And from time to time, friends of mine, some of who are here today, friends like Joel Hunter or T.D. Jakes, will come by the Oval Office or theyll call on the phone or theyll send me a email, and well pray together, and theyll pray for me and my family, and for our country.
But I dont stop there. Id be remiss if I stopped there; if my values were limited to personal moments of prayer or private conversations with pastors or friends. So instead, I must tryimperfectly, but I must tryto make sure those values motivate me as one leader of this great nation.
And so when I talk about our financial institutions playing by the same rules as folks on Main Street, when I talk about making sure insurance companies arent discriminating against those who are already sick, or making sure that unscrupulous lenders arent taking advantage of the most vulnerable among us, I do so because I genuinely believe it will make the economy stronger for everybody. But I also do it because I know that far too many neighbors in our country have been hurt and treated unfairly over the last few years, and I believe in Gods command to love thy neighbor as thyself. I know the version of that Golden Rule is found in every major religion and every set of beliefs from Hinduism to Islam to Judaism to the writings of Plato.
And when I talk about shared responsibility, its because I genuinely believe that in a time when many folks are struggling, at a time when we have enormous deficits, its hard for me to ask seniors on a fixed income, or young people with student loans, or middle-class families who can barely pay the bills to shoulder the burden alone. And I think to myself, if Im willing to give something up as somebody whos been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think thats going to make economic sense.
But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesuss teaching that for unto whom much is given, much shall be required. It mirrors the Islamic belief that those whove been blessed have an obligation to use those blessings to help others, or the Jewish doctrine of moderation and consideration for others.
When I talk about giving every American a fair shot at opportunity, its because I believe that when a young person can afford a college education, or someone whos been unemployed suddenly has a chance to retrain for a job and regain that sense of dignity and pride, and contributing to the community as well as supporting their familiesthat helps us all prosper.
It means maybe that research lab on the cusp of a lifesaving discovery, or the company looking for skilled workers is going to do a little bit better, and well all do better as a consequence. It makes economic sense. But part of that belief comes from my faith in the idea that I am my brothers keeper and I am my sisters keeper; that as a country, we rise and fall together. Im not an island. Im not alone in my success. I succeed because others succeed with me.
And when I decide to stand up for foreign aid, or prevent atrocities in places like Uganda, or take on issues like human trafficking, its not just about strengthening alliances, or promoting democratic values, or projecting American leadership around the world, although it does all those things and it will make us safer and more secure. Its also about the biblical call to care for the least of thesefor the poor; for those at the margins of our society.
To answer the responsibility were given in Proverbs to Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. And for others, it may reflect the Jewish belief that the highest form of charity is to do our part to help others stand on their own.
Treating others as you want to be treated. Requiring much from those who have been given so much. Living by the principle that we are our brothers keeper. Caring for the poor and those in need. These values are old. They can be found in many denominations and many faiths, among many believers and among many non-believers. And they are values that have always made this country greatwhen we live up to them; when we dont just give lip service to them; when we dont just talk about them one day a year. And theyre the ones that have defined my own faith journey.
And today, with as many challenges as we face, these are the values I believe were going to have to return to in the hopes that God will buttress our efforts.
Now, we can earnestly seek to see these values lived out in our politics and our policies, and we can earnestly disagree on the best way to achieve these values. In the words of C.S. Lewis, Christianity has not, and does not profess to have a detailed political program. It is meant for all men at all times, and the particular program which suited one place or time would not suit another.
Our goal should not be to declare our policies as biblical. It is God who is infallible, not us. Michelle reminds me of this often. So instead, it is our hope that people of goodwill can pursue their values and common ground and the common good as best they know how, with respect for each other. And I have to say that sometimes we talk about respect, but we dont act with respect towards each other during the course of these debates.
But each and every day, for many in this room, the biblical injunctions are not just words, they are also deeds. Every single day, in different ways, so many of you are living out your faith in service to others.
Just last month, it was inspiring to see thousands of young Christians filling the Georgia Dome at the Passion Conference, to worship the God who sets the captives free and work to end modern slavery. Since weve expanded and strengthened the White House faith-based initiative, weve partnered with Catholic Charities to help Americans who are struggling with poverty; worked with organizations like World Vision and American Jewish World Service and Islamic Relief to bring hope to those suffering around the world.
Colleges across the country have answered our Interfaith Campus Challenge, and students are joined together across religious lines in service to others. From promoting responsible fatherhood to strengthening adoption, from helping people find jobs to serving our veterans, were linking arms with faith-based groups all across the country.
I think we all understand that these values cannot truly find voice in our politics and our policies unless they find a place in our hearts. The Bible teaches us to be doers of the word and not merely hearers. Were required to have a living, breathing, active faith in our own lives. And each of us is called on to give something of ourselves for the betterment of othersand to live the truth of our faith not just with words, but with deeds.
So even as we join the great debates of our agehow we best put people back to work, how we ensure opportunity for every child, the role of government in protecting this extraordinary planet that God has made for us, how we lessen the occasions of wareven as we debate these great issues, we must be reminded of the difference that we can make each day in our small interactions, in our personal lives.
As a loving husband, or a supportive parent, or a good neighbor, or a helpful colleague in each of these roles, we help bring His kingdom to Earth. And as important as government policy may be in shaping our world, we are reminded that its the cumulative acts of kindness and courage and charity and love, its the respect we show each other and the generosity that we share with each other that in our everyday lives will somehow sustain us during these challenging times. John tells us that, If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
Mark read a letter from Billy Graham, and it took me back to one of the great honors of my life, which was visiting Reverend Graham at his mountaintop retreat in North Carolina, when I was on vacation with my family at a hotel not far away. And I can still remember winding up the path up a mountain to his home. Ninety-one years old at the time, facing various health challenges, he welcomed me as he would welcome a family member or a close friend. This man who had prayed great prayers that inspired a nation, this man who seemed larger than life, greeted me and was as kind and as gentle as could be.
And we had a wonderful conversation. Before I left, Reverend Graham started praying for me, as he had prayed for so many Presidents before me. And when he finished praying, I felt the urge to pray for him. I didnt really know what to say. What do you pray for when it comes to the man who has prayed for so many? But like that verse in Romans, the Holy Spirit interceded when I didnt know quite what to say.
And so I prayedbriefly, but I prayed from the heart. I dont have the intellectual capacity or the lung capacity of some of my great preacher friends here that have prayed for a long time. But I prayed. And we ended with an embrace and a warm goodbye.
And I thought about that moment all the way down the mountain, and Ive thought about it in the many days since. Because I thought about my own spiritual journeygrowing up in a household that wasnt particularly religious; going through my own period of doubt and confusion; finding Christ when I wasnt even looking for him so many years ago; possessing so many shortcomings that have been overcome by the simple grace of God. And the fact that I would ever be on top of a mountain, saying a prayer for Billy Grahama man whose faith had changed the world and that had sustained him through triumphs and tragedies, and movements and milestonesthat simple fact humbled me to my core.
I have fallen on my knees with great regularity since that momentasking God for guidance not just in my personal life and my Christian walk, but in the life of this nation and in the values that hold us together and keep us strong. I know that He will guide us. He always has, and He always will. And I pray his richest blessings on each of you in the days ahead.
Thank you very much. [Emphasis by italics added by Editor]
Source: White House
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Romney’s Indifference to the PoorEugene Robinson2 February 2012I wish Mitt Romneys cavalier dismissal of poverty in America could be chalked up as just another gaffe, but its much worse than that. The Republican front-runner seems dangerously clueless about the nation he seeks to lead.
When I first heard the now-famous quoteIm not concerned about the very poorI thought it might be fodder for a snarky column about the wee little Mr. Monopoly who lives inside Romneys head and blurts out things like Corporations are people, my friend, or I like being able to fire people. But I realized that being very poor is no laughing matter to millions of Americans. Putting Romneys words in their full context makes them worse. Here is what he said on CNN:
Im in this race because I care about Americans. Im not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, Ill fix it. Im not concerned about the very rich, theyre doing just fine. Im concerned about the very heart of America, the 90, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.
According to a U.S. Census Bureau report released in September, the poverty rate began rising sharply in 2007 as the recession took hold. By 2010, the report says, 15.1 percent of Americans were living below the poverty line46.2 million people who apparently do not merit Romneys attention. A substantial plurality of these poor peopleabout 20 millionare non-Hispanic whites. Roughly 13 million are Hispanic and nearly 11 million are African-American. These figures show that minorities are overrepresented among the poor, but also that poverty is by no means some kind of minority problem. Its an American problem.
And even these numbers are somewhat misleading, since the official poverty threshold is set at a level that many researchers consider unrealistically low. Imagine supporting a family of four on $22,314 a yearfood, shelter, clothing, transportationand being told youre not poor. A better measure, in my view, is the number of American families getting by on incomes that equal the poverty level plus an additional 25 percent. By this standard, fully one-fifth of the nation is poor. Romney says we have a safety net. Thats still true, despite the best efforts of his party to rip it to shreds.Truthdig
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Harder for Americans to Rise From Lower RungsJason DeParle4 January 2012Its becoming conventional wisdom that the U.S. does not have as much mobility as most other advanced countries, said Isabel V. Sawhill, an economist at the Brookings Institution. I dont think youll find too many people who will argue with that.
One reason for the mobility gap may be the depth of American poverty, which leaves poor children starting especially far behind. Another may be the unusually large premiums that American employers pay for college degrees. Since children generally follow their parents educational trajectory, that premium increases the importance of family background and stymies people with less schooling.
At least five large studies in recent years have found the United States to be less mobile than comparable nations. A project led by Markus Jantti, an economist at a Swedish university, found that 42 percent of American men raised in the bottom fifth of incomes stay there as adults. That shows a level of persistent disadvantage much higher than in Denmark (25 percent) and Britain (30 percent)a country famous for its class constraints.
Meanwhile, just 8 percent of American men at the bottom rose to the top fifth. That compares with 12 percent of the British and 14 percent of the Danes. Despite frequent references to the United States as a classless society, about 62 percent of Americans (male and female) raised in the top fifth of incomes stay in the top two-fifths, according to research by the Economic Mobility Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Similarly, 65 percent born in the bottom fifth stay in the bottom two-fifths.
By emphasizing the influence of family background, the studies not only challenge American identity but speak to the debate about inequality. While liberals often complain that the United States has unusually large income gaps, many conservatives have argued that the system is fair because mobility is especially high, too: everyone can climb the ladder. Now the evidence suggests that America is not only less equal, but also less mobile. . . . In 2006 Professor Corak reviewed more than 50 studies of nine countries. He ranked Canada, Norway, Finland and Denmark as the most mobile, with the United States and Britain roughly tied at the other extreme. Sweden, Germany, and France were scattered across the middle.
The causes of Americas mobility problem are a topic of disputestarting with the debates over poverty. The United States maintains a thinner safety net than other rich countries, leaving more children vulnerable to debilitating hardships.
Poor Americans are also more likely than foreign peers to grow up with single mothers. That places them at an elevated risk of experiencing poverty and related problems, a point frequently made by Mr. Santorum, who surged into contention in the Iowa caucuses. The United States also has uniquely high incarceration rates, and a longer history of racial stratification than its peers.
The bottom fifth in the U.S. looks very different from the bottom fifth in other countries, said Scott Winship, a researcher at the Brookings Institution, who wrote the article for National Review. Poor Americans have to work their way up from a lower floor.
A second distinguishing American trait is the pay tilt toward educated workers. While in theory that could help poor children risegood learners can become high earners more often it favors the children of the educated and affluent, who have access to better schools and arrive in them more prepared to learn.
Upper-income families can invest more in their childrens education and they may have a better understanding of what it takes to get a good education, said Eric Wanner, president of the Russell Sage Foundation, which gives grants to social scientists. The United States is also less unionized than many of its peers, which may lower wages among the least skilled, and has public health problems, like obesity and diabetes, which can limit education and employment.
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Bitter Politics of Envy?Charles M. Blow13 January 2012Youre just jealous. At least thats how Mitt Romney sees it. The millionaire who posed for a picture with the boys at Bain Capital with the long green clinched between their teeth and poking out of their collars and jackets now says that people who question what he did there, and what rich people do now, are just green with envy.
In his New Hampshire victory speech on Tuesday, Romney lambasted his Republican opponents (who have raised real issues about his role at the private equity firm Bain Capital) for following the lead of President Obama, whom he described as a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy.
The next day on Today on NBC, Romney defended the statement, rejecting the notion that there were questions about Wall Street behavior, saying the whole discussion was about class warfare. He even went so far as to suggest that such talk shouldnt even be openly entertained. When the interviewer asked, Are there no fair questions about the distribution of wealth without it being seen as envy, though? Romney responded, I think its fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and discussions about tax policy and the like. . . .
As The New York Times reported last week, many researchers have reached a conclusion that turns conventional wisdom on its head: Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe. The Times report speculated that: One reason for the mobility gap may be the depth of American poverty, which leaves poor children starting especially far behind. Another may be the unusually large premiums that American employers pay for college degrees. Since children generally follow their parents educational trajectory, that premium increases the importance of family background and stymies people with less schooling.
Indeed, a November report by the Pew Charitable Trusts Economic Mobility Project pointed out, In the United States, there is a stronger link between parental education and childrens economic, educational, and socio-emotional outcomes than in any other country investigated. Pew has found that most children raised at the top of the income spectrum stay there and most raised at the bottom stay at the bottom.
An equal opportunity to success is central to this countrys optimistic ethos, but income inequality and corporate greed are making a lie of that most basic American truism. The rich and their handmaidens on the political right have consolidated Americas wealth on the ever-narrowing peak of a steep hill and greased the slope. And they want to cast everyone at the bottom as lazy or jealous, without acknowledging the accident of birth and collusion of policies that helped grant them their perch.
Income inequality is a threat to this country and the middle class that made her great. If Romney wants to be president, he needs to understand that. As Alan Krueger, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said on Thursday, I think it is clear that we cant go back to the type of policies that exacerbated the rise in inequality and threatened economic mobility in the first place if we want an economy that builds the middle class. Not envy Mr. Romney. Opportunity.
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Romney Isnt ConcernedPaul Krugman 2 February 2012Now, the truth is that the safety net does need repair. It provides a lot of help to the poor, but not enough. Medicaid, for example, provides essential health care to millions of unlucky citizens, children especially, but many people still fall through the cracks: among Americans with annual incomes under $25,000, more than a quarter28.7 percentdont have any kind of health insurance. And, no, they cant make up for that lack of coverage by going to emergency rooms. Similarly, food aid programs help a lot, but one in six Americans living below the poverty line suffers from low food security. This is officially defined as involving situations in which food intake was reduced at times during the year because [households] had insufficient money or other resources for foodin other words, hunger. So we do need to strengthen our safety net.
Mr. Romney, however, wants to make the safety net weaker instead. Specifically, the candidate has endorsed Representative Paul Ryans plan for drastic cuts in federal spendingwith almost two-thirds of the proposed spending cuts coming at the expense of low-income Americans. To the extent that Mr. Romney has differentiated his position from the Ryan plan, it is in the direction of even harsher cuts for the poor; his Medicaid proposal appears to involve a 40 percent reduction in financing compared with current law. So Mr. Romneys position seems to be that we need not worry about the poor thanks to programs that he insists, falsely, dont actually help the needy, and which he intends, in any case, to destroy.
Still, I believe Mr. Romney when he says he isnt concerned about the poor. What I dont believe is his assertion that hes equally unconcerned about the rich, who are doing fine. After all, if thats what he really feels, why does he propose showering them with money? And were talking about a lot of money. According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, Mr. Romneys tax plan would actually raise taxes on many lower-income Americans, while sharply cutting taxes at the top end. More than 80 percent of the tax cuts would go to people making more than $200,000 a year, almost half to those making more than $1 million a year, with the average member of the million-plus club getting a $145,000 tax break. And these big tax breaks would create a big budget hole, increasing the deficit by $180 billion a yearand making those draconian cuts in safety-net programs necessary.
Which brings us back to Mr. Romneys lack of concern. You can say this for the former Massachusetts governor and Bain Capital executive: He is opening up new frontiers in American politics. Even conservative politicians used to find it necessary to pretend that they cared about the poor. Remember compassionate conservatism? Mr. Romney has, however, done away with that pretense. At this rate, we may soon have politicians who admit what has been obvious all along: that they dont care about the middle class either, that they arent concerned about the lives of ordinary Americans, and never were.
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Obama and Black America Unconditional, unrequited love?By Kevin Alexander Gray2 September 2011For all Americans, the average life expectancy is 78 years and two months according to the Centers for Disease Control. But for black Americans life expectancy is 74 years and three monthsfor black women its 76.8 years, and black men 70.2 years. If Commission members had their way the retirement age for full benefits would be raised to 69 from 67 by 2075. Obviously, black males would be the biggest losers in such a setup, literally working till death. At the moment, one in five blacks has no health insurance, compared to 12 percent of whites. And insurance companies routinely reject covering former inmates with the claim that they come from an at-risk population. One in seven African Americans is out of workthe highest in nearly a quarter century. More than two out of ten African Americansand three out of ten black children live in poverty.
For every dollar of wealth owned by the typical white family, the typical family of color owns only sixteen cents, according to a study published last March by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development entitled Lifting As We Climb: Women of Color, Wealth and Americas Future.
Nearly half of all single black and Hispanic women have zero or negative wealth, meaning their debts exceed all their assets. The median wealth for single black women is only $100, for single Hispanic women, $120. This compares to just over $41,000 for single white women. About a third of single Hispanic women and one-fourth of single black women have no checking or savings account. Overall, blacks continue to earn far less than whites. The median annual income for a black household in 2009, the most recent year statistics were available, was $33,463 while for whites it was $54,671.TheNewLiberator
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Why Record Black Male Unemployment Remains Invisible to the First Black PresidentBruce A. Dixon1 February 2012In the president’s world, since blacks fear to criticize the president, black unemployment just doesn’t matter. But if you live in places like Milwaukee, a mere 90 miles from the door of Obama’s south side Chicago home, or even a mile west on 51st street from the Obamas, massive black unemployment is a crucial and unavoidable fact of collective life.
A study of black male employment patterns in the 20 largest US metropolitan areas over the last four decades just released by the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee starkly illustrates the growing and acute racial disparities in employment, disparities the African American political class, sometimes called the Black Misleadership Class don’t bring up for fear of embarrassing their president. The truth is sometimes embarrassing. But that doesn’t stop it from being true. Barack Obama’s wisdom on black unemployment pulled straight from the mouth of Ronald Reagan, who declared that a rising tide lifts all boats.
In fact, however, ostensibly color-blind approaches to black unemployment simply don’t cut it, and in some cases aren’t even meant to. The United States has libraries of color-blind criminal code on the books. But still we manage year after year to arrest, convict and imprison disproportionate numbers of black and brown people for crimes that go unpoliced and unprosecuted among whites. At one time open, public and legal discrimination in the work force was the rule. Now, more than a generation after the end of legal Jim Crow, US labor markets remain racially stratified.BlackAgendaReport
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Where Obamaism Seems to be Going
Adolph Reed, Jr.
And perhaps most tellingly, despite their disagreements, Greenwald and vanden Heuvel both supported Obama’s practice of going out of his way to attack black poor people, most recently in his scurrilous Father’s Day speech and again before the NAACP. (And, by the way, he grew up without a father and is running for president, no?) To Greenwald, this is the “Obama we want to see more of,” the one who takes positions that are “unorthodox” and “not politically safe.” Since when has it been unorthodox or unsafe politically to malign black poor people in public?
Who the fuck has been doing anything else for at least twenty years? Public sacrifice of black poor people has been pro forma Democratic presidential strategy since Clinton ran on the pledge to “end welfare as we know it” and made a burnt offering of Rickey Ray Rector, and victim-blaming based on just-so stories about supposed “behavioral pathology” has been the only frame for public discussion of poverty for at least as long.
To vanden Heuvel, Obama’s contretemps with Jesse Jackson, who, ironically, has his own history of making such attacks, around this issue reflects a “generational division” among black people, with Obama representing a younger generation that values “personal responsibility.” She also, for good measure, asserted that Obama has been “nailed unfairly” for his cozying up to the evangelicals and promising to give them more federal social service money. In explaining that he comes out of a “community organizing” tradition based in churches in Chicago, she didn’t quite say that the coloreds love their churches. But she didn’t really have to say it out loud, did she? This is what passes for a left now in this country.
It is a left that can insist, apparently, that Obama’s FISA vote, going out of his way (after all, he could simply have followed the model of Eisenhower on the Brown decision and said that the Court has ruled; therefore it’s the law, and his job as president would be to enforce the law) to align himself – twice, or three timeswith the Scalia/Thomas/Roberts/Alito wing of the Supreme Court, his declaring that social problems, unlike foreign policy adventurism, are “too big for government” and pledging to turn over more of HHS and HUD’s budgets to the Holy Rollers are both tactically necessary and consistent with his convictions.
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Romney’s Indifference to the PoorEugene Robinson2 February 2012–For my part, Im concerned about what sounds like shocking ignorance about the extent of poverty in this country and an utter lack of urgency about finding solutions.According to a U.S. Census Bureau report released in September, the poverty rate began rising sharply in 2007 as the recession took hold. By 2010, the report says, 15.1 percent of Americans were living below the poverty line46.2 million people who apparently do not merit Romneys attention. A substantial plurality of these poor peopleabout 20 millionare non-Hispanic whites. Roughly 13 million are Hispanic and nearly 11 million are African-American. These figures show that minorities are overrepresented among the poor, but also that poverty is by no means some kind of minority problem. Its an American problem.
And even these numbers are somewhat misleading, since the official poverty threshold is set at a level that many researchers consider unrealistically low.
Imagine supporting a family of four on $22,314 a yearfood, shelter, clothing, transportationand being told youre not poor. A better measure, in my view, is the number of American families getting by on incomes that equal the poverty level plus an additional 25 percent. By this standard, fully one-fifth of the nation is poor. Romney says we have a safety net. Thats still true, despite the best efforts of his party to rip it to shreds.Truthdig
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#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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By Gil Scott Heron
Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King’s birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King’s birthday ended up becoming a national holiday (“The Last Holiday because America can’t afford to have another national holiday”), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered. Jamie Byng, Guardian
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By Michele Alexander
Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarcerationPublishers Weekly
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A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family thats about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrinas inexorable winds is the voice of Wards narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her familys raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brothers blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt. Her fathers hands are like gravel, while her own hand slides through his grip like a wet fish, and a handsome boys muscles jabbered like chickens. Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isnt usually just metaphor for metaphors sake. .
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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posted 3 February 2012
Related files: Theodore W. Allen and His Insights