Updated Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, 12:48 p.m. EST: Ben Carson sat before a Senate committee Thursday morning to make the case that he should be confirmed to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Carson leaned on his upbringing growing up in inner-city Detroit and his family’s need for public assistance, although they never lived in public housing, to make up for his lack of experience related to running the $47 billion agency.
“I have actually in my life understood what housing insecurity was,” Carson said, CNN reports. Carson added that his family was forced to move from Detroit to Boston because they had “no place to live.”
As such, Carson assured the committee that he understands issues facing the millions of people dependent on HUD programs. Carson also included four letters from past HUD secretaries supporting his confirmation, CNN reports.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) challenged Carson’s nomination.
“Although you have many accomplishments in the medical field, there is relatively little in the public record that reveals how you would further HUD’s mission,” Warren wrote in a letter to Carson questioning the former GOP presidential candidate’s qualifications.
It’s Ben Carson’s turn in the hot seat as the former neurosurgeon and onetime opponent of President-elect Donald Trump sits before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs on Thursday morning in hopes of being voted head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Carson’s nomination was a bit of a shock after the former GOP presidential candidate noted that he didn’t have experience to be considered for a Cabinet seat. According to CNN, Carson has “no government experience or expertise in housing and urban development policy, and Democrats on the Senate Banking committee are expected to question his qualifications to lead the $47 billion agency, which is charged with helping millions of poor Americans secure affordable housing.”
Because Carson’s area of expertise is outside the realm of what’s needed to do this job effectively (a trend among the majority of Trump’s Cabinet selections), Carson is expected to highlight his time growing up in Detroit. Somehow, Carson believes that his Dickensian ascension from the inner city to becoming a renowned neurosurgeon will be enough to sway the committee that he can handle HUD. CNN notes that although Carson’s family received food stamps, he never lived in public housing.
An early release of his opening statement viewed by CNN shows that Carson plans to argue that because he grew up poor, he understands the needs of those relying on HUD programs.
“I understand housing insecurity—we were forced to move from Detroit to Boston to live with relatives because she couldn’t afford our house,” Carson says in the written statement.
If Carson is confirmed, he would be the only African American in Trump’s Cabinet.
Read more at CNN.
Two women were arrested in Florida on Wednesday for helping a man wanted in the fatal shooting of his pregnant ex-girlfriend and an Orlando, Fla., police officer, officials announced, according to Reuters. The women reportedly helped the man on separate occasions over the last month.
Jameis Slaughter, 25, an ex-girlfriend of murder suspect Markeith Loyd, was taken into custody Wednesday on a charge of accessory after the fact to first-degree murder, an arrest affidavit from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office showed.
Slaughter is accused of collecting money for and being in contact with Loyd over the past month.
“Approximately 1 1/2 hours after Sergeant Clayton was murdered, Jameis Slaughter’s vehicle drove to the Walmart and circled the area where Markeith Loyd escaped,” the affidavit read.
Loyd, 41, is wanted in the slaying of his ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon, 24, who was pregnant at the time of her death. Dixon’s brother, Ronald Stewart, was also injured in the Dec. 13 incident. On Monday, Loyd allegedly gunned down Orlando Police Master Sgt. Debra Clayton after she spotted him at a local Wal-Mart.
A massive manhunt is still underway for Loyd, and authorities are offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to his capture.
Loyd’s niece Lakensha Smith Loyd was also taken into custody Wednesday on a charge of accessory after the fact to first-degree murder. The niece is accused of going to a restaurant where her uncle once worked to collect money for him.
On Tuesday a manager at the restaurant, Zarghee Mayan, was also arrested for allegedly helping Loyd.
Read more at Reuters.
President-elect Donald Trump held his first press conference since winning the presidency to less than stellar reviews. Trump was combative and elusive when questioned about Russia’s involvement in his bid to become president and compared the U.S. intelligence agencies to Nazis after unclassified information was leaked to the press.
On Wednesday evening, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, released a rare statement an attempt to smooth things over. Clapper assured the president-elect that the leaks did not come from inside the U.S. Intelligence Community, the New York Times reports.
“I emphasized that this document is not a U.S. Intelligence Community product and that I do not believe the leaks came from within the IC. The IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions. However, part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security,” Clapper’s statement read.
Clapper added that the Intelligence Community made no judgment on the documents or there allegations. According to the Associated Press, the documents were passed around Washington for months before they began being reported on.
While nothing in Clapper’s letter noted that the allegations were fictitious or false, that didn’t stop Trump from going to Twitter early Thursday morning to recount his interpretation of Clapper’s explanation.
James Clapper called me yesterday to denounce the false and fictitious report that was illegally circulated. Made up, phony facts.Too bad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2017
It’s going to be a long four years.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has come out against President-elect Donald Trump’s attorney general pick Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), noting that he doesn’t believe Sessions will be willing to go against Trump should the law require he do so.
Schumer released a strongly worded statement noting that the role of attorney general must ensure the rights of all Americans.
“The attorney general of the United States has a sacred obligation to enforce our laws and uphold the Constitution. The law gives a voice to the voiceless, it protects the oppressed from the powerful, and it defends the rights of all people, regardless of gender, sexuality, or religion,” Schumer’s statement read, the New York Times reports.
“The attorney general must wake up every single day ensuring the rights of all Americans—immigrants, minorities, young and old, gay and straight, disabled and not—are protected. Every right—freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the freedom to vote, or any other enshrined in our Constitution or the law—must be protected for every American,” Schumer continued.
While it isn’t shocking that the Democratic leader is strongly opposed to the Southern senator who’s steeped in allegations of racism, it’s worth noting that Sessions’ confirmation vote will most likely be split across party lines.
Read more at the New York Times.
The Florida teen who is already facing multiple charges for allegedly pretending to be a doctor is now facing even more charges in a separate Virginia fraud case, NBC News reports.
According to the report, Malachi Love-Robinson was indicted by a Virginia grand jury for allegedly attempting to illegally buy a $35,000 Jaguar, authorities confirmed Wednesday.
The 19-year-old was arrested Sept. 9 in Stafford, after allegedly giving a fake earnings statement at a car dealership. Love-Robinson was reportedly accompanied by an elderly woman he claimed was his mother.
“The employees there [became] suspicious of the situation due to some of the things Mr. Love-Robinson was saying,” the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office said in a release following the arrest. “They Googled his name and found that a subject with the same name had been arrested numerous times on fraud-type charges in the state of Florida.”
The employees then duped Love-Robinson, telling him that they wanted to check his credit, while they actually called the police. They then told the teen that his credit application had been approved and that he could come pick up his car.
When Love-Robinson arrived, detectives were waiting for him.
Love-Robinson insisted to police that the woman accompanying him, who he said was his godmother, had agreed to sign the loan. However, the unidentified woman told police that she had “no intention of doing so,” and was actually surprised when investigators found that “there were two other loan applications submitted in the last couple days with her information.”
Detectives also checked in with the woman’s credit card company and uncovered that “there had been a $12,000 charge the day before for two iPads and a cellphone that she had not purchased.”
Those items were taken from Love-Robinson after his arrest, the sheriff’s office said. He was indicted on charges of false statements to obtain credit, obtaining money by false pretenses and identity fraud.
As NBC notes, Love-Robinson was not even supposed to be in Virginia at all, since he was arrested last February in Florida and hit with multiple charges, including practicing medicine without a license, forgery and grand theft for allegedly operating out of a clinic in West Palm Beach with no official medical training.
Per his pretrial release terms, he was not allowed to travel out of Florida without permission. However, the teen never told authorities that he was going car-shopping in another state and the judge has since revoked his $26,000 bond, according to the report.
Read more at NBC News.
LaQueena Hunter Grover, now a mother of four, is accustomed to big babies.
Her first two children weighed just over 7 pounds and her third child was a whopping 11.9 pounds.
However, WDSU reports, when she was pregnant with her fourth baby, she thought maybe she might have twins this time.
“People would come up to me and say, ‘Oh I think that’s twins or even triplets. Maybe there’s another hiding behind one of the babies,’” Grover told the news station.
However, on Dec. 6, 2016, Grover only gave birth to one child, Loyalty Adonis Grover, who weighed in at 14 pounds, 1 ounce.
“Right when the doctor was taking him out, my husband’s mouth literally just dropped,” Grover said. “He was like, ‘That’s a big baby.’ When [Loyalty] was born, he was 14 pounds, 1 ounce. I remember the nurse came running back and when she told me that, I swear, had I not been on the gurney already, I would’ve passed out right there when she said that.”
Not-so-little Loyalty had to spend 27 days in the neonatal intensive care unit, but now he is finally home with his mother. At a little over a month, Loyalty now weighs 15 pounds and measures 2 feet in height.
“He wears a size 3 Pamper. He’s supposed to be in a size 1 as a newborn. He wears 3- to 6-month-old clothes and he wears some 6- to 9-month clothes. I put on him some shorts that were for 18-month-olds,” Grover said.
And Grover told the news station that her baby boy has a big personality to match his incredible size.
“He acts like the Incredible Hulk when he does not get what he wants. He does not like to be wet. He likes to be changed immediately. And he wants to eat as soon as he gets hungry,” she said.
And Grover says Loyalty is perfectly healthy, despite some complications during her pregnancy and with his size, and there may be big things in store for Loyalty’s future.
“The doctors told me that last time they heard of a 14-pound baby, they were starting for the [New Orleans] Saints or something,” Grover said.
One thing for sure though, Grover says that she is done having kids.
Read more at WDSU.
As a majority of Americans await the inauguration of a president they didn’t vote for, even more Americans face an unclear future about their health care coverage.
President-elect Donald Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress have pledged to repeal and eventually replace the Affordable Care Act, known to most as Obamacare. In fact, in the wee hours of Thursday morning, the Senate began making moves to dismantle the ACA, voting 51-48 on a budget blueprint that would allow senators to gut the law without fear of a Democratic filibuster. However, the Republicans have two equally important and hard-to-fix problems: They’re beholden to the insurance lobbyists, who want to keep the bill, and, more importantly, President Barack Obama has rigged the game so that any change to the ACA will bring the whole health care system down.
The ACA/Obamacare political and policy battle over the last seven years is the perfect microcosm of the Obama presidency. Some people hate the policy because Obama came up with it (as this classic Jimmy Kimmel sketch shows); some people hate Obamacare on ideological grounds, but love the Medicaid expansion, pre-existing conditions rule and the extension of dependent health care until the age of 26. While millions of Americans approve of the law and have benefited from it, they aren’t as loud (or received as much media attention) as those who hate it.
This deeply divided public mood explains why Republicans have been so craven and inconsistent with their calls to repeal or replace the law. They want to dismantle Obama’s legacy, but red states benefit most from the ACA. More importantly, despite more than 40 votes to repeal the law and four election cycles since its passage, Republicans have yet to come up with a comprehensive replacement law. Of course, there are two reasons for this, just not ones the GOP wants to admit to.
Remember the wooden-block game Jenga, which made a comeback at grown-up “board game parties“ in the early 2000s? The goal is to keep taking blocks from the bottom of the tower and putting them on top without the whole thing falling apart. If you’re careful when you pull, things just wobble; if you’re not, then the whole thing crumbles.
Republicans are realizing that Obamacare is a lot like the game Jenga. You can’t pull out the “bad blocks” of policy, like, say, the public mandate, and keep the “good ones,” like forcing insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions. If you keep messing with it, eventually the whole thing is going to fall apart. Except instead of blocks on the floor, you have 20 million Americans thrown off their health insurance.
The second reason Republicans can’t figure out this repeal is because drug companies run this town. By “run,” I mean smack around and take lunch money, and by “town,” I mean Washington, D.C. Since the passage of the ACA, insurance-company profits have skyrocketed as has their lobbying power and ability to pump cash into policy-friendly candidates. In order to distract critical members of Congress and the press, insurance companies are employing “nonprofits” and think tanks to find a new bad guy—the drug industry.
Now that everyone is forced into coverage, health care companies want to squeeze every dime out of the consumer. This is often done through “formularies,“ which are lists of drugs companies will and will not cover. Who determines if a drug is covered? Why, advisory nonprofits funded by health-insurance companies, of course.
It’s much easier for health care companies to bad mouth and blame overpriced drugs than acknowledge they simply don’t want to cover you. This is not to say drug companies don’t engage in price gouging—but the middle man passing on costs and taking cash out of your wallet is insurance, not Martin Shkreli.
These complex issues are just the tip of the iceberg America is crashing into while Donald Trump tweets he’s king of the world. The GOP can’t repeal a policy it can’t replace, and it can’t manage an industry that pays its bills. The little wooden pieces of policy, which represent the lives and well-being of millions of Americans, will end up all over the floor. Except this time, the Republicans in Congress won’t have Obama or a Democratic majority to blame for it.
For most of my adult life I’ve been a journalist and writer blessed, or possibly cursed, to witness some of the worst things imaginable done by human beings to one another—particularly women—in places that most people can conjure only in their imaginations, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, post-genocide Rwanda, Colombia, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.
I am also a black man with a teenage daughter, someone who has worked both in the gender-equality and sexual- and gender-based violence-prevention spaces, as well as the racial-justice community. Faced with the real possibility that the next four years will truly be “Winter in America,” I keep coming back to a question I’ve been asking myself for a long time now: Why isn’t gender equality held as a core component within the racial-justice struggle?
Now, I clearly recognize that within the leadership of movements such as Black Lives Matter, and other efforts focused on racial inclusion and opportunity, gender-related policies are increasingly discussed and often included in formal platforms. Not only are the founders of Black Lives Matter women, but more often than not, initiatives dealing with criminal justice and police brutality include black women in prominent positions of leadership, if they’re not the driving forces.
Still, so much of the outrage, public demonstrations, political hand-wringing and television punditry regarding race in this country focuses overwhelmingly on the condition of black men who have either been shot by law-enforcement officers, incarcerated, harassed, professionally or politically disrespected, or maybe dehumanized in some other particularly American way. Even within the black community, I see little uproar or few, if any, marches when a black woman is the focus, unless she has lost a black man in her life to one of the aforementioned wrongs (e.g., Mothers of the Movement), or in the cases of Sandra Bland and Korryn Gaines.
One of the key reasons is accountability. There are plenty of black folks who support women who are victims of violence, disenfranchisement, discrimination or other abuse—or who are these women—and yet are unable to call it out publicly in the same way that it’s done for black men. Until the violence and oppression exacted on women of color is recognized and condemned with fervor and attention that is equal to—nay, greater than—what is given to men, I don’t see how racial justice and equality will ever become a reality. Acceptance or tolerance of the harmful journeys that black women endure must be stopped, regardless of how it looks to “air dirty laundry in front of white folks” or the risk of “losing another black man to the system.”
As has been the case for too many years, black women endure rates of domestic violence, intimate-partner violence, poverty, undereducation, rape, suicide and homicide greater than those for white women and most other ethnic groups, save for indigenous and some Asian-American communities. While black women make up only 8 percent of the country’s population, more than 20 percent of the deaths resulting from domestic and intimate-partner violence are of black women, making it one of the leading causes of death for black women between the ages of 15 and 35, mainly at the hands of black men.
To be sure, sexual and gender violence is a matter of equality, especially for women of color, because when women are compelled to live under threat of violence and other forms of abuse, it diminishes their ability to create thriving and safe homes for their families, inhibits their chances of obtaining and keeping higher-paying jobs, often leads to housing displacement, and increases their chances of contracting sexually transmitted diseases or other health ailments.
Speaking truth to power about violence and inequality within the black community as part of our larger quest for racial justice isn’t vilifying black men but, rather, is creating greater space for those of us who openly declare ourselves feminists to ally with black women on the issues that specifically affect them, as well as hold our brothers accountable to one another. As a Liberian young man once told me, “When you rape a woman, you rape an entire village.” Every member of the black community, directly or otherwise, is affected when black women are stymied physically, emotionally or culturally in achieving their greatest potential and purpose.
My daughter is me: stubborn, passionate, moral. More importantly, she’s her mother, her stepmother, her grandmother and her mamita. All of us in collaboration are raising her to see beyond the limits of circumstances or an ever-evolving imagination of what she can do in the world. I want, as she wants, as all the women in her life want for her, equality and nothing less.
In less than two weeks’ time, America will be confronted with two highly momentous but incredibly divergent events in terms of tone, purpose and impact. The first marks the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States of America, a self-styled demagogue; the other, the Women’s March on Washington, is expected to draw more than 100,000 women—and hopefully the men who love and support them—to the capital. As the black father of a daughter, I expect to be there marching with her, and for her.
All in all, he wasn’t a bad choice to host the Golden Globes. He had the requisite clever and colorful opening number, an affable demeanor and the ability to improvise. He even started off strong with some postelection shade—though it didn’t erase our memory of his pre-election playfulness with the now-PEOTUS. And it certainly couldn’t have been easy following in the footsteps of the unapologetically vicious Ricky Gervais, or the winning wit and humor of friends, and former hosting duo, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
But then came a moment that can only be described as “cringeworthy”—at least in my living room: Jimmy Fallon launched into an awkward impression of Chris Rock for the Globes’ audience. As Fusion’s Isha Aran recapped:
For some reason, Jimmy Fallon decided that the awards show was the right moment to do a drunken impression of Chris Rock telling a joke about The People Vs. OJ Simpson. For some reason, NBC was into the idea. For good measure, the network cut to a bunch of black people in the audience while Fallon was doing his bit, as if to say, “It’s OK! Really!”
But was it OK?
To be fair, this wasn’t the only racially insensitive moment NBC would endorse that evening (e.g., Sofia Vergara once again mocking her own accent … to make anal jokes? Really?). And admittedly, Fallon’s bit garnered a few legit laughs from the star-studded audience—even by black people (see Cuba Gooding Jr. and Sterling K. Brown—who both acted in The People v. O.J. Simpson). It wasn’t even the only impression Fallon would attempt that night, although he appeared to wisely reconsider his Sting shtick before he took it too far.
But what made the moment especially uncomfortable is that it harked back to an earlier rendition of the same impression—one that was infinitely more problematic. You know … back to that time in 2000, when Fallon donned blackface and spouted some fairly racist clichés while imitating Rock on Saturday Night Live.
Now, before I’m accused of supporting a double standard in which it’s fine for the likes of Eddie Murphy, Dave Chappelle and the Wayans brothers to don “whiteface” while Fallon’s portrayal is “problematic,” let’s make one thing abundantly clear: Although I’m personally not a fan of anyone portraying another racial group, there are broader institutional dynamics at play here. So, let’s stay on subject, shall we?
Back to Fallon: While he was not the only white actor on SNL to be ill-advisedly painted brown for comedic effect (remember Billy Crystal’s dead-on Sammy Davis Jr.? Darrell Hammond’s Jesse Jackson? Fred Armisen’s Obama?), his prior portrayal of Rock was mired in racial stereotypes, including references to crack, Rick James and sneakers. Nearly two decades later, the Globes moment—this time in reference to the O.J. Simpson trial and resulting hit miniseries—felt equally out of touch, somewhat surreal and more than a bit “meta.” As writer Manuel Betancourt tweeted:
Jimmy Fallon impersonating Chris Rock to joke about People vs OJ is peak White Hollywood. #GoldenGlobes
— Manuel (@bmanuel) January 9, 2017
But besides being an awkward moment, was it even a necessary one?
Even if Rock—a two-time Oscar host himself—offered Fallon hosting advice, at what point did common sense fail to advise that it was probably inappropriate for a white host to impersonate a black man’s dialect—particularly on the heels of perhaps the most racially charged election season in American history since the civil rights era—solely for the sake of making a joke about a black man charged with killing his white ex-wife? (See? I told you: meta.)
But if, in true Hollywood fashion, we pull out to the “wide shot,” so to speak, a more telling picture emerges of late-night television’s resident darling. Yes, Fallon is the man who brought us patron saint Michelle Obama “mom dancing,” the hilarity that is “Lip Sync Battle” and the “Legendary Roots Crew” into our homes five nights a week. But as with his good friend Justin Timberlake, it could also be argued that one of the key components of his success has been his staying in comfortable proximity to black culture … even while occasionally mocking and exploiting it. As aptly noted in a 2015 academic paper by David F. Potter:
Hosted by a white male, (The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon) employs the backing of a renowned Hip Hop group, The Roots, of which the core majority are black members. While The Roots occupy a prominent position as the show’s house band and are, at times, included in sketches, they are oftentimes used as secondary contributors. Perhaps the most notable re-occurrence of this trend is in the ‘History of Rap’ performance by Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake—a segment in which the two white performers educate the audience on the development of black Hip-Hop music while The Roots provide a backing soundtrack and otherwise do not participate. This example of cultural appropriation, when analyzed alongside underlying ideologies, is problematic for a number of reasons…In the minstrelized reinvention of black culture from a white perspective, TTSSJF (commodifies) the cultural art forms of black culture for its own passive entertainment and economic gain. Cultural misappropriation as comedy functions as a form of cultural control over manifestations of blackness…TTSSJF’s portrayal and consumption of blackness does not serve as a sociopolitical critique of white dominance, but rather as a celebration of it.
Indeed, it was difficult to watch Fallon’s impression of Rock occurring within mere feet of his musical director and chosen DJ for the evening, Tonight Show bandleader (and Roots founding member) Questlove. After all, even the presence of a DJ onstage was a novelty intended to express that Fallon and, by extension, the Golden Globes were current and cool. It would be fair to say that aside from providing great music, the Roots serve the same function on The Tonight Show, providing Fallon with a type of cultural currency that he would not otherwise possess.
It’s a smart move (if not a novel one), but it doesn’t excuse stupid humor. Fallon, who was perhaps best known for giggling at his own jokes during his SNL days, now seems to be content turning both his gaze and giggles onto us, the trustworthy commodities that we are. It’s a lazy method of comedy that relies less on his talent and cleverness than it does on our cultural quirks and cachet, effectively rendering Fallon—and others like him—the entertainment equivalent of “having black friends.”
I have no doubt that Fallon has black friends—and likely good ones, at that. But as I watched him pace the stage Sunday night, making his grotesque attempt at Chris Rock’s cadence and facial expressions, I couldn’t help wondering, “Who are his people?“
Former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who is serving a 35-year sentence for leaking classified material, has been put on President Obama’s short list for a possible commutation.
“I have more hope right now than I have the entire time since she was sentenced,” Manning’s aunt, Deborah Manning, told NBC News. “I do think it’s the last hope for a while.”
As previously reported on The Root, Manning, who attempted suicide in July of last year and later went on a hunger strike in September, was arrested in 2010, convicted in 2013 and given a 35-year sentence at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas for blowing the whistle on vast human rights violations orchestrated by the U.S. government and carried out by the U.S. military.
While working as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq, Manning, then known as Bradley, downloaded and shared with WikiLeaks 500,000 Army reports that would later make up the Iraq War Logs and the Afghan War Diary, 250,00 American diplomatic cables as well as videos of the 2007 Baghdad airstrike and the 2009 Granai airstrike.
As NBC News notes, prosecutors branded Manning a “traitor” who was seeking notoriety in the world of hackers and anarchists while her attorneys painted their client as a naive whistle-blower who did little more than cause embarrassment.
Manning pleaded guilty, and before her sentencing she apologized to the court and the nation.
“I’m sorry,” Manning said. “I’m sorry that my actions hurt people. I’m sorry that they hurt the United States.”
“I understand that I must pay the price for my decisions and actions,” Manning added.
As NBC News reports, the judge was not moved by Manning’s apology and delivered a sentence that was about 10 times longer than those of recent whistle-blowers.
“After this case, I had to tell Chelsea: ‘I’ve represented murderers. I’ve represented rapists. I’ve represented child molesters. And none of them received 35 years,'” defense lawyer David Coombs told NBC News.
Manning’s supporters, including her aunt, believe the harshness of the sentence is tied to the scandal surrounding former NSA contractor and fellow leaker Edward Snowden.
“I really believe the judge felt she needed to send some sort of message,” Deborah Manning said. “I think in a way she was a scapegoat for Edward Snowden.”
Snowden himself tweeted a plea to President Obama Wednesday morning in support of Manning.
Mr. President, if you grant only one act of clemency as you exit the White House, please: free Chelsea Manning. You alone can save her life.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) January 11, 2017
“Mr President,” Snowden wrote, “if you grant only one act of clemency as you exit the White House, please: free Chelsea Manning. You alone can save her life.”
Manning’s aunt told NBC she hoped President Obama would consider the former soldier’s troubled upbringing, struggles with gender identity and remorse.
“I would say this is someone who’s never had a chance in life, who is extremely bright, who became extremely emotionally distressed at some point, who made a bad decision, who paid for that bad decision,” Deborah Manning said.
“And it’s time to let her go out and try to make a positive contribution in the world.”
Read more at NBC News.
Tre Mason, the LA Rams running back who never reported to the team this past season, was arrested in Florida on Tuesday morning on a felony fleeing charge stemming back to an incident in July, according to Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office records.
Mason was released from the county jail on $5,000 bond. ESPN reports that he spent less than an hour in jail, and is facing a third-degree felony charge of fleeing and eluding without regard for others’ safety or property.
According to ESPN, Mason was reportedly at a park on the afternoon of July 27 allegedly doing wheelies on an ATV, and when police tried to stop him, he sped past them and fled to his mother’s home in Lake Worth, Fla. He was followed to the home by law enforcement officials who cited him for operating an ATV on public roads and failing to stop for police.
TMZ posted police dashcam footage that shows the officers going to Mason’s door to serve him the citations. In the video, his mother can be heard telling the officers that Mason is not himself and has not been since after the last season he played. She explains that the family believes he suffered an injury to his brain. She described him as a “22-year-old in a 10-year-old’s mindset.”
Mason’s mother tells the officers that she is glad to see the ATV going away because the family had been trying to discourage him from riding it to no avail.
“He’s not making good decisions right now,” his mother told the officers.
ESPN reports that Mason’s mother called police on July 23 because of his “unusual behavior” and “irrational statements.” That police report states that Mason told police that day he was going to “call the White House and we were all going to lose our jobs” and “the police were responsible for teaching al-Qaida how to fly planes.”
The 23-year-old was excused from the Rams’ offseason training program for personal reasons in June, and on July 30, he was placed on the reserve/did not report list and remained under that designation throughout the regular season.
According to ESPN, in early August, former Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said: “We’ve been in communication with the family. Not Tre, but with the family. The organization’s position, including the league and the players’ association, is to take care of him and help him to get the help that he needs to get through this life crisis that he’s having.”
Read more at ESPN.
Roy Innis, the national leader of the Congress of Racial Equality, died Sunday in New York City at the age of 82, according to the New York Times. A statement from CORE said that the cause of death was complications of Parkinson’s disease.
As the Times notes, Innis had been a national leader of CORE since 1968. He also had right-wing views on affirmative action, law enforcement, desegregation and other issues that put him at odds with many black Americans and civil rights leaders.
Innis came to prominence after Martin Luther King Jr., Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young and James Farmer had taken command of the civil rights movement, and as noted by the Times, he did not share their commitment to nonviolent civil disobedience.
Innis was born in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, on June 6, 1934, according to CORE. He moved to New York City with his mother in 1946 and joined the U.S. Army at the age of 16, receiving an honorable discharge at the age of 18. He followed his service in the Army with a four-year program in chemistry at the City College of New York.
He joined CORE’s Harlem chapter in 1963 and was elected chairman of the chapter’s education committee in 1964. He became what CORE describes as a “forceful advocate” of community-controlled education and black empowerment and led CORE’s fight for an independent police review board to address reports of police brutality. In 1965, after he was elected chairman of Harlem CORE, he mounted a vigorous campaign for the establishment of an independent board of education for Harlem.
In 1968 Innis was elected national director of CORE. That year he drafted the Community Self-Determination Bill of 1968, which received bipartisan support from one-third of the Senate and more than 50 House members, according to CORE. It was the first time that a bill drafted by a black group was introduced into Congress.
Innis remained national director of CORE until 1982, when he became national chairman.
As noted by the Times, Innis did not embrace CORE’s desegregation efforts, and in fact championed segregated schools to encourage black achievement, black self-help groups, black business enterprises and community control of police, fire, hospital, sanitation and other services in poor black neighborhoods.
“In America today,” Innis told a national CORE convention, “there are two kinds of black people: the field-hand blacks and the house niggers. We of CORE—the nationalists—are the field-hand blacks. The integrationists of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People are house niggers.”
As the Times notes, the reaction was explosive, and it set the tone for decades of strife.
The city of Baltimore and the U.S. Department of Justice have come to terms on policing reforms that will be part of a formal consent decree pending approval by the city’s spending panel Thursday. A U.S. District Court judge will also have to approve the consent decree before it becomes binding, the Baltimore Sun reports. The terms of the decree have not yet been made public.
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said Wednesday morning, “We’re very, very close. We’re going to get it done.”
The decree follows a lengthy investigation by the Justice Department, partially in response to the 2015 arrest and death of Freddie Gray and the subsequent civil unrest in Baltimore.
A 163-page findings report released by the DOJ in August said that the Baltimore Police Department has engaged in unconstitutional and discriminatory policing practices for years, many of which disproportionately affected residents in poor, predominantly black neighborhoods.
As the Sun reports, in lieu of an immediate lawsuit to resolve the problems, the Justice Department agreed to negotiate with the city and reach a consent decree that ensured the Police Department “delivers services in a manner that respects the rights of residents, increases trust between officers and the communities they serve, and promotes public and officer safety.”
A consent decree is a type of settlement in a lawsuit or criminal case in which a person or company agrees to take specific actions without admitting fault or guilt for the situation that led to the lawsuit. In this instance, the BPD is not admitting any guilt or wrongdoing, but it is agreeing to make the recommended reforms to a range of its policies, tactics and operations.
According to the Sun, these include how officers conduct street enforcement; respond to sexual assault complaints; and interact with youths, protesters and those with mental illnesses.
Additionally, the decree is expected to require the department to introduce new layers of oversight for officers; new methods of tracking officer misconduct and other data; new training; and investments in modern technologies that would add mobile computers in patrol cars, streamline operations, and enhance data retention and analysis.
Most importantly, it is expected to touch on community policing, community oversight and transparency.
The agreement comes a little more than a week before the inauguration of Donald Trump on Jan. 20, which is key, because as the Sun notes, current Justice Department officials and city leaders set that date as the deadline to get the deal done amid fears that Trump and his pick for U.S. attorney general, Jeff Sessions, would be less exacting “overseers” of troubled police departments than current Attorney General Loretta Lynch and President Barack Obama.
Pugh called a Thursday-morning meeting of the city’s spending panel to approve the decree, and members of the public will be allowed to comment on the agreement during that meeting.
Read more at the Baltimore Sun.
Fla. Man Arrested for Allegedly Helping Suspect in Shooting Death of Orlando Police Officer Evade Capture
Authorities have arrested an employee at a fried chicken restaurant, accusing the worker of helping a murder suspect evade capture before the fatal shooting of an Orlando, Fla. police officer, the Associated Press reports.
According to the report, Zarghee Mayan allegedly gave restaurant food to his former co-worker, drove the suspect around and offered him money, despite knowing that Markeith Demangzlo Loyd was wanted in connection to the killing of his pregnant girlfriend.
“Mayan did so with the intent that Markeith Demangzlo Loyd avoid or escape detection, arrest, trial or punishment,” the arrest affidavit said, according to the AP.
Mayan reportedly told authorities that he last saw Loyd on Saturday, two days before Master Sgt. Debra Clayton was gunned down in a Walmart parking lot. Mayan acknowledged that he noticed Loyd was armed and wearing body armor when they embraced, the arrest affidavit noted.
Mayan, 33, was taken into custody on Tuesday on a charge of accessory after the fact. According to the wire, jail records show that no bond has been set, and there is no name of a defense attorney listed for him.
Loyd, 41, has been the subject of a massive manhunt ever since he allegedly killed Clayton on Monday morning. According to the report, more than 500 tips have come in from the public, which police think are especially important, as others may be helping Loyd hide.
A $100,000 reward is being offered for information leading to Loyd’s arrest.
“If you know where he is at and you call us 3 o’clock in the morning, 3 o’clock in the afternoon, we will have people prepared to dispatch and go capture him,” Barb Bergin, executive director of the local Crimeline, urged.
Federal, state, and local authorities are all taking part in the manhunt, although Orlando Police Chief John Mina declined to give details about search tactics.
“There are many things going on behind the scenes that our community is not aware of and that we are not at liberty to discuss,” Mina said.
Read more at Time.
On Tuesday a unanimous jury sentenced Dylann Roof, a 22-year-old white supremacist who killed nine churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., to death. This sentence made Roof the first person in United States history to be given the death penalty in federal court for a hate crime. It only took three hours of deliberation for the jury of nine whites and three blacks to return their verdict condemning Roof to death for his attack on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
As an active opponent of the death penalty, I was left silent after hearing this sentence: It is state-sanctioned violence that I can neither cry over nor celebrate.
In an odd way, Roof’s sentence leaves me conflicted. On the one hand, I am relieved that such a sickening crime was punished to the total extent of the current written and applied law—rather than undermined by white supremacy as it has been many times before. We are called to revisit the innumerable instances when black people were underserved and life was devalued. It is part of the many reasons the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer frustrated many black people, who are the main individuals on the receiving end of wrongful convictions and death penalty sentences.
On the other hand, I emphatically disagree with what the full extent of that current law is and how it has been applied to black people presently and historically. This has caused me to be against it in all forms, against all people.
Therefore, I am left with only one conclusion, despite how tough that is to iterate here: The death penalty will always be wrong.
In Marc Lamont Hill’s book Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, From Ferguson to Flint and Beyond, he discusses the history of the prison system and the current practice of prison privatization and the prison-industrial complex. Part of this discussion centers on how quickly the United States is willing to execute a person for criminal acts, even though that execution is an act of state-sanctioned violence. The U.S.—one of the few “civilized countries” with such practices—literally kills people to teach us that killing others is wrong. In Nobody, Hill notes, “[S]ince 1976, when the Supreme Court lifted its ban on capital punishment in Gregg v. Georgia, there have been 1,413 executions, nearly half of them non-White convicts; 528 of those executions occurred in Texas; 112 in Oklahoma.”
Make no mistake: States with highest incarceration and death penalty rates remain those situated within the old Confederacy—like South Carolina. And because South Carolina remains a state with such a vehemently racist history—so much so that on June 27, 2015, one week before this country celebrated its own independence, Bree Newsome received international acclaim for climbing atop the South Carolina Statehouse to remove the Confederate flag. Once it was removed, Newsome exclaimed, “You come against me with hatred and oppression and violence. I come against you in the name of God. This flag comes down today!”
Newsome was and still is right.
But when it comes to Tuesday afternoon’s sentence, I cannot cheer for a death penalty sentence. Not only does it make Roof a white supremacist martyr, but it is also uncomfortable to advocate for a practice and/or position that has taken the lives of thousands of black people. It doesn’t escape me that this internal conflict may be a result of his whiteness—that is, the fact that we are discussing how humane a treatment another individual should receive even when he has shown none for others.
So let’s be clear: F–k Dylann Roof.
It isn’t up for debate just how twisted Roof and his racism is and was. Anyone who can go to a house of worship (pretending he wants to be saved), be invited in by people genuinely wanting to help and then take their lives inhabits a world in which we shouldn’t have to live. No one can justify Roof’s act of malice that took the lives of nine individuals.
True to form, Roof, and many other white mass murderers before him, allow us to see the complicated and racist relationship between crime and who has access to labeling. It doesn’t take long for shooters of color to be named “terrorists” and “thugs,” while white mass murderers are often quickly referred to as having a “mental illness.” The black community understands that this is done to remove the culpability from a white trigger-happy defendant, while we are frequently forced to accept that mainstream media and the legal system are not worried about black people receiving any semblance of justice in the United States or globally.
So when we see white people receiving the death penalty for taking black lives, it is something that many of us will celebrate—celebrate because we rarely, if ever, get to see an instance in which we remotely receive an equitable, deserved treatment. This is true even if that treatment is in the form of the same state-sanctioned violence that we so often protest and advocate against because of how it affects the most marginalized of black people.
It is that line of reasoning that led me to travel to Austin, Texas, in 2008 to fight for the eradication of the death penalty by lobbying policymakers. Black people are no strangers to the spitting, urinating, kicking, screaming and defecating that result from the death penalty’s administration. Even for those who have never personally seen an execution, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs’ portrayal of a death row inmate in Monster’s Ball provides a nearly accurate visual representation.
One year later, while interning at the ACLU Capital Punishment Project in Durham, N.C., I studied the disparate application of state and federal laws and polices—including sentencing, who received the death penalty and who were the perceived victims. It was apparent that black people, the South and the death penalty went hand in hand.
Through my relatively short time working and advocating against the death penalty, I understood that I wanted no part of being excited about it, regardless of the crime and no matter who received the administration. This is not an approval of Roof’s vitriolic acts but, rather, a condemnation of the death penalty for not reducing or deterring crime, for being anti-black and for being one of the many forms of state-sanctioned violence that the United States uses.
I am also a black person who experiences daily injustices. That means I understand that it is state-sanctioned violence when (approximately every 28 hours) a black person is killed by a law-enforcement officer. I am also aware that when a Guantanamo Bay detainee is tortured by a U.S. government official, that is state-sanctioned violence. What’s more, when the U.S. government condones sending drones to other countries and imposing our own beliefs, that is state-sanctioned violence. And neither am I.
Why, now, is the imposition of an anti-black tool a fundamental good? Yes, this case is cut-and-dried, but the legal system thinks the same when it comes to a black defendant. Regardless of how the death penalty is applied to horrendous people like Roof, black people will still be the main targets on the other side of the deadly needle.
So, what’s next?
Just so we’re clear: My objectives are not to make people think twice about Roof. He is a monster, and frankly, the lethal injection, the primary method of execution, may be too peaceful for his crime. And, at times, we simply get exhausted by thinking. We want to sit back and let what appears to be “justice” run its course. It makes sense that we wouldn’t rush to protest a white person who has taken the lives of so many black people.
But this isn’t about Roof. This is about whether we as a society should emphatically advocate a practice that has taken the lives of so many black people. Because although this may feel good now, we know that our justice system will take that good feeling and thank a majority-white jury for killing its own, all while happily knowing that it will do the same to a black defendant tomorrow.
The illustrious poet Maya Angelou taught me that most often, people will forget what you say; they may struggle to recall what you did, but if you show up, on purpose, they will never forget how you made them feel.
As I sat Tuesday night in a television studio in the middle of Times Square in New York City, preparing to reflect upon the last eight years of President Barack Obama’s leadership, and more specifically the opportunity to serve as an appointee in his administration, the essence of Aunt Maya’s sentiment gripped me.
While some people I spoke to leading up to the farewell address were unsure about what to expect from President Obama’s address, it was exactly what I imagined it would be. As he has done so many times in recent history, President Obama delivered an address that was the right mix of highlighting accomplishments, reminding us all of our responsibility to do something and the consequences of failing to take action, not only to each of us individually but to democracy. By reflecting on what we have accomplished as a nation, under his leadership, President Obama implored us all to actively contribute to the pursuit of the democratic ideals that make America unique and strong.
Similar to the way President Obama entered our hearts so many years ago when the then junior senator from Illinois delivered a speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, the president’s farewell address reflected his vision of what’s possible when we work together, in a manner that was equal parts smart and heart.
Beyond listing the many receipts President Obama offered to illustrate the many ways he has moved our country and all citizens, including those most often neglected and ignored, closer to full and equitable realization of the American dream, I think it is important to describe the way President Obama makes me feel.
Consider the following, “If I had told you eight years ago that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history … if I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear-weapons program without firing a shot, and take out the mastermind of 9/11 … if I had told you that we would win marriage equality, and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens—you might have said our sights were set a little too high.
But that’s what we did. That’s what you did. You were the change. You answered people’s hopes, and because of you, by almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started.”
This, as described by our president, is an example of what happens when we have the audacity to hope and dream and work together toward common good.
As a young African-American man who has struggled with the often unrealistic and unfair expectations America has of black people, President Obama makes me feel proud to be a free black man. Taking notes from how he continues to operate with grace, often in the face of insensitive comments and sometimes offensive acts, President Obama inspires me to be better, especially in the moments when my character is questioned and competence is challenged.
Beyond his brilliance, grace and sartorial sophistication (read: swag), President Obama inspires me to be a better man. The most powerful moment of President Obama’s farewell address, for me, came when he spoke freely about his love of family. Listening to President Obama thank his family for their sacrifice, service and love makes me want to be a better man so that I too can show up, whole, and be fully present as a life partner.
“Michelle—for the past 25 years, you’ve been not only my wife and mother of my children, but my best friend,” the president said before pausing to catch his breath and wipe a tear form his face.
“You took on a role you didn’t ask for and made it your own with grace and grit and style and good humor. You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody. And a new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model. You’ve made me proud. You’ve made the country proud.
“Malia and Sasha, under the strangest of circumstances, you have become two amazing young women, smart and beautiful, but more importantly, kind and thoughtful and full of passion. You wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily. Of all that I’ve done in my life, I’m most proud to be your dad.”
In addition to being a better man and more thoughtful leader, President Obama’s adoration of his daughters make me excited about the day, God willing, when I will be a father. And it is these feelings that will endure long after pundits are no longer paid to debate the merits of his policy agenda and well into the period in which history shows this administration to be one of, if not the most effective presidential administrations the United States has experienced to date.
And as I prepare to pack up my office, to find time to reflect upon the extreme honor of having been invited by Barack Hussein Obama to serve in his administration as the first ever director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, I pray that everyone, regardless of whom you voted for or the policy points you love to debate, allows themselves to feel what our president has done for each of us and for our country.
For a point of strength, consider how he has touched a generation of young men of color, just like me, who only needed to see President Obama live in ways that encourage, inspire and affirm us so that we, too, can show up in love and in service.
The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.
David J. Johns is executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, which President Barack Obama established in 2012 to strengthen the nation by improving educational outcomes for African Americans of all ages, and to help ensure that all African Americans receive an education that properly prepares them for college, productive careers and satisfying lives. Learn more about the initiative by visiting its website.
President Barack Obama is a Chicago White Sox fan, but during the World Series, the Chicago native found himself cheering for the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs became America’s feel-good team after their historic World Series championship win, and on Monday, just four days before Obama leaves the White House, the team is scheduled to make an appearance there.
The visit was reportedly fast-tracked so the president could meet with the team before leaving office, Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told The Hill.
The Cubs broke the longest drought in professional sports history by ending their 108-year spell without a championship. Obama invited the Cubs to the White House in November, after the win, according to The Hill. It’s a move that means President-elect Trump won’t get to celebrate the team’s championship. The move comes after several NFL and NBA players said during Trump’s run for the White House, when he made several racist, sexist and other inflammatory remarks, that they wouldn’t visit a Trump White House.
It’s a boss move in the final days of Obama’s presidency, and a notable move by the many Cubs who have agreed to meet with Obama, even though “Trump has nominated Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts as deputy secretary of Commerce,” The Hill reports.
Read more at The Hill.
After weeks and weeks of delay, President-elect Donald Trump held his first postelection press conference. The conference itself was relatively short and didn’t necessarily provide many substantive answers about conflicts of interest, which was ostensibly what the main topic was. However, it did lay the framework for how Trump’s press conferences will go once he is formally in office and gave us an indicator of what to expect:1. Donald Trump doesn’t take tough questions well.
Trump called this press conference to explain to the American people and the media how he will deal with potential conflicts of interest between his business and upcoming role as president of the United States (after having cancelled a similar presser almost a month ago). The press was in a no-huddle offense: They hit him with question after question, and Trump spent the majority of his time saying that he didn’t actually have to separate from his business, that he was only doing so out of deference to the office. Then he called a timeout and brought out his lawyer, Sheri Dillon, who provided a long-winded and well-detailed explanation for Trump’s divestment-and-separation procedure. After she lulled the press with her monologue, most of the conflict questions disappeared.2. Trump admits to Russian hacking.
Donald Trump has lied on several occasions about his feelings about the role of Russian hacking in the 2016 election. During the campaign, he encouraged it and called on Russia to keep hacking. Once elected, he said that Russia had nothing to do with the hacking and attacked U.S. intelligence agencies that pointed to Russian meddling in the election. At the beginning of this press conference, he said he believed that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee, then followed up by stating he believed that lots of other nations hack the United States as well. It is not clear what the president-elect will say about Russian hacking going forward, but what was clear from this presser is that he will not encourage retaliation on Russia once he’s in office.3. Trump is gaslighting the American press.
The term “fake news” is the epitome of gaslighting, or worse, the “goodspeak” of Orwell’s 1984. There is no such thing as “fake news.” News is facts and information; if it is not verifiable fact (even selective use of facts are still facts), then it’s not news, it’s slander or speculation. Fake news has become the catchall word for conservatives and white nationalists to describe any reporting that is critical of Donald Trump. At the press conference, Trump accused CNN and BuzzFeed of being “fake news” outlets because they reported on an unverified report, compiled by a former British intelligence agent, that states Russia has embarrassing personal and economic information about the incoming president. Not only was this a horrible conflation by Trump (BuzzFeed released the documents; CNN along with many other outlets only reported that a two-page summary of the document was given to Trump and President Barack Obama), he didn’t address much of what was contained in the document, verified or not. He then proceeded to blame the press, double down on a tweet he wrote comparing U.S. intelligence agencies to Nazi Germany and, according to CNN reporter Jim Acosta, incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer threatened to kick him out of the press conference for asking an aggressive followup in defense of CNN.4. Mexico is not paying for that wall.
Like Russian hacking, tax returns and other issues, Donald Trump has either lied or has been inconsistent as well with regard to his position on building a wall between the United States and Mexico to keep out undocumented immigrants. At the press conference, he was asked if the wall was going to be built and if so, who would pay for it. Trump stated that Mexico would start paying for it in 2018 (without providing evidence of any pending agreements), but said that since he didn’t want to wait that long, they’d start the wall sooner. In elaborating further, Trump stated that Mexico would pay for the wall either in the form of taxes or fines or levies against our Southern neighbor. The former and current Mexican president have made it clear, on several occasions, that Mexico is not paying for anything.
The Lovefest Between Republican Senators and Jeff Sessions During His Confirmation Hearing Is Sickening
If there was any lesson to glean about the state of racism in America on Tuesday, it did not come from the farewell address by our nation’s first black president. Many of us might have believed in Barack Hussein Obama but never placed much faith in the country he described on the Democratic National Convention stage in 2004, or the one he boasted of the night of his historic election win in 2008, and most certainly not the one he spoke of last night. To know the United States of America and its true outlook on its original and most enduring sin, racism, one can find no better mirror than the first confirmation hearing for Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, Republican senator from Alabama, whom Obama’s successor seeks to have serve as our next attorney general.
Three decades ago, the Senate denied Sessions a federal judgeship amid allegations that as U.S. attorney, he had improperly prosecuted black voting rights activities in addition to employing racially charged language—namely referring to a black man as “boy.” Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery recently uncovered a previously publicly unavailable letter from Coretta Scott King sent at the time, which called on the Senate to reject Sessions as a judge. The widow of Martin Luther King Jr. argued that Sessions would “irreparably damage the work of my husband.”
Since that time, Sessions has made little effort to alleviate concerns that his legal outlook remains soiled by the stench of his prejudices. Sessions has supported voter suppression and cruel, hardline immigration standards, all while forgoing the option to lend support to legislation that would protect racial minorities, women and members of the LGBTQ community. Worse, Sessions has sought to reimagine himself as a civil rights hero, lending his name to cases for which he did little or no work on—something Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) exposed Tuesday.
Yet Sessions, along with his Republican colleagues, had the effrontery to act as if he were the victim of his own failures at humanity.
First there was Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who told committee members during opening remarks, “I have never witnessed anything to suggest that Senator Sessions is anything other than a dedicated public servant and a decent man.” According to Collins, Sessions “is not motivated by racial animus.” Collins’ comments toed the fine line between comical and infuriating.
However, Collins’ absurdity was topped by another conservative Sessions colleague, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who, as another white Southerner, is adept at shimmying by accusations of racism with the typical choreography.
Graham asked Sessions, “Would you agree that being called a racist is the worst thing that can ever happen to someone?” To which Sessions replied, “Why, yes, sir, I would.”
In “Jeff Sessions should have been a tough sell in the Senate, but he’s too nice” news, writer Paul Kane notes that Sessions is “one of the more well-liked members of the Senate.” Kane went on to describe him as “genial, respectful and patient toward colleagues and staff.”
As a black man of the South, I know Sessions’ ilk all too well. Of all the traits shared among Southerners regardless of color, it is the commitment to congeniality. Sessions is a “good ol’ boy.” The kind of white man who will smile in your face so long as you know your place. The sort of person who will sure be pleasant to you but who nonetheless retains fidelity toward maintaining the status quo that has his rights and his power towering over yours.
Being mannerable doesn’t make you any less of a monster. Even so, if there is one characteristic that white people in both the North and South share, it is the collective assertion that to be accused of racism is worse than actually being a victim of racism. It is easier for Collins, Graham and Sessions to feign heartache over the accusation of racism than to grapple with the realities of it. Instead, they circle superficiality for the preservation of their fundamentally flawed understanding of racism.
Graham said to Sessions, “You have a Southern name. You come from south Alabama. That sounds worse to some people, south Alabama.”
What a crock. There are white people I’ve met who are uninformed of the pain attached to certain names and symbols related to the Confederacy, but who sincerely mean me no harm. Children don’t have a say over their name, but how they live as they grow older is a choice, and change can come through education, conversation and a willingness to change.
Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is committed to the ugliness his name represents. This is not about Southern stereotypes but about a life dedicated to disenfranchisement, subjugation and maintaining the status quo. In 2017 a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic hatemonger wins a presidential election on a platform of hatred and with one of his first acts of power selects a like-minded man to enforce his version of the law.
The evidence against Sessions is insurmountable, but just as with the entire presidential-election campaign and the history of his country, many are more concerned with the impoliteness of being accused of racism than with the terror those of us face who are living under it. Where we are is where we’ve long been. That reality is just like Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III: sickening.
The Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearing for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) enters day 2. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is scheduled to testify against Sessions. As previously reported on The Root, Booker is the first sitting senator to oppose another sitting senator for a Cabinet position.
Cornell Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP, who was arrested while protesting in Sessions’ office, has spoken out against the Alabama senator, focusing on his abysmal voting rights record and his xenophobic positions toward Muslims.
Chuck Canterbury, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, sang Sessions’ praises and urged the Judiciary Committee to confirm him.
Amida Swadhin, an educator, activist and sexual assault survivor, shared her experience being raped by her father and urged the committee not to confirm Sessions, who is against the Violence Against Women Act.
Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) is also expected to speak out against Sessions.
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