Slideshow: The strange face of Jim Crow

3jimcrow-400From Sambo ads to Mammy jars to lynching postcards, the propaganda that reinforced segregation.

Captions by: Henry Louis Gates Jr.


Cheerios ad: black dad, white mom, predictable response

cheerios-interracial-ad-400It's definitely not the first of its kind, but this Cheerios ad featuring an interracial family (black dad, white mom, mixed kid) is definitely rare enough that it's getting noticed. Over at Reddit, it has already sparked a conversation that has cycled through everything from "Finally!" to "Who cares" to "Call me when it's a black woman married to a white man" to "I don't buy products based on their god d*mn social views." And then there's a whole discussion about why Dad wasn't a "stereotypical" black man. Whatever that means.

If you ask us, the quality of discourse around the spot suggests that many Americans need a lesson in racial literacy as much as they need the cholesterol-lowering grains General Mills is pushing.


Gay hate crimes: Are African Americans less sympathetic?

blacksgayhatecrime-400When James Byrd, a black man, was dragged to his death in Texas in 1998 by a group of men later identified as having white-supremacist tendencies, African Americans were outraged. Most Americans were.

That same year, another horrifying hate crime captured the attention of the nation, when gay student Matthew Shepard was murdered by a group of men in Wyoming. The circumstances of Byrd's and Shepard's tragic deaths perfectly capture the shared challenges that African Americans and gay Americans face in a world in which power is still predominantly held by straight, white males.

Their deaths also perfectly illustrate why the historical tension that has existed between the two communities makes so little sense when a bottom-line reality exists for both: You can be killed for being the wrong color or the wrong sexual orientation.


Miguel’s sweeping accusation about black folks sets Twitter abuzz

miguel2-400Miguel has been having a tough time on Twitter lately. First he was immortalized as a meme via countless photoshopped pictures after kicking some fans in the face during the BillBoard Music Awards. Now he's being dragged through the fire after making a blanket statement about black people.

"I'm proud of my heritage," he wrote, "but honestly black people are the most judgmental people in the world." Instantaneously, black people responded in offense and anger. It wasn't immediately evident what sparked Miguel's comment, but it appears to have been brought on by a discussion about religion.


Crime, community, and what my white neighbor taught me in Memphis

DrDarronSmith-600MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In a casual conversation in what was meant to welcome me to my new city, a white neighbor uncomfortably reminded me of the racial challenges that remain very much intact in the South between white folk and people of color, when he candidly referenced the degree of crime in the city as being the province of the ignorant, uneducated and low income "blacks" in the neighborhood.

No code words were necessary. He expressed concern regarding the racial "other" moving into the white-dominated communities, causing a shifting of geography (white flight) within the city and surrounding areas of Memphis. (Amazingly, he openly discussed these issues with me, as he conveyed that I was an "exception" to other blacks he encounters on a day-to-day basis.)


Ultimate diversity challenge: Keeping good talent from going to waste

LSW-160Many diversity campaigns took a wrong turn because they focused heavily on cultural deficits – what a particular group lacks or needs – rather than cultural strengths – the unique abilities, talents and strengths of these groups.

Instead of breaking down barriers, as we had hoped, often we ended up broadcasting subtle messages that these groups are inferior and not at all like the rest of us.

Today, a new strategy is taking root. Communities are imagining how a diverse city might function, and the role that everyone – rich and poor, black, Hispanic, Asian and white, Muslim and Christian, liberal and conservative – plays in making the economy competitive. Our ultimate diversity challenge is to figure out how to more fully develop talent in America so each person can contribute fully.


Placing athletics above academics

Julianne-malveaux-160Why does sports play such a prominent role in college education? Does it crowd out the attention we pay to other aspects of college life? Why are student athletes treated like slaves or gladiators, playing to pay colleges for the fruits of their labor? Other students enjoy "school spirit" when their team wins, and universities collect revenue from advertisers when they make it to the big leagues.

Women's sports don't reap the same benefits that men's sports do. Still, Spelman's President Beverly Daniels Tatum deserves kudos for eliminating the college's basketball program in favor of providing physical education for all of Spelman's students. She made the important calculation that organized sports activity costs hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, and just a few students benefit from the athletic training. To be sure, school spirit is elevated when Spelman students cheer against opponents; yet a burst of school spirit, however, is worth a lot less than graduating a cadre of physically aware, if not fit, young women.


Reflections on Brown v Board

tomekahart-300On the anniversary (May 27th) of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark case that struck down separate but equal and ushered in the era of integrated schools, I reflected on Chief Justice Warren's published words. On that day in 1954 he wrote, "In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms."

As a native Memphian, attorney and Memphis school board member, I can see that segregation and integration have left indelible marks on our public school system. The 59 years that have passed since Warren's sage words have brought us diverse school settings where the benefits of education are more consistently experienced by a larger portion of our society – no question. The charge in the Brown decision was not simply to integrate races in school settings, but to provide consistently excellent education for all children. We are not there yet.


Julian Bond: My Tea Party ‘Taliban’ comment; The lesson?

julian-bond-500I have always suspected that racists didn't like being called out for their racism. Now I have proof.

When I told MSNBC's Thomas Roberts on May 14th that the Tea Party was "the Taliban wing of American politics," a firestorm erupted.

Arguing the IRS was correct to target them for extra scrutiny, I also said, "Here are a group of people who are admittedly racist, who are overtly political" and therefore worthy of IRS concern.


Caretaker’s role requires sacrifice and a little empathy

Chef Timothy Moore-160It would take empathy, compassion, commitment and love to be the caretaker of someone who's gravely ill and incapable of taking care of one's self. Not everyone is suited for this role. There is no ovation at the end of the day and no Oscar for best performance.

Love is a strong affection for another arising out of kinship, personal ties, warm attachment, enthusiasm, devotion and unselfish and benevolent concerns for the good of others, according to Webster's Dictionary.

According to Mildred – a mother in Missouri – it's standard practice.


Don’t lower threshold on drunken driving

LZ granderson-160Celebrity mugshots are hilarious, aren't they?

The disheveled hair, the smeared makeup, the ridiculous attempt by some to still try to look "hot" despite the circumstances. The most iconic post-arrest shot is Nick Nolte circa 2002. He looks as if he went through a carwash riding on the hood. The mugshot even has its own Twitter handle.

Yeah, it's all fun and games until you read why these celebrities were arrested in the first place.

Nolte was brought in for suspicion of driving under the influence. Wynonna Judd was arrested in 2003, accused of the same thing. As was Nicole Richie in 2006 and Kiefer Sutherland in 2007.


Ask Demetria: Should I only date men at my income level?

dating-by-income-400"Is it wrong to seek out guys who are at my level, career – and salarywise, and have the same goals? I have tried dating guys who weren't, but their insecurities popped up, and it became frustrating telling them that those things don't matter. I'm wondering if I should save myself the hassle!" – Z.C.

No, it's not wrong to desire a partner whose accomplishments, income and goals are similar to your own (or bigger). Some might even say that on the surface, at least, that's an ideal partnership.

Although women out earn their husbands in almost one-fourth of U.S. households, according to the 2010 American Community Survey, researchers have found that marriage rates decline when a woman seems capable of out earning her husband. In a working paper, "Gender Identity and Relative Income Within Households", the same researchers also found that a married woman who earns more than her husband increases the probability of unhappiness in her union and could increase the likelihood of divorce by 50 percent.


What black women can learn from Angelina’s double mastectomy

Angelina-Jolie Double-400Actress Angelina Jolie's decision on Tuesday to go public about her decision to undergo a double mastectomy after learning of her high risk of getting breast cancer has sparked widespread chatter throughout the media world.

"Angelina Jolie has done a real service for women around the world," Arthur Caplan, a New York University professor wrote in an opinion piece at CNN.

"Jolie's Disclosure Highlights a Breast Cancer Dilemma" was the headline in a New York Times article about her story.