TSD Memphis

Sat04192014

Opinion

Donna Brazile takes on food stamp critics

Donna Brazile-160After the vote in the House of Representatives to slash the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, I wrote a column against cutting food stamps. This column generated more than 5,200 online comments and hundreds of e-mails.

Comments reflected, not surprisingly, the tone and tenor of the political debate: a lot of partisan passion, some mutual understanding, animosity based on stereotypes and a lot of misinformation.

I would like to address some of the typical concerns that were expressed.

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Lamar Odom’s downward spiral a familiar tale

lamar-odom-nba-400Watching an athlete's career slowly spiral out of control has become a familiar, and unfortunately rather common, story.

We remember the tragic cases of the great ones. Lawrence Taylor's battle with substance abuse (and to a larger extent, himself) is the standard example of watching an athlete fans revered, turn into a man fans revile. We never got to see the greatness of Len Bias, because a cocaine overdose robbed him of what should've been a Hall of Fame career.

These past three years, we've seen the slow and steady decline of the promising career of Lamar Odom. The news items around him have morphed from humorous, to perplexing, to simply depressing. After the latest Odom news – that he lashed out at his absentee father on Twitter for failing him as a child – it's fair to wonder if the next time we hear his name in the news, it'll be for an appearance in a courtroom, rather than on a basketball court. At 33 – ancient by NBA terms – Odom's professional basketball career is probably over.

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Food stamp cuts kick Americans when they’re down

brazilefoodstamps-600We are in the middle of a fight to preserve the dignity and grace that makes all of us Americans. We have big hearts and great souls. I know. I have seen them, felt them and watched them in wonder when my family was lost and unreachable in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

I cried, worrying for those I loved, heartbroken by what happened to our beloved Louisiana. And in the middle of that tough moment, the decency of people shone through in e-mails, phone calls and in person. Everybody was saying the same thing: "How can I help?"

This is what we do in times of struggle. We offer our hand and our love to pull someone up who's been knocked down by hard times and despair. It's just a fundamental rule in life and in any fight; you don't kick people when they're down.

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President Obama still the ‘tough guy’ after Syrian deal

Jason Johnson-160In any movie, TV show or book, the toughest guy is always the one that never actually has to draw his weapon. In old western movies, you always knew who the tough guy was, he just walked into the bar and everybody started finishing their drinks and running.

You watch "The Wire" and all somebody had to yell was "Omar's coming" and folks scattered. By the time Samuel L. Jackson shows up in any scene most people are already looking for an escape route (even the snakes).

The point is, that in the movies, just like real life, the tough guy is the one who makes things happen without having to lift a finger; his mere presence or even the vaguest threat is enough to get things done.

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Common Sense Rules: Black Boss Pays Price for Using N-Word at Work

dr._jason_johnson.jpg

There are few social ills in the African American community that can’t be solved by listening to a little bit of old Public Enemy. There’s  a great song on the Apocalypse 91 album called “I Don’t Wanna be Called Yo Nigga”  The song is pretty simple actually, it’s just Flava Flav (the pre - Flavor of Love version) rapping about how he and most black people don’t want to be called “Nigga” by anybody, under any circumstances.

How can you say to me, "Yo my nigga!"

Cursin' up a storm with your finger on a trigger

Feelin' all the girls like a big gold digger

Take a small problem

Make a small problem bigger

You say, "Yo; I ain't poor I got dough

You Don't consider me your brother no more?"

Goddamn kilogram, how do you figure

I don't want to be called yo nigga!

The point of the song is that no matter how common the term is amongst black people, and black culture it’s still stings and there are very, very few circumstances in which calling somebody “nigger,” or “nigga,” or “niggaz” is appropriate. Perhaps someone should have explained this to Robert Carmona, the head of the STRIVE work program. It might’ve saved him $30,000.

Rob Carmona, 61, is the founder and director of STRIVE an employment agency in East Harlem that focuses on helping convicted criminals find work and get back into the economy. Brandi Johnson, 38, was a STRIVE employee. Both are African American. It’s not hard to figure that the N-Word was going to come up eventually right?

Apparently on March 14 of 2012 Carmona went on a four-minute expletive and racial slur laden rant on Johnson about her workplace attire and professionalism. However this wasn’t the first time that Carmona had gone off on Johnson at work, and because her previous complaints had been ignored she secretly recorded the entire conversation. After the tirade, she claims she ran to the bathroom and cried for 45 minutes. On the stand in her workplace discrimination case she testified: "I was offended. I was hurt. I felt degraded. I felt disrespected. I was embarrassed," At this point this is still a simple discrimination suit, something that happens all of the time in America, just ask Paula Deen, or anybody who’s ever worked at Denny’s. But the reason ganered national attention is because Rob Carmona and his defense lawyers tried to argue that he was using the term “nigger” as a term of endearment,  and since nigger has different meanings in different contexts that he in fact wasn’t really creating a hostile work environment for Brandi Johnson.

When asked to be more specific as to why he called her nigger eight times in the span of four minutes Carmona testified he was trying to tell Johnson that she was being  "….too emotional, wrapped up in her[self], at least the negative aspects of human nature." You know…. being a nigger. Of course the jury didn’t buy his ridiculous story either, and Carmona will pay Johnson $25,000 in punitive damages and STRIVE will pay another $5,000 on top of that.

To be honest with you, if every black person in America got paid $30,000 every time we’ve been called ‘’nigger,’ collectively or individually I think I’d stop complaining about reparations, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen. Already many press outlets are reporting this court ruling as some sort of major sea change in language, now that there is no longer this “double-standard” where black people can say “nigger” and white people can’t.

This is completely wrong of course and another example of the disingenuous double standard of race that we all still live under. The workplace is the workplace; you are not supposed to use foul language at any job, no matter what race you are, or who happens to be working there that day. If Carmona was a woman and had gone on a four-minute rant calling Brandi Johnson a “bitch” eight times and lost a discrimination suit, nobody would be calling this ruling a sea change in language or culture. Why? Because anyone with a lick of common sense and professionalism knows that words like bitch, faggot and especially nigger, may be okay when you’re joking with your friends and family, but those words never have, and never will have a place in a workplace that isn’t a recording studio or on the set of the newest Showtime drama.

Only white Americans who obsess over “not” being able to use the n-word and black people who don’t know any better, would view this court ruling as anything significant. The rest of us know better.

Of course Robert Carmona knew this from day one and simply got caught for being a verbally abusive boss. He could have saved himself $30,000 if he’d just listened to Flava Flav, nobody wants to be called “Yo nigger”.

Dr. Jason Johnson is a professor of Political Science at Hiram College and an analyst for CNN, HLN and Al Jazeera English.

He can be found at @Drjasonjohnson on Twitter and at www.drjasonjohnson.com

Aaron Alexis was someone’s son

shooter-1-400In 1963, President Kennedy submitted a "Special Message to the Congress on Mental Illness and Mental Retardation" with a plan to call to action private foundations, individual citizens and government agencies on all levels to act responsibly in addressing the needs of this population...50 years later where are we.

Those suffering from mental illness may not be "prisoners" in the mental institutions or insane asylums, but they are prisoners in their own worlds...the stigma, lack of resources and difficulty navigating a complex health care system perpetuate the problems of yesterday.

When will we address the way we are raising our young black men? When will we take time to talk to our friends and neighbors? When will we stop being scared and get involved? When will we become the village it takes to raise a child? Can we stop saying when and start saying now.

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Is being fat normal?

Chef Timothy Moore-160Pants with expanding waistlines are sold in most stores now, and big and tall retail shops are popping up everywhere. More and more, society is moving toward the acceptance of being overweight and obese as "normal."

It's official that the United States is fat. According to the Centers for Disease Control, two thirds of Americans are obese. Even though some seem to be taking such news lightly and as if it's just a fad, it is no laughing matter. Millions of people die each year from overusing a fork, spoon and a latte.

I frequently talk with individuals who deny they even have a weight problem. They argue that God created them to eat and enjoy life to the fullest and not worry about the outcome. I've also found that overweight people often overlook their weight because they feel everyone looks like them.

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African-American income remains lowest of any group

the-black-1-percent-500The U.S. Census just released the latest numbers on poverty in America. And it is not a pretty picture for the nation, especially for African Americans and other historically marginalized groups.

According to the latest stats, 46.5 million people are in poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth. That's 15 percent of the population, or more than 1 in 7. Childhood poverty stands at a whopping 21.8 percent.

But for African Americans, it is even worse. African-Americans suffer from a poverty rate of 27.2 percent – the highest of any group – compared to 25.6 percent of Latinos, 11.7 percent for Asians and 9.7 percent for whites. All of these poverty figures are much too high, but for African Americans and Latinos in particular, poverty is far, far too high. And it seems like a permanent fixture on the American landscape that presidents and other politicians will not or cannot tackle.

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Gun control is not the answer

LZ granderson-160Another day, another mass shooting in America.

More blood, more tears, more knee-jerk rhetoric about finding a solution for a bunch of different problems.

Those who knew Aaron Alexis – the shooter who killed 12 and injured eight more at the Washington Navy Yard this week – said he was a quiet, shy man.

At one point he was studying Buddhism and meditated often.

A little more digging, and we find he had several gun-related arrests and a pattern of misconduct in the Navy, but he was honorably discharged.

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Couples cohabiting without marriage a growing trend – for blacks, too?

Demetria L Lucas-160It should come as no surprise that a lot of people are cynical about marriage. For the past four decades, marriage rates steadily have decreased, and in June, USA Today reported that the marriage rate had hit "its lowest point in more than a century."

With so many Americans being children of divorce, or afraid of falling on the wrong side of the popular statistic about one in two marriages ending in divorce – then throwing in the financial insecurity of the recession – it's no surprise that so many people are choosing to stay away from the altar—but not necessarily commitment.

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Women, it’s OK to rethink whether to get married

black-women marriage-400(The Root) – In a piece for The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates examines the decline in the marriage rate among black families and is not bothered it. He says that women today are determining if marriage advances "their interests as much as it once did," and people should consider what women in the past had to endure in order to sustain their marriages.

"Again, you see a big shift in 1960. But that's true for both black and white families, and it's a shift that has been oft-commented upon. The change in marriage is not a 'black' problem, and I am not even convinced that it is a 'problem.' People who want us to go back to 1880 should have the intellectual courage to advocate for the entirety of their vision, not just the parts they like. It is not simply a question of 'Is marriage good for kids?' It's 'Are shotgun marriages good for kids?' 'Should marriage be valued at all costs, including enduring abuse or ill-treatment?' 'Should women marry men regardless of their employment prospects and their contact with the correctional system?'

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Should blacks be wary of iPhone fingerprint technology?

iphone-fingerprint-500Have you heard about the new iPhone 5S? One of Apple's two new phones, it contains a special feature called Touch ID, a fingerprint scanner built right into the home button. That means no more PIN or passcode number to unlock your phone, since your thumbprint will do the trick. How convenient, right?

But for African-Americans, who disproportionately own more smartphones than other groups – although blacks are less likely to use iPhones than devices such as Androids – the new iPhone fingerprint technology might rub some people the wrong way.

How much should we worry about this? Obviously, many have been unsettled by the recent revelations that the National Security Agency, or NSA, has been involved in a massive domestic spying program, working with major telecommunications companies to collect phone and Internet data from customers.

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Apartheid lives in Memphis and there is no easy way out

Tony Nichelson-160It is impossible for intelligent people to look at the situation faced by young urban men in America and not conclude that something is very wrong with the group. Whether it is self-inflicted or caused by sinister external forces, the fact remains that millions of black boys have been systematically excluded from the American mainstream.

Incarceration is the most visible evidence of their plight, but mental illness, poor health, educational deficiencies, chronic unemployment, illiteracy and immature decision-making are all personal characteristics of the six-million troubled souls who can not contribute anything to their race or culture, at least not in their present state.

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