Hocus Pocus From Potus and Flotus – The Conversation – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Hocus Pocus From Potus and Flotus - The Conversation - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Hocus Pocus From Potus and Flotus

By David J. Leonard

It’s commencement season. Yet amid conservative complaints about liberal dominance of the commencement industry, some speeches have reverberated with conservative ideas. That was no more evident than when Michelle Obama took the opportunity to reiterate more of her husband’s politics of black respectability at Bowie State University.

She told the audience at the historically black college’s graduation last week that the focus on education had been lost by a community with a history in which slaves had risked their lives to learn to read. She spoke of the struggles to integrate America’s schools. But those words were a mere setup to yet again demonizing and pathologizing today’s black youth. “Instead of walking miles every day to school,” she said, “they’re sitting on couches for hours playing video games, watching TV. Instead of dreaming of being a teacher or a lawyer or a business leader, they’re fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper.”

Reducing educational success to choices and blaming dropout rates on false dreams, such claims are a disservice to struggles for justice. Worse, the presumption is that one choice is good and rational, and the other pathological and irrational. The idea that dreaming of a career in hip-hop or athletics doesn’t prepare one to succeed in law or politics is problematic.

The first lady’s shaming message, praising the power of educational bootstraps, echoed her husband’s. At a 2009 speech before the NAACP, President Obama urged the African-American community to take better advantage of education’s equalizing potential. Irrespective of racism, inequality, or segregation, education was the ticket to freedom and prosperity. Urging students to stay in school and keep up their grades, he said, “No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands, and don’t you forget that.” He wanted students “aspiring to be scientists and engineers, doctors and teachers, not just ballers and rappers.”

If only it were that easy.

While the path to colleges is littered with school closures, the hegemony of the testing culture, and divestment from public education—pushing youth of color into the school-to-prison pipeline—the percentage of African-Americans attending colleges and universities is on the rise. That’s no thanks to President Obama, whose administration’s educational policy has done little to rectify persistent inequalities. The rising costs of higher education and the administration’s position on student loans have made it more difficult for African-American families, disproportionately hurt by the recession, to send their kids to college. Still, African-Americans are attending colleges and universities at record levels. Why not celebrate this reality?

Continue reading at Hocus Pocus From Potus and Flotus – The Conversation – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Drone Attacks Have Broad Support: Imagining something else


WSJ/NBC Poll: Drone Attacks Have Broad Support - Washington Wire - WSJ

It is rather chilling that 66% of the country supports drones strikes.  It is chilling not only because of the seeming willingness to be in perpetual war and the lack of public discourse about the cost and consequence of perpetual war (or the lives lost), but because it is a stark reminder how all lives are not imagined as equal.  Imani Perry got me thinking about imagining or dreaming alternatives this morning.  Imagine if the media focused less on polls and more about educating/informing the public about the destruction of drones.  Imagine if they reported the words of Shahzad Akbar (from article that Scahill quote is from), a Pakistani attorney, who reminded the American public, “Drone victims are not just figures on a piece of paper, they are real people and that’s why it is important to see what happens on the ground when a missile hits a target. We have to see what exactly is happening on the ground, what is happening to the people.” Imagine if polls would take place after watching a video from Jeremy Scahill, who in one speech offered the following:

What is happening to this country right now?” We have become a nation of assassins. We have become a nation that is somehow silent in the face of — or embraces, as polls indicate — the idea that assassination should be one of the centerpieces of US foreign policy. How dangerous is this? It’s a throwback to another era  — an era that I think many Americans thought was behind them. And the most dangerous part of this is the complicity of ordinary people in it.

Imagine if this was part of the conversation; what if there was a daily confrontation with lost lives at the hands of drones.  Tell their stories; report the death and devastation; show imagines of what a drone does and then take a poll.  Maybe I am holding onto those freedom dreams, that if people knew the facts, knew the stories, read “The Guilty Conscience of a Drone Pilot who killed a child,” the polls would be different. The policy would change.  But I don’t know.  But the imagination and the dreams are powerful, so despite my cynicism and frustration, despite my sadness, I cannot but hope, wondering if we will begin to heed the words of Dr. King,

I want to say one other challenge that we face is simply that we must find an alternative to war and bloodshed. Anyone who feels, and there are still a lot of people who feel that way, that war can solve the social problems facing mankind is sleeping through a great revolution. President Kennedy said on one occasion, “Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.” The world must hear this. I pray to God that America will hear this before it is too late, because today we’re fighting a war.



Polls are one thing but drones are not about polls; they are about morals and values, life and death; they are about people.

Here is the article got me thinking about these questions.

Amid months of discussion on the morality and legality of using drone strikes to target terrorist groups – and a week after President Barack Obama publicly defended his use of drones – a strong majority of Americans said they support such measures.

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll out Wednesday found that 66% said they favored the use of unmanned aircraft to kill suspected members of al Qaeda and other terrorists, while only 16% said they were in opposition and 15% said they didn’t know enough to form an opinion.

Since Mr. Obama’s inauguration in 2009, more than 300 drone strikes have been conducted in Pakistan, according to the nonpartisan New America Foundation, while the George W. Bush administration conducted fewer than 50 strikes.

via WSJ/NBC Poll: Drone Attacks Have Broad Support – Washington Wire – WSJ.

via WSJ/NBC Poll: Drone Attacks Have Broad Support – Washington Wire – WSJ.

Historic Amnesia: Four Little Girls and Assata Shakur

That song…did more for me to get me out of myself than any song that I’ve ever done.  I was so outraged when the four colored girls were killed in…that Baptist church.  I tell you I was so outraged that I didn’t—I only walked the floor for hours at a time and that’s how it came out.  It just came out as a complete outraged protest against the injustices of this country against my people (Simone, Interview on Protest Anthology, 2008  – from Danielle Heard’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”: Nina Simone’s Theater of Invisibility”)

Approaching the fifty-year anniversary of the release of Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam,” the ghosts of Mississippi and the horror of white supremacist violence continues to haint the nation.

On Friday, May 24, 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley Congressional Gold Medals.  The murder of the “4 Little Girls” on September 15, 1963 at the 16th Street Baptist Church galvanized the black freedom struggle in its fight against white supremacy.

President Obama described the violence in the following way: “That tragic loss, that heartbreak, helped to trigger triumph and a more just and equal and fair America.”  Indeed – although it also triggered radicalization, outrage, and increasing calls for black power.

Taylor Branch, in Parting the Waters, describes Diane Nash’s reaction as one of growing dissatisfaction with methods embraced by the mainstream civil rights movement:

That night, Diane Nash presented to King the germ of what became his Selma voting rights campaign in 1965. She was angry. Privately, she told King that he could not arouse a battered people for nonviolent action and then give them nothing to do. After the church bombing, she and Bevel had realized that a crime so heinous pushed even nonviolent zealots like themselves to the edge of murder. They resolved to do one of two things: solve the crime and kill the bombers, or drive Wallace and Lingo from office by winning the right for Negroes to vote across Alabama. In the few days since, Nash had drawn up a written plan to accomplish the, latter with a rigorously trained nonviolent host, organized at brigade and division strength, that would surround Wallace’s government in Montgomery with a sea of bodies, “severing communication from state capitol building . . . Lying on railroad tracks, runways, and bus driveways . . . Close down the power company.” Her plan amounted to a protracted sit-in on the scale of the March on Washington. “This is an army,” she wrote King. “Develop a flag and an insignia or pin or button.”

The terrorism practiced by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist organizations was part and parcel of American Apartheid.  The lynching of Emmett Till, the daily violence of white supremacy, and the bombings at 16th Street reflected the politics, morals, and values of the (southern) white American landscape but also contributed to a growing call for radical intervention.  Assata Shakur described the impact of white mobs, lynchings, and bombings on her political ethos:

Mostly, when I was young, the news didn’t seem real … only the news concerning black people had any impact on me. And it seemed that each year the news got worse. The first of the really bad news that I remember was Montgomery, Alabama. That was when I first heard of Martin Luther King. Rosa Parks had been arrested for refusing to give her seat to a white woman. The Black people boycotted the buses. It was a nasty struggle. Black people were harassed and attacked and, if I remember correctly, Martin Luther King’s house was bombed. Then came Little Rock. I can still remember those ugly, terrifying white mobs attacking those little children who were close to my own age … We would sit there horrified–from Harvey Young, “’A New Fear Known to Me’: Emmett Till’s Influence and the Black Panther Party”

There is more than a bit of irony, hypocrisy, and failure to understand history that in the same month that the “4 Little Girls” have been awarded this medal Assata is put on FBI’s most wanted list.  It is outrageous that someone committed to ridding America of white supremacist violence–to making sure no more children were murdered in the name of racism, segregation, and hatred–has been declared a terrorist worthy of a 2 million dollar bounty. She was fighting against the very terrorism that killed these girls.

Obama and the Death of White Power – News & Views – EBONY

Obama and the Death of White Power

by David J. Leonard

The re-election of Barack Obama to the office of President of the United States prompted a wide range of hateful reactions. From tearful Romney supporters to enraged bigots, the prospects of an African American leading the nation for another four years sent many within White America into panic mode or what I like to call “WDD:” White Delusional Disorder.

Teenagers took to twitter to hurl racial slurs without concern for the blowback; college students at Ole Miss and Hampden-Sydney (among others) took to the streets to voice their anger. In displays of violence usually reserved for sports celebrations, or disgust over an early bar closing, White males made their prejudices clear, hurling racial epithets and rocks with little fear of consequence. As editor Jamilah Lemieux said of those on twitter “the fact that there are so many people willing to publicly express these views… is troubling.”

Predictably, much of the chatter has focused on individual reactions, imagining racism in terms of emotion, anger, and frustration. The media’s shock and awe is not surprising given its failure to shine a spotlight on the resurgent White nationalism since 2008 and persistent racial inequality in the United States. Worse yet, the media has consistently portrayed racism as extreme in nature—-the extremely young, the extremely bigoted, the extremely Southern, the extremely uneducated, and the extremely low-class. But most of us know that it is more common than any newspaper may have you believe.

The anxieties, anger, and outrage weren’t so much about backlash against liberal values, but what Obama’s victory revealed about the nation. There was a clear, alarming message about demographic shifts and waning White male control. According to Keisha Bentley-Edwards, “The anger wasn’t only about President Obama and his re-election. It was overall frustration at the emerging power of diverse people in this country.”

It became yet another moment to lament “White victimhood,” a fantasy too fictitious for even Hollywood. It became an instance to mourn “the end of White America,” which for everyone from Bill O’Reilly to Donald Trump, from David Duke to White nationalists marks the demise of American civilization. O’Reilly laments “a changing country” given the increased power of “people who want things,” recycling the proven politics of White resentment.

Not surprisingly, while White tears were flowing, White nationalists seized upon President Obama’s re-election to further its movement. At Stormfront.org, the hub for global racism, readers were met with a new introduction to the website:

Continue reading at Obama and the Death of White Power – News & Views – EBONY.