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When the past is present…


Black South Carolina Trooper Explains Why He Helped a White Supremacist

By Dan Barry, the New York Times

What the black state trooper saw was a civilian in distress. Yes, this was a white man, attending a white supremacist rally in front of the South Carolina State House. And yes, he was wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with a swastika.trooper_and_supremacist

But the trooper concentrated only on this: an older civilian, spent on the granite steps. Overcome, it appeared, by an unforgiving July sun and the recent, permanent removal of a Confederate flag from state capitol display…

The meaning of this image — of a black officer helping a white supremacist, both in uniform — depends on the beholder. You might see a refreshing coda to the Confederate flag controversy; a typical day for a law-enforcement professional; a simplification of racial tensions that continue. But what does the trooper see?

His name is Leroy Smith, and he happens to be the director of the South Carolina Department of Public Safety. He was at the rally, working crowd control, because he likes to signal to his 1,300 subordinates that he has their backs.

Mr. Smith said he was taken aback by the worldwide attention but hoped the image would help society move past the recent spasms of hate and violence, including last month’s massacre of nine black people in a church in Charleston. Asked why he thinks the photo has had such resonance, he gave a simple answer: Love.

“I think that’s the greatest thing in the world — love,” said the burly, soft-spoken trooper, who is just shy of 50. “And that’s why so many people were moved by it.”…

At the State House on the day the photo was taken, Smith learned the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan would be demonstrating. It promised to be a busy day…

Then a demonstrator directed his attention to an older man all but melting on a bottom step. “He looked fatigued, lethargic — weak,” Mr. Smith said. “I knew there was something very wrong with him.”

He called up the steps to the Columbia fire chief, Aubrey Jenkins, for assistance. Then, with his left arm around the man’s back and his right hand on the man’s right arm, he walked the swastika-adorned demonstrator up the steps, as many as 40. Slowly, steadily, all the while giving encouragement:

We’re going to make it. Just keep on going…

Up the steps the two men went. They didn’t talk much, although the older demonstrator allowed that he wasn’t from around here. A spokesman for the National Socialist Movement declined to identify him, other than to say he is a senior citizen who doesn’t need people knocking at his door…

As they approached the top step, someone nudged Rob Godfrey, 34, a deputy chief of staff to Governor Haley, who is known for his diligent chronicling of everyday history. He snapped a shot with his iPhone, sensing a distillation of the grace with which South Carolina has responded to these days of tragedy and strife.

“In that moment, Leroy Smith was the embodiment of all that,” Mr. Godfrey said. He quickly shared the moment with the world…

Mr. Smith did not know about the photograph. He knew only what was before him. He walked the man into the air-conditioned State House, led him to a green-upholstered couch, and left him there to cool down.

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[ABHM] Lecture series asks ‘Do Black Lives Matter?’


Reggie Jackson, Head Griot of America's Black Holocaust Museum, was interviewed and photographed by Jabril Faraj at Coffee Makes You Black in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in July 2015.

Reggie Jackson, Head Griot of America’s Black Holocaust Museum, was interviewed and photographed by Jabril Faraj at Coffee Makes You Black in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in July 2015.

[Editor’s Note: ABHM’s Head Griot, Reggie Jackson, will present his #Do Black Lives Matter? lecture series at Milwaukee’s Villard Square Library on August 3, 5, 10, and 12, 2015 – 5:30-7:30pm. To arrange for a presentation on this or similar topics by Mr. Jackson or another ABHM griot, please contact]

…[This] series addresses the 400-year-long history of black people in America, starting in 1619 when the first Africans were brought to the British colonies….

“There’s been a … consistency in the way blacks have been devalued,” Jackson said in an interview. “We don’t study our history in-depth enough to realize it. We don’t talk about these things because they’re ugly things to talk about.”

The famous "Scourged Back" photo of fugitive slave Gordon. (Antique colored slide of Gordon during his 1863 medical examination by Union doctors.) This photo was widely disseminated by abolitionists to show the inhumanity of slavery.

The famous “Scourged Back” photo of fugitive slave Gordon. (Antique colored slide of Gordon during his 1863 medical examination by Union doctors.) This photo was widely disseminated by abolitionists to show the inhumanity of slavery.

…Slavery “set the foundation” for the devaluation of black lives that Jackson said continues today in America….“You’re in this situation where, from day to day, generation after generation, you are debased as a human being,” he said, adding that an 1811 manual on “how to control your slaves” mentally and physically recommended that “you debase them in such a way that they begin to accept their condition.”

Jackson said, as slaves, black men weren’t able to protect their families and it was against the law in every state to teach blacks to read and write. “You begin to have a … lack of self-worth — you don’t value yourself, you don’t value people who look like you,” said Jackson. “And, this is part of the mindset that continues even after slavery ends.”…

“In order for you to enslave millions and millions of people over several centuries, you have to develop a mindset where you don’t value their lives. You can’t have a situation where you look at them as your equals and treat them the way that these people are treated,” Jackson said….

medical apartheid“If you go in thinking that blacks are inferior to whites … you’re going to prove that that’s true,” Jackson said, adding that… flawed [scientific] research was accepted and “became the lasting justification for devaluing black lives in America.”

These pseudo-scientific justifications for black inferiority allowed for scientific and medical experiments to be perpetrated on black people by pharmaceutical companies, prisons and the United States government. The continued devaluation also resulted in the perpetuation of caricatures that promoted blacks as lazy, unintelligent and inarticulate.

Chain-Gang-GA 1941

Black prisoners in Georgia in 1941. They work in a chain gang under the watchful eye of a white overseer, much like slaves on the plantations. Mass incarceration of black men, women, and children continues today.

“That’s part of the psychology that allowed this mass incarceration to occur,” said Jackson, referring to the fact that about 40 percent of America’s 2.3 million prisoners are black, despite being 13 percent of the population. “We criminalize blacks in the minds of America and, so, we have no problem throwing a million of them in prison, and throwing away the key and not really caring.”

“It has to have this debilitating impact on you, mentally,” Jackson said. “You have to begin to believe that you deserve this.”

Under such conditions, “it becomes very difficult to have a positive view of who you are as a person,” Jackson said. The emergence of the black power movement, Black Panther Party and the civil rights movement changed some of that perception but much of the momentum that had been built dissipated with the advent of the Vietnam War, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and COINTELPRO, an FBI program that aimed to discredit King and infiltrate domestic political organizations such as those fighting for black civil rights….

Though Jackson isn’t sure whether America is ready to have an honest conversation about the value of black lives, he hopes that providing information and context will inspire people to “challenge the system we live in.”

Thousands march through Manhattan to protest police violence[Jessica  MacPhail, Director of the Racine Public Library, who hosted this series in July 2015] said the power of his presentation is that people get a perspective they might not have thought about before. “Once you’ve heard the truth, once you’ve seen something that changes how you think about something or how you feel about something, you can’t go back and un-see it, you can’t go back to being the person you were before,” she said….

Jackson agreed. “We can’t just say ‘black lives matter’ and just leave it at that. We have to question whether or not it’s really true,” he said. “Because if you just assume that they do then there’s no problem, there’s nothing to fix.”

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Ex-cop and blackface performer’s fundraiser for officers in Freddie Gray case canceled

By Kevin Rector, the Baltimore Sun

A local venue on Wednesday abruptly canceled a planned fundraiser for the six Baltimore police officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray after the scheduled entertainment — a former Baltimore officer singing in blackface — drew sharp criticism.

Former Baltimore police officer Bobby Berger, performing in blackface.

Former Baltimore police officer Bobby Berger, performing in blackface.

Bobby Berger, 67, who was fired from the city police force in the 1980s after his off-duty performances in blackface drew the ire of the NAACP, had said he wanted to revive the act to help the families of the officers.

He said he had sold 600 tickets at $45 each to the bull roast scheduled for Nov. 1 at Michael’s Eighth Avenue, where he and several singers planned to perform as guests dined.

In his performances, Berger impersonates Al Jolson, a white entertainer from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s best remembered for his blackface performance of “Mammy” in the film “The Jazz Singer.”

But after news of the event began spreading Wednesday, Michael’s posted a statement on its website saying the event would not be held there…

Berger’s plans drew criticism earlier in the day from the NAACP, the city police union and an attorney representing one of the officers charged in the Gray case…

Michael Davey, an attorney who works with the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police, said the union was unaware of the event.

“We don’t endorse it. We do not support it, and we will accept no funds from anything involving this event,” Davey said…

Earlier, Berger said there is not “one iota of racial overtones” in his blackface performance and that thousands of African-Americans have seen his performances and enjoyed them. He said he organized the fundraiser because he knows how it feels to be suddenly without a paycheck from the department…

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Racial Satire ‘White Squad’ Is Painfully Hilarious But All Too Real

This satirical ad nails everyday racial inequality.


Meet the “White Squad” a group of well-meaning white people looking to help out people of color. The squad is introduced in a new, brilliant satire by MTV’s “Look Different” anti-bias campaign that tackles racial inequality that privileges white people and disadvantages people of color in everyday situations.

In the video, members of the company provide a white stand-in for minorities who may encounter discrimination.

55a962181700002300bafab7“Is your skin color holding you back? Are you tired of systemic prejudice ruining your day?” the narrator asks before before offering “professional white advantage services,” which include hailing a cab, finding a better apartment and seeking legal services.

From their paste-colored office to their all-white employees, the company insures that their whiteness will work in your favor.  With a few convincing testimonials, it’s hard to believe that this isn’t an actual service.

While entertaining, the video raises some disturbing flags of actual oppression that can’t be fixed with a call to a 1-800 number.



Poll Finds Most in U.S. Hold Dim View of Race Relations

New York Times/CBS News pollconducted last week reveals that nearly six in 10 Americans, including heavy majorities of both whites and blacks, think race relations are generally bad, and that nearly four in 10 think the situation is getting worse. By comparison, two-thirds of Americans surveyed shortly after President Obama took office said they believed that race relations were generally good.

NYT Poll Race Relations 1The swings in attitude have been particularly striking among African-Americans. During Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign, nearly 60 percent of blacks said race relations were generally bad, but that number was cut in half shortly after he won. It has now soared to 68 percent, the highest level of discontent among blacks during the Obama years and close to the numbers recorded in the aftermath of the riots that followed the 1992 acquittal of Los Angeles police officers charged in the beating of Rodney King.

Only a fifth of those surveyed said they thought race relations were improving, while about 40 percent of both blacks and whites said they were staying essentially the same.

Respondents tended to have much sunnier views of race relations in their own communities.

For instance, while only 37 percent said they thought race relations were generally good in the United States, more than twice that share, 77 percent, thought they were good in their communities, a number that has changed little over the past 20 years. Similarly, only a third thought that most people were comfortable discussing race with someone of another race, but nearly three-quarters said they were comfortable doing so themselves….

NYT Poll Race Relations 2Deep racial schisms were also evident in responses about law enforcement and the criminal justice system. About three-fourths of blacks said they thought that the system was biased against African-Americans, and that the police were more likely to use deadly force against a black person than a white person. Only 44 percent of whites felt that the system was biased against blacks.

Clearly, views of the police are informed by personal experience. Four in 10 blacks, and nearly two-thirds of black men, said they felt they had been stopped by the police just because of their race or ethnicity, compared with only one in 20 whites. Fully 72 percent of blacks said they had suffered what they perceived as racial discrimination, compared with 31 percent of whites.

At a time when the unemployment rate for blacks is double that for whites and black households earn 40 percent less, blacks continue to assert they do not enjoy an equal shot at attaining financial success. The share of blacks who said whites have a better chance to get ahead rose by 14 percentage points in about a year’s time, to 60 percent. More than half of whites said blacks have equal opportunities, compared with about a third of blacks who said so.

But in a finding that may highlight class divisions more than racial ones, identical majorities of blacks and whites, 59 percent, said the economy enabled only a few people at the top to get ahead….

NYT Poll Race Relations 3In large measure, the poll found that blacks and whites live in separate societies. Most whites say they do not live (79 percent), work (81 percent), or come in regular contact (68 percent) with more than a few blacks. While the numbers have not changed among whites in the past 15 years, the poll suggested some erosion in residential segregation among blacks. Only a third of blacks surveyed said that almost all of the people who lived near their homes were of the same race, compared with half who said so in a 2000 Times poll.

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Cop Threatens to Use Taser on Sandra Bland in New Dash-Cam Video

By Danielle C. Belton,

New dashboard-camera footage has been released showing Sandra Bland’s ill-fated police stop July 10. In the video she is shown arguing with a Texas state trooper over being stopped, an argument that escalates when the officer becomes upset that Bland is not putting out her cigarette. The officer forces Bland from her car after threatening to “light” her up with a Taser.

Three days after the arrest, Bland, 28, was found dead in police custody in Prairie View, Texas. Police claim that Bland committed suicide by “self-inflicted asphyxiation” with a plastic bag, but her family and friends have been adamant that the Illinois woman would not have harmed herself.

The video, released by the Texas Department of Public Safety on YouTube, is nearly an hour long. It shows a previous stop by the same officer at the beginning and then, around the 2:12 mark, the officer pulls over Bland, telling her through her passenger window that she failed to signal a lane change. He takes her license and then, at 8 minutes and 36 seconds into the video, returns to the car, telling Bland that she seems irritated. Bland answers that she is irritated because the officer was following her and pulled her over. She says she’s waiting for him to “do his job” and give her a ticket…

An argument ensues when the officer instructs Bland to put out her cigarette and she refuses. The officer then orders Bland to get out of her car.

As the officer tries to force Bland from the car, she repeatedly shouts for the officer not to touch her while asking why she is being apprehended. The officer then removes something from his belt—what’s assumed to be a Taser—and shouts at Bland, “I will light you up now.”

Under threat of being tased, Bland exits the car. He puts handcuffs on her, now out of sight of the dashboard camera. Off-camera, you can hear Bland crying and pleading, now on the ground, as another officer arrives…

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President Obama Meets With Emma Didlake, Oldest Living U.S. Veteran

By Sam Levine, the Huffington Post

President Barack Obama met in the Oval Office on Friday with Emma Didlake, a 110-year-old who is the oldest living veteran in the United States.emma_didlake

Didlake, a native of Alabama, joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in 1943 as a 38-year-old with five children, and served as a private and driver. She earned the Women’s Army Corps Service Medal, American Campaign Medal and World War II Victory Medal for her service. After leaving the military, Didlake joined the Detroit chapter of the NAACP, and marched with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963…

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Obama said that Didlake served with “distinction and honor.”

“We are so grateful that she is here with us today. And it’s a great reminder of not only the sacrifices that the greatest generation made on our behalf, but also the kind of trailblazing that our women veterans made, African-American veterans who helped to integrate our armed services,” Obama said. “We are very, very proud of them. That’s why we got to make sure we do right by them.”…

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Eric Garner Is Remembered One Year After His Death

By Nate Schweber and Andy Newman, the New York Times

Held aloft in her mother’s arms, Legacy Garner, the 15-month-old daughter of Eric Garner, opened a wooden bird cage Friday morning and released a white rock dove.

Legacy Garner and her mother, Jewel Miller, release a dove to mark the anniversary of Eric Garner's death.

Legacy Garner and her mother, Jewel Miller, release a dove to mark the anniversary of Eric Garner’s death.

As a small crowd cheered, the bird flew up, above the sidewalk in Tompkinsville, Staten Island, where Mr. Garner died at the hands of the police exactly one year ago.

About three dozen people gathered on the stretch of Bay Street where officers had tried to arrest Mr. Garner, with adults in white T-shirts with a photo of a smiling Mr. Garner under the words “A Year Without Justice,” and children in shirts that read “Black Lives Matter.”

Just before the dove was released, the crowd chanted “I can’t breathe” 11 times, echoing Mr. Garner’s words as his consciousness ebbed.

Last July 17, Mr. Garner, 43, was being taken in on charges of selling untaxed, loose cigarettes when he resisted, pulling away from being handcuffed, and an officer put him in a chokehold, a move against Police Department rules…

Earlier this week, the city agreed to pay Mr. Garner’s family $5.9 million to settle their wrongful-death claim…

Other events scheduled for Friday include:

• A 1 p.m. rally at the Staten Island Ferry terminal in Manhattan that will continue on the 2 p.m. ferry to Staten Island and at the site of Mr. Garner’s death.

• A 1:30 p.m. announcement of a voter-registration drive outside Staten Island’s borough hall.

• A march beginning at Columbus Circle at 5:30 p.m.

• A vigil led by Assemblyman Michael Blake of the Bronx outside his office at 780 Concourse Village West at 5:30 p.m.

• A 7 p.m. memorial at the House of the Lord Pentecostal church at 415 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.

• A memorial at Canaan Baptist Church of Christ at 116th Street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem at 7:30 p.m…

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‘This Is Our Selma’: NC’s Fight for Voting Rights

By Danielle C. Belton,

Monday marks the start of a pivotal voting-rights trial in North Carolina. On the line? Access to the ballot box for tens of thousands of African-American voters.


Calling the trial its “Selma,” referencing the Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1964 in Alabama, the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP is taking Gov. Pat McCrory to court for signing into law what many have called one of the strictest voting laws passed in the country.

Back in 2013—in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Shelby v. Holder decision, which gutted portions of the Voting Rights Act—the North Carolina Legislature passed H.B. 589, a voter-suppression law that drastically changed or wiped out many provisions meant to encourage voter turnout and provide easier access to the ballot box. The law instituted a voter-ID requirement, shortened early voting by a week, got rid of same-day registration, expanded the state’s ability to challenge voters, killed a preregistration program for 16- and 17-year-olds, and disallowed the counting of provisional ballots cast out-of-precinct, among other changes.

Critics say that these restrictions disproportionately affect African Americans. According to state data, back in 2012, 70 percent of black North Carolina voters used early voting, and while blacks only make up about 22 percent of the voting population in the state, they accounted for 41 percent of voters who took advantage of same-day registration. African Americans also made up 30 percent of those who cast ballots out-of-precinct.

Last year, these laws directly impacted the midterm elections, with reports of between30,000 and 50,000 being ineligible to vote because of the law…

In its charge against H.B. 589, the North Carolina NAACP is being represented by attorneys with racial-justice nonprofit Advancement Project, the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, and lawyers Irving Joyner and Adam Stein. They’re charging that the law violates the 14th and 15th amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The Rev. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, has said repeatedly of the state’s voting-rights case: “This is our Selma.”

“North Carolina was the first state to pass a restrictive voting law after the Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act in 2013, and it is the worst voter-suppression law the country has seen since 1965,” Barber said in a July 8 press release. “The people of North Carolina are standing up—in the courts and the streets—because we refuse to accept the revival of Jim Crow tactics used to block access to the ballot for African-American and Latino voters.”…

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NAACP Ends 15-Year Boycott Of South Carolina

By Ashley Alman, the Huffington Post

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) announced Saturday the end to its 15-year economic boycott of the state of South Carolina.

The Confederate battle flag is lowered for the last time at the Statehouse in Columbia, SC.

The Confederate battle flag is lowered for the last time at the Statehouse in Columbia, SC.

The NAACP National Board of Directors voted in an emergency resolution on Saturday to end the boycott.

The boycott of the state was initiated in 2000, when the Confederate flag was moved from atop the State House to a Confederate memorial on the Capitol grounds. The boycott was also observed by the NCAA and United Auto Workers, among other groups. The NAACP said Thursday that the boycott would be brought to a vote in an emergency resolution after the South Carolina state legislature voted to remove the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds. The state legislature took up the issue after a tragic shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina left 9 dead, reigniting impassioned opposition to the flag’s presence at the Capitol.

The NCAA followed suit Thursday, saying it would lift its boycott on the state, which prevented South Carolina from hosting championships.

NAACP President Cornell William Brooks praised the state’s action in a Thursday statement, saying their decision “will make South Carolina more welcoming and affirming of all people irrespective of their skin color.”…

The flag was removed from the Capitol grounds Friday.

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