Tech’s Whiteness Is the Problem. Are We the Solution?

By Amy L. Alexander, The Root

Last week, Twitter said it was “pausing” to reconsider the process by which it bestows the blue checkmark denoting accounts that had been “verified,” and on Wednesday the company announced it was yanking the designation from some users who occupy the neo-Nazi or nationalist bucket of grassroots white activism. The announcements came after many users, including The Root’s Monique Judge, raised hell when Twitter gavea blue checkmark to Jason Kessler, a white nationalist who helped plan the pro-Confederacy march last August in Charlottesville, Va.

While Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and his workers ruminated on the company’s account verification policies, I decided it was a good time for us to pause and think about our relationship with Twitter and other social media and technology companies. We voluntarily “contribute” our creative insights, dollars and labor to the success of these companies by buying devices and apps, uploading memes, ideas and language that trends widely. Yet in terms of the vast wealth these companies hold, disburse to employees and generate for shareholders, we get little in return.

Think of the recent moment where top lawyers for Google and its parent company, Alphabet, along with Twitter and Facebook, were summoned to Capitol Hill to testify before Senate and House committees looking into the company’s role in disseminating toxic content and ads during the 2016 presidential election cycle.

(L-R) Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch, Twitter Acting General Counsel Sean Edgett, and Google Law Enforcement and Information Security Director Richard Salgado testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee, October 31, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Anti-black messaging was the secret-sauce of many of the pro-Trump, nationalist memes and messages that flooded through the popular social media channels during the 2016 election cycle. Yet somehow, the gatekeepers at Facebook and Twitter didn’t seem to notice the methodical manipulation of racial animus that already exists in America, specifically, some white Americans’ negative opinions of blacks.

The leaders and staffs of Twitter, Facebook, and other popular social media platforms missed the Russian’s exploitation of the black-white divide, an obliviousness that has precedent: black women users had long alerted Twitter officials to abusive conduct of other users, up to and including death threats. The hashtag #YourSlipIsShowing catalogs such experiences from black women dating back several years, and is readily available…at least to those interested in learning about and addressing these kind of user experiences.

But clearly, the tech company leaders were not inclined to pay attention to this area of user complaints, a strong indication that they also probably weren’t interested in the views of the few blacks and Latinx workers at their companies, either. Just look at what happened to Leslie Miley, a black former engineer at Twitter. Miley revealed in a recent interview that he had flagged tons of dubious accounts in 2015, telling his bosses that he believed they were from Ukraine or Russia, and that they appeared to be part of a coordinated campaign.

Miley was told by his bosses at Twitter to “stay in his lane,” a response that Miley says he took as a sign that the company leadership preferred to err on the side “growth numbers,” rather than on any potential harm to audiences that the bots might pose.

Meanwhile, black users of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Google products infuse them with a deep coolness factor that resonates around the world. Our intellectual property and creativity is the lifeboat that floats these companies to revenue solvency, yet few of us share in the enormous economic wealth generated by these companies, not even after dozens of news stories, industry conferences, and activist’s complaints forced the companies to pledge to improve hiring and retention.

Black Americans know when something smells rotten, including the kinds of scams and shady BS that can unfold at one’s job. And, as usual, blacks and other marginalized communities have solutions. We have the brain-power, problem-solving acumen, and moral fortitude to right the ship of state.

The question is whether our concerns and advice will be heeded, and whether we can achieve full access to the genuine levers of power in the United States, including access to quality education, healthcare, voting and, most importantly in the context of the innovation ecosystem, investment capital.

Read the full article here.

It’s not just the Tech industry, either. Read how one company is beginning to acknowledge its racist past here.

Read more Breaking News here.

A Tale of 2 Mich. Water Crises

By K. Araújo, The Root

On Oct. 23, 12 Oakland County, Mich., communities spent roughly nine days without water after a major water main break. Almost 305,000 people were affected by the break.

Oakland County and the Great Lakes Water Authority worked nearly around the clock to ensure that the residents in those communities had safe, potable water. Water stations in various communities were set up. Businesses and residences alike were given access to the scarce commodity.

It directly affected my mother, and as a native Detroiter and former resident of Oakland County, I should’ve been ecstatic to hear how well this situation was handled. So what’s the issue, you ask?

Residents in the Genesee County city of Flint, Mich., have been without potable, usable water since 2014. Government officials—locally and statewide—blatantly lied about the water supply being safe for human consumption. Fertilizers, pesticides, built-up bacteria and lead have contaminated the Flint River (the city’s primary source) for decades. Their half-assed attempt to “clean up the water” never ensured that the city’s folks would remain healthy.

Flint, MI – February 19, 2016. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

It’s been three whole years, and citizens still can’t drink the water. Water stations were set up (some years later), and as of this past summer, many of the stations were closed following Flint’s lead levels being under the federal limit. Why is there such a disparity between Oakland County and Genesee County in their response to each crisis?

Race and class.

Oakland County is one of the wealthiest counties in Michigan. It used to be the wealthiest, but some argue that Livingston may have snatched the “coveted” honor. The median income in Oakland County is roughly $70,000. The county’s population is a whopping 72.8 percent white, which is a glaring contrast to Flint’s 60 percent black population. The median income in Genesee County is about $44,000, but the surprise is that the 72 percent white population of Genesee is typically lower-class and poor.

The water crisis in Flint was not just a “black problem.” It was a class problem. Poor whites have been brainwashed to think that they receive the same consideration as well-to-do whites, and that’s simply not true. Because there are more poor whites, they give the advantage of numbers for rich whites with agendas to use them time and time again. And because skin color matters, they never see they are being consistently shit on.

Businesses and civilians from various counties throughout Michigan sent batches of water to the good folks of Flint. However, their assistance wasn’t enough to mitigate the long-term damage. Fetal deaths spiked, pregnancy rates lowered, 12 people died from Legionnaires’ disease and lead poisoning debilitated many more people in the city. Given the already high infant mortality and morbidity rates in the city, Flint residents never had a chance.

Apparently, money will always talk, and black lives will always be expendable.

Read the full article here.

Read about what the Black Holocaust is here.

Read more Breaking News here.

Why TV Writer Angela Nissel, Black Females in Hollywood Need to be Heard

By Yesha Callahan, The Root

If you took a look at the writers’ room of some of your favorite television shows, you’d be hard-pressed to find a black person, and even harder pressed to find a black woman. But for the last decade, Angela Nissel has been leaving her mark behind the scenes on shows like Scrubs, The Boondocks and, now, The Jellies—Tyler, the Creator’s Adult Swim show, which premieres Oct. 22.

Before Nissel’s foray into scripted television, she was best-known as one of the creators of Okayplayer and for her two sidesplitting memoirs that captured the essence of her formative years, and of being broke and biracial. Both The Broke Diaries: The Completely True and Hilarious Misadventures of a Good Girl Gone Broke and Mixed: My Life in Black and Whitewere heralded by critics, as well as the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Halle Berry, and Nissel became the “it” woman of literature in the early 2000s.

Angela Nissel, Scenes from ‘The Jellies’ (Adult Swim)

It was those books that set the University of Pennsylvania grad (she graduated with a degree in medical anthropology) on her way to a career in TV. But, of course, Nissel’s ascent into television writing wasn’t easy, especially as a black woman. After being in the game for 15 years, she is still fighting her way into writers’ rooms, and she made it into The Jellies’room even though she thought she hadn’t landed the gig.

“Me being old enough to be Tyler’s aunt, I said, ‘I’ve heard of him,’ but I don’t really know him. And then I researched him. I was nervous in the meeting, but when Tyler came in, he just wanted to get to know about me. Ten minutes later, the meeting was over. I called my agent and was like, ‘I’m pretty sure I didn’t get that job; they thought I was a total nerd,’” Nissel says.

As luck talent would have it, Nissel landed the consulting-producer-and-writing gig on the series, and so her work began. And, yes, she was once again the only black woman in the writers’ room. As Nissel segues back into animation (after lending her talents to The Boondocks), she notes that writing live action and books is totally different from writing for animation, especially when it comes to the fans.

“How many f—— black cartoon characters is it on TV right now?” Tyler responded. “Name five. I’ll give you time.”

Nissel shares similar sentiments about Cornell’s newfound blackness.

“If you don’t like Cornell being black, color him another color in your head. What is wrong with people wanting to see the representation of themselves on-screen?” Nissel asks. “That’s why I think their generation will do better, and hopefully build on what my old-ass generation wasn’t able to do. Tyler is an outsider coming into this industry and wants Cornell to look like him. I don’t understand how anyone can be upset with that.”

With the success of this summer’s blockbuster hit Girls Trip, the spotlight is now shining on funny black women in front of and behind the camera. And Nissel has some savory advice for the bigwigs in Hollywood.

“I wish more people realize that having one voice in the room sometimes isn’t enough because you’re only going to get one point of view. At the end of the day, I just wish people would go outside of the neighborhoods and make friends with people who aren’t exactly like them, so they can bring that to the room if they don’t have the budget to hire 25 women,” Nissel says.

“I really want to create shows that show that women over the age of 40 still have lives, and they can be messy,” she adds. “To talk about the imbalance of women and men, like my own personal story of paying alimony. I want to tell the richness of women of color over 40 because sometimes I look on TV and we’re all dead, except for Oprah.”

The Jellies premieres on Adult Swim at 12:15 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 22.

Read the full article here.

Read more about the importance of black-owned media here.

Read more Breaking News here.

Man Alleges NYPD Cop Valled Him N-word Several Times During Stop-and-Frisk Arrest in Lawsuit

By Stephen Rex Brown, New York Daily News

The NYPD sergeant called Diquan Fedee the slur more than once, the lawsuit alleges. (Photo by Michael Ip/for New York Daily News)

The NYPD sergeant called Diquan Fedee the slur more than once, the lawsuit alleges. (Photo by Michael Ip/for New York Daily News)

An NYPD sergeant repeatedly called a man walking in Brooklyn the c before arresting him on bogus charges that were later dismissed, a new suit claims.

Diquan Fedee says he was walking on Marcus Garvey Boulevard near Willoughby St. in Bedford-Stuyvesant on July 10 of last year and had not “not done anything remotely unlawful, and had no contraband of any sort on his person,” papers read.

At 11:05 a.m., an unmarked police car approached and an officer inside the ride yelled, “Yo.”

Fedee, 21, says in his suit filed in Manhattan Federal Court that he was on the phone and ignored the man who he later learned was a cop.

Four cops — who are not identified in papers — got out of the car and rifled through Feede’s bookbag, papers say.

When Fedee said they weren’t allowed to do that, an NYPD sergeant allegedly said “You hate the police, right ni—-?”

The sergeant called Fedee the slur more than once, papers say.

One of the cops allegedly told Fedee to “turn the f— around.”

A cop punched Fedee in the face, knocked him down, and then other officers put their knees in his back and handcuffed him, Fedee says.

During the confrontation, a cop put his hand around Fedee’s throat, the suit says…

“We will review the allegations and investigate the facts once we are served,” a Law Department spokesman said.

The NYPD declined comment.

 

 

 

 

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.

By Us, For Us: The Crucial Role of the Black Press

Griot: Fran Kaplan, EdD

The black press has played a vital role, both in advancing the ideals of American democracy and in supporting African American identity and culture.

Samuel Cornish and John B. Russworm, editors of the first African American newspaper, Freedom's Journal.

Samuel Cornish and John B. Russworm, editors of the first African American newspaper, Freedom’s Journal.

The first newspaper owned and operated by African Americans, Freedom’s Journal, was founded in New York City in 1827 by Reverend Peter Williams, Jr. and other free black men. They appointed community activists Samuel Cornish and John B. Russworm as editors. The goal of Freedom’s Journal was to oppose New York newspapers that demeaned blacks and supported slavery. (New York state’s economy depended on slavery, because its textile mills processed southern cotton, which accounted for half its exports.)

In the first issue of Freedom’s Journal, Cornish and Russwurm declared, “Too long have others spoken for us, too long has the public been deceived by misrepresentations.” Their second objective was to build a common African American identity through “the moral, religious, civil and literary improvement of our race.”

Ida B. Wells

Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (July 16, 1862 – March 25, 1931) was an African-American journalist, newspaper editor and an early leader in the civil rights movement. She documented lynching in the USA, showing how it was often a way to control or punish blacks who competed with whites. Wells was a skilled and persuasive rhetorician, and traveled internationally on lecture tours.

Freedom’s Journal had subscribers in eleven states and Washington D.C., and in Canada, Europe, and Haiti. The paper covered local, national, and international events. The paper also celebrated the achievements of African Americans. Its editorials spoke out against injustice and debated controversial issues such as the resettlement of free blacks from the U.S. in Liberia in West Africa.

This tradition of crusading journalism was continued by black abolitionists like David Walker (An Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World) and Frederick Douglass (North Star). Ida B. Wells, who was born a slave, became one of the first American women to own a newspaper (The Free Speech and Headlight, in Memphis, TN). She also wrote for other newspapers, both black and white-owned. Her investigative pamphlets that analyzed and fought against lynchings and Jim Crow are still used today (Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases and The Red Record).

One of the longest running black newspapers, the California Eagle was founded in 1879 by a former slave, John J. Neimore, for African American migrants arriving from the South. The paper would serve Los Angeles, California, for eighty-five years. Upon Neimore’s death, his employee, Charlotta Bass, bought and ran the paper. Bass was an activist for social justice inside and outside of her newspaper. The pages of the Eagle campaigned for the abolition of enforced segregation though racial covenants, increased participation of African Americans in politics at all levels, and the patronizing of black businesses by blacks as a matter of principle under the slogan “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work.”

Charlotta Bass published the California Eagle in Los Angeles. An ardent worker for human rights, she was the first African American woman as a candidate for US Vice-President.

Charlotta Bass published the California Eagle in Los Angeles. An ardent worker for human rights, she was the first African American woman as a candidate for US Vice-President.

Charlotta Bass also helped found and run such community institutions as Industrial Business Council to fight employment discrimination in such important companies as LA Rapid Transit, Southern Telephone, and the Boulder Dam. She served as co-president of the LA chapter of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, as director of the NAACP’s Youth Movement, and national chair of the Sojourners for Truth and Justice (a black women’s organization that protested racial violence). She was a pioneer of multiracial struggle, fighting for the release of Chicanos (Mexican Americans) convicted of murder by an all-white jury. In 1952, Bass became the first African-American woman to run for Vice President, as a candidate of the Progressive Party.

Racial discrimination in Indiana, Kansas, and Illinois prevented law school graduate Robert S. Abbott from practicing his profession, so in 1905 he founded The Chicago Defender. He built it into the most widely circulated, powerful, and successful black-owned newspaper of all time. Abbott employed talented writers, among them Gwendolyn Brooks, Walter White, and Langston Hughes. When white newspaper distributers refused to circulate The Defender in the South, he created his own clever “underground” network: African-American railroad porters who secretly carried his paper around the county  on trains.

Robert S. AbbottThe paper’s slogan was “American race prejudice must be destroyed.”  Abbott’s other goals included the opening up of trade unions, government jobs, and police forces to African American workers. The Chicago Defender provided firsthand coverage of the series of white race riots known as the Red Summer Riots of 1919. The paper is credited with stimulating the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to northern cities by publishing migrants’ stories, describing the North as a place of prosperity and justice, showing pictures of Chicago, and running classified ads for housing. The Chicago Defender continues to be published today at www.chicagodefender.com.

Many African American newspapers declined during the late 1950s and 1960s, during the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, because white-owned papers had finally began to hire black journalists and compete for black readers. Today you can get a variety of African American news and views on such issues as anti-black violence or reparations from such outspoken journalists as Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic), Charles Blow (New York Times), and Melissa Harris-Perry (MSNBC) working in “mainstream” media.

Newsboy_selling_the_Chicago_Defender

A newspaper boy selling the Chicago Defender.

The good news is that the black press is alive and well. It continues to play a crucial role in our racially divided society. Its vital discourse with the public–locally, nationally, and internationally–is conducted through print, broadcast, and online media. Whether they work in black-owned and operated media or in the black perspectives sections of white-owned media, African American journalists offer a corrective balance to how issues and images are commonly represented in white outlets.

Each week America’s Black Holocaust Museum selects articles and broadcasts about current events from the outlets listed below and posts them to our Breaking News blog.

 

A Very Short List of National Black Press Outlets

Ebony Magazine's print cover, August 8, 2015. Ebony was founded by John H. Johnson and has published continuously since 1945. This monthly magazine reaches 11 million readers. Its digest-sized sister magazine, Jet, is also published by Johnson Publishing Company.

Ebony Magazine’s print cover for August 8, 2015. Ebony was founded by John H. Johnson and has published continuously since 1945. This monthly magazine reaches 11 million readers. Its digest-sized sister magazine, Jet, is also published by Johnson Publishing Company.

Online

theRoot.com

theGrio.com

Jet Magazine

Ebony (also in print)

Essence (also in print)

In Print

Black News Directory (A listing of dozens of some of the 200+ black publications published in the USA – from the American Legacy Magazine to Hip Hop Weekly.)

National Newspaper Publishers Association (and links to member papers of the NNPA black press in each state)

 

Black Perspectives Sections within White-Owned/Operated Media

Ethel Payne, known as the First Lady of the Black Press, speaks with a soldier in Vietnam. Payne was a city reporter and later Washington correspondent for the Chicago Defender in the 1950s and '60s. (By Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, HarperCollins)

Ethel Payne, known as the First Lady of the Black Press, speaks with a soldier in Vietnam. Payne was a city reporter and later Washington correspondent for the Chicago Defender in the 1950s and ’60s. (By Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, HarperCollins)

Shadow and Act (on Cinema of the African Diaspora)

Huffington Post Black Voices 

NY Times Black Culture and History section

National Radio:

900AMWURD.com

 

 

 

 

IreneMorganBlack Press in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Newspapers

Television

Radio

Sources:

Report: 70 percent of African-American children can’t swim

From thegrio.com

Study finds minmority swimming gap

Study finds minmority swimming gap

A recent study by the USA Swimming Foundation found that 70 percent of African American and 60 percent of Hispanic children do not know how to swim.

According to the CDC  black children drown a rate three times higher than their white peers.

“We need to address this issue and we need to address it immediately,” said James Morton, President, YMCA of Greater Hartford.

Morton says number of factors contributes the statistics, but the main one is access.

“Access to affordable   swim lessons that are conveniently located within communities is the real challenge,” he said.

Morton says the lack of public pools in inner city areas that is now creating a generation of minority children with little to no water safety education.

He says that there is a trend  in cities where the pools are shut down and instead  install sprinkler  systems  and water parks  that  provide  cooling for children ,but do not provide  swim lessons or water safety lessons.

Morton is now making it his mission to open more pools in areas where minority children do not have access.

Census: Minorities now surpass whites in US births

By HOPE YEN of the Associated Press

racial and ethnic minorities make up more than half the children born in the U.S.,

racial and ethnic minorities make up more than half the children born in the U.S.

For the first time, racial and ethnic minorities make up more than half the children born in the U.S., capping decades of heady immigration growth that is now slowing.

New 2011 census estimates highlight sweeping changes in the nation’s racial makeup and the prolonged impact of a weak economy, which is now resulting in fewer Hispanics entering the U.S.

“This is an important landmark,” said Roderick Harrison, a former chief of racial statistics at the Census Bureau who is now a sociologist at Howard University. “This generation is growing up much more accustomed to diversity than its elders.”

The report comes as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on the legality of a strict immigration law in Arizona, with many states weighing similar get-tough measures.

“We remain in a dangerous period where those appealing to anti-immigration elements are fueling a divisiveness and hostility that might take decades to overcome,” Harrison said.

As a whole, the nation’s minority population continues to rise, following a higher-than-expected Hispanic count in the 2010 census. Minorities increased 1.9 percent to 114.1 million, or 36.6 percent of the total U.S. population, lifted by prior waves of immigration that brought in young families and boosted the number of Hispanic women in their prime childbearing years.

But a recent slowdown in the growth of the Hispanic and Asian populations is shifting notions on when the tipping point in U.S. diversity will come — the time when non-Hispanic whites become a minority. After 2010 census results suggested a crossover as early as 2040, demographers now believe the pivotal moment may be pushed back several years when new projections are released in December.

Read more of the story here.

Room for Debate: Is Hollywood too Whitewashed?

From the New York Times

Cast of ABC's "Scandal"

Cast of ABC's "Scandal"

The virtually all-white cast of the HBO comedy “Girls” has generated debate about why so many television programs have few nonwhite actors in major roles. Shows like “Scandal,” a new ABC
drama starring a black actress, Kerry Washington, in a leading role, are rare exceptions.

Why are executives not casting more minorities? Are show runners afraid of compromising their storytelling, or is something else at play?

Read the discussion here.

California School Suspensions Issued At Higher Rates To Racial Minorities, Students With Disabilities

California School Suspensions

California School Suspensions

Racial minorities and students with disabilities are suspended at substantially higher rates than their white and non-disabled peers, according to an analysis of discipline data from nearly 500 California school districts. Researchers said the disparities are a civil rights issue and cause for alarm.

While 7.1 percent of all California students were suspended from school at least once during the 2009-10 school year, the rate was as high as 18 percent among blacks, 11 percent among American Indians and 13.4 percent for students with disabilities. The rate was 7 percent among Latinos and 3 percent among Asians and Pacific Islanders.

Read more of the article here.