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Are you asking what the hell is #pointergate? Well here’s the answer. A local news channel in Minneapolis (KSTP) aired one of the most egregiously racist news stories I’ve seen from a mainstream news network in a long time. Two young African American community organizing volunteers were out registering people to vote. Both volunteers were working for a very well respected organization named “Neighborhoods Organizing For Change”. While out doing this work they run into the city’s mayor Betsy Hodges who was up for reelection. They spoke with the mayor and then asked to take a picture with her. The video below is a KSTP news report of what occurred during the community volunteers encounter with the mayor. It’s hard to believe that this is a real news story and not a parody of a news story. Warning: This should make your blood boil and stomach turn no matter what race or political affiliation you have.
*There’s a second video at the end of this blog with the volunteers talking about their work in the community and why it’s important to them.
Completely INSANE! It’s stories like this that makes me, as an African-American male, extremely cynical about where this country is heading. It seems like everything no matter how small or insignificant gets interpreted as criminal behavior when you’re an African-American man. This story reveals one of the main reasons African Americans are distrustful of law enforcement and local news. If a black man isn’t smiling in a photo, they’ll describe his expression as menacing. If a black man is pointing or giving the peace sign in a photo, they’ll say he’s throwing gang signs. If a black man wears jogging pants and a hooded sweatshirt while going for a run in his neighborhood, he’s a thug casing houses to rob. If a black man complies with an officers orders too fast or eagerly, he’s obviously reaching for a gun. If a black man questions an officer about why he’s being harassed or targeted, he’s arrested or shot for non compliance or labeled combative. A cell phone in the hands of a black man are constantly mistaken as a weapon by law enforcement. Young black males exhibiting normal teenage rebellion of authority will get himself arrested and labeled a felon for the rest of his life, while the same exact behavior by white teenage males are considered youthful indiscretions that rarely lead to an arrest or a lifelong label stripping him of his rights as a citizen and limiting his chances of becoming a successful productive member of society.
Events such as this exposes the inequality that has fractured this country into two very different Americas. There’s one America where you’re assumed to be innocent until proven guilty. Where you’re given the benefit of the doubt when contradictions arise. Where you’re treated with respect by law enforcement. Where a mistake or a temporary lack of judgement does not define who you are. Where poverty isn’t seen as a character flaw. And then there’s another America where a lifetime of honesty still leads people to question your word. Where 2nd chances are rarely given. Where anyone who needs help or assistance from their government is looked at as undeserving or lazy, while others who benifit from government assistance are looked at as honest citizens who are being hurt due to a bad economy. Where unarmed men and young adults can be murdered without cause while their killer is never held accountable, and in some cases, treated as heroes in conservative media. Where pointing out or discussing racism of any kind gets you labeled racist. Where an ethnic sounding name is enough to negatively effect your job search possibilities and get your resume tossed in the trash before even considering your qualifications. Where police openly target you and overly scrutinize your behavior strictly based on your race and you’re powerless to stop it. An America where your life and self-worth isn’t valued or respected by the people who are in power. An America where a petty theft or any criminal act no matter how small can retroactively justify the taking of your life with the approval of many conservatives and conservative media alike.
After the civil rights movement America seemed to be bridging the divide between those two very different Americas. Then Ronald Reagan became president and ever since then there’s been a concerted effort to destroy the progress that our county worked so hard to achieve. President Clinton entering office slowed the decline but did little to address or acknowledge the growing divide. Then came Fox News and the rest is history. The election of Barack Obama seemed to bring out the absolute worst in conservative media. They convinced a large portion of the country that it’s ok to hold racist views and it’s ok to believe racial stereotypes. The popularity of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh
are huge indicators that this divide will continue to grow and lead the country into some very rough times ahead. I hate to end any blog without showing a glimmer of hope, or giving my readers something positive to hold on to, but sadly I don’t see any hope with this issue. If it were just a problem of awareness, writing blogs like this would make me feel like I’m doing my part to help solve things… but it’s not about awareness. Media highlighting stories like this are everywhere. Especially on social media sites. So the information and verifiable truth is out there. The real problem is people who aren’t willing to change because they benifit from the inequality. That’s a character issue that can only be solved in the hearts of each and every American citizen. Until then “pointergate”, Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, John Crawford, Levar Jones, Eric Garner, Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride, Oscar Grant, etc will continue to occur.
*UPDATE: A Socially Urban reader sent me this suggestion. If you’re outraged about this pointergate racial news story call the station and let them know. Tell them you want reporter Jay Kolls and the producers who put this on air to issue an apology and some kind of reprimand for Jay Kolls’ blatent lack of journalistic integrity. Here’s the phone number to KSTP – 612-588-6397.
Russian President Vladimir Putin presented his case for caution in Syria directly to the American people. Putin wrote an op-ed for Thursday’s New York Times that went live online Wednesday night. In the article he titled “A Plea for Caution From Russia” Putin warned that a potential strike by the United States in Syria could unleash a new wave of terrorism, increase violence and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. He goes on to list a number of other possible negative outcomes resulting from a US missile attack, but everything he wrote in this piece has already been said. There was absolutely no new information in this article at all. After I finished reading his list of helpful warnings, to me the whole thing made him look like a slick opportunist trying to snub the president while taking advantage of America’s current foreign relations dilemma knowing that our president is in a tough situation domestically. Although Putin makes a few good points in his op-ed and on the surface he may seem sincerely concerned, we still must remember who this man is, and what he is capable of. Putin is a former KGB thug who behaves more like a dictator than an elected president. He talks about respecting international law and norms but rarely does this himself.
Remember the name Paul Klebnikov? He was an American journalist writing for Forbes Magazine. Because of his knowledge about Russian business Forbes reassigned him to Moscow to head a Russian version of Forbes. While he held that position he published a number of scathing articles about Putin and other Russian billionaires and soon after started to receive death threats. After a year in his new position he was found murdered and authorities said it looked like a professional hit. President Bush appealed directly to Vladimir Putin for help in finding those responsible and Putin refused. That murder was never solved and after that there were no more scathing articles written in Russia about Putin. So even if President Obama wanted to write a response op-ed to be published in Russia, he would have a very hard time finding a publication to publish it. Things like this occur in Russia every day but Putin sits on his high horse to lecture us Americans about what’s right and just.
Putin’s op-ed also makes a case for nonintervention when it comes to foreign governments. This is almost laughable coming from him because he refused to extradite NSA hacker Edward Snowden (who stole US government secrets) so he could face trial by the American Justice System. This does not sound like a man who wants to help Americans out of the kindness of his heart. I’m not even going to get into the atrocities Putin has bestowed upon his neighboring country of Chechnya and their ongoing contentious sometimes violent relationships with Latvia, Lithuania. And I don’t remember Mr. Putin and his government calling on the UN security council in 2008, when they decided to intervene in Georgia. The intentions and motivations of this stubby 3ft little man is to embarrass our president and make us look like war hungry aggressors. You don’t write a piece like this if diplomacy is what you’re seeking. Granted President Obama’s perceived indecisiveness opened the door rather wide for foreign critique but when it comes from someone like Putin the hypocrisy is inescapable.
There was one point in Putin’s op-ed that I did agree with, it was the part about “American Exceptionalism”. Every time former President Bush would bring this up in a speech or press conference I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. When President Obama said it in his address to the nation last night it made me cringe. Coming from an African American president who’s witnessed the dangers of elevating one race over another to justify inequality, he should know better. No matter who you are or where you were born, we were all created equal in the eyes of God.
My position on Syria has not changed or wavered one bit. I think it’s a mistake for us to bomb them for using chemical weapons. Diplomacy diplomacy diplomacy, we have to give it a chance. Launching missiles to bomb a country who does not pose an immediate threat to our country is absolutely positively the wrong thing to do. I can sympathize with the president’s position and I understand why he feels so strongly about punishing Syria for gassing all of those children and innocent bystanders. I’ve seen the video footage and I agree that no human should be able to do that without consequences, but we must exhaust every possible avenue before we try to solve it with our military. I want to see the senator Barack Obama from ten years ago when he was anti-war and voting no on the war in Iraq. Where did that guy go? When you or I watch the news and see horrible things going on around the world there’s not much we as average citizens can do about it. But when you’re the president of the most powerful nation on earth and you see senseless suffering, I’m sure that need to do something is even stronger because you have the power to do something. That moral obligation weighs heavy on every US president. But there are limits to American power. The rest of the world understands this… we as proud American citizens are slowly realizing this as well.