Archive for April, 2009

An Open Letter to President Obama: Your decision to not attend World Racism Conference is shameful and disgraceful

April 20, 2009

I simply could not believe my ears when I heard that the Obama Administration was not going to attend this year’s United Nations Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa. I romantically thought that since the Bush Administration walked out on the Conference in 2001, you would actually attend yourself and even go meet with former South African President Mandela, make joint statements, etc. etc. I haven’t been this off on a whim in quite a long time.

Mr. President, I do not believe that you were obligated to attend the conference because you are the United States’ first African American President. That will never be a reason I would expect you to do anything. The reason your refusal to at least send a delegation to the conference is so disgraceful is because you claimed throughout the campaign that you wanted to engage the global community. Mr. President, engaging the global community doesn’t just mean going to meet world leaders and privileged college and high school students. When you’re traveling abroad, you have to also be engaged in speaking to issues that have served as the basis for many of the issues we face as a global community.

Mr. President, I am hard-pressed to find any other issues that have served to keep one group oppressed and the other in high esteem and privilege other than race and religion. These two words have been used to make slavery, the Holocaust, the Crusades, the Trail of Tears, the Armenian Genocide, the Rwandan Genocide, and many other global atrocities acceptable. This conference seeks to affirm the right of all global people to have the same right to the pursuit of happiness as everyone else, yet your loyalty to Israel prevents you from taking part in this event. In truth, your loyalty to Israel should be the reason why you should attend.

I actually went and read the statement on racism by the Conference. The statement clearly acknowledges that it wants an end to anti-Semitism and anti-Arabism. It fully acknowledges that the Holocaust occurred and says it should “never be forgotten.” As a matter of a fact, here are the statements from the 62-page document that your administration has been working to change for the past few months:

“We are concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation. We recognize the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to the establishment of an independent State and we recognize the right to security for all States in the region, including Israel, and call upon all States to support the peace process and bring it to an early conclusion…As for the situation in the Middle East, calls for the end of violence and the swift resumption of negotiations, respect for international human rights and humanitarian law, respect for the principle of self-determination and the end of all suffering, thus allowing Israel and the Palestinians to resume the peace process, and to develop and prosper in security and freedom…”

What more can be said Mr. President? Do you want the statement to say: “We acknowledge that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is completely the fault of the Palestinians.”? The statement they provided above could not at least get you to send a delegation? Attending the Conference does not mean that you have to sign on to everything. Attending means you simply contribute to the dialogue on “Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.” Mr. President, as you well know, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the only conflict in the world. The Conference also deals with issues such as child labor and sex trafficking.

Mr. President, as long as you continue to walk lockstep with (or behind) Israel, you will never be able to credibly engage the world community on issues of race and injustice. Though Israel has suffered tremendously during this conflict, you and I are smart enough to know that whenever there are adults engaged in a conflict, the only people who are 100% innocent are the children. As it has been said, when two elephants battle it’s the grass that gets trampled. Your administration needs to seriously reevaluate how you choose to engage the global community and you can start by recognizing the grievous mistake you made by boycotting this conference.

Teens get life without parole, but Manson and Son of Sam still get parole hearings?

April 13, 2009

A recent article posted on CNN stated that there are over 70 13-14 year olds who have been imprisoned for life without the possibility of parole. Most of these incarcerations are for murder, and some are for kidnapping and sexual assault. Those who advocate for this type of sentencing have stated that those who commit these crimes can never be reformed, regardless of age. The truth of the matter is that as long as American society continues to place more emphasis on punishment versus reform, the supporters of teen life without parole might have a case, however, the way the laws currently stand, imprisoning teens for life is the ultimate form of American hypocrisy.
The Judeo-Christian principles that this country was founded on stress the importance of forgiveness. Furthermore, every religion I know that is practiced in America stresses not only the importance of forgiveness, but the power of it. I am not pointing this out to say that any teen who commits a crime should automatically be forgiven and sent on her way. What I simply mean is that when giving a child life without parole, we should really look at his background in order to determine why his actions occurred and then see if there is any way to improve the child’s environment. As the saying goes “What kids see is what they’ll be.”
Case in point. CNN’s featured case was that of Quantel Lotts. At 14, Lotts killed his brother-in-law (stabbed him to death) after horseplay went awry. Lotts was raised in a crack house with a crack-addicted and drug-selling mother. He was also sexually abused and when he was taken by the State at aged 8, he wreaked of urine, had horrible teeth, and had scars all over his body. He committed the crime while both his parents went away for a week to do cocaine. Do you think you might have some anger management issues if you were raised in that environment? Why not see that his psychological needs are met rather than determining that he is a throwaway.
Can you briefly think back to your past? Maybe you did not commit murder, kidnapping, or sexual assault (or maybe you did), but you had someone who believed in you. Maybe some of you reading this were incarcerated for your crime or got away with a lesser crime with a slap on the wrist. Maybe you’re just that person who never got caught. Are you the same person you were back when you made your mistake? Would you like to be judged now for what you did then? Why do we not give our youth the same chance? What makes us so divine that we can map out the course of someone else’s life after only 13 misguided years on the planet?
Lastly, I find it shameful that people such as the Son of Sam and Charles Manson still get parole hearings. They committed these crimes as adults. The Son of Sam actually has the luxury of denying his parole hearings because he feels he is undeserving of parole. The minds of teenagers, especially, early teens, are not fully developed in any way, shape, or form and they depend on their parents or others for guidance. Short of that support, our children will go astray. We as a community should take responsibility for bringing them back into the fold as opposed to trying to score political points with the lives of our future on the line. By the way, that killer-for-life Lotts is now an avid reader of Dean Koontz and wants to be a lawyer. Now he has been robbed of helping other children not go down the same path. Let’s get it together people.

An open letter to Amb. Andrew Young: why did you support rapper TI but not Obama?

April 1, 2009

So rapper TI (born Clifford Harris) has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison for gun possession and other charges. At his sentencing Ambassador Andrew Young, you among many other prominent African American community members came out to voice your support for him. You praised TI’s visit with you to a clinic for paraplegics as one reason as to why TI is a credit to the community. You then evoked the Civil Rights Movement and offered comparisons of white-on-black then to black-on-black violence now. According to CNN, you even stated that you regarded working with Harris not so much as a chance to help him but more as “an opportunity for him to help” you. This is profound on many levels.

First Ambassador Young, what is it exactly that TI taught you that no black male student at Morris Brown, Morehouse, Emory, Georgia State, or any school that has a black male student who got it right the first time teach you? Outside of us lowly students who are irrelevant unless we get into trouble then redeem ourselves as celebrities who find Jesus at just that right moment, were there not any other celebrities like NBA Hawks player Joe Johnson who are not convicted felons with whom you could have traveled? Though you may have learned from TI, many of us, especially the youth, are learning the wrong lesson from you and other members of your generation who choose to “identify with” these celebrities at opportune times. Are there any other rappers you will reach out to or must they catch a case first?

Let’s all be clear. I am all about forgiveness and I am all about 2nd chances. However, I am focusing on the bigger picture Ambassador Young. Though TI may have spoken to (the term “mentor” requires a longer commitment than a TV season) many students about guns and violence, his lyrics since his first album in 2001 have done more to denigrate the black community as opposed to uplift it. It’s great to talk to students now, but what about the thousands of boys and girls, men and women across this country who went to jail or died trying to copy what they heard in TI’s songs? Of course TI is not solely responsible for the ills of our community, but do we have to make him a bigger celebrity because he broke the law?

The truth of the matter Ambassador Young is that TI performed his community service in order to reduce his sentence. He was still granted a reality show and released a multiplatinum selling CD entitled “Paper Trail.” All of this while working to reduce his sentence to a prison that has yet to be determined because the court wants to make sure he’s close to his family. So basically TI’s celebrity status reduced his sentence, kept him in the television spotlight, will get him a prison at Club-Fed close to his family, helped get him a multiplatinum album, and will probably be allowed to release another album while incarcerated. Where exactly is the penalty for the crime Ambassador Young? What message are we sending to our youth exactly?

What baffles me most Mr. Ambassador is how you could support TI in this nonsense but not support President Obama during his presidential campaign. It was fine to support your friend Senator Clinton because you knew her and I didn’t expect you to support Obama because he’s black. What I did not understand is why you chose to measure his blackness to the amount of black women he slept with vs. Bill Clinton—ultimately declaring Bill the winner because he jokingly slept with more. I guess when it comes to views on black women, you and TI do have something in common. Even after Obama clinched the DNC nomination, you were still nowhere to be found but we can find you in court supporting TI?

Ambassador Young, you have an extremely distinguished career of service not only to the black community but to the globe. I truly appreciate what your generation has done to make my life better. You have also obviously been committed to young people over the years but your support of TI sends the wrong message. Though TI is indeed capable of redemption, you send the world the wrong message by expressing support for a convicted felon whose body of work represents everything you have been against for you entire career, particularly that whole non-violence thing. You should be using your time and influence with the youth to uplift those who don’t have to be convicted of a crime before they dedicate themselves to service. I am interested to see your response if TI is released and goes back to his old ways. Until then, come back to us.