Race & Ethnicity

Black Kids Accused of Causing Their Own Deaths, From Tamir Rice to Emmett Till

As in the infamous 1955 murder of a black teen, society sought to taint the character of a 12-year-old black boy recently killed by police with the sins of his father.

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File) In a Monday, Dec. 1, 2014, file photo, Tomiko Shine holds up a picture of Tamir Rice, the 12 year old boy fatally shot on November 22 by a rookie police officer, in Cleveland, Ohio, during a protest in response to a grand jury's decision in Ferguson, Missourim to not indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, in Washington. I f we are to believe Cleveland police and city officials, 12-year-old Tamir Rice caused his own death. That is, his actions—holding a toy gun in a public park—led to his November 22 shooting death at the hands of a police officer. And Emmett Till wolf-whistled at a young white woman in a Mississippi country store. This is not a non sequitur, my friends. The similarities between the cases of Tamir Rice and Emmett Till shouldn’t escape anyone’s notice. The language of blame, the alacrity with which white men see black boys as threatening men, and the attempts to paint Rice’s family as criminals whose...

Selma March Commemorated By Politicians Who Support Gutting of Voting Rights

The 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday—the catalyst for passage of the Voting Rights Act—is being remembered at a moment when voting rights in the South are at their most precarious in half a century.

(AP Photo/file)
(AP Photo/File) In this March 7, 1965, file photo, state troopers use clubs against participants of a civil rights voting march in Selma, Alabama. At foreground right, John Lewis, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, is beaten by a state trooper. The day, which became known as "Bloody Sunday," is widely credited for galvanizing the nation's leaders and ultimately yielded passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This article was originally published by Facing South , the website published by the Institute for Southern Studies. T his weekend, tens of thousands of people—including nearly one-fifth of the U.S. Congress and President Obama — are descending on Alabama to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the famous Selma to Montgomery march. The irony is rich: The 1965 Selma march — and the violent "Bloody Sunday" caused by the reaction of Alabama troopers, which horrified the nation — is credited with speeding passage of the Voting Rights Act , one of the crowning...

CPAC Labor Panel Does GOP No Favors in Outreach to Latinos, Women

Organizing among fast-food workers and home health-care aides has clearly gotten under the skin of anti-labor leaders—even as they boast of another anti-union triumph in Wisconsin.

(Photo: Ron Sachs / CNP via AP Images)
(Photo: Ron Sachs / CNP via AP Images) Governor Scott Walker, Republican of Wisconsin, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National at National Harbor, Maryland on Thursday, February 26, 2015. He's expected to sign new anti-union legislation, passed by the Wisconsin Senate on the day before, into law if, as is likely, the bill passes the state assembly. O n February 26, day one of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, a panel convened on the state of the labor movement. To describe the tone of presenters as triumphant would be an understatement. At the Thursday afternoon breakout session titled “There’s No ‘I’ in Teamsters: Obama’s Bow to Big Labor Bosses,” panelists discussed a long list of topics, ranging from the salaries of top union leadership to “pernicious” attacks on franchisers of fast-food restaurants, whose workers have taken to the streets to demand predictable schedules and livable wages...

CPAC, Congress and 2016: How Immigration Continues to Pull the Republican Party Down

(Photo: Ron Sachs/CNP via AP Images)
(Photo: Ron Sachs/CNP via AP Images) Former Governor Rick Perry (Republican of Texas) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National at National Harbor, Maryland on Friday, February 27, 2015. I f you want to understand the challenge Republicans face in their two goals for the next two years—to keep their control of Congress from turning into a disaster, and to win back the White House—all you have to do is look at the way they've handled the issue of immigration. They've spent the last few years trying to find their way to a coherent policy consensus that helps, not hurts, their electoral fate in the near and far future. It isn't as though no Republicans have any ideas. But every time it comes up, they just seem to be digging themselves into a deeper hole. The explanation has to do with where the party's center of gravity lies. As Tom Schaller details in his new book The Stronghold: How Republicans Captured Congress But Surrendered the White...

Historian as History-Maker: Isabel Wilkerson Calls All of America to Account for Racial Injustice

The acclaimed author of The Warmth of Other Suns is not about to let the North off the hook. A conversation with the chronicler of the Great Migration.

(Photo: Joe Henson)
(Photo: Joe Henson) Isabel Wilkerson, author of the award-winning book, The Warmth of Other Suns , the story of the Great Migration of African Americans to the North. T his summer, Ta-Nehisi Coates published a compelling argument for reparations in The Atlantic . This nation, he argued, has inherited a debt. We ought to repay the community that we as a nation have hurt most. In its entirety, the headline read: The Case for Reparations : Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole. The idea? You can stop slavery, you can stop Jim Crow, you can stop discriminatory housing policies, but it doesn’t stop the bleeding. And the first step to healing is reparations. The idea of reparations for African Americans once had credibility, but in recent decades the notion has been scoffed at. Reparations are thought to be...

America's Only Black Piano-Maker Soldiers on Through Slights and Triumphs

When musician Warren Shadd decided to manufacture a line of high-tech pianos based on his own designs but with little capital, everyone thought he was crazy.

(Photo: Amanda Teuscher)
(Photo: Amanda Teuscher) Warren Shadd, the world's only African-American piano manufacturer, shows off the harp he designed for his line of grand pianos. “ No one gave me a million dollars,” Warren Shadd says from behind the nine-foot-three-inch concert grand piano he designed. “How do you do this with no money?” A million dollars is certainly helpful when starting any business. But if you want to be the first African American to manufacture products as capital- and labor-intensive as a line of pianos and don’t have that kind of money, it helps to have the mind of both an engineer and an artist, creative talent, an indelible work ethic, and a musical pedigree inherited from a family that was an integral part of Washington, D.C.’s mid-century jazz culture. Not to mention connections in the music business and a great ability to generate buzz. American popular music owes a lot—in some respects, nearly everything—to African Americans. So it may be surprising to learn that there are no...

Anti-Choice Activists Dishonor Black History, Co-Opting Language of #BlackLivesMatter

But do they join the protests around the country calling for an end to police brutality? Not so much.

(AP Photo/The Register-Guard, Chris Pietsch)
(AP Photo/The Register-Guard, Chris Pietsch) Alveda King (center), niece of the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., joined about 75 others in an anti-abortion prayer vigil at the Planned Parenthood office in Glenwood, Oregon, Monday, February 4, 2013. King has traded on the name of her famous uncle to become a leader in the right-wing anti-abortion movement. F or decades, a great debate has raged in this country between those who believe in the human right to a safe and legal abortion and those who call themselves “pro-life” and consider abortion to be morally wrong. The anti-choice community has always used shaming tactics. Whether touting faulty and confusing statistics or showing, to women entering reproductive health clinics around the country, gruesome Photoshopped images of what they say are aborted fetuses, anti-choice activists have relied on strategies designed to inspire fear and shame in the women they target—essentially, anyone considering getting an abortion. In recent...

'Selma' and 'The Birth of a Nation': A Tale of Two Films, 100 Years Apart

A century after D.W. Griffith's artful abomination, Selma succeeds by telling the true story of everyday people who come together to achieve the improbable.

T his year marks the 100th anniversary of D. W. Griffith’s infamous and influential film The Birth of a Nation . This anniversary is more significant than simply marking how far we have come since a time when joining the Ku Klux Klan could be depicted in the mainstream media as the way to heal our national wounds. The Birth of a Nation centennial, as coincidentally observed by the nationwide release of Selma , directed by Ava DuVernay, commemorates our enduring national desire to see our history performed and embodied. Since its premiere, The Birth of a Nation has been heralded as a landmark in film. For decades, critics and historians sidestepped its racist content to focus on the film’s pioneering techniques of editing and camera work, especially cross-cutting, panning/tracking shots, and close-ups. Despite this, the film was controversial from the start. The NAACP was stalwart in protesting it, particularly in New York during its nearly year-long run in the city. Many objected to...

How Mindfulness Can Transform Movements for Racial Justice and Equality

While Black History Month is rightly steeped in regard for the struggles and triumphs of the past, consciousness in the present is what will move us forward through the other 11 months of the year.

(AP Photo/Edward Kitch)
(AP Photo/Edward Kitch) The kind of mindfulness exemplified by Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, shown here at a 1966 news conference with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., could transform movements for racial and social justice. The American civil rights leader and the Buddhist master came together to call for a halt to the U.S. bombing of Viet Nam. This essay is published by The American Prospect in partnership with The OpEd Project's University of Texas at Austin Public Voices Fellowship. B lack History Month is like a meditation retreat where mindfulness is the goal, but it is not being cultivated in our everyday actions. In Buddhism, we say "mindfulness off the cushion" is the real aim of practice. Gil Fronsdal offers a wonderful analogy instructive even for those unfamiliar with Buddhist practice, describing meditation as “ mindfulness with training wheels .” In fact, #blacklivesmatter contains the seeds of a bona fide mindfulness movement within and across racial groups because...

Not Just Kumbaya: Multiracial Coalitions Yield Pragmatic Results for the Common Good

New research suggests that simple reminders of historic and contemporary discrimination can galvanize cross-racial coalition-building. And that's in everybody's interest.

(AP Photo/David Goldman)
This article is published by The American Prospect in partnership with The OpEd Project’s Public Voices Fellowship at Northwestern University. (AP Photo/David Goldman) Protesters hold up their hands while chanting "hands up don't shoot" outside Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church where The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached, as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks inside to members of the community during an interfaith service, Monday, December 1, 2014, in Atlanta. T he Copenhagen shootings this past week once again have sparked fears around the world—including in the United States —of the threats of homegrown terrorism. Some, including Ed Miliband, leader of Britain’s Labour Party, urge world leaders to respond with unity in the face of rising intolerance in Europe towards both Muslims and Jews . Here in the United States, leaders like U.S. Representative Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota—the first Muslim elected to Congress—and members of his heavily Muslim district have...

A Talent for Storytelling

Rick Perlstein tells how Reagan imagined his way into the American psyche.

(AP Photo)
This book review is from the Fall 2014 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here. Simon & Schuster The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan By Rick Perlstein 880 pp. Simon & Schuster $37.50 I n 1959, as the Cold War heated up and the economy cooled down, President Dwight Eisenhower received a letter from World War II veteran Robert J. Biggs. Tired of hearing the president explain the complexities of the modern world, Biggs begged Eisenhower to lead the nation with firm assertions rather than “hedging” and “uncertainty.” The former general responded that such guidance by authority was imperative in a military operation but fatal in a democracy. Self-government demanded that men reject easy answers and instead carefully weigh the often contradictory facts about great issues facing the nation. Just as Eisenhower did, Rick Perlstein’s new book, The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan , illuminates the deadly attraction of...

Beyoncé Misses the Point of What Gospel Music Means to Black Americans

The selection of Queen Bey to deliver a song identified with Mahalia Jackson ignored the importance of spiritual conveyance in the music that moved a people to action. 

(Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)
(Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP) Beyoncé performs "Take My Hand Precious Lord" at the 2015 Grammy Awards ceremony. This essay is published by The American Prospect in partnership with The OpEd Project's University of Texas at Austin Public Voices Fellowship. A ny recognition of black history and culture in this month or the next must acknowledge the central role spirituality and religiosity have played in the lives of African Americans. In the face of the killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and countless other black men and women who have needlessly lost their lives, if we ever needed faith before, we sure do need it now. So it was with great interest I watched the Grammys and reveled in the power and resonance of John Legend and Common performing “Glory” the song they wrote for the movie Selma . Then my heart sank instantly when a rendition of the gospel song “Take My Hand Precious Lord” was performed by Beyoncé. Historically, spirituals and gospel music played...

Photo Essay: Vigil for Slain Chapel Hill Muslim Students

While the media lit up with arguments over whether or not Craig Hicks's execution-style killing of three young Arabs was a hate crime, the UNC community gathered to commemorate the lives of the slain. 

(Photo / Jenny Warburg)
This editor's note has been corrected to accurately state the academic affiliations of the slain students. O n February 10, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha was in her apartment in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with her husband, Deah Shaddy Barakat, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, when a man came in and shot the three of them, execution-style. The newlywed couple was in their early 20s; Razan Abu-Salha was 19. Barakat was a student at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry, where his wife, Yusor, was recently accepted for admission. Razan Abu-Salha attended North Carolina State University. Neighbor Craig Hicks was subsequently charged with the murders. Law enforcement officials said that Hicks's actions stemmed from a parking dispute; Barakat's father and many others called it a hate crime motivated by the murderer's contempt for either his targets' Islamic faith, or against Muslims, period. Family and friends of Barakat and the Abu-Salbas gathered on the university...

Chapel Hill Murders Are About More Than a Parking Dispute

Fights over space—whether in subways or suburban neighborhoods—are more often contests about privilege.

(Photo / Jenny Warburg)
(Photo / Jenny Warburg) Mourners at vigil in The Pit at University of North Carolina/ Chapel Hill on February 11, 2015, where the lives of Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, and Deah Shaddy Barakat, who were killed in Barakat's apartment, allegedly by neighbor Craig Hicks, who shot each of them in the head. I have three categories of Facebook friends who are, like me, North Carolinians or University of North Carolina alumni. The first are deeply crushed by the murder of three young Muslim people in Chapel Hill on Tuesday. The second group is also horrified, but part — if not most — of their horror derives from their dismay that mass murder could occur in their idyllic and upper-class town. Then there’s the third group whose members are, at best, are in denial; at worst, they’re willfully blind. For those unfamiliar with the idiosyncrasies of my home state, Chapel Hill is known as a mythically progressive oasis in a red state, and it’s squarely in the Triangle, a...

Will House Whip Scalise Disavow David Duke's Latest Claim About Him?

The white nationalist and former Klansman says the House Republican "agreed with all my ideas."

(AP Photo/Burt Steel)
(AP Photo/Burt Steel) Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke speaks to supporters at a reception Saturday, May 29, 2004, in Kenner, Louisiana. This article originally appeared at Right Wing Watch , the website published by People For the American Way. L ast month, [former Ku Klux Klan official] David Duke stopped by the white nationalist radio show “The Political Cesspool” to discuss his relationship with House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, who reportedly spoke at a 2002 gathering held by Duke’s European-American Unity and Rights Organization when he was a state lawmaker in Louisiana. Duke blamed the controversy on the supposed Jewish establishment, which he claimed controls the media and wants to throw “European-Americans” into gulags, and which he said sees Scalise as a potential threat down the road. Duke said that he consistently won “over 60 percent of the popular vote in [Scalise’s] congressional district” in his various campaigns for elected office, and therefore people who...

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