A Courageous FBI Director

Eddie Bernice Johnson Texas' 30th District
Eddie Bernice Johnson
Texas’ 30th District

James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, recently said that a healthy dialogue concerning the issues of race and policing was necessary if American society wanted to prevent more highly questionable killings of African-American males by members of law enforcement.

In a very candid address to an audience of students and professors at Georgetown University in the nation’s capitol, Director Comey, who was appointed to head the FBI by President Barack Obama, said that all police officers perceived black and white men differently, and that the history between law enforcement and African Americans was severely tainted.

All of us in law enforcement must be honest enough to acknowledge that much of our history is not pretty,” said Director Comey who has led the FBI since 2013. “At many points in American history law enforcement enforced the status quo, a status quo that was often brutally unfair to disfavored groups,” he added.

Director Comey, a former U.S. Deputy Attorney General in the administration of former President George W. Bush, said that the historical relationship between African Americans and the police “should be a part of every American’s consciousness.” He said that the relationship should be studied and remembered.

I applaud the honesty with which Director Comey approaches an issue that should concern all people of goodwill and prudence. Just last year, communities across our country experienced violent and non-violent protests in the wake of the deaths of African American males who were slain by police officers.

During his speech, Director Comey said that the acrimonious relationships between the police and community members could be changed if the police and the people they were sworn to protect communicated more closely with one another.

Like Director Comey I believe that differences between people can be changed. We must continue our discussions around concepts such as Community Policing. We must be brutally honest and not afraid of offending each other’s sensibilities. There is too much at stake for us to shy away from the realties that confront us.

To his credit, the director of the FBI has taken a huge step in the right direction for all of us. We must continue the discussion, and engage people in constructive dialogue. We must begin now. If not, the painful experiences of our past will be the realities of our future.

Pardon the Interruption

James Thomas Jones III, Ph.D., M.A., M.A., M.A. Associate Professor of History
James Thomas Jones III, Ph.D., M.A., M.A., M.A.
Associate Professor of History

Although I can neither tell you where I was nor what periodical I was reading, I do remember that I was somewhere reading a random news story about former President George W. Bush. The article, told from the perspective of those who knew the former President personally, verified much of what I, and the rest of the world, intuitively knew about him. According to those from his past, the scariest thing about old George was that he had no interest in anything. According to his close friends, his intellectual past contained neither a ‘Eureka’ moment nor an epiphany that sparked his interest in any topic or subject matter. Put simply, according to his collegiate counterparts, Bush was intellectually dull, uninspired, a damn imbecile.

I am certain that you are wondering why I am broaching this topic of President Bush’s well documented intellectual feebleness, particularly as my usual intellectual terrain are issues dealing with African-Americans, it is not flowing from a sadistic desire to ‘beat a dead horse’ by reiterating the intellectual inadequacies that under girded everything that the former President thought or said, rather it allows me to address a similar evil that is rearing its head within the Black community; the appearance of a significant portion of African-American youth who are consistently exhibiting an intellectual curiosity that would make our former President appear scholarly; put simply, they have no interest in anything beyond some droning popular culture topic, reality show, or niggardly event posted on the internet. I cringe when I think of what the world has in-store for this next generation of African-Americans; I wonder, yet already know the answer to my query, are they preparing themselves to live within a hostile and unforgiving America?

As a historian, I recognize that the current listlessness infecting African-American collegians is a historical anomaly. The alluded to disruption began when African-Americans unwisely attempted to assimilate with a hostile, politically organized, and economically formidable ‘white’ society. I refer to this moment as being historically peculiar because it fails to reflect one crucial aspect of the African-American struggle, that being that proud people’s indomitable pursuit of education ‘by any means necessary’. Put simply, stolen Africans, and their descendants, maintained both their humanity and an obvious belief that “after the darkest night, always comes a brighter day.”

When enslaved African-Americans emerged from chattel slavery, the vast majority held few tangible possessions. However they were in possession of the following: (a) an unceasing determination to worship God, (b) a desperate desire to locate lost kin, and (c) a belief that literacy and education were keys to their future progress. Our people attributed much of their oppression at the hands of a horrifically hostile white community to the fact that they lacked even a rudimentary education.

African-Americans have longed believed that education is the crucial difference-maker between ‘them that have and them that don’t.’ The vast majority of African-American parents have placed their belief in a simple formula for success; a quality education removes a significant obstruction to their child’s success. My grandparents conveyed their belief in this formula when they admonished each of their offspring that education “was the only thing that the white man can’t take away from you.” Such mantras are publicly displayed each time an older African-American joyously smiles when a grandchild graduates from high school or college.

There appears to be an innate understanding amongst most civilized people regarding the power that a relevant education bestows upon its possessor; how else can we explain the consistent attacks upon African-American education by those who oppose Black progress. I find it fruitless to rehash the many occurrences of whites attempting to undercut African-American educational pursuits; rather, this posting addresses a far more dangerous, and largely unprecedented, foe in the battle to uplift the race via educational pursuits. To the surprise of many, this opponent has successfully resisted the overtures of African-American educators, the foot soldiers in the vicious battle to educate the next generation of Black youth. The formidable opponent I speak of is the absence of intellectual curiosity, a condition that is currently infecting many of our children with the same vigor that allowed it to control the previously discussed President George W. Bush. It is relatively common for many of my students to behave as if I am interrupting their busy day during my lectures. If I did not know better, I would be convinced that they have much, much, much more important things to do than attend class, take notes, study, and prepare for exams.

Undoubtedly, for large swaths of African-American students, certainly not all of them, they see little utility in education, particularly, if it is not directly tied to their acquiring material goods. For many of my students, education’s lone utility is found in its ability to allow them to increase their access to additional material goods. Such a stance betrays the storied history of their ancestors who battled for the right to secure an education. Despite their relative illiteracy, they had sense enough to recognize that education was a primary building bloc in preventing the politico and economic exploitation of their kind from hostile outsiders. Such understanding emboldens me to order my students to turn their cell phones off while in my class and to recognize that the opportunity to pursue an education is a privilege that they did not earn; rather it was gifted to them by those who came before them. To their chagrin, until they learn this lesson, I will continue to interrupt their day and point them towards education and explain to them the ultimate utility of education, the protection of their community against hostile outsiders who have historically, and still seek to, rob and pillage their community to provide for their own.

Border Crisis: A Defining Moment of Who We Are as a Nation

Rev. Al Sharpton
President, National Action Network

When protesters recently blocked buses full of undocumented children from reaching a border patrol processing facility in California, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Chanting unbelievably cruel and vicious slogans like “nobody wants you,” these anti-immigrant protesters were yelling at the most vulnerable among us — children fleeing regions where murder, rape and other violent crimes are creating havoc for innocents. Yes, we are a nation of laws, but we are also a nation that believes in welcoming the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning for freedom.

These aren’t kids looking to go to Disneyland, or trying to get a job; they are running from catastrophe to be with family members in the United States, or to find refuge here in order to stay alive. As we wrestle with policy and budgets, we must also wrestle with how we will be defined around the world — and how history will record it. We must respond without delay, but that response must show our balance between securing our borders and the humanity that cannot bear to see children caught in the middle of ugly politics.

In 2008, President George W. Bush signed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which gave expanded protections to children (not from Mexico or Canada) by prohibiting them from quickly being sent back to their country of origin. This was a historic step in the prevention of sex and human trafficking of children that was endorsed by a bipartisan coalition and signed by a Republican President. We didn’t see people yelling for Bush’s impeachment and we didn’t see the sort of political bickering that we are witnessing now.

Today, when President Obama wants to tackle the problem, he is getting pushback from every corner. Instead of working with him to establish a humane resolution to an urgent humanitarian crisis, politicians, pundits and those with their own agendas are using defenseless children as pawns in a dirty game of politics. I for one am disgusted.

Countries around the world have their own immigration laws and methods of dealing with a recurring theme: desperate people searching for peace from volatile parts of the world. And nations everywhere thrive and prosper from the contributions of immigrants and the children of immigrants — including right here in the U.S. We especially are a nation of immigrants; their influence was, and is, present throughout society. That is an undeniable fact. We are also a country that prides itself on certain morals and beliefs that include concern for children who have nowhere to go. How can we sleep at night if we send kids back to areas where they face the very real possibility of being killed, kidnapped or trafficked? Yes, securing the border is vital to our own security, but clearly, these migrant children weren’t running from border security; on the contrary, they are running towards it with the hope that they or someone can help.

Throughout my years championing for civil rights, analyzing politics and advocating on behalf of the voiceless, I am disturbed the most when harmless children suffer because of politics or detrimental policies. Gang activity that is occurring in areas to our south largely because of the U.S.-Mexican war on drugs is fueling much of the unrest and tragedy these young ones and their parents find themselves in.

Source: Huffington Post

LBJ Summit: Carter Highlights Inequality As Strong Civil Rights Issue in 2014

CarterAUSTIN-Looking back on America’s past, Former President Jimmy Carter reminded Americans that in 2014, inequality remains one of the major issues in the country.

“We are pretty much dormant now,” on the race issue, Carter said during his sit down session Tuesday at the LBJ Civil Rights Summit in Austin. “I think too many people are at ease with the still-existing disparity.”

Carter was referring to the “gross disparity” and inequalities that exist between black and white people in employment and education quality.

The 89-year old former president is the first of four living U.S. presidents speaking at the  event celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Civil Rights Act of 1964. The LBJ Presidential Library is hosting the Civil Rights Summit and will be a series of panel discussions keynote addresses that reflect on the nature of the civil rights legislation passed by President Lyndon B. Johnson while examining civil rights issues in America and around the world today.

Carter reminded the audience of key government statistics that show that inequalities do still exist.

One key statistic was government statistics on unemployment. The Black unemployment rate stands at 12-percent, compared to about 6-percent for Whites.

Even though he praised Johnson for his efforts to change civil rights attitudes in the 1960s, he reminded citizens that America has fallen short in the 50 years since improving on the measure and bringing about equal rights and pay for all.

Politically, the majority of whites vote Republican and see racial discrimination against blacks as mostly a thing of the past, blacks vote overwhelmingly Democratic and see racism as an ongoing problem.

Another issue he blasted is the opening up of political campaign financing and contributions as not good for civil rights, democracy and fair political representation

“A lot of that money pours into the campaigns is spent on negative commercials. … So by the time the election’s over, you have a polarized Texas or polarized Georgia, red and blue states. Then, when people get to Washington, they don’t trust each other,” he said.

Carter, the 39th president of the United States, was born October 1, 1924, in the small farming town of Plains, Georgia, and grew up in the nearby community of Archery. He attended Georgia Southwestern College and the Georgia Institute of Technology, and received a B.S. degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1946. In the Navy he became a submariner, serving in both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets and rising to the rank of lieutenant.

On July 7, 1946, he married Rosalynn Smith of Plains. In 1953, he resigned his naval commission and took over the Carter farms, and he and Rosalynn operated Carter’s Warehouse, a general-purpose seed and farm supply company in Plains.

He quickly became a leader of the community, serving on county boards supervising education, the hospital authority, and the library.

In 1962 he won election to the Georgia Senate.

Growing up in Georgia, he recalled being influenced by black culture and the history of difficult obstacles, odds and conditions that blacks had to overcome and endure in his beloved state.

It was those situations that caused him to call for the end of racial discrimination after he was elected governor of that state in 1970. He became Georgia’s 76th governor on January 12, 1971.

He later was the Democratic National Committee campaign chairman for the 1974 congressional and gubernatorial elections.

Carter elected president and served as president from January 20, 1977, to January 20, 1981.

In 2002, Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2002 “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.”

Johnson began his quest for a more just and honorable America with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the most transformational civil rights legislation since Reconstruction and a crucial step in the realization of America’s promise. In the years that followed, LBJ passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

“LBJ’s courage changed my life,” he said. “His courage changed America.”

During Carter’s presidency, he faced some difficult challenges and with some successes. Some significant foreign policy accomplishments of his administration included the Panama Canal treaties, the Camp David Accords, the treaty of peace between Egypt and Israel, the SALT II treaty with the Soviet Union, and the establishment of U.S. diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. He championed human rights throughout the world.

On the domestic side, the administration’s achievements included a comprehensive energy program conducted by a new Department of Energy; deregulation in energy, transportation, communications, and finance; major educational programs under a new Department of Education; and major environmental protection legislation, including the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

Carter also spoke of unequal pay, violence and discrimination against women in other countries and of problems in the United States. He also laid the groundwork for future discussions on the role of women and the treatment and abuses of women as the new civil rights battle for modern times.

He has worked to advance human rights, with a focus including women’s rights, addressed in his book, “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power.

“Human rights abuses are everywhere in the world,” he said. “America must set the example for the world.”

The permanent facilities of The Carter Presidential Center were dedicated in October 1986, and include the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum, administered by the National Archives.

The Carters have three sons, one daughter, nine grandsons, three granddaughters, four great-grandsons and five great-granddaughters.

Bill Clinton will speak today and President Barack Obama is scheduled to give the keynote address Thursday. George W. Bush will be the event’s final speaker Thursday.