Monday, July 29, 2013
What Black Parents Should Tell Our Sons? By Gary L. Flowers Executive Director & CEO Black Leadership Forum, Inc. July 18-25, 2013 Last week’s injustice to the life and legacy of Trayvon Martin takes its infamous place in the annals of United States history, along side the 1857 Dred Scott Supreme Court ruling, the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court ruling, the 1955 Emmett Till murder, and the 1963 fire hosing and Church bombing of Black children in Birmingham, Alabama, and the 2010 murder Oscar Grant while in handcuffs. Each was a singular moment in American history, yet reminded the world of the unequal justice and “open season” on Black people in America. As was the question of Black families then, today, following the targeting of Trayvon, Black parents sense another “open season” and are asking: What should we tell our sons? In an ideal America parents—of any color—should only tell their sons to be honest, hard working, faithful, fair, and respectful, among other virtues. Of course, the America in which we live, filled with the false notion of White supremacy, is a tale of two turnouts for boys whose names begin with the letter T. Imagine one is named Trevor. One is named Trayvon. Trevor is White, blonde-haired and blue-eyed. Trayvon is Black, brown-haired and brown-eyed. Both Trevor and Trayvon are typical teenage boys who are testing their proverbial “wings” in life. Both seemingly have much life in front of them. Both Trevor and Trayvon’s parents love them dearly. Yet, when each exits their respective homes, the feelings of their parents are virtually in two different worlds. The White parents have no fear their son will be racially profiled. The Black parents know that racial profiling of their son is a real and, perhaps, regular possibility. We know how Trayvon’s life so violently ended. Now that we have analyzed and been agitated to action by the acquittal of Trayvon’s murderer Black parents should tell their son’s the following ten things: 1. Dress like you wish to be treated. Police and “want-to-be” cops profile certain dress such as no belts, sagging pants, white tank tops etc. Although wearing a hoodie in the rain, as Trayvon did, should be free from profiling. 2. Take driver’s license photo with blazer, white shirt and tie (at least white shirt and tie), unless you choose cultural attire. 3. Give your name and ask their name, if asked for identification. 4. Be polite, without being pious; cordial, without being cowardly. 5. Pull over in nearest lighted area. 6. Turn on interior lights in car. 7. Place hands on top of steering wheel. 8. Announce intention to reach for wallet or identification. 9. Call Police immediately after traffic stop and identify location to ensure that there was an official stop recorded by Police dispatch. 10. Write detailed account of stop. Moreover, we must teach our sons competence, courage, commitment, and compassion. We must teach them Black history. We must teach them past legal gains can be reversed if each generation does not remain vigilant. We must teach them that American economic downturns most often lead to a rise in racism against Black people. We must teach them not to feel entitled to anything. We must teach them that an empty intellect makes the most noise. We must teach them that ideas are intellectual currency. We must teach that comfort breeds complacency. We must teach them that injustice, like Italian Dressing, must be shaken. We must teach them that the garden of the mind must be cultivated for weeds. We must teach them that a liar is worst than a thief. We must teach them a good reputation is worth riches. We must teach them their aspirations should exceed their grasp. Lastly, we must teach our sons that we are the composite of all whose memory we cherish. Trayvon’s tragedy is marbled in our memory, and should inspire all conscientious Americans to sharpen our swords against injustice, wherever it may be, and to whomever it may be targeted.
Policy Priorities: Where is the American Dream? By Gary L. Flowers Executive Director & CEO Black Leadership Forum, Inc. March 7-14, 2013 “At the banquet table of nature, there are no reserved seats. You get what you take and you keep what you can hold. If you can’t take anything you won’t get anything, and if you can’t hold anything you can’t keep anything. And you can’t take anything without organization” A. Philip Randolph Once upon a time the “American Dream” was thought to be life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as defined by an adequate-paying job, a house, and equal opportunity for a higher standard of life. In 2013, recent public policy decisions have sounded the alarm clock of unthinkable unemployment, home foreclosures, and a national feeling of regression for most Americans. New words such as “sequester” have added incomprehension to injury. Where did the American Dream go? In short, too few Americans have profited too much, at the expense of too many in the last 60 years. Tax policy has permitted “American” corporations to virtually pay no taxes while exporting jobs to low-paying countries around the world. “American” banks have been allowed to receive free “bailout” funding with no requirement to make new loans (or restructure them) to ordinary people who were targeted for sub-prime loans to generate more profits for the banks. Moreover, little regulation of hedge funds let them make huge sums of money by essentially betting against the American economy, which opened the door of despair for many. However, the adage “knowledge is power” prevails in understanding how our nation’s spirit of growth for all sectors of economy has been weighted to the wealthy. One excellent source is the People’s Guide to the Federal Budget by the National Priorities Project. The People’s Guide provides basic information in plain language for ordinary Americans to follow their tax money through the federal budget, separate substance from the “spin” of politicians, compare policy priorities in federal budget to those of most people, and increase citizen involvement in how government works at the national, state, and local level. The familiar phrase of “power to the people” is now exampled by the rise of the Tea Party in 2009 and Occupy Wall Street in 2011. In a similar way, the People’s Guide prepares people to affect progressive public policy. Another informational resource is Who Stole the American Dream by Hedrick Smith. In the book Hedrick Smith lays out a historical timeline which reveals how the “American Dream” was built and how it was decimated. For example, Smith’s timeline traverses Henry Ford’s common sense idea in the early 1900’s to pay workers a good wage in order to afford American products such as Ford automobiles. Ford’s policy led to the American auto industry providing annual wage increases, health benefits, and merit promotions that other American industries followed. One result was a CEO to worker income ratio of 40:1 in 1950. From 1945 t9 1973 employee productivity and pay rose over 90%. Smith’s timeline goes on the reveal the agreed personnel policy of leading American CEO’s in the 1960’s, commonly known as the “virtuous circle of growth”, or, in other words, a happy worker is a productive worker. In addition to progressive corporate policy, the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations with outside agitation of civil rights and consumer rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph Nader helped to enact public policy in the form of consumer protections, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965, Immigration Act of 1965, Fair Housing Act of 1968, Equal Protection Agency, and Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA). Simultaneously to progressive public policy formation, Republican Presidential nominee Barry Goldwater reversed progressive partisanship and planted the seeds to what would become today’s Tea Party. In 1971, conservative attorney Lewis Powell (from my hometown of Richmond, Virginia) issued the infamous “Powell Memo” calling for increased corporate policy activism to benefit the wealthy, thereby reversing the progress for ordinary Americans. Accordingly, corporate CEO’s organized the Business Roundtable in 1971 to raise an army of corporate lobbyists to benefit the greedy over the needy in nearly every American industry. From money management to manufacturing; from agriculture to automobiles a race to the bottom ensued for lower corporate taxes and workers’ wages. By 1998, regulations separating commercial banks from investment banks were repealed and a banking bonanza to bilk hard-working Americans began. Like the first 75 years of the 19th century two-thirds of the 20th century would see progressive policy yield to policy for the rich in the last 25 years. We, the ordinary people, must make extraordinary efforts to organize and affect the change we want to see occur by demanding of the government fairness and justice. For example, we should at least support: • Full-employment legislation sponsored by U.S. Representative John Conyers (House Resolution 870) • Moratorium on Home Foreclosures • Forgiveness of nearly all student loans for 5 years • Legislation for livable wages (based on costs in each city/town) • Expand Social Security and Medicare • Enact Employees Free Choice Act • Expand Parent-Plus Student Loan Program • Reinstate Jobs Council • Reinstate Defined Benefit Pension Plans • Maintaining Minority Business Development Agency in Department of Commerce When we fight together, we win!