Prodigy dies at 42 and other news of the week The week that was June 19-June 23

Monday 06.19.17

The state of North Carolina, that bastion of civil rights, had a law barring sex offenders from using social media sites, such as Facebook, invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court also ruled that rejecting trademarks that “disparage” others violates the First Amendment; the Washington Redskins, locked in their own legal battle with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, wasn’t a party in the current case but supported the decision, which ruled in favor of Asian-American band The Slants. New York sports radio host Mike Francesa, when learning of the decision, referred to The Slants’ members as “Oriental Americans,” and when told that phrase was offensive, he asked, “You’re telling me that using the word ‘Oriental American’ is a slight?” The 47-year-old husband of Beyoncé announced a new, stream-only album available exclusively to the hundreds of Tidal and Sprint customers. In honor of Juneteenth, a commemoration of the end of slavery, President Donald Trump released a statement praising two white men (President Abraham Lincoln and Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger), and a sportswriter questioned the history of American police and slave patrols. A heady reporter tried Lyft Shuttle, the ride-sharing company’s beta-stage commuter option, which allows riders to “walk to a nearby pickup spot, get in a shared car that follows a predesignated route, and drops you (and everyone else) off at the same stop” — or, in other words, a bus. A data firm hired by the Republican National Committee left sensitive information — including names, dates of birth and home addresses — of nearly 200 million registered voters exposed to the internet; the company responsible, Deep Root Analytics, calls itself “the most experienced group of targeters in Republican politics.”

The Philadelphia 76ers officially acquired the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft, paving the way for the team to draft yet another player with past leg issues. Markelle Fultz, the first pick in Thursday’s draft, not only was traded from 53-win team to one that won just 28 games last season but also briefly considered signing with LaVar Ball’s Big Baller Brand over Nike. A Green Bay Packers fan and Wisconsin resident who, for some reason, has Chicago Bears season tickets, sued the Chicago franchise for not allowing him to wear Packers gear on the sideline at Soldier Field; the Wisconsin man told the court that the Bears “deprived me of my ability to fully enjoy this specific on-field experience.” In other bear news, three New Hampshire teenagers are being investigated for potential hate crimes for assaulting and yelling a racial slur at costumed Boston street musician Keytar Bear, who is black.

Tuesday 06.20.17

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said White House press secretary Sean Spicer wouldn’t appear on camera as much because “Sean got fatter.” Former five-weight boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard offered UFC fighter Conor McGregor one piece of advice for his boxing match against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in August: “Duck.” FBI director nominee Christopher Wray once represented an American energy executive who was being criminally investigated by the Russian government, but Wray deleted that information from his official online biography sometime in 2017. Mattel diversified its Barbie and Ken doll lines, offering different sizes, skin tones and hairstyles, including man buns, cornrows and Afros. For the new heavyset Ken dolls, Mattel originally wanted to market them as “husky,” but, “A lot [of guys] were really traumatized by that — as a child, shopping in a husky section.” Twitter was in an uproar after it was reported that Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot was paid just $300,000 for her role in the critically acclaimed, $500 million movie, compared with $14 million for Man of Steel’s leading man, Henry Cavill; the latter figure was not true. Imprisoned former football player O.J. Simpson, who is up for parole for burglary and assault next month, spends his time in prison watching his daughter’s show Keeping Up With the Kardashians; “He likes to keep up with all the gossip with them,” a former prison guard said. NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, last heard fighting prostitutes in Arizona, has decided to donate his brain to scientists when he dies; Sapp said his memory “ain’t what it used to be.” New York rapper Prodigy, real name Albert Johnson, died at the age of 42; Prodigy, one half of acclaimed duo Mobb Deep, had recently been hospitalized because of sickle cell anemia. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the nation’s top lawyer, hired his own lawyer. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, catching up to the 20th century, signed a bill that raised the age of consent for marriage from 14 to 18. An Algerian man was sentenced to two years in prison for dangling a baby out a 15th-floor window on Facebook, instructing his followers “1,000 likes or I will drop him.” A Canadian man stole a mummified toe that had been used as an ingredient in a hotel bar drink for more than 40 years; an employee said the hotel was “furious” because “toes are very hard to come by.” To test the performative advantages of the microbiome Prevotella, a Connecticut scientist performed a fecal transplant on herself, telling a news outlet: “It’s not fun, but it’s pretty basic.” Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard, at 8:55 p.m. ET, tweeted, “Ok Twitter Fans ,, give me your thoughts , trades or otherwise & Remember 2B-Nice”; five minutes later, Howard was traded to the Charlotte Hornets.

Wednesday 06.21.17

The Pentagon paid $28 million for “forest”-colored uniforms for the Afghan Army, yet “forests cover only 2.1% of Afghanistan’s total land area.” White House aide and former reality TV star Omarosa Manigault signs her name as “the Honorable Omarosa Manigault” despite not being a high-ranking federal official or judge. Despite President Trump once valuing his Westchester, New York, golf course at $50 million, the Trump Organization valued the property at $7.5 million on tax forms, half of the town assessor’s valuation of $15.1 million, to pay less in property taxes. The Russian government, accused by U.S. authorities of spreading fake news to influence the 2016 presidential election, said it will “raise the issue of fake news” at the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, calling it “a problem that should be defined and addressed collectively.” Although terrorism is defined as using violence for political reasons, the FBI said the shooting at a baseball practice for the Congressional Baseball Game by a white man had “no terrorism involved.” Meanwhile in Flint, Michigan, the stabbing of a police officer at an airport by a man who reportedly yelled, “Allahu Akbar” is being investigated by the FBI as an act of terrorism. A group of CIA contractors were fired from the agency for hacking a vending machine and stealing over $3,000 worth of snacks. Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Montana), best known for body-slamming a Guardian reporter last month, was sworn in to the House; the Democratic Party of Montana sent Gianforte an orange jumpsuit for his first day in office. The daughter of two dentists who had enough education to teach their children about stocks and investments, and who, herself, owns a multimillion-dollar company, was taught to save and now plans to retire at 40. In shocking news, a new study found that films with diverse casts outperform films that are overwhelmingly white. A police officer was acquitted of fatally shooting a black man. An auto insurance industry-funded study found that states with legalized recreational marijuana laws had a higher frequency of auto collision claims than states without such laws. Murray Energy Corp. CEO Robert E. Murray sued comedian John Oliver for defamation after the HBO host used his weekly TV program to mock the energy executive, at one point calling Murray a “geriatric Dr. Evil”; Oliver predicted on his show June 18 that Murray would sue him. Hall of Fame professional wrestler Jerry “The King” Lawler, known for calling women’s breasts “puppies” and other sexist remarks, said even he hated the finish of a historic all-women’s match that ended with a man winning. In response to the new American craze fidget spinners, Chinese companies have started selling the Toothpick Crossbow, a small, $1 handheld crossbow that can fire toothpicks 65 feet; parents worry the crossbows could blind young children, and Chinese state media fear iron nails could be swapped in for the toothpicks. New York Knicks president Phil Jackson said he is willing to trade 21-year-old center Kristaps Porizingis, who is 21, with the “future” of the team in mind.

Thursday 06.22.17

ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith, still visibly upset over the recent actions of Phil Jackson, pointed out that the Knicks president’s first front office deal back in 2014 was signing forward Lamar Odom, “who was on crack”; Odom was released from the team three months later. Meanwhile, an NBA prospect said Jackson was “falling in and out of sleep” during the prospect’s workout. Knicks owner James Dolan skipped out on the NBA draft to perform with his band, JD & The Straight Shot, at a local winery-music venue. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who last week said U.S. presidents “cannot obstruct justice,” said President Trump alleged he had tapes of former FBI director James Comey to “rattle” him. The president, who in May insinuated that he had “tapes” of conversations with Comey, tweeted that he, in fact, does not have any such tapes. The lack of diversity at the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal is so dire that some reporters have taken to calling the newspaper “White Castle.” In another example of “life comes at you fast,” Chicago Cubs outfielder and World Series hero Kyle Schwarber was demoted to Triple-A Iowa after batting just .171 through the first 71 games of the season. The trainer for former Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler, in response to his client being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, said he’s met “drug dealers with better morals” than Bulls general manager Gar Forman. Hip-hop artist Shock G, best known for his seminal 1990s hit “Humpty Dance,” was arrested in Wisconsin on suspicion of drug paraphernalia possession; there was no mention of whether or not the arrest took place at a Burger King restaurant. Just days after Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigned from the company amid hostile work environment allegations, some company employees began circulating a petition to have Kalanick reinstated, stating “[Travis Kalanick], no matter his flaws (everyone has them) was one of the best leaders I have seen.” Montgomery County, Maryland, police are using DNA evidence to help create composite sketches of those suspected of sexual assault; the DNA, described as “bodily fluids,” is assumed to be male semen. A New York woman who traveled to the Dominican Republic to get reduced breast implants and liposuction developed an infection and now has a hole in one of her breasts; the woman, who traveled to the Caribbean island for a cheaper $5,000 procedure, will now pay over $10,000 in recovery costs. Famed comedian Bill Cosby is planning a series of town halls aimed at young people, specifically athletes, on how to avoid sexual assault allegations. After nearly three months of secrecy, Republican senators publicly released their version of a replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In unrelated news, only 38 percent of Americans want the president and Congress to repeal and replace the ACA.

FRIDAY 06.23.17

A Trump administration official once filed for bankruptcy because of his wife’s medical bills for treating her chronic Lyme disease. President Trump all but confirmed his former tweets about alleged “tapes” of former FBI director James Comey were an attempt to influence the director’s Senate testimony. Comey, who announced the reopening of an investigation into Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton just 11 days before the Nov. 8 election, refused three weeks earlier to attach his name to a statement on Russia’s involvement in that election because “it was too close to the election for the bureau to be involved.” A North Korea spokesman said the death of American college student Otto Warmbier just days after he was released from imprisonment in the country is a “mystery to us as well.” NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman, who was in North Korea around the same time Warmbier was released last week, said dictator Kim Jong-Un is a “friendly guy,” and the two sing karaoke and ride horses together. Zola, a gorilla at the Dallas Zoo, danced to (a dubbed-over version of) Michael Sembello’s 1996 hit “Maniac.” The St. Louis Cardinals announced their first Pride Night celebration at Busch Stadium; a disgruntled fan demanded that the team “stop forcing this down my throat.” Great Britain, loser of the Revolutionary War, is now putting chocolate in its chili. In response to Pirates of the Caribbean actor Johnny Depp asking an English crowd “When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?” a White House spokesperson condemned the remarks: “President Trump has condemned violence in all forms, and it’s sad that others like Johnny Depp have not followed his lead.” Hours later, New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro, a Trump campaign adviser, visited the White House; last year, Baldasaro said Hillary Clinton “should be shot in a firing squad for treason.” Five-foot-9 Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas said if he were taller he’d be “the best player in the world.” Nearly 500 Syrian civilians have been killed in U.S.-led airstrikes against two provinces in the Middle Eastern country. Former MTV Jersey Shore star Ronnie Magro-Ortiz, describing his breakup with fellow reality TV star Malika Haqq, said he and Haqq were like “oil and water.” He added: “It tastes good with bread, but it’s just not mixing.” A jury deadlocked for the second time in the case of a police officer killing a black man. After less-than-stellar reviews from critics and Jada Pinkett Smith, and a 22 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the Tupac Shakur biopic All Eyez on Me is being sued for copyright infringement by veteran journalist Kevin Powell.

In wake of the hate crimes in Maryland and Oregon, self-protection becomes a priority Highly publicized, race-motivated crimes are forcing black America to think about legal carry … or not

Should we bring a gun?

It’s not exactly the question you think would come to mind while planning a leisurely getaway. But as my husband and I packed for a long weekend of culture, Southern cuisine and a well-deserved rest, it was one we repeatedly and seriously asked ourselves.

We were headed to the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina, where the heat and history can be oppressive. It’s a city that sometimes feels like a foreign country, but it’s as all-American as it gets. You can stand where men, women and children were shackled, poked, prodded, bought and sold — you can feel their ghosts. Some 40 percent of the enslaved in the 13 colonies during the trans-Atlantic slave trade came through the city. And yet, here we are, a black woman and white man, mixing and mingling and applauding with audiences and performers of all races at what’s become a major tourist draw.

In Charleston, the past is never past, as unapologetic racist Dylann Roof proved when in 2015 he chose historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, known as Mother Emanuel, a spiritual and civil rights bulwark, as the site of a hate-filled killing spree, murdering nine parishioners after praying with them for the better part of an hour. In North Charleston, unarmed African-American Walter Scott was shot by a police officer in the back; it was considered imperfect justice when Scott’s killer, Michael Slager, pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights charge after a state jury could not agree on a verdict despite video evidence.

Charleston has its special history. But is it all that different from the rest of America?


In New Orleans, the decision to remove and move monuments to the Confederacy, some erected long after the Civil War’s end, is debated and resisted.

Portland, Oregon, has its own Western brand of exclusionary racism baked in the soil, exemplified by Oregon’s policy barring blacks from living there when the state entered the union in 1859 and the legacy of those actions since then. In Portland, a man has been charged in the murder of two white men and the attempted murder of a third when the three came to the aid of two African-American women, one wearing a hijab, being harangued and harassed on public transportation last month. The accused attacker was known for expressing white supremacist views at rallies and on social media.

In Maryland, my home state, an empty chair took the place of 23-year-old Richard Collins III, a recently commissioned U.S. Army second lieutenant, at his Bowie State University graduation; his life was ended as he waited for his ride at a University of Maryland bus stop. A 22-year-old white man, who was a member of a Facebook group called “Alt-Reich,” has been charged in the stabbing; authorities are investigating whether it was a hate crime.

When crowds in Charlottesville, Virginia, protesting a City Council vote to remove a park statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee marched, shouted and carried flaming torches, all that was missing was a burning cross.

There is aggression in words as well, and no one is immune. So Cleveland Cavalier great LeBron James was not that surprised when a racist slur was spray-painted on the gate of his Los Angeles home.

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you,” the saying goes.

America’s focus has turned to the danger from without, from foreign terrorism and the bad actors entering the country with mayhem in mind. Those are the stories making the headlines, though in truth, domestic terrorism is the threat many people of color fear the most.

The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks attacks by extremists and domestic terrorism and threats by hate groups, which saw an increase in the years of the Obama presidency and continue to rise.

So it made sense for my husband and me to investigate the South Carolina gun laws. The state’s “your home is your castle” Castle Doctrine extends to vehicles and workplaces, meaning our registered piece could indeed travel with us on a journey we hoped would be routine but feared could escalate in an instant.

Laws for self-protection and the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms are tricky and possibly dangerous for African-Americans, as those rights once applied only to whites — and some would say they still do. A registration did not stop legal gun owner Philando Castile from being killed in Minnesota in July 2016 by a panicked police officer, who was found not guilty of any crime this past week despite shooting into a car with a 4-year-old girl as a passenger.

Many, however, have decided taking that chance is worth it, and it has been reported that gun ownership among African-Americans is increasing.

In Charleston, in between programs of opera, dancing and jazz, we made the pilgrimage to Mother Emanuel, quiet and protected. It sits on Calhoun Street, which honors South Carolinian John C. Calhoun, a defender of slavery as a “positive good.”

On these streets, our marriage would have been a crime 50 years ago, before the Loving case removed the legal barriers. In 1998, when South Carolina threw out its unenforceable state ban, 38 percent of voters wanted to keep the pre-Loving status quo.

The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) is planning a memorial to peace and justice in Montgomery, Alabama, acknowledging the lynching and legally sanctioned racial terror that traumatized citizens and left a legacy. “Our goal isn’t to be divisive,” Bryan Stevenson, the director of the EJI told The New York Times. “Our goal is just to get people to confront the truth of our past with some more courage.” The museum “From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration” would be one of many memorials.

Are these reminders needed? Last month, tourists visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington found a noose in an exhibition on segregation. In an email to staff, museum director Lonnie Bunch said, “Today’s incident is a painful reminder of the challenges that African-Americans continue to face.”

Will America face this enemy within?

As for our final decision on that gun, we decided not to carry after all. It would have been legal, but it may not have been wise. We did, however, pack a big honkin’ knife.

Why’d it take so long for some of us to find out about Juneteenth? Some people think that it should be independence day for black Americans

I’ve been celebrating July Fourth for as long as I can remember, but I only learned about Juneteenth last year. Before you ask for my black card, hear me out.

1. Why social media is necessary

It takes a few hours for President Donald Trump’s tweet about a fake word to go viral, but it took almost 20 years for me to learn about a holiday celebrating the end of slavery in Galveston, Texas.

What’s more, I’m not alone. Nine out of 10 college students I know learned about the holiday just within the past five years.

We as a people are lacking education on a holiday that’s supposed to be ours in our classrooms and in our communities. “There’s so much vital history that school textbooks leave out, especially when it’s about African-Americans,” said Daryl Riley Jr., a junior at Hampton University. “Growing up, all I knew was that we were slaves and about Martin Luther King Jr.”

2. Holidays need branding too

The description of Juneteenth is not consistent. The San Diego Union Tribune described it as “a combination of June and nineteenth, the day in 1865 when many slaves in Texas learned they were free. Although emancipation had taken place more than two years earlier, federal troops were sent June 19, 1865, to tell slaves in Galveston, Texas, of their freedom after that news had been kept from them.” The Tribune called it the day slavery ended in America.

The Post Newspaper of Galveston County said it was the day “enslaved people were freed after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was ‘read on a harbor pier in Galveston.’ ”

Al.com says the day commemorates the abolition of slavery.

As a result, it’s hard to tell exactly how many people even observe Juneteenth or whether they know exactly what they are celebrating. The Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau says 40 states around the country host official commemorations.

3. Now that we know, what do we do?

The NAACP hosts annual Juneteenth gatherings to teach new generations about the day.

“Throughout my undergraduate career, I performed annually at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, NAACP’s Juneteenth celebration,” said Alexjandria Edwards, a recent graduate of the University of Michigan. “Each year, I performed Negro spirituals while other artists, traditional folk storytellers, dancers and designers displayed varying forms of black excellence.”

Lyndsay Archer, a junior from Wayne State University, said, “In order for black people around the world and people of color to progress, we must be able to acknowledge and embrace our past history, learn from those experiences, and gain a sense of both pride and humility in our rich narratives.”

Come to find out, many African-Americans have mixed emotions about celebrating July Fourth. After all, blacks weren’t free in 1776.

Lauren Smith, a junior at Howard University, is one.

“I celebrate the Fourth of July because we built this country for free, so every holiday belongs to us.”

Robbie Osborne, a sophomore at Hampton University, doesn’t celebrate July Fourth as a holiday at all. “I don’t celebrate the Fourth of July because it doesn’t represent the liberation and freedom of all races in America.”

I’ve been debating whether I should look at Juneteenth as the true independence day for black people.

I’m aware that the slaves were officially freed by the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier, but I’m in solidarity with some of the last black folks to find out. I hate being the last to find out about anything important.

I will still celebrate July Fourth because it provides my family a chance to take a break from work, to celebrate each other, eat great food and watch fireworks. I appreciate the opportunities afforded to me as an American citizen, but Juneteenth as independence day resonates more strongly for me.

Juneteenth is the celebration of black freedom from slavery in the U.S., so why is it 2017 and so many black Americans are just learning about the holiday?

Perhaps the answer is connected to why freedom, as it was intended by the Founding Fathers, feels like an impossibility for black folks. Given all of the black people in prison, the numerous unarmed black men and women who are killed by police, the wage gap between blacks and whites and all the black girls who are discouraged from rocking their natural hair in schools or at work, I’m dubious about how free we are today.

I have only known freedom, but there are still so many black people who don’t. Like the Solomon Burke song says, “None of us are free if one of us is chained.”

Daily Dose: 6/19/17 Another black person killed by police, this time in Seattle

The fight continues in Washington, D.C. And no, this one has nothing to do with President Donald Trump. On Monday, the Washington Redskins secured a small victory with a Supreme Court ruling that deemed the law preventing the team from registering trademarks with the word “Redskins”— or “offensive trademarks” — as unconstitutional. The controversial team name has been a topic of discussion for decades, but it intensified in May 2013 after team owner Dan Snyder staunchly vowed to never change it. Months later, President Barack Obama joined in, adding, “If I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team — even if it had a storied history — that was offending a sizable group of people, I’d think about changing it.” A year later, the Trademark and Trial Appeal Board ordered the cancellation of the Washington Redskins’ six federal trademarks. Now, three years and several court appearances later, we’re here. Snyder is “thrilled,” according to reports, and team attorney Lisa Blatt praised the court’s decision. The team may have won the war, but something tells me this battle is far from over.

Oh, wait! There is Trump news. Within a few hours of releasing a statement acknowledging Juneteenth, the oldest and most well-known celebration honoring the end of slavery in the United States, the internet quickly drew comparisons between President Trump’s issued statement and former president Barack Obama’s — one focused more on freed slaves, while the other praised men who allowed slaves to be freed. As the statement continues to be debated, most social media users have moved on to criticizing the president’s silence after an overnight van attack in London that left one pedestrian dead and 10 others wounded.

Another day, another non-conviction. If you haven’t heard about the infuriating yet unsurprising acquittal of Officer Jeronimo Yanez in the shooting death of Philando Castile last July. The verdict prompted marches and calls to action across the country. Castile, a 32-year-old cafeteria supervisor and registered gun owner, reached into his pocket to get his license. Fearing that Castile was retrieving a weapon, Yanez shot him multiple times and walks away a free man, as we’ve witnessed so many times before. The same song will continue: The national outrage, pain and frustration and personalized hashtags will roar, then quiet until the next unfortunate encounter.

Two days later, another police-involved shooting. A pregnant woman was fatally shot by two officers in front of several children in Seattle after reporting a burglary earlier that morning. According to police, 30-year-old Charleena Lyles displayed a knife before the two officers opened fire. Although the incident is still under investigation, family members told media outlets that Lyles had been suffering with mental health issues for the past year. The children inside the apartment at the time of the shooting were not injured.

Jay Z adds context to the recent 4:44 ads. We’ve all seen the mysterious salmon-colored background with the bold, black 4:44 displayed directly in the center. The ads, which simultaneously popped up in New York and Los Angeles and on several websites two weeks ago, sent social media sleuths into a frenzy. The only clue: the word “Tidal” in the coding that accompanied the ads. Many speculated it might be a new project from the proud papa of newborn twins, and others hoped it would be specifically about the twins.

Jay Z will be dropping a new album on June 30 as a result of a new partnership between Tidal and Sprint. In addition to the new music, the partnership will support the 1Million Project to help 1 million low-income high school students across the United States gain access to the internet. Free mobile devices and free high-speed wireless internet will be provided to participating students during their high school years.

It’s a win for all.

This Juneteenth, #40Acres40cities is reclaiming land as a form of reparations No one is getting a mule, but a free people can occupy land

Monday marks Juneteenth, otherwise known as freedom on CP time.

Yes, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863. But it wasn’t until June 19, 1865, that the word made it to Texas, in the form of an order read by a Union Army general.

“Blacks greeted the news with the overwhelming joy that accompanies receiving the answer to a life-long prayer,” wrote Judson Jeffries, professor in the African American and African Studies Department at Ohio State University, in “Juneteenth, Black Texans and the Case for Reparations.”

White Texans, on the whole, were not as elated. One celebration of the newly freedmen was interrupted, Jeffries wrote, “when a (white) sword-wielding man nearly cut a black woman in half on the street.” In another instance, a black man who “leapt high in the air to express his delight” was shot between the legs by his slave master.

The reparations of 40 acres and a mule promised to freed people? It never arrived. This year, the Black Land and Liberation Initiative wants black folks to collect on that debt — not in the form of the beast of burden, but the one thing that they’re not making any more of.

On this Juneteenth, in cities across the country, black people will reclaim places and spaces as part of #40Acres40Cities, a direct action coordinated by the BlackOUT Collective and Movement Generation. Reclamation could take the shape of a pop-up park or a community festival in an empty lot. Or it could be the takeover of a space with contested ownership.

Black people’s connection to the land is as deep as it is tenuous. We farmed the land, reaping crops and generating profits for slave owners, profits that undergird families and businesses that exist to this day.

Yet at the same time, we are vulnerable, be it to gentrification, predatory lenders, subprime mortgages or government policies that discriminate against black farmers. The #40Acres40cities action focuses on the South and Midwest, where the concentration of black people is higher. And while the Movement for Black Lives’ website lists some of the participating cities, the exact location may stay secret until the direct action occurs.

“You can’t say, we’ll be at this corner for an occupation,” said Chinyere Tutashinda, co-director of the BlackOUT Collective. “For black folks, when we think about liberation and equality, we have to understand that capitalism won’t get us free,” she said. “In order for it to continue to exist, someone has to be oppressed. … And because of racialized capitalism, it will almost always be black people.”

So while the Black Land and Liberation Initiative’s action Monday is about building communities, the larger mission is to confront the systems, institutions and people who built their wealth on the exploitation of black bodies and labor.

Speaking of wealth, just this month, the Federal Reserve announced that household wealth is up for the first quarter of this year, to $94.8 trillion. But rising tides have never lifted all boats. For every $1 of wealth the average black family has, the average white family has $13, a racial wealth gap that has grown since the Great Recession ended.

But the tropes that conservatives usually rely on to explain this disparity fall short. Here’s what doesn’t close the racial wealth gap, according to a 2017 report: attending college, working full time, spending less or raising kids in a two-parent household.

“We find that white adults who don’t graduate high school, don’t get married before having children, and don’t work full time still have much greater wealth at the median than comparable black and Latino adults — and often have more wealth than black and Latino households that have married, completed more education, or work longer hours,” wrote researchers in “The Asset Value Of Whiteness: Understanding The Racial Wealth Gap.”

Home ownership is often a path to wealth creation, but just over 40 percent of black people own their home, compared with 71 percent of white people.

Not surprisingly, the racial group that benefits most from the status quo believes little should be done. Just over 65 percent of black people but only 21 percent of white people believe the country’s wealth today is “significantly tied to work done by slaves,” according to a 2016 Marist poll. And 58 percent of blacks and 15 percent of whites believe the U.S. government should pay reparations to the descendants of slaves.

If what we’ve done has gotten us what we have, then it would take something almost unimaginable to repair the gap. Something like reparations. While reparations are usually visualized as a check for the descendants of African slaves, land is a suitable option, said Jeffries, who, with several others, started the first Juneteenth celebration in Lafayette, Indiana, 16 years ago.

Every year for more than 20 years, U.S. Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, has introduced legislation to study the impact of slavery on African-Americans and suggest remedies — such as reparations.

His bill fails every year, and there’s no reason to think his 2017 bill will be the exception. Right? “I don’t see any reparations on the horizon,” said Jeffries, “but I didn’t see Obama on the horizon either.”

Pots & pans: We need to celebrate our heroes and heroines both past and present this Juneteenth No matter the when, they are all making it possible for blacks to realize the true American dream

On this date in 1865, black people enslaved in Galveston, Texas, were told the Union forces had won the Civil War and that they were free. Since then, black Americans have marked Juneteenth with jubilation, feasts, strawberry soda and other red drinks.

Today, I raise my glass of strawberry soda to salute some of the people I believe exemplify the continuing struggle to gain full civil and human rights for black people in our country, a struggle that has helped America draw closer to the vision outlined in the Declaration of Independence.

Consequently, I toast LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Since 2010, James has gone from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat and back again, winning three NBA championships along the way. This season, K.D. moved from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Golden State Warriors and led that team to a 4-1 victory in the NBA Finals over LeBron’s Cavs, the defending champs. Furthermore, they triumphed by competing against each other vigorously while respecting each other as athletes and as men.

Although some deride and dismiss the significance of millionaire black athletes deciding their fates, their actions represent a generation of black athletes who feel free to pursue happiness and league championships on their own terms.

I toast broadcast journalist April Ryan and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris from California, wonder women who seek to lasso the truth with their probing questions. They have asked questions that revealed inconvenient truths about the white male political establishment that has sought, without success, to dismiss them and shut them up.

Meanwhile, I toast Ta-Nehisi Coates and Chadwick Boseman. The two Howard University men continue the integration of the nation and the world’s fantasy life. Coates, a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation genius grant winner, has been writing the comic book Black Panther, about a genius inventor and one of the world’s smartest people. Boseman, who has captured the physicality and emotional complications of James Brown and Jackie Robinson on screen, will continue playing the Black Panther in an eponymous 2018 movie.

As Coates and Boseman champion black inclusion in society through a superhero, Lynn Nottage uses ordinary people to help America better understand today’s challenges, which are made worse by racial and class divisions.

She earns a strawberry soda salute with her bittersweet Sweat, her Pulitzer Prize-winning play that explores the end of work and the emotional chaos that follows. Colson Whitehead, a Pulitzer Prize winner for The Underground Railroad gives us a poetic vision of slavery and its aftermath. And Tracy K. Smith, another Pulitzer Prize winner (Life on Mars), and the new poet laureate of the United States, finds majesty in the everyday, just as Gwendolyn Brooks and Rita Dove did before her.

They meld the intellectual ambition of W.E.B DuBois and Booker T. Washington’s veneration for sweat and craft. They show that the road to higher ground is paved with a commitment to excellence. They show that great art is fundamental to our survival. I toast them all.

And I toast all the black people, especially the slaves, lost to the years. They bore the lash. They prayed. They loved.

And they live in today’s triumphs, undefeated and unbowed, now and forever.

In ‘Orange is the New Black’ season five, the show takes its darkest turn yet ‘Orange’ joins the ranks of shows and films that will come to define the Trump era despite being conceived before it

This article discusses the plot and details of the fifth season of Orange is the New Black in its entirety. Spoilers abound.

Remember the good ol’ days, when Orange is the New Black could insert itself into consideration for the comedy category of the Emmys and, despite its hourlong episode run time, such a move was considered reasonable?

Because after all, it was funny, with its satirical look at a specific type of clueless white liberalism — the kind that subsists on a steady diet of Whole Foods, goop and This American Life. We could all laugh at Piper Chapman’s (Taylor Schilling) naïve assumptions about what life would be like in a minimum-security prison and whom she would be able to trust. Orange is the New Black began as a show that ushered in breakout stardom for Laverne Cox and a national conversation about trans people and the injustices they face. It had a hopeful bent, one that whispered the possibility of one day being able to say, this is how life once was.

Granted, that world ceased to exist the moment Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley) was suffocated to death in a chokehold by a correctional officer at Litchfield in season four. Like the titular character of Poussey’s favorite book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, we are down the rabbit hole now. Season five of Orange doesn’t soften the fall either. The inmates at Litchfield can’t see much beyond this time, time and more time behind their bars — any hope of this is how life once was has morphed into this is how life is and will continue to be, far, far further into the future than we ever imagined.

The world of Litchfield worsened considerably as the prison came under the management of MCA, the fictional private prison corporation modeled after the real-life Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Life at Litchfield was never ideal, but once it became a private prison, its crises metastasized thanks to poorly trained guards, many ex-military and all operating under the command of sadistic authoritarian Desi Piscatella (Brad William Henke). Piscatella makes Pornstache (Pablo Schreiber) look like a dancing, toothless bear by comparison: all fright and no bite. Piscatella’s zeal for punishing inmates was what led to the prison uprising in season four to begin with and the cafeteria standoff that resulted in Poussey’s death.

Season five is set during a prison riot that takes place over the course of three violent, chaotic, seemingly endless days. The ladies of Litchfield have taken over the place with the help of a gun, smuggled in by an inept guard known as Humps (Michael Torpey), who is concerned about prisoner retaliation and his personal safety in the wake of Poussey’s death.

The women take the guards hostage and issue demands, although it is the black women who want justice for Poussey who are the most heavily invested in using the riot to change conditions at Litchfield. For others, the first hours of prisoner freedom in Litchfield are a bacchanal. Some women institute a run on the commissary, the kitchen and the pharmacy, while others take the opportunity to simply walk around the campus in the nude, and still others revel in the ability to walk around drunk without fear of repercussions. Flaca (Jackie Cruz) and Maritza (Diane Guerrero) use the opportunity to become YouTube stars and grant makeovers.

After realizing the tampons, cheetos, and takis are a bribe from the governor, rather than an expression of good faith negotiation, the women set fire to them.

But Taystee (Danielle Brooks) and her deputies work to compile a list of the 10 most common requests from the 400 women in the prison:

  1. Fire the current guards and hire ones with proper training
  2. Reinstate the GED program
  3. Better health care (there’s a reference to an inmate who died after guards refused to hospitalize her even though her rotten tooth had gone septic)
  4. Conjugal visits
  5. Amnesty for rioters
  6. An end to solitary confinement and arbitrary cavity searches
  7. Equal treatment regardless of race or celebrity
  8. Internet access
  9. CO Bailey arrested and charged for Poussey’s murder
  10. Free tampons, hot Cheetos and Takis available in the commissary, and more nutritious food in the cafeteria

A couple of women, Red (Kate Mulgrew) and Blanca (Laura Gómez), realize the tactical advantage a prison riot affords them, and they start sifting through guard files in search of evidence that Piscatella is unfit to be working at Litchfield. It turns out they’re right — Piscatella left his last job at a men’s prison after he handcuffed an inmate in a shower and proceeded to scald him to death. Red and Blanca are aided in their mission with the help of pharmaceutical-grade speed, which one of the guards has been smuggling in and keeping in his locker in a bottle marked for energy-boosting vitamins — yet another symptom of Litchfield’s danger and dysfunction.

Despite the deplorable conditions that have led to the Litchfield riot, the writers of Orange is the New Black were not interested in creating pro-prisoner propaganda — far from it. One of the most disturbing aspects of this season is the depth to which it forces us to think about how easily power can corrupt individuals who see themselves as good or, at the very least, not as bad as their tormentors.

Alison (Amanda Stephen), Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore), and Taystee (Danielle Brooks) are committed to seeking justice for Poussey.

JoJo Whilden / Netflix

When inmate Dayanara “Daya” Diaz (Dascha Polanco) gains control of the prison after picking up Humps’ gun and shooting him in the leg with it, it doesn’t take long for the inmates to begin subjecting the guards to the same humiliating treatment they’re protesting. They force the guards to strip down to their underwear, then openly objectify and sexually harass them. When two meth heads get the gun after Daya loses it, they force the guards to amuse them with a talent show dubbed Litchfield Idol, in which one guard sucks up to his captors by going full Magic Mike to TLC’s “Red Light Special.” They force the guards to eat the same prison slop they’re fed day after day, and to relieve themselves in a communal bucket.

To replicate the cruel and unusual hellishness of solitary confinement, known as the SHU (Secured Housing Unit), Litchfield inmates throw the warden, Joe Caputo (Nick Sandow), into the “Poo”: essentially, solitary confinement in the prison’s outdoor porta-potties. The inmates’ actions echo revelations from the Stanford prison experiment and more recently in Mother Jones journalist Shane Bauer’s account of the four months he spent working in a CCA prison in Winnfield, Louisiana.

The worst part of Rogue Litchfield is the way it fails the most vulnerable inmates, namely Suzanne (Uzo Aduba) and Maureen (Emily Althaus), the two most severely mentally ill prisoners there. Suzanne suffers without her antipsychotics and without her regular troupe of protectors, who are busy negotiating the terms of a hostage release with the governor and his aides. Suzanne is left zip-tied to her bunk by the meth heads, who paint her face with baby powder and makeup. Maureen, who was in the infirmary after surviving a vicious lock-in-a-sock attack, will likely die. Her facial wounds are infected to the point of inducing delirium and fever.

Essentially, a private prison system motivated only by profit and shareholder greed created this dangerous environment for inmates and corrections officers alike. It’s what’s set off the chain of events that led to Poussey’s death, the riot, Humphries’ death, Maureen’s likely death and Piscatella’s vengeful spree of inmate kidnapping, scalping and torture.

There was always a moral imperative to Orange, even in its first season. It’s based on the memoir of the same name by Piper Kerman, the character on whom Chapman is based, and Kerman is a devoted and vocal advocate for prison reform. OITNB began as a show that had the radical audacity to make otherwise apathetic people question the prison-industrial complex. It added some drama and some sex and got us hooked. Along with Sunday mornings spent with Melissa Harris-Perry, Orange helped us arrive at a point where Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, could vault to intellectual superstardom, where notions of prison abolition began to work their way into the mainstream, and where @prisonculture became a must-follow account on Twitter. Orange began as a reflection of real-life horror stories that President Barack Obama’s administration and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers were at least trying to end with measures aimed at reforming the criminal justice system, such as rolling back mandatory minimum sentences. Obama remains the only sitting president to ever visit a federal prison.

Brad William Henke as Litchfield’s resident villain, Desi Piscatella.

Jojo Whilden/Netflix

But nothing is outrageous anymore. The most disturbing thing Orange could do in its fifth season, and what’s resulted in a show that’s not nearly as bingeable as its more lighthearted early fare, was explore the far-reaching implications of the private prison system’s greed-driven nihilism. Take, for example, the frightening real-life circumstance of one prisoner whom Bauer wrote about in Mother Jones: a man at Winnfield who lost his fingers and both legs to gangrene after officers refused to hospitalize him in an effort to save money because CCA is required to pick up hospital tabs. It’s entirely plausible that a prisoner could die of sepsis in Litchfield.

The most hyperbole OITNB inserted into the show was done by shooting an episode in which Piscatella has sneaked back into the prison in full riot gear as a horror movie, with Piscatella as the monster hunting down and snatching women one by one. After all, Piscatella’s murder-by-scalding shower was another instance of abuse ripped from the headlines — the real-life Florida prison guards who facilitated and oversaw Darren Rainey’s death weren’t even charged for it.

Orange is not the first drama to reveal the ugly underbelly of the carceral state. Don’t forget about Oz, which began airing in 1997 and practically required its viewers to watch from between their fingers, if they even managed to make it through all six seasons at all. But the tales Orange tells are all the more effective thanks to how easy it is to point to their corollaries in real life. Despite CCA’s best efforts to mask the goings-on inside its facilities, we know about them. It’s virtually impossible for the fictional circumstances of Litchfield to be more devastating than the truth of life at Winnfield Correctional and private prisons like it all over the country.

Like Get Out, Beatriz at Dinner, The Handmaid’s Tale and even the second season of Queen Sugar, the many horrors of the fifth season of Orange is the New Black will likely be remembered as emblematic of the Trump era, even though it was written and shot well before the nation swore in its 45th president, or even elected him. Now, the most nightmarish aspects of Orange reflect a reality that Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is working to maintain and expand, by rescinding an Obama order ending federal use of private prisons and by revitalizing the drug war. It’s one in which a sheriff who presided over the torturous death of one inmate by dehydration and the repeated rape of another has been elevated to the position of assistant secretary within the Department of Homeland Security. The vision the Sessions Justice Department has for making America great again is precisely the one Orange is the New Black has revealed to be barbaric, dehumanizing, expensive and grossly ineffective.

The latest season of Orange forces us to ask ourselves if we’re still the country of Oprah-as-mentored-by-Maya-Angelou. The place that believes when you know better, you do better? Because we are post-Attica, post-Stanford prison experiment, post-Sandra Bland, post-60 Minutes expose on Pelican Bay. The Blacksonian, in part funded by Oprah herself, was built around one of the guard towers from the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, so infamous is its role in American history. Angola is the Lucy in the evolutionary story linking slavery to modern-day mass incarceration, notorious for its long sentences, corruption and reliance on practices such as chain gangs and convict leasing.

Alison (Amanda Stephen), Taystee (Danielle Brooks), and Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore) strategize about what to do with Warden Caputo (Nick Sandow).

JoJo Whilden / Netflix

Part of the legacy of Orange is the New Black is helping us to know better. Because of it, we are able to imagine what life is like in the SHU, and why many consider it to be a violation of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. It’s shown us the many obstacles for released prisoners that lead to skyrocketing rates of recidivism. We know that companies like Victoria’s Secret use prison labor, at a cost of mere cents per prisoner per hour, to manufacture those sexy skivvies we treasure so much. And, thanks to its past two seasons, we know the moral and human costs of treating prison as a corporate moneymaking enterprise rather than a rehabilitative one.

But even when faced with the shameful inhumanity of recent history, even as states such as Louisiana are taking steps toward criminal justice reform, the present and the near future seem to point to a dismal return to a reality we’d agreed was worth ending.

Sheryll Cashin’s ‘Loving’ advocates for a culturally dextrous society A new book sheds light on the birth of white supremacy and how we as a nation can kill it

It’s clear from my conversation with Sheryll Cashin that she has a knack for understanding the big picture. The Georgetown Law professor’s new book, Loving: Interracial Intimacy in America and the Threat to White Supremacy (Beacon Press), captures the scope of racial politics in the United States, and she does so in a remarkably accessible manner. The book’s namesake is of course the landmark 1967 Supreme Court decision, rendered 50 years ago Monday, that nullified all laws prohibiting interracial marriage. While Cashin devotes the middle section of her book to plaintiffs Richard and Mildred Loving, she bookends her analysis of their legal battle with a fascinating history of the birth of white supremacy and its lasting effects on interracial relationships in the United States, and that’s where the eye-opening content lies. She traces white supremacy’s roots in colonial Jamestown not as a natural societal progression but as one born of careful orchestration.

In the 1660s, where the book begins, the law’s obsession with controlling sexuality was less focused on race and more on preventing fornication. But as chattel slavery became racialized, white supremacy was orchestrated through anti-miscegenation laws. The key point that Cashin makes is that the only way to combat something as carefully engineered as white supremacy is to form interpersonal relationships across racial lines. In her words, make a friend. She coins this phenomenon “cultural dexterity,” a term that is the exact opposite of the pervasive “colorblindness.” But it’s a little more complicated than all that, so I chatted with her to better understand how it all fits together.


I wanted to talk about your thesis for the whole book. You’re advocating for the rise of a culturally dextrous class, and that the only way we’re going to get there, to use your words, is if we have a “critical mass” of allies who are willing to participate.

There are some people in the past who’ve made the simplistic argument that if we just all mix up it’ll make race go away and solve all of our problems, and that’s not my argument. What I’m doing in the last part of the book is just documenting what’s happening right under our noses. It’s snowballing in some ways — it’s accelerating. My argument is that perhaps the most important and most impactful thing is friendship. You don’t have to marry or adopt or sleep with a person of another race to experience or acquire this phenomenon that I describe of cultural dexterity. It’s an enhanced capacity for seeing a racial other in their tribe as a three-dimensional human being, and in some ways entering their pain. A growing class of whites is experiencing that, and I believe we’re going to get to a tipping point where we get to a critical mass of whites — not necessarily a majority, but just a critical mass. And those folks are allies of people of color. I believe we will get to a tipping point where, when you take the numbers of culturally dextrous whites and the numbers of politically engaged people of color, that that will be a majority coalition. Political scientists call them a coalition of the ascendant, and that coalition could, with effort, restore politics to being functional. It’s modest but potentially radical.

So you’re taking the “colorblind” society a step further, because a colorblind society isn’t the same thing as a culturally dextrous one.

Absolutely, it’s the opposite. What I see happening is whites, through intimate contact with racial others, acquiring sight. [Whites are] acquiring the ability to see and enter how the world feels to people of color. I am not in favor of colorblindness, and I think most people [inaudible] who profess to be colorblind are either delusional or are not being intellectually honest.

I like the term cultural dexterity. I know a lot of well-meaning white people who say I don’t see color or I’m colorblind, and I don’t think they’re truly like that. I think they don’t have the vocabulary to express what they’re actually doing.

I was trying to introduce a new word to describe what we need to happen and what is happening. I think the people who say that are utterly well-meaning. They are not racist, and they were taught that you’re not supposed to see race. And that’s something white people invented. A lot of well-meaning white liberals say, ‘In this house it’s forbidden to talk about race.’ I’ve had this with students of mine. I teach Race and American Law, where they have to learn and develop comfort, because they were told their whole lives that you’re not to see or talk about race. And you see people of color, they talk about it every day. It’s like brushing your teeth.

Is cultural dexterity a two-way street, or is this something we should expect only white people to do?

It is a two-way street. I’m sure you can think of some examples of people of color displaying a rigidity or intolerance. Sometimes I see this with black people who give mixed-race people a hard time for wanting to express their identity as mixed rather than just black. And that’s an example of lack of dexterity. Look, mixed-race people are one of the fastest-growing populations in this country, and their identity is their business. It’s not your place to tell them they should identify only with one group. So the answer is yes, cultural dexterity is multidimensional. Everybody has to work on developing the skills to accept other people’s realities and other people’s identities. It just so happens, though, that white people in this country are the least likely to acquire dexterity. Why? Because the majority of white people live in predominantly white settings. We’ve had a multicentury orchestrated effort through law and terror of constructing and reifying whiteness. There’s the idea that there should be a white, Anglo-Saxon norm that everyone should assimilate to, so white people have the least practice with having to adapt to other people’s norms. But I do celebrate those who are willing to do the work, and it is work.

Cultural dexterity may be multidimensional, but when people of color do it, it’s more closely tied to assimilation and survival rather than a concerted effort to understand the other side.

A lot of people of color acquire some dexterity just by living in this country, because of going back and forth in different worlds almost daily. They code-switch. People often learn to do this — they have to. You can’t be a person of color without finding some dexterity about entering majority-white spaces and knowing how to negotiate that. Whites have much less practice entering cultures.

Your focus in the book is primarily on person-to-person relationships, but I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on the proliferation of this phenomenon of cultural dexterity on a macro level.

I honestly think the most effective way is to just make a friend. Individuals of all colors need to have some context of their life where they really are practicing pluralism — not assimilation, pluralism — where they’re not calling the shots. They are one voice among many. I think the most effective way of spreading cultural dexterity is having an intimate relationship with a person of a different race. An authentic relationship is one where you’ve built enough trust that you guys can talk about anything without defensiveness. I think a lot of whites in particular are terrified of saying the wrong thing, and frankly a lot of people of color are quick to jump on the slightest error. The easy thing is to just not talk about it. But if you’ve got a friend, and it’s an authentic friendship, where you really spend time together, then you’ve got a context where you can ask questions, and that would be of tremendous value. It’s a much higher-stakes thing to adopt somebody or date somebody.

I want to talk about sex now.

[Laughter] You might know more about that than me, but go ahead and I’ll see what I can do for you.

Don’t worry! There’s an interesting part of the book where you talk about interracial relationships being reduced to a check mark for people on their sexual bucket list. You seem shocked by that. I was wondering if you could elaborate on that kind of “cultural dexterity,” if you will.

My niece tells me that she had white frat boys gunning at her, and she says it definitely felt like, ‘I want to taste that.’

I’ve definitely experienced that.

I think that impulse is not that different from what the slave owners were doing with their slaves. There was this artificiality where they can’t mix, but then they would mix. Interracial sex has been around since time of man. My point is that’s an indicia [of the challenge to white supremacy]. I’m not condoning the fetishization of other people’s bodies. It’s an indicia of the coming down of social taboos. The fact that even the preppy sorority girls are hooking up with black men. I’m not condoning anything, I’m just documenting. A lot of these taboos seem to be coming down, and interracial sex on campuses is an example of that, even if there are some unhealthy motivations going on there.

I graduated last year. There wasn’t a racial barrier when it came to sexual intimacy in campus. I didn’t think people were discounting someone because of their race, but what I did see was a lot of nighttime fetishization and desiring. Maybe you’ll hook up with a black girl —

But you won’t date her.

You won’t date her, you won’t be seen in daylight with her, and you definitely won’t take her home to see your parents. We’re not quite there yet.

But at the same time I do see white boys who are marrying black girls. My hope is that the black girl in that situation will not engage in that [fetishization] and demand from all men, of whatever color, to treat her the way she deserves to be treated. That’s my hope. But I’m not supposed to be preaching here.

No, it’s fine! I love it.

I used to think of this whole anti-miscegenation law, which the Loving case is about, as some side issue, and that the real issue was school segregation and residential segregation. But what I found in my research is that [anti-miscegenation] laws were the main vehicle for constructing white supremacy in this country. The way to try to communicate racial purity is to keep people from having sex with each other, and that’s been going on since the 1660s. And even though 50 years ago the Supreme Court struck those laws down, here we are in 2017 and the ideology is still out there in the ether. We have not put that ideology to bed. And that is sad. I really think that we will really not destroy that ideology until a critical mass of whites decides to be part of the coalition to destroy it. They have to stand up and reject it forcefully, along with allies, in all of its manifestations.

Pots & pans: Troops of color gave their lives for America Remember their sacrifice by fighting for our rights here in America

My cousin Harry’s name is written on a wall in Washington. He didn’t write his name himself. In 1968, his name was written by artillery, mortar and rocket fire that claimed his life in Vietnam. He was 19 and weeks into his tour of duty.

He will always be 19. And his name will stand at attention on a wall: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, a long black-and-granite line into eternity. His name will stand shoulder to shoulder with thousands of other names, representing a tapestry of our Vietnam War dead who were born everywhere from sagging small towns to splintering big cities.

When I close my eyes, I can see Harry’s face, black and proud, black and beautiful. When I close my eyes, I can see him dance to the music. When I close my eyes, I can see his little brother Levi, a Marine, standing straight and tall, saluting his big brother’s casket, the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.

Years later, Harry’s mother told me that her oldest son had enlisted in the service. She remembered her son explaining that the government was going to draft him anyway.

For whatever reason or circumstance, black people have long fought in America’s wars. And some have died, giving what Abraham Lincoln called the fighting man’s last full measure of devotion.

Black troops fought America’s war of American Independence, though many were not free from slavery. More recently, black troops have fought and died in America’s war against foreign terrorism, though at home, the nation has failed to free itself from the chains of anti-black racism.

Next week, as we celebrate another Memorial Day with beer, beaches and barbecues, let’s remember the sacrifices of our troops fallen in war. Let’s hail them with our prayers. Let’s place flowers at their graves. Let’s give poetic, powerful and patriotic speeches.

But let’s remember that those gestures, heartfelt though they might be, fall far short of our responsibilities to generations of past war dead and the nation’s future.

We, too, can fight for America, fight for America’s highest ideals and principles, the America promised in the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution. We can fight in the classrooms. We can fight from the picket lines. We can fight to gain access to voting booths.

Let’s salute the military men and women who died in service to America, especially in war, by joining the fight to make our country a better place to live in peacetime.

If you truly knew what the N-word meant to our ancestors, you’d NEVER use it It was used and still can be used to make us hate ourselves

A few years ago, I read slave narratives to explore the lives of black agricultural workers after the end of the Civil War. The narratives came from the Federal Writers Project of the Works Progress Administration, a program that employed researchers from 1936 to 1938 to interview former enslaved people, producing more than 2,300 narratives that, thankfully, reside online and are fully searchable.

Those whom the law defined as property recounted various unique human experiences — their daily horrors and monotonies, how they freed themselves or learned of their emancipation, the surge of exhilaration upon securing freedom, and how they endured life on the edges of a white supremacist society in the decades thereafter.

As I pored over the narratives, I was struck less by their experiences, as heartrending as they were, than by how their experiences sculpted their self-perceptions. The best explanation of what I gleaned, what social scientists called internalized oppression, describes the psychological trauma that ensues when a person from a stigmatized group believes those negative stigmas.

White folk indoctrinated them into accepting their supposed inferiority. These narratives illustrate the success of this campaign of mental terrorism, and no word conveyed the depth of this internalized oppression more than “nigger.” Now, whenever I hear the epithet, a visual and emotional representation of the heinous process by which a people — my people — were induced to think they were less than trespasses into my thoughts. After years of habitual use of “nigger,” I banished it from my speech to honor the humanity that many never saw in themselves.


The internalized oppression revealed itself in various ways. Sometimes the former enslaved people clearly, perhaps subconsciously, considered themselves subhuman, just like how their former owners regarded them. Jim Allen, for example, dubbed himself his master’s “pet nigger boy” and a “stray” and thought himself privileged because he could sleep on the floor beside his master’s bed. That he likened himself to a fortunate mangy mutt or frisky feline crushed me. The word laid bare a worldview that held black folk as a lower order of being, as when Irene Robertson claimed her former master Mr. Sanders was mean, in part, because “he beat his wife like he beat a nigger woman.”

“Nigger” also signaled antipathy toward fellow black folk. After the end of slavery, Mattie Mooreman went north to Wisconsin with a white family for whom she worked. Members of the family wanted her to go to the circus to watch a black boy’s performance. She told her interviewer, “Guess they thought it would be a treat to me to see another niggah. I told ’em, ‘Law, don’t you think I see lots, lots more than I wants, every day when I is at home?’ ” But read how she talks about the family’s baby, whom she constantly watched over, fearing, irrationally, someone would kidnap him: “No matter what time they come home they’d find me there. ‘Why don’t you go in your bedroom and lie down?’ they’d ask me. ‘No,’ I’d tell ’em, ‘somebody might come in, and they would have to get that baby over my dead body.” Her eyes fixated on the white baby, but she saw too many niggers.

A barrage of dispiriting uses of the word bloodied me as I combed through the narratives. “The Ku Klux kept the niggers scared.” “The Ku Klux did a whole lot to keep the niggers away from the polls. …” Slaves owned by “nice” masters are repeatedly called “free niggers.” “Niggers ain’t got no sense. Put ’em in authority and they gits so uppity.” “I’se just a poor old nigger waitin’ for Jesus to come and take me to heaven.” Slave traders are called “nigger traders.” Defiant enslaved people required the service of a “niggerbreaker.” “Nigger dogs” aided the recapture of those who escaped.

Perhaps more depressing, ironically, was that circumstances sometimes led them to opt against calling a black person a nigger. William Porter stated that “some of the Tennessee niggers was called free niggers. There was a colored man in Pulaski, Tennessee, who owned slaves.” A black man who kept others in bondage — he’s a “colored man,” yet those who were owned were “niggers.” I instantly thought of a moment from the O.J.: Made in America documentary when a white woman who saw black people talking to Simpson uttered, “Look at those niggers sitting with O.J.” Simpson delights in hearing this because she “knew I wasn’t black. She saw me as O.J.” Porter’s outlook matched that of both the racist white woman and the unspeakably racially deranged O.J.

Since reading those narratives, I’ve noticed this mindset when perusing the remarks of freed people in other contexts. For example, before the trial of Rufus Martin, a black man who stood accused of the 1903 murder of Charles Swackhammer, a woman whom the Fort Worth Star-Telegram referred to as an “old negress who occupied a front seat in the court room” bellowed:

It’s the white people that is to blame. They know that they got to make niggahs work or they ain’t no good and they know as long as they ‘low niggah men to loaf aroun’ low down saloons they ain’t goin’ to work. This man come from a good niggah fam’ly — one of the best I knows of, but the p’lice ‘lowed him to loaf aroun’ without workin’, and to drink and gamble, till he just got to be no good and thought he didn’t have to work. The p’lice ought to raid them low down niggah saloons every day and every night till they make every blessed one of the niggah toughs go to work or else send ’em all to the county road. Them saloons is what makes bad niggahs and the white folks is to blame for it, ’cause they let ’em run.

That Martin sported a reddish mustache, light hair and skin so bright he could pass for white almost certainly colored her perception that Martin came from a “good niggah fam’ly.”

Black folk rescued the word from the smoldering debris of a virulently racist land, reclaimed it and renovated the slur into a celebration of black comradery — defenders of contemporary usage of “nigger” repeat this. When this tale collides with reality, however, it shatters as a misreading of history — the current use of the word is owed less to white folk calling black folk “nigger” and more to black folk who thought they were niggers and said so. Black people have hurled the infamous word for nearly as long as white folk have. It exists within black speech now because it existed within black speech then. The uncomfortable truth must be confronted: Absent the internalized oppression of those who called white men and women their masters, “nigger” would probably not be a part of black folk’s lexicon. We black folk are reclaiming it not from bigoted white folk but from our ancestors, who, sadly, deemed their blackness a badge of inferiority.

I seek not to usher the word to the gallows. I harbor no aims to kill it. I can still bump a Young Thug track or chortle at a Dave Chappelle routine. “Nigger” does not bar my enjoyment of popular culture. My soul, though, winces whenever I hear it. The decision for black people to include it in their vocabulary, nonetheless, remains personal, and I reject the criticism of black folk who continue to wield it.

I write only to summon the words of former enslaved people from beyond the grave to express that “nigger” is haunted by the ghosts of hate and the more spiritually chilling ghosts of self-hate.