Who is Black in America? | Soledad O'Brien

black-photo-by-ange-windsor.jpg

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 13:00 p.m. EDT, 30 August 2013

Model: Trudyann DucanUNITED STATES - On the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream Speech," America has been forced to reconfront the issue of 'colorism' in our society. I am purposely not using the word race because there is only one race, the human race.

However, in America and South Africa in particular, and in other countries to a lesser extent, the issue of color is complex and problematic, and is often the sole measure by which people are defined and relegated to particular groups in society.

I have faced the issue of color and acceptance most of my life. Most recently after the birth of my son whose father is not American, but German; I am constantly reminded of how limited the options are for people of mixed or biracial heritage when confronted with documents and other census gathering transactions that seek to categorize people by race.

With regard to organizations requesting the race of my son, I choose to enter 'other' or write in 'biracial.' In reviewing his records, I have often been chagrined to discover that an institution has subsequently change his assignation to Latino. In fact, most people who interact with my son and view him as Latino, emphasize their perception by pronouncing his name with Spanish accentuation, often changing it to 'Javier' though it is clearly not written as such.

This perception remains in force until they meet me, and then his race is changed to African-American which is wholly inaccurate. This lack of clarity and inability to fit neatly into 'white' or 'black' culture has caused my son to question me about why he is so light and I am brown? Why his hair is straight and mine is curly?

And at one point he identified himself as 'white,' until I emphasized the fact that he is biracial like President Barak Obama, and that he should not only be proud of his dual heritage, but should correct people who mistakenly believe him to be otherwise.

People often believe that I am Ethiopian or Somalian, and because my father though born in America has lived in Africa for the past 40-years, and I spent my childhood there, the cultural nuances of these societies resonate with me more than Black American culture.

As you can see from the video below, my struggle and that of my son is all too familiar to many people of color in this country where black and white cultures are perceived as monolithic, thus stifling any acknowledgment of the multitude of diversity that exists within either group, as well as in America as a whole.

I would encourage you to watch the video below which is both provocative and informative. Hopefully, it will provide greater insight into 'colorism' and the concomitant expression of racism in America.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWcs7YsZVuY]

Follow Ayanna Nahmias on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Student Intern: @ayannanahmias

Obama Weighs in on Zimmerman Verdict

protester-at-trayvon-martin-murder-rally-ny-photo-by-michael-fleshman.jpg

Jessica Tanner, Staff WriterLast Modified: 01:18 a.m. DST, 18 August 2013

Boy Protesting Acquittal of Zimmerman in murder of Trayvon Martin, Photo by Rich JohnsonSANFORD, Florida - Shortly after a Florida jury acquitted a white man of murdering a black youth in cold blood, President Barack Obama expressed his views on the controversial verdict of the Trayvon Martin Case.

Obama stated, “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.” He also urged who gathered in cities across America to protest this travesty of justice to remain non-violent and to not take the law into their own hands.

The president also made it clear that Americans are aware of the “history of racial disparity in our criminal laws.” This is a pervasive and persistent problem in the Deep South, so much so that during this recent election cycles many of the old Confederate states – Alabama, Mississippi, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia among others, challenged the Voter’s Rights Act which was signed into law on 6 August 1965.

Efforts by some Republicans in these states to disenfranchise and intimidate African-Americans, Latinos, and Indians to prevent them from voting using tactics that were reminiscent of Jim Crow era tactics. Certain counties in California, Florida, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota, and some local jurisdictions in Michigan, are also included.

Florida has a long history of racism and inequality in the justice system when it comes to arbitration against or for African-Americans.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that Obama stated that the government should seriously consider reviewing some state and local legislation, particularly Florida’s “stand your ground” law. Many believe that this law may promote rather than discourage violent confrontations.

On Saturday, 13 July 2013, an all-female jury in Sanford, Florida acquitted George Zimmerman in Trayvon Martin’s February 26th, 2012 shooting death. This verdict ignited anger among many who viewed this incident as racially motivated through murder.

The next day, Obama issued a written statement, which noted that the jury had spoken and urged calm and reflection. According to Obama, many Americans have gotten better at changing their attitudes on race, “but we have to be vigilant and work on these issues.”

Many demonstrators are calling for federal charges against George Zimmerman. Obama said, “They must have some clear expectations here.” He stressed that law enforcement and the criminal code, “is traditionally done at the state and local levels, but not at the federal level.”

Follow Jessica Tanner on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Staff Writer: @JessTanner1991

Boston Terrorist Bombing Silences Martin Richard

boston-marathon-terrorist-bombing-victims-photo-boston-globe-via-getty-images.jpg

Patrice Ellerbe, Staff WriterLast Modified: 12:49 p.m. DST, 17 April 2013

Martin Richard, 8-year-old victim of Boston Terrorist Bombing, Photo by Peter BostonBOSTON, Massachusetts - The FBI has determined that two bombs made from pressure cookers with nails, ball bearings, metal, exploded near the finish line during the Boston Marathon on Monday, 15 April 2013. The explosion left three people dead, one of which included an 8-year-old boy, and over 140 people injured. Authorities do not know who is responsible for the blast at this time, however, speculations suggest terrorist are responsible.

The two blasts sent the city of Boston into chaos. A third explosion was reported at JFK Library, however, the incidents were not tied together. According to the Huffington Post, the explosion occurred in Copley Square just before 3:00 PM. Commissioner Ed Davis reported there have been no arrests made or person of interest at this time.

The Associated Press reported the bombs went off at two separate time, and only seconds apart.  The streets were blood stained and people were frantic.  Although speculations suggest a terrorist attack, President Obama was careful to refrain from using the actual word “terror” or “terrorist.” According to the AP, the Pakistani Taliban denied having any parts in the bombing. The FBI are attempting to obtain all spectators videos, photos, and any audio from the event.

Two additional bombs were found near the end of the course and were disarmed once located.

The 8-year-old boy killed in the blast was identified as Martin Richard, the Boston Globe reported. The boy was attending the race in support of his father. Richard’s mother and younger sister were also in attendance, and were injured by the blast. CNN reported Richard’s mother had emergency surgery due to brain injuries, and his 6-year-old sister lost a leg.

Supporters of the victims from the Newtown shooting which occurred in December 2012 were in attendance and all were counted as safe. Authorities asked for people in the city to remain indoors and out of the streets. There was no prior knowledge of the attack, according to police officials.

Follow Patrice Ellerbe on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report Staff Writer: @PatriceEllerbe
 

Chicago Teen Fatally Shot After Obama Gun Violence Speech

president-barak-obama-speech-photo-by-penn-state-news.jpg

Patrice Ellerbe, Staff WriterLast Modified: 12:53 p.m. EDT, 21 February 2013

Chicago Child Mourns Gun Violence Victim, Photo by Ashlee RezinCHICAGO, IL. - Hours after President Barak Obama gave his Inaugural speech, in which he pushed for tighter gun control laws; a young woman was fatally shot only one mile from the President’s Chicago home.

The victim was 18-year old Janay Mcfarlane. Earlier that day, McFarlane’s 14 year-old sister witnessed the President’s Inaugural speech, after he was sworn in on 21 January 2013.

Mcfarlane was shot in the head at approximately 11:30 p.m., Friday, 21 January 2013, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The victim had a 3-month old son, and was visiting friends and family in a North Chicago suburb. McFarlane’s mother said the bullet that killed her daughter was meant for a friend.

Police are questioning two suspects who are believed to be in connection with McFarlane’s shooting; however, charges have yet to be filed. Media spoke with Mcfarlane’s mother, Angela Blakely, as she grieved for her daughter, expressing, “I really feel like somebody cut a part of my heart out”.

Just one month ago, another fatal shooting involving 15-year old Hadiya Pendleton shook Chicago residents. The honor student was killed last month in a South Side Chicago park. According to Chicago police, it was a case of mistaken identity, and two suspects have been charged. Not only have there been more than 40 homicides in Chicago during the month of January alone, this makes the death toll the highest in 10 years.

Mcfarlane was affected by Pendleton’s death, as she often expressed to her mother how she felt bad for the victim’s family. Little did she know, she would also be a victim of gun violence. This case, as of many, is still open. Each day action is not taken regarding gun laws, the United States must hear another story such as this one. The media is focusing more on the fact that Mcfarlane’s sister was at President Obama’s gun violence speech. In order to stop reporters like me and others from having to write stories out like this, more than platitudinous speeches need to be delivered.

The fault does not lie entirely with President Obama, but with a society that believes that the right to bear arms/guns, especially those which exceed what is required for protection, such as automatic assault weapons, trumps all other concerns. This thinking, coupled with the powerful and deep pocketed lobbying on behalf of the National Riffle Association (NRA), makes the task of addressing this problem at a granular and thus meaningful level nearly impossible despite evidence that tighter gun control laws do result in decreased rates of gun homicides.

In the United Kingdom firearms are tightly controlled by law and it has one of the lowest rates of gun homicides in the world with 0.07 recorded intentional homicides committed with a firearm per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010 compared to the United States' 5.1 (over 40 times higher). (Source: Wikipedia)

The numbers speak for themselves, and if we hope to one day stop reporting on this type of violence that unfortunately appears to be on the rise in the U.S., then each American must take a hard look at our values, our voice, and our responsibility. There are hundreds of thousands of Mcfarlane's across America, and but for her connection to President Obama's speech, she would be just another anonymous victim of gun violence in a poor, urban area. Our hearts and prayers go out to her family.

Follow Patrice Ellerbe on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report Staff Writer: @PatriceEllerbe