Thursday, December 20, 2007

“They Hate Each Other Too!”
or Blacks and Latinos Can be Bigots Too
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

The shock jock on a popular Los Angeles talk radio station screamed through the microphone with apoplectic delight, “You see, they hate each other too. The “they” and the “each other” are African-Americans and Latinos. His shout was loud, crude, and aimed to do what shock jocks get paid to do, namely shock. But this was not standard shock jock bluster. He based his rant on a troubling eye catching response to a question in a recent survey by the New America Media. NAM is a consortium of ethnic media groups in the San Francisco Bay Area. In a wide-ranging poll, it sampled opinion among blacks, Latinos and Asians about each other.

The response that raised the eyebrows was that a near majority of Latinos said that blacks were crime prone and that they feared for their safety around them. A slight majority of blacks returned the negative typecast compliment and said that Latinos take jobs from blacks and they are out to undercut their political power.

Those are the type of utterances that white bigots supposedly spew. However, now they just as easily rolled off of black and Latino lips. That revelation for the shock jock and for many other whites merely confirmed that blacks and Latinos can be bigots too. The ugly truth is they’re right. And that also tells much about the often muddled, confused, and conflicted picture of race and ethnic relations in America.

For decades bigotry was always defined as racial discrimination and violence against blacks by whites. The black power movement and the strident black militancy of the 1960s dramatically changed that. Now blacks were hammered for their anti-white racial taunts. That eventually morphed into and codified as blacks playing the race card whenever things went especially bad. That always meant making whites feel guilty to get an advantage. The point is that blacks and whites were still the only ones that hurled vicious and vile negative stereotypes about each other and at each other, and that’s where it ended. The NAM poll convincingly exploded the notion that blacks and whites were the only groups that saw each other through jaundiced racial lens.

Blacks, Latinos and Asians can hold the same hostile racial attitudes toward each other, and aren’t afraid to voice them. The first real tip that things weren’t as idyllic as they appeared on the ethnic relations front came in 2005 with the furor over the quip by then Mexican President Vicente Fox. In a speech, Fox said that Mexicans are hard workers and will work jobs that blacks won’t work. That ignited a storm of protest from civil rights leaders and many African-Americans.

The top rung Latino civil rights groups and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus instantly understood the severe harm that the remark could do to the fragile relations between blacks and Latinos, and rushed to denounce Fox. But denunciations and demands for apologies couldn’t erase Fox’s words, or the sentiment behind them. Many Latinos openly and many more privately probably agreed with Fox. They insisted that immigrants would work the hardest, dirtiest, lowest paying jobs that blacks won’t work. And some even less charitably claimed that blacks wouldn’t work these jobs because they are lazy and slothful.
That belief, of course, is crude, false and racist. But it reflected the big problem that relations between blacks and Latinos are rife with falsehoods.

Yet ethnic insensitivity, however, is not a one-way street. In a blast at Fox for his remark on immigration and jobs, Al Sharpton also reflected the skewed view held by many blacks that Latinos are an economic threat: “We need to deal with the fact that there has been an inordinate amount of tension where people have come across the border for almost slave wages, competing with Latinos and blacks.” Sharpton rammed the point home by describing illegal immigration as a 21st century slave trade. That dredged up the negative images of hordes of uneducated, poor Mexicans invading the U.S.
Latino activists have waged a furious battle for decades against that image as well as against the depiction of Latinos as lazy, immoral, crime-prone, drug dealers, illegal aliens, service workers, and mothers with packs of ragged children. Those images constitute stereotypes that TV and Hollywood have done much to propagate.

The common litany of stereotypes, myths and misconceptions that many blacks and Latinos now routinely toss out about each other sooner or later will rudely force their way into and badly taint the way blacks and Latinos see each other. In a worse case scenario, the gulf in attitudes, perceptions and ultimately relations could widen rather than narrow between the two groups. The New America Media survey zeroed in on the negative beliefs and sentiments that blacks and Latinos hold about each. It other offered more proof that race relations and worse racial bigotry can no longer be colored in black and white.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press)


Monday, December 10, 2007

Drop State Charges against Vick—The Public Gouged it’s Pound of Flesh Out of Him with Fed Sentencing
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Even the most rabid Michael Vick loathers can’t argue with the toss the book sentence that Federal Judge Henry E. Hudson hurled at the tumbled former football great. The 23 month sentence he got exceeded the recommendation by federal prosecutors, the sentences his co-defendants got, and the average sentence for this type of crime that’s spelled out in federal sentencing guidelines. Given the intense hysteria of legions of animal lovers at Vick, he’ll likely serve the bulk of his jail time. But the punishment is overly harsh. Vick is a first time offender. He expressed remorse, publicly apologized, shelled out nearly a million bucks for the upkeep of the impounded animals, and likely won’t play another down in the NFL. Vick’s life and career is wrecked. The feds and the public have more than gouged their pound of flesh out of him.

That’s exactly why Virginia’s Surrey County Commonwealth Attorney Gerald Poindexter should do the right legal and personal thing and drop the state prosecution of Vick. The trial is currently scheduled for April 2. In fact, state charges should never have been brought. This was a federal case from day one. The evidence of conspiracy and trafficking in dog fighters across state lines was overwhelming. Professional dog fighting almost always involves interstate transit of the dogs to the fighting matches and events.

There’s also the troubling fact that while state prosecutors talk a good game about cracking down on the dog fighting top cats, they are still notoriously lax in prosecuting, let alone tossing the book at many of them. The near textbook example of that is the case involving the wealthy and legendary dog fighting father and son kingpins Floyd and Guy Boudreaux in Louisiana. Two years after their arrest on dog fighting related charges, they are still walking free with no sign that the state is sprinting to court to get them in a docket. PETA or the Humane Society of the U.S. that turned out their throngs to curse and wave signs at Vick in front of federal court in Virginia have given absolutely no indication that they have or will mount a national crusade to nail them, or that they have even raised a peep nationally about the glacial pace of the state’s prosecution of them. There was a brief article on the Humane Society’s web site on the case two years ago, and that’s it.

The stiff federal sentence dumped on Vick amply sent the message that a rich, famous, sports glitz figure won’t be treated any differently than the average Joe that breaks the law. But none of that means much to PETA, and it certainly didn’t mean anything to state prosecutors. Despite their weak and disingenuous protest that they went after Vick solely because he broke state law, they didn’t. It was politics and race. They figured that no one could dare say that race or celebrity had anything to do with the state indictment of Vick since four of the six grand jurors are African-American and were not in celebrity awe of him.

The race and celebrity card in reverse ploy doesn't mean much. It defies belief to think that if Vick had been an average African-American guy that the black jurors or Poindexter would have wasted countless hours pouring over his case and ultimately leveled an indictment at him. The fed charges were heavy duty enough and there was every sign that he would not waltz away with the standard celebrity pass hand slap sentence. It meant that Vick’s punishment would have more than fit the magnitude of his crimes. That should have ended the matter for the state, and in most cases it does.

Fed and state officials almost always maintain a rigid church and state separation when it comes to prosecuting cases. It's not just because they fear the potential danger of double jeopardy in a dual prosecution that they stay off of each others toes. It's because legal overkill is wasteful, time-consuming and cost ineffective.

The rare times that fed and state prosecutors stray onto each others turf is when the state fails to get a conviction in high profile politically or legally compelling racial cases that stokes public rage and scream for federal action. The Rodney King beating case and the old 1960s civil rights related racial murder cases are textbook examples of that. The feds retry these cases but on separate civil rights charges. The prosecutors that do the straying almost always are the feds. Even Beltway sniper John Muhammad, though there was strong suspicion that he left a trail of murder victims in other states, the states deferred prosecution of him to Virginia and Maryland. Muhammad's conviction and death sentence rendered another state's prosecution of him moot.

With Vick, the same rule and logic should apply. There's no compelling interest or reason to pile on another prosecution of Vick. Fairness and common legal sense must prevail. Virginia should drop charges against Vick, and drop them now.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

What Oprah Can’t and Shouldn’t Do For Obama
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Oprah can’t help Barack Obama nail Hillary Clinton in Iowa, New Hampshire, or even South Carolina. The throng of Oprah groupies that pitched camp in front of the Obama campaign headquarters in Columbia, South Carolina to get free tickets to her and Obama’s appearance at the Colonial Center in that city were there to ogle, and if they are lucky, touch the garments of America’s favorite TV earth mother at the auditorium.

But after the ogling and touching Oprah, it doesn’t mean they’ll vote for Obama. A Pew Research Center poll after a big Oprah fundraising bash in September found that by a crushing margin respondents said that Oprah’s tout of Obama won’t sway them the least bit. And it shouldn’t, at least not because, Oprah says so. Despite all the talk about Oprah being a transcendental force that supersedes mere celebrity mortals she’s still just that, a celebrity. The thousands that clawed for tickets to rub shoulders with her at her Obama pep rally in Columbia, South Carolina were there precisely because of her star power and the insatiable celebrity mania that grips far to many star struck Americans.

Yet, celebrities fail miserably every time to do much for their political picks. Willie Nelson, Madonna, Jon Bovi, Martin Sheen, and in reverse, George Clooney are big money celebrities and virtual household names. They all endorsed Democratic presidential candidates in 2004. Nelson endorsed Dennis Kucinich. Bon Jovi endorsed John Kerry. Sheen endorsed Howard Dean. Madonna backed Wesley Clark. One of their picks went down to flaming defeat. The other three never came close to getting the Democratic presidential nomination.

As for Clooney, he publicly declared that he hoped that his non-endorsement of Kerry probably helped him at the polls. It didn't. Though Clooney now backs Obama he’s still very mindful of the potential liability of celebrity hood and has publicly said that he thinks campaigning for a candidate hurts a candidate. Clooney recognized a political truism that's etched in stone. That's that a celebrity pump of a presidential candidate does little to boost the candidate.

The one group that Obama hopes is the rare exception to the rule is black women. He banks heavily that Oprah can help him smash through the Hillary fest that many black women have with Clinton. In South Carolina, black voters make up nearly half of the Democratic voters, a greater proportion than any other state, and black women make up a significant proportion of that vote. Though most adore Oprah and are well aware of her long standing backing of Obama, that hasn't shaken their support of Clinton the least bit. Nearly three times more black women say they'll back Hillary over him, and that’s especially true among lower income, working class black women. She is a woman, mother, and most importantly is regarded by many black women as a strong advocate for health care and women's interests.

Selling Obama is not like selling one of Oprah’s handpicked authors that the mere mention of on her show will send their book hurtling to the top of the charts. Voters make their decisions about politicians on a combination of factors, party affiliation, their stance on the issues, their political beliefs, and their experience at getting the job done. Few will rely on Oprah’s word that Obama is the best to handle global warming, tax policy, the Iraq war, terrorism, job creation and inflation, failing public schools, criminal justice issues and judicial appointments.

A candidate, and only the candidate, has to sell his or herself that they have a sound grasp of the issues, and can forcefully and clearly articulate them, and most importantly, are the most experienced. That’s the glaring Achilles Heel for Obama. In every poll, even the most rabid Clinton loathers, rank Hillary at the top of the pile in experience in dealing with foreign and domestic issues. Voters got burned badly with Bush. His gross inexperience in statecraft before grabbing the White House cost Americans dearly in eight years of his disastrous bumbles and fumbles on everything from the Iraq war to domestic policy. Many voters won’t make that mistake again.

That's not to say that endorsements don't help a candidate. But they have to be the right endorsements. The right ones come from seasoned politicians and respected industry, labor, or public interest groups that have the trust and confidence of voters, and a solid track record in fighting for legislation and public policy change. That’s also not to say that Oprah’s endorsement will hurt Obama. The hype, promotion, and allure of Oprah have some value in bumping even higher Obama’s media visibility.

The O and O show has caused the tongues to wag, eyebrows to rise and they will draw legions to their campaign stops. But it won’t be the knock out wallop Obama counts on to floor Hillary. Celebrities simply don’t and shouldn’t pack that kind of political punch. And neither does Oprah.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Distorting Sean Taylor Murder Still Sticks in Craw
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

A handful of black sportswriters hit the ceiling when they read initial press reports on the shooting death of Washington Redskins All pro safety Sean Taylor. The issue was the perennial, suspect, and sneaky alleged double standard in the reporting on and public view of tragedies that befall blacks and whites, especially athletes and celebrities. The howl of protest goes up that when a black athlete is accused of bad behavior, criminality or boorishness the press and public go ballistic. They dredge up every misdeed the player has committed and ad nauseum drill it home that they are bad guys (or girls) and deserve the scorn of the nation.

When white athletes are accused of the same or worse bad behavior, criminality or boorishness, the excuses fly like raindrops in a hurricane, and then the news of their misdeeds vanishes from print and the airwaves faster than a Houdini disappearing act. Taylor is no exception to this rule, and the black journalists that raised the hue and cry were right to scream their lungs out about it.

The first accounts of Taylor’s murder were spare on details of the shooting, since there was almost none, and there were no suspects, no reported clues, and no reported motivation for the shooting. But the reports more than made up for the sparseness by dredging up every sordid detail about Taylor’s past run-ins with the law. The image rammed into the public brain, was what’s become a template for depicting supposedly bad behaving, bad acting young black males. The war of words was now on with a vengeance. The denials flew hot and heavy that any disrespect, and minimizing the tragedy, or that a subtle dump the blame for Taylor’s death on his alleged thug lifestyle was intended. After all, those run-ins did badly color his life. As distasteful as they might be, they were fair game for reporting.

That’s a good, even valid, point. Taylor did have problems, and there was nothing inherently inappropriate from a reporting, fact finding, or just plain human interest standpoint in saying that. The double standard line, however, is vaulted when a black athlete’s woes are continuously repeated, and endlessly speculated about as a possible reason for their murder. Though in most accounts after the initial harp on Taylor’s past, balance was restored, and the reports emphasized the suffering of his parents, friends, and fans. There were sympathetic quotes about Taylor being a mature, positive role model, and about the pace of the investigation.

Yet, while follow-up stories mercifully dropped the dig at his past, the new take on him was that he had turned his life around. That still left the bitter taste that Taylor was a bad guy that went good, but it might have been too late to save him. To their credit most fans and writers and much of the public were more than willing to step past the blatant initial and ongoing subtle bias and give Taylor his mournful due. But the bad taste of the initial paint of Taylor as a bad actor stuck like a lead weight in the craw.

This isn’t the only thing that’s hurtful in the coverage of Taylor. There was the hint, and some talking heads did more than hint, that though Taylor was a rich, star athlete, he was still a young black male. And like all young black males he was in mortal peril of being gunned down. In other words his fame and athletic prowess did not shield him from the black on black violence that supposedly rages in all big city poor black neighborhoods.

The problem with that as with the skewed initial picture of Taylor is that it’s a lie. Taylor did not live in a poor, black inner city Miami neighborhood. He lived in a palatial suburban home with his long time companion and daughter. Those that actually knew him said that he was a loner and that he did not hang out with a drug peddling, gang connected crowd.

But even if Taylor was the thug that initial accounts subtly implied he once was, the Taylor as a casualty of black violence line still is a falsity. Murder rates among young black males in Tayor's 16 to 24 year old age group are still far higher than those among young white males. But those rates in Taylor’s age group have plummeted in the last decade according to FBI crime reports, as have murder rates in most urban areas. In New York City, for instance, murder rates have dropped to the lowest level in forty years. In Miami-Dade County, crime plunged more than 20 percent and murder rates also dropped. The chances of a young black male dying at the hands of another young black male are far less today than in the past.

The senseless snuffing out of Taylor’s life was a heartbreaking tragedy. But it’s Taylor’s death, not his life, that’s the only thing that should leave a bad taste. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press)


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Rising Latino Numbers, Rising Black Fears
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Last month a small but vocal group of Los Angeles black community activists turned up at City Hall to blast Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Latino elected officials for their tight lip silence when the feds cracked down on the terrorist Latino street gang, Florencia 13. The gang’s arsenal of mayhem included murders, assaults and intimidation against blacks in South L.A. Though the protestors were few in number many blacks privately cheered their finger point at Latino leaders for not speaking out on the violence.

In the past two years some Latino leaders have also pointed the same blame finger at blacks when Latino men were robbed, beaten and even murdered in Plainfield, New Jersey, Jacksonville, Florida, and in Annapolis, Maryland, and seven members of a Latino family were murdered in Indianapolis. The attackers in all cases were young black males. Latinos complained bitterly that blacks were targeting Latinos because they were Latinos.

Latino and black violence against each other is another tormenting sign of the worst kept secret in race relations in America. Race and ethnic conflicts can be just as easily between blacks and Latinos as between blacks and whites. In recent years, black and Latino relations have been characterized more by shocking headlines of hate crimes, campus brawls, prison and jail fights, the anti-immigration marches, job discrimination claims, and racial slurs and taunts against one another.

The black and brown clash draws attention, and lots of it, because it involves two groups that some think should be natural allies. At least that’s what Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez thought four decades ago. They had a mutual admiration society for each other and passionately believed that blacks and Latinos were equally oppressed minorities and should march in lockstep to do battle against racial injustice and poverty. Radical black and Latino activist groups briefly took up their call for black and brown unity.

Their rhapsodic notion of black and brown harmony is now the faintest of faint memories. Three years ago when the Census Bureau proclaimed Latinos the top minority in the U.S., many blacks loudly grumbled that they would be shoved even further to the margin among minorities. The grumbles rose to a near-shrill pitch during the immigration debate among many blacks. Most civil rights leaders and black Democrats publicly embraced the immigrants' rights struggle as a crucial and compelling civil rights fight. Yet, the dread many blacks feel about being bypassed in the eternal battle against poverty and discrimination can be felt and is routinely heard in private conversations and occasional public outbursts by many African-Americans.

Long before the Latino population surge, Latino political activists demanded that racial issues no longer be framed solely in black and white. Their aim was to get policy makers to pay more attention to the problems of the staggeringly high poverty rate, job discrimination, failing public schools, racial typecasting and violence that slam Latinos. The irony is that these are the issues that have caused the sharpest conflict between blacks and Latinos.

The first warning that many blacks felt threatened by soaring Latino numbers was the battle over Proposition 187 in California in 1994. California voters approved the measure, which denied public services to illegal immigrants, by a huge margin. Blacks by a thin majority also backed the measure. They were mortally afraid that Latinos would bump poor blacks from low skilled jobs, and further marginalize them by increasing joblessness and fueling the crime and drug crisis in black neighborhoods.

The prime reason for chronic black unemployment, however, is lingering racial discrimination, the lack of job skills, training, and education. No matter, many blacks still blame their job plight on illegal immigrants.

Racial fear has spilled into politics. Latinos are being courted like mad by the Democrat presidential contenders. The big fear of many blacks is that the national chase for Latino votes will erode the newfound political gains and power they have won through decades of struggle.

Fear has also spilled into the schools. The pitched battle between black and Latino members of an LAUSD advisory board over whether their meetings should be conducted in English or Spanish is another sign of racial jitters. Many blacks feel they are getting the short end of the stick educational in a school district where Latinos make up more than seventy percent of the students. But the high percentage of minorities in the schools in L.A. is not unique.

Latinos and blacks make up the majority of students in many of the nation's big city schools. Their schools are also among the poorest, and most segregated. In their desperation to get a quality education for their kids, Latinos and blacks accuse each other of gobbling up scarce resources, dragging down test scores, and fueling the rise in crime and gang problems at the schools. The answer is to press school officials for more funding, better teachers, and quality learning materials. However, when the money is not there, the problem quickly is reduced to ethnic squabbling over the scarce dollars.

The race tinged violence among blacks and Latinos that drove the black activists to L.A. City Hall to hammer Latino elected officials for their silence is not the norm—at least yet. The overwhelming majority of physical assaults and murders of blacks are by blacks and most attacks on Latinos are by Latinos. But, black and Latino racial attacks against each other, no matter how infrequent, as is the case with white on black hate attacks, stir fear, rage, and panic, and deepen racial divisions. That’s especially true given the hostility many blacks express toward illegal immigration.

Then there's the problem of ethnic insensitivity. Many Latinos fail to understand the complexity and severity of the black experience. They frequently bash blacks for their poverty and goad them to pull themselves up as other immigrants have done. Former Mexican President Vicente Fox took much heat from black leaders in 2005 when he claimed that Mexican immigrants would work jobs blacks wouldn’t. Some Latinos repeat the same vicious anti-black epithets as racist whites.

Ethnic insensitivity, however, cuts both ways. Many blacks have little understanding of the impoverishment and social turmoil that has driven many Latinos to seek jobs and refuge in the United States. Once here, they face the massive problems of readjusting to a strange culture, customs, and language, and that includes discrimination too.

Despite the problems black and brown relations is not total gloom and doom. Blacks and Latinos have worked together in some communities to combat police abuse, crime and violence, for school improvements, and increased neighborhood services. Still the painful truth is that blacks and Latinos have found that the struggle for power and recognition is long and difficult. On some issues they can be allies on others they will go it alone. Toppling blacks from the top minority spot in America won't make the problems blacks and Latinos face disappear. Nor will blaming each other for those problems solve them.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Why Al Sharpton is the Man Millions Love to Hate
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

The only thing really remarkable about the warning from the FBI to Al Sharpton that an unnamed, and unspecified dangerous substance may have been mailed to his National Action Network office in New York was that it came from the FBI. For months Sharpton has bitterly complained that he had been receiving a steady stream of hate mail, and death threats, and had repeatedly told law enforcement and the FBI about the threats. He questioned just how seriously they took them. This time the FBI apparently took the substance threat serious enough to warn him.

That Sharpton should be under attack is hardly a surprise. If it’s a police shooting, a protest over housing discrimination, a Jena six march, the charge to dump Dump Don Imus, a fist shake at the Bush administration, the bet is that Sharpton will be in the thick of the action. When Sharpton toppled Jesse Jackson from the top spot as black America’s main man, the notoriety, and the hostility, that that title carries with it, insured that he’d take the heat for whatever went right or wrong when blacks took to the streets in protest. Sharpton’s ubiquitous visibility on the protest front and willingness to go virtually anywhere as the visible, face and voice of angry black America makes him a universal punching bag.

But that doesn’t totally explain the deep, and almost clinical loathing that the mere mention of Sharpton’s name stirs among far too many whites, and a fair number of blacks. There are two bigger reasons why the hatred-fascination for Sharpton. He shakes, rattles, and ignites the goblin of racial denial in many whites. Sharpton is a breathing, walking, reminder that race still matters, and matters a lot in America. He is a slap in the face to the legions that duck, dodge, deflect, and flat out deny that there’s still a lot of racial hurt inflicted on blacks. Sharpton shatters their comforting delusion that racial hate is a dusty antique thing of a bygone past, a figment of the overwrought, paranoid imagination of many blacks, or better still that blacks themselves with their alleged incessant penchant for playing the race card are the only bigots left in America.

The flap over Imus or Dog the Bounty Hunter was a textbook example of that. The instant they copped to their racial sins, the predictable happened. Legions of whites unleashed a torrent of self-righteous, angry, and near paranoid rants on internet chat rooms, on the comment section of news blogs, and in emails to this writer, hysterically defending Imus and Dog. They cussed Sharpton, always Sharpton, even though he had nothing to do with Dog or Imus opening their traps and blurting out their racist digs.

Sharpton got the by now familiar taunts--race baiter, hustler, clown, buffoon, and racial pimp. For an instant one would have thought that Sharpton had called whites the C word, and the Duke Lacrosse players accused of rape, nappy headed honkies.

But then again if there wasn’t a Sharpton, he’d have to be invented, or someone such as him. That’s because blacks are eternally straight-jacketed with the tiresome monolith of race burden. Think how ludicrous it sounds to say the white leader, the Latino leader, the Asian Leader. But that’s not the case with blacks, whites demand a one-size-fits-all black leader; the “black leader.” There’s a method to this absurdity.

When the mantle of black leadership is wrapped tightly around one man, the presumption is that he or she speaks for all blacks. Jackson, pre-Sharpton’s muscling him off the top perch, was the whipping boy. In the 1980s when he talked about forming the Rainbow Coalition, blacks were attacked as radicals.

When he talked about building an independent black political organization, blacks were attacked as separatists. When he talked about boycotting corporations and baseball leagues that racially discriminate in hiring and promotion, blacks were attacked as disruptive. When he called New York "hymietown," blacks were attacked as anti-Semitic. When he talked about leading a national crusade to save affirmative action, blacks were attacked as wanting quotas and special preferences for the unqualified.

It's the same with Sharpton. While he took much heat for the Tawana Brawley rape controversy, the burning down of a Jewish-owned store in Harlem after picketing that he endorsed, and his then penchant for shoot-from-the-lip inflammatory statements, so did blacks. They were forced to publicly defend him from the attacks while privately grousing that he made them look like idiots. Like clockwork, even though the Brawley case happened nearly two decades ago, whenever there’s a Sharpton sighting on an issue it’s instantly thrown up in his face.

When the FBI notified him of the dangerous substance threat, Sharpton quickly sent out an alert to his regional offices. Whether the dangerous substance threat was real, or more likely a crank, it won’t change one thing. Sharpton will continue to be the man that millions love to hate.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press)


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Don’t Rush to Judgment on Bonds
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

President Bush did the right thing when he said that he wouldn’t make any public comment about the five count federal indictment of former San Francisco Giants slugger and home run king Barry Bonds. The press and public should do the same and not rush to judgment about Bond’s guilt. An indictment is not an admission of guilt let alone a conviction. But public silence about Bond’s presumed guilt is about as likely as a blizzard in the Sahara Desert in July. Or maybe giddiness at Bond’s plight is the more apt characterization to describe the unvarnished joy that the legions of Bond’s haters almost certainly had at the news of his indictment. The unabashed orgy of Bond’s vilification has been brutal and relentless, and that’s before Bond’s was accused of any wrongdoing.

The moment, however, there was the hint that Bonds might have laced his body with performance enhancing steroids the growth of the hate Bonds industry took off like a rocket. The industry soared to stratospheric proportion when Bond inched up to and then surpassed rhapsodic American icon Babe Ruth. It propelled out of the galaxy when Bonds inched up to and then surpassed Hank Aaron on the all time home run chart.

The Bash Bonds club sports a formidable line-up. It includes top sportswriters, legions of fans, and advertisers (Bonds hasn't gotten a paid corporate endorsement deal in ages). Then there's the man at the top in MLB, Bud Selig whose duck and dodge of Bonds from the time he chased Ruth and Aaron’s record sent the powerful signal that Bonds isn't worthy of wearing the tag, King of Swat. At least that is without an asterisk in front of the tag. And with the indictment, the clamor for an asterisk after his record will be forgotten. The clamor now will be to exorcise his home run record from the books, and if possible, any mention of him from baseball.

Bonds has run neck in neck with O.J. Simpson as the man much of the public loves to loathe for two tormenting reasons. One is race, and the other is Bonds. The two are not inseparable. A big, rich, famous, surly, blunt-talking black superstar who routinely thumbs his nose at the media sets off all kind of bells and whistles in the public mind.

Outspoken blacks, especially black superstars, and especially those that engage in bad boy behavior are often slammed harder than white superstars who are outspoken and engage in bad behavior. Bonds, for his part, more than any other ball player in living memory seemed to take special delight in irritating the heck out of sportswriters, fans, and the baseball establishment. He says what he thinks, and when he wants to, and doesn’t care who he offends. That defies, or defiles, take your pick, the pristine, story book, nostalgia dripped image of what sports heroes should be, and how they should comport themselves. It makes no difference that Bonds is no bigger a jerk in his boorish, sulking, spoiled behavior than other legendary superstars and that certainly includes Ruth. But coming from him it just seems to rub nerves even rawer.

Then there’s race. Major League Baseball, as all other professional sports in America, is not race neutral. The man that Bonds beat out for the all time top home run top spot knows that. Packs of fans, sportswriters, and some players choked at the thought that Aaron could break the hallowed record of baseball's greatest white icon, Ruth. Aaron received mountains of hate mail, vicious taunts, and threats to his family. He was surrounded by a squad of security guards at ballparks and armed guards off the field.

Bonds got the Aaron treatment, that is, the taunts, hate mail, the snubs from the baseball brass, sportswriter ridicule at every step of the way in his march toward the home run record. The only thing that was missing was having the N word incessantly tossed at him (at least openly) as it was routinely at Aaron.
Bond’s indictment was pretty much a foregone conclusion When the feds went after the biggest name in track and field, Marion Jones for lying to a grand jury, and she came clean on her use of steroids, and copped a plea to avoid a long prison stretch, that was a huge tip that Bond’s days were numbered and that he’d be next. The indictment doesn’t charge him with taking steroids but that he lied about injections and knowingly taking them. This is the finest of fine legal hair splitting, and Bond’s may ultimately come clean and admit he used the drugs. But that hasn’t happened yet, and until it does, Bush was right. Bonds is still innocent until proven guilty—or confesses.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press)

Cosby’s Triumph Can’t Mask the Dilemma of Two Black Americas
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Comedian Bill Cosby turned black morals pied piper has got to be beaming. His relentless pitch to blacks to get their act together, and stop blaming the white man for their failings almost certainly has done much to spur the radical reversal in black attitudes on race. A new Pew Research Center survey found that more blacks are willing to finger point themselves for bad grades, bad behavior, high unemployment, and poverty than they were a decade ago.

But there’s a kicker in the Pew survey. The ones that did the greatest finger pointing were middle class blacks and the ones that got the finger pointed at them were poor blacks. It’s no real surprise that blacks are rivers apart from each other in their view of who’s to blame for the dreary plight of poor blacks. To even think that they wouldn’t and couldn’t have different views, express divergent opinions, and ideas about race, politics and life issues, just as any other group, is to lock blacks into the tightest of tight racial boxes. There is, and never has been, anything that even faintly resembles a monolith of racial thinking among blacks.
For decades, two black Americas have co-existed uneasily side by side, yet hardly equal. In fact, a significant number of blacks told Pew researchers that blacks should not be viewed as a “single community.”

Despite a drastic economic backslide during the last decade in the incomes of black males, detailed in a Brookings Institution report released shortly before the Pew survey, the class fissure between the black haves and have nots has continued to widen in recent years.

Black executives still hold the top spots at three of America's leading corporations. There’s Oprah and the legions of multi-millionaire black superstar athletes, celebrities, and professionals. There’s a bona fide black presidential candidate, Barack Obama that most whites applaud for being in the race. There’s been a big bump up in the number of black households that earn more than $50,000 annually. Black wealth, like white wealth, is now concentrated in fewer hands than ever. The top one fifth of black families earned nearly half of all black income.
But this is not new. In the 1950's, sociologist E. Franklin Frazier warned that many blacks were becoming what he scornfully branded a black bourgeoisie that controlled the wealth and power within the black community and that had turned their backs on their own people. Many members of Frazier's black bourgeoisie had begun to ape the values, standards and ideals of the white middle class, and to distance themselves from the black poor. In the Pew survey, black college graduates said that they had more in common with the white middle class than poor blacks.

In the 1960's, federal entitlement programs, civil rights legislation, equal opportunity statutes and affirmative action programs initiated during Lyndon Johnson's administration broke the last barriers of legal segregation. The path to universities and corporations for some blacks was now wide open. More blacks than ever did what their parents only dreamed of: They fled big city blighted inner-city areas in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Atlanta in droves.
By the end of the 1980's, a significant number of blacks were affluent enough to move to the suburbs. The expansion of tract homes, condos and apartments made their move easier. In the 1990s, the stampede of black business and professionals from these areas accelerated.

The greening of the black middle class hasn’t erased the lingering, and some fear deepening, cloud of discrimination. Black professionals, politicians, and celebrities may be light years apart from poor blacks in their wealth and status, and attitudes about race; but color is hardly a thing of the past. It can sting a black millionaire just as easily as it can a black homeless person at any moment. Many affluent blacks still fume in anger as taxicabs speed past and blithely ignore them. They can be stopped, and shaken down and spread eagled by police. They are subjected to poor or no service in restaurants. They file countless EEOC complaints and lawsuits against corporations for stacking them at the low end in management positions.

The Pew survey found that even as blacks blame other blacks for their shortcomings they had no illusion that discrimination is dead and buried. In a seeming paradox, the black middle-class respondents said they were more pessimistic about their future than a decade ago. That pessimism is tied directly to jitters that their economic gains can be snatched away at any time. A sharp economic downturn can dump more than a few of them back in the same crumbling neighborhoods they worked long and hard to get out of.

That’s the dilemma for the two black Americas that no amount of internal fault finding can wipe away. Even Cosby might agree with that.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

“Bitch Fighting” The Troubling Trend among Some Young Women

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

The term “bitch fighting” is what some women privately call a pier room brawl that a pack of girls or young women engage in with one another. The term and the behavior is loathsome and offensive. But it was that sort of brawl that claimed the life of 23- year-old Shontae Blanche, and even more shockingly, her 7 month unborn child. The young expectant mother and part time student was killed when another young woman allegedly ran over her and dragged her.

Blanche had tried to break up a fight between a dozen women at a service station in South Los Angeles in early November. The women were young, black, and reportedly some had ties with gang members. They had gathered at the station to battle it out following a dispute between two of the women.

The altercation did more than claim the life of a young mother. It tossed the ugly glare on an age old problem that has grown worse in the past few years. And that’s the escalation in violence by and among young women. A decade ago the Center for Women’s Policy Studies published a landmark study on girls and violence. More than one third of girls they surveyed said that they had engaged in physical fights within a year’s time. Nearly 20 percent said they carried weapons. And nearly half said they believed that girls were nearly as violent as boys. A Justice Department study found that from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s the number of women jailed for violent crimes had more than doubled.

A decade later the willingness of more young women, especially black women, to resort to fisticuffs and even weapons to settle disputes or commit crimes has become an even bigger problem. Girls Inc., a non profit advocacy group that monitors violence by and toward young women, found that far more black girls were injured in school fights than white girls. The spiraling cycle of violence that entraps many black girls was on naked and tormenting display last year when nine black girls were hauled into a Long Beach, California court in shackles.

The girls were charged with a violent hate crime attack on three young white women on Halloween night in 2006 in Long Beach. The sight of so many girls standing trial at one time on a charge, especially the hate crimes charge, was rare. But the sight of so many black girls in a court docket and increasingly in America's juvenile jails and prisons has become anything but rare.

Black women in some states are being imprisoned at alarming rates. And they are being jailed at younger ages than ever. An American Bar Association study in 2001 found that teen girls account for more than one-quarter of the juvenile arrests. They are charged with more violent crimes, and are being shoved back into detention centers after release, in some cases even faster than boys.

The ABA has not done a follow-up study since then to determine if there's been any change in the troubling dilemma so many black girls face in the juvenile system. But, almost certainly, the high arrest and incarceration rate for black teen girls is likely the same if not greater today, and many of them are there for violent crimes. They have engaged in physical fights and assaults, and even school yard brawls with other girls, or even boys.

The explanations for the up tick in female violence are varied. The near glorification of the male code of toughness to get ahead in business, politics, and sport has virtually been enshrined as a prized virtue in society. Women have not been immune from it. There’s the bloat of Gladiator spectacles such as WWF matches with women tossing each other around in a ring, posturing, swaggering, and cussing like drunken sailors, and barroom toughs. The toughness virtue has even slipped into politics. In polls, women by big margins said the thing they admire most about Hillary Clinton is her toughness.

Many young black women are continually exposed to violence in their communities. They have ties with male gang members, they themselves are members of gangs, or they have committed assaults. The Center for Women’s Policy Studies also found that many of the women that engaged in physical fights have been victims of rape, assault, or robbery. This further imprints the tacit stamp that violence is the pervasive method to control, dominate, bully, and gain advantage over people and situations.
There’s a double dilmma for the girls and young women that commit violent acts. The risk is great that they can be maimed, killed or wind up serving a long prison stretch. And since violence is still thought of almost exclusively as a male preserve, there‘s a near total absence of studies on the causes and consequences of female violence. That means even fewer fewer resources, programs, and support outlets to keep at risk girls and young women out of harm’s way and from harming other women. The Blanche killing is tragic proof of that.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

American Gangster, American Stereotype
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

American Gangster is a big, brash and brilliant cinema tour de force. But it also reinforces a glaring stereotype, in fact, one of America’s most enduring stereotypes, and that’s that the drug problem and by extension drug kingpins come with a black face. There are two telling scenes in American Gangster that drive that point home with a tormenting vengeance.

The first is near the end of the film when intrepid cop Richie Roberts ( Russell Crowe) whose sole mission is to nail black drug lord Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) faces off with the busted Lucas in a police interrogation room. He indignantly lectures Lucas that his dope peddling spread death and destruction that wrecked and ruined hundreds of lives. In the second scene there is a fleeting glimpse of a white GI shooting up heroin in a Bangkok, Thailand honky tonk serviceman’s hang out. Other than that one scene and a flutter look at a white junkie getting whacked by Lucas, there’s absolutely no hint that the drug racket, the gangsters that run it, bribe cops and politicians, and put an army of small time dealers, and bag men and women on the street are anything but African-Americans.

Washington as only he can do with a character such as Lucas invests him with a chilling mix of charm, business savvy and raw brutality. That further reinforces the notion that a black man can be bigger, smarter, and more audacious than the organized crime racketeers that in decades past ran and still largely run the drug trade in America. They are the ones that hold an iron grip on the foreign growers and suppliers, the transport, street distribution, and the network of banks that launder the dirty money.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey on the sex and drug habits of Americans last June further tossed the ugly glare on who controls and who uses drugs in America. The survey found that whites are much more likely to peddle and use drugs than blacks.

Other studies have found roughly equal rates of drug usage by blacks and whites. But what made the CDC survey more eye-catching is that it didn't solely measure generic drug use, but singled out the use of cocaine and street drugs, the kind of drugs that American Gangster depicts the sale of.

The findings fly in the face of the conventional drug war wisdom that blacks use and deal street drugs while whites use trendy, recreational designer drugs, and that these presumably include powder cocaine. That once more calls into question the gaping disparity in drug sentencing between whites and blacks. More than 70 percent of those prosecuted in federal courts for drug possession and sale (mostly small amounts of crack cocaine) and given stiff mandatory sentences are blacks. The Supreme Court has agreed to examine the racial disparities in sentencing.

But that’s the morality tale theme that heavily underpins American Gangster. If you’re black and you use drugs you’ll either die, become a walking zombie, or rot behind bars. And more than likely the guy that sells the junk will skip away scot free, live a princely lifestyle, retire with fabulous wealth and if unlucky enough to get popped cut a deal to rat out crooked cops or competitors. Lucas did just that and, considering the very real death and destruction that he spread, waltzed away with a relative hand slap sentence. Then in what has to rankle and fascinate gives the supreme self-serving rationale for the dirty dealing by wailing if I didn’t do it somebody else would. True to form that’s exactly Lucas’s fall-back cop-out line in American Gangster.

However, the somebody that Lucas suggested would be the drug boss if not him rarely looked like him. In fact, Lucas and his black competitor who has a cameo role in the film, Nicky Barnes, the subject of a recently release documentary, Mr. Untouchable are the rarest of rare birds. Lucas as a black drug boss that supposedly topped the Mafia for control of the drug business in Harlem, through cunning and dumb luck found an opening the Vietnam War, a willing, strategically placed accomplice among the black GIs in Vietnam, and a supplier to get him the drugs and help with the transport.

It all adds up to one thing. The public scapegoat of blacks for America's drug problem during the past two decades has been relentless, and the at all costs hunting down by Richie (Crowe) of Lucas (Washington) in American Gangster is stark testimony to that relentlessness. The greatest fallout from the nation’s hopelessly flawed and failed drug hunt for scapegoats is that it makes it easy for on-the-make politicians to grab votes, garner press attention, and bloat state prison budgets to jail more black offenders, while continuing to feed the illusion tha the drug war is winnable. American Gangster won’t do anything to change that illusion.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Hysterical Defense of Dog the Bounty Hunter Tells Much about America’s Racial Backslide

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

“I am sick and tired of people like you and the phony and fake Al Sharpton who go after white people who say something you don't like and then using the degrades black women, etc.”

That was one of the tamer emails I got when I called for A&E Television to cancel outright the Dog the Bounty Hunter show. We all know by now what round em’ up and bring em’ back alive Duane Chapman aka the Bounty Hunter did to get the temporary ax. He let fly a “B” and “N” word laced rant and borderline threatening oaths at his son for having the temerity to date a black woman. A&E “suspended” production of the show. That was a weak, tepid, and vacillating response. And I told why. Dog’s comments about black women are more than just gender and racially demeaning and hurtful to black women. They are a vicious attack on and call to end interracial relations, as well as an incitement to violence. Dog the Bounty Hunter’s’ statement was far more damaging than shock jock Don Imus’s.

I frontally challenged A&E and said that suspension of the show is not enough. A&E can send the strong message that the sentiments he expressed will not be tolerated by immediate cancellation of the show.

The suspension I also said is simply a cover your butt holding action by A& E that left the door wide open for Dog to climb back on the airwaves. That prospect was even more real and fresh in mind with the announcement the day before by Citadel Broadcasting that shock Jock Don Imus had cut a deal with the network and would be back on board December 3. A&E might and probably would do the same once the furor died down. The reason is simple. Dog tinkles the cash registers for A&E. It’s a network that in the past few years has transformed itself from a station that prided itself on high brow, educational faire into a channel that now routinely churns out reality type schlock to makes a buck.

But the hysterical defense of Dog and the bile emails this writer got has nothing to do with A&E or even the hunt down the bad guys thrill and titillation of Dog the Bounty Hunter. It has everything to do with the blame the victim with a vengeance mania of far too many whites toward blacks. Think about it. If Dog were black and had unloosed a string of expletive laced white “B”s at his son for dating a white woman, there would have been a national outcry. A&E would have instantly and permanently pulled the plug on the show. And the Dog would have never in this life graced any studio in America.

There would have been no talk of forgiveness, or let by gones be by gones, and he’s suffered enough prattle. He would have been the enduring fount of evil and eternal symbol of bigotry and intolerance. Just ask former Grey’s Anatomy star Isaiah Washington or ex NFL superstar Michael Vick It’s also evident in the backlash to the Jena 6 case in Louisiana and from Genarlow Wilson’s case in Georgia. Two cases where young blacks were harshly charged with alleged crimes against whites. Many turned silly, verbal summersaults to rationalize, duck and dodge and ultimately justify the racial injustice against them.

It’s no surprise why. During the past two decades, the drumbeat of black bashing, stereotyping, negative typecasting, and vilification of young blacks has ballooned into a lucrative growth industry in much of the talking head media. The hunt and scrounge for any excuse no matter how threadbare to justify racial abuse and injustice is relentless.

The battle over shock jock Don Imus was and is a near classic example of the let the villain off the hook syndrome. When Imus was initially canned polls showed a majority of whites waffled on or flat out dismissed his slurs as a right to free speech, or insisted that a hand slap suspension was enough. The pulsating demand for his return to the airwaves never ended. Now that he’s back, he’s hailed as a virtual conquering hero by his legions of admirers.

The same is happening with Dog. He issues a contrite statement, and a belated apology, and his manic defenders wail that he’s touts Christian redemption. That’s more than enough for them to bestow total absolution on him if not make him into an honored figure that has suffered enough. Then in the even more perverse and bizarre twist, leap at the chance to fling the standard name calls of demagogue, race baiter and clown at perennial punching bag Al Sharpton for blasting Dog’s tirade.

Washington and Vick did the same tear jerk mea culpa as Dog but it didn’t soften any public hearts toward them. It shouldn’t with Dog either.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Why Obama Becomes Osama

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney’s no harm no foul denial that he intended any slander in mixing up Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama’s name with terrorist bogeyman Osama bin Laden was tepid and perfunctory. So much so that it sounded less like a denial than a simple misstatement of a fact. But that’s what it was intended to be. The reason Romney got off with a half-baked blow off of his verbal goof starts and ends with Obama.

There’s his name. The similarity to Osama, America’s universal symbol of evil and mass death and destruction has been just too juicy to pass up as the butt of jokes, ridicule, and sincere or calculated confusion. Two years ago a befuddled Senator Ted Kennedy stumbled and confused Obama with Osama. Kennedy had no political ax to grind with Obama. Both are moderate Democrats. Since Obama announced his candidacy, some off beat bloggers have run rampant poking fun at the Obama-Osama name nexus. Then the fun and games with his name turned malicious. There was the flood of emails that fanned the rumor that Obama is a Muslim (he’s not) and therefore suspect in the terror war, and insinuated that he’s less than patriotic.

Any other time the Obama name tweak could be laughed off as just another silly, warped, cheap shot at a politician. But the fear of terrorism makes the Obama-Osama name mix-up anything but off color camp. Polls still show that terrorism ranks at or near the top of America’s jitters. On the sixth anniversary this past September of the 9/11 terror attack, an AP poll found that an astounding nine out of ten Americans said they believe the U.S. will be attacked again by terrorists on American soil. Despite Bush’s towering foreign and domestic bumbles and failures, and ocean bottom popularity ratings, polls show that a majority of Americans still approve of his response to the 9/11 attacks.

The terror scare and Bush’s adroit milk of it was the single biggest thing that propelled him back to the White House. Romney and the GOP contenders know that, and in a campaign season when legions of Americans are fed up with GOP corruption and sex scandals, policy failures, and a failed and flawed war, and when the current bunch of GOP contenders barely stir a pulse among hard line evangelicals, the terrorism card looms as the biggest, maybe the only, ace in the hole for the GOP in 2008.

That makes Obama a tailor made fall guy to again blast the Democrats as soft on terrorism. Unfortunately, Obama gave them some ammunition for blasting. In a Democratic debate in July Obama loosely proclaimed that he wouldn’t hesitate to reach out to America's favorite pariahs, Fidel Castro, Iran, and North Korea. That brought howls from conservatives, and even raised the eyebrows of Hillary Clinton and other top Democrats. That instantly transformed Obama into the presidential candidate even more suspect in waging the war against terrorism.
Obama tried mightily to do damage control, and shot from the lip again with a quip a week later that he'd launch preemptive strikes against terrorists wherever they were and that included search and destroy missions to ferret out Osama and Al-Qaeda. He added more bluster when he quipped that he’d put his own life on the line to stop another 9/11 attack. Obama’s bring-on-em’ Bush like saber rattle on terrorism, let alone a little rhetorical bravado on 9/11 won’t make one iota difference to conservatives and legions of voters. He’ll still be their perfect foil to whip saw the Democrats as losers on terrorism.

That was evident with the audience that Romney picked to make his Obama-Osama gaffe. He addressed the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce meeting, a group not likely to give Romney the boot for his slip. It’s even less likely to have much sympathy for an Obama candidacy. Then there are the anti-Muslim tremors that shake millions of Americans. Romney flatly told the Chamber audience that Osama implored radicals and jihadists to further bloody the killing fields in Iraq with American lives.

In Romney’s Osama name twist, it wasn’t Osama that made the call it was Obama. In one crude stroke, Romney punched three political hot buttons--America’s horror of Muslim initiated terror attacks, disdain for liberal and moderate Democrats, and Obama’s soft-on-terrorism tag. Romney had it both ways. He made the obligatory denial of any insult to Obama while driving home the point that terrorism is still very much in play on the campaign political table, and that whenever and wherever he can, he’ll play it. If that means Obama becomes Osama and vice versa than so be it.

One more note. Despite repeated requests to Romney from the press for clarification during his other stops campaign stops in South Carolina, he refused. As far as he was concerned, the case was closed on the issue. In other words, Obama is still Osama.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Obama Should Repudiate and Cancel His Gay Bash Tour, and Cancel it Now
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama ripped a page straight from the Bush campaign playbook with his announced upcoming three date barnstorm tour through South Carolina with notorious gay basher, gospel singer Donnie McClurkin. The Grammy winning black gospel singer’s last effort on the political scene was his song and shill for Bush’s reelection at the Republican National Convention in 2004. Obama has hitched his string to McClurkin’s high flying gay bash kite in part out of religious belief (he purports to be somewhat of an evangelical), in bigger part because he’s falling further and further behind Hillary Clinton with the black vote in South Carolina and everywhere else, and in the biggest part of all because he hopes that what worked for Bush’s reelection will work for him. Enter McClurkin. He’s black, he’s popular, and gospel plays big with blacks in South Carolina, especially black evangelicals, and many of them openly and even more of them quietly loathe gays.

Bush masterfully tapped that homophobic sentiment in 2000 in part with McClurkin and even more masterfully in 2004 again with McClurkin and the top gun mega black preachers in Ohio and Florida. He tapped it so masterfully that Bush‘s naked pander to gay bashing with the GOP spawned anti- gay marriage initiative in Ohio did much to win over a big chunk of black evangelical leaning voter to Bush.
In fact, the great untold story of the 2004 presidential elections was the black evangelical vote. Although black evangelicals still voted overwhelmingly for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, they gave Bush the cushion he needed to bag Ohio and win the White House. There were early warning signs that might happen. The same polls that showed black's prime concern was with bread and butter issues – and that Kerry was seen as the candidate who could deliver on those issues – also revealed that a sizeable number of blacks ranked abortion, gay marriage and school prayer as priority issues. Their concern for these issues didn't come anywhere close to that of white evangelicals, but it was still higher than that of the general voting public.

A Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies poll in 2004 found that blacks by a far larger margin than the overall population opposed gay marriage. That raised a few eyebrows among some political pundits, but there were much earlier signs of blacks' relentless hostility to gays and gay rights. A survey that measured black attitudes toward gays published in Jet magazine in 1994 found that a sizable number of blacks were suspicious and scornful of them. Many blacks also were put off by Kerry's perceived support of abortion. In polls, Kerry got 20 percent less support from black conservative evangelicals than Democratic presidential contender Al Gore received in 2000.

In Florida and Wisconsin, Republicans aggressively courted and wooed key black religious leaders. They dumped big bucks from Bush's Faith-Based Initiative program into church-run education and youth programs. Black church leaders not only endorsed Bush but in some cases they actively worked for his re-election, and encouraged members of their congregations to do the same.

This lesson isn’t lost on Obama. Desperate to snatch back some of the political ground with black voters that are slipping away from him and to Hillary; Bush’s black evangelical card seems like the perfect play. Obama wouldn’t dare go down the knock gay path, and risk drawing the inevitable heat for it, if he didn’t think as Bush that anti-gay sentiment is still wide and deep among many blacks.

And that’s what makes Obama’s ala Bush pander to anti-gay mania even more shameless and reprehensible. From the moment that he tossed his hat in the presidential ring, Obama has done everything he could to sell himself to voters, as the Man on the White Horse, a fresh new face on the scene, with new ideas, and the candidate that’s not afraid to boldly challenge Bush and the GOP on everything from the Iraq war to health care. He’s also sold himself as a healer and consensus builder. Legions have bought his pitch, and have shelled out millions to bankroll his campaign. But healing and consensus building does not mean sucking up to someone that publicly boasts that he's in "a war" against gays, and that the aim of his war is to "cure" them. That’s what McClurkin has said. Polls show that more Americans than ever say that they support civil rights for gays, and a torrent of gay themed TV shows present non-stereotypical depictions of gays. But this increased tolerance has not dissipated the hostility that far too many blacks, especially hard core Bible thumping blacks, feel toward gays.

Obama has spent months telling everyone that he's everything that Bush isn't. He can proof it by saying a resounding no to McClurkin and to gay bashing. He can repudiate and cancel the South Carolina “gospel” tour, and do it now.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press).

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Painful Dirty Secret:
Latinos and Blacks Commit Hate Crimes—Against Each Other
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

The much publicized crackdown on a Latino gang that unleashed a three year campaign to drive blacks out of a mixed neighborhood in South Los Angeles ripped open a dirty and very painful secret. Latinos and blacks can and do commit hate crimes against each other. The violence can be just as deadly as the worst Southern Klan, Aryan Nation, or Skinhead attacks. Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles say Latino gang members committed or are suspected of complicity in 20 killings during its reign of terror in the area. The arrests and indictment of the gang members came barely two months after the slaying of three black students in Newark, New Jersey by illegal Latino immigrants, some with alleged gang ties.

But two years before the Newark killings, Latino men were robbed, beaten and even murdered in Plainfield, New Jersey, in Jacksonville, Florida, and in Annapolis, Maryland, and seven members of a Latino family were murdered in Indianapolis. The attackers in all cases were young black males. The men attacked were mostly undocumented workers, and police speculated that the attackers regarded them as easy prey for robbery since they would be reluctant to report the attacks to the police.
A Los Angeles county Human Relations Commission report on hate violence in 2005 found that overall Latinos committed nearly half of the hate attacks in the County, while blacks committed thirty percent of the hate attacks. However, when it was Latino and black violence, the figure for hate violence soared. Latinos and blacks committed the bulk of the racially motivated hate attacks against each other. Nationally, blacks and Latinos commit about one in five hate crimes, and many of their victims, as in Los Angeles, are other blacks or Latinos.

This represents two more disturbing trends. One is that blacks and Latinos committed the majority of hate crimes in Los Angeles, and a sizeable number of them nationally. The other is that hate crimes are increasingly being committed by blacks and Latinos against each other and that in some cases the victims are innocent random victims of the violence.

The racial tinged violence in Los Angeles, Newark, and the other cities is not the norm--yet. The overwhelming majority of physical assaults and murders of blacks are by blacks and most attacks on Latinos are by Latinos. However, black and Latino racial attacks against each other, no matter how infrequent, as is the case with white on black hate attacks, stir fear, rage, and panic, and deepen racial divisions. That’s especially true given the latent and increasingly openly expressed unease and hostility many blacks express toward illegal immigration.

There are two easy explanations for the hate violence in Los Angeles and nationally. One is that the perpetrators are bored, restless, disaffected, jobless, untutored, or violence-prone gang members engaging a bloody turf battles to control the drug trade. That seemed to be the case with the Florencia 13 street gang, the target of the federal crackdown.

The other explanation is that the violence is a twisted response to racism and deprivation. The attacks no doubt are deliberately designed by the gang hate purveyors to send the message to blacks that “this is our turf, and you’re an interloper.

There is still another reason, though, more subtle and nuanced, as to why some gang members commit racial attacks. The violence is a source of ego gratification for them; negative stereotypes provided a convenient rationale for their violent acts. University researchers found that those individuals who suffer low self-esteem or have serious self-image problems are much more likely to view others, especially those they consider rivals, through the warped lens of racial stereotypes.

Then there is the vehemence of the racial hate. The dirtier and even more painful secret is that blacks and Latinos can be as racist toward each other as some whites can be toward them. It’s easy to see why. Many Latinos continue to demean blacks for their poverty or type them as clowns, buffoons and crooks. Some routinely repeat the same vicious anti-black epithets as racist whites. A 1998 poll by the National Conference, a nonprofit organization that promotes racial dialogue, found that Latinos were three times more likely than whites to believe that blacks were incapable of getting ahead. These myths and stereotypes bolster the notion that blacks are a racial and competitive threat, and any distancing, ostracism, avoidance and even violence toward them seems a rational response to keep blacks at arm’s length.

But stereotypes can cut two ways. Some blacks feed on the same myths and negative images of Latinos as anti-black, violence-prone gangsters who pose a menace, and who are their ethnic and economic competitors. The same 1998 poll found that as many blacks as whites believed that Latinos breed big families and that they are unable to support them. The skewed misconceptions and fears both groups have about and toward each other in many instances drown out the efforts by many residents in South Los Angeles and other neighborhoods in other cities where the racial attacks occur to lessen tensions.

The galling new fact in America is that hate can come with a black or brown face, and the victim can have the same face. That’s yet another heart wrenching challenge for blacks and Latinos.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press).

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Come on People, No, Come on Cosby
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Comedian Bill Cosby is the walking and now writing proof of the ancient adage that good intentions can go terribly awry. That’s never been more painfully true than in Cosby’s latest tome, Come on People. Cosby and his publisher boast that the book is a big, brash, and provocative challenge to black folk to get their act together. That’s got him ga ga raves, and an unprecedented one hour spin job on Meet the Press. In the book, Cosby harangues and lectures, cobbles together a mesh of his trademark anecdotes, homilies, and personal tales of woe and success, juggles and massages facts to bolster his self-designated black morals crusade. Stripped away it’s the same stock claim that blacks can't read, write or speak coherent English, and are social and educational cripples and failures.

Since Cosby’s much touted tirade at the NAACP confab a few years back, and on countless talk shows, and at community gatherings, he has succeeded marvelously in getting the tongues of blacks wagging furiously and their fingers jabbing relentlessly at each other’s alleged mountainous defects. They stumble over themselves to hail Cosby as the ultimate truth-giver.

He isn’t. While Cosby is entitled to publicly air black America's alleged dirty laundry, there's more myth than dirt in that laundry. Some knuckleheads in black neighborhoods do kill, mug, peddle dope, are jobless untouchables, and educational wastrels. They, and only they, should be the target of wrath. But Cosby makes a Grand Canyon size leap from them to paint a half-truth, skewed, picture of the plight of poor blacks and the reasons and prescriptions for their plight. The cornerstone of Cosby mythmaking is that they are crime prone, educational losers, and teen baby making machines.

The heart wrenching and much played up news shots and specials of black-on-black blood letting in Philadelphia, New Orleans, and a handful of other big cities and the admission that blacks do have a much higher kill rate than young whites tell a tale of out-of-control, lawless blacks. The truth: homicides and physical assaults have plunged among black teens to the lowest levels in the past two decades. The rate of drug use among young blacks is no higher than among young whites. Blacks are more likely to be arrested, convicted and imprisoned than young whites who if arrested at all are more likely to get drug rehab, counseling, and treatment referrals, probation or community service. This horribly distorts the racial crime picture.

Then there is the black teen girls as baby making machine myth. The truth: The teen pregnancy rate among black girls has sharply dropped during the past decade. And they continue to fall.

The biggest myth that young blacks empty out the public schools, fill up the jails and cemeteries, and ridicule learning as acting white has risen to urban legend rank. The truth: The U.S. Dept. of Education found that in the decades since 1975, more blacks had enrolled in school, had improved their SAT scores by nearly 200 points and had lowered their dropout rate significantly. It also found that one in three blacks attended college, and that the number of blacks receiving bachelors and masters degrees had nearly doubled. A survey of student attitudes by the Minority Student Achievement Network, an Illinois-based educational advocacy group in 2002 and confirmed in other surveys, found that black students were as motivated, studied as hard, and were as serious about graduating as whites.

Cosby publicly bristles at criticism that he takes the worst of the worst behavior of some blacks and publicly hurls that out as the warped standard of black America. Cosby says that he does not mean to slander all, or even most blacks, as derelict, laggards and slackers. Yet that’s precisely the impression he gives and the criticism of him for it is more than justified. Even the book title, Come on People: On the Path from Victims to Victors (a hint they’re all losers) conveys that smear.
He did not qualify or provide a complete factual context for his blanket indictment of poor blacks. He made the negative behavior of some blacks a racial rather than an endemic social problem. In doing so, he did more than break the alleged taboo against publicly airing racial dirty laundry; he fanned dangerous and destructive stereotypes.

This is hardly the call to action that can inspire and motivate underachieving blacks to improve their lives. Instead, it further demoralizes those poor blacks who are doing the best to keep their children and themselves out of harm’s way, often against towering odds, while still being hammered for their alleged failures by the Cosby’s within and without their communities. Worse, Cosby’s blame the victim slam does nothing to encourage government officials and business leaders to provide greater resources and opportunities to aid those blacks that need help.
Come on People, intended or not, continues to tar the black communities and the black poor as dysfunctional, chronic whiners, and eternally searching for a government hand-out. Come on Cosby.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hanging Nooses: Hate or Hoax Upsurge

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Susan Smith, Charles Stuart, and Jennifer Wilbanks have one thing in common. They are the poster names of whites that foisted off racial con jobs on the nation. They shouted that a black or Latino man committed murder or mayhem to cover up their heinous crimes or their personal neurosis. They knew that finger pointing a black or Latino for wrongdoing sets off panicky bells and whistles in police stations, titillates the prurient juices in press rooms, and stirs public anxieties. Racial hoaxes almost always fall apart but they work for a time because they play hard on the stereotypes, myths, and fears about blacks and Latinos.

But racial hoaxes can cut both ways. The flurry of hanging nooses around the country may be a case in point. Hate crime experts and civil rights leaders say, and the media spin is, that the nooses are a white racist backlash to the firestorm of black protest over the Jena 6 case involving black teens in Louisiana accused of battering a white student. Others go further and issue dire a warning that that the nooses are a grim sign of a new racist hate upsurge in America.

A hanging noose found dangling on the office door of Madonna Constantine, a black race relations expert at Columbia University, is supposedly proof positive of the hate wave. The noose on her office door and at other places may well be the handiwork of a loony with a racial ax to grind or it may just be a put up job by a few silly, clueless, students who think stringing up or planting nooses is good for a few yucks and a brief media titter.

However, there’s another painful possibility. One or more of the nooses could be a hoax to make a point about racism. More than a few writers on the CNN website in discussing the Columbia University noose discovery had no hesitation in pointing the blame finger at blacks. While others simply said they didn’t believe that the noose had anything to do with race.

There’s no evidence that the hanging nooses are anything other than what they appear, namely sick, racial digs. Yet, the fact that so many believe that blacks are capable of pulling a dumb prank to get attention, or play the race card can’t and shouldn’t be cavalierly chalked up to white ignorance or bigotry. While the overwhelming majority of those that racial wolf shout to cover misdeeds or for kicks have been white, some blacks have screamed it too.
In her book, the Color of Crime, University of Florida professor Katheryn Russell-Brown, found that blacks perpetrate one in six racial hoaxes. The reasons the blacks commit hoaxes aren’t totally different than those of white hoaxers. Both are angry, resentful and play hard on stereotypes and fears—that whites are racist, and violent, and that blacks are menacing and violent. The hoaxes encase the worst of black and white fears about each other.

The Duke University rape case is a near textbook example of how those fears can boomerang. The female black college student that screamed that she was raped at a frat house by white Duke Lacrosse players ignited angry protests and a momentary deep soul search about racial and sexual victimization of blacks. As her story unraveled into a tissue of contradictions and lies, the soul search quickly turned into anger, rage, disgust and racial backlash not just against an on the make prosecutor but at black leaders that accepted her story at face value. Police and public officials felt they were played and may well be far more cautious about rape allegations made by blacks against whites. That wasn’t the only blowback. The Duke case was flung in the face of civil rights leaders as the danger of overplaying the race angle in Jena or anywhere else a black is victimized under muddled circumstances. City and school officials in Jena screamed that the infamous noose hanging incident at the high school was not racial since black students also stuck their heads through the noose.

At Historically Black Grambling University, school officials hit the roof when pictures of a young girl being hoisted by a black adult into a noose hanging from a tree hit the national newswires. As it turned out, five professors dangled the noose from the tree to make a dramatic point about the torment of race relations. The professors may have been well-intentioned, but to have an adult stick a child’s neck into the noose turned the horror of lynching into a cheap theatrical farce. The terror was trivialized and lost. It sent the even worse message that blacks are perfectly capable of stringing up nooses too.

Hanging nooses no matter whether they dangle from a tree, an office door, or are planted in a Coast Guard cadet’s bag, are still a hideous symbol of America’s racial past. That’s hardly the stuff of fun and game hoaxes no matter who put them there or why they did it.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press and Hispanic Economics New York) in English and Spanish will be out in October.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Better Imus on The Air Than Off
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Die hard Don Imus dissers will lose round two with the shock jock. Round two is a renewed battle to keep him off the air. He will be back on the air possibly as early as December. And he should be. It has nothing to do with him, his talent, his marketing draw, or the legions of fans that have shouted for his return since the nappy head ho dumping episode. His return has everything to do with the blacks that screamed for his hide back in April. The top Imus scalp hunters have mellowed, softened, or proclaimed disinterest in and toward keeping him off the air. The list includes Al Sharpton, the Rutgers women’s head basketball coach, some of the Rutgers players (one dropped her lawsuit against him), and a few prominent black columnists.
Their silence or indifference on an Imus return should not be mistaken for any ringing declaration of support for him. It’s simply recognition that continuing the vendetta against Imus serves no real purpose. There are two reasons why. It fuels the eternal accusation of a racial double-standard . That accusation came up time and again during the Imus firefight.

When Sharpton, the NAACP, and black journalist groups sprinted to the barricades to oust Imus, white and black Imus defenders pounded them for their vehement Imus assault while playing like deaf mutes when it came to the misogynist spouting black rappers, comedians, and filmmakers. The Imus denouncers scrambled fast and mounted a noisy campaign against the rap defilers to quash the double standard charge. But that hasn’t stopped the fling of the double-standard accusation at blacks that scream racism when whites mouth off, but say nothing, or make a tepid criticism when blacks do the same.

Sharpton got hit again with the double-standard accusation when he called on New York Knicks president Isiah Thomas to apologize for demeaning women. Sharpton bashers hammered him for calling on Thomas only to apologize and not demand that he be fired, as he did with Imus. Sharpton has since said that while he called for Imus’s firing, he did not call for him to be banned in perpetuity to broadcast Siberia. This fine distinction won’t satisfy those that pounce on any inconsistency blacks show when it comes to dealing with black and white verbal bashers.

In any case, the debate over Imus’s Rutger's gibe and the defense of it and him skirted the all too fine, and often blurred line, between what's free speech and offensive, libelous speech. The insult was, of course, crass, crude, and repulsive. But Imus almost certainly didn’t intend the poor taste joke or vile crack – take your pick – as a hate epithet against the Rutgers Lady Cagers. As Sharpton and countless others noted, his dig was no worse than the bile that the pantheon of rap opportunist/defilers regularly spew against black women.

There’s another reason for standing aside when Imus returns to the airwaves. It goes far beyond the self-serving moans from his posse that the poor guy has suffered enough. A live and sobered Imus behind the mic would serve as the O.J. Simpson of broadcast media. He’d be the permanent broadcast poster boy for what can happen to shock jocks that stray over the line of racial trash talking indecency. That can always ignite the swift wrath of much of the public. A tame, well-behaved Imus won’t instantly turn shock jocks into reincarnated Edward R. Murrows. It will make them pause and think a tad more carefully about their words and possible consequences.

That’s already happened to a few shock jocks that have dribbled out an Imus like slur. They have been quickly called on the carpet and suspended or canned.
Imus also made some corporate sponsors wince at his antics. And when the clamor for his hide rose to a crescendo, they instantly cut bait, and Imus was the bait. And since the name of the game on the airwaves is still ratings and dollars, corporation’s---post-Imus--- have tipped more gingerly around controversy. While the truism remains in full force that controversy always gets the cash registers jingling, too much controversy can turn those jingles into headaches for a station management that has to spend countless hours fending off black, Latino, Asian, gay and women’s groups that are up in arms over a shock jock’s taunt. The perverse silver lining in Imus’s fall from public grace then is that he slightly redefined the rules of ethnic and gender engagement on the airwaves for some station owners and management.

The hard reality is that Imus did pay a steep price for his mouth, and he deserved to pay that price. Now that he will and should return to the broadcast studio, he has a chance for redemption. His return is no cause for cheers and popping the champagne corks. But it’s certainly no cause for jeers and tossing those bottles at him either when he returns.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press and Hispanic Economics New York) in English and Spanish will be out in October.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Do The Right Thing Marion, Return The Medals
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

The buzz in the crowd at the stadium at Cerritos College near Los Angeles on that warm Saturday evening in June 1993 was electric. The more than 10,000 high school track buffs that packed the stands for the California state High School track and field championship were there almost to a person for one reason. They came to be thrilled by and to cheer the young high school phenom, Marion Jones. Her talent was prodigious and her reputation had gone far beyond high school track circles. On the track, she looked even then like a woman among girls. Her two sprint races were for the most part an exercise in going through the motions. Her victories were a foregone conclusion. The only question was would she set yet another record.
She didn’t disappoint.

Jones was magnificent that evening in her near record breaking double sprint wins. It was the fourth time that she accomplished the unprecedented fete, and the second time that I personally saw her do the double. After each win that evening, she flashed her trademark toothy smile to the wildly cheering crowd, and graciously took a short victory jog. Everyone, this writer included, just knew that we were not only witnessing history, but felt that we were in the presence of someone truly special. Jones added to that feeling by pulling a fete that no other track athlete had done. She copped the Gatorade Athlete of the Year Award for a second time. Being a track nut, I continued to closely follow, admire and cheer Jones on through her college and Olympic triumphs.
The lofty perch that she rested on that evening after her victories at the state championship meet never seemed more secure. With her special blend of seemingly awesome natural talent, grace, and personal charm, she seemed destined to stay on top for years to come. But even then there was a wisp of a cloud. After a high school championship meet in 1992, she failed to show up for a mandatory drug test.

That prompted a flurry of faint whispers that maybe there was more to Jones’s track reign than met the eye. But Jones moved fast, and hired famed attorney Johnnie Cochran to clear things up. Her failure to show was chalked up to a misunderstanding and quickly forgotten. As Jones continued to firm up her spot as America’s reigning track queen, the allegations and finger pointing gnawed deeper at her throne. But Jones always seemed to have the last word for the doubters and finger pointers. The word was always “it taint true.” If you still had doubts, there was her denial in big, bold print on page 173 of her 2004 autobiography, Marion Jones, Life in the Fast Lane, (The title told more than Jones intended). “I am against performance enhancing drugs. I have never taken them and I never will take them.”

The words, of course, were a bald faced lie. Her brutal plunge from public grace and adulation is a cautionary tale. In fact, it’s two cautionary tales. It a short misstep from public acclaim to public disgrace for superstar icons, and there’s no surer way to make that happen than to lie and cheat to win at all costs. And when the inevitable exposure happens, the public is merciless and pitiless in its wrath and contempt. Jones earned and deserved both.

Even her apology as sincere and heartfelt as it seemed, came only after she was legally pressed to the wall by the feds. The apology is even more galling because it was dumped on top of the years of her duck, dodge, and cover your backside denials, punctuated by lawsuits, and the threat of lawsuits against anyone who dared suggest that she was a cheater. It is even more galling because thousands of fans and admirers, myself included, fervently wanted to believe in her innocence and in blind faith charged her accusers with vicious rumor mongering and character assassination to defame and destroy the reputation of a young African-American woman who stood as an intelligent, poised and successful role model to many African-Americans and young women.

But Jones played us all, and that makes the hurt that she’s a self-admitted cheat and liar even more painful. Her track career is finished. She, of course, will plunge even deeper into financial ruin. She will likely serve a stretch in a federal pen. Now all that’s left is for the International Olympic Committee to drop the axe on her and strip her of the five Olympic medals that she won at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

Jones should not wait for that to happen. She should voluntarily return her Olympic medals. It won’t make her any less the cheater that she was, but her voluntary return of the medals will add real meaning to her public apology, help restore her name and integrity, and send a strong message that cheating and unfair play to win is not the Olympic and American way.

Marion, you owe yourself and your fans that much.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press, October 2007).