(Photo: YouTube/Oberlin Live)Carmen Ambar is making history as the first African-American president of Oberlin College.Ambar, who was previously president of Cedar Crest College, is replacing Marvin...
A Commentary By Evin Cosby I am the youngest of five. I remember our family trips and moving to NYC just so we could be closer to my father as he worked. From the time he worked in Las Vegas to the Cosby show in NYC, he always wanted us to be close, to be […]
’Tis the season to add some holiday spirit to your soul-music diet. And right on cue, well known songstress Karen Brown will be performing live November 25th at her annual holiday soiree.
Brown has been shutting down venues with her powerhouse voice for several years! As a past winner of the famous Showtime at the Apollo and a recipient of numerous awards for her outstanding voice, she is always a treat to hear perform live.
“I have shared the stage with many nationally known artists from R&B, Southern Soul to Gospel,” said Brown.
The concert will take place at the Rumba Room, beginning at 5:30 p.m.
DJ Tim Bachus will be on the 1’s and 2’s for the interactive and intimate performance. To open the show, he’ll invite audience members to participate in karaoke. There will be thank-you gifts for participants and gifts for anyone celebrating a birthday.
Brown and her talented backing musicians are primed to deliver another crowd-pleasing evening, which will feature a special guest singing alongside.
“Fans can expect a passion filled, heartfelt performance with excellent live instrumentation, that takes one on a musical journey, that allows you to experience every emotion in the comforts of what I like to call my “living room,” Brown said.
“Great energy, great people, and a great time. …
“The Memphis music scene is filled with great talent and becoming a part of it has been a true blessing for me,” said Brown.
(Tickets are $25 and can be purchased by texting 901-573-6092.)
By DON BABWIN, Associated Press CHICAGO (AP) — A suburban Chicago alderman called Tuesday for Cook County prosecutors to investigate the fatal shooting of a black security guard by a white police officer outside the bar where the guard worked. Authorities have said little about the scene that ended early Sunday with the death of 26-year-old Jemel Roberson, who was apparently wearing a hat emblazoned with “security” across the front when he was shot outside Manny’s Blue Room in Robbins, a predominantly black community just south of Chicago. At the time, according to witnesses and a lawsuit, Roberson was attempting to detain a suspect in a separate shooting that wounded several other people at the tavern. “Here is a security guard who is subduing a suspect,” but the officer “just sees a black man with a gun and kills him,” Alderman Keith Price said. Price said he learned from witnesses that there are security cameras inside and outside the bar. He urged the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to launch an investigation. The Illinois State Police declined to comment on their investigation. A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department, which is also investigating, said she did not know if there were security cameras at the bar. Another security guard at the tavern said that the officer jumped onto the bar and waved an assault rifle before running outside and fatally shooting the guard, an attorney said Tuesday. Gregory E. Kulis, who on Monday filed a civil rights lawsuit against the officer and the community where he works, said the surviving guard told him that the officer pointed a gun at him until he screamed at him that he was a security guard. “That’s when he jumped off the bar, waving the gun, and ran outside the door,” said Kulis, who declined to identify the other security guard. The name of the officer, who is from the community of Midlothian, has not been released either. In a statement, Midlothian Police Chief Daniel Delaney said only that the officer shot “a subject with a gun.” Though shootings of security guards and off-duty police officers by law enforcement are fairly rare, they have happened. In 2009, an off-duty black New York City police officer wearing street clothes and holding his service weapon, was shot and killed by police as he chased a man who had broken into his car. In that same year, undercover officers in Brooklyn responding to a report of a bar fight shot and killed a 43-year-old security guard who, police said, pointed a gun at them. A year earlier, in White Plains, New York, a black off-duty Mount Vernon officer who was holding an assault suspect at gunpoint was fatally shot by a Westchester County officer. A 73-year-old night watchman at a recycling center was fatally shot by officers in 2012 in Florida after they spotted him carrying a gun when they arrived in response to a call of an intruder. Police later said the man was not wearing anything that identified him as a security guard. And in 2000, an off-duty black police sergeant in Rhode Island was shot and killed by two uniformed colleagues as he tried to break up a fight in a parking lot. Kulis would not say if he thinks race played a role in Chicago-area shooting, but the fact that the officer is white and Roberson was black has prompted some — including a prominent local African-American newspaper columnist — to question the officer’s thinking. “I believe a police officer showing up at a chaotic scene where a white man has a gun would have at least hollered for him to put the gun down before opening fire,” Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell wrote after the shooting. “But too often, black men are not given the benefit of the doubt.” Kulis said he is trying to gather information about the officer, who he said came to the Midlothian department four years ago from another department and is a member of a SWAT team. Footage from surveillance or body cameras could explain whether Roberson was clearly identifiable as a security guard. Audio could determine what, if anything, was said to the officer before the shooting and whether, as witnesses have told the media, they shouted to the officer before he fired that Roberson was a security guard. Such footage could also help investigators determine what kind of charges should be filed against the man who is suspected of firing a gun inside the bar. The man was one of four people who suffered non-life threatening gunshot wounds. In his $1 million federal lawsuit, Kulis contends that the officer who shot Roberson violated the man’s 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. “The use of force is considered a seizure, and he needed probable cause to use force and he did not have that,” he said.
Associated Press researcher Monika Mathur in New York contributed to this report.
By Liberty Vittert, Washington University in St Louis(The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.) (THE CONVERSATION) Donald Trump has waved the words “stop and frisk” around like a banner call to cure violent crime in American cities. That means it’s time to take a look back at one of the primary criticisms of this police practice: racial profiling. The American Civil Liberties Union defines racial profiling as “the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race, ethnicity, religion or national origin.” This includes police using race to determine which drivers to stop for routine traffic violations or which pedestrians to search for illegal contraband. The inevitable question is what percent of minorities the police should stop, statistically. But the default methods for deciding who is guilty of racial profiling are not statistically sound. We are working with the Bureau of Research and Analysis at the St. Louis County Police Department to create a stronger metric.
In general, there are two types of tests used to identify patterns of racial profiling. The first, “benchmarking,” simply involves comparing the percentage of stops for people of a specific race with the percentage of that minority in that geographic area. Benchmarking was used in an often-cited 1999 report by the New York attorney general on the New York City Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices. Officers were patrolling in and around private residential buildings and stopping individuals they believed were trespassing. In 1999, 25.6 percent of the city’s population was black, yet comprised 50.6 percent of all persons stopped. In a 2013 federal court case, the judge ruled that stop and frisk had been used in an unconstitutional manner. However, in benchmarking, the numbers are based on census data, which can give a highly misleading view. For example, take Town and Country, Missouri, a city with only a 12.2 percent nonwhite population. More than 20 percent of last year’s traffic stops involved minorities. However, Town and Country has two major interstates running through it. How are the tens of thousands of motorists driving on those interstates captured in the benchmark? Census data doesn’t account for any nonresidents. For all of the St. Louis County Police Department patrol areas, only 44.6 percent of drivers stopped by police actually lived in St. Louis County. This alone shows that census data is not a viable source for determining racial profiling. What’s more, officers are often ordered to patrol “high crime” areas. Statistically speaking, these are predominantly minority areas. So, inevitably, there will be more stops in those designated high-crime areas. As data is usually observed on a city, county or precinct level, the demographics of these high-crime areas are obscured.
Another type of test looks at stop-and-frisk’s “hit rate” – that is, the percentage of searches that actually lead to the discovery of weapons, drugs or other contraband. In some states, like North Carolina, while a higher percentage of one minority was searched, there was actually a less likely chance that the officers discovered illegal contraband. This was shown as evidence of racial profiling. An issue here is that most hit rates involve all searches, regardless of the type. This includes searches after arrests for outstanding warrants. That means that the final hit rate may be misleading, including searches done as part of routine processing. In 2016, researchers at Stanford published a new type of test that analyzes four variables: race of the driver, department of officer making the stop, if the stop resulted in a search and if illegal contraband was found. This metric is designed to give a “snapshot of the officer’s threshold of suspicion before searching person of a given race.” However, as the authors notably discuss, there is no way to definitively conclude that the disparities shown by this metric necessarily stem from racial bias. What’s more, Stanford’s metric is too complicated for every precinct in the U.S. to use due to lack of detailed data and the complex analysis required.
A proposed metric
Given the drawbacks of current methods used to detect racial profiling, the U.S. needs a new way to detect racial profiling among police officers. We suggest something that is simple, understandable and easily applied across the country: a method called intrapopulation comparison. Say one precinct has 100 police officers. Some officers stop fewer minorities, some stop more, while most officers are somewhere in the middle. Each officer is assigned a score, showing how far he or she individually deviates from the average. If the officer deviates too far, he or she is flagged and that case is looked at more carefully. This concept was first introduced in the early 2000s. Why aren’t more precincts using this method? Most likely the same reason most practices stay in place past their prime: habit. We’re currently collecting data and studying how this metric might work for the St. Louis County Police Department. Intrapopulation comparison allows us to flag individual officers, while addressing the issues that come with benchmarks or hit rates, like commuters and census data. The officers are compared with other officers in similar situations. The basis for identifying an officer in this system is that he or she is statistically different from the peer group. A glaring issue with this approach is that an entire precinct could be racially biased. But, inevitably, there will be major outliers. Racial profiling is a critical issue for law enforcement and the nation. Police departments have to demonstrate that they serve citizens in an impartial manner. We believe that this metric is simple and understandable, and it serves as an early warning system that will get closer to the root of the problem – individual officers who racially profile. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: http://theconversation.com/measuring-racial-profiling-why-its-hard-to-tell-where-police-are-treating-minorities-unfairly-105455.
PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — A white retired firefighter who burst out of his suburban Detroit house and shot at a black teenager who was asking for help to find his way to school was sentenced Tuesday to at least four years in prison. Jeffrey Zeigler said he has “full remorse and regret” over the incident last spring in Rochester Hills. The mother of 14-year-old Brennan Walker said race was the key factor. Her son wasn’t physically injured. “I try to keep race out of it, but we all know that’s what it was,” Lisa Wright told a judge. Brennan said he missed a school bus on April 12 and knocked on Zeigler’s door after getting lost. He ran after seeing a man inside the house grab a gun. A key piece of evidence: Video from a home security camera showing the boy running away and a shirtless Zeigler firing a shotgun. Smoke emerged from the barrel. A jury convicted him last month of assault and a gun crime. “He almost took the life of another human being,” assistant prosecutor Kelly Collins said. “That will forever stay with Brennan — forever. His perception of strangers, his perception of other people, his perception of the world.” Oakland County Judge Wendy Potts sentenced Zeigler, a retired Detroit firefighter, to four to 10 years in prison, which means he’ll serve four years before he’s eligible to be released on parole. “I wish I could change something,” Zeigler, 53, told the judge. At trial, he said he woke up to his wife’s screams and that she believed someone was trying to break into their home. Brennan didn’t attend the final hearing. “We moved to Rochester Hills to live in a better place, a safe place,” Wright said. “But when a safer place doesn’t want you there, I don’t know how to process that.”
When I was a kid, I didn’t live close enough to a comic book shop to get there on my bike. My parents would have to take me to Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, Va., and I’d get my comics off the old spinner racks at Waldenbooks. As the years went on and specialty comic shops opened, my friends and I had a comic book ritual of sorts. Matt, Jeff and I would borrow one of our parents’ car, drive out to our favorite comic shop, then go to Jeff’s room and read comics until we had to go home. Stacks of X-Men, Captain America and Spider-Man comics would be spread out all over the floor. This is how I spent my ’90s childhood. And while at the time the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday was still up for debate, Al Sharpton was considered controversial and Public Enemy wasn’t played on “mainstream” radio–in a strange way all of that comic reading gave me a racial and political education that my lily-white suburban Virginia life never did. And it’s all thanks to Stan Lee, the creative and driving force behind Marvel comics for half a century, who passed away Monday at the tender age of 95. He gave a black kid a place to play in the cosmos and beyond, and the world is a little less bright after his passing. Over the next 24 hours you’ll hear how Stan Lee is credited with creating Daredevil, Thor, Iron Man, Ant-Man, Dr. Strange, the Wasp, the Hulk the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and, of course, Black Panther. What you won’t hear as much is how he was screaming from the rafters about racism and discrimination while providing a curriculum for black kids like myself when public schools and all other forms of pop culture summarily shut us out.
Stan Lee didn’t just develop the modern superhero, he brought activist heroes and storylines to the mainstream when most other white publishers let alone newspapers were still playing footsie with Nazis, terrorists and bigots. It is hard to overstate how important Lee is to black kids growing up in the 1980s and ’90s back when comic books were considered a “white” thing. I have literally teared up a few times while writing and thinking about how much joy he brought to youngsters like me, and how much his passion and excitement for comic books helped validate this hobby and the culture that goes with the genre. More than any other golden age comic creator Lee’s characters put blackness and the black experience at the forefront.
When Lee created the X-Men in 1963, the battle between Magneto and Professor X was meant to be a rough allegory for the integrationist vs. nationalist philosophies of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Yes, the idea of black oppression and philosophy being played out by mostly protestant white guys like Cyclops and Ice-Man is problematic in hindsight (Magneto is Jewish), but it was a radical idea at the time. It also laid the groundwork for a comic that always spoke to racial injustice, even to kids like me who loved comics but seldom saw themselves in the stories and shows of the genre. By the ’90s, the ideas Stan Lee established had evolved, and I was spending my Saturday afternoons reading about Genosha, the apartheid state that forced mutants into labor for regular (read: white) humans. When my class wasn’t talking about apartheid, I was learning it from Stan Lee’s creations. Lee’s creations seamlessly integrated “blackness” into comics in a way that was revolutionary and organic all at the same time. Peter Parker was a poor, white kid who was mentored by his black editor at the Daily Bugle newspaper, Robbie Robertson. Captain America’s best friend was the Falcon (played by Anthony Mackie in the movies) who wore technologically advanced wings built by Black Panther (in the comics). Black Panther was the king of a super technologically advanced, never-conquered, African nation called Wakanda that introduced me to afro-futurism before I even knew what afro-futurism was. Stan Lee created all of those black characters, from kings to sidekicks; from father figures to managers.
It wasn’t until later in life, when I started studying and teaching about comics instead of just reading them, that I learned that none of this was a fluke. Stan Lee was an activist artist, a Jewish guy born to Romanian immigrants parents in New York who hated bigotry. He was explicit about it in both his Stan’s Soapbox editorials that ran across all Marvel Comics. He called bigots “Low IQ Yo-Yos,” he said that anybody who generalized about blacks, women, Italians or whoever hadn’t truly evolved as a person. He was doing this in comic pages when mainstream newspaper editorials were still deciding if black folks should be able to live where they wanted. When Marvel Comics were afraid that the Black Panther character would be associated with the Black Panther political movement, Stan Lee pushed for T’Challa to keep his name (at one point they wanted to call him Coal Tiger). All of this at a time when even having a black person in a comic was still considered controversial. Just last October, Lee posted a spontaneous video on the Marvel’s YouTube page stating the foundation of Marvel Comics was to fight for equality and battle against bigotry and injustice. I don’t know if it was Charlottesville, Va., or Donald Trump that inspired the video but the fact remains that Stan Lee was steadfast in his belief that super-heroes should look and sound like the world around us; that they needed to reflect the best in people while tackling the worst of human instincts.
I’m not a kid anymore, I’m not waking up to hear Stan Lee’s voice narrate Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends on Saturday mornings. I can drive myself to the movies where I see Stan Lee cameos in Marvel and D.C. films. I don’t look up at the ceilings in D.C.’s Union Station and imagine what it would it would be like to climb on the walls like Spider-Man (well, actually I still do but not as often). Yet, every week I teach a class at Morgan State University about comic book politics and history, I still go to the comic shop every Wednesday, I have interviewed Ta-Nehisi Coates twice about the Black Panther comic book, I wrote about how the Falcon made the Captain America movies the blackest Marvel film ever. I’ve waxed poetic about how the X-Men are the single most progressive pop culture icons in Gen-X culture. All of this is thanks to Stan Lee, who showed this kid that a love of art and politics didn’t have to exist in separate universes; that blackness was as heroic as anything else; and that when you have power—even just the power to draw a few characters on a page—you have a responsibility to make those characters count for something.
Lee would end most of his personal appearances and cameos with “Excelsior” — the Latin phrase that translates roughly as “higher.” Thanks for all your help, Stan Lee. I hope you’re out there somewhere exploring the cosmos, swinging from the ceilings, knowing that you made the world a better place. Excelsior, indeed. Let’s block ads!(Why?)
Maybe it’s me. No, maybe it’s me, seriously. I missed last Wednesday’s thrilling win over Denver because we were putting the print edition to bed so it could be on the streets Thursday. I missed Saturday’s dramatic win over Philadelphia because I was out sick. So I was indeed worried that I might jinx the team by showing up to cover their third meeting with the Utah Jazz. But not so worried that I didn’t go. In any case, injuries and questionable calls – and of course, a highly motivated Utah Jazz squad – sent the Grizzlies to their first home loss of the season, an 88-96 game that feels like could have gone the other way if the whistle had been consistent. Check out my Three Point Play from Facebook: Also, these postgame comments from Grizzlies Coach JB Bickerstaff, Marc Gasol, Garrett Temple and Mike Conley. The Grizzlies head up to Milwaukee Wednesday, where they will face a 10-3 Bucks team that seems to have cracked a cheat code with Giannis Antetokounmpo and must be considered among the elite teams in the Eastern Conference, right there with Boston and Toronto. Add in the injuries and shorter rotation, and it’s a tough matchup for the home team. Then again, they weren’t supposed to be Philadelphia either, so that’s why they play the games. . . . more to come . . .
Four and a half months ago, Church of God in Christ (COGIC) Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr. paused as he prepared to read “the word of the Lord” and made an announcement: the Holy Convocation likely would convene in Memphis in two to three years. On Monday night, word filtered out of St. Louis that the convention held there for the last nine years would indeed return to its roots in Memphis. “The Church of God in Christ since 2010 has held our largest convention, the Holy Convocation in St. Louis, MO. and today we voted to move the convention in 2021-2023 to the city of Memphis, TN.,” Blake said in a statement released Monday night. “The City of Memphis has special significance in the spiritual and cultural life of COGIC and we are pleased to return to the place of our origin,” Blake added. The 111th Holy Convocation began in St. Louis Nov. 5 and concludes today (Nov. 13). The annual convention will be held in St. Louis through 2020. Blake, the General Board and the General Assembly, the legislative body of the Church of God in Christ, voted for the return to Memphis. COGIC counts 6.5 million adherents in 100 countries and is regarded as the fourth largest Protestant group in the nation. The annual religious gathering known as the Holy Convocation convened in Memphis from 1907 through 2009. At the time of the move, it was reported that Memphis lacked the infrastructure to serve the estimated 30,000 attendees. There have been several efforts and pitches made to lure COGIC back to Memphis since its departure, including a 2014-bid to secure the convention for 2017-19. That came during the administration of then-Mayor A C Wharton Jr. Two years later, Bishop David Allen Hall, pastor of Temple Church of God and Christ, wrote Mayor Jim Strickland with these suggestions for luring COGIC back to Memphis: “Pay the two current bond issues on the FedEx Forum and the Pyramid. Start a new bond issue for two purposes: (1) to renovate the Cook Convention Center with increased capacity for larger conventions (2) to demolish the Liberty Bowl Stadium and build a new domed stadium with a seating capacity of 50,000.” When he announced at a gathering last June (2018) that COGIC expected to be back in Memphis in two or three years, Blake said, “We had a thing or two that we needed to teach Memphis. So we are going to go back and see whether they learned it or not.”
The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis will release its 2018 Policy Papers at its annual open house on Thursday (Nov. 15). Set for 6 p.m. in the University Center River Room (300), the focus will be on identifying and proposing solutions to contemporary pressing disparities in Memphis and the nation. The event will provide the setting for the release of the fourth edition of the Hooks Institute Policy Papers, titled Climbing Out From Under the Rock: Restoring Civil Rights, Economics and Social Justice in Memphis and the Nation. Authors of the papers tackle existing and possible future disparities, in the criminal justice system, education, healthcare, technology and automation. The lineup “The Dangers of a Fragmented Educational Landscape in Shelby County” – Daniel Kiel, professor in the UofM’s Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, examines historical entrenchment of segregation in Memphis public schools and the negative implications for minority communities. “Implicit Bias and Disproportionate Minority Contact in the Shelby County Juvenile Court System” – Demetria R. Frank, assistant professor in the School of Law, addresses implicit bias in the juvenile criminal justice system and the impact on minority youth in the age of mass incarceration. “The Robots Are Ready! Are We? Automation, Race, and the Workforce” – Daphene R. McFerren, Hooks Institute executive director, and Dr. Elena Delavega, Hooks Institute associate director and associate professor of Social Work, identify the impact of automation on jobs in Memphis and beyond and the implications for the most vulnerable in society. “Race and Poverty: Disparities in Healthcare at the End of Life” – Dr. Ana L. Leech, assistant professor of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center McGovern Medical School, critiques how inadequate health care impacts quality of life including end of life decisions. A reception will begin at 5:30 p.m. followed by the authors’ presentations at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Parking available in the Zach Curlin Street garage. (To learn more, contact Nathaniel C. Ball: 901-678-3655; firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social change at memphis.edu/benhooks.)
Jason Reid, The Undefeated Sonia Y.W. Pruitt was tired and fighting a cold, but she wasn’t having it. After a colleague informed her that another police organization had blasted Nike for featuring Colin Kaepernick in its new national advertising campaign in early September, she perked up and pushed back. Pruitt, the national chairperson of the National Black Police Association and a police lieutenant in Maryland, wrote a letter stating that her group stood with the activist quarterback, who a little more than two years ago ignited an ongoing national dialogue by protesting during the national anthem to shine a light on police brutality and systemic oppression. Pruitt left no doubt that she disagreed with the other police organization. “We live in a country where the 1st Amendment is a right of the people,” Pruitt wrote. “Mr. Kaepernick chose to exercise his right where his passion was – on the football field.” The public rebuke laid bare that there are deep divisions in police departments, which fall largely along racial lines, about the approach some professional athletes have taken while leading the new civil rights movement. And on that issue, many black folks who serve and protect simply won’t toe the blue line. “I just thought to myself, ‘Here we go again,’ ” Pruitt said in an interview recently. “When I read the letter, which makes it seem like all police organizations feel the same way, I was like, ‘Damn it!’ I got a little fired up because, on many social issues, we disagree [with other police organizations]. “The fact is, black officers, because of our experience we bring to the job, may have a different outlook on things. Most of the black officers I’ve spoken to … have a different view about Kaepernick. It’s like this: Just because we all wear a uniform doesn’t mean that we all think alike.” As the debate continues about both the appropriateness and effectiveness of athletes demonstrating during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” another important national discussion is occurring within the larger one: How do African-American police officers, military service members and veterans truly view the situation? When Kaepernick launched his peaceful protest as a member of the San Francisco 49ers, those opposed to his message framed that message as being disrespectful to the military and police. The idea being that any action other than standing solemnly during the anthem is inherently hostile to the nation’s first responders. Kaepernick’s critics contend that active-duty personnel, veterans and police officers are in lockstep in their opposition to him and the others who followed his lead by kneeling or otherwise protesting before games. Not true. There is resounding support for Kaepernick from some veterans as well as some police officers. Still, his detractors largely dismiss those on the other side as being on the fringe or, equally without foundation, as unpatriotic as the onetime dual-threat star. Of course, that’s not surprising, especially when people of color in those groups back Kaepernick, said Princeton University professor Eddie Glaude Jr. Historically in the United States, whites have often been dismissive of blacks who have served in policing and the armed forces, he said. “There’s a sense in which African-Americans in the uniform have always been, in some ways, read differently,” said Glaude, who teaches religion and African-American studies. “You think about African-American soldiers returning home from World War II and [the racism] they had to endure. When we don the blue uniform, or a police officer’s uniform, it shows that we respect law and order. But the black body is often read differently in those contexts. “It’s either made invisible so that they’re just presumed to be of one voice with white folks, or their patriotism is still questioned, or they’re attacked as being suspicious characters in some ways. … There’s no direct correlation between black folks and uniform and patriotism or love of country. There’s no necessary relationship between them. No matter what they wear, the only thing that’s being seen is the black body.”
“When you’re on the battlefield and you’re in the heat of combat, and you call in for a rescue, the first thing that we as soldiers are looking for is that flag.”
Pruitt, partly, railed against the fact that black officers initially had no voice in the discussion about Kaepernick and Nike. Yet another police organization even went so far as to call for a boycott of the athletic apparel giant. The Dallas-based National Black Police Association, which was founded in 1972, was determined to be heard on a matter important to many of its members. In responding to the other police groups that admonished Kaepernick and Nike, Pruitt wrote, the “NBPA believes that Mr. Kaepernick’s stance is in direct alignment with what law enforcement stands for — the protection of a people, their human rights, their dignity, their safety and their rights as American citizens.” Leaving no doubt about the group’s position, Pruitt accomplished her goal – and made a bigger point. “When we talk about our issues, and we bring them up as our issues because we are black, there tends to be discomfort,” she said. “But this issue with Kaepernick and what he’s trying to do … no. Some things are too important. Sometimes you have to stand up, say which side you’re on and talk about it no matter the discomfort.”
Damian Herring is an old school Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Ask Herring about his favorite team, and he’ll take you back to the 1970s, when the Steel Curtain defense helped Pittsburgh win four Super Bowl championships. He’s an expert on the careers of Hall of Famers Joe Greene, Jack Lambert and Jack Ham. But Herring can also hang with anyone who wants to rap about the latest iteration of the Steelers. Mention Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, and you’d better have time to listen to Herring, who wears his Steelers watch with pride. While serving in the Army for 21 years, retiring as a sergeant first class, Herring reveled in following his beloved Steelers, and the NFL in general, wherever he was stationed. That’s why back in 2016, he was confused and disappointed when the player protests began. No one needs to tell Herring that social injustice exists. And being a black man, he’s acutely aware of the nation’s shameful legacy of slavery and Jim Crow segregation. With that established, Herring said, there’s a place and time for everything. On both fronts, the players chose poorly, he believes. “I’m disturbed by the protests,” Herring said during an interview in his Northern Virginia home. “I feel that it’s very disrespectful. I understand that there are issues. I know that. I understand that they want change. But it’s how you go about it. This wasn’t the right way at all. I just think it’s wrong.” Herring isn’t alone. Since the beginning of the season, The Undefeated has spoken with more than 30 African-American police officers, service members and veterans, seeking their opinions about the demonstrations during the anthem. Several echoed Herring’s sentiment, saying that players should have used a different forum to champion social change. The overwhelming majority of those interviewed, however, affirmed that the players clearly have the right to protest, which, despite the practice being constitutionally protected, is not necessarily accepted writ large by people angered by the displays. What’s more, many who participated in this report backed the players, applauding them for potentially risking their careers to work on behalf of others. The part about players being well within their rights as citizens is in alignment with national polling of service members and veterans, which reveals that, regardless of race, they believe in high numbers that the First Amendment enables players to protest peacefully during games. In the Herring household, though, it’s not quite so simple. Monique Herring, Herring’s wife, also served in the Army. She did a two-year tour before being medically discharged. “But then she continued to serve as a dependent,” Herring said. “Dependents serve, too. Don’t forget to put that in there.” Monique Herring supports players in their fight against injustice, but “when I look at [Kaepernick], as an NFL player, I’m thinking, ‘That’s his job.’ The first thing that came to me was that I can’t go on my job and do that or I’m going to get fired,” she said. “But there’s something even more important than that. When you think about the flag. When you think about what it means to us. … ” With tears welling in her eyes and her voice cracking, Monique Herring, seated next to Herring at their dining room table, stopped to attempt to compose herself. Since she was unable to complete her point, Herring finished her sentence. “What she’s trying to explain is that when you’re on the battlefield and you’re in the heat of combat, conflict, and you call in for a rescue or for somebody to come and get you, the first thing that we as soldiers are looking for is that flag,” he said. “So that flag means something to us. It means something more to us because of what we do. That’s symbolic not only of safety, but it also embodies the freedoms that we all have and that we’re fighting for. It represents something totally different for veterans.” On that point, everyone interviewed by The Undefeated agreed. But the attention drawn to high-profile cases involving encounters between the police and African-Americans, most of whom were killed by police or died in police custody, over the past few years has led many veterans to believe it’s now appropriate to use every forum possible to combat what they view as a culture that at least tacitly condones systemic oppression. Patrick Hagood is among those who are fine with the protests. Hagood served in the Army for more than seven years, retiring as a staff sergeant. Through his love of the Carolina Panthers, the South Carolina native follows the NFL closely. “And I’m not one of those bandwagon people,” Hagood said. “I was there from the beginning. I was with them when [quarterback] Jake Delhomme was there. I’m with my Panthers.” Kaepernick and the other players who have protested “definitely did the right thing,” he said. “For people who want to say that maybe it was the wrong time and the wrong place, it was actually the right time and the right place. Most people who say that it’s wrong have never walked a day in the shoes of African-Americans. “They do not empathize with what we go through. They don’t want to even try to understand what we go through. That’s why it’s so easy for them to dismiss us. When your kids have to worry about getting pulled over because they’re driving a certain car in a certain neighborhood, then you can talk to me.” While on tour in Iraq in 2005, Hagood was severely injured when his vehicle was hit with an improved explosive device. His right leg had to be reconstructed. He suffered third-degree burns over his face and hands. For more than a year, Hagood could not walk. When people who have not served in the military criticize Kaepernick for exercising the right that Hagood and others have sacrificed so much to defend, Hagood just takes a deep breath. “They want to talk about the players don’t have the right to do something, which they do, and they say it like they put their lives on the line, when most of them haven’t,” he said. “And let’s be honest about it: We’re mostly talking about a lot of white people. “I believe that a lot of white people think that only white people serve in the military. That’s why it’s easy for them to think that all veterans are [opposed to the protests]. They don’t see us as being equal to them, so they dismiss us.” Some veterans are so infuriated by the widespread criticism of the players and the NFL’s poor handling of the situation that they’ve turned their back on the sport. Derrick Upsher is in that group. Another die-hard Pittsburgh fan, Upsher, who retired as a master sergeant after 28 years in the Army, has all the Steelers gear one could imagine. He has no plans, however, to add to his collection. “Yeah, I’m done,” Upsher said. “The Steelers will always be my team, but I’m done with the NFL.” For Upsher, the owners’ decision to change the anthem policy, requiring players to stand respectfully on the sidelines during the anthem or remain in the locker room, was the final straw. The policy currently is on hold while the NFL and NFL Players Association continue to examine the situation jointly. Still, Upsher is out. “My desire to go to football games, buy jerseys or anything like that … that fire has been put out,” he said. “I’ve spent most of my life doing what I did for one reason: for America to be free for people to protest however they feel peacefully. That’s what the players are doing. “This is not Iraq. This is no banana republic where you say something against the government one day, then the next day you disappear. This is America. And one of the worst parts about this is most people don’t even understand what it means to take a knee.”
When Kaepernick first sat on the bench while the anthem played during a 2016 preseason game, he wasn’t fined or otherwise disciplined. Under the previous rules of the NFL’s game operations manual, team owners were not empowered to force players to stand for the anthem. During the anthem, “players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand and refrain from talking,” the key passage on the issue stated. Also, because of network timing issues, the NFL said, players for the first time in 2009 were required to be on the sideline in prime time for the playing of the national anthem. The practice was common for Sunday afternoon games, though it largely went unnoticed because networks rarely aired pregame anthem ceremonies. It’s important to note, however, that the NFL received millions in taxpayer dollars from the Department of Defense and the National Guard for patriotic displays. Against that backdrop, the actions of Kaepernick and others should be viewed in a different light, said University of Southern California professor Todd Boyd.
“Somebody falls in combat, we take a knee. A moment of silence, we take a knee. Him sitting down, yeah. I had a problem with that. But taking a knee for a just cause, I’m all for it.”
Boyd, who focuses on race in popular culture, said the activist-players shouldn’t be castigated for declining to participate in a “recruiting commercial” while striving to address a crisis. “If there’s such a thing as free speech,” Boyd said, “then it can’t be free speech just when it doesn’t make other people uncomfortable. “If it’s free speech, it’s free speech. But like Ice-T said, ‘Freedom of speech … just watch what you say.’ There’s a contradiction there. It’s also important to recognize that someone who stands up to salute the flag and sing the national anthem doesn’t necessarily have patriotism at the forefront of their minds. Just because you do those things, which are symbols and visible, there’s still more to being patriotic than images. “By his actions, Kaepernick shows that.” Kaepernick switched from sitting to taking a knee after former Seattle Seahawks player and Green Beret Nate Boyer wrote an open letter to him and they began a dialogue. Boyer persuaded Kaepernick to kneel because that would be more respectful and, hopefully, eliminate confusion that could obscure the player’s intended message. Upsher, who had a 28-year military career, understood the thinking. He, too, was opposed to Kaepernick’s first act of protest. Taking a knee, though, was right on point, Upsher said. “All these people complaining about taking a knee, who think they know so much about how everyone in the military thinks, don’t even understand that a special forces soldier encouraged Kaepernick to do that because kneeling means so much in the military,” he said. “It’s like they’re so sure he’s being disrespectful; they just don’t understand. “We take a knee in the military when we need a break. We take a knee sometimes when we want to talk to our brothers. Somebody falls in combat, we take a knee. A moment of silence, we take a knee. Him sitting down, yeah. I had a problem with that. But taking a knee for a just cause, which is what he did, I’m all for it.”No more so than decorated former U.S. Army Attorney Kaia Wright. Passionate about the Kaepernick-inspired movement, she began a website, Courage-Under-Fire.com, to chronicle it. “The rights and liberties and freedoms that are supposed to be represented by us standing during this ritual with that flag and anthem … it’s a farce. It’s illegitimate. That cuts them [white people] to their heart. That’s why there’s such vitriol when we don’t stand.” Wright and most of the other service members, veterans and police officers view the players’ fight as merely a matter of right and wrong. Heather Taylor is confident history will prove that the players were on the correct side. Taylor, president of the Ethical Society of Police, which represents black officers in the St. Louis Police Department, feels a bond with Kaepernick and other protesters. “He is protesting police brutality. He’s not saying that every police officer is racist,” Taylor said. “He’s not saying that every police officer is going to kill unarmed African-Americans. That’s not what he’s saying at all. “What he’s saying is that until our country treats our African-Americans like citizens, and treat us fairly, he’s going to kneel, he’s going to take a knee. That’s what all the players who kneel and demonstrate are saying: Until police stop killing us, this is what they have to do. For me, I see it. I understand it. It’s crystal clear.” Although it may seem counterintuitive to some that black police officers would feel a kinship with players who have vehemently criticized the police, it actually makes sense, W. Marvin Dulaney said. Dulaney wrote the book on black police. Literally. In Black Police in America, Dulaney “traces the history of African Americans in policing, from the appointment of the first free men of color as slave patrollers in 19th-century New Orleans to the advent of black police chiefs in urban centers.” There’s no question that black police officers and black activist-players can be united in a common cause, he said. “I think it sort of stands to reason,” said Dulaney, an associate professor emeritus of history at the University of Texas, Arlington. “Many of them [black police officers] have went through similar situations, similar problems, that African-Americans who are civilians and are not police officers have faced. I’d say the consciousness of most black police officers has been raised in terms of what’s actually happening in our society, in terms of black people and law enforcement. … I can understand why they would support him [Kaepernick].” Likewise, the experiences of African-American veterans have had the biggest role in shaping their view of, and support for, Kaepernick, who’s awaiting a full hearing on his grievance filed against the NFL alleging owners conspired to ruin his career because of his political beliefs. Activism among black service members and veterans is nothing new, Eric Burin said. Last month, Burin, a professor of history at the University of North Dakota, published Protesting on Bended Knee: Race, Dissent, and Patriotism in 21st Century America, a digital book chronicling what Kaepernick set off. “One of the essays in the book is about African-Americans using their patriotism as a protest weapon during World War I,” Burin said. “When black Americans would come back from overseas, and proudly wear their uniform and hope for and demand equality in America, that so threatened the popular association with whiteness, patriotism and military service that it inspired a ferocious and deadly backlash. In 1919 alone, 10 African-American soldiers were lynched in uniform. That’s part of the legacy that encourages people to want to fight and keep fighting.”Pruitt certainly has no intention of giving up. Buoyed by the reaction about the NPBA’s defense of Kaepernick (“We received a lot of positive feedback,” she said), the group won’t hesitate to weigh in on future matters involving Kaepernick and the protest movement whenever appropriate. With so much at stake, silence is not an option, she said. “That’s why we spoke out in support of Kaepernick. We have a duty to support those we feel are doing the right thing, and in the right way,” Pruitt said. “We have to continue to speak out on behalf of those who seek equity and justice.” Kaepernick and other activist-players are still in a fight with no end in sight. But they’re on the front lines with many black police officers, service members and veterans who also believe in the pursuit of social justice – and all indications are that they’ll continue to stand together in pursuit of it.
Jason Reid is the senior NFL writer at The Undefeated. He enjoys watching sports, especially any games involving his son and daughter.
By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS, Associated Press JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Candidates in Mississippi’s U.S. Senate runoff are competing with college football, Thanksgiving turkey and the mad dash of Christmas bargain hunting as they try to hold voters’ attention. Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democratic challenger Mike Espy are on the ballot Nov. 27, and the winner will get the final two years of a six-year term started by longtime Republican Sen. Thad Cochran. Both candidates acknowledge that motivating people to return to the polls will be a challenge. “I want everyone to have the best Thanksgiving they can possibly have. But don’t you eat a bite if you’re not looking at the person next to you, making sure they’ve got to go vote,” Hyde-Smith told cheering supporters at a Nov. 6 election night party in Jackson. Espy hosted a gospel extravaganza Nov. 5 at Anderson United Methodist Church in Jackson. He talked to the mostly African-American audience about honoring the legacy of those who sacrificed in the struggle for civil rights — Fannie Lou Hamer, who was beaten for her activism, and Medgar Evers and Vernon Dahmer, who were killed. “We feel the weight of history, the legacy, on us,” said Espy, a former congressman and former U.S. agriculture secretary who is trying to become the first African-American since Reconstruction to represent Mississippi in the U.S. Senate. “I’ll represent everybody irrespective of race or religion or party or gender or age or sexual orientation or disability.” Hyde-Smith is the first woman to represent Mississippi in either chamber of Congress, and is now trying to become the first one elected. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant appointed her to temporarily succeed Cochran, who retired amid health concerns in April. Hyde-Smith is running on a record of fully supporting Republican President Donald Trump, while Espy says a Mississippi senator should evaluate what is best for the state. Hyde-Smith and Espy each received about 41 percent on Nov. 6. Republican Chris McDaniel received about 16 percent and asked his supporters to unite behind Hyde-Smith. Democrat Tobey Bernard Bartee received about 1 percent. Voters said they had many reasons for going to the polls. Octavia Clayborne, a 66-year-old retiree who is black and lives in Jackson, said she voted for Espy. She noted that Mississippi hasn’t had an African-American U.S. senator since Reconstruction. “That in itself would make you get out of bed and vote,” she said outside the at New Hope Baptist Church precinct. Clayborne said she was also motivated to vote because she opposes the president’s stance on immigration. “I think Donald Trump is out of control and unless he has some kind of checks and balances on his behavior, we are in trouble,” she said. Jessica Busby is a 32-year-old stay-at-home mother with two sons. One is 9 years old. The other is 2 months old. Busby, who is white and lives near the Ross Barnett Reservoir outside Jackson, said she voted for Hyde-Smith. “I stick to Republicans,” Busby said. “We work very hard. It seems like we kind of get gypped sometimes — the middle class.” Busby said she believes the economy is strong under Trump, but she still would like to see businesses create more jobs that offer higher pay. The special Senate race was a magnet for voters, creating a record-high turnout for Mississippi in a federal midterm election. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, unofficial results compiled by The Associated Press showed more than 888,800 ballots were cast Nov. 6 in the special Senate election. That number could grow as provisional ballots are counted before final totals are certified under a Nov. 16 deadline.
Associated Press writer Jeff Amy contributed to this report. Emily Wagster Pettus has covered Mississippi government and politics since 1994. Follow her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus/