Remembering “Dr. Ben” ll In Conversation with Sirius/XM Host, Dr. Wilmer Leon,

OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham

This Week

Tribute to Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan  In Conversation with Dr. Wilmer Leon
HOST, “Inside the Issues with Dr. Wilmer Leon
Sirius/XM Radio
March 21, 2015 10 pm ET LIVE

03-21-15 wilmer2

Join the broadcast Here: http://bit.ly/1bkVIxc

dr.ben2ABOUT Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan

He was one of the most courageous and inspiring scholars of our time would live for nearly a century, paying personal witness to dramatic transformations in the lives of Black people across the globe. Now a Beloved Ancestor.

ABOUT Dr. WilmerLeon Dr. Leon’s Prescription

Wilmer Leon is the Nationally Broadcast Talk Show Host of “Inside The Issues with Wilmer Leon” Saturday’s from 11:00 am to 2:00pm on Sirius XM (126).

Wilmer_Leon_2011-02-17_18-12-03_webWilmer J. Leon III, Ph.D. is a Political Scientist whose primary areas of expertise are Black Politics and Public Policy. Wilmer has a BS degree in Political Science from Hampton Institute, a Masters in Public Administration (MPA) from Howard University, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Howard University.Dr. Leon is also the host of XM Satellite Radio’s, “Inside The Issues”, a three-hour, call-in, talk radio program airing live nationally on XM Satellite Radio channel 126.”

Dr. Leon was a featured commentator on CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight and is also a regular contributor to The Grio.com, The Root.com, TruthOut.org, The Maynard Institute.com and PoliticsInColor.com. He is an OUR COMMON GROUND Voice for more than 5 years.

We will discuss with Dr. Leon about today’s urgent and pressing issues and events before African-Americans.


                                                                               

Sankofa 2015

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FELLOW AMERICANS, DON’T LET OUR IGNORANCE DESTROY US  Φ The Wattree Chronicle

The Science of Your Racist Brain Ψ MoJo

The Science of Your Racist Brain

Neuroscientist David Amodio on subconscious racial prejudice and why we’re still responsible for our actions.

| Fri May 9, 2014 6:00 AM EDT  
The amygdala 

When the audio of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling telling a female friend not to “bring black people” to his team’s games hit the internet, the condemnations were immediate. It was clear to all that Sterling was a racist, and the punishment was swift: The NBA banned him for life. It was, you might say, a pretty straightforward case.

When you take a look at the emerging science of what motivates people to behave in a racist or prejudiced way, though, matters quickly grow complicated. In fact, if there’s one cornerstone finding when it comes to the psychological underpinnings of prejudice, it’s that out-and-out or “explicit” racists—like Sterling—are just one part of the story. Perhaps far more common are cases of so-called “implicit” prejudice, where people harbor subconscious biases, of which they may not even be aware, but that come out in controlled psychology experiments.

Much of the time, these are not the sort of people whom we would normally think of as racists. “They might say they think it’s wrong to be prejudiced,” explains New York University neuroscientist David Amodio, an expert on the psychology of intergroup bias. Amodio says that white participants in his studies “might write down on a questionnaire that they are positive in their attitudes towards black people…but when you give them a behavioral measure, of how they respond to pictures of black people, compared with white people, that’s when we start to see the effects come out.” You can listen to our interview with Amodio on the Inquiring Mindspodcast below:

Welcome to the world of implicit racial biases, which research suggests are all around us, and which can be very difficult for even the most well-intentioned person to control. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about them: We can draw attention to the insidious nature of these subconscious influences, and we can work to prevent them from exerting harmful effects not only on interpersonal behavior, but also on policy, employment practices, and public life. That’s what Amodio’s research (and that of many other social psychologists and neuroscientists who study prejudice) is centrally aimed at achieving.

David Amodio Karin Foerde.

How do we know implicit biases exist? In a number of classic studies, research subjects are asked to complete a seemingly simple task, such as watching words pop up on a screen and quickly categorizing those words as either positive, like “happy,” or negative, like “fear.” But right before the word appears, a face, either black or white, flashes on the screen. “What we find over and over again in the literature,” explains Amodio, “is that if a black person’s face was shown really quickly, then people are quicker at categorizing negative words than positive words that follow it. Versus if a white face was shown really quickly, people are usually quicker to categorize the positive words, compared with the negative words.”

These types of biases are quite prevalent.According to a research summary by Stanford University’s Recruitment to Expand Diversity and Excellence program, “about 75% of whites and Asians demonstrated an implicit bias in favor of whites compared to blacks.” In other words, despite your best intentions, you might be a little bit racist. (Similar unconscious biases have been documented in people’s views of those of different genders, the elderly, and other groups.)

And why do these split-second negative responses exist? The underlying problem is that our brains have evolved to see patterns in things that are complex, and to categorize the world in order to simplify it. Thus, when we encounter another person, our brains rapidly and subconsciously try to figure out if he or she is friend or foe: in-group or out-group.

We make these calculations based on many factors, but if we know very little about the person, we often categorize her based on race. What tells us how to do so? The culture in which we live. According to Amodio, while a general categorizing tendency has been with us for “as long as there has been a human mind,” the specific categories that we use—Latino, black, white, Asian American, and so on—and how we feel about them, are a social phenomenon. As such, they’re heavily shaped by the strong prevalence of stereotypes in our society, stereotypes that are so common that even children pick them up at a very young age.

“What we find over and over again in the literature,” explains Amodio, “is that if a black person’s face was shown really quickly, then people are quicker at categorizing negative words than positive words that follow it.”

And thus, while our society has made progress when it comes to matters of race, subliminal categorization tendencies still permeate human behavior. This much has been demonstrated in the lab multiple times, but here are some noteworthy findings on the psychology of implicit racial bias:

1. Associating skin color with physical, rather than mental, abilities: In a 2006 study of more than 150 white college students, Amodio and his colleague Patricia Devine asked them to categorize words as either pleasant (such as “peace,” “heaven,” and “honor”) or unpleasant (“cancer,” “vomit,” “poverty”) and as either mental (“math,” “brainy,” “scientist”) or physical (“basketball,” “agile,” “dance”). Before each categorization task, the subjects were shown black or white faces. The result? These largely liberal college students were faster at categorizing unpleasant and physical words when shown a black face, and faster at categorizing pleasant and mental words when they were preceded by a white face. Once again, implicit biases shone through in the results.

2. Keeping their distance: Amodio and Devine then went a step further, seeking to identify other ways in which a subtle bias against members of a different race might manifest themselves. So in a new experiment, they told study participants that they were going to work, with a partner, to answer a variety of questions. In fact, when the subjects first arrived for the study, their name was called out along with that of their supposed partner (who had not yet arrived). The partner’s name was either “Tyrone Washington” or “Darnell Stewart.”

After this cue had been planted, the participants were then asked to decide which study tasks they would do and which their partner should do, after being informed that some of the tasks involved answering questions similar to those found in the math and verbal sections of the SATs, and others involved answering questions about sports and popular culture. Sure enough, study participants who had shown higher implicit bias were more likely to assign their (presumably black) partner to answer the questions about sports and popular culture, rather than academics.

But that was just the beginning: Then the study subjects were taken to a waiting room, and told that their partner had arrived but had just gone to the bathroom. A coat and backpack, supposedly belonging to the partner, was placed on a chair and the study participant was told to sit and wait. Once again, the unconscious bias came out: Subjects who had ranked higher on implicit biases now showed different seating choices. “They’ll sit further, in a row of chairs, away from the jacket and backpack of what they think is a black person,” says Amodio.

Among white doctors, as their implicit bias increased, their medical decision-making about black patients also changed.

3. Not voting for Obama: In a very different context, these tendencies also cropped up in the 2008 presidential election, pitting a white candidate (John McCain) against a black one (Barack Obama). In a 2009 study, B. Keith Payne of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and his colleagues compared explicit and implicit bias scores for a large number of individuals with their self-reported voting behavior in the election. Not surprisingly, the conscious racists, those showing explicit anti-black bias, tended to vote against Obama and for McCain. But after controlling for explicit bias, the study found that the remaining implicit bias had a surprising effect. It didn’t push voters towards McCain, but it did take votes away from Obama, because these people either tended to favor a third-party candidate or were less likely to vote at all.

4. Racial bias at the doctor’s office: Implicit bias can also affect how white doctors treat black medical patients. In one disturbing 2007 study, 220 medical residents took an implicit association test, to detect subtle racial bias, and also read a medical history of a patient (either black or white) experiencing chest pain, with clinical details suggestive of a heart attack. The result was that among white doctors, as their implicit bias increased, their medical decision-making about black patients changed as well. In particular, their likelihood of treating a black patient with thrombolysis, a drug treatment to reduce blood clots (and prevent heart attacks), decreased. In other words, they were less likely to administer a potentially life-saving treatment.

And that’s just the beginning. Other studies have shown that doctors are more likely to recommend and perform unnecessary surgeries on racial and ethnic minority patients than on their white counterparts. They’ve also shown that Latina and Chinese women are less likely to receive hormone therapy (which decreases the risk of recurrence of breast cancer) than white women.

An fMRI image of amygdala activity during a study of implicit racial bias David Amodio

So what’s happening in the brain that’s causing these unconscious biases to affect behavior? It turns out that we can distinguish between brain activities that are associated with implicit racial biases, of the sort described above, and those associated with the self-regulation or cognitive control processes that kick in to prevent most of us fromconsciously behaving like bigots.

When we look at faces of individuals of a different race, a part of our brain called theamygdala often gets active. The amygdala is involved in learning and, specifically, in a type of learning called fear conditioning—tracking what kinds of things predict bad outcomes, much like a rat learning that a specific tone will lead to an electric shock. Essentially, its job is to figure out what parts of the environment are threatening and remind us to stay away from them.

The problem is that because our culture is filled with racial stereotypes, many of us “learn” inaccurate and prejudicial information about those who look different. And the amygdala operates extremely rapidly, long before our conscious thoughts have time to react. Thus, the operations of this and related brain regions, “if left unchecked, they might lead to the expression of some bias in a way that you don’t intend,” says Amodio.

Fortunately, the amygdala alone doesn’t drive all of our behavior. Our brains have evolved such that we have a large and highly-complex frontal cortex, which allows us to inhibit impulses, make complicated decisions and behave in socially appropriate ways. It’s the frontal cortex that helps most of us tamp down our gut reactions and, in our conscious behaviors, strive to treat members of all races equally. “The human mind is extremely adept at control and regulation,” Amodio says, “and the fact that we have these biases should really be seen as an opportunity for us to be aware and do something about them.”

That’s why, in the end, Amodio doesn’t think that the mere existence of implicit biases provides any excuse for the display of overt or explicit racism. After all, stereotypes are ubiquitous. We all perceive them in our culture, but we do not all act upon them. In other words, we have the ability—and the responsibility—to regulate our own behavior.

“I don’t really think humans have any good excuses for acting on their automatic biases,” says Amodio.

For the entire Inquiring Minds interview with David Amodio, you can stream below:

This episode of Inquiring Mindsa podcast hosted by neuroscientist and musician Indre Viskontas and best-selling author Chris Mooney, also features a discussion of how scientiststurned to a group of video gamers to help solve a complex problem involving how the human retina detects motion, and of the release of the groundbreaking National Climate Assessment.

To catch future shows right when they are released, subscribe to Inquiring Minds via iTunes orRSS. We are also available on Stitcher and on Swell. You can follow the show on Twitter at@inquiringshow and like us on FacebookInquiring Minds was also recently singled out as one of the “Best of 2013” on iTunes—you can learn more here.

America vs. the World >> Margaret Kimberley, Freedom Rider

Published on Thursday, February 27, 2014 by Black Agenda Report

America vs. the World

The word imperialism fell into disuse in recent decades. If it seems slightly retro, that is only because there aren’t enough Americans committed to telling the ugly truth about their government.

During the Cold War era we were told that communism increased in influence via a domino effect, knocking down nations one by one and forcing them into Moscow’s or Beijing’s orbit. In the 21st century there is a new domino theory which puts every part of the world into America’s cross hairs.

Barack Obama has succeeded in expanding America’s influence in ways that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney could only dream about. The neo-conservative project for a new American century has reached full fruition under a Democratic president, who now has many notches on his gun. He and the rest of the NATO leaders began the trail of destruction with Libya, tearing that country asunder under the guise of saving it.

Using lies and their servants in the corporate media, they constructed a tale of a tyrant and a people yearning for protection. That evil success emboldened them and their Gulf monarchy allies further and they decided that Syria would be the next domino.

That plan didn’t work quite as well as Obama and the rest of the murder incorporated team thought it would. When the British parliament said no to new military adventures Obama was left sputtering on national television. He was forced to back down from an adamant position he had taken just days earlier.

The semi-comedic setback was only temporary because the monster must be fed at all cost. The system can no longer sustain itself and brute force is the only out. There is nothing old fashioned about imperialism. This malevolent force is still alive and well.

George W. Bush made efforts to overthrow the democratically elected Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela when he plotted with the opposition against the late Hugo Chavez. Obama is clearly more committed to violence than his predecessor and has helped to stir up right wing Venezuelans who want to rid themselves of Nicolas Maduro. Maduro has been weakened by the ginned up protests and is now forced into talks with an opposition that won’t be satisfied until he is dead and gone too.

The Venezuelan people have voted for their revolution numerous times. The U.S., a country that never ceases to call itself a democracy, has thwarted their clearly expressed will time and time again. But that is the essence of empire after all.

While armed force against Syria was temporarily blocked, the West, the Persian Gulf monarchies, Israel, and jihadists have not given up their effort to topple the Bashir al-Assad government in Syria. The savage war has made thousands of Syrians homeless and starving refugees, all because the empire needs its next domino.

Not only does the United States meddle in its own backyard, it also relentlessly interferes on the other side of the world in far away Ukraine. Popular discontent against that country’s president became a successful effort to bring that country into the western sphere of economic influence but with the awful strings of austerity attached. Ukraine has the choice of going bankrupt or being bailed out and dying a slow death à la Greece.

While the machinations were afoot, president Obama warned Vladimir Putin away with threats of sanctions. The scenes of sometimes violent street protests in Ukraine made a fortuitous tableau for the United States which claimed the infamous “responsibility to protect” which never protects anyone who actually needs help and which has brought so much suffering to people around the world. Every invasion, occupation and disruption in recent years can be laid at the feet of the United States and its allies. Iraq has been destroyed quite literally, Iran has been destroyed economically. Libya was taken out and Syria is on the brink.

The United States quite openly makes it clear that it wants to have its way in the world. If Russia attempts to use its influence then it is vilified and caricatured as a cruel dictatorship controlled by a tyrant. No matter how many elections Chavez and now Maduro won, they are called dictators by American talking heads.

A superpower can foment conflict anywhere it wants to at anytime it chooses. Venezuelans must knuckle under or face the prospect of more turmoil and violence. Ukraine must sign onto economic policies which have already proven disastrous. The United States leaves its fingerprints in these and many other places and that is the essence of imperialism. It is all about control with the rawest brute force available.

The United States hasn’t officially made Venezuela or any other a colony but it doesn’t have to do that. It just has to show that it is boss and the dominos will fall wherever it chooses.

© 2014 Black Agenda Report
Margaret Kimberley

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.C

The Reactionary Nature of Black Politics l Pascal Robert

The Reactionary Nature of Black Politics

Posted: 05/11/HUFFPO
Pascal Robert

Lawyer, Co-Founder of The Haitian Bloggers’ Caucus

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2013-05-11-BlackPolitics.JPGThe image above is the cover jacket from Professor Frederick C. Harris’ excellent book, “The Price of the Ticket: Barack Obama and the Rise and Decline of Black Politics”In 1619, the first 19 Africans brought to the shores of the United States landed in Jamestown, Virginia starting the tortured history of what would be the centuries long relationship between Black people and the United States. The nature of the relationship was innately economic and political from the start. Sadly, the organizing mechanisms of the Black American social enterprise since that time have been poorly grounded in sound application of either economics or politics, barring rare exceptions.

What has caused Black people, after almost 400 years in North America, and after 150 years of emancipation from slavery, to be mired in a social condition that is becoming more debilitating by the day? One need not sound off the various statistics available illustrating the evisceration of whatever illusory semblance of progress Blacks have made, particularly since the post movement era after the 1960s.

Contrary to the inclinations of racists and many self-hating Blacks to deem this failure as some innate shortcoming in the Black American psyche, the social and political condition of Black America is a direct consequence of the level of political sophistication and sheer brutality of the tactics that have been used to deny them clarity of vision and planning as a means of rectifying this pervasive cavern they have found themselves in for generations.

The main vehicle allowing this constant social and political demobilization of the Black community stems from the problematic reality that Black politics has traditionally been grounded in a purely reactionary response to the phenomenon of racism — particularly without a clear understanding of the purpose of racism in its application to Blacks.

This stems from a failure to understand basic key aspects of the relationship of Blacks to America and racism, mostly because the sheer terror used under the guise of racism to maintain the prevailing order has been so atrocious that the political focus by Blacks has been to concentrate on that terror and attempts to neutralize it without truly addressing its root cause.

From the beginning, Europeans did not bring Africans to the Americas because they were racist. They brought Africans to the Americas to expropriate labor from them as workers in an economic system that denied compensation for that labor to maximize return on investment for the presence of those Africans. The function of Black people in America was an innately economic one from the start rooted in a politics that was based on protecting the sanctity of that economic relationship. All the terror and brutality used to maintain that system was purely ancillary to the goal of protecting that economic system of exploiting free Black labor. Yet many Blacks, even educated ones, will say that Europeans brought Africans to the Americas because of racism and White Supremacy. Racism is merely the rationale and tactic used to justify that exploitative economic relationship, and White Supremacy is the subsequent accrued benefit of the successful maintenance of that relationship — in varying degrees — over time.

A perfect example of how these realities are confused can easily be shown by attempting to ascertain from most people what the actual purpose and function of Jim Crow Segregation, which started with the consummation of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, and lasted to the end of the Civil Rights Era in 1968, actually was. Many would say things like: keeping Blacks subjugated, or denying blacks the ability to compete with Whites, or racism/White Supremacy, or fear of Black male sexual potency via White women. In reality, Jim Crow was a purely intentional reaction by White Southern agricultural interests meshed with Northern industrialists to combat the rising political and economic militancy and mutual co-operation of Blacks and poor Whites during the progressive era of the 1890s with the combined efforts of the Farmer’s Alliance and the Colored Farmers Alliance in order to maintain economic hegemony and cheap exploited labor for capitalist interests in the South, primarily Agricultural but also industrial, with the slow but new development of Southern industrialization. Jim Crow was rooted in economic control, not simply racism and brutality. Those were the tools used to keep the system intact.

Moreover, few people will admit that the main reason for the collapse of Jim Crow starting in the 1930s, and expanding rapidly into the post World War II era, had more to do with three key factors as opposed to the romanticized notions of how the valiant fight of the ancestors during the Civil Rights Movement brought us freedom: First, the new methods of mechanized agricultural farming technology started to make the need for Black farm labor in the South obsolete. Hence, the need for the disenfranchisement and related oppression became more about form rather than substance; second, the rise of Hitler and Nazism made the notion of race-based exclusion in the United Stated unpalatable, particularly in the face of Hitler’s anti-semitism; thirdly, the Cold War era and the fear of American racism being an obstacle to the competitive advantage over the Soviet Union in winning the hearts and minds of the newly independent Black, Brown, and Yellow third world would rapidly assure desegregation and ending Jim Crow being an American primary domestic agenda.

As African American political science professor Adolph Reed, Jr. states in his essay “The Color Line Then and Now,” found in the anthology, Renewing Black Intellectual History, when discussing some of the egalitarian social science and legal strategies to end Jim Crow:

This intellectual enterprise was no more responsible for defeating early-twentieth-century race theory than Charles Hamilton Houston’s and Thurgood Marshall’s legal arguments were for defeating codified racial segregation, probably much less so. Factors like the leftward shift in the domestic political climate in the 1930s and 1940s, the embarrassment that Nazi extremism presented for racialist ideology, and cold war concerns with the United States’ international image were undoubtedly more important.

An excellent treatise that explains the relationship between the Cold War and the Civil Rights victories we often wrongly think were a result of these romanticized protest activities is Cold Civil Rights: Race and the Imagery of American Democracy, by professor of law and political science, Mary L. Dudziak, in which she states about Brown v. Board of Education: “According to the Justice Department, the interest of the United States in school segregation was that race discrimination harmed American foreign relations.”

This is not to diminish the efforts of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who waged moral protest to the brutal and racist treatment of our nations Black citizens. To diminish in such a fashion could have the effect of discouraging the belief in the human capacity to make social or political change. The point is to show that our desires to romanticize certain periods of history, especially dealing with African Americans, lead to a limited and pedestrian understanding of the factors that truly shape events.

In the face of the reactionary nature of Black politics, we can better understand the post Civil Rights dilemma that has plagued the Black political scene. If the illusion of racial equality is touted as one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century American democratic experiment via these Civil Rights victories, how do you create a Black politics in a post Civil Rights era when the political traditions of this group has been rooted in combating or reacting to the racism that society now forces them to accept as no more, when in fact that is not the case?

Now we understand the root of the past 45 years of increasing Black political demobilization — meaning Black politics being unable to actually achieve lasting policy that succeeds at remedying the true root of Black suffering: economic inequality.

The ultimate sign of that demobilization is the over 97 percent support of Black America for a president whose agenda is to introduce neoliberal privatization of government resources at rates never seen before that might ultimately demolish those same communities that supported him — i.e. Barack Obama.

This is why Black America is in a crisis, because Black politics is in a crisis. That crisis is a product of the place from which Black politics was born and grew. We now need a new politics, if we shall even call it Black politics, that is not rooted in reactionary response to racism, but seeks to foster cross-racial coalitions with those similarly situated to crush the barriers to economic equality while allowing Blacks to maintain social autonomy and ideological integrity in recognition of the need for nuance in neutralizing the tool of racism that has been used to distract them from the ultimate problem of economic injustice. This is the work that must be done, but the question is: Who is up to the task?

 Follow Pascal Robert on Twitter: www.twitter.com/probert06

The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright and the Audacity of Truth l Dr. Wilmer Leon l “Inside the Issues”

06obamaThe Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright and the Audacity of Truth

Saturday 22 March 2008

by: Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

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    Over the past week or so, mainstream media have turned much of their attention to the fiery sermons of the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright. Dr. Wright is pastor to Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) and his family. He was also, until recently, pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ of Chicago.

Most of the discussion and commentary about Dr. Wright’s sermons have come from a predominantly white media. The points of discussion have centered on what they consider to be the “vile, racist and un-American things” said by Dr. Wright. Very few, if any, of the discussions have focused on the historical basis and accuracy of what Dr. Wright actually said.

The major problem with the discussions is they have been largely one-sided. The media have used the imagery of Dr. Wright, clad in African garb, shouting in the cadence of an old-time fire and brimstone minister and playing to the camera as a scare tactic. Has this become the “Willie Hortonization” of Senator Barack Obama? The reporting and commentary on Dr. Wright’s words have been presented from the perspective of people who either have no appreciation for the African-American historical experience or a personal agenda when it comes to presenting these issues.

Dr. Wright is under attack for saying such things as “… the government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three strikes law, and then wants us (African-Americans) to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no; not ‘God Bless America,’ God damn America … for killing innocent people; God damn America for treating its citizens as less than human….” These are very strong words, delivered at what many are calling a possible turning point in American history with regard to America’s willingness to elect an African-American candidate. While the mainstream media have found no merit in any of Dr. Wright’s statements, let’s examine their merit from a historical basis.

When people read the Constitution, the supreme law of the United States, they see the oldest governing constitution in the world. They see a great document that has articulated the precepts of life, liberty and happiness that all in this country try to follow. What is often overlooked are the parts of the Constitution that laid the foundation for hundreds of years of slavery and oppression for African-Americans; the constitutional framework for human beings to be treated as less than human. It’s these sections of the Constitution that America has never truly atoned for and still refuses to make right.

Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution stated, “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.” This was known as the Three-Fifths Compromise and laid the groundwork for African slaves brought into America as forced labor to be defined as non-persons.

Article I, Section 9 allowed the importation of slaves to continue in America for twenty-one years after ratification of the Constitution by declaring: “The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.” This section only outlawed the importation of slaves once the domestic stock of slaves could be replenished by natural birthrates and importation would no longer be needed; again, treating its citizens as less than human.

Article IV, Section 2 stated, “No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, But shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.” This was enforced by Congress on September 18, 1850, when the Fugitive Slave Act was passed, allowing Southern states to reclaim slaves that had escaped to the North.

The Three Fifths Compromise and the Fugitive Slave provisions were superseded by constitutional amendments only after their damage to African-Americans had been done and the benefit to America had been served.

It is very easy to wrap oneself in the history and glory that is America and forget that from 1619 to 1868 (249 years) African-Americans suffered under the brutality and oppression of government-supported chattel slavery. In 1857, as Dred Scott, a slave, petitioned the US Supreme Court for his freedom, Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote, “beings of an inferior order (African-Americans), and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

Even after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in 1865, the 14th Amendment granted their citizenship, and the 15th Amendment grated them the right to vote, from 1876 to 1965 (89 years) African-Americans continued to suffer under state-supported Jim Crow oppression in America. This was codified in 1896 by another Supreme Court decision, Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation under the doctrine of separate but equal. These vestiges of slavery and oppression still plague many sectors of the African-American community, and the sense of white privilege they created continues to foster a false sense of white entitlement.

This is just the historical background for Dr. Wright’s comments. During his lifetime he has dealt with segregated schools, separate and unequal education, and discrimination in housing, employment and lending. He has witnessed civil rights protesters beaten by the police, ravaged by dogs, brutalized by fire hoses and COINTELPRO. Since his birth in 1941, an estimated 40 African-Americans have been lynched in this country. He was 14 years old when Emmett Till was brutally murdered and 23 years old when James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were killed. Americans continue to deal with racial profiling, driving while black, the disproportionate rate of incarceration of African-Americans, the suspension of habeas corpus, warrantless wiretapping and other constitutional violations.

Regarding Dr. Wright’s comments about drugs and AIDS, let’s not forget the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments. From 1932 to 1972, the US Public Health Service (PHS) conducted an experiment on 399 black men in the late stages of syphilis. These men, for the most part illiterate sharecroppers from one of the poorest counties in Alabama, were never told what disease they were suffering from or of its seriousness. In his May 16, 1997, apology, President Bill Clinton said:

“The United States government did something that was wrong – deeply, profoundly, morally wrong. It was an outrage to our commitment to integrity and equality for all our citizens … clearly racist.”

With this historical understanding, it is not too far-fetched to think that the US government could be involved in similar activity as it relates to AIDS.

What has been conspicuously absent from the discussions about Dr. Wright’s comments in mainstream media is any analysis of the validity of his comments based upon his personal history and life experiences. It is very easy for white commentators such as Bill O’Reilly to dismiss his sermons as racist diatribes, since O’Reilly has no interest in trying to understand the plight of people of color in America.

Dr. Wright has also said, “We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is brought right back into our own front yard; America’s chickens are coming home to roost….” Well, let’s examine the record.

The Arms Exports Control Act prohibits the president from furnishing military aid to any country which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. In spite of all of the evidence supporting claims of the Israeli government’s human rights abuses of the Palestinian people, for FY2005 the United States provided $2.22 billion in military aid. This aid to Israel has a dramatic effect on Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians. It is the US funding that pays for the guns and ammunition, F-16 bombers and Apache helicopters that are used to carry out Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and people.

According to The Boston Globe, in 1984, just after Ronald Reagan’s re-election, Bishop Desmond Tutu referred to the Reagan administration’s support for the South African government as “Immoral, evil and totally un-Christian.” Reagan ignored the rising number of Americans who were calling for American companies to stop doing business there. The president of so-called sunny optimism attempted to blind Americans with his policy of “constructive engagement” with the white minority regime in Pretoria. All constructive engagement did was give the white minority more time to mow down the black majority in the streets and keep dreamers of democracy, such as Nelson Mandela, behind bars.

History is replete with examples of the United States arranging to depose foreign leaders. In 1909, President Taft ordered the overthrow of Nicaraguan President Jose Santos Zelaya. According to Stephen Kinzer, “In Iran, Guatemala, South Vietnam and Chile, diplomats and intelligence agents replaced generals as the instruments of American intervention.” More recent examples of US intervention would be the invasion of Panama and the illegal invasion of Iraq.

Some may take issue with the earlier statement, “… the government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three strikes law, …” by asking, “is Rev. Wright accusing the US government of supplying drugs to the black community?” This story has been well-documented in the 1996 San Jose Mercury News expose entitled “Dark Alliance: The CIA Complicity in the Crack Epidemic.”

I can understand people being uncomfortable with the comments made by the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright. White Americans have also been lied to, miseducated and desensitized about the plight of African-Americans. With the help of the social conservative agenda, many have developed a “deaf ear” when it comes to issues regarding race. The truth, especially an ugly truth that forces Americans to examine the precepts of America, “with liberty and justice for all,” and compare them with the hypocrisy of the American reality can be troubling. For far too long, Americans have been lulled into a false sense of security. Americans have believed history as told by the oppressor and failed to understand the reality of the oppressed.

Dr. Wright is not un-American. He embodies what America was founded upon, the free exchange of ideas in the public space, speaking truth to power, challenging America to be the best that it can be. The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright’s views might not reconcile with many Americans’ perceptions of America, but they must not be discarded as the ranting of an angry man. His statements were founded in the historical truths that African-Americans have and continue to live through.

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