Category: Opinion Written by Marc H. Morial
(NNPA)—“Our nation is moving towards two societies, one Black, one White—separate and unequal.”—1967 Kerner Commission
In 1963, more than a quarter-million people gathered in Washington, D.C. for the historic Great March for Jobs and Freedom. This was a watershed moment in American history, giving unprecedented voice to the hardships facing Blacks as they sought a fair shot at an elusive dream. In 2013, America witnessed the second inauguration of our first Black president. Much has changed in 50 years.
We now see a fair number of successful Blacks hailed as examples of the progress and possibilities that define American democracy. Most of the legal impediments preventing African-Americans from learning, earning and living where they want have been removed. Unfortunately, these apparent indicators of improvement cannot lead us to conclude that Blacks in America have overcome. A veneer of progress cannot remove the stains of inequality that still exist in our country. As we simultaneously commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, we are still on the march for economic and social equality.
The battlefield may look different, but the most pressing demands of today mirror the ones faced by those gathered in Washington, D.C. on that August afternoon in 1963: economic equality, educational opportunity and parity, and civil rights. However, instead of fighting against employment discrimination or a $2 minimum wage, we now fight for job training and wage equity. Instead of calling for school segregation to end, we now demand an end to disparities in educational investment. Instead of calling for meaningful civil rights legislation, we now fight to preserve voting rights and affirmative action—those very rights for which our ancestors fought and died.
This week, the National Urban League will release the 37th edition of the State of Black America report, which takes a 50-year retrospective look at economic and educational equality in America. I have seen the findings and studied them, and I am more convinced than ever that there remains much for us to do.
As I pointed out in a recent appearance on CNN, the so-called housing “recovery” clearly demonstrates that we are in “a tale of two Americas”—one where the rich are surging ahead while the average American is getting squeezed out—again. Further Blacks and Hispanics are faring even worse. The findings from the 2013 State of Black America, Redeem the Dream: Jobs Rebuild America make that painfully clear.
America is at a critical juncture. If we are to continue on the road to full economic recovery, every American needs access to jobs with a living wage and good benefits. Every child deserves access to the best schools, the best teachers and the best education in the world. Without that commitment, we will continue to see America, as the 1967 Kerner Commission put it, “moving towards two societies…separate and unequal.”
But persistent problems require sustainable solutions. This week, we will begin to move that conversation forward.
(Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 April 2013 10:12
Category: Opinion Written by CNN
ENJOYING HAVANA--Beyonce and Jay-Z, tour Old Havana, Cuba, April 4, 2013. R&B's power couple is in Havana on their fifth wedding anniversary. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
by Simon Tisdall
(CNN) -- Right-wing U.S. Republicans are up in arms over Cuba again. Their ostensible cause for concern is last week's visit to the island by Beyoncé and Jay-Z, who were photographed in Havana, apparently celebrating their wedding anniversary.
Last Updated on Monday, 08 April 2013 15:51
Category: Opinion Written by CNN
by Ruben Navarrette Jr.
(CNN) -- It's a good thing that Barack Obama is only the president of the United States and leader of the free world, and that he doesn't have a really important job like television sportscaster.
Last Updated on Sunday, 07 April 2013 13:04
Category: Opinion Written by CNN
by Roxanne Jones
(CNN) -- "Thank you, Mr. President, you're not such a bad-looking guy yourself."
That would have been my response if I were California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who finds herself in the middle of a media dustup after President Obama introduced her as: "by far the best-looking attorney general in the country," at a fundraiser earlier this week.
Harris is a beautiful woman. She's also super intelligent and accomplished, which the president also noted. In fact, he lauded her professional merits first. So, I say take the compliment and move on. Or, if you're slightly embarrassed by the comment, give it back and move on.
President Obama's observation is not a major offense to women around the globe. Ridiculous flaps such as this one have always made me uncomfortable with calling myself a feminist, especially if that means I have to fly into a fit each time a man makes an awkward comment about a woman.
These were the president's exact words, according to a White House transcript from the fundraiser:
"You have to be careful to, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you'd want in anybody who is administering the law, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake. She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country --- Kamala Harris is here. (Applause.) It's true. Come on. (Laughter.) And she is a great friend and has just been a great supporter for many, many years."
Clearly, the president realized in hindsight that his comment didn't go over very well, and he has apologized. But I don't believe an apology was necessary.
It's impossible to believe that anyone could seriously call President Obama a chauvinist over this banter between friends. No matter your politics, you will have a hard time finding a president who has included women more in his agenda. What has he done for us lately? Let me recall just a few things:
- Appointed two female Supreme Court justices, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.
- Appointed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.
- Signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restored worker protections against pay discrimination. The bill had failed in the Senate in 2007.
I have disagreed with the president at times, but if POTUS is sexist, then we need more men just like him; the world would be a much better place for women. In my book, when a person -- man or woman -- acknowledges someone's intellect and professionalism and then gives a lighthearted nod to her beauty, it's not sexist. It's just a compliment.
Throughout my career, I've had to learn how to deal with men, and a few women, who made it a point to always comment on my looks, or tell jokes about women working in sports. Early in my career, I admit, I was uncomfortable and wondered how to best handle the situation, not easy when you are many times the only woman in the newsroom. But even when I started out, I realized that context is everything, especially in the workplace, when talking about women and harassment.
Here's an example: One night, while I was working late in the office editing on deadline, a male co-worker stumbled into my cubicle in a drunken stupor, he slung himself on my desk and leaned into me, slurring: "Roxanne, you're so beautiful. Seriously, I've been watching you. ... Why don't you pay attention to me?"
Now, that was creepy. And clearly it was sexual harassment. My bosses and the human resources department quickly dealt with the guy. In fact, his behavior was reported by a male colleague, who witnessed the entire thing, before I could even make the call.
On another occasion, a senior executive speaking at an employee "town hall" meeting at work, pointed me out for a professional accomplishment, and then added: "Hey, Roxanne looks like that woman on the show, 'The Next Top Model.' " There was some laughter in the room but most of the women froze. I did not. I laughed and said: "Thanks, I'm glad you like my new hairdo."
Sure, I knew immediately that the comment was a little awkward. But I was in no way offended. And I did not want the executive, who had always been a champion for women in the workplace, to get any backlash for his comment. He didn't deserve the criticism.
Honestly, when he made that comment I was more worried that my female colleagues would be angry with me. Women might not want to admit this but we often hate women who look good, are smart and successful. Just think: Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, or Marissa Meyer, Yahoo! CEO. Maybe we've been conditioned to believe the stereotypes. But none of us will achieve true equality in the workplace until we end this animus toward one another and focus on how to truly achieve power.
Luckily, sometimes life isn't serious. Sometimes, we can laugh at ourselves and know that not every man is out to hold us down. And if we women are indeed confident in our abilities and our appearance -- no matter how we look on the outside -- then we should stop cowering every time a man notices us and makes a comment.
Stand up strong and take the compliment, but just make sure you're handling your business, because beauty is nothing without brains to match.
Editor's note: Roxanne Jones is a founding editor of ESPN The Magazine and a former vice president at ESPN. She is a national lecturer on sports, entertainment and women's topics and a recipient of the 2010 Woman of the Year award from Women in Sports and Events. She is the co-author of "Say It Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete," (Random House) and CEO of Push Media Strategies.
Last Updated on Sunday, 07 April 2013 13:03
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