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The Ghost of Jim Crow

 If you follow my blog, Thought Provoking Perspectives, and I hope you do, you know that I often write about issues concerning and pertaining to the African American Diaspora. I do so, hopefully, to empower those who either don’t know our history or have forgotten it. Therefore, in honor of Black History Month I will write a post each day on this topic that I hold dear. Let me say that I believe our history is American History and as I have said many times; “It is the Greatest Story Ever Told”.

In an earlier article someone made a comment and ask a question that, frankly, surprised me. The question was; “What do you mean when you say Jim Crow”? My first thought was, how can history so recent and one that I’ve witnessed, and know to be true, be removed from the consciousness of anyone living in America. I suppose it speaks to the indifference of what is learned today, or not, through the education system or that the system is designed to protect the system.

So in today’s post I will explain the term Jim Crow for those who don’t know! The term originated in a song performed by Daddy Rice, a white minstrel show entertainer in the 1830’s. Rice covered his face with charcoal paste or burnt cork to resemble a black man as he sang and danced a routine in the caricature of a silly black person. By the 1850’s, this cruelly belittling blackface character, one of several stereotypical images of black inferiority in America’s popular culture, was a standard act in minstrel shows of the day.

The term became synonymous with the wicked concept of segregation directed specifically toward African Americans in the late nineteenth-century. It is not clear why this term was selected. However, what is clear is that by 1900, the term was generally identified with those racist laws and actions that deprived African Americans of their civil rights by defining blacks as inferior to whites while identifying them as subordinate people.
It was around this time that its inception entered the lexicon of racial bigotry after the landmark U.S Supreme Court decision Plessy verses Ferguson in 1896 resulting from a suit brought by the New Orleans Committee of Citizens. The notion was devised as many southern states tried to thwart the efforts and gains made during Reconstruction following the Civil War.

They, the Committee of Citizens, arranged for Homer Plessy’s arrest in order to challenge Louisiana’s segregation laws. Their argument was, “We, as freemen, still believe that we were right and our cause is sacred” referring to the confederacy. The Supreme Court agreed and a policy of segregation became the law of the land lasting more than sixty years as a result of that crucial decision.

As a result of reconstruction African Americans were able to make great progress in building their own institutions, passing civil rights laws, and electing officials to public office. In response to these achievements, southern whites launched a vicious, illegal war against southern blacks and their white allies. In most places, whites carried out this war under the cover of secret organizations such as the KKK. Thousands of African Americans were killed, brutalized, and terrorized in these bloody years. I might add that anywhere south of Canada was “South” as this was the law of the land.

The federal government attempted to stop the bloodshed by sending in troops and holding investigations, but its efforts were far too limited and frankly were not intended to solve the problem. Therefore, black resistance to segregation was difficult because the system of land tenancy, known as sharecropping, left most blacks economically dependent upon planter/landlords and merchant suppliers. In addition, white terror at the hands of lynch mobs threatened all members of the black family – adults and children alike. This reality made it nearly impossible for blacks to stand up to Jim Crow laws because such actions might bring the wrath of the white mob on one’s parents, brothers, spouse, and children.

Few black families were economically well off enough to buck the local white power structure of banks, merchants, and landlords. To put it succinctly: impoverished and often illiterate southern blacks were in a weak position to confront the racist culture of Jim Crow. To enforce the new legal order of segregation, southern whites often resorted to even more brutalizing acts of mob terror, including race riots and ritualized lynchings were regularly practiced to enforce this agenda.
Some historians saw this extremely brutal and near epidemic commitment to white supremacy as breaking with the South’s more laissez-faire and paternalistic past. Others view this “new order” as a more rigid continuation of the “cult of whiteness” at work in the South since the end of the Civil War. Both perspectives agree that the 1890’s ushered in a more formally racist South and one in which white supremacists used law and mob terror to define the life and popular culture of African American people as an inferior people.

I want you to remember that words have meaning and power. Therefore, as we witness the already in progress, presidential campaign that you think about what you have heard and hear from the States Rights folks from the right-wing so-called conservatives. Those vying to become president in 2014, as well as others seeking highly placed positions, understand this tried and true principle as they speak to the so-called real Americans and those who want to take back their country because history is known and has repeated itself!

And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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Drum Beats of Yesterday

The drum beat of the Republican Party’s dogma looms large in this political season as the GOP desperately try to find someone to unseat President Barack Obama. We have witnessed endless debates with the kind of political rhetoric unlike any that I’ve ever seen. Wait a minute; let me qualify that by saying not since the last Presidential election. At which time America, because of the republicans, was facing financial Armageddon and now in 2012 we are about to really see Armageddon; if one of these right wing-nuts were to become president.

I read an article recently written by the author Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad where he said:

“Four years ago, they were predicting terrorist attacks in the first month of his administration if Obama was elected. Of course, it didn’t happen—but the rhetoric sounds good. The Republican’s “Big Three,” which many call the last three, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul sound like the Supremes singing “Baby Love” asking the American People, “where did our love go” for President Obama. Stands to reason it went the same place our love for every incumbent President facing re-election went…in the gutter. Mud-throwing is a professional sport in politics. No matter what the incumbent does, it will never be good enough for the party out of power. Same goes here.

The real question is how far are the Republicans willing to go to get Obama? Will they say anything to get Obama? Will they be, God-forbid, unpatriotic in their attacks of the nation’s Commander-in-Chief, that ended the war they started, soft-landed an economy that was falling fastest than a safe pushed off a roof, and had to fight for every single concession—even perfunctory tasks like debt-ceiling raises and payroll tax extensions. The rhetoric of refusing to compliment Obama, on anything, is not healthy for the national morale. Stands to chance that none of them would have done any better they been in the President’s shoes and the rhetoric toward healing our wounded spirits would be much different.

Under Nixon, Reagan and Bush II, the nation did what it was asked to do for the national good during recovering economies and re-election bids. The opposite party was asked to tone down the rhetoric for the good of the nation’s morale. There has been no such call from the Democrats for this President. In fact, some Democrats have added to the rhetoric. While the President has no party opposition (at this time), some in his party have kind of been getting their “digs in” on the slide… And then there’s the Tea Party rhetoric, an obstructionism that makes no sense.”

I could not have said it better. However, the difference in this election season is that the last crop of pretenders projected their bigotry vaguely in subliminal coded language. This “pool of fools” has no shame in their game. The race card is being displayed so transparently that Ray Charles can see it. One of these pretenders owned a lodge named “N-Word Head” and another had a news letter that espoused racial hatred so vial that one would think he was the Grand Wizard of the Imperial Knights. Another Republican candidate has said that “black children where better off during slavery” than today.

Wait there’s more! One of them has publically talked about succession. Another said, get off welfare and get a check. It was this guy who went on to say if you’re twelve years old you should be cleaning schools. This is not the same candidate who said if you’re black and twelve or thirteen this “buck” should be treated as an adult if he were to be punished in the criminal justice system.

Who are they talking too or speaking for? I seriously doubt these people would say that about an enemy captured in a time of war. Oh sorry, when they were in power they did and brought them to a place Called Gitmo.

This language takes me back to a time I thought had long past. This kind of thinking conjures up images of Bull Connor and Strom Thurmond. Let’s face it because the man duly election to be the Commander in Chief is a man of color. It appears to me from the rhetoric that is being hurled with such distinction that these folks have come from under the hood and taken off the sheets.

Whichever candidate might emerge as the GOP contender to which each of them has used the coded language like “take back our country”. They WILL DO damage under a cloak of cover and not worry about the law coming for them because they will be the law.

So, we are back to the question: How far are the Republicans willing to go to get Obama? Moreover, what will they do to us, if elected! And that’s my THOUGHT PROVOKING PERSPECTIVE…

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The New Miranda Rules


The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that criminal suspects should speak up if they want to preserve their right to remain silent. This is a stunning shift concerning the latest test of the court’s famous Miranda rule and shifts the burden to suspects to invoke their right to refuse questioning. If we can go back to 1966 and remember why the original decision was rendered, it is hard to understand the court’s reasoning today. When we consider law enforcement practices prior Miranda it was necessary for the court to require law enforcement to make what became known as the Miranda rights part of routine police procedures to ensure that suspects were informed of their rights. This decision is widely viewed as a huge setback to citizen’s rights.

This is a drastic shift from the spirit of the 1966 law that says; “statements made in response to interrogation by a defendant in police custody will be admissible at trial only if the prosecution can show that the defendant was informed of the right to consult with an attorney before and during questioning and of the right against self-incrimination prior to questioning by police, and that the defendant not only understood these rights, but voluntarily waived them”.

The newest member of the court, Justice Sotomayor wrote in her dissenting opinion that “Today’s decision turns Miranda upside down,” while accusing the majority of casting aside judicial restraint. “Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent … which, counter intuitively, requires them to speak. At the same time, suspects will be legally presumed to have waived their rights even if they have given no clear expression of their intent to do so.”

Justice Sotomayor, a former prosecutor who some had speculated might be less protective of the rights of suspects than other liberals on the court, called the decision “a substantial retreat from the protection against compelled self-incrimination.” She was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy who wrote for the majority said, “Where the prosecution shows that a Miranda warning was given and that it was understood by the accused, an accused’s uncoerced statement establishes an implied waiver of the right to remain silent.” Kennedy was joined, of course, by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

A little history about the landmark Miranda v. Arizona 384 U.S. 436 (1966) case with its 5–4 decision of the 1966 Court, which revolutionized the way the nation’s police departments were required to interrogate arrested persons by informing a suspect of their rights under the ruling, termed a Miranda warning. The Miranda decision was widely criticized when it came down, as many felt it was unfair to inform suspected criminals of their rights, as outlined in the decision.

President Nixon and many conservatives denounced Miranda for undermining the efficiency of the police arguing that the ruling would contribute to an increase in crime. Nixon, upon becoming President, promised to appoint judges who would be “strict constructionists” and who would exercise judicial restraint. Many supporters of law enforcement were angered by the decision’s negative view of police officers. The federal Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 purported to overrule Miranda for federal criminal cases and restore the “totality of the circumstances” test that had prevailed prior to Miranda.

The validity of this provision of the law, which is still codified at 18 U.S. Code 3501, was not ruled on for another 30 years because the Justice Department never attempted to rely on it to support the introduction of a confession into evidence at any criminal trial. Miranda was undermined by several subsequent decisions which seemed to grant several exceptions to the “Miranda warnings,” undermining its claim to be a necessary corollary of the Fifth Amendment.

In this case the court ruled 5 to 4 that a Michigan defendant who incriminated himself in a fatal shooting by saying one word after nearly three hours of questioning had given up his right to silence, and that the statement could be used against him at trial. In the case before the court, suspect Van Chester Thompkins was read his rights and, at police request, repeated some of them out loud. But he did not sign an offered waiver of the right, and he did not acknowledge that he was willing to talk. Nor did he say that he wanted the questioning to stop.

Detectives persisted in what one called mostly a “monologue” for about two hours and 45 minutes, until one asked Thompkins whether he believed in God. Then a follow up question – “Do you pray to God to forgive you for shooting that boy down?” Thompkins answered “Yes” and looked away. The statement was used against him, along with other testimony, and Thompkins was convicted of killing Samuel Morris outside a strip mall in Southfield, Mich.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit said that Thompkins’s prolonged silence “offered a clear and unequivocal message to the officers that Thompkins did not wish to waive his rights.” “The fact that Thompkins made a statement about three hours after receiving a Miranda warning does not overcome the fact that he engaged in a course of conduct indicating waiver.” Today the conservative arm of the Supreme Court disagreed making the case a president and now law. This decision, I believe will have a far reaching dangerous impact on a society that is becoming largely more diverse.

I am not a lawyer but I was around prior to the 1966 ruling and I will tell you that there was significant reason to establish that law because of what police departments were able to do to suspects in custody, and get away with it. So I would encourage you to advise you children and young people how to conduct themselves once they have been detained by police, and to be aware yourself that anything you say can and will be used against you.

The John T. Wills Chronicles


Brown v Board of Education – fifty five years later

This year we will celebrate the fifty fifth anniversary of the landmark Brown v Board of Education case successfully argued before Supreme Court of the United States. It is also very appropriate at this time to also take this opportunity to recognize the skill of the late great Thurgood Marshall who brilliantly won this case and more than fifty other cases before the Supreme Court – winning all of them.

This case changed the face of America in away unlike any other decision. The Brown case, as it is known, was not the first such case regarding civil rights argued before the court it is worth mentioning. It was just the most significant of what some would say was the final battle in the courts that had been fought by African American parents since 1849, which started with Roberts v. City of Boston, Massachusetts. It is also important to note that Kansas was the site of eleven such cases spanning from 1881 to 1949.

The case was named after Oliver Brown one of 200 plaintiffs. The Brown case was initiated and organized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) leadership who recruited African American parents in Topeka, Kansas for a class action suit against the local school board. The Supreme Court combined five cases under the heading of Brown v. Board of Education: Delaware, Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The ultimate goal sought by the NAACP was to end the practice of “separate but equal” throughout every segment of society, including public transportation, dining facilities, public schools and all forms of public accommodations.

The Brown Supreme Court ruling determined racial segregation in public education was unconstitutional in Brown I, the first opinion. The court’s implementation mandate of “with all deliberate speed” in 1955 is known as Brown II. In 1979, twenty five years later, there was a Brown III because Topeka was not living up to the earlier Supreme Court ruling, which resulted in Topeka Public Schools building three magnet schools to comply with the court’s findings. As had been the case since Homer Plessy, the subject in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a Louisiana law mandating separate but equal accommodations for blacks and whites on intrastate railroads was constitutional. This decision provided the legal foundation to justify many other actions by state and local governments to socially separate blacks and whites.

Now that I have provided some history related to the case let me add my commentary. It has been said that as sure as things change they remain the same. First, it took 60 year to overturn Plessy with Brown and it took “with all deliberate speed” 13 years for integration to begin fully. During this period of time from 1954 to 1967 Governors blocked school entrances and actually closed schools rather than comply with the law of the land. I am not going to touch on the violence that caused President’s to send the US Army and National Guard troops to schools in order to protect the safety of those the ruling was intended benefit as a result of the Brown decision.

Since then and over time many scams have been devised to disenfranchise minorities and African Americans in particular – need I only remind you of “No Child Left Behind”. This brings us to where we are today. Schools are equally as segregated, poorly funded, dilapidated facilities, and a police presence to save, often times, the kids from themselves. The dropout rate averages 2 to 1. These are just a few issues and by any measure of academic standards or common sense – is a failure.

Let’s make sure we understand that public education was not created to develop minds rather it was intended to simply teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. It was created to maintain a permanent underclass. Now maybe the word “class” is the operative word in all of this – the haves have and the have not’s will have not. So as sure as things change they remain the same. That is why it is imperative for us to celebrate this milestone and continue to the struggle as the ghosts of so many who died for the principle that “education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize those forces that breed poverty and despair”.

JUST A SEASON


Grand Ol’ Party v Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor = WTF

I am going to start by saying I am appalled by the actions of the Grand Ol’ Party’s treatment of Supreme Court Nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Since I’ve lived through segregation, Jim Crow and have experienced racism – I should not be surprised. Actually, this behavior was reminiscent of days long past when the likes of Strom Thurmond and George Wallace espoused their vision of America. The tone used against the justice during nominating hearings was such a sad commentary on the part of these “Senators” and most right wing misfits in general. I suppose the reasons for this behavior, other than the obvious, is simple: President Obama, the first black president picked her and that she is the first Hispanic in history picked to wear the robe of a justice on the high court.

Many people of this ideology, who are practicing identity politics (race baiting), have attacked Judge Sonia Sotomayor personally, professionally, and in a sense all minorities. Of course the GOP’s main issue is the 10 year old remark: a Latina’s “experiences as women and people of color” are factors that “should affect our decisions, can make better decisions than a white man”. This remark caused white men/people to call her a reverse racist but it seems to me that they are afraid of extinction as a result of this new day in American politics. As an example or maybe to prove their point they trotted out the firemen who had their reverse discrimination claim rejected by Sotomayor and two other appeals court judges. The Supreme Court overturned that ruling late last month.

Some of the words, code words, used to belittle and disrespect her were “militant, a welfare queen, racist, liberal, activist, left-wing, affirmative action baby, temperamental, nasty, and a bully”. In addition, they believe she would bring her biases and a political agenda to the bench supporting minority positions that conservatives like to use to arouse their base. They even went so far as to use Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to beat up on her. One Senator went so far as to say during the confirmation hearing – “you got lots to splain” mocking a famous Cuban American comedian. But, the worst and most disrespectful of their insults was calling her “unqualified”.

Just a little about Judge Sonia Sotomayor who has, arguably, lived the American dream. Born to a Puerto Rican family and grew up in a public housing project in the South Bronx. Her father was a factory worker with a third-grade education, and died when Sotomayor was nine years old. Her mother raised Sotomayor while working as a nurse. After her father’s death, Sotomayor reportedly turned to books for solace, and she says it was her love of Nancy Drew books that ultimately led her to the law.

Judge Sotomayor graduated as valedictorian of her class at Blessed Sacrament and at Cardinal Spellman High School in New York. She won a scholarship to Princeton where she continued to excel, graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She was a co-recipient of the M. Taylor Pyne Prize, the highest honor Princeton awards to an undergraduate. At Yale Law School, Judge Sotomayor served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal and as managing editor of the Yale Studies in World Public Order.
After law school, Sotomayor spent five years as Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan, trying dozens of criminal cases. Robert Morgenthau chose her for the position and described her as a “fearless and effective prosecutor.” She entered private practice in 1984, working as an international corporate litigator handling cases involving everything from intellectual property to banking, real estate and contract law.

In 1998, Judge Sotomayor became the first Latina to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, one of the most demanding circuits in the country. Serving as a federal judge for 17 years, the last 11 on the appeals court in New York, participating in over 3000 panel decisions and authored roughly 400 opinions, handling difficult issues of constitutional law, to complex procedural matters, to lawsuits involving complicated business organizations. If, no when, confirmed to the highest court in the land, Judge Sotomayor would bring more federal judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice in 100 years, and more overall judicial experience than anyone confirmed for the Court in the past 70 years… Enough said, I could go on an on. UNQUALIFIED???

Frankly, I am vexed because the last eight years of gangsta politics, all the lies and bad decisions about Iraq, W.M.D.’s, domestic surveillance, looted the treasury, torture, rendition and secret hit squads, Katrina, running the economy into the ground, use of fear, paranoia and revenge. Not to mention the only minority faces surrounding the Grand Ol’ Party were people who reminded me of my uncle whose name was Tom. Mind you, this is the same group that championed a governor from the wilderness who embodied the definition of irrational, volatile and a scattered country-music queen without the music as the their savior. Let’s not forget that it was the last Grand Ol’ Party leader who refused, would not accept, and did not attend any of the NAACP annual conferences – that would be eight. WTF!!!

Lastly, of the 111 Supreme Court Justices to date – all have been white men but four. So I say having a court as well as all areas of government representing the faces of America is America the beautiful. God Bless America…


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