Category Archives: Editorial

In Defense of Brother Benjamin

By Free Radical

Benjamin Crump

Benjamin Crump

Just days after the Sacramento police riddled Stephon Clark’s body with bullets, the family of the 29 year old father of two hired the highly decorated attorney Benjamin Crump to represent them. I must admit, a sense of deflation about the Clark family’s decision was heaped onto the anger I felt about yet another unarmed Black man killed by law enforcement.

Benjamin Crump has come to represent many things since he first hit the national scene in 2012 when he represented the family of Trayvon Martin. He has been viewed as a crusading attorney who has provided pro bono legal counsel to families that have had their loved ones taken away by the white supremacist American state. He has become a celebrity seen at news conferences, rallies, and forums representing not only the families of victims but also larger movements for much needed criminal justice reform.

But along with this, he has also come to symbolize defeat (so much that it took a long time for me to realize that he does not represent families in criminal prosecutions of police. His specialty is civil cases that often take place after the criminal trials.) Crump has come to personify a sort of foregone conclusion and a reminder that Black lives do not matter in the American judicial system. A reminder that White people, and especially the police state have a monopoly on justice (or injustice) in this society. So perhaps you can understand

Keep Your $1,000 Hush Money

By Free Radical

In an ostensible show of support to the Republican tax reform passed at the end of 2017, several businesses have given their employees bonuses to celebrate what they claim to be a new era of economic prosperity.

In highly-publicized fashion, companies from Walt Disney to AT&T to Home Depot have given their employees one-time bonuses ranging from about $200 to $1,000. A much smaller group of other companies have offered other incentives such as FedEX, who has promised to increase employee compensation, and Honeywell, who pledged to increase its 401k contributions.  Apple has agreed to give some employees $2,500 in company stock and even pay $38 billion to return hundreds of billions it had horded in overseas accounts to avoid US taxation.

Undoubtedly, the bonuses will be welcome to the estimated 1.3 million employees who will receive them. Hell, I wish I had jobs at several of these companies so I can cash in multiple $1000 checks. But even in doing so, I would be clear of what is really going on. I hope that you are too.

These measures aren’t what sustainable economies are made of. According to USA Today, the total bonuses make up a $1.3 billion. While this may seem like a lot, companies will save an estimated $75 to $100 billion in paying taxes with the new Republican tax plan. So of course companies don’t mind shelling out $1,000 chump change bonuses that almost pay for themselves in free publicity.

Broken down, the bonuses only equal $85 per month. Most folks have cell phone bills that are more expensive. You definitely won’t build wealth off of a mere $1,000.

An appropriate question is what will companies do with all of their savings? Based on right wing ideology, companies will reinvest their additional revenue into the economy to create more workers and more consumers. However, time and time again, this logic has not panned out.

Unequal distributions of wealth have been the primary cause of the greatest economic dislocations of the 20th century (Great Depression) and so far in the 21st century (Great Recession). If you’d think that today’s modern day robber barons were attuned to history, you’d be wrong. A recently published report by Oxfam has shown that in 2017, even before the tax reform has kicked in, 82% of the wealth produced in that year went to the world’s top 1%.

If companies fail to reinvest their profits back into the economy, it usually falls on government. Yet, according to Donald Trump’s budget plan, it is not the role of government to provide a social safety net. His budget proposal released last year aimed for double digit cuts in transportation, education, housing and urban development, and the Army Corps of Engineers (remember Harvey and Irma?). Nearly 30% cuts were targeted for the EPA and international aid. Apparently, Trump’s America First priorities don’t account for the fact that global economic crises impact the United States too, because the country is, in fact, part of the world.

In any case, we must be mindful that these one time bonuses are merely hush money and are in no way a substitute for holistic, transformative economic restructuring. The current status quo is far from sustainable. And when shit hits the fan, it falls hardest on those at the bottom of the totem pole.

Kwanzaa: It’s All in the Livin’

By S. Christopher Emerson

Nguzo Saba (pronounced ‘n-GOO-zoh SAH-bah), literally translated as “Seven ‘Pillars,'” but meaning “Seven Principles”

We just spent the last week in December celebrating the Nguzo Saba, the Black value system celebrated during Kwanzaa. This is not some anciently-codified system of ethics that was simply snatched for some nondescript African people in some undisclosed east African locale that detractors try to convince you is totally outside of our “solely” West African lineage and experience. This is a system of values created from ethics gleaned from Black cultural traditions and worldviews from all over the world that were interpreted into Kiswahili and focused into and for this Black value system. The Nguzo Saba are literally history and tradition brought forward to be applied reasonably to our varied current environments and conditions. Built, not stolen. Guidelines, not laws. Reasonable, not inflexibly traditional.

Kwanzaa is the time to CELEBRATE these principles, and by extension, our beautiful Black selves. And our lives move forward on January 2nd, and we live the Nguzo Saba all year. It’s all in the livin’.

The whole entire idea is that we live, practice and promote these seven values of Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith all year long.  This is so that at the end of this calendar year, when Kwanzaa rolls around and even more people are aware and celebrating as they were last year, we can recall even more grandiose and tangible examples of the Nguzo Saba that we’ve brought forth into our living to help raise up communities and advance Black people.

America Saves Whiteness Again

By S. Christopher Emerson

In today’s episode of “Whiteness Saves Again,” we’re following the story of a White former Connecticut university student who is accused of smearing body fluids on her Black roommate’s belongings. In an appearance in Hartford Superior Court, prosecutors opted not to file additional charges Monday against 18-year-old Brianna Brochu, of Harwinton, who pleaded not guilty.

White racism has yet again escaped federal hate crime charges. Honestly, do they even use those?

So the little racist bragged on Instagram about committing several hygienically disgusting acts against her Black roommate and her stuff.

Now, I’m sure my initial thoughts were like many other Black folks: “How did this White girl escape this whole ordeal without getting her ass handed to her by her Black roommate, Chennel “Jazzy” Rowe?”

Oh and of course, “Boooooyyy… I WISH somebody WOULD!”

But I digress…

One of the major inadequacies with hate crime legislation and racial equity policies is the notion that malicious racist INTENT must be proven. Outcomes have been far easier to track for decades- Blacks are disproportionately incarcerated, impoverished, under serviced in health care, malnourished, under-educated, and restricted from housing and homeownership, etc.- but still there haven’t been any significant restorative justice changes to American institutions.

In this case, one of the failures is seeing the racist intent that Brochu had toward her Black roommate, who she called a “Jamaican Barbie,” no doubt in a derogatory way. The trip though, is that these same courts (I’ll refrain from the descriptor of “justice”) system often makes assumptions and projects malicious intent on people of color, while absolving Whites from criminal desire. Such is the very real phenomenon of “White privilege.”

And while, at this point, we can’t prove that Brochu had the intent of harming Chennel Rowe because she’s Black, we can reasonably surmise that the White girl was being a racist, on top of being childish.