Tag Archives: black

Prize-winning book chronicles history of racist thinking

Stamped from the Beginning, winner of the National Book Award winner for nonfiction, is a work of history very much rooted in recent events.

Ibram X. Kendi’s 600-page narrative traces racism in the United States, from colonial times to the present.

Kendi began working on the book shortly before the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and he felt a special urgency to write about what he calls “stimulations,” individuals “who believe that black people were culturally or behaviorally inferior.”

“There are notions that scientists, and journalists, and scholars can be objective,” he says. “And typically those ideas that have connoted that black people are in some ways inferior have been cast as these objective ideas, which then legitimize them and allowed for their circulation.”

Kendi, an assistant professor of African American History at the University of Florida, structured Stamped from the Beginning around five people, ranging from Thomas Jefferson to Angela Davis, and around the efforts to combat racism, whether the self-help ethic of Booker T. Washington or the moral persuasion of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The book’s title comes from a speech by Jefferson Davis, given the year before he became president of the Confederate states.

“This country was created by white men for white men, and inequality between the white and black races was stamped from the beginning,” Davis said.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Kendi discussed his findings on racist ideas, why some breakthroughs in American history were not such breakthroughs after all and whether he would have made any major changes had he completed the book after the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States.

ON THE ORIGINS OF RACIST IDEAS:

“I chronicle a history in which we’ve been taught this notion that it’s ignorance and hate that lead to racist ideas about black people, and then it’s these people with these racist ideas that are the people who create racist policies. And I actually find, through my research, that that line of thinking is ahistorical, and it’s actually been quite the opposite. Racist policies have been created typically out of self-interest and those policies have bred racist ideas to justify those policies, and then the circulation of those racist ideas has led to ignorance and hate.”

ON WHY BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION, THE SUPREME COURT DECISION THAT DEEMED SEGREGATION IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS UNCONSTITUTIONAL, WAS ALSO AN AFFIRMATION OF RACIST THINKING:

“Most Americans have not read the actual majority opinion written by Chief Justice Warren, and in that opinion, he states very clearly, and I’m quoting him, that ‘The segregation of the white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon colored children,’ and not white and colored children, but colored children, and his decision was based on all of these psychological and social science studies that were making the case that segregational poverty was literally making black children inferior. … These studies then suggested that what black children need is to be closer to white children.”

ON SIMILARITIES HE SEES BETWEEN TODAY AND THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY:

“One hundred years ago a wealthy New Yorker by the name of Madison Grant published a best-selling book called The Passing of the Great Race, and this book was translated into several languages, including German, and it became the bible of somebody by the name of Adolf Hitler, and this ‘Passing of the Great Race’ author made the case that the ‘great race,’ of course an Anglo-Saxon white race, was basically under attack by everyone else. By immigrants from Eastern Europe and Southern Europe, by non-white immigrants, by civil rights activists …”

ON WHETHER HE WOULD HAVE WRITTEN THE BOOK’S OPTIMISTIC CONCLUSION, IN WHICH HE WONDERS IF “MAYBE THE TIME IS NOW” FOR REAL PROGRESS AGAINST RACISM,” HAD HE FINISHED IT AFTER THE ELECTION OF TRUMP:

“I would say that in order for anybody to bring about change you have to believe that change is possible, and so first and foremost that epilogue, and that ending, is coming from that perspective. And then, secondly, being an historian, I know that changes have usually come as a result of people feeling and recognizing that things are pretty bad. And so it would not surprise me if we are able to create an anti-racist America in the near future …”

On the web

https://www.ibram.org/

 

Study: Racial disparities found in police traffic stops

A study of statewide police traffic stops in Vermont, the second-whitest state in the country, has found racial disparities in how police treat drivers.

Black drivers were four times more likely than whites to be searched after traffic stops, and Hispanic drivers were nearly three times more likely, according to the University of Vermont study, Driving While Black and Brown in Vermont. At the same time, black and Hispanic drivers were less likely than white and Asian drivers to be found with contraband that leads to an arrest or citation, according to the report, which was based on 2015 data.

Black and Hispanic drivers also were more likely than white drivers to get traffic tickets versus warnings, and black drivers were twice as likely as white drivers to be arrested after stops, the study said.

“Almost all of the agencies in our study exhibit disparities in traffic policing to one degree or another,” said study co-author Stephanie Seguino, a professor in the university’s Department of Economics. “In other words, the results are not uniquely attributable to one or two agencies, but it’s really a widespread problem in terms of policing.”

One of the reasons some police officers use to explain the higher rate of searches of black drivers versus white drivers is concerns about the opioid crisis and drugs coming in from out of state, and there’s a racial component to those perceptions, Seguino said. But the study found white and Asian drivers were more likely than black or Hispanic drivers stopped to be found with contraband.

Vermont, which has a population of about 625,000, was 94.8 percent white the year the policing study was done, according to U.S. Census figures. Only Maine, at 94.9 percent, was whiter. Blacks made up 1.3 percent of the Vermont population, Hispanics 1.8 percent and Asians 1.6 percent.

The study looked at traffic stop data from 29 departments across Vermont, following a 2014 state law that required police to collect such race information. But many agencies had missing data in key categories, said co-author Nancy Brooks, of Cornell University, who said more work is needed to improve the data quality.

Police treatment of drivers varied among departments, the study found.

In Rutland, for example, police searched black drivers at a rate of more than six times that of white drivers while white drivers searched were found with contraband at a higher rate than black drivers.

Rutland police Chief Brian Kilcullen, who has been on the job since November 2015, said he was somewhat surprised by the findings.

“You start with awareness, and that’s what this does,” he said of the report, adding that the police department has done training sessions.

Burlington police Chief Brandon del Pozo said his department is seeing an improvement in the rate at which searches lead to contraband, called the hit rate, meaning police are doing fewer unnecessary searches.

To reduce the racial disparities, the report’s authors recommend creating a standardized system for collecting data, giving officers feedback on their performance during stops, supporting police departments in giving frequent training sessions on bias and monitoring disparities annually.

Dylann Roof sentenced to death

A jury on Jan. 10 condemned white supremacist Dylann Roof to death for the hate-fueled killings of nine black parishioners at a Bible study meeting in a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015.

The same jury last month found Roof, 22, guilty of 33 federal charges, including hate crimes resulting in death, for the shootings at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Jurors deliberated for less than three hours.

Roof stared straight ahead as the judge read through the jury’s verdict findings before announcing his death sentence, local media reported on social media.

Roof, who represented himself for the penalty phase, was unrepentant during his closing argument earlier in the day. He told jurors he still felt the massacre was something he had to do and did not ask that his life be spared.

“Today’s sentencing decision means that this case will not be over for a very long time,” Roof’s lawyers, who represented him for the guilt phase, said in a statement after the verdict was announced.

Roof still faces a trial on murder charges in state court, where prosecutors also are seeking the death penalty.

Attorney general statement on the sentencing

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch released the following statement on the sentencing of Dylann Roof:

On June 17, 2015, Dylann Storm Roof sought out and opened fire on African-American parishioners engaged in worship and bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

He did so because of their race.  And he did so to interfere with their peaceful exercise of religion.

The victims in the case led lives as compassionate civic and religious leaders; devoted public servants and teachers; and beloved family members and friends.  They include a young man in the bloom of youth and an 87-year-old grandmother who still sang in the church choir.

We remember those who have suffered, and especially those that lost their lives: Cynthia Graham Hurd, 54;

Susie Jackson, 87;

Ethel Lance, 70;

Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49;

Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41;

Tywanza Sanders, 26;

Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74;

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45;

and Myra Thompson, 59.

Today, a jury of his peers considered the actions Roof took on that fateful day, and they rendered a verdict that will hold him accountable for his choices.

No verdict can bring back the nine we lost that day at Mother Emanuel.

And no verdict can heal the wounds of the five church members who survived the attack or the souls of those who lost loved ones to Roof’s callous hand.  But we hope that the completion of the prosecution provides the people of Charleston — and the people of our nation — with a measure of closure.

We thank the jurors for their service, the people of Charleston for their strength and support, and the law enforcement community in South Carolina and throughout the country for their vital work on this case.

 

Miami officers fired for ‘jokes’ about target practice in primarily black neighborhoods

Three police officers were fired for making comments on a group chat about using Miami’s primarily black neighborhoods for target practice.

Officers Kevin Bergnes, Miguel Valdes and Bruce Alcin were fired on Dec. 23, after an internal affairs investigation concluded that they violated department policies, said the Miami Herald, citing documents it obtained.

The remarks angered local civil rights activists keeping tabs on a department that is currently scrutinized by the U.S. Department of Justice for a pattern of excessive force.

“It’s indicative of the casual conversations and comments that young and even more seasoned police officers are used to making without a lot of repercussions,” said Julia Dawson, an activist who has been part of law enforcement oversight panels in Miami.

The Miami police department confirmed that officers Bergnes, Valdes and Alcin were fired, but did not explain the reasons behind the dismissals.

In a statement, Chief Rodolfo Llanes said an internal affairs investigation found the officers’ actions “inconsistent with the mission and values of our department.”

Attorney Stephan Lopez, who represents the three officers, told The Associated Press that his clients were joking and that the comments were taken out of context. He said Alcin is African-American and Valdes has a black grandfather.

“They wanted to make an example out of this. But they made an example of the wrong people,” Lopez said. “These guys didn’t shoot anybody. They were clearly joking around. They are kids. You don’t terminate them the day before Christmas Eve.”

The incident happened June 30, when the three officers responded to other rookie colleagues’ questions about shooting ranges in a WhatsApp chat they often used to communicate, the paper said. According to documents obtained by the Herald, the officers-in-training shared department information on that thread.

It said the documents show Bergnes sarcastically suggested the friend looking for a shooting range try a Bank of America, adding “they’ll even give you some cash.” He then suggested Model City — the police district that includes Liberty City and handles the bulk of the city’s shootings — as another location.

Valdes suggested a particular intersection in the Overtown community, according to the paper. It added that Alcin followed up, saying Valdes “wouldn’t understand” until he’s worked there.

The next day, an officer warned them that their words were offensive even though she didn’t think they were racist. “Your words can come back to bite you,” she allegedly wrote.

A sergeant learned of the conversation and ordered one officer to apologize. He also wrote a memo to a lieutenant about the matter, according to the Herald. Internal affairs began an investigation and concluded on Dec. 19 that they broke social media, courtesy and responsibility rules, the paper said.

Lopez, the attorney, said it’s too early to say whether he will file a lawsuit for wrongful termination or negotiate to get their jobs back. The officers were still on probation after being sworn in earlier this year.

Javier Ortiz, president of the police union, said he didn’t agree with the “joking texts” but that it wasn’t enough for dismissal. He said the city manager would “rather focus on text messages than the senseless killings and violent crime.”

The incident came months after the city of Miami agreed to go under supervision of the U.S. Justice Department to reform its policing after a series of police shootings from 2008 to 2011. The agreement followed a report that questioned 33 police shootings, including seven black men and teenagers who were killed in a short time.

 

Trump wins presidency with lowest minority vote in 40 years

Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency with less support from black and Hispanic voters than any president in at least 40 years, a Reuters review of polling data shows, highlighting deep national divisions that have fueled incidents of racial and political confrontation.

Trump was elected with 8 percent of the black vote, 28 percent of the Hispanic vote and 27 percent of the Asian-American vote, according to the Reuters/Ipsos Election Day poll.

Among black voters, his showing was comparable to the 9 percent captured by George W. Bush in 2000 and Ronald Reagan in 1984. But Bush and Reagan both did far better with Hispanic voters, capturing 35 percent and 34 percent, respectively, according to exit polling data compiled by the non-partisan Roper Center for Public Opinion Research.

And Trump’s performance among Asian-Americans was the worst of any winning presidential candidate since tracking of that demographic began in 1992.

The racial polarization behind Trump’s victory has helped set the stage for tensions that have surfaced repeatedly since the election, in white supremacist victory celebrations, in anti-Trump protests and civil rights rallies, and in hundreds of racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic hate crimes documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist movements.

The SPLC reports there were 701 incidents of “hateful harassment and intimidation” between the day following the Nov. 8 election and Nov. 16, with a spike in such incidents in the immediate wake of the vote.

Signs point to an ongoing atmosphere of confrontation.

The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a white separatist group that vilifies African-Americans, Jews and other minorities, plans an unusual Dec. 3 rally in North Carolina to celebrate Trump’s victory.

Left-wing groups have called for organized protests to disrupt the president-elect’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

And a “Women’s March on Washington,” scheduled for the following day, is expected to draw hundreds of thousands to protest Trump’s presidency.

American politics became increasingly racialized through President Barack Obama’s two terms, “but there was an attempt across the board, across the parties, to keep those tensions under the surface,” says Jamila Michener, an assistant professor of government at Cornell University.

Trump’s anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric “brought those divisions to the fore; it activated people on the right, who felt empowered, and it activated people on the left, who saw it as a threat,” she added.

That dynamic was evident last week.

When Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended the Broadway musical “Hamilton” in New York on Friday, the multi-ethnic cast closed with a statement expressing fears of a Trump presidency. A far different view was on display the next day as a crowd of about 275 people cheered Trump’s election at a Washington conference of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist group with a strong anti-Semitic beliefs.

“We willed Donald Trump into office; we made this dream our reality,” NPI President Richard Spencer said. After outlining a vision of America as “a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity,” he closed with, “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!”

DIVISION BREEDS CONFRONTATION

Though Trump’s election victory was driven by white voters, his performance even among that group was not as strong as some of his predecessors. Reagan and George H.W. Bush both won the presidency with higher shares of the white vote than the 55 percent that Trump achieved.

The historical voting patterns reflect decades of polarization in American politics, but the division surrounding Trump appears more profound, says Cas Mudde, an associate professor specializing in political extremism at the University of Georgia. These days, he adds, “people say they don’t want their children even to date someone from the other party.”

Indeed, voters’ opinions of those on the opposite side of the partisan divide have reached historic lows. Surveys by the Pew Research Center showed this year that majorities of both parties held “very unfavorable” views of the other party — a first since the center first measured such sentiment in 1992.

And the lion’s share of those people believe the opposing party’s policies “are so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being,” the center found.

That level of division has spurred activists on both sides of the political divide to take their activism in a more confrontational direction.

In the wake of Trump’s victory, protesters on the left took to the streets by the thousands in cities across the country, in some cases causing property damage.

Much of the agitation was motivated by a belief that Trump’s administration will foster racism and push the courts and other political institutions to disenfranchise minority voters, says James Anderson, editor of ItsGoingDown.Org, an anarchist website that has promoted mass demonstrations against Trump’s presidency, including a call to disrupt his inauguration.

Meanwhile, John Roberts, a top officer in the Ku Klux Klan affiliate planning the December rally to celebrate Trump’s election, says the group is committed to non-violent demonstrations, but he sees Trump’s election as likely to bring a new era of political conflict. And much of the strife, he says, will be centered around racial divisions.

“Once Trump officially takes office, there is going to be a boiling over at some point in time,” Roberts says. “Who knows when that’s going to be, but it’s not going to be pretty.”

Clinton: Too much violence, too much hate, too much senseless killing

Hillary Clinton delivered the following remarks at the African Methodist Episcopal Church National Convention in Philadelphia.

Giving all praise and honor to God.

Thank you for that welcome, and for letting me be a part of this anniversary celebration for the AME Church. I want to thank Bishop Green as well as Bishop Bryant, Bishop White, Bishop Ingram, Bishop Young, Bishop McKenzie, Bishop Jackson, Dr. Richard Allen Lewis, Sr., Reverend Dr. Jeffery B. Cooper, Sr., Bishop Snorton, Reverend Vincent and the AME General Conference Choir, which I had the great pleasure of hearing from backstage.

There is no better place to mark this milestone for the AME Church than right here in Philadelphia, the city where this church was founded by a former slave 200 years ago.

Today, we join to celebrate your esteemed history, the leaders and congregants who built this community and kept it strong, and your legacy of service. You seek to meet what the Book of Micah tells us are the Lord’s requirements for each of us: “To do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

As President Obama has said, the church is the “beating heart” of the African American community. This is the place where people worship, study, grieve and rejoice without fear of persecution or mistreatment. That is a precious thing, my friends, in this world. I know that, from my experience as a lifelong Methodist, how important my own church community has been to me.

So I come here today, first and foremost, to say thank you. Thank you for being part of this historic institution, and for carrying its work forward, as Bishop Green said. I also come tonight as a mother, and a grandmother to two beautiful little children. And like so many parents and grandparents across America, I have been following the news of the past few days with horror and grief.

On Tuesday, Alton Sterling, father of five, was killed in Baton Rouge — approached by the police for selling CDs outside a convenience store. On Wednesday, Philando Castile, 32 years old, was killed outside St. Paul — pulled over by the police for a broken tail light. And last night in Dallas, during a peaceful protest related to those killings, there was a vicious, appalling attack. A sniper targeted police officers. He said he wanted to hurt white people. Twelve officers were shot, along with two civilians. Five — five — officers have died. We now know all their names: Brent Thompson, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Lorne Ahrens, and Patrick Zamarripa. And as I was on my way here today, we heard reports of another shooting yesterday morning in Tennessee.

What can one say about events like these? What can people and leaders of faith say about events like these? It’s hard, isn’t it, even to know where to start. But let’s start here — let’s take a moment to pray for all the families and the loved ones suffering today. For Alton’s grieving children. For the four-year-old girl who bravely comforted her mother while Philando died in front of them. For the families of those police officers who lived every day with the fear that something like this could happen, and will always be proud of their service and sacrifice.

We pray for those families, and for the souls of everyone we lost this week and in all weeks preceding. May they rest in God’s peace.

Now, there are many unanswered questions about each of these incidents. We will learn more in the days ahead. And when we know as much as we can, there must be a just accounting.

For now, let’s focus on what we already know — deep in our hearts. We know there is something wrong with our country. There is too much violence, too much hate, too much senseless killing, too many people dead who shouldn’t be. And we know there is clear evidence that African Americans are much more likely to be killed in police incidents than any other group of Americans.

And we know there is too little trust in too many places between police and the communities they are sworn to protect. With so little common ground, it can feel impossible to have the conversations we need to have, to begin fixing what’s broken. We owe our children better than this. We owe ourselves better than this.

No one has all the answers. We need to find them together. Indeed, that is the only way we can find them. Those are the truest things I can offer today. We must do better, together. Let’s begin with something simple but vital: listening to each other. For Scripture tells us to “incline our ears to wisdom and apply our hearts to understanding.”

The deaths of Alton and Philando are the latest in a long and painful litany of African Americans killed in police incidents — 123 so far this year alone. We know the names of other victims, too:

Tamir Rice.

Sandra Bland.

Walter Scott.

Dontre Hamilton.

Laquan McDonald.

Eric Garner.

Michael Brown.

Freddie Gray.

Brandon Tate-Brown, whose mother Tanya is here today, and who was killed not far from here a year and a half ago.

Tragically, we could go on and on, couldn’t we. The families of the lost are trying to tell us. We need to listen. People are crying out for criminal justice reform. Families are being torn apart by excessive incarceration. Young people are being threatened and humiliated by racial profiling. Children are growing up in homes shattered by prison and poverty.

They’re trying to tell us. We need to listen.

Brave police officers are working hard every day to inspire trust and confidence. As we mourn the Dallas police officers who died and pray for those wounded, let’s not forget how the Dallas Police Department in particular has earned a reputation for excellence. They’ve worked hard for years to improve policing and strengthen their bonds with the community. And they’ve gotten results.

Police officers across the country are pouring their hearts into this work, because they know how vital it is to the peace, tranquility, justice, and equality of America. They’re trying to tell us. And we need to listen.

People are crying out for relief from gun violence. We remember Reverend Clementa Pinckney, eight congregants at Mother Emanuel in Charleston — and thousands more killed every year by guns across our nation. Things have become so broken in Washington that to just try to get a vote on compromise gun safety reforms, John Lewis himself had to stage a sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Gun violence is ripping apart people’s lives. They’re trying to tell us. And we need to listen.

I know that, just by saying all these things together, I may upset some people. I’m talking about criminal justice reform the day after a horrific attack on police officers. I’m talking about courageous, honorable police officers just a few days after officer-involved killings in Louisiana and Minnesota. I’m bringing up guns in a country where merely talking about comprehensive background checks and getting assault weapons off our streets gets you demonized.

But all these things can be true at once. We do need police and criminal justice reforms, to save lives and make sure all Americans are treated equally in rights and dignity. We do need to support police departments and stand up for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect us. And we do need to reduce gun violence. We may disagree about how to do all these things, but surely we can all agree with those basic premises. Surely this week showed us how true they are.

Now, I have set forth plans for over a year to reduce excessive violence, reform our sentencing laws, support police departments that are doing things right, make it harder for the wrong people to get their hands on guns. For example, there are two important steps that I will take as president.

First, I will bring law enforcement and communities together to develop national guidelines on the use of force by police officers. We will make it clear for everyone to see when deadly force is warranted, and when it isn’t. And we will emphasize proven methods for de-escalating situations before they reach that point.

And second, let’s be honest — let’s acknowledge that implicit bias still exists across our society and even in the best police departments. We have to tackle it together, which is why in my first budget, I will commit $1 billion to find and fund the best training programs, support new research, and make this a national policing priority. Let’s learn from those police departments like Dallas that have been making progress, apply their lessons nationwide.

Now, plans like these are important. But we have to acknowledge that — on their own — they won’t be enough. On their own, our thoughts and prayers aren’t enough, either. We need to do some hard work inside ourselves, too.

Today, there are people all across America sick over what happened in Dallas, and fearful that the murders of these police officers will mean that vital questions raised by Alton’s and Philando’s deaths will go unanswered. That is a reasonable fear. Today, there are people all across America who watched what happened in Dallas last night and are thinking, no frustration with the police could ever justify this bloodshed. How did we get here? And is there more to come? That’s a reasonable fear, too..

It is up to all of us to make sure those fears don’t come true. We cannot, we must not vilify police officers. Remember what those officers were doing when they died. They were protecting a peaceful march. They were people in authority, making sure their fellow citizens had the right to protest authority. And there is nothing more vital to our democracy than that. And they died for it.

Ending the systemic racism that plagues our country — and rebuilding our communities where the police and citizens all see themselves as being on the same side — will require contributions from all of us. White Americans need to do a better job of listening when African Americans talk— talk about the seen and unseen barriers you face every day. We need to try, as best we can, to walk in one another’s shoes — to imagine what it would be like if people followed us around stores, or locked their car doors when we walked past. Or if every time our children went to play in the park, or went for a ride, or just to the store to buy iced tea and Skittles, we said a prayer — “Please, God — please, God — don’t let anything happen to my baby.”

And let’s put ourselves in the shoes of police officers, kissing their kids and spouses goodbye every day and heading off to a dangerous job we need them to do. When gunfire broke out yesterday night, and everyone ran to safety, the police officers ran the other way — into the gunfire. That’s the kind of courage our police and first responders show every single day somewhere across America. And let’s remember — let’s think about what Dallas Police Chief David Brown said this morning. He said, “Please join me in applauding these brave men and women, who do this job under great scrutiny, under great vulnerability, who literally risk their lives to protect our democracy.” He went on to say, “We don’t feel much support most days. Let’s not make today most days.”

Let’s remember that — not just today but every day.

Let’s ask ourselves, what can I do? What can I personally do to stop violence and promote justice? How can I show that your life matters to me? That I have a stake in your safety and wellbeing?

Elie Wiesel, who died last week, once clarified for us that “the opposite of love is not hate — it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death — it’s indifference.” None of us can afford to be indifferent toward each other — not now, not ever. And I’m going to keep talking about these issues with every audience. And if I’m elected, I’ll start working on this on day one — and keep at it every single day after that.

I want you to know the 24-hour news cycle moves on — I won’t. This is so important to who we are, what kind of nation we are making for our children and our grandchildren. As President Obama said yesterday, and as we all know in our hearts to be true: We are better than this. And if we push hard enough, and long enough, we can bend the arc of history toward justice. We can avoid that choice that Dr. King posed for us between chaos and community.

So yes, this is about our country. It’s also about our kids. There’s nothing more important than that. And I think it’s about our faith. We have a lot of work to do. We don’t have a moment to lose. But I would not be here tonight if I did not believe we can come together with a sense of shared purpose and belief in our shared humanity, and if I did not know we must, because truly we are stronger together. Not separated into factions or sides; not shouting over each other about who matters more or who has more cause to be upset; but together, facing these challenges together. And if we do this right and have the hard conversations we need to have, we will become even stronger — like steel tempered by fire.

Fierce debates are part of who we are — just like freedom and order, justice and security — complementary values of American life. They are not easy. They challenge us to dig deep, and constantly seek the right balance. But in the end, if we do that work, we will become a better nation. If we stand with each other now, we can build a future where no one is left out or left behind, and everyone can share in the promise of America — which is big enough for everyone, not to be reserved for a few.

But we know something — we know that work is hard, don’t we? I’m calling on this historic church, and all of our churches, to think hard about what special role you can play. Every day, you teach and show us about the Golden Rule and so much else. Why can’t we really believe in and act on it? To treat others as we would want to be treated.

In the 13th chapter of First Corinthians, St. Paul extols the virtues of faith, hope, and love for our fellow human beings. He says we need them all in this life, because of our imperfections: we “see through a glass darkly” and only “know in part.” He proclaims love the greatest virtue, necessary to keep faith and hope alive and to give us direction.

I’ve tried to say for some time now that our country needs more love and kindness. I know it’s not the kind of thing presidential candidates usually say. But we have to find ways to repair these wounds and close these divides. The great genius and salvation of the United States is our capacity to do and to be better. And we must answer the call to do that again. It’s critical to everything else we want to achieve — more jobs with rising income; good education no matter what ZIP code a child lives in; affordable college; paying back debts; health care for everyone. We must never give up on the dream of this nation.

I want to close with a favorite passage — a passage that you all know — that means a great deal to me and I’m sure to many of you, from Galatians. “Let us not grow weary in doing good” — “for in due season, we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.”

My friends, let us not grow weary. Let us plan the path forward for all of God’s children. There are lost lives to redeem, bright futures to claim. Let us go forth — go forward, Bishop — with a sense of heartfelt love and commitment. And may the memory of those we’ve lost light our way toward the future our children and grandchildren deserve.

Thank you, AME, and God bless you.

Nurse in photo describes her arrest at Baton Rouge protest

The black woman in the photograph stands in calm protest, her long dress fluttering in the breeze as two policemen clad in the heavy black padding and helmets of riot gear rush to remove her from a roadway in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Officers took about 180 people into custody over the weekend in the state capital, mostly on misdemeanor charges accusing them of blocking traffic on a major thoroughfare during protests over recent police shootings of black men.

But the standoff with one woman, identified by friends as Ieshia Evans and captured in a widely used image by Reuters freelance photographer Jonathan Bachman, has encapsulated for some the spirit of demonstrators across the United States protesting in the past week what they decry as unjust treatment of minorities by police.

“You’ll be seeing this iconic photo from #BatonRouge and versions of it, for the rest of your life,” a man named David Law said on Twitter on Monday.

The Atlantic magazine called the image, which prompted comments on social media from around the world, “a single photo from Baton Rouge that’s hard to forget.” The Washington Post said it “captured a critical moment for the country,” while Britain’s Daily Mail website called it “an iconic arrest photo.”

Evans is a licensed practical nurse who lives in Pennsylvania, according to online records and a Facebook page that appears to belong to her.

“This is the work of God,” she wrote on Facebook after her arrest. “I am a vessel! Glory to the most high! I’m glad I’m alive and safe.”

Baton Rouge has become a flashpoint for protesters after Alton Sterling, 37, was shot and killed last week by city police who were responding to a call that he allegedly threatened someone with a gun outside a convenience store where he was selling CDs.

Sterling’s death, followed by the fatal shooting of another black man, Philando Castile, 32, near St. Paul, Minnesota, revived a wave of protests over police treatment of minorities that has swirled for two years and given rise to a movement called Black Lives Matter.

‘MAKING HER STAND’

Evans, the mother of a 5-year-old boy, traveled to Baton Rouge “because she wanted to look her son in the eyes to tell him she fought for his freedom and rights,” according to R. Alex Haynes, who said on Facebook he had known Evans since childhood.

A jail log from the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office showed an Ieshia Evans, 35, was booked on a charge of simple obstruction of a highway and had been released from custody.

Reuters could not reach Evans for comment on Monday.

Bachman said police had cleared a group of protesters, including members of the New Black Panther Party carrying bullhorns and shotguns, from the road before Evans walked onto the highway and stood before a wall of officers. Her face bore no expression and she did not speak, he said.

“To me, it seemed like she was making her stand and she was like, ‘You’re going to have to come and get me,'” the photographer said in an interview.

Bachman said the officers grabbed Evans and hurried her away, with the whole incident lasting only about 30 seconds.

After her arrest, Evans ended another Facebook post with, “Peace, love, blk power! ‪#‎blacklivesmatter.” She asked friends not to give interviews on her behalf, saying she wanted to tell her own story, but said later she was not ready to speak to reporters.

“I want to get home to my son,” she wrote. “I’ve been through a lot.”

 

Is the birthplace of ‘Uncle Tom’ in a Maryland hayfield?

The archaeological finds seem ordinary at first. A rusted belt buckle, shards of broken pottery and glass, remnants of an old clay pipe.

But in this detritus of lives lived more than 200 years ago on a southern Maryland farm known as La Grange, researchers in Charles County believe they have uncovered the birthplace of a key figure in African American history.

Josiah Henson is not a household name, but the autobiography the former slave published in 1849 provided integral source material — and some say inspired the title character — for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” published three years later. Stowe’s book, the most popular novel of the 19th century and one that has been translated into more languages than any other book besides the Bible, is credited with helping anti-slavery forces gain support for their cause in the years leading to the Civil War.

In his telling, Henson describes being born on a farm belonging to “Francis N” near Port Tobacco, Maryland, and he later relates the story of his mother being brutally attacked by an overseer. When his father sought revenge for the attack, he was punished with 100 lashes and had his right ear cut off. His father was then sold to another slave owner.

Julia King, a professor of anthropology at nearby St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said it took months of scrutinizing old documents and several weeks of digs at the 7-acre property to determine that this was indeed where Henson was born and lived for the first eight or nine years of his life.

She admits the evidence is not definitive.

“We’re not going to find a piece of ceramic that says ‘Josiah Henson was born here,’” King s as she led a tour of the excavation site. But she and others have discovered plenty of convincing clues, more than enough, she says, to make the case that this is Henson’s birthplace.

Located on the winding road between Port Tobacco and La Plata, the grand house built in the late 18th century by Francis Newman still stands on the property. The slave quarters are long gone, but after mapping out the land and taking shovel samples every 25 feet or so, King and her team believe they have located the site of the former structures. It is there, with just a few sample digs, that they have uncovered a trove of items dating to the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They expect to find many more in the weeks ahead as the project continues.

King has spent her career as an anthropologist and says she doesn’t often get emotional about artifacts that she and her team unearth. This time, however, was different. She had just watched the remake of “Roots” when the digging portion of the project began. The realization that the miniseries was set at about the same time that Henson would have been enslaved hit her hard.

“I was really just overwhelmed with emotion,” King said. “And I was really just grateful that I had the opportunity to get this bigger story out.”

In his book, Henson tells of how his family was separated and he and his mother were then sold to an owner in Montgomery County, where a park now bears his name. He later tried to buy his way out of slavery but was cheated out of money by his former owner. Finally, in 1830, he escaped from a slave owner in Kentucky and made his way to freedom in Canada, where he founded a settlement for former slaves.

Henson’s story also is an inspiration for Janice Wilson, president of the Charles County NAACP, who says she wants to make sure others in the community learn more about him.

“He’s very much a part of American history, and we know that our history over the years has been denied or not really taught in history books,” she said. “It’s a proud moment here for African Americans in Charles County to know that someone with the same blood running through our veins was born here and was such a significant figure.”

What happens next to this site is unclear. The area believed to be the location of the former slave quarters is in a rolling hayfield lined by giant pine trees. King says that a great first step would be a historical marker to alert passersby to its importance. Perhaps more ambitiously, she’s trying to persuade the local high school to create a “Hamilton”-like musical based on Henson’s life.

“I just want to make sure everyone knows who he is and where he lived,” King says.

An AP member exchange.

University of Wisconsin suspends frat after racist slurs

The University of Wisconsin has suspended the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at its flagship campus after finding that members of the fraternity repeatedly used racist and bigoted slurs and ostracized a black member who tried to stop it.

The suspension handed down this week by the school’s Committee on Student Organizations comes a year after the fraternity’s University of Oklahoma chapter was disbanded after video emerged showing members engaging in a racist chant.

Under the Wisconsin suspension, the chapter cannot participate in any Greek activities until Nov. 1 and can’t recruit new members this fall. Members also have to undergo diversity and mental health training before the chapter can be reinstated. The chapter had already been on probation for an unrelated incident of underage drinking.

The Wisconsin incidents allegedly occurred from the fall of 2014 until February of this year and were reported by a black member of the fraternity, according to university documents.

The member, who was unnamed in the report and who was listed as an active member as of its March filing, said he consistently heard anti-black and anti-gay slurs. He also accused a fellow fraternity member of assaulting him, and school officials said that member was disciplined as a result.

After video was posted online last year showing the Oklahoma SAE members engaging in a racist chant on a bus, the fraternity’s Evanston, Illinois-based national leadership made several changes. In addition to disbanding the Oklahoma chapter, it hired a director of diversity and inclusion, said it was reviewing all 237 of its chapters for racially offensive behavior and required all of its members to complete online diversity training.

In February, SAE’s leadership said members at five other chapters acknowledged having heard the racist chant over the past five years.

In a letter sent to SAE’s executive director, Blaine Ayers, about the decision to suspend the Madison chapter, school Chancellor Rebecca Blank wrote that she understands the organization has tried to address these issues, but that they clearly persist.

“It suggests that your efforts to address an intolerant and discriminatory culture have not been effective,” Blank wrote. “The conduct in this situation must not be repeated.”

Blank wrote she would like Ayers and the chapter president to meet with her before the suspension is lifted to explain how the organization will bring about lasting change.

Brandon Weghorst, a spokesman for the fraternity, said in an email he was traveling and would respond shortly.

The national fraternity began collecting racial and ethnic data in 2013. Ayers reported in 2015 that about 3 percent of the fraternity’s reporting members identified as African-American and about 20 percent identified as non-white.

Preventing tragedies between police, communities

In response to the nationwide concern on police-involved shootings, including the death of Dontre Hamilton, and calls to address the strained relationship between local law enforcement and the people they serve, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, introduced the Preventing Tragedies Between Police and Communities Act of 2016. This legislation would require de-escalation training in our police academies across the country with an overarching focus on preserving life through enhanced training.

A statement from Rep. Moore:

As a mother, grandmother, and elected representative, I personally took the untimely death of Dontre Hamilton to heart. Dontre wasn’t just my constituent, but a member of our community, yet sadly, his story is not unique. Too many young men and women in this country are unreasonably struck down by the very people who swore an oath to protect them. Too many mothers have been forced to bury their children and too many Americans have shared a fate similar to that of Dontre’s.

Upon hearing the news of this young man’s passing, I made a promise to myself and his mother, Maria Hamilton, that his death would not be in vain. This, coupled with the boisterous feedback from my constituents, led me to draft the Preventing Tragedies Between Police and Communities Act of 2016. This bill would give local law enforcement officials the valuable tools and training they need to safely and effectively patrol our streets with a strong emphasis on preserving life, drawing from several ‘best practices’ and recommendations from the Police Executive Research Forum.

We all know that police serve a vital role in upholding public safety and improving the quality of life of communities. Let us not forget the trauma that officers experience in being involved in a violent altercation, especially one that results in the loss of life. It is my sincere hope that my bill will not only help protect our citizens, but also also assist those responsible for keeping us safe and who routinely put their lives on the line everyday. I have confidence that this legislation will garner bipartisan support and will help restore the much needed faith and trust that has been compromised between the public and the police who serve them.