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Op-Ed

Blackonomics: The Change We’ve Been Waiting for

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By James Clingman
NNPA Columnist

 

In light of the conversations about police abuse, unwarranted stops and arrests, and homicide cases involving Black people and police officers, many Black people get angry, maybe have a march, and then go home to await the next incident. Some of our organizations do their usual thing by making loud threatening statements and then get back in line until the next crisis hits. Amos Wilson said, “Until our behavior changes, the behavior of those who oppress and abuse us will not change.” In other words, the onus for change is on us.

Many of you may not know about the Uniform Reporting Law Enforcement Improvement Act (URLEIA), which is proposed legislation that calls for the creation of a National Office of Civilian Oversight that hosts meetings across the nation to garner citizen input. Law enforcement agents, their spouses, and unions are not permitted to attend or participate in the Civilian Oversight Conferences. These conferences are essentially designed to create policy that governs policing. Police unions and associations are largely responsible for developing the policing approaches we see in effect today; URLEIA will change that practice.

This legislative proposal is provided by ONUS, Inc., and Black Communities United for Progress (BCUP) for presentation to members of the United States Congress and the president of the United States. Now that’s what I call proactive work that will have a direct and positive effect on Black people. This is not just rhetorical bombast; this is attacking the problem of police brutality from a practical, logical, and legal perspective.

Immediately after a White woman was shot and killed by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco, Bill O’Reilly called for what he titled “Kate’s Law” to be passed by Congress. Within days 600,000 signatures were collected and members of Congress went to work to get the proposed law passed. They held hearings and brought the family of Kathryn Steinle to Washington to testify. They got swift action.

So where is the Tamir Rice law against cops shooting 12-year-olds in less than two seconds? Where is the Eric Garner Law against police officers choking a man to death? Where is John Crawford’s Law that punishes department store employees for lying to 911 and cops from killing a person for holding a BB gun that is on the shelf of that store? Where is Sandra Bland’s Law that would send a cop to jail for falsely arresting a young lady who questioned why she had to put her cigarette out while seated in her own car?

Why hasn’t O’Reilly’s TV news counterpart, Al Sharpton, gone to his good friend, Barack Obama, and all his friends in the Black Caucus and gotten them to hold hearings and write Sandra’s Law?

Instead of real action, we see our vaunted politicians genuflecting before the powers-that-be and our “Black” organizations – the NAACP and Urban League – walking 860 miles and issuing an annual report that tells us how bad our situation is.

This is exactly why we need and must support ONUS, Inc. and its URLEIA legislation. Instead of symbolic gestures, “ONUS is calling upon Congressional leaders to sponsor, endorse and enact the provisions contained in URLEIA in order to stop law enforcement agents from wreaking havoc on Black Americans…” says Jerroll Sanders, ONUS, Inc. president and CEO.

Sanders states, “The contents of the URLEIA legislative proposal stand in stark contrast to H.R. 2875 — a bill titled the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act of 2015 that is currently making its way through Congress. While H.R. 2875 provides additional funding for grants and U.S. Department of Justice policing oversight activities and promotes the creation of national training, accreditation and operating standards, it provides few real solutions to adequately address America’s racist policing problem.

I would add that H.R. 2875 creates a National Task Force on law enforcement oversight composed of individuals appointed by the attorney general from various DOJ bureaus. The AG’s task force will consult with professional law enforcement associations, labor organizations and “community-based organizations.”  Along with a few other loosely worded recommendations, of course, the usual suspects, to and through which funds would be channeled are named outright, i.e. NAACP and National Urban League.

“URLEIA, on the other hand, addresses the root cause of police brutality in black communities by holding law enforcement agents accountable for the actions and sealing loopholes that currently allow perpetrators of police brutality to walk free,” Ms. Sanders continues, “URLEIA is the type of tough legislation Black Americans have been demanding in order to bring a permanent end to centuries of police brutality and abuse.”

Please go to www.changeisonus.org and read the URLEIA legislation for yourself, and then support it by supporting ONUS. If all we do is say we need change, we will never obtain it. It takes work, and ONUS is doing that work. Get involved.

 

Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He can be reached through his website, blackonomics.com. He is the author of   Black Dollars Matter: Teach Your Dollars How to Make More Sense, which is available through his website; professionalpublishinghouse.com and Amazon Kindle eBooks.

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Commentary

First in a Series on Jobs in Oakland. City Government; Please Do No (More) Harm

Oakland city government declares war on the unemployed. An overstatement? Not really.

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High Quality stock aerial photos of downtown Oakland with Lake Merritt in the foreground.

Oakland city government declares war on the unemployed. An overstatement? Not really.

City administration professes concern for its residents who need help with access to jobs and training, while at the same time failing to issue contracts to the community organizations that stand ready to provide needed services.

The city council approved these contracts in June. As of late September, they have not been issued by the city administration.

Q: What does this mean? A: Non-profit organizations, operating on shoestring budgets in the best of times, have been required to advance their own funds in July, August, and September to serve the unemployed, with no reimbursement by the city because as the administration says, “Your contract has not been signed yet.”

Another impact: the workers who provide front line job services may not receive their paychecks on time…. creating unnecessary instability in their own households.

And who is responsible for issuing these contracts? Yup…it’s the city…. painfully tone deaf to the needs of the community, particularly those on the economic margins. Most of those served with job help are Black and Latinx residents who consistently suffer double digit unemployment. Many are returning home after incarceration.

And for this level of harmful disregard, the city receives  28 percent of scarce job training funds. Astonishing, since the city provides no direct services to job seekers.

As Oakland struggles with its horrific crime wave, it seems that attention would be paid to root causes, joblessness being paramount among them. Instead, the city administration seems intent on hobbling the very groups who stand ready to help. This happens year after year…. with no apparent consequences to an impenetrable bureaucracy.

Oakland, we can do  better than this.

We must.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

 

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Commentary

Pass the Freedom to Vote Act: Time Running Out to Protect Right to Vote in 2022 and Beyond

Ideally, voting rights should be a nonpartisan issue. Congress repeatedly passed extensions of the Voting Rights Act that were signed by Republican presidents. But right-wing politicians and judges have spent years trying to undermine the Voting Rights Act in the name of “states’ rights” or “state sovereignty.”

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Republican-controlled state legislatures have imposed new voting restrictions. They are getting ready to create more safe congressional seats for Republicans through abusive partisan redistricting. They are undermining faith in elections with false claims about election fraud and demands for fake “audits.”

The good news is that there is new momentum in Congress and a new bill to protect our democracy. We need to get it passed.

The new Freedom to Vote Act would protect the right to vote, end unfair partisan gerrymandering, and shine a light on the flood of dark money that allows billionaires to buy our elections in secret. It includes key sections of the earlier For the People Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives but was blocked in the Senate by Republican filibusters.

The Freedom to Vote act also addresses one of the worst things about some of the new voter suppression laws: provisions that give state officials the power to override voters and overturn election results.

There are other good things in the bill. It would make Election Day a federal holiday. Every state would have automatic voter registration, early voting and drop box accessibility. These would be major advances in making voting more accessible to everyone.

Voting rights advocates are rallying support for the Freedom to Vote Act. One of the sponsors, Democratic Sen. Joe Machin of West Virginia, worked hard to come up with a bill that he could support. He still hopes to get some Republican senators to join him.

That is an uphill battle. Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled that no Republican senators will support this compromise. And he will use the Senate’s filibuster rules to prevent the Senate from passing election protections that are supported by huge majorities of the American people—something he has already done with the For the People Act.

Ideally, voting rights should be a nonpartisan issue. Congress repeatedly passed extensions of the Voting Rights Act that were signed by Republican presidents. But right-wing politicians and judges have spent years trying to undermine the Voting Rights Act in the name of “states’ rights” or “state sovereignty.”

With help from right-wing justices on the Supreme Court, states have imposed all kinds of new voting restrictions in recent years.

The number of new restrictive voting laws jumped massively after former President Donald Trump was defeated in last year’s presidential election. Grassroots organizing helped drive strong turnout among Black voters in key states, and Republicans have decided to respond by making it harder for people to register and vote.

That makes it clear that the new voter suppression rules have nothing to do with “election integrity” and everything to do with maintaining power at all costs.

The Constitution very clearly gives the federal government the right to step in when states undermine democracy with restrictive and discriminatory voting rules. That’s what Congress did more than 50 years ago when it passed the Voting Rights Act.

President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate must do whatever it takes to pass the Freedom to Vote Act. With democracy and voting rights at stake, we cannot let Jim Crow-era filibuster rules in the U.S. Senate have the final word.

Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way.

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Opinion; How You Can Help Your Kid Readjust to In-Person Schooling

Over time, if our kids are not able to relax and de-stress, their bodies may also react with headaches, stomach aches, rapid heart rates, and an overall feeling of unwellness.   

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African American teacher assisting her students during class at elementary school and wearing face mask due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Our children are our most precious resource.  They hold in their hands the future of our community, our state, and our nation.  Likewise, we must hold them, too, under our protective guidance as we shape them into responsible and caring adults.

Now that most of our students have returned to school after an unusual, unpredictable and challenging 18 months due to COVID-19, many of our children are experiencing emotional upheavals due to – or exacerbated by — the pandemic. It is going to take some work to get children used to the stability, structure and predictability after more than a year of remote learning, disrupted schedules, isolation, little-to-no contact with peers and missed milestones.

Some of our children and their families have experienced food insecurity, income losses, illness and death due to COVID or related traumas.  These factors and many more have contributed to rising rates of depression, anxiety, hopelessness, decreased motivation, irritability, and an overall loss of learning.

As the school year begins, it is important to remember that each child is unique, and each one will experience their transition back to school differently.  According to the American Psychological Association (2021), 81 % of Gen Z teens (those between the ages of 13-17) have experienced intense stress associated with academic learning due to the COVID-19 crisis.  Rates of depression and anxiety in African American youth have increased also. Rates of suicidal ideation are climbing among Black youth as well but remains highest among LGBTQ+ youth across racial categories.  Moreover, in September 2020, over half of 11-17-year-olds reported having thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

Children experience stress differently than adults.  Usually, stress resolves itself within weeks for most youth. For others, though, the stress may turn into anxiety and influence the child’s thoughts and behavior.

Here are some things to look for:  changes in mood (irritability, hopelessness, frequent conflicts), changes in behavior (little time with friends, increase in video chatting or texting), loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, difficulty falling or staying asleep, and/or a change in appearance (personal hygiene).

Over time, if our kids are not able to relax and de-stress, their bodies may also react with headaches, stomach aches, rapid heart rates, and an overall feeling of unwellness.

So, what can you as a parent do to help your child?  Here are some recommendations.

  1. Get organized and plan for the school day.
  2. Talk with your student about any concerns that they may have returning to school. Even if school has started, ask and listen to how the school days have progressed.
  3. Try reaching out to another parent if your child is having difficulty making new friends. Plan a playdate or hangout time.
  4. Have a consistent and reliable schedule for waking up, going to bed, and for meals.
  5. Talk to your child about what they have to look forward to whether it’s the next school day or the end of the week.
  6. Listen to your students concerns and do not dismiss what you hear. Try to validate their experiences whether you can relate to them or not.
  7. Please follow CDC guidelines as well as your school district’s policies for staying safe in order to decrease the spread of COVID and its variants.
  8. Practice meditation. Just being still and quiet for three minutes will help to protect ourselves from stress, anxiety and depression upon waking up, at dinner or before bed.

Finally, we all must recognize the additional pressure placed on many of our students during the Black Lives Matter movement.  We must continue to actively advocate, support, empathize and listen to our children as they develop tools needed to face the challenges of life today.

Remember to keep the lines of communication open and reach out to a trusted expert such as your pediatrician or family care doctor.

Some licensed psychologists, including myself, offer screenings for depression, anxiety, hopelessness, stress, etc. as well as treatment with effective tools and strategies for success are available.

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