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‘It’s Above Me Now’ …..

THE FLORIDA STAR — In my daily stroll through various media outlets, I came across a video of a young man named Craig Brooks. As I continued to scroll through social media, I found one meme after the other titled ‘It’s Above Me Now’. Mr. Brooks, an African American young man, who was on his job working at a hotel when a Caucasian woman called him n *gger while he was attempting to check her in for her stay at the hotel.

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By Dr. Sheila D. Williams

In my daily stroll through various media outlets, I came across a video of a young man named Craig Brooks. As I continued to scroll through social media, I found one meme after the other titled ‘It’s Above Me Now’. Mr. Brooks, an African American young man, who was on his job working at a hotel when a Caucasian woman called him n *gger while he was attempting to check her in for her stay at the hotel. I reviewed the video of Mr. Brooks several times and realized there were so many levels to what occurred. I commend Mr. Brooks on his ability to maintain his composure in such a stressful situation. I can only imagine how he felt as he appeared to only be trying to do his job and carry out his job-related responsibilities. He didn’t yell, he didn’t scream, he didn’t become violent or argumentative, he didn’t even curse or raise his voice. He simply repeated to her, ‘it’s above me now’ and offered her the option of choosing the Best Western next door for her stay. Okay I laughed when he offered the Best Western, I admit it. But on a more serious not, the level of stress and the ability to restrain from lashing out in this type of scenario is perhaps unimaginable to many. I can only envision myself in that situation, blood pressure elevated, palms sweating, perhaps even biting my tongue and saying a silent prayer, in order to keep the peace and to keep my job. So, I ask, if you were in this scenario, what would you have done?

We can only speculate what Mr. Brooks meant when he said repeatedly ‘It’s above me now’. I presume he meant either that if she had an issue or complaint, she needed to address it with a supervisor OR he had simply ‘released’ her negativity and racist remarks to a higher being. How we handle stress is imperative to our overall health and well-being. As an African American woman, I’ve encountered many challenges in my life. I’ve experienced so many situations that were blatantly discriminatory and many that were subtle. In each situation, I can’t say I was as composed as Mr. Brooks. I’ve learned, and continue to learn, how to deal with stress daily.

Because of societal pressure to ‘fit in’, coupled with work, family, financial responsibilities we are all dealing with some form of stress. Did you know that seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints? The reality is, stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety. Research indicates that emotional stress is a major contributing factor to the six leading causes of death in the United States: cancer, coronary heart disease, accidental injuries, respiratory disorders, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. ALARMING to say the least.

In a society in which everything we say and do is scrutinized, it can often be difficult to ‘release’ and let go of those things that are out of our control. It is often difficult to remain calm in stressful situations and to find work-life balance. Through prayer, meditation, supportive family and friends as well as travel and participation in social activities I’ve learned to manage my stress. Perhaps Mr. Brooks has learned to successfully manage stress and his ability release and deflect the negative energy that she attempted to place upon him is by far, one that we can all learn a lesson from. As a Mental Health Advocate, I encourage others to advocate for their overall well-being. Learn to say ‘no’, to walk away and to be intentional about you, your well-being and the well-being of those you love. Let’s all learn to release and let go – it’s okay to hold your head high and say, ‘It’s Above Me Now’ and walk away!!

www.DrSheilaDWilliams.com

It’s Above Me is a statement said by hotel reservationist Craig L. Brooks Jr. in a Twitterviral video in which he confronts the woman who called him a n*gger over the phone by politely refusing her service.

This article originally appeared in The Florida Star

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Black History

Freedom Summer, A Turning Point in The Civil Rights Movement

Devices used to deter voters included literacy tests and poll taxes, a fee that must be paid by Blacks in order to vote. And Mississippi led the pack, boasting the lowest number of Black registered voters: less than 7% of those who were eligible. These issues led to a 1964 voter registration drive aimed at increasing the number of registered Black voters in Mississippi. It was called Freedom Summer, also dubbed the Mississippi Summer Project.

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In June 1964 around 800 white, mainly middle-class northern students travelled to Mississippi to spend the summer working alongside veteran Black activists. It was a bold and creative attempt to advance the cause of civil rights and to force decisive action from the federal government. Courtesy of heroesofthecivilrightsmovement.org/chapter/freedom-summer
In June 1964 around 800 white, mainly middle-class northern students travelled to Mississippi to spend the summer working alongside veteran Black activists. It was a bold and creative attempt to advance the cause of civil rights and to force decisive action from the federal government. Courtesy of heroesofthecivilrightsmovement.org/chapter/freedom-summer

By Tamara Shiloh

It was 1964 and the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing. Three years before, unforgettable history had been made: Freedom Riders (groups of white and African American civil rights activists who participated in Freedom Rides) traveled via bus throughout the segregated South fighting Jim Crow laws; and Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington in 1963. What took place then was called “progress.”

Still, the South remained segregated, especially at polling places. Blacks were abused, attacked, threatened, and some were killed when attempting to exercise their right to vote.

Devices used to deter voters included literacy tests and poll taxes, a fee that must be paid by Blacks in order to vote. And Mississippi led the pack, boasting the lowest number of Black registered voters: less than 7% of those who were eligible.

These issues led to a 1964 voter registration drive aimed at increasing the number of registered Black voters in Mississippi. It was called Freedom Summer, also dubbed the Mississippi Summer Project.

The project was organized by civil rights groups such as the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and run by the local Council of Federated Organizations. More than 700 volunteers (mostly white) joined Mississippi Blacks in the fight against voter intimidation and discrimination.

They, too, were met with the same level of violence, all perpetrated by the Ku Klux Klan alongside some local and state law enforcement officers. Reports from the press drew international attention to America’s racist treatment of its Black citizens.

As the summer grew hotter, the violence escalated.

Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, white students from New York, and James Chaney, a Black man from Meridian, Miss., arrived in Philadelphia, Miss., on June 15. There, the trio was tasked to investigate a church burning. The arson was not resolved, and the three men had been kidnapped.

Six weeks later, their bodies were recovered: beaten and lynched by a Klan mob.

Public outcry mounted as the hunt for their killers began. Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney became nationally known. The press dubbed the crime “the Freedom Summer murders.”

Distrust crept in between white and Black volunteers and staff. There were 17,000 Blacks in Mississippi that summer attempting to register to vote. Sadly, only 1,200 were successful. Still, progress was made.

The project established 40-plus Freedom Schools serving 3,000 adults and children to read. National attention spurred by the press convinced then-president Lyndon B. Johnson and Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, squashing segregation in public places and banning all employment discrimination.

The violence of Freedom Summer eventually cooled, as did some relationships among those active within the Civil Rights Movement. Anger over the violence and deaths spurred a split: those who continued to believe in non-violence and those who had begun to doubt whether equality could be reached through peaceful means. After 1964, more militant factions would rise as the struggle for equality continued.

The events of Freedom Summer led to the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And still, the struggle continues.

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Commentary

COMMENTARY: Muslims in France Face Worsening Climate of Hate Under Leadership of President Macron

For France, which colonized Algeria for more than a century, the idea that people from the former colonies should live the life they want seems unbearable. Many white French people seem to have a fear that those from the former colonies may want to treat the descendants of the European French in the same way that the colonial masters treated us. Assuming always the worst for its Muslim citizens says a lot about the country and its beliefs.

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A demonstration in France by Muslims protesting their treatment under President Macron in 2020.
A demonstration in France by Muslims protesting their treatment under President Macron in 2020.

By Larbi Ben Krima

Editor’s Note: We are accustomed to hearing travel advisories telling us to avoid countries in the midst of civil war or government repression. Last month a Muslim civil rights organization warned Muslims not to travel to a country that many consider to be the birthplace of liberty. The author of this article, a French citizen, explains how France has become an oppressive place for Muslims.

I was born and raised in France to an Algerian family. I, like millions of other French citizens, heard about colonization and the mistreatment it created. There was some progress made, and now, piece by piece, that is being erased.

One year ago, in October 2020, French President Macron decided to launch his 2022 re-election campaign with a speech targeting Muslim people. He used terrorism as an excuse. Everybody in France knew it was really about politics, although the citizens of the world did not know that.

Macron’s government followed up by dissolving organizations that had criticized his Islamophobic government.

Schools, humanitarian NGO’s, mosques, publishing offices, and civil right movements with Muslim participants have been shut down by a government looking for Far Right votes in the next election.

France is still pretending to fight for rights around the world, but these rights are never really applied to its Muslim citizens, who are always seen as a Fifth Column and who always have to prove that they are French enough.

Every Muslim act is seen as a danger to the country. It seems that Muslim prayers threaten the French republic; Muslim food is seen as a challenge to the religion of other French people; and Muslim clothes are seen as an attempt to change France’s way of life. Most religions have special foods, and prayers and clothing. Having these customs should not be made so difficult for us after all these years. What’s the big deal?

For France, which colonized Algeria for more than a century, the idea that people from the former colonies should live the life they want seems unbearable. Many white French people seem to have a fear that those from the former colonies may want to treat the descendants of the European French in the same way that the colonial masters treated us. Assuming always the worst for its Muslim citizens says a lot about the country and its beliefs.

That may explain why this country, which refuses to take accountability for its colonial past, can’t accept the kids who are born and raised here.

Quoting the world-famous psychiatrist and political philosopher Frantz Fanon, “It should not be said that such and such a country is racist, but there are no lynchings or extermination camps there. The truth is, all of this and something more is on the horizon.”

We can say that racism runs deep in France’s institutions and politics, cheered on by the media, with applause from a substantial group who likes what they are hearing.

This is a country where an openly racist media pundit has growing support in his campaign for president, just as Donald Trump did.

France, which always despised the USA, has now became one of the United States of Islamophobia, along with China and India.

A former great country, known for its ideals, France has used its former glory around the world. Recently, the world has come to know what a very small country France has actually become a country that should stop preaching to others what it obviously refuses to apply to itself.

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African American News & Issues

Reparations: How ‘Intentional’ Government Policy Denied Blacks Access to Wealth

Fifty years after the federal Fair Housing Act eliminated racial discrimination in lending, the Black community continues to be denied mortgage loans at rates much higher than their white counterparts.

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Stock photo of a vault with access denied written across it

When the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, the Black community owned less than 1% of the United States’ total wealth, the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans was told during its fourth meeting.

Mehrsa Baradaran, a professor at the University of California Irvine, School of Law, shared the statistics during the “Racism in Banking, Tax, and Labor” portion of the two-day meeting on October 13.

From her perspective, the power of wealth and personal income is still unequally distributed. And that inequality, in her view, has always been allowed, preserved and compounded by laws and government policy.

“More than 150 years later, that number has barely budged,” Baradaran told the Task Force, tracing the wealth gap from the period after the Civil War when President Lincoln granted formerly enslaved Blacks their freedom to the present day.

“The gap between average white wealth and Black wealth has actually increased over the last decades. Today, across every social-economic level, Black families have a fraction of the wealth that white families have,” she said.

Baradaran has written a range of entries and books about banking law, financial inclusion, inequality, and the racial wealth gap. Her scholarship includes the books “How the Other Half Banks” and “The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap,” both published by the Harvard University Press.

Baradaran has also published several articles on race and economics, including “Jim Crow Credit” in the Irvine Law Review, “Regulation by Hypothetical” in the Vanderbilt Law Review, and “How the Poor Got Cut Out of Banking” in the Emory Law Journal.

Baradaran, a 43-year-old immigrant born in Iran, testified that her work on the wealth gap in America was conducted from a “research angle” and she respectfully “submitted” her testimony “in that light,” she said.

In her research, Baradaran explained that she discovered an intentional system of financial oppression.

“This wealth chasm doesn’t abate with income or with education. In other words, this is a wealth gap that is pretty much tied to a history of exclusion and exploitation and not to be remedied by higher education and higher income,” Baradaran said.

According to a January 2020 report, the Public Policy Institute of California said African American and Latino families make up 12% of those with incomes above the 90th percentile in the state, despite comprising 43% of all families in California.

In addition, PPIC reported that such disparities mirror the fact that African American and Latino adults are overrepresented in low-wage jobs and have higher unemployment rates, and African American adults are less likely to be in the labor force.

Many issues support these activities that range from disparities around education, local job opportunities, and incarceration to discrimination in the labor market, according to PPIC.

“While California’s economy outperforms the nation’s, its level of income inequality exceeds that of all but five states,” the report stated.

“Without target policies, it will continue to grow,” Baradaran said of the wealth gap. “And I want to be clear of how this wealth gap will continue to grow. It was created, maintained, and perpetuated through public policy at the federal, state, and local levels.

“Black men and women have been shut out of most avenues of middle-class creations. Black homes, farms, and savings were not given the full protection of the law. Especially as these properties were subjected to racial terrorism. The American middle-class was not created that way (to support Black communities),” Baradaran said.

A June 2018 working paper from the Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute written by economists familiar with moderate-to-weak Black wealth backs up Baradaran’s assessment.

Published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, the authors of the report wrote that strategies to deny Blacks access to wealth started at the beginning of the Reconstruction era, picked up around the civil rights movement, and resurfaced around the financial crisis of the late 2000s.

Authored by Moritz Kuhn, Moritz Schularick, and Ulrike I. Steins, the “Income and Wealth Inequality in America, 1949-2016” explains a close analysis of racial inequality, pre-and post-civil rights eras.

The economists wrote that the median Black household has less than 11% of the wealth of the median white household, which is about $15,000 versus $140,000 in 2016 prices.

“The overall summary is bleak,” the report states. “The historical data also reveal that no progress has been made in reducing income and wealth inequalities between black and white households over the past 70 years.”

Baradaran recently participated in the virtual symposium, “Racism and the Economy: Focus on the Wealth Divide” hosted by 12 District Banks of the Federal Reserve System, which includes the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

There are some positives that are not typically included in discussions about the challenges Blacks have experienced historically in efforts to obtain wealth, Baradaran said. Many African Americans, specifically in California, were able to subvert the systems that discriminated against them.

“Black institutions have been creative and innovative serving their communities in a hostile climate,” Baradaran said. “I’ve written a book about the long history of entrepreneurship, self-help, and mutual uplift. Historically Black Colleges and Universities have provided stellar education and Black banks have supported Black businesses, churches, and families.”

California’s Assembly Bill (AB) 3121, titled “The Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans,” created a nine-member commission to investigate inequity in education, labor, wealth, housing, tax, and environmental justice.

All of these areas were covered with expert testimony during the two-day meeting held on October 12 and October 13. The task force is charged with exploring California’s involvement in slavery, segregation, and the historic denial of Black citizens’ constitutional rights.

Fifty years after the federal Fair Housing Act eliminated racial discrimination in lending, the Black community continues to be denied mortgage loans at rates much higher than their white counterparts.

“Banks and corporations have engaged in lending and hiring practices that helped to solidify patterns of racial inequality,” Jacqueline Jones, a history professor from the University of Texas told the Task Force.

The Racism in Banking, Tax and Labor segment also featured testimonies by Williams Spriggs (former chair of the Department of Economics at Howard University. Spriggs now serves as chief economist to the AFL-CIO), Thomas Craemer (public policy professor at the University of Connecticut), and Lawrence Lucas (U.S. Department of Agriculture Coalition of Minority Employees).

The Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans will conduct its fifth and final meeting of 2021 on December 6 and December 7.

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