Expert Voices

Homelessness And The U.S. Census

BY JOHN LENOIR

I came to Austin to work the 2020 census and spend time with family here. Through the census I got an up-close look at the nooks and crannies of the city, and nose-to-nose encounters with Austinites living in its jewels of Westlake and between its toes under highway bridges and behind parking lots.

At the direction of the U.S. Census, my team and I were required to meet with residents and ask the formulaic questions about age, race and whether they owned or rented their homes. Knocking on a door in Bee Cave or Westlake generally involved getting through layers of security gates to reach breath-taking homes with pools, expansive views, or private docks on the lake. I got a lot of “Leave-Me-Alone” responses often couched as “I’m really busy,” and “I’ll do it online.” The underlying dynamic was, “You are uninvited on my property,” and “How did you get past security?”

When we completed the door-knocking count, selected teams focused on finding and counting Austinites in the tortured census acronym, TNSOL (Targeted Nonstructured Outdoor Locations) — in other words, the homeless. It was easy to follow the highways to find the tent and tarp communities under the overpass intersections. More challenging was to locate people disbursed in the woods, behind Walmart dumpsters and wherever they could catch a piece of dry land near an intersection where they could “fly” their cardboard signs asking for money.

We were fortunate to have introductions from support crews such as the Travis County constable, whose Precinct 3 team seeks out the most isolated encampments to deliver food and water. Other church-based and nonprofit organizations provide food and clean water to various camps — lifelines to a population that lives in the margins. Many people we encountered seemed to suffer from addictions and illnesses that they said cost them their jobs and put them on the street in the first place. In the one officially sanctioned homeless encampment on a former state Department of Transportation storage yard, I had expected to see rows of identical tents or temporary structures like the UN refugee camps in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. Here, the hundred-plus inhabitants of Camp Esperanza make their own shelters through a hodgepodge of tarps, tents and cardboard.

With the homeless there was, of course, the quiet ‘Leave-Me-Alone’ posture when we approached. But this was different. There was not the ‘Get Off My Property’ look of the high-grounders and lakesiders. The homeless were acutely aware that they have no right to be where they were and possess absolutely no property to protect. The ‘Leave-Me-Alone’ looks we got behind the iron security gates said, ‘I am where I want to be, doing what I want to do.’ The ‘Leave-Me-Alone’ under Highway 183 meant, I am in a place no one wants to be, subject to eviction, and I am humiliated. Their security moats were fear and despair. But they also seemed to project a sense of small pride in the resourcefulness to have put together enough shelter to stay alive. And as it was particularly dangerous to be alone in the woods, there were touching stories of taking in others recently on the street.

Once the regular follow-up door knocking cases started winding down, a few field supervisors like myself volunteered to take on managing teams counting the homeless population during the fourth week of September. Very few of the original crews opted to switch and take on the TNSOL. I heard concerns about the added dangers of COVID-19 exposure, unfamiliarity with the homeless population and, frankly, no interest in becoming familiar with the homeless camps. The census began recruiting people to work with the homeless; the team members I ended up working with each had a heart for the task. I was proud of them.

They were committed to getting a full and accurate count of the homeless population, and we were able to get through the Leave-Me-Alone defenses behind the tarps by acknowledging the human dignity of the people we were to “enumerate” and convincing them that they were to be counted just like everybody else in Austin, no matter where they lived.

Lenoir is a retired federal prosecutor living in Austin.

An Open Letter To White Jesus And A Call For Amen-Ra’s Return

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

Dear white Jesus,

As a young girl my mother and father baptized me in a Roman Catholic church. My mom always talked about you, consistently reminding all her children of your grace, tolerance and love for the world and all its people. There were many days I called on you for help and mercy. Sometimes for selfish reasons and other times for understanding or on behalf of my fellow man. I never questioned your presence or wisdom. The bible guided my family through many tough times in life. It didn’t take away the severe poverty I grew up with in Suriname but somehow, we made it with help from others. We had land to grow food, chickens to raise, family and community. And, you reaped all the praise for every bit of good that fell on us. “Thank God,” was a common phrase we all used. We accepted our unequal place in the world as our cross to bear. I never questioned it. I simply accepted it like my mother and grandmother did. We are black people. And not just any type of black people. We are tribal black people from the Ashanti and Akan tribes in Africa that have come around to accept our field negro way of life despite our royal beginnings. We thanked you, nonetheless. We praised you in spite of it all.

Hathor, Goddess of Love

The love of two vastly different people led to my being. I was essentially plucked from the fate bestowed on my tribal people by being born to a black Pamaka mother and a white Okie father. I didn’t just look different; I was given a different life than the one many of my people live. I became a house negro. Not by choice, but rather by unjust and brutal circumstances all black people in the world know. Slavery shaped us. Not just culturally but in every human way possible. We fought each other, and we fought hard to right all the wrongs committed against us by Europeans. We struggled and died brutal deaths in mass numbers around the world just to gain a small foothold in the common ideals of humanity. From Africa, the West Indies, South America, to the Caribbean islands and America, we fought hard for our salvation and bits of freedom. And, again, you were given all the glory for the strength to defeat our enemies.

Anubis, God of Death

After 246 years of slave labor in America, that built the most powerful country and democracy the world has ever known, we find ourselves still fighting the same ol’ fight we’ve fought for centuries. I’m exhausted. Having to carry the weight of our ancestors’ struggle, we’re all undoubtedly exhausted. And yet, there’s still no rest for the weary. So, how much longer “God”? How many more of us have to be brutally struck down by hateful racist white people? How many more must be sacrificed to finally bring about the justice and equality any human being deserves? We love our children and want to see them grow. But they can’t because of the indiscriminate hate that comes with the birth of brown babies. We love our mothers but can’t experience their complete love and support as they too are met with violence inflicted on their aging bodies from being mercilessly thrown to the ground by white police officers in Baltimore. We love our fathers, but they can’t protect us from the early graves they meet after being shot in the back when they run from the police in North Carolina. We love our black teachers but can’t gain the wisdom of their teachings or the sweetness of their gentle souls as they are met with hails of bullets while peacefully sitting in their car in Minnesota. We love our black doctors but can’t get their healing as they are brutally detained and mistreated for wanting to help the homeless in Florida. We love our friends but can’t play with them in parks when they meet an officer’s callous bullet for playing with a toy gun in Ohio. We can’t talk on the phone with our young teenagers after their deadly confrontation in their own neighborhood with cowardly bullies aiming guns in Florida. And it’s clear, we can’t run for exercise in Georgia without being lynched by a racist mob who simply traded in their Klan sheets for police uniforms.

Ra, God of the Sun

So, I want to know, dear white Jesus and your father God, how much longer must we fight? How much longer will you allow us to suffer in this world? You see, you can’t be the same God for us, and for those who hate and brutalize us. There’s no way we’re all praying to you. And so, there must be another God that sees us all. I refuse to believe a God that is supposedly all knowing and good, would allow his brown skinned people to suffer so much.

“God does not show favoritism” (Romans 2:11). All are equal before Him. Ephesians 6:9 says, “There is no favoritism with him.” And Colossians 3:25 teaches God’s fairness in judgment, “Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.”

I need to know that your teachings are worthy of my following because of the heavy cross black people have had to bear. So, I’m calling your true name. I’m calling you to reveal yourself to the world. Because I demand justice, once and for all. Because enough is enough. I will not take another step blinded by the bible’s myth of your love, mercy and glory. I will not be lulled to remain stupid with songs, dances or hymns calling and praising you. I reject all that you stand for and allow to happen to black people on earth.

And so, in my hour of bitter anger and deep sorrow over the brutal killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia by a racist mob that are being protected by the local police and politicians, I am reaching all the way back to the first God. The King of All Gods, Amen-Ra.

Amen-Ra, King of all Gods

I am reaching back to all the ancestors, from Africa to Suriname and everywhere black people have roamed, fought and suffered, to beg for strength, justice and healing in this hour of my pain. It is incredibly hard to watch Ahmaud Arbery’s brutal and senseless killing. But like me, we must all bear witness of his death because it tells the never-ending and tragic story of black lives in America. Arbery’s callous killing must be met with swift justice, not just here on earth but throughout the universal holy spaces where our ancestors rest and watch over us. We need healing King of all Gods. But most importantly, we need justice and finally, peace. Once and for all. In Amen-Ra I pray.

How COVID-19 Is Unfolding The Mighty Eagle’s Paper Tiger Experiment

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

Welcome to the new world brought to you by an invisible virus responsible for bringing countries to their knees, forcing people indoors or six feet apart in public to avoid being put six feet underground. We are at war with Coronavirus and the combatants are the common man against their governments and the wealthy corporations politicians are indebted to protect, first. History repeatedly proves gluttony for power and money comes with the license to govern. And it’s been long forewarned our planet has been churning to be in this exact position; a toxically divided space of rich and poor, weak and strong, environmentalists and climate science deniers, the sick and healthy, able and disabled bodies all in their respective corners holding onto the last threat of our common bond; humanity. We just lost our grip on sense and sensibility for fear of taking certain positions. As James Baldwin would put it, we are in the middle of a terrifying senility. To be black in America may be a terrible thing but worse is what America has done to itself as we stew in this disastrous Coronavirus vacuum due to lack of leadership and a firm commitment to human and civil rights.

The American illusion is comparative to a paper tiger. In theory, what this country imagines itself to be is certainly mighty, but tested, our vulnerabilities reveal otherwise. Public health crisis’s like Covid-19, SARS, Ebola and even the 1918 flu pandemic have consistently proven our dislocation to reality and full participation in democracy. As people drop dead without a cure or access to basic equipment and safety items like masks and gloves, Mitch McConnell and the GOP are fully engaged in lobbying on behalf of wealthy corporations and American elites to ensure they get first dibs at the Coronavirus Relief Act or The Cares Act. Unfortunately for those largely impacted by this pandemic, these greedy politicians’ only “Cares” are that the rich, once again, get to feed first from the government trough.

A recent article in The Atlantic, citing the Global Health Security Index—the issuing body of pandemic preparedness report cards for every country—found America holding the world’s highest score of 83.5 percent. So, how is the world’s valedictorian failing so miserably when millions of lives are at stake? Our country is deteriorating under bad management, racism and apathy. When basic human needs during a world crisis aren’t being met, it’s time to face the truth … American agony is American life.

Let’s do some unfolding. Schools are closed. Workers are laid off in mass numbers. Nurses are wearing trash bags to save lives. America doesn’t have enough gloves and face masks, or apparently the green light to mass produce them. We don’t have enough ventilators to help people breathe when they reach the peak of this respiratory disease. The bad blood between the President and journalists serves no good purpose, as their interactions continues to propagate global discontent. Trump is even accusing hospitals and governors of hoarding crucial supplies like masks and ventilators in an effort to smear him and his handling of the health crisis on our hands, surfaces and in droplets in the air. Don’t touch your face!

Honesty, decency, brains and basic trust in government left the White House with Obama, leaving us with a President only capable of passing out PTSD like the paper towels he enjoys throwing into crowds. There’s also the ever present media frenzy to capitalize on the business of tragedy, fueling hysteria and confusion among people they’re “informing.” Healthcare workers are dying from exposure and forced to work long hours to bridge the gap of America’s overburdened, underpaid and exhausted workforce. America needs more than a political revolution to reign in this chaos and breakdown in government. We need a moral and economic revolution to right their wrongs, because we have to exist more than to fill the interests of the rich. James Baldwin said, “Freedom is a dangerous thing but anything else is disastrous.” The sentiment touches the heart of this moment in our history. If our current response to the Coronavirus epidemic isn’t clear evidence we’re confronting it shaped like a paper tiger, the mighty Eagle will continue this trajectory of weakness and never find its way out of our idealistic labyrinth.

10 Ways Trump Is Inadvertently Making America Be Best

By JEANETTE LENOIR

It’s true; America can’t escape the shame of Donald J. Trump. Like an unruly toddler, the 45th president of the United States is marking up the entire planet with a sharpie, as mother nature and most of her inhabitants tightly cross their fingers hoping he’s not using the permanent kind. Nonetheless, it befits us to see the silver lining in our current affairs at the mercy of our Emperor. So, here are ten ways Trump has inadvertently made us a better country:

  1. A Collective Rejection. Even before taking office, Trump forced Americans from all walks of life to reject him and his brand of politics. His birtherism rhetoric targeting former President Barack Obama, his unapologetic prejudice during his testimony in congress concerning Native Americans and his casinos, accusing a Judge for being unable to be impartial because he’s “Mexican,” discriminating against black renters, the Central Park Five case, mocking people with disabilities, boasting of getting away with murder on 5th Ave and grabbing women by the genitals will forever stain the path toward our nations ideals. Nonetheless, Trump forced Americans to stop and look in the mirror to bear witness to what he inadvertently exposed of us. And that is: our freedom is an allusion, economic and otherwise, and racism is still an institutionalized and structural anomaly.The Klu Klux Klan, today with gnashed gums, have risen from our cultural graveyard where they’ve existed as our haunting ghosts, and exposed their secret operation within our entire system of governance and social structure. Nazi’s and emboldened white supremacists, and other hate groups have taken comfort among us. And Russia’s involvement in our political system was not just telling of our vulnerabilities, but also the problem with career politicians and the pay to play operation of congress. The silver lining, you ask. Thanks to Trump being “Trumpy,” he unintentionally helped usher in movements like The Resistance, Women’s March, March For Our Lives, No Muslim Ban Ever, Stop Trump Movement, Need To Impeach, Impeach Donald Trump Now, Organize Against Trump, Indivisible, The New Civil Rights Movement … the list goes on and on. Trump has galvanized and empowered average Americans to rise in defense of the ideals and promise of this country. And that makes America better. 
  2. Exposing Democratic Vulnerabilities. Another important change 45 ushered in takes direct aim at the Democratic Party. Trump exposed a painful truth about the Party, and that is its ineffectiveness, and disregard of the overall sentiments on issues concerning immigration, healthcare and education. Also, the DNC’s lack of accountability for a flawed system fashioned by Clinton Democrats that created the effect that led to Trump. And taking African Americans and other people of color for granted through their use of transactional politics verses relationship politics. The lack of investment in organizing and investing in communities across the country, and not building on the success of Obama’s presidency after more than twenty years of a Republican majority in congress is evident in the ROI outcome; President Trump. Trump, riding his horse to the old white house, weakened the Democratic Party on the way and forced liberal and middle of the road Americans, high on Obama’s legacy, to see our democracy as it really was; flawed and ill-prepared to stop Trump, the GOP and Russia. The three allies are still swinging to the tune of Old Town Road, as they ride to systematically dismantle Obama’s legacy. Trump killed our Barry buzz, man! But he also woke the Democratic Party up, galvanizing leadership to refocus, listen to and invest in the American people and work to resuscitate our collective humanity. After all, raising our collective conscientiousness and civility can only make America better. 
  3. The Era of Social Media Governing. It’s no secret that our president is always plugged in, leading our nation with tweets, hashtags and emoji’s, and even using his social media platform to antagonize everyone he disagrees with. This includes his flippant involvement in highly sensitive foreign relations matters. The world is changing at a rapid pace thanks to the internet and technology. And Trump has jumped on this band wagon, disregarding long standing practices by applying his own brand of boorish engagement. Trump uses social media to mock and threaten hostile nations like North Korea, Venezuela, and Iran, while FLOTUS Melania Trump struggles to make sense of her Be Best campaign to stop cyber bullying. There’s no telling if Trump will abuse the FCC emergency alert system to mass text the U.S. like an unwanted booty call. And it’s arguably only a matter of time before he starts using AI to project himself across our skies in hologram form as Trumpzilla to boost his bloated ego. The silver lining here is a folklore befitting of an Anansi tale. If one is unwise, they will use social media like Trump does, if one is wise, they will not. Thus, canceling Trump makes America better. 
  4. A Renewed Civil Rights Movement. Despite the many movements that have brought us out of our shameful past into the 21st century, Trump, in his relatively short time as President Twitter Fingers, has forced us to take a harder look at the progress of human rights in America. As a nation, Trump reminds us of how comfortable we’ve become at accepting bits of progress to pull African Americans out of the pit they were shoved in after emancipation and expected to climb out of by sheer will and some magical bootstraps. Even though they were dumped into this metaphorical pit without boots after creating massive wealth for a country that enjoys world superpower status today. Trump’s brand of politics has forced our nation’s leaders to seriously address, not only the current state of racism and discrimination in America, but its influence embedded in workplaces, schools, our government, law enforcement, the justice system and other institutions in the country. Indifference of racism was becoming the norm, especially after the election of Obama. In some circles, the mere mention of racism, pointing it out or boldly expecting equality, was met with flippancy and an attitude of disdain and even disgust. Those who turned a blind eye to the reality of racism in America readily used phrases like, “pulling the race card” or “race baiting” to delegitimize or downplay the truth of discrimination and racism. This moment is a significant turning point in the struggle for equality and justice. The deep pain of racism is being acknowledged by more people because of Trump’s character. It is steadily paving a way for a renewed and emboldened civil rights movement in the country. And for that, Trump is making America better. 
  5. Women and Minority Office Holders. Katie Hill may be exiting stage left after a sex scandal, but there are more women office holders in America today, especially in congress. Women make up 24.16 percent of the 116th Congress, an increase of 2.36 percent since the election of Donald Trump, and there’s also been an increase in racial and ethnic diversity among elected officials. It’s safe to say many ran for office to protect the country from Trump and his ilk; out of touch elites, and the heartless Grand Old Party, better known as RxNRA, I mean, the GOP. Gil Cisneros, a proud Latino and new Congressman from California was galvanized to serve in congress after his predecessor voted against Obamacare. Cisneros ran for office even after winning a $266 million lottery jackpot that could have easily afforded him anonymity. And for that, the country is better off. And not just at being more inclusive of the people that make up our identity, but to regard the lessons from our past. Never forget, ignoring red flags is what led to Bush ’41 being asleep at the wheel. 
  6. Noticing The Red Flags. Trump could easily be our second 9/11 moment if we don’t heed the deafening warning signs and see the man in the mirror for what he is; a bona fide threat. It’s hard to admit that the orange fat man is us, but he is. And Trump has no interest in learning how to land either. The president of the United States cancelled a meeting with the Taliban at Camp David three days before the anniversary of 9/11. Reread the last sentence. Welcome to the Twilight Zone. He’s using military dollars to build the wall he shamefully boasted Mexico would pay for and making appearances at rally’s threatening to stay in office longer than the Constitution allows. It’s simply unreal this is our current trajectory as a country. If the 45th G7 summit held in France didn’t give you a clue about our global economic standing, you’re either Diamond or Silk planning to attend the next G7 summit at Doral. Trump appointed all his key players, I mean his best people, to hold high office in his Administration; a handful of individuals worth billions in a country where over half the population is experiences some level of poverty. He’s leapfrogging us into the greedy hands of corporations only interested in their bottom line. The wheels are hard turning toward an inhumane direction the country hasn’t seen since the first American slave ship, the Desire, set sail from Marblehead. Trump gets credit for driving us into a ditch. Will it make America better? Yes. If we fire him, get out of the ditch and work toward a more just Republic. 
  7. The NFL Culture. Trump brought to the surface the ugly truth about the NFL and its longstanding colonial system, including its ever-successful divide and conquer strategy that snagged the voracious snakehead, Jay-Z. Hook, line and sinker. How many black NFL team owners do you know of? Me either. And, it wasn’t that long ago when the president was disparaging NFL athletes, calling a league of mostly black athletes “bastards” and condemning the peaceful and just police brutality protest started by Colin Kaepernick. The president and his supporters’ efforts to turn the aim of the protest into an attack on the flag and law enforcement is disturbingly telling of the harsh truth many don’t want to accept; America is overwhelmingly controlled by a government deeply invested in solidifying and advancing white dominance and white prosperity. The NFL is symbolic of this truth like Obama and Trump are symbolic of the reality of being black or white in America. But change is inevitable, and although the entire Trump family are representative of the sickness infecting our collective humanity, they’re also a reason to hope, because it’s not despair that make successful revolutions as the anti-Trump one seems to prove.  Hope makes America better. 
  8. The Chest Game. The NRA and wealthy corporations’ choke hold on congress is maddening to comprehend in a “Woke” world. Tragedy after tragedy and congress still can’t pry the tight grip of the gun lobby from its neck. It’s no secret they have a running tab that pays for numerous elected officials like Ted Cruz and Marsha Blackburn to occupy powerful Senate seats. In turn, those feeding at the trough are helping the powerful gun group maintain the status quo on gun laws, blaming the mentally ill for mass shootings all while making money selling their precious guns under the guise of shielding The Second Amendment. The winning move on the board should be sensible and modern gun laws that won’t infringe on a person’s right to bear arms. Trump’s lust for a more white dominant country, a romantic and nostalgic throwback of the past when elites lived comfortably above the laws they wrote, is perhaps why the president and the GOP have shamefully put Party over country by co-signing his behavior and the complete debauchery that his administration represents. Trump ushered in this unfortunate truth and for that, we’re certainly better off knowing the real devil this country is up against is structural racism and a corporate run government. 
  9. The Big Money Grab. Yes, it’s still shamelessly underway since this administration took root. From Ivanka’s Chinese trademarks, billionaire Betsy Devos’s disregard for realistic education standards and needs, to Mnuchin and his wife sycophantic gripping of an enlarged image of the all mighty dollar. This white house loves capitalism and wealth so much, they’ve become experts at spending our tax dollars to enrich themselves. During his last visit to congress Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, was grilled on his knowledge of some backroom dealings involving Senator Mitch McConnell and the second largest aluminum company in the world, RUSAL, owned by Russian tycoon, Oleg Deripaska. Mnuchin denied giving preferential treatment to the company after lifting sanctions 8 months after they were imposed. Coincidentally, and shortly after, RUSAL announced it was investing $200 million into a project in Kentucky. Deripaska is detailed in the Mueller report to have dealings with Paul Manafort who is now in jail. Shirley Graham Du Bois once said that if a country’s economy is controlled by outsiders, it cannot claim to be an independent state, no matter how many national anthems and flags it has. Trump exposed our delusion of economic freedom. From the threat of a recession to our trade war with China, the aftermath of which is still building up like a tsunami for American farmers, we can congratulate Trump’s recklessness for bringing attention to his Administrations’ handling of international trade, and their collusion with Putin to advance his interests in the U.S. Nonetheless, evidence of Trump’s crimes and collusion is half the battle, and impeachment makes clear that America is better than Trump. 
  10. Risking the Intelligence Community. Exposing our intelligence community’s paranoia and dysfunction, even amongst themselves, has dampened the mood in the country like a heavy, rain soaked medieval cloak. From the Clinton email scandal to the Mueller investigation, we’ve uncovered a trove of misconducts, overlooked outrageous and predatory practices from Trump, his brand, his family and now, his Administration. The president and his Attorney General, William Barr, are working to overturn Mueller’s investigation findings. Evidently, they’ve been on a world tour asking foreign governments for help investigating the FBI and CIA. Our intelligence service is under scrutiny from within, showcasing deep divisions and distrust amongst our highest ranked. These are ever changing times, indeed. Today, the world belongs to those who stand to lose it tomorrow. And like Jim Thorpe, we have to do something about it now, regardless of what stands in the way. Thorpe, the first Native American to win a U.S. gold medal despite the obstacles he faced, embodied the spirit of what truly makes America great. And although Trump is the antithesis of this holy Sa ki wa ki man, he serves as a reminder of what America can’t afford to see; a hateful orange fat man in the mirror. And that makes America … Be Best? Don’t try to blame that on the young. It’s time for all of us to be better and the Trump clan is mnemonic of that.  

ABC: Meghan McCain, John McCain’s Daughter, Has A License To Shrill And Flaunt Her Bratty White Privilege

 

By JEANETTE LENOIR

 

“I love Meghan McCain on The View,” said no one ever. McCain, who somehow climbed her way to a seat on the set of The View while most Americans were distracted by the antics of our naked Emperor and his ilk, is wreaking havoc on the daytime talk show. And clearly, ABC has given her a license to shrill, throw tantrums and expose herself as the god awful specimen raised by the late Senator John McCain, something she will never let anyone forget. Little does McCain know she’s telling stories of her family and her upbringing that’s reflective of an ugly truth; obnoxious white privilege. Can you imagine how she treated the hired help her wealthy family undoubtedly had throughout her life? I can, and that image is vomit inducing. Lorraine Hansberry depicted her life in A Raisin in the Sun as the white community; keepers of their white traditions and all white neighborhood. Today, and in this case, McCain, you know, John McCain’s daughter, wants to keep her grip on guns despite their disproportionate impact on minorities and large support for more sensible gun laws. This angry blowhard and female counterpart to Alex Jones is beyond the pale. Can you envision Whoopi Goldberg or any of her other co-hosts emulating her appalling behavior? I doubt the same angry, insufferable bratty behavior would be tolerated by ABC executives or viewers. And yet, her behavior is. Why? A combination of white and rich privilege, oh and she’s John McCain’s daughter.

Not to compare Soledad O’Brien with Meghan Kim Jong-Un McCain, however during her time hosting Starting Point on CNN she was a very tough, even snarky and an in your face kind of host. She lost that gig. The difference is uncomfortably clear: white woman can get away with blatant boorish, bratty and entitled behavior while black woman can’t. Black women are expected to walk on eggshells while white women can proudly and comfortably express themselves—good or bad—in American society. Black women, and men, who show strength and confidence are perceived as aggressive, angry, cocky and not keeping themselves within the boundaries drawn up by American culture. Symbolically, we’re still drinking from separate water fountains, we just can’t speak this ugly truth to power without repercussion.

If moderator Whoopi Goldberg, Sunny Hostin and Joy Behar could speak freely without losing their jobs or face the inevitable backlash that would accompany their truth, McCain would probably feel their wrath like slaves felt their masters whip. And, we see these examples play out all the time these days thanks to technology. McCain, John McCain’s daughter, is no different than Permit Patty, BBQ Becky or Pool Patrol Paula. Sitting high on their entitled white women throne demanding passage of their will simply because they’re white. Thankfully America is also full of white women, and men, who recognize this trait and fight alongside minorities to bring about change. I’m talking about those who continue to benefit from this social disease. Regrettably, McCain has swallowed her entire family’s legacy, diluting all traces of any other McCain that have walked this earth. It’s shameful. But this is the monster they created and that the world—or at least The View audience—must endure.

And, her permanent scowl speaks volumes too, and it’s screaming: I’m better than you. I know more than anyone. I’m the smartest person in the room and no one can tell me anything because I know it all, see it all and have it all. And yet, she remains high on her throne thanks to the network, ABC, who pays her handsomely to project all the seven deadly sins the bible warns of: Lust; her intense desire to be right. Gluttony; one AK 47 just isn’t enough. Greed; for all the attention and air in the room. Laziness; pretends to know so much despite evidence to the contrary. Wrath; her angry scowl says it all. Envy; of her father’s legacy. Pride; her haughtiness is always on display as she occupies the corner of the table opposite Whoopi chomping at the bit to strut like a proud all-knowing naked peacock, unaware that it lost its tail and feathers a long time ago.

The nasty, and I don’t mean the Janet Jackson kind, McCain is a tyrant and ABC is the creator of this white privileged monster we’re seeing on daytime TV. The late Toni Morrison once said, “There is really nothing more to say-except why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.” How America will overcome the symbolism of white privilege McCain embodies is a cultural battle still being fought. And although culture is the most difficult thing to change, time never stops, and neither will the fight for a more just and equal world that has no tolerance for the likes of Meghan McCain, better known as John McCain’s daughter. Occupying a powerful seat on The View must come with certain responsibilities external of ratings, especially when it impacts our larger culture.

 

The Trouble With Jay-Z, The NFL And The Larger Struggle For Equality And Justice

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

Jay-Z traded his heroes for gold. It’s a strategy that’s worked since white men started dividing the earth for their own gain. And as such, for love of the almighty dollar and power, the former drug dealer turned hip-hop mogul sold his soul to the highest bidder adopting the tried and true approach of divide and conquer as old as mankind’s recorded history. The only difference between him and a slave on an auction block is that he put himself there to gain a bigger room in the master’s house; the NFL.

As America marks the 400th year since the first Africans arrived on her shores in 1619 as slaves, Jay-Z with his NFL money move disregarding the larger struggle for equality and justice, reminds us that the all mighty dollar still turns brother against sister and slave into slave catcher. The adage, money is the root of all evil, applies as it always has, and Jay-Z sits squarely on that throne in the black community. What compounds the hurt of this shameful deal is his relationship with Colin Kaepernick; a bona-fide modern day civil rights icon in the on-going struggle for justice and equality for black and brown people in America. How Jay-Z can sit in a room full of NFL bigwigs who control the big business of sports, teeth grinning and speaking ill of the struggle is an image not easily digested. Kaepernick sacrificed his career, gave millions to victims of police brutality and the less fortunate, took on the Goliath’s in the room Jay-Z just occupied for more gold coins he doesn’t need, and continues to fight to bring about peace and justice for minorities.

I am reminded of Shirley Graham Du Bois’s words when she discussed the plight of black people in Africa and America after the United Nations declared 1960 the year of Africa. Following the independence of Ghana in 1957, the country’s leaders came together to advocate for the independence of other African countries still under the thumb of European colonialism. The All African People’s Conference in 1958 was a movement that directly correlates with Kaepernick’s advocacy for victims of police brutality, while Jay-Z’s money grab represents the imperialists world with an incessant appetite for wealth and power despite how negatively it impacts others, especially black and brown people. In other words, if the money is enough, your injustice doesn’t matter. “We’re passed kneeling,” Jay-Z said ignorantly beaming like “a hateful negro” in a room full of his masters.

You see, it’s clear, Jay-Z forgot about The Reverend Martin Luther King’s words in his letter from Birmingham stating, “freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor. It must be demanded by the oppressed.” He also forgot that MLK taught us that, “justice too long delayed, is justice denied.” Jay-Z, out for self and clouded by greed, forgot that as the world turns wrongs will be righted despite his disregard for others in the larger struggle for humanity, justice and equality. Like Judas, Jay-Z will undoubtedly answer for the betrayal of his people. The ongoing liberation of Africa is similar to the liberation of black and brown people in America but unfortunately, Jay-Z and his ilk will never co-sign to bring about peace and justice for black people unless the loot makes it worthwhile. Even Beyonce turned black when it became lucrative and popular culture. The SNL skit about her being black hit the nail right on the head. And, remember her L’Oreal commercial before she turned black? Back then her “true match” was Native American, French and black. Today, she’s the queen of Africa… Ok?

Shirley Graham Du Bois once said that one can fly a dozen national flags and sing a dozen national anthems but if your money is controlled by outsiders, you’re not free. And, that’s the ultimate truth of Jay-Z’s deal with the NFL and Beyonce’s new black. For the right price both have consistently played into the hands of those whose aim is to stop black progress in any direction. And, it speaks volume that his only supporters are other wealthy, out of touch black people like Sean Combs and Jermaine Dupri. In the meantime, Kaepernick remains resolute in his stance against police brutality and racism in America and for that, hope remains. Lastly, because symbolism matters, Jay-Z did more harm than good with this NFL deal and that symbolizes something far more powerful than all the money he plans on making or distributing when he signed up to be the real life “hateful negro”.

 

El Paso Mall Shooter Demonstrates The Fear Growing Among White Supremacists In America

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

The El Paso Mall shooter’s manifesto is a carbon copy excuse fearful white supremacists use to justify their intolerance of the changes America has been going through since her discovery. From the stories of the Arawaks, Cherokees and Sioux people, slavery, the Civil War, the Mexican war, industrialism, the Gilded Age, Women’s Suffrage and the Civil Rights movement to the abomination that is Donald J. Trump … America has been steadily changing, usually for the better in spite of the Trump family detour. Our Constitution makes it plain too as it states, “All Men are created equal.” And yet here we are facing another senseless attempt to destroy the fabric of our nation by white nationalists who terrorize people they claim for preservation of country and culture. The irony is they’re so-called “defending” a country they hardly know beyond their own neighborhoods. The shooter even resembles the people he supposedly loathes; Hispanics. Apparently the fog between hate-filled ears is very thick.

As the country absorbs this latest homegrown terrorism rooted in racist dirt, I’m reminded of what Medgar Evers once said, “You can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea,” and that includes the idea of America. These cowards will never shoot their way into the America they want to create for white people. It’s never going to happen. America has never been a white country. Native Americans still hold the moral deed to these sacred and hard fought for grounds.

What perpetuates this white nationalist ideology is the media business. There’s always a softer spin to the carnage committed by these white supremacists. Not only are they usually apprehended alive and peacefully, some get special treatment like a meal from McDonald’s after brutally gunning down 9 black people worshiping in a church. They’re even referred to as, “good people” by our dear leader who also exhibits racist views and tendencies, promotes violence and intolerance of people of color and those with disabilities during his rallies.

The terrorizing of non-white American citizens is not a phenomenon. Ask any person of color except HUD Secretary Ben Carson, HUD NY/NJ head Lynne Patton and former sheriff David Clarke. They don’t yield for truth and common sense, just squirrels. Politicians from all sides of our government are pressed to speak and answer questions we know the answers to. Their words ring hollow in an era of madness fueled with guns and indiscriminate violence. It’s deplorable that even after the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2013, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shamelessly chooses to protect the NRA and his Party’s throne by denying passage of bipartisan and common sense gun laws like the Background Checks Act, (H.R. 8).

The days of political thoughts and prayers are gone. Our country is facing a pivotal moment in human history and we don’t need politicians to confirm what is clear as day: we have a gun crisis in America and handing out condolences like Halloween candy will no longer suffice. And, we certainly don’t need a reckless president at the helm of this growing chaos among white nationalists, Nazi sympathizers and white supremacists. McConnell tweeting how “the nation is horrified” is just more disingenuous lip service from a man whose state inhabits some of the poorest people in the country according to the U.S. Census. Most of them are white. And yet Kentucky, with a nearly 15-percent poverty rate, continues to send McConnell to Congress where he fights to protect rich corporations instead. And please don’t hold your breath on healthcare Kentuckians because he’s still diligently working to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare … named after a president your senator worked overtime to sabotage.

The Civil War was the answer to those who wanted to protect the institution of slavery and white supremacy. Perhaps the answer to our current turmoil is another revolution. Either way, the average American is paying the ultimate price for the gun crisis in the country, as we mark the 251st mass shooting this year, according to Gun Violence Archive. The most recent massacre just happened in Dayton, Ohio, a state without background check laws. And as expected, when it comes to domestic terrorism to preserve the ideology of white supremacy, Trump needs more time to adequately offer his thoughts and prayers. Evidently he’s too busy crashing wedding parties to be the leader America needs in these crippling moments of senseless gun violence.

If True, Jussie Smollett Only Proves The Thirst Is Real

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

I have to admit, when news broke of the alleged attack on Jussie Smollett, I had to Google the name first. I haven’t seen the popular show Empire; however, I am familiar with the series created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong. Mainly because I love reading about Taraji P. Henson and her character Cookie that has taken a life of its own. Now I know Smollett plays Cookie’s middle son Jamal, who is gay.  Here’s my other confession; I was suspicious from the start. Organic skepticism aside, the story just didn’t sound believable to me considering time and setting. It sounded like a lie. Not a white, black, blue or pink lie but a big fat lie like the ones our dear leader Donald Trump buoys on to con the world. I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump sniffed it out of Smollett’s lie hole like a terrier after a rat, automatically prompting him to chime in on the controversy. It’s true folks, the 45th president of the United States is not just the best liar on earth; Smollett proves he’s also the best lie magnet…allegedly.

Each day, following the alleged homophobic and racist attack and the outpouring of support from celebrities and politicians, my skepticism grew, along with many others who voiced their opinions on social media. The incident reported by Smollett even birthed a new media campaign addressing the real issues facing the LGBTQ community. The NowThis video, (It’s been taken down) supporting Jussie and condemning the homophobic attack is unfortunately relevant in today’s society, with or without Smollett making up a hate crime. And, if it’s proven to be a hoax concocted by Smollett to remain relevant as an Empire character or gay black hero among people of color and the gay community, he’s done irreversible harm to the larger struggle for human rights. Smollett, chasing the predictable outcome lure that promises fame, more fortune, more likes and followers, more time under the glare of flashing lights, red carpet events and awards shows, is crashing like a shooting star. And, Smollett is a star, don’t you know. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough and now he’s paying a heavy price for his Hollywood moment. It’s hard to comprehend but Smollett should only remind us that Hollywood is a hoax, too.  And, despite how tantalizing it is to use this cheap trick to further or discredit the arguments around the many social movements of our time, Smollett’s alleged behavior has nothing to do with US but everything to do with HIM. He’s the product of our new digital world…the era of social media and a real thirst or desperation for attention; good or bad. They say the thirst is real. Well, Smollett proves he’s not just thirsty; he’s parched. The man needs a Big Gulp and a dose of reality, not our sympathy.

A lot of people are disappointed and point to Black History Month as a symbol of the alleged incident being a deeper pain, like a gut punch to the black community. Others have maintained their support for the actor and raise the other real issue of a fractured relationship between Chicago police and the community they serve.  All of these are valid points and worthy of deeper analysis. However, in legal terms and in the court of public opinion; it’s like coming to court with dirty hands or committing a wrong to shine light on what’s right. It doesn’t work. It’s clear; Smollett’s alleged hoax carries real consequences. And if his aim was to sip from the “Thirst Cup,” he’s finding out the hard way that bad behavior still comes with punishment, despite what Trump is doing. We’ve been here before with the likes of Smollett. Milli Vanilli blamed it on the rain. What will Smollett blame this nonsense on? Although dated, the wisdom here is still to Be Like Mike … not like Trump.

U.S. Resistance Returning Nazi Looted Art Resurrects Old Wounds

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

In a crowded media world the topic of Nazi looted art has taken comfort on the back burner of the national debate circuit. But things are changing and the push to return art plundered by the Nazis is gaining momentum and more of the world’s attention.

A ruling in July by U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, DC sided with Jewish heirs of the Welfenschatz art collection looted by Nazis in 1935. The ruling follows Germany’s attempts to dismiss the case claiming, among other things, immunity from suit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, (FSIA). Nonetheless, the district court rejected Germany’s arguments and denied their motion to dismiss the case.

And, hard to believe, Donald J. Trump played a small role in the push to bring justice to remaining Holocaust survivors. In the gloom of his support for American Nazis who marched in the Charlottesville rally, the president signed the Just Act into law in May of this year; about nine months after calling anti-Semitic, white separatists chanting “Jews will not replace us,” very fine people.The Just Act is another statute requiring the State Department to report on the progress of European efforts to return artworks stolen nearly 70 years ago.

Still, this question lingers: is the U.S. doing enough to return its own Nazi-looted art kept in high brow institutions like The Metropolitan Museum of Art? No, says Raymond J. Dowd, who serves on the Board of Governors of the National Arts Club and the Board of Directors of the Federal Bar Association. Sighting a 2014 report by the World’s Jewish Restitution Organization, (WJRO) Dowd says, “The United States is not in the group of countries that are doing the right thing.” He says despite established laws laying out the process and groundwork of returning art forcibly taken from Jews, even deeming the taking a form of genocide, only a small fraction of stolen art has been returned to its rightful owners.

Dowd, who lectures on legal and ethical matters related to Nazi art looting, represented the heirs of Fritz Grumbaum, a renowned art collector who died at the Dachau concentration camp in 1941.

“It’s still our public policy in the United States that this property should go back to the people from whom it was stolen. The Holocaust Victims Redress Act of 1998, Congress reaffirmed that.” So why did the U.S. end up with so much Nazi looted art in our museums? Dowd says, “We have to take a hard look at American museums and our cultural traditions to understand why.” He says it started with J.P. Morgan who, for tax purposes, refused to move his large European art collection to put in U.S. museums. Being one of the wealthiest men in America, Congress obliged and enacted the Payne-Aldrich Tarrif Act of 1909. “And that Act added imports of original artworks from Europe that were more than 20 years old to the duty free list. So, that paved the way for the creation of some of our greatest museums.” Dowd says even Andrew Mellon legally challenged his tax bill by pointing to the vast art collection he donated to the National Gallery as reason to reduce his tax obligation.

“Mr. Mellon’s victory is enshrined in today’s tax code that says you get a fair market value deduction for a work of art regardless of what you paid for it. The significance over most of the 20th century is that if you’re wealthy you could avoid capital gains tax by donating to a museum and thus shelter all of your income from taxation.”

Dowd says it’s an ethical and social choice being made to help rich Americans shelter their incomes in museums. And although it led to America acquiring extraordinary art collections, it’s an unjust system. “When we think about tax fairness, people who give to museums are not giving to others in our community; they’re not paying for schools or housing or roads and most of the things that other people in the middle class are paying for.”

The tax loophole may be legal but it becomes problematic when stolen art, which doesn’t get properly scrutinized, is donated. “Particularly when we see that today in America there are more museums than there are Starbucks and McDonald’s combined.” Despite early declarations of nations not taking part in stolen art transactions, Holocaust survivors and their heirs are still searching for their plundered art, many of which are hanging in American museums.

According to Art Law Gallery an estimated 300,000 Nazi looted artworks are still missing today.

 

Dear White House “Resister”: A Response To The Anonymous NYT Op-Ed Writer

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

Here’s a perspective. Like Drake, I’m upset. The timing of this letter is suspect.

Never in the history of modern day America has a White House administration exhibited such disarray and dysfunction endangering the country and the world. The Trump administration isn’t just dysfunctional; it is downright dangerous.

And this anonymous “resister” wants it all; to not only eat the cake, but to throw it in the faces of the American people by way of being part of forcing one-sided legislation down our throats and help do the bidding for the most prosperous among us who don’t need more wealth in a country losing its middle class to poverty.

Pointing out the president’s “amorality” as the root of America’s problem is equivalent to telling us that water is wet. Was “grab them by the pussy” not enough to “resist” or help thwart his political advances? What about his long documented business practices of cheating hard-working people? Why speak out now when the world is watching us crumble within, fighting amongst ourselves, and showing us to be the fools destined to perish by not coming together like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned during the civil rights movement.

“I would know. I am one of them,” the anonymous “resister” boosts about the sabotaging of an American president as if he or she is a Marvel character in a super hero movie. Unfortunately, this is real life and the attempts to take away healthcare from the common man has real life consequences; giving “historic” tax cuts to the rich by taking more from the poor is the opposite of what a super hero would do; being silent when the president attacks minorities and shows support for racists is complicity in its true form; not writing sooner, you know, like when the president banned Muslims from entering the country, ripping Mexican and Latin American children from their desperate parents’ arms at our southern borders, calling Mexicans rapists, disrespecting the needs of those affected by Hurricane Maria, suggesting that black immigrants are less desirable in America because they come from “shit hole countries,” … I can go on but I think you get why I’m upset.

Your “dear America” letter is disrespect.

If your first duty is to this country, as you put it, why would you want Donald Trump to succeed in his efforts to “Make America Great Again” when all this campaign slogan embodies is a call to revive the atrocious history of a country still working to overcome it; a past that had black people in bondage and living as second class citizens in a country they built through slave labor. The extreme ideological platform you and your fellow “secret resisters” chose to build upon is exactly why America is in the pickle jar. From selecting Sen. Jeff Sessions to lead the Department of Justice despite the warnings of Coretta Scott King, putting Scott Pruitt in charge of protecting the environment when he’s only shown that it’s for sale to the highest polluter, looking to Betsy Devos to lead our nations education system despite her lack of experience or ability to even identity with people who attend public schools or live below the billion dollar income line; blatantly disrespecting long standing federal bidding practices by grossly handing out FEMA contracts to well connected friends with no business managing natural disasters, and handing out pardons like Mardi Gras beads…Thank God Joe Arpaio didn’t have to show us his man boobs.

The list of corrupt behavior is long. How many times has Jared Kushner changed his answers on his security clearance form? Against federal rules, Ivanka Trump’s clothing and jewelry line is being pimped out on television by top advisors like Kelly Anne Conway, and Fox News has turned into a propaganda machine for hate and intolerance, something the president and his enablers feed and supports. The entire family is benefitting financially from the blatant nepotism taking place and costing Americans millions in tax dollars. Let’s not forget, you “top advisors” blessed Kushner, a wealthy out of touch and inexperienced realtor, to be the savior of the Middle East while birthing peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

I’m upset; despite your letter full of regret.

You say the president shows no affinity for conservative ideas as if he hasn’t switched political parties before or shown the world his true colors. Just because you’ve enabled and made excuses for Trump along the way to this pile we’re now sitting on doesn’t mean majority Americans, decent and good hearted people, don’t see him exactly for who and what he is; a pathological liar and an all around terrible human being. Your house of cards is crumbling and like a rat you’re trying to jump a sinking ship. You may have changed your cloth but you’re still the being behind this new resister frock.

The same people that saw fit for then press secretary Sean Spicer demand the American people accept that their eyes were lying to them when he said Trump’s inauguration crowd was the biggest ever. Video and photographic evidence wasn’t enough to stop this perpetual lie; another attempt to cloud truth and blur the boundaries of right and wrong to appease Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States. And let’s not forget, Chief of Staff John Kelly has yet to apologize for lying about statements Rep. Frederica Wilson made about the president’s disastrous phone call with the wife of a fallen soldier and for insulting her using racially insensitive language.

Nonetheless, you want the American people to believe you all are the Space Force Avengers.

The disbelief of senior officials at the president’s words and actions is laughable considering Trump hasn’t changed since becoming president. He’s simply more powerful. And this is exactly what Trump’s base loves about him. “He’s not your typical politician” and “He speaks his mind” they excused no matter what Trump did or said. Even evangelicals found loopholes in their bibles to justify every sin Trump committed and turned a blind eye to every one of his hypocritical moves or ungodly behavior.

The adults in the room colluded with Russia to win an election and made Trump their messiah despite all the warnings and push back from the American people. And now, seeing a steady drop in his approval numbers, they want him returned to sender before the blue wave hits.  Ironically, the adults who stood silent while the president attacked the media as the “enemy of the American people” now turn to it for salvation.