Monday, June 26, 2017

National Commentary

In his perverse fixation on overturning all things Barack Obama, President Donald Trump now turns his attention to Cuba, the island located 90 miles off our shore. Reports are that the president plans to travel to Florida to announce that he will reverse Obama’s opening to Cuba, reinstate restrictions on the right of U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba and curtail business opportunities that Obama had opened up by executive order.

This is, in a word, ridiculous. The United States maintained an economic embargo on Cuba for more than 50 years. It plotted repeatedly to assassinate Fidel Castro and to overthrow his regime. It painted Cuba as a terrorist nation for its support of Nelson Mandela in the fight against apartheid.

For more than five decades, a succession of U.S. presidents – cowed by the right-wing Cuban community in Florida – enforced an economic embargo even though the policy increasingly isolated the U.S. from its neighbors in the hemisphere and its allies across the world. When Obama finally went forward with a limited opening, he was doing more to end the isolation of the U.S. than of Cuba.

Now Castro, the leader of Cuba’s revolution, is dead. His brother Raul has announced he will leave office next year. The Soviet Union is no more; the Cold War is over. A new generation is coming to power in Cuba and a new generation of Cuban-Americans is rising in Florida. The vast majority of Americans and the vast majority of Cuban-Americans support free travel to Cubans.

So why would Trump want to revive the failed policies of the past? The reasons range from the petty to the perverse. Trump’s hatred of Obama is apparent. From Obamacare to climate policy to Cuba, he seems intent on overturning whatever Obama did – no matter how great the cost to the American people.

In the campaign, Trump pledged in Florida to overturn Obama’s opening. Right-wing Cuban-American legislators –Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida – have lobbied Trump hard to revive the travel ban and embargo. According to the New York Times, Diaz-Balart exacted a promise from Trump as a price for his vote in favor of Trumpcare. He signed off on depriving 23 million Americans of health care coverage in order to tighten the screws on Cuba.

Obama’s policy of engagement, however halting, has already shown results. Engage Cuba, a U.S. business lobby group, published an economic impact analysis on the costs of reversing Obama’s policy. It put the cost at as much as $3.5 billion in lost revenues and 10,000 jobs lost in the travel industry over the next four years. Commercial contracts that will create $1.1 billion worth of U.S. exports to Cuba in the next five years would be broken, costing more than 1,000 jobs a year.

Once more the right of Americans to travel would be sacrificed, in the name of what? Petulance? Perversity? Undying hatred? The Trump administration has made it clear that in its America First foreign policy, America’s economic and security concerns will not be sacrificed in the name of human rights.

But it rationalizes its reversion in Cuba on the grounds of defending human rights and spreading democracy. This is at best what former Obama adviser Ben Rhodes called a “tragic irony,” given the Trump administration’s “complete lack of concern for human rights around the world.”

Surely, after more than five decades we have learned that Cubans, proud of their revolution and their independence, will resist economic or military coercion.

One would think that Trump, who trumpets his business background, would understand that open relations with Cuba – trade, travel, human and cultural exchange – will have far more impact in generating pressure for change than a reversion to the failed embargo.

Under Castro, Cuban education and health care became the envy of Latin America. An educated generation now rises to power yearning for more. The U.S. should engage them, not seek to isolate them.

Also, they will be under scrutiny from the Treasury Department (OFAC) another spending will be limited.

“While it purports to restrict their use of government-owned facilities and services,” he said, “it, in fact, makes it impossible for a U.S. visitor to not commit fraud, since even the new private sector in Cuba is dependent on the government in a myriad of ways (not the least of which are credit and wholesale distribution).”

De Laforcade said the  private businesses are also heavily taxed in Cuba, and foreign ownership of property is banned.

“In my opinion, the new policy penalizes American travelers and entrepreneurs much more than it affects Cubans who are benefiting from multilateral investment and from ongoing reforms,” the NSU Professor said.

Cuba’s military, the Revolutionary Armed Forces, has significant control over the country’s economy, especially the tourism sector. And with Trump’s new plan, the president and his administration hope to prevent additional U.S. money from reaching the Cuban military.

The new policy will ban any commercial dealings with the military and security services. Although  Americans can stay in private hotels, Trump’s new  policy prohibits them from using Cuban military-owned ones.

“The Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces are not a traditional military,” De Laforcade said.  “The way the state is set up, the ‘property and investment management’ administration that implements joint ventures with foreign governments and corporate entities is the Army.

“A very small private sector – particularly in tourism services – is inevitably linked to hotels, restaurants and food distribution companies that are owned and managed by military (meaning state) controlled firms. The military is under civilian control (the Communist Party), so the political leadership oversees a ‘socialized’ economy, managing assets and capital, especially foreign currency reserves, which are rarefied due to the U.S. ban on international lending and restrictions on foreign trade) that can’t be in private or individual hands.”

DeLaforcade said, in effect, Trump’s policy banning spending by U.S. citizens in Cuban companies controlled by the military or government will force visitors to violate the U.S imposed sanctions.

De Laforcade  said many U.S. businesses (including President Trump’s) “have seen the opportunity for investment in Cuba as a positive development.”

Investments could be lost and thousands of jobs eliminated, he said,  if the Obama-era reforms are reversed.

He explained that investments from Russia, China, and the Middle East have grown rapidly.

“If the U.S. government chooses confrontation over engagement, it will be harder for the government of President Raul Castro and his successor after 2018 (when he will go into retirement) to further economic reforms,” said De Laforcade.

He continued, “So it really is not in the interest of a Republican administration to rock the boat, unless the goal is to strengthen cooperation with a small hard line faction of Cuban-American legislators led by (U.S. Rep. Ileana) Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and U.S. Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio.”

De Laforcade said  “the essential difference between  the policies of Obama  and  Trump is  that the former realized regime change could not be achieved through coercion, and the latter believes it can.

“I know for a fact that there is little stomach in Cuba for a surrender to the United States’ demands regarding political and constitutional issues.”

By Jesse Jackson

“But I tell you the New Frontier is here, whether we seek it or not. Beyond that frontier are the uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus…But I believe the times demand new invention, innovation, imagination, decision.”
Senator John F. Kennedy July 15, 1960

On May 29th, we commemorated the 100th birthday of one of the most popular presidents ever, the late President John F. Kennedy. As America romanticizes Kennedy’s “Camelot,” accurate historical context requires that we also assess Kennedy’s understanding of realpolitik. He was a shrewd and practical politician.

Before he delivered his definitive statement on civil rights in 1963, Senator Kennedy voted against the 1957 Civil Rights Bill in order not to alienate the Southern Democrats whose votes he would need for a successful run for the White House.

He reluctantly added the words “at home” to his 1960 inaugural address in reference to the struggle for human rights. To Kennedy, the omission would keep the human rights struggle in the domestically accepted anti-communism context. To include them would refer to the politically volatile Civil Rights Movement.

Then there was Vietnam.  Kennedy was a proponent of the “Domino Theory.”   If South Vietnam fell into Communist control the rest of the region would befall the same fate.
Kennedy was also a true visionary whose clear and lofty rhetoric motivated Americans to view both domestic and foreign policy issues as challenges to overcome instead of insurmountable obstacles.   

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills …”

The celebration of his 100th birthday and the short-lived Kennedy administration (1037 days) provides us with a lens through which to view our current circumstance and president.  Instead of America embracing the ideals of Kennedy’s New Frontier, “new invention, innovation, imagination, decision”; America has retreated to the safety of the familiar, America the usual.

In his 1960 Valley Forge speech Senator Kennedy articulated the challenges of the New Frontier and was quite prophetic regarding the issues he highlighted. On the geopolitical landscape, he foresaw “… earth-shaking revolutions abroad – new nations, new weapons, new shifts in the balance of power and new members of the nuclear club.” 

Domestically he also foresaw “new frontiers” being faced at home.  Fifty-seven years after the Senator delivered this speech, Americans are faced with exactly the same problems and instead of vision and optimism Trump offers lies, retrenchment and hopelessness.

Kennedy foresaw medical scientific breakthroughs enabling an aging population to live longer.  He asked, “But will these extra years be a blessing or a curse? Will they be years of loneliness, poverty, high doctor bills, and low income? Or will they be years of dignity and security and recognition?”

In the area of education Kennedy highlighted problems with a looming public-school classroom and teacher shortage that would spread to America’s colleges and universities. He called for more money to be invested into teachers’ salaries and classroom construction.

Kennedy said, “There is an old saying that civilization is a constant race between education and catastrophe. In a democracy such as ours, in an age such as this, we must make sure that education wins that race.”

One of the other areas that Kennedy highlighted was automation, “…machines are replacing men, and men are looking for work.” He went on to say, “We cannot reverse the tide of technology, but lest we become its slave, let us make certain it serves the people.”

Finally, Kennedy spoke to the growing problem of pollution and the ecology, “If we continue to ignore the polluting of our streams, the littering of our national parks, and the waste of our national forests, we will be denying to ourselves and our children a part of their rightful heritage.”

On the international front, one program initiated by President Kennedy to combat the international threats facing the country was the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps was a new “army” designed to assist people of developing nations make “economic and social progress.” 

The Kennedy administration encouraged Congress to appropriate millions of dollars to the new and fledgling agency NASA, to make America first in its quest to win the space race.
Domestically, President Kennedy signed legislation raising the minimum wage, increasing Social Security benefits and federal aid was provided to cities to improve housing and transportation. 

In terms of civil rights, Kennedy used the power of the presidency to support James Meredith’s attempt to integrate the University of Mississippi and ordered his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to protect the freedom riders in the South.

President Lyndon Johnson was able to carry forward other Kennedy initiatives such as Medicare, federal support for education, and wilderness protection as part of his Great Society Program.

Since the end of the Johnson administration, there has been a dramatic shift in the focus of the American government.  Subsequent presidents (Republican and Democrat) have worked to undo many of these social programs. As Dr. King stated, there was a real promise of hope for the poor –both Black and white — through the poverty program… Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war …”

Americans have been convinced to shift away from the idea that government should work in the best interest of the collective, “We the People ….” We are now focused on and supporting the machinations of what Sen. Lindsey Graham called a “… xrace-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot.”

Budgets are numeric representations of priorities. Trump’s budget slashes assistance to the urban poor and a proposed $6.2 billion cut from HUD’s budget. He proposed cutting the overall HHS budget by 17.9 percent and the EPA would lose $2.6 billion out of its current $8.1 billion in funding.  His proposed budget will impact programs such as Meals on Wheels.

It also targets the Department of Health and Human Services with a nearly 18% cut next year and the National Institutes of Health, which would see their budgets cut by $5.8 billion. 

All of these cuts are to important domestic programs that support the poor, public health and the environment while increasing military spending in the coming fiscal year by 10 percent, or $54 billion. He’s erroring on the wrong side of the macroeconomic model of “guns or butter.”

In the wake of the 100th birthday of the 35th President, John Kennedy we have a clear comparison to or current and 45th President, Donald Trump. The comparisons are stark and realities frightening.  We’ve gone from the vision of Kennedy’s “New Frontier” to Trump’s racist and mythic “Make America Great Again” or America the usual.

Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Leon,” on SiriusXM Satellite radio channel 126. Go to or email: and Dr. Leon’s Prescription at  © 2017 InfoWave Communications, LLC

Courtesy flew out of the window in Washington parlance a long time ago.  The minute a deranged Congressman stood up and hollered, “you lie” at a sitting President (this was South Carolina Republican Congressman Joe Wilson yelling at President Barack Obama), we knew that courtesy had taken a vacation.

Courtesy took more than a time out when we had a Presidential candidate bragging about grabbing p***y and calling our Mexican American brothers and sisters rapists.
Courtesy was even more far gone when 45 attacked Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis (D-GA) because of a disagreement.

But courtesy was really kicked to the curb when Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) had the audacity to scold his colleague, the scintillating Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) because she was theoretically not courteous to the dissembling liar, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, when she asked pointed questions about the firing of former FBI director James Comey.  As she became aggressive, which was her right, Senator Burr, who asked that Mr. Rosenstein be treated “with courtesy,” admonished her.

What is courtesy?  A dictionary defines it as “excellence of manners or social conduct,” “polite behavior,” “courteous, respectful or considerate acts,” “Indulgence, consent, or acquiescence.”  A senate hearing is not the place to have “indulgence.”  It is not the place to, necessarily, offer acquiescence.

It is the place to ask hard questions and to demand uneasy answers.  It is not the place, apparently, for an intelligent African-American woman to do her job, given that Senator Richard Burr seems to think that Black women don’t get to ask hard questions.

We’ve been down this road before.  A couple of months ago, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was shut down when she attempted to read a letter that the late Coretta Scott King wrote about current Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  Her colleagues voted to halt her remarks because of some obscure rule that prevents Senators from criticizing their colleagues.  More importantly, they voted to treat her in a way that they had treated no man.  Just like they voted to scold Senator Harris.

Senator Harris will not back down from her senatorial detractors.  A seasoned prosecutor who has clawed her way up the political hierarchy in California, is a woman who does not play.  She didn’t back down, and she won’t back down.  All she wants, and all we want, are answers about what has happened about the Comey firing, the FBI investigations, and more.
As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, she is entitled to push as aggressively as required, and she must be allowed to have no pushback.  How dare Richard Burr chastise her about courtesy?  We are experiencing the most discourteous Presidential administration that we ever have.

Seasoned politicos remember the Reagan administration as an ideological shift, but not a total absence of courtesy.  Reagan, totally flawed, was at least affable.

45 is a mean, myopic, narcissistic, odious and rude man.  And his minions, like Richard Burr, are especially going to have his back when a Black woman is pushing the envelope.  Several other Senators, equally pointed, were allowed to go after the liars.  Only Senator Kamal Harris was pushed.

I am lifting up Senator Kamala Harris, and reminding myself of the words she offered at her victory party on November 8, 2016.  She said, “It is the very nature of this fight for civil rights and justice and equality that whatever gains we make, they will not be permanent. So we must be vigilant,” Harris said. “Do not despair. Do not be overwhelmed. Do not throw up our hands when it is time to roll up our sleeves and fight for who we are.”

Senator Kamala Harris is fighting for us, and we have got to have her back.  Shame on Senator Richard Burr and the others who would silence her.  Why would they muzzle her, but not their male colleagues?  There should be no indulgence here, no acquiescence.

Senator Kamala Harris should not back down, break down, stand down.  She is fully within her rights to fight oppression.  This is about race, and gender, and the power of patriarchy.  This is the ugliness that we must fight.

Julianne Malveaux is an economist, author, and Founder of Economic Education. Her podcast, “It’s Personal with Dr. J” is available on iTunes. Her latest book “Are We Better Off: Race, Obama and public policy is available via

“A final victory is an accumulation of many short-term encounters. To lightly dismiss a success because it does not usher in a complete order of justice is to fail to comprehend the process of full victory. It underestimates the value of confrontation and dissolves the confidence born of partial victory by which new efforts are powered.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., American Civil Rights Activist, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” June 1, 1967

As he prepared to step down as President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, it is likely Wade Henderson pondered the same question that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., did 50 years earlier as he sat alone in a secluded rental house in Ocho Rios, Jamaica – the question that would become the title of his final book: Where do we go from here?
Both men are part of the long, unfinished narrative of our nation’s struggle for equality for all its citizens. And at critical points in our history, both reached a period in their work as activists and advocates that called for contemplation of the future of our country and its continuing fight for civil and human rights.

In his book, Dr. King reflected on economic and social reform that would benefit all Americans, and specifically looked at the state of racial equality for African-Americans at the very infancy of the civil rights movement following the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He also reflected on Black nationalism, which appeared to be the next phase in the struggle of African-Americans to attain basic civil rights—considering the effectiveness of the ideology, its tactics, and its ability to shape, mark and transform the movement for civil rights.

At the age of 15, Henderson attended the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where Dr. King famously delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech.” Fortunately, Henderson’s passion for social justice did not stay on the mall of the Lincoln Memorial. Before taking the helm of the Leadership Conference for nearly 21 years, Henderson was the Washington Bureau director of the NAACP, directing the civil rights organization’s government affairs and national legislative program and he worked as the associate director of the Washington office of the ACLU.

Under his direction, Henderson grew the Leadership Conference’s number of member organizations from 170 to 200, including its first Muslim and Sikh civil rights groups, and he led the coalition through the passage of every major civil rights law in the past 20 years, including reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Fair Sentencing Act. And like Dr. King, Henderson recognized that a “generational change” was taking hold in the civil and human rights movement, including the rise of Black Lives Matter and newer forms of activism.

Rather than resist that change, Henderson embraced this newest phase, deciding that his work with the coalition had reached its highest level and concluded that, “it’s at that point that I think it is best to step aside and to promote constructive change.”

Today, while progress has been made, we find ourselves fighting for much of what Dr. King fought during his time, and we face the rollback of many hard-fought-for reforms and legislation. But to his credit, Henderson built a well-earned legacy and simultaneously forged a path for the Leadership Conference and the next generation of advocates to lead and succeed.

The coalition will now be directed by Vanita Gupta, the first woman and first child of immigrants to head the organization. A long-time civil rights litigator and former head of the Obama administration’s Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Gupta is confident in her belief that, “this organization is perfectly situated to address the current assault on civil rights that we are seeing today.”

As a member of the Leadership Conference, the National Urban League firmly believes the coalition has been entrusted to capable and intelligent hands and we look forward to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Leadership Conference on the frontlines as we all work together to protect our progress.

By Marc H. Morial

“At a time when people across the aisle have finally found some of the modest, yet promising, agreement that we need to fix our broken system, the Trump administration and Attorney General Sessions have thus far indicated that they want to double down on the failed policies of the past. Sessions seems intent on turning back the clock—threatening to increase the use of mandatory minimum sentences, criticizing consent decrees that improve police-community relations, and expanding federal use of private prisons. For the sake of our safety, our economic health, and the values we profess, we can’t afford to go back. We must press forward with reforms.”
Sen. Cory A. Booker, “We Refuse to Turn Back The Clock: Advancing Criminal Justice Reform in The Face of Retreat,” State of Black America, May 2, 2017

Dear Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the 20th century called. It wants its failed, heavy-handed criminal justice policies back.

In a throwback to the George W. Bush administration, Sessions is widely expected to formally order all federal prosecutors to impose the harshest sentences for all drug offenses and offenders, including the return of the widely unpopular and discredited mandatory minimums.

This “dumb on crime,” bygone-era approach to criminal justice will catapult our nation back to the days of racially-infected mass incarceration, warehousing Black and brown bodies at a rate wildly disproportionate to their overall rate of population as a result of overzealously disproportionate law enforcement.

It will perpetually ensnare nonviolent offenders, who have small chance of being rehabilitated while in prison, leaving them to face near-insurmountable obstacles and odds to fully re-enter society, while robbing already vulnerable communities of an ex-offender’s future potential as an employed and civically engaged citizen. It comes with a heavy price tag for taxpayers—both in terms of safety and cost—with study after study revealing a cynically slim return on investment, if any.

Sessions’ reversal of Obama-era policies that sought to correct the egregious wrongs of our nation’s broken criminal justice system—such as reserving the harshest sentencing and enforcement resources for serious, violent, high-level offenders—flies in the face of promising consensus that has been steadily building among civil rights and social justice organizations, states led by Conservative governors, and across the partisan divide in Congress. It seems everyone, except the Department of Justice, understands that flooding our prisons—and keeping private prisons in business to warehouse the anticipated overflow from federal prisons—is not a solution that has, or will, make us safer.

According to data from The Sentencing Project, Louisiana has the highest state imprisonment rate, yet its governor recently announced a deal to reduce the state’s prison population by 10 percent—an initiative that will save Louisiana taxpayers an estimated $78 million annually.

Right now, four of the 10 top states with the highest incarceration rates are pursuing “smart on crime” criminal justice reforms that safely reduce our bloated prison population by focusing on alternatives to punishment and improved re-entry programs that increases the chances of ex-offenders never returning to prison.

And we should go a step further. How about working to keep as many people as we can out of the clutches of our broken, racially and socio-economically unjust criminal justice system in the first place?

As a nation, we must agree to prioritize prevention and address crime before it happens.  That means looking at—and effectively treating—the root causes of crimes. It means, among other things, housing the homeless, removing the heavy price tag and stigma around mental health and mental health services, feeding the hungry, ensuring a quality education in every zip code, and providing work tied to living and gender equitable wages.

The Department of Justice is moving in the wrong direction and a course correction is critical. The resistance, in all its forms and arenas, remains firm, especially among the states, which bear the fiscal brunt of policies that call for the indiscriminate filling of jails cells at a heavy cost to their budgets and the safety of their citizens.

A growing number of states are reluctant to follow the Department of Justice’s lead, and we hope more states come to the realization that crime can be reduced through a variety of methods that don’t involve throwing the book at people who can be rehabilitated, while keeping the public safe.

We must resist the rollback. We must retreat from the failed policies of the past, not return to them.

Twenty-two people died and more than 50 were injured when a terrorist jihadist released a bomb at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England on May 22.  The heinous act of terrorism was condemned worldwide, as it should have been.

Our 45th president was full of condemnation, although his very limited vocabulary only allowed him to call the perpetrators of the deadly attack “losers” (the same thing he called Rosie O’Donnell and Senator Chuck Schumer).  House Speaker Paul Ryan also condemned the bombing in harsh terms and asked for a moment of silence to commemorate the “young and innocent” victims of terrorism.

Just a few miles away from Capitol Hill, though, an outstanding young Black man was massacred by an intoxicated and crazed racist.  Second Lt. Richard Collins III would have graduated from Bowie State University on May 23, 2017.  A distinguished part of the ROTC, he had received a commission as second lieutenant in the United States Army and planned to work in Army intelligence.  I’m not comparing deaths, but I am suggesting that Collins was the victim of domestic terrorism.  Terrorism, after all, is defined as “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.”

The man who, unprovoked, stabbed Collins in the chest is little more than a domestic terrorist.  My vocabulary is a little more advanced than 45’s, so I won’t call the devil (I refuse to call his name) that stabbed Collins a loser.  He is a monster; a disgusting, depraved and soulless piece of human excrement.  The death penalty is too good for him.  I digress.
The news in Washington, DC, has explored many aspects of the massacre of Richard Collins III.  It is impossible that House Speaker Ryan is unaware of the massacre.  Yet Ryan has, to date, been silent about this terroristic massacre.  So has the 45th President.  So, for that matter, have so many.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Mr. Law and Order, has not deigned to offer condolences to Richard Collins’ family or to make any of the broad generalizations that he likes to make when Black and Brown men are involved in crime.  Why has there been no moment of silence on the Congressional floor for Second Lt. Richard Collins III?

Why have the Republicans who support the military so strongly that they are prepared to slash social service spending to put billions in military spending not spoken up for this young Black man?

I am sure some member of Congress will say that they’ve not spoken up because this is not a national story, because the killing of one man, no matter how exceptional, may not merit a moment of silence for the whole Congress.  I disagree!

When some Republicans are all-too-eager to embrace racist stereotypes, lifting up a young man who did all the right things, and condemning his killing could be meaningful.  In order to do that, though, Congress would have to implicitly (if not explicitly) acknowledge the toll that domestic terrorism has taken on African American communities.  I suppose they would rather be silent.

The evil, horrible University of Maryland student who killed Richard Collins III was part of an alt-right Facebook group.  Why does Facebook facilitate the gathering of these racists?  The FBI is supposedly “investigating” whether the Collins killing is a hate crime.  They know it was!  All they have to do is check the Facebook group and the mess they posted, or follow the repugnantly encouraging posts that the vicious killer has received from his high school classmates through social media.

For example, Welby Burgone, who went to high school with the killer devil, now works for the Anne Arundel County (which is in suburban Maryland) police department as a communications specialist.  “You mess with crabo, you get a stabo”, Burgone posted in response to an even more odious post that cheered the stabber on, writing, “That’s what happens when a n—try (sic) to get frosty with an OG.  Talk s…,  get stabbed.  lol.”  And the FBI has to “investigate?.”  Really.

Even the Anne Arundel police have to be questioned for their soft peddling of this matter.  Yes, they suspended Burgone.  But they also described his statement as “extremely insensitive”.  It’s a lot more than that.  It is brutal, it is repugnant, and someone with those views has no business working in law enforcement in any capacity!

Second Lt. Richard Collins III was massacred on Saturday, May 20.  At this writing, on May 26, there has been no congressional moment of silence, no outreach from the 45th President, no statement of repugnance about this domestic terrorism from anyone other than the Presidents of both Bowie State University, where Collins was to graduate, and the University of Maryland at College Park, where the killer matriculated.

Why are white leaders so silent on matters of domestic terrorism and, in particular, the massacre of Richard Collins III?  Shame on them and shame on those of us they represent for not demanding more!

Julianne Malveaux is an economist, author, and Founder of Economic Education. Her podcast, “It’s Personal with Dr. J” is available on iTunes. Her latest book “Are We Better Off: Race, Obama and public policy is available via

“After more than 250 years of debate, five constitutional amendments, decades of protest, and a handful of monumental Supreme Court decisions, the basic right of American citizens to vote in our elections is still not a settled matter. While minority voters no longer face literacy tests or have to guess how many marbles are in a jar when they register to vote, there are new strategies for disenfranchising Black and brown communities.”

Rep. Terri Sewell, “Voting Rights: Old Battles Become New Again,” State of Black America, May 2, 2017

Throughout his campaign, President Trump trumpeted the baseless claim that our nation’s elections are riddled with voter fraud. He has repeatedly blamed his gaping three million plus-popular vote deficit on a phantom horde of illegal voters.

He complained, without evidence and unfairly maligned wide swaths of communities.  Finally, two days after unceremoniously firing FBI Director James Comey—a move that has swallowed the 116-day old Trump administration into the jaws of fresh political scandal complete with growing calls for impeachment—Trump doubled down on unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud and signed an executive order creating the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity.

The bipartisan-in-name-only commission led by Vice President Pence and Kris Kobach, a well-known advocate on voting restrictions and immigration, is to study our nation’s election protocols.

Hot on the heels of the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to strike down the preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965—no longer requiring the Department of Justice to review and approve any changes in election laws for states with long histories of racial and voting discrimination—North Carolina was the first state to sign sweeping, drastic voter ID measures into law.

The provisions, which included measures to eliminate same-day voter registration, cut down on early voting and presenting select government-issued photo identification at the polls, was described by its critics as the strictest in the nation and characterized by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals—that ultimately struck down the appalling array of voting restrictions—as targeting African Americans “with an almost surgical precision,” and imposing “cures for problems that did not exist.”

The Supreme Court now has allowed the circuit court’s ruling to stand, denying Republican efforts to revive the law. And while those who advocate for the removal of superficial, politically and racially motivated barriers to the polls have won a critical battle; the war is far from over. Chief Justice John Roberts cautioned in a two-page statement that the court’s decision to reject the case was based on procedure and should not be interpreted as a decision on the merits of North Carolina’s voter ID law, or as an endorsement of the lower court’s ruling.

Before I go any further, I want to quickly remind you that study, after study, after study has found the same thing: voter fraud, particularly the type that claims to be solved by strict voter ID laws, is rare.

Kobach, who is Kansas’ secretary of state, is also the only secretary of state in the nation with prosecutorial power. In his unrelenting quest to unmask massive voter fraud in Kansas, he has prosecuted less than 10 cases of voter fraud since taking office in 2011.

In a court filing opposing Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s request for a vote recount, Trump’s own attorneys asked the court to deny Stein’s request based on the fact that, “All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”

If any fraud is being perpetrated, it is being perpetrated on the American people and our democracy. The flimsy “evidence” and falsehoods that undergird this so-called voter fraud commission are egregious, but even more egregious is the transparent, political-motivated effort to put the thumb on the scale of political gain by keeping communities of color and traditionally Democratic leaning voters away from the polls.

When we toy with a pillar of our democracy as if it were a political football, we cast doubt on the integrity of our electoral process—and our elected leaders.

Trump’s so-called voter fraud commission is a sham, a serious attack on voting rights, a cover to squander taxpayer dollars and a solution in search of a problem countless studies and experts have repeatedly concluded does not exist.

The National Urban League has 93 affiliates serving 300 communities, in 35 states and the District of Columbia, providing direct services that impact and improve the lives of more than 2 million people nationwide. To learn more about the National Urban League, visit and follow us on Twitter @NatUrbanLeague.

By Marc H. Morial

The National Urban League’s (NUL) 2017 “State of Black America” (SOBA) report was released on May 2, 2017; it is titled, “Protect our Progress,” and again contains the “Inequality Index.  Since 1963 the NUL has used the mantra, “To be Equal,” as part of its overall goal.  I have questioned that goal for a long time because, while it may be laudable in an economic sense, it is totally unrealistic.  Why should we chase something as elusive as “equality” with Whites on any level, especially when they control upwards of 90 percent of the resources in this nation.

Also, juxtaposing the NUL quixotic venture to “be equal” against the report by the Corporation for Economic Development and the Institute for Policy Studies, that cites, “If current trends persist, it will take 228 years for Black families to accumulate the same amount of wealth as whites,” the futility of the NUL goal is more than obvious.  To rub salt on our wounds, that same report also stated, “For Latino families, it will take 84 years.”  Put that point into your Equality Index pipe and smoke it.

I say without equivocation that the NUL report is substantive, informative, professionally written, and packed with statistics from which we all can learn and move forward.  It’s not just about economic issues; it also covers criminal justice, housing, education, and other critical issues that need our attention.

However, it would be better if it was the first one issued by the NUL, but it has been issued for forty-one years now. Again, it’s good information, but Black folks still suffer from the same problems and have been in the same comparative collective status for four decades.

A few more data points from the SOBA and, as the preachers say, “The lesson will be yours.”  Of course if we fail to heed the lesson, it’s all for naught.  Our penchant for 140 characters belies the necessity to read much beyond that, but I hope you will get a copy  of the NUL report, READ it, draw your own conclusions, and develop your own action plans to address our problems appropriately.

Here is an interesting paragraph in the report:  “Over the past 30 years, the average household wealth of white families has grown 85% to $656,000, while that of Blacks has climbed just 27 percent to $85,000 and Latinos 69 percent to $98,000.

And another:  “The report comes on the heels of a detailed proposal released by Black Lives Matter activists, which outlined specific economic demands including ‘restructuring the tax code’ to ‘raise the estate tax’ and ‘capital gains tax’ and end income caps on payroll taxes that fund Social Security and unemployment.” Trump’s plan does away with the estate tax and lowers the capital gains tax.  It also eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax, which in 2005 added over $31 million to Trump’s tax bill.  So how are those “demands” working out for Black Lives Matter?
The SOBA states, “The 2017 [NUL] Equality Index provides a veritable ‘line in the sand’ from which to measure where the country goes from here … As the [NUL] continues to press the case for closing the divide in economic opportunity, education, health, social justice and civic engagement …” The report goes on to point out, “Change often happens slowly. The Equality Index offers solid evidence of just how slowly change happens, making it an important tool for driving policies needed in the ongoing fight against inequality.”  “Slowly”?  I’d say.  228 years is a long time.

Finally, the SOBA cites its Main Street Marshall Plan as a “bold, strategic investment in America’s urban communities that protects our progress…a sweeping and decisive solution to our nation’s persistent social and economic disparities.”  Dr. Ron Daniels has advocated for a Marshall Plan for America’s “dark ghettos” for longer than I can remember.

Dr. Bernard E. Anderson, Professor Emeritus, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and Presidential Economic Advisor, wrote, “The proposed Trump budget would be devastating for the Main Street Marshall Plan…It would do little to accelerate economic growth, reduce long-term unemployment, expand economic opportunity for minority group workers, or ease the burden on low-income families.”

Further, Anderson writes, “The budget proposal threatens to truncate the modest, but steady progress the economy has made over the last eight years, and would make the struggle to erase racial inequality increasingly difficult.”

I don’t know about the NUL et al, but I’ll take reparations and call it square.  Chasing nirvana and Camelot, where all is good and everyone is equal, will continue to be a chase without end as well as a poor use of our precious time.

It’s not our place to initiate dialogues and conversations to change the hearts of racists and eliminate racism; operating from a position of weakness and dependency, we will never meet those ideals.

We must take care of ourselves and not be diverted by ancillary and peripheral issues.  “To be equal”?  Naah, I’ll take economic empowerment.

By James Clingman

The 2017 National Urban League Equality Index provides a veritable “line in the sand” from which to measure where the country goes from here.”
Valerie Rawlston Wilson, Ph.D.,“Overview of 2017 National Urban League Equality Index,” May 2, 2017.

As of this writing, for 102 days our nation has watched as the Trump administration has taken shape – and, for many of us, there is reason to worry.

Recovery from the Great Recession has been slow, but it has been real. While high school students of color and low-income students continue to trail their peers in high school completion, the national graduation rate continues to rise. Republicans are working hard to re-introduce a health care bill that will repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but today, a record number of Americans have health insurance. Now all of that progress, and much more, is under threat.

This year’s State of Black America® is a call to action, a call to unceasing vigilance, and a call to protect our nation’s hard-fought-for progress.

And as we do with every edition of the State of Black America®, we provide the numbers and the narrative to make our case.

 According to National Urban League’s exclusive 2017 Equality Index for both Blacks and Hispanics, there is progress, but there is much more progress that needs to be made.

Tracking racial equality in economics, employment, education, health, housing, criminal justice and civic participation, we find that African-Americans share 72.3 percent equality with white Americans (in 2016 the number stood at 72.2 percent). Hispanics – who stood at 77.9 percent equality in 2016 – shared a greater slice of the “equality pie” this year, standing at 78.4 percent equality with their white peers. The Trump administration’s priorities and proposed policies put what social and economic gains we have made in urban communities and communities of color at serious risk.

Guest contributors to the State of Black America® remind us of what is at stake.

Senator Cory Booker tackled our broken criminal justice system, lamenting that just as modest, bipartisan agreement on fixing our broken system was being cultivated, the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions seemed, “intent on turning back the clock – threatening to increase the use of mandatory minimum sentences, criticizing consent decrees that improve police-community relations, and expanding federal use of private prisons.”
Rep. Terri Sewell called for the passage of the Voting Rights Advancement Act, “which restores and advances the VRA [Voting Rights Act] by providing a modern-day coverage test that will extend federal oversight to jurisdictions with a history of voter suppression and protects vulnerable communities from discriminatory voting practices,” understanding that we cannot claim to be a democracy while snatching the right to vote away from eligible citizens.

Rep. Robin Kelly reminds us that as we, “drive toward the goal of an equitable health future for communities of color, we cannot afford to take our foot off the gas.  The Affordable Care Act put us on the right road and we are seeing progress.”

To that end, the National Urban League has also published “The Main Street Marshall Plan: Moving from Poverty to Prosperity.” The plan – which proposes solutions, including increasing federal funding for public schools, enacting a living wage of $15, and fully funding Medicaid and Medicare – is a bold, strategic investment in America’s urban communities that protects our progress by addressing our nation’s persistent social and economic disparities.

Passing a health care plan that no longer protects people with pre-existing conditions, charges the sickest the highest premiums, and would leave an estimated 24 million people without lifesaving coverage, will trim the equality pie for Blacks and Hispanics – and put all Americans at risk.

Legislating discrimination by signing into law a travel ban that targets ethnicities or religions, harms families and our nation founded and enriched by newcomers to its shores.

Double-digit cuts or eliminating funding for vital agencies like the Department of Education or the National Endowment of Arts, will carve away at the equality pie for Blacks and Latinos – and put all Americans at risk.

Slashing the budgets of the Departments of Housing and Labor, will reduce the share of the pie for Blacks and Hispanics – and put all Americans at risk.

Make no mistake, the Trump administration’s priorities are not a blueprint to make America great again, they are a blueprint for a sick, scared, uneducated, homeless and unemployed America, and reaffirm this truth: when communities of color are strong, America is strong.

I urge you to read, analyze, share – and act on – the findings of the 2017 State of Black America at

Now in its 41st edition, it remains one of the most highly-anticipated benchmarks and sources for thought leadership around racial equality in America across economics, employment, education, health, housing, criminal justice and civic participation.

The fight for racial equality in our country is a struggle that neither began during the Obama era, nor will it end in the Trump era, but with time and the constant pressure of like-minded people pressing for justice, we have made a steady climb toward improvement – and we are determined to keep moving forward to protect our progress. 

By Marc H. Morial

CEO, National Urban League

“They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior that they had ‘no rights which the white man was bound to respect’; and that the Negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.”
– Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, Dred Scott Case, 1857

Isn’t this 2017?  The above words were spoken 160 years ago.  Obviously, in light of federal prosecutors not finding any cause to indict the cops who killed Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Justice Taney’s words still ring true.  To that end, Black people have no civil right to life that prevents us from being shot and killed by police officers who are, in turn, given a paid vacation and allowed to go free.  Sickening?  Frightening? Evil?  Uncivilized?  All of the above?

Before you start throwing out all the excuses for Mr. Sterling’s demise, I know he had numerous arrests and convictions for other crimes, none of which, however, called for the death penalty.  I know he was a “big man,” and I know he was struggling against the two officers. I know he was tasered and they said it had little effect on him.  I do not know if the gun they pulled from his pocket was put there or if it was his.

I do know what I saw and what I heard, and one point jumped out at me—and still does. What happened to Sterling reminded me of a Black man named Nathaniel Jones, another “big man” who was killed by Cincinnati police officers.

Yet another more recent memory is Eric Garner, a “big man” also killed by police.  Jones and Garner were killed as the cops repeatedly said, “Put your hands behind your back.” Sterling was killed as the cops were saying “Get on the ground!”

Lawful orders, yes, but they do not rise to the capital punishment level.  What gripes me is that the cops yelled “get on the ground” at Sterling when he was already on the ground and they were on top of him.  They shot him three times and then told him to get on the ground; then they shot him three more times.  Again, he was already on the ground and under their control when he was shot at point blank range.

The U.S. Department of Justice, under Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, says it can find no indication that Sterling’s civil rights were violated.  In other words, Alton Sterling had no rights the two White cops were “bound to respect.”

They could force him to the ground, put a knee on his neck, and shoot him six times, all with the full support of the DOJ.  Of course, they did not know their dastardly act was being videoed, but I am sure they knew it was on audio via their own communication devices.  So they yelled, “Get on the ground!” for evidence that Sterling was not on the ground yet.

Three questions:  What? So what? Now what?  The “what” part has been disclosed, and the DOJ has said “so what?” Now it’s up to us to say, “now what?”

Though I have said this for decades, I will repeat myself.  The only way to deal with these kinds of situations is through economic sanctions.  What made the NCAA and the NBA pull its games out of North Carolina in response to a bathroom law that affected transgender people, who felt the law discriminated against them?  Why did then Governor Mike Pence succumb to corporate leaders that said if a proposed law that discriminated against gay people was not rescinded they would move their businesses out of the State of Indiana?

Why has no athletic group, Louisiana State University, or any major corporation in Baton Rouge threatened to move and/or cancel anything in light of Alton Sterling’s death? It’s because Black folks are so crisis-oriented, for the moment rather than the long haul; we do not seem to be willing to organize ourselves around practical economic strategies that would surely make it clear to everyone that we are just as serious about our rights as other groups are.

Folks in Baton Rouge should demand corporations threaten to do what those in Indiana and North Carolina did.  LSU should do what the University of Missouri football team did by refusing to play until justice is achieved for Alton Sterling.

The NCAA should cancel its tournaments as they did in support of the transgender population. (After all, being killed is much more serious than going to the bathroom of your choice.)  If they refuse, then do not support them.

There must be a price to pay for mistreatment against Blacks.  As the saying goes, “Think globally; act locally.”