NOWTRUTH!!! BECAUSE WE NEED TRUTH AND JUSTICE FROM THE COURTS MORE NOW THAN EVER, NOT HYPERPOLITICIZED, NUANCED LAW COMPLETE WITH THE REQUISITE NARRATIVE!! (LAW= Politically manufactured, orchestrated, strategic opinions, rulings, and orders for injustice to hide behind!)
Facebook is driving content moderators toward despair through mismanagement, vague policies, and overwork. I’d had enough.
A lot of people in Austin do this job. I knew that it was moderation. I knew that I would be looking at gross content. There’s a lot of turnover at first. For most people, they’re coming from retail or food service. It’s a very entry-level position. You’re not programming. You’re just implementing these really specific rules about the platform.
At the beginning I was making $16.50 an hour, and at the end I was making $18 an hour, and that was better than I could have done at a lot of other places. Still, I think that we should have been paid more.
So the job is moderation. Every space—IRL spaces and online spaces—has some set of speech norms. You have this largely fragmented early internet where people can say whatever they want because people can find these different spaces. But then Facebook comes into the picture, and all of a sudden the internet isn’t anonymous anymore. Facebook is dictating the speech of all these different people. Suddenly these things that you wouldn’t really care about because you could just opt to go somewhere else become a big deal. The policies that they make—it’s partly this STEM guy quasi-liberalism stuff and partly just, they get a bunch of pushback so they do this, they do that. Basically you get this lowest common denominator thing, which doesn’t make anybody happy.
We had this introductory training period where we had to go through the different policies. It’s really hard to make a policy that actually captures what you want it to. You have to get into this really technical, specific, and often arbitrary detail. You spend a lot of time talking about nipples.
They were always changing up the guidance and never really gave us a specific quota. Things were tremendously mismanaged. When I first started working there and wasn’t totally burnt out, I’d be doing 500 to 700 content moderation decisions per day.
Edge cases—various usages of the n-word, which depend on context and whether the word ends in “er” or “a”—can take a long time. I need to make this decision, and if this decision gets audited and I got it wrong, what am I going to say to justify this decision? You need to cite policy, and you need to cite the policies to how you apply the policy. (Those policies are based on internal documents that aren’t accessible to the public.) There are weekly audits where they question us about certain moderation decisions.
In other coverage of this job, there’s a lot of misery porn stuff: the content moderator as the receptacle of all this bullshit, rather than actual thoughts about their job, beyond that they hate it. I wish it was content moderators talking about this. In terms of improving the work, there need to be more demands made about mental health. One thing that would be important to organize around would be to give content moderators more of an active role in crafting policy. They’re not going to ever have an effective policy unless you have the people implementing the policy shaping it in some way.
For most of the time, I was in a group called IG Proactive. It was stuff that was picked up by the AI or whatever. It was sort of everything on Instagram. Then I was on a team called Ground Truth, which is also a catch-all queue, and it’s a mixture of stuff that gets picked up by the AI and stuff that is user-reported. That queue isn’t actually live; your choices aren’t directly affecting the website. It’s a research queue. A bunch of people are supposed to get the same job, and they will try to refine the policy based on how you classify the job and possibly train the AI.
There are child porn groups on Facebook. They’re taken down, but the people posting seem to keep one step ahead of all this stuff. I did not specialize in that. There was one Instagram page that I saw that wasn’t straight-up porn, but it was for looking at young girls. It was geared around that. It was fucking disgusting. And also, What are they thinking?It’s so confusing. How do you think you’re not going to get caught?
I was super frustrated. I’d wanted to quit for a long time, but I felt trapped. I’d heard stories of people who’d quit and hadn’t been able to find anything for a while. I was afraid of being unemployed. I managed to save up a little bit of money. I interviewed at this coffee shop, and I got the job, and that’s what I’m doing now.
I sent in my resignation at night. The next morning … I wrote the letter about how Facebook’s content moderation is failing and posted it. I wanted to prove that as a moderator, I had certain insights. I wanted to prove the stuff that I said in the letter, that it would actually be effective, which is that if you take into account what the people who are actually doing this job think, you’re going to have a better time of all of this. Here are the problems as I see them, and here are what I think could be solutions to these problems.
But also I just kind of wanted to be like, Fuck you.
I saw one thing where someone tweeted: “This seems like a bad job but if I really hated Facebook I would simply not be a tech weenie who works for Facebook.” I am not a tech weenie. I just know this policy. I’m not doing programming. I’m not trying to do programming. I am at the bottom of this industrial totem pole.
I just don’t think content moderation should be anybody’s sole job responsibility. Because it’s gross, and people are better than that.
(CNN)Critical race theory. You may be hearing those three words a lot these days. Lawmakers in Tennessee and Idaho have banned its teaching from their public schools’ curriculum, while parents in Texas are opposing a school district‘s efforts to combat racism with lessons in “cultural awareness” — seen by some as critical race theory.It’s a concept that’s been around for decades and that seeks to understand and address inequality and racism in the US. The term also has become politicized and been attacked by its critics as a Marxist ideology that’s a threat to the American way of life. To get a deeper understanding of what critical race theory is — and isn’t — we talked to one of the scholars behind it.
“Critical race theory is a practice. It’s an approach to grappling with a history of White supremacy that rejects the belief that what’s in the past is in the past, and that the laws and systems that grow from that past are detached from it,” said Kimberlé Crenshaw, a founding critical race theorist and a law professor who teaches at UCLA and Columbia University.A young boy drinks from the “colored” water fountain on the county courthouse lawn in Halifax, North Carolina, in 1938. Critical race theorists believe that racism is an everyday experience for most people of color, and that a large part of society has no interest in doing away with it because it benefits White elites. Many also believe that American institutions are racist and that people are privileged or oppressed because of their race. While the theory was started as a way to examine how laws and systems promote inequality, it has since expanded. “Critical race theory attends not only to law’s transformative role which is often celebrated, but also to its role in establishing the very rights and privileges that legal reform was set to dismantle,” Crenshaw told CNN. “Like American history itself, a proper understanding of the ground upon which we stand requires a balanced assessment, not a simplistic commitment to jingoistic accounts of our nation’s past and current dynamics.”
Who came up with the idea?
Crenshaw is one of its founding scholars and hosted a workshop on the critical race theory movement in 1989. But the idea behind it goes back much further, to the work of civil rights activists such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Fannie Lou Hamer and Pauli Murray. “Everything builds on what came before,” Crenshaw said, adding that “the so-called American dilemma was not simply a matter of prejudice but a matter of structured disadvantages that stretched across American society.”Crenshaw said she and others “took up the task of exploring the role that law played in establishing the very practices of exclusion and disadvantage.”
“Words That Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, And The First Amendment,” a book by several legal scholars.
Some of the theory’s earliest origins can be traced back to the 1970s, when lawyers, activists and legal scholars realized the advances of the civil rights era of the 1960s had stalled, according to the book, “Critical Race Theory: An Introduction.” Crenshaw was among a group of intellectuals, along with Derrick Bell, Alan Freeman and Richard Delgado, who attended a 1989 conference in Wisconsin that focused on new strategies to combat racism. In 1993, Delgado, Crenshaw, Mari Matsuda and Charles R. Lawrence wrote the book, “Words That Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, and the First Amendment.”Some critical race theorists also believe notions of race are products of social thought and relations, not biology. “They correspond to no biological or genetic reality; rather, races are categories that society invents, manipulates, or retires when convenient,” Delgado and Jean Stefancic wrote in “Critical Race Theory: An Introduction.”
How has it evolved over the years?
The theory has a passionate group of followers who are mostly academics. It has inspired at least a dozen books, more than 250 law review articles and several conferences. “At this point, it is wider than any specific discipline or school of thought. It isn’t even exclusively American,” Crenshaw said.The concept has taken on new urgency since the killings last year of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other African Americans by police officers led to a national reckoning on race. Demonstrators hold signs honoring George Floyd and other victims of police violence during a protest on March 28, 2021, in Minneapolis. Over the past year many Americans have called for for an examination of systemic racism — in part through education such as the teaching of The New York Times’ 1619 Project in schools. That Pulitzer Prize-winning project reframes American history around the date of August 1619, when the first slave ship arrived on America’s shores.
Critics have slammed the theory, with conservatives accusing it of poisoning discussions on racism. President Trump opposed the teaching of the 1619 Project in schools and banned federal agencies from conducting racial sensitivity training related to critical race theory. His administration called it “divisive, anti-American propaganda.”Former President Trump: “Critical race theory is being forced into our children’s schools.””Students in our universities are inundated with critical race theory. This is a Marxist doctrine holding that America is a wicked and racist nation, that even young children are complicit in oppression, and that our entire society must be radically transformed,” Trump said. “Critical race theory is being forced into our children’s schools, it’s being imposed into workplace trainings, and it’s being deployed to rip apart friends, neighbors and families.”Tennessee state Sen. Brian Kelsey, a Republican, argued last week on Twitter that critical race theory is harmful to students because it “teaches that American democracy is a lie. It teaches that the rule of law does not exist & is instead a series of power struggles among racial groups.”But Crenshaw notes that merely acknowledging the nation’s history of racism has long been vilified as unpatriotic and anti-American. “It bears acknowledging that we’ve been here before: For his non-violent agitation for civil rights, MLK was targeted by the FBI as the most dangerous man in America,” she said. “The civil rights and Black freedom movements were targeted, surveilled and disrupted by the FBI. Black Lives Matter has been framed by some in law enforcement as a terrorist organization. So racial justice work … has always had an uneasy relationship with the federal government.”
Many politicians failing to pay back fines are raising questions about whether California is effectively enforcing its campaign finance law.
California’s secretary of state’s office has failed to collect $2 million in fines owed by politicians, lobbyists and campaign donors who the office says filed disclosure reports late, a CalMatters analysis shows. It’s allowed some of the largest fines to languish for many years with no consequences to those who are supposed to pay up.
The debts are owed by a range of political players, according to a list published on the secretary of state’s website that details outstanding fines as of April 1. It shows fines owed by 26 state lawmakers and 21 superior court judges, as well as former legislators, losing candidates, ballot measure campaigns, Democratic and Republican clubs and corporate and labor-backed political action committees.
Some of the fines are very small. About 300 of them are less than $100, reflecting paperwork filed a few days late — a routine violation of campaign finance law that’s the political equivalent of a parking ticket.
But 45 of the fines are more than $10,000, and some are for violations more than a decade ago — raising questions about whether California is effectively enforcing its campaign finance lawthat is meant to promote transparency and prevent corruption.
“Enforcement in California is horribly lax up and down the scale, whether it’s regulatory compliance or criminal compliance,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “The rules ought to be clear, they ought to be fair, they ought to be enforceable and they ought to be enforced.”
The secretary of state’s office sends three letters to people who owe the fines, but doesn’t take steps beyond that to collect the money, spokesperson Joe Kocurek said. In the past, he said, staff members called people who were behind on paying their fines, but that became too time-consuming.
The problem has persisted long before Shirley Weber, the current secretary of state, took office in January. Still, she said she’ll look into the issue to see if any changes should be made. Though $2 million is a tiny portion of California’s more than $200 billion annual budget, it’s roughly as much as the state spends to educate about 190 students for a year.
“Once you get a fine in the criminal justice system, it compounds and increases and it easily takes over your life if you are low-income,” said Natasha Minsker, a lobbyist who has pushed for more leniency in traffic fines.
“The fact that these fines (on politicians and judges) can go unpaid without any consequence, it’s definitely an illustration of privilege.”
A bureaucratic maze
Legislators write laws and judges enforce laws, so they have an especially high duty to obey them. CalMatters analyzed the list posted on the secretary of state’s website and contacted lawmakers and judges who, according to the list, owed more than $1,000 as of April 1. CalMatters also contacted campaigns that owe more than $30,000 and politicians who owe relatively small amounts but hold prominent positions.
The process revealed a byzantine system of accountability. Until CalMatters contacted them, many officials on the list said they had never been notified about an outstanding fine. Others said they were aware of it, but were negotiating to have it reduced or waived. Some were confused that the secretary of state was lodging campaign finance violations because they had already resolved an issue with the Fair Political Practices Commission. While the FPPC is responsible for enforcing broader provisions of the campaign finance law, both agencies can levy fines for late disclosure reports. The Commission on Judicial Performance also can discipline judges for violating campaign finance law.
The largest outstanding fine for a public official is nearly $38,000 owed by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jennifer Madden stemming from her 2016 campaign. She did not return multiple messages seeking comment. In 2019, she paid a $4,000 fine to the FPPC for failing to file required campaign disclosures in 2016.
CalMatters found several instances where officials said they are working to resolve the fines, either by paying them off or asking to have them waived:
Assemblymember Eloise Reyes, a San Bernardino Democrat, owes nearly $15,000 from her 2016 campaign. She said in a statement that her attorneys are working to resolve the issue “and once that occurs any outstanding fines will be paid as soon as possible.”
State Sen. Shannon Grove, a Bakersfield Republican, owes a total of $3,940 from campaigns in 2012, 2014 and 2018. The fines “should have been paid in full when we were first notified,” Grove said in an email. “I regret the payment was not made on time, as promised to me. I have been assured by my Treasurer that the fines will be paid in full by (mid-April).”
Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Annette Rees owes $2,410 from her 2020 campaign. She said the secretary of state notified her of the fine last month — a year after she had resolved the same issue with the FPPC, which resulted in a warning letter. “I filed an appeal of the (Secretary of State) fines,” Rees wrote in an email. “I am currently awaiting a decision in my appeal.”
Sen. Steven Bradford owes $1,490 and Assemblymember Chris Holden owes $1,160, both from their 2020 campaigns. The Los Angeles Democrats have asked to have the fees waived, according to their lawyer Stephen Kaufman. “Once they receive a determination from the Secretary of State, the committees will pay any remaining fees that have not been waived or reduced,” Kaufman said by email.
Marin County Superior Court Judge Sheila Shah Lichtblau owes $1,090 from her 2016 campaign. Her treasurer, David Lichtblau, said he filed required disclosures on time with the county elections office, but that the secretary of state didn’t accept the forms through the county’s electronic filing system. He said that he resubmitted them directly to the state, and that he and the county registrar requested that the state waive any penalties. The secretary of state “recently admitted the waiver was never processed,” David Lichtblau wrote in an email, adding that he has re-submitted the request and expects the fine to be waived in the next two weeks.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon owes $90, from his 2016 and 2020 campaigns. He believes the fines should be waived, said his campaign spokesperson Bill Wong: “Sometimes there is a mistake in billing. While it’s in dispute, we are not going to pay it.”
Judges and lawmakers owe outstanding fines
More than two dozen state legislators and 21 judges owe outstanding fines for filing campaign disclosure forms late, according to the California Secretary of State. Some of them said they were never notified of the fines or that they were issued by mistake. Here’s a look at those who owed more than $1,000 as of April 1, 2021.
In other cases, officials said they were unaware that the secretary of state’s list shows they owe outstanding fines until CalMatters raised questions:
Assemblymember Carlos Villapudua, a Stockton Democrat, owes more than $10,000 from his 2018 run. A campaign spokesman said Villapudua was not notified of the fine. Last year, Villapudua paid a $483 fine to the FPPC for filing 2018 campaign disclosures late. He “never got anything from the secretary of state saying, ‘You owe $10,000,’” said Lee Neves.
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge JoAnne McCracken owes $4,097 from a 2010 campaign. She said it must be an error because she never received notice of a fine. “To my knowledge, I do not have an outstanding fine nor did I fail to comply with any reporting requirements during my 2010 campaign for judge. In fact, your email is the first time I have heard of this,” McCracken wrote to CalMatters.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Efrain Matthew Aceves owes $1,450 from his 2016 campaign. He also said he had no knowledge of the fine until contacted by CalMatters. “I want to follow the law to the letter of the law,” Aceves said in a phone interview. “What’s odd to me is that there weren’t any notifications at all, and now it’s five years later.”
Sen. Richard Roth, a Riverside Democrat, owed $1,120 from his 2016 campaign. He was unaware of the fine until questioned by CalMatters, attorney James C. Harrison said, but promptly paid up after learning of it. Days later, Roth’s campaign heard from the secretary of state’s office “that the fine was assessed in error and that they would be returning Senator Roth’s check,” Harrison said in an email.
GOP gubernatorial candidate John Cox, who says he will challenge Gov. Gavin Newsom if there’s a recall election, owes $650. “California residents face a maze of burdensome regulations covering nearly every part of their lives,” he said in a statement. “This is a perfect… example.”
State schools superintendent Tony Thurmond owes $550 from a 2014 campaign for Assembly. His spokesperson David Beltran called it a clerical error and said “it’ll be paid immediately.”
Weber did not address any specific fine but said that her office may have difficulty collecting some debts if campaign committees disband after an election.
“Some of these folks on this list haven’t been in existence in forever. And so as a result… who do you contact?” she said.
The FPPC has its own log of outstanding fines — which stands at $414,112 for cases from 2014 to 2020, according to spokesperson Jay Wierenga. It includes fines for various violations of California’s political ethics law, not just for filing disclosure reports late. But its procedure can include more repercussions than the secretary of state’s: It refers outstanding debts to the Franchise Tax Board, which can garnish tax refunds and state lottery winnings.
Bob Stern, who helped write California’s campaign finance law in the 1970s, said it was intentionally designed with multiple channels of enforcement, even though that comes with some inefficiencies.
“We were concerned that if you put it all in one agency there could be a problem,” Stern said. “It was a conscious decision we made to have different agencies enforce the law because we wanted to ensure there was somebody out there who would enforce the law.”
But that divided responsibility and an apparent lack of coordination has also led to some confusion.
A 2014 campaign committee that hoped to overturn a law allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice (but never qualified for the ballot) owes more than $42,000 in fines, according to the secretary of state. Treasurer John Fugatt said the committee had paid off its fine to the FPPC: “My understanding is that the secretary of state fees are then waived once an FPPC agreement is reached. Not sure why these are still showing as due.”
Similarly, the secretary of state’s list shows that unsuccessful Assembly candidate Robert Bernosky, a Hollister Republican, owes more than $34,000 from a campaign in 2012. But his attorney Harmeet Dhillon said Bernosky paid a $2,500 fine to the FPPC and was never notified that his name sat on a list of outstanding fines: “If the secretary of state is defaming people with nonsense like this, that just underscores the incompetence of the office.”
In a wide-ranging rebuttal to Biden’s discussion of race and racism, Scott offered a series of personal anecdotes:
Nowhere do we need common ground more desperately than in our discussions of race. I have experienced the pain of discrimination. I know what it feels like to be pulled over for no reason. To be followed around a store while I’m shopping. I remember, every morning, at the kitchen table, my grandfather would have the newspaper in his hands. Later, I realized he had never learned to read it. He just wanted to set the right example. I’ve also experienced a different kind of intolerance.
I get called “Uncle Tom” and the N-word — by ‘progressives’! By liberals! Just last week, a national newspaper suggested my family’s poverty was actually privilege because a relative owned land generations before my time. Believe me, I know our healing is not finished.
The climax of Scott’s rebuttal to Biden’s speech to Congress came with this proclamation: “Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country. It’s backwards to fight discrimination with different discrimination. And it’s wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.”
Scott’s speech may have been chock full of GOP talking points, but there was an old favorite that wasn’t explicitly deployed but was obviously implied. In the aftermath of the Trump presidency, the coronavirus pandemic, and the racial justice protests that exploded across the country after the murder of George Floyd, America embarked on a fragile but badly needed racial reckoning. White conservatives needed someone to tell them that they weren’t racists resisting a changing world, but rather the progress on racial equality was something that was being inflicted on them. The GOP needed a Black friend. By laundering and displaying the party’s tired talking points, Sen. Scott served as just that. His speech gave white conservatives cover. After all, we all know that it’s impossible to be racist if you happen to have a Black friend.
Scott and his allies are wily. He set an obvious trap for the Democrats, one that America’s mainstream news media was eager to help facilitate. As they so often do, the Democrats blundered into it.
Answering the ludicrous question “Is America a racist country?” is now a gauntlet that the American news media is forcing prominent Democrats to run through.
In an interview that aired last Friday on NBC’s “Today” show, President Biden responded this way:
No. I don’t think the American people are racist, but I think after 400 years, African Americans have been left in a position where they are so far behind the eight ball in terms of education and health, in terms of opportunity. I don’t think America is racist, but I think the overhang from all of the Jim Crow and before that, slavery, have had a cost and we have to deal with it.
In an appearance last Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Vice President Kamala Harris offered this answer to the same question: “No. I don’t think America is a racist country, but we also do have to speak truth about the history of racism in our country and its existence today. I applaud the president for always having the ability and the courage, frankly, to speak the truth about it.”
Stephanopoulos used the opportunity to ask the vice president about the statement:
“Senator Tim Scott said last night that America is not a racist country. Do you agree with that, and what do you make of his warning against fighting discrimination with more discrimination?” he asked.
“Well, first of all, no, I don’t think America is a racist country,” the vice president declared. “But we also do have to speak truth about the history of racism in our country and its existence today.”
Harris continued by thanking Biden for “always having the ability and the courage, frankly, to speak the truth about [racism in America]. He spoke what we know from the intelligence community, one of the greatest threats to our national security is domestic terrorism manifested by white supremacists.
Both the political left and right expressed frustration over Harris’ remarks, though for seemingly very different reasons.
Filmmaker and activist Bree Newsome responded to Harris, writing on Twitter, “The establishment keeps framing racism as something in America’s past but can’t pinpoint exactly when it supposedly ended… because it never did. All this language about ‘America isn’t racist’ is to mollify white people who are offended by the topic.
“The Black republican and the Black cop agree: America not racist!” another Twitter userwrote — referring to Harris, the former San Francisco district attorney, as a “cop.” In that position, she “oversaw 1,900 convictions for pot offenses” alone, The Mercury Newspreviously reported.
The political right also fumed over Harris’ appearance, taking umbrage at the “but” after her statement. “Kamala Harris sort of agreed with Tim Scott, and then she used the word ‘but…'” right-wing radio host Wayne Dupree tweeted.
The conservative media sphere also called out the perceived hypocrisy in how both messages were received.
“Leftists On Twitter Rip Tim Scott For Saying ‘America Is Not A Racist Country.’ Kamala Harris Now Says Same Thing, To Silence.”
On Twitter, Princeton University professor and activist Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor highlighted the tensions and contradictions of Biden and Harris’ comments:
Democrats want it both ways … they want to curry favor with the mov’t by decrying “systemic racism” while Biden claims no one is racist and Harris says the US is not a racist country … someone smarter than me please explain how all of this can be true???
“Is America a racist country?” is also an updated version of the empty patriotism embodied by such right-wing slogans and threats as “America! Love it or Leave it!” and, for that matter, “Make America Great Again.” It is also stained by a long history in which the civil rights movement and the Black Freedom Struggle (along with other pro-democracy and progressive struggles) were attacked by white conservatives as “socialist” or “communist.”
“Is America a racist country?” is just another example of the way right-wing authoritarians reject critical thinking as being somehow disloyal or unpatriotic.
For Democrats and others on the left, there is another aspect to the “racist country” trap as well. There is no answer that will satisfy those people who have already decided that you are guilty.
In that way, “Is America a racist country?” is the political equivalent of being asked in court when you stopped beating your wife.
The most important problem with “Is America a racist country?” is that the question itself is based on a malicious and grossly incorrect set of assumptions. Racism is not an opinion. It is a fact. Moreover, the fact that America is a racist society, and that racism and white supremacy negatively impact the life chances of Black and brown people, is one of the most overdetermined and repeated findings of social scientists and other experts.
One can reasonably discuss the dimensions and varieties of racism in America, and how it contours and structures American society to the benefit of white people and the disadvantage of black and brown people. One can also reasonably discuss questions of data and discover new insights from history. One can have a productive discussion about whether and how America can be redeemed from its racist origins.
Who is the audience for the public ritual of asking and answering this question?
Today’s Republican Party is a white supremacist organization. When Tim Scott, Donald Trump, Lindsey Graham, Ron DeSantis and other prominent Jim Crow Republicans and Trumpists offer their thoughts about racism in America, they are speaking almost exclusively to racially resentful or outright racist white people — because those people are the foundation of the contemporary Republican Party and the Trump movement.
What matters most for the creators and directors of the “racist country” political theater is to validate white racial anxiety and the fear of being “replaced” by nonwhite people.
When Biden, Harris and other leading Democrats and voices are asked “Is America a racist country?” their intended audience is the public at large. Democrats also face a particular challenge in answering that kind of question because the Republican Party and the right-wing media have spent decades branding them as “un-American,” “anti-white” and unpatriotic.
Democrats on the Left attacked Senator Tim Scott with racist epithets after he called them out for the very same racism.
Quote: “The Left’s demeaning of any African American who strays from leftist orthodoxy is one of the ugliest acceptable smears in our political discourse.”
Scott said Democrats are only interested in “virtue-signaling”.
“Race is not a political weapon to settle every issue the way one side wants. It’s far too important,” Scott said.
The racist response from liberals was very, very rich. There is a certain irony to the fact that Leftists have determined to be as racist as possible to Tim Scott in order to prove him wrong when he says America isn’t racist.
Late night hack Jimmy Kimmel mocks Sen. Tim Scott for being the only black GOP Senator. Guess how many Democrat senators are black? TWO. Dems didn’t elect a black senator until 1994, while back in 1870 Hiram Revels of Mississippi became the first African American senator….he was Republican. If you’re gonna talk race, at least get facts straight.
The Democratic Party is a multiracial coalition: White Democrats are much more likely to acknowledge that racism and white supremacy are deadly realities in America than are white Republicans. As for the Democrats’ most loyal base, African-American voters, they have centuries of experience in navigating and trying to survive American racism. As a group, Black and brown people understand intimately that America is a racist country.
Let’s stipulate that as a Black and South Asian woman, Harris has to perform a delicate dance as vice president. And the past few years have certainly seen the proliferation of weird word salads to avoid the word “racist” in media and politics. (Yes, “racially tinged,” “racially charged” and “implicitly biased,” I’m looking at y’all.) Harris didn’t get where she is by not knowing where our traps and tripwires lie.
Still, did she have to take a cue from Scott’s tap-dancing on race? Let me venture out on an extremely sturdy limb here: Harris absolutely knows that America remains a racist country. More than that, her denial of it is harmful.
When a Democrat is asked by a compliant member of the news media whether America is a racist country, how should they respond?
Primarily, they should avoid yes or no answers to such a silly question. A longer, better answer might be something like this: “Real patriotism means dealing with the truth and not lying to yourself or other Americans about it. I want America to be a better country. Solving the problem of racism is part of that commitment. Fighting back against racism and white supremacy is a patriotic act.”
Of course, there’s also a much shorter answer: “America elected Donald Trump.”
Who was Uncle Tom in Stowe’s novel? A Maryland slave, Josiah Henson, was abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe’s choice to depict in her anti-slavery novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” which was influential in starting the Civil War.Josiah Henson used the Underground Railroad to escape to freedom, he protected fugitives, and he made several trips to bring other slaves to freedom. He settled in Canada where he established a school for fugitive slaves and he worked to organize the Afro-Canadian community that emphasized independence from any white patronage.The climax of the novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is a tearjerker. Uncle Tom is asked to reveal where two runaway slave women were hiding. He knew that concealing their whereabouts would bring about his own death. He protected them anyway and Tom was beaten to death Unfortunately, Uncle Tom’s true character is only contained within the pages of the novel. The stage productions omitted Tom’s protective abolitionist attitude because it was not financially profitable regarding ticket sales. Therefore, stage producers “changed” Uncle Tom’s image into a man whose English is poor, and who will sell out black people for any white person’s favor. It is that “distorted” image of him as being a sell out that made “Uncle Tom” a negative connotative term. Josiah Henson, the real Uncle Tom, was an author, abolitionist, and minister. His settlement in Canada was the last station of the Underground Railroad. He died in Canada at the age of 93.We do a disservice to Josiah Henson/Uncle Tom by comparing him to such black people as Tim Scott and Clarence Thomas. They are no Uncle Toms. I shared this with my students throughout my career. Share with your friends, children, and grandchildren. Let’s not distort the images of our Black Abolitionists.
Conflicting narratives were fed to us for generations, negative indoctrination was at the forefront of those self hate teachings from white Americans!!! Josiah Henson was definitely not a SAMBO the likes of white man’s Senator and other so-called Black Republicans!!! There are SAMBOS!!! BUT, HE IS NO UNCLE TOM!!!
Those familiar with actress and social justice activist Amanda Seales, know she presents herself as having a zero-tolerance policy for minimizing topics on the well-being of Black and brown bodies in America. When it comes to the subject of racism, Seales’ tell-it-how-she-thinks-it-is approach applies to anyone regardless of status.
So it came as no surprise that when Vice President Kamala Harris agreed with the only Black Republican in the Senate, Sen. Tim Scott‘s controversial viewpoint following President Joe Biden’s “first address to congress,” Seales had much to say. Following Biden’s speech on Wednesday, April 28, Scott claimed that “America was not a racist country,” setting some quarters of social media ablaze.
“Ok! So, everybody on some bullsh-t. Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool,” Seales began her fiery post she uploaded to her Instagram page on Saturday, May 1. “That was dumb and embarrassing and she embarrassed everyone who supported her.”
In the caption of the nearly 30-second clip, the “Insecure” star wrote, “Damn, Kamala. The paradoxical political pandering is TIRED and insulting to the constituency that supported you along with affirming the doubts of those that didn’t,” and added, “Please fix this ASAPtuously.”
During Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign run, Seales had often advocated for the candidate, using her social media platforms to encourage all her supporters to go out and vote despite the hesitancy many reserved for the now-vice president. Harris’ record as the top prosecutor in San Francisco and then California before being elected to the U.S. Senate from that state was one of the issues the Black community had with her as a presidential candidate.
Still, Seales promoted Harris. The 39-year-old even once wrote on Twitter, “STOP SAYING KAMALA HARRIS IS JUST AS BAD DONAL TRUMP” in response to those who did not favor Harris. She added, “JUST STOP. SH-T IS NOT ACCURATE OR HELPFUL AND ANNOYING AF.”
Still, Seales’ remarks garnered mixed reactions from many. While some agreed with the actress and were equally stunned at Harris’ statement, many either condemned Seales’ critique of Harris or reiterated their anti-Harris beliefs.
“What’s dumb and embarrassing, is a BW who claims to advocate for blackness, demeaning this BW based on a spliced 12 second clip.” They added, “If you knew a damn thing about our VP, you’d know she’s been among the loudest to speak on America’s “Achilles Heel”, it’s racism.” The user concluded her post by telling the former “The Real” host to “think next time.”
Sen. Tim Scott offered his thoughts last Wednesday as part of the Republican rebuttal to President Biden’s congressional address, with Scott stating: “Hear me clearly. America is not a racist country. It’s backward to fight discrimination with different types of discrimination and it’s wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.”
The following day Harris was interviewed on “Good Morning America,” where she was asked whether she agreed with Scott’s statement. She replied, “No, I don’t think America is a racist country, but we also do have to speak truth to the history of racism in our country and its existence today.” The vice president faced harsh criticism following her statement.
When asked by Craig Melvin whether he too thought America was racist, the President Biden responded, “No, I don’t think the American people are racist. But I think after 400 years, African-Americans have been left in a position where they are so far behind the eight ball in terms of education, health in terms of opportunity.” He added, “I don’t think America is racist but I think the overhang from all of the Jim Crow — and before that, slavery — have had a cost.”
“Should children who believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy be making these significant life choices?”
A 6-year-old boy who was brought to court after picking a tulip is the latest example used by advocacy groups attempting to raise the minimum age for entering the juvenile justice system in North Carolina.
Attorney Julie Boyer’s child client was on trial for injury to real property after he stopped to pluck the flower from a yard near his bus stop, according to The Herald-Sun. Boyer said she gave him crayons and a coloring book during the proceedings, as he didn’t have the mental capacity to understand what was happening to him.
Boyer and others argue against the state’s juvenile justice law which holds the lowest minimum age in the world to enter the juvenile courts at 6. The maximum age was changed a few years ago from 16 to 18. Parents are still part of the process, but a child defendant is “expected to assist in his or her defense,” per the outlet.
“Should children who believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy be making these significant life choices? I think the answer is no,” Chief District Court Judge J. Corpening told WECTNews.
The National Juvenile Justice Network and the Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee recommend raising the minimum age to at least 10. State Rep. Marcia Morey introduced a bill to make it that age in March, after her first attempt in 2019 failed.
Lyana Hunter, a New Hanover County public defender’s office employee, said bringing young children to court can be quite detrimental.
“A 6-year-old — we’re talking about someone that’s in kindergarten, first grade. They don’t understand the process, they don’t understand what’s going on,” she told WECTNews. “The earlier that you introduce a child to the criminal justice system, the higher the chances are that they will remain in the criminal justice system.”
As for the tulip-picking defendant, the judge dismissed the case after the boy’s mother “couldn’t make the intake meeting,” according to The Herald-Sun.
“He gets served with papers. His mom gets served with papers,” Boyer explained. “It was just appalling.”
Hassan Bennett had been locked up for nearly 13 years — 4,614 days, he said — and so when he recently stood before the jury in a Philadelphia courtroom, he didn’t want to pretend he had been anywhere else. He dressed for court each day in his powder-blue prison uniform, with “DOC” written on the back in big bold letters, and throughout the 11-day trial, explained to jurors why they could not find him guilty of second-degree murder.
“They told me not to wear a prison uniform. I’m here in front of you in a prison uniform,” the 36-year-old told jurors during his closing argument, as he recounted to The Washington Post. “They told me not to let you see my prison arm band. I show you my prison armband. They told me not to stand in front of you representing myself.”ADVERTISING
And yet there he was — representing himself without the help of any attorneys, with a mandatory life sentence on the line. It was his fourth time on trial for the ambush shooting death of Devon English in 2006, and Bennett’s second time acting as his own lawyer. But on Monday, he made sure it would be the last.
Achieving an exceedingly rare feat, the pro se defendant with no law degree was acquitted of murder.
The jury deliberated for 81 minutes. For Bennett, it was 76 minutes too long.
“I was sitting in the holding cell thinking, after five minutes, what’s taking so long?” he said. “When the jury came in and they called me up, I already knew it was a not-guilty verdict.”
The brash confidence is a product of more than 12 years of preparation from a Pennsylvania prison, studying case law in the library by day and meticulously drafting legal briefs in his cell by night, using a flickering TV as a light source.
He told the story to The Post by phone on Wednesday evening while strolling with his goddaughter through a neighborhood park, periodically hanging up by accident because, he said, he is only just learning how to use a touch screen cellphone. “Sorry,” he said. “It’s my first time. I had to ask the kid what to do.”
His story starts on a September night in 2006, when police accused Bennett of masterminding a plot to kill 19-year-old English after losing $20 to him in a dice game; a second teenager, 18-year-old Corey Ford, was shot in the legs and the buttocks. Lamont Dade, 16, was also arrested in the shooting, to which he pleaded guilty in 2008 and was sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison.
In their original statements to police, both Dade and Ford identified Bennett as the shooter — but later, at Bennett’s trial, they recanted, saying a homicide detective coerced them into making the statements.
Bennett maintained his innocence from the start. He told police he was on the phone with a friend at home when he heard the shots ring out, then ran to the scene to see what happened. But he said his original lawyer failed to introduce the phone records or call the witnesses that he believes would have supported his alibi, saving him years in prison.
His first trial in 2008 resulted in a mistrial, his second in conviction months later. As he petitioned for a third trial, his post-conviction appellate attorney lost appeal after appeal — until finally, in 2014, against the advice of every sane person in the legal system, Bennett told a judge he wanted to do it himself. He said he was tired of losing.
“They told me, if you mess up here, your tail is done,” he said. “Well, I’m not gonna mess up then. There is no room for error. This is the time you rely on yourself. They call it crunchtime in basketball, when the best player in the game gets the ball with five seconds left and it’s his last shot. He wins or loses on this shot. That’s how I felt.”
From then on, Bennett’s casual study of the legal system turned rigorous. To teach himself to write in legalese, he sought the help of his cellmate, nicknamed “Brother Mook” — a legal-savvy mentor who would rip up Bennett’s handwritten draft petitions into tiny shreds if he failed to write them in the proper format. “He was like my Yoda,” Bennett said.
Eventually, after reviewing every trial transcript and police record in his own case, he turned his attention to former Philadelphia homicide detective James Pitts, who interviewed Ford and Dade to obtain their witness statements against Bennett.
In recent years, Pitts has been accused of coercing witness statements in at least 10 cases, and in some murder cases, judges have vacated convictions because of Pitts’s misconduct, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. (Mired in scandal, he is on desk duty while the police department investigates, the Inquirer reported.) Bennett petitioned a court for a new trial on the basis that Pitts had used the same coercive tactics to obtain statements from Ford and Dade identifying him as the shooter.
A judge did not grant that request, but in 2017, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina vacated Bennett’s conviction and granted a new trial on the grounds of ineffective counsel. Bennett’s third trial last September, when he first represented himself, resulted in a hung jury — with all but one juror finding Bennett not guilty. ““If the defendant knew how close he was [to acquittal], he would have been crushed,” juror David Scott, a college professor, told the Inquirer afterward.
But Bennett said he was not crushed. By the time trial No. 4 rolled around, he was feeling more at ease than ever, as though a guilty verdict weren’t a possibility.
In his opening statement last month, he told the jury it was a case about using common sense — and asked jurors to remember a song from “Sesame Street.” He described himself as a suspect who didn’t fit the description, like Oscar the Grouch in a photo array of fruits. “One of these things just doesn’t belong here,” he sang.
“The Commonwealth will try to tell you that Oscar the Grouch belongs because Oscar the Grouch is always seen on the corner. He has a smart mouth. He’s nobody’s favorite on Sesame Street,” Bennett said. “But that doesn’t make him guilty when the evidence shows he’s not guilty.”
His case was that simple, he said. He submitted the phone records. He called the three witnesses he said corroborated his alibi. He cross-examined Ford and Dade, who again maintained Bennett was not at the scene.
And then he called Pitts.
He accused the former homicide detective of coercing statements from Ford and Dade — and questioned why, if Pitts were credible, prosecutors elected not to call him as a witness. Pitts denied the accusations. But the jury, Bennett told The Post, ultimately “saw through his hogwash.”
“Why didn’t the prosecutor call Detective Pitts?” he asked the jury, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported from the courtroom. “He’s the lead detective. He’s the head honcho. Pitts worked the witnesses for hours on end. We can’t tolerate this misconduct. We can’t tolerate these actions.”
Spokespeople for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office didn’t respond to a request for comment late Wednesday, but told the Inquirer the office disagreed with the jury’s verdict. The victim’s family has long believed Bennett was guilty, saying that every new trial is “bringing back the pain of Devon’s death,” the Inquirer reported.
“I’m still trying to cope with it. I think it is wrong. I think the whole process is unfair,” Arturo Alleyne, English’s father, told the Inquirer of Monday’s acquittal. “All of this will be cleared up by God.”
Leaving the courthouse on Monday, Bennett said the first thing he did was go home and have a home-cooked meal with his family. He’s spent his time this week re-acclimating to life on the outside, asking his 10-year-old goddaughter to teach him how to use an Android, remembering to look for cars when crossing the street.
But by Friday, he said, he plans to get back to work. He said the court-appointed attorney who was required to be on “standby” throughout his trial — in case he decided he no longer wanted to represent himself — invited him to his office to discuss how Bennett could assist with briefs or investigations. He plans to study for the bar exam, he said, and to one day have clients of his own.
He said he already knew where he thought he might open his office.
“People from our neighborhood, from low-income neighborhoods, they don’t really know the law,” he said. “But see, there are people from the legal community that don’t know about the low-income neighborhoods. They don’t know about ‘the hood,’ as they call it.
Robinson’s civil rights nonprofit is pushing companies to get on the right side of history—whether or not they’re ready.
Color of Change president Rashad Robinson mobilizes his nonprofit’s 7 million members for change. [Photo: Dee Dwyer]
BY WESLEY LOWERY LONG READADVERTISEMENTADVERTISEMENTADVERTISEMENT
Rashad Robinson was on a zoom call with his staff in June when he got the news.ADVERTISEMENT
The TV show Cops, a mainstay of American culture for 32 years, the foundation for decades of ride-along-with-the-police programming that deifies law enforcement, was going off the air. It was a major moment in television history, and one that, for many, seemed to have materialized out of thin air—a knee-jerk response to the racial politics of the moment. In reality, it was the culmination of a seven-year-long campaign by Robinson and Color of Change, the civil rights organization that he helms.
Color of Change had long viewed Cops as blatant public relations for law enforcement that reinforced racial stereotypes—and that was beamed directly into millions of living rooms each week. In 2013, in the wake of the shooting deaths of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, both unarmed Black teens, and outrage over police stop-and-frisk enforcement in New York City and elsewhere, the nonprofit launched a social media campaign calling on Fox, the show’s then distributor, not to renew it. Next came a petition, targeting Fox executives and advertisers. Then came the meetings with network execs. A protest outside of Fox’s L.A. studios was in the works when the network suddenly announced, in May 2013, that it would no longer air the show. But Cops had staying power, soon landing at Spike TV (now the Paramount Network). It would take another half decade of public and private pressure by Color of Change—along with the racial reckoning brought on this summer by the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd—to knock the show off the air in the United States. (Cops is still producing episodes for international markets.)
“Is it canceled canceled?” Robinson recalls asking. He had trouble, at first, believing the news. He had no time to celebrate beyond a quick smile, however. There were more battles to wage.
It should come as no surprise that Color of Change was one of the forces behind the Cops cancellation. What began 15 years ago as a scrappy digital upstart focused on marshaling an online response to stories of racial injustice is now one of the heavy hitters in American civil rights activism. The organization’s presence can be felt in nearly every racial civil rights battle currently taking place in America—from corporate boardrooms to television sets to prosecutors’ offices and judges’ chambers.
Color of Change has launched a political action committee, pouring money into the coffers of progressive prosecutors who vow to bring accountability for police killings and brutality. It’s behind a sustained campaign to change how Black and brown people are represented by Hollywood. And, increasingly, the organization is a player in the business world.
Over the past year, Color of Change has further solidified its role as both lead agitator and diversity adviser for corporate America. It led the recent campaign to demand that Facebook and other social media companies take aggressive action to rid their platforms of hate speech, pressuring hundreds of advertisers, including Coca-Cola, Unilever, and Verizon, to pull their money. Through the “Beyond the Statement” campaign, which launched in June, Color of Change is challenging corporate America to do more than offer empty platitudes in the wake of racial unrest. It has targeted fast-food companies, including McDonald’s and Burger King, along with retailers such as Nike, for talking about racial justice while not paying workers a living wage. And the group has gone after investment firms that release statements about equity but also give money to police unions and foundations.
“It’s a 21st-century approach to issues that date back to 1619,” says Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s senior vice president for global policy and communications. He credits the organization for “holding us accountable” for racism on the platform in 2015. Since then, Airbnb has worked closely with Color of Change on issues of diversity within the company and on the platform.
Robinson, who has led Color of Change since 2011, sees his mission as creating a new infrastructure for civil rights activism, mobilizing online outrage into tangible force that “holds corporations accountable, that pushes for changes to how the media engages, that changes the narrative and the stories that we tell ourselves about change. And that tills the soil for long-term policy change.”
The nonprofit is structured almost like a newsroom or a political campaign, with different staff members clustered around areas of expertise and focus: criminal justice, technology, Hollywood, media representation. They identify opportunities to bend the structure of culture and society and apply what Arisha Hatch, the group’s vice president and chief of campaigns, calls an “inside-out approach”: pressuring decision makers by leveraging Color of Change’s massive reach to flood organizations with calls, emails, and the specter of boycotts.
The organization’s email list ballooned from 1.7 million members in the spring to more than 7 million members in October, and its text-message list grew from around 100,000 people to nearly 6 million. And that digital infrastructure, combined with financial independence—unlike many civil rights groups, Color of Change does not accept corporate donations—has allowed the organization to be seemingly everywhere.
If you’re a newly woke company, wondering how best to devote money and resources to fight racism, the group is likely your first call. And if you’re a corporation or organization besieged by racial controversy, Color of Change is likely leading the digital picket line.
Color of Change was born out of the federal government’s disastrous mishandling of Hurricane Katrina, in 2005. James Rucker, a Black computer scientist working with MoveOn.org, had been interested in finding a way to apply the nonprofit’s digital organizing and fundraising strategy—empowering regular people to work together to apply political pressure through strength in numbers—to issues important to communities of color.
Then the hurricane hit, leaving millions stranded and the news channels playing clips of Black Americans begging for help from rooftops and wading through neck-deep water. “Those in power don’t fear disappointing or neglecting or turning their back on Black folks,” Rucker says, articulating the problem that he saw.
He called a friend, the activist and now CNN host Van Jones, and they soon launched Color of Change. It began with a single email, sent to 1,200 people. Before long, they had 10,000 signatures on a high-profile petition demanding an urgent, robust response from local and federal officials. They had spent more than a year largely focused on the aftermath of Katrina when Rucker learned about six Black teenagers in Louisiana who were facing 20-year sentences after an altercation that left a white high school student hospitalized. The Black teens were being charged with attempted murder for what looked like a schoolyard fight. Color of Change sprang into action in support of the teens, who became known as the Jena 6, raising nearly $300,000 for their legal defense. With the case now in the spotlight, the local prosecutor reduced the charges.
Within a few years, Color of Change had amassed a powerful digital following and an email list of nearly a million people. It began launching even more high-profile campaigns, including a 2009 effort to get Fox News host Glenn Beck, who called President Barack Obama a racist, kicked off the air, by applying pressure to advertisers. The group’s tactics—online boycotts, hashtags, and petitions—raised eyebrows in traditional civil rights spaces, but they filled an important void. “What they were able to do is step into a space where many entities in the social justice community and great society were still figuring it out,” said Derrick Johnson, national president of the NAACP.
When Fox News canceled Beck’s show two years later, Color of Change staffers gathered in the organization’s office to watch the final broadcast. By then, Rucker had realized two things: that his group’s digital activism could deliver results and that it would need new leadership to channel that energy toward even bigger fights—someone with a master’s understanding of power and influence.
Rucker reached out to Robinson, who at the time was second in command at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). In his six years there, Robinson had gained a reputation as a smart strategist, capable of targeting media companies to bend public opinion. But, by 2011, Robinson was ready for a new challenge.
“It was a big deal for a lot of Black folks that had worked inside the movement that I got to drive things,” he recalls of his time at GLAAD, “but I also saw the limitations of my representation.” So in 2011, he took a risk—and a pay cut—to become executive director of Color of Change, which then employed only five people full time. (Today, there are 153 employees.) “I went from having a lot of resources at my disposal to wondering would I have money three months from now to pay folks,” Robinson recalls.
From Presence to Power: How Color of Change has already shaped business and society
He quickly began exploring new directions for the organization. Color of Change continued its media campaigns, applying public pressure to turn TV advertisers against the likes of Bill O’Reilly, but also took the lead on a number of social justice issues, raising awareness of police and vigilante killings and advocating for the prosecution of police misconduct. Following the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin, in Sanford, Florida, Color of Change was among the first groups to illuminate the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative public policy organization, in the spread of so-called Stand Your Ground laws. After online petitions and a deluge of emails and phone calls from Color of Change members, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Kraft Foods announced that they would withdraw their memberships to ALEC. Three months after Martin’s death, with Color of Change members gathered outside Amazon’s annual shareholders meeting in Seattle, attempting to deliver a petition full of signatures, the e-commerce giant became the 16th company to end its ALEC membership.
“Companies invest a lot of effort and resources in managing the way people perceive and feel about their brand. So when you have a group of activists come out and start pointing out the hypocrisy in saying one thing and doing the other, that puts them in the danger zone,” says Nandini Jammi, cofounder of the online activist group Sleeping Giants, which also helped pioneer advertiser boycotts in the digital era. Robinson says that those early fights were not necessarily the organization’s most successful or influential, but they set the stage. “They allowed us to prove to members and those that joined us that investment in working with Color of Change was going to have benefit,” he says. “And it proved to the targets that they couldn’t ignore us.”
Robinson knew how to turn attention into power. He had grown up on eastern Long Island, New York, in a Black family that had landed there after the Great Migration. “When you’re Black [and living] in a community for multiple generations, you have a relationship to not just the Black community but the white people in the community,” Robinson recalls. “You have an idea about power and how you’re seen.” During high school, he produced and hosted a political talk show, Riverhead Teen Talk, on the local public access television channel, where he occasionally debated local callers. While studying political science at Marymount University, in Virginia, he worked as an organizer. A few years later, he appeared as a campaign manager on a short-lived Showtime reality show called American Candidate, in which 10 contestants mounted mock presidential bids.
One of Robinson’s earliest lessons was that “Black faces in high places” politics had its limits. Like most Black Americans of his generation, he’d grown up in a household with Ebony and Jetmagazines on the coffee table. A new wave of Black bankers, businessmen, and police chiefs was celebrated as the key to fundamentally changing a nation that, since its inception, has worked against its Black residents. But as more Black faces ascended—even to the White House—inequity and disparity persisted.
This same realization later powered the Black Lives Matter movement. A new generation of young people became disenchanted as, even during the administration of the nation’s first Black president, it seemed little about the structures and systems under which they lived were changing. Robinson and Hatch, who joined Color of Change in 2012 and is now the group’s second in command, have steered the organization toward addressing these root problems even as they tackle of-the-moment issues that are making headlines.
Color of Change leverages its membership to move from “presence to power,” Robinson says, by forcing decision makers to confront the real people impacted by the choices they make. He says he also hopes to disrupt the “magical thinking” that is too common in activist spaces. “We’re trying to help people recognize that we can’t have charitable solutions to structural problems. You don’t solve the Flint water crisis just by sending water bottles. You don’t solve the crisis of inner-city education and education at Black and brown schools by doing mentorship and service days. Those are ways to help, but those are not ways to undo the inequality,” he explains.
“People have a lot of Schoolhouse Rock theories about how change happens,” Robinson continues. “We’ve done a lot in our movement to talk about systems that hurt Black people. How do we actually change [them]? Otherwise we will get a lot more programs that work to fix Black people, and Black families, as opposed to working to fix the structures that hurt us.”
Perhaps no campaign has taken on more urgency for Color of Change, or been higher profile, than its battle with Facebook. For years, the organization has been among the groups pressuring the social media juggernaut to audit its internal diversity and inclusion efforts and publicly pressing the platform to more aggressively curb users and groups that post hate speech and calls to violence.
Despite periodically agreeing to a call or a meeting with civil rights organizations, Facebook had done frustratingly little in response to their demands, Robinson says. Moments after an hourlong video call with Zuckerberg and other Facebook officials in June, Robinson told The Washington Post: “What was clear coming out of that meeting is Mark has no real understanding of the history or current impact of voter suppression, racism, or discrimination. He lives in a bubble.”
By early summer of 2020, the civil rights community was incensed that Facebook had allowed President Trump to declare “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” in response to the George Floyd protests, and infuriated that far-right groups continued to abuse the platform. “It became clear that no amount of bad press affected Facebook,” says Jessica González, co-CEO of Free Press, a media advocacy group that works closely with Color of Change in the tech sector. “It became clear that going after advertisers was going to be an important strategy.”
Color of Change began organizing an advertiser boycott. Leaning on its membership ranks, it petitioned major companies to refuse to spend money with Facebook until the platform made a serious commitment to addressing the spread of hate speech. A coalition of groups took out a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times to announce the “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign, and placed a flurry of phone calls urging corporations to pause any ad buys on Facebook and other social media companies. At the time of Floyd’s death, many advertisers were already reconsidering their financial commitments due to the pandemic. Now, corporate America was scrambling for ways to show its support for racial justice. Once the first few companies signed on, others lined up. Soon, hundreds of companies had pulled or paused their advertising on Facebook and other platforms.
In July, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg met with the campaign’s leaders, who demanded she take more seriously the threat created by allowing racism to fester on the platform. The meeting, Robinson said publicly, was a “disappointment.” His sharp comments were yet another part of the strategy, aimed at showing the company that small concessions wouldn’t be a means of blunting criticism in the future. Facebook ultimately committed to installing a more permanent civil rights infrastructure within the company. More recently, it’s taken steps to combat the spread of hate speech and ban the conspiracy group QAnon from the platform.
“While [the campaign] hasn’t led to as many changes as I would like, my little civil rights organization is taking on the biggest communications platform the world has ever known,” Robinson says. “And has forced a scenario in which Mark and Sheryl have to deal with our attacks, which are rooted in their failures, and also have to still work with us.”
Officials at Facebook say they now consider Color of Change a partner, albeit an at times adversarial one. “They have been an important part of some of the changes that we’ve been making, and I think that they are really masterful at what they do,” says Ruchika Budhraja, a Facebook spokesperson who has been involved in the negotiations with Color of Change.
Ashley Boyd, vice president of advocacy and engagement at Mozilla, who works with Color of Change on diversity issues, says the technology space is particularly ripe for this kind of pressure. The sector’s “move fast and break things” mindset is often blamed for reinforcing unethical decision-making, but Boyd notes that it also makes many of these companies uniquely prepared to undergo significant changes quickly. Color of Change’s effectiveness, she says, stems from the way it uses storytelling to force companies to see the consequences of their actions for communities they are otherwise inclined to overlook. The organization has had particular success with Airbnb, which recently announced a new effort to track racism on its platform, and Pinterest, which banned images of plantation weddings in 2019.
At the same time, Color of Change has redoubled its efforts in Hollywood. Building on the model Robinson learned at GLAAD, which fought for more complex portrayals of gay and lesbian people on television, Hatch has set out to alter the way Black Americans are shown on the big and small screens. The group has waged an all-out assault on any programming riddled with stereotypes. In addition to the Cops campaign, it stopped Oxygen from airing a reality series about the rapper Shawty Lo, titled All My Babies’ Mamas, which intended to make comedy of the fact that he’d fathered 11 children by 10 different women, and it petitioned Bravo to turn its cameras off during fights that broke out during its Real Housewives series.
The organization also now offers consulting services to Hollywood writers rooms and works directly with production companies to make sure they’re factoring in inclusion and representation from the very beginning of the process. Color of Change has released a groundbreaking report on the lack of diversity among writers and showrunners, and the first-of-its-kind “Normalizing Injustice” study, published in early 2020, on how crime entertainment distorts our understanding of the criminal justice system. Robinson and his team have worked with creatives like director Ava DuVernay and producer Dream Hampton to promote award-winning projects such as the Central Park Five miniseries When They See Us and Surviving R. Kelly.
Hatch, who launched Color of Change’s political action committee in 2018, also used DuVernay’s When They See Us to encourage Black voters to push for reform-minded district attorneys. The organization helped to elect more than a dozen in the 2018 midterms, and released a full slate of endorsements ahead of the 2020 election, signaling a new front for Color of Change.
While Robinson concedes that his organization has made progress, this work is part of a long game. None of us knows what will bring the next moment of reckoning. But when it comes, Color of Change, and its millions of members, will be ready.
Wesley Lowery is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of They Can’t Kill Us All: The Story of the Struggle for Black Lives.
انّا للہ و انّا الیہ راجعون Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un) Surely we belong to Allah and to Him shall we return…
I am sad to inform you that former Temptation lead singer Ali Ollie Woodson has died after a battle with cancer. He was 58 with a wife and two children. A friend, client and arguably the BEST SOUL R & B VOICE EVER, not only of the Temptations, but EVER!!
The best a cappella performance I have ever witnessed was the improv rifting he did at an appearance on the Arsenio Hall Show with Evander Holyfield and Hammer where Ali saaaaang during the entire commercial break that was soo incredible that Arsenio could not stop him when the show returned from break Arsenio let him continue into the show after the commercial break because the crowd was going totally bananas!! Arsenio let him continue to saaaang after the show resumed and we ALL just sat and listened mesmerised in complete amazement, wonder and joy, now Keep in mind that show had Evander Holyfield and Hammer as guest as Evander was preparing for a title fight!!!!! At the Stag Festival in Romania, he did a featured segment with the Temptations that is still being raved about where he continued to sing solo for 20 minutes while the others went to the dressing room and changed! You can listen to his music at http://www.aliolliewoodson.com/
He is, quite simply, the Voice. The name Ali Ollie Woodson may not be familiar to large numbers of readers, but to those in the Soul music business he is known as one of the greatest modern singers. In a career that spans 25 years, he has worked as lead singer for the Drifters and (the post-Teddy Pendergrass) Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. He has also served as guest vocalist on dozens of recordings of artists from Freda Payne to Paul Jackson, and as a backing vocalist for Whitney Houston, Rachelle Ferelle and Aretha Franklin. However, his true coming out was as the lead singer of the Temptations from 1984-1996.
Temptations fans consider the late 70s as perhaps the group’s darkest days, culminating with the departure of lead singer Dennis Edwards and the group’s ill-fated move to Atlantic Records. The group’s return to Motown in 1980 brought some commercial life (and Edwards) back to the group, but the continuing revolving door of group members and producers resulted in a series of mediocre albums. Then, when Edwards again quit the Tempts in 1984, the group called upon Woodson to take over lead vocals and former Earth Wind & Fire guitarist Al McKay to produce Truly for You. The result was the greatest Temptations album of the past 25 years, and a permanent place for Woodson alongside Edwards and David Ruffin in Temptations history. His gritty, expressive voice was the perfect contrast to the classically smooth Temptations’ harmonies, and his ability to delicately handle ballads gave the group a versatility it generally didn’t have during the Edwards years. Click here to watch a live performance in Japan with the Temptations of “Just My Imagination” and “My Girl” with just the accompanment of a piano! He also brought along songwriting skills, co-penning “Treat Her Like A Lady,” (click to watch video) the smash hit from that album. Watch the video of his performance of “Some Enchanted Evening” with the Temptations here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REW1qKnxjVY
Ali Ollie Woodson Testimony on TBN:
His work on the next year’s To Be Continued… was equally impressive, particularly the powerful ballad “Someone,” “Lady Soul” (click to watch video) perhaps Woodson’s finest recorded moment and “Special” (click to watch video), “Touch Me” (click to watch video) Oddly, Edwards rejoined the group, replacing Woodson in 1987 for Together Again, but was gone again within a year. Woodson then reassumed the lead vocals spot through a handful of lesser albums, as the group struggled to find a contemporary sound. Finally in 1995 the Temptations released For Lovers Only, a disc of covers of classic pop songs that brought renewed interest in the group.
By 1996, Woodson left the Temptations for good, and fans anticipated that a solo album would soon be on the horizon. Instead, he worked on a number of different projects, performing in a series of stage plays, providing backing vocals on several soul and jazz albums, touring with other former Temptations Damon Harris and Richard Street , and briefly forming a group with two former Supremes. Ultimately, he created the Emperors of Soul, a touring group covering Tempations’ and other Motown hits which has received positive reviews around the US .
It would be five years before Ralph Tee of Expansion Records would get Woodson back into the studio to record
Right Here All Along
Right Here All Along, Woodson’s long overdue first solo album. It was a solid disc, and received kudos in most Soul music publications, which especially raved over his version of the ballad “Turn Out the Stars” (also covered at around the same time by the Manhattans). It is available in the US through CD Baby.
In 2002 Woodson was offered the lead vocalist position in the Spinners when poor health forced John Edwards to leave the group, but he instead recommended friend Frank Washington, who is now successfully fronting that group. Woodson has continued to tour with Emperors of Soul, and was most recently seen on national TV as Aretha Franklin’s dynamic duet partner on the Spring 2003 PBS concert special, “Rhythm, Soul & Love.” He also appeared on Juewett Bostick’s 2003 album It’s Not So Easy, singing “You Need Love.” Woodson later joined Dennis Edwards’ group, the Temptations Revue, ironically singing alongside the former Tempts member he replaced during his second stint with the mothership.
Never Give Up
Reports have come in in early 2009 that Woodson was ill. But by Spring of that year he had released his second album, Never Give Up, on his own Ollywood Records.
Ollie Woodson Farewell:
June 1, 2010, Oakland, CA:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: TV * RADIO * PRESS * INTERNET * You can click on any highlighted word to view or download that itemSign this petition Now to stand against Corruption; Governmental, Legal and Police Misconduct; White Collar Crime; Unfair Employment and Business Practices; Consumer Fraud; Islamophobia and Xenophobia and show YOUR SUPPORT for Government Transparency; Accountability; Civic Reform; Enforcing Ethical Standards; Civil Rights and Religious Freedom!
Martin Silverman (510) 394-4701
firstname.lastname@example.org;On May 5, 2010 Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim filed an Ethics and “Whistle-Blower” complaint with Congresswoman Barbara Lee, State Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, Alameda County Supervisor Kieth Carson, Oakland California Mayor Ron Dellums, Oakland City Administrator Dan Lindheim, Oakland City Auditor Courtney Ruby, Oakland City Councilpersons Desley Brooks and Larry Reid’s offices against Oakland City Attorney John Russo, Mark Morodomi, Randy Hall, Janie Wong, Anita Hong, Sophia Li, Demetruis Shelton- current President of the National Bar Association, Elizabeth Allen, Erica Harrold, Michele Abney, Eliada Perez; former Oakland and current San Leandro City Attorney Jayne Williams; former Oakland City employee Pat Smith; Stephan Barber and others of the law firm Ropers, Majeski; Ronald J. Cook, Randy Willoughby, Alex Stuart, Annette Bening’s brother Bradley Bening and others of the law firm Willoughby, Stuart & Bening; for constructing fraudulent fabricated evidence in 1999 and planting that evidence favorable to the defendants in the case files SIX years AFTER the case was closed; engaged in spoliation of remaining evidence in the court files from 1991; and fostered witness testimony based on this planted evidence in the al-Hakim v CSAA and the underlying Rescue Rooter case that was created thru EXTRINSIC FRAUD with accompanying testimony procured thru admitted suborned and solicited perjurious acts by John Russo and others, they engaged in actions to destroy the litigation of al-Hakim’s legal case; they engaged in actions to coverup their unlawful acts.
We have over 30,000 signatures and implore you to click on any one of the links and sign the Petition To The Honorables President Barack Obama and United States Attorney General Eric Holder to raise it’s investigation of corruption involving Attorney General Jerry Brown, Oakland City Attorney John Russo, former Oakland and current San Leandro City Attorney Jayne Williams, former District Attorney Tom Orloff, and current District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley.
The Aaron & Margaret Wallace Foundation provides FREE food; clothing; computers; private school and college admissions educational opportunities; assists with referrals for job training and placement; rental assistance; social services assistance; homelessness assistance; mental and physical health assistance; medical assistance and legal aid assistance referrals for ANYONE whom has the need at the Aaron & Margaret Wallace Foundation website.
Anyone can register at http://AMWFTRUST.ORG by submitting an online request form in a strictly confidential submission and they can also feel free to call the number (510) 394-4101 as well.
Thanks again for the opportunity to serve you and let’s ALL do more and better for those less fortunate.
Free Tickets to John Handy’s Thursday Show at Yoshi’s Oakland!
Winners to be provided a pair of tickets and chosen from those that submit a “Petition to President Obama”
John Handy & His Music
June 3, 2010
510 Embarcadero West
Oakland, CA 94607
Showtime: 8pm & 10pm
John Handy is an alto saxophonist who plays the tenor, saxello, baritone, clarinet, oboe and vocals. He is actually a consummate world musician and teacher who devoted his life to using music to elevate the human spirit. His soulful and fiery saxophone style is instantly recognizable to generations of jazz fans world-wide.
As a performer and composer he continues to sweep audiences into ecstasy with his vast range of creative, emotional, and technical inventiveness. With a superb knowledge and practical experience with music of several cultures, he fuses, with each selection, a musical genre that is coherent, provocative, logical, and enjoyable.
Known most readily as a saxophonist in jazz quartet and quintet settings, John Handy is also featured in solo, duets, and large ensembles ranging in size from big bands to concert bands, symphony orchestras, vocal groups, and choirs.
As a singer, he brings a kind of storytelling narrative to the blues that is entertaining, educational, and moving; while his “up tempo” scat vocals could be compared to the best scat singers anywhere. He sings ballads with inventiveness that is rare among singers.
John Handy has performed in the world’s great concert halls including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Berlin Philharmonic Auditorium, San Francisco Opera House, Davies Hall; the major performance venues including Tanglewood, Saratoga (NY), and Wolf Trap; and the pre-eminent jazz festivals including the Monterey Jazz Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, Playboy Jazz Festival, Chicago Jazz Festival, Pacific Coast Jazz Festival; and international jazz festivals at Montreaux (Switzerland), Antibe (France), Berlin, (Germany) Cannes, (France) Yubari and Miyasaki (Japan) among others.
His album and CD covers read like a who’s who of record labels – Columbia, ABC Impulse, Warner Brothers, Milestone, Roulette, Boulevard, Quartet (Harbor), MPS Records and many others. His most recent recordings are “John Handy Live at Yoshi’s” and “John Handy’s Musical Dreamland” (available only on Boulevard Records, Stuttgart, Germany) “Centerpiece,” and “Excursion in Blue.” Some of his earlier works have been reissued on CD – “John Handy: Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival,” “The Second John Handy Album,” “New View,” and “Projections.” He recorded with Sonny Stitt, and recorded nine albums with Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop.
John Handy has taught at San Francisco State University, Stanford University, UC Berkeley, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, among others. He is a popular performer on university and college campuses where he also gives inspired lecture-demonstrations on the technical, academic, spiritual, and creative aspects of music, winning new converts to jazz.
John Handy has written a number of highly acclaimed, original compositions. “Spanish Lady” and “If Only We Knew” both earned Grammy nominations for performance and composition. The popular jazz/blues/funk vocal crossover hit, “Hard Work,” brought him fame in another realm; while “Blues for Louis Jordan” displayed his talents in rhythm and blues. His more extensive works include “Concerto for Jazz Soloist and Orchestra” which was premiered by the San Francisco Symphony; and “Scheme Number One” which was lauded as a fine example of fixed and improvised music by the great composer, Igor Stravinsky.
Although he is well known in the continental United States, John Handy has taken his music to Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, France, England, Sweden, Luxemburg, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, North and South India, Yugoslavia, Japan, Alaska, Canada, among other countries – all with great acclaim!
For the past 23 years, John has led John Handy WITH CLASS, featuring John Handy with three female violinists/vocalists in an unforgettable sound that captures the full range of jazz, blues, r&b, popular, and modal music. This innovative group creates a new musical expression which John refers to (tongue-in-cheek) as “Clazzical Jazz.” He continues to lead and perform in groups with a combination of instruments and vocals.
BET “Lens on Talent”
BET is looking for the best and brightest filmmakers for the new season of Lens on Talent: A Johnson & Johnson Filmmaker’s Challenge.
Lens on Talent is a half hour short film showcase hosted by noted film, television actor Blair Underwood featuring the best short films from emerging African American talent.
Lens on Talent takes its search for new filmmakers to the next level. Only the best of the best will be showcased in Lens on Talent with the grand prize winner having the opportunity to produce a Short Film to be aired on BET.