Are African Americans Part of Pat Buchanan’s America?

Earlier this week, we asked conservative commentator Pat Buchanan how he proposes eliminating D.C.’s economic racial disparities. Buchanan, who firmly believes diversity hurts America, suggested stopping immigration to combat high national black unemployment, and general national unemployment. “We’ve got to start putting our own people first,” he said.

The Root’s Nsenga Burton takes issue with Buchanan’s rhetoric:

“Our own people?” Since when did blacks become “our own people” to folks like Buchanan? Invoking the Willie Lynch strategy of dividing and conquering those who would benefit from coming together (African-Americans and immigrants) as opposed to functioning separately is foul. Buchanan and his cronies who try to pretend that they give a damn about black folks, need to stop the shenanigans. This is not a plantation lullaby — this is real-life. Pretending that immigrants are having a greater impact on black unemployment as opposed to the perpetuation of racist ideology that works in tandem with dominant power structures invested in the continued oppression of marginalized groups, is disingenuous… Pat Buchanan needs to go back to the drawing board because pretending that he thinks of black people as part of his version of America is downright insulting.

Buchanan, known for controversial remarks, has once again come under heat; black political advocacy group Color Of Change is petitioning MSNBC to fire Buchanan as an analyst for what they deem as his “white supremacist ideology.” He has said that blacks and whites in his hometown D.C. were more united under segregation than they are now. “America has been the best country on earth for black folks,” Buchanan wrote in 2008. “It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.”

Life for Interracial Couples in D.C.

Matt Radick / Flickr

Last week, we wrote about the rise of interracial marriage and asked how tolerant D.C. is of mixed-race couples. Many of you responded that you sometimes receive stares or negative comments, while others wrote their experiences have been mostly positive.

Admittedly, these stories can’t fully capture every experience, but they do provide some insights into what life is like for interracial couples in D.C. If you’d like to share your story, contribute by posting a comment below.

Luis writes that “the more interracial couples feel comfortable out in the world, the better chances we have of building a world defined by our common humanity rather than our race:”

When I mentioned this article to my wife, she asked if I was going to comment on it. “Wait, we’re interracial, right?” she had to double-check. We often forget. When it comes to our relationship I don’t really see race. We haven’t been in DC that long, but most places we’ve been, we are pretty comfortable in public…

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DCentric Picks: ‘Trouble in Mind’ and Food Day

Richard Anderson / Courtesy of Arena Stage

Brandon J. Dirden as John Nevins, Thomas Jefferson Byrd as Sheldon Forrester, E. Faye Butler as Wiletta Mayer and Marty Lodge as Al Manners in "Trouble in Mind."

What: Trouble in Mind,” a play about a 1955 racially integrated theater company that wants to present a race play.

Where: Arena Stage, 1101 6th St. SW.

When: The play runs through Sunday.

Cost: Prices vary depending on seats and showtimes. You can find ticket prices here.

Why you should go: The play-within-a-play, set more than 50 years ago, still has relevance today. The black characters are seen confronting racial stereotypes as they work to make it to Broadway. A black and white cast is shown producing a play about a young, southern black man who becomes the target of a lynch mob.

Other events to consider: Monday is Food Day, which seeks to promote healthy, affordable and sustainable food. D.C. is home to a number of events, including the Food Day Extravaganza on Woodrow Wilson Plaza. There will be chef demonstrations, entertainment, educational activities and, yes, free food. The event starts at 11 a.m.

‘30 Americans:’ Creating a Show of Heralded Contemporary Black Art

Courtesy of Rubell Family Collection, Miami.

Kehinde Wiley, Sleep, 2008. Oil on canvas, 132 x 300 inches.

The ongoing “30 Americans” exhibit that recently opened at the Corcoran Gallery of Art showcases work by some of most important African American artists of the past 30 years.

The 76 pieces of art are owned by Donald and Mera Rubell, who hold one of the world’s largest, private art collections. Mera Rubell tells WAMU’s Metro Connection that they noticed a trend in their collection about five years ago:

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When to Capitalize ‘Black’ and ‘White’

Leo Reynolds / Flickr

Author Touré will be discussing his new book “Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?” at Busboys and Poets at 14th and V streets, NW tonight. The book is an interesting read delving into what it means to be black in America today, but even before you get to the meat of it, Touré includes this author’s note:

I have chosen to capitalize the word “Black” and lowercase “white” throughout this book. I believe “Black” constitutes a group, an ethnicity equivalent to African-American, Negro, or, in terms of a sense of ethnic cohesion, Irish, Polish, or Chinese. I don’t believe that whiteness merits the same treatment. Most American whites think of themselves as Italian-American or Jewish or otherwise relating to other past connections that Blacks cannot make because of the familial and national disruptions of slavery. So to me, because Black speaks to an unknown familial/national past it deserves capitalization.

Capitalizing “black” goes against the typical standard used by media outlets and outlined by the AP Stylebook (which DCentric abides by). But some believe both “black ” and “white” should be capitalized to defer respect and equity — Hispanic and Native American are capitalized, after all.

Such grammatical standards aren’t set in stone; it wasn’t that long ago that “Negro” was the preferred term. Sometimes popular word usage slowly evolves, and other times, specific movements seek to influence word usage. For instance, the “Drop the I-Word” campaign is pushing media outlets to stop using the term “illegal aliens.” (The Society of Professional Journalists recently joined their call).

What’s your take: do you believe “black” should be capitalized? What about “white?” Does it even matter?


Troy Davis: What Role Does Race Play?

Alberto Pizzoli / AFP/Getty Images

Amnesty International activists hold banners in support of Troy Davis.

Troy Davis is set to be executed at 7 p.m., barring a last minute stay — which seems unlikely at this point. This, despite witnesses recanting testimony, lack of physical evidence and worldwide protests.

Davis, a black man, was convicted in the 1989 killing of off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail, who was white. In this case, Davis’ jury was majority black. But since the sentencing, three of the original jurors have publicly stated they regret their votes.

Much of the protests surrounding Davis’ execution aren’t based largely on claims of racial bias, but rather that overwhelming reasonable doubt should be cause enough to stay the execution. But what role does race play in such death penalty sentences? David C. Baldus, a prominent researcher whose work was at the center of a Supreme Court ruling, studied 2,000 death penalty cases in Georgia in the late 1980s. He found that black defendants were four times more likely to be sentenced to death for killing a white person than for killing a black person. Likewise, prosecutors sought the death penalty 70 percent of the time in cases with black defendants and white victims, and only 20 percent of the time when the defendant was white and the victim was black.

Of course, accusations of killing a police officer bring an added layer of complexity in death penalty sentencing. Still, perhaps the question isn’t whether Davis would be on death row if he were white. Rather, would he be on death row if MacPhail had been black?


Kanazawa is Grounded for a Year by LSE

Flickr: indiekidsdontdance

The London School of Economics.

In May of this year, Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics penned a controversial blog post for Psychology Today asking, “Why are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?” Kanazawa was widely condemned for his views and Psychology today removed his post from their site, then fired him.

Meanwhile, students at the London School of Economics called for Kanazawa’s dismissal. According to Racialicious, which published an update to Kanazawa’s situation, the students didn’t get the outcome for which they were hoping:

The LSE has now published the findings of an internal investigation into the affair, ruling that Dr Kanazawa had “brought the school into disrepute” and barring him from publishing in non-peer-reviewed outlets for a year.

The inquiry, details of which were released to staff on 15 September, also concludes that he had “ignored the basic responsibility of a scientific communicator to qualify claims made in proportion to the certainty of the evidence”.

It found that “some of the arguments used…were flawed and not supported by evidence, that an error was made in publishing the blog post” and that Dr Kanazawa had not given “due consideration to his approach or audience”.

In addition to the 12-month ban, he will not teach any compulsory courses this academic year.

Racialicious’ Andrea Plaid characterized this reaction as a “slap on the wrist.” What do you think?

How Not to Claim Racial Bias

Courtesy of Armando Trull / WAMU

Cornell Jones is accused of using HIV/AIDS money to renovate Stadium, a D.C. strip club.

The nonprofit leader accused of using D.C. HIV/AIDS funding to renovate a strip club has claimed racial bias is the reason behind the probe. And then he went on to use an anti-gay slur against city leaders.

Cornell Jones, who is black and runs a nonprofit under investigation by the D.C. Attorney General, made the remarks during his WOL-AM 1450 Saturday radio talk show, The Washington Times reports. He said the investigation is the result of racial bias from white city leaders and then described two white and openly gay D.C. Councilmen — David Catania (At-Large) and Jim Graham (Ward 1) –  as “a couple of gay guys who sometimes get to acting like little faggots.” Councilman Catania urged the attorney general to launch the probe, and Councilman Graham has been vocal about his outrage over the findings, the Times reports.

Some have taken to Twitter to urge people to file complaints with the Federal Communications Commission over Jones’ use of the slur on air.

Jones, a self-described former drug kingpin, runs the nonprofit Miracle Hands. A lawsuit brought by the D.C. Attorney General alleges Jones’ nonprofit was given about $330,000 in public money intended to renovate a Northeast warehouse into a job training facility for District residents with HIV/AIDS. The suit claims Jones used the funds to build out Stadium, a strip club that shares an address with the Miracle Hands.


D.C. Home Ownership By Race

Alan Cleaver / Flickr

Whites make up the largest percentage of D.C.’s home owners, and they are followed closely by African Americans. That’s according to new U.S. Census Bureau data detailing the race of people who are on deeds and leases of the District’s 266,707 occupied housing units.

Despite the seeming parity between whites and blacks in home ownership, there are far more black than white people in the District — 70,702 more in 2010 — and a disproportionately low number of blacks own homes when compared to whites. Whites over-represent home owners.

As for renters, African Americans are on most of the leases in the District, followed by whites, Latinos and Asians. And all of this data excludes D.C.’s 17,316 multiracial residents, which constitute 2.9 percent of the city’s population.

Owner-occupied units
Renter-occupied units
Percentage of total population
Black: 48,887 77,012 50.7%
White: 51,838 55,144 38.5%
Latino: 5,676 12,342 9.1%
Asian: 3,311 6,246 3.5%
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Why is home ownership so important? It’s long been viewed as one of the keystones in building wealth and climbing out of poverty. And although the black middle class was particularly hit hard when the housing bubble burst because so much of their wealth was tied up in home equity, District home owners have fared better than elsewhere. D.C. is the only city where housing prices increased over the past year. The District’s home ownership rate has risen by 45 percent over the past decade, but it appears the rate isn’t increasing fast enough for everyone.

Weed Arrests and Racial Disparities

Torben Hansen / Flickr

Racial disparities in drug enforcement are well-documented. Today, Washington City Paper‘s Rend Smith digs into how this plays out in the District, where black residents are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites.

Smith writes about the common notion that white people tend to buy and smoke marijuana inside their homes, as opposed to African Americans who deal and smoke outside more frequently:

Court records for some of those arrested east of the river back that belief up. They describe vice officers spotting suspects engaging in open-air blazing or buying from street corner dealers. One subject “was walking down the street smoking a brown cigar” when cops spotted him. The recklessness involved would seem to disqualify disparate rates of marijuana arrests in the city as a civil rights issue: Black smokers are choosing to be flagrant about their pot use and so attracting the attention of cops who have no choice but to grab them.

But even if assumptions about smoking and dealing habits are solid, that doesn’t mean there’s no problem with the way marijuana laws are currently being enforced in black and white neighborhoods. Taking my own experience as an African American who grew up poor into account, I remember some family and friends who puffed outside—whether that involved a pack of Kools or a joint meticulously sculpted from Top rolling papers—out of respect for others in their household, particularly where there was more than one generation (and therefore more than one set of moral values) under one roof. Dealing inside the house would have been all the more inappropriate. Although that’s certainly not the situation for every black person who tokes up or does a hand-off in Ward 7 or Ward 8, the idea is that you can’t just assume they’re being belligerent, and therefore asking for repercussions.

The problem becomes even more pronounced in D.C., given the city’s high incarceration rate (fourth in the nation, when compared to states). Marijuana possession can land you six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.