The HNIC Report

Month: April, 2007

The White Lady Just Doesn’t Get It: A Response to Maureen Dowd’s “Critique’ of Michelle Obama

by Dax-Devlon Ross

Although she doesn’t seem to realize it (nor do I suspect she would admit as much if confronted with the fact), Maureen Dowd’s admiration for “cheeky women” who “puncture the ego of a cocky guy” comes with a caveat: the women have to be white. She can be a  Hollywood star from a bygone era, Katie Kouric or Cybil Shepherd; she can’t be Michelle Obama. But don’t dare tell Ms. Dowd this because she, like all too many liberal-minded Americans, would be appalled by the suggestion that race has anything to do with her distaste for Michelle Obama’s attitude toward her husband. For her, the discomfort she feels with Mrs. Obama’s “cheeky” remarks about her candidate husband has everything to do with Senator Obama’s candidacy. According to Dowd at least, Obama’s entire campaign rests on his “Camelot Mystique” rather than an actual record, therefore his wife is doing him a disservice by “mocking” him in public.

Interestingly enough, Dowd sees herself as coming to Senator Obama’s defense, when in reality she is only stoking the flames of the always tense black woman-black man-white woman triangle. She is, in effect, contributing to a pervasive stereotype within the black community (and perhaps outside of it as well)— namely that black women pull black men down and are to blame for pushing them into the arms of white women. Writes Dowd,

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Obama Would Send 100,000 Troops…Why Am I Not Surprised.

by Dax-Devlon Ross

So Obama plans to expand the military. I can’t say that I’m surprised, though I am disappointed. For the most part, I really like Obama. I feel like he’s got some phenomenal qualities, but his latest speech on foreign policy just doesn’t sit right with me. It put me into a hyper-critical mood and suddenly now I’m wondering if I can take anything he says at face value. If I wasn’t a skeptic before, I am now. Now I’m starting to think Obama’s ambition is potentially dangerous and that he can no longer get a free-pass because he’s a great speaker and he’s attractive and he makes people feel good about voting for a black man. I think he has to be held accountable for the stuff he says.

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Booker’s Got His Work Cut Out for Him

by Dax-Devlon Ross

I came across this long profile of Cory Booker and Newark that I highly recommend for anyone who really is interested in a) how Newark became the armit of America and b) why Booker is lauded as a leading politician for the 21st Century. The article manages to connect Newark’s seedy past with its contentious present and offer an insightful analysis of where Booker is trying to take the city. At the same time, the article comes down unfairly hard on Newarkers while painting an rosy picture of Booker as a savior. Like a lot that’s been written about Booker for the last few years, it glosses over the criticisms people have with him and those who support him.

These are some highlights from the article:

By 1986, after 16 years under [former Mayor Kenneth] Gibson, the city’s unemployment rate had risen nearly 50 percent, its population had continued dropping, it had no movie theaters and only one supermarket left, and only two-thirds of its high school students were earning diplomas.

Even as a smattering of office towers, an elegant arts center, and a baseball stadium have risen near the waterfront, Newark remains grindingly poor. Nearly a quarter of its residents live below the poverty line—almost twice the national average. Newark’s unemployment rate is double the nation’s, while the median family income of $30,665 is just half the Jersey average. Social dysfunction is endemic, contributing heavily to the poverty number. The city has a nearly 70 percent out-of-wedlock birthrate, and, as social scientists note, over half of all American kids born without a legal father will arrive in the world poor.

Only 13 percent of Newarkers have college degrees, compared with 32 percent of the residents of Jersey City, which benefited from a strong dose of reform in the 1990s under former investment banker Bret Schundler.

Even as Booker zeroes in on crime, he’s had to deal with a raft of troubles left over from the previous administration, among them a surprise $44 million budget hole uncovered by state auditors. The audits have revealed a fiscal mess in Newark under James, with unpaid invoices going back years, questionable allocations, and estimates that the city is failing to collect some $80 million a year in taxes. Prosecutors in Newark are investigating last-minute spending by the James administration, including more than $80,000 charged to city credit cards for trips to Brazil, Martha’s Vineyard, and Puerto Rico. Booker had to plug the late-year budget gap with a property-tax increase that enraged homeowners.

Student performance has continued to plummet. “High school achievement rates have virtually flipped, from almost 70 percent of graduating Newark kids passing the state’s high school proficiency exam when the state took over, to only about 30 percent passing it now,” says Richard Cammarieri, a member of the Newark schools advisory board.

The man definitely has his work cut out for him

Patrick-Obama Part I

by Dax-Devlon Ross

The Kindred Rise of Obama, Patrick

 BOSTON — Early in Deval Patrick’s run for governor, when few Massachusetts voters had heard of the maverick candidate with the odd first name, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama stopped by Cambridge for a class reunion at Harvard Law School.

Obama extolled the virtues of Patrick, a fellow Harvard Law School alum who, like Obama, faced better known and better financed opponents.

“He recognized that there was something very special about Deval and there were similarities in their experience,” said Cassandra Butts, an Obama classmate who attended the reunion. “He wanted to give Deval the chances that he didn’t have early on in his Senate race.”

As Obama campaigns for president and Patrick works to shake off a rocky start as governor, observers are seeing in the two old friends the new face of black political leadership — figures as comfortable in the boardroom as on the picket line who can appeal to large swathes of white voters.

To read the rest click here

Patrick-Obama Part II

by Dax-Devlon Ross

Patrick, Obama campaigns share language of ‘hope’

From The Boston Globe

Of all the things Deval Patrick’s Republican opponent threw at him in last year’s governor’s race, one charge that stuck in his craw was that his speeches were more fluff than substance — that they were, in Patrick’s telling, “just words.” So he devised an artful response.

” ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal’ — just words,” Patrick said at a rally in Roxbury right before Election Day. ” ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself’ — just words. . . . ‘I have a dream’ — just words. They’re all just words.”

The crowd erupted as it got Patrick’s point about the power of language. But perhaps no one at the rally understood the point better than Barack Obama, who had joined him on stage that night.

Not five months later, Obama, his presidential campaign gaining steam, had this to say about legendary Chicago organizer Saul Alinsky in The New Republic: “Sometimes the tendency in community organizing of the sort done by Alinsky was to downplay the power of words and of ideas when in fact ideas and words are pretty powerful. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, all men are created equal.’ Those are just words. ‘I have a dream.’ Just words.”

In the midst of his improbable run for office, Obama and his advisers have evidently studied Patrick’s up-from-nowhere victory in Massachusetts and are borrowing themes, messages, and even specific lines for the presidential campaign.

To read the rest click here

Does Mayor Fenty Want to Have his Cake and Eat it Too?

by Dax-Devlon Ross

Last week was a busy one for D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty. In the span of five days he marched on Capitol Hill with 3,500 residents, won control over the city’s beleaguered school system, completed his first 100 days in office and saw the House of Representatives pass a voting rights bill for the District of Columbia. Amid the flurry of activity there was praise – he made 162 appearances in 100 days, including numerous to under-served communities and community board meetings – and criticism – the active schedule has led some to wonder whether he’ll be able to “focus on the harder parts: spelling out the details for improving the 34,000-employee bureaucracy, improving the schools, reducing crime and narrowing the economic divide.”

While most, including me, consider his first 100 days a success, I nevertheless found myself fixating on an episode that took place during last Monday’s rally at Capitol Hill. It seems as though a group of teachers and parents decided to conduct their own protest. Carrying a banner that read that read: “Democracy Starts at Home: Referendum on the Schools Takeover,” this small cadre attempted to bring their gripe with the Mayor’s school takeover plan to the table but were summarily shoved aside by voting rights activists.

Although The Washington Post story covering the protest only briefly mentioned the referendum protestors, however I couldn’t stop thinking about them for the remainder of the week. Did they have a point? Is there something contradictory in the Mayor’s position regarding D.C. voting rights vis-a-vis his school takeover plan? If so, what does that mean? What does it matter?

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Notes on Obama: Virginia Tech, Violence and the Road Ahead

by Dax-Devlon Ross

Immediately following the Viriginia Tech massacre earlier this week Barack Obama delivered a heartfelt address to a Milwaukee audience.  (to hear the mp3 click here)

Rather than stick to his scripted speech, Senator Obama lowered the tone of the gathering and spoke directly to what he believes is at the heart of the problem within this nation, what he calls “our incapacity to recognize ourselves in each other.” It is the blatant disregard with which we handle one another that brings about the kind of violence witnessed by the Virginia Tech community experienced as well as the kind of violence Don Imus wrought with his glib remarks.

Listening to the speech this morning it occurred to me that impromptu nature of the speech really allowed for a unique look into Obama that people long for. By the time the speech was finished I had taken post-its worth of notes I wanted to share with a wider audience:

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Deconstructing the Santa-Clausification of Jackie Robinson

by Dax-Devlon Ross

Yesterday Major League Baseball did the right thing, a wonderful thing, in honoring Jackie Robinson. The 60th anniversary celebration of baseball’s desegregation couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time either. Race and sports are yet again at the forefront of public dialogue. With the suspension of Pacman Jones, and the never-ending soap opera surrounding Barry Bonds, the pro athlete is in need of some good P.R. Major League Baseball players and managers stepped up big.

But once the clock officially struck 12, I was left wondering why Jackie Robinson had never felt real to me as a kid; why his name never evoked the stirrings of supreme adulation in my soul like Ali’s and Malcolm X’s. Growing up, Jackie’s was a name I knew because I had to know it. He stood beside Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. in the pantheon of inviolable, unassailable black deities from the days before technicolor, immortals I dared not question or criticize. Cornel West calls it the “Santa-Clausification” of our heros. It’s when we strip them of their personhood for the sake of symbolism. He originally used the term to describe the public’s perception of Dr. King: the gulf between the Dr. King we learn about in schools and the Dr. King of actually flesh and blood— a mortal man with doubts, a man with an appetite for the fairer sex that drove him outside of his marriage. According to West, it’s only when we begin to deal with our heros as people who walked the earth that we can learn from them and appreciate them and even strive to exceed them. On the flip side, as long as they remain untouchable we remain untouched.

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Why Reverend Al Remains Relevant

by Dax-Devlon Ross

As universally reviled as Al Sharpton supposedly is, we can’t seem to get enough of him. In the last two months ‘Reverend Al’ has been in the news non-stop. Two months ago a pair of scientists discovered a link between his slave ancestors and Strom Thurmond’s slave-holding forebears. A month ago he was accused of waging a political turf-war with Barack Obama. Three weeks ago he stood astride Sean Bell’s family at press conferences following the indictment of the three officers accused of murder. Two weeks ago he and Russell Simmons called for yet another end to the violence in the hip-hop community. Last week he became synonymous with the Imus affair after the he grilled the shock jock/serious journalist on his satellite radio program. This past Friday Bill Maher had the Reverend on his popular weekly news program to discuss the scandal. Even the HNIC Report became a hot source for Sharpton news. For more than a week nearly 100 unique visitors per day read a three-week old piece on Sharpton and Obama that had gone unnoticed initially.

The flood of attention on Reverend Sharpton got me thinking: How has this man managed to remain in the public eye for so long?

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Rutgers and Racism: A Familiar Refrain

by Dax-Devlon Ross

This isn’t the first time Rutgers basketball has found itself at the center of a racially charged controversy. Just four months prior to C. Vivian Stringer’s arrival on the Piscataway campus in the summer of 1995, the school’s African American student body was doing its best to rekindle the fire of the sixties generation. For weeks the campus became a hot-bed for political activity. Protests. Teach-ins. Fire alarms. Bogus bomb threats. A highway was taken over.

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