4 Things YOU can do NOW to become a part of criminal justice reform in New Orleans

            Just about any average news consumer in New Orleans has concerns about our court system – its racism, its expense, its inefficiency. I’ll spare you the grim statistics. They are thrown at us constantly. But even my low-level fear and sense of unfairness were not enough to get me directly involved for a long time. What could I, an ordinary citizen, do to change things?

            Recently, I’ve discovered that there ARE things that I can do. I’ll share my short list in the hope that it will give you ideas for creating your own.

            FIRST, help dispel the myth that money bail increases public safety. It does the opposite. It also creates a conflict of interest for elected judges who are assessing fees to run their courts. It destroys lives. Even a few days in jail can cause a person to lose their job, family support, and reputation. It’s expensive. It costs $59,190 to incarcerate one person at the city jail for a year – more than tuition at Tulane University.

            A recently published study by the Vera Institute of Justice is called “Paid in Full: A Plan to End Money Injustice in New Orleans.” The plan would essentially eliminate both cash bail upon arrest and fees charged to defendants when they are convicted. For decades, those fines and fees, paid by mostly poor and black defendants, have provided significant support –25% – for the cost of running our criminal courts. Last year the New Orleans City Council voted to give the court system an extra $3.8 million in its 2019 budget. That would more than make up for the gap caused by lost bail fees.

            The report points out how cash bail makes us all less safe, not safer: “In New Orleans, 65 percent of people arrested for the most serious crimes or who are flagged as high risk for other reasons avoid jail by paying bail.” Meanwhile, it claims, many are incarcerated simply beause they can’t afford to bond out.

            SECOND: Go see the per(SISTER) exhibit of and by incarcerated women of Louisiana at the Newcomb Art Museum of Tulane before it ends on July 6. On Juneteenth (June 19) from 5-8 there will be live performances, food, and exchanges on race and freedom by formerly incarcerated women. There’s a quilt with the names of women serving life sentences sewn by Mardi Gras Indians. Artists team with incarcerated women to bring out their stories in their words.

            One of the stories is Tywanda Major’s. She was locked up because she owned the car her uncle used for a robbery. Case in point about fees: “I had to pay parole fees, probation fees, restitution fees, off of something I didn’t do. I had to pay $750 to sign up for the diversion program so that it don’t go on my record. I had to pay $1,900 in restitution. I have to pay $60 every three months for drug tests and $75 for the theft class and it was just different things that didn’t, you know, that I don’t think fit the crime. Especially for somebody who didn’t do it. They really didn’t want to hear anything. It was just all about money.”

            The exhibit provides a timeline from 1829 to the present which you can walk and learn about the laws that got prisons where they are today.

            When prisoners become real people with real stories for the public, it makes it easier to get involved.

            THIRD on my list is sign up for Court Watch NOLA (CWN). Court Watch promotes reform in the Orleans Parish Criminal Court system through civic engagement and courtroom observation. CWN trains any and all on how to observe and what questions to answer. In my class, the quickest learners were the formerly incarcerated.

            They recently put out a report also which is on their website. The report found that the drug test which Ms. Major took and paid for – even though her “crime” had nothing to do with drugs – is not even scientifically accurate. The Drug Testing Lab on the first floor of the Orleans Criminal District Courthouse does initial drug screens. Best practices require a secondary confirmatory test for accurate results. The report states: “Despite the problems with the lab analysis, at least 77 pre-trial defendants were held in contempt for purportedly positive drug tests in 2018, with 59 pre-trial defendants serving an average of 18 days in jail, including two pre-trial defendants who were held in contempt of court in 2018 for positive drug screens for marijuana alone and jailed an average of 19 days.”

            Other interesting findings of the CWN report are that marijuana has NOT been decriminalized in New Orleans despite tourism industry claims that it has. Another finding: fragile victims or witnesses are not offered a safe way to testify. Recommendations follow each complaint.

            My FOURTH suggestion is to attend a Justice and Beyond meeting. That’s where I found out about CWN, the money bail issue, and many other issues of interest to the progressive community. Justice and Beyond is a coalition of organizers who come together every Monday night at 4:45 at Cafe Istanbul in the Healing Center to share a meal, participate in a panel discussion, and settle on strategies for collaborative change. We’ll be taking a break in July, but come any other Monday because it’s easier to get involved when you have good information and you can join a work in progress.

            That’s my list. What’s yours?

Orissa Arend is a Court Watch NOLA volunteer, a member of Justice and Beyond, and author of Showdown in Desire, The Black Panthers Take a Stand in New Orleans.

2 thoughts on “Criminal Justice Reform in New Orleans”
  1. Last Call 5G!

    LBRC- Get this!!! #45 wants 5G Fast Tracked in The US!!! Have “you”‘asked why?

    Here are Clues-

    1. A Friend from Veronica Mars, Teddy Dunn went to China. China is 5G practically 100%, meaning?

    a. A convicted Chinese Criminal walked into “His” Bank. 

    b. 5G Facial Recognition picked up his face and in seconds sent it to a “Super Computer” and alerted The Bank, a convicted Felon was inside. Plus and simulutaneously alerted the Police! Also and within seconds, a “Reputation Score” which includes a running and real time “Log of Indidents” involving this individual is a “Button Push Push”! For Langnippe- Credit Scores and other “Related Scores” are included. All of this to include but not limited to this alone are spun within seconds of a Facial Recognition Software scan which is 24/7/365 in China on every major street!

    2. 5G Towers are nearly ubiquitous now in America, but let’s talk “The Dumb A#* NOLA Criminal?

    a. Right now, Dumb A#*^* are speeding up and down in “Stolen” ATV’s (Dumb and Irresponsible Parents have actually purchased “Few”). What does 5G Portend? Soon, not in decades but in years and maybe months- You’ll be identified via 5G and instantly, all the Dumb Crap you’ve done for years (Especially “Criminally”, will appear in seconds on NOPD Computers in nearby Patrol Cars, and as soon as your casual NOPD gets around to it, they’ll give you a visit at their leisure and arrest you “Again”! Why no hurry for NOPD? Ans. You always wanted 15 min. of infamy, now you have it via 5G! 

    b. Forget about actually appearing “Physically” in court. Your appearence will be from you current Prison Cell and when convicted “Formally”, you’ll be given credit for time served! btw- During you hearing, you’ll say- I’m innocent, ‘Dat wasn’t “me”, especially when your sentence involves “Decades” or theoretical “Centuries” in a Cage! Hope to go to Audubon Zoo, they feed tigers Steaks we’re told and guess what, you are always loud in utterly vulgar ways and always want to be seen? How about visits involving thousands a day? ‘Luv ‘Dat Millige? 

    c. During your Conviction Oroceeding? Then and Whalla! 5G has already delivered numerous “FacaBook, SnapChap, Instagram and yada…, hundreds of your “Ghetto Fabulous” photos and Moron Exploits! Not you? Yeah right you Dumb A*#!

    3. For decades, we attempted to warn and admonish you! Even Preacher Apostates warned you about a “Great Tribulation”. We’re supposed to feel sorry for Dumb A#*#^* now?

    a. Grandma said, “A Hard Head makes a soft Azz”! You made ‘Dat bed”! 2019 Criminals believe “All” honest  citizens, including Black ones are defenseless and vulnerable!

    b. Some of us have visited Venezuesla recently. Guess who was the 1st during shtf to get huge holes as chest wounds? You love to Buck Jump and entertain for free, right? No need for instruments, now you have more holes in you than a Clairnet! Lots of honest citizens are anticipating taking you out of your miserable and wretched condition! Remember “Algiers Point” during Katrina? Even some innocent got it! Many of you Dumb A*}^* are so ‘Po, Criminal Class and ‘ignant, you can’t afford a Free Clue! You Blaspheme and Mock The Most High, then say so what,  then and cause children to suffer! We Pray- Abba Father, “Reward them according to their wicked deeds and works”! All Men plus, All Women!!! Additionally- “Spare not wicked Apostate Preachers and Deceiving Filthy Lucre Politicos”! By Your Word!!! Peace Out… 

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It’s Time To Send John McDonogh Down The River

We are told that John McDonogh was a great man. He was a moral and kind slave owner to be lauded for being way ahead of his time. Unlike most massas, he didn’t beat the slaves he kept prisoner on his plantation. He was much too compassionate for that. He gave them another incentive to help make him rich instead. John McDonogh, the benevolent man he was, made a deal with his slaves. If they managed to buckle down and  work on his plantation for 15 years without dying, he’d actually set them free. And he would send them back to Africa – even if they weren’t from Africa. And best of all, they wouldn’t even have to pay for the boat ride. It would be at John McDonogh’s expense. Just the sort of parting gesture of appreciation for time well served from a benevolent slave owner. Imagine that.

John McDonogh High School New Orleans

 McDonogh’s name is on my high school diploma and generations of others.

Over time, John McDonogh came to own 4 plantations and an estimated 500 slaves. David McDonogh, no relation, was rumored to be one of his favorites. David worked and slaved his way to eventually earning a bachelor’s degree from Lafayette College in 1844. He went on to become the first African American Eyes, Ears, Nose, and Throat specialist in the country. Of course, he could not practice in New Orleans. Refusing to go back to Africa, he moved to New York. David died in New York. Many other African Americans moved from New Orleans to New York. Up north, they realized their potential and their talents were recognized. Today, John McDonogh has his name plastered on schools all across the city, set up via his will to enshrine himself as a charitable local legend. David McDonogh has a scholarship in his name – based in New York.

Justin McCorkle, Director of Community Relations for NOLA Public Schools, wants to finally give David McDonogh the local recognition he feels he deserves. He wants to name the building that houses McDonogh #35 after him. “What better way to bring him back to New Orleans?” McCorkle says.

NOLA Public Schools is in the process of finishing off the name changing initiative that began years ago. With street names also being changed, and statutes being taken down, this is part of a city-wide movement to break away from its confederate past.

I find myself confused though. “So wait, If this happens, when people ask me the famous question “where’d you go to school?”

 Should I say David McDonogh High?”

“No,” McCorkle says, “we’re changing the name of the building, not the school.” Count me as one of the people who didn’t know they were not one and the same.

McCorkle says some of #35’s alumni have been fighting the name change, so he felt the need to compromise. It was through trying to appease those alumni that he came up with David McDonogh. “It’s a win-win for everybody,” McCorkle says.

As he sees it, the McDonogh#35 legacy gets to live on while David McDonogh finally gets his due. I wonder what John McDonogh would think of the irony. Basically having his organization work on David McDonogh’s land. Somehow, that seems appropriate. I wonder if the contract can be done in 15 year increments.

McCorkle wants to do more than just remove names. He wants the replacements to have a connection to the city. “This has been a thoughtful and meaningful process as far as the culture of New Orleans,” he says. “This was not done out of emotion.”

Public Input

NOLA Public Schools is in the process of taking suggestions from the public. Then the next step will be approval by the board. If you have a name in mind be sure and submit one, like PBS Pinchback for example.

As far as John McDonogh, the last time I saw Mr. McDonogh his head was being dragged down Poydras street to the river. There amongst boisterous fanfare, the head was then thrown into the water. As it sank, bubbles pooled to the surface and ripples ensued. People clapped. People cheered. I think somebody blew a trumpet.  It was a festive affair. A hundred years ago it would’ve been indistinguishable from a lynching. Eventually, the head was retrieved. The lengths some will go to save his legacy runs deep. Let’s just hope #35’s alumni did not fund the retrieval.

UNDETERRED – Fight Continues

House Democrats passed President’s Biden’s American Rescue Act. ARA which, among other funding measures, called for raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

They passed the bill after Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough issued an advisory. She said that the $15 minimum wage increase shouldn’t be included in the American Rescue Act. MacDonough said it didn’t meet budget reconciliation rules.

Even before MacDonough’s ruling, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and the leading advocate for the raising the minimum wage to $15, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the $7.25 federal minimum wage was “a starvation wage.”

Senate Rules Against the Current Proposal

MacDonough’s decision ended Senate Democrats’ chance to bypass the 60-vote supermajority and Senate Republicans’ opposition, and pass the ARA, inclusive of  the wage increase, with a simple majority.

Sanders disagreed with MacDonough’s decision in an official statement. “The CBO made it absolutely clear that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour had a substantial budgetary impact and should be allowed under reconciliation. It is hard for me to understand how drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was considered to be consistent with the Byrd Rule, while increasing the minimum wage is not.”

The parliamentarian’s advice was not unexpected. President Biden had earlier predicted the wage increase wouldn’t survive when his stimulus package  reached the Senate.

As the presiding officer of the Senate, Vice-President Kamala Harris  could overrule MacDonough. But Ron Klain, Biden’s Chief of Staff, said the White House will respect the parliamentarian’s ruling. WH Press Secretary Jen said Biden was “disappointed” but, “he will work with leaders in Congress to determine the best path forward because no one in this country should work full time and live in poverty,” Psaki told reporters.

Fight for $15 Continues

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer ( D-N.Y.) said, “We are not going to give up the fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 to help millions of struggling American workers and their families,”

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) wants to fire MacDonough. “The Senate parliamentarian issues an advisory opinion,” congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said in a tweet. “The VP can overrule them. We should do EVERYTHING we can to keep our promise, deliver a $15 minimum wage, and give 27 million workers a raise.”

Increasing the minimum wage would give 32 million Americans a raise and lift one million out of poverty, according to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report. The CBO also predicts initial job losses of 1.4 million, initially, but supporters say investing in a green economy, technology, and infrastructure will add more jobs.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), ranking member on the Senate Committee on the Budget said he was  : “Very pleased the Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that a minimum wage increase is an inappropriate policy change in reconciliation. This decision reinforces reconciliation cannot be used as a vehicle to pass major legislative change – by either party – on a simple majority vote.”

Yet, that’s how Republican passed Trump’s permanent Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Without Democratic votes. And they ran up a  $2 Trillion deficit that  benefits the wealthiest Americans.  

Bernie Sanders Amendment

Sanders will  propose an amendment. He will take tax deductions away from large, profitable corporations that don’t pay workers at least $15 an hour. He will provide small businesses with the incentives they need to raise wages. “That amendment must be included in this reconciliation bill,” said Sanders. 

Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged some Senate Democrats opposed to the $15 minimum. Senator Joe Manchin i(D-WV) and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), opposed the minimum wage proposal, but for different reasons. Manchin proposed  $11 per hour and Sinema opposed the measure for procedural reasons. She said the increase shouldn’t be a part of the budget reconciliation process because “it’s not a budget item.”

Before the parliamentarian ruled, Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Tom Cotton (R-AK) sponsored a bill, The Higher Wages for Americans Act,  to raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour by 2025. The plan also mandates that employees use an E-Verify system to ensure that they are not hiring illegal immigrants.

Interestingly, both legislators’ personal net worth stands in sharp contrast to their proposal for working Americans.

“Mitt Romney’s net worth makes him one of the richest politicians in the United States. During his 2012 Presidential campaign, Romney’s financial disclosure forms estimated his total net worth to be $80 – $255 million; at that time, the value of his IRA account alone was $102 million. His 2018 Senate campaign financial disclosure pegged his fortune at $190 – $250 million,” CelebrityNetWorth.com estimates.

“According to his most recently-released financial disclosure, Cotton estimated his net worth at $500,000. In the years when he has given estimates, his net worth has fluctuated from $250,000 to $500,000,” the report continued.  The Celebrity Net Worth reports are based on public records and personal financial disclosure forms.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) tweeted about the proposal. “When members of Congress fight to set the minimum wage below a living wage, they are playing a role in creating and preserving poverty in the United States. The $15/hr. proposal with multi-year phase in is already a deep compromise. $10 an hour is legislated poverty.”

Other Democrats criticized the Republicans’ plan for being lower than the $11 minimum wage in Cotton’s home state.  

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that  the Democratic plan would give a raise to 32.2 million workers. The Republican proposal would provide a wage hike to just 4.9 million workers. An employee who worked 40 hours a week would earn about  $20,800 under the Romney-Cotton plan. The same employee earns about $31,200 under the Democratic plan. Currently, a worker paid the federal minimum would earn just $15,080 under the same circumstances.

“It is unconscionable that we should pay the lowest-wage workers today less than what they earned five decades ago, while the economy’s productivity has more than doubled over the last 50 years,” the economic experts said.

““No one who works fulltime in America should live in poverty. The #FightFor15 is a fight for women, for working families, and for a growing economy that benefits everyone. That’s *our* fight!  Probably 70% of women of color earn the minimum wage,” Pelosi said in a video posted to her twitter account.

Costco’s CEO Craig Jelinek responded to the concerns of opponents of raising the minimum wage. They say that the increase would lead to small business closures.

“I can tell you in my past experience that wages usually don’t put people out of business. How you run your business will put you out of business.” Jelinek recently announced a $16 per hour increase for Costco employees.

We can no longer afford to sing Negro Spirituals

Black History month is over. Let’s reflect on the struggles that  African Americans have endured through the ages.  One common practice must end.  We can no longer just sing Negro spirituals.

In the 50’s and 60’s, African Americans marched for equality in cities across America. They often sang the gospel hymn, “We shall overcome.” That familiar hymn resonated with the struggles of the African American communities. As natural born citizens of this United States, they attempted to obtain the equality promised by the 14th amendment.

Hymns, like “We shall overcome,” served the purpose of giving hope to the hopeless. Someday Black people in America would in fact experience the freedoms promised by the Constitution.

These freedoms are elusive for African Americans. Since the dissolution of slavery in 1865, Black people have been subject to Jim Crow during reconstruction, segregation during the civil rights movement, and now institutionalized racism in the aftermath of affirmative action. Although the hymn states that we shall overcome it also suggests “someday”. But when is someday?

Is someday today? Is someday tomorrow, or is it simply someday?

For far too long we have waited on someday. But with diminishing hopes that with each passing day,  someday would become today.

The 1963 March on Washington reminded us of the dangers associated in seeking equality and justice. Later we mourned the assignations of Martin Luther King, Malcom X, Medgar Evers, John F Kennedy and many more. We expected their deaths to serve as a wakeup call. Their murders should have awakened a sense of consciousness and morality in America. Instead these tragic events only postponed  the “someday” reality.

It took  another fifty years before we  celebrated the election of the first Black President. Then Black folks thought for sure that finally “someday” had arrived.

However then we witnessed the senseless deaths of Eric Gardner , Michael Brown, and George Floyd.  And we realized then that someday had suffered another postponement. In fact someday is so far delayed that someday may never come at all.

But just when we thought all hope was lost, Black folk helped to turn a red state blue. We had renewed our faith that maybe someday is in fact possible. However, the blowback was swift and strong.

Can People Overcome Implicit Biases?

Overt racism stormed the Capitol desecrating the hallowed halls of American Democracy, rendering another debilitating blow to someday.

Unfortunately for Black people in America we have become acclimated with the delivery of “someday” justice and democracy.

While we once hoped for someday, too many have unfortunately accepted that someday is  every day. Yet other African Americans decided that we are no longer going to sing Negro spirituals. Awareness of truth without an actionable truth is simply not enough.

Our someday dream will only become a reality  when we realize the power of today – the present.

As of this day we must say to America that we too are an intricate part committed to working together to insure that today is the last day that we allow someday to stand in the way of achieving racial equality and justice everywhere.

Professor Blair Condoll teaches at Dillard University and can be heard daily on WBOK1230 am

Christian B. Miller Ph.D.

Research explores whether cursing might be a sign of greater honesty.

Key Points:

  • People who reported cursing more often scored higher on measures of honesty.
  • Individuals who used more profanity in their Facebook posts were also more likely to use phrasing that correlates more strongly to honesty.
  • Facebook users who used more profanity in posts were more likely to live in states whose residents ranked higher on measures of honesty.

Think about the really honest people in your life, maybe a spouse or co-worker or best friend. Do they tend to swear a lot? Or flip it around: Are the people who you view as the most dishonest – the most likely to lie, cheat, or steal – also the ones who tend to have a fairly clean mouth?

More generally, would you expect cursing to be associated with higher or lower honesty? We can imagine arguments on both sides. On the one hand, we might think that as cursing goes up, a person’s honesty goes down. After all, profanity sometimes goes against societal standards for good behavior. So does dishonesty. Profanity can be used to harm others. So can dishonesty. Profanity can be a sign of lack of self-control. Same with dishonesty. Profanity can indicate a shady or untrustworthy character. Dishonesty, naturally enough, undermines trust.

But hold on a minute. We can also make a strong case that cursing and honesty go hand in hand, at least much of the time. The person who says ‘sh*t’ when dropping a tool on her foot, or spilling the coffee all over her computer, is being transparent about her feelings. She is expressing, in an emotionally charged way, what she is feeling in the moment. To outwardly pretend as if everything were alright, while internally being very upset, is to intentionally distort the facts. That’s a way of failing to be honest. In addition, cursing has been linked to increased vocabulary, stress relief, and pain tolerance.

So which is it? Is honesty linked with profanity or not? It would be nice if we had some empirical data — and now, for the first time, we do.

In the first set of studies to ever test the relationship, Gilad Feldman at Maastricht University and his colleagues found a positive correlation between profanity and honesty. The three studies were published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

In the first study, 276 participants just answered a series of questions. Some were about profanity, such as “How often do you curse (swear/use bad language)” in different contexts, such as to another person, when by yourself, or in your writing. Some questions were about honesty, such as, “If you say you will do something, do you always keep your promise no matter how inconvenient it might be?” The results: Participants who said they cursed more often got higher scores on the measure of honesty.

I am not inclined to put a lot of weight on surveys like this, especially when it comes to matters of lying and deceiving. Fortunately, Feldman and his colleagues used some other techniques as well. In their second study, they enlisted the help of Facebook — specifically, the status updates of 73,789 users who agreed to be participants. There was no way for Feldman to independently verify the status updates, but instead he used a clever indirect measure. For it turns out that when people lie, there are certain linguistic tendencies which emerge, including using fewer first-person pronouns (to “dissociate themselves from the lie”) and more negative words (since they “are likely to feel discomfort by lying and therefore express more negative feelings”). These linguistic tendencies are by no means a perfect tool to discover lying, but they have been found to help.

Back to Facebook.

The same status updates for these participants were also scanned for common swear words. It turned out, according to Feldman, that “those who used more profanity were more honest in their Facebook status updates.”

Finally, the third study shifted the focus from the individual to the societal level, specifically the 50 states in the US. There is a state-by-state measure of honesty called the State Integrity Investigation. So Feldman took the profanity data for the American Facebook users (29,701 participants) and determined which state each was from. It turned out that on average people who cursed more on Facebook tended to be from states which ranked higher for honesty. Connecticut and New Jersey were in the top three on profanity. (Is that surprising?) They were almost among the top three most honest states. (Is that surprising?)

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Speak TruthSource: Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

So it turns out, based on these preliminary findings at least, swearing is a sign of greater honesty. In fact, Feldman in his first study asked participants about their reasons for using profanity. Two of the main reasons were to express their emotions and to express their true selves.

Some caveats should be mentioned: These are just preliminary studies, and we need to see many other measures of honesty used. They are correlational, so we can’t say anything about causation. Also these studies just found general tendencies. There will still be plenty of people who swear a lot and are dishonest, along with those who swear very little and are honest.

Nevertheless, for now profanity seems to be associated with greater honesty, rather than dishonesty. I guess knowing that is some small comfort the next time I walk barefoot on a bunch of sharp Legos. I just hope my kids won’t be around to hear me.

Rebecca Stevens A.

We can tell within the first minute of meeting you

So yes, within 60 seconds of meeting you, most black people can tell whether you are racist or not. Here are some of the telltale signs:

The way you look at us. Some white people are just plain scared when they meet a black person. Guess what, it shows. We can see it on your faces, we can feel it from a mile off. You see, nonverbal cues — the subconscious involuntary signals that your body sends out is about 80 percent of the message you emit. It talks to the person in front of you before you even open your mouth.

Some white people have an unconscious deep-seated fear of black people that they themselves try to ignore. But it shows up in their nonverbal, and it’s the first thing we notice when we meet you. Sometimes white folks subconsciously even do things that show us that fear. An example is the older white lady who clutches her bag tighter when she sees me approaching her or the person who hurriedly shuts the door to the elevator to avoid riding with me. Sometimes white people don’t even realize they are doing these things, other times they think we might not notice, but we do.

Another way we know that you are racist is when you say the words:

“You’re different from other black people, you’re articulate, you’re educated, you look more western…”

Image for post
Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

These telltale comments tell us all we need to know about you — namely that you are racist. I never understand why white people think it is ok to say this. Are you trying to make me a black woman feel better, by telling me that I’m great but the rest of the black people in the world aren’t? It’s just like the stupidest thing anyone can say. And the actual message you’re conveying in saying what you think is a compliment is this:

“You’re the only black person I’m not racist with”.

It might surprise you, but this is really what you are saying and that’s the way I and many other black people understand it.

Another sign that you’re racist is when you constantly use stereotypes and generalizations to categorize black people. Don’t say stuff like:

“All black people are good singers”.

That is absolute rubbish and you should know that — at least I hope you do. Judging people based on stereotypes is just plain lazy. Human beings are the most intelligent creatures on earth. Get to know people instead of packing them into a category. Not all black people are good singers, not all black people run fast, not all black people know how to dance (I don’t). Avoid using stereotypes and generalizations.

If you believe positive stereotypes i.e all black people are great singers, then you’ll also believe negative stereotypes i.e all black people are thugs. And that’s what led to a knee on a man’s neck and the tragic racist consequences that ensued. Make an effort to educate yourself, to learn about individuals and cultures that you don’t know. Don’t put people into boxes because it’s convenient or easier. Get to know the other — please.

Another way that we know that you’re racist is when you tense up and get all defensive about racism, Black Lives Matter, white privilege, white fragility, and what have you. 

We can immediately feel the tension. You vehemently attack us whether it is by way of trolling us on the comments section or bullying us in real life.

The way you behave shows us that you have something to hide or some form of guilt nagging at you. If you weren’t a racist, you wouldn’t feel attacked — do you get what I mean? There is no smoke without fire, and you’re only vigorously defending yourself because you did something racist along the line or you’ve entertained racist thinking or actions at some point or another.

My personal favorite is when a white person says:

“I’m not racist, you’re my friend. Or, I’m not racist, my wife is black or I like rap or I go to Africa all the time”.

There is something so wrong with either of these statements. Why do white people feel the need to say these things? You’re actually telling me you are racist when you say these things. Because it means, you’ve gone out of the way to justify what you think is your nonracism. Because you have a doubt in your mind — no matter how small it may be, you’ve asked yourself the question about whether you’re racist or not and you’ve used token examples to reassure yourself that you are not.

Microaggressions

It’s like corporations who reassure themselves that they aren’t racist because they’ve hired 1–2 black or brown people in senior management positions while other black people in the organization face racial microaggressions on a daily basis. My lay woman’s view would be that that organization is indeed racist, trying to dissimulate that reality under a performative veneer of tokenism.

So yes, these are just some of the ways we can tell you’re racist, and no, you haven’t been able to hide it from us. We see and we smell it, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t change. You’re may be racist now given the circumstance of your birth or the way you were raised. But the reality is simple, no one is born racist, so there is always time to change, to transform yourself.

You can choose to become nonracist and even better, antiracist, it is all a matter of choice. Educate yourself — go out and find the information. Understand that racism is a social construct built on a bedrock of lies and white supremacy to advance the economic and political ambitions of a privileged few.

Realize that we are all human beings, that we are all equal, that we are all in the pursuit of happiness. Know and believe with all your heart that while we all inhabit different hues, in essence, we are all the same, and that there is no place for racism here on earth.

Thanks for reading my perspective.

SENATE REPUBLICANS & TWO DEMOCRATS MAY KILL THE $15 MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE  

After eight years protests by low wage workers and unions, Congress will decide on the fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

 Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) sponsored the Raise the Wage Act in 2019. The Democrats passed it in the House. The Senate did just the opposite. The Republican-majority in the Senate tabled Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vermont) companion bill in committee.

This time around, the Raise the Wage Act of 2021 is a part of President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

The Raise the Wage Act of 2021 would gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15 over five years. Congress hasn’t increased the federal minimum wage in more than a decade. That’s the longest stretch since it was first established in 1938. It was raised under the Obama Administration to $7.25 per hour in 2009, and there it remains.

“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the $7.25 federal minimum wage was economically and morally indefensible. Now, the pandemic highlights the gross imbalance between the productivity of our nation’s workers and the wages they earn. Many of the essential workers have braved a public health crisis. They need to keep food on the table and care for our loved ones. Still they are not paid enough. They can not provide for themselves or their families. Today, a full-time worker cannot afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment in any county in the U.S.,” said Rep. Scott, the Act’s sponsor and Chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor.

“Around the country, Americans across the political spectrum have repeatedly supported raising the minimum wage The Raise the Wage Act is a critical step toward lifting hardworking people out of poverty, addressing income inequality, and building back a better economy where everyone can succeed,” Scott added in a Committee release.

                Raising the minimum wage would give 32 million Americans wage increases. Also one million would be lifted out of poverty, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report. The CBO also predicts job losses, initially, but investing in a green economy will add more jobs. Also, recent polls show 75% of Americans support raising the minimum wage.

Dems have the majority

               The Democrats have a narrow majority in the House and 50 percent of the Senate. A yes vote by Vice President Kamala Harris could see passage of Biden’s rescue plan. But two Democrats are on record joining Republicans opposing it on procedural grounds.

Biden doesn’t think the wage increase will pass.  He told CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell that Senate rules would prevent the increase from going forward. “My guess is it will not be in it,” he said. “I don’t think it is going to survive.”

Republicans intend to block the minimum wage increase. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise urged Republicans in an email to vote “no” on what his office called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “Payoff to Progressives Act.” According to news reports, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, introduced a nonbinding amendment that excludes a wage increase from the stimulus package.

Starvation Wages

“We need to end the crisis of starvation wages,” Senator Sanders recently told The New York Times. What most Democrats are not saying, though, is that the Act will not pass in the Senate if just one Democrat votes against it. Senator Joe Manchin, III (D-WV) is on record opposing the proposed wage increase. He told news reporters he prefers an $11 per hour wage hike.

Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), is the first democrat to win a U.S. Senate race in Arizona in 30 years. She opposes including the wage hike in the Biden’s COVID stimulus plan. The freshman senator told Politico, “The minimum wage provision is not appropriate for the reconciliation process. It is not a budget item. And it shouldn’t be in there.”

Manchin and Sinema are “conservative democrats.” They have often sided with Republican and opposed their own party. According to Five Thirty Eight, Manchin has voted in line with Trump 60.7% percent of the time and Sinema, 62.6%.

They both seem to oppose their fellow Democrats’ position when the vote is crucial, like the wage increase vote. However, they may get primaried when they are up for reelection in 2024. The No Excuses PAC, which helped Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez to win, is starting a search for candidates to challenge incumbent Democrats they say are standing in the way of ambitious action to end the coronavirus pandemic and revive the economy.

U.S. senators and representatives make a minimum of $174,000 annually.

Why are some opposed to a $15 per hour minimum wage hike? Americans earning $7.25 per hour or $14,500 per year can barely make ends meet.  Increasing the minimum wage $15 per hour, would equal an annual income of $31,200. That is still not enough income to comfortably afford to buy a house. However, it may be enough for an individual to save some money for emergencies.  

The current minimum wage is as outdated as the 2020 Federal Poverty Level. Neither adjusts for inflation or the rising cost of basic needs.

The Federal Poverty Level (FPL) is a measurement of the minimum amount of annual income that is needed for individuals and families to pay for essentials, such as room and board, clothes, and transportation. According to FPL guidelines, an individual with an annual income of $12,760 is at 100% of the Federal Poverty Level. For two, it’s $17,240, for a family of three, $21,720, and family of four $26,200.

Looking at the numbers, how reasonable is it to think people can pay for essentials such as rent, clothes and transportation, let alone food? These measurements determine if an individual is eligible for federal benefits such as SNAP, SSI, and Disability Income.  

“Those who oppose raising the minimum wage will highlight its costs, both in terms of impact on the federal budget and potential job losses,” Rev. Dr. William Barber, II wrote in a February 21, Op-Ed published by Time Magazine.

Trillions of Dollars While We Fight for $15

“Trillions of stimulus dollars have further enriched corporations, many of which do not pay their workers a living wage. Putting more money in the hands of poor and low-income people would increase spending and stimulate the economy far more than investments used to shore up corporate profits. And any jobs lost in the market due to corporate cutbacks could be offset by other commitments to green jobs, infrastructure development and a federal jobs guarantee. Now is the time to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.”

This year, 25 states are raising their minimum wage. Louisiana has no state minimum wage and uses the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Tipped employees in Louisiana earn $2.13 per hour and depend on tips to make a viable living.

No matter what happens in Congress, the Fight for $15 will continue. The protesters are focusing on raising minimum pay for fast-food workers, home health aides, childcare teachers, airport workers, adjunct professors, sanitation workers, tipped workers and retail employees. Today, the protests are in more than 300 cities and 40 countries.

https://edlabor.house.gov/media/press-releases/top-democrats-introduce-bill-raising-minimum-wage-to-15-by-2025

https://www.paycor.com/resource-center/minimum-wage-by-state

https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/congress-trump-score/kyrsten-sinema/

https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/congress-trump-score/joe-manchin-iii/                                                                                                                                                   

A Collection of Political Cartoons by John Slade






























































See the video below








































Where’d Bill Cassidy Get Dat Dere Conscience?

Sometimes people do courageous things. And sometimes people do things once thought normal and sensible, but when done in the context of the times appears not so normal, but all so courageous instead. Sen Bill Cassidy showed courage and consciousness.

Like the day when Big Bill Cassidy went stomping through the swamp with his conscience firmly in tow. People marveled. People were appalled. It was the first time in a long time that anybody had shown such a disregard for self preservation. And shown an inclination toward the long lost bipartisan way.

Sen Bill Cassidy Shows Courage and Conscious

The way had been all but snuffed out during the Obama years. Then President Trump came along. In 4 short years, President Trump drained what was left of the swamp’s soul, finally turning what was once a bustling cacophony of sound into a vast, hollow echo chamber. When Trump shouted the call, the response was automatic. So you can imagine that when Big Bill strolled up talking all out of tune, people were appalled. And people marveled.

“Where you going with dat dere conscience of yours, Big Bill Cassidy? Ain’t it supposed to be in President Trump’s pocket?” 

“I’ve taken mine back,” Big Bill said. “And I plan to use it for the important vote at the capitol tomorrow.”

“You mean the one the Democrats concocted to sell President Trump out?”

“No. I mean the one to finally hold him right for all his wrongs.”

Big Bill stopped and placed his foot firmly on a stump. “It’s been too long,” he said, “too long of pride swallowing and groveling. Too much kowtowing and voting in the opposite interest of those we’re supposed to represent. And for what? I don’t know if you noticed. But things haven’t been made all that great around here.” 

Big Bill Cassidy Shows Courage and Conscious

As Big Bill marched along word spread around the swamp. He wouldn’t do it. That when the time came there’d be a big no way, no how. In private, many people had vowed to stand up to President Trump once and for all, to finally take the swamp back. But those thoughts were never made public. It couldn’t possibly be that Big Bill was different, could it?

But just in case Bill had a little too much cayenne up his boots, a swamp full of lobbyist tempted him with promises of unlimited donations and funding. Compromising pictures were pulled from underneath lily pads. Intricate mazes of moss and pine were spun. Still, Big Bill marched on with resolve, swatting away distractions like mosquitoes on a June Louisiana night.

“Head as hard as unschucked oyster,” one person said as Bill walked by.

“Sellout,” yelled another.

Panic set in. “If Big Bill goes up there and does the do, Democrats could get control of dis here swamp. Then you know what’ll become of our beautiful bayous and marshes?”

“No. What?”

“Condos!”

Finally the day came. Legend has it that when Big Bill reached the capitol, he stood up and cast his vote with no sign of hesitation. Afterwards, he appeared on all the talk shows. Big Bill was lauded and held up as a man of principle, honor, and courage by most in media.

Back at the Louisiana swamp, his constituents were fuming. “Big Bill,” one swamp man said, “what you went up dere and did stank like day old crawfish juice.” 

“All I did is what I should’ve been doing all along,” Big Bill said. “I followed my conscience.”

The head of the state swamp committee then pushed his way through the crowd and stepped forward. He had a sheet of Spanish Moss in his hand. “Bill Cassidy,” he shouted, “we are gathered here today to sternly wag a finger at you. It’s our formal statement of disapproval. In some parts, people call it a reprimand.” 

Big Bill took the paper and looked at it. “What is this, a spell?”

The head of the committee snatched the paper away. “Yeah, one that’ll be cast in six years when we primary you.”

That threat kind of got to Bill. He couldn’t deny it. Primaried. The curse of curses.

But for one day at least, Bill went home a hero. His kids tackled him at the door. His wife clapped and smiled. They all thought about commemorating the day. The day when Big Bill Cassidy came stomping through the swamp, his conscience firmly in tow.  Snakes trembled out of their scales. Alligators shook into sausages. Crawfish burrowed deep in the mud. For the first time in a long time a man had come walking through the swamp, trying to give it its old glow.

Joe Biden’s first 30 days

As we approach 30 days into the Biden presidency, Joe Biden is now discovering exactly what it’s like to finally be in charge. Unlike previous presidents, Biden inherited a presidency without a honeymoon period.  Instead, his first few weeks were consumed with the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.  Still, Biden’s first 30 days were disorganized and ineffective. He failed to  provide financial and medical relief to the most vulnerable Americans.

Unfulfilled Promises

Unable to deliver on his promises of direct cash payments and mass vaccinations, Biden continues to push a unicorn utopian ideology of bipartisanship. He seeks to unite a nation that does not want to be united. The ghost of Trump haunts the White House. Remarkably, the Republican minority has somehow stopped the Democratic majority. Biden’s vision to “Make America Whole Again” is on hold.

In this first 30 days we are discovering that President Biden is exactly who we thought he was . Biden is  a conservative Democrat which is a liberal Republican. Biden is against student loan forgiveness. He says individuals who attended Ivy League schools would also benefit.

This reasoning and rationale reflects the current state of mind of conservative Republicans. They have voiced opposition to income thresholds relating to direct cash payment to the citizens of America. This reasoning is flawed. It does not take into consideration the fact that only 2 percent of college graduates attend Ivy league schools. Or that the other  98 percent could really use the help. And don’t forget the 89 percent of African Americans college graduates who have student loans.

No Checks in Joe Biden’s first 30 days

So when it comes to the stimulus package the Republicans only want to place money in the hands of those individuals who are going to give it right back. Lowering the eligibility thresholds of families qualified to receive the stimulus will negatively impact America’s working class. And in reality the Republican proposal excludes those who are most likely to pay the most income tax, pay the most property taxes and fund Medicaid and Medicare. And let’s not forget Social Security.

Much of the relief promised and requested can be provided through executive orders and partisan politics. To the victor goes the spoils. Like many other African Americans, I believe that Biden’s loyalty should be to the people who elected him, the party that supports him and then the rest of America. As long as America engages in party politics there can never be “one nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all”. Political parties are creations of the states. If the founding fathers thought political parties were essential to governing then I believe, given their intelligence and foresight, they would have included them in the Constitution.

Although Biden previously served in the senate for 36 years and 8 years as Vice President, at the end of the day everything starts and ends with the President. Given this experience, the Biden administration shaky start is surprising. Hopefully his experience will allow him to quickly course correct. Democrats will face tough opposition in the upcoming midterm elections.  They are in jeopardy of losing both the House and Senate if Biden fails to come through for the people that came through for him.

Professor Condoll can be heard weekday mornings from 6am til 10 am on WBOK1230.com

By Jeff Thomas

The New Orleans city council unanimously passed a resolution supporting local black owned media companies. International superstar actor, Wendell Pierce, made a presentation to the utility committee of the Council.  Pierce is a partner in Equity Media, which owns and operates WBOK 1230 am radio. During his presentation Pierce pointed out that local companies with monopolies are regulated by the City Council.  And these companies are guaranteed a profit from their business operations. 

“Our city can make a twenty-year commitment to them, but they can’t make a two-week commitment to us.”

Wendell Pierce – Speaking before the New Orleans City Council. 

New Orleans is over 60% African American. And New Orleans has a robust, active, and well-regarded group of black owned media companies. But these media companies get very little advertising dollars from locally regulated companies like the power, cable or cell phone companies. These companies have either  monopolies or must access public property in the course of their business operations. They also profit directly from the citizens of this city. Still they  do little to no advertising  with black owned media companies.

Consciousness Campaign

In fact, the media companies – WBOK 1230am, The La Weekly, The New Orleans Tribune, Data News Weekly and Think504.com – formed a coalition to address these oversights. The coalition launched the Consciousness Campaign to draw attention to the glaring bias against black owned media companies. 

Renette Dejoie Hall is the publisher of the 90-year-old La Weekly.  She continues the family tradition of publishing the paper every week.  “We get the requests for press releases from these companies, but they ignore our requests for ad dollars,” she said.  Beverly McKenna, publisher of the Tribune, said “Black media companies are the main source of thoughts and ideas for a large segment of the black community in New Orleans.”

For their part, every member of the city council spoke in support of the black owned media companies.  Council President Helena Moreno said she gets similar complaints from the Hispanic media companies.  “We have got to do a better job of utilizing our locally owned media companies,” she said during the committee meeting.

The following week, District B Councilman Jay H. Banks submitted the resolution for the full council consideration.  The unanimous vote to adopt is a clear indication that the council understands the importance of supporting our local businesses.  And though the resolution is an important fist step, more work needs to be done.  The resolution is broad and aspirational. 

Resolution Unanimously Adopted

Last week on WBOK the coalition held a forum. Troy Henry, another partner at WBOK gave more focus. “Regulated businesses are just the first step,” he said.  We expect other businesses who advertise to participate.  We are going to put out a score card ranking good corporate partners to our communities.”

Terry Jones, publisher of Data News, spoke of the historic and systemic issues at play.  “For decades these companies have exploited the black owned media companies. They are after the biggest consumer market in the world.”  The economic value of the African American community is the 10 biggest worldwide economy.  But dollars do not circulate in our community. 

Ending the exploitation of the African American community will make everybody safe.  As Wendell Pierce said during his presentation to the City Council, “People with jobs do not smash in car windows.”  Making our city a great place to live must include economic expansion in the black community.  Start with required spending by regulated companies and city agencies with black owned media companies. 

“I am optimistic!”

Jeff Thomas – Publisher and Editor Think504.com