obama-ban-the-box

It’s Time to Contextualize President Obama’s Efforts to ‘Ban the Box’

On Monday, President Obama laid the groundwork for longterm changes in rehabilitating and reintegrating formerly incarcerated individuals in the United States. Proposing seven new measures, President Obama seeks to destigmatize those who have been convicted of crimes while providing equity across employment, education, and housing access for all citizens. The most popular of his announced measures is his push for federal employers to “ban the box.” And while this is a huge step forward in reducing the impacts of the prison industrial complex in society, there is still so much work to be done. Perhaps these changes are best understood in a larger context.

President Obama Escorts Trans Woman of Color Out of LGBTQ Event

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At the annual White House reception honoring LGBT Pride Month, President Obama was confronted by a trans woman of color who interrupted him during his speech. Rather than empower her voice, respect her concerns, or even give her the time of day, the President gave one of his harsher responses to hecklers and had her removed from the gathering. His actions seem at odds with what he claimed the event was about and failed to uplift LGBTQ person’s who are frequently excluded from mainstream social and political circles.

Jennicet Gutierrez, the trans woman and immigration activist who interrupted Obama, yelled from the audience, “President Obama, release all LGBTQ immigrants from detention.” She continued, “I am tired of the violence we’re facing.” After getting President Obama’s attention, she repeated herself, “release all LGBTQ immigrants from detention and stop all deportations.”

At that point, President Obama became visibly frustrated. He was not checking for Gutierrez’ interruptions but how he handled her was incredibly disappointing.

As seen in the video, Obama became quite annoyed with Gutierrez, moreso than he has historically. He said, “you know what? No, no, no, no.” He continued, “Listen. You’re in my house.” At this point, Vice President Joe Biden started to chuckle as the crowd cheered the President on.

“It’s not respectful when you get invited to- ” President Obama said while frowning. “You’re not going to get a good response from me by interrupting me like this,” he warned as the crowd started booing Gutierrez.

As Gutierrez continued speaking, the crowd became agitated in support of the President. Onlookers were “shushing” her.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” Obama continued, as the Vice President put both hands over his face. “Shame on you, you shouldn’t be doing this.”

The crowd began to chant, “O-bam-a!, O-bam-a!”

The President threatened to have her escorted out unless she quieted down. When she continued demanding, “no more deportations,” President Obama forced her out of the space amidst cheers from others in attendance. After Gutierrez left, the President joked about her being in his house eating and drinking his food but he never seemed to consider the fact that he silenced and erased this trans woman of color who likely had little access to him otherwise.

Gutierrez penned her own response to yesterday’s events at the Washington Blaze. She clearly articulated her reasons for interrupting the President.

“I was fortunate to be invited to the White House to listen to President Obama’s speech recognizing the LGBTQ community and the progress being made. But while he spoke of ‘trans women of color being targeted,’ his administration holds LGBTQ and trans immigrants in detention. I spoke out because our issues and struggles can no longer be ignored.”

She also explained why President Obama’s reaction was so harmful to trans folks, especially those being held in detention centers for deportation.

“It is heartbreaking to see how raising these issues were received by the president and by those in attendance. In the tradition of how Pride started, I interrupted his speech because it is time for our issues and struggles to be heard. I stood for what is right.”

Overall, President Obama’s response too Gutierrez reflects a continued inability to properly empower and elevate voices of LGBTQ folks and trans women of color. His failure to understand how his actions undermined his proposed goals mean that even allies have work to do in addressing these marginalized communities.

Gutierrez summed it up best when she said, “Instead of silencing our voices, President Obama can also stand and do the right thing for our immigrant LGBTQ community.”

 

Photo Credit: YouTube

 

Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.

Racist Flags, President Obama’s N-Word, and White Race Confusion

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During my first quarter of grad school, I read some powerful words about the interaction between antiracism and antiracialism. These words resonated with me mainly because I frequently saw many White Americans struggling with how these two, very different ideologies work in modern society.

In his book, The Threat of Race, David Theo Goldberg wrote “there are crucial moments when the necessity and complexity of this connection are lost sight of, and antiracism reduces primarily, principally, or completely to antiracial commitment, to antiracialism. At these moments, the end of racism is confused with no more than being against race, the end of race substituting…for the commitment to  – the struggle for – ending racism.” In essence, many people confuse being against racism (and seeking to end it) with being against anything which is construed as “racial.” Hence, the new wave of “colorblindness” in the United States. This week’s flurry of confederate flag (spelled with a lower case intentionally) rebuffing, and President Obama n-word pearl clutching perfectly depicts the core differences between antiracism and antiracialism.

To begin, President Obama made very poignant remarks about racism when he appeared on the “WTF” podcast with Mark Maron on Monday.

He said, “The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives, that casts a long shadow. And, that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on. We are not cured of it. ” President Obama continued, “Racism. We are not cured of it. And, it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. Societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened two to three hundred years prior.”

His point – that just because racism is implicit and hidden from public eye doesn’t mean it is gone – was completely missed by many conservative Whites who just couldn’t get past the fact that he said the word “nigger.” Some were so frustrated that he would use a word they aren’t allowed to use in public that they embodied precisely what he was saying in the first place.

Because the n-word is racial and scary to many Whites, they would prefer it never be said rather than address the core logics and historical underpinnings which birthed the ideological support for its use over the past three centuries. This, was President Obama’s key point. Sadly, many Whites have completely missed it because their committment to ending the concept of race preempts their desire to squelch the terrors of institutional racism in America.

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Photo: Twitter/Marc Lamont Hill

Articulated clearly in Marc Lamont Hill’s tweet (above), not using the word “nigger” doesn’t erase the sentiments which created it. Nor does this performative action of speech control and respectability ensure that the violence against Black Americans because of the word will end (obviously). Racists can still think about the word. Believe the core concepts of the word. Act on the exclusionary and “othering” tenets of the word. Or, even use substitutes for the word. Therefore, saying it or not saying it isn’t an act of antiracism. It is an act of antiracialism.

A similar phenomenon of White confusion happened this week with regards to the confederate flag waving in South Carolina. After the massacre at Emanuel AME Church last Wednesday, many liberals and activists have called for the removal of confederate flag merchandise, paraphernalia, and symbols across the country. While some vendors, like Wal-Mart, eBay, Amazon, and Sears have agreed to stop selling these violent products, the flag still waves in many capitols and state properties in the South. But, many Whites have latched onto this fight to remove the flag (given its prominence in terrorist Dylann Roof’s life prior to murdering nine Black Americans last week). Many see this as a major victory in ending racism in America. Sadly, they’re confused about this too.

Photo: AJC.com

Photo: AJC.com

Yes, the flags should come down. Frankly, they should have come down a long long LONG time ago. But, that’s besides the point. The White people who think this change will formally end any form of racism in this country are, again, mistaken. The confederate flag is a symbol of racism just like the nazi flag. It being a symbol of “pride and heritage” in some southern states is a daily reminder to Black Americans of the revelry many Whites still have in a culture committed to their eradication. This was what the confederate states were all about. And, they were unapologetic about it. Sadly though, removing it, like banning the n-word from public discourse, won’t change the sentiments that drive the sales of confederate flag merchandise or inspire racist White folks to hang the symbol in their front yards. People will continue to be racist. Taking away their mascot won’t destroy the sport.

Some may critique my argument noting that this White “confusion” is also a form of racism. I don’t disagree. I just think there is more to it than that. The fact that racism in the United States has maintained, transformed, and cloaked itself so convincingly in antiracialism is worth discussing separately from racism en masse.

While White folks are doing victory laps about their exclusion of the n-word from their vocabularies and protests of the confederate flag, Black Americans are still fighting against injustice at the ballot box, on street corners, in classrooms, in the workplace, and just about everywhere else in the United States. The ability to not see race, to fight against race as a thing in and of itself, is a form of racism. It doesn’t end racism. It covers it up until the next generation finds an interesting way to make it seem like something else.

Until we understand and acknowledge the core differences between antiracialism and antiracism, we will literally never develop a way to justice and equality. So, for that reason alone, I think this conversation is worth having.

 

Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.

 

Watch: President Obama Talks Ferguson and Mean Tweets

President Obama got a chance to respond to mean tweets on last night’s Jimmy Kimmel Live but his appearance was more than just laughs. He also discussed current events in Ferguson.

“What had been happening in Ferguson was oppressive and objectionable and was worthy of protest, but there was no excuse for criminal acts. Whoever fired those shots should not detract from the issue—they are criminals, they need to be arrested. And then what we need to do is make sure that like-minded, good-spirited people on both sides—law enforcement, who have a terrifically tough job, and people who understandably don’t want to be stopped and harassed just because of their race—that they are able to work together to come up with some good answers,” he to Kimmel.

Watch the full interview below:

h/t The Root

12-Year-Old: Obama Hates America

C.J. Pearson, a self-described conservative, released a new video that says President Obama hates America.  If President Obama loved America, he would “would call ISIS what it really is—an assault on Christianity and an assault on America,” said Pearson. Further, if Obama loved America, he “wouldn’t try to take away what hard working Americans have worked for their entire lives,” the middle-schooler said.

h/t The Root

From Brownsville to the White House

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From the White House:

A couple of weeks ago, a photo of 13-year-old Vidal appeared on Humans of New York, a popular blog. He talked about his principal Ms. Lopez, saying: “She told each one of us that we matter.” After garnering more than 1 million likes and shares on social media, the photo gave rise to a national campaign that has raised more than $1 million for Mott Hall Bridges Academy, a middle school in Brownsville, Brooklyn — the neighborhood with the highest crime rate in New York City. The funds will send students to visit Harvard, support summer programs and provide scholarships.

 

 

 

President Obama’s State of the Union speech first to say transgender, but so what?

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Last night’s address was the first State of the Union speech to directly reference lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans. President Obama has previously referenced transgender individuals in a speeches, making him the first president to do so. While the recognition is important, some trans activists wonder, “Where are the works that are going to dismantle structural oppression and end white supremacy?”