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Power vs. Equality: Malcolm X Sought Not to Change America But to Change Black People

Today, May 19, marks what would’ve been Malcolm X’s 92ndbirthday. It also marks an appropriate time in the history of Black America to think about the ideological paradigm shift Malcolm ushered in during the 1960s that still holds some sway over a significant portion of those who are left-leaning organizers and social justice advocates. Enough sway that, even if not practiced by said leaders, it must be acknowledged as a touchstone of Black political thought.

Through his organizing, speeches and posthumously published autobiography, Malcolm almost single-handedly re-popularized the ideas of self-sufficiency, self-determination and Black nationalism. Malcolm X did not invent the concepts he espoused, those were learned from his parents as followers of Marcus Garvey, from his study in prison and, later, as the architect of the Nation of Islam’s growth under Elijah Muhammad.

Malcolm practiced the the art of creating power, not policy change. Creating institutions and organizations, cultural practices, agreements and governance in all areas of life. Financial, political, military, economic and social power was always Malcolm’s goal, even after he was forced out of the Nation. Malcolm, until his untimely death, attempted to create real community and society, ideas best suited to create the bonds of fraternity and the best path away from subjugation or exploitation from other groups, the very concepts that allowed the United States to exist and break away from its British brethren.

The exploration of such models of self-determination has always been attempted in limited ways by Black people in America, both during and post-enslavement. The ideas of maroon societies, creating Black cities, Black Wall Street and such are an outgrowth not only of fighting racial oppression but also of building Black-controlled spaces for development of Black people. The outcomes of these experiments were closely scrutinized by the dominant race and as Malcolm experienced himself, the experiments with creating power were terminated or marginalized via various methods when white people or the government institutions that protect the interest of some of those white people deemed those experiments dangerous or not in the best interest of the larger American project.

It is through this exercise of fighting all attempts of Black advancement that the dominant society, through its liberal wing and institutions, settled on accepting an ideological model that inspired hope among Black people while offering pride among liberal whites that they were better than their conservative counterparts: The equality model.

Except for the Garvey period in the early 1920s and an eight-year ascendancy of the Black Power movement from 1965 to about 1973, the dominant post-reconstruction theory of Black freedom in the United States has been based on an equality model. That model has certain pre-conditions that must be accepted by the minority group. The primary one is that the United States is innately moral and good and that any history of enslavement, genocide or militarism both here and abroad are aberrations and are not to be held up as the true character of the country. Once this “fact” is accepted, the minority group must then seek to reconcile its own existence in American society by accepting the inherent goodness of the majority population and the future hope that this goodness will pave the way for structural changes, allowing said minority to find its assimilated place within the culture and norms of the dominant group. The minority group must demonstrate through perseverance and persuasion that it deserves more rights and more access. The majority group, once assured of its own physical and financial safety from the minority group, may then allow more rights to the minority group on a trial basis. Those who qualify for the most additional societal rights are the leaders, who agree to practice the equality model to “open” this society up at a pace agreed upon.

The equality model survives as the dominant theory of change within the United States because of several factors: The use of propaganda, the threat of violence, the use of violence and, most importantly today, the sharing of some resources and access to institutional players and positions.

Propaganda is used effectively by the government and its leaders, the corporate media, civil society institutions, and arts and educational institutions to portray the United States as either infallible or just and righteous in its cause, whatever that cause may be. There is the acceptance of mistakes, but those are considered aberrations, including genocide and enslavement. The threat of violence as a system of control is constant. It is apparent in the number of people imprisoned, the institutions that surveil and the militarized nature of local law enforcement. The use of violence by the citizenry through ritualistic killings (lynching, church and home burnings, “stand your ground” killings and mass shootings) and the state criminal-justice apparatus (over-policing, extrajudicial police killings, discriminatory use of the death penalty) keep people scared of the possible consequences of government action.

Lastly, giving Black intellectuals and thought leaders access to funding, media and elite institutions persuades those leaders that, when confronted with the bright line of U.S. racism, it is in their best interest to step away from the natural conclusion that white supremacy is systemic and equality is, therefore, unachievable. Instead, these leaders suggest everything is fixable through protest and policy change. The resources given by liberal white institutions may be well intended, but they are given usually with the reassurance that the equality model will be the primary lens used to suggest change, despite any “radical” language needed to rile up the base.

The outcomes of this equality model continue to suggest that this equality, so long sought for, is no closer to being achieved than it ever was. From the continued disproportionate wealth gap to living conditions across racial lines, from educational gaps to the percentage of owners/leaders of almost every major U.S. institution, the idea that racial equality is an attainable goal is obliterated by almost any study you can find. Yet, those who struggle onward using the equality model keep plugging away. Is it that they can’t read the statistics? Are they blind to the election of a president who supports white supremacy attitudes and policies? Do they believe this is the only workable model? Or is it that, for those leaders, the access to positions and resources is too hard to resist? Some suggest that the soon-to-come demographic shifts that will reduce the population size of the white majority will give us more equality. However, the country of South Africa and every majority-Black city in the U.S. should serve as a stark reminder that mere population majorities don’t result in an equal sharing or redistribution of wealth, ownership or control.

Following the equality model may be good for thought leaders and nonprofit institutional leaders, but can it give substantial amounts of freedom from the fear of white backlash? As Malcolm X stated, “I just don’t believe that when people are being unjustly oppressed that they should let someone else set rules for them by which they can come out from under that oppression.”

By Kamau Franklin/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

California to Investigate Racial Discrimination in Auto Insurance Premiums

Pictures of Money / CC BY 2.0

The California Department of Insurance has launched an investigation into whether eight auto insurers in the state discriminate against drivers in minority neighborhoods.

The investigation was prompted by an April 5 article, co-published by ProPublica and Consumer Reports, which found that the eight California insurers were charging more for auto premiums in minority neighborhoods, on average, than in non-minority areas with similar accident costs. California law prohibits insurers from charging rates that are excessive or unfairly discriminatory.

“We have taken these pricing allegations very seriously,” Deputy Commissioner Ken Allen wrote on April 28 to an attorney at Consumers Union, the policy and action arm of Consumer Reports. “… All necessary information to complete a thorough analysis on a file-by-file basis has already been or will be obtained from the eight insurers. The Department’s analysis will determine if there are inequities with respect to the pricing and treatment of any ZIP codes by these insurers.”

At the time our article was published, the California insurance department disputed ProPublica’s analysis. “The study’s flawed methodology results in a flawed conclusion,” the regulatory agency said in a statement.

But after hearing from groups including Consumers Union, Public Advocates and Consumer Watchdog, the department decided to initiate its own investigation. It will make the results of the review public, Allen told Consumers Union.

It’s not clear what data and methodology the department will use in its review, or whether it has the necessary data in-house. Allen wrote that the department will ask the eight insurers to submit “filings of their auto class plans and rating methodologies for review of discriminatory rating practices,” but the department regularly collects much of this information anyway.

The eight companies under scrutiny are subsidiaries of three major national insurers: Nationwide, USAA and Liberty Mutual.

Liberty Mutual and Nationwide both said that they don’t discriminate and that they cooperate with any review by the California insurance department.

“We support and embrace an inclusive environment that is free from discrimination in the workplace and in our businesses,” said Liberty Mutual spokesman John Cusolito. “… We are committed to offering drivers fair and competitive priced car insurance coverage options.”

“Nationwide develops its rates based on sound actuarial principles, relying on loss and expense experience and utilizing permissible and nondiscriminatory rating factors in compliance with each state’s ratemaking laws,” said Nationwide spokesman Eric Hardgrove.

USAA did not respond to a request for comment.

“We sincerely hope the California Department of Insurance will reaffirm what they had originally referred to as ‘flawed methodology’ that led to ‘a flawed conclusion,’” said James Lynch, chief actuary of the Insurance Information Institute, an industry trade group.

Lynch said the institute hired an actuarial firm that has reviewed ProPublica’s data. That study has not been made public.

In California, which is a highly regulated insurance market, eight of the 21 insurers we examined had pricing disparities of more than 10 percent, led by Liberty Mutual. Its premiums were on average 33 percent higher in zip codes where most residents are minorities than in whiter neighborhoods with similar accident costs. The disparities at USAA and Nationwide were 18 percent and 14 percent, respectively.

Disparate pricing was more prevalent in three other states, where insurance is less regulated.

In Illinois, 33 of the 34 companies we analyzed were charging at least 10 percent more, on average, for the same safe driver in zip codes where most residents are minorities than in other comparably risky zip codes. In Missouri and Texas, at least half of the insurers we studied charged higher premiums for a safe driver in high-risk minority communities than in comparably risky non-minority communities.

ProPublica could only examine insurance payouts in four states because they are the only ones that release the type of data needed to compare insurance payouts by geography.

As a result of ProPublica’s reporting, two Illinois lawmakers have proposed barring car insurers there from using a driver’s zip code to determine premiums. Six Democratic members of Congress have also urged the Treasury Department to appoint a director for the Federal Insurance Office, which monitors insurance pricing and availability in minority neighborhoods.

Richard Marcantonio, managing attorney for San Francisco-based Public Advocates, said the California regulator’s actions may not go far enough. “We don’t know exactly what information he has asked for,” he said. “The whole thing is happening in a black box.”

He said that the department’s investigation should be conducted publicly, and the data used for its analysis should also be made available to the public. “It’s just too important an issue to have the public see conclusions without having any basis for understanding what went into them,” Marcantonio said.

Allen assured Consumers Union that this investigation is only the beginning. “The Department will continue this focus on ZIP code treatment in all subsequent class plan filings made by any insurer,” he wrote.

By Julia Angwin / ProPublica

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Death of the Republic

Mr. Fish / Truthdig

The deep state’s decision in ancient Rome—dominated by a bloated military and a corrupt oligarchy, much like the United States of 2017—to strangle the vain and idiotic Emperor Commodus in his bath in the year 192 did not halt the growing chaos and precipitous decline of the Roman Empire.

Commodus, like a number of other late Roman emperors, and like President Trump, was incompetent and consumed by his own vanity. He commissioned innumerable statues of himself as Hercules and had little interest in governance. He used his position as head of state to make himself the star of his own ongoing public show. He fought victoriously as a gladiator in the arena in fixed bouts. Power for Commodus, as it is for Trump, was primarily about catering to his bottomless narcissism, hedonism and lust for wealth. He sold public offices so the ancient equivalents of Betsy DeVos and Steve Mnuchin could orchestrate a vast kleptocracy.

Commodus was replaced by the reformer Pertinax, the Bernie Sanders of his day, who attempted in vain to curb the power of the Praetorian Guards, the ancient version of the military-industrial complex. This effort saw the Praetorian Guards assassinate Pertinax after he was in power only three months. The Guards then auctioned off the office of emperor to the highest bidder. The next emperor, Didius Julianus, lasted 66 days. There would be five emperors in A.D. 193, the year after the assassination of Commodus. Trump and our decaying empire have ominous historical precedents. If the deep state replaces Trump, whose ineptitude and imbecility are embarrassing to the empire, that action will not restore our democracy any more than replacing Commodus restored democracy in Rome. Our republic is dead.

Societies that once were open and had democratic traditions are easy prey for the enemies of democracy. These demagogues pay deference to the patriotic ideals, rituals, practices and forms of the old democratic political system while dismantling it. When the Roman Emperor Augustus—he referred to himself as the “first citizen”—neutered the republic, he was careful to maintain the form of the old republic. Lenin and the Bolsheviks did the same when they seized and crushed the autonomous soviets. Even the Nazis and the Stalinists insisted they ruled democratic states. Thomas Paine wrote that despotic government is a fungus that grows out of a corrupt civil society. This is what happened to these older democracies. It is what happened to us.

Our constitutional rights—due process, habeas corpus, privacy, a fair trial, freedom from exploitation, fair elections and dissent—have been taken from us by judicial fiat. These rights exist only in name. The vast disconnect between the purported values of the state and reality renders political discourse absurd.

Corporations, cannibalizing the federal budget, legally empower themselves to exploit and pillage. It is impossible to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs or ExxonMobil. The pharmaceutical and insurance industries can hold sick children hostage while their parents bankrupt themselves trying to save their sons or daughters. Those burdened by student loans can never wipe out the debt by declaring bankruptcy. In many states, those who attempt to publicize the conditions in the vast factory farms where diseased animals are warehoused for slaughter can be charged with a criminal offense. Corporations legally carry out tax boycotts. Companies have orchestrated free trade deals that destroy small farmers and businesses and deindustrialize the country. Labor unions and government agencies designed to protect the public from contaminated air, water and food and from usurious creditors and lenders have been defanged. The Supreme Court, in an inversion of rights worthy of George Orwell, defines unlimited corporate contributions to electoral campaigns as a right to petition the government or a form of free speech. Much of the press, owned by large corporations, is an echo chamber for the elites. State and city enterprises and utilities are sold to corporations that hike rates and deny services to the poor. The educational system is being slowly privatized and turned into a species of vocational training.

Wages are stagnant or have declined. Unemployment and underemployment—masked by falsified statistics—have thrust half the country into chronic poverty. Social services are abolished in the name of austerity. Culture and the arts have been replaced by sexual commodification, banal entertainment and graphic depictions of violence. The infrastructure, neglected and underfunded, is collapsing. Bankruptcies, foreclosures, arrests, food shortages and untreated illnesses that lead to early death plague a harried underclass. The desperate flee into an underground economy dominated by drugs, crime and human trafficking. The state, rather than address the economic misery, militarizes police departments and empowers them to use lethal force against unarmed civilians. It fills the prisons with 2.3 million citizens, only a tiny percentage of whom had a trial. One million prisoners work for corporations inside prisons as modern-day slaves.

The amendments of the Constitution, designed to protect the citizen from tyranny, are meaningless. The Fourth Amendment, for example, reads: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” The reality is that our telephone calls, emails, texts and financial, judicial and medical records, along with every website we visit and our physical travels, are tracked, recorded and stored in perpetuity in government computer banks.

The state tortures, not only in black sites such as those at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or at Guantanamo Bay, but also in supermax ADX [administrative maximum] facilities such as the one at Florence, Colo., where inmates suffer psychological breakdowns from prolonged solitary confinement. Prisoners, although they are citizens, endure around-the-clock electronic monitoring and 23-hour-a-day lockdowns. They undergo extreme sensory deprivation. They endure beatings. They must shower and go to the bathroom on camera. They can write only one letter a week to one relative and cannot use more than three pieces of paper. They often have no access to fresh air and take their one hour of daily recreation in a huge cage that resembles a treadmill for hamsters.

The state uses “special administrative measures,” known as SAMs, to strip prisoners of their judicial rights. SAMs restrict prisoners’ communication with the outside world. They end calls, letters and visits with anyone except attorneys and sharply limit contact with family members. Prisoners under SAMs are not permitted to see most of the evidence against them because of a legal provision called the Classified Information Procedures Act, or CIPA. CIPA, begun under the Reagan administration, allows evidence in a trial to be classified and withheld from those being prosecuted. You can be tried and convicted, like Joseph K. in Franz Kafka’s “The Trial,” without ever seeing the evidence used to find you guilty. Under SAMs, it is against the law for those who have contact with an inmate—including attorneys—to speak about his or her physical and psychological conditions.

And when prisoners are released, they have lost the right to vote and receive public assistance and are burdened with fines that, if unpaid, will put them back behind bars. They are subject to arbitrary searches and arrests. They spend the rest of their lives marginalized as members of a vast criminal caste.

The executive branch of government has empowered itself to assassinate U.S. citizens. It can call the Army into the streets to quell civil unrest under Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which ended a prohibition on the military acting as a domestic police force. The executive branch can order the military to seize U.S. citizens deemed to be terrorists or associated with terrorists. This is called “extraordinary rendition.” Those taken into custody by the military can be denied due process and habeas corpus rights and held indefinitely in military facilities. Activists and dissidents, whose rights were once protected under the First Amendment, can face indefinite incarceration.

Constitutionally protected statements, beliefs and associations are criminalized. The state assumed the power to detain and prosecute people not for what they have done, or even for what they are planning to do, but for holding religious or political beliefs that the state deems seditious. The first of those targeted have been observant Muslims, but they will not be the last.

The outward forms of democratic participation—voting, competing political parties, judicial oversight and legislation—are meaningless theater. No one who lives under constant surveillance, who is subject to detention anywhere at any time, whose conversations, messages, meetings, proclivities and habits are recorded, stored and analyzed, who is powerless in the face of corporate exploitation, can be described as free. The relationship between the state and the citizen who is watched constantly is one of master and slave. And the shackles will not be removed if Trump disappears.

By Chris Hedges/Truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Fatal Stabbing of Black Student at University of Maryland Investigated as Possible Hate Crime

The FBI is helping to evaluate whether the fatal stabbing by a white student of a black student visiting the University of Maryland will be prosecuted as a hate crime, university police said Sunday.

Richard Wilbur Collins III was with two friends on the university’s campus in College Park when he was approached by a man and stabbed in the chest with a knife Saturday morning, University of Maryland Police Chief David Mitchell told reporters.

Image result for richard wilbur collins
Image: twitter

The 23-year-old had been commissioned as a lieutenant in the US Army two days before his death and had been set to graduate from Bowie State University (BSU) on Tuesday in a ceremony at Maryland, Mitchell said.

The University of Maryland student suspected of Collins’s killing was a member of a Facebook group named Alt Reich, Mitchell said.

More from KTLA

Posted by Libergirl

Is There Still a Place for HBCUs In Trump’s New America?

By most conservative estimates, the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities are on life support. A combination of gaps in federal and state funding, alumni contributions and student enrollment has many of the institutions in this essential portion of the Black education portfolio desperately seeking options, with several close to shutting their doors.

While the recent chain of “misstatements” by the Trump administration represents the perceived lack of faith the Black community has with Republican promises to protect Black education, it actually represents a lack of sensitivity and understanding of how precarious a situation Black higher education faces today.

“We are deeply concerned about the proposals highlighted for the U.S. Department of Education, which include flat funding for the core Title III Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) program and deep cuts to federal student aid programs,” wrote Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund in a letter to the OMB.

“The proposed $3.9 billion cut to Pell Grant funds would undercut needed reforms to boost the purchasing power of Pell Grants for financially needy students, including the 70 percent of HBCU students who receive Pell Grants to earn college degrees. The proposed elimination of Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, which supplement Pell awards to the poorest students to pay college tuition, would negatively impact more than 55,000 HBCU students who rely on this assistance to go to and through college. Reductions to Federal Work Study could impact more than 26,000 HBCU students who receive work-study jobs that not only help pay for college expenses but also enhance their employment prospects.“

While “HBCU” may be a relatively new designation, the distinction refers to the Southern states’ refusal to integrate higher education. The Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 allowed for federal one-to-one funding with the states for the purpose of starting and operating land-grant colleges. This funding, however, can only be made available to states that offer access to the land-grant colleges to African-Americans. The institutions that would become the HBCUs were attempts by the Southern states to qualify for Morrill Act funding while not having to integrate any of their schools

While African-American enrollment in HBCUs has dropped to nine percent of Blacks enrolled in college and while the HBCUs represent only three percent of the national higher education portfolio, the 100 HBCUs graduated 15 percent of all the bachelor degrees African-Americans received in 2013-2014. According to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, 80 percent of all Black judges, 50 percent of all Black lawyers and non-HBCU professors, 40 percent of all Black engineers and 40 percent of all Black members of Congress are HBCU graduates.

HBCUs continue to be the leading source of Black higher education — especially, for low-income Blacks — in large part because they can offer a specialized focus in a largely nondiscriminative environment. However, with Black enrollment in HBCUs dropping and with the closure of Saint Paul’s College and Lewis College of Business in 2013 and the potential closing of Wilberforce, South Carolina State University and Cheney, one must ask if the HBCUs have “run their course”? If not, is there a way to save them?

The Question of Federal Funding

The chain of Trump administration fumbles regarding HBCUs — starting with the president’s assertion that funding HBCUs may be unconstitutional because it is race-based funding and continuing through the recent booing and heckling of U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy Devos during a commencement speech at Bethune-Cookman — represents an unease and sense of perceived insensitivity from Washington. While Trump has said he will do more for HBCUs than any other president, for example, a deep dive into the statements he already made suggest otherwise.

With Trump’s Feb. 28 executive order transferring oversight of HBCUs from the U.S. Department of Education to the White House, the Trump administration took symbolic and factual ownership of the federal government’s role with HBCUs. While Trump’s “America First” budget proposal seeking to maintain last year’s initial budgeting of $492 million to HBCUs suggests a commitment to honor that promise, the devil is being found in the details. According to New America Foundation estimates, the Trump proposal would actually slash funding to HBCUs by 15 percent once 2016’s additional discretionary funding is factored in.

Worse, the White House’s call for cuts to the Department of Education’s budget means a $1.3-billion reduction to the Pell Grant Program’s $10.6-billion surplus for 2017, with another $3.9 billion in cuts proposed for 2018. While it is unreasonable to think that such cuts can be introduced into this year’s budget at this point of the process, the notion of the recommendation is causing confusion between the administration’s thoughts and actions concerning HBCUs.

With 70 percent of all HBCU students requiring federal student grants and work study programs and with the Trump administration additionally planning to eliminate the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Trump’s walked-back comment on the unconstitutionality of HBCU funding seems now to be a moment of truth in a storm of political spin.

“My Administration shall treat provisions that allocate benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender … in a manner consistent with the requirement to afford equal protection of the laws under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment,” Trump wrote in his signing statement for H.R. 244 on May 5. Experts feel that Trump may not have understood the legal underpinnings of HBCU federal funding or the notion that the HBCU designation does not refer to the member schools’ demographics, but the mission and year of founding, when authoring the statement.

“With the advent of integration, Black students gained a plethora of new and exciting educational opportunities. High-achieving Black students are intensely recruited by well-endowed institutions in a position to provide full scholarships,” said Felicia Davis, a former United Negro College Fund official and director of the Building Green Initiative at Clark Atlanta University.

“Cash-strapped HBCUs serve a disproportionate share of lower- and moderate-income students. These institutions are dependent upon tuition from students that are dependent upon financial aid and student loans. This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that many HBCUs strive to serve students that lack a quality high school education. For some time, HBCUs were still able to recruit and sustain based upon their exceptional legacy. Millennial students seemed far removed from the era of segregation and even the civil rights movement was receding into history.”

A Part of the Puzzle

Blaming the Trump administration for all of HBCUs’ financial problems is both unfair and shortsighted. A bigger part of the problem existed long before the 2016 general election.

Per a 2013 report from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, HBCUs in Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia have reportedly not received the proper state allocations they are entitled to by law.

The Morrill Act of 1890 creates one-to-one financial support for the land-grant colleges with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the hosting state. While the USDA met its end of the HBCU funding agreement, the states only matched $188 million to the USDA’s $244 million between 2010 and 2012. The Morrill Acts provide no punishment for states that fail to meet their funding obligations. The schools themselves are obligated to match up to 50 percent of the USDA’s funds in the absence of state funding to maintain continual federal funding.

This is creating a situation where HBCUs are increasingly becoming trigger-shy in seeking grants that require matching state funds. This is a second strike for schools that do not have a strong tradition of research and development, a key component of government and charitable grant securement.

This is also creating the illusion that the Southern states are engaging in picking winners for educational funding between HBCUs and other land-grant colleges, which tend to be larger, predominately White universities.

The problem with slashes to state and federal funding is compounded by the continuing nationwide trend of millennials foregoing college to go directly into the job market. Total post-secondary enrollment in the United States has dropped 1.4 percent from fall 2015 to fall 2016, extending the declining streak to five years. While most of this figure can be attributed to students over the age of 24 opting out of continued education and a major rejection of “for-profit” colleges, enrollment from recent high school graduates also is declining.

As non-research schools, HBCUs rely principally on government funding, student tuition and alumni contributions to pay the bills. With alumni investment with HBCUs falling below levels found at PWIs, many HBCU endowments have been depleted to the point that school-based financial aid and capital projects have been ignored.

 

Finding Solutions

The road to closing the attainment and wealth gaps between African-Americans and whites is education. If HBCUs are important toward the employment viability of the African-American community, then preserving them should be a priority.

Unfortunately, HBCUs carry psychological baggage that may be causing pause in the current conservative administration. “Many of those who argue that public Black colleges should not operate at the public’s expense do so because they consider these institutions to be ‘racially identifiable’,” the policy brief “Comprehensive Funding Approaches for Historically Black Colleges and Universities” by Marybeth Gasman reads.

“Missing from this argument is that white institutions also are racially identifiable. Too often, diversity or integration is defined as ‘start with white people and add people of color.’ It is also possible, as HBCUs have shown, to begin with a base of Black students and add whites, Asians and Latinos. HBCU allies and those within the HBCU community need to make sure that others understand that HBCUs are not ‘vestiges of segregation.’”

HBCUs are finding themselves in the crosshairs of the hyper-partisanship that has consumed the nation. The booing of Devos and the revoked invitation of U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) from being the commencement speaker at Texas Southern University is creating a situation that the people being insulted by these gestures are the very same people controlling the schools’ fate.

This represents a certain level of fatalism that HBCUs have engaged in. Failure to make themselves more attractive to students, to reach out to alumni, and to restructure more toward research and STEM preparedness have led many to think that HBCUs are suffering from a self-inflicted wound that the government happens to be rubbing salt in.

“I believe the enrollment lag can primarily be attributed to four things: ‘degree quality,’ a lack of recruitment efforts, feeder school partnerships and financial aid,” Nijinsky Dix, assistant director for Trio programs at Notre Dame, said to Atlanta Black Voices. “The conversation regarding the quality of one’s degree has always existed.”

“Due to the perceptions of HBCUs as [they compare] to predominately white institutions, degrees earned from Black institutions are deemed as subpar due to a lack of or inadequate resources, faculty and wavering admission standards. For instance, if one were to review the U.S. World News report for best colleges, an HBCU does not appear until No. 124 – Howard University.”

Dix points out that a lack of high school recruitment, inadequate financial assistance and the nonexistence of strategical partnerships — which were instrumental to her enrollment in a HBCU — are working to turn away Black students from HBCUs.

The health of HBCUs lies in breaking down misperceptions. Not only must HBCUs work to help allay white fears that HBCU funding somehow disadvantages non-Black students, but they also must convince the Black community that they are not just a part of the past but a key to the future.

How this could be accomplished is yet to be determined.

“Virtually all endowments are race-based – just as it is at Harvard, as well as Howard,” Felicia Davis added. “One is historically and predominately white, while the other is Black. The difference in magnitude of their endowments can be attributed to the fact that one group labored without compensation, placing it at an economic disadvantage. Education remains a vital key to closing persistent gaps and ensuring America’s greatness for generations.

“The future of HBCUs rests largely with the Black community. Judging by the student demand for diversity, cultural validation and creative authenticity, institutions known for advancing justice and human rights have the potential to attract students from diverse backgrounds as long as the commitment to academic excellence and productive student outcomes is honored.”

By Frederick Reese/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation

Photo

James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing this month.CreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

The documentation of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia. Late Tuesday, Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, demanded that the F.B.I. turn over all “memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings” of discussions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey.

Such documents, Mr. Chaffetz wrote, would “raise questions as to whether the president attempted to influence or impede” the F.B.I.

Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. It was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.

Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of it to a Times reporter.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey that Mr. Flynn had done nothing wrong, according to the memo.

Mr. Comey did not say anything to Mr. Trump about curtailing the investigation, replying only: “I agree he is a good guy.”

In a statement, the White House denied the version of events in the memo.

“While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” the statement said. “The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”

Mr. Chaffetz’s letter, sent to the acting F.B.I. director, Andrew G. McCabe, set a May 24 deadline for the internal documents to be delivered to the House committee. The congressman, a Republican, was criticized in recent months for showing little of the appetite he demonstrated in pursuing Hillary Clinton to pursue investigations into Mr. Trump’s associates.

GRAPHIC

The Events That Led to Comey’s Firing, and How the White House’s Story Changed

New disclosures on Tuesday allege that in February, President Trump asked James B. Comey, then the F.B.I. director, to shut down an investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.

OPEN GRAPHIC

But since announcing in April that he will not seek re-election in 2018, Mr. Chaffetz has shown more interest in the Russia investigation, and held out the potential for a subpoena on Tuesday, a notably aggressive move as most Republicans have tried to stay out of the fray.

In testimony to the Senate last week, Mr. McCabe said, “There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date.” Mr. McCabe was referring to the broad investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. The investigation into Mr. Flynn is separate.

A spokesman for the F.B.I. declined to comment.

Mr. Comey created similar memos — including some that are classified — about every phone call and meeting he had with the president, the two people said. It is unclear whether Mr. Comey told the Justice Department about the conversation or his memos.

Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey last week. Trump administration officials have provided multiple, conflicting accounts of the reasoning behind Mr. Comey’s dismissal. Mr. Trump said in a television interview that one of the reasons was because he believed “this Russia thing” was a “made-up story.”

The Feb. 14 meeting took place just a day after Mr. Flynn was forced out of his job after it was revealed he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of phone conversations he had had with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Despite the conversation between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey, the investigation of Mr. Flynn has proceeded. In Virginia, a federal grand jury has issued subpoenas in recent weeks for records related to Mr. Flynn. Part of the Flynn investigation is centered on his financial links to Russia and Turkey.

Mr. Comey had been in the Oval Office that day with other senior national security officials for a terrorism threat briefing. When the meeting ended, Mr. Trump told those present — including Mr. Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — to leave the room except for Mr. Comey.

Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.

Mr. Trump then turned the discussion to Mr. Flynn.

After writing up a memo that outlined the meeting, Mr. Comey shared it with senior F.B.I. officials. Mr. Comey and his aides perceived Mr. Trump’s comments as an effort to influence the investigation, but they decided that they would try to keep the conversation secret — even from the F.B.I. agents working on the Russia investigation — so the details of the conversation would not affect the investigation.

Mr. Comey was known among his closest advisers to document conversations that he believed would later be called into question, according to two former confidants, who said Mr. Comey was uncomfortable at times with his relationship with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Comey’s recollection has been bolstered in the past by F.B.I. notes. In 2007, he told Congress about a now-famous showdown with senior White House officials over the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. The White House disputed Mr. Comey’s account, but the F.B.I. director at the time, Robert S. Mueller III, kept notes that backed up Mr. Comey’s story.

The White House has repeatedly crossed lines that other administrations have been reluctant to cross when discussing politically charged criminal investigations. Mr. Trump has disparaged the continuing F.B.I. investigation as a hoax and called for an inquiry into his political rivals. His representatives have taken the unusual step of declaring no need for a special prosecutor to investigate the president’s associates.

The Oval Office meeting occurred a little over two weeks after Mr. Trump summoned Mr. Comey to the White House for a lengthy, one-on-one dinner at the residence. At that dinner, on Jan. 27, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey at least two times for a pledge of loyalty — which Mr. Comey declined, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.

In a Twitter post on Friday, Mr. Trump said that “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

After the meeting, Mr. Comey’s associates did not believe there was any way to corroborate Mr. Trump’s statements. But Mr. Trump’s suggestion last week that he was keeping tapes has made them wonder whether there are tapes that back up Mr. Comey’s account.

The Jan. 27 dinner came a day after White House officials learned that Mr. Flynn had been interviewed by F.B.I. agents about his phone calls with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak. On Jan. 26, the acting attorney general, Sally Q. Yates, told the White House counsel about the interview, and said Mr. Flynn could be subject to blackmail by the Russians because they knew he had lied about the content of the calls.

Trump Creates a ‘Voter Fraud’ Commission, Taps a White Supremacist to Lead It

President Trump has signed an executive order to create a commission to address voter fraud. This is a nonexistent issue tied to Trump’s fallacious, unsubstantiated claims that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election and cost him the popular vote. The measure is part of a larger effort at voter suppression, to deny Black people and others the franchise and to deprive them of their voting rights — a cause of concern among civil rights and civil liberties groups. One of the leaders of this newly created body is a driving force behind voter suppression and anti-immigration laws across the nation and a figure with white supremacist sentiments and ties to white nationalist groups.

On May 11, Trump established a “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity,” which is charged with identifying the following:

(a) those laws, rules, policies, activities, strategies, and practices that enhance the American people’s confidence in the integrity of the voting processes used in Federal elections;

(b) those laws, rules, policies, activities, strategies, and practices that undermine the American people’s confidence in the integrity of the voting processes used in Federal elections; and

(c) those vulnerabilities in voting systems and practices used for Federal elections that could lead to improper voter registrations and improper voting, including fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting.

The election integrity commission will have a staff to carry out its mission and will engage with federal, state and local officials and election law experts. Vice President Mike Pence is the chair of the commission, while Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is the vice chair. The selection of Kobach raises red flags and speaks to the insidious motives of the commission.

Kobach, who was once considered a contender to head the Department of Homeland Security, according to Politico, has gained a reputation for his controversial anti-immigration stance and for supporting draconian voter suppression laws that federal courts have struck down for discriminating against nonwhite voters. According to civil rights advocacy groups, Kobach is a racial extremist with white supremacist ties. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Yale-trained lawyer who also has degrees from Harvard and Oxford is a “central figure” in the nativist movement and the author of Arizona’s “papers please” law, SB 1070, which amounted to a racial profiling law for Latinos. The U.S. Supreme Court found most of the measure unconstitutional in 2012. Kobach also played a key role in enacting similar legislation in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

Since 2004, Kobach has served as counsel to the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). FAIR, according to SPLC, has “historical ties to white supremacists and eugenicists” and has received $1.2 million from the Pioneer Fund, an organization founded by Nazi sympathizers. Kobach was a supporter of birtherism during his run for Kansas secretary of state, and called for President Obama to release his “long-form” birth certificate to answer questions about his birthplace. SPLC reported that in 2014, Kobach also led an effort to purge voter rolls known as Interstate Crosscheck. The program compiled a master list of the names of one-seventh of all Black voters in 27 states, people who officials alleged were suspected of voting twice in the same election, as Al Jazeera America reported. In 2015, Kobach also gave himself the power to prosecute voter fraud, making Kansas the only state allowing its secretary of state with such authority. Kobach has urged states to require not only photo identification as a requirement to vote, but proof of citizenship, including a birth certificate or passport. This draconian measure had its impact in Kansas in 2015, where 37,000 people who attempted to register to vote were placed on a “suspense list” barring them from voting unless they provided documentation, as The Washington Post reported.  That year, Kobach was a featured speaker at The Social Contract Press, a white nationalist writers’ workshop created by FAIR.

Kobach’s ties to the organization led to his defeat in a 2004 race for Congress.  In a statement opposing Kobach and calling him unfit to serve and his appointment “nothing less than an outrage,” SPLC said Kobach “is a longtime lawyer for far-right extremist groups with ties to white nationalists” and “a leader in the movement to suppress the votes of minorities.” The statement added that voter suppression is the real threat to democracy.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Trump claimed the election was rigged, and that if he lost, his defeat would be attributed to rampant, nonexistent voter fraud and so-called illegal immigrants voting. After he won the Electoral College in November, he then said the margin of his deficit in the popular vote was due to voter fraud. Without providing a shred of proof of his allegation, Trump tweeted on November 27 that “in addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” As FiveThirtyEight reported, Trump misused research from an Old Dominion University study to falsely claim that 14 percent of noncitizens were registered to vote.

I will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD, including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and….

even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time). Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures!

Last week, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Vice President’s office demanding evidence to back up Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the 2016 election. Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said the commission is a “boondoggle” and part of Trump’s plan to “spread his own fake news about election integrity” as The Hill reported.

“The president … has alleged that ‘millions of votes’ were ‘illegally’ cast ‘for the other side.’ No concrete evidence has been provided thus far to support the president’s serious indictment against American democracy. Yet the president’s allegations are the basis of an executive order … to establish a ‘Commission on Election Integrity,’” the FOIA request from the ACLU read. “This FOIA demands that the government release the factual basis and evidence supporting the president’s allegations.”

In its FOIA request, the ACLU noted that Trump has suggested he will enact new voting restrictions based on a Department of Justice investigation. The civil liberties group stated that for 150 years since the ratification of the 15th Amendment in 1870 to today, “politicians have consistently perpetuated unsupported claims of widespread voter fraud to justify discriminatory restrictions on the right to vote.” The request added that if federal and state governments plan to rely on the Department of Justice investigation to justify voting discrimination, “then the health of our democracy urgently demands that the public know the bases for such potential discrimination immediately.”

Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, has noted that the issue has been studied and widespread voter fraud does not exist in the U.S. “But there is no evidence that millions, thousands or even hundreds of instances of in-person voter fraud occur in the United States,” she wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in February. “One of the most reliable studies found only 31 instances of fraud in more than 1 billion votes cast over nearly 15 years. A person is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit voter fraud.”

Trump’s executive order comes as the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will not reinstate North Carolina’s draconian voter ID law, which was regarded as one of the most restrictive in the nation and designed to discriminate against African-Americans.

By David Love/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist