Thank Goodness The Pittsburgh Shooter Wasn’t Black!

I was listening to a local radio station in my car last Saturday when the “breaking news” was broadcast: An unidentified gunman had shot up a Jewish religious gathering, killing and wounding several people. Another “breaking news” story aired about 20 to 45 minutes later which said police had apprehended the suspect, Robert Bower (pictured).

“What’s his race?” I muttered under my breath to myself. “What is he?

When I was safely able, I scrolled through national news on my cell phone. The police had announced the suspect’s name. I looked for any photos of the man, and finally there is was. Robert Bower.  White.

I felt so relieved. And relief in learning that someone associated with gun violence resulting in casualties isn’t something unexpected in the Black community. History has taught us that any violence where white people are murdered and the suspect has not been identified yet, means the white gaze will focus on Black folks or other people of color. And that could mean danger for the Black community.

I remember other instances when I was growing up that involved national news stories about mass murders and my mom, or friends’ parents, were heard to say, “At least he wasn’t Black.” Throughout the nation’s history, crimes said to involved Black perpetrators and white victims galvanized white communities into attacking random Black people, whether they had anything to do with the crimes or not. Especially in the Deep South, there were stories of self-appointed white vigilantes, often the Ku Klux Klan, coming for someone they thought was the suspect.  If they had a name, the person was likely to be dragged out of his home, with his wife and family helpless to protect him as they watched, screaming and crying. The person wouldn’t last the night. The next morning, the person’s body would be found hanging at the end of a rope, the other end of said rope tied to a tree limb. The lynching served as a warning to the rest of the community: This could be you. Watch yourself.

The most infamous case of vigilante “just us” in the 20th Century was that of Emmett Till, the young Black teenager who was beaten to a pulp, and whose body was thrown into a Mississippi river by a group of outraged white men for supposedly wolf-whistling at a white woman. Decades later, the woman in the incident admitted that she had lied, and Till was innocent.

The “just us” attitude arose again after the terror attack on the World Trade Center Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and a commercial airplane. Anyone walking down any city street wearing a turban or otherwise “looking Arab” could be accosted and beaten by any whites as revenge for the terrorist attacks.  At least then, there was a President who said in a nationally broadcast statement that not all Middle Easterners are terrorists, and we should all unite against terror because those who committed the 9-11 acts wanted to divide Americans.

But today’s “leadership” loves to amplify racism, especially during election season. As we head into the midterm elections, Repugnantthugs have adopted a not-so-new strategy of blaming the nations’ ills on Central American immigrants, those men, women and children who have risked everything to walk hundreds of miles on foot to get away from gang and political violence in their home countries. They are merely seeking asylum in the U.S. once they cross into Texas from the Mexican border.

But taking a page from their hero, the unpresident, Repugnantthugs running for seats in the U.S. House and Senate are painting these refugees as potential terrorists and criminals, a ploy they hope will generate so much fear and panic among white voters that they view such candidates as the only thing standing between them, whites, and certain mayhem and murder.

Two glaring examples of how to use fear and hate politically are the campaign TV and radio ads of Repugnantthug Corey Stewart, who is running against Virginia’s incumbent U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat. The fear-mongering ads call Democrats the party of “mob rule” that “dishonors our flag,” “raises our taxes” and “ridicules our traditional beliefs.”

Stewart claims Democrats want to “open our borders” to Central American refugees, who he describes as wild and uncontrolled criminals who will “assault our daughters, murder our sons, and sell drugs.” Shades of the early 1900s movie “The Birth of a Nation,” in which Black men were depicted as animal-like criminals bent on sexually assaulting all white women!

But playing to fear and racism apparently remain effective in politics. as well as inspire hate crimes. That’s why we’re seeing more unprovoked attacks and harassment of Black people and other people considered “minorities.” It was behind the shootings in Jeffersontown, Kentucky this weekend, where Gregory Bush, a white man, shot two Black people in a Kroger’s grocery store. Before that he allegedly tried to enter a Black church and murder its occupants.

The heightened fear and racism rests squarely at the feet of the Repugnantthug Party members and its nominal “leader,” the unpresident, who have been scapegoating people of color and praising white nationalism ever since 2016 when the party won both houses of Congress and the unpresident began his four years in the White House. I hope that in November, white voters wise up, stop falling for candidates who fan the flames of unfounded fear and racism, and vote intelligently. Otherwise, people of color in particular will have to continue to cringe whenever some unbalanced individual shoots up a shopping mall,  movie theater, grocery store or church, and worry about the implications for their families and communities if the unidentified perpetrator turns out to be “one of us.”  And we’ll then hope that white reaction to the crime isn’t “mob rule.”



“We’ll Never Turn Back!”

A friend of mine, who like many  of us is observing Repugnantthug’s various attempts to block people of color from voting in the November 6 midterm elections, recently wrote on his Facebook page, “In case you hadn’t noticed, we are in the Civil Rights Movement all over again!”

One of the means to equality and power the racists of the previous Movement era tried to take from us was our right to vote. It’s happening again today, and not just to Black people.

In North Dakota, a lower court ruled that only residents with street addresses and voter IDs listing their addresses could vote in state elections. The ruling, in effect, disproportionately disenfranchises thousands of Native Americans in the state, many of whom are on reservations where they have only post office box numbers, not street addresses, or street names.

Although the voter ID law permits state residents to use utility bills or paycheck stubs as alternative identification at the polls, the high rates of homelessness and unemployment among the state’s Native Americans doesn’t solve the problem.

The Native American Rights Fund, a civil rights group, appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, where alleged high school rapist Brett Kavanaugh, who has never met a civil or women’s rights protection he liked, had recently been sworn in as a justice. To no one’s surprise, the high court, now dominated by right-wingers, upheld the lower court rule on October 9, denying the Fund’s emergency application to stop North Dakota’s discriminating voting law.

The roots of the law are in the election of North Dakota Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp in 2012. That’s when the state government passed the voter ID law. Senator Heitkamp is the only Democrat from the state to hold a national office. The Native American vote was significantly instrumental in her victory.

This year she has to defend her place in the Senate against Repugnantthug candidate Kevin Cramer, who is apparently the leading candidate in the run-up to the midterms. Senator Heitkamp was one of the Democrats who voted against confirming Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, a major talking point for North Dakota Repugnantthugs pushing their conservative base to vote against her in record numbers.

A recent study conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic Magazine listed the various underhandedly creative ways Black and Latino voters are being prevented from voting: Moving the location of polling places in communities of color at the last minute. Closing polling places early, making it certain that Black and Latino  voters who can’t leave their jobs early to vote won’t arrive before polls close. Not mailing out notices to them that they will have to re-register because they moved out of their previous voting districts. “Purging” voters rolls of the names of voters of color, and not informing them.

Currently all eyes are on the state of Georgia, which could get its first Black and first female governor if Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams wins the election on November 6.  But Georgia, part of the Old Confederacy of Southern states that hasn’t quite gotten over losing the Civil War and their “right” to enslave Black folks, is having none of it.

Repugnantthug gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp is deliberately holding up 53,000 new voter registration forms, 70 percent of which were filed by new Black registrants.

He claims there are discrepancies in the paperwork.  He also happens to be Georgia’s Secretary of State, which oversees voting and election matters. What a coincidence, huh? Somebody should have reminded him about conflict of interest, and how he should have resigned from his post in order to run for governor.

Earlier this week, in Georgia — AGAIN! — a bus from a community center in Louisville that was set to transport Black seniors to vote, was prevented from leaving. The passengers were ordered off the bus. The trip was sponsored by a group called Black Votes Matter, which owns the bus (pictured above). Someone in a car driving past the bus reportedly phoned the county commissioner’s office to complain of impropriety  (“Voting Vickie”? There are such cute nicknames for whites who call law enforcement because we are “Existing While Black!”) The county administrator’s office issued a statement which said the community center does not allow “political events” to be conducted during its regular operating hours. The statement said center operators felt “uncomfortable” allowing seniors to leave the facility with an “unknown” entity. These are grown folks. Why couldn’t they go where they wanted?

During the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement, members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (“Snick”), whose brave twenty-something Black and white college students who went South to register Black people to vote, faced death and intimidation by the resident racists for their efforts. But they persisted, shoring up their courage through their song and slogan, “We’ll never turn back.” We shouldn’t let today’s racists turn us back, either. Let’s out-trick the tricksters and vote anyway.  It’s what our ancestors, and those civil rights stalwarts who went before us, would have wanted.


Congress and the Court

Judge Brett “I Like Beer” Kavanaugh is the newest member of the United States Supreme Court, despite allegations that he had sexually assaulted a high school teen when he was in high school, possibly displayed inappropriate sexual behavior while he was a student at Yale, and was an angry, out-of-control drunk in high school and college,

The Repugnantthug Senate, eager to place a right-wing conservative in the high court who, with his majority conservative colleagues, would rule to reverse more than 70 years of social and political progress, ignored the charges, and rushed through the nomination process.

But all is not lost. Congress has always had the power to pass or amend legislation which would soften the impact of a  negative Supreme Court ruling.

An article written by Jennifer Mueller (no, she’s not related to that OTHER Mueller!), describes what Congress can, and can’t, do. ” .  .  . in 1986, the Supreme Court ruled that a federal civil rights law that protected people with disabilities from discrimination did not apply to the airline industry,” Mueller wrote. “However, Congress meant for that law to apply to airlines. Congress responded to the decision by passing a new law, the Air Carrier Access Act, that applied specifically to air travel. While this had the effect of protecting the rights of disabled people traveling by air, it didn’t overturn the court’s decision. The earlier law still doesn’t apply to the airline industry.”

According to Mueller’s description, the high court couldn’t easily rule to eliminate legal abortions which were protected under its  decision in the 1973 Roe v. Wade case. Building on the precedent already set by the Supreme Court, Congress could theoretically pass laws that protect exceptions to the rule, restoring women’s right to determine when, how, and under what circumstances they may decide to continue a pregnancy to term; only if doing so does not threaten the life of the mother, cause psychological harm to the mother, or if the pregnancy is the result of rape.

Only a progressive Congress would opt to create and pass laws that change or weaken the effect of a high court ruling in this manner. Which makes it all the more crucial that all Americans who are eligible to vote participate in the midterm elections on November 6. The nation must have a Congress that understands the needs and rights of its citizens. It does not have that under the current Congress. Our votes are the only thing standing between the rule of law and law by “rulers.” Run, don’t walk to the polls on November 6. The power to protect our hard-won rights is in your hands.

Kavanaugh, Ford, and Why Black Women Should Care

As Gomer Pyle, a character in a  popular 1960s TV sitcom used to say in an exaggerated Southern accent, “Sur-PRAHZ, sur-PRAHZ, sur-PRAHZ!” ‘What’s surprising is that anyone thought a severely restricted FBI “investigation” into charges that U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Dr. Christine Blasey  Ford when they were in high school would actually come up with anything.

Of course it wouldn’t. The “investigation” was limited by the unpresident. The FBI was only given a few days to interview a handful of people who could corroborate Dr. Ford’s account of a drunken Kavanaugh pushing her onto a bed and forcing himself on her. There were many more who could have been interviewed  about the incident, including Dr. Ford and Kavanaugh himself.

But it wasn’t a real “investigation.”  The unpresident only wanted the FBI to look into the matter just enough so he could pretend concern, claim that nothing happened, and provide enough cover for the Repugnantthugs on the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate to confirm Kavanaugh and rush him onto the high court bench.

Lately I’ve heard of some Black women who have dismissed the entire affair as having nothing to do with us. But it has everything to do with us.

Historically, Black women have been disproportionate victims of rape, beginning with the enslavement of our African ancestors. The white “massas” would routinely sexually assault enslaved Black women because they could get away with it. There were even rapes of enslaved Black women by white captains and crew of slave ships traveling from Africa through the Middle Passage to the U.S.

After the Civil War and the so-called emancipation of the enslaved, the rape of Black women by white men, especially in the South, increased. Like the white lynching of Black men, rape was a means for ensuring that Black women would stay in their “place.” Raping Black women was also considered a rite of passage for white boys. They could have their first sexual experience via raping Black women since we were not considered human.  White women were off limits as they were to remain pure and virginal until marriage.

Today, Black women and other women of color are still treated as sexual objects with no agency over their own bodies. Eighteen percent of women who are raped in their lifetimes are Black. Eleven percent are Latinas. Thirty-four percent are Native American (American “Indian”) or Alaskan indigenous women, twenty-four percent are mixed race, and six percent are Asian or Pacific Islander. Seventeen percent are white.

Much was made of why Dr. Ford waited 30 years to come forward with her allegations against Kavanaugh. As seen during her recent testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, many Repugnantthugs on the panel challenged Dr. Ford’s credibility, and defended Kavanaugh’s “integrity” and “innocence.” Even the unpresident’s spin on the incident was that “our boys,” meaning young white males, are going through trying times due to women charging them with rape, whether they committed the crime or not. He even made fun of Dr. Ford’s testimony about her alleged sexual attack by Kavanaugh.

Black and other women of color who are rape victims have even less reason to report what happened to them to police or hospitals, because they fear they will not be believed. Black women in particular are wrongly stereotyped as hyper sexual and seductive, and are accused of “inviting” rape.

In this period of the Me Too and Time’s Up movements, there was hope that more men in power would finally be brought to justice for rape. Actor-comedian Bill Cosby was convicted for serial rapes. Film mogul Harvey Weinstein and other film and television executives have been indicted or fired from their jobs after several of their victims told their stories to the news media.

Whatever happens to Kavanaugh and his Supreme Court nomination, and however much white men claim that they are the innocent victims of “unfounded” rape charges, more women are refusing to be silent about their victimization at the hands of white men. Black and other women of color are also overcoming their fears of speaking up, not only about white men and rape, but Black and men of color who rape. We women who are Black and of color are starting to understand that we are not being “disloyal” or “race traitors” if we report those of our men who rape.

Rape was never about sex. It was, and is, about power. The lesson of the Kavanaugh-Ford incident for Black women and other women of color is that it is imperative that we stand up for ourselves against sexual assault by the powerful, despite the very real possibility of  our being disbelieved or ridiculed.  By doing so, we reclaim our power over ourselves and our bodies. And we send a message to the powerful that they will no longer derive their power over us through rape, because they will no longer have us as victims.

Onward ” Christian” Soldiers — Trampling Women Sexual Assault Victims on the March to Confirm Kavanaugh

The alleged victim of sexual assault by U.S. Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh is scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday to testify on the incident. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford says Kavanaugh assaulted her during a house party when both were teenagers.

Repugnantthugs on the committee are continuing to support their boy despite Dr. Ford’s allegations, and despite another woman’s claims that Kavanaugh exposed himself and made unwanted overtures toward her when both were college students at Yale. Some are beginning to have doubts about Kavanaugh’s fitness to serve on the high court following revelations about his sexual behavior in high school and college. Others just want to hurry up and appoint him so the court will have more conservative judges than liberals. They hope that with the addition of Kavanaugh, the court will rule to eliminate women’s legal reproductive rights and other liberal policies such as civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and legal protections for Americans with disabilities.

Evangelical Christians, who are a significant part of the unpresident’s ideological base, are tying themselves up in knots trying to justify Kavanaugh’s appointment to tU.S.. Supreme Court, notwithstanding his alleged sexual transgressions.  Franklin Graham, son of the late, nationally known evangelical minister Billy Graham, says the charges against Kavanaugh are “not relevant” regarding whether or not Kavanauh should serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

“There wasn’t a crime committed,” Graham said during a recent Christian Broadcast Interview. “He just flat out says that’s not true. Regardless if it was true, these are two teenagers and she said no and he respected that so I don’t know what the issue is.”

Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, recently said during a New York Times interview, “If  Republicans fail to defend and confirm such an obviously and eminently qualified and decent nominee, then it will be very difficult to motivate and energize faith-based and conservative voters in November,” he said, referencing the November midterm elections.

Tony Perkins, who heads the right-wing think tank Family Research Council, challenged Dr. Ford’s recall of events at the party where she says Kavanaugh assaulted her. “It may have happened, but was it Brett Kavanaugh?” Perkins told Fox News recently. “Apparently, alcohol was involved. People were intoxicated. Do they remember the facts? It’s been 36  years”  since the incident occurred, he said.

Perkins claimed that the political left has “used” the Supreme Court to impose its “crazy ideas” on Americans, with respect to abortion, immigration laws, “the redefinition of marriage,” and what he termed as restrictions on free speech. “The left knows that if it can’t control the courts, it can’t impose its values on Americans, and the right gets that. The right is ready for the courts to operate within the confines of the Constitution.”

There are some Black evangelicals who point out that conservative Christianity has not been good for people of color in the U.S. John C. Richards, Managing Director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, recently wrote in Christianity Today that the conservative Supreme Court ruling in the 1800s Dred Scott case, that Americans of African descent could never be citizens, “was the court’s worst decision.” Richards wrote that the War on Drugs that resulted in a disproportionate number of Black people being arrested and imprisoned for years for selling or using small amounts of drugs was another conservative strategy which was catastrophic for Black people and their communities.

“The truth is that many Black Christians aren’t so much looking for a conservative court as they are looking for a more fair and neutral court — devoid of political influence,” Richards wrote.

But the “Christian” right seems determined to march on behind Kavanaugh and support his nomination. A letter endorsing Kavanaugh’s nomination, which was released in July under the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethical and Religious Liberty Commission, was signed by 11 leaders representing conservative religious organizations. While say they would like to hear Dr. Ford’s testimony, most would just keep marching and calling for Kavanaugh’s nomination, as are many on the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the process, they are trampling over women’s right to reproductive choice, LGBTQ individuals to marry, and people of color’s right to not be discriminated against due to their color and ethnicity.

Emmys So White (With a Few Splashes of Color)

There’s an old joke in which someone asks jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong, “Hey, Louis, what’s the score?” Armstrong answers, ” White folks still in the lead.”

Watching almost any awards show on television underscores that perception. The recent 70th Prime Time Emmy was no exception.

Even though there were many Black actors, writers and directors nominated for awards, the live and viewing audiences only saw a few winners on the prime time event: reality program host RuPaul, who won for Outstanding Host for a Reality or a Reality Competition Program, and for Outstanding Reality Competition Program; Thandie Newton (left, in photo) Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama in “Westworld”; and Regina King, (right), Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for “Seven Seconds.”

There were more Black Emmy winners but their shining moments were not included in the prime time telecast. It would have been nice to see and hear the acceptance speeches given by Tiffany Haddish, Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (“Saturday Night Live”) Ron Cephas, Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama (“This Is Us”),  Katt Williams, Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy (“Atlanta”), Samira Wiley, Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama (“The Handmaid’s Tale”), and John Legend, a co-producer of the NBC live broadcast of the musical, “Jesus Christ, Superstar” which won for Outstanding Variety Special.

Black and other Emmy nominees of color were shut out of prime time categories in which they were nominated, such as acting in a comedy or drama, writing, and directing.  Some programs won multiple awards, including “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Game of Thrones,” “The Assassination of Giani Versace, ” “Barry,” “The Crown,” “The Americans,” and “Godless.” They are all predominantly white.

The issue isn’t whether or not these programs deserved to win, but why other programs which were written, produced, directed and performed by Black individuals weren’t just as deserving. Why, for instance, weren’t “Empire” or “Queen Sugar” nominated in the drama categories? “Empire’s” lead actors Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson have turned in stellar performances in the three years the drama has been on the air. “Queen Sugar,” directed by Ava DuVernay and a battalion of women directors she selected in order to provide more directing opportunities for women, has realistically portrayed life as lived by a Black New Orleans family struggling to hang onto their land where they farm sugar cane and process it in their own mill. They also grapple with issues of racism, police brutality, and a rich, white family which plans to seize their land, and that of other Black sugar cane farmers, in order to build a privately owned prison.  It’s hard to believe that no one in the cast, the writers or directors qualified for an Emmy award.

The Emmy nominating and awards committees, like those in the film world’s Academy Awards, appear to believe that there is only a single standard of excellence, and it’s white. It’s like saying that professionals of color in the entertainment industry can never measure up to their white counterparts. True diversity in the Emmys means not only filling the award categories with a nominees of color, but also awarding them, and diversifying  the winners’ circle. Excellence comes in all colors, and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which bestows the Emmys, should acknowledge that, starting next year.

Women’s Don’t Matter

Forty-six years ago when John Lennon, Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band released a song called “Woman Is The (N-word) of the World,” folks were outraged. Many Black folks were upset that the song compared white women’s “oppression” to ours, noting that white women had never, and would never, know what it was like to have generations of one’s family enslaved.  Women objected to the “N-word” in the title and lyrics.

But if the controversy over U.S. Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh tells us anything, it’s that white men, as personified by the Repugnantthug Party, don’t think much of white women. Although he has been accused of allegedly sexually assaulting Dr. Christine Blasey Ford when both were in high school three decades ago, the Repugnantthug-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee is racing to confirm him and place him on the high court in time for the new term in October.

The committee’s behavior glaringly contradicts the longstanding near worship of white women by white men in the U.S. White women’s “beauty” comprised of straight blonde hair, blue eyes, pale skin, is still considered the gold standard to which all women of whatever ethnicity must aspire.  “Miss Ann” as enslaved Africans derisively referred to the “Massa’s” wife, was and is perched on her invisible pedestal.  A model of manners and comportment, she can do no wrong — as long as she “stays in her place.”

And she must never, ever have anything to do with Black men, especially in the Southern states which were part of the Confederacy during the Civil War. All a Black man had to do to be lynched by angry mobs of white men was  glance in a white woman’s direction. White men claimed they were protecting and honoring their delicate and pristine females.

But the rush to confirm Kavanaugh demonstrates how much white men’s protectiveness of their women is a load of hogwash. GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are tying themselves up in knots trying to mansplain why there’s no need to put the confirmation process on pause while its members investigate Dr. Ford’s charges. Or why the FBI shouldn’t be brought in for at least a background check. They don’t even want to invite others to testify before the committee who could attest to Kavanaugh’s high school age behavior: that he partied hard and got drunk when he did. Like writer Mark Judge, who attended Georgetown Prep at the same time as Kavanaugh. Dr. Ford says Judge was in the room when Kavanaugh attempted to rape her. Judge says he wasn’t there, and refuses to testify before the committee.

Senator Chuck Grassley, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says the FBI isn’t needed to investigate the charges against Kavanaugh, even though Dr. Ford says she won’t testify unless an investigation takes place. Grassley sang a different tune during the committee’s 1991 hearing on Anita Hill’s charges that then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her in their workplace. At the time, Grassley said of course an FBI investigation would be the right thing to do. The unpresident is also refuting the need for an FBI probe of the charges against Kavanaugh.

All the while, Repugnantthugs are strenuously casting doubt on Dr. Ford’s charges and her supposed motives for making them: Why did she wait until now to come forward? Why can’t she remember details of the incident? Did the Democrats on the committee put her up to this to delay Kavanaugh’s confirmation?

Repugnantthugs have always had what can only termed a “unique” way of viewing sexual assault. Former U.S. Representative Todd Akin of Missouri said in 2012 that if a rape is “legitimate” “.  .  . the female body has ways to shut that thing down.”    Arizona Representative Trent Franks said in 2013 that pregnancies resulting from rape are “very low.”

More recently a South Carolina lawmaker seized on the current controversy to make a “joke” about it.  “Did you hear about this?” said U.S. Representative Ralph Norman. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg came out saying she was groped by Abraham Lincoln.”

It doesn’t matter to the Repugnantthugs that women who have been sexually assaulted, as Dr. Ford alleges she was, are emotionally, and often physically, scarred for life by the experience. They just want their guy on the U.S. Supreme Court bench so he can form what will become a conservative majority that could rule to overturn legal abortions under Roe v. Wade, the Affordable Care Act, and anything else made law in the last sixty to seventy years that’s the least bit humane and progressive.

And if those previous rulings improved the quality of life and health for women, so what? Get back on your invisible pedestals ladies, the GOP seems to be saying, and keep your mouths shut. What you want doesn’t matter. Your opinions don’t matter. Women.Don’t. Matter.



Byron Baxter, Small But Mighty

I don’t know if this is typical for women of a “certain age.” But lately I get all gooey and mushy whenever I see a cute baby or toddler. A toddler like Byron Baxter, the three-year-old superstar of social media who lives with his family in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

Byron personifies cuteness overload. Like most toddlers, he’s a ham in front of a camera. Any camera. A camera in a phone will do. He giggles, wiggles and “dances” lying on his back in his bed, or when he’s propped up in his stroller or high chair. He tells his million or more “cyber uncles and aunts” “I love you!” and “Happy (whatever day of the week)” and smacks his lips to make kissing sounds to his supporters. He’s become so social media savvy that in one YouTube video he told his mom, “I want Snap Chat on my face!”

Besides the YouTube channel, Byron’s parents, Ebonie and Byron, set up a Facebook page and an Instagram account, where his fans can view his activities, those of his parents, and his little brother Blake.

One would never know to look at Byron’s cheery little face that sometimes he’s in pain due to bone fractures.

Byron has osteogenesis imperfecta, or “brittle bone disease.” It’s a genetic condition that cuts across ethnicity and gender. It’s so rare that it effects an estimated 20,000 to 50,000 people in the U.S. It’s characterized by defective genes which can’t produce enough collagen, the protein that comprises the connective tissue around bones.

It can also affect teeth, making them brittle and easily broken.

What it means for kids like Byron is multiple fractures from making the slightest movement. He has been so fragile that he could easily fracture the bones in his hand by waving it.

Until recently, Byron didn’t wear socks, because his parents were afraid they would accidentally break his legs as they put his socks on. But recently they gave it a try, and Byron was recorded showing off his new black and white striped socks.

There is no cure for osteogenesis imperfecta.  There are ways to lessen its effects, or to prevent so many bone fractures. There is bone infusion, in which a bisphosphonate drug is administered intravenously to prevent bone loss. Byron underwent the procedure in a hospital this August.  A month later, Byron can roll over on his stomach, and sit in high chair for ten minutes. He hasn’t experienced any bone fractures. At some point he can go to the hospital to have stainless steel rods implanted in his legs which will help strengthen them so he can walk.

Physical therapy would be helpful, but it’s expensive. Instead, Byron’s mother developed her own therapy: Placing toys and other articles slightly out of reach so that Byron has to stretch his arms to pick them up.

Like many Black parents who have children with disabilities, Ebonie and Byron can’t afford all of the costly medical expenses, and their health insurance doesn’t cover them. A friend of the family started a Go Fund Me page earlier this year which raised $91,395 from 3,391 people in four months. The fundraising goal was $70,000. The page is no longer taking donations.

Neither Byron nor his family treat his life as an unending tragedy, because it isn’t. He has a good time doing things that children do: Eating potato chips, playing games with his parents and Blake, swinging on a specially made swing in the family’s backyard, “sailing” on a plastic floatie in a pool, and having his mom spray him with water as he sits in his stroller on hot days.

While the Go Fund Me page is inactive, Byron’s parents say he still needs “care packages” of clothes, toys and books. He wears size 4T clothing in bright colors. He likes any toy he can hold. “Care packages” can be sent to The Baxter Boys, c/o of Ebonie Baxter, P.O. Box 464849, Lawrenceville, Georgia 30042. The family’s business email account is The Instagram account is @TheBaxterBoys.

Love this little boy. It takes a mighty kid to giggle and smile through a challenging  disability. He’s doing it! Go Byron!

“Nothing About Us Without Us” — Judge Kavanaugh May End, Weaken Disability Rights

On September 7, 2018, the last day of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings to determine whether Judge Brett Kavanaugh should be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, a representative of the nation’s disabilities community testified that Kavanaugh might take from disabled individuals the right to make their own decisions.

Elizabeth Weintraub, Senior Advocacy Specialist of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, said this right was hard-won.

“Fifty-one years ago, I was born with cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability,” said Weintraub. “I entered a world that had low expectations for me and people like me. Judge Kavanaugh mentioned that he has the same low expectations, and I am here to tell you he’s wrong.

“In my 20s, some professionals and my parents decided to put me into a private institution. My parents loved me, but instead of treating me like an adult with opinions and preferences and asking what I wanted, they made the decision for me like I was a child. This was wrong.”

Despite her disabilities, Weintraub noted that she works full-time for the Association of University Centers on Disabilities. Her advocacy work includes hosting a program on YouTube, “Tuesdays with Liz,” in which she interviews people regarding disability policies, and explains the policies in ways that viewers with intellectual disabilities would understand them.

“Today I live with my husband who also happens to have a disability,” she said. “Together we make our own decisions. It has not always been this way.”

Although Kavanaugh has not discussed how he would rule on disability cases as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, disability rights groups believe his rulings on disability cases that were before him when he was a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit are indicative of his positions on disability rights.

In  the 2007 Doe Tarlow v. District of Columbia case, three individuals with intellectual disabilities living in a Washington, D.C. institutional setting, said that doctors were not considering their choices concerning elective surgeries. Kavanaugh ruled that people who have intellectual disabilities lack the capacity to decide anything for themselves, and therefore had no right to make their own medical decisions.

In cases where disabled plaintiffs said their employers were discriminating against them because of their disabilities, Kavanaugh generally ruled in favor of the employers. Kavanaugh supports voucher programs, in which public school students use a voucher to pay part of their tuition to private schools. But disabled students would have to waive their rights to a free and appropriate education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Without special education, students with intellectual disabilities would simply be allowed to fall behind academically.

Kavanaugh has also indicated his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, under which health insurance companies cannot refuse to insure people with pre-existing conditions. Individuals with disabilities who were finally able to access affordable health care under the act could lose it again if Kavanaugh and other conservative justices rule favorably on cases designed to eliminate the act.

As Kavanaugh opposes government regulations, the disabilities community is alarmed that he may rule against the Americans with Disabilities Act should cases involving the law come before him. The ADA applies to businesses and other entities which serve the public, insisting that their facilities must accommodate people with disabilities, such as elevators with instructions in Braille, and ramps that provide access to and within buildings for wheelchairs. But Arlene Mayerson, the directing attorney for the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, wrote in a July 16 Fund publication that Kavanaugh  “really is a poster boy  for not honoring agency regulations. We want more enforcement of our laws by the federal government, not less.”

Black people with disabilities would find life especially hard under a U.S. Supreme Court with Kavanaugh joining the conservative wing of the bench.  Knowing Kavanaugh’s penchant for finding in favor of employers in job discrimination cases, disabled Black people’s efforts to find employment would be even more difficult.

According to a National Disability Institute report, “Financial Inequality: Disability Race and Poverty in America,” Black people are more likely to have a disability — 14 percent — than any other demographic group. Nearly 40 percent of Black people with disabilities live in poverty, compared to 24 percent of non-Hispanic whites. Only one in four Black people with disabilities are employed, compared to Black people without a disability (25 percent compared to 70 percent). Two-thirds of Black families with a disability are unbanked or underbanked, meaning that they have very little savings, and may not even have checking or savings accounts in a bank.

The report also says that Black people with disabilities are more than two times more likely to not have graduated high school than Black people without disabilities (25 percent compared to eleven percent). That statistic could increase if Kavanaugh’s rulings help to create more private school voucher programs — schools which are not obligated by law to provide special education to students with disabilities.

Senator Tammy Duckworth lost both of her legs when a grenade exploded and blew up the helicopter she piloted during the Iraq war. She wrote about Kavanaugh in a recent Time magazine article. “Judge Kavanaugh’s rulings make clear that he’s just not concerned whether we’re able to go to school, get decent health care, eat at a restaurant like anyone else or even earn a liveable wage.

“Every issue is a disability issue,” wrote Duckworth, “because our community — at 60 million strong — is beautifully diverse. That’s a gift, but also a responsibility. Because it means we have to fight for every American with disabilities, whether they’re undocumented or disenfranchised or sick and in need of care. No matter what.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote for or against Kavanaugh’s confirmation on September 20. Before doing so, its members should think about how Kavanaugh’s uncaring attitude towards people with disabilities could worsen their lives, and vote accordingly.

9-11 and “The Ugly American”

This September 11 marked 17 years since al-Qaida terrorists took passenger planes and crashed them almost simultaneously into New York City’s World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon in Virginia. Their attempt to crash a commercial plane in Washington, D.C. was thwarted when passengers fought for control, causing it to plummet into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Nine-eleven was only the second time terrorists from outside of the U.S. had carried out an attack within the nation. In 1993 a bomb planted in a truck exploded outside the World Trade Center North Tower.

Such attacks might have never happened if the U.S. had used a vastly different approach to counter terrorism, one that focused less on military solutions and more on encouraging and supporting governments that are honest and democratic. That’s according to a recent report, sponsored by the U.S.Institute for Peace. The writing and compilation of the report was led by former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean (R) and former U.S. Representative Lee Hamilton of Indiana (D). Both men were also in charge of the 9-11 Commission Report.

The new report says that the U.S. should  strengthen what it calls “fragile states ”  against violent extremism, not only in the Middle East, but in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa.

“As rich as we are, we’re limited in our resources,” Kean told NPR in an “All Things Considered” interview. “What we’re proposing here, which is strengthening fragile states, is an awful lot cheaper than using our troops.”

“Fragile states are the incubator of extremism,” added Hamilton during the same interview. “It’s a very tough challenge, because what you’re fundamentally trying to do is to remake societies.”

Hamilton explained that the report wasn’t calling for “nation building” in fragile countries. “The key, in a word, is to improve governance, to reduce corruption, to reduce repression, because where you have corruption, governments that don’t meet the needs of the people, you have the breeding ground for extremism.”

Variations of this strategy have been tried before, and it failed, most notably in Vietnam. The problem with implementing it is that one has to know a lot about the countries, their people, their cultures, their religions, and their politics, not just impose one’s own ideas on those countries regarding what they must do to become “democracies.”

A novel published in 1958, “The Ugly American,” spoke to how U.S. diplomats and foreign policy has generally not made much effort to understand the nations and their people they’re ostensibly “helping.” The novel, written by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer, follows a U.S. engineer living in the fictional Southeast Asian country of “Sarkhan,” a stand-in for Vietnam, Thailand or Burma. The engineer immerses himself in the country’s people, learns the languages and the customs, and eventually figures out that instead of giving them what he thinks they should want, he should collaborate with the people to give them what they need. It also builds national self-determination when the  “helper” nation stands back after teaching the people how to use what they’ve been given, then gets out of the way.

But  a succession of U.S. governments has taken on the attitude of “We know what’s best for you, so shut up and do as you’re told.” Rather than modeling democratic values, too many U.S. diplomats have exemplified white privilege on a roll. In their arrogance, they insist that their hosts learn English. They insist on being served American food like that which they eat at home. They insist on being racists toward the residents of their host countries, and otherwise disrespecting their hosts.

And during the Cold War, the U.S. would simply send troops into a given country and overthrow governments it didn’t like, replacing the leaders the people had selected with right-wing despots that the U.S. could control. As long as the replacements promised to prevent Communism from taking over their countries, the U.S. would turn a blind eye to human rights and civil rights abuses conducted by their dictator puppets against the given countries’ people.

With that kind of history, people in the Middle East and Africa may not have much of a reason to trust the U.S. They may not trust al-Qaida and Islamic State-types either, so they find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place, especially if they have to depend on assistance from the unpresident and his administration. This unpresident has tried to impose a ban on Muslims from entering the U.S. He refuses to read and learn anything about the countries he’s supposed to be “helping.” He knows nothing about the history or politics of African or Middle East nations,  except to pronounce them “shit holes.” He wouldn’t know a Sikh man from a Muslim man since sometimes they both wear turbans.

Additionally, the unpresident is notorious for ignoring expert advice. He would probably want to send troops, and lots of them, to attack the extremists and “crush” them. One would hope he reads the new report, or has someone read it to him, to explain that there are other options for defeating terrorism and “winning the hearts and minds” of people in Africa and the Middle East. But I doubt it. He is the 21st Century version of “The Ugly American.”