#BernieMadeMeWhite: Meet the Black writer who called out the media for erasing people of color

image via Leslie Lee III
Image via Leslie Lee III
Originally posted on March 28, 2016 on RawStory

Leslie Lee III is a writer and English teacher from Baton Rouge, LA who lives in Yokahama, Japan with his wife, Kelly, and their dog, Taco. His writing ranges from essays and articles on politics and Japanese wrestling, to the novel he is working on with his father about Kentucky’s Black coal miners. But according to some sources, Lee does not actually exist. He’s a figment of the imagination. Because he’s both Black and a supporter of Bernie Sanders.

The nice thing about the notion of the unbearable whiteness of being a Sanders supporter is that it doesn’t need to be based in reality. On Saturday, for example, CNN attributed Sanders’ landslide victories in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington primaries to the whitey-mcwhiteyness of the states:

These caucus states — largely white and rural — are the type of places Sanders traditionally does well. In order to win the nomination, he must replicate this success in other, more ethnically diverse states that hold primaries, as he did in Michigan last month. In theory, it’s possible. But the reality is tough.

Likewise, in theory, it’s possible to portray these states as white. But the reality is tough. Because they’re not. Washington state is literally the seventh most diverse state in the Nation. Two (if not three) of the five most diverse counties in the country are found in Alaska, which CNN itself described as “the most diverse place in America,” in an article in January. And Hawaii, according the Pew Research Center,

stands out… more than any other state… when it comes to its racial and ethnic diversity… The Rainbow State has never had a white majority. In fact, non-Hispanic whites, the largest group in most states, account for only 23% of the population, according to 2013 census figures.

But you know the old adage, necessity (to correct irresponsible journalism and media bias) is the mother of (viral) invention. And So, Mr. Lee launched his epic #BernieMadeMeWhite hashtag, mocking the idea that all supporters of Sanders are white. Its debut appearance was:

 

I decided I would ask Mr. Lee, or @tokyovampires as he’s known on Twitter,  about what inspired the hashtag, though merely ignoring it and him would have been a very meta demonstration of the very erasure he’s protesting.

He explained, “The common narrative in this election that Bernie has a ‘minority problem’ or that all his supporters are ‘bros’ is pervasive, and insulting to the POCs [People of Color] and women who support [him].” But, “it hit a peak… when Hawaii, the least white state in the nation, retroactively became white or ‘not diverse’ due to the fact that Bernie won it. So, I started #BernieMadeMeWhite.”  And, Lee tweeted to me, “since my real existence as a black person who supports Bernie is ignored…  might as well embrace my new whiteness.”

Lee was kind enough to answer some more questions over e-mail, probably out of a sense of solidarity, since I’m a female Bernie bro and don’t really exist either.

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Jay Smooth: The Ill Doctrine, Underground Railroad & Disenfranchised cheese puffs

On our first episode of the Live Katie Halper Show i front of an audience we talk to Jay Smooth, founder and host of The Underground Railroad and of the ill Doctrine video series. His videos have garnered millions of views and praise from people like Rachel Maddow who has called his work genius. Find out what Jay Smooth’s favorite drink and snack are, what he thinks of gun violence, Empire, gentrification and what his grandfather said about The Beatles in the New York Times.

11 Most Anti-Capitalist Quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr.

Image: Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (Flickr Creative Commons)
Image: Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (Flickr Creative Commons)

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. To be fair, I guess I should wish “Sorry it’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day” to the people who don’t believe it should be a holiday and the politicians who voted against making it one. I’m talking to you, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) Sen. John McCain (R-AZ),  Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA).

While both parties attempt to claim Dr. King, the Republicans have a much harder time doing so without distorting history and the truth. But the truth is, most politicians would distance themselves from Dr. King’s stunning (and spot on) indictments of capitalism.  There are, of course, a few exceptions, here and there.

As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, let’s look at some of the things he said challenged capitalism and are left out of most history books.

  1. “I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic… [Capitalism] started out with a noble and high motive… but like most human systems it fell victim to the very thing it was revolting against. So today capitalism has out-lived its usefulness.” – Letter to Coretta Scott, July 18, 1952.
  2. “In a sense, you could say we’re involved in the class struggle.” –Quote to New York Times reporter, José Igelsias, 1968.
  3. “And one day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America? And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth.’ When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society…” –Speech to Southern Christian Leadership Conference Atlanta, Georgia, August 16, 1967.
  4. “Capitalism forgets that life is social. And the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism, but in a higher synthesis.”Speech to Southern Christian Leadership Conference Atlanta, Georgia, August 16, 1967.
  5. “Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children.” – Speech to the Negro American Labor Council, 1961.
  6. “We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power… this means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together… you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others… the whole structure of American life must be changed. America is a hypocritical nation and [we] must put [our] own house in order.”- Report to SCLC Staff, May 1967.
  7. “The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.” –Speech to SCLC  Board, March 30, 1967.
  8. “I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective – the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed matter: the guaranteed income… The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.” – Where do We Go from Here?, 1967.

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Eric Garner’s mother reflects on justice one year after killer cops walk: ‘I’m gonna keep his name alive’

Video image shows NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo choking Eric Garner in New York City (Screenshot/YouTube)
Video image shows NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo choking Eric Garner in New York City (Screenshot/YouTube)
Originally posted on December 3, 2015, on RawStory

It was exactly one year ago that a grand jury decided not to indict a NYPD officer who was caught on video putting Eric Garner into a chokehold, pulling him backwards and down onto the sidewalk, and pushing his face into the ground despite the fact that Garner stated, “I can’t breath,” eleven times.  Garner was then left on the ground for 7 minutes. Neither Officer Daniel Pantaleo not the other officers nor the EMT performed CPR on the 43-year-old father of 6, who was pronounced dead an hour later. Why had Garner been approached by police in the first place? Because he had committed the crime of selling loose cigarettes.

The senseless and unpunished murder of her son, transformed Gwen Carr,  a long-time MTA train operator, forever. She soon retired from the MTA to become a full-time activist.   I spoke with Mrs. Carr this week on my WBAI radio show, about her life, her son, her family, and her  justice work. Here is some of what she told me.

About the failure to indict:

I definitely did [expect an indictment]. My son’s death was caught on video. Full coverage. And there was no indictment. You mean the grand jury didn’t see any probable cause? Where is the justice in that? Nobody asked them to try the case. Just to look for probably cause. That’s what a grand jury does.

About her channeling her grief into something positive.

What really got me was when I start thinking about well my son is gone now. If I don’t do something about it, I can’t expect anyone else to do anything. So, I’m gonna get out there and I’m gonna keep his name alive. If it’s only me, I’m gonna keep his name alive. And when I found out about how many others that were out there, I said I’m gonna make a promise to be the voice of my son and the voice of the voiceless and the nameless. So, I’m gonna try to keep that promise by speaking out, walking, rallying, doing whatever it takes until my voice is heard, until we get justice.

Justice for me is to hold everyone accountable who was involved in my son’s death that day. Because it was a senseless killing. It did not have to happen. And when they did this to my son they went deep on me. They stole my joy, they killed my spirit and they ripped my heart out. So, I just want to see everyone stand accountable for what they did that day because if there’s a crime there should be accountability whether you wear blue jeans, a blue suit or a blue uniform.

About how to end police violence and murder:

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 Does Larry David Deserve $5,000 for Kinda, Sorta Calling Donald Trump a Racist?

Comedians and activists weigh in on whether David called attention to Trump’s racism or protected SNL from criticism.

Trump SNL Protest
Demonstrators chant during a protest against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s hosting Saturday Night Live. (AP Photo / Patrick Sison)
Originally posted November 12, 2015 on The Nation

Here is how it came to be that Larry David kind of sort of called The Donald a racist. When NBC announced that Trump would be hosting Saturday Night Live, several progressive organizations, 50 cultural and intellectual luminaries, and several members of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus condemned the decision. The National Hispanic Media Coalition teamed up with organizations like Moveon.org and the Justice League to organize a protest outside 30 Rock the night of the show. The DeportRacism.com PAC joined in, offering $5,000 to any audience member who would stand up during the show and call Trump a racist. As organizer Santiago Cejudo put it, “We’re hoping the $5,000 will help people on set or in the studio audience find the bravery to speak out loudly and help focus the national conversation on that we need to deport racism, not people.”

Towards the end of Trump’s painfully flat opening monologue, someone yelled out, “You’re a racist!” An obviously unfazed Trump responded to the clearly staged interruption, by asking, “Who the hell is… Oh, I knew this was going to happen.… Who is that?”

At this point a spotlight revealed that it was Larry David, who had appeared as Bernie Sanders in the opening skit. No longer in costume, David said again, “Trump’s a racist.”

“Why would he do that?” Trump asked.

“I heard if I did that, they’d give me $5,000,” said David with his signature combination of disinterest and distaste. Trump had the last word, saying, “As a businessman, I can fully respect that.”

Many in the media have praised David for his yelling, with some even confusing an obviously prepared exchange with a genuine disruption. Variety magazine said, “Larry David provided one of the few real moments of spontaneity in Saturday’s episode.” Complex magazine praised the “legitimate burn by Larry David (a.k.a. The God),” and described it as “fantastic…something of an Easter egg that none of us could have anticipated but were nonetheless praying for.” The Daily Beast described David’s yelling as one of the episode’s “scathing Trump critiques.”

Continue reading “ Does Larry David Deserve $5,000 for Kinda, Sorta Calling Donald Trump a Racist?”

Ta-Nehisi Coates on reparations, racism, and sexism

Originally posted on Feministing, November 6, 2015

https://i2.wp.com/assets.feministing.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/ta-nehisi-coates-nina-subin_wide-7757d564e70b8fd9b1fbadde9c7b26e0e926ff76.jpg
Image via Willamette News

I was thrilled to speak with journalist and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates on my WBAI radio show last week. Coates’ latest book Between The World and Me was called “required reading” by Toni Morrison, was nominated for a National Book Award, and earned him a MacCarthur Genius Grant. In the summer of 2014,  Coates rekindled a national debate with his piece Atlantic cover article “The Case for Reparations.” Coates didn’t always believe that reparations were owed. When I asked him what changed his mind he responded:

I think I was a much more standard issue liberal in the sense that I thought that many of the problems in the African-American community could be fixed by class-based solutions. And then increasingly as I saw more research about segregation, as I saw more research about community poverty, it became clear that Black people themselves are a class in and of themselves, that one can’t sub in and out the Black middle class and the white middle class, that these are different groups of people, that racism itself is an injury, not just a different kind of classism, that it is an injury in and of itself, that Black people have been injured, that Black middle class people have been injured, that Black quote un quote rich people have been injured.

Coates compared the way class privilege doesn’t cancel out racism to the way class privilege doesn’t cancel out sexism: “In the way that sexism injures women… it doesn’t matter that some of these women are rich. Just being rich does not mean that you’re not injured, or that you can’t be injured by sexism. When I could recognize that as an interest in and of itself, well that changed things.”

You can listen to the whole episode on soundcloud or iTunes, where you can subscribe to, rate and review The Katie Halper Show.

 Comedians Debate: Is Amy Schumer’s ‘Trainwreck’ Sexist, or the New Feminism?

The feminist comedian and filmmaker is everywhere—and her fans’ expectations are mounting.

amy_schumer_trainwreck_premiere_ap_img
Amy Schumer attends the world premiere of “Trainwreck” on Tuesday, July 14, 2015. (AP/Invision/Evan Agostini)

Originally posted August 6, 2015 on The Nation

It’s hard to watch TV, go online, or even leave the house without encountering the deceptively cherubic face of comedian and filmmaker Amy Schumer. Sketches from her Comedy Central show, Inside Amy Schumer, are viral sensations; her HBO standup special, directed by Chris Rock, will air in October. She wrote and stars in the critically-acclaimed film Trainwreck, directed by Judd Apatow, which is raking it in at the box office. On Monday night, she appeared as one of Jon Stewart’s final Daily Show guests; earlier that day, Schumer held a press conference to announce her support for a plan championed by her distant cousin, Senator Chuck Schumer, to make it harder for criminals and the mentally ill to obtain guns. This comes on the heels of the July shooting at a Louisiana movie theater during a screening of Trainwreck, in which two women were killed and nine people were injured.

Amy Schumer’s stand-up and sketches tackle issues like birth control, abortion, rape, sexism, and warped female beauty standards with humor and fearlessness, positioning her as a feminist icon. And indeed, some critics and fans have hailed Trainwreck as a clever subversion of the typical romantic comedy plot. But others complain that it reinforces the rom-com narrative more than it challenges it. Schumer has also come in for criticism over her handling of race issues, both in Trainwreck and in her sketches and stand-up.

I talked about Amy Schumer’s comedy and its presentation of gender and race with writers and performers who themselves engage with these themes in a funny and thoughtful way. Laura Swisher is a stand-up comedian who worked as a producer for Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell and now works for The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. Gabe Pacheco is a stand-up comedian who co-hosts and co-produces Funhouse Comedy, a weekly stand-up comedy show in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and is a co-host on The Katie Halper Show on WBAI. Rae Sanni is a comedian and writer who co-hosts the It’s About Us podcast. Samhita Mukhopadhyay is the author of Outdated: Why Dating Is Ruining Your Love Life. Kate Levin is a writer of fiction and creative non-fiction, and faculty member of the University of Southern California, whose most recent piece, for The Boston Globe, reflects on being a teenage prank call addict.

Katie Halper: Let’s start with the argument that some of Amy Schumer’s jokes are racist. What do you think of that criticism—and Schumer’s response?

Laura Swisher: There are comics whose material I loathe and find offensive, and often times it’s because their material is racist and/or sexist and utterly lacking in craft. But if a comic can make me laugh, or surprise me, I give them a lot more leeway, even if individual jokes might be offensive. I’d put Schumer in the “give her more leeway” category.

Kate Levin: The most salient thing for me when I think about Schumer and race is the response she gave after a Guardian writer called her out for having a blind spot around this subject. In response to criticism of the joke, “I used to date Hispanic guys, but now I prefer consensual,” she replied, “It is a joke and it is funny. I know that because people laugh at it…. Trust me. I am not racist.” I like Schumer—some of the stuff on her show I like a lot—but her response doesn’t hold up to the tiniest bit of scrutiny. She knows what she said wasn’t racist because… it was funny and people laughed at it? People laugh at racist jokes all the time! She knows that. (People also laugh at stuff that isn’t funny all the time, which she knows, too.) So what could land a smart person in such a swamp of illogic? Continue reading “ Comedians Debate: Is Amy Schumer’s ‘Trainwreck’ Sexist, or the New Feminism?”

Houston cops shoot unarmed black patient in hospital — and then charge him with assault

image via Facebook
image via Facebook

Originally posted September 9, 2015 on RawStory

Alan Pean is a 26-year-old biology student with no criminal record or history of violence. But on August 27th, he was shot in the chest by an off-duty Houston police officer working as a security guard at the St. Joseph Medical Center. The police are claiming that Alan became combative and that they followed standard operating procedure. It’s Alan, they say, who is as fault, and they have charged with two counts of aggravated assault against a public servant. He was arraigned today.

According to the Houston Police Department’s statement,

Officers Ortega and Law were working extra jobs as security at St. Joseph Medical Center at the above address when they were summoned to the eighth floor to help nurses subdue a combative patient.  Once the officers arrived, the patient continued to refuse to comply with the nurses and officers’ demands.  The patient suddenly physically assaulted Officer Ortega, striking him in the head, causing a laceration.  At that time, Officer Law deployed his conducted energy device, which had no apparent effect on the suspect who continued to assault the officers.  Officer Ortega, fearing for his and his partner’s safety, then discharged his duty weapon, striking the suspect one time.

But the family and medical professionals are disturbed by the handling of Alan’s case and what looks like a failure on many levels. Alan had driven himself to the hospital the night of August 26, during an acute mental health crisis. When he got there, he crashed his car and was treated for those injuries. But the mental health issues, which were what brought Alan to the hospital in the first place, were ignored, according to the Pean family. Alan’s father, himself a physician, begged the hospital to get his son a psychiatric evaluation given that Alan had suffered a similar episode in 2009. But the hospital decided he was ready to be discharged, clearing him a mere minutes before the shooting. How did he go from being cleared to leave to so combative that only a bullet could protect two officers?

Medical neglect followed by the use of excessive force led to what could have very easily been a fatal shooting. Health care professionals have started a petition condemning the presence of guns in hospitals and the criminalization of patients and mental health patients in particular. It reads

Personally, we stand in outrage for every time he is referred to as “combative” without sub-clause or context, we stand in outrage for every time he is called a “suspect” instead of a patient, we stand in outrage for every time he, one empty-handed, help-seeking man, is painted as a threat to two officers, able bodied and armed, in a hospital.

Professionally, we have been trained in truth seeking and healing. As doctors and medical students, as nurses and care partners, we are trained in how to safely restrain and tranquilize patients, no matter how aggressive, or irritable, or anxious, or threatening they may be. Never is it appropriate or warranted for a patient to be tazed, never is it appropriate for a patient to be struck, never, never, never is it appropriate for a patient seeking care, to have their life threatened in our arms.

Personally and professionally, we are shaken by the reality of this epidemic of police brutality, in which no one– no son of a doctor, no college student, no tender-hearted soul of color remains immune. We stand with shaken hearts and rooted conviction, to speak our collective outrage for Alan Christopher Pean, our gentle friend, a 26 year old who was inexcusably shot in the chest by a police officer, while seeking care as a patient.”

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Flashback Friday: The ethnic slur that started Rush Limbaugh’s career

Radio host Rush Limbaugh
Radio host Rush Limbaugh
Originally posted on RawStory

As unbelievable as it sounds, Rush Limbaugh got his major break after someone ELSE lost his job for saying something offensive. That someone else was Morton Downey Jr. and the term he used pales in comparison to the racist, sexist and hateful vitriol Limbaugh spews today.

In 1984  NewsTalk 1530 KFBK host Morton Downey Jr. told a racist, unoriginal and unfunny joke on air that involved the word “Chinaman” and a hilarious punchline based on how the inversion of “R” and “L” can turn “surprise” into “supplies.” When City Councilman Tom Chinn called into the show to register his concern with the use of the term Chinaman, Downey Jr. refused to apologize. The next day, however, he held a press conference, apologized and announced he was resigning.

The man who would replace Downey Jr. was Rush Limbaugh, who, of course, has far surpassed Downey’s hatefulness. I’m not sure if Chinaman is in Limbaugh’s repertoire but he more than makes up for it, if it’s not. Limbaugh did mock the speech  of Chinese president Hu Jintao, which he paraphrased as, “Ching cha. Ching chang cho chow. Cha Chow. Ching Cho. Chi ba ba ba. Kwo kwa kwa kee. Cha ga ga. Ching chee chay. Ching zha bo ba. Chang cha. Chang cho chi che. Cha dee. Ooooh chee bada ba. Jee jee cho ba.”  He called Georgetown student and birth control advocate (I can’t believe we need these in the 21st century) Sandra Fluke a slut, though the attack was much more embarrassing for him than for Fluke. Limbaugh’s claim that Fluke was having “so much sex” that she couldn’t “afford her birth control” revealed that Rush didn’t understand how birth control worked and clearly thinks that women use the pill the way he uses his Viagra pill. And, of course, he’s fond of calling the U.S. President Barack Obama the “magic negro.

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Study: Black kids are given less pain medication than white kids in ER (or your daily dose of more proof that racism isn’t over)

shutterstock_182489036

A study released Monday shows that Black children are given less painkillers than white children when being treated for acute appendicitis, an extremely painful inflammation of the appendix.  While several studies have looked at the racial disparity in pain management among adults, this study focuses on the phenomenon among children. And it turns out that both Black children and Black adults can look forward to racial bias and racist treatment when seeking medical attention.

The article published online by JAMA Pediatrics on Monday presents a study which used data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey from 2003 to 2010 to look at the use of opioid analgesia (which includes medications like Percocet ) and nonopioid analgesia (which includes over the counter household medicine like Tylenol).

Of an estimated almost 1 million children evaluated in Emergency Departments (EDs) who were diagnosed with appendicitis, 56.8 percent of patients received some for of analgesia and 41.3 percent received opioid analgesia. Among the patients with moderate pain, Black children were less likely to receive any analgesia than white children. Among the patients with severe pain, Black children were less likely to receive opioids(12.2 percent) than white children (33.9 percent.)

According to the study,

Our findings suggest that there are racial disparities in opioid administration to children with appendicitis, even after adjustment for potential confounders. More research is needed to understand why such disparities exist. This could help inform the design of interventions to address and eliminate these disparities and to improve pain management for all youths.

… although clinicians may recognize pain equally across racial groups, they may be reacting to the pain differently by treating black patients with nonopioid analgesia, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, while treating white patients with opioid analgesia for similar pain.”

Eric W. Fleegler, M.D., M.P.H., and Neil L. Schechter, M.D., of Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, asked in an editorial about the study,

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