New Joe’s Steaks Wouldn’t Be Possible With Racist Old Name

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To this day, I’m not entirely certain whether Joe Groh was trying to be a good man or simply a good businessman when he chose to change the name of his Tacony cheesesteak shop to “Joe’s Steaks.”

What I do know that it made his life a lot more difficult for a long time. Fans of the shop’s old name, “Chink’s,” were enraged at the switch — convinced Joe had knuckled under to the forces of political correctness. They offered responses that ranged from taking their cheesesteak business elsewhere to outright displays of ugly hostility.

The reaction left Groh wondering if his business would survive.

“It’s the scariest thing in the world to look at an empty store,” he said in the summer of 2013.  Read more »

Why Starbucks’ #RaceTogether Campaign Flopped

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Photos | Starbucks.com

 

Last week, in a fantastic advertising campaign disguised as a social initiative, Starbucks launched #RaceTogether, encouraging employees at 12,000 U.S. locations to write “Race Together” on coffee cups. This week, the message intended to start a conversation about race has ended. According to CEO Howard Schultz, the phasing out of the phrase is not a failure, but just the opening salvo in a year-long “Race Together” program that will continue, including forum discussions and special sections in USA Today.

I wanted to pinch Starbucks on its metaphorical cheek. Bless it’s little heart … it tried. In tackling race in America, Starbucks was defeated, in part, by its own business model as a “third place,” an “affordable luxury” where one can escape the cares of the world. From the pushback, it appears customers, social media observers, company shareholders and even Starbuck baristas were not up for race conversations over coffee. Read more »

Tate-Brown’s Mother Calls for Peaceful Protest

Tanya Dickerson, center, is flanked by Asa Khalif, left, and Brian Mildenberg, right, during a press conference on Thursday. Dickerson's son, Brandon Tate-Brown, was shot to death by police in December; DA Seth Williams announced earier in the day no charges would be filed in the death.

Tanya Dickerson, center, is flanked by Asa Khalif, left, and Brian Mildenberg, right, during a press conference on Thursday. Dickerson’s son, Brandon Tate-Brown, was shot to death by police in December; DA Seth Williams announced earier in the day no charges would be filed in the death.

A day after a protest in her son’s name erupted into a violent skirmish at a community meeting on policing, the mother of Brandon Tate-Brown issued a statement rejecting violence and calling for peaceful protests.

“Ms. Brown-Dickerson rejects all forms of non-peaceful protest,” said the statement issued by Brian Mildenberg, the attorney for Tanya Brown-Dickerson. “Ms. Brown-Dickerson rejects all form of violence. Ms. Brown-Dickerson calls for peaceful protests in the manner of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The statement also called for a toning down of rhetoric directed at Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and District Attorney Seth Williams. “Any protesters who speak to these public servants disrespectfully are urged to behave with dignity, and to peacefully protest,” it said.

Williams on Thursday announced he would not bring charges against the officers involved in the shooting of Tate-Brown, 26, who died in a December incident. Police said it appeared he was reaching for a gun in his car when the shot him; Tate-Brown’s family disputes that account. Read more »

These Are the 38 “Hate Groups” in Pa., Says Southern Poverty Law Center

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Pennsylvania has 38 hate groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center says in a new report, spanning the spectrum of white supremacy groups to black separatists and a few “radical” religious groups. That ranks the state fifth nationally, right behind New Jersey and its 40 designated hate groups.

The list includes obvious suspects such as the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Harrisburg, to more innocuous-sounding organizations like the the Council of Conservative Citizens — which describes itself, euphemistically, as a group of “race realists” in its picnic announcements.  Read more »

Penn Professor Sparks Controversy With Michael Brown Poem

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Kenneth Goldsmith, left, appeared on The Colbert Report in 2013.

 

A Penn professor has stepped into controversy for a new poem describing the autopsy of Michael Brown, the young man whose shooting by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., sparked months of protests around the country.

The Daily Pennsylvanian describes how writing professor Kenneth Goldsmith generated the anger with a March 13 reading of “The Death of Michael Brown” at Brown University:

At the conference that focused on digital culture, Goldsmith read a poem titled “The Body of Michael Brown” as Brown’s graduation photo was projected behind him. The poem was simply a copy of the medical examiner’s report on Brown’s autopsy with some changes to make the medical terms more understandable to the average person and to enhance the “poetic effect.”

Read more »

Sometimes, Racism Is Just Racism

University of Oklahoma students rally outside the now closed University of Oklahoma's Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house  during a rally in reaction to an incident in which members of a fraternity were caught on video chanting a racial slur, in Norman, Okla., Tuesday, March 10, 2015. A moving truck can be seen at rear. Fraternity members were given a midnight Tuesday deadline to be moved out of the house. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

University of Oklahoma students rally outside the now closed University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house during a rally in reaction to an incident in which members of a fraternity were caught on video chanting a racial slur, in Norman, Okla., Tuesday, March 10, 2015. A moving truck can be seen at rear. Fraternity members were given a midnight Tuesday deadline to be moved out of the house. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

The story about a bunch of young racists bound together under the fraternal bonds of exclusion and utter stupidity has grown with leaps and bounds over the course of the last week. For those not in the know, members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma were videotaped on a bus doing a disgusting and disturbingly celebratory fraternal chant. I’ll spare you the lot of it, but just know that the overall point is that black men are not welcomed within their organization.

The video shows the fraternity brothers with eager smiles as they delight at the notion of lynching.

What we’ve seen in this case is a swift and decisive condemnation of the culture of racism from the administration. The university immediately shut down the fraternity chapter, and some students have even been expelled. The most noteworthy thing about this response is the rarity at which bigotry is condemned so unilaterally and without tolerance. There is always someone to characterize a racist act as a lapse in judgment or an opportunity for growth.

But sometimes racism is just racism. Read more »

4 Charts That Show Stop-and-Frisk Is a Terrible Crime-Fighting Tool

I’ve always wondered why supporters of the police tactic known as “stop and frisk” think so highly of it. I guess it’s easy enough for them to brush aside questions of racial fairness and constitutional permissibility — if you’re a law-and-order type, laws that restrain police are mere obstacles to enforcing the kinds of laws that restrain suspected criminals. It’s a bad-guy-versus-good-guy world, and the good guys should always get as much help as they need fighting the bad guys, right?

Maybe. Here’s the problem though: All too often “stop and frisk” turns out to be a lousy crime-fighting tool. The ACLU of Pennsylvania on Tuesday released a report showing just how lousy. According to the analysis, Philly Police initiated more than 200,000 stop-and-frisk encounters in 2014. These five charts from the ACLU report are based on a random sample of 2,974 pedestrian stops that occurred during the first half of that year.
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ACLU: Philly Police Still Stopping and Frisking

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Updated with response from police.

Philadelphia Police continue to single out “racial minorities” for unfair and unconstitutional stop-and-frisk searches, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a report released today. The ACLU said it was considering seeking “court intervention” in the matter.

“On the issue of whether stops and frisks are supported by reasonable suspicion, the data shows very high levels of impermissible stops,” the ACLU said in a court filing.

“And, on the issue of whether impermissible racial factors are causing high numbers of racial minorities to be stopped and frisked, consideration of the ‘benchmarks’ for assessing possible racial bias demonstrates that non-racial factors do not explain the racial disparities,” the filing said. “There is an urgent need for substantial improvements on both issues, and if that is not accomplished in the near future, we will seek court intervention.”

“The Department is aware of the recent filing by the ACLU and the law department will respond accordingly via the courts,” Philly Police said in a written statement released this afternoon. “The Department will not release any rebuttal prior to taking the appropriate legal action through the courts.”
Read more »

We Need to Integrate Black History Month

What do you consider diverse? You may have thought you knew what the term “diversity” meant, and have probably agreed that achieving it is a worthy goal. Although diversity is a complex concept, attaining it requires curiosity and action – and, above all, inclusion – from all.

Currently, the nation is in the midst of its 39th annual Black History Month, and it is clear to me that when it comes to diversity, it is often non-minorities who feel the term applies to others, not them, thus defeating the purpose of the notion. Read more »

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