Don’t See Race in Ferguson? Then You’re Part of America’s Race Problem.

Officer Darren Wilson (left, courtesy of St. Louis County prosecutor's officer); Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown's mother (right, AP | St.. Louis Post-Dispatch, Robert Cohen)

Officer Darren Wilson (left, courtesy of St. Louis County prosecutor’s officer); Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown’s mother (right, AP | St.. Louis Post-Dispatch, Robert Cohen)

Like many, I’ve struggled to find a way to come to terms with the grand jury’s decision to not indict Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown. The known facts of the case paint a wildly inconsistent picture. Despite indignant claims to the contrary on both sides, none of us know what truly happened that August day in Ferguson, Missouri. Due to the grand jury’s decision for the case not to go to trial, we probably never will.

When an acquaintance indicated to me a desire to have an open, sincere discussion about the situation in Ferguson and its aftermath, I welcomed the opportunity for dialogue and reflection. I made the deliberate decision to speak honestly and emotionally in an attempt to break through the barriers so many of us have built — barriers that help us shield ourselves from alternate viewpoints about the case and its implications.

I shared my pain at the thought of having to one day sit my beautiful baby boy down to explain to him that he won’t be allowed to make the same mistakes his white friends will — because of the color of his skin. In tears, I spoke about the fact that some people already hate my son, despite his incredible, loving spirit, simply because he is biracial. My baring of painful, personal emotions exposed in the wake of the grand jury’s decision was met with this response: “I don’t see race in this case.”

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Ferguson, Under Cover of Darkness

Mike Brown’s mom while hearing the decision.

A video posted by Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) on

There was a video posted on social media the night that St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch stepped in front of a worldwide audience to deliver the news that Officer Darren Wilson would avoid trial. The video featured the diminutive Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, stepping down from her perch outside the police station, amid a crowd of protesters, anguished and fed up.

For 109 days, McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr, the father of the teenager who was shot and killed by Wilson, waited for answers. They, like the rest of us, found out about McCulloch’s announcement by watching CNN.

It’s a curious thing, to make these types of announcements at night. It’s always curious to do anything in the dark of night that could just as easily be done in the day, especially when things are as tense as they have been in Ferguson. For weeks, the National Guard has been present among the people in Ferguson without any (public) disclosure of whether an indictment would fall; it took four days for the National Guard to arrive in the drowned city of New Orleans after Katrina.

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Grand Jury Makes Ferguson Decision

AP reports: “A St. Louis County grand jury has finally reached a decision on whether to charge Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown Jr., several media outlets reported Monday. The panel’s ruling is expected to be revealed during a press conference at the courthouse in Clayton later today.”

This will be a big deal in Philadelphia. Activists have already announced plans to demonstrate here on both the day of the announcement — today, apparently — and the day after. Philly Police have been planning for the protests and meeting with organizers.

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It’s Time for Pennsylvania to Stop Discriminating Against Black Kids

Philly classrooms aren't quite this empty this fall, but they're shedding students more quickly than expected.

Last week’s news was filled with important stories about the gubernatorial election and a couple of major, sordid crimes, so if you missed out on the somewhat quieter news generated by David Mosenkis, it’s no wonder. But it’s important enough that the news needs to be repeated — indeed, to be shouted from the mountaintops.

The news is this: The school funding system in Pennsylvania is — there’s no nice word for it — racist.

“An analysis of enrollment, demographics, and basic education funding of Pennsylvania’s 501 public school districts reveals dramatically higher per-student funding in districts with predominantly white populations compared to economically similar districts with more racial diversity,” said the study by Mosenkis, a Mount Airy data analyst. (See the summary below.)

In other words: In Pennsylvania, white kids get more. Black kids get less.

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10 Reasons Cheyney Alumni Are Suing Pennsylvania and the Federal Government


A coalition known as “Heeding Cheyney’s Call” (HCC), which consists of Cheyney University alumni, students, professors, staffers, and retirees, as well as community activists, religious leaders, and elected officials, today is suing the Commonwealth (full suit below) for continuing what we believe are decades-long civil rights violations against this great school.

HCC is also suing the federal government, claiming that it’s stood idly by and enabling those violations by doing nothing to stop them. You want proof? Here’s the good, i.e., Cheyney’s greatness, the bad, i.e., racial discrimination, and the ugly, i.e., well, that’s the previously mentioned racial discrimination stuff.

Let me count the ways: All 10 of’ ’em:

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Philly Man Angers New Yorkers With No-Hoodies Signs


Ah, the hoodie.What was once just a sweatshirt with a hood is now a lightning rod of racial unpleasantries thanks to the 2012 shooting of a hoodied Trayvon Martin in Florida. Who can forget Geraldo Rivera going on Fox News to implore the “black and Latino youths” of the world to STOP WEARING HOODIES? Hoodies were just as responsible for Martin’s death as was the shooter, George Zimmerman, Rivera argued. He was forced to apologize soon thereafter.

But you’ll get no apologies from Philadelphia’s Joe Stark, who is on a mission to put one of his no-hoodies signs in every store in every major city on the East Coast. Read more »

Wrong-Sperm Suit Is Really About the Burden of Being Black

Jennifer Cramblett is interviewed at her attorney's home in Waite Hill, Ohio, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Cramblett has sued a Chicago-area sperm bank after she became pregnant with sperm donated by a black man instead of a white man as she'd intended.

Jennifer Cramblett is interviewed at her attorney’s home in Waite Hill, Ohio, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Cramblett has sued a Chicago-area sperm bank after she became pregnant with sperm donated by a black man instead of a white man as she’d intended.

A same-sex couple in Ohio is suing a Chicago-area sperm bank for wrongful birth and breach of warranty after receiving the wrong sperm, resulting in the birth of a mixed-race baby girl, Payton.

Payton’s mother, Jennifer Cramblett, has said that she and her partner will now have to relocate from their Uniontown, Ohio, farm town to a more diverse area in order to ensure that Payton is comfortable. Cramblett cites that their current community is mostly white and conservative, and notes racial intolerance in her own family.

Baby Payton is two years old. While it is admirable that her parents have noted their own shortcomings in their ability to care for a child of color (cultural understandings, or even more basic needs like hair care) the lawsuit is about a little more than negligence. And let us be clear, Midwest Sperm Bank certainly seems grossly negligent.

Payton’s parents want compensation for the inconvenience of living a black life. Read more »

Remembering the Great Charles Bowser on His 84th Birthday

A version of this story ran in 2010.

Many prominent, as well as not-so-prominent, Philadelphians have important stories to tell about the preeminent Charles W. Bowser, Esquire, a giant who passed away in 2010. Here are some that I decided to share in honor of the man born October 9, 1930.

In 2000, which was five years before he retired, Charles W. Bowser, Esquire called my small solo practitioner law office and left a voice mail message. At the time, I didn’t know him personally but I certainly knew his great reputation. And that was because, in the mid-1970s when I was a young elementary school kid at Masterman, my mom and grandmom used to always brag about him as some kind of local Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King Jr., and even Malcolm X all rolled up into one. Ever since then, I read everything I could about this thoroughly impressive man and his thoroughly impressive work.

In his phone message, Mr. Bowser simply said, “Hey, Michael. This is Charlie Bowser. I haven’t met you before, but I’ve heard some good stuff about your legal and social activism on behalf of Black folks. And I’d like to meet with you to discuss the possibility of you working with me at the Bowser Law Center.” I couldn’t believe it. This couldn’t be happening. That couldn’t have been “the” Charles Bowser calling me. I wasn’t worthy. He was a legend. He was a giant. He was larger than life. He was calling me? No way!

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Confession: I’m Black, and I Used to Be Afraid to Walk Around Fishtown


This September marked the start of my 32nd year of residence in this city. And for all of those previous 31 years, I’ve treated this place as my oyster. It’s part of my nature: No matter what city I’m in, I want to take it all in, or as much of it as time will allow. Thirty-one years is a lot of time, and in that time, I’d set foot in every neighborhood in this city.

With — until pretty recently — one big exception.

Like most black Philadelphians, I had heard stories about Fishtown. It seemed that we weren’t welcome there. I’d read stories about blacks getting harrassed, and worse, when they moved into the neighborhood.

And I wasn’t alone.

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Ban the “Redskins”

Can you start making these helmets after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled Washington's trademark?

Time for a new mascot?

“Redskin” is a slur.

Got it?

This is not up for debate. It is a slur, despite any arguments made about intent. Curiously, it is one that can be put in respectable print publications without censorship. It doesn’t get abbreviated like “the f-word” or “the n-word” and despite its vulgarity it doesn’t make people wince like the word “cunt.”

But it is a slur. A racist one.
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