Photos: The KKK Showed Up at the Free Library on Saturday Afternoon

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On Saturday, the first day of summer, a handful of KKK members headed out to the Tacony branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. The exact purpose for this, er, rally is a little unclear, and the KKK hasn’t returned a call we placed to their home office, but from what we hear, the whole thing started when one of the Klansmen was denied a spot on the Tacony Town Watch.

It’s fair to say that those who showed up to scream, gawk, or laugh at the KKK exponentially outnumbered the KKK slobs, as evidenced in the video and photos below.

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Ramsey’s Choice: Criminalizing African Americans

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Commissioner Charles Ramsey has made a decision: He will keep enforcing the state’s drug laws, keep arresting suspects for simple possession of small amounts of marijuana, and it doesn’t matter what Jim Kenney and a veto-proof majority of the Philadelphia City Council have to say about the matter.

“We still have to treat it as a misdemeanor until we are told otherwise by state law,” he told the Inquirer on Friday. “State law trumps city ordinances.”

That doesn’t sound entirely unreasonable, even if it does raise the question of who the hell pays Ramsey’s salary. But it does mean that Ramsey is making a choice, for which he — and Mayor Nutter, if he chooses to back Ramsey up — will bear substantial moral responsibility.

Ramsey is deciding that African Americans in Philadelphia will continue to be disproportionately treated as criminals.

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Well, at Least Donald Sterling Doesn’t Talk in Code

One of the most fascinating things about the Internet is the way it uncovers how many bigots lie in our midst every day. Especially since most of my columns are centered on the tender subjects of race and class, a quick scroll to the bottom of the page here or here or here (nope, it’s not just the philly.com that serves as venue space for digital Klan meetings), and you can see what I’m talking about. It’s not just about your standard differences in opinion; it’s a fundamental belief system that, as the late great Michael Jackson once said, is “too high to get over, and too low to get under.”

The fact that bigotry generally hides in plain sight is one of the reasons LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling is such a fascinating oddity, a walking, talking, living relic of just how staunchly committed a certain type of person can be to their indefensible racism and prejudice. His absurdity was laid bare in his recent interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, where he said he was not a racist and that he was with Cooper “to apologize and to ask for forgiveness for all the people” he hurt.

Minutes later: “Here is a man who acts so holy,” he said of Magic Johnson, the man featured in the photo with Sterling’s friend V. Stiviano. “I mean, he made love to every girl in every city in America and he has AIDS.”

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MOVE Would Have Never Happened in a White Neighborhood

Let The Fire Burn

A scene from Let The Fire Burn.

A version of this story originally ran in 2012.

On May 13, 1985 at 5:20 p.m., a blue and white Pennsylvania State Police helicopter took off from the command post’s flight pad at 63rd and Walnut, flew a few times over 6221 Osage Avenue, and then hovered 60 feet above the two-story house in the black, middle-class West Philadelphia neighborhood. Lt. Frank Powell, chief of Philadelphia’s bomb disposal unit, was holding a canvas bag containing a bomb consisting of two sticks of Tovex TR2 with C-4. After radioing firefighters on the ground and lighting the bomb’s 45-second fuse—and with the official approval of Mayor W. Wilson Goode and at the insistence of Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor—Powell tossed the bomb, at precisely 5:28 p.m., onto a bunker on the roof. Read more »

So Much for Post-Racial Millennials, Sports

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

For Americans, the sports stadium is the sanctuary where we all give praise to the same gods. The allure of sports, of course, is that they seem fall in line with our democratic values of fairness; the athletic field is where meritocracy is the law of the land and skill is the great equalizer.

Sports are turned to in times where basic human decency has fallen short; we view sports as a salve for our country’s pesky “race problem.” But according to a big Patriot News enterprise feature about race and Pennsylvania’s high school sports — “Unchecked, Unchallenged and Unabashed: Is racism in high school sports being tolerated?”— racism is just as imbued in the locker room as anywhere else, even among our supposedly post-racial young people.

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Tom Wolf’s Record on Racial Politics Is Clear

York businessman Tom Wolf during a Democratic gubernatorial candidates forum Tuesday Feb. 4, 2014  in Philadelphia.  AP Photo | Jacqueline Larma

York businessman Tom Wolf during a Democratic gubernatorial candidates forum Tuesday Feb. 4, 2014 in Philadelphia. AP Photo | Jacqueline Larma

Let’s get real. If Treasurer Rob McCord were actually interested in initiating a serious discussion about racism in Pennsylvania, he probably would have chosen a more appropriate format and timing than a 30-second scare ad two weeks before election day.

Still, the random last-ditch attempt to impugn the character of Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner Tom Wolf has succeeded in getting people talking about race, and it’s an important discussion for Pennsylvania to have with itself. It is, after all, the most prejudiced state outside the South.

But so far the conversation has fixated on the narrow and not especially productive issue of a racist guy, and the appropriate distance for a political candidate to have from him, when the real conversation Pennsylvania needs is about policy.

The biggest problem with white racism isn’t white people mistreating people of color on a personal level — it’s how those prejudices ultimately manifest themselves in state and local laws and policies that directly or indirectly favor white supremacy, and unfairly ration opportunities and public resources to people of color.

And as it happens, Mr. Wolf actually does have a very clear policy record on racial politics, and broadening the discussion to include that record reveals a very different picture of his time in York than the one portrayed in Mr. McCord’s scare ad.

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Sen. Vincent Hughes Takes Aim at Klan Activity

State Sen. Vincent Hughes is sounding the alarm about the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in York, where the KKK has purportedly distributed “neighborhood watch” leaflets suggesting it will be patrolling the city for crime. The Philadelphia Tribune reports:

“It’s real simple. We cannot allow the intolerant behavior from the KKK to go unaddressed. They cannot think there’s a silent majority opposing their wishes, but there’a vocal majority that is opposed to their wishes,” Hughes said. “Anytime we see [KKK members] hanging around, lurking around, keeping their heads covered up and are looking to grow their organization, we’re going to speak on it.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission has informed Hughes it is monitoring the situation, but — given First Amendment rights to free speech — it would be difficult to move against the Klan absent violations of the law.

Why Did it Take the NBA So Long to Discipline Donald Sterling?

AP Photo | Mark J. Terrill

AP Photo | Mark J. Terrill

Yesterday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced a lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine on Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.

For reasons that escape me, many found the decision commendable and that the league had done its part to respond with quick and decisive action against Sterling because of his disgusting (and confusing) racist remarks, which were recorded by his, um, “female friend” V. Stiviano, who, by the way, is a mixed race (black and Mexican) woman of color.

What didn’t happen yesterday was two-fold:

  1. Silver made no announcement about any of Sterling’s peers in the owners association coming to decisive action about Sterling’s continued ownership of the Clippers; and
  2. There was no satisfying answer from the commissioner about why Sterling had been allowed to go on this way for so long.

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