President’s House. Photo | G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia
A version of this article ran last year.
As you take your lunch break tomorrow in Center City, stroll over to Front and Market where the historic London Coffee House once stood, and celebrate the institution that made America one of the wealthiest and most powerful countries in the world, the institution born exactly 395 years ago on Aug. 20, 1619: the institution of slavery. In fact, it was at that site in downtown Philly where black men, women, and children were bought and sold like cattle and like tools.
On that fateful date nearly four centuries ago, as noted by English settler John Rolfe, a wealthy tobacco planter and the so-called husband of Pocahontas, “ … there came a Dutch man of warre that sold us twenty and odd Negars” in the Virginia Colony at Old Point Comfort (now Fort Comfort in Hampton). They were the first enslaved blacks in a land that would become the United States of America.
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I know this is going to devastate a bunch of whiny privileged white people and politicians who would just love to say that we’re “post-racial” because we have a mixed-race president, but here we go:
America has a serious problem with police. And, it’s not a problem with police and everyone else. It’s a problem specifically between police (or people who fetishize authority) and people of color.
On August 9th, 2014, the 18-year-old Michael Brown was stopped by authorities in Ferguson, Missouri. Whatever happened during that stop is unclear. What is clear, however, is that Brown, a young African American man with seemingly no weapon on his person, was shot to death by police.
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Back in May 2013, 59-year-old construction superintendent James Staab, who is white, thought it would be funny to tease a black subcontractor by waving a noose over his head. And, well, you just can’t do that. Read more »
On Monday, I lead three rotational sessions about journalism and black feminism at the University of Pennsylvania’s Social Justice Research Institute. The classroom is made up of notably progressive 15- and 16-year-olds who have words like cisgendered already in their lexicon. At the top of the sessions as a means of introduction, I asked each aspiring social justice practitioner to say their name, their age, and to identify at least one way that they were privileged.
It was an impressive mix of students, some of whom are from far-off places such as Greece or China. Each of them could identify the clear privilege that they’d had in common — an opportunity to spend the summer studying at one of the nation’s foremost Ivies — but as individuals there was some variation in the things they said. Gender privilege. Sexual orientation privilege. Economic privilege. The privilege that comes from having a supportive family. And of course, race.
“Do you feel guilty about it?” I asked one student whose face was turning red as words stumbled out of her mouth, trying to find the right way to land.
“Being white,” I said, curious. Read more »
The headline, as it appeared on the newspaper’s website.
Last week, The West View News, a small monthly paper with circulation in the West Village neighborhood of New York City, ran a story about President Obama with a headline that read “The Nigger in the White House.” The article, written by James Lincoln Collier, a white man, defended the president and accused the far-right of racism.
“Nigger” is a piece of language so loaded, it’s not one that anyone stumbles upon lightly, or happens to use in place of something else. It’s not synonymous with anything; it’s a word of intention. A word of consequence. A word with a lot of history attached to it.
Of course, the newspaper headline sparked debate about the use of the word, and whether its use (however ironically) has a place in journalism—or any other decent public space, for that matter. It’s an editorial decision, for sure, a move that’s the print equivalent of click-bait, which has spawned coverage and think pieces about what the word means.
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Salon reports that conservative columnist Michael Taube has proposed — probably tongue-in-cheek — renaming Washington’s NFL team from “Redskins” to “The Reagans.” We endorse this immediately.
Democrats want Washington’s NFL team to change its name. The Redskins‘ owner, Mr. Snyder, is the only person who can rightfully do this. Hence, if he chooses to comply and pays homage to a Republican president in the process, they’re stuck with it. Any further complaints would smack of political partisanship.
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After years of dedicated service with the Tacony Town Watch, Bill Walters was told his services were no longer needed earlier this year. The reason for his ouster? Walters is a proud member of the East Coast Knights of the True Invisible Empire, that empire being the Ku Klux Klan. And Walters isn’t just a member. No, he’s the group’s Grand Dragon, which at least sounds impressive.
“We received information that Bill had been distributing flyers in the neighborhood trying to recruit new members,” says town watch president Joe Nicoletti of the excommunication, adding that no one on the town watch had a clue about their neighbor’s association with the Klan until the flyers turned up. “And part of our bylaws state that members must promote harmony in the neighborhood, and we all know that harmony is not what the KKK is about.”
Walters has been with the KKK, which he consistently refers to as “my Christian group,” for over 30 years. He has lived in the Tacony neighborhood for the last 20, joining the town watch about five years ago. Walters also served as Republican committeeman in the 65th Ward for more than a decade until he was recently kicked out.
And Walters doesn’t get what all of the fuss is about.
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The Neshaminy School Board of Directors is ready to pass a policy that would ban the student newspaper editors at Neshaminy High School from banning the use of the school’s mascot — the “Redskins” — within the paper itself.
Advocates of that stance say the newspaper’s editors shouldn’t be able to impose their preferences on, say, students who want to write letters to the editor that include the term.
“Assuming that it’s a proper use of the word, such as a reference to the mascot, the school district does not believe, and I don’t believe the law allows, one set of students to prohibit another student from expressing himself or herself,” said Michael Levin, who serves as special counsel to the district.
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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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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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