Thinking vs. Doing at GOP Debate

Melissa Harris-Perry The dominant theme of the GOP debate was that it’s time to do away with the useless endeavor of thinking and to move swiftly toward taking action. 

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Time For Black Journalists To Stop Criticizing Rev. Sharpton

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Whenever I hear people question Reverend Sharpton’s new show, ‘Politics Nation’ on MSNBC, I find myself thinking of the theory known as ‘crabs in the barrel.’ In the ensuing debate surrounding newsrooms and diversity, many forget that there is a massive difference between a journalist and an activist. A journalist reports the news, while an activist advocates for his or her cause. In the case of Rev. Sharpton, that cause is thankfully one of social and political equality for all. After knowing him for over 20 years, I would bet my last dollar that he will continue championing justice in his new position with no apologies. Perhaps it’s time the rest of us learn the difference between these two varying roles and stop criticizing the messenger rather than recognizing the problem. To all the Black journalists out there: don’t take your frustration out on someone who is just doing what is so desperately needed. Let’s find ways to discuss a bias that prohibits equal opportunity. Throughout my years with the National Action Network, there have been a host of issues that we worked to push to the forefront – but it was by no means an easy task. One issue facing Black journalists is how many are unable to get their news organizations to dig deep into a problem and aide in our struggle. Even when we ardently fought against the use of the words ‘n_ggas’ ‘b_tches’ and ‘h_s’ in music, it turned into an almost impossible feat to get the media – including Black journalists – to cover the story, minus a few exceptions of course. Instead of challenging major conglomerates for being the source of denigration and systematic bias, these reporters would often times fall short of explaining why certain inequities exist. Obvious concerns like rampant violence in the community have been difficult to not only bring awareness to, but also keep in the news cycle no matter what the racial component of a newsperson. When things like gun violence and vulgar language directly impact people of color the most, how can so many Black journalists fail to investigate the root causes – i.e. racism, poverty, sexism and a downright disregard for Black life? Rev. Sharpton is and has always been an advocate and defender of the people, and I believe “we” should support his new endeavor for it affords him the opportunity to continue to build on his years of struggle. An activist such as Rev. Sharpton doesn’t need to be fed information on the injustices in society, because he lives and breathes them every single day. It’s in the blood of an activist; it’s what they do on a grassroots level. And now Rev. Sharpton is able to transform that same passion and vigor from the last 20+ years onto a new platform with an even larger audience. Though the mechanism may be new, the message is precisely the same – how and why we must level the playing field across all racial, ethnic and economic lines. Journalists of color are absolutely correct in their criticism of network news and its lack of diversity both behind-the-scenes and in the anchor seat. But their anger is pointed in the wrong direction. While we applaud MSNBC for bringing folks like Melissa Harris-Perry and Michael Eric Dyson onto their programming, TV news on a whole is still largely lacking in terms of minority commentators and journalists alike. But before we unleash on the problem, let’s first be sure that we understand what’s really going on – a historically closed institution that still needs tremendous improvement in terms of inclusion and diversification. So I am more than proud to congratulate Rev. Sharpton, and I can honestly say that most people whom he has worked tirelessly to defend and support are behind him 100% and can’t wait to watch as he gets us all on the good foot. RELATED: Don’t let Michele Bachmann’s agenda fly under the radar

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Don’t Let Michele Bachmann’s Agenda Fly Under The Radar

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Every time I turn on the television and see Michele Bachmann I cringe. Not that the alternative candidates are much better. From Texas’ Governor Perry who eerily reminds us of a George W. Bush, to a candidate like Mitt Romney that thinks corporations ‘are people too.’ Those in the run to challenge President Obama are a stark reminder of how we can potentially halt progress in the country. All of them are obviously on the “attack-President-Obama” bandwagon. But one GOP front-runner in particular that embodies the dangers of conservative leadership perhaps more than anyone is Iowa’s straw poll winner, Michele Bachmann. Her statements regarding women, people of color and U.S. history should offend each and everyone of us, and if we care at all about the future, we better start paying attention to her brand of politics. Before Bachmann was even considered a viable candidate on the right, she made a name for her self among conservatives by pushing right-wing members in Congress to prove their patriotism and allegiance to the country. During a TV interview, she said these elected officials should be screened to see if they are ‘pro-America’ or ‘anti-America’. Her radical ideas quickly pushed her to the fringe of her Party and brought back memories of Joseph McCarthy and his search for ‘Communists’ among our government. Bachmann has since only heightened her shocking rhetoric. Constantly changing historical facts -like suggesting slavery never existed by stating we were all equal when we arrived to this country – Bachmann is part of a growing movement of revisionists who are busy attempting to erase our unjust past. Although she has since tried to alter her remarks, Bachmann also previously said women should be ‘submissive’ to their husbands. As a woman of color, I can never condone the ideas and potential policies of such a person. When many Black women are just getting by, trying to survive and make it happen on their own, who should we be ‘submissive’ to? How is Bachmann even remotely speaking to our plight? We had issues with Sarah Palin in the past, and although Bachmann may be more polished and politically savvy, her ideology is just as detrimental as the Alaska native or maybe even worse! When President Obama first ran for office, many of us didn’t believe he would truly get elected. We couldn’t conceive that a Black man could realistically rise to the stature of the highest office in the land. But we quickly learned that America is more mature and far more progressive than we are taught to believe. The people proved that we are a nation of inclusion, diversity and opportunity. Unfortunately, folks like Bachmann and others would like to transport us to a place where facts don’t matter and neither does equality for all. It’s up to us to pay attention and remain involved in the political process or else face the consequences. And sadly, these are consequences, which could very well set us back decades. RELATED: Angry! Obama Slams GOP Presidential Rivals On Taxes Roland Martin: Bachmann ‘Submission’ Question Was Offensive

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Shoes, Purses And Cars = A Debt Crisis; But Only For Some!

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The New York Times cover story on Thursday highlighted the growing spending power of the super rich. While average American families struggle to make ends meet, the wealthy are flooding high-end stores to the point where Nordstrom has a waiting list for a Chanel sequined tweed coat for $9,010. But instead of emulating the frivolous spending habits of the select few, perhaps we need to instead spend wisely and save. In the time it took Washington to reach an agreement on raising the debt ceiling, I wonder how many more of us fell into our own financial crisis? If we’ve learned anything out of the debt debacle, it’s that some in Congress are willing to hang the American people out to dry in order to advance personal agendas, and we must therefore handle our business. Time to get our own fiscal houses in order. As perhaps the largest consumers of goods in the country, African Americans continuously purchase products – some we don’t even need – in great numbers. Despite our median income remaining at only 60 percent of the median income for white households (Black Enterprise Magazine), we routinely flood the economy with our hard-earned dollars often as quickly as we receive them. Our buying power is undoubtedly tremendous, but we have to start using it wisely. We cannot spend our entire paycheck on that new pair of shoes or that name brand purse when our bills are due. And we cannot charge our lives away. The problem of spending before we have it isn’t confined to African Americans only; our own federal and state governments are still struggling to balance their books. But if we don’t want to keep racking up debt and run around trying to find ways to raise our own credit limits, we’ve got to start budgeting, cutting our spending and investing. Money clearly is power. And believe me, I include myself when I say that as women, we sometimes forget that economic strength empowers us across the board. I can admit, that I have at times bought a pair of shoes that I didn’t need or grabbed a bag that really wasn’t necessary. But all of us have to begin steps to change our buying habits and avert our own debt crisis in the future.  For the men out there, I haven’t forgotten you. There are many who think they just can’t live without that brand new car, or customize their ride with ridiculous upgrades, and yet they’re still living at home with mama! Some men indulge in high-end watches or clothes as well, but no matter what our ‘thing’ may be, we’ve got to start making sure economic power is our focus. Washington just reached a national debt agreement. It’s time for us to work on personal debt resolution in order to prevent serious consequences in our lives — and instead progress ahead — so that the great income and wealth disparities in this country cease to exist. RELATED: How the movie “The Help” inspires women to do better

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How The Movie “The Help” Inspires All Women To Do Better

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In a week where much attention was focused on maids and domestic workers, I had the unique opportunity of participating in a gathering at the White House that highlighted the ability and possibility of women – even maids in the 1960s – to transform societal norms. At the invitation of First Lady Michelle Obama, I attended a screening for the acclaimed film, ‘The Help,’ on Wednesday at the White House. As the First Lady showcased this movie centered on ideas of unity and progress, I couldn’t help but take pride in the notion that this young Black woman who works tirelessly to overcome her own battles and uplift her generation, was among those blessed to be in attendance. Set in Jackson, Mississippi, ‘The Help’ (based on the best-selling novel) focuses on three distinct women – two Black, one white – and their intertwining lives around the ideas of race, class, gender and power. The film, much like the theme at the White House’s screening, was that despite one’s racial background, we can unite and transform society. Perhaps if I was alive in the ‘60s, I would be able to comment more on what we went through as a people – and specifically as Black women. But as a child of the ‘80s, I found myself watching this film and focusing more on the tremendous accomplishments we have achieved. It is absolutely remarkable that within a few decades since the setting of ‘The Help,’ we were able to gather at the nation’s capital, at the White House for that matter, and sit with the First Lady to analyze and discuss our progress.  At the screening, Mrs. Obama said something that stuck with me: “What if Barack had given up …. What if Nelson Mandela had given up … ?” I even began thinking: “What if I had given up?” We all have our struggles in life, and though we have obviously made gains, we have much work that remains. But what we cannot do is allow our challenges to hold us back from the greater good. I lost someone very close to me to senseless violence years ago, but today I use that tragedy to advocate for methods of eliminating guns from our streets. Out of every calamity comes hope and choices – you can either wallow in the grief or you can do something to prevent others from experiencing it. The women from ‘The Help’ united and risked their lives to change the course of history. All it takes is one good person, no matter the color. And you never know who you may inspire – just as the First Lady once again inspired us all this week. RELATED: Violence doesn’t hesitate and neither should you What if Casey Anthony were Black?

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Tuesday: Rallies Everywhere to Save the American Dream

Enough is enough.   Speaker Boehner's decision last week to walk out in the middle of negotiations with President Obama was the last straw.   The time has come -- at long last -- for America's super-majority to stand up against the extreme, hostage-taking tactics of the Tea Party minority in Congress.   Tea Party Republicans would rather shred America's safety net and also risk tanking America's economy than raise taxes one penny on their super-wealthy donors and corporate backers.   This Tuesday at noon, everyday Americans will finally have the chance to be heard, across America, at the local offices of every member of Congress. The American Dream movement -- which includes dozens of organizations and thousands of individuals who are standing up for the middle class and working class families -- is calling for emergency mobilizations across the country tomorrow.   We will thank many of our elected leaders, especially Leader Nancy Pelosi and the more than 70 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) who have stood strong by the middle class, in the face of this madness. We will ask others to step up as champions and support the CPC letter .   And for those who are threatening our whole our economy to win tax breaks for millionaires, we will hold signs and stand outside their offices -- using peaceful pressure to shame them into siding with the vast majority of Americans.   The stakes are clear: millions of people are now facing catastrophic economic harm, unless Americans stand up and force the GOP to relent in its reckless drive to destroy essential middle class programs. The GOP is holding the American Dream itself hostage.   If the Republicans carry out their threats, for the first time in history, the greatest nation on Earth will be in default on our obligations.   Defaulting on our debt would be a disaster for our nation -- and for every single American. The jobs of half a million Americans would almost certainly disappear. Loans for college or homes could be almost impossible to get. We might have to stop sending Social Security and Medicare checks to people who need them. Our men and women in uniform could stop getting paychecks.   Worse: our great nation would lose its perfect credit rating. That would add billions of dollars to our deficit because other countries would charge us more interest on our loans.   This is literally insane. And if you are shocked, appalled and outraged, you are not alone. The vast majority of Americans are opposed to the both the goals and the tactics of the Tea Party minority in Congress.   Ordinary Republicans know that the Tea Party is dead wrong.   That number includes the majority of REPUBLICANS. Even David Stockman, who was one of the chief architects of Reaganomics, has said that America will need tax increases. The Economist magazine agrees with him; so does David Brooks. No surprise there: so do 55 percent of all Republicans. That's right, the majority of all Republicans think the Tea Party minority has gone too far.   The Tea Party position is so crazy and extreme that its caucus literally would have to throw out Ronald Reagan (who raised the debt ceiling 18 times), for being too liberal on the question of taxes.   People that extreme should have no moral or political standing to threaten America; they should attempt to impose their bizarre worldview on the rest of us. But that is exactly what they are doing.   The idea of a working democracy is now at risk.   It is time for DC to listen to the voices of regular people, again. Two-thirds of Americans want a budget deal to include getting rid of special tax breaks for millionaires and big corporations. Two-thirds of us believe Republicans in Congress have acted irresponsibly in pushing us toward a default crisis.   Americans know that no single political party has 100 percent of the power in our country, so no single party can have things 100 percent its way. At a certain point, everyone must put the needs of one's country above the preferences of one's party.   The Tea Party minority is perhaps the first faction in American history to seize complete control of a political party -- and then act with complete and utter disregard for those basic American political traditions.   To get their way, they are willing to hold the American Dream itself hostage -- putting an economic gun to all of our heads and jeopardizing the financial future of 310 million people.   Since the Cold War, no foreign enemy has ever posed this kind of threat to America. No foreign power could possibly do the kind of damage that the Tea Party minority is threatening to inflict on the American people.   Hands off Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare   Leaders like former Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Bernie Sanders have set a fine example in standing up to this nonsense. So have Congressional Progressive Caucus chairs Rep. Keith Ellison and Rep. Raúl Grijalva.   They should not stand alone.   Our democracy has been hijacked by a small group of extremists. The American Dream is in peril. It is time for the super-majority of Americans to be superheroes and rescue our economic future.   I will see you on Tuesday.

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Violence Doesn’t Hesitate — And Neither Should You

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When I was growing up, there were always stories of random acts of violence here and there, or a tragic shooting that would periodically capture the headlines. But what was once a rarity has sadly transformed into some sort of normalized disturbing behavior. Just within the last week, a Florida teen was accused of bludgeoning his parents to death and partying afterwards; while in Brooklyn, NY, an eight-year-old boy was kidnapped, killed and cut into pieces after he asked a stranger for directions. And in between all of this madness, there were countless shootings, stabbings and other incidents across the country. The culture of violence is out of control and it is colorless, ageless and doesn’t discriminate in choosing its victims. Last week, staffers at the National Action Network (NAN) and I sat down with New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand as we held an urgent meeting on the staggering rise in violence. Discussing everything from removing guns off of our streets to educating young people — to providing increased recreational activities and employment — we not only touched on the root causes of this dilemma, but also what decisive action we can all take. And earlier in the month, Rev. Sharpton and I held a similar meeting during the Essence Music Festival with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu who has young folks dying daily in his city. When we speak of violence, often times, people resort to stereotypes or dismiss the idea all together believing that it doesn’t impact them. The truth is, innocent victims sadly come in all shapes, colors, sizes, ages, income brackets and religions. The horrific incidents of the past week are validation in that alone. In Florida, you had a seemingly normal, suburban white teenage boy who is now accused of killing his own parents; and then hosting a party while their bodies lay in an upstairs bedroom. And in the Brooklyn Hasidic Jewish community, a young boy’s dismembered body was discovered and the culprit was allegedly a member of the same faith. This is a national epidemic and it’s time we stop pretending it only takes place “over there.” As NAN continues its push to bring this issue to the forefront, we urge everyone to do the same. Call your local elected officials, organize a rally and ask why more isn’t being done to resolve this ever-growing catastrophe. Just as labor unions organize and convene around ideas of collective bargaining, so too must we organize around the issue of our lives. We at NAN are consistently seeking new methods of combating violence, and though we may not always have the answer, we never falter in our resolve. On August 27 th , NAN will hold our annual march on Washington, D.C. honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (whose statue will also be unveiled that weekend). We call on everyone to join us as we seek new solutions to combating our most pressing challenges. If you cannot join us in Washington, commit to doing something somewhere in your community. The time for turning a blind eye is over; we must take decisive action now. How can we sleep at night knowing our 16-year-old babies have guns in the next apartment, in the adjacent building, or hell even upstairs?! How can you call yourself a man or woman of the cloth, an educator, a Christian, a counselor, a parent or even a good person and not do anything? What has happened to us? RELATED: What if Casey Anthony were Black? Reality TV and its damaging effect on Black women

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What If Casey Anthony Were Black?

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This weekend, Casey Anthony will leave Orange County Jail in Orlando, Florida amid controversy. Her release from prison will continue a debate that many in the Black community are currently having. Casey, who was acquitted of murdering her daughter Caylee, has become a household name, just as most of the Anthony family has. But following the daily courtroom drama and intense media frenzy surrounding this tragic case, we have to ask ourselves, what if Casey or Caylee were Black? Chances are, we’d have no idea who they were. It’s no secret that our press is unfortunately biased at times in the way in which they cover – and don’t cover – news items. We often see people of color stereotyped or misrepresented in both our local and national news platforms. But when a story involves a missing child or a missing woman, how could this same unbalance take place? When someone’s life literally hangs in the balance, who makes the judgment call to overly indulge in one story and not focus at all on another? The unfortunate reality is that if a police department doesn’t feel a missing person’s case is important, it won’t garner the attention it deserves. If law enforcement fails to put in the resources and manpower to look for a child, teenager, mother or loved one, others won’t either. From the onset, countless strangers came to Casey Anthony’s side and helped search for her “missing” child. And it’s no secret that a large part of this had to do with the amount of coverage this case received at every step of the turn. If young Caylee Anthony had in fact been missing, this sort of community involvement could have saved her life – just as it could save others who have been abducted or disappeared. As newsrooms continually struggle to diversify, the consequences simply multiply. In 2009 alone, more than 30% of those reported in the National Crime Information Center’s missing person file’s were Black. And yet how many of the most recent missing person’s cases that we know of involve people of color? The notion of race and coverage disparity also applies to Casey Anthony herself. Would she have been so easily acquitted if she were a Black woman? With reports that she may have even received donations from sympathizers while behind bars, Casey has transcended into some sort of innocent victim herself. As people continue to debate whether or not she was involved in the death of her own daughter, we cannot escape the fact that if she or Caylee were Black, you can bet we would currently be having an entirely different discussion here. It’s time we start actively pushing for balanced coverage across the board – our children’s lives may very well depend on it. RELATED: Reality TV and its damaging effect on Black women Failure to ban video games for kids makes parents jobs harder

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Reality TV And Its Damaging Effect On Black Women

By Tamika Mallory If you didn’t know a thing about Black folks, what would you think if you turned on your TV? Whether it’s “Basketball Wives,” “Love & Hip-Hop,” “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” series, or “Single Ladies” (although not a reality show, it’s along the same lines), chances are, you would leave those shows with a negative view of Black women. In this world of fiction portrayed as reality, what is the message being sent to those in the community and the rest of the world? As a Black woman working diligently to empower and embolden other women, I can unequivocally say that I’m downright frustrated. On a daily basis, we are bombarded with images of women of color dancing half-naked in music videos, or prancing around fighting each other on one of these TV shows. If reality TV is purported to depict real lives, what does that say about us and what others think of us? What sorts of examples are we setting for young, impressionable women out there? These days, it’s very difficult for me to pinpoint a single reality program that showcases positive, accurate images of Black women and our role in society. As doctors, lawyers, educators, mothers, care takers, political activists and more, we are responsible for calling out networks that don’t correctly portray who we are as women and as a people. But, is the ugly truth that there are more women conducting themselves in the manner we see on reality shows than those doing actual, constructive things in real life? The reality in all of this is that we must decide ourselves who we are and what we’d like to represent us on a national and global scale. For it isn’t just Americans that tune in to popular programming; there are countless others around the planet that may never come across a Black woman in his/her entire life and the image on TV is all they have to go by. Even though there may be extensive money in reality TV, have we decided that it’s worth the cost of selling our souls and misleading our children? RELATED: Failure to ban violent video games makes job harder for parents

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Failure To Ban Violent Video Games Makes Job Harder For Parents

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As a mother of a teenage son, I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve walked into a room and turned off a video game or TV program that I felt was inappropriate for a still developing child. But despite how often I pull the plug or refuse to let him buy certain products, the reality is that our Supreme Court just made my job and the job of other parents that much more difficult. Ruling on Monday that violent and dangerous video games could not be banned to minors, the Supreme Court in essence said to all of us: you’re on your own. Raising a child in today’s culture of aggression, accessibility to negative influences and overall instability is a challenge for any mother out there. Once upon a time, there used to be a concept of the community. Regardless of how much our mothers and fathers were working, we knew that a neighbor or elder could and would keep an eye on us. We knew that we couldn’t engage in certain behaviors because it would without fail get back to our parents. There was a real sense of looking out for each other, and a profound sense of looking out for future generations. But today, the ‘unity’ in community is lost and the ones to suffer the most are the kids. As a busy, working mother, how can I physically be everywhere my son is? The reality is, no parent can be with his or her child 24/7. And while we may restrict gruesome video games in our homes, who will protect the kids when they set foot into the outside world? Knowing that my son wasn’t running around in the streets, I took comfort in the notion that video games at least provided an alternative, safe form of recreation for young people. But what are we teaching them if these games are inundated with nothing but guns, shooting and graphic violence? How different is that from what’s tragically out on the streets? And what kind of subliminal impact are we having on these kids if we flood them with these messages? The Supreme Court has failed to protect us in the most fundamental manner. Who will prevent our children from the devastating material designed to pollute and tarnish their minds, body and soul? In order to raise a strong, educated and focused generation, it takes a village – including all levels of government. It’s unfortunate that ours just let us down. RELATED: The Her In HIV

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