Monthly Archives: April 2009

Can Michael Vick Take the Steps to Rebuild His Life?

By James Ewers

jewers1It was only a few years ago that Michael Vick was playing quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons and riding high. He was slashing and dashing through National Football League lines, and it was a joy to watch him. Now, he is without a ride and grounded. Much was made a while back about Michael Vick, a star player, being involved in a dog fighting ring. As we know, he was subsequently tried and convicted of this crime. The public at large was taken aback. How could this popular player be a part of such a hideous activity? Of course animal lovers and lobbyists climbed all over him so the pressure to convict him was enormous. Roger Goddell, the new NFL commissioner, had his say and also reprimandeded Vick for his actions by suspending him from the league. So a Michael Vick jersey that once sold at a high price and was once a must-have in your wardrobe is now on sale. He was sentenced to 23 months in prison for the crime, and may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel in the next few months. Just recently he appeared in court to share his plan of how he was going to get back on his feet. Of course a part of the plan included him coming back to play football in the NFL. The judge has denied it and asked Vick and his attorneys to submit another plan. Commissioner Goodell has yet to weigh in on whether Michael Vick will be allowed to play football again.

In just a few months, football season will be here and the NFL will be in full swing. Will Michael Vick be in the mix? I am a dog lover and I couldn’t imagine my dog Mr. Ferguson involved in dog fighting. It is my opinion that Michael Vick should have been punished for the dog fighting incidents. After all they occurred over a period of time and he supplied the money and the facilities to make this happen. You have to wonder what he was thinking as he had just signed a 10-year, $130-million  contract in 2004. Even though we’re in an economic downturn, $130 million is still a whole heap of money. Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons, while he dismissed Vick from the team, is still a father figure for him. Blank said, “I just try to be supportive and as understanding as I can be. He talks about the process he is going through and what he has learned, the lessons of life, how he is going to come out a different person. He is sorry he’s affected so many people in a negative way, the league, our club, our fans. He feels awful about that.”

Obviously Michael Vick now knows that he did something wrong. Yet in the beginning, I am not sure that he thought he was doing anything against the law. Vick was raised in Virginia and probably saw dog fighting as he was coming of age. As an adult he only played out what he had already seen. On the grand scale of criminal activity, he and his friends just didn’t see dog fighting as that big of a deal. I can remember my parents telling me when I was a young boy to watch who you call your friends. I have always taken that advice to heart. If you recall it was one of Vick’s so-called “friends” who in the words of the young “ratted” him out. It is my hope right now that Michael Vick is trying to get a new set of friends who will be more uplifting and positive. Many of us have found that we have a lot of friends when good times are rolling who disappear when things aren’t going well.

The good news is that Michael Vick will soon have paid his debt to society and can move on with his life. Now the question is, will we let him? Predictably there will be people and organizations who will continue to attack him and be critical of his behavior. We get a weird and distorted sense of pleasure when we see other people suffering. It increases when they have fame and money. If your day is made by the challenges of other people then you have a sad and unappealing life. I am cheering Michael Vick on and want him to be successful. My thinking is there are some teams in the NFL where Michael Vick could be a starting quarterback. Let’s hope that an owner takes a chance on him understanding that he has paid his penalty. Vick was once the most exciting player in the NFL. I don’t know Mr. Goodell personally, but if he does happen to read this column, I am asking him to give Michael Vick another chance to play football. Sometimes some of us need more than one chance to get it right. “We fall down but we get up” are the lyrics sung by gospel singer, Donnie McClurkin. So let’s get ready for some football and hope that Michael Vick is a part of the NFL.

Dr. Ewers is the associate dean for student affairs and director of community partnerships at Miami University Middletown in Ohio. He is the author of Perspectives From Where I Sit: Essays on Education, Parenting and Teen Issues

Obama Decision to Boycott World Racism Conference is Regrettable

By Dr. Pamela D. Reed

Change has come to America.

pamela-reed08Doubters of this undeniable truth need only look to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for confirmation. Or to the international stage, where President Barack Obama — along with first lady Michelle Obama — has taken the world by storm.

Let’s face it. It was nothing short of amazing to witness the Obamas deplane Air Force One in London for the G-20 Summit … and to be received by the queen at Buckingham Palace. And let me tell you, I literally wiped away tears as I watched Michelle Obama’s profoundly personal, uplifting message to a group of young immigrant girls of color at a London school.

And I smiled broadly at the decidedly soulful vibe of this year’s Easter Egg Roll, which was like no other, I’m sure.

Fast forward to the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, where President Obama, with his talk of equal partnerships, seemed to begin a new chapter in relations with Cuba and Venezuela, and one finds further evidence of seismic change.

Yes, it is a new day.

One thing, however, has not changed: America will not be in attendance at this year’s United Nations World Conference against Racism (WCAR), commonly referred to as Durban II. Representatives of the Bush administration, and the Israelis, famously walked out of the WCAR in Durban, South Africa eight years ago because Zionism — the political movement advocating support for the modern state of Israel — was declared racist.

In a bit of unfortunate continuity, the Obama administration has elected to boycott this week’s historic gathering in Geneva, Switzerland — “with regret,” of course.

U. S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood says that “The United States will work with all people and nations to build greater resolve and enduring political will to halt racism and discrimination wherever it occurs.”

Just not at the UN racism conference, apparently.

Also skipping Durban II are Australia, Italy, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Israel. Other European nations are still undecided about sending representatives. Britain is reportedly sending a diplomatic delegation.

The Associated Press reports that the major stated American objection, this time, is the concern that Islamic countries will demand the denunciation of Israel and ban criticism of Islam.
Am I alone in seeing this concern as contradictory? On the one hand, the Obama administration is objecting to the critique of Israel, yet they are concerned that “free speech” will be a casualty if Islamic nations are successful at curtailing critique of Islam.

But free speech — even the incendiary rhetoric of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — should be universal, shouldn’t it? After all, people are smart and the world community can think for itself, can’t it?

Meanwhile, President Obama has missed the opportunity to take his message of hope and change to Geneva. And he has disappointed and angered large swaths of his coalition — namely Blacks and Hispanics who are still subjected to random acts of racism here in America.

And surely, Black and Brown people worldwide are asking, “Don’t our struggles matter to the first Black American President?” Here’s another question: Is anyone beyond reproach? I mean, must American loyalty to its “stalwart” ally Israel mean forsaking all others — even American constituencies?

After 61 years of existence, the state of Israel is stilled locked in an existential struggle that makes any semblance of normalcy impossible. Even many Jewish people recognize that Israel is at a moral and ethical crossroads. New York Times columnist Roger Cohen writes of this in his recent column “Israel, Iran and Fear.”

Cohen cites a prominent political figure’s 1999 comments: “Every attempt to keep hold of this area [The West Bank] as one political entity leads, necessarily, to either a non-democratic or a non-Jewish state, because if the Palestinians vote, then it is a binational state, and if they don’t vote it is an apartheid state …”

These are not my words, nor those of former President Jimmy Carter, who is often excoriated for criticizing the Israelis, but those of Ehud Barak, the current defense minister and former Prime Minister of Israel, no less.

But I don’t want this to morph into an article on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is about an American President’s willingness to forgo the opportunity to be counted in the number of nations actively working to eradicate the cancer of racism from the face of the earth.

And I’m not saying that the President himself should necessarily be in Geneva. That’s why he has a secretary of state or a United Nations ambassador.

As it stands, though, President Barack Hussein Obama — the first African-American to hold the vaunted, so-called highest office in the land — now has the regrettable, irrevocable legacy of boycotting the World Racism Conference.

What a shame.


Dr. Reed is a diversity consultant and assistant professor of English and African-American literature at Virginia State University.


Court of the Conqueror Writes Another Legal Fiction

By J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, Ph.D.

jkauanuiOn March 31, 2009, the Supreme Court of the United States (S.C.O.T.U.S.) issued its ruling in the case of State of Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs, et al. The state of Hawai‘i asked the high court whether or not the state has the authority to sell, exchange, or transfer 1.2 million acres of land formerly held by the Hawaiian monarchy as Crown and Government Lands. Prior to the state’s appeal to the S.C.O.T.U.S., the State Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the state should keep the land trust intact until Kanaka Maoli (indigenous Hawaiian) claims to these lands are settled, and prohibited the state from selling or otherwise disposing of the properties to private parties; it did so based on a 1993 Apology Resolution issued by Congress to the Hawaiian people. The S.C.O.T.U.S. reversed the judgment of the Hawai‘i Supreme Court and remanded the case for further proceedings with the stipulation that the outcome not be inconsistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion.

The contested land base constitutes 29 percent of the total land area of what is now known as the State of Hawaii and almost all the land claimed by the State as “public lands.” These lands were unilaterally claimed by the U.S. federal government when it unilaterally annexed the Hawaiian Islands through a Joint Resolution by the U.S. Congress in 1898, after they had been “ceded” by the Republic of Hawai‘i, which had established itself a year after the armed and unlawful overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy under Queen Lili‘uokalani in 1893. These are the same lands mentioned in the 1993 Apology Resolution in which Congress acknowledged and apologized for the United States’ complicity in the overthrow in violation of bilateral treaties with the Hawaiian Kingdom and international law. The Apology also affirmed, “the indigenous Hawaiian people never directly relinquished their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people or over their national lands to the United States, either through their monarchy or through a plebiscite or referendum.”

The S.C.O.T.U.S. ruled as they did to legitimize the theft of the Hawaiian Islands through the 1893 Overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom and the unilateral annexation of 1898 through the Newlands Resolution passed by Congress. The Court claims that Pursuant to the Newlands Resolution, the Republic of Hawaii “ceded absolutely and without reserve to the United States of America all rights of sovereignty of whatsoever kind” and provided that provided that all “property and rights” in the so-called ceded lands are “vested in the United States of America.” This is a legal fiction to cover up the fact that the U.S. government accepted the stolen lands from the Republic of Hawaii government that confiscated these lands after the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. The Republic of Hawaii could not have ceded these lands in “absolute fee” to the United States because they were stolen. The U.S. government accepted the stolen goods and cannot prove title because they were stolen without Hawaiian people’s consent and without compensation.

The ruling serves to shore up the U.S. government’s rampant criminality and to tie up all loose threads that could implicate the USA in an international case. In other words, this is a preemptive move to foreclose the possibility of restoring the Hawaiian nation under international law. The Court insists that the Apology does not change the legal landscape or restructure the rights and obligations of the State. The ruling states, the Apology would “raise grave constitutional concerns if it purported to ‘cloud’ Hawaii’s title to its sovereign lands more than three decades after the State’s admission to the union.” The Court further opined that “Congress cannot, after statehood, reserve or convey submerged lands that have already been bestowed upon a State.”

If the Apology Resolution has no teeth in the court of the conqueror, then how is it that the Newlands Resolution that unilaterally annexed Hawai`i does? The court could not dismiss the Apology on grounds that it was a joint resolution of Congress (rather than a treaty of annexation, or even an act of Congress) because it would have to declare the Newlands Resolution impotent. Instead, the justices did some grammatical back flips and focused instead on six verbs in the preambular “whereas” clauses that made various observations about Hawaii’s history, which they found have no legal bite: acknowledges, recognizes, commends, apologizes, expresses, and urges. Of course, the Court also cited the disclaimer at the end of the Resolution—no surprise there since the U.S. government’s apology is like a “no fault” apology—carefully crafted in order to preclude restitution of the Hawaiian nation and appropriate reparations after recognizing Hawaii’s full sovereignty.

Unfortunately the trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs—elected by all of Hawaii’s registered voters, not just Kanaka Maoli — were in on it. It’s important to note what is hidden in the name of the case that went before the S.C.O.T.U.S., State of Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs, et al., since the “et al” (meaning “and others”) includes four individual Kānaka Maoli. One of them is Dr. Jonathan Kamakawiwo‘ole Osorio—associate professor at the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and author of Dismembering Lāhui: A History of the Hawaiian Nation to 1887. He is an original plaintiff in the case who sued the state to prevent the sale of these lands and was a defendant in the appeal to the Supreme Court. When I interviewed Osorio for my public affairs radio program, “Indigenous Politics: From Native New England and Beyond,” he specified how his stake in the case is vastly different from the interests of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which is a state agency. Had the four individuals not been party to the lawsuit, one could have more easily surmised that this case involved collusion between the executive branch of the state government, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which draws revenues from these lands. Indeed, when I heard part of the oral arguments before the S.C.O.T.U.S., the attorney chosen by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, like the state attorney general, argued that the state of Hawai‘i has “perfect title” to the Hawaiian lands. Osorio’s argument, however, is clearly very different, “the United States has absolutely no title over these lands…they have no legal foundation.”

What lurks in the background of all of this is the question of a political settlement with Native Hawaiians. Currently, there is a federally driven bill before Congress that would reconstitute a “Native Hawaiian Government” under U.S. policy on Native Americans—The Hawaiian Reorganization Act of 2009, commonly referred to as the “Akaka bill” after its author U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI). The U.S. government knows it does not have any legitimate title to these stolen lands. Hence, the only way the United States will ever be able to secure its claim is by constituting a Hawaiian governing entity to give up the claim to them in exchange for some sort of cash settlement. It is telling that Robin Puanani Danner, CEO and president of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement & Native Hawaiian Economic Alliance—a major driving force for passage of the Akaka bill—issued a statement right after the ruling and mentioned how the case relates to their proposal for a land claims settlement. Settlement is a sell-out, and the Akaka bill provides the legislative framework for that resolution.

Adopting this law would be yet another assault against the sovereignty of the Hawaiian Nation, which is why over a dozen grassroots Hawaiian organizations oppose it, including Hui Pu, and those that constitute the Hawaiian Independence Action Alliance: the Pro-Kanaka Maoli Independence Working Group, Ka Pakaukau, Komike Tribunal, H.O.N.I.(Hui o Na Ike), Ka Lei Maile Ali‘i Hawaiian Civic Club, Koani Foundation, ‘Ohana Koa, N.F.I.P. – Hawai‘i, Spiritual Nation of Kū – Hui Ea Council of Sovereigns, Living Nation, Settlers for Hawaiian Independence, M.A.N.A. (Movement For Aloha No Ka ‘Aina), as well as the Hawai`i Institute for Human Rights.

The crimes against the Hawaiian nation in 1893 and the ramifications of which continue to this day deserve careful scrutiny by an international court, not the court of the conqueror. Indeed, many Kanaka Maoli and other Kingdom heirs insist that the U.S. government submit its legal position to the Permanent Court of Arbitration for a fair and just resolution.

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of American Studies and Anthropology at Wesleyan University. She is the author of Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Indigeneity and Sovereignty(Duke University Press, 2008). She is the producer and host of a public affairs radio program, “Indigenous Politics: From Native New England and Beyond,” which airs on WESU, Middletown, CT and is syndicated on select Pacifica-affiliate stations. An audio archive of all the programs can be accessed online:

Michelle Obama: One Classy, Resilient, Intelligent First Lady

By Elwood Watson

elwoodwatsonFrom the moment her husband became a serious contender for the Democratic nomination, Michelle Obama has been a perennial figure in the media spotlight. With this level of exposure has also come a significant amount of controversy. Unlike previous first ladies such as Rosalyn Carter, the late former first lady, Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson, Pat Nixon and others, Mrs. Obama seems to evoke rabid passion among her supporters and detractors alike. There is no middle ground or indifference in their feelings toward her. Her proponents see her as intelligent, classy, elegant, no-nonsense, charismatic and socially conscious. Her opponents denounce her as being arrogant, aloof, unpatriotic, and racially bigoted and harboring a socialist agenda.

For her critics, the already high level of suspicion toward both Obamas reached a fever pitch in the 2008 presidential campaign when the then-future first lady stated first_lady_michelle_obama_official_portrait_2009-redthat for the first time in her adult life she was really proud of America. While many reasonable and rational people totally understood what she meant (even Laura Bush later in the same year in an interview stated that she did) and were well aware of the fact that there was not one hint of unpatriotic rhetoric in her comments, the political right led by Cindy McCain and company wasted no time in perversely exploiting a sincere statement, misconstruing it to imply that Mrs. Obama was an anti-American who harbored Black nationalist sentiments.

Sensing a possible campaign issue, the Republican right seized on Mrs. Obama making her the target of vicious assaults. She was accused of hating Whites and using the term “whitey” on tape. Terms such as “baby mama,” “angry Black woman,” “jezebel,” “Black Lady Macbeth,” “Ms. Grievance,” “bitch” (in many cases preceded by the word Black), “uppity” and other derogatory and disrespectful labels were ascribed to her. In fact, on some far right wing websites, the language used to describe both her and her husband was so inflammatory and intolerant that some website moderators decided to shut down for a few days to reissue stricter guidelines for bloggers. I could not even repeat such incendiary rhetoric here.

Not content enough to just take a quote grossly out of context, the anti-Michelle crowd posted copies of her Princeton undergraduate thesis on anti-Obama websites in an effort to demonstrate that she was obsessed with being Black, attacked her University of Chicago administrative job as a “diversity position,” spread false rumors that she only wanted Black and other non-whites at campaign rallies, that she was on tape yelling anti-American statements and other such nonsense. A couple of talk show hosts referred to Michelle Obama by invoking the term “lynching party.” YES INDEED! THINGS WERE GETTING UGLY! The McCain campaign fall rallies demonstrated the vile, seething anti-Obama paranoia and hatred that was evident. But that’s another story that has been effectively covered.

In regards to the tapes, the interesting thing is that none of them ever surfaced. This is probably due to the fact that no such tapes ever existed. The Republican architects of such sinister schemes were well aware of this; however, they knew that it was not necessary for them to produce any concrete evidence. For their jingoistic, wild-eyed, racist, sexist, xenophobic right-winged supporters, just the thought of such images was enough to whip them into an anti-Michelle Obama frenzy.

Some people argue that there have been other first ladies like Hillary Clinton and Nancy Reagan who have undergone critical and hostile scrutiny. While true, neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mrs. Reagan were subjected to acerbic racial overtones. They were criticized for certain excesses, but never were the attacks, especially in the case of Nancy Reagan, so racially charged or personal. Race has undoubtedly been a factor in such treatment. However, like many strong, radiant and viable Black women before her, Mrs. Obama has managed to admirably shrug off such criticism and resentment and focus on the goals that are important to her, such as speaking to young girls in elementary and middle schools and meeting with military families.

More recently, the current first lady has charmed the world demonstrated with her impeccable fashion sense. She warmly embraced Queen Elizabeth (the queen reciprocated). She demonstrated that she is just as elegant as any European leader’s wife and endeared herself into the minds and hearts of millions of people all over the world. In fact, many people have compared her to a previous first lady, Jackie Kennedy.

Whether this deep admiration for her will last remains to be seen. Nonetheless, for the present moment, it seems that many individuals see her diverse, flexible, sincere personality as one that is refreshing to them. Recently, even her most strident, bigoted critics, a number of whom would rather have her cleaning their houses as opposed to living in the White House, have been unable to demonize her. One thing is probably for certain and that is Michelle Obama will remain true to herself and to her constituencies. She is indeed one classy, resilient, intelligent first lady.

Dr. Elwood Watson is a full professor of History and African American Studies at East Tennessee State University. He is the author of several award-winning academic articles, several anthologies and is the author of the book Outsiders Within: Black Women in the Legal Academy After Brown v. Board  (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers Spring 2008)




The Case Against Cultural Standardization in Tenure Decisions

Dr. Christopher J. Metzler

metzlerThere has been a cacophony of voices calling for the elimination of tenure in higher education. Many of those voices are ultra conservative ideologues who are using the tenure debate to excoriate what they see as a liberal-leaning academy. There is a more vexing question that is conveniently absent from the tenure reform debate. That question is the role that race plays in the decision of tenure committees in denying tenure to Black scholars. I am not suggesting that all decisions to deny tenure to Blacks is racist. I am suggesting that the committees making the decision to deny, the departments that support the decisions, the deans, provosts and presidents who uphold denial must ask themselves whether they have homogenized the tenure process, already structured around amorphous standards of scholarship and service, such that it is more likely than not that Black scholars and our scholarship will forever be relegated to the intellectual margins.

My concern is that those denying tenure are more concerned about whether their decisions are legally defensible than whether the decisions are just. That is, how many of the people who make the decisions to deny, acknowledge and act upon the structural and racial biases built into the promotion and tenure systems of most universities? Some would argue that there is no need to do so as the issue of denial is about quality and not about race. But, if this is the case are these committees suggesting that Blacks on tenure track were hired as quality scholars and then after years of teaching, researching and providing service magically become mediocre? Perhaps if they were being honest, they would say that in far too many cases, faculties hire Blacks on tenure track because of pressures — real or perceived — stemming from the underrepresentation of Blacks on the faculties of predominantly White universities, including some of the most liberal ones. In some cases, so-called diversity programs, which grant additional funding to departments to hire (not promote) more Blacks, result in an erosion of the faculty sourcing strategy therefore resulting in denial of tenure and thus termination. Do universities that employ this parochial and patronizing approach to diversifying faculties really believe that this is just? To be sure, the deliberately vague terms of “scholarship” and “quality” affects Whites who are denied tenure as well, it simply affects Blacks differently and worse.

The nature of teaching and learning in colleges and universities continues to change as the student body, and indeed the society, becomes more multicultural and multiracial. The promotion and tenure process at most colleges and universities is a bastion of pettiness, cultural antagonism and ethnocentric backslapping. The ideology and the discourse of tenure approval must become one that praises public intellectuals in all media (including new media), not one that promotes cultural disrespect for the scholarship of Black scholars thus justifying and rewarding the continuation of a community of scholars so stepped in intellectual snobbery and caste warfare that even the mention of new media and scholarship invites public disdain and mocking. To be sure the denial of tenure to any faculty member is as much a failure of the faculty as it is of the individual faculty member. But it is the faculty member denied tenure that must exit the university unceremoniously, while the members of the search committee who selected them selects another group of new faculty often with the same results. Search committees must take a more active and honest role in hiring faculty members who will ultimately succeed, not fail. This requires that the people on these committees understand and can articulate what scholarship is in a way that is specific, measurable, inclusive and achievable.

Black scholars also bear responsibility for our failure. Some of us see racism where there is none, and others fail to see it until we are denied tenure. Black scholars like all scholars have an obligation to provide quality scholarship. However, given that so much of Black America simply do not participate in the system of education, governance and the academy, we have to use public engagement scholarship to critically analyze and respond to the “Negro problem of 2009 and beyond.” This is not to suggest that all Black scholars become critical race theorists or produce Black scholarship. It is to suggest that whatever our discipline, we apply the framework of that discipline to the engagement of our communities — on campus and off. Further, those of us who accept the diversity scholarships to hire (but not promote) us must ask ourselves whether we are willing participants in our demise and thus intellectual sharecroppers.

Have we become so content with being window dressing in the halls of academe that we will never own our intellectual mindshare but simply rent it out to the academic overseers? Why do we continue to play the game when we know that the deck is stacked against us? Is it because we see no alternative? Why is it that some of us who are on tenure committees judge the scholarship of our Black colleagues in a much harsher light? Why is it that despite having tenure some of us on these committees refuse to challenge the decisions in the context of cultural standardization? It is doubtful that there is critical mass on tenure and promotion committees at colleges and universities who will adopt my thesis because the tenure process is mostly about cultural standardization, and that standardization does not benefit Black scholars. Mark Bauerlein has it correct when he writes, “The very system that academics invoke to fend off critics has become part of the problem. Ideological bias has seeped into the standards of professionalism. Peer review isn’t just the application of scholarly and scientific norms. It’s a system of incentives and rewards, and success depends entirely on what peers say about you. They examine your teaching and scholarship and deliver an inside opinion, and the process is easily corrupted.”

Black scholars and all scholars who are truly committed to justice need to insist that the rules for tenure and promotion resists cultural standardization, become specific, particular and transparent or that tenure be abolished in favor of a system that rewards quality, inclusive scholarship and service. Many institutions including so-called liberal institutions are simply not taking the opportunity to expand the definition of scholarship and quality in a way that is substantively equal. Making the case for tenure in 1940, the American Association of University Professors opined, “College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations.” In 2009, the peer review system at so many of our educational institutions has become infected with rank censorship and a fiefdom controlled by ostensibly liberal “royalty” who use a warped allegiance to the ever-illusive quality as a proxy for race-based decisions.

The oppressed have become the oppressors.

Dr. Christopher J. Metzler is Associate Dean at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies and the author of the book, The Construction and Rearticulation of Race in a “post-racial” America.

The Hip-Hop Archive and its Tensions

 By Emery Petchauer



petchauerLast month the Hip-Hop Archive at Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute co-hosted Hiphop Worldwide: More Than a Nation. This three-day conference focused on both the ongoing local expressions of hip-hop and their expansions into Cuba, Morocco, Japan, Tanzania, and other countries around the world. The gathering featured documentaries, lectures, and demonstrations from independent filmmakers, academicians and journalists, as well as pioneers and current creators of hip-hop. This conference coincides with one of the central purposes of the Archive: to curate different manifestations of hip-hop including recordings, videos, films, interviews, and more.

An important subtext of a conference such as this is the tension that exists when an organic culture such as hip-hop is institutionalized into academe through such an event, courses, and research. At present time when over 100 universities have courses that address hip-hop from various disciplinary approaches, these tensions are at an all-time high. Posted below is an interview with Rennie Harris that was conduced by Professor Dawn-Elissa Fischer during the conference. Harris, who is a pioneer in the areas of hip-hop theater and dance from Philadelphia, articulates some of these tensions. These tensions generate from a number of questions: Who has rights and credentials to each hip-hop content in higher education? What can be done to preserve the histories of hip-hop as a primarily Black expression when the histories of other arts like jazz and rock-and-roll have been revised (i.e., whitewashed) due in part to their institutionalization? How can the gaps between community and university engagement via hip-hop be decreased?

These are important questions for scholars to consider as hip-hop becomes more a part of higher education through research, centers and new courses.



Dr. Emery Petchauer is an assistant professor of education at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania; his current research includes teacher preparation for ethnic minority students particularly at HBCUs and how involvement in hip-hop implicates students’ educational approaches, experiences, and lives.


African American boys can learn something from President Obama

By James Ewers

jewers1President Barack Obama’s victory is meaningful to a cross-section of Americans. His candidacy resulted in more new registered voters than at any other time in American history. As we reflect now on his journey, especially his Democratic primary battle with then-Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, it is safe to say that this country was energized by seeing a woman and an African American compete for the highest office in the land. I believe that women everywhere hailed the accomplishments of Clinton, now the U.S. Secretary of State. Young girls are now thinking that they could someday become president of the United States of America. It is in that same vein that I think young African American boys have also been buoyed by President Obama’s achievement. To my mind, I hope that that the bar has been raised for African American boys.

There are many aspects of President Obama’s demeanor that can serve as a road map for young African American boys. Obviously he has seen and unseen traits. At or near the top is self-respect. His self-respect did not just begin when he became successful. He had it as a child. As we all know, he was raised primarily by his mother and his grandparents. He also developed goals, had dreams at an early age and factored in the need for an education in order to achieve his goals. His respect for other people is tied to his own self-respect. All throughout his march to the presidency, we saw that people of all races/ethnicities, young and old, were attracted to him. One of my old expressions is that in order to get respect, you must first be willing to give respect. I have long held the opinion that respect is earned and is not an entitlement. Obama has been able to move effortlessly through environments where the vast majority of people, at times, have not looked like him but they have respected him.

Another character trait that has endeared President Obama to the American electorate is his grace under fire. He had the ability throughout to deal with pressure-packed moments and not show his agitation or frustration. As he said early, on folks were examining his kindergarten papers yet he remained unruffled. His critics attacked the fact that he was black, yet he was undaunted. One of the most defining moments for me was the speech that he gave on race in Philadelphia. It was thoughtful and eloquent yet it is unfortunate that in 2009 race is still at the windowsill of our discontent. But he made his enemies that day his footstool and did it in such a respectable manner that he won over even more supporters. His inner qualities and his outward appearance was simply a winning combination. His adroitness when it came to his communication skills certainly gave him a clear and distinct advantage. The naysayers, of course, said that “anybody” can give a good speech. Of course when you are losing you tend to make those kinds of statements. His appearance was always presidential, with or without a suit and his trademark white shirt and stripped tie. His level of confidence transcended whatever he wore.

During this two-year process that led Barack Obama to become this nation’s 44th president have black boys paid attention and have they learned anything? Do they see him as a role model? If the answer is yes then self-respect and character must become more important in their lives. African American parents and love providers must become more proactive, and we must raise our own level of expectation about what we expect and more importantly what we are willing to do. It is exciting that he is in the White House but it also means that we must take care of our house too. While some will call it “uppity” it is imperative that our young men learn to speak correctly. We still have far too many African American boys who don’t see the advantage in speaking well. If young African American males want to enjoy the many fruits of success they will first have to learn how to master the English language. Not all black boys will go to Harvard Law School like Obama but at a bare minimum they must graduate from high school and get a job with a training component and advancement to it. Having at least an associate degree is now being seen as a means to achieve a decent quality of life. Wearing droopy pants and oversized jackets thinking that you will get a job much less respect is only fooling yourself. African American males can’t see President Barack Obama saying “yes we can” when they are standing at the corner of despair and disappointment lamenting the system.

As African American males, we all have choices. I was young once and I, too, had some choices to make. Many of us as older black men had the good sense to listen to our elders and followed their rules for success. Young African American males can now see someone who looks like them as president of the United States of America. But in all of their jubilation and exhilaration they must remember one thing and that is success won’t grab them, they must grab it.

Remembering a Legend: John Hope Franklin

By Dr. Marybeth Gasman

gasman-current-sittingIn 1997, while I was doing my dissertation research, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview historian John Hope Franklin. As a doctoral student, I was nervous about the interview and lacked confidence in my knowledge of American history. Here I was about to interview one of the nation’s great historians. Within minutes, my nervousness went away as Dr. Franklin was incredibly kind and made me feel instantly at ease. He had a quick wit and used self-deprecating humor in a great way.

I remember feeling anxious because I was young and also, frankly, because I was White. I wondered what he would think about my doing research related to African American history. At the time I was writing my dissertation on Charles Spurgeon Johnson, the former president of Fisk University and Harlem Renaissance architect. Dr. Franklin was completely supportive, explaining how society had changed so much in his lifetime, how this change had been made by people of various racial backgrounds working together, how all of our histories were intertwined, and how he was grateful that young people were more accepting of differences.

What I remember most about the interview was that despite his broad knowledge, accomplishments and daunting intelligence, he had a sweet disposition. It reminded me of something my mother once told me, “You get more with sugar than you do with vinegar.” I was asking him questions that forced him to recall his actions in the 1950s. As he was 82, he had a bit of difficulty remembering everything. When I asked him to recall his actions in a controversial Fisk University board meeting, he said, “if you said I did that sweetie, I did it – I’m an old mad who knows he led an interesting life but can’t recall it all.” This interaction has stuck with me for years.

I hope all of the Diverse readers will take a few minutes to read the work of Dr. Franklin. He spent years uncovering the agency, actions and contributions African Americans and bringing them to the forefront of American history. Bravo!