An Open Letter to Bill O’Reilly on Slavery: Huff Post

PHILADELPHIA, PA – JULY 25: on the first day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Philadelphia, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Democratic National Convention kicked off July 25. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Recently, you made comments in an attempt to “fact check” First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention. In your comments, you concurred with Mrs. Obama’s statement that the White House was indeed built by slaves, but then you proceeded to state that the slaves were “well fed, and had decent lodging”.

As you purport yourself to be a student of history, it is unfortunate that you did not take the opportunity to educate your viewers on the realities of slavery. You seem, based on your comments, to be implying that slavery really wasn’t that bad, especially if the slave was lucky enough to work at the White House. First off, I am not quite sure where got your facts, because there is no documentation to say that the slaves who performed this task were in fact well fed and housed. There was no “menu” circa 1800 documenting what and how much slaves ate. Additionally, Abigail Adams, who resided in the White House during the latter stages of construction, debunks this assertion in one of her letters, stating “but it is true Republicanism that drive the Slaves half fed, and destitute of cloathing, to labour, whilst the owner waches about Idle, tho his one Slave is all the property he can boast” (emphasis added).

Read the rest here.

Perceptions on Race and Crime…

What’s the difference between a joyride and stealing a car?

The elements are the same: the taking of a car with the intent to temporarily deprive the owner of its use. Unfortunately, what is considered a “joyride” in a white community becomes “grand theft auto” in a community of color. 

The outcome can be different depending on the defendant. If you have a white defendant that comes in with a fancy lawyer, who is arguing that it was a childish prank and points at the future the young man has ahead of him while the young man is crying in open court — the case may either be dismissed or result in a diversion program. 

Meanwhile, the defendant of color may not have anyone vehemently arguing on his behalf. His family does not have the money for a lawyer or to pay the fee for a diversion program. The overworked public defender cannot delve as deeply into the case.  He’s sorry for the stupid act; but maintains a stiff upper lip in front of the judge, because in his culture, men don’t cry — it’s perceived as weak. His outcome ends up being more severe with a criminal conviction. This now means he will have difficulty getting a job, obtaining student loans, living in public housing, or even joining the military. His life is over before it gets started. 

This is even assuming that the white defendant is even arrested — he may be brought home by the police with a stiff warning, and the car returned to the rightful owner. 

Similar scenarios play out across the country due to stereotypes some people have that people of color have no future.

So how do we make the justice system more colorblind?

All first time offenders of non violent crimes should be given a diversion program. All addicts should be placed into a drug court that requires treatment. It should not be a matter of whether or not your lawyer advocates on your behalf for a program. The Task Force on 21st Century Policung, convened but the White House after the events in Ferguson, issued a report that in part urges police departments to return to community policing, where they get out of their cars and get to know the residents. This way, you can bring young Johnny home to his family — or if there are issues at the home, the officer is aware and find another solution for a young person acting out. 

It happens regularly in white communities; with a little creativity the same can be done in communities of color. 

My friend Courtney Swan wrote a riveting piece on our criminal justice system from a Canadian perspective. She makes some great points backed by statistics that show the disparity brought on by the history of racism in America. She comes to similar conclusions as seen in my recent discussion on the War on Drugs. We are moving forward, but we still have some work to do! 

The War on Drugs is Killing Black America 

By guest blogger Courtney Swan

Since President Richard Nixon coined the term in a press conference in June 1971, the ‘War on Drugs’ has been a forceful weapon for nationwide, institutionalized discrimination and racism in the United States.

Nixon declaring to the Congress on Drug Abuse Prevention and Control that drug abuse was “public enemy number one” was the start of the country’s longest ongoing war, along with the notoriously detrimental effects of its repercussions.
Just to get it out of the way right now, because I know many of you are wondering what my stance is on it… the War on Drugs is a race issue. 
But please understand that this isn’t just my stance. This isn’t my opinion reflective of my own personal biases.
This is a cold, hard fact, and this series is going to extensively break down and analyze the many truths surrounding this.
The War on Drugs is a crisis which over the last 45 years has brutally and unjustly targeted and devastated communities of color all across America.
One of the most frequent responses to the pleas for criminal justice reform to solve the epidemic of mass incarceration of people of color is, “Well, the real issue we need to resolve is black-on-black crime!”
But, here’s the thing… black on black crime is in itself a twisted, and quite frankly racist expression used to represent the completely bogus idea that more black people are in prison because more black people are criminals.
This idea needs to be shut down.
What the idea of ‘black on black crime’ does is enable American citizens to turn a blind eye to this form of institutionalized racism by encouraging us to justify it. It allows us to diminish the value of black life and black freedom with implications that it is undeserved. . . that mass incarceration has nothing to do with systemic racism and everything to do with the shortcomings of black people in America.
So let’s debunk the myths.

Myth #1: Black on Black Crime Is Worse Than White on White Crime

Read the rest here

Whistleblowing vs. Hacking…Snowden Revisted


There has been a renewed discussion in the media, with the speculation (that the NSA promptly vetoed) of Edward Snowden receiving some sort of amnesty if he comes back to the fold.  Snowden is facing espionage charges for his hacking into the NSA system while he was a contractor, and taking classified information.

Especially now that the White House has come under fire for the domestic and international spying activities of the NSA (one of which was declared unconstitutional this week), the question remains…

Are Snowden, Manning and Assange heroes? Or traitors putting lives at risk?

See my article previously published by the Houston Chronicle on August 22, 2013 below.

Manning. Snowden. Assange. WikiLeaks.

All are now household names as a result of the leaking of sensitive government information. They all claim, in some way, that they were whistle-blowing. These men, along with others, illegally obtained sensitive government videos, correspondence, and other documents. These materials were then published on the internet, with the supposed goal of informing the public about what the government is doing. Some look at this as a new frontier in journalism. Others view them as traitors who should face the wrath of the criminal justice system.

Bradley Manning was sentenced this week by a military judge to 35 years in prison, as a result of leaking military documents while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq. Evidence from the trial showed that some of those leaked materials ended up in the hands of Al Qaida. Manning, after being convicted, apologized, stating that “he should have worked more aggressively within the system.” He claims that his goal was to expose U.S. war crimes and “deceitful diplomacy.”

Edward Snowden was charged with espionage and theft of government property. While he was working with the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Snowden is believed to have stolen information about U.S. and European surveillance of phone and internet communications. He went on the run, hiding until he was eventually given asylum by the Russian government.

Julian Assange is listed as one of the founders of WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks is the organization responsible for the website where Manning’s and Snowden’s stolen materials were published. He has not yet been charged by the American government, and is hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in London as a result of sexual misconduct charges in Sweden.

Each of these men represents a movement — a movement against government secrecy and in favor of giving more information to the public. All claim that their intentions are good and that they are high tech whistleblowers.

But what counts? The intention or the outcome?

Federal law is pretty clear on this topic. A whistleblower is an employee providing information on wrongdoing by an employer and, in doing so, is protected from retaliation.

Only exception? If you are in the intelligence field. As soon as you are hired, you need to sign a non-disclosure agreement and any violation can result in termination or further action — such as criminal action — against you.

In contrast, a hacker faces a myriad of problems under Federal law. If you break in or exceed your access to a government computer, and take information that the U.S. deems sensitive, you are in hot water. It does not matter if you keep it or send it to someone else. And even if you were not the one to take it, but conspired with someone who did, you face prosecution.

Manning and Snowden are in a bad position. It is highly likely that in the terms of their employment they agreed not to disclose anything they saw; yet they exceeded their access by taking, keeping, and disclosing secrets. In doing so, they knew the risk. What they did is theft. It’s no different than if you stole money or equipment from your job.

The question that is left is since Julian Assange had no such agreement with the U.S. government, is he a hacker or a whistleblower? Again, looking at the law, we see why the government has been hesitant to charge him. Treason is not an option since Assange is an Australian citizen. Can the government prove that Assange himself, or someone at his request, hacked into the systems and got the documents in question? Also, even if he did not participate in the hacking, did he get some benefit from what was stolen? Did he sell the information? Does what he did count as espionage? These questions remain unanswered; we can assume the investigation is ongoing.

Manning and others in his position are saying “the people need to know what the government is doing.” But at the same time, the very people they want to inform are put at risk. There is an old saying, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Maybe it was ego, maybe it was a desire to inform, but the outcome is still the same. Intel makes informed citizens, but also makes informed terrorists.

Where is the Line?