As we mourn Trayvon Martin’s death, we should remember another black teenager killed just four years ago.
On March 2, 2008, high school senior Jamiel Shaw was gunned down in
Los Angeles. According to police, Shaw was walking home when two men he
had never met jumped out of a car and one shot him. A talented football
player, Shaw had scholarship offers from Stanford University and
Rutgers. The man who shot him was Petro Espinoza, an illegal immigrant
and member of a gang with a history of extensive violence against
African-Americans. According to the Los Angeles Times, “Espinoza had been released from jail 28 hours before the shooting, after serving time for an earlier [violent] offense.”
Why did the nation not mourn Jamiel the way we are mourning Trayvon?
Was it because the media knew immediately that Shaw’s killers were
Latino, not white? read more
I often am asked questions by the
media on choices the government makes about our society. It is an anomaly to me to see the drift in government to control
in micro-detail certain aspects of our society, and yet determine to
be hands-off on other key issues. Recently the American public was given an
edict that affects many religious nonprofit organizations.
The debate over the new Health and Human Services regulations,
which require all employers to pay 100 percent of the cost of
contraception including abortion-inducing chemicals, has been rightly
cast as an intrusion on religious liberty. Opponents of such
regulations are no more advocating a ban on contraceptives than
vegetarian restaurants are advocating a ban on meat. They are simply
saying that companies shouldn’t have to pay for services to which
they object for moral reasons.
But black Americans in particular would be wise to pay close
attention, since the age old contraception battle has special
historical significance to them. For more than a century,
“reproductive services” have been special code words for the
constant, silent effort of the powerful to control black breeding.
And this control has often come in the form of a “helping hand.” read more
Lately I’ve been discussing the battle over the marriage definition with friends and parishioners.
I have been amazed by a new collaboration between former political
rivals in all of our urban, minority communities.
The largely white religious right is
literally becoming a melting pot of diversity as far as this marriage
issue is concerned. Huge numbers of blacks and Hispanics of faith are
starting to feel that there is a “not so subtle” media attack on
the nation’s most fundamental institutions. They realize that many
movies and TV sitcoms have gone out of their way to express support
of so-called “gay rights.”
They marveled at the number of celebrities that have jumped on the
bandwagon for same-sex marriage. Two weeks ago 8, a play about
Prop 8 produced by Rob Reiner, trotted out Hollywood’s
finest—including Brad Pitt, George Clooney, among several openly
gay actors and actresses. The entertainers read selected testimonies
of traditional marriage which have never been released to the public.
The point of the play was simply to ridicule traditional marriage
supporters and “expose the bigotry” of the traditional point of
view. read more
What would you do if someone was threatening to kill you? Imagine
that this person not only hated you vehemently, but was thought to
have killed many of his own family members in cold blood. You know
for a fact he owns several weapons and strongly suspect he has been
attempting to purchase more. On top of all that, he publicly
proclaims his desire to kill you on a regular basis. Would you take
his threats seriously?
The scenario I described might sound like the setup for a terrible
summer movie, but it almost exactly parallels the behavior of Iran
toward Israel and the United States over the past several years.
Iran’s leaders—President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei—have openly declared their intention to
“wipe Israel off the map” on numerous occasions.
Less publicized are statements like Ahmadinejad’s from 2008:
“Today, the time for the fall of the satanic power of the United
States has come, and the countdown to the annihilation of the emperor
of power and wealth has started.” Their intentions toward the
United States and Israel could not be clearer. read more
The New York Times recently featured an innovative MBA
program at George Washington University. Not only was the course of
study designed to enhance the professional business skills of its
participants, it hoped to teach personal business and economics to
people vulnerable to personal financial failure.
Who were they? Astute cultural analysts? Children of single-parent
households? Convicted felons? People with learning disabilities? No,
one of the groups targeted by GWU was retired professional athletes,
especially those who played in the NFL. GWU understands something
that numerous political ideologues do not: Personal financial
management skills must be acquired if personal or business wealth is
to be sustained. In other words: “It’s one thing to make money,
but it takes skill and training keep it.”
Why would the academics target athletes and other professionals
with volatile incomes? The answer is simple: Moving from boom to bust
has landed scores of athletes and entertainers in the “poor house.”
After watching this year’s Super Bowl, it’s especially hard for
most Americans to say the word poverty in the same breath as
professional football or award-winning entertainment. Nonetheless the
tension between potential, passion and poverty is illustrative of
America’s current national financial dilemma. The U.S. is still the
richest nation in the world, but we are in danger of squandering our
blessed position of influence and our prosperity. read more
The last few years I have been repeatedly disappointed by the
bickering and pettiness displayed by our legislators, political
pundits and candidates for office. I have longed for representatives
who are informed and articulate, who habitually seek the best laws
and results for the land. Unfortunately, the history I have reviewed
recently suggests that we may be more like our forefathers than we
would like to believe.
Those who long nostalgically for more civil times should not read
some of the pamphlets distributed during the election of 1800 when
Jefferson defeated Adams! Neither should they watch the movie
Conspiracy, which discusses the way Washingtonians accused of
working with John Wilkes Booth were unfairly stripped of their rights
and executed. Although the political process was fraught with danger
and contention, there were also many leaders who paid a real price
for their convictions.
For example, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has loomed larger than
life in the hearts and minds of Americans since his assassination in
1968. The massive monument which now stands on the National Mall in
Washington, D.C., is a physical manifestation of the spiritual giant
he has been to so many of us over the past two generations. Today’s
leaders can only hope to capture a fraction of the respect from his
followers and fear from his opponents that Dr. King commanded during
his lifetime. Yet this was never the life that he sought for himself.
Indeed, if there is one lesson we can learn from this man today, it
is that the best leaders are often reluctant to bear the burden of
leadership, because they understand the cost is so high. read more
The role of the church in the public square has been the subject of
many recent debates. Much of the concern about Christians and the evangelical church
has centered on how we will use our considerable secular power at the
ballot box. While I agree that the church should fully engage in the
democratic process, there is much more we can offer the American public.
This article is something of an open letter to the Christian
community. After weeks of reflection upon our current national problems,
I arrived at a blinding flash of the obvious. My epiphany is that our
spiritual standing before God is our greatest gift to the nation. In a
manner of speaking, we have friends in "high" places. We are the
When we pray and believe things happen. Unfortunately, we have not always understood the ways of God.
We often pray when we should lobby and we lobby when we should pray.
For example, during the Bush presidency there has been more prayer
offered up for the nation than ever. As a result of all the prayer the
Lord did many good things. In addition, he also allowed things to occur
which could bring the rest of the nation to her knees. There is a war
raging in Iraq, the economy is in shambles and energy costs are soaring.
Our national woes may cause millions to lose confidence in false gods, humanistic ideologies and even their own abilities. read more
On Oct. 16, the new memorial for Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) was
finally completed. There was only one problem with the work: The
wrong words were carved on the statue. The tone of the phrase
misrepresented “the spirit” of the fallen leader. After a huge
controversy, the memorial leadership decided to change the writing on
This change was legitimate. Unfortunately an illegitimate
expression occurred this past week. Politico reported that Tavis
Smiley had been disinvited from the 20th annual MLK luncheon, hosted
by the Peoria Civic Center. Why? Mr. Smiley has said publicly that
President Obama had not done enough for black Americans, which,
according to the center, upset some people. He was replaced by
reliable liberal Michael Eric Dyson.
In later interviews, Mr. Smiley noted that only a small handful of
the 1,500 ticket holders for the event complained about his comments,
resulting in his ouster from the luncheon. He also made it clear that
he supports President Obama, but as a journalist feels obligated to
hold him accountable for his actions in office. While I may disagree
with Mr. Smiley on some issues, I certainly agree that his honest
appraisal of President Obama’s performance should not disqualify
him from speaking at a luncheon honoring Dr. King.
Much political noise has been made about providing grants and/or
loans for higher education. For minorities, these programs are seen
as invitations for full participation in the American system. Many
Americans believe changing the higher education equation for
minorities is the only way to “level the playing field”
economically for America’s minorities.
More specifically, liberals often believe solving the education
conundrum is mandatory for our future. Conservatives, however, almost
universally declare that the education gap can be addressed by
neither federal programs nor funding. They both are probably correct
in this situation.
Solving America’s education gap is tantamount to our nation
fighting a cobra. In cobra fighting, you have two choices. First, you
can charm the cobra (typically by playing music), and prevent him
from striking you today. Secondly, you can choose to attack him like
Rikki Tikki Tavey, the mongoose of Rudyard Kipling fame, and solve
your problem permanently. Dealing with our educational woes at the
university level, while the majority of minority children are vastly
unprepared for life, simply charms the cobra. read more
When I was about 10 years old, I fell into a hornets’ nest. The hornets got caught in my clothing. The more I fought, the more they stung me. Later I counted about 20 stings. It was a painful few days, but I survived. Every now and then, I see someone caught up in a flurry of painful but meaningless activity. I am reminded of my childhood experience and often use the age-old expression, “They fell into a hornets’ nest.” Most Americans agree that President Obama fell into a Middle Eastern hornets’ nest during the last few months. Despite the toppling of totalitarian states and the possibility of the establishment of new democracy, it is difficult to see a realistic end to the terrorism, bloodshed, and warfare in this important region of the world.
The death of Osama Bin Laden marked a symbolic end to America’s war on terrorism. National jubilation is the only way to describe our corporate feeling about the demise of this “arch enemy” of everything Americans stand for. Perhaps this euphoric victory led the administration’s foreign policy strategists into a subtle state of hubris. This false feeling of power may have convinced them that they could actually advance the peace process by imposing the US will on the Palestinian/Israeli peace process.
The entire nation is aware that on Thursday May 19, the president declared Middle Eastern peace talks could only progress if Israel would agree to return to their 1967 boundaries. After a veritable maelstrom of rebuttals, the president's international policy team realized the error of their ways. Therefore, the next Sunday morning (5-22-11) the president retracted his peace talk ultimatum. He even went so far as to claim that he was misquoted. His clarification speech occurred at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) annual meeting in Washington, DC. Despite the public acquiescence of former Prime Minister Netanyahu, the president seemed to create even more controversy. As I walked through the more than 11,000 pro-Israel advocates, I heard everything from motherly articulation of forgiveness to numerous people declaring they would never vote for President Obama again. read more