The Official Blog of Dr. Jeremy Levitt

‘Black Panther’ unearths 2 ‘what-if’ questions

(Orlando Sentinel) The Disney-Marvel movie “Black Panther” is an iconic black cultural revolution, revival and renaissance that intelligently interrogates nativism, privilege and influence that fortifies global apathy toward poor and disenfranchised people.

“Black Panther” had an epic debut weekend, grossing $201.8 million and $426.6 million in global ticket sales. It is the fifth highest-grossing movie opening in history, and the most profitable “black” movie ever.

As a youth in Los Angeles in the 1970s, I dreamed of Hollywood birthing a black-conscious superhero movie. I imagined one with superhuman strength, futuristic technology and deadly fighting skills — a master of African martial arts like Laamb and Nubawresting, Dambe and Musangwe boxing, Engolgo kicking, Nguniand Istunka stick fighting and modern Angolan capoeira. Nearly five decades later, “Black Panther” delivers.

This is the first major superhero movie with a black director, black executive producer, black writers, black costume and production designers and, most important, a nearly all black cast. Its two talented African-American stars, Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan, deliver stellar performances. If that weren’t enough, Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker illuminate the stage along with other actors of African descent, including Lupita Nyongo (Kenyan origin) of “Star Wars,” Danai Gurira (Zimbabwe) of “The Walking Dead” and Daniel Kaluuya (an African-American of Ugandan origin) of “Get Out.” “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler, executive producer Nate Moore, and music curator Kendrick Lamar deliver a masterpiece.

Boseman plays King T’Challa, the sovereign leader of Wakanda, a humane, democratic, wealthy and technologically advanced society of black people. The king of Wakanda also doubles as the Black Panther, a sophisticated black African warrior with panther-like superpowers he uses to protect Wakanda and fight evil.

Wakanda is not simply a fictitious African nation; it’s an ideal embedded in the imagination and souls of black folk and liberation-orientated discourses on black power and Pan-Africanism. Harriet Tubman and Nat Turner imagined Wakanda. A predominant theme that contextualizes the counter-nativist message of “Black Panther” is the tension between using Wakanda’s extraordinary wealth, technology and power for Wakanda or employing it to help other African nations and disenfranchised blacks in, for example, the United States. The secret source of Wakanda’s power is vibranium – an inestimable celestial metal found only in Wakanda.

The movie brilliantly reinvigorates this tension by unearthing two classical Pan-Africanist questions that shape black history and form a vital part of the black international tradition:

These questions have preoccupied black intellectuals, warriors and leaders for centuries including, among others, Yaa Asantewa, Queen Nzinga, C.L.R. James, W.E.B. Du Bois, George Padmore, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Winnie Mandela, Assata Shakur, Kwame Nkrumah, Sékou Touré and Jomo Kenyatta.

The nativist “Wakanda First” and continentalist “Africa First” approaches represent two flawed ideologies that have undermined Pan-Africanism and Africa’s ability to empower itself, and be empowered by the Black Diaspora. Pan-Africanism is the internationalization of African liberation philosophy, which seeks to unify and empower black people all over the world to demand and attain freedom, equality, and justice from the domestic and global forces of white domination, and maximize their human potential.

These ideological schisms are boldly illuminated by Jordan’s character Killmonger, T’Challa’s abandoned royal cousin and nemesis — a minted Navy SEAL black-ops executioner, who grew up as an African-American in Oakland’s projects. Killmonger’s pro-black persona resonates with most black Americans. He is a dark hero, an uncomfortable combination of Marcus Garvey and Joseph Stalin, seeking to use Wakanda’s great resources and advanced weaponry to reverse the balance of power between blacks and whites because, in his words, “[w]here I’m from, when black folks started revolutions, they never had the firepower or the resources to fight their oppressors.” Killmonger sought to arm black people worldwide, to “rise up and kill those in power.”

While King T’Challa disagrees with Killmonger’s bloodthirsty scheme, he ultimately declares that Wakanda must empower poor and disenfranchised blacks and others through STEM education beginning in Oakland, thereby, raising a vital question: What if African states actually utilized their sovereignty, ingenuity and vast resources to empower black Americans to predominate America’s political and economic landscape?

Jeremy Levitt is the distinguished professor of international law at the Florida A&M University College of Law. @drjeremylevitt

We need immigrants-especially from developing nations

(Orlando Sentinel) President Trump’s atomic comments Thursday during a White House meeting with congressional lawmakers about immigration trampled the red line of racism, bigotry and prejudice — from which there is no return. Until now, I have been reluctant to label Trump a racist, noting the important differences between racism, bigotry and prejudice.

Isn’t it ironic that on the eve of two monumental anniversaries — the mega-earthquake that devastated Haiti and killed at least 300,000 on Jan. 12, 2010, and the birth of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 15, 1929 — Trump asked why the U.S. accepts immigrants from “shithole countries” in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America rather than people from places like Norway?

Neither the White House nor Florida Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-American who was at the meeting, disputed the president’s remarks nor condemned them. Why not? Sen. Marco Rubio, who resides in Miami-Dade County, with one of the largest concentrations of Haitians in the nation, has been stunningly silent. Finally, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, an ardent supporter of Trump and would-be candidate for U.S. senator, distanced himself from Trump’s comments, but only conditionally: “If this report is true.”

American values like liberty, equality, self-government, individualism, diversity and unity do not derive from the benefactors and heirlooms of enslavement, racial segregation and white privilege; they descend from the emigrants from the countries Trump disparages: These are the courageous people who have defended this nation in every war since its inception, even against the benefactors and heirlooms of white nationalism. I don’t get it: Perhaps Trump believes that pandering racialized vulgarities to white Nordic folk will inspire the Norwegian Nobel Committee to create a “Nobel Chaos Prize.” Not.

Let’s agree that the president’s comments do not represent Americans or American values and ideals. Let’s also agree that we are a nation of immigrants and that black and brown Americans from countries dissed by Trump built and defended America in enslaved and segregated circumstances. America was not built by Nordic Vikings nor their progeny, yet Trump seems to want to limit immigration to whites who believe in Valhalla and “The Song of the Hooded One,” not in Jesus and our national anthem.

I have lived all over the world. I spent the bulk of my time in countries Trump finds so odious. Let me assert that Americans can learn a great deal from people in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. In these regions, people are filled with faith, hope, and courage. They are cultured, well-traveled and often trilingual. Despite centuries of European and American colonial rule and exploitation, these folk maintain strong family and community values. In fact, they cherish the unit of the family over the individual. They work hard for pennies on the dollar. Some families in the most underdeveloped nations live on less than a $1 a day, yet they will feed, clothe and house a foreigner or stranger before themselves. Americans? Many of us walk past homeless people every day without a care.

Immigrants from the developing world highly value education, family and faith in God, and they don’t throw away their sick and elderly. In fact, they are the very backbone of health-care professionals in the United States who care for aging Americans — those mothers and fathers we have forsaken to hospices and nursing homes. Know this: Immigrants continue to fortify traditional American values that are decaying, values we are quick to forget: liberty, equality, diversity and justice. These good people are also integral to our economy. Immigrants toil in the fields to harvest fruits and vegetables; their muscle and sinew build our roads and bridges; they tend to our sick; they treat our illnesses. Immigrants innovate science and technology and, perhaps most important, they create jobs. America without immigrants would be like mayonnaise without bread. Then again, maybe that’s what Trump wants: not “America First” but “Mayonnaise First.”

A recent Harvard Business Review noted that immigrants are more entrepreneurial than Americans. Why? They have extensive cross-cultural experience — that is, a higher ability to “identify promising business ideas” and generate diverse ideas and solutions based on the different cultures they encounter and navigate. In fact, immigrants are almost twice as likely as native-born U.S. citizens to become entrepreneurs; they represent nearly 30 percent of America’s entrepreneurs.

What Trump and Trumpians don’t understand is that America embraces immigrants from the developing world because the majority of us descend from it. And without that, we would be a shithole.

Jeremy Levitt is the distinguished professor of international law at the Florida A&M University College of Law. @drjeremylevitt

4 U.S. heroes slain in Niger deserve honor, not squabbles

(Orlando Sentinel) As an international lawyer and former World Bank and U.N. official with significant experience in zones of conflict in Africa, I am writing to honor the lives of Sgt. La David Johnson, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright — who were tragically killed in an ambush by terrorists in Niger while assisting the Nigerien government to fight terrorism abroad to protect the American homeland.

John Adams said that “facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” Yet the administration and media are sadly reducing the tragedy in Niger into rap-style beef between President Donald Trump and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. In doing so, they are dishonoring our fallen troops, miseducating the American public; thereby raising more questions than the known facts or media pundits can answer.

Although I disagree with Wilson’s willingness to jump into the weeds with Trump and his chief of staff, John Kelly, she is not a liar, “an empty barrel” or “wacky.” Wilson is more than a member of Congress to her constituents; she is a highly respected elder speaking on behalf of a broken and widowed 25-year-old mother of three small children. Wilson is a mother figure and mentor to Staff Sgt. Johnson’s family and a stalwart advocate for Miami Gardens.

“Think Somalia, not Benghazi.”

— Jeremy Levitt

Let’s begin with the basics: Niger and Nigeria are two different countries located in West Africa. Niger is a former French colony, and Nigeria a former British colony. Niger is about the size of Texas. A person from Niger is Nigerien; whereas a person from Nigeria is Nigerian. Niger is a key U.S. ally. The four slain sergeants were among about 800 military personnel in Niger and 6,000 throughout Africa. The small nation of Djibouti, which hosts America’s Camp Lemonnier and about 4,000 troops, is the only permanent American military base in Africa.

U.S. military personnel in Niger provide, among other things, vital security and support to the U.S. Embassy in Niger’s capital, Niamey, and are building Air Base 201 in Agadez. A small number of U.S. Special Forces provide counterinsurgency and tactical-security training, logistics, intelligence and surveillance support, and unofficially engage in counterterrorism operations with France, which has 4,000 troops stationed in the country. Niger has been a recipient of U.S. peace-enforcement training since the 1990s, and, since 2005, has been a participant in U.S.-led joint military training exercises under the auspices of AFRICOM.

Niger is one of the poorest nations in the world. It is increasingly destabilized by extreme drought, the Tuareg rebellion, and significant security challenges birthed in the 1994 closing of 22 CIA stations in Africa by the Clinton administration, and the 2011 toppling of the Gadhafi regime by the Obama administration. These events spawned dangerous intelligence failures and unleashed a new era of African instability responsible for the spike in violent extremism, deadly conflict and spillover effects in Mali and radical Islamic extremism in northeastern Nigeria. In Africa, satellites are no substitute for human intelligence.

Think Somalia, not Benghazi. Niger’s participation in the French-led intervention in Mali and involvement in U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the region and in the international fight against Boko Haram make it a target of radical Islamic extremism groups such as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram and other violent extremist groups such as Al Murabitun. 

I believe that the Oct. 4 ambush and killing of four U.S. Special Forces and four U.S.-trained Nigerien soldiers was a paramount intelligence failure. I believe that the ambush was carried out by radicalized village elements in Tongo-Tongo (Tondikiwindi district) near the Niger-Mali border, under the direction of known terrorist-jihadist Abu Adnan al-Saharaoui. Al-Saharaoui, a North African Arab, is the self-appointed Islamic Emir of the Great Sahara and affiliated with various terrorist movements, including al-Qaida and the Islamic State. Again, think Somalia, not Benghazi.

Rather than squabbling, our elected representatives should focus on one vital question: How and why were U.S. Special Forces ambushed in a nation where we operate several drone bases and have sophisticated intelligence assets?

The families of our fallen heroes need and deserve straight answers.

Don’t mistake Trump’s chaotic megalomania with racism

(Orlando Sentinel) I love America and greatly disagree with the dangerously false opinions, observations and prognostications that are proliferating about this country and President Donald Trump. America is not descending into a bloody race war, and Trump is not a racist.

Trump is a chaotic megalomaniac with associated prejudices, not a racist. While his impulsive, unpredictable and unproductive behavior often smacks of bigotry, liberals should stop stereotyping and magnifying his behavior through frenzied racialized lenses because they are visionless.

If we are going to have any meaningful discussion on race, we must differentiate between racists, bigots and prejudiced people. These terms and labels are not synonyms and should not be used interchangeably because doing so blurs history, obscures the truth, bloodies discourses and confuses the American public.

We cannot successfully address historical and contemporary forms of racial inequality and its antecedents without fighting fair. Since “Black Lives Matter,” so do the labels we place on those who are antithetical to them.

Racists believe in their biological and moral superiority over other racial groups. Like most U.S. presidents, Trump believes that he is superior over everyone, irrespective of race. He is too much of a charlatan to be racist, and too narcissistic, pragmatic and unimaginative to buy into fantastical white supremacist ideology.

Bigots are intolerant and odious toward those holding different opinions, particularly members of different racial, ethnic, religious and gendered groups. Trump is intolerant and loathsome toward nearly everyone equally, and too strong of a megalomaniac to be controlled by racist or bigoted ideology and politics. Exit Steve Bannon!

Prejudice expresses itself as preconceived, irrational and often hostile opinions and stereotypes based on inferior or insufficient knowledge. Trump’s alleged moral-equivalency uttering about Charlottesville, Va., his tweets objecting to the removal of Confederate statues, and his comments about Mexicans and other minorities are cases in point. Like many Americans, Trump can be intellectually inflexible, willfully ignorant, insecure and hostile, demonstrating his prejudice on a wide array of issues foremost among them — race politics.

For example, why was President Trump willing and able to condemn “radical Islamic extremists” responsible for the horrid international terrorist attacks in Barcelona, Spain, but reluctant to condemn white supremacist extremists responsible for ISIS-style domestic terrorism in Charlottesville? In a recent tweet, Trump openly endorsed torture and extra-judicial killings to deter terrorism in Spain. Would he also support using torture and summary executions to combat violent white-extremist terrorists in the U.S.? These are troubling paradoxes.

Perhaps the president’s offering an intelligent plan for racial unity would bring about needed healing in a nation struggling with a legacy of racial, ethnic and religious division. According to recent FBI hate crimes statistics, blacks and Jewish people are the greatest victims of racial and religious violence, respectively. Hate crimes against Muslims are skyrocketing. More than 60 percent of reported victims of hate crimes were targeted because of their race and about 50 percent of all hate crimes are committed by whites.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security determined that white supremacist extremists are responsible for more deadly attacks than any other domestic extremist group, with racial minorities being primary victims. Trump needs to reflect on these realities and address them.

Trump should forthrightly seek to reconcile his zealous advocacy for the deaths of black teenagers in the Central Park Five scandal who were later exonerated; his late and self-promoting tweets after the 2015 white supremacist murders of nine worshippers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.; and his outward discomfort in condemning white supremacist groups and violence in Charlottesville last week. Trump’s open support for Confederate statues and bumbling defense of violent white extremist history complicates matters further.

For better or worse, Trump’s opinions, values and virtues are shared by millions of Americans, not a fringe element. White supremacist speech is protected under the First Amendment. White supremacists can lawfully celebrate a violent losing and treasonous tradition as long as they don’t employ fighting words, commit crimes involving speech or make threats.

While white supremacist extremists spew hate, we must advance new institutions and enterprises comprised of white anti-racist activists. We need White Millennials with an Attitude — WMWA — focused on tracking, monitoring and combating violent white extremism. The NAACP and Urban League must evolve.

We need newer and braver civil-rights organizations determined to lawfully disrupt, dismantle and destroy white supremacist extremist groups intent on violently upending our Constitution and the laws, values, virtues and principles of these United States.

Jeremy Levitt is the distinguished professor of international law at the Florida A&M University College of Law

 Twitter: @drjeremylevitt

African-Americans should give Donald Trump a chance

African-Americans should give Donald Trump a chance

(Orlando Sentinel) I’m an ardent critic of Donald J. Trump, but I realize that he will be the 45th president of the United States. He won; get over it. If you don’t like him, do something about it: Join the anti-Trump protests around the country, help establish a “third way,” or move to Canada. I’ve lived in Canada, and if “Jacques Frost” doesn’t pinch you, Canada’s ridiculously high income and sales taxes — together with a cruel currency-exchange rate and nice-nasty culture — may have you running south for the wall-free border.

Take a deep breath. I encourage every African-American to register as an Independent or join the Republican Party for the next four years. What do we have to lose? Our dignity? The Democrats arguably stripped that away some time ago. What has the Democratic National Committee done to earn our blind undivided loyalty? For decades, Democrats have governed nearly every inner-city community in the country. What do we have to show for it but empty hope, joblessness, poverty, decaying schools, poor infrastructure, environmental degradation and high crime? You can’t even buy a fresh tomato in the hood!

African-Americans must demand a measurable return for our loyalty. We are the most powerful minority-voting bloc. We need to become strategic opportunists. The Democratic Party must be taught to earn our votes, and the Republican Party required to deliver on President-elect Trump’s “inner-city” and inclusiveness plan — among others. Trump should appoint an “Urban Renewal and Development” czar with a dedicated staff to lead an interdepartmental task force of senior officials from across federal agencies, including the departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Housing and Urban development, Labor, Energy, Justice, Homeland Security, Transportation and Commerce. The primary purpose of the task force should be to formulate and implement urban-renewal and development pilot programs in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia. The program should aim to substantially increase vocational and technical educational opportunities, jobs training, jobs, affordable health care, small businesses, infrastructure development, Christian-based charter schools, and safety and security through community policing.

The president-elect extended an olive branch to all Americans, especially African-Americans. In his Nov. 8 victory speech, he asked his detractors for guidance and help to unify our great country. Trump pledged to represent all Americans, even those who decry him. In an apparent signal to African-Americans and other minorities, Trump promised to represent the downtrodden and help them maximize their full potential. He claimed that the “forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.” He firmly stated that one of his top priorities was to “fix” and rebuild our inner cities. Time is ultimately the best teller of stories, but I don’t remember a time when any other leader — Democrat nor Republican — made a similar promise. Democrats have governed America’s predominantly black urban centers for the past 60 years. Have things improved? Are the lives and well-being of urban blacks improving?

The Bible states, “There is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Romans 13:1). Many believe that President Barack Obama’s two election victories were God-ordained and that President-elect Trump’s victory a work of Satan. Unless one argues that Trump’s improbable ascendancy is akin to the rise of the “man of sin,” a skillful deceiver empowered by Satan to pretend to be God in the last days (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12), maybe he deserves a chance.

I am not suggesting that we overlook the deplorable things that Trump has said about Latinos, blacks, women, prisoners of war, and disabled Americans. Don’t ignore his apparent embrace of civic and white nationalists. Don’t discount the chilling accusation that he may be Russia’s “Manchurian Candidate.”

However, I am suggesting that we must be the change that we desire, which is not possible unless we rise from our couches of indignation, run from Clintonian plantations and break our addiction from the Democratic Party’s crack pipe. For once let’s try single-malt scotch atop the elephant over crack on a jackass.

African-Americans and others should answer President-elect Trump’s call to action, and if he does not respond or deliver on his promises, bloc vote and run the Republicans out of power in 2020. Until then, we should register as Independents or Republicans, accept his olive branch and apply for non-career presidential appointments in the Trump administration. Let’s immediately start writing letters to Trump and our congressional representatives, demanding action on his African-American pledges.

Jeremy I. Levitt, J.D., Ph.D. is the distinguished professor of international law at Florida A&M University. @drjeremylevitt Learn more about Dr. Levitt at

End student stress, end teacher exodus: Letters

Patriotic passion

(Orlando Sentinel) Jeremy Levitt, in his Friday guest column, criticizes anyone who does not praise Colin Kaepernick’s conduct (“If he had given black-power salute, would Kaepernick’s foes be happier?”).

The premise of Levitt’s commentary is that if you disagree with Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem, you are denying him his First Amendment right of freedom of expression.

There are two fallacies in Levitt’s comments: First, disagreeing with Kaepernick’s conduct in no way abridges his First Amendment right of freedom of expression; and, second, characterizing the subsequent treatment of Kaepernick as being “like a rebellious slave in need of plantation-style discipline” is a reduction to absurdity at its worst.

Levitt wants us to believe his description of Kaepernick’s motives are facts rather than his opinions. For example, his description of Kaepernick as “highly intelligent” and “a patriotic anti-inequality, anti-racist and anti-injustice human-rights activist” are his assumptions.

In my opinion, Levitt simply fails to understand that a societal reaction to an affront to patriotism is a natural and expected response that does not depreciate the issue.

Levitt trivializes the issue by demeaning any patriotic response regarding standing for the national anthem by saying that it is “a sociocultural norm like racism.” The exercise of First Amendment rights and patriotism are not mutually exclusive.

As a nation, we revere our flag. It is the symbol of our country, which evokes passion in all Americans who love this country and what it stands for.

If Colin Kaepernick had given black-power salute, would his critics be happier?

If Colin Kaepernick had given black-power salute, would his critics be happier?

(Orlando Sentinel) I prefer standing and placing my right hand on my heart during the national anthem, but I support Colin Kaepernick‘s decision not to do so.

To argue otherwise would be to deny one of our most sacred democratic and constitutional principles: freedom of expression. It is a fundamental right.

Kaepernick, the 28-year-old San Francisco 49ers quarterback, is highly intelligent. He also is courageous, deeply patriotic and charitable. Kaepernick regularly engages in significant work for disadvantaged kids. He is passionate about helping medically challenged children with heart disease. How charitable are his critics?

Kaepernick has drawn national attention because he decided not to stand during the national anthem before football games. Is he breaking any rules? The National Football League does not require players to stand during the national anthem; nor can it, and nothing in his contract with the 49ers can compel him to do so.

So what’s the hullabaloo about? Standing for the anthem is a sociocultural norm like racism that Americans can freely choose to associate or not. So why is Kaepernick being treated like a rebellious slave in need of plantation-style discipline?

At nearly every sporting event, there are a wide range of behaviors on display during the national anthem. Fans sit, talk, eat, belch, spit, wear hats, and place their hands in their pockets during the anthem. Kaepernick’s “rebellion,” as such, is good for America. It forces us to discuss uncomfortable American-made problems such as racism, bigotry and xenophobia. Those evils come wrapped in a malaise of inequality, injustice and apathetic denial.

Kaepernick is not anti-American. He is a patriotic anti-inequality, anti-racist and anti-injustice human-rights activist. Unlike many Americans, he actually believes in William Tyler Page’s “The American’s Creed,” which was adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives on April 13, 1918.

The American’s Creed embraces a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” as consented to by the people and based on “freedom, equality, justice, and humanity.” While many Americans lack empathy toward the poor, downtrodden and disenfranchised, Kaepernick feels deeply compelled to advocate for them. What if more NFL players shared his moral fabric?

In the wake of the tragic Dallas massacre, whose response to police brutality and structural racism would you want disgruntled African-American men and youth to follow: Kaepernick’s or Micah Xavier’s, the gunman?

Kaepernick was born to a 19-year-old unwed white woman and a seemingly uninterested African-American father. When he was five weeks old, he was adopted by two loving parents, Rick and Theresa Kaepernick, who happened to be white,

I wonder whether Kaepernick’s mulatto heritage, wealth, good looks, status and intimate understanding of white culture are what really bother the self-professed protectors of “The Star-Spangled Banner”?

I wonder whether Kaepernick’s close proximity to whiteness makes some feel betrayed by his ardent pro-black stance for nonviolence, freedom, equality, justice and humanity?

I wonder if he were two shades darker and raised by a single black mother, what might his critics say? The intoxicatingly toxic debates about President Barack Obama’s racial heritage and patriotism echo here.

Kaepernick continues the black sports tradition of nonviolent human-rights activism, which represents the sentiments of millions of Americans.

The hateful reactions to his peaceful civil disobedience are the best evidence that we must continue the long walk to freedom. Need I remind you that former NBA sensation Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was suspended in 1996 for refusing to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner”? Or what about the expulsions of Tommie Smith and John Carlos after giving the black power salute while receiving medals in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City?

I wonder: Would Kaepernick’s critics be happier if he stood quietly and gave the black-power salute, as Smith and Carlos did, during the national anthem?

History dictates that it is easier to vilify human-rights messengers than constructively engage their messages. No one has accused Kaepernick of making erroneous or false claims.

At its core, Kaepernick’s message is one of racial unity, peace, justice and equality for all. If we demonize nonviolent and peaceful messengers because we disagree with them, what value does The American’s Creed hold?

Jeremy I. Levitt is the distinguished professor of international law at Florida A&M University College of Law and author of “Black Women and International Law” (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

Trump’s Islamophobia encourages extremism.

(Orlando Sentinel) In my opinion, Trump is an unpatriotic and un-American buffoon whose anti-Muslim Islamophobia is dangerous and places Americans all over the world at risk, particularly our military and diplomatic personnel. Trump’s negligent fear mongering is scaring Americans and may be inciting a new era of anti-Muslim bias and hate crime that radicalizes American Muslims.

In a campaign press release on Monday, Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” He has called for the surveillance of mosques and a national registry for American Muslims. Putting aside the U.S. Constitution and international law that would forbid such a ban, my question to Trump is simple: How do you know that a Muslim is a Muslim? Should we deploy new P-9 units, contingents of sniffing horned boars, at our borders and watch who runs away from them?

African-Americans have not escaped Trump’s apparent bigotry. Even though Trump claims to “have a great relationship with the blacks,” he is the only presidential candidate with a documented history of arguably discriminatory behavior against African-Americans.

In a 1999 magazine interview, Trump confirmed racialized claims made in a book called “Trumped!” written by John R. O’Donnell, a former president of Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino. In the book, O’Donnell accuses Trump of making racist comments about African-Americans such as “laziness is a trait in blacks” and “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”

If this brand of thinking lies beneath Trump’s notion of his “great relationship” with “the” blacks, I pity his opportunistic Negro and Walmart-Republican supporters.

Trump has a long history of what some believe is anti-black bias. According to The New York Times, in 1973 Trump Management Corp. was sued by the Justice Department for allegedly discriminating against blacks, Puerto Ricans and other minorities seeking to rent apartments in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. The Department of Justice argued that Trump and his father Fred C. Trump’s corporation violated the 1968 Fair Housing Act in the operation of 39 apartment buildings.

To resolve the matter, Donald Trump, who was president of the corporation, entered into an agreement with the Department of Justice that required him to provide the New York Urban League with a list of apartment vacancies, every two weeks, for two years so that it could present qualified applicants for every fifth vacancy in Trump buildings where less than 10 percent of the tenants were black.

If Trump was forced to submit to the will of the New York Urban League and accept a quota system, is he really qualified to negotiate with Iran, Lebanon, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey or better yet defeat the Islamic State?

Trump’s most recent barrage of indignant religious bigotry against Muslims and Islam is dangerous. He is no less extreme than Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the so-called Islamic State and the band of vicious psychopathic killers that follow him. Like al-Baghdadi, Trump is a fear monger who seems to preach a political gospel of extreme violence against Muslims including expulsion, detention, torture and indiscriminate bombing that when taken together could amount to genocide.

For this reason, Donald Trump is likely the preferred candidate of the Islamic State and al-Qaida, who want to provoke the U.S. into a conventional “holy war” with the Muslim world. Trump’s rhetoric legitimizes the Islamic State’s propaganda that Americans are ignorant and evil enemies of Islam and Muslims. Trump will become the central figure in the Islamic State’s anti-American propaganda machine because he enflames and illuminates the fascist dark underbelly of Americans to the world.

Trump’s Muslim plan and accompanying hate speech will undoubtedly help the Islamic State radicalize violent Islamic extremists abroad, ignite homegrown American jihadists, alienate our allies, perpetuate hate crimes against American Muslims and other minorities, implode the Republican Party and ultimately guarantee Hillary Clinton the American presidency.

Under international human rights law, black lives matter.

(Orlando Sentinel) Are you empathetic or apathetic about the systemic killing of unarmed black men by police officers across the country? Did Jonathan Ferrill’s life matter to Charlotte police officer Randall Kerrick when he mercilessly shot him 10 times, killing the injured and unarmed former FAMU student who was only seeking assistance after his car crashed? Would Ferrill have killed Kerrick if he were white? Would Samuel Dubose be stopped, let alone gunned down, by University of Cincinnati officer Ray Tensing if he were white? Most police officers work hard to protect the public for wages hardly commensurate with the trying issues they confront daily. Yet, we are in the midst of a national crisis, and the disheartening lack of empathy for victims of the fascist-like killing of black men, women and children across the country raises questions about the prevalence of white-supremacist ideology in American culture. State violence against blacks has reached a new plateau that has violated the International Bill of Rights and shocked the conscience of the international community. Racial equality is an essential human-rights principle. In 1964 Malcolm X prophetically argued that the only way to combat state violence in the U.S. is by filing human-rights claims before the United Nations to “indict Uncle Sam for the continued criminal injustices that our people experience in this government.” It’s ironic that 50 years later the parents of Mike Brown testified before the U.N. Torture Committee for the unjust killing of their son. How much progress have we made? For the first time in American history, the international community has expressed unwavering concern about the welfare of African-Americans. The U.S., by ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 1994, is obligated to condemn and eliminate racism, guarantee equality before the law, protect African-Americans from unlawful state violence and bodily harm, and ensure that all public authorities including all police agencies treat racial minorities with dignity. The extrajudicial killing of black men has become an issue of concern for the United Nations. In its review of U.S. compliance with CERD in September 2014, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed great concern about the “brutality and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials” against African-Americans. It sternly urged the U.S. to “combat and end” racial profiling by all law enforcement officials as well as racially motivated surveillance, monitoring and intelligence gathering. The CERD Committee called on the U.S. to promptly investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators, re-open and investigate cases when new evidence is presented, adequately compensate victims and “intensify its efforts to prevent the excessive use of force by law enforcement officials.” It also called upon the U.S. to “eliminate racial disparities at all stages of the criminal justice system” including amending “laws and policies leading to racially disparate impacts at the federal, state and local levels,” especially among juveniles. The CERD Committee’s concerns were echoed by other U.N. human-rights committees and the current and former U.N. high commissioners for human rights, who sternly condemned police brutality against African-Americans and the disproportionate number of blacks on death row. CERD’s scathing pronouncements were endorsed by five U.N. experts. All five articulated critical misgiving about the lack of racial diversity in police agencies, grand-jury decisions not to indict in the face of conflicting evidence, the pattern of excessive force aimed at African-Americans and racial profiling. The era of denying America’s race condition has ended. We are a post-Jim Crow society unwilling to confront and lay to rest our violent white-supremacist cultural psychology. Accordingly, deadly police force and racialized violence has compromised America’s assumed moral hegemony among allies and adversaries. The targeted killing and maltreatment of African-Americans, particularly men, amounts to systematic and fundamental human-rights abuses. These abuses have galvanized the conscience of the world and must be challenged in international forums, including by filing human-rights claims in the United Nations and other international bodies.

She didn’t just play the race card — she actually lived it!

Commentary with Carol Boyce-Davies

(Miami Hearld) Let’s agree that Rachel Dolezal is a learned performer in blackface, an authentic one-woman minstrel show. But let’s also agree that black womanhood cannot be captured in a performance or in body image, skin tone, butt, hips and lips. 

Whatever scandal is afoot the real problem is popular culture’s propagation of, and fixation on, the external popular representations of black women. The aggressive, sassy, erotic, weave-wearing and hip-shaking stereotypes of black women make it easy for the Dolezals and Iggy Azaleas to commodify and monetize black womanhood.

Over the years we have taught, lectured and written on a wide range of topics concerning the plight of black folk, but also the movements against inequality — from race, gender, ethnicity and identity to police brutality, civil rights and Pan-Africanism. So we approach this subject from learned places and spaces that are informed by our distinct and shared experiences.

According to her adopted black brother, Dolezal began posing as a black woman in 2012 when she relocated from Montana to Spokane, Washington, where, on Monday, she resigned as president of the NAACP chapter there. And while her facade may result in lawsuits or other legal actions, what is more troubling is that she appears to be an unscrupulous opportunist. Dolezal exploited images of black womanhood with the sole purpose of manipulating equality regimes and culture birthed in racial repression to advance her life while disadvantaging the very women she imitated and purported to represent. 

She didn’t play the race card — she lived it!

In doing so she obscured the experiences and consequent identities of black women forged over centuries of struggle. Dolezal was married to a black man, has black siblings whom her parents adopted, graduated from the historically black Howard University, teaches a course on African-American history, and oh yes, used to do her adopted black sister’s hair. These experiences provided her with insights and apparent entitlements that informed her scheme. She may have single-handedly redefined the NAACP Image Award while simultaneously eclipsing Bill Clinton’s title as the “blackest white American.”

Blackness and its products have always been commodified and monetized, from the sale of black bodies to the expropriation of their labor on slave plantations; from the assumption of the ownership of jazz and other music forms to the attachment to wealthy hip-hop artists or entertainers that one sees in some white women. 

What’s interesting about the Dolezal scandal is the way that she was able to commodify black womanhood by appropriating and authenticating all its signifiers particularly at the level of hair, and the performance of a black aesthetic. The current desire for buttocks and hip implants, or the silicone lip injections of the Kardashian family are easy to recognize.

And indeed, the aspects of many black women’s physiognomy that are negatively identified are precisely what white women who effect blackness select. Dolezal wears a variety of contemporary black hairstyles from curly hair of different lengths to locs and braids, to high headwraps with locs — Erykah Badu style.

In short, Dolezal concertedly studied blackness and her various experiences with blacks allowed her access into contemporary urban communities, even performing well enough to be elected local NAACP president.

Still, her appropriation illuminates glaring imbalances in race and power not automatically equivalent to its reverse — black women wearing blond wigs or bleaching their skin. In fact, the blonding of black women has become a staple of black women’s self-presentation, as the daily assortment of blond wigs on Wendy Williams demonstrates. But there is also skin lightening and nose reshaping among black women and men in the media. This made it easier for Dolezal, who with a few inexpensive tweaks, transformed into a mulatto of sorts.

Blackness is racial identity and consciousness, grounded in history and politics. The “passing for black” option at play suggests that “passing” will continue to be a popular topic of research for years to come as the ongoing consumption of blackness continues. In this case, Dolezal appropriated the widely accepted presentation of mixed-race black women in the media to her benefit.

While black, Jewish and white Americans founded the NAACP in 1909 in response to the horrific practices of white-supremacist terrorism such as lynching, current regional politics, at times, raises a number of troubling questions around awards and endorsements that need to be addressed. In the wake of the Dolezal scandal, we should all reflect on the greater meaning behind race, power and appropriation at so many levels and for financial and/or personal gain.


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