Ferguson: Ten Bloggers Speak Out

This week I had one prerogative: write or explode. Obviously, a lot of other people felt the same way. Let’s hope that the pen really is mightier than the sword.

WordPress.com News

Many details about the violent death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, remain unclear. What is beyond doubt is the intensity of reactions to this story — in the media and in neighborhoods all over the US (and beyond). Here are ten personal perspectives on this event and its aftermath, from writers representing a diverse cross-section of the WordPress.com community.

14938226361_6a7a43dfda_oImage by Shawn Semmler (CC BY 2.0)


Writer and scholar Keguro Macharia reacts with his usual incisiveness to one of the signature chants of post-Ferguson protests :

If “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” is an expression of “humanity,” as one tweet has it, we must ask for whom that humanity is available. In fact, the insistent repetition of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” by black bodies across the U.S. might offer a less promising narrative: it might suggest the banality with which black life forms can never gain access to the vernaculars of the human.

hands up, don’t shoot

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Controversy Over Natural Hair in the Military Raises Its Ugly Head Again

The U.S. Military seems to be grappling with regulations surrounding the hairstyles of Black women who choose to wear their hair in its natural state. Natural hair is usually thicker and more voluminous than chemically relaxed or otherwise straightened hair.  Because of the coiled or curly pattern of natural hair, it can be neater and easier to maintain when braided or worn in dreadlocks.  But the U.S. Military hasn’t figured out where to draw the line between accommodating nature and standardizing appearances.  This week, a female sailor was actually honorably discharged for wearing her hair in dreadlocks.



7 Facts about the Ferguson Uprising – The Black Perspective

There are reasons why people are uprising against the police department in Ferguson, Missouri.  Some of the underlying reasons are known by the majority of Black people in America. Other facts are known to those of us who have studied the law. I thought I would lay out these facts in case someone was wondering why so many Black people are so mad, so loud, and for so long.

Fact 1: Ferguson seems to have a gang problem – Angry men marauding through the streets in matching outfits, brandishing guns at defenseless neighbors. Oh wait…those are the cops.

Fact 2: Some thugs wear badges.

Fact 3: Innocent, law-abiding and even exemplary Black people are sometimes harassed, intimidated, assaulted, and even killed by police in America. No level of fame, education, or innocence protects us from these violations of our constitutional rights.

Fact 4: We are angry because of what we have seen with our own eyes and experienced in our own flesh. Our boogeymen are not imaginary.

Fact 5: All eyewitness accounts in the Mike Brown case are consistent: he was killed while unarmed, at a distance, and posing no imminent threat to the officer.

Fact 6: Officer Darren Wilson’s friend’s friend, “Josie ” is NOT an eyewitness. Her statements are hearsay that would never be admitted in any court of law because she didn’t personally witness anything.

Fact 7: A judge would probably not allow the video of Mike Brown’s alleged robbery in the convenience store to be shown at trial because it would be too prejudicial and it’s irrelevant to his murder. So, in releasing the video to the public, the government successfully tainted the jury pool in a way that would be never be permitted in a fair trial. This was a sneaky way to violate the ethical rules of evidence.

Finally, let me say this: While the some of the most passionate anger has come from the Black community, I recognize that there are many well-informed non-Blacks who are equally disgusted with the recent injustices in Ferguson.  These non-Blacks are marching, protesting, getting tear-gassed and arrested like everyone else.  Others aren’t able to march, but they are voicing their discontent in other ways. I commend everyone who stands against injustice and everyone who upholds the constitution of the United States of America. As the Reverence Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  And  “A house divided against itself can’t stand.”  (Mark 3:25) So, let’s keep up the fight until we get it right. Together.

Unwritten Rules – Hilarious YouTube Series About Race in the Workplace

A friend sent me a link to this wonderful series on YouTube called The Unwritten Rules, which chronicles some of the ackward interactions that the only Black co-worker might encounter in the office.  Some of the incidents may seem over-the-top, but sadly, they aren’t that far off the mark, and I’d bet that there’s a Black co-worker out there somewhere that has encountered each of these issues.  What I like about the series is that it does not vilify the white co-workers.  These are not rabid racists out to get the Black co-worker.  They are simply, blissfully ignorant, and their comments are generally not meant to harm.  I think that the series can be a good conversation starter for workplace diversity prorams.  Kudos to the creator, writers and actors. In  Episode 4 of The Unwritten Rules deals with Black hair and all the questions that it can raise in the workplace.  As the Only Afro in the Room, I can certainly relate.

This Week’s State of the Union

The State of the Union is the Only Afro in the Room’s weekly line-up of news related to race relations and diversity. Stories are organized by their relative impact on these issues: the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.

How Unified Was the Human Race During the Week of August 12-16, 2013?


In the United States, a Court Holds That NYC’s Racist Implementation of Stop-And-Frisk Is Unconstitutional, and a Real Discussion on Racism Occurs in Philadelphia.

While, in Israel, a Teacher’s Conference Discusses How to Improve Anti-Racism Education in Schools.


In contrast, Most U.S. Public Schools Are Failing to Teach the Civil Rights Movement, which would explain why, Smart Whites Are Just As Racist As Dumb Whites, According to a Scientific Study and a New Poll Reveals Racially Segregated Friendships.

Meanwhile, people are experiencing racial intolerance all over the globe, including in Ireland where Eye Witnesses Report Recent Incidents of Racism (25% Committed Against Blacks), and Even Americans and Brits Wonder Why Australia is So Racist. Sounds to me like the teapot and coffeepot are calling the little Outback kettle black?

Finally, I can’t overlook the irony that Racism Still Exists in the Fashion Industry.


Racism Is Really Bad For Your Health. Scientific Studies Link Racism to high blood pressure and adult onset asthma in African Americans

It’s Also Really Bad For Your Mind, as evidenced by the racially defeated Wendy Williams who commented that “Natural is for personalities, not hair,” in conjunction with her launching a new line of wigs because, you know, that’s what Black women really need: access to more fake hair. Just…Wow.

Obama Was Targeted by Racists Across the United States. I admit that this isn’t really news as racists have targeted him throughout his presidency, but I did find some of this week’s taunts to be particularly low-brow. It’s as though all the racists got together and decided to stop the coded speech and veiled references, and instead let it all hang out like their Confederate flags.

To confirm my suspicions, Texas Openly Defended Its Racially Discriminatory Redistricting.

Lastly, you’ve already heard about this, but for the sake of posterity, I had to share that Oprah Was Snubbed By A Snooty Shopgirl Who Wouldn’t Let the Billionare Hold a Bag Because It Was “Too Expensive.”

“Big Mistake. Big. Huuuuge!”

Pretty Woman (1990)

Missourians Show Utmost Disrespect to Obama, The Only Afro in the Whitehouse

During a rodeo at the Missouri State Fair, crowds cheered enthusiastically when an announcer asked if they should have bulls run down a clown wearing an Obama mask.  They also displayed an Obama dummy during bull run.  A disturbed spectator said, “It was feeling like some kind of Klan rally you’d see on TV.” Read Yahoo News coverage here.

Personally, I am grateful for events like this because they expose the living, breathing racism that still exists in America. Obama’s presidency, perhaps more than any event in modern history, has unveiled the darkness that still dwells in the hearts of many Americans. No one can deny that the country has made amazing progress in the past 60 years since the height of the civil rights movement. However, to believe that we are in a post-racial society is to be deliberately blind to reality.

Is “white pride” inherently racist?

According to the AJC, a white student has started an informal White Student Union at Georgia State.  The student claims that whites are a “minority” at the school, and he wants to organize around issues that effect white people “like immigration and affirmative action.”  The student says that he “wants to celebrate white identity” and realizes that some will think that he is forming a racist organization. This story makes me ask the question, is white pride inherently racist?  And I want to distinguish between “white pride,” and pride in one’s individual ethnicity, such as Italian, Irish, German, Swedish, etc.  When someone expresses “white pride,” could they just be proud of the collective identity, culture and achievements of people of European descent or should we soon expect to see them parade around in a white hood and cloak? Take the poll and please share your comments.

Honoring Jackie Robinson, The Only Afro on the Field

Last night, I learned that vandals scribbled racial epithets on Jackie Robinson’s statue. (CNN’s coverage of the story) That prompted me to revisit his life and career. What I encountered was the story of a man whose mental strength was even more remarkable than his extraordinary physical talent. Though known for his achievements in baseball, did you know that Jackie Robinson was actually gifted in four sports:  football, basketball, track, and baseball? He was the first UCLA student to earn varsity letters in all four sports, and he played semi-pro football in Hawaii. Did you know that he had the guts to call the Yankees racist for refusing to integrate their team, and then dealt the final blow by leading the Dodgers to defeat the Yankees in the 1955 World Series? Did you know that he was court martialed while serving in the Army World War II (and later exonerated) for refusing to sit in the back of the bus at boot camp?

In his lifetime, he was a world-renowned athlete, civil rights champion and businessman. His archetypal career can serve as a beacon to the would-be A-Rods and Armstrongs of the world.  He deserves our utmost respect and our gratitude for shattering the racial barrier to this “all American” sport. To learn more about Jackie’s athletic career, visit http://www.jackierobinson.com/about/facts.html. To read about his life on and off the field, check out http://www.biography.com/people/jackie-robinson-9460813?page=1.

Better yet, let’s teach those racist vandals a lesson by donating money to the Jackie Robinson Foundation.  Jackie Robinson was the youngest son of a single mother.  Due to financial hardship, he had to drop out of college.  Donations to the Jackie Robinson foundation will help send a disadvantaged youth to college and pay honor to his great legacy.

(Note: TheOnlyAfrointheRoom is not employed by or otherwise affiliated with the Jackie Robinson Foundation, and the opinions expressed here are those of TheOnlyAfrointheRoom’s primary author)

Oprah Wears Giant Afro Wig On O Magazine Cover

O Mag - Sept 2013 - Giant AfoLast week, my blog post pointed out that Black female celebrities rarely wear their natural hair in public. Well, I guess I stand corrected. Oprah, the most famous of all Black female celebrities, is donning a gigantic afro wig that would make even Mufasa, the original Lion King, bow down. There is a small part of me that worries our hair may be viewed as an amusing charicature; however, if allowed to grow without mitigation, some of us would actually look like this. Natural hair, at it’s absolute best, grows up and out like a halo surrounding the head of a Renaissance saint. So, do your thing, Oprah. Even if it’s not really yours (and thus not really natural), I choose to look at this as a bold celebration of all that Black hair can be.

Learn more about the genesis of this O Magazine cover at US Weekly: http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-beauty/news/oprah-winfrey-wears-35-pound-wig-on-september-cover-of-o-the-oprah-magazine-201358