Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Obama Says that Iraq War is Over

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University 

He came, he saw, he conquered. Well, sort of. President Obama took the nation's attention for about 20 minutes tonight to deliver a speech about the end of America's military involvement in Iraq. Sitting in the Oval Office with pictures of his family in the background, President Obama effectively told America that the last eight years are over. He thanked the troops, thanked the American people, and reminded the Iraqis that we still support them. He was being presidential, as he normally is.
The president worked to build bridges with Americans who disapprove of his performance. He mentioned how the high cost of the war reduced the nation's ability to sustain its middle class. He talked about how patriotic Americans both approved and disapproved of the war, and even mentioned an earlier conversation he'd recently had with President Bush. He also reminded the American people that by ending military operations in Iraq, he was keeping one of his most significant campaign promises.


Click to read.

Was Congresswoman Eddie Johnson’s Behavior Out of the Question

Rep. Eddie Johnson's actions are par for course in today's politics

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University 

Eddie Bernice Johnson, a congresswoman out of Texas, has found her self in hot water after she admitted that she used her CBC scholarship money as a personal family college fund. Between the years 2005 and 2008, Johnson awarded between nine and 11 scholarships each year. On each occasion, three or four of the winners were either related to Johnson or her district director, Rod Givens. Rep. Johnson claims this was all done unintentionally.

This case concerned me, but while thinking it through, I had to go back to the fundamental question of whether or not this type of nepotism (assuming Johnson's actions were deliberate) is detrimental enough to label her a poor politician or a bad human being.

Johnson is not a bad person or a crook, at least not based on this incident. She's also not worthy of the same kind of congressional hoopla received by the Charlie Rangel or Maxine Waters investigations. Don't get me wrong, when you break the rules, you certainly should be held accountable, and it appears that Congresswoman Johnson understands that. The latest reports say that she has begun working out a deal where she will repay the funds that were misallocated. Perhaps that should put the issue to rest.

Click to read.

Jordan Miles: Honor Student Beaten by Police Because They Thought He was a Drug Dealer

by Dr. Boyce WatkinsScholarship in Action 

Jordan Miles is a black teenager in the city of Pittsburgh. Miles also attends one of the city's most prestigious performing arts schools. On a cold winter night earlier this year, Miles claims he was assaulted by three plain clothes police officers. According to the lawsuit Miles' attorneys have filed against the city, the officers assumed that Miles was a drug dealer and conspired to file false charges against him to create a story to cover up their actions.
Miles says that he was walking to his grandmother's house when officers Michael Saldutte, David Sisak and Richard Ewing approached him. Miles claims that the officers proceeded to chase him, kick him and beat his face into the ground. The damage to Miles' face was extensive, and the officers allegedly pulled one of his dreadlocks from his head.


Click to read.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Should Ebonics Be Taught in School?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

I wrote recently about how the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is now seeking to hire Ebonics translators to help them to apprehend drug dealers. The group seems to believe that by learning the underpinnings of urban language, it can find a way to bring down "Pookie nem" on the corner. The website Newsy.com covered the article that I wrote, with a few other scholars providing their own insights into how and why this decision might be implemented. While I am certainly listening to the discussion, I am not sure what it would mean to establish Ebonics as it's own language or to try to teach it in school.

Does the teaching of Ebonics mean that we treat urban dialect as a class? If the kids and teachers acknowledge the language structure of Ebonics, do we continue to reinforce the use of what some might consider broken English? If the language is acknowledged in school, does that mean Employers and universities will accept graduates who speak and write in Ebonics? If not, is there any sense in solidifying a student's desire to speak in a way that doesn't match the rest of us? I'm not so sure.


Click to read.

Black Politics, President Obama and Hurricane Katrina

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University Scholarship in Action 

I still remember when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans five years ago. I'd just attended the Essence Music Festival the year before, only to hear that the very same streets I'd visited were now flooded with water. It was also the week of my first confrontation with Sean Hannity on the air. Donald Rumsfeld had come on the show right before me, and Hannity and I were arguing about why it seemed that the government spent more time planning to shoot "looters" than actually saving the people in the flood. Rarely before Katrina had we witnessed such a gross dehumanization of our fellow American citizens.
President Obama sought to commemorate the anniversary of Katrina by speaking in New Orleans this weekend. He told the students at Xavier University that he plans to stand with the community when it comes to making sure they know the Federal Government is behind them in the on-going quest for full recovery.
"My administration is going to stand with you, and fight alongside you, until the job is done," Obama said.


Click to read.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dr. Boyce Watkins Video – 8/26/10

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Black Student Helps Invent Electric Car that Goes 400 Miles Per Gallon

by Dr. Boyce Watkins 


Kansas City, Missouri is one of my favorite places in the world. I have friends there that I respect, and I've grown an appreciation for the African American community in that city. One of the things I noticed about Kansas City is that there are both reasons for despair, and rays of light that provide tremendous promise. One of those lights is a student by the name of Kelvin Duley.
Duley was part of a team at De LaSalle High School, which invented an electric car that can travel 300 miles per gallon. Last month, Dooley said he wanted to grow up to be a professional basketball player. Now, he says he wants to become an engineer. This experience has changed him for life.


CClick to read.

Technology Now Used to Predict Criminal Intent

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Scholarship in Action 

It is being reported that law enforcement officials in Washington DC plan to use a new computer program that claims to be able to predict which citizens are most likely to commit crime. The concept conjures up images of the Tom Cruise film, "Minority Report," in which agents were able to predict "pre-crime": Crime that hasn't happened yet, and is set to occur. But far from science fiction, this program is based on reality.
The program was developed by Richard Berk, a professor at The University of Pennsylvania. The first version of the program was used to predict future murders among parolees, but it is being argued that the software can be used for all kinds of crime.
"When a person goes on probation or parole they are supervised by an officer. The question that officer has to answer is 'what level of supervision do you provide?'" Berk told ABC News.
The program could have real implications, including determining the amount of a person's bail or how long they are to remain in a halfway house upon their release from prison. The program works by using a large database of crimes and other factors, including geographic location, age, prior offenses and the criminal record of the person being considered.

Click to read.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Black Valedictorian Gives Shocking Diversity Speech

by Lawrence Watkins – Great Black Speakers

When Justin Hudson gave his valedictorian speech at his Hunter College High School graduation, he made it one that people will remember for decades. In the speech, Hudson went beyond providing vague advice or encouragement for his classmates. Hudson instead chose to use his opportunity to push his high school school to end a flawed admissions policy that keeps Hunter College High School from developing adequate racial diversity.
"I feel guilt because I don't deserve any of this and neither do any of you," Hudson said in his speech, as reported by Diverseeducation.com. "We received an outstanding education at no charge based solely on our performance on a test we took when we were 11-year-olds or 4-year-olds."

Click to read.

Dr. Boyce Watkins Discusses Man That Dies Protecting Girlfriend from Robbery On Al Sharpton's Keeping It Real Show

Dr. Boyce Watkins Discusses Man That Dies Protecting Girlfriend from Robbery On Al Sharpton's Keeping It Real Show

Monday, August 23, 2010

Why Is the DEA Hiring Ebonics Experts Again?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Scholarship in ActionSyracuse University 

The Associated Press is reporting that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is considering hiring translators to help agents understand the language of drug dealers. Apparently, the agents are having trouble interpreting the words and sentences being used by suspects during wiretaps. The agency reached out to some translation services companies to find someone to help them with the problem. No, this is not a joke.
"They saw a need for this in a couple of their investigations," Special Agent Michael Sanders said. "And when you see a need - it may not be needed now - but we want the contractors to provide us with nine people just in case."
Yes, this story is making me laugh as much as you are. When I heard that the DEA was considering such a move, I could almost appreciate their intentions, but I think they might be a bit misguided. The first thought that came to mind was whether or not they are presuming that drug dealers speak a dialect of English which matches that of the rest of urban black America? Sure, there are going to be similarities, but most of my urban friends don't understand drug dealers either. Dealers don't just sound like rappers, but actually structure a variation of language and sophisticated codes that nearly anyone would have trouble translating. Rather than hiring an ebonics expert to understand the lingo of drug dealers, they'd be better off hiring a former drug dealer.

Click to read.

Julianne Malveaux: Detroit is America’s Ground Zero

by Dr. Julianne Malveaux, President – Bennett College

Only one in four young black men graduates from high school in Detroit. The rest are lost and left out, swallowed by a city where urban blight, industrial desertion, and educational failure define daily life. Detroit is ground zero, exemplifying the absolute worst of urban life. It had a passionate champion in Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, who recently lost her bid for reelection. But as passionate as Cheeks Kilpatrick and Senator Debbie Stabenow have been about Detroit, this is a city that won't bounce back without revolutionary intervention.

Click to read.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Spelman College Ranked #1 HBCU in US News

Short note from Dr. Boyce Watkins 

Spelman College was chosen as the #1 HBCU in the country in a recent ranking by U.S. News and World Report.  The title is well-deserved, since I don’t know of a single Spelman grad who isn’t doing quite well.  But some complain that the self-confidence of Spelman grads can sometimes breed arrogance - you know, the girl who wants to be CEO of the company on the first day.  In fact, I know employers who refuse to hire Spelman grads at all.

Click to read.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Boyce Watkins Discusses "Black Radio" on the Al Sharpton Show

Boyce Watkins Discusses "Black Radio" on the Al Sharpton Show