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Lynching Statement by GOP Senator is no Laughing Matter

Monday, November 12th, 2018

Everyday bold racist statements emerge in the media. A recent appalling racist statement was made by Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith. She praised support for someone by saying: “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” As an African American who is a descendant of slaves, I can never get used to the bigoted statements and bigotry in the U.S.  In response, Hyde-Smith says “any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous.” She’s running in a run-off election against Mike Epsy, an African American and former Congressman.

I don’t know what Hyde-Smith thinks about a public lynching. But I can tell her that it’s no joking matter—now or never. It is a negative part of U.S. history.   Billy Holliday sang Strange Fruit in which the lyrics describe lynching of Blacks in the south. Those words in part were:

“Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees”

“Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh”

During the 1800’s and well into the 1900’s lynching of Blacks in the south and beyond was almost like a national past time. The forms of lynching varied from hanging, burning, tarring or splitting with a hatchet, to name a few. The purpose was to punish and terrorize African Americans. African Americans were lynched due to hatred by whites and a distorted fear of Blacks refusing to stay in their place.

Senator Hyde-Smith is consciously using her hanging analogy to remind racist white supporters that Espy is not in his place. The lynching of community leaders were most common in the period of 1915 and 1940 to remind Blacks to stay in their place—of below, beneath, behind and after white Americans. That is the essence of white supremacy.

Lynchings often escalated into large-scale violence targeting the entire African American community in places such as Mississippi. The Equal Justice Initiative researched and found 4084 racial terror lynchings in 12 southern states and 300 in other states, including California from the period between 1877-1950. Mississippi had the highest number of lynchings. Counties in Mississippi were sites of mass killings of African Americans in single-incident violence.

Senator Hyde-Smith’s racist remarks harkens back to a time in history when lynchings were mainstream and whites wanted a front row view just to see a Black person lynched. In places like Mississippi, during the height of lynching, public lynchings often held white spectators of 500-1000 and sometimes upwards of 2,000 or more. Hyde-Smith is saying if she lived during this time that she would have been on the front row.

During the high period of lynchings in the U.S., many were carnival-like events, with vendors selling food, printers producing postcards featuring photographs of the lynching and corpse, and the victim’s body parts collected as souvenirs. This is what Hyde-Smith wanted to watch. And during the height of lynching in the U.S., spectators watching included elected officials and prominent citizens while white press coverage regularly a lynching. No one was brought to justice for a public hanging of a Black person.

These killings were bold, public acts that implicated the entire community and sent a clear message that African Americans were less than human. The message behind Hyde-Smith’s statement is clear and resonates with many whites today. These bold racist statements have no place in politics or anywhere else in the U.S. Ever since the election of Trump, many white persons feel emboldened to publicly make such racist comments.

On November 27, 2018 Mississippians should send a clear message to Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith. The message to Hyde-Smith should be the joke is on her by voting her out of office.

Debbie Hines is a lawyer, legal and political commentator and former Baltimore prosecutor.

Gun Shootings Require Action From Lawmakers–Not Just Prayers

Wednesday, November 7th, 2018

Two days after the midterm elections, I woke up to the news that another mass shooting occurred–this time in a supposedly safe suburban community outside of Los Angeles.  A white man opened fire in a college bar and grill restaurant killing 12 persons, including a 29 year police veteran.

On Saturday, November 3, I woke up to the news that a gun shooter killed two persons in a yoga class and wounded several others. My initial thought was we can’t even peacefully pray, meditate or practice yoga or dance in this country without the fear of being gunned down. It was just the previous week that I felt the pain of gun violence at a Pittsburgh synagogue killing seven Jewish persons. And yet, many of our powerful lawmakers act powerless in the face of tragedy.  We need more than just thoughts and prayers in these tragedies from our lawmakers.

Tragedy is what propelled Lucy McBath, a gun control advocate, to run for office. McBath appears headed to Congress from Georgia’s 6th district, once held by Newt Grinch. McBath fueled her grief over the death of her son, Jordan Davis, to running for office to end gun violence. Davis was shot down because the white killer acted out his rage against a car of African American teenagers.

I do believe one person can make a difference. And there must be a counter position to that of Donald Trump. Trump thinks that putting guns and armed individuals inside every building in America will solve the problem. A security guard and police deputy entered the shooting today.  Blaming the victims for not having armed guards in their places of worship, schools, malls and everywhere across the country is not the answer. Having more guns is not the solution to the problem. Guns in the hands of more individuals will only cause more deaths. There is a reason why many police departments across the country have gun turn in days where persons can turn in guns to the authorities without any hassle. Many law enforcement leaders know less guns on the streets equal less lives being taken.

Trump also wants Americans to accept that gun violence is a way of life that we must accept. We can’t do anything about death. We all will die. We must accept death. We can do something about gun violence.

Most people want a cure to cancer, Alzheimer’s and most other illness that often take the lives of our loved ones. We accept that cures for terrible diseases are within our reach. Gun violence is a malignancy that is affecting our way of life. And unlike cancer and other terminal diseases, there are no attempts for gun legislative cures being sought. Other countries have found a solution to the problem. Yet, “Make America Great Again” Donald Trump and most of the Republican party have thrown in the towel on fixing senseless gun violence.

Let me give our leaders and future leaders some advice. All is not lost. As a country, we can’t give up or give in to gun violence. We are a country of fixing problems. That’s what will make America great—not succumbing to apathy to gun violence and deaths from it.
First, we can take a lead from other countries where gun violence is relatively low. We can also make it difficult to quickly obtain a gun permit; increase the age requirement; and require more lengthy background checks to investigate a person’s mental stability . The assault weapons ban must be renewed outlawing those military style weapons and high capacity magazines whose sole purpose is to shoot multiple persons at a time—not intended for hunting or sports. In 2017, that bill was voted down.

Just as all cancers are not alike and require different cures, not all gun killings are alike. And there must be different legislative cures for the differences in gun violence. Mass shootings often occur with military style guns that can kill and injure many persons at a firing.

We can also vote in those politicians, like McBath, who have a passion to fix the gun violence plague. After all, any one of us might be the next victim of gun violence. The life you save may be your own.

UPDATE:  15 House Republicans with an “A” rating by the NRA lost in the midterm elections. They were replaced by Democrats who received a “F” rating by the NRA.  Lucy McBath will be joined by others in a quest to legislate for gun control to save lives.

Debbie Hines is an attorney, legal commentator and former Baltimore prosecutor.

Why a Decades Ago Attempted Rape Should Derail Kavanaugh

Monday, September 17th, 2018

Judge Brett Kavanaugh was on to smooth sailing to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court before Professor Ford came forward with allegations of an attempted rape by Kavanaugh when he was 17. Ford at age 15 attended a party where Kavanaugh attempted to rape her on a bed and in the process placed a pillow over her head to prevent her from screaming. Now years later, Ford is scheduled to testify publicly about these allegations.

As I appeared on DC Fox 5 this evening, I was asked why would Professor Ford come forward so many years later. Most women, including Ford would prefer to forget the details of a sexual assault. However, the reality is most can never forget the assault or in Ford’s case an attempted rape.

While I cannot speak for Ford, she likely came forward now because she has a civic or moral duty to convey significant information about Kavanaugh’s character and fitness to serve on the highest court. And it doesn’t matter that the incident took place decades ago. No one should get a pass for attempted rape. And the issue should not be lightly dismissed due to the length of time. What should be judged is substance over timing.

Fox 5 also asked how me does one decide a “he said, she said” controversy. Normally, in a sexual assault case, it is viewed as he said she’s lying and that’s the end of it. But the MeToo movement is slowly changing all of the previous perceptions. A funny thing has happened. Women are now being believed. But the stakes are high here. So Professor Ford took a lie detector test given by a former FBI agent. Even with lie detector test, it may not be enough.

The determination of what will happen depends on how well Prof. Ford testifies; how believable she appears; Most will need to judge if there is any ulterior motive or if anyone has anything to gain by testifying. In this instance, Prof. Ford has everything to lose and nothing to gain. And if there is any doubt, folks should read up on what happened to Prof. Anita Hill after she testified. She almost lost everything in her academic career. Kavanaugh has everything to gain—a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court.
The parallels to Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas are misplaced. Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in the work place. Professor Ford accuses Kavanaugh of a serious crime—-attempted rape. And those allegations deserve a serious look at Kavanaugh’s past. The FBI should be investigating him to locate persons who may have further information about the party, the judge and the professor.

Kavanaugh’s vote should be delayed until a full and complete investigation of these serious allegations. With the Republicans, that is not likely to occur. They want to ram Kavanaugh through the process before the midterms. What may occur is the Senate Judiciary committee may vote against a full Senate vote after hearing the testimony. There are 21 senators on the Senate Judiciary committee. 11 are Republicans and 10 are Democrats.

Most Republicans knew about Kavanaugh’s lack of judicial taste for women. That’s why he was selected in the first place—to turn back the hands of time for women; to vote against abortion rights. And now what stands between him and a lifetime appointment is a courageous woman. And her life will never be the same for her act of courage. All women’s lives will never be the same if Kavanaugh becomes a Supreme Court justice.

Kavanaugh must be blocked at all costs. The stakes are too high for an alleged rapist to sit for a lifetime on the Supreme Court. We are better than this.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a lawyer, former prosecutor and member of the Supreme Court bar.

Hillary Clinton Can No Longer Play it Safe

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropAccording to a recent CNN poll conducted September 1- 4 of this week, Donald Trump is in the lead for the Presidential race. All other recent polls show that Hillary Clinton is in the lead and in some polls leading by a decent margin. However in politics as in sports, apparently most voters and especially the media hates a run-away game. If the game is too close to call, it becomes more exciting. CNN’s poll may be a good thing for Hillary Clinton. It shows Trump’s lead by 2 percentage points- albeit within the margin of error.  Despite the polls, most voters, myself included, are somewhat apathetic to this election.

The apparent reality is most voters, except perhaps the minority of fear mongering Trump folks, appear lethargic by this election cycle. Voter apathy is an understatement. Who the apathy curve will benefit remains to be seen. The media is trying to infuse some excitement in an otherwise dull apathetic election by constantly putting Trump on display and bringing up Clinton’s past issues with the private email server or the Clinton Foundation. Meanwhile Trump is playing by his own racist, narcissistic, misogynistic and xenophobic rules. And Clinton is playing by her own play it safe rules. Clinton unlike Trump tries to remain out of the media’s way for likely possible fear that the media will badly misquote her or do even worse harm to her election chances.

 

An election win for Trump is a scary proposition, one that could become true. November in political days is still a long way away. But what is even scarier is Hillary Clinton playing by her own old rules. Avoiding the media by refusing to give press conferences and answer questions in over 275 days and counting.

 

In politics, as in sports, one does not usually end up winning by playing it safe. In my sport of choice, football, the Super Bowl is not won by the team that plays it safe. It is usually won by the team that goes all out and plays to win at all costs and against all odds. Hillary is playing –not to lose. And there is a difference as many sports aficionados know. The one who plays it safe in a championship game is often the one who loses the game.

Hillary Clinton needs to step up her game. Unfortunately, the stakes are way too high for the country for Clinton to play it safe or by the old Clinton set of rules. Staying away from the media while Trump bombards the airwaves with mostly false propaganda is not being safe. It’s running scared. Whether one calls it running scared or playing it safe, Clinton must change her strategy.

My advice to Hillary Clinton and her team is that she must change. All this talk about change for the country and the one person who seems adverse to any change is Hillary Clinton. If Clinton is going to change, the time is now.  The best sports team as judged by sports analysts does not always win. It is not enough to be the best team or candidate. Hillary Clinton needs to be winning candidate in November.

I suggest that Hillary Clinton bring her “A” game in the remaining days. A “B” game is not good enough. The stakes for our country are way too high for Hillary Clinton to continue to play it safe.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal and political analyst and former prosecutor. She often appears on Al Jazeera, BET, CBS, C-Span, PBS, Fox 5 DC, MSNBC among others. Her writings appear in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun and Huffington Post.

Why Do Clinton and Trump Hate Following Rules?

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropAs many people have already discovered, this election year is like no other in recent history—perhaps ever. Both candidates seemingly hate to follow and play by the rules. I must admit that Donald Trump’s unorthodox rule hating methods make Hillary Clinton’s rule mishaps look like child’s play.

 

As a child growing up, my brother and I played just about every board game imaginable. That’s how I developed a love of games and learning. In Scrapple, we could not make up words and expect to win. This presidential election for the highest office in the U.S. has shown that practically no rules exist anymore  and words don’t matter.

Donald Trump appears to be making everything up as he goes along. Every Republican presidential candidate since Richard Nixon has released their tax returns. Democrats from Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton released their tax returns. Yet, Trump refuses to release his tax returns claiming that he is being audited by the IRS. Whether or not Trump is being audited is disputed. However, there appears no dispute that an IRS audit would not prevent him from releasing his returns.

 

And Trump along with his surrogates and national spokesperson Katrina Pierson can change history at the drop of a hat. Facts have become a thing of the past. Pierson previously said that President Obama brought the country into the Afghanistan war when in fact, it started following the September 11 attacks in 2001. Then there’s Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s surrogates who recently stated that there has not been a successful radical Islamic terrorist attack on U.S. soil before President Obama took office. Somehow, Giuliani overlooks that while he was mayor of New York City that 911 occurred in 2001. But since rules no longer matter, lies have become acceptable.

 

Trump prides himself on being the no rules, anti-establishment non-politician.   That’s why he has presumably broken all rules in making outrageous racist, xenophobic and misogynistic comments, having no policies and disputing known historical facts. All the rules are off the table for Trump.

 

And Hillary Clinton has trust issues because many Americans do not believe she plays by the rules over her decades long career. Trump makes Hillary look like an amateur in rule breaking protocol. Now Hillary Clinton does have her share of issues. For starters, unlike other candidates, she hardly ever gives press conferences. In July, I attended the joint National Association of Black Journalists (”NABJ”) and National Association of Hispanic Journalists (“NAHJ”) convention. Hillary Clinton spoke and gave a press conference before the two groups. Trump was invited but declined. At the time of her appearance before the NABJ and NAHJ, Clinton had not given access to the media with a question and answer press conference in 244 days. Unfortunately, one cannot stop Trump from giving press conferences.

And then Hillary Clinton has her every ongoing Email server debacle. The recent mishap is her apparent failure to turn over some 15,000 emails for review. That’s a lot by my count. The fact that Hillary Clinton even thought it was acceptable to have her Secretary of State department emails on a private server at her New York home defies the logic of playing by the rules.

 

The failure to adhere to rules is where the similarities end with Trump and Clinton. Trump is downright dangerous. His lack of knowledge of policies, laws and the U.S. Constitution, narcissistic ways, bullying anyone and everyone, stoking racism, attacking immigrants, while pandering to Russian President Vladimir Putin puts the danger of his lack of rules in a whole other category. While Clinton may be unorthodox with rules that result in trust issues for many individuals, including myself, no one can doubt that she is qualified to be president. Trump is no more qualified to run the country than as my dear mom used to say than a man with a hole in his head.

The choice is not perfect by any means. Both Trump and Clinton dance to their own sense of rules. Clinton’s dance is easier for me to follow to the polls in November.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst and former Baltimore prosecutor. She has appeared on Al Jazeera, BET, CBS, C-Span, MSNBC, Sky News among others. Her op-eds appear in the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post and Huffington Post.

5 Progressive Picks for Vice President

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

 

 

KamalaHarris_NARALBernie Sanders on Meet the Press on May 28  argued that if Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination for president, she must pick a “hardline progressive” as her running mate in order to win over the growing progressive base. I agree and offer some choices from which to choose.

 

The Democratic Party needs a vice presidential candidate who is likeable and trustworthy, can ignite passion within the Party, energize the Sanders base and minorities and out trump Donald Trump’s rhetoric. There are five good progressive choices who would meet these needs.  Four of the five hold law degrees. Their backgrounds vary from a son of a Mexican immigrant, son of former sharecroppers, an African American woman and a  former comedic actor and political activist. The five are not in any particular order.

 

Congressman Xavier Becerra (D.CA), a Latino and former  California Deputy Attorney General, has served in Congress since 1993. He is currently Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. His leadership in the Democratic Caucus and as the first Latino on the Ways and Means Committee helps to advance legislation on issues affecting working class families, women, minorities, seniors and the working poor. Rep. Becerra stands in sharp contrast to the derogatory comments made by Donald Trump about Mexicans and building a wall. Becerra’s mother immigrated from Mexico.  And Rep. Becerra would help to make a strong showing among Hispanic voters.

 

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D. MA) is the person whom many progressives urged to run for president. Senator Warren, after hearing that Donald Trump is the likely GOP nominee, says she will fight her heart out to make sure Trump never reaches the White House. One way to likely ensure Trump from reaching his goal is to place Senator Warren on the Democratic ticket.  Senator Warren, known for her fierce stance to hold Wall Street and big banks accountable and fighting for working families, would energize the Democratic base in ways that Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders cannot do.

Minnesota Senator Al Franken, serving since 2009 and a Hillary Clinton surrogate, would be poised to do combat with Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump in ways that Hillary Clinton’s personality would not allow. Sen. Franken, a former comedic actor on Saturday Night Live for many years and a progressive political activist, would be able to combat Trump with an entertaining style  and strongly hit him on progressive issues–a two-fer.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris is the first woman, first African American and first South Asian American to become her state’s attorney general. Although she is running for retiring Senator Barbara Boxer’s seat, currently she is a non-Washington politician, a plus for those opposed to Washington politicians.  In 2012, African American women were the highest voting block  of any other group in the U.S. and overwhelming voted Democratic.  And in 2016, African American women will need to vote at the same rate to help ensure a Democratic win.  Having Harris on the Democratic ticket as vice president may help to get more African Americans and minority women voters to the polls.

Congressman Elijah Cummings (D. MD), a twenty year lawmaker rounds out the list. With full disclosure as a Baltimore native, I have known Congressman Cummings for many years. Rep. Cummings, a son of sharecroppers, served as the highest ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Benghazi  where he unleashed an attack on Republicans for wasting taxpayer money on a witch hunt of Hillary Clinton. Rep. Cummings is the ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He knows and understands firsthand the issues of income and wealth inequality, gun violence, police violence as well as the inner workings of Washington politics. Rep. Cummings would make a fitting vice president candidate who could voice unbridled attacks on Trump.

I urge the Democratic Party to nominate a progressive as its vice presidential candidate. With Donald Trump’s racist, sexist and xenophobic rants, the stakes are too high to play it safe this year.  The Democratic Party cannot play by old rules and expect to win in 2016.

 

UPDATE:  An earlier version appears in the Huffington Post on May 5 and listed Minnesota  Rep. Keith Ellison instead of Minnesota Sen. Al Franken and read:

Congressman Keith Ellison (D. MN), the first Muslim elected to serve in Congress would also make a good choice. Rep. Ellison serves on the House Financial Services Committee which oversees Wall Street, banking and housing. Congressman Ellison, Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a lawyer and former community activist has long fought for consumer justice, civil and human rights and prosperity for working families. If Ellison became the nominee, the Democratic Party would make a strong statement against the platform of GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric on exclusion of Muslims.

UPDATE:  On May 30, the first paragraph was added to reflect the views of Bernie Sanders on Meet the Press.
The original post was posted on May 4, 2016.

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Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal/political analyst and former prosecutor. Her Op Ed articles appear in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun and Huffington Post.