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Ralph Northam’s Photo Makes My Blood Boil

Monday, February 4th, 2019

Ralph Northam inauguration – creative commons

This Black History month marks 400 years since Blacks were forcibly brought to America. It started  with Virginia Governor Ralph Northam defending a 1984 racist black face photo standing next to a KKK member in his medical school yearbook page. As an African American, this photo makes my blood boil.

Virginia Governor Northam is the latest white person to be caught in a racist compromising position. When Northam first spoke about his predicament, he manned up. He stated that the photo was “clearly racist and offensive.” But then he flip- flopped to his current position—denying that he is in the photo. That position evolved apparently as many politicians called for his resignation.

To those many persons who are clueless about whites in black face, I suggest that you use the month of February to read up on it. White actors and musicians during the time of slavery and up to an including into the 1900’s would cover their faces in black dye and create stereotypical and racist portrayals of slaves and African Americans. The representations would show blacks as being inferior to whites, being sub- intelligent with a low IQ and being less than human and childlike. The Black face actors and musicians played parts and sang in ways to dehumanize and ridicule African Americans, making them the butt of jokes for white audiences. These portrayals were funny to whites but degrading to African Americans.

In Northam’s case, the 1984 yearbook photo was the same portrayal as earlier Black face actors. It was likely humorous to his white friends but appalling and disgusting to African Americans. Northam’s depiction goes even farther. It shows a white man in Black face standing next to a KKK member. How did he ever think that was humorous and not racist? Even if Northam was not well versed on Black history, the photo speaks volumes of what he really thought about African Americans over 30 years ago. The only thing possibly worse would have been if the KKK person was holding a noose.

Many people have something in their past that they regret doing. The problem with Northam is he failed to acknowledge the photo much earlier in his career, apologize for it and ask for forgiveness—like before he ran for Governor. It makes me think what else is Northam hiding. Northam has alluded to the fact that other photos may come up.

As for those persons who believe that 30 years ago is time enough for folks to change. I agree. However, I do not agree with persons who get caught holding the racist cookie 30 years later and only then saying—that was back then.

Ralph Northam should not get a pass on this one. And yes, he along with many others like him in both political parties should resign. Northam is the latest white politician caught in a racist web. Nearly every state and national political ally and the University of Virginia President James Ryan have asked for Northam’s resignation. The one politician supporting Northam is former Virginia congressman Jim Moran.

If Northam’s photo involved something  of a serious nature involving sexual assault, I doubt if there would be much debate about his resignation. And he may have already resigned. Former Senator Al Franken resigned over a photo implying that he forcibly kissed a woman on an airplane while she was asleep.  The photo in Franken’s case was nowhere nearly as offensive as the Northam black face and KKK photo. While I don’t believe the photo warranted Franke’s resignation, he became a casualty of the MeToo movement.

The nature of Northam’s photo is racism. The offensive nature and outcomes of the two—race and sex, should be equal. Anything involving racism always carries a higher burden in America—even 400 years after the first Africans arrived.

Being an effective leader means being able to lead. It will be difficult if not impossible for Northam to lead the Commonwealth of Virginia after this debacle. The clock ticks. It’s only a matter of time before Northam resigns.

Washington, D.C. based Debbie Hines is an attorney and former prosecutor.

Pelosi v. Trump: Politics Over Money

Friday, January 18th, 2019

Donald Trump may have likely met his match with Speaker Nancy Pelosi. With the government being shut down, Speaker Pelosi raised concerns about Trump giving his State of the Union address before the government re-opens. In a letter addressed to Trump, she stated that he should delay his speech until after the government reopened. Her concerns were for security and the fact that nothing entitles Trump to give a state of the union address, in the manner he intended. In other words, it is almost like a nothing burger.

Pelosi had also made plans to embark on a trip with a Congressional delegation to Afghanistan. Trump in like Trumpeon fashion retaliated. And this is where the story gets interesting.

Trump denied the delegation use of government military planes to travel to a war zone. He likely saw Pelosi’s trip as grandstanding. It was a visit to the troops and to engage in government business.

Despite denying Congressional use of government planes for government business, Trump allowed Melania Trump to take a government plane to go on a weekend frolic. Once again, the Trump hypocrisy continues. If anyone should have been taking a commercial flight, it should have been Melania Trump—not our elected officials on government business.

Then Trump allegedly doubled down by further exposing the intended commercial travel, thereby placing in jeopardy the lives of the Congressional delegation, the military and anyone traveling on the same commercial flight. Pelosi had decided to take Trump up on his request to travel via commercial airlines albeit more risky. The administration’s purported leaking of those plans thwarted any commercial travel to Afghanistan for the near foreseeable future.

Trump at this stage is reacting to Pelosi’s demands. He is now in reactionary mode. And anyone who knows negotiations will tell you that is a poor position to find oneself in. Trump reacted to Pelosi’s denial of his $5 billion wall; he reacted to her letter to delay the State of the Union address. He reacted to her purported trip to visit the troops overseas and conduct official government business. And then Trump reacted to Pelosi’s attempt to continue travel via commercial flight. If this were an Ali- Frazier fight, with Pelosi being Ali and Trump being Frazier, Frazier is on the ropes. And the Ali/Pelosi rope-a-dope is working quite well.

Nancy Pelosi is a veteran politician from a family of generations of politicians. Many persons fail to remember that Speaker Pelosi hails from Baltimore where her father and brother were mayors of Baltimore. She often speaks about her political lessons learned from her father, Tommy D’Alessandro. While Nancy Pelosi was learning how to be a shrewd politician, Donald Trump was playing with his father’s money—and losing it. While Pelosi was beginning her political career in 1977 and later getting elected to Congress in 1987, Trump was learning how to file for corporate bankruptcy. He filed for business bankruptcy four times beginning in 1991. Nancy was getting re-elected to Congress in 1993.

Nancy Pelosi has many political maneuvers up her sleeve. More importantly, she is an effective leader. While Republicans despise her, she has been able to keep her base intact, while becoming the next person in line for presidency following Vice President Pence.

From his business dealings, Trump has likely never had to deal with a woman, the likes of a Nancy Pelosi. And his naivety is showing with his reactions to her moves. Speaker Pelosi is looking to see what Trump has in the way of punches. Presently, she has ascertained his weakness. Like a boxer, she will continue to hammer away at his weakness. And in Trump’s book, the Art of the Deal, one caveat states that the worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. It makes the other person smell blood. Right now, Pelosi smells blood.

Trump wants his wall. He has a wall. Her name is Nancy Pelosi.

UPDATE:  Speaker Pelosi delayed Trump’s State of the Union address until after the government is re-opened.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a lawyer and former 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.

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.