President Obama still the ‘tough guy’ after Syrian deal

Jason Johnson-160In any movie, TV show or book, the toughest guy is always the one that never actually has to draw his weapon. In old western movies, you always knew who the tough guy was, he just walked into the bar and everybody started finishing their drinks and running.

You watch "The Wire" and all somebody had to yell was "Omar's coming" and folks scattered. By the time Samuel L. Jackson shows up in any scene most people are already looking for an escape route (even the snakes).

The point is, that in the movies, just like real life, the tough guy is the one who makes things happen without having to lift a finger; his mere presence or even the vaguest threat is enough to get things done.


Common Sense Rules: Black Boss Pays Price for Using N-Word at Work


There are few social ills in the African American community that can’t be solved by listening to a little bit of old Public Enemy. There’s  a great song on the Apocalypse 91 album called “I Don’t Wanna be Called Yo Nigga”  The song is pretty simple actually, it’s just Flava Flav (the pre - Flavor of Love version) rapping about how he and most black people don’t want to be called “Nigga” by anybody, under any circumstances.

How can you say to me, "Yo my nigga!"

Cursin' up a storm with your finger on a trigger

Feelin' all the girls like a big gold digger

Take a small problem

Make a small problem bigger

You say, "Yo; I ain't poor I got dough

You Don't consider me your brother no more?"

Goddamn kilogram, how do you figure

I don't want to be called yo nigga!

The point of the song is that no matter how common the term is amongst black people, and black culture it’s still stings and there are very, very few circumstances in which calling somebody “nigger,” or “nigga,” or “niggaz” is appropriate. Perhaps someone should have explained this to Robert Carmona, the head of the STRIVE work program. It might’ve saved him $30,000.

Rob Carmona, 61, is the founder and director of STRIVE an employment agency in East Harlem that focuses on helping convicted criminals find work and get back into the economy. Brandi Johnson, 38, was a STRIVE employee. Both are African American. It’s not hard to figure that the N-Word was going to come up eventually right?

Apparently on March 14 of 2012 Carmona went on a four-minute expletive and racial slur laden rant on Johnson about her workplace attire and professionalism. However this wasn’t the first time that Carmona had gone off on Johnson at work, and because her previous complaints had been ignored she secretly recorded the entire conversation. After the tirade, she claims she ran to the bathroom and cried for 45 minutes. On the stand in her workplace discrimination case she testified: "I was offended. I was hurt. I felt degraded. I felt disrespected. I was embarrassed," At this point this is still a simple discrimination suit, something that happens all of the time in America, just ask Paula Deen, or anybody who’s ever worked at Denny’s. But the reason ganered national attention is because Rob Carmona and his defense lawyers tried to argue that he was using the term “nigger” as a term of endearment,  and since nigger has different meanings in different contexts that he in fact wasn’t really creating a hostile work environment for Brandi Johnson.

When asked to be more specific as to why he called her nigger eight times in the span of four minutes Carmona testified he was trying to tell Johnson that she was being  "….too emotional, wrapped up in her[self], at least the negative aspects of human nature." You know…. being a nigger. Of course the jury didn’t buy his ridiculous story either, and Carmona will pay Johnson $25,000 in punitive damages and STRIVE will pay another $5,000 on top of that.

To be honest with you, if every black person in America got paid $30,000 every time we’ve been called ‘’nigger,’ collectively or individually I think I’d stop complaining about reparations, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen. Already many press outlets are reporting this court ruling as some sort of major sea change in language, now that there is no longer this “double-standard” where black people can say “nigger” and white people can’t.

This is completely wrong of course and another example of the disingenuous double standard of race that we all still live under. The workplace is the workplace; you are not supposed to use foul language at any job, no matter what race you are, or who happens to be working there that day. If Carmona was a woman and had gone on a four-minute rant calling Brandi Johnson a “bitch” eight times and lost a discrimination suit, nobody would be calling this ruling a sea change in language or culture. Why? Because anyone with a lick of common sense and professionalism knows that words like bitch, faggot and especially nigger, may be okay when you’re joking with your friends and family, but those words never have, and never will have a place in a workplace that isn’t a recording studio or on the set of the newest Showtime drama.

Only white Americans who obsess over “not” being able to use the n-word and black people who don’t know any better, would view this court ruling as anything significant. The rest of us know better.

Of course Robert Carmona knew this from day one and simply got caught for being a verbally abusive boss. He could have saved himself $30,000 if he’d just listened to Flava Flav, nobody wants to be called “Yo nigger”.

Dr. Jason Johnson is a professor of Political Science at Hiram College and an analyst for CNN, HLN and Al Jazeera English.

He can be found at @Drjasonjohnson on Twitter and at

Aaron Alexis was someone’s son

shooter-1-400In 1963, President Kennedy submitted a "Special Message to the Congress on Mental Illness and Mental Retardation" with a plan to call to action private foundations, individual citizens and government agencies on all levels to act responsibly in addressing the needs of this population...50 years later where are we.

Those suffering from mental illness may not be "prisoners" in the mental institutions or insane asylums, but they are prisoners in their own worlds...the stigma, lack of resources and difficulty navigating a complex health care system perpetuate the problems of yesterday.

When will we address the way we are raising our young black men? When will we take time to talk to our friends and neighbors? When will we stop being scared and get involved? When will we become the village it takes to raise a child? Can we stop saying when and start saying now.


Is being fat normal?

Chef Timothy Moore-160Pants with expanding waistlines are sold in most stores now, and big and tall retail shops are popping up everywhere. More and more, society is moving toward the acceptance of being overweight and obese as "normal."

It's official that the United States is fat. According to the Centers for Disease Control, two thirds of Americans are obese. Even though some seem to be taking such news lightly and as if it's just a fad, it is no laughing matter. Millions of people die each year from overusing a fork, spoon and a latte.

I frequently talk with individuals who deny they even have a weight problem. They argue that God created them to eat and enjoy life to the fullest and not worry about the outcome. I've also found that overweight people often overlook their weight because they feel everyone looks like them.


African-American income remains lowest of any group

the-black-1-percent-500The U.S. Census just released the latest numbers on poverty in America. And it is not a pretty picture for the nation, especially for African Americans and other historically marginalized groups.

According to the latest stats, 46.5 million people are in poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth. That's 15 percent of the population, or more than 1 in 7. Childhood poverty stands at a whopping 21.8 percent.

But for African Americans, it is even worse. African-Americans suffer from a poverty rate of 27.2 percent – the highest of any group – compared to 25.6 percent of Latinos, 11.7 percent for Asians and 9.7 percent for whites. All of these poverty figures are much too high, but for African Americans and Latinos in particular, poverty is far, far too high. And it seems like a permanent fixture on the American landscape that presidents and other politicians will not or cannot tackle.


Gun control is not the answer

LZ granderson-160Another day, another mass shooting in America.

More blood, more tears, more knee-jerk rhetoric about finding a solution for a bunch of different problems.

Those who knew Aaron Alexis – the shooter who killed 12 and injured eight more at the Washington Navy Yard this week – said he was a quiet, shy man.

At one point he was studying Buddhism and meditated often.

A little more digging, and we find he had several gun-related arrests and a pattern of misconduct in the Navy, but he was honorably discharged.


Couples cohabiting without marriage a growing trend – for blacks, too?

Demetria L Lucas-160It should come as no surprise that a lot of people are cynical about marriage. For the past four decades, marriage rates steadily have decreased, and in June, USA Today reported that the marriage rate had hit "its lowest point in more than a century."

With so many Americans being children of divorce, or afraid of falling on the wrong side of the popular statistic about one in two marriages ending in divorce – then throwing in the financial insecurity of the recession – it's no surprise that so many people are choosing to stay away from the altar—but not necessarily commitment.


Women, it’s OK to rethink whether to get married

black-women marriage-400(The Root) – In a piece for The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates examines the decline in the marriage rate among black families and is not bothered it. He says that women today are determining if marriage advances "their interests as much as it once did," and people should consider what women in the past had to endure in order to sustain their marriages.

"Again, you see a big shift in 1960. But that's true for both black and white families, and it's a shift that has been oft-commented upon. The change in marriage is not a 'black' problem, and I am not even convinced that it is a 'problem.' People who want us to go back to 1880 should have the intellectual courage to advocate for the entirety of their vision, not just the parts they like. It is not simply a question of 'Is marriage good for kids?' It's 'Are shotgun marriages good for kids?' 'Should marriage be valued at all costs, including enduring abuse or ill-treatment?' 'Should women marry men regardless of their employment prospects and their contact with the correctional system?'


Should blacks be wary of iPhone fingerprint technology?

iphone-fingerprint-500Have you heard about the new iPhone 5S? One of Apple's two new phones, it contains a special feature called Touch ID, a fingerprint scanner built right into the home button. That means no more PIN or passcode number to unlock your phone, since your thumbprint will do the trick. How convenient, right?

But for African-Americans, who disproportionately own more smartphones than other groups – although blacks are less likely to use iPhones than devices such as Androids – the new iPhone fingerprint technology might rub some people the wrong way.

How much should we worry about this? Obviously, many have been unsettled by the recent revelations that the National Security Agency, or NSA, has been involved in a massive domestic spying program, working with major telecommunications companies to collect phone and Internet data from customers.


Apartheid lives in Memphis and there is no easy way out

Tony Nichelson-160It is impossible for intelligent people to look at the situation faced by young urban men in America and not conclude that something is very wrong with the group. Whether it is self-inflicted or caused by sinister external forces, the fact remains that millions of black boys have been systematically excluded from the American mainstream.

Incarceration is the most visible evidence of their plight, but mental illness, poor health, educational deficiencies, chronic unemployment, illiteracy and immature decision-making are all personal characteristics of the six-million troubled souls who can not contribute anything to their race or culture, at least not in their present state.


Black names: What’s the problem?

black-baby-names-400Jamelle Bouie, writing at the Daily Beast, concludes that the perennial debate among some whites about so-called unconventional black names says more about white ethnocentrism and racial inequality than black culture.

Reddit (the website) isn't just a clearinghouse for interviews, animal pictures, and crazy stories. It's also a place where people ask questions and have discussions. Yesterday, one user wondered about "black" names, posing a question to the "Black American parents of Reddit," as he put it. "Before racism is called out, I have plenty of black friends," he noted, raising the question of why he didn't ask these alleged friends. "(I'm) just curious why you name your kids names like D'brickishaw, Barkevious D'quell and so on?" ...


Our rotten prison system

Harry-Alford-160In the name of "full disclosure" let me say that I have a bachelor's degree in Correctional Administration (School of Sociology, University of Wisconsin). During the summer of 1969, I did my required internship at the Wisconsin School for Girls located in Oregon, Wisconsin. These were underage offenders who were found guilty of petty crimes or "bad behavior".

My ambition was to change bad human behavior into honorable behavior. The curriculum I was reading promoted the best models of rehabilitation. I was so pumped but the internship showed me the reality of our system of corrections.

None, I really mean none, of the girls in the reform school were evil or bad. They all had a messed up family life. The overwhelming majority had no fathers and their mothers lacked a work ethic (welfare dependence). Role models were nowhere to be found. For those three months I basically became their father (whites, Hispanics and Blacks alike).


Beef up your plate with a new health journey

Chef Timothy Moore-160It's back-to-school time and students are faced with so many weighty challenges – what clothes to wear, food to eat, which hair style is best, who to hang out with and the perception of peers.

What happened to the good old days when a child could just be child? Back then a lot of these concerns really didn't matter as much because everyone tended to look and dress alike. People bought their clothes from the same five-and-dime store.

It was a rare occurrence that someone missed school or was sick. If that happened, someone went out the way and checked on them; and usually there was a health situation going on, but not for long.