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Opinion

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.

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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?'

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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.

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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.

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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?" ...

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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).

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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.

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New football season, same offensive names

Bill-Fletcher-Jr-160I cannot let a football season open without raising the question of the names of sports teams generally and the Washington "Redskins" in particular. I continue to be absolutely amazed at the resistance on the part of team owners to changing the names of these teams, but also the tolerance by so many fans of these racist names.

I have to pick on the Washington Redskins both because I was once a fan of the team and also because I live in the D.C.-area and have watched this situation close-up. As I raised in a column a few months ago, a poll was released this spring that indicated that most fans wanted to leave the name of the team as it is, despite the fact that it insults Native Americans. For some this was seen as the end of the discussion because it appeared to vindicate the position taken by the team's owners.

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Sounds odd but Jamal & Ebony do love America

Theodore R Johnson III-160The concept of patriotism is not readily associated with inner city black children. Modern-day images of patriotism that usually come to mind reflect the iconic look of Uncle Sam – suburban and rural whites clad in American flags. This traditional conception, coupled with prevalent depictions of inner city black youth as self-interested malcontents, complicates any attempt at putting a young, indigent, black face on patriotism.

But as many Americans know, though there are numerous challenges that face inner city youth, there is also a patriotism often overlooked in favor of a fixation on the tragedies.

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African-American jobs crisis: Could GOP do better?

obama GOP unemployment-400After five years of nonstop bad news regarding African-American unemployment, the Obama administration was finally able to celebrate some good news last month, or so it seemed. In July, African-American unemployment dipped to 12.6 percent, a small but significant change from June's 13.7 percent unemployment rate – and substantially lower than the high of 16.5 percent that it reached in January 2010.

But any celebration was likely short-lived. While the national unemployment rate decreased slightly in August, to 7.3 percent, reaching a five-year low, that same month, African-American unemployment rose to 13 percent.

So at this point, who exactly is to blame for the seemingly unshakable epidemic of unemployment in the African-American community? Bob Woodson, an African-American conservative, generated headlines for his fiery speech at a Republican National Committee luncheon commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. During his address he argued that when it comes to policy and progress, all other demographic groups have taken precedence over poor African Americans.

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Cheating our students

Harry-Alford-160There are very few things that are as vile and predatory than cheating young black students out of a decent education. There are two things that quickly come to my mind when I ponder this subject. There is also a third event that has developed in the last few years. Let's begin at the beginning.

When school segregation was ending as the civil rights era was beginning to yield results, two groups got together and concocted a scheme. In order to quickly integrate schools the idea of school busing evolved. It seemed like a good idea to many who thought by having their children sit next to white people, their skills would automatically improve. Those who stood to gain from this were bus manufacturers (many more buses will be needed) and unions that would increase their membership through the numerous number of bus drivers. So, groups such as the NAACP and others were encouraged to lead the charge for school busing.

The busing was pretty much one-way. Whites weren't going to send their kids on a bus to sit with black students. When two-way busing was being forced, the white students enrolled in private schools even if they had to quickly build the private school.

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Natural hair and black-on-black shame

Demetria L Lucas-160You know how sometimes you just know something, even when you have no proof? Call it a "feeling" in my gut or the past being a predictor of the future. But whatever it was, when I heard about 7-year-old Tiana Parker, who was being harassed by her school because of her locks, I just knew this wasn't some wild misunderstanding by an all-white school board with no understanding of black hair.

It easily could have been, and I kind of hoped it was. I've learned to process hate. I haven't quite wrapped my head around self-hate.

As it turned out, dear Tiana's antagonist was a black woman, Deborah Brown. Based on on the picture circling the Internet, Brown wears her hair in a weave or a wig that imitates the texture of natural hair. In the charter school named after her, Brown's dress code denies black children the right to wear natural styles such as dreadlocks, Afros and other "faddish styles." Oh, the irony.

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Obama selling ‘Wolf Tickets’ on Syria

Julianne-malveaux-160President Barack Obama stepped on a big limb when he threatened "limited action" against Syria because the country's leaders allegedly used chemical weapons against their own people. There are international bans against the use of chemical weapons, with Syria one of the few countries not supporting the ban. Chemical weapons allegedly killed more than 1,400 Syrians, and the ongoing civil war may have killed as many as 100,000.

President Obama announced his willingness to act on Syria's domestic chemical intrusion before Labor Day, but he has backpedaled and asked for Congressional approval. What will he do if Congress says no? Will he face the international community conceding that he has less power than he thought, or will he go ahead and take military action without congressional approval?

Reportedly, U.S. troops in the Middle East were ready to follow the orders of the Commander-in-Chief before they got orders to slow down any action. Perhaps President Obama is finally listening to the sentiment of the American people, who, according to several polls, do not support action against Syria. Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and dozens of other members of Congress sent the president a letter urging debate on any military action against Syria. Does the urgency of a strike against Syria recede over time?

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