Sunday, October 30, 2011

Militants: Somali-American bombed AU base

Militants: Somali-American bombed AU base

A team of suicide bombers and gunmen disguised as soldiers assaulted an African Union base in the Somali capital on Saturday, sparking a two-hour gunfight that left at least 10 people dead, security officials said. The al-Qaida-linked Islamist militant group that claimed the attack said one of the bombers was Somali-American.

The attack underscored the militants' ability to carry out complex and deadly operations even after AU troops forced them from most of Mogadishu and a famine in their strongholds weakened their forces. Earlier this month, Kenya sent troops into Somalia following a string of cross-border attacks and kidnappings blamed on Somali gunmen and militants battling Somalia's weak, U.N.-backed government.

During Saturday's attack, the two suicide bombers blew themselves up near the entrance to the compound, then more armed attackers jumped over the walls, a Nairobi-based security official said. He asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

The true extent of casualties from the assault was unclear, although a Somali soldier, Col. Nor Abdi, said at least 10 people were killed.

"They were dressed in Somali military uniform and disguised as ordinary soldiers," Abdi said. "Then they tried to enter the base and (AU) soldiers fired at them. Then heavy gunfire started and all of them were killed. I don't know how many they were but they were more than 10 men."

In a claim posted on, a website it frequently uses, al-Shabab militants said one of the bombers was a Somali-American and claimed he was the second Somali-American involved in a suicide attack in Mogadishu within five months. They did not name the youth or offer further details, and the claim could not immediately be independently verified.

U.S. authorities say that around 20 American citizens, most of Somali descent, have traveled to Somalia to fight with the al-Shabab insurgents. The most well-known among them is Omar Hammami from Alabama, known as Abu Mansur al-Amriki, who posts internet videos in which he raps about the conflict.

Al-Shabab claimed to have killed dozens of AU soldiers and government troops in Saturday's assault, but the group habitually exaggerates the number of people it kills and an AU statement did not mention casualty figures.

"With the access routes to the base cut off by other units of the Mujahideen, the Ugandan forces and (government) militia trapped inside the compound were soon massacred and all military arsenal and ammunitions seized. Some of the Ugandan soldiers who managed to escape the compound were later pursued and killed," the al-Shabab statement said.

It was written in perfect English, a sign of the growing sophistication of al-Shabab's media wing.

The AU statement said its forces had "beaten off" the attack. AU troops have been in Somalia since 2007. Some 9,000 AU soldiers are helping Somalia's government hang on to the capital.

Meanwhile, the chief of Kenya's armed forces, Gen. Julius Karangi, told reporters that the country does not have a timeframe for leaving Somalia.

"When the Kenya government and the people of this country feel that they are safe enough from the al-Shabab menace, we shall pull back," Karangi said. "Key success factors or indicators will be in the form of a highly degraded al-Shabab capacity."

His statement raised questions about whether Kenya risks becoming bogged down in an open-ended occupation of its war-ravaged neighbor. Both the U.N. and Ethiopia sent forces into Somalia at different times during its 20-year-old civil war but were forced to withdraw without ending the conflict.

Karangi said Kenya has no interest in permanently occupying Somalia and is working with its government. The Somali president has criticized the Kenyan intervention, but Kenyan officials said they expected "clarification" from a high-level Somali delegation on Monday.

So far Kenya has suffered one fatality due to al-Shabab fire, Karangi said, although five people were killed when their helicopter crashed. He said hundreds of al-Shabab were believed to be killed although he had no way of confirming that directly. Al-Shabab militants have mostly withdrawn without fighting Kenyan forces.

Although Kenya has bilateral military agreements with countries such as the United States and Britain, those allies are not directly militarily involved in the incursion into Somalia, Karangi said.

"There has been a lot of talk about other friends of ours participating militarily in what we are engaged in, and the answer is no," he said.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since warlords overthrew a socialist dictator in 1991. More than 600,000 Somali refugees have fled the fighting and famine in their homeland and now live in Kenya. The Kenyan government is deeply worried about the rapidly swelling refugee camps in the north, which it considers a severe security problem.


Houreld contributed to this report from Nairobi, Kenya.

Weighing The Politics, Economics Of Diaspora Voting | Leadership Newspapers

Weighing The Politics, Economics Of Diaspora Voting

Prof Jega

LEADERSHIP SUNDAY's TORDUE SALEM dissects the simmering political debate on the importance of institutionalising Diaspora voting in Nigeria, and how that privilege can spur the growth of the economy and open up more development vistas

On July 26, 2006, the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced to the world that remittances to Nigeria from its citizens in the Diaspora had grossed $4 billion. A few weeks later, she got her luggage and left the country, without telling unveiling what was done with that princely sum. Not even a word came from her successor at the Finance Ministry, Nenadi Usman. Mrs. Usman now sits pretty in the Senate and Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is back on the finance saddle.

By 2006, things had gone belly up, and Nigerians in the Diaspora began to kick and yell so loud that prospects of foreign investments began to go crashing. The sum announced by Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, besides it not been accounted for, is paltry, compared to remittances by smaller countries.

Nepal, a smaller country, grossed a world-wide remittance of $240billion (official figure). Nepal's population according to this year's census, is 30 million people, as against that of Nigeria, which is 140 million people according to the last national census.

At a well-attended conference they organized in the country in 2007, Diaspora Nigerians sought a say on how their hard-earned finances shipped over for development purposes, but embezzled by government officials could be put to better use. That was when the need for Diaspora unit in Nigeria began to take form.

In 2009, Hon. Abike Dabiri (ACN/Ikorodu) with 17 others produced a Bill to establish a Diaspora Commission that would handle remittances from abroad. The Bill is now on the threshold of presidential assent.

Titled Nigerians in Diaspora (Establishment) Commission Bill, 2009, this piece of legislation, seeks to establish a Diaspora Commission, "To provide for the engagement of Nigerians in Diaspora in the policies, projects, and participation in the development of Nigeria for the purpose of utilizing the human, capital and material resources of Nigerians in the Diaspora, towards the overall socio-economic, cultural and political development of Nigeria".

The Commission, which is underway, would have a governing board, a Chairman who shall be a Chief Executive Officer of the Commission, "and possess not less than 15 years experience in public service".

Though section 2(1) (e) of the Bill states that the appointment of its top functionaries should be done by the President, it places the decision for the appointment of members of its board on the shoulders of Diaspora Nigerians.

It states: "Notwithstanding the provisions of section 2 of this Bill, the appointment under section 2(1)(e) shall be on the recommendations made by the respective continental Nigerians in the Diaspora Organisation(NIDO), professional groups and socio-cultural groups".

The Commission will also have representative each from the "Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nigerian Embassies, Consulates and Missions qualified in that regard for not less than 10 years and not below the rank of Director in Civil Service" The desirability of this Commission was underscored by contributions to its report in the House of Representatives last year. Lawmakers had taken turns to dissect its clauses and had arrived at the conclusion that it was the best way to go, if resourceful Nigerians toiling abroad must be effectively involved in the Nigerian building project.

Diaspora Commissions, Funds or Committees abound elsewhere. In India for instance, their Diaspora Committee has been efficiently at work, as that country continues to develop fast with the active support of its human capital resident in the United States and several other parts of the world.

Pakistan, a developing country, is not left out. On Wednesday, April 16, 2008, it was reported that Diaspora remittances to State Bank of Pakistan (the Country's Central Bank), for just 9 months in the same year hit US$4.720 billion.

From July-March 2006-2007, alone the Diaspora contribution to the state's development was valued at US$3.930billion. In the month of March, 2008 alone, the country gained developmental support from Diaspora funding to the tune of US$602.2million, which was said to be highest monthly Diaspora remittances ever, to the State Bank of Pakistan.

In 2007, according to an African Development Bank, (AfDB) study, remittances from African Diaspora stood between 14 and 17 billion dollars yearly.

Though Diaspora remittances to Nigeria have dipped in the last couple of years, not less than US$50 billion sits at present with the Federal Government. Nigeria is the tenth most populous country in the world, and the most populous African nation, with a territory of 923.7 thousand square kilometres, with 25 percent of the continent's population.
Besides being the most populous country in Africa, Nigeria has 505 indigenous languages, as quoted in Yusuf Bala Usman's "The Misrepresentation of Nigeria: Facts and Figures".

The Case For Diaspora Voting:

Making a case for every good thing is difficult in Nigeria. The Diaspora voting campaign has also fallen on hard rocks. On October 21, 2011, the House of Representatives rejected an amendment to the Electoral Act, 2010 that seeks to grant Nigerians abroad the right to vote while residing abroad. The Deputy Leader of the House, and the leader of the opposition to the Bill, Hon. Leo Ogor, pressed for the rejection of the piece of legislation on the basis that it will gulp the nations 'meagre resources'.

But the sponsor of the Bill, Hon. Abike Dabiri, attributed the rejection of the Bill to a misunderstanding on the part of her colleagues.
She disagreed that Nigeria was incapable of financing the Diaspora voting project, a feat she said has been achieved already by smaller nations.

"I will disagree with my colleagues who said (on the floor) that Nigeria cannot do it, when smaller countries like Laos, Chad, Gabon and Ghana are doing it; it is now in the public domain; who says we cannot do it? She queried. The lawmaker however forgot to include that, a smaller and weaker country like the Republic of Cameroon has since provided for

Diaspora voting. Members of the Cameroonian Diaspora even voted in the October 21, 2011 Presidential polls.
In 2010, efforts to make the Nigerian parliament buy into the project, hit the wall, as the constitution review committee rejected flatly to include the matter on the list of items to include in the new constitution. The Diaspora Committee chaired by the House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora Affairs, headed by Abike Dabiri decided to dust up the

idea again and bring it to the attention of the National Assembly, but unfortunately it has failed to get approval.

There is however, a painful disconnect here. While the National Assembly continues to reject the idea of Diaspora voting, the Federal Government is feeding plump on remittances from Nigerians abroad.

The danger inherent in continuing with this senseless rejection of an idea whose time is long overdue is that, long term and whole-hearted contributions from the Diaspora may in the long run elude us. It might even get worse with the delay in the establishment of a Diaspora Commission by the Federal Government.
Taking money from a source, and denying that source the right to choose who must be the custodian of their money is not only an act of short-changing the goose, but it has an ominous political backlash.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Judge approves historic settlement for black farmers -

Judge approves historic settlement for black farmers

U.S. District judge Paul Friedman has ruled in the case of African-American farmers.
U.S. District judge Paul Friedman has ruled in the case of African-American farmers.

Washington (CNN) -- Tens of thousands of American farmers who suffered racial discrimination by the U.S. Agriculture Department in the 1980s and '90s may start getting compensation from a $1.25 billion settlement, a federal judge has ruled.

"I'm very pleased that this has resolved itself," U.S. District judge Paul Friedman said Friday. "It will provide relief to an awful lot of people."

In an opinion filed in the case, Friedman deemed fair a proposed settlement that provides a system of compensation for black farmers who joined a class-action lawsuit claiming that they can prove racial bias in decisions related to Agriculture Department programs and support.

"Historical discrimination cannot be undone," Friedman wrote, citing a basis to establish payments "for the broken promise to those African-American farmers and their descendants."

As many as 68,000 African-American farmers who filed between 1999 and 2008 would apply for one of two forms of relief: "Track A" for a qualified claimant would lead to an uncontested payout of $50,000 after taxes, and "Track B" could yield up to $250,000 for damages that are substantiated by documents and other evidence.

"So many farmers had given up hope that this would ever come to pass," said John Boyd, the head of the National Black Farmers Association.

Lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department and the plaintiffs stood before Friedman at a fairness hearing in September and said they were in agreement on the terms and conditions of the payout. The judge also heard from farmers who were against the proposal, including those who said they wanted to opt out and seek a higher level of damages than proposed.

But Friedman said Congress, in legislation that funded the proposed settlement, gave him very little latitude to step around the conditions lawmakers had specified, or else the funding could be withdrawn.

Instead, farmers and their attorneys will advance their claims before a review panel consisting of retired judges and other neutral parties with expertise in the matter during prolonged litigation.

Friday, Boyd said that "It's gonna take about a year to run all the farmers through the system, each case will have to be looked at in a forum that's also looked at by the court. Once the cases are checked, then the farmers start to get their money."

President Obama said in a statement that the settlement "is another important step forward in addressing an unfortunate chapter in USDA's civil rights history. This agreement will provide overdue relief and justice to African-American farmers and bring us closer to the ideals of freedom and equality that this country was founded on."

The implementation of the settlement to redress racial bias against black farmers comes during the term of the nation's first African-American president, a point not lost during Friday's White House briefing with reporters.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said, "it's an important accomplishment for everyone involved, not least, I mean, not just obviously this president, but a lot of people who were involved of both parties over the years in making this come to a conclusion in a way that is supported by a bipartisan majority."

The judge in the case also noted cooperation among congressional lawmakers, who put aside political differences when the settlement funding was added to a farm bill, and earlier, when lawmakers allowed more aggrieved black farmers to join the case by amending the statute of limitations.

At the courthouse Friday, Friedman recalled details of presiding over the Pigford v. Glickman case in the 1990s, named after Tim Pigford, a black farmer who claimed racial bias in applications for USDA programs and financing.

"The farmers didn't think anything would come of it. They had been disappointed over the years by the government," Friedman said, "yet 16,000 of them collected something like $1.1 billion in that case."

Word spread that the government was willing to pay reparations, but other farmers who had valid claims of bias had missed the deadline to file. Friedman said Congress and the president then extended the statute of limitations "to get these disappointed people back in the case."

Boyd said the problem now is making sure farmers who became "late filers" are now aware the settlement is ready to go.

"Some of these guys were in their 60s and maybe by now have passed away," Boyd said. "Their family needs to know that if Daddy filed, they can still pursue his claim."

Attorney General Eric Holder said Friday that the settlement helps "African-American farmers to focus on the future and brings us one step closer to giving these farmers a chance to have their claims heard."

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who in recent years easily acknowledged a history of racial bias among federal and local staff members in managing farm programs, said Friday that he is "thrilled by the court's approval so we can continue turning the page on this sad chapter in USDA history."

Friedman, reflecting on having spent more than 10 years on the case, said a documented history of African-American farming is a side benefit from all the research that has gone into "Pigford I" and "Pigford II," as the follow-up case became known.

Many African-American farmers were boosted "during the WPA in the 1930s, the Works Project Administration," Friedman said, when government officials were "thinking about jobs for people."

There was a detailed account of farming "from the Civil War to the present" he said, but then efforts for such a historical record stopped.

With the two Pigford cases come details on the farming lives of tens of thousands of African-Americans that Friedman said will stand as "a case history of the claimants parents and grandparents." He said historians and lawyers will figure out how to make that record public while respecting privacy concerns.

Friday, October 28, 2011

New Census Bureau estimate raises number of Somalis in Minnesota -

New Census Bureau estimate raises number of Somalis in Minnesota

Minnesota's Somali population is still the largest in the United States after a new Census Bureau estimate early Thursday raised the number of people of Somali ancestry in the state to more than 32,000.

The new estimate is based on American Community Surveys taken by the bureau from 2008-2010 and updates last year's estimate of nearly 27,000 Somalis in the state. Because the estimates are derived from surveys, they include a margin of error, which means the census calculates the population could be as high as 36,000 or as low as 29,000.

"The (Somali) community has long felt it is a bit larger than the Census Bureau estimate, but this number doesn't feel uncomfortable to me," State Demographer Tom Gillaspy said.

The estimate includes both people born in Somalia and their descendants. Other states that have large Somali populations include Ohio with 12,300, Washington with 9,300 and California with 7,500, according to the latest estimates.

The Somali immigration to Minnesota has been the largest part of a broader influx of people from sub-Saharan Africa in recent years in the state. That broader group now numbers more than 100,000 in the state, according to the new estimates, and promises to keep growing as young couples marry and have children.

Like most immigrant groups, Somalis in Minnesota are younger than the general population with a median age of about 25 years. About half of the Somali population is 24 years old or younger. The median age of the state's general population is more than a decade older at 37 years, and only about a third of the population is 24 years old or younger.

Members of Minnesota's Somali community have been in the news amid long-running federal investigations into recruiting and financing of people from the U.S. to train or fight for al-Shabab in Somalia. U.S. government officials consider the group to be a terrorist organization with ties to al-Qaida.

Two women, both U.S. citizens of Somali descent, were convicted last week of conspiring to funnel money to al-Shabab. They were among 20 people charged in the Minnesota investigations.

Unlike some other populations in Minnesota, including the Hmong, those of Somali descent are not asked about their ancestry during the census. So the survey data represents the Census Bureau's best estimate of the population.

The data released early Thursday also includes snapshots into more than 40 topics. For instance, the state's overall median household income is about $56,500, but there were wide differences in income from race to race.

Asian households had the highest median income at about $61,000 followed by white households at $58,500. Black households reported the lowest median incomes at $27,500.

Gillaspy said the data was not surprising since the household incomes of Asian families have been increasing in recent years.

Awaiting Further Action on AGOA from Obama - Up Front Blog - Brookings Institution

Awaiting Further Action on AGOA from Obama

Mwangi S. Kimenyi, Director, Africa Growth Initiative

Zenia Lewis, Research Assistant, Global Economy and Development, Africa Growth Initiative

Brandon Routman, Research Assistant, Global Economy and Development, Africa Growth Initiative

The Brookings Institution

Awaiting Further Action on AGOA from Obama

October 27, 2011 – President Obama issued a press release on October 25, 2011 where he announced the trade benefits of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) would be restored to Ivory Coast, Guinea and Niger. Each country had previously been deemed ineligible—Ivory Coast in 2005 amidst the country's political turmoil; Niger in 2009 after the president extended his term against the country's constitution; and Guinea in 2010 after a coup. Over the course of this year, all three countries hosted elections that were considered free and fair, which compelled the Obama administration to re-extend to them AGOA's benefits. These three nations and the many U.S. companies that can now conduct business more easily will be grateful for the ability to expand their business and for jobs to be created.

Revocation of AGOA eligibility is supposed to be a punitive measure hurting those countries that do not uphold democratic ideals. Unfortunately, the real losers are not the dictators or autocrats who are primarily responsible for the acts that lead to revocation, but the people for whom AGOA creates jobs and a livelihood. In 2009, for instance, Madagascar lost its AGOA benefits after a political coup. Up to that point, the country had been an AGOA success story, a "leader in the utilization of the trade benefits" according to the State Department, and had tripled its exports to the United States through the program. Also, crucially, the legislation had created some 50,000 jobs in the island country. The revocation of AGOA has since meant that many of those jobs have been lost, factories have closed and wages have plummeted.

Revoking eligibility in one country also hurts other nations due to the interruption of supply chains. In essence, losing AGOA's benefits imposes costs on neighboring well-behaved governments, punishes regional trading partners and generally raises investor uncertainty. Thus, while we applaud the actions by President Obama on Tuesday, there is a need for his administration to reevaluate the revocation clause and its far-reaching implications on other countries and people. Recommendations for combating this include allowing noncompliant countries to continue providing inputs to regional supply chains, but not directly export to the U.S., and implementing a gradual removal of trade preferences as governance standards decline so investors have a more predictable trade environment. This is especially relevant considering the Obama administration's interest in promoting intra-regional trade.

In addition, the most urgent issue pertaining to AGOA is the extension of the Third Country Fabric Provision. This Provision allows for AGOA-eligible countries to first import fabrics from outside the continent, which would otherwise be cost prohibitive, and then produce the raw fabric into purchasable items, and finally export them to the United States. Set to expire in 2012, the provision has helped revive Africa's beleaguered textile/apparel industry and has generated thousands of jobs on the continent. Allowing it to expire would be a serious blow to the fledgling apparel sectors that have developed throughout many countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Earlier this month, the AGOA Action Coalition hosted a meeting including, stakeholders from the U.S. Congress, the African Union, African ministries of trade, and the apparel sector, among many others, to discuss enhancing AGOA. The meeting also affirmed the benefits of the Third Country Fabric Provision and demonstrated broad support for it and its contribution to increased African apparel trade.

As of now, the Obama administration has not devised any major innovations concerning the U.S.-Africa commercial relationship. The Third Country Fabric provision is key to the viability of AGOA and the administration should prioritize extension of this provision as a matter of urgency. 

Racism in School: Black Children Aware but Motivated

Minority Schoolkids Aware of Racial Stigmas

A recent study out of UCLA says that minority students as young as second grade are aware of stigmas against their ethnic groups and have increased academic anxiety as a result. But in a compelling twist, researchers also found that minority kids are more motivated about school than their white classmates.

Cari Gillen-O'Neel, a UCLA graduate student and one of the study's authors, said that the higher motivation levels among minority students is an encouraging "ray of hope."

"That really does suggest the idea of a kind of resilience in the face of adversity," she said. "Despite the fact that minority students might be aware that their group might not be as respected, they like school; they felt more interested in school."

Researchers conducted three 40-minute interviews with 451 second- and fourth-graders from New York City schools. The students were African American, Chinese, Dominican or Russian and ranged from 7 to 11 years old. European-American students were also interviewed but weren't counted as ethnic minorities. A female researcher from each child's ethnic group asked questions to determine their stigma awareness, academic anxiety, intrinsic motivation, sense of school belonging and ethnic identity.

To assess motivation, kids were asked to rate four factors, including their levels of interest in school and if they chose to do their homework because they like learning new things. Based on those responses, black students' average motivation level on a scale of one to five was 4.37, compared with 3.82 for white students.

"Elementary kids do tend to be universally positive -- almost all say that they like school -- but the fact that we do still find a reliable difference between the groups is meaningful," Gillen-O'Neel said. "It's not huge, but the difference between African-American and European-American kids was half a point, and I think that's significant."

So if black kids are more motivated, why are there so many disparities -- from grades and graduation to discipline and dropouts -- among ethnic groups?

According to the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, the high school dropout rate for black students was 9.3 percent, compared with 5.2 for whites in 2009. And a new report using data from the department's Office for Civil Rights shows that black students who are disciplined for the first time are suspended at higher rates than white students for the same minor offenses.


Mosi Ifatunji, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Department of Sociology and
Carolina Population Center
155 Hamilton Hall, CB#3210
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3210
Office: (919) 843-6466
Fax: (919) 962-7568
Cell/text: (312) 607-2825
Twitter: @ifatunji

"Power concedes nothing without a demand."
                         - Frederick Douglass, 1857

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Race and judicial appointments : : Greensboro & the Triad's most trusted source for local news and analysis

Race and judicial appointments

The N.C. NAACP today "urges," "implores" and "demands" that Sens. Kay Hagan and Richard Burr recommend the appointment of a black candidate to fill a judicial vacancy in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

"It is important that the judiciary reflects the racial diversity of North Carolina. Our examination of the presence of African Americans who serve as Judges on the three District Courts in this State shows an abysmal failure by our political leadership to recognize and appoint qualified African Americans to serve as District Court Judges," a letter signed by the Rev. William J. Barber II, state president of the NAACP, says.

After noting that two black judges have served in the Middle District (based in Greensboro and Winston-Salem), Barber adds:

"Not one African American has ever served as a Judge in either the Eastern or Western Districts. In particular, it is an obscenity that there has never been an African American Federal Judge in the Eastern District where roughly half of North Carolina's African American population resides, North Carolinians who have never been represented on their federal District Court. This exclusion is unacceptable and an embarrassment to this State and its African American community.



"As you know, President George Bush nominated nine individuals to North Carolina District Courts and each one of those nominees was white and only one was a woman. Thus far, based upon your recommendations, President Barack Obama has appointed two Whites to seats on North Carolina's federal bench. As North Carolina's elected Senators who are responsible for making nominations to the President, we demand you represent all your constituents and change the racial disparities which presently exist within our federal court system. We implore you to support an African American for the third appointment and ensure equity in future appointments."


OK, first just a bit of perspective. While Barber is correct about Bush and Obama's appointments, it is important to mention that both presidents nominated black North Carolina judges to a higher court — the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which covers North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. Bush's nominee was Allyson K. Duncan; Obama's was James A. Wynn Jr. Obama also nominated Albert Diaz, who is Hispanic. I don't know if that counts on the NAACP's scorecard; I assume not because the NAACP did not urge the appointment of a Hispanic judge to the open seat.


Nevertheless, the District Court is the level of federal judiciary closest to the people. It hears cases here in North Carolina, dealing with a wide range of federal criminal and civil matters. Prosecutions of corrupt North Carolina politicians have been brought to federal district court. The John Edwards case is pending in federal district court here in the Middle District.


It is an undeniable fact that both women and minorities have been underrepresented on the federal district court bench in North Carolina. I would hope, over time, to see that imbalance rectified.


However, the NAACP demand raises a couple of concerns.


First, of course, is its attempt to exert political pressure for a quota appointment. Who might be the most qualified candidate is not the primary issue. An individual who is white, Hispanic, Asian or Native American will not do. The person nominated for this specific seat must be black to satisfy the NAACP.


That not only attempts to limit the options for Hagan and Burr when they recommend a candidate to the president (realistically only Hagan, because only she has any influence with the White House), but it puts Obama in an awkward position. Demanding that a black president to nominate a black judge strictly to meet a racial mandate is unfair.


If he complies, however, the judge nominated will be regarded as having won the nomination because of his or her race. Certainly, the individual will be qualified for the job. Obama's previous appointments show he takes this responsibility seriously. Not only that, but Hagan gets credit for having convened a panel of respected lawyers and former judges to recommend qualified candidates to her. I assume she'll rely on the same counsel in this case. Nevertheless, a black judge would carry the suspicion, true or not, that he or she was strictly an affirmative action hire.


One person considered for Obama's Middle District appointment, which ultimately went to Catherine Eagles, was Anita Earls of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. Her name could come up again, although I think Senate confirmation would be problematic. Unlike Eagles, who was an experienced judge in state courts with no perceivable political bent, Earls could be viewed as a liberal political activist (although she has served impartially on the State Board of Elections). More mainstream nominees could come from our state appellate courts — although a federal district appointment would be a comedown for someone like N.C. Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson. Court of Appeals Judge Wanda Bryant might be a credible possibility.


A broader issue is the notion that judges should be "representative" of the population. That's a topic for long and interesting discussion. Technically, a judge is not a representative. Ideally, a judge upholds the constitution and the laws of the United States and regards all persons who come before his or her bench without distinction for race, creed, gender, condition, etc.


Yet we must admit the historic legacy: Equal justice for minorities was a false promise for much of our nation's history — and fairly recent history at that. So it is easy to understand why the NAACP thinks it is so important to see more black men and women on the bench at all levels of state and federal courts.


As with so many issues that touch on race, this is one that requires, well, judicious consideration. Let's see where Hagan and Obama go with it.


Mosi Ifatunji, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Department of Sociology and
Carolina Population Center
155 Hamilton Hall, CB#3210
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3210
Office: (919) 843-6466
Fax: (919) 962-7568
Cell/text: (312) 607-2825
Twitter: @ifatunji

"Power concedes nothing without a demand."
                         - Frederick Douglass, 1857

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

End to whiteness a black issue - Newspaper - Mail & Guardian Online

End to whiteness a black issue - Newspaper - Mail & Guardian Online

What unites these seemingly disparate initiatives is a commitment to whiteness in the face of threats to its co-ordinates. Increasingly, there is a real possibility of whiteness being "raced", so that it stops being an invisible norm and is instead exposed as a key component of the silent violence of white supremacy.

What these rescue missions have done, contrary to their lofty claims, is to reduce whiteness and white racism to a mere misunderstanding between friends. They have removed from view the fundamental questions that define the place of blackness and whiteness in South Africa. In these pages, Mark Heywood, without irony, scolded those who opposed Tutu's call. He wondered why they were unwilling to pay "a bit more for other people's dignity, rather than whining about taxes that might rob us of a holiday, another car or a few extravagances. A few more rands out of a comparatively bloated pay packet may hurt a little, but it will not break you."

That Heywood can present this insult to blacks as signifying progress confirms Steve Biko's suspicions about white liberals and their understanding of black affairs. It would never occur to Heywood that, as blacks, we don't want some left­overs given to us by those who took so much from us. Perhaps it will come across as a sign of ingratitude and negritude when I say: "We want it all!" Unlike Tutu and Nelson Mandela, who are happy to reconcile with their oppressors without making claims for justice, some blacks want to break the back of whiteness so that all can be truly equal.

But with Heywood's intervention, we are back to verkramptes being scolded by verligtes. It's an internal white dialogue that goes like this: "Pay the damn 1% tax so that they leave us alone, fools!"

We see this also in the bizarre notion pushed by Samatha Vice: that whites must show humility, regret and shame for being implicated in the oppression of blacks in the "past".

Note that Vice is quick to use "corruption" by the black political elite as an example of an area where whites must shut the fuck up. Lost to the well-meaning Vice is the vice of this very gesture, which re-enacts 700 years of anti-black racism. Her intervention suggests that, although the country may be going to the dogs as a result of black corruption, the natives must be left to their own devices as long as whites can retain their ill-gotten wealth in relative peace. She is not attacking whiteness, only providing a more sophisticated cover than the Afrikaner hobos of AfriForum can ever imagine.

'Non-performative anti-racism'
Vice's intervention is a pure example of the "non-performative anti-racism" that Professor Sarah Ahmad warns about. These non-perfomative declarations or acknowledgements of privilege only function to demobilise claims for reparations by blacks. Here, those who continue to enjoy the privileges that come with a historical process of oppression are quick to point out how privileged they are and how sorry they really are about how bad things are for the historically wronged, but that we must all move on because nothing can be done to correct the past.

This is an effective strategy of silencing claims to redress. It is acknowledgement without redress. Non-performative acknowledgement is ironically no less debasing and violent than open anti-black racism, as expressed by those who deny history and assert their right to their privileges as the fruits of meritocracy.

It has been entertaining to see McKaiser begging Vice to speak out. As a result of his concern with whites censoring themselves about the burdens of being white, we are now inundated with the "crisis" of being white in the world, as in the forum for whites to discuss the burden of whiteness recently organised by McKaiser at Wits. Any race theorist who deserves to be taken seriously ought to know that such white indulgence of their "suffering" only serves to entrench the established centralisation of whiteness.

But it seems we live in an era where sophists pass as philosophers. In this new effort to rescue whiteness, some discourses are a priori outlawed. The simple fact that 1994 inaugurated an anti-black political and economic reality that rendered blacks a powerless majority is never factored in. In the main, the ANC has worked hard to sustain the apartheid status quo instead of ending white supremacy, to render whites irrelevant, so that we may all live in peace. It is constantly reproducing new forms of black denigration and marginalisation while a layer of politically connected gain access to some white privileges.

Stuart Mills defines white supremacy as a multidimensional practice of white domination that transcends formal political power and extends to law, economy, culture and even the "cognitive evaluative" and the metaphysical. Transgressing white supremacy has real consequences; conversely, its valorisation has real rewards -- more so if you inhabit a black skin.

When we think about privilege, we need always to remember the example of Eugene de Kock, who, like Christ, was sacrificed to cleanse whites of all their sins. We must be wary of schemes that simply irritate whites without confronting the real cause of their historical advantage. I would be damn agitated myself if I was white and told to pay taxes to blacks or told to stay out of black affairs. For blacks like me, the very act of reducing the ending of white racism to acts of benevolence from whites is insulting to the core.

What has ignited the "crisis" of whiteness all of sudden? It would seem ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema's threats to white capital have a lot to do with it. Malema has spoken some inconvenient truths, even if for convenient reasons. White privilege can't hide from the glaring truth of Alexandra and Sandton, side by side, one a hellhole with no respite, the other splendour of heavenly plenty, the one pitch-black, the other white with a sprinkling of blacks. The false promises of quelling the hungry and increasingly angry grumblings from the black excluded will not be resolved by neat discussion of white guilt, empty gestures and strategic silences, nor by assurances that it is possible to live ethically from a position of unethically amassed privilege.

The burden of ending white supremacy ultimately rests with the black majority. It is not what whites do that matters but what blacks are going to do to move the country towards a more ethical existence, one not over determined by whiteness.

From where I'm sitting, the most appropriate response to the question of how to be white in the white world is simply to laugh out loud.

Andile Mngxitama will launch a monthly discussion forum, Andile@Wish, on October 27 at 7pm, at Wish restaurant in Melville, Johannesburg, with the screening of the documentary Thomas Sankara: The Upright Man

Academic Samantha Vice has caused a storm of controversy with her thoughts on white shame in South Africa. Read the reactions. view our special report.

Mosi Ifatunji, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Department of Sociology and
Carolina Population Center
155 Hamilton Hall, CB#3210
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3210
Office: (919) 843-6466
Fax: (919) 962-7568
Cell/text: (312) 607-2825
Twitter: @ifatunji

"Power concedes nothing without a demand."
                         - Frederick Douglass, 1857

Monday, October 24, 2011 Ghana: Mowac Leads Drafting of Affirmative Action Bill

Ghana: Mowac Leads Drafting of Affirmative Action Bill

Public Agenda (Accra)

Irene J. Mensah

24 October 2011

The Minister for Women and Children's Affairs, Mrs. Juliana Azumah-Mensah has announced that the Ministry is leading a nationwide education and consultative tour to gather inputs for the drafting of Affirmative Action Bill to be laid before Parliament for consideration.

She noted that despite immense efforts by various women's groups and gender activists to ensure the inclusion of women in decision making positions, women were still excluded and marginalized at all levels of governance.

Therefore, it was important for the women groups to support and also make an input to enrich the draft bill. "There is the need to strategize and network to ensure that our are voices are heard," she stressed

The Minister was speaking at a forum in Accra on affirmative action under the theme 'Affirmative Action as a Means of Increasing Women's Participation and Representation in Politics: The Role of Political Parties.' It was organized by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA).

She submitted that the Constitution should be gender sensitive, addressing issues such as increasing women's participation in politics and governance as well as issues that concerns the well being of women. She entreated more women to aspire to take up leadership positions.

Mrs. Azumah-Mensah urged political parties to support women candidates in the various parties while encouraging them to integrate their women's wing into the various aspects of the parties.

During the discussion sesssion, the UN Resident Co-ordinator, Ruby Sandhu-Rojon, urged the various women groups and gender activists to educate the public on the need to increase women's participation in politics and governance.

She said education would enhance the understanding of Ghanaian women on the need for them to make greater impact in decision making to ensure that issues concerning women receive the necessary attention.

"Education could address the issues of cultural and traditional barriers that prevent women from participating in politics. This should be done at the grass root level for the women to understand and know how these barriers hinder their progress. It will also help them know the advantages they stand to gain when they as women become politically active."

She explained that holding leaders accountable on the decisions they take would help increase the chances of appointing women to responsible positions. "In this part of the world people are hardly held accountable for the decision they take."

"How do we build the capacity of women who go into politics and how are they supported when they get there? Do we leave them to their fate or provisions are made for their support?" she asked.

She encouraged women and all other groups who are concerned with promoting the rights of women not to politicize this cause but rather make it a collective course to bring about change, a positive change that would impact on the lives of Ghanaian women.

Ms. Hilary Gbedemah, a lawyer and gender rights activist, was unhappy that though political parties had consistently shown the desire of winning power, none of them had put out the concrete measure to ensure that women were given high positions.

She indicated that the phenomenon of women's wings of political parties had not helped in any way and therefore entreated the parties to train and resource the women's wing, as well as integrate them into mainstream party and its activities.

"The political parties should adhere to provisions made for women in their manifestoes and they should be held accountable."

"What better structures have the parties put in place for selection of women to winnable seats, what clear objective and targets have they set to ensure that women candidates win the seat they contest, what measures have they put in place to ensure women's inclusion at the top hierarchy of their parties and what input have the parties made to the Constitutional Reviews Commission to ensure increase of women's participation in decision making? Are the parties ready to set aside quota for women?" she inquired.

Representatives of the four main political parties, the People's National Convention (PNC), Convention People's Party (CPP), New Patriotic Party (NPP) and National Democratic Congress (NDC), who were present at the forum, pledged their parties' readiness and support towards the cause of increasing women's participation in politics and governance, while affirming that affirmative action was the way forward.

According to the CPP Women Organizer, Mrs. Mary Ankomah Boakye-Boateng, gender mainstreaming had not been helpful in the quest of increasing women participation in politics and the only way out was aggressive affirmative action; tackling the root causes and the barriers that prevent women from taking up the challenge in politics, such as financial constraints, cultural and traditional barriers and intimidation by their male counterparts.

The PNC Women's Organizer, Hajia Hajara Musah Ali, indicated that there was the need to strengthen the capacity of women to take up the challenge and not to be relegated to the back. She also noted that, to encourage more women participation in politics, PNC did not charge women contesting for parliamentary seats and also had dedicated the newly created constituencies to women.

The NPP Women's Organizer, Ms. Otiko Djaba, said that there should be consensus among the parties to support the affirmative action and ensure that the bill which was being prepared finally becomes law.

According to her, about 80% of the country's economy was being handled by women and therefore there was the need to have women at decision making level to champion the cause of women.

She said the NPP was ready to ensure that women were rightly represented and participated in politics and that the development of women should not be politicized.

She disclosed that about 22,000 women organizers have been empowered to vote at the party level, and she was optimistic that such votes would support women candidates.

The NDC Women's Organizer, Anita Desosso, also affirmed the parties support for the affirmative action, arguing that it was the answer to bridging the gap between men and women and until women's participation were increased at the local level not much could be achieved.

"To strengthen the capacity of women, political parties must have compulsory quota for women as well reserve some of the newly created constituency seats for women."

She disclosed that the party has reduced filing fees for women to encourage their participation; and about 30% of women in the party had been empowered to vote at the party level and these they hoped would vote for women candidates.

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Mosi Ifatunji, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Department of Sociology and
Carolina Population Center
155 Hamilton Hall, CB#3210
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3210
Office: (919) 843-6466
Fax: (919) 962-7568
Cell/text: (312) 607-2825
Twitter: @ifatunji

"Power concedes nothing without a demand."
                         - Frederick Douglass, 1857

Black parents who adopt white children confront myths

Black parents who adopt white children confront myths

Mary Riley knows what some people have to say when they see her and her boys. But, the 68-year-old Georgia resident says simply: "I pay no mind to that."

The stares, the occasional negative comments and the questions are a fact of life, she acknowledges, for as long as she raises them.

Riley, 68, is black and her three sons -- Austin, Dustyn and Justyn -- are white.

Transracial adoptions have taken place for the past 20 years and have increased significantly since 1994 with the Multiethnic Placement Act, which made it illegal to discriminate in adoption because of race.

Most transracial adoptions involve white parents adopting black children and the controversy surrounding that isn't new. However, despite this influx of transracial adoptions, the number of black families adopting outside of their race is almost unheard of -- in some opinions, rightfully so.

The issue is thorny for different reasons. Chief among them is the argument that with a disproportionate number of black children available for adoption, there is no reason for a black person to adopt a child outside of his or her race.

Gloria King, executive director of Black Adoption Placement and Resource Center in Oakland, Ca., explains that black children enter the foster care system at the same rate as white children, but they do not exit at the same rate.

In 2010, black children left the system at a rate of 24 percent and white children left at a rate of 43 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.

King says it's been difficult for black children to get adopted due to particular circumstances, age and, sometimes, myths -- such as black children are supposedly more troubled or harder to raise.

This difficulty is also one reason the few black families who do adopt choose to do so within their race and not transracially, she says.

"It's not that [transracial adoptions with black parents] can't be done. It can be done, but there is an extra layer in a race-conscious family," King says.

King says ignoring the elephant in the room, especially when the elephant is holding up a race card, is not advisable whether the family is black or white. It sends the wrong message, she says.

"You are asking the person to be different or to ignore a part of who they are, and either of those things will never work," says King.

Even so, there is no special handbook for a black family raising a white child. Chuck Johnson of the National Council for Adoption says the guidelines for raising children transracially are the same.

"Whether it's a black family or white family, they can't raise that child as if the child is their same race," Johnson says as a standard rule of thumb. "They have challenges in helping that child develop a sense of identity."

That sense can come from mixed-race churches, schools and neighborhoods -- institutions that Riley says are supportive and loving to her boys.

When Riley first got the boys they were 5-, 7- and 9-years-old. Two years into her new role as a foster parent, the courts terminated parental rights of the boys' biological mother and father.

Without a parent or guardian to claim them, the boys would be shuttled back into government care where they would join the more than 400,000 children in the foster system -- with 107,000 of them waiting for adoption.

"I didn't always think about adopting, but when I got these boys I fell in love with them and got attached to them," she says. "I couldn't let them go, and I was afraid they were going to get separated from each other."

Bethany Christian Services, one of the largest adoptions agencies in the country, arranged the adoption for Riley. It finalized in April 2010.

Snarky remarks and curious reactions were not enough of a deterrent for Riley who says she would do it again in a heartbeat.

"Sometimes people stare at us and ask questions," Riley says. "But, I accept these boys and they accept us, so I ain't worried about anybody else."

"I would adopt two more white boys if they needed me," she continues. "I'm not looking at the color. They are all God's children to me."

Riley has attended church in Lithonia for as long as she's lived in Georgia -- three decades and counting. A retired factory worker, Riley was born and raised near Union City, Ala., ultimately marrying her longtime sweetheart, Willie Joe. He died in 2004.

"I wish he could've seen the boys, he would've loved them," she says.

Riley remembers dealing with the young boys' emotional scars. They had a distant and tattered relationship with their birth mother and no contact with their father. They cried, were combative and inefficient with homework.

But black or white, come Monday morning, Riley has a houseful of noise as she gets the boys ready for school at 6:45 a.m. and waits for them to return 2:45 p.m.

The same woman who raised three black women and one black man voluntarily took on the task of raising three white sons. But to Riley, it's one in the same because children don't see love in color.

"I was raised to love everybody and I don't see no difference in it especially with children, they love you for you and see what you do for them," she says. "And I would say, if you love them by all means [adopt them]."

Mosi Ifatunji, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Department of Sociology and
Carolina Population Center
155 Hamilton Hall, CB#3210
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3210
Office: (919) 843-6466
Fax: (919) 962-7568
Cell/text: (312) 607-2825
Twitter: @ifatunji

"Power concedes nothing without a demand."
                         - Frederick Douglass, 1857