The highlight of Black History Month took place when former President Barack Obama, along with basketball star Steph Curry, took center stage in Oakland, California to address issues facing young men of color. Obama and Curry were not there to talk about how to change federal policy. Instead, they discussed tangible ways in which young black men can facilitate stronger and safer communities.
The town hall event, sponsored by Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper Initiative,” stressed the values of community mentorship and personal responsibility. The topics raised were wide-ranging. Among them were ways to support young men without fathers, how to reject toxic masculinity, and the importance of embracing monogamy.
Obama spoke candidly about how communities need to raise the level of expectation for how young black men should act. Emphasizing that “real” men do not show their manhood by disrespecting others, or by putting women down, he tried to counteract some of the pernicious elements of culture that are found in some black communities. It was a timely reminder that a strong moral compass makes a difference in life.
He also talked about the value of education. Sitting next to one of the NBA’s greatest players, he told young men they had a better chance of being a lawyer or a doctor than a professional basketball player. In my mind, these nuggets of wisdom Obama imparted were not controversial. But unsurprisingly, some people were upset with him for raising these issues.
The news industry has had a rough go of it in recent years. While some news outlets are able to sustain themselves on a healthy dose of subscriptions and advertising revenues, many digital newsrooms and local outlets have suffered. Quality reporting at the state and local levels is particularly vulnerable. News deserts, areas without any local newsrooms, are widespread throughout the country. If implemented, a Universal Basic Income (UBI), what is in essence a universal supplemental income program or “Social Security for All,” may be the policy to help revive local reporting.
Proponents of UBI often remark that such a policy would help to establish a baseline of economic security in a world of underemployment, the gig/service economy, and wage stagnation. If this argument proves true, a UBI may also serve to allow local journalists and newsrooms to sustain themselves despite economic uncertainty, transforming news deserts into fertile ground for local reporting.
To clarify, I am not referring to a UBI or a wage subsidy specifically for journalists or a scheme like the UK’s BBC. Such a system might lead to punitive actions being taken against journalists for reporting that government officials do not like. I am speaking more broadly about how a UBI may affect journalists.
It is worth noting that UBI gives many people hesitation. UBI is not well-studied, but efforts are underway to better understand its potential impacts. Preliminary work out of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy & Practice shows promising results.
If you were somehow unaware, Ralph Northam, the Governor of Virginia, came under fire this week after the conservative website Big League Politics reported a racist photo being displayed on the Governor’s Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook page. The photo, which shows one person in blackface and one person in Ku Klux Klan robes (very presumably Northam and a friend), immediately prompted widespread calls for his resignation nationwide. Almost everyone from the Virginia Democratic and Republican Parties to Donald Trump and several democrats running for president have demanded that Northam step down. But, despite my personal disgust with the photo, my initial reaction was that he shouldn’t resign.
When I saw the photo, the first thing I thought of was a project I did for my AP US History class at the end of my junior year of high school. Two weeks before the exam, our teacher asked my class to prepare a short presentation on an official AP term which we had not yet had the opportunity to cover. For my project, I chose the term “minstrel shows” because, despite not really knowing what they were, I knew that they were somehow connected to African American history. I was (obviously) appalled by my research. And though I had always known that blackface was problematic, I wasn’t able to fully grasp the historical context and significance until I did that project.
Unfortunately, due to a combo of snow days and poor planning by my teacher, I never actually presented my findings to the rest of the class. Instead (and pretty ironically), we spent that hour-long class period that had been allocated for the presentations going over the entirety of African American history since the end of Reconstruction. I am not exaggerating. In a day, we went from the rise of Jim Crow to A. Philip Randolph to Brown v Board of Education to the Black Power movements. And that was the only time we ever discussed such matters in the class.
by Grady Brown
A potential government shutdown is upon us once again. The federal government’s fiscal year ends September 30 and, pending a temporary budget bill, the government may well shut down for the second time in three years on October 1. It’s a familiar story — one that is emblematic of the gridlock in DC — and it’s an issue at the forefront of debate for the Congressmen returning from summer recess.
So will we see a shutdown or another last second deal? It’s difficult to tell, but any prediction will need to consider one of the core issues that seems to be driving the disagreement: Planned Parenthood. This summer, anti-abortion activists released a number of undercover videos, claiming Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue.
It’s unclear whether Planner Parenthood violated the law. The National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act of 1993 makes it illegal to sell fetal tissue, but allows organizations to collect a “reasonable” fee to mitigate the costs of donating the tissue. Nevertheless, the videos initiated a political firestorm from social conservatives, which has only added to the mounting polarization over the nation’s budget.
by Grady Brown
At the end of July, Virginia became the latest state to allow gay couples to marry. In a 2-1 decision, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision to strike down Virginia’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, incorporated into the State’s constitution in 2006. The U.S. Supreme Court stayed the ruling, pending review, in August.
In Virginia, support for gay marriage echoes the national landscape, where a record-high 59 percent of Americans support gay marriage, according to a poll by the Washington Post and ABC News. While the ban on same-sex marriage was supported by 57 percent of Virginians, last March, a Quinnipiac poll found that support for gay marriage among Virginians had jumped to 50 percent. This support is bolstered by young Virginians. 70 percent of voters under the age of 30 support same-sex marriage. A University of Virginia survey found that support for same-sex marriage in Charlottesville is also high. According to the survey, 68 percent of local voters support same-sex marriage legalization. According to the Williams Institute at UCLA, Virginia had an estimated 14,243 same-sex couples in 2010, while Charlottesville had 142 with 14 percent raising their own children.
This victory for same-sex supporters was short-lived. The US Supreme Court answered the petition of a Prince William County’s Circuit Court clerk and ordered a stay on the Fourth Circuit’s decision. This follows a trend across the country, where states have turned to the High Court to petition judicial decisions of lower federal courts. Last December, the Supreme Court stayed the decision of a lower court in Utah that overturned a constitutional same-sex marriage ban. Similar decisions across the country have halted the legalization of same-sex marriage in states for the time being.