Who Counts As Black?

'Crayons' via www.shutterstock.com
‘Crayons’ via http://www.shutterstock.com

Ronald Hall, Michigan State University

For generations, intimacy between black men and white women was taboo. A mere accusation of impropriety could lead to a lynching, and interracial marriage was illegal in a number of states.

Everything changed with the 1967 Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which ruled that blacks and whites have a legal right to intermarry. Spurred by the court’s decision, the number of interracial marriages – and, with it, the population of multiracial people – has exploded. According to the 2000 Census, 6.8 million Americans identified as multiracial. By 2010, that number grew to 9 million people. And this leaves out all of the people who might be a product of mixed ancestry but chose to still identify as either white or black.

With these demographic changes, traditional notions of black identity – once limited to the confines of dark skin or kinky hair – are no longer so.

Mixed-race African-Americans can have naturally green eyes (like the singer Rihanna) or naturally blue eyes (like actor Jessie Williams). Their hair can be styled long and wavy (Alicia Keys) or into a bob-cut (Halle Berry).

And unlike in the past – when many mixed-race people would try to do what they could to pass as white – many multiracial Americans today unabashedly embrace and celebrate their blackness.

However, these expressions of black pride have been met with grumbles by some in the black community. These mixed-race people, some argue, are not “black enough” – their skin isn’t dark enough, their hair not kinky enough. And thus they do not “count” as black. African-American presidential candidate Ben Carson even claimed President Obama couldn’t understand “the experience of black Americans” because he was “raised white.”

This debate over “who counts” has created somewhat of an identity crisis in the black community, exposing a divide between those who think being black should be based on physical looks, and those who think being black is more than looks.

‘Dark Girls’ and ‘Light Girls’

In 2011 Oprah Winfrey hosted a documentary titled “Dark Girls,” a portrayal of the pain and suffering dark-skinned black women experience.

It’s a story I know only too well. In 1992, I coauthored a book with DePaul psychologist Midge Wilson and business executive Kathy Russell called “The Color Complex,” which looked at the relationship between black identity and skin color in modern America.

The trailer for ‘Dark Girls.’

As someone who has studied the issue of skin color and black identity for over 20 years, I felt uneasy after I finished watching the “Dark Girls” film. No doubt it confirmed the pain that dark-skinned black women feel. But it left something important out, and I wondered if it would lead to misconceptions.

The film seemed to suggest that if you are black, you have dark skin. Your hair is kinky. Green or blue eyes, on the other hand, represent someone who is white.

I was relieved, then, when I was asked to consult on a second documentary, “Light Girls,” in 2015, a film centered on the pain and suffering mixed-race black women endure. The subjects who were interviewed shared their stories. These women considered themselves black but said they always felt out of place, on the outside looking in. Black men often adored them, but this could quickly flip to scorn if their advances were spurned. Meanwhile, friendships with darker-skinned black women could be fraught. Insults such as “light-bright,” “mello-yellow” and “banana girl” were tossed at lighter-skinned black women, objectifying them as anything but black.

Identity experts weigh in

Some of the experts on identity take issue with the general assumptions many might have about “who is black,” especially those who think blackness is determined by skin color.

For example, in 1902 sociologist Charles Horton Cooley argued that identity is like a “looking glass self.” In other words, we are a reflection of the people around us. Mixed-race, light-skinned, green-eyed African-Americans born and raised in a black environment are no less black than their dark-skinned counterparts. In 1934, cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead said that identity was a product of our social interactions, just like Cooley.

Maybe the most well-known identity theorist is psychologist Erik Erikson. In his most popular book, “Identity: Youth and Crisis,” published in 1968, Erikson also claimed that identity is a product of our environment. But he expanded the theory a bit: It includes not only the people we interact with but also the clothes we wear, the food we eat and the music we listen to. Mixed-race African-Americans – just like dark-skinned African-Americans – would be equally uncomfortable wearing a kimono, drinking sake or listening to ongaku (a type of Japanese music). On the other hand, wearing a dashiki, eating soul food and relaxing to the beats of rap or hip-hop music is something all black people – regardless of skin tone – can identify with.

Our physical features, of course, are a product of our parents. Indeed, in the not-too-distant future, with more and more interracial marriages taking place, we may find black and white hair texture and eye and skin color indistinguishable. It’s worth noting that there’s an element of personal choice involved in racial identity – for example, you can choose how to self-identify on the census. Many multiracial Americans simply identify as “multiracial.” Others, even if they’re a product of mixed ancestry, choose “black.”

Perhaps true blackness, then, dwells not in skin color, eye color or hair texture, but in the love for the spirit and culture of all who came before us.

The Conversation

Ronald Hall, Professor of Social Work, Michigan State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Netanyahu’s meeting with Trump: Good for Israeli-Palestinian peace?

Trump and Netanyahu participate in a joint news conference on Feb. 15, 2017. P Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Trump and Netanyahu participate in a joint news conference on Feb. 15, 2017. P Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Dov Waxman, Northeastern University

At their meeting at the White House today, U.S. President Donald Trump asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements for a little bit.”

There are now more than 400,000 Israelis living in over 100 settlements located in the West Bank. Another 300,000 or so are living in East Jerusalem, which Israel has officially annexed. Driven by a powerful combination of religious nationalism, economic incentives and security concerns, the continued expansion of Israeli settlements is one of the main reasons so many seasoned observers of the conflict, myself included, are increasingly pessimistic about the prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

A source of tension

Israel’s settlement building has long been an irritant in U.S.-Israeli relations. Successive U.S. administrations have opposed it, viewing it as a provocation to Palestinians and an obstacle to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Obama administration was particularly vocal and unyielding in its opposition to settlement construction. It insisted that all Israeli settlement building had to stop, whether it was taking place in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, in large settlement blocs near Israel’s pre-1967 border or in remote outposts deep inside the West Bank. In fact, the Obama administration’s refusal to officially countenance any settlement building was a source of persistent tension in U.S.-Israeli relations over the past eight years.

The Israeli settlement of Maaleh Adumim looms over Arab Bedouin shacks in the West Bank, Jan. 22, 2017. AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean
The Israeli settlement of Maaleh Adumim looms over Arab Bedouin shacks in the West Bank, Jan. 22, 2017. AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean

The Trump administration, by contrast, looks likely to adopt a more permissive attitude toward Israeli settlements. To be sure, it will not be as tolerant as those on the Israeli right and some on the American right initially hoped it would be.

During the presidential election campaign and before taking office, Trump and some of his advisers indicated that he was supportive of Israeli settlement building. Trump had even given money to the settlement of Beit El, and his designated ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has raised millions of dollars for it. Buoyed by such high hopes, Naftali Bennett, the leader of the right wing Jewish Home Party which draws much of its support from Israeli settlers, triumphantly declared after Trump’s election victory: “The era of a Palestinian state is over.”

A few weeks into his presidency, however, it is becoming clear that such triumphalism was premature. Trump has expressed a desire to make in his words “the ultimate deal” and broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. That will inevitably involve the establishment of a Palestinian state – even if the Trump administration doesn’t explicitly insist upon this. Trump has also stated in a recent interview with an Israeli newspaper that settlements are not “a good thing for peace,” and “every time you [Israel] take land for a settlement, there is less land left [for Palestinians].”

Trump will probably work out an agreement with Netanyahu that will allow Israel to build in the large blocs of settlements that it plans to keep in any peace deal and eventually annex. Such an agreement, similar to one reached in 2004 between President Bush and then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, will benefit both Trump and Netanyahu, and remove a source of controversy and conflict in the relationship between the United States and Israel.

But although it will be good for U.S.-Israeli relations, it will do nothing to improve Israeli-Palestinian relations. If anything, it will only further damage an already destructive relationship. After all, the land on which Trump will allow Israel to expand its settlements is land that the Palestinians regard as rightfully theirs.

There is something seriously amiss when an Israeli leader is interested only in reaching an agreement with an American president, rather than with his Palestinian neighbor. While gaining American acquiescence for future Israeli settlement building is certainly useful for Netanyahu, it is ultimately the Palestinians who must consent to Israel’s plan to eventually annex the large settlements, probably in exchange for an equivalent amount of land from within Israel’s pre-1967 borders.

The Trump administration cannot confer legitimacy on Israel’s settlements. Nor is it entitled to give Israel permission to build on land that the international community, international law and the Palestinians themselves regard as “occupied Palestinian territory,” that might eventually become part of a future Palestinian state.

Sadly for the Palestinians, they are in no position to stop Israel from building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They can only watch helplessly from afar as Israel and the United States decide on what happens to their land.

Nothing demonstrates more clearly the weakness of the Palestinians and the failure of their leadership to achieve their national aspirations. While the Palestinians and their leaders are no doubt partially responsible for their relative powerlessness, the Netanyahu government has done little, if anything, to bolster the Palestinian authority in the West Bank. While Netanyahu flatters and courts Trump, he largely ignores Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Surely, if Israel is ever to make peace with the Palestinians, the prime minister of Israel should also focus on trying to talk with his Palestinian counterpart, and overcoming the latter’s resistance to such talks.

Whatever agreement concerning settlements Trump and Netanyahu might reach, it will not help to move Israel and the Palestinians any closer to a peace agreement.

The Conversation

Dov Waxman, Professor of Political Science, International Affairs and Israel Studies, Northeastern University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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White House in turmoil shows why Trump’s no CEO

Trump poses with his brain trust. Mark Lennihan/AP Photo
Trump poses with his brain trust. Mark Lennihan/AP Photo

Bert Spector, Northeastern University

Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump made much of his business experience, claiming he’s been “creating jobs and rebuilding neighborhoods my entire adult life.”

The fact that he was from the business world rather than a career politician was something that appealed to many of his supporters.

It’s easy to understand the appeal of a president as CEO. The U.S. president is indisputably the chief executive of a massive, complex, global structure known as the federal government. And if the performance of our national economy is vital to the well-being of us all, why not believe that Trump’s experience running a large company equips him to effectively manage a nation?

Instead of a “fine-tuned machine,” however, the opening weeks of the Trump administration have revealed a White House that’s chaotic, disorganized and anything but efficient. Examples include rushed and poorly constructed executive orders, a dysfunctional national security team and unclear and even contradictory messages emanating from multiple administrative spokespeople, which frequently clash with the tweets of the president himself.

Senator John McCain succinctly summed up the growing sentiment even some Republicans are feeling: “Nobody knows who’s in charge.”

So why the seeming contradiction between his businessman credentials and chaotic governing style?

Well for one thing, Trump wasn’t a genuine CEO. That is, he didn’t run a major public corporation with shareholders and a board of directors that could hold him to account. Instead, he was the head of a family-owned, private web of enterprises. Regardless of the title he gave himself, the position arguably ill-equipped him for the demands of the presidency.

Catching up on the news, Senator? Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo
Catching up on the news, Senator? Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo

Public accountability

Several years ago, I explored the distinction between public and private companies in detail when the American Bar Association invited me to write about what young corporate lawyers needed to understand about how business works. Based on that research, I want to point to an important set of distinctions between public corporations and private businesses, and what it all means for President Trump.

Public corporations are companies that offer their stock to pretty much anyone via organized exchanges or by some over-the-counter mechanism. In order to protect investors, the government created the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which imposes an obligation of transparency on public corporations that does not apply to private businesses like the Trump Organization.

The SEC, for example, requires the CEO of public corporations to make full and public disclosures of their financial position. Annual 10-K reports, quarterly 10-Q’s and occasional special 8-K’s require disclosure of operating expenses, significant partnerships, liabilities, strategies, risks and plans.

Additionally, an independent firm overseen by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board conducts an audit of these financial statements to ensure thoroughness and accuracy.

Finally, the CEO, along with the chief financial officer, is criminally liable for falsification or manipulation of the company’s reports. Remember the 2001 Enron scandal? CEO Jeffrey Skilling was convicted of conspiracy, fraud and insider trading and initially sentenced to 24 years in prison.

Former Enron CEO Skilling learned the hard way that the buck stopped with him. Pat Sullivan/AP Photo
Former Enron CEO Skilling learned the hard way that the buck stopped with him. Pat Sullivan/AP Photo

Internal governance

Then there is the matter of internal governance.

The CEO of a public company is subject to an array of constraints and a varying but always substantial degree of oversight. There are boards of directors, of course, that review all major strategic decisions, among other duties. And there are separate committees that assess CEO performance and determine compensation, composed entirely of independent or outside directors without any ongoing involvement in running the business.

Whole categories of CEO decisions, including mergers and acquisitions, changes in the corporation’s charter and executive compensation packages, are subject to the opinion of shareholders and directors.

In addition, the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act requires – for now – regular nonbinding shareholder votes on the compensation packages of top executives.

And then there’s this critical fact: well-governed firms tend to outperform poorly governed ones, often dramatically. And that’s because of factors like a strong board of directors, more transparency, a responsiveness to shareholders, thorough and independent audits and so forth.

Trump celebrates the opening of his Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City in 1990. Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Photo
Trump celebrates the opening of his Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City in 1990. Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Photo

Trump’s business

None of the obligations listed above applied to Trump, who was owner, chairman and president of the Trump Organization, a family-owned limited liability company (LLC) that has owned and run hundreds of businesses involving real estate, hotels, golf courses, private jet rentals, beauty pageants and even bottled water.

LLCs are specifically designed to offer owners tax advantages, maximum flexibility and financial and legal protections without either the benefits (such as access to equity capital markets) or the many obligations of a public corporation.

For example, as I noted above, a corporate CEO is required by law to allow scrutiny of the financial consequences of his or her decisions by others. As such, CEOs know the value of having a strong executive team able to serve as a sounding board and participate in key strategic decisions.

Trump, by contrast, as the head of a family business was accountable to no one and reportedly ran his company that way. His executive team comprised his children and people who are loyal to him, and his decision-making authority was unconstrained by any internal governance mechanisms. Decisions concerning what businesses to start or exit, how much money to borrow and at what interest rates, how to market products and services, and how – or even whether – to pay suppliers or treat customers were made centrally and not subject to review.

Clearly, this poorly equips Trump to be president and accountable to lawmakers, the courts and ultimately the voters.

Another important aspect of the public corporation is the notion of transparency and the degree to which it enables accountability.

A lack of transparency and reluctance to engage in open disclosure characterized the formulation of Trump’s immigration ban that was quickly overturned in federal court. That same tendency toward secrecy was manifest throughout the campaign, such as when he refused to disclose much about his health (besides this cursory “note”) or release any of his tax returns.

While there’s no law that requires a candidate to divulge either health or tax status, that lack of transparency kept potentially vital information from U.S. voters. And Trump’s continuing lack of transparency as president has kept experts and advisers in the dark, leading to precisely the confusion, mixed messages and dysfunction that have characterized these early weeks. And, of course, this can quickly lead to a continuing erosion of public trust.

Trump, it should be noted, made one stab at a public company: Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts. That was an unmitigated disaster, leading to five separate declarations of bankruptcy before finally going under, all this while other casino companies thrived. Public investors ignored all the signs in favor of the showmanship and glitz of the Trump brand and, as a result, lost millions of dollars. Trump allotted himself a huge salary and bonuses, corporate perks and special merchandising deals.

What is especially telling about this experience is that, rather than speaking on behalf of fiduciary responsibilities for the best interests of the corporation, Trump noted, “I make great deals for myself.”

Multiplicity of voices

There is no need to be overly naive here.

Some CEOs also operate in a highly centralized manner, expecting obedience rather than participation from direct reports. All business executives expect a shared commitment from their employees to their corporate goals and value dependability, cooperation and loyalty from subordinates.

But the involvement of a multiplicity of voices with diverse perspectives and different backgrounds and fields of expertise improves the quality of resulting decisions. Impulsive decision-making by an individual or small, cloistered group of followers can and often will lead to disastrous results.

What lies ahead

Virtually every U.S. president, ranging from the great to the inconsequential and even the disastrous, have emerged from one of two groups: career politicians or generals. So why not a CEO president?

Without question, a background in politics does not guarantee an effective presidency. Abraham Lincoln, the consensus choice among historians for the best president ever, was a career politician, but so was his disastrous successor, Andrew Johnson.

Likewise, we can think of many traits of an effective corporate CEO that could serve a president well: transparency and accountability, responsiveness to internal governance and commitment to the interest of the overall corporation over and above self-enrichment.

Sadly, that is not Trump’s background. His experience overseeing an interconnected tangle of LLCs and his one disastrous term as CEO of a public corporation suggest a poor background to be chief executive of the United States. As such, “nobody knows who’s in charge” may be the mantra for years to come.

The Conversation

Bert Spector, Associate Professor, International Business and Strategy, Northeastern University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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How will Native Tribes Fight the Dakota Access Pipeline in Court?

After the Army Corps of Engineers approved an easement for the North Dakota Pipeline, two tribes requested – unsuccessfully – to halt construction while their lawsuit over the project is resolved. AP Photo/Susan Walsh
After the Army Corps of Engineers approved an easement for the North Dakota Pipeline, two tribes requested – unsuccessfully – to halt construction while their lawsuit over the project is resolved. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Monte Mills, The University of Montana

On Feb. 8 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reversed course and issued an easement allowing the installation of the Dakota Access Pipeline under Lake Oahe in North Dakota. That decision followed a presidential memorandum indicating that construction and operation of the pipeline would be in the “national interest,” and set the stage for a final showdown over the pipeline’s fate.

In response, two Indian tribes, the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux, filed new motions to halt the pipeline’s construction and operation. After an initial hearing on those motions, the federal judge on the case allowed construction to proceed but will be considering the Tribes’ claims before oil will pass through the pipeline under Lake Oahe. That means, unlike the voices of thousands who joined the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in protest against the pipeline, the next chapter of this fight will be argued by a few lawyers in the pin drop silence of a federal courtroom.

Although the details of those arguments will be complex, as a legal scholar focused on Native American law I see the case addressing an essential question at the heart of our legal system: namely, how does federal law and judicial process protect the fundamental values and structure of the Constitution?

The central issues in the case are now whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ approval of the pipeline and easement illegally interferes with the tribes’ religious beliefs and whether the corps adequately considered the tribes’ water and other treaty rights before issuing that approval.

Religious Freedom and Restoration Act

According to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, oil running through the pipeline would represent the fulfillment of a generations-old prophesy, passed down through the oral traditions of tribal members, that warned of a Black Snake coming to defile the sacred waters necessary to maintain the tribes’ ceremonies. Beyond the environmental concerns often at the center of the pipeline protests, the tribe’s motion for an injunction squarely defines final authorization of the pipeline by the Corps as an existential threat: destruction of the tribes’ religion and way of life.

One of the key legal questions in the North Dakota Access Pipeline case whether federal interests can supersede religious freedoms of native groups.
vpickering/flickr, CC BY-ND

The Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees the exercise of religion free from governmental interference. But the Supreme Court, in Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protection Association, in 1988 upheld the Forest Service’s approval of a road across an area on federal land sacred to local tribes even while recognizing the road could have devastating effects on their religion.

Then in 1993, Congress enacted the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA), which requires that the government demonstrate a compelling interest and use the least restrictive means to achieve that interest if its actions will substantially burden religious practice.

In other words, even if approving the Dakota Access Pipeline served a compelling governmental interest, RFRA may require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to show that the pipeline easement under Lake Oahe would have the least impact on tribal religion. That approach would be consistent with the Supreme Court’s broad application of RFRA in a 2014 case not involving tribal interests or federal lands and may pose a significant challenge to the corps, which considered but rejected a different route that did not pose the same threat to the tribes.

Both the Corps and company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline argue that the risk of spill from the pipeline is minimal and that the tribes failed to raise these religious concerns in a timely manner. In addition, the Corps contends that, consistent with the Lyng case, governmental action on federal land should not be restricted because of religious concerns raised by local tribes.

Thus, resolution of the case will turn upon whether the court recognizes the legitimacy of the tribal religious concerns and broadly applies RFRA or, instead, chooses to prioritize federal authority over federal land to the detriment of those concerns. The parties will argue whether the religious freedom issues support an injunction on February 27.

Arbitrary or capricious decisions?

In addition to their religious concerns, the Sioux Tribes challenge the Corps’ decisions based on the rights they reserved in treaties made with the federal government in 1851 and 1868.

The Constitution recognizes treaties as the “supreme law of the land” and, according to a 2016 analysis done by the Solicitor of the U.S. Department of the Interior, both the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux retain treaty-reserved water, hunting, and fishing rights in Lake Oahe.

The pipeline company has argued that the risks to the water supply are minimal and that the tribes didn’t raise religious concerns earlier in the approval process.
diversey/flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

Before reversing course in February, the Corps refused to issue the easement last year in order to further understand and analyze those treaty rights.

Importantly, federal law generally allows courts to set aside arbitrary or capricious agency decisions. In a February 14th filing, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe asks the court to review the Corps’ about-face under that standard and argues that the federal trust responsibility,recognized by the Supreme Court since the early 1800’s, demands more than just a cursory review of tribal treaty rights.

The parties will be briefing the treaty rights issues into March but the judge is keeping a close eye on Dakota Access’ progress in the meantime.

The ultimate fate of the pipeline will turn on how the courts recognize the rights asserted by the Sioux Tribes, rights rooted in the Constitution’s values and structure – precisely the type of rights our rule of law and federal courts are meant to protect.

The Conversation

Monte Mills, Assistant Professor of Law & Co-Director, Margery Hunter Brown Indian Law Clinic, The University of Montana

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Four ways to stay mentally fit if you’re struggling with the political climate

A protest in New York’s Washington Square Park days after Donald Trump’s election. Muhammed Muheisen/AP
A protest in New York’s Washington Square Park days after Donald Trump’s election. Muhammed Muheisen/AP

Roxanne Donovan, Kennesaw State University

“This can’t be happening.”
“I feel like throwing up.”
“I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning.”
“Life is going to get a lot worse for people like me.”
“I’m so sad I can’t even think about it anymore.”
“Things are never going to be the same again.”

I’ve actually heard these statements from people pained by Donald Trump’s election. Such sentiments convey a mix of disbelief, despondency, powerlessness and fear.

That said, there are many people who are thrilled with the new administration. As a psychologist who researches the ways discrimination experiences impact well-being, however, I am particularly sensitive to those in distress.

My research, and that of other social scientists, helps explain why a Trump presidency is difficult for so many people – and particularly acute for those who have already experienced trauma based on some of the issues identified with Trump.

For example, many women who have been sexually abused were deeply affected because of recorded statements he had made about grabbing women in their crotches. Additionally, many African-Americans who felt empowered and validated by an Obama presidency felt deep sorrow and fear at Trump’s election, due in part to published accounts of his father’s company not renting to African-Americans. There is some good news among all this; there are strategies for coping.

Repeated stress wears the body down

It has proven hard for those opposed to Trump to adjust to his election. Many have felt like they are in the middle of an ongoing stress storm. Immigrants, for example, are stressed over concerns about being deported and separated from their families.

Making matters worse, some are more vulnerable to this storm’s impact than others. The more storms a person has endured, the greater the damage this new storm can inflict.

The reason why this happens is called allostatic load – the wear and tear on the body caused by ongoing stress. This deterioration is cumulative and can lead to physical, psychological and cognitive declines, including early death.

Along with genetics, environment and behavior, social demographics like race, gender and age also influence the weight of the load. University of Michigan public health professor Arline Geronimus and her colleagues captured this phenomenon when they examined allostatic load in black and white women and men.

They found that black participants, particularly black women, were more likely to have higher allostatic loads than white women and white men, above and beyond the effects of poverty. In other words, black people generally carried more stress in their daily lives.

Age matters too. Allostatic loads were similarly distributed across race and gender prior to age 30. From there, however, the loads disproportionately increased with age, revealing racial and gender gaps that widened over time (white men consistently had the lowest scores, followed closely by white women).

It’s not easy being different

Some psychologists believe the stress of otherness – being viewed and treated negatively due to group membership – is one reason for the unequal “weathering” effect. Mounting evidence gives credence to this belief.

My research group, for example, found black, Latino and Asian undergraduates report significantly more individual and ethnic-group discrimination than white undergraduates. Similarly, almost 100 percent of the black college women my collaborators and I sampled reported experiencing racial discrimination. In both studies, incidences of discrimination were associated with depressive symptoms and, in some cases, anxiety.

So the interplay between high allostatic load and low social position increases vulnerability. This is not good news for the many people of color, women, undocumented immigrants, sexual minorities and Muslims who are stressed out about a Trump presidency.

Strategies that can help

Before giving in to despair, there are reasons for cautious optimism. Psychological research points to promising coping techniques shown to lighten allostatic load and mitigate negative stress outcomes, even among those exposed to prolonged high-stress situations.

  1. Avoid avoidance. As tempting as it might be to address negative feelings through avoidance – think excessive shopping, working, drinking, eating, gaming, online surfing – doing so can be detrimental in the long run. Instead, choose behaviors shown to improve mood over time, like exercise and meditation. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a standardized eight-week program that teaches mindful meditation, shows great promise at reducing stress and improving mood in a wide variety of populations.
  2. Problem-solve. Taking action to address a perceived stressor can be therapeutic. Called problem-focused coping in the psychological literature, this technique has been shown in my research and that of other social scientists to buffer the negative health effects of stress. Donating time or money to a preferred political candidate, party or cause or participating in a protest or letter-writing campaign are examples of problem-focused actions.
  3. Seek support. An aspect of problem-focused coping worthy of individual attention is social support. Connecting with empathetic others has the interrelated benefits of reduced stress, lower allostatic load and improved health and well-being. A solid support network doesn’t have to be large. It can contain just a few people you perceive as reliable. Need to build your network? Start by reaching out to those already in your life that you’d like to know better. Joining civic organizations or neighborhood groups are also good options. If you go this route, facilitate connections by volunteering to help the organizers.
  4. Get help. Sometimes our coping efforts don’t yield desired results, or we can’t bring ourselves to try anything. In these situations, professional help might be warranted. The American Psychological Association is a great resource for information about the benefits of psychotherapy and how to go about finding a therapist.

If you plan to endure the social changes under way with gritted teeth and clenched fists, I invite you to experiment with the above techniques to find what combination might work for you. Four years is a long time to be battered by a storm; preparation could mean a lot less damage, especially if previous storms have worn you down.

The Conversation

Roxanne Donovan, Professor of Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies, Kennesaw State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Story of Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, America’s First Black Pop Star

Ambrotype taken in Buffalo, New York circa 1856. [Library and Archives Canada]
Ambrotype taken in Buffalo, New York circa 1856. [Library and Archives Canada]
Adam Gustafson, Pennsylvania State University

In 1851, a concert soprano named Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield embarked on a national tour that upended America’s music scene.

In antebellum America, operatic and concert songs were very popular forms of entertainment. European concert sopranos, such as Jenny Lind and Catherine Hayes, drew huge crowds and rave reviews during their U.S. tours. Lind was so popular that baby cribs still bear her name, and you can now visit an unincorporated community called Jenny Lind, California.

Greenfield, however, was different. She was a former slave. And she was performing songs that a burgeoning field of American music criticism, led by John Sullivan Dwight, considered reserved for white artists. African-American artists, most 19th-century critics argued, lacked the refined cultivation of white, Eurocentric genius, and could create only simple music that lacked artistic depth. It was a prejudice that stretched as far back as Thomas Jefferson in his “Notes on the State of Virginia” and was later reinforced by minstrel shows.

But when Greenfield appeared on the scene, she shattered preexisting beliefs about artistry and race.

‘The Black Swan’

Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield was born into slavery in Natchez, Mississippi, around 1820. As a girl, she was taken to Philadelphia and raised by an abolitionist.

Largely self-taught as a singer, she began her concert career in New York with the support of the Buffalo Musical Association. In Buffalo, she was saddled with the nickname “the Black Swan,” a crude attempt to play off the popularity of Jenny Lind – known as “the Swedish Nightingale” – who was wrapping up one of the most popular concert tours in American history.

In 1851, Colonel Joseph H. Wood became Greenfield’s promoter. Wood, however, was an overt racist and inhumane promoter known for creating wonderment museums in Cincinnati and Chicago that featured exhibits like the “Lilliputian King,” a boy who stood 16 inches tall. With Greenfield, he sought to replicate the success that another promoter, P.T. Barnum, had with Jenny Lind.

Joseph H. Wood’s museum in Chicago.
Encyclopedia of Chicago

In a letter to Frederick Douglass, Martin R. Delany, a physician, newspaper editor and Civil War hero, wrote that Wood was a fervent supporter of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and would not admit black patrons into his museums or at Greenfield’s concerts.

For Greenfield’s African-American supporters, it was a point of huge contention throughout her career.

Critics reconcile their ears with their racism

In antebellum America, the minstrel show was one of the most popular forms of musical entertainment. White actors in blackface exploited common stereotypes of African-Americans, grossly exaggerating their dialect, fashion, dancing and singing.

The cover of Zip Coon.
Library of Congress

For example, the popular song “Zip Coon” portrayed African-Americans as clumsily striving for the refinement of white culture. The cover of the sheet music for “Zip Coon” shows an African-American attempting to mimic refined fashions of the day and failing. The song goes on to mock its subject, Zip Coon, as a “learned scholar,” while putting him in situations where his apparent lack of intelligence shows.

Greenfield’s performances, however, forced her critics to rethink this stereotype. The Cleveland Plain Dealer described the confusion that Greenfield caused for her audiences:

“It was amusing to behold the utter surprise and intense pleasure which were depicted on the faces of her listeners; they seemed to express – ‘Why, we see the face of a black woman, but hear the voice of an angel, what does it mean?’”

Critics agreed that Greenfield was a major talent. But they found it difficult to reconcile their ears with their racism. One solution was to describe her as a talented, but unpolished, singer.

For example, the New-York Daily Tribune reported that “it is hardly necessary to say that we did not expect to find an artist on the occasion. She has a fine voice but does not know how to use it.” (We see a similar phenomenon today in sports coverage, in which black athletes are often praised for their raw physical athleticism, while white athletes are praised for their game intelligence.)

By performing repertoire thought too complex for black artists – and by doing it well – Greenfield forced her white critics and audiences to reexamine their assumptions about the abilities of African-American singers.

A star is born

On Thursday, March 31, 1853, Greenfield made her New York City premiere at Metropolitan Hall.

Originally built for Jenny Lind, it was one of the largest performance halls in the world. The day before the concert, the New-York Daily Tribune carried an ad that read, “Particular Notice – No colored persons can be admitted, as there has been no part of the house appropriated for them.” The ban resulted in a citywide uproar that prompted New York City’s first police commissioner, George W. Matsell, to send a large police unit to Metropolitan Hall.

Greenfield was met with laughter when she took to the stage. Several critics blamed the uncouth crowd in attendance; others wrote it off as lighthearted amusement. One report described the awkwardness of the show’s opening moments:

“She was timidly led forward to the front of the stage by a little white representative of the genus homo, who seemed afraid to touch her even with the tips of his white kids [gloves], and kept the ‘Swan’ at a respectful distance, as if she were a sort of biped hippopotamus.”

Despite the inauspicious beginning, critics agreed that her range and power were astonishing. After her American tour, a successful European tour ensued, where she was accompanied by her friend Harriet Beecher Stowe.

A singer’s legacy

Greenfield paved the way for a host of black female concert singers, from Sissieretta Jones to Audra McDonald. In 1921, the musician and music publisher Harry Pace named the first successful black-owned record company, Black Swan Records, in her honor.

But these achievements are byproducts of a much larger legacy.

In Stowe’s novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” one of the slave children, Topsy, is taken in by a northern abolitionist, Miss Ophelia. Despite her best attempts, Ophelia can’t reform Topsy, who continues to act out and steal. When asked why she continues to behave as she does – despite the intervention of implied white goodness – Topsy replies that she’s can’t be good so long as her skin is black because her white caregivers are incapable of seeing goodness in a black body. Her only solution is to have her skin turned inside out so she can be white.

Stowe’s argument was not that we should begin skinning children. Rather, Topsy is a critique of the act of “othering” African-Americans by a dominant culture that refuses to acknowledge their full humanity.

After Greenfield’s New York concert, the New-York Daily Tribune recognized the monumental nature of Greenfield’s heroics. The paper urged her to leave America for Europe – and to stay there – the implication being that Greenfield’s home country wasn’t ready to accept the legitimacy of black artistry.

But Greenfield’s tour did more than prove to white audiences that black performers could sing as well as their European peers. Her tour challenged Americans to begin to recognize the full artistry – and, ultimately, the full humanity – of their fellow citizens.

The Conversation

Adam Gustafson, Instructor in Music, Pennsylvania State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

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Trump’s Vow to ‘Destroy’ Johnson Amendment Could Wreak Havoc on Charitable World

Lyndon Johnson, who was friends with evangelist Billy Graham, wasn’t targeting religious groups when he pushed his eponymous amendment in 1954. AP Photo
Lyndon Johnson, who was friends with evangelist Billy Graham, wasn’t targeting religious groups when he pushed his eponymous amendment in 1954. AP Photo

Philip Hackney, Louisiana State University and Brian Mittendorf, The Ohio State University

President Donald Trump recently pledged to “destroy” the Johnson Amendment, a 63-year-old law that bans charities from engaging in political activities.

As Trump said this at the National Prayer Breakfast, his focus was on permitting religious groups to play a more vocal role in political campaigns. Our experience in researching nonprofit organizations, however, suggests there would be much wider and likely negative ramifications if he fully follows through on his pledge.

To understand the impact, we need to examine the Johnson Amendment and consider how the president might seek to alter it.

A broad reach

The Johnson Amendment is a provision of the tax code that prohibits nonprofits registered as charities – and thus eligible to receive tax-deductible donations – from intervening in “any political campaign.”

At its simplest, it means that a charity cannot encourage people to vote for or against a particular candidate for public office – though it can discuss political issues generally. So a nonprofit organization must choose between being designated a charity, which affords it the right to receive tax-deductible contributions, or another tax status that provides more leeway in politicking.

It arose from a long history of religious leaders engaging in political speech. While some of that history marks important and admirable roles, like those of the abolitionists, it is also marred by cases like the anti-Catholic rhetoric from some Protestant pulpits attacking Al Smith in the 1928 election.

The amendment takes its name from then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, who proposed it in 1954 to draw a clear line between politics and charity. Some suggest Johnson proposed the amendment because he was angry with a charity that had opposed his candidacy in a primary race for Senate.

Even before its passage, however, the IRS took a dim view of charities engaging in political activities. To the IRS, such activities didn’t further a “charitable purpose,” such as helping the poor, maintenance of public monuments, advancement of religion or the defense of civil rights.

Opponents claim the statute violates their rights under the First Amendment to freedom of speech and religion, while proponents argue it ensures the charitable tax deduction is not inadvertently subsidizing political speech.

Many churches and other religious organizations have led the way in objecting to the amendment’s chilling effect on speech. One effort to fight back, “pulpit freedom Sunday,” has been conducted annually to protest these restrictions. The day is marked by preachers flouting the rule and speaking openly about politics.

But since it applies to all charities, any attempt to “destroy” the amendment would affect the behavior of more than just pastors and priests. Schools, hospitals, addiction centers, food banks and other charities all could then advocate for or against candidates to some extent without losing their charitable status.

Tweaking the Johnson Amendment

Despite his rhetoric, Trump is unlikely to try to entirely eliminate the amendment, in part because his aim seems to be focused on religious speech.

So a bare minimum change could be an executive order that explicitly states that the administration will not enforce the law against religious groups as long as the political activities are conducted as an ancillary part of regular operations.

This would generally ensure that a preacher would not jeopardize a church’s tax-exempt status by supporting a candidate from the pulpit. A move like this would largely be symbolic since there is little evidence that the IRS has sought to revoke the charity status of a church whose preacher violated the ban, such as on pulpit freedom Sunday. The Treasury Department and the IRS may already believe that enforcement of the amendment in this context is impractical and may even violate laws protecting religious freedom.

Such a limited executive order would mean the IRS would still enforce the law when a church is engaged in more secular activity, such as acquiring a billboard to favor or oppose a particular candidate.

A more aggressive posture would be if Trump issues an order telling the IRS not to enforce the ban on churches under any circumstances. Although the idea of a president choosing to not enforce a law dutifully passed by Congress may seem odd and problematic, presidents have wide prosecutorial discretion.

President Obama, for instance used this power to direct his Justice Department to curtail enforcement of some violations of drug and immigration offenses. Its use can also run into legal challenges, as was the case with Obama’s immigration efforts.

On the legislative side, Congress is already pursuing its own modest efforts, such as the Free Speech Fairness Act. That would allow charitable groups to engage in political speech when it’s a normal part of their activities and the costs of doing so are “de minimis” – so no national candidate ads, for example.

While the impact of this bill remains uncertain, it would likely eliminate none of the challenges of enforcing the current ban and might raise more problems.

More ambitious approaches

A more ambitious legislative approach short of killing the amendment would be to add a carve-out that exempts houses of worship altogether. Such an effort would seem consistent with Trump’s goal of permitting religious groups more leeway in supporting candidates. An unintended consequence would be to increase the need for the IRS to answer the question of what constitutes a church.

We have seen this play out already on a smaller scale with the carve-out that exempts churches from filing annual financial reports. Atheist groups have filed lawsuits alleging unequal treatment, and others have sought to push the boundaries when filing for church status. The First Church of Cannabis and John Oliver’s bitingly satirical but short-lived Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption are two examples of unconventional “churches.”

John Oliver establishes a church.

In other words, this would almost certainly increase the flow of groups seeking church status. Besides forcing the IRS to answer that difficult question – what’s a church – it may also undermine public perceptions of churches more broadly.

If one takes the most literal interpretation of the president’s pledge, his aim would be to permit politicking by all charitable organizations. He might pursue this goal through an executive order, but a permanent change would require a legislative solution.

A full repeal of the amendment would have the potential to upend the entire nonprofit sector. After all, limitations on politicking provide a key line between organizations that can receive tax-deductible charitable contributions and those that cannot (e.g., social welfare organizations and political action committees).

A repeal would also open a new pathway for avoiding laws on the disclosure of campaign contributions, creating another so-called dark money channel.

If this line were removed, we should expect to see many organizations that are ostensibly political in nature seeking charity status so they can raise funds through tax-deductible gifts from undisclosed donors. And many nonprofits that weren’t previously political would likely expand to add such spending to their portfolio of activities.

Many fear that blurring the lines between goals intended to serve the general public and those aimed at special interests would undermine public trust in charities and ultimately even put the charitable deduction at risk. With this in mind, prominent nonprofit groups have objected to efforts to repeal the Johnson Amendment.

The push against repeal by charities should be a good indication of its potentially damaging effects. It’s not often that organizations push to retain limits on themselves.

A tricky business

Even if the prohibition goes away, unlimited political activity and its enforcement would remain a problem. That’s because political activity itself does not further a charitable purpose. And the IRS would still have to police whether charities were engaged in too much of it to justify charitable status.

Additionally, determining whether a particular comment or speech is even political can be quite difficult. For instance, if a minister gives a sermon asking his congregation to compare two candidates for office and determine whom Jesus would pick, has the minister engaged in political speech in his capacity as a representative of the church? The IRS has issued guidance with 21 different situations to explain how it makes such determinations.

At the moment, Congress appears reluctant to completely dismantle the Johnson amendment, perhaps because of the concerns we’ve listed above or others. So the likely change, if any, would be a minor shift that gives some nonprofits additional leeway to engage in political speech.

But as we’ve shown, even modest changes to the amendment in this direction are risky and could lead to unintended consequences tantamount to “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” Given this unclear and treacherous territory on which he has embarked, the president would be wise to tread carefully.

The Conversation

Philip Hackney, James E. & Betty M. Phillips Associate Professor of Law, Louisiana State University and Brian Mittendorf, Fisher College of Business Distinguished Professor of Accounting, The Ohio State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.