Insight News

Sep 03rd


Kia Soul goes too far

Kia Soul goes too farFirst you see the hoodies, a few gold chains, then you hear the sounds of hip hop grooves and beats. Then you see the faces of giant hamsters speaking in hip hop’s rhythmic vernacular about “This or That.” There is no question that the voices behind the animals are intended to represent African American brothers kicking it in the hood. While Kia’s website ( says that the animals are hamsters, if you don’t know the difference, they look like Rats. Dressed in styles and doing movements associated with America’s Black urban youth, Kia Soul represents a new low in television advertising.

That Kia selected the word “soul” to represent their product is not accidental. The term is all too frequently used as a proxy for talking about Blackness-- as in ‘soul brothers,’ ‘you got soul,’ etc. And the images of giant hamsters “kickin’ it” in front of buildings that look an all-American urban core neighborhood is not accidental. These animals are not the hamsters in your science class but anthropomorphized (animals or non-living things made to appear human) symbols of Blackness and more specifically urban black males. There’s nothing cute about the association.

Listening to Shirley Sherrod

By now much of the nation has followed the story of former U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) official Shirley Sherrod, who was forced to resign from her post earlier this month after dishonestly being accused of racism in a March speech, only to be vindicated as soon as someone took the time to get a copy of what she actually said and allow the truth to come to light. But for those people who know Shirley and her husband, civil rights leader Charles Sherrod, the fact that the smears on her character were outrageous and false was never in doubt. It also was not a surprise to learn that the real message of Shirley Sherrod’s speech was actually something quite different and critically important: not just her own ability to overcome racially motivated attitudes, but her insistence on our need to work together to address the real division in our country—the one between the haves and have-nots in our wealthy nation that has devastating effects on poor people of every color.

If it sounds like racism and acts like racism, then it probably is racism

(NNPA) - This is America, but you wouldn't think so in light of recent events wherein two high-profile, long serving African American congress people have come under attack. They are being dragged through the mud in a rush to judgment regarding alleged ethics violations. US Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) and US Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) are the accused.
Rangel has been found guilty by a House ethics subcommittee of violating ethics rules and will face trial within the next couple of months. He has been under investigation since 2008 due to allegedly using his House position for financial benefit.  Waters is also under the microscope of the House ethics subcommittee for allegedly using her congressional authority in a meeting with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on behalf of  OneUnited bank, in which her husband owns $250,000 in stock.
It is important that our elected officials, those to whom we give our public trust, be ethically sound, but in this current spate of accusations, there is something fishy in the proverbial Denmark! As of 2010, there are presently 42 African American members in the 111th U.S. Congress - 41 in the House of Representatives (39 representatives and 2 non-voting delegates) and one in the Senate. The fact is that African Americans represent only 10 percent of Congress, and 19 percent (8) are under investigation! This raises the question as to whether or not Black lawmakers face more scrutiny over allegations of wrongdoing than their White counterparts. We conclude that if it sounds like racism and acts like racism, then it probably is racism! In America, we need to presume innocence until proven guilty, and we need not be led to judgment.

Should America have a dialogue based on race?

The past 40 years were the best times ever to be Black in America.  But, is it still?  While the size of Black underclass has tripled since the 1980s, a Black middle-class that was thought to be flourishing may have fallen on hard times.  Studies show: “the wealth gap between White and Black American families has more than quadrupled over the last generation”.

What better man to have on such an issue than the richest Black man in America?  Robert L. Johnson, founder and chairman of the RJL Companies says “a wealth gap Tsunami threatens African American families” and is calling for a national dialogue to get on the problem.  In a presentation he made to members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Johnson advocated legislative activity on the issue.  Johnson said, “We must admit the harsh reality of a history of institutionalized racism and economic discrimination against African Americans is the primary cause of wealth disparity between Black and White Americans and now we must be willing to talk about race recognition remedies”.  He said: “I recognize that public policy based on race is extremely provocative and controversial but controversy should not prevent a reasonable dialogue about a societal dilemma that is real and economically devastating in its potential to millions of African Americans."

Congressional racism?

Recently, two top ranking Congressional Democrats have been charged with ethics violations by the Office of Congressional Ethics, where members can anonymously accuse their peers of wrong doing. Whether or not there is any merit to the charges remains to be seen but it is interesting that, of the last 10 ethics investigations the Office has conducted, eight of those under scrutiny were black.

New York Congressman Charles Rangel is charged with 13 congressional ethics violations and California Congresswoman Maxine Waters is charged with three. Among the charges Rangel faces are improperly using his office to secure donations for a school of public in New York that is named after him, failing to pay taxes on rental income from a home he owns in the Dominican Republic and for using a rent-controlled apartment in Harlem for his campaign office. Waters has been accused with using her influence to arrange a meeting between the Treasury Department and a bank her husband owned shares in. Both plan to fully fight the charges against them.

Letter to the Editor: Bicycle apartheid

I read with interest you article on bicycle apartheid.  As cycling is a lifestyle choice for me, many aspects of this issue concern me.  Rep. Champion covered issued of funding and representation in the planning and execution of the bike program.  The funding is public.  It should be expected that its use would be considered for varied populations. In knowing the populations it helps to know where important locations could be to place bicycle stations.  The present sites are primarily downtown, the U-District and Uptown.  As I bike past these places their placement could demonstrate some blind sightedness on the part of the planners.  Even in choosing locations downtown places like Grant & Nicollet, Elliott Park (across from the east end of HCMC) and other similar sites that have tremendously diverse populations (and people who would use the program) are not included.

Someone from among the planners wrote a letter to the editor that was fairly disrespectful of Rep. Champion and demonstrated an arrogance in his/her blind sightedness.  Rep. Champion is busy working on larger issues of concern to his constituents.  Monitoring a bike program for the city would not be what I would expect him to have spent his time.  It is enough that he took the time to note the error.  Focus groups with diverse constituents would be expected of the planners. 

Celebrate the diva

A few weeks ago, hardly anyone had ever heard of Shirley Sherrod.  Now, across America hers' is a household name.  Americans not only know who Sherrod is, they already had an opinion about her based on what they've been told about her being a Black federal employee who used her position to discriminate against Whites. Race-baiters framed the issue as Black racist ranting, but the episode provided President Obama and Americans an opportunity to discuss whether race should still play a role in federal and state policy and politics.

In the end, will it just became a case of ‘a job lost, and a job regained’ or can more be done to discuss ways to eliminate the racial disparities that exist in the country?  Irony upon irony, the US Department of Agriculture from which Sherrod was fired for appearing to discriminate, has been the epitome of institutional racism for decades.  Because of America’s agricultural past there is a legacy of institutional racism at USDA.  When Tom Vilsack took over as Secretary, he’d vowed to rectify the USDA’s history of discrimination claims.  The Sherrod case now undergirds Vilsack’s case before the US Senate for funding of a $1.15 billion owed to thousands of African American farmers.  In the settlement Vilsack seeks, the USDA admits bias practices against Black farmers between 1983 and 1997. The case not only shows USDA’s decades-long unfair treatment of African Americans when deciding how to allocate farm loans and disaster payments, but intransigent in settling.
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