Race | BLOGH: City Paper's Blog |
Saturday, August 19, 2017

Posted By on Sat, Aug 19, 2017 at 5:43 PM

click to enlarge PHOTOS BY JOHN COLOMBO
Photos by John Colombo
In response to the news that groups associated with white supremacists and other so-called "alt-right” causes were planning to protest at the Google offices in Larimer, local counter-protesters knew they needed to respond strongly. The far-right-wing groups called off their protest of Google, but counter protesters continued with their march anyway.

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Posted By on Fri, Aug 18, 2017 at 5:51 PM

Pittsburgh-area resident Hardy Lloyd has more than a decade of involvement with white-supremacist organizations and a history of violence. In the past, he has posted online an admiration for Adolf Hitler. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, he bragged online about killing a woman, after a jury acquitted him of said murder.

And Lloyd seems to be back in Pittsburgh’s public sphere, apparently prompted by last week’s violence in Charlottesville, Va. On Aug. 14, just two days after the tragic events that unfolded in Charlottesville, a man who appears to be Lloyd was spotted and videotaped walking through the crowd of protesters that meets weekly in front of U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy’s (R-Upper St. Clair) office in Mount Lebanon. A participant in the protest, Mike Weis, sent the video to the Pittsburgh City Paper.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Posted By on Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 5:00 PM

click to enlarge Bob Casey - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Bob Casey
On Aug. 15, President Donald Trump backtracked on earlier statements solely condemning white supremacists and neo-Nazis for violence in the aftermath of a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Trump's initial statement on Aug. 12 blamed "many sides" for the violence. Then on Aug. 14, Trump said, “Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

But, during the Aug. 15 press event at Trump Tower in New York City, where the president was scheduled to discuss infrastructure, Trump instead attacked the “alt-left” and assigned just as much, if not more, blame to the counter-protesters.

“What about the alt-left that came charging at, as you so say, the alt-right. Do they have any semblance of guilt? … You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” said Trump.

In response to Trump’s latest comments, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Scranton) condemned Trump for trying to compare the actions of hate groups to the actions of counter-protesters. Casey was in Pittsburgh on Aug. 16 to discuss trade at the Steelworkers Building Downtown and spoke with reporters about Trump’s comments.

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Posted By on Thu, Jun 30, 2016 at 5:06 PM

Chicago-based journalist Natalie Moore visits the Barnes & Noble at the Waterfront, in West Homestead, with her new book The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation (St. Martin’s Press).

click to enlarge Natalie Moore
Natalie Moore
The books explores government policies that have kept Chicago segregated by race. Moore argues that race (rather than class) is the defining factor in inequality and a pervasive feature of life there.

The critically acclaimed book should have resonance nationally, and perhaps especially in Pittsburgh, where segregation is rife and where many say an influx of new development (hello, East Liberty!) has left many longtime residents, in particular African Americans, without affordable housing.

“While mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel have touted Chicago as a ‘world-class city,’ it remains one of the most segregated cities in America,” according to press materials for The South Side. “And while it would be easy to think of a city with a billion-dollar park, Michelin-rated restaurants, waterfront views, world-class shopping, and a thriving theater scene as a model for other metropolitan areas, underneath the shiny façade lurks the horrible reality of deeply-rooted and destructive racial segregation.”

Moore grew up in Chicago’s South Side and is the South Side bureau reporter for WBEZ-FM, Chicago’s NPR station. In the past, she’s worked for Detroit News, St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Associated Press in Jerusalem. Her journalism has also been published in national outlets including Essence and In These Times.

Moore will be at Barnes & Noble for an informal discussion from 7-9 p.m. tomorrow. The event is free.

The store is located at 100 West Bridge St.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Posted By on Tue, Mar 22, 2016 at 2:06 PM

click to enlarge Terrance Hayes at last night's event - PHOTO BY BILL O'DRISCOLL
Photo by Bill O'Driscoll
Terrance Hayes at last night's event
Last night’s standing-room-only crowd at the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium heard a sampling of work from a distinguished cross-section of African-American poets — and concluded with an illuminating discussion of how poetry can affect the discourse on race.
The event, which drew about 400, was co-sponsored by Pitt and the Pitt-based Center for African American Poetry and Poetics, a new organization that hinted at its potential by hosting six top poets from around the country. They included Ross Gay, who teaches at Indiana University and whose collection Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (published by the University of Pittsburgh Press), just last week won the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry.

The poets spanned three generations; each read two or three poems. Gay read the joyful “Burial,” about using his father’s ashes to fertilize a plum tree. Many of the evening’s poems explored the concept of worth. Pitt professor emeritus Toi Derricotte read her touchstone work “On the Turning Up of Unidentified Black Female Corpses.” (Derricotte is a founder of Cave Canem, the workshop/retreat for black poets with which everyone on stage has been affiliated.) Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, who teaches at Cornell University, read two poems inspired by her time as a student at Washington & Lee University – specifically, by the reverential treatment the school gives the memory of the horse ridden by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Nate Marshall, who teaches at Wabash University, in Indiana, read a line that went: "We know 'African American' is how you say 'nigger' in a board room."

The program, part of Pitt’s Year of the Humanities series, was subtitled “How the Humanities Engage with Social Problems.” It also included Brooklyn-based Rickey Laurentiis and Afaa Michael Weaver, a Boston-based English professor.

Mostly implicitly, the discussion that followed the readings took place in the context of ongoing racial strife: police shootings of unarmed black men, the rise of Trumpism. The host was Pitt professor Terrance Hayes, a CAAPP co-founder and co-director, and himself a National Book Award-winner.

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Friday, February 12, 2016

Posted By on Fri, Feb 12, 2016 at 12:01 PM

Black history, we’re often reminded during Black History Month, is simply American history. But as Cobb noted in his great talk yesterday, the reverse is also true: You can’t grasp American history without understanding the role of race.

That role goes beyond the well-documented fact that the nation’s fundamental wealth was extracted from exploited black bodies — starting with chattel slavery, which, as every schoolkid should know, was written into the Constitution. (And, as Cobb reminded us, a Jeffersonian condemnation of which was written out of the Declaration of Independence.)

Race is also at the heart of so seemingly simple a matter of how many states we have, and where. Cobb cited the long-running 19th-century practice of admitting new free and slave states in “pairs”: Maine was created only so that Missouri could be a state, for instance. And he said Gen. Andrew Jackson (not yet president) seized the Spanish territory of Florida for the U.S. largely at the behest of Georgia slaveholders, who were losing runaways to the nonslaveholding land to the south.

History remains alive. When Cobb, a history professor at the University of Connecticut, visited Ferguson, Mo., for The New Yorker, he said, he got “the overwhelming sense that my syllabus had jumped off the page.” From Ferguson to Charleston, S.C., Cobb found the history of race in America embedded down to the very street names: Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Charleston church where a horrific shooting took place last year, is on a street named for pro-slavery politician John Calhoun.

Cobb also recalled how, for decades, federal policy to facilitate the mortgages that helped build middle-class America effectively excluded black Americans. And even many apparent advances in race relations are heavily qualified: How could Barack Obama’s election in 2008 herald a “post-racial” era when only 39 percent of white voters chose him? (And why, for that matter, Cobb asked, did no one laud black voters as post-racial during the decades they spent voting for white candidates?)

Still, Cobb said he counts himself as an optimist, though his optimism is tempered by a historian’s long view. Take Obama’s election. While an African-American chief executive had been unthinkable as recently as, oh, 2007, Cobb said, “Until we had a black presidency, we did not properly conceive of the limitations of one.” Likewise, just as Obama himself is a community activist who decided he could achieve more through electoral politics, his struggles in office have convinced a whole new generation of activists, like the folks in Black Lives Matter, that real change comes from the streets.

Finally, some interesting words on racialized monuments. Though Cobb cheered the removal of the Confederate flag from South Carolina’s statehouse, he pointed out that other, less obvious plaques and statues honoring Confederates and even lynchers remain abundant there and elsewhere. Yet “I do not think we should take any of those monuments down,” he said. For one thing, simply eliminating the monuments allows whites to grant themselves too easy an absolution for the wrongs of the past. Two, “like removing fingerprints from the scene of a crime,” mere removal effaces a history we need to remember. It would be more useful, Cobb said, to amend the monuments with signage identifying them as “monuments to our own inhumanity.”

Cobb was CMU’s featured Martin Luther King, Jr., speaker. (Here's the rest of the school's month-long roster of MLK programming.) The free on-campus event was attended by about 200 folks, most of whom seemed to be students and faculty. But the talk, which began at 4:30 p.m., was so good I wish more Pittsburghers could have seen it. Is it too much to ask of CMU (and other universities, for that matter) to hold more of these events after 6 p.m., say, when more working folks could attend? Just a thought.

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