America's Dark Days of Intolerance and the Lessons of Religious Judgment

I was shocked, confused, bewildered as I entered Heaven’s door,
Not by the beauty of it all, nor the lights or its decor.

But it was the folks in Heaven who made me sputter and gasp–
The thieves, the liars, the sinners, the alcoholics and the trash.

There stood the kid from seventh grade who swiped my lunch money twice.
Next to him was my old neighbor who never said anything nice.

Herb, who I always thought was rotting away in hell,
Was sitting pretty on cloud nine, looking incredibly well.

I nudged Jesus, ‘What’s the deal? I would love to hear your take.
How’d all these sinners get up here? God must’ve made a mistake.

‘And why’s everyone so quiet, so somber – give me a clue.’
‘Child,’ He said, ‘they’re all in shock. They never thought they’d be seeing you!’

This story was told by Joel Osteen though the source is unknown.

Flags Half-Staff for Charleston South Carolina Church Massacre, All Except the Confederate

 kkk robe henry ford museum and greenfield village, photo by dan gaken

kkk robe henry ford museum and greenfield village, photo by dan gaken

CHARLESTON, South Carolina - On 10 July 2015 during a historic ceremony, the Confederate flag which had flown full mast at the the South Carolina Statehouse for 50 years despite numerous efforts to have it removed. It was a symbol of defiance from a sect of people who protested against the Civil Rights movement and integration of all public facilities, including schools and transportation.

It was because of the heinous act of violence perpetrated by Dylann Roof, 21, that the groundswell of pressure from local, state, and national entities forced the government to respond. "Governor Nikki Haley signed a bill Thursday, 9 July 2015 to relegate the Confederate flag to the state's "relic room."

______________________________________________________________________

19 June 2015 - Dylann Roof, 21, has been identified as the assailant who allegedly sat and prayed during a fellowship meeting Wednesday night at a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina. Survivors recount how Roof with malice aforethought shot and killed nine people inside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, near the heart of Charleston's tourist district. Eight died at the scene; a ninth died at a hospital.

According to CNN and other news outlets, six women and three men were killed, including the church's politically active pastor, State Senator Clementa Pinckney, a black Democratic lawmaker. The lone survivor who pretended to be dead, confided in her friend afterwards, that Roof shouted long espoused racists rhetoric along the lines of black men raping white women and taking over the country presumably in reference to the first African-American President Barak Obama.

A law enforcement official said witnesses told authorities the gunman stood up and said he was there "to shoot black people” and subsequent investigations into Roof’s background revealed that he possessed racists memorabilia, and expressed Confederate sympathies, though it is not clear that he officially belong to any white supremacists groups.

For the family and friends of the nine people Roof murdered in a racist and premeditated act of violence, the trauma is just beginning and our hearts and prayers go out to them. There are many different national news outlets discussing, analyzing, and updating American citizens on the latest developments in the case. But, a less discussed, but equally important aspect of this case is the climate of racism in the heart of South Carolina’s government as demonstrated in its choice to continue to fly the Confederate Flag above the South Carolina State House.

According to Schuyler Kropf, “Officials said the reason why the flag has not been touched is that its status is outlined, by law, as being under the protected purview of the full S.C. Legislature, which controls if and when it comes down.

State law reads, in part, the state “shall ensure that the flags authorized above shall be placed at all times as directed in this section and shall replace the flags at appropriate intervals as may be necessary due to wear.”

The protection was added by supporters of the flag to keep it on display as an officially recognized memorial to South Carolinians who fought in the Civil War. Opponents say it defends a system that supported slavery and represents hate groups.” (Source: Post and Courier)

What many people don’t understand, and almost certainly those unfamiliar with the history of slavery in America, is the magnitude of racism and oppression that this flag represents. It connotes the same venomous hatred and violence towards blacks as the white robe and hood of the KKK. It is the heart and soul and standard-bearer to those who proudly proclaim that “the South will rise again!” A “South” where blacks were kept in their place, preferably enslaved or at least subjugated, where enforcement of Jim Crow statues were meted out by members of a number of white supremacists groups, most notably the Klu Klux Klan (KKK).

At a time when South Carolinians are shocked and appalled at the calculated massacre perpetrated in the name of white power, one would think that the State House would have the decency to remove or at least lower the Confederate Flag to half-staff as were the U.S. and S.C. flags. Nationally, states and the federal government lowered the flag to express solidarity with the victims and sadness at the horror. But, the most recognizable emblem of the Confederacy, KKK, white supremacists and their politics, towered proudly above even the U.S. flag, the flag of the American nation.

This obvious display was a not so subtle assertion that the racially motivated massacres were unimportant and not worthy of acknowledgment. That in fact, State Senator Pinckney’s life was of no value, that all attempts to remove this racist symbol will continue to fail, and that Confederate sympathizers and white supremacists have a chance to return to the halcyon days of old. An obstinately proud symbol of the time when the Confederacy legislated that blacks deserved no honor, no justice, and no acknowledgement.

It is unfathomable that this emblem of racism cannot be removed or lowered without a legislative vote. This is the time when black and white South Carolinians should stand up not only for justice for the victims, but should also demand the removal of this symbol of oppression and domestic terrorism which is displayed in their name. To remain silent is tantamount to tacit approval, and ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ~ Edmund Burke

 

Editor-in-Chief: @AyannaNahmias
LinkedIn: Ayanna Nahmias

Wassup Rachel Dolezal?

 rachel dolezal, march 2, 2015, photo by cerrahi news

rachel dolezal, march 2, 2015, photo by cerrahi news

Wassup Rachel, Do you like your chicken fried, baked, or smothered in gravy? Does your family eat chitlins, oxtails, pig feet, and fried catfish? Do you put Ham Hocks in your Collard greens? Do you go to church on Sunday mornings? When the church speaks, do you say Amen? Have you ever caught the spirit when you speak from the podium? Do you twerk? Can you twerk? Have you ever been called a nigger or a nigga? Do you call white people crackers, honkies, devils, or trash? Do you speak with twang in your voice? Are you fluent in the Ebonics and Creole languages?

When you look at Black women who destroy their skins with lightening creams, what do you say? When you look at Black women who destroy their hair with relaxers, what do you say? Would you advise a little girl to go natural or wear a weave? Is your hair real or is that a weave?

Have you ever been denied a job because of the way your hair looks or the spelling of your name? Have you ever suffered racism and sexism at the same time? Do you believe American slavery is a hate crime? What do you think about a mentally ill Black veteran murdered by the Wichita police? Do you believe the massacre at the AME church in Charleston was a hate crime? What do you think about the Black Haitian-Dominicans on the brink of losing their citizenship? What does #Blacklivesmatter mean to you?

To all the Rachels in the world,

I do not have a problem with your mission to help a community that continually suffers from American oppression. I do not have a problem with your aim in educating young people on history that is not taught in schools. My problem lies in your inability to understand your own sickness.

I did not ask you those questions to receive responses. I asked because you believe that by wearing your hair in stereotypical Black hairstyles, Or darkening your skin, Or putting a pep in your step, you would achieve what.... Acceptance? Unity? Understanding? Solutions?

Rachel, a definition of a Black woman is not by the color of her skin, The texture of her hair, The hood she grew up in, The thickness of her lips, Or the box that she checks on a job application.

The definition of a Black woman is complicated because there is the social construct’s definition, Then a cultural definition, Then a psychological definition, Then a historical definition.

I have no problem with you identifying yourself as an African (gosh, humanity began there) But, I have a problem with your attempt to identify with my experiences as a Black woman. You can never walk a thousand miles in my shoes.

Why?

Because many Black women have done what you done, Mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, who couldn’t obtain your level of success because they are Black women in a racist society.

Because many Black women have done what you done, ministers, educators, scientists, mentors, activists, doctors, nurses, and they achieved success AND never lied about who they are.

Rachel, I am no longer concerned about your ethnic origins or the integrity of your work. I am more concerned about your mental health. If you cannot see the similarities between you and the white missionaries traveling to countries in Africa, Asia, Central America, and South America with the mindsets that they are fixing the troubled natives and their problems.........

THEN YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.

There is an inexplicable war against people of color, women, religious groups, young people, elderly people, the mentally ill, the physically handicapped, and poor people, and you have the nerve to conduct magic by making your ‘whiteness’ disappear? Have you ever listened to the lyrics in Kendrick Lamar’s song: “you ain’t gotta lie to kick it my nigga?” I am watching people that look like me die by the day in the hands of police officers, hate groups, and yes, mentally disturbed people that look like me and you. My peers are upset and ready to take action, but do not through the wisdom of our elders and ancestors. Can you honestly relate to my experience? Are you mourning for Charleston? Or is this all not a race issue?

Instead of speaking to crowds about the experiences of being a Black woman, or being a Black person period, maybe you should have shared your experiences of conquering identity issues. They affect all of us. They affect us to the point where people feel the need to kill others over a natural identity that America transformed into a Sick, Social, Construct.

But I guess you never had my, a Black woman's, best interests at heart.

Many wolves are adorned in sheep's clothing so I dedicated to build my arsenal of mental and spiritual weapons. When my people are attacked by imposters and enemies, #Wewillshootback.

Do not worry. This is not a declaration of a physical, violent war. Only insight into the kind of world we live in. Rachels, if you are really about it, put on REAL armor and be ready to fight for the revolution through protests, writing, speaking, and boycotting. And be ready to mourn for those we lose in the struggle for they serve as reminders that the battle is definitely not over.

Sincerely,

A. Black. Woman. Fighting for my community as I am.

Poet & Literary Critic: @Chrycka_Harper
Facebook: Chrycka Harper

Lion Kills U.S. Tourist, Drags Her Body from Car

 lion by car safari skukuza lower sabie road, photo by arno meintjes

lion by car safari skukuza lower sabie road, photo by arno meintjes

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - A 29-year-old American woman who has now been identified as Katherine Chappell of Rye, New York. She had gone to Africa to further her campaign for animal rights and preservation which was her passion.

Katherine who was also a visual affects editor on the popular American HBO series Game of Thrones.  The vibrant, young, energetic woman was attacked by a lioness who suddenly charged at the vehicle, bit her and dragged to her death in Gauteng Lion Park.

Despite numerous signs and a pamphlet reiterating the dangers of rolling down windows while in the park, she failed to heed the warnings and was taking photos through an open window. After the tragic incident one of the advisory pamphlets was found right next to her seat.

Witnesses say that they saw the lion approach the car from the left side where the woman was taking photos. Scant seconds later, the lion had the woman's body in his mouth, dragging her through the open window and away from the car.

It is believed that the man in the car with her was a guide, and despite his best efforts to beat back the lion during the attack, he only succeeded in sustaining injuries, though these weren't life-threatening. Park workers eventually chased the lion away and paramedics were called to the scene. However, her injuries were too severe and she was pronounced dead.

By all accounts she was on a 'routine' drive through the 20-acre compound containing about a dozen big cats. The park has had prior incidents of injuries, and these incidents were also as a result of patrons failure to heed the park rules, regulations, and warnings. It appears, however, that none of these incidents ever resulted in fatalities.

Scott Simpson, the Assistant Operations Manager of the park, stopped short of blaming the victim, but did state that 'there are numerous signs, and we hand out slips of paper to all guests warning them to keep their windows closed."

Gauteng Lion Park boasts a variety of animals, including lions, zebras, giraffes and wild dogs.

Editor-in-Chief: @AyannaNahmias
LinkedIn: Ayanna Nahmias

U.S. Supreme Court Rules Against Retailer, Supports Woman Wearing Hijab

 stranger 209 nada, photo by peter grifoni

stranger 209 nada, photo by peter grifoni

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Monday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia ruled in favor of Samantha Elauf in a suit against an Abercombie & Fitch store in Oklahoma over the discrimination she experienced in 2008. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought the suit on behalf of Elauf who had sought employment with the popular retail chain as a sales person. According to reports she interviewed well, but wasn’t hired because managers viewed her head scarf “hijab” as contrary to the company’s image.

In its defense, the company said it had a standard “look policy” for its sales staff that did not include wearing a head scarf. It also said Elauf had never informed it of her religion nor of her need for accommodation based on her faith. This specious argument was as dubious as those practiced by employers pre-Civil Rights America during which African-American candidates were denied jobs by stating that they “didn’t fit in” or that “the customers may feel unsafe.”

In fact, Scalia described the case of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission vs. Abercrombie as “easy” because the store managers knew or “at least suspected” Elauf wore the head scarf for religious reasons. Her hijab was as obvious as the color of an African-American’s skin. In an age with ubiquitous and easy access to information through the internet, one would have to live under a rock to claim no knowledge of the religious significance of this type of head covering for Muslim women.

Justice Scalia stated that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 puts the legal burden on employers not to discriminate. It gives “favored treatment” to religion, and “religious practice is one of the protected characteristics … that must be accommodated.” The majority ruled that it did not matter whether Elauf informed the company of her need for religious accommodation as long as the desire to avoid making such an accommodation was part of the company’s action. (Source: L.A. Times)

This favorable ruling is a win for not only observant Muslim women, but also Orthodox Jewish women who are also required to cover their heads while in public. This ruling is also significant in that it can provision additional freedoms for observant religious people like Muslims and Jews who abstain from work on holy days of the year, many of which conflict with employer work schedules.

“This case dramatically changes the standards that apply to employers because it removes the requirement that an employee or applicant request a religious accommodation, if the employer’s motive is later deemed a violation of Title VII” of the Civil Rights Act, said Michael Droke, a Seattle lawyer.

This ruling sets the U.S. apart from the European Union. Many countries in the E.U. have enacted increasingly discriminatory laws aimed at Muslims, and because of increased secularism it has also given rise to new levels of anti-Semitism. Notably, France, which has sought to keep religion out of public spaces and schools, in 2010 law banned the wearing of full-faced veils in public, and last year a French appeals court upheld the dismissal of a Muslim day-care employee for refusing to remove her head scarf at work.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 ruled that employers may not “refuse to hire” or otherwise discriminate against someone because of their “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” And the law says religion “includes all aspects of religious observance or practice as well as belief.”

A federal judge ruled Elauf was a victim of illegal discrimination, and a jury awarded her $20,000 in compensation.

Editor-in-Chief: @AyannaNahmias
LinkedIn: Ayanna Nahmias

Chapel Hill Atheist, Craig Hicks, Executes Muslim Family Over Parking Spot

 atheist stamp, photo by mark hassed

atheist stamp, photo by mark hassed

CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina – Three young people were murdered execution style on Wednesday, February 11th. The community and subsequently people from around the world were shocked by the news that these young Muslims had each been shot in the head.

They were newlyweds Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, a University of North Carolina dental student, and his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Yusor's sister, Razan Mohammad.

Barakat who was an American of Syrian descent according to Reuters "wrote in his last Facebook post about providing free dental supplies and food to homeless people in downtown Durham. He was also raising funds for a trip to Turkey with 10 other dentists to provide free fillings, root canals and oral hygiene instruction to Syrian refugee children." (Source: Reuters)

There is a push to have this heinous crime classified as a 'hate crime' because the victims were Muslim and they were murdered by a White American man. The Hate Crime Law was enacted to charge people with crimes against individuals because of their race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or disability.

The KKK and other White Supremacists who murdered African-Americans during the Civil Rights era, were brought to justice decades later under this statute. It would seem that Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, fits the profile of a racist, and though this may have been a contributing factor, it doesn't seem to be the only motivation.

According to residents of the complex where Barakat lived, Craig had a volatile disposition and had engaged in numerous hostile altercations with neighbors over limited parking. He was vitriolic and abusive in words and deeds when he perceived that someone had gotten a spot that he deserved. His behavior was frightening and he was definitely out of control even with other non-Muslim residents as described by those who had interacted with him on previous occasions.

However, in every other case Craig did not then act upon his grievance by going to get a gun and shoot the individual who was the object of his contempt. In the case of Barakat, Craig with malice aforethought, went to get a gun, pushed into Barakat's condominium where it is presumed he wantonly executed the three young, bright, high-achievers.

Although Craig's wife has tried to defend his actions by saying that he is not a racist, other news reports claim that he often made fun of the Barakat and his wife Yusor because of their dress. Why he chose to kill Barakat, Yusor, and Razan and not others is at the crux of the matter. Perhaps racism was the a factor in the murders, but it may have been his anti-religious stance that was the subtext.

Last month, Hicks posted a photograph that said, “Praying is pointless, useless, narcissistic, arrogant, and lazy; just like the imaginary god you pray to.” It is also reported that he is also an Anti-theists, which is an even more radical sect of atheists who are particularly outspoken and confrontational about their disbelief, researchers at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga said in a recent study.

"Anti-theists view religion as ignorance and see any individual or institution associated with it as backward and socially detrimental," the researchers wrote. "The anti-theist has a clear and -- in their view, superior -- understanding of the limitations and danger of religions." (Source: CNN)

For someone who took umbrage with God, and who was already predisposed to dislike Muslims, it is quite likely that by eradicating these young people, who were devout and publicly Muslim, he was able to kill two birds with one stone. Meaning, he was able to demonstrate his disdain of religion and its adherents, particularly those who followed the Abrahamic faiths - Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, especially the latter for which he had a virulent dislike; plus kill Barakat, his new wife, and her sister.

We may never know the answer, and in fact, no answer will assuage the pain of the parents of these three young victims. However, whether or not these murders are classified as a 'hate crime,' the killings shed light on the increasing levels of Islamophobia both in America and Europe, as well as a trend towards Secularism and Atheism in our society.

When a man does not believe in a higher power or accountability, he will do whatever is right in his own eyes, and is capable of doing whatever it takes to get what he wants. In this case, Craig the atheist wanted a parking space.

Editor-in-Chief: @AyannaNahmias
LinkedIn: Ayanna Nahmias

To Spite Obama Health Insurance Companies and Pharmaceuticals Choose to Kill Citizens

a-child-wishing-for-health-photo-by-all-childrens-hospital.jpg

WASHINGTON, D.C. – At midnight on December 31st the world retired 2014 to make way for 2015. For many it marked a night of festivities, parties, and insouciance. For others, like me, it was the day which marked the resetting of health insurance premiums, deductibles, and prescription coverages which would inevitably result in increased costs.

In the days prior, I frantically traveled to doctor's offices and pharmacies to get all of our prescriptions refilled before January 1st. In one instance, my son's pediatrician wouldn't authorize refills for his asthma medications without an appointment. Thankfully we were able to be seen by him on an emergency basis on the morning of December 31st. It was with grateful relief that he wrote all of the prescriptions needed and that I was able to get them filled before the pharmacy closed.

Unfortunately the insurance company would not authorize the refill of one of my son's most expensive medications until after the new year. One might think, with the figures I am about to report, that the medications to which I am referring are 'Brand Named' versus 'Generic.' However, this is not the case. In 2014, before I met my plan deductible, the generic version of one of his medications was $250 for a 30-day supply, while the cost for the brand name was $491. After I met my annual deductible, the costs of this medicine was reduced significantly to $50 for a 30-day supply of the generic which was a great costs savings for our household.

This reduction from my perspective directly correlated with the enactment of The Affordable Care Act (ACA) which was passed in 2010. The ACA, also known as 'Obamacare' made health coverage mandatory and also provided the means for the uninsured to purchase affordable insurance through exchanges which would help regulate the market prices. For me it was a blessing because it reduced my premiums and enabled me to purchase 'individual/self-pay' insurance without having to pay exorbitant premium fees because of 'preexisting' condition as defined by insurance companies such as Asthma, Cancer, Heart Disease, etc.

The cost to maintain this insurance is expensive, but compared to what I paid for COBRA Continuation Health Coverage in 2012, the 33 percent reduction in premium costs was a welcomed relief. I went from paying $1,660 per month to just over $550 per month for better coverage. The only catch was that my prescription costs increased significantly and thus the net/net was actually more like a 20 percent reduction in costs once this was factored in. However, providing the best healthcare for my son was non-negotiable and often meant that bills remain unpaid, and in some instances I didn't refill my medication or go to see the doctor when I needed.

Then, on November 14, 2014, The New York Times reported that "The Obama administration on Friday unveiled data showing that many Americans with health insurance bought under the Affordable Care Act could face substantial price increases next year — in some cases as much as 20 percent — unless they switch plans." Proponents of ACA asserted that this demonstrated that the legislation was working while Republican opponents pointed to these increases as proof that it is not.

As a parent and someone who is directly impacted by the ACA, I can categorically state that without it neither my son nor I would have insurance coverage. I couldn't have afforded to pay $3,000 a month in premiums and prescription costs because of 'preexisting conditions.' From my perspective the 2015 rate increases coupled with inflation in costs for generic medicines is a ploy devised by the insurance companies and pharmaceuticals to incite an already cash strapped American consumer to work against their own best interest. The premise that healthcare for average Americans was better prior to the passing of the ACA is ludicrous.

Me and millions of other Americans remember the heartache and pain of having to watch one's child suffer because an insurance company informed you that your child's healthcare costs would no longer be covered because of an "annual or lifetime" dollar limit. Other parents were faced with the necessity of mortgaging their homes, working several jobs, and making other sacrifices so that they could pay for expensive cancer or heart disease medicines. We all thought these days were behind us, but it turns out that 'we' have become collateral damage in what has been advertised as a war between the Republicans and President Obama.

In reality it is about greed. Providing access to affordable healthcare and prescriptions is not a luxury, it is a need. Parents like me are not 'lazy ne'er-do-wells' seeking to sponge off of the government. We are hard-working individuals who make difficult choices so that our children may live and grow up to be healthy contributors to society. The ACA provided us with hope for such a future, but insurance companies and pharmaceuticals have found a new way to game the system.

Anecdotally, it appears that since insurance companies are forced to insure people who may cost them money, they will make insurance available but the quality of that service is dependent on one's ability to pay for it. Thus, the better the insurance the greater the costs. However, this doesn't help them to recoup their losses (i.e. executives can't buy a new yacht, jet, exotic car, or mansion), so they turn to the pharmaceutical companies to further pressure consumers into lobbying for the dissolution of Obamacare.

When the media first began to report that generic medicine prices would increase substantially I worried but not much. Then, The Chicago Tribune reported on the rising cost of generic drug prices, and I became concerned but couldn't imagine an increase greater than a few percentage points. Then on January 3rd when I asked the pharmacists to fill the one prescription remaining from 2014, I was shocked to learn that the price increased from $50 for a 30-day supply to $391 for a 30-day supply. That was for GENERIC not brand name! I contacted my insurance company and was given a clearly ridiculous story that the cost of manufacturing the drug had increased.

Asthma can be a life-threatening condition and not taking his medication for a few days though not recommended, is not going to kill him. The same cannot be said of parents who have children with a terminal illness like cancer, in which treatment consists of multiple medications and a single prescription can cost upwards of $1,500 per month. Thus, the title of this article seeks not only to grab your attention, but also to help people understand that by taking away our ability to purchase life-saving medicine so that a pharmaceutical company can increase it's profit margin is immoral, reprehensible, and absolutely inhuman; and like it or not the choice to drastically increase the cost of generic drugs is tantamount to 'killing citizens.'

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

Related articles