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.

The Dirty Little Secret of Abuse of Old People

 grandma got screwed, photo by ashley hill3

grandma got screwed, photo by ashley hill3

On Monday, June 15, nations around the world commemorated World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEEAD). Elder Abuse continues to be a significant issue in many societies as reports of mistreatment against older people is increasing.

The thought of harming an older person suggests severe dysfunction in the perpetrator, and with the plethora of local and international cases of abuse receiving public attention, governments are starting to create policies designed to institute safeguards against this type of abuse.

However, elder abuse cases remain, and with global recognition of the gravity and ubiquity of this crime, the healthcare establishment, in particular geriatric and psychology professionals have redoubled their efforts to analyze the root cause of this type of abuse while simultaneously working with law enforcement agencies and legislators to develop strategies to protect the rights of older people.

According to HelpAge International, an organization that “helps older people demand their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty,” older people’s right to be free from violence is not protected under international law. This problem is especially prevalent in East Africa where much of HelpAge's work on elder abuse is focused on, and there are a significant number of cases.

One case involves a 67-year-old woman from Kenya who was abused by a relative, an attack that resulted in the death of her 90-year-old mother. The details of the attack are very disturbing as the woman narrated the incident:

“The man slashed me on my head and I immediately fainted. I still don't know what the reason was for that kind of brutality. I am very scared. I don't sleep well. When I hear any noise I am alarmed. In my dreams I see that person following me."

The unfortunate part is that her attacker was arrested but later released on bail. While the facts about bail are unknown, this calls into question the laws of protection in the region. Relatives are known to be one of the main perpetrators of elder abuse especially as the abuse by caregivers is a worldwide and complex issue. Stresses, caregiver burden, criminal history and substance abuse among other issues are risk factors that can lead to elder mistreatment, which in turn leads to poor health. Governments can improve their law enforcement agencies as well as the quality of life of caregivers and older people.

It is encouraging to know that governments will attend the Open-ended Working Group on Aging this July and support a United Nations (UN) convention to protect older people's rights. The purpose of the working group is to strengthen the protection of older people’s human rights around the world. Hopefully, this objective will achieve great strides as inadequate research into elder abuse makes the problem difficult to tackle. This is because elder abuse is largely a hidden problem.

According to Bridget Sleap, Senior Rights Policy Advisor at HelpAge International, “elder abuse is the least studied of the different types of violence in low-income countries as stated by the Global Status Report on Violence Prevention 2014”. This report, produced by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UN agencies, stated that of the 133 countries studied, two thirds do not have adult protective services to support older people.

Governments can do more to stop elder abuse and protect the rights of older people. It is vital that societies raise awareness, challenge and recognize that elder abuse and discrimination against older people are issues that deserve attention.

Contributing Journalist:  @SophieSokolo

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

Lighting a Continent the World Views as Dark

 solar power, photo by louise falcon

solar power, photo by louise falcon

“And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven give light upon the earth: and it was so.” ~ Genesis 1:15 KJV

Location: USA Conquest Space Station Time: Unknown Year: 2050

Mae finishes the day’s responsibilities at the worktable. Opened books and magazines lie around her makeshift office. One magazine, The Economist, sits open on the article, “The Dark Continent,” with a satellite photograph of Africa at night. She glances at the magazine and remembers the last holiday spent with her family in California. They were watching the news in the living room. The quirky news anchor provides an update on Akon’s Solar Academy. She remembers the scene because her father cracks a joke:

“They can shine a million lights on that continent and those people will still be Black as coal.”

Her family interjects with laughter while her father changes the channel to Storage Wars.

Mae smiles at the memory, wishing that she spend time with her family on the next holiday. However, the current mission forces her to work in the space station until all assignments are completed. Thus, to occupy her time, she leisurely reads and rereads old magazines and books until she can repeat every story verbatim.

When the space station team gathers for Sunday dinners, she entertains them by retelling the stories with funky hand gestures and silly voices. She looks at The Economist again, except this time; she stares at the satellite picture. Something about the image sparks her interest. Several years ago she watched that news special, but she wonders if the continent looks any different. Alvin, a space station team member, works with satellite imaging so perhaps he possesses recent pictures of the mysterious continent.

With nothing else to do for the rest of the day, she travels to Alvin’s workstation to ask for the images.

“Hey Alvin”

“Hello Mae. How can I help you?”

“Have you done any recent satellite imaging on Africa?”

“Yes I have. I actually just completed a project for the Solar Academy.”

“Really? What progress have they made?”

“Well-“

“Hey Alvin! Can you come here for a sec?”

“Yes sir! I am coming now,” responds Alvin, and then he turns back to Mae, “I am uploading the images as well as the information about the company including history, progress, and goals. Please take your time.”

Alvin leaves to help their colleague then Mae sits in his seat to examine the documents. She instantly notices that the satellite image of Africa differs from the image in the magazine. Hundreds and hundreds of white dots spread across the continent, indicating the lights. Mae clicks through the documents then pauses on an article with pictures of people. The article describes the family life within the communities near the Solar Academy. When she studies the accompanying pictures, to her surprise, she sees neither the stereotypical faces of joy nor sadness found in her magazines. She rather sees normal people posing for a picture like her family on a regular sunny day. She sees their homes in the background with children toys and cars and lawns. They look different, but normal. Until that point, Mae never knew anything about Africa. Her knowledge about the continent remained in the dark, yet the lights on the satellite images show her that the continent was never in the dark. Instead, she was.

Poet & Literary Critic: @Chrycka_Harper

United States Leads in Stealing Africa's Doctors

 Pediatric doctors at Donka Hospital in Conakry, Guinea

Pediatric doctors at Donka Hospital in Conakry, Guinea

The United States is stealing the world’s doctors — and from the very places that need doctors the most. Dubbed the “international brain drain,” the United States leads the way in attracting international doctors, especially those from Africa.

The United States, with its high salaries, attracts more international doctors every year than Britain, Canada and Australia combined. However, for every 1000 people, Africa has only 2.3 health care workers, while the United States has almost 25. Doctors emigrating in droves from developing countries for “greener pastures” are making an already critical health worker shortage ever more dire.

But this brain drain is not new. In countries like Ghana, some 61% of doctors produced in the country between 1986 and 1994 had already left the country by 1999. The financial loss from emigration like this has been extremely detrimental. The loss from this period of emigration in Ghana alone is estimated at over 5.9 million dollars.

Foreign MDs
Foreign MDs

Not surprising, foreign medical doctors make up a substantial proportion of the doctors workforce in some of the most affluent countries in the world. More than 34% of doctors practicing in New Zealand were from overseas in 2000.  And according to a 2010 report in the Economie Internationale other developed countries have extremely high proportions of foreign doctors, including the United-Kingdom with 31%, the United-States with 26%, and Australia and Canada with more than 20%.

This is in part the result of initiatives like the 1994 U.S. legislation proposed to allow foreign doctors on student visas access to stay in the U.S. if they agreed to work in some of the poorest places in the United States. Since then, over 8,500 African doctors have left Africa and gained jobs at American hospitals that were in short supply.

A sneaky initiative. It looks great from the outside from its ability to give African medical students the chance to work in the U.S. for higher wages but it does nothing but continue to keep those living in “periphery” countries ever more dependent on “core” countries.

This is described by most scholars as the dependency theory — an economic model that became popular in the 1960s as a critic of the way the United States, along with many western countries, exploits those in the “periphery” for their own gain.

Poor countries provide resources, in the form of raw materials, cheap labor, and a market to those countries in the core. While wealthy countries in the core perpetuate their dependence in every way possible — through control of the media, economic politics, banks and finance insinuations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, educational initiatives, cultural exploitation, and even sporting events like the World Cup.

Indeed, this exploitation is clearly exemplified by the emigration policies facilitating the exodus of medical doctors from Africa over the past decade. Of the 12 African countries producing the most medical graduates, 8 have seen a 50% increase from 2002 - 2011 in all graduates appearing in the U.S. physician workforce. Cameroon, Sudan, and Ethiopia each had over a 100% increase since 2002.

These policies in place, that are sucking up some of Africa’s greatest doctors, are just further methods of perpetuating the poorest country’s dependence on the wealthiest.

It becomes clear then that while the United States benefits, Africa only appears to benefit. The U.S. gains excess doctors, while Africa looses the few it barely has.

While the United Sates grows its ratio of 2.45 doctors for every 1000 people, countries like Mozambique see a decrease in the already alarming rate of .04 doctors for every 1000 people.

Health professionals around the world agree that human resources is the most key component to solving problems in global health. But it is often one of the most neglected components, with much more emphasis focused on managing disease outbreaks and not the people actually preventing diseases.

Oliver Bakewel, of the International Migration Institute, agrees with this logic in writing that “development practice has commonly seen a reduction in migration as either an (implicit or explicit) aim of intervention or an indicator of a programme’s success" in an 2007 report.

However some scholars at the World Bank disagree with the notion that migration is inversely proportional to success in African development. A 2014 article in The Atlantic headlined "Why the brain drain can actually benefit African countries," outlined their findings that suggest "one additional migrant creates about 2,100 dollars a year in additional exports for his/her country of origin.”

However, this argument does not look closely enough at the brain drain for specifically medical doctors.

The brain drain intersects more than just the medial field — it cross cuts every highly skilled profession. But the effects of the brain drain on the status of health care in Africa is much more harmful than that of the brain drain of — for example — African professors. The average increase of 2,100 dollars in exports will do nothing to solve the critical and immediate lack of medical doctors in almost every African country.

The time is here more than ever for the international community to play a more proactive role in addressing the international medical brain drain. Affluent countries like the United States should be held accountable for exploiting Africa for its doctors, while international policies should be put in place to help African governments increase wages for health workers and retain their much needed doctors.

Contributing Editor: @AustinBryan
LinkedIn: Austin Drake Bryan

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