Archive for September, 2011

Raising Cain

Houston, we have a problem.

Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say Austin, otherwise known as the stomping grounds of Rick Perry, the Texas governor and supposed GOP presidential frontrunner.

After showcasing uneven skills in recent Republican debates in California and South Carolina, Perry got knocked for a loop in Florida. On Saturday, Republicans in the electoral-vote-rich Sunshine State picked Herman Cain, an ex-pizza company CEO with no political experience, over Perry in their straw poll. Not only did Cain win, he won big, receiving almost twice the votes of second-place Perry.

One can almost hear the big, collective groan sigh of Republican leaders around the country. Hmmm. The former head of a pizza company (and we’re not talking Dominos) vs. the seasoned, savvy, and oh-so-very-charismatic Barack Obama.

Blank stare.

Well, if Republicans have a presidential problem, it is born of the insular politics honed by the Tea-Party-led GOP.

Perry, an evangelical Protestant, gun-toting, Southern, white male, was supposed to light a fire under a base that was somewhat underwhelmed about former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney.

But then it turned out Perry lets the kids of undocumented immigrants get Texas state funds to go to college (horrors!). And he actually thinks big, bad government should play a role in inoculating people against disease. He says he would do it differently if he had the chance, but he did advocate that girls as young as 12 be vaccinated against the virus that causes cervical cancer. (Kind of like the government’s efforts during the 1950s with the polio vaccine. Don’t say it. I know. SO retro.)

On paper, Romney should probably be a shoe-in for the nomination: successful businessman, former governor, conservatively moderate. Maybe he will get there. But the elephant in the room: He’s a Mormon. Not a favored denomination by the staunch “traditional” Protestants that are the face of the Tea Party GOP. In a recent Gallup poll, a fifth of respondents said they would not vote for a Mormon if he were the nominee of their party.

Michele Bachmann, the congresswoman from Minnesota, is a staunch conservative and a darling of the Tea Party. But no matter how loud the applause, conservatives seem to love their women as cheerleaders, not leaders of the free world. Ask Sarah Palin.  A Rasmussen poll found respondents indicating that while they would be willing to vote for a woman as president, they don’t think a woman will become president for at least another decade.

And let’s not even talk about the second string among the GOP presidential hopefuls.

Perhaps more importantly let’s not count Obama out as a one-term president.


Save Troy Davis

Dancing on people’s graves just feels like an invitation for bad karma.

Even when those people are “bad,” or at least accused of being so.

Take the case of Al-Qaeda bad boy Osama bin Laden. I was wowed as much as anyone else in May when President Barack Obama announced that his U.S. Navy Seals had killed the man said to have masterminded the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But I just couldn’t bring myself to whoop and holler in glee along with thousands of my fellow Americans.

When we as a society decide that a man deserves to die (and more often than not, those on death row are men), it is (or should be) because what he did was so heinous he should forfeit his life. But the fact that a man could commit such a heinous act in the first place is more a cause for somber reflection than celebration. The death of the man does not undo the heinous act so, really, what is there to cheer?

And so I cannot bring myself to whoop and holler at the thought of a man’s death, even if justified by the fact that he committed a heinous act. I especially cannot do so when there is substantial doubt of a man’s guilt.

Organized by Amnesty International and other supporters, hundreds of people rallied in Times Square Friday to stop the execution of a Georgia man, Troy Davis, who is set to be killed Wednesday for murdering a police officer in 1989. Only problem is, Davis more likely than not did not kill the officer.

Davis was convicted on the testimony of nine people who said he was guilty. No physical evidence ever linked Davis to the crime, and the gun used to kill the officer has not been found to this day.

Now, seven of those nine people say they lied and that police coerced their earlier testimony. One of the remaining two people was himself once a suspect in the officer’s death. That leaves the testimony of one person, only one person’s word to determine the ultimate fate of another.

A clemency hearing to spare Davis’ life is set for Monday, but if the board is not swayed by the disintegration of evidence against Davis, the State of Georgia will execute Davis on Wednesday.

There is just something bloodthirsty about a society that at times seems so eager to kill that it is reluctant to even consider that perhaps whoever is in their sights may be the wrong prey; a society that is reluctant to admit that executions are an expression of vengeance and not a means of curtailing future crime. According to, Georgia, which has 103 people sitting on death row, has a murder rate of 5.8 per 100,000. New York, which has no death penalty, has a murder rate of just 4 per 100,000.

Life is no episode of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” where viewers are assured that no innocent men were hurt in the production of the show.

But the rallying cries brought on by that reality are too often drowned out by the whoops and hollers of those lulled into the comfort of a world where there is never a shadow of doubt.

Let’s hope for Davis’ sake, his cries and those of his supporters are finally heard.




A Hair-y Situation

I will not let my hair hamper my health.

This is the motto I crafted a few years back when I struggled to exercise, and the appearance of my hair was one excuse of many not to.

So imagine my surprise and pleasure when the U.S. Surgeon General herself exposed this issue while speaking at a black hair show in Atlanta. Wow, I thought, Dr. Regina M. Benjamin gets it. Ah, the benefits of diversity in the halls of power.

Benjamin, like myself, is an African-American woman. And yes, hair is a “thing” within the community of black American women: not only a thing of beauty, but a thing of power and politics, a thing of conformity and rebellion.

And the thing is: Black hair can be time-consuming to care for, especially if it is relaxed, flat-ironed or pressed with heat to straighten it. (Watch Chris Rock’s movie Good Hair and you’ll get the idea.)

The concept of getting one’s hair wet with sweat during a workout after many hours and dollars spent in the beauty salon can give many a black woman pause. I used to be one of them. And with the high incidence of obesity among black women in the U.S., Benjamin was right to call attention to it while speaking to people who have almost an intimate nature with those women — their hair stylists.

Hair matters, but it should not be more important than doing what needs to be done to avoid serious health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

I probably have it easier than some of my fellow African-American sisters. My natural hair is long, very thick and curly/wavy, especially when wet. Society may prefer straight to curly when it comes to black hair, but my hair in its natural state is just a little more acceptable than if my hair texture consisted of tight coils plastered to my scalp.

Such attitudes must change. As a society, we need to support one another by being more accepting of our natural hair, whether it’s bone straight, short and tightly curled, a big, frizzy ‘fro or somewhere in between.