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Baratunde Thurston
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Entries by Baratunde Thurston

Intolerable Excuses

(38) Comments | Posted June 24, 2011 | 1:23 PM

Co-authored also by Bassem Bouguerra, André Glucksmann, Abdelwahab Meddeb and Mohammad al-Abdallah

Published regularly since 2002, the UN-sponsored Arab Human Development Reports make for some pretty disheartening reading. Just a few of the statistics they contain suffice to understand what depths the international community and Arab leaders have let Arab...

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Black History Month: An Explanation of CP Time by Your Very Delayed Guest Book Editor

(5) Comments | Posted February 23, 2010 | 10:45 AM

Considering that this is my first official blog post of my guest book editorship since the introduction, my first Black History Month lesson will be a brief primer on "CP Time."

Also known as "colored people's time," CP Time is an inside reference within the black community...

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Happy Black History Month, And Guess Who's Guest Editing?

(61) Comments | Posted February 2, 2010 | 6:15 AM

We're baaaaaack!

I can't believe it's returned so soon, but time flies when you're being black. So, to America and all who watch us, Happy Black History Month!

Most are familiar with the annual ritual by this point: public figures speak respectfully of African-American contributions to...

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Five Ways President Obama Changed My Life - An Inspirational Video

(3) Comments | Posted September 18, 2009 | 6:43 PM

Two weeks ago I wrote a scathing critique of the White House's response to mounting insanity from the Right in general and the resignation of Van Jones in particular. I was furious and minced absolutely no words. That same weekend, however, I had one of the most amazing conversations...

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Dear Rick Perry, If You Don't Like This Country, Leave

(0) Comments | Posted April 17, 2009 | 1:36 PM

These Republican leaders really are quite unintelligent.

Rick Perry wants to throw around nonsense like "there's no need at this time to dissolve the union but..." You know what? Leave! Reactionary, white supremacists have been yelling this line to minorities forever: "If you don't like this country, leave."...

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VA Lt. Gov. Candidate Mike Signer: 25% of Af-Am Men Are Disenfranchised

(0) Comments | Posted March 11, 2009 | 2:56 AM

Almost a month ago, I was in DC to emcee a conference for YP4, an amazing organization that gives young progressive activists some of the most thoughtful and applicable training I've ever come across. While in town, I met up with a few folks at Local 16,...
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Let's Talk About Race: With Baratunde and Cenk (Part 3)

(29) Comments | Posted March 9, 2009 | 2:18 PM

And we're back. Sorry for the delay. This is my response to Cenk's last video in which he explained that calling something "racist" is a bad strategy for having an actual conversation. We should say it's "questionable" and ask "can you see how this might be racist?" instead. He...

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Local TV News Obsessed With Candy Epidemic (VIDEO)

(0) Comments | Posted March 5, 2009 | 10:44 PM

Most local TV news should be comedy but sadly is not. The the CBS affiliate in Birmingham, AL was not amused by a product I can vouch for as amazingly tasty: craque. It's a candy that is named for its addictive quality and packaged...

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Let's Talk About Race: With Baratunde and Cenk (Part 1)

(70) Comments | Posted February 22, 2009 | 5:22 PM

After our appearance on MSBNC Friday talking about the dumbass cartoon (that's how I officially refer to it BTW), Cenk and I decided to continue the conversation. Six and a half minutes isn't enough to address the points we both were trying to make. This is an experiment in...

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The Connection Between Blacks As Apes And Police Brutality

(40) Comments | Posted February 19, 2009 | 12:27 PM

Talking on television is always a challenge cause you're trying to get out your points in the very limited amount of time the medium allows. I was trying to get a few more details into my MSNBC appearance yesterday but didn't get it all out.

I mentioned that a psychologist at UCLA has studied the link between seeing blacks as apes, monkeys, etc and treating them brutally. In addition, he has expanded this work to encompass deep academic research into the causes of police discrimination and brutality. This is the connection I was able to draw in my closing line on air, but I didn't have time to give full references.

Now, I'll do you one better. The psychologist is Dr. Phillip A. Goff. I actually attended undergrad with him which is why I'm familiar with his work. He's been putting me on to his analysis and the applications of his research for years, and I'm finally in a position to help bring it to a larger audience. He was the first person I called after I saw the cartoon, and the timing around this cartoon, the Oscar Grant murder and upcoming events next week could not provide a better introduction to his work.

In short, what Dr. Goff and his colleagues have found is a clear connection between the psychology of racism and real harm to black people. Further, they have been working with police departments across the nation to study their records, analyze their people and adjust their training in order to save the lives of black people and improve the effectiveness of policing. This is truly where the academy meets the streets.

Next week in NYC, on February 26, there will be a summit on racial and gender bias in policing and the need to expand these studies and their remedies. Here's an article Dr. Goff wrote yesterday in response to the NY Post cartoon. I strongly urge you to read the entire thing and follow the links.

Little Things Are Still a Big Deal

By: Phillip Atiba Goff

I cannot imagine that 10 minutes passed from the time it first appeared online to the time my phone rang early this morning. The New York Post had published a (now controversial) cartoon depicting two police officers that had shot a monkey -- one of them quipping, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."

The cartoon -- you see it here -- was clearly referencing the recent odd-ball news item, that a woman from Stamford, Conn., had been mauled by her pet chimpanzee and that the animal had to be "put down," as it were, to preserve public safety. But the political commentary seemed an odd juxtaposition to the visual. Could the cartoon have been suggesting that Barack Obama, principal champion of the bill and our first black president, was somehow chimp-like?

Though much of the reaction to the cartoon has been outrage at the implication that our 44th president is remotely simian, there have been other messages in the blogosphere as well. A few pleaded with us to see reason in this post-Obama era. They begged us to understand that the cartoonist clearly meant to impugn congress, Wall Street executives and academic economists and that there was no racial subtext to the piece. Others saw the cartoon as racist but declined to become outraged. Saw the injustice in the image, but saw it as a minor injustice, not one worth worrying too much about. After all, having a black president means that America is post-racial and does not need to worry about petty things like harmless pictures in a paper.

The messages in my inbox mirrored the commentaries I saw online. A few (though not many) defending the cartoon. Many more exasperated with indifference. All of them insisted this was a little thing.

The best science available suggests otherwise.

For the better part of the past seven years, my colleagues and I have conducted research on the psychological phenomenon of dehumanization. Specifically, we have examined cognitive associations between African Americans and non-human apes. And the association leads to bad things. When we began the research, we were skeptical of whether or not participants even knew that people of African descent were caricatured as ape-like -- as less than human -- throughout the better part of the past 400 years. And, in fact, many were not. However, even those who were unaware of this historical association demonstrated a cognitive association between blacks and apes. That is, when they thought of apes, they thought of blacks and vice versa -- when they thought of blacks, they thought of apes.

But the fact of this cognitive association was not the most disturbing part of the research. Rather, it was the fact that the association between blacks and apes could lead to violence.

In one study, participants who were made to think about apes were more likely to support police violence against black (but not white) criminal suspects. The association actually caused them to endorse anti-black violence. Most disturbing of all, however, was a study of media coverage and the death penalty. Looking at a sample of death-eligible cases in Philadelphia from 1979 to 1999, the more that media coverage used ape-like metaphors to describe a murder trial (i.e. "urban jungle," "aping the suspects behavior," etc.) the more likely black suspects, but not white suspects were to be put to death.

Not surprisingly, black suspects were much more likely to be described in ape-like terms. And they were more frequently executed by the state.

Similar psychological mechanisms of discrimination are at work in the bloated incarceration rates of young black men, the trenchant educational achievement gap between blacks and whites, and the racial bias evidenced in law enforcement officer's use of force. Though some are demonstrating leadership towards equality, we find that many of our nation's oldest racial shames have persisted into a period when a black person can reasonably aspire to the highest office in the land.

I mention these depressing findings because it is tempting to ignore them in the wake of President Obama's inauguration -- to downplay the significance of "isolated events" of bigotry and "harmless words or pictures." But precisely because the dream of post-raciality is seductive for so many, it is all the more important that we not forget that cartoons like the one in today's New York Post are never isolated-and consequently, never harmless.

Today's Post cartoon is not far removed from the "Curious George" Obama sock puppet, a "Curious George" Obama T-shirt, a Japanese advertisement depicting Obama as a monkey, and countless other Obama/monkey comparisons that cropped up throughout the year-long Democratic primary and presidential campaigns. Psychological science has long known that words and pictures, far from harmless, can be the very instruments of dehumanization necessary for collective violence-regardless of how innocently they are intended.

As we live through this historic presidency, there will doubtless be more of these moments of impolitic insensitivity. Some will be more egregious than others. But, as a scientist, my sincerest hope for us all is that we not be biased by the desire to see our struggle towards racial equality as over. The evidence is too clear that the little things are still a big deal.

* * *

Phillip Atiba Goff is an assistant professor on the department of psychology at the University of California and the executive director of research for the Consortium for Police Leadership in Equity. The consortium is hosting the first Summit for Police Leadership in Equity on Feb. 26 in New York City. High-ranking representatives from 15 of the largest municipal police departments in North America will be attending to discuss a new model for research collaborations that would -- for the first time -- allow independent researchers to gain unprecedented access to law enforcement personnel, policies and records.

Although the release of another racist cartoon can be seen as repetitive, annoying and a distraction, I'm glad at the opportunity this moment gives us. Usually, something like this goes down, we get fired up, maybe protest, threaten some advertisers and that's it. What we're trying to do at JJP and the broader "we" in this new generation of informed, networked activists, however, is bring more insight and intelligence to the discussion and ultimately, change the world for the better.

Please pass this post far and wide, especially to activists and those in the media. Digg it, post to Facebook,...

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4 Million People Find Video Evidence of Child Abuse Hilarious

(5) Comments | Posted February 6, 2009 | 8:53 AM

Like television, YouTube can be a force for good, for evil or just plain stupidity. The following video was shot by a theoretically loving father as his young son suffers the effects of dental medication post-visit. It's like America's Funniest Home Videos, only this version makes you feel sad inside.

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Barackatunde's Inauguration Recap Told Via Twitter and Flickr (Perhaps the Funniest Thing I've Ever Done)

(0) Comments | Posted February 2, 2009 | 5:05 PM

This past weekend I performed at a financial aid fundraiser at my former (and Malia and Sasha Obama's current) school, Sidwell Friends.

I re-lived the inauguration through my Twitter updates and Flickr photos and guarantee that you've never seen inaugural coverage like this.

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90 Second Video: Prepare For Election Day. Protect Your Rights.

(2) Comments | Posted November 3, 2008 | 11:46 AM

This is a 90 second video with last-minute strategies to weather election day and protect your vote. It includes election protection phone numbers, day-before advice, what to bring on election day and ways to pass the time in line, all set to a powerful soundtrack.

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My Submission For McCain's "I Am Joe the Plumber" Video Contest

(2) Comments | Posted October 20, 2008 | 3:53 PM

Thirty minutes ago, I heard about this "I'm Joe the Plumber" 30 second video contest sponsored by the McCain campaign. Not that we're in the middle of two wars and a massive economic crisis or anything.

Considering the farce of Joe and the downright silliness of McCain's campaign,...

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Silence In The Face Of Hate Makes McCain-Palin Unfit To Lead

(91) Comments | Posted October 7, 2008 | 4:50 PM

The Washington Post has reported on a Palin rally in which the crowd turned on the media and hurled racial epithets at a sound man:

Worse, Palin's routine attacks on the media have begun to spill into ugliness. In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts...
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Announcing The Launch Of The Voter Suppression Wiki -- Learn, Report, Act

(14) Comments | Posted September 18, 2008 | 2:29 PM

It's that time in the American political cycle again, when politicians and activists and famous people and your family members tell you how important it is to vote. They tell you this election is more important than ever. They tell you if you don't vote, you don't count.

But what...

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To Obama's Black Hecklers In Florida: What About Some Research?

(25) Comments | Posted August 2, 2008 | 1:38 AM

From HuffPost:

QUESTION: "In the face of the numerous attacks that are made against the African community or the black community, by the same U.S. government that you aspire to lead. We are talking about attacks like the sub-prime mortgage... that was a phenomenon that started in the...

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Afghanistan: What's Going On?

(4) Comments | Posted August 1, 2008 | 10:47 AM

Tomorrow, I'll be on another episode of Meet The Bloggers, and the topic of the week is Afghanistan.

Yeah, I know right. Remember that place? We don't hear about it too much from our trusted names in news. I'm pretty sure Ruben Studdard is getting more airtime than Afghanistan.

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This Primary Campaign Has Brought Out The Best And Worst In Me

(37) Comments | Posted June 3, 2008 | 7:41 PM

Last week, after talking with several Hillary Clinton supporters, I had an epiphany: that which I most dislike about the darker sides of her and her campaign is just what some people see in me. It's the worst feeling, to end up displaying traits you deplore, and I'd like to...

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Iraq is to Vietnam as Dubya is to WTF!?!?

(111) Comments | Posted August 24, 2007 | 4:25 PM

Just as effective democracy assumes and requires the consent of the governed, so does an effective analogy assume and require a common set of beliefs and experiences among its intended audience. This week, George W. Bush finally made the analogous connection he has so vehemently avoided between Iraq and...

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