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Van Jones
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Van Jones is founding president of Rebuild the Dream, a pioneering initiative to restore good jobs and economic opportunity. He is the co-founder of three, thriving organizations: the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color of Change, and Green For All. Jones is the author of theNew York Times best seller, The Green Collar Economy.

A Yale-educated attorney, Van worked as the green jobs advisor to the Obama White House in 2009. There, he helped run the inter-agency process that oversaw $80 billion in green recovery spending. Time Magazine has named Jones one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.

Entries by Van Jones

What Do You Call White Rioters? Anything But Thugs

(74) Comments | Posted June 16, 2015 | 9:00 AM

The day after the first night of the Baltimore uprising following the death of Freddie Gray, ABC News used the word "thug" almost 800 times.

It was no rare occasion. "Thug" was thrown around in the media after the demonstrations in Ferguson and New York. Practically every person of color who has protested the killing of young black men by law enforcement -- seemingly no matter how peaceful their demonstration -- has been labeled a "thug."

As NFL star Richard Sherman so memorably noted, and as the black activists on the ground in Ferguson and Baltimore so often remind us, the word "thug" has become little more than a socially acceptable version of the rightly outlawed n-word.

When white students at the Keene State College Pumpkin Festival threw rocks, glass, bottles, and even skateboards at police, set multiple fires, and forced police to respond with riot gear, rubber bullets, and tear gas, they were never declared "thugs." When white people riot because their baseball team won, no one throws around the word "thugs." But when black people respond to physical violence with protests against inanimate objects, that word is all you hear.

This blatant hypocrisy is the creative spark behind White Riots, a new short film from Brave New Films. Starting with the absurd reporting from ABC News the day after the Baltimore uprising began, White Riots explores the biased language so often employed by media to describe black Americans exercising their first amendment rights. And contrasts it with the kiddie-gloves treatment of everything from violent students to biker gang shootouts.

Just look at the language around Keene State "students," "youthful debauchery," "kids." Then compare to the language of Ferguson and Baltimore: "thugs," "criminals," "offenders." Or take the word, "gang." Black people wearing the blue of their sorority, Zeta Phi Beta, were reported to be in a gang. Groups of white men can wear matching jackets and murder nine people and injure 18 more in broad daylight, and the media will still describe them as a "social club." (This actually happened.)

We could go on. Dr. King called riots "the language of the unheard." When young, prosperous university students -- who have a voice in our society -- riot, some media outlets will actually deem those riots a "form of protest." But when the actual unheard raise their voices in anger, even if there is no violence, the black community is condemned. When property damage occurs, the sins of the few are laid at the feet of the broader community and blamed on a "lack of leadership" in the "black community." But in contrast, when was the last time you saw 72 hours of breathless criticism of university students "wasting taxpayer dollars" with "destruction of public property," even though universities actually do have clear leadership?

The problem here is that biased media coverage and racialized language shape dangerous stereotypes. Those stereotypes, in turn, are used to justify discriminatory policing, violence against people of color, and a mass incarceration system that is so racist that one author calls it the "new Jim Crow."

Young white people are seen as "kids," prone to make mistakes, well into their twenties. But a 12-year-old black kid is seen as a dangerous criminal once he is old enough to play alone in the park -- so inherently dangerous that police are considered to be justified even when shooting unarmed children in "self defense." Law enforcement will even target African-American neighborhoods on drug sweeps or through programs like "stop and frisk," based in large part of the perception of black criminality pushed on us by the biased, fear-mongering media. If we force unbiased reporting, we can chip away at the foundations of the injustice within our criminal justice system.

The media drumbeat shapes our opinions, and our opinions in turn shape the destiny of a generation of young people. If we allow media to speak of students protesting the firing of a coach in understanding terms, while heaping scorn upon those protesting soul-crushing levels of poverty, violence, and forgotten neighborhoods, our nation will end up poorer for it.

Brave New Films wants to change the language the media uses. The newest release "White Riots" is a startling look on how deep the problem runs. It is a call to conscience for journalists across the nation to no longer use racially charged terminology to describe black protestors and civil unrest. We can change the biased narrative -- one word at a...

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This Is How We Diversify Silicon Valley

(3) Comments | Posted October 14, 2014 | 4:43 PM

Morehouse College was founded just two years after the Civil War. The Atlanta, Georgia historically black college would go on to be one of only two to produce Rhodes Scholars, and count among its alumni none other than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On Oct. 24-26, its historic grounds will...

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Don't Just Vote

(50) Comments | Posted November 4, 2012 | 5:55 PM

The next 36 hours are crucial for the future of our country, our lives, our children's lives, so we don't want to waste even a minute of your time.

No matter what the polls or pundits say, it's all about voter turnout and unlikely voters (especially youth) actually going to...

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WATCH: What Mourdock Says About Romney

(0) Comments | Posted October 26, 2012 | 9:18 AM

Here's why Richard Mourdock's comments matter: The Republican Party has a brand problem, and Mitt Romney has a judgment problem. Here's how I explained it last night:

When one candidate for senate says something crazy, you could call it an isolated incident and say "who cares." But when another does it, and another -- including the only candidate Mitt Romney has cut an ad for -- and they all share a position with Paul Ryan, the man who Mitt Romney picked to be a heartbeat away from the presidency... then, you have to start asking hard questions.

If these are the types of people Romney is associating with, who will he pick for the Supreme Court? Who does he care about? What are his sensitivities? What type of person will he put in power?

Don't let anyone tell you this is really an argument about theology. It's not. It's an argument about social policy, and whether we want to live in a country where a woman is forced to bear the child of her rapist.

Nobody loves talking about this. It's disgusting and terrifying that people who hold these extreme views get this close to power, and this is a harsh reminder of all that's at stake in this...

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WATCH: Prince Announces Chicago Concerts to Aid 'Rebuild The Dream'

(4) Comments | Posted September 18, 2012 | 12:00 PM

I have worked for social change for more than 20 years, fighting for causes as diverse as police reform, juvenile justice and green jobs. Over the years, I have come to believe that two major flaws are undermining our reform movements.

Simply Put: We Are Too Bossy -- and Too...

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VIDEO: Underwater Voters Have Message for Obama

(295) Comments | Posted August 16, 2012 | 1:52 PM

Ask a political reporter, and they'll tell you the biggest story of the past week was Romney's selection of Paul "End Medicare" Ryan as his running mate. (I'll have more to say on him, soon). But that's not the only story. If you look more closely at what's been happening...

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The New "Must Read": Joe Romm's Language Intelligence

(9) Comments | Posted August 15, 2012 | 1:56 PM

In a war of ideas, the weapon of choice is words. Even when equipped with better and more popular ideas, progressives are losing the fight on ideas because of how we communicate those ideas -- or fail to communicate them.

When I read an early draft of Joe Romm's Language...

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How Millennials and Students Won a Massive Victory on Loan Rates

(79) Comments | Posted July 18, 2012 | 5:34 PM

Four months ago, nearly everyone thought the interest rate on Stafford student loans was going to double -- and that there was nothing anyone could do about it.

Republicans in Washington were beating the drums of austerity, trying to convince Americans that everyone, except the ultra-rich, should be tightening their...

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Hope for Homeowners

(220) Comments | Posted July 2, 2012 | 12:15 PM

Three simple questions expose the peril facing millions of Americans - and the grave danger in which American Dream now finds itself.

Number one, why is a good man like Jaime Gonzalez losing his shirt, while trying to keep up with interest payments on his modest Florida home? Why won't...

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More Solar, Not Less

(273) Comments | Posted May 22, 2012 | 6:56 PM

If you listen only to the propaganda machine of the Koch Brothers, the power companies and the "clean coal" industry, solar power is only desirable to a white rich ex-hippie with a Malibu beach house.

Their latest tactic is to paint local clean energy, such as rooftop solar, as an...

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Remembering MLK: Standing Up to the Dream Killers

(71) Comments | Posted April 4, 2012 | 2:27 PM

Today, April 4th, 2012, marks the 44th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination. It's a good time to reflect on the state of not only Dr. King's dream, but the American dream at large. After all, Dr. King himself described his own dream as one that was "deeply...

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Bank Settlement: $25 Billion Down, $675 Billion to Go

(297) Comments | Posted February 10, 2012 | 11:02 AM

This week a $25 billion settlement was announced in which big banks pay up for a portion of their bad deeds in the home foreclosure crisis. Everyone is trying to determine whether this is a good deal or a bad deal.

Here is how I score it. This deal represents...

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Obama Must Choose on Housing: A Sweetheart Deal for the 1% or a Fair Deal for the 99%

(312) Comments | Posted January 22, 2012 | 11:19 AM

Rumor has it that on Monday, after months of negotiation with big banks, the White House may announce a settlement that would let the banks off the hook for their role in the foreclosure crisis -- paying a tiny fraction of what's needed in exchange for blanket immunity from future...

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It's Our Turn: Celebrating MLK Day

(42) Comments | Posted January 12, 2012 | 3:04 PM

Martin Luther King day is one of our only national holidays committed to honoring social and racial justice. Yet too often it has been watered down to a Hallmark card -- a weak commemoration of one of the most inspiring individuals and formative eras in American history.

It's time for...

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Super Committee Fails, but American People Win

(632) Comments | Posted November 23, 2011 | 7:57 AM

The big buzz on cable news this week is that the Super Committee failed when it couldn't come to a compromise on how to cut the federal budget by $1.5 trillion.

But the truth is that the American people won.

And now, we must keep on winning.

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Making Some Noise To Protect The Future Of The 99%

(107) Comments | Posted November 22, 2011 | 11:52 AM

If you wanted one word to sum up this year, it's "noisy." From Tahrir Square to Zuccotti Park, people who have gotten tired of the old politics have started grabbing the microphone away from the authorities and speaking themselves. And not just speaking; chanting, drumming, singing-conjuring up a new future.

...
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Historic: Hundreds of Teach-In's Across U.S.A. on "How 1% Crashed Economy"

(21) Comments | Posted November 10, 2011 | 11:10 AM

Yesterday evening, something historic happened in the homes, campuses, and community centers of America. From Biloxi, Mississippi to Monrovia, California, more than 4,000 people attended 375 teach-ins -- all volunteer-driven -- to learn "How the 1% Crashed the Economy, and What We Can Do About It."

The Occupy Wall...

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Time to Occupy Voting?: Progressive Upsurge Faces Tough Test in Ohio

(144) Comments | Posted November 7, 2011 | 8:32 AM

In the first major election since Occupy Wall Street swept the nation, Ohioans have a chance on Tuesday to repeal draconian restrictions on labor rights. A victory for the "No on 2" forces would mark the first sign that the new upsurge in progressive energy is capable of...

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Stunning Number: Big Banks Set to Lose 70,000 Accounts on Move Your Money Day

(952) Comments | Posted November 4, 2011 | 1:18 PM

Just this week, Rebuild the Dream (an organization that I helped to found) launched a Move Your Money website, where people are pledging to close their accounts at Wall Street banks in protest of their outrageous behavior before, during, and after our nation's financial crash. I am stunned...

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Tax the One Percent -- Make Wall Street Fund America

(574) Comments | Posted November 2, 2011 | 9:44 AM

The giant cries of protest sweeping across the country are starting to reverberate in the halls of Congress. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) are proposing a Wall Street Tax. Their bill would establish a tiny financial transaction tax of 0.03% on every single trade of stocks,...

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