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“An Acknowledgment Of Where We’ve Been”: Tubman’s Twenty Moves Us Closer To A More Perfect Union

The journey toward a more perfect union was quickened with the announcement that Harriet Tubman, abolitionist, Union spy and activist for women’s suffrage, will grace the front of the $20 bill. The Tubman twenty will be unveiled in 2020, timed to honor the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

She will be the first woman on U.S. paper currency in more than a century and the first black American ever. That a black woman who was born a slave will be given such a prominent commemoration is a testament to American exceptionalism, a reminder of the nation’s slow and erratic but continuing march toward a more just version of itself.

Not all Americans see it that way, of course. Some are already grumbling about the demotion of Andrew Jackson, the nation’s seventh president, to the back of the bill. (Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren has called the change “stupid.”) Others insist that the Treasury has simply caved to an ill-conceived political correctness. (Donald Trump claims that’s the case.) A few will venture commentary that has no place in polite society.

Indeed, the announcement of a revamped and more-inclusive currency comes at a fascinating time in our politics, a time when a sizable portion of the electorate is roiled by anger, agitation and fear. While some of that anxiety has its roots in economic uncertainty, much of it — especially among the supporters of Trump’s presidential bid — has its foundation in a deep-seated resentment of the nation’s changing demographics.

It’s no accident that Trump — who is among the “birthers” who insist President Barack Obama is not an American — leads the Republican presidential field while denouncing Mexican immigrants and denigrating Muslims. There is a substantial minority of white American voters who are threatened by the loss of numerical advantage, furious over the election of a black president, and resentful of the growing racial and ethnic diversity in American life.

Trump and his supporters have dominated the political narrative in this election season and ignited a civil war inside the Republican Party. They have panicked the Republican establishment. They have set off alarm bells in faraway capitals.

Yet, the racially intolerant are losing the battle for primacy in the American story. They no longer dominate the nation’s culture or mythology, as the changes in the currency illustrate.

Last year, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew invited the public to comment on his decision to recast a paper bill to feature a woman. Of the 15 women suggested by the activist group Women on 20s, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks, Tubman received the most votes.

A genuine American hero, she deserves the honor. As a young woman, she escaped the Maryland plantation that had enslaved her, and then made several trips back to assist others. Over a little more than a decade, she helped around 70 enslaved men and women find their way to freedom, traveling by night, using ingenious disguises and employing the hideouts established by the Underground Railroad.

She became an outspoken advocate for abolition, and when the Civil War broke out, she worked first as a cook and a nurse, and later as a scout and spy for the Union Army. After the war ended, she moved to a home she had purchased in upstate New York and campaigned for women’s suffrage.

Giving her prominence on the $20 bill forces the nation to acknowledge its original sin, slavery, as does demoting Jackson, a slaveowner. An accurate history further notes that the seventh president was notorious for his brutal treatment of native Americans, whom he forcibly removed from their lands. From now on, it will be difficult for history texts to ignore Tubman or to venerate Jackson.

Lew plans other changes, as well. A depiction of a 1913 march for women’s suffrage will be added to the back of the $10 bill, as will portraits of leaders of that movement. Images of Marian Anderson, Martin Luther King Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt will be added to the back of the $5 bill.

That’s as it should be. The journey toward a more perfect union demands an acknowledgment of where we’ve been.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize Winner for Commentary in 2007; Featured Post, The National Memo, April 23, 2016

April 24, 2016 Posted by | American Exceptionalism, Harriet Tubman, Women's Suffrage Movement | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Who Has A Seat At the Table?”: Walking His Talk, Obama Has Presided Over The Most Demographically Diverse Administration In History

Back in January 2013, Annie Lowrey wrote an article that surprised a lot of us titled: Obama’s Remade Inner Circle Has an All-Male Look, So Far.

…Mr. Obama has put together a national security team dominated by men, with Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts nominated to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as the secretary of state, Chuck Hagel chosen to be the defense secretary and John O. Brennan nominated as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Given the leading contenders for other top jobs, including chief of staff and Treasury secretary, Mr. Obama’s inner circle will continue to be dominated by men well into his second term.

From the White House down the ranks, the Obama administration has compiled a broad appointment record that has significantly exceeded the Bush administration in appointing women but has done no better than the Clinton administration, according to an analysis of personnel data by The New York Times.

Lowrey obviously wrote that when the administration was in the midst of transition, as many first-term appointees left their positions and the President was appointing their replacements. But it fed a meme that had been developed early on in the administration that the White House culture was dominated by men (at least until some folks decided to put a target on Valerie Jarrett’s back as the woman who was responsible for all of the President’s failings).

Recently, Juliet Eilperin revisited the whole issue of Obama’s appointments – not only of women, but a more broad perspective of diversity in the administration.

Obama has presided over the most demographically diverse administration in history, according to a new analysis of his top appointments. The majority of top policy appointments within the executive branch are held by women and minorities for the first time in history.

The transformation partly reflects a broader trend in U.S. society, but it also reflects the results of a calculated strategy by the nation’s first African American president. The shifts are significant enough, experts say, that they may have forever transformed the face of government…

O’Connell said that her research reveals that Obama has placed women and minorities in 53.5 percent of those posts. His predecessor, President George W. Bush, by contrast, installed women and minorities in 25.6 percent, while President Clinton’s number was 37.5 percent.

In order to chart that development over the last few presidents, the Washington Post provided some interesting graphs.

Due to the fact that the lead for this article was the announcement by the White House that President Obama will nominate Eric Fanning as the first openly-gay Secretary of the Army, Eilperin also notes the following:

And Fanning’s nomination punctuates the fact that members of the LGBT community have also made similar advances under Obama: There are now hundreds of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender appointees in the executive branch, compared with a handful in past administrations.

One omission in all this is the lack of any reporting on Native American appointments. I am not aware of any that the Obama administration has nominated to Cabinet positions, but the only Native American currently serving as a federal judge is Diane Humetewa, who was nominated by President Obama in September 2013 (the President previously nominated Arvo Mikkanen, but his confirmation was blocked by Senate Republicans).

When President Obama says that “everyone gets a seat at the table,” this is an example of him walking his talk.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 27, 2015

September 28, 2015 Posted by | Diversity, Executive Branch, Minorities, Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“People, Places And Things”: Donald Trump Sued Everyone But His Hairdresser

Future United States President Donald Trump sued Univision last week, after the Spanish-language network said it would not be airing Trump’s Miss USA and Miss Universe beauty pageants due to his claim that illegal immigrants are “rapists.”

Trump, who says Univision is suppressing his freedom of speech, is seeking $500 million in damages. Meanwhile, Univision is dismissing the complaint as “factually false and legally ridiculous.”

It’s a familiar predicament for Trump.

Over the past few decades, the self-proclaimed “very rich” businessman has sued people, businesses and entire cities and countries. He’s sued a newspaper, his ex wife, a quaint business card store in Georgia and a Native American tribe. He’s cried breach of contract, government favoritism, fraud and libel.

Trump sues when he is made to feel small, insufficiently wealthy, threatened or mocked. He sues for sport, he sues to regain a sense of control and he sues to make a point. He sues as a means of saying “you’re fired” to those he does not employ.

But he sues, most of all, to make headlines and to reinforce the notion that he is powerful. Below, I picked some of the highlights, through a review of news coverage of filed and threatened lawsuits.

If you haven’t yet been sued by Trump, don’t worry, the odds suggest your day might yet come. I expect to be sued for this article.

People Donald Trump Has Sued

In 1988, Trump sued Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune creator Merv Griffin for $250 million for fraud and interference with his contract negotiations with Resorts International Inc., an Atlantic City casino company. Trump ultimately sold his controlling interest in the company to Griffin, who died in 2007.

Trump sued his ex-wife, Ivana Trump, for $25 million in 1992–because she talked too much. Trump accused Trump of fraud and “willful, deliberate and surreptitious disclosure” of details relating to his finances, despite having signed an agreement that she wouldn’t talk publicly about their relationship.

In 1993, Trump and his then-wife, Marla Maples, sued Chuck Jones, Maples’ former publicist, for $35 million. They charged Jones with extortion, theft, fraud and harassment–after Jones had sued them, as well as Trump’s security staff and Maples’ mother. “The only stalking that I’m aware of was when Marla Maples was stalking somebody else’s husband,” Jones said of the counter-suit at the time.

In 2003, Trump’s son, Donald Junior, was assaulted at the Comedy Cellar in the West Village. Trump responded by threatening to sue the men charged with the crime, Anthony Pozzolano and Joseph Derrico, from Brooklyn and Staten Island, respectively. “Donald is soft spoken and wouldn’t hurt a fly,” Trump said of his son, according to the Mail on Sunday.

In 2006, Trump threatened to sue Rosie O’Donnell, then a co-host on The View, after she said he was bankrupt. Trump retaliated in an interview with The Insider, by labeling O’Donnell “disgusting, both inside and out.” He told People “Rosie will rue the words she said. I’ll most likely sue her for making those false statements—and it’ll be fun. Rosie’s a loser. A real loser. I look forward to taking lots of money from my nice fat little Rosie.”  He never sued, and ultimately, they seemed to make peace. In 2012, after O’Donnell suffered a heart attack, Trump Tweeted to tell her to “get better fast. I’m starting to miss you!” She replied, “well thank you donald—i must admit ur post was a bit of a shock … r u trying to kill me ? xx”

In 2011, rapper Mac Miller released a song called “Donald Trump,” which included the lyrics, “Take over the world when I’m on my Donald Trump shit; Look at all this money, ain’t that some shit?” Trump Tweeted at Miller to threaten a lawsuit: “Now I’m going to teach you a big boy lesson about lawsuits and finance.” Miller responded by calling Trump an “ungrateful dog!” before apologizing and asking him to be friends.

That same year, Trump threatened to sue MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell for suggesting he was worth less than $1 billion. Trump Tweeted that he was actually worth “substantially more than 7 billion dollars” with “very low debt, great assets.”

In 2012, Trump sued Miss USA contestant Sheena Monnin after she claimed in a Facebook post that the pageant was “rigged,” because the five finalists were chosen before the pageant took place. Trump called her “a beautiful young woman who had sour grapes because she wasn’t a top-15 finalist,” according to The Atlantic. A court ordered Monnin to pay Trump $5 million in damages.

In 2013, after Trump said he would donate $5 million to charity if President Obama would release all of his personal documents to the public, Bill Maher appeared on The Tonight Show and joked that he would give Trump $5 million if he could prove that his father was not an orangutan. Trump sent Maher a copy of his birth certificate. When Maher didn’t pay up, Trump sued him for the $5 million. He eventually dropped it.

The same year, Trump threatened legal action against Angelo Carusone, who had organized a petition to force Macy’s to stop selling Trump-branded products. Trump didn’t sue. Macy’s cut ties with Trump this week.

News Outlets Donald Trump Has Sued

In 1984, Trump sued The Chicago Tribune for $500 million after the publication’s architecture critic, Paul Gapp, penned an item suggesting Chicago’s Sears Tower, then the world’s tallest building, would remain as such, despite Trump’s plan to build a taller structure in downtown Manhattan. Trump claimed the story “virtually torpedoed” his dreams, according to The Associated Press, by depicting his would-be tower as “an atrocious, ugly monstrosity” even though, Trump said, he hadn’t even yet hired an architect or drawn a plan.

Trump threatened to sue ABC in 2005, after he learned the network was planning to produce a 2 hour biopic about him and his family. Trump said he would “definitely sue” if the film was “inaccurate,” according to The Washington Post, but “as long as it’s accurate, I won’t be suing them.” The biopic never happened, and he never took legal action.

In 2006, Trump sued New York Times reporter Timothy L. O’Brien, author of “A TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald” as well as the book’s publisher, Warner Books, for saying Trump is worth $150 million to $250 million when Trump claimed, at the time, he was worth $2.7 billion. Trump said the error was “egregiously false,” according to Agence France Presse.

In 2009, the suit was dismissed. Trump now claims he’s worth “$8,737,540,000.”

Places Donald Trump Has Sued

In 1989, Trump threatened to sue Palm Beach County if it couldn’t figure out a way to muffle the loud noises coming from Palm Beach International Airport.

Trump sued New York State in 1995, when a video game, Quickdraw, based off the casino game Keno, was introduced in New York restaurants and bars. The game presented a rival to Trump’s Atlantic City casinos where Keno was played, but he claimed he was really just worried that the game’s presence in New York would bring “tremendous amounts of crime” and “destroy businesses in New York,” according to CNN, because gambling addiction would render residents unable to pay their rent.

In 1997, Trump sued the state of New Jersey. At the time, Trump wanted to prevent Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn from encroaching on his Atlantic City territory with the construction of a $330 million tunnel leading to Wynn’s very own resort. Trump filed suit against the state, claiming it was illegal for New Jersey to aid Wynn’s tunnel project in any way with money it collected from casinos. The Star-Ledger reported Trump claimed that if the state used casino funds to support the tunnel, it would be”taking money from widows and orphans” the elderly, and people with disabilities.

In 2002, Trump sued New York City for $500 million, claiming that a tax assessor scandal had forced him to sell apartment in his 72-story Trump World Tower near the United Nations for below market prices.

Trump sued the town of Palm Beach, Florida in 2006 for $10 million after he was cited for violating zoning codes by flying a too-big (for non-patriots) American flag over his club, Mar-a-Lago. The lawsuit claimed “a smaller flag and pole on Mar-a-Lago’s property would be lost given its massive size, look silly instead of make a statement, and most importantly would fail to appropriately express the magnitude of Donald J. Trump’s and the Club’s members’ patriotism,” according to The Associated Press. Trump promised any damages awarded to him would be donated to Iraq war veterans. In 2007, Trump and the town settled. The Tampa Bay Times reported the town dropped the fines, and Trump donated $100,000 “to various charities for veterans of the war in Iraq, the American flag or veterans’ hospitals.”

In 2011, Trump sued Scotland. Trump claimed the government had assured him a planned offshore wind farm would never actually be constructed, and so he built a golf course and made plans for a neighboring hotel. When the wind farm was built, Trump sued the government. He ultimately lost.

Businesses Donald Trump Has Sued

Trump purchased Eastern Airlines’ shuttle service in 1988 for $365 million and planned to relaunch it as “Trump Shuttle.” But a problem arose—a different company, Trading and Finance Corp. Ltd., was already using the name. In 1989, Trump sued for the rights to the name.

In 2008, Trump sued Crescent Heights Diamond, a real estate developer, because, Trump said, they had licensed his name for a 70-story building in Ramat Gan., and then cut him out of the profits.

In 2011, Trump sued H. Pixel International Trade Ltd., an Israeli company he discovered was using his name and likeness on vodka bottles without his consent. Trump has over 700 trademarks and as of 2011, his name was commercially protected in 80 countries.

In 2014, Trump sued Trump Entertainment Resorts, which he holds a 10 percent stake in, to remove his name from the Trump Taj Mahal and Trump Plaza casinos in Atlantic City, which he said did not live up to his standard of quality.

Misc.

In 2003, Trump announced that he planned to sue the Eastern Pequots, a Native American tribe of less than 1,000 from southeastern Connecticut. Trump claimed he had spent close to $10 million helping to promote the tribe’s brand in exchange for the right to negotiate the tribe’s casino agreements. Ultimately, the tribe selected a different developer to handle their deal, which was the source of Trump’s ire.

 

By: Olivia Nuzzi, The Daily Beast, July 6, 2015

July 10, 2015 Posted by | Businesses, Donald Trump, Lawsuits | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Commemorations Of The Lost Cause”: A More Perfect Union Comes From Accounting For The Past

The Confederate markers continue to tumble — flags, statues, monuments. After Dylann Roof associated his alleged atrocity with the Confederacy, politicians fell over themselves getting away from its symbols.

While a few supporters of the Old Dixie are resolute, most leading public figures want nothing to do with commemorations of the Lost Cause. Indeed, once NASCAR declared that the St. Andrew’s cross and stars was not a fit emblem for its franchise — where that flag has been always been revered — the earth shook.

So after decades of protests over the Rebel flag and other Confederate insignia, which enjoyed prominent display in public spaces for much too long, that battle appears over. Progressives won in a rout.

But the war has only just begun. America has yet to come to terms with its original sin: slavery. Until we do, the removal of flags and statues remains a small gesture, a harbinger of a reckoning not yet come. Some 239 years after that awe-inspiring Declaration of Independence — “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” — we are still in denial about the foundations upon which this republic was built.

Most high-school graduates can probably recite the bare outlines of the infamous Three-Fifths Compromise that allowed the delegates to the Constitutional Convention to adopt a founding document. That agreement counted each enslaved human being as three-fifths of a person.

(It remains a testament to the complex nature of the human enterprise that one of the greatest thinkers on liberty, Thomas Jefferson, owned slaves. When we speak of Jeffersonian democracy, what, exactly, do we mean?)

Some high-school grads may also be aware of the Dred Scott decision, rendered by the Supreme Court in 1857. It stated that even free black men had no rights that white men were bound to respect.

But here’s a fact you probably didn’t learn in your high-school history classes: Much of the wealth that the United States acquired early on was built on slavery, that ignominious institution in which one human being may own — own — another. As historian Eric Foner has put it: “The growth and prosperity of the emerging society of free colonial British America … were achieved as a result of slave labor.”

That wealth was not confined to the slave-owning South, either. Although the planters certainly owed most of their money to their unpaid laborers, Northern institutions also profited. Northern banks, insurance companies, and manufacturers all benefited — some more directly than others — from slave labor.

This is a great country, but it has a complicated history. The building of America was a violent, oppressive, and racist undertaking, not simply a virtuous tale of brave men breaking away from the overweening British Empire. The story of Colonists who were tired of paying high taxes on their imported tea is a well-told anecdote, but it neither begins nor ends a rather more painful narrative.

And enslaved Africans were not the only ones who suffered. Following the practices established by the European conquerors, the new government stole the best land from the Native Americans, consigning them to isolated corners of the country when it did not kill them outright.

Yet, our mythology and folklore acknowledge very little of that. That’s not in the stories we tell, the songs we sing, the poems we recite. It’s not only that history classes are haphazard and superficial, but also that our common tales are woven from misrepresentations, if not outright lies. Land of the free? Not at first.

Truth be told, history is a hard sell in these United States, no matter how it’s presented. We’re a moving-on people, hustling forward, closing the books, looking ahead. That has helped us in so many ways. Unlike, say, the Sunnis and Shiites in the Middle East, we don’t consume ourselves with arguments more than a millennium in the making.

Yet our failure to acknowledge a turbulent and cruel history is a hindrance, a barrier to a richer future. We can continue to perfect our union only through a full accounting of the past.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, July 4, 2015

July 7, 2015 Posted by | American History, Confederate Flag, Slavery | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“This Is Not Your Independence Day”: Celebrating The Birth Of An Imperfect Union As The Fight For ‘Freedom’ Has Yet To Be Won

Every year, proud U.S. citizens across the country take a break from daily life to commemorate the birth of America. Dusting off the grill, buying frozen meat en masse, attempting to retreat to the nearest body of water, and putting sparklers in the hands of small children might not be exactly what our founding fathers envisioned, but who am I to argue with a long weekend? I enjoy a good fireworks show as much as the next girl. And beachside BBQs? I’m in. Red, white, and blue happens to be the color scheme of my most flattering bikini, so by all means, pass the veggie dogs and pump up the revelry.

But amidst the pomp and circumstance, please don’t wish me a “Happy Independence Day!”

The 4th of July might commemorate the independence of our country — but it also serves as a bitter reminder that in 1776, the country that I love had no place for me in it.

When our founding fathers penned, “All men are created equal,” they meant it. Not all people. Not all humans. Just all men — the only reason they didn’t feel obliged to specify “white” men is because, at the time, men of color were considered less than men, less than human.

The 4th is not my Independence Day — and if you’re a Caucasian woman, it isn’t yours either. Our “independence” didn’t come for another 143 years, with the passage of The Woman’s Suffrage Amendment in 1919. The 4th of July is also not Independence Day for people of color. It wasn’t until the 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870 that all men had the right to vote regardless of race — on paper, that is, not in practice. People of color were systematically, and all too successfully, disenfranchised for another century. July 4th of 1776 was certainly not a day of Independence or reverence for Native Americans. It wasn’t until 1924 that Native Americans could unilaterally become citizens of the United States and have the voting rights to go with it.

Now, before anyone argues that Independence is about more than voting rights, I’d like to point out that our Founding Fathers would fundamentally disagree with you. The Revolutionary War was fought, in large part, because of “taxation without representation” — the then English colonists believed they were not free because their voices were not represented. The right to vote, the right to have your say is the delineating characteristic of a democracy.

There is nothing finite about freedom. July 4, 1776 was a definitive step forward in the struggle toward freedom and democracy but we were a long way off from achieving it. And while we have advanced in leaps and bounds — my patriotic swimwear goes over way better in Williamsburg, Brooklyn than it would have in Colonial Williamsburg — we are still a far way off from the freedom and independence we’re celebrating.

A resurgence in voter ID laws put in place to once again disenfranchise minorities challenges our collective independence.

This week’s Hobby Lobby ruling — deciding that a woman’s employer has any say in her health care — is a challenge to the ideology of freedom and autonomy our country was founded upon.

The on-going fight for marriage equality prevents same-sex couples in many states from the pursuit of happiness that they are constitutionally guaranteed.

So by all means, enjoy your long weekend. Raise a beer to the ideals of progress and democracy that the 4th of July represents.

But remember that you are celebrating the birth of an imperfect union, remember that the fight for ‘freedom’ has yet to be won — and if you must wish someone a “Happy Independence Day!”, make sure you’re doing something to maintain and advance the Independence you have come to appreciate.

 

By: Carina Kolodny, The Huffington Post Blog, July 3, 2014

July 4, 2014 Posted by | Civil Rights, Democracy, Founding Fathers, Fouth of July | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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