Lee Hubbard

We Are Family

Atlanta, Georgia was the scene of the Hubbard-Spann family reunion during the first weekend in August. Atlanta, the capital of the New South, has a lot to offer, but my family had a serene reunion in the woods of the Simpsonwoods retreat center, outside of the city, which is used by the Methodist Church for religious retreats and spiritual renewal.

Coming together has been an ongoing thing for black families from Sunday dinners and birthday parties to funerals, but the family reunion craze really didn’t take off until after the Roots series premiered on television in 1976. After this series appeared, thousands of black families began reconnecting their roots with reunions that have taken place in different regions of the country annually and semi-annually, during the summer months of July and August.

Atlanta is a short distance from Macon, Mississippi, where the Hubbards and the Spanns intermarried and the families lived side by side on plantations, until the great black migration north and Midwest during the late 1930s through the 1950s. It was during this time of vicious racist actions against blacks in Mississippi that hundreds of thousands of blacks -- including most of the Hubbards and the Spanns -- migrated from Mississippi to the north and the west, were racism was less fierce and opportunities were more available to some.

Now back in the south, I sat up listening to my grandmother and great-aunts swap stories of the past as if they happened yesterday. I heard of how my great-uncle Daniel Spann was accused by the sheriff of Macon of illegally helping someone evade the law. Although Daniel had committed no crime, the sheriff felt entitled to question him and regulate black movement based on his whim. My great-grandmother Liza Jane Spann, however, felt it was a cynical attempt on the sheriff’s part to get her land, which was about 200 acres. The sheriff knew that Liza Spann would mortgage her land or just about do anything to get her son out of jail, though she had no way of paying off the mortgage. After family and friends counseled her to be patient, Liza Jane decided to let her son stay in jail for a few weeks. When the sheriff saw she wasn’t going to mortgage the land, he released my Uncle Daniel.

Despite the terror that was perpetrated by white terrorists against blacks, and connivers, who tried to take family land, the family stood strong. This isn’t the case of just one family; there are thousands and even hundreds of thousands of stories like this, and one of the things that bound the family together was the love and respect that black folks had for each other.

According to Dr. Julia Hare, of the San Francisco-based Black Think Tank, family reunions are a way to reflect upon issues of importance to family and a way of keeping the family intact.

"About 100 years ago, 90 percent of the black family was headed by two-parent, married couple households," said Hare, who is also co-author of "The Endangered Black Family." She said this figure could be attributed to the fact that during slavery, blacks weren’t allowed to marry, but after slavery was abolished, blacks rushed to marry and strengthen the family unit.

Today the black family is in a crisis. According to census figures, married couples head only 46 percent of black families. Dr. Hare says the break-up of the black family began when blacks started picking up many of the societal norms of the dominant culture. This was aided by the disappearance of industrial work that took place in the cities in the early 1970s into the ‘80s.

This one-two punch drove jobless men away from their families, and it helped contribute to a culture that is present in a small segment of the black community. A disconnect took place between the youngsters and extended family and many of the positive traditions and rituals that were practiced and taught by the elders began to disappear.

Although it will take a lot of things to restore the black family, one of the first steps that could do some good is the concept of the family reunion. It’s a retreat, where one can visit loved ones, talk over the good times and the bad and get back to the basics and the meaning of the family -- which is the commitment and the love that is shared with one another. This is something I have learned to appreciate every other year when my family reunion takes place.

Lee Hubbard writes on hip-hop, national and urban affairs. Email him at superle@hotmail.com. He is a contributor to AlterNet’s book, "After 911: Solutions for a Saner World."

Hip Hop Nation Meets the Civil Rights Generation

"We never said we had a perfect city, we never said we didn't have problems," said Newark New Jersey Mayor Sharpe James as he addressed his supporters at the Service Employees International Union, Newark. "But we've certainly come a long way."

James had just come from voting for himself in a contentious election for mayor of Newark, in which federal poll observers had to be called in to monitor the race. James beat his opponent, freshmen Newark Councilman Cory Booker, 56 to 43 percent, in a heated campaign that spotlighted the generation divide within the black community and how this divide will become a prevalent issue within the African American community for years to come.

This could be seen in the make-up of the two candidates. Booker, a 33-year-old highly educated Ivy League black politician -- an upstart "New Democrat -- and James a 66-year-old Newark civil rights pioneer. While Booker had just moved to the Newark area 6 years before, James has been a Newark resident all of his life.

Booker advocated the use of school vouchers to get black students out of failing schools, decried government corruption and leading up into the campaign, he had made headlines for himself by holding a hunger strike outside a drug-infested housing project, and living in a trailer in front of some of the Newark's worst neighborhoods, to draw attention to the crime in the areas.

James, a long time political player in New Jersey politics, was one of the first black councilmen in Newark. During the campaign, he talked about the progress he helped to usher in as Newark's mayor. He took credit for a 50 percent drop in crime in the city, and the re-development taking place in Newark. Various Downtown businesses such as Prudential, Blue Cross, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and a minor baseball stadium in recent years.

While both James and Booker are Democrats, the friction on the political campaign between the two, is a good example of the divide taking place between the civil rights generation and the hip-hop generation.

"The black generation gap is a divide that is as vast as the one that separated white America in the 1960s, as radical white youth culture broke from the mainstream and swept across the country," said Bakari Kitwana, author of "The Hip-Hop Generation: Crisis in African-American Culture."

On the campaign trail, James called Booker an interloper and he questioned his black authenticity.

"You have to learn to be an African-American, and we don't have time to train you all night," said James of Booker.

James also brought out two stalwarts of the civil rights movement, the Reverend Jesse Jackson who called Booker a "wolf in sheep's clothing" and the Reverend Al Sharpton, to campaign for him. This helped to bring out older blacks to vote against the young upstart.

Booker had Spike Lee campaign for him, calling him the "right thing." He also talked about change and bringing efficiency to Newark government so everyone can benefit from the development and changes Newark was experiencing. He made a further drop in crime, more investment dollars into Newark, and a change in the educational system as his main campaign goals.

While Booker downplayed James comments on his authenticity, the comments point to the resentment some older blacks feel towards younger blacks. This gap can be found in continuing disputes over rap lyrics (dismissed as "obscenity" by many older blacks) and the casual use of the "N-word" as a term of endearment by many younger blacks.

It also can increasingly be seen politically. According to a recent study by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies found that younger blacks (ages 18 to 25) were six times (24 percent versus 4 percent) more likely than those ages 51 to 64 to say that the lack of good candidates is a reason not to vote. On issues such as on school vouchers, blacks under 50 are much more likely to support school vouchers than blacks over 50. At 33 million, blacks make up about 12 percent of the U.S. population, and of that number, 18 million are under the age of 30.

This group, often called the ``hip-hop generation,'' is much more politically independent than their black elders who went through the civil rights movement. While this challenge of the status quo was apparent in the Newark mayoral race, its also taken place in other cities. This could be seen in the November 2001 Detroit mayoral race between 31-year-old state Sen. Kwame Kilpatrick and 69-year-old Detroit City Council member Gil Hill.

During that race, Hill made an issue of Kilpatrick's age, saying voters should choose "an experienced driver at the wheel, not someone with a learner's permit." While Booker lost to James the seasoned politician, Kilpatrick won in his race against Hill, as voters expressed change.

As Black America changes, blacks from the hip-hop generation will want to lead cities, organizations and corporations and there ambition may come at the expense of blacks from the older generation. While this may be inevitable, if the black community is to succeed, the young will need wisdom and guidance of the older generation. To make that happen, both sides of the gap must mend fences, acknowledge there past errors and foster dialogue between the generations. Hopefully, James and Booker can do this one day.

Lee Hubbard writes on hip-hop, national and urban affairs, and he can be reached by e-mail at superle@hotmail.com. He is a contributor to AlterNet's book, "After 911: Solutions for a Saner World."

Black and Bush

While most Blacks regarded President George W. Bush with skepticism as a presidential candidate in 2000, as the U.S. prepares to launch a military strike on Afghanistan, African American leaders, like most Americans, have rallied to support the commander-in-chief.

In the 2000 election, Bush's rival, Al Gore, won 90 percent of the Black vote to Bush's 8 percent, and Black suspicion of Bush only grew after reports of voter irregularities and allegations of Black voter disenfranchisement in Florida. In the opening months of his presidency Bush tried to counter widespread African American mistrust by making minority political appointments and backing policies most African Americans support, such as educational reform. But these overtures did little to win over most Blacks.

And when the Bush administration decided to pull out of the United Nations' World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, in August, the move solidified the suspicion among Black leaders that Bush was not serious about issues of concern to African Americans.

"Black leadership was geared up to make a stand against Bush after the UN conference on race," said Dr. Robert Smith, a political scientist at San Francisco State University and the author of "We Have No Leaders," which discusses Black leadership in the U.S.

But all that changed as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In the wake of the deaths of more than 6,000 people, and at a time of fear and insecurity, Black political leadership has been largely supportive of President Bush.

Following the President's national address two weeks ago, a CNN/USA Today Gallup poll reported that 90 percent of Americans approved of President Bush, the highest presidential job approval rating ever measured by Gallup. While specific statistical Black support for President Bush and his performance is not known, Black leaders have expressed their support for Bush or have muted their previous criticism of him. Within Congress, only U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) voted against granting President Bush the authority to strike back at the alleged perpetrators of the terrorist attack.

"I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States," said Lee from the House floor. "This resolution will pass, although we all know that the President can wage a war even without it."

But Lee's colleagues, Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), all of whom normally vote with her on defense and military issues, disagreed with Lee's position and chose to support the President.

"Black leadership has been with Bush, because this was an attack on us [America]," explains Smith. "First of all, there were a lot of Blacks killed in the terrorist attacks. Many also feel that the persons involved in the attacks have to be punished for this."

The unified, and unifying, sense of outrage has led Congressional leaders who are usually the President's fiercest critics to speak favorably on his resolute handling of the crisis.

"The President has done an adequate job in terms of leadership," said Millender-McDonald, adding she would give Bush a "75 to 85 percent" approval rating for his handling of the crisis. She said his sternness in the face of adversity has calmed the nation, and she praised the way in which he has stressed the theme of national togetherness.

In a similar reversal, Black civic and religious leaders have also expressed support and encouragement for Bush. At the NAACP convention in July, Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP, was highly critical of the Bush administration, saying that Bush's top judicial nominees hailed from the "Taliban wing" of the Republican Party, whose "devotion to the Confederacy is nearly canine in its uncritical affection."

But since Sept. 11, Bond has changed his tune.

"We praise President George W. Bush for his visit to Washington's Islamic Center and his forthright stand against hate crimes and racial and ethnic profiling," Bond said.

Even Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan, known for his relentless criticism of U.S. government and American foreign policy, struck a supportive note in his remarks on the attacks and the Bush administration's response. Speaking at a Sept. 16 press conference at Mosque Maryam in Chicago, Minister Farrakhan noted that an America once sorely divided after the 2000 election had been united by the unprecedented tragedy.

"The Congress has been deeply divided, and no amount of political skill or political money could unite America behind its President, but tragedy did," said Minister Farrakhan, who spoke while flanked by American flags. "No amount of political skill could unite the Democrats and the Republicans, but tragedy did. No amount of preaching by all of us who preach could make the many diverse elements of society come together as brothers and sisters in a unified expression, but tragedy did."

And while the NOI rhetoric has not historically embraced a sense of American patriotism, Farrakhan seemed proud to claim and defend his U.S. citizenship and heritage. "I was born in this country in New York City," he said. "And though the pain that Black people have suffered in America has caused me to be angry with the country of my birth, however, in my maturation, I know that with all of America's problems, she's the greatest nation on this earth. And in spite of America's problems, America has the potential to become the greatest nation ever."

Farrakhan said he supports President Bush's effort to bring to justice the individuals or governments responsible for the attacks. "We stand with President Bush, the government and the people of the U.S. in their desire to hunt down those responsible for this heinous crime against humanity," he said.

Similarly, immediately after the attacks, the Rev. Jesse Jackson quieted his criticism of Bush, although he noted that the terrorist attacks were a sign that "there is a body of people alienated from our country," and that America's "tendency toward isolation makes us more vulnerable to acts of hostility."

Since then, after leading prayer vigils and laying low for weeks, Jackson briefly flirted with a possible visit to Afghanistan after receiving an invitation from the Taliban.

The diverse opinions about a potential Jackson intervention highlight the possibility that Black leadership will not continue its unanimous support of the President forever. In the wake of Rep. Lee's stand, other criticism has been seen -- but it has been mostly silent. Political analysts like Smith believe that most Black leaders and citizens will remain behind Bush as long as he is focused on apprehending and punishing the perpetrators of the terrorist acts.

"Bush has a free hand to retaliate any way he wants to, in regards to bin Laden and Afghanistan," said Smith. But, he added, this could change if such retaliation develops into extended military action in other regions of the Middle East. "If he goes beyond that, in terms of attacking Syria or Iraq, then I think you will see some objections from Black leadership," added Smith.

Lee Hubbard can be reached by e-mail at superle@hotmail.com.

Anti-Arab Backlash Grows

In America's zeal to find and punish those responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11, the focus on Arab and Muslim suspects may be causing a wave of jingoism and scapegoating. Threats and hate speech have been directed against Arab Americans, transmitted in anonymous phone calls, email messages and websites.

In one case, gunshots were fired into the windows of an Islamic center that includes a mosque and a school in Richardson, Texas, a Dallas suburb. Attacks like this have put many Arab Americans on alert.

"We brought the police in today and we also hired private security," James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, a Washington-based political and policy organization, told Reuters. "Our hope, of course, is that it doesn't get worse, but we just don't know."

Sam Hamod, President of the American Islamic Institute, said that threats have been made to mosques in Ohio, San Diego and Detroit, but he said that as far as he knows no one from the Arab and Islamic communities has suffered bodily harm.

"The vast majority of the American people have been sane," said Hamod. "But there is always a crackpot fringe in every society and in every ethnic and religious group."

In addition to Americans of Arab descent, the scapegoating has targeted Islam as a religion. Muslim leaders in some areas have cautioned congregants who wear traditional Islamic clothing -- such as veils on women -- to stay at home, rather than face possible misplaced retaliation.

And some fear that the legitimate search for the culprits could become a witch-hunt in which everyone's civil liberties are trampled. "The biggest danger is that a state goes beyond the limit of acceptable precautions in the name of security, and tries to safeguard itself by scrapping the very freedoms and principles it's trying to defend in the name of counter-terrorism," Peter Chalk, a Rand analyst who specializes in domestic terrorism, told the San Jose Mercury-News. "Plenty of states have done that."

Indeed, reports Wednesday of a man being detained on a train outside Boston developed into a story of false identification - the man, a Sikh, was seen as "suspicious" for wearing a turban, traditional for men in his culture. Many expect such profiling to increase in the wake of Tuesday's events.

For Hamod, a man of Lebanese descent and a practicing Muslim, the threats, accusations and blame being pointed at American Muslims and Arabs is sad and misplaced. Born and raised in Gary, Indiana, Hamod taught American history at Howard University in Washington, DC, for many years. The attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon violated his freedom as an American, he says, adding that true Muslims would never have committed such a devastating crime.

"If someone who calls themselves Muslim did this maniacal deed, they are not behaving like Muslims," said Hamod. "They are behaving like animals."

Hamod goes on to say he wants the culprits found and punished quickly - but he doesn't want his neighbors to view him as the enemy because of his religious and ethnic heritage.

"I am just as American as the next person, because I was born here just like anyone else," said Hamod. "I have probably educated some of their children in universities where I was a professor. Anyone who discriminates against someone else because of their ethnic background, race or religion is anti-American, because we are a nation of immigrants."

While America may be a nation of immigrants, last week's horrific events have provided an excuse for many Americans to express hatred toward Arabs and Muslims. In the days following the attacks, bomb threats shut down several Arab American charter schools in the Detroit area, home to one of the largest Arab American communities in the nation. On Wednesday night, 300 people - some carrying American flags - were stopped by police in the Chicago suburb of Bridgeview, Illinois, after trying to march to a mosque.

In San Francisco, a plastic bag labeled as pig's blood was thrown through the front door of Minority Assistance Services (MAS), an organization serving mostly Middle Eastern immigrants. According to San Francisco police, someone called the MAS office and said the package was "for your brother Osama bin Laden."

These events are not going unchallenged by Americans who feel that this xenophobia can be poisonous. Figures from all over the political spectrum, including President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Attorney General John Ashcroft, have denounced the scapegoating of Arabs and Muslims.

"We must not descend to the level of those terrorists by targeting Americans based on race or religious origin," Ashcroft said in a press conference. "That is in direct opposition to the ideals that America stands for."

Congressman David Bonior, a Michigan Democrat, echoed this theme, saying that anti-Arab bigotry needs to be fought and challenged. "I come from Michigan, home to hundreds of thousands of Arab Americans and American Muslims," Bonior told Reuters. "Already, leaders in the community there - patriotic Americans who every day give so much to this country, who have condemned these attacks, and who are as sickened by the carnage as everyone else - have been getting death threats. Such hateful prejudice offends us all."

Immediately following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, many American Arabs and Muslims came under attack when it was still widely believed that Muslims or Arabs were responsible. This pressure and hostility would last until Timothy McVeigh, a white American, was found, charged and convicted of the bombing, which was until last week the biggest act of terrorism ever committed on US soil.

The American Civil Liberties Union has set up a phone line for Arab Americans to report threats, violence or violation of their civil liberties. "We want to collect information and take appropriate action if necessary," Dorothy Ehrlich, executive director of the San Francisco office, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

This may relieve some of the tensions felt by many American Arabs and Muslims, but many say the crimes, threats and anger directed against them must be fought and spoken against by all Americans.

"Those who commit these crimes against American Arabs and Muslims are anti-American and anti-democratic," said Hamod. "The people doing this are as much a part of the lunatic fringe as those who committed those maniacal deeds in New York and Washington."

Does the GOP Have Racial Amnesia?

Kweisi Mfume, president of the NAACP, recently met with House majority leader Richard Armey to discuss racial harmony. The meeting was described as cordial and productive, but if so, it was only because the leaders ignored the history of the GOP's racist past.

Mfume was responding in part to a letter Armey had sent him, declaring that "It has become an all too common practice to spread unfounded, racially charged falsehoods against Republicans for political advantage. If left unchallenged, this practice will continue to divide our nation, polarize our political parties, and do untold harm in the lives of real people who are unjustly accused of conspiracy against the civil rights of African Americans."

After the meeting they held a joint press conference to talk about trying to heal the canyon between the GOP and the African-American community. One of the things that Armey did not talk about, however, was the GOP's history with the black community, espescially the last 30 years, that have caused African Americans to treat Republicans with suspician and in many cases outright hostility.

At one time, the GOP was the party of blacks, and they religiously voted for the "party of Lincoln." They were attracted to its message of freedom and self-help. While black voting for the GOP decreased after Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, blacks still had high regard for the Republican Party, especially since the Democratic Party had long been in the grip of the "boll weevils" -- Southern senators like Stennis, Eastland and Bilbo -- who blocked nearly all civil rights legislation for the first half of the 20th century. Black people voted Republican by a 60-40 margin in the 1956 election that returned Eisenhower to the presidency for a second term.

This changed, however, when race become central to the Republican Party's national strategy, especially in the South, now the main region of power for the GOP. Arizona senator Barry Goldwater began the Republicans' catering to Southern racism in his 1964 presidential race against Lyndon Johnson. Realizing a large share of the black vote was going to Johnson, who was working on crafting the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, Goldwater came out against it, and went for states' rights instead. This helped him ride the wave of white backlash, and he carried the five Deep South (Dixiecrat) states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. This was unheard of for a Republican at the time.

That same year, Strom Thurmond, the then segregationist Democratic senator from South Carolina, saw the writing on the wall and switched to the Republican Party. "The Democratic Party has forsaken the people," said Thurmond at the time. "It has become the party of minority groups, power-hungry union leaders, political bosses and big businessmen looking for government contracts and favors."

Four years later in 1968, Richard Nixon's "Southern strategy" used tactics from the Goldwater and the Dixiecrat playbook of George Wallace to play on white fear and resentment by labeling blacks "welfare cheats" and "laggards." The white backlash to the Civil Rights Movement and to LBJ's Great Society programs (which, paradoxically, gave poor Southern white people unprecedented access to health care, education, and job training) helped elect Nixon, and the party wrote off black voters completely.

"Substantial Negro support is not necessary to national Republican victory," said Kevin Phillips, the mastermind behind the Nixon strategy. "The GOP can build a winning coalition without Negro votes. Indeed, Negro-Democratic mutual identification was a major source of Democratic loss and Republican party profit in many sections of the country."

Since then, some Republicans across the country have played to these fears to gather white votes. Ronald Reagan declared that he "believed in states' rights" when he kicked off a presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where civil rights martyrs Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman were murdered, fighting states rights and attempting to help blacks get registered to vote. Once in office, Reagan used the racialized image of "welfare queens" who drive Cadillac's, and he led an all out assault on affirmative action laws calling them "reverse racism."

Vice President Bush picked up the mantle in his presidential run in 1988 with the infamous Willie Horton ad campaign, which basically depicted all blacks of being criminals (sadly, inequitable law enforcement practices and sentencing disparities threaten to make that caricature a reality).

Some of the Republican brush-off of blacks has been unintentional, and some has been blatantly malicious. That is why blacks didn't buy the "compassionate conservatism" of George W. Bush, who received 8 percent of the black vote in the 2000 presidential election against Al Gore, especially after Bush refused to take a stand against the flying of the Confederate flag issue in South Carolina -- Bush's play on Nixon's old Southern Strategy.

While Armey may not want to hear the recent history of his political party, it is something he will have to address. If he can address this, and Mfume can be honest about the NAACP's recent actions, then maybe something can come out of the recent meeting. If not, they met for meeting's sake.

Lee Hubbard can be reached by email at superle@hotmail.com with any questions or comments.

Black Internet Culture Growing Despite Digital Divide

You probably read the story -- a low-budget movie, using guerrilla marketing techniques, makes a big splash, number one at the box office on the weekend it opens.But the movie is Malcolm Lee's "The Best Man," not "The Blair Witch Project," and it has gone on to gross over $34 million -- despite little media coverage. And a large share of the credit belongs to African Americans on-line who pushed the film.The success of "The Best Man" is a good example of the growing Internet culture within the black community. It offers a sharp contrast to the usual discussions on the subject of African Americans and the Internet which tend to see only the "digital divide" between blacks and whites.This can be traced to a report released last year by the U.S. Department of Commerce called "Falling through the Net" which found whites are more likely to access the Internet from home than blacks or Hispanics from any location. The report stated that black and Hispanic households are approximately one-third as likely to have home Internet access as households of people of Asian decent and roughly two-fifths as likely as whites.This set off a frenzy of activity. At the Unity journalism conference -- which drew black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American reporters to Seattle last year -- Vice President Al Gore called the digital divide the nation's number one "civil and economic issue."The Reverend Jesse Jackson jumped in and met with executives in Silicon Valley to address the issue. He has also set up an office there to monitor the situation.And at his last State of the Union address, President Bill Clinton made closing the digital divide one centerpiece of his speech. A few days later he unveiled the "click start" program under which the federal government will issue vouchers to needy families so they can get Internet access.While these words and actions have put a spotlight on the issue, the so-called digital divide is shrinking on a daily basis.A survey by Cyber Dialogue counts close to 5 million black Internet users and the Chicago-based Target Market News reports blacks spent $1.3 billion on computer related products last year, a 143% increase over the previous year."People of color are going on-line in droves, and we are seeing an explosion in this new medium," said David Ellington, who founded Netnoir.com, the first black on-line and multi-media service, in 1995. "The Internet is now becoming relevant in our lives as a result of e-mail and chat sites."The boom in black computer usage is making some analysts question talk of a digital divide. "The numbers show there really isn't a digital divide between blacks and whites," said Ken Smikle, founder of Target Market News.If there is a gap, it is between the haves and the have-nots. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a black Washington D.C. based think tank, found that 11% of African American households with incomes under $15,000 reported using the Internet at home or work, while 83% of blacks with incomes over $90,000 used the Internet -- a higher percentage than whites at that income level.Such studies are rarely echoed when there is talk about the digital divide. Instead the focus has been on dis-empowering people. "Some of this rhetoric is positioning African Americans, in need of help," said Ellington. "And personally, I believe that black people have proven that when technology becomes relevant to us, we embrace it."If there is a problem, it is one that needs to be addressed by all Americans as the country moves into becoming one driven by technology. As computer prices drop, blacks and other people will jump on-line in record numbers.This will shatter the digital divide that politicians talk about, but rarely explore.

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