Margaret Kimberly

Why We Don't Want Bill and Melinda Gates Controlling the WHO Response to Ebola

Sierra Leone has waved the white flag in the face of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). Its meager infrastructure has buckled under the onslaught of a disease which could have been curtailed. The announcement that infected patients will be treated at home because there is no longer the capacity to treat them in hospitals is a surrender which did not have to happen. Not only did Europe and the United States turn a blind eye to sick and dying Africans but they did so with the help of an unlikely perpetrator.

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How Not to 'Bring Back Our Girls'

Bring back our girls. The message is a simple one that resonates with millions of people around the world. Those four words were first seen in a now famous twitter hashtag in the aftermath of the kidnapping of 280 teenagers from a school in Chibok, Nigeria on April 14, 2014. The Boko Haram group which is fighting that country’s government admits to holding the girls captive.

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Why Cops and Prosecutors Get Away With Throwing Innocents in Prison

The ironically named criminal justice system in this country is good at prosecuting and creating many criminals but not very good at producing any justice. The United States would not have the largest prison population of any other country on earth if it did not also have the harshest prosecution and sentencing system of any other country. America’s addiction to racism and violence creates outright criminality among police and prosecutors. Their misconduct is tolerated and even encouraged and the result is an untold number of innocent people in jail.

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Jail for Sending Their Kid to School? How America Treats Black Women and Children Like Criminals

We are told that the Republicans are waging a war on women. It is true that they are on an endless quest to restrict access to abortion, if not outlaw it altogether, and want to prevent insurance companies from paying for contraception. In Wisconsin, the Republican governor recently signed legislation which repealed that state’s equal pay enforcement act.

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How the Right Uses People of Color to Foster Racism

White supremacy, sensing the need to repackage itself for consumption in polite company, partially fills the demand for racist bile by outsourcing to mercenary writers of color. Michelle Malkin and Dinesh D'Souza -- of Filipino and Indian descent, respectively -- are top guns of the genre, ever eager to slander non-whites, especially Blacks, as threats to Euro-American white "civilization."

For premium fees, Malkin and D'Souza act as trusted Gunga Dins and shock troops for fascism. The corporate media makes advocates of racism and white American supremacy very rich. American racism also gives certain non-white people advantages. They are able to escape the indignity that black Americans face. They are then able to disassociate themselves and become allies with the very worst and most dangerous aspects of political life in this country.

Michelle Malkin, born Michelle Maglalang, is a dark skinned Filipino-American who loves the worst that white American civilization has to offer. Malkin is a darling of the right wing, a blogger and author who is eager to advocate invading other nations, and spewing hatred of immigrants in general and of Muslims in particular.

Malkin constantly rails against immigration, complaining about "drive by" and "accidental" citizenship attained by the children of immigrants who she and others label "anchor" and "jackpot" babies.

Malkin never told her loyal readership that her father came to the United States in 1970 on a temporary work visa. She was born in October 1970. Malkin is herself a jackpot baby, given automatic citizenship when her parents were not even permanent residents. The truth may set you free, but it doesn't get you on Fox news.

In 2002 Malkin wrote that the internment of thousands of Japanese-Americans was "wrong and abhorrent." Who knows if she ever believed those words, but times changed quickly and there was a book deal waiting for an Asian who would approve past and future efforts to profile and then incarcerate non-white people.

Malkin is not just a self-hating Asian. She is a two-faced liar, having condemned Japanese internment just two years before defending it in print. In 2004 she wrote In Defense of Internment: The Case for "Racial Profiling" in World War II and the War on Terror. When racists fantasized about interning Arabs, she helped provide ammunition:

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Civil War in America

Every year the Sons of Confederate Veterans use the North Carolina statehouse to celebrate their annual Confederate flag day ceremony. It has become more common in recent years for some white Southerners to openly wax nostalgic for the days when their ancestors fought and died to preserve slavery.

It is easy to see a connection between present-day yearnings for a return to Dixieland and renewed efforts to threaten voting rights. It is less obvious to see similar connections with trends elsewhere in the country. South Dakota is a long way from South Carolina, but that state recently joined the battle to turn back the clock on civil rights and return to the bad old days when white men ruled and everyone else was subservient.

The legislature in South Dakota voted to outlaw abortion except in cases where the mother's life was endangered. Even rape, incest and fetal abnormality will no longer be legally justified reasons for abortion. Republican state Sen. Bill Napoli described the only instance in which he thought abortion would be justifiable.

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How A Swann Became An Ugly Duckling

Former football star Lynn Swann recently announced his candidacy for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Pennsylvania. Swann has no qualifications to be a Governor. In fairness, that makes him no different from Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose only qualification to govern California was movie stardom. If unqualified white people can run for office and win, it is hard to argue against unqualified black people doing the same.

Athletes have always made attractive political candidates. They have instant name recognition and popularity. Voters have warm and fuzzy feelings for them. Swann was a legendary player with the Pittsburgh Steelers when they won four Super Bowls in the 1970s. He is good looking and articulate. Those are solid political credentials in this country.

In recent years Swann began earning his Republican bona fides. He is Chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. While campaigning for George W. Bush he actually called him "the most qualified and credible candidate" and managed to keep a straight face.

Swann hasn't said very much about what he plans to do should he be elected. He is in favor of "responsible" tax cuts, sounds like "compassionate" conservatism, and is against abortion. He also says that Democrats take black voters for granted. He clearly knows the GOP mantra by heart.

Swann was a Democrat until he saw the light and joined the GOP. Who knows if he had a change of heart or if he saw the political light. If he is being cynical then he has made a sensible move.

The incumbent Governor is a Democrat, unlikely to be challenged for a second term by his own party. A black Republican is still enough of a rarity to get attention for being a Republican. In addition, it is hard to tell the ambitious and unprincipled that they should stick with the loser Democrats.

Of course, Swann might be a true believer in the Republican agenda. Even so, it doesn't bode well for black Pennsylvanians.

Only registered Republicans will be able to vote for Swann in a Republican primary. That means he would win his party's nomination only by appealing to the political demands of conservative, white, high-income voters. In other words, he can't win if he addresses the needs of the black community.

For all of Swann's strengths, he still has the same disadvantages that burden every other black candidate for a statewide office. His pollsters will have to account for white people who will claim to support him but get cold feet upon entering a voting booth.

In addition, for all their talk about increasing support in the black community, the Republicans haven't really promoted any viable black candidates. Their goal in claiming they will reach out to black voters is more of a ploy to attract fence sitting white voters who like to pretend they are truly compassionate and conservative.

But they may be on to something. There may be enough black voters who will succumb to the siren song of race pride and vote for the guy who looks like them, especially if he is a celebrity. If a race is close, and enough black voters can be peeled away from the Democrat, Swann might be able to win.

Ironically, Swann does have a story to tell that would be of interest to black voters. In 1974 he was a star player at USC who was chosen as the Steelers first round draft pick. After celebrating his success with his brothers and a cousin he had an experience that made him a true brother with thousands of other black men.

San Francisco police stopped Swann and his party for going through a red light. A scuffle ensued, 11 officers in a total of five patrol cars were called to the scene, and the Swanns were all arrested and charged with assault. Eventually they were awarded damages, but so were the cops who countersued them.

If Republicans want to appeal to black voters they should start talking about the issues that matter to us, issues like police brutality. Instead of us trying to convince us that we don't need Social Security, or that we should admire Condi's war making abilities, why not promote a candidate because he was arrested for driving while black?

Swann should certainly give up lame statements like this: "We need to get over the issues of color and focus clearly on talent and work ethic. But we've been saying that since 1620." Swann was always talented and hard working, but it didn't prevent him from wrongly ending up in the long arms of the law just like his less fortunate brethren.

Swann will just repeat GOP talking points. Police misconduct is not on that list of issues. He certainly won't bring up the subject himself and if forced to discuss it will probably apologize for being mistreated. The incident certainly won't be mentioned in his stump speech.

Instead of a Democrat who takes black votes for granted, we are now seeing black Republicans who take our votes for granted. They think we won't care when they support policies the rest of us reject. Black Pennsylvanians should tell Swann they are grateful for the memories, but their politics won't change for the sake of his political ambitions.

A Bitter Pill for Black Hearts

It is hard to oppose an effort that purports to improve health care for African Americans. Black people suffer more from everything bad, including ill health. When a drug company announced that it would market a heart failure treatment specifically for use by blacks, the silence from otherwise thoughtful persons and organizations was noticeable but not very surprising.

In 1997 the federal Food and Drug Administration declined to approve BiDil, a treatment for heart failure. BiDil is actually a combination of two generic drugs used to treat chest pain and hypertension. The FDA concluded that there was no proof of BiDil's effectiveness. That should have been the end of BiDil, until good old-fashioned capitalism and marketing turned its fortunes around.

BiDil has now been approved for use in black heart failure patients. It is the first drug in America that has been approved specifically for the use of one racial or ethnic group. NitroMed, the pharmaceutical company that will produce BiDil, acted very shrewdly. The drug maker achieved this success by giving the heads up to black leadership, lest it be accused of recreating the infamous Tuskegee experiment.

NitroMed first went to the Congressional Black Caucus, the National Medical Association and the NAACP. The drug company was "aware of the political fallout if they did not have African American participation," said B. Waine Kong, executive director of the Association of Black Cardiologists. Too bad the participants didn't ask a question or two in the process.

We are told that BiDil showed great success in black patients. That doesn't mean very much because it was only tested on black patients. There is literally no evidence that the drug works better on one racial group than on another.

NitroMed did what other pharmaceutical companies have always done. It gave money to people who later gave its medication the thumbs up. The Association of Black Cardiologists co-sponsored the clinical trials for BiDil, received $200,000 from NitroMed, and enthusiastically supported the drug's approval.

That arrangement wasn't unusual. In July 2004 the National Institutes of Health published a study urging millions of Americans to take statin drugs in order to lower their risk of heart disease. It was later revealed that eight of nine authors of the study had financial ties to makers of statin drugs. The ties were not made public when the dubious findings were first announced.

No one knows if BiDil is very effective or safe. If it isn't it will not be different from other drugs given FDA approval that were later discovered to be dangerous. Fenfluramine was marketed as Redux, a drug used to treat obesity. It was taken off the market after causing cases of heart valve damage and pulmonary hypertension. How many commercials exhorted consumes to ask their doctors about Vioxx and Celebrex? We now see commercials from law firms exhorting us to pursue malpractice suits against the makers of those drugs.

Past experience indicates that BiDil shouldn't be greeted as a health care panacea for anyone. It should be treated like all newly approved pharmaceuticals, with great caution if not suspicion. As Raymond Woosley, vice president for Health Sciences at the University of Arizona, advised Public Television, "Americans need to recognize that every time they put a pill in their mouth, especially a new pill that they've never taken before, it's an experiment. How big an experiment depends on the pill and how well it's been studied."

NitroMed is using black people to get a drug approved that it couldn't get approved otherwise and in the process maintaining a patent that keeps cheaper generics off the market until the year 2020. "[I]f BiDil is approved for African Americans only, the drug will have patent protection to 2020," wrote Motley Fool biotechnology industry analyst Karl Thiel. "That's because patents based on this demographic were filed after studies showed the drug was ineffective in a broader population. If the drug is approved for a general heart failure audience, older use patents will apply and the drug would appear to have exclusivity only to 2007."

BiDil isn't the 21st Century equivalent of the Tuskegee experiment. It is an example of what the pharmaceutical industry now does best, which is to produce drugs with dubious effectiveness that guarantee them large profits. NitroMed shares have risen from $6 last July to more than $19 when approval was imminent.

There should be an outcry over BiDil. A system that allows millions of people to go without health insurance, and consequently creates conditions such as heart failure, is now using those same people to repackage two generic drugs as a sort of medical magic bullet. Surely many of the African American heart failure patients would have been better off with universal health care, not a profit making gimmick that does them little good.

BiDil is more than just another example of the market place run amuck. It also gives justification to beliefs about biological differences between races. These beliefs are never expressed for the benefit of black people. BiDil makes it more difficult to argue against theories of racial superiority and inferiority. BiDil's supporters, regardless of their race, should not be let off the hook when this drug becomes the latest justification for the dogma of white superiority.

It doesn't matter that African American physicians or other leaders vouch for BiDil. The health care system in this country serves the profit motive more than it serves up good health. BiDil is just the latest example. The market place is definitely not the place to cure broken hearts.

The Truth About Tulia

Tonya White is a very lucky woman. Ms. White lives in Tulia, Texas but she was in a bank in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma at the same time she was accused of dealing drugs in Tulia.

The terrible injustice perpetrated on residents of Tulia, Texas is not a new story. Forty-six innocent individuals, 39 of them black, were arrested, tried and convicted for drug dealing, solely on the word of former police officer Tom Coleman. Coleman is now under indictment for perjury.

Here in New York City crooked cops find it necessary to plant evidence in order to win convictions, but not so in the Texas panhandle. Coleman had no evidence, not wire taps, videotapes or even the drugs that had allegedly been sold. Yet he succeeded in getting sentences of up to 99 years in these cases.

I first read about the Tulia case in Bob Herbert's New York Times column. Attorneys in Texas, New York, and Washington, many of them volunteers, were all part of the successful defense effort. The result is that all of the defendants have been freed and 35 have been pardoned by the governor of Texas.

I watched a story about Tulia on the September 28th season premier of 60 Minutes and it was truly painful to revisit. Some of the cases were dismissed because the accused were able to prove they were at work or, like Tonya White, not in Tulia during the alleged drug dealing. One defendant, Joe Moore, is a pig farmer living in what I can only describe as a shack. That alone should have been evidence that he wasn't a drug dealer. I always thought that drug dealers plied their trade to avoid living in shacks.

Correspondent Ed Bradley interviewed Coleman in an exchange that was both frightening and comical. Coleman was defiant but kept addressing Ed Bradley as "Sir." The former cop admitted using the word nigger many times but when asked if he would address Bradley that way he replied, “Oh, no sir, not you.” He still maintains that the defendants were drug dealers, even when presented with Tonya White’s proof of being in Oklahoma. The strangest question from Bradley was, "How has this affected your life?" Tom Coleman is not yet behind bars. Because of his actions 46 people were imprisoned unjustly and lost their freedom for more than three years. I hope I was not the only viewer who wasn't concerned about Coleman’s life. But surprisingly, this segment was not the most disturbing portion of the broadcast.

Bradley spoke with Elaine Jones of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, whose attorneys played a key role in overturning the convictions. Ed Bradley asked a very predictable question, "How did this happen?" Ms. Jones stated the obvious when she said, “The defendants in Tulia are guilty of being Black and living in Tulia.” She went on to say that the town was too small to have a market for drug dealing on such a scale, and also blamed the excesses created by the war on drugs.

My initial reaction to Ms. Jones’ statement was that such a heinous injustice required more than a matter of fact explanation about population size and overzealous bureaucracy. But in fairness to Bradley and Jones, I am sure that their conversation was much longer than the snippets shown to viewers. They may have discussed the nature of racism, the farce that is the war on drugs, and how that led to Tulia and other cases of police and judicial misconduct. Elaine Jones and her colleagues who worked on this case could tell us all a lot more if they were not constrained by the need to allow time for real news, advertisements, and the genius of Andy Rooney.

However, the rest of us are under no such restrictions and should use these much needed if incomplete news reports as an opportunity to speak honestly about Tulia and other injustices. The sad truth is, these convictions occurred because of white supremacy. Tom Coleman had credibility with jurors because he has white skin. He didn't need wiretaps or fingerprints. A white face declaring black guilt was sufficient evidence to get prison sentences for non-existent crimes.

Talking about white supremacy takes a lot longer than sixty minutes and is difficult for people of every race to acknowledge. It is easy to call a member of the Aryan Nation or KKK a white supremacist. They give us an out by publicly embracing their beliefs. But what do we say about physicians who treat white and black patients differently, or the loan officers who refuse mortgages to blacks and Hispanics who have the same income as whites?

The words white supremacy are so loaded, and conjure up such horrible images that it is no surprise most people aren’t willing to own them, even as they reject the more qualified job applicant or hire him but pay less than he deserves. The pain it causes is so terrible that even victims are in denial. As Tulia defendant Freddie Brookins Jr., said, "I can't just dwell on being angry. If I stay upset about it, I can't go on with my life.” Most of us have not had his experience, and yet his words are familiar. We acknowledge racism but don’t dwell on it too much because we want to live our lives without anger and bitterness.

But we are still angry and bitter. We waste time asking questions that more often than not have an obvious and simple answer. “Why am I followed around in the store?” Answer: white supremacy. “Why does the world stop brutality in Bosnia but not in the Congo or Liberia?” Answer: white supremacy. “Why doesn’t Angela Bassett get more and better roles?” Answer: white supremacy. I could go on with important and unimportant issues alike but you get the idea. When these questions arise we should take a deep breath, count to ten and then say, “White supremacy.” The initial discomfort will be overcome by a feeling of freedom. Our circumstances may not be any different, but the willingness to tell the truth will be liberating.

People of color are imprisoned unjustly, victimized by police brutality, die earlier than they should and are excluded from the opportunities this country has to offer, all because of a belief that white people are superior and more deserving than non-whites. It seems that this belief also causes otherwise worthy sources of information to address even the most egregious examples of racism in a superficial manner. I don’t expect anyone at CBS to have a serious discussion about white supremacy, but I would have thought that a more in-depth analysis would take place in telling the story of Tulia. It didn’t happen. The reasons are obvious.

Margaret Kimberley is a freelance writer in New York City.  She can be reached at margaret.kimberley@blackcommentator.com.




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