The perso-professional website of Maurice E Dolberry, an educator, public scholar, and consultant.


All posts in Politics

Ray Lewis Missed an Opportunity to Tackle an Important Issue… But I Don’t

In the wake of the protests against police brutality and the killing of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis released a video meant to deter people who used the outcry as an opportunity to destroy property. The passion he brought to his Hall of Fame football career is there, but his rambling, out-of-touch commentary is missing almost every important historical aspect regarding why the protests and property destruction happened in the first place.

This is my take on what Ray was saying…

Maurice “Mo the Educator” Dolberry has taught grades 6 through 20, and has worked at both public and independent schools from Minnesota to Florida to Washington and other places in between. He is currently an adjunct college instructor while working on his PhD in multicultural education at the University of Washington.  Maurice has way too much time on his hands and a head full of pop culture references.  Game time!

Maurice “Mo the Educator” Dolberry ©2015

The Irony of a Nuisance: “Black Lives Matter” Protesters Stop Traffic on Dr. MLK, Jr. Day

A driver runs over "Black Lives Matter" protesters in Minneapolis

A driver runs over “Black Lives Matter” protesters in Minneapolis

Tomorrow in my class, we’ll spend part of the time discussing the irony of people who complain that protesters stopping traffic today are “in the way” and should “protest somewhere I don’t have to be bothered with it”.  Especially on a day which honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of our country’s most itinerant irritants.

But what if you were bothered by “it”?  What if “it” was such an important part of American life that you needed to stop traffic so people would pay attention?  Would Dr. King have stopped traffic to call attention to “it”?

If “it” is the same cause as Dr. King’s, then the answer is yes, whether you agree or not.

What may be a welcomed day away from work for some has a completely different meaning for others.  Dr. King and his message have regularly been appropriated and distorted.  It is also important to understand, that just as protesters today are a “bothersome nuisance” to many Americans, so was Dr. King and his message shortly before he was murdered.  The apathy and disdain shown – or not shown – for protesters who stop traffic today is similar to that which punctuated Dr. King’s time.  For most protesters, the fundamental respect for Black lives is an issue important enough to stop traffic for a few hours to draw attention.  The pessimist in me assumes that most Americans don’t agree with either premise: 1) the fundamental respect for Black lives nor 2) that it is more important than traffic.  As I have (rhetorically) questioned of my students, “If most Americans were morally and ethically opposed to the chattel enslavement of Black people, then how could it have continued unabated for a total of almost 300 years on this soil?”  I ask the same about general American support for the idea that Black lives do matter.

The media coverage I’ve seen today, I think, sums up the general American spirit: “Sure ‘Black lives matter’, but I need to drive my car on this road.  Right now.  That’s definitely more important.”  I’m betting that 200 years ago in 1815, most Americans would have responded in a similar fashion about enslaving Black lives.

Maybe the message tomorrow shouldn’t be “irony” after all.  Maybe it’s “continuity”.

Darren Wilson is Not Indicted: White Supremacy Wins

I don’t know whether Darren Wilson is a racist.  Or a White supremacist.  It doesn’t matter.  The fact that he will never face a trial by jury for killing Michael Brown is a victory for White supremacy all the same.


Michael Brown, killed by Officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014

White supremacy is an ideology.  It is based upon the belief that White culture and “Whiteness” are superior to other cultures and races of people.  It also includes the idea that the opposite of Whiteness is “Blackness”, which positions Black culture and Black people as inferior to all others.  One important White supremacist notion is that Black people are inherently and unavoidably dangerous.  Large Black men like 6’ 4” 292lb. Michael Brown are assumed to be an imminent threat to everyone around him.  Whether he was a threat to Darren Wilson on August 9th, 2014 is completely irrelevant.  Because our country operates on a White supremacist foundation, its justice system, and the majority of its people will be convinced that Brown deserved to be shot and killed.  Michael Brown’s size and ultimately his Blackness imbued him with superhuman strength and a superhuman criminality, weapons allegedly far more dangerous than the gun Darren Wilson carried.

It was 157 years ago when the Supreme Court of the United States declared that:

“In the opinion of the court, the legislation and histories of the times, and the language used in the Declaration of Independence, show, that neither the class of persons who had been imported as slaves, nor their descendants, whether they had become free or not, were then acknowledged as a part of the people, nor intended to be included in the general words used in that memorable instrument…They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.”

Dred Scott, a troublesome"property"

Dred Scott, a troublesome”property”

Those were the words of Chief Justice Roger Taney in the wake of the Dred Scott case (Scott v Sandford).  He declared unequivocally that our country never intended for Black people to be considered human beings—much less citizens—while on American soil.  Dred Scott, a Black man from Missouri, was relegated to the status of “property”; not a human, but a “slave”.  And for his benefit.  Today, a Black man form Missouri was relegated to the status of “thug”; not a human, but a “nigger”.  Whether they called him one or not, the justice system treated him like one.  That’s far worse.

Philadelphia Phillies, manager, Ben Chapman, dugout

Ben Chapman yelled an almost endless string of racial slurs at Jackie Robinson a manager of the Philadelphia Phillies

A cornerstone of racism in the United States is the use of White supremacy to systematically and systemically enforce White cultural supremacy and Black inferiority.  Conversely, we’re consistently taught that a “racist” is a person who uses one of seven or eight naughty words to describe people’s race.  I couldn’t care less.  I’ve often told people that you could put Ben Chapman outside of my apartment and have him call me a nigger to and from my car, while I’m getting my mail, and while I grill my food.  It would be annoying as hell, but I would trade dealing with that “racism” for fixing the real racism that causes the schools in my southern Seattle community to mis-educate the Black, Brown, and Yellow kids they overwhelmingly enroll, or that causes the disproportionate unemployment that affects minorities in my community.  That racism is real.  It’s a problem.  Name-calling is not.

Racism is the reason why Michael Brown’s criminality went on trial instead of Darren Wilson’s.  And the grand jury’s failure to even put Wilson on trial is the latest in a long line of events reminding us that Black lives are forfeit in the face of White supremacy in our justice system.  I know many try to argue that justice isn’t biased against colors of skin, but is biased towards green.  The implication is that the remedy for a corrupt justice system is to buy your own slice of the iniquity.  I’m not into finding solutions that don’t answer fundamental problems, so that’s a non-starter.

While Robert McCulloch was telling the world about the victory for White supremacy in Missouri, I was at work tutoring.  I was helping college students in a sociology class learn how racism, classism, and chauvinism undermine equity and justice in our society.  A Black man teaching a group of young White men that part of responsible citizenship is ensuring fair treatment and opportunity for everyone—especially those who are currently impugned by systems designed to relegate them to less-than-human status.

White supremacy and racism continue to rot the very core of our country.   But little by little, those of us fighting for social justice are finding ways to cure the infestation.  It is one way we can do our part to get justice for Michael Brown, when our justice system will not.



How Detroit Went Broke, According to the Detroit Free Press

Detroit's mayors since 1950

         Detroit’s mayors since 1950

The Detroit Free Press posted an excellent piece on why Detroit declared bankruptcy.  It’s long as hell but well-written, well-researched, and as much as anyone can, tells in simple terms what is a complex set of issues.  No one person or entity is wholly exonerated or held wholly responsible, but all are analyzed for their roles in helping to fight against and/or causing Detroit’s downfall. .  Some unions are taken to task – and as a pro-union guy, I’m sensitive to those things – but not unfairly so.  Ultimately, this is an excellent example of public scholarship, and the type of research I do.

(And I like how they try to end once and for all the scapegoating of Coleman Young for Detroit’s decline!)

I’m interested to know what you all think:

Click here for the original article

“I Hate Myself!”: What are Respectability Politics, and Why do Black People Subscribe to Them?

Sgt Waters

Adolph Caesar as Master Seargant Vernon Waters in the movie A Soldier’s Story

You may not be familiar with the term “respectability politics”, but you’ve heard them before.  Maybe you’ve even engaged in them.  Whether it’s Don Lemon’s recent rant, actor Romany Malco’s open letter to Trayvon Martin sympathizers following the George Zimmerman trial, Bill Cosby’s 2004 “Pound Cake speech” and even The Talk co-host Sheryl Underwood’s remarks about nappy hair, respectability politics remain an enormous part of our conversations about Black American culture.

So what exactly are respectability politics?  In short, they are an undefined yet understood set of ideas about how Black people should live positively and how we should define Black American culture.  Ironically, they’re usually a huge hindrance to both.
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Gov. Bobby Jindal Wants to End Race? No Thanks.

Louisiana Governor Piyush “Bobby” Jindal

I used to believe people were confused about the meaning of words involving social justice.  I figured when someone referred to any discussions about race as “racist” he or she was simply misinformed.

Now, I know better.

Some people have redefined words like “racist” in order to avoid talking about race.  Others do so purposefully in order to maintain the power and privilege that come with being in a racial majority.  And you can actually find people who are members of racial minorities in both of these groups, even when it works against their own best interests.
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Rand Paul Visited my Alma Mater: Thanks for Trying…

…no really.  Thanks for trying.

I do recognize the importance of Rand Paul being the first Republican elected official in decades to speak at Howard University.  And while I think it’s silly at best to call such an effort “courageous”, it does speak to the importance Paul places on reaching out to voters his party has marginalized at about a 90% clip

…or does it?
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