Congressional Black Caucus turns down Trump invitation

June 29, 2017 


Associated Press 

The Congressional Black Caucus turned down an invitation to meet with President Donald Trump, telling him Wednesday they believe their concerns are falling on “deaf ears” at the White House and his policies are devastating to the millions of Americans in the nation’s black communities.

A White House spokeswoman said the development was “pretty disappointing” and pledged to arrange for individual members to meet one-on-one with Trump.

Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond told Trump in a letter that his proposed budget, his efforts to dismantle Democrat Barack Obama’s health care law and actions by Attorney General Jeff Sessions are detrimental to many African-Americans. Rich­mond said the caucus had expressed its concern several times, including in eight letters and a document, but the administration has failed to respond.

“The CBC, and the millions of people we represent, have a lot to lose under your administration,” Richmond wrote. “I fail to see how a social gathering would benefit the policies we advocate for.”

Trump and top members of the caucus met in March, but Richmond said there has been no follow-through on promises like helping black lawmakers meet with Trump’s Cabinet.

Specifically, the caucus criticized Trump’s budget proposal, which would cut money for Pell Grants for low-income college students and eliminate the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps seniors and others on fixed incomes heat their homes.

The caucus singled out moves by Sessions on drug prosecutions and civil rights enforcement, and complained that the House GOP health care bill that Trump celebrated during a Rose Garden ceremony would “strip millions of black people of their health care.”

Richmond’s letter responded to an invitation from Trump aide OmarosaManigault, chief spokeswoman for the White House Office of Public Liaison.

“It’s pretty disappointing that Cedric Richmond has decided to go back on his commitment to meet with us,” Manigault said in a telephone interview.

She said caucus members who were excluded from the March meeting have been reaching out to her personally, as well as to the White House legislative affairs team, seeking one-on-one meetings with Trump to discuss issues their constituents are concerned about.

“We will do that because they have made those requests and we will honor those requests,” Manigault said. “That’s not going to be deterred because of Cedric Richmond’s political gamesmanship.”

Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., said caucus members want substance from the White House, not a social event.

“We want to talk and deal with issues that are of concern to the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and we’ve not gotten any response,” Meeks said. “My opinion and the opinion of most of just about all of the members of the CBC is that the board met (with Trump). They gave him substantive issues which we wanted to deal with and they have not been dealt with.”

Meeks added, “Until we can deal with substance and issues what’s the benefit of a meeting.”

NNPA Honors Martin Luther King III with Lifetime Legacy Award

June 29, 2017 

By Stacy M. Brown 

NNPA Newswire Contributor 

The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) honored Martin Luther King III with the 2017 Lifetime Legacy Award, as the group wrapped up its annual summer conference, at the Gaylord Convention Center at the National Harbor in Maryland.

King, the oldest son of the iconic civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., said that the tribute tops all others he’s received, because the Black Press has meant a lot to his family, especially his father, as he fought for freedom, justice and equality.

“The NNPA is one of the most impactful institutions our community has and every week the newspapers of the Black Press reach at least 22 million people in our communities,” said King. “And every week the Black Press tackles issues that we deal with, that we cannot find in the mainstream newspapers.”

King continued: “The Black Press provides the information that’s needed for African-Americans and if not for the Black Press, I would say that, during the Civil Rights era, my father would not have been successful. The African-American [journalists] had their ears to the ground to what was important in our community.”

King, who attended the awards ceremony with family members, graduated from his father’s alma mater, Morehouse College, with a degree in political science. While at Morehouse, King was selected by former President Jimmy Carter to serve in the United States delegation to the Republic of Congo for participation in their centennial celebration ceremonies.

Like his father, King participated in many protests for civil rights and one of the more notable acts of civil disobedience came in 1985 when he was arrested at the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C. protesting against Apartheid and for the release of freedom fighter Nelson Mandela.

“This is a special time,” King said, as he spoke to NNPA members, friends and industry leaders in attendance at the award ceremony.

Showing a lighter side, King quipped, “I like the word ‘legacy,’ but it means you’re getting older.”

King also talked about the impact of social media and how it can be difficult to understand the shorthand that some young people use to communicate via text and social platforms like Twitter.

“I have to ask the kids to tell me what these things mean, because I don’t do Twitter or Facebook,” he said.

Striking a more serious tone, King, the former president of the legendary Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said that the Black community “must do better.”

King continued: “We have to educate our community. We, as a community, have the ability to do much more.”

In an effort to help African-Americans realize and capitalize on the vast spending power in the community, King founded Realizing the Dream, a foundation that is focused on helping community-based organizers to ignite investment in local neighborhoods and to foster peaceful coexistence within America and abroad.

“If we decide to divest, or even talk about [boycotting] some of the companies where we are spending billions of our dollars…we won’t see insensitivity,” King said.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., the president and CEO of the NNPA, said that the organization was especially proud and delighted to present the prestigious award to King.

“For decades, more than anyone else, Martin Luther King III has continued to personify and represent the living legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for freedom, justice and equality,” Chavis said. “He has carried on his father’s legacy quite honorably, quite admirable, and quite successfully.”

In 2008, as former president and CEO of the King Center, King spoke on behalf of then-Democratic Presidential Nominee Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention, where he highlighted the need for improved health care, quality education, housing, technology and equal justice.

King also served on the Board of Directors for the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy and co-founded Bounce TV, the first independently-owned, digital multicast network featuring around-the-clock programming geared towards African-Americans.

“I remember going to my mother’s alma matter in Ohio and seeing the statue of Horace Mann which was inscribed with the words ‘be ashamed to die until you have won some kind of victory for humanity,’” King said.

“As a child, those are words that are very powerful. As an adult, I say we can win victory at schools, we can win victory in our places of worship, we can win victory in our cities, our counties, our states, our country and some may win in our world.”

King continued: “I say, be ashamed to die until you have done something to make your community better.”

7 Powers Not Seen in Netflix’s Luke Cage

There’s a reason it’s called a screen ‘adaptation’

Partner Content by truth


Some powers make sense in comics but aren’t possible, practical, or sensible for the screen. Other powers, though, don’t make sense period . Sorta like tobacco, so we teamed up with truth to put together a few powers that TV Luke either didn’t get, or didn’t get right.

Super Fashion Sense

The yellow disco-blouse “classic” costume, probably the second weirdest thing about Luke. The first weirdest thing is that Marvel wants you to believe that’s actually a leather jacket. By comparison, the fact that the “jacket” became bulletproof as part of Luke’s experiment seems downright reasonable. Yes, part of the process for making Luke into a super soldier was raiding Cher’s wardrobe and then letting (making?) him wear the stolen goods. Far be it from us to question the rigorous testing standards and control variables of illegal jailhouse super scientists or their government sanctioned experiments, but this all seems… off. But even if it doesn’t add up, Luke’s fashion senses paid off later when they help him to find and defeat a vampire based solely on its footwear (honest).


Okay, maybe this is the weirdest thing

Super Animal Cruelty

Our Luke’s got a bit of a dark side when it comes to animals. Apparently during the first hour of his hero-ing, Luke ran out of humans, buildings, and construction vehicles to pummel. And yet, he still had fists. Comic Scientists theorize that the one and only solution to this problem was for Luke to go after the entire animal kingdom. As evidence they cite the embarrassing number of issues (old and new) where Luke went after every creature, great and small. Every creature. We’re talking snakes, big cats, even lion tamers. Oh yes, you read that right: one of Luke Cage’s arch enemies, his Two-Face or Doc Ock, was either Siegfried or Roy. Actually, he’s fought at least two lion tamers, so I guess it was both.


This happens too often to be anything but personal. Seriously buddy, get help.

Super Night School

Luke is shown to have an impressive knowledge of the law, second only to Daredevil. Their two key differences are:

1. Daredevil can’t see how ridiculous Luke looks in that outfit.

2. Luke uses his knowledge to better skirt, bend, or even break the law as a hero for hire. Presumably, Luke’s legal cram sessions were him taking 13 volumes of American Jurisprudence Legal Forms and trying to fit them all under Doctor Doom’s rib cage.


Dude has no play when it comes to his legal fees.

All this was over the theft of $200 . Meaning an Avenger caused an international incident over a crime that could have gone to small claims court when he could have fought something closer to home.

My absolute favorite thing about Luke is his relationship with his wife and daughter. From the fact that they named their daughter “Danielle” after Luke’s buddy Danny “Iron Fist” Rand (who has a similarly ridiculous costume) to the extent Luke will go to in order to protect the ones he loves. Luke has the biggest heart and the worst fashion sense of any Marvel hero. He’s also the only one with a Lifetime Ban from Ringling Bros.


The Cage Family: So heartwarming, it almost makes up for all those animals Luke murdered.

Super Trash Talk

A lot of heroes crack wise, including Luke’s buddy Spiderman. But Luke takes it to a new level. Not only does he bring a blistering barrage of insults that would impress Muhammad Ali (the clear inspiration here), Luke follows that talk up with action. The best example is the tale of Luke’s nickname, “Power Man.” As it turns out that name was already in use by a villain, Erik Jonsten. Luke didn’t know that before he started using it and got the 70s version of a DMCA takedown notice; an invitation to a fight. Jonsten showed up on time, in his costume, and full of threats. Things were going well for him… until Cage actually arrived and calmly punched some knowledge into him. When the other Power Man came out of his power coma, he decided it would be easier to just to order new stationery.


This is what happens when you take the Internet’s advice on Fair Use Laws, Eric.

While Luke was waging a war in Harlem to build a name for himself in the late 70s, Big Tobacco companies were fighting their own battle to decide who would be the biggest name in menthols. “The Menthol Wars”* which lasted until the 90’s, saw corporations dispatching company vans to high traffic areas in African American communities in order to hand out free cigarettes, among other marketing tactics. All to be the biggest name in menthols. Now, 88% of African American smokers use menthol cigarettes, and they have the highest rates of tobacco-related cancer.

The Menthol Wars overlapped with Marvel’s first Secret Wars, from which Luke was absent. We’re not saying that Luke stayed home to smash the engine blocks out of cigarette vans, we’re just saying that the records of that time on Earth are extremely spotty and covered in a lot of motor oil.

Check out this video from truth to learn more about how Big Tobacco targets African American neighborhoods.

*Yerger, V. B., Przewoznik, J., & Malone, R. E. (2007). Racialized Geography, Corporate Activity, and Health Disparities: Tobacco Industry Targeting of Inner Cities. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 18(4A), 10-38.

This is a special advertising section. Read more about IGN’s policies in our Standards and Practices.

Who to Believe, Your Lying Eyes or the Truth?

Jun 29 2017 / 8:36 pm

Trump and Netanyahu converse at the Israel Museum. (Photo: WH, Flicker, file)

By James M. Wall 

Bibi Netanyahu and Donald Trump have one thing in common: They both have as much credibility as the man who killed his parents and then begged the judge for mercy because he was an orphan.

Why should we believe what they say? President Trump is an accomplished prevaricator in a job he is clearly not qualified to hold.

But we know that already.

What concerns me at the moment is the way in which Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu follows the classic colonial playbook by living a lie and inducing the colonized to fight among themselves.

The current internal Palestinian conflict involves a severe drop in medical care and adequate electrical power in Gaza, two essential elements which must be provided for a civilian population.

Instead of providing, Bibi Netanyahu greatly reduces these elements from Gaza and then lies that he is not to blame. The harsh truth is that Israel has occupied the West Bank and Gaza for fifty years.

Occupiers are responsible for the occupied whether for one year or fifty years.

If you feel as though you are just now arriving to see a movie that has been running for an hour, its because this current movie, a Gaza-West Bank blame game, has been evolving on the screens of the Israeli and Palestinian media.

Preoccupied with the Donald’s twitters and threats, the American press has largely ignored the story of lies about Gaza. To our media, it is a conflict waged within a distant land between “long-time foes”.

To Palestinians, it is not a conflict. It is an occupation that blames the occupied.

To catch you up on the latest set of Bibi lies, here is some background:

Israel’s occupiers “withdrew” from Gaza in 2005.  But the occupiers did not “withdraw” Israel’s control over what is now an outdoor Gaza prison in which essential ingredients of life–food, water, medical care, and electrical power–remain completely in Israeli hands.

To remind Gazans who holds the power, Israel stages vicious military attacks and periodic wars against Gaza citizens.

The 1993 Oslo Accords looked at the time like a good stop-gap measure. It was, in reality, a moment in history when Israel sold the world and occupied Palestinians a package of wampum disguised as a “peace process”,

The Accords were never intended by Israel to bring peace. That was an Israeli lie.  The Accords were decorative beads, intended as a cover to pretend reaching for peace agreements while Israel remained busy expanding its settlements, and tightening its control over all aspects of Palestinian life.

Then, as colonialists are wont to do, they sold that same peace process wampum to the U.S. congress and its Israeli allies in American media and cultural institutions.

The lies that sustain the Israeli–driven “peace process”,  are rooted in greed and control, which derive from the evil twins of racism and religious bigotry.

You wish to see racism and religious bigotry? Both are on display in this week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to allow a Trump ban against all travelers from six Muslim nations to stand.

The caveat that the ban would not apply to travelers who had U.S. family or institutional ties, is sheer racial and religious bigotry.

The Trump ban tells us to ignore these words engraved on the Stature of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

It is that same spirit that rejects Liberty’s call and leads Bibi to blame the medical and electrical shortage in Gaza on a Gaza-West Bank struggle for political leadership.

If this spirit is not racism/religious bigotry, then what is it?  I first encountered this racist/bigotry nonsense in my childhood in a racist White-controlled American South.

That same racist/bigotry began with American colonialism conquering a continent against the resistance of Native Americans. It now extends to all facets of our American life and culture.

The embedded racism in our nation makes Bibi’s racist lies an easy sell in the land built on the backs of Native Americans and African Americans.

Two sources from the front lines explain the conflict Bibi has cultivated. The first report from the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, demonstrates how the PA and Hamas have allowed their own quest for power inside the prison to control their actions. It begins:

While much attention has been focused on the cutbacks to Gaza’s electricity, testimonies from the Strip indicate that for the past two months the Palestinian Authority has also been blocking Gaza patients from leaving the Strip for medical treatment.

Gazan Palestinians are reporting unexplained delays in receiving permits from the PA in Ramallah to leave the Strip for treatment in Israel, Jordan or the West Bank. These testimonies have been reinforced by data received by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, indicating that the PA Health Ministry has stopped facilitating this treatment for Gazans.

To whatever extent these are true reports, and not completely fabricated, it reflects the poor leadership  that has evolved among the Palestinian factions. What goes on between Bibi and Mahmoud Abbas, the long-reigning PA president, is never an equal interaction.

Abbas runs a vassal state under Israel’s absolute control.  What little he gains from Israel in his role as PA president, it is granted because Bibi expects subservience in return.

I envision that relationship with Bibi as a Mafia boss allowing deliveries to  Mahmoud Abbas’ neighborhood stores.

Is Abbas getting what he can from his Boss by trying to undermine Hamas in a conflict inside the prison?

I saw that same desperate subservience unfold with Christian leaders desperate to help young students leave Communist East Germany for education elsewhere.

A second source on this story is this Palestinian Ma’an News Agency report, which rejects the Hamas accusations and denies that The Palestinian Authority (PA) “has been preventing Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip from leaving the territory for medical treatment, and said Israel was responsible for denying Gazans the exit permits, which has had fatal consequences in recent weeks”

Whom are we to believe? Statements from the Occupier with the power or “the PA’s medical referral department in the southern district, Bassam al-Badri, who told Ma’anthat Israel was accountable for the deterioration of the medical situation in Gaza’”

Al Badri adds that, “by denying exit to thousands of patients via the Erez crossing so that they may be treated in hospitals in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem”. Al-Badri also points out that “only 50 percent of medical permits were approved as a result of the Israeli restrictions”.

There is no doubting that health care inside Gaza “has greatly suffered as part of the decade-long Israeli siege, with Israel limiting medical equipment allowed in and restricting travel for doctors seeking further medical training and specialization”.

Closely related to the reduction in medical care is the reduction in the delivery of electrical supply to Gaza. Palestinians there are reduced to a few hours of power a day. This had caused a “devastating” impact on hospitals.

Bassam al-Badri also told Ma’an that the Palestinian Ministry of Health transfers between 1,600 and 1,800 patients to the West Bank and Jerusalem every month.

One-fourth of those transfers are cancer patients.

Two sources from the front lines of limited medical care and electrical services, arrive at the same conclusion: The situation in Gaza is dire.

Exactly who is to blame? We must conclude that with all the Palestinian squabbling over internal control, one government, and one government alone, is responsible.

Israel has the power and the responsibility as the occupier, to serve the human services needs of the Palestinian citizens of the West Bank and Gaza.

– James M. Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Visit his blog.

Posted by on Jun 29 2017 . Filed under Articles, Commentary, slider . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 . You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Diddy slams racism in America

Diddy believes America is an inherently racist country. The New York-born music mogul has claimed racist attitudes are deep-rooted in American society and despite Barack Obama serving as the US' 44th President from 2009 until 2017, Diddy insisted the … RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News

WaPo Writer Accuses Bruno Mars Of Appropriating Black Culture And Funk Music

The Washington Post’s Jenn M. Jackson has had enough of people praising Bruno Mars and is accusing the singer of appropriating black culture and funk music for financial gain.

Before the “24K Magic” singer even took the stage at the 2017 BET Awards Sunday night, Jackson fired off a tweet criticizing the musician for appropriation and launched into a full-on rant when other Twitter users reacted.

“I really need y’all to stop with this Bruno Mars praise and be more critical about the ways we understand appropriation,” Jackson began.

“Bruno Mars does not identify as black. Let’s get that clear at the outset,” she clarified. “He is a non-Black person of color (POC) who has recently decided that singing Funk music is economically productive.”

Jackson then criticized fans under the belief that Mars is simply reviving a genre that has faded from the musical spotlight over the past few decades.

“These claims that Bruno Mars is ‘bringing funk back’ are erasive to Black Funk artists who pioneered the tradition. FUNK. NEVER. LEFT.”

“Yes, he gives ‘credit’ to funk artists on occasion. He also has a primarily white audience which has no memory or care for black artists,” Jackson argued. “In Bruno’s case ‘brining Funk back’ essentially means, ‘Funk was a Black thing and now I give it to white people.’ That’s appropriation.”

Jackson continued to argue with other Twitter users throughout the awards show and on into the next day defending her opinion.

“Taking our shit and repackaging it for white people is not innovation. Even if these non-Black ppl sing well, it’s appropriation. Period.”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Vindictive session draws to a close

As the 2017 General Assembly session draws to a close, reporters, pundits and partisans will all soon be putting their session wrap-ups together, reminding us all of what has happened in the last six months at the Legislative Building in Raleigh.

It would be a mistake to start the review in January when the session formally convened. This session really started a month before that, in December, when Republicans adjourned a special session called for hurricane relief and immediately convened another one — with no notice or warning — to take power away from newly elected Gov. Roy Cooper who would be sworn into office a few weeks later.

Much of the legislation passed in that unprecedented session is still tied up in the courts and the fallout from it — and the subsequent additional power grabs by legislative leaders when the General Assembly reconvened in January — has come to define this unusual political year in North Carolina.

It is as if the Republicans who run the House and Senate have not yet accepted the fact that voters elected Cooper and Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein last November.

The House and Senate both voted this week to override Cooper’s veto of their budget and blasted his opposition to their plan as somehow breaking promises he made to the voters.

The sadly predictable and anemic budget underfunds education, gives more tax breaks to corporations and millionaires and includes a host of devastating provisions, like one ending state funding of legal services for low-income families.

Teachers, state workers and state retirees all get smaller raises than they deserve, especially in a year with a budget surplus, and the budget ends retirement health care benefits for workers who are hired beginning in 2021.

Then there are the stunning cuts, almost a million dollars from Cooper’s office and $10 million from the Department of Justice that Stein was elected to lead that will force him to lay off 123 attorneys who work to keep the people of North Carolina safe.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said the cuts were made because he didn’t like the way Stein was doing his job.

Cooper had no choice but to veto the inadequate and spiteful budget, even if the override was also inevitable.

While legislative leaders were slashing budgets in departments that Democrats run and cutting the UNC School of Law by $500,000 because some liberals work there, they were giving more funding and authority to newly elected Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, who spends of lot of his time avoiding reporters who are understandably curious about his positions on controversial education issues.

The budget singled out a few employees at DPI for dismissal because they had the gall to volunteer for the campaign of Democratic Superintendent June Atkinson. The budget also fired the primary staff person of the State Board of Education because legislative leaders are angry with the board, even though it is run by Republicans, because board members are opposed to turning over more power to Johnson.

None of these decisions had anything to with saving money, they were vengeful political acts not financial ones. Not only did Johnson receive funding for 10 new positions, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest received a new position for his office, too, and a protection detail for himself and his family.

Then there’s the nonchalance of House and Senate leaders to the unanimous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that the legislative districts they drew in 2011 are unconstitutional because they pack African-American voters into a handful of districts to minimize their power and increase the power of Republicans elsewhere in the state.

Gov. Cooper called on lawmakers to convene a concurrent special session to redraw the districts but legislative leaders brazenly refused and are now asking the courts to give them more time, the ultimate goal to have yet another election with illegally gerrymandered districts drawn to consolidate their power.

Then there is the assault on the courts, shrinking the size of the N.C. Court of Appeals to try to prevent Cooper from appointing judges to replace ones who retire. Lower court races were made partisan against the advice of most people involved in the criminal justice system.

Then this past week, Rep. Justin Burr floated a scheme to redraw judicial and prosecutorial districts in an obvious attempt to elect more Republicans. There wasn’t time to pass it, but it is likely to be considered in a coming special session.

There were a few noteworthy achievements this year, most notably ending the practice of trying 16- and 17-year-olds who commit crimes as adults and the passage of legislation to improve the state’s expunction laws to allow people who make mistakes to move on with their lives.

But overall, forward-looking legislation was few and far between this session. Legislative leaders were more interested in power and revenge. Far-Right ideology was on display, too, but this year it came with an even more bitter edge — with a little old-fashioned corruption thrown in for good measure.

The budget included a giveaway to a chemical company represented by a former Republican House Speaker and $100 million in spending in projects that were added to the budget at the last minute to reward allies of the leadership and feather the nests of their own districts.

It was the perfect ending to a session that did not feature any vision or plan for the future of the state, just spite and payback and anger from legislative leaders, all in the shadow of the President they support who has made an art form out of bullying and intimidation and has the historically low approval ratings to show for it.

There is talk of several special sessions to come to this fall, one to redraw legislative districts and consider Burr’s partisan attack on the courts, and one to consider a raft of constitutional amendments.

Legislative leaders can read the polls. They know that people in North Carolina are not happy with their ideological rampages and power grabs and they may try to cement some of their worst ideas in the constitution to make it harder to reverse them.

Maybe that is the silver lining in this gloomy, blustery and bitterly partisan session: that the folks in charge can see the writing on the wall. Their days may be numbered. People have had enough.

Chris Fitzsimon is founder and executive director of N.C. Policy Watch.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus. comments powered by Disqus

“Stop-and-Frisk” for Caregivers: How Expanded Mandated Reporting Laws Hurt Families

2017 0627custody2(Image: Lauren Walker / Truthout)

This story is the tenth piece in the Truthout series, Severed Ties: The Human Toll of Prisons. This series dives deeply into the impact of incarceration on families, loved ones and communities, demonstrating how the United States’ incarceration of more than 2 million people also harms many millions more — including 2.7 million children.

Imagine your child casually mentioning to her pre-K teacher that she sleeps with you and your partner in the same bed. Or your kind but nosy new neighbor, who has just dropped off some food, noticing that your six-month-old baby sometimes sleeps with you instead of in a crib. Co-sleeping or “bed-sharing” is common, and according to a number of experts, beneficial. However, many states‘ child protective services departments, and the American Academy of Pediatricswarn against it.

If your pre-K teacher suspects your sleeping arrangement is a form of child endangerment, they are legally obligated to call child protective services (CPS). Across the US, teachers are designated as “mandated reporters” to child protective services. But increasingly, mandated reporting laws are expanding to include nearly every single one of us. In 18 states across the United States, if your nosy neighbor, or any other person, suspects that you are putting your child in danger in some way, they are mandated by law to contact CPS and report your actions — potentially resulting in a disruptive investigation and the possible removal of your child.

Co-sleeping is just one of many prevalent practices that can be considered “neglect” in the eyes of some child services agencies. Harm done to children is, of course, a real and serious problem. Yet, in addition to acts of physical harm — which make up only a small percentage of the substantiated reports — a wide range of behaviors can be classified as “neglect” or “abuse,” including personal substance use, and, in some states, a parent being a victim of domestic violence (if a child witnesses that violence). In states with universal reporting requirements, even the most misguided suspicion of abuse or neglect technically necessitates a phone call that could set a devastating legal process in motion that, in many cases, harms both parents and children.

Eighteen states now have “universal” reporting requirements, making all residents mandated reporters to child protective services, with exceptions in most states for defense attorneys and in some states for clergy. More such bills are in the works around the country. For example, in Illinois, a 2017 House bill would have essentially made all residents of the state mandated reporters. The proposed bill died in committee, thanks to the efforts of advocates, but other efforts are alive and well in other states.

The trend toward universal mandated reporting laws has been gaining steam since 2011. Why?

Mandated reporting laws were expanded in Pennsylvania after Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted on 42 charges of sexual abuse, and an investigation revealed his actions had been previously reported, but dismissed, by co-workers and supervisors. Sandusky was convicted in 2011, and the following year saw an explosion of new legislation, and not only in Pennsylvania: 105 state bills on child abuse reporting were introduced in the first few months of 2012. Ten states enacted expanded reporting laws by June of that year.

These expansions of mandated reporting are often seen by the public as unquestionably beneficial, but they are rife with consequences.

Consider Natasha Felix, a Latina single mother, whose children — ages 5, 9 and 11 — were playing in a Chicago park next to her home on a summer day several years ago. Felix allowed the children to play outside for about a half hour. She asked her 11-year-old to keep an eye on his siblings, and Felix periodically checked on the kids from her kitchen window. An adult at the park noticed the three children playing without a caregiver present, and called the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) to make a report. The judge who reviewed Felix’s case pronounced the situation “neglect,” explaining that the two older children, who had been diagnosed with ADHD, were not taking medication. The children’s doctor had said that they did not need to do so over the summer. However, DCFS assumed that the 11-year-old child’s diagnosis made him unfit to supervise his siblings. Although Felix was eventually cleared of the “neglect” charges, the family endured an invasive investigation and a DCFS finding that severely disrupted their lives, including Felix’s employment, according to her lawyer Diane Redleaf, founder of the Family Defense Center.

“Even though she did nothing wrong in letting her kids play outside, her career was deeply affected and her ability to support her children put on hold — because she worked as a home health aide — after she was wrongly labeled a child neglector,” Redleaf said.

Illinois currently does not have universal mandated reporting. In a state with such a law on the books, how many more situations like Natasha Felix’s would arise? How many more families would find themselves the subjects of DCFS investigations?

Beyond the fact that co-sleeping does not equal child endangerment, not all families are at equal risk for being the target of a mandated report. For example, many middle-class and wealthy white parents engage in co-sleeping as a part of “attachment” parenting — an approach to child-rearing that emphasizes fostering a close bond between parent and child. They are less likely to be targeted than families for whom a lack of space or resources, or kinship and cultural norms, necessitate or normalize bed-sharing. In other words, whether caregivers or parents are singled out by child protective services often hinges not on whether they’re actually endangering their children, but on race, class and geography. Parents and caregivers who are most likely to be targeted are those who are part of marginalized groups that are already under surveillance.

“Expanding mandated reporting is like stop-and-frisk,” Dorothy Roberts, author of Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare and a law professor at University of Pennsylvania, told Truthout. “Because of individual and institutionalized racial bias in child maltreatment reporting, like the bias in police surveillance, these seemingly neutral practices that are supposed to increase safety end up unjustly punishing people of color.”

Data has shown that states that have recently expanded mandated reporting have received significantly more complaints coming into CPS hotlines. Notably, after CPS investigates, the vast majority of these complaints do not end up being substantiated.

As legislators push to expand mandated reporting in order to “protect” children, how many families are being torn apart?

However, while an investigation is being carried out, families are seriously disrupted. Children are often subject to invasive searches, traumatic interrogations and sometimes removal from the home.

As legislators push to expand mandated reporting in order to “protect” children, how many families are being torn apart?

More Harm Than Good

When critiques of the expansion of mandated reporting are raised, a common response is: “If it helps prevent child abuse, isn’t it a good thing?” Yet recent research indicates these laws do not reduce violence against children; in fact, a 2017 article in Pediatrics notes that they might result in deepening a culture of harm. For one thing, the article notes, expanding the bounds of reporting “diverts attention away from children who need it the most.”

We can see this diversion playing out in Pennsylvania, where legislators, spurred by the Sandusky case, passed a law in 2014 that greatly expanded mandatory reporting. Since then, Philadelphia’s child abuse hotline has been overwhelmed with calls. A May 2016 audit of the state’s child abuse hotline, ChildLine, found overlong wait times and a steep increase in the number of unreturned calls. When workers are left scrambling under the weight of constant reports — many of them unfounded — children who are actually experiencing severe violence may be overlooked.

Universal mandated reporting results in a higher rate of reports, according to a 2014 study — but an increase in reports is not an end in itself. In fact, the researchers noted, “changing from professional mandated reporting to universal reporting may significantly increase the numbers of reports without increasing the numbers of maltreated children identified.”

Child protective services is tasked with addressing every report as if it’s both genuine and serious, Martin Guggenheim, law professor at New York University and author of What’s Wrong With Children’s Rights, noted in an interview with Truthout. A flood of calls to a child services hotline is akin to a flood of calls to a fire department. However, he points out, we won’t be seeing a universal mandate to pull smoke alarms anytime soon. Why? Because, in all likelihood, the costs would outweigh the benefits. The same, Guggenheim says, is true for universal mandated reporting.

Beyond diverting resources, the steps that follow a call can be treacherous for children and families. After a report happens, youth are often subjected to an intensive investigation that may include full-body searches and invasive exams.

“It is an extremely painful and frightening experience to be visited by these agencies, particularly when they come late at night into one’s home,” Guggenheim said.

In 2011, in the wake of the Sandusky conviction and the rush for universal mandated reporting, Joette Katz, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, warned her state against passing such a law. In an op-ed, she wrote, “I worry about the children, some of whom will be traumatized by being needlessly subjected to forensic interviews and invasive medical procedures — a form of child abuse in and of itself.”

Meanwhile, research shows that mandated reporting actually deters many child survivors of violence from seeking help.

In a recent survey of people who sought support through the National Domestic Violence Hotline, more than a third of participants said they “have not asked someone for help for fear the person would be legally required to report what they shared.”

For children, this number was even higher: Almost half of participants under 18 chose not to seek help because they feared that what they shared would be reported. The study’s authors noted, “This suggests that negative perceptions or experiences of mandatory reporting laws reduce opportunities to receive support for domestic violence, especially among youth.”

Of the survey participants who were reported when they sought help, the majority said that the report either did nothing or made their situation worse.

Even self-reporting — or asking child services for help with one’s own situation — can start a dangerous process. Charity Tolliver, founder of Black on Both Sides, a Chicago-based group working against the foster-care-to-prison pipeline and the criminalization of Black mothers, told Truthout of a mom who voluntarily put her child in foster care temporarily to ensure her child’s safety and then managed to get her child back — but lost her job as a teacher, because the process created a record that associated her with child neglect and abuse, despite the fact that she never harmed her child.

In an interview with Truthout, Carolyn Hill, a grandmother and member of the all-volunteer Philadelphia-based advocacy organization DHS Give Us Back Our Children!, which was founded by parents and caregivers targeted by child services, offered similar examples of attempts at self-reporting. Hill concluded, “They say go to them for help — and then they take your kids and spread them out!”

Who Gets Reported On?

Black and Indigenous mothers are targeted in vastly disproportionate numbers.

When it comes to the impact of mandated reporting, whose kids are being taken and dispersed? The answer is an eerie echo of this country’s history of slavery and colonialism: Black and Indigenous mothers are targeted in vastly disproportionate numbers.

Nationwide data on reporting disparities is not available, but some state-level data exists. In Colorado, Black children were referred to CPS nearly two and a half times as often as white children in 2009. In California, Black children made up 5.8 percent of the child population in 2008 but comprised 13.8 percent of “child maltreatment referrals.” According to data from Washington State, Native children are almost three times as likely to be reported to CPS as white children.

Fifty-three percent of African American children will experience a child protective services investigation by the time they turn 18, according to a January study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

“This rate of reporting of abuse or neglect essentially shows that African American family life is under intense scrutiny,” Redleaf said.

Moreover, reports tend to target people living in poverty, particularly since a lack of resources — food, clothing, housing — is often labeled “neglect.”

“‘Neglect’ is often a sign of poverty,” explained Mical Raz, a physician and historian at the University of Pennsylvania, and, “finding work, offering assistance with child care, a cooked meal, may be be more helpful for a struggling family than calling CPS.”

Hill reports that in Philadelphia, failing to provide a separate bed for each of the children in your care is a reason to report and remove a child. (Yet foster homes, which are often overcrowded, are provided resources to purchase bunk beds, she said.) Even a lack of formal education can be used as a justification, as Hill knows well: Child protective services took away her own nieces, whom she was caring for, and cited her lack of a high school diploma or GED as part of the rationale.

In an interview, Pat Albright, with the Every Mother is a Working Mother Network that coordinates DHS Give Us Back Our Children!, pointed out the ways in which current child services policies — which blame poor parents and caregivers for their economic circumstances — are intertwined with decades of “welfare reform.” She noted that as welfare has shrunk, child protective services has grown, moving “from an entitlement to a system that removes children.”

The ongoing disinvestment of resources from marginalized communities has had a profound impact on families’ abilities to provide for their children. For example, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) required states to create programs that had lifetime limits on access to federal benefits, tied benefits to employment, and instituted a lifetime ban on accessing aid for people with drug-related convictions.  PRWORA was the final nail in the coffin of the “social welfare programs of the ‘war on poverty’,” Roosevelt University women’s studies professor Leslie Bloom told Truthout in an email, morphing what used to be social supports into a “nasty war on the poor.”

A Broken-Windows Approach to Child “Protection”

Roberts’ analogy about expanded mandatory reporting being akin to stop-and-frisk policies highlights the ways in which child protective services practices often mirror those of policing. Mandated reporters, worried about being held liable for neglecting to report a case, tend to over-report, “just in case.” As in “broken windows”-style policing, expansions of mandated reporting multiply the number of reports — and the number of marginalized people at whom fingers are pointed — without enhancing safety.

Like policing and imprisonment, child protective services and foster care have a long history grounded in white supremacy. The system’s overwhelmingly disproportionate seizure of Black and Native youth carries on slavery’s legacy of splitting Black mothers from their children and the colonial pattern of tearing apart Indigenous families.

Moreover, in recent decades, the increases in mandated reporting have paralleled the rise of the war on drugs and mass incarceration, furthering the marginalization of Black communities.

Mandated child services reporting and the criminal punishment system feed each other.

Mandated child services reporting and the criminal punishment system feed each other. Dorothy Roberts points out that while both systems independently target Black mothers, they also supplement one another’s efforts.

“Police are mandated reporters and one reason why Black families are more at risk of being reported to child protective services is because they are in greater contact with police,” Roberts said. “Police are more likely to raid their homes, making them vulnerable to child abuse and neglect reports by officers…. Conversely, increasing the risk of state investigation of parents for child maltreatment also increases the risk that state agents will report a crime committed by the parents — drugs found in the home, for example.”

Just as police make reports to child protective services, the reverse is often true. Redleaf notes that when “priority one” cases are called in to DCFS, they are cross-reported to states attorneys and police, even though the mere calling-in of a report does not indicate credibility, and in fact, most reports are found to be groundless.

Certain types of reports are particularly likely to lead to criminalization. Guggenheim says reports of substance abuse often lead to both the seizure of children and the criminalization of mothers.

Domestic violence is another area in which mandated reporting and criminalization collude, and where expanded reporting can lead to intensified criminal surveillance, according to Redleaf.

“We often see victims arrested along with perpetrators and automatic calls to DCFS even when the kids were asleep and witnessed nothing,” she said. “We believe this is a strong deterrent to help-seeking by [domestic violence] victims.”

Mandated reporting and the criminal system are linked in another way. If the state is requiring that certain people — or all people — make reports when they suspect abuse or neglect, there’s often a penalty on the books for those who don’t. Consider New Jersey’s universal mandated reporting law, which states, “Any person knowingly violating the provisions of this act including the failure to report an act of child abuse having reasonable cause to believe that an act of child abuse has been committed, is a disorderly person.” A “disorderly person” may be subject to a six-month jail sentence or a thousand-dollar fine.

It’s highly unusual for those penalties to actually be implemented. (A standout exception: In 2017, Penn State’s former president, Graham Spanier, was sentenced to jail time for a number of crimes, including failing to report abuse, in the Sandusky case. Two other administrators were also sentenced.) Still, the threat of punishment may give those who are on the fence about reporting an extra push to do so.

Reimagining Community Welfare

So, if universal mandated reporting laws won’t keep children safe, where should we turn? According to Roberts, “the entire ideology of the child welfare system must shift,” moving away from the practices of policing caregivers and removing children from their homes and toward providing resources to families.

In a “radically transformed system based on supporting families rather than investigating parents,” Roberts asked, would any kind of mandated reporting be necessary?  

For example, what if a child really was at risk of experiencing harm? Roberts’ new paradigm, in which funds that are currently used for parental surveillance and child removal are channeled toward accessible and free health care and child care, might enable teachers and neighbors to connect caregivers with support and services — instead of being forced to report.

This paradigm would require a dramatic rethinking of how our tax dollars are allocated. In 2012, federal, state and local sources spent over $28.2 billion on child welfare activities, including foster care, adoption, investigations and case management. What if just a fraction of these resources were spent supporting families?

Tolliver does the math. “In Illinois, it costs $40,000 – $42,000 a year to keep a child in foster care, yet most families where that child lives are living below the poverty line.” She says it would make an “extraordinary difference” for that family to have access to even a portion of these resources.  

“We aren’t solving anything by removing kids,” Tolliver said. “Most will not go back to homes that are healthier or stronger. Rather, the state has done damage, pulling parents from their jobs, placing them in a panic mode and under surveillance, and not investing in families.” 

Albright agrees that public policies need to change to invest in families.  She points to proposed federal legislation, such as the RISE Out of Poverty Act, introduced in 2015 and supported by a network of grassroots organizations, saying that it seeks to “push back to create welfare as an entitlement to end child poverty and reduce the amount of children in foster care.”

Perhaps a key piece of the work to facilitate systems change is to educate the public about what does and doesn’t work to make children and families stronger. Taking any step — whether it is effective or not — in the name of supporting “at-risk” children is an “easy gain,” a “good headline,” for policymakers, Guggenheim notes. This makes it all the more critical that we work to inform lawmakers and the public about the ways in which expanding mandated reporting harms children.

In the meantime, knowing that small things like co-sleeping with one’s baby can trigger a punitive landslide, women on the ground also know that resistance is in the small acts.

Grassroots groups like Black on Both Sides — and others like Welfare Warriors, in Milwaukee — are doing the everyday work that transforms people’s lives and begins to shift the system. Albright cites a recent win: Through protesting and organizing, members of the Every Mother is a Working Mother Network secured the right to attend court to support women facing child removal in Philadelphia. Hill also outlines the importance of talking with women who are caught in the child protective system and their court-appointed lawyers, aiding them in becoming savvier and stronger advocates. Tolliver describes an organized group of mothers “showing up and cleaning your house — because you need that to be able to pass a DCFS inspection.”

These organizers know that things like a clean house, an extra bed, or an ally and advocate in court or on the phone are not just small things. Rather, they can make the difference between families staying together and being broken apart. These actions also provide a crucial sense of connectedness to those struggling against a system that seeks to isolate and criminalize them.

“These movements are so important because they shift what is framed as an individual issue and remind the women impacted — in Chicago, this is really Black women — that you are not alone,” Tolliver said. “Your suffering is connected to a larger picture, not an individual issue.”

Lowering EPA standards will lead to even more deaths in U.S.

Polluted air continues to drive premature deaths in the United States with no level of exposure leaving humans unaffected, according to new research published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine July 29. “We are now providing bullet-proof evidence that we are breathing harmful air,” says Francesca Dominici, a professor of biostatistics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who led the study, told NPR. “Our air is contaminated.” The study found a strong correlation between mortality and exposure to ozone and particulate matter, both of which contribute to smog. And it goes without saying – the higher the concentration of pollutants in the air, the greater number of deaths that can be expected.

A young woman and an elderly female patient at a nursing home both receive health benefits from thei...

A young woman and an elderly female patient at a nursing home both receive health benefits from their social interaction.

Even though pollution levels in the United States have declined dramatically because of regulations, including the Clean Air Act, many cities and particularly, smaller communities and rural areas struggle to meet standards for clean air. But here is what’s so startling – The study found that the EPA’s standards may not be strict enough because pollution levels below the minimum standards are still causing premature deaths. The researchers used data collected from EPA air quality monitoring stations, as well as satellites to develop a detailed picture of air quality and pollution for every zip code in the United States. The scientists then analyzed low-level air pollution’s impact on the mortality rates of 60 million Medicare recipients from 2000 to 2012. About 12,000 lives could be saved each year, the study concludes, by cutting the level of fine particulate matter nationwide by just 1 microgram per cubic meter of air below current standards. It’s important to note that while the ages of Americans reflected in the study were those people over the age of 65, another significant factor came to light – the socio-economic background of the group. Fine particulate matter — basically, tiny particles of dust and soot — appears to be especially dangerous for African-Americans, men and poor people, the researchers found. Dominici has some theories as to why this significant finding showed up.

WHO data shows that outdoor pollution is responsible for more than three million fatalities annually

WHO data shows that outdoor pollution is responsible for more than three million fatalities annually

Dimitar Dilkoff, AFP/File

“People of color tend to be sicker and more affected [by] disease,” she says, pointing out that they also tend to live in places with more pollution and have less access to health care. “I think it is the responsibility of the government to make sure that our air is clean,” she says. Why this study is important today The Trump White House has promised to focus on “clean air and water,” all the while attempting to undo or defund many of the programs that protect our water and air. Under Trump’s direction, the EPA has already begun to roll back emission standards regulating power plants, reports Time. Trump’s proposed 2018 budget request also cuts funding for just about every program in the EPA. “Despite compelling data, the Trump administration is moving headlong in the opposite direction,” scientists wrote in a New England Journal of Medicine editorial accompanying the study. “We must redouble our commitment to clean air. If such protections lapse, Americans will suffer.”