In June 2002, in an effort to increase home-ownership amongst minorities by at least 5.5 million, particularly the African Americans in the lower and middle economic classes, President Bush enacted a series of tax credits, subsidies, and a Fannie Mae commitment of $440 billion to establish NeighborWorks America - to assist with affordable housing and to strengthen communities. President Bush then signed the American Dream Downoayment Act, and it was to be implemented under the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Their goal was to provide a maximum downpayment assistant grant of either $10,000 or 6% of the purchase price of the home, whichever was greater. This made it possible for most hopeful-homeowners to pay for their downpayment, when they had no additional capital or finances available to offer. President Bush was committed to reforming the home buying process, and lowered closing costs by nearly $700, which was thought to further stimulate homeownership. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bought $81 billion in subprime securities. Banks almost immediately starting loosening their policies on qualifying applicants for mortgage loans. That same year, mortgage denial rate was only 14%, half of what it was less than 5 years prior.
African Americans were ecstatic at the opportunity to own their own homes, or upgrade their existing ones. In 2003 and 2004, with encouragement from the media and local developers, Blacks who had owned land or property near metropolitan cities were being influenced to sell while the market was good, and buy homes in more isolated, suburban or "developing" agricultural areas. Blacks were influenced by initial low rates and prices of homes, the potential of making a large profit on the sell of their existing home, and more than anything, the idea of building a something brand new and custom. Many of the existing Black homeowners, had either bought their homes in the 1950s and 1960s, or were purchased through family generations, and typically were priced high in value because of the area.
Developers looked to remove entire neighborhoods in metropolitan cities - like New York City, Los Angeles, and Oakland - and made enticing quick cash incentives to get Blacks out of their communities, and to purchase elsewhere. Unfortunately, a lot of the homeowners in those cities didn't understand the business of the housing market - many had purchased homes for under $20k, were worth more than $700k, but would sell for a mere fraction (usually a quarter of the worth). They would start looking into cities hours away from the metropolitan cities they had populated. Unbeknownst to most Black home-owners, they would be opting into high-interest rate loans that eventually trapped them into vicious debt-cycles. By 2004, homeownership in the United States peaked with an all-time high of 69.2%. At the peak of this "housing boom", which was in 2004, 49% of Blacks owned homes (compared to Whites who owned roughly 75%).
But it wouldn't be African Americans owning or qualifying for homes that was the problem, it was the types of loans that were being offered to them. Prime mortgages are often given to lenders with the best credit histories, while subprime mortgages are designed for borrowers with flawed credit histories. Higher interest rates are associated with subprime loans because the bank lender is taking on a "risky" buyer. Prime loans were mostly being offered to White Americans, more than any ethnic group that met the qualifications, while most African Americans were forced to settle with subprime loans, even when they qualified for prime loans. Subprime lenders would even offer mortgage loans with different terms to different racial groups, reverting to old discriminatory practices. During the "housing boom", only 6.2% of Whites with a credit score of 660 and higher were reported to receive high-interest mortgages, but 21.4% of Blacks with the same credit score would receive the same loans. Black households were more than three times as likely as White households to end up with riskier loans with conditions like exploding adjustable rates, deceptive teaser rates, and balloon payments attached.
Several of the major banks purposely gave African American homeowner-hopefuls subprime mortgages, including borrowers who would have qualified (or did qualify) for a prime loan. Wells Fargo, Countrywide Financial, and SunTrust Bank were among the biggest deceivers who used this practice, which caused detriment to Blacks financially. Wells Fargo created a unit whose sole responsibility was to push expensive refinance loans on Black customers, and targeted those living in Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Price George County - the second most populous county in Maryland, and predominately Black upper-middle class. Court documents would later prove that loan officers at Wells Fargo Bank spoke of the subprime loans they were offering African Americans as "ghetto loans", and referred to their Black customers as "mud people". To add fuel to these racist, discriminatory actions, Wells Fargo management offered cash incentives for loan officers to aggressively market subprime mortgages in Black neighborhoods. Specifically targeted for these high-interest subprime loans were African American women. Upper-income Black women were nearly 5 times more likely to receive subprime mortgages than White men with the same income level. The services of data collection agencies, mostly Jewish owned and operated, made it easy for lenders to buy information about prospective borrowers, including their race, age, and income. The banks would leverage these services to target African American men and women and offer them faulty, financially-trapping loans and mortgages. In 2006, more than 50 % of Black borrowers were saddled with subprime loans, while only 18% of White borrowers received such loans. Major cities were even more discriminatory in their practices for giving African Americans loans, if they were given at all.
The big incentive for Blacks to sign with high-interest sub-prime loans, besides the obvious of owning a home when no other loan options were being offered, was the offer to pull out some of the equity on the home, while the market was strong. Families generally use home equity to finance retirement, pay for college educations, start businesses, and to use as a savings when hard times present themselves. But with the advice from realtors and bankers to "pull out money now from the equity of your home, and the money you earn in the market will balance it out later", was financially traumatic. Blacks were influenced because of their credibility, and saw the need for additional funds since bills were increasing, monthly loan rates were inconsistent (e.g. first month's rent could be $500, but by month 4 it could be $2500), and the cost of commuting from further regions wasn't originally considered, but was a major financial effect. Most were ready to refinance just to keep page with the essential costs of their new home-ownership. The Federal Reserve flow of funds on home equity cashed out during refinancing shows that cash pullouts skyrocket from $15 billion in 1995 to $327 billion in 2006.
Although pulling out equity from a home is a normal practice done by homeowners of any ethnicity, the faulty terms and high-interest on the loans were disproportionately geared towards Blacks. One new homeowner could easily expect that within 4-6 months of living in their new home, refinancing offers would persist to take cash off of the equity, and after excepting the offer, without fully understanding the terms, could sign themselves up for triple the amount in mortgage than they were currently paying. So more Blacks would successfully become new homeowners, but after a only few months, were trapped into loans that they couldn't pay. Many were forced to default on their loans, and further forced into foreclosure within a year of their new-home purchase. This has a calamitous mental health effect on many of these African American homeowners, who had been through a whirlwind of first-time home purchasing, to not being able to keep up with the faulty conditions from banks, to losing their homes, within a year, and going back to the home prior to purchase, or were in even worse residential situations (such as homelessness).
More than 1.25 million foreclosure notices were filed on more than 800,000 properties during one year. One in 92 of all households were in some stage of foreclosure during 2006, up 42 percent from 2005. Nearly half of the Black homeowners that purchased their homes after 2002 would lose their homes within 3 years. And once Countrywide Bank, SunTrust, and Washington Mutual paused on refinancing or providing any loans, the housing boom was over. The crash of the housing market followed instantly. Many custom home building projects were put on hold indefinitely, housing complexes built by investors had dried their funds during development and were without new loans, leaving projects half or nearly finished with no funds for completion. African American homeowners who tried to sell their new houses were faced with new sets of unexpected discrimination, like "segregation taxes" - because homes appreciate far more slowly, if at all, in Black or Black-predominate neighborhoods. Homes were adding "foreclosure" signs to their yards left and right in 2006 and 2007.
Across the nation, Black homeowners were disproportionately affected by the foreclosure crisis, with more than 240,000 blacks losing homes they had owned. In regions were Black homeownership was thriving, like Washington D.C., African Americans were 20% more likely to lose their homes compared to Whites with similar incomes and lifestyles. And it only got worse for Blacks financially. From 2005 to 2009, after the housing bubble bursted, and the country was starting to amass in debt, studies show that the net worth of Black households declined by 53%, while the net worth of White households declined by only 16%. The numbers didn't make sense to most Blacks, and investigations ensued into the practices of the banks whom had lend to them.
The City of Baltimore took Wells Fargo Bank to court, bringing some of their abhorrent discriminatory practices to light. In a case where 4,500 homeowners in Baltimore and the Washington D.C. were effected by racist lending practices that showed disparities in loan pricing and terms between Black and White communities, there was a strong basis for a successful discrimination lawsuit. To bare themselves shame and backlash in public opinion for their discriminatory practices, and references to Blacks as "mud people", Wells Fargo - without admitting to any wrongdoing - settled with the City of Baltimore in 2012 for $175 million dollars; $50 million of the settlement would go towards helping community members in the Washington DC region, as well as others in 7 identified metropolitan areas, make down-payments on new homes. Having to acknowledge the blatant discrimination done by several leading banks, the U.S. Department of Justice even got involved, and settled anti-discrimination cases involving the 2 other biggest mortgage lenders for African Americans during the housing boom: Countrywide Financial and SunTrust Mortgage. Countrywide Financial, who was on the brink of bankruptcy at the housing collapse, was acquired by Bank of America, and agreed to pay out more than $300 million in damages to those effected by their discrimination practices. SunTrust Bank would settle in 2014 for $550 million for lending and foreclosure abuses. The settlements will be used to set up funds to compensate African American loan borrowers who were unfairly discriminated against during their loan processes, and were purposely steered towards subprime loans.
During the housing crash, many Americans blamed minority (Blacks and Latinos) and low-income borrowers for the housing bust. But as lawsuits and documented proof would later reveal, the real blame was on the banks that intentionally discriminated against Blacks during their hopeful processes of becoming homeowners, who trapped them into loans they could not pay, and elasticizing their debt without borrowers even being aware what was happening to them. Black homeownership has not recovered since the housing crash.
Hurricane Katrina strengthened into a tropical storm on the morning of August 24th 2005. The tropical storm was moving fast towards Florida, and became a hurricane only two hours before making landfall between Hallandale Beach and Aventura on the morning of August 25th. The storm rapidly intensified after entering the Gulf, growing from a Category 3 hurricane to a Category 5 hurricane in just nine hours. President George W. Bush declared a state of emergency in selected regions of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi on August 27th, and the next day spoke with Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco to encourage a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans.
In Louisiana, the State's hurricane evacuation plan calls for local governments in areas along and near the coast to evacuate in three phases, starting with the immediate coast, 50 hours before the start of tropical storm force winds. Persons in areas designated "Phase II" were to begin evacuating 40 hours before the onset of tropical storm winds, and those in Phase III areas (including New Orleans) evacuate 30 hours before the start of such winds. Those plans were not carried out, and were not realistic to begin with. They almost completely disregarded the sick and the elderly from the evacuation plans. Caregiving facilities that relied on bus companies and ambulance services for transportation were unable to evacuate. Louisiana's Emergency Operations Plan Supplement 1C calls for use of school and other public buses in evacuations, and fortunately there were plenty of buses available to evacuate civilians. Unfortunately, the Governor of Louisiana would put a stop to those plans, after declaring that only licensed bus drivers could take the vehicles out of the city. There were not enough bus drivers available to drive, as they fled their duties to evacuate the city with their families. At 10a on August 28th, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation of the city, the first-ever of its kind, and asked any citizens who could not leave the city to flee to "shelters" established by the city government. By the time Hurricane Katrina came ashore early the next morning, approximately one million people had fled from New Orleans and its surrounding suburbs. But over 100,000 people remained in the city, with 20,000 taking shelter at the Louisiana Superdome, including 300 National Guard troops.
By 5 a.m on Augst 29th, the hurricane's winds grew to about 150 miles an hour, and it's eye was about 90 miles from New Orleans. Initially, reports had indicated that the city of New Orleans had been spared from the worst of the storm by a last-minute unpredicted change in the hurricane's path. But there was a problem that was underway that no one prepared for: at 8 a.m., the Mayor of New Orleans announced that water was flowing over one of the levees. The city's levee and flood walls were designed and built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, and had breached. There would be more than 50 breaches in the draining canal, navigational canal levees, and foldaways. At 11 a.m., the levees fully failed, water started pouring through the 17th Street Canal, and the city of New Orleans began to flood rapidly. There was no advanced warning, and no time to flee. Water was rising by the second. Tens of billions of gallons of water spilled into various areas of New Orleans, flooding over 100,000 homes and businesses.
The majority of those impacted in the residential flooding were African Americans in low-income communities. Most of their neighborhoods were under sea-level, and relied on the levees for support. Residents were all instantly without power, and with 125 mph winds in neighborhoods whose homes weren't prepared to sustain the intensity of that type of impact, there were catastrophic damages to the areas. By that evening, 80 - 90% of New Orleans and neighboring St. Bernard Parish were underwater. Entire neighborhoods, like the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, had waters reported higher than 20 feet tall. The sudden and unexpected extensive flooding from the levee failures stranded residents who had stayed unharmed in their homes after the hurricane had passed. To make matters worse, residents could not communicate their conditions because power lines (and cellular towers) were under water, as were most of their belongings. Many spent hours (some days) stranded on their roofs or stayed afloat on man-made objects while awaiting rescue.
The failures of the levees that the United States Army built are considered by experts to be the worst engineering disaster in the history of the United States. In just a few hours after the storm passed, thousands would meet their death as a result of them. The final death toll was at 1,836, primarily from Louisiana (1,577) and Mississippi (238). More than half of these victims were senior citizens. Most of the death toll were elderly persons living near levee breaches in the Lower Ninth War and Lakeview neighborhoods of New Orleans. Many seniors were unable to leave, citing the lack of transportation, and the inability to leave their homes physically because they required wheelchairs, walkers, and oxygen machines for mobility. Many others stated they couldn't leave because they simply couldn't financially afford to, and there weren't exceptions being made from taxis or buses to not charge temporarily so they could flee to safety.
More than a quarter of the people living in New Orleans in August of 2005 lived below the poverty line, and 27% of New Orleanians didn’t even own a car. Many of the Blacks living in New Orleans districts effected the worst in the flooding were relying on government assistance, living check-to-check to survive. When Hurricane Katrina hit, it was the end of the month, and most of their checks weren't due to arrive until 3 days after the hurricane, so many literally had no funds available to flee, or to pay for temporary housing elsewhere. The city failed to get information to these residents in time - who were their most vulnerable - and then failed to facilitate their evacuation. Many African Americans didn't have a choice but to stay in their homes, and wait for their untimely death. Several public housing complexes occupied by low-income Black tenants, including the large Big Four developments, were among the neighborhoods that experienced the largest exodus - they were completely demolished. The Lower 9th Ward, which would become a global icon of Katrina's destruction, was also virtually emptied, losing about 80% of its residences. 705 people are reported as still missing as a result of Hurricane Katrina.
Televised images of visibly shaken residents in New Orleans, who were without water, food or shelter, stranded in their destroyed iconic city, were shown around the world. A disturbing number of deaths occurred from dehydration, exhaustion, and violence while awaiting rescue days after the storm passed. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was widely criticized for failing to implement his food plan, and for ordering residents to federal-appointed shelters for last resort, that had no provisions for food, water, security, or sanitary conditions. Perhaps the most important criticism of Nagin is that he delayed the official emergency evacuation order until less than a day before landfall, which led to hundreds of deaths from people who (by that time) could not find any way out of the city. Adding to the criticism was the broadcast of school parking lots full of yellow school buses which Mayor Nagin refused to be used in evacuating residents. It would take President Bush 4 dreadful days to act in assisting the Black residents devastated by the effects of Hurricane Katrina and the failed levees.
The residents who were in the city or were in the flooded suburbs that were being unattended by medical support, were virtually helpless until he acted. Bush signed a $10.5 billion dollar relief package 4 days after the hurricane passed the city and ordered 7,200 active-duty troops to assist with relief efforts. Some members of the United States Congress charged that the relief efforts were slow because most the effected areas were poor. Due to the slow response to the hurricane, New Orleans's top emergency management official even called the effort a "national disgrace". New Orleans's Emergency Operations Chief Terry Ebbert blamed the inadequate response on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA sent hundreds of firefighters who had volunteered to help rescue victims to Atlanta for 2 days of training classes on topics including sexual harassment and the history of FEMA, rather than send them to Louisiana to assist the residents effected by the flooding. Those in the top positions of power in the United States government, had other priorities that they felt were more important to attend to immediately following the hurricane - rather than visiting the effected areas - and would make their priorities clear the days following.
August 30, a day after the hurricane struck, President Bush attended a V-J Day commemoration ceremony at Coronado, California. Turning to his aides during the flyover, Bush remarked, "It's totally wiped out. It's devastating, it's got to be doubly devastating on the ground." Later, in a televised address from the White House, he said, "We're dealing with one of the worst national disasters in our nation's history." But it wasn't a natural disaster that devastated New Orleans, it were the levees that failed to protect them. Vice President Dick Cheney was deeply criticized in his role during the aftermath. On the night of August 30, and again the next morning, Cheney personally called the manager of the Southern Pines Electric Power Association and ordered him to divert power crews to electrical substations in nearby Collins, Mississippi, that were essential to the operation of the Colonial Pipeline, which carries gasoline and diesel fuel from Texas to the Northeast. He was concerned that Texas would have a gas shortage because of Katrina, and his priorities were preventing that. Electric crews were in the process of restoring power to 2 local hospitals, when they were ordered to immediately stop. When displaced survivors attempted to escape New Orleans by walking over the Crescent City Connection bridge, they were turned back at gunpoint by police officers. Deputies also set up a roadblock on the bridge the days following the hurricane. Residents were finding it difficult to leave, many tearfully screaming (even on live cameras) for help from their local and federal government, to which they were turned down. Many claimed that they were subject to a man-made death trap from United States government.
While looting was widespread in the areas following, it was the only means to survive for those stranded as they waited 4 days for assistance from FEMA, The Red Cross, and other organizations to arrive. The items taken were necessary supplies to survive, like water, food, clothing, toilet paper, blankets (since most were sleeping outside), and diapers. It would be reported later that most of the valuable items that were found to be looted from stores, were actually carried about by a small groups of New Orleans Police Department officers. But the media focused on portraying negative images of African Americans, giving the appearance that they were all disgracefully stealing from stores without regard for their own greed and selfishness, rather than survival. In the days following Hurricane Katrina, there was widespread concern that the prolonged flooding would lead to an outbreak of health problems for those who remained in New Orleans and the surrounding neighborhoods. There was potential for the spread of hepatitis A, cholera, tuberculosis, and typhoid fever. Survivors could also face long-term health risks due to prolonged exposure to the petrochemical tainted flood waters and mosquito-borne diseases such as yellow fever, malaria and West Nile Virus. Reports from the Methodist Hospital indicated that people were dying of dehydration and exhaustion while the staff worked around-the-clock in horrendous conditions. The first floor of the hospital flooded, and the dead were stacked in a second floor operating room. Patients requiring ventilators were kept alive with hand-powered resuscitation bags.
New Orleans was economically reliant on three major industries for revenue: transportation, entertainment, and public services. They were all severely effected by Hurricane Katrina, the levee breakage, and the response time of federal support. The disaster caused $81 billion in property damages, but it is estimated that the total economic impact in Louisiana and Mississippi exceeded $150 billion. It was the costliest hurricane ever recorded in Untied States history. The destruction of industrial complexes and businesses had an astronomical effect on the employed. The region effected by the storm and levee breakage supported roughly 1 million non-farm jobs, with hundreds of thousands of those jobs staffed by local residents - they were left unemployed. More than 70 countries pledged monetary donations or other assistance after the hurricane. Kuwait made the largest single pledge of $500 million, with Qatar, India, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh making very large donations as well. The worst-hit areas in New Orleans have yet to fully recover. The majority of those displaced by the effects of Hurricane Katrina were relocated to Florida, California, Texas, and the Midwest. Most African Americans that had lived in New Orleans and the surrounding areas their whole lives, and were displaced, have been unable to return. There are currently no federal programs that assist Katrina victims to relocate back to their devastated areas, or to rebuild homes in their old areas, that are now developing. Much of New Orleans that was predominately African American pre-Hurricane Katrina, but has since become predominately White following.
Protests have been a primary act in projecting disdain for discrimination, racism, injustice, and abuse of Blacks in the United States for 60 years. After the shooting of Oscar Grant in Oakland, CA in 2009, protests of the officer's acquittal who murdered him emerged almost immediately. Peaceful protests with outcry towards the police department turned violent when some rioters, dressed in black and wearing black masks, smashed shop and car windows, began looting stores, and attacked police lines and journalists. The Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, had pleaded with Grant's protestors to calm and return to a civilized society, to which they ignored; at least 120 people were arrested. Violence was reflecting the anger and intolerance of racism that was experienced among young Black men who have been unfair targets of the police for decades.
Blacks, Whites, and other ethnicities took to the streets in protest of Trayvon Martin's murderer, George Zimmerman's acquittal. Hundreds gathered in Los Angeles in peaceful protests, and marches were held in San Francisco (where streets later had to be closed off because of the demonstrations), and in New York's Time Square, where Zimmerman's acquittal was condemned. In citizens in the American South however, would have a different tone. In Houston particularly, Whites supported Zimmerman and gathered in the hundreds to protest in response to those rallying for Martin. When Zimmerman supporters were outnumbered by the thousands who appeared for Martin, they chanted "USA!" over and over, until the protest was broken apart by police.
When teenager Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, African Americans throughout the nation had enough with the violence, and because peaceful protests weren't working in response to other cases, resorted to other forms of expressing their resistance. On the evening of the grand jury decision to not indict Officer Wilson (Brown's murderer), protests were sparked in Ferguson and other cities around the United States, including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Oakland, and many continued on for more than 24 hours straight. Some started with peaceful protests, while others opted for more direct and violent approaches - they trashed and set fire to police cars, looted and destroyed businesses, burned abounded buildings, threw molotov cocktails at the riot police, and more.
The Black Lives Matter movement, who states they are "an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise", has been among the most recognized in protests throughout the country since the murder of Trayvon Martin. They have organized dozens in various "direct-action tactics" that they say are objected to make people uncomfortable enough to address the issues at hand. They've held rallies, protests, die-ins, and other demonstrations in over 20 cities across the country - in late 2015, the Black Lives Matter movement spread to Toronto, Canada. Their movement has been complimented and equally criticized, by both Blacks and Whites, but none can refrain from acknowledging that their tactics have gotten the attention of many nonetheless.
Many Whites have organized "Blue Lives Matter" and "My Dad's Life Matters" movements across the United States. The central focus of those groups are to advocate gun usage, and the rights to protect oneself against those who are deemed "a threat", and for police office rights. Conservative Whites have typically been in support of the "Blue Lives Matter" movement, while liberal Whites have sided with seeking justice for the Blacks who have been abused and murdered by police officers. Police abuse, violence, and the atrocious murders of Black men and children have grabbed the attention of every ethnicity in the United States, and there isn't a group that have been silent on the issues. Riots, protests, and demonstrations around the unfair treatment, discrimination, and unprovoked murders of African Americans are still the happening around the United States, and the killings of unarmed Black men and Black women will continue with still no consequence for their murderers, as long as the same forms of resistance that haven't worked for decades, continue being the primary forms in the future.
A NOT-SO-NATURAL DISASTER
BUILDING & BREAKING BLACK ATHLETES
Every decade prior to the current has had its share of police brutality against African Americans. The majority of police brutality cases reported by Blacks are against White police officers. Black children have never been excluded from their abuse. Since 2009, with the help of innovations in technology that have allowed average citizens to record events happening in their normal lives on their mobile devices, many of the atrocities committed against African Americans at the hands of the police have been brought to light.
When Oscar Grant went out to enjoy the New Years Eve celebration in San Francisco, and was in route home, he was detained by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police officers in 2009, and would provide a clear image of the types of abuses Blacks were subject to at the hands of White law enforcement. Some would argue it was the first brutal film-captured attack on an African American male since the Rodney King beating. Officers were responding to a fight that had erupted at the Fruitvale Bart Station in Oakland, CA in the early morning hours and detailed Grant, aged 22, and his friends at the station; they were near the platform for incoming and exiting train passengers. In the midst of the detaining, Grant, who was restrained on the floor faced-down, was at the hands of an irate White officer, Johannas Mehserle, who believed that Grant was resisting arrest. After Grant experienced the initial set of abuse (being thrown on the wall, and kneed on top of his back) by Mehserle, while his fellow officers watched without intervening, he was apprehended on the floor and nearly motionless. Seconds later, Mehserle pulled his gun and shot Grant in the back at point-blank range. Grant, bleeding profusely on the BART floors, shouted "You shot me!" - he died at the hospital 7 hours later. Nearly the entire incident was recorded on several cell phones, since there were hundreds of passengers riding on BART for the New Years celebration - they were shocked and disgusted at the violence they witnessed from the officers.
People at the scene, who had never even met Grant before, were outraged, and screamed at the police officer for his actions, along with his fellow officers who stood by as Grant was shot unprovoked. Mehserle claimed he was attempting to use his stun gun, and pulled his pistol on accident. Mehserle was arrested for murder in the days following, and with the help of enormous fundraising efforts by the police union, he was able to post $3 million dollar bail so he wouldn't have to remain in custody while awaiting trial. The videos of the murder were broadcast via social media and news outlets around the country, spread around the world, and was watched millions of times. Mehserle was tried by jury, and convicted of involuntary manslaughter and a gun enhancement charge, and found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter or second-degree murder - the latter two carried the heaviest sentences and longest prison potential. After his conviction, Mehserle was able to stay home with his family and loved ones for two months to prepare for his sentencing - his defense team was able to plea for more time spent at home before serving his time in jail. In 2010, Mehserle was sentenced to 2 years with double credit for time already served (due to CA jail and prison overcrowding, where one day in custody counts as two for most inmates), reducing his term by 292 days for the 146 days he had already spent in jail. The judge who presided over his case, overturned the gun enhancement charge that he was found guilty of by the jury, which could have added an additional 3 to 10 years to his sentence. Merhserle was released in nearly a year after the murder took place.
Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American student from Miami Gardens, Florida, had traveled with his father to his father's fiancee's home in Sanford to visit, when he was approached by a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman. Martin had went to a convenience nearby store to purchase candy and a canned drink, but when he was returning from the store, he walked through a neighborhood that had recently been victimized by robberies. When Zimmerman (who was just in plain clothes) spotted Martin he called the Sanford Police to report him for suspicious behavior (Martin was only walking). Zimmerman was recorded saying, "We've had some break-ins in my neighborhood, and there's a real suspicious guy", describing Martin as an unknown male just "just walking around looking about" in the rain. Zimmerman went on to say " this guy looks like he is up to no good or he is on drugs or something...", and then told the operator "these assholes, they always get away", and proceeded to follow Martin in his car. After Martin looked fearful at Zimmerman - who he had never seen before and was suddenly being followed by - Martin continued to chase him on his car, to which the dispatcher instructed him to refrain from doing so, but Zimmerman disregarded the instructions. Moments later, an altercation ensued between Zimmerman and boy, and Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest at point-blank range. Martin was only 74 feet from the residence he was visiting, where his father and his father's fiancee were waiting for him to return.
Zimmerman attested that he was using his gun in self defense of 17 year old Martin, and as part of Florida's "stand your ground" law, law enforcement officials were prohibited from arresting or charging him with Martin's murder. The police chief would back Zimmerman, stating it was his right to protect himself lethally against the boy. After national media spotlighted the tragedy, and protests were made from African Americans around the country about Whites who have attacked or have killed Blacks, even Black children, unprovoked and faced no consequence, Zimmerman was charged for Martin's murder. But a jury acquitted him of all charges. Zimmerman has since went on to do autograph signings at gun shows, gaining millions of White and Hispanic conservative support for his gun usage and for killing Martin, has also launched a painting career (where he recently did a painting honoring the Confederate flag), and openly boasts his actions for killing Martin online and in speaking engagements; Zimmerman infamously 'retweeted' a photo of 17-year-old Martin's dead body on social media platform Twitter, when someone referenced Zimmerman as a "one man army" for killing the boy.
Eric Garner, a 43-year-old African American male from New York, was a father of 6 (his youngest was just welcomed 3 months prior) and a grandfather of 3. Although he was known to everyone around him as a peacemaker, and a gentle-giant despite his size (he was 6"3 and 350 pounds), he was no friend of police officers. Garner had previously been arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes (selling cigarettes on the street), driving without a license, and marijuana possession. He filed a complaint against a police officer in 2007 for conducting a cavity search on the street for prohibited materials (like illegal drugs, money, jewelry, or weapons) - the officer inspected his rectum in the middle of the street, as citizens passed by. A few years later in 2014, when Garner played "peacemaker" in breaking up a fight, police officer Daniel Pantaleo, whom Garner had previously endured harassment from, would come back to abuse him for the last time. Pantaleo was a police officer known for harassment and violence - the NYPD had to settle 2 years prior with Darren Collins, 47, and Tommy Rice, 44, awarding them $30,000 after Pantaleo strip-searched them in public and slapped their testicles during a 2012 Staten Island traffic stop. Pantaleo was in plain clothes (not a police officer's uniform) when he approached Garner from behind in 2014, attempting to handcuff him. Not knowing that Pantaleo was on duty, and just believed he was in plain clothes harassing him for no reason, Garner swatted his arms away, saying "don't touch me, please". Pantaleo then put Garner in a chokehold - which is illegal under NYPD regulations - from behind, with other officers around him, until he was brought to the ground. The chokehold continued who Garner was laying on the ground.
While Garner was laying facedown on the sidewalk, Garner stated "I can't breathe" 11 times clearly to the officers, but Pantaleo continued choking him. Garner laid motionless, handcuffed, and unresponsive for several minutes before an ambulance arrived. None of the police officers attempted to perform CPR on Garner or aid him whatsoever. When the ambulance arrived on the scene, the 2 medics and 2 EMTs also did not perform any CPR or medical aid to Garner, or show any urgency in placing him on the stretcher to get him to an ER. He was announced dead one hour later at the hospital. The entire event - from Garner being approached by police, to his stating "I can't breathe" to the officers, to his final breaths - was captured on multiple video cameras from cell phones. It was recorded from multiple angles, from both associates to Garner (his friend was with him and recorded the entire activity) and strangers to Garner. They all reacted with shock, fear, helplessness, and disgust. Pantaleo was charged and tried for Garner's murder. After hearing the case for two months, the grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo. Officer Pantaleo is still on duty, doing desk work, and is under the personal protection of a 24-hour armed guard (that the State of New York pays for).
Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African American boy was in Ferguson, Missouri with his friend, was menacing about, and had just stolen a box of cigarillos from a convenience store; Brown was seen on the store security video unarmed, but had pushed the store clerk when grabbing the cigarillos. Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old White police officer, was the officer responding to the dispatch call about the store robbery taking place, and encountered Brown and his accompanying friend. When Wilson got to Brown in his police vehicle, he blocked both of the teens, and altercation ensued between the boy and the police officer. A struggle then took place between the two after Brown reached through the window of Wilson's police SUV - Wilson's gun fired twice during the struggle while it still was inside the vehicle, with one bullet hitting Brown's right hand.
The boys - Brown and Johnson - fled and Johnson hid behind a car. Wilson got out of the vehicle and pursued Brown on foot. Wilson fired his gun again roughly a foot away from Brown, with at least six shots striking the boy, killing him. Brown was shot twice in the head. Wilson had fired a total of 12 bullets, with the last shot likely the fatal one that killed Brown. Witness accounts that Brown had his hands up to surrender, and said "don't shoot!" before Wilson fired the bullets that would end the Black teen's life. The entire incident took place - from Wilson encountering Brown to Brown's death - in less than 90 seconds. Brown's body was left in the street for 4 hours before it was removed, which outraged local residents who felt it was demeaning. In late 2014, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened a civil rights investigation into the incident. Wilson was later cleared of any civil rights violation in the shooting. The St. Louis County grand jury decided not to indict Wilson, and the U.S. Department of Justice came to the same conclusion, that he would not be charged in the shooting.
According to the Associated Press' annual poll of United States news directors and editors, the top news story of 2014 was police killings of unarmed blacks — including the shooting of Michael Brown — as well as their investigations, and the protests in their aftermath. Because many regular citizens have witnessed these crimes against Blacks, and have recorded them with their mobile devices, many of the atrocities against African Americans have been shown to the public. Unfortunately, there has yet to be justice for many of the Black lives that have been lost in the public eye by police officers, and even more whose lives have been lost or damaged by officers when the cameras aren't rolling. Due to the lack of consequences for those who have murdered African Americans, a series of protests and demonstrations around the country have ensued - they have yet to subside.
President Bush, like his father and a prior-President George H.W. Bush, had zero tolerance for terrorism. Knowing that there were many active threats against the United States from enemies around the world, Bush pro-actively increased military operations and spending to prepare for possible conflict. A few enemies were more outspoken than others, and directly stated their intentions in destroying America. One of them was Osama Bin Laden, founder and leader of Al-Qaeda - a militant religious organization - and his followers were actively willing to fulfill his objections. The FBI, CIA, and other government officials received several warnings from foreign governments and other intelligence services - including the UK, Germany, Egypt, and Russia - who all stated they had reason to believe an attack on United States soil from Al-Qaeda was imminent. Israel, an American ally because they were recognized as a nation by the United States after claiming the land from Palestinians, also participated by providing a list of terrorists living in the United States who they claimed were planning to carry an attack, mostly of Arab descent. In August 2001, Egyptian intelligence warned American officials that Al-Qaeda is in the advanced stages of executing operations "against an American target".
Days leading up to September 11th 2001, New York City was thriving with entertainment: the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) were just held and attracted top, popular, and up-and-coming artists; the Yankees were in midst of a famous game against their number-one rivals, the Boston Red Sox; Michael Jackson was performing his 30th Anniversary Celebration show at Madison Square Garden which brought dozens of celebrities to perform and attend, as well as fans from all over the world. There were hundreds of tourists in town for the attractions, and in surprisingly beautiful weather for September. The World Trade Centers were among the biggest and most well-known tourist attractions in New York, holding similar prestige to the Emprire State Building and Statue of Liberty, appearing in numerous television shows, movies, and merchandise. The complex of the twin towers - World Trade Center 1 and 2 (or the "North and South" Towers) - was so large that it had its own zip code (10048), had it's own subway-train stop, featured a 427,000 square-foot underground enclosed mall - called The Mall at the World Trade Center - which was lower Manhattan's largest retail center, with an impressive roster of roughly 80 stores. In addition, the World Trade Center had expansive views of New York from the observation deck atop the South Tower, and a 50,000 square foot restaurant - Windows of the World - on the 106th and 107th floors of the North Tower. In the year 2000, the Windows of the World restaurant would report revenues of $37 million, making it the highest-grossing restaurant in the United States. Over 50,000 people worked in the Twin Tower buildings, and over 200,000 passed through the Center each day.
There were a series of anti-terrorism drills that were taking place in the early hours of September 11th, 2001. Between 6:30a and 8:30a, the White House Situation Room was holding an "Anti-Terrorism Training Exercise". North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) at the same time was on alert for emergency exercises. Operation "Northern Vigilance" - which involved deploying fighter aircraft to Alaska and Canada - was in process, and the "National Reconnaissance Office" drill was being conducted - which involved a small aircraft crashing into one of the towers of the agency's headquarters after experiencing mechanical failure. Also, at 8:30a, an Army Base near the Pentagon - Fort Belvoir - held a terrorist attack exercise. Hours later, they would be put into real-world scenarios that would conflict their pre-planned simulation scenarios, which unfortunately caused severe confusion and a hindered response.
In the morning of September 11, 2001, hijackers took control of American Airlines Flight 11 within 15 minutes of the flight's departure, which was scheduled to leave from Logan Airport (Boston, MA) and arrive at LAX (Los Angles, CA). The hijacking began at 8:14a with 4 accounted-for terrorists, where they successfully held roughly 80 passengers and 11 crew members hostage with box cutter knives and the threat of a bomb on the plane. The terrorists were able to take control of the plane, and Mohamed Atta deliberately crashed it into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, hitting the 93rd and 99th floors, at 8:46a. All 92 people aboard where killed. The World Trade Center buildings were nearly half-empty when the plane hit the North Tower, since it was the start of the work day. An estimated 5,000 to 7,000 people were in each tower when the attack first started. Many stores in the mall were preparing for opening, and there were minimal tourists because the observation deck didn't open until 9:30a.
When the attack happened on the North Tower, there were 72 restaurant staff members present at the Windows of the World restaurant. They were servicing regular breakfast patrons, as well as the Risk Water Financial Technology Congress, who was hosting a roughly 76 guests. The stairways leading downwards from the restaurant - towards the impact zone - were blocked immediately after Flight 11 crashed into those floors. It led to many victims that were trapped in the restaurant to either die from the lack of air from the smoke inhalation, or to jump to their deaths. Their actions would be watched live on news media outlets, including news helicopters who were flying in close proximity to the victims to capture clear images of them in agony (and many jumping from windows to their deaths), but could offer no relief. Spectators and relief workers on the ground were in shock. The damage caused to the North Tower destroyed any possibilities of escape at the floors impacted during the hit, or the floors above it. Some elevators were even carrying burning fuel downwards, expanding the destruction as it exploded on lower floors, and all stairwells were blocked. 1,344 people were trapped.
Within minutes of Flight 11 hitting the North Tower, a second hijacking was underway on United Airlines Flight 175, who had left Logan International Airport in Boston, MA and scheduled to arrive at LAX in Los Angeles, CA. In similar style to the partnered Flight 11 attack moments prior, 5 accounted for hijackers used box cutter-style knives, mace, and a threat of having a bomb on the plane to subdue all 60 crew and passengers on board. Unbeknownst to the hijackers, several passengers and crew aboard made phone calls from the plane to loved ones and provided accounts of what was happening on the plane, and about the hijackers themselves. The hijackers started accelerating and missed nearly colliding with Delta Flight 2315 by 300 feet during their abduction of the plane, and also Midwest Express Flight 7 which was heading to New York. The hijacked plane descended an average of 10,000 feet per minute, which was "unheard of for a commercial jet" according to New York Center air traffic controller Dave Bottiglia. Within 18 minutes of the hijacking, Flight 175 crashed nose-first into the South Tower of the World Trade Center, striking between floors 77 and 85. 637 people were killed upon the impact, and in the floors above where the plane struck - all 65 people aboard the plane died. News media outlets had been following the plane two minutes before it hit the South Tower, after a nearby Air Traffic Facility was alerted of a low-flying aircraft and shared knowledge with the public. News outlets were also covering the burning North Tower which had been hit 17 minutes earlier, so there were clear images of the second place hitting the South Tower.
Furthering the blow, American Airlines Flight 77 departed Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia en route to LAX in Los Angeles, CA and was hijacked. The plane was intentionally flown into the Pentagon at 9:37a, killing all 64 people on board and 125 people in the building. A final hijaking attempt was made on United Airlines Flight 93, which departed Newark International Airport at 8:42a (minutes before the first hijacked plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center) en route to San Francisco, but failed when passengers resisted, and attempted to regain control from the terrorists. The plane was flown into the ground, killing all 44 people on board.
Evacuation under the 93rd floor (where the plane struck) in the North Tower was pretty successful, due to the amazing work from the New York Fire Department. Although elevators were inoperable, there were 3 stairways that people were able to leverage to get to the ground floor, which enabled rescue teams to reach occupants and help them escape to safety in the 102 minutes between impact and collapse. Unfortunately, no one above the 91st floor is believed to have survived. Many parts of the upper floors were filled with toxic smoke, causing many of those trapped to break windows in the building for fresh air. Some horrifically jumped to their deaths, while some others fell trying to get the attention of emergency crews or when failing to climb down the floors on their own from the outside of the building. Although a helicopter pilot rescued 28 people from the North Tower roof during the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and the north corner of the roof was clear for helicopter rescue on September 11th, the Port Authority ordered all doors to the roof of the tower shut, and no helicopter rescue was ordered. When the North Tower was hit, an announcement was given to tenants in the South Tower that their building was secure, and to stay put. However, many disregarded the instructions and started evacuating quickly. Their instincts to go against the instructions, saved their lives. Firefighters directed evacuees in the South Tower through a door on the mezzanine level that led to a bridge to another building, rather than exiting through the front doors. This was because of the falling debris - including the humans that were falling from the sky to their deaths. Elevators were also perfectly in tact in the South Tower for 17 minutes in between the North Tower attacked and the South Tower attack.
When Flight 175 struck the South Tower, several routes to evacuate the 30 floors above the impact zone were cut off, but one stairwell was left passable. Most people above the crash zone were not aware of the escape route, which influenced more than 200 people to climb towards the roof in hopes for rescue there, only to find that the doors of the roof were locked. 18 people were able to escape through the single stairway available in the South Tower after being hit. Problems with radio communication caused commanders to lose contact with many of the firefighters who went into the buildings, making it impossible to even order their own evacuations. The courageous New York Fire Department deployed hundreds of firefighters from more than 75 firehouses, to rescue those within the burning buildings, even knowing the likelihood of their own deaths was likely. The South Tower, although hit after the North Tower, was the first to collapse. It fell to the ground within 56 minutes of the plane striking the building. The North Tower followed suit, and collapsed at 10:28a, just 30 minutes after the South Tower collapse.
A total of 2,763 people died during the World Trade Center attacks. Of the people who died, 2,192 were civilians, 71 were law enforcement officers, and 343 were firefighters. Many of the surrounding buildings were severly damaged or destroyed as the Twin Towers fell, including the WTC 5 building, the Marriott World Trade Center Hotel, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, and the Verizon Building.
After the collapse of the Twin Towers, and the surrounding buildings that were also demolished, rescue and search crews worked tirelessly to remove the debris and look for survivors. Thousands of bodies and body parts would be trapped in the rubble. Body fragments from Flight 11 were found within days, some bodies were still strapped to airplane seats, and the body of a flight attendant was also found attached to her seat with her wrists bound. A few possible remains of hijackers were also found and removed. Rescue efforts were paused numerous times in the days following, due to concerns that nearby buildings were in danger of collapsing. Only 11 people would be found alive under the rubble - including 6 firefighters and 3 police officers. 2 survivors were pulled out after spending 24 hours beneath 30 feet of debris. The cleanup crew involved around-the-clock operations, and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
The collapse of the World Trade Center buildings produced enormous clouds of dust that hovered over New York City for days. Even though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would assure the general public that the air in Manhattan was "safe to breathe", it would be far from accurate. There were thousands of tons of toxic debris resulting from the collapse of the buildings, containing more than 2,500 contaminants. It resulted in serious reductions in air quality, with asbestos and other carcinogens present in the dust. Many residents, employees, and emergency responders contracted respiratory illnesses, as well as elevated levels of asthma, gastroesophageal reflux diseases, and other health issues following. The EPA would later recant their original statements nearly a year later, when in June 2002, they issued a statement determining that the air quality in Manhattan had finally returned to "pre-September 11th levels". Approximately 18,000 people have developed illnesses as a result of the toxic dust caused by the buildings collapse.
President George W. Bush had arrived at Emma E Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, - a predominantly African American school - as part of a scheduled visit to promote education, within minutes of Flight 11 hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Before walking into the classroom to sit with the children, Bush had spoken to National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, who was at the White House, and she informed him that an aircraft had struck the World Trade Center, and that there had been no other information available. At roughly 9:05a, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card whispered into Bush's ear, "A second plane has hit the second tower. America is under attack.". Bush, although tense from the news, bravely kept his composure, gave himself a few moments to collect his next steps while still sitting in front of young children, and then after praising their reading skills and encouraging them to continue practicing, he excused himself and left the room. He would record at Barksfdale Air Force Base later that day that "freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward and freedom will be defended." He also said that the "United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.", which gave clear indication that war was promised in the near future.
To make matters worse for Americans, they would have to pay for the damages of the attacks. When Bush took over the Presidency, the economy was in a fast downward spiral because of the dot-com crash, and now there was even more debt to be added - cleaning up Manhattan, launching a worldwide investigation, and immediate increase in military spending to avenge the attacks and bring justice to the American people. But the economy plummeted deeper after the attacks - the stock market crashed within days of September 11th. $123 billion was recorded as the estimated economic loss just within the first 2-4 weeks of the September 11th attacks. In addition, the World Trade Center site damage, including damage to other buildings and infrastructure, cost $60 billion. It took 3.1 million hours of labor to clean up 1.8 million tons of debris. The cost of the rubble clean up at the World Trade Center - dubbed "Ground Zero" - was $750 million.
SAME PROBLEMS, SAME FORMS OF RESISTANCE
A FIGHT FOR THE PRESIDENCY
A FRAUDULENT HOUSING BUBBLE
Most African Americans favored Bill Clinton during his two-term Presidency, and some have gone far enough to reference him as the "first Black President". Clinton was born and raised poor, from a single-parent household in the Deep South. Blacks were able to identify with Clinton from the start, and after his Arsenio Hall appearance, he won unconditional love and support from most of the Black community. Although he didn't do anything to fight racism int he United States, end police brutality, or grant significant civil rights to African Americans during his Presidency, Clinton did work diligently on improving welfare programs and the poor. Blacks benefited from the improvements of his welfare reform, since Blacks were the lowest economic class in the United States at the time. Clinton would appoint the most African Americans in his cabinet than any other President before him - but the majority would hold non-critical positions of power, and issues that did not significantly impact their communities.
Since President Bill Clinton was unable to run for a third-term, his Vice President - Al Gore - was able to secure the Democratic nomination with ease. George W. Bush - who was the current Governor of Texas and son of former President George H.W. Bush - was seen as the early favorite for the Republican nomination, and despite a contentious primary battle with Senator John McCain and other candidates, secured the nomination. Bush chose former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney as his running mate, and Gore chose Senator Joe Lieberman as his. Both major party candidates focused primarily on domestic issues, such as the budget, tax relief, and reforms for federal social insurance programs. Clinton and Gore did not often campaign together, a deliberate decision resulting from the Lewinsky sex scandal that was still making headlines from two years prior.
When it came down to the election, Gore captured most of the popular votes in known liberal states, like California and New York, who tend to lean democratic in elections, while Bush conquered the South and Midwest. It was one of the closet presidential races in history, and eventually hinged on Florida to become the deciding factor of the election winner. Jeb Bush, the brother of Republican nominee George W. Bush, happened to be the Governor of Florida when the issue came to head. A mostly conservative State, Florida would undergo high controversy for it's intentional disregard for African American votes during the election. 1.9 million Americans cast ballots that were not counted in Florida. Nearly 1 million of the votes were cast by African Americans. There had been "machine issues" for the Florida residents in urban communities, making it difficult for Black votes to be submitted, let alone counted. Votes for Gore were automatically disregarded if it looked like the ballot contained an issue. The electronic voting machines in Black-predominate communities also punch holes in ballot punch cards, mostly for the same person twice (i.e. Gore, Gore), but because there were 2 holes punched, the ballots were deemed incorrect, and thrown away. In addition, optical reading machines rejected the "Al Gore" vote, because "Al" came up as a "stray mark", so those ballots were also thrown away. Gadsden County has the highest percentage of Black voters in Florida, and had the highest spoilage rate in votes. Tallahassee, a White-majority county in Florida, had voters place their ballots directly into the optical scanner themselves, and if a stray mark was founded, they would receive another ballot with instructions to correct it. African American voters however, would not receive instructions to correct ballots from the optical scanners that were placed by voter booth volunteers. Every vote in Tallahassee was accounted for. 1 in 8 votes cast in the 2000 election were not counted - the majority had selected "Al Gore" as their President. The media and Florida officials responded that the ballot issues were due to the lack of education in the Black Community, and that Blacks were at fault for their votes being disregarded, because they didnt know how to vote.
It would take over a month for the Florida votes to be counted, and for the election winner to be announced. Gore was announced by all major media news outlets as the winner initially and the 43rd President of the United States. But by a margin of only 537 votes out of nearly 6 million cast in the State of Florida, George W. Bush was ruled the actual winner, and thus the new President. There was pubic outcry protesting the ruling, and Blacks immediately defended that their votes be counted, which led to an immediate demand for a State-wide recount in Florida. It was revealed that there was a purge from the voting rolls containing over 54,000 citizens who were mistakingly identified as felons - thus losing their right to vote - of whom 54% were African American; the majority of those labeled as felons were actually not, and were eligible to vote under Florida law. Katherine Harris, then Secretary of State of Florida, teamed with Florida Governor Jeb Bush in using inaccurate ineligebal-voter lists that eliminated a disproportionate number of eligible people from voting, mostly who were African Americans. As a result, the Florida Supreme Court issued a mandatory, and immediate, recount.
But in the midst of the recount, George W. Bush issued an emergency plea to the United States Supreme Court recount ruling, to stop the recount. It was a split vote between them, but was granted, and although it was already in progress, the recount was immediately stopped. Bush was declared the winner of the election and the 43rd President of the United States. George W. Bush had other intentions for African Americans in his cabinet. He would, for the first time in American history, elect an African American to one of the most powerful positions in the cabinet - Colin Powell - as his Secretary of State. He would also have another Black leader in this role during his second term, Condaleeza Rice, giving African Americans the leadership in political office they had been seeking for hundreds of years. But Bush was handed a tough deck upon entering the Presidency - America was in shock from a sudden economic crisis that hit them just months prior, which effected all economic classes, while international terrorists were in their final stages of preparing to attack the country.
FOREIGN ATTACK BRINGS UNITY
Once the Internet started growing commercially in the late 1990s, venture capitalists and other investors saw record-setting growth as dot-com companies experienced huge rises in their stock prices. This evolved into the emergence of hundreds of dot-com companies forming overnight, who were seeking investors, hopeful of the same result. Investors, the middle-class, and the lower-class all shared in financially investing into overnight dot-com companies hoping for overnight riches. The typical dot-com company business model relied on harnessing network effects, operating at a sustained net-loss in order to build popularity in the market. They would basically offer free products or services with the expectation that they could build enough brand awareness to charge a fee later, setting a "get big fast" motto mentality amongst new dot-comers.
Companies started manipulating investors and stock buyers by simply adding an "e" prefix to their name or a ".com" to their business, so that they would take notice to their company - the practice was/is called "prefix investing". There was an enormous founding of companies from unknown (and often uncredited) wannabe entrepreneurs, looking to become millionaires without necessarily having any offerings. The American news media, including top respected business publications like The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Forbes, encouraged the public to invest in dot-com companies, even risky ones, glorifying the idea of becoming a millionaire in a short period of time after an investment. The theory was that, if a dot-com could survive just 3 years, there was a good chance of sustaining the business long-term, even if not profitable, but enough time to reimburse investor money. In year one of a dot-com, most (if not all) products or services were free; in year two of a dot-com, small rates were introduced; and by year three, free services and products would be eliminated. Most dot-coms just focused on year one, which was launching the business, making an initial cheap public stock offering (IPO), and then raise substantial amounts of money. Money was given from investors without he company ever making a single profit, earned any revenue, or even had an existing product or service. As a result, the majority of the dot-coms that emerged in the dot-com bubble failed miserably, causing an immense amount of financial loss from millionaires, and other economic classes in America who spent their savings in the hopeful industry.
Fake companies, bad mergers, and bad business models, were the cause in bursting the dot-com bubble in the year 2000. Companies like Pixelon were the prime example of a fake dot-com that costed investors millions of dollars, and shed light onto an ongoing catastrophic problem of misleading investors, partners, and the general public. Pixelon promised transmission and distribution of high-qualities videos over the internet, which was only loosely being done by Windows Media Player at the time (in limited formats). It was going to make live performances available to fans on the web for the first time. Pixelon raised millions of dollars from investors, hired nearly 60 employees, to promote the technology that their founder, Michael Fenne claimed to have. Fenne showed signs of erratic behavior from the start, signing his emails as "Big Giant Head of Pixelon", while demanding that he be paid from the company's expense account. He also required some employees to work 36-hour shifts, and holded mandatory prayer meetings in his office. In actuality, Pixelon was using Microsoft's Windows Media Player to broadcast events, rather than creating any technology of their own, hoping to "buy time" to mimic their product as a foundation, then evolve Pixelon's technology. The Pixelon company launch party was hosted in Las Vegas and costed a record-breaking$16 million. It featured lavish performances by KISS, The Dixie Chicks, LeAnn Rimes, Faith Hill, and a reunion concert from The Who. It was supposed to demonstrate the Pixelon technology for the first time by streaming the videos live across the web. It failed tremendously. The night of the event, when the technology attempted to make it's debut, it failed. The technology would not work, and the only people who were able to see the event were those who attended in person. It was immediately evident that the Pixelon product was a farce.
Fenne - Pixelon Founder and CEO - was fired within a week, and venture capitalists were doing everything they could to save their $35 million dollar investment. But it was too late. Fenne had been recognized months later and identified as David Kim Stanley, a convicted felon who had been on Virginia's most-wanted list for three years - he was living in California under his false (Fenne) identity. Stanley/Fenne had skipped bail after he pleaded guilty and was convicted of fraud, for stealing more than $1 million in a mutual investment scheme, and disappeared. After the revelation, no venture capitalists wanted to invest in Pixelon, the company laid-off all of it's employees, and filed for bankruptcy.
Horrible technology mergers were also played a critical role in the dot-com crash. America Online (known as AOL) was a pioneer of dial-up internet access. In their peak, AOL merged with the world's largest media company, Time Warner. The merger failed almost instantly because the head's at the two companies didn't get along. Their promised synergies failed to materialize, as mutual disrespect enabled the two companies from working together at all. The transaction was described as the "worst in history" and within two years of the merger, boardroom disagreements between the CEOs of the two companies led to AOL Time Warner dropping "AOL" from its name. GeoCities was another example of a merger that went horribly sour, fast. GeoCities allowed site users to select a "city" or "neighborhood, and after doing so, would display content related to the city (i.e. "Silicon Valley" hosted computer-related sites, West Hollywood hosted LGBT topics, Napa hosted wine topics). In addition, GeoCities provided users with an easy way to build personal web pages. At it's peak in 1999, GeoCities was the third most-visited website on the World Wide Web - behind AOL and Yahoo - and had a stock price close to $100 a share.
At their peak in success, GeoCities was acquired by their second biggest competitor, Yahoo! for $3.6 billion in stock. The merger failed miserably, as loyal GeoCities members were very vocal in their disdain, and the stock plummeted almost overnight. GeoCities users started leaving after new terms were put out by Yahoo!, which stated that the company would owned all rights and content, including media such as photos and videos. What made the merger even more of a disaster was when Yahoo! made a series of bad product marketing decisions in the first 2 years of the acquisition. This would include premium hosting services for free, and reducing accessibility of free and low-price hosting accounts by limiting data transfer rates for page visits (which slowed the sites down). This not only drove GeoCities subscribers away, but then key executives and engineers from GeoCities refused to work for Yahoo! The result was stagnant, and then subsequently outdated technology.
Many dot-coms just simply had bad business models that were doomed from the beginning, but were relying on the hype of the bubble to carry them. Pets.com followed in the steps of Boo.com (fashion apparel dot-com startup in the UK that failed within 2 years, after spending $135 million of investment money) and Webvan.com (an online grocery delivery business from Silicon Valley that filed bankruptcy and went defunct after raising $375 million; they're recorded as the largest dot-com flop in history. They were hoping to reach the pet-owner demographic by selling pet accessories and supplies over the World Wide Web. Pets.com would spend most of their investment dollars on marketing, which worked to get the attention of consumers, and the company became extremely popular. But they had a poor business model that would prevent them from making any profits at all. Although they had a great offering for supplies, they underestimated the costs of shipping, which limited profits off of items sold. They nearly lost money every time they sold an item. $300 million of investment capital vanished with their failure. Many other dot-coms ran out of money and investors, and were either acquired or liquidated. A few of the larger dot-com companies, like Google.com (which was developing it's search engine), Amazon.com, and eBay.com were able to survive through the dot-com bubble and crash, and have become industry-dominating enterprises.
Many Blacks invested their savings in newly created dot-com businesses and in the stock market hoping to make the same financial gain as Whites. Wealthy African Americans, including celebrity athletes like Scottie Pippen and Mike Tyson lost millions in bad investments during the dot-com bubble from scheming entrepreneurs who took advantage. The 3 years that the dot-com bubble lasted (from 1997 - 2000) was during the Clinton Presidency, and after the crash in 2000 took place, the rubble was left to new President George W. Bush to clean up. The dot-com and subsequent stock market crash of 2000 - 2002 caused the loss of $5 trillion in company market value for those years. Within a year of the dot-com crash, the United States was hit with another sudden disaster - the September 11th terrorist attacks.
George W. Bush saw some amazing accomplishments as President that are often overlooked - like capturing Saddam Hussein, improving relations with India, leading the country during the midst of attack and catastrophe, establishing the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) - but his legacy unfortunately also usually excludes a critical component: the incredible steps taken in improving equality for African Americans. Besides the programs established that made more African Americans homeowners than ever in United States history, Bush would hire 2 African Americans to some of the most critical roles in a President's Administration - Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice (the first woman to ever hold the title). Bush would later make Rice his Secretary of State during his second term, making her the second African American ever to hold that role (and the second woman to hold the position). But by the end of his second term, because of American involvement in overseas wars (Afghanistan and Iraq/Iran), the economic recession, and the media's portrayal that treasonously depicted Bush as dumb and incapable of running the country, most Americans united in wanting a change in politics.
When Barack Obama became a long-shot candidate in the primary elections, after securing the Democratic nomination, it would be a landmark in history. Obama, raised in a bi-racial family, hadn’t had much of the racist experiences he heard about while living in Hawaii – there were diverse ethnic groups on the island, and Hawaiians culture generally consists of being kind, loving, and accepting of all people, regardless of race. But while in college, Obama would write a speech focusing on ending the South African apartheid that was taking place, and it inspired him into taking world issues, and those domestically, more seriously. He would graduate Harvard Law School, and became the first Black President of the Harvard school newspaper The Harvard Review. After a successful constitutional law teaching role, Obama put his attentions into politics full time, securing a seat in the Illinois Senate in 1996. He would be elected as the United States Senatator of Illinois in 2004 and would remain in this role until he became President 4 years later. His nomination wouldn't come easy.
Hillary Clinton, humanitarian and wife of beloved retired President Bill Clinton, was the hopeful for the Democratic ticket. But Hilary Clinton lost her standing when her focuses during her campaign seemed more peace-oriented, centered around many of the humanitarian rights that she had been advocating regularly, and the American people cared about working and making money again. In 2007, when the primaries were taking place, the United States was in one of the worst economic recessions since the Great Depression. Obama put more emphasis on "hope" and "change" in his campaigns, with the core messages being around ending the wars overseas, and ending the recession. A similar deck that Bush was handed going into his Presidency - a dwindling economy, and national safety concerns - would be carried on to the next who took the seat.
Although improving race-relations was not a focal point of his objectives going into the Presidency, Obama definitely captizalied on past race issues to garner support for his Administration, and tried to remind people where the country once was. He would announce his running for the role in the same place where Lincoln held his speech over a hundred years prior. He also traveled to Selma, Alabama – as did Hillary Clinton – to coincide with the 42 anniversy of the Selma to Montgomery marches, that were led by Martin Luther King Jr. But it was African American entrepreneur pioneer and living-legend, Oprah Winfrey, the richest African American in history, also the greatest Black philanthrophist in American history, and the only Black billionaire, who would be the most impactful in securing the election for Obama. He never promised to be a President that would change how African Americans were perceived in society, or how they were treated by employers, at schools, or promised to improve opportunities for their advancement, but there was no doubt that Obama had an agenda to assist the lower economic class - which would directly affect Blacks who were applicable. After a close race with legendary POW and Arizona Senator, John McCain, Barack Obama would be elected as the 44th President of the United States - the first African American ever in history to hold that role.
Obama would devote most of his energy during his Presidency to LGBT rights, removing troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, closing Guantanomo Bay Detention Camp, and rebuilding the collapsing economy. He would make developing private-sector jobs a priority, and encouraged entrepreneurship amongst Americans, which he believed would create more jobs and opportunities for people - closely-similar to Reagans beliefs decades prior. In his term, Obama would successfully see the creation of 3.7 million private sector jobs. Also upon entering office, he signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in an attempt to create more jobs, and investment in the community. This was vital to the African American community, because they experienced higher rates of employment in the urban neighborhoods that were normally unemployed and had no businesses - let alone work - available. Cities that were predominately Black and low-income across the country - particularly highly populated Black and Latino cities like Oakland, Brooklyn, Detroit, Chicago, and San Francisco - would see an emergence of investors, predominately White and Jewish, that purchased land and started building retail plazas and other businesses. Blacks in those neighborhoods would be hired to assist building the structures, and were staffed when many of the locations initially opened, resulting in Blacks experiencing their highest employments years since the 1970s.
During his Presidency, Obama would implement dozens of policies to combat poverty throughout the country, and massively improved unemployment rates. He also came down hard on banks and other loan agencies that were using unjustly practices against their borrowers, to prevent what happened during the housing crash, from ever happening again. To combat the health problems that plague inner city Black streets due to unhealthy meal choices - like obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes - Obama would give lower income neighborhoods better access to healthy foods, and also healthcare available to all economic classes with his controversial Obamacare. In addition, otherwise inaccessible college and skill training programs became available to most low and middle income class Americans during his Presidency; Blacks and Latinos had record breaking increases in signing up for post-high school educational programs, more than any other ethnic groups in the United States. For his improvements in rebuilding the economic recession, ending the American wars overseas, capturing and killing Osama bin Laden, and gaining equalities for those in the LGBTQ Community, Obama has proven to be a monumental President.
Although there had been several accounts to describe some of the hijakers on the planes, due to various calls made to loved ones on board shortly before meeting their deaths, and by the flight crew who gave details on the seat assignments of the hijackers, no one was certain on their motive, origin, or if this was part of a much wider plot. There were reportedly 19 hijackers total who carried out the 4 plane attacks on September 11th, all of whom were young in age - most were between 20-26 years old - from Saudi Arabia, and were staffed with 5 hijackers per flight (except in Flight 93, where there were 4). The identity of the hijackers have been subject to enormous controversy, as there were a chain of unlikely events that were collectively puzzled together to link the "terrorists", suspicious "evidence" of the hijackers at the scene of the attacks, and the mistaken identity of those suspected to be involved.
There is no concrete evidence that clearly determines who or how many terrorists were actually involved in the hijacking and subsequent attacks on September 11th. The "black boxes" that are featured on commercial jets, like the ones flown on September 11th, record all cockpit communications, and flight data. They are typically designed to sustain crashes or destruction, because they act as the evidence in piecing together any form of crisis that arises in flight. The black boxes for Flight 11 and Flight 175 - the planes that were flown into the World Trade Center - would never be found, and those on Flight 77 - the plane that was deemed to have hit the Pentagon - was "not eligible" in providing information. The latter flight is subject to its own set of controversy, due to speculation that the flight never hit the Pentagon, and that a missile actually hit the building. There was no hard proof, and there were no survivors of the flights, so finding a motive was difficult.
Small pieces of "evidence" for proving who the hijackers were was found following the attacks. They included in-tact passports of the suspected terrorists found at Ground Zero, direct naming of Arabs by Israeli spies, a car left at the airport within hours of the attack that included incriminating documents (a flight training manual in Arabic), and a discarded sheet of instructions on how to fly a transcontinental jetliner in the Shehri brothers (Flight 11) hotel room. The FBI would accuse several Arabs for the attacks, in which the media publicized, condemning the suspects, and spread prejudice against various Arab groups. The news wrongly broadcasted images of various Arabs that had no involvement. For most of the men, it wasn't until they are proven that they were alive and in other countries that their identity was corrected, and the FBI apologized.
During the attacks of September 11th 2001, and shortly following, Americans were eager to determine who was responsible and seek justice. The biggest problem with that was that no one was taking accountability for the attacks. In the mid-morning hours of September 11th, shortly following the Pentagon bombing, Abu Dhabi TV reported it received a call from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine - a military activist group whose mission was to free their country from Israel influence, after their land was taken by Jewish extremists - claiming responsibility for the World Trade Center attack, but it was quickly denied. Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), also denied complicity in the attacks and was appalled by them. By 9:55a the morning of the attacks, prior to the Twin Towers collapse, a CNN correspondent mentioned Osama bin Laden as someone "determined" to strike the US. Later that afternoon, Senator Orrin Hatch told CNN that "both the FBI and our intelligence community believe that this is Bin Laden's signature". After media reports continued speculating, and started issuing his name, photo, and his reported disdain for the United States, America had a new enemy: Osama bin Laden and his "Al Qaeda" militant group.
Bin Laden, a Saudi Arabian, born from a prestigious and wealthy Saudi family, formed al-Qaeda in the late 1980s and made his hate for the United States clear from the beginning. He had already earned himself a spot on the American FBI Ten Most Want list for his involvement in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings, and was living in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. He adamantly denied any involvement in the September 11th attacks initially, stating "I stress that I have not carried out this act, which appears to have been carried out by individuals with their own motivation." On December 27th 2001, a second bin Laden video was released where he said, "It has become clear that the West in general and America in particular have an unspeakable hatred for Islam. ... It is the hatred of crusaders. Terrorism against America deserves to be praised because it was a response to injustice, aimed at forcing America to stop its support for Israel, which kills our people. ... We say that the end of the United States is imminent, whether Bin Laden or his followers are alive or dead, for the awakening of the Muslim umma (nation) has occurred", but he still took no responsibility in the attacks.
Bin Laden would abandon his denials years later, in 2004, during an 18-min video detailing his involvement, including that he had personally directed the 19 hijackers. He noted the United States support of Israel as 1 of the 2 greatest factors in the attack. When World War II and the Jewish Holocaust ended, most Jewish people wanted their own independent country, and settled on land they felt was entitled to them from Biblical nature. The land was located in the country of Palestine. When Zionists put pressure on the United Nation, the UN stepped in and recommended giving away 55% of Palestine to a Jewish State (where Jews represented owned under 7% of the land), and they have been in conflict ever since. Palestinians have been massacred by the thousands and forcibly removed from their land by Jews (similar to how Jews were during their Holocaust, in migrating to the ghettos), and are fighting to keep their sovereignty rather than be conquered by an outside group. Jews feel entitlement to the land because it is the birthplace of their religious faith from thousands of years ago, and that they deserve their own independent nation. At least one million Palestinians - mostly innocent civilians - have been killed in the Jewish fight to take over the country. They have still not resolved their conflict, but the United States has stood with Israel, and formed an alliance with them, to the dismay of Islam nations and Palestinians around the world. Bin Laden was particularly affected by this.
In his November 2002 "Letter to America", Bin Laden stated "The expansion of Israel is one of the greatest crimes, and you are the leaders of its criminals. And of course there is no need to explain and prove the degree of American support for Israel. The creation of Israel is a crime which must be erased. Each and every person whose hands have become polluted in the contribution towards this crime must pay its price, and pay for it heavily". The second motivation behind the attacks were the sanctions placed against Iraq. These sanctions would limit exports and imports in Iraq (including medical supplies and food), which caused disastrous famine across the country, along with anything deemed as "military use" including computers, undergarments, and tractors. It caused devastation to innocent Iraqi people. But killing bin Laden was not enough. He was just one person, and the United States needed to destroy his entire al-Qaeda organization, along with anyone who was harboring him or his allies, including the Taliban. The Taliban had denounced the terrorist attacks of September 11th, and offered to extradite bin Laden to an Islamic court, to be tried under Islamic law, and be sentenced (likely resulting in death). But it wasn't good enough for the United States.
Taken from a reference used in the Reagan Administration, "war against terrorism" would be the universal theme to rally American support, and those abroad, for taking military action against the terrorists who planned the attacks. Within days of the attacks, President Bush stated to the world that the "'war on terror' begins with al-Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated". The majority of Americans weren't focused on fights with other terrorists, and were mostly concerned on bringing those who attacked America, to justice. Bush however, and his Administration, would have a different agenda. The "War on Terror" would be a military tactic, with a lengthy objective list, and a long list of organizations to target, that were not specific to those responsible for the September 11th attacks It included the Iraq government. The first troops were deployed October 2001, invading - and bombing - Afghanistan and Pakistan, targeting any areas that were suspected of housing terrorists or their supporters.
Iraq, had been a known and widely media publicized enemy of the United States since the 1980s, and only heightened under George H.W. Bush. The number one issue both President Bush's had with the country was their President, Suddam Hussein. Hussein pursued an extensive biological weapons program and nuclear weapons program. Although he hadn't been developing weapons of mass destruction, he had created several catastrophic weapons that were being tested against innocent Iraqi civilians. The Bush Administration, were ager to get to Iraq and dissolve any mass weapons they could find, destroy their leader (Hussein), and reap the soils of war (oil). Chemical weapons were later found in Iraq, but no nuclear weapons. Suddam was captured in 2003 and sentenced to death; videos of his death were recorded and shown on mobile phone cameras around the world.
Blacks were eager to serve America, as they have historically in every other war involving the United States. Especially because African Americans were equally apalled at the actions of the terrorists who attacked on September 11th, and sought justice. However, Blacks were still fighting for their own equality just to service alongside Whites. Specialist Adam Jarrell - the only African American in his unit of New Mexico Army Nation Guard - would be one of the few Blacks who shared stories of the discrimination, harassment, and physical abuse he endured at the hands of White soldiers and officers, while trying to serve his country. Blacks would be tasked with working on the frontline against the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and various terrorists groups - making up the majority in numbers for both the Marines and Army. While White troops in Afghanistan were set to monitor poppy fields in the areas that were overthrown. Afghanistan has been the world's largest illicit opium producer since the early 1990s. Production of opium has been on a rapid ascend ever since the United States occupied the country in 2001 - it's export value is roughly $4 billion. In addition, Afghanistan is the largest producer of cannabis - mostly as hashish - in the world. Afghan farmers have stated that United States "government officials take bribes for turning a blind eye to the drug trade while punishing poor opium growers". China and Japan are the highest consumers of opium in the world. The United States owes China $1.26 trillion, and owes Japan $1.23 trillion - drugs are an efficient and cost-effective form of payment to both nations.
American Whites revisited some old deviant practices from decades prior when dealing with their new Iraqi enemies. During the War in Iraq, some of the United States Army and the CIA committed a series of horrible torturous human rights violations against prisoners held at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The atrocities were captured in photographs and videos by the personnel, boastfully. There were photographic evidences of rape (both male and female prisoners), as well as soldiers and personnel sexually assaulting prisoners with objects. Photos also captured prisoners being urinated on by their guards, being beaten with metal batons, the pouring of phosphoric acid on detainees, live surgeries for wounds that didn't exist, tying ropes to detainees' penises and dragging them across the floor, the forcing of prisoners to position themselves in degrading homosexual positions, (the detainees were heterosexual, and mostly conservative Muslims), made into a human pyramids, and more. Venomous snakes were used to bite prisoners, which often resulted in their death.
The abuse and torture came to light by Amnesty International and the Associated Press. It would receive condemnation around the world, but some support from conservative White and Jewish media within the United States. There was evidence that authorization for the torture had come from high up in the military hierarchy, with allegations made that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had authorized some of the actions. Rumsfeld was careful to draw a distinction between abuse and torture, in defense of the actions, and declared that "what has been charged so far is abuse, which I believe technically is different from torture. I'm not going to address the ‘torture’ word". " The United States Department of Defense removed 17 soldiers and officers from duty as a result. 2 soldiers, Specialists Charles Graner and Lynndie England, were sentenced to ten and three years in prison, respectively. Many feel the consequences did not meet the crimes committed. Most military personnel who were accused of perpetrating or authorizing the torture, including most of the higher rank, were not prosecuted. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continued on for over a decade.
African Americans have significantly watched more television than any other ethnic group in the United States - specifically Black women. Talk shows - like Jerry Springer, Ricky Lake, Jenny Jones, and Maury - that typically featured lower-income Blacks and exploited their lifestyles or circumstances, have always been popular in the Black community. Soap operas - especially Dallas and General Hospital - were also popular for African Americans in the 1980s through the 1990s, but were loosing their fame in the early 2000s. A new form of entertainment that encompassed both soap operas and the talk-shows would steal Black television viewer's attention, and keep it, after 2006 - reality tv.
That year was a critical one for African Americans financially, as the majority of Black homeowners were in the midst of foreclosures, and Blacks were in at an all-time high in bankruptcy filings (which had been done predominately by Whites until that period) and with the recession growing, and funds unavailable for live entertainment, many Blacks turned to reality tv to take their attention away from what was happening around them. In 2006, VH1 changed how Blacks watched television, when they featured the first African American celebrity bachelor looking for love, in his own reality show: Flavor Flav. William Jonathan Drayton Jr., better known as Flavor Flav of hip hop pioneer rap group Public Enemy, had a televised unsuccessful relationship with Sylvester Stallone's ex wife, European actress and reality tv star, Brigitte Nielsen, on their show Strange Love on VH1. Flavor Flav's new reality show would mimic The Bachelor - where at least a dozen women compete for the attention and affections of one bachelor.
The difference between this new show and White bachelor-style shows, outside of it featuring the first-ever Black bachelor, were the behaviors of the female contestants. America was able to see several types of Black women - some educated, some exotic dancers, some athletic, some dumb-witted, and business moguls - for the first time on television, fight, sometimes literally, for the affections of one man (Flavor Flav). The contestants lived in a mansion, rented out for the duration of the show, had access to luxuries throughout their stay, usually got to experience some destination vacation with all expenses paid, in return for their time and openness. They would not be paid for their appearances on the show, earned no royalties from when the show aired or went onto DVD, weren't compensated for any merchandise sold bearing their names or images, and usually had to be in complete isolation in the month of the finale airing so that there were no spoilers on the show. Flavor of Love was mocked, admired, and hated at the same time, but it was popular nonetheless in the Black community, who were just surprised to see a Black icon at the center of attention. The show was even successful with White audiences, and they enjoyed seeing how irate some of the women were acting on the show.
Just like any other reality television show, the footage aired was heavily edited and position to best portray the story the network wrote. This often showed Black women in very compromising positions, intimate situations, and more. Because their character personas could make them overnight celebrities, they acted out in degrading fashions. They did so for the attention of a man they didnt really want, but would use to establish (or strengthen) their careers individually. And while the show was successful, offering several spin off shows - Flavor of Love 2 & 3, I Love New York 1 & 2, Real Chance of Love - it created a notion that if Black women would act in the stereotypes that the audiences were tuning in to see, they would have a future in entertainment, and financial stability. The women (or men) on the reality shows didn't need any talent whatsoever to be famous, they just needed to be well-liked (or hated) by the audience, and entice them to want to see them more. Villains made just as much profit as the fan favorites.
This same Bachelor-style format on VH1 continued on, as rating soared for their Flavor of Love spinoffs, prompting them to try to reach a younger demographic (Flavor Flav was in his late 40s during his series). They would ask R&B singer Brandy Norwood's younger brother - who is also a singer in his own right - Ray J, to star in his own show. Ray J had made a name for himself in and outside of the entertainment industry, had a fan base that were loyal to his music, and also to him personally. He was known to date attractive women, some socialites, and as a result of a sex tape that was leaked featuring Ray J, his companion in the video - Kim Kardashian - would get widely recognized. With the help of her mother Kris, Kim Kardashian became a mega star with an empire that later eclipsed Ray J's. But in his show, For the Love of Ray J, he would have young, attractive women fighting for his attention and affections, sharing him as he pampered them on vacations, expensive outings, and bought them gifts. Many young Black women, in the same age demographic would start trying to follow in the same footsteps of what they were seeing on these reality shows - since after all, these weren't "scripted series", these were "real" situations, where women that came from nothing or came from little, with the intention of getting more, could achieve such by hooking up and locking down a wealthy man. Women trying to appease a man to get his hand in marriage is nothing new, nor is it limited to African American women. But there was definitely a mindset shift in Black women in how they could achieve their "American dream" after they saw how easily women on these reality shows were able to do so.
Dating-format reality shows weren't the only reality shows grabbing the attention from Blacks, they were also equally attracted to seeing shows surrounding talented African Americans trying to get their shot at stardom. Shows like American Idol, although liked by Blacks, was more favored by White audiences, and African Americans strongly voiced that the Black talent on the show didn't do the Black community justice. Sean "P Diddy" Combs, who was a mogul in New York during this time - with his successful rap career, Sean John clothing label, and talent roster on his Bad Boy Records - was widely adorned by the MTV audience. MTV would borrow a series from another network - Making the Band - and gave Combs an opportunity to show his processes, regardless of how ridiculous they would be, for selecting new artists, and showcase their fight to achieve their musical aspirations. The talent would endure on-spot singing or rapping competitions and battles, endure mentally challenging requests (like walking across the Brooklyn Bridge to grab Combs a slice of cheesecake), and most notably, fighting. Although tons of talent made it onto the Making the Band series, none of them would achieve the mainstream success that was promised. Da Band, Dannity Kane, and Day 26, were all projects of Diddy's that shared the same fate as most of his other Bad Boy artists - they saw glimpses of success and limelight during an initial single release, then were shelved if it didn't meet Combs' expectations, were trapped into their contracts, and disabled from making music again until they were allowed to leave Bad Boy. Reality television is still the most popular genre of television watched by African Americans in the United States - number-one is still reality dating shows.
HOPE FOR CHANGE
African Americans have had a pretty consistent presence in popular American sports since they were legally allowed to participate in them, after integration - although they would experience continued racism, and discrimination. The ownership of Major League Baseball (MLB), National Football League (NFL), and National Basketball Association (NBA) teams have been primarily White and Jewish since the beginning of the league formations. There have been consistent, calculated blocks that have disabled wealthy African Americans from purchasing teams, and instead only enabling them to become limited partners or assistant coaches. Out of 32 NFL teams, 68% of the players are Black. None of the owners of the NFL teams are Black. Similarly, out of 30 MLB teams, none of the owners are Black. In contrast to when Blacks were forced into segregated baseball, there were over 40 Black major Negro League team owners. Out of the 30 teams in the NBA, 78% of the players are Black. There is only one Black owner of an NBA team - Michael Jordan, who owns the Charlotte Hornets. To further eliminate Black leadership in sports, they are also disproportionately neglected in being hired for managers or head coaches. At the start of the new millennium, there were only 12 African American managers and head coaches in major league basketball, baseball, and football, combined. Even in college sports, Blacks were left out of leadership over teams - in the early 2000s, out of 115 Division A football coaches, only 5 were Black.
When most Black athletes reach high levels of success, massive endorsements, and worldwide recognition, the American media historically breaks them, or attempts to. There typically involves some sort of investigation into the athlete's personal life, where a dark secret about the athlete is produced, and then the media fixates on it - until the athlete's image is questioned, and they are removed from the levels of fame they once had, never able to achieve the same respect again. Or, the athlete falls victim to financial mismanagement by the advisers closest to them, and becomes broke. This is almost guaranteed if the successful Black athlete marries someone White.
Barry Bonds has been ranked as the best baseball player of the 1990s. At the end of that decade, Bonds had ranked number 34 on the Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players - he was the highest-ranking player still active in the major leagues. In 2005, Bonds was 6th. He holds 17 records by himself, including the most home runs in a single season, most home runs in a career, most home runs since turning 40 years old (he held that record at 43), slugging percentage in a single season, most MVP awards, and most consecutive MVP awards. Bonds was pretty quiet in his personal life, and wasn't as flamboyant as other players of his era were, married a White bartender from Montreal (Susann Margreth Branco), and was raising his children. Bonds was so good and resented by other players, that they united in attempting to walk him, so he would have more difficulty in breaking records. The biggest concern was Bonds beating White legendary baseball player Babe Ruth's record. Bonds received 7 MVP awards and 14 All-Star selections, and is considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time. However, his legacy would change after the BALCO (The Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative) scandal erupted in 2003.
Bonds was accused of taking steroids, and that the usage was behind his success, and record-breaking accomplishments. In the papers filed by Federal prosecutors against him, they would erroneously allege that Bonds had tested positive for steroids in November 2001, a month after hitting his 73rd home run. When Bonds' lawyers confronted Federal prosecutors about the papers, they would claim it was a "typo". The damage had already been done, since the paperwork and investigation were followed by the public, and the media ripped Bonds apart. They insinuated that Bonds be fired, endorsements stopped, and he should be permanently marked in history as an athlete whose success was influenced by steroids. Although Bonds didn't take steroids in 2001 as Federal prosecutors falsely claimed, he did take them in 2000. Bonds denied it, and did so additionally under oath. He was indicted on 4 counts on perjury and one count of obstruction of justice relating to the BALCO investigation as a result. He was convicted of the obstruction of justice charge. Bonds will have an asterisk next to his name and achievements, highlighting his steroid usage, indefinitely. He wasn't the only Black athlete who fell victim.
Marion Jones was a world champion track and field athlete, and olympic gold winner, when she was also questioned in the BALCO scandal. She was one of the first, and few Black female track and field athletes to become a millionaire, and was making nearly $7 million per year. Jones' career record consisted of a professional basketball career - she played for the Tulsa Shock in the WNBA - and several notable achievements in track and field. Jones would win 3 Gold medals (100 meter sprint, 200 meter sprint, and 4 x 400 relay), and 2 Bronze medals (long jump, and 4 x 100 relay) at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Her ex-husband C. J. Hunter, an Olympic shot-putter and confessed steroid user, would testify under oath that he saw Jones personally inject drugs into her stomach, when in Sydney for the Olympics. She would deny using performance-enhancing drugs until her confession in 2007. As a result, Jones accepted a two-year suspension from track and field competitions issued by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, and was disqualified from all competitive results obtained after September 1, 2000. She was forced to forfeit of all medals, results, points, and prizes. Jones surrendered all of the metals she won at the 2000 Olympics. Jones, mother of a 5 year-old during the admission, was also sentenced to 6 months in jail for her involvement with taking performance-enhancing drugs, and also for check-fraud - after a $25,000 check made out to Jones was deposited in her bank account as part of an alleged money laundering scheme. She was released from jail in 2008.
A slew of other top Black athletes would get caught up in the BALCO scandal, spanning more than 20 top-level athletes. Another notable one was boxer Shane Mosley. In 2000, Mosley was given the honor as Fighter of the Year from the Boxing Hall of Fame, and would beat some of the presumed-best and most recognizable boxers in the sport, including Oscar De La Hoya and Fernando Vargas - he would beat both twice. Mosley adamantly insisted that he did not knowingly take banned substances from BALCO, and thought they were vitamins (he was told the "cream" was flaxseed oil). He wouldn't be indicted or convicted of his usage, and filed a $12 million defamation lawsuit against BALCO founder Victor Conte - who had accused Mosley of knowing he was taking steroids - but the suit was dismissed. Other Black athletes noted in the BALCO scandal included several players from the Oakland Raiders, 100m sprinter Tim Montgomery, and baseball superstar Gary Sheffield.
White athletes who had taken the same steroids - or even worse ones - had no consequence. Baseball legend Mark McGwire - who was one of Barry Bonds' top competitors during their era - was personally being injected with steroids by his teammate, Jose Canseco. Canseco would later write a tell-all book about the top MLB players' steroid usage. McGwire admitted to using steroids on and off for a decade - during his record-breaking years. About it, McGwire said, "I wish I had never touched steroids. It was foolish and it was a mistake. I truly apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era." McGwire has kept all of his achievements and broken records, without any notation of his steroid usage. Roger Clemens, one of the most dominant pitchers in major league history, would be another White player who was heavy engulfed in steroid use, but didn't meet the same fate as Black athletes. Clemens was an 11-time All-Star and 2-time World Series champion, breaking several records - including sticking out 20 batters in a single game. But in Clemens' peak and most memorable years as a MLB player, he was an excessive steroid user. A Federal grand jury in Washington D.C. indicted Clemens on 6 felony counts related to his steroid usage (and his lying about it) - where he pled not-guilty. It ended in mistrial. The second trial found Clemens not-guilty of the charges. He would have no asterisk next to his name for his admitted steroid use during his most successful years, served no jail time for lying about his usage, and would keep his iconic baseball status without mention to steroids.
In the early 2000s, Kobe Bryant was steadily becoming an internationally recognized basketball star. After a legendary center-guard combination was created with Shaquille O'Neal, and the Lakers hired Phil Jackson as Head Coach, Bryant would be a central figure in making the Lakers champions back-to-back in 2000, 2001, and 2002. But by 2003, as Bryant was being recognized as one of the greatest basketball players in the NBA, just a few years into his career, a wrench would be thrown in an attempt to destroy his image. When Bryant went to Colorado for surgery, he stayed the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera, and had adulterous sexual relations with a White 19-year old female employee of the hotel. She claimed rape days later. At the time, Bryant was basking in endorsement deals - he had signed a 6-year contract with Adidas worth $48 million, Sprite, Nutella, Ferrero SpA, and McDonalds. Nike Inc. also had just signed Bryant to a 5-year $40 million dollar contract. When the rape allegations became public, most of those companies, including McDonalds, Ferrero, and Nutella terminated their contracts with Bryant almost immediately. Nike Inc. wouldn't terminate his contract, instead they "paused" it, and would resume under the condition that he changed his image. The sexual assault case was dropped after Bryant's accuser refused to testify, and because the accuser wasn't credible - she wore underpants containing another man's semen and pubic hair (a White male) to her rape exam. A separate civil suit was filed against Bryant by the woman and was settled out of court. It would take years before Bryant regained some of the endorsement deals he lost due to just the accusation of wrongdoing. It would take Nike Inc. 2 years to release a shoe under Bryant. He would go on to win the MVP title in 2008, and the Finals MVP title in 2009, and 2010.
Many Black men have fallen victim to similar accusations. Mike Tyson who had become boxing history's youngest heavyweight champion, had been making millions of dollars per fight, and earned over $35 million in endorsement deals with Pepsi, Eastman, Kodak, and Nintendo (they produced Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!). Tyson would earn over $400 million in his career. Unfortunately in 1991, at the height of his career, and after a highly publicized divorce with Robin Simone Givens, Tyson was arrested for raping 18-year old Desiree Washington in a hotel room, who had just been crowned Miss Black Rhode Island. After the jury deliberated for 10 hours, he was convicted of the rape charge in 1992, and sentenced to 6 years in prison, followed by 4 years on probation. It put an immediate end to Tyson's endorsement deals, the stripping of his funds, the destruction of his image, and uncertainty on his boxing career. Tyson would serve 3 years, and was released in 1995. He went on to a memorable boxing career, although he would never regain the boxing status that he had before his incarceration. Also damning to Tyson's image and legacy, due to his conviction, he is required to register as a sex offender under federal law. Most African American boxing legends, including Evander Holyfield (who made over $250 million in his career) have lost nearly all of their funds due to money mismanagement, on women, drugs, or from shady investment deals. Holyfield even had to hold an auction to sell his prized memorabilia - including his 1984 Olympic Bronze Medal - to pay off creditors in later years.
Drugs and poor decisions have also played a heavy factor in destroying Black athletes after they've made their rise. Daryl Strawberry, who at 6"6 in the 1980s and 1990s was one of the best sluggers in Major League Baseball, had a 17-year career, and led his teams to 4 World Series championships; he was also voted to the All-Star Game 8 times in a row. He had a horrible drug addition, and was suspended several times for cocaine use. Strawberry lost millions of dollars due to his drug addictions, bouts with drug addiction rehabilitation centers, and close associates who took advantage of his struggles. He has had consistent troubles with the law, and was even incarcerated in Tampa, Florida for soliciting sex from a policewoman posing as a prostitute - he was possessing cocaine during the incident. Strawberry has struggled to maintained a sober lifestyle since. Michael Irvin, a Cowboys football legend (he helped bring them 3 Super Bowl rings), and NFL Hall-of-Famer, had a series of legal troubles around cocaine possession and sexual abuse. Allen Iverson, who earned more than $154 million in salary and $50 million in endorsement deals is broke, and was in debt even in his duration in the NBA. Drugs, money mismanagement, and gambling were the key reasons behind his destitution. There are no mandatory money-management classes for athletes when they join these professional leagues. Most of these athletes come from lower-class economic communities, and are being instantly placed in millionaire environments - with no knowledge how to balance their budgets, let alone maintain them.
Some Black athletes can't find success after the media focuses on them and creates a negative frenzy around their personal life. David Justice, popular outfielder and designated hitter in MLB during the late 1980s and early 1990s was associated with sexual abuse and domestic violence against his wife, Halle Berry. A stigma was carried with him for the remainder of his career, and well into retirement. Terrell Owens, 6-time NFL Pro-Bowler, who broke several NFL records - his 15,934 career receiving yards rank second in NFL history - had conflict with the media because he was a good athlete, but was boastful and cocky about his skills. Due to his persona, Owens never obtained welcome or reception amongst those heading the league, or from the general fans, which was reflective in teams not wanting to work with him, and sponsors who refused to as well. He would try to commit suicide in 2006. Owens' multi-million dollar contracts declined into only thousands as the years progressed, even though his professional record improved, until there were no offers left. Owens has not been picked up by any NFL teams since 2012.
Another Black NFL player who suffered similar consequences because of media attacks and public disdain was Michael Vick. Black quarterbacks are rarities in the NFL - as most teams generally select White players for the critical role - but Vick would change the perception. He had a promising professional football career from an early age, leaving college during his Sophomore year to enter the NFL. In the 2001 draft, Vick was drafted first overall by the Atlanta Falcons - the first African American quarterback ever to be taken first overall. The media villainized him, portrayed him to be a rude, disrespectful football player, and highlighted every issue that came up in his personal life to destroy his image. The NFL even had to ban customizing jerseys with the name "Mexico" on the back, after the media fixated on when Vick allegedly had genital herpes and visited medical clinics to treat the condition under the alias "Ron Mexico". Such embarrassment has never been brought to any White quarterbacks, ever in NFL history.
Golf has always been popular in America, although their professional players wouldn't reach the same levels of fame as NFL, MLB, or NBA players (with the exception of Arnold Palmer), until a young Black athlete, Tiger Woods, entered the sport. Following an outstanding amateur and two-year college golf career, Woods turned professional at age 20 in late summer 1996. By April 1997 he had already won his first major, the 1997 Masters in a record-breaking performance, winning the tournament by 12 strokes and pocketing $486,000 - he reached the number one position in the world this year. Throughout the 2000s, Woods was the most dominate golfer in the world, spending 264 weeks from Aug 1999 to September 2004 as the world's number 1 professional golfer. Woods would carry that same title for 5 years, from June 2005 to October 2010. Woods was highly regarded as the world's most marketable athlete during this time. Woods was humble, hard-working, and came from a Black bi-racial middle-class family. In the height of his career, Woods married a Swedish-American nanny-turned model, Elin Nordegren. Woods' endorsement deals in this time included General Motors, Titleist, General Mills, American Express, Accenture, and a 5-year $105 million contract with Nike - it was the largest endorsement deal ever signed by an athlete at the time. Woods' promotion for Nike Golf made it one of the fastest growing brands in the world, with sales estimated at $600 million. But similar to OJ Simpson, whose personal life was at the center of media attention after marrying interracially, Woods would face unbearable attention and media scrutiny when found to be cheating on his wife.
In 2009, after the tabloid National Enquirer published a story claiming infidelity from Woods with a New York City nightclub manager, his world would turn upside-down. Woods drove recklessly, upset about the allegations and an argument ensued with his wife Erin because of it. He collided with a fire hydrant and few tree hedges. The media swarmed the scene, and bombarded the Woods family with questioning. After Jewish-owned tabloid magazine US Weekly hunted potential mistresses of Woods, to follow up on the National Enquirer story, they obtained a voicemail message allegedly left by Woods. Woods would plea with the public for privacy over the very personal matters with his wife, reiterating that it was his right to privacy, as his marriage had nothing to do with his golfing career. But the media would not, and for months, Woods was featured on dozens of magazine and newspaper front covers, with headlines centered on his infidelities. And although unwarranted, Woods would nonetheless apologize to the public for his extra-marital transgressions. Within days of the announcement admitting that he cheated on his wife, Woods would endure horrible amounts of undeserved abuse and harassment from the media. To make matters worse, the companies that endorsed Woods were now re-evaluting their relationships with him. Accenture, AT&T, Gatorade and General Motors completely ended their sponsorship of Woods. TAG Heuer dropped Woods from advertising in December 2009 and officially ended their deal when his contract expired in August 2011. Gillette suspended advertisements featuring Woods, and the magazine Golf Digest suspended his monthly column. It is reported that the shareholder loss caused by Woods' sexual affairs were between $5 and $12 billion dollars. The only 2 companies who continued to strongly support Woods were Nike and Electronic Arts (who were producing the game Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online). He would not return to professional golf for a year. Woods would be forced to pay his ex-wife Erin Nordegren $100 million in a divorce settlement following the cheating scandal. His image, endorsements, and career have never recovered from the incident.
A NEW REALITY
The new millennium would spark a new era of equal rights movements from the start - after over a million Black votes were disregarded in Florida during the 2000 Presidential election, which landed George W. Bush the Presidency. The country was already in devastation and economic crisis, due to the dot-com bubble and crash which resulted in millions of Americans losing their savings, investments, and quality of life. Just 9 months into Bush's Presidency, the country went into shock and widespread distress upon the September 11th attacks. Unfortunately, just as the country was showing signs of recuperation from the attacks and the "war on terror" that followed, Blacks in Louisiana would endure their own set of terror when the levees that the United States military built there, broke, in the midst of a hurricane.
Soon after, African Americans across the country got trapped in the housing bubble and crash in the mid 2000s. Some of the most respectable banks in the country would commit unthinkable crimes to purposely mislead Blacks into fraudulent and high-interest rates, which most have still yet to recover from. Reality TV developed during this time, which would capture the attention of those suffering the most, and causing distractions from their own lives. When Barack Obama would become the first African American President of the United States, he provided "hope" for improving the lives of all Americans. LGBT rights, immigration, and the wars fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, would see landmark improvements. African Americans did not. From 2009 to 2015 African Americans would report more violence from police officers, and from White Americans than in the last 100 years. In addition, Blacks in the United States became the highest ethnic group for having diabetes, hypertension, asthma, and heart disease than other ethnic group - leading many to believe the race is in it's final generations.
SAME ENEMIES, DIFFERENT OBJECTIVES