Welcome to the official website of Professor andré douglas pond cummings. This greetings/introduction page will serve to showcase the latest insights and work of Professor cummings as he seeks to challenge the status quo and work toward equality and social justice. According to renowned public intellectual Dr. Cornel West, Professor cummings scholarly "reputation goes far beyond . . . the nation, and is heard in every corner of the globe, wrestling with legacies of legal thinking on one hand and popular culture on the other."
|In an important article penned in late 2012 by Emory Law Professor and Vice Provost Dorothy Brown, she argues that home ownership continues to be a wealth building tool for white homeowners but does not benefit African American homeowners in the same way. Her article continues to resonate in 2014 as real estate markets have seemingly rebounded in many communities across the nation, but not significantly for African American communities. Writing for Forbes magazine, Brown posits:
|Vice Provost Dorothy Brown|
"Home ownership has been an important vehicle in creating a solid white middle class, but it has not done the same for most black homeowners, because blacks and whites buy homes in very different neighborhoods. Research shows that homes in majority black neighborhoods do not appreciate as much as homes in overwhelmingly white neighborhoods. This appreciation gap begins whenever a neighborhood is more than 10% black, and it increases right along with the percentage of black homeowners. Yet most blacks decide to live in majority minority neighborhoods, while most whites live in overwhelmingly white neighborhoods."
Brown continues by arguing that this divide and the wealth gap between black and whites is not as much about class as it is about race:
"If you think this is class and not race, you are wrong. A 2001 Brookings Institution study showed that 'wealthy minority neighborhoods had less home value per dollar of income than wealthy white neighborhoods.' The same study concluded that 'poor white neighborhoods had more home value per income than poor minority neighborhoods.' The Brookings study was based on a comparison of home values to homeowner incomes in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, and it found that even when homeowners had similar incomes, black-owned homes were valued at 18% less than white-owned homes. The 100 metropolitan areas were home to 58% of all whites and 63% of all blacks in the country."
Finally, Brown describes that these studies are supported by significant research and that at bottom, the real estate market penalizes integration:
"Those conclusions are supported by a large body of research. Put simply, the market penalizes integration: The higher the percentage of blacks in the neighborhood, the less the home is worth, even when researchers control for age, social class, household structure, and geography."
For those that argue that we live in a post-racial society, and that the election of President Obama has finally cleansed our nation of the lingering effects of slavery, Jim Crow, "separate but equal" and the discriminatory prison industrial complex, well, they have some explaining to do.
Concussion Awareness Event at the Indiana Tech Law School
On March 14, 2014, at the University of Michigan Law School, Professors Donald Tibbs and andré douglas pond cummings will present "Hip-Hop Mass Incarceration, and the Private Prison Industrial Complex" at 12 noon in Hutchins Hall, Room 100.
Profit maximization is often taught to law and business students as a primary driver for corporate leaders in the United States. Put another way, students learn that corporate executives are bound to consider shareholder enrichment as a primary motivator in their leadership of U.S. corporations. While critics like Lynn Stout and Yves Smith decry this notion as false, the duty of "profit maximization," the principle persists, as if members of corporate boards and company executives spend much of their time planning how to increase profits for the shareholders that ostensibly hire them. In my own writing and thinking, I am convinced that profit maximization is no myth but just misconstrued; profit maximization does exist for corporate leaders, but not for increasing shareholder profit, but for increasing their OWN profit. Stated differently, if profits increase for a corporation, that often means that executive compensation will increase remarkably if corporations show a successful bottom line. So evidence suggests that corporate leaders make decisions that will increase their own bottom line, rather than that of the company's owners, the shareholders.
|Jamie Dimon (courtesy of Steve Jurvetson/Wikimedia Commons)|
At Naked Capitalism, Yves Smith writes that the notion of shareholder profit maximization is bunk. He writes: "So many of the assertions made about 'maximizing shareholder value' are false that they should be assumed to be a lie until proven otherwise. The first is that board and managements are somehow obligated to 'maximize shareholder value' is patently false. Legally, shareholders’ equity is a residual claim, inferior to all other obligations. Boards and management are required to satisfy all of the company’s commitments, which include payments to vendors (including employees), satisfying product warranties, paying various creditors, paying taxes, and meeting various regulatory requirements (including workplace and product safety rules and environmental regulations)."
Rather, Smith continues "For the past three decades, top executives have been rewarding themselves with mega-million dollar compensation packages while American workers have suffered an unrelenting disappearance of middle-class jobs. Since the 1990s, this hollowing out of the middle-class has even affected people with lots of education and work experience. As the Occupy Wall Street movement correctly recognized, the concentration of income and wealth of the economic top 'one percent' of society has left the rest of us largely high and dry. Corporate profits are increasingly going to share buybacks or dividend distribution, but very little is going back into research and development efforts, capital reinvestment, and employment. Corporations, in other words, are devoting increasing amounts of their considerable and growing financial resources to redistribution rather than innovation. And they are doing so based on the justification of
'increasing shareholder value.'"
This redistribution of wealth is from corporate coffers into corporate executives pockets, NOT to shareholders or charitable organizations. Evidence of this comes this week with reports that Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase (pictured above), has been rewarded a 74% pay hike (18.5 million dollar bonus), despite a very rocky past two years of leadership where JP Morgan has paid billions of dollars in fines for regulatory failures.
Redistribution of wealth occurs in the United States, just not in the way folks are often led to believe. Corporate profits are increasingly landing in the pockets of the 1%, not in the pockets of the shareholders.
In an AlterNet article appearing today, the day we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., entitled "As We Celebrate MLK Day . . . Tomorrow's Anniversary of Citzen's United Reminds Us of Increasing Injustice," Professor Ian Haney Lopez discusses the connection between Dr. King's economic equality message which dominated the final years of his life, and increasing wealth inequality in America, represented strongly by the Supreme Court's Citizen's United opinion.
|courtesy of Marion S. Trikosko/Library of Congress|
Per AlterNet: "Monday is the national holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr., and Tuesday marks the fourth anniversary of Citizens United, the case that dramatically widened the flood of big money in elections. Their confluence is opportune, for while each seems to invite reflection on a different core social problem—respectively racial inequality and the power of concentrated wealth—each teaches lessons relevant to the other.
King clearly saw how racial and economic justice formed mutual requirements. The strike by African American sanitation workers in Memphis, where King was assassinated, reflected the truth that racial justice for minorities would depend on economic opportunities. In the other direction, the Poor Peoples’ March on Washington that King labored for in the months before his death arose out of the conviction that economic security for persons of every race depended on transcending racial divisions."
Russel Funk and Daniel Hirschman, both PhD candidates at the University of Michigan, have just released an interesting paper entitled "Derivatives and Deregulation: Financial Innovation and the Demise of Glass-Steagall." In the paper, they look closely at the first major currency swap in history, a 1981 exchange between IBM and the World Bank, and trace how this financial innovation (swaps primarily) literally drove the demise of the firewall between commercial and investment banks established in the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act.
Here is the abstract:
"Just as regulation may inhibit innovation, innovation may undermine regulation. Regulators, much like market actors, rely on categorical distinctions to understand and act on the market. Innovations that are ambiguous to regulatory categories but not to market actors present a problem for regulators and an opportunity for innovative firms to evade or upend the existing order. We trace the history of one class of innovative financial derivatives — interest rate and foreign exchange swaps — to show how these instruments undermined the separation of commercial and investment banking established by the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. Swaps did not fit neatly into existing product categories — futures, securities, loans — and thus evaded regulatory scrutiny for decades. The market success of swaps put commercial and investment banks into direct competition, and in so doing undermined Glass-Steagall. Drawing on this case, we theorize some of the political and market conditions under which regulations may be especially vulnerable to disruption by ambiguous innovations."
The paper can be downloaded here.
Professor Ian Haney López has just released his latest important book Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class.
Description: "Campaigning for president in 1980, Ronald Reagan told stories of Cadillac-driving 'welfare queens' and 'strapping young bucks' buying T-bone steaks with food stamps. In trumpeting these tales of welfare run amok, Reagan never needed to mention race, because he was blowing a dog whistle: sending a message about racial minorities inaudible on one level, but clearly heard on another. In doing so, he tapped into a long political tradition that started with George Wallace and Richard Nixon, and is more relevant than ever in the age of the Tea Party and the first black president.
In Dog Whistle Politics, Ian Haney López offers a sweeping account of how politicians and plutocrats deploy veiled racial appeals to persuade white voters to support policies that favor the extremely rich yet threaten their own interests. Dog whistle appeals generate middle-class enthusiasm for political candidates who promise to crack down on crime, curb undocumented immigration, and protect the heartland against Islamic infiltration, but ultimately vote to slash taxes for the rich, give corporations regulatory control over industry and financial markets, and aggressively curtail social services. White voters, convinced by powerful interests that minorities are their true enemies, fail to see the connection between the political agendas they support and the surging wealth inequality that takes an increasing toll on their lives. The tactic continues at full force, with the Republican Party using racial provocations to drum up enthusiasm for weakening unions and public pensions, defunding public schools, and opposing health care reform.
Rejecting any simple story of malevolent and obvious racism, Haney López links as never before the two central themes that dominate American politics today: the decline of the middle class and the Republican Party's increasing reliance on white voters.Dog Whistle Politics will generate a lively and much-needed debate about how racial politics has destabilized the American middle class -- white and nonwhite members alike."
As 2013 draws to a close, two important events have occurred in December that bear mentioning as the world prepares to usher in 2014. In connection with America's epic failure, the War on Drugs:
First, A Divided Federal Court Rules Crack Cocaine Sentencing Reforms Do No Apply to Those Already in Prison:
In a blow to those sentenced under grossly unfair crack cocaine versus powder cocaine sentencing requirements, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in early December that the new sentencing regime ushered in under the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act does not apply retroactively to those currently sitting in prison. From the NAACP release: "[A] sharply divided Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA), which reduced the unfair, unjustified, and racially discriminatory crack cocaine/powder cocaine sentencing ratio from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1, does not apply to thousands of individuals who are currently incarcerated pursuant to sentences imposed under the discredited 100-to-1 regime. Seven judges concluded that the FSA should apply to those serving sentences under the 100-to-1 federal sentencing structure, and ten judges declared that it should not."
"'We are deeply disappointed in the outcome of this case. Thousands of people, the majority of whom are African-American, are still serving time under an unfair drug sentencing regime that has destroyed individuals, families and communities. Today’s decision demonstrates that those who are working to eliminate the impermissible role of race in criminal prosecutions and sentences still have much more work to do. We will continue to press this issue in the court,' said Sherrilyn A. Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., a leading civil rights law firm and a separate entity from the NAACP."
President Obama, Congress, Federal Courts, and the United States Supreme Court must act immediately to begin commuting the sentences of those individuals imprisoned under the grossly unfair 100:1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine.
Second, President Obama Commutes the Sentences of Eight Crack Cocaine Offenders:
President Obama, recognizing that thousands of inmates are jailed under patently unfair sentencing policies in connection with crack cocaine and powder cocaine sentences, began what can fairly be hoped for as the beginning of righting past wrongs, commuted the sentences of eight crack cocaine offenders who have served prison time for more than 15 years, and would be out of prison, had they been sentenced under powder cocaine guidelines.
Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010 which, according to The Root, "reduced the disparity in sentencing between offenses for crack and powder cocaine from 100:1 to 18:1. The 100:1 ratio meant that people involved in offenses for crack cocaine faced longer sentences that those involving the same amount of powder cocaine." The New York Times reports that President Obama released the following statement:
"'This law began to right a decades-old injustice, but for thousands of inmates, it came too late,' the president said in a release given to the media. 'If they had been sentenced under the current law, many of them would have already served their time and paid their debt to society. Instead, because of a disparity in the law that is now recognized as unjust, they remain in prison, separated from their families and their communities, at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars each year.'"
Let's hope for much more of the same in 2014.
THURSDAY, JUNE 13, 2013
Corporations are legally permitted to expend general treasury
funds for charitable purposes. Indeed, corporations are encouraged to
contribute to charities in order to improve the communities in which they do
business and to support the consumers that purchase their products or use their
services. State rules place parameters around the amount of money that
can be allocated from corporate coffers to charitable entities with most rules
allowing contributions that are reasonable in amount, related to a corporate
purpose, and not distributed to "pet" charities. With
corporations now stepping into the giving role that large philanthropic
families played in the 19th and 20th centuries (like the Mellon family, the
Rockefeller family, etc.), and with charities relying more heavily than ever on
corporate gifts, what are we to make of news today that dozens of charities are
little more than scams initiated by individuals seeking easy windfalls?
CNN, together with the Tampa Bay Times and
the Center for Investigative Reporting, released a stunning report today
indicating that hundreds, if not thousands of charities are siphoning millions
of dollars from charitable givers and enriching charity founders and executives
and for-profit companies that are paid to solicit the charitable gifts.
This report indicates that thousands of charities pay for-profit vendors to
raise their donations, sometimes spending more than 90% of the contributions on
soliciting more contributions. CNN reports that the worst charity
investigated was the Kids Wish Network:
"Every year, Kids Wish Network raises
millions of dollars in donations in the name of dying children and their families.
Every year, it spends less than 3 cents on the dollar helping kids. Most
of the rest gets diverted to enrich the charity's operators and the for-profit
companies Kids Wish hires to drum up donations. In the past decade alone,
Kids Wish has channeled nearly $110 million donated for sick children to its
corporate solicitors. An additional $4.8 million has gone to pay the charity's
founder and his own consulting firms. No charity in the nation has
siphoned more money away from the needy over a longer period of
But Kids Wish is not an isolated case, a yearlong investigation by
the Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting has found.
Using state and federal records, the Times and CIR identified nearly 6,000
charities that have chosen to pay for-profit companies to raise their
donations. Then reporters took an unprecedented look back to zero in on
the 50 worst - based on the money they diverted to boiler room operators and
other solicitors over a decade. These nonprofits adopt popular causes or
mimic well-known charity names that fool donors. Then they rake in cash, year
after year. The nation's 50 worst charities have paid their solicitors nearly
$1 billion over the past 10 years that could have gone to charitable works."
The Kids Wish Network is not alone. This investigative
report listed the 50 worst charities.
Below is a chart listing the top ten worst charities ranked by money spent on
soliciting costs versus money spent on direct cash aid.
Are publicly traded corporations engaging in appropriate due
diligence before spending general treasury funds on charitable
contributions? The report above indicates that there is an urgent need to
engage in such diligence.
The 50 worst, ranked by money blown on soliciting costs
from the latest 10 years of available federal tax filings
THURSDAY, JUNE 6, 2013
Private Prison Corporation Agenda
of the United States this week in connection with the debacle that is the
for-profit private prison corporation regime borders on deprave. That the
privatization of the prison industry in the U.S. (and abroad) is not now
considered an epic failure is mystifying. In Pennsylvania, Mark Ciavarella,
Jr., the former juvenile court judge that orchestrated the "Kids for
Cash" scandal, was formally sentenced to
28 years in prison for his role in sending children to jail in return for cash
payments (the Third Circuit Court of Appealsupheld the sentence from
his 2011 trial). Ciavarella was found guilty in 2011 of "engaging in
a pattern of racketeering and participating in a racketeering conspiracy
through his receipt and transfer of $997,600 from individuals associated with
the juvenile detention centers." Ciavarella and former Judge Michael
Conahan were both accused of sending children to private juvenile detention
facilities, in Luzerne County, PA, often in violation of the kids'
constitutional rights, in return for bribes and kickbacks from private prison
owner Robert Mericle for the number of children that they sentenced to spend
time in the Mericle-built private juvenile facilities. Conahan pled
guilty to racketeering in 2010, while Ciavarella cavalierly battled the
indictment claiming that he received only a "finders fee" for
assisting in the construction of the private prison facility.
As reported in 2011 by the Christian Science
Monitor, the jury found Ciavarella guilty on 12 of 39 counts in his
indictment. Aside from racketeering, he "was also convicted of failing to
record the secret payments on judicial financial disclosure forms from 2004 to
2007, and for filing false tax returns for those same years. In addition, the
jury found him guilty of engaging in a money-laundering conspiracy to conceal
The perverse incentives that
attach when private corporations seek to control a public function like crime
and punishment, including sentencing and imprisonment, literally overwhelms
both judges and corporate executives. That a private prison company would
actually bribe judges to fill their prisons is appalling. Just as
outrageous is that judges would, without remorse, destroy the lives of
young kids by imprisoning them for minor crimes or misbehaviors, in order to
receive bribes that the private industry seems more than willing to pay.
Group Headquarters in Florida
the GEO Group, Inc., one of the nation's largest private prison
companies, has been lying to
investors and the general public. The mantra of private prison companies is
that they "do no harm" as they simply run prisons more efficiently
and for lower cost than government can. In repeating this mantra, the GEO
Group and the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) routinely claim that
they do not seek to influence legislatures or lobby for longer sentences, for
greater prison time or for the expansion of crimes that will ultimately lead to
a stronger flow of prisoners into their prison beds, including claims that
they are not involved in
the criminalization of
immigration. This however, is reportedly not true. Not only is
there emerging evidence that
private prisons run less efficiently and at greater cost than those run by
states and municipalities, but GEO Group's public disclosures this year
admitted to paying millions of dollars to lobbyists that are seeking to
influence immigration policy by sending illegal immigrants into the private
The Nation reports:
"Earlier this year, one of the largest private prison corporations in the
country sent out a statement to reporters claiming that it would not lobby in
any way over the immigration reform debate. A new disclosure shows that the
company, the Boca Raton–based Geo Group, has in fact paid an 'elite team of
federal lobbyists' to influence the comprehensive immigration reform
legislation making its way through Congress. . . .
In February and March, Pablo Paez, the Geo Group’s vice president of corporate
relations, told media outlets, including the Financial Times and The Nation,
that his firm would steer clear of immigration reform politics. . . . 'The GEO Group
has never directly or indirectly lobbied to influence immigration policy. We
have not discussed any immigration reform related matters with any members of
Congress, and we will not participate in the current immigration reform
Geo Group’s quarterly lobbying disclosure tells a different story. A disclosure
filed in April shows that the company turned to Navigators Global to lobby both
houses of Congress on 'issues related to comprehensive immigration reform.'
Navigators Global, a corporate government affairs firm founded by several
Republican aides, has been retained by the Geo Group since 2011 . . . ."
The private prison industry is sordid, evidenced by judicial bribery and lying
to investors and the public at large. How long will we stand for this
THURSDAY, MAY 9, 2013
Sell Your Shares"
Schultz - CEO Starbucks Corporation
CEO Howard Schultz was very pointedwhen
challenged by a shareholder at the coffee giant's annual meeting for publicly
supporting marriage equality in the state of Washington. When asked
whether he felt that supporting gay marriage drove customers, and profits, away
from Starbucks, Schultz essentially responded that he was not going to apologize
for a year when shareholders received a 38% return on shares owned and that if
shareholders were truly aggrieved by the political stance, then they could
always sell their shares.
Forbes quoted CEO
Schultz as follows when directly responding to a shareholder: “Not
every decision is an economic decision. Despite the fact that you recite
statistics that are narrow in time, we did provide a 38% shareholder return
over the last year. I don’t know how many things you invest in, but I would
suspect not many things, companies, products, investments have returned 38%
over the last 12 months. Having said that, it is not an economic decision to
me. The lens in which we are making that decision is through the lens of our
people. We employ over 200,000 people in this company, and we want to embrace
diversity. Of all kinds. . . . If you feel, respectfully, that you can
get a higher return than the 38% you got last year, it’s a free country. You
can sell your shares in Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you
Often, disgruntled shareholders have no real claim when a corporation takes a
particular position or makes a certain economic decision that impacts share
price and profitability. Selling one's shares is always the bottom line
alternative if shareholders are truly disenchanted with a companies strategic
Schultz's decision to come out publicly in favor of marriage equality last year
was a bold move, though trending in the United States has seen a dramatic shift to
a majority of Americans now favoring marriage equality.
[photo courtesy of Adam Bielawski through Creative Commons]
American Indian Mascots Continue to Divide
GEO Group Stadium Naming Deal Fails
|FAU Students Protesting GEO Group Naming Deal|When the GEO Group and Florida Atlantic University agreed to a $6 million football stadium naming deal in February 2013, neither GEO CEO George Zoley or FAU President Mary Saunders anticipated the incredible backlash that descended upon the private for-profit prison company (GEO) and the University. Due to student protests, faculty opposition, national media attention being drawn to GEO's terrible record ofhuman rights violations in its private prisons, and the quickly assigned nickname of "Owlcatraz" to the FAU Owls football stadium, GEO Group announced yesterday that it was withdrawing its pledged stadium naming donation. In pulling its $6 million pledge, CEO Zoley released a self-serving statement blaming "distractions" as the reason that the pledge was being withdrawn. Per Zoley: "What was originally intended as a gesture of GEO's goodwill to financially assist the University's athletic scholarship program has surprisingly evolved into an ongoing distraction to both of our organizations."
The "surprising . . . distractions" to which Zoley refers include (a) student protests challenging FAU to reject the donation as hypocritical pointing out that GEO Group's profit base is derived almost entirely from human misery and suffering, (b) an overwhelmingly passed faculty resolution calling upon President Saunders to cancel the deal because GEO Group's "business practices do not align with the mission of the university," (c) a sit-in held in President Saunder's office by students, (d) a mocking national spotlight from Stephen Colbert's comedy/news show (suggesting that one of the problems of drawing attention to your business, is that people will pay attention to what your business actually does), and (e) community outrage protesting GEO's intimate affiliation with an institution of higher education.
As has been discussed in this blog space often, private prison companies are perversely incentivized to generate profit based on human misery through working to increase the incarceration levels of United States citizens and immigrants. Private prison corporations pay dozens of millions of dollars to lobby legislators for harsher sentencing regimes, new crimes that require incarceration (AZ SB1070), and increasing prevalence of private prison contracts based on dubious claims of efficiency and cost savings. Without providing any product or needed public good, GEO Group, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), and other private prison companies profit in two primary ways that are incredibly objectionable: First, private prison companies contract with state and federal governments to warehouse U.S. prisoners and are paid in taxpayer funds on a "per bed" basis. Essentially, taxpayer funds are being transferred from taxpaying citizens into the pockets of private prison company executives and shareholders for no recognizable good or service. Almost all of the recent emerging evidence suggests that private prison companies run prisons LESS efficiently, LESS safely, and LESS cost effectively than do federal and state governments. The Lake Erie Prison report just released finds that CCA is so profit driven, that the CCA- run prison at Lake Erie does not provide proper supervision of prisoners and that drug use and violence are rampant, both in an attempt to avoid costly prisoner lawsuits. Second, private prison companies exploit the labor of the prisoners in their care by entering into contracts with companies like IBM, Victoria's Secret, WalMart, and McDonald's for prisoners to work for pennies with the contractual rewards paid into the coffers of the private prison company (thus to shareholders and executives). Prisoners are paid between $0 and $4 for the labor that they engage in sewing for Victoria's Secret, manufacturing for WalMart and McDonalds, with the fruit of their labor being paid to the prison company rather than to the prisoner. Indentured servitude continues in our prisons in the United States and the GEO Group and CCA profit from these immoral activites.
|Rendering of how GEO Group Stadium would have appeared|
That both of these profit sources continue in the United States today is shocking. That the students, faculty, and community at FAU recognized this appalling business model is heartening. The GEO Group's name will NOT adorn the football stadium at FAU. It appears that "surprising . . . distractions" of massive protest are just beginning for the private prison industry.
|Hip Hop Concert in Boston, MA|Hip hop writer Sebastian Elkouby asks "Is Hip Hop Destroying Black America?" in hisRapRehab.com article published this week. Commercialized hip hop is castigated by Elkouby as he responds to the common refrain from some quarters that hip hop positively injures African American youth and communities. Elkouby writes:
"Is Hip Hop Destroying Black America? To answer this question fairly, we must first discard the distorted image of Hip Hop that mainstream media has passed off for the past 20 years. Hip Hop is a movement consisting of 4 main artistic elements: DJ’ing, Rapping, Breaking and Graffiti. But at its core, it is a philosophy based on the idea that self expression is an integral part of the pursuit of peace, love and unity. It was created by young visionaries who tapped into their greatest potential and gave birth to one of the most important cultural phenomenon the world has ever seen."
Elkouby rightly asks why critics so expressly point to artists for perpetuating negative stereotypes, glorification of violence, and disrespect of women, while ignoring the record executives, the "adults" in the room, who fill the nation's airwaves with banal messages and low-brow fare. "It’s easy to blame talentless top 40 rappers for dominating the airwaves of so called hip hop radio stations like L.A.’s Power 106 or New York’s Hot 97 while Rick Cummings, president of programming for Emmis Communications, which owns both stations, isn’t held accountable for his part in broadcasting filth to millions of listeners. Time and time again, the real decision makers get away with murder while rap artists are projected as the embodiment of everything that is wrong with Hip Hop and young Black males. Kind of how gangs are perceived as the lone cause of urban violence while those who bring guns and drugs into the community remain anonymous."
Further, Interscope President Jimmy Iovine gets called out as the real "gangster" in gangsta rap music, for propagating ridiculousness in hip hop, particularly after signing Chicago 16-year old Chief Keef, who does little more than extol the virtue of blunt smoking and snitch killing in his music. The GEO Group, one of two nationally prominent private prison corporations in America has just signed an agreement with Florida Atlantic University to "name" the football stadium at FAU. Understandably, this has caused an uproar from many on the faculty and in the student body at Florida Atlantic. "The GEO Group Stadium" at Florida Atlantic University immediately conjures up images of the now retired "Enron Stadium" where the Houston Astros used to take the field, except that The GEO Group is undoubtedly more sinister and harmful to United States citizens than Enron ever was (a fact absolutely lost on FAU President Mary Jane Saunders until student and faculty protests erupted).
The GEO Group is a private prison company. As I have written about extensively, private prison corporations essentially collect taxpayer funds from federal and state governments (a "per diem" or per bed fee) in order to house prisoners on behalf of these governments and do so with an immoral profit maximization motivation. Private prison companies profit on human misery. Shareholders of GEO Group stock expect the board of directors and executives to return handsome profits from imprisoning United States citizens (and increasingly illegal aliens). The perversity in this arrangement, of course, is that in order to increase profits for shareholders, private prison companies, including the Corrections Corporation of America (the other prominent U.S. private prison company), seek to aggressively imprison more Americans by lobbying legislatures to increase sentencing laws, divine new laws/ways to imprison individuals, and even engage in drafting model legislation like SB 1070 (Arizona's "show me your papers" law) and three-strikes laws. In "All Eyez on Me: America's War on Drugs and the Prison Industrial Complex," I describe the perverse incentives that motivate the private prison industry by examining the immorality attendant in leadership of private prison companies debating suc
Hip Hop and the ABA
The September 2012 edition of the ABA Journal reports favorably on the "Hip Hop and the American Constitution" course offered last spring semester collaboratively between Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law and the West Virginia University College of Law. In an article entitled "Hip-Hop at Law," reporter L.J. Jackson writes:
"Back in 1989, when Chuck D and Flavor Flav exhorted Public Enemy fans to 'Fight the Power,' it’s likely that they never envisioned their
anti-establishment anthem would be deconstructed and analyzed as part of
an innovative law school curriculum. But the lyrics and discographies
of Public Enemy and other hip-hop artists are indeed the subjects of a
recent law school seminar and a forthcoming anthology studying the
intersection of the Constitution and hip-hop. Law professors Donald Tibbs and andré cummings are working on a textbook
based on the class they co-taught this spring called 'Hip-Hop and the
American Constitution.' The lecture series brought an eclectic mix of
law professors, formerly incarcerated people and rap artists to the
classroom to discuss hip-hop’s legal implications. 'It initially was a
hope and dream' to teach the class, says Tibbs of Drexel University, who
conceived the idea and pitched it to cummings of West Virginia
|Public Enemy (in Hamburg, Germany 2000)|
The entire article can be read here: Hip-Hop at Law
(photo courtesy of MikaV, Creative Commons License)
Election 2012 Outcomes
Several frightening outcomes have surfaced following last week's presidential election. Of course, many very positive takeaways have emerged as well, with Professor Steve Ramirez writing about two of them in this Corporate Justice space. Yet, the frightening outcomes appear to show that our nation remains deeply divided along racial and class lines.
Following the election, statisticians and social media analysts got busy and turned up the following two charts, which should give Americans everywhere pause. First, the chart below shows that we are most definitely not a post-racial place, as evidenced by the number and intensity of racist tweets that were sent on election night following President Obama's re-election.
The next chart shows how the state's with the most educated populations voted, versus how the state's with the least educated populations voted for president. How "educated" a state is was determined by percentages of citizens 25 years of age and older with a college degree or more.
These two charts seem to evidence that our nation remains deeply divided, both on issues of race and of class. Racist tweets in the deep south were prevalent, most obviously in Mississippi and Alabama following President Obama's re-election success. Still, racist tweets were evident throughout the nation. Further, if "education" level is to be measured by college degree, then those states with the most college graduates voted overwhelmingly for President Obama, where those states with the fewest college graduates were nearly as overwhelmingly in support of Mitt Romney. We must continue to try to bridge divides in the United States by honestly confronting issues of festering racism and poverty.
Dr. Donald Tibbs
in collaboration with Professorandré douglas pond cummings
are offering a first-of-its-kind law school course entitled "Hip Hop and the American Constitution
," this spring semester 2012. Through an innovative link-up between Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law and the West Virginia University College of Law, Tibbs and cummings are presenting to law students at both schools an intellectual and academic experience connecting the intersections of hip hop with the law. The course is being presented primarily as a lecture series
, where academics and activists from across the nation are traveling to Philadelphia and presenting their published work which examines various aspects of the the law through the lens of hip hop, its artists, culture and messaging. Students will be required to read the lecturing scholars work, be it law review articles or books, and will then intellectually engage with the visiting scholars following a lecture presented by each visiting professor. In addition, students will keep a journal of their insights through the semester, and will present a final paper tackling a current issue in the law and how hip hop music or culture critiques this law.
The lecture series will occur on Thursday evenings at Drexel Law throughout the spring 2012 semester and is being broadcast live to students at WVU Law. The lecture series line-up will proceed throughout the semester as follows:
January 19, 2012: ProfessorBret Asbury
, Drexel Law, "Anti-Snitching and the Hip Hop Community"
January 26, 2012: Professor andré douglas pond cummings
, WVU Law, "All Eyez on Me: Hip Hop, Mass Incarceration and the Prison Industrial Complex
February 3, 2012: Professor Paul Butler
, George Washington Law, "Let's Get Free: A Hip Hop Theory of Justice
February 9, 2012: Dr. Imani Perry
, Princeton University, "Prophets of the 'Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop"
February 16, 2012: Professor Akilah Folami
, Hofstra Law, "Law, Hip Hop and the Black Public Sphere"
February 23, 2012: Dr. Tryon Woods, UMass - Dartmouth, "Law, Black Sexual Politics, and Punishment"
March 1, 2012: Professor Kim Chanbonpin
, John Marshall Law, "Legal Writing, The Remix: Plagiarism and Hip Hop Ethics
March 8, 2012: Professor Anthony Farley
, Albany Law, "Sarah Palin: The Last Black President or Straight Up Gangsta"
March 22, 2012: Professor Pamela Bridgewater
, American Law, "Is Feminism Dead? Is Hip Hop Dead? And Other 21st Century Questions of Marginal Utility"
March 29, 2012: Professor Andre Smith
, Widener Law, "OPP - Other People's Property: Hip Hop's Inherent Clashes With Property Laws and its Ascendance as Global Counter Culture"
April 5, 2012: Dr. Donald Tibbs
, Drexel Law, "From Black Power to Hip Hop"
April 12, 2012: Guest Finale/Keynote Speaker (TBA)
Contributing scholars who will teach portions of the WVU Law section include Professor Atiba Ellis
, WVU Law and Nick Sciullo
, Ph.d candidate, Georgia State University.
Each of the above lecture series participants will publish their articles or book excerpts in an anthology that Tibbs and cummings will edit, slated for publication in 2013.