OPINION: Sheriff’s Department spied on Compton residents

The same Sheriff’s Department that is upset over federal secret surveillance in jail probe had no problem spying on Compton residents.

Editor’s Note: The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deployed a small Cessna to circle the sky above Compton for nine days in 2012. It aimed to film the city like a video version of Google Earth, capturing crime scenes that could help deputies identify and catch suspects. Ultimately, the images weren’t detailed enough to be useful, and the department axed the program. The Center for Investigative Reporting revealed the project earlier this month, and the Los Angeles Times caught on this week. Now that the news is out, locals are asking: Why didn’t we know? 

Want to share your own opinion? Email [email protected].

A neon sign for the LA County Sheriff's Department |  Michael Dorausch

A neon sign for the LA County Sheriff’s Department |
Michael Dorausch

I am not oblivious to the fact that I can be watched and tracked by the powers that be.

I realize that when I check in on Facebook, drive my car or use my cellphone, I am practically inviting those “powers” to do so.  I resigned myself a long time ago to the idea that even in my bed in the dead of night, somebody could be watching.

So for me, the problems with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s secret mass surveillance experiment conducted on the residents of Compton in 2012 have less to do with the actual experiment than with the cloud of secrecy around it – especially the decision not to inform the public in order to avoid complaints or public outrage.  [Read more…]

OPINION: Abercombie and Fitch’s ‘fat policy’ is a good thing

What retailer Abercrombie and Fitch is doing with its “fat policy” is what I wish the person behind the counter at McDonald’s would do to me whenever I show up and ask for a No. 3—tell me no, you’re too fat.

Now while I don’t subscribe to the idea that skinny equates to beauty, the reality of the situation with Abercrombie and Fitch is that they have every right to not want fat people wearing their brand of clothing—and fat people who dig Abercrombie and Fitch’s style of clothing, have every right to lose the weight, walk into their store, and buy their clothes.

Protesting Abercrombie and Fitch is sending the message to children, teens, and adults that it’s okay to be fat and if people don’t accept you being fat and make clothes to accommodate your fatness that they are somehow bad. [Read more…]

OPINION: A simple request of L.A.’s next mayor

It’s a simple request of the two candidate’s vying to become Los Angeles’ next mayor.

On top of all of your promises to pave the roads, provide jobs, better our schools, and lower crime—promise us that if you are elected as the next mayor of Los Angeles that you will not cheat on your spouse—at least for the duration of your time in office.  Take the vow that if you do cheat and are caught, that you will resist the urge to flaunt your affair all over town, smiling all the while, and just abdicate your office and leave—as quickly and quietly as possible. [Read more…]

OPINION: Who’s that white lady?

With the Isley Brothers’ hit song “Who’s That Lady” playing softly in the background, if I had a dollar for every time someone Black said to me “who, that white lady?” or “who’s that white lady?” when referring to Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel, I’d be rich.

Even though Greuel’s been in elected office since 2002 when she won a runoff election against then Assemblyman Tony Cardenas to represent Los Angeles’ 2nd District and has served as city controller since 2009—around most parts of South Los Angeles—she’s simply known as the “white lady” running for mayor. Which by all accounts, isn’t good for her campaign.

[Read more…]

Opinion: An open letter to the Los Angeles Police Department

imageJasmyne Cannick

Christopher Dorner is dead.

Whether you agree or disagree with Dorner’s actions preceding his death or even how he died, one fact can’t be changed—he brought forth serious allegations of racism and discrimination within the Los Angeles Police Department. Dorner’s allegations have been publicly co-signed by both retired and terminated Black LAPD employees—and in private by those currently serving within the department but too afraid to cross the blue line.

Many are asking, where do we go from here, but I’m more concerned with where we don’t go from here.

To both the LAPD and the community—it can’t be business as usual.

Town hall meetings and community forums to discuss a problem that we already know exists are a waste of time and accomplish nothing. Sure—the media will cover it and there will be no shortage of people coming forward to express outrage and mistrust towards the LAPD. The LAPD in turn will sit there and take the verbal abuse because quite frankly they’re being paid to be there and it’s what they do when there’s a surge of strong public outrage directed towards their department—and when it’s all over everyone will go home.

But if it’s really a new day in the LAPD and the organization is as transparent as it tells us it is, then it’s time for the LAPD to sit down with the LAPD. That’s the discussion that needs to take place.

Dorner’s manifesto wasn’t written to call attention to police brutality. He was trying to call attention to the systemic institutional racism and discrimination that he experienced as a Black police officer when trying to report police brutality to his higher-ups. He was trying to clear his name and blow the whistle on what is happening inside the department everyday, including today, to Black police officers. Don’t get distracted.

You tell me what’s easier—investigating the firing of a dead ex-cop or addressing the issue of rampant racism in the department that was presented by the dead ex-cop.

Dorner wasn’t the first Black police officer to lose it after separating from the department and as others have said, he won’t be the last unless something changes.

Fred Nichols was a Black man who was the LAPDs chief expert on use-of-force tactics. In 1991, Nichols was suddenly reassigned in an apparent retaliatory move by the department for testifying before the County Grand Jury in the Rodney King case and for later sharply warning the Christopher Commission about the department’s routine misunderstanding of excessive force. He was taken from a very prominent position within the department to what he considered a “less prestigious position.”

According to the L.A. Times, the department denied that the reassignment was retaliatory, describing the move as part of an overall redesign of the training program. The incident marked the third time that the department’s high command has been accused of punishing supervisors who spoke out against the LAPD in closed sessions before the Christopher Commission.

Nichols, in an interview with the The Times, said he’d suffered severe stress-related problems, including anxiety, insomnia and vomiting, since he was advised that he was being removed.

“I can’t work. I can’t sleep,” he said. “There’s not one minute that I don’t think about it. Sixteen years of working in specialized units, doing my tasks, and now, because I’m honest and fair, they do this to me.

“What career do I have left? It’s gone. If you make waves in this department, it becomes close to impossible to ever promote again.”

Fred Nichols checked into a hotel that following May and shot himself.

Retired in-good-standing sergeant Cheryl Dorsey recently came forward and explained how when she was going through her own Board of Rights hearing that involved the same charge as Dorner—giving false and misleading statements to an Internal Affairs investigator —she seriously contemplated just jumping off the third floor of the Bradbury Building.

Married to another LAPD officer at the time, Dorsey says that she was a victim of domestic violence and after details of incidents at her home found their way into the department, she was charged with six counts of unnecessarily causing the response of an outside agency for the six calls she made to the sheriff’s department from her home in Altadena. The charge of giving false and misleading statements was tacked on when questioned by Internal Affairs.

She believes that having come forward since Dorner and finally speaking out that she’ll face some sort of retaliation from the department.

Fired LAPD police officer Brian Bentley said that he had a manifesto too—not a list of those to kill, but those who had wronged him during his 10 years with the department. He was fired for writing the book One Time: The Story of a South Central Los Angeles Police Officer, a book that documented his experience with racism, discrimination, and police brutality inside of the LAPD.

And there’s another Black officer who has a lot to say but tells me that he’s too worried about his family to come forward.

So you see, this time it isn’t about us per se—it’s about the Black men and women who have suffered over the years the type of racism and discrimination as described by Dorner and echoed by many of his colleagues in the days since.

The community’s job is to push forward and stand with those Black police officers willing to come forward and give credence to Dorner’s claims. It’s very easy to discredit someone who’s never worn the LAPD uniform, but it’s not so easy when it’s one of your own, and that’s the discussion that needs to take place publicly. It’s the first real step towards ending police brutality on the streets and in the department.

I want to see the relationship between Blacks and the LAPD improve and I believe that it has. But I also believe that we just took a huge step backwards with Dorner and no amount of community meetings with civil rights leaders and the LAPD posing for cameras is going to fix that.

It can’t be more the same.

Christopher Dorner was a game changer.

Chosen as one of Essence Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World, Jasmyne A. Cannick writes about the intersection of race, politics, and pop culture. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Chick-Fil-A: Nobody likes a bully and gays can be bullies too

imageBy Jasmyne A. Cannick, Community Contributor

Gays upset about Chick-Fil-A’s supporting the anti-gay marriage movement have just as much as right to be upset as Chick-Fil-A does to share their money and support where they want to—and this is coming from a lesbian.

There are lots of things I could be upset about, but what Chick-Fil-A is doing with its profits is not one of them. You see for me the answer is easy, I just won’t eat there. One piece of greasy chicken is as good as the next—and these days there’s plenty to go around.

But consider this, what do gay cigarette smokers think is being done with the money they spend buying a product that they know isn’t good for them? It’s not like Big Tobacco is taking all of that money and using it to find a cure for lung cancer. No–they are using it to make more of a product that will eventually kill them—and I’ve got news for you, there’s no getting married from the grave.

And then there’s the churches, where Sunday after Sunday the preacher man tells his congregants, many of whom are gay, gay marriage is a sin, but yet doesn’t separate out gay tithes from heterosexual tithes when it’s time for a new Cadillac, zoot suit, or mini-mansion. Knowing all this, we still show up every Sunday with tithes in hand saying, “thank yuh Jesus!”

We all know where the Boy Scouts stand on all things gays, but that hasn’t stopped parents—both gay and straight—from enrolling their sons or young gay men from themselves joining and assuming leadership positions in the organization.

It’s all about choice and every day we choose whom to support with our money. We do it without fanfare, without protest, and without engaging in tasteless demonstrations like kiss-in’s to make our point.

The Chick-Fil-A protest is not the same as in 1965, when African-Americans in Montgomery boycotted public buses for racial segregation. Blacks didn’t have a choice of what bus to take to and from work and even if they did, they were public buses funded with public dollars. Chick-Fil-A is one of a dozen fast food chicken chains. If you don’t like what’s on the menu, go somewhere else. Write a Facebook post, send out a tweet, but most importantly just don’t patronize them.

Engaging in bully like demonstrations don’t help the cause. They especially don’t win any points in the Black community where the gay rights movement is already seen as an inferior copycat movement using the tactics and strategies of the 1965 Civil Rights Movement only without any of the civility and rationality it’s known for.

While it’s clear that very few Black people are leading the gay rights movement, it would be nice if for once, they’d stopped and ask themselves how people like myself, being Black and lesbian, feel about some of the campaigns waged allegedly on our behalf.

If I did research on every company that I spent my money with to see how my money was being used, I’d probably be very disappointed and my options on where to shop would be severely limited. I’d have to first track the history of who profited from the U.S. slave trade and who supported apartheid in South Africa, before I could even consider who’s currently aiding and abetting in the demise of Blacks, how many African-Americans work and are leaders in the company at question—and then maybe I could begin to consider companies who are against gay marriage. And let me tell you, I seriously doubt the gays upset over Chick-Fil-A would be willing to give up shopping with a company because they profited from the slave trade just to be in solidarity with their African-American gay counterparts.

The reality is that everyone doesn’t have to support gay marriage. As a lesbian, at times I don’t even support the tactics and strategies used by the gay mafia to achieve world domination—I mean gay marriage.

This idea that everyone has to support gay marriage or else risk coming under attack is why gay marriage is not federally mandated now. Nobody likes a bully and gays can be bullies too.

Gays whose feathers have been ruffled by Chick-Fil-A need to demonstrate a little common sense—find somewhere else to eat and take ten of their best friends with them. Staged flash mobs of gay couples kissing is not going to do much to win public support for gay marriage—in fact, it might just have the opposite effect.

Chosen as one of Essence Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World, Jasmyne A. Cannick is a radio and television politics, race, and pop culture critic. Follow her on Twitter @jasmyne and on Facebook at /jasmyne.

OpEd: L.A. radio show’s Whitney ‘crack ho’ comment should be wake-up call to Black America

Blacks in Los Angeles (Leimert Park) organized on Monday morning to protest the John and Ken Show over Whitney Houston ‘crack ho’ comment.

The suspension of KFI’s John and Ken show has sent shockwaves through Los Angeles and thanks to the Internet, the nation. Black people everywhere, who have never even heard of John and Ken, much less listened to their show, are in an uproar and have something to say about the two white men in L.A. who called singer Whitney Houston a “crack ho” on the radio. There are even talks in Los Angeles about having a Day of Protest against the show and the station for the offensive comments.

At the center of the controversy are the duos on-air comments about Houston’s behavior prior to her death where they said: “It’s like, ‘Ah Jesus … here comes the crack ho again, what’s she gonna do.”

John and Ken went on to say that when it came to Houston’s long time problems with drugs, that she was “cracked out for 20 years,” and regarding her death, they said: “Really, it took this long?”

As a Black woman who listens to KFI religiously Monday through Friday from the first word out of Bill Handel’s mouth in the morning to the last word from Tim Conway Jr. in the evening, and who is not one of the millions of people mourning the death of Whitney Houston, even I had to do a double take when I heard this slip of the tongue live on air last week.

I remember thinking, did they really just say that?

KFI’s John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou

Coming off of the Don Imus controversy and his on-air “nappy headed hos” comment, the suspension of John and Ken wasn’t that much of a surprise. We’ve already been there and done that.

For the record, white people calling Black women derogatory names is nothing new. And even though I listen to the John and Ken Show, as a Black woman, at the end of the day I know exactly where I stand with them and what they think about Black people.

Are their comments enough to justify national outrage from Blacks? Maybe.

However, I’d argue that before a single finger is pointed at John or Ken, most Black people need a quick reality check.

While the word “ho” on KFI is seldom used, the same can’t be said for Black America where it is in heavy rotation on a daily basis. From the barely bleeped out lyrics that we listen to on the radio, the videos we watch on television, and how we speak to and about each other—there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t hear the word ho and it’s usually coming out of the mouth of another Black person.

Just one scan of the most requested songs on Los Angeles hip-hop radio station Power 106 proves my point.

2012 Best New Artist Grammy nominee J. Cole’s “Work Out,” features the lyrics, “She bad and she know it. Some niggas save hos, I’m not that heroic.” Nice.

Audio of John and Ken Whitney Comment

Add to that, this year’s Best Rap Album Grammy nominees Jay-Z and Kanye West and their “Niggas in Paris,” which, if you can get past the title, uses the word bitch four times and is only topped by Tyga’s “Rack City” which manages to use the word bitch 22 times in a little over 3 minutes and says, “All the hos love me you know what it is.”

Lil Wayne’s “She Will,” says, “I tell her, now go and pop that pussy for me. Haters can’t see me but them bitches still looking for me,” among other things.

I could go on and on, from city to city, radio station to radio station and still come up with the same examples.

But it’s not just radio that helps to keep the word ho alive in Black America. Thanks to CD players and iPods where censoring is not even an issue, much worse is played in the cars and homes of many of the same Black people offended by John and Ken’s characterization of Whitney Houston. Homes and cars of Black parents with impressionable children who see and hear Mommy and Daddy enjoying songs with the word ho in it and a lot worse.

So while John and Ken were undeniably wrong in using the words “crack ho” to describe Whitney Houston, the reality is that they are two white guys on the radio in Los Angeles who have a majority conservative white audience they play to. And even if they used the word ho everyday to describe Black women, they still wouldn’t come close to the damage that’s already been done and continues to be done on a daily basis in the Black community with our own use of the word.

Black children and teenagers are not listening to KFI but they are listening to Mommy and Daddy, watching MTV and BET, and listening music that says much worse than “crack ho.”

Last Thursday, in the statement, KFI’s John Kobylt said, “We made a mistake, and we accept the station’s decision. We used language that was inappropriate, and we sincerely apologize to our listeners and to the family of Ms. Houston.”
When was the last time a rapper apologized for using the word ho, bitch, or even niggas?


John and Ken apologized and were suspended. Is it enough? I think so. The chances of them using the word ho on-air to describe any Black woman in the future are slim to none.

Protesting to extend their suspension or boycotting KFI and its advertisers, even if it were successful, would donothing to change Blacks own use of the word and that’s really where the issue is. Whitney Houston was a talented singer who died tragically and wasn’t alive to hear herself being called a “crack ho.” Millions of other Black women however hear it everyday—either coming out someone else’s mouth or sadly—their own.

Author Jasmyne Cannick

A former press secretary in California State Assembly and U.S. House of Representatives, Jasmyne A. Cannick writes about the intersection race, sex, politics, and pop culture from an unapologetically Black point of view. Follow her on Twitter @jasmyne and on Facebook at /jasmyne.