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.

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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.

Opinion: Fat People Don’t Need Government Sponsored Counseling

By Jasmyne A. Cannick

The federal government’s idea to “counsel” obese people on their eating habits is as backwards as the government’s war on drugs championing the D.A.R.E. program after the CIA supported the trafficking of cocaine into the U.S. to help finance the purchase of guns for the Contras.

The announcement that a federal health advisory panel recommended that all obese adults receive “intensive counseling” in an effort to rein in a growing health crisis in America is to me just another sign of our government’s “hero complex” and leads me to believe that maybe they are the ones in need of the counseling.

As someone who falls into America’s clinical definition of being obese, let me be the first to say that intensive counseling is not to going to tip the scales one weigh or another for me. Besides, if I wanted to be counseled on my eating habits, all I have to do is turn on my television to [insert the name of network here] and watch the latest craze in celebrity TV doctors.

America’s obesity epidemic wasn’t created overnight. It was methodically planned out and designed by the same people who are now overly obsessed with how much I weigh—but not necessarily what I eat and where I can exercise.

The same institution that wants to send people like me to “intensive counseling” co-signed the land use permits that paved the way for theproliferation of fast food restaurants we see today. It’s also the same institution that would rather see a 24-hour gym erected where taxes can be collected than design apark using taxpayer dollars where residents can exercise for free.

And what about the cost of food? Everybody who eats fast food doesn’t enjoy it. But when you can feed a family of 4 on a 10-piece bucket of chicken (with biscuits) for $5 verses spending $20 or more at the grocery store to buy the same ingredients to make the same meal—what are you going to do? The unemployed and those living on a tight budget will tell you that dollar menus start to look pretty good when you’re broke and hungry.

Even though I can appreciate the First Lady’s White House Kitchen Garden—a lot of the same obese people she’s targeting with her Healthy Food Initiative and Let’s Move program, don’t have a yard—let alone a garden to grow vegetables for their children to eat. I like a good farmer’s market as much as the next person, but urban communities plagued with obese children and adults still need a grocery store that offers more than lettuce, corn, apples, bananas, and oranges. A variety of fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables should be available all and not just the wealthier and healthier communities.

But alas, the plot thickens because almost seemingly in cahoots with the government and the fast food industry is Big Pharma. Thanks in part to Big Pharma, I ended up with a RiteAid, CVS Pharmacy, and Walgreens all in one block and I guess that wasn’t enough because now Kaiser is moving in.

So after I guzzle down my hamburger, french fries, 32-ounce soda, with a side of diabetes and stroke, I can just drive next door to the pharmacy and get my insulin prescription refilled, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart medicines. How convenient.

Obesity is big business. The more we eat, the fatter we are. The fatter we are, the sicker we are. The sicker we are, the more drugs we need and on and on.

At the end of the day, everyone cops a profit—right down to the clothing designers and manufacturers who are trying to keep up with ourdesire to fashionable and trendsetters coupled with our ever-expanding waistlines.

If the government really wants to put a dent in America’s fat problem, why don’t they commission a national study on the impact of price reductions on fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthy foods in urban neighborhoods where obesity is an issue? What about the development of a taypayer-funded program targeting the clinically obese with free memberships to their local gym? Then the government could report back on whether or not access to cheaper healthier food and a gym free of charge resulted in better eating habits and living choices.

Offering or even mandating counseling as hope or a solution for the millions of obese people in America is just another one of those sound bites that sound good but means nothing. Eat on that.

Author Jasmyne Cannick

Jasmyne A. Cannick is a political communications strategist after having worked in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the California State Legislature. She is also a radio and television politics, race, and culture critic. Follow her on Twitter @jasmyne and on Facebook at /jasmyne.

Opinion: Ralph’s workers aren’t the only ones getting played

By Jasmyne A. Cannick

I don’t work at a grocery store. I don’t even shop at the stores in question anymore. And even though I might sympathize with the worker’s position, I can’t honestly say I’m in support of them going on strike. But none this would stop me from picking up a sign and joining the workers on the picket line–and if in fact there is a strike, I probably will.

Ralph’s on Vermont and 120th St.

Crenshaw and Coliseum, Manchester and Western, Slauson and Crenshaw, Compton and Alameda, and Vermont and 120th streets are just a few of Ralph’s South Los Angeles locations in dire need of a makeover and have been ever since they were known as The Boys, Alpha Beta, and ABC markets.

When I think about it, the only thing that has changed since those stores were taken over by Ralph’s in the early 1990’s, are the increase in prices and the sign on the outside of the building.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that Ralph’s was trying to pass off these stores as “Historic Cultural Monuments” because they can only be found in African-American and Latino neighborhoods.

Ralph’s new 50,000 sq ft store downtown.

Unlike their 3rd St. and La Brea and Fountain and La Brea stores on the west side of Los Angeles, which cater to a lighter shade of customers, or their Vermont and Adams store that bends over backwards to attract USC students, South Los Angeles patrons have to put up with dimly lit stores that continue to hide the true appearance of the produce, fruit, and poultry and fish being sold. Add to that, narrow aisles, old shopping carts, small parking lots and an even smaller selection of products to choose from.

And don’t even get me started on their newly built 50,000 square-foot downtown Los Angeles location that caters to L.A.’s loft dwellers, where grocery shopping takes on whole new meaning.

Ralph’s Fresh Fare, as it’s being called, offers expanded grocery, liquor, fresh and organic produce, and floral departments, a fully staffed meat department, and a wine cellar—a wine cellar! Oh and did I mention the sushi, soup, and salad bar?

Ralph’s Fresh Fare in downtown L.A.

Look—we want sushi in the hood. We want a cheese selection that doesn’t begin and end with cheddar and mozzarella. How about bringing some of that fresh and organic produce to a community of overweight and obese people where french fries are often considered a vegetable?

Before Ralph’s builds another store in Los Angeles, they need to take care of unfinished business in South Los Angeles. Whether it’s cash, credit, or E.B.T., our money and patronage contributes to their profits and bottom line just as much as the folks on the west side or in downtown Los Angeles. Black and Latino mothers and grandmothers deserve to have the same shopping experience offered to white soccer moms on the west side. And our children deserve the benefits of clean and modern grocery stores with a wide variety of products to choose from—we eat more than just Top Ramen and fried chicken.

Ralph’s may be getting over on their employees when it comes to concessions regarding health care benefits, but they’ve been playing their South Los Angeles customers for idiots for far longer.

Ralph’s may not be sweating the decision of their workers to call a strike, but they should be trembling in their boots if their South Los Angeles customers follow suit and join them on the picket line. And if you ask me, they should.

Photos courtesy of Jasmyne A. Cannick.image

A former Ralph’s turned Fresh & Easy customer, Jasmyne A. Cannick writes about the intersection of race, sex, politics, and pop culture from an unapologetically Black point of view. Online at www.jasmynecannick.com, www.twitter.com/jasmyne, and www.facebook.com/jasmyne.