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Melvin B. Miller

Stories by Melvin B.

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It is imperative that African Americans remain politically active in next election

African Americans are key voting block and their votes can make the difference in a close election. In the presidential election of 2012 66.2 % of eligible blacks went to the polls

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Racial identity still a puzzling problem

Racially-ambiguous singer/actor Herb Jeffries pursued his career as a black man in an era when it was not profitable to do so

Full speed ahead with Tremont Crossing

Boston is being rebuilt. On the waterfront, new hotels, office towers and apartment buildings have changed its character. The waterfront has become the Innovation and Design District. Now it is time for a transformation in Roxbury.

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Objectors to Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper effort undermine initiative to help black boys, men

Several prominent blacks have voiced objections to President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper effort to alleviate the problems facing black men in the U.S. on the grounds that black women should be included.

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Blacks need to implement an effective strategy to develop power and prosperity

John Conyers of Detroit was first elected to Congress in 1964. In every session he has filed a bill for Congress to consider reparations to African Americans. Year after year the bill has generated little interest. Several black intellectuals, including Randall Robinson and Charles Ogletree, have also made cogent arguments for reparations but with little result.

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African Americans must revive commitment to higher education

The employment qualifications for jobs with a future more frequently include a college degree. Inspired by the opportunities, African Americans now enroll in college in greater numbers. However, statistics indicate that 40 percent of those who attend college as freshmen do not graduate in six years. The dropout rate for community colleges is even higher — 50 percent. Those who leave college without a degree are left with substantial debt and no greater opportunity for employment.

Commentary: Remnants of ’70s defiance persist on Boston City Council

None of the present members of the Boston City Council are old enough to remember the enormous impact on American society when the U.S. Supreme Court issued the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954. With the emergence of a law with such national impact, Boston was embarrassed by the pathetic opposition to school desegregation.

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Come late to the electoral process and lose the power

In Massachusetts, civic-minded citizens go to the polls to vote in every election for governor. While that is commendable, it is no longer enough. Political campaigns have become pitched battles between wealthy conservatives and persistent plebeians. Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions liberalizing restrictions on campaign contributions have shifted the advantage to the plutocrats.

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Unveiling subconscious discrimination

Reasonable Americans would agree that racist behavior is undesirable. However, some people are unable to perceive the discriminatory nature of their own conduct. Observers must wonder what drives such pernicious behavior, especially in financially successful people like Donald Sterling.

Commentary: Protecting the reputation of an esteemed organization

One of the most disturbing aspects of the Donald Sterling fiasco is that the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP was scheduled to bestow upon the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team the 2014 Humanitarian Award. This decision was another event that would erode the reputation of an esteemed national organization.

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Poverty in America knows no racial bounds

Many Americans once believed in the old adage "if you work hard and follow the rules you will succeed in life." As the possibility for sustaining a middle class lifestyle declines, and poverty has become more common, attitudes toward the likelihood of success and poverty have changed.

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A propaganda campaign to destroy self-image

Racial discrimination in education and employment denied African Americans the right to progress in society, and discrimination in places of public accommodation was both inconvenient and demeaning. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically outlawed throughout the country all three of those discriminatory policies. However, a media-driven strategy to marginalize, insult and humiliate African Americans has been underway without impediment for generations. The First Amendment with "freedom of speech or of the press" has provided an impervious protection of the bigotry.

Reading skills are essential to success

Research by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center of the University of Wisconsin revealed that only 3 percent of books published last year had black characters and only 2 percent of the writers were black. The industry’s response to the data is that black books just don’t sell. Nonetheless, it has been found that the absence of characters in children’s literature that look like the blacks learning to read is discouraging to them.

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New strategies needed for future victories

This year is the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Over the months there will be numerous celebrations of various aspects of this legislation that changed the course of American society. Yet even after 50 years many African Americans do not accept the notion that the civil rights war is essentially over and they have won.

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A lost opportunity to tackle legislative misconduct

With lightning speed the Massachusetts House recently approved stronger measures against domestic violence. Unfortunately, the legislative enthusiasm waned and there has been no change in the rules of conduct for representatives. There is still no requirement for the summary expulsion from the House of any member convicted of a misdemeanor. Consequently, the sudden sensitivity for the long ignored rights of abused women does not launder the loss of reputation the House suffered because of the unjustified eviction of Carlos Henriquez.

The monetization of the voting process

Republican sycophants gathered at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas to audition for Sheldon Adelson’s political support only a few days before the U.S. Supreme Court published its opinion in the McCutcheon case. The 5-4 decision lifted any restrictions on the amount of money an individual can contribute in an election cycle. Adelson had reportedly contributed $93 million in the 2012 presidential campaign, and potential candidates for 2016 were seeking his financial support.

The wisdom of the elders is still relevant

“Never let your enemies define you!” That is sage advice often given by the elders to young black men generations ago. When understood, it enabled males to steel their psyches against the “slings and arrows” of aggressive bigots. Perhaps this advice could benefit the students who developed the #ITooAmHarvard campaign.

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Life expectancy disparity a national blight

The life expectancy of its citizens is one measure of determining the standard of living in a country. One would expect that the industrialized nations would top the list. However, the United States, the greatest industrial power in the world, is by no means number one. According to the United Nations World Health Organization statistics, the U.S. ranks 35th, behind Iceland, Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Costa Rica and Slovenia, and just ahead of Chile and Cuba.

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Black teens show strength in confronting adversity

When the Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman overdosed on heroin in February, America discovered that the nation has a serious drug problem. Until then, many people thought that drug addiction was essentially an affliction of black, urban communities. After all, published reports indicated that blacks were as much as 13 times more likely than whites to go to jail for the same drug offenses. The natural conclusion was that drug trafficking is much more severe in black areas.

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A questionable approach to confront campus bigotry

In speaking about an alumnus of Harvard University it is sometimes said in jest, "you can always tell a Harvard man, but you can’t tell him much." This comment refers to the aura of self-confidence and assurance that seems to go along with the Harvard bachelor’s degree. This attitude, sometimes approaching hauteur, is fairly general and is not limited to graduates based on race or family wealth and status, and undoubtedly now includes female alumnae. Now "#ITooAmHarvard" plans to change attitudes at the institution.

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Black culture must strengthen the community for success

Some problems are so huge that they seem to be unsolvable. The dire statistics of the plight of urban black boys indicate that a lost generation is inevitable. But President Obama is not giving up. He has recently announced "My Brother’s Keeper," a major national initiative to turn the tide. Obama has called on foundations, corporations, business leaders and entrepreneurs to develop strategies to rescue black youth from failure.

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Continuing unresolved racial bias

Conservatives have two basic reasons for their opposition to government programs that benefit lower-income citizens. The first is that financial support for the programs will come from taxing the affluent. The second is that the beneficiaries of entitlements will lose their motivation to become independent and self-reliant.

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Damage to the NFL brand

Every Sunday during the fall, millions of Americans settle in before their television sets to watch their favorite teams play football. Older African Americans can remember when black athletes were rare participants in the games, but times have changed. In the 2011 season, 70 percent of the players in the NFL were black, while blacks are only 13.1 percent of the nation’s total population. However, the conflict between Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin of the Miami Dolphins made it appear that the race issue is still unsettled

An ACLU oversight in the Henriquez case?

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has a major voting rights project. Its objective is "to ensure that all eligible voters have an opportunity to cast a ballot that will be counted … and to make sure that all votes are counted equally." The unconstitutional removal of Carlos Henriquez from his seat in the Legislature is equivalent to a refusal to acknowledge or count the votes that elected him.

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Quality public education a critical national challenge

Athletes in the Olympics have the benefit of knowing quite a bit about their competitors and the looming contest. That is not the situation in the work-a-day world. People usually have to perform against faceless standards of excellence. When students are in school they are usually even unaware of their ultimate goal except that they understand the value of achieving high grades in their courses.

Injustice in the Massachusetts House of Representatives

With a vote of 146-5, the Massachusetts House of Representatives expelled Carlos Henriquez. More than likely that vote is unconstitutional.

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Blacks must compete to succeed in America

Persistent competition is an element of the American character. There seems to be a constant desire to be "number one." The national motto could be "there’s always room at the top." Competitors are often willing to use improper or illegal stratagems to secure an advantage to reach that goal. Racial discrimination is a common practice that unfairly corrupts the competitive process.

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Black history: how we got to where we are

Black History Month is the time every year to learn more about the travails of the descendants of the Africans brought to America centuries ago. It is the story of an unrelenting drive for freedom, justice and equality. In addition to honoring the commitment and heroism of African American forbearers and their allies, it is also important for readers to assess that history to determine what errors were made and what other strategies might have been more effective.

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Toward power at the polls

The recent decision of the Pennsylvania court to strike down the new voter ID law is inspiring. It should remind blacks that the drive for voting rights has begun anew.

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Salary of a full-time job should be enough to lift workers from poverty

History focuses on the human rights aspects of Rev. Martin Luther King’s ministry. Ironically, he was on a mission for economic rights in support of wage increases for garbage collectors in Memphis, Tenn., when he was assassinated. Undoubtedly, Dr. King would support present minimum wage efforts to raise workers’ salaries to lift them from poverty.

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A standing commitment to end poverty

In his State of the Union address on Jan. 8, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson decreed that "this administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America." In so doing, Johnson confirmed his commitment to a compassionate policy prevalent among many civilized societies.

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Changing laws on family values

In their youth, America’s elders were subjected to more demanding sexual mores than are usual today. Back then it was inappropriate for a young woman of marriageable age to be alone with a man in a private place. Today, even distinguished colleges and universities facilitate encounters between genders with the establishment of coed dorms. Despite many other changes in the sexual mores, rules against polygamy have been unyielding, until recently.

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Tax credits and special concessions for businesses require the transparency of a formal audit

Corporate tax credits and concessions reduce the state revenue available to finance the public’s business. State Auditor Suzanne Bump seeks the authority to assess these programs to determine whether such tax expenditures are truly beneficial.

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Nelson Mandela’s life a sterling example for others to follow

Fastidious individuals often draft a set of resolutions every new year to correct their petty flaws. Memberships in health clubs will rise in January and February and gym parking lots will be crowded for a few months. Invariably people return to the habits that caused them some concern on New Year’s. Occasionally thoughtful people will subject themselves to a more thorough self-assessment.

A missed opportunity for community redevelopment

The decision of Partners HealthCare system to reject a proposal to establish an administrative office in Roxbury has raised questions about whether nonprofit organizations ought to consider the social consequences of their business policies.

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Blacks must no longer accept inferior behavior as their ethnic standard

Prominent politicians have asserted for some time that the policies they support will benefit the middle class. While everyone agrees that the prosperity of the middle class is important for the nation’s economic growth, there is a difference of opinion about the qualifications for middle class status.

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The essence of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is more than a time for family reunion. It is also a time to give thanks. Many Americans are aspiring, ambitious, aggressive and acquisitive. This is an inappropriate disposition to be truly thankful. They can be exuberantly enthusiastic over a victory, such as the closing of a business deal, but they are insensitive to the subtle blessings that brought them to victory.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg cannot thwart reversal of decision on stop and frisk policy

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is determined to end his political career without the police department constrained by a federal court order. The city attorney filed suit to reverse the ruling of Federal District Court Judge Shira A. Scheindlin that the police stop-and-frisk policy is constitutionally defective as administered by the New York City Police Department.

Debating the acceptable usage of the N Word

The discussion on Ebonics has passed but one issue that was never resolved was the acceptable use of the “N-word.” In fact the hip-hop generation just ran away with it and use it like normal punctuation.

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Solomon Northrup’s triumph over adversity

The spirit of freedom and independence is common in America. The Declaration of Independence even sanctions revolution against the government in appropriate circumstances. Yet Americans permitted the development of slavery in their new nation. Perhaps that was because the slaves were aliens and were racially different. Even today, many of the descendants of slavers or those who benefitted from the slave trade are not a bit embarrassed by the immoral conduct of their ancestors even though their misconduct was internationally publicized in the film "12 Years a Slave."

Ethnic politics in the New Boston

The election for mayor of Boston is over. Now the political pundits prepare their analyses on the process. A common theme is what might have been the result if the six minority candidates had decided to organize their efforts around one or two of them.

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Union claims against John Connolly not rooted in historical reality

In order to attack Connolly as too privileged the unions would also have to renounce the great contributions of the Kennedy family

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A betrayal of the democratic process

Americans were betrayed by the members of Congress and U.S. senators responsible for shutting down the government in an effort to defund the Affordable Care Act. While there were some citizens who approved of the tactics, polls indicate there has been considerable damage in the public’s support for the Republican Party, which was primarily responsible.

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John Connolly for Mayor

For 20 years Tom Menino has been the hard-working, popular mayor of Boston. He was considered to be politically invulnerable. John Connolly was the only candidate with the courage to enter the race for mayor when everyone thought the battle would be against Menino.

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The process of destroying democracy

Throughout the years, African Americans have proven to be true patriots. Despite the history of racial discrimination against them, their faith in the democratic principles of this country has sustained them. Now the circumstances that have led to the shutdown of the government raise profound questions about the survival of that democracy.

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Toward Creating Political Power

The developments of political power and economic growth have long been African American objectives across the country. However, the modest black participation in the recent preliminary election for mayor indicates there is no sound strategy for developing political power in Boston.

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Breach of the social contract

The recession and its straggling aftermath are over for the affluent. According to an analysis of Internal Revenue Service data, incomes of the richest 1 percent of Americans increased by almost 20 percent in 2012. That left little of the reported household income growth in America for others. The remaining 99 percent had only a 1 percent increase in income.

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Understanding the battle over minimum wage

Protesting employees of fast food restaurants have alerted Americans to a long-continuing problem. Those being paid only the minimum wage do not earn enough to maintain even a modest standard of living. Some conservatives even oppose food stamps or other federal programs to aid the working poor.

The changing status of black NFL quarterbacks

The start of the 2013 professional football season causes those old enough to remember the days when blacks were not permitted to play quarterback. The reason was not that they lacked the skill. The problem was that those in charge believed that blacks did not have the intellectual capacity and discipline to manage the offense.