Sunday, November 29, 2009

How Does Prosperity Gospel Work Anyway?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University 

Nearly every African American knows just how important the black church is to our community. We also know about "prosperity gospel," the act of preaching about God within the context of wealth building. I admit that this form of faith is a bit odd to me. I am a Finance Professor and I become confused when my pastor talks about money more than I do. The saddest truth is that it's hard to tell the difference between a pastor and a pimp: Most pastors aren't pimps, but any pimp could be a pastor. The same skill set is required in both professions.

My father is a preacher, but he almost never preaches about money. I've never heard him asking for money on the pulpit, or mentioning that giving money to him is one of the keys to gaining access to heaven. But I don't presume that my father is right about all things, and given that I write about money on a regular basis, I have gained an appreciation for what financial resources can do to enhance your life. Also, one must be aware of the pragmatic realities of running a church: You have the building fund, bills to pay every month and any community service initiatives that the church chooses to pursue. The proper use of money can certainly enhance your ability to do God's work.


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Friday, November 27, 2009

The Power of Privilege

Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III

On the evening of Tuesday, November 24 a young couple from Virginia made their way into one of the most secure events in the country, President Obama’s state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Monmohan Singh and his wife at the White House. Like the other 300 plus invited guests, Tareq and Michaele Salahi went through multiple layers of Secret Service security, took photos with Chief of Staff Rom Emanuel and mingled with Vice President Biden and other invited guests. The problem is that the Salahi’s were not invited to the dinner. Their names were not listed on the official guest list or any other list that would have allowed them entrance into the White House. They crashed the party!

All that this couple needed to gain entrance into a state dinner at the White House was a tuxedo, traditional Indian evening wear, attitude, and white skin. When they arrived at the Secret Service check point without a printed invitation and without their names on the official guest list, they were not detained or questioned. No telephone calls were made; no further inquiries were needed; just white skin, blond hair, the expectation of admittance, and a pretty smile. Had this occurred at an airport the Salahi’s would have never made it past airport security.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Barack Obama and Black Men: Has He Done His Job?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University 

I did a recent CNN appearance along with the actor Hill Harper and Dr. Alvin Poussaint at Harvard University. The series was a one-year anniversary segment featuring political issues within the African American community. for the entire week, the primary focus was on the impact that President Barack Obama has had onAfrican American men. Given that I've been a black man for quite a while now, I found this conversation topic particularly interesting, so getting to speak to Richelle Carey again wasn't the only perk of doing the job that day.

It must be made clear that the president should not be expected to save the entire world in one swoop. His job is difficult, and he can't give everyone what they want all the time. But to the extent that President Obama has been positioned to trump pre-existing black leadership (remember that some say we now live in a post-racial America), one can argue that President Obama's rantings in black churches come with some degree of accountability from the Oval Office. Obama has spoken at NAACP meetings, telling black men to take responsibility for our families (as if none of us do) and to engage in more personal responsibility (as if we don't do that already). Such tough talk should be backed by meaningful policy, since structural incentives play a dominant role in the ultimate choice of the individual. For example, when companies get tax incentives to invest in new projects, they almost always do.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dr. Boyce - The Heather Ellis Case: All About Racism

My mother raised me to believe that black men are supposed to stand up for black women. Heather Ellis is the woman who now faces 15-years in prison for an incident deriving from her being accused of cutting line at a Walmart. Based on my knowledge of the Heather Ellis case (and seeing the Walmart surveillance video that has not yet been released to the public), it seems difficult to argue in favor of a conviction.

I accompanied Dr. Christopher Metzler (Georgetown University), Dr. Wilmer Leon(Howard University), King Downing (Attorney with the Sean Bell Justice Project) and Elliot Millner (Legal Advisor for the Your Black World Coalition) to Kennett, MO. The trip was long, but rewarding. You can visit to read more about the rally and how it all happened. The town shut down and took notice because they'd never seen black people come together to fight for their rights, at least not in that way.

There are some who seem to believe that if Heather cut the line, cursed at the cashier or kicked one of the officers, she should go to prison (The officer's allegations can't be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and don't appear on any video that I've seen. Police reports here have questionable credibility, since King Downing has data which shows that the Kennett police are systematically biased when arresting and convicting black defendants). But after witnessing egregious and illegal behavior on the part of many non-black college students for the past 16 years (ever been to a campus frat party?), it's interesting that most of them are let go with a slap on the wrist, but some think it's ok to send a black woman to prison over a minor incident. If I came to most universities (including my own), had a raid on a fraternity house and chose to send students to prison over whatever contraband I found, there would be outrage.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dr. Boyce: How Rihanna Is Profiting from Her Tragedy

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University 

I hated what Chris Brown did to Rihanna. I was angered, disappointed and irritated by the fact that many are quick to forgive egregious behavior on the part of celebrities, and a hit song can forgive all sins. At the same time, celebs are just like the rest of us, full of complexities that the world may never come to understand. Rihanna has walked away from Chris and she is now telling the entire world how bad of a man he is, and we're all taking her side.

The problem for Rihanna, however, is that her actions aren't making much sense.

Rihanna's recent whirlwind media tour has included the likes of ABC News, MTV and other major media outlets. Throughout this tour, she has allowed the world to enter into her dark reflection on the relationship she had with Chris Brown, with that reflection seeming to have almost no productive purpose. I am not sure why the he-say/she-say between two 19-year old kids should be the concern of the nation. But then again, I am sitting here writing about it, so I am as guilty as everyone else.


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