Leonard Pitts

Commentary: Some strange ideas about 'blackness'

I suddenly find myself concerned about my blackness.

It had never occurred to me to worry about it before. Then came the incident last month on ESPN’s First Take program that initially got commentator Rob Parker suspended and then, last week, fired outright. It seems Parker, who is African American, analyzed what he saw as the insufficient blackness of Robert Griffin III, rookie quarterback for the Washington, D.C., football team that is named for a racial slur. | 01/16/13 06:03:14 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Journal News crossed a line and quashed gun owner privacy

Exposed. That, in a word, is how you feel when someone broadcasts your home address without your knowledge, against your wishes. Your correspondent speaks from experience. Six years ago when white supremacists published my home address and phone number on their web sites, the first thing I felt was vulnerable. | 01/10/13 06:03:55 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Dumbest idea in history? Race

On New Year’s Day, it will be 150 years since Abraham Lincoln set black people free from slavery.

And there is no such thing as black people. | 01/01/13 06:05:11 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Plenty of space available in Colorado 'gun dorm'

Young people are not exactly renowned for their judgment.

We are, after all, talking about an age group that has to be told it is a bad idea to text while doing 70. Or drink alcohol ’til it spews from your nostrils. Or wear a T-shirt and flip-flops to interview for the office job. | 12/06/12 06:03:11 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Was 'black blindness' involved in Jordan Davis' death

It is a kind of myopia that afflicts some of us — too many of us — whenever we gaze upon a dark-skinned man. It causes some of us — too many of us — to see things that are not there, and to miss things that are. Sometimes, it is fatal. | 12/04/12 06:08:58 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: What truly matters during the holidays

Bing Crosby would be appalled.

With singer Carol Richards, the great crooner once popularized a song, Silver Bells, about the joy of Christmas shopping. “Strings of street lights,” it went, “even stop lights, blink a bright and red and green as the shoppers rush home with their treasures.” | 12/02/12 06:05:23 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Malala's miracle and the will of God

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways." - Isaiah 55:8

I am not here to tell you God's will. | 11/16/12 06:00:41 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: How the GOP has become its own worst enemy

"How ya like me now?" – Barack Obama

OK, so Obama didn’t really say that but surely, he must have thought it behind a private smile at some point last Tuesday night. | 11/13/12 06:05:25 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: In Obama's re-election, voters say no to 'severe' conservatism

Thank goodness that’s over.

The presidential campaign of 2012 did not in fact last long enough to be measured in geologic time, but poll-scarred and ad-weary voters can, perhaps, be forgiven for feeling as if it did. | 11/07/12 07:05:10 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Morality is never one-size-fits-all

“And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen. “

Richard Mourdock, GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate | 11/02/12 06:10:42 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: George McGovern, Lance Armstrong and the meaning of integrity

One guy was among the greatest losers in the history of politics, the other, one of the biggest winners in all of sports.

They were unalike men who shared little except recent headlines. But there was, in that brief juxtaposition, an object lesson for those who cared to see it. | 10/31/12 06:05:04 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Brave Malala has spoken truth to fundamentalism

Sometimes, oceans are not enough.

Usually, the fact that we are barricaded on both sides by great bodies of water gives us in this country a certain sense of remove from the awful things people with funny names do to one another in strange places on the far side of the globe. But once in awhile, the thing is awful enough that you can’t ignore it, or pretend that it is less real. | 10/16/12 06:16:47 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: The GOP's 'war on reality' and those job numbers

"Reality," Stephen Colbert once famously said, "has a well-known liberal bias." | 10/11/12 06:08:43 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Todd Akin's paternalistic world view


It is a telling choice of word. Hearing it used unironically, as would-be Missouri senator Todd Akin did last week, one almost feels as if Amelia Earhart never flew a plane and Sally Ride never rode a space shuttle. As if Madame C.J. Walker never made millions and Meg Whitman never made CEO. As if Lisa Leslie never dunked, Pat Benatar never rocked, Oprah Winfrey never reigned, Hillary Clinton never ran. | 10/05/12 06:03:37 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Being poor isn't a character flaw

Sharkara Peters is a 35-year-old single mother of two. She works 34 hours a week at a fast food restaurant. A few months back, she was hospitalized with a blood clot in her lung. Then, one of her daughters needed surgery. As a result, Peters lost about three weeks of work, and could not muster her $335 monthly rent. When I met her last month while in Charlotte reporting on poverty on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, she was facing eviction. | 09/28/12 06:08:32 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Teaching the Muslim world about freedom of speech

They are, perhaps, the most dangerous words ever written: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." That, for those who don't know, is the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. | 09/20/12 06:03:39 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: When the NFL, Chick-fil-A and gay marriage collide

We are gathered here today to discuss two recent controversies about same sex marriage. One comes from the world of pigskin, the other from the world of chicken fat. | 09/14/12 06:13:54 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr.: At the DNC, a nun's wisdom speaks volumes

Let’s talk about the other speech.

Yes, Bill Clinton delivered a 48-minute stemwinder to the Democratic National Convention Wednesday night that was so mesmerizing even Republicans praised it. But after the huzzahs for Clinton fade, save a little nod of affirmation for Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a Roman Catholic social justice group. She did not speak long — about seven minutes. Her delivery was not particularly powerful. But with the moral authority of her calling, she did something that has sorely needed doing for some weeks now. | 09/07/12 06:55:18 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: A bump road to enlightenment in Charlotte

To reach the Convention Center, you must first walk the gauntlet of dead baby parts. It’s one of the newer and more gruesome tactics in the fight over reproductive choice, protesters hoisting large color placards depicting aborted fetuses torn in chunks as a group of men preaches an unending sermon on the evils of abortion. As rhetorical tactics go, it is a bludgeon. | 09/06/12 07:04:35 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: What comes next after hope and change?

In Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, the narrator is conveyed to the gates of hell, upon which he finds a sign: “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

This city is not hell. But a case can be made, as the Democratic Party convenes here to nominate Barack Obama to a second term, that the same admonition applies. Abandon hope. | 09/05/12 12:48:10 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: The lessons of Hurricane Andrew should not be forgotten

Here’s what an idiot I was: I thought it was going to be fun.

Scary, yes — the lights would go out, the winds would howl, the windows would rattle — but essentially harmless for all that. It would be fun, in a ghost-stories-in-the dark, shiver-up-your-back kind of way. We would camp out in the house, eating bologna sandwiches and playing board games, waiting for the lights to come back on. | 08/23/12 06:02:40 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Too many doubts in Chavis Carter's ‘suicide’ case

What happened to Chavis Carter? The official story is that the 21-year-old African-American man was with two other people when they were detained by police in Jonesboro, Ark.. The other two were released, but when the officers searched Carter, they found marijuana. He also had an outstanding warrant. So they searched him again, handcuffed him and put him in the back of their car. As police were preparing to leave, they smelled smoke. They opened the car and found Carter slumped over, covered in blood, dying from a bullet wound to his temple. | 08/21/12 06:08:28 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Looking for terrorism in all the wrong places

Can we finally say the thing we have not said so far?

Last week, a white supremacist shot up a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, killing six people and wounding three. It is considered likely that the shooter mistook the Sikhs, whose men wear beards and turbans, for Muslims. The massacre came a few weeks after a characteristically baseless charge by Michele Bachmann and several other conservative legislators that a Muslim aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has ties to Islamic extremism. | 08/17/12 06:01:44 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: A solution to the problem of roaring mouths saying nothing

Truth is, there are few things more fully bipartisan than ducking a question. The art of making sound while saying nothing has become so ordinary and ubiquitous a part of politics as to defy notice, like wallpaper. | 07/31/12 10:21:11 By - By Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: In Colorado, ordinary people display true heroism

In a place of escapism, where people had gone to enjoy the fantasy of a man who could fight what we cannot, hell broke loose and chaos reigned. As, periodically, they must. In a gun-besotted nation where the right of each citizen to possess as many weapons of mass destruction as he or she wants is considered sacred and inviolable, who can expect otherwise? We are all vulnerable, always. | 07/25/12 07:19:10 By - By Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Texas GOP wages war on thinking

The Texas GOP has set itself explicitly against teaching children to be critical thinkers. Never mind the creeping stupidization of this country, the growing dumbification of our children, our mounting rejection of, even contempt for, objective fact. | 07/22/12 06:00:00 By - By Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Let's get serious about voter suppression

The name of the game, remember, is not voter prevention, but voter suppression, i.e., bringing down the numbers. In the last presidential election, only 63 percent of eligible voters voted - and that was the best showing in 48 years. Clearly, Americans are not overly enthusiastic about performing this civic duty as it is. | 07/18/12 10:28:16 By - By Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Black Americans silent as efforts to suppress the black vote grow

An open letter to African America: There is a sustained effort to suppress the black vote as we approach this pivotal election. And what is our response? Silence. | 07/15/12 06:00:00 By - By Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: When Mitt Romney addresses the NAACP...

Dear Mitt Romney:

I was pleased to hear that you have accepted an invitation to speak in July before the 103rd convention of the NAACP in Houston. In anticipation of that event, I have taken the liberty of writing a speech for you. It’s only a beginning, space limitations being what they are, but it should get you off to a solid start and you can take it from there. | 06/28/12 06:07:06 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Rodney King asked the question others would not

There was always something hapless about Rodney King.

He entered the nation's consciousness — and its conscience — as a shambling drunk, an unemployed black construction worker who tried to outrun L.A. police rather than be arrested for drunk driving. The result was a police beating, surreptitiously captured on video, so profoundly vicious that the chief of police himself said it made him sick. In 1992, when a suburban jury, conspicuously bleached of black jurors, acquitted four white police officers of any crime, the City of Angels went to hell, erupting in one of the worst urban riots in modern American history. | 06/22/12 06:05:38 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Seeing Jesus in a cheese sandwich

Chyanna Richards saw Jesus in her bathroom.

A few days ago, Richards, who lives near Houston, told a local TV news station she saw the image of Christ in a splotch of green mold on the wall above her tub. “People say, ‘Your house is blessed,’ ” Richards said. | 06/12/12 06:08:13 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Big Gulps vs. the Founding Fathers

There are things the law cannot do.

And if that seems a self-evident observation, well, you may want to think again in light of last week’s headlines out of New York City: It seems the mayor wants to ban the Big Gulp. | 06/07/12 06:08:25 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Sometimes the internet brings out the worst in us

Steve Blake of the Los Angeles Lakers missed what would have been the winning shot in a critical game. His wife got death threats.

Singer John Legend’s fiancée, Chrissy Teigen, criticized singer Chris Brown’s performance on an awards show. She got death threats. | 06/01/12 06:00:16 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: A remote salute to Eugene J. Polley

We are gathered here today to memorialize a man who revolutionized our lives.

So what did Eugene J. Polley do? What was the nature of his great leap forward? Did he invent the PC? Did he invent the cell phone? Did he invent the Internet? | 05/30/12 06:06:20 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Goofy GOP plans to stop Obama's re-election

I , too, sing America.

So wrote Langston Hughes, the unofficial poet laureate of the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes, whose 65 years spanned the lynch mobs of the early 20th century and the race riots of the mid-1960s, intended a defiant reminder to a nation too often content to include him out, a nation quick to regard him as the eternal Other, separate from and threatening to, what they saw as the “real” America, i.e., the white America. | 05/25/12 06:06:53 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Don't blame Democrats for hyper-partisanship

And another one bites the dust.

But Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar did not go quietly. Following last week’s defeat in the GOP primary, the veteran legislator issued a remarkable statement warning of the dangers of continued partisanship. | 05/18/12 06:01:12 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Obama's timing on gay marriage

So apparently, Barack Obama is finally done evolving.

That, you will recall, was the president’s word for the process of reconsidering his opposition to same sex marriage. Last week, after being publicly and inadvertently (?) prodded by his vice-president, Obama announced the results of all that cogitation. He told ABC News he has “just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” | 05/15/12 06:06:54 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Endless punishment in the U.S. justice system

I promised Russell I would ask you something.

We met last week in a medium security correctional facility. There, I spent a couple hours talking with a group of men who are studying for their GEDs. I stressed to them the need for long-term goals, the criticality of education in an era where good-paying, low-skill jobs are going away and the importance of refusing to allow oneself to be defined by whatever box of race or class society has placed you in. | 05/11/12 06:01:24 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Trayvon Martin and death by stereotype

I don't care about George Zimmerman's MySpace page. | 05/08/12 06:02:43 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Hiding behind the Bible in gay marriage debate

Sometimes, people hide inside the Bible.

That is, they use the Christian holy book as authority and excuse for biases that have nothing to do with God. They did this when women sought to vote and when African Americans sought freedom. | 05/04/12 06:03:01 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Senate candidate's Hitler comparison a fine example of American political extremism

John Raese is feeling persecuted.

Raese, a West Virginia businessman running for the Senate, declared in a recent speech that he doesn’t want the government telling him what to do “because I’m an American.” Specifically, he lamented that he is required to place a “huge sticker” on his buildings declaring them smoke-free environments. | 04/27/12 06:05:07 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Snow White is a fairytale, not a lifestyle

Someday, my prince will come. — Snow White, 1937

In a hotel in Canada hangs this picture, someone’s mischievous take on Snow White a few years after happily ever after. She is posed in an anonymous suburban den. Behind her, Prince Charming slouches in a chair, slowly going to seed. Snow has a babe in arms and a few other rug rats scattered about the floor. She faces you with an expression that seems to ask, is this all there is? | 04/26/12 06:04:50 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: If drug legalization is not the answer, then what is?

If President Obama had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin. So the president famously said. And the president’s son would thereby find himself at significantly greater risk of running afoul of the so-called “War on Drugs” than, say, a son of George W. Bush. Depending on what state he lived in, a Trayvon Obama might be 57 times more likely than a Trayvon Bush to be imprisoned on drug charges. | 04/22/12 06:06:00 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: The moral of the Titanic story

There is a single shot, just seconds long, in James Cameron’s newly re-released movie, Titanic, that says it all with poignant eloquence. | 04/17/12 06:20:07 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: A Republican politician defends the Muslim faith

Indeed, while it is famously difficult to prove a negative, it seems apparent that few people in all of politics and media have had the guts to say it. Did John McCain ever say it? Did Rick Santorum or Bill O’Reilly? | 04/15/12 06:03:12 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Why do some in GOP see enemies everywhere?

Meet Nathan Fletcher, candidate for mayor of San Diego.

He will lose, at least if the polls are right. But he has raised a minor stir through a video posted online a few days back. In it, he explains his decision to leave the Republican Party and identify henceforth as an independent. “I don’t believe we have to treat people we disagree with as an enemy,” he says. “I think we can just say sometimes we disagree. . . . I’ve fought in a war,” adds Fletcher, a Marine who served in Iraq. “I have seen the enemy. We don’t have enemies in our political environment here.” | 04/10/12 01:26:59 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Moral cowardice and the Trayvon Martin case

Once upon a time in the late ’90s, a certain black newswoman was awarded her own column. She wrote 12 pieces, three of them about race. That was too many for her boss, who told her to tone it down. Confused, she went to a white colleague for advice. He explained that, being black, she lacked the judgment to decide if a given racial matter merited a column. In the future, he suggested, if she saw some racial issue she thought worth writing about, she should bring it to him and let him decide. | 04/06/12 06:05:04 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Shielding New York's kids from dinosaurs and dancing

Warning: This column contains language some readers may find unsuitable for children. Parental guidance is suggested.

No, seriously, you have been warned. This is your last chance. Turn back now. | 04/05/12 06:05:20 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Case is not about Trayvon Martin's hoodie

One month later, some of us fail to understand what this is about. One month later, some of us are using the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin to advance their own selfish aims or are throwing up smoke to divert our attention from what matters. One month later, a reminder seems sadly necessary. | 03/30/12 06:00:56 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Race and privilege must be considered in Trayvon Martin's death

I’m here to explain why George Zimmerman is white.

This seems necessary given the confusion and anger with which some readers responded to my use of that word last week in this space to describe the man who shot an unarmed black teenager named Trayvon Martin to death last month in Sanford, Fla. One person wrote: “Mr. Zimmerman was Hispanic not White plez do your homework before writing your column!!!!” | 03/27/12 06:00:30 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: 'The Boss' delivers his state of our union

It begins with big drums, a guitar seesawing beneath like a deck rolling in high seas. It ends with a fuzz of static and feedback, a hiss of promises broken and a mortgage on the future. In the 13 songs that unfold in between, one of the elder statesmen of American popular music delivers what might fairly be called a State of the Union Address. | 03/21/12 07:01:17 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Trayvon Martin's shooting raises old fears, questions

They do not see you.

For every African American, it comes as surely as hard times, setback and tears, that moment when you realize somebody is looking right at you and yet, not seeing you — as if you had become cellophane, as if you had become air, as if somehow, some way, you were right there and yet at the same time, not. | 03/20/12 10:54:55 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Where is the outrage over war on terror tactics?

Spin it any way you want. Justify it, rationalize it, chalk it up to the exigencies of war. And at the end, the fact remains: A United States citizen is dead and the United States government killed him. Without trial. Without due process. Without hesitation. And many of those who loudly deplored George W. Bush for smaller excesses seem content to allow Barack Obama this larger one. | 03/16/12 06:05:58 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: American Muslims need a 'Cliff Huxtable' of their own

A few words on what American Muslims need.

We were discussing this, an olive-skinned Muslim man and I, at a banquet last year, when he said a wistful, poignant thing that has stayed with me ever since. “We thought we were white,” he said. | 03/13/12 06:03:00 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Rush Limbaugh and GOP extremism

If you think Rush Limbaugh is fatally wounded, think again.

By way of explanation, let me tell you how a certain subset of my readers will react to this column. Experience dictates that once I've taken my last swipe at their dear leader, Limbaugh's followers will well . . . rush to fire off angry emails in his defense. They will do this though there is no defense for what he did on his program last week — calling Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a “prostitute” and a “slut” after she testified in support of requiring health insurers to pay for women’s contraception. His followers will declare, through some arcane “logic” peculiar to true believers, that “Rush” — it’s always “Rush,” as if they and the multimillionaire talk show host were in the same bowling league — didn’t say what I thought he said, or didn’t mean what I thought he meant. | 03/08/12 06:01:39 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Gay Marine's homecoming and kissing yesterday goodbye

A few days ago, a U.S. Marine returned to the States after six months in Afghanistan. Spotting his new honey among the people waiting, he rushed forward and planted an enthusiastic kiss — their first kiss, as it turns out. A friend snapped a picture and posted it on Facebook.

And all heck broke loose. | 03/06/12 06:08:47 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Those 'terrorist' Girl Scout cookies

Bob Morris is scared of Girl Scouts.

If you are waiting for the punch line, sorry, but there isn't one. Morris, an Indiana state legislator, recently attacked the Scouts in a letter to his colleagues urging them to vote down a nonbinding resolution honoring the group on its centennial. There has never been a safer, more plain vanilla measure in the history of American politics, but Morris felt the need to warn fellow legislators of the organization's corrupting influence. | 03/02/12 06:10:38 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: GOP race sounds like scenes from Mad Men

Do you watch Mad Men?

If so, you know that one of the things that drama about a 1960s advertising agency does best is transport you back to the days when women still were "gals." We think we remember what that was like. We use words like "sexist" and "paternalistic" to describe it. | 02/28/12 06:07:34 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Some lessons from 'Lin-sanity'

An open letter to African-American young people:

So, have you caught "Lin-sanity" yet? | 02/24/12 06:06:31 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Confronting our embarrassing history during Black History Month

A story for Black History Month.

Bryan Stevenson is director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a Montgomery, Ala.-based organization he founded in 1989 to provide legal representation for the indigent and incarcerated. The EJI doesn't charge its clients but, says Stevenson, he will sometimes require them to read selected books. | 02/21/12 06:02:58 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Marines' SS photo and the degradation of American memory

There are only two possible explanations for that photo.

One is intentional malice. That is the explanation favored by Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. That picture, he told The Associated Press, is "beyond the pale." | 02/17/12 06:06:39 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Obama's super PAC hypocrisy was out of necessity

We've seen this movie before. In 2008, candidate Obama broke a promise to use public campaign financing, thereby gaining a tactical advantage at the expense of betraying his professed principles. Of course, politics is hell on principles, so one can hardly be surprised at his decision now to embrace a super PAC set up on his behalf. Disappointed, but not surprised. | 02/14/12 06:07:05 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Tim Tebow's on-field prayers

Really? Seriously?

In the history of pro sports, men have done all sorts of things to commemorate their feats on the field or the court. They have flopped like seals, walked like gorillas, head-butted like bighorn sheep. They have high-fived, low-fived, dog-piled, chest-bumped, wept, kissed their own biceps. They have breakdanced, riverdanced, jitterbugged and otherwise tripped the light fantastic. | 02/10/12 06:03:12 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: May Don Cornelius rest in love, peace . . . and soul

This was for us.

And that was a new thing, so we gathered faithfully to the television as that hard-working cartoon engine chugged across the screen, rainbow smoke pouring from its stack, the announcer calling us to order once upon a Saturday. This was "Sooooooul Train," he said, darn near yodeling the name, "the hippest trip in America, 60 nonstop minutes across the tracks of your mind, with guest stars…" | 02/08/12 06:10:15 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Ronald Reagan would not recognize his party today

A picture, the saying goes, is worth a thousand words. Unfortunately, we have only about 550 with which to appraise a picture that has raised eyebrows across the country: In it, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is seen wagging her finger in President Obama's face during his visit to her state last week. | 02/03/12 06:03:25 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Gabrielle Giffords' departure from Congress is a blow to democracy

In a democracy, nothing is supposed to matter more than the will of the people.

So it was painful to watch last week as the will of the people was overturned and one of Arizona's duly elected representatives was forced from office. It wasn't a recall vote or scandal that did it. No, the people's will was overturned by a gun. | 01/31/12 06:03:09 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Newt Gingrich and the politics of racial resentment

I got my first job when I was 12. The deacons at my church paid me $2 a week to keep it swept and mopped.

So I do not need Newt Gingrich to lecture me about a good work ethic. In this, I suspect I speak for the vast majority of 39 million African Americans. | 01/29/12 06:08:13 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Strip Club's 'I Have A Dream Bash' a moment when reverence died

You might call this a requiem for reverence.

It seems that one Jeffrey Darnell Paul, a graphic artist from Miami Beach, had been tasked with creating a poster for a strip club’s so-called “I Have A Dream Bash” last week in apparent “honor” of the Martin Luther King holiday. So this genius concocts an image of the nation’s greatest human rights leader holding up a fan of $100 dollar bills like some low rent “playa” while a scantily-clad woman looks on. Paul, let the record show as African Americans duck their heads in mortification, is black. | 01/24/12 06:02:14 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Jim Crow is alive and kicking

I have something for you.

In June of 2010, I wrote in this space about a book, The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander, which I called a "troubling and profoundly necessary" work. Alexander promulgated an explosive argument. Namely, that the so-called "War on Drugs" amounts to a war on African-American men and, more to the point, to a racial caste system nearly as restrictive, oppressive and omnipresent as Jim Crow itself. | 01/17/12 06:04:15 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Santorum's straw man on gay marriage

We gather here today to parse the meaning of "boo."

Not "boo" as in the greeting of ghosts and goblins but, rather, "boo" as in the chorus that drowned the bigot Rick Santorum last week after he defended his opposition to gay marriage before an audience of college students in Concord, N.H. Santorum took the same header into non sequitur and illogic that gay marriage opponents often take, i.e., if we legalize this, then we must also legalize polygamy. | 01/13/12 06:00:17 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Voter ID laws and life in the margins

You have no driver’s license because you have nothing to drive. You have no passport because you’ve never been out of the country. You have no other photo I.D. because you have no bank account. You work and get paid under the table, a wad of cash sliding from hand to hand. | 01/10/12 06:00:11 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Ron Paul may be consistent but that doesn't mean he's right

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson, meet Ronald Ernest Paul. He is the very soul of a foolish consistency. Meaning that he is willing, often to a fault, to follow his ideology to its logical and most extreme conclusions. | 01/07/12 06:23:03 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Roosevelt, Churchill and the meaning of leadership

A thin fragment of moon stood watch that Christmas Eve as the president of the United States and the prime minister of Great Britain came out onto the south portico of the White House. They were there to light the national Christmas tree — and to speak a holiday greeting to an uncertain world. | 12/11/11 06:24:58 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: American TV's obsession with missing white women

Let the first word be one of compassion. For anyone who has a loved one missing, Godspeed the day of that person’s safe return. Or failing that, Godspeed the bitter satisfaction of knowing his or her fate. To have someone you love vanish is, one imagines, a special kind of hell.

That said, let the second word be one of exasperation. | 12/07/11 06:03:52 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Brownback's staff overreacted to teen's free speech

Yes, the bullying is troubling, the thin-skinned aversion to criticism vexing. But in the end, it is the piddling, picayune pettiness, the sheer, Lilliputian smallness of the behavior that I can’t quite get past. | 12/01/11 06:00:23 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Trampling on the First Amendment at UC-Davis

A menacing crowd of protesters had encircled police and they had no choice but to defend themselves with pepper spray. Or at least, that is the story campus cops at UC Davis initially told. Video of the Nov. 18 incident tells a different story. | 11/29/11 06:04:36 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Picking a president shouldn't be like picking a golf buddy

A presidential campaign constitutes the world’s longest and toughest job interview. While it’s fine to vet candidates on likeability, credibility and, yes, experience, it might not hurt to require that they also show evidence of having thought deeply and with an informed mind about the world and America’s place in it. We are, after all, choosing a president — not a golf buddy. | 11/25/11 06:03:28 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Finding the wit and will to fix broken communities

This is not about your neighborhood.

Probably not, at least. The demographics of newspaper readership being what they are, you likely do not live in Liberty Square or anyplace like it. | 11/23/11 06:06:46 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: What took Penn State so long?

So they did the right thing. Belatedly.

You might say that is better than failing to do the right thing period, but it comes as meager comfort to those who have watched the Penn State scandal unfold and wondered how a moral imperative as obvious as a gorilla in church could have been missed by so many. | 11/17/11 06:00:09 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: On 'personhood' and abortion

Moral clarity is one of the most seductive traits of social conservatism.

So last week’s election result in Mississippi comes as a seismic shock. By a significant margin — 58 to 42 percent — voters rejected an anti-abortion amendment to the state constitution defining the fertilized human egg as a person, with all the rights and protections attendant thereto. | 11/15/11 06:02:24 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: In Michael Jackson's death, it's fair to blame the pusher

Once upon a time, there was a boy who channeled the gods.

He invoked them through his feet, moving without friction across the gleam of a thousand stages. They possessed him though his voice, now rough like bark, now sweet like butter and brimming always with an emotional depth once thought inaccessible to children. | 11/11/11 06:06:19 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Playing the race card in Cain's sexual harassment scandal

Do you think it gives Clarence Thomas a warm, fuzzy feeling to know he is one of Ann Coulter's blacks?

That is how Coulter put it on Fox "News" while defending Herman Cain against sexual harassment charges that threatened to engulf his campaign last week. Liberals, she said, detest black conservatives, but the truth is, "our blacks are so much better than their blacks." | 11/08/11 06:09:26 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Jobs are plentiful on Alabama's farms

Good news. The jobs crisis is over.

Meaning the recent Alabama law (toughest in the nation, they say) cracking down on illegal alien workers. Ever since it was passed, Hispanic farm laborers who had been taking jobs from hard-working Americans have been fleeing that state like a foreign language film with subtitles. As a result, there is now lots of work available in the exciting field of . . . well, fields. As in fields of vegetables and fruit. | 11/03/11 06:09:12 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: 'Stop and frisk' tramples on Fourth Amendment rights

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated . . . — Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

Just in case you forgot. There has been, after all, an appalling amount of forgetting where that amendment is concerned. And New York City has become the epicenter of the amnesia. | 11/01/11 06:05:39 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: We never should have been in Iraq

Eight years ago on a night in March, they interrupted our regularly-scheduled programs for a breaking news bulletin. We sat before our televisions and watched rockets arc into the skies over Baghdad. Many of us had doubts about the stated and implied causes of the war that began that night: the need to secure Saddam Hussein’s stockpile of WMD and to retaliate for his part in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. | 10/28/11 06:06:03 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Taking a stand for Jamey Rodemeyer

Zachary Quinto came out recently. Ordinarily, the news that Star Trek’s new Mr. Spock had told New York magazine he was gay would barely register. It has become, a rather ordinary thing, celebrities disclosing their hidden sexuality.

But Quinto came out for Jamey. | 10/25/11 06:02:40 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Occupy movement's next move is a critical one

By one measure at least, the movement that began with Occupy Wall Street is already bigger than the tea party ever was.

According to a report in the Washington Post, Occupy rallies were held in over 900 cities around the country and across the globe last weekend. The tea party is big, but it is not known to have had an impact in Barcelona, London, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Brussels, Munich, Rome, Sydney, Manila, Lisbon, Paris and Zurich. | 10/21/11 06:00:18 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: How to explain Herman Cain

This is for those who keep asking what I think of Herman Cain. In particular, it’s for those who want to know what the tea party’s embrace of this black businessman turned presidential candidate says about my claim that the tea party is racist. | 10/18/11 06:09:29 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: GOP is looking for a candidate to love

So last week, Chris Christie said no.

This should not have been a surprise. The New Jersey governor has said “no” repeatedly when urged by Republican movers, shakers and donors to consider running for president. Last week’s last and final “no” theoretically puts the question to bed for good. | 10/14/11 06:10:58 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: 'Occupy Wall Street' feels like more than street theatre

Five dollars? Really? To use your own money? Wow.

Bank of America's decision to impose that fee for debit card use did not precipitate the Occupy Wall Street protests. But it does seem to embody much of what has driven thousands of people to the streets, first in the New York financial center and now in Boston, Los Angeles and other cities across the nation. | 10/11/11 06:03:44 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Rick Perry's rock and the politics of race

A few words about Rick Perry’s rock.

This would be the one at the entrance to a remote Texas hunting ground used by Perry for decades, the one painted with the name of the camp: “Niggerhead.” The Texas governor says his father painted over the ugly name almost 30 years ago, though some locals interviewed by the Washington Post in a story that ran Sunday claimed to have seen it there much more recently. | 10/07/11 06:05:42 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Berkeley's affirmative action bake sale

The story goes as follows: the GOP student group at the University of California at Berkeley wanted to illustrate its opposition to pending legislation that would allow state universities to consider race, gender, ethnicity and national origin as factors in admission. So it sponsored an “Increase Diversity Bake Sale,” in which the prices varied according to race. White men were asked to pay $2 for what Asian men could get for $1.50, Latino men for $1, African-American men for 75 cents and Native American men for a quarter. All women received a 25 cent discount off those prices. | 10/05/11 06:03:50 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Tea party is throwing more than a temper tantrum

This country is in a world of hurt if the likes of Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry wins the next election. It might be in greater trouble if Barack Obama does.

I can take no credit — or blame — for that analysis. It originated with one of my colleagues, a veteran political reporter, and he shared it one day not long ago as we were chatting in the office. It troubles me for one simple reason: it makes sense. | 09/29/11 06:17:52 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Confidence does not replace truth when death penalty is involved

There are literally hundreds, of men and even a few women who have been exonerated and set free after being sentenced to death, life, 25, 60, even 400 years for awful things they did not do. I could make a longer list, but space is at a premium and there is more that needs saying here. | 09/27/11 06:08:49 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Bachmann's irresponsible remarks on HPV carry consequences

Dr. Miles, a University of Minnesota bioethicist, offered $1,000 to charity if Michele Bachmann can prove a link she suggested between vaccinations for human papillomavirus and intellectual disability. Dr. Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Bioethics, upped the ante on Miles’ offer, adding $10,000 of his own. | 09/25/11 06:03:14 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Death penalty does not equal justice

And they raised a cheer for death.

It was a chilling moment, but also a clarifying one in that it validated the grimmest suspicions about at least some of those who support capital punishment. That support, after all, is often framed in terms of high morality, the argument being that only in taking an offender’s life can a society truly express its revulsion over certain heinous crimes. | 09/21/11 06:04:36 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Colin Powell was wrong. Americans walk around afraid

Now, let’s mark the anniversary of something that happened after 9/11.

On 9/12, as a shaken nation reeled, an old soldier gave a pep talk. Do not let this change you, warned Secretary of State Colin Powell. Do not cower or walk around terrified. “We’re Americans,” he said. “We don’t walk around terrified.” | 09/18/11 06:13:16 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: We move forward a decade after the terror

Now, somehow, that moment is a decade past. In measuring the distance, perhaps it is enough to note that today's college freshman was a third grader then. Thus do the clock and the calendar do their work. Thus do today's terrors become tomorrow's memories. Thus does news become history. | 09/11/11 06:00:52 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: A gun does not equate manhood

The last time most of us heard the name Javaris Crittenton, it was as the other guy in a news story starring Gilbert Arenas.

The story grew from a December 2009 incident in the locker room of the NBA’s Washington Wizards in which a supposed “joke” between the two escalated until they produced guns from their lockers. Arenas got most of the attention — and blame — which is fitting. | 09/02/11 06:12:00 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Democrats need to stand up to tea party

I am pleased to report the sighting of an artifact so rarely seen among Democrats that it has become the stuff of legend and conjecture, like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster. It is called a spine. | 08/30/11 06:03:36 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: MLK fought for the poor, labor unions

It feels appropriate, necessary, maybe a little seditious, to remember and remind that when he died, Martin Luther King was fighting for the right of workers to form a union and for the dignity of the poor. That is not a bedtime story from way back when. It is a headline from right now. Unions, after all, are controversial again. Worse, poor people find themselves denigrated and demeaned in ways that shock conscience. UPDATE 8/26/2011: Due to Hurricane Irene the dedication has been rescheduled for Sept. or October. | 08/26/11 06:09:20 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Russell Armstrong's death shows reality TV goes too far

One imagines the promo will pretty much write itself.

“Don’t miss a moment of the high fashion, high drama and hijinks as Real Housewives of Beverly Hills returns for Season 2. Join the pampered princesses of the world’s most famous Zip code as they struggle with questions all the money in the world cannot answer. Can sisters Kim and Kyle repair their broken relationship after last season’s fight? Can Camille find happiness in her new life without Kelsey? And, what will Taylor do when she finds out her estranged husband committed suicide after seeing his private life played out as a cheesy soap opera to sell hemorrhoid medicine and feminine hygiene products to a mass audience?” | 08/25/11 06:06:23 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: 'The Help' is far from perfect

Mother used to tell this story.

She was working as a domestic — this was the late ’40s or early ’50s — for a Memphis doctor when one day his daughter came up and inexplicably began rubbing her skin. It turned out the child had asked her grandmother why mom’s skin was dark, and the woman, a daughter of the unreconstructed white South, had said the darkness was dirt. The poor little girl was trying to rub the “dirt” off and was surprised it wouldn’t come. Years later, Mom’s voice still mixed anger and humiliation when she told that tale. | 08/21/11 06:25:37 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Tea party's decline is a hopeful sign for thinking Americans

Cheer up. Not everything went down over the last two weeks. In the midst of that bleak litany of decline, there was a bright spot. Indeed, one leading indicator registered a sharp uptick. For the first time, it seems, more than half the American electorate now holds a negative view of the tea party movement. If you're wondering what that is a leading indicator of, the answer is simple: common sense. | 08/16/11 06:03:01 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Fear of a black Spider-Man

OK, people: chill out. Breathe. Relax.

Spider-Man is still white. He’ll always be white. He’s been white since that day in 1962 when Peter Parker, a high school science nerd, was bitten by that radioactive bug. | 08/14/11 06:00:38 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: 'Tar baby' is just more nasty GOP politics

Ladies and gentlemen, here he is, "your boy," that "tar baby," the president of the United Sates, Barack Obama: Ahem.

The first title was bestowed upon Obama by political commentator Patrick Buchanan on Tuesday, the second by U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn on the Friday before last, the third by the American electorate in November of 2008. If the first two seem to cancel out the third, well, that's the point. One hopes they will help the president understand something he has thus far refused to grasp about his political opposition. | 08/10/11 06:02:12 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Police, violence and videotape

This all started with Rodney King.

More to the point, it started with a plumber named George Holliday. Had he not been video recording from his balcony, that night in 1991 might have been business as usual for L.A. police who struck King, a harmless drunk, 50 times with their batons, breaking his leg, his cheekbone and his skull. Had Holliday not captured video proof to the contrary, they might have gotten away with some lame excuse: oops, he slipped on the stairs. | 08/07/11 06:21:50 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: NAACP shifts the 'War on Drugs' paradigm

There was a quake last week, but you likely didn’t feel it.

See, this particular quake was not of the Earth, involved no shifting of the planetary crust. No, what shifted was a paradigm, and the implications are hopeful and profound. | 08/03/11 06:05:02 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Norway violence proves extremism has no faith

The dogs of war are snarling. They strain forward, slavering, growling, pawing the air, eager to get at one another, to rend and tear and wet their lips with blood. As strangers in a dog park would, we try to pull them back, to exert control. But you feel your feet sliding beneath you, feel yourself carried, helpless and unwilling, into this fight they mean to have. It strikes you how poor a leash is reason. | 07/28/11 06:02:37 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Rupert Murdoch's implosion

This used to be a noble profession.

Still is, to tell you the truth. To hear an editor debate whether a story is fair to some deplorable individual most would consider unworthy of the effort or watch a reporter rush toward danger to tell a story that needs telling is to be unalterably convinced of the honor in this work. | 07/22/11 06:01:54 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Media needs help with its Palin addiction

Memo to the lamestream media: Your Palin addiction is getting out of hand.

You know how it is with an addiction: you always think you can quit any time you want. Next thing you know, you’re waking up fixated on your next fix, your relationships are coming apart and your work is starting to suffer. So it’s time for an intervention. | 06/21/11 06:10:06 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Time for 'War on Drugs' to end

On Friday it will be 40 years since President Richard Nixon asked Congress for $155 million to combat a problem he said had “assumed the dimensions of a national emergency.” Thus was born the War on Drugs.

Seven presidents later, the war grinds on. And if it has made even a dent in drug use, you could not prove it by me — nor, I would wager, by most observers. | 06/17/11 06:05:46 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Male politicians, judgment and morality

Let’s roll out the list.

It includes, in no particular order of “sluttishness:” Kwame Kilpatrick; Jesse Jackson; James McGreevey; Ted Haggard; Gary Condit; Mark Sanford; John Edwards; Bill Clinton; Newt Gingrich; Rudy Giuliani; Eliot Spitzer; Antonio Villaraigosa; Arnold Schwarzenegger; James West; Larry Craig; David Vitter; John Ensign. And now, Anthony Weiner, Democratic representative from New York. | 06/14/11 06:09:33 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Like Sarah Palin, many of us don't know U.S. history

It would be the easiest thing in the world to make this about Sarah Palin.

She makes mistakes like Apple makes iPhones, so there is a temptation to catalogue her recent bizarre claim that Paul Revere’s midnight ride in April of 1775 was to "warn the British" (He actually rode to alert patriots Samuel Adams and John Hancock that British troops were coming to arrest them) as superfluous evidence of intellectual mediocrity. The instinct is to think her historical illiteracy speaks ill only of her. But the thing is, she is not the only one. | 06/09/11 06:04:50 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: When dancing is a federal offense

Look, no one wants people dancing at national monuments.

Folks doing the electric slide at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial would ruin the spirit of reverence and reflection it inspires. Still, it is hard to believe we need a federal law, a court ruling or squadrons of police in order to enforce that restriction. Sadly, we have all three. | 06/07/11 06:02:32 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Gil Scott-Heron was in tune with the troubled times

One day, about a hundred years ago in the Los Angeles offices of SOUL magazine, I was working at my desk when I became aware of my colleagues Mike Terry and Mike Martinez, huddled together on the other side of the room, excitedly discussing some new album. I asked what they were listening to. Barely sparing me a glance, they told me to go back to the Jacksons or the O'Jays or the Brides of Funkenstein or whatever I was into then, because this was too deep for me. This was something I would never understand.

This was my introduction to Gil Scott-Heron. | 06/03/11 06:15:16 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: We're so doomed (again)

So it looks like we’re doomed. Again.

Having found the world intact on May 21, the day he’d said the world would end, Harold Camping, an 89-year-old radio preacher from Oakland, Calif., has revised his estimate. Oct. 21, he says now. That’s the last day for planet Earth. | 05/31/11 06:08:35 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Murfreesboro shows our country has lost its mind

So, it turns out Islam is a religion. Imagine that.

Granted, this would be considered self-evident by most of us, but it has been a matter of great controversy in the Tennessee town of Murfreesboro, where 17 people went to court last year to prevent a group of Muslims from building a mosque. On their own land. | 05/27/11 06:14:22 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Lessons from the Freedom Riders

The names slide down the wall like raindrops on a window.

The device is, as someone observes, fairly simple – little more than a glorified screen saver, really. But the effect is anything but simple. The effect is…ennobling. | 05/17/11 11:27:06 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: The courage of the Freedom Riders

When he was 21, Ernest “Rip” Patton made out his will. He didn’t have much beyond an old set of drums he used in the jazz club gigs that helped him pay his way through college. He willed them to his parents, then climbed aboard a freedom bus bound for Jackson, Miss. | 05/16/11 06:05:47 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Re-tracing history on the Freedom Ride

The 2011 Student Freedom Riders have been on the road since Sunday, and they have become used to being feted. The big bus with the yellow Freedom Riders logo pulls up and local greeters and media line up to welcome them and treat them to a meal. That’s how it has gone in a succession of towns in Virginia, Georgia and the Carolinas. | 05/13/11 13:01:20 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: The new Freedom Riders

The homeless man shifts on the park bench beneath a blanket of carpet padding as the college students gather around. Only his hand is visible, poking from beneath the padding.

We are in his bedroom, a public park across the street from the Art Deco building that, in 1961, was a Greyhound bus station. It was from this site — and a Trailways station that sat across the street in a building that no longer exists — that the first busload of Freedom Riders departed on May 4, 1961. So it is from this spot that this symbolic 50th anniversary Freedom Ride of 40 college students also embarks. | 05/12/11 06:14:54 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: A busload of kids that changed America

Fifty years ago. A group of college students boarded two buses here, bound for New Orleans. They were joined by members of the African-American press, and officials of the Congress of Racial Equality, including its national director, James Farmer, who had organized the journey. Six of the riders were white, 12, black. The fact of their traveling together would prove incendiary. | 05/10/11 06:16:37 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: 'Presidenting while black' is birthers' biggest issue with Obama

One thinks of rats scurrying off a sinking ship. Meaning the new exodus of birthers from birtherism. Fox News now says in a blog post that it hardly pushed the birther issue at all. Wonder how folks got the idea Fox did that? Oh yeah: by watching Fox. | 05/05/11 12:53:31 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Just another oversized ego

"You know who I am," she said.

Of course, according to witnesses and to Miami Beach Police, LeBron James’ mother said — and did — a number of dumb things during and after the encounter with a hotel valet last week that got her charged with simple battery and disorderly intoxication. | 04/15/11 06:07:26 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Civil War's 'conspiracy of amnesia'

This Tuesday morning will be 150 years since the Civil War began.

The bloodiest war in U.S. history commenced with the bombardment of a fort in Charleston Harbor. President Abraham Lincoln was careful to define it as a war to restore 11 rebellious southern states to the Union — and only that. | 04/12/11 06:07:37 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: There's no app for privacy

So, let’s say there’s this truly fine individual standing there across the room, and you’d like his or her name, number and email address, but don’t want the hassle of walking over and risking rejection.

There’s an app for that. Well, not yet, but eventually there will be. | 04/08/11 06:04:54 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: MLK and the labor movement

Once upon a long time ago, a tired man faced an audience of public workers. They were on a wildcat strike, demanding the right to collectively bargain and to have the city for which they worked automatically deduct union dues from their paychecks. The city’s conservative mayor had flatly refused these demands. | 04/05/11 06:15:07 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Donald Trump adds to 'birthers' madness

Donald Trump doesn’t like “birthers.” He calls the word “unfair’’ to people who don’t believe President Obama was born in the USA. In recent days, Trump, the reality-show impresario and human punch line who’s been threatening to run for president, has added himself to their number. | 04/01/11 06:07:28 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Islam, Christianity and fear of the irrational

OK, put your books away. We’re having a pop quiz.

Below are four quotes. Each is from one of two sources: the Bible or the Koran, although, just to make things interesting, there’s also a chance all four are from one book. | 03/29/11 06:03:18 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Gay marriage is a matter of rights

We are gathered here today to look a gift horse in the mouth.

It seems a majority of the American people now favor allowing gay men and lesbians to wed. That majority, according to a Washington Post/ABC News survey released last week, is slender, just 51 percent. But even at that, it represents a significant increase from just five years ago, when only 36 percent of Americans approved. | 03/25/11 06:06:15 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Truth is futile when people refuse to listen to it

This will be a futile column.

Experience dictates that it will change no minds, inspire no reconsideration among those who disagree. It will sit on the computer screen or the newspaper page taking up space, affecting nothing, until another column replaces it. It will be a useless essay, written for one reason only: to protect the writer’s mental health. If the writer did not write it, you see, there is a great danger his head would explode. | 03/22/11 06:00:10 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: King's Muslim hearing put paranoia ahead of facts

He races into traffic screaming. “You fools,” he cries, “you’re in danger!’” Horns are blasting, brakes are screeching, drivers are swerving to avoid the disheveled man running down the road. “Can’t you see?” he howls. “They’re after you! They’re after all of us! Our wives, our children, everyone! They’re here already!”

To understand the paranoiac terror that has gripped much of the nation where Muslims are concerned, it is helpful to recall Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the 1956 sci-fi movie classic, and in particular, the penultimate scene described above. | 03/18/11 06:10:57 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: White man's burden

There is a scholarship for students who wear outfits made of duct tape to their proms.

David Letterman offers a scholarship for kids with average grades. There are scholarships for students who vote Democrat — or Republican — scholarships for students who have cancer, diabetes, sickle cell, autism or Tourette’s, students named Zolp, students who are blind, deaf, vegan, Arizonan, left handed, low income, African-, Hispanic-, Native-, Asian- or woman-American. So it’s hard to get worked up over a new scholarship for students who are white men. | 03/15/11 06:09:02 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Westboro ruling was painful but right

It is not easy being America. Maybe that’s why America often finds it hard to do.

Being America requires more than simply existing between certain geographic lines. Rather, it requires vindicating a set of ideals that are downright dangerous. | 03/11/11 06:06:03 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Regarding Roger Ailes, the truth does matter

A few words about three words.

Said words came from one Barry Ritholtz, a financial analyst, author and TV commentator. Ritholtz also has a blog and it was there that he recently broke what seemed a major news story: “Roger Ailes To Be Indicted.” Ailes, as you may know, is the controversial chairman of Fox News. | 03/09/11 06:02:01 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: God, atheism and belief

Occasionally, I manage to tick off an atheist.

It is not something I set out to do. Usually it results from some passing comment reflecting my belief that God is. As in a recent column on Lara Logan, the CBS reporter sexually assaulted in Egypt. I wrote that she is “deserving of our compassion, our empathy and our prayers.” This drove a reader named Patricia to her keyboard. | 03/06/11 06:58:56 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Ciavarella gave kids to for-profit prison

The trial of Mark Ciavarella Jr. took 10 business days. He was represented by counsel, testified in his own defense, had his fate — guilty on 12 out of 39 charges — decided by a jury of his peers. He was accorded, in other words, due process. As it happens, that is precisely what Ciavarella, a former juvenile court judge in Luzerne County, Pa., denied children who came before his bench. | 03/01/11 06:14:34 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Lara Logan and America's bipolar political divide

Suggested things to say when a woman is sexually assaulted: Is there anything I can do? I am so sorry this happened. I am with you.

You would think suggestions would be unnecessary. You would think the essential fact of being human and knowing another human being has been hurt in one of the worst ways possible would make the words automatic. But the recent attack on Lara Logan of CBS News — beaten and assaulted while reporting on the uprising in Egypt — suggests that is not always the case. | 02/27/11 06:34:17 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Klan founder's undeserved honor

Nathan Bedford Forrest was a cotton planter and a trader in horses, cattle and black people. He is also remembered for leading a rebel band that overwhelmed a Union stronghold, Fort Pillow, Tenn., massacring 300 mostly black soldiers and civilians, including children, after the soldiers had dropped their weapons. Finally, Forrest is remembered as a founder and the first "Grand Wizard’’ of the Ku Klux Klan.

This is the legacy of Nathan Bedford Forrest. At this writing, the state of Mississippi is considering whether to honor that legacy through the issuance of vanity license plates. | 02/22/11 06:07:12 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: In calling out Mubarak's lies, CNN's Anderson Cooper reported the truth

In his reports on Egypt’s crisis, CNN's Anderson Cooper repeatedly scored Mubarak’s government for untruths.

For that, Cooper was ridiculed by James Rainey of The Los Angeles Times. CNN media critic Howard Kurtz questioned whether Cooper should be “taking sides.” And one Liz Trotta said that “any correspondent worth his salt knows that you shouldn’t be making editorial comments.” She, amusingly enough, is employed by Fox News. All three critics concede Cooper was accurate: The regime did lie. Yet they question whether it was journalistically ethical to say it. | 02/18/11 06:08:37 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Pain and scars are behind Redskins name

Dan Snyder is offended.

The source of his ire is the Washington City Paper, published weekly in the nation’s capital. Last November, the paper ran a less than flattering piece on Snyder, owner of the town’s godawful football team. It depicted him as a bungling, meddling cheapskate and laid blame for the godawfulness right at his feet. | 02/16/11 06:13:31 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Immigration issues won't be solved with temper tantrums

Here’s how you fix illegal immigration. Pass a bill that: a) toughens border security; b) creates some mechanism to tame the draconian process that now faces anyone who seeks to come here legally; c) penalizes those who are here illegally but also offers them a path to full citizenship. Or, pass a bill to protect us from anchor babies. | 02/11/11 06:05:35 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Funny 'Today Show' video and our ever-changing world

Allow me to offer you a few things to consider while you’re laughing at Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel.

If you were unaware that folks were poking fun at the former hosts of NBC’s Today show, you are likely also unaware of a video making the rounds online. The clip, which dates from January of 1994, shows Couric and Gumbel attempting to understand this new thing called ... the “Internet.” | 02/08/11 06:07:47 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: The dumbing down of America

Once upon a time, there lived a stupid giant.

The giant had not always been stupid. Or, perhaps it is more accurate to say the giant had once revered intelligence, reason and the byproducts thereof. Indeed, the giant was renowned for an ingenuity and standard of living that made it the envy of the world. There came a time, however, when, though the giant retained its strength and arguably even its decency, it lost its intelligence. | 02/04/11 06:04:56 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Congress will sit united for one night at least

Dear Congress:

Some months ago in a column on American disunion, I invoked the question Rodney King made famous 19 years ago: “Can we all get along?” One of my conservative readers answered in a word: No. It is with that response in mind that I write to applaud you for embracing an idea floated by Colorado Sen. Mark Udall. | 01/25/11 06:11:07 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Kennedy's inauguration — when transformation lived within our hands

Once upon a time, on a snow-filled day when we were young, we saw a man give a speech from a podium in front of the Capitol building. Do you remember?

He had just taken the oath of office to become our president and now he faced us for the first time in that role. And he had hair, remember that? A thick helmet of brown hair. You noted it because we had learned to think of presidents as having gray hair, or none at all. | 01/20/11 06:07:56 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: The lesson Christina Taylor Green's life left us

On the day Christina Taylor Green was born, 19 men using four hijacked air buses left a pristine American morning forever stained with blood.

As she was entering life, the rest of us were absorbing a lesson in how mean life can be. We saw proud towers disintegrate like sand castles, mangled bodies pulled from rubble, people with tear-streaked faces holding up photos of missing loved ones. And there bloomed in us a sense of union strong as blood ties, a renewed reminder of who we are. We are Americans. All of us. | 01/14/11 06:02:49 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Censoring N-word in Mark Twain's 'Huck Finn' is ridiculous

Huck Finn is a funny, subversive story about a runaway white boy who comes to locate the humanity in a runaway black man and, in the process, vindicates his own. It has always, until now, been regarded as a timeless tale.

But that was before America became an intellectual backwater that would deem it necessary to censor its most celebrated author. | 01/12/11 06:09:18 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Don't let Beck, Barbour rewrite African-Americans' story

Every January we hear Martin Luther King's great speech. Every February, school kids dress up as black inventors or social leaders. But there is in us -- meaning the African-American community -- a marked tendency to avoid the grit, gristle and grime of our history. The telling of those stories is neither institutionalized nor even particularly encouraged.

It is time for that to change. | 01/07/11 06:06:21 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Palin, Beck suffer from 'Obama Dementia'

In 2003, Charles Krauthammer, a columnist and psychiatrist, coined a new term. Noting what he said was "the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency -- nay -- the very existence of George W. Bush," Krauthammer identified a previously unknown malady he called Bush Derangement Syndrome.

No shrink am I, but it seems obvious to this untrained eye that B.D.S. has lately been supplanted by a new disorder. Call it Obama Dementia. | 12/12/10 06:06:25 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Has fear of Muslims caused America to lose its mind?

We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of America's mind.

It was last seen last month in Oklahoma. There, voters gave emphatic approval to a measure outlawing the use of Sharia law -- a strict and often brutal interpretation of Islamic religious strictures -- in state courts. Sharia is not known to be a problem in Oklahoma, or, for that matter, anywhere else in the United States, something even the bill's backers concede. But, said the initiative's sponsor, then-Republican state Rep. Rex Duncan, why wait? | 12/03/10 06:03:19 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Racial stereotypes always cause problems

A stereotype — even a "good" one — imposes limitations upon the way we are seen by others and, more critically, the way we see ourselves. | 12/02/10 06:01:16 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Hunger endures and it is time to end it

Good news.

An average of 17.7 percent of all Americans were at times unable to feed themselves in the 12 months prior to September of this year. That's according to an analysis of data from the Gallup-Healthways Index, conducted and newly released by the Food Resource and Action Center (FRAC), an advocacy group. | 11/25/10 06:01:05 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Scott sisters' punishment doesn't fit the crime

Let’s assume that two days before Christmas in 1993, a 22-year-old black woman named Jamie Scott and her pregnant, 19-year-old sister Gladys set up an armed robbery. Let’s assume these single mothers lured two men to a spot outside the tiny town of Forest, Miss., where three teenage boys, using a shotgun the sisters supplied, relieved the men of $11 and sent them on their way, unharmed.

Assume all of the above is true, and still you must be shocked at the crude brutality of the Scott sisters’ fate. You see, the sisters, neither of whom had a criminal record before this, are still locked away in state prison, having served 16 years of their double-life sentences. | 11/24/10 06:08:33 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Time for gay military members to come out of the shadows

One often hears opponents of gay rights advise gay people to withhold their true faces. They'd have nothing against homosexuals, they say, if gays would just stop "flaunting" it. They never take into account that a heterosexual "flaunts" her identity whenever she leans in close to her boyfriend on a street corner or puts his picture on her desk. It is these small liberties, these tiny ways of saying, "I am," that we deny gay and lesbian service personnel. And then, having done so, we send them out to risk their lives fighting. For freedom. | 11/19/10 06:03:03 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Call of Duty: Black Ops, Cuba and the First Amendment

Dear Cuba:

Maybe you’ve got a point.

I refer to your outrage over a new video game, the object of which is to assassinate Fidel Castro. In Call of Duty: Black Ops, the latest in the popular series from Activision Blizzard, Inc., the player is transported to Havana during the Cold War with a mission to kill the young Communist revolutionary. | 11/16/10 06:02:13 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: ABC, Breitbart, Olbermann and media credibility

It is seldom a good thing when the news becomes the news. We've seen that twice in recent weeks. First there was ABC News' ill-fated flirtation with blogger Andrew Breitbart.

In the face of heavy criticism, ABC backed off its decision to make Breitbart part of its election-night coverage. How prominent a role he was to have played is a point of contention between the two parties; ABC has said it cancelled the plan because Breitbart kept exaggerating the role he'd been asked to play. | 11/14/10 06:38:40 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Death penalty supporters are ignoring injustice

A few days ago, Anthony Graves called his mother and asked what she was cooking for dinner. She asked why he wanted to know. He said, “Because I’m coming home.”

Maybe it sounds like an unremarkable exchange. But Anthony Graves had spent 18 years behind bars, 12on Death Row, for the 1992 murder of an entire family, including four children, in the Texas town of Somerville. It wasn’t until that day, Oct. 27, that the district attorney’s office finally accepted what he’d been saying two decades: He’s innocent. | 11/09/10 06:05:22 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Can we all at least try to get along?

Can we all get along? The words are, of course, Rodney King's, spoken eighteen years ago as rioters burned the city of Los Angeles in his name.

Eighteen years later, as a grueling election caps a long national temper tantrum, King's question feels freshly poignant. We have seen windows smashed, assault weapons at presidential speeches, shouting matches at town hall meetings, death threats against the president's kids, outbursts in the very halls of Congress, and brother can you spare a dime, 'cause jobs are hard to find. Meanwhile, the chattering heads on a certain cable news outlet chanted a litany of fears like some perverse echo of Dorothy on the road to Oz -- Mexicans, Muslims and gays, oh my! | 11/05/10 06:01:31 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Maybe Clint McCance's hate will make things better for gays

In June of 1963, after a tumultuous spring of demonstrations in Birmingham, Ala., John F. Kennedy said an odd thing.

In a meeting at the White House, the president told civil rights leaders they ought not be too hard on Bull Connor. Connor, he said with a grin, “has done as much for civil rights as Abraham Lincoln.” Theophilus Eugene Connor, of course, was commissioner of public safety in Birmingham. When you see archival footage of children being menaced by police dogs or bowled over by water from fire hoses, you are seeing his handiwork. | 11/03/10 06:07:09 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: NPR, Juan Williams and a hair-trigger response

I probably should not be surprised that the Juan Williams story got as big as it did.

There are, after all, few topics in public life more dangerous than race and culture. And the fact that the liberal-leaning National Public Radio fired Williams for comments made on Fox News about that topic provides irresistible ammunition for conservatives who see liberals as hypocritical on matters of free speech. | 10/29/10 06:08:42 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Christine O'Donnell is not what voters deserve

While one is appalled by Christine O’Donnell’s ignorance and/or disingenuousness, one is not surprised. The capacity to be surprised by her died long ago, victim of revelations that she once "dabbled’’ in witchcraft. And was the subject of an IRS lien. And said people with AIDS brought the disease upon themselves. And was sued for nonpayment by her college and mortgage company. And was cited eight times by the Federal Elections Commission. And thinks scientists have created mice with human brains. That this woman is a major party candidate for national office, that she is among the brightest stars of a constellation of like-minded cranks tells you all you need to know about this moment in our political life. | 10/26/10 06:07:07 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Diversity isn't easy, but it's necessary

Multiculturalism has completely failed.

That's the assessment of Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, in a recent speech before the youth wing of her conservative political party, the Christian Democratic Union. The idea that disparate peoples can ``simply live side by side and live happily with each other'' has failed, she said. ``Utterly failed.'' | 10/24/10 06:34:57 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Why is Obama delaying inevitable 'don't ask, don't tell' repeal?

It’s not hard to understand why the Obama Administration went to court Thursday seeking a stay of a federal injunction barring the military from enforcing “don’t ask don’t tell.”

It could have allowed the injunction to stand, effectively killing this misbegotten, Clinton-era compromise under which gay service personnel are required to hide their identities in order to serve. But the Justice Department is usually duty-bound to defend laws duly enacted by Congress — even those with which the president disagrees. | 10/20/10 06:08:10 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: The column I'll write when cancer is cured

This is not the column I really want to write.

The column I want to write will be written with church bells pealing, and the lead will be an announcement that cancer is over, the cure has been found and, henceforth, no more mothers, brothers, sisters and sons will be stolen by that killer. The column I want to write will be a celebration. | 10/15/10 06:01:47 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: When technology makes people punchlines of cruel jokes

There is another story here. That it has escaped us thus far is not surprising. After all, the primary story, the obvious one, is compelling and sad.

In recent weeks, a string of teenagers have killed themselves after being tormented by classmates because they were, or were believed to be, gay. | 10/12/10 06:03:10 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: James O'Keefe shows he's no journalist

I've had it up to here with people calling James O'Keefe III a journalist.

Last year, you may recall, O'Keefe was lauded by political conservatives for "investigative journalism" that helped bring down ACORN, the financially-troubled group whose sinister works included advocating for poor and middle-income people. A year later, the "young journalist's" star is, putting it mildly, fading. | 10/08/10 06:12:06 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: A walk to honor my mother and cure cancer

I am trudging through a drizzling rain when I come across this wooden footbridge I've never seen before. Well, that's not exactly true. I've driven this stretch of road a thousand times to the doctor's office, the mall.

But walking is different, slower. And this early morning, deep into an 18-mile hike, I find myself noticing things I've never really noticed before. Back in April, I used this space to announce my participation in the Washington, D.C., leg of the annual Susan G. Komen 3-Day For The Cure, a 60-mile, three-day walk to raise money against breast cancer. | 10/05/10 06:02:21 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Understanding what 'racial profiling' really is

It's a funny thing about words: sometimes, they convey meaning but not necessarily understanding.

Take the term "racial profiling." Author Joseph Collum of Plantation says the Oxford English Dictionary credits him with coining it in 1989 when he was an investigative TV reporter in New Jersey. We all get its meaning: law enforcement personnel targeting citizens by their skin color. But to truly understand what racial profiling is, it helps to hear a story like that of Chris Stubbs. | 10/01/10 06:08:47 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Returning sanity to our political discourse

Perhaps now, the rest of us will have our say.

If there is an overriding hope for the Oct. 30 "Rally to Restore Sanity" Daily Show host Jon Stewart is holding in Washington, surely that's it: a simple prayer that maybe the rest of us will finally be able to get a word in edgewise. The comedian's rally — a "call to reasonableness" it says on the Daily Show website — promises a welcome antidote to the tide of craziness now engulfing this country. | 09/29/10 06:02:52 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: When justice loses to mob mentality

It was once a staple plot of TV westerns: There's been a vicious killing. Everybody knows who did it — or thinks they know — and the posse wants to string the varmint up. No need for the bother of a trial. The crime was outrageous, people are furious. So get the rope, find a tree. Watching, you'd be glad we've moved beyond frontier justice, glad the howling of the mob can no longer stampede us into condemning an innocent man.

Anthony Graves would beg to differ. | 09/26/10 06:38:31 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Beck, Barbour and the art of rewriting history

For 145 years, ever since a grim-faced Robert E. Lee rode away from Wilmer McLean's house in Appomattox, Va., where he had surrendered his army, apologists for the South have been trying to induce the rest of us to forget the causes of the Civil War, to imbue an act of treachery and treason with a nobility of purpose it did not, in fact, possess.

It is the social and political equivalent of an extreme makeover. The thinking seems to be: when history collides with cherished self image, change history. | 09/21/10 06:05:20 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Calling out the extremists on both sides

As if things were not crazy enough already, here comes Michael Moore.

In a posting on his website and an interview Monday on CNN, the liberal filmmaker upped the emotional ante on the controversy over construction of a mosque and cultural center in lower Manhattan. Don't build it near Ground Zero, he argued. Build it on Ground Zero. | 09/16/10 06:01:38 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Terry Jones and the rise of the 'idiot veto'

Maybe you know the term "terrorist veto." It refers to the ability of a single obscure malcontent, powerless but for his willingness to sacrifice lives, to make himself heard at the highest level of geopolitics and force his way upon the international stage.

As this case makes oppressively clear, the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle have evolved an analog to the terrorist veto. Call it the idiot veto — the ability of a single obscure malcontent, powerless but for his willingness to do some outrageous thing, to make himself heard at the highest level of geopolitics and force his way upon the international stage. | 09/14/10 06:04:28 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Mike Huckabee might be my favorite conservative

I'm writing this to say just one thing: I like Mike.

That would be Michael Dale Huckabee, former Baptist preacher, former governor of Arkansas, former GOP presidential candidate, current Fox News personality. | 08/24/10 06:08:35 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Dr. Laura displays her ignorance

Asking a conservative pundit for advice on race is like asking an ayatollah for advice on preparing the Christmas ham.

There are exceptions, yes, but by and large, this terrain is the dark side of the moon for conservatives. They don't know it well, so they tend to go there rarely, reluctantly and seldom voluntarily. And when they do, they not infrequently make Patrick Buchanan-size jackasses of themselves. | 08/22/10 06:04:15 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: The lost art of simple courtesy

Can we be candid here? Can we just say this plainly? The public is a bunch of rude, obnoxious jerks.

So it is small wonder the tale of Steven Slater has hit a nerve. The precise sequence of events is still being sorted out at this writing. The initial story was that Slater, a flight attendant for JetBlue, got into it with a woman who cursed him when he asked her not to stand up to retrieve her bags while the plane was still taxiing. At some point, Slater was apparently hit in the head; his attorney says the woman slammed the storage bin on him. | 08/17/10 06:14:06 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: We have no right to judge

He had no right to judge.

That, in a nutshell, is the gist of last week's uproar over a ruling by Vaughn Walker. Walker is the federal judge, originally appointed by Ronald Reagan and generally regarded, according to the Associated Press, as "a conservative with libertarian leanings," who struck down Proposition 8, California's ban on same sex marriage. | 08/15/10 06:47:03 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Willy Brown deserved better

This is a requiem for Willy Brown.

As these words are written, he lies brain dead and on life support at Miami Children's Hospital. By the time you read this, there's a good chance he will have been disconnected and declared dead. He is, or he was, two years old. His father, 23-year-old Lee Willie DeJesus of Homestead, is in jail, having been denied bond. Prosecutors expect to charge him with first-degree murder. | 08/11/10 06:14:40 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: How Christianity failed Anne Rice

"Today, I quit being a Christian."

With those words last week on Facebook, Anne Rice delivered a wake-up call for organized religion. The question is whether it will be recognized as such. | 08/06/10 06:06:47 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Teachers' unions must embrace accountability

A year or two ago, I received this email. The writer was upset with me for arguing that school principals should have the power to fire teachers who do not perform. As numerous educators have told me, union protections being what they are, dumping a teacher — even a bad one — is an almost impossible task. | 08/03/10 06:20:39 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Our personal narratives often ignore facts

Not to startle you, but you have a narrative in your head. Dozens of them, in fact. Some narratives are unsupported by fact, others sit atop a mountain of empirical evidence. The point is, we all have them, and when some incident appears to confirm one, we rush to use it in our blogs, our barroom debates, our newspaper columns. | 07/30/10 06:01:11 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Sherrod, Breitbart and the conservative outrage machine

Last week, the conservative outrage machine tried to chew up Shirley Sherrod.

You are familiar with that machine if you have access to the Internet or Fox News. As the name implies, it exists to stoke and maintain a state of perpetual apoplexy on the political right by feeding it a never-ending stream of perceived sins against conservative orthodoxy. | 07/27/10 06:02:39 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: A mosque near Ground Zero

They want to build a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero.

And the outrage burns like jet fuel, the argument billows like choking dust, the questions lacerate like flying glass: Is it right, is it decent, is it morally defensible, for developer Sharif El-Gamal of SoHo Properties to build a Muslim worship center called Cordoba House within walking distance of the place where Muslim men, acting from a perverse distortion of their religion, disintegrated thousands of lives — Muslim, Christian, Jewish, atheist and, we may presume, others? | 07/22/10 06:03:39 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: War on Drugs and the racial caste system

We have spent untold billions of dollars, ruined untold millions of lives and racked up the highest incarceration rate in the world to fight drug use. Yet, we saw casual drug use rise by 2,300 percent between 1970 and 2003, according to an advocacy group called LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition). And as drug use skyrocketed, we find that we have moved the needle on addiction not even an inch, up or down. All we have managed, and at a ruinous cost, is to re-learn the lesson of 1933 when alcohol Prohibition collapsed: you cannot jail or punish people out of wanting what they want. | 07/20/10 06:06:11 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: LeBron James is neither slave nor traitor

An open letter to 24th century historians. I've left this note for you as a public service. Three hundred years from now, when you study the things that dominated American thought in the summer of 2010, I suspect one pressing question will rise above all others:

Who the heck was LeBron James? | 07/17/10 06:43:50 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Glenn Beck's truth

A scene from the near future as a businessman meets a graduate of Beck University — the online university that TV host Glenn Beck founded in 2010 so people could learn the real truth they don't get in your so-called 'universities.' | 07/13/10 06:12:46 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Hate has a familiar face in Mel Gibson

Radar Online reported on July 1 that Mel Gibson's estranged girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva, had taped him in the throes of a profanely and profoundly hateful rant. He reportedly called Grigorieva, with whom he has an infant daughter, a "whore," a "bitch" and a particularly vulgar term for the female pudendum that begins with "c." Then there is this pungent quote: "You look like a f------ pig in heat and if you get raped by a pack of n------ it will be your fault." You may think the most damning word in that quote is the N-word. Actually, it's just before that. After all, only animals hunt in packs. | 07/08/10 01:00:00 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: The friendly skies where freedom dies

The federal "no-fly" list is a purgatory to which one can be consigned in perpetuity with neither due process nor judicial review, because one's name happened to be similar to that of some bad person. And there is no form you fill out or person you can talk to to have the error corrected. You've simply got to live with it. Of all the insults to personal liberty imposed by George W. Bush's War on Civil Rights, this is in some ways the most profound. | 07/04/10 06:00:00 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Absence of proof on immigrant accusations

I am intrigued by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's recent statement: "We all know that the majority of the people that are coming to Arizona and trespassing are now becoming drug mules." She was responding to a reporter who had asked her for proof of an earlier statement that most illegal immigrants carry narcotics for drug cartels. It seems not a lot to ask that she prove it. | 07/02/10 01:00:00 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: 'The New Jim Crow' by Michelle Alexander, a must read

Others have written of the racial bias of the criminal injustice system. In "The New Jim Crow," Michelle Alexander goes a provocative step further. She contends that the mass incarceration of black men for nonviolent drug offenses, combined with sentencing disparities and laws making it legal to discriminate against felons in housing, employment, education and voting, constitute nothing less than a new racial caste system. A new segregation. She has a point. | 06/27/10 06:00:00 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Meet Joe Barton, R-Big Oil

Texas Rep. Joe Barton didn't even care enough to pretend who he works for. Instead, he stood tall against the people and environment of the Gulf Coast, and WITH the industry that gave him $1.4 million. There is a certain raw truth in that image that blasts all pretense away. As he genuflects before his corporate masters, Barton also reflects the ugly underside of American politics. And validates an ancient axiom that suddenly sounds like a warning: You get what you pay for. | 06/24/10 01:00:00 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Armando Galarraga, an umpire and a life lesson

A few words about the things we seek from baseball. More than heroes, we seek examples, parables with which to teach our kids. Sports is, after all, an irresistible microcosm of life and its verities, an ongoing lesson in how to get a win and bear a loss, in the value of hard work and team work, in the importance of resilience and leadership, sacrifice and self-confidence. | 06/12/10 06:00:27 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: 'Stalking' Sarah Palin in Wasilla

There goes the neighborhood.

We do not know if that was Sarah Palin's initial response to the news that a journalist writing a book about her had rented the house next to hers in Wasilla, Alaska. But who could blame her if it was? | 06/08/10 06:04:05 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Gulf oil spill kills 'Myth of Competence'

After a month and a half of "top kill" and "junk shot," of chemical dispersants and high-tech domes, of skimmers and controlled burns, this is what we have to show for it. We are now told it may take another two months to stop oil from spewing into Gulf Coast waters. And that's assuming no hurricane sweeps into the Gulf and forces temporary suspension of the effort to dig two relief wells. | 06/04/10 06:01:00 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Oil spill has small government advocates singing a different tune

Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, off whose coast the BP oil tragedy is centered, is singing a new song, starkly at odds with what he said last year in a speech before the Republican faithful. Now he's begging for federal "interference." He wants federal money, federal supplies, wants the feds to help create barrier islands to protect Louisiana wetlands from oil.

Not to pick on Jindal. He is but one prominent voice in a chorus of Gulf state officials who once preached the virtues of tiny government but have discovered, in the wake of this spreading disaster, the virtues of government that is robust enough, at a minimum, to help them out of a jam. | 06/02/10 06:03:22 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Rand Paul tells a tired, old story

If you notice, they have never been on our side. "They" meaning social conservatives. "Our" meaning African-American people. They have never been on our side and always, they have claimed "principle" to justify it. So remarks like the one above that got Kentucky senatorial candidate Rand Paul in trouble last week are surprising only in the sense that one is surprised to hear an oldie on the radio one hasn't heard in awhile. | 05/28/10 06:14:53 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: The 'doll tests' and what our children learn about race

Last week, Soledad O'Brien made a young mother cry.

It came in the midst of a special series, "Black Or White: Kids on Race" on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360. The series was based on a new version of the famous "doll tests" pioneered by husband and wife psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark in the 1930s and '40s, and recreated in 2005 by Kiri Davis, a teenage filmmaker. | 05/27/10 06:06:48 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: American flag T-shirts and teachable moments

It is hard to see the incident in Morgan Hill, Calif., where several boys who wore American flag T-shirts to Live Oak High School on Cinco de Mayo were to either take the shirts off or turn them inside out, as anything but an abridgement of those students' First Amendment rights — not to mention an act of glaring hypocrisy. By what reasoning does Rodriguez ban red, white and blue while permitting red, white and green? All that said, though, neither of those complaints addresses what seems to me the most regrettable aspect of this affair. Namely, the fact that this educator missed a teachable moment. | 05/21/10 06:10:40 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: America's melting pot is made richer by understanding ethnic history

America is everyone else, a nation composed of other nations, a culture made of other cultures, a history built of other histories. And yes, sometimes, those histories will be hard to hear. But silence does not make a hard story go away. Silence only makes it fester, grow and, sometimes, explode. | 05/18/10 06:01:52 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Dr. Rekers, heal thyself

He purported to cure homosexual urges. But if that were possible, you'd think he'd have started with himself.

Meaning psychologist Dr. George Rekers, 61, a leader of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. NARTH believes gays can be made straight. It is a belief the organization now struggles to reconcile with Rekers' rather contradictory behavior. | 05/15/10 06:48:43 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: In appreciation of Lena Horne

Lena Horne was one of the last links to an era fading slowly from living memory. A singer and actress of cafe au lait skin, lively eyes and an irrepressible smile, she came to fame in the 1940s and, wittingly or not, became a de facto symbol, a stand in representing millions of other African Americans shut out of the mainstream by custom and by law. She bore all their hopes and aspirations. It was unfair; it was ridiculous. It was the way things were. Lena Horne, who died Sunday at 92, had to represent. And she did — spectacularly. | 05/11/10 13:09:33 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Freedom means living with risks

No matter how you tweak the system, we will always be vulnerable. Indeed, more so because we are free. And no system consistent with that freedom could have stopped a fanatic from driving a bomb into Times Square. Note that even the questions being raised now concern what happened after Shahzad allegedly placed his bomb. | 05/11/10 06:01:39 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: That dirty word 'liberal'

Conservative pols and pundits have done an astonishing job of rendering "liberal" as a synonym for a kind of birth defect that leaves one effete and nonsensical, even as they made "conservative" interchangeable with the healthy patriotism of the common folk. If you didn't know better, you'd never know liberals fought to end segregation and child labor — or that conservatives opposed them. | 05/09/10 06:23:57 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Arizona's law is wrong way to 'fix' immigration

If we really wanted immigration reform, we'd have had it years ago.

In 2006, President George W. Bush supported a proposal that would've required undocumented immigrants to take English classes and pay fines and back taxes in exchange for guest worker status and, eventually, citizenship. "I know this is an emotional debate," said Bush. "But one thing we cannot lose sight of is that we're talking about human beings, decent human beings that need to be treated with respect." | 05/05/10 06:05:17 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: A watershed moment in Archie's Riverdale

And what shall we say about the fact that there is to be a homosexual in Riverdale?

You know where Riverdale is, of course. It lies at that junction of wholesomeness and Americana where, for almost 70 years, it has been home to Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, Veronica Lodge, Jughead Jones and the other eternal teenagers of Archie Comics. | 05/03/10 06:06:55 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Height, Hooks helped bring change

Call it the myth of inevitability. It is the mind-set that says enlightenment and progress are the inescapable byproducts of time. Time doesn't bring change. People bring change over time.

One of those people, Dorothy Height, died last week. Another, Benjamin Hooks, died a few days before. | 04/28/10 06:05:23 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Where was Tea Party's 'anger' during Bush years?

Not quite 20 percent of Americans are tea party supporters. They tend to be white, Republican, male, over 45 and wealthier than the rest of us. Where most Republicans describe themselves as "dissatisfied" with Washington, tea partiers are apt to say they're angry.

So, why didn't they start howling when President Bush claimed he need not be bound by laws with which he disagreed? | 04/23/10 06:02:33 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: RIP John McCain's lost integrity

We are gathered here today to pay our final respects to John McCain's integrity.

It died recently — turned a triple somersault, stiffened like an exclamation point, fell to the floor with its tongue hanging out — when the senator told Newsweek magazine, "I never considered myself a maverick." This, after the hard fought presidential campaign of 2008 in which McCain, his advertising team, his surrogates and his running mate all but tattooed the "M" word on their foreheads. | 04/20/10 06:03:03 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Don't kid yourself, Civil War was all about slavery

Ten years ago, I received an e-mail from a reader who signed him or herself "J.D." "I am a white racist," wrote J.D., "a white supremacist, and I do not deny it."

From that, you'd suspect J.D. had nothing of value to say. You'd be mistaken. J.D. wrote in response to a column documenting the fact that preservation of slavery was the prime directive of the Southern Confederacy. "I was most pleased to see you write what we both know to be the truth," the e-mail said. "I never cease to be amazed at the Sons of Confederate Veterans and similar 'heritage not hate' groups who are constantly whining that the Confederacy was not a white, racist government . . ." | 04/15/10 06:10:19 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: A long walk in memory of mom

On April 15, it will be 22 years since she died.

I remember getting home from photocopying some paper I needed to complete my taxes, only to find my wife facing me with eyes so stricken and bereft that I didn't need to hear the words. I knew. | 04/13/10 06:03:29 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Terrorism has no religious preferences

A few words about Christian terrorism.

And I suppose the first words should be about those words: "Christian terrorism." The term will seem jarring to those who've grown comfortable regarding terrorism as something exclusive to Islam. That this is a self-deluding fallacy should have long since been apparent to anyone who's been paying attention. We have seen no shortage of "Christians" who believe Jesus requires — or at least allows — them to commit murder. | 04/09/10 06:04:21 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Fred Phelps' Westboro is a church in name only

You will be furious when you finish this column. Fair warning.

In March 2006 a 20-year-old Marine, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, was killed in a motor vehicle accident in Iraq. His family probably thought that the most painful blow imaginable. Truth is, their pain was only beginning. Cpl. Snyder's death, you see, came to the attention of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Westboro, for those who do not know, is no more a church than is your average gas station toilet. | 04/06/10 06:01:24 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Anonymity and our baser instincts

It must have seemed like a great idea at the time. There was this new medium, the Internet, and newspapers were posting stories on it, and someone decided to create a forum where readers could discuss and debate what they just read. It must have seemed an inspiration kissed by the spirit of Jefferson: a free public space where each of us could have his or her say. | 04/02/10 06:07:24 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: GOP must condemn calls for violence over health care bill

Hi, boys and girls! As a public service, I've prepared the following statement for Republican leaders to use when some disgruntled opponent of health care reform injures somebody — or worse. Given recent reports of threats against Democratic lawmakers in the wake of last week's historic vote, that moment has come to feel inevitable. | 03/30/10 06:07:32 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Glenn Beck takes on the gospel

Into the tension between two disparate views of Christian mission stumbles one Glenn Beck. The Fox News showman recently ignited an uproar in the world of Christian ministry by attacking churches that preach a gospel of social and economic justice, i.e., a gospel that doesn't just promise relief in the sweet by and by, but seeks to effect change in the hard here and now. If your church preaches that, Beck told his radio audience, "run as fast as you can." Social and economic justice, he said, are "code words" for communism and Nazism. | 03/23/10 08:16:26 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: For some, 'I am gay' is a tough thing to say

How many Eric Massas and Roy Ashburns, how many James Wests, Ted Haggards, Mark Foleys and Larry Craigs do we have to see, how many shocked spouses and embarrassed children do we have to endure, how many lies, alibis and justifications do we need to hear, before we accept the obvious: Gay is not a choice, gay is not a sin, gay is not a shame.

Gay simply is. | 03/18/10 06:07:11 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Jihad Jane and the trouble with profiling

Evil is not a color. It has no particular religion nor creed, nor style of dress, nor gender nor geographic home. Evil is an equal opportunity employer.

One hopes we learn at least that much from the adventures of Jihad Jane. | 03/16/10 06:07:07 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: The GOP's strategy of fear

We've seen this movie many times. So there is little that is surprising about the Republican National Committee fundraising document recently reported by Politico, the one that offers strategies to get donors to part with their money. Donors can, it says, be persuaded to give by appealing to their egos, by offering them tchotchkes or by promising them access. And some, the small donors, the $5- and $10-Janes and Joes, can be persuaded if you play to their fears.

The sole surprise is that someone actually wrote it down as a PowerPoint presentation and was absent-minded enough to leave a hard copy in a hotel. | 03/12/10 06:06:39 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: We must keep doing things that work

Warren Buffett leads a troop of officials, reporters, and a guy with a boom mike into the just-finished new apartment.

Five years ago, after the levees failed, this area was ten feet underwater. Now, on this bitterly cold morning early in March, it is a construction zone ringed by chainlink fences, and one of the richest men in America wanders around what will eventually be some family's home. This is part of the inaugural meeting of the Purpose Built Communities network, to which civic leaders from around the country have come. And, it is an attempt to export "What Works." | 03/10/10 06:06:34 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Conservatives finally speaking out about their lunatic fringe

"At some point, you have to use the word 'crazy.' "

It will not surprise you to hear that the speaker is referring to extremists within the tea party movement. What might surprise you is that the speaker is Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of RedState, a prominent conservative blog. | 03/05/10 06:05:01 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Fears of tea partiers go beyond Obama's race

A few words on the meaning of tea. They are occasioned by a recent commentary from Keith Olbermann of MSNBC. The commentary — you can find it on YouTube — scores the tea party movement as the outcry of people who haven't yet made peace with the fact that their president is black.

My point is not that Olbermann's argument is wrong but, rather, that it is incomplete. | 03/02/10 06:03:42 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Your next president, sponsored by Toyota?

Count me among those mystified by January's Supreme Court decision to sweep away decades of established law limiting the amount of money corporations can inject into political campaigns.

If I accepted money from Toyota, my employer would forbid me to write about it or, at the very least, require me to disclose the connection. If a judge accepted money from Toyota, she would be expected to recuse herself from any lawsuit to which the automaker was a party. If a police detective accepted money from Toyota, her lieutenant would remove her from any investigation in which the company was involved. But the people who make the laws are financially entangled with this and other companies, and we act as if that has no bearing on their ability to be fair and impartial where those companies are concerned. It makes zero sense. | 02/26/10 06:06:40 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Being the first is never easy

Jackie Robinson was a First Black — as in first black player in modern Major League Baseball. And First Blacks bear the burden not only of their own destiny, but also that of every other African-American who hopes to follow. First Blacks must represent.

It is a truism that seems especially timely during Black History Month in the age of Obama. Barack Obama is the ultimate First Black. Understanding that may help explain why this president doesn't always respond to provocation as some observers would hope or expect. | 02/24/10 06:05:13 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Facts just don't mean what they used to mean

I can remember a time when facts settled arguments. This is back before everything became a partisan shouting match, back before it was permissible to ignore or deride as "biased" anything that didn't support your worldview. If you and I had an argument and I produced facts from an authoritative source to back me up, you couldn't just blow that off. You might try to undermine my facts, might counter with facts of your own, but you couldn't just pretend my facts had no weight or meaning.

But that's the intellectual state of the union these days, as evidenced by all the people who still don't believe the president was born in Hawaii or that the planet is warming. | 02/23/10 06:01:55 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: The true meaning of manhood

We — and here, I mean both he and I as father and son and you and I as a society — have talked a lot in recent years about the meaning of manhood in an era of women ascendant and cracked glass ceilings. Some of us insist that meaning is found in a man's toughness, his imperviousness to slings and arrows and feelings like pain or love. Some believe it is found in a man's violence, his capacity to hit and kick with force, to shield and defend what matters to him. Some argue that it is found in a man's strength, his ability to lift and carry, to push and to break.

I've always felt none of those things matters unless they are in service to something that matters more. | 02/19/10 06:04:45 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Run, Sarah, run

Dear Sarah: I hear you're pondering a run for the White House in 2012. Last week, you told Fox news it would be "absurd" to rule it out.

I'm writing to ask that you rule it in. I want you to run because I believe a Palin candidacy would force upon this country a desperately needed moment of truth. It would force us to decide once and for all whether we are permanently committed to the path of ignorance, of birthers, truthers and tea party incoherence you represent, or whether we will at last turn back from the cliff toward which we race. | 02/16/10 06:07:44 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: 'Don't ask, don't tell' has always been wrong

We already know where this is going.

For some of us, the knowledge is hateful, for others, hopeful. Yet the inevitable arc of it is clear: Maybe it will be 10 years, maybe 20, but we can now envision a day when the last legal restrictions against gay men and lesbians will be struck away. | 02/14/10 06:40:33 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Military service and the black soldiers' paradox

It is the enduring paradox of our centuries here. It is the paradox that stood its ground at Bunker Hill, paradox that made a doomed charge on Fort Wagner, paradox that stormed San Juan Hill, advanced through the Meuse-Argonne, landed on Iwo Jima, liberated Seoul and was taken prisoner in Hanoi.

It is the paradox: black men, will you defend America? Leave skin and blood in foreign lands fighting for ideals that do not include you? | 02/12/10 06:04:02 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: When reelection matters more than the country

A few words about that important speech President Obama gave last week. No, not that important speech, the other one.

Obama's speech before a gathering of GOP representatives and the freewheeling, unscripted Q&A that followed, spoke volumes about how he proposes to make those initiatives reality: i.e., through civil negotiation, compromise and consensus — things that have been scarce in the public sphere since the days of Jheri curls and power suits if not longer. | 02/05/10 06:02:35 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Race has nothing to do with being an athlete or a scholar

Don Lewis thinks white men can't jump.

What else explains the bizarre statement he issued last week? According to the Chronicle newspaper of Augusta, Ga., Lewis is the commissioner of something called the All-American Basketball Alliance, which hopes to set up shop in 12 cities. "Only players that are natural born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race are eligible to play in the league," his statement said.

Yes, we're talking about a whites-only basketball league. | 01/29/10 06:07:26 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Jesus doesn't belong on a gun sight

Have you heard about the Jesus rifles?

ABC News broke the story last week. It seems there was this fellow named Glyn Bindon, who used weapons of war to speak for his faith. | 01/27/10 06:02:26 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Some conservatives have an 'obscene' view of Haiti's suffering

As Haiti reeled and staggered and the rest of the world rushed to the aid of a humble, beleaguered people, two icons of American conservatism reared up last week and offered analyses of the earthquake that has devastated the impoverished island nation. It left me wondering, just for the briefest of seconds, whether conservatism has a conscience, whether conservatism has a soul.

It has become routine that after disasters both natural and human, icons of conservatism spout hateful, hurtful, cynical words, words that belittle the victims and trivialize the suffering. | 01/22/10 06:01:51 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: After Obama's first year, blacks still more hopeful

One year later.

One year after that icy Washington day when Aretha Franklin sang and John Roberts muffed his lines and Barack Obama raised his hand and swore the oath that made him president of the United States, it turns out something fundamental has changed. | 01/20/10 06:04:21 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Nature can be cruel but we still keep going

Sometimes, the earth is cruel.

That is ultimately the fundamental lesson here, as children wail, families sleep out of doors, and the dead lie unclaimed in the rubble that once was Port-au-Prince. | 01/15/10 06:01:55 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Reid had it right

Somebody please tell Harry Reid there are no Negroes in America.

There haven't been since the late 1960s, which is when black people arrived and drove that term out of favor. The person who uses it without irony, as Reid did, paints himself as a geezer out of touch with the last 40 years, the kind of person who still calls rock music a fad.

That said, there is little else to complain about in the quote from the Senate majority leader that has political types hyperventilating. | 01/14/10 06:05:56 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Arenas' gun incident is no laughing matter

With his career and even his freedom hanging in the balance for a misadventure with guns in the Washington Wizards' locker room, Gilbert Arenas stood at the center of his team's huddle, made his hands into pistols, and pretended to shoot his teammates. Guns are no joke. The leading cause of death for black men 15 to 34 is homicide, usually by gunfire, usually at the hands of another black man. | 01/12/10 06:06:20 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Keep politics out of terrorism fight

On Christmas Day, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a student from Nigeria, allegedly tried to blow up a jetliner bound for Detroit. He failed due to some defect in his explosives and the quick reflexes of passengers who subdued him. As you might expect, this close call has some of us asking hard, but necessary questions.

But the unacceptable fact is that, eight years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Abdulmutallab was able to waltz aboard a U.S.-bound jetliner carrying explosives. And Republicans are wondering how they can turn this to their advantage? The White House point person on terrorism is wondering how she can deflect the blame? | 01/07/10 06:04:42 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Once again with Obama, across the racial divide we go

You'd think it would be a simple question: How popular is Barack Obama?

And you'd think it would have a simple answer: According to a recent Gallup poll, the president's approval rating stands at 49 percent, the first time it has slipped to less than half. However, when you parse the Gallup numbers more closely, you discover a not-so-startling divide. | 12/04/09 06:01:37 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Sammy Sosa and black identity revisited

Hope you don't mind revisiting my recent column on Sammy Sosa, the once-black former baseball star who now looks like a photo negative of himself, but that piece generated so many missives that I thought doing so might be of value. | 12/02/09 06:04:53 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: The problem with criticism of 'Precious'

Not everyone is singing hosannas. Indeed, though it is — maybe because it is — among the most critically-acclaimed movies of the year, Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire, has inspired a fierce backlash. But there is more to this movie than meets the eye. Precious is an ode to refusing to die. She is a girl struggling to live an unlivable life. She is that invisible girl, the one we decline to see because she doesn't look like Halle, enunciate like Condi, inspire like Oprah, doesn't ratify our faith in the inevitability of happy endings. | 11/27/09 06:05:36 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: 9-11 trials will help restore what it means to be American

If critics of Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to try 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his terrorist confederates in a New York City courtroom would be honest with themselves, they'd admit that revenge is what drives their condemnation, not questions of security, fears of acquittal or other obfuscatory concerns they've raised. | 11/24/09 06:04:13 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: An open letter to Sammy Sosa

Dear Sammy Sosa:

Are you happy with yourself now? Are you more confident and self-assured? When you look in the mirror, do you like yourself better, now that you are white? | 11/20/09 06:05:16 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: DC sniper's death and my mis-aligned convictions

I kept waiting to feel something when news came that John Allen Muhammad had been executed in Virginia. As a staunch opponent of capital punishment, I wanted some nugget of remorse at the knowledge that the government had taken his life.

So I could not manage remorse. Indeed, what I felt was an unsettling, appalling satisfaction that Muhammad is no longer in the world. | 11/17/09 06:02:51 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Many Muslims have died in the service of America

Outbursts from message boards and bloggers can be traced to the actions of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist and American Muslim accused of shooting 13 people dead and wounding 29 others in a rampage last week at Fort Hood, Texas. At this writing, we know next to nothing of why he did it.

One wonders what the speak-first, think-later crowd would have to say about Cpl. Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, U.S. Army, Muslim, American, killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Khan is just one of many Muslims killed in the service of his country. | 11/12/09 06:03:24 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Honor killing is an appalling act of cowardice

Let me tell you a few things I believe: I believe that in most cases, I have no right to judge your culture by the standards of mine. I believe what seems exotic to me might be enlightened to you. I believe no culture has a monopoly on morality.

But I also believe you don't run down your daughter because she has a page on Facebook and won't marry the guy you choose. That is not honor. It is, in fact, the opposite — an act of appalling cowardice suggestive not simply of religious extremism, but of a people in fear of the sexuality and independence of women. | 11/10/09 06:05:22 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Attorney's tactics against Medill's Innocence Project hint at intimidation

Anthony McKinney got a life sentence for running down a Chicago street. But the Medill Innocence Project, which gives journalism students at Northwestern University real world experience in investigative reporting, found evidence to prove him innocent in the murder of security guard Donald Lundahl. Meanwhile, not content with having two crimes (i.e., the apparently still-unsolved murder of Donald Lundahl and the railroading of Anthony McKinney) on her hands, a Chicago prosecutor is busy committing a third. She's trying to kill the messenger. | 11/05/09 06:05:50 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: There is beauty beyond 'Good Hair'

An open letter to African-American women:

It's about the need to be beautiful, I know. As goals go, that one is neither extraordinary nor gender-specific. But it's different for women, isn't it? A man's sense of self worth is seldom endangered by crow's feet. On him people will say they convey "character." On a woman, they convey wear. | 11/03/09 06:01:19 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: When party politics come before country

You figure the White House is probably feeling pretty good about itself right now.

After spending much of the summer as a punching bag for conservatives, Team Obama has begun throwing punches of its own. It has unleashed its marquee figures to tee off on high profile GOP personalities and institutions in a coordinated effort to marginalize the opposition. | 10/29/09 06:06:33 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Limbaugh reaps what he has sown

We are gathered here today in sympathy with our brother, Rush Limbaugh. As you are no doubt aware, these have been difficult days for Brother Limbaugh. There he was, happily revealing that he was part of an investment group that had submitted a bid to purchase the St. Louis Rams of the National Football League. Next thing you know, Al Sharpton is on him like ugly on King Kong, urging the NFL to reject him. | 10/23/09 06:06:11 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Life from Conservapedia's point of view

So we may soon have ourselves a conservative Bible. Besides Fox News, I mean. This new Bible is from Conservapedia, a website that bills itself as a conservative alternative to the perceived liberal bias of Wikipedia, the user-edited online reference. | 10/20/09 06:05:23 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: It's time for us to be the better America

There has always been something rather bipolar about the United States of America. We have periodically seesawed between competing extremes. We've been the visionary and great-hearted America that declared life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness inalienable rights, that fed and rebuilt Europe after a world war, that went to the moon, that inspired the world through the force of its ideals. And we've been the paranoid, reactionary America too small for those same ideals, the xenophobic, fraidy-cat America that wire taps and witch hunts and sees Reds behind every lamp post, illegals on every street corner, terrorists at every bus stop. | 10/16/09 06:03:20 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: It's just a cross in the middle of nowhere

I'm only trying to tease out an opinion I can live with in a case the Court heard last week, about a cross in the Mojave Desert.

The original cross (it has been replaced a number of times over the years) was erected in 1934 as a tribute to the dead of World War I and sits in a remote corner of what is now the Mojave National Preserve. Its legal troubles began ten years ago with a former employee of the National Park Service who sued because he thought the cross an improper display on federal land in that it celebrated one faith over others. | 10/13/09 06:04:47 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Commentary: Polanski's fame doesn't mean he's above the law

Somebody please help me with this. Obviously, I'm missing something. In court, Roman Polanski admits to having sex with the child. He admits he knew she was 13. He is indicted on six charges. To spare the child the pain of testifying, the DA agrees to let him plead guilty on a single lesser charge. The man spends 42 days behind bars for pre-sentencing diagnostic tests. In 1978, on the eve of his actual sentencing, he flees the country and returns to his native France. He is finally arrested 31 years later.

And now he is the victim?! | 10/08/09 06:04:07 By - Leonard Pitts Jr.

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