This was a banner year for the media—news was prodigious, often fast-breaking and meaty enough to make even the most abstemious news observer sit up and dig in.
JOBS. JOBS. JOBS.
Unemployment continued to cast a dark shadow over the African-American community in 2010. Though national joblessness dipped, Black unemployment hovered at 16 percent. And among Black youth, the numbers were scarier.
WASHINGTON HITS AND MISSES
For President Obama and the Democrats, 2010 was a year of hard-fought victories. Chief among them was the Affordable Health Care Act. Enacted on March 23 after months of squabbling on Capitol Hill and in townhall meetings that saw the meteoric rise of the Tea Party Movement, the law expands coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans, prevents insurance companies from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions and allows children to stay on their parents’ insurance plan until they turn 26 among other provisions.
Republicans successfully kept the “public option” out of the legislation, and finagled a two-year extension of tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and a reduction in estate taxes. However, they were not as successful in stopping a financial reform package that includes new regulations on Wall Street, credit card reforms and a new Consumer-Financial Protection Bureau that will be able to regulate mortgage and credit-card products.
Additionally, despite GOP obstruction, Congress passed bills that free up dollars to cover a discrimination lawsuit settlement against the U.S. Department of Agriculture by Black farmers, repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy against homosexuality, approve revision of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia and assure equal pay to women.
While the White House can claim success for these wins, however, it committed a major faux pas when officials forced USDA director Shirley Sherrod to resign based on video a right-wing blogger edited to make her appear racist.
VERSUS—The Year’s Noted Showdowns
NAACP vs. Tea Party – The NAACP, too, got caught up in the Sherrod imbroglio as an outgrowth of its war with the tea party. In July, during its annual convention in Kansas City, Mo., the group adopted a resolution that called on the Tea Party Federation to dismiss bigoted elements from their organization. The resolution was based on what NAACP delegates felt was a “vitriolic” year of Tea Party demonstrations, during which participants used racial slurs and images. The move prompted a blowback from conservatives such as Sarah Palin and Tea Party Express member Mark Williams, the latter of whom was expelled from the Federation.
Sharpton vs. Glenn Beck – Similarly, civil rights activists—including the National Urban League, which celebrated its centennial in 2010—decried an Aug. 28 rally led by conservative activists in the nation’s capital on the anniversary and at the same site of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Civil rights leaders countered the event and held a 3-mile-plus march from Dunbar High School to the site of the planned King Memorial near the Tidal Basin.
Republicans vs. Democrats – Riding on the wave of the Tea Party momentum, the GOP roundly trounced the Democrats in this year’s mid-term elections, gaining 63 new representatives to take control of the House and 13 new senators. And across the nation, the party gained 690 new state legislators and several governors.
Michael Steele vs. the GOP – Despite those gains, GOP insiders have been calling for Republican leader Michael Steele’s ouster from the helm of the Republican National Committee among allegations of financial mismanagement and frequent verbal gaffes over the past two years. But, as he has done throughout his tenure, Steele struck back at his critics, recently announcing his plans to run for re-election in January.
9/11 Survivors vs. Muslims – American Muslims came under fire after one group vied to build an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero. The move prompted heated debate at a public hearing and at least one planned Koran burning.
On Aug. 10, radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger went on an “N-word” binge in response to a Black caller’s concerns about racial taunting. A week later, Schlessinger announced her plans to resign. Sarah Palin’s advice? “Don’t retreat… Reload.”
In October, Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, made similarly inexplicable comments. The Tea Party activist called Anita Hill—19 years after Hill accused her former boss Clarence Thomas of making sexual comments—and left a message demanding an apology for the allegations. Hill, now teaching law at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, said she initially thought the call was a prank. When Mrs. Thomas confirmed that she has sent the message, however, Hill told ABC News, “I have no intention of apologizing, and I stand by my testimony in 1991.”
Glenn Beck…need we say more?
Superstar LeBron James broke the hearts of all Cleveland Cavaliers fans when he announced during an hour-long TV special he was leaving Cleveland to take his talents to South Beach Miami, where fellow superstar Dwyane Wade and star forward Chris Bosh awaited. Several NBA legends, including Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, criticized James’s decision. Now, the “King” and the Heat are out to silence critics, one game at a time.
Most boxing fanatics say it would have easily been the fight of the decade, pitting the two most successful boxers at the moment against each other. But the anticipated fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao never happened because of a disagreement over blood testing. Both champion boxers went on to fight other opponents early in 2010, but negotiations continued with hopes of a later matchup. But with Mayweather and his trainer, Roger Mayweather, both facing domestic violence charges, chances of the fight happening anytime soon are slim to none.
Led by a number of key Black players, the U.S. Soccer Team journeyed to South Africa this summer, hoping to capture the top spot in the FIFA World Cup, which made its first appearance on the African continent. In the end, Ghana eliminated the United States from World Cup contention, just as it did during the 2006 tournament.
The most exciting, and perhaps equally surprising story in the NFL this year revolved around the outstanding play of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. Just a couple years removed from his release from federal prison, Vick set the league on fire with his unmatched talent, becoming a top candidate to win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award.