Kakistocracy: We Are Here!

It’s time to Break It Down!

That, in effect, says it all. Succinctly! So much so, this will be my shortest blog ever.

We are now observing the circus-like debacle surrounding the effort to confirm Rear Admiral Dr. Ronny Jackson for the position of Secretary of Veterans Affairs, concurrent with the elaborate mental gymnastics employed to save Scott Pruitt’s job as Environmental Protection Administrator. I searched for just the right word; it wasn’t easy. In addition to the two current aforementioned high profile Team Trump members navigating thin ice during this first month of spring, there are of course numerous others who’ve already fallen victim to early exits. The list of their names is long. Ten that leap out at first thought are:

  1. Michael Flynn
  2. Tom Price
  3. John McEntee
  4. Sean Spicer
  5. Omarosa Manigault-Newman
  6. Steve Bannon
  7. Anthony Scaramucci
  8. Sebastian Gorka
  9. Rob Porter
  10. Hope Hicks

Mr. Trump exclaimed long ago that he would hire the best people. In point of fact, not only has he failed miserably to make that promise a valid assertion, there is a case to be made that he has done just the opposite; that he has in reality built his own personal Kakistocracy. What in the Sam Hill is that, you may ask? Thank you for inquiring. See the definition below:


A Kakistocracy is a system of government, which is run by the worst, least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens. The word was coined as early as the seventeenth century. It is a term that also was used by English author Thomas Love Peacock in 1829, but gained significant use in the twenty-first century.

With that, as noted in the opening, I’ve said it all. Kakistocracy: We Are Here!

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

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Forget The Mistake: Remember The Lesson!

It’s time to Break It Down!

Last Thursday, the Starbucks franchise surged toward the top of trending media topics. And, I might add, not for good reason. As almost anyone not firmly ensconced under a rock, or immersed in a Rip Van Winkle-like slumber knows by now, a Philadelphia Starbucks manager called police and urged them to arrest two men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson. Which they did! Spoiler alert; the men were black.

As they waited for a friend to join them, the store manager concluded that since they declined to make a purchased, they had to leave. This resulted in the manager calling the police and asking that they arrest the men. The officers detained the men, complete with handcuffs, the perp walk out of the Starbucks at 18th and Spruce Streets in the Center City District.

A number of people in the coffee shop, at the time, captured video of the incident, and some tweeted about it. One person who did both was Melissa DePino, a novelist. She tweeted the following:

Melissa DePino‏ @missydepino

@Starbucks “The police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything. They were waiting for a friend to show up, who did as they were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing. All the other white ppl are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing.”

5:12 PM – Apr 12, 2018

Public reports reveal that police were initially called because two black men had not ordered anything and were waiting for their friend. In essence the men were arrested, placed in a police cruiser, and considered a threat while actually not having done anything. In an 8-minute long video, the two black men can be seen maintaining a calm demeanor throughout the duration of their encounter with the officers. One of the officers can be heard saying the men were asked to leave the Starbucks for reasons that remain unclear.

Brittany Packnett was another witness/tweeter. In the midst of the incident, she posted on her Twitter account:

Brittany Packnett


13 Apr

Replying to @MsPackyetti

“The extremely jacked up part is how calm these two brothers are as they’re walking out in handcuffs for doing *exactly nothing* because they already know their totally righteous anger could end in their death.

This is tired. Racism is tired. What say you, ‪@starbucks?!!”

If we were on the Game Show Jeopardy, the answer would be: What is being guilty of “waiting while black,” Alex?

Ms. Packnett directed her tweet straight to the source, Starbucks. To their credit, it appears the Company was not only attentive, but also responsive. They began by issuing their own tweet:


FollowFollow @Starbucks


Replying to @MsPackyetti

We’re aware of the incident on Thursday in a Philadelphia store with 2 guests and law enforcement, resulting in their removal. We’re reviewing the incident with our partners, law enforcement and customers to determine what took place and led to this unfortunate result.

10:34 PM – 13 Apr 2018

That was not Starbucks’ only measure of response. Moreover, it was far from the most significant. Starbucks Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Kevin Johnson has taken several steps to both make clear his, and the Company’s concern about the incident, and to show in no uncertain terms that the events that unfolded in Philadelphia nearly a week ago do not reflect the culture that Starbucks is invested in, and committed to deepening and expanding.

Johnson called the actions of his employee reprehensible! He went on to take ownership by stating plainly, “I am accountable.” He added, “I will fix this.” He also said that his responsibility was not just to look at that individual, but to look more broadly at the circumstances that led to the incident in order to take steps to make sure that it never happens again.

The manager of the store no longer works for Starbucks. Mr. Johnson flew from Seattle to Philadelphia and met personally with Nelson and Robinson on Monday; he apologized to them during the meeting.

Johnson called for “unconscious bias” training for Starbucks store managers. Rosalind Brewer, the company’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), who happens to be African American, weighed in on the matter, including the call for training for the store managers. In an interview with NPR, she referred to the matter as a “teachable moment for all of us.” She noted that as an African American executive with a 23-year-old son, she found the videos painful to watch. She went on to add:

“It would be easy for us to say that this was a one-employee situation, but I have to tell you, it’s time for us to, myself included, take personal responsibility here, and to do the best that we can to make sure we do everything we can.”

Benjamin Waxman, a spokesman for Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, said over the weekend that the office decided that there “wasn’t sufficient evidence to charge [the men] with a crime.”

On Monday, Johnson said that there are scenarios that warrant a call to police – including threats and other disturbances – but that in this case, “it was completely inappropriate to engage the police.”

To be clear, Starbucks does not have a universal policy on asking members of the public to leave. The company delegates safety and customer service protocol decisions to store managers. For example, managers may leave restroom doors unlocked or add key-code entry control if they feel the store is more at risk for criminal behavior.

One Starbucks official acknowledged that the incident is at odds with common practice at Starbucks. He noted, “The stores are community hubs where people often drop in to use the Wi-Fi or chat with friends without necessarily buying anything.”

Lauren Wimmer, who happens to be white, is the attorney who represented the two men. She said she spent a good portion of her time in law school at Starbucks without buying much and never had a problem with store employees. She asserted the incident was about race.

I would be remiss to close out this post without making a salient observation. The blog has centered on a dynamic encounter between three distinct elements: African American males, an urban police department, and a largely white business establishment. The business called the police on the black guys, the black guys remained calm under pressure, and the police, clearly did not fear for their lives…translation, the black guys are still alive. Perhaps, more notably, at the end of the day, by most accounts, neither the black guys nor the police officers were deemed to have been at fault. How cool…and rare, is that? Unless you represent Starbucks in this tribe-part scenario, that is.

In response to Starbucks’ commitment to train its employees in the wake of the arrest of two black men in Philadelphia last Thursday, the company has announced it will close 8,000 company-owned stores and train approximately 175,000 employees on Tuesday afternoon, May 29th.  Ms. Brewer, the COO, referred to this incident as a “teachable moment for all of us.” As time races inexorably toward May 29th, my sincere hope for Ms. Brewer and the Starbucks family, for Mssrs. Nelson and Robinson, as well as for any of you who may be coffee lovers, is that Starbucks can “Forget The Mistake. Remember The Lesson!” I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribeclick on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

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20/20: Perfect!

It’s time to Break It Down!

Spring is in the air. Every year about this time I seem to run across stories about black academic excellence across the American educational landscape. Perhaps the most extraordinary example involves Chicago’s Urban Prep Academies, a collection of all male charter schools located and operating in Chicago. In 2002, former Hales Franciscan High School President (and Alpha man) Tim King organized a group of African-American civic, business, and education leaders, expressly for the purpose of creating a new high school in Chicago focused on providing a strong, college-preparatory high school option for boys in under-served African-American communities.

The Chicago Board of Education approved Urban Prep Academies’ charter application in 2005, and Urban Prep opened its first school, Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men — Englewood Campus in September 2006. Urban Prep became the first charter high school for boys in the country. The school opened its second facility in the East Garfield Park community in 2009, and moved closer to the West Side in 2011. Urban Prep’s third campus, serving the historic Bronzeville community, opened in 2010. Approximately 85% of Urban Prep students are low-income, and nearly all are African American.

Admission to Urban Prep is non-selective and determined through a lottery system. Enrollment is open to all matriculating 9th graders in Chicago. Lottery admission information is available on Urban Prep’s admission webpage.

The school became the focus of national attention in March 2010, when it was announced that 100% of the first graduating class had been accepted at a four-year college or university. Incredibly, Urban Prep students have continued that streak every year. I’m confident even Joe Biden would consider that a big…deal.

In other years, there have been (African American) students who have earned acceptance at every Ivy League University, which is without question, a phenomenal accomplishment. This year’ superlative is a 17-year old young man from Houston, Texas, Michael Brown. I had read about Brown, and thought of him again as I was changing flights a couple of days ago in Houston.

Michael became a celebrity of sorts earlier this month when news broke that he had applied to, and gained acceptance by 20 colleges, including four Ivy League schools. Brown did not just gain acceptance by all the schools to which he had applied, he earned a full ride to each, and a total of more than 260,000 in scholarship money.

When interviewed by his hometown paper, the Houston Chronicle, he said, “It’s surprising I was accepted at all of them.” According to the paper, Mr. Brown, a resident of the city’s economically challenged Third Ward, has compiled quite an impressive academic portfolio, replete with an array of extra-curricular and volunteer activities, and a quite substantive 4.68 G.P.A. Michael noted that he derived most of his motivation from his mother, Berthinia Rutledge-Brown, who completed her own degree while he was in elementary school. Her drive and commitment helped him understand what going to college might look like, allowed him to recognize the correlation between tenacity and achieving an education, and to appreciate the connection between achieving an education and subsequently succeeding in obtaining employment opportunities. He doubts she was cognizant that he was actively taking in all that information…but that is exactly what he was doing.

As one might imagine, the sifting that winnows down 20 schools to a final selection is quite a process. He has yet to make a final decision. Several days ago, he narrowed the list to a final seven:

  • Northwestern
  • Georgetown
  • Stanford
  • Princeton
  • Yale
  • Penn
  • Harvard

Also among the 20 were Amherst, Vanderbilt, Johns Hopkins, and the home state University of Texas. Recently, he reduced the list to the Final Four, Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, and Harvard. Brown noted that he began getting serious about college toward the end of ninth grade. His current assessment is that his decision, ultimately, will likely come down to Harvard and Stanford. He has plans to visit both soon.

But lest I leave you with the impression that all is sweetness and light, perish the thought. A pair of newswomen from the local Washington, DC Fox 5 affiliate, co-anchor Holly Morris, and contributor, Sarah Fraser, opted to weigh in on Brown’s freaking awesome accomplishment. And all in they went, panning him for his audacity in thinking he could apply to 20 colleges. They went so far as to call his decision “obnoxious,” and suggested he was showing off by doing so.

After hearing about the pushback from the DC Fox commentators, Brown called the station, spoke with a producer, and then had a 10-minute interview. However, he declined to provide his permission to air the interview, unless the anchor issued an apology, which, in classic Donald Trump fashion, she has refused to do.

Brown had indicated he plans to major in political science and economics. Former President Bill Clinton has weighed in, tweeting an offer to answer any questions Brown might have about Georgetown, (Clinton’s alma mater).

Bill Clinton


What an incredible accomplishment, Michael. Follow your heart and your head; your future is incredibly bright. I can’t wait to see what comes next. In the interim, if you want to talk about Georgetown give me a call.




2:44 PM – Apr 5, 2018

2,836 people are talking about this

Upon being asked about his personal view of his achievement, in a moment of intra-personal reflection, Brown said:

“I just felt very accomplished because I was very intentional with every school I applied to, so it was good that all of that paid off and my application strategy worked.”

At the end of the day, it was a great achievement by a special young man. It was an outstanding accomplishment by him, and undoubtedly a memorable moment for his mother, and a time for his teachers, counselors, and academic support team to beam with pride. The young man wears glasses, so I’m not sure about his eyesight, but his academic prescription is20/20: Perfect!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribeclick on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up. ”Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

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I Remember When: 50 Years Ago Today

It’s time to Break It Down!

The afternoon of Sunday March 31, 1968 was a special day. I was at church. Though, being a PK, that is not what made it special. I was in church nearly every Sunday morning, and more Sunday afternoons than I can count. Lots of Sunday nights too. That’s just what preacher’s kids did circa 1968.

Yet, this was a special Sunday. For a young man sharing the salad days of my teen years, growing up in the South during the unpredictable, and ever changing days of the civil rights movement, I was on the verge of, or so I thought I was, meeting the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Despite how it is often portrayed, the civil rights movement was not just one thing, but a fluid, and complex compendium of actions, circumstances, and events. Notwithstanding any of that, no single individual ever soared higher in the movement’s operational apparatus than did Dr. King. Yes, he moved around throughout an organically evolving circuit from Atlanta, to Montgomery, to Albany (GA), to Birmingham, to Washington, DC, to Selma, to Chicago, to Memphis, promoting a series of non-violent protests, meanwhile, in his spare time, he spawned a Poor Peoples’ Campaign, and an Anti-War Campaign to protest the War in Vietnam.

Back to that 5thSunday in March 1968. That afternoon, I went to a small African American church in Washington, NC; Little Washington, as it’s affectionately called, not to be confused with the District of Columbia. I was there for a Civil rights rally. There was a long line of dignitaries and luminaries on the itinerary. When the program reached that point, at which the penultimate speaker was scheduled to take the mic, The Rev. Dr. Reginald Hawkins emerged. He gave a powerful and compelling oration. I was there; I witnessed it. But in all honesty, I do not remember a thing he said after he apprised the assembly that Dr. King, who was to be the final speaker, was not able to attend that day. As an aside, by way of context, at the time, Dr. Hawkins was an active candidate, running for the Governorship of North Carolina; the first African American to do so. He noted that Dr. King had been called to Memphis, where he was engaged in an active role in mass meetings, and street actions (often a euphemism for marches), related to trying to resolve the Sanitation Workers Strike in Memphis, Tennessee.

It’s difficult to find adequate, or appropriate for that matter, words to describe the level of my disappointment…even all these many years later. I was disconsolate. I didn’t cry; but it wasn’t out of the question. My frustration was palpable. It actually still is. Really!

A few days later, Thursday evening, April 4, 1968, at around dinnertime, I was watching the news with my family. In the middle of the broadcast, the newscaster interrupted his regular reporting to announce that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., has been assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. It was a moment in time, like a number of others, where one remembers where they were, and/or what they were doing when they heard the news. It seemed like there were a lot of those moments in the 60’s. JFK, Malcolm X, MLK, and Robert Kennedy, were all killed between 1963 and 1968.

Today is the 50thAnniversary of Dr. King’s murder. All the men noted at the end of the previous paragraph were legendary. They were giants in their respective fields of endeavor. Without reservation, I readily admit, King’s life and his work influenced me more than the others. So did his death.

My 14-year-old mind, at the apex of its elastic powers of imagination, instantly transported me back to the previous Sunday afternoon, in that small, jam-packed, non-air conditioned, and sweltering edifice. I thought…if only Dr. King had opted to come to Washington, NC, rather than go to Memphis. In the vortex that was my mental gymnastic, Dr. King could have avoided, or at least delayed the premature termination of his life’s journey, and work, I would have seen, and possibly even met him, and if there were an anniversary today, it would have some other significance.

Of course that’s what I thought at 14. Perhaps it was selfish and self-absorbed. OK, so it was selfish and self-absorbed! Fifty years later, not much has changed. At least, not much has changed on some level.

In all fairness, today, I do very much appreciate the work, and the enormous sacrifice Dr. King made throughout his career. His trip to Memphis turned out to be, for him, the ultimate sacrifice. Humbly, and sincerely, I thank him for all of his service. However, none of that persuades me to regret the fact that he was taken from us far too soon. Upon sober reflection, I’d gladly have forgone even the intent for him to have visited and appeared in Little Washington, just for him to have the opportunity to continue to operate as the head of the spear of the civil rights movement. I would love for the generations that followed him to have benefited from his continuing to dispense wisdom and counsel.

We are frequently told the universe has every answer that we could ever need. The logical extension of that reasoning is, Dr. King was the answer for a given point in time. He came, he saw, he provided a range of answers to a series of questions during his time. He graduated from high school and matriculated at Morehouse at 15, he earned a Ph.D., he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he gave the most quoted speech at the March On Washington, he orchestrated the Selma to Montgomery March, he was an often published author, he made the Birmingham Jail famous, he elevated the plight of the poor (in the richest nation in the world), he stood against a war in Southeast Asia, and…he had a dream. He did all this, a-n-d, he died for the cause…all before turning 40 years of age.

We largely remember Dr. King in triumphant, even if tragic, fashion. Yet befor he died, he was unpopular, much maligned, and frequently demoralized. Still, in the classic spirit of the Alpha man he was,  King was resolutely forward-focused. Backward was simply not a word in his otherwise extensive vocabulary.

As I have written about before, including in January of his year, his birthday became a holiday. But in this post, I choose instead to memorialize a day that has lived in infamy for me personally, for the past 5 decades. “I Remember When: 50 Years Ago Today!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.”Subsequent editions of “Break It Down”will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post: