Are We Really Color Blind in Addressing Violence in Our Communities?

by A’Jamal-Rashad Byndon

In recent years, there has been a disproportionate increase in violence in the African American community in Nebraska (particularly in Omaha). An examination of the local crime data from the U.S. Department of Justice, local police reports, the Omaha World-Herald crime reporting process, and the race of inmates locked up in our state’s jails and prisons shows that African Americans have more than their share of crimes committed in their homes and neighborhoods. This steady but documented increase has caused a great deal of cognitive dissonance for many who would like to believe otherwise. Reactions among the state’s African American population run from open embarrassment, to charges of under-reporting of crimes among other constituency groups, to blaming generations of racism and oppression for this higher crime rate.

Regardless of the cause, however, the real question is, can we as one community, black and white, have a frank conversation about this burgeoning problem—and, after talking about it, are we in a position to effectively take steps to address it?

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2014 Gandhi Award Given To NFP

by Mark Welsch
NFP Omaha Coordinator

Nebraskans for Peace was the recipient of the 2014 Gandhi Award, presented by The Grace Abbott School of Social Work at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Customarily, this annual award—named in honor of the legendary Indian nonviolent activist, Mohandas Gandhi—goes to an individual. But Nebraskans for Peace was honored in recognition of its 44 years of service as the nation’s oldest statewide Peace & Justice organization. This award is a tribute to everyone who has ever been a member of NFP.

NFP President Mark Vasina and State Board member Frank LaMere, a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, accepted the award on the organization’s behalf from the School’s director, Dr. Amanda Randall. In the audience were approximately 25 NFP members, including long-time activists Loyal Park, Virginia Walsh, El Siebert, Anne Else, Henry D’Souza and Jo Peterson.

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Israel and Palestine

by Paul Olson, President Emeritus

And so Israel and Palestine are back at it again—not the biggest conflict in the world or even the biggest in the Middle East. The Shia/Sunni conflict pitting Russia against the U.S., Shiite Iran against Sunni Saudi Arabia, and the intermingled Shia and Sunni regions extending from Lebanon to western Afghanistan involves a far greater geopolitical theater, global energy resources and hundreds of millions of people. In contrast, the Palestinian/Israeli conflict embraces no more than 11,000 square miles and 11 million people. (To provide a sense of scale, Nebraska encompasses 77,000 square miles and only 1.8 million people. Palestine/Israel contains six times as many people as Nebraska in one seventh of the area). Real children, however, are dying from Israeli bombs on the supposition that a Hamas member may live in their house. Real rockets scare Israeli urbanites nightly and disrupt life constantly. The struggle has gone on since 1948. We have been desensitized. “It’s just the Israelis and Palestinians going at it again for a week or two.” But the more than 50-year-old war sits in the center, and the other Middle East conflicts are its entailments.

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Income Inequality: Is There Any Hope for Change?

by Hank Van den Berg
UNL Professor of Economics

The popularity of Thomas Piketty’s book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, suggests that people are finally waking up to the fact that economic inequality has increased sharply over the past 40 years. Piketty presents a great many charts and tables, based entirely on official U.S. government data, to show that both income and wealth have become as unequal as they were during the ‘Roaring Twenties’ of capitalist excess. What is frustrating is that this rise in inequality in the U.S., the highest among all developed countries, comes after New Deal programs and subsequent social legislation actually greatly reduced inequality during the 1950s and 1960s.

Even more troubling is Piketty’s finding that just in the past five years inequality has continued to grow. The wealthiest 10 percent have recovered from the financial collapse very nicely, but the rest of the U.S. population has not. There is no sign of the growing inequality reversing itself. We must change the system; we cannot just tweak it.

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The Situation in Syria:

Nebraskans for Peace has long called attention to the dangers implicit in the growing confrontation between the Sunni powers in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, and the bloc of Shiite nations and militia powers extending from Iran through Iraq and the Alawite Shiite-ruled nation of Syria to the Hezbollah Shia armies in Lebanon.

A few months ago, Nebraskans for Peace hosted Sr. Agnes Miriam of the monastery of St. James the Mutilated from Syria. She warned us about the jihadists organizing in eastern Syria and Iraq, an organizing that has culminated in the march of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant on Baghdad. Unfortunately Sister Agnes Miriam did not receive the attention that she deserved from the media press.

The United States has been largely indifferent to the tensions between Sunni and Shia in the Middle East since the détente of 2005 when Sunni tribes in Anbar province decided to cooperate with the U.S. and the de facto government in Iraq. After they did this and were promised inclusion, they were increasingly excluded from power by a Maliki government dominated by Shiites and exclusionary of other groups, especially of Sunnis. This failure by our ally in Iraq has created the organizing momentum for the Sunni ISIL group in Iraq. The same sort of failure has fueled the rebellion against the Assad government in Syria. The U.S. needs to cry out loud and long at the Iraq government’s exclusionary policies and its failure to rid itself of corruption.

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