What About White Supremacy Makes You Feel Superior?

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I want to introduce you to a very remarkable woman.  Her name is Hazel Scott.  Hazel was born on June 11, 1920 and died on October 2, 1981.  I never heard of Ms. Scott until two nights ago.  They don’t teach you about people like Hazel in American schools. 

I was listening to a YouTube video featuring the pianist Dorothy Donegan.  Hazel Scott popped up as someone else I might be interested in listening to.  I listened to several of her videos which featured her playing both jazz and classical piano.  She also accompanied some pieces with her beautiful voice.  She is one of the most amazing piano players I have ever heard or not heard of.  I soon found out that Hazel was much more than just a fantastic musician. 

Curious as to her background, I got on my computer and found a Wikipedia which gave some of the details of her life.  (See Hazel Scott)

Hazel was a singer, pianist, and actor.  She was the first Black American to host her own TV show in 1950.  However, I am sure that if Hazel were still alive today and writing her eulogy, she would say “Don’t tell them, I was a singer and pianist.  Don’t tell them I was a Hollywood Actress.  Tell them I fought for the rights of Black Americans.  Tell them I refused privileges denied to my people.  Tell them I refused to play in segregated venues.  Tell them I refused to take roles that denigrated Black Americans.  Tell them I refused costumes that stereotyped Black people.  Tell them I used my money to bring lawsuits to challenge racial discrimination.”

In 1950, Hazel found out that she was on the suspicious list of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).  A group that was on a notorious witch hunt against communists.   Whenever, I hear of this HUAC, I think of the birthday party in Alice in Wonderland. 

mad_hatters_party_large`I mean, what IS an un-birthday present?’

`A present given when it isn’t your birthday, of course.’

Alice considered a little. `I like birthday presents best,’ she said at last.

`You don’t know what you’re talking about!’ cried Humpty Dumpty. `How many days are there in a year?’

`Three hundred and sixty-five,’ said Alice.

`And how many birthdays have you?’

`One.’

`And if you take one from three hundred and sixty-five, what remains?’

`Three hundred and sixty-four, of course.’

Humpty Dumpty looked doubtful. `I’d rather see that done on paper,’ he said.

Alice couldn’t help smiling as she took out her memorandum-book, and worked the sum for him:

`To be sure I was!’ Humpty Dumpty said gaily, as she turned it round for him. `I thought it looked a little queer. As I was saying, that SEEMS to be done right–though I haven’t time to look it over thoroughly just now–and that shows that there are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents–‘

`Certainly,’ said Alice.

51cvn6Ui9oL._SX260_Do you see?  If everyday is a possible un-birthday except your birthday, you may celebrate an un-birthday every day and get presents every day in addition to your birthday.  Anything that is not “American” which I will assume includes:  Mom, God, and Apple Pie, can be construed as “Un-American.”  If you are out to condemn or harass people, it becomes an open-ended warrant to attack anyone who exhibits traits other than a belief in Mom, God, and Apple Pie.  You have a 365-day open house to attack anyone in the USA who exhibits a philosophy contrary to what might be termed “Patriotic.”  I find this rather scary since I don’ believe in God.  I don’t like apple pie and I thought my mother’s cooking was terrible.  My list of “Un-American” traits would take up several pages but I suppose I would be condemned simply on the basis of rejecting these wonderful characteristics of Americanism.  By the way, I don’t like baseball, golf, football, basketball, or bowling.

Let us get back to Ms. Scott.  She voluntarily appeared before the HUAC and defended her friends who were being targeted.  She denied having anything to do with communism but defended socialism.  She stood up proudly and defiantly in front of a group of fascists intending to end her career.  And that is exactly what they did.  One week after she appeared in front of the HUAC, her TV show was dropped from the network.  She was as they like to say today “Cancelled” by this group of so-called patriots.

These hypocrites who would label anyone who believed in social inequality as “Un-American” but never identified the KKK as Un-American.  These patriots would probably include the KKK with Mom, God, and Apple Pie and therefore call their activities American.  Nothing Un-American about prejudice, lynchings, racism, discrimination, and attacks on minorities.

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I put on some more of Hazel’s piano videos.  Mesmerized by her flashing hands and her joyous way of playing the piano, I thought of the White racists in America who feel that they are superior to Black people.  In my mind, I contrasted Hazel with a White Supremacist.

Hazel:  Talented pianist 

White Supremacist:  Can drink lots of light beer

Despite billions spent on diversity and inclusion, new research from the Center for Talent Innovation finds that black professionals face prejudice, a lack of support from managers, and a cycle of exclusion that keeps them from the C-suite –  New Study Takes an Unprecedented Look at Being Black in Corporate America

 

Hazel:  Concerned for others.  Fights for the rights of others

White Supremacist:  Hatred for others who are different

Who ever walked behind anyone to freedom? If we can’t go hand in hand, I don’t want to go. — Hazel Scott

Hazel:  Beautiful, elegant, aristocratic, cultured

White Supremacist:  Tattoos, beer belly, swastikas

 

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Hazel Scott on the cover of ‘Round Midnight.

Hazel:  Brave, Courageous, stands up for what she believes

White Supremacist:  Hides behind white sheets and a pointed white mask

 

Hazel:  Juilliard School of Music

White Supremacist:   Probably dropped out of high school

 

Hazel:  Multi-lingual

White Supremacist:  Hardly speaks good English

 

Is there an irony here or am I missing something?  The race hating, immigrant hating, neo-Nazis with little culture or education espouses a doctrine of White Supremacy because he/she thinks that they are superior to Ms. Hazel Scott.  I must be living in Wonderland.

 

The Great Divide:  An America Torn Asunder by Divisions

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The number one subject for bestselling non-fiction books in the USA today concerns the chasm that separates Republicans from Democrats.  Rural voters from urban voters.  College Educated people from non-college educated.  Conservatives from liberals.  Fox viewers from CNN viewers.  Your facts from my facts.  Your truths from my truths.  Your lies from my lies.  Your views of reality from my views of reality. 

This divide is decried by all the pundits and experts.  Not one of the writers on this subject has anything good to say about the divide.  Perhaps they harken back to the old saying, “United we stand and divided we fall.”  Or the adage that, “A house divided cannot stand.”  Whatever the reasoning, no one thinks that a USA as divided as it is with nearly 75 million people voting for Donald Trump and 80 million people voting for Joseph Biden is helpful for our nation.  Keep in mind, it is not just the sheer numbers that alarm people, it is the magnitude of the crevasse that scares people.

hate-spesechThe abyss It is so big that there is no bridging it.  None of the sides can see the other side.  None of the sides has any common ground with the other side.  None of the sides understands the language that the other side speaks.  We might as well be earthlings talking to Martians.  There is no lingua franca.  Many of the “well-meaning” experts exhort both sides to try harder to bridge the gap or to work more diligently to listen to the other side.  It seems to be assumed that all it will take to jump the gulf is good intentions.  I cry bullshit on this.  As the old aphorism goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  It will take more than good intentions to heal the wound that infests our country.

Before we can fix what ails America, we must clearly understand what brought this divide about.  What are the causes for this divide, and can they be healed?  I see three main causes for this chasm.  They are: 1. Greed, 2. Demonization, and 3. Media.  Let’s look at each of these three elements and see how they contribute to the divide and what if anything can be done about them. 

Greed:

Corporate greed and materialism have driven a wedge between the haves and the have nots in America.  A larger gap than ever before exists between the rich and the poor.  The number of people seeking free food and standing in line at food banks has only been higher during the Great Depression.  The requirements for a digital elite versus a computer illiterate fuels the growing income gap.  The Opioid Epidemic is only one symptom of this inequality in the USA.  Many people cannot afford medical care or adequate housing as well as food. 

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For years now, materialism has been touted as the backbone of American commerce by corporations and the media.  Inflammatory news events sell advertisements which drive people to the shopping malls, ball parks, restaurants, and performances.  Special events like “Black Friday” abound where people, “shop till they drop.”  There is a vicious spiral to these events since the final outcome is to keep people needy and wanting more.  The theologian Matthew Kelly says you can never satisfy wants only needs.  Pursuing wants will always leave you wanting more.  Eating, sleeping, exercise and love are needs that can be satisfied and will bring you happiness.  You can never be happy pursuing wants.

materialism and spendingThe wants advertised on the TV and in the media are never fulfilling.  We have a nation of brainwashed consumers who mistakenly think that more toys, bigger houses, more guns, and luxury cars will make them happy.  We are a nation on a never-ending treadmill of consumer materialism where like rats we keep spinning the wheel and hoping to find happiness, but happiness never comes, and drugs take its place. 

There is no sanity in our economic system.  It is a zero-sum game.  It is a great deal like the lottery.  Next week there will be 100 million losers, but one winner will get a billion dollars or more.  The value for the lottery keeps going up which entices more and more people to buy lottery tickets, but the number of losers also keeps going up.  Where do the profits for the lotteries go?  Not back to the people, regardless of what they tell you.  Our society is being sold hope where hope is the most elusive product in the marketplace. 

imagesAs the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, the tensions in society grow ever more divisive.  We see more road rage, more senseless shootings, more violence between men and women, less loyalty between employers and employees.  The underpinning of society that should be based on human integrity and morality is replaced with an opportunism based on an amoral value system.  Whatever we can get as long as we break no laws is considered to be moral.  We see most politicians that have no commitment to anything except to collect more money so that they can stay in office.   Their highest goal is to help the rich get richer, which of course includes themselves. 

Jesus said that money is not evil, it is the pursuit of money that is evil.  The evil in America comes from a frenzy for more that separates Americans from each other.  Like a horse race where there can only be one winner, there are only going to be a few rich Americans and many more poor people scrambling to be the “King of the Hill.” 

I do not believe that the divide in this country can be erased until we eliminate the gap between the rich and the poor.  It is not simply a matter of conversation or discussion.  It is a matter of inequality.  A poor person cannot talk to a rich person unless they can shout over gated walls and armed security guards.  The biggest divide in America is between the haves and the have nots.  It is between the will haves and the may never haves.  The haves in America expect to have more and probably will get more.  The have nots do not know where their next paycheck will come from or whether they will be able to buy food for tomorrow.  No amount of discussion or listening skills is going to solve this problem.  

Demonization:

Speech-Bubble-Montage_2-1 (1)I am not talking about the devil here or about spirituality.  I am talking about a kind of insidious propaganda that has been spread by many groups and individuals.  In this propaganda, one side of America is labeled as moral, ethical, righteous, and just.  The other side is the opposite.  The other side is everything negative.  The other side is a composite of all the demons and evils that Americans believe in.  The other side are communists, fascists, atheists, anti-democratic, anti-patriotic and un-American.  One side is good.  The other side is evil incarnate.  You cannot talk to evil.  You cannot discuss with the devil why he wants your soul.  You cannot debate with Satan over the values that he has.  Heaven and hell do not have weekly discussion groups.  The language heard today, and what the media publishes drips with hate, innuendo, and disdain.  The language fosters violence.  I doubt the Founding Fathers ever conceived that the First Amendment would protect such speech.  There are three elements that contribute to a hate speech culture that demonizes the other side: 

  1. Malicious Labeling:

freehatespeechMalicious labeling is the name calling that goes on between both sides today wherein each side is labeled.  You can hear it on almost every talk show program in America today.  Name calling and name labeling.  Commie pinko leftists!  Intellectual elites!  Radical socialists!  Racist rednecks!  Fascist dictators!  Politicians, commentators, newscasters, and radio talk show hosts all use malicious labels to insult and demean those they disagree with.  What have we let this country become when we allow such name calling?  This kind of hyperbole demonizes the other side and creates a divide that cannot be overcome by rational conversation.

“I think the political process has degenerated into name-calling and extremism, and I think that that’s unfortunate.” — Bill Bradley

  1. Anti-Government Diatribes:

extremismword_hp111319.1200x0I do not think that the Founding Fathers of our nation believed that Government was evil.  Certainly, they felt that there could be too much government intrusion on the rights of the populace.  They invoked certain safeguards to protect both human rights and states rights.  Nevertheless, they did not demonize government and not a single one of the Fathers ever referred to government as evil.  Edmund Burke, the famous English conservative said, “The government that governs best is the government that governs least.”  He never said, “government was evil.”  It has become common place to hear refrains denigrating the role and necessity of government.  This steady drumbeat of antigovernmental rhetoric has created a group of people that have no value for government and who support the idea that government should be abolished.

“A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?”  — George Washington

  1. Legal Advocates of Violence

loyal white knights and aryan nations in texas july 2016 from vkdotcom_0A few years ago I began to wonder why groups like the KKK, Aryan Brotherhood, Antifa, The Proud Boys and many other such groups advocating violence against the government were not labeled as Terrorist Organizations.  I asked a lawyer this question and he replied, “it is all politics.”  I found that almost all the groups listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “hate groups” were designated as “extremist groups.”  This means that they are not illegal, and they have the right to organize, march, rally and basically spread their hate across America.  In 2019, The SPLC listed 940 hate groups across the USA.  If any of these groups was labeled as a “Terrorist Group,” they would be on the same list as the Taliban, Boko Haram, The Mafia, Mexican Cartels and Al Qaeda.  What is the difference between an extremist group and a terrorist group?  It might surprise you to learn that a terrorist organization is defined as follows:

In the United States of America, terrorism is defined in Title 22 Chapter 38 U.S. Code § 2656f as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents”.

In general, terrorism is classified as:

  • The use of violence or of the threat of violence in the pursuit of political, religious, ideological, or social objectives
  • Acts committed by non-state actors (or by undercover personnel serving on the behalf of their respective governments)
  • Acts reaching more than the immediate target victims and also directed at targets consisting of a larger spectrum of society.

15963If this definition does not apply to the groups that tried to storm the US Capital on January 6th, 2021, I do not know what does.  Just yesterday the Canadian government labeled the Proud Boys as a Terrorist Organization.  This delegitimizes the group and takes their rights away.  For Canada, it is a start.  I am wondering when we are going to get started in the USA on such an effort.  The First Amendment was never construed to allow hate speech and the advocating of violent actions to overthrow the government.  Why do we not have the political will to outlaw these groups?  We seem to have little compunction in penalizing Black groups like the Black Lives Matter Movement or the Black Panthers.  We have a different standard when it comes to White Supremacy groups. 

The Media:

000f25f2-6bf0-11e9-994e-1d1e521ccbf6_image_hires_015902The newspapers, TV and the Internet are today the major carriers for the hate and vituperation that has spread across America.  On one side of the divide, we find the NY Times, the Washington Post and CNN News.  On the other side, we find the NY Post, the Washington Examiner and Fox News.  There are countless other purveyors of extreme and fanatical views.  Each side reeks of headlines supporting nonobjective views and biased reporting.  If objective reporting ever existed in the USA, it has been murdered and buried by the most pervasive media to ever exist.  The media carries the hate and violence that is created by politicians, pundits, radio commentators and hate groups and ensures that it gets widely disseminated.  Without the media, much of the divide would never have occurred.  Hate needs a platform to be spread and the media is more than happy to host anything that it believes will sell itself and its advertising. 

Conclusions:

We are not going to overcome the divide that separates Americans today by platitudes and wishful thinking.  No amount of holding hands or singing kumbaya together is going to unite Americans.  We have a systemic rot in our system that is caused by the extremism in politics and media that has created this divide.  We need to enact reasonable laws to stamp out this rot while also protecting free speech but not hate speech.  There is a difference between hate speech and free speech.  If we cannot figure this difference out, we will never close the divide that exists in America today.  You can defend the First Amendment all you want, but there are limits to everything and that includes so-called Free Speech. 

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Reconstructing the Great Speeches – Malcolm X:  Police Brutality Speech

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Perhaps no speech that I can “reconstruct “has more relevance to our country today than the speech given by Malcolm X on police brutality.  I first “discovered” Malcolm X during the seventies.  I was in my early thirties.  I was totally enthralled by his ideas and his passion for his ideas.  I will not bore you with a history of Malcolm Little, el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, or Detroit Red.  Each of his names signifies a life that Malcolm X lived through.  There are many books written about him.  He wrote many speeches and an autobiography.  There are numerous videos on YouTube of his speeches and talks.  I would highly recommend watching his debate with James Baldwin which I found to be thought provoking and relevant to the world today.

Malcolm X Debate with James Baldwin September 5, 1963

Malcolm X was an intellectual, a radical, a revolutionary and a man who had a family, wife, and children that he loved.  He was a man who was not afraid to speak his mind and to tell the truth as he saw it.  His truth telling got him into trouble and was the primary reason for his murder and assassination.  By the time of his death, he had created many followers and perhaps as many enemies.  The US government regarded him as a threat to the American way of life and democracy itself.  Malcolm X’s death was proof to a comment made by Bernardine Dohrn (Leader of the Weather Underground and once on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List), that “You can say anything you want in America, until someone starts listening to you.”

Context:

Malcolm X, birth name Malcolm Little, was born in Omaha, Nebraska on May 19th, 1925.  He died on February 21, 1965 at the Audubon Ballroom in NYC.  His remarkable life spanned almost 40 years.  Few people have ever made such an impact in so short a time as Malcolm X.  Malcolm X was in the middle of a Civil Rights Movement that had America in upheaval.  After two hundred and fifty years of slavery, Blacks in America had endured another 100 years of systematic and overt legal discrimination in every area of the country.  Finally, sick of riding at the back of the bus, inferior schools, voter discrimination, inability to sit at a White restaurant or a White hotel, Black folks and many White folks started a movement to end racial discrimination.

One element of the movement led by people like Martin Luther King believed that “non-violence” was the answer to overcoming racial discrimination.  Another element led by people like Malcom X, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) and Eldridge Cleaver believed in the idea that you meet fire with fire.  Malcom X said: “Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.”  There was a respect among African Americans for all of these leaders, but arguments abounded on what would be the most successful path to end racial discrimination.   Ironically, both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X died by assassination.

Fifty-five years after Malcolm X’s death.  It is now almost 2021 and racial divides and unrest still permeate and separate Americans.  Slavery has been abolished.  Jim Crow laws have been overturned.  The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.  Nevertheless, racism seems as prevalent as ever in this country.  The number of White Supremacy groups has increased dramatically in the past twenty years.  According to the Southern Poverty Law Center in Georgia, there are over 700 racist groups in the USA.  Noted politicians continue to make racist remarks and a soon to be past president of the USA openly applauds and supports these racist groups.

The Black Lives Matter Movement is born to protest the seemingly wanton discrimination and murder of Black men, women, and children.  Hardly a day goes by that a Black person is not egregiously murdered on some public street in America for the most trivial of offenses and many times for no offense at all, except being Black.  Walking while Black, driving while Black, sitting on your porch while Black are all possible reasons for a Black man or woman or child to be murdered in America.  The primary instrument of these murders is not the White Supremacist groups but the police.  The same police whose duty is to “Protect and Serve” and who all too frequently think this means to “Protect and Serve” only for White folks.

“On April 27th, 1962, Los Angeles police fatally shot Nation of Islam member Ronald Stokes. Officers mistook him and a group of Muslims removing clothes from a car outside a Los Angeles mosque for criminals. The conflict quickly escalated to a police raid inside the mosque, leaving a total of seven Muslims shot, one killed, and one paralyzed from a bullet wound to the back.

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Stokes’s death compelled Malcolm to engage in new dimensions of the black freedom struggle. He discovered a new center of political gravity by returning to the arena that had launched him: America’s racially scarred criminal justice system. Decades before protests against mass incarceration galvanized the black freedom struggle, Malcolm indicted the entire justice system as racist.” — Peniel Joseph, The Death That Galvanized Malcolm X Against Police Brutality

Against this backdrop, the words of Malcolm X ring as true and valid today as they did when he spoke them back in 1962 on a sunny day in Los Angeles, California.

Speech on Police Brutality: (Malcolm X comments in bold print)

1962 – Malcolm X

In order for you and me to devise some kind of method or strategy to offset some of the events or the repetition of the events that have taken place here in Los Angeles recently, we have to go to the root. We have to go to the cause. Dealing with the condition itself is not enough. We have to get to the cause of it all. (crowd concurs) Or the root of it all. And it is because of our effort toward getting straight to the root that people oft times think we’re dealing in hate.

2020

The KKK, the Proud Boys, The Aryan Nation and many other White supremacist groups are according to Homeland Security the most dangerous threat to America today.  They are responsible for numerous cases of violence and terror.  But while the Black Panthers and Nation of Islam were once labeled de facto as terrorist organizations, no effort has been made to label any (not a single one) White supremacist group as a terrorist organization.

Eric Garner (43) “I can’t breathe” July 17, 2014

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1962 – Malcolm X

The White man is tricking you! He’s trapping you. He doesn’t call it violence when he lands troops in South Vietnam. (applause) Please, please, please! He doesn’t call it violence when he lands troops in Berlin. When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, he didn’t say get non-violent. He said, “Praise the Lord, but pass the ammunition.” But when someone attacks you, when someone comes at you with a club, when someone comes you with a rope, when someone comes at you with a gun, despite the fact that you’ve done nothing he tells you, “Suffer peacefully.” (murmuring) “Pray for those who use you to spite me.” “Be long suffering.” And how long can you suffer after suffering for 400 years?

2020

The Black Lives Matter Movement has been mainly peaceful with only sporadic violence erupting throughout hundreds of protest marches.  But the right-wing media portrays the Movement as communistic, anarchistic, atheistic, and espousing overt violence.  When White people stand up for themselves, it is called “fighting for freedom” or exercising our constitutional rights.  When Black people and other people of color even speak out publicly against racist and violent discrimination, they are exhorted to remain peaceful and let the courts handle the problem.  But to people of color, hundreds of years of court decisions have often made matters worse.

Michael Brown (18) “I don’t have a gun.  Stop shooting.”  August 9, 2014

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1962– Malcolm X

The controlled press, the White press inflames the White public against Negroes. The police are able to use it to paint the Negro community as a criminal element. The police are able to use the press to make the White public think that 90%, or 99%, of the Negroes in the Negro community are criminals. And once the White public is convinced that most of the Negro community is a criminal element, then this automatically paves the way for the police to move into the Negro  community, exercising Gestapo tactics stopping any Black man who is in this… on the sidewalk, whether he is guilty or whether he is innocent.

2020

Donald Trump calls it the “Fake” news.  It is not fake news.  It is exploitative news.  It is sensationalist news.  It is news designed to sell newspapers that are full of advertisements.  The newspapers today as they have always been are on the side of so-called “law and order.” Without order, they cannot sell their newspapers.  Newspapers are owned by billionaires who cherish order and predictability above all else.  Chaos is not good for newspapers unless it can be turned into a story.  A Black murder is not news.  A White murder is news.  A Black woman raped or abducted is not news.  A White woman raped or abducted will be headlines for several days.

Amadou Diallo (23) “Mom, I’m going to college.”  February 4, 1999

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1962 – Malcolm X

Once the police have convinced the White public that the so-called Negro community is a criminal element, they can go in and question, brutalize, murder, unarmed innocent Negroes and the White public is gullible enough to back them up. This makes the Negro community a police state. This makes the Negro neighborhood a police state. It’s the most heavily patrolled. It has more police in it than any other neighborhood, yet it has more crime in it than any other neighborhood. How can you have more cops and more crime?

2020

How many Black people do you know who live in a gated community?  A Black person entering a gated community takes their lives in their own hands.  White people fleeing from the media’s obsession with crime, rape, mayhem, serial killers, home invasions have taken to gated communities like ducks to water.  If you can’t afford a gated community, then you join the NRA and stockpile ammunition and firearms.  If you are White, you never know when the Black folks will stage an uprising and come in to take your silverware or your blond wife.

Trayvon Martin (17) “What are you following me for?”  February 26, 2012  

Trayvon Martin Dead 

1962 – Malcolm X

There’s no case against the Muslims. It has no case against these brothers whom they shot down. And because it has no case, it’s trying to create a case. It’s trying to manufacture a case. And therefore they set up a grand jury hearing of the case so that they could hear it behind closed doors, and after hearing what we have to say then they’ll… their particular strategy or defense against the actions that they committed on that April the 27th.

2020

Whether or not there is a case seldom seems to matter.  How many times have we seen “Grand Juries” ignore evidence and let the perpetrators off Scott free?  Every time I hear of a Grand Jury taking a case in hand, I assume no charges will be brought against the offenders if the victim was Black.  I am not sure how they pick Grand Juries but if a deck of cards always turned up aces for the other side, you would sure as hell know it was a crooked deck.

“Ferguson grand jury props up a rotten, racist system.” – December 2014

“In Breonna Taylor grand jury decision, Berkeley scholars see grave racial injustice.” – September 23, 2020

“The Persistence of Discrimination in Jury Selection”June 2018

Kimani Gray (16) “Please don’t let me die.”  March 9, 2013

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1962 – Malcolm X

He told the brother; ‘Put down your hands.’ Brother was talking, he’s not a criminal. A man has a right on the sidewalk to talk with his hands. ‘Put down your hands, don’t talk with your hands.’ And when the brother continued to gesture with his hands the Officer grabbed his hand, twisted it around, ’round behind his back flung him up against the car and then that’s when hell broke loose. That was when hell broke loose. A struggle ensued; shots were fired by the police.

Breonna Taylor a 26-year-old African American woman was fatally shot in her Louisville, Kentucky apartment on March 13, 2020.  She was asleep with her boyfriend when the police burst into her apartment at 12:40 a.m.  Police fired 32 shots supposedly in self-defense wounding Breonna’s boyfriend and killing an unarmed Breonna.  Even on the face of it, consider what everyone admits happened and ask yourself “Does it sound logical, shooting into a dark apartment at night over thirty times?”

Police need to defend themselves when threatened and should use reasonable force to do so.  However, putting yourself into a situation where violence is likely to occur (consider how many White gun owners would not draw a gun should anyone suddenly burst into their house) and then claiming self-defense is not only disingenuous but it is the height of stupidity.  In such a situation with bullets flying everywhere and only thin walls separating apartments, the police endangered innocent people and killed a woman against whom they had no charges.

Breonna Taylor (26) “Who’s there.”  March 13, 2020

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1962 – Malcolm X

And two of the brothers who were shot in the back were telling me that as they lay on the sidewalk, they were holding hands. They held hands with each other saying Allahu Akbar. And the blood was seeping out of them where the police bullets had torn into their insides. Still, they said Allahu Akbar and the police came and kicked them in the head. Police kicked them in the head telling them to shut up that noise while they were laying on the sidewalk in front of our temple. Kicked them in the head. Shut up that noise.

2020

George Floyd lay in the Minneapolis street under the knees of a police officer.  The officer’s knees cutting off the ability of George to take a breath.  The plight of George was ignored by two other officers who stood by while George was strangled to death by their lead officer.  George was stopped for possibly possessing a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill.

A week ago I was in a Circle K gas station in Arizona when one of the men standing just ahead of me in line mentioned that he had been given a counterfeit ten-dollar bill in another Circle K a few days ago.  He had decided to use it at this Circle K.  I guess he figured that they gave it to him, so they deserved it back.  Anyway, the clerk saw that it was counterfeit and declined to take it.  I was standing just behind him with my wife Karen and I asked to see the phony bill.  For the life of me, I could not tell it from a real ten.  The guy did not seem bothered and laughed it off.  No police were called.  No harm done.  No need to kill anyone.  No major counterfeiters at the Circle K.

If you have the stomach, watch the video below of the death of George Floyd.  Let me know if you can remember the last time a White man died like this.

George Floyd (46) “Mama! Mama!” May 25, 2020

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lirHz93qJ50&bpctr=1605987468

1962 – Malcolm X

We are oppressed. We are exploited. We are downtrodden. We are denied, not only civil rights, but even human rights. So, the only way we’re going to get some of this oppression and exploitation away from us, or aside from us is come together against the common enemy.

2020

We are experiencing an unprecedented acknowledgement of the systemic racism and White privilege that permeates our police departments, courts, prisons, and entire criminal justice system including juries, lawyers, prosecutors, and judges.  Millions of people who once seemed blind to the overt discrimination that exists in American society towards minorities have now become “Woke.”  Once you become mindful of something, you can never go back.

Nevertheless, there are at least as many people in America who still deny that racism exists and who still see Black Lives Matter advocates as terrorists and criminals.  A new chapter in the history of civil rights in America has been engaged and only time will tell where it will lead.  The one thing I am sure of (beyond a shadow of a doubt) is that the words and life of Malcom X still ring down the halls of time with an unbelievable power to skewer and penetrate the hypocrisy of American society.  We must continue to move beyond the denial that allows deaths like George Floyd’s to happen on a regular basis in Black and minority communities.

“I am not a racist. I am against every form of racism and segregation, every form of discrimination. I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.” – Malcom X

P.S.

Two days after I wrote the above blog, I purchased a copy of the Arizona Republic newspaper.  I found a very disturbing article in it called “When Police Dogs Bite, No One is Accountable.”  It was written by A. VanSickle, C. Stephens, R. Martin, D.Brozost-Kelleher and A. Fan.  The date of the article was Sunday, November 22, 2020.  It concerned an investigation into the use and abuse of police dogs.  It was based on research sponsored by the Marshall Project and titled “Mauled, When Police Dogs Bite.”  The Marshall Project is a non-profit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system.  The following is an excerpt from the newspaper which I think you will notice reflects on my above blog.

“Investigations into the police departments of Ferguson, Missouri and Los Angeles, California found that police dogs bit non-White people almost exclusively.  Police dog bites sent roughly 3,600 Americans to emergency rooms every year from 2005 to 2013 according to a recent study published in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, almost all were men, and Black men were overrepresented.”  

Lest you think that most of the people bitten were hardened criminals who deserved it, the study found the contrary.  Most people bitten were unarmed and accosted for NON-Violent crimes like jay walking, problems with license plates, even a man looking for a lost cat.

Character, Culture and Race:  From a White Perspective

What do character, culture and race have to do with each other?  That is the subject of my blog this week.  I believe that each of these concepts is not well understood by people in America or in any other country for that matter.  There is a science to understanding these concepts but there is also an art that comes from experience and living.  Both science and experience are necessary to understand each concept and their relationship to each other.  Since my experience can only come from where I stand, I note that I stand as a white, USA born, male in the early 21st Century.  Standing anywhere else would no doubt give me a different experience and a different perspective on these ideas.  Let me start with first defining what the term Character means to me.  I am going to give you my take and not Webster’s dictionary definition.

Character:

I think there are four major elements of character.  I believe these are: integrity, wisdom, tolerance, and courage.  Integrity is standing up for what one believes.  Integrity is the opposite of sycophancy.  Sycophants go along imageswith someone for an underlying motive or future advantage that they hope will accrue for their fawning behavior.  People with integrity do what they believe is right whether or not any advantage will accrue from their efforts.  People with integrity are consistent in their stated ideas and do not read the polls to see which way public opinion is blowing. 

It has been said that: “Knowledge helps you to make a living while wisdom helps you to make a life.”  Wisdom is the ability to as Father Sthokal would have said “Exercise discernment.”  The Greeks would have said that wisdom is the ability to exercise the Golden Mean.  The ability to live life in moderation and not to be seduced by extremes or excesses.  Many a smart people there are who you know are very stupid.  I see college professors who can see no further than the myopia induced by their academic disciplines.  Thus, they see everything through only one lens. 

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A favorite quote of mine respecting tolerance and courage states that:  “The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.  The test of courage comes when we are in the minority.” — Ralph W. Sockman.  It takes real courage to stand up for what you believe when everyone is against you.  In the USA today, it takes courage to stand up for immigrants and poor people.  The greed in American life has prejudiced so many people who mistakenly believe that the poor and needy are taking their jobs or money away.  People are afraid to speak out because they are afraid that they will be labeled as Un-American. 

downloadTolerance is the willingness to respect and stand up for someone when you are in the majority and they are in the minority.  Difficult it is to speak out against your peers and tribe.  When someone has an idea that does not fit with the normal conception, the tolerant person will try to hear them out.  Tolerant people respect those with seemingly strange and weird or wild ideas.  The tolerant person does not say “That is crazy or that is a stupid idea.”  A recent example I think that shows both tolerance and courage is the song by Tyler Childers – “Long Violent History.”  You don’t hear many country singers supporting the Black Lives Matter movement or speaking out against racism. 

Character is not limited to any race, religion, culture, nation, or ethnicity

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Culture:

When I met my current wife Karen, she had an adopted Korean daughter.  Susan or Lee Hei Sook was six years old when Karen went though the procedures to adopt her.  She was an orphan who did know where her mom and dad were.  Many years later when Susan was out of college and expecting her second child she decided to search for her birth mother.  Through her amazing efforts, Susan was able to find both her birth mother and birth father.  I was fortunate enough to travel with Susan and Karen to Korea to meet both of them.  They had been divorced for many years and the story of Susan’s being sent to an orphanage would require a blog of its own. 

What is remarkable about the above story for me is Karen’s effort to help Susan retain her culture, heritage and language and even support her efforts to find her birth mother.  Karen cooked Korean food for Susan, sent Susan to Korean Camp each summer and learned how to eat with chopsticks.  Too many people in the USA believe that culture must be abandoned and that being having an ethnic or cultural identify is incompatible with being patriotic.  I know many of my generation who were not taught their parents’ language since there was a strong drive to become assimilated by many immigrants.  To desire to learn Korean would strike many of the “Greatest Generation” as a useless activity.  It did not strike my wife Karen this way.

Many older and younger people feel that our American culture is the best culture and that immigrants must discard other cultural affiliations in order to become assimilated.  The holy grail for Black people (at least as indicated by many white people) is something called integration.  This basically means abandoning any idea of “Blackness” and becoming as white as possible.  The same holy grail of assimilation or integration was foisted on many Native Americans.  Indians were forced to attend white “culture” schools and were not allowed to practice their native languages or wear indigenous clothing.  This rejection of culture has led to a considerable degree of prejudice and outright racism in the USA.  Witness the incarceration of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. 

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What is culture?  Culture is a universal phenomenon.  There is no such thing as not having a cultural identify.  Culture is forged for every living human being regardless of where they live.  Culture is the norms, habits, rituals, protocols, traditions, and beliefs of a group that you identify with.  Everyone has a culture.  Even hermits develop a culture based on their habits and ideology.  Gangs, tribes, schools, companies, organizations, ethnic groups, countries, nationalities, and any group with a set of shared norms and patterns develops its own unique culture.  I grew up with an Italian father and a mixed Irish-German mother.  I always lived in an Italian neighborhood when I was growing up.  I never learned to speak Italian, but I learned many Italian swear words.  I hung around with a gang who were mostly Italians.  My family had one culture.  My gang had another culture. 

I went into the United States Air Force when I was 18 years old.  The Air Force had its own culture.  The Army had its own culture.  I would guess there is not a person on the face of the earth who does not belong to more than one culture.  I would bet that most of us can identify with many cultures.  Thus, the term “cultural appropriation” is rather quixotic in many ways.  On the one hand, people might feel flattered that you want to merge symbols of their culture in your own traditions.  However, many other groups feel insulted and abused by such appropriation.  I can understand Indians who think that white people have no right to acquire their culture.  When your culture has been denigrated by the majority group and you have been maligned for trying to practice your culture, outrage against any outside group using your cultural icons for profit or fame would be a normal reaction.

Belonging to more than one culture does not necessarily mean that you should or must give up your identification with another culture.  Culture is a grounding for humans.  Culture helps us navigate life by adopting behaviors and norms that will help us fit in.  Culture is a means to share life with others.  As a veteran, I have many stories and fond memories of times spent with men whom I initially had nothing in common with.  Yet years later, I still enjoy meeting with veterans because we share so many of the same experiences concerning life in the military. 

“Culture does not make people.  People make culture.  If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.”  — ― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists

Race:

What is race?  Scientists say that there is no such thing as race.  How can this be?  Employment applications, loan applications, credit card applications and hundreds of other official documents include demographic questions where you must identify yourself as Black, White, Native America, Asian American, Latino and sometimes Other.  Black people identify with Black people as members of a common race.  The same is true for Caucasians, Indians, Latinos and Asians.  If there is no “race” how can there be “racism”?  Yet, the concept of “racism” is enshrined in laws both for and against “racism.”  If there is no race, why do I see people of different colors and backgrounds who have common acceptance of the idea that they are different from me.”  What can we attribute these different physical characteristics to if not race?

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“Researchers who have since looked at people at the genetic level now say that the whole category of race is misconceived.  Indeed, when scientists set out to assemble the first complete human genome, which was a composite of several individuals, they deliberately gathered samples from people who self-identified as members of different races.  In June 2000, when the results were announced at a White House ceremony, Craig Venter, a pioneer of DNA sequencing, observed, “The concept of race has no genetic or scientific basis.”  — National Geographic, Elizabeth Kolbert, March 12th, 2018

Most of the world’s citizens outside Africa originally migrated from Africa.  These early immigrants through genetic mutations and adaptation to different environments gradually gained different features.  The most predominant feature being skin color.  Skin color is not uniform throughout the world as we can see in places like India, Southeast Asia, China, South America, and even among the indigenous people in the USA.  Many people with “dark” skin coloring in the world would not say that they were Black or White.  I have been to more than thirty other countries.  I have noticed that “Black” people or people from an African Ancestry are not called African in these countries.  In the USA, we have used the term African-Americans but in Sweden, Africans are not called African-Swedes.  The same is true in many other countries across the globe.  Here in the USA, we seem obsessed with the concept of race.  Evidence shows that the genetic differences between individuals are greater than the genetic differences between the so-called “races.”

A randomly-selected American can be more genetically similar to a randomly-selected Korean than to a fellow randomly-selected American.  Similarly, a randomly-selected Ethiopian can be more genetically similar to a randomly-selected Norwegian than to a fellow randomly-selected Ethiopian.  This kind of occurrence is so common that simply comparing the genomes of two people will not help you classify them into what the world currently recognizes as their “race”. — Kristen Hovet, There Is No Such Thing as Race at the Genetic Level

But let’s get down to some common sense and away from science and genetics.  Adolf Hitler said that “Race” mattered more than anything.  Blood and Soil or “Blut und Boden: was a key ideology of the Nazi Party.  Hitler black-people-lynchedbelieved that German blood defined a German race which was superior to other races.  This superiority led to the extermination camps wherein “inferiors” were eliminated.  These inferiors included many people from other “races”, religions, ideologies, and with different physical characteristics.  There was one tribe of Germans and not belonging to this tribe was a potential death sentence.  Hitler set up a pseudo-scientific structure to discriminate between “True Germans” and other inferior “races.”  There never was and never will be a scientific basis for a German race, but this did not stop millions of Germans subscribing to the Nazi ideology of Germanic superiority. 

Conclusions:

prov-12-15If race does not exist but culture exists, what does this mean for group identity?  How strong should group identify be?  Should I sacrifice all for my group and fight to the death for my cultural identify?  What if I believe that my culture is better than your culture?  Could culture become just another banner to wave for those who want to commit acts of prejudice and discrimination on the basis of some perceived differences?  I think this is a distinct possibility and has indeed occurred throughout history.  How then can we have a cultural identify without resorting to racism and discrimination?

I think the solution lies in a hierarchy.  One hierarchy is evil and leads to racism and discrimination as well as genocide and war.  One hierarchy is good and leads to respect, tolerance, acceptance, and harmony among people. 

The Evil hierarchy puts culture, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, nationality, patriotism first and character is second. In this hierarchy, the notion of character is not as important as the notion of skin color, ideology, tradition, language, norms, and many other common bases for group acceptance.  You are first and foremost either a member of my group or not.  If you are a member of my group, I will then judge you on the basis of your character.  However, if you are not a member of my group, your character does not matter. You are evil by virtue of being an outsider and as an evil person, you need to be punished. 

The Good hierarchy puts character first and group identify second.  I don’t care if you do belong to my tribe, if you lack character, integrity, and wisdom then I need to deal with you accordingly.  I must of course exercise good character for myself.  I judge you first on your character.  I should also be judged on my character.  If we belong to or have similar tribal, ethnic, cultural, religious, ideological ideas or traditions, so much the better.  However, my relationship to you is based first on your character and only secondarily on which tribe you belong to.  I do not dismiss the importance of tribal or cultural affiliation.  If I am not of your culture or tribe, I will respect, understand and hopefully even be able to share some of your cultural traditions.  Diversity is a means of obtaining knowledge and ideas that can help us all become better than we are.

I will sum up my message here with the following points.

  • Race is a chimera and a substitute for genuine relationships with people
  • Racism is a negative stereotype based on ignorance and bigotry
  • Culture exists and is real. It can define us and allow us to lead more interesting lives
  • Culture if used as a measure of goodness or excellence can lead to prejudice and discrimination
  • Character is the most important criteria for valuing people
  • Tread lightly on all judgements of others

Here I must issue a warning and an extremely strict caveat.  Beware taking the role of judging others on the basis of what you think character means.  I have no doubt that character exists, but I would be very uneasy thinking that I should or could be the ultimate judge of good character or bad character.  Character is a little like quality.  Many say they know it when they see it but defining it can be very elusive.  If someone lies, cheats, steals, robs, rapes, assaults, abuses others or breaks the law, we may well think that they are a bad character.  On the other hand, a person who is honest, truthful, compassionate, and helps others may well be thought of as a good character.  However, time and circumstances may well render judgements made today as inaccurate in the future.  No one has the insight or knowledge to ever know the goodness or badness of another human being fully.

“We don’t care whether you are Christian or Muslim or Jew or Hindu; all we care is the goodness inside you because only the goodness inside you can make you a good human!” — Mehmet Murat ildan

“We are brothers and sisters not because of the color of our skin but because of what is inside of us.” —- J. Persico

Autobiographies from the Dead – George Floyd

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This series of “Autobiographies” started out as seven stories to commemorate some very special people.  They have one thing in common.  They are all dead.  Some have a burial place, and some were simply discarded like pieces of trash.  Their stories are told by the deceased themselves.  Their voices cry out from the fields, alleys, streets, rivers, and graveyards to speak.  I hear their cries.  They are channeling me to tell their stories to you.  They want you to know what their living and dying was for.  This week, George Floyd will tell you in his own words about his life, loves, dreams and death.  He is deceased now, talking from the great beyond where he has gone to meet his maker.

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George Floyd

My name is George Floyd.  My full name is George Perry Floyd Jr.  The name George is derived from the Greek word γεωργός (georgos) meaning “farmer and earth worker.”  I suppose it means that I am or was the “salt “of the earth.  Many kings, authors and great people have been named George.  The most famous for Americans being George Washington.  My family name was Floyd.  Floyd could have been my first name and people used to kid me and call me Floyd instead of George and tell me that my name was backwards.  Floyd is or was a slave name being derived from English or Irish heritage.

I was proud of my name.  Many Black folk get rid of their slave names and change them to Muhammad or Mustafa or some other Muslim name.  Others simply find a “non” slave name to adopt.  I was not ashamed of my name and I was always proud to be an American.  I was never one to say that all White people are devils or that White people are all the enemy.  I had many White friends as well as Black friends.  You can grow up in America being White and having no Black friends but if you are Black, you will more than likely have many White friends.  I got along with everyone.

Floyd_George3I was born on October 14, 1973 in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  I grew up in Houston Texas.  I was always big for my age and I loved sports where I excelled.  I also loved music and was part of a hip-hop group called “Screwed Up Click”.  My stage name was “Big Floyd.”  I was or thought I was headed for greatness.  Somehow though greatness never came.  I did not make any major league teams and I never got any big breaks on the music scene.  Like many young Black men with no foreseeable future, I stumbled into drugs.

Drugs will do three things for you.  1st. Destroy any will to achieve or drive for excellence.  The drug becomes a substitute for greatness.  2nd.  Destroy your finances.  You can never make enough money to support a drug habit.  3rd.  Lead to crime.  In order to support a drug habit, you must either deal or steal.  I chose to do both.

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I see the millions of people marching now in my name.  They are marching for peace and justice.  I spent several years in jail and was a criminal five times over.  I was arrested for an armed home invasion and sentenced to prison for five years.  I was a bad guy.  I was no saint.  I had five children out of wedlock, some of whom I abandoned.  If you had killed me back then, it would have been no great loss to humanity or my family.

In 2013, after leaving prison, I started to turn my life around.  I had kicked my drug addiction and I decided to devote my life to helping others.  I wanted to lead a more Christian life and help other young men do the same.  In 2014, I moved to Minneapolis to find work and new opportunities for my new life.  People called me the “Gentle Giant” because I would not hurt a flea.  I could easily have hurt at least two of those cops who grabbed me if I had wanted to.  I went down without a struggle.  I was 46 years old and things were looking up when I died.

8:08 PM – 14 Minutes to Live

It was May 25th, 2020.  It started off much as any day might.  Like many Americans, I had lost my job due to the Covid-19 Virus.  I was thinking about where I might find some other job opportunities.  I spent some time talking to my girlfriend and took some pain killers for a low back ache problem that I had.  I watched some sports on TV.  Later that day, I decided to take a drive with a couple of friends to a nearby market to get some cigarettes.  The weather was clear.  It was around 8 PM and the local temperature was 76 degrees.

I went into the market.  I picked out my favorite brand of cigarettes and paid the store clerk with a twenty-dollar bill.  I walked out to my car, got in and was sitting in the car talking to my friends when the store clerk and another guy comes running up to my car and starts demanding that I give him his cigarettes back.  He is also telling me to give him my phone.  He is hard to understand, and I do not know why he is demanding that the cigarettes be returned.  I decided to just ignore him and hope he will go away.

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The next thing I know is that two cops are banging on my car window and telling me to put my hands on the steering wheel.  One cop has his gun drawn and is pointing it at me. The rest of the events happened so fast that they are hard to describe.  I am trying to ask, “What have I done?”  I do not want to seem resistant and I am trying to comply with the demands that the police are making while I am also trying to find out what I have done.  Next, I am told that I am under arrest.  What is happening?  What did I do?  What am I being arrested for?  I am then handcuffed and pushed to the police car.  I am as compliant as I can be, but the handcuffs hurt and my whole world is one big confusion.

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Then things go from bad to worse.  One officer pushes me to the ground and kneels on my neck.  “I can’t breathe.  I can’t breathe.”  I scream this out several times.  I plead for him to take his knee off of my neck.  “Please don’t kill me.”  My pleas are ignored.  “I can’t breathe.”  I think I am dying.  “Mama.”  I know that I am dying.  “Mama.”

I died at 8:22 PM but the officer did not take his knee off my neck until 8:27 PM.  He had kept his knee on my neck for 8 minutes and 24 seconds.  What did I do?  Why did they murder me?  I was only 46 years old and my life was just beginning to come together.  What did I do to deserve such a fate?  Did God not forgive me for my former transgressions?  Was it because I was a Black man?  Do White people really hate and despise all Black people?

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They buried me on June 9, 2020 in Houston Texas where I grew up.  I am amazed at all the people that attended my funeral.  Life sure is funny.  Thirty years ago, I had a dream.  I was 16 years old and when a friend asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I said “I want to touch the world.”  Now I see that I have touched the world.  I did not think I would have to die to do it though, but in one sense it is a cheap price to pay.

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The life of a Black person in America is never easy.  Institutionalized racism, personal racism, prejudice, and discrimination are woven into the very fabric of our daily lives.  From the economic sphere to the social sphere it is difficult for a Black person to rise above the hatred and bigotry that surrounds them.  Few if any White people understand what it is like to be loathed because of the color of your skin.

I go now to find God.  I want to know if it will ever end.  I want to know why God allows it to happen.  Will there ever be a day in America when a Black person can walk down a street and not be judged by the color of his or her skin?

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Once Upon a Time, I thought I knew Everything.

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The older I get, the less I know.  Isn’t it supposed to work the other way around?  A friend of mine, Jerry, gave me this quote from Bertrand Russell the other day “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”  The Greek philosopher Socrates was once proclaimed to the wisest man in the world. The day before he died, Socrates declared that he knew nothing.  On that same day, the Oracle at Delphi was asked “Who is the wisest man in the world?”  She replied “Socrates is the wisest man in the world.”  This was reported back to Socrates who said “When I was young, I knew everything but now I know nothing.”  The Oracle, who was never wrong, was asked “How can Socrates be the wisest man in the world when he knows nothing?” She replied “Only the wisest man in the world would know that he knows nothing and have the courage and humility to admit it.”

Facts

We go to school to learn many facts and figures.  We study history to learn the story of humanity, we study physics to learn the theory of the cosmos, we study biology to learn how animals grow and develop and we study science so we will know how the world really works.  We learn more and more and are coerced into theories and opinions and positions.  We become more and more certain that we are wiser and smarter.

The more degrees that are conferred on us, the smarter we are supposed to be.  If we are really smart, we begin to feel that all of these facts and data bits are not really helping us to understand the world.  The older most of us get and the more learned most of us become, the more we suspect that there are no truths to the world.  We begin to see that there are always truths behind the truths that we think we have found.  Our profundities become curiosities as we age until at some point they wither away and become obsolete.  How many theories have you seen that were proven wrong?  How many times have you had to eat humble pie because something you were absolutely positively sure about was proven conclusively wrong?

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I remember seeing a picture in the paper the other day of a man accused of sexually molesting a young girl.  He was accused of pedophilia and charged with a felony offense.  I took one look at the visage staring out of the paper at me and promptly proclaimed “If there were ever a guy who was a pedophile, he sure is.”  A few weeks later, a more complete investigation proved him completely innocent of all offenses and the young girl admitted that she made the story up for some unknown reason.  I was beyond having egg on my face.  You would think that at my age, I would have learned to avoid a rush to judgment.  I can make no excuses for my blatant stupidity.

Every few months, the media finds some new tragedy or murder case to focus on.  A few years ago it was the Trayvon Martin case.  It seemed that every day we were confronted with some new facts that supported a change in who the media wanted us to think was guilty.  Trayvon initiated the encounter.  Zimmerman initiated the encounter.  Trayvon provoked Zimmerman.  Zimmerman provoked Trayvon.  Trayvon was a good kid.  Zimmerman was a good guy loved by all of his friends.  Trayvon was a racist.  Zimmerman was a racist.

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Tapes, witnesses, photo enlargements, medical information, acoustic information, video tapes, the entire gamut was presented daily with one expert after another telling us what they think.   This same scenario plays itself out over and over again in the media.  The “crime of the century” has been replaced by the “crime of the week.”

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Each day regardless of what news we read or what cable show we watch, it appears we know more and more about less and less.  What are we doing here folks?  Are they looking for truth or are they selling papers?  Are we voyeurs to some weird witch hunt?  Are we taking sides so we can become right?  If so, we will truly have become a Roman Circus instead of a civilized society of laws and courts and presumptions of innocence until proven guilty.

If we can somehow get pass this media circus that pretends to convey the truth,  there are lessons that we need to learn.  If you remember the famous story Rashomon, you may realize that truth is often a matter of perspective and not hard cold facts.

Time for Questions: 

What can you help do to overcome the types of bias and prejudice that the media often promotes?  How can you avoid your own “rush to judgment?”  What does it mean to “judge not others, less you be judged yourself.”  How often do we see the mote in others eyes but ignore the pole in our own?

Life is just beginning.

“We live in a culture where everyone’s opinion, view, and assessment of situations and people spill across social media, a lot of it anonymously, much of it shaped by mindless meanness and ignorance.”  — Mike Barnicle

Old Times There Are Not Forgotten!

The lyrics from the title song above were written by Daniel Decatur Emmett.  One well known verse is:

I wish I was in Dixie, Hooray!  Hooray!

In Dixie’s Land I’ll take my stand

to live and die in Dixie.

Away, away, away down south in Dixie.

Away, away, away down south in Dixie.

Ironically this song was written by a Northerner and first sung in New York City in 1859.  The first shot was not fired in the Civil War until April 12, 1861 when the Confederates attacked Fort Sumter.  I often heard this song when I was growing up since my mother and I were both born in Alabama.

farm roadsI was born in Fairfield, Alabama and my grandparents had a farm in Ensley, Alabama.  Years later and the farm is now ancient history and Ensley is a bunch of suburban homes adjacent to Birmingham.  The cow paths, chicken barn, pig sties and goat pens are long gone.  The rolling dirt road that once led to the Farmers Grain and Feed store is now a paved two lane highway leading to Walmart and CVS.  I remember feed millmany trips down this road beside my grandfather who always had a large quart canning jar full of ice and water and wrapped in a towel.  When we arrived at the feed store, he would go in to purchase his feed and buy me an RC Cola from the metal soda box on the front dock.  I would sit on the side of the feed store loading dock while the workers would pack his pickup truck with bags of grain and other assorted farm essentials.   My grandfather would have a brief chat with the workers and we would be on our way back to his farm.

Old Farm

My grandfather and grandmother lived in a Quonset hut that they purchased after the end of WW II.  The hut was all metal and “rooms” were defined by hanging blankets.  I do not remember any doors in the hut except the single door leading outside.  Beyond this door was the path that would take you directly to the outhouse.  Other paths branched off this main path to the barn and various animal areas.  My grandfather and grandmother always lived frugally but they did not scrimp on the food.  Breakfast would be grits, brains, bacon and eggs.  Lunch would be fried chicken with collard greens and large baking powder biscuits.  Supper would be fried potatoes, green beans and either roast pork or perhaps barbecued goat.  Fridays we would eat catfish and okra.  I never tired of my grandmother’s southern cooking.

blast-furnaces-of-a-steel-mill-light-j-baylor-robertsMy grandfather supplemented his meager income by working at the Birmingham Steel mill.  I remember when we would go to Birmingham at night.  The sky would be full of smoke and sparks from the various steel mills in the city.  The steel mills dominated ingot of steelthe city architecture and they owned the night.  As we came closer to one of the mills, we would soon see the large red hot ingots lying on their side cooling off in the mill yard.  Occasionally, we could see the huge ladles of red hot ore pouring out their contents into the casting molds.  Sparks would fly everywhere and cauldron of steelthe night sky would be lit up with flames streaking hundreds of feet into the heavens.  It was almost like a fireworks show that went on night after night.  I left the mills and Alabama when I left home in 1964 thinking that I would probably never see either of them again.  I was wrong though.

One after another each of the five major steel mills in Birmingham shut down, unable to compete with more modern methods of making steel.  Soon there were only large rusted metal cities looming ominously over the landscape but devoid of soul and spirit.  The smoke and flames were gone from the night sky.  Each of the mills were torn down and replaced by shopping centers or parking lots until finally only one of the old mills

Steel Mills Birmingham

Steel Mills Birmingham

remained.  Civic minded leaders in a spirit of trying to capture history decided to turn this last steel mill into a museum.  Later on in my life, I toured this museum and visited the various plant areas but it was not the same anymore.  The plant that had killed hundreds of men and took my grandfather’s left foot was now lifeless.  In my imagination, I could see shadows of the dead men who had sweated in the heat of the blast furnaces and stoked coal to feed the hunger of the ovens for fuel and a growing nation for automobiles.  A steel mill that had once been a dangerous fiery roaring tiger was now simply a large cavernous rusty building that echoed in my mind with the mute sounds of the past.

Years after my first marriage was over, I took my second wife Karen down to Alabama to visit the remnants of the clan that my mother had belonged to.  By this time, my grandparents were dead and most of my aunts and uncles were also deceased.  I had never gone south with my first wife and so it had been years since I had visited Alabama.  Karen and I had taken trips together to several different countries.  We had been to England, Scotland, France, Germany and China.  I warned her that going down South would be a culture shock.  I was not surprised when she later told me that the “culture shock” she experienced in the South and with my relatives was greater than any she had experienced on our overseas trips including China.

Karen said she had heard that the South was still fighting the Civil War but she could not believe what she heard and saw during the trip.  Numerous bumper stickers, ain'tfergettintattoos, hats and t-shirts proclaiming:

  • Hell no, we ain’t forgettin
  • The South will raise again
  • Long live the Confederacy
  • Nathan Bedford Forest: American Patriot
  • Confederate American and proud of it

And of course, she saw numerous Confederate flags hanging from houses, pickup trucks and motorcycles.  We even found a roadside stand where they were selling Confederate memorabilia and a large sign over the stand proudly proclaiming “Heritage Not Hate” as though the Civil War was about mint juleps and the right of slaves to sing and dance all night long.

red neck shirtIt became apparent to me why I never took my first wife to visit my relatives.  Deep down inside, I was both appalled and ashamed at their ideas and behavior.  During our visit Karen and I listened to more prejudice and bigotry then I had heard in years.  I retreated to an almost catatonic state.  I did not once broach the subject of racism or discrimination despite the abundant evidence of its pervasiveness.  My normal outspokenness for intolerance was stilled in the onslaught of insults and harangues that I heard towards Blacks, Mexicans and other minorities.  It was like a Gordian knot of discrimination and I did not know where to start unravelling it.  On our way home, Karen and I discussed our mutual inability to speak out or take any action in the face of this prolific bigotry.  I perhaps more than Karen was embarrassed that I had said and did nothing.  I had become the silent person who fails to speak out.

We can talk about moving on but I don’t think many of us realize how long it takes to change a culture and to really let go and move on.  There have been and continue to be many changes in the Old South.  Slavery has of course ended.  The plantations are gone and Jim Crow rule is finally over.  The Confederate Flag has even been taken down from most Southern State Capitals.  The symbols and icons of the Old South are fast disappearing.  Nevertheless, in the hearts and minds of many Southerners, you can still hear the refrains from Dixie repeating: “Old times there are not forgotten, Look Away, Look Away, Look Away, Dixie Land.”  When it comes to the South, old times there are still not forgotten.

Time for Questions:

Have you ever been down South?  What was your experience?  Do you have any roots in the South? If so, what changes have you seen over the years?  What do you think it will take to make the South forget the Civil War and move on?

Life is just beginning.

“In the South, history clings to you like a wet blanket. Outside your door the past awaits in Indian mounds, plantation ruins, heaving sidewalks and homestead graveyards; each slowly reclaimed by the kudzu of time.”  ― Tim HeatonDon’t Be Ugly:

 

 

 

 

White Privileged Male

privilege

Once upon a time I was a white privileged male.  I had privileges at home.  I had privileges at school.  I had privileges at the bank.  I had privileges in real estate.  I had privileges at work.  I especially had privileges with women, both black and white.

Then along came the 13th amendment.  Then along came the 19th amendment.  Then along came Brown versus the Board of Education.   Then along came Roe versus Wade.  Then along came Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Where have all my privileges gone?

Long time passing

Where have all my privileges gone?

Long time ago.

stop and check picture

Then along came more and more minorities.  Along came the Mexicans; along came the Chinese; along came the Koreans; along came the Japanese; along came the Vietnamese; along came the Hmong; along came the Sudanese; along came the Iranians; along came the Muslims; along came the Buddhists; along came the Hindus.

Where have all my privileges gone?

Minorities have picked them every one

When will they ever be satisfied?

When will they ever be satisfied?

white privilege card

Then along came 911.  Then along came the terrorists.  Then along came Obamacare. Then along came Occupy Wall Street.  Then along came LGBTQ.  Then along came Black Lives Matter.  Then along came #MeToo.

Where have all my privileges gone?

Women and Gays and Liberals and Arabs

 have picked them every one

When will they ever be satisfied?

When will they ever be satisfied?

colorblind-thought

Now they are coming for the Second Amendment.  They want my guns.  They want to take the rest of my privileges away from me.  But I won’t go down without a battle.

  • When guns are allowed, only outlaws will have guns.
  • Guns don’t kill people, people do.
  • You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead hands.
  • Only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

fear

I need my guns because I am afraid.  My fear breeds self-hatred.  My self-hatred gets turned on others.  I despise the world.  I hate you.  I hate anyone different.  I hate minorities.  I hate women.  I hate liberals.  I hate homosexuals.  I hate those who have more than me.

Where have all my privileges gone?

When will they ever return?

When will they ever return?

Time for Questions:

 What is the golden rule?  Do we apply it to only those people who are like us?  What did Christ mean when he said, “Love everyone, Love your enemies?” Do we practice tolerance and kindness to only people who look like us?  When do we accept others who are different?

Life is just beginning.

 “Tradition has it that whenever a group of people has tasted the lovely fruits of wealth, security, and prestige, it begins to find it more comfortable to believe in the obvious lie and accept that it alone is entitled to privilege.” — Steven Biko

 

 

 

The Inadequacy Paradigm

dreamstime_xs_19665640
Have you ever felt that you were not pretty enough, smart enough, coordinated enough, talented enough, handsome enough, strong enough or fast enough?  If so, you were suffering from the “inadequacy paradigm.”  A paradigm is a model or template for thought or behavior.  Feeling inadequate is one of the major paradigms of American society.  The marketplace wants you to feel inadequate because then they can sell you products and services that will make you feel “ADEQUATE.”

hqdefaultThere are beauty products, breast enhancements, hair implants, plastic surgery, expensive cars, perfume, jewelry, large homes, designer clothes, college degrees and many other products or services designed to help you feel less inadequate and more adequate.  We all want to feel adequate which means we must somehow learn to escape or jettison our inadequacy paradigms.  The marketplace strategy involves spending huge amounts of money on a regular basis to escape the “inadequacy paradigm.”  This strategy is often a failure as money and products cannot provide for real happiness or address some of the cultural biases, prejudices, racism and bigotry that contribute to the “inadequacy paradigm.”

“A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends.”Henry A. Wallace

When I was growing up in New York City during the fifties, many of the popular singers were Italian.  There was Fabian, Frankie Avalon, Connie Francis, Dion, Dean Martin and many others.  Most of the famous male singers had traditional Italian good looks being tall dark and handsome.  My father (6’ 4” tall) fit this model but my mother was Irish.  I (much to my chagrin) took after my mother.  I was short (5’ 8”) light skinned, brown thin hair with very nondescript looks.  No woman ever looked at me twice in high school.  I did inherit a good brain and cannot attest which side it came from.  Nevertheless, brainy nerdy intellectual guys had no more demand among the attractive high school girls in the fifties and sixties than they do now.  Beauty would seem to always trump brains in our society.

Now there are many different aspects or subdivisions of the “inadequacy paradigm.”  There is a division for Blacks, Latinos, women, disabled, intellectuals, old people and of course poor people.  If you belong to any one or more of these categories there are special rules that will be directed to you to help you feel even more inadequate than average. (Racism and Xenophobia create their own paradigms of inadequacy which go well beyond Madison Avenue but are supplemented by Madison Avenue to a large degree).  As a White male growing up in an Italian neighborhood, my complaints will not doubt seem trivial to individuals in these other “inadequacy categories.”  Let’s look at each group and see if we can perhaps walk a mile in their shoes.  What would it be like if you were in one of these other categories.  Now, one caveat must be shared.  If you are White and rich, you will probably be able to escape the most noticeable effects of the “inadequacy paradigm.”  For rich White folks, money provides a means to ameliorate the more consequential effects of inadequacy.  Money can’t buy you love but it can buy you many other things to make you feel better.

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African Americans:

What is it like growing up Black in America in the 21st Century?  Has years of Affirmative Action, Civil Rights and even a Black President mitigated the effects of the “inadequacy paradigm” for our African American citizens?

I decided to approach a Black man who was walking down my street.  I started to walk towards him and I yelled out “Hey, I need to talk to you.”  He immediately threw up his hands, laid on the ground and starting shouting “Hands up, don’t shoot.”  I hollered out “I am not a cop.”  He got to his feet and said “Sorry, just an instinctive reaction.  How can I help you?”  “Well, I said, I just wanted to ask you what it was like being “Black in America today?”

Brian Lipscomb, IT Professional and Web Programmer/Website Designer

“Once I got off a trolley in downtown Philadelphia and accidentally bumped into an older White woman.  She immediately said “Here! Take my purse! Just don’t hurt me!” I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that she thought I was going to rob her.  When walking down the street, if a White woman is walking in my direction, they often cross the street or clutch their purse more tightly as I approach.  I guess I’m numb to it now, because I expect it.  I think that’s the sad part. There is nothing post-racial about our society.  Racism and prejudice have just become more subtle, more nuanced.”

Latinos:

Many Latino people in the USA have been residents since before the Pilgrims arrived.  With the annexation of Mexican Territory after the Mexican American War and the subsequent Gadsden purchase, many former Mexican citizens elected to become American Citizens.  The border between Mexico and the US was porous for many years with much travel back and forth.

Many Mexican Americans have families and friends still living in Mexico.  There has always been a White bias towards Mexican Americans and others from south of the border but recently this bias seems to have escalated.  Part of the reason for this lies in the drug wars but much of it is rooted in a xenophobia directed to Latinos who do not have traditional Northern European customs.   Latinos have become an increasingly larger segment of the population in many Southwestern cities.

But what is it like being a Latino?  We know that with the election of Donald Trump and his talk of building a border wall and deporting “Latino Rapists” that he has fanned the fears of xenophobia common among many Southwestern Whites.  There is no doubt that numerous Latino people residing in the Southwest and other parts of the USA are now uncertain about their future as US citizens.

Brittany Escalera, College Student

“Being born in the United States, I am automatically a citizen.  I am an American.  But according to society, I’m “too” Mexican to be American.  My complexion is too dark to be American.  My dark hair and dark eyes are too Mexican to be American. I’m Mexican, therefore, I can’t be American…. Yet it’s not always just the language barrier that is a struggle, there are constantly stereotypes and racial slurs being put on us everyday.  Being from the south, I had to work extra hard at breaking this.  No not all Mexican’s are illegal.  Sorry Trump, we are not all the criminals, drug dealers and rapists that you claim us to be.”

Women:

Of course, I cannot speak for being a Woman in America.  But I do not have to be female to see that Women must also suffer from the “inadequacy paradigm.”

“As Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant pointed out in a recent New York Times op-ed, when male executives speak up, they receive 10% higher competence ratings; when female executives do the same, their ratings from their peers are 14% lower.  Similarly, when male employees offer ideas, they receive higher performance evaluations; when women offer the same ideas, managers’ perceptions of their performance remain unchanged.”  — What’s holding women back?

If the bias in the workplace is not bad enough to insult many women, the bias they face in the home is even worse.  The rates of domestic abuse and rape in American society are shameful.  But perhaps the worse indicator of the “inferiority paradigm” for women lies in the number of women who think they deserve such treatment.

“The cultural acceptance of spousal abuse can be so pervasive that in some countries, large majorities of women say it’s acceptable.  In Rwanda, 96 percent of women say the practice can be justified, according to the World Values Survey.  About two-thirds of women in India and South Africa feel the same way.  The attitude is also held by large shares of women in countries across the religious and cultural spectra — China, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines and Uzbekistan, to cite a few. 

Even in countries where the vast majority of women don’t approve of spousal abuse, the share that do find it potentially acceptable isn’t exactly tiny.  It’s about 1 in 10 in the U.S. and about 1 in 5 in Germany.”  — Alarming Number Of Women Think Spousal Abuse Is Sometimes OKNURITH AIZENMAN

Many women are now worried in the USA due to the election of a President who openly bragged about his right to grab a women’s “pussy” because he was rich and privileged.  Many of his supporters were men and women who belong to fundamentalist religions that believe women have no place in politics or in the business world and that their only role is to bear children for men.  Thus, after years of battling to achieve equality with men, women now face the prospect of losing many of the hard-earned rights that they fought for and won.

Disabled:

One of my best friends committed suicide about a year ago.  He was a Cerebral Palsy victim who had dedicated his life to helping fight for more rights for disabled people.  He walked crablike and had to use walking sticks to keep his balance.  His head was always cocked at an odd angle due to his disability.  He was two years younger than I was and died at the age of 67.  Brian took his own life because he could fast see a time approaching when he would no longer be able to live on his own.  Brian was a fiercely independent man who struggled to obtain dignity in a society that does not always respect people who are disabled.

I first saw Brian when he would come into the town bakery to buy donuts or for lunch.  I was usually sitting with a bunch of locals who knew Brian and several had gone to school with Brian.  I was uncomfortable with the way they seemed to greet Brian and their response towards him.  It became disagreeable enough to me that I stopped my morning coffee sessions with this group.  Instead, I found a group of people at the library who met for coffee each day.  Brian was among the group at the library and we became good friends.

Brian told me many stories of how he was treated as though he was mentally disabled rather than physically disabled.  On several occasions that we went out together, it was clear that people wanted to avoid dealing with Brian.  For Brian, it must have felt like being a leper.  I am sure that much of the bias towards Brian was not intentionally hateful.  Nevertheless, it still was difficult for Brian to deal with.  Brian wanted to be treated as a normal person and not someone with a disability.  His strong desire to be normal ultimately led to his ending his life.

The following chart shows the changes in employment for disabled people in the USA since 1991.  Notice the “progress” is backwards.

150724154758-disabled-worker-employment-780x439

Intellectuals:

99632_origIf you have not read Hofstadter’s “Anti-Intellectualism in America Life” I heartily recommend it. I have often joked that the worst discrimination in America seems to be saved for people who think.  Many companies trumpet their desire for “out of the box” thinkers.  This is usually nothing more than a well parroted display of self-deception.  What Human Resources and the company are really looking for is “people who fit in.”  People who are iconoclasts, people who are critical thinkers, people who rock the boat “need not apply here.”

Intellectuals include nerds, free thinkers, geeks and anyone who works with ideas as opposed to building things or throwing things.  Academics are often lumped in with this category since most people assume an academic to be a brilliant thinker.  This is very often a misplaced assumption.  People in the arts including music and theater are often very intellectual but they somehow manage to escape the opprobrium reserved for pure thinkers.

If you think I am exaggerating on the bias that is reserved for intellectuals, you should turn on any right wing talk show like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity and listen to them for a while. It won’t be long before they are attacking commie pinko faggot intellectuals for all the problems in America.

“There is a great superficiality in today’s evangelical world.  Many Bible-believing Christians share the contemporary case for self-gratification, emotionalism, and anti-intellectualism. Many people who believe in the Bible have never read it.” — Gene Edward Veith Jr.

I must mention one of the dumbest stupid-ass TV shows I have ever seen.  It is the epitome of anti-intellectualism in America today.  It is called the “Big Bang Theory.”  It is supposedly about genius and of course the geniuses in this show have Ph.D.’s but absolutely no common sense or interpersonal skills. They are also geeky with no athletic skills and about zero muscle mass on their puny frames.  This show portrays how much of America views intellectuals.

“Our big mistake in modern intellectualism is first and foremost its lack of nuance.  We have made science synonymous with atheism – a presupposed conception and yet, another means to non-sequiturs – and therefore, to a number of enthusiasts determined to go the further, anti-theism.  Hereby let us observe that science has long served best and should be, if none other, the one discipline, if at all possible, free of potential ideology, religious or anti-religious, and/or biased presupposition in order to maintain the authenticity and the reliability of its nature.” —–  Criss Jami

Elderly:

Every so often, my wife and I like to go to a Pow Wow.  I remember one of the first we went to and they had a free dinner for all attendees.  As we stood in line waiting our turn to get up to the food table, a young man came up and said “Oh Elders go to the front of the line.”  I said “I am not a Native American.”  He said “It did not matter” and escorted my wife and I to the front of the line with the other Elders.  Other Pow Wows that I have attended have had a special line for Elders.  I was pretty much blown away by this deference.  It was totally unexpected but greatly appreciated.

Many venues and shops have discounts for seniors or “Senior Days” where food is cheaper or there are discounts for those over fifty-five or sixty.  I am not impressed by these as you and I know it has nothing to do with “respect” for the elderly.  It has more to do with getting more of our money.  Respect for the elderly seems to be dwindling the older I get.

Both my wife and I have noticed that increasingly when we go to a clinic anymore with a health problem such as a sore hip or sore shoulder, we often get responses like “Oh, it is just part of getting old, you will just have to live with it.”  Instead of investigating to see if some our problem might be amenable to treatment, we are simply told to more of less “suck it up.”

“There is also a lack of recognition of the positive contributions that elderly people make to society.  The amount of unpaid childcare provided runs into the tens of billions.  Without this form of labor, fewer parents could work and gain fulfillment in their jobs.  Indeed, as some local authorities have recognized the 60 plus generation offer a huge reservoir of untapped energy for the voluntary sector.”  — Why do we treat elderly people so badly?By Paul Donovan

Poor:

The “poor” otherwise known as lazy, drug addicts, stupid, trailer trash, welfare bums, welfare cheats, handout recipients, bag people, curb people and homeless.  The poor in America are thought by many to be poor by choice and not by chance.  This makes it much easier to denigrate them and to blame them for their poverty.  When someone picks their lifestyle, it is much harder to be sympathetic for the choices they have made.

In 1978, I had finished my Master’s Degree in Counseling and I took a position as a Manpower Counselor II with the State of Wisconsin in the Department of Industry Labor and Human Relations or DILHR as it was known then.  My job entailed working with the WIN or Work Incentive Program to help families who were receiving welfare (AFDC or Aid to Families with Dependent Children) find gainful employment so they could get off Welfare.  I also worked with the Indochinese Refugee Assistance Program (IHRAP) and the Labor Education and Advancement Program (LEAP) to help mainly Southeast Asian refugees in the IHRAP program and women and minorities in the LEAP program find jobs.  I worked with several other job training programs as well.  The bottom line of all my programs and effort was to help people find employment by which they would become self-sufficient.

Now there are two interesting points I want to make gleaned from my two years working in these programs with mostly poor and under-privileged people.

  1. None of the programs really went far enough in their benefits or stipends or financial assistance to really help as much as was needed by my clients.

I am not going to say that many benefits were not helpful.  We could offer financial incentives to employers, daycare benefits, transportation help and even some educational benefits.  These were in addition to the monthly welfare checks that many families were receiving.  Nevertheless, the key to getting off welfare was to provide enough education to help the client to break out of the cycle of poverty.  Only education would help those who wanted to climb the proverbial “ladder of opportunity.”  Unfortunately, the ladders that were being provided never seemed to have enough rungs in them.  Whether through stupidity, frugality or simply underestimating what was needed, many people could not get enough help to break out of poverty.

  1. Ninety Percent of my clients wanted to get off Welfare.

There is a pernicious and vicious myth that most people on Welfare like it and want to stay on it.  Nothing, could be further from the truth.  I worked with hundreds of Welfare clients and the clear majority (90 percent or better) wanted to find a good job and become self-sufficient.

Yes, I encountered some Welfare cheats and some Welfare dependent people who had little or no incentive to gain employment and lose their Welfare checks.  However, these were a small minority of the clients that I saw in my two years working with the WIN program.   Even these individuals often had severe handicaps either physically or mentally which would have made holding gainful employment near impossible.  The average person does not realize how many barriers and hardships face some of the poor in this country.

“Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth… these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.Ban Ki-moon

Conclusions:

inadequacy-cropWe have a pervasive problem that I labeled the “Inadequacy Paradigm.”  Much of it is caused by racism, xenophobia, prejudice, stereotypes and bigotry.  The majority of it is systemic and will need major changes in policies and institutions in this country to eliminate.  However, it is felt on a very personal level.  Feelings of inadequacy may be conveyed by others and cultural mores but they are received by an individual who assimilates these feelings into their psyche.  Thus, inadequacy becomes a personal problem and not simply a social problem.  Inadequacy is not “out there” it is right inside.  The vast numbers of suicides in our society are testament to the inadequacy that many of our fellow citizens feel.   This includes Whites as well as minorities.

  • Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the USA
  • 44,000 people die every year by suicide (2015)
  • White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2015.

What can we do to overcome these problems?  Clearly education and social support systems must be developed and deployed.  If we see the problem of inadequacy as something that is “not my problem” nothing will be done.  We have people who refuse to spend one dime of their taxes to help others because of selfishness and greed.  We have many who want to label America as a Christian nation, but they do not practice Christianity.

Any church that does not practice tolerance for the oppressed, charity for the poor and compassion for the needy, regardless of what religion they belong to, should not call themselves a Christian church.  They should call themselves a HATE church.  Hate leads to prejudice and bigotry and these are the primary factors in the Inadequacy Paradigm.  Destroy prejudice and bigotry and we will create a society with many more well-adjusted people.

Time for Questions:

What makes you feel inadequate?  Why?  What do you do about it?  How do you think you could help others who feel inadequate?

Life is just beginning.

“I have had to experience so much stupidity, so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow, just in order to become a child again and begin anew.  I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths, to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace.”  — Hermann Hesse

 

 

The Fallacy of the DOUBLE STANDARD.

politicallly incorrectWe have a concept called the Double Standard which denotes a situation wherein some behavior is generally thought of as unfair, inequitable or simply wrong.  It is a much used term employed by sexists and racists.  It is generally used as an argument against some actions being taken on behalf of a minority or other exploited group.  Such groups include immigrants, women, children, the poor, Native Americans, Blacks, Latinos and many other underprivileged groups or groups wherein an asymmetrical relationship exists with the dominant power group.  Let me give you an example before I define some terms.

black versus white racism.pngA friend was arguing about the laws impacting the actions that business owners may or may not take in terms of delivering service to customers.  The recent spate of arguments by the so called “Christian” Right against serving gays and other minorities whose religion or beliefs they disagree with was the spur or nucleus of his rant.  He made the following analogy.  “Suppose a Black man went into a White baker to have a birthday cake made and he was refused service?  What do you think would happen he argued?”  The reply given by his audience was, “It would probably be seen as discriminatory or perhaps even illegal.”   He then argued, “Ok, so suppose a KKK member went into a Black baker and asked for a cake made for a KKK celebration and he was refused.  What do you think would happen?”  I replied that this seemed like an argument “reductio ad absurdum” or something taken to the extreme absurd.  His argument was that it was not ridiculous and such situations are typical of the differences between how Blacks and Whites are now treated in our country or that a “Double Standard” exists.

This argument of a Double Standard is a very popular one and one that it seems most people take at face value to assume is characteristic of bad or incorrect behavior.  In fact, a double standard is not wrong in an asymmetrical relationship.  In such a relationship, it is in fact a highly logical and moral standard.  Let me define some terms before I give you some evidence of why, when and how a double standard makes sense.

A Double Standard is defined as:

  • A situation in which two people, groups, etc., are treated very differently from each other in a way that is unfair to one of them
  • A set of principles that applies differently and usually more rigorously to one group of people or circumstances than to another; especially:  a code of morals that applies more severe standards of sexual behavior to women than to men.  — On-line Merriam Webster Dictionary.

In an article on Fallacies the following comment is made:

“There are many situations in which you should judge two things or people by the same standard.  If in one of those situations you use different standards for the two, your reasoning contains the Fallacy of Using a Double Standard.”

You will note that in none of the above descriptions do the definitions say anything about the equality or inequality of the relationships between either the things or the people whom the double standard is allegedly applied to.  None of the authors raise the question of whether or not a Double Standard applies to relationships that are unequal or asymmetrical.   What is an asymmetrical relationship?

Merriam Webster defines the term asymmetrical with the following definition:

  • Having two sides or halves that are not the same : not symmetrical

Applying the concept to relationships between people or groups of people can be misleadingly simple.  A few quick examples are age, weight and height.  Thus, no one would think that giving a small child only a small piece of cake and a large piece to an adult would be unfair or a double standard.  Similarly, no one would think a curfew for a young child was unfair when an older child could stay out later.  Nevertheless, in both these examples, we have a double standard.  However, here is where the concept gets trickier.  What if the differences between the two people or two groups are not so obvious or what if the differences are based on ethnicity, income or social status?

Bush-Obama-Islam-ver3What if you were very poor and you were going out with a very rich person?  Suppose you gave gifts to each other on your birthdays.  You gave a modest low budget gift from Walmart to your loved one.  She/he in turn gave you an all-expense paid two week trip to Paris.  Would you scream and yell that this was an unfair double standard?  Unfair because you could not possible meet such a standard on your much lower income?  You might want to argue that the example I have provided is ridiculous.  However, it is no more ridiculous an example that many of the examples given by opponents of civil rights, affirmative action, equal pay, immigration laws, welfare and other measures to help create a more equitable society.  (PC opponents are often guilty of such ignorance and there are numerous situations wherein they perceive that Political Correctness has created an unfair Double Standard.)

The point missed either through ignorance or convenience by such opponents is the issue of the asymmetry of relationships.  A Double Standard in an asymmetrical relationship is essential to provide equity.  Since the relationships are not equal, there can be no question of a generalized equal treatment in all areas.  To insist on such “equal treatment” is both stupid and in effect discriminatory.   We still have two problems though.

DOUBLE-STANDARDS-29-PHOTOS-8a165b628ff99e559127aa8359a86573First:  on what basis do we decide the symmetry of a relationship?  Should we be looking at power, wealth, status, employment or opportunities as measures of symmetry?  Second, when and how do we decide that relationships have become symmetrical and no longer need a Double Standard?  Both of these questions are very difficult but they are also both critical since unless they are ultimately answered, the perception of unfairness will hover over any relationships where a Double Standard exists.  This of course leads to such accusations as “reverse racism” and even claims that “Today White people are the real people being discriminated against.”  (See 4 ‘Reverse Racism’ Myths That Need To Stop or Why isn’t there a White History Month?!”)

florida double standardsThe answer to the first question concerning metrics for determining symmetry is fairly easy.  We need to look at metrics that will help to create a fair and just society.  If we are attempting to create a level playing field for all groups in our country, then we must consider any measures that will help us to obtain this goal.  There are measures for income, jobs, opportunities, education, incarceration and health that have and should be used to apply Double Standards when they will help to level the playing field.

How will we know when the playing field is level?  This should be pretty obvious. The same metrics should tell us when incomes and equality in this country are equal or at least where the divide is not so great as to create serious problems.  When we have a country wherein the top 20% of US households own more than 84% of the wealth, and the bottom 40% combine for a paltry 0.3%, you have a nation that is going to feel cheated and as a result angry.  (Economic Inequality: It’s Far Worse than You Think)

Time for Questions:

Have you ever been in an asymmetrical relationship?  What does fair or equal mean in such a relationship?  Do you think the term “Double Standard” applies in an asymmetrical relationship?  Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

Some “Double Standards” to ponder.

“When a man gives his opinion, he’s a man. When a woman gives her opinion, she’s a bitch.”  ― Bette Davis

“For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.” ― Noam Chomsky

“I spend some of my time brooding about people who seem addicted to double standards – those who take an allegedly principled stand on a Monday, then switch firmly to the opposite principle on Tuesday if it is to their advantage.” — John Leo

 

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