Friday, October 3, 2014

Talking About Jim Crow: The conversation that America has never had

Slavery is certainly at the core of racism in the U.S. but I think that the overt manifestation of racism became firmly entrenched as a part of American culture in the post-civil war era with the implementation of Jim Crow laws (racial segregation laws enacted between 1876 and 1965 in the United States at the state and local level). At least a credible argument can be made that slavery had roots in the economic infrastructure of the South. Jim Crow was just plain meanness, a legalized system of hate and disenfranchisement. Racial hatred based purely on skin color. (Examples of Jim Crow Laws by state)

For a brief period following the Civil War, there was an effort to educate former slaves and their children. For a brief period, there was an effort to offer some level of reparations via land and housing. Former slaves were even elected to political office but after nursing its hurt feelings and bruised ego, the South released its wrath against anyone of African descent and enacted laws to take away what little advances had been achieved and Jim Crow became more powerful and widespread than slavery had ever been. Owning slaves had been the luxury of the landowners, the landed gentry. Anyone with white skin could be superior to the new underclass of blacks.  

The implementation of Jim Crow is the something rotten in the U.S. It's what no one wants to acknowledge, that racism isn't some remnant left over from slavery; racism was created and nurtured to ensure that black people remained only a step above chattel, no longer bought and sold but still deemed inferior to even the poorest of whites.  Jim Crow cast us as the underclass, and denied us all access to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

The dialogue that needs to begin is about the post slavery era of Jim Crow. There are still plenty of us around who lived under Jim Crow laws and also plenty of white Americans who benefitted from Jim Crow laws.  Invariably when there are discussions about racism in mixed company, someone white will question why we (black people) keep talking about slavery. The commentary goes something like this, "It's long been over and done with and no one is still alive who owned slaves or was a slave." 

True, and I have no desire to talk about slavery. What I want to talk about is my childhood, my adolescence, my young adulthood and the laws that restricted where I played, went to school, went out to eat, went to the hospital, received medical care, where and how I traveled, where I sat in the movie theater (assuming it admitted me at all) and every other aspect of my life and the lives of all the black people that I knew. It's a lengthy and long overdue conversation and this country still hasn't engaged in it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Spare the Rod and Raise a Happy, Well-Balanced Child

There was a time when electro-shock therapy was used to treat mental illness. We figured out eventually that it really wasn't effective therapy and did more harm than good, so we stopped using it. We judge all the time. If you have any ethical or moral code at all then you make judgments as to what is right and what is wrong. 

As a people, we were shackled and beaten for generations. Why do some of us insist on embracing corporal punishment as appropriate discipline for the weakest and smallest among us--our children? If you hit a child hard enough to hurt that child, it's abuse. People will intervene if they see an adult kick a dog; yet there are people who insist it's none of my business if I observe a child being hit. 

Michael Vick went to jail, did time for being the money behind a dog fighting ring and I didn't hear a whole lot of people coming to his defense or protesting his punishment. Adrian Peterson beat his four-year old with a switch and there are those of you who want to declare that it's nobody's business except Peterson's how he disciplines his son.

Children deserve to grow up without fear and tears. Using paddles, switches, belts etc. is barbaric and a sign of a parent who doesn't have a clue about child rearing. Simply having sex and giving birth does not make anyone a parent. Parenting requires thought and care.

Ever considered that some of the black on black violence that still occurs far too often may have something to do with a philosophy that beating a child is the way to discipline a child. I have two siblings and none of us were ever beaten as children. We were disciplined--had toys taken away temporarily, sat in the corner for a time out and were told that being selfish, cruel, and mean to others was wrong. None of us had any problem staying on the straight and narrow path.

I am tired of hearing black people who define us in terms of having a belief in whooping our children. Why would any of us want to perpetuate the violence that was done to our ancestors by teaching our little ones that if you're an adult, you can hit children? The dumbest thing that I've ever seen is a young parent wailing on the behind of a small child who just hit another child and loudly declaring with each blow, "We don't hit!"

If we don't start talking about these issues honestly, the violence will continue to repeat itself and eventually destroy us. That is unacceptable. Ask yourself, what are you accomplishing when you hit a child? If violence works so well, why don't we just beat adults when they break the law? Some countries still have public floggings.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Make a Mighty Roar for Justice

I don't know if Michael Brown robbed a convenience store. Ferguson, Missouri Police Chief Tom Jackson says that Brown is the person in a video from a convenience store who stole cigars valued at $49 and shoved an employee who tried to block him from leaving the store with the stolen cigars. Chief Jackson acknowledges that the officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Brown didn't initially stop Brown and his companion as robbery suspects but because they were walking in the street, also known as jaywalking.

What I do know is that even the Ferguson police chief has not disputed that Brown was unarmed when he was shot.  Whoever is in the video did not use a gun to rob the convenience store. However, the issue isn't did Brown rob the store; the issue is that an unarmed teenager was shot down in the streets, when by all eyewitness accounts, he had his hands raised in the universal sign of surrender.

If Michael Brown did rob the convenience store, does that make him deserving of being shot down in the street? Is the life of anyone worth so little that petty theft is a justification for taking it? A boy on the cusp of manhood was shot down, killed because ...? 

There's the puzzle, why was he killed? Why does he join a line of young, unarmed victims, mostly black males, shot down by people professing to be afraid or threatened by the very presence of these young people? Why do so many of the comments following the media accounts of these deaths repeat the same old lies about how violent black people are and what thugs we are? There are entire websites dedicated to making up statistics about alleged black on white crime, detailing lurid tales about black males sexually assaulting white women and beating white men. (see for example New Nation News or Violence Against Whites which cites to a dead link purporting to be the FBI crime statistics website)

However, the crime data collected annually by the FBI presents a very different story; not a single shred of data backs up these claims. The majority of violent crime, including murder is intraracial--taking place between people from the same racial and/or ethnic group. (see statistical data collected by the FBI and the US Department of Justice)

The hatemongers aren't a majority, just a very loud minority. Those of us who know better must continue to speak loudly, as many of you are already doing. We have to counter the messages that encourage and nourish bigotry of all types. We have to steadily and consistently avow that all humankind is created equal with certain unalienable rights. We have to say "no more" to this ongoing waste of human potential. We have the numbers; all we need to do is make a mighty roar in support of justice, fairness, and equality for all.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Like Oil & Water: Civil Rights and Majority Rule

A good friend posted an article about the recent 4th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruling that Virginia's ban on same sex marriage is unconstitutional. Our home state of North Carolina is also in the Fourth Circuit's jurisdiction and our State Attorney General, Roy Cooper, has announced that his office will no longer oppose challenges to North Carolina's constitutional amendment making same sex marriage illegal. Cooper believes that it's unlikely that NC's anti-gay marriage amendment will survive the court's scrutiny either. 

One of the commenter's on my friend's post was a guy named Jimmy, another North Carolinian, who wrote in reference to North Carolina's constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage: 
"you know I voted against the admendment.....but have a huge problem with the courts overturning will of the people. I took a lot of heat for my stand then and willing to take it now. But hey....sorry the courts are never right for things like this....never...we the people and all that..." (sic) 
And more from Jimmy:
"love the fact when any of the three so plainly violate it as the executive branch seems to do daily...thank God for the courts...I have a hard time when the courts are reviewing state constitutional issues.."
In NC, the proposed amendment was put to a vote of the people and the majority of the 14% who voted in the election, voted to enshrine discrimination based on sexual orientation in our state constitution.

Jimmy, here's the deal. There is no such thing as the majority rules in the U.S. Constitution. To the contrary, the people don't get to decide who has rights and who doesn't. The Constitution is chock full of provisions that make it clear that no group gets to determine whether some people may be discriminated against because a numerical majority voted to do so.

The people voted to amend our state constitution in an effort to legalize discrimination against people who are not heterosexual. That's a violation of the U.S. Constitution and our state constitution. 

If we had allowed the people to decide there's a good chance that women still wouldn't have the right to vote and that my people would still be working for no pay in tobacco and cotton fields across the South.

The Constitution, which you insist you love so much, has this thing called the 14th amendment, adopted as one of the Reconstruction amendments in 1868. The Southern states balked at ratifying it and only did so because it was the only way for them to regain representation in Congress, with them being treasonous traitors and all. My favorite part is Section 1 which is known as the Equal Protection Clause: 
"No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
Every state, including NC, that has passed an anti-gay law or amended its constitution to prohibit gay marriage is in violation of that Constitution that you profess to hold so dear. If the Virginia court had decided differently I would have been disappointed, angry as hell and frustrated, but not because I just didn't like the decision but because the court would have failed to uphold the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law for us all. There's nothing equal about denying rights to some that we confer on others freely. 

Civil rights and equal protection of the law are not arbitrary perks to be conferred or taken away from anyone based on the will of the majority. It is the job of the judicial system, under the authority of the Constitution, to determine when the people have overstepped our bounds and to say, "Enough!"

Jimmy, you also may want to read up a bit more on judicial review. It has its origins in English common law but in the U.S., legal scholars point to Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803) as establishing the standards of judicial review in the U.S. legal system. The authority of the courts to evaluate state law and federal law is generally attributed to Article III of the U.S. Constitution. There really isn't any legal basis for your feelings: "..I have a hard time when the courts are reviewing state constitutional issues."

Oh and it helps when you're declaring that there are violations of the Constitution by the current administration to name the Article or Amendment or whatever provision you believe to have been violated. A blanket accusation of someone violating the Constitution really is quite meaningless as it has no context. So what part of the Constitution has the Executive branch violated?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Today's Lesson in Recognizing Racism

"A 51-year-old Florida man charged with attempted first-degree murder, among other offenses, refused the help of a public defender on seemingly racial grounds during his first court appearance, WKMG-TV reported on Thursday."

“I said not guilty,” Thomas Thorpe told a judge in Orange County Court. “I pleaded not guilty and I don’t want this negro (sic) standing next to me. I don’t want a negro (sic) standing next to me.”--Arturo Garcia

Hmm, I've gained new insight as to the persistence of the racial divide in this country. Apparently there are people who have difficulty determining when racism is in play. Note how this story is careful to state that the defendant refused assistance from the public defender on "seemingly" racial grounds. Watch the clip from the news; the newscasters also are not sure if Mr. Thorpe was being a racist by announcing that he didn't want a Negro standing next to him.

Perhaps any effort to move to a post racial society should begin with basic instruction in how to recognize racism. Please don't be hurt by this, but the majority of black people will be exempt from these classes as we find it to be an instant indicator of racism when someone announces that he doesn't want a Negro to stand next to him. Especially when that Negro may be all that stands between him and spending the rest of his life in prison. Let's face it; we have superior recognizing racism radar.

By the way, the judge is concerned about Mr. Thorpe's mental fitness and has ordered that he be evaluated as to whether he is mentally fit to stand trial. Thorpe is an idiot, as racists typically are, but it's a stretch to think that spouting racism is an indicator that one is mentally ill and incapable of participating in one's own defense. If expressing racism is a sign of mental illness, we really need to get busy building a lot of new mental health facilities to house the number of unfortunate racists in these United States.

However, the larger issue regarding the ability to recognize racism is a major breakthrough in advancing to Utopia--a post racial society. This uncertainty as to when racism is present explains so much!

I have often heard many white people accuse black people of playing the race card. It's because they didn't see that there was any racism involved in an incident such as the murder of some unarmed black youth by an armed white adult male who claims that he was in fear of his life, until black people pointed it out! Of course they think we made it up because they were unable to see it for themselves!

The problem isn't racism; it's blindness.

Think that I'm wrong? Some white people are quick to assert that they don't see race! That's why they are not racists; they just have Race Blindness Syndrome (RBS). Let's hope that it's curable.

I wonder if anyone has told Mr. Thorpe that he may have to live in a prison cell with a Negro?

Friday, June 20, 2014

On the Road to Equality: Obama Expands Legal Protections for Same-Sex Couples

Friday, June 20, 2014, marked a historic progression on the path to eradicating legalized discrimination against same-sex couples. "The new measures range from Social Security and veteran's benefits to work leave for caring for sick spouses."--Obama Expands Government Benefits for Gay Couples

Well done, President Obama. I only regret the number of people who continue to criticize and insult you on both sides of this issue. You have followed a logical progression of steps to promote equality in the face of extreme opposition from many and constant criticism from others. Somehow, the Courts, and Attorney General Holder have managed to move forward with the spirit of the Constitution's equal protection clause in spite of a recalcitrant Congress and consistently vocal opposition from the conservative right. However, I offer my sympathy most for the uncalled for derogatory comments directed at you by some of those who claim to have once supported you.

I admire your ability to keep your eyes on your goals in spite of the totally undeserved criticism. You have accomplished much--securing congressional repeal of DADT, the expansion of social security benefits to same-sex couples, including survivor and death benefits, coverage under the Family Medical Leave Act for same-sex couples, deciding to stop the Department of Justice from defending DOMA years before SCOTUS struck down part of DOMA in United States v. Windsor, and signing an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Your enemies are already arguing that you have reached beyond the scope of the authority of your office and should be impeached. Your sometimes friends complain that you didn't act soon enough and that you're a liar and a hypocrite. I grow frustrated with your alleged "supporters" more than your detractors; at least the detractors are consistent. I look at results as the measure of success. Mr. President, you have achieved results in promoting equality under the law. I have no idea what some people would like you to do differently. Perhaps they would prefer you to do nothing at all because you didn't act on the timetable to which they wanted you to adhere. After all, six years is...well six years!

You are a much better person than I am. I admit that if I were in your shoes, just once I would say to them all, "Kiss my a$$."

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Donald Sterling and the Low-life Ignorant Racist Club

I've tried to give LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling the benefit of the doubt.  Audio recordings may be altered. His mixed race (Black and Mexican) girlfriend may have released the tape to get even because the Sterling family is suing her, alleging that she has embezzled $1.8 million from the family coffers. Besides, Sterling can clearly tolerate hanging around at least one person of color.

But Donald, there are some things that bother me.

You haven't unequivocally denied the veracity of the audio tape. Instead, a statement has been issued on behalf of you and the Clippers organization declaring that after listening to the tape on TMZ,  "We don't know if it is legitimate or if it has been altered..."  If you don't know what you said, Donald, who does? The updated, extended version of the audio tape is even more horrifying than the initially released clip. It just seems to me that if you didn't say those things you would be shouting your denials via every available media outlet. Instead, you allege that you're unsure as to the authenticity of the tape while proclaiming that you are not a racist. Someone should tell you this--those things that you aren't certain if you said are racist Donald and if you said them, you are a racist. Email me if you need further clarification.

In addition, you've been accused of some pretty racist behaviors in the past. There have been lawsuits against you, Donald. There are multiple witnesses who have attested to you spouting your racist ideology and engaging in racist practices and policies in your business ventures. You haven't been subtle, Donald.

Perhaps you're mentally deranged and have poor eyesight. Haven't you ever noticed that there are a lot of Black people who help you make money in every game in which they play? What about the Black and Hispanic people who pay good money to attend LA Clippers games? 

Your behavior has been disgraceful, Donald, and you need to own up to it and then start making amends. Find something to do with your massive wealth to improve race relations in this country. You have a lot of company in the "low-life ignorant racists club" based on the comments on the stories about your recorded racist meltdown. Become a part of the solution. It's the least that you can do.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Black Is More Than a Skin Color

Dr. Ben Carson
Dr. Ben Carson is the current darling of the Tea Party Republicans. They eagerly lap up the lies and distortions of their anointed "black" leaders such as Dr. Carson. 

I question their motivations for the seeming adulation that they confer on Carson. I have this theory that the Tea Party Republicans (TPRs) love Dr. Ben Carson because it's politically expedient to do so. Poor TPRs have been accused of racism on more than one occasion, and they have vehemently protested that there is not a racist bone in any of their bodies. Of course, it doesn't help their cause that they display images of the President and the First Lady as monkeys and apes, and frequently aver that the President should be impeached for being uppity enough to believe that his office puts him in charge of this country.

Here's the clever part. The TPRs have figured out if they have their own black folks, in limited numbers of course, then they can refute the accusations of racism and proudly declare, "We have our own black people; we're not racists!"

Carson, Herman Cain, Alan Keyes, Allen West, Michael Steele etc. are the proud proof offered by the TPRs that in spite of their failure to do anything to address the disproportionate poverty that impacts people of color in the U.S., including black people, and their repeatedly declared opposition to any efforts to address the economic inequities that are as American as apple pie, they are not racists.

Whoop-ti-do! I have news for the TPRs; being black is more than a skin color. Just because someone's skin is cafe au lait or dark ebony doesn't make them a black person. Black is a state of mind. Black is surviving and growing strong in spite of the yoke around your neck. Black is not living in the past but it is about turning your eyes on that past and seeing it unfiltered and real. Black is believing and knowing that we shall overcome someday. Black is grabbing on to today and turning it into someday.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

All Opinions Are Not Equal

What's up with news stories with totally inaccurate attention grabbing headlines? 

For the past couple of days, headlines have proclaimed some variation of the following headline, Obamacare Will Cost 2.5M Workers by 2024. However, if you read the articles, it becomes clear that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) did not conclude that the ACA was a causative factor in the decrease of workers. The CBO concluded the reduction in worker hours was almost entirely because of workers choosing to work less. According to the CBO report, “The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in business’ demand for labor."

The problem is straightforward. A lot of people never read past a story's headline so their conclusions are based on a misleading headline. Some of those who read the article have poor reading comprehension skills and come away still believing that the ACA will cause 2.5 million people to lose their jobs. All of these misinformed people like to share their invalid information and the chain of people firmly believing information that is false grows by leaps and bounds. Couple that with the American belief in individualism and that all opinions are equally valid, and ill-informed opinion becomes fact for millions.

I think one of the dumbest statements that I see far too often is, "I'm entitled to my opinion." When people declare, "I'm entitled to my opinion," what they really mean is my opinion is of equal value to all other opinions.

There's no entitlement to be ignorant. If my opinion is that a giant turtle carries the world on his back around the sun, then my opinion has no value; it's worthless. Stating that I'm entitled to have it doesn't make it have merit. It's still worthless and of no value. 

All opinions are not equal. We do ourselves a disservice when we pretend that they are. All we need do is examine how many publicly funded schools in multiple states are allowed to teach creationism under state science education standards as an alternative to evolution. Additional states are poised to pass legislation this year to expand the science curriculum to include creationism.

Replacing intellectual analysis with personal opinion undermines our ability to make decisions based on facts and knowledge rather than belief. Ethics play second fiddle to a mish-mash of personal beliefs and emotions about groups of which we are not a member. A key tenet of our constitution's Bill of Rights is that the government shall not establish or govern religion, yet hot button issues such as abortion and gay marriage that divide us at present, center around the attempt of some Christians to impose their belief system on our system of secular law.

We have many issues confronting us that we must address as a nation and as a part of the world. Climate change is a reality, not an abstract theory. Access to clean water, clean energy, and clean air are essential to the survival of all of this planet's inhabitants. Working together is necessary, but to do so we have to develop diplomatic strategies and policies for resolving our differences and not fall back on wars and police actions as problem solvers. We need to work collectively on solutions to these issues, not cling to opinions shaped by misinformation and narrow belief systems that we have elevated to the level of absolute fact.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Subway Partners with Michelle Obama, Sincerely Ignorant Respond with Hate

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."--Martin Luther King Jr.

Conservatives have gone rabid yet again and focused their animus on Michelle Obama. So what has them foaming at the mouth this time?

Last week, the Subway Restaurant chain announced on its Facebook page that it was joining First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign, and teaming up with the Partnership for a Healthier America. Nothing shocking in this partnership; Subway has offered healthy alternatives to fries and burgers for years. 

We've been bemoaning the fattening of America for at least the last decade, with a particular focus on the increasing obesity of America's children and adolescents. According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. So the addition of Subway's support to an initiative to provide information about eating healthy and to encourage all of us to make healthier food choices seems like a great idea unless you're a mad dog conservative. They're out in full force on Subway's Facebook page, decrying Subway's joining the First Lady's campaign against childhood obesity and vowing to take their business elsewhere. 

It's their right to do so, and I'd be the last person to insist that anyone is obligated to support any business. What I have a problem with is their racist insults directed at the First Lady and the President. The comments comparing Mrs. Obama to cows and apes, the comments denigrating her intelligence, the comments calling her a traitor to her country. Then there's Regine Wilson who calls the First Lady "ghetto trash," and Judy Stewart who can't seem to recall how to spell the First Lady's given name and calls her "Mooshell." (public comments, no expectation of privacy, ladies). Of course, Regine and Judy aren't the only ones using disparaging terms to refer to Mrs. Obama. They are joined by a chorus of the radically hateful. Hate feeds off hate.

I can only assume that the loony bin conservatives who are having conniption fits at the idea of the First Lady advocating for a healthier America felt that the Subway Facebook was too limited a forum, so they created their own page: "I Reject Michelle Obama and Subway." Read at your own risk; it's vile, contemptible, racist, and filled with stupidity.

What truly disgusts and offends me is that these lunatic, ignorant fools who are too worthless to even shine her shoes don't give a damn that they are not only insulting the First Lady but every African-American in this country. I have heard this type of crap my entire life. I'm long past childhood and I'm immune to words of ignorance causing me personal hurt any more, but it still pisses me off that black children in this country are regularly exposed to this type of sh*t. 

I grew up in an era where racial epithets and denigration of black people was common. Those who dared object risked being taught a lesson, from losing a job, to being dragged out of your house and beaten, to being killed. I learned as a child to keep my mouth shut and my eyes down because even a glance at a white person could be interpreted as being insolent.  

I had hoped that this country, my country, was beyond overt racism, but since Obama's election the ignorant have risen and feel free to to insult both the President and the First Lady with the most vile of racial insults and it's as if we have stepped back into an era that should have long been dead and buried. I have no patience for such people and quite frankly they're not worthy to shine my shoes either.

I vent here, using my words as a weapon, so that I can resist the impulse to slap the first white person that pisses me off on any given day with nonsensical talk of how they are victims of reverse racism and how President Obama has divided this country when it comes to race. I try to keep my anger and disgust down to a simmer rather than letting it come to a full, rolling boil. I work hard to ensure that my Aunt Dorothy's prediction fails to come true and my head doesn't explode one day because I think too much.