Tuesday, January 13, 2015

'Selma' Is History: Removing the Shadow of Bondage

In 'Selma' vs. History, writer Elizabeth Drew presents her concern that the film is filled with glaring historical inaccuracies in its portrayal of President Lyndon B, Johnson. Indeed, she doesn't appear to recall anything about the film except the encounters between Dr. King and LBJ. However, the nuances of a complex interpersonal relationship such as that of King and Johnson aren't so easily characterized in terms as to what the two believed of each other. All we have left are the impressions of those present at some of their meetings and whatever written record either of them left about their encounters. I'm not familiar with LBJ's writings; indeed, I don't know if there are any. However, I know Dr. King's body of work well. 

I think that there are many who are unaware that King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" is the fifth chapter of a much larger work entitled Why We Can't Wait, in which Dr. King takes to task the molasses like pace of civil rights for the Negro. He opens the book by stating that the year is 1963 and declares the disturbing reality that the 1954 Supreme Court ruling to desegregate schools with all deliberate speed had in fact been met with “all deliberate delay.” 

He also comments on the irony of 1963 marking the celebration of the 100 year anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, “The pen of the Great Emancipator had moved the Negro into the sunlight of physical freedom, but actual conditions had left him behind in the shadow of political, psychological, social, and intellectual bondage.” 

I cannot help but believe in writings such as this book, and in particular chapter 5, "Letter From Birmingham Jail," King included LBJ in his frustration with those who objected to his use of civil disobedience and felt that patience and use of the court system was called for in the fight for civil rights. For me, the most powerful statement in the essay is the following, “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.” 

It is long past time for people of good will to stop talking and to listen. Selma is about King and the civil rights struggle, not about LBJ. The filmmaker is a black woman, Ava DuVernay, and her perceptions have been formed and shaped by being black in a racist society. She didn't set out to thank LBJ for his magnificence in supporting civil rights; nor should she have. What contribution LBJ made, he and every other American who professed to believe in the founding documents of this country owed to us and to themselves. I offer them no collective praise for doing the right and just thing. Certainly, it is appropriate to offer thanks on an individual level to anyone who assists you in a difficult task, but collectively, white participation in the civil rights struggle was no more noble, no more of a sacrifice that that of any of the black Americans who also marched and died. 

LBJ and Dr. King came from very different Americas. The things that Johnson never had to question--traveling where he liked, entering any establishment that he liked, voting, buying a house, going to college, sending his children to school--where not a given for the America in which King lived. The idea that they were in full accord on the issue of civil rights is ludicrous. Under other circumstances, the two would have never met and certainly not ever have had a conversation as presumed equals. Both of these men worked to dismantle Jim Crow and segregation in this country, but to insist that any hint of discord and lack if agreement was unlikely is absurd.That both kept those things reasonably quiet for the good of advancing their shared cause is rational. LBJ was not only a white male, he was the most powerful white man in this country. I can't decide if it's naivete, stupidity, or wishful thinking that makes so many white people insist on focusing on how King and LBJ were in constant accord and any attempt to suggest there was dissension is an injustice to history. The film 'Selma' captures the essence of the reality of a relationship in 1963 between a black civil rights leader and a white southerner who was the President of the United States. 

I am weary of the notion that black people should be grateful to whites who assisted in the civil rights struggle, as if they had no reason to do so other than angelic altruism. It was no more than they should have done. We are as American as any other group in this county. We built this country with our blood and tears just as did any other group. We are Americans and the shame is that it took so long to accord us what we were owed.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The New Racism: Denial

I come from a very large family on my mother's side and many of my Facebook friends are family members. My second cousin, LaNi is a lovely, intelligent young woman whose posts are always interesting. She led me to a piece on ebony.com titled "I Hope My Son Stays White." The author is a white American male married to a black Haitian woman and they have a child together. The focus of his article, with the attention grabbing title, is the concept of white privilege and his recognition that his son, as he ages, will be regarded as a black male and will not share in that privilege. Instead his son will have to confront all the attendant stereotypes foisted on to black males in American culture. It's a thoughtful post and I recommend it.

As I tend to do, I began reading the comments following the article. Some got his point, but the white folks who are in denial that white privilege exists, were clueless, as usual. Then there was Sandy N. who felt compelled to set Tavias straight.
Tavias: I think his point is that recent events has (sic) MADE him aware of how dangerous the lack of said privileges truly are. Most who have those privileges honestly think there is no longer an actual race problem and that those who say there is are pulling "the race card."
Sandy N.: Tavias, given the recent events, I would teach my child to not be a criminal. As far as the "race card" goes, it is people like Al Sharpton that keep it alive. If the races were at peace he would go bankrupt. I don't recall him ever coming out and saying that black men and women should take responsibility for their actions. I have never heard of this man come out against black on black violence, or just violence in general. Sadly, the other biggest problem to race relations is our president. He only interjects himself and his cronies into white on black violence. When did he ever come out on the issues that I mentioned above?
Yes I know it will have no impact on Sandy, but I nonetheless decided to respond to her clueless patter. Sometimes it helps me keep my head from exploding by expressing myself. I left the following comment for Sandy. It will at least make her sputter and protest that she's not a racist and maybe, just maybe, she'll whine and feel put upon by the mean black lady. A woman can always hope. (I don't like people like Sandy.)

Sandy, it is people like you who really contribute to keeping racism alive. You live in a state of constant denial. You do exactly what the author of this post writes about. Even if Michael Brown had robbed ten stores, he was not an animal to be shot in the back multiple times and killed on the street.

Al Sharpton doesn't need to tell Black people to be responsible for our actions. We are not stupid and we don't need to be lectured on how not to be thugs.

Our children are no more thuggish than white children. Funny how when college students overturn vehicles and set fires at some pumpkin festival celebration no one ever uses the word "thugs." When white teenagers break into a house and hold a party and do nearly a million dollars worth of damage to the home, not only are they not labeled thugs but their parents get angry with the homeowner for daring to press charges against their darlings.

Stop worrying about black people's behavior and look at your own. Your attitude is deplorable. Why are you so anxious for someone to lecture us on black on black violence? Neither Sharpton nor the President, nor any black person in his or her right mind condones any type of violence. Why aren't you talking about white on white violence? Or discussing why it is that exceptionally wealthy white people still feel the need to steal, defraud, and run Ponzi schemes to rob people of their life savings? Or why young white males keep taking guns to school and shooting their classmates?

I've had experience with the KKK and you are far worse. The KKK admits that they hate people of color, Jews, homosexuals and anyone who doesn't look like them or share their values. But you are reprehensible, because you're a fraud. Your main concern is that no one think that you're a racist. You spend your energies blaming black people for "reverse racism" as the source of the racial problems in this country.

You despise Al Sharpton without ever having really listened to the man's message. He has never, not once advocated violence as a solution to America's racial issues. He is a devout disciple of Dr. King and has always preached nonviolent protest. How many times have you even listened to the man?

You won't understand a single thing that I've said. Instead you'll write me off as an angry, racist black person. I'm not angry, Sandy. I'm disgusted.

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 constitution...in 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.