Friday, December 21, 2012

The NRA: A Predictable Response

Today the National Rifle Association (NRA) finally broke its silence about the massacre of innocents and their teachers in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012.

Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's executive vice president rejected the idea of stronger gun legislation in favor of placing "...armed police officers in every single school in this nation." LaPierre goes on to declare, "Innocent lives might have been spared, if armed security was present at Sandy Hook. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." (Rachel Rose Hartman, NRA Newtown Response, Yahoo News)

LaPierre and the NRA are irrational and dangerous.The difference between a good guy with a gun and a bad guy with a gun is indistinguishable until they shoot someone. Mass shooters are typically people who decide on a particular day to murder a lot of people. If they had been a "bad guy" and made a practice of shooting large groups of people, I seriously doubt that they would still be allowed to wander about with a gun. The NRA's position makes no sense to anyone capable of rational thought.

The problem lies with the number of guns owned in America, the type of weapons, and the type of ammo. Even a good guy can have a bad day and the last thing that we need are a bunch of armed people patrolling the halls of our schools unless the NRA can come up with a fool proof test to determine who is a good guy and who is a bad guy.

The NRA also tries to shift the focus to violent movies and video games. The problem is that numerous studies have concluded that exposure to such material is not the causative factor in American gun violence.

A Facebook friend argues that it isn't about the tool used by the perpetrator of mass violence, but about our "social celebration of violence as an answer to problems and as a way to fame."

I agree that we need to deal with our culture of violence, but the tools do make a difference. In addition, when data of other types of crimes is compared with crime rates of other cultures, the U.S. doesn't appear to be any more violent than other developed countries except in the area of gun violence.

We are not a more violent nation, if we look at overall crime rates. It is only in the area of gun violence that the U.S. drastically exceeds other nations. (National Vital Statistics Report, CDC, October 2012)

While we kill 11,000 to 12,000 of our fellow citizens each year with guns; England and Wales have about 50 gun homicides a year -- 3% of our rate per 100,000 people. The U.S. has more gun-related killings than any other developed country. (Max Fisher, WorldViews, 12/14/12 Washington Post).

Changing cultural norms takes an inordinate amount of time and in the meanwhile, this nation has a murder by gun rate that far exceeds that of comparable developed nations.

A single person with a semi-automatic gun with a magazine capable of rapidly firing multiple rounds is bound to have a higher kill count than someone with a shovel. Lanza killed 26 people in approximately 10 minutes. This pretext that tools don't matter is dangerous and nonsensical. Who would you rather face--a person armed with a shovel or a person armed with a glock?

The countries that have enacted stringent gun controls have seriously lowered their rates of death by gun violence

The NRA offers a ludicrous solution--let's arm the good people to fight the bad people, as if good people and bad people are separate species. Anyone has the potential to commit an act of violence and we don't know that they are a "bad person" until they do so. Some of those "good people" that the NRA would arm may get pissed off one day and become a bad person with a gun.

We have to stop coming up with overly simplistic solutions based on fallacies about human nature. There is no such thing as a criminal until a person commits a crime. We have more people in prison proportionate to our population than any other country. I'm not worried about criminals running around with guns. It's those law abiding citizens, armed to the teeth that worry me. Up until last Friday, Adam Lanza wasn't a criminal.

The CDC has gun death stats for 2011.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Only Thing Left Is the Voting

It's over; the only thing left to do is vote. Last night, Governor Romney and President Obama engaged in their final debate.

The general tide supports that Obama edged out Romney by a small margin. My favorite guru, Nate Silver over at the 538 Blog says that the debate is unlikely to provide Obama with a large bump but that a small bump will still be significant. I can't read the rest of the article because the blog is on the New York Times site and I've used up my 10 free articles for this month. If I want to read more articles, I have to be a paid subscriber or just wait to November for my next 10 free reads. 

The debates were about as substantive as the "reality" shows that abound on the major networks. The moderators fail to ask substantive questions about matters such as climate change, the impact of the European economy on America, alternatives to fossil fuels and so on and so forth, and the candidates don't care if they answer the questions that are asked, only that they make points that their supporters will applaud.  

The public plays a major role in this pretense of doing something meaningful. Far too many people have the attention span of a toddler and only wake up and focus when there is a zinger offered by one of the participants. The media actually writes reviews of the debates analyzing who gave the best zingers of the night. The President appears to have won the zinger contest in last night's debate with his reminder to Romney that the modern Navy is not just a bunch of ships but consists of aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines. Of course the memorable part of the chastisement was, "Governor,...we also have fewer horses and bayonets..."

The Huffington Post thinks that the President's zingers were "sharp but snarky." (Hunter Stuart and Oliver Noble) Various critics declared the President the loser of the first debate, chastising him for not offering any zingers. The talking heads on Good Morning America offered that the attack mode of the President in the last two debates may have upset women voters. Didn't bother me, but then I've watched Liam Neeson kick butt in Taken three times.

It would be nice if candidates could have real debates where they talked about the issues. Imagine scoring points with viewers by actually saying something substantive that required you to listen and follow the intricacies of the discussion. Everyone glued to the screen and not a single soul texting or playing Words with Friends on their electronic gadget of the moment.

I also hope for world peace. I'm a patron of impossible causes. 

I support President Obama. I believe that he does think about matters of substance but realized that his initial efforts to engage in civil and substantive discourse wasn't playing well with Mr. and Ms. Average American. I enjoyed his zingers, but that's not why I am voting for him.

I'm casting my vote for Obama because I believe that this country needs a leader who thinks about what matters. A leader who is focused on our interaction with the rest of the world, who understands that foreign policy is not about threats and waving a big stick. I want a leader who believes that we are all in this together and supports domestic policies that address  wealth distribution. You see, I don't believe that poverty is inevitable, that people are homeless because they are too lazy to do better, or that any child should go to bed hungry. I also believe that we can do better as a country, that we can work to build a society based on equity and fairness for all. I'm voting for Obama because in spite of the absence of any discussion of environmental issues in the debates, the President has demonstrated in practice and policies that environmental protection issues are high on his agenda.

Maybe next election cycle, we'll hear candidates engage in substantive discussions of the issues that should concern us all and maybe Denzel Washington will call me to chat. I work at being an optimist.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Romney, Iran, and Nukes

A Survivor of Hiroshima
Note: Only two nuclear weapons have been used in the course of warfare, both by the United States near the end of World War II. These two bombings resulted in the deaths of approximately 200,000 Japanese people—mostly civilians—from acute injuries sustained from the explosions. (Radiations Effects Research Foundation)

Foreign policy is the focus of the last presidential debate prior to election day. No doubt, one of the topics will be Iran's nuclear program. 

The Iranian government declares that its nuclear program is for peaceful, energy producing purposes. However, in spite of Tehran's protestations that the goals of its nuclear program is to provide fuel for medical reactors and a non-oil based energy source, the U.S., Europe, and Israel are skeptical and believe that the goal is to create nuclear weapons. 

A recent New York Times headline proclaimed that the White House has been in secret negotiations with Iran resulting in an agreement between the U.S. and Iran to engage in one-on-one negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. (NYT, 10/20/12) Before we all get excited that reason has prevailed, both the White House and Tehran are denying that any such agreement has been reached. (The Telegraph-UK, 10/21/12) The White House does assert that it is open to such negotiations. 

In the meantime, the Israelis continue to advocate that the U.S. set "clear red lines" on Iran's nuclear program that if crossed would trigger military action by the U.S. against Iran. (NYT, 9/11/12) Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel has publicly criticized what he considers to be President Obama's soft policy towards Iran, and avers that if the U.S. won't draw a line in the sand regarding Iran's nuclear program that the U.S. "...has no 'moral right' to restrain Israel from taking military action of its own." (NYT, 9/11/12)

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has made it clear that he feels that the President should stop Iran in its pursuit of nuclear weapons and specifically rejects the notion of using diplomatic channels to address this issue. Already, Republicans are rejecting the notion of any negotiations with Iran, asserting that even if Iran makes an offer to parlay, it is only a ploy to distract from its real goal of making a nuclear bomb. South Carolina's Senator Lindsey Graham (R), a Romney ally, offered his views on Sunday, "The time for talking is over,...we should be demanding transparency and access to the (Iranian) nuclear program." (USA Today, 10/21/12

What is this red line that we need to draw? No one has made that perfectly clear. The Israeli government has indicated that it wants the U.S, to set a limit on the amount of enriched uranium (essential bomb making material) Iran may stockpile and enforce Iran's adherence to the limit with the threat of military force for a transgression. The Obama administration has rejected placing military action by the U.S. on the table as a possibility. Apparently, Romney doesn't share the President's views, as he has declared Obama to be soft on Iran and lacking in commitment to our ally, Israel.

The one question that I want Mr. Romney to answer tonight is what is his recommended course of action in dealing with Iran's nuclear program. I want specifics. Does he favor the red line spoken of by Netanyahu? If so, what will that line consist of? If elected, is Romney willing to take us into another war? Will he use military action if Iran crosses that red line? 

I admit that I don't need an answer; I think Romney has already made it perfectly clear that his image is of America the macho, the world enforcer. I just want to hear him say it and just maybe more of my fellow Americans will hear his words and reject an ideology predicated on the belief that might makes right.

Mitt Romney as commander-in-chief is a very scary proposition. It's like putting a ten-year-old behind the wheel of a race car. There was a folk song popular in the 1960s that had the line: When will we ever learn? It became an anthem for the anti-Vietnam War movement of the 1960s. Unfortunately, we appear to be a nation of slow-learners.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Presidential Election: Time to Turn the Debate to Substance

My friend Leslie over at Parsley's Pics posted an article, "God Forbid Should Biden Not Perform Perfectly," in which she chides "fickle liberals" for continuing to focus on bemoaning their disappointment in President Obama's debate performance last week.

Another friend commented that liberals finding Obama's debate performance to be lackluster are not responsible for Obama's slipping in the polls.

I agree that in spite of the incessant fixation on Obama's "poor" performance from some liberals, there is no direct correlation of the criticism from some of the President's base and current polls that show him with fewer Electoral College votes than last week. 

However, the chronic complaining hasn't accomplished anything positive either. Liberals and conservatives have for the most part already decided who gets their vote. The target group in these last few weeks are the Undecided. As the candidates rev up their appearances and their ads, each hopes to grab those who are undecided and tip the scales in their favor in the hallowed swing states.

The problem that I have with liberals and the noisy critique from some quarters lamenting Obama's debate style is that it aides the opposition in keeping the focus on trivialities rather than substance. The other problem that I have is that the undecided are important and the way to snag them isn't with expressions of disappointment in the president's performance. He has a staff to evaluate the weaknesses of his debate performance and how to liven it up so that he too can present fluff over substance and thereby compete with Romney.  

I just don't think that continued expressions of disappointment about the first debate communicates any reasons to the undecided why they should support the president. No one is going to be drawn to support a candidate whose own base keeps declaring him to be a loser.

It's similar to a business that's floundering. If you want to attract investors to shore up the business and make it profitable again, you don't do so by publicly focusing on the company's failings.

The media keeps rehashing the debate as if Obama's IQ suddenly dropped by 30 points. It was a misstep and instead of wailing and gnashing of teeth, my view is that we, meaning liberals, need to do everything that we can to shift the focus back to the issues and meet the fixation on style over content with solid facts. Facts are unchanging, unlike Romney's version of reality.

I'm not interested in in-house debates among liberals. We all want the same thing. What we have here is a difference in approach. I think that getting Obama re-elected is the priority and we need to do whatever it takes to make that happen, including cutting out all the in-house bickering among liberals about our candidate. As lousy as Romney is, and as much as some elements of the GOP are unhappy that he is the candidate, for the most part, they publicly stand behind him. Conservative bloggers don't as a rule express any serious displeasure with Romney's performance, even when he tells 27 lies in 38 minutes. (Fact Check: Romney Told 27 Myths in 38 Minutes During the Debate)

We've beaten the debate performance drum long enough; I think it's time for a new rhythm.

(I was feeling down after hearing on the evening news that Romney was polling higher after the first debate, until I checked out Nate Silver's blog, 538: "Mitt Romney gained further ground in the FiveThirtyEight forecast on Monday, with his chances of winning the Electoral College increasing to 25.2 percent from 21.6 percent on Sunday." All increases are not equal.)--Oct. 8: A Great Poll For Romney, In Perspective

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Presidential Debates: Round One

Romney: Full of sound and fury and saying nothing of substance. 

The first presidential debate (10/3/12) focused on policy, not zingers to provide fodder for tomorrow's headlines. There were big, significant topics--entitlements, taxes and spending, the deficit, and education.

I wasn't enthused about Obama's performance but I didn't find his answers rambling as some are proclaiming; he actually said what he would do and why. 

Romney spoke in negatives. He stated what he was not going to do but never said what he was going to do. For example he insisted that his proposed tax cut will not add to the deficit; however he never explained how a 20% reduction in each marginal tax rate, across the board, could be implemented without adding to the deficit  Such a tax cut would result in a significant reduction in revenues and Romney's proposed tax plan also includes a $3 trillion increase in military spending, an increase that the military has not requested  A decrease in revenues and an increase in expenditures don't add up to no increase in the deficit or as the President said, "It's math, It's arithmetic." 

By the way, the President directly challenged Romney's assertions in clear, concise language:
"The fact is that if you are lowering the rates the way you described, governor, then it is not possible to come up with enough deductions and loopholes that only affect high-income individuals to avoid either raising the deficit or burdening the middle class," Obama said. "It's math. It's arithmetic."--Obama
I found it interesting that Romney's style was to claim agreement with Obama's policy on some key issues. Romney declares that he agrees that the financial industry needs regulation but wants to promote his own plan and wants to repeal the Dodd-Frank regulatory act. He alleges that he supports the version of Obamacare that he engineered as governor but finds fault with how Obama didn't obtain any consensus and shoved health care reform down our throats.  He insists that he agrees that public education must be a key focus.

The question, which the President did raise, is why is Romney keeping the details of his alternative plans on these major issues secret? Are they too good to be true?

I don't think that the President hit a homer but neither do I think that Romney won. I'd call it a tie. Romney essentially said nothing except to parrot vague generalities about the need to get the country back on track with no specifics as to how he plans to do that. 

President Obama didn't go for the jugular. It's not the man's style and frankly I think that his approach is more effective in the long run. Attack and confrontation provide temporary satisfaction but folks eventually stop listening to someone who shouts a lot.

It's one debate. I'm not ready to dismiss Obama as ineffective. In 2008, he didn't walk to the same drummer as most presidential candidates. The odds were against him getting the nomination. He didn't shout and confrontation was not his style. He was measured and detailed  in presenting his platform. Why would anyone expect this man to morph into the Godfather? I'm not certain as to why, but this president is often judged based more on who his followers want him to be rather than who he really is.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My Day Sucked, And Yours?

There are days when you realize that you should have never left the house.

I had a routine doctor's appointment at 9:15 am. I arrived on time and proudly strolled into my doctor's office ready for praise. I'm not known for my prompt arrival at his office. I leave home with good intentions but his office is 23 miles away and necessitates travel on the inner or is it outer beltline? (I've only lived in Raleigh for 14 years; I know where the road is, just not what it's called.) Traffic is always congested in the early morning. (Yes, a 9:15 appointment is early.) I am not a morning person.

But this morning, I was on time! However, there was no praise as a staff member was out and the nurse was wearing dual hats as nurse and receptionist, so there was no one up front when I made my grand entrance.

Do not think me so shallow as to waste your time, dear reader, bemoaning my uncelebrated entrance. It was but a minor blight on my day compared to the horrors to come.

As I returned to my car, the gathering rain clouds suddenly evaporated and the sky turned an incredible shade of cerulean blue and I smiled. Then I put my key in the ignition and as the motor came to life, I heard a distinct dinging sound or perhaps it was more like the chime of a doorbell. Seatbelt was on, door's were shut tight, so why the dinging chime?

I stole a look at the dashboard and there were strange icons brightly glowing. I gasped! (Okay, I wasn't really that dramatic; it was more of a sigh than a gasp.) I grabbed the manual for my 2006 Pontiac G6 from the glove compartment and frantically searched for matches for the glowing icons. Check engine light...okay. The other glowing image warned that the Fates had put some serious mojo on the electrical system and that driving could drain my battery.

I did the only thing that I could, pressed my forehead against the steering wheel and repeated that great litany three times, "Oh crap!" I followed up with a few references to copulation.

I decided to come home. I did as the manual advised and turned off anything that was a drain on the electrical system--the daytime running lights, the radio, and the a/c. I made it halfway home before deciding that I had to have a/c. I rolled up the windows and turned on the a/c and as a blast of hot air hit me in the face, I found myself disparaging the parentage of male dogs. The a/c didn't work!

Arriving at home, I called General Motors (I believe in starting at the top). I explained that my car was six years old and only had 42,319 miles on it and I couldn't fathom why it was falling apart. I also reminded the nice lady on the phone that they had to replace the catalytic converter earlier this year and that GM had picked up the bill, agreeing with me that a car with such low mileage should not have turned into a rotting piece of fecal material. She agreed to call a local  GM dealer, the same one that had done the previous repairs, and get them to agree to waive the diagnostic fees. I said that was a good start but that I would be very unhappy and unlikely to ever purchase another Pontiac if GM failed to cover all costs. We agreed that we would revisit costs once there was a diagnosis of the patient.

The service manager instructed me to have my car in their shop by 7:30 am tomorrow (Wednesday). I explained that I have a major interview tomorrow afternoon for my dream job combining my background in public education with my legal skills and need my car in working order by 12:30 pm.

Feeling bereft, I called my sister Rhonda and sobbed out my troubles. In full drama mode, I proclaimed, "I'm tired. It's always something; I just can't take it anymore," punctuated with barely suppressed sobs. I'm not a total wuss; this has not been a great year for me--I lost my job, spent my savings, went back to my old job, still looking for a more stable job and my personal life sucks. However, Rhonda always knows how to remind me that my theme song is "I Will Survive," the Gloria Gaynor version. She allowed me to be a drama queen, gave me sympathy and then she made me laugh with some silly story from the headlines that I can't recall.

Next I called Bob, Rhonda's husband. Bob is always far more rational that I am. His advice was so practical: "Take your car to the dealer now and you won't need to get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow. Don't worry about the job interview; I can take you if necessary."

So I headed out to leave my car at the dealership. Halfway there, a flashing message read simply, "Power Steering." As I wrestled with the steering wheel, I realized that the car had decided to tell me that the power steering was gone, gone, gone. Steering a reasonably straight line is a bit difficult without power steering but it's making a right turn that scares the hell out of you and causes you to use a lot of expletives as the person behind you blows his horn  because you're not wrestling your steering wheel fast enough to suit him.

I made the turn and was all of a mile from the dealership when suddenly my car slowed to a crawl, chugging along at about 5 miles per hour. The guy behind me was riding my bumper as if he thought that I was inviting him to play bumper cars. As I exclaimed quite a few expletives, I heard a sound that I couldn't quite place at first, sort of like the popping sound of the final  few kernels of popcorn. Then it registered, the door locks were popping up and down as my electrical system went haywire and then died.

A very nice man stopped and pushed my car onto the shoulder. Another young man, who is a mechanic, stopped and took a look under my hood and pointed out that my problems likely stemmed from the alternator belt which looked as if it had been through a shredder. A friendly young woman stopped to ask if I needed help. Finally, the tow truck arrived and took me and the car to the dealership. The car is there now and I'm at home.

I'm stressed and a bit addled, but the day wasn't a total wash. I was touched by the strangers who stopped to offer assistance. Next to Scarlet O'Hara, my favorite lady of southern literature is Blanche Dubois from A Streetcar Named Desire. This evening, I can truly recite Blanche's most well known line from the play, "Whoever you are, I've always depended on the kindness of strangers."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Inside Romney's Head: The Dead Zone

According to Mitt Romney, I'm a freeloader with a victim mentality. I'm not alone; forty-seven percent of Americans, Obama supporters every one, are as trifling as I am.

Addressing guests at a private fundraiser earlier this year, Romney declared:
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax. (Secret Video--Mother Jones)
As an Obama supporter, I think that Romney may be talking about me. I need to stop paying income tax and demand that the government hand over my entitlement. You should too, if you're an Obama supporter.

According to Romney, Obama supporters in addition to being trifling, lazy folks with a victim mentality, have developed a notion that "...the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it."

Now, where would any of us get such a notion? Well, I'll be darned! Maybe it's from those socialist Founding Fathers.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,"--The Declaration of Independence (emphasis added)
Interesting concept that the purpose of government--the reason that "governments are instituted"-- is to ensure access to those unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that health care, food and housing are encompassed in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and that it is an appropriate goal for governments to implement laws and policies to further the goal of securing these basic rights for all of its citizens.

A good friend offered the following observation that further illuminates the purpose of government under those founding documents that Romney and the conservative right purport to follow:  Look also at the words that appear in the Preamble to the Constitution. We, United, union, common, general, ourselves, our. "Us" is our thesis. Not an "I me mine" to be found.--S. Gordon

Romney has refused to retreat from his disavowal of governmental responsibility to promote any efforts to mitigate financial inequity and economic injustice. Instead, as expected, Romney supporters have dragged out a 1998 video of President Obama in which Obama states:
The trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some [wealth] redistribution -- because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody’s got a shot.--Barack Obama (Obama 1998 Loyola Speech)
Apparently, we are to be shocked by this statement and declare Obama a socialist. Oh the horror! President Obama thinks that it is important to ensure that every American has a shot at fulfilling the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness noted in that most American of documents, The Declaration of Independence.

Don't you? Or do you prefer the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few with little or no chance for the advancement of most? It's about redistribution of opportunities. No one, least of all President Obama ever said that the plan is to take money from some to give it to others; the oft expressed paranoia of those who buy into Romney's vision of freeloading, do-nothing, Americans sitting around waiting for government handouts.

Redistribution of wealth is about providing grants for students to attend college, or low interest loans for small businesses. It is about providing food stamps to mothers and children who have insufficient funds to buy food. A single parent of two who earns $10 per hour for 40 hours per week nets $1600 per month before taxes. Ten dollars per hour is more than minimum wage (federal minimum wage is $7.25) but it still isn't sufficient money for rent, childcare (if you are a working parent, you need childcare), food, health insurance, clothing, transportation, and food.

As a country are we really so heartless and stupid that we can't understand that trickle down economics is a grand pie in the sky lie perpetuated by the haves to insure that the have-nots waste their time worrying about nonexistent threats of impending socialism and don't notice class inequities?

Mitt Romney has made it clear as to what he thinks of nearly half of all Americans. In his own words: "[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." (Secret Video...)

In November, we have a chance to tell Mitt Romney what we think of him. What will that message be? Will we support his view that nearly half of Americans are shiftless, unwilling to work freeloaders, waiting on a government handout? Or will we take a look at ourselves, our family members, and our neighbors and recognize that demanding that all of us have fair and meaningful access to the opportunities that this nation provides is the rightful purpose of government? The answer is up to us, the governed.

Note: Romney stated that he wished that the entire video had been released to place his remarks in context. Mother Jones has obliged. Someone should have reminded Romney of the adage, "careful what you wish for." Link to the entire video.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Racism: Ignorance Seasoned with Paranoia

I wasn't looking for trouble.  I hadn't planned to write about race again any time soon. I just stopped by a post by one of my favorite bloggers, Tom Degan, of The Rant. The post, "Message to My Fellow White People," is about five weeks old but I had never read all of the comments on the piece.

There were lots of thoughtful and interesting responses to Tom's absorbing post, but there were also repeated comments by Anonymous, who under cover of his or her anonymity seemed more concerned with arguing "I am not a racist" rather than offering anything substantive to the discussion. Nonetheless, I did not plan to offer any commentary on Anon's meanderings until I got to the following comment from Anonymous:
I love how liberals are either stupid or just amazingly ignorant of racial realities in this country.
Between the numerous black gangs attacking white people in every city of America and the specific examples of the Wisconsin State Fair, Iowa State Fair and Peoria, Illinois, we have more than started the Jim Crow period against white people, and the media is fully complicit
The new trend appears to be to insist that black people and liberals are the new racists but I have never come across anyone who goes so far as to declare that we have started the Jim Crow period against white people. The sheer ignorance of this statement is highly offensive and trivializes the very real denial of civil rights and relegation to second class citizenship of African-Americans for nearly 100 years  post civil war. Following is my unpolished, from the gut response to Anonymous.

Anonymous, I can't decide if you are a racist or just the most ignorant person in America. Maybe you're both. Clearly there is something seriously wrong with you. WTF are you talking about? Jim Crow period against white people! LOL!

Perhaps you should read up a bit on the history of Jim Crow; it was both a system of laws and of social etiquette to restrict the interaction of blacks with whites and to ensure that white superiority was recognized in all aspects of life.  

I concede that there are some black folks who commit acts of violence against whites; mostly in the process of committing some other crime such as thievery but not because they hate white people but because they seek financial gain. Unacceptable behavior but not unique to black people. White people just steal on a grander scale. Ask Madoff and all those folks on Wall Street.

Here's how you'll know that Jim Crow has arrived for white people.

1. Black people will hold the political offices at the state, local, and federal area and white people will not be allowed to hold office.

2. White people will have to pay a poll tax and pass a literacy test in order to vote.

3. When white people are walking down the sidewalk and encounter black people, you will need to step out in the street, tip your hat, say good morning or good evening ma'am or sir, and wait for the black people to pass.

4. You won't be allowed to eat inside any restaurant but you can purchase food at the back door of some places.

5. There will be no white people in any upper level positions in business.

6. If a white male looks at a back woman or dares speak to her, then her family members will come and drag him out of his house in the middle of the night, even if he's just a 14 year old boy, and beat and torture him so badly that his own mama can't recognize his corpse. At the trial, an all black jury will acquit the killers and they will later brag about their deed in a national magazine.

7. Hospitals, clinics, and all businesses will have have an entrance for Blacks only and Whites will only be allowed to enter facilities that provide a separate Whites only entrance and a separate area for whites to conduct their business in the facility. If no such arrangement is provided  you can't come in at all.

8. Be careful to adhere to all rules, don't ever act uppity in front of black people or you may find yourself being dragged out of your house by folks wearing white sheets. If you're lucky they will just beat the crap out of you and if not, they will hang you from a tree. They may burn you a bit first or castrate you and then lynch you.

These are just a few highlights that will signal the implementation of Jim Crow against white people. There were far too many racists practices and laws to enumerate in a single list.

Besides, I recognize that I'm wasting my time because you are an ignorant, whiny, paranoid racist. Only an ignorant racist would propose that anything that black people have done is even partially equivalent to Jim Crow. Don't bother to respond because I will not engage in additional communication with you. I've already wasted far too much time on the inane braying of a total jackass. google6b73f2f8eb0ba261.html

Friday, August 17, 2012

Boxing with Racism--Do Something!

Some of you have raised a legitimate question as to what can we do about such blatant racism as espoused at (NMC). It's time for those of us who believe that racism is a cancer that eats away at this country to make our voices heard. It doesn't work to look the other way and dismiss such vicious displays of racism because we don't want to give them attention. They are not going away because we refuse to look at them.

I've tracked down the host for the web site. It's a company called Black Lotus Communications (BLC).

BLC specializes in hosting sites that are looking for an extra layer of security to protect the site from attack. NMC complains about being shut down by hackers in the past and started a parallel site at dot net to make certain that their faithful fans are not shut out in case one site is hacked. 

I spoke with someone in customer service at BLC (1-800-789-1977 or 1-866-477-5554) who stated that BLC does not check out the content of the sites that it hosts. When I expressed my disgust with the NMC site, he stated that I could send an email to BLC at

BLC is also on Facebook. I liked the site so that I could post a copy of the email that I sent BLC via the abuse address. 

Why focus on BLC? Because money talks. A business has a vested interest in how it is perceived by the public; it also has a responsibility for the choices it makes. Below is my email to BLC. Want to do something about racism, then tell BLC that you oppose racism and take issue with their role in providing it with a forum. Show that they are not in charge. 

Feel free to use by email below, do make some paraphrases to make it your own.  I signed my email and included my contact information.

My email to Black Lotus Communications:

I object to the content of two web sites hosted by Black Lotus Communications. The material contained therein consists of extremely racist language and ideology that offends common decency.

Black Lotus Communications hosts a web site at IP address The IP address is for two sites, and The administrator for both sites is Thomas Shelly. 

I assume that Black Lotus Communications does not review the content of web sites for which it provides hosting services.  You may want to rethink this policy. 

These sites advocate for blatant racism and despite a facetious policy that the site allows no hate speak, the entire site is about hate speak.

The first amendment prohibits the federal or state government from impeding freedom of speech but the prohibitions against restriction of speech do not apply to private businesses. You are not compelled to provide hosting services for this type of racist filth. In addition, there is an exception that allows for even government censorship of hate speech intended to incite violence. I believe that some of the comments on these sites rise to that level.

These sites are offensive to any person with a sense of ethics and values, not just black people. 

1. Visit the sites for yourself.

2. Read this article which I've posted about this site, Post Racial America? Hell to the No!  Your name is not mentioned in it but it will be in my followup posts.  It's up to you what is said about your business. I only write the truth. By the way, I'm also published at an online zine, LA Progressive.  
3. Stop hosting this filth. Make it clear that the boundaries of decency do not allow room for such vile racism to be bandied about. Would you provide a forum for support of child abuse, domestic violence or other aberrant behaviors? Why provide a forum for racism?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Revealing the Boogeyman

My last post, Post Racial America? Hell to the No!, focused on a disturbing web site (  that  has the most blatantly racist content that I've seen anywhere on the Internet. My good friend Mark left a comment on that post in which he expressed his mixed feelings about giving the site any attention:  "It is so obviously designed to shock that it would seem that more attention is exactly what they want."

Mark has a valid point, but my focus isn't to give this site attention, at least not of the type that it desires. Ignoring the boogeyman doesn't make it go away; ask any five-year old. The wise parent turns on the closet light and reveals to the child that the boogeyman is just an over stuffed clothes hamper.

The depth of depravity that feeds racism at this level counts on being able to stay in the shadows. They don't want those of us who find their beliefs repulsive to see them. They want to skulk around in dark corners, leaking false information designed to influence the weak minded and fearful into sharing their beliefs. They provide links to studies rejected by legitimate researchers that purport to offer scientific proof of outlandish claims of the inferiority of those whom they hate. Their goal is to recruit followers.

They count on that the people who would find their beliefs reprehensible will remain unaware of their presence. They don't expect to appeal to everyone.  Like any cult, they target the weak, those who believe that they have been marginalized by the larger society. The leadership of racist hate groups may have access to personal wealth but the rank and file followers are working class people. The power of the leadership arises from persuading those followers that the reason that they don't have the job, the house, the car, and all other material measures of success is because of the "lazy, shiftless, violent other" most often identified as Black or Hispanic.
Belief in these conclusions, which are presented as based in irrefutable fact, promotes a climate where legitimate protestations of discrimination made by black people are often met with accusations of "playing the race card."

People tend to form their worldview based on the prism through which they see the world. If you don't hold vile racist beliefs, it is harder for you to imagine the extreme levels of such beliefs as expressed on web sites like this one. We have a need to make sense of the world, to neatly order our belief system. I believe that the reason good people so often fail to take action to stop evil is because we have no frame of reference to help us see and understand the evil. We can't imagine that anyone possesses this kind of hate for others.

We need to open the closet doors, shine a flashlight under the bed and force the boogeymen out into the open to be revealed to be nothing more than sniveling cowards fixated on their own inadequacies. Desperate to persuade themselves that labeling others as inferior will somehow make them recover their long lost dignity.

Came across an interesting article that discusses another racist hate site and why it matters that we call out such sites on their promotion of racism.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Post Racial America? Hell to the No!

It started with a vile comment that I read on a post at It was the typical racist crap and I paused to give it a thumbs down vote. The screen handle was "obanana" and the person posted repeated comments featuring the n-word. 

I did a Google search of the screen name, curious as to how prolific the small-brained racist was. My search led me to a website bearing the title, (In order to write about this site, I'm breaking my own rule and spelling out the n-word. You need to register to see all the wonders of the site. It's impossible to fully conceptualize how bad this site is without seeing it for yourself. You may sign in via my registration. User name: Lady J, password: maju2625)

The site proudly proclaims on its home page: Nigger mania is the best site for nigger jokes and facts about niggers since 2003. Please join our nigger-bashing forum too.

I know that this type of virulent hate is difficult to read. This site makes me feel physically ill; however, hate thrives best in the dark. We all know the oft repeated statement in its many variations that evil thrives when good people do nothing. I like this more precise statement by Edmund Burke: "When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."

This site boasts that it has thousands of members and is still growing. People make donations to fund hosting of the site. A lot of bad people, men and women, have combined on this web site. The rest of us cannot allow such hate to grow unchecked and unacknowledged. Ignoring it will not make hate go away. 

One of the site founders, Tom Shelly, insists that the site is not about hate. He's a liar. In his own words: 
Personally, I do not hate niggers at all, I just correctly understand that they are not human and treat them accordingly. They are nothing more than wild niggers running around loose and one must act accordingly around them. A hundred and fifty years or so ago, people in this country treated niggers accordingly and kept them contained and controlled. We made them useful by managing their numbers, containing them, and forcing them to work and be somewhat productive. But the natural empathy of the White man caused him to unrestrain (sic) a species of animal (niggers) largely due to the fact they they mimick (sic) humans in their behavior and dress. Now that the genie is out of the bottle, he can't be put back in and we're stuck with living around 30 million wild niggers.--Tom Shelly
This site and its partner sites represent the most insistent, total racism that I've encountered in my 57  years on this earth. I thought that by now I knew racism inside and out. However, it has taken me aback that such blatant, vile racism is freely distributed in 2012. These people are pure evil and I see no possibility for their redemption. I think that they should be isolated from the rest of us. They are an infectious disease.

The blatant lies and twisted views are disseminated across the Internet. No doubt the comment maker who sent me on my journey based his conclusions on "facts" gleaned from There are parental filters that can be used with some success to prevent children from surfing porn sites but what  prevents them from being subject to the intentional indoctrination of hate sites?

What about black children? As an adult, my pulse grew more rapid and I began to feel that someone was standing on my chest as I read through this site. What about black children who stumble across sites that proclaim that they are not human and which cite to studies by Arthur Jensen featuring his declarations that blacks are inherently intellectually inferior to whites? What psychological damage is wrought by exposure to these unrelenting racist lies?

Sites such as these may make an argument for their right to exist as a first amendment issue. I suspect that they continually assert that the site is not about hate to protect themselves against a possible challenge of their 1st amendment rights based on the use of hate speech to incite violence against a protected class--race, religion, national origin, etc. I lack the skills to mount a cyber attack against the site as one of my friend suggested. Besides, it would accomplish nothing; they would still be slithering around corners fomenting racism. 

What I would like to see is a lot of attention focused on these people. Turn the spotlight on their sickness and expose them for the rotting carcasses that they really are. They are vampires; they don't feed on blood but on ethics, on morality, and everything that makes us decent. A stake through the heart isn't the only way to end a vampire; dragging them into the light will render them into a pile of dust.

So pass along the information about these sites. Tell your friends. Tell anyone who insists that the only issue with race is that black people keep playing the race card. No matter how well intentioned, burying one's head in the sand and pretending that the monster doesn't exist never works out well. To save the day, the heroine must kill the monster and destroy its lair.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bigotry Isn't Only a Southern Brew

I'm a native North Carolinian and my state turned to the dark side this past Tuesday, voting to amend our state constitution to prohibit gay marriage, indeed any type of union other than a so-called traditional marriage between a man and a woman. I don't know if that means in the tradition of Kim Kardashian or if those who voted for the amendment have something a bit bit longer in mind before it counts as a marriage.

I voted against the amendment as did all the people with whom I'm still speaking. I have no patience with bigotry of any sort and there is no rational basis for such beliefs. The "I'm entitled to my opinion" argument doesn't fly with me. I'm entitled to discontinue all association with you if you choose to be a bigot.

However it is not my intent to rant about bigotry in this post. 

I am disturbed at a trend that I've spotted among quite a few non-southern folks to declare this anti-gay marriage bigotry to be a southern problem. It's not that I mind well deserved criticism directed at my state for the recent vote to add legalized discrimination to our state constitution. I am disturbed because as long as it's the other guy who is responsible then we avoid uniting in a collective effort to dismantle these laws as in clear violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  History is littered with denials of rights up to and including genocide in which everyone says, "Who me? I didn't approve of it. It was ________." (fill in the blank).

Thirty-one states have amended their constitutions to declare that marriage is between a man and a woman. Unless the South has cloned itself, this problem extends way beyond the south. 
Only the gray states lack an amendment prohibiting gay marriage.

It was particularly disturbing to read one person's comment, on a blog post about NC's recent vote, asserting that she lived in Virginia and would not set foot in NC because of the passage of Amendment One. Virginia already has a constitutional amendment preventing gay marriage. It's as if the country has been asleep since around 2004 when state legislatures began amending state constitutions to enshrine bigotry as legal.

What NC has done is draw attention to this problem yet again. By the way. Minnesota plans to vote on this issue in November 2012. I'm not good at geography, but I'm pretty certain that Minnesota is not in the south.

Only six states and the District of Columbia allow same sex marriages as of May 2012. Wikipedia has a good article identifying which states have passed anti-gay marriage amendments and the effect of those amendments that is accurate up until May 2012. It includes NC's recent vote.

Until we face the reality that bigotry knows no geographical boundaries, we're simply going to engage in periodic indignation when homophobia slaps us in the face, blame it on the south and then go on about our business, secure in the myth that only those other people practice bigotry. Thirty-one states down, only 19 more to go. This is a national issue, not a southern one and we need a national strategy to address it.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The President and Gay Marriage

After hearing the president's announcement of his personal support of  same-sex marriage, I just wanted to enjoy the president's positive statement. I figured that there would be affirmation and support for the president among progressives. Was I wrong!

PZ Myers post over at Pharyngula is an accurate reflection of the critiscism that the president is reaping from some progressives and some members of the LGBT community who feel that the president's statement was weak and insignificant. Myers writes:
That’s the best we’ve got from Obama? Seriously? It’s taken him this long to “evolve” to the point where he can take a personal (not even a political) stand on civil rights? 
What do people expect from this president? He has gone further than any president has before. What is there to be skeptical about? This was not a clever campaign move designed to garner votes. In taking this position he stands to lose some Black and Latino votes, two groups with numbers significant enough to make a difference in November. What he may gain from the LGBT vote will not be nearly enough in numbers to compensate for the votes that he stands to lose. I think that he did the right thing because it was the right thing to do.

But I am flabbergasted at some of the responses from his critics who identify with the progressive movement. Everything does not happen at once. During his administration, DADT has been repealed and cannot rear its ugly head again unless Congress passes another discriminatory law. Unlike what could have happened if he had merely ended DADT with an Executive Order that would have had limited authority for enforcement and that could have been easily rescinded by the next president without congressional approval.

Now he has taken a very public position on an issue that no president before him has ever addressed. What's the alternative position? Would you prefer that he have continued to say nothing? Exactly what nefarious reason could he have for making this declaration in favor of equality?

And the notion that his speaking out two or three years ago would have made any difference in North Carolina's recent vote to amend the state constitution to declare that marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic union recognized in the state is ludicrous. This particular legislation has been proposed every legislative session for at least the last five years. NC joins 30 other states that have already passed similar constitutional amendments. The majority of voters still don't believe in same-sex marriage as evidenced by the 31 states where citizens came down firmly against safe-sex marriage by referendum. No other president has said a word about gay marriage and now this man finally speaks up and the whine is, it's not enough? Obama made history today.

Obama has been in office less than four years and in those four years it seems that people expected him to undo the biases and prejudices that have been firmly entrenched in this culture for centuries. Myers and his allegedly progressive cohorts sound like petulant children and don't offer any constructive criticism, only complaints that Obama hasn't done enough. For the 100th time, presidents don't propose nor write legislation and an Executive Order is not a magic wand. Most of what the public believes can be done with an EO is based on a total misunderstanding of the scope of the president's power.

All of you who feel betrayed by President Obama, would you feel better if he hadn't addressed the issue at all? What's your plan for November? Quite a few critics of the president's statement in support of same-sex marriages also declared their intent not to give their vote to Obama in November. I can only assume that they somehow believe that helping Romney win the presidency will teach Obama and the Democrats a lesson. I think that this is what it means to cut off your nose to spite your face.

Think this is far fetched? Perhaps you missed the story from West Virginia about Tuesday's primary. Keith Judd, currently incarcerated in Texas, managed to get himself on the ballot for West Virginia's Democratic primary. Judd got 40% of the Democratic vote. It seems that 40% of Democrats cast their vote for Judd in order to to vote against President Obama. You can't make this stuff up. If we end up with a President Romney, there are a whole lot of people who are going o have some explaining to do.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Living While Black

It is a sensational story. An unarmed, black 17-year-old male is shot while walking in a residential neighborhood in which he was visiting while coming back from the store with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. The only thing that we are certain of is that the man who shot him thought that he looked suspicious,and that the man who shot him says that it was self defense. 

The basic problem that I have is the willingness of so many to accept George Zimmerman's account of events as fact. Without the public outcry of the black community and some whites there were no plans to charge him with anything. This case should have always been headed for trial to determine the facts. You cannot kill someone and say it was self defense without offering facts to support your claim. That's what is meant by an affirmative defense. Yes, I killed someone but I had good cause.

There is nothing cut and dried about Zimmerman's claim of self defense. There still has not been a medical report confirming Zimmerman's allegation that Trayvon Martin broke his nose. We don't know that Trayvon initiated the fatal confrontation. He could have resisted Zimmerman's attempt to detain him. On the 911 call, Zimmerman expresses his frustration with how "they" always get away. He doesn't specify who "they" may be. 

I find it of interest that the partial police summary clearly states that Trayvon was found face down. Was Trayvon on top of Zimmerman when Zimmerman shot him? He would have had to be on top to be banging Zimmermans head on the ground or was it the sidewalk? If Trayvon was on top and he was face down when the police arrived, did he fall over on Zimmerman when he was shot and Zimmerman wriggled out from under his body? No pun intended, but Trayvon would have been dead weight and wouldn't it have been easier for Zimmerman to push Trayvon off of him rather than slide from under Trayvon? And if he did push Trayvon's body off, is it likely that Trayvon would have landed face down? I don't know but it's something for forensic experts to consider and answer.

Why is there an assumption that Trayvon was obliged to treat Zimmerman as someone with authority? One thing that Zimmerman has not alleged is that he ever identified himself as part of the neighborhood watch to Trayvon.

Why is it that some people apparently have no problem with ZImmerman following Trayvon? Put yourself in Trayvon's shoes. There is a strange man following you. You don't know what he wants but he keeps following you. I would be wary and fearful and act defensively. How was Trayvon supposed to guess that Zimmerman was a member of the neighborhood watch and thought that he was thereby authorized to follow people? 

Zimmerman lost track of Trayvon but was so determined to follow him that he got out of his vehicle to track him down. He alleges that he couldn't find Trayvon and was heading back to his vehicle when Trayvon initiated contact with him. 

Evidently, the right to defend oneself only applies to Zimmerman. Trayvon was followed by an adult male whom he did not know. For all he knew Zimmerman was a pedophile or a kidnapper or both.

Zimmerman states that Trayvon asked, "do you have a problem with me?"  Why didn't Zimmerman identify himself as a member of the neighborhood watch and explain why he was following Trayvon? Instead, according to Zimmerman's account, he shrugged off the question and indicated that he didn't have a problem with Trayvon at which point, according to Zimmerman, Trayvon said, "Well now you do."

The majority of people have opinions on this case including those whose opinion is that the media has stirred up the frenzy about racism. Nope, living while black in this country is what makes some of us talk about racism as a factor in Zimmerman's conclusion that Trayvon looked suspicious. That and the willingness of some to declare that Trayvon was a thug and offer as proof that he was suspended from school three times and may have smoked pot. He wasn't a thug; he was a teenager. But even if he were a thug,it doesn't matter; he's dead and Zimmerman killed him, and now Zimmerman must show that he had just cause for doing so.

Zimmerman will have a trial. He will get a chance in a court of law to convince a jury that he shot and killed Trayvon for justifiable reasons. Trayvon cannot tell his side of the story. It is up to the DA and forensic experts to make certain that his side of the story is told.   

I've read stories that state that Zimmerman cries a great deal. So do Trayvon's parents.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Problem with White Guilt

I recently read an article by Mark Judge in The Daily Caller entitled, The end of my white guilt. Mr. Judge recounts how the theft of his bike on Good Friday made him let go of white guilt. Judge concludes that black people use "...the moral authority of past generations for their own personal gain and self-aggrandizement." But his grand conclusion is that black pain is no different than white pain, which is the fall back position of the "but I'm not a racist" crowd. We're all alike and it's black people who insist on holding on to the past. 

It's a convenient position. It allows white people to take no responsibility for current discriminatory laws and policies and to blissfully attribute racism to the willingness of black people to play the race card. Of course, they never consider that black people play the cards but white people deal the deck. When we insist that racism is still a factor in the social, political, ad economic structure of this country, they shake their heads in dismay, quickly declare, "I'm not a racist," and feel that should be the end of the conversation. 

We are not all alike; we share a history but the role in that shared history is very different based on many factors including race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and nationality. This fixation on our being one homogeneous group generally results in those who are non-white being pressured to assimilate as fully as possible, giving up our own cultural identities and accepting fully the culture of the white majority. That is the foundation of the "English only" movement. Ask Native Americans about the efforts in the United States to forcibly transform Native American cultures to European culture from 1790 to 1920. The assimilation policy included removing Native American children from their families and ending them to boarding schools to receive a "civilized" education. Canada developed a similar system of assimilation that involved removing Indian children from their families and placing them in residential schools with a goal of forced assimilation.

I'm tired of the generalization on the part of far too many white people that they have somehow borne and continue to bear the great burden of white guilt and that they've been treated so unfairly. Bullshit.  If I generalized to that extent, I would mistrust all white people and shoot them on sight. 

How often do you hear of a group of bored black teenagers deciding to kill a white man and run him over with a truck for sport? (Anderson story) How often have  black men dragged a white man behind a truck simply because he's white? (James Byrd) How often have black people covered their faces and burned crosses in people's yards to intimidate them? (Ohio cross burning 2012) How many times has a black person been acquitted after killing a 14-year-old white boy, beating him so viciously that he was unrecognizable as a human being? (Emmett Till, disturbing photo) How many 14-year-old white boys have been tried by an all black jury, convicted of murder and executed with no physical evidence tying him to the murders? (George Stinney Jr.) 

How many white bodies swinging from trees with the signs of torture applied before death have been immortalized in photographs and postcards that show hundreds and in some instances thousands of people--men, women, children, grandma and grandpa--all standing around on a family outing to watch the lynching of men and women, thrilled when the victim was a woman eight months pregnant (Remembering Mary Turner) whose belly was ripped open to insure the death of her unborn child? (American Lynching, Without Sanctuary, from Life magazine, Bill Moyers Journal)  All of these documented events took place in the 19th and 20th century, not some distant days of slavery.

There have been no instances of black adults spitting on white school children as they attempted to integrate public schools. And now, in the 21st century, black boys are being shot down for walking on a neighborhood street or for the way they are dressed; five black people in Oklahoma are shot by two white men who selected the victims based on skin color. 

I'm tired of white people insisting, "Black people commit crimes and black people kill white people too," as if that somehow mitigates the killing of black people by white people simply based on race. Of course we kill people too. People have been killing according to the tale of Cain and Abel since the beginning of time and there is nothing acceptable about the murder of anyone for any reason.  However, perpetrating this nonsense that white people are justified in fearing black people and that black people are somehow inherently dangerous and dishonest is blatant racism. 

No one ever asked white people to feel guilt. What we asked for was to be treated with equality. What we received was decades of Jim Crow laws that lasted well into the 20th century. The civil rights movement isn't ancient history and racism and racial prejudice is alive and thriving in the 21st century.

Most of the time I am in a conciliatory mode when it comes to race relations. When I was 14 I learned to play the guitar, stuck peace signs all over my guitar case, and earnestly sang Kumbayah and all the verses of We Shall Overcome. I believed with all the earnestness of the very young that our newly integrated school system was the start of a better society where we all lived together in brotherhood and sisterhood. I held on to that belief for as long as I could, with the desperation of a novice trying to climb a rock wall. 

Somewhere, deep in a brightly lit recess of my soul that belief still survives. But after 57 years on this earth, I find myself having more and more moments when the light is so dim that I can't see it any more and I truly wonder if has been extinguished. So far, like Pandora, I always eventually find that light again. But I'm older and I'm tired. Every day that I come across blatant racism, splattered across the Internet, shouting from social networking sites, reported on in the daily news, it swallows a bit of that light and I fear that one day I will remain in the darkness, angry and bitter and thoroughly disillusioned.

If you are white, and you feel uncomfortable or even attacked by my consistent reference to white people as including every white person in this country, you have experienced to some extent what it is like to be black in this country when every infraction committed by any black person is attributed to the character of all black people.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Augusta Masters: Some Traditions Need to be Buried

The Augusta National Golf Club's no women allowed policy has been in the headlines for the last couple of days. The golf club's membership is populated by Spanky and Alfalfa of Our Gang fame, who would on occasion declare that their clubhouse was off limits--no girls allowed!

Since it's inception in 1933, Augusta hasn't allowed women to become members and just began allowing black males to wear the hallowed green jacket in 1990. The headlines pose the same question, Masters Controversy: Should Augusta Golf Club Admit Its First Female Member? Why now? Well, in addition to its tradition of not admitting women, Augusta also traditionally bestows membership on the CEOs of the Masters' three corporate sponsors. One of those sponsors is IBM, and its CEO is a woman, Ginni Rometty.

Augusta is confronted with a quandry as to which tradition to follow, the one that discriminates and treats women as second class citizens or the one that bestows a green jacket on the CEOs of the corporate sponsors of the Masters. What are chauvinistic reprobates with 19th century values to do?

It's 2012, this should not even be a question that needs to be asked. Membership in the club isn't simply about playing golf. These all male networks developed as social and business organizations. At the time of their inception, women did not play any role in the world of business or industry.

However, for some time now women have been making their way in a formerly male dominated world of business and industry. To deny women access to forums where much of the networking that is an essential part of the business world takes place is to impede the ability of women to fully participate and compete in the world of business and industry.

News anchor, Paula Faris, of ABC's World News Now, defended Augusta's practice declaring that it is a private club and it's exclusion of women is no big deal, after all there are boy scouts and girl scouts, and girls schools and boys schools. Paula, you need to go back and think it through a bit more.

This discriminatory tradition is not comparable to girl scouts and boy scouts, organizations primarily intended for children and where no one indulges in making business deals involving major corporations. Nor is it comparable to private schools segregated by gender. I personally find such gender separated institutions abhorrent, and a poor preparation for a world that isn't neatly divided by genitalia. However, I'm not making that argument today. Instead my focus is the exclusion of women from the big boys club where power deal are brokered and significant business connections are made.

We cannot have institutions that are a key part of the world of business be
closed to women based on antiquated notions of a woman's role in society or her lack of a role in the world of business.

If Augusta wishes to maintain it's male only status then it needs to strictly be a golf club and the only negotiations by its members need to be about golf. Augusta has made itself into an important cog in the world of business and industry and as such it should not be allowed to deny membership based on gender any more than it can deny membership based on race or ethnicity.

The days of "No Jews and No Coloreds" at the golf course are over. It's time to bury the "No Women Allowed" policy along side of them.

By the way, word is that Ginni Rometty plays golf.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Suspect Was Black and Looked Suspicious

Trayvon Martin was 17. On February 26, he walked to the store and then headed back home with his Skittles and a can of ice tea. George Zimmerman, captain of the neighborhood watch,(an unofficial group as it was not properly registered), followed Martin, declaring to the 911 operator, "This guy looks like he's up to no good, or he's on drugs or something."

Zimmerman never said what there was about Trayvon Martin that made him deem Trayvon to look suspicious. The operator told Zimmerman that there was no need for him to continue to follow Martin as law enforcement was being dispatched to check out the suspicious looking person. 

We know that Trayvon was aware of Zimmerman following him because he told a female friend with whom e was chatting on the phone that there was a guy following him. At some point, Zimmerman and Martin interacted. Trayvon Martin, 6' 4" tall and 140 pounds, died from a gunshot wound inflicted by Zimmerman,who said that he killed Martin in self-defense. Zimmerman outweighed Trayvon by at least 80 pounds and Trayvon Martin was unarmed. 

The investigating police officer said that Zimmerman had a bloody nose. Zimmerman was treated at the scene but said that he didn't need to go to a hospital. Zimmerman was allowed to go home. So far, there has been no arrest.

I don't know that Zimmerman is guilty of murder but neither do I know that he is not. Local law enforcement did not treat the site of Trayvon's death as a crime scene and didn't conduct the usual forensic tests that help determine if a crime has taken place. The Sanford police chief said that Zimmerman had the right to defend himself under Florida's Stand Your Ground law. The section upon which Zimmerman's claim of self-defense apparently relies is subsection (3):
A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
As many Americans clamor for Zimmerman's arrest, an effort to paint Trayvon as a juvenile delinquent has arisen among Zimmerman's supporters. No matter what offenses are attributed to Trayvon Martin, none of them are relevant to the events that resulted in his death. This type of character assassination of the victim reminds me of the efforts often made to discredit rape victims by insisting that it was the victim's clothing or behavior that made her a target of the rapist. It doesn't matter what Trayvon wore or his school suspensions. It wouldn't matter if he was a gangsta selling pot. The issue is did Zimmerman have a reasonable fear for his life that justified his taking of Trayvon's life?

To answer that question, a jury needs to examine evidence of all of the events of that evening. Was Zimmerman justified in following Trayvon? Who initiated the confrontation? What about Trayvon's state of mind? He realized that he was being followed, he told his girlfriend that there was someone following him. Would it be reasonable for Trayvon to fear for his own safety? Did he not have a right to defend himself based on a reasonable fear that the stranger who approached him meant to do him bodily harm? Would there have been any type of altercation if Zimmerman had not continued to follow Trayvon after the 911 operator expressly advised him not to do so?

Are we to accept that Florida's Stand Your Ground law only applied to Zimmerman, that only he was allowed to act based on a reasonable fear of imminent death or bodily harm? Martin was approached by a stranger who was following him and that stranger had a gun. Isn't it reasonable that Martin would defend himself and try to take the gun? If this did indeed occur, then it was Martin who was threatened and who was fighting for his life. Martin didn't bring the gun to the fight. Seems plausible that Trayvon Martin was perfectly justified in attempting to disarm Zimmerman.

Zimmerman was not a law enforcement officer. Martin had no reason to follow any command that Zimmerman gave him. According to Zimmerman's own account, he must have drawn his gun at some point, otherwise how did Martin know that he had a gun and attempt to take it? It is a valid argument that Martin was the one with a reasonable fear that his life was in danger and any damage that he did to Zimmerman was in self-defense.

I cannot declare Zimmerman guilty or not guilty, that is a task for a jury. However, I do know that it is unacceptable that black men are viewed as suspicious and a threat simply for walking through a neighborhood wearing a hoodie. Black parents should not have to warn their children not to wear certain clothing and to be careful when walking on a public street not to frighten white people with their very presence. When I was a child, my mother taught us rules. We knew not to try and sit down at the lunch counter at Woolworths or Roses. We knew better than to look a white person directly in the eye and to always step aside if a white person wanted to use the sidewalk even if it meant stepping into the rain filled gutter next to the curb. Any black person over the age of 50 who grew up in the south is likely to have had similar experiences. 

President Obama said that if he had a son he would look like Trayvon. Newt Gingrich, raised in the south, went stupid and declared that the President's observation was racist. Gingrich is a fool who intentionally pretends to have forgotten the past. If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon. What frightens and angers me is that to people like George Zimmerman, my son would also look suspicious and deserving of killing. I have no doubt that was the point of the president's observation.