Paul R. Lehman, Letterman’s comment about Mrs. Obama and chicken shows lack of class.

April 1, 2014 at 5:02 pm | Posted in African American and chicken, American history, Col. Sanders, Conan, David Letterman, Don Rickles, Jay Leno, Matt Soniak, Michelle Obama, Mrs. Obama, Pope Francis, Slavery, spicy chicken, talk-show host | Leave a comment
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Entertainers like stand-up comics and talk show host are given license to make remarks about people of prominence as long as the remarks are taken as entertainment. People like Don Rickles or Jay Leno can make statements about important people with the intent of getting a humorous response—a laugh or smile. Although the comments regarding these people might seem disparaging, they are spoken without negative or denigrating intent. For example, Conan O’Brien, host of his TV show “Conan,” stated in a recent Monologue that “In a speech, Pope Francis criticized the Mafia and urged its members to repent. Which is why now every morning the Pope makes his assistants start the popemobile.”
We all realize that Conan’s remarks were meant to get a laugh, and not to call any negative attention to the Pope. Sometimes, however, the remarks of some entertainers can cross the line of acceptability and in doing so result in negative reactions. A case in point concerns the remarks of David Letterman in a recent Monologue. He stated that “First lady Michelle Obama is in China. Today she was busy doing some official business. She placed a wreath on the grave of General Tso, the creator of spicy chicken.”For someone to find meaning in this statement, he or she would have to have knowledge of Michelle Obama, General Tso and his chicken, and the history associated with African Americans and chickens.
We are generally familiar with America’s first lady, Michelle Obama, and know her to be an intelligent, attractive, and graceful young lady. We also know that she is an African American and a very patriotic person. She has introduced the country to a number of her interests in programs that address people concerns such as obesity, especially in the youth of America. So, any reference to Michelle relative to her concern for obesity and food would be considered in order. However, the Letterman comment had no relations to Mrs. Obama’s program on obesity. Whether it was stated out of ignorance, disrespect, bias, we do not know. What is for certain, however, it was not meant as a compliment. As a representative of the United States of America, Mrs. Obama’s reason for visiting China was to promote education which she did while showing respect for the host country. One of her activities did not include laying a wreath at the grave of an honored Chinese leader, especially, General Tso.
The reference to General Tso is not necessarily a familiar to many people because it is not a nation-wide product. The Letterman comment seems to suggest a likeness of the General to the famous Col. Sanders of the Kentucky Fried Chicken brand. But who is General Tso?In an article by Matt Soniak, Who Was General Tso? in mentalfloss.com gives us some insight on the general:“Zuo Zongtang (sometimes written as Zu? Z?ngtáng or Tso Tsung-t’ang) was one of the greatest military leaders of China’s long and storied history. Zuo’s life as a military hero is well documented (there’s even a billboard on the road going into his hometown that features his likeness), but his connection to the chicken dish named after him is a different story.” Soniak continues, “ Food historians know this much for sure: the dish is a loose interpretation of an old Hunan dish called chung ton gai (“ancestor meeting place chicken” or “ancestral meeting hall chicken”). After that, it’s all a matter of whom you ask.” The spicy chicken associated with Letterman’s comment is popular in New York and Canada.
Most people who have studied American history learned about slavery in a general sense and recognize the negative effects of that system. Few really know about the unhealthy and unbalanced diet of many of the slaves. The phrase “Soul Food” is popularized today and brings to mind happy memories of family and loved ones gathered together for occasion. The fact of the matter concerning soul food is that it represented what the slaves were given to eat. Because of their work schedule, slaves did not have the time or necessities to prepare wholesome meals. Most of the food was fried in pig fat or lard.
The majority of the meats available to slaves were pork and beef. The exception was meat acquired from fishing and hunting; chicken was not a daily dietary item. Slaves had no time or place to raise chickens, except when permitted, in the yard, or as known today, free-range. So, for the slaves to have chicken was not a daily occurrence. To associate the eating of chicken with slaves and/or African Americans is to cast a discerning eye on the hardships and like of privileges granted to them in captivity. In essence, the reference is demeaning and denigrating in that it makes fun of a people held in bondage and deprived of basic necessities.
So, when Letterman made his comment about Mrs. Obama placing a wreath at the grave of General Tso, the creator of spicy chicken, he was, in effect, calling attention to a serious miscarriage of justice relative to human beings held in slavery and poverty. The complaint here is not the fact that Letterman chose Mrs. Obama as the subject of his comments, he has every right to do so, but his reference speaks to her personal history as an African American and a descendant of slaves. The reference to African Americans eating chicken is a reminder that they were once not considered human beings, but animals. After slavery, many African Americans became farmers and raised chickens as well as pigs and beef. But the reference to chickens still strikes a sour note about slavery and poverty. So, for Letterman to make a statement in that context shows ignorance or arrogance or bias or all three.
No one wants to deprive comics or talk-show hosts of their freedom of speech or the right to poke fun at people of note, but some consideration of the ramifications of some remarks should be taken to avoid feelings of insensitivity. The problem is in the context, not the chicken. Rather than poke fun at Mrs. Obama, Letterman’s remarks reflect directly on him and his lack of judgment and class for making the comments.

Paul R. Lehman, The movie “12 Years A Slave” provides 12 valuable lessons for America

March 23, 2014 at 3:47 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Indian, blacks, Christianity, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, identity, justice, liberty, movies, Prejudice, race, segregation, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery | Leave a comment
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The movie, 12 Years a Slave, won an Oscar award as this year’s the Best Picture, and well it should have because of the picture of slavery it presents. Many viewers based their evaluations of the movie on how the system of slavery dehumanized and denigrated the slave, showing the harshness of the punishment and pain endured by the slaves. In those cases, once the movie is over, the memories of the viewers rest with the experiences of the slaves. However, the movie’s most valuable and significant element rest in its intrinsic objective—to provided a gift to America of a valuable teaching tool.
The movie, followed by mature and informed discussions, should be a requirement for all Jr. High and High school students because of the way the movie presents the concept of slavery, and how it reflects American life. By doing so, we all can gain unique lessons from it. Let us take a look at twelve of the most obvious lessons we learn from slavery. These lessons are not arranged in an order of priority and most of them overlap, but relate to slavery as viewed from the movie.
First, the movie shows how the enslavers become dehumanized when they treated the slaves as animals. Watching a human being degraded through inhumane punishment and pain reflects on the ones inflicting the actions and the reasons for doing so. The power to whip a human being to death does not make one a human being for using that power, but more a brut for dropping to that level of behavior.
Second, the movie shows how the actions of the enslavers to dehumanize the slaves represent a form of insanity. Although the slaves were human beings, they were viewed and made to view themselves as animals; most people treat their animals with a degree of respect for the service they render. So, when the action of an enslaver goes against common sense, and what is considered normal thoughts, the result is a form of insanity.
Third, the movie shows that all African Americans were not slaves; many were free, educated, business and property owners. For example, Paul Cuffee owned several sailing ship, made and sold sails. In Louisiana, Cyprian Ricard owned almost a hundred slaves (Yes, even some African Americans owned slaves, but not all African slaves); a cabinetmaker from North Carolina, Thomas Day, employed a number of European Americans; and in New York City in 1924, seven African Free Schools were supported by the public. The schools were called African Free Schools, not Negro or black or colored because those terms lacked specificity. So, Solomon being a free man was not an isolated case; not all African Americans were slaves.
Fourth, the movie shows how all European Americans were not supporters of slavery. Had it not been for the characters played by Brad Pitt, and Mr. Parker, both European Americans, Solomon would not have regained his freedom. We also note the behavior of Solomon’s first young master how Solomon was treated with a small degree of respect for his knowledge and skills. All enslavers did not treat their slaves the same.
Fifth, the movie shows how slavery created guilt-feelings in some of the European Americans who knew that slavery was a false concept and that the Africans and African Americans were human being, just like themselves. The guilt came from the fact that they knew slavery was wrong, and in contradiction to the Declaration of Independence and the Bible. Yet, the suspension of truth and reality was substituted for the make-believe concept of viewing human beings as animals and property. The fact that any form of formal education was denied the slaves to promote the idea that they could not learn. This action was a deliberate effort to hide the truth and protect their guilt.
Sixth, the movie shows how laws regarding the ownership of property were generally respected. The laws of property rights reflect the world of finance and business. These laws seemingly took precedent over laws regarding human concerns. A man’s worth was indicated not only in his money, but also in his property including land and slaves. The laws were created and enforced by the wealthy property owners.
Seventh, the movie shows how the insanity of slavery helps us to understand many of the attitudes and actions of some people today, especially the concepts of ethnic bigotry based on skin complexion. European Americans firmly believed that the color of their skin was a biological fact of superiority. The reference to their color as a sign of power was used constantly, especially the European Americans who were hired hands.
Eighth, the movie shows how the belief in slavery promoted a false sense of power, privilege, arrogance, and prestige. For all intent and purpose, the movie shows how some slave masters viewed themselves as gods, controlling the total lives of their slaves. In addition, other European Americans believed that they were created to be masters over other ethnic Americans, so they behaved as though it was a fact.
Ninth, the movie shows how slavery used Christianity in a hypocritical way, for generating fear, intimidation, and discipline. In essence, if the slaves did not practice being good slaves, then God would punish them through the slave masters. Church service for the slaves was a mockery of Christianity since the preachers always quoted scripture that encouraged the slaves to obey the masters and be good slaves.
Tenth, the movie shows how some European Americans believed that the Declaration of Independence was for all people, and some European Americans believed it applied only to them. The European American property owners believed they were entitled to more power, privilege, and prestige than the average European Americans. The country, in essence, belonged to them.
Eleventh, the movie shows how the secular and Christian standards and values did not apply to the enslavers. If a master wanted to procreate with his female slaves, he did so without impunity. His neighbors and fellow citizens gave little thought to what he did to his slaves regarding morals and values.
Twelfth, the movie shows that wedding vows were simply a matter of convenience, not law, with regards to who the master slept or with whom he fathered children. The wives of slave masters knew their place generally, but none-the-less, witnessed daily the handiwork of their husbands in and around the plantation.
The movie, as an invaluable gift, should be used because it tells us who we were, how we got to where we are, and what we need to do to move forward.

Paul R. Lehman, Rep. Paul Ryan’s comments about poverty shows he know not what it is.

March 17, 2014 at 11:41 pm | Posted in equality, fairness, justice, poor, Salon.com | 1 Comment
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Rep. Paul Ryan spoke to Bill Bennett recently about poverty in America and he cited Charles Murray, the author of the book, Coming Apart. Referring to Murray’s work, Ryan argued that poverty is, for the most part, the product of culture. More specifically, Ryan said that poverty is a “tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.”Many people picked-up on the code phrases “inner cities,” “generations of men not working,” and “the culture of work,” as pertaining to African Americans. While those phrases might point to African Americans, the fact that Ryan chose to cite Murray expands the issue. Murray says in his book that African Americans were not brought into the mix regarding low IQ and race. He was writing primarily about people of European ancestry.
What is reflected in Ryan’s comments is the reality of what Murray wrote about, namely, the lack of communications and understanding of certain classes of Americans with other classes. In effect, Ryan speaks about something he knows very little of since he has never experienced it. Murray stated that: “a new upper class and a new lower class have diverged so far in core behaviors and values that they barely recognize their underlying American kinship.” So, unless Ryan has closer ties with the new lower class than generally known, he is represented in the new upper class. Murray cleared up the cause of the gap between the two classes when he stated that: “divergence that has nothing to do with income inequality and that has grown during good economic times and bad.”
Ryan spoke about poverty as though he was very familiar with it. But his comments seem to belie the ignorance that does not understands poverty. For example, logistics has much to do with people living in poverty. For the poor living in an inner city where no jobs are available, to travel to the suburbs where some low-paying jobs are available represents a big challenge—transportation. But transportation is just the beginning of the problems. If things like uniforms, special shoes, and equipment are involved, from where will the money come to address those needs? In essence, although some jobs are available, the people wanting and needing those jobs may not have a way to get to them.
Even is jobs are available and in easy access to the poor, they have other important elements to consider before taking a job. For example, if a person is receiving public assistance each month, what will taking a job mean as far as income is concerned? Concerns like child care, food, clothes, transportation etc… must be considered. Sometimes, the person and his or her family is better off not taking the job if it will result in a lower level of living. The problem presented here is not whether the person wants to work or not, it is whether he or she can afford to take the job.
For Ryan to assume that people placed themselves in poverty because they did not want to work is a disconnect from the reality of the situation. Ryan, evidently, has forgotten or is ignorant of the part that our government played in creating poverty, and underlining it with ethnic prejudice and discrimination. But aside from the ethnic biases underscored by history, Ryan seems to be out of touch with reality relative to poverty. Again, Murray gives us some insight into why Ryan does not fully understand poverty or the poor: “The top and bottom of white America increasingly live in different cultures.” What created this difference is the way the two segments of society separate themselves. According to Murray, the gap is caused by “the powerful upper class living in enclaves surrounded by their own kind, ignorant about life in mainstream America and the lower class suffering from erosions of family and community life that strike at the heart of the pursuit of happiness.”
So, whether Ryan’s code phrases were meant to focus on African Americans or not, the fact remains that he, according to Murray, the author he cited, is “ignorant about life in mainstream America.” One question we might want to consider is how can Ryan represent the poor and working class people of his state when he is ignorant of their real-life situation? Another question is how can the poor and working-class people think that Ryan has their best interest at heart when he has no knowledge of what their best interest is? None-the-less, Ryan maintains that: “So there’s a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”
Since Ryan is, in effect, ignorant of the real problems of poverty, one wonders how he can realistically address them. Elias Isquith, a writer on Salon.com stated concerning Ryan’s interview that Ryan was on the Bennett show “in part to promote his recent “survey” of the government’s many anti-poverty initiatives, nearly all of which Ryan believes do more to perpetuate poverty than reduce or eliminate it…” He adds, “a conclusion that’s been strongly criticized by others, including some of the academics Ryan references in the study itself.”
So, included in Ryan’s plan to deal with the culture of poverty problem is to cut many of the government services and let charities and sports fans get involved. Ryan needs to go back to school and re-read American history; especially the period starting with the late 1970’s when the poor, working-class, and middle class came under attack by business. He needs to learn how the culture of poverty was really created by people loosing jobs, pensions, salaries, and other benefits that have yet to be recovered and possibly never will be. He needs to learn how to relate and communicate with the majority of the people he presumably represents.

Paul R. Lehman, Slavery’s legacy of privilege, for some, is still alive and well

February 26, 2014 at 7:36 pm | Posted in African American, blacks, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, DNA, equality, European American, George Will, identity, justice, Michigan, Oklahoma, Prejudice, skin complexion, Slavery, The Oklahoman, Tulsa | Leave a comment
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Any more, when the subjects of discrimination, prejudice, and bigotry come up in whatever venue, someone, usually European American, will always use the excuse that whatever happened in the past was not his or her fault. He or she do not have slaves or discriminate against minorities. The responses of such people reflect the ignorance of not only themselves, but also of American history. Why do they believe they have to defend the status quo? One reason is that they do not realize their desire to protect a mindset that was conditioned by ethnic prejudice. Chances are they do not realize the privileges they presently enjoy by virtue of their identity as European Americans (white or Caucasian). Although they accept the identity of white, they either do not know that it’s a myth, or refuse to believe it. However, a number of ways European Americans receive privileges can be seen every day.
European Americans see themselves and are seen as “normal” human beings. What that means is for them no race is necessary for their identity because they believe they represent the model of the human race. This myth was told them early in our country’s history and is still believed and promoted today. For example, when we read a newspaper article about some crime having been committed, if the article does not mention the ethnicity and/or skin complexion of the people in question, the reader automatically knows that the people in question are European Americans. Why? Because, if the people were other than European American, the writer of the article would have told us. The reason for the article not identifying the ethnicity of the people in the article is because they are considered normal. Let us take a look at two examples to underscore our point:
MUSKOGEE—Muskogee police are investigating after a patrol officer shot a man Thursday afternoon during a traffic stop.
Muskogee Police Cpl. Michael Mahan said officers stopped a stolen vehicle about 12:15 p.m. near the intersection of Fourth and Elgin streets.
When police attempted to take a male passenger into custody, a struggle ensued and the man was shot by a second officer when he attempted to grab the arresting officer’s gun, Mahan said.
A medical helicopter flew the wounded suspect to a Tulsa hospital. He was conscious at the time he was being flown, Mahan said. The names of the involved parties have not been released.
The car’s other occupants, the man who was driving and a female passenger, still were being questioned late Thursday afternoon but had not been arrested.
No officers were injured during the incident.
(Kendrick Marshall and Amanda Blanc, Tulsa World Staff Writers 1/3/14)
Notice carefully that no mention of color or ethnicity was mentioned in that news report, so the obvious conclusion the readers must come to is that the people involved in the incident are all European Americans. Now examine this next news report:
Police investigate shooting in NW Oklahoma City
Authorities were investigating a shooting Thursday near Northwest Expressway and Rockwell Avenue, police said.
Officers were searching for two black men and a black woman after a reported shooting about 2:10 p.m. Thursday. A male victim in serious condition was taken to OU Medical Center.
It wasn’t immediately clear what led to the shooting, said Jennifer Wardlow, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City Police Department.
The shooting and investigation created traffic delays at the intersection. (The Oklahoman, Staff Writers, 1/3/14)
In this news story the skin complexion of two men and a woman was mentioned, but not a full description relative to size, weight, height, clothes etc. The skin complexion of the victim was not mentioned, so we can assume that he was European American. If a full description of the two men and one woman was not given as a lead relative to pursuing them, why was their skin complexion given, and why was the victim’s not given? The answer points to privilege given European Americans being seen as “normal” people, while anyone different is seen as not normal. Unfortunately, this practice is so common that most European Americans do not recognize it as being a privilege.
One example of special privilege occurred in Michigan in 2/20/13 as the headline notes: “ A Michigan hospital is under fire after a lawsuit claims it fulfilled a father’s request to have no black nurses look after his baby in the neonatal intensive care unit last fall.” If the man did not believe that he could be successful in getting his request, chances are he would not have made it. What motivated him to make the request? The point of interest in this incident is not whether or not the man’s request was honored, but the fact that it was even entertained. He, evidently, believed that as a European Americans he had the right to request and received this privilege from the hospital. He along with many other European Americans believe that American society belongs to them and they alone have the rights and privileges to receive special treatment.
As a society we have not done and still are not doing a service to ourselves and our future generations by debunking the concept of races. Like any myth, as long as we can view it objectively, we can deal with it logically, but when we make it subjective, then we have a different experience and expectation because it no longer becomes logical. Far too many people have not come to the acceptance of all human beings as one big family. George Will commented in an article, “For these we give our thanks” (Washington Post (11/28/13) that
“The story of human evolution may have been simplified by conclusions reached this year about a 1.8 million-year old skull found in the Caucasus in 2005. The earliest human remain found outside of Africa indicates that our ancestors emerged from Africa as a single species, not several species. Its brain was about one-third the size of today’s human brains.”
Some people do not want to accept the fact that as Americans, our society has changed; either we are all special with privileges and rights or something is amiss.

Paul R. Lehman, Fairness and Justice not possible in America with the concept of races

February 19, 2014 at 6:26 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Indian, American Racism, Christianity, democracy, DNA, equality, fairness, identity, justice, Puritans, Race in America, skin color, Slavery, UNESCO, whites | Leave a comment
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One of the great ironies in America is the fact that people try to act as if ethnic bias only exist part of the time. America has been a nation of bigotry from its beginning. The control of the power and privileges of their ethnic group was the concern of the Anglo-Saxons from the earliest accounts of their life in the new world. The pilgrims and Puritans did not believe in equality and fairness. They believed rather in class status based on wealth and titles. In their eyes, whatever status one was born into, he or she should remain in that status for life. They believed that if God had wanted them to be in a different social class, then he would have put them there at birth. They had little or no reservations about killing the Indians, whom they called savages, because they believed that God wanted them to clear the land for themselves. American was God’s gift to the Anglo-Saxons; they were to be the supreme and superior leaders of the new nation. In addition, while transporting their culture to the new world, they introduced along with American slavery, the creation of race by color and geography. Therefore, ethnic bigotry is one of the basic fabrics of American culture.
Fast forward to today and we find much of that sentiment still exists in the minds of many European Americans. Anglo-Saxons Americans controlled who came to America and who could live here and that was accomplished through immigration laws. One of the more significant and influential immigration laws based on ethnicity control was the Johnson-Reed Act:
The 1924 Immigration Act also included a provision excluding from entry any alien who by virtue of race or nationality was ineligible for citizenship. Existing nationality laws dating from 1790 and 1870 excluded people of Asian lineage from naturalizing. As a result, the 1924 Act meant that even Asians not previously prevented from immigrating – the Japanese in particular – would no longer be admitted to the United States. Many in Japan were very offended by the new law, which was a violation of the Gentlemen’s Agreement. The Japanese government protested, but the law remained, resulting in an increase in existing tensions between the two nations. But it appeared that the U.S. Congress had decided that preserving the racial composition of the country was more important than promoting good ties with the Japanese empire. (http://history.state.gov)
Ethnicity has always been a concern in America; especially with the citizens who call themselves white (European Americans). When these Anglo-Saxons realized that the ethnic composition of America was in danger of change, they had to take drastic actions. That action involved bringing into the so-called white race that group of European immigrants that had not been accepted as white were now admitted to the club. The use of a term, “Caucasian,” that came into existence just prior to 1800, was called into service: “The idea of a “Caucasian race” represents whiteness ratcheted up to a new epistemological realm of certainty “(Whiteness of a Different Color,” by Matthew Frye Jacobson). The reason for this change was to keep the country from changing its ethnic composition
Once a lie is told, more lies have to be told to continue hiding the truth. That has been the case for America since the creation of the concept of races, black and white. The truth has been available regarding race for many years. For example, in the Bible, we learn that all people are of one blood:
24 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood[a] every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,” (Acts 17:24-26 KJJV)
On numerous occasions the scientists and scholars from the U.N. has made it known that the term “race’ is not correct or accurate because it has no basis in fact:
Science – modern genetics in particular – has constantly affirmed the unity of the human species, and denied that the notion of `race’ has any foundation. In the words of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights, `the human genome underlies the fundamental unity of all members of the human family, as well as the recognition of their inherent dignity and diversity’. This Declaration was adopted unanimously at the 29th session of UNESCO’s General Conference on the 11th of November 1997, and then by the United Nations General Assembly on the 9t” of December 1998, as part of the celebration marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (UNESCO 2001)
We can even go the recent science where we learn from DNA that:
DNA studies do not indicate that separate classifiable subspecies (races) exist within modern humans. While different genes for physical traits such as skin and hair color can be identified between individuals, no consistent patterns of genes across the human genome exist to distinguish one race from another. There also is no genetic basis for divisions of human ethnicity. People who have lived in the same geographic region for many generations may have some alleles in common, but no allele will be found in all members of one population and in no members of any other. (geonomics.energy.gov)
What we discover is that America continues to live in denial about the myth of race, and until it can debunk that myth, the lie will continue. But even more, as long as the concept of races exist in America, fairness and justice are not possible, because everything is seen through the prism of race. Every American lives daily in an atmosphere where bigotry is so common that it is presumed not to exist. How can we talk of fairness and justice when we have not divorced ourselves from the concept of black and white races? Go study.

Paul R. Lehman, The picture of President Obama and a banana reflects negatively on the sender

February 11, 2014 at 1:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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Paul R. Lehman, The picture of President Obama and a banana reflects negatively on the sender

Originally posted on America's Race Problem:

The phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words” has been around for a few hundred years and it still has relevance today. The concept of the phrase whether it is one thousand or ten thousand words concern not only the picture itself, but also the creator as well as the producer and user. Each has its own reason for the picture’s value; so, the image that constitutes the picture is not the only concern of the viewers. In an article from the Guardian, “Russian MP’s Obama with banana picture sparks racism debate” (2/9/14) a discussion concerning racism began. The picture in question is a doctored photo of President and Mrs. Obama; the picture has been changed to make President Obama appear as though he is chewing on something while he stares wide-eyed at a banana that seemingly is before him.
The article noted that “The subject of racism has…

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Paul R. Lehman, The picture of President Obama and a banana reflects negatively on the sender

February 11, 2014 at 1:18 am | Posted in African American, Constitutional rights, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, European American, freedom of speech, justice, Prejudice, President Obama, Race in America, Russia, skin color | 2 Comments
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The phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words” has been around for a few hundred years and it still has relevance today. The concept of the phrase whether it is one thousand or ten thousand words concern not only the picture itself, but also the creator as well as the producer and user. Each has its own reason for the picture’s value; so, the image that constitutes the picture is not the only concern of the viewers. In an article from the Guardian, “Russian MP’s Obama with banana picture sparks racism debate” (2/9/14) a discussion concerning racism began. The picture in question is a doctored photo of President and Mrs. Obama; the picture has been changed to make President Obama appear as though he is chewing on something while he stares wide-eyed at a banana that seemingly is before him.
The article noted that “The subject of racism has become the focus of a public discussion in Russia after an MP from Duma caused outrage by posting an image of Barack Obama that was photoshopped to include a banana. It continued by stating that “Irina Rodina, an MP from Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party and a triple Olympic champion figure-skater, posted the picture on her personal Twitter account.” Rodina apparently saw nothing amiss with the picture she claims was sent to her from friends in the U.S. She was quoted as saying “Freedom of speech is freedom of speech, and you should answer for your own hang-ups.”
If we take the time to look at the photo, we can recognize that the image of President Obama has been altered, so that he does not appear to be in a normal state, but a contrived one. His eyes have been made to seemed fixed on a banana magically suspended in from of him. We do not know what the person who altered the photo had in mind, but a suggestion might be that an effort was made to associate the President’s image with that of a monkey or something similar that likes to eat bananas. The irony of the photo is that many people like and eat bananas, so why try to focus attention on the image of President Obama looking at the banana unless it is an attempt to try and make a denigrating statement regarding him. In fact, because the photo is so contrived, the effect probably rest with the question it raises—why?
The answer to that question never is given because the charge of racism came quickly to the front. The article noted that “The incident was widely discussed in the Russian press, with many commentators coming to the defence of the MP and figure-skater.” We agree with a person’s right to free speech, so as far as Rodina having the right to Tweet the photo we have no argument. Our concern is to why? What was the objective? We do not know because no one, including Rodina has said. What we do know is that most educated and informed individuals generally have a working knowledge of their actions, especially if they are deliberate.
The article reported that the United State ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, was not pleased and believed “that Rodina was guilty of ‘outrageous behavior which only brings shame to her parliament and country.’ A spokesperson for the U. S. embassy quoted Thomas Jefferson in response to the tweet: ‘Bigotry is the disease of ignorance.’” The response is appropriate in this instance because to identify the photo as racist is to support the concept of multiple human races, which in turn feed the illusions of bigots. The ignorance associating people as members of a race because of their color, religion or beliefs is like saying that fresh water from different parts of the world is different just because it changes from country from country. We know that certain things can be and are added to the water, but take away the additives and it is all the same. So it is with people.
When something so contrived as the President Obama picture is offered to the public, the logical response is to simply ignore it and let it pass, because that is not what the presenters want to happen. They want to raise the ire and alarm at what they know can appear degrading not only to the President, but to the country as well. By acknowledging the photo, the viewer gives in to the trap and brings attention to a cause that is lost and dying—racial superiority.
Rather than the picture being viewed as disparaging and denigrating to the President, the fact is that the ignorance of the people who created, produced and promoted it is underscored. The use of the word racist does not fit the situation, although the people responsible for the picture might think so. By accepting the term racist, the blame for the action can be displaced among the larger group of like-thinkers. The appropriate word is as the embassy spokesperson noted from Jefferson is bigotry. The bigot has to accept personal responsibility for his or her actions, not the group. Obviously, seeing the photo will generate questions, but by letting it pass, since nothing positive is to be gained from an angry reaction, does not give comfort to the instigators.
Yes, we can agree with the phrase that “a picture is worth a thousand words” but we need to always keep in mind that the picture did not create itself, and there has to have been some motivation for the production. We are correct to question the purpose of the photo as well as the expectations of different viewers to the photo. However, once rational and reasonable people understand that the use of the photo is for negative propaganda, we can then remove ourselves from any attempt to call attention to it. When some people have lived their entire lives internalizing a myth, then no amount of common sense or facts can change their biased minds.

Paul R. Lehman, Civil Rights Act of 1964 still misunderstood by many relative to African Americans

February 6, 2014 at 4:51 pm | Posted in academic qualifications, Affirmative Action, African American, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, college admission, Constitutional rights, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, Equal Opportunity, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, integregation, justice, liberty, minority, Prejudice, public education, segregation, skin color, skin complexion, The U.S. Constitution, whites | Leave a comment
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Today, some fifty years after the Civil Rights Act was signed many Americans still do not know what it was about and some of the results of the signing. From a political and historical perspective, the 1964 signing of the Act by President Lyndon B. Johnson spelled the beginning of the end of the Democratic Party in the South. For African Americans, women, and other American minorities, it represented the beginning of new opportunities for life, liberties and the pursuit of happiness. Many European Americans viewed the Civil Rights Act as the government’s efforts to give special privileges to African Americans. The reason for the Act was due to many ethnic and minority Americans not being able to enjoy the rights and privileges of a first class citizen.
Many European Americans believe that the Civil Rights Acts was written specifically for African Americans because Martin Luther King, Jr.’s name has been associated with it. The truth is that the Act says absolutely nothing about African Americans or any other Ethnic Americans. So, the critics that try to discredit the Act by claiming it is for African Americans are just plain wrong. If one is serious about wanting to find fault with the ’64 Civil Rights Act, they need to take a time out and look at what has happened since the Act was signed.
Women and other minorities were prevented from attending some of the most renowned colleges and universities simply because the colleges had the right to pick and choose who they wanted at their institutions. For proof, all one needs to do is look at the graduation class pictures of any of these schools and count how many women and minorities are included. Then find a picture of a recent graduating class and compare the number of minorities and women. Chances are the results will show a drastic increase of women and minorities in the recent pictures. Why, because the Civil Rights Act made it unlawful for institutions to discriminate against individuals because of their color and/or gender. As a result many women European American as well as African American women have benefited from the new opportunities provided by the Act.
The first paragraph of the Act states that:
To enforce the constitutional right to vote, to confer jurisdiction upon the district courts of the United States to provide injunctive relief against discrimination in public accommodations, to authorize the Attorney General to institute suits to protect constitutional rights in public facilities and public education, to extend the Commission on Civil Rights, to prevent discrimination in federally assisted programs, to establish a Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity, and for other purposes.
If we look at the results that the Civil Rights Acts have had on African Americans, we discover a mixed- bag of experiences. The purpose of the Act was to ensure justice and fairness for all Americans because before the Act, only European American males enjoyed the liberties and privileges afforded the first class citizens. Discrimination against African Americans, women, and other American minorities existed in education, employment, public accommodations as well as some federal programs. Since the passage of the Act many Americans have experienced opportunities to improve their lives, none more than the European American female. So, for someone to say that civil rights is for African Americans is false; all Americans have civil rights, it is just that African Americans, women, and other Americans minorities were never provided with the opportunity to enjoy theirs.

The passage of the ’64 Civil Rights Act did not bring immediate relief to those Americans who had been discriminated against since the beginning of American society. A brief reminder of the past tells us that the American women did not get the vote until 1920; African Americans attended segregated public schools until 1954; and it was not until the 1964 Civil Rights Acts that women began making headway in the medical and legal professions. Again, we are not speaking of African American women, but all American women.

Much of the recent progress of African Americans, women, and other minorities comes as a result of programs like Affirmative Action and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. Many people today take for granted the participation of women in the legal, medical, athletic professions, not to mentions the areas of service like law enforcement, postal workers, fire fighters, construction workers, and a host of others that were closed to women and minorities for many years.

African American and other minority males have benefited from the Civil Rights Act, but not to the extent that women have and still are benefiting. For example, more women attend and graduate from college than men. That is not the say that all Americans are treated fairly because of the Act. That would be false. The fact concerning the Civil Rights Act is that many Americans who never understood it are still against it. Some individuals continue to challenge programs like Affirmative Action because they believe it discriminates against the European Americans in areas like college and university admissions where they believe African Americans are given a preference.

After more than three-hundred-years of segregation, discrimination, and bigotry American society making a smooth transition to a fair and just society would be a miracle. Change takes time because some people who were born into a society where they received privileges and power, come to believe those things came with their birth and skin complexion. These people need to become acquainted with the Constitution under which they live so they will realize that the rights and privileges they presume to have are no longer given to people because of their skin color.

So, the next time someone makes the claim that civil rights are only for African Americans, like some individuals of national repute have done, they should be required to back-up those claims with documented proof. After all, the preamble to the Constitution states that “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United State of America.” Nowhere is there a reference to color, gender, or ethnicity in that statement. All Americans should enjoy their civil rights.

Paul R. Lehman, Failure to recognize MLK’s Day has a negative impact on society

January 27, 2014 at 10:21 pm | Posted in African American, blacks, Constitutional rights, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, justice, Martin Luther King Jr., Prejudice, President Obama, skin complexion, The Oklahoman, The U.S. Constitution | Leave a comment
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Last week the nation celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day and fifty years of the Civil Rights Act. A story that appeared in a local paper (The Oklahoma) told of a mother’s disappointment when she learned that her son’s school was using that day as a snow catch-up day. The mother had planned to take her son to a number of activities celebrating the contributions of Dr. King. When she questioned the school about its decision, she was told that “’It was a very difficult decision to (make), but we wanted to be sure that we had that instructional time back for students.’” The mother expressed her sentiments relative to this experience by noting that “I’m concerned about the message this [ignoring Martin Luther King, Jr. Day]is sending to kids and others that the district believes that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is less important than them [The students] coming back after Memorial Day.”
Unfortunately, many parents across the nation could have uttered the same sentiment about the lack of interest and concern for the celebration of Dr. King’s Day showed by many communities in America. Many states initially did not celebrate the day or changed the name or combined it with other holidays. All fifty states did not recognize and celebrate King’s Day until 2000. President Ronald Reagan signed the law in 1983, but the first observance of the holiday was not until 1986. While the America and the world know the contributions gained for Americans by King and other civil rights workers, many Americans cannot accept the notion of an African American being given national recognition. Many believe that the gains made through civil rights are losses experienced by them.
What happens when a school decides not the recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day varies with the school. However, we realize that just the decision sends a message to the community, teachers, parents and student. None of the reasons for ignoring the King Holiday are seen as positive.
When the community decides to forego recognizing the King Holiday, one message it sends is that of rejection of King and the contributions that his life represents to society. The opportunity to learn more about King and civil rights is a lost to the community. Much of the community’s decision to not recognize the holiday comes from ignorance of those contributions and the many people who supported the movement. If the truth be told, many of the programs and services enjoyed by some of these communities are a direct result of King’s actions and civil rights laws.
Some teachers may or may not have studied about King and the civil rights activists that brought about tremendous change in society. The changes that occurred were not restricted to African American, but to all citizens. No civil rights law is reserved for African Americans; that would have been contrary to what King and the activists were fighting for—fairness and justice for all. Teachers, however, cannot teach what they do not know, so if they do not know enough about the meaning of the King Holiday, and have no incentive to learn, they deprive themselves as well as their student of meaningful information.
All parents generally want what is best for their children and they realize that exposure to information that is not readily taught in the public schools is important to a well-rounded education. So, many parents will inquire about courses available to their children and the value these courses offer. For parents of non-European ethnic American children, the information relative to King might help to underscore the meaning of democracy and its relevance in society. For African American as well as European American parents, the information might help them gain an appreciation of the struggles many Americans have faced over the years.
Students are generally the primary beneficiaries of the information presented relative to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the importance of the holiday. When the students learn about the contribution made via civil rights laws and how those laws impact their lives, then they gain a better appreciation of the strength of diversity and democracy in American society. Many students today have no idea of how restrictions were placed on other Americans because of the skin complexion or their gender in work and school. The information they receive about King should lead them to a better appreciation of what it means to be an American. In addition, many of the negative stereotypes about some ethnic Americans could be dispelled through information presented concerning King and civil rights supporters.
In essence, all of society looses when we fail to recognize and support important people and events that helped shape our society. Much of the criticism of President Obama comes from people who were deprived of information about African Americans and who grew up with a negative stereotype of them. Too often we as citizens create problems for ourselves and our community by withholding support that could make a positive difference in all our lives. Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr’s Day provides an avenue of approach to opening doors of understanding relative to America and our diverse and democratic society.
The mother who questioned her school district’s reason for not taking advantage of the King Holiday should be encourage to not only continue to press for the district’s meaningful celebration of the Holiday but also to expand that encouragement by letting the other parents and teachers know what is being lost to themselves and their students. A community and school district avoiding the celebration of the King Holiday sends a number of messages to the public. One message is that of not wanting to recognize the contribution of this American, and can easily be viewed as a form of prejudice. Another is to see the contributions of King as not worthy of respect and therefore, not worth acknowledging. Still another message sent is one of ignorance relative to King and his association with civil rights. All the messages are totally unnecessary and counterproductive to supporting and promoting life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in our American society.

Paul R. Lehman, Dr. King’s persception and the separation suggested in Black Culture

January 20, 2014 at 11:22 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Originally posted on America's Race Problem:

Today as we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and Martin Luther King, Jr’s Day, we need to pause and try to put into perspective what Dr. King saw as a priority for America and the African Americans. We can find King’s objective in his words, especially when he deliberately avoids separating African Americans from the rest of America. For example, in his 1963 “I have A Dream” speech when he includes all people as “God’s children, “who must learn how to live together. Too often some people think that because King was an African American that his focus was strictly on and for African Americans. That thought would be false. The most challenging problem King fought against was the separation of the African American people from the rest of society. Unfortunately, the problem of uniting all Americans as one people is still with us, and continues…

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