Paul R. Lehman, Social media help to show the ugly side of American society

February 20, 2015 at 8:17 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, Bigotry in America, blacks, Civil War, Constitutional rights, democracy, Disrespect, education, Equal Opportunity, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, justice, liberty, Prejudice, President Obama, racism, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system, socioeconomics, Welfare, whites | Leave a comment
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The advance of the social media has brought with it the opportunity for America and the world to see an ugly side of our society, the side that acts just the opposite to what American democracy promotes—the rights, freedom, and liberty for all people. A litany of example could be produced to underscore the undisputable evidence of America’s ugliness, but any one of them would make the same point—bigotry, ignorance, and stupidity influences the actions of many Americans relative to the issue of ethnicity (race).
An article in the Clarion-Ledger by Kay Steiger, “Think Progress,” (2/16/2015) noted that “A Mississippi state lawmaker said he opposed putting more money into elementary school because he came from a town where ‘all the blacks are getting food stamps and what I call ‘welfare crazy checks.’ They don’t work.” The article continued:”In an interview with the Clarion-Ledger regarding education funding, state Rep. Gene Alday ® stated his opposition to a push to increase funding to improve elementary school reading scores. Alday implied that increasing education funding for children in black families would be pointless.”
From his statements, we might assume that Alday has a particular bias against African Americans (blacks) children specifically and African American people in generally. Why would a representative of the people of the state of Mississippi be against educating African American children who need extra help for a variety of reasons, include health issues? The answer could possible reside in how Alday view African Americans in a social context. Mississippi has a reputation based on its history of violence, hatred, discrimination, bigotry and segregation relative to African Americans. Since the Civil War, the South, Mississippi underscored, has tried to restrict the progress of African Americans to gain first-class citizenship. To many in the South, African Americans had no value outside of the work and services they performed for European Americans. If they did not work for or performed services for the European Americans, they had no value.
During Reconstruction government schools and programs were created to help the freedmen make a transition from bondage to freedom. Many European Americans resented any and all activities that would help the African Americans achieve upward mobility in society. The belief was that any gain by the African Americans was a loss for the European Americans. We know through the social media that this belief is still held by many European Americans. So, the bigotry exhibited by Alday is probably considered normal based on his Southern cultural perspective as a resident of Mississippi.
The fact that Alday opposed additional funding for education at the elementary level indicates a lack of knowledge and understanding of history and American democracy. He has yet to see the big picture of how important education is to the foundation of American society. Both his statements indicate a total lack of knowledge and understanding of how education enriches society as well as the individual. Alday’s reference to African Americans receiving governmental assistance does not include information about job availability, job location, salary, and transportation in the communities where assistance is offered. He, evidently, does not realize that education is the engine that drives progress and development in society. So, Alday’s ignorance of American democratic history stands out in his comments.
By singling out African American children for educational funding, and pointing to African American s as recipients of food stamps and welfare checks, Alday shows his bigotry. However, he shows stupidity by thinking that stopping food stamps and welfare checks will affect only African Americans. What he fails to realize is that African Americans represent only a small proportion of food stamp and welfare recipients, the greater number are European Americans.
The article included another of Aldays comments that underscore his bigotry as well as his lack of understanding of society: “Alday continued, saying that when he was mayor of Walls, MS, that the times he’d gone to the emergency room had taken a long time. ‘I laid in there for hours because they (blacks) were in there being treated for gunshots,’ he told the newspaper.” This statement seems to suggest that Alday must have expected the healthcare employees to stop treating the African American patients immediately and work on him. His reference to the African Americans’ injuries being from gunshots suggests that he thought the wounds were reflective of a lower-classed people who routinely shoot one another.
One would be mistaken if he or she thought that Alday represented an exception to other Mississippi legislators. We learn from the article that “The Mississippi legislature recently advanced a bill that would provide exceptions to the reading policy for students with learning disabilities. The bill is opposed by Gov. Phil Bryant ®, who supports the third grade policy.” The third grade policy is a bill that will not allow students to move up to fourth grade without being able to read proficiently. Gov. Bryant noted that “It’s disappointing that 62 members of the House of Representatives would vote to socially promote children who cannot read,” Bryant continued “With votes like this, it is little wonder that Mississippi’s public education system has been an abysmal failure.”
Fortunately, Bryant understands the problems and the bigotry associated to them relative to the legislature. Unfortunately, he would have an enormous challenge trying to convince Alday and his colleagues to change their views. Many Americans think that ethnic prejudice disappeared once an African American was elected President of the United States. Actually, the election of President Obama and the use of the social media helped to uncover the ugliness of the hate and bigotry, ignorance and stupidity that still exist in society. Now, however, that ugliness is in full view of America and the world.
We should not despair, however, from viewing the ugly side of America, but recognize that serious problems exist and we have the challenge to bring some understanding and rational thinking to address them. We can begin by educating people to the fact that the Constitution does not exclude anyone from enjoying the freedoms, rights, liberties, and yes, education, based on skin color, ethnicity, religion, and gender.

Paul R. Lehman, The challenge of leaving race in the past and pressent and moving to the future

February 10, 2015 at 4:25 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, blacks, democracy, discrimination, DNA, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Ferguson, Human Genome, justice system, Prejudice, race, racism, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system | 1 Comment
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An article written by Brit Bennett entitled “I Don’t Know What to Do with Good White People,” published by JEZEBEL (12/17/14) is a well-written and personal account of Ms. Bennett’s experiences and relationships with people she refers to as white. This article would fit quite well in the early 1960’s and would have probably been well-received. Today, however, her treatment of the subject shows a refusal to leave the past and move ahead, which would aid greatly in eliminating her conundrum with white people.
One of the first things she should do is bring her information regarding the concept of race up-to-date. She needs to recognize that all human being belong to just one race—the human race. The fact that she refers to European Americans as white people indicate that she supports the concept of a black and white race, which is a fallacy—a creation of society. Because she still sees people relative to a color, she can never move beyond the color to the human being. Her view of society is filtered through the race box. In essence she sees herself and others using the past and present as her guide and not moving beyond both past and present to the future.
We know through scientific studies on DNA that all human beings are 99.9% alike. If we were to take away the skin complexion, hair texture, the eye’s shape, we would all look the same. We have been conditioned to ignore the many similarities we humans share and dwell on the few differences that are man-made. For example, we have been conditioned to look at cultural differences as though they were biological differences. Society has even organized these cultural differences and have us recognized them as stereotypes. These stereotypes are meant to represent the entire group of people as if no individual differences existed among the people in the group. If social progress is to be made, we as a society must move beyond the false racial concepts of the past.
Another thing Ms. Bennett can do is stop helping to support the concepts of a black and white race by not using those terms. The concept of race exists in a similar vein as does Santa Clause in that it is a myth, but people behave as though it is real. Why? The answer is because there is a reward in it for them. Moving beyond the race box means a step into the future. We know the importance of the past because it contains our history, but we also know that our history reveals the choices we made that brought us to the present. Now we must make choices that will move us into the future. Some of those choices are difficult to divorce.
Ms. Bennett wrote that ”Over the past two weeks, I’ve seen good white people congratulate themselves for deleting racist friends or debating family members or performing small acts of kindness to Black people. Sometimes I think I’d prefer racist trolling to this grade of self-aggrandizement.” She continued “A racist troll is easy to dismiss. He does not think decency is enough. Sometimes I think good white people expect to be rewarded for their decency. We are not like those other white people. See how enlightened and aware we are? See how we are good?”
As readers of the article, we can certainly appreciate the sensitive and emotional investment given to this observation. However, Ms. Bennett never defines “Good White People,” and because they are not defined, the reader must make the assumption that they are viewed through the race box; her use of the term racist underscores the point. Calling someone a racist relieves them of the opportunity to assume responsibility for their bigotry. A racist is an individual who represents a group, but the responsibility for bigotry falls to the individual.
The majority of people born and educated in America received a bigoted perspective of society; that is, regardless of their ethnic identity, they were made to view European Americans as the only normal people. Being normal meant that all the values and standards were based on their ethnic group. In effect, because all people were conditioned to see European Americans as the normal human being, they were forced to view themselves as less than normal. Today, we know that no such thing as multiple biological races exist, so the concepts of racial superiority or white supremacy is all fallacy. What is fact, however, is the result of discrimination and prejudice in preventing opportunities for advancement in every area of society by people of color; the playing fields were and are not level. One cannot expect to compete fairly when the conditions leading up to the competition were not fair.
What Ms. Bennett observed in “her good white people” are the changes taking place in society that are throwing into question the mindset of many European Americans. Again, part of the problem as suggested by Bennett comes from the fact that she feels she must do something with “good white people.” Once she moves outside of the race box, she will realize that it is the European America (white people) who must do something—remove the blinders of color, not culture, and see themselves as fellow human beings. Our removing the stigma of ethnic bigotry from society is a difficult and challenging objective, but one that must be undertaken. We will know that progress is being made when people stop referring themselves by color.
Traditional public and private education has done little to inform society regarding the history of America. That is why many Americans see themselves as different from other Americans because of some superficial differences. As society moves away from the concept of race by color and accept the available empirical evidence relative to our being one human family, the problem faced by Bennett will no longer exist. People of color already know they are normal human beings; the challenge is to get the rest of society to accept that fact so we all can move into the future together.

Paul R. Lehman, Law enforcement Union leaders are necessary to community relations efforts

February 3, 2015 at 4:42 pm | Posted in African American, American history, blacks, Constitutional rights, democracy, Disrespect, equality, European American, Ferguson, justice, justice system, police force, Prejudice, public education, social justice system, socioeconomics, whites | Leave a comment
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In the wake of the Ferguson experience last Summer, many communities have attempted to get together with the law enforcement agencies and the Public administration to try and create some dialogue relative to improved relations among themselves. In some cases the efforts have been positive, however, in others, little or no progress has been made. To some observers, one of the stumbling blocks to progress involves the law enforcement union leaders. To get a better understanding of how that problem came to exist, we must look at it from an organizational perspective.
Whether one accepts it or not, the representatives of the law enforcement unions actually control the rank and file officers, not the chiefs or the public administrators. What has happened is that many of the union leaders have created a picture of their agency and members as the most value people in society because their duty is to protect and serve the public. These union leaders try to convince the public that because of the law enforcers’ jobs, they should be exempted from treatment reserved for the normal citizens. Their jobs are often said to be the most dangerous one in society; obviously ignoring other equally dangerous and life-threatening professions.
The characteristics of group mentality and behavior are introduced into the law enforcement organizations in their academics and schools; this aspect of group identity is necessary and welcomed for the well-being of the organizations and the individuals. The instruction and training received by the agents are generally excellent and are meant to serve the public well. Most agents volunteer to serve the public in this capacity because they sincerely want to serve and protect their communities.
To the outside observer, what has happened, to a degree, in American society is the taking of power by some law enforcement union leaders from the chiefs and administrators. These union leaders convince their followers that their profession requires them to adapt an attitude of us versus them. The “us” are the law enforcement agents, the good guys, and the “they” represent the general public, or the perpetrators, the bad guys. In addition, the union members are lead to believe that they will be protected by the union regardless of any situation in which they find themselves. The concept of the “Blue Line” is one that reinforces that unity and protection aspect of the union.
In any given situation involving law enforcement misconduct, the chiefs and supervisors must follow the prescribed procedures. However, when the union enters the picture, the power of the chiefs and supervisors seem to disappear. More often then not, the union prevails over the powers of the departments where the agent or agents were involved. In other instances, the departments investigate themselves; a practice that begs the question of how justice is served.
So, what does all this have to do with communities getting together with their public officials and law enforcement agencies to try and create better relationships? The answer is that the organizations involved in trying to start a constructive dialogue in the community must involve the union representatives, because they seemingly believe they hold the best interest of the law enforcement members. In some instances, these leaders have demonstrated their power over their membership beyond that of the publically elected law enforcement officials. For one example of this power, let us look at what happened in New York City and a situation involving the mayor Bill de Blasio:
“When Mayor de Blasio first spoke about the non-indictment of the police officer who killed Eric Garner, he placed the case in a personal context:
‘Chirlane and I have had to talk to Dante for years about the dangers that he may face. A good young man, law-abiding young man who would never think to do anything wrong. And yet, because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face, we’ve had to literally train him—as families have all over this city for decades—in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.’” (dailykos.com)

The police union representative along with some officers took exception to the Mayor’s comments and took action in opposition to him:
“New York City’s largest police union created a form letter that members could send to the Mayor and the City Council Speaker, requesting the pair not attend the officer’s funeral should he or she die in the line of duty. The union said officers felt as if they had been ‘thrown under the bus,” and said the Mayor instead should have been encouraging parents to teach their children “to comply with police officers, even if they feel it’s unjust.’”(dailykos.com)
In addition to this action, when the Mayor attended and spoke at the funeral of one of the first of two officers that had been shot by a mentally disturbed man, many members of the police in attendance turned their back to the Mayor as a sign of disrespect. During the Mayor’s speech at the second officer’s funeral some police officers again turned their backs towards the Mayor even after the Police chief had requested they not do so. The officers had no fear of repercussions from their departments because of the power of their unions.
As things stand, the critical component in any attempts to create meaningful, positive, and effective relations between the law enforcement and the communities of color must involve the police unions. In order for the results of these meetings to be positive and effective knowledge of organizational structure must be accurate and transparent. The law enforcement agents need to know that they work for the people, not the other way around. Although their jobs are dangerous, they do not stand alone or apart from others with dangerous jobs; all lives are valuable. Their jobs are to uphold the laws, not serve as judge or jury. Their jobs are open to the public; all candidates must meet the qualifications and pass the necessary requirements; all these things are done voluntarily. No one is forced to go into law enforcement work.
In order to affect positive change in the relationships between the communities and the law enforcement agencies, the people, the public administrators, the immediate department supervisors and chiefs must not defer their powers to union leaders. If that happens, then the community becomes a “police state.”All participants must learn to work together for the common good if positive change is to occur. Change will happen, but it will be slow in coming because of the nature of power and who has it.

Paul R. Lehman, The challenge of facing the delusion of whiteness

January 4, 2015 at 4:31 am | Posted in African American, American Dream, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, democracy, DNA, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, Human Genome, immigration, Matthew Frye Jacobson, minority, Prejudice, Race in America, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, social justice system, Thomas A. Guglielmo, White of a Different Color, White on Arrival, whites | 2 Comments
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Many people who identify themselves as white have consciously or unconsciously been living a life of delusions—“a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence, especially as a symptom of a psychiatric condition.” Now that we recognize our society is changing and the truth is coming to light, holding on to false belief becomes more difficult. Just what are these false beliefs? The first is the belief in a so-called white race. Science has proven through DNA the truth that only one race of human being exists on the planet Earth; the concept of a white and black race was created as an act of capitalistic self preservation; the concept of white skin as normal and supreme was a means to social control. All these beliefs are false.
One of the first things European Explorers discovered once they venture outside of Europe was that eighty percent of the world’s population was people of color. That meant only twenty percent of the world was populated by so-called whites. In order to preserve and control their destiny, they devised a plan to accomplish their objective—create a concept of biological races and make the so-called white race superior to all the other non-white races. If the white race could convince the eighty percent people of color that they were superior, then their position would not be challenged; they would be safe. So, the so-called white people used every conceivable element available in society to promote their thesis of white superiority: the law, the Bible, science, history, etc. The problem with the creation of race by color, however, was that it was not consistent or reliable.
A so-called white race cannot be superior to other races if only one race exist, so other forms of support had to be acquired to keep the false belief going. The idea to make the members of the so-called white race the only “normal” human beings was brought into being for white people from all walks of life, from the doctor to the clergy, the businessman to the sharecropper. But how does one reason the fact that eighty percent of the human family is people of color, while only twenty percent is white, but the twenty percent calls itself normal? To accept that scenario defies all common sense and logic. In essence, whites are really the abnormal members of the human family; most just do not know it.
In all fairness to the people who identify themselves as white, we must realize that many of them were born into a society that had already created a deluded society for them. The concept of races, for example had undergone many changes; however, one concept in particular endorsed a five-tier scheme that included “Caucasian, Mongolian, Ethiopian, Malay, and American.”In considering the so-called European races,” William Ripley created a three-tiered scheme that included “Nordic,’ “Alpine,” and “Mediterranean.” At the top this group was the Nordic who were considered “vastly superior in intellectual endowments to all other races.”(Thomas A. Guglielmo, White On Arrival))
At the top of the Nordic race was the Anglo-Saxon race whose concept of white supremacy supported the idea of “Manifest Destiny”: “while U.S. conquests across North America and the Pacific at once enacted and reinforced a principle of white supremacy, between at least the 1840s and early twentieth century they were carried out under an ideological banner of Anglo-Saxon supremacy.” Some people, like Josiah Strong, believed “that this race…is destined to dispossess many weaker races, assimilate others, and mold the remainder, until…it has Anglo-Saxonized mankind.” (Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness Of A Different Color)
Unfortunately, something happened that the Anglo-Saxons did not anticipate—Immigration. They believed that the “Europeans from the north and west are infinitely more desirable than those from the south and east: the ‘rising tide of aliens’ or the ‘invading hordes” were making the country ‘the dumping ground of Europe’: and only selective and restrictive immigration legislation would ‘keep the United States American’ [meaning Anglo-Saxon] and would avert ‘national suicide.’” (Guglielmo)
We learned that “a deluge of southern and eastern European immigrant—alternately scorned as ‘slow poison,’ ‘the scum of Europe,’ ‘foreign mush,’ ‘good-for-nothing mongrels,’ or ‘parasite races’ suddenly swamped America. These people ‘half ruined’ and ‘slum-Europeanized’ the country.” (Guglielmo) The result of this concern was the Johnson Act that, in essence limited immigration to Northwestern European immigrants. However, thanks to Johann Friedrich Blumenbach and his coining of the term ‘Caucasian’ in 1798, the southern and eastern Europeans would have a term with which they would be identified. We learned that … “Jacobson takes seriously the racial language that courts, reformers, academics, and others applied to new immigrants and provides an elegant narration of how Italian, Slav, Greek, German, French, Irish, and other European races were gathered under the term “Caucasian” in the twentieth century and thus unified as ‘conclusively’ white.” (David R. Roediger, Working Toward Whiteness)
Many whites know how they came to be identified as such, but they also know that the information denoting race is false and cannot withstand scientific scrutiny, especially since the advances in DNA. The belief that skin color makes a difference is difficult to dismiss among a people who all their lives have been conditioned to think that their color made them special. Today, with the many changes in our society and world, the veneer of whiteness is wearing away and the truth is staring to break thru the façade of race. The negative attitudes, fears, and anger projected by many European Americans relative to African Americans are all based on the social conditioning of bigotry over many years. We know that eventually many of the old Anglo-Saxon ideas and prejudices will be replaced with a sense of a (human) family and patriotic unity.
What we need to understand is that bigoted men created a two-race society, one white, the other non-white or black. To the white race was given privilege, power, prestige, and a sense of normalcy over all non-white races. Over the years many European Americans (whites) simply accepted society’s conditioning without question. Today, all of those misconceptions, that make-up the delusions, are being called into question and debunked. One of the biggest problems society will have to face is recognizing the conundrum. The next is how to go about correcting the delusions. How does one go about undoing years of mind conditioning? One simple thing that can be done is to start avoiding the use of the terms race—black and white; their use separates us. Instead,try using African American and European American respectively or simply American.

Paul R. Lehman, Cartoon picture shows the power of the press in promoting bias

December 28, 2014 at 1:27 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, democracy, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, police force, Prejudice, Race in America, skin complexion, Slavery, social justice system, The Oklahoman, whites | Leave a comment
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What’s in a picture? An old saying indicates that a picture is worth a thousand words or more, depending on the picture. In The Oklahoman (12-27-2014) on the “Opinion” page a cartoon in a 3×4 3/4” rectangle shows a large, very dark-complexioned, closed-fist hand, pointing downward. One would have difficulty discerning from the depiction, whether the fist was of a man or gorilla. Just above the wrist are the words “BLACK ON BLACK CRIME.” Directly under the middle finger of the fist is the likeness of a dark complexioned person seemingly being held in place by the fist. In a bubble leading to the person being held in place by the fist are the words “The POLICE are KEEPING US DOWN.”To the left of the fist on the same level as the figure under the fist is a small, one inch figure of a fair-skinned policeman, in standard uniform, with both arms extended holding a gun pointing at the dark fist. The contrast between the dark fist and the policeman is obvious.
What was the message that the cartoonist was trying to send to the readers? At face value it would appear that African Americans are being held down by Black on Black crime, while blaming the fair-skinned police. In other words, rather than focusing on the injustices committed by law enforcement agencies against African Americans since slavery, the real cause of the injustices should rest with the African Americans themselves, and not the police. Many people viewing this cartoon would not be troubled by what it suggests, but when viewed through a different perspective, one might find the cartoon offensive.
In the 1960’s and before his death, Malcolm X noted that the European American Press published stories and pictures that demonized African Americans to the majority population. The press, in effect, turned ninety percent of the African Americans into criminals with stories that inflamed the European American majority. The police agencies following the lead of the press used that negative impression of African Americans to treat them as criminals and less than citizens because they realized or experienced no accountability regarding their experiences with African Americans. Therefore, when the police force interacts with the African American community, many European Americans think only of criminals because that was the image presented by the press. The police never has to be accountable for it actions against what the European Americans consider criminals.
The cartoon, in effect, underscores the bigotry created by the press and exploited by law enforcement agencies relative to African Americans specifically, and all people of color in general. The suggestion is that the giant black monster, meaning the African Americans, is what are keeping the African Americans down and the law enforcement agencies have little or nothing to do with it. Therefore the charges and complaints by African Americans against law enforcers must be false. We know that all police are not bad. Some European Americans will on occasions agree that there are some bad cops, but that the majority of them are good. Where are the good ones when the bad ones are acting badly? Of all the recent videos showing police involvement against citizens of color rarely, if ever, does one show officers trying to discourage or stop their fellow officers from acting badly. We are not saying that it does not happen, but if it does, we rarely witness it.
So, what’s in a picture? As far as the picture in question is concerned, we can recognize ignorance. The graphics and the language combine to create an impression that African Americans are dumb animals that are responsible for their own problems, while innocent law enforcement agencies are being blamed. In addition, the primary problem holding down the African Americans is “Black on Black Crime.” Without a doubt black on black crime represents a major problem in the African Americans communities, however, so does unemployment, poor schooling, substandard housing, no health insurance, low paying jobs, high police presence, high number of arrests and a host of other concerns. All these concerns are related to a system that does not treat all people fairly.
The presence of the picture suggests bigotry by seemingly promoting the stereotypical view that police are unfairly accused of creating a problem for which they are innocent and share no involvement other than what the law allows. The decision to draw and present the cartoon picture did not come from a mind free of ethnic bias. The intent of the work clearly shows who the viewer should assume to be the villain—the African Americans.
The presence of the cartoon suggests a sense of arrogance in that little or no thought was given to how African Americans would view it. The fact that the picture was published shows that no regards were given to what the African Americans might think and feel relative to their value in society that encourages a denigrating perception of them.
The fact of the matter is that the cartoon attempts to dismiss the problems existing between the African Americans, the law enforcement agencies, and society. The problem of black-on-black crime is not the same as seeking equal justice in society and the two should not be combined or confused. The large number of African Americans incarcerated will attest to the fact that individuals are apprehended and sent to prison for their alleged crimes. When we look at the number of instances where violence and death are perpetrated against people of color by law enforcement, and no one is held accountable regardless of the circumstances, then a problem exists that must be addressed. The problem involves equal justice and does not relate to black-on-black crime where people are held accountable for actions.
Living in a democratic society we realize that problem solving is a part of our responsibility and duty because that is how we ensure the rights and liberties of each individual. We fail ourselves and our society when to refuse to acknowledge problems that stare us squarely in the face or shift the blame to others. As our society continues to change we will of necessity be confronted with many problems that must be address if we intend to progress. Unlike the picture, we do not have to blame each other for the problems, we just need to recognize that they exists, then work together to resolve them.

Paul R. Lehman, Mother Jones article, “Are You A Racist?” falls short on logic

December 12, 2014 at 8:14 pm | Posted in African American, American Racism, amygdala, blacks, discrimination, DNA, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, justice, justice system, liberty, Prejudice, race, racism, skin color, skin complexion, socioeconomics | Leave a comment
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In a current (January/February 2015) article by Chris Mooney in “Mother Jones,” “Are You Racist? Science is beginning to unmask the bigot inside your brain,” we are introduced to a number of tests, exercises, games and other activities that are focused on helping to identify and control our prejudice. Most of the tests and activities involve our association with things that seemingly feed into our prejudices. Unfortunately, the article failed to achieve its objective if that objective was to help us identify ourselves as racist and to try to address the problem in a rational way.
The first problem in the article was its failure to define racist. Had the term racist been defined, then we would have a basis from which to launch a rational discussion. Racist is a spin-off of the term race that is generally associated with science. The concept of race in America is based on an illusion, a creation, and a lie when it becomes plural, as in black race and white race. As far as science is concerned, the only race we need be socially concerned with is the human race, and it is not based or defined by skin color.
Rather than making clear or defining the terms African American and European American, Mooney uses the words black and white interchangeably with them respectively. These terms are not interchangeable—they have separate and unique meanings; that is, all blacks are not or consider themselves African Americans, and all whites are not nor do they consider themselves European Americans. The article does not make that distinction. Consider the following statement regarding the test referred to as Implicit Association Test: “The test asks you to rapidly categorize images of faces as either “African American” or “European American” while you also categorize words (like “evil,” “happy,” “awful,” and “peace”) as either “good” or “bad.” Faces and words flash on the screen, and you tap a key, as fast as you can, to indicate which category is appropriate.
Sometimes you’re asked to sort African American faces and “good” words to one side of the screen. Other times, black faces are to be sorted with “bad” words.”
We notice the shift from African American faces to black faces in the about quote and this is no exception regarding these terms; it happens throughout the article. According to Mooney these tests and activities were created to measure ethnic prejudice in society, but seemingly overlook the fact that we were born into an ethnically biased society. Our perspectives are based on our social conditioning. The assumption made in the article is unrealistic:
“You think of yourself as a person who strives to be unprejudiced, but you can’t control these split-second reactions. As the milliseconds are being tallied up, you know the tale they’ll tell: When negative words and black faces are paired together, you’re a better, faster categorizer. Which suggests that racially biased messages from the culture around you have shaped the very wring of your brain.”
For the most part, the article examines activities that tell us what we already know—ethnic prejudice is a part of our mental make-up and is based on our social/cultural conditioning. What we should be focusing our attention on are ways to overcome these biases. Unfortunately, the article never debunks the notion of race as unacceptable but instead moves to the concept of tribalism as rationale. We know the benefits associated with tribal membership: identity, security, comfort, value, unity to mention as few.
Mooney’s visit with the scientist, David Amodio, a member of New York University’s psychology department, acquaints him with research regarding the brain, tribalism and prejudice: “One simple, evolutionary explanation for our innate tendency toward tribalism is safety in numbers. You’re more likely to survive an attack from a marauding tribe if you join forces with your buddies. And primal fear of those not in the in-group also seems closely tied to racial bias.” The professor added that his “research suggests that one key area associated with prejudice is the amygdala, a small and evolutionarily ancient region in the middle of the brain that is responsible for triggering the notorious “fight or flight” response.” The article continued; “In interracial situations, Amodio explains, amygdala firing can translate into anything from “less direct eye gaze and more social distance” to literal fear and vigilance toward those of other races.”
What seems apparent in this article is the fact that some scientists seem to want to verify what we already know—that prejudice exists in us and our society. The challenge is to over-come the prejudice, and we do that by educating our brains to recognize a different tribal group—the human family. One would think that the first order of business in making this shift is to first debunk to idea and concept of multiple biological races—we did it with Santa and lived through it. We certainly can do it with the illusion of race, notwithstanding Amodio’s research. We can not begin to deal with the problem of ethnic bigotry and prejudice until we face the fact that we have been living with an illusion for a few hundred years and now the time has come to face the truth.
Mooney recognized the problem of ethnic prejudice and realized that: “To be sure, it will take more than thought exercises to erase the deep tracks of prejudice America has carved through the generations.” He concludes the article with the statement: “Biases have slipped into all of our brains. And that means we all have a responsibility to recognize those biases and work to change them.” Actually, biases did not slip into our brains; in America they were cultivated through our culture, laws and social systems. One of the first things we can do is recognize that we belong to the same group by not referring to each other as black or white. What the European American needs to know is that each time he or she refers to him/herself as white, the race card is being played. Of course, the same goes for the African American and black. Ethnic bigotry, prejudice and racism will not simply disappear, it must be eradicated.

Paul R. Lehman, Fairness in the criminal justice system and society is the focus of the protest.

December 2, 2014 at 8:32 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, Bigotry in America, blacks, discrimination, equality, European American, fairness, Ferguson, grand jury, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, Michael Brown, President Obama, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system, The Oklahoman, whites | 2 Comments
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In the wake of the Ferguson, Missouri grand jury decision, one thing has become crystal clear—many European Americans have no clue as to why African Americans do not trust law enforcement in general, and the justice system in particular. Many European Americans do not take the time to get the facts relative to incidents involving European American police officers and African Americans; they simply side with the police. In addition, since the majority of law enforcement officers reflect the majority society, the relationship between these two groups is generally good. No so with respect to law enforcement agencies and African Americans and other people of color. The element of distrust of the justice system regarding African Americans and people of color has proven to be correct in far too many cases. Whenever a conflict arise involving justice for an African American victim and a European American law officer, the officer is usually exonerated. When African Americans protest a decision and the lack of justice, as they see it, from the justice system, many European Americans take the side of the law establishment, regardless of the actual situation, evidence, and facts.
No amount to evidence, facts, and data will convince a bigot that American citizens, regardless of their ethnicity, have a Constitutional right to protest against the justice system as to what they perceive as an injustice. Rather than sticking to a specific issue or concern presented by the protesters, the bigots will try to bring in other issues to try and weaken the objective of the protest. For example, when protesters talk about the number of killings of unarmed African American males by European American law officers, the bigots want to bring into the discussion the number of “black on black” murders. The problem with this inclusion is that it has nothing to do with the problem of unequal justice. The African Americans who commit murder against other African Americans are generally apprehended, tried, and if found guilty, sent to prison. History shows that most European American police officers who shoot and kill young African American males rarely go to trial, and if they do, are usually set free. Michael Brown’s case is only one of the most recent examples.
One of the problems with the difference between how African Americans see the criminal justice system and the way European Americans see it is how some, usually bigoted, European Americans perceive African Americans in generally. In many instances, European Americans see African Americans at extremes—either well-to-do, educated, and professional or poor, ignorant, prone to violence, dishonest, collect food stamps, and criminal. Little room is ever given to seeing African American as ordinary human beings as they, European Americans see themselves. Because of these perceptions and bigoted attitudes, fear and hate can be easily generated by people who want to polarize each side. For example, an article in The Oklahoma (11/29/14)by Wall Street Journal editorial writer Jason L. Riley entitled “A discussion no one wants,” does just that, whether deliberate or not. Apparently, Riley does not realize his bigotry.
Using language and information that cast a dark shadow on the character of Michael Brown, Riley tries to build an argument justifying Brown’s death. He added that “Racial profiling and tensions between the police and poor black communities are real problems, but these are effects rather than causes, and they can’t be addressed without also addressing the extraordinarily high rates of black criminal behavior—yet such discussion remains taboo.” This reference is a good example of mixing several different concerns and trying to blend them into one—the black problem. First, racial profiling and tensions exists among African Americans and police regardless of the communities; the focus of the police is usually on the skin color. The “black on black crime” is a problem that is being addressed even by the President, so that concern should not be included in the discussion. African Americans want to have the discussion, however, they must have it with people willing to listen and act positively.
Riley offered some unsubstantiated information that serves to underscore his bigotry:”But so long as young black men are responsible for an outsize portion of violent crime, they will be viewed suspiciously by law enforcement and fellow citizens of all races.”The statement suggest that all young black men are criminals and are responsible for committing a large portion of violent crimes. Where are the facts, stats, evidence? By now Riley should know that human being belong to one race, not many.
Riley wants his readers to think that the entire problem in Ferguson is simple to assess: “Pretending that police behavior is the root of the problem is not only a dodge but also foolish…Ferguson’s problem isn’t white cops or white prosecutors; it’s the thug behavior exhibited by individuals like Michael Brown, which puts a target on the backs of other young black men. Romanticizing such behavior instead of condemning it only makes matters worse.”There we have it; all that needs to be done to solve the problem is to get rid of the young black thugs.
What Riley does not understand in his bigoted perspective, is that Michael Brown and Ferguson are not what is being protested, per se, but the injustice of the American criminal justice system. Responsible Americans of all ethnicities are involved in protests all across America and some foreign countries in an effort to get America’s attention regarding the years of injustice perpetrated against African Americans and people of color. These protestors are not causing violent disruptions, but civil unrest and civil disobedience. The American Psychological Association defined violence as “an extreme form of aggression, such as assault, rape or murder.”Some extreme and small elements of some protest groups have destroyed property and burned buildings, cars and businesses. These acts are reprehensible and have no places in the protests and are never condoned. With respect to violence, however, the violence in most cases is not committed by the protestors. When we look at the definition of the word violence, we certainly cannot describe the protestors as violent; they do not assault, abuse or murder the police or law enforcers.
We certainly thank Riley for his article because he gave us a picture of the problems American society faces regarding valuing all citizens and insuring that we all receive justice and fairness regardless of what we look like or where we live.

Paul R. Lehman, Lessons of the Ferguson grand jury finding

November 25, 2014 at 8:14 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, Civil Rights Ats, democracy, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, grand jury, justice, Martin Luther King Jr., President Obama, socioeconomics, whites | 5 Comments
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The finding of no indictment by the grand jury in the Michael Brown case in Ferguson should have come as no surprise to people who are familiar with the history of America’s justice system and its relationship to people of color. The grand jury’s finding underscores the primary reason why African Americans and other people of color have problems of trust with the justice system in America and the law enforcement arm of that system. Even more to the Brown case and the lack of trust in the County prosecutor Bob McCulloch as a representative of the justice system is his recent record of no convictions of police officers involved in shootings.
One of the legitimate concerns of the people of Ferguson at the beginning of the case was the decision to take it to a grand jury. What that decision did was to remove from involvement the citizens of Ferguson from the final outcome of the case in that the grand jury reflected the demographics of the state and not the city of Ferguson. European Americans represent seventy percent of the state of Missouri, but only about thirty percent of Ferguson. A total of twelve members made-up the grand jury with nine European Americans and three African Americans. A total of nine votes were required to decide the outcome of the case. To increase the control of the justice system in this case, everything was kept secret even after the finding—no information on who voted for what or why. Some citizens of Ferguson stated that they believed McCulloch elected to go with the grand jury to shield him from having to take any responsibility for the finding. That self-protection tactic was apparent during his report to the nation when he deferred many of the questions asked by the reporters as being part of the secrecy of the grand jury process.
Although many questions remain to be answered relative to this case, the grand jury’s finding of no indictment indicates a need to address some serious concerns, namely, the state of the criminal justice system in America as it applies to African Americans and other people of color; the need to address the value of African Americans and people of color in American society; the protection of the police force over and above the protection and rights of the citizens of color; the need for the involvement and support of the European Americans in addressing the problem of bigotry.
From the very beginning of his address, McCulloch’s comments were focused on the rights of the police officer Darren Wilson and how the evidence underscored his report of what actually happened during his confrontation with Michael Brown. The problem with that approach was that Wilson was not the victim, Brown was, but no comments or evidence was offered for Brown by McCulloch. What that says to the public is that the value of the police officer’s life is considerably more than that of the citizen. Why? If Americans are to feel and believe that the justice system works for everyone equally, then some attention must be paid to how the daily operations of that system is informed and functions relative to all citizens regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, etc.
Looking nationwide at the frequency of occurrences of police shootings of unarmed African Americans and other people of color, one is faced with the question of human value in American society. If all Americans regardless of their identity and social status are not treated equally with respect and dignity by the justice system and more specially, the law enforcement agencies, then changes must be made to educate them to meet that standard. One problem in the past regarding pronounced bigotry in crimes against people of color by law enforcement agencies is that no serious repercussions are suffered by the law enforcement agencies; the individuals or the agency is usually exonerated; for example, simply look at Ferguson. Regardless of what the grand jury’s finding was, the fact remains that Michael Brown is dead, Darren Wilson who fired twelve shots at him (not all hit him) and killed him is free of any charge. The public is left with the suggestion that nothing of consequence really happened. We can all forget about the incident because of the grand jury’s findings and go on about our lives and businesses. We need to be reminded that regardless of the circumstances, a human being was killed and that life was valued.
Another lesson we can take from the grand jury’s findings is that if changes of a positive nature are to come to Ferguson and America, then the involvement of European American citizens must be forthcoming. We may try and pretend that bigotry is on the decline in society, but all we need to counter that notion is to look at President Obama and how he has been treated because of his ethnicity. The grand jury’s findings give us an opportunity for soul searching and pause regarding the kind of society we want to become. We know that bigotry is alive and well now, but we also know that the demographic of society is also changing. By the year 2050 many professional social scientists predict that the majority citizens will be brown or non-European. One wonders how the European Americans would want a society to treat them where they represent the minority population.
Society is changing and part of the problems we are experiencing can be seen as growing pains. The old guard that includes bigoted attitudes is trying to maintain the status quo because it represents power and control in most areas of society, but as society changes that power will shift. So, it would behoove the involvement of all citizens to make society what we want it to be based on our democratic government. The Michael Brown case in Ferguson shows us where we are as a society as well as where we need to go. The choice is ours to make and in the words of the late Dr. King, we can “either learn to live together as brothers [and sisters] or perish together as fools.”

Paul R. Lehman, Group identity, not Party, the key to Republican victory

November 10, 2014 at 5:54 pm | Posted in American history, American Racism, Civil War, Congress, democracy, Democrats, entitlements, equality, European American, lower class, minority, political tactic, politicians, poor, President, President Obama, Race in America, Republican Party, socioeconomics, the Republican Party, upper class, whites | 1 Comment
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The results of the recent election came as a surprise to many people because they thought that many of the issues touched the lives of enough people until they would go to the poles and cast their votes in support of the people who would look out for their best interest. Unfortunately, in many instances, that was not the case and many people were disappointed. Had they given serious thought to what has been taking place recently in politics relative to history and group dynamics, they would have not been surprised.
What were at stake in this election were not so much the issues, but the survival of the group—the conservative European Americans (whites) against change. With the creation of a white race, the ruling class of Anglo-Saxons also made manifest certain beliefs, attitudes and conditions that would represent aspects of the race (group). Regardless of the numerous aspects of group membership, loyalty, dedication, and unity were required under any condition, even loss of personal goods, property and religious practices. So, the importance and protection of group membership was understood to be the top priorities from the beginning. For European Americans, loosing their white identity would be like excommunication from the church or being shunned from the family. For some European Americans, having a white identity was/is the only thing of social value they have.
Since the election of Barack Obama as President, the wheels were set in motion to eliminate and discredit him. We all can recall the words of Sen. Mitch O’Connell before Obama had taken office to prevent him another term. We can also recall the affect that attitude had on the Congress that led to it being referred to as the “Congress of No.” What was not made clear to the public was why this negative attitude and disrespect towards the new President was necessary. The answer is change; Obama’s election as an African American signaled a change in the group dynamics of America’s social structure. The social value of African Americans had never been a real concern for European Americans since they created, represented, promoted and controlled the “white race” and its standards of normalcy. That normalcy included only European Americans in the group. Obama represented a threat to the group’s unity.
The plan set in motion for the recent election followed the plan in effect since Obama’s election—blame him for everything, and praise him for nothing. In essence, Obama was made the target and represented evil, doom, destruction, despair, and of course, change. His name was to become synonymous with everything that can and does go wrong in society and the world. When anything occurred in society, Obama critics found a way to place the blame on him: problems with immigration, border security, foreign policy, the national debt, climate changes, Ebola, and a host of other things. So, when the recent election ads began to show up, no one was surprised that Obama was who the candidates were running against. The office the candidates were running for were not really of consequence, the party identity was the most important concern, and the code word for unity was Obama.
To underscore the point that group unity was the most important concern of the Republican Party we have only to look at the campaign advertisements of the candidates. Regardless of the office the candidate was running for, the important code word—Obama was found in it. The reference to Obama in the ads was not necessarily directed to Obama but the candidate’s affiliation with Obama and/or his policies or actions. This plan of making Obama the target was not only used on the national level, but also in state and local elections.
The importance of group unity took precedence over common sense issues as in the case of a number of states including Kansas, Arkansas, and Nebraska where the minimum wage issue was on the ballet and passed. However, the candidates who were against this issue were voted into office. The irony in these cases cannot be avoided—why would a citizen vote against his or her own best interest on one hand and for it on the other? The answer seems to be that group loyalty takes priority over personal interest.
In addition to the republicans holding to their group unity plan, even a number of Democratic candidates chose group loyalty over political party membership. In a number of races on both national and state level some democratic candidates distanced themselves from President Obama; they did not want their constituents to think that they supported Obama. They wanted to show their group members that they were still part of the group although they represented a different political party. They knew that the battle for their group was not so much the election victory, but the group victory to hold off social change.
What many of the voters never realize is the fact that they have been and continue to be exploited by the ruling class or “Titans” of their group. According to Theodore W. Allen, author of The Invention of the White Race, this group of poor and working class European American people who vote against their own best interest are used as:
“the Great Safety Valve, the system of racial privileges conferred on laboring-class European-Americans, rural and urban, poor and exploited though they themselves were. That has been the main historical guarantee of the rule of the ‘Titans,’ damping down anti-capitalist pressures by making ‘race, and not class, the distinction in social life.’ This more than any other factor, has shaped the ‘contours of American history.”
For Allen, the plan of the ruling class of Anglo-Saxons has always been to keep an actual gap between themselves and the lesser member of the group while exploiting them, but making them believe that their membership in the group offered them a feeling of superiority over other non-European groups—that is their reward in exchange for their votes.
Another irony of American politics occur when African Americans are accused of using the so-called race card to gain somewhat of an advantage over an opponent; the fact of the matter is that whenever the race card is brought into play, the European Americans benefit because race is a code word used to marshal their safety valve—group members.

Paul R. Lehman, Charles Barkley comments on dirty dark secret

November 3, 2014 at 5:27 pm | Posted in African American, American Dream, American history, blacks, Charles Barkley, Civil War, equality, ethnic stereotypes, identity, President, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, The Oklahoman, whites | 2 Comments
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The Oklahoman published recently (10/31/2014) some comments by Charles Barkley entitled “Barkley exposes ‘dirty secret.’ The comments were from an interview Barkley did with a Philadelphia radio station. What spurred the comments was when Barkley was asked about NFL player Russell Wilson being told by some of his teammates that he was not “black enough.” Although we certainly respect Barkley right to freedom of speech, we also recognize the responsibility to comment on his statement.
For example, Barkley stated that “’we as black people, we’re never going to be successful, not because of you white people, but because of other black people.’” Barkley assumed that so-called black people represent a monolith and exists with certain stereotypical characteristics. That assumption is false. Barkley never defines who black people are and if they receive their identity from their skin color or from some other source. What is obvious from his statement is that Barkley still holds on to the false belief in multiple biological races, like black and white. Those races exist in society as illusions, but many people hold on to them like they do the Tooth Fairy.
Barkley stated next that “’When you’re black, you have to deal with so much crap in your life from other black people.’” That statement would hold true regardless of ones identity. He continued “’It’s a dirty dark secret, I’m glad it’s coming out. It comes out every few years.’” What is not a secret is that children will ridicule other children for a variety of reasons; they do it constantly, but not necessarily for reasons of skin color or group membership.
Barkley noted that in his book stated that “…when young black kids, when they do well in school, the loser kids tell them ‘Oh you’re acting white.’ The kids who speak intelligently, they tell them ‘you’re acting white. So it’s a dirty dark secret in the black community.’”While we do not doubt Barkley’s sincerity, we cannot help but take note of how he sees society in black and white, and how that colors his perception of things. He speaks of the ‘black community’ as if it exists in some homogenous state, which it does not. He also gives some African American students little or no credit in recognizing that the criticism come from ‘loser kids’ and should not be taken seriously. The schools and the parents certainly play a part in determining the child’s well-being and underscoring the fact that negative stereotypes of African American experiences are not to be valued.
Barkley continued “One reason we’re never going to be successful as a whole is because of other black people. For some reason we are brainwashed to think, if you’re not a thug or an idiot, you’re not black enough. If you go to school, make good grades, speak intelligently, and don’t break the law, you’re not a good black person.’”What Barkley is speaking of here is the gap in education, social and economic levels that exist in society and covers people of all skin complexions. The only group to make it will be the human race of which we are all a part. Black has never been defined, so to use it as a unifying social term is false. The continued use of the terms black and white goes back to the days of American slavery where the two races were created. The brainwashing came into being when the slave masters associated power, privilege, superiority, and arrogance with being European American (white). African Americans were brainwashed into believing what their slave masters and society forced them to accept about themselves. After slavery, laws were created to keep the former slaves ignorant. The result can be seen today in Barkley’s comments about white being better.
What does not come out in Barkley’s comments is the concern of those who identify themselves as black; they are ignorant, fearful, intimidated, and insecure. First, they are ignorant of themselves and history; if they were aware of history, they would know of the many contributions made by African American men and women who overcame great obstacles to make a mark in society and our world. The list is too long to include, but we only have to look around to recognize them from the President, to the Attorney General, to company and corporation heads and even prominent sport commentators like Barkley.
They are fearful because they want all the people to identify with one group, blacks. And when they see someone who they believe is achieving more success than the group permits, they fear loosing members of the group. To them, it is important to keep the group together, so when someone appears to be moving beyond the borders, they try to pull then back in by appealing to an identity—“you’re not black enough.”
In addition to being fearful, the loser also feels intimidated by the African American who is perceived as getting ahead. Having a group identity for some people creates a feeling of safety and unity because everyone is thought to be the same. When it appears that one is exceeding his bounds and enjoying success at a new level, it creates a feeling of separation from the one who is still at the former level. In essence, the one who is moving upwards is viewed as leaving the group and by doing so, becomes better than those in the group. Hence, the intimidation.
Group membership and identity promotes a variety of concerns like, loyalty, dedication, unity, and security. When individuals thought to be group members appear to be moving away from the group, the comfort and security of the group comes into question. Barkley stated that “’This debate is funny. We’re the only race that tells people if you…have street cred—that means you’ve been arrested—that’s a compliment. We’re the only ethnic group that say ‘Hey if you go to jail, that gives you street cred.’” Barkley is mistaken by placing all African Americans into a group and assuming that they all walk in lock-step. Any rational person knows that all people are individuals, and yes, we are part of the environment in which we were raised, but that does not define us. The real secret is that no one wants to be defined by ignorance and stupidity which is what the losers represent.

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