Paul R. Lehman, Social media help to show the ugly side of American societyFebruary 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 | 1 Comment
Tags: African American, African Americans, American Education, American History, black, Civil Rights, Clarion-Ledger, Confronting Myths, discrimination, education, ethnicity, European Americans, Gene Alday, government, Kay Sreiger, legislator, Mississippi, Phil Bryant, politics, Prejudice, President Obama, Reconstruction, Southern culture, white
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.
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Dr. Paul Lehman