Paul R. Lehman,Why the movie The Green Book failed to carry a positive message for African Americans.

February 27, 2019 at 3:55 pm | Posted in African American, African American and chicken, African American celebrities, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, Black Englisn, black inferiority, blacks, desegregation, discrimination, Disrespect, employment, Equal Opportunity, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, integregation, justice, minorities, Negro, Prejudice, Race in America, racism, respect, segregation, skin color, social conditioning, social justice system, socioeconomics, white supremacy, whites | 2 Comments
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Family, friends, and acquaintances were the order in which African American musicians and other entertainers used for hospitality, food, and lodging in the days before desegregation. During the early 1950’s when my cousin “Little Walter” Jacobs came to town for a show or two, his biggest decision was with whom he would stay. His room at the local hotel for people of color was only for his belongings. Jacobs was not alone in this endeavor, most African American entertainers depended on their relations in the communities they visited for hospitality where they were usually treated as celebrities. Because this form of accommodation was ordinary for African American entertainers, most road managers and agents saw to it that the flyers announcing the coming attractions were in place weeks before the actual shows. That way, the family, friends, and acquaintances would be prepared for the celebrity’s arrival.

The key to a successful tour for African American entertainers in large part fell to the managers and their connections with other managers on the “Chitlin Circuit,” which was a collection of performance venues throughout the Eastern, Southern, and upper Midwest areas of the United States that provided commercial and cultural acceptance for African-American entertainers. A Green Book was not usually necessary for these entertainers because of the information network of the managers. For other African Americans traveling around America and especially through the South The Green Book was important. Somehow the movie, The Green Book, did not touch on the experiences of African American entertainers traveling through America.

For some American viewers, the movie The Green Book was very entertaining and likeable simply because it included a well-known musician of color, Don Shirley and a historical perspective. Unfortunately, viewers sometimes do not see the forest for the trees, or they concentrate on the movie rather than the message it presents. When we examine the movie for it message, we discover that the movie was disappointing from three aspects—the Green Book, the musician, and the bouncer.

Although the movie carried the title—The Green Book, little attention was paid to the actual book, it author and content. Yes, Tony the bouncer did refer to the book a number of times, but usually without any mention of it. The author and publisher of the book, Victor Hugo Green was not mentioned nor was the way Green acquired the information for the book. Also, what was  not mentioned in the movie was the fact that the book was actually a survival tool for many African American travelers who often faced a life or death situation on the road. African Americans were not only prevented from staying in hotels and eating in public cafes and restaurants but also refused gas at many service stations. So the importance of The Green Book had more significance and value than reflected in the movie.

Next, the movie failed to represent African Americans (if that indeed was an objective) through the character of the pianist Ali. Although he was portrayed as a brilliant and talented musician, his character appeared as a naïve, innocent, ignorant and an anomaly of a person of color. Why would such a seemingly uninformed person of color agree to a tour through a country whose majority viewed him not as a human being, but somewhat of a spectacle similar to that of an animal that could perform some unusual tricks for their entertainment? The simple fact that Ali’s character was not familiar with fried chicken or rhythm and blues disqualified him from even pretending to be an African American. The character of Ali was en essence a freak, an oddity in the context of the movie since we learn little about his personal life. Throughout the movie Ali performed at the various venues with little or no regard for the fact that he was there only for the entertainment of the European Americans, not as a human being of equal social value. The entire movie focused on a short period of time in his life–from the beginning of the tour until the end of the tour at Christmas. The movie was certainly not about him.

Tony Vallelonga, the Italian from New York, who was hired as Ali’s chauffer and body-guard, was a bigot who accepted the job for the money. Through the course of the tour the two men got to know each other on a personal level, but never as equals. Tony understood that the fabric of ethnic bigotry was part of society’s character and therefore he was in a position to protect Ali from his ignorance on a limited basis. We learn from the movie much about Tony’s life, his family, his friends, aspects of his ethnic identity. In a number of instances Tony saved the day for Ali when confronted by European American bigots. Although the two men grow closer together in accepting one another, that acceptance was as members of two distinct ethnic identities and character roles. The movie came closer to being Tony’s story rather than a story about a book or a pianist of color.

Between the two characters of Ali and Tony, the one that seemed to grow in understanding human relationships was Tony. Ali’s character was that of a spoiled and somewhat controlling talented social orphan who just happened to be a person of color. Ali’s knowledge of The Green Book seemed limited at best as was his awareness and understanding of the African American experience in America. The most important thing to him was his talent and the opportunity to perform before mainly European American audiences and, of course, money.

Although some aspects of the movie were entertaining in a limited context, the overall effect was that of disappointment because nothing of value was gained from the experience of the characters development. Tony arrived home to the welcome of his family and friends who still retained their biases of eggplants. Tony learned to accept Ali, but that acceptance did not extend to all people of color, just Ali.

Ali’s character turns out to be that of a sad, lonely and pathetic individual who never learned the value of family, friends, and acquaintances. African Americans cannot live successfully in America without the support from others which Ali experienced when he visited the local African American club in the town where he was supposed to perform. The movie ends on a sad and tragic note when Ali appears at Tony’s home to save himself from alienation at Christmas not knowing that he was simply an eggplant coming in from the cold.

 

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Paul R. Lehman, PNAS study shows ethnic biases still exist in treatment and medication for African Americans

February 18, 2019 at 4:02 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, Medical Aparteid, myths of pain for African Americans, PNAS study, Prejudice, Race in America, whites | Leave a comment
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A young man navigated himself into the hospital emergency room and to the reception desk where he complained of an extremely severe headache. What happened to him after his alerting the reception desk of his condition is not clear, nor is the treatment or lack of treatment he received by the medical staff. The fact that he was not admitted to the hospital was evident because the man was found lying on the sidewalk in front of the emergency room door by the local police who had been called by the hospital staff to remove him. The man’s pain was so severe that he could not speak clearly with the police when they tried to question him. Not being able to communicate with the man, the police drugged him to their vehicle, took him to the local jail where after a few short hours, he was reported to have died.

A pregnant young woman waited for some 30 minutes in the waiting room of her obstetrics office after calling ahead and informing them of her condition—very uncomfortable pain and vaginal bleeding. After she bled through the chair cushion in the reception room, she asked her husband to see if she might be taken to a private area.  The doctor visited briefly with her, commented on her weight, said that her spotting was normal, and sent her home. When the pain continued through the day and evening, she spoke to her mother then called a nurse who asked if she had pain in her back. She replied no, that it was in her butt. The nurse said she was probably suffering from constipation. After numerous confrontations with doctors and nurses she was given an ultrasound that revealed her serious condition—one baby and two tumors. Had the ultrasound not been performed she would have died; she did lose the baby.

These two incidents represent the thousands that have occurred and many that still occur today throughout America. The two main reasons for these occurrences are: the patients are African Americans, and the myths believed by the medical community concerning African Americans and pain. One would think and certainly hope that ethnic myths based on skin color no longer play a role in the treatment of African Americans in today’s world. We would be mistaken in that belief.

A study that focused on these myths was conducted by PNAS, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. (Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Apr 19; 113(16): 4296–4301.) The study employed the terms black and white assuming that the reader would know their significance. This writer for the sake of clarity, viewed the term black to mean African Americans, and the term white to mean European Americans. The significance of the study was stated as follows:

“The present work examines beliefs associated with racial bias in pain management, a critical health care domain with well-documented racial disparities. Specifically, this work reveals that a substantial number of white laypeople and medical students and residents hold false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites and demonstrates that these beliefs predict racial bias in pain perception and treatment recommendation accuracy. It also provides the first evidence that racial bias in pain perception is associated with racial bias in pain treatment recommendations. Taken together, this work provides evidence that false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites continue to shape the way we perceive and treat black people—they are associated with racial disparities in pain assessment and treatment recommendations.”(Italics added)

The myths in the study include: Blacks age more slowly than whites, Blacks’ nerve endings are less sensitive than whites’,  Black people’s blood coagulates more quickly than whites’, Whites have larger brains than blacks, Whites are less susceptible to heart disease than blacks, Blacks are less likely to contract spinal cord diseases, Whites have a better sense of hearing compared with blacks, Blacks’ skin is thicker than whites’, Blacks have denser, stronger bones than whites, Blacks have a more sensitive sense of smell than whites, Whites have a more efficient respiratory system than blacks, Black couples are significantly more fertile than white couples, Blacks are better at detecting movement than whites, Blacks have stronger immune systems than whites, and are less likely to catch colds.

Most people are generally encouraged to trust people in the medical profession; however, the words of the researchers from this study should give caution to African Americans as well as all people of color in general relative to the medical profession’s continued belief in many of these myths. We tend to believe that people with higher education and in professional occupations are not influenced so much by ethnic bigotry or prejudice. Unfortunately, the results of the PNAS study indicates that for many in the medical profession the biases acquired through their social conditioning are still alive and working. Many doctors do not realize that the myths play a part in their practice because attention is not brought to them. Patients of color need advocates to speak up for them.

As a result of the study, African Americans and other people of color should understand that their health and wellbeing still depends on their ability to receive appropriate treatment without the interference of some mythical belief. In other words, they should always question any procedure or medication that does not seem to address their illness, if possible. The questioning of the medical professional is not to challenge his or her decision, but to gain clarity about what the patient can expect of the treatment or medication.

The inhumane and unethical treatment of African Americans by many in the medical profession is not new, and if one wants to read about the extensive history of that treatment an excellent source is Harriet A. Washington’s Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present(2006). The fact that many of the myths are still believed today in spite of the DNA information that speaks to no biological differences between Homo sapiens underscore the need for caution relative to the medical profession and their relationship to African Americans and people of color. A new emphasis in the medical profession must be instituted to address this problem or it will continue.

Paul R. Lehman, Talking to kids about race should be a thoughtful, truthful, and rewarding undertaking for the kids

February 8, 2019 at 12:53 pm | Posted in African American, African American hair, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, black inferiority, blacks, Declaration of Independence, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, DNA, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, Hair, Human Genome, identity, integregation, justice, language, Media and Race, minorities, Negro, Oklahoma education, Prejudice, public education, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, social conditioning, The Oklahoman, tolerance, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
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An interesting and troubling article, “Diversity discussion: How to talk to kids about race,” by Melissa Erickson, (The Oklahoman 1/28/2019) appeared in the paper recently and caught my attention because of the topic and the subject mentioned. The first concern was the activity suggested that someone—talk to kids about race. The problem with that activity depends on several things:  the teacher must be someone familiar with race, ethnicity, culture, and nationality; the ethnicity of the students to receive the information, and the approach to discussing the subject. A closer examination of this article was necessary.

A six-year-old boy came home from school one afternoon and surprised his mother with the question, “are you white”? The irony in the question was the fact that his mom’s maiden name was White, so she had to ask him to be more specific. Since he did not have a grasp of the significance of “white” viewed as an ethnic identity, the mother took the time to explain that she was not white and that a person’s skin complexion does not determine an identity unless he or she believes in myths.  Since mothers are their children’s primary teachers caution must be taken in discussing the subject of race with children because the manner in which the information is presented can, and in many cases, affect the children’s psyche in a positive or negative way.

If the teacher or individual introducing the subject of race to children or anyone for that matter, is not knowledgeable regarding race, ethnicity, culture, and nationality then whatever information given the children will be questionable. The most important decision the teacher must make is whether to discuss race as a myth, or race as a reality, or race as a myth viewed as reality. The results of the teacher’s choice will have a lasting effect on the children’s psyche and how they see themselves as well as how they see others, and how others see them.

Serious challenges accompany each of the choices in that the invention/occurrence of race in American society must be presented and justified. If race is viewed as a myth, then its continuation in society is a problem that society must address until the facts become the guiding principle of its use. All myths can be replaced with facts, but not all people will freely accept the facts. The fact about race is that only one exist, the human race. The benefit in presenting race as the myth it is serves to discount all the derivatives associated with race like racism, racial, biracial, etc….

If race is discussed as a reality then the subjects of its derivatives must also be presented which would include bigotry, prejudice, segregation, discrimination, and integration all of which introduce the overarching topic of European American (white) supremacy. The effect that discussing European American (white)supremacy can have on children was noted in the article: “Studies from the 1940s demonstrated that black American children [African American] as young as 3 associated more negative characteristics :(”bad,” “ ugly,”) to dolls with darker skin and more positive attributes to dolls with light skin and blue eyes (“pretty, “good” ).” So, teaching information about race as a reality would produce a negative affect on how children view themselves and others based on their skin complexion. The teacher would also be tasked with justifying the system of European American (white) supremacy in its many manifestations, especially, European American (white) privileges.

If race is discussed as a myth viewed as reality then the teacher has the responsibility to acknowledge the difference between the two and deliberately choose the way of hypocrisy. In other words, if the teacher knows that race is not biological but chooses to ignore that fact and discuss the myth as reality then a gross disservice is committed against the children and society.  The teacher’s decision to follow the myth as reality involves viewing American society as two-sided—one side that wants and fights from the democratic principles imbedded in the Constitution and Declaration, and one side that is bigoted, self-centered, and controlling using a philosophy of ethnic supremacy  favoring European Americans. Although the teacher’s intentions might be seemingly good, the effect of teaching young children about race, diversity, and tolerance would condition their young minds to look for differences in each other that are man-made and minor while avoiding the majority of things they have in common that are good and biological.

When race is taught so is bigotry because it unites and divides—us and them. One cannot avoid the facts of American slavery and ethnic diversity that accompanies a discussion on race. How would the teacher explain the actions of a Christian society that dehumanized people of color by enslaving them and then blaming their enslavement on the color of their skins? How would the teacher prevent the European American children from feeling guilty for the treatment of the slaves by their ancestors? How would the teacher underscore to the children the objective of teaching diversity that should seek to unite all people as one human family and not individual biologically races, while focusing primarily on their differences? The article noted Darnise C. Martin’s comment that “Conversations can be had about dolls, hair, superheroes and just generally helping children know that they are not any less because of skin color.” The problem with that comment is the underling assumption that race is acceptable and tolerable, but can be explained to the children without any psychological effects.

What happens at time when certain subjects are considered for discussions is that little effort is given to defining the terms to be used in and during the discussion because the assumption is that everybody already knows the meanings. Too often we act as though we do not see or realize the bigoted side of American society while we are enacting laws and policies that do just that. For example, sub-standard schools did not appear by accident nor were they invented by African Americans. The history of the African American and other people of color have never been a regular part of the public school curriculum, only Western civilization’s story. So why would we want to continue to promote a history of race to young children that would continue to promote, maintain, and protect bigotry?

So, what are we suppose to do? Why not just tell the truth about race being a myth and know that as long as we act like it is real, it will appear to be so, and in spite of the fact that our DNA says we are more alike than penguins? However, the minute we decide to focus on truth and facts, the myth will begin to deconstruct.

Paul R. Lehman, Report’s data on states racial integration progress is suspect

February 1, 2019 at 5:25 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Dream, American history, American Indian, black inferiority, blacks, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, DNA, employment, entitlements, Equal Opportunity, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, Hispanic whites, Human Genome, integregation, justice, language, law, minorities, Non-Hispanic white, Prejudice, public education, race, Race in America, racism, segregation, skin color, social conditioning, social justice system, socioeconomics, The Oklahoman, tribalism, U. S. Census, White of a Different Color, whites | 2 Comments
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The intent is not to rain on the parade, but too much confusion exists in the article “Report shows state has made progress on race,” to let pass ( The Oklahoman 01/2018). The reference to race in the article’s title is confusing as to its meaning. Once we got beyond the title, the confusion continued. Relying on “A new report from finance site Wallet-Hub” the report ”ranked states based on’ the current level of integration of whites and blacks by subtracting the values attributed to whites and blacks for a given metric.’” The ranking of each state’s progress relative to integration was based on four areas: Employment & Wealth, Education, Social & Civic Engagement, and Health. Oklahoma, according to the report, ranked 13th in racial integration out of the fifty states according to the four areas examined.

Without going into the meat of the report, we determined the data to be questionable in that no definition of terms used was given. Therefore, the reliability of the data is suspect from the beginning. For example, the term race is used in the article’s title, but no following information is offered to explain what is meant by race. If the reader has to rely on assumptions regarding the meaning or intended meaning of race, then what good is the data? Another problem is produced if the reader assumed the reference to race was intended to refer to the human race. The problems continued once we look at the objective of the Wallet-Hub report.

We read that the Wallet-Hub report focused on the “level of integration of whites and blacks”….Again, we are not informed as to the meaning of the terms white and black, but each term was treated as a monolith. We know historically that America at is formation socially constructed two races, one white and the other black, with the white being thought and treated as being superior to the black. But, this report was viewed as being current, and our knowledge of the false concept of two or more races is no longer acceptable. Without a clear definition of the term white any data offered would again be suspect.

The report also used the term black, but provided no definition or clarification as to its meaning or usage. One of the problems that the absence of a clear meaning or definition produced was the question of what black people provided the data for the report in that no specific culture, ethnicity, religion, language or geographic location was presented? So, who are the blacks? The same question exists for those people labeled as white.

When we turned to the U.S. Census Bureau for information the confusion increased because the bureau confused ethnicity, race, and origin. The bureau still operates under the assumption that multiple biological races exists. The bureau list the race categories as” White,” “Black or African American,” “American Indian or Alaska Native,” “Asian,” Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander,” and finally, “Some Other Race.” So, all the scientific date relative to the human race and DNA is seemingly of no concern to the bureau.

We do not know how or why the Wallet-Hub report decided to use the two terms, black and white, but from the 2010 Census information relative to race the question of what is race still remained. The Census Bureau stated in its 2010 data what it meant by race. Noting that their data is based on self-identification, the language reads as follows: “The racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country, and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically or genetically.” More specifically, it continued: “People may choose to report more than one race to indicate their racial mixture, such as “American Indian and “White.” People who identify their origin as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish may be of any race.”

If this information is not confusing enough read what the Bureau provided for blacks: “Black or African American” refers to a person having origin in any of the Black racial groups of Africa. It includes people who indicate their race(s) as “Black, African Am., or “Negro” or reported entries such as African American, Kenyan, Nigerian, or Haitian.” The information (biased and irrational) did not mention what selections were available to black individuals of mixed ethnicities—Puerto Ricans, Cubans etc…

Maybe the point of the report’s validity can be seen more objectively after reading the information from the Census Bureau. If race cannot be defined, and a person can select any race, how can the report provide accurate data about blacks and whites? Unnecessary confusion exists relative to terms like, race, ethnicity, origin, and nationality. One rule of thought exists regarding these terms, only one, the term race, has to do with biology, and that is only with respect to the human race. The other terms are all products of various cultures.

One other term used in the Wallet-Hub report was integration, but it, like race, black, and white was not defined or explained. The word integration became popular during and after the 1954, Brown v Topeka Board of Education case. Many people confuse the words desegregation with integration, but they are clearly not the same or interchangeable. When public schools were desegregated, that meant African American children had a seat in the room. Integration occurs when African American children sit in same the room as the European American children but also learn about their history as well. We still have some distance to travel before we reach integration and share the benefits of our diverse American cultural experiences.

As mentioned at the start of this piece, the intent was not to spoil the seemingly good news of the report concerning Oklahoma’s “progress on race,” but to bring some clarity and facts into the mix. One wonders why a group of “experts” would not be more attentive to the problems with the terms used in conducting this study. Good news is always welcomed relative to the plethora of societal problems involving America’s ethnic populations. When good news comes, we just want it to be accurate.

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