Paul R. Lehman, The American #System of ethnic injustice slowly being revealed

June 11, 2015 at 3:00 pm | Posted in Africa, African American, American Bigotry, American history, blacks, Congress, Constitutional rights, democracy, Department of Justice, discrimination, discrimination lawsuit, Emancipation Proclamation, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, justice system, law enforcement agencies, liberty, police force, Prejudice, Puritans, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, social justice system | Leave a comment
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Slices of reality are slowly being cut away from the apple of delusion that masquerades as American justice when we view the many videos showing how the law enforcement establishment denigrates the lives of African Americans. What we are witnessing via the videos is the system slowly being dismantled by virtue of its inability to maintain it’s creditability as a form of reality. The system was flawed when it was invented and put into motion by the founding fathers. For certain, the founding fathers knew that a lie could not last forever. Nevertheless, they believed that as long as they controlled society, there was little chance of the lie being discovered.  What is the lie that characterized the system?

American society was created by people with biased attitudes towards people of color, but especially Africans with dark or black skin complexion. The historian Gary B. Nash noted in his book, The Great Fear, that the English were familiar with people of skin complexions darker than their own because of years of trading in the Middle East as well as North Africa. However, when the fair-skinned English came into contact with dark-skinned Africans, they reacted negatively:

Unhappily, blackness was already a means of conveying some of the most ingrained values of English society. Black—and its opposite, white —were emotion-laden words. Black meant foul, dirty, wicked, malignant, and disgraceful. And of course it signified night—a time of fear and uncertainty. Black was a symbol signifying baseness, evil, and danger. Thus expressions filtered into English usage associating black with the worst in human nature: the black sheep in the family, a black mark against one’s name, a black day, a black look, to blackball or blackmail. White was all the opposites—chastity, virtue, beauty, and peace.  Women were married in white to symbolize purity and virginity. Day was light just like night was black. The angels were white; the devil was black. Thus Englishmen were conditioned to see ugliness and evil in black. In this sense their encounter with the black people of West Africa was prejudiced by the very symbols of color which had been woven into English language and culture over centuries (p 11).

The attitude described by Nash continues today to an appreciable extent because it was made part of the fabric of the European American psyche. Looking back through American history we learn that even though America made efforts to abolish slave trade in the 1770s, it was not until 1808 that Congress ended the trade. However, slavery did not end, and while slaves were controlled by their owners, the free African Americans were thought to represent problems. Nash noted that “After 1790 the free Negro, in both the North and the South, was subjected to increasing hostility, discrimination, and segregation. Once they had turned back abolitionist crusade of the revolutionary period white Americans became less concerned about the black slave than about black men who were not slaves.” Nash underscored where that new concern led:

Southern states began passing laws prescribing heavier penalties for black felons than white, stripping away the legal rights of free Negroes, taxing free black men more heavily than whites, banning the free Negro from the polls and from political office, and forcing him out of white churches where he had been free to go and in some cases encouraged to go while a slave (p 25).

The European American had exerted total control over the African/African American since slavery and the tool they used to justify that control was the invention of a white and black race. Any effort to free the African American would suggest that he was capable of living with European Americans on an equal basis; this proposition they would never concede because their entire belief system was based on black inferiority. Nash commented on the challenge to the European Americans’ need for control once the African Americans were freed: “…they found themselves at the brink of giving up a system of control and a sense of mastery which they had come to believe was natural and essential to the well-being of their society.”  He continued: “It was almost as if the logic by which the African had been held in chains had been shattered. To compensate, a new system of control must be devised so that the free Negro, who remained a Negro after all, could be dominated almost completely”(p25). So, ethnic bigotry, race, was introduced into the American psyche as normal and correct.

America has always been perceived by European Americans as their country. All the other people who are not Anglo-Saxons are here through the Anglo-Saxons’ generosity. Too often some Americans associate denigration of the African American with only the South, not so, said Ronald Takaki, author of “The Black, Child-Savage,” he noted that the negative” image of the Negro served a need shared by whites, North and South; it performed an identity function for white Americans during a period when they were groping for self-definition.” He continued:

It is significant to note the way that whites imagined the Negro in relation to themselves: the Negro was mentally inferior, naturally lazy, childlike, unwholesome, and given to vice. He was the antithesis of themselves and of what they valued: industriousness, intelligence, and moral restraint. These, of course, were values which whites associated with civilized society. (p 42)

What do these references to history and some European American attitudes have to do with the previously mentioned videos.   Simply this; that attitude is reflected in many of the actions of law enforcement today, regardless of the geographical location. So, we can recognize that behavior as part of a system. For over three hundred years officers have acted with impunity against African Americans. We also know that the law enforcement agents do not act independently, but under the auspices of an administration. The primary element that keeps this system operating is the false concept of races. Accepting the concept of races, invented by the founding fathers, ensures the continuation of ethnic conflicts. Fortunately, society is changing dramatically towards the devaluing of race.

The children and grandchildren of closet bigots were told the lie relative to democracy that life, liberty, freedom was for all people; that everyone should be respected and valued regardless who they were. So, now when these children and grandchildren see an injustice committed, they come to the aid of the victims, which is exactly what the bigots do not want to see. Many European Americans believe in a system of justice for all, not the one invented to control people of color. These European Americans did not learn that the system was to work only for them and that they are a part of it. So, now they want the American society they were told exist for all. The keepers of the system are fighting with everything they have to hold it in place, but it is too late; society continues to change.  With every video recording an injustice against African Americans and other people of color, another slice of the apple is removed and the reality slowly and painfully comes to the light.

Paul R. Lehman, An investigation of the Baltimore police by the DOJ will reflect systemic problems

May 8, 2015 at 12:08 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, Baltimore, Bigotry in America, blacks, criminal activity, democracy, Department of Justice, discrimination, entitlements, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Freddie Gray, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, lower class, minority, police force, poor, poverty, Prejudice, President Obama, social justice system, socioeconomics | Leave a comment
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The mayor of Baltimore has asked the Department of Justice to look into the practices of the police force in her city. Although the results of such an investigation might help improve the community relations, the real problem that leads to conflicts time and time again is never mentioned—the system invented and managed by the majority society. We have heard the terms system and culture many times when the condition of the police and community relations is discussed. Unfortunately, discussing both the system and the culture of any city and its supporting elements does not focus on the cause of the problem and therefore cannot offer a remedy for the problems. A few observers recognize and understand some aspects of the system. For example, Michael Gerson of the Washington Post Writers Group, wrote in an article, ”The intricate knot of urban poverty,” about the problems facing Baltimore and how different aspects of the system affects its progress.

Gerson commented on an aspect of police attitude in Baltimore:”An element of the police—on the evidence, a relatively small element—became desensitized during its daily application of power. One result can be dehumanization, which may help explain Freddie Gray’s long, last trip.” He continued: “But some of the worst outcomes are not found in abuses of the system but in its design: a cycle of incarceration and return that reinforces criminality.” Actually, Gerson confuses the system with the culture when he references “abuses of the system.” What he does not understand is that the system was invented to dehumanize people of color as well as people of low socio-economic status. The abuse is actually a manifestation of the system expressed through the local culture. The police did not develop a concept of viewing people of color in a denigrating way prior to joining the force; society had already accomplished that part of the training.

To his credit, Gerson does recognize other conditions contributing to the problems of poverty and incarceration, but noted that “So, the imposition of order in impoverished communities through police and prisons is possible but costly, prone to abuse and probably unsustainable at the scale we have seen.” He then asked the question “What can be done to encourage economically and healthy communities where order is self-creating a imposed?” He answered the question by referring to the government’s role in why these poverty-related problems exist: “The reason reflects the complexity of the problem. Large economic trends, particularly globalization and the technological revolution, have pushed the blue-collar economy in many places into a permanent slump. Wages have stagnated or declined and workforce participation has fallen.”

He further noted that “At the same time, the connection between child-bearing and marriage has been broken. Chronically stressed parents—often single parents—have less time and fewer resources to invest in their children. Community institutions, including public schools, are weak.” He next associated these conditions with the police: “When children get into trouble, there is little support structure for addiction treatment and legal help. We cannot expect police power to confront these complex, interrelated difficulties.” For help in these circumstances, Gerson added:” But someone, in addition to local religious and community leaders need to try.”

Finally, Gerson pointed to individuals on the “right,” Rep. Paul Ryan, and Sen. Marco Rubio who offered suggestions relative to the problems of urban poverty. On the “left,” he listed President Obama and Hillary Clinton and their suggestions to deal with the problems as well. He noted that all of the suggestion offered by both the right and left were “insufficient to the scale of the problem. Much about the justice and unity of our country will depend on the increased ambition of their next iteration.” What next iteration? The system converts any and all new ideas into feeding itself. Apparently, Gerson does not understand that all suggestions regarding urban poverty, the police, incarceration, employment, education, and justice are all part of the system—a system that has always viewed people of color and others as having little or no social value, and that viewpoint has served to justify the treatment they have experienced over the years.

Regarding the system and the police, if education and instructions focusing on systemic changes are not required for the police force to treat everyone justly and fairly with clear and definitive repercussion for failure to do so, the officers will exhibit the lack of value society has told them to exert towards people they regard as have little or not social value. The system provides the concepts and attitudes toward the people; the culture of each department determines how those concepts and attitudes will be manifested.

If some people were surprised to see three African Americans pictured along with the three European American officers arrested from Baltimore and wondered how that was possible, the answer has to do with the culture in the department and the importance of group identity and solidarity. In most local departments the culture is usually established by the majority before the minority members are employed. If the minority members buck the culture, they are ousted.

If the Department of Justice decides to investigate the Baltimore Police Department, chances are it will discover what has been discovered in most police departments—a pattern of discrimination against African Americans and other people of color over and beyond their percentage of the total population. That discrimination results in arrests, fines, and finally, incarcerations. Gerson suggested that the reason has to do with poverty, and that certainly has some impact on the problem, but to get at the primary cause one has to examine the nature of the system that created the problems. We do not have to look far to recognize bigotry as the main ingredient that continues to engage in a system of control over people of color as well as people of low socio-economic status.

If progress is to be made with respect to the plethora of social injustices that are presently represented in the lives of many American citizens, then the cause of these injustices must be discovered and addressed. Unfortunately, when one discovers the cause of the injustices, another problem is added to the ones already at hand. No one seemingly wants to be made uncomfortable if it means relief and benefits for another for whom one apparently holds little social value.

Paul R. Lehman, Baltimore, a victim of negative explosive expectations and false comparisons

May 1, 2015 at 12:24 am | Posted in African American, American history, Bigotry in America, blacks, Constitutional rights, criminal activity, democracy, Department of Justice, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, freedom of speech, happiness, justice, justice system, law, law enforcement agencies, lower class, Media and Race, minority, police force, Prejudice, public education, Public housing, race, Race in America, social justice system, socioeconomics, students parents, The U.S. Constitution, whites | 1 Comment
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The recent events in Baltimore have for all intent and purposes been blown out of proportions due to faulty expectations as well as propaganda. Had the initial display of lawlessness been address by the local law establishment, the rest of the escalation would not have been necessary. The disruptive unlawful activity began when the local high school near the center of action dismissed school earlier than usual. Many of the teens rather than going home decided to take advantage of a situation presented to them to commit unlawful acts with no one in authority looking on.

One would expect the police to handle the situation involving the young children differently from older adults, but the police never appeared on the scene. The children realized early on that because no law enforcement was present, they could do whatever they wanted without repercussions. So, they acted-out by breaking windows, stealing merchandise, destroying property and other things that they would not think of doing under normal circumstances. These teens were out of control and not thinking rational. The death of Freddie Gray was probably not on their minds. Unfortunately, some adults who witnessed the activity of the teens took advantage of the situation and used it as cover to become involved in lawless acts. So, when the cameras started to show the activity, some adults were pictured along with the teens. The media characterized the teens and their action as violent rioting threatening the entire city.

Regardless who was involved, their actions were wrong and unacceptable, but explainable, given the circumstances of the location, the time, and the youth. What happened after the initial occurrence of the unlawful activity by the teens and some adults was an over-blown accounting of the event. The media began by treating the social out-burst as if the entire city of Baltimore was being burned to the ground by gangs of violent, lawless, African Americans, hell-bent on destroying their city. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The reporting was somewhat inaccurate and propagandistic when references were made to rioting and violence. Neither the protesters nor the citizens of Baltimore participated in a riot or violence and destruction of property.

The references to Baltimore in comparison to the 60’s riots in Baltimore and Los Angeles did a disservice to Baltimore. The events in Baltimore involving the teens were allowed to continue by the police force. Once the Monday afternoon and night activities were over, nothing resembling a riot was evidenced. The majority of the citizens of Baltimore made a concerted effort to show support and love for their city while many in the media cautioned eminent danger and destruction from the protesters. What seemed apparent from the various media reports was an expectation of lawlessness and violence from the African American community. The African American community of Baltimore and the law enforcement element were seeing the same activity, but from two different perspectives.

For some observers, the large show of force to prevent rioting and destruction was really not necessary. The point is that a riot never took place. Certainly, on Monday afternoon and night acts of lawlessness and destruction of property did take place, but for all intent and purpose, that was the end of any threat of mass civil disobedience and mayhem. What the focus on the possibility of civil unrest had on the situation was to shift the attention away from the legitimate protest relative to the death of Freddie Gray and the request and need for transparency. The need of the media to anticipate some breaking news development seems to triumph to tragedy of Gray’s death while in police custody.

One thing that seems to be apparent from the comments of the media as well as other sources is the negative stereotypical view that is presently held concerning African American people. From the engagement of the National Guard and the numerous law enforcement agencies, one might get the impression that all hell will break out at any given time. Many of the citizens have tried to counter that perception by placing themselves in the street and speaking directly to their neighbor about the collective desire for a safe and peaceful city. At the same time, these citizens want to see some positive changes in the way their lives have been affected from a legal, economic, educational, and political standpoint.

The protest then is not just a reaction to the death of Freddie Gray, but a reaction to the years of neglect and lack of attention paid to the needs of the citizens, especially those of color and of low social-economical status. Unfortunately, the death of Gray provided an opportunity for the citizens to raise their voices and be heard. When viewing the videos of the various protests around the country, we realize that the problems involve more than African Americans, but all Americans. The need for justice on all fronts is apparent by the number of protests around the country and the diverse make-up of the protesters.

Our Constitution gives us as citizens the right to protest peacefully. The word peaceful goes both ways, in that the law enforcers should not interfere with peaceful protesters, but must protect their right to do so. Sometime it seems that the law enforcers resent protesters from exercising their rights. When effective and constructive communications can exist between the citizens and the law enforcers they employ then the threat of riots, violence, civil unrest, and destruction of property will not be a factor to consider.

Many problems exist in many of America’s cities that are not easily seen or known to the general public; they are none-the-less real problems and need addressing. Too often, the occasion of incidents like the death of Freddie Gray brings to the surface the problems of unemployment, decent housing, satisfactory education, adequate health care, and social justice. All of the problems are important to the well-being of any community large or small, so they must be made apparent so they can be addressed. The protests in Baltimore and across the nation are not just about the death of Freddie Gray, but for the lives of the people still here who cry out for positive change—now

Paul R. Lehman, Recent police videos indicate more than training is needed today.

April 23, 2015 at 12:11 am | Posted in African American, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, Constitutional rights, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, freedom of speech, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, liberty, life, lower class, minority, police force, Prejudice, race, Race in America, social justice system, socioeconomics, whites | 1 Comment
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To many Americans, especially people of color, the idea that the training received by law enforcement agents and police is inadequate and too limited helps to create its counter-productiveness. Thanks to the recent spate of videos showing the activities of some law agents in action, we can actually observe how that training fails to have a positive impact of the citizens directly involved. Some of the scenes depict, in effect, the abuse and excessive use of force on helpless individuals. We know, and underscore, the fact that the videos do not reflect all law enforcement agents, but what is presented certainly helps us to raise questions about the limits of officer preparedness.

We have seen enough videos to know that office training relative to equipment and emergencies is usually top quality. What we have also witnessed, however, is the need for more than training in some situations, and the introduction of the use of common sense and rational thought. In effect, while the training is important and necessary, it alone is not sufficient to address the needs of today’s population. The philosophy of viewing some people as suspects that deserves little or no respect comes through in many of the videos in the manner in which they are addressed and treated. Education and instruction must begin to represent part of the preparation of law enforcement agents if their efforts are to be productive.

One of the common complaints of some officers who patrol areas inhabited by people of color whose social and economic status is less than middle class is the lack of coöperation by the citizens relative to police business. Why is it that these citizens generally do not help the police? One answer can be found in the area of community relations. Because the majority of the experiences involving law enforcement in these communities are negative, the first reaction of the citizens to the law officers will be guarded. After witnessing the treatment of a citizen by some officers, the last thing other citizens want to do is attract the attention of the officers. Law enforcement officers need to know that people of color as well as other people in the lower social-economic class generally react to them with fear. They know through experience and observation that they are not valued as human being by some officers. So they avoid taking an unnecessary chance of interaction with the officers.

What has happened in the past as well as presently regarding officer interaction involving people of color shows a need for better education and instruction for the officers, primarily, and the citizens, secondarily. Today, the training of the offices might be adequate for the job in general, but not sufficient for the needs of today’s diverse society. Depending on the nature, content, and objective of the current training, the results might produce more of a separation and discrimination mindset that focuses on human differences rather than commonalities and fairness.

Part of the problem with police preparedness has been the lack of education from a historical and cultural perspective relative to the communities being served. The frequently asked question of why people of color at times do not help police doing investigations underscores the problem of a lack of positive community relations. The police might take for granted that just because they represent the law and its authority that people will automatically come to assist them is based on a false premise. The make-up of the communities represents the underpinning of the problem, which is trust.

Often the attitudes of the law enforcers are a turn-off to the citizens because they show a lack of respect for the citizens and their rights. Unfortunately, the recent videos show time after time the abuse, excessive force, and total disregard for the citizens’ efforts to communicate. In many cases, the law enforcer is focused on doing his or her job which might include a disregard of rights of the citizen involved. For example, in the Eric Gardner situation, the officers were focused and intent on forcing Gardner to the ground and subduing him. During this process, they showed little or no concern for his repeated statements of “I can’t breath.”While they were probably following their training in subduing Gardner, they were ignoring the pleas of a human being under distress. The officers simple focused on a selective part of their preparation and conduct– the training, and not the education and reasonableness to examine the law infraction to the punishment being administered.

One aspect of the law enforcement agents’ current practice is the lack of concern that seemly concern for the interpretation of their actions by the public and other observers. The way citizens are treated by officers sends a message to the citizens relative to how some human beings are valued. Too often, as some of the videos indicate, when injuries inflicted on a citizen by officers are apparent, but ignored, the message sent to the public is one of little or no concern for the person being detained. The apparent philosophy is to value only the life and wellbeing of the officer, not the citizen. Of course we know that is not the case in every instance, but the videos show that this philosophy does represent a problem in current law enforcement shortcomings. People will not trust or coöperate with officers they fear and do not respect.

Today, the first order of business for law enforcers’ preparation should be to study American history that addresses the causes of ethnic injustice, not just the effects. Officers need a realistic and pertinent education that helps them to discard the prejudice, biases, and bigotry they brought with them to the job. They need to be taught to recognize social and economic characteristics of a community that will help them in their job to serve and defend all the citizens. So, the job of preparing the law enforcers must come from the top—the administrators. The officers can only reflect what they have inside and what has been made available to the public via videos indicate a lack of understanding and knowledge emanating from the top. The situation today relative to police and community relations requires a focus on the need for better officer preparation and instruction and how they should serve effectively in our ever-growing, diverse society. Our society needs law enforcement agents that are not only well-trained, but also well-educated regarding their responsibilities to the citizens—officers who can think as well as act.

Paul R. Lehman, Walter Scott’s video underscores police creditability problem with people of color

April 10, 2015 at 12:02 am | Posted in African American, American history, American Racism, blacks, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, police force, Prejudice, social justice system, whites | 2 Comments
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Once again a video shows a European American policeman shooting an unarmed African American in the back and killing him. Unfortunately for the policeman, someone captured on video the action that compromised the officer’s account of what happened. What the video does in this case is call into question the officer’s account of fearing for his life. In the majority of cases involving the shooting of an unarmed African American by a European American officer, the words of witnesses and especially those of the people of color are usually discounted. Since slavery, the words of a European American trump those of the African American citizen if they contradict the law enforcer, even in the face of creditable evidence. With the Walter Scott video Americans have cause to pause and question the practice of taking for granted, the police’s word as truth.

Since the Scott video showed the actions of the policeman while contradicting his report, he was arrested and charged with Scott’s death. While this arrest might signal a problem in the system of criminal justice system for African Americans, the fact is that nothing lasting will change for the benefit of the African Americans and people of color until the system is changed. The system was what gave the police officer the ease to write a report that turned the victim into the villain without question. The system is what allowed the acceptance of the officer’s story without investigation, before the video appeared. The point is that because of the system that supports the actions of the officers, usually without question, the greater percentage of shootings by European American officers of unarmed African American men creates little or no concern relative to the officers’ actions.

The way the criminal justice system works now is when an officer stops a citizen, the citizen loses all rights. In many cases violence is introduced by the officers. However, when the citizen asks questions or hesitates to comply, in the officer’s opinion, with the officer’s order, he or she is charged with some offence. From this point on until the citizen is arrested, or worse, shot, all citizen rights have been forfeited. Whenever an officer says his or her life was being threatened, we are led to believe that the life of the citizen is worthless. In essence, citizens have little or no rights when engaged by an officer because their lives have less value than the officer’s.

All too often we hear that the negative actions of the law enforcement agencies are caused by a few bad apples. With all the instances of these bad apples shooting unarmed African Americans it almost appears that the good apples are the exception in law enforcement. If the system is going to change, then the good officers are going to have to take the lead in seeing that their actions comport with the value of all citizens. The excuse of a few bad apples in the force causing all the problems has run its course now to have any creditability. Structural changes are needed in order to begin to address the systemic changes needed.

One of the primary changes that need to be addressed is the practice of the law enforcement agency investigating itself. How can that not be viewed as a conflict of interest? We need to forgo the idea of a gilt-free and truthful band of law officers, never at fault for any negative actions. We have proof in the Scott video that some officers have a totally different perspective of how they do their job. If only the people who serve with them get to investigate their actions, well, the outcome is generally obvious. Until recently, it appeared that only the people affected by the action of the bad apples complained for justice to be served, and their cry usually fell on deaf ears. The system needs changing.

Although the practice of self investigation by law enforcement groups needs to be changed, the culture of that system must be first addressed. From the evidence reported via media and other sources, the law enforcement agents do not value all citizens fairly. Certainly, the unfair treatment of African American citizens and other citizens of color by law enforcers is constantly called into question. The fact that no apparent repercussions for the ill treatment of African American citizens by law enforcers is ever evidenced, seemingly, encourage the officers to continue the practice. When all the law enforcers see and treat all the citizens that they are employed to serve fairly, then positive changes will happen. Unfortunately, that is not the case presently.

Most citizens understand the need for policing and protecting the public, and that this job requires officers to experience life-threatening situations from time to time. However, how can a traffic stop for a minor law infraction, like a broken tail light or an unfastened seat belt lead to death? If officers are afraid for their lives when serving in areas inhabited by people of color, they need to request a change of service location or seek other employment. No one is forced to wear a uniform or carry a badge to protect and serve the citizens. If stereotypical negative concepts color or dominate an officer’s behavior towards people of color, then he or she needs to find employment in a community that suits their needs or try another profession.

The Walter Scott video shows without doubt that a problem exist in police community relations, especially involving people of color. One sure way of knowing that structural changes will not occur is when the administration officials fail to understand that their concept and perspectives help to create the environment that produced this outcome. Adding faces of color to an existing police force will not solve the problem because the problems exist in the way the community and the police view the citizens of color. Unfortunately, too many European Americans cannot see the problem as it relates to human value or recognize that they are part of the problem. So we wait for the next video to appear.

Paul R. Lehman, The public apology of Levi Pettit shows serious challenges relative to understanding ethnic bigotry

March 30, 2015 at 3:25 pm | Posted in African American, American history, Bigotry in America, blacks, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, freedom of speech, justice, Oklahoma, Oklahoma education, race, Race in America, racism, segregation, whites | Leave a comment
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The public apology by Levi Pettit in the company of some African American community representatives has created a number of questions that warrant discussion. A few of those questions include: Why did Pettit choose to apologize to this group of citizens? Why did Levi Pettit select Senator Anastasia Pittman to seek redress? Why did the group of African American citizens accept Pettit’s apology? What did the public apology accomplish? To many people, the public apology of Pettit with the African Americans was a photo opportunity that only served to created additional questions.

In answer to the question of why Pettit chose Sen. Pittman and the other African Americans that composed the group to offer his apology, he stated “I did not want to apologize to the press or to the whole country until I came here and apologized to the community most directly impacted.” This statement reflects a gross sense of ignorance and a lack of understanding of what his words and actions on the frat bus really meant. Pettit’s thinking that this group of African Americans were “most directly impacted” is misguided and underscores his lack of understanding regarding what he did.

The group that Pettit should have met with and offered a public apology was The University of Oklahoma community, the students, organization leaders and civic leaders because those are the entities he mostly represented. His comments and actions reflected the lack of education and knowledge of history relative to the African American experience in America from Plymouth Rock to Selma, and the blame must be shared by those groups as well as the rest of society. Unfortunately, Pettit must have thought that African Americans are a monolith and that by making an apology to this particular group of African Americans, he was apologizing to all African Americans. He was grossly mistaken.

The fact that Pettit selected Sen. Pittman to assist with his plans for his apology could rest with the fact that she represents a large number of African Americans in Oklahoma City by virtue of her political office. In essence, more African Americans could be reached through Pittman, than any other public African American figure. With her social influence, she was able to bring together a group of religious and community leaders to share in this public apology by Pettit. Some people believe that Pittman showed a lack of judgment by not involving and bringing into the group other non-African American representatives from the clergy and civic organizations. By not doing so suggest that she accepted the narrow understanding of Pettit’s bigotry in that it affected “mostly” African Americans.

One wonders why this group of African Americans would allow themselves to be placed in a situation of compromise by Pettit. Does he need a public showing of African Americans forgiving him for his words and action, so he could move forward with his life? The sincerity of his apology is not what is in question here, but the use of people who were not directly involved in his words and actions suggest the need for a shield against future criticism. Pettit’s statement “I never considered myself a racist, I never considered it a possibility,” should have been a warning to the African Americans that this young man was totally ignorant about being a racist as well as racism. Evidently, many of the African American group members were not aware of Pettit’s comments or were equally uninformed. In other words, what purpose did Pettit’s apology serve the group since they did not represent all African Americans? In addition, since Pettit stated that he did not consider himself a racist, for what was he apologizing? The only possible thing the African American group could accept an apology for would be Pettit’s ignorance of racism. However, the group knowing that a student attending a university must have completed high school and demonstrated a control of basic knowledge relative to the world and America, why would they believe that Pettit did not connect the “rope” in his frat song with lynching?

To many people, Pettit’s public apology was simply a media photo opportunity that allowed him to save face by pleading ignorance before a group of forgiving African Americans. Being sorry for an action or denigrating ethnic references does not mean a full comprehension of the problem. Stories, pictures, words relative to the African American experience in history might serve to inform Pettit’s understanding of the challenges faced in the past and present, but until he realizes that his real audience is his family and all European Americans, and that American bigotry is a fabric of his and our daily existence, his apology is just words, as Shakespeare said “full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”

Pettit is the only person who gains from the photo opportunity because he is able to show how he has been affected by his experience. Unfortunately, for Pittman, and the African American group, the suggestion as a result of the public apology is that anytime someone who is not an ethnic American says or acts in a disparaging way towards African Americans, all that needs to be done is to contact an important African American community leader and request a group meeting, open to the public for the media’s sake, and ask for forgiveness. Then, right there in front of the world, all will be forgiven, and life can go on.

The problem in forgiving someone for being a racist is that nothing is forgiven; the fact that the term racist is used underscores the ignorance of the problem. Racism is not an action or activity; it is a mindset that society engendered and perpetuates as normalcy in American society. The reason Pettit could never consider himself to be a racist is because he was always taught to look outside of himself for what he considered racist behavior, something quite different from the song he was singing on the frat bus. The problem with Pettit and the public apology is the suggestion that problems of American racism can be intelligently addressed; they cannot. They can only serve to perpetuate the myth of race.

Paul R. Lehman, The University of Oklahoma’s SAE video offers a chance for change

March 11, 2015 at 2:41 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Dream, American Indian, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, Constitutional rights, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, education, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Ferguson, Human Genome, justice system, liberty, life, Oklahoma education, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, socioeconomics, whites | 1 Comment
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A recent video of students riding a bus enjoying themselves, laughing, and singing a song was broadcast via social and regular media. The young men singing the song were members of The University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. The picture and the entire atmosphere on the bus seemed a fun-filled and joyous occasion, and it was until the words of the song were revealed. The words of the song stated that “There will never be a ‘N’ word in SAE,” and included “You can hang them from a tree.”This song was sung by these young people because they felt safe, secure, and comfortable on a bus that included no African Americans. Why did they believe that singing this song was acceptable? The answer is they were taught this by their parents, schools, and society.

America is and has always been a diverse society, not of races, but of people from different cultures and geographical locations. Generally, American parents teach or tell their children that America is a democratic society that respects the liberties, rights, and freedoms of all people. However, the actions of the parents contradict the words. Whether conscious or not, children are made to see differences among themselves and others and the focus on group identity begins. As children grow they learn to recognize the benefit of group identity, an identity usually reflected in the family relationships, with other people in school, church, neighbor, and community. So, the young people on the bus reflect a sense of community of like people.

In our schools, children are force to identity with a variety of groups that include social-economical, cultural and ethnic. Rather than focusing on the similarities of the students, emphasis is usually placed on differences which are few and minor. Students learn through social activities as well as curriculum to place social value on individuals. Although they are taught that all people should be treated fairly, the language and social practices underscore the idea of separateness. The concept of many biological races has been debunked for years; yet, teachers continue to use terms such as black, white as if they were legitimate. American history underscores the lack of value places on the lives, value, and contributions made by African Americans as well as other people of color. Teachers and professors cannot teach what they do not know or accept.

Society tells our young people that bigotry is fine as long as they can keep it hidden; just do not put themselves on the spot by blatantly saying or doing anything in public that an be interpreted as biased. The young people of the frat bus thought they were in a protected environment, so they felt as ease in singing their song. In various aspects of society young people are shown that it is fine to discriminate against people of color; they see it in our criminal justice system, our educational and political systems. They are reminded time and again that African Americans have little social value, so denigrating them is perfectly okay as long as one is not exposed. Fortunately, the use of social media has provided an opportunity for all of society to see some of the things that have been happening in private for many years.

The behavior of the young people on that bus can be attributed to their parents, schools, and society. Their actions displayed an ignorance of a democratic sense of humanity and history; a belief in the value of each human being regardless of color, ethnicity, gender, social or economic status. Their actions showed at attitude of arrogance, supremacy, and tribal characteristics such “us versus them.” The first two lines of the song underscore the idea of group or tribal separateness with the understanding that the reason for there not ever being a “n” word in SAE is because of color and social value. Their actions, displayed stupidity. Why would anyone, especially young university students want to sing a song about lynching? Along with an ignorance of history, and an arrogance of privilege and power, these young people forgot about the power of social media. Sometimes the speed of the social media is faster than a speeding bullet as many people have learned to their regret.

Placing the entire blame on the students for their action would be to excuse the parents, schools, and society for their failures in preparing the young people for life in a diverse, democratic, society. We can begin to correct many of these failures by starting with the truth—bigotry was part of the American fabric from its beginning. As a society we have allowed bigotry to continue and grow through systemic creations enforced by laws, and lies. The concept for multiple biological races is false; only one race of human beings exists. Intelligence, character, physical and mental attributes are not based on skin color. The history and struggles of African Americans, Asian Americans, American Indians, and Hispanic Americans to gain their civil rights have been glossed over and not made relevant to days’ students, just as they were not valued by their parents. So, we arrive at ambiguity and ignorance in many young people; unfortunately, the only regret for some of these young people is the fact that their bigotry was exposed.

The concept of racism is irrelevant in today’s society since only one race actually exists. To call someone a racist is to give approval to their false concept of races. An individual can not be a racist in isolation because the term refers to a group. To ascribe responsibility to an individual accused of ethnic bias, the term is bigot. Young people as well as society in general need to learn and accept the meaning and nature of living in America. Because the changes in society have become more apparent in recent years, the challenge of change makes life difficult for those who prefer the status quo. When any American is discriminated against or denigrated because of some superficial difference, all Americans are impacted because that thinking goes against what we say we believe in and stand for as citizens— life, liberty, freedom, and justice for all.

Paul R. Lehman, The Department of Justice Report on Ferguson and America.

March 6, 2015 at 5:15 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, Constitutional rights, Darren Wilson, democracy, Department of Justice, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, Ferguson, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, liberty, Michael Brown, police force, Prejudice, Race in America, racism, segregation, skin color, social justice system, socioeconomics, state Government, The New York Times, tribalism, whites | 1 Comment
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The Department of Justice just recently published its report on the city of Ferguson, in an effort to get a clear picture of the community relations involving African American citizens. Since before the death of Michael Brown, the African American citizens had been complaining about the unfair and abusive treatment they have received from the police department as well as the municipal court and jail. Many outsiders questioned the complaints made by some of the African American citizens because of the trust and expectation for justice that has always been a part of common belief relative to these entities. The DOJ’s report should give some credence to the African American citizens’ complaints.

A typical example of what the report indicated regarding a community 67% African American and the percentage of African Americans stopped by the police. The report indicated that over the past 2 years, the police conducted traffic stops where 85% were African Americans. From those stops, 90% of the African American citizens were issued tickets. In addition, the record shows that 93% of the total arrests were of African Americans. Finally, 95% of the stops made by the police were for Jaywalking. The report further indicated that African Americans were two times as likely to have their autos searched than European Americans (whites) and if arrested, African Americans represented 95% of citizens kept in jail more than 2 days.

Other aspects of the report serve to underscore the systemic discrimination and abuse perpetrated on the African American citizens of Ferguson by the municipal and police agencies. Because of the amount of monies generated from the citizens’ arrest, fines, and incarcerations the report indicated that it constituted 21% of the city’s budget. The DOJ sees the means for collecting that money as a violation of the citizens’ First and Fourth Amendment rights. In effect, the operation of the city of Ferguson, in part, is dependant on the unfair and unjust treatment of its African American citizens.

To those American citizens who had doubts relative to the reports of African American citizens who raised complaints regarding the treatment they experienced by the police and other public agencies, the report should be sobering, to say the least. However, if the reaction of those Americans who do not feel that this DOJ report reflects only on the people of Ferguson, they are sadly mistaken. If they choose not to realize that ethnic bigotry and discrimination is an American problem, then they are living in an illusion. Some police and local governmental official can no longer use the excuse that only a few “bad apples” create the problems that the entire department or agency must bear. When we look at the numbers in the report, we must conclude the possibility of a number of things: one, the problem of bigotry is part of the system, or two, only the “bad apples” do most of the work.

If the arguments of only the “bad apples” create the community relations problems involving the African Americans, and the police and municipal government know this as a fact, why have they let it continue without recognizing the injustices and moved to correct them? One reason has to do with the community being conditioned to see the police as “never at fault” in making an arrest or using deadly force. The number of African American men killed during police interaction in the past two years is proof that something is not working in the African American’s favor. When one public official from Ferguson was asked about the large percentage of African American arrests, he shifted the responsibility to the people being arrested by saying that they should not have committed an offence or they deserved to be arrested.

While the DOJ report is important and informative, the conditions in Ferguson will not change unless and until some definite action to address and correct the problems are pursued, and soon. To many of the European American officials in Ferguson, the problem is minor and simply involved hiring a few people of color and maybe dismissing a few employees. Unfortunately, they do not realize that they are part of the problem—their mind-set does not encompass the systemic presence of bigotry. They are not exceptions, many European Americans do not understand, accept, or appreciate the presence of ethnic bigotry in America. We must await the reaction from the citizens of Ferguson to the following statements in the article, U.S.|​NYT, “Now Ferguson Police Tainted by Bias, Justice Department Says,” by MATT APUZZO and JOHN ELIGON, MARCH 4, 2015:

“The Justice Department on Wednesday called on Ferguson, Mo., to overhaul its criminal justice system, declaring that the city had engaged in so many constitutional violations that they could be corrected only by abandoning its entire approach to policing, retraining its employees and establishing new oversight.”

That statement did not call for the hiring or firing of a few individuals, but “to overhaul its criminal justice system.”Obviously, simply replacing parts of the present system will not suffice. Chances are the officials in Ferguson do not view the problems in the same context as the Justice Department. The problems as the DOJ see them are systemic, not modular. The next statement is more specific and direct relative to the experiences encountered by the African Americans citizens of Ferguson”

“In one example after another, the report described a city that used its police and courts as moneymaking ventures, a place where officers stopped and handcuffed people without probable cause, hurled racial slurs, used stun guns without provocation, and treated anyone as suspicious merely for questioning police tactics.”

Many European Americans do not see ethnic bigotry as a systemic problem affecting all Americans; rather they see it as separate instances involving individuals with personal problems. That might explain the Ferguson police department and municipal authority’s initial reaction to the report. Ferguson is not an isolated example of the refusal to accept ethnic bigotry as an American problem. However, if Americans do not recognize and accept their responsibility as part of the problem, then little positive change will take place. They need to see bigotry from their inside out, rather than from the outside only. The problems of Ferguson are America’s problems; America needs to address them.

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.

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