Tags: African Americans, American Education, American History, bigotry, Civil Rights, criminal justice system, current-events, ethnicity, European Americans, Police, police lack of respect for minority citizens, Police training, Police videos, Prejudice, skin complexion
For the past year America has witnessed the spectacle of young, mostly male, unarmed, people of color being killed by law enforcement agents. In all instances the use of deadly force by the officers was employed when other options were available and appropriate. The result of the actions by the law enforcers in these deaths was little or no repercussions for the law officers; in essence, the victims were responsible for their deaths. In most of these cases when video was available and compared with the officers’ written reports of the incidents, they did not correspond. The videos told different stories from the ones in the official reports. Never-the-less, the outcome of these events showed the public that justice and fairness does not look the same when law enforcement views it alongside society in general. What seems justified in the eyes of the law does not reflect fairness and justice to many Americans in general, and to people of color in particular.
Two things can be ascertained from the experiences involving the deaths of people of color at the hands of European American and other law enforcement officers: 1. the present system of jurisprudence is corrupt in dispensing justice to people of color; and 2, the system must be replaced, not revised or re-developed. The reason for these facts can be observed in the reactions of the public and the citizens directly involved with the system. Americans have been conditioned to accept the words and actions of the law enforcement agents without question because of the trust that has been placed in their hands. In the past, records concerning citizens’ deaths were not kept to any appreciable degree by law enforcement agencies and so that information relative to the number of African Americans and other people of color were not available to the public. Furthermore, the public did not seem concerned regarding those deaths because of the mental social conditioning. However, when videos of officer shootings became available to the media and were aired, people began to pay closer attention to and take an interest in what was being presented.
The corruption of the justice system relative to the prosecution of officers can be seen in the method in which the cases are handled. The entire process is handled in the law enforcement community; no one from outside or from an independent agency plays a role in assessing the criminal concerns of the officers. The only possible group of people to play any role in hearing accusations against an officer is a Grand Jury. Unfortunately, the only person to appear before the Grand Jury is a Prosecutor. Since the Prosecutor works closely with the law enforcement agencies which might include many of the officers in question, his or her perspective is generally skewed towards helping the officers. The results, as we have seen, favor no charges being brought against the officers. Because of society’s conditioning of not questioning the findings of an officer-involved proceeding, little thought is given to the fairness and justice of the cases until recently.
We are compelled to question the system of justice when day after day we see and hear contradictory information relative to the deaths of a people of color and no one, except the victim, is held responsible for a crime. A question comes to mind when discussing the occurrence of a European American officer killing a person of color on a force that includes officers that are also people of color. Why do we not hear or see officers of color involved in the killing of European American citizens? If all the law enforcement officers experience the same or similar training, why is it that European Americans are the primary killers of people of color, yet officers of color rarely, if ever kill a European American? One response focuses on the culture of the law enforcement community and its corruption. The nature of the corruption can be seen in the silent code of group unity—backing one another right or wrong. The group identity represents a serious challenge to justice and fairness. What most Americans do not realize or understand is that the ethnic bigotry that sees African Americans as inferior beings and of little social value is normal for European Americans; that bias is also part of their social conditioning. When a European American becomes a member of the law enforcement group, that bigotry is not checked at the door and left out. The fact that society conditions European Americans to see African Americans and dangerous, evil, threatening, etc…, helps to fuel the attitude of these officers not only when they join the group but also when they come into contact with African Americans and other people of color. No question remains about the corruption of the system; we only need to check the records.
The system of social injustice and unfairness exhibited primarily by law enforcement agencies cannot be fought or defeated using the tools of the system. The system must be replaced in order for justice to be available to all citizens of America. Time and again the Federal Government has stepped into the workings of a police department in one or two large cities when a lack of justice and fairness has been documented. A study is usually conducted and after a period of time, all parties gather and review the findings of the study. Certain requirement for change in everything from policies to procedures to training etc…is made and a time frame is given to accomplish these objectives. When we look at the history of success involving these experiences, we realize that little has changed—a new suit might appear on the officer, but the undergarments are the same as before.
What has to change is the culture of bigotry that has long been part of the American psyche, generally without many Americans realizing it. When a European American sees an African American or another person of color and not see that person as a social equal, class concerns aside, that is called bigotry or social conditioning. No amount of training can remove that bigotry; it has to be replaced through education. The law enforcement agencies represent only a part of the cultural structure that promotes, sustains, and defends bigotry. Change is slowly taking place now through the efforts of civil-minded people and groups who recognize that America is not the kind of society they want to live in or have their children and grandchildren inherit. So, they must continue to PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST in order to call attention to the injustices being committed. They must continue to PROTEST, PROTEST, and PROTEST in order to make the changes that are needed to replace the system. They must PROTEST, PROTEST, and PROTEST until the changes are made. The American Revolution began as a protest, and we see what that got us—Freedom.
Tags: African Americans, American History, black, Brigette Gaberiel, Caucasians, English, ethnic americans, ethnicity, European Americans, lesser whites, Pilgrims, political correctness, Prejudice, skin color, white
The following statement provided an opportunity to make clear some common misinformation:
We must come together as a nation. We must throw political correctness in the garbage where it belongs and start speaking the truth! I am sick and tired of everybody walking around being so offended. We need to start offending people. I am sick and tired of “I am an African-American, I am an Italian-American, I am a Lebanese-American”. We are nothing but Americans!” –Brigette Gabriel, Watchmen on the Wall Conference 2015-http://rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/Gabriel_Brigitte
On the surface the statement above reads like someone is deeply concerned about the bigotry and insensitivity relative to ethnic Americans. However, on closer scrutiny we discover the opposite intent of what is said because of the apparently vague generalities. Let us be specific in our concerns. Who are the “we” in the first sentence and why are “we” not together? The next sentence does nothing to identify or to make clear the “we” questions, but states that political correctness must be thrown into the garbage. Why? In addition, the truth must start to be spoken. What truth? Before we go further in our discussion we realize that the above statements reads like bumper stickers of the past: “America, Love it, or Leave it!” Like the bumper sticker, society does not know who is making the statement and to whom. To most Americans, that bumper sticker statement would be totally Un-American, because in our democratic form of government, when we do not like something that is unreasonable, we work to change it, not run from it.
Gabriel’s reference to political correctness sounds more like a “dog whistle” than a legitimate complaint about something of significance. Most instances of political correctness seek to make more accurate and pertinent some expression or practice. An example of political correctness involves changing the label “Garbage Man” to “ Sanitation Worker” and in so doing remove the denigrating reference to garbage and the gender designation of man. Why would anyone be against that kind of correctness? For certain some of the changes or suggested changes can appear hyperbolic and unreasonable, but to discount all political correctness would be fool-hardy. How does one distinguish “the truth” in political correctness without examining the objective in making the change and then checking for its validity and accuracy? Again, the question must be asked: Whose truth?
The next sentence contains sentiments of Gabriel being “sick and tired” of other people walking around being offended. She has every right to feel whatever she is capable of feeling, but that freedom does not include making other people conform to her feelings. She has no control of the feelings of other people, but if so concerned about why they feel offended, might inquire of them. Maybe they are justified in feeling offended. Her statement reflects a degree of arrogance when she describes her dislike of other people’s expressions of offence as if they are supposed to please her.
Gabriel’s next statement sounds dictatorial and aggressive towards people who offend her and the “We” she has yet to define. What would be the objective in deliberately offending people? Americans have 1st Amendment rights that are protected by the Constitution, so if their expressions and/or behavior does no physical or mental harm to anyone, then they can continue exercising their right, whether Gabriel like it or not. The suggestion of wanting to offend someone for some unknown reasons or for using political correctness seems un-American and un-democratic.
In her next sentence, Gabriel expresses again her feelings of “sick and tired” of what she apparently considers political correctness: “I am an African-American, I am an Italian-American, I am a Lebanese-American”. This statement shows a total lack of or acceptance of American history in that Gabriel does not understand the difference between ethnic identity and cultural identity and how it has played out in America since before the Mayflower. Although the pilgrims brought their prejudices with the to America, those prejudices were not based on ethnicity, but skin color—red for Indians, black for Africans, and white for Europeans. Not until the founding fathers invented two races—one black, one white, did the need for identity become important.
The ruling Anglo-Saxon class of early Americans wanted to control society in order to protect themselves and their possessions, so they invented two races base on skin color followed with what they promoted as natural characteristics. For the white race the concept of total supremacy over all non-white people was offered as a God-given right. For Africans/African Americans the concept was one of inferiority in every respect, especially, intelligence. These two concepts were two sides of the same coin; one does not exist without the other. Everything was fine for a while because all the social, political, religious, legal and educational institutions were controlled by the Anglo-Saxons.
In the early 1920’s the ruling class realized that too many lesser whites were immigrating to America, so they slowed European immigration down in some regards, and put a stop to it relative to people of color—see Johnson-Reed bill. The lesser whites—including Irish, Italians, Slavs, Poles, Jews, Germans and others were placed under the rubric of Caucasian, a term coined just prior to 1800. This term Caucasian became identified with white and elevated the lesser whites relative to privilege, and prestige. The significance of this elevation for the lesser whites, which is important to Gabriel’s complaint, is that the European immigrants who could change their identity from its ethnic origin to white, did so. Being white was more important and valuable than being Italian-American. Unfortunately, the shift from ethnic identity to white did nothing positive for African Americans; it, in fact, produced more bigots who identified with their new social group.
All Americans have two identities, one ethnic, and one cultural. The ethnic identity is based on ancestry and geography and cannot be changed. Our cultural identity is of our own choosing. For example, if a female child is born to French parents in France, then both her identities will be French. However, if as an adult she decides to move to England, and become an English citizen, then her cultural identity changes to English. She becomes a French-English citizen or just English. The case with African Americans is different because the African captives who were enslaved in America had their identities taken away from them and replaced with terms like Negro, black, colored etc. So, the term African American is not an example of political correctness, but a re-establishment of both former and current identities.
European Americans or whites can select the time and place to use their ethnic identity; for many, they only know white or Caucasian. Control of African Americans and some lesser Americans is still in effect today because race still has social value. We would welcome the day when all Americans can truthfully say that we are all Americans and be politically correct.
Tags: African Americans, American Education, American History, bigotry, black, discrimination, ethnic prejudice, ethnicity, European Americans, Justice Antonin Scalia, School segregation, skin color, white
When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recently made comments suggesting that African American students attend less advanced universities because they would do better academically, he was expressing a bias that was created in America as far back as the time of the founding fathers. The problem with Scalia voicing that sentiment was that it showed his lack of either knowing or understanding American history. What always happens when someone makes a statement about someone else, the focus is on the person making the statement and the motives involved. The people or person to who the statement is directed has the choice of ignoring it or responding to it. When the speaker does not want to accept responsibility for the content of the statement, he or she will usually invoke a “they” or “someone” as the source of the content. Justice Scalia used this technique when he stated that “There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas, where they do not do well — as opposed to having them go to a less advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well…”What he did not say was that he agreed with “those” who made the comment.
The first indication of Scalia’s ignorance of history has to do with the subject of Affirmative Action and its reason for being in American society. African Americans have been discriminated, segregated, arrested, abused, and killed for wanting an education. During slavery, it was against the law for an African American to teach to read and write, and against the law for them to learn. After slavery, conditions were invented that served to preclude African Americans from acquiring an education either by the governments, federal and states or by groups of European American citizens. A door to education was cracked slightly when the “separate but equal” law was passed, but history shows that no part of that concept was to be established and enforced with concerns for the quality of education received by the African Americans. Finally, after years of protest and demonstrations the Supreme Court rules that “separate but equal” was not working and opened the public schools to all via Brown v. Topeka ruling. However, because of the systems of segregation and discrimination changes had to take place in order to put the ruling into effect—the story of school desegregation. All this historical information Justice Scalia should know.
Affirmative Action was not instituted for African Americans students to be able to attend school with European Americans; it was instituted to ensure that African Americans have the same opportunity to acquire the same education as European Americans. The court knew that the educational experiences encountered by African Americans were not equal, and they did not seek to make special provisions for African Americans who were accepted to schools—no schools lowered their standards to allow African Americans to attend. Affirmative Action simply provided an opportunity for African Americans to attend schools where they were in the past not permitted to attend simply because of the color. Justice Scalia should know this information. Evidently, he chose to ignore it; he preferred to offer a bigoted comment suggesting that African American students were not intellectually capable of succeeding in top-ranked universities.
Justice Scalia demonstrated an ignorance of his own ethnic history–his ancestry is Italian. He seems to have apparently abandoned his Italian heritage in favor of a Caucasian identity where he can demonstrate his ethnic bigotry without having to feel guilty for expressing feeling against others that were experienced by his Italian American ethnic group. Anglo-Saxon Americans did not want Italians, both from the South and North Italy coming to America because they were viewed as “racial undesirables, who were, according to men like Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard, as well as to their many allies in magazines, newspapers, and grassroots organizations, a biological, cultural, political and economic menace to the American nation.”(Thomas A. Guglielmo, White On Arrival: Italians, Race, Color, and Power in Chicago, 1890-1945, Oxford University Press, 2003, p 59) One wonders if Justice was so immersed in European American society that he was deprived of the history of many Italians upon arrival in America.
In different places in his comments, Justice Scalia uses the terms black and African Americans; he needs to know that these terms are not synonymous—black refers to a color, not an identity, or a culture, although some people have tried to use it as such. African American identifies both an ancestral and cultural identity. So, when he stated that “I don’t think it stands to reason for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible,” to whom was he making a reference? Many students of color from many countries attend the University of Texas. If the Justice is speaking specifically of African American students, he should make that clear.
Ethnic bigotry is part of the fabric of American and has been since the founding fathers introduce it into psyche of European Americans—not at European Americans, however, practice bigotry, but they cannot ignore the fact of its presence in our everyday lives. For someone of Justice Scalia’s stature and standing, his comments show a lack of either knowledge or understanding of American history his while underscoring an attitude of arrogance expressed through bigotry. America deserves better representation on our highest court in the land than what we have been subjected through the comments and person of Justice Scalia.
The history of bigotry in America is no secret and especially to a Supreme Court Justice, so for him to make comments that smack of ethnic bigotry is disheartening. Certainly many Americans are bigots and do not know it because it they have been conditioned to view it as natural—anyone who does not look like them is different. But, for someone like Justice Scalia whose life’s interest is the law to express biased ethnic sentiments, it should give us great pause for concern about his sense of justice and fairness.
Paul R. Lehman, The public apology of Levi Pettit shows serious challenges relative to understanding ethnic bigotryMarch 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
Tags: African American, African Americans, america's race problem, American Education, American History, bigotry, black, Civil Rights, Confronting Myths, current-events, European Americans, Frat song, Levi Pettit, Prejudice, public apology, race, Race in America, racism, racist, Sen. Anastasia Pittman, The University of Oklahoma, white
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.