Tags: Affirmative Action, African Americans, American women, black, Civil Rights, Civil Rights Act, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Constitutional rights, equality of opportunity, ethnicity, European Americans, Prejudice, Public Accomadations, The U.S. Constitution, Title IX, white
Today, some fifty years after the Civil Rights Act was signed many Americans still do not know what it was about and some of the results of the signing. From a political and historical perspective, the 1964 signing of the Act by President Lyndon B. Johnson spelled the beginning of the end of the Democratic Party in the South. For African Americans, women, and other American minorities, it represented the beginning of new opportunities for life, liberties and the pursuit of happiness. Many European Americans viewed the Civil Rights Act as the government’s efforts to give special privileges to African Americans. The reason for the Act was due to many ethnic and minority Americans not being able to enjoy the rights and privileges of a first class citizen.
Many European Americans believe that the Civil Rights Acts was written specifically for African Americans because Martin Luther King, Jr.’s name has been associated with it. The truth is that the Act says absolutely nothing about African Americans or any other Ethnic Americans. So, the critics that try to discredit the Act by claiming it is for African Americans are just plain wrong. If one is serious about wanting to find fault with the ’64 Civil Rights Act, they need to take a time out and look at what has happened since the Act was signed.
Women and other minorities were prevented from attending some of the most renowned colleges and universities simply because the colleges had the right to pick and choose who they wanted at their institutions. For proof, all one needs to do is look at the graduation class pictures of any of these schools and count how many women and minorities are included. Then find a picture of a recent graduating class and compare the number of minorities and women. Chances are the results will show a drastic increase of women and minorities in the recent pictures. Why, because the Civil Rights Act made it unlawful for institutions to discriminate against individuals because of their color and/or gender. As a result many women European American as well as African American women have benefited from the new opportunities provided by the Act.
The first paragraph of the Act states that:
To enforce the constitutional right to vote, to confer jurisdiction upon the district courts of the United States to provide injunctive relief against discrimination in public accommodations, to authorize the Attorney General to institute suits to protect constitutional rights in public facilities and public education, to extend the Commission on Civil Rights, to prevent discrimination in federally assisted programs, to establish a Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity, and for other purposes.
If we look at the results that the Civil Rights Acts have had on African Americans, we discover a mixed- bag of experiences. The purpose of the Act was to ensure justice and fairness for all Americans because before the Act, only European American males enjoyed the liberties and privileges afforded the first class citizens. Discrimination against African Americans, women, and other American minorities existed in education, employment, public accommodations as well as some federal programs. Since the passage of the Act many Americans have experienced opportunities to improve their lives, none more than the European American female. So, for someone to say that civil rights is for African Americans is false; all Americans have civil rights, it is just that African Americans, women, and other Americans minorities were never provided with the opportunity to enjoy theirs.
The passage of the ’64 Civil Rights Act did not bring immediate relief to those Americans who had been discriminated against since the beginning of American society. A brief reminder of the past tells us that the American women did not get the vote until 1920; African Americans attended segregated public schools until 1954; and it was not until the 1964 Civil Rights Acts that women began making headway in the medical and legal professions. Again, we are not speaking of African American women, but all American women.
Much of the recent progress of African Americans, women, and other minorities comes as a result of programs like Affirmative Action and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. Many people today take for granted the participation of women in the legal, medical, athletic professions, not to mentions the areas of service like law enforcement, postal workers, fire fighters, construction workers, and a host of others that were closed to women and minorities for many years.
African American and other minority males have benefited from the Civil Rights Act, but not to the extent that women have and still are benefiting. For example, more women attend and graduate from college than men. That is not the say that all Americans are treated fairly because of the Act. That would be false. The fact concerning the Civil Rights Act is that many Americans who never understood it are still against it. Some individuals continue to challenge programs like Affirmative Action because they believe it discriminates against the European Americans in areas like college and university admissions where they believe African Americans are given a preference.
After more than three-hundred-years of segregation, discrimination, and bigotry American society making a smooth transition to a fair and just society would be a miracle. Change takes time because some people who were born into a society where they received privileges and power, come to believe those things came with their birth and skin complexion. These people need to become acquainted with the Constitution under which they live so they will realize that the rights and privileges they presume to have are no longer given to people because of their skin color.
So, the next time someone makes the claim that civil rights are only for African Americans, like some individuals of national repute have done, they should be required to back-up those claims with documented proof. After all, the preamble to the Constitution states that “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United State of America.” Nowhere is there a reference to color, gender, or ethnicity in that statement. All Americans should enjoy their civil rights.
Tags: African American History, African Americans, black and white race, Civil Rights, Dr. King, Dr. Martin Luther King, Dr. Martin Luther King's Day, European Americans, Jr., Jr. Day, King Holiday, Martin Luther King, parents, Prejudice, President Obama, public schools, students, teachers, The Oklahoman
Last week the nation celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day and fifty years of the Civil Rights Act. A story that appeared in a local paper (The Oklahoma) told of a mother’s disappointment when she learned that her son’s school was using that day as a snow catch-up day. The mother had planned to take her son to a number of activities celebrating the contributions of Dr. King. When she questioned the school about its decision, she was told that “’It was a very difficult decision to (make), but we wanted to be sure that we had that instructional time back for students.’” The mother expressed her sentiments relative to this experience by noting that “I’m concerned about the message this [ignoring Martin Luther King, Jr. Day]is sending to kids and others that the district believes that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is less important than them [The students] coming back after Memorial Day.”
Unfortunately, many parents across the nation could have uttered the same sentiment about the lack of interest and concern for the celebration of Dr. King’s Day showed by many communities in America. Many states initially did not celebrate the day or changed the name or combined it with other holidays. All fifty states did not recognize and celebrate King’s Day until 2000. President Ronald Reagan signed the law in 1983, but the first observance of the holiday was not until 1986. While the America and the world know the contributions gained for Americans by King and other civil rights workers, many Americans cannot accept the notion of an African American being given national recognition. Many believe that the gains made through civil rights are losses experienced by them.
What happens when a school decides not the recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day varies with the school. However, we realize that just the decision sends a message to the community, teachers, parents and student. None of the reasons for ignoring the King Holiday are seen as positive.
When the community decides to forego recognizing the King Holiday, one message it sends is that of rejection of King and the contributions that his life represents to society. The opportunity to learn more about King and civil rights is a lost to the community. Much of the community’s decision to not recognize the holiday comes from ignorance of those contributions and the many people who supported the movement. If the truth be told, many of the programs and services enjoyed by some of these communities are a direct result of King’s actions and civil rights laws.
Some teachers may or may not have studied about King and the civil rights activists that brought about tremendous change in society. The changes that occurred were not restricted to African American, but to all citizens. No civil rights law is reserved for African Americans; that would have been contrary to what King and the activists were fighting for—fairness and justice for all. Teachers, however, cannot teach what they do not know, so if they do not know enough about the meaning of the King Holiday, and have no incentive to learn, they deprive themselves as well as their student of meaningful information.
All parents generally want what is best for their children and they realize that exposure to information that is not readily taught in the public schools is important to a well-rounded education. So, many parents will inquire about courses available to their children and the value these courses offer. For parents of non-European ethnic American children, the information relative to King might help to underscore the meaning of democracy and its relevance in society. For African American as well as European American parents, the information might help them gain an appreciation of the struggles many Americans have faced over the years.
Students are generally the primary beneficiaries of the information presented relative to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the importance of the holiday. When the students learn about the contribution made via civil rights laws and how those laws impact their lives, then they gain a better appreciation of the strength of diversity and democracy in American society. Many students today have no idea of how restrictions were placed on other Americans because of the skin complexion or their gender in work and school. The information they receive about King should lead them to a better appreciation of what it means to be an American. In addition, many of the negative stereotypes about some ethnic Americans could be dispelled through information presented concerning King and civil rights supporters.
In essence, all of society looses when we fail to recognize and support important people and events that helped shape our society. Much of the criticism of President Obama comes from people who were deprived of information about African Americans and who grew up with a negative stereotype of them. Too often we as citizens create problems for ourselves and our community by withholding support that could make a positive difference in all our lives. Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr’s Day provides an avenue of approach to opening doors of understanding relative to America and our diverse and democratic society.
The mother who questioned her school district’s reason for not taking advantage of the King Holiday should be encourage to not only continue to press for the district’s meaningful celebration of the Holiday but also to expand that encouragement by letting the other parents and teachers know what is being lost to themselves and their students. A community and school district avoiding the celebration of the King Holiday sends a number of messages to the public. One message is that of not wanting to recognize the contribution of this American, and can easily be viewed as a form of prejudice. Another is to see the contributions of King as not worthy of respect and therefore, not worth acknowledging. Still another message sent is one of ignorance relative to King and his association with civil rights. All the messages are totally unnecessary and counterproductive to supporting and promoting life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in our American society.
Tags: African American and American, African Americans, black, Black Culture, Civil Rights, current-events, Dr. Martin Luther King, ethnicity, European Americans, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Parade Magazine, President Obama, white
Today as we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and Martin Luther King, Jr’s Day, we need to pause and try to put into perspective what Dr. King saw as a priority for America and the African Americans. We can find King’s objective in his words, especially when he deliberately avoids separating African Americans from the rest of America. For example, in his 1963 “I have A Dream” speech when he includes all people as “God’s children, “who must learn how to live together. Too often some people think that because King was an African American that his focus was strictly on and for African Americans. That thought would be false. The most challenging problem King fought against was the separation of the African American people from the rest of society. Unfortunately, the problem of uniting all Americans as one people is still with us, and continues to defy common sense.
One of the ways African Americans are being kept separate from the rest of American society is through the language used by society that seems harmless. For example, the phrase “Black Culture” is frequently used by people of note in the media. But, what does that phrase mean? People use it as though it is a clearly defined aspect of American life restricted to black people. Most people when asked to define “Black Culture” will try to come up with something that reflects the experiences of African Americans in American society. Before too long they discover that the phrase is too vague to define precisely because the term black is too broad a term to restrict to African Americans. If the people who use the term want to focus on African American experiences, then they should not use “Black” as part of an identity because trying to pin-point its specific reference becomes very challenging.
The first thing the phrase “Black Culture” does is separate the black from other colors, thereby creating a situation to make use of contrasts. We all know that culture does not exit in a vacuum, so identifying culture by a color is simply inviting a challenge. For example, if someone were to suggest that music created and recorded by African American artist is black music, then what happens with artist from other ethnic groups record the same music? Does the music change color or as some suggest, race? According to Stevie Wonder, “Music is a world within itself, With a language we all understand, With an equal opportunity, For all to sing, dance and clap their hands.” Society never looked at Elvis Prestly as African American when he recorded the song “Hound Dog” that had been previously recorded by an African American woman, “Big Maybelle.”Nor did society view Pat Boone as an African American when he recorded Little Richard’s song “Trutti Frutti.”The point here is what does one consider culture and can it be created without other cultural influences?
Since Dr. King was concerned with justice and fairness for all, the last thing he would want is a society that would separate the accomplishments of Americans into isolated groups where discrimination could take place. Those accomplishments can and should be part of the society’s story and not restricted to or relegated to a place of less importance. While the phrase “Black Culture” might seem to be specific to African American experiences, those experiences occurred in America and usually were influenced by some aspect of American society. Unfortunately, society does not acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of non-European Americans as readily as it does European Americans. So, the efforts and contributions of African Americans as well as other groups of color might go unnoticed for some time. For example, how many people could answer the question of who is the most famous astrophysicist in America today? The chances are that not too many would name an African American, Neil deGrasse Tyson, as that person.
To the people who know Tyson, he “is a science rock star whose passion for the laws of nature is matched by his engaging explanations of topics ranging from the mystery of dark matter to the absurdity of zombies” (Parade 1/12/14). The fact that Tyson is an African American is important to American society, not just to African Americans in society. So, we are told that in March, Tyson “will become an even bigger cultural phenomenon as he hosts Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey, a 13-part, prime-time series airing on both Fox and the National Geographic Channel.”What does this information have to do with “Black Culture”? Society has a way of pointing out differences in people and things when those differences constitute only a fraction of what the similarities represent. The information that Tyson will present to his audiences transcends the concepts of race by color. What Tyson plans to do on his show is to “help you ‘understand your relationship to other humans, to the rest of the tree of life on Earth, to the rest of the planets in the universe, and to the rest of the universe itself.” He adds, “I want it to get inside your skin. I want you to be so affected that the world looks completely different.”
To some people, Tyson is just as challenging to accept as President Barack Obama because of the negative stereotypes that have been historically associated with African Americans. King would more than likely be pleased with some of the progress that has been achieved, but sorely disappointed with lack of progress society has made in address the needs of so many other Americans. He would not be in favor or separating the history and accomplishment of African Americans from the American story. As a matter of fact, King underscored the problem of separation in his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize speech when he said that “This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited a big house, a great “world house” in which we have to live together – black and white, Easterners and Westerners, Gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Moslem and Hindu, a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interests who, because we can never again live without each other, must learn, somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other.”
In order for us to understand Kings legacy, we must first understand his sense of mankind’s problem and how we must address it.
Tags: African Americans, Carol Swain, Christianity, Confronting Myths, current-events, DNA, Doug Jacobsen, Edward Blum, European Americans, history, image of Jesus, Jesse Washington, Jesus, Pierre Sane, race, Race of Jesus, The Associated Press, the clergy, UNESCO
Jesse Washington in an Associated Press article, “The Race of Jesus: Unknown, yet powerful,”(12/29/13) presented a discussion relative to the race of Jesus , and employed the comments of a number of individuals connected to the Christian religion to give their ideas, beliefs, and opinions. Although the article was interesting it failed to address the real question at the heart of the problem—race.
The comments of many of the individuals reflect a variety of concerns relative to Jesus’ race. For example, the article noted a statement from Edward Blum, a co-author of a recent book “The Color of Christ” who said ”I find it fascinating that that’s what people really want to know—what race was Jesus. That says a lot about us, about Americans today.” He continued with “Jesus said lots of things about himself—I am divine, I am the son of man, I am the light of the world,… what race is light? How do you racially categorize that?”The statement simply adds to the question rather than address it confusion.
Another clergyman, Doug Jacobsen, a professor at Messiah College with work emphasis in church history and theology stated that “Today, in our categories, we would probably think of him [Jesus] as a person of color.”The reference to Jesus’ color has to do with his birth place being in the Middle East. Jacobsen’s comment was in part a response to the Fox News host Megyn Kelly’s statement about Jesus being white that initiated a national discussion on the subject.
Other scholars and clergy commented regarding the race of Jesus and whether it was important or not. In most cases we were told that it really should not matter. However, we were told that “In America, white Jesus images started to become widespread in the early 1800s, according to Blum, coinciding with a dramatic rise in the number of slaves, a push to move Native Americans further west, and a growing manufacturing capability.” Washington noted that “Today, a white Jesus image is ingrained in American culture.” Another statement by Blum underscored Washington’s statement: “ When we live in a world with a billion images of white Jesus, we can say he wasn’t white all we want, but the individual facts of our world say something different.” Something else added to the discussion was that the image of Jesus usually matched the ethnicity of the people worshiping him all over the world.
The article concluded with the words of Carol Swain, a race scholar from Vanderbilt University, who believes that the entire race of Jesus question is irrelevant: “Whether he’s white, black, Hispanic, whatever you want to call him, what’s important is that people find meaning in his life….As Christians, we believe that he died on the cross for the redemption of our sins.” She added, “To me, that’s the only part of the story that matters—not what skin color he was.”
So, by the end of the article, the race of Jesus was never settled. Are people supposed to continue believing what they have always believed about the race of Jesus? Unfortunately, that is the conclusion we were left with after the comments from all the religious experts. The most disappointing part of the article was that the fallacy of race was never addressed. All the experts accepted the concept of race based on color without debunking the notion of race as having no biological bases. The simple answer to the problem of Jesus’ race is that he was “the son of man” and thereby, a member of the human race. As a society we continue to deny the fact that multiple races of human being do not exist. The information concerning the fallacy of race has not been hidden from us, yet we continue to live as if it does not exist or is not relevant to us. What we know for certain is that the denial of the fact is very much a part of our every day life. We continue to live the lie.
In 2001, Mr. Pierre Sane, Head of the UNESCO Delegation to the meeting of the World Conference Against Racism, and Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, addressed the conference and made the following statement:
As early as 1948, UNESCO initiated a programme which, through the dissemination of scientific facts, established the fallacious nature of racist theories. The results of the work of eminent experts convened by UNESCO were summarized in four statements on the question of race.’ These statements elucidated the genesis of theories of racial superiority. They emphasized that the biological differentiation of races does not exist and that the obvious differences between populations living in different geographical areas of the world should be attributed to the interaction of historical, economic, political, social and cultural factors rather than biological ones.
The language cannot be any clearer—“biological differentiation of races does not exist.” Rather than engage the reality of our society’s denial of the truth regarding race, we pretend that all is well just the way it is. The problems we create by not telling the truth are many and involve how our children and grandchildren will view us once they realize the reason for the hypocrisy and disingenuousness of their parents, grandparents and society. They will come to realize that the concept of race led to discrimination and the creation of racism. When they look back on our history they will recognize and understand that all the so-called values and standards promoted as requirements of good citizenship were all connected to the myth of race which was constantly defended as real.
So, what the article on Jesus’ race shows us is that the denial is still alive and well in our society and the truth is conveniently avoided at every juncture for fear the deceit and hypocrisy will be exposed. The clergy, of all people, should be the leaders in promoting the truth—saying that races does not matter is not a rejection of race; it is an escape clause that kicks the can down the road.
Tags: A HISTORY EUROPE, African American History, African Americans, America, American Education, Anglo-Saxon, biological races, black, Caucasian, caucasian race, Christopher Morley, Confronting Myths, current-events, ethnicity, European Americans, Hispanics, Irish, Jesus, Jews, Megyn Kelly, Obama and American Bigotry, Poles, Prejudice, race, Race in America, Russian, Santa Claus, white, WHITENESS OF A DIFFERENT COLOR
Christopher Morley once said that “If you have to keep reminding yourself of a thing, perhaps it isn’t so.” That particular scenario seems to be the case with America and its attachment to the conception and perception of race. For far too many years, many people have been trying to prove the existence of race by color and/or geography to no avail. They have gone to enormous lengths to try and prove their assumptions to the point of creating official sounding terms to underscore their belief, trusting that no one will recognize the fallacy behind the initial assumption. In America, many people still believe that such a thing as multiple biological races exist in spite of the over-whelming evidence to the contrary. Some Americans, like Morley’s suggested needs to remind themselves why they see themselves as black, white or other. Maybe it is because it isn’t so.
The American system of education failed to provide accurate information to the students concerning the myth of race. Many Americans grew-up believing that only three major races existed—one black, one white, one miscellaneous. In essence, the people who came to America as our founding fathers were, for the most part, Anglo-Saxons. They held the beliefs that they were superior to all other men because they were the model God used to make the rest of mankind, and next, they believed that God had given American specifically to them. The concept of race they employed early on was based on color, and that worked for many years because they controlled society. However, in the early 1800’s things began to change when the Anglo-Saxons began to realize that the new immigrants did not measure up to their expectations. They did not see whiteness as a sign of racial identity.
Matthew Frye Jacobson in his book, WHITENESS OF A DIFFERENT COLOR, told about the European immigration problem from 1840 to 1924 and how it caused “a fracturing of whiteness into a hierarchy of plural and scientifically determined white races.” These new immigrants were considered to be not as good as the old Anglo-Saxons. Since the old Anglo-Saxon leaders could not accept these new immigrant whites as true whites, a new racial category was made for them “and granted the scientific stamp of authenticity as the unitary Caucasian race—an earlier era’s Celts, Slavs, Hebrews, Iberics, and Saracens, among others….”
The nation’s concern with immigrants being “white people” led to the creation of the Johnson-Reed Act, (1924) an immigration policy that placed emphasis on so-called race. The policy created an opening for the not-so-white to join the club through assimilation “(the process by which the Irish, Russian, Jews, Poles, and Greeks became Americans)” and “racial alchemy (the process by which Celts, Hebrews, Slavs and Mediterraneans became Caucasians). “ In addition, “The European immigrants’ experience was decisively shaped by their entering an arena where Europeanness –that is to say, whiteness– was among the most important possession one could lay claim to.” Ironically, Herbert Fisher, author of A HISTORY EUROPE (1925), commented that “Purity of race does not exist. Europe is a continent of energetic mongrels.”
The challenges of immigrant identity can be found in American history if one looks carefully enough; the concern with the concept of white races diminished greatly after 1925. The emphasis on the concept of there being three races, although a fallacy, did not decrease, but actually increased because the country experienced growing pains through civil right movements that called attention to the principles of democracy concerning the rights and privileges of all Americans being abused and ignored. America is still left with the conundrum of the myth of race.
After many years of study and research America as well as the world knows that only one race of human being exist. Yet, as a society, America has failed to debunk the myth of race which does a disservice to us and our youth. How can we expect our youth to accept the findings of DNA scientists who say we are all one family of human beings, or anthropologists who have mapped the origin of the human race and its peopling of the earth, if we still hold on firmly to the myth of a black race, white race, and a Mongoloid race? On one hand we tell ourselves and our children that all people are alike and that we should not discriminate against one another. Then, one the other hand, we talk about ourselves and others as being biologically different when we identify ourselves as black, or white or other. Ambiguity rules the day. Just what do we want our children to learn?
To add to the ignorance and stupidly relative to the conception and perception of race by color, just recently(12/12/13), a Fox News show host, Megyn Kelly, responded to a statement made by an African American about the possibility of Santa Claus being black. Kelly responded that “Jesus was a white man, too. It’s like we have a historical figure that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa”(POLITICO.COM). If anyone knows about the myth of Santa Claus, they know that the real life man, St. Nicholas, was a monk from Turkey and that Jesus was born to a Jewish family in the Middle East. Neither man would be considered white in America; they might have passed as Caucasians to someone who subscribes to that line of thought.
By the way, people who define themselves as Caucasians should know that their so-called race did not exist prior to the 1800s:
The concept of a Caucasian race or Varietas Caucasia was developed around 1800 by Johann Blumenbach, a German scientist and classical anthropologist. Blumenbach named it after the Caucasian people (from the Southern Caucasus region), whom he considered to be the archetype for the grouping. He based his classification of the Caucasian race primarily on craniology [the size and shape of the head].(America’s Race Matters)
As a society, we know that the concept of multiple biological races is a myth; yet, many people hold on to the concept as though their very lives depended on it. And some might say that it does if their belief in their skin complexion makes them different from the rest of humankind. Eventually, our society will make it to that place where intelligence will dictate the measure of a person’s identity and character, not some out-dated myth that plays to our lowest elements of ignorance and prejudice. As Morley said, if we have to keep reminding ourselves of the thing, “maybe it isn’t so.”
Paul R. Lehman, Arrest of African American teens waiting for the bus show challenges for law enfforcementDecember 9, 2013 at 8:56 pm | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, Bigotry in America, blacks, democracy, discrimination, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Hispanic whites, justice, minority, Prejudice, Race in America, USA Today, whites | 2 Comments
Tags: African American, African Americans, black, coach, Confronting Myths, crime, criminal justice system, current-events, ethnicity, European Americans, Hispanics, minority lack of respect for police, police lack of respect for minority citizens, race, Rochester (NY), school bus, Teens arrested, white
By now, many people have heard the story of the arrest of three African American high school basketball players in Rochester, N.Y. for refusing to move away from the sidewalk where they were standing waiting to catch a school bus. Their coach had told them to wait at that location for a school bus which would take them to a school where they would play a scrimmage game. The arrest reportedly occurred when a police officer ordered the teens to move away from their location. At least one of the teens tried to inform the office that they were only following the orders of their coach. The explanation was not accepted, if even heard, by the office that proceeded to handcuff the teens. The basketball coach arrived on the scene to see his players handcuffed and in the custody of the officer. The coach’s explanation as to why the teens were waiting for the bus in that location was also ignored by the officer. The officer even threatened the coach with arrest if he did not stay out of the incident.
The teens were taken to jail where their parents had to pay $200 for release of their sons on bail. Fortunately, after the District Attorney reviewed what had transpired, she dismissed “the charges in the interest of justice.” The Rochester Police Chief said, however, that he believed “the arrest was justified.” Evidently, the location where the arrest took place had been the scene of disturbances at some earlier time. Regardless of the reasons given for the arrest, the incident reveals a number of problems involving police and certain ethnic Americans citizens.
If anyone has difficulty understanding why the police and certain ethnic American populations have relationship challenges, this incident should serve to underscore what is at the core of the challenges. First, from the perspective of the African American teens, the police failed to recognize them as valuable human beings. Next, the police ignored what the teens had to say as irrelevant to his objective; finally, the police acted on the basis of stereotypes in going about making the arrests.
First, the one thing that all human being expect from other human beings is validation. That is, when one person says hello to another person, a reply is expected as normal behavior. If a reply is not forthcoming, then some form of rationalization is provided to satisfy the lack of a reply. However, in most cases, a reply is usually forthcoming. The reply lets the first person know that he or she has been recognized and validated. For someone not to reply could signal a rebuff or a deliberate lack of validation. In most cases the greeting is followed by a reply. What the office did, relative to the teens, in not allowing them to explain their present was to not validate them; that is, to show them that what they had to say was of no value to him.
When the officer handcuffed and arrested the teens, he further communicated to them that he did not value them as human beings worthy of common decency and respect. If someone accidently steps on another person’s foot, a quick comment of “excuse me” is generally offered to show respect for the person who foot was stepped on and to acknowledge regret for the offense. Because the office ignored what the teens said about their presence and the fact that they were handcuffed and arrested without any acknowledgement as to their humanity, we might assume that they felt helpless and certainly not valued.
In addition to what happened to the teens, they also witnessed the way the officer treated their coach and the lack of respect given him. Some people might excuse the officer for showing a lack of respect to the teen, but the coach was a responsible adult who deliberately spoke to the officer in a respectful manner. The officer not only ignored the explanations of the coach for the teens’ presence at that location, but also even threatened to arrest him as well. The actions of the officer suggest that he was the only person with any rights and value that mattered. Had it not been for the presence of other people with cameras and access to the social media, the results of this incident might have very well meant a criminal record for the teens and legal expenses for their parents. From numerous past experiences we know whose words would be viewed as true in a court of law when the balance is between the officer and the accused.
Most national polls (Gallup,7/13) reveal that two out of every eight African American and Hispanic American men have had some direct negative contact will law enforcement. So there should be little doubt why African Americans and Hispanic Americans regard police officers as the enemy rather than friend or protector.
What does this incident say about the challenges of the law enforcement establishments regarding relationships with minority citizens especially African Americans and Hispanics? If the people that the police are to protect question the motives of the officers, little or no cooperation or respect will be forth coming from those people. Too often officers are ill equipped and educated to serve successfully in minority communities. In the above incident, the arrest and subsequent actions could have been avoided had the officer given the teens a little respect and valued them as human beings rather than following negative stereotypical perceptions. One of the teens said in remembering the treatment received from the officer that “not all teens are bad;”in other words, why would the officer assume that these teens were bad since they had not done anything unlawful? The answer to that question comes from a lack of adequate instruction and education relative to how police are perceived by minority citizens and why they are perceived in such a negative way.
In far too many cases the police seem to forget their mantra “to Protect and To Serve” when it comes to certain minority citizens. Too often they forget that they represent the laws of the people they serve; they are not themselves the law. One approach to changing the negative perception of minorities towards police would be for the police to ask themselves how would like themselves or any member of their family to be treated? Once they have answered that question, they should proceed to meet their objective.
Tags: African Americans, American Education, Best Man Holiday, black, Confronting Myths, England, ethnicity, European American, European Americans, France, movies, Nigeria, politics, race, skin color, South Africa, USA Today, white
Americans are ethnically conditioned to discern other ethnic groups with one exception; that exception would be recognizing European Americans. Read any newspaper or magazine article and if the subject of the article is European American, that information is usually not stated, but assumed. If the subject of the article is other than European American, then the ethnicity is identified. The primary reason for this activity is based on the influence and control European Americans have had on Americans for several hundred years. During American slavery and shortly after the Civil War, emphasis was placed on the irrational conception of race by color; that is, society created two dominant races, one black, the other white. Ever since that creation, fruitless efforts have been made to try and make the myth reflect reality. Nonetheless, what American society has been able to do is promote the concept of multiple biological races with relative success. Along with the concept of multiple biological races came the acceptance of the European American as the only normal representative of human beings. In effect, European Americans were conditioned to see themselves as not belonging to a race or ethnic groups because they were the model of mankind. So, the inclusion or exclusion of the European American ethnic identity in the print media simple reflects that concept of normalcy.
The concept of European American as being normal manifest itself in a variety of ways daily in society. The majority of models used to sell goods and services are European American. When models of other ethnic groups are used to sell what is generally viewed as normal goods and services, they attract attention because they are not seen as normal based on how they look. For example, beauty products aired on television usually employ European American models, male and female. Today, when an ethnic American model is used in advertisement the recognition of the difference is almost immediate. Again, the reason for this recognition is based on the conditioning we as a society have been exposed to regarding what is seen as normal and what is not.
One of the great challenges we have in America today is discontinuing the misguided practice of discerning ethnic groups and then stereotyping them according to what is considered to be social norms. For each of the major ethnic groups in America today, society has a stereotype of some sore used to characterize that group. These stereotypes lend themselves to separating and dividing Americans rather than uniting them. Take, for example, the celebrations of Thanksgiving and Hanukah, occasions that serve to honor events in American and Jewish history respectively. As a diverse society America recognizes and supports the rights of the Jewish people to celebrate some of their history just as America celebrates part of its history. In effect, we are more alike as human being than we are different. We need to learn to accentuate our similarities rather then focus on our differences. First, however, we must become aware of how we continue to separate ourselves.
A recent headline from USA Today identified the movie The Best Man Holiday as having a race theme. That assessment was probably due to the fact that the cast was predominantly African American. The suggestion implied from the reference to race is that because of the color of the majority of the cast, the movie’s theme had to be about race. A number of concerns are presented with the assumption of a movie being associated with a race; first is the acceptance of the false assumption of multiple races, and second is the assumption that skin complexion determines a so-called race. We need to clear the air on the two false assumptions.
If a statement is made about a movie being a race-theme production, then the idea of either a black or some other colored race is intended, because movies using European Americans are considered normal. The faulty logic in a statement referring to a race theme movie is that no such race exists. If the reference is to a so-called black race, then any movie with a cast of people of color, regardless of their geography or culture would be considered black. For example, a movie made in Nigeria, with a Nigerian cast, or in South Africa, with a South African cast, or in Brazil with a Brazilian cast would all be considered a race theme movie, because of the skin complexion of the cast members. However, a movie made in England with an English cast, or Germany, with a German cast, or France, with a French cast would simply be a movie because of the skin complexion of the cast members. We can readily understand just how ridiculous the concept of race by color is confusing and useless.
Because Americans are conditioned to see race based on color, they also accept the idea of so-called racial differences associated with the stereotypes. In essence, a so-called race theme movie would depict the elements of love, hate, happiness, and the range of human emotions based on the idea of some specific so-called race. Therefore, following that logic, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet performed by African Americans would be a play with a race theme. How stupid are we?
We, as a society could eliminate a large part of the ignorance and stupidity by forgoing the use of the terms black and white and their reference to so-called races. We know, but need to accept, the fact that only one human race exists, and we are all part of it. Every American belongs to the human family regardless of his or her ethnicity. We readily acknowledge the cultural differences that economic, education, geography, and social standing represent, but all those things are man-made. When we take the time to observe and examine our differences, we learn quickly that we are more alike than different and that movies, regardless of the skin complexion of the cast, are about human beings and the challenges they face learning to live with one another
Tags: African American History, African Americans, America, Barkley, black, Chaeles Barkley, Charles Barkley, Confronting Myths, ethnicity, European Americans, freedom of speech, race, Richard Pryor, slavery, the 'n' word, TNT, white
Charles Barkley recently expressed his thoughts relative to the ‘n’ word and in so doing exposed some gross defects in his thoughts. Barkley confused his freedom of speech with his personal freedoms not fully realizing the responsibilities of each freedom. In his comments on TNT he stated that “What I do with my black friends is not up to White America to dictate to me what’s appropriate and inappropriate.” He is absolutely correct in underscoring his freedom to associate with whomever he chooses. The problems come from his willingness to promote the idea of races based on color, and thereby underscoring the concept of ethnic biases. His thoughts on the use of the ‘n’ word also help to promote ethnic division in America.
As far as Barkley using the ‘n’ word is concerned, he is correct in exercising his freedom of speech. He is incorrect to think that his use of the ‘n’ word is excusable. Barkley is free to eat a gallon of ice cream in one sitting; however, his common sense should tell him that to do so would incur some negative repercussions: stomach discomfort, digestive discomfort, and dietary discomfort. So, although he has the right to eat the ice cream, he understands the negative effects of doing so. What Barkley, apparently, does not realize is the negative effects of using the ‘n’ word in any context.
What Barkley seemingly disregards is the historical significance of the ‘n’ word and how that significance does not change regardless of who utters the word. True, the emotional impact experienced when the word is use by someone historically associated with its negative context cannot be denied, but it is precisely the negative emotional experience related to the historical significance that creates the difference. Barkley supposedly assumes that people who identify with the ‘n’ word are immune from its negative effects when the word is used by people like them. That assumption is false because regardless of the word’s intent, its historical connotations remain intact. He seems to resent the thought of a so-called white America dictating to him what to say and what not to say. One wonders if Barkley realizes that the ‘n’ word was first used by European Americans to identify Africans and African Americans in a grossly negative concept. The continued used of that term regardless of the user simply extends its historically negative concept.
One of the underlining concepts to come from Barkley’s comments is the false belief in multiple races based on color. That concept always serves to separate and divide human beings one from another for false and illogical reasons. One of the results of America’s creation of two races, one black, one white, is the prejudice and bigotry based on the assumed superiority of the so-called white race over the so-called black. Whenever either word black or white is used, the image of two different so-called races comes to mind. A similar experience is possible whenever the ‘n’ word is used. America is changing with respect to ethnic identity and the use of the terms black and white will eventually come into disuse. Society will come to rely more on ethnic identities that are more accurate and precise.
For someone to stand on their rights of free speech with respect to a socially unacceptable word make little sense. The user of the ‘n’ word presents two pictures of himself or herself to society simultaneously: one, a picture of someone who is ignorant of the word’s historical significance, and two, a picture of someone who is selfish and intent on doing emotional harm to another. If, for example, an African American believes using the ‘n’ word around other African Americans is okay, than a false assumption is being made. Not all African Americans accept the use of the ‘n’ word with respect to themselves as well as with respect to others. They understand the negative implications of using the ‘n’ word. Some African Americans believe that while their use of the ‘n’ word is permissible, that is not the case for people who are not African American. Why? If the thinking is that the word was associated in slavery and afterwards with African Americans so it should be reserved for their use only, then that thinking is faulty. No one person or group has a monopoly on the use of a word. The fact that one group sees the word as special to them only means that the word still retains some of its power to do harm.
The late great comic genius, Richard Pryor, used the ‘n’ word for years as a staple in his comedy routine. He even produced an album with the ‘n’ word in the title. He recalled receiving an epiphany on day during a visit to Africa. He was sitting in a hotel in Kenya and began to look around the hotel lobby; he described what he saw as “gorgeous black people, like everyplace else we’d [the people traveling with him] been. The only people you saw were black. At the hotel, on television, in stores, on the street, in the newspapers, at restaurants, running the government, on advertisements. Everywhere.” Pryor realized something for the first time; he turned to his companion and said, “Jennifer. You know what? There are no niggers here…The people here, they still have their self-respect, their pride.”
Pryor realized that the ‘n’ word was given to enslave Africans in America when their personal identity was taken away. Once he understood the historical significance of the ‘n’ word he said that he regretted ever having uttered the word on stage. He went further in describing it as a wretched word and added that “To this day I wish I’d never said the word. I felt its lameness. It was misunderstood by people. They didn’t get what I was talking about. Neither did I … So I vowed never to say it again.”(youtube.com)
The historical significance of the ‘n’ word should discourage anyone from using it or even promoting its use. Regardless of what anyone thinks, changing the context of the word or the setting in which it is used does not change is negative stereotypical connotations. No one wants to deny Barkley his freedom of speech regarding his use of the ‘n’ word, but he need to be aware of its historical significance and the fact that freedom is not free.
Tags: African American, African Americans, black, Confronting Myths, current-events, European American, European Americans, Natasha Eubanks, Prejudice, profiling, shopping while black, The Associated Press, Trayon Christian, white
Although the phrase “shopping while black” has been used recently, the practice has been in effect since African Americans first started shopping. To those readers who are not familiar with this practice, an explanation is in order. Recently, the Associated Press reported a story (10-30-13) that focused on the problem of “Shopping while black.” The article related how a young African American teenager walked into a Manhattan luxury store and purchased a $350 belt. Shortly after he left the store he was arrested. Evidently, someone in the store thought that he could not afford the belt, so something had to be amiss with the purchase. What would cause the store personnel to question the sale to this buyer?
Americans are conditioned by society to base some actions on what we see and how we translate what we see. The image of the African American by many in society consists of negative stereotypes that reflect a variety of socially unacceptable characteristics such as a lack of sophistication, due to a lack of education and experiences generally reserved for the wealthy; a lack of finance, due to the lack of quality and high-paying jobs; and a propensity for crafty deceitfulness, stealing, and lying. In addition, majority society tends to picture African Americans, especially young males, as violent and dangerous, so one should avoid contact with them whenever possible.
The irony of the negative concept held by many European Americans towards African Americans and other ethnic Americas is that the African American generations beginning with the ‘80s are not aware of how they are viewed, so they act as if they can enjoy the same freedoms and privileges experienced by the European Americans. What they are discovering today is that the stigma of negative stereotypes still exists. The concept is not restricted to the U.S. since we learned that Oprah Winfrey was denied access to a $38,000 handbag because the Swiss sales clerk decided Winfrey could not possibly afford it. Being denied the opportunity to examine the merchandise is one problem; the greater problem comes after the African American customer has left the store.
The article tells of the experience Trayon Christian encountered after he left Barney’s New York; “it was what happened afterwards. In a lawsuit filed last week, the 19-year-old said that he bought a Ferragamo belt at the Manhattan store, and when he left he was accosted by undercovered city police officers.” What we further discover relative to the negative concepts held by the sales clerks is that the police also hold the same or similar views of African Americans as the article showed: “According to the lawsuit, police said Christian ‘could not afford to make such an expensive purchase.’ He was arrested and detained, though he showed police the receipt, the debt card he used and identification…” Obviously, African Americans shopping at high-dollar stores are being profiled and will continue to be until some changes in the image of African Americans are made.
One of the contributing factors to the profiling of African Americans shopping in high-dollar stores has to do with who is involved in the experience. In the article we were told that “Skewed views can affect who gets arrested for retail theft, said Jerome Williams, a business professor at Rutgers University who has studied marketplace discrimination.” He stated that “Many people justify racial profiling by saying that black customers are more likely to steal. But one study has shown that white women in their 40s engage in more shoplifting than other demographic groups…” Part of the problem of profiling comes from the fact that women of color are not seen in high-dollar stores as frequently as are European American women. When the sales clerks and police see the European American women, nothing seems out of the ordinary, because the European American women look like the clerks and the police.
Filing lawsuits against high-dollar stores for discriminating and profiling is one way to get their attention; another way would be to indoctrinate people in management and service at these large (and small) stores urging them to treat all people the same. Of course we know that neither of these suggestions will eliminate the problem of profiling, but they could raise the awareness of the people involved. We as a society continue to delude ourselves into thinking that much progress has been made regarding how we treat one another. Yet, when we read about ways African Americans are treated on a daily bases whether driving, walking, or shopping we have to question, when will it stop?
Many European Americans when they learn of ethnic profiling try to down-play it because they have never encountered it. They try to convince themselves and others that the occurrences of profiling are few and far between and usually isolated cases. The fact is just the opposite of the belief. The article referenced a young lady, Natasha Eubanks, who stated that “It’s one thing if you don’t understand. But don’t ever tell me it doesn’t happen to me.” Eubanks who shops frequently in high-end stores in New York City stated that “You can’t assume it doesn’t happen just because it doesn’t happen to you.”
On the positive side, the ignorance generally associated with profiling can be fixed. Yes, we can learn that ethnic minorities are in many ways like European Americans in that they represent a wide variety of incomes, education and finance. To lump them all in the same basket of negative stereotypes does a disservice to all concerned. The insult that accompanies the injury of being profiled is the arrest which can create a multitude of problems involving police, lawyers, and incarceration. In some instances the profiling has led to personal injury and death.
The social conditioning of many European Americans causes them to view African Americans as well as other ethnic Americans with suspicion because of ignorance and a lack of exposure to a variety of non-European Americans representing a stratum of society that encompasses the working class to the wealthy. If the victims of shopping while black continue to file lawsuits against the stores, chances are the ignorance will start to disappear. Ben Franklin once said something to the effect that experience is a hard taskmaster, but some will learn in no other school.