Paul R. Lehman, Fighting a corrupt justice system is a waste of time; replace it.

December 31, 2015 at 1:12 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, criminal activity, Department of Justice, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, grand jury, justice, justice system, law, law enforcement agencies, liberty, Media and Race, minority, Prejudice, skin color, skin complexion, socioeconomics, tribalism | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Paul R. Lehman, Brigette Gaberiel’s statement on political correctness shows confusion

December 18, 2015 at 5:23 am | Posted in African American, American history, American Indian, Constitutional rights, democracy, education, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, freedom of speech, identity, immigration, justice, Pilgrims, skin color, The U.S. Constitution, whites | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Paul R. Lehman, Justice Scalia shows poor judgement in biased comments

December 11, 2015 at 5:09 am | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, American history, Bigotry in America, blacks, desegregation, discrimination, Disrespect, education, Equal Opportunity, Ethnicity in America, justice, Justice Antonin Scalia, Prejudice, race, racism, segregation, skin color, U.S. Supreme Court, White on Arrival, whites | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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 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
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com. | The Pool Theme.
Entries and comments feeds.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 140 other followers