Paul R. Lehman, Social media help to show the ugly side of American society

February 20, 2015 at 8:17 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, Bigotry in America, blacks, Civil War, Constitutional rights, democracy, Disrespect, education, Equal Opportunity, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, justice, liberty, Prejudice, President Obama, racism, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system, socioeconomics, Welfare, whites | Leave a comment
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The advance of the social media has brought with it the opportunity for America and the world to see an ugly side of our society, the side that acts just the opposite to what American democracy promotes—the rights, freedom, and liberty for all people. A litany of example could be produced to underscore the undisputable evidence of America’s ugliness, but any one of them would make the same point—bigotry, ignorance, and stupidity influences the actions of many Americans relative to the issue of ethnicity (race).
An article in the Clarion-Ledger by Kay Steiger, “Think Progress,” (2/16/2015) noted that “A Mississippi state lawmaker said he opposed putting more money into elementary school because he came from a town where ‘all the blacks are getting food stamps and what I call ‘welfare crazy checks.’ They don’t work.” The article continued:”In an interview with the Clarion-Ledger regarding education funding, state Rep. Gene Alday ® stated his opposition to a push to increase funding to improve elementary school reading scores. Alday implied that increasing education funding for children in black families would be pointless.”
From his statements, we might assume that Alday has a particular bias against African Americans (blacks) children specifically and African American people in generally. Why would a representative of the people of the state of Mississippi be against educating African American children who need extra help for a variety of reasons, include health issues? The answer could possible reside in how Alday view African Americans in a social context. Mississippi has a reputation based on its history of violence, hatred, discrimination, bigotry and segregation relative to African Americans. Since the Civil War, the South, Mississippi underscored, has tried to restrict the progress of African Americans to gain first-class citizenship. To many in the South, African Americans had no value outside of the work and services they performed for European Americans. If they did not work for or performed services for the European Americans, they had no value.
During Reconstruction government schools and programs were created to help the freedmen make a transition from bondage to freedom. Many European Americans resented any and all activities that would help the African Americans achieve upward mobility in society. The belief was that any gain by the African Americans was a loss for the European Americans. We know through the social media that this belief is still held by many European Americans. So, the bigotry exhibited by Alday is probably considered normal based on his Southern cultural perspective as a resident of Mississippi.
The fact that Alday opposed additional funding for education at the elementary level indicates a lack of knowledge and understanding of history and American democracy. He has yet to see the big picture of how important education is to the foundation of American society. Both his statements indicate a total lack of knowledge and understanding of how education enriches society as well as the individual. Alday’s reference to African Americans receiving governmental assistance does not include information about job availability, job location, salary, and transportation in the communities where assistance is offered. He, evidently, does not realize that education is the engine that drives progress and development in society. So, Alday’s ignorance of American democratic history stands out in his comments.
By singling out African American children for educational funding, and pointing to African American s as recipients of food stamps and welfare checks, Alday shows his bigotry. However, he shows stupidity by thinking that stopping food stamps and welfare checks will affect only African Americans. What he fails to realize is that African Americans represent only a small proportion of food stamp and welfare recipients, the greater number are European Americans.
The article included another of Aldays comments that underscore his bigotry as well as his lack of understanding of society: “Alday continued, saying that when he was mayor of Walls, MS, that the times he’d gone to the emergency room had taken a long time. ‘I laid in there for hours because they (blacks) were in there being treated for gunshots,’ he told the newspaper.” This statement seems to suggest that Alday must have expected the healthcare employees to stop treating the African American patients immediately and work on him. His reference to the African Americans’ injuries being from gunshots suggests that he thought the wounds were reflective of a lower-classed people who routinely shoot one another.
One would be mistaken if he or she thought that Alday represented an exception to other Mississippi legislators. We learn from the article that “The Mississippi legislature recently advanced a bill that would provide exceptions to the reading policy for students with learning disabilities. The bill is opposed by Gov. Phil Bryant ®, who supports the third grade policy.” The third grade policy is a bill that will not allow students to move up to fourth grade without being able to read proficiently. Gov. Bryant noted that “It’s disappointing that 62 members of the House of Representatives would vote to socially promote children who cannot read,” Bryant continued “With votes like this, it is little wonder that Mississippi’s public education system has been an abysmal failure.”
Fortunately, Bryant understands the problems and the bigotry associated to them relative to the legislature. Unfortunately, he would have an enormous challenge trying to convince Alday and his colleagues to change their views. Many Americans think that ethnic prejudice disappeared once an African American was elected President of the United States. Actually, the election of President Obama and the use of the social media helped to uncover the ugliness of the hate and bigotry, ignorance and stupidity that still exist in society. Now, however, that ugliness is in full view of America and the world.
We should not despair, however, from viewing the ugly side of America, but recognize that serious problems exist and we have the challenge to bring some understanding and rational thinking to address them. We can begin by educating people to the fact that the Constitution does not exclude anyone from enjoying the freedoms, rights, liberties, and yes, education, based on skin color, ethnicity, religion, and gender.

Paul R. Lehman, The challenge of leaving race in the past and pressent and moving to the future

February 10, 2015 at 4:25 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, blacks, democracy, discrimination, DNA, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Ferguson, Human Genome, justice system, Prejudice, race, racism, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system | 1 Comment
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An article written by Brit Bennett entitled “I Don’t Know What to Do with Good White People,” published by JEZEBEL (12/17/14) is a well-written and personal account of Ms. Bennett’s experiences and relationships with people she refers to as white. This article would fit quite well in the early 1960’s and would have probably been well-received. Today, however, her treatment of the subject shows a refusal to leave the past and move ahead, which would aid greatly in eliminating her conundrum with white people.
One of the first things she should do is bring her information regarding the concept of race up-to-date. She needs to recognize that all human being belong to just one race—the human race. The fact that she refers to European Americans as white people indicate that she supports the concept of a black and white race, which is a fallacy—a creation of society. Because she still sees people relative to a color, she can never move beyond the color to the human being. Her view of society is filtered through the race box. In essence she sees herself and others using the past and present as her guide and not moving beyond both past and present to the future.
We know through scientific studies on DNA that all human beings are 99.9% alike. If we were to take away the skin complexion, hair texture, the eye’s shape, we would all look the same. We have been conditioned to ignore the many similarities we humans share and dwell on the few differences that are man-made. For example, we have been conditioned to look at cultural differences as though they were biological differences. Society has even organized these cultural differences and have us recognized them as stereotypes. These stereotypes are meant to represent the entire group of people as if no individual differences existed among the people in the group. If social progress is to be made, we as a society must move beyond the false racial concepts of the past.
Another thing Ms. Bennett can do is stop helping to support the concepts of a black and white race by not using those terms. The concept of race exists in a similar vein as does Santa Clause in that it is a myth, but people behave as though it is real. Why? The answer is because there is a reward in it for them. Moving beyond the race box means a step into the future. We know the importance of the past because it contains our history, but we also know that our history reveals the choices we made that brought us to the present. Now we must make choices that will move us into the future. Some of those choices are difficult to divorce.
Ms. Bennett wrote that ”Over the past two weeks, I’ve seen good white people congratulate themselves for deleting racist friends or debating family members or performing small acts of kindness to Black people. Sometimes I think I’d prefer racist trolling to this grade of self-aggrandizement.” She continued “A racist troll is easy to dismiss. He does not think decency is enough. Sometimes I think good white people expect to be rewarded for their decency. We are not like those other white people. See how enlightened and aware we are? See how we are good?”
As readers of the article, we can certainly appreciate the sensitive and emotional investment given to this observation. However, Ms. Bennett never defines “Good White People,” and because they are not defined, the reader must make the assumption that they are viewed through the race box; her use of the term racist underscores the point. Calling someone a racist relieves them of the opportunity to assume responsibility for their bigotry. A racist is an individual who represents a group, but the responsibility for bigotry falls to the individual.
The majority of people born and educated in America received a bigoted perspective of society; that is, regardless of their ethnic identity, they were made to view European Americans as the only normal people. Being normal meant that all the values and standards were based on their ethnic group. In effect, because all people were conditioned to see European Americans as the normal human being, they were forced to view themselves as less than normal. Today, we know that no such thing as multiple biological races exist, so the concepts of racial superiority or white supremacy is all fallacy. What is fact, however, is the result of discrimination and prejudice in preventing opportunities for advancement in every area of society by people of color; the playing fields were and are not level. One cannot expect to compete fairly when the conditions leading up to the competition were not fair.
What Ms. Bennett observed in “her good white people” are the changes taking place in society that are throwing into question the mindset of many European Americans. Again, part of the problem as suggested by Bennett comes from the fact that she feels she must do something with “good white people.” Once she moves outside of the race box, she will realize that it is the European America (white people) who must do something—remove the blinders of color, not culture, and see themselves as fellow human beings. Our removing the stigma of ethnic bigotry from society is a difficult and challenging objective, but one that must be undertaken. We will know that progress is being made when people stop referring themselves by color.
Traditional public and private education has done little to inform society regarding the history of America. That is why many Americans see themselves as different from other Americans because of some superficial differences. As society moves away from the concept of race by color and accept the available empirical evidence relative to our being one human family, the problem faced by Bennett will no longer exist. People of color already know they are normal human beings; the challenge is to get the rest of society to accept that fact so we all can move into the future together.

Paul R. Lehman, The challenge of facing the delusion of whiteness

January 4, 2015 at 4:31 am | Posted in African American, American Dream, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, democracy, DNA, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, Human Genome, immigration, Matthew Frye Jacobson, minority, Prejudice, Race in America, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, social justice system, Thomas A. Guglielmo, White of a Different Color, White on Arrival, whites | 2 Comments
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Many people who identify themselves as white have consciously or unconsciously been living a life of delusions—“a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence, especially as a symptom of a psychiatric condition.” Now that we recognize our society is changing and the truth is coming to light, holding on to false belief becomes more difficult. Just what are these false beliefs? The first is the belief in a so-called white race. Science has proven through DNA the truth that only one race of human being exists on the planet Earth; the concept of a white and black race was created as an act of capitalistic self preservation; the concept of white skin as normal and supreme was a means to social control. All these beliefs are false.
One of the first things European Explorers discovered once they venture outside of Europe was that eighty percent of the world’s population was people of color. That meant only twenty percent of the world was populated by so-called whites. In order to preserve and control their destiny, they devised a plan to accomplish their objective—create a concept of biological races and make the so-called white race superior to all the other non-white races. If the white race could convince the eighty percent people of color that they were superior, then their position would not be challenged; they would be safe. So, the so-called white people used every conceivable element available in society to promote their thesis of white superiority: the law, the Bible, science, history, etc. The problem with the creation of race by color, however, was that it was not consistent or reliable.
A so-called white race cannot be superior to other races if only one race exist, so other forms of support had to be acquired to keep the false belief going. The idea to make the members of the so-called white race the only “normal” human beings was brought into being for white people from all walks of life, from the doctor to the clergy, the businessman to the sharecropper. But how does one reason the fact that eighty percent of the human family is people of color, while only twenty percent is white, but the twenty percent calls itself normal? To accept that scenario defies all common sense and logic. In essence, whites are really the abnormal members of the human family; most just do not know it.
In all fairness to the people who identify themselves as white, we must realize that many of them were born into a society that had already created a deluded society for them. The concept of races, for example had undergone many changes; however, one concept in particular endorsed a five-tier scheme that included “Caucasian, Mongolian, Ethiopian, Malay, and American.”In considering the so-called European races,” William Ripley created a three-tiered scheme that included “Nordic,’ “Alpine,” and “Mediterranean.” At the top this group was the Nordic who were considered “vastly superior in intellectual endowments to all other races.”(Thomas A. Guglielmo, White On Arrival))
At the top of the Nordic race was the Anglo-Saxon race whose concept of white supremacy supported the idea of “Manifest Destiny”: “while U.S. conquests across North America and the Pacific at once enacted and reinforced a principle of white supremacy, between at least the 1840s and early twentieth century they were carried out under an ideological banner of Anglo-Saxon supremacy.” Some people, like Josiah Strong, believed “that this race…is destined to dispossess many weaker races, assimilate others, and mold the remainder, until…it has Anglo-Saxonized mankind.” (Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness Of A Different Color)
Unfortunately, something happened that the Anglo-Saxons did not anticipate—Immigration. They believed that the “Europeans from the north and west are infinitely more desirable than those from the south and east: the ‘rising tide of aliens’ or the ‘invading hordes” were making the country ‘the dumping ground of Europe’: and only selective and restrictive immigration legislation would ‘keep the United States American’ [meaning Anglo-Saxon] and would avert ‘national suicide.’” (Guglielmo)
We learned that “a deluge of southern and eastern European immigrant—alternately scorned as ‘slow poison,’ ‘the scum of Europe,’ ‘foreign mush,’ ‘good-for-nothing mongrels,’ or ‘parasite races’ suddenly swamped America. These people ‘half ruined’ and ‘slum-Europeanized’ the country.” (Guglielmo) The result of this concern was the Johnson Act that, in essence limited immigration to Northwestern European immigrants. However, thanks to Johann Friedrich Blumenbach and his coining of the term ‘Caucasian’ in 1798, the southern and eastern Europeans would have a term with which they would be identified. We learned that … “Jacobson takes seriously the racial language that courts, reformers, academics, and others applied to new immigrants and provides an elegant narration of how Italian, Slav, Greek, German, French, Irish, and other European races were gathered under the term “Caucasian” in the twentieth century and thus unified as ‘conclusively’ white.” (David R. Roediger, Working Toward Whiteness)
Many whites know how they came to be identified as such, but they also know that the information denoting race is false and cannot withstand scientific scrutiny, especially since the advances in DNA. The belief that skin color makes a difference is difficult to dismiss among a people who all their lives have been conditioned to think that their color made them special. Today, with the many changes in our society and world, the veneer of whiteness is wearing away and the truth is staring to break thru the façade of race. The negative attitudes, fears, and anger projected by many European Americans relative to African Americans are all based on the social conditioning of bigotry over many years. We know that eventually many of the old Anglo-Saxon ideas and prejudices will be replaced with a sense of a (human) family and patriotic unity.
What we need to understand is that bigoted men created a two-race society, one white, the other non-white or black. To the white race was given privilege, power, prestige, and a sense of normalcy over all non-white races. Over the years many European Americans (whites) simply accepted society’s conditioning without question. Today, all of those misconceptions, that make-up the delusions, are being called into question and debunked. One of the biggest problems society will have to face is recognizing the conundrum. The next is how to go about correcting the delusions. How does one go about undoing years of mind conditioning? One simple thing that can be done is to start avoiding the use of the terms race—black and white; their use separates us. Instead,try using African American and European American respectively or simply American.

Paul R. Lehman, Cartoon picture shows the power of the press in promoting bias

December 28, 2014 at 1:27 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, democracy, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, police force, Prejudice, Race in America, skin complexion, Slavery, social justice system, The Oklahoman, whites | Leave a comment
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What’s in a picture? An old saying indicates that a picture is worth a thousand words or more, depending on the picture. In The Oklahoman (12-27-2014) on the “Opinion” page a cartoon in a 3×4 3/4” rectangle shows a large, very dark-complexioned, closed-fist hand, pointing downward. One would have difficulty discerning from the depiction, whether the fist was of a man or gorilla. Just above the wrist are the words “BLACK ON BLACK CRIME.” Directly under the middle finger of the fist is the likeness of a dark complexioned person seemingly being held in place by the fist. In a bubble leading to the person being held in place by the fist are the words “The POLICE are KEEPING US DOWN.”To the left of the fist on the same level as the figure under the fist is a small, one inch figure of a fair-skinned policeman, in standard uniform, with both arms extended holding a gun pointing at the dark fist. The contrast between the dark fist and the policeman is obvious.
What was the message that the cartoonist was trying to send to the readers? At face value it would appear that African Americans are being held down by Black on Black crime, while blaming the fair-skinned police. In other words, rather than focusing on the injustices committed by law enforcement agencies against African Americans since slavery, the real cause of the injustices should rest with the African Americans themselves, and not the police. Many people viewing this cartoon would not be troubled by what it suggests, but when viewed through a different perspective, one might find the cartoon offensive.
In the 1960’s and before his death, Malcolm X noted that the European American Press published stories and pictures that demonized African Americans to the majority population. The press, in effect, turned ninety percent of the African Americans into criminals with stories that inflamed the European American majority. The police agencies following the lead of the press used that negative impression of African Americans to treat them as criminals and less than citizens because they realized or experienced no accountability regarding their experiences with African Americans. Therefore, when the police force interacts with the African American community, many European Americans think only of criminals because that was the image presented by the press. The police never has to be accountable for it actions against what the European Americans consider criminals.
The cartoon, in effect, underscores the bigotry created by the press and exploited by law enforcement agencies relative to African Americans specifically, and all people of color in general. The suggestion is that the giant black monster, meaning the African Americans, is what are keeping the African Americans down and the law enforcement agencies have little or nothing to do with it. Therefore the charges and complaints by African Americans against law enforcers must be false. We know that all police are not bad. Some European Americans will on occasions agree that there are some bad cops, but that the majority of them are good. Where are the good ones when the bad ones are acting badly? Of all the recent videos showing police involvement against citizens of color rarely, if ever, does one show officers trying to discourage or stop their fellow officers from acting badly. We are not saying that it does not happen, but if it does, we rarely witness it.
So, what’s in a picture? As far as the picture in question is concerned, we can recognize ignorance. The graphics and the language combine to create an impression that African Americans are dumb animals that are responsible for their own problems, while innocent law enforcement agencies are being blamed. In addition, the primary problem holding down the African Americans is “Black on Black Crime.” Without a doubt black on black crime represents a major problem in the African Americans communities, however, so does unemployment, poor schooling, substandard housing, no health insurance, low paying jobs, high police presence, high number of arrests and a host of other concerns. All these concerns are related to a system that does not treat all people fairly.
The presence of the picture suggests bigotry by seemingly promoting the stereotypical view that police are unfairly accused of creating a problem for which they are innocent and share no involvement other than what the law allows. The decision to draw and present the cartoon picture did not come from a mind free of ethnic bias. The intent of the work clearly shows who the viewer should assume to be the villain—the African Americans.
The presence of the cartoon suggests a sense of arrogance in that little or no thought was given to how African Americans would view it. The fact that the picture was published shows that no regards were given to what the African Americans might think and feel relative to their value in society that encourages a denigrating perception of them.
The fact of the matter is that the cartoon attempts to dismiss the problems existing between the African Americans, the law enforcement agencies, and society. The problem of black-on-black crime is not the same as seeking equal justice in society and the two should not be combined or confused. The large number of African Americans incarcerated will attest to the fact that individuals are apprehended and sent to prison for their alleged crimes. When we look at the number of instances where violence and death are perpetrated against people of color by law enforcement, and no one is held accountable regardless of the circumstances, then a problem exists that must be addressed. The problem involves equal justice and does not relate to black-on-black crime where people are held accountable for actions.
Living in a democratic society we realize that problem solving is a part of our responsibility and duty because that is how we ensure the rights and liberties of each individual. We fail ourselves and our society when to refuse to acknowledge problems that stare us squarely in the face or shift the blame to others. As our society continues to change we will of necessity be confronted with many problems that must be address if we intend to progress. Unlike the picture, we do not have to blame each other for the problems, we just need to recognize that they exists, then work together to resolve them.

Paul R. Lehman, Mother Jones article, “Are You A Racist?” falls short on logic

December 12, 2014 at 8:14 pm | Posted in African American, American Racism, amygdala, blacks, discrimination, DNA, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, justice, justice system, liberty, Prejudice, race, racism, skin color, skin complexion, socioeconomics | Leave a comment
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In a current (January/February 2015) article by Chris Mooney in “Mother Jones,” “Are You Racist? Science is beginning to unmask the bigot inside your brain,” we are introduced to a number of tests, exercises, games and other activities that are focused on helping to identify and control our prejudice. Most of the tests and activities involve our association with things that seemingly feed into our prejudices. Unfortunately, the article failed to achieve its objective if that objective was to help us identify ourselves as racist and to try to address the problem in a rational way.
The first problem in the article was its failure to define racist. Had the term racist been defined, then we would have a basis from which to launch a rational discussion. Racist is a spin-off of the term race that is generally associated with science. The concept of race in America is based on an illusion, a creation, and a lie when it becomes plural, as in black race and white race. As far as science is concerned, the only race we need be socially concerned with is the human race, and it is not based or defined by skin color.
Rather than making clear or defining the terms African American and European American, Mooney uses the words black and white interchangeably with them respectively. These terms are not interchangeable—they have separate and unique meanings; that is, all blacks are not or consider themselves African Americans, and all whites are not nor do they consider themselves European Americans. The article does not make that distinction. Consider the following statement regarding the test referred to as Implicit Association Test: “The test asks you to rapidly categorize images of faces as either “African American” or “European American” while you also categorize words (like “evil,” “happy,” “awful,” and “peace”) as either “good” or “bad.” Faces and words flash on the screen, and you tap a key, as fast as you can, to indicate which category is appropriate.
Sometimes you’re asked to sort African American faces and “good” words to one side of the screen. Other times, black faces are to be sorted with “bad” words.”
We notice the shift from African American faces to black faces in the about quote and this is no exception regarding these terms; it happens throughout the article. According to Mooney these tests and activities were created to measure ethnic prejudice in society, but seemingly overlook the fact that we were born into an ethnically biased society. Our perspectives are based on our social conditioning. The assumption made in the article is unrealistic:
“You think of yourself as a person who strives to be unprejudiced, but you can’t control these split-second reactions. As the milliseconds are being tallied up, you know the tale they’ll tell: When negative words and black faces are paired together, you’re a better, faster categorizer. Which suggests that racially biased messages from the culture around you have shaped the very wring of your brain.”
For the most part, the article examines activities that tell us what we already know—ethnic prejudice is a part of our mental make-up and is based on our social/cultural conditioning. What we should be focusing our attention on are ways to overcome these biases. Unfortunately, the article never debunks the notion of race as unacceptable but instead moves to the concept of tribalism as rationale. We know the benefits associated with tribal membership: identity, security, comfort, value, unity to mention as few.
Mooney’s visit with the scientist, David Amodio, a member of New York University’s psychology department, acquaints him with research regarding the brain, tribalism and prejudice: “One simple, evolutionary explanation for our innate tendency toward tribalism is safety in numbers. You’re more likely to survive an attack from a marauding tribe if you join forces with your buddies. And primal fear of those not in the in-group also seems closely tied to racial bias.” The professor added that his “research suggests that one key area associated with prejudice is the amygdala, a small and evolutionarily ancient region in the middle of the brain that is responsible for triggering the notorious “fight or flight” response.” The article continued; “In interracial situations, Amodio explains, amygdala firing can translate into anything from “less direct eye gaze and more social distance” to literal fear and vigilance toward those of other races.”
What seems apparent in this article is the fact that some scientists seem to want to verify what we already know—that prejudice exists in us and our society. The challenge is to over-come the prejudice, and we do that by educating our brains to recognize a different tribal group—the human family. One would think that the first order of business in making this shift is to first debunk to idea and concept of multiple biological races—we did it with Santa and lived through it. We certainly can do it with the illusion of race, notwithstanding Amodio’s research. We can not begin to deal with the problem of ethnic bigotry and prejudice until we face the fact that we have been living with an illusion for a few hundred years and now the time has come to face the truth.
Mooney recognized the problem of ethnic prejudice and realized that: “To be sure, it will take more than thought exercises to erase the deep tracks of prejudice America has carved through the generations.” He concludes the article with the statement: “Biases have slipped into all of our brains. And that means we all have a responsibility to recognize those biases and work to change them.” Actually, biases did not slip into our brains; in America they were cultivated through our culture, laws and social systems. One of the first things we can do is recognize that we belong to the same group by not referring to each other as black or white. What the European American needs to know is that each time he or she refers to him/herself as white, the race card is being played. Of course, the same goes for the African American and black. Ethnic bigotry, prejudice and racism will not simply disappear, it must be eradicated.

Paul R. Lehman, Lessons of the Ferguson grand jury finding

November 25, 2014 at 8:14 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, Civil Rights Ats, democracy, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, grand jury, justice, Martin Luther King Jr., President Obama, socioeconomics, whites | 5 Comments
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The finding of no indictment by the grand jury in the Michael Brown case in Ferguson should have come as no surprise to people who are familiar with the history of America’s justice system and its relationship to people of color. The grand jury’s finding underscores the primary reason why African Americans and other people of color have problems of trust with the justice system in America and the law enforcement arm of that system. Even more to the Brown case and the lack of trust in the County prosecutor Bob McCulloch as a representative of the justice system is his recent record of no convictions of police officers involved in shootings.
One of the legitimate concerns of the people of Ferguson at the beginning of the case was the decision to take it to a grand jury. What that decision did was to remove from involvement the citizens of Ferguson from the final outcome of the case in that the grand jury reflected the demographics of the state and not the city of Ferguson. European Americans represent seventy percent of the state of Missouri, but only about thirty percent of Ferguson. A total of twelve members made-up the grand jury with nine European Americans and three African Americans. A total of nine votes were required to decide the outcome of the case. To increase the control of the justice system in this case, everything was kept secret even after the finding—no information on who voted for what or why. Some citizens of Ferguson stated that they believed McCulloch elected to go with the grand jury to shield him from having to take any responsibility for the finding. That self-protection tactic was apparent during his report to the nation when he deferred many of the questions asked by the reporters as being part of the secrecy of the grand jury process.
Although many questions remain to be answered relative to this case, the grand jury’s finding of no indictment indicates a need to address some serious concerns, namely, the state of the criminal justice system in America as it applies to African Americans and other people of color; the need to address the value of African Americans and people of color in American society; the protection of the police force over and above the protection and rights of the citizens of color; the need for the involvement and support of the European Americans in addressing the problem of bigotry.
From the very beginning of his address, McCulloch’s comments were focused on the rights of the police officer Darren Wilson and how the evidence underscored his report of what actually happened during his confrontation with Michael Brown. The problem with that approach was that Wilson was not the victim, Brown was, but no comments or evidence was offered for Brown by McCulloch. What that says to the public is that the value of the police officer’s life is considerably more than that of the citizen. Why? If Americans are to feel and believe that the justice system works for everyone equally, then some attention must be paid to how the daily operations of that system is informed and functions relative to all citizens regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, etc.
Looking nationwide at the frequency of occurrences of police shootings of unarmed African Americans and other people of color, one is faced with the question of human value in American society. If all Americans regardless of their identity and social status are not treated equally with respect and dignity by the justice system and more specially, the law enforcement agencies, then changes must be made to educate them to meet that standard. One problem in the past regarding pronounced bigotry in crimes against people of color by law enforcement agencies is that no serious repercussions are suffered by the law enforcement agencies; the individuals or the agency is usually exonerated; for example, simply look at Ferguson. Regardless of what the grand jury’s finding was, the fact remains that Michael Brown is dead, Darren Wilson who fired twelve shots at him (not all hit him) and killed him is free of any charge. The public is left with the suggestion that nothing of consequence really happened. We can all forget about the incident because of the grand jury’s findings and go on about our lives and businesses. We need to be reminded that regardless of the circumstances, a human being was killed and that life was valued.
Another lesson we can take from the grand jury’s findings is that if changes of a positive nature are to come to Ferguson and America, then the involvement of European American citizens must be forthcoming. We may try and pretend that bigotry is on the decline in society, but all we need to counter that notion is to look at President Obama and how he has been treated because of his ethnicity. The grand jury’s findings give us an opportunity for soul searching and pause regarding the kind of society we want to become. We know that bigotry is alive and well now, but we also know that the demographic of society is also changing. By the year 2050 many professional social scientists predict that the majority citizens will be brown or non-European. One wonders how the European Americans would want a society to treat them where they represent the minority population.
Society is changing and part of the problems we are experiencing can be seen as growing pains. The old guard that includes bigoted attitudes is trying to maintain the status quo because it represents power and control in most areas of society, but as society changes that power will shift. So, it would behoove the involvement of all citizens to make society what we want it to be based on our democratic government. The Michael Brown case in Ferguson shows us where we are as a society as well as where we need to go. The choice is ours to make and in the words of the late Dr. King, we can “either learn to live together as brothers [and sisters] or perish together as fools.”

Paul R. Lehman, We are not coming back, says Rabbi Pruzansky, because of Obama.

October 7, 2014 at 8:22 pm | Posted in African American, American Dream, American history, Congress, democracy, Democrats, discrimination, employment, entitlements, Equal Opportunity, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, freedom of speech, identity, integregation, liberty, life, lower class, Medicare, minority, politicians, poor, President Obama, Respect for President, state Government, upper class | 1 Comment
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In a recent article entitled “We Are Not Coming Back,” by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, a Jewish Rabbi from Teaneck, New Jersey, he laments the state of affairs in America and places the blame on President Barack Obama, totally disregarding facts, history, Congress, and common logic. His article appeared in The Israel National News. We will take a look at this article in an effort to enlighten the Rabbi.
The claim the Rabbi makes via Obama’s election is that “We are not coming back.” What specifically does he mean? Where would we come back to? Times when we had dirt roads, when women could not vote, when we had outdoor toilets, back when Jews and other lesser Americans were being discriminated against? Because the article begins with an illogical statement, we can safely assume that the remainder will be opinions and conjecture regarding the state of affairs. We are not disappointed in that respect when the Rabbi noted that Mitt Romney lost the presidential election because he did not get enough votes, but then added:” That might seem obvious, but not for the obvious reasons. Romney lost because the conservative virtues – the traditional American virtues – of liberty, hard work, free enterprise, private initiative and aspirations to moral greatness – no longer inspire or animate a majority of the electorate.” He does not include justice, fairness, charity, compassion, care for the poor and helpless in his virtues—things that America is known for around the world and at home.
The reason he gave for Romney’s loss to Obama “was because it is impossible to compete against “free stuff.”Under ordinary circumstances we might give him the benefit of the doubt, but he began to employ code words of the right-wing conservatives that point an accusing finger to people of color as well as poor people as villains rather than victims:
Every businessman knows this; that is why the “loss leader” or the giveaway is such a powerful marketing tool. Obama’s America is one in which free stuff is given away: the adults among the 47,000,000 on food stamps clearly recognized for whom they should vote, and so they did, by the tens of millions; those who – courtesy of Obama – receive two full years of unemployment benefits (which, of course, both disincentivizes looking for work and also motivates people to work off the books while collecting their windfall) surely know for whom to vote. The lure of free stuff is irresistible.
What the Rabbi fails to point out is that long before Obama, President Reagan attacked the unions in an effort to destroy them—he fired 11,000 Air Traffic controllers. In addition, he made it easy for businesses to file reorganization bankruptcy which caused workers to loose their salaries, employment benefits, retirements, and health benefits, along with other perks. Add to these conditions in the workforce, the introduction of NAFTA. In addition to the jobs that were lost through union busting and bankruptcy, many employers started to move their businesses outside of America, thereby displacing thousands of working Americans.
We certainly recognize that some people will play any system that is created to help people in need, but to characterize all the people needing food stamps and unemployment insurance as recipients of “free stuff” are un-American. A worker cannot receive unemployment insurance unless he or she has worked and contributed to the insurance fund through the employer. So, what is society to do with the American citizens who are in need? Ignore them? That is not who we are as a society.
We also noted that the Rabbi did not mention the “free stuff” the government gave to the banks, corporations, and industries, while the Congress failed to pass a minimum wage. Even one of the world’s riches men, Warren Buffet, complained that his secretary paid more income tax than he.
So, according to the Rabbi, the “giveaways” and “free stuff” represent the first reason for Romney’s defeat. He added that Obama’s actions also helped to point out the second reason: “That engenders the second reason why Romney lost: the inescapable conclusion that the electorate is ignorant and uninformed. Indeed, it does not pay to be an informed voter, because most other voters – the clear majority – are unintelligent and easily swayed by emotion and raw populism.”Although this comment was meant for liberals and democrats, it also represents the people who continue to vote against their own best interest, especially in the red states.
A known fact in America today is that the majority of the wealth is owned by one percent of the population. We also know that the average wage has not gone up along with inflation. Because of the wide gap in income, we know that the middleclass is disappearing. So, people are working more and making less. Still the Rabbi noted:
Obama could get away with saying that “Romney wants the rich to play by a different set of rules” – without ever defining what those different rules were; with saying that the “rich should pay their fair share” – without ever defining what a “fair share” is; with saying that Romney wants the poor, elderly and sick to “fend for themselves” – without even acknowledging that all these government programs are going bankrupt, their current insolvency only papered over by deficit spending.
What are people to think when Congress wants to not raise minimum wages, cut health insurance, not fund workers compensation, but continue to give tax breaks to the wealthy? What the Rabbi did not mention, however, was that today, the economy has recovered from the 2008 fall, banks and businesses are making large profits, the unemployment rate is down to 2008 level, and the deficit has been cut in half. So, why preach doom and gloom?
None-the-less, the Rabbi sadly predicts a win in 2016 of Hillary Clinton because she will follow Obama’s lead. He closes with the statement: If this election proves one thing, it is that the Old America is gone. And, sad for the world, it is not coming back. The problems we face today are there because the people who work for a living are outnumbered by those who vote for a living.”How illogical and irrational can one be? America and the world are constantly changing.
The Rabbi places all the responsibility for all the ills, as he sees them in society, on President Obama. Any person with knowledge of history and government knows that in a democracy we have three divisions of government, not a dictator. No, we are not coming back, and indeed, we should not even think of going backwards to whatever he had in mind. The Rabbi should gather his facts and history then provide for his audience with positive information that can be used to build on, not tear down and despair over. The Rabbi should be ashamed of himself.

Paul R. Lehman, Passing was a way of fooling a flawed racial system

September 28, 2014 at 5:29 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, blacks, democracy, DNA, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, Human Genome, identity, justice, liberty, minority, Oklahoma, passing, Prejudice, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, U. S. Census, whites | Leave a comment
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One of the negative and lasting components of slavery and the creation of a black and white race is the value placed on being identified as white or part white. During slavery, a slave identified as being part white sold for a higher price than slaves who were considered Negro or black. Because race was based on skin complexion, fooling the system was easily accomplished by slaves who could present themselves as white. After slavery, that practice became know as “passing.”If a person moved away from his or her environment where his or her ancestry was common knowledge, then one could live his or her entire life using the white identity. However, the fear of being discovered by someone who knew the person passing was always present. Many stories, true and fictional, have been written recounting the experiences of individuals passing.
When we examine the stories of people involved in passing, we realize that the risk of being caught often resulted in death, but the rewards were opportunities for liberties and freedoms enjoyed by the majority society. The key to the entire system, however, was based on race by color, which was ineffective and faulty because it is an illusion, and lacking any empirical proof. After the Civil War the nation not only continued the system of race by color, but also introduced more illogical, unreasonable and irrational aspects to its existence. For example, Oklahoma, along with other states, created laws that stated in effect that any person of African ancestry was to be considered Negro or Colored. If we were to give some thought to that law, we would discover that the law evidently viewed Africa as a country, not a continent. Also, how would one discover the ancestry of another as African since eighty percent of the world’s population has dark skin? Today, because of DNA, we would have to include all human beings as having African ancestry. So, we know the system was flawed from the beginning.
The problem we face today is one that creates a variety of discussions because many people never challenged the system of race by color, but accepted it along with the supposed values that being white represented. Fortunately, our society is changing in ways that will soon make the concept of race by color irrelevant. The so-called “One Drop Rule” or African ancestry rule was based on illusion, not fact, so to continue to embrace it would be just as fool-hearty. None-the-less, many Americans identify themselves as being mixed-race, or bi-racial, or some other term used to discern the inclusion of white blood in their ancestry because they believe it adds to their social value. How ridiculous is that? If the creation of a white race was false at the beginning, regardless of how one mixes it, it will always be false.
A person’s race has nothing to do with his or her skin color; all people belong to the human race. The primary reason for African Americans being called blacks, Negro, and colored was to keep them from knowing and using their cultural and/or geographical identity by their slave masters. On the other hand, European Americans used their white identity as a symbol of power and privilege associated with the Anglo-Saxons. Rather than use their cultural or geographical identities, many Irish, Jews, Italians, Poles, Slavs and many others as well, changed their names and moved to locations where they “passed” as European American (Anglo-Saxons) to avoid discrimination. Ironically, once these so-called lesser Americans became accepted as whites, they adopted the same attitude of bigotry and biases as the majority society especially relative to African Americans. That way they could conceal their real ethnic identity.
Race is the primary point on which this discussion rest. If one accepts the term and how it has been employed historically, then one is doomed to confusion and frustration, because any argument involving race becomes curricular. That is, if one starts with a false premise, the result must also be false, and so it is with race. Many people of mixed cultural and geographic ancestry face difficulty in deciding how to identify themselves, and so they use terms like biracial or mixed race. These terms simply underscore the acceptance of the illusion of multiple biological races from which they choose to belong. Had they used the terms ethnic group or ethnically mixed, then their identity would reflect cultures and or geographical certainties once they disclosed them. What happens when someone of mixed ethnicity identifies him or herself by one ethnic identity, that selection should be made on the basis of the individual’s choice or preference; to make that choice because of what society or some irrational rule or law based on race by color suggest is illogical.
If someone makes the choice of ethnic identity based on what society suggests, like the one drop rule, then that person is doing a disservice to one or more aspects of his or her ancestry and of the parent representing the part left out. That choice is no longer necessary in our society. People do not have to identify themselves as black or white; they can, however, identify themselves as African American or European American, but even that is not mandatory. Just ask the Census Bureau.
Many African American people of note have been accused of avoiding their ethnic identity by passing for European American. The term passing has relevance only when one has accepted the false concept of multiple biological races. The desire to identify with a particular group is a normal tribal reaction because group identity provides a sense of comfort, protection, and unity, something most people want. But, since we are all human beings, no part of our ancestry makes us more or less than any other human being. Since we are all members of the same human family, we should begin to celebrate our likenesses rather than any superficial differences we might have.
America is changing and involved in a struggle relative to our social identity. However, the more we learn about ourselves, the better able we are to live in the present and prepare for a future that respects the value of each individual.

Paul R. Lehman, Race as a social identity has outived its usefullness to American society.

September 2, 2014 at 6:36 pm | Posted in African American, American history, Bigotry in America, blacks, Chief Justice John Roberts, Civil Rights Ats, Constitutional rights, discrimination, employment, entitlements, equality, Ethnicity in America, fairness, immigration, justice, minority, Prejudice, race, Race in America, skin color, skin complexion, Supreme Court Chief Justice, The Huffington Post, whites | 2 Comments
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Without realizing it, many educators and people of influence are supporting and promoting the separation and discrimination of people by race and color. The way it is being done is through the use of race by color, i.e., black race and white race. Let us take a close look at these phenomena called race by color and see what problems and challenges it continues to place of humanity, especially in America. The word race initially did not contain an element of color when it was used by the Angles and Saxons to distinguish themselves from the Brits. To the people then, the word race carried a sense of a biological difference among nations. Today, we know “What is false in this dogma is the belief that a nation is a race, a group sharing a common biological descent. Equating nation with race defies the most elementary knowledge of history. From time immemorial, Europe and America have been playgrounds of miscegenation” (Jacques Barzan, From Dawn to Decadence, 1500 to the Present).
Race by color became important in America when Africans became the primary source of slaves. Creating two races, one black and one white served to strengthen the power, prestige and control of majority society. The Europeans/European Americans were identified as white; meaning that all the positive attributes of human beings would be posited in them. For the African/African Americans, the reverse was alleged to be true. This illusion of race would and could work because the enslavers held all power over the slaves, and to a large degree, society. The power did not reside only in the skin color, but how the skin complexion was valued in society. For example, under the belief system of race by color, only a so-called white man and a so-called white woman could produce a so-called white child. In effect, no other man or woman on the planet could do that. All people of color (who were less valued in society than the so-called white) could never produce a so-called white child. Any and all off springs of European men would take the identity of the mother. In an effort to prevent European servant women from marrying African men, the state of Maryland created and passed the first miscegenation law in 1661. The slave industry even created a system whereby the degree of whiteness could be measured in Africans and other slaves of color which increased their market value—mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, etc.
The illusion of human and social value associated with the skin color is still very much a part of American society today, and because of that, America can make only limited social progress. Part of the problem comes from many Americans who are unwilling to recognize the fact that race is an illusion and want to hold on to their color as an identity. The problem with holding on to race by color is that it cannot be defined except on a very limited basis, and then it falls apart. People who identify themselves as black may not in fact have a black skin color, so what does black mean in those situations? Some people will suggest that black means African American. Well, black and African American are not the same or interchangeable. Black does not distinguish a personal identity based on color, culture, ethnicity, or geography—the only relevance black has is to a black race that was created during slavery with all negative contexts. The same thing can be said of European Americans who call themselves white, except the contexts are positive.
When the young Civil Rights workers of the ‘60s reacted to the phrase “white power” with “Black power,” they were able to change to the sentiment of blackness from negative to positive, but only in the African American community. The white or European American community did not have to change a thing regarding color. So, today when word, black or white, is used with reference to a person’s identity, it serves to support and promote so-called racial separation and all the things that accompany it. Chief Justice of the United States, John Roberts, was correct when “In a 2007 case, he wrote: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”That is, when we stop using race as if it is accurate and valid, we can get to the real problems of justice and fairness. Getting rid of race does not mean getting rid of ethnic or cultural differences, but it means changing the focus from our differences to our commonalities.
In a recent article, “The Emotional Toll of Growing Up Black in America,” Marian Wright-Edelman wrote that:
“Everybody in the classroom and teaching children today — when for the first time White students will no longer be the majority in our nation’s public schools — needs to be culturally sensitive and culturally trained. This is true for all child-serving institutions. We need to watch out for the subtle as well as the overt ways in which we treat non-White and White children and those who are poor differently. And we need much more diversity in children’s literature so that White, Black, Latino, Native American, Asian American, and all children can be exposed to the rich mosaic of America’s melting pot to help them see themselves and what they can be.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marian-wright-edelman/the-emotional-toll-of-gro_b_5738420.html?utm_hp_ref=email_share
The primary point that this blog makes is the very point that is missed in the above article—people, especially children, do not want to be treated differently; they want to be treated fairly and justly, regardless of their ethnic and/or cultural identity. We know that the metaphor of the melting pot nation was never realized and the proof is seen in the misrepresentation of African Americans in many of the social categories of unemployment, ineffective education, and incarceration rates. We certainly need to respect ethnic, cultural, and geographical differences where necessary, but we do not need to burden our children with false identities such as black and white. If a child is the product of a mixed ethnic couple, identifying with either the mother or father would not be fair to the parents or the child. In that case, let the parents decide the cultural identify of the child, but not mixed-race or black and white. Ethnically or culturally mixed children simply want to be children, no more, no less. Race as a social identity has outlived its usefulness to society.

Paul R. Lehman, Ferguson, Missouri will represent a positive change in America.

August 19, 2014 at 7:16 pm | Posted in African American, American Dream, American history, blacks, Civil Right's Act 1964, Civil War, Constitutional rights, desegregation, discrimination, Equal Opportunity, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, freedom of speech, justice, liberty, lower class, minority, public education, race, Slavery, socioeconomics, Southern states, state Government, The Oklahoman, upper class | 2 Comments
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We have seen and heard about the treatment of African Americans by the police establishment from the East coast to the West coast and many places in between. Sometimes the question “why does this pattern of aggression by the police against African Americans exist? Whether than trying to answer that question now, we must first take a look at why the attitude and behavior of the police establishment is in question in the first place. Then, we will understand what is going on in our society relative to the African American community and the police today.
When slavery was in its early years in America, race and color were insignificant because the objective was profit. Slavery was always a business and the only value slaves had to their owners was measured in dollars. However, the English brought over to the new world the concept of Africans as a lower order of humans and were not viewed as equal to the Europeans. Most slaves were treated equally bad except with respect to the European (white) slaves. Even as slaves, they were given special treatment as we learn from history:
In 1705, masters were forbidden to ‘whip a Christian white servant naked.’ Nakedness was for brutes, the uncivil, the non-Christian. That same year, all property—horses, cattle, and hogs’—was confiscated from slaves and sold by the church wardens for the benefit of poor whites. By means of such acts, social historian Edmond Morgan argues, the tobacco planters and ruling elite of Virginia raised the legal status of lower-class whites relative to that of Negroes and Indians, whether free, servant, or slave (The Making of the Negro in Early American Literature, p.35).
So, from the very beginning, people of color were discriminated against in favor of Europeans. The term “Christian” was used as pertaining to people from Europe who were considered civilized. The importance of this history is to note the lack of social value or respect given to people of color and especially Africans and African Americans.
When we move ahead one hundred and fifty years to the Civil War period, we find the same attitude and sentiment regarding the lack of social value and respect withheld from the African Americans by the majority society. The need to keep total control of the African Americans after the Civil War by the majority society can be seen in the laws that were created by the various states; those laws were known throughout the South as the Black Codes. These codes further established and endorsed the devaluing of the African American as we see in the reference to the Mississippi Black Code:
The status of the Negro was the focal problem of Reconstruction. Slavery had been abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment, but the white people of the South were determined to keep the Negro in his place, socially, politically, and economically. This was done by means of the notorious “Black Codes,” passed by several of the state legislatures. Northerners regarded these codes as a revival of slavery in disguise. The first such body of statues, and probably the harshest, was passed in Mississippi in November 1865. (http://chnm.gmu.edu/courses/122/recon/code.html)
The perception of respect and social value of the African Americans began to change after the Brown v Topeka Board of Education case in 1954, and continued on through the Civil Rights Acts of 1964-1968. America’s changes were starting to become more inclusive of African Americans regarding Constitutional and Civil Rights, much to the dismay of many did not like or want the changes. Throughout America’s early history the need to recognize and respect the presence and rights of the African American were so low that the phrase “A ‘n’ ain’t worth shit” pretty much summed-up the sense of value society had for the African Americans.
When we look at the relationships the police nation-wide have with communities of color, especially African Americans, we see reflected the same old attitudes and perceptions that have long been a staple of the European American mind-set. Regardless of the visible changes occurring in America today edging more towards an ethnically diverse society, many Americans refuse to accept the change. The police departments generally reflect the attitude of the majority society and therefore, see not a unified community, but two—one European American (white), and those who are not—generally people of color.
What the nation is experiencing in Ferguson, Missouri is not something totally unexpected, but an example of a changing society. As we morn the loss of the many African Americans to the bigotry and biases of the old mind-set expressed through law enforcement agencies, etc…, we can take heart in the fact that they do not die in vain, but in an effort to bring to the fore the problems that must be addressed in society to meet the changes that must take place. Ferguson, as well as the nation, will be a better place for all to live once the problems of representation and cooperation are addressed—problems that would have remained hidden without the tragedy of loss. As a society, we have yet to recognize and debunk the fallacy of race. No problems of equality, fairness, and justice will ever be resolved in America as long as people see themselves as black and white. No such races exist except as part of an illusion.
To underscore the lack of understanding of this problem, we turn to a comment made by Michael Gerson in a recent article, “The paradox of diversity,” where he noted concerning Ferguson, Missouri:
“But events in Ferguson demonstrate the paradox of American diversity: An increasing multicultural nation remains deeply divided by race and class. There are many more friendships and marriages between white and minority Americans (about one in 12 marriages is interracial)—but at the same time racially charged suspicions and anger persists among millions. And a broad perception of our own racial acceptance has created a different form of isolation—a self-satisfaction that obscures or masks deep social divisions. (The Oklahoman, 8/16/2014)
Gerson’s comments represent the problem and the solution in that the nation is divided, but changing to a less racial society. The changes will come as a result of the actions of the people who are adversely affected by the problems that are uncovered when the actions of the society, or a police force, raises their, as well as the rest of society’s consciousness. As a nation, we must continue to tear down the wall of races that separates us unnecessarily. The times are changing, and we cannot stop that.

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