Paul R. Lehman, Talking to kids about race should be a thoughtful, truthful, and rewarding undertaking for the kids

February 8, 2019 at 12:53 pm | Posted in African American, African American hair, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, black inferiority, blacks, Declaration of Independence, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, DNA, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, Hair, Human Genome, identity, integregation, justice, language, Media and Race, minorities, Negro, Oklahoma education, Prejudice, public education, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, social conditioning, The Oklahoman, tolerance, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

An interesting and troubling article, “Diversity discussion: How to talk to kids about race,” by Melissa Erickson, (The Oklahoman 1/28/2019) appeared in the paper recently and caught my attention because of the topic and the subject mentioned. The first concern was the activity suggested that someone—talk to kids about race. The problem with that activity depends on several things:  the teacher must be someone familiar with race, ethnicity, culture, and nationality; the ethnicity of the students to receive the information, and the approach to discussing the subject. A closer examination of this article was necessary.

A six-year-old boy came home from school one afternoon and surprised his mother with the question, “are you white”? The irony in the question was the fact that his mom’s maiden name was White, so she had to ask him to be more specific. Since he did not have a grasp of the significance of “white” viewed as an ethnic identity, the mother took the time to explain that she was not white and that a person’s skin complexion does not determine an identity unless he or she believes in myths.  Since mothers are their children’s primary teachers caution must be taken in discussing the subject of race with children because the manner in which the information is presented can, and in many cases, affect the children’s psyche in a positive or negative way.

If the teacher or individual introducing the subject of race to children or anyone for that matter, is not knowledgeable regarding race, ethnicity, culture, and nationality then whatever information given the children will be questionable. The most important decision the teacher must make is whether to discuss race as a myth, or race as a reality, or race as a myth viewed as reality. The results of the teacher’s choice will have a lasting effect on the children’s psyche and how they see themselves as well as how they see others, and how others see them.

Serious challenges accompany each of the choices in that the invention/occurrence of race in American society must be presented and justified. If race is viewed as a myth, then its continuation in society is a problem that society must address until the facts become the guiding principle of its use. All myths can be replaced with facts, but not all people will freely accept the facts. The fact about race is that only one exist, the human race. The benefit in presenting race as the myth it is serves to discount all the derivatives associated with race like racism, racial, biracial, etc….

If race is discussed as a reality then the subjects of its derivatives must also be presented which would include bigotry, prejudice, segregation, discrimination, and integration all of which introduce the overarching topic of European American (white) supremacy. The effect that discussing European American (white)supremacy can have on children was noted in the article: “Studies from the 1940s demonstrated that black American children [African American] as young as 3 associated more negative characteristics :(”bad,” “ ugly,”) to dolls with darker skin and more positive attributes to dolls with light skin and blue eyes (“pretty, “good” ).” So, teaching information about race as a reality would produce a negative affect on how children view themselves and others based on their skin complexion. The teacher would also be tasked with justifying the system of European American (white) supremacy in its many manifestations, especially, European American (white) privileges.

If race is discussed as a myth viewed as reality then the teacher has the responsibility to acknowledge the difference between the two and deliberately choose the way of hypocrisy. In other words, if the teacher knows that race is not biological but chooses to ignore that fact and discuss the myth as reality then a gross disservice is committed against the children and society.  The teacher’s decision to follow the myth as reality involves viewing American society as two-sided—one side that wants and fights from the democratic principles imbedded in the Constitution and Declaration, and one side that is bigoted, self-centered, and controlling using a philosophy of ethnic supremacy  favoring European Americans. Although the teacher’s intentions might be seemingly good, the effect of teaching young children about race, diversity, and tolerance would condition their young minds to look for differences in each other that are man-made and minor while avoiding the majority of things they have in common that are good and biological.

When race is taught so is bigotry because it unites and divides—us and them. One cannot avoid the facts of American slavery and ethnic diversity that accompanies a discussion on race. How would the teacher explain the actions of a Christian society that dehumanized people of color by enslaving them and then blaming their enslavement on the color of their skins? How would the teacher prevent the European American children from feeling guilty for the treatment of the slaves by their ancestors? How would the teacher underscore to the children the objective of teaching diversity that should seek to unite all people as one human family and not individual biologically races, while focusing primarily on their differences? The article noted Darnise C. Martin’s comment that “Conversations can be had about dolls, hair, superheroes and just generally helping children know that they are not any less because of skin color.” The problem with that comment is the underling assumption that race is acceptable and tolerable, but can be explained to the children without any psychological effects.

What happens at time when certain subjects are considered for discussions is that little effort is given to defining the terms to be used in and during the discussion because the assumption is that everybody already knows the meanings. Too often we act as though we do not see or realize the bigoted side of American society while we are enacting laws and policies that do just that. For example, sub-standard schools did not appear by accident nor were they invented by African Americans. The history of the African American and other people of color have never been a regular part of the public school curriculum, only Western civilization’s story. So why would we want to continue to promote a history of race to young children that would continue to promote, maintain, and protect bigotry?

So, what are we suppose to do? Why not just tell the truth about race being a myth and know that as long as we act like it is real, it will appear to be so, and in spite of the fact that our DNA says we are more alike than penguins? However, the minute we decide to focus on truth and facts, the myth will begin to deconstruct.

Paul R. Lehman, Bigotry in our language is a not so hidden secret we can afford to ignore

September 3, 2018 at 6:44 pm | Posted in Africa, African American, African American hair, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Civil Right's Act 1964, Constitutional rights, criminal justice, Declaration of Independence, discrimination, DNA, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, Hair, Human Genome, identity, justice, justice system, language, law, Media and Race, minorities, Negro, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, social conditioning, social justice system, socioeconomics, white supremacy, whites | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The objective from the very beginning was division and on a permanent basis as the reason the founding fathers invented two races, a black and a white. Unlike the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution that said we are one people, the concept of race has kept us separate and unequal. Subsequently, if we continue believing in the concept of races we will continue to be separate and never fulfill the objective of our democracy. If we are to ever have one nation, we will have to change the way to look, speak, and act towards one another. We also need to understand that the language we use helps to keep us separate. For example, as long as some people view themselves as black and white, they will not come together because of the historical significance of those words. They were meant to keep us apart.

Many well-meaning civic groups actually work against themselves by choosing a name that creates a negative and defensive feeling in others towards them. Take, for example, Black Lives Matter, a group that has an objective that is in keeping with the concept of democracy, but because of the word black in the name, it creates a defensive reaction in the minds of many European Americans.

We also have groups that use words like white, Aryan and caucasian that they believe makes them different from people who do not look like them. Their pronounced goal is to save or preserve the so-call white race. They need to visit history to learn what happens to people who are separated or separate themselves from other people; they become extinct, like for example, the Australian Tasmanian Aboriginals, and in America, the Eire people and the colony of Roanoke.

When civic activists call for unity among people of color, they miss the opportunity to enhance their programs by not inviting all concerned people. We as a society have been conditioned to identify ourselves based on our so-called differences when our objective should be for all to use the same identity. We are all Americans, so why is it necessary to use color or ethnicity as part of identity? When visitors come to America, they come using their cultural identity. When Americans get a passport they provide a picture, but no racial or ethnic identity, because our cultural identity is American, not black or white, Hispanic or Asian etc.

We do ourselves a constant disservice by identifying ourselves as separate groups which have been our legacy since slavery. We have to grasp the reality of our situation understanding that the concept of biological races is a myth, invention, social construction, and lie. Prior to the Human Genome Project, everything about races with the numerous divisions, classifications, and characteristics was conjecture and opinion. We now have scientific proof, validation, and evidence that all human beings are more alike than penguins, and the skin complexion, eye shape and color, and hair texture are not unique to a select group of human beings. We are of one race of beings whether we like it or not.

We might think that language does not play so great a part in our lives and our behavior, but studies old and recent underscore the fact that when the words black and white are used in a sentence referring to an identity, a measured reaction occurs. The reaction for the European American, usually an increased heartbeat, is observed when the word black is used because of the social conditioning associated with the word. African Americans do not experience a similar reaction when the word white appeared in a sentence because they are conditioned to seeing it and without feeling threatened.

The media in American society contributes greatly to the separation of ethnic groups by the way they use inappropriate identity language. For example, if a bank is robbed and the robber was apprehended, nothing pertaining to the robbery is gained when the ethnicity of the robber is identified. Except, in American society today the identity of the robber is omitted if he or she happens to be European American, but the identity is almost always given when the robber ‘s identity is a person of color. The effect of the naming the identity of the ethnic person serves to strengthen the negative stereotype society already has of the person of color.

Another way in which the media contributes to the negative stereotypes and biased attitudes held by some Americans relative to people of color has to do with the mentioning of the geographic location of an incident that is readily identified as being in a location where predominately people of color reside. Again, the mere mention of the location adds to the negative stereotype held by many people familiar with the location.

Today, with all the problems America is facing relative to our government and the various policies being addressed both positively and negatively, we need to take the opportunity to add our concept of race and identity into the mix and deal with it once and for all. We continue to talk about racism as if it was legitimate rather than bigotry which is what has been and continues to be practiced in society. Yes, our language uses the word racism to talk about social biases, but simultaneously serves to keep the concept of races alive and our society separate. We need to decide what kind of society we want to live in as well as our children and grandchildren. Once we make that choice, we need to get to work and make it happen. We have been talking about racism for three hundred years to no avail because we are still talking about it without a change in the daily behaviors of people. Racism is not the problem, we are because we refuse to accept the fact that we have been living in a false reality. What we cannot continue pretending to not see is the rapidly changing demographics that will force changes in society relative to cultural and ancestral identities.

We currently have an opportunity to make great strides in addressing our oneness as a society by debunking the myth of race and working to make America what it was meant to be a democracy. We will not and cannot get to where we want, and need, to be if we do not change from using our misleading ethnically biased language of bigotry.

Paul R. Lehman, Everyday bigotry and the language of social control

August 25, 2018 at 1:18 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Civil Right's Act 1964, Congress, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, Hair, identity, justice, language, lower class, Media and Race, minorities, minority, political power, politicians, Prejudice, President Obama, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, whites | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Everyday bigotry is basically a normal day in America. What makes it normal is that it is part of the fabric of American society that hides beneath the veneer of the idea of democracy. Social conditioning is a process that occurs when someone is born into a culture or adopts a culture and experiences that culture on a daily basis. The characteristics of that culture are acquired through living with and among the people in that society. The standards and values, customs and practices that are part of that society are not usually questioned or challenged by the people, but accepted as being correct and normal. So, when the system of Anglo-Saxon (European American) supremacy was instituted into society using language that identified two major races, black and white, with white as superior and black as inferior, no one questioned or challenged it. The Africans could not challenge the biased concept because they were powerless; the European Americans did not challenge it because they invented it. The power and control of society was derived through the language the people used and trusted.

The power and control of society through language can be demonstrated in the concept of physical beauty. The European Americans established themselves and their physical qualities as representative of the normal human being. In addition to making themselves the model of humanity, they also placed the highest social value on their features, especially their skin complexion. Therefore, anyone that looked like the European American was viewed as valued more than the people of color, especially the African Americans that did not look European. The slave masters and owners began early in the system of slavery to exploit the European physical features and the degree of so-called European (white) blood reported in the slaves as a profit builder. What they did was give names to slaves supposedly having degrees of European blood, names to underscore that degree. So, for example, if a slave was said to have a European American father and an African mother, he or she would be called a mulatto; this designation would allow the slave seller to ask more money for the slave over one with no or less European American blood; the greater the percentage of European blood, the higher the slave’s value.

What this practice did in addition to bringing in more money to the slave owner was to give the slaves with a degree of European American blood a sense of being valued over the slaves without noticeable European American blood. The reality was that regardless the amount of European American blood the slaves had, they were still slaves. In addition, the language told the African American slaves that they were ugly, black and dirty; that their hair was bad because it was kinky, nappy, curly and short. Possessing these physical characteristics, the African slaves knew that being beautiful was impossible for them. However, after slavery, some African Americans believed that acquiring some of the features of the European American might increase their social value. The language as a tool had convinced them to accept the European American standard of beauty as part of a social value system.

One of the wealthiest women in America in the late 1800’s was Madam C. J. Walker who happened to be an African American. Although she made many significant contributions to African American causes during her lifetime, the fact was that she acquired her wealth by exploiting the self-denigration of many men and women of color who wanted to improve their appearance. Even today we see primarily women of color whose natural hair color is dark brown or black with blond hair or undergoing cosmetic surgery on their eyes, noses and mouth in an effort to approximate the European American look of beauty. This attention to physical appearance is due to the influence of the language that causes some Americans of color to question their sense of self and their concept of beauty.

Although the Black Power movement focused on changing the stigma associated with the word black, one of the important and consequential changes to occur was the African Americans view of self and a challenge to the European American standard of beauty. Because they could see themselves as beautiful in the natural, they became free to express that freedom in any way they desired. One result of African Americans’  freedom of expression of their natural beauty was the European Americans’ efforts to adopt aspects of it.

What Americans should understand is that the language we use if not challenged will continue to control us. The language control manifests itself in the actions and reactions of European Americans as well as African Americans. For example, when the word minorities is used by European Americans it is not defined, but has inferred connotations.  So, who are the minorities referred to in the usage of the word? Americans generally assume that the word refers to all ethnic groups of color that reflect a smaller population than European Americans.  Another suggestion that is inferred in the use of the word minorities is the deference to a majority population as being superior, not necessarily numerically, but in influence and power. How will the word be interpreted when the European Americans numerically becomes the numerical minority in the foreseeable future? Will they still be referred to as the majority because of their power and influence? In any event, because the word is not defined, the meaning is never concrete and often seen as derogatory.

With respect to language being viewed as derogatory, President Barack Obama during his last days in office signed into law H.R. 4238 stating that the federal government will no longer use the terms Negro, Oriental, and Minorities in federal writing. The passing of this measure was a rare show of bipartisan  support by the House of Representatives and the Senate. The fact that America is constantly changing demographically demands that we pay attention to how the language is used as a tool for social control as well for as liberation. Just like our demographics change, so does our language with new words coming into usage while some words no longer serve a useful purpose because they are not accurate and are no longer socially acceptable.

Paul R. Lehman, Increase in diversity will cause the decline of race defined by color

March 24, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Posted in African American, African American hair, American Bigotry, American Indian, American Racism, blacks, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, Hair, minority, Non-Hispanic white, Prejudice, Race in America, segregation, socioeconomics, whites | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Many Americans do not like to talk about race in America because of what they know or what they do not know about it. If most people rely on what they were taught in school for their understanding and knowledge of race then they would be in trouble trying to holding a reasonable conversation with someone who is knowledgeable. For example, when someone says he or she is black or white, what exactly is he or she saying? These words have one consistent meaning beyond all others—they represent colors. If either of these words are used my people to identify themselves, the words are useless unless they are associated with American history and American slavery. Let’s be specific regarding this matter.
When Africans came or were brought to America they arrived using their personal identity which carried with it an example of their culture, history and geography. Those Africans that were brought to America were captured Africans who were later made slaves. The first order of business required to enslave a people is to re-create them without a history or past identity; in essence, they must be stripped of any positive value or self worth. The easiest way to accomplish this act is to take away their names and give them new ones using their enslaver’s language. Next, separate them from any kinsmen so they cannot continue to use their native language. Finally, make them see themselves as worthless, despicable, ignorant, and hopeless non-human beings.
One thing history does not readily tell us is that while the slave masters stripped away all elements of their slaves’ identity, the masters retained some important information that would help in asking a better price for the slaves at auction. For example, the slave masters knew the geographical area of Africa the slaves resided in as well as their skills and talents; many were farmers, fishermen, artists, builders etc… This information helped the slave master get a better price for the slaves with experience and knowledge that could help enrich their owners.
In any event, the African captives were made to be slaves and given the name slaves, blacks, Negroes and a variety of other names. The objective was to create the slaves’ new beginning in an environment where they were powerless to do anything for themselves, and dependant on the master for everything. In addition, the slaves were forced to view each other as the master viewed them, at least on the surface. So, the words black and white were employed to serve a number of purposes—white to represent power, privilege, and normalcy, and black to represent the opposite, inferiority, powerlessness, animal-like being. In addition, these two words were interwoven with the false concept of races—multiple biological races. Each so-called race learned to view themselves through their biased concepts. Africans were not called blacks just to deprive them of their identity and culture but also to serve as a contrast to whites.
These two words, black and white, if they are not referencing their respective colors must be associated with something else. The one thing American society has been conditioned to think of when one of these words is used is the other word. Therefore, when some people say that they are black, they are also inferring that they support the concept of multiple biological races and that the so-called white race is superior to the others. Unfortunately, a similar experience is not encountered by people who say they are white. They do not think of themselves as members of a race; they see themselves as just normal people. The only two races recognized in America until after the Civil War was black and white.
Before the Civil War African Americans were not in a position to change what they were called because they never had enough social power to effect a change until the late 1960s and the 1970s. Unfortunately, when an opportunity did arise for African Americans to change what they had been called since being brought to America, they missed the opportunity. In effect, during the Cultural Revolution the young African American civil rights activists opted to change the word black from a negative concept to a positive one. Examples of the process changing the value of the identity word from negative to positive can be seen in songs like “Say it Loud! I’m black and I’m Proud!” by James Brown, or phrases like “Black Power” by Stokely Carmichael. Although this change made a significant difference in the way African Americans looked at themselves, however, because the word black is the same word used by the slave masters for Africans Americans, the change only affected African Americans. European Americans (whites) did not have to change anything. For European Americans, blacks are still blacks, often with the same sentiment.
One additional problem with using color words as part of an identity is that one word does not fit all, if it is to be inclusive; that is, what does it mean to be a member of a white or black race? Are all the people in each race the same color? If not, what makes the difference in the race? If the color is not the main element, then what is? All people with black complexions are not black by identity nor are all people with light (white) skins white by identity. Therefore, the use of each word, black and white, for identity purposes is inaccurate and useless. Again, if these words are used as identity, they must be associated with something other than color.
As America continues to become more diversified the used of the term race will of necessity give way to the use of ethnic groups and ethnicity. Ethnic identity is necessary in America because of the population diversity and the problems caused by the use of the words black race and white race. The U.S. Census already experienced problems with the 2010 census when people of ethnic groups were given the option of selecting white as their racial identity. Rather than loosing cultural and geographical history by using and ethnic identity, these elements of identity are enhanced by it. No one is forced to identify him or herself by using the common ethnic terms like African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, and European American etc.., but the use of the words black race and white race will soon serve no useful purpose with regards to personal identity. The history of the African/African American presence in American did not end when the word black was given a different connotation. Race defined by color will decline as diversity increases.

Paul R. Lehman, Comments about Gabby Douglas’s hair are out of bounds

August 5, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Posted in African American hair, Disrespect, fairness, Gabby Douglas, Hair, minority, Olympics | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

America watched in amazement as Gabby Douglas displayed her Olympic Gold talent and skills to win the title of the best female gymnast in the world. At the age of sixteen she has achieved something that is reserved for the most exceptional athletes on the planet—an Olympic Gold medal.  All who watched her performances knew they were witnessing greatness. While most people were happy to see the young American female earn her medal, some individuals thought that Gabby’s hair was more important in the accomplishment she had just experienced. Those individuals who tweeted comments about Gabby’s hair were ignorant, insensitive, and asinine.

Athletes are dedicated and driven individuals who focus on perfecting their skills while developing their talents. Unless their physical appearance relative to fashion is a necessary aspect of their training, they concentrate on more important things. Depending on the sport or activity, the athletes’ hair fashion is not of primary concern, unless it gets in the way of the performance. Otherwise, most of the athletes’ concern is on perfecting their skills. With respect to Gabby’s hair style, we can assume that she wore it in a manner that allowed her to complete her programs with the least bit of distractions. Those people who made comments about Gabby’s hair were ignorant of the fact that gymnasts like Gabby, as well as other athletes, come into contact with water and perspiration on a daily basis. Most women know what moisture on the hair does to it as far as fashion goes that why many prefer to keep it short and manageable. If those people writing comments about Gabby’s hair knew what her training regimen was they probably would not have made those comments. But to some people, ignorance is bliss.

Regardless of the ignorance of some people regarding athletes and their hair, the comments were not in keeping with good taste or manners; in fact, they showed a gross insensitivity. The world had just witnessed a spectacular performance by a sixteen-year-old female gymnast and for some people, in praising her accomplishment they negate the praise by complaining about her hair style. We know that athletes are conditioned to manage their emotions so not to interfere with their performance, but unnecessary and insensitive comments about a beautiful young lady’s hair shows a total lack of class. What makes the hair comments even more insensitive is the lack of thought that could have a negative impact on a young female’s self image. If the hair comments were made to address the hair specifically, that is one concern that could be handled; however, if the hair comments were made with respect to Gabby’s over-all appearance, then they were totally despicable.  Most young people at or around the age of sixteen are experiencing an identity change, and any little element of self-doubt can have a great impact on how they see themselves. Fortunate, Gabby knows that she is both beautiful and talented.

At a time when we Americans should be celebrating the accomplishment of Gabby Douglas for  representing her country so well, we should also be mindful of the fact that negative comments about her should have no place in our hearts and mouths. We should be thankful for the devotion and sacrifice of this remarkable young lady in wanting to give America and the world her best efforts. So, for some people to praise her on one hand and criticize her hair on the other is just plain asinine.  A consequence experienced by people who make asinine comments is that the criticism they seek to place on others actually falls on them. They are seen as suffering from a character defect that prevents them from giving credit where it is due. One has to wonder what goes through the minds of people who cannot simply give credit and praise without including personal digs or what could be interpreted as insults. Gabby as well as the other Olympic athletes deserves our appreciation and support for their efforts in representing us and our country.

Chances are when we get a look at Gabby once the Olympic Games are over, and she is making the media rounds for her well-deserved honor, we will see a beautiful young lady whose personal appearance suits her environment. We are proud of Gabby for the challenges and triumphs she experienced in the face of many obstacles. Most of the people watching her perform probably paid little if any attention to her hair style, which is as it should have been. The only thing she should have heard from the people was “Go Gabby! You Go Girl!” And she did.

Blog at
Entries and comments feeds.