Paul R. Lehman, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the book, is not revered by all readers

November 5, 2019 at 7:27 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Dream, American history, American Racism, blacks, Christianity, Constitutional rights, criminal justice, democracy, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, happiness, integregation, justice, Negro, Prejudice, Race in America, skin color, Slavery, social conditioning, social justice system, white supremacy | 2 Comments
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According to a recent article in AARP: The Magazine, (June/July 2019) one of the most important books that helped to influence our thoughts about ethnic bigotry and prejudice in America is To Kill a Mockingbird, by the late Harper Lee. The article noted that “It’s one of our nation’s most revered texts—and it’s probably the book that has most shaped our collective understanding of the evils of Jim Crow.” How the writer arrived at that assessment of the book was not disclosed, but a number of people might question the supposed results of it being the most revered text that enabled our understanding of Jim Crow.

Any literature worth the ink used to print it can easily support a variety of interpretations and keep the reader searching for more points of interest. Mockingbird is such a work that invites the reader to find meaning and social value. Because of its popularity, “more than 40 million copies since it’s publication in 1960,” much has been written and said about it. A lot of the attention seemed to have fallen on the character of Atticus Finch who is often viewed as the story’s hero. While viewing Finch as a hero might be easily established and supported, one interesting assessment of the book leaned toward the book having no hero, but simply represented a picture of America’s society with emphasis on its past, present, and future.

Without having to deconstruct the entire novel, we can say that the story is told by Scout Finch, a young girl, the daughter of Atticus Finch. She and her younger brother Jem lived with their widowed father who was a well-to-do lawyer. They lived in the small southern town of Maycomb. Scout and Jem made friends with another young boy, Dill, who visited their town for the summer. The three children and their adventures represented one aspect of the book but also connected with another focus of the book that dealt with Atticus. A young African American man, Tom Robinson, was arrested and charged with assaulting a young Southern European American female. The sheriff of the town asked Atticus to represent the man and since he was one of the town’s people who had the least to fear or lose, he accepted. Another character that provided an essential social element to the book was Calpurnia, the housekeeper, cook, and guardian of the children. With this brief summary, we can now look at how the book represented the past, present, and future.

The past is represented by the townspeople of Maycomb in their attitude and view of people of color generally, and the young accused African American male. With the institution of slavery and the concept of race by color, European Americans saw themselves as superior to all non-European American people. They saw African Americans as less than a human being and believed that treating them like animals was no crime against God or nature. The first inclination of the townspeople upon learning of the assault of the young woman was to get the accused and lynch him—a trail was not necessary. Fortunately, what saved the town from being viewed as savage and barbaric was the sheriff who exercised his legal authority and felt the need to protect the young African American, Tom, from a mob.

The present was represented by Atticus who served as the lawyer for Tom Robinson. Many readers relied on the performance of Atticus as the lawyer and his attempt to save his client as fuel for him being seen as a hero. In all likelihood, Atticus knew what the outcome of the trial would be even before he took the case. The case provided Atticus an opportunity to display his knowledge of the law and his dramatic presentations underscored his belief in the law. The words he spoke, however, fell on the deaf ears of the townspeople whose minds were already set and the African Americans who were forced to sit in the balcony of the courtroom and who had no expectation of justice from the court. The only people emotionally affected by the trial were the children, and they represented the optimistic hope for the future.

The future is revealed primarily through Scout, the children and their relationship to Calpurnia, an African woman, her African American community, and of course, the trial. The townspeople became angry at Atticus for defending an African American, but because he was wealthy and independent, they represented no threat to him or his well-being. His children, however, were not protected from the jabs and sneers of the local children.      When Calpurnia took the children with her to her African American community, the children saw for the first time, a contradiction in what they had been conditioned by their society to believe about African Americans. Rather than feeling fearful and threatening by the African American community, Scout and Jem felt compassion, warmth, and safe.

Scout experiences a loss of innocence throughout the story, but especially near the end after she and Jem were attacked. She knew what happened to Tom Robinson and what Boo did. She also heard what Heck Tate said about the experience: “Tom Robinson died for no reason, he says, and now the man responsible is dead: “Let the dead bury the dead.”  The townspeople knew that Tom could not have committed the crime, but punished him anyway. Tate knew that Boo had killed Bob Ewell, but looked the other way.

So, given the fact that an innocent African American man died for a crime, he did not committee and a European American man is excused for the crime he committed, we recognize how ethnic bigotry and prejudice along with European American privilege worked in America. In other words, a relationship with the younger European American generation gave hope to the future relations of the communities in that a bridge of ignorance was crossed that revealed the existence of other human beings, African Americans, not animals or inferiors.

When we read the book with reference to the past, present, and future, we wonder why the book is so revered. We find no hero or a need for one since the story looked at society and justice relative to time. The Maycomb community’s sense of justice was not changed; the African American community’s status did not change. Finch’s words defending Tom were like Shakespeare’s Macbeth, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”Could the importance of the book depend on the ethnicity of the reader?

We need to understand that change is the only constant reality we have to reckon with in striving towards social justice.

Paul R. Lehman, What about this thing called reparations

October 26, 2019 at 3:08 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Dream, American history, Bible, blacks, Christianity, Constitutional rights, Declaration of Independence, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, education, equality, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, fairness, Georgetown University, justice, Prejudice, protest, race, Race in America, respect, Slavery, social conditioning, social justice system | 1 Comment
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Visiting with some acquaintances recently, the subject surfaced of the students at Georgetown University considering ideas on reparations for slavery and its influence on the university. A number of the acquaintances stated frankly that they did not believe in reparation as a consequence of slavery. Some stated that they did not own slaves nor had any direct relations to slavery; they believed that slavery had ended and they felt no responsibility for the tragedies the slaves experienced. While all of the responses were sincere and honest, they were not based on facts and knowledge of history.

Many European Americans as well as some other Americans, in general, share the concepts regarding reparations. Part of their reason for believing as they do is based on a number of points beginning with the social conditioning they experienced growing up in America. For example, when American slavery is taught in schools it is from the perspective of the European American which is biased. The concept of American slavery is limited to viewing it as a set period of time with a beginning and an end. So, after slavery ended at the conclusion of the Civil War, 1865, everything relative to slavery also ended. Finally, since slavery is part of the American past the idea of considering reparations for slavery has no place in the present or future. These views and opinions are very common among many Americans.

The problem with these views and concepts is that they avoid history, reason, and common sense. When we consider the history of slavery in the world, we can find no examples of where the enslaved thanked their enslavers and praised them for kidnapping them from their homes and forcing them to give free labor and to obey all the commands of their masters. The most popular account of slavery in ancient history is recorded in the Bible book of Exodus where we learn of the Hebrews being slaves of the Egyptians and their God coming to their rescue, with the help of Moses. We also are generally familiar with the Greeks being slaves to the Romans. Slavery in the ancient world was common and slaves despite their being in bondage were still considered human beings which were not the case in American slavery. In any event, slavery, wherever it occurred was considered morally wrong. No one should be kept against his or her will and forced to comply with the wishes of another. The fact that slavery is wrong is the most important point to acknowledge when considering the process of reparation.

Acknowledging American slavery as wrong does not mean simply saying the words I am sorry or I apologize but fully grasping the experience and understanding their implications in it and those elements of its legacy that still exists in society today. For one to fully acknowledge American slavery is to recognize the fact that the concept of European American supremacy that initiated it still exists so, in effect, aspects of slavery have never really ended. We know this is factual because African Americans today still have to fight and protest just to receive the rights, liberties, and freedoms that are guaranteed in the Constitution. So, arriving at this point of acknowledgment for many European Americans is very difficult because their social conditioning can prevent them from accepting the reality of European American supremacy and the brutality of slavery and it’s after-effects.

In any event, an acknowledgment must be made in order for one to move on to the next element in the process of reparation which is accountability. If one admits that slavery is wrong and that innocent people have been deprived of their human rights, then the people who enslaved and profited from the labor of the slaves must be held accountable. Many Americans do not realize that had it not been for the institution of American slavery America would not have achieved the success it continues to experience. The conditions of the slaves and their subsequent release from bondage with nothing but their few meager belongings coupled with the constant forms of discrimination have affected their ability to gain upward mobility, in general. On the other hand, European Americans have enjoyed all the blessings granted in the Constitution. Accountability then is about accepting the responsibility for addressing the injustice America perpetrated on the slaves and showing remorse for the injustice.

For many people, the idea of reparations simply means giving money to people who have been victims of injustice. That approach misses the intent of reparation. The intent is to address those areas where the enslaved were denied access and an opportunity to achieve and compete unencumbered by biased animosity. As mentioned earlier, some undergraduate students at Georgetown University in Washington DC felt a need to show some form of accountability for the injustice done to the 272 slaves owned by the Jesuits who sold them in 1835 to pay off the institution’s debts. The students decided that they and the school should consider paying the tuition cost for the descendants of those 272 slaves who want to attend Georgetown. Not all the students agreed, but two-thirds voted to approve the plan. The fact that the students had given thought to how the selling of those human beings help to make possible the educational experience they are presently enjoying shows their understanding of American history and slavery as well as compassion for the slaves whose lives impacted it.

Reparation, when it is fully understood forces us to consider not only the injustice or wrong committed against other human beings, but also how we might acknowledge, apologize, feel remorse, repair, and start to heal or make right the wrong that was done. In small ways, we understand what it feels like to experience an injustice that goes un-redressed. For example, when a man returned home from a few weeks’ vacations and received his monthly water bill, he discovered that the bill was far too much since he was not home to use the water. After investigating around his home he discovered that his next-door neighbor had a hose running from his home to the neighbor’s property and that he has been using it to water for his yard. The neighbor had not consulted the man prior to his leaving and has not said anything to him since his return. The man still, however, must pay the bill. What would be your expectations from the neighbor? Chances are you would expect some form of acknowledgment, apology, remorse, and repair from your neighbor—that would be a form of reparation.

We as a society must learn how to recognize, accept, and account for our debt to those who labor continues to enrich our lives.

Paul R. Lehman, America is experiencing violence and death because of fear, hatred, and bigotry

August 6, 2019 at 11:57 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Indian, American Racism, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Constitutional rights, Declaration of Independence, democracy, discrimination, DNA, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, fairness, identity, justice, language, liberty, life, President Obama, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, social conditioning, The U.S. Constitution, U. S. Census, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
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When Barack Obama became President of the United States a shock was felt in many parts of America that brought to the surface of many European Americans fear and dread—a person of color was President. The fear and dread came from the many years of being socially conditioned to view African Americans and other people of color including some Southern and Eastern Europeans as inferior, and not of the same race as the Anglo-Saxons. But from the beginning, Europeans Americans were led to believe that America was reserved especially for them, the so-called whites. American History would reinforce the concept of European American (white) superiority and the inferiority of all other peoples.

European Americans have always lived with the fear and challenge of the national hypocrisy where the documents that carry the mantra of the nation’s democratic beliefs, the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States, discriminate against African Americans and people of color in general. For example, the Declaration of Independence states that all people have certain unalienable rights which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Yet, our history records that time and time again African Americans have been deprived of many of those rights up to the present time. We know that the Colonies supported slavery when the Declaration was issued and did not include women, children, and people of color. We also know that The Constitution referred to slaves as three/fifths a man or person and that designation were taken to refer to all African Americans, although many Indians and Europeans were identified as slaves. The inconsistency of what the nations says and how it acts continues to be a problem relative to it identity—is it a democracy or not?

Many Americans still believe and hold on dearly to the concept of a superior white race and that belief separates them from other Americans. Although their concept of a superior race has been debunked by social and medical science, they are at a loss to let go because they have nothing to fall back on except becoming an ordinary citizen. Unfortunately, the years of governmental and social conditioning that underscored, promoted, and maintained ethnic bigotry is not easy to relinquish in spite of it being undemocratic and un-American. Language serves as the glue that continues to hold the concepts of ethnic bigotry together. For example, the Census Bureau never defined the terms black and white, but gave a variety of citizens the option of selecting either for a an identity. After the 2010 Census, the Bureau discovered a problem in the results reported in that many citizens recorded their ethnic identity as white when prior statistics showed other figures that differed greatly with those of the Census. Race continues to be a problem because it cannot be defined using color.

Bigoted Americans keep trying to prove or convince others that the concept of a black and white race invented by the Founding Fathers is legitimate and accurate. The facts concerning the race concept are that black and white are colors, not ethnic identities. All human beings on the planet Earth, according to science, are brown. From a practical perspective if we were to mix the colors black and white together, the results would be a shade of grey, depending on the quantity of each color mixed. So, as some people hold to the view that a black and white race exists, then one might ask, where are the grey people? On the other hand, when a fair skin person (so-called white) joins with a dark skin person (so-called black) and creates an offspring, the offspring is always a shade of brown. Wow! What an amazing discovery! There goes that black race and white race theory. At some point Americans will wake up to the reality that we all belong to one family of humans, not races.

The recent increase of violence in America can be traced to the fear of some European Americans that brown people will take over society. That should not be a fear because by the shear numbers brown people already represent the majority in the world’s population and has since the beginning. As anthropologists have noted the Homo sapiens species originated in Africa and spread from Africa to other areas of the planet. No on questions the skin color of those first humans. Over the years the science of DNA has proven that the concept of a race or races cannot be obtained from an examination of DNA. Humans are more alike than Penguins. Nevertheless, some people want to violently fight society in a futile effort to try and prove the existence of a so-called superior European American (white) race.

America is experiencing dark times presently because some of the national leaders belong to that group of Americans who want to keep Americans ignorant and stupid regarding the concept of race. The changing demographics in society have continuously worked against that false concept and will eventually overcome it. Unfortunately, Americans will have to experience pain and suffering from the violence of those who know no other way to express their hurt, fear, and anxiety over being played the fool for so many years by society and the government. For all the pain and suffering caused by the people who spread bigotry, America will come back a stronger and more unified society because many of the weaknesses and problems that have contributed to our present situation will be exposed and resolved. We have not yet reached the point where Americans, in general, are ready to say enough.

America has always be a cultural experiment in progress, not a completed one, so we must continue to work towards having her achieve the objectives that were set forth at the beginning of the project. We all know what the promise of being an American is about—one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all. Our obligation is to ensure the liberties, rights, justice, and freedom of each of us for all of us.

Paul R. Lehman, Addressing the problem of Jail and Prison overcrowding should begin with examining the police Officers

June 17, 2019 at 11:59 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, Arizona, Bigotry in America, blacks, criminal justice, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, fairness, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, Police, police education & training, police force, Prejudice, Race in America, respect, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system, whites | 1 Comment
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Another in the continuing series of videos involving police officers and their actions relative to African Americans and other people of color show police officers in Arizona assaulting a young African American family. We have heard the excuse that these officers represent only a few “bad apples” and should not be seen as representing all police officers, but the frequency of occurrences and the lack of reactions from the “good ones” lead us to recognize that bigotry is part of the culture of law enforcement in America. If the criminal justice system is to be examined for the numerous problems related to community relations and the incarceration of people of color, then the examination should begin with the police officers, the police unions, and the local court systems.

When we look at the videos of police officers interacting with people of color one of the first things we notice is a lack of respect given to a fellow human being. The language and tone of voice is usually laced with profanity and bellowed or shouted at the citizens. In many cases orders are issued to the citizens so quickly and inconsistently that the citizen cannot comply in a reasonable and timely manner. When citizens ask questions as to why they were stopped or being detained or arrested, the police usually ignore them and disregard anything they might say. Rarely do we see on these videos officers speaking to citizens of color in a calm, civil and respectful manner, the opposite is generally the rule.

Another element of the videos that calls attention to the police officers is their physical demeanor and body language when engaging with an African American or person of color. Their initial contact with the citizen is one that assumes guilt, and the posture suggests high emotional tension, fear, and general uneasiness similar to that of a combat zone. Any physical contact between the citizen and the officer is usually instigated by the officer. The citizens are generally treated as though they are wild animals that need to be restrained because they are very dangerous and vicious.

Another element the videos show is the number of police officers participating in an incident that could have been resolved by one officer asking a few simple questions and getting an assessment of the situation. The recent video of the young African American family in Phoenix, Arizona that was harassed by local police is a prime example of unnecessary escalation of negative action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaqjO5cWJeo the actions of the police were so outrageous that the mayor of Phoenix issued an apology for the city and promised to have this incident investigated. Had it not been for the alert and timely action of a bystander who captured the action on camera, the case would have been the word of the citizens against that of the police. We know the history of how many police reports do not coincide with the videos and create doubt in what officer’s report.

After calling attention to the language, demeanor, and physical actions of police in general, one has to wonder about the education and training would-be-officers receive and the continued training officers are required to receive. A common excuse given by officers or their supervisors regarding accusations of excessive force or physical abuse is that they were simply following training procedures. When officers show general disrespect for citizens of color in their use of language and their excessive physical force in their dealings with them, one has to wonder about the education and training they receive from the academy or source of training. When and where are they taught to treat each human being with dignity respect regardless of their skin complexion or social and economic status?

The young father from the Phoenix video mentioned that he had been teaching his five-year-old daughter to respect the police because their job is to protect and ensure safety. However, after her experience with officers point a gun in her face along with those of her mother and father, he would have a difficult time getting her to believe that the police are our friends.

Focusing on the negative and outrageous actions of some police officers are not meant to cast aspersion on all police officer, but to underscore that regardless of the complaints and claims against the police regarding their experience with the communities of color, little to nothing has changed. The lack of any significant change can be attributed in part to the Police unions because of their power and prestige within city government. The union has worked hard to foster the idea of the police officers being extraordinary because they put their life on the line supposedly for the citizens. If law enforcement is viewed as a profession, then many other professions involve individuals putting their lives on the line every day as well, but they are not viewed as extraordinary as law enforcement. Why? The unions have a lot to do with this image because it supports and empowers them. Some mayors in cities across the nation are subjected to the power and influence of the police unions in how the police departments are operated.

So, if the many civic groups and organizations working to address the many problems concerning jail over-crowding and excessive incarcerations in the prisons, then the first place to seek redress is with the element in the criminal justice system responsible for supplying the individual to the system. Attention should be given education, experience, the background of the individuals that want to serve as law enforcers. In addition, education and training are both important requirements of law enforces with education receiving equal or more attention to those who want to serve and protect the community. We have to stop the supply of individuals to the jails and prisons if we want to have any impact on the problem of over-crowding.

For all intent and purposes, controlling the supply pipeline to the jails and prison are essential to addressing any of the other problems with reference to correcting the criminal justice system. Once a citizen is arrested a whole new set of problems come into play—the court system.

Paul R. Lehman, Correcting problems in the Criminal Justice System begins at the top

March 19, 2019 at 3:07 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, criminal justice, Department of Justice, desegregation, education, entitlements, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, integregation, justice, justice system, law, law enforcement agencies, mass incarceration, Media and Race, Michelle Alexander, minorities, Oklahoma, police force, Prejudice, President Obama, race, racism, reforms, respect, segregation, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system, socioeconomics, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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The announcement made recently about the decision to not charge the police officers who killed Terence Crutcher and Stephon Clark might have come as a surprise to some but was expected by others because of the history of criminal justice relative to African Americans and other people of color. The decisions to not charge the officers could have been easily made by someone blind and brain-dead. When Eric Holder served as Attorney General, he along with then President Obama made attempts to challenge law enforcement to change the practices, policies, behavior, and laws that discriminate against African Americans in particular and about all people in general. Since that time, many changes relative to criminal justice have been addressed in many locations throughout the United States. The focus of these changes and challenges varies from excessive fines for people who cannot pay them to redefining sentences of people of color whose only serious offense was the color of their skin. Once they get caught up in the maze of the criminal justice system, their lives are completely and forever negatively altered.

Oklahoma leads America, and in some instances, the world in incarceration especially of women. Efforts by many civic groups are working to reduce the numbers. Some of the efforts have been successful via bills the public supported and approved. While all the efforts of groups like the ACLU and others in addressing the problems in the criminal justice system, they have not yet focused on the primary problem of the system—the biased culture within the criminal justice system beginning with law enforcement and including the courts as well as officers of the court. That is, rather than focusing on the cause of the problems attendant to citizens who have been arrested, the majority of the efforts by interested and involved groups are on the problem of those incarcerated. In order to correct the many problems in the criminal justice system, we must look first at where the system begins—what puts the wheels in motion.

What determines the attitudes and actions of the law enforcers from the small towns to the large metropolises begins with the mayors, the councils and courts. They are the ones who make the laws and create the climate and culture that informs the police and other law enforcers. If change is to come to the criminal justice system in American then it must begin with those who administer the programs that represent the criminal justice system. Having the administrators and city or town council members undergo diversity training is generally a waste of time and money because that training does not address the issue of ethnic bigotry that is a part of the everyday cultural climate. We know this biased culture exists from the plethora of incidents that occur and are shown daily on social media. These incidents occur in spite of the diversity training these administrators, council members and court officers have received. We know this ethnic bias exists from the numerous police officers that have suffered no legal repercussion from having shot and killed a person of color.

One thing that needs to happen in order to make the criminal justice system applicable to all citizens is to educate the top administrators, council members and court judges and other officers to what democracy looks like from a perspective that recognizes the bias that presently exists and how they are implicated in the culture and climate that promotes, support, and maintains it. The fact that the majority of people incarcerated are people of color seemingly represents no call for action or consequence. The fact is that the number of people of color is adjudicated differently and more harshly than European American citizens seem to be viewed as acceptable represents a big problem that begs for attention and correction. However, if the people who administer and are the caretakers of the system of criminal justice are fine with the status quo then something needs to be done to alert them to the injustice they are delivering to American citizens who happen to be people of color.

If the problems of bigotry and injustice in the criminal justice system today are promoted, supported, and maintained through ignorance, then education, not training should help in remedying some of the problems. Other avenues of approach would be removal from office via election or for some judges, impeachment. The citizens should be made aware of the amount of money they pay out to citizens that receive judgments from the civil courts for the misconduct of police and other law enforcement officers. One would think that the officers found guilty in civil court should shoulder some of the monetary responsibility as well as the unions that support and represent these officers. That way the citizens would not have to bear the entire expense for the officers’ actions.

The American system of criminal justice is generally a good system when it is administered in a democratic and fair way; however, when ethnic and cultural biases are represented in the outcome negatively affecting people of color, then corrective action must be taken. Again, the actions of the many concerned groups addressing the problems that focus on incarceration are welcomed and, indeed, applauded and encouraged, but their efforts are focused on the citizens that are already incarcerated and part of the system. In order to impact positively the system of criminal justice, the focus must be at the beginning. Michelle Alexander noted in her work, The New Jim Crow, that “A study sponsored by the U.S. Justice Department and several of the nation’s leading foundations, published in 2007, found that the impact of the biased treatment is magnified with each additional step into the criminal justice system.” The evidence is clear.

The biased treatment of people of color in the criminal justice system is due to unconscious and conscious ethnic bigotry that infects the decision-making process of those entrusted with those powers. In order for the system of criminal justice to be fairly administered, those biases must be addressed at the beginning before the arrest is made. So, now that we know where to begin, if we are not part of the solution, then we are the problem.

Paul R. Lehman,Why the movie The Green Book failed to carry a positive message for African Americans.

February 27, 2019 at 3:55 pm | Posted in African American, African American and chicken, African American celebrities, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, Black Englisn, black inferiority, blacks, desegregation, discrimination, Disrespect, employment, Equal Opportunity, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, integregation, justice, minorities, Negro, Prejudice, Race in America, racism, respect, segregation, skin color, social conditioning, social justice system, socioeconomics, white supremacy, whites | 2 Comments
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Family, friends, and acquaintances were the order in which African American musicians and other entertainers used for hospitality, food, and lodging in the days before desegregation. During the early 1950’s when my cousin “Little Walter” Jacobs came to town for a show or two, his biggest decision was with whom he would stay. His room at the local hotel for people of color was only for his belongings. Jacobs was not alone in this endeavor, most African American entertainers depended on their relations in the communities they visited for hospitality where they were usually treated as celebrities. Because this form of accommodation was ordinary for African American entertainers, most road managers and agents saw to it that the flyers announcing the coming attractions were in place weeks before the actual shows. That way, the family, friends, and acquaintances would be prepared for the celebrity’s arrival.

The key to a successful tour for African American entertainers in large part fell to the managers and their connections with other managers on the “Chitlin Circuit,” which was a collection of performance venues throughout the Eastern, Southern, and upper Midwest areas of the United States that provided commercial and cultural acceptance for African-American entertainers. A Green Book was not usually necessary for these entertainers because of the information network of the managers. For other African Americans traveling around America and especially through the South The Green Book was important. Somehow the movie, The Green Book, did not touch on the experiences of African American entertainers traveling through America.

For some American viewers, the movie The Green Book was very entertaining and likeable simply because it included a well-known musician of color, Don Shirley and a historical perspective. Unfortunately, viewers sometimes do not see the forest for the trees, or they concentrate on the movie rather than the message it presents. When we examine the movie for it message, we discover that the movie was disappointing from three aspects—the Green Book, the musician, and the bouncer.

Although the movie carried the title—The Green Book, little attention was paid to the actual book, it author and content. Yes, Tony the bouncer did refer to the book a number of times, but usually without any mention of it. The author and publisher of the book, Victor Hugo Green was not mentioned nor was the way Green acquired the information for the book. Also, what was  not mentioned in the movie was the fact that the book was actually a survival tool for many African American travelers who often faced a life or death situation on the road. African Americans were not only prevented from staying in hotels and eating in public cafes and restaurants but also refused gas at many service stations. So the importance of The Green Book had more significance and value than reflected in the movie.

Next, the movie failed to represent African Americans (if that indeed was an objective) through the character of the pianist Ali. Although he was portrayed as a brilliant and talented musician, his character appeared as a naïve, innocent, ignorant and an anomaly of a person of color. Why would such a seemingly uninformed person of color agree to a tour through a country whose majority viewed him not as a human being, but somewhat of a spectacle similar to that of an animal that could perform some unusual tricks for their entertainment? The simple fact that Ali’s character was not familiar with fried chicken or rhythm and blues disqualified him from even pretending to be an African American. The character of Ali was en essence a freak, an oddity in the context of the movie since we learn little about his personal life. Throughout the movie Ali performed at the various venues with little or no regard for the fact that he was there only for the entertainment of the European Americans, not as a human being of equal social value. The entire movie focused on a short period of time in his life–from the beginning of the tour until the end of the tour at Christmas. The movie was certainly not about him.

Tony Vallelonga, the Italian from New York, who was hired as Ali’s chauffer and body-guard, was a bigot who accepted the job for the money. Through the course of the tour the two men got to know each other on a personal level, but never as equals. Tony understood that the fabric of ethnic bigotry was part of society’s character and therefore he was in a position to protect Ali from his ignorance on a limited basis. We learn from the movie much about Tony’s life, his family, his friends, aspects of his ethnic identity. In a number of instances Tony saved the day for Ali when confronted by European American bigots. Although the two men grow closer together in accepting one another, that acceptance was as members of two distinct ethnic identities and character roles. The movie came closer to being Tony’s story rather than a story about a book or a pianist of color.

Between the two characters of Ali and Tony, the one that seemed to grow in understanding human relationships was Tony. Ali’s character was that of a spoiled and somewhat controlling talented social orphan who just happened to be a person of color. Ali’s knowledge of The Green Book seemed limited at best as was his awareness and understanding of the African American experience in America. The most important thing to him was his talent and the opportunity to perform before mainly European American audiences and, of course, money.

Although some aspects of the movie were entertaining in a limited context, the overall effect was that of disappointment because nothing of value was gained from the experience of the characters development. Tony arrived home to the welcome of his family and friends who still retained their biases of eggplants. Tony learned to accept Ali, but that acceptance did not extend to all people of color, just Ali.

Ali’s character turns out to be that of a sad, lonely and pathetic individual who never learned the value of family, friends, and acquaintances. African Americans cannot live successfully in America without the support from others which Ali experienced when he visited the local African American club in the town where he was supposed to perform. The movie ends on a sad and tragic note when Ali appears at Tony’s home to save himself from alienation at Christmas not knowing that he was simply an eggplant coming in from the cold.

 

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
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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, Report’s data on states racial integration progress is suspect

February 1, 2019 at 5:25 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Dream, American history, American Indian, black inferiority, blacks, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, DNA, employment, entitlements, Equal Opportunity, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, Hispanic whites, Human Genome, integregation, justice, language, law, minorities, Non-Hispanic white, Prejudice, public education, race, Race in America, racism, segregation, skin color, social conditioning, social justice system, socioeconomics, The Oklahoman, tribalism, U. S. Census, White of a Different Color, whites | 2 Comments
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The intent is not to rain on the parade, but too much confusion exists in the article “Report shows state has made progress on race,” to let pass ( The Oklahoman 01/2018). The reference to race in the article’s title is confusing as to its meaning. Once we got beyond the title, the confusion continued. Relying on “A new report from finance site Wallet-Hub” the report ”ranked states based on’ the current level of integration of whites and blacks by subtracting the values attributed to whites and blacks for a given metric.’” The ranking of each state’s progress relative to integration was based on four areas: Employment & Wealth, Education, Social & Civic Engagement, and Health. Oklahoma, according to the report, ranked 13th in racial integration out of the fifty states according to the four areas examined.

Without going into the meat of the report, we determined the data to be questionable in that no definition of terms used was given. Therefore, the reliability of the data is suspect from the beginning. For example, the term race is used in the article’s title, but no following information is offered to explain what is meant by race. If the reader has to rely on assumptions regarding the meaning or intended meaning of race, then what good is the data? Another problem is produced if the reader assumed the reference to race was intended to refer to the human race. The problems continued once we look at the objective of the Wallet-Hub report.

We read that the Wallet-Hub report focused on the “level of integration of whites and blacks”….Again, we are not informed as to the meaning of the terms white and black, but each term was treated as a monolith. We know historically that America at is formation socially constructed two races, one white and the other black, with the white being thought and treated as being superior to the black. But, this report was viewed as being current, and our knowledge of the false concept of two or more races is no longer acceptable. Without a clear definition of the term white any data offered would again be suspect.

The report also used the term black, but provided no definition or clarification as to its meaning or usage. One of the problems that the absence of a clear meaning or definition produced was the question of what black people provided the data for the report in that no specific culture, ethnicity, religion, language or geographic location was presented? So, who are the blacks? The same question exists for those people labeled as white.

When we turned to the U.S. Census Bureau for information the confusion increased because the bureau confused ethnicity, race, and origin. The bureau still operates under the assumption that multiple biological races exists. The bureau list the race categories as” White,” “Black or African American,” “American Indian or Alaska Native,” “Asian,” Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander,” and finally, “Some Other Race.” So, all the scientific date relative to the human race and DNA is seemingly of no concern to the bureau.

We do not know how or why the Wallet-Hub report decided to use the two terms, black and white, but from the 2010 Census information relative to race the question of what is race still remained. The Census Bureau stated in its 2010 data what it meant by race. Noting that their data is based on self-identification, the language reads as follows: “The racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country, and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically or genetically.” More specifically, it continued: “People may choose to report more than one race to indicate their racial mixture, such as “American Indian and “White.” People who identify their origin as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish may be of any race.”

If this information is not confusing enough read what the Bureau provided for blacks: “Black or African American” refers to a person having origin in any of the Black racial groups of Africa. It includes people who indicate their race(s) as “Black, African Am., or “Negro” or reported entries such as African American, Kenyan, Nigerian, or Haitian.” The information (biased and irrational) did not mention what selections were available to black individuals of mixed ethnicities—Puerto Ricans, Cubans etc…

Maybe the point of the report’s validity can be seen more objectively after reading the information from the Census Bureau. If race cannot be defined, and a person can select any race, how can the report provide accurate data about blacks and whites? Unnecessary confusion exists relative to terms like, race, ethnicity, origin, and nationality. One rule of thought exists regarding these terms, only one, the term race, has to do with biology, and that is only with respect to the human race. The other terms are all products of various cultures.

One other term used in the Wallet-Hub report was integration, but it, like race, black, and white was not defined or explained. The word integration became popular during and after the 1954, Brown v Topeka Board of Education case. Many people confuse the words desegregation with integration, but they are clearly not the same or interchangeable. When public schools were desegregated, that meant African American children had a seat in the room. Integration occurs when African American children sit in same the room as the European American children but also learn about their history as well. We still have some distance to travel before we reach integration and share the benefits of our diverse American cultural experiences.

As mentioned at the start of this piece, the intent was not to spoil the seemingly good news of the report concerning Oklahoma’s “progress on race,” but to bring some clarity and facts into the mix. One wonders why a group of “experts” would not be more attentive to the problems with the terms used in conducting this study. Good news is always welcomed relative to the plethora of societal problems involving America’s ethnic populations. When good news comes, we just want it to be accurate.

Paul R. Lehman, The challenge of history replacing the myth of race and racism

January 25, 2019 at 8:33 pm | Posted in Africa, African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Christianity, Confederacy, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, DNA, entitlements, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, Genealogy,, Human Genome, justice, language, minorities, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, segregation, skin color, skin complexion, U. S. Census, UNESCO, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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The old idiom of “beating a dead horse” comes to mind every time an incident involving ethnic bigotry occurs and affected and interested groups want to get together and talk about racism with the idea of defeating or overcoming it. The same scenario has been played for over three or more centuries and here it is today no further than before. Why? One might ask. The reasonable response is that racism cannot be defeated or destroyed because it is not a thing, but a concept. A concept is an idea and ideas are inventions, not facts. Racism is a concept derived from the false concept of the existence of biological races and as long as the concept is promoted, supported, and controlled it will persist. In order for racism to be removed from the psyche, it must be replaced. For example, when children are young and innocent they often ponder the question from where do babies come only to be told that a stork delivered them to their mommies. The stork story is an ancient myth generally thought to have come from Europe among other places. In any event, the idea of babies coming from a stork delivering them will stay with the children until they learn the truth about procreation. When that time occurs, the concept of the stork and the baby will be replaced by reality, not destroyed or defeated. Such is the case with racism.

Unfortunately, America and much of the Western world are not will to replace the concept of racism because it has and still works for them relative to providing privileges, power and prestige based on skin color. Much of the problem in replacing the myth comes from the fact that the myth of European American superiority has been tightly woven into the American psyche for so long that to many people it is no longer a myth. Over seventy years ago the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) issued several statements to the world regarding race:”These statements elucidated the genesis of theories of racial superiority. They emphasized that the biological differentiation of races does not exist and that the obvious differences between populations living in different geographical areas of the world should be attributed to the interaction of historical, economic, political, social and cultural factors rather than biological ones.” The critical point regarding race was emphasized in the statement issued in 2001, that: “Science – modern genetics in particular – has constantly affirmed the unity of the human species, and denied that the notion of `race’ has any foundation.” They further concluded that “Yet racism and racial discrimination have hardly vanished; Indeed, they have not only survived the scientific deconstruction of the concept of `race’ but even seem to be gaining ground in most parts of the world. In the age of globalisation, this situation may seem paradoxical.”In spite of all the data underscoring the concept of race, it persists today and will continue until the focus of inquiry moves from the results of racism to the cause.

In a recent article, Jonah Goldberg writes about how “out of step” the comments of Republican Steve King were when he spoke of white Nationalism, white supremacy, the Confederate flag and other elements of bigotry. The comments might appear out of step with what Goldberg sees as American ideals, but for King, and many other Americans, there was nothing unusual or wrong about those comments because they have been a part of the American experience since the beginning. A brief glimpse at history shows where the African American and other people of color have been deliberately discriminated against deprived of opportunities in education, housing, medicine, politics, and finance as a matter of life as usual. So, no wonder King’s anger and confusion about being cited and penalized for comments that he considered common and ordinary. What is missing from the article is the fact that many aspects of American History relative to the system of European superiority as it exists in America today has never been included in our public education.  Goldberg tried to underscore that lack of education relative to King by making reference to the myth of a white (and black) race in his statement: “Contrary to the prattle of white nationalists and supremacist, Western civilization is not synonymous with whiteness.” He added that many of the people thought to be white today:” Czechs, Hungarian, Poles, Italians, Greeks et al. weren’t “white” at the beginning of the 20th century.”

Goldberg’s article continued by providing a brief historical perspective on the early conceptions of race that included reference to a Dictionary of Races or Peoples that consisted of “a pseudoscientific grab bag containing ‘a motley compendium of ethnic stereotypes, skin complexion, head shape, and other hardy perennials of the race science literature.’” References to a number of ethnic groups and their contributions to Western society were included in the article in an effort to show the falseness of the white race superiority concept. He concluded that, “Among the best ideas and ideals of Western, Christian and most importantly, American civilization is that we are supposed to judge people on their individual merits, not keep score based on their ancestry.” While Goldberg’s article is factual and to the point relative to King’s perspective, the fact still remains that many Americans view history just as King does. So, what is gained by presenting his factual information about the false concept of race if nothing is offered to replace it?

Any meaningful discussion concerning race and racism must begin by deconstructing or debunking the concept of race. The reason for this action is because the discussion will produce nothing outside of race and racism and will continue in a non-ending circular state. The concepts of race and racism can be replaced with reality and factual information but not without the disruption of the psyche that is comfortable with the status quo and sees nothing to be gained from making the change. Too many Americans have shown that they are not ready to replace their ideas of race and racism with truth because some find beating a dead horse rewarding and entertaining.

 

Paul R. Lehman, The wrestling referee’s decision to force the teen’s haircut was biased and insensative

December 23, 2018 at 1:01 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, Ethnicity in America, European American, justice, Prejudice, Race in America, whites | 1 Comment
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Cutting Johnson’s hair was not the problem. No. The action taken by Alan Maloney was not about Andrew Johnson’s hair. Maloney’s action was that of a seemingly ethnic bigot taking advantage of a situation to exercise his bigotry with no expectation of negative, or any, repercussions. Maloney’s actions can be viewed from a biased perspective as bigoted, arrogant, and ignorant.

European Americans are conditioned by society to see people of color as different from them and in some instances to be feared and avoided. One explanation for Maloney’s actions regarding the cutting of Johnson’s hair is that the hair represented a sign of freedom of expression that Maloney did not like or appreciate in a person of color. That freedom of expression by Johnson could have represented a sign of power being loss by Maloney, and that could have triggered the action as a form of defense. The natural response by Maloney under those conditions is to attack the problem which Johnson’s hair represented. In this situation, the rules regarding a wrestler’s hair length might come into play if one was to consider just the rules. In order to follow the rules, Maloney should have given Johnson the option of securing his hair so as not to interfere with his match. One irony relative to this issue is the fact that Johnson had been wrestling all season long with his hair not causing a problem or being of concern until this match.

The primary area of concern in social conditioning for European Americans is the comfort that comes from thinking, feeling, and acting superior to people of color. That comfort comes from the support given by society in general and the lack of any serious repercussions for displaying that superiority through acts of bigotry. Apparently, Maloney felt comfortable in ordering Johnson to either cut his hair or forfeit the match because of his power as a European American and possibly as a referee. In any event, no one including the coach, trainer, parents, or other referees, tried to intervene on Johnson’s behalf. Maloney, evidently, gave no thought to how this public display of symbolic emasculation of a young man of color would affect him and his mental state of mind.

In America the natural assumption of many European Americans relative to people of color is that they must meet the approval of European Americans before they can be seen as human being of like status, not equals, but similar. So, society generally dismisses anything that seems to represent an injustice committed against a person of color because what happens to them is not that important. As in this case, no one questioned Maloney regarding the ultimatum he gave Johnson. The fact that Maloney was a referee gave him the added sense of control over the situation regarding the match and Johnson. None-the-less, what Maloney did show was a gross lack of concern and understanding for a young athlete who he placed in a serious situation regarding his options.

Fortunately, today technology has afforded us the opportunity to record actions and activities in real-time, and the entire episode of Johnson’s hair being cut before and after was all caught on video. The video gives us an opportunity to see and evaluate what happened and the reactions of the participants. What the video cannot show is the mental state of Johnson’s subjection to public victimization. Even though he won the match, anyone could tell by his demeanor and body language afterward that Johnson was not a happy trooper.

As long as the plague of ethnic bigotry continues to exist, we as a society can actually do some things to help in the process of bringing some of it under control. For example, if someone, European American or any other person feels s uncomfortable about a person of color in or near their vicinity, they simply call 911 and the police come to remedy the situation. The fact that these incidents underscore ethnic bigotry, little if any accountability is required from the callers. We have always been informed that ignorance of the law is no excuse, but that does but seem to apply to some people.

Someone should have to answer for Johnson being placed in the situation where he had to decide on having his hair cut or competing in his wrestling match. One way to get the attention of people is through civil courts. In many videos we see that the victim usually gets the bad end of the experience, however, if the victim believes he or she was treated unjustly, he or she should be allowed to go to civil court and seek damages. That way, when the callers have to pay out settlements, they will be reminded of their part in calling 911 on someone for a somewhat inconsequential action. These cases should be made public in an effort to educate the public of consequences of such actions.

With respect to Maloney and his decision to give Johnson an ultimatum, his hair or his match, one should question his ability to serve as a referee since he apparently has little or no regards for the feeling of the students or at least some them. But Maloney was not alone in his decision, the rest of the people directly and indirectly associated with the incident should be held accountable as well. When something unjust or unfair happens in our face and we do nothing, we are just as negligent as the person committing the offense. Although Johnson might have never experienced bigotry at first hand before, this experience with the referee and the cutting of his hair will make a permanent imprint on his psyche and will have a marked influence on how he views the world now. To see and read about young people of color being treated unfairly by some European Americans is one thing, but to encounter it personally is a totally unique experience.

The lesson continues to be too difficult and challenging, but eventually, it must be learned— although we are an ethnically diverse society, all people have the right to be treated justly and fairly, with no exceptions. Anything less is unacceptable in our democracy.

 

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