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
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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.

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Paul R. Lehman, The power of language continues to enslave American society

August 21, 2018 at 3:58 pm | Posted in Africa, African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Civil Right's Act 1964, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, education, employment, entitlements, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, Genealogy,, identity, integregation, justice, language, law, lower class, Media and Race, minority, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, social conditioning, socioeconomics, Stokely Carmichael, the 'n' word, the Black Codes, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
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One of the constant conundrums challenging America today is race; the reason for it being constant is because while we experience and observe it, we can only describe it, not defines it. We cannot define race because it is a concept based on conjecture and myths.  Since the Greeks and Romans did not know why the sun rose and set every twenty-four hours, they made up a story about it. The story had some facts in it relative to the movement of the sun, but the facts were surrounded by fiction. Apparently, they thought that Apollo drove his chariot around the heavens riding up to the center of the sky in the morning, and down to the horizon at night. Fortunately, scientists came along to give more precise information about the sun and its relations to the earth. Today, the world knows the actual movement of the sun as well as the other celestial bodies in the universe and no longer need to invent myths. Unfortunately, we have not arrived at that point with the use of the term race. The myth continues because we have not decided to rid ourselves of its power to control our mind and bodies.

Language is the most important tool used in transmitting not only information but also a controlling influence over society. When the slave masters took away the slaves’ identity, history, and culture, they forced on the slaves a language that was meant to keep them enslaved. The language was such an important tool that the slaves were forbidden to learn to read and write it. The punishment for anyone caught teaching a slave to read or write were heavy fines, whippings, or imprisonment, depending on the state in which it occurred. The slave owners knew that language as a tool could be used to control minds, but they also knew that it could also be used to liberate minds as well.

One way in which language was used to control society was when it constantly reminded European Americans that they were superior to all people of color, and it reminded people of color that they were inferior to European Americans. Once the captive Africans arrived in America and were stripped of their identities and past; they were forced to accept the reality of slavery. The language they used always pictured them as inferior and European Americans as powerful, privileged, and in total control of society. The African captives knew that they were not Negroes, blacks, or other terms associated with their identity, but they were defenseless to do anything about it for fear of repercussions, including death. After years of social conditioning in which the language constantly reminded the African Americans that they were Negroes, blacks, colored, and a host of other denigrating terms, their actual identity became less of a concern than their civil rights as citizens.

In the early 1960’s language was used as a tool for protest by African Americans who combined identity with the fight for civil rights with the phrase “Black Power.”  Africans were forced to wear the identity of black from the beginning of American slavery and it was used as a derogatory and denigrating term. Even African Americans used the term as derogatory within the African American community. However, when the phrase “Black Power” was used by Stokely Carmichael during a 1960’s civil rights rally, it gained legs and moved throughout the national African American community as well as society at large via music and media. The reference to “black” was used to engender a new sense of pride and positive value to what was once viewed as insulting and denigrating to African Americans. The power of language to influence worked to change the negative concept of blackness as an identity for African Americans to one of positivity, pride, and beauty.

While the language shift worked to provide a new sense of self for the African Americans relative to a black identity, it accomplished little for the European American since no change occurred in their conception and use of the word black as derogatory. The major misconception of the African American community nationally was that the word black would somehow be transformed to represent a new identity. The problem with that happening is that the space the word black occupied in the language could and would not be replaced simply by repetition. Although European Americans could use the word white for their identity, it carried no negative connotations, just the opposite.  Many Europeans abandoned their cultural identity to accept the white identity because of the power and prestige it provided them. African Americans because they did not use their cultural or ancestral identities were forced to be identified as blacks and Negroes. Two reasonable identity choices are African American or people of color, but only for ancestral identities. The cultural identity has always been American.

Many people of color in America accept the word black as a form of identity without realizing that the words black and white are adjectives, not nouns; that is, as nouns they represent colors, but as adjectives, they usually precede the noun race. Therefore, if the word black is used as a noun, it serves no purpose as an identity because it represents no cultural or ancestral ethnicity. If the word black is used as an adjective proceeding race, then the identity is based on a false concept of a black race that is viewed as a monolith which is also incorrect. In other words, the use of the slave masters’ language still represents some control over society’s identities.

The late Malcolm X learned that language as a social tool could provide an element of power and influence. So, he worked hard to become proficient in the use of language, and as a result was able to educate, enlighten, inform, irritate, and intimidate his audiences. Partly due to his early death he had not gained the level of understanding that would have helped to unlock the door of ignorance relative to how language managed to retain control of the concept of race. He did, however, recognized that the identity given the African captives upon their arrival was not their true identity and so he rejected his family name (usually taken from the slaves’ former owner or master) and replaced it with the letter X which is symbolic for the unknown.  American society’s challenge now is to recognize how language has been used to control us so we can set about the business of freeing ourselves. We cannot resolve a problem if we do not recognize that it exists.

 

Paul R. Lehman, Changing the criminal justice system and mass incarceration starts at the local level

July 10, 2018 at 4:13 am | Posted in African American, criminal justice, justice, justice system, law, lower class, Michelle Alexander, minority, non-violent crimes, Oklahoma, poverty, race, Race in America, social conditioning, social justice system, The Oklahoman | Leave a comment
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Often times, when something happens involving the criminal justice system that has a negative effect on a segment of society, that part of society that is not seemingly directly impacted will pay little or no attention to the problem Usually, they remain uninvolved and uninformed relative to the criminal justice until it affects them directly. What they do not realize is that they have always been directly affected by the system whether they know it or not. One way they, the public, is affected is through the high rate of incarceration and prison overcrowding that the citizens are financially responsible for paying. However, since they do not receive the bill directly, they give little attention to it. The groups that are forced to pay the bills are the poor and people of color. So, for many years mass incarceration has been about controlling people of color and the poor right in plain sight while nothing was done to correct the injustices that were committed against them.

Studies have been conducted relative to mass incarceration ascertaining that the phenomena are not simply an act of maintaining law and order, but a system of economic profit-making. A number of scholars have referred to the criminal justice system as the prison industrial complex because of the vastness of the system and the many people involved at many different levels. Although this system is a nationwide organization, what keeps it going happens at the local levels of society. So, if an effort is made to replace the unjust system, the initial action must take place at the local level. The first order of business is to re-educate the public and present a transparent picture of what happens to a citizen that is incarcerated at the local level and how he or she becomes part of the bodies working for the system.

Many citizens are led to believe that because a person is arrested, charged, and sent to prison that they deserve to be there because they broke the law. Generally speaking, that would be an accurate assessment. However, what created the present situation of mass incarceration had nothing to do with citizens breaking the law, but with the laws being changed to expand the number of people being incarcerated. When President Reagan instituted his war on drugs and crime, he caused a modification of the charges and length of sentencing. The system has since added the fees, fines, and numerous charges to the sentence of the incarcerated person, making freedom almost impossibility if one happens to be poor or a person of color. So, the more people introduced into the system, the more efficiently it runs. For an in-depth look at the subject of mass incarceration please read Michelle Alexander’s book THE NEW JIM CROW.

The state of Oklahoma is one of the national leaders regarding mass incarceration in general, but number one as far as incarcerating women is concerned. This problem was brought to the attention of the Oklahoma citizens in the form of two state questions that addressed the rate of incarceration of people with drug problems and non-violent crimes. The state actually passed the two questions 780 and 781 that sought to reclassify drug possession and some other lower-level crimes as misdemeanors. The objective of the questions was to use the money saved from not incarcerating people of these types of crimes and use that money for alternative programs. These types of programs are necessary for addressing the problems and redirecting the money.

Kris Steele, a former Speaker of the House, is the chairman of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform and leader in attempting to stop the mass march to prison of many citizens. Based on his studies and experiences relative to criminology he understands that prison is not the answer to problems involving drug use and low-level offenses. He expressed some of his concerns in an article, “Justice reform must have buy-in,” (7/9/2018) that underscored the injustice of the sentencing today. He also noted the importance of the people involved in the working of the criminal justice system understanding the problems and helping to overcome many of these problems, not trying to maintain the status quo. Steele noted the need for elected officials and others to accept the programs. He stated that “Unfortunately, some elected officials still haven’t accepted this approach. In the six months after the state questions were enacted, 882 people were sent to prison with drug possession as their most serious offense—directly rebutting the will of voters.”

One of the problems in this matter is the lack of concern of many of the citizens; they either do not care or do not know the seriousness of mass incarceration. Steele noted that citizens pay the price and it is significant: “If each of these 882 people sentenced to prison for drug possession spent one year in prison, it would cost the taxpayer $15 million, and if they were imprisoned for the statewide average for drug possession—25 months—it would cost $32 million.

We know that mass incarceration is a feature of the criminal justice that keeps the system going; we also know that the system is unjust and unfair to people of color and the poor. We realize that we can start to resolve the problem if we work together. Steele noted that “Once this cultural change is embraced by those responsible for implementing reform, Oklahoma can safely reduce its incarceration rate, boost public safety and strengthen families.”  Oklahomans must keep the pressure for corrective action open and out front for change to occur.

Along with addressing the problem of mass incarceration is the need for prison reform from a national perspective. Michael Gerson in an article “An idea that should succeed in Washington,” (7/9/2018) citing the need for prison and sentencing reform referenced two scholars, Steven Teles and David Dagan who identified reform as “an example of ‘trans-partisanship,” and “a agreement on policy goals driven by divergent, deeply held ideological beliefs.” Everything depends on how people view crimes and criminals. They stated that “Liberals look at mass incarceration as see structural racism. Libertarians see the denial of civil liberties, Fiscal conservatives see wasted resources. Religious activists see inhumane conditions and damaged lives.”

Gerson summed up the solution for mass incarceration, prison, and sentencing reform by making one simple statement—“ All these convictions converge at one point: We should treat offenders as humans, with different stories and different needs, instead of casting them all into the same pit of despair.” Easy to say, harder to accomplish.

Paul R. Lehman, Racism is kept alive and protected through America’s ignorance

November 22, 2016 at 7:19 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, black inferiority, blacks, discrimination, Equal Opportunity, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, justice, lower class, Media and Race, minority, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, reverse discrimination, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, social justice system, Supreme Court Chief Justice, U.S. Supreme Court, white supremacy, whites | 2 Comments
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The subject of racism has been at the top of the list of topics in America before the recent presidential election. A good assumption regarding racism is that the majority of Americans think that they have a good grasp of what is racism. From observations of and listening to many Americans, what they think they know about racism is incorrect. The Encarta Dictionary offered the following definition of racism: “the belief that people of different races have different qualities and abilities, and that some races are inherently superior or inferior.”Another definition is also offered: “prejudice or animosity against people who belong to other races.” While the first definition mentions nothing about hatred, the second definition juxtapose prejudice and animosity as if they were the same; they are not. Hatred does not have to be an element of racism unless it is focused on something specific regarding the biased race in question. Otherwise, bias against someone simply because he or she looks or acts differently from one’s self is irrational; as is racism itself. Nonetheless, we are told that racism exists in America and we are shown evidence of it via media. What we do not see concerning racism, however, is the lack of understanding in what we see, and what we think we know.

In American, the concept of races is generally accepted by many who ignore history, science, and reality in favor of the illusion given them by society. The concept of a black race and a white race is bogus, untrue, false, has no basis except as an illusion. The social conditioning of Americans by society to accept the concept of races has never lessened or suffered a weakness from the truth. The system of European American (white) supremacy and African American (black) inferiority was built on the concept of races with the objective of controlling the poor European Americans and African Americans. Today the system is still alive and doing well. Unfortunately, many European Americans do not see themselves as part of the system because they were conditioned to see bigotry on their outside, not their inside. Many European Americans associate racism with something that an individual projects such as hatred and fear for a person of an ethnic group different from theirs. Therefore, if they, individually, do not hate or fear another person because of that person’s ethnicity, then for them, racism does not enter into the mix.

When the statement is made concerning racism being a part of the American social fabric, the reference is directed at the entire society, no exceptions. All of America’s institutions are tainted with the element of racism as is all Americans, whether or not it is understood by them. Unfortunately, too many Americans do not know that the concept of racism as well as “race” itself is false, not true. If the reality regarding race is that it is a bogus concept, then so is the concept of racism. Since the term racism is inaccurate, the correct term to use is bigotry. Bigotry against people of other ethnic groups (not races) is ethnic bigotry.

American society has been persuaded and encouraged to accept things that are irrational, misleading, and illogical for so long because they hide the truth of bigotry from us and keep the system of bigotry protected. For example, when we hear terms like equal justice, equal rights, equal privileges or even equal opportunity, we tend not to question them believing that they are positive and all-inclusive. The fact is these words serve to protect the system of bigotry in that the term “equal” relates primarily to mathematics, not social or human endeavors. If no two people are equal, how then can there be an equal opportunity? In order to make two people equal, one person has to stop developing in order for the other person to catch up, so even if the other person catches up they would still not be equal. The problem comes from trying to define the term which is relative– even identical twins are not equal. So, using the term equal instead of “fair” or  “fairness” conceals the fact that equal can mean anything the user chooses.

Society even accepts the oxymoron phrase “reverse discrimination “as  legitimate when common sense tells us that discrimination exists or it does not exist, like pregnancy either is or is not. The fact is discrimination cannot be reversed. Little wonder how our Supreme Court failed to see the defect in their finding in the Alan Bakke case. The problem is in the language that is used by law and society that keeps the system of bigotry in place because no useful definitions are ever offered to make clear the meaning or intent of what is being said. In many cases, some things that are meant to be condemned are in fact legitimized in the very language used to condemn it. For example, when the Fair Housing Act of 1968 was passed, instead of saying that discrimination will not be permitted, the law included qualifiers such as race or color. The fact that the terms race and color are not defined, but are mentioned in the law indicates that they are in existence and accepted by society, but just not to be considered in acquiring housing. We too often make the mistake of interchanging fairness with equal; they are not the same. African Americans, as well as all people, want to be treated fairly because they know that “equal” is relative and elusive.

With the demographic changes taking place in America the need to use words and phrases that support the concept of ethnic supremacy is rapidly diminishing. Terms like racism are used so often until they have little impact even though they are often misunderstood by the users. To be clear, racism is not about hating others; it is about controlling and feeling superior to them. The element of fear plays an important role in the control aspect of the system, in that it is used to control the European Americans, not the African Americans. Fear of African Americas is part of the social conditioning received by European Americans. Fear, however, should not be confused with hate. The opposite of hate is not “love,” but ignorance. America has not been able to solve the problem of racism because of its ignorance in not realizing that we keep the system of ethnic bigotry alive and protected without knowing it.

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Paul R. Lehman,Kaepernick’s protest is a Constitutional exercise in American democracy

August 31, 2016 at 1:16 pm | Posted in African American, American history, Amish, Constitutional rights, democracy, Disrespect, education, equality, fairness, freedom of speech, justice, liberty, life, lower class, Media and Race, Pledge of Allegiance, poor, social justice system | 2 Comments
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Why are some people getting so bent out of shape over the fact that Colin Kaepernick decided to exercise his 1st Amendment right to protest what he sees as injustice in America? Ignorance of the Constitution? The excuse that Americans fought and died for our flag should not be used to justify complaints because all military takes an oath to uphold the Constitution, not the flag. The flag is only a symbol of the country and should be respected unless one wants to use it for protest, which is what Kaepernick has decided.

In America, if we have a problem with our government, we are taught to not run and hide, but to bring the problem out in the open so it can be addressed. The way the problem is brought to view is through protest. When the police or teachers reach an impasse in negotiations, they either chose a mediator or go on strike or both. Striking is a form of protest that has been used successfully for many years in America. None of the strikers have been accused of being unpatriotic or anti-American. They just want attention focused on their problem. Kaepernick is being patriotic by protesting in order to call attention to the problems he wants addressing.

Kaepernick is not the first athlete to protest by refusing to stand for the flag ceremony; nor will he be the last. His actions are not arbitrary or capricious, but well thought-out and reasoned. He knows that he will have to pay a price for his actions because too many people do not understand the thoughts that led to this action. In an article from the NFL Notes, Kaepernick is quoted as saying, “I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. …To me, this is something that has to change. When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”

Regardless of how one feels about Kaepernick’s form of protest, it should not be figured into the equation of right or wrong, because he is protesting as an American citizen. He is speaking out about the injustices visited upon African Americans and people of color in America. Other Americans see that same injustice, but choose to remain silent. Why should Kaepernick be criticized for exercising his Constitutional right about injustices that have been going on for years while America looks on in silence? Some people believe that his decision to not stand for the flag is wrong, but that belief is theirs, and that is fine. What they do not have, however, is the right to select or judge Kaepernick’s manner of protest. They might want to offer their opinion relative to what manner or form their protest would take, but no one can say whether their choice is right or wrong; it is theirs to make.

In America, citizens have for years refused to salute the flag, say the Pledge of Allegiance, and serve in the military. These people never receive complaints about their actions and are never accused of being un-American or unpatriotic; they are left alone to live their lives in a manner that suits them. Two groups of Americans in this category that come to mind are the Jehovah Witness and the Amish. In their defense, some people might call attention to their religious beliefs as reason enough for them to refuse to honor the flag or saying the Pledge and serving in the military. The irony of this defense is that they and Kaepernick use the same Constitutional rights to support their actions.

What some people do not like is for a person of notoriety to use his fame to call attention to his protest. To many people, a person gives up his right to be an individual in order to maintain his fame. With Kaepernick, some people want him to only be a football player, nothing more. If he says something that does not relate to football, he is criticizing for over-stepping his bounds. Many people want athletes to have no opinions outside of their sport. The fact that they are paid large sums of money to use their athletic abilities should be enough to keep them silent about other things. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking robs the individual of his whole being as an intelligent, sensible, and rational person capable of making a decision apart from his professional career. We do not have to guess as to Kaepernick’s motives for his protest, he stated that “No one’s tried to quiet me and, to be honest, it’s not something I’m going to be quite about…I’m going to speak the truth when I’m asked about it. This isn’t for look. This isn’t for publicity or anything like that. This is for people that don’t have a voice. And this is for people that are being oppressed and need to have equal opportunities to be successful. To provide for families and not live in poor circumstances.”

Many Americans apparently think that as Americans we should think and act in certain ways that do not offend the ideas or concepts they hold in high esteem. Were that the case, individual freedoms would be a laughing matter because they would not exist. As Americans, we are encouraged to believe that we can exercise our Constitutional rights without fear of anger, hate or some form of retribution for not walking in lock-step with what some people think is the right way.

Kaepernick did not call the media to witness him sitting during the flag ceremony; he did not seek to create a media storm that focused on his protest. The media took the lead in calling attention to the fact of Kaepernick’s actions, and shortly afterward, judgments and criticisms flooded the airways. Whether one agrees with Kaepernick’s form of protest, as Americans we must defend and support his rights to protest because that is what we believe is our responsibility. Let us be reminded of the importance of the right to be our individual selves by recalling the words of Henry David Thoreau: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however, measured or far away.”

Paul R. Lehman, Actions speak louder than words.

April 22, 2016 at 2:22 pm | Posted in African American, American Indian, criminal activity, discrimination, education, equality, European American, justice, law enforcement agencies, lower class, minority, Oklahoma, police force, poor, poverty, public education, Public housing, race, social justice system, socioeconomics | 4 Comments
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What can be frustrating to many people who attend public panel discussions that focus on a particular concern is the lack of resolution to the problem; that is, they leave the event with a few new data, but nothing to build or act on. For example, a recent public panel discussion on the “Mass Incarceration in Oklahoma: When Will It End?”Featured on the panel were representatives from the clergy, the state legislature, and the criminal justice system. The obvious and over-riding question for the panel was “Why are so many people being sent to prison in Oklahoma?”

The first panel member was from the clergy and he spoke to the problems involving the laws that place an unfair hardship on poor people and people of color. He mentioned the laws that treat minor violations as major ones such as small quantities of marijuana or drugs found in the possession of first-time offenders. In Oklahoma the law involving possession of drugs calls for prison time regardless for the person’s criminal record or lack of one. He continued in casting blame on the state and what was referred to as the “Criminal Prison Complex System,” that view prison as economic engines and fosters a climate of greed. References were made to the State’s high ranking nationally for incarceration in general, but also for the disparity of African Americans and Hispanic Americans in the prison population compared to the general population. The number one national ranking of women incarcerated in Oklahoma was underscored. The basic response of the clergy’s representative to the question was simply greed.

The second panel speaker represented the state legislature and non-profit organizations working to decrease the rate of the poor being incarcerated. The audience was greeted with information relative to the number and variety of programs that are meant to help relieve the number of people in poverty who are constantly being incarcerated for lack of funds to pay fees and fines. He focused on the need for attention and treatment of the mentally ill and drug addicts who would benefit greatly from pre-prison programs which would not destroy their efforts to rebuild their lives without a prison record. His response to the question of mass incarceration was a lack of funding for the programs that could help to eliminate the prison over-crowding conditions. He lamented that unfortunately, with the state suffering from a budget deficit of over one billion dollars, the likelihood of any programs receiving relief was slim to none at the present time.

The third and final panel speaker represented the criminal justice system; he brought with him many years of service in the law enforcement area. He defended the system by first disagreeing with the clergy with respect to the lack of fairness towards the poor and people of color. He maintained that every person in prison was there because he or she committed a crime or was found guilty by a jury. In essence, the people in prison are there because they deserve to be there. In his staunch defense of the system he never made reference to the system of poverty and neglect that the low socio-economic level of society experience or the exploitation they receive because they are easy prey. As far as he was concerned the system of criminal justice was totally impartial towards all citizens and made no difference because of ethnic, social, or economic status. His response to the question of mass incarceration was due to a lack of family values, education, and unemployment.

The responses of each panel member were offered to show how an audience can become frustrated when no one actually addressed the question. Each representative had a response, but not an answer to the question of why the mass incarceration. What they had to say was related directly to the problem of incarceration, but more to the effects of the system in place rather than an alternative to the system to decrease the prison population. If all we had to do in order to solve a problem is to say the words that identified how it could or should be resolved, then no problem would too big to solve.

Unfortunately, the panel never approached the real issue involving mass incarnation because they were talking at each other rather than communicating with one another. An example should underscore the problem. If the three panel members were riding in a car and suddenly to car started to move erratically, one might suggest that the cause is the rough road; another might say the cause was maybe a flax tire, still the third one might suggest in might be a problem with the car. All three individuals might be correct to an extent, but they will never know for certain until they stop the car, get out and look for the cause of the problem. If it turns out to be a flax tire, they must decide if they will changes the flax tire and put on the spare, or call the auto club to come and fix the problem or should they call someone to come and pick them up and deal with the car later. First, the three people must agree that the problem is the flat tire. Once they agree on that, they must also agree on what plan of action to take. Finally, they must put the plan of action into effect or all their efforts will have gone for nothing.

What panel discussion organizers and participants should keep in mind when offering problem solving information are plans that can be put into effect to address solving the problem. Most people know what the problem is and how it manifests itself with them and the community. They want to know how to go about resolving the problem—do they sign petitions, join protest groups, donate money to organizations fight for the cause, start groups, write letters? The people want to be given an avenue of approach for working toward resolving the problem. Words are important, but change comes from action.

Paul R. Lehman, An investigation of the Baltimore police by the DOJ will reflect systemic problems

May 8, 2015 at 12:08 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, Baltimore, Bigotry in America, blacks, criminal activity, democracy, Department of Justice, discrimination, entitlements, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Freddie Gray, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, lower class, minority, police force, poor, poverty, Prejudice, President Obama, social justice system, socioeconomics | Leave a comment
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The mayor of Baltimore has asked the Department of Justice to look into the practices of the police force in her city. Although the results of such an investigation might help improve the community relations, the real problem that leads to conflicts time and time again is never mentioned—the system invented and managed by the majority society. We have heard the terms system and culture many times when the condition of the police and community relations is discussed. Unfortunately, discussing both the system and the culture of any city and its supporting elements does not focus on the cause of the problem and therefore cannot offer a remedy for the problems. A few observers recognize and understand some aspects of the system. For example, Michael Gerson of the Washington Post Writers Group, wrote in an article, ”The intricate knot of urban poverty,” about the problems facing Baltimore and how different aspects of the system affects its progress.

Gerson commented on an aspect of police attitude in Baltimore:”An element of the police—on the evidence, a relatively small element—became desensitized during its daily application of power. One result can be dehumanization, which may help explain Freddie Gray’s long, last trip.” He continued: “But some of the worst outcomes are not found in abuses of the system but in its design: a cycle of incarceration and return that reinforces criminality.” Actually, Gerson confuses the system with the culture when he references “abuses of the system.” What he does not understand is that the system was invented to dehumanize people of color as well as people of low socio-economic status. The abuse is actually a manifestation of the system expressed through the local culture. The police did not develop a concept of viewing people of color in a denigrating way prior to joining the force; society had already accomplished that part of the training.

To his credit, Gerson does recognize other conditions contributing to the problems of poverty and incarceration, but noted that “So, the imposition of order in impoverished communities through police and prisons is possible but costly, prone to abuse and probably unsustainable at the scale we have seen.” He then asked the question “What can be done to encourage economically and healthy communities where order is self-creating a imposed?” He answered the question by referring to the government’s role in why these poverty-related problems exist: “The reason reflects the complexity of the problem. Large economic trends, particularly globalization and the technological revolution, have pushed the blue-collar economy in many places into a permanent slump. Wages have stagnated or declined and workforce participation has fallen.”

He further noted that “At the same time, the connection between child-bearing and marriage has been broken. Chronically stressed parents—often single parents—have less time and fewer resources to invest in their children. Community institutions, including public schools, are weak.” He next associated these conditions with the police: “When children get into trouble, there is little support structure for addiction treatment and legal help. We cannot expect police power to confront these complex, interrelated difficulties.” For help in these circumstances, Gerson added:” But someone, in addition to local religious and community leaders need to try.”

Finally, Gerson pointed to individuals on the “right,” Rep. Paul Ryan, and Sen. Marco Rubio who offered suggestions relative to the problems of urban poverty. On the “left,” he listed President Obama and Hillary Clinton and their suggestions to deal with the problems as well. He noted that all of the suggestion offered by both the right and left were “insufficient to the scale of the problem. Much about the justice and unity of our country will depend on the increased ambition of their next iteration.” What next iteration? The system converts any and all new ideas into feeding itself. Apparently, Gerson does not understand that all suggestions regarding urban poverty, the police, incarceration, employment, education, and justice are all part of the system—a system that has always viewed people of color and others as having little or no social value, and that viewpoint has served to justify the treatment they have experienced over the years.

Regarding the system and the police, if education and instructions focusing on systemic changes are not required for the police force to treat everyone justly and fairly with clear and definitive repercussion for failure to do so, the officers will exhibit the lack of value society has told them to exert towards people they regard as have little or not social value. The system provides the concepts and attitudes toward the people; the culture of each department determines how those concepts and attitudes will be manifested.

If some people were surprised to see three African Americans pictured along with the three European American officers arrested from Baltimore and wondered how that was possible, the answer has to do with the culture in the department and the importance of group identity and solidarity. In most local departments the culture is usually established by the majority before the minority members are employed. If the minority members buck the culture, they are ousted.

If the Department of Justice decides to investigate the Baltimore Police Department, chances are it will discover what has been discovered in most police departments—a pattern of discrimination against African Americans and other people of color over and beyond their percentage of the total population. That discrimination results in arrests, fines, and finally, incarcerations. Gerson suggested that the reason has to do with poverty, and that certainly has some impact on the problem, but to get at the primary cause one has to examine the nature of the system that created the problems. We do not have to look far to recognize bigotry as the main ingredient that continues to engage in a system of control over people of color as well as people of low socio-economic status.

If progress is to be made with respect to the plethora of social injustices that are presently represented in the lives of many American citizens, then the cause of these injustices must be discovered and addressed. Unfortunately, when one discovers the cause of the injustices, another problem is added to the ones already at hand. No one seemingly wants to be made uncomfortable if it means relief and benefits for another for whom one apparently holds little social value.

Paul R. Lehman, Baltimore, a victim of negative explosive expectations and false comparisons

May 1, 2015 at 12:24 am | Posted in African American, American history, Bigotry in America, blacks, Constitutional rights, criminal activity, democracy, Department of Justice, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, freedom of speech, happiness, justice, justice system, law, law enforcement agencies, lower class, Media and Race, minority, police force, Prejudice, public education, Public housing, race, Race in America, social justice system, socioeconomics, students parents, The U.S. Constitution, whites | 1 Comment
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The recent events in Baltimore have for all intent and purposes been blown out of proportions due to faulty expectations as well as propaganda. Had the initial display of lawlessness been address by the local law establishment, the rest of the escalation would not have been necessary. The disruptive unlawful activity began when the local high school near the center of action dismissed school earlier than usual. Many of the teens rather than going home decided to take advantage of a situation presented to them to commit unlawful acts with no one in authority looking on.

One would expect the police to handle the situation involving the young children differently from older adults, but the police never appeared on the scene. The children realized early on that because no law enforcement was present, they could do whatever they wanted without repercussions. So, they acted-out by breaking windows, stealing merchandise, destroying property and other things that they would not think of doing under normal circumstances. These teens were out of control and not thinking rational. The death of Freddie Gray was probably not on their minds. Unfortunately, some adults who witnessed the activity of the teens took advantage of the situation and used it as cover to become involved in lawless acts. So, when the cameras started to show the activity, some adults were pictured along with the teens. The media characterized the teens and their action as violent rioting threatening the entire city.

Regardless who was involved, their actions were wrong and unacceptable, but explainable, given the circumstances of the location, the time, and the youth. What happened after the initial occurrence of the unlawful activity by the teens and some adults was an over-blown accounting of the event. The media began by treating the social out-burst as if the entire city of Baltimore was being burned to the ground by gangs of violent, lawless, African Americans, hell-bent on destroying their city. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The reporting was somewhat inaccurate and propagandistic when references were made to rioting and violence. Neither the protesters nor the citizens of Baltimore participated in a riot or violence and destruction of property.

The references to Baltimore in comparison to the 60’s riots in Baltimore and Los Angeles did a disservice to Baltimore. The events in Baltimore involving the teens were allowed to continue by the police force. Once the Monday afternoon and night activities were over, nothing resembling a riot was evidenced. The majority of the citizens of Baltimore made a concerted effort to show support and love for their city while many in the media cautioned eminent danger and destruction from the protesters. What seemed apparent from the various media reports was an expectation of lawlessness and violence from the African American community. The African American community of Baltimore and the law enforcement element were seeing the same activity, but from two different perspectives.

For some observers, the large show of force to prevent rioting and destruction was really not necessary. The point is that a riot never took place. Certainly, on Monday afternoon and night acts of lawlessness and destruction of property did take place, but for all intent and purpose, that was the end of any threat of mass civil disobedience and mayhem. What the focus on the possibility of civil unrest had on the situation was to shift the attention away from the legitimate protest relative to the death of Freddie Gray and the request and need for transparency. The need of the media to anticipate some breaking news development seems to triumph to tragedy of Gray’s death while in police custody.

One thing that seems to be apparent from the comments of the media as well as other sources is the negative stereotypical view that is presently held concerning African American people. From the engagement of the National Guard and the numerous law enforcement agencies, one might get the impression that all hell will break out at any given time. Many of the citizens have tried to counter that perception by placing themselves in the street and speaking directly to their neighbor about the collective desire for a safe and peaceful city. At the same time, these citizens want to see some positive changes in the way their lives have been affected from a legal, economic, educational, and political standpoint.

The protest then is not just a reaction to the death of Freddie Gray, but a reaction to the years of neglect and lack of attention paid to the needs of the citizens, especially those of color and of low social-economical status. Unfortunately, the death of Gray provided an opportunity for the citizens to raise their voices and be heard. When viewing the videos of the various protests around the country, we realize that the problems involve more than African Americans, but all Americans. The need for justice on all fronts is apparent by the number of protests around the country and the diverse make-up of the protesters.

Our Constitution gives us as citizens the right to protest peacefully. The word peaceful goes both ways, in that the law enforcers should not interfere with peaceful protesters, but must protect their right to do so. Sometime it seems that the law enforcers resent protesters from exercising their rights. When effective and constructive communications can exist between the citizens and the law enforcers they employ then the threat of riots, violence, civil unrest, and destruction of property will not be a factor to consider.

Many problems exist in many of America’s cities that are not easily seen or known to the general public; they are none-the-less real problems and need addressing. Too often, the occasion of incidents like the death of Freddie Gray brings to the surface the problems of unemployment, decent housing, satisfactory education, adequate health care, and social justice. All of the problems are important to the well-being of any community large or small, so they must be made apparent so they can be addressed. The protests in Baltimore and across the nation are not just about the death of Freddie Gray, but for the lives of the people still here who cry out for positive change—now

Paul R. Lehman, Recent police videos indicate more than training is needed today.

April 23, 2015 at 12:11 am | Posted in African American, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, Constitutional rights, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, freedom of speech, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, liberty, life, lower class, minority, police force, Prejudice, race, Race in America, social justice system, socioeconomics, whites | 1 Comment
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To many Americans, especially people of color, the idea that the training received by law enforcement agents and police is inadequate and too limited helps to create its counter-productiveness. Thanks to the recent spate of videos showing the activities of some law agents in action, we can actually observe how that training fails to have a positive impact of the citizens directly involved. Some of the scenes depict, in effect, the abuse and excessive use of force on helpless individuals. We know, and underscore, the fact that the videos do not reflect all law enforcement agents, but what is presented certainly helps us to raise questions about the limits of officer preparedness.

We have seen enough videos to know that office training relative to equipment and emergencies is usually top quality. What we have also witnessed, however, is the need for more than training in some situations, and the introduction of the use of common sense and rational thought. In effect, while the training is important and necessary, it alone is not sufficient to address the needs of today’s population. The philosophy of viewing some people as suspects that deserves little or no respect comes through in many of the videos in the manner in which they are addressed and treated. Education and instruction must begin to represent part of the preparation of law enforcement agents if their efforts are to be productive.

One of the common complaints of some officers who patrol areas inhabited by people of color whose social and economic status is less than middle class is the lack of coöperation by the citizens relative to police business. Why is it that these citizens generally do not help the police? One answer can be found in the area of community relations. Because the majority of the experiences involving law enforcement in these communities are negative, the first reaction of the citizens to the law officers will be guarded. After witnessing the treatment of a citizen by some officers, the last thing other citizens want to do is attract the attention of the officers. Law enforcement officers need to know that people of color as well as other people in the lower social-economic class generally react to them with fear. They know through experience and observation that they are not valued as human being by some officers. So they avoid taking an unnecessary chance of interaction with the officers.

What has happened in the past as well as presently regarding officer interaction involving people of color shows a need for better education and instruction for the officers, primarily, and the citizens, secondarily. Today, the training of the offices might be adequate for the job in general, but not sufficient for the needs of today’s diverse society. Depending on the nature, content, and objective of the current training, the results might produce more of a separation and discrimination mindset that focuses on human differences rather than commonalities and fairness.

Part of the problem with police preparedness has been the lack of education from a historical and cultural perspective relative to the communities being served. The frequently asked question of why people of color at times do not help police doing investigations underscores the problem of a lack of positive community relations. The police might take for granted that just because they represent the law and its authority that people will automatically come to assist them is based on a false premise. The make-up of the communities represents the underpinning of the problem, which is trust.

Often the attitudes of the law enforcers are a turn-off to the citizens because they show a lack of respect for the citizens and their rights. Unfortunately, the recent videos show time after time the abuse, excessive force, and total disregard for the citizens’ efforts to communicate. In many cases, the law enforcer is focused on doing his or her job which might include a disregard of rights of the citizen involved. For example, in the Eric Gardner situation, the officers were focused and intent on forcing Gardner to the ground and subduing him. During this process, they showed little or no concern for his repeated statements of “I can’t breath.”While they were probably following their training in subduing Gardner, they were ignoring the pleas of a human being under distress. The officers simple focused on a selective part of their preparation and conduct– the training, and not the education and reasonableness to examine the law infraction to the punishment being administered.

One aspect of the law enforcement agents’ current practice is the lack of concern that seemly concern for the interpretation of their actions by the public and other observers. The way citizens are treated by officers sends a message to the citizens relative to how some human beings are valued. Too often, as some of the videos indicate, when injuries inflicted on a citizen by officers are apparent, but ignored, the message sent to the public is one of little or no concern for the person being detained. The apparent philosophy is to value only the life and wellbeing of the officer, not the citizen. Of course we know that is not the case in every instance, but the videos show that this philosophy does represent a problem in current law enforcement shortcomings. People will not trust or coöperate with officers they fear and do not respect.

Today, the first order of business for law enforcers’ preparation should be to study American history that addresses the causes of ethnic injustice, not just the effects. Officers need a realistic and pertinent education that helps them to discard the prejudice, biases, and bigotry they brought with them to the job. They need to be taught to recognize social and economic characteristics of a community that will help them in their job to serve and defend all the citizens. So, the job of preparing the law enforcers must come from the top—the administrators. The officers can only reflect what they have inside and what has been made available to the public via videos indicate a lack of understanding and knowledge emanating from the top. The situation today relative to police and community relations requires a focus on the need for better officer preparation and instruction and how they should serve effectively in our ever-growing, diverse society. Our society needs law enforcement agents that are not only well-trained, but also well-educated regarding their responsibilities to the citizens—officers who can think as well as act.

Paul R. Lehman, Group identity, not Party, the key to Republican victory

November 10, 2014 at 5:54 pm | Posted in American history, American Racism, Civil War, Congress, democracy, Democrats, entitlements, equality, European American, lower class, minority, political tactic, politicians, poor, President, President Obama, Race in America, Republican Party, socioeconomics, the Republican Party, upper class, whites | 1 Comment
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The results of the recent election came as a surprise to many people because they thought that many of the issues touched the lives of enough people until they would go to the poles and cast their votes in support of the people who would look out for their best interest. Unfortunately, in many instances, that was not the case and many people were disappointed. Had they given serious thought to what has been taking place recently in politics relative to history and group dynamics, they would have not been surprised.
What were at stake in this election were not so much the issues, but the survival of the group—the conservative European Americans (whites) against change. With the creation of a white race, the ruling class of Anglo-Saxons also made manifest certain beliefs, attitudes and conditions that would represent aspects of the race (group). Regardless of the numerous aspects of group membership, loyalty, dedication, and unity were required under any condition, even loss of personal goods, property and religious practices. So, the importance and protection of group membership was understood to be the top priorities from the beginning. For European Americans, loosing their white identity would be like excommunication from the church or being shunned from the family. For some European Americans, having a white identity was/is the only thing of social value they have.
Since the election of Barack Obama as President, the wheels were set in motion to eliminate and discredit him. We all can recall the words of Sen. Mitch O’Connell before Obama had taken office to prevent him another term. We can also recall the affect that attitude had on the Congress that led to it being referred to as the “Congress of No.” What was not made clear to the public was why this negative attitude and disrespect towards the new President was necessary. The answer is change; Obama’s election as an African American signaled a change in the group dynamics of America’s social structure. The social value of African Americans had never been a real concern for European Americans since they created, represented, promoted and controlled the “white race” and its standards of normalcy. That normalcy included only European Americans in the group. Obama represented a threat to the group’s unity.
The plan set in motion for the recent election followed the plan in effect since Obama’s election—blame him for everything, and praise him for nothing. In essence, Obama was made the target and represented evil, doom, destruction, despair, and of course, change. His name was to become synonymous with everything that can and does go wrong in society and the world. When anything occurred in society, Obama critics found a way to place the blame on him: problems with immigration, border security, foreign policy, the national debt, climate changes, Ebola, and a host of other things. So, when the recent election ads began to show up, no one was surprised that Obama was who the candidates were running against. The office the candidates were running for were not really of consequence, the party identity was the most important concern, and the code word for unity was Obama.
To underscore the point that group unity was the most important concern of the Republican Party we have only to look at the campaign advertisements of the candidates. Regardless of the office the candidate was running for, the important code word—Obama was found in it. The reference to Obama in the ads was not necessarily directed to Obama but the candidate’s affiliation with Obama and/or his policies or actions. This plan of making Obama the target was not only used on the national level, but also in state and local elections.
The importance of group unity took precedence over common sense issues as in the case of a number of states including Kansas, Arkansas, and Nebraska where the minimum wage issue was on the ballet and passed. However, the candidates who were against this issue were voted into office. The irony in these cases cannot be avoided—why would a citizen vote against his or her own best interest on one hand and for it on the other? The answer seems to be that group loyalty takes priority over personal interest.
In addition to the republicans holding to their group unity plan, even a number of Democratic candidates chose group loyalty over political party membership. In a number of races on both national and state level some democratic candidates distanced themselves from President Obama; they did not want their constituents to think that they supported Obama. They wanted to show their group members that they were still part of the group although they represented a different political party. They knew that the battle for their group was not so much the election victory, but the group victory to hold off social change.
What many of the voters never realize is the fact that they have been and continue to be exploited by the ruling class or “Titans” of their group. According to Theodore W. Allen, author of The Invention of the White Race, this group of poor and working class European American people who vote against their own best interest are used as:
“the Great Safety Valve, the system of racial privileges conferred on laboring-class European-Americans, rural and urban, poor and exploited though they themselves were. That has been the main historical guarantee of the rule of the ‘Titans,’ damping down anti-capitalist pressures by making ‘race, and not class, the distinction in social life.’ This more than any other factor, has shaped the ‘contours of American history.”
For Allen, the plan of the ruling class of Anglo-Saxons has always been to keep an actual gap between themselves and the lesser member of the group while exploiting them, but making them believe that their membership in the group offered them a feeling of superiority over other non-European groups—that is their reward in exchange for their votes.
Another irony of American politics occur when African Americans are accused of using the so-called race card to gain somewhat of an advantage over an opponent; the fact of the matter is that whenever the race card is brought into play, the European Americans benefit because race is a code word used to marshal their safety valve—group members.

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