Paul R. Lehman, American social progress is not possible inside the race box.

June 5, 2014 at 7:38 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Dream, American history, blacks, democracy, DNA, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, I have a dream, March on Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., mixed-marriage, race, Race in America, skin complexion, Slavery, U. S. Census, UNESCO | 2 Comments
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Too many Americans have brains that have fossilized on the concept of multiple races and this concept keeps them from making any progress towards the goals of our democratic society– life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people. In turn, American society has not come near the potential it is capable of achieving. Before America can make any progress towards its future and its mantra “E Pluribus Unum,” it will have to remove itself from the so-called race box it created when the country began. Although we knew then and certainly know now, since science has come to support the fact through DNA, that only one species of humans exist on the planet, and that all mankind belongs to one race. Nonetheless, many Americans cannot bring themselves to accept the truth of that information. So, we continue as a society to be held back to a degree from social progress.
Regardless of the efforts of some Americans to hold on to their concept of race, American society is changing as evidenced from the 2010 Census report. That report showed an increase in the mixed ethnic households. In addition, that report also indicated concern for present and future problems associated with defining race. Those problems lend support to the inevitable action to remove the word race as it pertains to a social identity. Therein lays one of the problems, because many people have used race as part of their identity, thinking it was accurate and valid: for example, black race and white race. Unfortunately, we discovered that race is not and cannot be defined by skin color. Yes, for several hundred years we have tried to make the fallacy true, but to no avail. So, what alternative do we have as a society to address this problem?
Some sixty-five years ago, scholars and scientists from UNESCO recommended that the word race not be used for social identity, and that the words ethnic group and ethnicity be used instead. The reason for the recommendation was due to the fact that they knew that only one race of mankind existed on the planet, so why continue to use bogus information? Society ignored the recommendation, but time and social progress has made a difference in how we look at ourselves and each other. Many American people of color now refer to themselves as African Americans. Also, many Americans of European decent refer to themselves as European Americans. We have become aware of the fact that the identities of black and white refer to races that do not exist except in reference to the past and American slavery. Since personal identity is a cultural and/or geographical association, the individual can choose the identity that best fits his or her experience or wishes. That choice cannot include black or white unless used as an adjective.
So far, many Americans are not comfortable with accepting the truth of race and removing themselves from that box. As long as they maintain a racial perspective, they are trapped in the past. That past is well documented in what we call history. When we look at history, we see not only a record of our past experiences and how we dealt with then, but also how much progress, if any we have made from the time of the event. If we do not use history as a tool for learning, and for making progress, then it simply becomes entertainment for us. For example, in Dr. M.L King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, he spoke of his vision for the future America. If today all we do is repeat the speech having made no progress in making King’s dream a reality, and moving beyond the race box, then the speech has only entertainment value for us.

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the renowned African American astrophysicist, made the statement that:

To make any future that we dreamt up real requires creative scientists, engineers, and technologists to make it happen. If people are not within your midst who dream about tomorrow – with the capacity to bring tomorrow into the present – then the country might as well just recede back into the cave because that’s where we’re headed.

Today, too many scholars, teachers, and leaders keep us in the past and present with no glimpse of the future. They vividly recapture history with details and facts that help us to see and understand the past and present, but do not take us beyond the present. At some point we must move beyond history and the race box. We can start our movement out of the race box by avoiding the use of the word race except in its science, not social context. We can also education ourselves and one another to the reality of our common humanity. Yes, we have man-made differences based on culture and geography, but we have more similarities than differences.

If we would stop and think rationally about our race problem, we would quickly understand that since race is a social creation, then all its derivatives are also social creations. Yet, because of our illusions of race, we treat these creations as though they are real. Really, how can the complexion of a person’s skin make him or her superior or inferior to another human being? We have no valid answer to that question except, it cannot. If, for example, we look at our human family like the apple family, we certainly see diversity in color, shapes, sizes, taste, and uses. However, regardless of the diversity, all the apples are defined and seen as belonging to the same family.

Our society might not be able to ever impact those fossilized brains regarding the misconception of race, but we can eliminate creating future problems for our children and grandchildren and doing away with the hypocrisy and bigotry based on the concept and employment of race and color as social identities. We know that the very use of the word race separates human being, so why continue to use it? We as a society must as Dr. Tyson stated, “work to bring tomorrow into the present.” We must first, however, get a glimpse of ourselves outside of the race box, so we will know we are headed in the right direction.

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Revisiting the March on Washington and the “I have a Dream” speech

August 25, 2013 at 6:40 pm | Posted in African American, Bigotry in America, blacks, Congress, desegregation, discrimination, Emancipation Proclamation, employment, Equal Opportunity, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, happiness, I have a dream, justice, March on Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., Media and Race, minority, President, President Obama, voting rights act, whites | 2 Comments
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America this week recognized and celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and the speech of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Much attention has been paid to the March and the speech. Unfortunately, most people do not know what either the March or the speech was about. They believe they know, but their responses to two questions will reveal the extent of their knowledge. The first question is how much progress has been made over these past 50 years? The second question is how would Dr. King react to the present day reality? The answers to these questions are not set in stone, but will vary depending on a variety of conditions relative to the responders—things like ethnicity, age, social status, education, politics etc.
In response to the first question regarding the progress made during the last 50 years, we must first set the perimeters relative to the March. The organizers proclaimed the objective of the March was to focus Washington of the problem of jobs and freedom for poor and working-class Americans in general, and African Americans specifically, since they were the ones most directly affected. The March was seen by many European Americans as a gathering of minority protesters, especially African Americans to try and get Washington to listen to their complaints; some thought of the March as a nuisance and waste of time.
Many of the African Americans saw the March as an opportunity for all people, especially minorities to show Washington that they were united in the desire for better jobs, wages and freedoms in general. They believed that power and strength would be reflected in the large number of March participants to the degree that Washington could not ignore them. So, after years of planning by the civil rights activists and other American citizens, the March envisioned by A. Phillip Randolph, and orchestrated by Bayard Rustin, took place.
Today, when society looks back 50 years to measure the progress made relative to jobs and freedom, the response must be not very much progress has been made. Poor and working-class Americans are still experiencing the same problems that Dr. King and other leaders outlined in the speeches. The average wage is actually lower than the medium wages 50 years ago when inflation is figured in the assessment. Many citizens are unemployed and must depend on the government for help. Many citizens must work two and three jobs just to try to meet some of their financial obligations. The cost of education and housing has put many Americans in precarious positions that threaten their ability to move forward. But the most important occurrence affecting the poor, the working class, and the ethnic population is the changes in the voting laws of a number of states. The changes made by states like Texas and North Carolina would result in disenfranchising many of the Americans by denying them the vote. So, the answer to the progress question reflects a lack of progress having been made since 1963 relative to jobs and minority freedoms.
The answer to the second question regarding how Dr. King would react to the present-day reality would be anger. He would be angry and disappointed for a number of reasons. Too many African Americans saw the March as a moment and not the beginning of a movement, so much time has been wasted in addressing the needs of the people and not creating solutions for those problems. Much more should have been accomplished regarding all aspects of American life. The people who knew Dr. King knew him to be a non-violent militant; he believed in direct non-violent confrontation. That is why the March on Washington was deliberately a peaceful march.
One major mistake made by the media, the African Americans and the European Americans who knew what the March and speech were all about, did not set the record straight regarding both. Many European Americans then as now think of the “I have a dream” speech as a statement of celebration, an expression of all the progress the African Americans had made to that point. So, the March was seen as a celebration of all the good things that had happened to that point. The problem with that thinking is that it was wrong. The March on Washington as well as Dr. King’s speech was elements of protest, not praise. The fact that African Americans and European Americans who had worked so hard to bring these phenomena together did not increase their efforts to have the problems of jobs and freedom resolved represent the disappointment.
Many Americans today still see the March and the speeches as evidence of progress because they continue to embrace the theme of “I have a dream.” They do not realize that the only reason Dr. King spoke of the dream was because he could not experience the reality, a reality that had been promised by America in its democratic creed of “Life, liberty, and freedom for all.” When we revisit the objectives of the March and speeches we realize that very little have changed regarding the expressions of liberty and freedoms for all because the concept and attitude of many American regarding America are still grounded in the idea of a “white America.” Too many Americans still see America as a “white” society and as long as they can wield the power to keep it that way, they will.
America has been changing since it began, but the changes have been so gradual that some people did not realize that changes were taking place. The eye-opening experience for many of these people was the election of Barack Obama as President. The anger, hatred, bias, frustration and violence directed towards President Obama are not, for all intent and purposes, for Obama personally. All these things are expressions of fear and losing that President Obama represents to their view of America. Many European Americans fear losing the power to create the perception of America and the privileges that has historically been associated with a “white” identity. Unfortunately, that perspective does not fit with the democratic philosophy that was set in motion at this country’s beginning. Unless and until America changes its founding creed, society will continue to move in a democratic direction regardless of the set-backs and slowness.

North Carolina’s new biased voting rights laws made to discourage voting

August 18, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Posted in African American, Bigotry in America, blacks, Democrats, discrimination, Equal Opportunity, equality, European American, fairness, GOP, justice, March on Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., minority, President Obama, Republican Party, Rev. AlSharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, The Oklahoman, U.S. Supreme Court | Leave a comment
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The North Carolina legislators signed new laws addressing voter ID. These new laws affect directly the poor, the young, and minorities, especially African Americans and Hispanics. Voting a party-line vote, the GOP-dominated state House now requires voters to present government-issued photo IDs at the polls; they also shortened early voting by a week, from 17 days to 10. In addition, the new laws also ends same-day registration, requires voters to register, update their address or make any other needed changes almost a month ahead of the election. In a move directed at the youth, the laws eliminated a popular high school civics program that registers tens of thousands of students to vote each year in advance of their 18th birthdays. No longer will straight-ticket voting be permitted. Why all these changes?
In a commentary by Jonathan S. Tobin entitled “Weak case against voter ID,” (The Oklahoman 8/17/13) he complains that Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are exploiting the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington trying to convince the American people by relating it to the present civil rights struggle and the attacks on the voting rights laws. He states that “…like the fake outrage expressed by Democrats and liberals over the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding the Voting Rights Act while mandating that the Justice Department acknowledge that it is 2013 rather than 1965, Americans should not be fooled by this scam.”So, people should disregard any complaints associated with the anniversary.
Regarding the action of the North Carolina legislators he writes “But whatever one may think of those measures, the idea that any of this has anything to do with racial discrimination or efforts to reimpose the racism that once characterized America’s political system is absurd.”A few questions regarding this remark will debunk his assumption. Who will be affected negatively by these new laws? The answer becomes obvious when we look at some of the particulars of the ID laws. How, where, and when can the voters acquire the new government-issued photo IDs? Why must the ID’s be government-issued rather than student or driver’s license IDs?
Tobin continued “No one is attempting to repeal the right to vote or to restrict the franchise.” We must ask, why would one try to repeal the right to vote when laws can be created and instituted which will give the same results? His next statement clears the air of his mind-set which is still somewhere in the 19th century: “Those who are making this argument in an era when African Americans are voting in numbers similar to those of whites and when we have just re-elected the first African American president of the United States are making a mockery of the legacy of the civil rights struggle.”
Clearly Tobin has not been living on the planet recently or if he has been here, he has not been paying attention to what has been happening regarding civil rights and voting rights. The primary reason for Republicans changing the voting rights laws is because the old ones worked. For proof, he mentions the number of African Americans voting in comparison with European Americans and note that they are similar. Shock! They are not supposed to be similar; African Americans are not supposed to vote in large numbers, but they did. So, in an effort to not experience a repeat performance, the Republicans decided to change the laws.
Tobin, evidently, does not realize that the information he offers as proof of social progress actually underscores the need to retain the old laws, because they worked; people voted. Why would anyone want to change the laws since they do what they were created to do? If we were to follow his philosophy we might think that a person with a dairy digestive problem who was given some lactase medicine to remedy his problem, switched to aspirin the next time the problem occured. Common sense would dictate that he stays with the medicine that works, not one that has no relations to his malady.
Rather than Jackson and Sharpton trying to run a scam on the American people, logic shows that it is the Republicans and thinkers like Tobin that want to mislead the American people. Tobin’s reference to President Obama being elected twice is offered as proof of African Americans and America’s progress relative to ethnic relations. However, he offers that information in an effort to convince his readers that society has reached it goal as far as justice and equality relative to African Americans are concerned and now things ought to be changed so as not to give then an advantage over the European Americans.
If Tobin would take the time to re-visit history just back to 1965, he might get a better understanding of why the voting act was created in the first place. Had not those laws been in place during the last two presidential elections, chances are Obama would not have been elected. The groups that played an influential role in electing Obama president both times are the very people North Caroline’s laws are seeking to negatively affect. Tobin is the one attempting to make a mockery of the legacy of the civil rights struggle by suggesting that ethnic and social bigotry did not play a role in the creation of North Carolina’s new voting laws.
The only absurdities we can recognize are Tobin’s comments supporting the passage of these new voting laws. They, in effect, are his efforts to try and “pull the wool” over the readers’ eyes, trying to make them believe that because of these new laws, voting will become easier for all. Some people who do not take the time to absorb what he wrote might agree with him, but those readers who are conversant with history and current events will certainly question his motives for defending the laws. The very claim used for creating the new laws is bogus—to prevent voter fraud. How does one prevent something that does not exist?

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