Paul R. Lehman, American Democracy: Truth, Falsehood, Falsehoods as truths, and Reality (Part one of three)

May 8, 2017 at 3:56 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, black inferiority, blacks, Civil Right's Act 1964, Constitutional rights, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, Disrespect, DNA, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, happiness, identity, integregation, justice, law, liberty, life, Martin Luther King Jr., minority, Prejudice, President Obama, race, Race in America, racism, segregation, skin color, skin complexion, social conditioning, the Black Codes, The National Museum of African American History and Culture, The U.S. Constitution, tribalism, U. S. Census, whites | 2 Comments
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PART ONE  

A young European American (white) man in his middle to late twenties was being interviewed on a television show; he was dressed in a suit and wore a tie. What he said during the course of the interview was in effect, that he was a white man, and he wanted to see America regain its rightful place as a white man’s country. He was apparently upset because he believed that he was losing his power, influence, and privileges. From the expression on his face, it was apparent that the young man believed in what he was saying, and believed it to be the truth. Some Americans might be surprised by what the young man said because they do not believe that he was speaking the truth. Well, what exactly is the truth as far as the young man was concerned? The problem of truth began with America’s beginning.

Before we can begin a discussion about truth, we need first to have a working definition of truth. We might suggest that truth, in a statement, is represented by fact or reality. In another sense, we might suggest that truth is relative to the individual regardless of facts and reality. So, where does that leave us regarding truth? How can both suggestions be accurate? The key to the answer has to do with how we view facts and reality.

What we find in American society is evidence that truth is viewed as both relative to the individual and based on facts and reality. Here is how it works. Society first proclaimed certain truths, then proceeded to ignore them, inventing falsehoods in their place and convincing the people to accept the falsehoods as truth. Now that the falsehoods have been uncovered, the people do not want to accept the truth. To demonstrate how this happened, we need to look at history. We begin with the words from the Declaration of Independence:” We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The first thing we note in this statement is the word “truths, “which carries with it the semblance of facts and reality. We generally accept the sincerity and honesty of the word truth. The next phrase is equally important to our understanding of truth as being “self-evident “or clear and acceptable to all. We have no reason to suspect anything being amiss about what follows this first phrase: “that all men are created equal.” Well, if we know anything about early American history and the founding fathers, we know that the author of those words, Thomas Jefferson, as well as other founding fathers, were slaveholders. How can one believe in the equality of all men and be a slaveholder? Easy enough make slaves less than human. But what about other men and women who cannot enjoy the equal rights of the wealthy European American men? Simply write laws that control their freedoms.

In the phrase that follows, three words stand out: “endowed,””unalienable,” and “rights, “and all invite interpretation. The first word, “endowed” can be interpreted as a gift or something provided to the individual. The next word, “unalienable” can be defined as not transferable to another or not capable of being taken away or denied. The term “rights “can be defined as freedoms, entitlements or justified claims. Following this introduction of privileges that cannot be denied and are freedoms available to all, we learn what they are: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights and those contained in the Constitution are called civil rights. All American citizens are entitled to celebrate and enjoy them. We could examine each one of these rights to show that all Americans have never experienced them in reality because of two important things associated with American history: slavery and bigotry. The institution of slavery made certain that the words of the preamble to the Constitution would never ring true: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice….” The remainder of the preamble loses its value when we realize that “justice” was never established while a system of slavery was in existence. After slavery, laws were instituted to retain control of certain groups of American citizens.

The young European American man who considered himself a white man represents the reality of a falsehood being believed as truth. He is not being an extremist or extraordinary with his assertions, he is simply saying what American society has conditioned him to believe. The social conditioning he has received all his life is at its core a system that fosters a belief in European American (white) supremacy. So, regardless of what the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, or even the Pledge of Allegiance says about all men being equal with all their civil rights, including liberty and justice for all, reality provides those truths for European Americans only.

The system of European American (white) supremacy was invented and instituted by the founding fathers and woven into all America’s social institutions. What was unknown to the young European American man was that the system in which he was nurtured and conditioned was based on a falsehood. The system of European American (white) supremacy was based on the false concept of reality consisting of two races, one black, and one white. The European American (white) race was presented as being the model for humanity as well as America’s standard of beauty. European Americans generally do not picture themselves as belonging to a race. People who do not look like them belong to a race. Another characteristic of being European American was that they were to consider themselves as the center of the universe, superior to all people of color, so their only equals were other European Americans.

To ensure that the concept of supremacy was received and perceived as ordinary and normal, the government instituted segregation, which meant that European Americans could live their entire lives without having to interact with a person of color. Discrimination was instituted to ensure that European Americans receive privileges above and beyond what was offered to people of color, especially in education, jobs, health care, salaries, housing, and the law. In all these areas, the African Americans were denied opportunities to participate as first-class citizens and denied their civil rights.

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

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

Paul R. Lehman, 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.

Paul R. Lehman, Failure to recognize MLK’s Day has a negative impact on society

January 27, 2014 at 10:21 pm | Posted in African American, blacks, Constitutional rights, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, justice, Martin Luther King Jr., Prejudice, President Obama, skin complexion, The Oklahoman, The U.S. Constitution | Leave a comment
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Last week the nation celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day and fifty years of the Civil Rights Act. A story that appeared in a local paper (The Oklahoma) told of a mother’s disappointment when she learned that her son’s school was using that day as a snow catch-up day. The mother had planned to take her son to a number of activities celebrating the contributions of Dr. King. When she questioned the school about its decision, she was told that “’It was a very difficult decision to (make), but we wanted to be sure that we had that instructional time back for students.’” The mother expressed her sentiments relative to this experience by noting that “I’m concerned about the message this [ignoring Martin Luther King, Jr. Day]is sending to kids and others that the district believes that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is less important than them [The students] coming back after Memorial Day.”
Unfortunately, many parents across the nation could have uttered the same sentiment about the lack of interest and concern for the celebration of Dr. King’s Day showed by many communities in America. Many states initially did not celebrate the day or changed the name or combined it with other holidays. All fifty states did not recognize and celebrate King’s Day until 2000. President Ronald Reagan signed the law in 1983, but the first observance of the holiday was not until 1986. While the America and the world know the contributions gained for Americans by King and other civil rights workers, many Americans cannot accept the notion of an African American being given national recognition. Many believe that the gains made through civil rights are losses experienced by them.
What happens when a school decides not the recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day varies with the school. However, we realize that just the decision sends a message to the community, teachers, parents and student. None of the reasons for ignoring the King Holiday are seen as positive.
When the community decides to forego recognizing the King Holiday, one message it sends is that of rejection of King and the contributions that his life represents to society. The opportunity to learn more about King and civil rights is a lost to the community. Much of the community’s decision to not recognize the holiday comes from ignorance of those contributions and the many people who supported the movement. If the truth be told, many of the programs and services enjoyed by some of these communities are a direct result of King’s actions and civil rights laws.
Some teachers may or may not have studied about King and the civil rights activists that brought about tremendous change in society. The changes that occurred were not restricted to African American, but to all citizens. No civil rights law is reserved for African Americans; that would have been contrary to what King and the activists were fighting for—fairness and justice for all. Teachers, however, cannot teach what they do not know, so if they do not know enough about the meaning of the King Holiday, and have no incentive to learn, they deprive themselves as well as their student of meaningful information.
All parents generally want what is best for their children and they realize that exposure to information that is not readily taught in the public schools is important to a well-rounded education. So, many parents will inquire about courses available to their children and the value these courses offer. For parents of non-European ethnic American children, the information relative to King might help to underscore the meaning of democracy and its relevance in society. For African American as well as European American parents, the information might help them gain an appreciation of the struggles many Americans have faced over the years.
Students are generally the primary beneficiaries of the information presented relative to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the importance of the holiday. When the students learn about the contribution made via civil rights laws and how those laws impact their lives, then they gain a better appreciation of the strength of diversity and democracy in American society. Many students today have no idea of how restrictions were placed on other Americans because of the skin complexion or their gender in work and school. The information they receive about King should lead them to a better appreciation of what it means to be an American. In addition, many of the negative stereotypes about some ethnic Americans could be dispelled through information presented concerning King and civil rights supporters.
In essence, all of society looses when we fail to recognize and support important people and events that helped shape our society. Much of the criticism of President Obama comes from people who were deprived of information about African Americans and who grew up with a negative stereotype of them. Too often we as citizens create problems for ourselves and our community by withholding support that could make a positive difference in all our lives. Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr’s Day provides an avenue of approach to opening doors of understanding relative to America and our diverse and democratic society.
The mother who questioned her school district’s reason for not taking advantage of the King Holiday should be encourage to not only continue to press for the district’s meaningful celebration of the Holiday but also to expand that encouragement by letting the other parents and teachers know what is being lost to themselves and their students. A community and school district avoiding the celebration of the King Holiday sends a number of messages to the public. One message is that of not wanting to recognize the contribution of this American, and can easily be viewed as a form of prejudice. Another is to see the contributions of King as not worthy of respect and therefore, not worth acknowledging. Still another message sent is one of ignorance relative to King and his association with civil rights. All the messages are totally unnecessary and counterproductive to supporting and promoting life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in our American society.

Paul R. Lehman, Dr. King’s persception and the separation suggested in Black Culture

January 20, 2014 at 11:04 pm | Posted in African American, American Dream, Bigotry in America, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, Equal Opportunity, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, I have a dream, Martin Luther King Jr., Prejudice, President Obama, segregation, skin color, whites | 1 Comment
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Today as we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and Martin Luther King, Jr’s Day, we need to pause and try to put into perspective what Dr. King saw as a priority for America and the African Americans. We can find King’s objective in his words, especially when he deliberately avoids separating African Americans from the rest of America. For example, in his 1963 “I have A Dream” speech when he includes all people as “God’s children, “who must learn how to live together. Too often some people think that because King was an African American that his focus was strictly on and for African Americans. That thought would be false. The most challenging problem King fought against was the separation of the African American people from the rest of society. Unfortunately, the problem of uniting all Americans as one people is still with us, and continues to defy common sense.
One of the ways African Americans are being kept separate from the rest of American society is through the language used by society that seems harmless. For example, the phrase “Black Culture” is frequently used by people of note in the media. But, what does that phrase mean? People use it as though it is a clearly defined aspect of American life restricted to black people. Most people when asked to define “Black Culture” will try to come up with something that reflects the experiences of African Americans in American society. Before too long they discover that the phrase is too vague to define precisely because the term black is too broad a term to restrict to African Americans. If the people who use the term want to focus on African American experiences, then they should not use “Black” as part of an identity because trying to pin-point its specific reference becomes very challenging.
The first thing the phrase “Black Culture” does is separate the black from other colors, thereby creating a situation to make use of contrasts. We all know that culture does not exit in a vacuum, so identifying culture by a color is simply inviting a challenge. For example, if someone were to suggest that music created and recorded by African American artist is black music, then what happens with artist from other ethnic groups record the same music? Does the music change color or as some suggest, race? According to Stevie Wonder, “Music is a world within itself, With a language we all understand, With an equal opportunity, For all to sing, dance and clap their hands.” Society never looked at Elvis Prestly as African American when he recorded the song “Hound Dog” that had been previously recorded by an African American woman, “Big Maybelle.”Nor did society view Pat Boone as an African American when he recorded Little Richard’s song “Trutti Frutti.”The point here is what does one consider culture and can it be created without other cultural influences?
Since Dr. King was concerned with justice and fairness for all, the last thing he would want is a society that would separate the accomplishments of Americans into isolated groups where discrimination could take place. Those accomplishments can and should be part of the society’s story and not restricted to or relegated to a place of less importance. While the phrase “Black Culture” might seem to be specific to African American experiences, those experiences occurred in America and usually were influenced by some aspect of American society. Unfortunately, society does not acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of non-European Americans as readily as it does European Americans. So, the efforts and contributions of African Americans as well as other groups of color might go unnoticed for some time. For example, how many people could answer the question of who is the most famous astrophysicist in America today? The chances are that not too many would name an African American, Neil deGrasse Tyson, as that person.
To the people who know Tyson, he “is a science rock star whose passion for the laws of nature is matched by his engaging explanations of topics ranging from the mystery of dark matter to the absurdity of zombies” (Parade 1/12/14). The fact that Tyson is an African American is important to American society, not just to African Americans in society. So, we are told that in March, Tyson “will become an even bigger cultural phenomenon as he hosts Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey, a 13-part, prime-time series airing on both Fox and the National Geographic Channel.”What does this information have to do with “Black Culture”? Society has a way of pointing out differences in people and things when those differences constitute only a fraction of what the similarities represent. The information that Tyson will present to his audiences transcends the concepts of race by color. What Tyson plans to do on his show is to “help you ‘understand your relationship to other humans, to the rest of the tree of life on Earth, to the rest of the planets in the universe, and to the rest of the universe itself.” He adds, “I want it to get inside your skin. I want you to be so affected that the world looks completely different.”
To some people, Tyson is just as challenging to accept as President Barack Obama because of the negative stereotypes that have been historically associated with African Americans. King would more than likely be pleased with some of the progress that has been achieved, but sorely disappointed with lack of progress society has made in address the needs of so many other Americans. He would not be in favor or separating the history and accomplishment of African Americans from the American story. As a matter of fact, King underscored the problem of separation in his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize speech when he said that “This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited a big house, a great “world house” in which we have to live together – black and white, Easterners and Westerners, Gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Moslem and Hindu, a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interests who, because we can never again live without each other, must learn, somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other.”
In order for us to understand Kings legacy, we must first understand his sense of mankind’s problem and how we must address it.

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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