Paul R. Lehman, Removal of symbols of ethnic bias show signs of social change

May 24, 2016 at 3:53 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, democracy, discrimination, education, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, justice, justice system, law, Media and Race, minority, Oklahoma, Oklahoma education, Prejudice, President Obama, Race in America, skin color, social justice system, textbooks, The Oklahoman, Tulsa, Tulsa Riot 1921, whites | 1 Comment
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One of the general misconceptions many Americans have today is that ethnic prejudice is a thing of the past and only vestiges of it remain. For evidence of this social change some point to the removable of the Confederate flag from some Southern state flags as well as a number of statues and monuments that underscore the hatred and bigotry felt by many European Americans for African Americans during and after slavery. Another sign of attempts to remove symbols of ethnic bigotry on many college and university campuses is the removing of names of known bigots from buildings and other structures on the campus. For many institutions, this act of name removable represents a great and serious undertaking because many of those names belong to people who were considered deserving of the honor of recognition at the time they were displayed. What has changed to cause the removable of many of theses former honored contributors from their place of recognition?

One answer can be found in history, but not necessarily the history written in school books; school book history was tailor-made to support the ethnic bigotry of the day. Much of the actual history resides in the old newspapers and journals of early America. What that history tells us is that ethnic bigotry was considered normal; to not be a bigot was considered not normal if one happened to be a European American (white). So, when people of the early American past were given honors via placing their names on buildings and other edifices, little attention was paid to or reference made to their ethnic bigotry. Such was apparently the case with the University of Tulsa naming one of its structures after John Rogers.

In an article in the Oklahoman (5/20/2016) “Building controversy provide cautionary tale,” on the “Opinion” page, the writer tells about the removal of Roger’s name from a TU building, not just any building: “University of Tulsa officials recently decided to remove John Roger’s name from TU’s college of law, which he helped found, because of his 1920s association with the Ku Klux Klan.”The fact that the building was the college of law which Roger helped to found gives us some additional insight as to the mindset of the people of Oklahoma during this time. The article underscores the fact that “racists views of the Klan were not out of line with the thinking of many respectable people, across the nation, during Oklahoma’s early decades.” Few European Americans gave notice to the abuse, violence and death the Klan visited on African Americans. Since many of the up-standing, civic-minded, Christian, European American citizens were also Klan members, not many Oklahomans were told about the destruction and death caused by many of the good citizens of Tulsa in 1921 when the Greenwood area was demolished. The Klan has always stood for European American (white) supremacy and the inferiority of African Americans.

What we refer to today as a bigot was not considered bad or evil or even unpatriotic for early European Americans; as a mater of fact, the Klan for many European Americans was seen as an anti-crime, civic-minded, “temperance organization.” Many of its members included bankers, businessmen, lawyers, educators, and even clergy. Helping to promote and maintain the Klan’s views while passing them on to the children, were the text books. The article cited this reference: “Consider the 1914 biology textbook at the center of the famed Scopes ‘monkey’ trial in Tennessee. Based on evolutionary theory, that book matter-of-factly declared there were ‘five races or varieties of man,… ‘“The article continued by listing the Ethiopian or Negro, the Malay or brown people, the American Indian, the Mongolians and finally, “the Caucasians represented by civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America.”

The article underscored the importance of the text book: “That children’s text book advocated eugenic, and said of supposedly inferior people, ‘If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading.” Such was the mindset of many of the European American Oklahomans in the early 1920s according to the article. However, in another article in the Oklahoman (5/6/2016) ‘These were everywhere,’ tells of the many Klan klaverns in Oklahoma before and during the 1940s. This article tells some of the Klan’s activities as in the following reference: “A story in the Nov. 21, 1920, edition of The Daily Oklahoman describes Klansmen terrorizing residents in Guthrie, threatening farmers, business owners and residents in the city’s black quarter with death.” Also it included: “According to the story, the Klan forbid cotton growers from paying pickers more than $1.25 per hundred pounds picked, and blacks were threatened with death and burning if they asked for a higher wage.”

The Klan article showed a map of Klan chapters in Oklahoma in the early 1940—it was home to 102 chapters. The article concluded with the findings that “The Southern Poverty Law Center recognized 10 Klan-affiliated groups last year in Oklahoma.” Although laws have changed over the years, many attitudes and minds still embrace the once normal bigoted psyche. The lingering hate and fear of African Americans in some Oklahomans might easily be assumed from the fact that all seventy-seven counties voted against Barack Obama two times—2008 and 2012. Obama was not liked by many European Americans before he had a chance to assume his office; the reason given for his unpopularity was not his skin color but his political party.

We can certainly applaud the efforts of the University Tulsa to remove symbolic references to our biased past and support them in their actions. We can also applaud the efforts of the Oklahoman’s article discussing the removal of John Roger’s name from TU’s law college and shedding some light on why the removal is important. One of the most challenging aspects of American society today is to understand that because the normal mindset of European Americans is biased towards African Americans and other people of color, “basic morality and common sense” must be redefined without the bias. For us to assume that ethnic bigotry simply fades away into the woodwork over time would be wrong; removing it takes great effort mainly because many people do not realize they are biased.

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Paul R. Lehman, The public apology of Levi Pettit shows serious challenges relative to understanding ethnic bigotry

March 30, 2015 at 3:25 pm | Posted in African American, American history, Bigotry in America, blacks, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, freedom of speech, justice, Oklahoma, Oklahoma education, race, Race in America, racism, segregation, whites | Leave a comment
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The public apology by Levi Pettit in the company of some African American community representatives has created a number of questions that warrant discussion. A few of those questions include: Why did Pettit choose to apologize to this group of citizens? Why did Levi Pettit select Senator Anastasia Pittman to seek redress? Why did the group of African American citizens accept Pettit’s apology? What did the public apology accomplish? To many people, the public apology of Pettit with the African Americans was a photo opportunity that only served to created additional questions.

In answer to the question of why Pettit chose Sen. Pittman and the other African Americans that composed the group to offer his apology, he stated “I did not want to apologize to the press or to the whole country until I came here and apologized to the community most directly impacted.” This statement reflects a gross sense of ignorance and a lack of understanding of what his words and actions on the frat bus really meant. Pettit’s thinking that this group of African Americans were “most directly impacted” is misguided and underscores his lack of understanding regarding what he did.

The group that Pettit should have met with and offered a public apology was The University of Oklahoma community, the students, organization leaders and civic leaders because those are the entities he mostly represented. His comments and actions reflected the lack of education and knowledge of history relative to the African American experience in America from Plymouth Rock to Selma, and the blame must be shared by those groups as well as the rest of society. Unfortunately, Pettit must have thought that African Americans are a monolith and that by making an apology to this particular group of African Americans, he was apologizing to all African Americans. He was grossly mistaken.

The fact that Pettit selected Sen. Pittman to assist with his plans for his apology could rest with the fact that she represents a large number of African Americans in Oklahoma City by virtue of her political office. In essence, more African Americans could be reached through Pittman, than any other public African American figure. With her social influence, she was able to bring together a group of religious and community leaders to share in this public apology by Pettit. Some people believe that Pittman showed a lack of judgment by not involving and bringing into the group other non-African American representatives from the clergy and civic organizations. By not doing so suggest that she accepted the narrow understanding of Pettit’s bigotry in that it affected “mostly” African Americans.

One wonders why this group of African Americans would allow themselves to be placed in a situation of compromise by Pettit. Does he need a public showing of African Americans forgiving him for his words and action, so he could move forward with his life? The sincerity of his apology is not what is in question here, but the use of people who were not directly involved in his words and actions suggest the need for a shield against future criticism. Pettit’s statement “I never considered myself a racist, I never considered it a possibility,” should have been a warning to the African Americans that this young man was totally ignorant about being a racist as well as racism. Evidently, many of the African American group members were not aware of Pettit’s comments or were equally uninformed. In other words, what purpose did Pettit’s apology serve the group since they did not represent all African Americans? In addition, since Pettit stated that he did not consider himself a racist, for what was he apologizing? The only possible thing the African American group could accept an apology for would be Pettit’s ignorance of racism. However, the group knowing that a student attending a university must have completed high school and demonstrated a control of basic knowledge relative to the world and America, why would they believe that Pettit did not connect the “rope” in his frat song with lynching?

To many people, Pettit’s public apology was simply a media photo opportunity that allowed him to save face by pleading ignorance before a group of forgiving African Americans. Being sorry for an action or denigrating ethnic references does not mean a full comprehension of the problem. Stories, pictures, words relative to the African American experience in history might serve to inform Pettit’s understanding of the challenges faced in the past and present, but until he realizes that his real audience is his family and all European Americans, and that American bigotry is a fabric of his and our daily existence, his apology is just words, as Shakespeare said “full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”

Pettit is the only person who gains from the photo opportunity because he is able to show how he has been affected by his experience. Unfortunately, for Pittman, and the African American group, the suggestion as a result of the public apology is that anytime someone who is not an ethnic American says or acts in a disparaging way towards African Americans, all that needs to be done is to contact an important African American community leader and request a group meeting, open to the public for the media’s sake, and ask for forgiveness. Then, right there in front of the world, all will be forgiven, and life can go on.

The problem in forgiving someone for being a racist is that nothing is forgiven; the fact that the term racist is used underscores the ignorance of the problem. Racism is not an action or activity; it is a mindset that society engendered and perpetuates as normalcy in American society. The reason Pettit could never consider himself to be a racist is because he was always taught to look outside of himself for what he considered racist behavior, something quite different from the song he was singing on the frat bus. The problem with Pettit and the public apology is the suggestion that problems of American racism can be intelligently addressed; they cannot. They can only serve to perpetuate the myth of race.

Paul R. Lehman, The University of Oklahoma’s SAE video offers a chance for change

March 11, 2015 at 2:41 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Dream, American Indian, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, Constitutional rights, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, education, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Ferguson, Human Genome, justice system, liberty, life, Oklahoma education, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, socioeconomics, whites | 1 Comment
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A recent video of students riding a bus enjoying themselves, laughing, and singing a song was broadcast via social and regular media. The young men singing the song were members of The University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. The picture and the entire atmosphere on the bus seemed a fun-filled and joyous occasion, and it was until the words of the song were revealed. The words of the song stated that “There will never be a ‘N’ word in SAE,” and included “You can hang them from a tree.”This song was sung by these young people because they felt safe, secure, and comfortable on a bus that included no African Americans. Why did they believe that singing this song was acceptable? The answer is they were taught this by their parents, schools, and society.

America is and has always been a diverse society, not of races, but of people from different cultures and geographical locations. Generally, American parents teach or tell their children that America is a democratic society that respects the liberties, rights, and freedoms of all people. However, the actions of the parents contradict the words. Whether conscious or not, children are made to see differences among themselves and others and the focus on group identity begins. As children grow they learn to recognize the benefit of group identity, an identity usually reflected in the family relationships, with other people in school, church, neighbor, and community. So, the young people on the bus reflect a sense of community of like people.

In our schools, children are force to identity with a variety of groups that include social-economical, cultural and ethnic. Rather than focusing on the similarities of the students, emphasis is usually placed on differences which are few and minor. Students learn through social activities as well as curriculum to place social value on individuals. Although they are taught that all people should be treated fairly, the language and social practices underscore the idea of separateness. The concept of many biological races has been debunked for years; yet, teachers continue to use terms such as black, white as if they were legitimate. American history underscores the lack of value places on the lives, value, and contributions made by African Americans as well as other people of color. Teachers and professors cannot teach what they do not know or accept.

Society tells our young people that bigotry is fine as long as they can keep it hidden; just do not put themselves on the spot by blatantly saying or doing anything in public that an be interpreted as biased. The young people of the frat bus thought they were in a protected environment, so they felt as ease in singing their song. In various aspects of society young people are shown that it is fine to discriminate against people of color; they see it in our criminal justice system, our educational and political systems. They are reminded time and again that African Americans have little social value, so denigrating them is perfectly okay as long as one is not exposed. Fortunately, the use of social media has provided an opportunity for all of society to see some of the things that have been happening in private for many years.

The behavior of the young people on that bus can be attributed to their parents, schools, and society. Their actions displayed an ignorance of a democratic sense of humanity and history; a belief in the value of each human being regardless of color, ethnicity, gender, social or economic status. Their actions showed at attitude of arrogance, supremacy, and tribal characteristics such “us versus them.” The first two lines of the song underscore the idea of group or tribal separateness with the understanding that the reason for there not ever being a “n” word in SAE is because of color and social value. Their actions, displayed stupidity. Why would anyone, especially young university students want to sing a song about lynching? Along with an ignorance of history, and an arrogance of privilege and power, these young people forgot about the power of social media. Sometimes the speed of the social media is faster than a speeding bullet as many people have learned to their regret.

Placing the entire blame on the students for their action would be to excuse the parents, schools, and society for their failures in preparing the young people for life in a diverse, democratic, society. We can begin to correct many of these failures by starting with the truth—bigotry was part of the American fabric from its beginning. As a society we have allowed bigotry to continue and grow through systemic creations enforced by laws, and lies. The concept for multiple biological races is false; only one race of human beings exists. Intelligence, character, physical and mental attributes are not based on skin color. The history and struggles of African Americans, Asian Americans, American Indians, and Hispanic Americans to gain their civil rights have been glossed over and not made relevant to days’ students, just as they were not valued by their parents. So, we arrive at ambiguity and ignorance in many young people; unfortunately, the only regret for some of these young people is the fact that their bigotry was exposed.

The concept of racism is irrelevant in today’s society since only one race actually exists. To call someone a racist is to give approval to their false concept of races. An individual can not be a racist in isolation because the term refers to a group. To ascribe responsibility to an individual accused of ethnic bias, the term is bigot. Young people as well as society in general need to learn and accept the meaning and nature of living in America. Because the changes in society have become more apparent in recent years, the challenge of change makes life difficult for those who prefer the status quo. When any American is discriminated against or denigrated because of some superficial difference, all Americans are impacted because that thinking goes against what we say we believe in and stand for as citizens— life, liberty, freedom, and justice for all.

Paul R. Lehman, Flawed School evaluation formula uses race in assessing achievement gaps.

December 2, 2013 at 10:06 pm | Posted in discrimination, equality, European American, minority, Oklahoma education, Race in America, socioeconomics, The Oklahoman, whites | Leave a comment
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Researchers at Oklahoma University and Oklahoma State University did an analysis relative to the grading of schools in an A-F system and found that system was flawed for a variety of reasons. This analysis was supported by a number of teacher and educational organizations in recognizing the failure of the A-F system to give an accurate assessment of the schools. According to an article in The Oklahoman, “Education Department criticizes grades study,” (12/1/13) the Oklahoma State Department of Education had some concerns with the analysis by the two Oklahoma Universities.
The writer of the article, Kim Archer, gave more specific information about the study:
In mid-October, researchers from the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Education Policy and Oklahoma State University’s Center for Educational Research and Evaluation released an analysis of the A-F school grading formula that concluded Oklahoma’s school evaluation system has fundamental flaws that make letter grades virtually meaningless and ineffective for judging school performance.
The analysis of the grading system has been questioned by “Megan Clifford, a Harvard University strategic data fellow ‘on loan’ to the state Education Department for the next two years, [she] conducted her own analysis of the system with input from her Harvard professors.” Clifford stated that one problem with the OU/OSU analysis was “that it relied on a ‘small, nonrepresentative sample of state data.” Consequently, the article continued, “State Superintendent Janet Barresi asked Clifford to see if she could replicate the OU/OSU research findings to determine how to use results from the critiquing study.”
As a result of the request, the department decided to look at three primary concerns of the A-F grading system from the OU/OSU analysis. First, the analysis indicated that “Differences between predicted A-F letter grades are small and effectively meaningless;” next, the analysis found that “Summarizing a school’s test performance on math, reading and science is neither a clear nor reliable indicator of school performance;” and finally, that “letter grades mask achievement gaps between poor and minority children and their wealthier, nonminority peers.”
In her response to these three concerns of the OU/OSU analysis, Clifford found for the first concern, that the “differences between ‘A’ and ‘F’ schools were much greater” than the analysis suggested. Her response to the second concern relative to performance grades, she stated that “It definitely is accurate in telling everyone what percentage of students at the school are proficient in” course and levels from low to high achievement levels. Her final response relative to gaps between poor minority children and their wealthy peer, was that “there is an achievement gap based on race, but that poor students in an A school did better than a poor student in an F school.”
While these concerns might appear to be logical and appropriate with respect to criticism of the OU/OSU study, they in effect support the conclusion of that report. In essence, the idea of a fair and accurate A-F letter grading formula must first of all take into consideration the specific demographics of each school. Once that is done, the value of each letter grade must be established based on the demographic information of especially the social, economic and educational levels of the communities in which the schools are located. In no manner should all the schools be assessed by the same standards, because they are generally, all different.
In his book, Coming Apart, Charles Murray talked about the problems we face in America today based on class structure. The problems have some influences on collecting data. From his book we learn that “a new upper class and a new lower class have diverged so far in core behaviors and values that they barely recognize their underlying American kinship.” Based on five decades of statistics and research, he added that “divergence that has nothing to do with income inequality and that has grown during good economic times and bad.” With this information in mind, an A-F letter grading formula would favor one group while it discriminates against another if the standards for the evaluation are based on one group, the upper class.
In addition, Murray noted that
The top and bottom of white America increasingly live in different cultures, Murray argues, with the powerful upper class living in enclaves surrounded by their own kind, ignorant about life in mainstream America and the lower class suffering from erosions of family and community life that strike at the heart of the pursuit of happiness. That divergence puts the success of the American project at risk.
So, regardless of the approach taken to assess each school with a letter grade, consideration must be given to the uniqueness of each school and the children attending those schools. If these concerns are not taken seriously, then the results of any evaluation will be faulty and unreliable.
Clifford’s assessment of the achievement gaps associated with race is of concern when race is never defined, but assumed. We would have to examine the data from the schools to determine how race is identified and used relative to the students. Since the concept of race defined by color or some other method is defective, one wonders just how the results from unreliable information can accurately reflect student or school performance. If the objective for evaluating each school is to discover what areas need addressing, then an accurate assessment that takes into consideration the basic demographics and other relative information must be brought into the equation-one size does not fit all.
The assessment by the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University were accurate when they indicated that the A-F school grading formula was flawed and made “letter grades virtually meaningless and ineffective for judging school performance.” We would hope that Clifford takes another look at the data in an effort to recognize what is best for the schools and their students. Whether it was meant to serve as a reward/punishment system, the A-F grading formula does just that when it passes judgment on the schools and the students representing those schools. We can do a better job in addressing the needs of our schools through evaluations

Ethnic ignorance part of the debris cleaned-up by student volunteers

June 2, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, desegregation, Disrespect, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, Ladanae Thompson, minority, Oklahoma, Oklahoma education, Prejudice, public education, Race in America, The Oklahoman | 1 Comment
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An article printed in The Oklahoman (5-2-13) showed just how uninformed and steeped in ignorance certain segments of society still are. The article, “Douglass Students battle stigma through volunteering,” involved a group of Douglas High school students, a predominately African American school, traveled to a small town in Oklahoma that had been hit by a tornado to help with the clean-up efforts. Being neighborly, they wanted to show their compassion and caring towards the people who had been affected. Upon arriving at the town, some of the town’s people were alarmed at the sight of all these African American youths. Their first reaction was defensive because they though these young people had ridden in busses to their town to loot and steal whatever they could from the damaged area of town. The article noted that “A resident expressed fears of looting when the group arrived for the cleanup effort Friday.” The local people, evidently, relied on stereotypes relative to the school and its African American students for their fears.
According to the article, “The Oklahoma City School’s sophomore class helped clean up tornado damage in Little Axe, but first some local residents had to be convinced that the young people were there for a good purpose.” Little Axe is a rural community about 20 miles from Norman, Oklahoma with a population of predominately of European Americans. So, seeing several busloads of young African Americans in the town was not a customary occurrence. However, to assume these students had come to Little Axe in school buses to loot and steal defies common sense. In any event, we are told that “Matt Tilley, a 10th-grade English teacher and trip organizer, said Wednesday that he had to vouch for the students.” We wonder what is meant by Tilley having to “vouch for the students.” We know what the word “vouch” means, but why would students sitting in big yellow school buses need to be validated by their teacher to the local resident? Although the article did not state it, we must assume that Tilley is European American, and the resident would not accept the word of the students.
The students apparently thought that volunteering to help at a site damaged by a tornado would be welcomed. We learned that “About 120 students worked in teams for four hours to remove tree branches and debris from residents’ home and take it to the curb.” In addition, “Many of the students had never volunteered before nor had they seen such intense tornado damage.” So, this trip was an opportunity for both the students and the residents to learn something about each other.
The reaction of the residents of Little Axe made a serious and troubling statement about the lack of information in our society regarding the changes in the negative stereotype of ethnic Americans. What we can recognize in the residents reaction is that society in general, and the media specifically helps to promote the negative stereotypes of ethnic Americans rather than the positive. In effect, most Americans see or read about non-European Americans generally in a negative context. The positive activities and events associated with Ethnic Americans are not usually promoted. We can use this article as an example of limited access to the media. The chances are the efforts of these young Douglass High students would not have been covered by the press and come to public awareness had it not been for the negative reaction they received from some of the residents of Little Axe. The attention these students would have received by the media without the negative reactions from Little Axe would not have been considered worthy of reporting. Could it be that the actions of these students did not fit the stereotype?
For years Americans have been living in segregated communities not interacting with people who do not look like them. Our educational institutions as well as the media contribute to the ignorance we have concerning our fellow citizens. So, when we are confronted with people we are not accustomed to seeing in our community, the lack of accurate and current information about these citizens serve to create fear and negative stereotypes we have been fed for far too many years.
One student commented on the reaction of a resident’s fear stated that “’They had heard so much news from Douglass about fights or stealing, they probably expected it to happen there, too, but it never happened.’” Society and the media have a long history is creating and promoting negative stereotypes regarding ethnic Americans. Because the majority of stories involving ethnic Americans is negative and generally involves crimes, the fear of some ethnic Americans is created. What are obvious to many ethnic American males are the actions of mature European American women who clutch their purses tighter, lock their car doors, and cross the street to the other side when they see an ethnic American walking towards them. Although these actions are good measures to be taken in generally for safety reasons, it takes the sight of an Ethnic American to trigger the response.
What the people of Little Axe did not realize is that the world and society has and continues to change whether they know it or not. Their community seems to be closed to all but the inhabitants and anyone else became suspect especially if he or she happens to be ethnic American. However, something happened, according to the article, “When the residents saw what the students could do, their attitudes changed. The young students saw tears, received thank you notes and were invited back to Little Axe.” The experience turned out to be a learning one for both the students and the residents. The Douglass students were looking for an opportunity to contribute in a positive way: “Our class motto is ‘with our own hands,’ and it’s basically saying when a road to success can’t be found we build one with our own hands, and that’s pretty much what we did,’ Douglass sophomore Ladanae Thompson said.” She added that “We helped clean up. We helped another community with our own hands; that is what the class of 2015 is trying to do.”
We trust that the residents of Little Axe and similar communities can benefit from this experience where people can discard long-held negative stereotypes and beliefs of ethnic Americans and embrace the common sense reality of people just wanting to help other people. We will, however, need the media, our educational institutions and society to step-up their contributions in presenting a more balanced and realistic picture of America with all its diversity.

Paul R. Lehman, Racism should not be considered a permanent feature of American society

March 17, 2013 at 4:43 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, discrimination lawsuit, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, Hispanic whites, integregation, minority, Oklahoma education, Race in America, socioeconomics, U. S. Census, whites | 3 Comments
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A number of articles recently focused on the topic of racism and how it negatively affects the mind and body of its victims. Studies ranging from stress and depression to heart problems have been conducted showing the detrimental effects of racism. As interesting and informative as these studies and articles are in bringing this awareness to the public eye, nothing has been said about avenues of approach to try and eliminate the problem of racism. Most articles and studies treat racism as if it is an indestructible social phenomenon that is with society to stay. If that is the considered sentiment, then what use are the studies and articles complaining about it? We have some alternatives that can be considered if we are sincere about wanting to address the issue.
Yes, we know that race is a social construct, but that does mean we must accept it as a permanent feature of American society. Polio was a problem in society until penicillin was discovered. What we as a society must do in addressing racism are to understand its cause; we know its affects. One of the causes of racism is our acceptance, support, and promotion of it. Since we know that the concept of biological races is made-up, we also know that it’s divertive, racism is also made-up. So, why do we continue to accept them as though they are legitimate features of our society? Maybe we think that if we continue talking about them, they will go away. So far that approach has not and will not work. We need to start with our conception or view of race first, before we can address the problems associated with racism.
Because we readily accept the idea of multiple biological races as a certainty, we can easily convince ourselves that superficial physical differences such as skin color, eye shapes, hair texture and numerous other physical elements constitute a so-called racial difference. They do not. The fact that we know that race is a social construct does not come from someone’s idea or suggestion. Science has offered empirical data to support that fact through DNA. For a number of years now, especially since the O.J. Simpson trial, we know that the science of DNA has provided us with conclusive data that can be duplicated time and again to underscore its reliability. So, when the scientists tell us that all human beings belong to one race, why do we not accept, believe, and communicate that concept- changing information? The fact that race by color has never been accurate or trustworthy does not seem to be enough to cause us to change our so-called racial stereotypes. We need to communicate to our society and the world that we recognize and agree with our scientists that the concept of multiple biological races is formally debunked. Knowing the truth and accepting it, however, are two different and challenging things.
Once we accept the concept of a one race world, we will then be in a position to understand that the concept of racism is equally false. We certainly cannot and should not ignore cultural and other man-made differences, but we cannot identify those differences as racial or biological. Along with the acceptance of a one race world comes the change of our own self-concept and of others as being a part of a world family. DNA scientists tell us that if we selected two people from opposite geographical locations on the planet, we could go back only six generations before we discover a common ancestry between those two people. That fact alone should tell us how much alike we are to one another. Still, we prefer to hold on to our old, false concepts of race. If we no longer identified people according to their color, how would we identify them?
The answer to that question came in 1945 from a group of world-renowned scientists assembled by the United Nations under the rubric of UNESCO. They decided that the word race was not suitable for use as a social identity because it was not accurate and reliable. They offered instead, the words ethnic group and ethnicity to be used instead of race, not a replace for it. However, during that time, American society was very much involved with the concept of race because of the privileges and opportunities it provided for those who eugenics identified as being of the white race. Many American immigrants from Italy, Poland, Russia, and Greece, along with Jewish people, were not favorably or readily welcomed here. Most were not yet considered white or America n because at that time America recognized only two races—white and black (Negro). The fact that UNESCO suggested the use of ethnic group and ethnicity instead of the word race was bad new, however, had it been accepted, the change would have negatively affect those immigrants who desperately wanted the white identity in order to enjoy all the rights and privileges of that segment of society. So, today in spite of all the data to the contrary, the U.S. Census still include on its form two races black and white.
Today in America some people hold on to their so-called racial identity and beliefs more than their religion. They do so because it might be the only positive thing of social value they have even if it is only make-believe. To many of those people, they believe it is their right to be biased and discriminate against people who do not look like they look. Because of the many negative stereotypes created about non-European ethnic Americans over the years, many people grow up in America embracing that negative stereotypes. A recent statistic concerning the practice of “Stop and Frisk” showed that out of the total number of people stopped, 88% were innocent. In addition, out of that 88%, African Americans represented 87% (check the MHP Show 3-16-13). If we as a society refuse to communicate the facts and truth about the falsity and inaccuracy of race and racism, nothing will change.
The fact that articles appear on a fairly regular basis dealing with the injustices of race and racism is evidence enough that it still exists. Because of the fact that we do not seek aggressively to debunk these concepts, we cause measurable harm to the mind and body of innocent people who do not yet know that they do not belong to a white, black, brown, yellow or any other color race. They do not need to agonize over what race is theirs—it is human. They can pick and choose their ethnic identity based on their culture and ancestry, American Indian, African American, Asian American, and Hispanic (Specify) American, or some other, but under no circumstances should it be black or white because that is where the concept of race and racism in America began. More on this topic later.

Paul R. Lehman, Roger Clegg and charges of racial discrimination in OU’s admissions policy

November 4, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, blacks, college admission, desegregation, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, integregation, justice, Michael J. Sandel, minority, Oklahoma education, Prejudice, public education, Race in America, The Oklahoman, whites | 2 Comments
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Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, presented some statistical data in an article “On racial admission preferences at OU,” in The Oklahoman recently (10-26-12). The article and data suggests that African American and American Indian students receive preferential treatment when admitted to The University of Oklahoma (OU).  In addition to presenting the information, Clegg makes a certain charge:”A study released this week by the Center for Equal Opportunity has found evidence of racial discrimination in law, undergraduate and medical school admission at the University of Oklahoma.”

Clegg continues by noting that “The study, which analyzes data obtained from the university, found that blacks were admitted to all three schools with lower academic qualifications than students from other racial and ethnic groups. Some evidence of preferential treatment for American Indian applicants was noted as well.” The fact that African American and American Indian students submit applications for admission with lower academic qualifications than other ethnic American groups should not come as a surprise when we consider from whence they come. Common knowledge underscores the fact that African American as well as other ethnic American students who come from socially and economically challenged communities do not receive an educational experience equal to that of more affluent students. So, why would the test scores lower grade point averages come as a surprise, especially from African Americans considering their special experiences in a biased society?

The article got specific regarding the charge of discrimination: “At the law school, we found black-white median LSAT gaps of 6 (equivalent to a combined math-verbal SAT gap of over 100), and a gap in undergraduate GPAs. Indeed, 105 whites were rejected despite higher LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs than the median black admittee in the two years studied.” What exact ally is the point being made here? If admittance was based only on examination scores of the LSAT and GPAs, the number of African Americans and American Indians would not exist at all, except for those students coming from upper-middle-class or affluent communities and schools. Statistics show that schools in the lower socio-economic communities generally produce poor to median students. All we have to do to verify this information is to take a look at the schools in Oklahoma where the applicants graduated.

Let us be clear about what is being suggested in this study.  Data concerning admittance at the University of Oklahoma was given to the Center for Equal Opportunity. The Center released the data along with the charge of “racial discrimination” and “racial preference” with a special focus on African Americans. For years, beginning with statehood to 1948, African Americans were denied admittance to all of Oklahoma’s institutions of higher education with the exception of Langston University, a predominantly undergraduate African American school. The primary reason for denying admission to the African Americans was their ethnicity or as noted, their race. If that was the primary reason for their being denied entrance, should not part of the resolution take in the fact of their ethnicity? Just how would Clegg suggest the problem be addressed that provides an equal opportunity to all?

Whether intended or not, Clegg characterizes African American students as villains for seeking admission to the school  at OU knowing full well that their scores and GPAs are not as high as the European American students. What are these students supposed to do when their society and academic experiences do not adequately prepare them to compete equally at the college and university level? One of the problems with these kinds of studies is created via the language used. The very name of the Center for Equal Opportunity is an oxymoron; since “opportunity” is based on chance or break, how can that be equal? Unfortunately, the word equal is a mathematical word, not a social one. The possibility of two people being equal does not exist. To use it with respect to college and university admittance suggests that all students must be treated the same. The problem with using that word is the creation of unequal experiences for some when attempting to correct the admittance problem for others. The appropriate word and action to use is fair or fairness because it allows for changes to be made without the restrictions associated with being equal.

As in my previous blog regarding Affirmative Action, the book Mismatch, by Sander and Taylor is referenced to show that preference is given to African American students. Clegg says “None of this is surprising: Nearly every selective school in the country uses racial preferences unless a court or state has told it not to.” If the schools want to treat the once denied African American students fairly, then they must show preferences; that is just plain common sense. Simple admittance will not address the over-all problem. Attention to the students’ education prior to college or university must be given serious and necessary attention as the book Mismatch suggests.

Concerning the charge of discrimination by Clegg we must wonder who else is being discriminated against. We know the African American and other ethnic American students are who are forced to compete unfairly with students from more affluent families and communities.  We know the European American students with the high test scores and GPAs are who are rejected in favor of students whose parents attended OU. We do not know for certain, but Clegg seems to place the blame on the university and the African American students, but we wonder why.

Maybe we can find some food for thought in the words of  Michael J. Sandel, author of What Money Can’t Buy when he says “Democracy does not require perfect equality, but is does require that citizens share in a common life. What matters is that people of different backgrounds and social positions encounter one another, and bump up against one another, in the course of everyday life. For this is how we learn to negotiate and abide our differences, and how we come to care for the common good.” Sometimes a simple word is sufficient.

Paul R. Lehman,Opinion misguided on Affirmative Action and State Question 759

October 28, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, Bigotry in America, blacks, college admission, desegregation, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, integregation, justice, Oklahoma, Oklahoma education, public education, segregation, state Government, whites | 3 Comments
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The “Opinion” writer for The Oklahoman has again brought up the topic of State Question 759 which to ban Affirmative Action in state government. This time, however, his comments are misguided and illogical. The title of the article is “Merit must trump race in state government,” shows just how confusing his thoughts are on Affirmative Action. Until Affirmative Action was put in place, race was always used to keep African Americans and women out of state government. Before Affirmative Action, merit was not even a consideration for office in state government. However, since opponents of the state question have voiced their opposition to it, those for its banning are offering their views.

One of the primary problems involved with banning Affirmative Action is the lack of understanding about what it concerns. Many of the opponents of Affirmative Action focus simply of college and/or university admission programs that supposedly favor African Americans applicants over European American applicants. Therefore, since these programs single out race as the criteria for acceptance, the programs must be discarded. What is missing from this action is the reason for Affirmative Action in the first place. Nowhere in this legislation are mentioned the words African Americans, blacks, Negroes, Colored or any other noun describing or identifying an ethnic group. But, because of the efforts of African Americans and other Americans citizens, the measure sought to make unconstitutional discrimination of people for reasons of race, color, sex, creed, or national origin.

If we were to stop and look at the record of American society in the areas of school admissions for women and other ethnic Americans prior to Affirmative Action, we would see a marked change for the betterment of those applicants. Also, if we checked the record for women and ethnic Americans in fields and professions like, firefighters, law enforcement, postal workers, medicine, law, and construction, we would hopefully understand just what Affirmative Action has done and continues to do for society.

However, since the “Opinion” writer focused on African Americans specifically, let us look at what President Lyndon B. Johnson said about this measure he signed: “Nothing is more freighted with meaning for our won destiny than the revolution of the Negro American…[we were called Negroes then]. In far too many ways American Negroes have been another nation: deprived of freedom, crippled by hatred, the doors of opportunity closed to hope…But freedom is not enough.” He explains what he means by that last statement: “You do not wipe away the cards of centuries by saying; Now you are free to go where you want, and do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please. You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘you are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair….”

The article states that “Affirmative action’s harsh reality is to harm those it is supposed to benefit. In their book, ‘Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students Its Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit it,’ authors Stuart Taylor and Richard Sander outline affirmative actions destructive consequences.” Indeed, the authors document cases where institutions admitted students who were not academically prepared for the rigors they faced. Although the focus was on African Americans, this situation applies to students of all ethnic groups. The problems in Affirmative Action are the results of institutions attempting to put it in force. Contrary to the “Opinion” writer’s support of banning the program, the authors made recommendations to make the program more effective.

Unlike President Johnson’s comment about unfairly expecting people having been deprived of freedoms to go right into competition with others who have had more experiences and opportunities, some Americans expect African American students to do just that—compete in an unfair arena. They think to do otherwise is to discriminate against the European Americans. To be sure, the problems created by institutions attempting to impliment Affirmative Action are real and serious, but not unsolvable. What seems strange regarding Affirmative Action is the fact that it was created to address the years of discrimination and unfair, unjust, and unequal treatment of African Americans in general, but women and other ethnic Americans as well, but when the program is implemented, arguments by European Americans charging discrimination are brought to the fore. Evidently, some people believe the problems of the past can be addressed by not disrupting a thing in the present. Go figure.

Regardless of the many problems associated with institutions implementing Affirmative Action programs, the fact that doors of opportunity have been opened to African Americans, women, and other ethnic Americans is a positive change for society. The idea that merit alone should be the key to admission leaves much to be addressed. Since we know that many African Americans represent the lowest level on the economic and unemployment ladder, we also know that the level of education received by African Americans living at that level will also be influenced. So, why would the expectations for students coming from underserved institutions be placed at the same level with those coming from middle-class and affluent communities? Who decides what merit is? How is merit acquired? Where is merit acquired? Who decides who get merit? What good is merit if having it does not address the primary problem of diversity? As the title of the “Opinion” suggests, “that merit must trump race,” what’s to prevent the status quo from remaining the status quo if only the same people qualify for merit?

Yes, we agree that implementing Affirmative Action has and will continue to create challenges for society, but we also know that going forward allowing more Americans to participate in and contribute to society is better than going backwards. Banning Affirmative Action as State Question 759 wants to do is a step backwards. We need to stop looking at this program thinking it applies to educational institutions, but consider its over-all contribution to society.

Paul R. Lehman, Supreme Court looks at Affirmative Action in UT’s admission policy

October 14, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, Bigotry in America, blacks, college admission, desegregation, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, integregation, justice, minority, Oklahoma education, Prejudice, public education, Race in America, Texas, whites | 2 Comments
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The issue of Affirmative Action has come up again for the Supreme Court to decide its merits as applied by the University of Texas and its admission policy. The outcome of the case could impact the role ethnicity has in college admission. An article entitled “Supreme Court studies UT’s race admission policy,” by Mark Sherman (Associated Press), noted that “The court heard arguments in a challenge from a white Texan who contends she was discriminated against when the university did not offer her a spot in 2008.”The title of the article should be “Supreme Court studies UT’s admission policy that includes race.” No one is being admitted to a race at UT.

Abigail Fisher, a twenty-two-year-old student claims she was rejected because race was used against her. The problem relative to this issue is the fact that race is only one of the considerations used by the university to admit students. According to the university, if it is to have any decision in creating an atmosphere of diversity, then it has to have the power to use whatever criteria necessary to achieve that objective. Its admission’s program was deemed earlier by the Supreme Court to be effective in its objectives: “The University says the program is necessary to provide the kind of diverse educational experience the high court has previously endorsed.” So why a suit was filed based on race? The suggestion seems to be that race has more value than the other considerations.

The university notes that along with race, it considers “community service, work experience, extracurricular activities, awards and other factors. The bulk of its slots go to students who are admitted based on their high school class rank, without regard to race.” We are led to believe that Fisher felt her high grade point average should have been enough to get her admitted. The state of Texas realized some years ago that admission of GPA only would lead to charges of being unfair to students who for social and economic reasons could not compete with middle-class and above students. Texas discovered that relying only on grade point averages for admissions would create a problem of admitting students with little or no diversity or as in the case of the University of California at the Berkeley campus, the majority of students being Asian American.  The problem actually turned out to be one that was not so much concerned about grade point average as much as who got admitted.

The problem seems to be that some European American students believe in entitlements when it comes to getting what they want. From statehood until 1948 the only school of higher education African Americans in Oklahoma could attend was Langston University, at the time, an African American only institution. Even in 1948, George McLaurin, the first African American to attend the University of Oklahoma Graduate School, had to endure Jim Crow arrangements, separated and isolated from the class in the same room. America, it seems to some, belongs to European Americans and they should receive preference over any other ethnic American. Never mind the many years ethnic Americans, especially African Americans, were denied admission to colleges and universities.

The purpose of Affirmative Action was to try and close the gap between the number of European Americans and ethnic Americans who were qualified to attend academic as well as professional schools, but were denied. The only reason for African Americans not being considered for admission was their ethnicity, so in order to increase their numbers in schools, their ethnicity had to be considered. The problem with schools considering ethnicity as part of admission was a claim of discrimination of European Americans. Ironically, the courts agreed that in some cases, European American students were being discriminated. Many schools realized that they would face charges of discrimination if they continued their policies that gave value to a student’s ethnicity, so they, like the University of Texas, changed their admission program to make ethnicity (race) one of the elements included in admission.

For many people, Affirmative Action is a program that gives the ethnic Americans and women, an unfair advantage over European Americans. In light of the facts that many ethnic American students graduate from academically inferior schools compared to those of many European American students, what elements should be employed by colleges and universities to create diverse student bodies that would be fair to all? The element of ethnicity must be included if the challenge of diversity is to be addressed. Sherman noted that “Opponents of the [University of Texas] program say the university is practicing illegal discrimination by considering race at all, especially since the school achieves significant diversity through its race-blind admissions.”

The university needs the tools they believe are necessary to effectively perform their responsibilities in creating a diverse educational experience for their students. If the court takes away Affirmative Action, then nothing will prevent a campus from becoming predominantly European American or as the case might be, Asian American or Hispanic American? In essence, who would be the most qualified students? Who would decide what students to select, and what criteria would be used in making the selection? At each stage of the process, individuals could file a charge of discrimination based on ethnic bias if the court fails to recognize the reason for the creation of Affirmative Action in the first place.

Common sense tells us that if we are riding in a car and it has a flat, the car must be stopped, the flat tire removed and fixed or replaced before the car can continue it travel.  The point is that a problem cannot be addressed if the program is not interrupted. Change can only come with an interruption to the status quo occurs. For education in America to reflect ethnic diversity, change must be made; excluding ethnic American students from the experience is like the flat tire; Affirmation Action is the replaced or repaired tire. If we ask the question of what is in the best interest of the country regarding education for all, we must answer a diverse educational environment. After all, if our schools do not diversify, who cares?

Paul R. Lehman, U.S. Government to settle conflict between Cherokee and Freedmen

July 22, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Posted in Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, fairness, justice, Oklahoma education, Prejudice, whites | 1 Comment
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The controversy between the Cherokee and the Freedmen is by no means a new one. Slavery for many of the Cherokee was a way of life prior to the coming of the Europeans; it involved tribal warfare. However, after the arrival of the Europeans, it became more of a business. Being a numerically large tribe, the Cherokee made a practice of raiding smaller tribes, like the Creek, taking their men, women and children and selling them into slavery to the Europeans. With the proceeds from these transactions they were able to acquire many things, including slaves—some African American, Indian, and European American. A sizable number of Cherokee became plantation owners and needed the labor of the slaves. Generally, those Cherokee plantation owners in the South mimicked the attitude and action of their European Americans colleagues regarding the treatment of their slaves.

The controversy involving the freedmen came to the fore after the removal. When gold was discovered in Georgia on land occupied by the Cherokee, the European Americans decided they had to possess that land. Hence, the removal of the Cherokee is commonly known as the Trail of Tears. The misery and hardship encountered during this experience is recorded in many of the history books. However, what is generally left out of the story is the fact that the slaves, African American, Indian, and European Americans also made that trip. They made the trip as the possessions of the Cherokee. The tribe had many laws that restricted the actions and practices of the slaves, especially the African Americans ones. The laws, as one might imagine, gave preference to European Americans, and also created punishment for anyone teaching the African Americans, slave or free, to read or write.

The controversy that the Cherokee and the freedmen face currently came as a consequence of the Civil War. During the war, the tribe was divided between support for the Confederacy and the Union. One faction, headed by Chief John Ross, sided with the Confederacy initially, but after being captured sided with the Union. On the other side, Stand Watie led a group of wealthy plantation owners and actually served in the Confederate Army. In 1863 the Cherokee National Council abolished slavery. This emancipation action did not suit all the Cherokee members, especially those who owned slaves. The real rift came in 1866.

Both factions of the Cherokee were still at odds when the U.S. Government drafted a treaty with them. The differences between the Ross and Watie groups were ignored by the government and the following was presented to the tribe:

The Cherokee Nation having, voluntarily, in February, eighteen hundred and sixty-three, by an act of the national council, forever abolished slavery, hereby covenant and agree that never hereafter shall either slavery or involuntary servitude exist in their nation otherwise than in the punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, in accordance with laws applicable to all the members of said tribe alike. They further agree that all freedmen who have been liberated by voluntary act of their former owners or by law, as well as all free colored persons who were in the country at the commencement of the rebellion, and are now residents therein, or who may return within six months, and their descendants, shall have all the rights of native Cherokees: Provided, That owners of slaves so emancipated in the Cherokee Nation shall never receive any compensation or pay for the slaves so emancipated.” –Article 9 of the Treaty Of 1866

From this 1866 Treaty until today, the tribe has been trying to undo the provision of the treaty and made the Freedmen citizens of the tribe. What is interesting about the rationale in trying to remove the Freedmen from the tribe is the fact that many members of the tribe are undistinguishable from European Americans. The slaves and free African Americans did not alter the cultural or tribal practices, but merely conformed to whatever the tribe dictated. So, the only conceivable reason for not wanting to accept the African Americans is their ethnicity and the significance of that ethnicity to those with bias minds. When the tribe was ruled by the leaders who saw no conflict with the Freedmen being part of the tribe, little controversy took place. However, when leadership changed and reflected the attitudes of southern European Americans, then efforts were made to eliminate the Freedmen from the tribe.

The provisions of the 1866 Treaty became more specific in November of that year when the Cherokee Nation Constitution reflected this information:

All native born Cherokees, all Indians, and whites legally members of the Nation by adoption, and all freedmen who have been liberated by voluntary act of their former owners or by law, as well as free colored persons who were in the country at the commencement of the rebellion, and are now residents therein, or who may return within six months from the 19th day of July, 1866, and their descendants, who reside within the limits of the Cherokee Nation, shall be taken and deemed to be, citizens of the Cherokee Nation.(Treaty of 1866)

The controversy centers on the Cherokee tribe wanting to create new criteria for citizenship which would exclude many descendants of the Freedmen and make them ineligible for many of the benefits they have been enjoying for some time. The Freedmen say this action is based on ethnic bigotry; the tribe says it only wants to preserve it cultural integrity and common ancestry. The irony in this statement is that many Cherokee people live as European Americans, if they can, and do not identify themselves as Cherokee unless their ethnicity becomes important.  The fact that European Americans were easily adopted into the tribe based on marriage and other consideration while African Americans were refused citizenship speaks for itself.

Fortunately, the U.S. Government will have a chance to put this matter to rest in the near future. Since the treaty that created this situation did not originate with the Cherokee, one wonders how they believe it is within their power to changes it. If that power does indeed reside with them, how will that affect the treaties the U.S. Government signed with the other tribes? Just thinking.

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