Paul R. Lehman, A lesson in classroom conflicts about the “n” word in literature

November 27, 2019 at 12:56 am | Posted in African American, American history, Brown v Topeka, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, Disrespect, education, equality, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, fairness, integregation, Oklahoma education, respect, social conditioning, the 'n' word | 2 Comments
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Sitting in her classroom listening to her teacher read a passage from a classic novel, a sophomore English student asked her teacher if she would stop saying the ‘N’ word because hearing it offended her. She suggested that the teacher use another word instead. The teacher responded that she always said the word, which was an indication that she was not about ready to change the way she read the work. The teacher noted that to change the word from the text would be lying. The teacher suggested the student talk to someone about feeling offended. This was a situation that could have easily been avoided had the teacher been properly educated relative to the rapidly changing demographics in society, educated in how to teach works that include socially unacceptable language, and educated in how a school system should have the vision to anticipate these types of situations.(KFOR.com 11/22/2019, by Peyton Yager)

The student was in her right to inform the teacher that the language she was using although in the text of the novel, offended her. The teacher’s response to the student showed a lack of understanding and a disregard for the student’s feelings or education. The teacher’s attitude reflected a combination of ignorance, arrogance, stupidity, and bias. When the public schools were desegregated in 1954, the primary change from that time to the present was the classroom became more diversified with students from many ethnic identities. Because the schools did not integrate, the European American teachers did not have to change their method of teaching to accommodate the changes in the student body. What desegregation meant to the non-European American students was that they had to adjust to the traditional curriculum that generally excluded them. The exception to the exclusion was to be found in the literature that reflected the ethnic biases of the society during the time pictured in the work. The teacher’s comment that she always said the ‘N’ word indicated not only how she felt about offending the student, but also her ignorance of how her use of that word affected the other students and reflected directly on her character.

This incident points to another concern that should be addressed by society relative to teachers’ education. Unless someone lives in an exclusive area peopled with one ethnic group, most public schools will have a diversity of student populations. Teachers must be taught to recognize the importance of respect for each and every student regardless of diversity. The luxury of ignoring the diversity of students has passed because more and more will be represented in the schools. The traditional curriculum was written, in general, for European American students by European American Educators. Until recent times, the contributions of African Americans and other ethnic groups were not taught, with few exceptions. In other words, American society was seen as belonging to and controlled by European Americans and that being the case, the ethnic groups should learn to recognize their superiority and imitate them. Although that was more apparent in the past, today’s students have access to much more information and are willing to questions social assumptions especially about the way non-European Americans are viewed and treated in society. The educational institutions that prepare students to become educators should take into consideration the many societal changes that will confront the new teachers, especially regarding changing demographics.

The incident involving the student and the teacher and the use of socially unacceptable language could have easily been avoided if the teacher and school had been aware of the changes in our society. Unfortunately, many European Americans believe that no change from their perspective is necessary and that if the change is to come it must come from the other Americans. Well, as the student indicated, change has come and it is placing the responsibility for social adjustment on the European Americans as well as the people of color. The classroom is an important atmosphere for becoming aware and learning about one’s self and society.

Society recognized in 1984 that language and visuals presented in some movies represented a conflict to the values it wanted to be instilled in their young children. So, on July 1, 1984, the motion picture industry issued the following advisory: “Parents Are Strongly Cautioned to Give Special Guidance for Attendance of Children under 13 – Some Material May Be Inappropriate for Young Children”. In addition, television warned its viewers before questionable language or pictures are presented that what will follow may not be suitable for children. So, the viewers should take the proper precautions.

Likewise, teachers who know that works to be assigned to students that include socially unacceptable language should take the time to inform the students about the language. An introduction of the works, their setting and history would help the students to gain an appreciation of the works. The teachers should initiate a plan on how to deal with the offensive or unacceptable language.  Ignoring the language is not an option if the students will be required to read the texts. One option, as the student in this incident, suggested is to use other words when the text is read aloud. Another option would be to allow the students to read the text silently. Still, another would be to engage the students in a discussion of how they want to treat the language since they know it would offend some of their classmates.

The incident involving the student and her teacher discussed above is not unique and has happened and probably, will continue to happen until we realize that America is and has been a diverse society and that many European Americans have been deprived of learning about many of their fellow Americans. The process of learning about who we are as a society will be slow and challenging but rewarding and enriching. For too long the educational curriculum has focused on the story of the European American experience while neglecting the stories of the other Americans and often picturing them is uncompromising ways. The young student at the beginning of this piece has given a signal to the educational community loud and clear: things are not like they used to be, you have got to acknowledge and respect me and my classmates.

 

Paul R. Lehman, What about this thing called reparations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul R. Lehman, CSU’s McConnell’s comments show little understanding of moral and ethical values relative to race.

September 13, 2019 at 11:15 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, black inferiority, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, freedom of speech, liberty, Race in America, racism, respect, skin color, social conditioning, whites | 1 Comment
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The Denver Post published an article, “CSU won’t punish students who wore blackface in a photo shared on social media, citing First Amendment,” (9/11/2019) that raised concern relative to the incident. According to the article, the photo showed “four students in blackface—some smiling, some crossing their arms—with the caption “Wakanda forevaa,” a reference to the “Black Panther” comic book and film.” The suggestion taken from the article’s title is that because the students exercised their First Amendment right, the incident should be viewed as socially acceptable. The article’s title comes as a result of the university’s President’s statement relative to the incident.

CSU’s President, Joyce McConnell, emailed the students, staff, and faculty that “Because of the long and ugly history of blackface in America, this photo has caused a great deal of pain to members of our community.” She added that “We have heard from many of you—and we hear you. Moreover, we respect your voices.” She continued with “We know that images like this one—whether consciously racist or not—can perpetuate deliberate racism and create a climate that feels deeply hostile.”

A number of concerns come to mind relative to McConnell’s statement. First, the fact that the students were identified as part of the CSU family made her a part of the incident. The actions of the students were a result of a choice they made—to denigrate or demean people of color. While the President noted that the history of blackface in America is long and ugly and can cause great pain, she never acknowledged the actions of the four students as being wrong. In fact, she does just the opposite: “We also affirm that personal social media accounts are not under our jurisdiction.” She added that “Our community members-students, faculty, and staff—can generally post whatever they wish to post on their personal online accounts in accordance with their First Amendment rights.” Rather than addressing the photo incident as a cultural and social problem involving ethnic bigotry, she dismissed it as liberty protected under the First Amendment.

McConnell’s attitude is similar to many European Americans who are not acquainted with the biased social conditioning they have been accustomed to all their lives. She made reference to the “pain” experienced by members of the community but made no mention of the need for the perpetrators of that pain to acknowledge the fact that what they did was wrong, not legally wrong, but morally and ethically wrong. She said that the students would receive no punishment for their deed, an action that could encourage more incidents of a similar nature. What is needed in this matter is not punishment but an acknowledgment of the injustice and a course of atonement taken by the students to indicate that they fully understand the “pain” their photo caused and their remorse for doing it. Just because the photo does not violate any legal or university rules does not mean that it should be considered acceptable and permissible. On the contrary, the denigration or degradation of any ethnic group should be viewed as intolerable.

McConnell mentioned the words racism and racist and noted that “We are all here at CSU to learn, and we believe that this [the photo incident] can be a powerful learning moment that leads to healing and reconciliation.”While her sentiment and wishes might be well-placed, her knowledge and actions regarding this incident show that neither healing nor reconciliation will take place unless someone with the knowledge and understanding of the European American (white) system of superiority and social privilege take the lead. Healing cannot take place until an acknowledgment of a wrong committed is made along with remorse for the wrong. Those two actions, however, do not conclude the healing process; an apology does not necessarily mean remorse. If someone bumps into another person holding a glass of water and the glass fall to the floor and breaks, saying “I am sorry” does not repair the glass or recover the water. What might help in this situation would be for the person who instituted the bump to ask, in addition to the apology, if another glass of water could be offered as atonement. In essence, an action underscoring the apology helps in the healing. She suggested no such acknowledgment or action from the students.

Reconciliation brings to the fore a number of preconditions that must be acknowledged and addressed before progress can be made especially with regards to anything involving race. In America, European Americans have been conditioned to view people of color as less than human as an ordinary part of their life. Generally, they do not see ethnic bias as morally and ethically wrong because it has been an ever-present part of their daily lives from home to community, to school and church. In essence, many European Americans are ignorant of their ethnic biases, so attempting to identify racism and racist as socially unacceptable represents a challenge. We know that a table set by ignorance leaves no room for reason or wisdom but allows fools to eat to their heart’s content.

Reconciliation would require the recognition and admission of race by color as a false concept and racism as a substitute for bigotry. In spite of all the evidence and information addressing the falsity of the concept of race by color, American society continues to ignore it and try to proceed as though nothing has changed and is changing in our society relative to the debunking of the race concept. While McConnell’s words seemed apt and appropriate regarding actions that could be taken and opportunities that are presented by this incident, chances are little or no positive changes will occur at CSU regarding ethnic bigotry from a moral and ethical perspective.

McConnell’s final words regarding the photo incident underscore the lack of commitment for positive change: “We urge every member of our community to listen [to what], and to hear [hear what], all voices that make up this wonderful, diverse campus family so we can move forward [to where] together, stronger than ever.”The genuineness of McConnell’s statement rings as sincere as that of the grocery checkout worker’s “Have a nice day.”

 

Paul R. Lehman, Sometimes just good intentions and advice on race are not good enough

August 14, 2019 at 4:06 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, discrimination, DNA, education, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, identity, language, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, respect, skin color, skin complexion, social conditioning, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
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When a person is born into a society everything that impacts that person’s life comes through association. As that person grows bits and pieces of life’s puzzle are added and continue to influence that person’s perceptions, language, and behavior. All those things represent normalcy to that person because they are reflected in others in the community. However, what seems normal to one person may not be normal to a person in a different community and so a problem is created when the values, ideas, and opinions are challenged when the people from two different communities come together. This problem presented itself recently as recorded in an article, “Adulting While White,” (8/12/2019, Nation) under “Asking for a Friend,” by Liza Featherstone.

The problem involved a “35-year-old white woman” who was befriended by “a 12-year-old” African American girl from the South Side of Chicago. They developed a good relationship where the lady would help her young friend “with homework and occasionally taking her and her siblings to dance lessons.” The girl’s parents approved of the friendship. The problem surfaced when the African American girl, who is of light brown complexion, felt that the people around her might think that the European American friend was her mother. As a result, the young girl began to distance herself from the lady when in public, and in some instances, ignored her altogether. The European American lady wrote to Featherstone seeking help.

In her letter, the lady wrote: “I don’t know what to do. She is a bright, fun child and seeks me out regularly. I enjoy hanging out with her. Yet her embarrassment over my whiteness makes me feel sad, conflicted, and ashamed.”She continued, “Should I stop going to her events, even though I’m invited? Should I ignore the fact that she ignores me? I don’t want to be oversensitive, but I don’t know how to navigate this.”

The answer provided the lady by Featherstone showed a lack of knowledge and understanding of American society, its history and culture. She stated: “The situation is awkward for you, Mentor, but the feelings of this young person may be healthy.”Featherstone added that “For this girl, being viewed as biracial—if she sees herself as black—complicates the process of developing that identity.” Her final advice was to “Keep showing up to her events, and worry less about your feelings. After all, in general, it’s easier being a white grown-up than a black middle-schooler.”Unfortunately, the answer provides no comfort to the mentor but showed a lack of knowledge and understanding from Featherstone.

The central problem of this situation is that all participants live in the past as indicated by their language and attitude. What is missing is an understanding of how they were all socialized to see each other as different based on skin complexion and the concept of race. The mentor identifies herself as white and that tells us that she still accepts the false concept of race by color. Because she still accepts this concept, she will never be able to see her young friend as a normal human being. Colors do two things simultaneously; they unite and separate people into groups. So, as long as the mentor see herself as white and her young friend as non-white, a divide will always exist between them.

Featherstone, unfortunately, falls into the same boat as the mentor because she also accepts the concept of race as valid. An opportunity to teach and enlighten not only the young African American girl but also the two European American women was missed because they were all trapped in the race box. Most people today know that race was invented by the leaders of the majority society to control and discriminate. The term race was invented to take the place of the term species, but the two words are not the same nor can they be used interchangeably. Species is a scientific term that places all human beings in the same family, while race is a non-scientific term used to unite and separate people. To underscore the unscientific use of the term race we simply need to reference the times people identify themselves as being or belonging to a white or black species or being bi-species or mixed-species.

The rapid pace of ethnic diversity development in America is also aiding in debunking the concept of race and color. When we fail to accept the scientific findings that help us to exit the race box, we stay trapped in the past and continue to be burdened with all its negative baggage. Given the appropriate information, all the participants in this situation can begin to move forward in their understanding of our changing American society. Once they can replace the false concept of race by color with the understanding that all people are brown, just different shades, and that we belong to the same species—human beings, then their perceptions, language, and behavior will also change.

What we need to know is that all people have two identities: a national (cultural) identity, and an ancestral (ethnic) identity. We choose our national identity, but our ancestral identity comes to us from our birth parents. We have been conditioned to give our ancestral identity rather than our national identity when asked our identity. A person’s ancestral identity is separate and apart from the national, and color has no part in either. For example, when a visitor from another country comes to America, the only identity that is required is national, i.e. German, French, Spanish, Nigerian, etc., because their ancestral identity is insignificant. However, in America, since we have used color and ancestry to discriminate against some people, social value is often associated with it.

Although we have not yet arrived at the point in America where the concept of race and color are no longer an integral part of the social fabric, we are headed in that direction. The biased perceptions of human beings must be challenged and replaced so the relationships among ethnic groups can occur freely without the barriers of ignorance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul R. Lehman, What’s in a name—the “N” word and Identity

May 4, 2019 at 4:34 pm | Posted in Africa, African American, American Bigotry, American history, biological races, black inferiority, blacks, Disrespect, DNA, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, France, identity, immigration, language, Media and Race, Negro, Prejudice, race, Race in America, respect, skin color, skin complexion, social conditioning, the 'n' word, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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Several years ago I had the occasion to give a lecture to some citizens of a small rural town at the town’s library. An audience of about twenty people attended the lecture and remained for a question and answer session. In responding to a question, I made mention of European Americans and their relation to the question. Soon after I finished my comments, a small, white-haired, senior lady raised her hand, and I acknowledged her. She asked, “What is this European American you talked about?” Smiling at her, I said, “you. You are a European American.” She seemed perplexed, so I explained to her that at one time in America the only people who could become citizens had to identify themselves as either Negro (black) or white. Many immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe did not qualify as either, so they had to use their ethnic identity which set them apart from the so-called whites. In the early 1920s, two Asian men applied for American citizenship and both were denied because the courts said they were neither black nor white. Following the second trial, a Supreme Court justice said that only Europeans could be considered white and they could recognize one from another. One of the consequences of that statement led many immigrants to stop identifying themselves by their ethnicity and just identify themselves as white because it provided elements of social and civic power and prestige.

Still looking somewhat confused, the lady asked, “What is my ethnicity?  I have always been told that I am white.” I asked her where she and her parents were born if not in America. She mentioned that her family had not spoken about being from another country in general but she had heard some references to France and Italy. I mentioned that the term European American provided a more specific identity reference than simply saying white because white does not refer to nationality, country, language, religion, or culture. She thanked me for the explanation.

This incident came to mind when I heard two young African American men talking on Facebook about economic challenges and problems experienced by African Americans and people of color. What caught my attention was their reference to African Americans as “N”. They used it as though it was an accepted and legitimate term with no historical or social significance. Evidently, they assumed that because they were, apparently, men of color their use of the word was okay. Their use of the “N” word actually communicated a number of things that were not positive. They ignored the word’s history, denotation, and connotation, social and cultural significance.

The word Negro comes from the Latin language as an adjective referring to the color black but came to be associated with people from Africa with dark skin complexions. When enslaved Africans were brought to America, they were stripped of their names, language, culture, religion, and personal history. They were forced to accept and adjust to the elements of slavery in America, but most definitely the new language through which they were to be known and referred to as Africans, Negroes, blacks, and slaves. The term Negro was the most commonly used term in America with the spelling and pronunciation varying from the different geographical areas of north and south. The slaves had no choice but to refer to one another as Negro or “N” because that was the only language they were permitted to speak.

Under slavery’s rule in America, the denotation of the word Negro made reference to people, regardless of their skin complexion, who was known to have any African blood. In this context, the reference was made only for identity. However, in the connotation, the word took on a totally different meaning. As a form of projection the “N” personified sexuality, lewdness, laziness, dirtiness, and untamed hostility. In addition, the elements of foul odors, threatening, aggressive and libidinous behavior became associated with the character of the “N” and were perceived by the average European American as normal. Altogether, the concept of excrement came to be associated with the “N” to the point that his social value was equated with it and found to be of lesser value.

Before, and definitely after Reconstruction in America, African Americans have been trying to divorce themselves from the term “N” because it never did, in fact, defined or described them, but was used to enslave them mentally. Society has labeled the “N” word pejorative and socially unacceptable because of its historical significance. However, the word has been given a life-line through entertainment and artistic expressions by some African American performers. Unfortunately, the word does not lose its pejorative quality through continued use and speaks to a sense of historical ignorance or self-deprecation by the users.

An old saying advises that one cannot throw dirt on others without getting some on one’s self. This saying works equally with the use of the “N” word because it reflects on the character of the users by questioning their self-perception and their judgment of others they associate with the word. The objective of the slave masters in imposing the “N” word on people of color was to force them to see themselves through the biased eyes of the slave masters, not their own eyes. So, for as long as the people of color continue using the master’s language relative to themselves, they will remain mentally enslaved and unable to see who they really are.

If the “N” word did not carry negative social value in society then its use would not be in question. But it does still carry negative value. So, one wonders why two intelligent young African American males would constantly use the “N” word to their audiences unless they do not realize that by doing so they are showing disrespect to themselves and their audience. With all the demographic changes taking place in the world, and especially in America today, and with many people discovering their ancestral roots, one would think that constant reference to the past via a derogatory term would be counterproductive. The continued use of the “N” word seems to suggest that some people of color want to remain mentally enslaved or do not want to know their true identity.

Paul R. Lehman, Parents of mixed-race children that offer advice to Prince Harry and Meghan are bigotry blind

April 12, 2019 at 11:58 pm | Posted in African American, African American celebrities, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, biological races, black inferiority, blacks, discrimination, DNA, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, Genealogy,, Human Genome, identity, interpretations, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, respect, skin color, skin complexion, social conditioning, white supremacy, whites | 2 Comments
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Have you ever had the opportunity to learn a life lesson by accident without it costing you anything? Back when I was in the eighth grade, I was sitting in my social studies classroom one afternoon, waiting for class to begin when all of a sudden a loud disturbance came rushing to the front of the room—two of my male classmates were involved in fisticuffs. Our teacher, Mrs. Kelly, quickly put a stop to this display and ordered the two young men to her desk. The students were Bill and Allen and as far as anyone in the class knew, they were friends; they sat next to one another. Mrs. Kelly looked at the two students and asked the obvious question: what happened to cause this disruption?

Allen spoke first and said that Bill had insulted his mother by calling her a bad name. Bill had called her an ugly whore. Mrs. Kelly turned her eyes on Bill and asked if that was correct. He answered yes. She then looked at Allen and surprisingly asked him if it was true, was his mother an ugly whore? Allen became somewhat flustered but blurted out—no, not at all! She then turned back to Bill and asked why he had referred to Allen’s mother in such a manner. Allen said that Bill and said something that angered him, so he just said something to him to get even, and that was when Allen hit him.

Mrs. Kelly looked at both students and asked Bill if he knew Allen’s mother. He said no. She then asked if he had ever seen Allen’s mother. Again, he said no. She spoke to Allen and asked if he knew that Bill did not know nor had not even seen his mother. Allen answered yes, he knew that.  She then asked, “Why were you fighting when both of you knew that what was said was not true?” She looked at Allen and asked “How could Bill insult your mother when he does not know her, and why you would punch him for saying something that you knew was not true? Can you understand the foolishness of your actions? They both nodded in the affirmative. She then told them to look at each, apologize for acting so foolishly and get back to their seats. As they were heading back to their seats, she said for the entire class to hear: “next time you want to react foolishly to something that was said to or about you, stop, use your brain and think.” I got the message.

What brought this childhood memory to my attention was an article by Sonia Smith-Kang, in The Washington Post, (4/8/2019) about Harry and Meghan having a biracial child. The article began with this statement: “The pregnancy announcement from Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, sent the multiracial community into proud cyber-auntie and -uncle mode. We are so excited to welcome one more into our fold as we continue the distinction of being one of the fastest-growing populations, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.”The article is written by someone who identifies as a biracial person and attempts to relate with Harry and Meghan since they are expecting a baby who she believes will be biracial.

The focus of the article was to give some advice, hints, and suggestions to Harry and Meghan relative to raising their so-called biracial child. While the multiracial community and their comments were given in good faith and positive intent, they all fail to recognize one primary fact—they all possess unseen bigotry. How can that be? The answer lies in the community’s acceptance of the concept of race, especially by color, as legitimate and valid. They either do not know or choose to ignore the fact that race is a social invention and only one species of human beings exist on the planet, Homo sapiens. So, when people self-identify as biracial, mixed race or multiracial they are saying that they are only a part human being. One wonders what other species contribute to their make-up.

When people intentionally decide to identify themselves using race as a component in that identity such as biracial, mixed race, multiracial, they are in fact supporting, maintaining and promoting ethnic bigotry. Since race is a social invention and is based on skin color, we know that in America ethnic bigotry is part of the white supremacy concept. People who self-identify as biracial, mixed race and multiracial all accept the concept of white racial supremacy or there would be no value in their use of race.

All human beings belong to an ethnic group rather than the generally misused term race. Race has no scientific bases; a black race and white race does not exist. As a matter of fact, all human being are brown, including the extremes that are usually identified as black and white. Ethnic identity is based on geography and culture which includes language, religion, and customs. Biology has no involvement in ethnicity, but while many ethnic groups intermarry only the ones that accept the value of a white race use race as part of their identity. European Americans usually do not think of themselves as belonging to a race, but as the model of the human race.

Although the information provided by this group of self-identified mixed-race people appears helpful and thoughtful, it is very dangerous and harmful in that it isolates the mixed-race child from the population of human beings and treats the child as an alien. A person’s identity is based on his or her nationality, and nationality is based on geography and culture, not biology. Harry and Meghan’s child’s identity will be based on its nationality, not the cultural or ethnic identity of either parent. Even if that was the case, just what does an American and Englander look like? Forcing a child to view itself through the eyes of a race-biased culture would do extreme harm to its psyche.

The danger of a race-based concept comes from the association with social radicals such as the White Nationalist, the Aryan Nation, the Ku Klux Klan, and others hate groups that ignore the science that debunks the concept of race by color. Sharing the same or similar philosophy as hate groups serve to aid and abet them. Get the message!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Paul R. Lehman, Replacing the concept of race with reality in five extremely challenging and life-changing steps

November 28, 2018 at 4:16 pm | Posted in African American, American history, American Indian, American Racism, Bible, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, criminal justice, democracy, discrimination, DNA programs, education, entitlements, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, fairness, Genealogy,, Human Genome, identity, immigration, justice, lower class, Prejudice, public education, Public housing, race, respect, skin color, skin complexion, social conditioning, social justice system, whites | 1 Comment
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Although it might seem strange today, people initially thought that the earth was flat, and not a sphere. Around the year 500 A.D., a Greek named Pythagoras introduced the concept of the earth being a sphere, but people paid little notice until Aristotle, some two-hundred years later, 330 A.D., promoted the same concept. People were not eager to give up the concept of a flat earth. Even places in the Christian Bible show evidence of the concept of the earth being flat. Eventually, the voyages of Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan among others provided proof of the planet is a sphere. The acceptance of this fact brought with it a necessary change in the way earth was viewed. The concept of the flat earth was not destroyed or changed; it was replaced with scientific facts.

The point of the concept of a flat earth being replaced by the concept of a round one underscored the importance of fact and evidence in the process. Today, we have a similar situation before us with respect to the concept of race by color or geography that no longer has rational or realistic basics. Replacing this concept of race is extremely challenging because of the rewards associated with the identity of one group—European Americans. The problem exists because America’s Founding father invented and instituted a system of a race by color with two colors, black and white, playing major roles. Society was conditioned and forced to view the Anglo-Saxons (whites) as superior to all other races regardless of color, but especially the people of African descent. The concept of race by color became over several hundred years to be accepted as normal although it was constantly challenged because of its basic flaws.

Nevertheless, people of all persuasions accepted the concept and wrote about it like it was valid and factual. At one point in 1883, the term eugenics was coined by a British scientist who led the attempt to develop a super race. Fortunately, those efforts failed, but the studies continued until today the results of a study, the Human Genome Project, involving DNA revealed that all human beings are 99.09% alike. Many people do not want to accept the scientific evidence that proved the concept of race by color to be bogus. So, how does one go about replacing the concept of race by color to one of reality?

The very first step is to recognize that the concept of race by color is a myth, that all human beings belong to the same race; that all human being are a shade of brown, not black and white; that intelligence and character cannot be based on skin color. Because most, if not all of these things, have been a part of the national conscientiousness for centuries, recognizing them as false cannot happen easily. For some people, it is asking too much regardless of the facts and evidence that view race as not factual or valid. All people must be seen and accepted as part of the human family without anyone ethnic group being superior or inferior to any other.

The second step is to accept the fact that all Americans have been socially conditioned to accept the concept of race by color as normal and natural and before any positive progress can be made, this concept must be rejected and replaced with factual truths. This second step is extremely difficult because while some Americans can see prejudice and bigotry in others, they cannot or do not see it in themselves. That is why the first step is necessary. People who refer to themselves or others as black or white do not realize that in using those terms they are connecting with the past and the concept of race by color. The concept of race has to be replaced with ethnic group or ethnicity in order to not get caught in the trap seeing race by color. The identity of European Americans can no longer include the color white because white is simply the adjective preceding the noun race.

The third step involves a commitment to promote the concept of the human family that includes all ethnic groups, including European Americans as a part of that family. In other words, we recognize, respect and accept Americans with cultural differences from our own. We realize that just because our ethnic identity is different from some other ethnic group that does not give us the right to treat them differently and judges them as not being our equals. If we are all Americans, then everyone should expect and receive fairness and legal justice before the law. Unfortunately, America has not conditioned us to think and act that way. So, the commitment includes recognizing and working towards correcting the problems created by the concept of race by color. For example, the problem of voting rights, the problem of incarceration of the poor, the problem of substandard schools, the problem substandard housing, the problem of low paying jobs, the problem of law enforcement ’s bias against people of color. In other words, working towards correcting problems that affect all Americans, but that has been aimed primarily at the poor and people of color.

The fourth step involves a degree of self-discipline that keeps us from losing focus on our objective—replacing the concept of race. We have all been conditioned by our society, and especially by our concept and interpretation of our history. Our demographics are rapidly changing and having a great impact on society, so we need to remember America’s mantra: “e Pluribus Unum”—from many one. Unity must be our focus and objective.

The fifth step is the need to recognize and accept consistency in our thoughts and actions. Replacing the conception of race from what we were conditioned to believe to the reality of what we face in society today is a tremendous undertaking. When Joseph J. Ellis, a best-selling historian was asked the question:” What is the biggest failing of the Founders that still haunts us today?”He answered that “When the Founders talked about ‘we the people,’ they were not talking about black people. They weren’t talking about women, and they weren’t talking about Native Americans. Whenever race enters the question, the Founders are going to end up disappointing you.”

Replacing race with reality –an acceptance of all human beings as a family that is based on facts is the way society will move into a positive future.

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