Paul R. Lehman, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the book, is not revered by all readers

November 5, 2019 at 7:27 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Dream, American history, American Racism, blacks, Christianity, Constitutional rights, criminal justice, democracy, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, happiness, integregation, justice, Negro, Prejudice, Race in America, skin color, Slavery, social conditioning, social justice system, white supremacy | 2 Comments
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According to a recent article in AARP: The Magazine, (June/July 2019) one of the most important books that helped to influence our thoughts about ethnic bigotry and prejudice in America is To Kill a Mockingbird, by the late Harper Lee. The article noted that “It’s one of our nation’s most revered texts—and it’s probably the book that has most shaped our collective understanding of the evils of Jim Crow.” How the writer arrived at that assessment of the book was not disclosed, but a number of people might question the supposed results of it being the most revered text that enabled our understanding of Jim Crow.

Any literature worth the ink used to print it can easily support a variety of interpretations and keep the reader searching for more points of interest. Mockingbird is such a work that invites the reader to find meaning and social value. Because of its popularity, “more than 40 million copies since it’s publication in 1960,” much has been written and said about it. A lot of the attention seemed to have fallen on the character of Atticus Finch who is often viewed as the story’s hero. While viewing Finch as a hero might be easily established and supported, one interesting assessment of the book leaned toward the book having no hero, but simply represented a picture of America’s society with emphasis on its past, present, and future.

Without having to deconstruct the entire novel, we can say that the story is told by Scout Finch, a young girl, the daughter of Atticus Finch. She and her younger brother Jem lived with their widowed father who was a well-to-do lawyer. They lived in the small southern town of Maycomb. Scout and Jem made friends with another young boy, Dill, who visited their town for the summer. The three children and their adventures represented one aspect of the book but also connected with another focus of the book that dealt with Atticus. A young African American man, Tom Robinson, was arrested and charged with assaulting a young Southern European American female. The sheriff of the town asked Atticus to represent the man and since he was one of the town’s people who had the least to fear or lose, he accepted. Another character that provided an essential social element to the book was Calpurnia, the housekeeper, cook, and guardian of the children. With this brief summary, we can now look at how the book represented the past, present, and future.

The past is represented by the townspeople of Maycomb in their attitude and view of people of color generally, and the young accused African American male. With the institution of slavery and the concept of race by color, European Americans saw themselves as superior to all non-European American people. They saw African Americans as less than a human being and believed that treating them like animals was no crime against God or nature. The first inclination of the townspeople upon learning of the assault of the young woman was to get the accused and lynch him—a trail was not necessary. Fortunately, what saved the town from being viewed as savage and barbaric was the sheriff who exercised his legal authority and felt the need to protect the young African American, Tom, from a mob.

The present was represented by Atticus who served as the lawyer for Tom Robinson. Many readers relied on the performance of Atticus as the lawyer and his attempt to save his client as fuel for him being seen as a hero. In all likelihood, Atticus knew what the outcome of the trial would be even before he took the case. The case provided Atticus an opportunity to display his knowledge of the law and his dramatic presentations underscored his belief in the law. The words he spoke, however, fell on the deaf ears of the townspeople whose minds were already set and the African Americans who were forced to sit in the balcony of the courtroom and who had no expectation of justice from the court. The only people emotionally affected by the trial were the children, and they represented the optimistic hope for the future.

The future is revealed primarily through Scout, the children and their relationship to Calpurnia, an African woman, her African American community, and of course, the trial. The townspeople became angry at Atticus for defending an African American, but because he was wealthy and independent, they represented no threat to him or his well-being. His children, however, were not protected from the jabs and sneers of the local children.      When Calpurnia took the children with her to her African American community, the children saw for the first time, a contradiction in what they had been conditioned by their society to believe about African Americans. Rather than feeling fearful and threatening by the African American community, Scout and Jem felt compassion, warmth, and safe.

Scout experiences a loss of innocence throughout the story, but especially near the end after she and Jem were attacked. She knew what happened to Tom Robinson and what Boo did. She also heard what Heck Tate said about the experience: “Tom Robinson died for no reason, he says, and now the man responsible is dead: “Let the dead bury the dead.”  The townspeople knew that Tom could not have committed the crime, but punished him anyway. Tate knew that Boo had killed Bob Ewell, but looked the other way.

So, given the fact that an innocent African American man died for a crime, he did not committee and a European American man is excused for the crime he committed, we recognize how ethnic bigotry and prejudice along with European American privilege worked in America. In other words, a relationship with the younger European American generation gave hope to the future relations of the communities in that a bridge of ignorance was crossed that revealed the existence of other human beings, African Americans, not animals or inferiors.

When we read the book with reference to the past, present, and future, we wonder why the book is so revered. We find no hero or a need for one since the story looked at society and justice relative to time. The Maycomb community’s sense of justice was not changed; the African American community’s status did not change. Finch’s words defending Tom were like Shakespeare’s Macbeth, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”Could the importance of the book depend on the ethnicity of the reader?

We need to understand that change is the only constant reality we have to reckon with in striving towards social justice.

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, America is experiencing violence and death because of fear, hatred, and bigotry

August 6, 2019 at 11:57 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Indian, American Racism, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Constitutional rights, Declaration of Independence, democracy, discrimination, DNA, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, fairness, identity, justice, language, liberty, life, President Obama, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, social conditioning, The U.S. Constitution, U. S. Census, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
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When Barack Obama became President of the United States a shock was felt in many parts of America that brought to the surface of many European Americans fear and dread—a person of color was President. The fear and dread came from the many years of being socially conditioned to view African Americans and other people of color including some Southern and Eastern Europeans as inferior, and not of the same race as the Anglo-Saxons. But from the beginning, Europeans Americans were led to believe that America was reserved especially for them, the so-called whites. American History would reinforce the concept of European American (white) superiority and the inferiority of all other peoples.

European Americans have always lived with the fear and challenge of the national hypocrisy where the documents that carry the mantra of the nation’s democratic beliefs, the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States, discriminate against African Americans and people of color in general. For example, the Declaration of Independence states that all people have certain unalienable rights which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Yet, our history records that time and time again African Americans have been deprived of many of those rights up to the present time. We know that the Colonies supported slavery when the Declaration was issued and did not include women, children, and people of color. We also know that The Constitution referred to slaves as three/fifths a man or person and that designation were taken to refer to all African Americans, although many Indians and Europeans were identified as slaves. The inconsistency of what the nations says and how it acts continues to be a problem relative to it identity—is it a democracy or not?

Many Americans still believe and hold on dearly to the concept of a superior white race and that belief separates them from other Americans. Although their concept of a superior race has been debunked by social and medical science, they are at a loss to let go because they have nothing to fall back on except becoming an ordinary citizen. Unfortunately, the years of governmental and social conditioning that underscored, promoted, and maintained ethnic bigotry is not easy to relinquish in spite of it being undemocratic and un-American. Language serves as the glue that continues to hold the concepts of ethnic bigotry together. For example, the Census Bureau never defined the terms black and white, but gave a variety of citizens the option of selecting either for a an identity. After the 2010 Census, the Bureau discovered a problem in the results reported in that many citizens recorded their ethnic identity as white when prior statistics showed other figures that differed greatly with those of the Census. Race continues to be a problem because it cannot be defined using color.

Bigoted Americans keep trying to prove or convince others that the concept of a black and white race invented by the Founding Fathers is legitimate and accurate. The facts concerning the race concept are that black and white are colors, not ethnic identities. All human beings on the planet Earth, according to science, are brown. From a practical perspective if we were to mix the colors black and white together, the results would be a shade of grey, depending on the quantity of each color mixed. So, as some people hold to the view that a black and white race exists, then one might ask, where are the grey people? On the other hand, when a fair skin person (so-called white) joins with a dark skin person (so-called black) and creates an offspring, the offspring is always a shade of brown. Wow! What an amazing discovery! There goes that black race and white race theory. At some point Americans will wake up to the reality that we all belong to one family of humans, not races.

The recent increase of violence in America can be traced to the fear of some European Americans that brown people will take over society. That should not be a fear because by the shear numbers brown people already represent the majority in the world’s population and has since the beginning. As anthropologists have noted the Homo sapiens species originated in Africa and spread from Africa to other areas of the planet. No on questions the skin color of those first humans. Over the years the science of DNA has proven that the concept of a race or races cannot be obtained from an examination of DNA. Humans are more alike than Penguins. Nevertheless, some people want to violently fight society in a futile effort to try and prove the existence of a so-called superior European American (white) race.

America is experiencing dark times presently because some of the national leaders belong to that group of Americans who want to keep Americans ignorant and stupid regarding the concept of race. The changing demographics in society have continuously worked against that false concept and will eventually overcome it. Unfortunately, Americans will have to experience pain and suffering from the violence of those who know no other way to express their hurt, fear, and anxiety over being played the fool for so many years by society and the government. For all the pain and suffering caused by the people who spread bigotry, America will come back a stronger and more unified society because many of the weaknesses and problems that have contributed to our present situation will be exposed and resolved. We have not yet reached the point where Americans, in general, are ready to say enough.

America has always be a cultural experiment in progress, not a completed one, so we must continue to work towards having her achieve the objectives that were set forth at the beginning of the project. We all know what the promise of being an American is about—one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all. Our obligation is to ensure the liberties, rights, justice, and freedom of each of us for all of us.

Paul R. Lehman, Talking to kids about race should be a thoughtful, truthful, and rewarding undertaking for the kids

February 8, 2019 at 12:53 pm | Posted in African American, African American hair, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, black inferiority, blacks, Declaration of Independence, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, DNA, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, Hair, Human Genome, identity, integregation, justice, language, Media and Race, minorities, Negro, Oklahoma education, Prejudice, public education, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, social conditioning, The Oklahoman, tolerance, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
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An interesting and troubling article, “Diversity discussion: How to talk to kids about race,” by Melissa Erickson, (The Oklahoman 1/28/2019) appeared in the paper recently and caught my attention because of the topic and the subject mentioned. The first concern was the activity suggested that someone—talk to kids about race. The problem with that activity depends on several things:  the teacher must be someone familiar with race, ethnicity, culture, and nationality; the ethnicity of the students to receive the information, and the approach to discussing the subject. A closer examination of this article was necessary.

A six-year-old boy came home from school one afternoon and surprised his mother with the question, “are you white”? The irony in the question was the fact that his mom’s maiden name was White, so she had to ask him to be more specific. Since he did not have a grasp of the significance of “white” viewed as an ethnic identity, the mother took the time to explain that she was not white and that a person’s skin complexion does not determine an identity unless he or she believes in myths.  Since mothers are their children’s primary teachers caution must be taken in discussing the subject of race with children because the manner in which the information is presented can, and in many cases, affect the children’s psyche in a positive or negative way.

If the teacher or individual introducing the subject of race to children or anyone for that matter, is not knowledgeable regarding race, ethnicity, culture, and nationality then whatever information given the children will be questionable. The most important decision the teacher must make is whether to discuss race as a myth, or race as a reality, or race as a myth viewed as reality. The results of the teacher’s choice will have a lasting effect on the children’s psyche and how they see themselves as well as how they see others, and how others see them.

Serious challenges accompany each of the choices in that the invention/occurrence of race in American society must be presented and justified. If race is viewed as a myth, then its continuation in society is a problem that society must address until the facts become the guiding principle of its use. All myths can be replaced with facts, but not all people will freely accept the facts. The fact about race is that only one exist, the human race. The benefit in presenting race as the myth it is serves to discount all the derivatives associated with race like racism, racial, biracial, etc….

If race is discussed as a reality then the subjects of its derivatives must also be presented which would include bigotry, prejudice, segregation, discrimination, and integration all of which introduce the overarching topic of European American (white) supremacy. The effect that discussing European American (white)supremacy can have on children was noted in the article: “Studies from the 1940s demonstrated that black American children [African American] as young as 3 associated more negative characteristics :(”bad,” “ ugly,”) to dolls with darker skin and more positive attributes to dolls with light skin and blue eyes (“pretty, “good” ).” So, teaching information about race as a reality would produce a negative affect on how children view themselves and others based on their skin complexion. The teacher would also be tasked with justifying the system of European American (white) supremacy in its many manifestations, especially, European American (white) privileges.

If race is discussed as a myth viewed as reality then the teacher has the responsibility to acknowledge the difference between the two and deliberately choose the way of hypocrisy. In other words, if the teacher knows that race is not biological but chooses to ignore that fact and discuss the myth as reality then a gross disservice is committed against the children and society.  The teacher’s decision to follow the myth as reality involves viewing American society as two-sided—one side that wants and fights from the democratic principles imbedded in the Constitution and Declaration, and one side that is bigoted, self-centered, and controlling using a philosophy of ethnic supremacy  favoring European Americans. Although the teacher’s intentions might be seemingly good, the effect of teaching young children about race, diversity, and tolerance would condition their young minds to look for differences in each other that are man-made and minor while avoiding the majority of things they have in common that are good and biological.

When race is taught so is bigotry because it unites and divides—us and them. One cannot avoid the facts of American slavery and ethnic diversity that accompanies a discussion on race. How would the teacher explain the actions of a Christian society that dehumanized people of color by enslaving them and then blaming their enslavement on the color of their skins? How would the teacher prevent the European American children from feeling guilty for the treatment of the slaves by their ancestors? How would the teacher underscore to the children the objective of teaching diversity that should seek to unite all people as one human family and not individual biologically races, while focusing primarily on their differences? The article noted Darnise C. Martin’s comment that “Conversations can be had about dolls, hair, superheroes and just generally helping children know that they are not any less because of skin color.” The problem with that comment is the underling assumption that race is acceptable and tolerable, but can be explained to the children without any psychological effects.

What happens at time when certain subjects are considered for discussions is that little effort is given to defining the terms to be used in and during the discussion because the assumption is that everybody already knows the meanings. Too often we act as though we do not see or realize the bigoted side of American society while we are enacting laws and policies that do just that. For example, sub-standard schools did not appear by accident nor were they invented by African Americans. The history of the African American and other people of color have never been a regular part of the public school curriculum, only Western civilization’s story. So why would we want to continue to promote a history of race to young children that would continue to promote, maintain, and protect bigotry?

So, what are we suppose to do? Why not just tell the truth about race being a myth and know that as long as we act like it is real, it will appear to be so, and in spite of the fact that our DNA says we are more alike than penguins? However, the minute we decide to focus on truth and facts, the myth will begin to deconstruct.

Paul R. Lehman, Bigotry in our language is a not so hidden secret we can afford to ignore

September 3, 2018 at 6:44 pm | Posted in Africa, African American, African American hair, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Civil Right's Act 1964, Constitutional rights, criminal justice, Declaration of Independence, discrimination, DNA, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, Hair, Human Genome, identity, justice, justice system, language, law, Media and Race, minorities, Negro, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, social conditioning, social justice system, socioeconomics, white supremacy, whites | 2 Comments
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The objective from the very beginning was division and on a permanent basis as the reason the founding fathers invented two races, a black and a white. Unlike the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution that said we are one people, the concept of race has kept us separate and unequal. Subsequently, if we continue believing in the concept of races we will continue to be separate and never fulfill the objective of our democracy. If we are to ever have one nation, we will have to change the way to look, speak, and act towards one another. We also need to understand that the language we use helps to keep us separate. For example, as long as some people view themselves as black and white, they will not come together because of the historical significance of those words. They were meant to keep us apart.

Many well-meaning civic groups actually work against themselves by choosing a name that creates a negative and defensive feeling in others towards them. Take, for example, Black Lives Matter, a group that has an objective that is in keeping with the concept of democracy, but because of the word black in the name, it creates a defensive reaction in the minds of many European Americans.

We also have groups that use words like white, Aryan and caucasian that they believe makes them different from people who do not look like them. Their pronounced goal is to save or preserve the so-call white race. They need to visit history to learn what happens to people who are separated or separate themselves from other people; they become extinct, like for example, the Australian Tasmanian Aboriginals, and in America, the Eire people and the colony of Roanoke.

When civic activists call for unity among people of color, they miss the opportunity to enhance their programs by not inviting all concerned people. We as a society have been conditioned to identify ourselves based on our so-called differences when our objective should be for all to use the same identity. We are all Americans, so why is it necessary to use color or ethnicity as part of identity? When visitors come to America, they come using their cultural identity. When Americans get a passport they provide a picture, but no racial or ethnic identity, because our cultural identity is American, not black or white, Hispanic or Asian etc.

We do ourselves a constant disservice by identifying ourselves as separate groups which have been our legacy since slavery. We have to grasp the reality of our situation understanding that the concept of biological races is a myth, invention, social construction, and lie. Prior to the Human Genome Project, everything about races with the numerous divisions, classifications, and characteristics was conjecture and opinion. We now have scientific proof, validation, and evidence that all human beings are more alike than penguins, and the skin complexion, eye shape and color, and hair texture are not unique to a select group of human beings. We are of one race of beings whether we like it or not.

We might think that language does not play so great a part in our lives and our behavior, but studies old and recent underscore the fact that when the words black and white are used in a sentence referring to an identity, a measured reaction occurs. The reaction for the European American, usually an increased heartbeat, is observed when the word black is used because of the social conditioning associated with the word. African Americans do not experience a similar reaction when the word white appeared in a sentence because they are conditioned to seeing it and without feeling threatened.

The media in American society contributes greatly to the separation of ethnic groups by the way they use inappropriate identity language. For example, if a bank is robbed and the robber was apprehended, nothing pertaining to the robbery is gained when the ethnicity of the robber is identified. Except, in American society today the identity of the robber is omitted if he or she happens to be European American, but the identity is almost always given when the robber ‘s identity is a person of color. The effect of the naming the identity of the ethnic person serves to strengthen the negative stereotype society already has of the person of color.

Another way in which the media contributes to the negative stereotypes and biased attitudes held by some Americans relative to people of color has to do with the mentioning of the geographic location of an incident that is readily identified as being in a location where predominately people of color reside. Again, the mere mention of the location adds to the negative stereotype held by many people familiar with the location.

Today, with all the problems America is facing relative to our government and the various policies being addressed both positively and negatively, we need to take the opportunity to add our concept of race and identity into the mix and deal with it once and for all. We continue to talk about racism as if it was legitimate rather than bigotry which is what has been and continues to be practiced in society. Yes, our language uses the word racism to talk about social biases, but simultaneously serves to keep the concept of races alive and our society separate. We need to decide what kind of society we want to live in as well as our children and grandchildren. Once we make that choice, we need to get to work and make it happen. We have been talking about racism for three hundred years to no avail because we are still talking about it without a change in the daily behaviors of people. Racism is not the problem, we are because we refuse to accept the fact that we have been living in a false reality. What we cannot continue pretending to not see is the rapidly changing demographics that will force changes in society relative to cultural and ancestral identities.

We currently have an opportunity to make great strides in addressing our oneness as a society by debunking the myth of race and working to make America what it was meant to be a democracy. We will not and cannot get to where we want, and need, to be if we do not change from using our misleading ethnically biased language of bigotry.

Paul R. Lehman, Everyday bigotry and the language of social control

August 25, 2018 at 1:18 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Civil Right's Act 1964, Congress, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, Hair, identity, justice, language, lower class, Media and Race, minorities, minority, political power, politicians, Prejudice, President Obama, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, whites | Leave a comment
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Everyday bigotry is basically a normal day in America. What makes it normal is that it is part of the fabric of American society that hides beneath the veneer of the idea of democracy. Social conditioning is a process that occurs when someone is born into a culture or adopts a culture and experiences that culture on a daily basis. The characteristics of that culture are acquired through living with and among the people in that society. The standards and values, customs and practices that are part of that society are not usually questioned or challenged by the people, but accepted as being correct and normal. So, when the system of Anglo-Saxon (European American) supremacy was instituted into society using language that identified two major races, black and white, with white as superior and black as inferior, no one questioned or challenged it. The Africans could not challenge the biased concept because they were powerless; the European Americans did not challenge it because they invented it. The power and control of society was derived through the language the people used and trusted.

The power and control of society through language can be demonstrated in the concept of physical beauty. The European Americans established themselves and their physical qualities as representative of the normal human being. In addition to making themselves the model of humanity, they also placed the highest social value on their features, especially their skin complexion. Therefore, anyone that looked like the European American was viewed as valued more than the people of color, especially the African Americans that did not look European. The slave masters and owners began early in the system of slavery to exploit the European physical features and the degree of so-called European (white) blood reported in the slaves as a profit builder. What they did was give names to slaves supposedly having degrees of European blood, names to underscore that degree. So, for example, if a slave was said to have a European American father and an African mother, he or she would be called a mulatto; this designation would allow the slave seller to ask more money for the slave over one with no or less European American blood; the greater the percentage of European blood, the higher the slave’s value.

What this practice did in addition to bringing in more money to the slave owner was to give the slaves with a degree of European American blood a sense of being valued over the slaves without noticeable European American blood. The reality was that regardless the amount of European American blood the slaves had, they were still slaves. In addition, the language told the African American slaves that they were ugly, black and dirty; that their hair was bad because it was kinky, nappy, curly and short. Possessing these physical characteristics, the African slaves knew that being beautiful was impossible for them. However, after slavery, some African Americans believed that acquiring some of the features of the European American might increase their social value. The language as a tool had convinced them to accept the European American standard of beauty as part of a social value system.

One of the wealthiest women in America in the late 1800’s was Madam C. J. Walker who happened to be an African American. Although she made many significant contributions to African American causes during her lifetime, the fact was that she acquired her wealth by exploiting the self-denigration of many men and women of color who wanted to improve their appearance. Even today we see primarily women of color whose natural hair color is dark brown or black with blond hair or undergoing cosmetic surgery on their eyes, noses and mouth in an effort to approximate the European American look of beauty. This attention to physical appearance is due to the influence of the language that causes some Americans of color to question their sense of self and their concept of beauty.

Although the Black Power movement focused on changing the stigma associated with the word black, one of the important and consequential changes to occur was the African Americans view of self and a challenge to the European American standard of beauty. Because they could see themselves as beautiful in the natural, they became free to express that freedom in any way they desired. One result of African Americans’  freedom of expression of their natural beauty was the European Americans’ efforts to adopt aspects of it.

What Americans should understand is that the language we use if not challenged will continue to control us. The language control manifests itself in the actions and reactions of European Americans as well as African Americans. For example, when the word minorities is used by European Americans it is not defined, but has inferred connotations.  So, who are the minorities referred to in the usage of the word? Americans generally assume that the word refers to all ethnic groups of color that reflect a smaller population than European Americans.  Another suggestion that is inferred in the use of the word minorities is the deference to a majority population as being superior, not necessarily numerically, but in influence and power. How will the word be interpreted when the European Americans numerically becomes the numerical minority in the foreseeable future? Will they still be referred to as the majority because of their power and influence? In any event, because the word is not defined, the meaning is never concrete and often seen as derogatory.

With respect to language being viewed as derogatory, President Barack Obama during his last days in office signed into law H.R. 4238 stating that the federal government will no longer use the terms Negro, Oriental, and Minorities in federal writing. The passing of this measure was a rare show of bipartisan  support by the House of Representatives and the Senate. The fact that America is constantly changing demographically demands that we pay attention to how the language is used as a tool for social control as well for as liberation. Just like our demographics change, so does our language with new words coming into usage while some words no longer serve a useful purpose because they are not accurate and are no longer socially acceptable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Paul R. Lehman,How and why bigotry persist in America

August 14, 2018 at 2:49 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, black inferiority, blacks, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, identity, justice, language, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
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An adage frequently heard is “we can’t see the forest for the trees,” serves as an appropriate description of the problem of bigotry in America. A closer look at how and why bigotry persists in America should give us a better overall perspective.

When the enslaved Africans were brought to America, they were human beings with names, cultures, histories, and languages. Once they arrived, the first order of business for the slave masters and owners was to rid them of the only tangible possessions they had, their names. A person’s name is very important because it makes him or her unique, even if the same is the same as others people because each human being is unique. Without a name, we would seemingly not exist simply because no one would know us and so they could not make reference to us because we had no name. So, the first thing the slave masters did was to dehumanize the Africans by taking away their names.

Although a person’s name might not seem that important, it is because included in the name is the person’s history. When a person’s name is taken away, so is his or her history because nothing is available to identify and connect a nameless person with other people. The importance of names and the history they represent are underscored, for example, in the Mexican custom of two given names followed by the father’ and mother’s name. The person’s full name is used, generally, only for legal purposes. Naming children in families after other family members as well as a host of other reasons is common practice today, but when the captured Africans were brought to America, their names were taken away. In place of the names taken, the slaves were renamed by the slave masters, but with only one name. Giving the slaves one name served to prevent them from possessing anything that could be passed along to children. So, a new history was begun for each African captive with the renaming and everything unique and personal relating to their original history was gone. The new names such as slave, negro or black provided no personal identity or significance aside from the connection to the system of American slavery.

The next important element the slave masters and owners took away from the African captives was their language; they were no longer permitted to speak in their native language. The purpose of this action was to prevent the African captives from being able to communicate with fellow countrymen because the ability to communicate with another human being provides a feeling of personal value and worth which also underscores a positive identity. For the slave masters, the process of remaking the African captives could not allow for anything that would give them hope or reference to a former life.

In addition to eliminating the African captives’ ability to speak in their native tongue, the slave masters knew that by preventing any reference to their former language the captives would also lose their culture. The culture of a people is embodied in their language, so when the language is removed, so too is the former culture. So, the process of enslavement is not reserved to the physical body, but also to the mind. Unfortunately for the captives, the mind was as important to the slave masters as the body.

When the African captives were enslaved, they lost their physical freedom; they lost their personal identification; they lost their history, their culture and their language. They were stripped of everything of value to a human being. The slave masters knowing that they must have complete control of the enslaved immediately began the process of conditioning them to a new world. To begin the process, each slave was shown through brute force and intimidation (chains, shackles, and physical abuse) that they were not free. Then they were given names they had to accept and respond to when ordered, and a new language they must learn. The key element of control was transmitted in and through the slave masters’ language.

The primary function of the new language was to inculcate in the minds of the African slaves the system of Anglo-Saxon (white) supremacy. Therefore, as long as the language goes unchallenged the system will remain intact and the minds of American society will continue to be affected by the social conditioning of bigotry. The slaves had to learn to view all Anglo-Saxons (white), and European Americans as the people who controlled their lives as well as their deaths (not natural); that everything relative to them was considered normal; that they represented the normal human being and as such set the standards for life in American society. The things that gave the Anglo-Saxons, and European Americans the power and privileges aside from the laws they instituted, was their skin complexion and the language.

The language informed the African slaves that they were less than human beings; in fact, they were no higher than the animals. The language informed them that their black skin color was frightening, ugly, dirty, and smelly and more like that of the apes than humans. The language told them that their facial features were ugly and biologically not the same as the Anglo-Saxons’ beauty. The African slaves were forced to accept or appear to accept these conditions whether they believed them or not.

Once physical slavery ended, the language, as well as the system of supremacy continued. As late as 150 years ago, an article appeared in the Nation magazine written by Taylor Lewis that made mention of the language and its continued effect of dehumanizing the African American: “Even when we advocate the cause of the African, we do it in a manner that would be though insulting and utterly undemocratic in any other case. We use the language of masters and owners.” He added that “The way in which we speak to the colored man, and of the colored man, shows an unconscious yielding to the anti-christian prejudice we are striving to overcome.”So, the purpose and power of the language have never been a secret to many European Americans, but seemingly, remains to be one for many African American.

The system of European American, Anglo-Saxon (white) supremacy and African American inferiority continues to manifest its presence in the language. Real social progress will begin when we as a society learn to communicate with one another in an unbiased language.

 

Paul R. Lehman, A suggestion of how Rachel Dolezal can resolve her problem of a black/African American identity

May 19, 2018 at 12:26 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, discrimination, DNA, education, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, identity, interpretations, liberty, minority, passing, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, tolerance, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
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All the criticism, complaints, and negative comments about Rachel Dolezal need to stop because she has the right to live her life as she chooses. However, we need to clarify her position and those of her critics so an understanding of this situation can be fully realized. In a recent article by Clarence Page (The Oklahoman, 5/12/2018), the title asks the question: “Why Rachel Dolezal still tries to bend racial rules” relative to the defense of her black identity. The article is basically a review of the movie, “The Rachel Divide,” which Page describes as a “Netflix documentary on which director Laura Brownson began to work shortly after the scandal broke [and it] peels away more layers of that mystery by giving us a closer look at Dolezal’s troubled family and upbringing.” He added that “It may not answer all of the questions as to why she wanted so desperately to be black, but it offers a more complete picture of the life she was trying to escape, along with the social construct of race as the rest of us know it.”More than likely, the movie adds more confusion to Dolezal’s situation and to that of her critics because of one simple word—race.

The problem of Ms. Dolezal’s critics is that they have fallen victim to accepting the concept of race as valid and accurate and because of this acceptance they view everything through a black and white lens. The problem with Dolezal is that she also has fallen victim to accepting the concept of a black race and a white race. Confusion relative to race exists on both sides– Dolezal’s and her critics because they both accept the concept of race by color as valid. Race as Page mentioned is a social construct; i.e., a myth.

When the captured Africans were brought to America, one of the first orders of business for the masters was to take away any sense or feeling of self-worth or value. That was accomplished by taking away their personal identity and providing them with a new identity. The effect of calling the Africans blacks or negroes, which means black, was to deprive them not only of their cultural and ancestral identity but also of their history. By referring to the African captives as blacks or negroes, their history begins with their experience as slaves.

The constructing of a black and a white race by the founding fathers was the basis of what is known as the system of white (European American) supremacy, a system that has the European Americans view themselves as the most important people on the planet. American society supported the supremacy concept by having all the social institutions comply with that concept. Consequently, many Americans believe the concept of a black and a white race to be true. Two facts about the concept of race remain: one, race by color has never been defined; second, race by color cannot be defined because the colors are not consistent or definite (fixed). Therefore, the system of European American supremacy can only exist by law, or agreement, voluntary or forced. According to recent scientific findings, all human beings belong to the same family or race known as Homo Sapiens; no other race of human beings exist on the planet.

The problem, as well as the confusion regarding Dolezal and her critics, is that both sides accept the black/white race concept as legitimate. Both sides are wrong in their thinking about race. The point that needs to be underscored in this matter is that all human beings have two identities—one cultural, one ancestral. The cultural identity is the one that the individual selects, usually based on the culture and/or geographic location in which they lived or were born into. An example shows the difference as when a person who, for example,  was born and raised in Haiti immigrated to America and became a citizen. That person’s cultural identity would be American with no reference to skin color or any other physical characteristics; that person’s ancestral or ethnic identity would be Haitian. If that Haitian person married an American and a child was born to them, the child’s cultural identity would be American, with no reference to skin color; however, the child’s ancestral or ethnic identity would be Haitian and American to reflect the identities of both parents. The ancestral identity is not usually viewed as a necessary or primary part of a person’s cultural identity. For example, when a person of color comes to America, only their cultural identity is necessary such as German, English, French, Nigerian, Egyptian, and Jamaican etc.

Dolezal’s problem with her identity is based on her reference to an ancestral identity that does not exist for her since both her biological parents are Americans of European heritage. As long as she identifies herself as an American, regardless of the ethnic cultural she chooses, she should have few conflicts. However, because she wants to identify her cultural identity which is American, as an ancestral identity, which to her is black/African American, a problem is created with the critics who realize that that identity would be false.  One way to avoid the problem which Dolezal found herself in is to simply identify herself as an American woman of color. No reference to an ancestral identity is necessary and no feelings will be hurt. After all, all human beings originated in Africa and that is part of our DNA. Besides, all people are brown, just different shades of brown.

The acceptance of race as valid and correct is and has been the problem for centuries. The language we use helps to keep us ignorant of who we are and what we are—all human being belong to one race. The fact that ethnic identity is usually based on geography does not mean that a biological difference exists among people. David Reich, a Harvard University paleogeneticist whose new book called Who We Are and How We Got Here, noted that “There are not fixed traits associated with specific geographic locations, Reich says, because as often as isolation has created differences among populations, migration and mixing have blurred or erased them.”In essence, no separate homogeneous race exists.

What this all means is that no one person or group has a monopoly on race regardless of skin color. So, if Dolezal wants to identify herself as an American woman of color, she has every right to do so, because references to an identity on a cultural basis are purely voluntary. Biologically, skin color is just that, skin color.

Paul R. Lehman, Trump and Goldberg uninformed on Confederacy monument removal

August 24, 2017 at 2:52 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, Baltimore, Bigotry in America, blacks, Catherine Pugh, criminal activity, Criticism, Democrats, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, extremists, fairness, justice, justice system, language, law, Leftists, Media and Race, political power, politicians, Prejudice, President Trump, protest, Race in America, racism, respect, Slavery, social justice system, The Oklahoman, The U.S. Constitution, whites | Leave a comment
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A Bernard Goldberg commentary “Where Does current Movement End?  Question posed by Trump is one worth considering,” (The Oklahoman 8/23/17) gave pause for concern. The part of the title is a question that President Trump asked while making comments relative to the Charlottesville protest recently. The second part of the title makes the statement that the question was worth asking. For someone knowledgeable of history both question and statement would seem disingenuous. Nonetheless, we will examine both concerns as best we can.

Goldberg begins his comments by relating an incident from his youth, the 1960s when his family drove South from New Jersey to Florida. He recalls his reaction to his father stopping at a restaurant that feathered a “Whites only” sign by refusing to go in and eat. His family decided not to eat there. From this experience, Goldberg makes the statement that “My parents weren’t bigots. They were appalled at what they saw on TV coming out of places like Mississippi and Alabama.”Goldberg still does not realize that all Americans, European Americans, as well as African Americans, were conditioned to see bigotry as something natural. One wonders why Goldberg chose the South to use as an example of ethnic bigotry when he could have just as easily selected any part of New Jersey with its isolated ethnic populated communities. That is, of course, unless he did not live in a segregated community, attend a segregated school, worship in a segregated church, which he possible could have. But one thing was clear from his story; he and his family saw themselves as white. As a white person in America, viewing people of color as inferior was natural and commonly accepted by whites. That conditioning allows European Americans North and South to see bigotry in others, but not in themselves. That might be why Goldberg could say that his parents were not bigots.

He subsequently, made the comment that a case can be made for Trump asking the question: “Where does it end?” He continued: Is taking down a statue of Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson or Jefferson Davis enough?” Goldberg, evidently, does not understand the reasons for removing the statues and monuments in the first place. New Orléans major, Mitch Landrieu,  offered a host of reasons for the removal, for example, he noted that “ New Orleans was America’s largest slave market: a port where hundreds of thousands of souls were brought, sold and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor of misery of rape, of torture.” He added that “America was the place where nearly 4,000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the courts enshrined ‘separate but equal’; where Freedom riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp.”Speaking specifically regarding the monuments he stated: “So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.”

In addition to Mayor Landrieu, Baltimore, Maryland, mayor Catherine Pugh, had several statutes removed under the cover of darkness to avoid protesters and possible violence. One statue was “A monument of Taney, the supreme court justice who oversaw the 1857 Dred Scott case declaring that black people could not be American citizens, was to Pugh particularly disgraceful. She remarked: “How does a statue like that, a supreme court judge who oversaw the Dred Scott case, even exist? Why does someone like that even deserve a statue? Why should people have to feel that kind of pain every day?”Many other local and state officials have joined the movement to remove the offensive statues and monuments.

Goldberg shows his bias when he posed the question: “Is that where it ends—with a mob deciding what statues stay and which one go?” Evidently, Goldberg has not been watching or reading the news reports of how the mayors in several Southern cities decided to remove some statues honoring Confederate men. The references to two mayors of two major cities should more than underscore who makes the decisions to remove the statues and monuments. Why would Goldberg think the decisions are made by mobs? If Goldberg and Trump fully understood the reason for the movement of remove the statues and monuments, the question of “where does the movement end” turns rhetorical. The movement has its bases in history, not conjecture or assumed notions of correcting a wrong. The wrongs committed cannot be correct, but a constant reminder wrongs perpetrated against a people can be removed.

Another of Goldberg’s comments seems to go beyond the boundaries of common sense and logic: “Asking who’s next and where does it end doesn’t make you a white supremacist, or even unreasonable.” One would hope that before questions of the nature posed that a working knowledge of the movement in question might be acquired. Asking questions would never make a person anything by seems informed or uninformed about the subject matter. The answer to the question “who’s next” would depend on whose asking the question and what Confederate statue or monument is being considered. The history of the statue or monument relative to the time and place it occupies and why it was erected. A question important to the significance of the statue or monument would be does this monument honor the Confederacy or reflect some aspect of ethnic bigotry? In any case its presence on public property would be of concern.

What Goldberg seems to suggest is that the people who find the monuments the Confederacy offensive and sensitive are somehow taking their 1st Amendment rights too far. He added: “Leftist already shut down speech they don’t like on college campuses, including public universities funded by taxpayers. Is it such a stretch to silence people we detest from the public square?” Identifying but not defining some people as “Leftists,”  Goldberg, apparently, believe these people go about indiscriminately creating and causing problems simply because they do not like something. Also, why would he think these people are not taxpayers? Goldberg totally missed the point of the movement and its proponents and it shows in his uninformed comments and questions. Most people in the movement do not want to silence anyone, but they do want to exercise their rights to protest and seek to remove anything that historically has been shown to be offensive and hurtful to them and other citizens.

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