Paul R. Lehman, The safety and well-being of African American males and all people of color are a constant concern

April 17, 2020 at 4:18 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, amygdala, anglo saxons, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Civil Right's Act 1964, Civil Rights Ats, Constitutional rights, criminal justice, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, fairness, incarceration, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, minorities, Police, police education & training, police force, Race in America, racism, respect, skin color, skin complexion, social conditioning, social justice system, The New York Times, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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African American men specifically and men of color in general, put their lives on the line every day when they walk outside of their residence or simply appear in public. For the people that are not of color in America, this statement might seem somewhat amusing or offered in jest. On the contrary, the statement is not an opinion, but a fact. The reason for this experience comes directly from the social conditioning of European Americans generally and law enforcement agents specifically. Society and by extension, the governments, local, state, and national have given the law enforcers the power to exercise total control of its citizens without fear of reprisal; that is, they have no fear of repercussions for their actions against citizens. The attitude and action of many of these law enforcers seem to be that people of color have no rights that the officers should respect. For the people of color, once they are stopped by officers, they lose all their rights and privileges while the officers exert total control over the individuals.
The criminal justice system works in favor of the officer, not the citizens of color because the word of the officer is taken over that of the citizens. Historically, the relationship between the African American community and the European American one has been one of dominance and control by law enforcement. According to Danielle Sered, “The racially inequitable legacy of policing stretches back to the formation of this nation, and police have not only failed to protect communities of color from harm, but they have enacted enormous levels of harm.” She continued by noting that “This [harm] is not simply or most importantly about individual police officers, many of whom have the best intentions and even behavior in their work. It is about an institution with a history of enabling and enforcing the worst disparities in our country’s history.” More specifically, she added that “It is about officers who returned escaped people to the plantations they were fleeing, officers who publicly announced the times of lynchings to be carried out in the backyards of their own precincts, officers who drove black residents out of neighborhoods where they had bought homes,” and finally, “officers who continue to arrest, assault, and shoot black people at glaringly disproportionate rates.” So the question of trust in the criminal justice system has never been one that people of color readily embraced.
Americans have been socially conditioned to fear African Americans generally, but especially one with whom they are not familiar. According to one source, new scientific research provides some data into how African American men are perceived: “When people see black men they don’t know, they have a physical response that is different from their response to other people. Their blood pressure goes up and they sweat more. When a white person sees an unfamiliar black male face, the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes fear, activates.” (American Values Institute, March 2013) When European Americans join the criminal justice system they do not leave their fear of African American males at home, but bring them to their workplace. This fear might explain why many European American law enforcers become excited and aggressive when engaging with an African American male.
Fortunately for the Law enforcement agents, their actions against people of color are not often questioned, so the fear of having to suffer any consequences for their unreasonable treatment of people of color is not usually scrutinized. The public record of their actions speaks for itself and supports the fact that officers are not held to the same standard of behavior as other citizens. So, they often misuse and abuse the power granted them by the system. A recent incident underscores the power given to law enforcers who are free to profile, stop, and detain men of color without offering any reasons for their actions. A recent New York Times article noted that an African American man wearing a protective mask and working outside near a white van when a Miami police officer drives up next to this man. Next, “The officer steps out of his squad car. Words are exchanged. Then the officer handcuffs and detains the man, Dr. Armen Henderson, who was recently featured in a Miami Herald article about volunteers who provide free coronavirus testing for homeless people in downtown Miami.”Rather than seeking information from the doctor regarding his actions, the officer ignored the doctor’s informing him of who he was and what he was doing. The doctor did not have any identification on him and would have been taken away had he not called for his wife who came out of their home and confronted the officer. Once the officer realized that he had made a mistake, he removed the handcuffs from the doctor and left the scene without any word of his actions or an apology.
What this incident shows is the vulnerability of African American males to the justice system that ignores everything but skin color in administering their control. The fact that Henderson is a doctor, a volunteer risking his life in helping to fight the coronavirus or the fact that he was working in front of his home wearing a protective mask made no difference to the officer who did not take the time to inquire about or grasp the nature of Henderson’s presence at that location. One wonders what kind of education the officer received at the academy regarding the treatment of citizens.
If society can benefit from this crisis of the coronavirus it should be in the fact that to the virus we are all one. The virus does not discriminate on the bases of ethnicity, age, economic or educational status, social position, religion or health. We, hopefully, understand that by working together even though we are sometimes put in harm’s way, that our combined efforts and sacrifice will help us to finally successfully control and manage this crisis thereby contributing to our mutual survival. We must learn that our strength is our unity.

Paul R. Lehman, The Department of Justice Report on Ferguson and America.

March 6, 2015 at 5:15 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, Constitutional rights, Darren Wilson, democracy, Department of Justice, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, Ferguson, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, liberty, Michael Brown, police force, Prejudice, Race in America, racism, segregation, skin color, social justice system, socioeconomics, state Government, The New York Times, tribalism, whites | 1 Comment
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The Department of Justice just recently published its report on the city of Ferguson, in an effort to get a clear picture of the community relations involving African American citizens. Since before the death of Michael Brown, the African American citizens had been complaining about the unfair and abusive treatment they have received from the police department as well as the municipal court and jail. Many outsiders questioned the complaints made by some of the African American citizens because of the trust and expectation for justice that has always been a part of common belief relative to these entities. The DOJ’s report should give some credence to the African American citizens’ complaints.

A typical example of what the report indicated regarding a community 67% African American and the percentage of African Americans stopped by the police. The report indicated that over the past 2 years, the police conducted traffic stops where 85% were African Americans. From those stops, 90% of the African American citizens were issued tickets. In addition, the record shows that 93% of the total arrests were of African Americans. Finally, 95% of the stops made by the police were for Jaywalking. The report further indicated that African Americans were two times as likely to have their autos searched than European Americans (whites) and if arrested, African Americans represented 95% of citizens kept in jail more than 2 days.

Other aspects of the report serve to underscore the systemic discrimination and abuse perpetrated on the African American citizens of Ferguson by the municipal and police agencies. Because of the amount of monies generated from the citizens’ arrest, fines, and incarcerations the report indicated that it constituted 21% of the city’s budget. The DOJ sees the means for collecting that money as a violation of the citizens’ First and Fourth Amendment rights. In effect, the operation of the city of Ferguson, in part, is dependant on the unfair and unjust treatment of its African American citizens.

To those American citizens who had doubts relative to the reports of African American citizens who raised complaints regarding the treatment they experienced by the police and other public agencies, the report should be sobering, to say the least. However, if the reaction of those Americans who do not feel that this DOJ report reflects only on the people of Ferguson, they are sadly mistaken. If they choose not to realize that ethnic bigotry and discrimination is an American problem, then they are living in an illusion. Some police and local governmental official can no longer use the excuse that only a few “bad apples” create the problems that the entire department or agency must bear. When we look at the numbers in the report, we must conclude the possibility of a number of things: one, the problem of bigotry is part of the system, or two, only the “bad apples” do most of the work.

If the arguments of only the “bad apples” create the community relations problems involving the African Americans, and the police and municipal government know this as a fact, why have they let it continue without recognizing the injustices and moved to correct them? One reason has to do with the community being conditioned to see the police as “never at fault” in making an arrest or using deadly force. The number of African American men killed during police interaction in the past two years is proof that something is not working in the African American’s favor. When one public official from Ferguson was asked about the large percentage of African American arrests, he shifted the responsibility to the people being arrested by saying that they should not have committed an offence or they deserved to be arrested.

While the DOJ report is important and informative, the conditions in Ferguson will not change unless and until some definite action to address and correct the problems are pursued, and soon. To many of the European American officials in Ferguson, the problem is minor and simply involved hiring a few people of color and maybe dismissing a few employees. Unfortunately, they do not realize that they are part of the problem—their mind-set does not encompass the systemic presence of bigotry. They are not exceptions, many European Americans do not understand, accept, or appreciate the presence of ethnic bigotry in America. We must await the reaction from the citizens of Ferguson to the following statements in the article, U.S.|​NYT, “Now Ferguson Police Tainted by Bias, Justice Department Says,” by MATT APUZZO and JOHN ELIGON, MARCH 4, 2015:

“The Justice Department on Wednesday called on Ferguson, Mo., to overhaul its criminal justice system, declaring that the city had engaged in so many constitutional violations that they could be corrected only by abandoning its entire approach to policing, retraining its employees and establishing new oversight.”

That statement did not call for the hiring or firing of a few individuals, but “to overhaul its criminal justice system.”Obviously, simply replacing parts of the present system will not suffice. Chances are the officials in Ferguson do not view the problems in the same context as the Justice Department. The problems as the DOJ see them are systemic, not modular. The next statement is more specific and direct relative to the experiences encountered by the African Americans citizens of Ferguson”

“In one example after another, the report described a city that used its police and courts as moneymaking ventures, a place where officers stopped and handcuffed people without probable cause, hurled racial slurs, used stun guns without provocation, and treated anyone as suspicious merely for questioning police tactics.”

Many European Americans do not see ethnic bigotry as a systemic problem affecting all Americans; rather they see it as separate instances involving individuals with personal problems. That might explain the Ferguson police department and municipal authority’s initial reaction to the report. Ferguson is not an isolated example of the refusal to accept ethnic bigotry as an American problem. However, if Americans do not recognize and accept their responsibility as part of the problem, then little positive change will take place. They need to see bigotry from their inside out, rather than from the outside only. The problems of Ferguson are America’s problems; America needs to address them.

Journalists’ use of race by color continues to create confusion

April 30, 2013 at 12:01 am | Posted in African American, Alzheimer's disease, blacks, Daniel Chang, DNA, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, Human Genome, Media and Race, minority, Race in America, skin color, The New York Times, University of Miami, whites | 2 Comments
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Two articles reporting on “Alzheimer’s disease in blacks” arrived at different conclusions about the study’s affect on African Americans. The first article discussed here in the last blog was written by Daniel Chang in the Miami Herald (4/11/13) entitled “Researchers identify possible new gene linked to Alzheimer’s disease in blacks.” The earlier article in The New York Times (4/9/13) written by Gina Kolata is entitled “In Blacks, Alzheimer’s Study Finds Same Variant Genes as in Whites.” We find some interesting similarities as well as differences in comparing these two articles that focused on the same topic: Alzheimer’s disease in blacks.
Actually, the similarities are few; first, they include a reference to “Alzheimer’s disease in blacks” in their headlines. Next, they both discuss the gene ABCA7. Other similarities might exist, but these two are the major ones. The Chang article suggested that the important concern is that this ABCA7 gene is found in blacks and is also linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Of course, we had problems with the use of the word blacks. The only reference to blacks by Kolata appears in the headline. Obviously, someone else could have written the headline for Kolata’s article without fully reading or appreciating the text.
The differences between the Chang article and Kolata’s are many, but the major ones verify the comments made in the last blog by Chang regarding the use of blacks as an identity. Nowhere in Kolata’s article does the reference to blacks appear. Because of this deliberate act, the readers are spared any confusion about the study or who it involves “African-Americans have a slightly higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease than people of largely European ancestry, but there is no major genetic difference that could account for the slight excess risk, new research shows.” In effect, no major concerns for African Americans acquiring Alzheimer’s disease were detected as a result of this study. This statement is contrary to the Chang statement:”University of Miami medical school researchers working with geneticist and physicians from other institutions have identified a new gene associated with Alzheimer’s disease in blacks, a finding that doctors say could help them prescribe more effective drugs for patients affected by the disease.”
The Kolata article does not place emphasis on blacks as does the Chang article, but on the disease; it says that “The results are from one of the only large studies ever done on Alzheimer’s in African-Americans. Researchers identified the same gene variant in older African-Americans that they had found in older people of European ancestry.” Chang’s article never mentions people of European ancestry. Kolata’s article continued, noting that the study “…found that African-Americans with Alzheimer’s disease were slightly more likely to have one gene, ABCA7 that is thought to confer risk for the disease.” In addition, the Kolata article noted that “Another gene, AP0E4, long known to increase Alzheimer’s risk in older white people, was present in about the same proportion of African-Americans with Alzheimer’s as it is in people of European ancestry.”This quote mentions the word “white” for the first and only time in the article.
So, what is the point being made here? The point is when ethnic identity is used and clearly defined, such as in African American and European ancestry or European Americans little confusion occurs. When color is used as ethnic identity, no one knows for certain who is being identified. The fact that the Chang article used blacks only suggested that some biological difference appeared in African Americans that did not exist in European Americans. The use of color, be it black or white, always suggest race and different races at that. Using the terms African American and people of European ancestry in her article, Kolata avoids the confusion associated with the color words.
We can compliment Kolata on her avoidance of suggesting a so-called racial difference in the Alzheimer’s study when she commented that “The researchers calculated that ABCA7 increased Alzheimer’s risk by about 80 percent in African- Americans, compared with about 10 percent to 20 percent in people of European ancestry. “ She added that “Those are considered modest increases; a gene that carries a significant risk would increase the chances of getting a disease by well over 200 percent.” She continued by noting that “…ABCA7 was not very common, still leaving most Alzheimer’s risk unexplained. About 9 of every 100 African-American with Alzheimer’s had the gene, compared with 6 out of 100 who did not have the disease.”
All the attention to blacks paid by Chang was totally unnecessary. One Alzheimer’s researcher, Dr. John Hardy, commented on the study by applauding the participants for their focus on minorities then “cautioned that the difference in risk between African-Americans and those of European ancestry who had ABCA7 was unlikely to be meaningful.” Actually, the Chang article seemed to promote race and racial differences as the focus of his article when the information did not support it. The Kolata article presented the study information in a clear and unbiased way. Her article is a good example of how ethnic identities rather than race can be used positively and effectively. Other journalists would do well to follow her example

Paul R. Lehman, America’s public education a far cry from integregation

September 30, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, integregation, justice, minority, Prejudice, public education, socioeconomics, The New York Times, U.S. Education Department Office for Civil Rights, whites | 3 Comments
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When the Supreme Court ruled that separate public schools were not equal, the law was changed to desegregate the schools. While that order seemed to be the appropriate approach to take at the time, what has not changed over time and has been a stumbling block to progress in American public education is the attitude of European American normalcy. In essence, while ethnic minorities have been given permission to attend school with the European American students, the subject matter as well as the control of the perceptions has been that of European Americans as the model of normalcy.

When the schools were segregated, prior to 1954, the African American students attended school where they were the norm. No doubt existed relative to their self-worth and abilities to achieve an education. Once desegregation came into existence, subjects like African American history were discontinued. Since the majority of the new teachers had no background or knowledge of African Americans from an historical perspective, they could not share that information with the students. So, although African American and European American students attended the same school, they did not receive the same educational experience. If the African American students attended a predominantly European American school, the feeling of self worth, security, familiarity, and normalcy disappeared. For the European American students, nothing changed but the introduction of unfamiliar students in their school.

Today we live under the misconception that our schools are integrated.  America’s schools have never been integrated! Let us be clear about these terms. Desegregation of the schools meant simply that African American students were allowed to attend the predominantly European American schools; that is all that happened. Nothing in the European Americans schools’ curricula, attitude and perception of African Americans changed. If the African American students were to experience success, they must adapt to the environments of the schools; no special accommodations were made for them.

Integration is a term that carries the same meaning in science or social environments; it means the process of mixing or combining. If we take a look at our public schools today, we cannot miss the mixing of students in many schools, while we can also notice the lack of mixing of student in others. Unless we are mistaken about the court ruling, the purpose of the ruling was to eliminate the separate and unequal education the students were receiving. Although the impact of the ruling fell on the African American students as victims, the European Americans were as well victims because they had been deprived of information concerning their fellow Americans.

One easy way to check to see if American Education reflects integration is to examine the text books being used in the public schools. If they present an accurate and factual picture of ethnic Americans as participants in the making of this nation, then we can answer affirmative to integration. If not, then we cannot claim to have integrated public schools and admit that much work needs to be done, namely, rewriting the American story to include the contributions of  ethnic minorities. To date, the history of America as told in the text books is the history of European Americans. In addition to the story that is being told, not all Americans have a say in what is presented to the students. In effect, a form of censorship is practiced that affects and influences the students and teachers alike.

In an article by Gail Collins, “How Texas Inflicts Bad Textbooks on Us,” published in “The New York Review of Books” (6/21/12), we learn that “No matter where you live, if your children go to public schools, the textbooks they use were very possibly written under Texas influence.” What that means is a few people in Texas have used their power to control the content of many textbooks. We are told that people in Texas are not the only ones to have a say about the content of textbooks, but the influence exerted by Texas comes from its size and system for electing State Board members: “The difference is due to size—4.8 million textbook-reading schoolchildren as of 2011—and the peculiarities of its system of government, in which the State Board of Education is selected in elections that are practically devoid of voters, and wealthy donors can chip in unlimited amounts of money to help their favorites win.”

In her article, Collins details just how Texas and other states, like California can influence the content of books simply by the volume of sales. The influence of the group in Texas comes from “the right,” and much of their concern with the textbooks comes from their religious beliefs. For example, the article noted that “In 2009, the nation watched in awe as the state board worked on approving a new science curriculum under the leadership of a chair who believed that “evolution is hooey.” In 2010 teachers were supposed to “work in consultation with ‘experts’ added on by the board, one of whom believed that the income tax was contrary to the word of God in the scriptures.”

To the earlier point that America’s public schools are not integrated the article noted the following:

In 2011, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank, issued an evaluation of US history standards for public schools. The institute was a longtime critic of curricula that insisted that representatives of women and minorities be included in all parts of American history. But the authors, Sheldon Stern and Jeremy Stern, really hated what the Texas board had done. Besides incorporating “all the familiar politically correct group categories,” the authors said,

the document distorts or suppresses less triumphal or more nuanced aspects of our past that the Board found politically unacceptable (slavery and segregation are all but ignored, while religious influences are grossly exaggerated). The resulting fusion is a confusing, unteachable hodgepodge.

The article provides much more information then could be included in this blog. However,  when we stop and take a good long look at education, we realize that much of the perception and attitude relative to what and who is important to our students is still controlled by a small number of narrow-minded people who do not understand or accept democracy. Desegregation was to be the first major step after segregation on the road to democracy. Today we also realize that we still must face the challenges of ethnic bias, low social and economic status, preschools, curricula and a host of related areas. After taking a realistic assessment of our situation, we find that we have only just begun to see the challenge in education for our society.

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