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

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

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Paul R. Lehman, Disparaging ethnic comment causes concern in Ada,OK

July 17, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, Ethnicity in America, Race in America | 3 Comments
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The lovely little town of Ada, Oklahoma has been enjoying an
atmosphere of ethnic harmony for the past few years. Relations among the
various ethnic populations had progressed to the point that group collaboration
in the interest of beautifying the town resulted in the creation of an Ada
Beautification Committee. All was going well until the chairman of the
committee, Dexter Pruitt, made comments that burst the bubble of cooperation,
good will and unity. What made matters worse was the fact that the group in his
immediate vicinity offered comments of agreement along with laughter that
indicated support for the comments.

The news story on KWTV-9 reported that Pruitt’s comments
included the statement that “…but if we don’t get on top of our town we’ve got
too many n…..s and Mexicans moving in.” The “n” reference was apparently meant
to suggest African Americans; the reference to Mexicans is self-explanitory.
This comment and the subsequent support of the people surrounding Pruitt do
several things simultaneously to help destroy the good-will that had been
created in the committee. The information derived from this experience places a
burden on the town of Ada and its residents.

The language and tone of the comment and the subsequent group
reaction indicated a mindset that dates pre 1954 when segregation,
discrimination, and bigotry were facts of everyday life in many Oklahoma towns,
including Ada. What that mindset indicated was the belief by some European
Americans that America is their country exclusively, and they only permit some
non-European Americans to live near them in towns like Ada. The fact that the
‘N’ word was used showed a lack of education or respect for African Americans and/or
bias and ignorance. Either way, the cover of friendliness, unity and acceptance
regarding ethnic identity was ripped away and in its place a not so beautiful
image appeared,

The idea of ethnic superiority, privilege and power by
European Americans also came to the surface in Pruitt’s comment. The ease and
sense of security that seemed to pervade the atmosphere where the comment was
made suggest a feeling of comfort with ethnic prejudice as long as public
scrutiny is avoided. So, one might ask, is the human relations progress that
all thought they were experiencing simply a delusion? One thing is for certain,
the citizens of Ada are the losers in this incident. The most important thing
Ada has lost relative to this incident is trust. The words and actions of some
people can no longer be received as reliable regarding ethnic relations.

Another result of the Pruitt incident indicated that
ignorance of history and ethnic relations have been ignored in favor of
retaining the privilege of normalcy among the European Americans in the group.
Evidently, no one in the group thought to challenge the use of the ‘n’ words or
the biased reference to Mexicans and “our town.” Should a quota be created to
keep the number of African Americans and Mexicans from “moving in?” The comment
seemingly indicated a level of fear that some thing bad or negative would occur
if something was not done to restrict the growth of the ethnic population.

One of the obvious reactions to Pruitt and party being caught
in the act of this kind of incident is to offer an apology quickly to try and
prevent further fall-out and damage. The apology is usually offered for the
wrong reason. The apology should not be offered for uttering the denigrating
words, or for getting caught uttering those words, but for the biased mind and
thought process that said it was okay to denigrate and disrespect a fellow
citizen purely on the basis of their ethnicity. Although Pruitt uttered the
comment, the reaction of the people surrounding him showed agreement with his
thoughts. They should also offer an apology for being supportive of ignorant
and biased thoughts.

For the town of Ada, some good can come from this incident
if handled correctly. The majority of the citizens of Ada are good,
law-abiding, friendly people who would never endorse the behavior of Pruitt and
party. What is also evident in Ada is a lack of knowledge and understanding by
some citizens regarding human relations. The citizens of Ada must realize that
some of its citizens still hold on to the false belief in a so-called white
race. Although no such thing exists in actuality, through the years that belief
has been cultivated in the minds of many Americans. To lose that sense of
specialness and privilege would be devastating to some people because their
identity is all they belief they have of value and that is why they fight so
vigorously to hold on to it. If real progress in human relations, especially
among non-European Americans, is to be made, then a new understanding and
perspective must be acquired by the citizens of Ada. Arriving at a new
understanding and perspective must come from an informed and receptive
mind—through education.

Most of the information about ethnic Americans both European
Americans and non-European Americans acquired through education tends to keep
progress at a standstill. The status quo still views people of various ethnic
identities as members of different races. The concept of many races was
debunked worldwide as early as the 1940s. Yet, many Americans want to hold on
to that false belief because it forms the basis for discrimination –viewing
one so-called race superior over another. This information is no longer valid
and accurate, so promoting it would be a disservice to not only the citizens,
but also the youth. Excuses for a slip of the tongue relative to bigotry and
prejudice can no longer be tolerated because a slip simple means that only a
small measure of the real bias was exposed; the majority of the bigotry is
still inside. The real challenge then is to root out the bigotry inside.
Education is the tool made specifically for such a job, for while it might not
eliminate the bigotry, it will remove the excuse of ignorance.

Paul R. Lehman, African American History, not black history

July 10, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Posted in American Racism, Ethnicity in America, Race in America | 2 Comments
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When African Americans had the opportunity to change their
identity from Negro, black, and colored to African American during the cultural
revolution of the 60s and 70s, they elected not to do so. Instead, they chose
to change the word black from a negative to a positive, at least in the African
American community. While the change brought about a new positive
self-awareness in many African Americans, the positive self-awareness was
limited to African Americans. That is, European Americans who referred to
African Americans as blacks before the Cultural Revolution, and meant it in a
derogatory way, can still do it. The reaction of the African American, however,
has changed from an active one to a passive one. Unfortunately, the missed
opportunity to change the identity to African American has created deeper
problems that if left unattended will continue long into the future. African
Americans must divorce themselves from the use of the word black as a form of
identity or a substitute for African American.

The obvious question to follow is– Why? The obvious answer
is that the word is simply a color that does not identify a people, culture,
country, or an ethnicity. What is does do is provide support for a false belief
that African Americans are of a different biological race than European
Americans. This difference serves as the basis of prejudice, bigoted, and
biased attitudes by some people against African Americans. Maybe an example
will suffice to make this point more clearly.

A former colleague mentioned recently that his department
had hired a new professor to teach the black history classes. What the
statement suggested to me was that somehow black history is something totally
separate and different from traditional American history. Did he mean African
American history or black history? What exactly is black history? What does it
include—the history of all people with black skins or African Americans who use
the word black as a form of identity? If he meant the latter, he should have
said so to eliminate any confusion. However, if African Americans are okay with
being identified with a color only, they must realize that the color is all
they can pass along to future generations. History, culture, and ancestry are
all important to an identity, but if the identity does not convey those things,
it is use less.

Another of the problems caused by using the word black
instead of African American is it lacks specificity. No one, to my knowledge,
takes a class in white history because such a class does not exist. American
History is the term used for the history that records the European American
experience in America. References to important events and individuals relating
to slavery are sometimes included in that history. However, the everyday
experiences and accomplishments of African Americans have been omitted from
traditional American History. If that deficiency of information is to be
corrected, it cannot be done in a class called black history because all the
influences by the European Americans that created, ordered, manipulated, and
controlled the African Americans would be omitted. A class in American History
with emphasis on the African American experience or simply African American History
would be more to the point.

The words black and white have the coordinating words bad
and good, respectively, that accompanies their identity in American society.
What that black identity means in the academic world is that any class with the
word black in it is not valued as much as one that speaks to the subject
without it. The point here is that the word black serves as a marker for not
being on a par with the official subject. The fact of the matter is that
European Americans do not care what African Americans call themselves or
classes about them. The word black as a marker, however, serves to separate and
devalue whatever it is associated with relative to African American identity.
In addition, the word black always points backwards toward slavery,
segregation, discrimination, prejudice, and bigotry because that was where the
word came into the popular parlance. The word black is like a hand that holds
the African American in the past. The term African American, on the other hand,
speaks to the present and future because it does not carry any of the negative
baggage of the African American past with it.

When we take the time to examine the African American
experience in America, we discover that it is inexorably tied to the American
experience. For any class that focuses on the American experience to do so without
including African Americans would do a disservice to the subject and the
students as well. For a class to try and focus only on the so-called black
experience would also do a disservice to the subject and the students because
it would leave out too many influences from American society. Too many
Americans believe the reference to a black identity is restricted to America
and serves as a substitute for African American. That is a false assumption
because many people throughout the world are referred to as blacks, primarily
because of their complexions, but also because of their ethnicity. That
reference, however, is often considered as derogatory because those people have
legitimate cultural, ancestral, and geographical identities. No non-American
comes to America as simply a black or a white because those are merely colors.

A person’s and a people’s identity is not only a source of
pride and value, but also a source of information about the past and present. People
with just one name cannot pass along to their progeny anything but their one
name, thereby depriving their progeny of any chance for sharing the identity.
The children of Pink, for example, must create their own identity if they are
to be unique and individuals. Otherwise, they would simply be known as the
children of Pink. Nothing can be passed along to others from a color other than
what the color represents. The color black or the black identity falls into
this same category.

The word black has outlived its usefulness; time
has come to move into the present and head towards the future sharing the same
values accorded all other people with positive self-identities. The mistakes of
the past the wise seek to amend, the fools accept and fail to contend. Progress
always comes with an interruption

Paul R. Lehman, West’s remarks reflect negatively on him, not Obama

May 22, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, Ethnicity in America, Media and Race, Race in America | 2 Comments
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Recently a Princeton University professor, Cornel West, made
some disparaging remarks about President Obama referring to him as a black
puppet and a black mascot relative to his dealings with Wall Street and other
entities. West’s remarks are surprising in that they display more of him than
of his characterization of the President. One generally expects the remarks of
a noted professor to be informing, instructive, enlightening or even
entertaining; that, however, was not the case this time.

West first characterized President Obama as a black puppet.
All Americans have the right and privilege to speak freely even about the
President. West, however, West showed a lack of respect for the office of the
President by suggesting that he is an inanimate doll with strings attached to
his limbs and head. The strings are controlled by others who manipulate the
doll to resemble and suggest human movement. Certainly one can disagree with
the decisions the President makes, but to suggest that he is constantly being
manipulated by others is an insult based on ignorance. The insult is not
directed at Obama, but at West for making such an asinine remark. If West
believes that the President is being influenced by other and that influence
negatively affects his decision making, then he should say so. Calling the
President a puppet strikes at his character, not at his actions. If West came
to the conclusion of Obama being a puppet based on his observations of Obama,
then the problem is not with Obama, but with West’s expectations of the
President. In other words, because Obama is not doing what West expects or
expected him to do then he must be a puppet, controlled by others.

West next characterized Obama as a black mascot. A mascot is
defined as an animal, person, or thing adopted by a group as its representative
symbol and it is supposed to bring good luck. Although most mascots are viewed
favorably and with pride by the group they represent, West seems to suggest
something nefarious with the use of this term and its association with Obama.
Again, the remarks attack the person and not his decisions. Obama is operating in
new and challenging territories as President. He has and will make decisions
that will not be well received by everyone. Making decisions that causes
disagreements is part of the job of being President. West seems to be not in
touch with reality when he criticizes Obama for being a mascot rather than for
making decisions with which West does not agree. Maybe if we all knew Obama’s
thoughts prior to his making a decision we would be in a better position to
assess it. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

What really cast a shadow on West and his remarks about
Obama is the reference to black—black puppet and black mascot. One has to
wonder about West’s use of the term black in the context in which it appears.
Is the reference to a black puppet a reference to a color or a cultural
identity? If it is for a color than what is the significance of the color—bad,
Evil? If the reference is to a cultural identity, then it is meaningless—black
is neither a cultural identity nor an ethnic identity, African American is. So,
what is the significance of the color preceding the noun? The only sense it
makes is to seemingly associate it with slavery and bigotry where the African
slave was often forced to do his master’s bidding. West seems to be stuck in
the past with his reference to black puppet or he is deliberately trying to
demean Obama by attacking his character. What comes to mind, however, is the
character of West and his motives for making the remarks.

The reference to a black mascot occasions similar remarks as
does the reference to the black puppet. The complexity of the President’s
responsibilities are not restricted to or evaluated by what is observable to
the average citizen or even a well- informed citizen. So, for someone to assert
that the Presidents is not doing something or doing too much of something is
pure conjecture because it is based on opinion. West, apparently thinks that
Obama should think like he thinks and act as he expects is foolhardy. West’s reference
to Obama as a black mascot seems to suggest that as in the days of slavery,
African Americans were considered lacking in intelligence and incapable of
making rational decisions. If that is the suggestion West is making then he has
no grasp of reality and Obama’s record these past two years. Black is color,
not an ideology or way of life. Obama knows that but, apparently, West does
not.

Obama is not a black president serving black people.
Although he received the majority of the African American vote in his bid of
the Presidency, he was not elected by black people. As President, Obama has to
represent all Americans. West seems to think that Obama must address the
concerns of African Americans specifically because of the biased treatment they
encountered in the past and continue to experience today. West does not seem to
understand that Obama as President cannot single out a group or groups of
people for special privileges and treatment. If he was to do that he would be
accused of being biased, and rightly so. Just because he cannot address the
problems of the poor and ethnic minorities individually does not mean that he
is ignoring them. He simple must be allowed to do his work how and when he sees
fit.

West is said to be a social activist as well as a professor.
His concerns for the poor and unfortunate Americans are important to him.
Whatever his efforts are in giving aid to these people, he cannot help their
cause or his by making the kinds of remarks about President Obama referenced
earlier. West needs to understand that Obama is an African American who happens
to be President of all the United States. Being African American is not
synonymous with being what West calls black. To identify with the term black is
to restrict one history to the American slavery experience and a total lack of
self worth and value except from a black perspective.. Only those African
Americans who want to hold on to the past and the bigotry it fostered accept
the term black as an acceptable identity. Those who have moved on consider
themselves African Americans. Professor West might want to consider joining
this latter group.

Paul R. Lehman, Trump and “the blacks” a link to the past

April 17, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Posted in Bigotry in America, Ethnicity in America, Media and Race, Race in America | 5 Comments
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While making negative comments about President Obama, Donald Trump displayed a problem mindset that is too common among many Americans today. The concern of this blog is not so much who said it, but what was said. Trump made at least two references to, we can assume, African Americans when he said he “had a great relationship with the blacks,” and also, “I have a great relationship with the blacks”…. (NY Daily News.com) His references to “the blacks” make it sound as though “the blacks” are a monolithic group that is capable of being influenced and controlled as a unit. The problem regarding this concept is that it still exists in American society today. The statements, however, shows an ignorance, inappropriateness, and arrogance regarding African Americans.

For many years my concern over the use of “blacks” as synonymous with African American is well documented in this blog as well as my books. This Trump incident provides still another opportunity to continue my battle. The mere fact that the phrase “the blacks” is used shows a mindset that still carries with it the image of Africans and African Americans from slavery. Since slaves were considered property, they could be and were viewed as a collective unit, the same as cattle. Because they lacked power over anything, even themselves, they were easy to manipulate and control. Laws did not discriminate among African Americans relative to status, free or slave, wealth, and education. The lack of positive social value for blacks made it easy for European Americas to view them as a collective group. The negative stereotypes that accompanied the images helped to create a mindset that is reflected in Trump’s statements. He meant no harm by using the phrase, his ignorance of history and social changes got the better of him and allowed him to let the phrase roll off his lips with ease. He, however, is clearly not alone in this condition.

Most Americans believe they have a solid grip on their country’s history; they are incorrect in that belief. What they have is a portion of their country’s history that was taught them in school. If they received no further education regarding American history, then their knowledge is very limited and skewed. For example, most Americans do not realize that American Indians were the first to be enslaved in North America by Europeans (Spain). The second group was Europeans—many of the English prisons were emptied and the criminals shipped to America to serve as free labor. The Africans was the third groups to be enslaved. Other ethnic groups, the Chinese and Japanese, suffered from near slave-like treatment. Most American students do not learn of these part of the America story until later in life or from some extended studies if they learn of them at all. In any event, the use of the phrase “the blacks” is totally inappropriate for the informed American today because it takes away the uniqueness and integrity of the individual. By lumping all African Americans into a monolith—blacks, the general impression is that they are all alike in every aspect of their being. The inappropriateness of this suggestion is the fact that we know identical twins is not exactly alike. All human beings are unique and special regardless of their ethnicity or gender, so to place all African Americans into a group called “the blacks” is not acceptable.

When someone, anyone, knowingly uses the phrase “the blacks,” he or she is not only showing ignorance and ineptness, but also arrogance. For African Americans to use the phrase knowing that it is the same name given African slaves to deny them any sense of self-worth, pride or history shows a lack of understanding of history. For European Americans to use the phrase means nothing has changed in their knowledge and understanding of ethnicity in America since slavery; that is, since Africans and African Americans were called blacks during slavery, and are still called blacks today, what would be the reason for European Americans to change their views of African Americans? The term African American does not create the same mental image as the phrase “the blacks” regardless of who is doing the thinking. So, to avoid falling into the negative symbolism created by use of the phrase “the blacks,” we should stop using it.

Too many people have fallen in love with the term black not realizing the inaccuracy and negative symbolism associated with it. The y think that just because it is fine with them it is okay for everyone else—ignorance is bliss.  Trump symbolizes European Americans who view themselves as normal and all other ethnic Americans as different from them. The arrogance comes from the belief that European Americans are not only biologically different, but also intellectually superior to other ethnic groups.  That belief, although false, is what allows people like Trump to use the phrase “the blacks” with impunity.

The primary, but false, assumption made by Trump in his statement that “he had a great relationship with the blacks,” is that all so-called blacks follow one leader, and if Trump has a good relationship with that one leader, he does not have to worry about other so-called blacks because they will fall in line with their leader. The problem with that philosophy is that Trump sees himself superior to the so-called black leader. African Americans have never had a single leader in America. In some cases, the media created and/or selected some African Americans to represent the voice of the so-called blacks, but actual leaders and spokespersons for African Americans did so with the consent and approval of a group of leaders. Those leaders included Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, Rosa Parks, Julian Bond, and Clara Luper, along with a host of others too numerous to name.

The problem of images and historical stereotypes will continue as long as we as a society continue using terms such as black and white to define and describe Americans who do not see themselves as belonging to an ethnic group based on color.

Paul R. Lehman, Here we go again, the U.S. Census Bureau and race

April 3, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Posted in Ethnicity in America, Media and Race, Race in America | 2 Comments
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Here we go again. The U.S. Census Bureau is the gift that keeps on giving in regards to collected ethnic data—the more they give, the less we know. An article from The New York Times entitled “Black and White Married in the Deep South: A Shifting Image,” was sent to me by my long time friend and former high school roommate. The article mentions the laws and social practices prohibiting the marriage of individuals from different so-called races; not all so-called races, just African Americans and European Americans. Interestingly enough, laws were never created to discourage their procreation or intimacy, just their marriage. The problems with this article is similar to the problems associated with all the data collected using so-called race terms—biracial, mixed-race, multi-race. These terms and others including race or a derivative of it are based on false premises. Therefore, the data cannot be accurate or valid.

This article underscores the Census bureau’s use and acceptance of the term race and it’s derivatives as being valid, accurate, and acceptable. The term biracial makes the assumption that two pure and biologically different races exists—the black race and the white race. One wonders how they arrive at the purity of each so-called race since the term bi-racial refers to two so-called races. Actually, the way these two races are perceived in America is based on stereotypes that provide symbolic elements that characterize each race. Generally, the characterizations are made from color and/or culture. The irony comes into play when one is asked what two races are represented in the bi-racial person, human and what else? Since there is only one human race, the other has to be non-human.

Another term used by the Census Bureau is mixed-race. What is a mixed –race person? Could a bi-racial person also be a mixed –race person or does this term have some unique qualifying aspect to it? The assumption in the use of this term is that more than two so-called races participated in the creation of mixed-race people. Since the term is never defined we simply do not know. We can, however, assume that the bureau or its representatives look at the cultural make-up of the parents of mixed-race people to make their determination. For example, if a bi-racial person procreated with a person of Asian and French culture then their offspring would be labeled mixed-race. This example would be laughable if it were not part of our reality. One wonders how a so-called mixed- race person sees him/herself.

A comment from the afore mentioned article shows just how cloudy and  vague is the concept of race : “In the first comprehensive accounting of multiracial Americans since statistics were first collected about them in 2000, reporting from the 2010 census…shows that the nation’s mixed-race population is growing far more quickly than many demographers had estimated….” If someone can tell me the difference between a multi-racial and a mixed-race person as mentioned in the above statement, they will deserve my eternal thanks. Is a multi-race person different from a mixed-race person? The statement seems to suggest that there is. Just how does one discern them? What are the criteria necessary to be identified as multi-race and mixed race?

In the early days of slavery, Africans, American Indians, and Europeans who were slaves frequently created unions and produced children. When this happened, the slave owners paid little attention to these unions because the offspring simple increased his wealth. However, when Africans became the primary focus of the slave system, laws were created to discourage and penalize such unions, but only between so-called black and white slaves. In 1661, Maryland passed a law forbidding blacks and whites to marry regardless of their status free or slave. The concept of race during that time was based on color rather than culture, so law was the controlling factor. How does the Census Bureau make it determination today?

Since the U.S. Census Bureau promotes the concepts of bi-racial, mixed-racial, and multi-racial groups of human beings, it should rightfully be the agency that seeks to correct its errors. To suggest that these groups of human beings exist is to do a disservice to America society, and especially America’s children. The Census Bureau creates confusion and disagreement in educational information and instruction when society is forces to accept these racial terms as accurate, reliable, and correct. If the Census Bureau intends to continue to use these terms, the least expectation of society is for the terms to be defined. As matters now stand, no one knows the differences among a bi-racial person, mixed-racial person, and a multi-racial person. So, what value is the data collected from these so-called racial groups is the data is flawed?

The Census Bureau can easily start to remedy the problems created by these inaccurate and inappropriate terms by simply eliminating the use of the words race and racial. The Bureau can make this move to a more specific body of ethnic specific terms to collect the data it seeks. For example, instead of saying that the mix of black and white marriages have increased in the South since the last census, it could be more specific and say that African Americans and European Americans have increased their marriages in the South etc… The difference between using black and white and African American and European American is that the data will not be confusing about who is included in or excluded out of the data collection. As a matter of fact, the Bureau, by using the specific ethnic cultural identities will increase the accuracy and reliability of the collected data because it would not have to wonder if the so-called blacks are African Americans or of some other culture such as Haitian, Jamaican, or just a dark complexioned person.

When terms are not defined in any program that focuses on collecting data from a variety of sources, the end result will not be reliable because of the many unrestricted variables. The phrase most scientists use is “garbage in, garbage out.” If the Census bureau knows specifically what it wants from the data, it should construct its collection program to produce the desired results. Clearly, the program, process, and so-called racial terms presently in place will not accomplish its objective. The time has come to make a change to help Americans with a better self-identity now and in the future.

Paul R. Lehman, Research using race as focus is faulty

March 13, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Posted in Bigotry in America, Ethnicity in America, Media and Race, Race in America | 1 Comment
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A news article, “Blacks Less Likely to Lose Hearing,” from WWW.NEWSWISW.COM, recently caught my attention because of the headline. The article stated that “Nearly two-thirds of adults 70 and older suffer from hearing loss, but blacks are less likely to be affected, say researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine and the National Institute on Aging.” This report and others like it always create questions for me because of what the reports do not say.

My initial questions are who are the blacks, how do you define blacks, and what other participants did the study include. The reference to blacks generally allude to African Americans, but the study does not say African Americans, so, does that mean that blacks include all people of dark complexions? Some people who identify themselves as African American are mixed ethnic; that is, their ancestry includes individuals from ethnic groups other than African American. How are they to be classified? Because the definition of blacks is not stated, the information may not benefit anyone.

The article continues by stating that “The team analyzed data gathered in 2005 and 2006 from 717 volunteers who were at least 70 years old. About 63 percent had hearing loss ranging from mild to severe. Older men were likely to have hearing impairments. Blacks were a third likely to develop hearing loss as whites, the team found.” Again, we are in a quandary about who the study is talking about when it refers to whites. Many people from a variety of ethnicities and cultures are considered to be white. The study did not define whites. In addition, the study seems to focus on only two groups of people, one black and one white to collect data. With all the ethnic variables existing within each group as far as ancestry is concerned, how can the data be accurately analyzed? 

The final paragraph of the article raises some questions more serious than the earlier ones. The paragraph states that “Dr. Frank Lin, who led the study, said it is unclear why blacks seem to be protected from hearing deficits, but it could be that skin pigment absorbs free radicals, protecting the inner ear.”Although the news is good for those people the study calls blacks, a subtle implication for some biological difference is suggested in reference to skin color. If, indeed, the skin pigmentation is an element that helps to protect blacks, then would it not be correct to include all people with dark complexions?

One might ask if the study was focused one race—the study identifies only blacks and whites. We are left to assume that these two groups represent races.  If that is the case, then the data is bogus because race is not defined in the study. Also, why would scientist today, use inaccurate and vague terms such as blacks and white to collect data from subjects when neither term can be scientifically defined? No mention is made of people who represent different ethnic groups or a mixture of black and white. If both blacks and whites are from the same human family of Homo sapiens, then the data is useless.

Maybe the study meant to focus on blacks as African Americans and whites as European Americans. If that was the case, then each group should have been defined. But, how does one define African Americans and European Americans since each group come from the same race of Homo sapiens, but from a variety of ethnic groups? The skin complexion in both groups covers a ranch that defies a color distinction, that is, some African Americans are fair skinned enough to be called white, while some European Americans have complexions dark enough to be considered African American. Nowhere in the study is a distinction made to underscore the references to blacks and whites as other than blacks and whites, whatever that is supposed to mean.

Maybe the focus of the study was on people with black and white skin complexions. That focus would explain the reference to skin pigmentation and the difference it possible causes in people of black and white complexions. If that was the focus, then the information derived from the study might benefit a variety of people, not just those who are black and white. One might assume that people of other ethnic groups do not experience hearing loss or related problems since none were mentioned. Since the subjects of the study are so vaguely defined what is the benefit of the data?

As we can clearly see from this brief analysis of this article and the study it reported, the use of the terms black and white are not productive. As a matter of fact, they are really counterproductive terms since they represent many ethnic variables. The problems associated with this study could have easily been prevented if the researchers had defined their subjects with reference to the ethnicity rather than a so-called race. Of all the professional people conducting studies, one would like to think that scientist would be concerned about the accuracy of the information since the data derived from such studies generally has some impact on the lives of many people.

The primary purpose of these comments is to point out again the need for society to move away from the terms race, black and white because they do not lend themselves to any specificity regarding human beings. DNA studies have shown that two people who look totally different with respect to complexion, size, gender, age, and ethnicity can be more alike than someone who looks almost like them. That tells us that we need to continue to educate ourselves about who we are as human being, not races, and benefit from that education. Strange it is how we as a society look to science and technology for help in improving our lives, and we generally welcome that help. However, when science and technology tells us that we, the human race, are more alike than penguins, we simply ignore it and change the subject.

Paul R. Lehman, Ignorance, Inconsistency and Bigotry in U.S. Census

March 4, 2011 at 3:33 am | Posted in American Bigotry, Ethnicity in America, Race in America | 7 Comments
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All the confusion and complexity over race and ethnicity we find in America today is not an accident. For the most part, the U.S. Government, and more specifically, the U.S. Census Bureau, is the primary contributor to this long- lasting and troublesome problem. Since its beginning, the Census Bureau has displayed ignorance, inconsistency, and bigotry regarding race, and has been a major player in the problems of ethnicity in America.

The primary charge of ignorance of the bureau can be seen in its decision to accept early on the social categories and labels of race. The Bureau recognizes only two primary races, one white and superior, and one Negro (African American) and inferior. We are told in an article entitled “History of the U.S. Census” (www.1930 census.com) that “instructions to census enumerators explained that a person who had both ‘White and Negro blood was to be returned as a Negro, no matter how small the percentage of Negro blood. This categorization of mixed race individuals as ‘Negro’ based on the existence of any black ancestry reflected the bureau’s continued reliance on nineteenth-century racial categories.”This policy came to be known as the one drop rule.

In essence, the bureau did not question the existence of actual races, but simply accepted the established so-called racial categories that had been created by European Americans after Reconstruction who considered themselves as normal whites. When the bureau recorded the identity of each individual, that identity became part of the official record, so today when we look up a census report the only information we can be certain of is the fact that the person in question did exist. What we do not know with certainty is their ethnicity. During and after Reconstruction, many southern courts employed individuals known as “race experts.” In their infamous ignorance these individuals would eyeball an individual and tell the court if that person was white or black. Many times the individual identified as white was a sibling of African Americans of the same parents. So ignorance has been a mainstay of the census bureau for a long time.

If matters of race had been established and standardized to a certainty, the problems of inconsistency would be at a minimum. However, that is not the case. The so-called racial identity of other ethnic groups was totally confusing. For example, in the early 1900’s someone of Mexican heritage living in Texas would be listed a Negro; however, if that person moved to California, he would be listed as white. States had their own policies and definitions for race. Again, in 1930 the “Enumerators were instructed that all persons born in Mexico, or whose parents were born in Mexico, should be listed as Mexicans, and not under any other racial category. However, this was an anomaly of the 1930 census.  In prior censuses, and in 1940, enumerators were instructed to list Mexicans as white.”So much for consistency.

To add to this confusion “Enumerators were told that someone part Native American and part African American should be listed as ‘Negro’ unless the Indian blood predominated and the person was generally accepted as an Indian in the community.” The blood reference is a code for looks; that is if the person looked like a Native American, then list him as such. The conditions changed however, when “Someone with both white and Native American ancestry was to be listed as ‘Indian,’ unless the percentage of Indian blood was very small and the person was ‘regarded as White in the community.” How does one extract the percentage of ancestry if the ancestry is based on how one looks? This system of identity resembles some kid’s game of tag, that is, if I (the bureau) say you are it, then you are it. Absolutely no consistency can be created or maintained in a system that relies on non scientific data and other unreliable information to make serious life-changing decisions. The information collected by the bureau then, for all intent and purpose is bogus.

To the list of inequities committed by the census bureau we must add the charge of bigotry. In my book, America’s Race Problem, the chapter “Totem Pole,” addresses the problem of ethnic priority in America. The picture this chapter presented of society shows the European American at the very top, and the African American at the very bottom. As stated earlier, the bureau regarded only two so-called races as significant—the Negro race and the white race. Apparently, what determines the race of any person is the percentage of Negro or white ancestry. That approach might seem fair except for the fact that in the case of Native Americans, for example, “…the bureau decreed that Native American ancestry did not preclude an individual from being ‘White,” while African American ancestry did. The instructions to enumerators thus reflected an acceptance of a racial hierarchy, with white at the top, black at the bottom, and Native Americans occupying a hazy area in the middle.”

Americans have suffered long enough under the illusions, delusions, misinformation, lies, and myths regarding race. We have witnessed time and time again how the misuse of information can and does create unnecessary problems and hardships. We citizens should expect the government and especially the census bureau to make themselves aware of and conversant with the latest information regarding a person’s identity. This writer cannot fathom why we must still deal with the unacceptable word race as a reference to a person’s identity. We have men on the moon, satellites in space that can pinpoint objects from hundreds of miles in the sky; yet, we are still this day dealing with nineteenth century terms to describe ourselves. The monster created by the word race has seemingly been domesticated here in America and made itself at home. That monster feeds on ignorance, inconsistency, and bigotry. If we do not take steps to eradicate it, we can expect the worse. As Pogo so honestly stated some years ago, we have found the enemy, it is us.

Paul R. Lehman, Bachmann’s take on history and slavery misguided

January 31, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, Media and Race, Race in America | Leave a comment
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When many Americans witness an injustice, like a bully picking on a smaller kid, it affects them immediately. Some folks are moved to address the injustice at once, while some wait for someone else to render aid. What if the injustice committed is not as obvious as a bully picking on someone smaller than him? What if the injustice is committed by an elected official? What if the official does not know that he or she is committing an injustice? What should the responsible American citizen do in such a case? The reason for all the questions is because recently an elected congresswoman made a speech to a group of citizens in which she misrepresented the truth of history. Three possible reasons for her act include the fact that she is ignorant of history, or that she simply relied on what she thought history should be, or she was trying to manipulate her audience into sharing her perspective of history.

Representative Michele Bachmann (R) from Minnesota was credited with making false statements regarding our nation’s Founding Fathers and slavery. She made the claim that”…  it is high time that we recognize the contribution of our forbearers who worked tirelessly — men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country.” She added that” It didn’t matter the color of their skin. It didn’t matter their language. It didn’t matter their economic status.” She continued by saying that “It didn’t matter whether they descended from known royalty or are of a higher class or a lower class. It made no difference. Once you got here, we were all the same. Isn’t that remarkable? It is absolutely remarkable.”(CNN)

Her comments underscore that fact that the history of American slavery is misrepresented as well as the role of the founding fathers in that regard. Did she falsify slavery’s history on purpose or is it that she really does not know the facts? As a nationally elected official, she took an oath to “support and uphold the Constitution of the United States.” Why would she swear to an oath with which she is bound to uphold if she is ignorant of what it says? The United States Constitution states in Article I, Section 2, and paragraph 3 that “…including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.” For anyone familiar with this language, he or she knows that it is a reference to slaves. This three fifths number was a compromise offered by James Madison to get the Constitution ratified. How could anyone familiar with the Constitution not know the reasons for the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendment? Recounting the numerous historical occasions created specifically to deal with the issue of slavery would serve little purpose here because Rep. Bachmann seemingly has no knowledge of them or their relevance.

Could it be that she was merely recalling slavery’s history the way she learned it? If that is the case then we should take a close look at the educational institutions she attended and check to see if they are still misrepresenting history in the same way. If so, they need to be informed and advised to change their approach and concept of American slavery because they are polluting the minds of their students with false information. One would think that at some point in her educational experience Rep. Bachmann would have come into contact with historical information that conflicted with her concept. Maybe she did but ignored it. The problem regarding an injustice is one that focuses directly on the congresswoman, apparently her educational experiences has not served her well. Her perception of American slavery places her at a disadvantage in society, and more specifically, in congress. How can she do the people’s business without knowledge of the people’s history?

Maybe this whole episode with the false historical information was a deliberate ploy to manipulate her audience to share her view of history. If that is the case, then the injustice does not end with Bachmann, but continues on to the people who look to her for valid information and direction. If what she says is believed by her supporters then many other people are moving around in society with a warped sense of American history relative to slavery. Her supporters would probably defend Bachmann’s view of slavery because they trust her and follow her. And that is the injustice– to follow someone who knows not where she is going or is going in the wrong direction.

The irony of this situation is that no one from her party has stepped up to criticize Bachmann’s statement and label it as a misrepresentation of American history and slavery. Sure, some members of her party will smile and pass the incident off as something of little concern, but none call her to task for not knowing her history. To them, it seems that accuracy in such a little thing as history can be forgiven or over looked. Unfortunately, many of her supporters take her word at face value and believe that when she speaks, she knows where of she speaks. Now the rest of America knows that is not the case.            

 One final injustice affects the American people in general and Rep. Bachmann’s constituents in particular in that they are not getting the quality representation needed and wanted from her. When elected officials fail to meet the expectations required of office everyone loses. As American citizens we can call attention to this injustice and do something to address it, or we can leave it to someone else to address it. A number of network host in the media have taken her to task, but correcting the historical misinformation is not sufficient if that is all that happens, Rep. Bachmann needs to know that what she has done affects others as well as her and that she needs to get her house in order.

Paul R. Lehman, Observance of MLK, Jr’s day misunderstood

January 17, 2011 at 12:12 am | Posted in Bigotry in America, Ethnicity in America, Race in America | 4 Comments
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Mention civil rights to most Americans and they will tell you the first image that pops into their minds is either Martin Luther King Jr or African Americans. Why? Because they have been programmed to believe that American Civil Rights are the concerns of only African Americans. Too many Americans do not know the significance of the civil rights movement and the tribute made to them by honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., with a national day. For many Americans, Martin Luther King Jr.’s day is just another day off. That attitude needs to change.

Many Americans associate American civil rights with Martin Luther King, Jr., and rightly so, because it was King who was the spokesman for the cause. What many people do not realize is that King did not wake up one morning and decide to become a civil rights leader. After the arrest of Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, and the introduction of the young Martin Luther King, Jr. the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist church where organizational meetings were held, a number of leaders from a variety of civil rights organizations met and decided that instead of each organization making public speeches and demands, they should unit and combine their efforts and speak with one voice. The voice they chose to represent their concerns was the young African American preacher named Martin Luther King, Jr. Since and after Montgomery, until his death, King was the public civil rights leader, not the only civil rights leader. The civil rights organizations with leaders such as Roy Wilkins, James Farmer, and Whitney Young were all part of this movement and they were not all African Americans, a myth that some Americans viewed as true until a number of European American civil rights workers were murdered in the line of duty.

The gains made in America through civil rights acts were gains not for African Americans alone, but for all Americans. Certainly, African Americans were in the forefront of the battle because they were the primary victims of civil rights abuse. However, if some Americans care to remember, prior to the 1964 Civil Rights Acts certain jobs and professions were generally reserved for males and they were usually European Americans: postman, fireman, and policeman. Many professions were simple male dominated like doctors, lawyers, dentist, judges, politicians and others. Because of King and the other civil rights leaders’ efforts, those jobs and professions now include among their ranks a variety of Americans. The titles have been changed to reflect a more inclusive identity: postal worker, firefighter, police officer.

What happens today in America relative to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is unfortunate in that the emphasis of most celebrations focus on King and generally his “I Had A Dream” speech. Americans need to be educated to the fact that King’s speech and his life was not the end of civil rights concerns, but a means to a call for justice and fairness for all Americans. The March on Washington in 1963 was a protest march to apply pressure and make demands on America to live up to its creed to honor each person’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  The subsequent passage of the 1964, 1965, and 1968 Civil Rights Acts is proof to the positive efforts of King and others. Without their efforts, America would not have experienced the social changes that have taken place because of these Acts. This information is somehow lost during the celebration and because it is lost, many Americans, especially European Americans pay little or no attention to the day let alone join in the celebration. What must be emphasized is the continuing influence these Civil Rights Acts have on society today.

Most American women, especially European American women since they represent the majority, should be at the forefront of any celebration honoring Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement because they are the biggest beneficiaries of it. We are not just talking about jobs in the work force, but the opening of doors in schools, medical, law, and a host of other. Dare we mention where women athletes would be today without Title IX of the 1964 Civil Rights Act? The many opportunities and advantages enjoyed by American females are due in large to the work of King and the organizations her represented. America should take note of this and build on it instead on focusing on King’s “I Had A Dream” speech as if that was the only contribution he made worthy of honor.

The fact that many a schools across the nation chose to give their students a day off while making King’s day an in-service day shows either a lack of respect and appreciation for the work that King and other have done or ignorance and bias for not using this day as an opportunity to educate themselves and their students. Americans should not be given the opportunity to understand and appreciate the fact that although Martin Luther King, Jr. was the spokesperson for the movement, the movement did not die with him nor did the efforts of other concerned Americans. American was changed for the better because of King and the civil rights movement, so let us celebrate those changes while we pay homage to King’s memory and continue the work he helped to champion.

We Americans should come together as a country and recognize that we owe a debt of gratitude to many who came before us and through their efforts helped to make our lives better. We need to know what they did and why and how they did it, because if we remain ignorant of their sacrifices for us, we will indeed have nothing to celebrate.  Knowing the name Martin Luther King, Jr. is as important as knowing what he stood for and what he represented, but just knowing his name is not enough.

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