Paul R. Lehman, Terrence Crutcher and the Tulsa jury,another instance of injustice by reason of being African American

May 19, 2017 at 12:29 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, democracy, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, justice, justice system, Killings in Tulsa, Prejudice, Race in America, social justice system, The Oklahoman, tolerance, Tulsa, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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The jury in Tulsa found Betty Shelby not guilty and in doing so told the world that African Americans and other people of color have no rights that a police officer need to respect. Once an African American is stopped by a police officer, his or her life is forfeited to that officer. Facts and evidence play no part in the reason for killing an African American by a police officer if we follow the accounts of the shooting of Terrence Crutcher.

Once police officers stop African Americans, the African Americans lose the right to speak because anything they say can be interpreted by the officers as disrespectful or threatening, whichever they choose. The African Americans lose the right to move because any movement might be seen as a threat to the officer’s life. So, what can the African Americans do when stopped by a police officer? A frequently used bit of advice is to comply with the officer’s command. The problem with that is if the African American starts the compliance too slowly then the officer is forced to take action. That action might involve the use of a taser. When someone is shot with a taser, he must remain perfectly still or his movement will be seen as resisting arrest and not complying with the officer’s command. In other words, the African Americans are damned by whatever they say or do as far as the police are concerned.

Some people will say that no one loses his or her rights when stopped by a police officer. If that is not the case, then why are the victims of a fatal police shooting always viewed as guilty of a crime when they never had an opportunity to present their side of the event that led to the shooting? The victim’s side is always challenged even with clear and concise video shows what happened. The problem is with the justice system and the non-thinking jury that fails to use common sense or follow facts and evidence in order to clear an officer of any wrongdoing. Shelby’s reason for shooting Crutcher indicates that she is a danger to the public or the African American public. She stated: “…she fired her weapon out of fear because she said he didn’t obey her command to lie on the ground…”One has to wonder as to what caused her fear. The video showed Crutcher walking a distance in front of her with both hands in the air. If this posture created fear in her, then the entire public is suspect. What was she afraid of that caused her to shoot?  She said that it was when he “appeared to reach inside his SUV for what she thought was a gun.” The report noted that Crutcher was unarmed, the window as up, and no weapon was found in his SUV.

In the article, “Jury finds Tulsa officer not guilty,” (The Oklahoman 5/18/2017) stated the following: “Prosecutors told jurors that Shelby overreacted. They noted Crutcher had his hands in the air and wasn’t combative—part of which was confirmed by police video taken from a dashboard camera and helicopter that showed Crutcher walking away from Shelby, hands held above his head.” We should note that Shelby was not alone on the scene; she had a fellow police officer near to her. One wonders what caused the jury to rule the way they did in view of all the visual information available to them.

In addition to being afraid, we learn that “Shelby also said she feared the influence of PCP, a powerful hallucinogenic known as Angel Dust that makes users erratic, unpredictable and combative.” However, as stated earlier, Crutcher manifested none of those characteristics.” After an autopsy was performed, PCP was found in his system and also in his SUV. That information was discovered after the shooting, not before. One concern about this incident is why was Crutcher stopped? Could a force less lethal have been employed to effect Shelby’s purpose? What kind of instructions was the jury given in their deliberation in this case?

Evidently, while the questions posed are important for the victim’s family, they are seemingly meaningless to the jury when a police officer is involved. Our criminal justice system must be changed to one that acknowledges and respect the rights of all citizens, regardless of what they look like. The system also needs to reflect the fact that all police officers are not perfect and that they should experience repercussions for their misdeeds.  As it stands today, an African American’s words have no value against that of a police officer. He is always presumed guilty until proven innocent. The reason for that presumption is due to the system of European American supremacy and African American inferiority, the social conditioning European Americans receive in America from birth—African Americans and people of color are to be feared; they are viewed as dangerous and to be suspect. When a European American becomes a police officer, that social conditioning does not change. So, when Shelby said she was afraid of Crutcher, she was not lying, and the members of the jury identified with her and that fear. So, if that is the case, then where is the justice for the African Americans?

When the statement was made earlier that African Americans lose all their rights when stopped by a police officer was made, it was not based on conjecture, but facts and evidence. All one has to do is look at the litany of cases where an unarmed African American or person of color has been shot and killed when alternative uses of force were available. The fact that the Tulsa jury overlooked justice in this case underscores the need to replace the criminal justice system in America. People need to join in with groups who are working to change the system and do whatever is necessary (protest, petition, run for office, support organizations) to help effect change.

Fear is not a monopoly of European American police officers, because communities, family, friends of African Americans and other people of color experience it also, every time they are stopped by a police officer. Fear should never be the reality because the responsibility of all Americans is to ensure life, liberty, and justice for all. We have a lot of work to do; let us get to it.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul R. Lehman, Race as a social identity has outived its usefullness to American society.

September 2, 2014 at 6:36 pm | Posted in African American, American history, Bigotry in America, blacks, Chief Justice John Roberts, Civil Rights Ats, Constitutional rights, discrimination, employment, entitlements, equality, Ethnicity in America, fairness, immigration, justice, minority, Prejudice, race, Race in America, skin color, skin complexion, Supreme Court Chief Justice, The Huffington Post, whites | 2 Comments
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Without realizing it, many educators and people of influence are supporting and promoting the separation and discrimination of people by race and color. The way it is being done is through the use of race by color, i.e., black race and white race. Let us take a close look at these phenomena called race by color and see what problems and challenges it continues to place of humanity, especially in America. The word race initially did not contain an element of color when it was used by the Angles and Saxons to distinguish themselves from the Brits. To the people then, the word race carried a sense of a biological difference among nations. Today, we know “What is false in this dogma is the belief that a nation is a race, a group sharing a common biological descent. Equating nation with race defies the most elementary knowledge of history. From time immemorial, Europe and America have been playgrounds of miscegenation” (Jacques Barzan, From Dawn to Decadence, 1500 to the Present).
Race by color became important in America when Africans became the primary source of slaves. Creating two races, one black and one white served to strengthen the power, prestige and control of majority society. The Europeans/European Americans were identified as white; meaning that all the positive attributes of human beings would be posited in them. For the African/African Americans, the reverse was alleged to be true. This illusion of race would and could work because the enslavers held all power over the slaves, and to a large degree, society. The power did not reside only in the skin color, but how the skin complexion was valued in society. For example, under the belief system of race by color, only a so-called white man and a so-called white woman could produce a so-called white child. In effect, no other man or woman on the planet could do that. All people of color (who were less valued in society than the so-called white) could never produce a so-called white child. Any and all off springs of European men would take the identity of the mother. In an effort to prevent European servant women from marrying African men, the state of Maryland created and passed the first miscegenation law in 1661. The slave industry even created a system whereby the degree of whiteness could be measured in Africans and other slaves of color which increased their market value—mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, etc.
The illusion of human and social value associated with the skin color is still very much a part of American society today, and because of that, America can make only limited social progress. Part of the problem comes from many Americans who are unwilling to recognize the fact that race is an illusion and want to hold on to their color as an identity. The problem with holding on to race by color is that it cannot be defined except on a very limited basis, and then it falls apart. People who identify themselves as black may not in fact have a black skin color, so what does black mean in those situations? Some people will suggest that black means African American. Well, black and African American are not the same or interchangeable. Black does not distinguish a personal identity based on color, culture, ethnicity, or geography—the only relevance black has is to a black race that was created during slavery with all negative contexts. The same thing can be said of European Americans who call themselves white, except the contexts are positive.
When the young Civil Rights workers of the ‘60s reacted to the phrase “white power” with “Black power,” they were able to change to the sentiment of blackness from negative to positive, but only in the African American community. The white or European American community did not have to change a thing regarding color. So, today when word, black or white, is used with reference to a person’s identity, it serves to support and promote so-called racial separation and all the things that accompany it. Chief Justice of the United States, John Roberts, was correct when “In a 2007 case, he wrote: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”That is, when we stop using race as if it is accurate and valid, we can get to the real problems of justice and fairness. Getting rid of race does not mean getting rid of ethnic or cultural differences, but it means changing the focus from our differences to our commonalities.
In a recent article, “The Emotional Toll of Growing Up Black in America,” Marian Wright-Edelman wrote that:
“Everybody in the classroom and teaching children today — when for the first time White students will no longer be the majority in our nation’s public schools — needs to be culturally sensitive and culturally trained. This is true for all child-serving institutions. We need to watch out for the subtle as well as the overt ways in which we treat non-White and White children and those who are poor differently. And we need much more diversity in children’s literature so that White, Black, Latino, Native American, Asian American, and all children can be exposed to the rich mosaic of America’s melting pot to help them see themselves and what they can be.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marian-wright-edelman/the-emotional-toll-of-gro_b_5738420.html?utm_hp_ref=email_share
The primary point that this blog makes is the very point that is missed in the above article—people, especially children, do not want to be treated differently; they want to be treated fairly and justly, regardless of their ethnic and/or cultural identity. We know that the metaphor of the melting pot nation was never realized and the proof is seen in the misrepresentation of African Americans in many of the social categories of unemployment, ineffective education, and incarceration rates. We certainly need to respect ethnic, cultural, and geographical differences where necessary, but we do not need to burden our children with false identities such as black and white. If a child is the product of a mixed ethnic couple, identifying with either the mother or father would not be fair to the parents or the child. In that case, let the parents decide the cultural identify of the child, but not mixed-race or black and white. Ethnically or culturally mixed children simply want to be children, no more, no less. Race as a social identity has outlived its usefulness to society.

Paul R. Lehman, Changing America from a racist society will require time and patience.

September 8, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Indian, American Racism, blacks, CNN, democracy, discrimination, Emancipation Proclamation, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, identity, immigration, justice, mixed-marriage, President Lincoln, Race in America, skin color, Slavery, The U.S. Constitution, whites | 1 Comment
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Turn on the television, the radio, or even the internet and we find the common use of the word race in a variety of ways. We have been told that racism is a belief that people of various biological races have different qualities and characteristics that make them inherently superior or inferior to others. In American we have what is known as white racism. That means people believe that a white race exists and that this race is superior to all others. This belief came into existence in America as early as the middle 1500s when the Spanish would hunt, capture, and sell Indians into slavery. The words racism and racist as well as a host of others are derived from the word race. In America of the 1600s the word race was meant to indicate social and economic status and not color because the slaves in America during this time and later were of various skin colors. Counted among the slaves were Indians, Europeans, and Africans.
The demand for slaves created a problem for the ruling Europeans who quickly embraced the importation of Africans to fill the labor gap. With the introduction of the African into the system of slavery, the ruling Europeans decided to create a buffer among the slaves by giving special privileges to the European or white slaves. We are told that “In 1705, masters were forbidden to ‘whip a Christian white servant naked.’ Nakedness was for brutes, the uncivil, and the non-Christian. That same year, all property—horses, cattle, and hogs’—was confiscated from slaves and sold by the church wardens for the benefit of poor whites.” This was done to create a bond between the wealthy whites and the poor whites as well as create a distinction among the slaves. We learn that “By means of such acts, social historian Edmond Morgan arguers, the tobacco planters and ruling elite of Virginia raised the legal status of lower—class white relative to that of Negroes and Indians, whether free, servant or slave.”(See America’s Race Problem: A Practical Guide to Understanding Race in America)
So, the element of color became a major factor in America’s system of slavery as well as society in general, because all the Africans living in America were not now nor had ever been slaves. Color and Christianity became the criteria for discriminating against people. The problem of free Africans and Indians living in society along side Europeans was a problem for the Europeans. Making a contrast based on the physical appearance of the African and Indian became the primary criteria for creating biases. American society decided to create two biological races, one black, and one white based primarily on color of skin. We wonder why they did not create a race for the Indians. The white race was made to be superior to the black race in every respect. In essence, this was the beginning of racism based on color. Because the ruling class of Europeans had the power and control to create such a fabrication as race it became accepted by society.
Regardless of the truth of a concept, according to scholars, if it is repeated constantly for the benefit of some people, they will after a while ignore the fact that the concept is a fabrication and accept it for fact or truth. That has become the case with the belief in two races, both supposedly biologically different with one being superior to the other. Because of the acceptance of such a belief America and Americans became a racist society.
Some two hundred years after the introduction of slavery in American, we can see how thoroughly the biased and false concept of two races had affected America. When we examine the words of President Abe Lincoln in 1862 as he spoke to a group of free men of color, we recognize the conviction of his belief in race by color: “You [African Americans] and we [European Americans] are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races.” The broader difference Lincoln speaks of is basically, color; other differences existed because the slaves and free African Americans were prevented from experiencing those things written in the” Declaration of Independence” the “Constitution” about rights, freedom and justice.
What makes race so confusing in America is that it was illogically conceived using color as the base for determining superiority and inferiority. How can a society base superiority or inferiority on color and at the same time have slaves and free men of the same color exhibiting totally different characteristics attributed to differences of the condition and status of each individual? Logic does not enter the thinking process when one has accepted as truth or fact that races based on color really exist. Nonetheless, President Lincoln firmly believed that the two races and should be separated because they could not live together in peace because of their color. Fortunately, Lincoln later changed his mind about the latter.
So, what is the point of this discussion? When we examine the past objectively, we can understand many of the things taking place today, and why they are taking place. When American came into being, it came as a society that believed in race by class and economics; later color was added to the mix. One thought dominated the general thinking, however, and that was the supremacy of the whites. In effect, America wanted to be known as a white society with different classes of whites. Other non-European ethnicities were not considered suited for citizenship, but were allowed to live here. For over four-hundred-years or more the most cherished beliefs among many Americans are their white identity and that America is a white country—their country. The concept of race has undergone new analysis and the results reveal that only one race of human being exists in spite of color. So, the theories and beliefs that were created to separate various human beings from each other because of color are being debunked.
Unfortunately, as a society we have not pulled away from our use of the word race and all its derivatives that keep us tethered to the biased past. So, we continue to use words like racist, racism, etc…as if they are valid and accurate. In America, an African American cannot be a racist, if we accept the definition of that word, because in America, African Americans have never had the power or control to create the concept of race superiority and maintain and promote it. He can certainly be biased and prejudiced because those feelings are purely related to the individual, not a group or so-called race. America has been a racist society for a long time, so some patience is required while change is taking place. Progress for some people is very hard.

Black race and white race identity support and promote ethnic biases

July 28, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, Civil War, desegregation, DNA, Emancipation Proclamation, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, Hispanic whites, Human Genome, identity, minority, mixed-marriage, Race in America, skin color, Slavery, socioeconomics, U. S. Census, U.S. Supreme Court, whites | Leave a comment
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Many Americans do not know that society is experiencing growing pains. The pains come from the fact that the time has come for developmental changes that require a coming to grips with reality. What this coming to grips with reality means is facing the fact that the myths of a black race and white race are no longer important or necessary. However, the process facing the truth is not an easy one to experience; consider what a child goes through when he or she discovers the truth behind Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. Those myths we can readily recognize as myths because as children we outgrow then at a relative early age. The myth of race is a different problem because many Americans do not know or accept the fact that races of man is a myth. Society has so conditioned the minds of so-called white Americans to a place of power, privilege and prestige that trying to undo the damage is like removing heat from fire. America is moving towards a society of diverse citizens where race will play little or no role in personal identity. Unfortunately, too many European Americans (whites) cannot bring themselves to let go of the white race identity.
Let us clear the air with respect to the concept of races, especially the so-called black race and white race. These two races were created by the ruling class of slave owners for economic expedience. Taking the cultural, geographical, and personal identities from the Africans was a means of depriving them of any self-value and self-worth. At the same time, the ruling class gave to those lesser individuals of fair skin the illusions of hope and superiority because they looked alike, and that they might one day also possess power and wealth. In reality, the concept of race was to create a separation and conflict between the poor Europeans and Africans which constantly drew attention away from the ruling class and their activities. As society progressed, and the gap between the workers and the rulers became greater, the rulers used the Africans as a buffer to protect them from poor Europeans. The only thing of value the ruling class gave to the poor Europeans was the gift of a white identity.
After the Civil War, African Americans were given rights and freedoms the same as the European Americans. However, those rights and freedoms were short lived because most states began immediately to create and pass laws that took away those rights and freedoms; the results of the states efforts were written in laws known as “The Black Codes.” These codes were different for each state, but the results were the same—deprive the African Americans of all rights and freedoms. These codes also proved beneficial in promoting the idea of superiority of the “white race” by stipulating restrictions against African Americans that any European American could enforce legally. The most important thing of value for the European American was still his identity as a member of the “white race.” For example, imagine two sharecroppers working for the same landowner, both men are poor and uneducated. The landowner would favor the European American because he was white, and the white sharecropper would feel and act superior to the African American simple because of his color.
The value of a white identity started to change in 1954 when the Supreme Court ruled that separation was unequal. In subsequent years federal legislation began to eat away at what were once thought to be exclusive privileges for European Americans (whites). Today, a plethora of social activities and actions have challenged the once thought supremacy of European Americans; namely, the increase in ethnic minority populations, the increase in mixed ethnic marriages, the failure of the Census Bureau to define race so that the concept of race is on longer black and white, but blurred. The loss of the value of a white identity signaled by these changes in society has created fear, anger, frustration, and panic in some so-called white Americans. The problem for these people is finding a way to stop the changes from continuing, a problem they are beginning to realize is impossible to resolve. If America is to live up to its creed of liberty and justice for all,then the concept of race being black and white must be abandoned.
One of the contributing factors to the problem of race is the fact that too many Americans are ignorant, arrogant or stupid when it comes to understanding the fallacy of race. During the recent Martin and Zimmerman trial, many people raised the question of race, questioning whether race was involved. Let this next statement be perfectly clear, as long as European Americans identify themselves as white, everything they say and do comes from a biased ethnic (racial) perspective. For people to say they are black or white are a clear indication of the fact that they accept the concept of at least two races, one black and one white. Since science, technology, and even the Bible underscore the fact that all people belong to one race, the notion of more than one race must come from a lack of knowledge and understanding.
When a person identifies himself or herself as black or white, ethnic bias is embraced and promoted regardless of professions of colorblindness and justice. Many European Americans truly do not know how to identify themselves ethnically. Many refer to themselves as Caucasians, not realizing that Caucasians are not considered white or European. Caucasians did not exist until just prior to 1800. The name comes from the people who live near the Caucasus Mountains which are located in Eurasia between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea; they are considered to be of Iranian ancestry. The same ignorance can be associated with European Americans who identify themselves as Aryans, which is another way of spelling Iranians. The myth of an Aryan nation or race was started during Hitler’s time to help promote his idea of a super race. This race is supposedly directly related to the Caucasian race. So, even if the idea of Aryan and Caucasian races was plausible, they would not be considered today as white in America. The Supreme Court said so in 1923, Thind v. United States.
At some point in the future, biased Americans who retain their biases by holding on to their race by color concept will find themselves at a loss for an identity. Race serves to separate, and separation served as a base for bigotry. As the country becomes more ethnically diverse, the social value of individuals will not be based on a so-called race. One wonders why some European Americans with a large degree of social influence continue to refer to themselves as “white” unless they are ignorant of the fact that by doing so they place themselves on the side of ethnic bigotry. One cannot say he or she is white without the implication of race. Once the race is associated with the color, the element of bias comes into play whether he or she is a bigot or not. The only way to avoid this situation is to stop using race as black or white, which will, by the way, change the perspective of the self.

Problems with race continue to plague the Census Department

May 12, 2013 at 3:49 pm | Posted in African American, American Indian, American Racism, DNA, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, Human Genome, identity, Media and Race, mixed-marriage, Non-Hispanic white, skin color, Slavery, socioeconomics, The Oklahoman, TheRoot.com, U. S. Census | Leave a comment
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Confusion caused by the Census Bureau’s use of the term race along with color has been brought to public scrutiny again. This time in an article by national columnist, Clarence Page, entitled “Census race questions could stand an update.” (The Oklahoman 5/8/13) The problems associated with the Census and ethnic identity derives from the fact that the terms race and ethnicity are never defined with any accuracy and consistency. The problem Page presents was taken from an incident he read in TheRoot.com where a woman who had lived her life as a European American (white) discovered she had “an African American ancestor who long ago had passed for white. Now faced with census forms, among other documents that ask us Americans for our race, she was wondering which box to check.”
Her problem was not just the choice of a box, but went further:”’Do I check both, and come across as a liar to those who don’t know my history?’ she asked. ‘Or do I check just white, and feel like a self-loathing racist?’” Page stated that he “…sympathize with the suddenly mixed-race woman’s confusion. In changing times, government forms are often the last to catch up.” Unfortunately, Page’s comments did not help because he was still in the race box like many in America. The problem the woman experienced was created long ago, back during American slavery when society decided to create two races, one black, one white. Again, society created these races, not nature, not God, or some cosmic phenomena. Over the years, this concept of race was not challenged but underscored and offered as fact by individuals from science, religion, politics, education, and any possible arena that was accepted as valid. None of that changed the fact that these so-called races were created for the economic and social benefit of the ruling European American class.
One reason given for the Census Bureau’s use of the word race is for data collection which requires information about all Americans based on their ethnicity. The problem noted by Page that appeared on the last census form was “On question number 9 in the 2010 form, for example, there are check boxes for ‘White,’ ‘Black, African American or Negro,’ American Indian or Alaska Native,’ as well as 11 other choices that actually are ethnic nationalities from Asia and the Pacific islands.” He noted that Hispanics are listed as a separate ethnic group. He also noted that “…the new form left out mention of the entire Middle East, among other regions, leaving their ethnic groups to check ‘White’ or fill in the catchall box for ‘Some other race.’”
These problems could easily be eliminated by the Census Bureau removing the reference to race by color and allow people to use their ethnic, cultural or geographical identity. If that was to happen, people would not be confused about who they are or what box to check. The woman at the beginning of this blog was confused because she defined herself according to a race that does not exist, although it was believed to exist at one time. That time was when American recognized only those two races. People who were not recognized as black or white was simply called immigrants and denied rights. These current problems are presently being looked at, according to Page. He noted that “More extensive questions of ethnicity and ancestry have been asked since 2000 by another set of longer forms, the American Community Survey.” He added that “Unlike the 10-year census, the longer ACS is conducted among a sample of 250,000 people every month. That’s a good model, some experts say, for how the 10-year census could give a more complete and realistic picture of America’s changing demographic landscape.”
Page referred to the former Census Director, Kenneth Prewitt, who admitted that, the present system really effective. Prewitt, we were told has a book entitled “What is Your Race? The Census and Our Flawed Efforts to Classify Americans,” that “lays out a bold plan for the phasing out the current questions about race while phasing in a new set aimed at measuring differences in income, education and upward mobility and social assimilation—key questions in determining how well our fabled American ‘melting pot’ is still working.”
Prewitt’s plan will produce some interesting information about Americans, but unless the subject of race is cleared, the problem of identity will still remain. Most people know by now and have known for some time that the concept of America as a melting pot did not reflect the reality of American society because some Americans did not melt. Had they melted, we would not be faced with the problems created by race today. The Census Bureau should realize that nothing would be loss as for as ethnic data is concerned if the reference to identity by race and color were eliminated. The fact is that the data collected would be more accurate and factual than presently recorded.
That fact that many Americans see themselves as belonging to a race other than the human race is a sign that relevant information necessary to debunk the fallacy of multiple biological races has not been sufficiently disseminated to society. When we talk in terms of bi-racial or mixed-race people we show our ignorance of information that should change our self-perception as well as our perception of our society. According to Page, “Whether Prewitt’s scheme is widely embraced or not, it’s worth talking about. Americans are changing too much for us to squeeze ourselves into the old boxes.” With respect to the European American woman selecting a box, she could choose the one she feels best reflects her life currently based on her culture. As far as her race is concerned, she could simply cross out the “Some other” and write in Human.

Paul R. Lehman,The concept of a post-racial society conceals the misdeeds of America’s past and present.

April 14, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, blacks, Civil War, college admission, desegregation, discrimination lawsuit, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, identity, integregation, justice, minority, Race in America, segregation, skin color, Slavery, The Thirteenth Amendment, The U.S. Constitution, U.S. Supreme Court, University of Texas, whites | 2 Comments
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An article that appeared in the grio posed the questions:”has the nation lived down its history of racism and should the law become colorblind?” (4/1/13) These questions were asked in conjunction with the two cases before the Supreme Court, one case deals with affirmative action, the other focuses on voting rights. Although both questions involve some aspect of the same topic, race, they need to be addressed separately, and in a different context from the general public concept. Let us look first at the question about racial preference and racism.
The first thing we need to address is the fact that America and the government created race based on color. Two races were created, one black and the other white. These races were not created on anything other than the color for a person’s skin. Later many scientists, scholars, ministers, and a host of other players tried to justify race from a biological perspective, to no avail because any person who looked white could be white. So, while the definition protected people with fair complexions, it was no guarantee that the race of these people was correct or valid. So, society added ancestry to the definition of race via color, but only African Ancestry. In other words, if a person had any African ancestry, that person was considered black regardless of how they looked. The problem with race defined by color was finally addressed by U. S. law in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) but proved to be something of a joke– Homer Plessy’s complexion was so light, that his arrest for sitting in a seat reserved for white-only had to be staged. None the less, the law was kept in place.
America made these two races distinct in that they represented opposite values. The so-called white race was given power, privilege, and prestige. If one was upper-classed white, wealthy or educated, then he or she was considered normal. Otherwise, being white just placed one above all other non-whites. For the so-called black race or Negroes, as they were also called, they represented negative stereotypes that included ignorance, laziness, worthlessness, untrustworthiness, and repulsiveness along with a host of other despicable characteristics. All these elements were promoted by the so-called white race to be biological features of the so-called black race. Society created, promoted and enforced laws and practices that discriminated against and segregated people of the so-called black race.
Before and during the time of the Civil War many people, European Americans as well as African Americans worked towards eliminating slavery and discrimination of African Americans. Once the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments were passed by Congress with pressure from President Lincoln and others, African Americans were recognized as citizens of the United State of America. That meant that only whites and blacks were citizens since no other race was recognized.
For African Americans, being citizens of the United States did not end discrimination, hatred and bigotry. As a matter of fact, negative feelings against African Americans began to manifest in acts of violence by so-called white vigilante gangs that included acts of lynching. Although America has always been a diverse society, it acted like a monolith of European Americans. They still held on to the philosophy of Manifest Destiny—this country belongs to them because God gave it to them to take and possess. Although many diverse societies existed in America, the country projected two so-called races—black and white, under the rubric of one country, America. The so-called black race was never treated fairly nor equally by society until the laws of the country was challenged in courts, and especially, the Supreme Court. The 1954 Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Topeka began the change in the social structure of America. According to the law, African Americans could no longer be treated as unequals in public facilities. Unfortunately, the change in the law did not affect the minds of many American who saw the law as a form of discrimination against their rights. Therefore, they continued to maintain and enforce an atmosphere of segregation and discrimination against African Americans until the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, 1965, 1968.
During the time from the beginning of America creating to two races until the Civil Rights Acts, the race America called white enjoyed the liberties of freedom, life and the pursuit of happiness without reservation. Now that America has decided to live up to its promise of fair and just treatment for all its citizens, the so-called white race wants to cry discrimination because it cannot continue to discriminate on the basis of its so-called race. The court case involving university admissions at the University of Texas is said to be based on racial preference for African American students. Actually, if the University of Texas did not show some preference to African American students, it would still be discriminating against them based on past social history and practice. They were formerly denied admission based on their so-called race, so not to consider their so-called race for admission would be seen as unjust or unfair.
Another problem exists regarding this case, that is, how will race be defined since color is not a reliable indicator of race and DNA will show that all people have some African ancestry? The fact that America created two so-called races based on color has come back to haunt and trouble us since the European Americans no longer control the definition of race in America. Race should have been replaced by ethnic group and ethnicity since the 1940s, but to do that would have meant a loss of power, privilege and prestige for the European Americans. What society could not bring it to do; Mother Nature is doing for it. In a few more years, the ethnic minority in America will become the majority and the concept of a black race and white race will become so complex and confusing that it will have to become a thing of the past.
So, if the court wants to avoid the problem of having to deal with race, it should simply look at the people who have been denied social and economic justice in our society and do the fair and just thing by them without regard to a so-called race. The idea of a post-racial society is just a way of trying to avoid the realities of discrimination and bigotry that have been a part of America’s history. America created the problem; it can resolve it.

Paul R. Lehman, “All in the Family,” a view of American Bigotry

December 16, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, desegregation, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, integregation, justice, minority, Prejudice, public education, Public housing, Race in America, Richard Rothstein, The American Prospect, U.S. Supreme Court, whites | 4 Comments
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An old saying that “hindsight is 20/20” makes reference to the possibility of people looking back on something in the past and getting a better, more clear picture and understanding than the first time they experienced or saw it. That might be the case for some people, but not for all. Sometimes the look backwards does not change at all; the change depends on who is doing the looking. A good example of this type of experience can be observed in the famous television show “All in the Family.”

The show was centered on the Bunker family who lived in a house located in Queens, New York. Information about the show states that “Archie Bunker was the main character… He was televisions most famous bigot, crass and down right rude. Yet he was loveable, with a soft side just beneath the surface. Edith Bunker was his somewhat dizzy wife whom he called ‘Dingbat.” Archie and Edith had a daughter, Gloria, who had a husband named Mike, but was called ‘Meathead’ by Archie.” We are told that “The stories revolved around many controversial topics including, rape, sex, homosexuality, death and other topics that were relevant to the 70’s, especially political strife and inflation.” In addition, we are told that “Archie Bunker was probably the first character in a situation comedy to use racist remarks referring to blacks and other minorities.”

What makes this show important is the fact that Archie complains constantly about the changes that are occurring in society. The audience sees him as a bigot, but he never sees himself as such, and rightly so, because his society conditioned him to hold the social perspective he possessed. If we look at some of the lyrics of the show’s theme song, we get the full flavor or Archie’s protest: “Boy, the way Glen Miller played. / Songs that made the Hit Parade. /Guys like us, we had it made. /Those were the days.” Archie remembers, according to the song, what to him were the “good old days,” when European Americans (whites) were the people of privilege in society. The song also underscores his attitude about himself and other European Americans concerning the present state of affairs: “Didn’t need no welfare state. /Everybody pulled his weight. /Gee, that old LaSalle (car) ran great. / In other words, he had a good job, a nice affordable house, an automobile, and he lived in a segregated neighborhood. Those were the days!

For Archie, conditions in society are changing in a way that allows other Americans to begin to share in many of the benefits of society. The problem for Archie is that he wants to retain the level of privilege he believes is his by virtue of his being European American. To be more specific, the government promoted European American privilege, segregation and discrimination. Richard Rothstein, in an article, “Government-Sponsored Segregation,” published in The American Prospect, tells us how Archie was able to purchase the house in Queens. He states that “The government has an explicit policy of not insuring suburban mortgages for African Americans. In suburban Nassau County, just east of Queens, for example, Levittown was built in 1947; 17,500 mass-produced two-bedroom houses, requiring nothing down and monthly payments of only about $60.” This payment, we are told, “(was considerably less than the approximately $75 unsubsidized charged in Woodside Houses for apartments of comparable size.) At the FHA’s insistence, developer William Levitt did not sell homes to blacks, and each deed included a prohibition of such resales in the future.”

Archie’s house in Queens more than likely had a housing restriction that prevented African Americans from living, owning or renting them. So, the attitude of privilege that Archie reflected along with the bigotry was not unusual for his generation. Those social elements were cultivated in him by his society. Again, we are told that

Although the Supreme Court ruled in 1948 that racial restrictions were legally unenforceable, the FHA and VA continued to insure such mortgages. By 1950, the federal agencies were insuring half of all new mortgages nationwide. Many white families, who before the postwar housing boom lived in urban neighborhoods in proximity to African Americans, were relocated to more isolated white racial enclaves, created and promoted by government policy. (40)

To Archie, the privileges and special attention given to European Americans was normal and expected. What would have been seen as out of the ordinary would have been fair treatment to African Americans. Other forms of advantages given to European Americans came in the benefits of belonging to labor unions, a membership that was denied African Americans. But housing was a major element in the make-up of American society because it was the foundation and center from which most social elements revolved. When we look back and see just how unfairly African Americans and other minorities were treated by our government, we can recognize how the gaps in economics and education were created. Much of the problem relative to accepting all Americans can be traced back to the government’s role in sponsoring segregation and discrimination. Rothstein makes the point that

With public housing, federal and local governments increased the isolation of African Americans in urban ghettos, and with mortgages guarantees, the government subsidized whites to abandon urban areas for the suburbs. The combination was largely responsible for creating the segregated neighborhoods and schools we know today, with truly disadvantaged minority students isolated in poor, increasingly desperate communities where teachers struggle unsuccessfully to overcome their families’ multiple needs. Without these public policies, the racial achievement gap that has been daunting to…educators would be a different and lesser challenge. (41)

So, now when we look back at Archie Bunker and the constant protest he made about the changing society in which he lived, we can understand why he complained. What we might not appreciate from him is his concern for people who do not pull themselves up by their bootstraps. What we now know that he never considered was that the African Americans and other poor minorities could not pull themselves up as easily as the European Americans; they had to work for their boots. The government literally gave Archie, and the generation he represented, the boots, the straps, and a little incentive just because they were European American.  Now that things are changing, we no longer have to wonder why he lamented “Those were the Days.”

Paul R. Lehman, T V’s “Good Times” was an example of government sponsored segregation and discrimination

December 9, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Posted in African American, Bigotry in America, blacks, chicago, desegregation, Equal Opportunity, European American, fairness, integregation, justice, minority, Prejudice, public education, Race in America, socioeconomics, whites | 7 Comments
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When most people think of history, they think of it as being static; however, to do so would be a mistake because it is dynamic. Whenever additional information is added to an historical event, that information changes the way the event is interpreted. An example is the television hit show of the middle to late ’70s, “Good Times.”We were told that the show  ”follows the challenges and joys of the close-knit Evans family—patriarch James, mother Florida, eldest son and accomplished amateur painter J.J. (James Evens, Jr), brainy and beautiful daughter Thelma, and youngest son Michael, a political and social activist—who live together in a high-rise housing project on the South side of Chicago.” While the show was presented as humorous, the truth of the matter is that the show was about a representative  African American family living the projects, struggling to survive in an environment of  government sanctioned segregation and discrimination. The government and society created at least three boundaries restricting the freedoms and advancement of many African Americans.

For many Americans living in large cities during the so-called New Deal, the only reasonable and affordable place to live was in public housing. For African Americans, however, the living conditions were quite different from those of European Americans living in public housing. For example, the housing for African Americans was generally located in an existing low social, economic, and predominantly African American community. For European Americans, the public housing was generally placed in economically established European American neighborhoods. For anyone with a passing knowledge of “Good Times,” we know that the Evans family lived in the projects.  What we did not question about that fact was the projects was like a prison with its boundaries, inhabitants, and restrictions. The government required the inhabitants of some projects to be African Americans, which meant they were segregated.

Living in the projects is like living in a unique and isolated world where every aspect of one’s life is of concern. For the African Americans, living in the projects meant being totally inconvenienced from goods, services, employment, school, and security. Because of the location of the projects in the less attractive and economically secure area of the cities, the problems associated with crime, drugs, unemployment, transportation and a host of other concerns were part of everyday life. These concerns were not the same for the European Americans living in public housing. Their locations placed them in or near the conveniences needed to carry on a “normal” life for the brief time they would live there. Many of the problems faced by the Evans family were from their immediate living environment.

The next challenge faced by the Evans family came from the location in which the projects were built. Since the community was low social, and economical, the chances for employment in the community were slim to none. Since unemployment was also a feature of the area, we know that crime would be a close companion along with the drug culture. Any child living in such an environment had to be concerned with his or her security because of the presence of gangs and their activities. Fortunately, the Evans children were not associated with gangs because of the strong and constant influence of their parents. Children living in the real world are not always so fortunate. Like the conditions inside the projects, the local community was segregated and reflected signs of discrimination and neglect, especially in the schools.

We were told that the Evans family lived in public housing located in Chicago’s South side—reportedly the “baddest part of town.”What that meant was the government did not pay close if any attention to what happened in this area primarily because its inhabitants were poor African Americans. Although the Evans children had talents, the avenues available to them for further development were extremely limited. The two primary institutions available to the children for creative expression were the church and the school, both segregated and in the African American community. Segregation is a form of discrimination that places, for African Americans, a challenge to participate in whatever they are being denied. What we see of the Evans family in “Good Times” is a daily struggle to survive in a society that has stacked the deck against them.

In an article by Richard Rothstein in The American Prospect (11/12), entitled “Government-Sponsored Segregation,” he comments on public housing in New York, but could easily include other cities like Chicago, Philadelphia: “Whereas in the mid-1950s most New York public-housing tenants were white, [European American], today they are only 5 percent white, as the decampment of middle-class families to segregated suburbs has been completed.” He adds that “The public and media stereotype of project residents has become one of entrenched poverty and social dysfunction. By 1973, President Richard Nixon could describe such projects as ‘monstrous, depressing places—rundown, overcrowded, crime-ridden.’” So, living under such conditions, how was the Evans family to progress?

When we consider “Good Times” as a form of entertainment—humor, we suspend reality because the Evans fight back with the only weapon at their disposal—laughter. When we assess this show seriously, we must see it as an absurd creation. The only relief they experience in their daily struggle for survival is through laughter. The words to the “Good Times” theme song underscores their short-lived joys in life that mirrors the show’s name: “Any time you meet a payment. Good Times.” This experience suggests that trying to meet payments is a constant struggle. The point hits home in these lines” Any time you’re out from under. / Not getting hastled, not getting hustled. / Keeping’ your head above water, /Making a wave when you can.” These conditions described above all indicate not good times, but desperate times. If one has to try and keep his head above water, we do not have to guess where the rest of his body is located. None of these situations are a laughing matter.

“Good Times” ended its television run in 1979; Rothstein noted that “Although housing authorities nationwide had ceased purposefully segregated projects in the last quarter of the 20th century, they never took action to reverse the effect of previous policies.” What is even more disheartening is how society characterizes many African Americans who live in public housing as lazy, uneducated, drug-taking, free-loaders with little or no initiative simply because of where they live.  Rothstein informs us that “In 1984, The Dallas Morning News sent reporters to federally funded projects in 47 cities. They found that the nation’s nearly ten million public-housing residents were still almost always segregated by race [ethnicity].” What he says next underscores the claim of discrimination against African Americans: “The few remaining predominantly white projects had superior facilities, amenities, services and maintenance in comparison to predominantly black [African American] projects.”

A gap in the social, economic, educational, and political conditions of African Americans and Europeans was created by government sponsored segregation and discrimination, and to this day has not come near being closed. The irony of this gap is that the African American is seen as a villain when he tries to close the gap. History, we know to be the record of passed events, but we also know that the more information we obtain about those events, the better able we are to speak to their significance.

 

Paul R. Lehman, Jasper, Texas, a study in historical bigotry and social control

July 1, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Posted in American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, fairness, justice, Lori Stahl, Media and Race, Prejudice, Race in America, U.S. Education Department Office for Civil Rights, whites | 5 Comments
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If the name Jasper, Texas sounds familiar it is probably from the news created in 1998 when an African American man named James Byrd was killed. Byrd was walking home at night when three European American men picked him up, took him to a secluded wood, tied his hands and feet, and then tied him to the back of the truck. He was then dragged for several miles until he was decapitated from that experience.  An enormous amount of media attention was paid to the incident, which produced a variety of activities, some from the Ku Klux Klan as well as the Black Panthers. After the arrest, trial, and conviction of the perpetrators, the town seemed to undergo a dramatic change regarding ethnic relations—a positive change. Unfortunately, the change did not last very long.

In a recent article in the Washington Post,”Racial tension still an issue in Jasper, Texas” (6/15/12) by Lora Stahl, healing and reconciliation didn’t really take place.  Since the killing of Byrd, a number of things happened to indicate that the town was dealing with some of the bigotry that is part of its history. Over the past few years, four African Americans had been elected to the City Council and the town had recently hired an African American as Chief of Police. The participation of these African Americans in the town’s affairs seemed too much for some of the European Americans to take. So, something had to be done.

The nature of the problem in Jasper as well as hundreds of other towns like it is the unwillingness of too many of the European Americans citizens to come to grips with the bigotry that has been part of their lives since birth. The stereotypical view of the African American by European Americans is one of inferiority accompanied by negative element such as ignorance, laziness, dishonesty, violence and a host of other descriptive adjectives. The problem stems from the belief that if African Americans occupy positions of leadership then the value and stature of the European Americans is diminished. Therefore, that situation should never be allowed to exist. The power and prestige of the European Americans would be in jeopardy of being lost if African Americans were to gain positions of power. So, when the presence of African Americans in the town’s government came to notice, something had to be done to protect the real [European American] citizens.

One of the first orders of business was to remove the African Americans from the City Council. That was done through a recall process. Apparently, the powers-that-be did not like the power the African Americans managed or simply working with them, so they had them removed using their power and influence. That power and influence was generated through creating fear and hatred of European Americans loosing the place of privilege.

The article noted that “On Monday, 16 months after he was hired by a black majority on the City Council, Police Chief Rodney Pearson was ousted during a tense council meeting. The council, which now has a white majority, voted 4 to 1 to terminate Pearson.” The reason for Pearson’s firing are not clear, except for the article stating that the Mayor, “Mike Lout grilled Pearson during a long session before the firing was announced. Lout reportedly questioned the chief about how many hours he worked and why he was not present at two high-profile crime scenes.”

Evidently, the Mayor had to lecture the chief (read boy) before he told him of his firing. The lecture was a show of power the mayor wanted to underscore not only to the chief, but also to all the townspeople. In effect, the European Americans were back in control—they took their town back.

To understand the way this change in power took place we have to look at a number of things that do not seem connected, but are. The chief, an African American, was married to a European American. On the surface, they had not encountered any problems in Jasper. However, we are told that “Pearson’s wife [Sandy] was let go about three weeks ago from her job managing a medical office because of ‘low morale’ in the workplace.”By the business letting Sandy go, it was suggesting that she was the cause of the “low morale.”

With the firing of Pearson, the powers -that -be in the town have successfully cut off the Pearson’s livelihood. They, in effect, have said that they have the power to destroy your way of life and make your time in Jasper difficult. What apparently started the power change according to the article was Pearson’s concern over the recall process: “Earlier this year, Pearson hired lawyers to represent him in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claim. According to a report in the Beaumont Enterprise, the claim was not mentioned by the council during the meeting this week.” The complaint was not mentioned for fear that the dots would be connected and the truth comes out. The article continued with “The complaint was apparently filed after a local recall election last month resulted in several black council members losing their seats to whites.”

We are told that some African Americans launched a recall petition to unseat Lout, but were not successful. We need not wonder why.  The irony of it all is that just when people start to believe that society is beginning to realize that all  people live on the same planet, breath the same air, and meet whatever requirements necessary to life and livelihood, fear and hatred in the form of bigotry and prejudice comes forth to take center stage. Yes, the powers- that- be in Jasper have been successful in delaying social progress. However, they must realize that all their efforts did no more than delay progress. Their efforts to “take back their town” supposedly from African Americans are based on their fear of losing their sense of superiority. Their hatred comes from the fact that they realize they are fighting a losing battle and they cannot stop the inevitable loss. So, they do what they can to hold on for as long as they can.

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