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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul R. Lehman, What about this thing called reparations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul R. Lehman, America is experiencing violence and death because of fear, hatred, and bigotry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul R. Lehman, Communication is a process, not just some comments

March 27, 2019 at 3:23 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, criminal justice, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Prejudice, Race in America, whites | 4 Comments
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After leaving security in the airport I began walking through the concourse towards my terminal gate. Walking next to me was a young man, probably in his mid-thirties, who suddenly began talking. He asked a number of questions, like “How are you?”And “How are things going with you?” to which I promptly responded. We continued walking towards our respective gates and he continued talking. Naturally, I continued to respond. This activity went on for about thirty seconds when the young man turned and headed in another direction, I assumed towards his gate. What puzzled me was his quick turn without any word of warning to me. I watched as he walked away and suddenly realized that the man was still talking, but not to me or anyone else in sight. I continued to look after him for a while when I realized that he had a device attached to his ear. That is when reality slapped me in the face—this young man was never talking to or with me; he was on his cell phone. A new lesson learned about communication that can be applied to our everyday experiences. Communication is a process that involves someone sending a message, another one receiving the message and responding to the message sent. The lesson is to know with whom one is speaking to so all parties will understand the message and its intent.

That lesson could easily be applied to the many discussions in society today involving relationships among African Americans, people of color, and European Americans. The distance that exists between people of color and European Americans communicating with each other cannot be easily bridged without each side knowing first that a language and knowledge gap exists. Too often people representing African Americans and European Americans agree to get together to discuss issues such as race, injustice, criminal justice, and a host of other topics assuming they share the same or similar perspectives and understanding of the topics. Unfortunately, conversations might extend for hours with both sides thinking that they are making progress in gaining a better understanding of one another when, in fact, they have not made any progress at all. The reason for the lack of progress comes from the fact that they do not know the mindset each side brought to the conversation. Each side speaks thinking their point of view or perspective is fully understood and appreciated when the opposite is true. Let us look at an example of this conundrum focusing on race.

When Americans talk about race the meaning and significance of the term are not the same with all people. The reason for this conflict has to do with the social conditioning each side received living in American society. As a matter of fact, many Americans do not realize the fact of their social conditioning since it is hardly ever discussed. For example, many Americans do not realize that bigotry is viewed as a natural part of American society. Some European Americans do not realize that they belong to the human race because they have been led to believe that they are representative of the human race. In other words, all the other people in American belong to a race, but not them; they are the model.

When Americans look around society they see markers and symbols that reflect European American life and history. When we look at the names of the streets, buildings, parks, and even some communities, we realize that these usually underscore aspects of European American life and history.  Everything in society appears natural to the European American, even slavery at one time. Although legal slavery ended with the Civil War, the legacy of the institution of European American (white) supremacy still manifest itself today in the way some people talk, think and act.

For many European Americans, the mere mention of the word race brings to mind African Americans because race is viewed as restricted to African Americans. History has traditionally placed the African Americans in a position of inferiority compared to European Americans, so viewing African Americans as inferior is not viewed as unusual but natural. The topic of race to many European Americans is anathema because it brings up many things in today’s society that they must refuse to recognize or simply plead ignorance to knowing like social injustice, social inequality, discrimination in the criminal justice system, voting rights, and other equally important concerns. That being the case, problems involving race cannot be resolved by people who view race from different perspectives regardless of how long they talk about it. Each side believes the other side understands their perception of the issue when they actually only see their own view.

When an American citizen identifies himself or herself as black or white, they are in fact saying that they believe in a race by color and by extension believe in European American (white) superiority. What this situation means is that an acceptance of the false concept of race makes it impossible to resolve any problems involving race fairly unless the concept of race is debunked at the very start of the conversation. Unfortunately, for many European Americans taking the action of debunking the false concept of race is extremely difficult because they do not realize that the perspective they hold is biased towards African Americans and other people of color and was acquired from their social conditioning in everyday life. They do not realize that they live in a society where to accept the concept of race by color is the very essence of ethnic bias, so anytime they refer to or think of themselves as white, they are talking about race.

Unfortunately, many Americans believe they already know everything there is to know about race and proceed to talk about it without caution. Fortunately, my lesson in the airport taught me to make certain that what I hear someone saying is meant for me and that they are speaking to me. The onus falls on me to recognize what is communication and what is just talk.

 

Paul R. Lehman, PNAS study shows ethnic biases still exist in treatment and medication for African Americans

February 18, 2019 at 4:02 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, Medical Aparteid, myths of pain for African Americans, PNAS study, Prejudice, Race in America, whites | Leave a comment
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A young man navigated himself into the hospital emergency room and to the reception desk where he complained of an extremely severe headache. What happened to him after his alerting the reception desk of his condition is not clear, nor is the treatment or lack of treatment he received by the medical staff. The fact that he was not admitted to the hospital was evident because the man was found lying on the sidewalk in front of the emergency room door by the local police who had been called by the hospital staff to remove him. The man’s pain was so severe that he could not speak clearly with the police when they tried to question him. Not being able to communicate with the man, the police drugged him to their vehicle, took him to the local jail where after a few short hours, he was reported to have died.

A pregnant young woman waited for some 30 minutes in the waiting room of her obstetrics office after calling ahead and informing them of her condition—very uncomfortable pain and vaginal bleeding. After she bled through the chair cushion in the reception room, she asked her husband to see if she might be taken to a private area.  The doctor visited briefly with her, commented on her weight, said that her spotting was normal, and sent her home. When the pain continued through the day and evening, she spoke to her mother then called a nurse who asked if she had pain in her back. She replied no, that it was in her butt. The nurse said she was probably suffering from constipation. After numerous confrontations with doctors and nurses she was given an ultrasound that revealed her serious condition—one baby and two tumors. Had the ultrasound not been performed she would have died; she did lose the baby.

These two incidents represent the thousands that have occurred and many that still occur today throughout America. The two main reasons for these occurrences are: the patients are African Americans, and the myths believed by the medical community concerning African Americans and pain. One would think and certainly hope that ethnic myths based on skin color no longer play a role in the treatment of African Americans in today’s world. We would be mistaken in that belief.

A study that focused on these myths was conducted by PNAS, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. (Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Apr 19; 113(16): 4296–4301.) The study employed the terms black and white assuming that the reader would know their significance. This writer for the sake of clarity, viewed the term black to mean African Americans, and the term white to mean European Americans. The significance of the study was stated as follows:

“The present work examines beliefs associated with racial bias in pain management, a critical health care domain with well-documented racial disparities. Specifically, this work reveals that a substantial number of white laypeople and medical students and residents hold false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites and demonstrates that these beliefs predict racial bias in pain perception and treatment recommendation accuracy. It also provides the first evidence that racial bias in pain perception is associated with racial bias in pain treatment recommendations. Taken together, this work provides evidence that false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites continue to shape the way we perceive and treat black people—they are associated with racial disparities in pain assessment and treatment recommendations.”(Italics added)

The myths in the study include: Blacks age more slowly than whites, Blacks’ nerve endings are less sensitive than whites’,  Black people’s blood coagulates more quickly than whites’, Whites have larger brains than blacks, Whites are less susceptible to heart disease than blacks, Blacks are less likely to contract spinal cord diseases, Whites have a better sense of hearing compared with blacks, Blacks’ skin is thicker than whites’, Blacks have denser, stronger bones than whites, Blacks have a more sensitive sense of smell than whites, Whites have a more efficient respiratory system than blacks, Black couples are significantly more fertile than white couples, Blacks are better at detecting movement than whites, Blacks have stronger immune systems than whites, and are less likely to catch colds.

Most people are generally encouraged to trust people in the medical profession; however, the words of the researchers from this study should give caution to African Americans as well as all people of color in general relative to the medical profession’s continued belief in many of these myths. We tend to believe that people with higher education and in professional occupations are not influenced so much by ethnic bigotry or prejudice. Unfortunately, the results of the PNAS study indicates that for many in the medical profession the biases acquired through their social conditioning are still alive and working. Many doctors do not realize that the myths play a part in their practice because attention is not brought to them. Patients of color need advocates to speak up for them.

As a result of the study, African Americans and other people of color should understand that their health and wellbeing still depends on their ability to receive appropriate treatment without the interference of some mythical belief. In other words, they should always question any procedure or medication that does not seem to address their illness, if possible. The questioning of the medical professional is not to challenge his or her decision, but to gain clarity about what the patient can expect of the treatment or medication.

The inhumane and unethical treatment of African Americans by many in the medical profession is not new, and if one wants to read about the extensive history of that treatment an excellent source is Harriet A. Washington’s Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present(2006). The fact that many of the myths are still believed today in spite of the DNA information that speaks to no biological differences between Homo sapiens underscore the need for caution relative to the medical profession and their relationship to African Americans and people of color. A new emphasis in the medical profession must be instituted to address this problem or it will continue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul R. Lehman, Report’s data on states racial integration progress is suspect

February 1, 2019 at 5:25 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Dream, American history, American Indian, black inferiority, blacks, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, DNA, employment, entitlements, Equal Opportunity, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, Hispanic whites, Human Genome, integregation, justice, language, law, minorities, Non-Hispanic white, Prejudice, public education, race, Race in America, racism, segregation, skin color, social conditioning, social justice system, socioeconomics, The Oklahoman, tribalism, U. S. Census, White of a Different Color, whites | 2 Comments
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The intent is not to rain on the parade, but too much confusion exists in the article “Report shows state has made progress on race,” to let pass ( The Oklahoman 01/2018). The reference to race in the article’s title is confusing as to its meaning. Once we got beyond the title, the confusion continued. Relying on “A new report from finance site Wallet-Hub” the report ”ranked states based on’ the current level of integration of whites and blacks by subtracting the values attributed to whites and blacks for a given metric.’” The ranking of each state’s progress relative to integration was based on four areas: Employment & Wealth, Education, Social & Civic Engagement, and Health. Oklahoma, according to the report, ranked 13th in racial integration out of the fifty states according to the four areas examined.

Without going into the meat of the report, we determined the data to be questionable in that no definition of terms used was given. Therefore, the reliability of the data is suspect from the beginning. For example, the term race is used in the article’s title, but no following information is offered to explain what is meant by race. If the reader has to rely on assumptions regarding the meaning or intended meaning of race, then what good is the data? Another problem is produced if the reader assumed the reference to race was intended to refer to the human race. The problems continued once we look at the objective of the Wallet-Hub report.

We read that the Wallet-Hub report focused on the “level of integration of whites and blacks”….Again, we are not informed as to the meaning of the terms white and black, but each term was treated as a monolith. We know historically that America at is formation socially constructed two races, one white and the other black, with the white being thought and treated as being superior to the black. But, this report was viewed as being current, and our knowledge of the false concept of two or more races is no longer acceptable. Without a clear definition of the term white any data offered would again be suspect.

The report also used the term black, but provided no definition or clarification as to its meaning or usage. One of the problems that the absence of a clear meaning or definition produced was the question of what black people provided the data for the report in that no specific culture, ethnicity, religion, language or geographic location was presented? So, who are the blacks? The same question exists for those people labeled as white.

When we turned to the U.S. Census Bureau for information the confusion increased because the bureau confused ethnicity, race, and origin. The bureau still operates under the assumption that multiple biological races exists. The bureau list the race categories as” White,” “Black or African American,” “American Indian or Alaska Native,” “Asian,” Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander,” and finally, “Some Other Race.” So, all the scientific date relative to the human race and DNA is seemingly of no concern to the bureau.

We do not know how or why the Wallet-Hub report decided to use the two terms, black and white, but from the 2010 Census information relative to race the question of what is race still remained. The Census Bureau stated in its 2010 data what it meant by race. Noting that their data is based on self-identification, the language reads as follows: “The racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country, and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically or genetically.” More specifically, it continued: “People may choose to report more than one race to indicate their racial mixture, such as “American Indian and “White.” People who identify their origin as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish may be of any race.”

If this information is not confusing enough read what the Bureau provided for blacks: “Black or African American” refers to a person having origin in any of the Black racial groups of Africa. It includes people who indicate their race(s) as “Black, African Am., or “Negro” or reported entries such as African American, Kenyan, Nigerian, or Haitian.” The information (biased and irrational) did not mention what selections were available to black individuals of mixed ethnicities—Puerto Ricans, Cubans etc…

Maybe the point of the report’s validity can be seen more objectively after reading the information from the Census Bureau. If race cannot be defined, and a person can select any race, how can the report provide accurate data about blacks and whites? Unnecessary confusion exists relative to terms like, race, ethnicity, origin, and nationality. One rule of thought exists regarding these terms, only one, the term race, has to do with biology, and that is only with respect to the human race. The other terms are all products of various cultures.

One other term used in the Wallet-Hub report was integration, but it, like race, black, and white was not defined or explained. The word integration became popular during and after the 1954, Brown v Topeka Board of Education case. Many people confuse the words desegregation with integration, but they are clearly not the same or interchangeable. When public schools were desegregated, that meant African American children had a seat in the room. Integration occurs when African American children sit in same the room as the European American children but also learn about their history as well. We still have some distance to travel before we reach integration and share the benefits of our diverse American cultural experiences.

As mentioned at the start of this piece, the intent was not to spoil the seemingly good news of the report concerning Oklahoma’s “progress on race,” but to bring some clarity and facts into the mix. One wonders why a group of “experts” would not be more attentive to the problems with the terms used in conducting this study. Good news is always welcomed relative to the plethora of societal problems involving America’s ethnic populations. When good news comes, we just want it to be accurate.

Paul R. Lehman, The challenge of history replacing the myth of race and racism

January 25, 2019 at 8:33 pm | Posted in Africa, African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Christianity, Confederacy, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, DNA, entitlements, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, Genealogy,, Human Genome, justice, language, minorities, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, segregation, skin color, skin complexion, U. S. Census, UNESCO, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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The old idiom of “beating a dead horse” comes to mind every time an incident involving ethnic bigotry occurs and affected and interested groups want to get together and talk about racism with the idea of defeating or overcoming it. The same scenario has been played for over three or more centuries and here it is today no further than before. Why? One might ask. The reasonable response is that racism cannot be defeated or destroyed because it is not a thing, but a concept. A concept is an idea and ideas are inventions, not facts. Racism is a concept derived from the false concept of the existence of biological races and as long as the concept is promoted, supported, and controlled it will persist. In order for racism to be removed from the psyche, it must be replaced. For example, when children are young and innocent they often ponder the question from where do babies come only to be told that a stork delivered them to their mommies. The stork story is an ancient myth generally thought to have come from Europe among other places. In any event, the idea of babies coming from a stork delivering them will stay with the children until they learn the truth about procreation. When that time occurs, the concept of the stork and the baby will be replaced by reality, not destroyed or defeated. Such is the case with racism.

Unfortunately, America and much of the Western world are not will to replace the concept of racism because it has and still works for them relative to providing privileges, power and prestige based on skin color. Much of the problem in replacing the myth comes from the fact that the myth of European American superiority has been tightly woven into the American psyche for so long that to many people it is no longer a myth. Over seventy years ago the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) issued several statements to the world regarding race:”These statements elucidated the genesis of theories of racial superiority. They emphasized that the biological differentiation of races does not exist and that the obvious differences between populations living in different geographical areas of the world should be attributed to the interaction of historical, economic, political, social and cultural factors rather than biological ones.” The critical point regarding race was emphasized in the statement issued in 2001, that: “Science – modern genetics in particular – has constantly affirmed the unity of the human species, and denied that the notion of `race’ has any foundation.” They further concluded that “Yet racism and racial discrimination have hardly vanished; Indeed, they have not only survived the scientific deconstruction of the concept of `race’ but even seem to be gaining ground in most parts of the world. In the age of globalisation, this situation may seem paradoxical.”In spite of all the data underscoring the concept of race, it persists today and will continue until the focus of inquiry moves from the results of racism to the cause.

In a recent article, Jonah Goldberg writes about how “out of step” the comments of Republican Steve King were when he spoke of white Nationalism, white supremacy, the Confederate flag and other elements of bigotry. The comments might appear out of step with what Goldberg sees as American ideals, but for King, and many other Americans, there was nothing unusual or wrong about those comments because they have been a part of the American experience since the beginning. A brief glimpse at history shows where the African American and other people of color have been deliberately discriminated against deprived of opportunities in education, housing, medicine, politics, and finance as a matter of life as usual. So, no wonder King’s anger and confusion about being cited and penalized for comments that he considered common and ordinary. What is missing from the article is the fact that many aspects of American History relative to the system of European superiority as it exists in America today has never been included in our public education.  Goldberg tried to underscore that lack of education relative to King by making reference to the myth of a white (and black) race in his statement: “Contrary to the prattle of white nationalists and supremacist, Western civilization is not synonymous with whiteness.” He added that many of the people thought to be white today:” Czechs, Hungarian, Poles, Italians, Greeks et al. weren’t “white” at the beginning of the 20th century.”

Goldberg’s article continued by providing a brief historical perspective on the early conceptions of race that included reference to a Dictionary of Races or Peoples that consisted of “a pseudoscientific grab bag containing ‘a motley compendium of ethnic stereotypes, skin complexion, head shape, and other hardy perennials of the race science literature.’” References to a number of ethnic groups and their contributions to Western society were included in the article in an effort to show the falseness of the white race superiority concept. He concluded that, “Among the best ideas and ideals of Western, Christian and most importantly, American civilization is that we are supposed to judge people on their individual merits, not keep score based on their ancestry.” While Goldberg’s article is factual and to the point relative to King’s perspective, the fact still remains that many Americans view history just as King does. So, what is gained by presenting his factual information about the false concept of race if nothing is offered to replace it?

Any meaningful discussion concerning race and racism must begin by deconstructing or debunking the concept of race. The reason for this action is because the discussion will produce nothing outside of race and racism and will continue in a non-ending circular state. The concepts of race and racism can be replaced with reality and factual information but not without the disruption of the psyche that is comfortable with the status quo and sees nothing to be gained from making the change. Too many Americans have shown that they are not ready to replace their ideas of race and racism with truth because some find beating a dead horse rewarding and entertaining.

 

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