Paul R. Lehman, Failure to recognize MLK’s Day has a negative impact on society

January 27, 2014 at 10:21 pm | Posted in African American, blacks, Constitutional rights, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, justice, Martin Luther King Jr., Prejudice, President Obama, skin complexion, The Oklahoman, The U.S. Constitution | Leave a comment
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Last week the nation celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day and fifty years of the Civil Rights Act. A story that appeared in a local paper (The Oklahoma) told of a mother’s disappointment when she learned that her son’s school was using that day as a snow catch-up day. The mother had planned to take her son to a number of activities celebrating the contributions of Dr. King. When she questioned the school about its decision, she was told that “’It was a very difficult decision to (make), but we wanted to be sure that we had that instructional time back for students.’” The mother expressed her sentiments relative to this experience by noting that “I’m concerned about the message this [ignoring Martin Luther King, Jr. Day]is sending to kids and others that the district believes that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is less important than them [The students] coming back after Memorial Day.”
Unfortunately, many parents across the nation could have uttered the same sentiment about the lack of interest and concern for the celebration of Dr. King’s Day showed by many communities in America. Many states initially did not celebrate the day or changed the name or combined it with other holidays. All fifty states did not recognize and celebrate King’s Day until 2000. President Ronald Reagan signed the law in 1983, but the first observance of the holiday was not until 1986. While the America and the world know the contributions gained for Americans by King and other civil rights workers, many Americans cannot accept the notion of an African American being given national recognition. Many believe that the gains made through civil rights are losses experienced by them.
What happens when a school decides not the recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day varies with the school. However, we realize that just the decision sends a message to the community, teachers, parents and student. None of the reasons for ignoring the King Holiday are seen as positive.
When the community decides to forego recognizing the King Holiday, one message it sends is that of rejection of King and the contributions that his life represents to society. The opportunity to learn more about King and civil rights is a lost to the community. Much of the community’s decision to not recognize the holiday comes from ignorance of those contributions and the many people who supported the movement. If the truth be told, many of the programs and services enjoyed by some of these communities are a direct result of King’s actions and civil rights laws.
Some teachers may or may not have studied about King and the civil rights activists that brought about tremendous change in society. The changes that occurred were not restricted to African American, but to all citizens. No civil rights law is reserved for African Americans; that would have been contrary to what King and the activists were fighting for—fairness and justice for all. Teachers, however, cannot teach what they do not know, so if they do not know enough about the meaning of the King Holiday, and have no incentive to learn, they deprive themselves as well as their student of meaningful information.
All parents generally want what is best for their children and they realize that exposure to information that is not readily taught in the public schools is important to a well-rounded education. So, many parents will inquire about courses available to their children and the value these courses offer. For parents of non-European ethnic American children, the information relative to King might help to underscore the meaning of democracy and its relevance in society. For African American as well as European American parents, the information might help them gain an appreciation of the struggles many Americans have faced over the years.
Students are generally the primary beneficiaries of the information presented relative to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the importance of the holiday. When the students learn about the contribution made via civil rights laws and how those laws impact their lives, then they gain a better appreciation of the strength of diversity and democracy in American society. Many students today have no idea of how restrictions were placed on other Americans because of the skin complexion or their gender in work and school. The information they receive about King should lead them to a better appreciation of what it means to be an American. In addition, many of the negative stereotypes about some ethnic Americans could be dispelled through information presented concerning King and civil rights supporters.
In essence, all of society looses when we fail to recognize and support important people and events that helped shape our society. Much of the criticism of President Obama comes from people who were deprived of information about African Americans and who grew up with a negative stereotype of them. Too often we as citizens create problems for ourselves and our community by withholding support that could make a positive difference in all our lives. Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr’s Day provides an avenue of approach to opening doors of understanding relative to America and our diverse and democratic society.
The mother who questioned her school district’s reason for not taking advantage of the King Holiday should be encourage to not only continue to press for the district’s meaningful celebration of the Holiday but also to expand that encouragement by letting the other parents and teachers know what is being lost to themselves and their students. A community and school district avoiding the celebration of the King Holiday sends a number of messages to the public. One message is that of not wanting to recognize the contribution of this American, and can easily be viewed as a form of prejudice. Another is to see the contributions of King as not worthy of respect and therefore, not worth acknowledging. Still another message sent is one of ignorance relative to King and his association with civil rights. All the messages are totally unnecessary and counterproductive to supporting and promoting life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in our American society.

Paul R. Lehman, No lesson in tolerance, a missed opportunity

December 18, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, blacks, equality, Ethnicity in America, fairness, justice, Prejudice, Race in America, whites | 2 Comments
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In an article published in The Oklahoma Observer last month (11/25/11) entitled “Lesson In Tolerance, Only In America,” by George Earl Johnson Jr.  he related two experiences that he viewed as unique to an African American living in America. He also called the experiences lessons in tolerance. On closed examination, we discover that he might have misjudged these experiences.

Johnson writes about two experiences where stereotypical concepts of well-dressed African American men were used with him as the victim. One experience he apparently viewed as negative, the other as positive. The first experience occurred when he was standing the in the lobby of a classy hotel in Washington, D.C. and he is mistaken for a bellman by a European American man. The man approached him with “’Hey boy, get my bags.’ In doing so he stuck out toward me a fist full of hotel baggage claim tickets. Going along with the man, I smiled and said in reply, ‘Yes sir.’”This experience Johnson referred to as a lesson in tolerance because he did not take the opportunity to correct the perception of the man regarding him as a bellman.

The second experience encountered by Jackson involved several young European American Interns in an elevator who mistook Johnson and a colleague as congressmen.  This experience was viewed by Johnson as positive, but again, he made no effort to correct the misconception. To allow the Interns to think of him and his associate as congressmen was not a lesson in tolerance; in fact, it was a failed opportunity to correct a false image.

In the first incident where Johnson is approached in the hotel lobby by a European American man and given a claim ticket, Johnson missed an opportunity to correct a stereotypical image of African Americans men. The European American man apparently thought the only reason for a well-dressed African American man to be standing in the lobby of a Four-star hotel was to be employed as a bellman. Therefore, he does not hesitate to go to him and give him the claim ticket and refer to Johnson as a boy: “Hey boy, get my bags.” Johnson could have taken the opportunity to challenge that stereotype and refused to accept the claim ticket while informing the European American that he too was a customer and to look elsewhere for a bellman. Johnson’s by accepting the claim ticket, in effect, supported, encouraged, and promoted the negative stereotypical concept held by the European American that all well-dressed African American men standing in a hotel lobby are bell hops, not customers. This experience was not a lesson in tolerance.

In the second incident, Johnson allows some young European Americans Interns working in the capitol to think of him and his colleague as congressmen. Since Johnson took an elevator generally reserved for congressmen where he met these young interns, the general impression taken for him and his friend was that they are congressmen. Johnson does nothing to dispel this incorrect image. He instead, led these young people to think that if African American men are well-dressed and riding an elevator reserved for congressmen, then they must be congressmen and not ordinary people.

Again, Johnson missed an opportunity to challenge a stereotype by not telling the young European Americans the truth or at least that he was not a congressman. Instead, he contributed to the false concept of well-dressed African American men being congressmen held by the Interns.  This experience was not a lesson in tolerance. Johnson seems to think that if the African American was not seen in a negative light that all was well. Unfortunately, whether the concept was positive or negative, if it was incorrect and supports a stereotype, it should be challenged.

For Johnson to call his experiences lessons in tolerance is a mistake, because these experiences did not contain any sense of tolerance. What was tolerated? The stereotypical concepts of African Americans held by the European American were not challenged or changed and consequently, will occur over and over again, thanks to Johnson’s lack of constructive action. What Johnson seemingly calls tolerance can easily be seen as passive acceptance. Had Johnson in the first incident refused the claims from the man who took him to be a bell hop, he would have challenged that man’s stereotypical concept of well-dressed African American men standing in the lobby of a four-star hotel being bell hops. That action could be seen as a lesson in tolerance—allowing the European American to break through his pre-conceived concept to a new and informed one of the African American male.

What was troubling about Johnson’s experiences and his reactions to them was the fact that he never realized that he contributed to the stereotypes held by the various European Americans he encountered during these incidents. He believed that his lack of action should be interpreted as lessons in tolerance when they should be seen for what they were—failed opportunities to correct misconception about well-dressed African American men. A long as African Americans take the path of Johnson by ignoring the opportunity to address a false conception by European Americans, these false conceptions will continued unchecked. Letting the opportunities go unchallenged is not tolerance, it is a form of indifference.

While Johnson’s experiences might appear to be inconsequential on the surface, they in effect, represent a troubling situation in America. For Johnson’s experiences to be considered as lessons in tolerance the European Americans should have walked away from the experience with a different, more  accurate and acceptable view of African Americans outside of the stereotype. Tolerance suggests open-mindedness, something Johnson did not display. He actually supported the status quo by choosing non-action over corrective action. By Johnson not taking the opportunity to correct a misconceptions, nobody benefits from the experiences—not Johnson, not the European Americans. Whether in America or on Mars, not correcting a false impression or false concept of one’s self image is a missed opportunity—not a lesson in tolerance.

Paul R. Lehman, Hank Williams, Jr. apologizes for Obama Comparison to Hitler–not

October 9, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Posted in Bigotry in America, blacks, Media and Race, Prejudice, Race in America, whites | Leave a comment
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Hank Williams, Jr. the country singer whose song opens the
Monday Night Football games, made a big mistake just recently during an
interview. The mistake was not so much about what he said as it was about where
he said it. He made a statement that compared President Obama to Adolf Hitler
and referred to him and Vice President Biden as “the enemy.” The problem is not
so much what he said as it is where he said it and why he said it.

Scratch the surface of a bigot, one will likely find a
hypocrite. Scratch the surface of a hypocrite and one will likely find an
irrational person. All three conditions usually go together because they
compliment each other. All three conditions can usually be found in people who
make statements that call attention to themselves. Whether Hank Williams Jr. is
one such person is not the question here. What is of concern here is his
mindset and how that reflects the three conditions.

Most people know enough about history to not confuse Obama
with Hitler, although it has been done numerous times. The idea behind the
comparison is to picture Obama as a horribly despicable person.  One would have to find some evidence to
support the claim if it was to be believed, however, since Obama has not done
anything so terrible to qualify him for that comparison, the only obvious
reason for the claim is a gross dislike of Obama. One could easily say that
William’s statement indicates a dislike of Obama. The obvious question to
follow is why does Williams dislike Obama so much? The reason could be
politics—Obama is a democrat. We might be able to accept that reason were it
not for the fact that Williams has criticized Obama in the past.

One of Williams’ mistakes was not realizing where he was
during his interview with Fox News. One might assume that he thought he was in
a comfortable, secure, and friendly setting where people thought like he
thought. He probably based his thought on his knowledge of Fox News’ reputation
regarding its coverage of President Obama. Unfortunately, for Williams, he forgot
the fact that he was closely associated with ESPN and Monday Night Football,
and that viewers generally separate their football from their politics. When
ESPN reacted to Williams’ comments by pulling his television spot, he offered
an apology.

Evidently, Williams saw nothing wrong with what he had said
during the interview because he did not apologize for his comments. He does say
that he is “very sorry if it (his comments) offended anyone.” He never
considered his comments were inappropriate, just a little extreme. Although he
says he has respect for the office of the president, he must view the occupant
of that office as somehow separated from it. In any event, one gets the message
that Williams does not like Obama.

No laws are broken when someone dislikes another person.
Usually, when someone dislikes another person that dislike is based on
something specific. Williams makes no mention of anything in particular he
dislikes in Obama—just Obama. If someone is disliked enough to compare him with
Adolf Hitler, but the comparison seems out of place, one reasonable assumption
might be bigotry. Some Americans live in communities where ethnic diversity is
not readily accepted. Some people believe that the color of a person’s skin
determines how they should be treated. American History shows that for many
years African Americans were not given any value in society. As a matter of
fact, an old saying actually measures the degree of value placed on the African
Americans when it says “a N—– ain’t worth S—.”

Many people grow up hearing that sentiment and others
equally offensive expressed on a frequent basis. Today, if the environment is
considered safe, people who would not utter these sentiments in public would
say them around friends who agreed with them. If any of these people are ever
caught in the act of say disparaging remarks about an ethnic American, they
will quickly apologize, not for what was said, but for being caught or “if”
anyone was offended.

It goes without saying that former President Bush was
compared to Hitler many times, and these comparisons were just as inappropriate
as the ones relative to Obama. Fortunately, with President Bush his comparisons
were made regarding some action he had taken or not taken. With Obama, the
comparison is made and we are left to draw our own conclusions. What can we
make of Williams’ comment that “My analogy was extreme—but it was to make a
point?” What was the point? We are given nothing on which to base a reaction.
His statement seems hypocritical because he does not say what he really means,
whatever that may be.

In offering his apology Williams stated that “The thought of
the leaders of both parties jukin’[sic] and high fiven’[sic] on a golf course,
while so many families are struggling to get by, simply made me boil over and
make a dumb statement, and I am very sorry if it offended anyone.” The he adds,
“I would like to thank all my supporters. This was not written by some
publicist.” Maybe he should have had a publicist write his apology because what
he say makes no sense at all except if one takes each phrase at a time and try
to associate it with something reasonable. One might assume he feels that the
two leaders should be some place working to resolve the problems of the poor,
and since they are not doing that, he gets upset and makes a “dumb statement.”
What he says later about the two men being total opposites adds to the
confusion. We are left either to try and decipher what he means or simply to
forget the entire matter and go on with our lives.

What teams are playing Monday night?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul R. Lehman, Criticism of Obama based in bigotry

September 4, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, Race in America | 3 Comments
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Although many reasons are given by the Republicans and the right for casting aspersions and criticism at President Obama, the most obvious reason is his ethnicity. Two noted journalists, E. J. Dionne, Jr. of The Washington Post, and Paul Krugman, of The New York Times, wrote in recent articles that the lack of leadership from the Republicans and the right in speaking out against the negative and often less than accurate criticism against President Obama could spell serious trouble for the country. Although previous presidents were the recipients of criticism, none have had to deal with the direct personal and character attacks lodged at Obama. Two charges assigned to Obama are troubling to say the least. One claim is that he is anti-American, the other is that he is Muslim, both of which are untrue. Under some circumstances some might consider these claims political, but when we evaluate their nature, the focus is more on his ethnicity. The basis of the claims is steeped in bigotry.

                In noting his concerns about the attacks on Obama, Krugman observes that “Mr. Obama’s election would have enraged those people if he were white. Of course, the fact that he isn’t and has an alien-sounding name, adds to the rage.” These attacks are not restricted to a narrow segment of society. Krugman continues by adding that “By the way, I’m not talking about the rage of the excluded and the dispossessed: Tea Partiers are relatively affluent, and nobody is angrier these days than the very rich.” He goes on to mention a number of the rich– Steve Schwarzman, and the Koch brothers. So, the attacks are serious enough to have the rich and powerful participate. Why is all this happening to Obama?

Rush Limbaugh refers to President Obama as “Imam Hussein Obama,” and had called him “the best anti-American president we’ve ever had.”To reasonable people these references might appear to be the ravings of an entertainer wanting to get attention in an effort to boost ratings. However, Limbaugh has made it clear from the day of Obama’s election that he wants him to fail. So, any rhetoric by Limbaugh focusing on Obama’s politics is simply a cover for his bigotry. And because he is such a popular spokesperson for the right, thousands of people believe what he says.

Both Krugman and Dionne note that the increase in the extreme language by the GOP and the right has gone unchecked by the so-called responsible Republicans. Dionne notes that “the rise of an angry, irrational extremism—the sort that says Obama is a Muslim socialist who wasn’t born in the United States—that was not part of Ronald Reagan’s buoyant conservative creed. Do Republican politicians believe in the elaborate conspiracy being spun by Glen Beck and parts of the Tea Party?” He adds, “If not, why won’t they say so?” The reason for not stepping up and renouncing the hateful language is because of fear from the rest of the group. No one wants to be the one who points out the ignorance and stupidity of the group.

When we examine some of the claims against Obama, we must admit that they are without merit. For example, if he were anti-American why would his actions display the opposite effects? What specifically has he done that can be characterized as anti-American? The people who work with and around him must all be under some spell or other not to recognize his anti-American behavior—or maybe those actions do not exist. One thing is certain on which both Dionne and Krugman agree, and that is Obama, his administration and party need to get busy and try to deflate the extremist language before it becomes uncontrollable. Too many people are starting to believe the irrational language of Limbaugh and Beck.

To say that these attacks on Obama are based in politics and not on his character would be incorrect. Constructive criticism is generally welcomed because it provides help in working towards the objective. Negative criticism and name calling serves no useful purpose. So, when the Obama critics offer constructive criticism, they given him something to build on, but when the criticism is negative, it simple add unnecessary heat to the atmosphere. If the GOP wants to attack Obama as the Democratic President regarding some political concern, then that fair game. However, the attacks have not been about his policies, but attempts in trying to label him as Muslin, socialists, anti-American, alien; none of which are true. The attacks are focused on Obama, the African American because therein lies the threat of loss. When we give some thought to the nature of the attacks, we note that had Obama not been African American the attacks would reflect more on policies rather than negative name-calling and labels. That, however, is not the case.

We can all hope that the GOP and especially the right will come to understand that the Civil War and Reconstruction are over, that we are the United States. President Obama is president of all the people regardless of how they might regard him. Rather than trying to help Limbaugh, Beck, the GOP, and the extreme right cause Obama to fail, which also means the country fails, why not try to add some constructive criticism to the mix and see what that produces. For certain the negative criticism will yield no good fruit. Dionne and Krugman are correct in speaking out about the destructive possibilities of the extremely negative comments of the GOP and the need for Obama to address the problem. After all, being patriotic is grounded in taking positive actions that help to build towards a better and brighter future. When the actions taken are meant to do harm or destroy our country that we call anti-American.

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