Paul R. Lehman, African American celebrities meeting with President elect Trump–a perspective

January 22, 2017 at 4:02 am | Posted in African American, American history, birther, Constitutional rights, Criticism, Disrespect, European American, freedom of speech, Media and Race, meetings with the President-elect, Oklahoma, politicians, President, protest | 1 Comment
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Once President Trump won the nomination and set up his office in Trump Tower, he had numerous individuals coming to pay him a visit. Among some of these visitors were a number of popular African Americans. Because of the baggage that President Trump brought with him from his campaign that was seen as ethnically biased against African Americans, many people questioned the reasons for African Americans going to Trump Tower. Regardless of their reasons for visiting with then President-elect Trump, the photo opportunity after the meetings of these African Americans with Trump sent a message that he was using them to show the country and the world that he was not biased. The problem with that interpretation is that these African American individuals represented only themselves, not the national community of people of color.

Some years ago, a European American politician in Oklahoma was asked why he did not come into the African American community to campaign for votes. He answered that he had met with all the important African Americans in the community and paid them off for the community’s vote. So, there was no need to try to win the votes of individuals when he already had the community vote in his pocket. In other words, all this politician had to do was to meet with a few popular African American and pay them to publicly support his campaign. So, although we are not questioning the rights and integrity of the individual African Americans who visited with Trump nor their reasons for the visit, we do not want the lasting impression from their visits to be that they were making a deal with him on behalf of the African American people. The African American citizens have not given their voting power or influence to any popular African American individual nor can they because African Americans and people of color do not represent a monolith.

When America saw various African Americans of note having their pictures taken with President-elect Trump and saying words in praise of him, that occasion gave many of them an opportunity to pause and think about what they saw. Why, after a campaign that was filled with disparaging and negative things about people of color, not to mention the “birther” campaign that was conducted for several years, would a prominent African American want to be photographed with Trump? Regardless of their reasons, meeting with and being photographed with the President-elect was their right and privilege. However, the implications associated with such meetings bring to awareness some conundrums—did the President-elect cut any deals or make any promises with these individuals? If so, what were they, who did they impact, how will they be implemented, and when? One certainty we know from experience—deals and promises made with individuals acting as individuals are not binding to the people these individuals seemingly represent.

In addition, the photo opportunities of the African Americans with the President-elect Trump gave the viewers the suggestion that some type of negotiations might have taken place. Whether deals or promises were part of the conversations, only the parties involved know what transpired because the people were not privy to them. Again, the problem that needs to be resolved is whether the individual African Americans were representing themselves, or were they speaking on behalf of a group of people. If they were at their meetings as individuals only, then no problem exists. However, if they gave the impression that they were speaking on the behalf a group of people, then they should have said so. No single individual can know and communicate the needs and wants of every community in America specifically; that is why organizations of concerned and active people exist. The meetings with individuals create a problem of perception, not one of individual rights and privileges.

One problem with individuals meeting with Trump and having the meeting seen as an individual representing the African American community is when organized national and community organizations request meeting with Trump to discuss some concerns, his response could be that he had already discussed those concerns with one or two individuals earlier. Evidently, the organizations did not get the memo about the meetings. The fact that the photo opportunities with the African Americans and the President-elect Trump serve as evidence that he met with them could be used as proof of his concern for some of the challenges in the various communities, and then suggest that anyone with a concern seek out these African Americans for answers to their questions.

Some people might suggest in defense of these individual Africans Americans if they are not representing an organization, that Martin Luther King, Jr. met individually with leaders, so that proves the acceptance of this type of activity. No so! King always spoke as a representative of a group of concerned citizens, and he was seldom alone at such meetings. Throughout history the media has taken the opportunity, on occasion, to create spoke persons for the African American community by simply showing them again, and again responding to questions asked by the media. Booker T. Washington became a national leading figure for the African American community when the media took a quote from a speech he delivered at the 1895 Atlanta Cotton Exposition focusing on “separate but equal” status for African Americans and broadcast it nationwide. Because of that nationwide coverage, Washington became the most influential African American of his day. So, we know what exposure to the media can do for individuals.

The American public has been conditioned to think incorrectly that one person can speak for all people of color. So, when an individual of color is shown by the media making a statement or responding to a question, the public could easily view that individual as representing an entire group. Unfortunately, that perception is what comes to mind when an African American celebrity is shown in a photo opportunity with President Trump. If such meetings between Trump and African American celebrities involve problems and concerns facing African Americans and other people of color and deals are made, the strength of the groups and organizations whose purpose is to address these problems with the President or his representatives is greatly weakened.

All individual have a right to meet and speak with anyone they choose, especially if that person is the President of the United States. However, all individual do not have the right to speak for a group of people they do not officially represent or to give that impression to the public. These individuals certainly have the right to speak on any topic they choose as long as they represent only themselves.

 

Paul R. Lehman, Baltimore, a victim of negative explosive expectations and false comparisons

May 1, 2015 at 12:24 am | Posted in African American, American history, Bigotry in America, blacks, Constitutional rights, criminal activity, democracy, Department of Justice, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, freedom of speech, happiness, justice, justice system, law, law enforcement agencies, lower class, Media and Race, minority, police force, Prejudice, public education, Public housing, race, Race in America, social justice system, socioeconomics, students parents, The U.S. Constitution, whites | 1 Comment
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The recent events in Baltimore have for all intent and purposes been blown out of proportions due to faulty expectations as well as propaganda. Had the initial display of lawlessness been address by the local law establishment, the rest of the escalation would not have been necessary. The disruptive unlawful activity began when the local high school near the center of action dismissed school earlier than usual. Many of the teens rather than going home decided to take advantage of a situation presented to them to commit unlawful acts with no one in authority looking on.

One would expect the police to handle the situation involving the young children differently from older adults, but the police never appeared on the scene. The children realized early on that because no law enforcement was present, they could do whatever they wanted without repercussions. So, they acted-out by breaking windows, stealing merchandise, destroying property and other things that they would not think of doing under normal circumstances. These teens were out of control and not thinking rational. The death of Freddie Gray was probably not on their minds. Unfortunately, some adults who witnessed the activity of the teens took advantage of the situation and used it as cover to become involved in lawless acts. So, when the cameras started to show the activity, some adults were pictured along with the teens. The media characterized the teens and their action as violent rioting threatening the entire city.

Regardless who was involved, their actions were wrong and unacceptable, but explainable, given the circumstances of the location, the time, and the youth. What happened after the initial occurrence of the unlawful activity by the teens and some adults was an over-blown accounting of the event. The media began by treating the social out-burst as if the entire city of Baltimore was being burned to the ground by gangs of violent, lawless, African Americans, hell-bent on destroying their city. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The reporting was somewhat inaccurate and propagandistic when references were made to rioting and violence. Neither the protesters nor the citizens of Baltimore participated in a riot or violence and destruction of property.

The references to Baltimore in comparison to the 60’s riots in Baltimore and Los Angeles did a disservice to Baltimore. The events in Baltimore involving the teens were allowed to continue by the police force. Once the Monday afternoon and night activities were over, nothing resembling a riot was evidenced. The majority of the citizens of Baltimore made a concerted effort to show support and love for their city while many in the media cautioned eminent danger and destruction from the protesters. What seemed apparent from the various media reports was an expectation of lawlessness and violence from the African American community. The African American community of Baltimore and the law enforcement element were seeing the same activity, but from two different perspectives.

For some observers, the large show of force to prevent rioting and destruction was really not necessary. The point is that a riot never took place. Certainly, on Monday afternoon and night acts of lawlessness and destruction of property did take place, but for all intent and purpose, that was the end of any threat of mass civil disobedience and mayhem. What the focus on the possibility of civil unrest had on the situation was to shift the attention away from the legitimate protest relative to the death of Freddie Gray and the request and need for transparency. The need of the media to anticipate some breaking news development seems to triumph to tragedy of Gray’s death while in police custody.

One thing that seems to be apparent from the comments of the media as well as other sources is the negative stereotypical view that is presently held concerning African American people. From the engagement of the National Guard and the numerous law enforcement agencies, one might get the impression that all hell will break out at any given time. Many of the citizens have tried to counter that perception by placing themselves in the street and speaking directly to their neighbor about the collective desire for a safe and peaceful city. At the same time, these citizens want to see some positive changes in the way their lives have been affected from a legal, economic, educational, and political standpoint.

The protest then is not just a reaction to the death of Freddie Gray, but a reaction to the years of neglect and lack of attention paid to the needs of the citizens, especially those of color and of low social-economical status. Unfortunately, the death of Gray provided an opportunity for the citizens to raise their voices and be heard. When viewing the videos of the various protests around the country, we realize that the problems involve more than African Americans, but all Americans. The need for justice on all fronts is apparent by the number of protests around the country and the diverse make-up of the protesters.

Our Constitution gives us as citizens the right to protest peacefully. The word peaceful goes both ways, in that the law enforcers should not interfere with peaceful protesters, but must protect their right to do so. Sometime it seems that the law enforcers resent protesters from exercising their rights. When effective and constructive communications can exist between the citizens and the law enforcers they employ then the threat of riots, violence, civil unrest, and destruction of property will not be a factor to consider.

Many problems exist in many of America’s cities that are not easily seen or known to the general public; they are none-the-less real problems and need addressing. Too often, the occasion of incidents like the death of Freddie Gray brings to the surface the problems of unemployment, decent housing, satisfactory education, adequate health care, and social justice. All of the problems are important to the well-being of any community large or small, so they must be made apparent so they can be addressed. The protests in Baltimore and across the nation are not just about the death of Freddie Gray, but for the lives of the people still here who cry out for positive change—now

Paul R. Lehman, Eastwood’s antics a matter of subjective intrepretation

September 9, 2012 at 11:55 am | Posted in Bigotry in America, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, fairness, Hollywood, justice, Prejudice, President Obama, Respect for President, whites | 1 Comment
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The classic song by Sly and the Family Stone “Everyday People” has a line that states “Different strokes for different folks,” and this line came to mind when reading the various reactions to Clint Eastwood’s appearance at the Republican National Convention. Those reactions revealed a world of differences among people who witnessed the same event but came away with different reactions. Regardless of the many reactions, Eastwood’s performance showed ignorance, stupidity, and arrogance.

The reference to Eastwood’s performance being ignorant is an assessment of him not knowing what was expected of him at that time. In effect, appearing before the audience during prime time carried a certain degree of importance to the organizers of the convention. Their expectations included a boost in support for their candidate by this famous movie personality. Evidently, no one told Eastwood about the expectations, so he went on stage and improvised for twelve minutes with an empty chair. For the organizers of the convention, television time, especially prime time, was important for the party to get its message out to as many viewers as possible, so to have twelve minutes during prime time go for naught was not an effect use of time. According to some reports, Eastwood did not inform anyone as to what his plans were nor did anyone from the convention meet with him before his entrance on stage with the chair. So, the reference to ignorance points to a lack of information by Eastwood and the people responsible for the stage participants. Because no one knew what to expect from Eastwood, everyone was surprised by his performance.

Eastwood’s performance as reported by theDaily Beast.com offered a sampling of remarks from a number of people. For example, Todd McCarthy, a critic for The Hollywood Reporter said “It was very bizarre.” He added that “To see this wackier thing happen is not in line with his super-cool personality that we’re used to.” Film critic Roger Ebert noted that “Clint, my hero, is coming across as sad and pathetic.” Ben Affleck noted that “Even though I disagree with his politics, I’ve seen far more boring speeches in my day.” Many other comments were given and they all represented a variety of reactions that reflected the uniqueness of the individuals.

To say that Eastwood’s performance showed stupidity would be an understatement in light of the time and place he presented it. Since no one but Eastwood knew what was going to happen, no one was prepared for it. Since no one was prepared for it, time was wasted in the viewers trying to grasp just what was happening. If Eastwood was to use his celebrity to enhance Romney’s candidacy, he selected an ineffective avenue of approach to accomplish it. One must ask the question “what was the payoff in the performance? Everyone witnessed the same spectacle of Eastwood on stage talking to an empty chair. Each individual had the opportunity to draw his or her conclusion about what was witnessed and it effectiveness. To many people, it was thought to be stupid and a wasted of time.

Some time after Eastwood’s performance we learned that he arrived at the convention about fifteen minutes before he was to go on stage. He had no prepared speech or notes with him. Just before he walked on stage he asked one of the stage workers to give him a chair. He walked on stage with the chair and proceeded to start a dialogue with an imaginary President Obama. These actions reflect an arrogance that defies logic and just plain common sense, not to mention disrespect and absurdity. The show of arrogance comes from the willingness to assume to berate the President of the United States like a child being given a “time out”, for whatever reason. Why would any person believe that placing any president in that position would garner respect from the performer? The effort indicated a total disrespect for the office of the President and a lack of understanding of how both he and the imaginary President might be perceived.

In adding insult to injury, Eastwood impugned the integrity of the President by engaging in a dialogue that suggested the President used profanity in making a reference to Mitt Romney. This action was totally out of place and inappropriate for Eastwood. However, we must assume that he felt comfortable in doing it because of his celebrity that places him about regular folk and gives him license to do things regular folks cannot or would not do. We still wonder about the purpose of the performance and the effect it was supposed to have on the viewers. We wonder if Eastwood was affecting a character from one of his many films or was he being himself. Either way, his lack of respect for the office of the President reflected poorly on him.

Some people might question the reasons for criticizing Eastwood and /or his performance since it only involved him having a conversation with a chair. His performance can be and was taken on a variety of levels and depending on the interpretation of the individuals and how they viewed the action and words, an assessment was made. The statement “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” provides an example of subjective interpretation, meaning that the criteria for making a judgment comes from the beholder. That being the case, we can understand how some people might have interpreted Eastwood’s performance as a biased attempt to denigrate, disrespect, and dishonor President Obama, to “put him in his place” which meant an African American, regardless of his position, below and behind this European American celebrity.

Since subjective interpretation rests with the individual, we can simply go back to the words of the song to underscore the reality of “Different strokes for different folks. And so forth, and so on….”

Paul R. Lehman, Walker and West exploited by media for their criticism of President Obama

July 15, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, blacks, Congress, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, fairness, justice, Media and Race, minority, Prejudice, President Obama, Respect for President | 1 Comment
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Just because someone says it is new does not means that it is news. Recently two people were covered by the media for comments they made regarding President Obama. No one is challenging or attacking their right to free speech, but one has to wonder why the media would be interested in what these individuals had to say. The two people in question are Jimmie ‘JJ Walker, former star of the television show “Good Times,” and U.S. Army veteran, now congressman from Florida, Allen West. Three reasons exist for the appearance of these men being covered by the media, their celebrity, their ethnicity, and their comments relative President Obama.

Under normal circumstances, the media would not really care what Walker and West had to say, but we are in a political campaign season and anything said by anyone of notoriety that might attract attention is captured. The fact that both Walker and West have some notoriety makes them likely candidates for coverage, especially since they usually call attention to themselves by what they say. The media are aware of this element and uses it to attract the viewers’ and readers’ attention. The fame enjoyed by these two men would not be considered of great consequence or influence because their appeal is generally to specific audiences. Generally, the media would not consider these men for coverage simply because of their notoriety.

One of the things that do make Walker and West of interest to the media along with their celebrity is their ethnicity; they are both African American. Because African Americans are usually represented in the media in a negative context, their presence is usually in a stereotypical context—involving crimes, drugs, violence and other equally negative offenses. So, when the two elements of fame and ethnicity are combined, the media views this as possibly attention getting coverage. Many people are probably familiar with the names and past references to Walker and West, so some interest is created with the mention of their names. The degree of media interest in Walker and West is based on their appeal to various audiences, and the audience’s perceptions of them.  For the media to cover them their fame and ethnicity are only part of the attraction. What they have to say is the key to their coverage.

The third thing Walker and West have in common that warranted media attention is the fact that they both have made disparaging remarks about President Obama. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion and that right is protected by the Constitution. So, what makes the negative comments about President Obama worthy of media coverage simply because the words came from Walker and West? The answer could possible be found in the subjects of politics and ethnicity. Many European Americans in and out of politics make disparaging remarks about President Obama on a regular basis and no one gives it a second thought. However, when an African American of note says something negative about President Obama some cause of concern is created because apparently no African American is expected to criticize President Obama in the media. Yet, that is precisely the reason the media covers these two men.

Some European American critics of President Obama feel that they are unjustly accused of demeaning the President with their remarks, so when an African American say publically the same things, the European Americans feel justified and relieved. However, just because some African Americans say negative things about President Obama does not mean that what was said was accurate and true. One has to examine not only what was said, but also who said it. For example, Walker does not believe that President Obama should have been elected President and certainly should not be re-elected. He said that Obama’s “not a good guy for the job we have to do.” We need to take a moment and examine what Walker said and question his rationale for his belief and statement. All of Walker’s professional life has been lived as a comedian and most of his public appearances have been because of his history in his profession. One can reasonable wonder the logic of Walker’s comment about President Obama. What facts and evidence does he use to arrive at his conclusion about President Obama’s qualifications to serve as President? The fact that someone makes the statement regarding another’s qualifications for service without a shred of concrete fact or evidence can only be taken as opinion. Walker is certainly entitled to that, but why should the media be interested in just his opinion?

West has a history of being publically critical of President Obama. Were it not for the frequent negative remarks West makes concerning President Obama, most of America would not know he exist. He has learned that because of his position in Congress, and his ethnicity, whenever he wants media attention, all he has to do is make a speech in which he  denigrates the President or some of the President’s work. The majority of the people who place any value on what West says about President Obama are people who are critics of the President and feel that they are being supported by West. Again, if one was to examine the claims made by West against President Obama and his administration, the issue of logic, proof, and accuracy would come into question.

In all fairness to these two men, they have the right to speak their minds and state their opinions regardless of who agrees with them or not. The point being made here is that they are being exploited (most likely) without their knowledge by critics of the President who want to justify their own negative feelings and by pointing to these two African Americans to try and avoid the charge of bigotry. Fortunately, the ploy does not work because most Americans are not fooled by the celebrity, ethnicity, and words of individuals making political statements. The words must have meaning and creditability in order to be given value or as Shakespeare said, they represent “a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Paul R. Lehman, Opinion writer shows fear and disgust for Jackson and Sharpton’s visit to Tulsa

April 15, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, American Racism, blacks, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, fairness, justice, Killings in Tulsa, Media and Race, minority, whites | 4 Comments
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Too often opinions offered on opinion/editorial pages of the newspaper as well as the electronic media cause confusion and misinformation if the writers or speakers are not informed about the subject. We certainly do not stand in judgment of someone’s opinion if it is offered as an opinion. However, when an opinion is offered as fact and it is inaccurate, then we should call it into question. A particular selection published in the Oklahoman (4-13-120) entitled “Media circus is the last thing Tulsa needs after killings” focused on the visits of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Rev. Al  Sharpton to Tulsa, Oklahoma. The language, attitude, and tone of the article promoted the ideas inconsistent with reality and the truth.

The choice of words used by the writer of the article seems to suggest disrespect and disgust with the subjects, Jackson and Sharpton, as well as the situation, the recent killing of three African American men and the wounding of two more by two European American males. The mere suggestion of a circus coming to town in the persons of Jackson and Sharpton creates a sense of entertainment rather than seriousness about the incident. The underlining suggestion is that Jackson and Sharpton are clowns and therefore their appearance in Tulsa is for a show or entertainment. The headline is correct in stating that a “circus is the last thing Tulsa needs after killings,” so why would it suggest the appearance of these two men would create a circus?

The first paragraph of the article reads:”The Rev. Jesse Jackson came to Oklahoma City 17 years ago this month to express solidarity with black victims of the federal building bombing. Fortunately, we were spared the presence of Rev. Al Sharpton.” This statement suggests that Jackson came to Oklahoma City specifically to express solidarity with African American victims of that event only. To suggest that is misleading and untrue. Jackson expressed solidarity for all the victims. As a Christian and a minister he recognized that all people are children of the same God. The article reference to the city being “spared” the presence of Rev. Sharpton suggest that he would have brought something sinister or destructive to the city with him. One wonders what that might have been in order to cause such a negative reaction.

In the next paragraph we get a sample of more uncomplimentary language associated with Jackson and Sharpton: “ Tulsa won’t be so fortunate. Jackson and Sharpton will descend on Tulsa just as (and because) the national media has descended on Tulsa following the Good Friday killings that appear to be racially motivated.” So, the suggestion is that the national media is the real reason for Jackson and Sharpton “descending” on Tulsa, and not the killings. Wrong again. Jackson and Sharpton were both asked and invited to come to Tulsa because the people in Tulsa knew that the national media would follow Jackson and Sharpton. By bringing those two men to Tulsa, national attention would focus on the killings. History and experience underscores the fact that most crimes in America with African Americans as victims receive very little media attention if any at all.

In addition to the denigrating language associated with Jackson and Sharpton, the attitude suggested in the article is one of suspicion and deceit. The article states that “Police, prosecutors and city officials have their hands full trying to tamp down the emotions surrounding this case. The last thing they need is a media circus with Jackson and Sharpton serving as ring masters.” One wonders what evidence, facts and or experiences lead that writer to think that Jackson and Sharpton would start some sort of physical, violent, and unlawful disturbance? The only evidence of any kind of unlawful, unorganized, and disruptive actions comes from the writer’s own words. Jackson and Sharpton have always maintained that their objective in accepting the invitations extended to them by people involved in situations where justice and fairness is concerned is to seek justice and fairness, nothing more, nothing less. So, why would they be characterized as “ring masters” when, in fact, there is no circus in town?

The tone of the article is one of arrogance and stupidity regarding history and present day occurrences. The article’s author makes a reference to the national interest in Tulsa with reference to the 1921 Riot. The statement reads “What’s the connection? None. In the earlier case armed gangs divided along racial lines. It was certainly not a mass murder like the bombing or the Tulsa shootings. It was less a race riot that a race war.” Evidently, this statement shows a gross lack of concrete facts and reliable information regarding the 1921 riot as well as recognizing the difference between a riot and a war. He might want to read Tim Madigan’s The Burning, or Rilla Askew’s Fire in Beulah for an account of that tradegy. His emphasis is unfortunately, on the physical violence and destruction when the real problem is the administration of justice and fair treatment for all people. He certainly cannot say that the African American community in the Greenwood section of Tulsa was treated fairly after the 1921 riot, and to a degree today.

Without going over the entire article paragraph by paragraph to point out the various areas of ignorance and stupidity let us look at two comments to make our point. Again, referencing the 1921 riot, the article states: “What happened in Tulsa in 1921 was an outbreak of violence exposing widespread racial division that’s not evident in Tulsa today.”If that is true, then no bigotry exists in Tulsa, and the two European Americans arrested cannot be charged with a hate crime (they have been charged  with committing a hate crime). If bigotry is no longer a reality in Tulsa why have not the city moved to make amends for the destruction it participated in back in 1921? The article suggests that no so-called racial division exists in Tulsa today. How true is that? If that is so, why were three African Americans killed by the two European Americans and charged with hate crimes?

Finally, the article’s author asks the question why Jackson and Sharpton are in Tulsa: “So what’s the point of the Jackson-Sharpton visit and the lamentations of members of the Legislative Black Caucus? What will these things accomplish that excellent police work, vigorous prosecution and swift sure punishment of the guilty won’t do by themselves”? That is precisely the point! Jackson and Sharpton want exactly that to happen now, because it has not happened with any regularity in the past. By their presence, the need for equal justice and fairness for all American citizens will be closely scrutinized by the national media brought there by Jackson and Sharpton.

If the writer of the article would stop and think for a moment, what should become apparent is the fact that Jackson and Sharpton are not the enemy as they are portrayed. They simply want for African Americans and all Americans fair and equal justice under the law. Why would anyone object to that? The language, attitude, and tone of this article indicated a fear and expectation of evil, violence, and unlawfulness that is purely unwarranted.

 

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