Paul R. Lehman, Social media help to show the ugly side of American society

February 20, 2015 at 8:17 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, Bigotry in America, blacks, Civil War, Constitutional rights, democracy, Disrespect, education, Equal Opportunity, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, justice, liberty, Prejudice, President Obama, racism, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system, socioeconomics, Welfare, whites | 1 Comment
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The advance of the social media has brought with it the opportunity for America and the world to see an ugly side of our society, the side that acts just the opposite to what American democracy promotes—the rights, freedom, and liberty for all people. A litany of example could be produced to underscore the undisputable evidence of America’s ugliness, but any one of them would make the same point—bigotry, ignorance, and stupidity influences the actions of many Americans relative to the issue of ethnicity (race).
An article in the Clarion-Ledger by Kay Steiger, “Think Progress,” (2/16/2015) noted that “A Mississippi state lawmaker said he opposed putting more money into elementary school because he came from a town where ‘all the blacks are getting food stamps and what I call ‘welfare crazy checks.’ They don’t work.” The article continued:”In an interview with the Clarion-Ledger regarding education funding, state Rep. Gene Alday ® stated his opposition to a push to increase funding to improve elementary school reading scores. Alday implied that increasing education funding for children in black families would be pointless.”
From his statements, we might assume that Alday has a particular bias against African Americans (blacks) children specifically and African American people in generally. Why would a representative of the people of the state of Mississippi be against educating African American children who need extra help for a variety of reasons, include health issues? The answer could possible reside in how Alday view African Americans in a social context. Mississippi has a reputation based on its history of violence, hatred, discrimination, bigotry and segregation relative to African Americans. Since the Civil War, the South, Mississippi underscored, has tried to restrict the progress of African Americans to gain first-class citizenship. To many in the South, African Americans had no value outside of the work and services they performed for European Americans. If they did not work for or performed services for the European Americans, they had no value.
During Reconstruction government schools and programs were created to help the freedmen make a transition from bondage to freedom. Many European Americans resented any and all activities that would help the African Americans achieve upward mobility in society. The belief was that any gain by the African Americans was a loss for the European Americans. We know through the social media that this belief is still held by many European Americans. So, the bigotry exhibited by Alday is probably considered normal based on his Southern cultural perspective as a resident of Mississippi.
The fact that Alday opposed additional funding for education at the elementary level indicates a lack of knowledge and understanding of history and American democracy. He has yet to see the big picture of how important education is to the foundation of American society. Both his statements indicate a total lack of knowledge and understanding of how education enriches society as well as the individual. Alday’s reference to African Americans receiving governmental assistance does not include information about job availability, job location, salary, and transportation in the communities where assistance is offered. He, evidently, does not realize that education is the engine that drives progress and development in society. So, Alday’s ignorance of American democratic history stands out in his comments.
By singling out African American children for educational funding, and pointing to African American s as recipients of food stamps and welfare checks, Alday shows his bigotry. However, he shows stupidity by thinking that stopping food stamps and welfare checks will affect only African Americans. What he fails to realize is that African Americans represent only a small proportion of food stamp and welfare recipients, the greater number are European Americans.
The article included another of Aldays comments that underscore his bigotry as well as his lack of understanding of society: “Alday continued, saying that when he was mayor of Walls, MS, that the times he’d gone to the emergency room had taken a long time. ‘I laid in there for hours because they (blacks) were in there being treated for gunshots,’ he told the newspaper.” This statement seems to suggest that Alday must have expected the healthcare employees to stop treating the African American patients immediately and work on him. His reference to the African Americans’ injuries being from gunshots suggests that he thought the wounds were reflective of a lower-classed people who routinely shoot one another.
One would be mistaken if he or she thought that Alday represented an exception to other Mississippi legislators. We learn from the article that “The Mississippi legislature recently advanced a bill that would provide exceptions to the reading policy for students with learning disabilities. The bill is opposed by Gov. Phil Bryant ®, who supports the third grade policy.” The third grade policy is a bill that will not allow students to move up to fourth grade without being able to read proficiently. Gov. Bryant noted that “It’s disappointing that 62 members of the House of Representatives would vote to socially promote children who cannot read,” Bryant continued “With votes like this, it is little wonder that Mississippi’s public education system has been an abysmal failure.”
Fortunately, Bryant understands the problems and the bigotry associated to them relative to the legislature. Unfortunately, he would have an enormous challenge trying to convince Alday and his colleagues to change their views. Many Americans think that ethnic prejudice disappeared once an African American was elected President of the United States. Actually, the election of President Obama and the use of the social media helped to uncover the ugliness of the hate and bigotry, ignorance and stupidity that still exist in society. Now, however, that ugliness is in full view of America and the world.
We should not despair, however, from viewing the ugly side of America, but recognize that serious problems exist and we have the challenge to bring some understanding and rational thinking to address them. We can begin by educating people to the fact that the Constitution does not exclude anyone from enjoying the freedoms, rights, liberties, and yes, education, based on skin color, ethnicity, religion, and gender.

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Paul R. Lehman, Freedom Summer after 50 years– the beast still lives.

June 26, 2014 at 4:27 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, blacks, Civil Right's Act 1964, democracy, DNA, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, Human Genome, liberty, President Obama, skin color, skin complexion, UNESCO, voting rights act | 2 Comments
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This year marks the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, a summer when thousands of young Americans of African and European decent descended on the South to help African American citizens register to vote. One of the painful reminders of that summer is the death of three young Americans—two of European ancestry, one of African ancestry. These three young civil rights workers, Michael Henry Schwerner, James Earl Chaney, and Andrew Goodman were killed by a group of Klansmen in Neshoba County Mississippi. They were killed because they recognized the gross injustice in America—preventing African Americans the right to vote—and wanted to help in rectifying that problem.
Many Americans understand and appreciate the ultimate sacrifice these three young men made for their country; however, one question continues to hang over the occasion of the deaths—why? The beast of hatred, fear, anger, and prejudice still lingers in society regarding the African American and his presence in society. What is it about African Americans that would cause other Americans to murder three young men who only wanted to help America live up to its promise of liberty and justice for all?
Whether we accepted it or not, the very beast that led to the murder of Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman is still alive and well in America today. We must ask the question of those who would do harm to Americans who are working to correct injustices, what good does the violence and killing do to relieve the angry, hatred, and fear? The fear was so great in those Klansmen that they killed these three men before they were able to begin work. We must surmise that the threat of exercising their right to vote would give the African American an opportunity to participate in their government. For bigots, and others, any involvement in decision-making by African Americans would be too much. Why?
Before, during, and after the Civil War, the culture of the South was based on European Americans depending on African Americans for their livelihood. Without African American slaves, and subsequently, freed African Americans, the South would not have existed to any appreciable degree because the people of color represented the workforce. African Americans represented the life-blood of the southern economy, but more importantly, they represented the only thing that gave the European Americans social value. With the help of the governments, national and state, laws and practices were created and enforced to keep the African American in a position of servitude to European Americans.
In addition to the physical restrictions placed on the African Americans, social conditions based on myths were created that separated the African Americans from the European Americans. The concept of biological races was introduced into American society prior to slavery that led the European American to believe that he belonged to a superior biological race. In his book The Descent of Man, (1871), Charles Darwin expressed the belief that the human races, regardless of the obvious differences in appearance, were not different enough to be considered separate species. His comments on the human races were ignored. Later, others would concur with Darwin, but with more specificity noting that all human beings belong to the same species. UNESCO has continued to make that pronouncement since 1945, and the recent Human Genome study verified the fact that all human beings belong to the same species. Despite the evidence to the contrary, the power and prestige that accompanied the belief in white supremacy was too much to consider loosing or giving up.
More than anger and hatred is the element of fear that continues to feed the beast that fights against social, democratic progress. When the fear of loosing the belief of ethnic superiority is so great that people strike out violently against the threat of change in that direction, then we realize just how serious it is. Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman were not killed for personal reasons; their killers did not know them. They were killed for what they represented—social change. For the bigot and others any change that brought the African American closer to 1st class citizenship represented a threat to the status of the European American. So, any effort towards social change in behalf of the African Americans wherever it occurred, north, east, west and south, had to be met with serious force and resistance.
The problem with the bigots is complex in that while they fear the change that social progress means for African Americans, they do not want to lose the physical presence of the African Americans. Without the African Americans to point to as being inferior, the bigots would have no reference on which to base their sense of superiority. If no African Americans were around the bigots, they would have little or no social value except that which comes from wealth, property, or position. Without African Americans, the bigots would have no need to feel proud of their skin complexion, because they would not have another color with which to compare; so, they need African Americans, but only want to accept them on a level that underscores the sense of supremacy, pride, and power they derive from seeing themselves as different.
Fifty years ago thousand of young Americans, African American and European American, joined forces to combat the injustice they saw in America. One wonders where those voices are today. We recognize the efforts of the beast to appear in plain sight as in the numerous cases involving President Obama and the many states trying to restrict voter’s rights. The President’s critics are not fighting against him personally, but what he represents. Yes, some of his critics attack him personally, but that action is just for them to try and underscore their illusion of their superiority and his supposed inferiority. Regardless of the bigots’ efforts, social progress continues. What the bigots and those fighting against social progress do not realize is that their bigotry and hatred is a self-made prison that keeps them from enjoying freedom. They are so obsessed with fighting against all signs of social progress that it keeps them from enjoying the freedoms and privileges they have.
Freedom summer was an effort by young Americans to try and create a society that would mirror the ideals that the society said it embraced. The beast of anger, hatred, fear, and bigotry that they encountered is still alive in America. What we Americans have confronting us can best be described by picturing two hungry elements inside of us that represent good and evil or a man and a beast, respectively. We must realize that the one we feed is the one that will grow..

Paul R. Lehman, Teens hunt, beat, and kill an African American for fun

August 14, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, American Racism, Bigotry in America, Ethnicity in America, Media and Race, Race in America | 6 Comments
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A disturbing news story out of Jackson, Mississippi, carried
on CNN this past week was about some European American teens who deliberately
hunted down an African American man, beat and killed him. According to the
story, the victim “James Craig Anderson, a 49-year-old auto plant worker, was
standing in a parking lot, near his car. The teens allegedly beat Anderson
repeatedly, yelled racial epithets, including ‘White Power’ according to
witnesses.”The real tragedy of this story is the fact that America does not
find it appalling. This story does not represent one tragedy, the beating and
murder of Anderson, but three tragedies when we add in the fate of the teens
and the complicity of society.

How long will it take for an African American or any person
of color to believe he or she can safely enjoy the freedoms and liberties
guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution? Mr.
Anderson evidently thought he had the right to be where he was, doing what he
wanted, and observing the law in doing so. He committed no crime, caused no
conflict or created no disturbance before he was attacked, beaten and killed. America
has laws that address the rights and privileges of its citizens as well as people
to enforce the laws. Unfortunately, some people believe they are above the laws
or can ignore them when the objectives of their irrational beliefs can be
hunted down and killed. A man has been deprived of his life, liberties, and
freedom because of the fear his skin complexion caused in the minds of some
European American teens. Robert Shuler Smith, District Attorney for Hinds
County, where the crime occurred, was “asked if there could be any doubt
whether the intent was to actually hurt and kill a black person, Smith
responded: ‘No doubt about it. They were going out to look for a black victim
to assault, and in this case, even kill’.”What a tragedy for Anderson.

Anderson was in fact not the cause or the reason for his
tragic death; the cause was the fear, guilt, and anger the teens felt within
them that needed an outlet. For them, that outlet was an African American
person. The officials called the crime a “hate crime” since the specific target
was an African American. The hate was inside the European American teens who
seemingly felt a sense of loss of their power and privilege. The fact that they
yelled “White Power” suggests a cry for help in that they were feeling a sense
of loss and needed to fight to protect themselves from that loss. In essence,
they evidently believed that African Americans represented the taking away
their power of privilege and prestige, so they felt compelled to defend it.

Some European American teens, like their adult counterparts,
have not accepted the precepts of democracy where in a diverse society each
citizen has the same rights. They instead want to hold on to the false belief
that America is a European American country exclusively, and any non-European
American living here is a threat to their rightful ownership and rule. Their
hurt comes from the fact that they are losing their ‘white identity,’ which is
the only thing of value they have. If they lose their sense of superiority of
having a white identity, then they would be just like all the other ethnic
Americans in society, and that to them would be a tragedy. The real tragedy is
that they still have not entered into the 21st Century as far as
their thinking and perceptions are concerned. The cry of “White Power” for them
is defining and confining; they are seemingly trapped in an outdated mindset
that leads only to trouble for them, society, and the people they hold
responsible for their hurt.

Society shares a great deal of responsibility for the acts
and thinking of the teens regarding this crime. Why has there not been more
vocal effort in dispelling the myths and fallacies of race by color? Too many
Americans today believe that a so-called black race and white race exist. The
fact is that neither exists. They were created by a bigoted society for social
and economic reasons. Through the years many efforts have been made, along with
laws passed, to address and to try to correct the problem of bigotry. For teens
today to yell “White Power” indicates that society has not done its job in
educating its youth about the principles of democracy and life in a diverse
society. What kind of society lets teens feel comfortable in going out to hunt
for another human being to hurt and subsequently kill simply because of the
color of  his skin? Where do teens get
the idea that they have the right and power to take another person’s life just
because of his skin color? Instead of society being so concerned about teens doing
drugs and driving drunk, equal attention should be given to their sense of
value and respect for other human beings, especially, non-European Americans.

Historically, in America the concept of a so-called white
race has never been publically debunked for the obvious reasons of privilege
and power. Scientifically, the concept of the existence of multiple races of
human beings has been exposed as false for many years. Nonetheless, society
continues to ignore the science and continue the practice of calling some
people black and others white. In essence, using color as a form of ethnic
identity. The problem with that belief is it is inaccurate and confusing
because a dark skin or a fair skin represents no hint of ethnic identity. In
addition, skin complexion is no indicator of intelligence. If America does not
begin to address the problem of ethnic bigotry at the grassroots level and
above, the occurrence of tragedies like the one in question will continue. Some
might call this murder an isolated incident, but the lack of respect for other
human being regardless of how they look does not grow in an isolated
environment, it is as dangerous as a deadly, contagious disease. If America
does not make concerted efforts to correct this problem through education now,
then when will it? Tomorrow never comes.

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