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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Paul R. Lehman, Civil rights for all Americans is a constant battle

December 2, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Posted in Abigail Fisher, Affirmative Action, African American, American Bigotry, blacks, college admission, desegregation, Equal Opportunity, equality, European American, fairness, integregation, justice, minority, Prejudice, segregation, U.S. Supreme Court, whites | 3 Comments
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Most Americans do not dwell on the fact that America was created as a biased society and that the government was one of the prime movers in creating, maintaining, and promoting segregation and discrimination. After all, the government is not some strange, mysterious organization that influences the lives of the people. No, the government is not strange and mysterious; the government is the people and the mind-set and perceptions of the people in control of the government does affect and influence the lives of the people. Since American society had distinct biases against African Americans that were spelled out in the laws, those laws had to be challenged in order to effect change. Many of the laws were neither just nor fair, but they were legal. Many of the laws created problems for society because they were contrary to the ideals and values that America promoted to the world. For example, the government sanctioned laws of segregation that discriminated against African Americans.

The rights of the people are protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, so any challenge to an existing law must eventually go through the Supreme Court.  For example, the concept of separate but equal laws that supported segregation in society had to be challenged and brought before the Supreme Court.  In 1954 the case Brown v. Board of Education which involved a young African American student, Linda Brown, who was prevented from attending a white neighborhood school, was successfully argued before the Supreme Court. As a result, the law was changed and schools were ordered to desegregate. To some Americans, this ruling was wrong because it took away their rights to segregate in spite of the fact that to do so was considered un-American. The anger came from the fact that the government had been aiding and abetting the concepts of segregation and discrimination against African Americans, women, and other ethnic Americans since after the Civil War. Many citizens believed that America belonged to European Americans only and that they had the right to live any way they pleased. The concept that living in a society had responsibilities as well as benefits for all individuals was lost on many European Americans.

So, when groups like the NAACP began challenging some of the laws that had prevented African Americans from enjoying the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness, they were vigorously opposed. The belief was that when a law was changed to correct a long-standing abuse, that change in the law gave the plaintiffs an unfair advantage. The resentment of some Americans regarding the rights given to African Americans in particular, resulted in a number of cases challenging, for example, Affirmative Action that allowed race to be considered in college and university applications for admission. Several cases have become part of our common knowledge including a recent case involving Abigail Fisher, a young European American female who claimed she was discriminated against because she was white. In essence, she claims that she was denied admission to the University of Texas in favor of an African American with lesser academic qualifications. What most Americans do not know is that Miss Fisher’s case was used as a test case to challenge the use of race in college and university admissions.

In a November 15, 2012 article in The Washington Spectator,” Lou Dubose, the writer, introduces us to the crusader who wants to undo many of the civil rights laws: “Edward Blum’s campaign to dismantle statues and case law that provide advantages to minority groups began in 1992. After Blum, who is white and ran as a Republican, failed to unseat a black Democratic congressman, he filed his first lawsuit.” Blum is the behind-the-scene backer of the Fisher case. Although what Blum does is legal, one wonders why he believes hundred of years of preferential treatment favoring European American is acceptable and need not be changed when we witness the results of years of injustice in education every day. Dubose notes that “Blum confirmed that his litigation is funded by Donors Trust and that the names of contributors to the fundraising collective are not available to the public.” Dubose does mention that there might be some connection with the Koch brothers via the Donors Trust.

So, while many Americans view the language in our national documents that describe life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all its citizens, some American have yet to accept the concept of democracy and the diversity that make this country strong. Many of the people Blum represents in his lawsuits have a mind-set that speaks to the idea of “just us” as apposed to “justice.” He identifies these people and says “The Reagan-era cabal of Federalist Society lawyers and think-tankers co-opted the “equal rights” language of the civil rights movement and managed to turn the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment against the people it was intended to protect.”

What this writer finds difficult to understand is how the courts can omit or discount the conditions that resulted from the laws and not consider them in the reasons for wanting to over-turn the laws. If Affirmative Action was created to address some social ills based on race, how can race be removed when trying to correct the problem? If race is removed, what is left to combat the problems of segregation and discrimination that existed before Affirmative Action? None-the-less, Dubose notes that “Meanwhile, the consensus of legal scholars has the Court wiping out some, if not all, of the race-based college admissions practices that Fisher and Blum are challenging in Texas.”

What seems to be the primary reason for some Americans wanting to proscribe the rights and privileges of ethnic and minority Americans is bigotry. In spite of our history of injustice, discrimination, segregation, prejudice, and bigotry, some people would like society to not address these detrimental features in an effort to create a better, more democratic and just America. They, in fact, want to destroy the progress we as a society have made. So, now we know that the fight for civil rights for all Americans is a continuous battle.

Paul R. Lehman,Opinion misguided on Affirmative Action and State Question 759

October 28, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, Bigotry in America, blacks, college admission, desegregation, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, integregation, justice, Oklahoma, Oklahoma education, public education, segregation, state Government, whites | 3 Comments
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The “Opinion” writer for The Oklahoman has again brought up the topic of State Question 759 which to ban Affirmative Action in state government. This time, however, his comments are misguided and illogical. The title of the article is “Merit must trump race in state government,” shows just how confusing his thoughts are on Affirmative Action. Until Affirmative Action was put in place, race was always used to keep African Americans and women out of state government. Before Affirmative Action, merit was not even a consideration for office in state government. However, since opponents of the state question have voiced their opposition to it, those for its banning are offering their views.

One of the primary problems involved with banning Affirmative Action is the lack of understanding about what it concerns. Many of the opponents of Affirmative Action focus simply of college and/or university admission programs that supposedly favor African Americans applicants over European American applicants. Therefore, since these programs single out race as the criteria for acceptance, the programs must be discarded. What is missing from this action is the reason for Affirmative Action in the first place. Nowhere in this legislation are mentioned the words African Americans, blacks, Negroes, Colored or any other noun describing or identifying an ethnic group. But, because of the efforts of African Americans and other Americans citizens, the measure sought to make unconstitutional discrimination of people for reasons of race, color, sex, creed, or national origin.

If we were to stop and look at the record of American society in the areas of school admissions for women and other ethnic Americans prior to Affirmative Action, we would see a marked change for the betterment of those applicants. Also, if we checked the record for women and ethnic Americans in fields and professions like, firefighters, law enforcement, postal workers, medicine, law, and construction, we would hopefully understand just what Affirmative Action has done and continues to do for society.

However, since the “Opinion” writer focused on African Americans specifically, let us look at what President Lyndon B. Johnson said about this measure he signed: “Nothing is more freighted with meaning for our won destiny than the revolution of the Negro American…[we were called Negroes then]. In far too many ways American Negroes have been another nation: deprived of freedom, crippled by hatred, the doors of opportunity closed to hope…But freedom is not enough.” He explains what he means by that last statement: “You do not wipe away the cards of centuries by saying; Now you are free to go where you want, and do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please. You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘you are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair….”

The article states that “Affirmative action’s harsh reality is to harm those it is supposed to benefit. In their book, ‘Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students Its Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit it,’ authors Stuart Taylor and Richard Sander outline affirmative actions destructive consequences.” Indeed, the authors document cases where institutions admitted students who were not academically prepared for the rigors they faced. Although the focus was on African Americans, this situation applies to students of all ethnic groups. The problems in Affirmative Action are the results of institutions attempting to put it in force. Contrary to the “Opinion” writer’s support of banning the program, the authors made recommendations to make the program more effective.

Unlike President Johnson’s comment about unfairly expecting people having been deprived of freedoms to go right into competition with others who have had more experiences and opportunities, some Americans expect African American students to do just that—compete in an unfair arena. They think to do otherwise is to discriminate against the European Americans. To be sure, the problems created by institutions attempting to impliment Affirmative Action are real and serious, but not unsolvable. What seems strange regarding Affirmative Action is the fact that it was created to address the years of discrimination and unfair, unjust, and unequal treatment of African Americans in general, but women and other ethnic Americans as well, but when the program is implemented, arguments by European Americans charging discrimination are brought to the fore. Evidently, some people believe the problems of the past can be addressed by not disrupting a thing in the present. Go figure.

Regardless of the many problems associated with institutions implementing Affirmative Action programs, the fact that doors of opportunity have been opened to African Americans, women, and other ethnic Americans is a positive change for society. The idea that merit alone should be the key to admission leaves much to be addressed. Since we know that many African Americans represent the lowest level on the economic and unemployment ladder, we also know that the level of education received by African Americans living at that level will also be influenced. So, why would the expectations for students coming from underserved institutions be placed at the same level with those coming from middle-class and affluent communities? Who decides what merit is? How is merit acquired? Where is merit acquired? Who decides who get merit? What good is merit if having it does not address the primary problem of diversity? As the title of the “Opinion” suggests, “that merit must trump race,” what’s to prevent the status quo from remaining the status quo if only the same people qualify for merit?

Yes, we agree that implementing Affirmative Action has and will continue to create challenges for society, but we also know that going forward allowing more Americans to participate in and contribute to society is better than going backwards. Banning Affirmative Action as State Question 759 wants to do is a step backwards. We need to stop looking at this program thinking it applies to educational institutions, but consider its over-all contribution to society.

Paul R. Lehman, America’s public education a far cry from integregation

September 30, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, integregation, justice, minority, Prejudice, public education, socioeconomics, The New York Times, U.S. Education Department Office for Civil Rights, whites | 3 Comments
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When the Supreme Court ruled that separate public schools were not equal, the law was changed to desegregate the schools. While that order seemed to be the appropriate approach to take at the time, what has not changed over time and has been a stumbling block to progress in American public education is the attitude of European American normalcy. In essence, while ethnic minorities have been given permission to attend school with the European American students, the subject matter as well as the control of the perceptions has been that of European Americans as the model of normalcy.

When the schools were segregated, prior to 1954, the African American students attended school where they were the norm. No doubt existed relative to their self-worth and abilities to achieve an education. Once desegregation came into existence, subjects like African American history were discontinued. Since the majority of the new teachers had no background or knowledge of African Americans from an historical perspective, they could not share that information with the students. So, although African American and European American students attended the same school, they did not receive the same educational experience. If the African American students attended a predominantly European American school, the feeling of self worth, security, familiarity, and normalcy disappeared. For the European American students, nothing changed but the introduction of unfamiliar students in their school.

Today we live under the misconception that our schools are integrated.  America’s schools have never been integrated! Let us be clear about these terms. Desegregation of the schools meant simply that African American students were allowed to attend the predominantly European American schools; that is all that happened. Nothing in the European Americans schools’ curricula, attitude and perception of African Americans changed. If the African American students were to experience success, they must adapt to the environments of the schools; no special accommodations were made for them.

Integration is a term that carries the same meaning in science or social environments; it means the process of mixing or combining. If we take a look at our public schools today, we cannot miss the mixing of students in many schools, while we can also notice the lack of mixing of student in others. Unless we are mistaken about the court ruling, the purpose of the ruling was to eliminate the separate and unequal education the students were receiving. Although the impact of the ruling fell on the African American students as victims, the European Americans were as well victims because they had been deprived of information concerning their fellow Americans.

One easy way to check to see if American Education reflects integration is to examine the text books being used in the public schools. If they present an accurate and factual picture of ethnic Americans as participants in the making of this nation, then we can answer affirmative to integration. If not, then we cannot claim to have integrated public schools and admit that much work needs to be done, namely, rewriting the American story to include the contributions of  ethnic minorities. To date, the history of America as told in the text books is the history of European Americans. In addition to the story that is being told, not all Americans have a say in what is presented to the students. In effect, a form of censorship is practiced that affects and influences the students and teachers alike.

In an article by Gail Collins, “How Texas Inflicts Bad Textbooks on Us,” published in “The New York Review of Books” (6/21/12), we learn that “No matter where you live, if your children go to public schools, the textbooks they use were very possibly written under Texas influence.” What that means is a few people in Texas have used their power to control the content of many textbooks. We are told that people in Texas are not the only ones to have a say about the content of textbooks, but the influence exerted by Texas comes from its size and system for electing State Board members: “The difference is due to size—4.8 million textbook-reading schoolchildren as of 2011—and the peculiarities of its system of government, in which the State Board of Education is selected in elections that are practically devoid of voters, and wealthy donors can chip in unlimited amounts of money to help their favorites win.”

In her article, Collins details just how Texas and other states, like California can influence the content of books simply by the volume of sales. The influence of the group in Texas comes from “the right,” and much of their concern with the textbooks comes from their religious beliefs. For example, the article noted that “In 2009, the nation watched in awe as the state board worked on approving a new science curriculum under the leadership of a chair who believed that “evolution is hooey.” In 2010 teachers were supposed to “work in consultation with ‘experts’ added on by the board, one of whom believed that the income tax was contrary to the word of God in the scriptures.”

To the earlier point that America’s public schools are not integrated the article noted the following:

In 2011, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank, issued an evaluation of US history standards for public schools. The institute was a longtime critic of curricula that insisted that representatives of women and minorities be included in all parts of American history. But the authors, Sheldon Stern and Jeremy Stern, really hated what the Texas board had done. Besides incorporating “all the familiar politically correct group categories,” the authors said,

the document distorts or suppresses less triumphal or more nuanced aspects of our past that the Board found politically unacceptable (slavery and segregation are all but ignored, while religious influences are grossly exaggerated). The resulting fusion is a confusing, unteachable hodgepodge.

The article provides much more information then could be included in this blog. However,  when we stop and take a good long look at education, we realize that much of the perception and attitude relative to what and who is important to our students is still controlled by a small number of narrow-minded people who do not understand or accept democracy. Desegregation was to be the first major step after segregation on the road to democracy. Today we also realize that we still must face the challenges of ethnic bias, low social and economic status, preschools, curricula and a host of related areas. After taking a realistic assessment of our situation, we find that we have only just begun to see the challenge in education for our society.

Paul R. Lehman, History and bigotry give an insight into today’s challenges

July 8, 2012 at 10:07 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, fairness, justice, minority, Oklahoma education, Prejudice, President Obama, public education, Respect for President, whites | 1 Comment
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Many Americans are led to believe that all African Americans are the descendants of African slaves and that the freedmen were only abused, beaten, and murdered after the Civil War, during the Reconstruction period. American history does a poor job of telling the story of the African Americans who were not slaves, and called free persons of color. That freedom enjoyed by these persons of color was so restricted in certain states that little difference of treatment existed between them and their slave brothers. Prior to the creation of the hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Night Riders whose jobs were to keep the persons of color in their place, each state made laws to restrict the movement and manage the activity of the free persons of color. In many instances the laws also gave specific instructions regarding the actions of free European Americans (whites) and their relationship to African Americans, slave and free.

Many people are puzzled at the attitude and behavior of some European Americans relative to the treatment of African Americans today, especially since the election of Barack Obama as President. A quick look at one of the state laws prior to the Civil War might shed some light on this subject. A bill went into effect in South Carolina in April, 1835. The bill was No. 2639 An Act To Amend The Law Relating To Slaves and Free Person Of Color.

Be it enacted by the honorable, the Senate and House of Representatives, now met and sitting in General Assembly, and by the authority of the same:  If any person shall hereafter teach any slave to read or write, or cause, or procure any slave to read or write, such person, if a free white person [ some European Americans were still slaves at this time] upon conviction thereof shall for each and every offense against this Act be fined not exceeding one hundred dollars and imprisoned not more than six months; or, if a free person of color, shall be whipped not exceeding fifty lashes and fined not exceeding fifty dollars, at the discretion of the court of magistrates and freeholders before which such person of color is tried; and if a slave, to be whipped at the discretion of the court, not exceeding fifty lashes: the informer to be entitled to one-half of the fine, and to be a competent witness. And if any free person of color or slave shall keep any school or other place of instruction for teaching any slave or free person of color to read or write, such free person of color or slave shall be liable to the same fine, imprisonment, and corporal punishment as are by this Act imposed and inflicted upon free persons of color and slaves for teaching slaves to read or write.

The careful reader will recognize the unequal and contrasting treatment regarding a free European American (white) and that of a free person of color. The European American was to receive no whipping, just fines and imprisonment as the magistrates saw fit. So, the concept of privilege for European Americans was written into the laws very early on in society. The objective in all cases was to prevent the African American, slave or free from learning to read and/or write, thereby keeping them in a system of perpetual slavery.

Prior to this law, a number of citizens, European Americans and African Americans kept school of instruction that included both European Americans and African Americans as students. The law was meant to put an end to any kind of instruction to not only African American slaves, but to free persons of color as well. As a matter of fact, the way the law was written, it would be a crime for an African Americans parent to teach his or her children to read and write. Remember, the law reads: “…for teaching any slave or free person of color to read or write…”So, being a free person of color had its limitations and dangers in that if he or she was known to be able to read and write, he or she would be in constant fear of being accused and convicted of a crime.

Most states had laws restricting the lives and actions of both slave and free African Americans while at the same time showing privilege to the European Americans. After the Civil war, the emphasis centered directly on the African American in the form of the Black Codes and later Jim Crow laws and practices. So, the lack of education of the African American has never been a concern for certain segments of society. The more they can remain illiterate, the easier they are to manage, manipulate and exploit.  The idea behind this concept is simple—the more education the African American acquires, the more they contend for fair treatment in society, and the more they become a threat to the privileges enjoyed by the European Americans.

Today, many European Americans recognize that the clock is tickling away the time they can continue to enjoy the privilege of being “white.” With President Obama as the leader of the country, their sense of superiority is under threat, so they must try and forestall any additional encroachment on their value. One of the things that President Obama brings to the mix is something the bigots have little or no defense for, and that is an absence of a direct American slavery legacy via his parents. This fact of ancestry makes it difficult for those biased against him to try and find some line of attack based on the general stereotypes associated with African Americans. Fortunately, no law is available to help them remedy their problem.

Paul R. Lehman, Contrary to education report, intelligence, discipline not based on ethnicity

March 12, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Posted in American Racism, blacks, equality, Ethnicity in America, fairness, minority, whites | 1 Comment
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An educational report for the state of Oklahoma, written by Carrie Coppernoll, was published recently in The Oklahoman. The headline read, “Report shows racial disparity in school academics, discipline.” Actually, the reference to race is misleading and not factual, but has been a part of the stereotypical picture of education for so long that not too many people pay attention to it. The report should come as disheartening, but not surprising news for the state, parents, schools and students. Rather than view the report as educational defects, it should be seen as a challenge.

When we read the report carefully, we discover that other elements beside ethnicity (race) play a more important role in the students’ success as measured by their performance and behavior. For example, we read that “In Oklahoma City Public Schools, the state’s largest district, white and Asian students are more likely to be enrolled in gifted and talented programs than blacks, Hispanics and American Indians. They are less likely to be suspended or expelled.” Immediately we recognize that all students are grouped according to an ethnic group with generalized comments that actually focus on things other than race. For example, why would white (European Americans) and Asian students be more likely to enroll in gifted and talented programs? Certainly, not because they are the only gifted and talented students in the district as the statement suggests.

Another statement seems to suggest race as a cause of student behavior:” Black students represent 30 percent of the city district’s student population. But blacks represent 43 percent of in-school suspensions, 50 percent of out-of school suspension and 35 percent of expulsion.” We are not questioning the numbers here, but we must recognize that they include the entire district—schools in very low social and economic areas as well as schools in more affluent areas. We know that the most important elements in a child’s education are the home and family. Behavior, however, is not an ethnic problem.

Often what impacts a child’s education is the attitude of the family towards education. The more educational achievement reflected in the home, the more likely the child is to achieve success in education at school. However, the reverse is also true. The less education reflected at home, the more likely a child is to perform poorly at school. Add to the attitude towards education in the home, the social and economic status of the family and the opportunities for or against education comes into play. Families that enjoy a moderate income usually create a home environment that is conducive to learning with books, magazines, electronic gadgets, and other advantages not found in the average low-income family home. Notice the mention of ethnicity was not present in these comments because it is not a major factor at this point. Also of particular interest regarding success or lack of it in education can depend on a child’s geographic location. The location and per capita income of the community plays a definite role in the quality of the public school education.

In addition to the family and home’s role in the educational process, the school also plays an important part in the success or failure of the students. If teachers in a low social economic area school believe that the majority of the students in that school lack sufficient intellect to acquire the basic knowledge to be successful, the chances are that that attitude will be reflected in the teacher’s efforts. On the other had, if teachers in school expect their students to succeed, that attitude will as well be reflected.

When schools want their students to do well, they create programs and activities that help promote those ends. Usually the government or private companies contribute to help programs for the students.    In those types of schools discipline is not a serious problem. The report states “Blacks and Hispanics are less likely to be suspended in the Edmond district about 12 percent of students are black, but only 8 percent of in-school suspensions are of blacks. Hispanics make up 5 percent of the study body but represent less than 1 percent of all suspensions.”  Basically, what these figures tell us is that race (ethnicity) has little to do with a student’s educational success. When the environment and attitude is changed, the students’ performance will change as well, regardless of their ethnicity.

Other elements that affects student’s performance and behavior are well documented in many studies. In their book, The Spirit Level, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett tell of two groups of boys given the same take to perform—puzzle solving. One group of boys was from an affluent area, the other group was from a poor, lower-classed area. Neither group knew of the other’s status. After the first round of puzzle solving, the boys from the poor group actually did better than the boys from the affluent group. Then, the boys in the groups were asked to give their names and addresses. This activity informed each group of the social differences. The groups were given the puzzle solving tasks again. This time, the poor group did poorly; the affluent group did better than before. In essence, the behavior and performance of each group was influenced by the knowledge of social self.

This type of study was also done with African American and European American student. “In one condition, the students were told that the test was a measure of ability; in the second condition, the students were told that the test was not a measure of ability.” The results were that “the white [European American] students performed equally under both conditions, but the black [African American] students performed much worse when they thought their ability was being judges.”

What was concluded from these and other test is “evidence that performance and behavior in an educational task can be profoundly affected by the way we feel we are seen and judged by others.”So not only is family, home, and schools important in a child’s education, but also his or her self-image, regardless of ethnicity. Maybe that might explain why according to the article, that three of the largest districts: Moore, Norman, Tulsa, reported no blacks enrolled in calculus. However, the report states that “Though blacks [African Americans] are less likely to enroll in calculus, they are more likely than their peers to take physics and chemistry in Oklahoma City. On the other hand, in Tulsa, although African Americans represent 34 percent of the study body, they represent 76 percent of all in-school suspensions.

As troubling as this report is regarding the problems in education, the information is from a survey of 2009. If this information is viewed critically by the state, school, and parents, a list of the problems to be addressed can be created from it. We know for certain, however, the lack of success in education and disciplinary problems are not due to a students’ ethnicity. We need to move passed the stereotypes and get to the real problems of creating positive learning environments and opportunities in the home, school, community, state, and nation.

Paul R. Lehman,Slanted cross-cultural homework causes parental complaints

January 15, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Posted in American Racism, blacks, equality, Ethnicity in America, fairness, justice, Prejudice, Race in America, whites | 4 Comments
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Recently in Atlanta, Georgia, the station, WSB-TV reported that some African American parents were very upset about their children’s math homework that made references to slaves experiencing abuse and doing demeaning work. An example question asked “Each tree had 50 oranges. If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave?” Another said, “If Fredrick [Douglass] got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in one week?”Other questions were along the same line. When the school district was questioned about this problem, a spokeswoman stated that “teachers were trying to do a cross-cultural activity, combining math problems with social studies lessons.” If the proper steps had been taken by the school and its educators, the concept of cross-cultural lesions could work very well. Unfortunately, the proper steps were not taken and the results were negative and unproductive. The proper steps should have involved preparation, execution, and expectations regarding the children, the educators and the parents.

Many time educators with good intentions can created ill result by failing to prepare carefully and thoroughly the material to be taught. While the idea of using social history in a math class is generally a good idea, the selection of the material to be employed should be the top priority. What the educators in the above referenced incident did not do was prepare properly. They did not consider if the affect of the information presented was offensive in any way because it was taken from social history. But if we examine what was taken from the history, we discover that the information promotes and sustains the idea of African American inferiority and European American superiority. What is generally taught in history about Frederick Douglass was his contribution to the civil rights of African Americans and women, his meetings with President Lincoln to convince him to allow African Americans to serve in the military during the Civil War. He was so successful that the Army created the 9th and 10th Calvary—all African American soldiers. Because the questions all chose to picture Douglass as a slave, they did a disservice to his story.

With proper preparation the educators could have selected aspects of the social history that presented a positive construction of Douglass. Since the question did not identify the ethnicity of the slaves everyone would assume they were African.  During the early years of slavery, American Indians as well as European Americans were slaves. The reference in the questions easily suggests they were African /African American. Proper preparation would dictate that all students receive positive reinforcement from the experience. The objectives of the questions should be on enhancing and learning the subject-matter, not picturing the historical vehicles employed in an unflattering context.

Once the homework questions are created, the execution of the exam should not cause undue stress on the students. The questions referenced above could have actually caused emotional problems for students, regardless of the ethnicity. For example, the questions about Douglass showed him as a victim, a slave and therefore in an inferior condition. Since Douglass serves as a representative for African Americans chances are many of the African American students recognized inferiority underscored in Douglass. On the other hand, the abuse and forced labor of Douglass and the slaves in general, come at the hands of European Americans and serve to represent superiority. Obviously, no one is suggesting that the questions were written deliberately with this in mind, but the results are the same regardless of the intent. What if a question stated “Benjamin Franklin fathered one and one-third, out-of-wedlock child per year? How many children would he have fathered in five years? “ Where would the real emphasis lie in that question? Certainly not on the number of children but on Franklin because of his notoriety. That type of question would probably distract from the pedagogical objective and therefore be ineffective as an instrument of learning.

Generally speaking, most homework is given by the educators to measure the progress of the students’ learning and control of the subject-matter. An expectation is established for each question as well as for the entire experience. One wonders just what the expectations were for the students doing the homework in question. The reported response of the spokeswoman that “This is simply a case of creating a bad question, “shows a number of things lacking with the educator. For one, a lack of sensitivity for African American students who would have the concept of inferiority underscored. Another would be the lack of a considered expectation due to the nature of the question’s objective—not just the number of beating received, but the number that Douglass received. Still another concern is the lack of educational preparedness on the part of the educator relative to the sensitivity of the diverse students in the classroom and the affect that that disregard for feelings have on the non-African American students.

Most parents expect the school their children attend to reflect an atmosphere of safety and comfort from undue stress. In addition, they want to believe that the schools value each student’s physical and mental well-being. When incidents like the one in question occurs, the parents are well within their rights to complain and demand to know what is at work. After all, had the parents not reacted the way they did, one doubts that the educator as well as the school would have ever realized that what they were doing was in fact counterproductive to a wholesome education. By calling attention to the problem, the educator as well as the students can benefit from the changes to come, and the parents can re-establish their expectations for their children’s education, but always with watchful eyes.

Paul R. Lehman, America and re-segregation

April 24, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Posted in Bigotry in America, Ethnicity in America, Race in America | 3 Comments
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When the Supreme Court made its decision in Brown v Topeka Board of Education, the ruling underscored the fact that the schools in America were not equal, that is, the schools attended by European Americans and African Americans were separate and unequal. Many European Americans believed that the goal of desegregation was to bring the two ethnic groups together for the purpose of socialization. The African Americans were concerned only with having their children receive a quality education. Since that court decision in 1954 the progress made in America providing a quality education for all its children has not been good, fair at best. Why? Simply because education in America is connected to economics which is connected to ethnicity which is connected to geography.

Any family with the financial means can provide a quality education for its children. Unfortunately, not every family in America has financial means to give its children a quality education. That was the situation in America after the Civil War when African Americans were allowed to receive an education at public expense. Segregation and Jim Crow laws ensured that the African American children would receive an inferior public education. This fact was made certain simply because the European Americans controlled not only the schools, but the monies that they received. Even more important than the control of the schools was the control of the economy which meant jobs.

African Americans were not able to earn a living comparable to that of the European American because of prejudices and bigotry. For example, in the 1940’s and 1950’s skilled African American workers were denied the opportunity to join unions, so when they worked, even along side their European American counterparts, they earned considerably less money. Also, the type of jobs that were available to them did not pay wages high enough to guarantee their children a good education. After 1954 the chances of African Americans getting an education equal to that of European Americans began to quickly disappear because of white flight. When the law to desegregate was made, European Americans who could afford it moved to the all-European American suburbs where they could again control the schools and who attended them.

When the middle and upper class European Americans moved to the suburbs, they took their money, schools and teachers along with them. The lack of money and teachers had a direct negative impact on the inner city public schools. The school equipment, facilities, and employees that departed the inner cities resulted in the quality of education slowly diminishing. This departure also changed the demographics of the inner cities. They began to reflect a greater ethnic minority presence.

A significant number of European Americans remained in the inner cities for a variety of reasons—lack of money, transportation, jobs. However, because there was a greater ethnic minority presence the per capita income of the school districts changed as well. The differences among the European American schools and those of the African Americans showed just how important money was to a quality education. So, in an effort to address the problem of inequity in the schools, the Federal Government established commissions to help deal with the problem. The most dramatic program for addressing the educational inequity was bussing. Bussing was a two-headed monster because of what it took and what it gave.

One of the most detrimental things to happen to the ethnic communities during desegregation was a loss of neighborhood identity, integrity, and input into the schools. Most people confuse desegregation with integration; they think they are the same. In desegregation, a minority is taken into the majority with no changes to the majority. In essence, when African American children desegregated a school the only thing that changed for the majority students was the addition of new faces of color. For the African American children the changes were significant; they went from being in a normal environment to being like a small turtle in a fishbowl. Their main objective was to try and get an education and adjust to a way European Americans conducted themselves in school.

In integration, the environment shares elements of each group even through a majority and minority still exists. Unfortunately, for African American children the cultural references, comfort zones, and sincere concerns for their education were left behind when the busses took off. The new teachers could not relate to the concerns and challenges of the African American students because they were ignorant of their plight; that is, teachers were not educated to consider the problems of ethnic minorities except to have their stereotypes underscored. Much has changed since ’54, but much has also stayed the same.

Over the years integration has made its way into some of the curricula, but much of the attitudes against desegregation still remain. As a matter of fact, a number of states have begun the process of reintroducing neighborhood schools and doing away with bussing. If that takes place, the end result will undoubtedly be re-segregation. Drive through any city or town of thirty thousand or more and the areas of income levels will manifest themselves like raisins in a bowel of milk. What determines these residential boundaries are income and education—the more money and education a family has, the better the quality of living and schooling. If children are made to attend school in their neighborhood, and the level of income and education is low, then the education those children receive will not be comparable to that received by the children living in the upper income and educated area.

In an article published by The Christian Science Monitor / January 25, 2008, re-segregation is taking place in many places in America. One place singled out is Charlotte, North Carolina: “Charlotte is rapidly resegregating,’ says Carol Sawyer, a parent and member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Equity Committee.’” The article states further that “It’s a trend that is occurring around the country and is even more pronounced than expected in the wake of court cases dismantling both mandated and voluntary integration programs, a new report says. The most segregated schools, according to the report, which documents desegregation trends, are in big cities of the Northeast and Midwest.”

Why is this re-segregation occurring? One reason offered by some critics is due to the fact that the Supreme Court is reviewing some cases of ordered desegregation and in overturning them they have taken race out of the equation without replacing it with ethnicity. In so doing, it makes the assumption that everything—jobs, income, and education are all equal, so neighborhood schools should be re-established regardless of the harm it might cause to some ethnic group students. In effect, the court has said that the problem of separate and unequal schooling is solved, so go back to segregating yourselves. This problem is causing enough attention that many national civil rights groups are becoming directly involved.  And here we thought we were making progress.

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