Paul R. Lehman, Ferguson, Missouri will represent a positive change in America.

August 19, 2014 at 7:16 pm | Posted in African American, American Dream, American history, blacks, Civil Right's Act 1964, Civil War, Constitutional rights, desegregation, discrimination, Equal Opportunity, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, freedom of speech, justice, liberty, lower class, minority, public education, race, Slavery, socioeconomics, Southern states, state Government, The Oklahoman, upper class | 2 Comments
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We have seen and heard about the treatment of African Americans by the police establishment from the East coast to the West coast and many places in between. Sometimes the question “why does this pattern of aggression by the police against African Americans exist? Whether than trying to answer that question now, we must first take a look at why the attitude and behavior of the police establishment is in question in the first place. Then, we will understand what is going on in our society relative to the African American community and the police today.
When slavery was in its early years in America, race and color were insignificant because the objective was profit. Slavery was always a business and the only value slaves had to their owners was measured in dollars. However, the English brought over to the new world the concept of Africans as a lower order of humans and were not viewed as equal to the Europeans. Most slaves were treated equally bad except with respect to the European (white) slaves. Even as slaves, they were given special treatment as we learn from history:
In 1705, masters were forbidden to ‘whip a Christian white servant naked.’ Nakedness was for brutes, the uncivil, the non-Christian. That same year, all property—horses, cattle, and hogs’—was confiscated from slaves and sold by the church wardens for the benefit of poor whites. By means of such acts, social historian Edmond Morgan argues, the tobacco planters and ruling elite of Virginia raised the legal status of lower-class whites relative to that of Negroes and Indians, whether free, servant, or slave (The Making of the Negro in Early American Literature, p.35).
So, from the very beginning, people of color were discriminated against in favor of Europeans. The term “Christian” was used as pertaining to people from Europe who were considered civilized. The importance of this history is to note the lack of social value or respect given to people of color and especially Africans and African Americans.
When we move ahead one hundred and fifty years to the Civil War period, we find the same attitude and sentiment regarding the lack of social value and respect withheld from the African Americans by the majority society. The need to keep total control of the African Americans after the Civil War by the majority society can be seen in the laws that were created by the various states; those laws were known throughout the South as the Black Codes. These codes further established and endorsed the devaluing of the African American as we see in the reference to the Mississippi Black Code:
The status of the Negro was the focal problem of Reconstruction. Slavery had been abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment, but the white people of the South were determined to keep the Negro in his place, socially, politically, and economically. This was done by means of the notorious “Black Codes,” passed by several of the state legislatures. Northerners regarded these codes as a revival of slavery in disguise. The first such body of statues, and probably the harshest, was passed in Mississippi in November 1865. (http://chnm.gmu.edu/courses/122/recon/code.html)
The perception of respect and social value of the African Americans began to change after the Brown v Topeka Board of Education case in 1954, and continued on through the Civil Rights Acts of 1964-1968. America’s changes were starting to become more inclusive of African Americans regarding Constitutional and Civil Rights, much to the dismay of many did not like or want the changes. Throughout America’s early history the need to recognize and respect the presence and rights of the African American were so low that the phrase “A ‘n’ ain’t worth shit” pretty much summed-up the sense of value society had for the African Americans.
When we look at the relationships the police nation-wide have with communities of color, especially African Americans, we see reflected the same old attitudes and perceptions that have long been a staple of the European American mind-set. Regardless of the visible changes occurring in America today edging more towards an ethnically diverse society, many Americans refuse to accept the change. The police departments generally reflect the attitude of the majority society and therefore, see not a unified community, but two—one European American (white), and those who are not—generally people of color.
What the nation is experiencing in Ferguson, Missouri is not something totally unexpected, but an example of a changing society. As we morn the loss of the many African Americans to the bigotry and biases of the old mind-set expressed through law enforcement agencies, etc…, we can take heart in the fact that they do not die in vain, but in an effort to bring to the fore the problems that must be addressed in society to meet the changes that must take place. Ferguson, as well as the nation, will be a better place for all to live once the problems of representation and cooperation are addressed—problems that would have remained hidden without the tragedy of loss. As a society, we have yet to recognize and debunk the fallacy of race. No problems of equality, fairness, and justice will ever be resolved in America as long as people see themselves as black and white. No such races exist except as part of an illusion.
To underscore the lack of understanding of this problem, we turn to a comment made by Michael Gerson in a recent article, “The paradox of diversity,” where he noted concerning Ferguson, Missouri:
“But events in Ferguson demonstrate the paradox of American diversity: An increasing multicultural nation remains deeply divided by race and class. There are many more friendships and marriages between white and minority Americans (about one in 12 marriages is interracial)—but at the same time racially charged suspicions and anger persists among millions. And a broad perception of our own racial acceptance has created a different form of isolation—a self-satisfaction that obscures or masks deep social divisions. (The Oklahoman, 8/16/2014)
Gerson’s comments represent the problem and the solution in that the nation is divided, but changing to a less racial society. The changes will come as a result of the actions of the people who are adversely affected by the problems that are uncovered when the actions of the society, or a police force, raises their, as well as the rest of society’s consciousness. As a nation, we must continue to tear down the wall of races that separates us unnecessarily. The times are changing, and we cannot stop that.

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Paul R. Lehman, Letterman’s comment about Mrs. Obama and chicken shows lack of class.

April 1, 2014 at 5:02 pm | Posted in African American and chicken, American history, Col. Sanders, Conan, David Letterman, Don Rickles, Jay Leno, Matt Soniak, Michelle Obama, Mrs. Obama, Pope Francis, Slavery, spicy chicken, talk-show host | Leave a comment
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Entertainers like stand-up comics and talk show host are given license to make remarks about people of prominence as long as the remarks are taken as entertainment. People like Don Rickles or Jay Leno can make statements about important people with the intent of getting a humorous response—a laugh or smile. Although the comments regarding these people might seem disparaging, they are spoken without negative or denigrating intent. For example, Conan O’Brien, host of his TV show “Conan,” stated in a recent Monologue that “In a speech, Pope Francis criticized the Mafia and urged its members to repent. Which is why now every morning the Pope makes his assistants start the popemobile.”
We all realize that Conan’s remarks were meant to get a laugh, and not to call any negative attention to the Pope. Sometimes, however, the remarks of some entertainers can cross the line of acceptability and in doing so result in negative reactions. A case in point concerns the remarks of David Letterman in a recent Monologue. He stated that “First lady Michelle Obama is in China. Today she was busy doing some official business. She placed a wreath on the grave of General Tso, the creator of spicy chicken.”For someone to find meaning in this statement, he or she would have to have knowledge of Michelle Obama, General Tso and his chicken, and the history associated with African Americans and chickens.
We are generally familiar with America’s first lady, Michelle Obama, and know her to be an intelligent, attractive, and graceful young lady. We also know that she is an African American and a very patriotic person. She has introduced the country to a number of her interests in programs that address people concerns such as obesity, especially in the youth of America. So, any reference to Michelle relative to her concern for obesity and food would be considered in order. However, the Letterman comment had no relations to Mrs. Obama’s program on obesity. Whether it was stated out of ignorance, disrespect, bias, we do not know. What is for certain, however, it was not meant as a compliment. As a representative of the United States of America, Mrs. Obama’s reason for visiting China was to promote education which she did while showing respect for the host country. One of her activities did not include laying a wreath at the grave of an honored Chinese leader, especially, General Tso.
The reference to General Tso is not necessarily a familiar to many people because it is not a nation-wide product. The Letterman comment seems to suggest a likeness of the General to the famous Col. Sanders of the Kentucky Fried Chicken brand. But who is General Tso?In an article by Matt Soniak, Who Was General Tso? in mentalfloss.com gives us some insight on the general:“Zuo Zongtang (sometimes written as Zu? Z?ngtáng or Tso Tsung-t’ang) was one of the greatest military leaders of China’s long and storied history. Zuo’s life as a military hero is well documented (there’s even a billboard on the road going into his hometown that features his likeness), but his connection to the chicken dish named after him is a different story.” Soniak continues, “ Food historians know this much for sure: the dish is a loose interpretation of an old Hunan dish called chung ton gai (“ancestor meeting place chicken” or “ancestral meeting hall chicken”). After that, it’s all a matter of whom you ask.” The spicy chicken associated with Letterman’s comment is popular in New York and Canada.
Most people who have studied American history learned about slavery in a general sense and recognize the negative effects of that system. Few really know about the unhealthy and unbalanced diet of many of the slaves. The phrase “Soul Food” is popularized today and brings to mind happy memories of family and loved ones gathered together for occasion. The fact of the matter concerning soul food is that it represented what the slaves were given to eat. Because of their work schedule, slaves did not have the time or necessities to prepare wholesome meals. Most of the food was fried in pig fat or lard.
The majority of the meats available to slaves were pork and beef. The exception was meat acquired from fishing and hunting; chicken was not a daily dietary item. Slaves had no time or place to raise chickens, except when permitted, in the yard, or as known today, free-range. So, for the slaves to have chicken was not a daily occurrence. To associate the eating of chicken with slaves and/or African Americans is to cast a discerning eye on the hardships and like of privileges granted to them in captivity. In essence, the reference is demeaning and denigrating in that it makes fun of a people held in bondage and deprived of basic necessities.
So, when Letterman made his comment about Mrs. Obama placing a wreath at the grave of General Tso, the creator of spicy chicken, he was, in effect, calling attention to a serious miscarriage of justice relative to human beings held in slavery and poverty. The complaint here is not the fact that Letterman chose Mrs. Obama as the subject of his comments, he has every right to do so, but his reference speaks to her personal history as an African American and a descendant of slaves. The reference to African Americans eating chicken is a reminder that they were once not considered human beings, but animals. After slavery, many African Americans became farmers and raised chickens as well as pigs and beef. But the reference to chickens still strikes a sour note about slavery and poverty. So, for Letterman to make a statement in that context shows ignorance or arrogance or bias or all three.
No one wants to deprive comics or talk-show hosts of their freedom of speech or the right to poke fun at people of note, but some consideration of the ramifications of some remarks should be taken to avoid feelings of insensitivity. The problem is in the context, not the chicken. Rather than poke fun at Mrs. Obama, Letterman’s remarks reflect directly on him and his lack of judgment and class for making the comments.

Paul R. Lehman, The GOP’s war against Obama fueled with hate and fear

September 16, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Posted in African American, Bigotry in America, blacks, Congress, Disrespect, equality, European American, fairness, justice, Media and Race, Prejudice, President, President Obama, presidential election, Republican Convention, Respect for President, whites | 1 Comment
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When Barack Obama was elected President of the United States of America, conservative elements of the GOP went into shock. All their plans and victories at the local, state, and nation levels were now in question because the totally unexpected had happened. Never in their lifetime did these conservatives believe America would elect an African American for president. So, after the shock wore off and even before Obama made it to the Oval Office, they gathered together to plan how to undo the damage to their master plan by getting rid of Obama.

Whether one considers Obama’s ethnicity or political party the reason for the GOP‘s wanting him to be removed, the fact still remained that he must be removed. Part of the problem resided in the fact that Obama won the election, a phenomenon that was never supposed to happen. What went wrong? Some people believed that the country suffered a brief period of insanity because people in their “right mind” would have never elected an African American President. So what is the reason behind wanting to remove Obama from office? Part of the answer lies in what Obama represents rather than Obama the individual.

When Africans were introduced into slavery in America, the image of the slave as property had to be established, maintained and promoted in order for the system to operate effectively. The first order of this business was to strip away any and all human and personal worth of the African slave. This effort was made effective by removing any vestiges of the slave’s former life and history and remaking him as a less-than-human thing or property. His names, Negro, black, slave, etc… give no indication of a language, geography, culture. All his new names placed him in the system of slavery, and the only value he exhibited was either via work or the market place (auction block). His being represented nothing that the majority society viewed as deserving respect or value.

Although the idea of democracy as stated in America’s “Declaration of Independence” 1776, declared that “all men were created equal,” nevertheless, America forgot to include the African Americans and other slaves as men in the 1787 “Constitution.” They were listed as “three fifths,” a person. The problem that resulted from these concepts of democracy and slavery juxtaposed created two additional concepts: 1, many Americans knew that African/African Americans were human being like themselves, but was made less so by society, not God or biology. 2, Many Americans accepted the concept of African/African Americans being less than human regardless of the fallacy. Although Americans in both the North and South shared in both concepts, more Americans in the North accepted the 1st concept while the majority in the South shared the 2nd. Today, the two concepts are represented in politics with the Democrats identified with the 1st concept, and the GOP representing the 2nd.

Since the Civil War, the two concepts of the African American have been germane to the progress of American society as represented in the various Civil Rights Acts. Unfortunately, laws do not change individual concepts, so although society though government and science has attempted to correct the injustice and fallacy, many people hold on to the 2nd concept religiously. Their reason for holding on to the concept is based in fear of losing their place of prominence in society. That is, if the African Americans are equal to all people, then they, the people representing the 2nd concept, are less than privileged—they lose value.

So, when Obama was elected President, the GOP felt the immediate blow to their belief system and social status. Damage control had to be the first order of business.  The objective they set regarding Obama was to make him appear totally unfit to be President by any means necessary. The efforts to discredit him as inept did not work, so they took another approach, to make him not one of us—someone alien, not American, a foreigner. That campaign is still in progress. In addition to not being American, these critics accused President Obama of being a socialist, communist, Muslim, and a host of other things that might cause him to appear unfavorable.

With a continuous barrage of negative charges against President Obama, the GOP believes they can convince enough people to their way of thinking in order to defeat President Obama in the election.  The fact that Obama, an African American, is President is a reality the GOP cannot accept, not because of Obama personally, but because of what he represents—a changing America. The change that is taking place in America is a change that takes away the prestige, privilege, and power that was once associated with being European American (white).  The battle now is for the GOP to try and forestall as much change as possible; hence, the phrase “we need to take back our country.” Because Obama represents change, he also represents the enemy, and the enemy must be destroyed. Former President Bill Clinton said during his speech at the Democratic Convention words that address the problem: “Though I often disagree with Republicans, I never learned to hate them the way the far right that now controls their party seems to hate President Obama and the Democrats.” Hate seems to be the fuel that propels their actions.

We should not think that the battle against Obama is weakening.  Obama’s election to President did more than indicate a positive change in America, it also brought to light the many bigots that were hiding behind façades.  One irony that was created by the election campaign includes European Americans who say they differ with Obama’s politics, but get accused of being biased against him. Their complaint is similar to the African Americans who get accused of voting for Obama only because he is African American. When the GOP declared war against Obama being re-elected, they colored the field with prejudice, so identifying the European Americans who simply differ with Obama’s politics get caught in the mix. Sorry.

Many members of the GOP believe strongly that their party will be victorious in this election. One commentary by Victor Davis Hanson compared the election to the classic story “The Tortoise and the Hare,” with Obama being the hare. He stated that “The country is also not quite ready to confess that it went a little crazy in 2008 and voted for the embarrassing banalities of ‘hope and change’ offered by a little-known senator with a thin resume and little national experience.” He continued by offering some scenarios that might befall Obama and Romney and concluded with “Barring a real recovery or sudden war, the steady, plodding Romney tortoise is ever so slowly winning the race against the flashier—surging, yet always fading—Obama hare.”

So now the country “went a little crazy” for voting Obama into office because it was duped by his con game. Maybe this time around the country will “go a little sane” and look at the issues and elect the best man for the job. In any event, a change is coming, and any change that diminishes hate is a good change.

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