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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Paul R. Lehman, The University of Oklahoma’s SAE video offers a chance for change

March 11, 2015 at 2:41 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Dream, American Indian, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, Constitutional rights, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, education, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Ferguson, Human Genome, justice system, liberty, life, Oklahoma education, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, socioeconomics, whites | 1 Comment
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A recent video of students riding a bus enjoying themselves, laughing, and singing a song was broadcast via social and regular media. The young men singing the song were members of The University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. The picture and the entire atmosphere on the bus seemed a fun-filled and joyous occasion, and it was until the words of the song were revealed. The words of the song stated that “There will never be a ‘N’ word in SAE,” and included “You can hang them from a tree.”This song was sung by these young people because they felt safe, secure, and comfortable on a bus that included no African Americans. Why did they believe that singing this song was acceptable? The answer is they were taught this by their parents, schools, and society.

America is and has always been a diverse society, not of races, but of people from different cultures and geographical locations. Generally, American parents teach or tell their children that America is a democratic society that respects the liberties, rights, and freedoms of all people. However, the actions of the parents contradict the words. Whether conscious or not, children are made to see differences among themselves and others and the focus on group identity begins. As children grow they learn to recognize the benefit of group identity, an identity usually reflected in the family relationships, with other people in school, church, neighbor, and community. So, the young people on the bus reflect a sense of community of like people.

In our schools, children are force to identity with a variety of groups that include social-economical, cultural and ethnic. Rather than focusing on the similarities of the students, emphasis is usually placed on differences which are few and minor. Students learn through social activities as well as curriculum to place social value on individuals. Although they are taught that all people should be treated fairly, the language and social practices underscore the idea of separateness. The concept of many biological races has been debunked for years; yet, teachers continue to use terms such as black, white as if they were legitimate. American history underscores the lack of value places on the lives, value, and contributions made by African Americans as well as other people of color. Teachers and professors cannot teach what they do not know or accept.

Society tells our young people that bigotry is fine as long as they can keep it hidden; just do not put themselves on the spot by blatantly saying or doing anything in public that an be interpreted as biased. The young people of the frat bus thought they were in a protected environment, so they felt as ease in singing their song. In various aspects of society young people are shown that it is fine to discriminate against people of color; they see it in our criminal justice system, our educational and political systems. They are reminded time and again that African Americans have little social value, so denigrating them is perfectly okay as long as one is not exposed. Fortunately, the use of social media has provided an opportunity for all of society to see some of the things that have been happening in private for many years.

The behavior of the young people on that bus can be attributed to their parents, schools, and society. Their actions displayed an ignorance of a democratic sense of humanity and history; a belief in the value of each human being regardless of color, ethnicity, gender, social or economic status. Their actions showed at attitude of arrogance, supremacy, and tribal characteristics such “us versus them.” The first two lines of the song underscore the idea of group or tribal separateness with the understanding that the reason for there not ever being a “n” word in SAE is because of color and social value. Their actions, displayed stupidity. Why would anyone, especially young university students want to sing a song about lynching? Along with an ignorance of history, and an arrogance of privilege and power, these young people forgot about the power of social media. Sometimes the speed of the social media is faster than a speeding bullet as many people have learned to their regret.

Placing the entire blame on the students for their action would be to excuse the parents, schools, and society for their failures in preparing the young people for life in a diverse, democratic, society. We can begin to correct many of these failures by starting with the truth—bigotry was part of the American fabric from its beginning. As a society we have allowed bigotry to continue and grow through systemic creations enforced by laws, and lies. The concept for multiple biological races is false; only one race of human beings exists. Intelligence, character, physical and mental attributes are not based on skin color. The history and struggles of African Americans, Asian Americans, American Indians, and Hispanic Americans to gain their civil rights have been glossed over and not made relevant to days’ students, just as they were not valued by their parents. So, we arrive at ambiguity and ignorance in many young people; unfortunately, the only regret for some of these young people is the fact that their bigotry was exposed.

The concept of racism is irrelevant in today’s society since only one race actually exists. To call someone a racist is to give approval to their false concept of races. An individual can not be a racist in isolation because the term refers to a group. To ascribe responsibility to an individual accused of ethnic bias, the term is bigot. Young people as well as society in general need to learn and accept the meaning and nature of living in America. Because the changes in society have become more apparent in recent years, the challenge of change makes life difficult for those who prefer the status quo. When any American is discriminated against or denigrated because of some superficial difference, all Americans are impacted because that thinking goes against what we say we believe in and stand for as citizens— life, liberty, freedom, and justice for all.

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